As we head towards the end of 2016, and the rounding off of what’s become a particularly unpleasant year on the global stage, I find myself thinking once again that next year must be better. Right?
Don’t get me wrong, the year has been pleasant enough in my own world. I’ve made conscious decisions to cut back on some of the things that were consuming my time while focussing better, if not completely on the thing that I wanted to do most.
In March, we tried applying some lightweight OKR and agile project management techniques to help us set a focus on the project(s) we wanted to pursue most, and to evaluate how the things we chose to work on are progressing, or not. After all, we have a large whiteboard that otherwise only accumulated random doodles, shopping lists and magnetically-attached important notes, so it’s good to put it to more constructive use.
It still accrues doodles, usually when Max comes to visit, but that’s okay. It’s nice, actually, to find, usually some days after the event, that a random face has turned up on the board, in a style that belongs to neither Huma or me. At least I’ve been assuming it’s Max.
Anyway, what did I choose to focus on, and what timescales did I set for achieving my goal? I decided to write that novel that I’ve been mulling over for some (I don’t actually know how many) years. And I said it’d be done, at least the first draft, by the August bank holiday this year. So how’s it going? Well, I’m about one third of the way through it I think.
So, at that rate, it’s overrunning by at about twelve months, or three times the original estimate. But I don’t care. I’m fitting it in whenever I have some free time, and am awake enough to not have to rewrite vast swathes a few days later, having re-read what I wrote while clearly in the wrong frame of mind or just not up to the task mentally, whether due to distractions or fatigue. Also, I don’t really like working on it in public where I think people can read over my shoulder, so it really is restrictive in terms of when and where I can apply myself to the task.
On the subject of distractions, there have been several that have been outside of my sphere of influence – Brexit – the unbelievable campaign of outright lies and deliberate misdirection carried out by pompous two-faced back-stabbing UK politicians (all of which promptly slipped away from the mess they created), and Trump’s absolutely bewildering rise to power to name just two WTAF incredulous facepalm moments of the year – and several that I have knowingly (thanks to our statements on the whiteboard) undertaken, simply because during those times when I’m just not in the mood, or am too tired to write, it’s important to do something that is enjoyable. Such as going on an insane rampage through the streets of Los Santos in what is arguably the best stress-venting channel I have – GTA V. Well, Trevor just kind of makes that possible, you know?
Anyway, as our world nears the end of yet another orbit of the sun, spinning with indifference to the infestation of the top one percent of parasitic humans living on its back, we ride atop the crest of the wave that heralds the beginning of the Anthropocene epoch. We continue to exert an influence on climate change that has dramatic effects on polar sea ice, while some of us simply turn away from the problem, or worse, flatly deny that we have anything to do with it anyway. Meanwhile, artificial intelligence gains ground as technological barriers continue to fall, and that one percent of Earth-dwellers are now directly in the firing line, literally, of machines that can do their jobs faster, more accurately and just better than people can, leading some of us to ponder the merits of universal basic income, and the prospects of living in a post-work civilisation. For now we look on at AI’s ability to learn how to play the ancient Chinese strategy game Go, until now considered too nuanced for a computer to grasp, or StarCraft II, admittedly a machine-friendly version. For now. We also make way for AI to drive us around cluttered and unpredictable environments, sometimes not so well, but rest assured, our days at the top of the intelligence tree are definitely numbered. No pun intended.
While all this is happening, the unfathomable rise in popularity of nationalism and far-right politics legitimises racism and hatred across the globe, driving apart communities and, it seems, any hope of the peaceful collaboration we need to pursue to achieve solutions to the many problems facing the entire planet.
But never mind, at least we’ll have our sovereignty back, we’ll just have to look past the £122bn hole blown in the economy as a result. Admittedly it did strike me as funny when those who voted for it didn’t respond well when said sovereignty declared itself solely responsible for deciding the outcome of such ridiculous referendums.
Maybe it’s just my world view, but all of this seems to have unsettling echoes of pre-Nazi Europe, only now it is a different group of people accused of threatening the way of the West when the truth is that only a tiny minority are actually responsible for generating the perceived threat, and are probably very pleased with the way that’s going right now. And this is news to us why? Isn’t that almost always the case?
2017 is coming. Along with four years of Trump (please, don’t let it be longer than that!), and brexit of some form or another which will last a generation, or probably longer. Even with all that, we’re still fortunate to be in the one percent while the ninety nine percent look up at raging skies and down at rising seas wondering if their crops and herds will survive.
Be kind, 2017.