So I have been working in the past 20 years in the business of helping people feel better. I am a licensed clinical psychologist, social-tech-entrepreneur, and academic researcher. I have built, for example, free to use digital parent training program, helped building programs that train volunteers to support other people, and a web-based recommender system for apps people can use to feel better.
But sometimes I feel like I am barking at the wrong tree. Like I am dealing with puppets, but missing the puppeteer. Honestly. In my view humankind is experiencing tsunami waves of challenges, while we move water with table spoons.
I have decided to take a different approach. Still doing all of my old staff, but also trying to build something new.
But where should we start from? Maybe from the idea of progress and what it really means.
States of progress
Within the past 100 years humankind has definitely progressed in many ways. More people have access to food and water, receive education, and get to live without burying their children (a horrific activity that was quite common 200 years ago). People also, on average, experience less violence at the personal level.
As a matter of fact, humankind is so advanced that we can even create a nuclear fusion, meaning, little suns!
However, it seems that new winds are blowing within the past decade.
- We can’t foster sufficient and effective collaboration to fight challenges such as the global warming.
- The war between Russia and Ukraine reminds us that violence is here to stay.
- Populism is on the rise which is evident in people’s voting patterns.
- Mental suffering is on the rise at the global level. More people are emotionally distressed.
In many ways humankind is not really progressed.
Think, for example, on these three largely different events: The hundreds of deaths of people taking selfies in dangerous locations, videos of people murdering others and posting it online (snuff-films), and (again largely different) my own exerted effort while writing articles like this one.
The story behind all these events is actually the same.
Human beings struggle to be relevant
Humans have always searched for relevance, but in our past this search was not very salient. The reason: In an era of technological acceleration, relevance is not secured. Technological progress has a deep impact on our struggle for relevance. An impact that started centuries ago.
In a mostly pre-technological world, up until 200-300 years ago, most humans lived in autonomous communities, outside of cities. In that era there were no effective tools to collaborate outside the community on a daily basis. Therefore, there was a great dependence between the members of the same community. When people depend on each other they feel more relevant. If I gather food for the community I get to see my neighbor’s child who gets to eat – I vividly witness the positive impact of my effort. If I am taking part of a small community, I am essential to the community, and if I’ll be gone I’ll be missed.
In a technologically accelerated world human beings are capable of cooperating with others outside a specific community. They can foster intercontinental trade relationships, lookout for potential collaborators through the Internet, and move to another location. In a world where we have many options, we are not highly committed to anyone. This is great when we are looking for the best collaborating partner. However, when we are not really committed to anyone, no one is really committed to us. Simply put – no one guarantees that we will still be relevant tomorrow.
The struggle for relevance in the current era helps find rationale in human behaviors that would not seem rationale otherwise. It explains why some people risk their lives to the point of taking a selfie in a dangerous place; why people pursue their livelihood at the expense of “higher values” (such as the global warming); and why so many remain miserable and unhappy.
This is my brief version answer to two fundamental questions:
- If humankind is so progressed, then how come so many feel so bad?
- How to utilize technological progress in the making of a society we can all be proud of?
I have been working on answering these questions my entire professional life, and I intend to use this channel to share new ideas and answers to these questions, ideas that need community to work on. I will be happy if you’ll subscribe to my mailing list, share it with others (to help me be more relevant) and hoping to see you around.
Together we can build a better world.