Lesstoday instead of yesterday

With the swing to the right, many citizens are expressing a longing for a change that reflects conservative values focused on protecting the immediate family, the way things were when life seemed simpler. Young people to find solace online, where the life presented is just easier and more fun than reality. A criticism towards left, green, sustainable, progressive, even global thinking is that it is complex; communicating messages without purpose or hope because the planet is in a state, everything will become more expensive, resources are tight and we all must accept to live with less.

[In a hurry? Find the executive summary created together with (not by) Perplexity at the bottom of page.]

But what is ‘less’? What about less stress, less fear, less pressure, less ill health and less loneliness?

Wealth can be expressed in terms of money in the bank, tangible goods from a house, nice furniture, a yacht or intangible lifestyle perks like holidays abroad, lavish dinners out or a gym or country club membership. It can also, however, be expressed in quality of life – having the time to spend with family and friends, a good nights sleep, being in nature and feeling a sense of excitement because you recognise a certain tree by its leaf or a bird by its song because you had the time to develop this as a hobby. Wealth at macro-level is freedom of movement, cultural exchanges and being able to express yourself and allowing others to do the same. Poverty, then, is sitting at a dinner table and everyone is looking at their screen, it is also having to work 7am-9pm+, being told what to do at a moment’s notice and foregoing important events for the pay check. At macro-level, it is the threat of constant surveillance, any kind of dependency (alcohol, prescription drugs, technology) and lack of transparency in what we are told by experts, what we consume and what we can expect from our leadership due to complex supply chains, shareholder over stakeholder management and a power game.

If we can embrace AI to do the work with us, we can identify the connections between sustainability or green initiatives with running businesses and organising our (inter)national infrastructure so that they truly make a difference in the right way because we approach the problem systemically. For example, the bird protection organisation (RSPB) in Scotland needs to work with landowners and farmers to reduce the number of deer that eat young trees, which impacts the birds. We can subsidise venison or consider natural predators such as the wolf or the lynx. Scotland can learn from The USA, Mexico, The Netherlands and Germany where the wolf is now part of wildlife. But wolves get hit by traffic so what about infrastructure and planning, in relation to railway building versus motorways? How about the psychology of the myth of the wolf – either avoiding people to hunt it or pet it. We need to work together to understand the connections. 

AI can help but also costs enormous amounts of energy. We need to get rid of data no longer needed, rethink why we need AI and what it is used for, what AI tasks can be done during off-peak hours. Similarly, AI can then also be used to predict what other technology and machine work can be done more efficiently, at lower energy costs, help reduce waste, optimise ethical supply chains and production. It can help model solutions for complex problems as a digital twin, supporting the transition to renewable energy and the global aim for net zero.

Secondly, if we can embrace the importance of play, creativity and community support, we can create a better space together, for each other. This means a revaluing of the ‘Homo Ludens’ (Huizinga, 1939) – The joy of learning and development is ‘mastery’ – to excel in something that inspires, gives joy, evokes a sense of ‘in the flow’ in the present yet is a continuous sense of purpose into the future. People who are Masters vary across the spectrums and disciplines – from Leonardo da Vinci to Quincy Jones, or Georgia O’Keeffe to Richard Branson and from Jane Goodall to Bruce Lee.

In order to become a master at one thing we cannot do everything. The days of one CEO knowing everything or a person wearing multiple hats is archaic and will not help the future generation and the planet. We need to share the platform, take a sigh of relief and spend time enjoying ourselves with less material wealth steeped in conditions of poverty. CEO of Entertainment Media Partners, American film and theatre producer and executive Adam Leipzig’s argues that one’s sense of purpose is determined by the contribution one makes for others.

We need AI to do the house work for artists and masters, not to make  the art so that the artist or master can do house work. We code and determine AI and how it serves us. AI can be is a democratisation of knowledge sharing, editing, creating and organising – it can connect the dots internally to an organisation or globally across nations. It can level the playing field by helping young people to write better, find opportunities and develop their ‘soft’ skills such as cultural intelligence. 

Cultural intelligence is the skill to engage with people, animals, a living world that is different from oneself. We can feel relief in that nobody is from a Greenwich Mean Time Culture, from which others deviate – we all contribute to a colourful community and it’s the diversity of flavours of foods, how we educate, how we find purpose and celebrate, and in the variety in how we dress, dance and deal with death that makes our short time on the planet a pleasure. 

Finally, whether it is tenacity or diligence, grit is often seen as a resilient way of life. Now, there is a counter argument to grit, which is the idea that smart people give up on bad ideas in time. Epstein argues that “many of the most effective people in elite professional fields (such as sports, art, and scientific research) succeed not despite the fact but because they find their way to that particular field after pursuing other endeavours first”. In other words, a meandering path may bring you to your purpose, provided that you stack your skills. This includes having a runner’s view, with the wisdom of a rower’s perspective. Opt for lesstoday, with the learning experience from yesterday. 

The concept of ‘created happenstance’ can provide some scaffolding for the journey that they are about to carve out for themselves just by doing things out of curiosity, deal with obstacles with persistence but be flexible and optimistic about changing circumstances (LSE). There are four steps:

  1. clarify ideas: follow your curiosity and identify your interests
  2. remove the blocks: wonder “how can I” rather than “I can’t because…”
  3. expect the unexpected: be prepared for chance opportunities, such as unexpected phone calls, chance encounters, impromptu conversations and new experiences
  4. take action: learn, develop skills, remain open and follow up on chance events

In sum, if you’re not clear about the ‘life path’, start doing something for the here and now that is in servitude for oneself and others, trying (new) things with curiosity and look forward to the future.

If you are interested in expanding horizons via a doctorate at Middlesex University, do check out the various options, including Doctorate by Public Works or Transdisciplinary Doctorate 

Executive Summary: 

Many people long for a return to conservative values and simpler times, criticizing progressive ideas as overly complex without hope. However, a focus on our planet, sustainability and reducing consumption doesn’t necessarily mean accepting “less” in a negative sense. Wealth can be measured not just in material goods, but in quality of life – time with loved ones, connection with nature, and freedom of expression.

Modern poverty that affects many people stems from overwork, lack of autonomy, addiction, and lack of transparency about what we consume and who leads us. By working together and embracing AI to connect the dots of complex issues, we can systematically address issues like true quality of life for the many, not the few. We can also revalue creativity, play, mastery and community support to find purpose. Becoming a “master” at one pursuit allows us to make meaningful contributions that benefit the planet and make us happier individuals because we collect memories, not stuff.
Along the way of new learning, we’ll meet new people and make new friends. A skill as part of that mastery journey is cultural intelligence, which is an anxiety-free curiosity about others who are different from us. Know though, that the country with a Greenwich Mean Time Culture from which others deviate does not exist! We learn from each other by sharing the platform and that, in turn, creates time for yourself. Embrace the idea of meandering and meeting new people while you’re exploring. Finding your purpose involves a journey of curiosity, skill-stacking, and taking chance opportunities. It’s another kind of wealth that is also better for the planet.

If you are interested in expanding horizons via a doctorate at Middlesex University, do check out the various options, including Doctorate by Public Works or Transdisciplinary Doctorate 


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