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—

Anderson: Yeah.

Saul: —that bores me.

Anderson: Yes. Money is not the Conversation.

Saul: No.

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: Exactly.

Anderson: Damn.

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.

Saul: Yup.

Anderson: But we’ve seen com­mu­ni­ty and individual. 

Saul: We’ve seen cen­tral­ized decision-making ver­sus local decision-making.

Anderson: Absolutely.

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.

Saul: Right.

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. 

Saul: Right.

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.

Saul: Right.

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.

Anderson: Right.

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.

Saul: Right.

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.

Saul: Right.

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…

Anderson: Anthro/bio.

Saul: Anthro/bio. And you know in some respect, even optimism/pessimism.

Anderson: A they break down into everything.

Saul: Right.

Anderson: Collective/individual.

Saul: Right.

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.

Anderson: Yes.

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.

Saul: Right.

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.

Saul: Right.

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.

Saul: Yes.

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.