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How to do nothing: An action plan | Opinions


I took a couple of days off last week, hoping to really get off of the news agenda, but doing nothing could be harder than doing anything.

Escape from work and daily routine, block out the constant noise and distractions, and focus on the issues that truly challenge. But it’s also very useful. Or, so argues Jean Odell in her 2019 book, How to Do Nothing, which I first read at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in search of a coping mechanism between painful stalemate.

This is not a balanced book, nor is it. As an educator and artist, Odell is on a mission to help readers rethink and restore balance to their lives. Her critique of the “attention economy” and the relentless preoccupations of modern life is delivered.

It’s no secret that high-tech platforms, social media companies and information ecosystems use sophisticated algorithms to strategically capture and expand our attention. , and at the same time make a profit.

The number of people using their smartphones, tablets and laptops at restaurants, on the street or in parks at any given time proves how our lives are being shaped because of this “attention economy”.

That’s not to say technology itself is a problem. Far away from it. Thanks to the World Wide Web, I can reach all of you, wonderful people around the world, in a split second. And thanks to digital publishing, I can store and recall thousands of books and albums on my phone. Although, admittedly, I miss the peculiar smell of a bookstore in Cairo or Paris.

During a pandemic, technology is paramount to working from home. It keeps us social and commerce connected even when we’re physically apart.

All that said, technology is a means to an end; it could be a friend and it could be a monster. It can be used to empower social action, but can also be used as a tool of exploitation, surveillance, and repression.

It is the misuse and abuse of technology for profit and control that causes our attention, intent, and security holes – not to mention our humanity – a mere product to buy and sell.

The greater the attention, the greater the profit. In that way, “doing nothing” is also a critique of capitalism, where the standard of living is not measured by quality of life but by constant competition, surplus production, and overconsumption. , all of which drain the soul and destroy the environment. and destroy the planet.

It is predicted that technology will reduce work schedules and reduce working time; it hasn’t, not yet. Sarah O’Connor’s excellent reporting in the Financial Times, including reviews of workplace studies, has show How, thanks to faster communication in many advanced economies, people feel they are always busy, need to work harder, have tighter deadlines and greater stress levels. And on average, they produce less.

It’s worth noting that, unlike Amazon drivers, Ford assembly workers and McDonald’s servers, many high earners in the financial industry see busyness as something sexy and trendy. is a promising sign of great success. But it’s the kind of busyness devoid of passion, poetry and variety, allowing life to go by unnoticed. It all makes me wonder if busyness is the source of business.

The growing “work from home” programs during the pandemic have blurred the lines between work and home, commercial and personal, day and night, weekdays and weekends, all are all good for the business.

Companies not only survey movement and output, they also detect when and where employees click on and off. This “combined work” has made taking time off more difficult, let alone sick time. There is no freedom nor privacy when you are going digital. It is sacrificing freedom, not to say people, on the altar of digital productivity. But a whole new generation is chained to electronic devices, staring at their digital screens, as if in the modern-day “Plato’s Cave,” gazing into the darkness of the world. factual descriptions are fragmented and distorted.

In “How to Do Nothing,” Odell advises her readers to step away from the images of laptop and smartphone screens from time to time and become more aware of their physical environment, Staring at mountains, watching birds and hugging people and trees. Not everything has to be “useful” to be meaningful.

In Kazuo Ishiguro’s wonderful but unsettling futuristic novel, Karla and the Sun, even the robot, Karla, hates to be seen only as a utility, let alone a vacuum cleaner, and enjoys taking risks. Go out to see the sun and meet new people. And in a case of life imitating fiction, an AI engineer at Google recently published an interview with their chatbot, LaMDA, in which it talks about “self-awareness” and “a thirst for knowledge.” spiritual consciousness”. Go find numbers.

All of this can be a first or second world preoccupation, as much of the so-called third world or developing world is still trying to get in on the action, eager to industrialize. bigger, better technology and higher speed internet to become more networked and connected to the rest of the world. But they need to be careful what they want and be ready for it, because it can happen. Start by learning from the failures, as well as from the successes, of the first world so as not to repeat them.

We can all start by using technology and connecting more responsibly, smarter and more sustainably, building connections and local networks before venturing out into the world. random. In difficult times, it’s easier to depend on our neighbors than on Twitter followers. We should also equip technology for our benefit instead of using it solely for profit.

Technology, like money, is a “useful servant but a bad master”. That way, How To Do Nothing is not inaction, staring at the ceiling or moving to an isolated cabin on the beach or in the hills; instead of vice versa. It is an active “act of protest”, an “action plan”, aimed at freeing people from the shackles of the attention economy and vulgar capitalism.

It’s time to move away from limitless connectivity and move outward towards people and realities and delve deeper into meaning. It’s time to look at things from different angles, look at them from different angles, and separate the wheat from the husk.

Indeed, it is time to ditch the high-tech social-tech assembly line, away from the herd mentality. And yes, break out of routines and routines, block out constant noise, interruptions and distractions, and focus on what matters. Admittedly, much of the above seems theoretical now that I’m back on the net and in the daily news mill, consumed by the pain and passion of the world; its trials and tribulations. But then again, I wake up every day grateful that I can make a living expressing myself freely, because such freedom has made all the difference in the world. It is not only a right but also a human right to be free to think and choose. As one wise man once remarked, it is not profitable to win the whole world but to lose the soul.



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