In any discussion around an initiative, a series of questions should arise in order to discern whether or not it will offer true integral development: for what? By what? Or? When? In what way? For who? What are the risks? At what cost? Who will pay the costs and how will they do it (Francis, Laudato si’, 185)?

As we have just seen, the digital age places a strong emphasis on problem solving. She therefore invites us to identify them by trying to differentiate what is a symptom from what is the primary cause.

An ultra-simplistic example could be that of bank branches. Artificial intelligence will kill bank branches. For what? Because people no longer go to bank branches. For what? Because they can get the same service through the Internet. For what? Because their bank advisor provides little humanity and few personalized solutions.

For what? Because he may be poorly trained (easy cause), because there are restrictive regulations and the bank is full of risk management processes (more complex cause) and because he therefore does not have the power, at one’s level, to provide an original and creative solution (symptom). The problem to be resolved could be stated as follows: how to implement subsidiarity in a world constrained by regulations?

In Fides et Ratio, John Paul II does not say anything else: “A great challenge that presents itself to us at the end of this millennium is to know how to accomplish the transition, as necessary as it is urgent, from the phenomenon to the foundation“.

The way design thinking thinks it can solve this is the empathy phase that we saw just before. Design thinking is based on the principle that understanding people’s choices and behaviors by questioning them allows us to understand their needs, model them and provide answers. This phase of empathy therefore requires mastering the art of questioning, in order to dive to the bottom of the problem that people are encountering. There are some keys to learning to ask the right questions.

Because Ignatian discernment is a methodical inner questioning which weighs the elements, makes a judgment, combats evil and its sadness, consoles and lets the Holy Spirit guide the decision. If discernment is the art of determining God’s will, design thinking is the art of determining the user’s problem. It’s less spiritual, but it can still teach us some rules for good questioning:

  • prepare for the interview;
  • ask the question “why?” with each answer, in order to dig deeper;
  • be curious, like a four-year-old child who is amazed;
  • also interview extreme users who amplify the need;
  • take into consideration, without judgment, the little stories that will be revealing;
  • not just hear, but listen without thinking of anything else, attentively;
  • do not be afraid of silence and observe non-verbal and behavioral signs, which will give clues to the root problem;
  • ask neutral, non-binary questions, without suggesting answers.

There would be many other lessons to be learned; nevertheless, we understand at this stage that the implementation of the social doctrine is above all a questioning, in a moral framework predetermined by the principles mentioned previously and by this revelation of Benedict XVI (Cardinal Ratzinger, at the time) which summarized catechism through knowledge of the Creed (what I believe), the Ten Commandments (what I live), the sacraments (what I celebrate) and the Our Father (what I pray).

When we consider solving the world’s problems, as the digital age claims, moral discernment appears fundamental. Faced with a decision and before action, we must understand and question the world intelligently to provide concrete answers.

Finding the question is more difficult than finding the answer. If you can correctly phrase the question to a given problem, then the solution will emerge naturally,” says Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal.

To find the root cause, the fundamental need to be filled, Elon Musk draws inspiration from Aristotle and modern physicists. Most people, when they embark on an innovation, operate by analogy.

We look at what is being done elsewhere, we take inspiration from it, we improve. But this does not create a real break. First-principles theory of physics works differently. She digs, strips, lays everything down to the smallest detail to build differently. The goal is to start with a statement that we are absolutely certain is true.

Elon Musk was told that a $600 battery was too expensive; he inquired about the course of its constituent elements (carbon, nickel, aluminum, polymers, etc.) on the market and came across 80 dollars. The truth did not lie in the value of these components, but in the organization, the process, the overall construction that had to be reinvented. Elon Musk does not imitate. It is also relevant to note that several of Silicon Valley’s great successes were initiated by people with quasi-Asperger’s syndrome, that is to say, people with little capacity for socialization and imitation; great innovators search deep into the silence of their being.

This Aristotelian first cause, Saint Thomas Aquinas will identify with God: Remove the cause, you also remove the effect. Therefore, if there is no first, in the order of efficient causes, there will be neither last nor intermediate. But if we were to go up to infinity in the series of efficient causes, there would be no first cause; consequently, there would be neither final effect nor intermediate efficient cause, which is obviously false.

It is therefore necessary to affirm that there exists a first efficient cause, which everyone calls God. Going from Elon Musk to the proof of the existence of God according to Aristotle or Saint Thomas may be surprising, but is not excessive.

In this questioning which leads the digital age to get to the bottom of things, to determine the real problem by ignoring only the symptoms and then provide an answer and fill a need, there is indeed something that we, men and women, want to put into practice the social doctrine of the Church, can we be inspired. Because this questioning encourages us to charity, which cannot be dissociated from the truth. The more we dig, the more we seek God….

This text is an extract from the book “GOD, THE COMPANY, GOOGLE AND ME” written by Thomas JAUFFRET.

We invite you to read the following article “The explosion of independent work“.

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