The Meaning of Life is Not 42

It’s 4.7

B. Lorraine Smith
6 min readAug 23, 2022


When our vision was blurred, we believed in easy numbers to ease our collective angst. Then we adjusted our ability to sense, for more profound, life-giving possibilities to emerge.

Modern humans: literate on stuff, semi-literate on life

Back when we modern humans* were cosmically young and immature, toddling into the early stages of perceiving a world beyond industrial captivity, we mostly thought in integers. Whole, simple, easy-to-remember numbers gained ground as attractive “answers”.

And so the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything being pronounced as 42 made perfect sense. Comical, delicious sense even.

But back then our collective vision was still a little blurry. We can see now that what looked like a “2” was in fact a “7”. Also, we missed the decimal point. Our senses are getting sharper now.

We’re upgrading our understanding of life.

And since industry is an integral part of life now, business decision-makers need to level up with their understanding of life, too. What does that mean? It means integrating life’s meaning into a business’ purpose — its actual purpose — i.e. what it does for a living. (“Life.” “A living.” I see what you did there, English.)

Since industry is integral to all life, all businesses need to have a good answer to the question: What do you do for life?

To arrive at the answer requires more questions. Which brings us to 4.7.

17 SDGs are NOT the answer (but 4.7 could be)

If you’ve hung around me for any length of time, a) thank you/sorry, and b) you’ll have picked up on my concerns about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (aka the SDGs). I explain the key structural issues with the goals here, in this conversation with Geoff Kendall about the methodology behind Matereality. I wish it weren’t so — I was an SDG enthusiast in 2015 when they were first published — but since then, listening and learning to what’s going on around me, I have changed my views.



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B. Lorraine Smith

Recovering ESG "expert"; yarn spinner; distance runner; magical realist. Sensing a path to an economy serving life. also at