Digitalization’s discontents and the meaning of life

By | April 17, 2021

I was musing on the concept of grand purposes last night, and how the concept of finding meaning in one’s life work tends to be correlated with world changing scale.

What if it wasn’t so anymore?

Sitting here isolated by externally imposed constraints restricting movement and in person meetings, I got to wondering how I would remember to human again – the daily little interactions and acts and thoughts that all work together to build and maintain the unseen qualities of trust and compassion and caring and concern and sympathy.

A quick search on challenges to remote user research constrained by covid brought up only one relevant piece of writing – on compassion in crisis by Marta Zarzycka. Lots of material out there on the technicalities of conducting remote user research accompanied by the practicalities, but do none dare touch the loss of humanity that continuous screen to screen interaction brings? Or, worse, do none notice it or consider it important – with implications for generation gaps or cultural & societal ones.

How do you ‘read’ the room you’re entering in the context of zoom rooms? Where is the energy generated by the brainstorming session or hands on design workshop? As the human animal, we are wandering around blind without the use of half our senses – smell, body language, reading the energy of the room through our skin and the hair at the back of our necks.

If so, then what is the future of the grand projects for transforming quality of life for the greater good? The meaningful ones that bring so much purpose to the teams of social impact/entrepreneur/visionary/dreamers etc? Technology is already demonstrating to us how well programmable we are and how easily we can be roused by simple algorithms.

If the grand challenge and the big idea – the ones that have long been considered to be at the scale worth giving life meaning – are better implemented by a machine, then what is the purpose of a life lived at human scale?


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