On holiday in Sicily, I read Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens which is a fascinating read and if you haven’t read, I seriously recommend it.
It is full of intriguing facts and ideas about the history of Homo Sapiens… not all of it pleasant reading.
One of the things that really snagged my attention was how the way we see the world has changed and how that is linked to the way our world has changed. Harari states that for most of history we didn’t think we could change the world. We just accepted things as being God’s will, the natural order of things etc, and got on with dealing with unfortunate situations.
Somewhere along the line, we switched over to thinking that maybe we could avoid some of these bad things and change things for the better. The net result is that we now as a society seem to think that the world is getting better and that we can make it so through our own actions.
I think that when we talk about well educated, middle class and upwards people, he is undoubtedly right. But none the less, the way we educate our children is the opposite. Despite how technology is changing the world of work, our society still needs drones to tick boxes and this is what our education system is designed to produce.
How do we reconcile what our technological evolution has brought us with the lag in our social and cultural evolution?
Isn’t it time that we started to consider a state as a failed state when it fails to educate all of its citizens to a level where they can understand the nature of our reality and make informed choices about their future? instead of just saying they achieved a certain exam, regardless of its educational merits?
Right now, our world needs people who can THINK, not people who can perform mindless tasks
As more and more jobs get replaced with machines, what are underprivileged and educated people going to do? If your attitude to work is, ‘I can’t wait for the evenings/weekend so I can live my real life’, what happens when you don’t really have a job?
What do you do during the evenings/weekend? If most of us are honest, its no very much and involves couches, food and drink and maybe some household tasks… Too many of us have no life or meaning outside of work.
Even those of us with drudge filled jobs still focus on it as a point of identity: I am a programmer, a street sweeper, a lawyer, a factory worker. When the job is gone, who are you?
Having no life outside of work doesn’t matter so much when your work consumes so much of your energy, what will happen when it doesn’t? What will large swathe of humans do with all their energy?
Especially if they remain as barely literate and functionally ignorant as many are now?
And please note here that I am not talking about places like Africa or South America, but the entire world.
A big change in all our attitudes needs to take place as our technology ramps up like this. We need to be thinking about species and global goals, not national and individual ones. We need to be upping education levels, increasing individual creative skills and creating alternate economic and social systems. Not saving the banks and the car manufacturers once again when the system crashes once again because we didn’t change anything once again.
This, I believe, is the challenge of our times. Are we really up for it?