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Still Talking About the Future at the WELL

The conversation at the WELL on the state of the future is still going, and will continue through the 28th. Jon Lebkowsky is the host of the discussion, taking on a role similar to the one he has with Bruce Sterling's State of the World discussion: provocateur, ringleader, and catalyst. My turn on stage was Jon's suggestion, for which I am massively grateful. [Worldchanging readers will recognize Jon as one of the very first non-me/Alex writers for the site, and folks who have been online since before the web will recognize Jon from Fringeware, Mondo2000, and pre-web bOING bOING.]

Here's my most recent post to the discussion, along with Jon's prompting question:

inkwell.vue 460: Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
#30 of 31: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 17 Jan 2013 (03:07 PM)
Climate and poverty are wicked problems, it seems to me - hard if not impossible to solve. What's the best way to approach those problems, vs the ones that come in smaller, neater boxes?

inkwell.vue 460: Jamais Cascio - Open the Future
#31 of 31: Jamais Cascio (jamaiscascio) Fri 18 Jan 2013 (11:05 AM)

What makes climate and poverty wicked problems is that they're complex -- complicated + interconnected with other systems -- *and* that they're attached at the root to fundamental political-economic power structures. That is, altering the status quo of climate & poverty will upset power balances; those with the power who stand to lose it will use every bit of that power to hang onto it.

So what do we know that can successfully attack a complex system with a great deal of defensive power?

Viruses. We have to think like a virus.

[Recognizing that viruses aren't even alive, at least according to some definitions of life, so yes, thinking isn't what they *really* do. But go with it.]

A retro-virus, to be precise. We need to figure out how to get in, adapt, and rewrite the system. A blunt attack would get shut down quickly; we have to be able to simultaneously weaken the system and redirect defensive resources in a way that makes the system think that it's still working. We need to be able to turn the system against itself.

Admittedly, holding high the banner of "we're like a virally-induced auto-immune disorder" isn't going to bring in a lot of money and recruits, but it is a good analogy for the strategy I think is likely to work best.

Think like a virus.

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