…the future, we treat it like a noun. It’s not. It’s a verb. It requires action. It requires us to push into it. It’s not this thing that washes over us. It’s something that we actually have total control over. But in a short-term society, we end up feeling like we don’t. We feel like we’re trapped. We can push through that. […] And it all begins really with yourself asking this question: What is your longpath? But I ask you, when you ask yourself that now or tonight or behind a steering wheel or in the boardroom or the situation room: push past the longpath, quick, oh, what’s my longpath the next three years or five years? Try and push past your own life if you can because it makes you do things a little bit bigger than you thought were possible.
In his TED talk, founder and CEO of Synthesis Corp, Ari Wallach, calls attention to our collective need to heal from our cultural short-termism (“where everything seems to happen right now and we can only think out past the next tweet or timeline post, we get hyper-reactionary”) and to embrace the longpath. The complexity and magnitude of the problems we face demand that we envision and act upon long-term solutions stretching beyond our individual lifetimes. Wallach shares and reviews three ways of thinking and their accompanying behaviors to adopt a longpath mindset.
“I love the philosophers: Plato, Socrates, Habermas, Heidegger. I was raised on them. But they all did one thing that didn’t actually seem like a big deal until I really started kind of looking into this. And they all took, as a unit of measure for their entire reality of what it meant to be virtuous and good, the single lifespan, from birth to death. But here’s a problem with these issues: they stack up on top of us, because the only way we know how to do something good in the world is if we do it between our birth and our death. That’s what we’re programmed to do. If you go to the self-help section in any bookstore, it’s all about you. Which is great, unless you’re dealing with some of these major issues. And so with transgenerational thinking, which is really kind of transgenerational ethics, you’re able to expand how you think about these problems, what is your role in helping to solve them.”
“What I’m saying is we have to rethink our base assumption about only looking at the future in one way, only looking at it through the dominant lens. Because our problems are so big and so vast that we need to open ourselves up. So that’s why I do everything in my power not to talk about the future. I talk about futures. It opens the conversation again. So when you’re sitting and thinking about how do we move forward on this major issue — it could be at home, it could be at work, it could be again on the global stage — don’t cut yourself off from thinking about something beyond technology as a fix because we’re more concerned about technological evolution right now than we are about moral evolution. And unless we fix for that,we’re not going to be able to get out of short-termism and get to where we want to be.”
“This comes from the Greek root. Ultimate aim and ultimate purpose. And it’s really asking one question: to what end? When was the last time you asked yourself: To what end? And when you asked yourself that, how far out did you go? Because long isn’t long enough anymore. Three, five years doesn’t cut it. It’s 30, 40, 50, 100 years.
In Homer’s epic, “The Odyssey,” Odysseus had the answer to his “what end.” It was Ithaca. It was this bold vision of what he wanted — to return to Penelope. And I can tell you, because of the work that I’m doing, but also you know it intuitively — we have lost our Ithaca. We have lost our “to what end,” so we stay on this hamster wheel. And yes, we’re trying to solve these problems, but what comes after we solve the problem? And unless you define what comes after, people aren’t going to move.”