A way toward a more compassionate and sustainable self and ecosystem

Davor Kosanic, scientist, social entrepreneur and innovator in the domain of healthcare, asked us – in his TEDxZurich talk from 2018 – to reconsider the world we live in and our values. He suggested that we explore our consciousness and subconsciousness further in order to make us a more sustainable and compassionate species.

Being incredibly interested and passionate about these topics myself, I reached out to him for an interview. We had an hour of engaging discussion, where I’ve learned not only about different healing methods, but also about new ways of organizing the economy and society.

He started off with a little tale:

“A traditional healer in Peru told me this story; When a dog gets fleas, one can spend time understanding whether these fleas come from the mother, other dogs, or another source. But, understanding the origin does not make the problem disappear. We still have to pick the fleas out.” This is the same type of work we need to do in therapy.

There is no such thing as a magic pill. In the end we deal with issues, thoughts and patterns, which have no direct link to psychedelics. They only open our eyes to these problems, giving us a window of opportunity, when we – finding ourselves “detached from our ego”- can incorporate new ways of being and remodeling our lives. Exactly this creation of openness to change and “dissolution of ego”  is the work that needs to be done in order to avoid having neurotic or negative aspects creeping back.

Of course, the ego is needed at a younger stage, we need it to get the drive and to build our personality. As we mature we should slowly broaden our view and start thinking about collective issues. 

He continued thoughtfully.

Our socio economic ego 

Unfortunately today’s socio economic systems are still at a “younger stage” of development and demand us to be egocentric and competitive. This greatly influences the way our society  functions. We teach our kids to be the best, but we do not educate them enough on how to be compassionate and on how our actions promote the health and well being of all living beings on this planet. Ironically, we don’t realize that we are a completely irrelevant part of the ecosystem: the moment we are gone, the ecosystem would continue, maybe even be better off; but if bees are gone it would fall apart. 

As we are currently doing more damage than good to the existing ecosystem, we need to raise the collective level of consciousness in order to find more sustainable ways of functioning and resolve the global issues that our present economic model has created. 

The socio economic system 3.0 by Otto Scharmer is built on these ideas, offering to have a more compassionate ecosystem. In his model an empathetic view is integrated in everything; how we work as individuals, how our institutions function, and how we run industrial processes and design systems.

The healthcare system is a great example to expose the flaws of our current way of functioning. Being in a complete “for profit” paradigm, we develop therapies to make money, instead of solely to heal patients. We have come to a stage where it is so expensive to develop new medicine, that only the big pharma companies can afford it. Most of these big players in the market want to see return on investment and on risk. Even when engaging in research, they will develop extraordinarily expensive therapies. In order to develop drugs which are accessible to everybody, we need a financial model that is different from the classical venture capital one. 

He said with a mix of concern and hope.

Shareholder vs stakeholder economy 

Economy, like anything else, is evolutionary. We have tried the experiment of the shareholder economy as Milton Friedman suggested and we can see that it is failing. It was not set out to solve environmental issues but it is actually annihilating life. Some people tend to think in black or white, socialist or capitalist, but that is not the only way. There is a lot of academic work observing how systems evolve, suggesting new socio economic systems and measures for success and growth.
Many organizations are advocating for a stakeholder economy. It is time to move to the next level and integrate all stakeholder interests. To mention an inspiring example from drug development, recently I discovered espeRare foundation, an NGO developing drugs for orphan diseases in children. It’s a nonprofit organization at heart, but it runs like a pharma company developing drugs, including patients and their stakeholders into the business strategy.

The way forward

I am excited about being able to set up similar structures and implementing an ethical mission in the DNA of various companies and, as a consequence, immunizing it against financial speculation that you have in the for profit domains. 

He said with excitement building up on his face and continued.

In order to be able to do this shift as a society, we need to resolve mental health crises, help people go into consciousness development, and implement more compassion and less egocentrism in our behavior. Therapy and psychedelics -if used properly and responsibly- can slowly catalyse this evolution, so that hopefully by the next generation we are a little more advanced in this perspective – integrating more compassion, awareness and ecosystemic consciousness into our everyday consciousness.

And while we are working on our self development, a simple step that companies can start implementing today is to have more women in leadership positions. We have seen that by the psychological setup, women tend to be much more conscious and socially connected than men. They are less egocentric, testosterone driven and impulsive and there is a great deal to be gained with more true female leadership and values.

After absorbing so much information I asked him if he had any last advice to give.

“If you want to be happier, be less egocentric and less competitive, be more compassionate and connected to the world, nature and people. If we act egocentrically and potentially become unhappy, we tend to feel the need to consume more material products. This may be better for “the economy”, but the question is: Is it better for a species that requires community for true happiness? Take walks in the forest and don’t forget to breathe. It’s the simple things in life that help us.”

Sarah Ebling

          Sarah Ebling holds a professorship in Accessibility Studies at Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and is a senior researcher at the University of Zurich. Her research focuses on natural language processing in the context of disabilities and special needs, specifically, sign language technology and automatic text simplification. Her groups’ contributions involve artificial intelligence techniques with a strong emphasis on user involvement. She is involved in various international and national projects and leads a large-scale Swiss innovation initiative entitled „Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies“ (2022-2026; https://www.iict.uzh.ch/).