This week: Metamodernism. Everything is connected. The Big Nine and AI. Bezos on Blue Origin’s mission. Deutungshoheit.

A year ago: The Art of Laser Focus. You don’t decide what you are more focused on, you discover the direction and the alignment.


Metamodern Values for a Listening Society

Excellent long interview with Hanzi Freinacht. It’s a 28 min read so lots of things discussed, from what is metamodernism, to meditation, flexicurity, the environment, UBI, to forms of democracy, and six forms of politics. Perhaps the most useful part for me is the actual definition of metamodernity and the kind of values it entails: multi-perspectivalism, developmentalism, and non-judgement. Meaning, multiple perspectives are good, entertain many, consider how they develop, and don’t judge those with different ones. He also says that you are metamodern when “nobody else seems to agree with you,” which means a few things but also lines up well with recent calls for realignment beyond left and right. (Many quotes below, I could have included twice that. The must read of the last few weeks.)

We have a non-resilient, unsustainable system; we are stuck with certain psychological needs and wants that drive the economy. We can reform the economy as much as we want, in terms of laws and regulations, we can give money to green products, but unless these fundamental drives—the human needs and wants—transform, we, that live in a democracy, won’t be able to fundamentally transform the base structures of the system. […]

[I]f you have a more listening society, people’s general trust goes up and stress levels go down, and the number of relations go up, and then they are more creative and innovative, exchange information more freely, and are better at managing social relations. […]

I firmly believe that there is such a layer of values, where you remix them and synthesise them in new ways. So that you get not one particular mix, but a family of different combinations that you can roughly label as metamodern. […]

Metamodern values are the values of the internet society, which are multiplicity and development, and which do not only try to see from other perspectives, but also try to gather as many perspectives as possible and have solidarity for people of all perspectives. That’s the pathway forward. […]

The citizen-metamodern is based a lot less on who you are on the labour-market. The reason is that we are in an information society, a society of abundance, so production isn’t really the scarce resource. The scarce resource is the management of complexity and good behaviour; it becomes more and more complex and difficult to actually behave well. […]

We have to create models that are wired for the metamodern economy, meaning an economy where information capital and cultural capital dominate money capital. […]

The romantics would say ‘let’s not quantify everything’, while I say let’s actually do this, because the calculus that you will get is going to be in favour of inner values and environmentalism. If you do the math and have an inclusive model, then the utility of us not destroying the environment and caring about each other is staggering. Now we are all stuck in the wrong calculations, we are all using the wrong metrics.

Everything is Connected

An interview with Lucy Black-Swan and Andrés Colmenares of IAM (Internet Age Media), an “alternative think–tank, strategic consultancy and network” as well as an event in Barcelona, which I’ve been closely following for a few years (the theme of next March’s iteration is “The Quantumness of Archipelagos”). They have a very interesting model, very bright ideas, and unique ways of expressing and framing them. Black-Swan says that they “address a network of topics that don’t fit one particular category,” which could also describe Sentiers. I found the last quote below particularly noteworthy, and along with the theme description, fits the metamodern piece above quite well.

The “quantum” element is intended to evoke the idea of a multi-dimensional canvas, which allows for the juxtaposition of broad topics like migration, climate justice, and the futures of citizenship. Each of these fit into IAM’s concept of “planetary thinking,” heavily inspired by the work of the late astrophysicist Carl Sagan. The “archipelago” element can be understood on a philosophical or geographical level, with the analogy of an island chain intended to illuminate our relationship to the planet. We are individuals, but all part of, and interdependent on, a larger whole. “By connecting these elements together, we aim to create a space to speak about all of these topics, within the framework of the future of the internet, which connects everything.” […]

IAM’s three WTF! (“What the Future!”) principles: futures as plural, futures as tools, and futures as able to be invented. […]

Instead, they believe the most important aspect of contemporary learning should be philosophy. Learning how to learn, to use the brain. And not just by reading philosophy books, but rather by questioning how we should learn philosophy in the internet age: “we want to encourage young people from all kinds of backgrounds to become philosophers and re-think philosophy so that new schools of thought can emerge.”

Why AI is a threat to democracy—and what we can do to stop it

Futurist Amy Webb with some of the ideas from her upcoming book about the Big Nine (Amazon, Google, Facebook, Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba, Microsoft, IBM and Apple) and AI. Talks about the actual progress (vs the dreams of self-driving and AGI), the differences between US and Chinese ecosystems, missing fundamental (and thoughtful) research, and the growing gap between what algorithms are capable of and our thinking on things like free speech and free markets.

Webb advocates for putting on some “brakes,” more hybrid and transdisciplinary studies, and the “formation of GAIA, the Global Alliance on Intelligence Augmentation” for standards and guardrails imbued with worldviews that are much more representative of everybody, not just Chinese and American values.

[W]e now have countless examples of bad decisions that somebody in the G-MAFIA made, probably because they were working fast. We’re starting to see the negative effects of the tension between doing research that’s in the best interest of humanity and making investors happy. […]

The problem is our technology has become more and more sophisticated, but our thinking on what is free speech and what does a free market economy look like has not become as sophisticated. … We need to start having a more sophisticated and intelligent conversation about our current laws, our emerging technology, and how we can get those two to meet in the middle. […]

Any investment that’s made into an AI company or project or whatever it might be should also include funding and time for checking things like risk and bias. […]

Universities must create space in their programs for hybrid degrees. They should incentivize CS students to study comparative literature, world religions, microeconomics, cultural anthropology and similar courses in other departments. They should champion dual degree programs in computer science and international relations, theology, political science, philosophy, public health, education and the like.

Jeff Bezos critiques space rivals, shares vision

You certainly can’t say that Bezos doesn’t think big. Heck of a quote below, from a talk at the Yale club. (The link above is to the full interview but I found the talk and the quote in Tim Carmody’s Amazon focused newsletter.)

[Scaling and success of Amazon] happened because we didn’t have to do any of the heavy lifting. All of the heavy-lifting infrastructure was already in place for it. There was already a telecommunication network, which became the backbone of the internet. There was already a payment system—it was called the credit card. There was already a transportation network called the US Postal Service, and Royal Mail, and Deutsche Post, all over the world, that could deliver our packages. We didn’t have to build any of that heavy infrastructure….

How do you get that kind of entrepreneurial [advancement] in space? You need to lower the price of admission right now to do anything interesting in space because it requires so much heavy lifting and so much infrastructure development. The entry price point for doing interesting things is hundreds of millions of dollars. Nobody is going to do that in their dorm room. You can’t have a Mark Zuckerberg of space today. It’s impossible. Two kids in their dorm room can’t start anything important in space today.

I want to take the assets that I have from Amazon and translate that into the heavy-lifting infrastructure that will [help] the next generation to have dynamic entrepreneurialism in space—kind of build that transportation network. That’s what’s going on, that’s what Blue Origin’s mission is. If we can do that, then the whole thing will take off and there will be thousands of companies doing creative things.

Deutungshoheit and smart cities

Two very interesting bits in that issue of Peter Bihr’s newsletter. Learning the word Deutungshoheit, the power to control and define interpretation, which I’ll try to remember. And this view regarding the Deutungshoheit around smart cities:

I firmly believe we need a counter narrative that puts citizens and their rights — human rights, really — at the center. This means focusing not primarily on efficiency, but on accountability, empowerment, privacy, inclusion and diversity. A narrative that puts citizens first, administrations second, and vendors a distant third. A narrative that doesn’t jump to foregone conclusion but is open for interpretation, for changes, for being rewritten on the fly based on changing citizens’ needs.

Miscellany