Technology, Transparency, and Ambiguity
So far in this series I’ve established that information technology has generated a rise in transparency among people. This transparency has made it clear that there is much more ambiguity to humans than we have previously acknowledged. This means that people generally do not fit the labels we have applied to one another: our model of the world up to this point has been far more rigid than reality clearly is.
When we embrace our ambiguity, we can cease to preoccupy ourselves with moral superiority and with following arbitrary, unnecessarily-confining rules. Once we do this, we can have intelligent, level-headed, conscious discussions about the sort of world we would like to build together, and what we believe serves us collectively. In other words, once we cast aside morality we can focus on functionality. What is functional is based upon what we want. When we acknowledge and embrace our ambiguity, we can freely discuss with one another exactly what it is that we want, and how we can go about realizing those desires.
The Futility of Career Labels
In the article on ambiguity (Part 2) I went over different aspects of society and how labels negatively affect them. I mentioned that one such aspect of society is career, but I didn’t explain it. I will do that here now.
We’ve had a tendency to identify people based upon what they do. If a man makes candle sticks, he is a candle stick maker. If he welds things, he is a welder. You could call me any combination of author, blogger, podcaster, and webmaster.
For starters, any one of these labels is terribly limiting and rather inaccurate, like most labels are. To say that I’m an author is like saying that my computer is a word processor. It can do more than that, ya know. My computer can also be a web browser, a photo editor, an audio recorder, and a video player. The computer as a whole is greater than any one of those things, much like how a corporation as a whole is quite different than the combination of all the people involved in it.
My career isn’t as an author per se. One of the things I am indeed attempting to do is write the best books that I can, but that’s not the point. Books are just a medium. A book is an inherently meaningless object (or file, in the case of e-books). To regard the books as the point of my work would be like a musician obsessing over the CDs that their music is recorded on. People don’t buy CDs because of the physical object—they buy CDs because of the music that’s on them. Besides-- all CDs look essentially the same on the outside, and the technology is steadily becoming outdated anyway.
Identifying people based on what they do not only creates an incomplete picture of all that they actually do, but it also misses the point and mistakes working with a certain medium as being the point of a career. If you were to identify me based upon the message I am sending, rather than the media that I work with, something along the lines of consciousness explorer or personal growth enthusiast would be fairly accurate.
Why does all this matter? Because if you try to become some sort of do-er, you will indeed do a lot of stuff, but you won’t really know why. You’ll have a great jumble of doingness that is not backed up by anything of substance or potential permanence, and you’ll be bound to experience unending dissatisfaction with a touch of confusion and a dollop of frustration.
Flexible Work and Effective Change
I mentioned that acknowledging our ambiguity on a large scale will lead us to discuss what it is that we really want as a species. The revelations we are having about our true humanness are leading to us needing to evaluate our present position and examine whether we want to keep doing things the way we have always done them. Of course, we can’t keep doing things the way we’ve always done them, because we’ve done things in ways that are based on inaccurate ideas about humans.
We’ve established that humans are not quite as rigid as we thought we were. This is because our nature is not to follow some sort of rules or plan, but instead is to grow towards ever-greater freedom. The point of life isn’t to do all the things right and then die unscathed. No—the point is to experience how free we actually are.
What’s great about physical reality is that it has linear time. As such, we can have the experience of increasing freedom over time. In a reality where everything occurred simultaneously, no such experience could be had, and there would be no growth journey to speak of because it would all be already done, even experientially. It would all be over.
So, as we have our transparent, ambiguity-accepting, intelligent conversations with one another about what it is that we actually want as a species, freedom will definitely be a major topic. On top of this, at some point we are bound to acknowledge that a great many jobs on the market are undesirable. Not only that, but we will question their necessity, as well as the necessity of the products they produce.
On top of this, the massive changes that lie ahead of us will call for people to spend their time differently. This entails a number of people doing different work than they currently do. In fact, this could mean that people will continually change up the work they do as the world continues to change and we shift our focus from one specific change to another.
For example, right now people who can lead the very conversation I’m talking about- the conversation about the kind of world we want to create together- are incredibly valuable. Such people can’t thrive with someone else telling them what to do, though. This conversation can effectively be had only from a place of self-governance and unfettered authenticity. If any aspect of this conversation is interjected with someone refining their words because someone else told them to, it simply will not work.
Effective change will be brought about only by people utilizing their own intelligence and being themselves as they truly are. This is because effective change must reflect humanity as it truly is—otherwise we’ll just end up with more distrust and control of one another, like we have already. For effective change to reflect humanity as it truly is, the people contemplating and facilitating the change must be as they truly are—all through the process.
Thanks to technology, the transparency it has brought about, the ambiguity that transparency has made apparent, and the consequent need for change of our societal systems, the face of work is changing. Work is becoming less and less about securing physical well-being and pleasure, and more about doing emotional labor. Emotional labor has as its purpose the experience and expression of who we really are. Emotional labor is about the creation of meaning and the human desire to grow. Emotional labor aims to align with truth, love, and power. And, most relevantly, emotional labor has the ability to change the systems that run our world.
Emotional labor is what I’m doing right here. Even the creation of a software application like Tinder could be considered as emotional labor. Emotional labor can be expressed through any medium. What qualifies something as emotional labor is based upon the message that is being sent through the medium. This message typically involves empowering people in some fashion.
On the other hand, something is purely physical labor if its goal is simply to do more of it or to create more copies of it, and any sort of message is largely irrelevant. If there was any sort of message attached, it would say something like, Please demand more of this, so I can sell it to you and make more money. Physical labor doesn’t care about empowering people: it just wants to turn a profit. The production of cheap clothing in sweatshops is an example of physical labor.
As we continue to grow, we will come to see that work itself isn’t the point. There is somewhat of an obsession, at least in America, with working. But people who buy into this obsession don’t seem to have the foggiest idea of why they are obsessed.
We will continue to have plenty of work to do, but we’ll care more about consciously attending to meaningful tasks, taken up by our own free choice, as opposed to random and largely pointless tediousness.
Additionally, through our growth and the emotional labor that facilitates it, our values will shift. We won’t want to see people working in poor conditions for low wages anymore—nor will we care as much for the products that result from unhappy labor. Instead of a low-quality, poison-filled shirt that was made by a poor person in a factory, we’ll increasingly desire a garment that was made with care by someone who freely chose to do the task and was happy to do so.
Not only that, but our materialism will decline. As our lives become more meaningful and enjoyable, we’ll lose touch with the compulsion to buy 10 random shirts for $2 each all because Well, there was nothing better to do today than go shopping, and I need something to make my life exciting. As such, the drivers of our economy will change. Many companies and products will go bust in due time, as a result of our shifting values and desires. We won’t be able to center our economy around the mass production of cheap stuff by poorly-paid workers anymore, because people won’t want that anymore. We will shift the center of our economy to emotional labor, rather than physical labor, and we’ll find a functional way of doing it (I can suggest one way).
All in all, people will desire the freedom to work as they see fit, based upon the changes they would like to see in the world. Collectively we will desire the ability to freely express certain aspects of the sort of change that it is we are currently interested in. We will want for everyone to have the ability to live autonomously because that is the only way we can effectively explore all that there is to be explored. There is no change without exploration, and definitely no intelligent change without experimentation. So, everyone will need room to experiment with different ways of approaching different aspects of their lives.
Autonomy Yields Togetherness
As you can see, the shift towards career autonomy entails many changes occurring together. They must come as a package in order to be functional. People will need to work and live on their own terms; adapt their work to the changes they desire to facilitate in the world; and center their work around emotional, rather than physical, labor, the basic purpose of which is growth and self-expression.
At the same time, the world as a whole will have to accommodate all of this. This will entail making changes to the way we run our economy (e.g. in order for the economy to reflect new values, government bailouts and subsidies will have to go—it’d be foolish to keep around old companies that people don’t want to see in business anymore).
The ultimate reason for all of this is so that we can ultimately build a world which reflects, serves, and facilitates the growth of who we really are, as opposed to a world which denies, stifles, and makes us forget who we really are—and we can do all of this together.
Incidentally, togetherness is the next step. Stay tuned.
The Full Series