• Abhijit Das

Reset Labels

When we call a thing by a name, it assumes a disposition. That disposition takes it upon itself to explain the way things are, as they were supposed to be and as it could be in the future. Often that disposition dumbs down the spirit of discovery and taints the pursuit for change with the burden of the past. And then, as the old proverb goes, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. Many scholars, thinkers, tinkerers managed to make new discoveries and bring new insights into the fold by doing away with labels. Language and culture put together could become quite a vicious circle if we are not careful with it. So, I prefer dropping the labels momentarily to come out of the obligations and entrapments of what to see. And this is very useful in a post COVID world which has proven over doubt that labels could be misleading when followed 'as it is'.



Ecosystem, a label which is drawing a new-found interest among digital transformation enthusiasts and planet conscious patrons. It is indeed a great moment in our cumulative history to revisit this word and be careful of how we mean it.


When it comes to the word ‘ecosystem’ my memory automatically loads two views of the world and the society – one, the ‘food-chain’ and then ‘the survival of the fittest’ – studied in school and in life – which views humans, animals, plants and so on, in too many separate boxes, occasionally coming for a quick collection of an irreversible debt and then returning back to their own stations in the pre hoc structure of life. Some of us may visualize the 'food chain' in a pyramid structure, while others, in a circular/oval web - with ego or as 'eco', respectively. In my experience, as humans, most of us carry ourselves around through the ecosystem as if we are on the top of the food chain, within the pyramid structure. Inherent in our culture, is this notion of being in control and acting as the self-appointed Manager of the ecosystem. In fact, open scientific dialogues have proven time and again that we tardily understand the nature of the ecosystem and our place in it. The outbreak of the COVID virus is a very good example of this. Sometimes we are acutely aware of our misguided notions around the ecosystem and and only when we do, we attempt to make amends. Aristotle’s words ring true, “the more we know, the more we know we don’t know”, listening to Sir David Attenborough walk us through A Life on Our Planet. Be it CRISPR or 5G we are far from concluding why 'this is progress' or even if 'this is the best we can do'. Although we are all set, far into it, with our will and welcome to just simply act upon 'what we know'.


Is this some sort of a green-wean or a planet pity party? Not quite. I care because I have experienced the symptoms first hand, of excessive EMF exposure due to never ending work-from-home hours during the lockdown. So much so, that I ended up spending more than my corporate Health Card would allow on diagnosing and treating headaches, dizziness, insomnia, loss of appetite and the works. And as I speak to my friends and colleagues pushing through the pandemic back in India, I hear the same song. It is real and its not even near - we are sitting right on top of it. And we can no longer write it off as a one-off CSR campaign or a charity event. We have to renew the label of ecosystem.


I believe ignorance is the fire that brings upon the reset – time and again. Thank fully so. As we don’t have a choice but to charge on with humility and good intentions. And speaking of humility and good intentions – we could try to approach the label ‘ecosystem’ with exactly that, knowing that our relationship in the web, is and most probably would always be mutually parasitic and there is a lot to be done and undone. So why label it and run to action with a load of assumption and ego? Why not drop the label to rediscover it all over again, humbled in the acknowledgement of what we don't know. Even if it sounds like too much work, there is a clear case for not overlooking this duty. It may sound outrageous to many, but I believe this is where we could get off to a good start.


The word intelligence is funny, because too much rides on it and we are already in the process of imparting it to inanimate, metallic, mechanical and electrical objects – as if we had it all figured out already. Alexander Pope said, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”, and we know that’s all we have managed to acquire in the name of knowledge so far. We have made progress no doubt. Except we are now going to share our predicament with robots and driverless cars. How intelligent is that? You may think I am putting intelligence on a very tight leash. Not quite. I am of the opinion that intelligence must be attributed across the ‘ecosystem’ and that could be called progress. Getting off our high horse of intelligence could get us closer to our place in ecosystem. Only then the economics of things could be nearer to our business as usual. Only then we could find purpose in our profits. Only then we could call out our endeavors as progress.


In India, an IAS officer has found a way to monetize green projects to pave the way for Smart City Projects. SafeSleeve which debuted on Kickstarter back in 2014 and managed to survive, is making our smart devices smarter by cutting our risk from EMR exposure. Let's face it, the popular narrative doesn't follow such initiatives as new standards of our ecosystem and an intelligent way to pursue our place in it. It is hard for such endeavors to win in the mainstream of profit making. And thus, we keep falling back to the cycles of patch-up and perform.


Let us fuel more ‘progress is made’, ‘growth is out there’ pitches with a renewed sense of ecosystem and intelligence. Narrativ.Design would love to co-create that future.


© 2020 Narrativ.Design. All rights reserved. The author is the founder of Narrativ.Design. He has worked in various strategic roles across Asia, on local and global brands for over 15 years. He is fluent in Bengali, Hindi and English. You can reach him at authors@narrativ.design. Image: ©Pathfinderabhi

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