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Artisans, and the Motive Power of Havoc.
A path from career to calling.
"Qe nul soit si hardy de crier havok." (No one should be so foolish as to cry havoc)
'Ordinances of War of Richard II', The Black Book of the Admiralty, 1385
The thought was triggered by a talk by Yuval Harari on the relationship between Mankind and AI, and when it’s Harari, it’s worth listening.
Mark Anthony, at Caesar’s Funeral, cries “Havoc, and let slip the dogs of war” in the recognition that for order to return, havoc had first to occur. There was no going back and no certainty as to what would happen. That, in a way, sums up Harari’s forty-minute talk.
Havoc is what happens when a more powerful new order meets the frail structures of the old order, early 15c., from the expression cry havoc "give the signal to pillage" (Anglo-French crier havok, late 14c.).
And, not to be left out, Joseph Schumpeter joins in:
“History is a record of "effects" the vast majority of which nobody intended to produce.”
I think Havoc an apt description for many organisations’ approach to economic performance at the moment. So here we are, with climate change, artificial intelligence, and all the other “dogs of war” that we let slip through our own actions. We cannot apologise to them, ask them to play nicely, or hope they won’t notice us. That’s the bad news.
The good news, on the other hand, is that we’re up for this providing we don’t hide from it, hope that somebody else will take care of it, or believe that the corporate structures that have facilitated it - however unwittingly - will be strong enough to contain it.
Because, unwelcome though it is, havoc can be a catalyst for something better. The dry stone wall in the photograph above is being built by John, a Master dry stone waller, at a house a hundred yards down from my own that I pass every day. It is about a hundred and fifty metres long so far, has been underway for well over a year, and will probably take close to another to complete, one shaped piece of stone at a time.
John has a master’s degree in biology and a history of fast-track research in a major corporate until a life-threatening illness came calling. The incident and slow recovery gave him time to reflect and turn what had been a hobby into his work.
He has a two-year waiting list, and makes a very satisfactory living from something he loves to do. I spent a long time talking with him yesterday and will record that in a future post but suffice it to say he is one of the most content people I have ever met. He acknowledges that the havoc caused by his illness is something he is deeply grateful for.
His biggest challenge is finding apprentices, which I find interesting - maybe the image (and hard work) of craft seems to have an image problem for those of the traditional apprentice age.
Still, I wonder whether we might be looking in the wrong places. As AI hollows out much previously skilled office work, craft takes on a new place - and I imagine that occupations that combine good income with the unique aspects of craft will become attractive for many reasons.
Havoc is upon us, and is only just getting started, but it is not the enemy. It is a not-very-gentle nudge to reflect on how our work enhances lives - our own and others.
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