Attention is a scarce resource in an economy that is based on the creation and trade of information and goods for consumption that gives rise to an advertising culture. We value what we measure. We measure the value of a corporation by the number of users who adopt the technologies, purchase the goods, and subscribe to the way of life defined by the business model.

I agree that we need to have conversations about what we value and how we create systems of value that reinforce the behaviours that we might hope for.

Language plays a significant role in the types of conversations that we can have. If we resort to the language of advertising and business to have these conversations, we give power to the very systems that limit the possibilities of having authentic conversations that centre around fulfilling basic human needs and provide a vision and a working model of a way of living in harmony with each other and within a diverse biological and geological ecosystem.

As long as capital is the preeminent value, human life and all other forms of life on earth will be diminished by money, a medium of exchange that humans have created to compare relative value, that also distorts our perceptions of what is worthy of our time, energy and resources, and thus our attention. In such a system, a human life, even the earth itself, bears no value in comparison to a fictional corporate entity.

At the base of these conversations are fundamental beliefs about the value of a human life and the value of the natural world around us. If we continue to speak in terms of corporations, branding, advertising, metrics, key performance indicators, production chains, business models, design processes, and return on investment, we will continue to devalue the very things that make life worth living. How do we critique and counteract the system when it is the water that we swim in? At the same time, the institutions of power have coopted the language of belief to serve their own ends. We know that we have together constructed something that is unsustainable. There must be a process of deconstructing old assumptions before we can reconstruct something that has both the ability to last and the possibility of contributing to the flourishing of all life on earth. It starts with fundamental questions of what we value.

Written by

Designer, writer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective, Leading with Design. https://stephenbau.com

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