I took a couple of days off final week, hoping for an actual break from the urgent information agenda, however doing nothing might be more durable than doing something.
Breaking out of the day by day routine and habits, blocking out the fixed noise and distraction, and specializing in what issues is actually difficult. However additionally it is rewarding. Or, so argues Jean Odell in her 2019 guide, Methods to Do Nothing, which I first learn in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic seeking a coping mechanism amid traumatic lockdowns.
This isn’t a balanced guide, neither is it meant to be. As an educator and artist, Odell is on a mission to assist readers rethink and restore stability to their lives. Her critique of the “consideration economic system” and the relentless preoccupations of contemporary life are spot on.
It’s no secret that high-tech platforms, social media corporations and the data ecosystem use advanced algorithms to strategically seize and broaden our consideration, and commodify it for revenue.
The variety of folks on their sensible telephones, tablets and laptops at eating places, on the road or on the park at any given time demonstrates how our lives are being formed by this “consideration economic system”.
That’s to not say that expertise is in and of itself an issue. Removed from it. Because of the World Huge Net, I’m able to attain all of you, great folks all over the world, in a fraction of a second. And because of digital publishing I’m able to retailer and recall hundreds of books and albums on my cellphone. Though, admittedly, I miss that particular odour of a Cairo or Paris bookstore.
Throughout the pandemic, expertise was paramount for working from dwelling. It stored us socially and commercially networked even after we have been bodily separated.
All of which is to say, expertise is a way to an finish; it could be a buddy and it may very well be a fiend. It may be used to empower social motion, however can be employed as a software of exploitation, surveillance and repression.
It’s the cynical misuse and abuse of expertise for revenue and management that renders our consideration, intentions and vulnerabilities – to not say our humanity – a mere product to be purchased and bought.
The larger the captured consideration the larger the revenue. In that method, “doing nothing” can be a critique of capitalism, the place the usual of residing is measured not by the standard of life however reasonably by fixed competitors, surplus manufacturing, and overconsumption, all of which exhausts the soul, damages the setting and devastates the planet.
It was predicted that expertise would ease work schedules and reduce working hours; it has not, not but. Sarah O’Connor’s wonderful reporting within the Monetary Instances, together with critiques of office research, has proven how due to quicker communication in lots of the superior economies, folks really feel they’re at all times busy, must work more durable, to tighter deadlines and below larger ranges of stress. And they’re, on common, producing much less.
It’s value noting that, in contrast to the burned-out Amazon drivers, Ford meeting staff, and McDonald’s servers, lots of the excessive earners within the monetary business view busyness as one thing horny and trendy, a promising signal of bigly success. However it’s the type of busyness devoid of ardour, poetry, and variety, permitting life to slide by unnoticed. All of it makes me marvel if busyness is the origin of enterprise.
The more moderen “working from dwelling” schemes that proliferated throughout the pandemic have blurred the road between work and residential, industrial and private, day and night time, weekdays and weekends, all in favour of enterprise.
Firms not solely survey motion and output, in addition they detect when and the place staff click on on and off. This “hybrid work” has made it more durable to take any break day, not to mention break day sick. There isn’t any freedom nor privateness once you’re on a digital leach. It’s sacrificing liberty, to not say humanity, on the altar of digital productiveness. However an entire new era is chained to digital devices, looking at their digital screens, as if in a modern-day “Plato’s Cave”, looking at shadows of fragmented and distorted representations of actuality.
In “Methods to Do Nothing”, Odell advises her readers to sometimes transfer away from laptop computer and smartphone screens’ imagery and grow to be extra conscious of their bodily setting, stare at mountains, watch birds and hug folks and timber. Not all the pieces have to be “helpful” to be significant.
In Kazuo Ishiguro’s great however disturbing futuristic novel, Karla and the Solar, even the robotic, Karla, hates to be handled solely as a helpful object, not to mention as a vacuum cleaner, and prefers to enterprise out to see the solar and meet new folks. And in a case of life imitating fiction, an AI engineer at Google lately revealed an interview with its chatbot, LaMDA, wherein it speaks of “self-awareness” and “starvation for non secular information”. Go determine.
All these could also be first- or second-world preoccupations, since a lot of the so-called third or creating world remains to be attempting to get in on the motion, wishing for larger industrialisation, higher expertise and speedy web to grow to be higher networked and related with the remainder of the world. However they should be cautious what they want for, and prepare for it, as it could nicely come via. Beginning with studying from the failures, as a lot as from the successes, of the primary world in order to not repeat them.
All of us might begin through the use of expertise and connectivity extra responsibly, intelligently, and sustainably, constructing native connections and networks earlier than randomly venturing out to the world. In troublesome occasions, we usually tend to rely upon our neighbour, reasonably than a follower on Twitter. We also needs to instrumentalise expertise for our profit as an alternative of being utilised by it for mere revenue.
Expertise, like cash, is a “helpful servant however a foul grasp”. In that method, Methods to Do Nothing is just not about inaction, staring on the ceiling or relocating to an remoted cabin on the seaside or the hills; reasonably the opposite. It’s an energetic “act of resistance”, an “motion plan”, skewed to free folks from the shackles of the eye economic system and vulgar capitalism.
Time to drop out of limitless connectivity and transfer outwards in direction of folks and actual issues and dig deeper for that means. Time to take a look at issues from completely different angles, study them from different views and separate the wheat from the chaff.
It’s certainly excessive time to drop off the high-tech social-engineering meeting line, away from the herd mentality. And sure, breaking out of the day by day routine and habits, blocking out the fixed noise, the interruptions and distractions, and specializing in what issues. Admittedly, a lot of the above feels theoretical now that I’m again on the grid and within the day by day information grinder, consumed by the world’s pains and passions; its trials and tribulations. However then once more, I get up each day grateful that I could make a residing expressing myself freely, for such liberty makes all of the distinction on the earth. It isn’t solely proper however a human proper to assume and select freely. As a smart man as soon as noticed, there isn’t a profit in successful the entire world however shedding your soul.