Nothing is one-directional. While the world is still obsessed with digitalization, automation, the internet of things and the connectivity of everything, another trend is co-arising: the deep desire of actual human connection, the production and handling of physical objects and the protection of privacy. The analogization of life.
The benefits of the digital era are huge: it gives me personally a lot of freedom to move around in the world and be connected at the same time. I can work with clients from practically everywhere in the world, I am not forced to stick to one office. I can manage my life and work flexibly and social media helps me to be visible and connected while living tucked away in the countryside. I don’t have to go to conferences and “networking” events, which is a huge relieve. I can arrange travels while I travel and the world is at my hand.
The sense of personal freedom and independence is at the same time increasing and decreasing.
What gives me a sense of discomfort is the increasing dependency on digital means and a life that is more and more immersed with technology, that again depends on constant energy supply. One of the biggest threats we face is a black-out. After 3 days the world would be chaotic, people would run out of water, food and gas.
The other source of discomfort is the subtle knowledge that almost everything I do is registered, noticed, collected, stored and recorded. This again contradicts my need for autonomy, independence and privacy.
Digital natives discovering and re-invent analogue narratives and lives
While I spent the first 22 years of my life without mobile phones and internet, the younger generations have never experienced a life depending on analogue means, like physical maps, fixed telephone lines and tapes. But it seems, they are now discovering the possibility for themselves. Young people open vintage bookstores without wifi connection, they gather in big group picnics and vinyl is on the rise. Maker spaces, fab labs and do it yourself workshops are a new phenomena.
In San Francisco I met a young man who quit his high profile job at Apple to become a carpenter, he wanted to be in touch with life directly (wood) and create something tangible. Young people open bakerys and offer bread baking workshops and the coolest hippest people work as barristas. There is a trend for gardening and growing vegetables.
A start-up we consult create solutions for creating food out of sunlight and they say: we are doing something that is for “real”, not just an app.
When we decided to keep the house of my parents in law on the countryside there was one driving force: how can we stay independent as much and long as possible?
The house has its own well, and one can cook and heat with wood, of which is plenty available. The neighbors provide us with eggs and we grow our own fruits, salads, herbs and vegetables. To live in this environment gives me a sense of safety and maybe the illusion of autonomy, but I would hate to live in a fully connected house. Some people cannot even open the door to their apartments without electricity.
In organizations we experience the strong need for dialogue formats and physical experiences. We are sensual beings who can get mentally lost and depressed, when we stick to screens. We will need to create more and more live, physical and human experiences, that don’t depend on digital means.
Digitalization should be a means and not the end
I have no illusion about the ongoing digitalization of life, the cultivation of attention and the ongoing colonization of our consciousness. But every trend provocates a co-arising counter-trend and with the rising levels of consciousness people we start to re-discover life as such and start to reconquer control over their lives, privacy and data.