Where things are located in our homes, offices, and garages are rooted in convenience, in our habituation.
Once lodged in their drawer, cupboard, or closet, most of our possessions stay right where we put them. Rarely do we change or re-arrange or re-think where things are. The very thought of those changes can be excruciating because it is work, without apparent reward, doesn’t feel necessary – but once the purge/re-org process akin to spring cleaning is done, we feel rewarded.
While it is arduous, few would disagree with the value of that process.
Why don’t we do this in other, perhaps more relevant areas, of our lives like our computer files, our work-processes, our money, our ‘services’ we buy, and the ones we offer? We have the time, and we know there will be value – the question is simply one of whether we want to throw ourselves into the chaos of it all …
It is easy to not change anything in our lives – we are oblivious – because it’s so easy to not see, when we are not noticing many changes happening around us.
Cutlery in the same drawer, for instance.
We never have to look for it – or ask where it might be or where it ought to be.
Yes, I’m exaggerating to make my point.
We like the comfort of knowing where things are – efficient, saves us thinking or exploring every time – because those things are in their place, not necessarily the best place or most suitable place, but one we know, one we’re familiar with, and we can find things wandering around in the dark at 3AM without bumping into furniture.
But in most other things we might explore – social relationships, business opportunities, artistic pursuits or just plain wandering – we don’t know where anything is. We need to look around corners, open doors, turn over rocks, and deadfall on our path to what we seek.
If we were back in explorer-days, those early pioneers who mapped and prospected, never knew what was over the next horizon, never knew what they might find that had never been seen or recorded before.
Are we not in that kind of place now?
Nobody knows what comes next, which way to look for a new opportunity or discovery, which ideas and people are winners worth betting on, which gurus and politicians will be proven fools on the road to ruin – we don’t know.
We can follow old habits, look for the cutlery in the familiar drawer.
We can also explore new places – decide where to put the cutlery, or choose to live without cutlery.
To live without a closet, a car, a parking space, a vacation home, or a bicycle – whether you stay on the grid or stray from the grid, everything seems optional.
We likely all need running fresh, safe water, a toilet (or a private place in the woods), clothing, and footwear. Everything else is both a choice and a decision. Deciding what we want, what we can afford, how we want to live, and what risks we want to talk – everything is up for discussion, is it not?
The world, in my view, will not return to what it was 10 months ago.
It will look familiar for a while, but within a decade, our work and leisure lives, our financial lives, and our lifestyles will look remarkably different. 11 years ago, we didn’t have the iPhone or any of its clones, and now we can’t live without it and its accumulated apps and functions.
Communication, transactions, data management, and the tools we use in our work, and personal lives could not have been imagined a decade ago – just as we cannot now imagine what we will have at our disposal a decade from now.
If you think I’m nuts, ask yourself about that last pandemic – a century ago followed/mingled with World War I, followed by the roaring ’20s, the great depression, World War II and the Cold War, when aviation, science, and weapons development brought us rocketry, the space race, plastics, the atom bomb, and Tang.
What change will this pandemic bring?
Unquestionably we’ve come to accept the pace of change as well beyond anything Alvin Tofler ever contemplated – long before nano-technology taught us what speed and tiny really meant.
My crystal ball says, within a decade, medical science will not long develop a cure for COVID-19, by-products on the billions poured into that research will lead to leapfrog changes in treatments of countless ailments and diseases. They won’t cure obesity, but they’ll likely cure some cancers, and find ways to detect many things faster.
Also, as a by-product of this pandemic, we will change how we govern health. I don’t know if we’ll get so far as to re-shape how we govern countries. Still, we have to collectively as a planet de-risk ourselves by building a better CDC and W.H.O. or replace them with something suitable for the 21st century, which is arms-length from governments yet funded and managed in such a way that an evil-doer or fool cannot derail their work.
Tracing – not just who we are, where we are and our health – with sensors to tell us everything from our heart rate, when we should run to the emergency room, or call our broker – will bring an immediacy to everyone, and deliver quality data to one centralized place who knows the difference between a sneeze because we forgot to dust the furniture and a virus about to wreak havoc.
Technology will overwhelm humanity for a while, but humankind will reel back with force – we’ll want the quality data without the invasion of our privacy. Along the way, we’ll recognize we’ve long ago forfeited the privacy issue …
We get to decide what kind of world we have – not one at a time, but collectively by our actions far more than our votes.
But we’ll retain some control over our lives.
We’ll get to decide which drawer will hold our cutlery.
And we alone will decide when to change drawers. Hey, we can relocate our socks to the underwear drawer, we can move our t-shirts to where the pots and pans were … and we can put the lawnmower on display in the living room. We’ll mostly keep those comfort things in place because the world around us will change so rapidly we’ll need tight-fitting gloves just to hang on.
The challenge is not just to imagine and predict the unknowns in our future – but also to re-think how we deal with what we have. What we have is massive, not in terms of things, but in terms of what we know, in terms of our experience, and our ingenuity – we’ve never needed it more. Our survival depends on us putting all we have on the line for everything that matters.
In many ways, we are like refugees from the past en-route to the future – the most significant changes we must encounter and embrace are not physical, but intellectual and emotional ones.