Letter From Future Swells No. 59

Behind the Technology There is Humanity


Last Wednesday we had the first Future Swells online Q&A session and lots of questions were asked around financial security, family and friends, and the future. So I thought I could expand on the philosophy behind my experiments around the future of work and life, not necessarily providing all the answers but trying to ask the right questions.

“Software is eating the world.” – Marc Andreessen, Netscape creator and venture capitalist

Decentralized networks are the new organizing principle behind everything and your phone or smartwatch the remote control and interface towards the world. Software is the engine and what is connecting people, places, and things on our planet to make everything accessible to everyone.

That was what my five-year-long digital nomad project (2014-2019) was all about, to turn this new paradigm shift into a full-body experience by traveling around the world and accessing anything from anywhere. From just knowing to really being digital, which is what any personal transformation is all about.

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge, you can see all the kinds of things that you can’t see from the center.” – Kurt Vonnegut

But as much as I like Kurt Vonnegut, and he’s absolutely right in his ambition, life usually happens more according to the learnings of Hunter S. Thompson.

The edge… there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.” – Hunter S. Thompson

And I went way over the edge and had to learn how to pull back the future into the present reality. And that’s why I’m here in this little shack, living a hyperlocal and very present life, letting the pendulum swing back after having only been living the future.

The benefit of this adventure is of course perspectives, to be able to travel between different points-of-views and accepting that we look at the world differently. We can choose to look at the world from many perspectives.

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. – Scott F. Fitzgerald

The way we choose to see the world is rooted in our belief systems. If we believe that the deepest human connections can only happen in a physical space then that’s how we’ll behave. But if we believe it can be both physical and digital – and I’ve experienced both – we can lean into the future with a little more curiosity and hope, and less fear and anxiety.

My hypothesis is that digital technologies can make us more human if we use the tools offered in a mindful way. We can now connect with anyone in the world but that doesn't mean we should. What technology is really offering us today is to connect better and deeper with our local community and global tribe, for business and pleasure.

I personally believe that “It’s nothing personal, just business” is becoming a harmful and hindering belief in a world where every interaction is now becoming a personal relationship. From how we relate to ourselves to how we relate to others.

Business is not a culture, it’s a tool, just like any application or interface. It might have been a culture, perceived as a culture, expressed as a culture, but I believe that technology is now making that obsolete. Being human is a culture. The only culture.

Any action in the world is an interplay between the internal and the external world. It’s personal mastery and social interaction. In work, it’s about packing your skills in a way that can be easily socially received and distributed. In life, it’s being who you really are and offering that to your community and tribe.

But I think we have forgotten that simple idea when we exist in our different spaces: the home, the office, the factory, the public space. And that is fundamental in understanding the organizing principle of networks. We are no longer stuck in hierarchies (even though we personally might be in the short term) or siloes and are free to create, share, and thus capture the value of our own mastery.

But instead of becoming too philosophical, I’ll share an example of what I believe is one of many futures of work and life.

Slightly Choppy, also known as Scott Richards, lives in Newport Beach, California, and is making flags honoring surf culture for a living. The flags are a piece of art, well-made with a vintage feel, and born out of Scott’s life journey, passions, and craftsmanship. He sells the flags in surf shops and online, to provide for his family.

His story, told openly and authentically, resonates and his craftsmanship is just the perfect intersection between mastery and imperfection. Every flag is made by hand and thus unique. I bought a flag with my local surf spot, Beacons, yesterday and choose one with a little lighter and more worn-looking print.

Scott is doing one thing well, walking his passion into reality. What he makes, why, and how resonates with people and he has fans all around the world. He has about 20K followers on Instagram and growing. He’s living his dream and organizing everything via the Internet, from sourcing the fabrics to sharing the story of why and how he creates, to distributing the flags.

Individual mastery and social interaction.

Now, we are kind of programmed to say Well, that’s him, not me. What if everyone did like Scott, that wouldn’t work, right? Flags are easy, what I do is so much harder. But before Scotts brought his dream into reality there were no flags. There was no way to share where your local spot was and where you have surfed with your local community or global tribe. There was nothing.

I know, it might sound trivial, but it matters. Things matter, the right physical things matter to tell our own story to ourselves and others. So when I see that flag hanging in my shack I’m reminded of why I’m here, of the ocean, of the beach, and of who I am and who I’m becoming.

Telling our own stories is critical to our individual and collective wellbeing. It’s something we have done since the beginning of humankind, using different tools, making anything from cave paintings to writing blog posts. The more personal we are the deeper we can connect with ourselves and others.

“It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.” is dead, dead, dead.

Everything is fucking personal. Every day has 24 hours. Every moment matters.

The factory paradigm has shaped us into who we are today, believing in mass-production, scale, and conformity. But we can also look at the world from the perspective of 10 billion people who are, the majority of them, connected with everything in both a physical, digital, and spiritual way.

Does that perspective change anything for you? It did for me. Just like when I was a kid and visited France for the first time and realized that people lived, ate, and slept just like we did which made me think I could be like them. But the world around me told me that I couldn’t, that it was hard to get permission to live like them, to move there, to learn the language, to make friends, to adapt…

Just fucking do it, man. Buy the ticket and take the ride. Walk your dreams into reality.

The trick that works for me is being aware that I’m part of old programming, from being raised and educated in a factory and then working in factories. And as these factories are now being eaten by software, I need to move on and embrace the new reality with all its opportunities and challenges.

I need to understand who I am and learn the new tools and technologies to live a life that matters cause life is scary and short and I don’t want to waste one single second on what doesn’t matter. Been there, done that.

Since everything is now becoming connected, there is an opportunity to offer something of who you are and what you love making and share it with others so that it resonates deeper and better than the stuff that is manufactured by robots. Just like Slightly Choppy.

Cross the Rubicon, find your edge, and get to work.

I believe that what I do – telling the story about this tectonic paradigm shift from a simple place and sharing the personal journey – might help others to do the same and thus creating a groundswell. It forces me to learn the new tools and technologies and pushing my craft to the edge where real value can be created, shared, and captured.

If one man can walk on the moon, we can all walk on the moon. If one man can create flags in a shack, we can all create what we love and share it with the world. And if you believe that, I can help out in sharing the tools and technologies, the mindset and the thinking, that might help you leap from the factory to your own personal shack.

Join Future Swells to get access to more hands-on insights into the future of work and life from the surf shack. Members get access to exclusive content, discounts on future projects, monthly Q&A sessions, and, of course, the pleasure of supporting my work.


Maker’s Schedule: Paul Graham is an entrepreneur, blogger, and venture capitalist who writes a lot about making. His old post on the difference between a maker’s and a manager’s schedule has inspired me to think differently about my workday.

Getting T-shirts Repaired: Unknown to me, and just revealed when I visited their Venice store recently, is that Industry of All Nations, my favorite t-shirt brand, is offering repairs and redying of all their products – for free. It’s part of their business model.

Stargazing: Living by the beach the stars are always present at night. A friend introduced me to Night Sky, an augmented reality app that identifies stars, satellites, planets, and constellations. A new fascinating world has suddenly opened up.

Sports Earphones: Rapha and Beoplay, two of my favorite brands, have gotten together to create earphones for sports. They are very expensive but they last. No current plans to buy them but they are cool.

More From Less: Andrew McAfee is offering his perspective in his book “More From Less” on how we can increase our prosperity while using less of our planet’s resources. I’m currently listening to this book and wanted to share it as I’m being asked a lot about what would happen if everyone lived with fewer better things.

PS. If you like this newsletter please click on the like button, add a comment or question, and share with people that you would think could benefit from this story.

PPS. I made my book Fewer Better Things available as an e-book only until December 17.

With much love,

Per Håkansson

Encinitas, California