We've constructed our three pillars to support us in taking back the web, but what is the link that will allow all three of them to function as one, coherent foundation for a more equitably connected society? The answer harks all the way back to our discussion of the play of pattern: humility.How does this fit into Kernel?¶
Our aim with this last part of the module is to search for a new humility; to search for the kind of attitude which will allow a greater degree of clarity in our intentions; more sustainable kinds of personal freedom; and the sort of openness to old-new ideas which can help us realise the original dream of a world wide web of informed light.
"It is my profound belief that there is only one way [for our conscience to catch up to our reason]: we must divest ourselves of our egotistical anthropocentrism, our habit of seeing ourselves as masters of the universe who can do whatever occurs to us. We must discover a new respect for what transcends us."
What does transcend us? If we play with this pattern of words, one potential answer is that what transcends us is our foundation and root. It is in our common ground that one can discover what is beyond 'me'; that which is shared with and by all. The word "humility" - just as “humanity” - comes to us from the Latin humilis, meaning 'on the ground' and humus, meaning 'earth'. In particular, it is the top layer of earth in which living matter decays, producing the nutrients to birth new life; the rich layer of soil and compost from which the forest regenerates itself.
Humility is the ground of reverence, because it means to see others as uniquely themselves and yet no different from you. We all share the same soil; we are all nourished and sustained by what we hold in common. In weighing the ego against that which transcends it, one comes to know that the source of life is the same in all beings. Living this, one does not seek the superficial humility of seeming small and lowly: one participates whole-heartedly in this singular life, branching up and out to hold more light so that one can cycle more nutrients through our shared roots.Brief¶
"The world is now enmeshed in webs of telecommunication networks consisting of millions of tiny threads, or capillaries, that not only transmit information of all kinds at lightning speed, but also convey integrated models of social, political and economic behavior. They are conduits for legal norms, as well as for billions and billions of dollars crisscrossing the world while remaining invisible even to those who deal directly with them."
What is it that blockchains actually do, if not make the invisible flows of value visible again? While privacy, and the very real need we have for technologies which preserve it, is beyond the scope of this brief - it's worth noting that public, verifiable and auditable flows of value are exactly what we need to engender more empathy.
We can ascertain that our money gets put to the proper use, incentivising us to give more. We can encode economic ideals which encourage competition to be more kind, rather than to win at all costs. We can make visible the best parts of our humanity, rather than hiding the economics so as to race to the bottom of our brain stems. In short, we can engage in what Havel so poetically calls the art of the impossible.
"It is a challenge to this civilization to start understanding itself as a multicultural and a multipolar civilization, whose meaning lies not in undermining the individuality of different spheres of culture and civilization but in allowing them to be more completely themselves."
This is the whole secret, really. Personal freedom of expression - where money is speech - tied into a conscious, encoded set of constraints which incentivize optimal collective resource allocation can enable individuals to build sustainable, valuable communities.
"I have not lost hope because I am persuaded again and again that, lying dormant in the deepest roots of most, if not all, cultures there is an essential similarity, something that could be made if the will to do so existed – a genuinely unifying starting point for that new code of human co-existence that would be firmly anchored in the great diversity of human traditions."
Recall Vannevar Bush - the whole story revolves around how we collect, store, and consult our shared record. If we can do so collaboratively and in ways which use the differences in our 'trails' to understand that which is essentially similar, then there will always be cause for hope.
Prompt: Hope is a unifying starting point, for it allows us to navigate diversity without forgetting what lies at the root of all cultures: _________ __________.
In her blog post, Maria Popova suggests that "any real movement toward healing the ruptures of our natural interconnectedness lies not in reverting to ancient religions but in integrating the achievements of reason with the core values of the human spirit." And she goes on to cite Havel:
"Only a dreamer can believe that the solution lies in curtailing the progress of civilization in some way or other. The main task in the coming era is something else: a radical renewal of our sense of responsibility. Our conscience must catch up to our reason, otherwise we are lost."
A long section on the role of politicians follows which might not seem relevant to the goals of this course—one of which could be read as removing entirely the need for politicians, given their abject failure across the globe to live up to Havel's standards. However, politics is implicit in any interaction between human beings, and the tools we're building contain overtly political statements, so Havel's claim that the responsibility of politicians is "to assume their share of responsibility for the long-range prospects of our world and thus to set an example for the public in whose sight they work" is, actually, directly relevant to the technicians of a new web.
"After all, politics is a matter of servicing the community, which means that it is morality in practice [...] Pride is precisely what will lead the world to hell. I am suggesting an alternative: humbly accepting our responsibility for the world [...]
"I have been given to understand how small this world is and how it torments itself with countless things it need not torment itself with if people could find within themselves a little more courage, a little more hope, a little more responsibility, a little more mutual understanding and love."
Prompt: The task of our era is a radical renewal of what?
Our sense of responsibility.
"Fully understanding who we are requires the realization that we are part of the earth, the soil, the humus, to which we will return [...] As we engage others in our community, be they refugees or immigrants, people who are different in race or class or political persuasion, or persons of a different faith or of no faith, let us remember we have all come from this same soil. We are called to recognize this with humility."