The other day on a walk through our local wildlife refuge, I asked my friend what, in her mind, was one of the most pressing problems facing our world today. Walking in silence for a bit, she turned and said, I’m concerned about the impact of robots taking over our work. What value, she wondered, will work have in the future? As our conversation unfolded, it was clear that it wasn’t a fear of AI (Artificial Intelligence) or that robots would take over the world, but rather, when things become available at the push of a button and there is little to no human-to-human contact in getting our needs met, what else will get lost? When a drone can drop a package at our doorstep in a matter of minutes, without interaction with the UPS driver we’ve come to know, what will become of our appreciation for the efforts and work of other human beings? Or when the latte at our favorite coffee shop is served up by robotic baristas, will we miss the friendly banter we’ve come to count on, which as it turns out, is why we walk the extra three blocks to frequent that particular establishment in the first place?
Her question about the value of work in the future is worthy our consideration today. On a small scale, how can we bring value to others through the work we offer in the world, and, how can we better acknowledge and appreciate the work that others offer to us? On a grander scale, how do we make sure that everyone has a place at the work table, and an opportunity to use their unique strengths and abilities to care for the needs of others and to tackle the issues of today and tomorrow?
Further along on our walk my friend asked me the same question. While there are many issues I could have talked about, maybe because we were having our conversation while walking on a forest trail, what came to mind was that I’m deeply concerned about the critical environmental issues impacting the planet. Especially of concern is what I perceive as our individual and collective indifference about the responsibility we all bear to care for our shared planet. On a small scale, how do we begin to feel the impact of our small everyday actions on the earth and the life which inhabits it, and what will that inspire us to do? On a grander scale, how can we force ourselves to come to grips with the fact that the survival of one is intricately bound together with the survival of all?
As we made our way around the refuge, while we didn’t come up with any conclusive answers, the conversation that ensued was a start.
What, in your mind, is one of the most pressing problems facing our world today?