Vitally, the human race is dying. It is like a great uprooted tree, with its roots in the air. We must plant ourselves again in the universe. (D.H. Lawrence)
The most crucial virtue of entrepreneurship is sober realism. In order to run successful businesses, you have to know what’s going on: in your company, on the market, in society, in politics, on planet Earth, in the universe. Without a proper perspective on reality, you will hardly ever be capable of performing proper actions. Therefore, the very origin of virtuous leadership, governance, and entrepreneurship is a set of qualities such as sobriety, attentiveness, receptiveness, and courage. For it takes to be courageous if you dare to face the plain reality of our times.
Behold, what’s going on. Actually, at the edge of the 3rd-millennium humankind is confronted with a broad range of severe challenges on different layers. First of all, we have to be aware of the unprecedented dynamics of global warming and climate change. Of course, it seems still easy to ignore what’s coming up, but as we all know: pretending not to know and not to realize what’s going on has never been a proper remedy against destruction. Ignorance will only augment trouble. So, we have to courageously prepare for things to come: rising sea-levels, millions of climate-migrants, drowning countries. And it’s not merely about global warming – it’s also about the garbage-carpets floating on the ocean, the toxic nano-particles contaminating foods and bellies, the pollution of air in mega-cities, the toxic waste of nuclear energy, the growth of deserts, the loss of biodiversity. The list is long – and only one comment is possible: The situation’s getting serious. As a virtuous and sober entrepreneur, there’s no way denying it. Or do you want to starve by ignorance?
Behold, what’s going on. An increasing number of people in the industrialized countries suffer from psychogenic illness such as depression or burn-out. Drug addiction, sickness caused by inadequate nutrition and other symptoms of lifestyle-diseases reveal a disturbing level of social disorder – not to speak of the rising gap between rich and poor on a global level which is about to cause serious political trouble.
On the other hand, there are legions of prophets and apostles preaching a new and glorious time to come. Their new religion is called dataism as it’s called by prestigious author Yuval Noah Harari. And it promises are really tempting and compelling: everlasting life by means of biotech, genetic engineering, human enhancement-technologies, and the transgression of the gap between organic and artificial intelligence; omnipotence by the use of super-intelligent algorithms, robots, cyborgs and an omnipresent digital space; omniscience by the all-encompassing digitization of the analogous sphere which is gently called the internet of things. Guess, to cut a long story short: the triumphal procession emanating from Silicon Valley, guided by some charismatic leaders such as Ray Kurzweil, and fuelled by billions of Dollars from companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon or Microsoft is supposed to lead humankind straight forward to transcend humanity and to create a divine and immortal new species called Homo Deus. Splendid is the vision – and even more splendid when staging in against the prospect of the grave and terrifying background of the planet’s devastation.
Anyway, the tide of digitization will rise – such as the level of the oceans will do. Nobody will block it. The dynamics are enormously powerful. And the transhumanist promises of a new divine digital existence is far more compelling than the pale prediction of a weary analogous life on a devasted planet. Therefore, all the energy of the current business and economy is lured by the attractive vision of a digitally optimized world. There is a paralyzing trance within our heads. Will you be lured as well?
Anyway, in these days, humankind is doubtlessly located at a threshold – the threshold bridging the gap between the analogous epoque and the digital age. It’s pretty likely that contemporaries not even adumbrate the outreach and significance of that. Nothing will remain the way it was when digitization starts to flood our private and social lives. Nothing will remain the same when dataism starts to colonize our brains and hearts. Everything will change when the polar caps have turned to water. And the one and only crucial question is, whether we as humans will we capable to deal with all these changes – whether we are well prepared to face them in a proper way: in a proper way, which will not only grant survival but will enable us to make the world a place of blooming mankind – a place of real prosperity and beauty, a place of human wealth and natural diversity, a place worth living at.
These are, in fact, the major questions of our time. These are the questions any entrepreneur is obliged to pose – given that it’s his intention to achieve enduring future success. For this, we have to pay attention to the current situation. We need to realize that meanwhile, we entered into a territory for which we do not have the proper mindset. On that territory, there are both almost inconceivable new challenges and incalculable new options. The threshold on which, actually, we do all stand is not only the dawn of a new epoque of humankind – it’s also a junction calling for a sober and courageous discourse. We have to ask ourselves whether we are really ready for the things to come. We have to consider our mental and emotional capacities in order to find out whether they are proper means to deal with all the new technologies, machines, and options that they promise us. We have to reflect on our morality, our values, our mental patterns, our believe-systems, our philosophies, and our metaphysics. We have to take some time for this – to drop out of the torrent: to maneuver to a dry place which enables us to take a breath and think.
What does it mean to think? To think is not to calculate or to compute. To think is not to consume information and to process it by algorithms. To think is to pose questions – real questions: questions that open different horizons and force us to change our standpoint. Good questions are like powerful engines aviating our considerations on a proper cruising altitude. Good questions look like this: Given that all the Silicon Valley-promises will become true:
Or to put in more simple terms:
Questions, questions – give me the answer! But it’s not that easy. For there are no simple answers. And even if there were, it wouldn’t help us at all as long as the answers were not generated by ourselves but merely borrowed opinions. If we want to face the challenges of times to come, we can’t renounce the quest of common answers which are both our own and shared by others. In one word: we can’t resign from thinking. Only by thinking on our own we shall reach the cruising altitude we need to obtain for gaining the proper perspective for dealing with the future challenges.
Being aware of the need to pose a crucial question we unexpectedly find ourselves being confronted with the oldest call of western civilisation. It was given by no one less than the ancient Greek god Apollo on whose temple in Delphi a mayor proverb was engraved: Γνῶθι σαύτον – Know who you are! This appeal directs us straight to our very roots – in a double meaning: it directs us to the roots of western culture and it directs us to our most personal and private roots. For the quest to give a proper answer to that imperative inevitably compels us to get rooted in the psychic soil of our existence: the layer, our ancestors called soul – the mostly concealed but nevertheless always present basement of humanity.
Thus, the present task comes into view: In order to be well prepared for all the future challenges we have to listen to Apollo’s call: Know who you are! Me must newly consider what it takes to be human. We must tap the knowledge of our souls to once again become inspired by the common wisdom of humanity. We must look for a proper mindset and a proper language by which we come to terms with new technologies and options. We need to know what really matters to withstand the sirens glamorous cries which lure our minds and tempt our spirits. We have to listen carefully to the silent whisper of the real, analogous world – and to quest for a new mind-set by which we can properly respond: responsibly respond.
If we dare to commit ourselves to these appeals, we shall open the gates to a new civilisation which will be strong enough to moderate the titanic Silicon-Valley disruptions and to domesticate the actually undamped dynamics of digitization. If we dare to be faithful to our human soul and spirit we shall get rooted both in history and wisdom and protect us from being torn apart be the overwhelming torrents of technological progress.
Now, the challenges are huge and so are the chances we have at the current threshold. Everything is possible. We can either go on like we did for ages: We can optimize our economy, we can perfect our technology, we cheer for exponential growth, we can continue to exploit our planet, we can prolong the devastation of our souls. We can do so, if we hold on tight to our conventional mind-patters and modes of thinking. We can do so by establishing ourselves in our convenient mental habits and our spiritual ignorance. We can do so, hoping that algorithms will work it out and deliver us from the mess we’ve done. You can decide to choose this path – but if you do, don’t dare to call yourself entrepreneur; for this is not the path of a courageous hero but the path of cushy cowards.
Real entrepreneurship requires another attitude. It requires the willingness to conquer new horizons: not merely economic horizons but – what matters far more – to conquer new mental horizons. Advanced entrepreneurship requires the courage to transform one’s way of thinking: your mind-set, your mental patterns, your believe-systems, your paradigms. What in these times actually matters– at the edge of the new digital epoque – is to redefine everything: the meaning of success, our values and virtues, our purposes and our intentions. It takes to redefine them in terms of what it really takes to be human in a digitized world: what is the everlasting indispensable essence of human dignity.
Of course, it’s not about creating your own personal and private new paradigm. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it won’t change anything. What matters is to share your insights, to discuss them with your partners and colleagues – to weave them into a shared network of entrepreneurs and by this to foster your impact on society. Only by a common conversation, a new and powerful mind-set will evolve. Only by your personal effort, your honest, humble and truthful quest for new perspectives the required shift will come to happen.
So, it’s time to start a common quest for a new myth: a new narrative of what really matters – what we really want and need to life a proper, beautiful and successful life; to unfold your slumbering potentials and to flour out in strength and full aliveness.
Let’s embark and join the quest for a new economy and society, which inspires humans to be fully alive! Let’s multiply our entrepreneurial powers to generate a world of sustainable harmony between humans and nature. Let’s dare to strive for beauty and fertile prosperity. Don’t hesitate to listen to the whisper of your soul which in this moment urges you to set off. Well, you’re asking for a map and compass. Right!
So, this is what the Argonauts are all about.
Dr. Christoph Quarch is Chief Philosophy Officer of the Argo Venture Studio.