Listening to Nature in a Technological Age
As we navigate the first decades of the 21st century, humanity struggles to cope with the inertia of the past, given its rapidly accelerating present. While 20th century innovations addressed many of our species’ most pressing problems–curing diseases, alleviating starvation, and connecting the world in ways previously unimaginable–their side effects also radically transformed our technological, cultural, and political landscapes in ways that feel increasingly unsustainable. The speed of change and growing complexity of our technologically augmented lives sets before us new challenges: political polarization and fragmentation, ideological bubbles across which no information flows, and a general erosion of the shared stories that once bound our communities together.
How do we create a new story that serves to cohere our radically diverse and wholly interconnected world? How do we balance the need for collective action with an abiding respect for the value that individual perspectives bring to the table? How do we transform the increasing tension we all feel into something generative–something that pulls us together rather than tears us apart? These are the questions Catalyzing Coherence seeks to answer. Through media creation, inspirational events, and the building of transformative technologies, we weave the narrative threads of art, spirituality, science, and technology into one singular story: a coherent tapestry capable of connecting humanity both to its own universal nature, and to the forces that gave rise to all Life upon our fragile planet.
In The Nature of Technology, the economist and complexity scientist Brian Arthur makes the case that technology can be understood as the programming of nature. This notion deeply informs our philosophy. Though technology does not always feel natural, especially in our modern times, at its deepest essence it is profoundly natural. As Robert Pirsig put it in Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, “The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower.” And so we do not want to reject technology, or even alienate ourselves from it. Rather, we must learn to incorporate into our technologies the deepest lessons nature teaches. As the growing discord in this world beckons, it’s imperative that we more deeply understand what we’re creating and why. The full picture of nature takes into account technology as something embedded into its process from the jump. This Thursday we will be “jumping on this ship,” so to speak.
We will be discussing all this and then some. If we have one request it would be that you watch this Alan Watts lecture: Nature Makes No Mistakes. Though it is not required.
We look forward to seeing your bright faces on Thursday!
This Friday Matthew and Brian will be hosting the Long Now Happy Hour at The Interval. These get togethers have become something of a tradition and we’re excited to bring folks together to cohere over conversation and cocktails.
The seeds of Catalyzing Coherence in fact grew out of one of these happenings… wonder what will grow out of this one! Stop by and say hi anytime between 4pm-9pm. And tell your friends, it’s a party!
Nicholas Paul Brysiewicz will be out of town in Austin, Texas for the weekend but will be with us in spirit and good cheer. If you're not already connected you can reach out to him for updates on The Long Now Foundation.
Come join us at Starfish Network’s happy hour for a conversation with Matthew Schutte of Holochain. We’ll discuss how the Holochain vision embodies the ideas of coherent systems, and unpack how their model of emergent systems design incorporates deep insights from biological systems.