Elsewhere

I’ve Given Up On Balance. I’m Going For Depth Instead.

Perhaps it’s the end of the year that’s causing so much self reflection, so much concern about work/life balance, about information overload, about obsessive checking of our twitter feeds, about the value of disconnecting. Yesterday it was Daniele Fiandaca and Brad Feld, today, Nilofer Merchant.

In a fragmented world, go deep - Nilofer Merchant

It’s a fragmented world. And it’s only becoming more so. It used to be that when people wrote, they wrote more deeply. In the early days of the web (pre-twitter), I remember hand picking the few voices I would listen to and then putting them into my RSS feeder and checking for their essays. Essays, not tweets, were the way we shared what we were thinking. But as “content” has become more important to maintain a standing online, more and more people are entering into the fray. More and more people who may not even have a point of view to advocate but just want to participate in the conversation.

As content becomes more fragmented, you could try and compete with that by doing more and more, by curating other people’s content, by then running your content through Twylah, by having that “twitter magazine” come out which puts all your tweets and links in one place so that people can catch it if they missed each particular one.

Or you could do the opposite. You could go deep. You could be that voice that everyone listens to because when it speaks, it is so deep and rich that it’s worth slowing down to listen to. 

Or, perhaps more importantly, you could chose to follow others who you think have gone deep.

As I said yesterday: Choosing who to follow is the single most important act in a connected world.

In a post from December 2010, I wrote 

I have said for years that I’ve given up on finding a balance in life, I’m going for depth instead. But it’s not really the case. It’s just that I am looking for something larger.

[…]

Instead, consider the contour of a well-ordered humanism laid out by Claude Levi-Strauss:

A well-ordered humanism does not begin with itself, but puts things back in their place. It puts the world before life, life before man, and the respect of others before love of self.

So, for me, balance can’t be self-centered, it must be world-centered.

So I seek out people that consider that as a balanced mindset, and who go deep with that as their polestar, as a guide.

Whether, as with Gödel’s proof, one can demonstrate the logical impossibility of any internally self-coherent theory of the postmodern — an antifoundationalism that really eschews all foundations altogether, a nonessentialism without the last shred of an essence in it — is a speculative question; its empirical answer is that none have so far appeared, all replicating within themselves a mimesis of their own title in the way in which they are parasitory on another system (most often on modernism itself), whose residual traces and unconsciously reproduced values and attitudes then become a precious index to the failure of a whole new culture to come to birth. Despite the delirium of some of its celebrants and apologists (whose euphoria, however, is an interesting historical symptom in its own right), a truly new culture could only emerge through the collective struggle to create a new social system. The constitutive impurity of all Postmodernism theory, then (like capital itself, it must be at internal distance from itself, must include the foreign body of alien content), confirms the insight of a periodization that must be insisted on over and over again, namely, that Postmodernism is not the cultural dominant of a wholly new social order (the rumor about which, under the name of “postindustrial society,” ran through the media a few years ago), but only the reflex and the concomitant of yet another systemic modification of capitalism itself. No wonder, then, that shreds of its older avatars — of realism, even, fully as much as of modernism — live on, to be rewrapped in the luxurious trappings of their putative successor.

Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

A truly new culture could only emerge through the collective struggle to create a new social system.

Postmodernism is not the cultural dominant of a wholly new social order […] but only the reflex and the concomitant of yet another systemic modification of capitalism itself.

Jameson is annoying to read, sounding at times like a comedy duo riffing off each other’s lines. There is a narrative inside his narrative that is more direct, so it’s worthwhile to pull out the more bony statements, and stand them up on their own.

Some thoughts that are likely to surface in my presentation next week at Meaning 2012, something like ‘Beyond Social, or, Designing The Post-Normal Business’.

A well-ordered humanism does not begin with itself, but puts things back in their place. It puts the world before life, life before man, and the respect of others before love of self.

Claude Lévi-Strauss

Deb Lavoy On A New Age Of Enlightenment

Deb Lavoy shows that she is a humanist, and her fascination with what she’s calling Enlightenment 2.0. I agree with everything except the 2.0 meme. Just replace ‘Enterprise 2.0’ with ‘social revolution’, and ‘Enlightenment 2.0’ with ‘the Liquid Economy’. She’s not talking about spiritual enlightment, but the outgrowth of the Renaissance in Europe.

Deb Lavoy,  Could E2.0 really mean Enlightenment 2.0?

The enlightenment was characterized by an intellectual elite that saw the opportunity for a better world. It gave us the tools to re-explore the world from a rational, reductionist perspective using scientific principles – predictable consequences of any action – to transform everything from navigation to technology and society itself. It was hastened on its way by the invention of the printing press, Newtonian math and science, Liberalism, and the work of philosopher scientists who were frequently excommunicated.

Rationalism lead to a massive diffusion and expansion of scientific knowledge, math and technology. in this mindset, the perfect system, the perfect business structure, was one where every variable was known, every detail calculated. Whether consciously or un, we tried to model our organizations after these ideals. When every variable was known, we would have complete control. Henry Ford capitalized (so to speak) on this principle with his famous assembly lines. Things became fast and consistent – a fundamental enabler of the industrial revolution and mass production which allowed for the creation of an educated middle class. [This TED talk which looks at how the invention of the washing machine lead to the modern concept of parenting, seems at first blush silly and then absolutely profound. Imagine if women in developing countries didn’t have to carry water - but I digress (and you should too - the TED talk and water stats are worth seeing).]

Enlightenment 2.0, which we could argue is what’s happening now, has been catalyzed by quantum mechanics (you really can’t know it all, sister), complexity theory, and social media technologies, is leading us from the age of reason to the age of – emergence (?!?) – where we will start to understand that while we cannot predict or control what will happen, we can surf it. It is enriched by humanist thinking and a general increase in the global standard of living that allows people to care about determining their lives, rather than simply surviving. We are again seeing the rise of the polyglot – the person who knows some science, some philosophy, some business, some politics and is taking control of producing their ideas. (Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson are as well known for their contributions to science and technology as to politics). This is a time when we are again inventing, acting, doing as well as learning. This will change the way we think and act as dramatically as the first Age of Enlightenment, though it may take as long to unfold. It takes a while to re-wire the human psyche.

Human behavior is one of the most non-deterministic, irreducible forces we deal with in day to day life. The Enlightenment respected that, at the same time as it created the paradoxes of command and control and mechanistic views of the world. We’re now able to come back and reevaluate the role of human complexity in society. Enlightenment 2.0 is causing Enterprise 2.0 to embrace complexity and human behavior.

A Social Business is a business that respects and profits from the complexity and unlimited potential of people.

The best is yet to come.

Amen, sister, amen.

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