Don't Panic is about the space between work and play. This is the space where anything is possible and where our achievements are as pleasing to ourselves as they are beneficial for society.
THE PROBLEM | 1932
In 1932 people worked way too much.
Russell argues that because humanity has reached the age of mechanization we do not need to work as much as we do, and that the only reason that we do overwork is because it has become a societal custom inherited from the days that the masses were forced to labor by the ruling "leisure class":
"A system which lasted so long and ended so recently has naturally left a profound impress
upon men's thoughts and opinions. Much that we take for granted about the desirability of work is derived from this system, and, being pre-industrial, is not adapted to the modern world. Modern technique has made it possible for leisure, within limits, to be not the prerogative of small privileged classes, but a right evenly distributed throughout the community. The morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery."
THE PROBLEM | 2012
A recent Don't Panic survey of iPad users found that 86% of respondents reported that they worked too much. It seems that not much has changed since 1932. It still seems that we are haunted as a society by the idea that we "need" to spend the bulk of our days working.
The problem of work in our time is compounded by the paradox of mobile computing. In theory, our access to powerful computing tools at any time and place should allow us to tame our work load and embrace our leisure, but in practice we are compelled to work everywhere.
Enter the iPad.
There have been major disagreements about the nature of this new type of device. Is it a useless toy or a desktop/laptop extension with serious productivity potential? The trouble with the iPad is that it blurs the lines between work and play. It's a place of limbo. Should you be working on it or playing with it? For us the iPad has created anxiety about what to do with leisure time. Decision paralysis can be quite overwhelming when you can do anything at any time. It's sort of like being constantly confronted with the "insanely complicated" nature of life, the universe, and everything.
That's why our initial response is "Don't Panic"
THE SOLUTION | 1932
The counterintuitive genius of Bertrand Russell's solution is to say that innovation and progress in our society has come from those parts of society that had the luxury of leisure:
"[the leisure class] contributed nearly the whole of what we call civilization. It cultivated the arts and discovered the sciences; it wrote the books, invented the philosophies, and refined social relations. Even the liberation of the oppressed has usually been inaugurated from above. Without the leisure class, mankind would never have emerged from barbarism."
Bertrand Russell's solution to overworking and lack of leisure was to propose a four hour work day:
"If the ordinary wage-earner worked four hours a day, there would be enough for everybody and no unemployment -- assuming a certain very moderate amount of sensible organization."
In the resulting society, people would learn to "leisure intelligently", by which Russell means that we would actually be productive in our leisure. He argues that passive forms of leisure (at his time the movies) would be replaced by more active forms of leisure that would massively contribute to civilization, with the final result of world peace:
"In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day...there will be happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia. The work exacted will be enough to make leisure delightful, but not enough to produce exhaustion...Ordinary men and women, having the opportunity of a happy life, will become more kindly and less persecuting and less inclined to view others with suspicion. The taste for war will die out, partly for this reason, and partly because it will involve long and severe work for all. Good nature is, of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and good nature is the result of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle."
THE SOLUTION | 2012
There is an interesting overlap between Russell's idea of what is missing from then world and one of the main criticisms of the iPad.
Russell believes that in a world that overproduces products that are not necessarily needed or enjoyed:
"We think too much of production, and too little of consumption. One result is that we attach too little importance to enjoyment and simple happiness, and that we do not judge production by the pleasure that it gives to the consumer."
A major criticism of the iPad is that it is merely a media consumption device. But if consumption, especially leisurely consumption, is what we are missing in our society, then perhaps this weakness is in fact a strength. Detractors of this idea would probably argue that the vast majority of humans would regress into useless passive forms of leisure. We believe, as did Russell, that people will learn to "leisure intelligently" if they work less, and technologies like the internet and iPad will accelerate this form of active leisure. If we were not exhausted with work all of the time it's likely that we would spend less time passively consuming TV and more time actively managing our leisure activities.
The Don't Panic philosophy begins with a cup of coffee and goes like this: RELAX. THINK. INNOVATE. MAKE. It's a productivity framework set up to remind us that all of the things we do and achieve are grounded and informed by our leisure.
We believe that the best things in our society come from a place of relaxation and reflection and that the best way to be productive is by embracing our leisure. That's why we "work" to help you relax.