What if you are living someone else’s life, someone else’s story? Someone else’s WAR. Only you just didn’t realise it? And what has all this got to do with the connection between singer Elvis Costello and English Civil war figure, Oliver Cromwell? I answer these questions in my latest video on YouTube.
This routine ensures that the thoughts running through my head are typically the ones I placed there, not the ones some politician, media or social media actor shoved into my skull. And it means the algorithms can’t get me till at least 1.00pm. My days and my life, therefore, have not become an instrument of Big Tech’s toxic profit models, nor have I become a useful idiot who can be herded like some bone-headed bovine into online advertising spaces, to chew on their noxious cud. I therefore remain focused upon the things that are of most value to me, not those that are of value to the CEO of some trillion dollar tech company. I use the tech. But it will not use me. I will no longer let it.
The psyche weaves its way across life, perhaps not unlike the way a river makes its way from the mountains to the sea. And we never quite know when the river waters might rise, even as we make our way to the other side.
It’s this historical and civilizational impasse that led me to write my latest book, Power and Presence, and I am delighted to announce that it is now available on Kindle and in hard copy format on Amazon. The book’s subtitle hints at my preferred approach to the sensemaking crisis: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Digitized World. I believe that it is in developing a more conscious relationship with ourselves (including the body and mind), the world and technology itself that we can establish a genuine foundation for moving forward. Simply regulating everything and punishing people isn’t going to work, at least not by itself. We have to look deeper than that, right into the soul of humanity, and ask ourselves, “What does it mean to be human in the digital age?” So, as much as anything, this is a meaning crisis, one that long precedes the digital age, and which has been developing for centuries.
Digital Wisdom as I define it comprises three parts. The first is“know thyself;” the second “know the humans;” and the third is “know the machines.” Individuals, organisations and societies can work at developing these three domains to cultivate Digital Wisdom personally and collectively
It is the human predisposition towards drama and projection that underpins much of our suffering – our need for drama. I define drama as the “irresponsible emotional manipulation of others with the aim of establishing a personal agenda.” Drama is rewarding to the ego because it grants an opportunity to get what one wants in situations where the ego feels that it either has no real power, or when it does not want to pay the price for embodying genuine strength. That cost may vary, but always involves taking personal responsibility.
The good faith inventory I include below is a simple way of assessing the degree to which a person, group or movement is acting in good faith or bad faith. By their fruits, ye shall know them. You can use this simple inventory in deciding whether to allow yourself to be emotionally or mentally taken into the cognitive wake of a particular person, debate, social/political movement, media channel or organisation. You ask yourself these questions. The answers are subjective, of course. Just answer them in good faith, so to speak. Each question has two options. Circle the left-hand column number if it is a positive, the right-hand number if it is the negative. Circle the question mark if you are undecided or neither applies. Then add up the total score.
We are not alone, but deeply connected with each other, an effect of nature that transcends our virtual connections on the net. Our future online systems – and societies in general – should attempt to help us retain this nature effect, and especially the experience of wonder and awe. If they do not, we may lose something priceless: our Authentic Selves.
Research indicates that when we employ our peripheral vision, our sense of presence, awe and wonder increases. We relax, gain a deeper perspective of our place in time and space and our capacity for spatial memory improves. We become more positive about the future and the jigsaw of life begins to piece itself together. Thus, as our gaze habitually collapses outward while peripherally constricting, we lose touch with the human spirit.
South African author and lion tracker Boyd Varty learned early the deep knowing which life seeks to instil within each of us: that there is something profound which transcends and connects our discrete human minds.[ii]
Varty’s tale of the terrifying involves a single night, set in time a moment or two following the initial post-apartheid elections in South Africa, when chaos and violence were common bedfellows across the troubled nation.