The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or by Daniel Christian Wahl. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.
Jim: Today’s guest is Daniel Christian Wahl and this is part two. A continuation of an episode we recorded back in February, EP43, episode 43. You can find it with a Google. Just Google Jim Rutt Show EP43. Daniel’s a leader in thought and action in catalyzing transformative innovation, cultural co-creation, whole systems design and bioregional regeneration. He is the author of Designing Regenerative Cultures, which I read in preparation for today’s episode. And he lives in Majorca, Spain. As always, there’s links to that book and any other books or organizations or papers that we reference in the episode today and they’re available on the episode page at jimruttshow.com. Other interesting thing about Daniel’s background is he lived in the Findhorn Ecovillage, I believe that was in Scotland. Is that right?
Daniel: Yeah. Far North of Scotland.
Jim: Yeah. And he was the director of the Findhorn College. And I have one little odd personal relationship with the Findhorn tradition and that is, I don’t know, many years ago, 25, 30 years ago, we had a good friend Peg Schadler. Hi peg. If you’re out there, look us up. My wife and I were friends with her and her husband and her kids and she was our Findhorn follower and I’m a deer hunter, still am. And she requested that if I killed a buck, could I save the bladder for her? Apparently stags bladders were part of the Findhorn style agriculture, at least so she said, so that was my one relationship to the Findhorn thing.
Daniel: That sounds like biodynamic agriculture actually, which is used in Findhorn quite a lot. But they do things like mixing those kinds of things up in a bull’s horn and then you stir it umpteen times clockwise and umpteen times anticlockwise in the full moon. And you bury those horns in the different corners of the field and well, certainly won’t put our analytical scientists to prove that one right. But their produce is wonderful and they swear by it and it seems to be working.
Jim: Yeah. Yeah. Of course I was highly skeptical being a rational scientific sort but heck, if you know she want a stag bladder, I gave her a stag bladder. And she had one of the most beautiful gardens I know anywhere so anyway.
Daniel: Good to hear your voice again. It’s already picking me up despite the fact that we’ve got 39 degrees centigrade here on Majorca and it’s a really hot afternoon so-
Jim: Yes. Its-
Daniel: … apologies if I’m thinking slowly [inaudible 00:00:02:31].
Jim: No problem. And yeah and some interesting things in my life too. Our first granddaughter just arrived a couple of days ago and wow. Maybe that’s why I have a good energized sound today because looking at that beautiful, tiny baby who had no doings in creating this messed up world we live in just made it all much more real to me about the importance of the work that you’re doing, work I’m doing, work lots of people we know are doing to try to save the world God damn it, right. We got to do it.
Daniel: Yap. Saving ourselves is probably more what we’re doing because the process is going to keep going even without us but it will be a very much impoverished planet even if only our species would bow out center stage left. But in the process, we’re probably going to take a hell of a lot of other species with us so yeah, let’s do the good work.
Jim: Exactly. Yeah, in fact, I think you said we are a capstone species capable of creating conditions conducive to all life. We can design for human ecosystems and planetary health, nurture resilience, adaptability, transformability and vitality. Which really resonated with me because recently I’ve discovered a new thinker named Tyson Yunkaporta. He has a amazing book out called Sand Talk. I’ve had him on the podcast three times and he talks about humans as the custodial species. And I think that concept and your concept of the capstone species are very, very similar and that, yes, you’re absolutely right. A life without humans is quite different maybe in a huge fundamental way than a universe with humans. And we’ll talk about that in some detail when we get later in the talk.
Daniel: Yeah. I just want to say briefly about Tyson Yunkaporta. He’s been on my radar for a while and I still haven’t read his book. And then you’ve done three conversations with him in a relatively short period of time. And I really want to read his book and learn more about him because in the last year, year and a half, I’ve had a number of conversations with Mari and the [inaudible 00:04:44], ancestral wisdom carriers and the resonance is striking. I should send you the link to a conversation I have with a guy called Johnnie Freeland from New Zealand who was part of the regenerative development network in Oakland. And the conversation is about square and circular systems thinking. And I think you’d enjoy having him on your show at some point as well.
Jim: Yeah, that’d be great. Really good. And Tyson provides a very interesting, we talk about this in the first episode, double perspective. One is indigenous Australian tribal indigenous peoples perspective and then he’s also been a student of complexity science. And the way he blends those two without offending either is quite remarkable. I mean, this book is a major work of art as well. It’s not straightforward, it’s not linear, it weaves, it brings in all kinds of curious things, but you know, read that damn book. It’s good. Now, before we dig into new material, I do think it’s helpful to recap three of the big ideas that we talked about last time so people can have some grounding without having to go back and read the previous episode. So first, Daniel, if you would, if could talk a little bit about the difference, and the overlap of course, and one probably includes the other, the difference between the regenerative perspective versus a sustainable perspective.
Daniel: Well, you’ll get different answers from different people when you ask that question. But in my perspective, I see it as part of a spectrum that goes from business as usual, to doing things a little bit better, which is green to getting to that point where sustainable is defined of having no negative impact of whatever you do, you don’t add to the problem. But the problem is that we’ve been adding to the problem for hundreds of years with increasing impact and now what we need to do is to actually go beyond that and restore the damage we’ve done. And working regeneratively goes beyond all of that in the sense that, we really begin to re-identify with life as a planetary evolutionary process, us ourselves as participants in nested complexity and we ask ourselves the question, how do we participate appropriately in that nested complexity to increase its health wholeness vitality and capability to keep evolving into an uncertain and uncontrollable future.
Daniel: And so working regeneratively is always working developmentally and with an evolutionary mindset. So it’s more important to build the capacity of people to keep on evolving and keep on responding to change and adapting and transforming than to lock down on a specific solution and then pretend that once we’ve got the right blueprint in place, everything will be happy ever after.
Jim: That makes good sense. Another important idea that’s in your book, and again, I would highly recommend people read Daniel’s book Designing Regenerative Cultures, is the concept of three horizons, which you credit to Bill Sharpe, I think and a couple of others. Could you tell us about the three horizons and what they are and where you think we are on that transition?
Daniel: Well, first maybe to highlight because sometimes people fall into that trap. McKinsey brought out the very basic three horizons model in the late nineties and so don’t confuse it with that three horizon model. It’s a very different one. And it was developed within the international futures forum. The book Three Horizons: A Patterning of Hope was written by my friend, Bill Sharpe. And he’s really the one who has kind of dedicated the last 10 years to really get this practice more widely recognized and out there because after many decades in technology futures and foresight work, Bill realized that we needed a more agile and open framework to converse about possible futures. And that even the kind of classic scenario planning for scenario framework was limited and not agile enough.
Daniel: And in a nutshell, three horizons allows us to do is to have this, to some extent, to frame it regeneratively. It’s working with the opposing forces on the one hand, the perspective that is needing to keep business as usual running so the manager or the politician in charge, having to keep the lights on, people in schools, people in jobs, all of that, that’s called horizon one. That’s business as usual. And then on the opposing end, you have horizon three, the new viable future that right now is only existent in pockets and is often seen as the visionary transformative aspect where the horizon one can’t fully connect with. And normally you get that headbutting between the visionaries and the managers.
Daniel: And by introducing horizon two, which is disruptive innovation, entrepreneurship, as a bridge that can help us to really have the conversation of what do we still need to keep from business as usual from horizon one, what is it that is already available in the present examples that are the examples of pockets of the future and the present that we are in the longterm building. But one of the stepping stone innovations that are possible today and economically feasible today that we can get engaged with right now in the second horizon space, and then focus in on that space as the potential bridge building towards enabling the third horizon. And in that space, you can then ask what innovation is a horizon two minus, meaning something that will just prolong business as usual and will be captured by horizon one and what is a horizon two plus, a true stepping stone towards the viable regenerative transformative future.
Daniel: That’s it in a nutshell. But ultimately one sentence I really like by Bill Sharpe that he often uses when he facilitates with it, is that, it’s not necessarily going to make everybody agree on what to do immediately after you facilitate a conversation with this framework, but what you do create is an environment where everybody can disagree much more intelligently and has developed future consciousness in a really agile, quick way that allows them then to talk about the sequence of what to do when in a completely new way. And I’ve seen it work in many contexts and I’ve co-facilitated with Bill and it’s yeah, it’s a very useful tool.
Jim: Yeah. I like it a lot. And it’s realistic. In my life as a business person, one of the things I was always aware of, I used to use the language, you can’t jump up a cliff, right? If someone comes to you with a business idea that goes A to B straight up a cliff, the probability of that succeeding is off almost zero. One has to think about, how do you find a slope to climb up the hill rather to jump up a thousand foot cliff. And this kind of thinking strikes me as very congruent with that. It’s also congruent with our game B theories. We talk about game A, which we can call a world in crisis and true game B a viable metastable world. And then we talk about transition B, which is the world between the two. So I think we’re all pretty much on the same page there.
Daniel: Yeah. And it’s really being used in a lot of powerfully transformative contexts. So Bill’s kind of got in with an organization called Leaders’ Quest a number of years ago, because they realize the usefulness of this tool and were asking him to train up their facilitators when they take out C level business leaders to extreme environments like talking to people on death row or spending a couple of days in a slum in Mumbai. And then they kind of post-process and create transformative insights for people. And over time, that partnership has grown into work with an organization called Future Stewards that is now collaborating with Ted and with YouTube and they’re creating a process called countdown, which is really trying to engage both business and civil society much more deeply in the cop conversation and the climate change agenda and builds basic set of conversation facilitation tools that he’s developing in that, including three horizons, is kind of the backbone of a lot of what they’re developing now to engage people with the climate agenda in a new way using Ted and YouTube actively.
Jim: Interesting. These are great big picture. Thanks. I’m going to jump down to a very sharp detail, a very micro detail, something I happen to be very interested in from your book. You quote from the Rodale Institute, “Regenerative organic agriculture is marked by tendencies towards closed nutrient loops, underline that one, great diversity in the biological community, fewer annuals, more perennials and greater reliance on internal rather than external resources.” I’m going to underline that last piece too, internal rather than external resources. So close nutrient loops and internal rather than external. Which brings me up to one of my pet topics, which is the use of night soil in organic farming. Not at all in the United States, in fact it’s illegal under most circumstances. Night soil, meaning human solid waste also known as shit, all right.
Jim: A huge amount of nitrogen and other nutrients are in night soil and it’s been used through all of human history and local agriculture, still use regularly in East Asia, and yet in the West it’s not. And I don’t see how we can have closed nutrient loops and rely on internal rather than external resources until we get over our squeamishness and learn how to reprocess our night soil, our shit, back into our soils.
Daniel: I would agree, and we can get really geeky on this. Watch out what kind of conversation you open up. On the small scale of course, there is absolute, at the farm scale then the recycling of nutrients immediately makes so much sense in that environment. When you go to urban scale, it’s a little bit more tricky because it depends on like, if you know who’s been basically relieving themselves in your compost toilet or in your Aquatrone that’s separates solids from liquids, it’s a Swedish invention, then you know the quality of the poo you’ve got. But if you look at a city, if people have been treating themselves with antibiotics and all sorts of other legal or illegal drugs, all of that can also bioaccumulate in the soil. So with urban environments it makes sense to go through a more complex composting process to close a nutrient loop, but it makes absolute sense to do so.
Daniel: One example that I found always fantastic is, friends of mine at the Center For Alternative Technology in Wales who have been working on these things for 40 years, more than that actually, 50 years now. They were instrumental in setting up in the valley a community supported agriculture scheme where people would basically buy in a share in the local farm and then they get a Veg Box delivered depending on the harvest at the time. So you kind of share in, rather than just the Veg Box scheme where you can stop at any time, you actually share the risk over the whole year and you commit to your farmer for the whole year and that way they can calculate the risk of agriculture much better.
Daniel: And as part of this particular Veg Box scheme or CSA scheme was that, when they brought the vegetables to people’s doors they would take a big container of yellow liquid back to the fields, which is the rich nitrogen that people were peeing out from having eaten all that food. So they were really literally closing the loops in that practical way with their committed community and that’s possible but it’s probably not a mainstream solution for the streets of New York or wherever.
Jim: But on the other hand, a friend of mine actually was the superintendent for the waste treatment center at a city of about a hundred thousand people, medium size. And they ran a large scale experiment using a process to create a fertilizer called Milorganite, which basically took urban sludge, got rid of the antibiotics, got rid of the heavy metals, I don’t remember the details of the process and then they gave the Milorganite away free to everybody in the county who wanted to come and get it. And that was quite interesting.
Daniel: That’s what we are doing here in Majorca. In Majorca the sludge from the sewage treatment plants gets dried in kind of racks with concentrated sunlight and then that really baked material gets put into the composting and then the compost is free to people to get and put back on their fields. So ultimately we are cycling human waste on Majorca as well.
Jim: Yeah. I always hit this, again, because I think in terms of cycles, right, as a systems thinker, and I go, wait a minute, if we’re not recycling this very concentrated source of nutrients, then there’s no effing way we’re going to be able to be longterm sustainable, especially not with a population of 10 billion people. Particularly if we have committed to not degrade mother nature any further. So I just like to underscore this, that I atleast can’t take organic farming seriously as a solution to the world’s problems until we agree to solve this problem, which is to recycle these nutrients.
Daniel: Yeah. I think we’re all somewhat oblivious to the fact of how important phosphorus is to the future of our civilization and human life on earth. And phosphorus is a tricky one. I was talking to the local traditional pharmacy on the Island and asked them, do you remember what did your great, great grandfather import? And the one thing that they imported even back then was phosphorous. And so, yes, absolutely true. We need to make sure that we keep that on the land.
Jim: Yap. You’re exactly right. Phosphorus is probably the limiting factor of life on earth period. Right? I think I remember as a kid reading an article by Isaac Asimov who calculated that all the phosphorus in the crust of the earth was only enough to support about six trillion people, something like that. And in reality, the limits are way lower than that in fact I’ve seen some arguments that say we’ve already exceeded the bounds of phosphorus extraction from the earth and unless we get this recycling all the way around of our wastes, we may be in a deeply depletive role unleash accessible phosphorus right now.
Daniel: I work with an organization called The International Futures Forum and there’s a wonderful man who used to be kind of the future scanning lead for Hewlett-Packard for many years, Ian Page. And since he retired quite a few years ago, he’s been in the mountains in Wales just researching every day, day in, day out on a project which he calls CHON, carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen. And this is a project that after working his way through the entire periodic table and looking at the depletion curves of all the elements in it, he just concluded that if we want to have this idea of a ongoing human civilization, actually get to the point of calling… Like being civil enough to call ourselves a civilization, we need to basically reinvent our material culture to be entirely driven by renewable energy and dependent on those four elements that nature recycles freely.
Daniel: I mean, you can have a few more trace elements of other relatively abundant ones, but everything else is going to run out sooner or later. And now that we have to make such a massive transition, if we keep that longterm view in mind, then it would make entirely sense as we redesign everything now to really look at a CHON material system that has renewable space, because otherwise we’ll design a system that in 250, 300, 500 years, we have to redesign again. Might as well get clear that there’s a hint in the word nonrenewable resource. It will eventually run out.
Jim: Indeed. And that is the transition that we all have to make right? Deeply and personally and institutionally. And so now let’s move to the personal side. This is something we didn’t talk about as much in the first episode. And this is a fairly long quote from your book, “In regenerative cultures, personal development and the evolution of consciousness will accelerate. As we cease to be paralyzed by the fear driven cycle of separations, scarcity and the struggle for control and power, will you begin to unfold the potential of a compassionate, empathetic, collaborative culture of creativity and shared abundance driven by biophilia, our innate love for all of life. The narrative of separation from the rest of life and alienation from nature’s wisdom is beginning to give way to a narrative that celebrates our communion with nature as the very essence of our being.”
Daniel: Yeah. That’s a bit wordy, isn’t it?
Jim: Yeah, but it’s great. I mean, it says it all. I normally don’t take quotes that long, but I looked at places to cut it and it wasn’t all there unless I gave the whole thing.
Daniel: Yeah. I think it’s part of my German heritage, the Germans love making these really long sentences and then they put the verb at the end so you really have to build your capacity to hold it in suspense until you know what’s coming. But yeah, what that paragraph tries to describe in very Western long winded ways is basically I believe what Tyson Yunkaporta speaks about. So this is not some sort of, oh now we need to evolve to completely… Well, we need to move forward rather than backwards that’s for sure but there has… That kind of wisdom has been around for most of our species existence in many different ways. Whether it’s in Australia or in South America or Africa or many other places.
Jim: Yeah. I think that’s right. I don’t confess personally to having become more aware of the personal operating system level changes that are necessary. Coming from a scientific realist materialist perspective I think I was a little blinkered on realizing how important, even if sticking with a materialist realist perspective, that the operating system in the agents matters a whole lot on what’s capable of being developed in the culture, right? And so part of this mission that we’re all on to create a what comes next which is truly sustainable and frankly better for everybody. I’ve become much more interested and aware of the importance of what people call expanded consciousness or spirituality.
Jim: People who listen to the show know that I don’t like the word spirituality, call it the S word, but I’ve come to understand that at least some meanings of it are important and good and that people do have to reach this new point where they understand that we live in a constrained world and that there are other forms of richness rather than accumulating stuff. And so we have to really think clearly about this and we have to co-evolve our institutions and our systems on one side, but with the operating system of the humans what we might call consciousness, higher consciousness, et cetera.
Daniel: Well, it’s interesting because you can really frame this whole conversation in scientific terms but not necessarily if you follow the dogma that Western science is the only science that then qualifies for that game. Because really the Vedanta and many other sciences of the past have a very different take and if you think of it in terms of Western science, the explanatory models that Western science had to really speak about complexity, or even what we were finding out in physics at the beginning of the last century and weren’t enough. So what happens is that all these geniuses of physics around that time turned towards the East and the Vedanta and Vedic sciences in order to explain what they were bumping up against. And it’s really, like I just recently had a conversation with Elisabet Sahtouris was a evolutionary biologist and she puts it in quite interesting terms of saying it’s a keyboard.
Daniel: And you can either start with the low notes, which is stuff evolving out of matter and eventually there’s life and then there’s emergence and oh there’s consciousness, or you can start at the high nodes of the keyboard where the axiom of that science, the fundamental presupposition that that science is based on is that everything is conscious and everything is alive. And there lots of sciencers who’ve been operating from that, even Islamic sciencers when they were asked to write down their fundamental axioms, axiom number one was Allah created the world, the living world and axiom number two was, he told us to study it. What I’m getting at is that we need to be a little less dogmatic in terms of what we accept as part of the scientific discourse. And suddenly we see that out of the acceptance of multiple ways of knowing, approaching that subject, there’s a huge amount of overlap.
Jim: Yap. So I’m going to push back a little bit here, people listening show know that this is something I do a little bit on this particular topic in that I find it worrisome if we talk about Vedantic science or Islamic science, because they’re not really science. I mean, science is a-
Jim: Cause they’re not really science. I mean, science is a specific way of knowing that has a engine inside of it where people create hypotheses. They do experiments, they look at data and this is the key that they collectively in a inter subjective and inter objective way, verify or refute hypothesis with reproducible data or experiment. And that is a fundamentally different, and I would argue in most cases better, way of actually moving towards real, solid knowledge. The other systems of the world up until that point, including quasi scientific thinkers like Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas were still in the what I’d call wisdom traditions, which are frankly to my mind, very similar to great literature. They certainly have some deep insights that are worth thinking about. And that’s why it’s so useful for physicists trying to wrestle with what the hell is quantum mechanics in 1922, right? That’s such a weird concept. It’s very useful for them to look at some of the, particularly the Eastern traditions, because there’s essentially the equivalent of literature, kind of deep reaches to things beyond what we can know in a solid fashion, but they aren’t actually science. And so.
Daniel: But this is exactly the conversation where we actually, I mean, yes, there’s a lot of BS in that field and a lot of bizarre kind of on the one hand, critiquing science and then using science to build credibility in this sort of spiritual seeker field. I dislike that kind of energy myself and ultimately science as an inter subjective consensus making activity that is based on agreement of a certain methodology and certain axioms. And then from there we can build. So basically if we follow these axioms and we follow this methodology, then we can observe something that we can create inner subjective consensus about. And that way, if we repeat it, we can have a similar result to verify whether our consensus makes sense. And in that loose framing, I think you can say that there have been in many traditions rigorous study of how the world works.
Daniel: And also even within science, there’s a point where with the Newtonian universe, the ways of knowing collapsed down to just thinking and analytical thinking and particularly the world as it can be expressed in the kind of languages that are used in Western cultures, Western languages, which are very different from the pictographic languages and that the kind of consciousness space that Chinese like a kanji alphabet or a mandarin and alphabet offer. And Goethe for example, was very keenly aware that we were going down in research science 200 years ago, a track that was not paying attention to qualities and was only paying attention to what is quantifiable and analytically or statistically significant. Like we’re basically quantifiable in one way or another turnable into mathematics. And that’s a, it’s a very wonderful, powerful tool as we know, but it’s not the only way of creating meaningful and empirically testable knowledge about the world, I believe.
Jim: Yeah. And you’ve said no Newtonian, and I agree with you. And I pushback a lot against what I call Newtonian naivety. Right. And I was guilty of it as a nerdy 14 year old. I probably believe Laplace’s conjecture that, tell me the position and motion of every particle in the universe, and I can predict all of history. And yet we’ve come to know, you know, a deeper knowledge of science. And I guess this is where I react negatively to some framings of sciences and enough because yes, naive Newtonianism of a 14 year old nerd’s perspective is not enough, but the world has moved on since that time. As you mentioned earlier, early in the 20th century, we first had special relativity. And then we had a general relativity, which twists the hell out of the Newtonian perspective.
Jim: Particularly once you really understand what they’re saying, they say some really non-intuitive things. And yet they’re clearly true. And then even more so quantum mechanics, which we still don’t really understand how to interpret in ways that make intuitive sense to us. And yet they also, at least at a measurement’s perspective, have a large amount of truth to them. And then we move into the area where I’ve been working the last 20 years in complexity science, where things can’t necessarily be quantified. And in fact, we know, and we can prove that you can’t quantify them. Deterministic chaos, which says that even in a Newtonian universe, tiny, tiny, tiny differences below our level to measure can make gigantic differences on future trajectories. So when you allow science to grow to include these bigger perspectives and sciences and engine that grows and adds to its toolkit, I think it can absorb these things that are useful and reproducible. As you say, if it’s reproducible, if you can state it as a hypothesis and you can reproduce it objectively, then it’s science, no matter what the content is.
Daniel: I’m deeply influenced by my connection with professor Brian Goodwin Schumacher college and all the wisdom that I learned from him about complexity theory has significantly shaped my worldview. Coming back to Goethe briefly, said of supposedly the history of science assigns itself and coined this term called the historicity of science. And part of the problem is that if we were really open and didn’t have a dogma of where to put the lens of science, then we could study, for example, the battle that Paul Stamets has been fighting to just put more effort into researching how the fungi kingdom holds so many keys towards earth custodianship or earth stewardship or healing the land. So we very often, there are just certain areas of science where we’re not putting the emphasis and the research in while the science that is beholden to technological quick fix solutions that just offer solutions to problems we’ve created because we’re using mistaken technologies, is where most of the research goes. So my question is, if we did science more daringly in the areas where we needed wonderful, and I’m absolutely not against science at all, I’m just open to other ways of knowing and holding the perspectives that different lenses on the world give us likely enough that we can learn from their point of intersection.
Jim: Let me make a final distinction. And then we’ll move on. The things you talked about, we’re not necessarily looking in the right places, our priorities aren’t right in science, et cetera, you were referencing the micenium, the amazing fungal networks, which we are learning rapidly are amazingly interesting that unify the, soil and our plant worlds in ways we had no idea 15 years ago. But, and this is the point about science, we are now investigating that. And so I would make a distinction. And this is something I’ve been trying to make clear to people in these kinds of discussions is that yes, the sociology of science definitely needs a lot of tuning. You know, how was funding done? What is a career? Who is a scientist? What is the basis by which we do inter subjective verification currently, it’s peer reviewed journals, is that correct?
Jim: All those things need a lot of work, but the inner engine of science itself, whether you take a popperion model or other exact models of how we go from hypothesis to a tentative truth, and always remember, it’s a tentative truth of a scientist. If someone says science says, this is true, they’re not a scientist, right? Because science truths are always tentative. Make that distinction between that sociology of science, which frames, what questions who’s a scientist, et cetera, with the actual engine of how we do science. And I think it makes a lot more sense that the engine I can’t find a problem with. And, but the sociology, there’s a lot of ways to improve. So I just want to make that last one. And I’m going to push back on another one, just happens to be one of my pet peeves.
Jim: Cause it’s something I studied. You talked about Mandarin and pictograph versus alphabetic. I don’t think that’s likely to be true. And here’s why, as we’ve learned more about the neurocognitive science of literacy, and I would point people to Stanislaus the Haney, a French, cognitive neuroscientist, who’s written a great book on the neuroscience of reading. It turns out that when we go from alphabet or pictograph to our language processing, it runs through our audio system first. So there’s a relatively simple mapping from the representation to a sound in our head. And we use the same sound in our head to process language when we’re reading as we do when we’re talking. So I’ve heard this argument before, I’ve got a friend of mine who I argue with about it all the time, but I would say I don’t buy the pictograph versus alphabet distinction as likely to have any huge significance in our cognition. On the other hand, there is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which says that any difference in language irrespective of how it’s represented in writing may well change how we think about the world. The famous example is, the Eskimos have 22.
Daniel: And that’s precisely the meeting point of consciousness in science that Goethe or William Blake were speaking to when he said may God us keep from single vision and Newton sleep or got to use the God words. And you’re going to push back on that one then, but it’s paying attention to the cognitive dimension of perception and how our organizing ideas and the language and the words we use and the frameworks we use actually are part of how we bring forth the world. So in terms of science language is involving the second and the third level observer, reflecting on reentry into how are we doing science and how are we reflecting on science? It’s first order, second order and third order science in the language of some people.
Jim: I think that I make at least two levels of distinction. One is the inner engine, and then there’s a sociology, which is how do we actually do it in practice driven by all the biases and stupidities and limitations of actual humans, right? Which we can of course be approved. But let’s move on to some other topics here. This is one we touched upon, but I think in talking about the mind and spirit, et cetera, in last episode, we talked a little bit about the hedonistic treadmill and status through things and positional goods. And that’s really in some ways the engine, which is driving game or the critical crisis that we’re in, the first horizon. What do you think about what can replace that? Because certainly humans have to be satisfied, right? There has to be something that satisfies them in their living and draws them to do good things in the world, whether it’s the work that they do, whether it’s the social contributions, they make that our communities and that our families, what is it that we can replace the hedonistic treadmill with?
Daniel: I think it’s terribly exasperated and driven by energized by marketing media, the storytelling we have. And it goes back a long, long time, the narrative about our culture and what is worth pursuing, and even how we then structured entire institutions and education and so on and so forth around that, that it’s, not so easy to detangle ourselves from all these past design decisions that are now reinforcing that kind of competitive hedonistic pursuit framework. But if we really look at the evolution of our species, we can see how important collaboration has been. And throughout evolution collaboration has had a much more important role than our storytelling tends to allow for. And so I think that if we, again, in terms of the regenesis or Karl Sanford potential an essence focused approach to regenerative development, the way that we can all fully express our uniqueness each and every one of us has unique gifts to share to the benefit of the whole and in doing so, optimizes their potential at the maximum. Creating cultures around the experience that makes people realize serving the community, serving the local ecosystem, serving the healing of the planet in a time where we all get enough lessons, how fragile the current life support system has become on planet earth.
Daniel: I think we are beginning already, to create these new narratives and discovered that these were the guiding narratives that many cultures had for millennia to guide appropriate participation within limits in the places that they were inhabiting. So I’ve noticed that you mentioned Findhorn earlier. I spent four years living in a intentional community that was sort of experimenting with new ways of living together. I often reflected on the fact walking around what was called the field of dreams. There were lots of people had bought a plot, built a house, but it was part of the community. There were no God, no fences and so on. Walking around the whole place with the wind farm on the horizon and the forest and the gardens and all the infrastructure, I had a sense of ownership despite the fact that I didn’t own any of it.
Daniel: And the connection with the people was even if you didn’t speak a kind of level of understanding and neutral holding in everybody’s journey to give the best they can to the community. I actually think that that’s a narrative that people are yearning for, because there’s a lot of lack of meaning in that Hellenistic pursuit story. Like Joseph Campbell famously said, getting to the top of the ladder and realizing that it’s leaning against the wrong wall. And I know a lot of people that have had rather shocking experiences in their life where they got to the top of a big corporation or their career game, and then in their mid forties realized that that wasn’t really fulfilling them either.
Jim: Yep. That’s my life story. Pretty much. I made it to the top. I was CEO of a good size publicly traded company. And at the age of 47, I said, fuck all that. Basically.
Daniel: Good for you, good for you.
Jim: It didn’t really do anything for me anymore. And I said, it’s a life that’s a mile wide and an inch deep right there. Where’s the depth, you know, some language I’ve been using lately, I’ve discovered it. Actually, I used to argue that the game be movement, our goal ought to be self actualization from Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of values. But then somebody challenged me on that fairly recently and said, ah, well, that’s part of it. Right. But you’re missing an important part. And I had a good conversation with them and I realized they were absolutely right. So I’ve reformulated it as follows that yes, we need to self-actualize so that we reach who we can be to make ourselves better people, right. And accomplish what we can accomplish. However, that has to be in the context of community actualization, right? Cause we are deeply social animals as you’ve pointed out many times. And as many other people have pointed out. Now let’s turn that around and say, the point of community actualization is to create a cell factor, to increase our capability for self actualization, which increases our capability for community actualization as a virtuous circle.
Daniel: This is precisely, as far as I understand it, I’m not in this group, but I think that the change agents development group, that Carol Sanford is running with a lot of people who are part of the regenerative movement is basically creating a forum in which people can engage in providing for each other, the community in which you keep checking that we’re constantly in this journey of paying attention to our reading of the world and how we process our reading of the world and how we develop ourselves and our capability to fully respond to the situation in a way that we can bring our essence, our unique contribution to the situation. And it has this idea of nested complexity of, the only way that we can really serve yourself is serving the next larger whole that you’re engaged with. And then that sounds very akin to what you were describing, to my mind.
Jim: The only slight nuance is that the community has to have as one of its main goals in its operating system, helping each individual self-actualize as well. So it’s a cycle. Community activation and actualization produces self-actualization, which increases community actualization. So you have this virtual circle dynamic that’s essentially pumping itself up to higher and higher levels of actualization. At two levels simultaneously the self and the community. I’ve really come to like that idea. But let’s move on to another topic. My good friend, Jordan Hall, who I’ve been working with for many years on topics of this sort has very recently put forth an idea called Civium. You can Google it. I think he’s got four or five or six, YouTube videos on it where he started off with some ideas in the Santa Fe Institute from Jeffrey West and Louis Betancourt, where they’ve done some very interesting work on what they call the super linearity of cities. To drop back a little bit Jeffrey West, in particular with a couple of collaborators, the Santa Fe Institute has done a lot of work on the scaling laws of life.
Jim: Then it turns out that for animals, the scaling law is about three quarters, which means that if you double the size of an animal, it only consumed two times three quarters or about one and a half times as much energy. So animals get more efficient as they get bigger and they move slower. Their heartbeats go down, famously an elephant and a mouse have about the same number of heartbeats in a life, et cetera. So we can say that animal life is sub linear, but they then moved and captured data about cities and discovered that cities are super linear at about the level of 1.15 on a lot of things they measured. So if you double the size of a city, you’ll more than double the size of the number of patents that come out. You’ll also more than double or the income will go up.
Jim: The average income will go up as you increase size, but it’s also true that the amount of crime will go up and the amount of infectious disease like AIDS will go up. And so cities are super linear in both the good and the bad dimensions is a lot of ground setting. And so what Jordan has proposed in his Civium, proposal is, let’s see if we can get the best of both of these two things, which is that we should basically abandon cities, big, big cities as a modus operandi for human life, because the super linearities of the bad are just too strong and that we should all live in small scale communities. Or we can have really rich personal relationships that we can live in great physical beauty, but probably a lot like the Findhorn project or what we call proto bees and the, in the game B world.
Jim: But, and here is his big important but, where he then links back to West and Betancourt, is that we should take advantage of the super linearities on things like science and the arts, and, every kind of good thing, via very intensive networking between the smaller cells. And of course he doesn’t answer the question, how do we do that in a way that’s congruent with humans and not capturable by marketing. But I think that’s a really interesting in a way to think about it, that the city, which has gotten us to where we are today, in which Tyson Yunkaporta talks about, he thinks cities are bad period, could be gotten rid of with the addition of networking to small scale, living close to the ground and mostly self sufficiently.
Daniel: I think you’re definitely hitting on something there, Jordan was hitting on something that is a challenge for us to rethink from the ground up, which is how do we nest our social environments in the scale linking way that we don’t atomize even further? Particularly now in a kind of pandemic world. I keep thinking of the old Roman divide and conquer. I’m thinking somebody’s going to find that very useful that this pandemic is dividing people and not allowing for the same amount of human community building like we had before. But with regard to cities, it’s a tricky one. How do we get from a to B? Because so many people already live in cities. Yes, of course. I just recently talked to Herbert Giradet who spent a long time studying cities and wrote a book on creating regenerative cities in 2000
Daniel: and I think it was 14 even. And he’s part of the club of Rome and part of the world future council. And in 2001 or two, he wrote a Schumacher briefing on the ecological footprint of the city of London and was looking at the footprint of the land that London needed to meet its needs and deal with its wastes. And I came up with this very provocative question. What’s 149 times as big as the city of London the land would needs to sustain itself? And so we’re talking land that is pretty much the entire UK, just about supporting one city. Obviously that’s not sustainable, but how do we make the transition? And right now, it’s getting really popular. There’s sort of oh yeah, let’s create regenerative communities and this, that, and the other, and then sell them at high property value to people in Costa Rica.
Daniel: And I’m a bit worried about, it’s a repeat of the lifeboat impulse that also happened in the eco village movement. It’s like people seeing the world’s unraveling and saying, I want to create my little safe haven somewhere. And unless we keep global solidarity in mind, as we engage in those projects, it can be pretty self serving. But how do we know that suddenly it’s open again, that conversation of previously, everybody’s saying the already half of humanity lives in cities and by 2050, we’ll have 70% in cities and then we’ll keep growing and depopulation of the land and all that. But I think that the pandemic situation is going to make people re-question how they want to live, but there is an issue about density. You can’t all live in this idyllic farming environment where you think where you have hectares to yourself and your family.
Daniel: So I think we need to find ways of bringing new community structures into the cities and collaborations between cities and its regions. That’s why for me, we haven’t paid enough attention to re-regionalization and bio-regionalism. In this context. Patrick Geddes wrote a book in 1910, I think, Cities in Evolution. And he made the point that a city needs to be planned within the bioregion that the city is situated in from the mountains to the sea, paying attention to the local river systems and all the overlay. Like he was the father of the concept of overly mapping that Ian McHarg then eventually turned into GIS, geographic information system, came from Patrick Geddes and he said, we need to know the soil series. We need to know the fauna and the flora. We need to know geology, hydrology, everything that we can know about our region and where our city is standing, and then make our decisions of what to develop, where, based on the integration of all that knowledge and the care taking of the resource basis that we depend upon.
Jim: Yep. And I think that’s really important. I always emphasize the bioregional thinking as hugely important. And whether it’s in terms of having some diversity within your bio-region, like for instance, where our farm is it’s mountainous territory. And so you can actually get some significant diversity around risk of things like frost or drought by just moving a few miles. So if we have an integrated economy at different elevations and in a couple of different river valleys that are close together, physically, if one area is adversely affected another one, probably isn’t. So we can get some diversification and hence resilience in our little mini civilization by paying attention to the details, the real details of a bio regionalism. I think that’s absolutely important
Daniel: One area where I get a little geeky and whether it’s the really sensible path, but for some it’s always been something that fascinated me though, projects like the Eden project in Cornwell, where they in these domes recreated diverse ecosystems in a place where they normally don’t exist, by just putting them into a thermal envelope, basically a very large greenhouse structure, I often wonder is what would the wealth of modern technology and using renewable energy and low impact materials, creating thermal flywheels, working in pushing the growing seasons in certain places a little bit beyond the normal conditions, or even like, I always say that I don’t want to learn.
Daniel: I always say that I don’t want to learn a completely localized world because I like my coffee and I like my hair I’m out there. And so far I haven’t seen them growing on Mallorca yet. So, starting to experiment in different bioregions what we can actually grow in our bioregion I think would be a wonderful area of innovation and entrepreneurship. This same holds true with the whole range of integrated vertical farming, bringing the best of ecological design and Aqua culture knowledge into designed ecosystems that, in an intensive way, produce organic local food in high density areas and cities. There’s a lot of stuff already going on in that space, but I think it’s something to pay attention to.
Jim: I’ve actually looked into it a fair amount and it doesn’t work currently in terms of actually feeding people, at least not even close to economically what it does do. The only thing that you can economically produce in urban farming is greens basically.
Daniel: Yeah, salad greens.
Jim: Salad greens can be done economically, but the rest just don’t work. There’s just too much capital investment per unit of energy conversion. So back to your topic of, is there enough land? In some places there is like, for instance, the United States, by my rough calculation, we have about 20 hectares of land. Call that 22 acres for each family. And that’s enough, even if you assume half of it is not that useful.
Daniel: How big is a family in that calculation? Can you-
Jim: Three people?
Jim: So it works, but it certainly won’t work in Belgium or even the UK. I haven’t done the numbers for Germany, but I’m probably doesn’t work for Germany either. There was a reason Hitler was looking for LeBron’s room, right? You know, many of our highly populated, densely populated countries, there’s probably not enough-
Daniel: I feel like saying there was a reason for you for the ancestors of the country that is now called the United States to come and steal the land that that country is on.
Jim: Yeah true. That’s true too.
Daniel: Are you sure that the nationalistic pathway of saying, Oh, well, we’d be fine here in America is a pathway towards actually addressing the global issues where [inaudible 00:56:12] have to start, or whatever was mentioned earlier that the solidarity at the global scale, if you look at ecological footprinting [inaudible 00:56:18] work and the footprint network, we’ve got what, 1.68 hectares per person of bio productive land available? Slightly different figure.
Jim: Yep. Yep. There’s a reason the U.S. is a Saudi Arabia food, right? Because we have a lot more good land and decent growing weather than we actually need. And that was actually my point, which is we don’t want a lifeboat theory where the U.S. says, or Canada or Russia for that matter, Russia could easily be very self sufficient in food, if it wasn’t such a screwed up mess, these countries should not, or cannot morally take a lifeboat strategy and say, screw everybody else. And this is where bio regionalism starts to break down, right? Because we say, all right, we’re going to organize mostly by regionally. Well, it works where the climate and the land and the soil and the population density are right. But we’ve unfortunately way overshot. It’s a goddamn shame that for historical reasons, we ended up peaking at 10 billion, rather than 2 billion.
Jim: At 2 billion, we could make a lot of stuff work across the world, but at 8 billion, it’s going to require, especially if we’re going to be moral and ethical with respect to our global obligations, there’s still going to have to be a shitload of global trade to keep people from starving to death.
Daniel: Yeah. I mean the numbers think there’s more and more research coming out. If you look at the impact that the pandemic is likely to have all around the world with regard to people’s decision to have children or not, even if it’s for entirely survival economic reasons, because they’re in a depression, I think where we might not even hit the 10 billion that were predicted, we might actually turn the curve… Still a lot of people putting a lot of pressure on the planet. I agree with that statement absolutely. But, I think that the likelihood that we will see a peak around 2030, 2035, and then a continuing decline of human population is relatively high.
Jim: That would be great. Now the big question is Africa. The rest of the world is clearly on the trend, but for whatever reason, Africa seems to be resisting the trend that has education and economics improve family sizes, go down a little. Now they have certainly gone down in Africa, but it’s not a very different curve that in the rest of the world and truthfully, most of the rest of the growth through the century in the demographic projections have to do with Africa. So, if Africa gets more strongly influenced by the curves of the rest of the world has been on, then, then perhaps you’re correct. But if not probably not.
Daniel: Yep. That is the thing about futures. We’ll see when we get there.
Jim: Yogi Berra said making predictions is difficult, particularly about the future, right. But we have to do it right.
Jim: Let’s go on to our next topic, one that we hinted around in the first conversation and we were teasing each other. We never really got into it. And that is consciousness, right? I think we both wanted to talk about consciousness. We didn’t have time. Now, consciousness is my favorite topic. It’s what I’ve spent probably more time thinking about reading, writing software, writing a hundred pages worth of rough material for a review article since 2014. And you always have to start is what is it right? When someone says consciousness, it’s a very slippery word. And I think of it as what it’s like to be an animal inside the experience of a movie of your own life, right? That’s what I think of as consciousness.
Jim: And I follow as the closest models not very elaborated. John Searle, the philosopher from Berkeley, one of the leading philosophers of mind, who’s also studied the cognitive science. He has a point of view he calls Biological Naturalism, which essentially derives from a very careful analysis of some of the classic problems of theory of mind and others. That consciousness is a purely biological function, only found in animals, found in all advanced animals. And that’s basically it. There’s nothing magic about it. And we don’t our understanding of how it arises is still not complete by any means, but he finds no reason to believe that it’s anything other than a biological system. In fact, his well-known statement about it is that consciousness is like digestion. They’re both systems that do something, they have many different parts to them.
Jim: You can’t point at something and say, this is consciousness in the same way you can’t point at something in the body and say, that’s the digestion. And they both are operated high, energetic and genetic costs to keep them operating and that simplifies tremendously the thinking about consciousness. And I heard the red coral area, [inaudible 01:01:14] says consciousness is like digestion. And I say, and it often produces the same end result. Yeah, yeah, yeah but back to our conversation about night soil.
Jim: So anyway, I would also add, at least my view on consciousness is Gerald Edelman. While I disagree with some of Gerald Edelman’s analysis of consciousness, I think his distinction that he makes between primary consciousness and extended consciousness is hugely important. He would say that the consciousness of a dog or even a reptile is continuous with human consciousness in that those animals live within a movie of their own life, essentially a sensorium of the various senses that feels like you’re in it in real time, but what they all lack minus perhaps a couple of the highest animals like elephants, whales and great apes is any ability to self reflect to, use probably symbolic means to be able to tell a story about themselves.
Jim: And that’s what he calls extended consciousness. I argue that while we do see a little bit of that in elephants, great apes and perhaps whales, it’s only a tiny bit, and it’s really a pretty bright line between humans. Something happened between chimps and humans that ratcheted this up to a whole new level of consciousness, probably having to do with our ability to manipulate symbols.
Jim: What’s your theory of consciousness or at least your description of consciousness before we get down to more discussion about what it all means? Just to make sure we’re sort of on the same page or at least if we’re on different pages, we know what those two pages are.
Daniel: Yeah. I sense we’re possibly on two different pages in the sense that what I heard you describe, or the quote you read out to me is bumping into the limitations of what happens if you create that keyboard and you start with the lower notes only, if you start with the assumption that life and consciousness emerges out of dead matter, then that’s what you get. But Ken Wilburn, Alan Colmes wrote a paper together in 2010, which I quote a piece of in my book. And I just found the quote and it’s worth reading because that sort of describes in my limited perspective, I am not in any way saying that I can give that answer. Alan Rowe wrote a wonderful book called Consciousness Explained Better, which for me is one of the clearer descriptions of the complexity that, we have to deal with when we look at consciousness. But this quote starts like this, “Consciousness is much more than an evolutionary accident or epiphenomenon to biochemical processes in our head. Consciousness is in fact, fundamentally woven into the universe itself.
Daniel: We are saying that it is that some degree of subjectivity is indeed present all the way up and all the way down in the evolutionary letter, from the tiniest crop to the biggest brains, this consciousness can be loosely described as a perspective making, perspective taking system that creates, collects, organizes deeper, wider, and more sophisticated points of view as it develops”.
Daniel: And for me that saying, we will never know what for a emperor penguin really feels when that first ray of sun hits the colony, while they’ve been standing in the eyes, balancing the eggs on their flippers. We won’t know what it feels like to a Sequoia tree to be free of snow and feel the warmth of the spring sunshine. But these beings take a relational perspective to the larger whole that has brought them forth and are sent in. And there’s lots of scientific based research on the sentience of plants that is coming out of Spain and out of Italy in a number of places at the moment.
Daniel: So I know I was originally a ethologist, behavioral biologist looking at babies of Marine mammals, elephants, seals, whales, and dolphins, and also a little bit of primatology. And of course it’s nothing like the consciousness that you’re referring to in human beings, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an immediate sense making that is along the lines of [inaudible 01:05:42] men, very less some Santiago Theory of Cognition that you don’t even need a brain or neuro circuits to have that initial structure of coupling of defining yourself as self, making the first distinction that distinguishes whatever that perspective making is with regard to the environment that has just been created through the act of perspective making.
Daniel: And that’s a very, very different view of consciousness. And we can now look back to the earlier conversation of saying, is it scientific because in the worldview you were sort of standing more firmly on, you were saying that the Vedanta and Thouism don’t really qualify as sciences, but when you look at how their perspective on consciousness corroborates, a lot of the research that is actually being done within the confines of Western science, I think there’s some something to explore there.
Jim: There are things that are certainly stimulating to the ideas? Let me give an alternative way. And again, [inaudible 01:06:48] stand word consciousness is used for so many different things. It’s really hard to have a precise conversation about it. You know, certainly I agree that many kinds of matter even before life and certainly all forms of life do respond to their environments. And in what you’d call with competence, I guess is the word I would like to use. And the language we use at the Santa Fe Institute is we call those Complex Adaptive Systems. And frankly there’s even complex adaptive systems in nature, pre-life, sand piles or the way asteroids kind of manipulate themselves in their orbits based on sunlight and comets. It’s simple, but there are complex and they’re adaptive relatively, and certainly a Sequoia trees, very complex adaptive system.
Jim: And when the snow melts in the sun, comes out, all kinds of different things are happening in that tree. But I would argue that something’s going on there, there’s communications going on as we know what the mycelium with other trees, not just the same species, but multiple species, interactions with the nature of the soil, some of it on real time basis, some of it lower than real time, but I would push back and say, there’s no movie going on.
Jim: There’s no being embedded in a real time sense of being. And that is a very specific technology that, evolution developed. And here’s the interesting thing about it. In fact, a book I would strongly recommend to people interested in this question, it’s called The Ancient Origins of Consciousness, how the brain created experience by Todd Feinberg and Jon Mallatt. And they really get down to this biological naturalism perspective in a very serious way, and look at it in terms of evolution, may argue that again for the fact, that consciousness in this sense of being in a movie that you can then, at the human level, be self aware of goes way back, at least to the reptiles, probably to the amphibians, maybe no further back than that.
Jim: And that, the primary consciousness in the Youdelman speak is more or less just continuously evolved and gotten better and different. You know, for instance, our dog has a much better consciousness of smell than we do while we have a better consciousness of vision, for instance, and the hawk has better consciousness of vision than we do, but no consciousness of smell at all. And then to follow Thomas Nagel and his work on what’s it like to be a bat, a bat has echolocation and whole sensorium that we can’t even understand.
Jim: Right? But anyway, those things… We could actually look at their evolution and they are different than the state of being of even life. Prior to that, like a sponge does not have anything like being in a movie. Now here’s another thing that I just found amazing in this book, they pose it and provides some evidence for the fact that this, idea of consciousness as being in a movie actually evolved at least twice, once from the amphibian, reptile, to mammals and birds but the second time, and they could make a pretty strong argument that they’re not connected because there was a big evolutionary gap in cephalopods, meaning octopi and some of the larger squid. Octopi in particular show, an awful lot of signs of being conscious, even though they’re not related, there was a big, big gap between these two trees of consciousness. So it may indeed say that there is a tendency to find consciousness in the evolution of lifelike hours, but there is still a pretty clear line between those consciousnesses, as even if they evolved separately and the prior world of complex adaptive systems.
Daniel: It’s tricky to build on the conversation because it’s just one particular lens into consciousness that I personally find difficult to connect with because the true participatory consciousness that also draws like pays attention to how we bring forth the world, based on the more modes of explanation we use, isn’t really acknowledged. And in that, to my mind.
Daniel: What I’m trying to get at is the work that Henri Bortoft is done based on [inaudible 01:11:19] Phenomenology, he writes… as you were speaking I have found this quote, that again, points to where I’m coming from, the fundamental discovery on which Phenomenology is based is that consciousness has a structure of intentionality. It will be better to say that consciousness is intentionality.
Daniel: This is often expressed by saying that consciousness is always conscious of something. In other words, consciousness is always directed towards an object, hence in cognitive perception, there’s an insoluble unity between the conscious mind and the object of which it is conscious. And that means that if we think of the world in terms of solid objects and atoms and matter, then we bring forth a different connection to that world. Then if we have a truly participatory consciousness of entertaining that we are reflections of that world through the act of perspective, taking.
Jim: I don’t there is a disagreement there, actually in fact, John Searle wrote a very good book called Intentionality. He also wrote a great book called Mind:A Brief Introduction, which talks about how consciousness and intentionality are utterly interwoven, right? And that you really can’t think about consciousness without also thinking about intentionality in our relationship between the subjective and the objective. And I don’t, see any conflict there actually, which is quite interesting.
Jim: Which gets me to the second usage of the word consciousness. And maybe here is where we get into more agreement or at least we find more interesting disagreements, particularly in things like integral and Buddhism, et cetera, they use consciousness that in a different way as well, which is not about are you in a movie of the experience of your life and interacting intentionally with the objects in that movie, but rather kind of a level of perception thing.
Jim: And some of this goes into developmental psychology as well. You know, when we’re, when we’re small, we’re very egocentric. And then we start to have a relationship with our mother and then to our family and then our community. And then as we grow older, probably our tribe or our culture, and then some people achieve, what’s often called a global level of consciousness where they are able to actually think about the world as a whole. And some people claim, I don’t know if they can really get their, universal consciousness where they can think in terms of the whole universe. And certainly that kind of psychological development happens in humans. And if we want to call that consciousness, that may be a little bit closer to some of the concerns that you were just expressing.
Daniel: Yeah, definitely… I find the Wilbur Combs Matrix of Levels and States of Consciousness, quite a useful map of how we’ve in different ways, talked about consciousness and evolution of consciousness, but it also has the danger as has happened a lot in the integral community is that people get kind of a little bit too tied up in the nomenclature that they’ve developed or whether it’s an integral law and spiral dynamics. It’s similar. People just confuse the map with the territory a little bit. But for me, that dynamic map is useful because it allows for… it has a research basis based on all these questionnaires that graves that in the distant past, I think in the 50s and 60s of the different value meme, clusters that people take towards the world and how they then also define what Phrygia couple called Crisis of Perception.
Daniel: A lot of it is, how do we define self and world that relates into how we then perceive the world? And I think that’s also where that whole issue between the East and the West or Western times versus Vedic Wisdom or Taoism, Zen, all those Buddhism, they’ve paid a lot of attention in basically experiential phenomenological studies to consciousness. And it’s very, tricky to put that in parallel to a analytical consciousness, as explained within Western science and Henri Bortoft described it as a holistic model of consciousness that is complimentary to the analytical one, but not necessarily commensurable.
Jim: We’ll see. There is a rapidly growing Western science of consciousness and it’s very interesting. I know some of the more serious scientists in that realm and most of them are very interested in and are practitioners of Eastern traditions. Right? And so they… Sam Harris being well known one, but there are plenty of others. And I don’t think that they’re contradictory, but I do suspect that if the cognitive science of consciousness continues, we may well actually be able to explain the phenomenology even of a holistic perspective from my cognitive neuroscience point of view.
Daniel: Yeah. That’s what I mean, that the keyboard is continuous. We normally do find these areas of overlap where suddenly without breaking any of the axioms or rules and methodologies of the wonderful tool, that is an invaluable tool that is Western science, then suddenly pushes into areas that describe in their language, something that other, I would still call them, sciences have described. Sometimes millennials call it in a different language.
Jim: This is what has to happen somehow, because I’m more and more convinced that there is no real argument here. There’s sort of an entanglement with words.
Daniel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jim: And I don’t really feel like I’ve gotten all the way through it because I have to say, I come from, initially a very extreme materialist realist perspective, as I’ve learned more about consciousness and have done some dabbling in the other ways of thinking, I can sort of feel that somehow they’re the same thing, but that synthesis has not yet been done. But now to bring us back to sort of where we were trying to get to earlier, which is this how the human has to be upgraded, probably to achieve a regenerative culture…
Daniel: Before we go there just briefly because it kind of makes the link to where you’re going now….
Daniel: Bates infamously said the biggest problem of humanity come from the difference in the way that humans think and the way that nature, like more than human nature thinks. And he also pointed towards this misunderstanding of mind and just want to read one more Henri Bortoft quote, who is really the person who, when I met him at Schumacher College in 2001, when he was teaching [inaudible 01:18:08] and this phenomenological holistic consciousness approach to us, but not in a theoretical way, but through exercises and pretty intense work. I ended up, after five days of visits from this guy, having the worst migraine of my life. And for 48 hours was literally under a blanket feeling like my synapses were rewiring themselves. One of the most influential teachings and mentors I’ve had.
Daniel: And Henri writes, we miss the dimension of mind, which is active in our lives. The dimension of mind in cognitive perception is as invisible to us, to begin with, as the movement of the earth, just as it seems so evident to us, that everything we see about us is just there i.e. objects instead of meaning. And that cognitive perception is just sense perception. We are accustomed to thinking of mind as if it were inside of us in our heads, that it is the other way around. We live within a dimension of mind, which is for the most part as invisible to us as the air we breathe. We usually only discover it when it breaks down. I think that speaks to that shift in [inaudible 01:19:25] of maybe consciousness is primary and matter evolves out of consciousness.
Jim: Yeah. I would reject that, but that’s a two hour conversation right there, but we put it on the table, but I will agree with the fact that, we are not our mind. Consciousness is a relatively small specialized sub function of the mind. In fact, those of us who have had things like ego death experiences know that you can be alive and walking around in the world without any eye. Right? And so the mind is a way, way deeper than the ego. And you know, most of the mind, most of the brain at least is spent on lower level things like processing perception, keeping your heart beating, et cetera. And the part that supports consciousness is maybe 20% of the brain. And… but it utterly relies upon that iceberg beneath the surface. And even the part that is involved with creating consciousness, we have no ability to see into it.
Jim: We only experience this higher realm of consciousness. We have no idea what the working parts are going on underneath, unless we work very, very, very, very hard, which I think is quite interesting. But back to this where I was heading to go, which is that I think yourself for sure and lots of other people and increasingly myself have come around to the view that raising consciousness way above the ego and the tribe to the global and the planetary and in a more holistic fashion is going to be part of helping humans organize themselves so as to be able to reach…
Jim: Humans organize themselves so as to be able to reach a regenerative culture.
Daniel: Yes. Yeah, in the sense that I definitely fall into that category of still somehow believing that that will make a big difference. At the same time, I’m not quite sure whether the view that we just need to get everybody to agree and understand this and then everything will be fine is, it’s probably a bit limited as well. Coming back to the [inaudible 01:21:30] metrics and these kind of map off different worldviews, I think we need to have the whole spectrum open all the time because there will always be people moving through that developmental spectrum. We need to find a narrative that speaks to people at all the different levels of consciousness and still includes the meta narrative that is saying, “Okay, it’s wonderful. Let’s acknowledge that all our disagreements of perspective are part of biodiversity. They’re wonderful. That’s where the creativity of our species comes from that we have different points of view.”
Daniel: We’re now at a point where there’s so many of us on a planet with a life support system that we have put in jeopardy that we need to agree on some basic commonalities with regard to not infringing on ecosystems and planetary health, and actively working towards repairing ecosystems and planetary health. That’s what we need to do. I don’t think we’re going to get everybody to agree with us and suddenly move from kind of egocentric to tribal centric and to nation-centric and then onto planetary consciousness and cosmic consciousness. We don’t have the necessary time for achieving that.
Jim: Yeah. I don’t think we have any disagreement there. I think I was speaking in the most general of terms. I am very strong about the fact that we have to acknowledge high diversity in humans in many dimensions, from pure cognitive ability to values, to how they address the issues that we would call spirituality, et cetera. That any attempt to squash out that diversity is exceedingly dangerous and results in horror shows like Nazi-ism or Marxist Leninism. In fact, the words I’ve created to express that concept is coherent pluralism. There’s some things that it is important that we agree about. For instance, we live in a limited world, at least at our current level of technology, and that if we exceed the limits, bad things are going to happen. On the other hand, we have to leave room for lots of ways for people to be people and evolve cultures that live within those limits.
Jim: In terms of the idea that not everyone is going to be at the same level, that’s also obviously true. A thinker I’ve recently become very interested in, it’s actually a two people writing team called [inaudible 01:23:58] that’s a pseudonym. They write a whole lot about the fact that people are going to be at different levels and they make some distinctions which I find very useful between hierarchical complexity, which you could sort of think about as IQ-ish, but then he also adds the very important concept of code, which is the details of the social operating system. Then, they talk about state, which are the ability to reach these higher consciousnesses, which will vary by people. Then depth, which is what are the range of these states that a person has experienced in these lives. They say that we have to realize that people are going to vary on all four of these dimensions, but we can work towards moving humanity up in all four dimensions as a way to get ourselves ready for essentially a regenerative culture.
Daniel: I’m familiar with their framework. I didn’t know until just now that behind [inaudible 01:24:54] two people, rather than one person and that it was a pseudonym, but it reminds me a little bit of Wilbur’s lines of development. I’ve certainly realized that a lot in kind of collaborative projects and so on that there’s a distinction between the kind of what Wilbur calls the cognitive line, like thinking yourself into enlightenment and this higher level of consciousness and all of its benefits. Then actually having that also in your fully embodied kinesthetic development line or in your somato sexual line or your spiritual development line. It’s just slightly different areas of our personality that sometimes we can just throw this grappling hook way ahead and pull us with the cognitive line towards areas that we haven’t fully integrated in the in the whole human being sense.
Daniel: That’s where I personally, and this might be a complete, like my own story and my own limitations here. I sometimes find there comes a point when it gets too analytical and too mappy and too how do we create the process that everybody can evolve faster. I just recoil, because I kind of appreciate the chaos, the not knowing, the confusion, the clarity and how they alternate and the kind of intellectual cognitive sense-making, but then also really giving value to just sitting with a question in a beautiful spot in nature and trusting the answer that comes without any doubting from a sort of analytical, [inaudible 01:26:45] come from. Really working with intuition and embodied sensing and feeling in a way that it informs my work. I can’t pretend it doesn’t. There are points where despite all the analytical training and two degrees in science and a degree in design, I prefer to stay fuzzy and I prefer to stay multi-faceted.
Jim: I think that’s right, right. Even in, again, cognitive science, we know from work by Antonio Demasio that almost all of our actual decisions are based on emotion, right? We build these great cosmic frameworks, right, but at the end of the day, something deep underneath, which we don’t even understand, is the one that tilts the needle to our actual decisions, and hence, I think, the merit of Jordan Hall’s Sibium idea. Let’s make sure we’re situated in beautiful, supportive, low risk, or at least low risk of starving, places so that our emotions are not over-amped and not overexposed to mass media and advertising, et cetera. Then, I do believe that our organic bodies are pretty damn good at making good decisions.
Daniel: Yeah. I mean, what John was sort of recreating what this vision is a bit like the Buddhist notion of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Basically, the Sangha is the community that keeps you on the path. The Dharma is the developmental impulse, like how do we grow individual consciousness and community consciousness at the same time. The Buddha is nothing but that people can do this and that there are people who have done it before that we can refer to basically feel like it’s not a futile exercise to get to these states. Do you think that that’s somewhat related.
Jim: I truthfully hadn’t made that connection, but now that you mentioned it, I do see it. I’m going to have to think about that a little bit. All right. We’re getting late on time here. It’s been a wonderful conversation, even though it was part two, I’m going to skip over a few things. Because I am also with you strongly that we can’t overthink this, we got to do stuff, right? Time is marching on. If we don’t solve these problems, the meta-crisis as we call it in Game B by 2100, yes, planet Earth and life will keep marching on, but life for homo sapiens will not be good, and that merely raising people’s consciousness ain’t enough.
Daniel: No, absolutely not. I remembered something that you said earlier when you mentioned Jordan’s work that I wanted to pick up on, which is a dynamic that I think we find more and more, is that at the level of what he was saying, and then these communities need to connect and kind of work together. How much energy do we put into re-patterning our entire way not just of thinking and doing things, but our entire way of being with this world and with each other at the local and regional scale, which is a very personal development bit in one way, but then it becomes a very kind of skilled social facilitation of multi-stakeholder processes and the frustrating complexity of working with the real world when you have to talk to planners and local authority and local business and local schools and whatever, to engage everybody in redesigning the human impact on their particular piece of the world and their bio-region, their community.
Daniel: Then how do we engage in resourcing in networking this process and reflecting on how do we do this in each bio-region together and connect all the other good people that are popping up everywhere around the world intending to start this bio-regional journey? I have seen certainly in the networks that I’m moving, a sort of tension between how much energy to put where. One of the biggest exercises I guess we all need to do is where to put our energies and what to prioritize.
Daniel: In my life, I feel like I’ve spent a few too many hours on webinars, podcasts, social media, and in all of that, connecting and learning and weaving new web works of meaning with wonderful people like yourself. I, since my book came out in 2016, have noticed a little bit of a distraction through all that away from the process that I started 10 years ago of really wanting to grow deep roots in this bio-region, the Island of Majorca that I chose as my home engage with the networks that are analog in front of my eyes, real people, real community, real ecosystems, and begin that transition. Where I’m at right now in my personal life, I feel like I need to refocus from what has at points been 80% global focus to 20% local focus to actually flip that balance around.
Daniel: That then means being very good at saying no to the possibility of all that global networking and finding the real valuable opportunities to yet still engage in that, because it is vitally important. Where do you sit in your life with that balance of doing your wonderful series of podcasts and weaving the Game B community, and then actually still having the time that you work with your local community and your farm and the people you meet at the local store and so on?
Jim: I think it’s a fairly similar journey to yours, to tell you the truth. One thing I have done, which I actually have been doing for a few years, but I did more rigorously this year is I’m currently on a six month social media sabbatical. No social media, no Twitter, no Facebook, no [inaudible 01:32:44]. I’ve been doing that for Facebook for four years. We can spend just way too much time on those social media both wallowing in other people’s ideas and promoting our own, and so having gone on that break in July has opened me up, 1st of July, has opened up a lot of thinking about just these questions that you asked. Like you, I have been feeling that I’ve been doing this work in one form or another, Game B and its predecessor, since 2012.
Jim: I think I’ve done about as much theoretical and work is I’m capable of. I’m more of a person action and very much feel that the time has come to put up or shut up on our ideas and actually create some functioning communities. In the Game B world, we call these proto-Bs. They actually mean building it on the ground, making it work, we talk about psycho technologies, which could include meditation, it could include ecstatic dance, could include breath work, could include psychedelic drugs, could include electrical implants, right? That curating a set of psycho technologies for each proto-B is a curatorial function. It probably varies by the people that are in the proto-B.
Jim: Anyway, I am feeling the strong urge to help catalyze it other people to create a couple of proto-Bs and possibly even to be the driving force behind one of them, because of a fear that time is short. If we can’t at least begin to experiment with real communities on the ground, which were designed from day one to live within their environmental limits, or at least close, one of the things we do to talk about in the proto-B discussion is that the first proto-Bs will not actually be living within their limits, right? We’re not going to make our own computer chips, for instance.
Jim: There ain’t nothing we can do about Intel and what bad things they do to create computer chips. There’ll be plenty of other examples like that. We can be aware of the gap between true regenerative and sustainable living on a proto-B at any given point in time, and the goal of getting to the point where it really is sustainable and regenerative, the regenerative part, we can work and work hard in, I think there’s a lot of good knowledge. I think I mentioned the last time on our farm, my wife and I have, we have built soil. We have tripled the capacity to grow hay without using any artificial fertilizer. We’ve done sustainable logging. We’ve done major repair on the water courses, the streams that run through our area, we built ponds to keep water from running off too quickly.
Jim: There’s a lot of things we know and a lot of people know more about this than I, in terms of regeneration of a local piece of soil. I think that’s also got to be literally put to work, but embedded in a matrix that can exist within game A. This is what we call, how do we design the proto-B so that it can parasitize game A, right? In a game B community, you have many people working in the land and making furniture and making clothes even, but probably you have other people doing management consulting and programming to pull some resources in to make the proto-B actually viable in the world. This is where my heart is at. I think if the pandemic hadn’t occurred, at least one proto-B would have been launched in 2020, but I believe that the pandemic has pushed us out probably a year. I’ll be damn disappointed if by the end of 2021, at least one or two proto-B’s haven’t actually started to emerge upon the face of the earth.
Daniel: That sounds wonderful. That makes me feel good because of my past with having hung out and worked with and explored and visited so many of the communities and the global eco village network. There is a sort of reinventing the wheel, but of course in a complete different new context with different people, with a different set of skills and tools, but there’s a lot of learning that as you set out to create these proto-Bs, there’s a lot of learning from the world of intentional communities in the world of eco villages, because it’s very often that people come into these four dimensions of such community projects, social, ecological, worldview, and economic, and seem to sort of focus it on one or the other, and in particularly the social dimension, how people create visions together, make decisions. All of that is really complex. I think we should, as there seems to be such a drive at the moment to create these sort of proto-Bs.
Daniel: I think it’s important to pick up the learnings that we’ve already made. Also, I think another conceptual thing that is actually a lesson from the eco village movement is that what happens naturally as you create a, sort of in Bucky Fuller’s terms, let’s build a new system that makes the old system obsolete, if you do that at the community scale, in a real physical place, the amount of work it takes to do that well focuses intention of everybody engaged in that project relatively inwardly to build up the basic infrastructure, to create, like make sure that it’s zero impact and that it has all the renewable, this, that, and the other, and the green building and whatnot. In that process, it’s very quickly building a bubble that isn’t fully grounded in the nested system that it sits in. It’s not out of spite, not because people don’t want to talk to the local rednecks that live next door, but because they just don’t have time.
Daniel: The key bit is if these proto-Bs are going to be successful, you have to, from the beginning, think of them in a scaled linking design way and say, how do we make this proto-B interact with the wider bioregional context that sits in and how do we make it into the yogurt culture that turns the milk of the region into yogurt? If you don’t have that process from the beginning to my mind, they’re just going to be recreating of the eco village experiments of the 1960s and seventies and eighties and so on.
Jim: Yeah. I think you’re a hundred percent right. Unfortunately, the Game B code, we call it deep code, includes all those things, right? It has to be scalable over time through copying and what we call X in a box, where we share our techniques. We strongly believe that, as I said earlier, proto-Bs can’t be self sufficient and they have to be thoughtful about how they engage the world. I also wrote my paper on proto-Bs called A Journey to Game B at the more mundane level. As you said, the proto-Bs should participate in the community football league, right? They should become members of the local volunteer fire department. They should even engage in local politics. Currently, Game B eschews national politics as it’s complete shit show, but we believe that we should be active involved in local politics.
Jim: I think we definitely want to avoid the fallacies of the past. Fortunately, there are people who know a lot more about those previous experiences than I do in the Game B world and are bringing their perspectives to bare. I think your sense is exactly right, that it can easily become too hobbyist essentially in trying to micro optimize something which is not ready for micro optimization yet. That we have to understand that we’re a teeny little piece in a much bigger system, even though it is our longterm goal to convert that system to the new cause, but that’s not going to happen overnight. I think all very good thoughts and I hopefully will inform the formations of the various proto-Bs, which I hope will come in the world over the next few years.
Daniel: Have you had a conversation with Pedro [Turlock 01:40:44] Yet?
Jim: No. Don’t know that name.
Daniel: Pedro Turlock is a lawyer from Argentina, is a wonderful man. I’ll send you the link to a conversation I had with him recently. He set up with a number of other people, he always is very keen to point out that he does nothing himself. He always worked in collaboration with networks, which is why I mentioned him. He set up [inaudible 01:41:07] in Latin America, which is a decentralized network of many local chapters. There are B lawyers, there are B universities, [inaudible 01:41:19] others can be. It’s basically about systems transformation, and it’s exploring that in different areas. He’s a wonderful, wonderful man, deeply sound individual who’s really walked his talk ever since a youth in the dictatorship in Argentina. I think you’d have a wonderful conversation with him.
Jim: I look forward to it. I love chatting with new folks. It’s interesting that he uses the B terminology, right?
Daniel: In this case, it came more from an entrepreneurial perspective that he was together with some people in Chile and other parts of Latin America, looking at how companies were trying to become for purpose companies and socially transforming companies or environmentally restoring or regenerating companies. Just when they were saying there’s something happening, there’s a trend, we need to create a Latin American network of these kinds of companies, they both are the key founders of Sistema B, found out about [inaudible 01:42:25] in the US. While of course they’re much shallower as a system within the corporate environment and the whole certification game, we don’t need to get into, what Pedro and his friends basically said we want to include that, but in a wider context, because it’s not just about business, it’s about all forms of leadership across society and all walks of life. That’s what he’s been working on. He’s also on the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Network. You’d have a ball of a conversation with him. He’s a great guy.
Jim: Yeah. Look forward to it. In fact, I recently had a wonderful conversation on the podcast with Michelle [Balanz 01:43:08] about the much wider opportunity to do creative things than just B corps, right? There’s so many wonderful ways to build cooperation, but it does require some knowledge of the law and how do you use organizations for human good, not just as profit maximizing engines. Well, I think on that note, we’re going to wrap up, we’ve run over our time. That’s okay. As always, an incredibly stimulating and interesting conversation.
Daniel: Well, thank you so much. I’m amazed. I woke up and I’m dripping with sweat here in the heatwave, but I certainly woke up and I always enjoy the way that you hold different perspectives on your show and it’s great because I know we can micro areas disagree and still come up with a wonderful conversation that hopefully adds value to everybody listening. Thank you so much for inviting me again.
Jim: Yeah, indeed. In fact, one of our Game B co-founders Bruce Kunkle has a line that I think summarizes that thought very well, which he calls alignment beyond agreement.
Daniel: We certainly have that and I look forward to the proto-B appearing and maybe I’m in a different language, but I’m working on focusing my attention on a proto-B here on Majorca.
Jim: Yeah, I’d love to, at some point, have you back on the show and talk about what you’re doing.
Daniel: Great, wonderful. Have a wonderful rest of the day and thanks again for inviting me.
Jim: Yes. Thanks. Bye-Bye.
Production services and audio editing by Jared Janes Consulting, Music by Tom Muller at modernspacemusic.com.