Rob Swigart
Menlo Park, California, United States

The Buck Stops With You

“A chasm yawns at our feet, the fear of scarcity, of death, of broken connections.”

Dear Ari,

I wanted to tell you a little bit about my world, because yours is going to be very different. For one thing, I was born into a world where we communicated over long distances by physical letters, or called an “operator” to connect us by telephone. The world population was less than 1/3 what it is now. We listened to the radio. Later we could watch things on television, but its direction was one way, from a station or network to millions of people. There were no seat belts, and everyone, it seemed, was white.

Today we live inside an enormous digital soup of electronic communications crackling with images, texts, movies, ideas, and information (much of it bad, wrong, or deceptive, of course, but you already know that). Communications are two way in a cloud of clouds, saturated with hope (renewable energy, universal healthcare) and with fear (ebola, religious fundamentalism), with truth and with lies. This schizophrenia will only grow more complex.

We desire energy, food, health, the right to reproduce. A chasm yawns at our feet, the fear of scarcity, of death, of broken connections. Terror drives large numbers of people to consume more and more in a global psychosis.

If such a world continues, we very likely will disappear as a species. We must understand how we came to this state, and how to change the direction, or at least the tone, of human occupation.

We have always sought refuge in stories. Crouching in caves while the wind howled outside, our ancestors told and listened to tales of our origins, our allegiances to our groups and families, the nature of our universe. Our stories, like all before, are subject to revision. We are the only ones who can do this.

We are remarkable, but we must be more remarkable still. We must renounce some of our desires, dedicate more of our psyches to understanding ourselves, and be far more circumspect in the changes we make to the world. If we were unwitting before, it was because the things we created we made for the first time. Now we know better. We, like you, have to grow up.

This is your world. Welcome to it. Enjoy taking on its stewardship. It will be a battle against the demons that haunt us, but if you succeed it will have been worth it.