This week → Three design principles for protopian governance ⊗ Introducing the community power compass ⊗ Animal magic: why intelligence isn’t just for humans ⊗ Facing the strategic sublime: scenario planning as gothic narrative
Hanzi Freinacht, political philosopher, historian and sociologist, proposes some design principles for future governance. In this piece he, I believe, uses the word protopia more as a term for a desirable future although in his preceding writings he seems to align with Kevin Kelly (who coined the term) who talks about “better futures.” Btw, that’s not exactly the same protopia as monika bielskyte who also took the word from Kelly but focuses more on the plurality of futures instead of a mythical “better” one.
The ‘topia’ in the word gives a good indication that, like in many exercises of the kind, he doesn’t necessarily cover how we get there, which would have been especially intriguing to know for his third principle. Although he does see it has a vision, not a prescription, and as a transition to something similar. Often when it comes to governance, people seem to want to “get to Denmark” (“having a stable liberal democracy, a functional market, and significant social welfare”) but that tends to be seen as an end-goal. Freinacht goes further and proposes three principles for next steps in liberal democracy.
First, more collective intelligence instead of more democracy, by which he means deeper knowledge collectively and from those put in charge, not just voting on everything left and right (obviously, I’m paraphrasing a lot here). Second, a much more collaborative meshwork of governance, more interdependence of ‘levels’ of government, instead of (without denying it) a focus on subsidiarity. Third, deeper feedback cycles while limiting fast and shallow ones. You’ll have to read that third one but basically taking more time to measure before changing things (less frequent polling in politics, more reflection) while also changing things more regularly on a longer timescale (revisiting a country’s constitution every twenty years, for example). Lots to ponder and implies some fascinating potentials up ahead.
[T]he four great strands of democratic decision making: direct democracy, representative democracy, participatory democracy, and deliberative democracy cannot be viewed as inherently practically or morally superior to one another. Rather, you need to see which types of decisions can reasonably be made by which forms of democratic governance.
I instead hold that a sort of “meshwork governance” is the direction of protopian development. By this I mean to say that units of governance can and should exchange influence over one another, so as to create a lattice, network, or meshwork of lateral representation. […]
I have thus come to believe that the principle of subsidiarity is a very partial description of the future of governance, and that meshwork governance is the stronger attractor point. It opens up the question of who is a stakeholder and where: Are hospitals stakeholders in schools—if so, to which degree? […]
A large set of different units of governance that are tailored to maximize the collective intelligence with which different topics are managed, which are laterally connected into a meshwork of mutual influence, and which continuously evolve by periodically updating their constitutional forms and the stated purposes they serve.
John V Willshire has been reading Graeber and Wengrow’s book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity and has extracted from it six principles about the “two sides of power; freedom and control.” He’s been wondering how these can apply to communities, especially those currently organising in the Web3 space. In the process, willsh considers the generations of the web, proposes a quadrant view of groups along the “presents as” and “actually is” axes of decentralisation, and wonders about Web3 or Web Free? In the end, he proposes a compass with three questions of freedom and three questions of control. I’ve yet to read part 2 but it’s already a way of considering communities that I’m looking forward to using and contemplating.
Often though, the stories of Web3 always seems to me be the economic equivalent of someone explaining that gravity works sideways rather than downwards. […]
Why are people willing to (once again) entertain a community-based generation of the web? When they look at the web works today, what is letting them down? Where do they see the potential of fixing it this time around? What will stop the same thing happening again? What are they prepared to do about it?
Philip Ball writes about some of the fascinating examples of animal intelligence he covers in his upcoming book The Book of Minds: How to Understand Ourselves and Other Beings, from Animals to Aliens. He presents us with optimistic pigs, neurodiversity in birds, theory of mind, the New Caledonian crow of the south Pacific, waggling bees, alien octopi, and plants, to make the point that we don’t really know enough about intelligence other than our own.
More → Threading much the same ideas and also stemming from his book, James Bridle writes about more than human intelligence, an escaping orangutan, and … politics, in Can democracy Include a world beyond humans?
Our evolutionary lineage diverged from that of octopuses (which are molluscs) around the dawn of complex multicellular life 600m years ago; our common ancestor was a mere flatworm. So octopuses represent an entirely distinct evolutionary path to making a mind – and how different it looks! […]
Some researchers suggest that octopuses have dual or even multiple consciousness: each individual creature might be a loosely integrated community of minds. […]
Computers and AI are taking off in the “intelligence” direction of mind-space while gaining nothing on the “experience” axis: their trajectory is heading not towards us but somewhere else entirely.
I’ve kept this one last of the featured article because I’m trying to balance “futures” topics with others, and because it’s a long and academic(ish) read, which might not be everyone’s thing. However, it is highly recommended if you are interested in futures work/foresight/scenarios, with a really good overview of the practice, and why it’s needed. Then the authors delve into why they think gothic narratives might be a better fit than science fiction, and that “the sublime” plays an important role. They also come again and again to one of the ways futures can be useful and why I’m paying attention to those practices in our current context: as we saw in Old Thinking Will Break Your Brain, we operate with outdated worldviews, here the authors talk about “mental models,” “inner models of reality,” “views of the world,” and “existing frame of reference.” All roughly similar and all in need of being reassessed and reconstructed.
Scenarios are not forecasts that predict likely futures, but spaces in which unexamined assumptions can be confronted and potentially suspended or transformed. They are aesthetic depictions of plausible futures that enable us to re-examine our current understanding of our environment, appreciating the power of uncertainty and its capacity to inspire fear and wonder. […]
Rather than predicting or assigning probabilities to future events, scenario planning develops plausible futures in order to challenge assumptions and mental models in the present.
A call out to branch off, 2022 AgroParisTech Graduation ceremony → Excellent, excellent, excellent multi voice speech. “We do not see ecological and social devastation as ‘issues’ or ‘challenges’ to which we should find ‘solutions’ as engineers. We do not believe that we need all agricultures, rather, we see that the agribusiness is waging a war on the living world and against farmers everywhere on Earth. We do not see science and technology as neutral and apolitical. We believe that technological innovation or start-ups will save nothing but capitalism. We do not believe in sustainable development or green growth nor in ‘ecological transition,’ an expression which implies that society can become sustainable without getting rid of the dominant social order.”
TikTok Boom → I have to admit, I haven’t been paying all that much attention to TikTok. Scott Galloway corrects some of that with some insane numbers presented in his trademark style. “The biggest mistake we make in marketing is believing choice is a benefit. No, it’s a tax. Consumers don’t want more choices, they want more confidence in the choices presented. TikTok has taken this to a new level by eliminating the burden of choice entirely. Its content is a continuous stream of videos where the decisions are made for you. Your only choice: what not to watch.”
Futures, foresights, forecasts & fabulations → The Manual of Design Fiction. Still only in pre-order but, knowing the people involved, I feel confident in recommending this already. ⊗ Neptune Frost Official Trailer. Has been making the festival rounds, superb trailer, and what a universe they are presenting! (At the very least click-through for the bio!) ⊗ Seeds of Better Futures Festival: global online edition. June 21st to 23rd, looks promising.
No.224 Asides ⊕ See Note
- 🇧🇴 😍 Bolivian settlements. “Much of what was assumed to be untouched wilderness might in fact have been shaped by the activities of cultures like the Casarabe. ‘Very little of that landscape was not directly influenced, if not constructed or managed, by pre-Columbian societies,’ said Heckenberger. ‘These were not natural forests – they were a mix of the natural features of the tropical environment and cultural patterns of management.’”
- 🇷🇴 🤯 🦬 In Romania’s Transylvanian Alps, See Bison on Safari. “In Europe, “rewilding” is aiding the reintroduction of key animal species, including bison, which visitors can track in the forests and meadows of western Romania.”
- 🇺🇸 🍎 🚗 🚲 Apple’s “next generation” of CarPlay plans to take over every screen in your car. Tangentially related question: If Steve Jobs was still alive, would Apple be working on a car or on electric bikes?
- 🇦🇺 😍 ⛪️ 🌏 Gaia installation at St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne. “Measuring seven metres in diameter, the internally-lit sphere is 1.8 million times smaller than the real earth. It has been recreated from 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface and each centimetre of the sculpture represents 18km of our planet.”
- 🇪🇨 🌋 🤖 How a volcanic eruption was forecast five months in advance.
- ⚽️ 😎 Unreal Engine may power the metaverse and Rebellion: Capturing Photogrammetry Assets for Sniper Elite 5.
- 🇨🇳 🔭 👽 China Says Giant Telescope May Have Detected Signals From Alien Civilizations and No, China’s ‘Sky Eye’ Telescope Has Not Detected Radio Signals From Alien Civilizations.
- 🇬🇧 💀 ‘Stunning’ Anglo-Saxon burial site found along HS2 route
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