I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend who quit his high-flying career as a banker to become a mindfulness coach. “One in three people in London are now technically mad”, he explains. “I am doing my best to help them find balance and happiness”.
It’s not a heartening statistic but anyone catching an early morning tube heading into London just needs to look into the eyes of commuters to conclude he’s probably right. So why is it that people are losing their minds? A recent observation by Clayton Christensen* clarifies the problem. Clayton observes that for the last fifty years, businesses have been measured on their ability to drive down costs and increase efficiency. A worthy maxim when you think of automating dreary manufacturing jobs and outsourcing labour to cheaper parts of the world.
But this strategy has eaten up jobs, recreation time and the joy in our lives. Everyone is being expected to do more and to do it for less. White collar workers are expected to respond to email 24x7 while building workers are sometimes competing for work with people who sometimes don’t have a home, let alone a business to support in the UK.
Technology gets a lot of stick for its impact on jobs too. Uber is killing off Cabs around the world; AirBnB is eating the hotel business. Some people claim that social media is eating our joy by wasting our time and showing us how much more fun or success other people are having. Luckily for Facebook, the Dalai Lama disagrees. He reckons it’s what we do with technology that needs scrutinising, not technology itself and I think he’s right.
We are living in the most exciting time there has ever been. We stand on the brink of revolutionary inventions that could bring us limitless energy - even everlasting life. So surely, the first thing we need to fix is the hole in our lives where the joy used to be. But where to start?
I’ve recently been thinking a lot about what’s wrong with education. How can it be right that we take our children and fling them into the most aggressive academic hothouse in the history of humankind, saddle them with vast debts in return for minimal tuition and then cast them out, completely unprepared for the world of work. Why don’t we train our children in the things that they’ll need to survive in a job-shrinking future? How to budget, how to cook, how to parent. How to live in a society and take care of one another.
Mental health needs massive scrutiny. According to a recent report from the Office for National Statistics, men in the UK between the ages of 20 and 49 are more likely to die from suicide than from any other cause. Can you tell me why isn’t this front page news everyday? And what can be done about it? How much is linked to the woes in education that not only dumps hard working young people with good degrees on the unemployment register but fails to teach young people what contributes to good mental health? And if resources to deliver one-to-one counselling are likely to be constrained in the future, how might we be able to augment this treatment with apps or bots or some other ingenious tech that might prove even more effective?
Tech has already proved it can connect us with all the knowledge and the peoples of the world. It can help us learn and grow and play. I reckon it can help us stay sane. Perhaps it can even help us grapple with the divine mysteries of life. JoyTech is simply the pursuit of a more joyful existence with the help of our dearest friend - technology.