I just finished reading Douglas Ruskoff’s Team Human and found it very provocative and timely. As I find myself in more spaces where it feels like there is a tendency towards breaking as opposed to bridging, I and others with whom I work are asking, (1) What is really going on here? and (2) What we can do to better hold things together, while respecting diversity and difference? Team Human offers some insights by lifting up how the digital-age technologies in which many of us are engaged are making dangerously simplistic abstractions of our world (and of people) and appealing to the worst of our humanity.
Rushkoff uses 100 aphoristic statements in what amounts to a manifesto that speaks to how forces for human connection have turned into ones of isolation and repression. This includes algorithms that constantly direct our attention to what outrages us and sound bite biased social media undermining democracy by encouraging people to spread incendiary partial and untruths (because they outrage us!).
The book is certainly a wake up call to understand the manipulation behind digital media and to go beyond false appearances and reductionist reactivity to embrace prosocial behavior and make contributions towards regenerative patterns and flows. I highly recommend the book and have pulled some of my favorite quotes, which you will find below:
“Whoever controls media controls society. … Social control is based on thwarting social contact and exploding the resulting disorientation and despair.“
“Engineers at our leading tech firms and universities tend to see human beings as the problem and technology as the solution.”
[Under capitalism] “people are at best an asset to be exploited, and at worst a cost to be endured.”
“We’ve got a greater part of humanity working on making our social media feeds more persuasive than we have on making clean water more accessible.”
“The internet reinforces its core element : the binary. It makes us take sides.”
“Memetic warfare, regardless of the content, discourages cooperation, consensus, or empathy.”
“If we don’t truly know what something is programmed to do, chances are it is programming us. Once that happens, we may as well be machines ourselves.”
“There is no ‘resistance’ in a digital environment/ only on or off.”
“We reduced ideas to weaponized memes, and humankind to human resources. We got carried away with our utilitarian capabilities, and lost touch with the reasons to exercise those capabilities in the first place.”
“The long-term danger is not that we will lose our jobs to robots. … The real threat is that we lose our humanity to the value system we embed in our robots, and that they in turn impose on us.”
“We must learn that technology’s problems can’t always be solved with more technology.”
“Might the apparent calamity and dismay around us be less the symptoms of a society on the verge of collapse than those of one about to give birth?”
“The first step toward reversing our predicament is to recognize that being human is a team sport.”
“Happiness is not a function of one’s individual experience or choice, but a property of groups of people.”
“Evolution may have less to do with rising above one’s peers than learning to get along with more of them.”
“Challenging the overt methods of separation is straightforward: reject that hate speech of racists, zero some economics of oppression, and the war mongering of both tyrants and neoliberal hawks.”
“We can be utterly in charge of the choice not to be utterly in charge. We can be fully human without being in complete control of our world.”
“It’s neither resistance nor passivity, but active participation: working in concert with what’s happening to make it down river in one piece.”
“New experiments have revealed that after just a few moments of awe, people behave with increased altruism, cooperation and self-sacrifice.”
“True awe is timeless, limitless, and without division. It suggests there is a unifying whole to which we all belong – if only we could hold onto that awareness.”
“If we are not going to follow the commands of a king, a CEO, or an algorithm, then we need unifying values in order to work together as a team to work toward mutually beneficial goals.”
“Unless we consciously retrieve the power inherent in our collective nature, we will remain unable to defend ourselves against those who continue to use our misguided quest for individuality against us.”
“The future is not a discontinuity or some scenario we plan for so much as the reality we are creating through our choices right now. We just need to observe the flows, recognize the patterns, and apply them everywhere we can.”
“Find the others. Restore the social connections that make us fully functioning humans, and oppose all conventions, institutions, technologies, and mindsets that keep us apart.”
The research on the role of gratitude in supporting social resilience and thriving is quite compelling. According to the Greater Good Science Center, those who have a higher gratitude quotient or a regular practice of listing and thinking about gratitudes have been shown to experience the most significant boosts in happiness and fewer bouts of illness, have stronger social bonds in one-on-one relationships and with communities, and tend to be more generous. Connected to a host of other related positive emotions, gratitude is also shown to boost people’s willingness to reach out and connect with others, including across lines of difference, to see possibility more expansively, and to maintain a general spirit of openness. What’s not to like about gratitude?
Now imagine gratitude for one multiplied many times over in an ecosystem of social interactions and connections – that is, in a network. Read More
Over the past several years, there has been a great deal of international focus on the notion of happiness. While there are many definitions of happiness, here is a composite of my favorites: “emotions experienced when in a state of well-being that range from contentment to intense joy.”
Having spent significant time on this blog and in the field focusing on the complexity of network building, I thought I might bring it back to something much more basic and intuitive. Fundamentally, building networks is about building relationships. I am reminded of Nicholas Christakis’ research on the spread of physical and mental health in social networks. Here is something he found – if we are happy, those one step removed tend to be 15% happier. Those two steps removed are likely to be 10% happier. And those three steps removed are about 6% happier. Beyond that, there is much less impact. But the point is clear, how we are matters, not just for ourselves, but for others. To whom and how we are connected also matters.
Be the change you want to see. Connect for that change to go beyond “me.”
|Photo by limaoscarjuliet|http://www.flickr.com/photos/limaoscarjuliet/3305886294|
Leave it to David Brooks to put a nice point on our string of posts this week and last on the importance of tending to our “interior condition.” Brooks’ recent article in The New Yorker (“Social Animal: How the new sciences of human nature can help make sense of a life”) pulls together much of the brain research that is pointing us in the direction of redefining (or is it rediscovering?) what matters most in our lives. Without going into a lot of the details, I wanted to highlight some of the points the article raises, and then heartily encourage you to make it part of your weekend reading (and then get back to us here with some of your reactions!): Read More
I’ve been making the argument that happiness matters. I think it specially matters among those of us who are working towards social transformation. I believe there is a way to be happy and still face down the horrors that abate our world. I am convinced that when movement builders find and cultivate this sort of clear eyed happiness we will actually become a powerful attractor for those who yearn to build a better world but have not yet found a way to do it. Read More
DISCLAIMER: Dear Progressive friends, I have not sold out! I still believe in economic justice and I remain painfully aware of the racialized outcomes of poverty.
I feel like part of my mission in life is to expand the lens with which we look at our quest for social transformation. One of the points I keep harping on is the point that happiness matters. And this is why a recent David Brooks column caught my attention. Read More
|Photo by LadyDragonflyCC|http://www.flickr.com/photos/19646481@N06/4332176853/|
Love as the practice of freedom has been on my mind these days. My good friend Cyndi Suarez, who is the co-director of Northeast Action, recently shared a bell hooks essay by the same title – I appreciated Cyndi’s e-mail:
“I was thinking today on just how much social change movements reflect the dominant culture. I just finished rereading an old-time favorite essay by bell hooks and had to share it with you. I feel it is as pertinent now as when I first read it 15 years ago. I wonder what would change if at least some of us focused on building love rather power.” Read More