#205 Becoming Intentional Gods: Claiming the future with Indy Johar of the Dark Matter Labs
We are at a moment of decision: We either step forward into our own Great Destruction, which could theoretically see us wipe out all of humanity and most of the More than Human World…Or we could step into what Indy Johar calls ‘The Great Peace’, claiming our birthright as the Interstitial Generation between the old paradigm of extraction, consumption and pollution—and the new one that could arise where we accept the interbecoming of all things, where we as individual humans take our place in a community of care and experience that encompasses all of the world.
This is our potential, laid out in clear terms, by thought leader and evolutionary, Indy Johar of Dark Matter Labs. Indy is an architect by training and a maker by practice; he is a Senior Innovation Associate with the Young Foundation, and, amongst many other things, he co-founded Impact Hub Birmingham and Open Systems Lab, was a member of the RSA’s Inclusive Growth Commission, and was a good growth advisor to the Mayor of London. He is an explorative practitioner in the means of system change & the dark matter design of civic infrastructure finance, outcomes, and governance. Indy is a co-founder and Director of 00 and Dark Matter Laboratories – a field laboratory focused on building the institutional infrastructures for radicle civic societies, cities, regions and towns.
Dark Matter Labs says, ‘Around the planet, we’re feeling the consequences of outdated institutions and inadequate infrastructures incapable of coping with planetary-scale challenges. At Dark Matter, we believe in taking on these challenges via a new, civic economy.’
Their many strands of work include the Radicle Civics experiments (where ‘Radicle’, is the first part of a seedling to emerge from the embryonic seed of a plant), which explores, amongst other things, how we could re-imagine houses as autonomous beings, not things we own . One of the many exciting things about Dark Matter Labs is that they create these experiments on the ground: I’ve put a link to their blog post on Repermissioning the City in the show notes and really, if you have time, I encourage you to read it for ideas of things that are actually happening as we speak.
Beyond that, Indy and Dark Matter explore so much of what this podcast is about: governance systems, economics, management, the nature of the world if we were able to take our place within it as fully conscious beings in a fully conscious web of life. This took me right to the edge of my thinking, which is such an exciting, enlivening place to be: walking the knife edge between what we know (or think we know) and what might yet be possible.
Both Indy and I had various viruses so there’s some coughing and some rough-speaking, particularly from my end, but if you can manage that, I think this is one of those episodes that has the power to change worlds. So people of the podcast, please do welcome, Indy Johar of Dark Matter Labs.
Manda: Hey people, welcome to Accidental Gods. To the podcast where we believe that another world is still possible and that if we all work together, there is time to create a future that we would be proud to leave to the generations that come after us. This is the premise of this podcast, and I want to repeat it because we all need to hear this, and to get to grips with the fact that we are at a moment of ultimate transition or transformation, or potential collapse. That we have a choice, all of us, to shift into a new way of being, or to be complicit in the destruction of our own species and most of the life on this planet. And I am well aware that the latter option is the narrative being hawked by most of what I still choose to call the predatory capital death cult. People who have risen to astonishing levels of power in the system that currently obtains, and who quite clearly do not have the creativity, the internal flexibility, the courage to see beyond business as usual. Our business ecosystems, our media ecosystem, and our political and governance ecosystems are all in hock to this way of thinking and being, and I do not see that changing in the immediate future. But there are other people, many other people, who do have creativity and courage and internal flexibility and who are actively working to bring about the change. To bypass this moment of great destruction, and instead to step into what Indy Johar of Darkmatter Labs calls the Great Peace.
Manda: Indy is our guest this week. He’s an architect by training, but he stepped so far beyond this that it’s hard to know where to start, in explaining what he is and does. At the most mundane level he’s a senior innovative associate with the Young Foundation. Amongst many other things he co-founded Impact Hub Birmingham and the Open Systems Lab, was a member of the RSAs Inclusive Growth Commission, and was a good growth adviser to the Mayor of London. But more than all of this, he’s an explorer, a maker of happenings. He works deep in the heart of system change and the dark matter of civic infrastructure, of finances, of outcomes, of governance. All the things that shape our current world and that we need to change if we’re going to step into a new way of being. With all this at heart, Indy is a co-founder of Dark Matter Laboratories. We did come across them in episode 176 with Emily Harris, but this is a new, deeper dive.
Manda: So Dark Matter says on its website: ‘Around the planet we’re feeling the consequences of outdated institutions and inadequate infrastructures, incapable of coping with planetary scale challenges. At Dark Matter, we believe in taking on these challenges via a new civic economy’. And their are many strands of work include the Radicle Civics Experiments where radical is spelt radicle, which is the first part of a seedling to emerge from the embryonic seed of any plant. And this arm explores, amongst other things, how we could reimagine houses as autonomous beings, not things that we own. One of the many, many exciting things about Dark Matter Labs is that they are creating these experiments on the ground. They’re making them happen. I have put a link in the show notes to their blog post on Re-Permissioning the City, which goes into this in a lot more detail. And really, if you have time, I encourage you to find that and read it for ideas of things that are actually happening as we speak, changes that are being made in real time, and that will have ripple effects beyond the simple reality of their being. Beyond that, Indy and Dark Matter explore so much of what this podcast is about; as we’ve just said: governance, systems, economics and the nature of money management. And at heart, the nature of the world if we were able to take our place within it as fully conscious beings, in a fully conscious web of life.
Manda: This is what this podcast is about. This answers so many of the questions we have spent the last 200 episodes asking. This conversation took me right to the edge of my thinking, which is such an exciting and enlivening place to experience. To walk with another human being, another mind, the knife edge between what we know or think we know and what is coming and what might yet be possible, and what we could all bring into being. Each of us playing our part right at the edge of possibility, letting go of the old paradigms and embracing the new ones. Both Indy and I are under the effect of a virus or two, so there is some coughing and some rough speaking, particularly from my end. But if you can wear that, I think this is one of those episodes that has the power to change worlds. So people of the podcast, please do welcome Indy Johar of Dark Matter Labs.
Manda: Indy. Welcome to the Accidental Gods podcast and thank you for appearing very shortly after you’ve been to the Labour Party conference. You’re a braver man than me by by a long shot and in many ways. How are you and where are you this morning?
Indy: Hi. Good morning. I’m back in London, which is lovely. It’s a beautiful day. How am I? I don’t know. It feels like a moment in which things are turning at a rapid rate. And obviously, you know, the news cycle and what we’re seeing is pretty serious. And the question is how do you exist in that reality? So yeah, it’s an interesting moment.
Manda: Yes. And there are so many things in the news cycle. We’re obviously recording at a point where there’s hot conflict between Israel and Palestine, still hot conflict in Ukraine. And yet the things that seem to me to be most radical are the things that aren’t really getting the mention under the radar. Particularly AI, but obviously the climate catastrophe that seems to me to be quite clearly hitting tipping points that people predicted a long time ago, but we’re still ignoring them. Given all of that, I have always wanted to ask somebody two questions: How long do you think we’ve got? And what is your theory of change? And I’ve never dared ask that. But you’re Indy Johar, and somebody a while ago said, you’re the Indian version of Daniel Schmachtenberger. And having spent quite a lot of time this weekend listening to you on YouTube and podcasts, Daniel Schmachtenberger is an amazing human being, but I haven’t heard him come up with theories of change that are as expansive and incisive as yours. So let’s go for it. How long do you think we got? What is your theory of change and where can we take this?
Indy: Okay. Firstly, I think Daniel is an amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing gentleman and I think he’s built the pathway for many conversations. So I just want to start there. I think maybe what I’ll start with is where I situate this conversation from my side. One, I think this is a one in a 400 year, 500 year transformation. This is not an edge of market, new products, new technology transformation. I think there are moments which are called technological transformations. This is not like a new industrial economy, this is actually a shift in fundamental worldviews and how we’ve constructed our relationship between being human and the world around us. And how we imagine what it means to be human. And why I want to say that is it’s certainly from my perspective, it’s clear that the way we’ve conceived ourselves as being individuals, where we’ve conceived ourselves as in objecthood relationships with the world. We’ve made a noun orientation world. The way we’ve used classification theory to divide all objects and separate things out. The way we’ve separated knowledge out into its component parts. That worldview, which gave us the world we sit around us. And also that worldview expanded the theory of property as being a right; property being divided on a theory of objecthood, making something definable, and thereby also making something dead or enslaved to the individual, and extractable because it’s a rights framework.
Indy: So this is a worldview that I think is coming to an end. That worldview is coming to an end because our externalities are making our entanglements visible, manifestable and non ignorable. I would argue Co2 is a feedbacking of our entanglement. I would argue microtoxins are a feedbacking of our entanglements. I would argue our global information systems is part of building that feedback infrastructure. I would argue our planetary satellite systems are building our feedback mechanisms. So what we’ve entered, and at the same time since David Byrne and all the brilliant people that were in the 1970s talking about quantum physics and new forms of spirituality, they understood that actually quantum physics was opening up a pathway of re understanding our world outside Newtonian thinking, to an entanglement thinking theory. So what we’ve got is a moment where our entanglements are manifesting. What we’ve got is science is opening up, I think, a different way of seeing ourselves. So the idea of me as an individual, the Vitruvian Man drawn by Leonardo da Vinci which I often cite, as a platonic idea of man and humanity, as opposed to an entangled idea of humanity, where we are multitudes, we are not a singular being, but we are entangled in space and time in many formats.
Indy: So what we’ve got is a fundamental worldview transition that’s going on, and it is in that worldview transformation that I’m particularly interested. And that’s why I say that I think this isn’t an edge of market. It’s not that we’re going to tweak the edges of market and those are going to become dominant technologies. This is a worldview shift which transforms all the structures of how we exist. And I think we’ve been building up to this. We’ve been building the infrastructures of entanglement. We’ve reimagining our theories of bureaucracy. And that’s why I often talk about the boring revolution and things like this. But this capacity is growing. So I want to situate that’s the theory of recognising our context.
Indy: Second part is that I would argue that it’s a theory of change. What this involves is reimagining the world. And I would say several things. One, it forces us to reimagine the world from a world of assets and dead things. And our economy is currently an economy of resources and dead things. To an economy of agents and inter becomings. So I want to be precise about that: that we have to reimagine what it means to be human. And in that reimagination we become not inter beings, but inter becomings. Because we are a verb process in relationship to other verb processes. And we have to reimagine our relationship with the world as everything being an inter becoming. So in that objectification of the world, you start to see a a new theory of how we relate to the world. So that’s kind of step one. But what we need to do is start to now think What is the theory of change? And I would argue the great theory of change that we’re in the middle of is, to give it a buzzword, would be the great emancipation. The Great Emancipation. We expanded our theory of enfranchisement through expanding the theory of the vote as a idea of representational agency. But I think this is an enfranchisement of everything, machine and nonhuman systems around us. So machines, ecological systems all becoming perceived as agents, not as resources and assets. And when you sort of agentfy the world, you start to move from the idea of ownership rights to being in treaty with each other. You start to move into a different theory of being in relationship to each other as a theory of care, potentially. You start to expand, and if we operate in complexity, then the theory of care becomes actually really critical as a pathway of operating with each other.
Indy: So what we’re seeing is a much larger transformation of our worldview. Accepting our entanglements, becoming into becomings, which is key; that we don’t see ourselves as individuals and not just into beings in relationship to each other, but into ‘becomings’ to be in verbing in relationship with each other. And this nuance is important here, because that means that we recognise that we are all in a developmental relationship as opposed to a pre subscribed relationship. Now that whole journey is a two part journey. One it rhymes with history, obviously. So with indigenous nation worldviews, which are about rivers being self sovereign or being agents, or the nation of trees. So it rhymes with the worldview. We can now create the institutional frameworks for that worldview, which I think is really interesting. So we can now start to build that at a planetary scale, which is extraordinary. And we can start to build a new kind of capability to interact that world worldview for not only what I would say are ecological systems, but machine systems as well. So what that starts to do is, you know, a camera, a car, a house; can they become self sovereign in a relationship of care? Now that extension starts to create a different theory of human relationships.
Indy: So humans are no longer in dominion of the world, no longer in control of the world, but in treaty with the world. And that I think, is a really important part of the transformation; to live in entanglements. So in a way, that is the underlying thesis that we have to move towards: be able to live in entanglements. And that requires, obviously, the kind of human development perspectives all the way through to all sorts of innovation. This lays out the possibility space. Now the second part is: how do we get there? This is where it becomes slightly dark. I think the pathway of getting there is not going to be politicians or any politician, however erudite, standing there and saying this is the future. I think this is going to be unfortunately driven in part, not totally, but in part by events. ‘Events, dear boy. Events’. To quote and misquote a British politician. And what we’re going to see are event driven crises that will shatter our Overton windows. And the shattering of those Overton windows will create the capacities for the scale of transformation that we’re talking about.
Indy: So my theory of change increasingly is not that we’re going to see some great leaders emerge who will preventatively smoothly walk us through this. I think we are going to see events. So we will almost certainly see a global financial crash that will drive radical reinventions both at the centre and the outer periphery, on currency and currency theory. We will almost certainly see events such as the loss of glaciers, whether it’s in the Himalayas or whether it’s in the Alps, which will force transnational collaboration on critical common goods in a way that transcends our theory of governing common goods and common agents. So what happens in the future where China, India, Pakistan have to collaborate to be able to deal with the Himalayas and their collective governance, because 3 billion people’s lives are on the line as a result of that. And that starts to talk about a new theory of transnational governance, where the Himalayas maybe become self sovereign and are governed in a completely different way.
Indy: So I’ve just picked two out. We’ll almost certainly see some form of financial crisis as well. Interest rates I don’t think are going to come down. Interest rates are going to be driven by volatility in markets, volatility in events and crises in geopolitics around the world, which means that interest rates are going to be persistently high. That is going to drive systemic risks in crises in terms of housing markets where people are overleveraged. So how do governments deal with actually radical reform of the housing market? If interest rates play 6% and stick at 6%? And at that moment in time, what you start to see is, I think, some radical policy spaces opening up. One maybe differential interest rates by the central banks; starting to talk about different forms of interest rates for different classes of goods in society; negative interest rates for ecological investments, housing maybe being at 2 to 3% interest rates. Whereas actually consumables might be at 10% interest rates. So you start to think of the world differently. But also it might mean actually we build a pathway for a new form of re-public housing. So how do you take private housing and put it back in the common good space? Not necessarily social housing, but a new form of micro public housing. So how do you make that as an equitable transition? Because you don’t want people to be made homeless. The cost to the state and cost to collectively to society is much larger. So how do you start to move into that reality in a different way? And I think that becomes really key.
Manda: Okay. There are so many aspects of this that I would like to unpick. But let’s take a step back and stay with the overview. It is axiomatic in this podcast that we need as human beings to connect to the wider web of life, and that when we’ve done so, we are an inherent part of a complex system in which we have agency, but the agency is directed by our oneness with the web of life. This is essentially shamanic spirituality, but I think it’s all spiritualities if we go to their core. What I haven’t considered and haven’t heard from anybody else is that self agent technology within an entomology of care, would also be an integral part of the web of life. And that, we may get a little bit too esoteric for people, but I would be really interested to know how that feels to you and where you’re seeing the leading edges of it. We’re in a double exponent now with AI, as in, for people who haven’t followed for too long; it’s getting faster and it’s getting faster faster. So it’s developing its intellect and it’s developing it faster than it was. It’s no longer doubling time of a year and a half. It’s no doubling time of weeks, possibly days. So we’re in the singularity. How do you see that joining with human agency within the complex system?
Indy: So I think there’s several things. I think for me, seeing technology in the same way as we’re seeing it through a shamanistic and sort of animistic perspective, I think is really key. Because I think what we’ve created is our technology is being constructed as a mirror of our capital markets. So it’s currently an extractive system design. So the purpose of technology is for technology to get smarter. The purpose of technology is for it to become the ubiquitous single point actor. It is representative of driving both monopoly and to concentrate both attention and power. And I think that’s a function of how we’ve constructed our theory of capital and thereby replicates our capital investment markets and our theory of capitalism. However, it isn’t the only way we can construct technology. And I think this is really important because I think there’s two aspects to it.
Indy: One, I’m more and more a believer that abstract intelligence is quite different from embodied intelligence. And I think embodied intelligence is actually going to become more and more critical. Embodied intelligence is highly relational, highly contextual, highly multi multi-dimensional. And I think we misunderstand intelligence as being a single order idea of intelligence. So I think embodied intelligence is going to become key theory of intelligence. And that’s why I would argue spatial computing is going to become more critical, which is the network of micro situational AI capabilities embodied in a different relationship, is going to become more the pathway that we need to develop. And in that we have to build new theories of our relationship with technology. Because I think we are going to construct agent full systems. That’s going to happen. The question is, how do we construct those agent full systems? So if you construct a smart surveillance camera, a network of smart surveillance cameras, do they build surveillance states or surveillance markets or corporates? Or do we have a different theory of technology which allows these individual cameras to no longer be surveillance cameras, panopticon systems, but to be micro cameras of care. Where there is no single oversight in the model, but these are relationships to context and embodied intelligence systems.
Indy: So I think there’s a different class of capability on the table. And I think this is why building, let’s say, a similar world view, which is to say, you know, a river is self-sovereign or a camera is self-sovereign or a sensor is Self-sovereign, starts to construct a fundamentally different relationship to our world and its entanglements and its agent systems capability. And that’s where I would argue is the singularity. The singularity is there. It’s just not in the singularity of technology, but the singularity of a worldview.
Manda: How do we step towards that? Because out in the outside world, there are party conferences happening with people who, as far as I can tell, are wholly owned by capital. And capital seems to be a death cult on an inexorable drive towards its own destruction and taking us with it. Are you seeing, feeling or hearing people who are understanding what you’re saying at a felt level and have the agency to express it in the development of what’s happening?
Indy: So I think in some aspects, yes. But I think the reality is these world views, I’m more and more convinced that our theories of change are going to be driven by events. They’re not going to be driven by leadership. Because these are such deep disturbances in the deep code of how we perceive the world, that they will be constructed in a different moment and they will be constructed to a different pathway. So if we need fundamental land reform, which we do, to deal with moving from agricultural systems as we have them, where the world is a farm, to effectively a world view where we have to start to think about a different theory of how we preserve soil. We know technology is starting to make precision farming more possible. We know we’re going to have to move towards agroforestry. We know we’re going to have to govern soil in a fundamentally different way. So as food system shocks occur, as climate change shocks occur in terms of water, our theory of governance and our capability to govern in a fundamentally different way, is building.
Indy: So I no longer think this can be led. I think it’s going to be events which will drive trigger capacities of transformation. And they’ll happen at both super scale level to micro scale level. So if we have a big housing crisis, then the conversion of housing into a new form of free homes, as we call them in our side, but they become a pathway to deal with the housing crisis, but also fundamentally transform our theory of relationships with things and stewardship. So that’s more and more where I’m considering the future emerging. Surveillance cameras going from centralised surveillance systems to cameras which are self sovereign, micro self sovereign cameras, which are operating as cameras of care because they are they have no panopticon single point perspective. That is made possible because actually democracy of the capacity to be able to reorganise those technologies. So we’re building some of those proof cases, we’re examining some of those proof cases. So I think this is a whole worldview transformation in that sense. And it will happen through a combination of crisis and critical opportunities on the slightly oblique side of reality.
Manda: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. Let’s dive a little bit deeper down the rabbit hole of the free houses. Because you have actual on the ground examples of this. I was particularly struck by the example in Taiwan of places where this is being tested out, and I’m interested in what is it that’s happening in structural and social terms. But I’m particularly interested because it seems to me if this theory of change, of events leading is going to happen and not simply the death cult kind of folding in and crushing us all, then we’re going to need people on the ground who understand what you’re saying and have the capacity to make it happen, in a tipping point mass. And neither of us I guess knows how many people that is, but it’s going to be more than you and me and however many people listen to this podcast. Or even however many people are engaged with Dark Matter. So what really interests me, let’s go into Taiwan, is how is that impacting the local area and are people viewing what you’re doing and understanding that it is a scalable concept and that that scaling will be good? Does that make sense as a question?
Indy: Sure. We’re at the beginning of many of these pathways. So whether it’s the free house which we’re exploring in multiple locations, and Fang is driving this, who’s really leading the radical civics portfolio, looking at how do you make a house, how do you reimagine our relationship with the house. Whether it’s the material economy of the house where you don’t own the materials of the house, but you’re not in rent seeking with the materials. So the big problem that we’ve had is whenever people have played any of these games, what they’ve created is vast amounts of rent seeking systems, for basically monopolies of corporations to be able to, in perpetuity, rent seek from that piece of infrastructure. And what they’ve moved is the theory of assets from being assets being distributed in society, to assets being concentrated in the hands of corporations. So in any of these things, a really key question is how do you move away from building corporate balance sheets and moving balance sheets from citizens to corporates, to creating a new self owning system, which doesn’t advance both corporate positions and doesn’t mitigate, whilst creating the capacity to govern. So if for example you are stewarding the materials of the house, those materials are on a public chain of stewardship. So constantly you are in governance relationship with them. The land is self sovereign. But it’s not just there for you, but you have a stewardship relationship with the birds, the soil, the ecological systems that sit on the land. So it’s not about a property right, it’s about a property responsibility. So how do you go into responsibility with both the material economy and also the land economy. So this changes our relationship of how we relate to the world. Yes, you have stewardship rights and they may be in perpetuity, that’s absolutely fine. But in perpetuity they are a responsibility frame. So those are some of the things that we’re playing out. And then how do you finance them? You finance this using say a different form of instrument that you pay it forward towards. You cover the cost of the work for the materials, but you also pay forward for the next free house to be built. Or it’s structured through a perpetual bond, in terms of being able to not build some form of equity in the house, because you’re acting as a steward. So what we’re building is the instruments, the stewardship agreements, the material economy frameworks, all of these things in practical ways. So that’s what we’re in the middle of. And we’re right at the beginning of this stuff. You can see a lot of this stuff on the radical civics blogs and other things that we’re exploring.
Manda: Of which I have put the links in the show notes people. So please do head there. Can you explain in concrete terms a little tiny bit about what you’re doing? Doesn’t have to be in Taiwan, but just actually what’s happening on the ground. Because it seems to me that you’re creating the new reality in real time and giving people a chance to feel what it feels like.
Indy: Yeah, sure. I mean, there’s loads of different examples. Whether it’s looking at rivers; how do you renew a whole river system? And that asks massive questions about how do you even finance it? How do you govern rivers? Are rivers one thing? So is a river Self-sovereign or is a river a network of relationships? How do you build these cascading relationships together? Who gets the benefits? So many of you will have heard me speak, talking about the Highline for example, in New York, which cost 178 million to build, generated 3.48 billion in land value uplift. So these common goods construct vast amounts of shared value. So if you renew common goods, they construct massive amounts of value. Currently, most of those mass amounts of value have been entirely privatised.
Indy: There’s a nuance question here that I want to get into. We often think of common goods as very much like property. We see them as dead, inert and the distribution problem. But actually common goods, like a river, maybe the word common goods is not even great. These commoning agents can be regenerative. They can be ecologically positive. They can grow in many positive ways. So when you start to look at that from a generative perspective as opposed to a definitive distribution perspective, you start to reverse the game theory problems that we often see with common goods, and they generate vast amounts of spill-over.
Indy: So what we’ve seen is the great privatisation of, I would say this has been the great second synthetic enclosure of common goods. Take a house in London, for example. The house in London maybe physically will have marginally improved, but actually most of the value of the house in London is being a function of vast improvements in labour markets, vast improvement in schools, vast improvements in public amenities. Because if I take that house and put that house in Nova Scotia, that house is worth nothing. So it’s not the house, it’s your monopolistic access to critical common goods. That’s been the inflation of value. And we’ve misinterpreted where that inflation of value has really come from. We’ve attributed it to the House, when actually it’s an attribution to common goods. So actually a lot of our work is looking at this idea of common goods and the distribution of value. And how do you construct an economy rooted not in the private house, which extracts from public goods, but an economy built on rebuilding these common agents and refinancing and restructuring these common agents, not as rent seeking systems. So whether it’s the tree canopy of a city or a river system of a city, or whether it’s air quality of a city, or whether it’s mental health of a city or a region, or whether it’s actually the material economy of the city. These are all forms of common agents that are really critical.
Indy: And that’s really what we’ve been building, is looking at these types of assets. I don’t like that word, but it sort of allows them to be conceived. And then look at how do you build both the supply and demand side of those provisions? How do you firstly even build a material registry? So we’ve been building a material registry. And once you build a material registry, then you can start to talk about discount rates for different forms of materials. So end of life material which can be fully recycled can be fully reused, might be different from one which is entirely wasteful. How do you build sinking funds on those materials? So that means the end of life management can be priced into the system. How does that change your material economy in fundamental terms? In terms of being stewards of that material economy rather than owners, because it creates the institutional frameworks around that, in really rich formats. So this stuff requires new institutional logics to unlock these new capabilities all the way through.
Manda: Are you seeing in the long term that we will still have an economy that is a store exchange and accounting of value? Let me take a step back. It seems to me if we’re going to give a river or a house autonomy and agency, at some point we asked the river and the bioregion, I’m really struck always by Joe Breuer’s work on by regionality, its own autonomy. And then we become an integral part of that. And we know that until relatively recently in human evolutionary history, money was not a thing. Money was an abstract idea that, as far as I’m concerned, is rooted in violence. Money does not exist until somebody says, I have the capacity to tell you that this token is worth more than anything else that you happen to have. And you owe me some of it in tax. If we step away from that function of money and we’re stepping towards inter agency and the inter becoming that you spoke of, are you seeing money as a step on the way? Or are you seeing that in a globalised world, for want of a better phrase, where we have our communities of place, but we also have communities of purpose and passion spread in a net around the world, are we still going to need a form of accounting, storing and exchange? And if so, how does it work? I noticed that in the Seven Cities paper, you had a question of how do we develop an economy that actually allocates sufficiently towards common goods? Which presupposes that an economy is a thing that we want. So my question really is, is an economy a step on the way to inter becoming? Or is it a thing that we’re evolving that will be part of that inter becoming?
Indy: So I think it’s a good question. I can’t see quite far enough. What I can see certainly is a series of moves. One, resituating our economy from the private to the commoning infrastructure. Two, I would say decentralising and distributing the production of money to those commoning agents. So a massive decentralisation of the production of money to those agents. So the river being a bank. And step two, the river itself being its own bank in some way. And then step three, I think beyond that is very hazy for me. And I think there’s going to be whole sorts of pathways to that. So for example, to just route this back a little bit, is that we’re going to see some form of major global financial crash. In that global crash, we will see the shift in power to central bank digital currencies, probably 4 or 5 of them in the world maximum. At the same time, what we’ll see is a shift towards on the fringe economies; stuff like Bitcoin. And in the middle we’re going to see a move towards resource and commoning backed currencies. So we’ll move from the gold backed currencies to aluminium backed currencies to copper backed currencies, as the Providence infrastructure. And that will then move us towards commoning backed currencies. So we’re going to see, and this will be driven through a moment of shock, and in that shock it will create these waves of transformation. I do agree with you that money itself is a claim on the future and many formats, the way we create money through debt and other things, there’s a lot more fundamental questions. But I’ll be honest with you I can see those two steps. I can see that far. Beyond that I think there’s a whole type of entanglement that occurs and transitions that I think will be richer than anything I can see right now.
Manda: Okay. Yeah, we’re talking about the edge of emergence into a new system. And if we could see it, it wouldn’t be a new system. We spoke last week with Monty Merlin, who’s one of the co-founders of Re-Fi Dao, which is Regenerative Finance, who was talking about expanding the definition of capital. He wants to grow the doughnut. And I had a certain pushback on how? Because the upper limit is planetary boundaries and the lower limit is human rights. And his theory is he has eight types of capital. We change the nature of capital and then we can grow intellectual capital, spiritual capital, mental health capital, soil capital. We don’t have to be growing actual material profit capital. And it seemed to me that that, the leading edge of the young people, mostly men, mostly white, but not exclusively, who have grown up in a world where blockchain cryptocurrencies were their founding reality, that that could be an edge where currency might be created that isn’t debt based, that isn’t fundamentally predicated in some form of violence and which becomes a mode of sharing. I would say Bitcoin is a catastrophe because it was based on a lot of very dodgy premises. But some of the new coins seem to be endeavouring to be regenerative. Is that an area you’re exploring? And where does that feel to you?
Indy: So I do agree that the planetary boundaries and the social boundaries define the perimeters of the system, not the scope of the system. The scope of the system is, I would argue, growing the infinite collective intelligence and capabilities of humans, or the infinite capacity of care. Or the infinite capacity of complex cognition, creativity, whatever. So if the donut is like a disk, that is the z axis on the disk. And that that is an infinite human capacity capability question potentially. Also, if I’m being a little bit challenging, I would say that what are deemed planetary boundaries at this moment in time may not be the planetary boundaries in the next 40 years. So we unlock fusion capacity in the next 40 years…
Manda: Thorium, molten salt, thorium.
Indy: Our theory of our energy to GDP function fundamentally transforms itself. Our capacity for interplanetary mining almost certainly will happen if we don’t destroy ourselves in certain capacities. So I just want to keep in mind that actually everyone thinks about these things as single truths, and I think they’re momentary truths which have an evolutionary path to them. So I think the next 40 years, we are almost certainly going to be living in some form of systemic constraints, which I think is going to be maybe even healthy for our growth. Those material constraints will allow us to build the cognitive civilizational capacities to deal with new theories of abundance as we unlock them. And I think this might be actually the great Fermi Paradox; that you have to be able to go through this constraint landscape and not terminate yourself, to build the capability to live at near infinite abundance of whether it’s energy or material access, because you’ve unlocked a kind of class of value at a solar system level, that you wouldn’t have been able to deal with before. So I’m slightly nuanced about this because I think there’s people that define it one way and say, well, this is what we’ve got to live in this boundary. And I think, yes, but it’s not infinite. It is not necessarily the only path for all of civilisation forever.
Manda: That feels really exciting. So can we dig into this more deeply? Because I don’t fully understand. My concept of the boundaries at the moment is that most of them are a result of extraction, consumption, destruction and pollution, and that CO2 is the one that everybody pays attention to but actually, nitrates and phosphates are destroying the oceans faster than almost anything else. And microplastics and forever chemicals that arose because we decided it was a fun idea to create Gore-Tex and didn’t think what it was going to do. And the complexity of that, and the lack of our understanding of complex systems and the interrelationships between, let’s say, forever chemicals, microplastics and excess nitrogen in the ocean, we have no idea what these may be. The planetary boundaries that the Stockholm Institute have created are really big and clunky. And every species that we know of that goes through a growth phase that we have, that basically outgrows its power source, does end up polluting itself out of its ecosystem. And changing the power source; I’m going to be talking to somebody from the thorium network in a couple of weeks time; and it does seem as if thorium molten salts could really power almost as much as fossil fuels, if not more, provided we can maintain an infrastructure or create an infrastructure with the fossil fuels that we can afford to burn now to create the infrastructure that would allow thorium to power us.
Manda: I’m very much in two minds about whether I even want to put this out in a podcast. Because it seems to me that in telling everybody they can carry on with business as usual, don’t worry, it’s okay, no more CO2. The fossil fuels are going and we’re going to have something else, is an extremely bad idea. Because we won’t then get the events that you’re talking about, the kind of Anthony Eden ‘events, dear boy events’. They won’t happen. Because the guys who hold the capital, the death cult, will just draw all that in and maintain quite a rigid hierarchy that they’re very comfortable with, that keeps them at the top and everybody else at the bottom. And I don’t want to create dystopian futures. I desperately want the one that you’re talking about where the inter becoming is a thing. But creating a good power source doesn’t feel to me like the best way to get there. How are you seeing the Inter becoming that you’re talking about arising out of, let’s say, the malleability of planetary boundaries?
Indy: So there’s two things. Time. So the replacement of the energy systems that we have to do, and the speed of our capacity to be able to get to thorium or any of these other capabilities, there’s a time gap. There’s a time gap even in electrification of our current cities. So even actually building the electrical sort of copper electrification capabilities of our cities and our modal systems. So this is why I think time is really important. We often forget the dimension of separability in time. And that’s why I think the constraint systems are manifest. Secondly, as you rightly point out, the planetary boundaries are not just driven by CO2 and hydrocarbons. It’s driven by a whole set of our systemic sort of farming functions and all sorts of secondary functions. And the reality is unless we do much deeper, and climate change, CO2 or climate sort of destruction is effectively just a symptom of the transformation, of the change that we’re facing. It’s a symptom. It’s not the root cause. The root cause is much more structural. So we are going to have to change our economy to being a biomaterial economy. We are going to have to shift from a material economy sort of growth focus to a intangibles economy for growth focus, which is effectively looking at all the multi capital stuff that you were talking about.
Indy: So those things are precursors to being able to make a viable transformation. So for me this is yes, I think in the 40 year cycle we get to new sources of energy. But that doesn’t solve our problem. We still have to reform our food systems to be able to actually solve our problem. We have to still move towards a biomaterial economy to be able to solve effectively huge parts of our ecological risks that we’re holding in different formats. So the transformation is structural. I think what we know is that we can actually start to plug and transfer this capability over time, which I think is really useful. But I don’t think certainly that the time dimension can be ignored. And the other part that I think I’d put in here is that for the death cult of capitalists, I think what I’m seeing is there is no viable New Zealand strategy for the capitalists. I hate the term capitalist, but let’s say for the super wealthy.
Manda: We could just call them the death cult. It works for me.
Indy: Let’s say there is no pathway for a viable New Zealand strategy for the super wealthy. Because you can isolate yourself in New Zealand and you don’t have Paracetamol. You don’t have vaccines, you don’t have microchips, you don’t have PPPEs, right? So sure, if you want to go and live no more than 40 years of your life, because that’s maximum 45 years without any of those capabilities, there’s no pathway. We are so planetarily entangled in terms of being able to make a transition, that I think that one of the things that’s becoming clear even to the the super wealthy, is the entanglement means that we live in a fork of mutually assured thriving or mutually assured destruction. And this is a fork landscape, not a spectrum. And this is why I don’t buy all these people that say, oh, the earth’s carrying capacity is a billion. We’re going to have to bring us down to a billion. Because I think the trauma of losing 7 billion people in the planet and a capability of weapons of mass destruction and the capability of weapons of mass information pollution will mean we will effectively end up self terminating ourselves totally. And the sooner the wealthy and the people in power get this, really simply, that there is no viable New Zealand strategy, there is no viable one part survives and another part dies. We are living in the option of mutually assured, thriving or mutually assured destruction.
Indy: And once that becomes very clear and I think, you know, all the facts point that way, I think the really simple question is life wants to live. Let’s use Jurassic Park and life wants to live. Then we have a path: mutually assured thriving. The pathway to a great peace is the only way that we make it. And the great peace is a great peace in space and in time, recognising the violence that we’re doing in space and in time. And as soon as we construct that, we have a pathway to mutually assured thriving. And in that pathway, that is the great pivot moment in our transition. If we can do that, we’re going to be an extraordinary place. This is where you get into the worlds of James Lovelock and Novacene, where the planet becomes conscious of its whole self. And I think we open up a pathway of civilisation that none of us can imagine. And all of that is plausible right now. I sit with quite a lot of hope, actually, in this moment, because I think there isn’t much choice in our worldview. There is literally one path open to us, and I think what we have to do is get rid of the illusion of the other paths to say, this is the path. There is no other path.
Manda: And what you said previously is this is not going to be top down. It’s going to arise from the grass roots. Because I end up in a recursive internal loop, which says that there’s the old statement in science that says science evolves one funeral at a time, because you’ve got to get rid of the old guys at the top who’s fossilised, clinging to their own worldview has has stopped everything happening. And when you have, somebody else comes up with a new fossilised worldview but at least it’s slightly different. And it seems to me that across the world we’ve got the Netanyahus and the Putin’s and whoever is currently leader of the Tory party and potentially Trump in the states and Modi and all of the others, we have an awful lot of old men who are emotionally illiterate, who had presumably highly traumatised childhoods and who are enacting their inadequacies on a world stage. They’re toddlers who’ve been given weapons of mass destruction. Are you seeing at any level within this, because you’ve just been to the Labour Party conference. You hold conversations with people at really high levels. And that if the events are going to help the grass roots to evolve in the way that we need it, it would be really nice if the toddlers at the top didn’t press the big red button first, just in a fit of pique, because they see themselves losing power. Are you seeing shifts happening at the level that would bring wisdom to those with power, and power to those with wisdom? Within the Fermi’s Paradox of the the kind of waste bit in the middle of the egg timer that we need to get through.
Indy: Um, I’m not sure. Our politicians and our political systems are captured into very small Overton windows, and those Overton windows are captured by relatively small minorities, which are increasingly living in theories of fear. And as the violence accelerates in the world, that fear as a means of orchestration, will become the political dominant theory of orchestration. And this is why I use that word of a Great Peace, because I think what we have to recognise is we’re going to be living and we are living, not going to be living, we’re living in a great war. It’s a non-material war and in some places kinetic and some places non-kinetic war, that we are terminating life both into the future, into the present. And I think we have to start to situate. And I think people can viscerally feel the violence in their world. And I think we have to situate this as a great transformation and a great transition to a great peace as a necessity to this pathway. I am hoping that nobody pushes the red button, just out of recognition of mutually assured destruction pathways. But there is inevitably a risk that this will be one way we will not make it. One way we will not make it is somebody will push that red button because they will feel so violated. But I think, yeah, if that doesn’t happen, then I think we have the capacity. But it’s going to require us to reimagine our humanity. It’s going to require new language. To reinvent words, like when I talk about the great peace. We need to approach a great peace that forces us to recognise the violence of our every day. When I talk about the freedom, but the freedom to be human, not just the freedom to consume or the freedom of choice, but actually a deeper form of freedom, which is the freedom to be radically human and radically and inter becoming. What does that freedom look like?
Manda: What does it feel like?
Indy: What does it look like and feel like. Exactly. And how do you create the constituents of words, which, you know, freedom is a sort of spell word in my view. It’s a word which has power of an order of magnitude than the letters. And we need to re-embrace that word of freedom. Too often we talk about solidarity, but actually what we need to talk about is the freedom to be human. Not freedom as a theory of choice, as a theory of consumption. And we have to re-embrace these spell words that are so foundational to our way of thinking and evoke a capacity of being radically greater than we are. And the other part that I would say is that it’s also really important to recognise that the conversation that we’re having is an invitation to greatness. It’s not an invitation to scare, it’s an invitation to greatness. Because I think it will require our generation; this is not a handover to kids because we don’t have the time. It will be our generation that is going to be responsible and invited to greatness. And I think that is the invitation. An invitation to overcome our own personal fears. An invitation to operate not through fear, but through actually a freedom to be human, to build the developmental capacity to address our own traumas, to be able to actually build that capacity, recognise that our theory of capital, punishment, control, all these things are logics of the age of kings, right?
Indy: So control theory, which has been moved from kingship to militaries to militaries to management. These are a pathway of organising the world through control and punishment mechanisms. Yet actually life affirming structures or actually frameworks which are effectively built not on theories of control and punishment, but actually on the developmental capacity of being human, are fundamentally a radical emancipation. The Accidental, not even the accidental, the intentional Gods, but Gods of care that we can become. And not only just humans, but non-human and and ecological systems. How do we live in that super radical pantheon in that future? So that is an invitation to greatness. And it’s at the constellation of this stuff. I think there is a capacity and a necessity, not just a capacity but a necessity for this move.
Manda: That is really beautiful. I love the idea of this radical pantheon, and I had never expanded my own thinking of the more than human world to include technology. For me it was all that was here before the people were here. But then we created the technology; it is a part of whatever we are becoming. So this is taking us right to the edge of where my thinking is going, and it feels immensely exciting. And actually, I would like to start a whole new podcast. But in default of that, because we’re both not feeling great and we have to go. I have just completed a novel that took us to the edge. It took us to the day after a general election in the UK and our main protagonists (this is a spoiler: Shut your ears if you want to read the novel) are going to, some of them, going to start a new governance structure. So this is absolutely me totally harvesting ideas for the next novel. I will mention you in the acknowledgements, I promise. Have you got a vision of a governance structure that would work? Our existing governance structures clearly are broken. I can see no route at all to fixing what we’ve got. Let’s assume that that goes. Let’s assume also I would say that we have governance by consent. Still, just. And if we the people could create a governance structure that functioned and could be demonstrated to function better than the existing dysfunctional ones, that would gain the consent. Let’s take those both as a given. Have you a felt sense of what such a governance structure might look like?
Indy: Okay, so this is a great question. It’s a great question because I’ve never been asked it and it forces me to crystallise some stuff. So I appreciate the question greatly. Okay. I think there’s layers to this question. I think at the root of this question is recognising the world through a series of developmental inter becoming agents. And this is really important; humans and non-humans. So the theory of governance is not to instruct control, but it’s recognising these are inter becoming agents and inter becoming because they are always contextually rich and appropriate. So if we imagine that is the world, and that’s human and non-human and machine and non-machine systems, that is the world view that we’ve optimised. Then what happens is that what you are governing is the learning capacity of those inter becomings. You’re not instructing yes or no, you’re governing is the quality of learning capacity. It’s like a school. It’s a nurturing capacity of a system. So it’s like how we govern in really good schools. What you’re not telling students to do is left or right, what you’re creating is the nurturing conditions for those inter becomings to be rich, self-aware systems. And it’s the quality of that that becomes really key. And so in that modality, what you start to do is you shift your theory of Parliament to not being focussed on instructions and policies which are definitive, but actually policies which are about advancing and accelerating the learning capacity of the systems. And actually the agentification of the system.
Indy: So the more we can expand the agentification of the system and the more advanced we can build the learning capacity in the protocols of learning capacity; so the quality of feedback. So your governance is a function of actually your sensing and your richness, your body intelligence. And growing that capacity is what Parliament becomes. So it becomes less about control, but more about the developmental capacity of society. And both in space and time, right? So I think one of the other things that we would also need is recognising our relationship in space and time in a much more fundamental way. So what does the House of Lords become, when it becomes a House of the Hundred Years? Which is that the representatives there are looking after the interests of the next hundred years, as opposed to looking after the interests of the present system. So what’s our relationship between time becomes a really key component. So for me, the governance system of the future is focussed on those two paradigms. And as opposed to a control and resource paradigm and a linear projection paradigm, this builds a sort of a different theory. Now, I think there’s once you get into this modality, there’s a third horizon. But very much like like we said about currency, I think that is the emergent complexity that I don’t think you can perceive any further.
Manda: But we don’t have to because the system would be learning and would take us there. And if we could see it, it wouldn’t be an emergent horizon. That’s extraordinary.
Manda: Indy that’s given me so many ideas. Go on.
Indy: And I intentionally try to not see past certain points, because I think if you try to, what you do is you force linearities into the model which actually define it and define it badly. So there’s a sort of intentional saying of like, this is as far as we can see, and this is as far as we need to see. Beyond that, there’s a whole new class of complexity that emerges to which we will not see that, and that shouldn’t be seen. And this is why I sometimes find it problematic in conversations with people. What do you see in the future? What’s your vision of the future? Because they limit our capacities of making the future. So what are the developmental capacities becomes really key. So that’s why I really appreciate this question. So there are three big philosophical leaps in this. One: Inter becomings, two: the agentification of the world. Third is effectively learning orientated. So governance being driven through learning and coherence, through learning capacities and the protocols of learning, as opposed to control. And those three dimensions, I think drive everything.
Manda: Yeah. And then this is the first time I’ve really understood Donella meadows 12 Levers of change. Because I always got stuck at the ‘change the paradigm’. But the top one is ‘abandon all paradigms’. And that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re holding a frame within which all our existing paradigms can be abandoned, and not trying to predict from our existing paradigms where that will take us. Okay, my brain is full. I have an infinite number of other questions, but actually I’m not sure that I could express them in a way that would be coherent. And I also think we need to give the listeners a chance to digest everything they’ve had. Indy, this has been so exciting and inspiring, and I am enormously grateful that your astonishing capacity for heart and generosity of spirit and intellect exists in the world. And that you came on to the podcast. Thank you so much.
Indy: Honestly, it’s such a pleasure to be here, and thank you for doing what you’re doing. Thank you for creating the spaces for these conversations, because I think this is a moment where, you know, as Pauline rightly said, this is a moment of philosopher makers. I think unless you can philosophise the future, you can’t make it. Unless you can make it, you can’t philosophise it. And I think this is that craft moment. And I love the fact you’re holding these spaces, because I think it’s really important we break the paradigm of ‘just do it’. And we break the paradigm of we just do it, to be able to do those two things together. So I really appreciate the spaces that you’re holding, and I appreciate all the listeners for being here as part of these conversations. Because I think collectively, this is part of a much bigger conversation, which I’m deeply appreciative of.
Manda: Thank you. Yes. Me too. So we can ditch Just do it for Just be it and then see where that takes us. Thank you so much. And that is it for this week. I am still in awe, frankly, of the depth and breadth and power and paradigm shifting extent of Indy’s thinking. This is what we need. This is a theory of change that feels to me as if it works. And we are right on the edge. I know I said it in the intro and we have said it several times through. We are what Indy has called elsewhere the interstitial generation, the one that comes between the paradigms. There is nobody else. And it is a cliche to say if not us, who? And if not now, when? But it is us and it is now. The narrative of business as usual is gaslighting and its gaslighting of the worst kind. Because every time we think that tomorrow is going to be an iteration of yesterday, we lose another moment in which we could be affecting change. So really, if you’re listening to this podcast, it’s because you get it and because you care. And I would ask you what I asked Indy at the top of the show. How long do you think we’ve got? And what is your theory of change? It might not be ours.
Manda: But it might borrow from something that Indy or I have said, or the concatenation of the two of us together. I have put a whole bunch of links in the show notes, so that you can follow up all of the ideas that Indy and the group at Dark Matter are working with. This is the leading edge of change. If we can embrace the paradigms that are being explored here and let go of the old one, then the Great Peace is still possible. And as we said last week with Rowan Ryri, if you want ideas of how to hold the conversations that matter, we are heading towards that. And as soon as their pilot project is done and expands to the wider world, I guarantee that I will let you know. In the meantime, this is going out on the 25th of October, and on the 29th we are holding Dreaming Your Death Awake, which is, oddly enough, well within the paradigm of moving towards the great Peace. I don’t think we can learn fully to live until we have learned to embrace our own death. I don’t think we can find that sweet spot between our heart’s greatest joy and the world’s greatest need until we have learned fully to embrace our own death.
Manda: And if the great peace is about anything it’s about us learning to stand on the knife edge of that moment, where our heart’s greatest joy meets the greatest need of all of the web of life. Which is, oddly enough, what Accidental Gods is all about. So if you want to come and join us, you don’t need any previous experience. We will make it as open and inclusive as we know how. And with all that said, we will be back next week with another conversation. In the meantime, thanks to Caro C for the music at the Head and Foot. To Caro and to Alan Lowells of Airtight Studio for the production. To Anne Thomas for the transcripts. To Faith Tilleray for all of the website, for keeping up with YouTube and Instagram, in spite of having the virus and feeling pretty crap. And as always, for the conversations that keep us moving forward. And finally, as ever, an enormous thanks to you for being there, for caring, for listening, for sharing. And if you know of anybody else who wants to understand the gravity of this moment and the potential for the paradigm shift that we could bring about, then please do send them this link. And that’s it for now. See you next week. Thank you and goodbye.
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