Uncertain Future of an Uncertain Society
The Second Curve
It’s interesting to look back a few decades ago and see how much technology evolved and affected our lives. One example is the first iPhone, it was launched in 2007 and nowadays we don’t see our lives without it. It is even more interesting, or even scary, to think about all the possibilities technology will bring us in the upcoming decades. There are a lot of questions we need to find answers and the future is now.
How can we reinvent ourselves in all the roles we have within society? How is business changing? Is capitalism going to be able to sustain all that? Society is always changing accordingly to the environment we are living in. Ethics change, workplaces change, the market and even sociological and philosophical thinking change. The book “The Second Curve” brings up the questions above – and many other ones – to instigate the reader to reflect on issues that we don’t constantly think or even care about.
It points out critical thinking on diverse topics and that is something I highly appreciate. The book under review right now is a collection of essays on different topics, the intention is to do give an overview of the best ideas of it, and also to criticize when necessary. There are sixteen essays, they are The Second Curve, The DYI Society, The New Disruption, The Workplace, The Market, The Dilemmas of Growth, The Glass Towers of Capitalism, The Citizen Organization, The New Management, The Ponzi Society, The Just Society, The Golden Seeds, The School of the Future and The Challenges of Democracy, The Necessity of Others and finally The Contract with Ourselves.
To get started, I bet you’re asking yourself: “Ok, but what is the second curve?”. First, in order to get a second curve, we need the first one, and that would be the sigmoid curve, which is a mathematical concept. According to Handy, “…the phrases ‘learning curve’ and ‘ahead of the curve’ refer to it and many businesses use it when projecting the future. What is not always realized, however, is that it is much more than that. It is the line of all things human, of our own lives, of organizations and businesses… “. Overall, it is an S shaped curve that represents that everything has a period of growth and one of decline. The second curve would be the innovative idea or behavior that has the goal of avoiding the last part of the first curve, the downfall.
The author’s predictions in the essays are quite a much part of the reality we are living now in the pandemics. He states that our homes will be our workplaces. The COVID-19 accelerated in a much faster way than expected, but this is now part of our lives and of the future of the workplace. My point is not going into statistics rather than the ones from the book here, but I believe that this will not do any good for human beings, since we are sociable, and we need people around us.
From what I understand, reducing the number of offices takes the humanity of the work, we don’t even need to see anyone’s face anymore, or hear their voices. I also believe all this can change from one culture to another, but in the end, the owner of the companies and capitalism – meaning a lot of power in the hands of few – are the ones benefiting from the situation and that’s basically what it is. Some interesting questions popped into my mind while reading the book, like: “how are we going to develop our social skills?”, “till what point we are really going to be necessary as workforce?”, “will my kids have a job?”. Handy mentions a study of the Oxford University that suggests 47 percent of today’s jobs will be replaced by computers within the next two decades, and I keep thinking, is that even ethical?
Till which point is growth a good thing? What is the point of keep growing nonstop? Are we thinking about the concentration of power and money that some people/countries acquire using resources of other countries, the “poor” ones? Is technology dividing more than embracing? Those questions were and still are in my mind after reading the book. It is weird to me the way the author refers to “developed world” and “undeveloped world”. It instigates me to go all the way back many years ago when the Europeans committed genocide all around the globe, so now they can call themselves the “developed” ones. Even though I like the ideas of the book, I was bothered about that kind of language and some theoretical bases that Handy uses.
In one of the essays, the author says that due to the Internet, nowadays there are no excuses for being ignorant, meaning that we all have access to information. This kind of European/North American way of thinking bothers me a lot because this is a lie, and it does not apply to the entire world. In many countries people don’t even have clean water to drink, so to read a scientist stating those common-sense pick-up lines was disappointing. Which part of society is being considered when we are talking and even developing technology? How to keep motivated if a computer can do all kinds of things better than us? What makes us different? Are we fated to loneliness in the future? When is the point we will have to come up with a second curve to all those issues, is it already happening?
In a general overview, Charles Handy was able to introduce the idea of the second curve in a way that we can reflect, stand up from a certain point, and even criticize ourselves, our business, technology, the society itself, and the system we are in. To find the second curve we need to get out of our comfort zone and understand that having more many times does not mean having the best. Even with no right or wrong answers throughout the book, it explores a wide range of topics that gets the reader thinking and I believe that is the most important thing reading can provide, criticism.
Written by Luiza de Oliveira Vago.