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Nine Theses

Throughout the six weeks leading up to The Gathering we will be sharing some of our vision for a wiser, weller world. This will includes pieces by Art Earth Tech Institute members Rufus Pollock and Liam Kavanagh on topics like “The Way We Live Now” and “Sketches of a Future Society”.

We want to create an ecosystem and culture in which we can transform both production and our spiritual being. We take from ancient wisdom and apply it to our contemporary age. We take from modern production and use it to support ourselves. With these Nine Theses we aim to show the principles on which such a way of living is possible.

The Nine Theses

  1. Things are not right – we need to develop spiritually as human beings.
  2. Our systems of production contribute to this dislocation and a way of being that is self-attached, competitive and exclusionary.
  3. We do not wish to live apart from our society but wish to engage and, ultimately, transform it. At the same time we must compete with the current dominant paradigm and have to provide food, shelter and healthcare at a comparable standard. We want to be attractive beyond the “passionate, committed few” and must demonstrate clearly to the vast majority who are uncommitted (at least initially!) that “we have our sh** together” – if we offer dried bread and unheated monastery cells we will not even get the “weekend visit”.
  4. Our state of extraordinary abundance is also relevant here. Basic – and often more than basic – needs are increasingly taken care of for a good proportion of earth’s population. The technology and resources needed to produce that baseline are lower. This creates surplus of time and energy for other things. It also makes the material relatively less important – when you are starving your only thought can be for food but when are bellies are full are attention can be engaged with these other matters. [Aside: spiritual traditions like Buddhism are, of course, relevant for all situations including those of poverty and material deprivation. However, most people struggle with that.]
  5. New digital technologies give renewed force to alternate paradigms of living, and most importantly, production. In particular, ones built around sharing and collaboration rather than exclusion and control. Furthermore, more than simply allowing these different modes, we believe these different modes are more productive in the context of the old paradigm – i.e. they can produce “more” digital goods more efficiently, effectively and faster. These technologies are a highly generative alternative that provide both material space and sustainability and have the potential to align with right action and right livelihood. Put simply: the technology and the way of being align and this model is better as measured by the old standards. More productive in simple P&L and more productive “spiritually”. [1]
  6. But we are in competition with the old paradigm. We also have to recognize that the old paradigm creates “its own environment”, enmeshing us in consumerism, competition and craving. If we are at all successful, there will be “interests” – individual and organizational – in the old paradigm that will oppose us.
  7. We must also avoid being “starry-eyed”. We must reflect on the lessons of history and the many failed utopias. Clear paths to well-being have been set out for thousands of years yet they are not followed by most of us. What we create in our lives and our external environment often nourish craving and suffering rather than wellbeing and awakening. We must avoid the association of “alternative” approaches to living with laxity, sensual indulgence, and puerile anarcho-rebelliousness and self-satsifying righteous critiques of the “system’. We will be disciplined, reliable, respectful, kind.
  8. A key difference with many other utopian experiments focused on the structures of production and organization is that we recognize that alternate methods of production or organization are not enough. We will need a shared “spiritual” and ethical practices, we will need to combine transformation of our being with transformation of social relations and transformation of production.
  9. We therefore seek to marry the possibilities of abundance and the digital revolution with deep spiritual truth and traditions in pursuit of the transformation of our societies and ourselves.

Summary: we are marrying the digital revolution with a deep spiritual truth and tradition in pursuit of transforming our societies. Both parts are needed: we want to break out of the spiritual “ghetto” and transform broad swathes of society. To do that we have to transform methods of production and organization. The digital provides the means. At the same time, the real transformation is in our natures. Moreover, without the anchor of a deep spiritual tradition, we will only achieve superficial and unreliable change and have the constant risk of dissolution and co-optation.

[1] There is also the fact of AI: we live in a world where it is possible, in fact probable, that we will create an AI in our lifetime. It is imperative that we shape the creation and upbringing of this new being like based on the best spiritual and ethical traditions we have to offer, in particular, we would want this new being to have a “buddha mindset” of loving kindness to all beings.

By Rufus Pollock

Co-founder of Life Itself. Pragmatic Utopian.

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