Where should we find meaning?

Indy Johar’s talk at this evening’s #PETFconference was called “The Challenges of Massive Change: From Silos to Systems” but no title could capture the wide range of ideas he discussed.

Johar’s ideas were big and visionary. Just a few I was able to scribble down:
- the role of social enterprise in creating change has been vastly overstated. We need to discuss institutions more than a new ethical coffee cup.
- intellectual property law was created in Venice in the 15th century to make IP liquid, to get ideas off the bookshelf. IP was not created as a means of control.
new economic models are going to move away from a model of supply and demand, from a perspective of scarcity to one of abundance.
- in 100 years, we will look at the way we currently work as a form of slavery, which required giving up freedom to survive.

(You can see a whole lot more on Twitter.)

The idea that stuck with me the most was his assertion: as we industralized work, we started to find meaning in consumption.

He gave the example of a particular car company’s advertising, which slowly changed from emphasizing the technical features of the car, to showing women draped over the car. The company went from selling a product to selling meaning.

This raised many questions for me. I think finding meaning in consumption is terrible for many reasons, yet it is the current status quo in rich countries (and becoming that way in poor ones, too). If not consumption, then what? Is today’s economy capable of transitioning to being one where we find meaning in work/craftmanship again? Is that desirable? Where should we find meaning?

The conference continues tomorrow. Maybe there will be some answers then.