“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

FIERCELY AWARE: The Brutal Facts: 1.1.2

A Mobius Life

As innovations offer hope for an improved future, they also present complex challenges, including issues of privacy, equity and access, racial and gender bias, and social breakdown.  Increasingly, breakthroughs hold a tension between promise and threat.

Kristel van der Elst, Head of Strategic Foresight at The World Economic Forum, reifies this tension with her suggestion of five questions we must answer now.

    1. Will robots be our peers?
    2. Will schools become implanted? 
    3. Will technology determine social class? 
    4. Will “prosumers” oust companies? 
    5. Will there be anything left to transport?

Clearly the way we answer these questions will shape our future. Can we find the strength to apply our wisdom, humanity and courage to respond in a manner that works for all not just some?  Or, faced with complex dilemmas, will we opt for easy, short-term answers aligned to individual self-interest?  It is as if we are running on two tracks that are increasingly diverging.  On the first track is our extraordinary capacity for technological innovation and on the second is our human capacity to keep up with those advancements and ensure emerging innovations support and don’t harm our human condition.



In the past, we may have relied more heavily upon laws and regulations to keep us out of harm’s way.   However, in this era of rapid and mind-bending change, The World Economic Forum asserts this simply isn’t possible any longer, asserting that “relying only on government legislation and incentives to ensure the right outcomes is ill-advised. These are likely to be out-of-date or redundant by the time they are implemented.”

Where does this leave us?  Do we become Luddites?  Do we tighten controls and potentially stymie life-changing innovations in bureaucracy?   There is another path. Our emerging future suggests that as we fiercely test the limits of the technologies that our imaginations can conceive, we must also fiercely seek to understand, expand, and elevate the character strengths and virtues that rest within each of us.

Instead of being two tracks that are diverging, consider the image of the Mobius strip, a continuous loop that blurs the distinctions between inner and outer.  In this curious shape, both sides of the structure are seamlessly shifting, presenting a beautiful metaphor for connecting our external world with our inner lives.   As Parker Palmer, author and founder of The Center for Courage and Renewal describes the Mobius strip, he suggests, “We can survive, and even thrive, amid the complexities of adulthood by deepening our awareness of the endless inner-outer exchanges that shape us and our world and of the power we have to make choices about them.” See what happened when a small group of people did just that here.