We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims – R. Buckminster Fuller
I’ve been on Twitter. Listening in to conference feeds. And I’ve seen the future. It’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Er, hang on. No it’s not. It’s living to 100. Or is it unhelpful humans in an AI world? Or autonomous vehicles? Or cybernetics? Connected cities? But that guy (it’s usually a guy) seemed so CERTAIN it’s VUCA. And that other guy (it’s still usually a guy) seemed utterly CONVINCED it was AI. They ALL seem so certain. These futures have been decided upon. This is what we’re getting. Whether we like it or not. It’s a done deal. So some other guys (yes, it’s still usually a load of guys) get up on stage and tell us what they think we should be doing about it. How HR or OD or L&D or FM or IT needs to change, to evolve, to respond. To meet meet the challenges of a future that’s already been determined.
I don’t much like leadership and business writers (ironic really when I’m here spouting guff about it myself) but I like that thing from that Simon Sinek. Start with “Why?”. So, why do we have to have this future? Why do we have to have this set of challenges? Why can we not have a future that is less challenging? Why does living longer mean working longer? Why does creating AI have to make humans unhelpful? Why have work at all? Why does the future still have us buying crap we don’t need? The only people who really get to ask “Why?” over and over again are children. And that’s usually ground out of them. “Because!” “That’s just how it is.” “But, why?” “Go to your room!”
I like to try and remain optimistic about the future. Because it’s a place of promise and possibility. But we’re being fed a diet of certainties. “This is the future, mate. Better get ready or you useless walking meat sacks will get replaced by robots.” You want to work with people you like in a relatively pleasant office with photos of your kids and a pot plant, gonks and a “World’s Best Dad” mug? “Get with the program, Grandad! It’s the gig economy now.” We seem to be sleepwalking into a future with an inbuilt, unnecessary set of challenges. We’ve already got challenges. Why not make work shorter, more secure, better paid, healthier and fun? Why not buy BP and get all their big brains set to work putting the natural world back to good health? Why not find a way to make good stewardship of the environment pay the kind of bucks the big banks make? Why not put a time delay in the markets so they don’t go into a panicked tailspin whenever a politician makes an unguarded comment? Why not have a referendum on forcing businesses to instantly and irrevocably close the gender pay gap? Why not make it impossible for media outlets to report speculation and bias as fact? Why not close loopholes in the corporate tax regime?
These are the challenges of the now. We’re nowhere near solving them. We are being told with increasing certainty what the future looks like. And it looks like heaping another pile of crap on top of the steaming midden we’ve already created.
And so, I’m going to keep on asking: WHY?