New Thinking for the New Generation

Edward Bono's New thinking book

There is a book I have from a long time ago, New Thinking for the New Millennium by by Edward de Bono.

I never fully read it but I liked the name and liked the concept, plus I did read a couple of his other books in the past. Recently I have been thinking about the critical narratives in this space right now.

Theres a bunch of podcasts and projects related to the books too, for example Yancey Strickler’s ideaspace, which funny enough had Kate Raworth and Mariana Mazzucato as guests. The new thinking isn’t quite right because this all goes beyond thinking and more into doing. Kate and the doughnut economics in Amsterdam. Doughnut economics is also mentioned as a big driver for the post growth entrepreneurship. Listening to Mariana and Yancey’s books, I can’t help but point at the BBC R&D Human Values work.

I’m sure there are many more but these seem to be the ones many people have read at least 2 or more. It was something I noticed while watching the chatter and the sessions during the publicspaces conference and some key sessions at the Mozilla festival.

Want to re-watch a session from the publicspaces conference, or the whole conference? They are all uploaded here: https://vimeo.com/publicspaces. If you got a Mozfest 2021 pass? You can still catch all those sessions you missed for a few more weeks.

Some of the excellent books I read in 2020

I watch a lot of TV and Films but I also consume a lot of Audio (likely more than visual media). As mentioned in my new years resolution for 2021, I have been listening to a lot of audiobooks now I’ve been working from home for 10 months now.

Its worth noting I don’t really read fiction books for entertainment (this seems to be a common thing with some dyslexics?) because I think I get the fiction or entertainment part from TV & Films? Or maybe I was put off in earlier age by stuff like Lord of the rings?

So I thought I’d share some of the great books I read/listened to, not in order as such.

  • Winners Take All
    Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
    Anand’s book is a excellent look at the corruption of power. Its a great true story which is inter-sliced with cases from history of how Anand came to tell the people who he points the finger at, during their own conference.
    Anand also makes clear the problem of inequality and how its driving a lot of the ills, just like the book the inner level which I also read and highly recommend to everyone!
  • The Inner Level
    The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Well-Being by Pickett, Kate E and Wilkinson, Richard G.
    This book is incredible, I can’t stop not thinking about it and recommending it. There is so much in the book but the examples really make the overall backbone of the inner level and the previous book the spirit level. Inequality is the bedrock of so many problems and ills in this world, I’m very convinced by this now. For example here is the start of chapter 5: The human condition.

    Larger income gaps make normal social interaction increasingly fraught with anxiety, and, as we have shown, stimulate three kinds of response. Some people are overcome by low self-esteem, lack of confidence and depression; others become increasingly narcissistic and deploy various forms of self-aggrandizement to bolster their position in others’ eyes. But, because both are responses to increased anxiety, everyone becomes more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol and falls prey to consumerism to improve their self-presentation. As social life becomes more of an ordeal and a performance, people withdraw from social contact and community life weakens. Crucially, we have seen that the bigger the income differences between rich and poor, the worse all this gets.

  • How To Be an Antiracist
    How to Be an Antiracist by Kendi, Ibram X.
    What a book, as said elsewhere its not great if its your first book on systematic racism. Ibram X, makes some excellent points and later gets right into the subjects of feminism, LGBTQ+ and ultimately intersectionality. He makes very clear you can’t be antiracist if you are against queer rights for example.

    To be queer antiracist is to understand the privileges of my cisgender, of my masculinity, of my heterosexuality, of their intersections. To be queer antiracist is to serve as an ally to transgender people, to intersex people, to women, to the non-gender-conforming, to homosexuals, to their intersections, meaning listening, learning, and being led by their equalizing ideas, by their equalizing policy campaigns, by their power struggle for equal opportunity. To be queer antiracist is to see that policies protecting Black transgender women are as critically important as policies protecting the political ascendancy of queer White males.

     

  • White Fragility
    White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin DiAngelo
    I read this book again just after the murder of George Floyd. I know some people are not keen on it but I found the examples and approaches extremely useful when talking about racism. For example the notion of white women tears.

    …well-meaning white women crying in cross-racial interactions is one of the more pernicious enactments of white fragility. The reasons we cry in these interactions vary. Perhaps we were given feedback on our racism. Not understanding that unaware white racism is inevitable, we hear the feedback as a moral judgment, and our feelings are hurt. A classic example occurred in a workshop I was co-leading. A black man who was struggling to express a point referred to himself as stupid. My co-facilitator, a black woman, gently countered that he was not stupid but that society would have him believe that he was. As she was explaining the power of internalized racism, a white woman interrupted with, “What he was trying to say was . . . ” When my co-facilitator pointed out that the white woman had reinforced the racist idea that she could best speak for a black man, the woman erupted in tears. The training came to a complete halt as most of the room rushed to comfort her and angrily accuse the black facilitator of unfairness. (Even though the participants were there to learn how racism works, how dare the facilitator point out an example of how racism works!) Meanwhile, the black man she had spoken for was left alone to watch her receive comfort.

     

  • The Guilty Feminist
    The Guilty Feminist: From Our Noble Goals to Our Worst Hypocrisies, Deborah Frances-white
    I am a keen listener to the podcast with the same name and the book is well written with guests injections now and then. Like Ibram X, Deborah talks a lot about intersectionality and its absolutely importance.
    In a earlier chapter Deborah breaks down feminist by waves (second wave feminism for example) its quite powerful and makes super clear how different things have been over time. She also dispels some of the awful common stereotypes (bra burning & men hating for example) but thoughtfully uses intersectionality too.
    I listened to most of the book while waiting in long queues at Alton Towers. Well worth the read even if you listen to the podcast.
  • This Could Be Our Future
    This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World by Yancey Strickler
    Previous co-founder of Kickstarter Yancey Strickler’s book is a welcomed read while looking at the state of the mainstream internet. Its a rallying call for longer term focus and is a refreshing read coming out of the epicentre of America’s hyper-capitalistic silicon valley. Yancey starts the book this way

    This book is about a simple idea.That a world of scarcity can become a world of abundance if we accept a broader definition of value. We recognize that there are many valuable things in life—love, community, safety, knowledge, and faith, to name just a few. But we allow just one value—money—to dominate everything else. Our potential for a more generous, moral, or fair society is limited by the dominance of money as the be-all and end-all. It puts a ceiling on what we can be.

    On a similar topic, I also had a read of Amy Lui’s Abolish Silicon Valley. Both are good reads and fit right alongside the R&D work into human values. Yancey is also one of our extremely knowledgeable guests in our Human values podcast series.

 

On reading the Inner Level

The Inner Level

I recently read (actually listened to) The Inner Level by Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett. I first came across them at Nesta’s Futurefest conference, but had heard about the Spirit level beforehand.

The book leans a lot on the Spirit level but expands the results with new data and papers looking directly at the psychological effects of inequality on society

In short the inner level can be summed up in this graph

More inequality = more problemsIts not a surprise but the evidence is clear and the examples are spot on. You might also prefer the keynote where Kate takes directly takes bits from the book.

While I’m working from home, I have been listening to a lot podcasts and audiobooks. Each book has got me writing and thinking but this one really has given me a framework for a lot of the ills of the world. Now I’m a lot clearer on the fact equality is the core (or very likely one of them) of so many.

Lets take for example the American dream which I have been critical of previously. Work hard and you too can be successful and rich? Casey Gerald’s book and talks titled there will be no miracles here, highlights the problems of the American dream and the ultimate effect of inequality. If you want more have a read of the world economic forum.

It reminds me why the likes of Jeff Bezo’s net worth growing, is just all types of awful for us all. First time I heard about this, I wasn’t best pleased but besides the comment Amazon must pay their taxes, theres little more I could really say. I hadn’t really factor in the bigger effects of stuff like this.

In the book they mention the equality trust and trying to reach out further to gain some impact on policy makers. This reminded me the badges work and of course our own BBC Human Values work.

Income, wealth inequality and corporate monopolies

I found this video a interesting watch. A couple of the guests Timothy Snyder and Anand Giridharadas, focused on income and wealth inequality and corporations/monopolies.

Timothy Snyder reminded me very much of the talk and books (the spirit level and inner level) by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett of the equality trust.

SNYDER: One of the fundamental problems with our American, right-wing politics of inevitability is that it generates income and wealth inequality and it explains away income and wealth inequality. And so, you get this cycle where, objectively, people are less and less well off and subjectively we keep telling ourselves this is somehow okay because in the grand scheme of things this is somehow necessary. Individuals and families no longer think ‘I’ve got a bright future.’ They no longer believe—and this is something Mr. Trump got right even if he has no solution and he’s making things worse on purpose—they no longer believe in the American Dream. And they’re correct not to do so. If you were born in 1940, your chances of doing better than your parents were about 90 percent. If you were born in 1980 your chances are about one in two and it keeps going down. So, wealth inequality means the lack of social advance, means a totally different horizon—it means that you see life in a completely different way. You stop thinking time is an arrow which is moving forward to something better and you start thinking hmm, maybe the good old days were better. Maybe we have to make America great again and you get caught in these nostalgic loops. You start thinking it can’t be my fault that I’m not doing better, so whose fault is it? And then the clever politicians instead of providing policy for you provide enemies for you. They provide language for you with which you can explain why you’re not doing so well. They blame the other, whether it’s the Chinese or the Muslims or the Jews or the Blacks or the immigrants and that allows you to think okay, time is a cycle, things used to be better but other people have come and they’ve taken things away from me. That’s how the politics of inevitability becomes the politics of eternity. Wealth inequality, income inequality, is one of the major channels by which that happens.

While Anand Giridharadas reminded me of Cory Doctorow’s new book/post in medium.

GIRIDHARADAS: If you’re telling me that there are companies that do none of this stuff, that pay people well, that don’t dump externalities into the economy, that don’t cause social problems. If there are such companies that exist, yeah, then once you’ve taken care of all that, great, doing some projects to help people is great. But I haven’t found very many such companies and more often than not when companies do a lot of CSR it’s because they understand that they’re not on the right side of justice in their day operations, so they want to do virtue as a side hustle. And the problem is a lot of these companies tend to create harm in billions and then do good in the millions. And you don’t need to be a mathematician to know that we’re the losers from that bargain. And you look at the B Corp movement, there’s a lot of companies that actually have an interest in trying to invent a new kind of company that is not predatory. There is, in the B Corp movement, a certification process for those companies now. The challenges of them is that it’s a great thing but it’s fundamentally voluntary and what this does is it means that if you’re an already good, virtuous company you may be motivated to get into this club. But if you’re Exxon or Pepsi you’re not going to be in this club. One of the things I’d like to see is how can we actually use the power of public policy to get more companies to sign up to simply not dump harm, social harm, into our society whether that takes the form of toxic sludge or obese children or workers with unpredictable hours and income.

The full transcript is here.