Awareness Design: The Most Powerful Field for Our Future?
OK, OK, I don’t really subscribe to anything being “the most” of something… the headline was just a bit of sensationalism to capture your attention.
*gently slaps self on wrist*
However, now that you’re here, I want to make a case for a new field of design.
I read a paper over the weekend called Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System, which lists the most effective strategies for making large-scale shifts in complex systems. #1 on the list was “the power to transcend paradigms.”
How timely, as our discussions of late have been about culture hacking, technologies of culture, and conscious evolution. It made me wonder -
What would it look like if we had a discipline called Awareness Design?
Like many design fields, the focus would be on behavior. The approach would be on ‘shaping digital and social tools that increase people’s awareness of themselves, their environments and systems.’ (so, expanding people’s capacity for self-awareness and systems-awareness).
The idea is to satisfy people’s needs and desires within a context of deep self-knowledge as well as a living systems perspective. By creating more awareness in one’s inner world, people would become aware of a larger range of options in how to respond to situations and make decisions. By creating more awareness to the outer world, people would gain a more thorough understanding of the impacts of their choices and behaviors on themselves and the world at large. These feedback loops would encourage more creative and empowered behavior.
Let’s further explore the what and why of awareness design!
The Characteristics of an Awareness Designer
These fearless navigators have broken the shackles of a singular perspective, and learned how to see things from not just a different point of view, but multidimensional views. At some point they rejected consensus reality and took the path of free inquiry, discovering the liberation that comes with the capacity to interact with the world from a position of agility and adaptability. Aware of options, aware of patterns, aware of the interconnectedness of things, and unencumbered by the blinders of a single point of view about how things work.
They’re capable of taking the jump into new ways of thinking, experimenting with emerging social and cultural patterns by *embodying* those models, and then helping construct the mental bridges necessary for others to walk on if they’re to cross and join the party.
They act as guides and sources of inspiration, to not just explain new modes of thinking and being, but to *show* what it looks like to live in worlds that operate on different rules.
They can glide fluidly between states of identity, states of mind, and states of practice, because they are awake and aware.
As it’s put in the Leverage Point paper:
“There is yet one leverage point that is even higher than changing a paradigm. That is to keep oneself unattached in the arena of paradigms, to stay flexible, to realize that no paradigm is “true,” that every one, including the one that sweetly shapes your own worldview, is tremendously limited understanding of an immense and amazing universe that is far beyond human comprehension. It is to “get” at a gut level the paradigm that there are paradigms, and to see that that itself is a paradigm, and to regard that whole realization as devastatingly funny. It is to let go into Not Knowing, into what the Buddhists call enlightenment.”
Why Do We Need Awareness Design Now?
More and more people are walking to the edge of their mental models and belief systems, preparing to take the leap into a more expanded view. They “get” very deeply that the ‘system is broken,’ and despite how they may have lived their lives in the ‘old world,’ they see that something’s gotta give and are willing to participate in the next thing.
How do we begin embodying the new social agreements, even as we are unfolding them?
If we’re birthing genuinely new forms for how civilization could operate, how do we mentally prepare for that? How do we guide ourselves through the transition that requires not just using new tools, but a restructuring and reorientation of our awareness, and how we contextualize ourselves within the greater whole?
For example, when we talk about using alternative currencies as new tools for exchanging value and building local living economies, it’s not about just using TimeBucks instead of dollars, and therefore showing The Man who’s boss now.
We don’t get to just switch out tools, while remaining the same kind of people, thinking the same things about how things work, and acting the same, and expect that some external fix is going to magically make things change.
The reality is that a shift in awareness happens first, and the new behaviors and practices grow from that.
So we’re not necessarily looking for a lateral shift in thinking from one camp of thinking to the next, from an old paradigm to a new one. (ie – transaction-based to relationship-based, scarcity-based to abundance-based, competition to cooperation).
It’s more about widening the frame and to be aware of as many lenses as possible, attaching to none, to have deep self-knowledge, and to be open and inquisitive towards the unknown.
We might think of the journey as being one that seeks to transcend from confusion to awareness. Both self-awareness and systems-awareness.
Are Science and Spirit Converging to Awareness?
I feel a sense of urgency for us to actively participate in awareness design, as it would seem that both our species and our technologies are on this trajectory anyway.
On one hand, we’re rapidly integrating into a technological and computational world, with ever more powerful tools for mapping, tracking, simulating and decision-making. We’re revealing ever more complex maps of our inner and outer worlds. What my friend Alvis Brigis calls “total systems quantification.”
On the other hand, people are awakening to the greater potential of what it means to be fully alive, and choosing to build creative lives infused with meaning, values and purpose. We’re looking to harness our tools and technologies to expand the human condition, unleash creativity and innovation, and take quantum leaps in our personal and social evolution.
Now, from an optimistic perspective, we can preemptively celebrate the birth of connected global consciousness, where we’ve developed more advanced forms of social life, opened new frontiers in human empowerment and creative expression, and are intentionally on a path towards a more intelligent and empathic kind of human civilization.
From another view, there is a danger that we will not be prepared to think and behave in the world that’s unfolding around us – one in which the notion of identity and the human condition is altered by connected technologies, by artificial intelligence, by biotech and genetic engineering, by the ecological realities of a growing population on a finite planet, and so on.
Awareness Design for a Wiser World
It feels as if we are in a window of opportunity that is rapidly closing, where choices made now without sufficient awareness, critical long-term thinking and wisdom may lead to unfortunate results.
How do we move forward in a world of accelerating change with sharp clarity in our intentions, a capacity to envision multiple outcomes, and discernment in how we make choices?
How might we design enabling technologies that put us into an integrated state of harmonious balance and creative flow with ourselves, each other, and our surroundings?
How do we lead from the human spirit, and infuse this process with passion and fun?
When are we gonna wake up?