Life Purpose In A Hypertechnological Society.

December 6, 2022
Pasquale Marino
‘Self Reflected’ , a work from Dr. Greg Dunn (artist and neuroscientist) and Dr. Brian Edwards (artist and applied physicist)
‘Self Reflected’ , a work from Dr. Greg Dunn (artist and neuroscientist) and Dr. Brian Edwards (artist and applied physicist)

The purpose of our life is the eternal topic that has been an object of study since the beginning of humankind.

“Why am I here? What is my objective in life?” — it’s what all human beings have questioned all along. The most brilliant minds of our species have expressed their thoughts about it, from Aristotle to Socrates, from Marx to Fromm. Philosophers, artists, theologists, economists, and more recently psychologists and psychiatrists, everyone has had their thesis in different times and different forms. Some of them stay relevant forever, others have to be contextualized to their time, but all of them try to answer the same question — What are we doing here?

The circumstances of today are very unique. There is an unprecedented amount of wealth and a lack of shared ideals within an increasingly more connected diverse global society. E. Fromm thought already that the reasons for the social crisis in the second half of the 20th century lie in the specific character of the neoliberal society with its focus on values of generation of profit.

Genuine ideals today are more and more often substituted by mass media and mass culture with idols and icons — mock substitutes for a mass consumer life. We are bombarded on a daily basis with this abnormal amount of information, and the power of Social Media emphasizes this even more with side effects on mental health — especially in young generations.

With such accentuation on utilitarian information, a young person may suddenly feel the meaninglessness of numerous projects or constant changing of jobs, and sadness of owning “necessary” things, and finally the impossibility to assess a life journey — just to give an idea of the numbers: sixty students from Idaho University were questioned after their failed suicide attempts and 85% of them answered that the reason for it was the loss of life purpose.

Composite: Lynsey Irvine/Getty
Composite: Lynsey Irvine/Getty

Considering that we are about to live the AI- revolution, which will replace a large variety of white-collar jobs with ever-growing machine learning algorithms, this is going to be a major challenge for humankind since jobs are the life meaning of many people’s lives.

Many technology optimists, myself included, will say that humans still hold on to their side elements such as creativity and love, things that technology is still a long way to reach, and on the other hand, the invisible hand of the market, perhaps backed by government subsidies, will naturally create new needs and opportunities — then, we are responsible to create and mold a society where there are the conditions for this to happen. A society where creative, socially active, and self-fulfilling individuals interested in the world can flourish, surpassing the borders of their own isolated ego.

This is why Art is now more important than ever, to help us fuel our creative side and unlock our “human superpower”, to find a purpose and turn it into reality, contributing positively to an ever more hyper-technological society.

Rafael Lorenzo and Obdulia Manzano, Havana, Cuba, 2012
Rafael Lorenzo and Obdulia Manzano, Havana, Cuba, 2012

This is not even a real novelty. If we jump back to the XIX century, private and socially exclusive museums were made public for the first time as part of a new strategy of Western governments to produce a citizenry that, rather than be directed by coercive or external forces, monitored and regulated its own conduct — and high culture became an instrument of the “new task of social management”.

This was then naturally replicated within the market throughout the economic development of the society with the advent of commercial galleries and more recently with Social Media, which gave the possibility to discover artists and reach them directly. But alongside the above-mentioned side effects of the Attention Economy, Social Media feels already obsolete for art. Today people seek deeper and more authentic connections with people in general and especially with those behind the works they buy and/or consume — we live now the so-called Creator Economy.

This might be then the start of a new chapter for art democratization based on a human-centered framework, where people act not only as viewers but rather as an active element of the relation with the artwork, where the latter becomes a medium through which the person discover and express their own feeling and thoughts about it while connecting with the artist behind the work as well as other like-minded art lovers.