The Meaning of Life – Have You Tried Googling It?

In our introducing post Meaning – 21st Century Challenges we invited you to do some digesting and preliminary thinking on the topics below:

How do you live in an age of bewilderment, when the old stories have collapsed, and no new story has yet emerged to replace them?” What will keep us busy when our jobs become obsolete? A new quest for meaning is required. In the future, virtual worlds may take over and socially-constructed systems of meaning could lose their meaning.

The aim of this series of posts is to sketch possible thinking steps that might help us to get a solution or at least a direction for one of today’s urgent issues as identified by Yuval Noah Harari  in the book  21 Lessons for the 21st Century (see the blog post Will our inventions make us irrelevant?).

This week we will post two questions regarding the future meaning of life, each with a suggestion for using a thinking tool.

We have clustered the starting question into three entry-points:

  1. As an individual quest;
  2. As an influence from the physical environment;
  3. As a belief system or ideology.

As an individual quest

The search for meaning is often described as an individual quest. If you were totally independent or not be influenced by ideologies and technology, what is your meaning of life?

Starting questions might be:

  • Who am I?
  • What should I do in life?
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Who determines what is a meaningful life?

As an influence from the physical environment

New technologies, scientific discoveries and changes to our environment may change our values.

  • In what ways will advances in technology change meaning of future life? For instance, how will robots change our daily life and affect our ideas about the meaning of life?
  • If immortality might be possible, how will it change our meaning of life?

As a belief system or ideology

The meaning of life as we perceive it is often derived from philosophical, religious and scientific inquiries about happiness, existence, consciousness and social ties.

  • Why did so many people followed enthusiastically but blindly the main 20st century ideologies. What has been so attractive in them?
  • What types of ideologies will emerge in the future?

How to Proceed?

We will begin with explore the meaning of life as primarily derived from a belief system or ideology. This has the advantage that from the beginning of our thinking we place the whole discussion in a broader context than as an individually, independent choice, what it is not at all, at least in our preliminary opinion.

Thinking Task 1

Focus: Why did so many people follow enthusiastically but blindly the main 20st century ideologies? What has been so attractive in them?

Choose a belief system or an ideology. For example:

  • Christianity
  • Islam
  • Buddhism
  • Communism
  • Liberalism
  • Fascism

Do a PMI (Plus, Minus, Interesting). Write down:

  • the attractive aspects (2 minutes at least, but also at maximum)
  • the “ugly” aspects (2 minutes)
  • what is neither attractive nor ugly, but interesting, especially regarding the future? ( 2 minutes)

Thinking Task 2

Focus: What types of ideologies will emerge in the future?

Do an APC. APC stands for Alternatives, Possibilities and Choices. Identify or design at least 7 new ideologies or belief systems that might emerge in the 21st century as a result of the merging of revolutions in bio- and information technology.

Meaningful thinking!


7 Replies to “The Meaning of Life – Have You Tried Googling It?”

  1. Christianity
    – Tolerance
    – Universal love (acceptance)
    – Kindness
    – Giving
    – Peace
    – Forgiveness
    – Charity
    – Communion (togetherness)
    – Acknowledgement of a greater wisdom
    – Repetition
    – Narrow view
    – Intolerance
    – Passivity
    – Complacency
    – Self-importance
    – Can Christianity be reformed?
    – What drives church reform?
    – Churches want more people – what else do they want?
    – Can Christianity be re-interpreted?
    – How are Christians dissatisfied with Christianity?
    – Why are there different Christian faiths?

  2. PMI Neo-liberalism

    + private ownership
    + supply and demand
    + efficient
    + creates growth
    + rewards hard work
    + people and companies make most of the decisions
    + incentive to be creative
    + wealth is passed on
    + advances in lots of areas: medicine, physics, technology
    + increasing living standards for millions of people
    + increasing trade, so providing fewer incentives for war
    + favours democracy, human rights and freedom of speech and belief

    – inequality of opportunity
    – money cannot buy happiness
    – fails to ensure the emotional satisfaction that is essential to life
    – unstable, periodic crises
    – exploitative
    – excessive waste and exploitation of natural resources
    – pollution, use of non-renewable resources
    – produces an inner bigger gap between rich and poor, high-low educated people, managers and workers, etc
    – undermines the idea of equality between people
    – undermines solidarity
    – makes people helpless, takes initiative from them, apathy and too much trust in governments
    – produces a chanceless class
    – the power has shifted from governments to a few multinationals and there CEO/owners
    – efficiency has become the norm, not values or conscience
    – it has produced “company man” and modern slavery, even in Western companies
    – the advantages of neo-liberalism fall to the rich countries, the costs (pollution, exhausting, etc) to poor countries

    i can you buy a meaningful life – buy happiness
    i do people who work hard deserve to buy eternal life or a ticket to the moon
    i can the problems with capitalism be solved, lack of moral
    i ethical and  eco-capitalism can  be developed
    i will something arise like a new neo-liberalism?
    i supply and demand – still lots of  waste
    i will emerge a counter-ideology to capitalism/neo-liberalism like communism and fascism was a reaction to liberalism/raw capitalism?
    i will the dominance at world scale of some enterprises continue?
    i will rise a countervailing power to multinationals, outside the usual suspects as the UN, World Economic Forum, NGO’s, World Bank
    i will organisations as the Bill Gates Foundation be the new social enterprise, but at a world scale?
    i could a social organisation like farmers cooperation be developed to a multinational
    i will data capitalism be the new form?
    i will the new euro be “life event” coins

  3. Fascism

    + Strong leader
    + Quick decisionmaking
    + Quick implementation of ideas
    + Strong sense of belonging
    + Strives towards national self-sufficiency
    + Fast decision making and implementation
    + Solidarity with the leader, the party and the nation
    + Belonging to a group
    + Participation in something higher
    + Conservative, preservation of values
    + Social responsible
    + All the benefits that the concept of centralization possesses

    – No checks and balances in politics
    – No protection of people against the power of the government
    – No individual freedom and debate
    – No further development of thinking and ideas
    – There is always an excuse available for the government to do or not do something
    – Restriction of individual freedom
    – Strong sense of not belonging
    – Difficult or even forbidden to think out of the box
    – Limited and controlled creativity
    – Supporting the group is more important than supporting individuals or universal rights

    i Will a kind of eco-fascism arise?
    i if support increases fascism when there is distrust of government
    i is a strong world leader/s necessary to deal with future problems
    i if there are great variations among the way fascism is practised in different countries.
    i if a couple of big companies run are going to run the world – strong leader
    i Will a kind of data-fascism going to govern society?
    i Will fascism reappearing in response to the emergence of an unnecessary and irrelevant social class?
    i Will as a result of the uncertainties of the developments in the field of information and bio-technology fascism again an attractive governing and cultural model, as happened in German before WWII?
    i Are the large IT companies going to determine the lives of people and as such define their meaning of life?

  4. New Ideologies and Belief Systems?

    The quest ideology, we each search for the meaning of life, which at that moment gives us the meaning of life – Yuval is right- mediation is part of the answer!
    The “flawed creature” ideology- we do not need anyone to tell us what is the meaning of life. Humans have survived for thousands of years by using our ability to adapt to the environment. We will get rid of the leaders and simply plod along. It is in our genes to survive.
    Root-ism – the opposite to ecofascism – people discover the underlying ways that nature support each other and this gives meaning to life, inspiration is the root system of trees.
    Dataegoism – our life will be ruled by data that will feed our ego, the collected data will solve everything and we will blindly follow the messages left to us by our voice assistant
    Ego Laissez-faire – we are too busy to care, the robot can sort it out
    Brainless-ism – we upload our brains and the leader will check our thoughts and modify if not good.
    Brain-ism – we will learn to supercharge our brain and discover the meaning of life!
    Gaya-ism – the belief that protecting the Earth is the ultimate value in life, anything else is of subordinate interest
    Survivalism – the belief that the survival of the human gene is the ultimate goal of mankind
    Treadmill-ism– there is no other meaning of life than smoothly fit in
    Authenticism – the most important value in life is to be authentic
    Technocracy-ism – the belief that only problems that can technically be solved are worth solving, any other problem will be defined as technological
    De-average-ism – the idea that the world could be a better place by leaving the all-dominant idea that there is an average of every and anything
    Moral-ism – the belief that as everyone does know how to behave, society will progress
    Virtue-ism – the highest good in life is to be virtuous, especially in the eyes of others
    Immortal-ism – the meaning of life can be escaped by longevity and freedom of diseases
    Victim-ism – offering your life and ideals in favour of that of others
    Captains of Industry-ism – the belief that not civilians or governments can solve our problems but that captains of industry should shape our ideas about morality and laws
    Narrative-ism – the meaning of life– is to be derived from the belief of others in the stories you make believable; Look at Me!
    Happyism – life should be about happiness, easiness and buying power
    Event-ism – the meaning of life is to experience a wide scoop of challenges, experiences, events, emotions, relations
    Intellectualism – the belief that our problems can be resolved by logical thinking
    Positivism- all our problems will vanish if people embrace positive thinking
    Culturalism – all societal problems are cultural in their essence
    Careerism – the meaning of life lies in a successful career
    Kids-ism – the meaning of life is to grow up your kids to be successful, adapted winners
    Social interactive-ism – the meaning of life is we are all alone and is in connected individuals
    Wealth-ism – gaining as much as possible wealth

  5. My list of new “isms”…

    Thinking challenge What types of ideologies will emerge in the future?
    My friends Asa Jomard and Gijs Van Beeck Calkoen wrote a blog post recently calling for people to APC possible new ideologies to emerge in the future. Below is my effort:

    Want to see societal systems working well.
    Call for government to devote resources specifically to understanding systems.
    Interpret peoples’ actions in terms of system behaviour rather than individual behaviour.
    Educate themselves and others in systems thinking.
    Happyists would:

    See happiness as a legitimate goal.
    Have a very precise definition of happiness (contentment rather than excitement, long term satisfaction rather than short term fix).
    Be happy for others.
    Encourage others to do things that makes them happy.
    Engagementists would:

    Want to see people engage with each other in meaningful, constructive and positive ways.
    Seek to engage warmly with others.
    Call on the government to further the aims of engagementists eg. set up a department of community engagement.
    Oscar Wilde suggested:

    “It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.”


    Would, where required, send themselves and their children to charm school.
    Encourage others to be charming.
    Read books like Edward de Bono’s “How to have a beautiful mind” for clues on how to be charming.
    Creativists would:

    Laud those who generate original and useful ideas.
    Train themselves to be more creative.
    Learningists would:

    Encourage people to learn.
    Laud those who make it easier for people to learn.
    See learning as not as a mere collection of facts (which has now been superseded by technology), but as appreciating new useful patterns.
    Futurists would:

    Looks at the world from the perspective of the future.
    Explore possibilities for the future.
    Call for governments to set up a “Department for the future”.

    Are, in a sense, like aestheticists, but see beauty in everything, not just art.
    Seek out original forms of beauty.
    Encourage others to take an interest in beauty.
    See beauty where others may not see beauty.
    Show beauty to others (many examples from Asa).
    De Bonoists would:

    Celebrate the work of Edward de Bono.
    Read books and actively pursue ideas developed by Edward de Bono.
    Periodically ask themselves, “What would Dr de Bono say or do here?”
    Phil Bachmann 31 May 2019

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