30 Nov 2014

The End of a Month of Daily Publishing & Loose Ends

in Commitment, Publishing, Writing

To Do ListSo it’s the end of a month of daily writing and posting… I’ve already posted some reflections about what I’ve learned from the process, and although I have a number of partially written posts I could tackle to post tonight, I find that instead I want to talk about what’s next.

Although there’s certainly been some value in the practice of daily posting, I fear I’m compromising quality for frequency.  I’m tempted to continue with a daily writing practice, and trying to make sure I have time structured for that. However, I’m not so sure I want to post from that writing on a daily basis.

For me there’s a bit of a tension between writing freely and quickly, and writing something ready to be shared. I want to keep a flow of free writing, but then come back and edit it for publication. And I’m game to commit to publishing weekly, and I’d like to post even a few times a week, but with only the “promise” for once a week.  That certainly feels quite doable at the moment since I just managed to do it 7 times per week for the past 30 days.

29 Nov 2014

Building Meaning through Semantic Alternation

in Ceptr, Design Principles, Meaning, Semantics, Structure

In designing Ceptr we’ve discovered a pattern in how systems build meaning. It’s likely that someone else has already written about this, but we haven’t found it, so we don’t know what anyone else calls it. We’re calling it Semantic Alternation.

Something has meaning or significance in a particular context. This object (a physical structure) is footstool when in front of the easy chair, a table when holding the chess board between two chairs, and when we’re low on seating for an event and put it at the end of the dining table, it’s a chair. (See more pictures below)

Meaning is not fixed and independent; it is fluid and bound to a context.

28 Nov 2014

Today's writing update

in News

News UpdateI got some writing time in today on editing the Social Flows Chapter, the Ceptr Apocalypse, and currency design materials preparation for the Currency Design Training I'm leading next week with Earth Benign in Austin, TX.  So, I don't think I'm going to force an ad hoc post on this blog tonight. Instead, I'm working on extending the incomplete ending of last night's post on Pervasive Consciousness and Language to get it into better sense-making shape.

There's just a couple days left of November for my daily posting commitment. I don't know that I'll keep this up beyond November, but I'd like to do something that has me posting with high regularity.

27 Nov 2014

The Pervasiveness of Consciousness and Language

in Consciousness, DNA, Evolution, Meaning, Writing

The word “atom” means indivisible in the original Greek. It was supposed to be the smallest indivisible object. “Object” meaning: tangible thing put before the senses. Atoms were supposed to be the smallest little LEGO blocks out of which everything was built. Western reductive materialism is largely predicated on seeing the world this way: A bunch of passive objects bouncing off of each other, except for us. Humans with sentience. Somehow we rose above the random chemical reactions of Universe to become intelligent. Now it is our right to arrange these LEGOs however we please (whether a God-given right according to the creationists or Sentience-given according to the scientists).

Does that story start to sound a bit thin when stated that plainly?

Prevailing scientific models no longer see atoms as indivisible objects, but rather a markedly complex system of interacting wavicles, forces, fields, and probability densities (wavicles = wave-particles which simultaneously have the properties of a wave and a particle).

We gave up indivisibility a long time ago. The current Wikipedia entry (excerpted below) about subatomic particle lists 100 of them without even getting far into anti-matter and anti-particles:

26 Nov 2014

Ceptr Design: Receptive Capacity Breakthrough

in Ceptr, Design, Language, Receptive Capacity

[This is an excerpt from the current draft of the Ceptr Revelation that I want to reference in other blog posts.]

Connectivity Blue painting from UniversalUV.comOne of our big breakthroughs in our system design came when we were looking at how to maximize composability. In contrast to our foray into XGFL, we wanted it to be easy for everything to be functionally mashed together.

We were talking about language and how amazingly composable it is. How, from a traditional computer science perspective of starting with ontological units, the conversation we were having was all constructed out of a couple dozen phonemes, which we used to construct word parts, and in turn constructed words, then phrases, then sentences, then narratives.

This way of thinking seems completely valid – even obvious. However, in another way, it is also completely wrong.

25 Nov 2014

Living in Community

in Commonwealth, Deep Wealth, Intentional Community, Lifestyle, Social Contracts

Youth sitting in a tight circle with their feet together.I’ve pretty much always lived in community. Except for when living in my camper or a tent, I’ve never really had a home to myself, I’ve always had family, community, roommates, housemates, or some variant like that.

In fact, there are only brief moments that I grasp the allure of the solitude of living alone. I experience it when I go out in nature, or want to have large windows of uninterrupted time to focus, create or work. But as a lifestyle, there feels like a certain kind of poverty to living alone.

It is my experience, that true wealth is not a function of the amount of stuff you can cram into your house, or the quality of that stuff, or having a big number in your bank account in case you need some of that stuff. True wealth, or maybe I should say Deep Wealth, is a function of relationships.

24 Nov 2014

Building with the Earth

in Building, Campus, Intentional Community

A couple weeks ago, I started thinking about assembling a campus for Emerging Leader Labs, Agile Learning Centers, MetaCurrency and various other cool projects. I was looking at a site with a lot of facilities (127 bedrooms (sleeps 400), conference center commercial kitchen with 200 person dining room, etc.) and thinking about the projects we’d want to have around to retrofit these buildings to be energy efficient and maintainable.

I started thinking about what it would take to just build a campus that way to start with and it seemed like it would take a ridiculous long time with ridiculous expense… But the notion kind of haunted me.


I started looking into Compressed Earth Blocks which can typically be made from dirt right on site, are stronger than the specs for concrete block, have open source plans for a block-maker, etc. It started to look like for the cost of a few thousand dollars, we could make the structure of buildings from merely what is already on site and free. When structured correctly, walls can be super-insulated and built without mortar or cement.

That set me to thinking about the roof framing and the possibilities of a portable glulam machine which might make beams from scrap wood & brush cleared from the site as well.

Suddenly, the notion of building a campus started seeming more feasible.

23 Nov 2014

What I’m Learning from Publishing Daily

in Ceptr, Productivity Hacks, Reflections, Writing

News Update

  1. I rarely get something written, edited and posted before the last half-hour of the day.  The deadline really works for me. It also means I pretty much have to make sure I have a good block of time available between 10pm and midnight every night. That sometimes works, but I don’t think I’m committed to having my permanent life schedule revolve around it.
  2. The commitment to publish daily has sometimes compromised the quality of what I publish. I put some things out half-baked. I don’t get “credit” for writing I do that doesn’t get published. (Although, it is sometimes a head-start for another day.)
  3. I generally like having written… even if I often avoid writing in advance.
22 Nov 2014

Answers are Truly no Better than Questions

in Consulting, Design, Design Principles, Education

Or stated more clearly -- the answers you have are limited to the quality of the questions you asked.

This is a way bigger deal than we think.

You see… Our culture, our institutions, and our educational system all teach us that it’s very important to have the right answers. The people with the right answers are the powerful ones.

Well, there’s a big hitch in that equation. Having the right answers to stupid questions is the same as having stupid answers.

21 Nov 2014

Designing Social Flows - Chapter 6 on Designing Incentives

in Collective Intelligence, Culture, Currencies, Currency Design, Design Principles, Social DNA

[This is an original / pre-edit draft submission for a book on Designing for Social Flows. It is being curated by Jean Russel and Herman Wagter collecting pieces from thought leaders in the field. I will edit this to link to the book once it is published.]]

Social Network DiagramBecoming a Culture Hacker

When I learned that building things alone is just not as interesting as collaborative creation, community became my canvas for building new things. In the mid-1990s, this surfaced as a calling to create “community at WORK together.” So I started a company with some friends with only a commitment to build co-creative magic. By ‘only,’ I mean we had no real business experience, no business plan, no revenue model, no product and no clear idea of what value we had to offer. But we had plenty of lofty ideals about how we wanted to build community, relate to each other, and work together.

We were extremely successful at building community, and surprisingly, it turned out we even did fairly well as a business. We found ourselves as an Internet company, growing quickly in the midst of the dot-com-boom. We were a self-organizing company, structured such that people did not have managers (only projects did) and growing like that presented us with a worthy challenge. How do you build an inspiring community of friends, peers and collaborators, yet still ensure the accountability, reliability and results needed for everyone to take home a paycheck with no management or supervisors?

20 Nov 2014

Hacking my Productivity

in Design, Flow, Kanban, Learning Cycles, Personal, Productivity Hacks

I just responded to Tomis' post in his Agile Learning Center blog about how his time and work is structured. It's a part of his own practice in the Learning Cycle we talk about in ALCs (Intend --> Create --> Reflect --> Share).  So he's reflecting on his work and sharing what he's seeing so others can learn from it and be connected to him in his process.

I'm also trying to tune my work practices a bit, and have a new hack that I just responded to him about, so following his lead, I'm also going to share it here.  Besides, I need a place I can put the actual image. :)

[ === Comment Posted in Tomis' Blog ===]

Kanban Backlog Prioritization Hack

It's great to see your explorations in applying ALC principles to your own work. It's so critical that the students see us authentically e
ngaging in the same kinds of processes that they are.
I've been exploring some of this for my work recently too.  I'm trying a 2x2-dimensional hack on the backlog in my main kanban to help me organize/prioritize my time and tasks (I know... you're using Trello, I'm still using mini-stickies on one of our folding mag-white boards).

19 Nov 2014

The Laws of Thermodynamics Reinterpreted

in Commonwealth, Currencies, Design Principles, Evolution, Flows, Generosity Economy, Paradox, Thermodynamics, Upward Spirals

Let's do a quick review of principles of thermodynamics for those who may be rusty. Remember, there are many different ways of precisely stating the Laws. I'm paraphrasing to convey basic meaning and context.

  1. The First Law is about the conservation of matter and energy. They can be neither created nor destroyed, but can change form.
  2. The Second Law is about entropy or energy dispersal. Whenever you use energy to do some work, or whenever energy is converted from one form to another, some of that energy is lost (dissipates as heat) in the process. 

These "laws" are understood to have been universally empirically validated. But mostly they are interpreted in a fairly restrictive sense to mean things like: the laws prove that perpetual motion machines (of the first and second class) are impossible.

Having spent so many years looking at the world through the lens of currencies (current-sees), I have to admit, it's hard not to also see these Laws through that lens. I'm used to seeing, and using currencies to help groups collectively see, system behaviors that emerge from making seemingly small, and simple decisions about flows which over time create huge changes in direction. For example, the seemingly small rule of issuing money as debt which bears interest has massive consequences on the large scale pattern of the economy (forcing economic growth to stave off currency collapse, creating artificial scarcity and competition between people, consistent wealth transfer to those who already have it, etc.)

18 Nov 2014

The Unfolding Story of a Life-Affirming Economy

in Commonwealth, Currencies, Gift Economies, Living Systems, MetaCurrency

Video from a TEDx talk from one of our lovely MetaCurrency leaders was just released. It's rather beautiful. Please take a few minutes to soak it in.

17 Nov 2014

Currency Design Training Materials

in Currencies, Currency Design

The combination of the blog post about designing reputation currencies and a conference call with the Earth Benign team to plan for upcoming currency design workshopping with their team had me working on documenting more currency design stuff today.  Unfortunately, the pieces are still scattered about in multiple documents and need to be unified into something more publishable.

Currency Token Life-CycleI'm re-publishing one cool thing right now, though - a map of the currency design decision space (according my 2008 thinking)

One of the things I encountered as I tried communicating with and working with people in the alternative currency space is that there was a lot of heated and emotional argument about fairly minor technicalities. Most people in the space focused on just a couple factors in currency design and seemed to ignore the whole rest of the decision landscape completely. This was my attempt to open up that landscape to everyone and hopefully move toward some shared language instead of getting tripped up over minor semantic differences.

FYI, the two things everyone normally focuses on is ISSUANCE and INTEREST. Who gets to issue the currency and how (e.g. bankers as debt vs. all participants as mutual credit) and do negative or positive balances accrue interest. 

16 Nov 2014

Returning from NYC

in News, Personal

I went down to NYC for the weekend to spend some time with Timothy. It was good to get some time with him, although we did spend a bunch of that time watching episodes of Psyche. :) I drove Sarah's girls (Lily, Georgia & Ruby) down with me and brought them back too. That made the drive a lot more fun.

On the way down, I swung by the Retreat Center that I'm entertaining notions of acquiring as a campus for all these world-changing projects. It was good to get a glimpse, but I haven't arrived at complete clarity about moving forward with that approach yet.

15 Nov 2014

Reputation is Orthogonal to Exchange

in Currencies, Currency Design, Exchange, Gift Economies, Reputation

It feels like it's been a long time since I've posted about any of the principles of currency design that I've discovered in designing, building and launching currencies over the past 10 – 20 years.

This one seems worth specific mention, since it seems like such a frighteningly common mistake that everyone makes as they start to break out of the old school money model just a little bit.

It's tempting to blame Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom for setting this precedent in his depiction of Whuffie. I appreciate that he was at least creating a post-scarcity / post-monetary vision. But I don't think he started this problem, it’s just that many people fall prey to the same pattern of thinking because it's like the money we know.

Here’s the crux of it. Reputation currencies do NOT operate the same way as monetary currencies. Period.

14 Nov 2014

I am a Strange Loop. You’re a Strange Loop. Wouldn’t Ceptr likely be Strange Loop too?

in Ceptr, Evolution, Feedback Loops, Paradox, Patterns

Douglas Hofstadter, in Godel, Escher, Bach and I am a Strange Loop, weaves a pretty compelling tail of how mind and consciousness emerge from self-referential systems configured in a kind of “strange loop.”  Our consciousness or possibly all consciousness may emerge from this sort of feedback loop with strange interplay between levels.

From a very early point in our MetaCurrency work we identified an underlying pattern of co-emergence and co-creation that seems make for very interesting bootstrapping dynamics – the ability for complexity to emerge from simplicity. In our internal shorthand, we refer to this as “two hands writing” in reference to M.C. Escher’s vivid illustration of this principle.

13 Nov 2014

Fantasies, Dreams, Harebrained Schemes

in Agile Learning Centers, Collective Intelligence, ecovillages, Emerging Leader Labs, Flow, Gift Economies, Magic, MetaCurrency

[Note: this is not the topic I said I would blog about as I ended yesterday’s post.]

Okay… I’ll admit it.  I’ve had some pretty harebrained schemes. 

Abnormal. Uncomfortable. Ridiculous. Unreasonable. Outrageous, even.

Of course, most of the ones that I actually took action on have worked.  About the others, we will probably never know.

I’m committed to maintain some spark of unjaded idealism and allowing myself to dream big.  I have some crazy, big projects in the works: building eco-villages and inspiring and nourishing communities, making it possible for myself and others to live from our passions instead of from monetary-based survival, transforming education, business, and human collective intelligence...

But it’s tricky navigating the waters between deep rooted dreams and harebrained schemes, and making sure that I don’t get waylaid by flaky fantasies.

12 Nov 2014

Magical Power Objects and Sociopaths

in Deep Wealth, Greed, Magic, Money, Power

Fantastical visions of special objects which grant unlimited power seem to hold a compelling place in the human mythos. The Book of Thoth. Zeus’ thunderbolt. The names of God. The Ring of Gyges/Odin/ Solomon/Sauron. The genie in the lamp. The Spear of Destiny. The magic wand. The Holy Grail. The alchemist’s stone.Genie Lamp

The myths typically warn us about the dangers of pursuing power objects. The lesson usually involves undesirable consequences to the fixated pursuer, or accidental consequences to the world or at least their loved ones.  Yet the pursuer continues, ignoring the damage they cause.

The stories point to a deep pathological weakness in humans – the temptation of magical power. Think of how nice it sounds for you to be able to magically summon your heart’s desires without concern for the consequences. I mean, what real consequences could there be? It’s magic, right?  “Poof! I have whatever I want.”

These stories are not all fictional. In many ways, the conquistador’s pursuit of gold during the period of Spanish exploration, was this kind of thing. The Nazi’s pursuit of supernatural weapons. The modern investment banker’s pursuit of money.

Yes.  That’s right.  I said money.

11 Nov 2014

Arriving to Where you Love (Freedom vs. Agency)

in Agency, Ceptr, Collective Intelligence, Decentralization, Freedom, Social DNA

A friend was trying to engage me in a political discussion. This hadn't particularly gone well between us in the past, so I was wading in a bit reluctantly. 

I forget exactly what I said that provoked this response in him, maybe discussing some policy currently in consideration by the legislature, and he blurted: “Don’t you see? Less government is better government! Every law they make impinges on my freedom! That’s just how it works! That’s how it always works! The very nature of a law is a kind of restriction, so the fewer we have, the better off we are.”

I said: “I think you and I see freedom very differently. I can see why you say that any law restricts your freedom, but there are times that restricting freedom actually increases our agency. And what I’m committed to is maximizing agency, not freedom.”

Slideshow credits: Starlings over Gretna (Walter Baxter) / CC BY-SA 2.0 & Marshes pattern (Franco Folini) / CC BY-SA 2.0