Models That Work

What are Models That Work ?

(The young) know that the air they breathe has been changed and altered by the virtuous work of millions of others. Virtue and work for them do not necessarily go together so easily anymore. Our individual successes, they intuit, are collectively tearing at the fabric of the planet.


Work as we now practice it … steadily warm(s) the planet…Gone are the days of ecological abundance, when a person could work for money like crazy and create greenhouse gases with no worries at all about the profound risks of ecological mayhem, with rising sea levels, droughts and floods, mass displacement, resource wars, and famine, among other dire results. Would it be morally okay for us to further enrich ourselves at work, without limitations, if many billions of living or future people are thereby put at grave risk of profound injury? Or are we are obliged to adapt?

With our global climate hanging in the balance, could competitive society be humanity’s final undoing? Is not the game already set-the game of working for money, scored in paychecks, cars, and houses, with weekends and vacations for “work-hard-play-hard” ecologically disruptive leisure…Will we thus only worsen the warming problem? Will our perpetual and restless striving to prove our worth only cease in death, block our attunement to the foreboding new condition of scarcity, and literally court the end of civilization as we know it? It certainly might. Must it? What would be the alternative?


Although our capacity to work evolved to meet individual and group survival needs, much of the work we now pursue endangers our capacity to survive. Even when our work itself does not appear to be destructive, the activities we habitually pursue to facilitate work damage our life support system. While the impact of each individual’s habits is small, such habits pose an existential threat when practiced on a massive scale.

The magnitude of threats such as mass extinction and climate change imply that the structures, norms, and systems that organize and govern our work, if unchanged, will culminate in outcomes diametrically opposed to the purpose for which work evolved. Conversely, the prevention of ecological catastrophe requires mobilization of the selfsame work-relevant functions and capacities that originally evolved to meet survival needs. The challenges that confront us entail creation of processes and objectives that promote individual and group survival needs for present and future generations.

Will the mental and physical capacities that evolved to sustain human life inevitably destroy the support system upon which human life depends? To sustain human survival, we must design work that:

  • Aligns with purposes for which our capacity to work evolved.
  • Effaces the sense of “disconnect” typically felt between work and the rest of life. Work should be “intelligibly linked to (other) parts of a coherent life.” 3
  • Is attuned to our need for a sense of connection with others and the biosphere upon which we depend.
  • Is driven by concerns that transcend those that are purely egocentric.

The work described in Models That Work promote human flourishing and sustain the conditions that make such flourishing possible.


  1. Whyte, David. Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity. Riverhead Books. New York. 2001.
  2. James, Aaron. Surfing with Sartre: An Aquatic Inquiry into a Life of Meaning. Anchor Books. New York. 2017.
  3. Crawford, Matthew. Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work. The Penguin Press. New York. 2009.