Mighty Life List
May 4 2017

The Most Interesting Thing in the World

I came across a good guiding question recently in Career Advice for Undergrads. It’s a succinct way to put something I think about a lot:

“First, what is the most interesting thing going on in the world right now? Second, how can I put myself at the center of that?”

Isn’t that good? I so want to know what fascinates you right now. I’ll go first.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our workforce is being changed by robots. I wonder how can we best evolve as a world community when robots can do most of our heavy lifting.

This is already happening, obviously. Robots have taken over lots of the old assembly jobs, even lots of the new customer service work that used to be done by phone banks.

So how can we be sure everyone has meaningful work so all of us are fed, have clean water, have access to education, and feel included in society? We need to re-train our workforce so we use the things about us that are uniquely human. It seems like we can create engaging work for people, work that could bring us up a step or two on Maslow’s Hierarchy and raise our global well being, but it’s such a huge undertaking.

I also think about the dark side of this, specifically whether we’ve been too radical about using drones and other tech to sanitize war, thereby making peace a less palatable option. Blurft.

OK, your turn. What’s the most interesting thing in the world right now? It doesn’t have to be a big deal to anyone else, maybe just an artist who’s blowing your mind, or a field you want to know more about. I’m more curious about the quirky individuality of it. I am also game to talk more about robots. Your call.

11 Responses to “The Most Interesting Thing in the World”

  • Kat Says:

    Oooh, what a good prompt. And I just read the blog post you referenced. Good advice for anyone who is looking around and wondering, “What’s next?” (Like I am.)

    There are so many interesting things going on, aren’t there? I’ve been curious, and worried, about access to water for years now, and wondering what to do about it. And access not just for humans but for all the life that lives in fresh and salt water.

    I’ve always looked for the gnarliest problems to solve, and now I wonder if this new frame–what’s interesting, not just super hard–is a better place for me to start at this stage of my life. There is so much that’s hard, and my heart is a little weary these days.

  • Sara Oppler Says:

    My husband and I recently watched the fascinating and heartbreaking documentary, Chasing Ice, about climate change. The main subject, James Balog says something to the effect of “years from now when my children ask what did I do about climate change I want to answer that I did everything I could” (paraphrasing). My husband used to work for a solar company but is now in the tech industry. That comment and the movie in general has motivated us to examine our lives and focus on this issue which we feel is so important and critical.

    I love the quote from your blog post. Very thought provoking.

  • Sarah Says:

    I’m fascinated by how so many of the foundational structures of our society (I’m Canadian, but I can’t see where this isn’t true) exist simply because a small group of people a long time ago decided that’s how we should do things. It’s so limiting to keep doing things a certain way simply because we’ve always done them that way, but we aren’t good at transforming together. I’m optimistic this is shifting.

    This question led me to go back to school for a master’s in public policy. Not surprisingly knowing more has raised more questions than it has answered, but I believe exploring this question is my life’s work.

  • Meg Says:

    I had to stop myself from being an enthusiasm killer on your I Love Robots post. The video was cute, but, filtered through my anxious adult brain, sinister. I think about automation all the time and how it is currently and will affect our workforce. I do this recreationally and have no answers. From where I stand now, I do not have confidence that things will end now for people who would like to be employed.

  • Liz Says:

    Maybe you’ll be interested in Martin Ford’s book, “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future,” just out in paperback last year. It’s on my do-read pile. I’m in the library world so this is very relevant to my interests.

  • Nora Says:

    I’m a librarian and used to work in employment law. The future of work & robots is straight up fascinating.

  • Shevon Says:

    I’m fascinated with bees. And lavender. Even backyard apiaries can help the bee population. Which affects the whole world. Lavender is kind of a perfect food for them, because even with little water lavender provides plenty of nectar. I want to keep bees, so I’m reading a lot about it right now.

  • Sarah Says:

    Genetics research and how it can tie into personalized healthcare, like how do my genes affect the way my body metabolizes medicines. Also, if we look at a person’s genes, can we predict what health issues they are most likely to have, and what will help them live a long, healthy life? What will be the most beneficial to them – exercise, nutrition, medicine, or a combination thereof?

  • Maggie Mason Says:

    @Kat “There is so much that’s hard, and my heart is a little weary these days.” Yes. Curiosity has more momentum than dread, haha.

    @Sara I’ll have to watch that.

    @Sarah That fascinates me too! Even on an individual level. I briefly dated a man who was a genius at examining the smallest problem and finding the most efficient way through. There was a very present feeling about him.

    @Meg Oh, for sure they’re gonna use us as batteries. I hear you.

    @Liz Just downloaded it on audible. Thanks for the rec!

    @Nora We should have robot salons!

    @Shevon Good one! I had no idea about the lavender. Did you hear the comedian who said something like, “You can’t look that closely into the bee thing, because otherwise you have to drop everything you’re doing and work only to save the bees.”

    @Sarah YES. And how does that level of individualization and advanced knowledge tie into a capitalist healthcare system that runs on the notion of “pre-existing” conditions. Fascinating.

  • Wendy Says:

    I’m not sure it’s the most interesting thing in the world, but I’m wildly interested in crows. They’re so smart. And seem equipped to survive longer than the rest of us. I’d like to be a crow in my next life.

  • Kara B Says:

    I think you must know about this, but in case you don’t, NPR’s Marketplace has been running a segment for the past month(s) called “Robot-Proof Jobs” which is about just this topic. Here you can read more about it and also check out the podcast they’ve made of all of the segments: https://features.marketplace.org/robotproof/