I’m no different than you, yet I’m probably very different from you – what’s that all about? Well, probably a lot of things, but not all things!
As you have most likely experienced (more times than you wish to both count and recall) the expression “It’s all about …”. The relief is – no it’s not and yet it is. It is not all about digitalization, employer branding, employee engagement, stress, competitive behaviour, can-do attitude, just do it, learning, listening, inclusion, diversity, and the list goes on and on.
No complex systemic context is all about one thing. So, when you come to that conclusion you should STOP and have a think. When consultants propose to you yet another hyped trend that supposedly will save or grow your business – do make an effort to hold your horses. The first thing to do is rephrasing to “It’s also all about!”, at least a saner outset, and the more reflective type would rephrase to “is it also all about?”, hence keeping the questioning open.
We all have the tendencies to seek the silver bullet the root cause and their potential solutions. I do it on a daily basis in the quest for what doesn’t exist – the absolute truth.
I tend to claim that it is all about the people – and for sure, no humans equate to no development. Over the years in ICT and digital I have found that my claim is as much based on the provocation of technology hyped trends as it is founded in reality – it is in fact an aggressive response to the statement “It’s all about the technology”.
My infantile behaviour is something to work on – but it’s not all about personal development either. For sure we can better propose life as NOT being about dichotomies, although they are quite useful in comprehending life – explaining a thing based on what it is not is a dialogue of dichotomy.
It is all about “the all” and all about “the parts”. Eloquently expressed by Edgar Morin[i] when he states that the sum of the parts is greater than the parts, but also always lesser than the sum of the parts.
Or as Luciano Floridi states it – never either/or:
“episteme and techne may not have entered into philosophical marriage yet, but they have been bedfellows for centuries now.”[ii]
For sure a fruitful love affair although not without quarrels and offspring like “The knowing-doing” gap with the subtitle “How smart companies turn knowledge into action”[iii] – an Aristotelian virtues cycle, how to get smart, how to know, and how to do the right thing?
It’s all about “the all” and its parts
So, it is still about “the all”, although we have a hard time comprehending it and an even harder time paying enough attention to actually embrace it. For a few hundred years we have been ignoring interdependence and interrelations in the holy name of reduction, induction, and deduction for the sake of bypassing reality to create overly ignorant simplicity, segregation, differentiation – but humans and human life is only partly simple, predictable and certain.
It is worth contemplating the words of Luciano Floridi
“Ultimately the equation is simple: Culture requires resources, and resources are acquired and managed through technology. No techne, no resources, no culture”. (p.304)” [iv].
There is not either/or, only both/and, hence the statement holds obvious reciprocity “No humans, no culture, no resources, no techne”, but you only need the first no to know that. From an existential perspective, it is perhaps most vividly expressed by Martin Buber in the “Eternal Thou” and more pragmatically by Alain Badiou “The beast and the inner immortal” – they are the same but different, and we can never escape our beastly ontology, at best we can hope to momentarily tame the beast within us.
Back to the question: “What’s it all about?” I’m not really sure, to be honest.
We see some signs of revival of concepts such as loyalty and solidarity still fragmented searches for community and both accountability & responsibility towards human unity in a fierce battle with the existing structure of politics and capitalism – the beast in us must survive (Maslow), but it brings hope for the inner immortal – because we are all part of the commons (even the hermit cannot escape this).
Finding meaning and purpose in our thoughts and actions is existentially vital to us all as individual humans. Joining forces in common causes seem to amplify this sensation, as we try to answer the existential demand of answering the “why”, not only for ourselves but also in the service of others – then it creates “communitas” by the fact that we are present only amongst others. Trivial matters do not suffice here – it must be beyond ourselves as I also earlier tried to indicate in “Life is philosophy – in disciplines, Leadership is transcendental in actions” by claiming:
”A good cause needs to speak to the beliefs of individuals; an honorable cause speaks to the norms and perhaps virtues of people and a valid cause speaks to the ethical values of humans.”
In conclusion what would serve as a fertile and potentially fruitful exiting point, before we once again ask the question, is provided by Luciano Floridi by way of his contemplation on life in the infosphere:
“…the infosphere is a shared, relational space, a commons… It is a space that should be conceptualised and governed more like a condominium—like Antarctica and the Space Station, which belong to everyone.”[v]
Do we dare close this “knowing-doing gap” from the perspective of humanity and the globe?
Stating again the question – What is it all about?
[i] On complexity, Edgar Morin, 2008, Hampton press, inc.
[ii] A Defence of Constructionism: Philosophy as Conceptual Engineering, Luciano Floridi, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3835174…
[iii] The Knowing-Doing gap: How smart companies turn knowledge into action, 2000, Harvard Business School Business Press. Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton.
[iv] The Ethics of Information, 2013, Oxford University Press.
[v] Trump, Parler, and Regulating the Infosphere as Our Commons, Luciano Floridi , Philosophy & Technology volume 34, pages1–5 (2021), https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13347-021-00446-7