Micah Saul: This project is built on a hypothesis. There are moments in history when the status quo fails. Political systems prove insufficient, religious ideas unsatisfactory, social structures intolerable. These are moments of crisis.
Aengus Anderson: During some of these moments, great minds have entered into conversation and torn apart inherited ideas, dethroning truths, combining old thoughts, and creating new ideas. They’ve shaped the norms of future generations.
Saul: Every era has its issues, but do ours warrant The Conversation? If they do, is it happening?
Anderson: We’ll be exploring these sorts of questions through conversations with a cross-section of American thinkers, people who are critiquing some aspect of normality and offering an alternative vision of the future. People who might be having The Conversation.
Saul: Like a real conversation, this project is going to be subjective. It will frequently change directions, connect unexpected ideas, and wander between the tangible and the abstract. It will leave us with far more questions than answers because after all, nobody has a monopoly on dreaming about the future.
Anderson: I’m Aengus Anderson.
Saul: And I’m Micah Saul. And you’re listening to The Conversation.
Aengus Anderson: This episode is Mary Mattingly, which you probably saw from the title already, but now it’s official. And she is an artist out of New York City.
Micah Saul: Yes. She does a lot of work related to the environment, sustainability, urban design, human mobility, and our interactions with those things.
Saul: She’s not solely focused on the environment, she’s focused on humans in the environment.
Anderson: We tracked her down because of a project called The Flock House project, which we’re going to talk more about in a moment here. But while we kind of talk about that in the interview, I want give a little bit of back story and also mention that before she worked on the Flock House, she worked on something called the Waterpod, which was a kind of sustainable floating barge that was wandering around the New York City area. And you know, it was growing its own food, and had lots of internal processes on it. YACHT actually played a concert on the Waterpod, but Mary mentioned that that kind of floating around and seeing all of these interesting industrial landscapes from the Waterpod inspired her to undertake the Flock House project, where she was thinking about, well how could we put little dwellings in all of these spaces that I’m seeing from my floating barge? And so there’s kind of a direct lineage from one idea to the next. So I just wanted to throw that out there because we’re not going to get into the Waterpod in the actual edited conversation here.
Mary Mattingly: So, a flock house is a structure that’s basically designed through a crowdsourcing different ideas from different architects and engineers and people skilled in building code in New York City, and then also artists and people who have different ideas about building materials that could fit into that code. So essentially it’s trying to look at the code, simplify it, and make something that not meets it but beats it, sort of. So you can get around getting building permits, but you can still build a legal structure that is in a way self-sufficient and can move so you can place it in areas that are underused or that you need to be in.
So, Flock House started as a data visualization, actually, of migration patterns of people right now. So just sourcing current data about where people are moving, and then making kind of a globular shape or if you can imagine the globe, and then these rings around the globe, and that’s kind of how the shape came to be this round object with these rings. And then over that there’s the geodesic dome, essentially because it’s a really easy way to make walls. So, underneath the geodesic dome, there are all these rings that are in this case and for New York they’re built out of plywood, because there’s so much around. So, just smoothing the plywood into these round shapes and then making that visualization fit into something that’s architectural and sturdy. That’s kind of what the structure is itself.
Aengus Anderson: Okay, so it’s like a little single-person housing pod?
Mattingly: It could be for more than one person, but it’s about ten feet in diameter. So it could be from one to three, I’d say, pretty tightly. Yeah. It’s a housing pod. It collects rainwater, grows a little bit of food underneath in some barrels that fit underneath these ladders that kind of hold the structure together. So instead of doing any welding or anything, you just use something that’s premade, that you can find. And then solar panels provide most of the power. In some cases there are bike generators and lever generators for power.
Anderson: And so, you were looking at data visualization about migration patterns around the world, and here we have a sustainable, very small, portable house. What’s the connection between the two?
Mattingly: Essentially, movement. So, I was really thinking about you know, well, people are moving right now. I see that as kind of the future as well. So more and more people are going to have to move for environmental, political, or economic reasons. Or want to move. So, what could be a short-term solution, or what could be something that made sense for a longer term that was better-built than a lot of things that you might see built from scrap? So, how could we make this fit the code of your city but also be built from scrap? So it’s a little bit safer, in a way, you could say. And it also has the ability to come apart and then be put back together.
I think if you think about doing projects because you see a social need for them, it really has to be your own as well. So, I really relate it to my own need to always find somewhere to live. To be able to be in a position where I feel like I can provide for myself. And for me, that means having these systems that are off-grid, so you’re not really dependent on this supply chain for your needs.
Anderson: What is sort of the social system that the flock house is addressing in a way? I mean, for someone who would be living in that. Like, why is this better than what we have now?
Mattingly: Well, I guess as far as thinking about the future, I was trying to understand a time where we would be able to provide for ourselves outside of a supply chain. But also not be completely self-sufficient or alone or isolated, which I felt like other projects in the past I’ve done have kind of alluded to. And in this way thinking about a future where we’re working together, as a close knit community. So in the flock house you don’t have everything you need supplied for you. You don’t of enough water. And same with food. It’s also minimal on food. So you have to be in the situation where you can exchange with your neighbors, and I imagine this barter system.
So part of the project was actually setting these things up in public spaces where we could work through a barter wherever they were set up. So for example, the first one was set up in Battery Park, and the artist who lived in that flock house bartered with the urban farm right next door for additional food in exchange for photographing their school groups, I think? So, things like that happened all the time throughout the project, where we would try to initiate these barters beforehand and then illustrate them as the project played out over the summer. Which was kind of just a test, this summer.
Anderson: What issues were you trying to raise?
Mattingly: I wanted people to question it and to inquire as to what it was. I think it’s pretty unclear when you walk up to it exactly what it is. It looks like, in a way, a big golf ball or something. Depending on where it was and how it looked at the time, I think people could be pretty confused or curious about it. So, I think I wanted people to engage with the person living in there and hear about their experience, and then tell them a little bit about what’s inside and what they’re doing in there. People usually planned a project while they were inside of the flock house, so they worked on that. So that was a good segue into talking about the flock house.
Anderson: You mentioned that you were designing them because of your own pressing needs for thinking about houses and space, but also the environmental aspect. Why create these sustainable dwellings?
Mattingly: I guess because if everybody had the ability to produce some of what they needed, then there would be less strain on large supply chains, and less strain on neighbors if nobody had anything, for instance. So, it’s sort of thinking about that model of spreading…decentralizing, I guess.
Anderson: And why is decentralizing good?
Mattingly: Well, I think we lose the risk that comes with centralizing, where everything is in one area and then if that area falls apart then you have nothing, right. So, if you have all of your growing space in one area of Upstate New York and then something happens to it, then you have no food. And in this case you can imagine like, my garden fails but yours didn’t, so let’s work together. Like, maybe there’s something I can do for you. So, it was kind of thinking about just smaller models of living with people and reconnecting as a community?
Anderson: Yeah. It seems like there’s an assumption of a different type of value. And I think anything that is interested in community seems to be interested in community as a value.
Anderson: Is that fair?
Mattingly: Yeah, I think that’s very fair. I guess moving here in 2001, right before September 11th made me feel like I finally had a community and understood what community could be. Before that, I was moving around a lot and I was doing projects that were imagining a future encapsulated in a small bubble, where you were kind of protecting yourself from other people. And it was really a dystopic vision of what was going to happen due to technologies. And I guess I should say communication technologies and people not visiting face to face, for instance.
Anderson: And in 2001 you were thinking about that, before sort of the blob of really big social media?
Mattingly: Yeah. I guess I was just seeing it happen then, and maybe it was because I was here as well and seeing those parallels between what could happen when people pulled together and helped each other. And then also the other side of that, like where technology is really extreme and what that’s doing to people, say in the office I was working in or something like that.
So I think Flock House is trying to embrace what I think community could be and what it is in different spaces, and what there could be more of, right, or I’d like to see more of. Maybe about the different possibilities for looking backwards at some examples of agrarian systems and how they could be adapted for the present for the future; and also looking forwards and thinking about what mobile cities could look like, or something; or a different design for an urban space could look like.
Anderson: We talked about security as being one of the things that can come from a local community, less dependent on a big centralized system. I think a lot of people like that idea. Are there other values to being in community?
Mattingly: Yeah. I guess the nearness to people who can work with you, or who you can work with. What do you think? Are there…
Anderson: I mean, community is a theme that I’m fascinated with. Obviously I think it has a lot of value. Here’s another big theme that’s been coming up on the project. Ideas of progress. And this is one of the things that links the technology conversation with the community conversation, with a lot of other contentions. And I was talking to Alexa Clay about this as well the other day. How do we choose to measure progress? I can think of a stronger sense of community as being a good that in a way is a kind of social progress, even if it’s not necessarily measurable.
Mattingly: Okay. Yeah. What really attracts me about the idea of progresses is thinking about what happens when people put their ideas together who would never meet. So like, we’re talking about communities here, and I’m imagining these communities as more local but also with enough technologies to be global and have a broader base of knowledge, right. And I think that’s really exciting, what people do do together as opposed to alone.
So I think when I’m imagining a progressive future, it definitely has to do with people working together and coming up with new ideas that aren’t necessarily economic or… I don’t know what they are, but I think they’re just ideas that are experienced through multiple minds that are varied from the individual. And I think what’s exciting right now is that we’re, from an artist’s perspective, we’re far away from modernism, where we’re individuals creating perfect things right. And we’re also kind of moving away from postmodernism, where the opposite of that is happening, and we’re kind of working together. And I think that’s really exciting and you know, you never know what’s going to happen.
Anderson: That makes me want to get into a question which sort of ties that and the Flock House again. You know, the Flock House, if we can talk about it as the embodiment of a certain idea of a future that involves community and mobility and sustainability to some extent, and resilience maybe? If those are kind of the ideas of good embodied in that as a thing. Are we going in that direction?
Mattingly: I don’t think they’re really the ideas of good, but I think they’re maybe the ideas of necessity.
Anderson: Ooh. Okay, let’s break that apart. That’s interesting.
Mattingly: Yeah, so the ability to move could be a necessity, right? All the aspects that you just described of the Flock House can just really point to the necessity of surviving in a future that’s really to be determined, of course, but also controlled by large players. I wonder what’s going to happen with housing. I wonder what’s going to happen with more and more people moving to cities everywhere because of globalization and jobs moving to cities. I also think that the future could be a place where people constantly need to move, because of the havoc that we’ve wrecked on the environment. So for instance, as you think that the middle of some country is fine, but it slowly becomes desertified, where the rest of it floods or something like that. I mean, I think that’s pretty much the future I see, is one of more and more ecological and environmental problems, and people trying to survive in them and maybe some people knowing how or having the resources to, but most people not having those resources to.
I do agree that we have infinite creativity as humans and we can always kind of create new materials that will do different things. And we can use our garbage, and we can create a new plastic from that, or something else. Something like that we can always make, for instance, building materials. I don’t know how easily we can always make everything, but maybe I guess it is possible. And why not live in a world that’s sort of like Dune, or inside of a geodesic dome that provides you fresh air.
I mean it’s interesting and scary to think about an Earth that could be completely controlled by humans, but it seems like it’s definitely possible. I could find fun thinking about living under the sea or all the places that humans really haven’t been able to sustain themselves in very well. Like, if we could really get control of that. I mean, it’s definitely a dark future, but I think something that I could embrace if we did go there.
Anderson: So the good, then, is almost survival—
Anderson: —for people without power.
Mattingly: Maybe it’s giving people some kind of power to not be trapped.
Anderson: Right. I mean, if we were to spin that out—and I don’t want to put words into your mouth—but it seems like there’s an egalitarianism in that in the sense that like…look, this isn’t like a level playing field. People need a chance to live in ways that are somewhat under their control.
Mattingly: Exactly. No, I think that’s a very good point, and I think that’s also why in the beginning of the project we were looking at building code to see how we could get around it. Because you don’t want to be called illegal, right? Like, you don’t want your place to get shut down when you’re in it. So you want it to be functional, and you want to be subverting those rules, or getting around those rules
So yeah, there has to be this understanding of the rules that exist, and then how you can playfully break them and get away with breaking them. And that in a way gives you a freedom or power.
Anderson: Do you worry about some sort of collapse? That’s been a theme that some thinkers push pretty hard and other ones just laugh off.
Mattingly: Yeah, I don’t think so. I mean, I don’t… I think that there are enough different potentials and people doing so many different things that a central collapse isn’t going to collapse everything. Like, a central collapse will affect some people more than others, right. And I don’t think people would be helpless. I don’t think we need to collapse, I guess is my point, if we were sort of prepared. I mean, I guess that’s the Flock House again.
Anderson: Right, right. And so that’s I think a nice place to sort of go, “What does that better solution look like so you avoid the collapse?”
Mattingly: Yeah, and it’s like, making things is probably a place to start to avoid that collapse. Like, if we all knew how to make things better, or more things, then we would be less vulnerable to some sort of central collapse. I’d be interested to know what you’ve found out as far as making goes verses using.
Anderson: That’s a theme that I don’t think has been in this project enough, now that you bring it up.
Mattingly: Also, it’s interesting to think of it as political, because of the way that we’re framing it here it almost…making something becomes really political, or—
Mattingly: You’re not using it, but you’re creating it, and you’re sort of getting around those power structures, maybe.
Anderson: Is that your vision of a better future?
Anderson: It is that kind of— I mean, it’s like it’s a really nuts and bolts sort of creative resilience.
Mattingly: Yeah, I kind of see us for sure needing to survive something like that, and having the ability to do so if we’re thinking about it beforehand. So if we’re kind of preemptive as opposed to reactionary then I think the future could be one of barter and sharing, of smaller economic systems, and smaller systems all around. I like the idea of them being connected globally in some way.
Anderson: I’m thinking of an economist I talked to on Bainbridge Island in Washington named David Korten. And he’s really interested in local, but she’s also interested in local plus— You know, he takes it further and he’s interested in like, how do you have these local communities that are environmentally sustainable, but you still get to keep the tech, right? And then other thinkers like a primitivist I spoke to, John Zerzan, are like, “You can’t.” You just can’t have both.
Mattingly: That’s utterly fascinating.
Anderson: And that’s been a big tension in this project, especially for thinkers on the left who are really interested in the local but don’t like to say we may have to back off. I mean, how much centralization do you need to have this recording device here? Can you have a real sustainable local culture with that level of technology?
Mattingly: Yeah. I mean, I think I would have to agree that you really can’t. I mean, it seems like… Here let me just backtrack for a second—
Anderson: Yeah, totally.
Mattingly: I went to a university recently and heard a graduate student give his thesis paper. His subject was the laptop, and he focused on like, how his laptop was made, and if it had caused any deaths in the making of it, and was that his responsibility? And it was an interesting thesis topic, but it also made me think wow, this is really becoming mainstream, these ideas that yeah you’re responsible for what you own. And I think when more and more people grasp that, it won’t make sense to kind of live with those things the way that we have been, especially in the very disposable way that we have been.
Anderson: Which is interesting, to think that like, if you believe that sustainability is important and that part of that is reigning in consumption and being more efficient with using things, and maybe actually saying goodbye to technology, which I think is the hardest thing… How do you sell it to a country that hasn’t gotten the middle class lifestyle yet?
Mattingly: I think there must be a way to… I guess you can think of maybe the US or places like the US as test zones for things that have not worked out. So if you avoid the things that haven’t worked out and then you go to the better things, then it seems like there could be a middle ground where you have some technology and it allows you to do many things, like cell phone, for example, getting around a land line in Africa, or something like that. It seems like there’s a minimal amount of technology that’s probably good for a society today, because we’re already global. So in order to understand what’s going on in the rest of the world, for example, and to— I mean, there’s a perspective or a point of view that we have right now that’s really helpful to people, and it something like that laptop, right? Like, that kid would never really understand where his laptop came from had he not had access—
Anderson: To the laptop.
Mattingly: Yeah, to the laptop. Exactly.
Mattingly: So, had he had access to his genes or whatever, he still wouldn’t know that story, but there’s something about the technology that allowed him to know what was happening.
Anderson: Right. A lot of people associate technology with progress, or technology with something that you’re…not necessarily entitled to but you should have a shot at. Do you think we can sort of have the cultural transition—I almost said maturity—to be able to say, “Well, we’re not going to have it all.”
Mattingly: I think small groups of people could. Overall, I don’t see people able to do that.
Anderson: I asked that because I was thinking of another another guy I spoke to named Joseph Tainter, who’s written this book on the collapse of complex civilizations. He painted a very bleak picture. He really framed it as something you can’t get out of. And so when I asking about that, he said, “I really think the only thing that’s going to make any difference is the price mechanism. You just have to clobber people so hard financially that they change their behavior.” He’s like, you can’t persuade anyone that they will have a more minimalistic— I mean, maybe you can with a couple people, but you can’t say, “Go live in a flock house. Say goodbye to your computer. Enjoy a conversation with your neighbors.” You basically have to say, “No, you can’t afford power.” So then there’s a model where conversation really doesn’t matter. We’re much more mechanical; the agency is taken away in those stories.
Mattingly: Yeah, but I guess there, it seems like they’re very real and unavoidable, right? It’s like Bolivia with water privatization. It’s an immediate need, so your survival instinct sort of kicks in? And you realize conversation isn’t going to be fast enough, maybe. So maybe it has to do with speed, too.
Anderson: So, maybe those are the ones where conversation matters less, because they’re so immediate and visceral. Things blow up if they’re not provided?
Anderson: And then maybe it’s the other stuff. How does the government distribute wealth? You know, who’s doing a somewhat decent job, maybe. That’s approached more through conversation.
Mattingly: But maybe it still has to do with those basic needs, right? And maybe instead of… Hopefully we have a job for those things. Maybe we can get to a point where we can provide those things for ourselves without working for them. Because I think then we’re still in the scary position of being dependent for those basic human needs that yeah, can cause things like big riots or mass destruction, when they could have maybe been avoided if people were able to be more self-sufficient, in a way.
Anderson: Does that mean you’re an optimist about the future?
Mattingly: Yeah. I mean, I think I am optimistic that we’ll survive, that we can survive.
Anderson: That’s kind of a guarded optimism, isn’t it?
Mattingly: Yeah. I mean, I’m not really optimistic about what I think the future will be like. I think it’ll just be harder for more people. But I do think that there’s a way to alleviate that. And I’m optimistic that people will be able to do that and hopefully be more in control of at least themselves.
Aengus Anderson: I’m thinking Mad Max and Beyond Thunderdome, and somehow this conversation has me in that mental space. Beyond Waterpod, beyond Flock House…
Micah Saul: There is such an interesting post-apocalyptic thread through this whole conversation which pokes its head out every once in a while, but it doesn’t… It was really surprising to me to finish listening to it and realize that it was there the whole time. But yeah, This is a really interesting future that she’s painting. It’s decentralized and it’s highly mobile. It’s people running, it seems like, doesn’t it?
Anderson: Yeah, it really does feel like that. And it doesn’t feel like the community is picked up and relocated because of a storm. It feels like the storm hits and everyone’s running—
Anderson: —and they’re running as individuals and they reform— You know, I mean, I think that’s where the flock house is such a good… It’s kind of a metaphor for her vision of the future, you know. Something that gets hit by a wave and splits into a billion pieces, and then reforms again elsewhere. And it’s kind of a scary future. And yet we’ve got another one of these optimists. Another one of these guarded optimists.
Saul: And that sense of optimism carries through the whole thing, as well. Even when she’s talking about potentially incredibly dark futures. She says she’s willing to embrace those dark futures.
Anderson: And what a line that was. I mean, you can guess why I chose to include that in the edit. Because no one else has talked about that, or said anything remotely like embracing a dark future.
Saul: No, exactly. And then what’s really interesting is that there’s sort of two poles in this project, right, around the sort of future she’s talking about. On one hand, you’ve got people that would not view it as that dark, just view it as change and view it as we’re going to make it through that and it’s going to be great.
Anderson: Maybe even Tim Morton, I don’t know.
Saul: That’s an interesting question.
Anderson: We could record an hour-long conversation about that.
Saul: Yeah. Yes we could. So let’s not.
Anderson: So, there are people who can see that future as not being dark. Who would reject its darkness. But then there are other ones, right?
Saul: Right. Then on the flipside, you’ve got your Jan Lundbergs, you’ve got your…Wes Jacksons, certainly your John Zerzans, whoe view that as, “Oh my god. That is horrible. And you have to do everything you can to stop that.”
And then here’s Mary Mattingly, who says, “Wow, that’s…pretty horrible. But you know, I think we can do that.”
Anderson: Like, how does she walk between those two different minefields? It seems like some of it is this sense that even as the world gets harder, even as we become strapped for resources, even as we are in a world in which we have to run and break apart and reform, the essential things that make life worthwhile are good. They’re still there for her, right? The human element, that connectivity, that’s there.
Saul: And if facing it correctly, the personal agency is still there. The self-empowerment can still be there.
Anderson: That opens up something else that I think is really interesting in this. One of the things that I like about Mary is that she is very hard to put into any sort of ideological camp or category. And when you talked about agency, you just got me thinking about the Flock House is such… It’s so…atomized. And it’s also so communal. And her thought seems the same way.
Saul: I agree. I think one of the most interesting things in this conversation for me was the fine line she walks between all of these different seemingly conflicting themes we’ve had throughout the project. Is she community-based? Is she individual-based? Is she central versus local?
Anderson: I mean, it seems like the trajectory of her thought over time has gone from highly concerned with individualism and agency, and has gotten to a greater appreciation of sort of how individuals form into communities, and then what is the community as something more than the sum of its parts?
Anderson: I kind of feel like she takes us on that whole journey, and we see where she is now, in this conversation.
Saul: And in some ways I got the feeling that’s still a journey she’s on. She’s not quite sure, entirely, how to reconcile the more individualist, self-reliant side with the side that believes that there needs to be community.
Anderson: And maybe there is no reconciling, and maybe it’s better if there always… Well, actually we can get a little Wurman connection here. I mean, we can here are forces in balance, perhaps. And maybe that’s one of the things that made this conversation really fun. It felt very very non-dogmatic.
Saul: I totally agree. It felt like a conversation. It certainly didn’t feel like a presentation.
Anderson: But speaking about connections, how about some of the other connections? There’s one with Alexa—
Anderson: —talking about the fringes. There are actually several interesting points of comparison I think between Alexa and Mary’s conversations.
Saul: I agree. The notion of misfits on the fringes of society was the one that struck me the most. Listening to Mary talk about the economies that she envisions popping up around communities of flock houses really made me think about the misfit economies that Alexa was talking about. It made me think that in some ways Alexa believes that we can all learn from the fringes of society? I kind of got the feeling that Mary believes that most of us are already on the fringes of society, and so we can just learn from each other. It wasn’t a learning from the fringes, it was just learning from each other because we’re already on the fringes.
Anderson: Now that you mention that, there’s a really interesting sort of point of reference thing. And it ties back into I think the beginning of Mary’s conversation where she talks about a lot of the questions she asks with her work stems from her pressing needs. Like, where do you live, right? Whereas for Alexa maybe she faces a different set of questions in her day-to-day life, so she wouldn’t perceive herself as on the fringe.
They also have a common solution, which I kind of like. They talk about maker culture, which gets us back to Douglas Rushkoff and makes me think that again, here’s a big thing that we really need to be talking about as we push the project forward.
Saul: Yeah, I think you’re right.
Anderson: Okay, well let’s close this thing out here. But before we go, let’s talk a little bit about the good, with the capitals, The Good. We should have a sound effect that we play for this, but we’re just not that high-budget. But what is The Good. We talked a little earlier, and I was mentioning that I felt that for her a big source of value when she was embracing a dark future came from people. What more can we read into this? I mean, we’re both humanities people. We can read anything into anything.
Saul: I think there were a lot of things she was talking about as good, in the lower case G. And I think that one of the common threads there, so a candidate for The Good (capital G) is decentralization. Decentralization is good when you’re talking about supply chains. It’s good when you’re talking about your living environment. It’s good when you’re talking about knowledge. I mean, in some ways isn’t that what the maker culture is all about, is the decentralization of knowledge?
Anderson: Well that certainly leads to agency. And I think I could say that decentralization was necessary. I could say that agency was good. And I mean, she leaves us on that point. Giving people control over their own lives. Yeah, I feel like creativity and choice. I mean, they’ve come up with Ariel Waldman and with a lot of other people before. Those seem like goods that you achieve through the necessity of decentralization.
Saul: I would buy that.
Anderson: There’s kind of a Whitehead quality here, isn’t there?
Saul: Absolutely. I mean, you’re thinking of that horrible, horrible word she used, aren’t you?
Saul: God. Yeah, that one.
Anderson: I do love to say that.
Saul: You just know how much it hurts me.
Anderson: The global local. The glocal, yeah. And what’s unfortunate is that that is a really gross-sounding word, but it’s actually really useful, right.
Anderson: And I think Mary gets us to that point, too, with that laptop example. It’s something that on one hand is creating this giant centralized system. You know, you need that to create the laptop. But the laptop is also the tool that you use to understand that system. And her question’s sort of like, if we have to say goodbye to some of the tech, how do we keep the tech that lets us be globally connected? And I think again there’s sort of a question of good there. It puts you in a broader conversation, in a way. I mean, it’s the global conversation that leads to the unexpected fusion of lots of different ideas. That seems like a good for her.
Saul: Yeah. And what’s interesting to me is how does that reconcile with her desire for small, hyperdecentralized, local communities? Like, can you have both?
Anderson: So basically, do you end up at a point where what you need pits you against the good?
Saul: Right. Ugh. Seriously, that’s a fucking horrifying thought. That your needs get in the way of your values in a way that’s just irreconcilable.
Anderson: That’s a hard thing for us to accept. Because I think we’ve been wealthy for a long time, and we don’t like the idea of ever being so pushed to the wall where desperate necessity overcomes what you consider good. That really does feel like an apocalypse.
That was Mary Mattingly, recorded in her studio in Brooklyn, New York on November 3, 2012.
Anderson: So thanks for listening. I’m Aengus Anderson.
Saul: And I’m Micah Saul.
This interview at the Conversation web site, with project notes, comments, and taxonomic organization specific to The Conversation.