At a Loss for Loss

It’s hard to imagine a world where nothing and no-one gets lost. We’re getting close – you could say it’s been on the cards since the invention of the key hook by the front door, and more recently (and still for the sake of those darn keys) the Bluetooth keychain.

Could the current generation be the last to have any real sense of what it means to lose something or to get lost? When I say ‘real sense’ I’m talking about the feelings – the panic, the scare, the fluster, the fright – of losing an important or irreplaceable object. Or the anxiety and discombobulated feeling of being utterly lost, walking or driving aimlessly (but often rather determinedly) to find your way. Now, with the help of technology, we find things and we find our way. We no longer have to search, retrace our steps or problem-solve to find things. We no longer have to experience that feeling of dread or questioning.

Tim Wu plants the seed and recounts the agony of “nurturing a quiet pain” in the hope of finding something that was lost in a recent article on The New Yorker. Wu argues that there’s something to be gained by losing things. It helps toughen us. Shows us that the world is often “quite indifferent to our well-being.” He’s got a point.

Now we’re not quite at a loss for loss. We’re becoming less familiar with it, and future generations even more so. Does this mean that those future generations will suffer more when they do experience loss, because it will seem like a foreign experience to them? Perhaps. Wu calls it the “paradox of technological progress” – in our efforts to progress and to prevent vulnerability, we open ourselves up to vulnerability in other ways. Take note.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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