The ethics of time

Turquoise blue ocean meets a blue sky with a white sail boat in the middle
Margaret River, Western Australia

What if we were not bound by time?

The Gnawing question. What would you do if your work and life was not bounded by time?

 This is not so far-fetched. We have been learning about stem cell regeneration in adults since the last century, and Bio-Tech firms are capable of engineering our current view of the perfect human, which may include longer life and eternal youth. In addition to this, life expectancy is increasing due to improvement in basic medicines and healthier lifestyle practices, fewer wars, greater aid.

What are some of the immediate impacts of longer life expectancy?

As life expectancy grows and populations swell, robotics and artificially intelligent interventions are also on the rise. Some ethical considerations in our decision making around how these are developed is needed to preserve purpose and meaning for humanity, but more on this later.

Resources and land are not infinite, and our actions particularly in the last 400 – 500 years are capable of unleashing irreparable damage to our natural resources, clean air, and habitable environments. Climate change can mean less food, and fewer suitable environments for life to thrive.

With more people comes a higher demand for food, and greater pressure on other animals and organisms as well. Changing farming techniques and potentially embracing a more vegan lifestyle can stabilise and possibly foster greater bio diversity, expanding our ethical footprint beyond simply humanity.

Beyond the physical considerations come the psychological ones. With the development of AI, robots, extension of life, how does this impact on family life? how will it alter our needs? will the 2 parents 2 children model sustain? or will we feel the need to rethink even the way humans reproduce?

How time changes work

Just imagine that you are healthy enough to never stop working.

Think of the upsides for a minute. A Constant steady stream of income. No need to worry if that pension won’t be enough to cover you for all your remaining years, because you can work all of your years.

Let’s imagine we could live a healthy life up to say 150 years old. What might we do differently today with that understanding? Lets look at some possibilities

  • Take up another unpaid but spiritually or emotionally rewarding vocation, or simply to explore your curiosity by learning something new.
  • Change jobs more frequently for the purpose of learning new and varied skills
  • Recognise what you need to have a healthy engaging life, and consume only what you need and no more.
  • Learn more manual skills; such as farming, hunting, fishing, sewing, constructing, engineering, astrophysics.
  • Take more time off to travel and engage with new cultures and ways of thinking.

The prospect of a longer life might change completely how we approached work. maybe we would want to do less of it for longer. Perhaps 2 days a week, with the rest of the time spent on non economic pursuits.

Time and Business

If we applied the same concept to ourselves as business leaders, what would we do if we knew that our employees and customers would live longer than ever before and demand less than before? or that our products and services would face obsolescence rates much faster than before? Or our raw materials would be more scarce than ever before? How differently would we run our organisations, or manage our teams if they were no longer driven by economic rewards?

The economic rule (Continue as we are today, measuring our self worth by how much we have, and physical things)

  • Review our business processes, historic trends, and future trends, to understand which elements are best to automate now with simple narrow AI solutions as they are routine and unlikely to change.
  • Use the vast hoards of data at our disposal to accurately predict the behaviour’s of people such that our supply chains generate less waste.  
  • Train and or recruit a workforce that are already capable of designing and deploying more automated solutions, and maintain working hours in excess of 8 hours, 5 days a week.
  • Develop or purchase more general AI solutions based on deep learning to enhance future capability and adaptability and continue to reduce our work forces.

The sustainability rule (Increase our consciousness of sustainable balance with our environment and our society)

  • Allow our workforce more time to learn and practice new and more future relevant and fulfilling skills so they remain at pace with the changes in the wider global economy, even beyond their national and social borders.
  • Provide opportunities for the workforce to participate in more meaningful customer and society value propositions that both enable social progress, reduce environmental risk, and boost customer loyalty.
  • Innovate to develop more use cases for the end of life of our products such that we produce less, but create extended value in our product life cycles.
  • Fund research and innovation to develop alternative and renewable sources of raw materials for our products.

If we took on a different perspective on how we live today, we risk discovering we are capable of being happy with less, and achieving rewards beyond economics. We may discover that being driven to win can take on a new meaning, being led by a deeper purpose than profit. We may find that our greatest asset is our curiosity. is it time we altered time?

Instead of being bounded scarcity in any form; time, land, resources, what if we filled our thoughts with the possibility that we can sustain a world that is designed on 100% renewable principles? How would we innovate, design our organisations, educate our children? Compete?

Our consciousness of time and our average life spans maybe confining us to a very limited view. What if we could change that?

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