Back in the early 2000s, it became a running joke among those who followed tech that every new year was deemed the “Year of Mobile.” And despite gradual change in the form of flip phones and Blackberries, it never seemed to happen.
And then, bam … the iPhone is introduced in 2007, and everything suddenly changed. It took longer than expected, and perhaps that’s why it seemed so monumental once it did.
In 2019, we’re on the cusp of other highly anticipated changes. Combine those with an an ever-accelerating pace in general, and it’s time to buckle up.
From artificial intelligence and the rise of China, to climate change and genetic engineering, we’ve been hearing about these things for a while. Will we still be surprised when sudden shifts occur, perhaps simultaneously?
Tech-industry veteran Tim O’Reilly writes about what’s coming and uses a passage from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises to characterize technological change. In the novel, drunken war veteran Mike Campbell is asked how he went bankrupt.
“Two ways,” he answers. “Gradually, then suddenly.”
The gradually sudden
Here are a few big changes that O’Reilly says are on the cusp:
- AI and algorithms: We’ve been hearing how AI may decimate everything from our careers to the autonomy of our daily lives. Thing is, algorithmic systems are already everywhere, but we’ve yet to grasp the implications. O’Reilly maintains that “they’re changing the fundamentals of market coordination in ways that gradually, then suddenly, will become apparent.” This, in my opinion, is the big one to watch carefully near term.
- The US is falling behind: It’s not just China, even though, yeah … China. “Expect to wake up one day and realize that China has done to the US what the US did to the UK in the 20th century, becoming the new leader of the world economy, for good or ill.” But it’s also Africa and other parts of the developing world, where the lack of existing infrastructure provides an advantage for radically new models.
- Climate change: O’Reilly minces no words: “You have to have huge ideological blinders on not to see that the effects of climate change are less and less ‘gradual’ and that we are rushing headlong toward a ‘suddenly’ moment.” He goes on to say that historically, climate events trigger mass migrations, and whether a civilization survives or falls depends on “the quality of the ruling elites.” That’s not currently encouraging.
O’Reilly also explores the implications of the next agricultural revolution (happening in the Netherlands of all places), genetic engineering, neural interfaces, online learning, and the crisis of faith in government. Lots of interesting insight for such a quick read.
Anticipate and adapt to thrive
Change is unsettling, and plenty of people hate it. But odds are you’re not going to stop it from happening, and you’ll just become more miserable by fighting the inevitable.
Why not spend your time anticipating change instead? Look at it clear-eyed and without wishful thinking, and give yourself the best shot of better dealing with changes as they come.
In other words, be prepared to adapt. From a biological standpoint, an adaptation is a change that helps you better survive in your environment. More than survive, adapting to change can also help you thrive.
You’ve heard over and over that change brings opportunity. And although change may also cause chaos, there’s a whole lot opportunity coming our way.
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The art of inefficiency
Ever go on one of those vacations where your schedule is so jam-packed you end up exhausted? One where you feel like you need a vacation to recover from your vacation?
No? Good. Because that’s not what a vacation is. The word literally means “freedom from obligations.”
So why create obligations during your free time? That’s exactly what some people do on vacations, but also on their nights and weekends.
And then people wonder why they’re so burned out. It’s no mystery, Scooby Doo.
Quit being so productive
You pride yourself on being an organized, productive person. So when the work day ends, it’s naturally time to excel at excelling, right?
Hit the gym, then language lessons for an hour, a quick 20 minute slot for an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Netflix, then wrap up the day with some important reading on how to become even more productive.
There’s nothing wrong with any of these pursuits, of course. It’s the super-efficient schedule on top of your workload that’s crushing you. What you need is some inefficiency.
Intentional inefficiency is when we purposefully choose to let ourselves be disorganized instead of structured, unproductive instead of industrious, and improvisational instead of methodical. Intentional inefficiency is a conscious attempt to balance the state of being goal-oriented and focused on achievement, with the opposite state of being playful and focused on enjoyment.
So let’s say you hit the gym, and then after that, do whichever of those other things for however long. Or, just do whatever comes to mind, spur of the moment.
Lighten up, Francis
There’s nothing wrong with bettering yourself. But it shouldn’t be a goal unto itself. And while watching four hours of Netflix every night is not the answer, neither is subjecting yourself to a ruthless schedule when you don’t have to.
The idea is to do stuff you love doing during your free time, just for the sake of it. Focus on a hobby. Play a sport not for fitness, but for (gasp) fun.
If intentional inefficiency sparks feelings of guilt, consider this — you’ll be more productive when you get back to work. So yeah, you’re actually taking one for the team by being replenished, recharged, and reinvigorated.
Get Back to Your Best with Intentional Inefficiency (Psychology Today)
What makes life worth living?
Since we talk about longevity and healthy aging quite a bit in Further, you might think the goal is to live as long as possible. But no — it’s about a life worth living, whether that be for five more years or 50.
So what makes life worth living? Since the time of the Ancient Greeks, the answer has been meaning, and its actionable component purpose.
This probably isn’t a new flash to you. But new research seems to confirm your common sense, just in case you’re concurrently skeptical.
A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that the sense that one is living a worthwhile life appears to be the key to living a good life. University College London psychologist and epidemiologist Andrew Steptoe, who oversaw the study, says:
These associations seem quite pervasive, right across a whole spectrum of our experience. It’s not only related to health but to social functions, psychological and emotional experiences, economic prosperity, things like sleeping well and time spent doing different kinds of activities.
Yes, if you don’t find life worthwhile, it makes sense that you’re not exactly heavy into activities. It also tends to follow that ensuring that you do have meaning and purpose in your life should be job number one.
But what if you feel as if you don’t?
Finding purpose at halftime
It’s entirely possible that someone reading this has spent their life chasing success, and now finds themselves forty-something, unhappy, and lost. It certainly happened several years ago to the person writing this.
Shifting from a success mindset to a meaning mindset is the key to turning things around. And since purpose is subjective, it’s not important what you choose, it only matters that you have it — and that it’s truly meaningful to you.
Generally, you need to spend time in self-reflection to figure out what keeps you getting out of bed in the morning. You don’t have to resolve to save the world, but you do have to find your reason to live.
P.S. If you’re feeling aimless but not sure if you’re truly lacking in purpose, there’s a way to measure it. Viktor Frankl developed a set of 13 questions that measure purpose in life — here’s a PDF of the test.
David Bowie – Modern Love
Let’s Dance, 1983
2019 has already brought us what would have been David Bowie’s 72nd birthday, and also the third anniversary of his death. Given the extent of his influence, it’s almost wrong to claim a favorite Bowie track, but I have to admit to loving this song a bit more than most. (YouTube)
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