Invest In Emerging Humanity

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Personal technology is a bit of a mixed blessing…

You can reach the world with tap of a screen. On any given day, I exchange email, tweets, DMs, comments, texts, skype and webinar with friends and colleagues from across the globe. But, that same potential to flatten and connect the world also has a dark side. It feeds behavioral patterning that connects you to others on a global scale, but also has the potential to become so consuming and addictive that it disconnects you from the people two feet away from you.

Without intention, it can disable a certain amount of local humanity, shutting down the gorgeous exchange of energy that evaporates the moment you slide a screen between two living, breathing, fully-present beings. The always-on, always accessible, real-time notifications create a classic intermittent reinforcement stimulus pattern that literally rewires your brain to create a pull that rivals narcotic addiction.

You want to be “there,” for the people who are supposed to really matter, but you can’t.

What starts as freedom to connect ends up annihilating free will.

At the same time, while some technologies enable movement, many more now facilitate so much sedentary living, working and ergonomic dysfunction that they inadvertently wreak havoc on your body, mindset, health and ability to perform at your potential. I’ve felt this in a profound way in my own body over the last few years, and am making major changes in workflow to reverse it.

What we’ve got here is a very slippery slope…

Technologies that, managed well, can add to your life, expand and enrich the human experience, but without deliberate effort, also present a heightened risk of destroying connection and wellbeing by pulling you out of your most important relationships and skewering physical health.

Still, “smart money” continues to invest in these technologies at a rapid pace, even seeking out and rewarding ones that make it harder to stop using them.

Most angels, VCs and investors are so focused on scaling and exit, they ignore the effect their portfolio companies may have on their everyday human users’ “bathroom” scales and increased risk of exit…from the planet.

What to do?

Invest time, energy, attention and money in experiences and solutions that exalt and reclaim what technology untamed takes. Invest in technologies that don’t just gamify ease of adoption and use in a vacuum, but rather leverage these same behavioral patterns to facilitate local connection, community, movement and wellbeing.

You wanna tweet or surf or play a game for 5 minutes? Earn it with 100 steps and a cup of tea with a friend. Make a phone call to family, friend or colleague? Not if the GPS in both your phones detects you within 200 feet of each other. Create an app that turns off call functionality and forces you to get off your ass, walk over and do it face to face. Award points, create leader-boards that leverage technology to reconnect people locally and inspire health-building behavior. These may or may not be real ideas. The point is to kindle the conversation.

Over the next 10 years, a cornucopia of research is going to hit that reveals what many of the default applications of tech are actually doing to us. Life’s not just about our ability to get more done in less time and rush from tech-addled dopamine hit to hit. It’s about our ability to live good lives. And you can’t do that without genuine relationships and a body and brain that aren’t constantly quitting on you.

I’d love to see some money get on the right side of that investment equation.

To invest not only in emerging technology, but emerging humanity.

So, what do YOU think?

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34 responses

34 responses to “Invest In Emerging Humanity”

  1. For the health of myself, my son, and my family, we have a new rule for meals:
    cell phones can’t even be IN SIGHT.
    Some study showed that even SEEING your cell phone makes you unhappy and itchy to post what you’re doing.
    I saw it in myself so clearly, that as a family we immediately made a pact – phones AWAY during meals.
    Thanks for the reminder, J.

    • Bob White says:

      Alexandra – we had many “dinner rules” at our house especially as the older children were becoming young adults – dinner didn’t start until everyone who could be, was home; and the only “noise” allowed was conversation.

      Those 2 rules have made a major difference in our lives.

  2. ayala says:

    True and wise words. I love this, thank you. 🙂

  3. John Muldoon says:

    Whenever my wife and I take an extended vacation, there’s a funny thing that happens over the first few days.

    The first day, I probably check my phone every 30-60 minutes. What am I checking for? Tweets, emails, blog comments…but I don’t actually need* to do any of that stuff. It’s just a habit. The second day, I check the phone in the morning and once or twice throughout the day. By the third day, I sometimes don’t even know where my phone is–which is a wonderful feeling. Instead of “I should tweet about that” I start to think “I’d like to savor this memory.” That feels much closer to a good life.

  4. Mark says:

    Good Luck Jonathan. I am also hopeful and I am an eternal optimist. I don’t see an “emerging humanity” movement.
    One quick example…When my children say “I just got through talking to him.” They meant they just got through “texting” them.
    Here’s another example. Have you read or heard anything out of the mouth of Ray Kurzwell, a highly intelligent man and an expert in AI. He believes we should all be connected technologically to the point of technology predicting our every move.
    Another example. The average time spent on Facebook for most users is far from “emerging humanity”. And the problem here is that the typical Social Media advocate feels they are “high touch”!
    With Gratitude,
    Mark

  5. Anne says:

    You just voiced what I’ve been talking about (in person) with friends (who started as customers and fellow entrepreneurs) who live locally.

    That’s why my only strategy for 2013 is to make that human connection.

    Instead of a webinar in January – I’m starting a series of live workshops.
    Instead of skype interviews – I’m going to sit, drink tea, and TALK to people.
    Instead of tweeting that I’m thinking of someone, I’ll call them and then go see them.

    This is such an important topic – because I’ve felt the slow disconnect from my own life… and I can’t afford that. My husband, my daughter, my in-laws – they all sustain me and my energy is also needed to help them thrive and grow.

    Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been thinking, feeling, and moving toward the last few months.

    -Anne

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Hey Anne –

      Funny, I’ve been filming episodes of Good Life Project out in San Francisco this week. Someone asked me why I don’t just make the show the standard split-screen Skype. There are many reasons, but one if that things happen when you’re face-to-face with someone, there’s an energy, a connection that never happens digitally.

      I want to help people reclaim that sense of connection, so I need to model it, too.

      • Anne says:

        I feel the exact the same way, Jonathan…and I’m working in that direction big time. Off. The. Box. That’s the theme for 2013.

        Great great post.

  6. Patty Soffer says:

    Hey, I’m with you on this. Humanity is the glue. We must never forget that.

    My entire business fell apart because my partner and I, who had offices across the hall from each other, chose not to talk face-to-face but instead to declare war via email.

    The outcome of that was:1. failed partnership; 2. failed health from stress; 3. failed business; 4. financial disaster; 5. the firing of 40 people; 6. loss of identity; 7. legal battle; 8. lost friendships.

    This was a huge price to pay for wimping out and hiding behind the keyboard. People need to connect in a human way. Tech can be an assault weapon. Beware.

  7. Dr. Chris says:

    Gratitude for these words.

    Our bodies, our vessels, allow us to share our message and vision for the world.

    Steve Jobs and Bob Marley died at relatively young ages, some say, because they neglected what their body needed to express health.

    Imagine what the world would be like if they had paid more attention to their health to be around longer? Or better yet, if they had died even earlier before we ever knew their names?

    And it’s because of BIG names, that a great humanity can emerge.

    Samesies for JF and all of us. 🙂

  8. Zana Hart says:

    Being in my 30s when we got our first telephone answering machine, I remember simpler times and still kinda default to them. I LOVE being online and do have to keep it in check. My husband and I work at home and we often send each other links by email, or even questions when we don’t want to interrupt the other one right then. But we talk to each other a lot at meals.

    With family scattered all over the country, I appreciate being able to stay in closer touch with them with quick emails, etc. But recently I vowed to make actual dates to get together with friends locally, in the flesh, every week!

  9. Kathie McCarthy says:

    I am a big fan of Dan Siegel’s work as a powerful balance to our involvement with our shiny objects. He is gifted at the translation of the infinitesimal details of neuroscience into practical, humorous, easy to grasp concepts.
    According to the latest research in parenting, the single predictor of the outcome of parenting is the degree to which we listen carefully enough to our children so that we respond to who they are (not to who we think they are or who we want them to be).
    And according to current understanding of the mind, we can change how our brains work by how and where we focus our minds.
    Do you see how this works?
    When we tend to our embodied minds and keep ourselves as focused, resilient and integrated as possible, we are beter parents/people. And better able to pass this along in every interaction we have with others – be it our children, our fellow workers, other drivers – because the mind is embodied and relational. We change our minds and the minds of others by how we related to them.

    Dan is an advocate for investing in relationship. Being in connection with others (especially our children) as the best way to to insure our children are compassionate, resilient, focused and moral.
    Three of his most popular books are Mindsight. The Whole Brain Child. Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology.
    He and Jack Kornfield have ended up at a crossroads together – having arrived there from completely different places. Dan – pediatric psychiatrist, researcher. Jack – Buddhism, meditation. Both sharing the wisdom of mindfulness (even tho Dan had no idea there was a many thousand years old tradition called mindfulness when he thought he had coined the phrase to describe his understandings of the applications of neuroscience to psychiatry.)

  10. Thanks for the reminder Jonathan.

    The lure of what’s possible is so compelling. I had just this morning recognized that despite hours of efforts, my iPad and my Mac address book and calendar are not syncing and therefore not at all helping me. Then I remembered that I didn’t have this problem 6-months ago (pre iPad).

    We can do that with all this technology. Just step back a bit. I’ll still use my iPad for what’s working and wait for someone to improve whatever’s not working for me now.
    As a graphic designer I need to be pretty conversant with the technology that will help small businesses’ leverage their brands to thrive. So for me (and most people, I think) there’s no way off the bus. It is still possible, however, to slow down and look out the window occasionally. Hello there.

    David Alexander.

  11. I love what you bring up on so many levels, Jonathon. First is the act local adage. There’s a reason that big change happens on a global level when communities change. And not just the online community, but in person community. Isn’t it funny to watch business trending towards community building? We’re just trying to virtually create what is naturally at our finger tips.

    Aside from the business aspects, the effects on my personal wellness of tech is amazing. I just had a 3 week NO tech vacation. No email checking, no Instagramming, no Facebook. I wouldn’t even use my phone to take pictures. Only as an alarm…which I rarely used (yay vacation, right?!)

    What really surfaced was the fear I had around “disappearing” or having nobody remember me. It was slightly absurd (as fears can be), but it points to the marketing and roles of current people I follow.

    Having returned to work and home, I’ve made the conscious decision not to get caught back into the mindset of connecting all the time or even being available online. Replying to emails once a day. If somebody’s house is on fire, they’ll call.

    It’s all about setting up our own boundaries and being calm and conscious that we’re doing the best for ourselves, our families, our community. And THAT will make a bigger difference in the long run than getting that last message out!

  12. Thank you Jonathan for addressing such an important part of living the good life. Sure there are benefits to being digitally connected, but when I see ads or am in cafes and see everybody with their heads down in their tech, I feel like I’m living in the zombie apocalypse and my heart breaks.

    That’s just the thing: there is an energy transfer between people’s hearts when connecting in person that is important on a health and even evolutionary aspect I’d argue, then the dopamine rush we get in answering our apps. The HeartMath Institute in northern CA has all sorts of research on this.

    Thank you for reminding us to wake up to the beauty that’s right in front of us… it’s so much more FULFILLING!

  13. Lizzie says:

    I love this, Jonathon. Today at my Ignite group meeting (at a local Steamboat coffee shop), someone asked if we should advertise ourselves as an innovative ONLINE community and I adamantly stated no. All of our meetings are in person. We have over 200 members in a town of less than 10,000 people. We’re tech junkies, but we love FACE time. The clink of toasting pints of beer, cups of coffee or mugs of tea is waaaaaay better than the ping of us tweeting each other across the table. I’m so grateful to live in a small town where face time is so easy and encouraged, but I still need a good kick in the arse to make sure I’m not getting into that addictive mode with my iphone. Thank you and I’m LOVING the Good Life Project. I think I’ve watched almost every episode.

  14. beth says:

    So, by being a late adopter I may actually be trending. LOL

    I still use a 12 year old cell as a personal phone and one of those home phone wireless systems as my business number. I just recently started to look into the idea of a smart phone to make it easier to conduct some of my tutoring business. I have been reluctant because I have long been an advocate of “being where you are, doing what you’re doing, with whom you are doing it”. I like being disengaged from the world from time to time and, as you said, being engaged face to face with the people and things I am doing right then. In the course of my investigations I ran across an article somewhere that talked about how some people were returning to the simple cells of “olden days” and using their tablets as their data device. Made me laugh and also reconsider my plan. I may go that way too.

    I love your Goodlife Project interviews precisely because they are face to face in the room. I can see how you are interacting with each other and with the beautiful spaces you have chosen for your interviews. I feel like I am sitting in the space with you. I don’t get that from a split screen skype interview. With technology I feel like I am watching from the window of my computer screen. I feel more like a voyeur than a participant. I’m not dissing skype, I love it, but it has a far different feel.

    I am reminded of an old Darma and Greg where Darma, the anti cell-everywhere-I-go child, was upset with Greg during a car emergency because he’d left his phone at home so they wouldn’t be disturbed. Her response was, “Oh yeah, that’s right, you have the only cell phone without an off button.” I remembered that and have always made judicious use of the off button.

  15. Jonathan,

    Thanks as always for taking the time to put down in writing what many of us are struggling with. I’m here smack dab in Silicon Valley – headquarters of Twitter, FAcebook, et all so issues feel even more amplified.

    I’d recommend folks head over to a conference coming up in San Francisco area in February on this very subject. Check it out at: http://www.wisdom2summit.com. It’s aims to join ancient wisdom practices with modern technology challenges. I plan to be there. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn if anyone plans to attend. Marie-Jeanne Juilland

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Hey Marie-Jeanne –

      I’m actually there right now, been filming in the Bay area this week. Maybe that’s part of where this post came from. And, I’ll see you at Wisdom 2.0, too!

  16. Jon Chandonnet says:

    This post is so timely and resonant as I conceive of the enterprise I want to create. Thank you.

  17. Elle says:

    Totally agree. I do love texting, but I hate talking on the phone so the only alternative is actually meeting face to face. The problem is that now we have so many connections to keep in touch with that there is never enough time in the day to spend time with all of them!

    I would love to offer more face to face time in my business as well. It truly makes a world of difference.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Hey Elle –

      I’m going to write more about how I’ve been experimenting with handling the want/need/desire to stay connected in the physical plane, but not having time for individual “coffees” very often. Stay tuned.

  18. Chris Colameco says:

    Im Currently Reading The Shallows, “What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains” by Nicholas Carr (http://www.amazon.com/Shallows-What-Internet-Doing-Brains/dp/0393339750) and highly recommend it. As for me I use the same brick cell phone I’ve had since 07, and disconnected internet from my house. I use wifi in coffee shops once every few days.

    -Chris

  19. So far I’ve gotten by without (1) being on Facebook, or (2) having a cell phone.

    You’re making me feel cutting edge, Jonathan!

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      LOL. You are SO cutting edge. Thing is, I don’t rail against technology. It can be used for good in so many ways. But we need to get a lot more intentional about how it can also use us.

  20. Jayne says:

    I think there is something in the air.. I’m currently drafting a piece for ScoutieGirl on the issue of in-person connection. I love what technology has made possible.

    And now it’s given us an opportunity to make choices aligned with our values and our desires. I love that I can connect or work with someone across the globe. But I also love that I can drop off Twitter for a couple of days or forget to check my mobile because I’ve been engaged with life in a very physical way.

    Thanks for posting this.

  21. Tahlee says:

    Love this Jonathan!!!

    BTW – have you seen this TED talk about the game “superbetter”? It’s become on of my top 3 TED talks and I think it’s highly relevant to your interests 🙂

    http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_the_game_that_can_give_you_10_extra_years_of_life.html

  22. Catherine says:

    Love this post Jonathan. Thank you.
    I’m actually starting up a web based tv show and my vision for it was to be in the room with the people I’m talking with instead of on Skype. At this time I cannot do it that way just yet. So I’ve decided to move forward with the conversations on Skype so that the information can be offered to people now rather then later. But it does bother me just a bit.
    It’s been on my mind. I just asked someone here locally if they would like to be involved with this show and they agreed. My thought was ” I can’t wait to sit face to face with them! ”

    I personally teach a mix of live retreats and online courses. I’m personally grateful that online courses exist. With a 3 year old at home I’ve still been able to learn from others, connect with like minded people and share my work with others while caring for my son. But there’s really nothing like connecting live.

  23. mark morey says:

    The work of 8 shields and Richard Louv are all about deep nature connection and the work I do with them is called the art of mentoring, which is an immersion in connective routines that source from tribal cultures. connection to self, connection to others, connection to nature and connection to spirit. very powerful and need like water in a desert.

    Mark Morey

  24. Jonathan you’ve hit on a really interesting trend that’s happening right now – a desire to go back to being connected in person. There are reports of depression on the rise because people are only connecting online and missing out on real human interactions that count.

    I make a point of going to meetups when I’m travelling to a new city and talking to people in airports and on trains to ensure my entire community and life doesn’t exist online. We’re also seeing a trend towards more in person events and retreats as people crave that human touch.

    The trick is resisting the urge to not be completely reliant on these amazing new tools and applications, and working with tools that actually move you offline too

  25. Tom Bentley says:

    Jonathan, it’s funny (but not very) that when I read your email, I was also listening (well, my ears heard noise) to a webinar and looking at a Twitter stream, while I had a writing project open on my screen as well. Oh, the humanity! Obviously, that’s unsustainable behavior, on a spiritual as well as logical level.

    I also fear potential neurological re-shapings, that perhaps will suppress the means to absorb in reflective way long-form information in favor of the slot-machine, bells-lit flavor packs of brain candy we can access all day long now.

    After musing on your post, I vow to no longer do these data-crams, which have been shown to have minimal retention value regardless. The Net and its wonders have been an immeasurable boon to my work, but that horrible sucking sound of my soul draining away has to be listened to as well. Balance sounds good. Thank you.

  26. Great post Jonathan. The key is definitely blending technology and real human interaction. It’s easy to lose site of that when we’re so “connected.” Thanks for sharing these ideas!

  27. Excellent post! The human connection is so important to our health on so many levels. And to help us connect in deeper richer ways, I’m using technology to invest in humanity through a company I started a few years back. As wonderful as it is to spend time with each other, sometimes we don’t quite understand each other. I’m hoping this tool will bring greater understanding about ourselves and those around us, so the time we spend together can be even more meaningful.

  28. […] administered”—while I was webinaring and tweeting and reading and wobbling, I opened this email from Jonathan Fields. His post squints at this collected connectivity, and the accompanying […]