A shift from “me” to “we”

February 21, 2024

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In this article, Justin Rosenstein discusses the amazing things we could achieve if we work together to solve global problems instead of pursuing individual goals.

I’m amazed that I happen to have been born right now, at this unprecedented moment in life’s multi-billion-year history. In just the last century, one species has developed tremendous capabilities, enough power to transform systems at global scale. Collectively, humans have radically altered food, ecological systems, and climate systems. It is now possible for a few kids in a dorm room to have an idea, and within a decade to transform how we communicate, or produce instantaneous access to all the world’s knowledge.

Our collective power is staggering. We currently leverage that power in a chaotic way, one that seems to hurt humanity and the Earth as often as it helps. But what could we be doing with this power? If, spontaneously, every human saw themselves as working together for a common purpose— to help humanity and Earth thrive—I hypothesize that we would succeed in solving our biggest challenges and achieving our greatest ambitions.

 

 

For example, we already have enough food to feed the global population. If each person at each point in the supply chain was supported by an economic system compatible with the compassion, we all feel for the hungry, you’re still left with a massive logistics problem, but not one substantially greater than those that Amazon and Walmart have already solved. Logistics we can do.

If humanity collaborated toward a common mission of creating a thriving world, we could do more than solve problems. We could collectively choose where we wanted to take the world. We could co-design and co-create a planet in which each of us had not only everything we needed, but access to an abundance of material delights, loving community, and opportunities for personal creative expression.

But presently, most people do not see collective thriving as their primary goal. Even among those who’ve had their own material needs satisfied, many default to the search for personal wealth and power, which is in turn celebrated by Western society. Businesses are typically judged, internally and externally, only for fiscal growth. But economic value often correlates poorly—or even negatively—with human value.

Fortunately, a shift is already underway. A shift from identifying with the interests of our individual bodies and minds, to identifying with the interests of life as a whole. A shift from “me” to “we.” The shift is being accelerated (1) by our increasing awareness of our interconnectedness, thanks in part to the Internet’s enabling us to learn about people across the world; and (2) by growing numbers of people having direct experiences of universal love, thanks in part to increased access to spiritual practices, global community, and transformative experiences.

 

 

But a shift in consciousness is not enough. To achieve humanity’s potential, love must be applied in a deeply pragmatic way to make substantive measurable impact on real-world systems. I’m heartened by the growing number of organizations working to do this. Sungevity and SolarCity are using innovations in finance and satellite photography to provide zero-money-down solar paneling. Coursera is helping anyone in the world with an Internet connection get a first-class education. Lyft is trying to decimate the number of cars a city needs through ridesharing. These companies and others are repurposing technology for good.

By collective will alone, we can repurpose all our institutions—technology, business, governance, media, health, justice, …—through the applied efforts of a critical mass of a critical mass of collaborators. We must become pragmatically expert in each global system, and then rewrite the norms, stories, and behaviors of each of our institutions. These are ultimately human institutions (all created relatively recently) and together we can reprogram them in a way consistent with universal human values.

We can do this together, as one global team, as one global project, unified not by a central leader or ideology or office building, but by a shared decision to participate, to contribute our unique gifts to the cause. Not by treating philanthropy or service as side projects, but by devoting the bulk of our efforts to soul-aligned work with the potential for significant positive impact on the world.

Together, that team can transform our world, one step at a time, into one of abundance, harmony, sustainability, wis- dom, and boundless creative human expression.

About the author

Justin’s aim is to help us transition to a thriving, equitable, ecological civilization by unlocking the potential of human collaboration. He is currently focused on the companies One Project and Asana. Previously, he was co-invented of Google Drive, Gmail Chat, Facebook Pages, and Facebook’s Like button. Justin is also a founding advisor to the Center for Humane Technology and a student of Nature, philosophy, meditation, yoga, qigong, and cats.

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