‘Far more often, competence involves the humanity required to connect with other people, in real time.’* (Seth Godin)
‘As dream, robots reveal our wish for relationships we can control.’** (Sherry Turkle)
We cannot control people the way we control machines, but there can be a wonderful serendipity arising from the opening of minds, hearts, and actions.
Our interactions are more and more wrapped in technology: we text, message, and email one another long before we pick up a phone, never mind meeting up. Sherry Turkle warns of what she sees the real issue to be in our expectations for technology:
‘we transgress bot because we try to build the new but because we don’t allow ourselves to consider what it disrupts or diminishes. We are not in trouble because of invention but because we think it will solve everything’.**
What technology does allow is to see what we can do when we connect; it then offers itself to us as a means of making things happen.
Erwin McManus tells of when he received an invitation to attend the 2014 Football World Cup Final in Rio de Janeiro. The bad news was there were only a few days to get there and a visa would take weeks, not to mention there was nowhere to stay in the city. The good news was that he was chosen by the people with the tickets because they believed him to be someone who would rearrange his life with a moment’s notice. Technology would make it possible to get everything in place for the trip to be made, even making it possible to find somewhere to stay on arriving. Erwin would see Germany beat Argentina but also spends a leisurely breakfast with the family that first put him up, and he wanders through the city taking in the sights and the feelings. These are the things technology cannot replace or reproduce.
‘How can you pull people together from across different systems in order to do something inspiring, fun and meaningful?’^
‘Creating a space collaboratively is the best recipe for creating a collaborative space.’^^
At the moment, I’m reading through someone’s book manuscript with an eye on where I might provide an illustration or two and some thoughts on collaboration got mer thinking about what it makes possible: we each have a contribution to make; we recognise how we are different to each other and so understand the complementary nature of each person’s contribution; what we do will have more impact; and, what we do will develop and grow more.
I mention this alongside Erwin’s story because of what he goes on to say following relating his story:
‘I could not help but think of how many times in life are are invited into an extraordinary adventure and into opportunities that only exist in our imaginations and we let them slip away.’*^
Erwin loves football and so the World Cup final wasn’t something to turn down. I found myself thinking about what I love to be about and what I do when opportunities and adventures are provided, even when I don’t know how I can make that happen. Just as Erwin’s story was made possible by many people, so ours will be. Lewis Hyde encourages us to think in this way:
‘constant and long-term exchanges between many people may have no “economic” benefit, but through them society emerges were there was none before’.^*
I believe we’re only beginning to understand how we can use our new technologies of connection but one of the things it has helped us to see is the wonder of a human life and what can happen when people get together to make something happen. It has always been the case, as Karen Armstrong helps us see in identifying Joseph Campbell’s hero as a means for understanding and unleashing our own heroic potential. I leave the final words to Armstrong:
‘Joseph Campbell has shown that every single culture developed its own myth of the hero, an exceptional human being who transformed the lives of his people at immense cost to himself. The story always takes the same basic form, so must express a universal insight. In all these tales, the hero begins by looking around his society and finding that something is missing. […] He can find no ready-made solution, so he decides to leave home, turn his back on everything safe and familiar and find a different answer. His quest is heroic because it demands self-sacrifice: the hero will experience pain, rejection, isolation, danger and even death. But he is willing to undertake the journey out of love for his people – a devotion that does not consist of wordy declarations but of practically expressed altruism.’⁺
(*From Seth Godin’s blog The confusion about compliance.)
(**From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(^^From Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft’s Make Space.)
(*^From Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)
(^*From Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.)
(⁺From Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.)