Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Digitized World
Evolutionary social strategist Daniel Schmactenberger recently observed that we need to either rise above tribalism and conflict, or go extinct. That’s not a difficult choice to make, but how do we actually do it? The internet in particular has created a totally unpredicted scenario: tribal groups have begun isolating themselves into virtual fortresses and are becoming increasingly hostile to other tribes. The conflict between the Red Tribe (the right) and the Blue Tribe (the left) in the US and other western countries is only one such conflict. The internet is starting to burst at the seams with them.
Amidst all this we are foundering upon the collapse of sensemaking. We have lost touch with our inner knowing, set adrift upon a vast ocean of competing narratives and agendas. Which captains are we to believe, which shores are we to seek, and what winds are we to reset sail upon?
This has been the context of my recent book project, Power and Presence: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Digitized World. It examines the many causes of the current crisis, while seeking to present a workable strategy for transcending it. Before it is too late.
Welcome to ITopia
(Extract from the introduction to Power and Presence)
I would like to begin Power and Presence with the disturbing proposition that the ITopian nightmare has descended and possessed us. ITopia is my term for the dystopian future which is emerging, where Information Technology has permeated all areas of our lives, creating an imbalanced technocratic society founded on what Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism.”
The weaponization of the internet, politics and society is all but complete, and our souls – our Authentic Selves – are being defeated. Our awareness has shifted from the inner wisdom of that Authentic Self to become ensnared in a virtual MemeWorld, which we now confuse for reality. It is my aim to make Power and Presence a confronting but ultimately uplifting book, one designed to shake you, the reader, from the grip of ITopia, and empower you to rediscover your Authentic Self; to build a truly meaningful life.
We have unconsciously given our power away to narratives and agendas that many of us did not consciously choose. The actions that we take and the words that we speak increasingly represent expressions that are not our own, and that do not serve our highest calling in life. Puppets of The Machine, we have allowed our souls to be colonised, and our minds and hearts have become deeply entangled in the broader socio-industrial complex of the early twenty-first century. We lead lives that are increasingly controlled by a host of external power brokers: media outlets, the Tech Giants and social media platforms, bloggers, political parties, online mobs, ideological movements, corporations, educational institutions and religious groups. Our desires, our goals and even our beliefs are no longer our own. They are driven by the ITopian Machine.
Many of us, and perhaps especially the young, feel powerless to make actual change in the world, instead venting rage from behind keyboards. Alternatively, some express their anger in protests or acts of violence played out upon city streets, or in the tearing down of icons, monuments and government buildings. Yet even as they do so they are often being recruited by agents which are in turn deeply embedded within the very systems which they are seeking to escape. They are again captured by The Machine, realizing too late what they have become. If they realise it at all.
Amidst all this we are foundering upon the collapse of sensemaking. We have lost touch with our inner knowing, set adrift upon a vast ocean of competing narratives and agendas. Which captains are we to believe, which shores are we to seek, and which winds are we to reset sail upon?
Despite the fact that most humans today live far longer lives and in more material comfort than our ancestors of a few hundred years ago could have dared to dream of, general mental well-being is in decline. In 2020 the US Census Bureau released data which indicated that that 42% of people report anxiety or depression, an increase of 11% in just one year. Not far north, and in the same year, nearly half of Canadian health care workers reported that they were in need of psychological support, according to the United Nations , while in China 50% of health care workers reported depression. The same UN report indicated that in Pakistan 66% of health care workers are experiencing at least moderate psychological distress. The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly led to a great deal of psychological disturbance. In Italy and Spain, parents reported that 77% of children children in confinement had difficulty concentrating, while 39% had restlessness and irritability; 38% had nervousness; and 31% feelings of loneliness.[i] [ii]
Power and Presence argues that there is a way to begin to reclaim our power, and to begin to make sense of the world again. That is, by returning our awareness to the innate wisdom within ourselves. The journey of awakening for many ancient traditions was an inner one, grounded in a deep awareness of the Authentic Self and the intimate connection of mind and spirit, which in turn embeds us in an expanded wisdom and intelligence. Power and Presence first shows you how that innate power is being dampened; and secondly how that intelligence can be nourished and expanded through mastery of the system, and through self-awareness and mindfulness. You will thus find many precise tools and practices outlined in the pages to follow.
We cannot be truly empowered nor free merely by reducing the suffering and oppression in the world (though the latter is a noble goal). By historical standards, most people in the developed world today live lives that are far longer and more comfortable than our recent ancestors. Our lived experience of life cannot be the prime measure of life quality, because that sense of life is as dependent on the relationship we develop with the world as with what happens in our lives. And that relationship with life is determined by the wisdom and love that we are able find within ourselves, and our capacity to express that knowing. Of utmost importance is the deeper meaning and purpose of life that we are able to generate. With this awareness, and with the realization of how we have given our power away to The ITopian Machine, our species can resume the journey to authenticity and empowerment – as individuals, as collective groups, and as a civilization.
There are five pillars of the Authentic Self, which you will find me referring to throughout this book.
- The first pillar is Embodied Presence, the capacity to bring the mind into the right relationship with the present moment.
- The second is Cognitive Responsibility, the capacity to witness the mind and the world, and to assume responsibility for what arises within us.
- The third is Mastery of the System, understanding how to thrive in twenty-first century societies. This entails developing Digital Wisdom: understanding how today’s sensemaking systems function (media, social media, Big Tech, politics, education, human physiology etc.), and especially how these can overpower our attention and mental space.
- The fourth is Integrated Intelligence, the ability to draw upon the extended mind in helping to solve problems, big and small.
- The fifth and final pillar emerges from the first three: the wise actions we take in the world, inspired by the Authentic Self. The concept of Gentle Aligned Action is key here, whereby we can create ideal futures by initiating actions taken while listening to our innate wisdom.
I believe that the five pillars of the Authentic Self can empower us to transcend the civilizational impasse that we now find ourselves confronting. This book is presented as an opportunity to heal, and to rise above the fracturing of our selves and our societies. Power and Presence invites you to bring greater Embodied Presence into your personal life, into your family life, your work, your creativity, and your play.
This book is presented as an opportunity to heal, and to rise above the fracturing of our selves and our societies. Power and Presence invites you to bring greater embodied presence into everyday life: into your personal life, into your family life; and into your relationships, your work, your creativity, and your play.
[i] “Policy Brief: COVID-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health.” May 13, 2020, https://unsdg.un.org/sites/default/files/2020-05/UN-Policy-Brief-COVID-19-and-mental-health.pdf.
[ii] Jane McGonigal. “Three Powerful Questions to Spark Realistic Hope for the Future.” August 12, 2021. https://medium.com/foresight-matters/three-powerful-questions-to-spark-realistic-hope-for-the-future-2ee2440179b
Chapter Outlines: Power and Presence
Preface: The Road to Power and Presence
Introduction: Your Power, Your Body and the ITopian Machine
Part I. Your Power and the Authentic Self
- What is Power?
- How Your Mind Works
- The Moment of Agency
- The Authentic Self
- Standing in Your Power
Part II. Your Power and the Machines
- Welcome to MemeWorld
- Web Wide Warfare
- Deepening the Digital Discourse
- Cultivating Digital Wisdom
- The Mindful Metaverse
Part III: Your Power and the Future
- The Future is Us
I began this project upon the arrival of the year 2020, and have written and spoken much on it already, as folllows.
- “A Critical Futures Studies Perspective on Embodiment and the Crisis in Sensemaking in the Digital Society.” Book chapter, in Crisis Management, Principles, Roles and Application. IntechOpen. Dec. 2022.
- “Integrated Learning and Embodiment in Virtual Education Futures.” Presentation at the Asia Professional Futurists Network, 2022 conference (Taipei, online). Sept. 29, 2022.
- “Modern Educational Technology and the Futures of Lifelong Learning.” Keynote presentation, International Conference on Modern Educational Technology and Social Sciences, Aug. 22,2022, Changchun China (0nline).
- Web 3.0 and the Interface of Science and Spirituality. Keynote presentation, International Conference on Science Education and Art Appreciation, Chengdu, China, June 22, 2022.
- “Education, Techno-utopianism and Embodiment.” Presentation and book chapter at “Asian Futurisms, Linking Asia’s Digital Imagination to the World,” conference. May, 2022. Beijing Normal University, Zhuhai, China.
- “Education, Techno-utopianism and Embodiment.” Conference paper to be published November 2022 as part of Asian Futurisms, Linking Asia’s Digital Imagination to the World, conference. May, 2022. Beijing Normal University, Zhuhai, China.
- “Embodiment, classical intuition and the future of the Metaverse.” Online presentation given at the Society for Consciousness Studies, Dec. 2021.
- Web Wide Warfare (2): Towards a Deeper Healing of the Online Culture Wars.” The Journal of Futures Studies, Sept., 2021.
- “Web Wide Warfare (1): The Blue Shadow.” The Journal of Futures Studies, Sept 2020.
- “Embodied Presence, Covid-19 and the Transcendence of ITopian Fear.” Journal of Futures Studies, Mar., 2021. Symposium on Coronaphobia and Fearscapes.
- “Embodied Presence, Responsible Active Citizenship and Dissent in Hong Kong.” Journal of Futures Studies, Sept., 2020.
- “Power & Presence in Virtual Futures: Conscious relationship to information in age of ‘fake news.’” Paper published in proceedings 2020 conference of Asia Pacific Futurist’s Network, Nov 20, 2020.