Yoga for productivity, meditation for productivity, microdosing for productivity... What happened to free time?
Interesting critical article from The Guardian on how a wide range of "wellbeing" and consciousness-oriented techniques - yoga, meditation, even psychotropic drugs - are being pressed into service as "productivity enhancers". Excerpt below:
It cannot be coincidence that personal productivity has thrived as a preoccupation at a time when global productivity is failing to grow as well as it did before the global financial crisis. This poor performance of labour productivity growth during the economic recovery is commonly referred to as “the productivity puzzle” (incidentally, puzzling is a great boost for productivity, so I’m surprised this hasn’t resolved itself by now), which makes fathoming it sound like a fun hobby.
“Increased productivity used to be something that companies and managers were responsible for,” says Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. “Today, though, individuals are responsible for their own productivity. You become more productive through life-hacks, having the right noise-cancelling headphones and so on. We have a whole language that shifts responsibility for productivity back on to the individual, meaning that you have no one but yourself to blame if things go wrong: it’s not because you work in a super-noisy, poorly managed office, it’s because you have trouble multitasking in a fast-paced, dynamic environment.”
Maybe this kind of biohacking is prevalent precisely because individuals feel obliged to incorporate or embody the demands of the workplace. Even LSD, once the ultimate expression of the counterculture, has been harnessed as an aid to productivity.
Since 2010 James Fadiman has tracked microdosing of LSD, in which a small dose – typically 10 micrograms – is taken every three or four days without psychedelic effect. He first heard the idea from someone who had been recommended a microdose by Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who first synthesised LSD, “to clarify a relationship he was in”. Fadiman has gathered a sample of 1,500 microdosers, aged from 18 to 80, across 59 countries, who submit their findings for him and his colleague Sophia Korb to study.
Fadiman, speaking on the phone from Menlo Park, California, has countless examples of the benefits of LSD in this form. “A young man at a San Francisco meet-up said: ‘Well, I only use microdosing when I have a coding problem,” he says. Another found that he could drive for longer. Another still, who had been eating really badly, went to a restaurant while microdosing “and he said to me: ‘I looked at the menu and, by God, I wanted the salad.’”
For Pang, this shows how “modern capitalism is capable of turning anything either into a product you consume or an enhancer of productivity”. But Fadiman sees it differently. “The people I’ve spoken to,” he says, “they don’t feel they’re more productive.” Instead, he sees microdosing as “an enhanced wellness tool” of which productivity is only a part, although he acknowledges that one of the major benefits is “diminished procrastination”.
“These companies that sell relaxation tools and techniques are kidding themselves if they don’t understand this is part of an acceleration of our economy and expansion of work into all aspects of our life,” says William Davies, a lecturer at Goldsmiths University and author of The Happiness Industry. “It’s a cruel mentality where everything can be used or should be useful, and if it isn’t, I’m not trying hard enough. That’s one problem. The other problem, of course, is that where you once had things that added intrinsic value for people, they’ve become captured in some way.”
More here. For us, this is a great example of what one of the frontlines of a new politics could be. These "technologies of the self", as Micheal Foucault would have termed them, are not in themselves a problem - who wouldn't want to have more energy, or maintain more focus, or be less frazzled by events?
But it's the design of the organisations and institutions around one that is the real political question. What would these structures be like if they were driven and decided by enhanced consciousnesses, rather than the structures just exploiting them? Our friends at Perspectiva and Alter Ego are worth investigating here on this question.