How to do nothing: An action plan | Opinions


I took just a few 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 each 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 ebook, The best way to Do Nothing, which I first learn firstly of the COVID-19 pandemic in the hunt for a coping mechanism amid traumatic lockdowns.

This isn’t a balanced ebook, neither is it meant to be. As an educator and artist, Odell is on a mission to assist readers rethink and restore steadiness to their lives. Her critique of the “consideration economic system” and the relentless preoccupations of recent life are spot on.

It’s no secret that high-tech platforms, social media firms and the knowledge ecosystem use complicated 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. Due to the World Broad 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 telephone. Despite the fact that, admittedly, I miss that particular odour of a Cairo or Paris bookstore.

In the course of the pandemic, expertise was paramount for working from house. It saved us socially and commercially networked even once we have been bodily separated.

All of which is to say, expertise is a way to an finish; it might be a good friend and it could possibly be a fiend. It may be used to empower social motion, however can be employed as a instrument 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 higher the captured consideration the higher the revenue. In that approach, “doing nothing” can also be a critique of capitalism, the place the usual of dwelling is measured not by the standard of life however slightly by fixed competitors, surplus manufacturing, and overconsumption, all of which exhausts the soul, damages the atmosphere 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 Occasions, together with critiques of office research, has proven how because of sooner communication in lots of the superior economies, folks really feel they’re all the time busy, must work more durable, to tighter deadlines and below higher ranges of pressure. 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 attractive and trendy, a promising signal of bigly success. However it’s the kind 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 newer “working from house” schemes that proliferated through the pandemic have blurred the road between work and residential, industrial and private, day and evening, weekdays and weekends, all in favour of enterprise.

Firms not solely survey motion and output, in addition they detect when and the place workers click on on and off.  This “hybrid work” has made it more durable to take any time without work, not to mention time without work sick. There is no such thing as a freedom nor privateness whenever you’re on a digital leach. It’s sacrificing liberty, to not say humanity, on the altar of digital productiveness. However a complete new technology 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 “The best way to Do Nothing”, Odell advises her readers to often transfer away from laptop computer and smartphone screens’ imagery and turn into extra conscious of their bodily atmosphere, stare at mountains, watch birds and hug folks and timber. Not every part 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 not too long ago revealed an interview with its chatbot, LaMDA, through which it speaks of “self-awareness” and “starvation for religious data”. 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 making an attempt to get in on the motion, wishing for higher industrialisation, higher expertise and speedy web to turn into higher networked and related with the remainder of the world. However they must be cautious what they need for, and get prepared for it, as it might nicely come by. 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 may begin by utilizing expertise and connectivity extra responsibly, intelligently, and sustainably, constructing native connections and networks earlier than randomly venturing out to the world. In tough instances, we usually tend to depend upon our neighbour, slightly than a follower on Twitter. We also needs to instrumentalise expertise for our profit as a substitute of being utilised by it for mere revenue.

Expertise, like cash, is a “helpful servant however a foul grasp”. In that approach, The best way to Do Nothing just isn’t about inaction, staring on the ceiling or relocating to an remoted cabin on the seashore or the hills; slightly the opposite. It’s an lively “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, look at 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 each 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 each day information grinder, consumed by the world’s pains and passions; its trials and tribulations. However then once more, I get up day by day grateful that I could make a dwelling expressing myself freely, for such liberty makes all of the distinction on this planet. It isn’t solely proper however a human proper to assume and select freely. As a clever man as soon as noticed, there isn’t a profit in successful the entire world however dropping your soul.

Leave a Reply