A Week’s Links January 24

What’s blowing my hair back? See below. 

  • Internal Family Systems came on my radar when Paula recommended it to me. Tim Ferris has a good interview with the progenitor, Richard Schwartz. I’m diving into his book Introduction to Family Systems.
    • Why it’s relevant: I find this practice related to both Shamanic healing and complexity science by relating parts to wholes and the dynamics between them. The method resonates in that I have certainly said “a part of me wants X and a part of feels Y”. Good first-and-second line work here. I think it can be harnessed as a good rhetorical tool and may be one method of inching people towards embodying opposing ideas. “I know a part of you is mad as hell…what might the other parts believe about X…”
  •  A video of Dr. Simone Gold came onto my radar where she advocates for hydroxychloroquine and against the new Sars-COV-2 vaccines. It was great sense-making practice to debunk her ideas and spot the cognitive biases she employs amidst her talented oration. I was subsequently very pleased when Dr. Wilson Debunked the Funk of Simone Gold two days after she was arrested for taking part in the ‘insurrection’. In parallel, I was pleased to find that Dr. Wilson was interviewed on the Conspirituality podcast where he demonstrated his dedication to good science and healthy dialogue. After vetting his videos, I assess that Dr. Wilson is a trustworthy source.
    • Why it’s relevant: It’s important to track the anti-vaccine movement and how it has moved parallel QAnon and ethnonationalism as well its intersections with the Christian right (Simone’s video took place at a church as ministry because the link between faith in Jesus and rejecting the vaccine is apparent…). The principle here is to invest more time with the perspectives that make less sense to me such that I understand their merits or lack thereof. 
  • I’ve enjoyed the podcast Conspirituality in general, having listened to more than a dozen episodes now. Their latest episode, which I haven’t finished yet, dives into the allure of esoteric knowledge before addressing a number of known channelers.
    • Why it’s relevant: If we’ve been talking recently, you’ve likely heard me rail agains the spiritual marketplace and it’s associated industries of funnel marketing and consulting. I see this podcast as a good faith effort to disassemble much of the new age bait that many have swallowed (including myself at various points). Most importantly: they are addressing their critics directly. With their material, like all sources, I have practiced discernment in understanding what biases are present and its clear to me their work falls squarely in the realm of skepticism. The hosts’ willingness to use their platform to address critique is modelling the behavior of engaging in a healthy dialogue. Kudos!
  • As I dive deeper into Cynefin as a sense-making tool that assists in determining which actions/tools are appropriate for the task at hand given its domain, I find this article on scaffolding and constraints applicable beyond the Cynefin framework. I am working my way through the references listed.
    • Why it’s relevant: Constraints are real characteristics of complex systems. Understanding the typology of constraints is necessary to understand the environments in which we operate. The nature of the constraint dictates how we might design with it in mind. 
  •  In my disinformation research this week, I came across Playmaker Systems which has a full taxonomy of influence strategies. They link to the blog and podcast over at the Information Professionals Association which looks rich and is on the TBH (to be harvested) list.
    • Why it’s relevant: Our media landscape is littered with overt and covert agendas. Deception is not new though it certainly is increasing. Deciphering signal from noise is essential for those intent on seeing and operating in the larger environment. A study of the tactics and strategies available to the many actors in our systems reduces the first-mover advantage of information operations.

At some interval, I’ll continue this type of link sharing to leave a trail of artifacts to track over time.

The Case for Rituals in the Workplace

1 Wired

U.S. public places and office spaces are becoming more secular each year as adherents to the Establishment Clause seek to reduce the exposure of one belief over another. There are many arguments for not having a state religion and this premise was a founding principle that ensured U.S. citizens were free from the religious persecution that drove early settlers to these shores. While not having a formal state religion (arguable) benefits the plurality, the push for sanitizing most traces of religion from our public spaces is depriving us of an essential activity: rituals. 

We are a ritualistic species. This is an evolutionary advantage that led H. Sapiens to triumph over Neanderthals. Cultures all over the world are bound together by a rich tapestry of rituals that contribute to social cohesion. They often center on stress reduction, community building, and status recognition and involve synchronized, attention-getting, and stylized behavior taking place in ceremonial or symbolic settings. 

We’re wired for ritual, an instinct that emerges and is solidified by every major religion. Every major religion is full of rituals, each with their holy day requiring specific actions that typically involve gathering together for group activity in symbolic devotion to a belief, god, or historical event. 

Rituals take place on a schedule, based on the calendar (like a month of fiscal quarter), celestial events (cycle of the moon or procession of the equinoxes), events (achieving 100%, marriage, or childbirth), or aging (job tenure or initiatory rites). The regular schedule creates familiarity and expectation that something will happen at a predetermined time. When the ritual occurs we feel comfort and relaxation, all is as it should be (even if the ritual is painful). 

As we come together for this ritual we create space that is held together by collective intention. When gathered together for a collective purpose we learn to trust those observing the ritual with us. This creates common reference points and builds deeper social bonds. 

As the ritual continues a rhythm develops. This routine leads to depth. Inside the safe space woven by trust  held together by community, we drop deeper into the ritual, daring to be exposed, seen, and felt, and by doing so become more raw and honest with ourselves and others. This depth ushers more power for the individual and collective. The ritual ends by us recognizing status, accepting a shared truth, empathizing with our fellows, feeling compassion for our humanity, and celebrating.

Ritual space is sacred. The word comes from the Old French sacrer meaning “consecrate, anoint, dedicate”. We are dedicating a space for a purpose, setting an intention for how this time and place will be shared. We have lost much of the sacred in our secularization. Public space is secular, not sacred, and as such we grow more disconnected from our shared rituals. 

2 Work Needs Ritual

We need more rituals in the workplace. Whether we’re digital, remote, or in-office, ritual helps create the space for genuine connection in a work environment. We bring our best selves. When people expect ritual, they prepare. If the ritual occurs after achievement, it gives us something to shoot for and a shared memorable moment to commemorate our attainment. Ritual helps calibrate our humanity, create commonality, and have fun. 

In the team meetings I’ve led recently, we’ve taken to starting our meetings with the ritual of sharing three gratitudes. When it becomes an expectation, it becomes a way that we set the space. There’s plenty to read about the benefits of being grateful so I won’t bore you with that here. When we come to a meeting expecting it, over time, the gratitudes become more personal and engaging. 

Sales is abound with potential for rituals. Welcome rituals for joining a new team or starting a new position.  Recognition rituals for hitting month, quarter, year, and club. Celebration rituals like banging the gong or happy hours. And then there are company rituals like commemorating an important milestone, connecting to the early days/founding, or devoting time to a certain cause each year. 

Ritual requires reverence, meaning we must make our rituals overt. It is time to recognize our need for ritual, normalize it for the work environment, make its existence explicit, and allow participation as optional, but encouraged. We want people to lean in and bring their hearts, not engage begrudgingly while rolling their eyes. Rather than push for the secularization of our work space, let us anoint it in our shared intention. 

Rituals can also be personal as well. The surgeon scrubbing their hands in a certain way is a ritual that creates the sacred (dedicated, anointed) space called the operating room where great concentration occur. The same can be said for our morning, coffee, exercise, and work preparation rituals. All can help create the sacred space necessary for the performance of some meaningful activity.

Note that a routine is something we do that needs to be done regularly while a ritual is a deeper more meaningful practice engaged with purpose behind it. By this definition, we need less routine and more ritual in our personal and professional lives.

3 Variety is the Spice of Life

It also makes sense for our workplaces to encourage the sharing and observing of other rituals that are important to our diverse employees. Homogeneity creates fragility. Variety creates resilience. Let’s welcome the full spectrum of rituals to be acknowledged in the office, though not necessarily practiced. This allows us to bring our whole selves to work and to (hopefully) be seen and appreciated for who we are. Sure, it could lead to some conversations with HR, and this will be healthy in our pursuit of inclusive work environments. 

We must do more than merely tolerate those who have different beliefs if our communities, businesses, and country are to thrive. Toleration is often thought of as grudging and short of acceptance. None of us have to accept another’s beliefs. The skill (yes, it’s a learned skill) of being able to maintain one’s own beliefs while seeking to understand (or even engage in) another’s is essential for building mutualism in our pluralistic society.

Our ability to be open to the beliefs that underlie an entirely different worldview is one measure of our compassion and humanity. It is through the exposure to different beliefs and rituals that we come to more deeply know our own. That you are different is to be expected and celebrated, not denigrated and relegated to hiding. Bring your ritual and your beliefs. Know they are welcome here and in the organizations I lead or am involved with. 

4 In the Workplace?

Yes, now more than ever. American culture rotates heavily around the workplace as a primary nexus of socializing and interaction. We “live to work” more than the other way around. As the nature of work continues to evolve it must continue to meet more of our needs, ritual being one of them. It is time to create and acknowledge rituals centered around the organization’s shared mission and our work within it or create the space for personal beliefs and welcome their rituals.

Many of us are unable to sit on each other’s desks. “Death by Zoom” is nearing workers’ compensation levels. We’ve lost the breakroom coffee chat. Many experiences cannot be replaced digitally. It is from the comfort of our homes that we have a great opportunity to welcome ritual into our digital work space to battle digital fatigue and build deeper interpersonal relationships. Ritual can then follow us back to the office (if we ever go back) as one of the big boons from this time.

As I wrap up this piece, I found a great article in the New York Times about Sacred Design Lab. It is full of resources and other practitioners who have already put significant effort into this need of ours. Reading the comments on the NYT article I notice a high level of cynicism from commenters about whether this is really needed. In the constant effort at sense-making, I will explore the case against rituals in the workplace soon, just as I recently did in the cases for and against space settlement.

Homo Sapiens Regenerata

Each holiday season I find myself indulging in a guilty pleasure: playing my old favorite computer games. Between Shogun: Total War, The Sims, Starcraft, and Age of Empires, each is good for a stroll down Familiar Lane. 

This year I played Age of Empires and left the game running while I engaged in other more fruitful and productive activities. If you are not familiar, Age of Empires is a real-time strategy game released in 1997 where players harvest resources, advance their civilization, research new technologies, build armies, and defeat other civilizations.

On one particular type of map, Black Forest, the map is covered almost entirely in trees. I set out to do something I have never done before in the past. Harvest all of the resources on the map. If I just leave it up in the background, eventually the villagers will be able to cut down every tree, mine all of the gold and stone, and harvest all of the fish. I wondered to myself, how high can these resources go? Certainly higher than I’ve ever gotten them before I surmised with glee. 

As I embarked down this venture I suddenly realized what an appropriate analogy for the real world this game had become mirroring the resource extraction that dominates much of our world today. Why is it that – even in a simulated game – humans have a tendency to amass resources? What is our human nature? Are we hard wired to accumulate?

It was only 10,000 years ago that agriculture ended nomadic life. As foragers quit roaming the land and settled into permanent houses the accumulation of physical materials became practical for the first time. Enter grain silos, surplus, and the first inequality known to humanity. Has 400 generations of time programmed us to use resource extraction as a means of survival? 

Is resource use our nature as opposed to learned behavior? Perhaps it is that Homo Sapiens Sapiens is such a cunning manipulator of tools that it’s inevitable that our tools will lead us to terraforming this planet. The book Sapiens paints the picture of a human species whose very history is explicitly linked to the decimation of competing hominids and large megafauna. If the extinction of other species extends back to our early history, what does that say about the nature of man?

For someone who professes to be eco conscious and willing to take actions in my life to align with the best ecological outcomes, here I am, excited to chop down every tree. It might be a simulated game and not something I would do in real life. But the proclivity to do so raises questions about the task at hand for ecology, permaculture, and regenerative design practitioners. Is it our nature to push our resources beyond sustainability? What might the dodo bird, the giant kangaroo, or the woolly mammoth have to say about this?

It seems we are at the dawn of becoming a new species. As we careen into the Anthropocene strapped to our carbon rocket, necessity requires us to evolve our very instincts. Emerge Homo Sapien Rengenerata, the evolved human species regenerating our life sheds and coming into balance with Nature. This new human species will evolve out of ecological and economic necessity, mothering the inventions and tools capable of saving our species. 

As amply noted, the planet will be fine without us. It will keep going. The question is how far will humans push the envelope of ecological, economic, and political disaster? Will we (or have we already) moved beyond the point of no return? Or is there still time for Homo Sapien Rengenerata to emerge? Perhaps we should or shouldn’t escape off planet.

There’s nothing wrong with our extractive, accumulative, and terraforming instincts. Whether born into our DNA or bred into our cultures these instinct’s evolutionary purpose has ensured successful propagation of the human species across the planet in a relatively short period of time. 

What’s different now is that we’ve become gods capable of material and digital manipulation at scales once dreamed of only for the gods. Our instincts haven’t had time to readjust to such sudden and significant expansion of technology.

My villagers crowded in a corner of the map. They had nothing left to mine, fish, or chop down. Nothing but empty space was left. Their options and ingenuity is limited by programming. Will ours be too?

Salience and Weighting

How do you know what to look and listen for when assessing a situation or building a perspective? At every waking moment, you are engaged in sensing the world around you. We all have an inherent skill in what neuroscientists call saliency. 

According to Wikipedia, the saliency of an item is the state or quality by which it stands out from its neighbors. Saliency detection is considered to be a key attentional mechanism that facilitates learning and survival by enabling organisms to focus their limited perceptual and cognitive resources on the most pertinent subset of the available sensory data.

Making this process explicit and cultivating it as a skill enhances one’s ability to sense, probe, categorize, analyze, and act. 

Open the Doors of Perception

What we find salient can be a matter of life and death. If you fail to pick out the red truck screaming through the intersection 4 seconds after the opposing stop light turns red, you might accelerate to great injury. In this moment, like all others, the brain is receiving a vast amount of information. 

The eyes are seeing all of the textures of the buildings, sidewalks, trees, the movement and trajectories, the colors, depth, and much more. The skin is feeling the pedals, the clothes, the steering wheel, the temperature, the wind from the open window, the car’s locomotion, and much more. The ears hear the sound of the radio, the engine, the breath, the traffic, the people at the crosswalk, and much more. The nose is smelling the coffee, the truck exhaust, the scent of the daffodils blooming, the perfume, and much more. The mouth is tasting the coffee, the bit of pepper stuck in the teeth from breakfast, the leftover toothpaste, and much more.

This vast array of inputs forms our surroundings at all times is processed in our brains in fractions of a second. Vision can process as quick as 25 milliseconds. Vision has a time resolution of three milliseconds. Hearing can take 50 milliseconds. And smell and taste take a full second each. Together, all five senses send approximately 11,000,000 bits per second to the brain, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. 

Of that 11 million bits per second, it is said that we process only 120 of those bits at one time, or .000001 percent, one one-hundred thousandth, of the total. Our brain is constantly acting to filter out almost every single bit of information we receive. And as an adaptive capability, it is likely that our ability to filter out information is getting stronger given the vast quantities of information we are now exposed to, estimated at 5 times what we received just 35 years ago. It seems that at present we have no practice that meaningfully increases the amount of information the brain can process. 

If our goal is to be more effective at sensing and operating, we must turn our attention to…attention itself. If we’re hard coded for 120 bits then harnessing the power of the conscious mind to select the most useful bits from the information array is a skill to cultivate. Development of the faculties through meditation and awareness practices is key to entering a being state necessary to effectively observe and direct one’s own attention. The monkey mind is cunning. Without discipline and practice it quickly will lead one astray of the moment’s most relevant information bits. 

Through concerted effort over time, the mind can be tamed by you, the combination of your conscious awareness, intention, and will. This is the “power of now” that is heralded by many. Its gift is full presence with the information being transmitted by the senses. Then through attention the filtering process can be engaged with rather than simply run on automatic. Here the confluence of gnosis (wisdom from experience), frameworks and models, intuition, and don’t know mind become one’s toolkit for filtering in the moment.

Many Variables

As this information filtering processes at high frequency, we can begin to make note of the various pieces of information that we find most salient. But salience is different from relevance. In the car example above, we may notice that a woman standing at the crosswalk is wearing a blue-and-yellow polka dot dress and that “sticks out” (is salient) because grandma used to wear a dress just like it. Just because we found that piece of information standing out from its neighbors does not mean that it is relevant or meaningful to the task at hand. In fact, it may be that very salient information bit, the dress, that is the distraction that has you not looking as you accelerate into the car crash. The dress is salient, but not relevant, to the task at hand, driving safely. 

Arriving at meaningful data then becomes a step-down process of filtering. First from the 11 million bits to the 120 that we find salient. Then from that 120 bits into the few that we find relevant, repeating many times a minute to arrive upon a relevant information data set. Memory then enters the picture as the process that stores and retrieves similar bits to build a consolidated view of an assemblage of bits.

Weak arguments and poor understanding is built upon a smaller number of variables of relevant data points. Robust positions and deep nuanced understanding is built upon a larger number of variables and data points. 

Our effort in understanding the world around us is to build mental models that most accurately reflect how reality actually works. This is difficult because reality is exceedingly complex and the limits of the brain’s bit processing capacity. This is the great potential of artificial intelligence as applied to sense-making but that’s a different article. 

Our goal is to develop the knack for finding what’s most relevant, understand how those bits interact with other bits, and assemble interactive, complex models that guide our decision making and actions. If we’re not moving particles in the 3D then this is all mental masturbation – fun but not procreative. 

When this process is complete (11 million bits → 120 salient bits → relevant bit filtering at high frequency → memory storage and retrieval → assembled into a working mental model → action ), it’s important to now challenge this new perspective. Given the very complexity of this physiological and mental process, it is our nature to be prone to errors in our thinking (fallacies and biases). If a position is to hold water, then it must by necessity stand up to inspection and critique.

Where to Settle

Recently I’ve been inquiring about the best place to plant roots and build community. This exploration has me thinking deeply about what’s most important in the place we live. As easy as it is to determine what’s important, it’s more important how each of the criteria is weighted. Any number of criteria can be deemed relevant and the same set of criteria can lead to different outputs depending on how the decision variables are weighted. 

For the sake of making it easy, we’ll use five criteria to illustrate the point. In the following chart I use four different weighting versions to arrive at four different conclusions that are part of the decision set.

Unordered Criteria

Weighting Version 1

Weighting Version 2

Weighting Version 3

Weighting Version 4

Spacious / non-metro-sized population





Proximity to international airport





Four Seasons





Like-minded community





Favorable 20- and 40-year

climate outlooks





Affordability Target





United States City

Lansing, MI

Santa Fe, NM

Santa Barbara, CA

Dallas, TX

In making a long-term decision like this, deciphering which set of variables stand out from the mass of possibilities is the first and most important step. One could consider schools, healthcare, crime, weather, education, economics, housing, politics, job market, and much much more. It’s easy now to see side-by-side comparisons of all of these variables and more. 

Weighting a large number of variables means by necessity the weights you start assigning become very small and distinguishing how a 10% weighting might differ from a 6% weighting in altering the outcome becomes tricky. This means that it is just as important to understand what is not relevant to the decision at hand. Ultimately there is a set of criteria that is more relevant than the rest. How weights are assigned to these variables gets into the complicated realm of polling and regression. 

It seems that our brains can do this type of weighting on the fly. Back to the car example where two bits of information hit the brain at the same time, polka-dotted dress and vehicle moving through a crosswalk as the light is green. With or without prior training, the brain is likely to assign a very low relevance weight to the dress when a vehicle is moving into a collision trajectory. The brain automatically organizes for the most meaningful bit in relation to survival which is an adaptive trait from an evolutionary blink-of-an-eye ago when early Sapiens were hunter gatherers. These predator instincts have evolved in many species to sort for the right bits of information.

Together saliency, the information step down process, and weighing comprise essential elements of healthy decision-making. Situational training, whether in the military, for a flight steward, or on the soccer field, creates a situation which mimics the information landscape of an actual situation and allows the player to practice their saliency, relevancy, and weighting skills in real time. 

Why It Matters

Shining the light of consciousness on the way the brain functions physiologically and mentally gives valuable insights into the hard-and-soft coding driving our thoughts and decisions. In developing proper epistemics it is useful to understand the mechanisms which are prone to error, fallacy, and bias, topics to be explored in a later post. 

By understanding the anatomy of the brain, the evolutionary purpose of each part, and how that might be shifting given modern stimulus, a practitioner of regenerative and sense-making technologies can purposefully design with these tendencies in mind. This means using saliency and weighting to guide both the design process itself and the very environment being engaged with.   

In this learning path, what’s next is deeper dives into the latest cognitive science, fallacy and bias, the role that emotion plays in cognition, and how the nervous system affects these functions. 


The Case for Space Settlement


A few days ago I wrote why I am against space colonization. In an effort to build a healthy understanding of the issue in question, it only seems appropriate to steelman the opposing perspective. This thought exercise builds a skill important to sensemaking and a well-functioning epistemological practice. 

No issue is monolithic. There appears not to be black and white but a multitude of perspectives that require considering. Once a good faith effort has been made to understand the full spectrum of potential perspectives a cogent and well tested position can be chosen, ever subject to a further review. 

In the realms of complexity, accurate information is an essential ingredient in the process of understanding how a system functions. While there may be a limit to the number of variables a human can consider well, it is nonetheless important to put as many of the cards on the table. Depth of understanding is bred in nuance by discernment.


“You can’t fight fate” is one of the lines the movie Law Abiding Citizen rotates around, a line that must be applied to human’s inevitable emergence from a one-planet species into galactic settlers. First, it’s important to create a distinction between “colonizer” and “settler” in particular calling out the troubled and bloody history surrounding colonizers and dispensing with what that label suggests by opting for the label settler. “Colonizers” bring images of invading land that is already inhabited where “settler” suggests habiting unclaimed land. As humanity leaves planet earth, it is likely that any planet we arrive upon will be devoid of life, as far we know now.

In the previous piece, the contention is that dreaming of off-planet settlement perpetuates a dangerous collective mindset that promotes the expendability of our current planet. The danger is said to emerge because of global warming, the sixth mass extinction, and imbalance of social, political, and economic systems. However, the piece itself mentions that there is cause to be dubious about the accuracy of climate change predictions. There two likely scenarios emerging from this climate conversation, both of which suggest that exoplanet settlement is required:

  • Scenario 1: Climate change is not as impactful as predicted. The earth’s ability to absorb and adapt to human effects is greater than what scientists account for. As such, space settlement is not escapist. Rather, it is the natural extension of our burgeoning economic might and a foregone outcome of human industriousness. Homo Sapien Sapiens as a species are the most resourceful creatures on planet Earth, proving our mastery of tool manipulation in ever-increasingly more abstract, precise, and transformational ways. Space is our fate. 
  • Scenario 2: It’s already too late. The predictions are too conservative. The train is too far down the tracks. Humans have neither the will nor the courage to take the drastic actions necessary to reduce global warming. Coastal flooding, increased natural “disasters”, and mass population migration and death will all take place in the 21st century. As such, our only hope is to follow the plot of our many science fiction movies escaping planet Earth before human civilization’s demise. 

In both scenarios, it is our responsibility in the present to push aggressively to expand our off-planet capabilities to ensure the survival and extension or our species. Consider the sheer number of successive generations that will follow successful extrasolar habitation. Billions or trillions of human lives depend on our ability to replicate the necessary conditions for life. 


The piece also takes a dim view of the techno-industrialists who are pioneering the technologies necessary for the survival of the human species. The view of corruption, greed, and economic enslavement fails to take into account the natural trait selection that will occur through a human migration off-planet. While the proletariat bemoans the unfairness of the modern economic system, it is the most successful humans who have succeeded in amassing the wealth needed to “be the first to punch their tickets to the New New World”. 

But success by what definition? Evolution selects traits that are most likely to continue the species. The most successful today, by the dominant cultural standards of wealth, are people most comfortable with competition and winning in zero-sum games. And while these traits may not be the “best of humanity”, they are the traits most likely to ensure the survival of the species. 

Will peace and love hippies pull the trigger to defend the colony? Will enlightened new agists proactively wage interstellar war to protect the settlement? Will environmentalists extract space’s vast resources to build our future spacetropoli? Will socialists decisively direct the machinery of the human mass’ work efforts to accomplish great feats?

Since the agricultural revolution our species has demonstrated our predilection for social hierarchy which is no different than the hierarchies observed in the multitude of earth’s fauna. That this hierarchy should guide the process of human propagation off-planet and establish the structure of society necessary for division of labor is a natural feature of the human species. When more than 99.9% of species over the millenia fail, survival is a cutthroat affair and the success of Sapiens to date demonstrates our ability to adapt as necessary to thrive.


As noted, the settlement of Mars is an uphill battle to create the conditions for life on an inhospitable planet barring the discovery of a tremendous amount of water that can be converted and used. The Martian with Matt Damon appears to explore the scientific realities of mars settlement with a level of believability. If we are to settle space all signs point to finding a planet that is equidistant from its sun as earth is from ours with an environment, air, and temperature suitable for habitation. 

These requirements mean that the next human planet, Earth 2, will be a great distance from our present location in the milky way galaxy. To settle this distant planet will require planning, resources, and technology that will stretch the current limits of human capability. Just as the moon program created many beneficial technologies in its wake so too will this great journey push the frontier of human knowledge and technology, a beneficial exploit in itself. 

Because of the great distance, communications between Earth 1 and Earth 2 will likely take time. This means that Earth 2 will have to be self-governing. This is a tremendous opportunity for the innovation of our governing structures. 


The challenge of sending many thousands of new humans across space to populate Earth 2 cannot be accomplished by one country alone. This endeavor will require the sum total efforts of every nation and every people coordinating together to solve various technical challenges. Each nation will bring different parts of the puzzle piece together, much like the International Space Station, in order for the human species to successfully move off-planet. 

Space settlement is human’s greatest shot at global peace and unity. If we are to survive as a species, we must transcend petty differences and the lower instincts of our nature. Space offers this opportunity to us, just as the acknowledgement of extraterrestrial life, or a hostile ET attack, will do. 


Ironically, it’s this very solidarity, or the lack of it, that is the block to the vibrant, verdant, functional, just, and equitable Earth alluded to in the previous piece. 

If we are to save planet Earth, it is best accomplished by pursuing the path that leads to greatest human cooperation, even if through that path the wealthy of each human nation are the ones to head off-planet. To put all of our species’ eggs in the “must save Earth” basket is naive-at-best, homicidal at worst, accounting for the many variables of our current state of affairs. And while idealism has its place, so too does pragmatism. 

If there is no saving planet Earth, we are compelled to act with great urgency at developing the capability to settle other planets. While technology is advancing exponentially, there is still a very large gap in our ability to sustain in a spacecraft a population large enough to resettle a planet and then successfully settle what will be a totally unknown environment. 

Either way, it seems most advisable that we buy ourselves as much time as possible by vigorously pursuing a set of actions that hedge the possibilities of extreme climate change. We must be all-in on a set of policies and actions that represent a BOTH/AND solution. 

Space may be the final frontier, but it soon won’t be made in a Hollywood basement. 

Hill Climber or Valley Crosser: Is Your Hill Worth Dying On?

Here’s an overused truism: life is a journey. 

In longer form: life is about the journey, not the destination. 

These linguistic phrases are repeated often because they accurately represent our lived experience. 

Language shapes our world and we often think in metaphors like this.

They help us grasp concepts in relatable terms. 

Enter a newer metaphor: Hill Climber and Valley Crosser. 

Which one are you?


Theoretical physicist Lee Smolin first wrote about the concept as applied to academic research. His point, as summarized by Tim Kastelle and Roland Harwood, is that:

Some scientists…are what we might call “hill climbers”. They tend to be highly skilled in technical terms and their work mostly takes established lines of insight that pushes them further; they climb upward into the hills in some abstract space of scientific fitness, always taking small steps to improve the agreement of theory and observation. These scientists do “normal” science. In contrast, other scientists are more radical and adventurous in spirit, and they can be seen as “valley crossers”. They may be less skilled technically, but they tend to have strong scientific intuition — the ability to spot hidden assumptions and to look at familiar topics in totally new ways.

I came across the concept from a single mention made by Daniel Schmachtenberger during Rebel Wisom’s Sensemaking Course (highly recommended). Its profundity as an useful analogy struck me and its exploration has led to the distinctions below.

What is a Hill Climber?

Hill Climbers are motivated by traditional definitions of success like status, title, and wealth. Like the playground game, their goal is to make it to the top and become king of the hill. Their role is that of a Motivated Climber, where there is a set destination, the social, economic, or political top. Hill Climbers demonstrate their attainment through virtue and success signaling. 

The structures Hill Climbers navigate are hierarchical, and thus, zero-sum, by nature. There can be only one CEO, one VP, or one Executive Director. Moving up the ladder requires acquiring the finite availability of resources and power positions at the exclusion of others. Successful hill climbers are masters of power dynamics. 

A Hill Climber has bounded returns, meaning that because the success path is pre-defined and previously ascended by others, the opportunity to add value or novelty is bounded by incremental, rather than phase-shift, innovation. Because the destination is along a more known path, Hill Climbers iterate and improve what already exists and are much more likely to end with a modicum of financial success.  

The top level Hill Climber becomes the master of an existing domain by iterating and improving existing processes, excelling and dominating over competitors, & ascending and defending the hill. 

Hill Climbers ask themselves “how can I get ahead?” and “how can I create more?”.

What is a Valley Crosser?

Valley Crossers are motivated by achievement and exploration of uncharted territory. As they look across a chasm in front of them, they cannot decipher the distance to the other side or the contour of the terrain they must cross in order to achieve their outcome. Their role is that of an Intrepid Explorer, driven into the unknown allured by what might await them. 

The structures Valley Crossers navigate are more cooperative than competitive. These grand explorations are rarely embarked upon alone and require a complex web of collaborators to achieve breakthroughs. 

A Valley Crosser has the potential for significant, unbounded returns alongside a higher risk of “failure”. Because Valley Crossers trek an unknown path, their journey is one of trial and error, where maintaining a “don’t know mind” is essential for new discovery. Rather than iterate and improve what exists, Valley Crossers invent entirely new realities, or nothing at all and end with little financial success. 

The top level Valley Crosser is the forebearer of a new domain in thought or commerce, unearthing new inquiries to be solved and eliminating possibilities that don’t work. 

Valley Crossers ask themselves “what problems are worth my time to solve?”, “what’s difficult?”, and “how can I create something new?”.


When I first set out to write this article, I set out to prove that Valley Crossers are more important to our society because I have a personal proclivity (read bias) towards the value of Valley Crossing. Either/Or thinking like this will almost always fail us. This is the same type of polarized thinking fueling our many ideological clashes drawn around cultural battle lines: our “us versus them” mindset. 

The reality is typically more complex and nuanced than the easy and convenient temptation to default to one pole or another. The role of the Sensemaker is to decipher the signal from the noise present in all perspectives and then create a coherent understanding from the signals that drives personal meaning and action.

Some of the top Hill Climbers are by necessity Valley Crossers. Anyone who has climbed a mountain knows that the route to the top is rarely a straight shot and often a surprise valley or ravine is hiding between here and the top. Similarly, the top Valley Crossers have to climb hills to get traction and compete in the modern economy and marketplace of ideas.

Our primary societal orientation is Hill Climber. We need more Valley Crossers. Will society’s most vexing problems be solved by Hill Climbers or Valley Crossers? Or those that play in both realms? It seems that innovators cross valleys before climbing hills. Our trumpeted technopreneurs like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs (and all the others), even Thomas Edison, all crossed valleys before commercial success catapulted them to the top of a hill many others now find themselves on. 

“A hill worth dying on…?”

You may have heard the phrase “that is not a hill worth dying on” before. I have learned in my career to choose carefully which hills to die on (figuratively of course). Perhaps the most important part of this entire analogy is hill or valley selection. 

Whether we are climbing a hill or crossing a valley, which one is ultimately more important than the means by which we’re pursuing it. Think about the hill or valley you are on. Trace the outcome of your escapade to its conclusion. Begin with the end in mind. What is the expected natural outcome of this particular path? How does it align with your values?

Thinking like this must be one reason why I’ve heard people say, “I looked at the future and realized I didn’t want my boss’ job so I opted out…” No matter where you are today, remember that it’s never too late to start a new hill or a new valley. And it’s essential to periodically evaluate your path, progress, and destination.

Some Questions to Consider:

  • What’s at the top of this hill? Is it worth it to me?
  • What do I vision is at the other side of this valley? Is it worth it to me?
  • If money were no object, what hill or valley would I find myself on?
  • If I cast off societal expectations/taboos, would I choose a different hill or valley?

Answering questions around legacy and purpose is useful when considering your trek. 

Whatever hill or valley you find yourself on, may you become aware of your path’s trajectory, evaluate its merit, and chart the course that best suits you (and those you consider). 

Carry on my intrepid friend! 

How to Make a Light Pole Interesting

Engage visual observation. Rust and patina suggest an age as old as WWI. Access knowledge of history. The McPherson Farm became the Westside neighborhood around in the mid-1920s and early 1930s and the box could be as old as that. Research suggests the box is from the 1950s, fifteen years after the introduction of MUTCD standards. 

Chart the location spatially. Note the proximity to Sexton High School, built in 1943, which is likely the earliest year of installation. The box powers a blinker at the top of the intersection, not a street light, meant to draw attention to an intersection with higher traffic, two blocks from the entrance to Sexton High School.

Observe the obvious age of the wooden pole and the burn marks. Given the age of wood and wear, this is likely a white pine tree from a stand in Michigan. The pole is stamped with Michigan Bell who planted millions of white pine trees for telephone poles. The pole and box, antiques to be sure, appear to be absent stylers or flyers, suggesting that this box has either been ignored or treated with respect, both surprising given the proximity (two blocks) to an inner city high school.

Trace lineage. Where is the box from? It is stamped from Illinois. Out of state manufacturing suggests this was forged in the mid-to-late second industrial revolution, a time when goods were manufactured non-locally and shipped using locomotion and internal combustion technologies. 

Think across time. The fact the original light pole is still standing suggests the intersection is a lower traffic accident street corner. But high enough traffic that the intersection warrants a blinking light above, but not high enough traffic to need an actual stoplight. Question: how has the light influenced traffic accidents at the intersection?

Examine the System. The concept of a blinking light itself exists on a timeline evolving from train and trolley signals to centerlines to stop signs to lighted traffic signals. No one person can build a traffic box. It requires a long history of metallurgy to make the box and the legacy of Edison/Tesla (and some other unidentified people) to create electrical switching technology. Electrical engineers, supply chain people, salesmen (this was likely sold in an era dominated by male salespeople), maintenance men, and municipal departments are all instrumental in the placement of this specific box on this specific corner. 

Look for Life. One quality of life is vitality, the ability for a system to exist over time. This blinking light system equipment inside is likely not new. In fact, it may be original switching tech that still works, harkening back to a time before integrated circuits (made overseas) when U.S. manufacturing produced equipment with high reliability and quality. That was 452 words!

Why I’m Against Space Colonization

2021 is going to be a big year for space, says the Washington Post in a recent article forecasting the exploits of our favorite billionaires vying to extend their earthly domination to galactic frontiers. Or just see whose rocket is bigger (yes, it’s all very phallic from our favorite boy’s club). While NASA is landing another rover on Mars to look for signs of life and habitability, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are perfecting their suborbital commercial flights and SpaceX is working on its Starship to send people to Mars.

From one perspective, this is all very exciting for a species whose documented romance with space exploration started in the second century. It can be argued that space exploration is destiny for the Homo Sapiens Sapiens species which has demonstrated its mastery overcoming the challenges of settling immensely varied environments. At this very moment there are humans inhabiting base camp at Mount Everest, the dry sands of the Atacama desert in Peru, the frigidity of Antarctica, and so on…surely space is just the next stop. Right?

But dreaming of getting off this rock is extremely dangerous for several reasons. 

First, it further perpetuates the thinking that this planet is expendable by increasing the perceived likelihood that we’ll be able to colonize another planet. With the vastness and riches of space, why sacrifice short-term convenience and economic growth when a whole new canvas to terraform (read: harness and extract) is soon available? Lest we forget what happened to the New World between 1600 and 1800? Even hopeful toying with this idea of off-planet colonization is irresponsible. 

There are only a few known planets at the perfect distance from a star with the right atmosphere and temperature that appear hospitable to human life. Mars is not one of these planets. Could we inhabit it? Yes. SpaceX says it’s on target to launch manned missions to mars by the mid-2020s. An examination of our current trajectories, like accounting for exponential tech and Artificial Intelligence, still shows the overall likelihood of colonizing a habitable planet in the next few decades is low.

Meanwhile back on planet Earth, the only planet we actually know of that can not just sustain life but the life of our entire species, the sixth mass extinction rages, social/political/economic imbalance spirals, and our global community kicks the trash can further down the gutter, failing to take action on climate change because of a lack of will rather than technological capability.

Second, the timelines don’t line up. Now no one has a crystal ball about how global ecology will change because of global warming and there are some valid reasons to be dubious about the predictive accuracy of climate science. Yet all the signs are present that point to an aggressive shift within our lifetimes – biodiversity loss, reef bleaching, glacial calving, rising C02 levels, increasing ocean temperatures, and massive forest fires – to name just a few of those signs. 

While we can populate Mars, the planet is a poor substitute for our luscious, fertile, and beautiful planet. And the significant travel time to other hospitable planets (6,300 years to the nearest star according to MIT) jeopardizes the probability of success for deeper, inter-galaxy colonization. The timeline we should transfix our attention to is the carbon drawdown timeline, not the galactic settlement timeline.

Third, the advantages of space travel are likely to be asymmetrically skewed towards the wealthy, a continuation of our tiered society where the velvet rope of luxury and privilege separates those wealthy enough for space travel, many but not all of whose ill-gotten gains were sourced from the pillaging of this planet’s finite resources and broken economic systems. As the wealthy perpetrators, enablers, and passive observers of our current ecocide punch their exclusive tickets to the New New World, they will leave the mass of humans behind to deal with multi-system collapse while they simultaneously use their first mover advantage to design another economic caste system where survival for the many is predicated upon the maintenance of power and privilege for the few. All hail King X Æ A-12. Nothing new to see here.

Me? I’m as deeply committed to Planet Earth as I am to remaining neurotechnology-free. If this is what a purist sounds like, then I’ll take two glasses of pure mineral water, some untainted food grown in healthy soil, and my messy, unadulterated emotions…