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What BANI Really Means (And How It Fixes Your Worldview)

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Over the years, various terms have been used to describe people’s struggles to grasp and control the world around them. There were dynamic, high-speed, disruptive, turbulent, etc. Until recently, this resulted in the notion of VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

But, for a year or two, there is a new kid in the neighborhood: BAN. He says the world today is fragile, anxious, non-linear and incomprehensible. As plausible as this may sound and in tune with how many people may feel today, there is a need to clarify this concept and unravel its four components.

A little history. The creator of this concept is Never Cascio, an American anthropologist, futurist and author. Triggered by the various crises facing our world – climate, pandemic, inequality and global instability, to name a few – he concluded that existing concepts such as VUCA are not appropriate for a rapidly changing world. . A new concept was needed, and that was BANI.

Others have already clarified the concept, such as BANI as an “underestimated door to the future”, BANI as a tool that could help us make sense of the chaos around us, and BANI as dystopian scenario. One thing that connects these explanations is that they describe what a BANI world looks like and how the world has become more fragile, anxious, non-linear, and incomprehensible than before.

However, this may not be the right approach. Because, more than anything else, BANI says something about people and how they have misperceived the world until now. In this sense, BANI should rather be seen as a correction, or reality check, aimed at shattering four illusions of humanity’s current perceptions of the world.

Brittle – The Illusion of Strength

Brittle means to be fragile, brittle, while appearing firm. It refers to something that is not as strong as it looks. It’s an illusory force, the belief that “everything will be fine” and the assumptions that “we all know they’re true”, except they’re not. Brittle refers to the myths people tell themselves to feel better and safer.

The world has existed for eons, we tend to deny its indestructibility and durability due to its seemingly infinite lifespan. But it is fragile and always has been. The fact that people didn’t (wanted) to see it, and instead assumed it was unbreakable, doesn’t change that. And that’s what this “new” concept really reveals: that people are finally discovering that the world, especially its nature, its economy and its tranquility is a fragile and convoluted interconnected ecosystem. Embracing Brittle means letting go of that first illusion, the illusion of strength.

Anxious – The Illusion of Control

Anxiety refers to a feeling of helplessness, of being overwhelmed by whatever one is facing. With this comes stress and worry and the fear of not being able to cope with what the world is asking – and of not really knowing what is going to happen in the first place, which makes it difficult or even impossible, to make the “right” decisions.

Anxiety is largely a byproduct of information. The more people hear and see, especially bad news, the more anxious they become. Because there are so many things we can do. And with real-time news from around the world bombarding us 24/7, it’s no wonder people are getting anxious because they’re out of control.

Like the Brittle concept, it says more about people than the world. Anxiety is a subjective feeling caused by a discrepancy between what one expects and what one experiences. People expect control and for a long time they knew how to maintain this illusion. The past few decades may have been relatively calm in the Western world, but unrest, wars and crises have always been a normal part of life on this planet. This means that people have never been in control. The main difference is that they are finally starting to realize this (again) – the illusion of control.

Nonlinear – The Illusion of Predictability

Non-linearity has already been a popular concept for longer. In the field of innovation, for example, it essentially says: there is no simple, direct path from A to B. Instead, there are detours, dead ends and unexpected results. It is also common vocabulary in statistics, where it refers to a relationship between two or more variables that is not a straight line.

The fact that people are again talking more and more about nonlinearity says nothing about the world in which they live. Non-linearity has always existed and it is a natural characteristic of any complex system. It is commonly referred to as the “butterfly effect”, the fact that a chain of cause and effect relationships triggered by one small event (a butterfly flapping its wings) can lead to very unexpected and disruptive events (a tornado on the other side of the ocean).

It’s not something new. This is a default feature of any complex system. What is new and highlighted by the BANI concept is that there is now an increased awareness of the non-linearity of our world. This shatters a third illusion, the illusion of predictability.

Incomprehensible – The Illusion of Knowledge

Finally, incomprehensible refers to people’s experience that they don’t understand what is going on. They can’t monitor it, can’t grasp it, can’t interpret what is happening and why. That means they can’t find the answers they’re looking for, and to the extent that they get answers, they can’t make sense of the answers either.

This comes with a fourth illusion, the illusion of knowledge. People might have thought they understood the world. But they never did. It’s for this reason that experts and scientists often say things like “the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know”. The world is a mystery, despite the carefully constructed illusion that we understand it. And that might not be something to worry about. On the contrary, it makes the world and our lives worthwhile. Or as Einstein told us: “There are only two ways to live your life. We are as if nothing were a miracle. The other is like everything is a miracle.”

It’s not our world, it’s us

Every word we use and every concept we use to describe the world around us says something about ourselves. This was the case with ‘dynamic’, ‘turbulent’, ‘VUCA’ and all the other concepts used to describe our difficulties in grasping and controlling the world. But BANI takes this to a new level. Rather than saying something about the world, it first says something about how we perceive it. It is not the world that has become more fragile, anxious, non-linear or incomprehensible. It is we who must finally let go of the illusion that this is not the case.

As such, BANI is a great reminder for all of us. We live in a delicate, uncontrollable, unpredictable and impossible to understand world. Let’s celebrate, accept and marvel.