An opportunity to reimagine our world, and our place in it

Originally published at: https://www.fairphone.com/en/2020/04/22/an-opportunity-to-reimagine-our-world/

During the past months, as our worlds have become smaller, and our routines have been reduced to what we can accomplish within the confines of our homes, it appears that many of us have had an abundance of one thing: time to think.

And those with a public platform – philosophers, trendwatchers, journalists, scientists, and otherwise people – have been examining our current situation from a variety of angles to try to explain, predict and suggest what the long-term effects this corona crisis might be. I’ve read many of these reflections on how our world will change and what the future might hold. In some I’ve found clarity and hope; others seem more one-sided or self-serving. Through it all, I catch myself thinking:

“I don’t want all the misery that comes with this crisis, but I am eager for the wisdom it can bring.”

For example, so many of the things that we always thought were too difficult, too costly, too inconvenient or just plain impossible, are now suddenly possible. It IS possible to drastically reduce air travel and conduct important meetings online. It IS possible to reduce what we buy and make do with what we already own. It IS possible to support our local shops and farmers, and think more carefully about where we spend our money.

And in a very short period of time, it’s also become crystal clear how interconnected our world is, and who is truly vital to keeping everything running. We suddenly understand the value of our nurses, teachers, farmers, garbage collectors and postal workers – people who’ve often had to fight for fair treatment are finally getting the appreciation they deserve. In addition, as other human-driven systems and sectors (like transportation, manufacturing and energy) grind to a halt, it’s giving our planet a brief chance to heal. I hope these valuable lessons will stick around long past our final day of lockdown.

Obviously, in the short term, we need to focus on and cope with the negative effects of this crisis. But I also believe that it’s possible to find meaning, even in the most difficult moments. It’s important to pause now and then to consider this experience and what impact it might have on our attitudes, behavior and the world as a whole.

Fairphone has always had a mission to change how products are made and motivate the entire industry to behave differently. But now more than ever, we as a company, and more importantly, we as a society and as individuals, have an opportunity to reimagine what we want our world to look like. During this period, I want to invite all of you to find some time for quiet reflection. To think about what your hopes and fears are. To consider what we want recovery to look like. To ask how we can make our world fairer. And I, and the entire Fairphone team will do the same.

I look forward to your insights and wise words. I can’t pretend that the road ahead will be easy, but I know that together, we can come out the other side of this with a new level of understanding and compassion, and an even greater sense of purpose.

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All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away; all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his relations with his kind.

- Karl Marx

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Sometimes I imagine myself playing a game where I have won, that is, all the improvements are unlocked and running, there’s nothing else to do but to watch, effortlessly. After a while I get impatient, what happened to the joy of building and rebuilding? All I got left is to watch, getting bored I want to start again, but this is not the type of game where you can save the progress. Then I feel like standing at the edge of a cliff, the idea of falling into the abyss is the only excitement that is left, because that is the only thing I can do, the last freedom.
What I’m trying to say is I see a pattern emerging, what we think is real might not be real, the choices we have made might not have been the choices for us to make. If this shift in consciousness that is happening is not our choice then it’s even grander this way as this shift is not in our individual hands, rather we are the hands of the shift and it is truly real, unlike the idea of society.

I believe, it’s could be time to divest tools such as a cellphone of its status as only communication tools. I imagine this tool could be so much more if we think it maybe more socially and culturally? I explain myself. For example the tool could turn off for 24 hours in order to respect a silent time. The tool could also respect a response time in the editing phase of a photograph in order to ask the one who was photographed if he/she agrees with the publication. Many acts could be turned into - I believe it’s called remote protocols - where we also integrate social, cultural habits.

Most important thing to make sure the smartphones will not become smarter than us, grow arms and legs and demand right of asylum. Reliance on thinking technology has to be minimal, right now it is not as evident but the curve is growing exponentially. Now is time to think critically or we will lose grip on the shift and human species will witness a rude awakening. Question is will our silicon offspring be better stewards of this planet or will they inherit our insanity.

I am on your side. Donna Haraway describes this progress as a “technological feast of visualization” associated with scopic regimes (Haraway, 1991: 188). Haraway’s visionary concern is truer today than ever. We are confronted with the engineering of a virtual environment, as we enter a new age of the digital era: Industry 5.0 – the flagship of this economic and political shift, which encompasses new technologies such as internet of things, robotics combined with artificial intelligence. The ‘vision’, to connect technically every ‘thing’ with ‘everything’ in all spheres of human life. Ecological, ethical and social issues are only taken into account during the processes if they serve economic interests. But there is an urgent need for solidarity for all species on this planet and the need to speculate on new ways of living together. This means to be aware of the technology we create and ethical questions are not of this concerns normally.
This current state requires us to question the current infrastructure of modernity. Bruno Latours’ idea of agency to garner the transformative power of concerns of daily, ordinary life in order to transform them into speculative matters is fundamental for the future.
I writing my PhD on the subject. I really admire the courage of Fairphone, congratulations.

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