Much of my work focuses on the tensions between human and technological evolution.
Our relationship with technology is changing. We used to be able to switch it on and off. We could put it back in the box at any time. Today things are different.
In a way, we are living Mary Shelly's Frankenstein story because we are losing control of our creation.
In contrast to the linear evolution pattern of humans, technology advances exponentially. What we had only a couple of generations ago looked nothing like what we have today. In contrast, humans haven't changed at all.
The people of the 1960's wouldn't have believed what we do today with the simple devices we can buy retail:
We have this 'thing' in our pockets that lets us access all the information in the world, listen to music, take pictures, shoot videos, make friends and even find people to sleep with...
We make long distance calls for free. We use it to have group conversations with people from all over the world, anytime, anywhere. We can even do it with video if we want to.
We can instantly send each other letters, documents, and pictures. Many of us even use it to pay for things.
Most of the things we take for granted today were unthinkable only 30 years ago. I think it is fair to say that so far, we have done a great job at adapting to all the innovation.
So how will we do in the next 10 years?
This is an open question because I certainly don't have an answer to it. The one thing that is on constantly on my mind is the concern about the fact that we can no longer just put our technology back in the box. Actually, there is no 'box' anymore. Technology is everywhere. It became the operating system of the world.
How do you feel when you leave the house without your mobile? What happens when you lose your internet connection? Go there for a moment. Do you feel like a fish out of the water?
I am a technology freak myself. I think that I give it too much space in my life. The other day I was shocked to realise that, not counting the typical 7 hours that I am asleep every day, I spend less than 3 hours NOT looking at a screen.
There is a tension rising in our relationship with technology. The tables are turning. Our linear human nature is frantically trying to keep up with exponential technology, we need to keep stretching the boundaries of our linear growth pattern. In doing so, we are creating habits that are putting us under a lot of stress and are maybe even displacing our nature.
We get overwhelmed and feel burned out. We grapple for solutions like mindfulness and meditation. We seek out life coaches. We take analog weekends or go on deliberate 'offline' holidays. These are deliberate efforts to seek shelter. It's driftwood on an ocean of distraction. But in the end, our attempts to find peace are little more than patches or symptomatic treatments for a more profound ailment.
But in the end, our attempts to find peace are little more than patches or symptomatic treatments for a more profound ailment.
I realised that I needed to revisit my mindset about my relationship with technology. I've come to peace with the fact that technology is now on a trajectory of its own. I spend much time trying to understand what is going on with artificial intelligence. From what I can see, it is one of the most underestimated developments of our time, if not the most terrifying. But so be it. It is already too late to switch it off...
Technology is in an early phase of developing a 'life' of its own. It has become an awesome force. Yes, it can be harnessed like the wind or the sun, but it is becoming more powerful than us.
How did we let this happen?
Technology becomes irresistible when it serves our basic needs of survival, safety or our need to connect with others. It eventually seduces us, no matter how much we initially reject it.
The more I thought about finding a balance, I realised that I needed to stop living in the service of technology but rather strive to leverage its powers. This may seem like a subtle shift, but it is more meaningful that you may believe.
So, I set out to re-evaluate the way I work with technology. I wanted to figure out how to keep becoming more productive while winning more time for the things that really matter most to me.
Ultimately, it is about striving to live your life on your own terms by summoning the forces of technology instead of being prompted by them.
And while I am at it, I want to share what I am learning and invite others along on this journey. I decided to turn it into an open program called 'Project Zero Inbox'.
I chose this name because an empty inbox feels like you are more in control of things. It feels much like freedom. At least it does to me.
I am aware that not everyone feels this way about an empty inbox. I did a little experiment at my office: I asked a few people a simple question:
'What is the first thing that comes to mind when I say 'Zero Inbox'?
I did this because I wanted to get a better understanding of what this choice of words really means to others. My intention was to validate the name I had chosen for the program but what I got back was rather surprising:
"It means I can go home early"
"It will just fill up again because we all have to use email whether we like it or not"
"It means nobody cares about you"
"It means business is bad"
These answers are quite revealing. They tell us about the hidden scripts that run within us when it comes to our relationship with technology.
And while this experiment represents only a microscopic sample of the workforce, it was surprising to learn that an empty inbox caused more anxiety than joy.
These answers carry the message that most of us have already become the subjects of technology rather than its masters!
Rather than deliberately wielding it as a means for control, many of us have become more like a hamster in a wheel...
How's your relationship with technology?
If you are up for it, join me in Project Zero Inbox to get back on top of things...It's free!