Aengus Anderson: This is The Conversation. We’re breaking into the series. We’re doing another interstitial episode.
Micah Saul: We apologize. We hate this as much as you do.
Anderson: Maybe not quite as much.
Saul: Yeah, alright.
Anderson: They probably hate it a lot more than we do.
Saul: Fair enough.
Anderson: So here’s episode nine, and it’s just us again. We want to sort of bring you all up to speed on some of the things that we’ve been thinking about, some of the conversations we’ve been having that I’ve had to edit out of the tail ends of episodes, link a few concepts and also be… Well, first because we think it’s really important to be sort of transparent about where we’re going with the series and the conversations we’re having.
Saul: Exactly. We talk a lot as we’re figuring out the outros and stuff. But also Aengus has been living with me now for for a few weeks. And so we’re just sitting around talking about this, and we want to be really open with everybody else, you know, what we’re thinking about and how the project’s evolving in our minds.
Anderson: Right. And, because you all can’t be sitting around here in the living room with us talking about the project…maybe that’s actually the last thing you want to do but maybe it would be fun, we want to bring your voices into it. So probably the first place to start with this episode is to say we want you. Not quite like Uncle Sam wants you. We don’t want to send you off to France to die in the trenches. But we actually really would love you to join the conversation and to remind you that actually, you can jump in online. And every episode there’s a place for you to leave comments on the bottom of it, talk about it, kick ideas around. There are places to suggest themes that you want me to explore in upcoming interviews, and you can also do that at the end of the episode. So we’re tuned in, and we would love to get some more people. Now that we actually have content up to talk about, we would love to start generating a conversation online, because that’s going to make this so much more democratic.
Saul: Yeah. And I definitely want to thank the people that have been already jumping in. To Terry and Tim and and Scott, keep going. This is great.
Anderson: For sure. Also, take a look at the the little widget down at the bottom the page that says who’s coming up next, because there may be some people who you’re interested in, there may be themes you want us to explore in upcoming interviews. And that’s a great chance for you to sort of see down the road a little bit and maybe go, “Hey, these guys are going be talking to someone about education,” or you name it. “Follow up on these themes. We’re interested in you know…stop talking about biocentrism and anthropocentrism. Talk about something else. Talk about the community or the collective.” However I’m never going to let biocentrism die.
Saul: And I guess while we’re on the the bottom of the the page. As you may have noticed we killed the Kickstarter campaign. It was one of those things where you know, it was getting long in the tooth, eyes were kinda kinda clouding over, it had a gammy leg. So. Had to take it behind the shed.
Anderson: Yup. And we probably should have just written a lot more emails, but maybe it was something that we couldn’t have hit anyway until the project gets to a later stage of maturity. So what we’ve switched to is we’ve switched to PayPal. If you are enjoying the project and you would like to hear it go longer, throw in five bucks, ten bucks, whatever you can do. It will go immediately to us. And the more donations we get, the longer our production budget gets. We can push this conversation through the winter. We can bring in a whole lot more interviewees. Right now we’re looking at maybe we’ll be able to gets forty total if we’ve finish in September. More donations get us through October, through November. And we can sort of reconsider from there, if people are enjoying the project. That may be the natural conclusion point.
Saul: And I’m kinda done talking about money because—
Saul: —that bores me.
Anderson: Yes. Money is not the Conversation.
Anderson: Unless you assume that money is the good. But funny, no one has mentioned that yet.
Saul: Which I’m very happy about.
Anderson: Maybe it just means we’re were selecting the wrong kinds of people.
Saul: Or the right.
Anderson: Yeah, that’s true. Money as good might be the status quo.
Saul: So let’s get into some of the conversations we’ve been having recently.
Anderson: Absolutely. So, we’ve been starting to see a couple of big themes that are coming through this. We already mentioned biocentrism, anthropocentrism.
Anderson: But we’ve seen community and individual.
Saul: We’ve seen centralized decision‐making versus local decision‐making.
Saul: We’ve seen a lot of people claiming to be optimists.
Anderson: Yes we have, but that’s come in a lot of different guises.
Anderson: From Max More who’s optimistic about people being able to fulfill their greatest potential through technology, to Jan Lundberg being optimistic that we’ll find a new equilibrium after a large decrease in population, to Chris McKay recently, who’s very optimistic that the world is generally just improving.
Saul: Yeah. In sort of exploring these themes, I think it’s been kind of interesting that that a lot of these things are sort of flipsides of the same coin. They’re parts of a binary pair. And that got us thinking about ways that we could possibly start mapping this stuff.
Anderson: Right, because something we’ve been interested in from the very beginning is how do we make the ideas visually represented in a way where you can see patterns in interviews with people who have seemingly nothing in common.
Anderson: Right. And if you go low enough in their ideas, you can find plenty of things in common. So we want to show that somehow.
Saul: What I think we realized is that there are sort of two ways of mapping this. On one side we’ve got the people we are talking to. And that’s where these binary pairs come in. So, is this person a anthropocentrist or a biocentrist? Is this person a pessimist or an optimist? Is this person a monist or a pluralist? We’re calling those perspectives.
Additionally there’s the idea of themes, which directly relate to the conversation we. So, did we talk about community? Did we talk about the biological environment? Did we talk about economics?
What we also realized is that these things kind of directly relate to each other.
Anderson: Right. Like, you can have a perspective on a theme.
Saul: Right. And in some cases they make sense. Obviously, an anthropocentrist or a biocentrist is going to have strong opinions on the biological environment or the physical environment. Some places, they’re less related. For example, being a monist does not imply a strong opinion on economics.
Anderson: Right. And and for those of you who, like me, had to look up “monist,” it’s someone who believes in one kind of stuff in the world.
Saul: Right, that everything can be collapsed down into one reality.
Anderson: Right. Like, atoms. And if you’re a pluralist, you would be able to believe in, sure there’s this atomic universe we’re in but there are also a lot of other things. Mind or spirit, you name it. So just for at least our examples that are supposed to make this make sense, they need to make sense.
Saul: Fair enough. But they do relate to each other in interesting ways. And because we’ll be both classifying our people and our conversations, we’ll be able to provide a really interesting map and a really interesting way of navigating non‐chronologically through these. I would love to hear what someone who is anthropocentric has to say about the economy, even though those two things aren’t directly related. If a person is tagged as anthropocentric and our conversation with them is economic, suddenly there’s that connection.
Anderson: And patterns will emerge. It’s going to be really fun to be able to navigate this.
Saul: It’s going to be really interesting to see the the underlying commonalities that we don’t see on the surface.
Anderson: No, because a lot of the stuff is really low‐level in people’s belief systems.
Anderson: You could hold a variety of different beliefs that are antithetical to each other, but still have these things in common. And so I think it’ll be really fun, especially with some of the the conversations where people have more actively disagreed with each other, to see how much did they have in common, and what disagreements seem to be truly irreconcilable.
Saul: Yes. Because we’re planning on doing this as a graph, I’m really interested to see if it’s one graph. Or if we’re going to find there’s there’s a couple smaller clusters, or where where the clustering’s going to be. Do know you see like, this section that’s very very closely related and then this other section over here that’s very closely related, and then you’ve only got a couple tendrils reaching out between the two.
Saul: Or is it all interrelated?
Anderson: Yeah. It makes me think of when we were trying to build this ontology to structure how all these things fit together, and we were talking about is, sacred/secular anything that matters?
Saul: And we realized in some ways that that distinction, that binary, though it seems really important, is actually represented by a combination of other binary pairs we already had.
Anderson: Right. And I know you’ve designed ontologies before, but for me this blew my mind because it seemed so…against common sense.
Anderson: I mean, it seems like when we look out at the world and we see different types of thinkers, their spirituality or lack thereof, their atheism, is often just a huge determining factor. And yet when you broke it down into an ontology, I was trying to make a case for this still being relevant and there clearly wasn’t one because there are all of these secular thinkers who functionally have, well, behaviors that seem spiritual.
Anderson: You can’t necessarily tell if someone is secular how they’re going to think about anything.
Saul: And the the important part of that sacred/secular distinction I feel came down to monism versus pluralism, came down to subjectivism versus objectivism…
Saul: Anthro/bio. And you know in some respect, even optimism/pessimism.
Anderson: A they break down into everything.
Anderson: That was really intriguing, and I think the idea that to really look at all these conversations and to break them down like that, to realize that theism or its lack doesn’t matter, right there that’s an interesting starting point.
Saul: Yeah. Now you understand why I love my job.
Anderson: Yeah, this is cool stuff. I’m glad you’re doing most of it on this project.
Saul: What else should we be talking about?
Anderson: That’s probably the biggest thing that we will be rolling out in the future, so I’m glad we talked about that. In terms of other stuff, we would really love to know from all of you what you think is working and what isn’t. The biggest tension that we’ve been trying to balance, or maybe it’s just me trying to balance it, but in conversations how much do I invite people to just give us their opinion, how much do I push back? How much do I say, “Can you explain that?” How much do I say, “That doesn’t sound accurate, based on other statements I’ve heard?”
When we went into this we were both very aware that we would be speaking to incredibly smart people who are specialists in a lot of different fields, and we cannot really approach them on specific facts. Also, getting into the really nitty gritty little details causes us to lose the gist of the conversation. You can get bogged down very quickly. So we’ve trying to avoid that. At the same time, there are moments when it feels like we need clarity.
Saul: Right. The big one for me is how do we continue to bring the Conversation back into these conversations.
Saul: Like you just said, it’s very easy to get bogged down by the nitty gritty. And it’s very easy to get bogged down by, “This is who I am, this is what I’ve done.”
Anderson: That’s an easy interview to both ask for and to give.
Saul: Right. And these aren’t interviews.
Anderson: No. They shouldn’t—
Saul: And these aren’t easy. These are supposed to be conversations which are part of the larger Conversation. And how do we…I say “we.” How do you get there? How do you bring people back into the broader Conversation.
Anderson: Right. I’ve had decent luck with this thus far, but basically we’ve seen the sort of a divide between people who deal with philosophical concepts a lot in their work, and people who are doing more project‐based stuff. Well, the projects have huge philosophical implications. But maybe that’s not the first point that they are inclined to talk about.
Anderson: And so for the people are thinking about philosophy, some of them have just like, jumped into the conversation and they are running. And they they can just dive right into ideas of the good before you even get to what these people do.
Anderson: Other folks, I’ve really had to kind of work to steer us from okay, here’s your project. Here’s the real‐world thing it’s sort of critiquing. Okay, that implies that you want this kind of society in the future. What is the philosophy beneath that? And that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I think generally it’s been working, but maybe I could maximize my interview time more if I could get people there sooner. I don’t know if I can always.
Saul: It’s just something to think about. You know, if any of our listeners have any ideas, I would love to do hear.
Anderson: Shoot us a note. For sure. So there you have it. The most important part is we want you to join in the Conversation.
Anderson: And we’re really excited about that. And bounce this project around your friends. The more people we have talking online, the better my interviews will be.
Saul: And the closer we are to actually being the Conversation as we envision it.
Anderson: Right. And we really don’t want this project to become yet another droning radio project for people to babble to you. So, talk back to us.
Saul: Or yet another… I’m going to say it: Yet another TED.
Anderson: Yeah. We really don’t want that. When we explained the project to people, often we hear, “Oh that’s great. That’s like TED,” and we have to say actually we’ve thought about that and, TED is awesome in a lot of ways but well, normal people don’t get to talk back. And the big people, we don’t really get to hear them talking to each other. We don’t want people to just talk about specialty issues and fun designer projects. We want everyone to talk about the big future, not in eighteen minutes but over seven or eight months. And to really dig deep into this idea. And you can help us do that. So, we look forward to a seeing where it goes, and we hope that you’ll correct us when we’re being particularly stupid.
Saul: Also we just hope you’re enjoying this as much as we are, because we are having a fantastic time.
Anderson: Yes we are. And you probably will have a fantastic time when we stop talking and maybe I edit the next interview, which is with Dr. Timothy Morton, who is awesome.
Saul: My brain melted listening to him. It’s fantastic. It’s so good I can’t wait for it to come out.
Anderson: I’m nervous editing it because the bar is so high and he said so many incredible things, and I just know a lot of them are gonna have to hit the editing room floor. But I think you’ll really enjoy this. He’ll go between Kierkegaard and The Matrix, or Immanuel Kant and…
Saul: Groundhog Day.
Anderson: Groundhog Day. I mean, yeah.
Saul: It’s awesome. So, thanks for listening. Please continue. Please tell your friends. And please please come to the website and join in the Conversation.
Anderson: And please forgive us for talking this long. We promise it’ll probably be another ten episodes before we loop back in and do another one of these. But I think we’ll be doing this periodically, to keep the project transparent, which is important.
Saul: Oh, and it was requested I think by Jan Lundberg. That our voices sound so similar that we should do this at least once again. I’m Micah Saul.
Anderson: And I am Aengus Anderson.
Saul: And this is The Conversation.
Anderson: Thanks for listening.