This week → Why we need a new kind of education: Imagination Studies ⊗ Old thinking will break your brain ⊗ Reality is scarce ⊗ Constructing a regenerative future
But that also means that I have some time to work on Sentiers so I’m very interested in hearing what you have to say about the newsletter, how it might be more useful for you in general, and how it might be more useful in a way that makes paid membership more attractive for you. All replies are welcome.
Speaking of membership, the Discord server has been on a different speed than most so I asked participants what they thought of it. A couple of answers were “I think of this server as a space for ‘slower thinking’ if you will—I appreciate the considered nature of the conversation, feels like an intellectual respite within Discord.” And “It reminds me of when I joined the WELL awhile back. It felt like you needed to be mindful about what you posted.” So yeah! Join us for slow and considerate discussions.
It’s quite fascinating how ‘we’ seem to always want to split things in two, making everything two sides, ideally two sides fighting or at least opposing each other. This is another example. In this case, Stephen T Asma is trying to bridge the “logic of the chasm,” according to which “facts are the province of experimental science, while values are the domain of religion and art; the body (and brain) is the machinery studied by scientists, while the mind is a quasi-mystical reality to be understood by direct subjective experience; reason is the faculty that produces knowledge, while emotion generates art; STEM is one kind of education, and the liberal arts are wholly other.”
He proposes that imagination is that unifying ‘thing,’ not imagination as fabulation but imagination as the creation of world and meaning. Asma believes that it is “a brain-based (embodied) system of capacities and applications.” Often seen as useless daydreaming, he reminds us that we are constantly using our imagination, projecting ourselves a few minutes in the future, inventing a new solution or pathway, and attaching disparate things into a new one. What is today often lauded as creativity, Asma reassembles here under the broader term of imagination and proposes to enter the chasm to descend in the “submerged mythopoetic cognition, and develop an entirely new way of understanding learning that embraces the true engine of the mind – imagination.”
Some might find it, in part, a bit esoterical, but take the time to read, it not only seems like a promising direction for joining the multiple halves or sides he talks about but also connects to other topics oft mentioned here, like the rediscovery of an ancient non-scientific connection to nature, to create new paths, and to our pressing need to envision the futures we want. I also just finished Future: A Very Short Introduction (thanks to everyone who recommended it) and Gidley’s split between “technotopian” and “human-centred” futures lines up quite well with Asma’s piece.
If we treat the imagination as merely a faculty of the mind, then we will miss the dynamic action-oriented aspect: it is part of the organism’s pragmatic attempt to get maximum grip on its changing environment. […]
Popular culture recognises only the fantasy version of artistic imagination and fails to appreciate that everyday conversation, daydreaming, map navigation, political strategising, scientific hypothesising, moral reflection, field surgery, cooking, reading and lovemaking are all imaginative activities, too. […]
Imagination, understood as the mind’s ur-operating system – the system within the system – generates our human biases, our visual communication grammar (also music, dance, etc), our political tribalism, our search for meaning, our scientific research programmes, and our virtual rehearsal space for social life. […]
In my view, this is also the core of sense-making or meaning-making activity and, once recognised, we can see that imaginative work such as storytelling, image-making, song, dance and so on are some of the earliest and continually powerful forms of knowledge.
Now, for the abyss gazing part of our show, I bring you this long read by Alex Steffen. I’m not sure if it’s something in the way he writes or a hesitation/fear of what he says on my part, but I often completely agree with his facts and yet have a distinct feeling that his rhetoric might be a couple of notches over the top, the term ‘fever dream’ came to mind a few times. Nevertheless, he makes a well-stated argument that almost everyone on the planet operates from an outdated worldview which is in dire and very pressing need of an upgrade.
It’s worth a thorough read, with lots of useful insights like sunk cost expertise, spikiness, learning boldly, the importance of including kids, thoughts on triangulation, boundary policing, being serious about securing a future, and scaling through systems.
As we sink into the jackpot, interest has been growing in seeing and inventing futures, I wonder if this required reinvention of worldviews he talks about is not the next wave, or perhaps another aspect, of that. In the same way that we realised unclear futures are ahead and felt a need to understand, perhaps next we realise that not only is the future(s) hard to fathom but that our whole understanding of our place in the world and the workings of society are broken.
Those of us with active minds are constantly gardening our worldviews. We adjust our perspectives as events around us unfold, as age and experience inform our received wisdom, as we learn new facts — and as cultural change around us pushes us to think differently. Even in extremely stable and slow-changing societies, there are always some people doing this gardening. […]
We have made the circumstances of our lives discontinuous with everything that came before us. The societies we live in are now catastrophically unsuited for the planet we’ve made. Yet we still see the planet around us with worldviews formed inside of those societies. […]
Right now, rebuilding our worldviews involves a lot of labor-intensive personal exploration. Being native to now demands finding insight, not just receiving it. It demands teaching ourselves how to learn new things, when both the course of our study and the lessons to be absorbed are complex and constantly evolving. […]
Our job is not to decide the future, but to leave the future as many options as possible. The most sustainable society is the one which passes forward the best possibilities to future generations. […]
Even if we succeed wildly in spreading sustainable prosperity and restoring the biosphere, this crisis is not going calm down. It’s going to continue to get weirder and more unprecedented, to twist and rush and transmogrify our expectations. Already, the Twentieth Century way of seeing provides less and less acuity — its lenses on the world murkier and more kaleidoscopic by the day.
I changed my mind a couple of times about including this one. It’s about the new company recently announced with the “dream team” of Matt Miesnieks, John Gaeta and Dennis Crowley. I was changing my mind because the article alternates between sharp insights into the structural underpinnings that are bringing about metaversish/AR visions, and the VC-compatible Web3 decentralisation exaggeration and gobbledygook. If you’re interested in the field overviewed in the first aspect and can skip over the latter, I encourage you to read. My view is that Web3 is already centralized and pre-alpha, and most people dumping on 2.0 platforms while grabbing VC money are actually dreaming of replacing them, not bringing about a new world.
My TL;DR: correct on VFX, gaming, computer vision, mapping, and the use of games as social networks; deluded and a bit of bs on the monetization and ownership side (perhaps just signalling to VCs and media).
This means that photo-real, interactive, 3D experiences that represent the real world are going to be “table stakes” going forward, and anything built using yesterday’s techniques will look & feel dated. […]
Games are becoming social places. Game worlds aren’t just for gaming anymore. I’ve seen Fortnite used for hosting ad-hoc fashion shows as well as Travis Scott concerts. Minecraft used to host friends’ Christmas parties (including virtual gift-giving). Homework study groups happening inside Roblox, and business meetings held around Red Dead Redemption’s campfire.
Constructing a regenerative future → On using the three horizons framework to bring about systemic transformation, regeneration, and whether ‘fighting climate change’ is even the appropriate framing for the work to be done. (If I didn’t already have the Steffen piece above, this one would have been featured.) “[I]t simply can’t be emphasised enough that our culturally dominant narrative of ‘separation from’, ‘power over’ and ‘ownership of’ nature creates the mistaken belief that we can manage, technologically innovate and (carbon) trade ourselves out of the evolutionary dead end we have been heading into for a couple of centuries.”
Why we’ll never be full time in virtual reality → “All cultures around the world have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years of being physically amongst each other. Touching, hearing, seeing, smelling, experiencing, learning. Looking at each other and being amongst each other. No matter how good the VR headset and software is, it can’t replace these core human elements. It can substitute for a time, but not replace. VR will always be a simulation. Humans experience life in the physical world.”
Outlier roles in venture capital (and other organizations) → “But I think these roles point to something a bit broader: the need for more generalist, or at least outlier, roles in organizations. … there is a need for organizations to create a space for more undirectedness, which involves thinking along longer time horizons and creating room for randomness and optionality. We must have the possibility of following our curiosity and what seems interesting, even when it might be different from the core functions of the organization”
Futures, foresights, forecasts & fabulations → Defining Futures Thinking short article with lots and lots of references to various views and terms for Futures Studies and Foresight. ⊗ Found in the previous; the concept of futures consciousness. ⊗ 20 essential quotes on the future.
No.222 Asides ⊕ See Note
- 💚 🌳 🎥 🎟 I love what Alex is doing with this school concept, and this year everyone can grab tickets to the talks. 2022 Residency at The Low Carbon Design Institute. “The Low Carbon Institute is an institution in the making. A prototype of a future brick and mortar space where anyone creative can find out more about climate change.”
- ⛵️ ⚓️ 🤔 🇸🇪 🇨🇴 🇺🇸 A cargo ship from 1909 is making zero-emissions deliveries again. “… introducing new designs, like the shipping giant Maersk, which plans to launch a carbon-neutral vessel in 2023. Others are experimenting with retrofitting technology on older ships to reduce, but not eliminate, emissions. And a handful of startups, like Sailcargo, are turning to traditional sailing to offer an alternative on some routes.”
- 👀 📚 By the excellent Rest of World international nonprofit journalism organization. Our international book list 2022: the best new fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, essays, sci-fi and photo books.
- 😍 😍 🐧 📚 The Art of Penguin Science Fiction. Doesn’t look like it from the first page, but grouped by collection behind the scenes, like The third Italian renaissance or Classic sf from A to Z.
- 😍 🗺 🇮🇹 ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World. “By simulating movement along the principal routes of the Roman road network, the main navigable rivers, and hundreds of sea routes in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and coastal Atlantic, this interactive model reconstructs the duration and financial cost of travel in antiquity.”
- 🇺🇦 🤯 ⚡️ 🏍 Ukraine Is Using Quiet Electric Bikes to Haul Anti-Tank Weapons. “[T]he anti-tank weapons aren’t fired from the back of the bikes. The quiet design and fast speed—a Delfast can reach speeds up to 50 mph—allow the bikes to move NLAWS into position and quickly flee once fired.”
- 👀 🌳 🏺 Nature and Geometry Blend in Beguiling Symmetry in Oliver Chalk’s Voluminous Timber Vessels. “Carving detailed forms from the hulks of trees found in the local countryside of Kent, the artist considers the practice of turning and whittling sculptures to be a means of communication and an expression of self through symmetrical shapes and striations.”
- 🇯🇵 🔭 ✨ Japanese weather satellite accidentally watched Betelgeuse go dim. “These measurements indicated that the star cools off during the dimming, with its effective temperature dropping by about 140 Kelvin. But there was an increase in dust at the same time. So the dimming appears to have two causes.”
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