Binary Economy and the views of Pope Francis

We have described in our earlier blog posts that the Digital Technology is a two edged sword :

  • One edge that enables enormous opportunities for a few skilled workers (System Thinkers with Transformational Skills) while the other side that de-skills and automates all our work that creates only a vast pool of low wage work (and unsustainable living conditions for a large majority of people).

This development enabled by Digital Technology can also be thought of as a two sided coin:

  • One side of the coin that connects and informs every one across the globe about anything and everything, while the other side isolates people into their narrow subsets and contact lists, specialties and task oriented efforts and SOPs.

Both these modes of developments are inevitable. More pervasive the role and impact of Digital Technology, faster and greater will be the polarization into these extremes with a constantly disappearing middle. We have described this dichotomy as the emerging Binary Economy in our recent book:

Pope Francis seems to perceive this dichotomy as expressed in his views highlighted below.

Taken as a whole, do our technological advances — news in real time, live global communication, access to more information and entertainment (and all the shades in between) than we could ever fully absorb — help or hurt the causes when those causes should be engaging with our lives to the fullest, and fostering peace, love and happiness?

Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail,” Pope Francis said, “is giving way to more fickle online relationships and “a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature.”

“Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way?”

When media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload.”

We need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that the problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals.”

Recently I met a graduate student from the business school at MIT. He said that he is being mentored by a business leader from a large financial services company. He said, “I am trained to think and act on how I can make the most money every moment I work”! The lack of empathy for those in need or the consequences of such relentless focus on profit at all cost was totally lost in this young person. This example of survival at all cost is also noted in industrial organizations, where leaders do everything for their survival and profits with no regard for the long term impact of their company or organization. Focus on short term profits and results, which used to be a matter of convenience, have increasingly become a badge of honor. Climate change and the increasing gap between the rich and the poor have become a political weapon for one side  vs. another rather than phenomena that need to be addressed and solved for the good of all. For them Pope Francis asks: “What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?”