Episode 14 - Attentionalism, Netocracy, and the All-Consuming Flame of To(day)morrow with Alexander Bard



Alexander Bard - Internet Sociologist and Philosopher - Find on twitterfacebookwiki

Alexander Bengt Magnus Bard is a Swedish philosopher, songwriter, record producer, TV personality and religious and political activist.



  • Futurica Trilogy
  • Video at cpeu2
  • Internet Sociologist -- Internet Social Theory -- Philosophy
  • Tyler Cowan’s Average is Over 
  • Most good philosophers only get broad recognition 50+ years after death
  • “Becoming informed is an attempt to synchronize your own head with the reality outside”
  • Attentionalism  
  • Dot-com companies as old model (capitalism) being applied to new model (internet)--bound to fail
  • Myspace was built on assumption that everybody wanted to get out of audience and up on stage
  • “I’ve never ever had a speech saying that the internet is a great thing or a bad thing.  Obviously it’s both.  It depends who you are and where you’re located.”
  • 12-15% can handle this revolution = Netocrats
  • 85% = consumtariat = not socially intelligent, do not know how to use these new technologies to their advantage.  Consume them, but not engage and create.
  • “Education is the new myspace”
  • Informationist is the paradigm, Attentionalism is the system.
  • How actually different from capitalism?
  • Left column on google is based on attentionalism--which is most important, a measure of credibility and awareness on the internet. 99% of traffic is this column.
  • Right side is ads and based on capitalism.  Looks desperate and dumb, 1% of traffic
  • Awareness*credibility=attention
  • “Cannot buy attention.  Cannot buy popularity--have to be clever, talented, socially intelligent.”
  • Can buy attention of consumtariat, cannot buy attention of netocrats?
  • Can I loan charisma digitally to someone?
  • “Make sure there’s free wifi in every corner in this country and make sure each child has a computer at 5 years old and learns a program language.”
  • “Kids are learning everything from kids their own age.  They ignore their parents”
  • “Wherever my laptop is, there is my home”
  • “You don’t get a top job at google unless you’ve been to Burning Man”
  • Ecology + Pirate movement
  • Zoroastrianism
  • Coasts vs flyover states: “Mississippi is now part of the 3rd world”
  • “Give kids computers.  That’s my only advice”
  • Precariat -- no working stability, laid off people.  47% of jobs in US at risk of being automated
  • QS conference insight -- from massive data to technique used to collect it
  • Big data smart enough to ask it’s own questions?
  • Exogen -- low cost DNA death check 
  • Syntheism movement -- facebook 



  • “A simple definition of a quantum computer:  a computer that breaks all cryptosystems” -Ralph Merkle
  • “Prepare your workforce for technological unemployment” - Dan Berry
  • “Never mistake a clear view for a short distance” - Paul Saffo
  • “The ultimate performace metric is death” - John Hagel
  • “A prototype beats a plan” - Ray McCauley
  • “Our institutions in the name of scalable efficiency have been designed to squash passion and innovation” John Hagel





 Paradigm -- a distinct concept or thought pattern


  • SXSW  - (POSSIBLY SEE KLINT AND CHRIS PRESENT) - March 7-16, 2014 Austin, TX 
  • Cyborg Camp - MIT Media Lab - August 2014 - Boston, MA







Mindful Cyborgs, Contemplative living in the age of quantification, augmentation and acceleration, with your hosts Chris Dancy and Klint Finley.


CD: Welcome to Mindful Cyborgs, Episode #14. Klint, it’s me, I’m back in San Francisco. We were just here I think when it was Episode 7 or something.


KF: Hey, how is it going?


CD: Good. Where are you at?


KF: I am in Wyoming visiting family.


CD: Yeah, you grew up in Wyoming, didn't you?


KF: We moved here when I was 13, lived here until I was 18/19.


CD: So, thanks for covering last week -- you, Alex Williams from TechCrunch and Amber Case from Geoloqi. You guys did an amazing job. Thank you for covering when I was at Singularity University. We’ll get more into that later on.


Speaking of Singularity. I read a book and then started getting involved in a website by our guest today named Alexander Bard. Alexander, are you with us?


AB: I am with you from the other side of the pond.


CD: Where are you exactly?


AB: I am in Stockholm, Sweden, the Seattle of Europe.


CD: This is going to be amazing.


KF: I thought Helsinki was the Seattle of Europe.


AB: No, Helsinki is small to be Seattle of Europe. It’s more like the Spokane of Europe.


KF: Maybe the Portland.


AB: Yeah, it’s also that I love Helsinki but Finland is much more homogenous than Sweden is. The Scandinavian countries actually are very different from each other and Sweden is a very multicultural country. It’s actually got more immigrants than America per capita so there’s like two million out of almost ten million Swedes who are not born in the country and are immigrants from all over the place. Finland is a much more homogenous country. You rarely see Black people on the streets of Helsinki and you see them everywhere in Stockholm so that’s the difference.


CD: Nice. When I got started on reading The Futurica Trilogy, not even a page into it and I started Googling around and found a video of you from something called CPEU2, something called campus party, and it was a talk you did. I’m not even sure where you are but you’re probably some place in Europe. You were on a stage with a big blue background and you wrote your name on there and you thanked the cameraperson and you said, “You’re the most important person here.” Do you remember that talk at all?


AB: I do, yeah. I do all these talks all the time usually like IT conferences and stuff like that so I give a lot of speeches. I’m actually tied to the Stockholm School of Economics that’s one of the two reasons why I live in Stockholm. I’m basically an internet sociologist originally so I do internet social theory and I’ve expanded that into what has become philosophy. So, I do philosophy on new technology, what new technology is doing to us, and how our world view is changing and all that.


CD: So we’re fortunate on this show as mindful cyborgs that we talk about contemplative living and obviously technology. We recently had someone on who talked a little bit about “The Distraction Addiction,” Alexander Pang. Then we had another young guy on, very smart, academic, named Nathan Jurgenson, who also I think would consider himself, maybe not philosopher, I like internet philosopher. Could you give me your overview on where you think we are right now, what kind of tech, before I dive right into some of these passages and ask you to expand a few of these sentences for me?


AB: The problem is that there’s a lot of great theories out there but it’s too much of a surface. It’s not digging deep enough. The reason why the internet constantly surprises us is because we haven’t understood how it works in a profound way. That’s why I decided to go into philosophy about 14 years ago. For example, when you read books like, say, Tyler Cowen’s Average is Over, which is a bestseller right now in America, that book is based on work that I did about 12 years ago. So, what is great about philosophy is that you’re actually ahead of everybody else. What is less great is that you’re not being appreciated for it, but that’s something you buy into when you do philosophy. You realize that the vast majority of philosophers only get appreciated about 50 years after they died. So, you do it for a very small group of people, or like an avant-garde of thinking and that’s why you do the things you do.


I’ve been fortunate enough to be extremely successful during my lifetime. Maybe I’m mediocre, I don't know. But, I’ve been fortunate in that way. I just love doing what I’m doing and I find it incredibly fascinating. But, having said that, most of the techno babble you hear out there is just on the surface, it’s just dealing with things that are happening right now and it’s not taking a really profound look at this huge new phenomena which the internet is.


CD: That’s what I took away from the trilogy book, it was how profound your take was, and I love this very profound thought, I love all of these types of ideology. I just want to dive right in and have you start digging around some of these sentences if that would be all right. I’ve got this on a slide that I show at conferences all the time and people see and they always say, “Who said that?” The first one is, Becoming informed is an attempt to synchronize your own head with the reality outside. What is the relationship to your own head, the reality outside and how is technology influencing these two things?


AB: My work is based on a very simple assumption and that is that the human being is the same thing all the time, that’s the constant, because we haven’t really genetically changed over the last 100 thousand years. We’d like to believe that but, for example, we actually use less of our brains now than we did 5,000 years ago and our brains are actually decreasing in size as a result of that. We’re getting more stupid, to be honest. But, technology is the one thing that changes and it’s changing at a more rapid pace, so technology change is just increasing over time.


Since the technology is the variation here that we have to deal with, that’s the one thing we have to understand. We pretty much understand our own psychology, there’s not much in there. Neuroscience has discovered how we function. What we don’t understand is technology which is the rest of the world, which is the extension of the human body. That is what we do not understand. We find it incredibly easy to adapt to new technology and its usage.


We can all pick up an iPhone or Android and figure out in a couple of minutes how it works, but we don’t know what it does to us. So we apply models, old models on new technology to try and understand these technologies and we constantly end up in the wrong place. I mean, I’ve done a couple of predictions that people hate it but it’s like my mother said when I was a kid, “Tell people the truth, they’re going to hate you for it, but ten years later they’re going to come back to you and pay you for it.”


For example, in 1998 I wrote a paper declaring the dotcom companies were all going to fail. That wasn’t very popular at the time but I just saw the dotcom companies as an old model, capitalism, applied on new phenomenon, internet, and the internet phenomenon should use the system called “Attentionalism” to understand how it works, which Google and partly Facebook cleverly have done since. Probably they read my books. The thing is that I wrote that paper and I said the dotcom companies are never going to work because always throughout history when you applied old models in new phenomena, new technologies, they never worked.


The Catholic Church loved the printing press when it arrived in 1450. They thought they would print bibles in local languages and spread them around Europe and turn all European into good Christians. What happened was that we all read the bible and turned our back from the Catholic Church, and now only a few old ladies and some people in Texas who believe in it. But that’s what happens constantly throughout history to understand something like the internet we need to learn history first.


Another paper I wrote was in 2003 where I declared that MySpace was going to fail. Now, MySpace at the time had 500 million followers and everybody thought this was the future, but I just realized MySpace was built with the wrong assumption. Assumption was that everybody wants to get out of the audience and up on the stage. The problem is that if everybody gets up on the stage to be looked at, there’s not going to be anybody left in the audience to look at them and once people realize that, the whole thing collapses like in the pyramid game and that’s exactly MySpace was. A lot of internet stuff, a lot of internet ideas that are being spread and are initially powerful and popular turn out to be these kinds of fakes. They promised people something they cannot keep and that’s why they died.


CD: To tie you back to two or three shows we’ve had, we’ve had a couple of people on talking about people’s relationships with technology and I don't know if they’re applying old models of thinking or new models of thinking, but one was technology basically is breaking us and is a terrible thing and we’re addicted to it, and the other person’s view was, “let’s not pathologize or fetishize technology, let’s just be it” and he refers to this as “digital dualism”. My lack of use of technology, if I can put away my iPhone, that somehow makes me more human than you because I can do that and his view was that you shouldn't really look at technology in that sort of way. Are those old models of thinking?


AB: I’ve never ever had a speech saying internet was a great thing or a bad thing. Obviously it’s both. It depends on who you are and it depends on where you’re located. Like, all these new technologies throughout history, they’ve turned out beneficial to some people and incredibly destructive to others. For example, some people believed that the internet is going to create a lot of jobs and a growing economy. There’s no evidence for that whatsoever. Sure, it will make a lot of things far more efficient and it’s going to kill jobs. I think at the end of the day we’re going to look increasingly at a society where maybe, say, 12-15% of the population can handle this revolution and they can serve on it and they can use it to the benefit and that’s the people that I call the Netocrats, the title of my first book.


CD: That’s the Netocracy.


AB: The Netocracy, yeah. But 85% of the people we define as the Consumtariat, not the Proletariat. Consumtariat is an underclass that are not socially intelligent, they don’t know how to use all these new technologies to their advantage, which means they probably end up playing a lot of video games and jerking off to video porn. But, you know, they’re losers. They’re damn losers. They’re being left behind. They’re getting poorer and poorer. They don’t have the capacity to take on the new jobs that are being created. So we’re now increasingly moving into the economy where there are jobs but there are not any people around who can take those jobs, because the vast majority of unemployed people are simply unqualified to take the new jobs. They’re just stupid or not educated enough because things are getting so advanced that we can’t just think of it as a natural that we can educate people to the next level. Education is basically over. Education revolution has already happened. If I do anything today I would sell all my shares in Harvard or Oxford and get out of there as quickly as possible because education is not going to get people anywhere. Education is the new MySpace, promised the people something today it cannot keep in ten years’ time.


CD: Klint, you’d probably want to jump in here. Alexander, when I explained your views which I share around the Consumtariat and the Netocracy to folks, they start to have minor meltdowns and seizures and things and they just don’t want to deal with it and I don't know if they’re advocating the responsibility to the current moment or whether they just see it and then just hate on you. So I don't know how you deal with that but every time I brought up that concept after reading you they just throw gasoline and fire on me. Klint, do you want to jump in here and kind of tie in some of your Klinteresting bits you’ve covered from Wired, some of the stuff you’ve seen happening?


KF: I guess I would actually want to step back a little bit and talk a little bit more about the theory itself and how you call this post-capitalist economy, informationalist, or at least that’s how it was translated in the Netocracy.


AB: It’s an informationalist paradigm. Informationalism is the new age. Attentionalism is the system.


KF: And then the winners in the system I guess are the Netocrats. One thing I really want to clarify is that how this is actually different from capitalism because most theorists are actually seeing these new breeds of companies as just an extension of capitalism. The autonomist school is referring to what’s going on as Post-Fordist capitalism.


AB: That’s because they’re using old models so they don’t get it. I mean, this is the same thing that happened with the printing press revolution starting in 1450. You would have aristocrats having dinners in the countryside with the priest and with the monarchs and they would bitch and complain about people in the city because in the city they would find the politician sitting next to the industrialist, sitting next to the university professor, and they were new elites. So the old elites take to the new elite and the old elite applied old models on the new elite and said, “One of these days this city is going to burn or the plague is going to kill them all and wipe them all the planet and everything is going to move back to the countryside and we would rule the world again.” And of course that never happened. The problem, especially in America, in American discourse, is that America is so tied to its identity to the idea of capitalism, so America just cannot comprehend that capitalism is dead. That is the problem. There’s no whatsoever scientific evidence that capitalism can survive in the new paradigm.


Just look at the Google page. The Google page is where everybody on the planet goes to get informed, so once they’re informed they can make informed decisions. If you look at the Google page, there are two columns. The left column is based on Attentionalism and Attentionalism is the root of the Google algorithm which is Google’s most important asset. So, what Google do is that they measure credibility and they measure awareness on the internet. Awareness and credibility multiplied with each other is attention value, that is the foundation of the Google algorithm.


If you look at the right column of the Google page, that’s the ads. That’s what people pay to get in. In December 2012, the traffic of the Google page for the first time was over 99% to the left column and less than 1% to the right column. If that is not empirical evidence that capitalism is dead, I don't know what it takes to get into people’s heads that Attentionalism has taken over the world and capitalism is dead, because money is now being thrown at people who already have attention.


The thing with Google, the fastest growing company in human history, is that they completely ignored making money and instead decided to maximize their own attention. If you Google the word search engine, Google is number one in the left column and then they don’t have to be in the right column to look desperate, because anybody who puts something, advertisement, today looks desperate. We’re not getting used to the idea that advertising is a language of desperation from people that we’re so uninterested in and we don’t want them. And that’s where is money is being thrown today into an empty pit and that means Attentionalism is ruling over the world. The Americans find this so hard to grasp because they’re so used to the idea that money rules the world. It doesn’t anymore. Attention is a very different system.


KF: What I’m asking is in which way are those two different things and then the money side of this is still critical to these companies in maintaining the physical infrastructure, the servers, all of that requires intensive amounts of capital.


AB: Food was important in the city. When the cities were being built around Europe 300 years ago, food was important. But if you kept your eyeballs on the food and thought the food was the most important thing in society, you were a ridiculous idiot because food was less than 5% of the economy and more like 2% of the economy. It’s the same thing in the servers and they cost nothing compared to the enormous values that Google and Facebook are creating. They wouldn’t build those server parts unless they were incredibly profitable to these companies, but they’re profitable in Attentionalism.


You have to understand what attention is. Attention is now the driving force of everything and the reason why attention takes over from capital is because you cannot buy attention. You cannot buy yourself into the most important networks. You cannot buy the popularity that it takes. Now, you have to be clever. You have to be talented. You have to be socially intelligent and none of those things can be bought and that’s exactly where capitalism fails. The same way the reason why capital took over from food as the driving force of the economy was because you could buy food for money but you could do a lot of things with money that food cannot do. Attention is something you can use to get anything you want but there are a lot of things out there that you can no longer buy and if you cannot buy the most important things then capitalism is definitely over.


KF: Why do you say that you can’t buy attention? In terms of media attention, media attention tends to follow wealth.


CD: You can buy the attention if you’re selling to the Consumtariat. You cannot buy the attention of the Netocracy.


AB: Exactly. And since the Netocrats rule the world you cannot buy the most important people. I mean, if you send an email to the head of Apple or the head of Google, they will not reply to your email because they don’t know you and they don’t want to know you. They have more important friends. Just look at the world map and look at the sociogram. The sociogram, we all know who knows who now and the sociogram expose the power structure and nobody’s paid to have their friends. You get your friends because you’re important and because you’re knowledgeable and because you’re intelligent and because you’re funny and because people get pleasure out of being around you.


So, networks work this way and as soon as a network allows members in by paying their way in, that network dies, because networks compete in an incredibly Darwinian landscape. It costs nothing to start a mailing list. It costs nothing to start a Facebook form. To start a network in itself costs absolutely nothing. But to get inside the most important networks takes an awful lot of attention. You have to first create attention for years before you’re being allowed into the most important networks and that’s where everything is now being decided, that’s where power is.


CD: I think, Klint, the way I read it, the way I understood it, advertising everything that we understand as capitalism still makes sense in this world, but as soon as I kind of had a basic concept of the Consumtariat and the Netocrats, I looked at everything differently. I literally could spot them in a crowd even if they were on some electronic you could just see who they were. It kind of reminds me if you lifted all the technology out of society and allowed the people just to be developed artists or philosophers or poets, those will be the center of attention at parties and those types of things and when everyone is connected to everything else those people also tend to rise to the top.


One question that kind of fumbles my mind, Alexander, that I’ve been asked is - as someone who people say, “You know, you’re funny. I love watching your stuff,” or “You’re provocative” or all the things that I’m really not comfortable of hearing because I just think they’re silly words - is can you transfer it? Can I loan charisma digitally to someone? But I think that’s just a networking function. I don’t think you can make someone digitally literate.


AB: Exactly. You know that’s incredibly profound, Chris. This is the frustrating thing. What do we do with all these kids left behind? We cannot transfer charisma. You used exactly the right words to be used here. Attention is something you cannot transfer the way it can transfer money. That is the cruelty of the internet world. This is a really tough society we’re getting into. It’s a really tough age. It’s going to be incredibly difficult for the vast majority of people and people refuse to see this. Economy refuses to see this. Politicians refuse to see this. It’s incredibly frustrating to see the future and having people all around you who don’t get it, but that’s where we’re heading now. We’re heading into a world where we can only create our own attention, within our own networks, and possibly with our best friends because we take them for a good reason because they’re attentional themselves. But outside of that, it’s very little we can do.


I’m consulting the governments in all three countries and basically I’m just telling them one thing. Make sure there’s free Wi-Fi in every corner of this country and make sure every kid has a computer when they’re five years old and learns a programming language. That’s the only thing you can do to support them right now. That’s where we’re at right now. Kids are learning programming language and if your five-year-old is learning a programming language and they’re making YouTube movies for other five-year-olds they’re winners. They’re on to what this is all about. But the vast majority of the five-year-olds in the world, are they doing that? No, they’re not so we have a huge problem.


CD: The other problem I see with five-year-olds is - I speak to parents in this thing called Singularity University and they were saying, “We don’t want our kids to have technology” and I was like, “Well, why don’t you just cut off their arms and legs?” because if you’re trying to make them more human and so they could interact with regular people in an age ten years from now where they won’t be anything like what you’re looking about except unless you’re on Elysium...


AB: Chris, you know why this is the case, I’m really interested in social psychology, this is the case because parents hate the fact that kids don’t listen to them anymore. Kids are clever. They’re clever enough to ignore their parents. Kids are learning everything from kids their own age. I work with Google’s think tank, they’re really into this right now, programming language is everything, seven-year-olds talk to seven-year-olds, eleven-year-olds talk to eleven-year-olds, five-year-olds talk to five-year-olds. They ignore their parents and we realize this has gone ahead of the Americans because we have daycare centers. So parents basically give up their children when their two years old. Thank god they are because the kids can finally get to talk to other kids and they learn a lot more from other kids than they ever do from their parents. American parents are increasingly getting frustrated, they want to get their power over the kids back, but they never will. Taking technology away from kids is like killing them.


CD: That’s what I think. I just think America has this whole fetish right now, put your phones down and talk to each other. I don't know, I don’t see anybody interesting in the damn restaurant so give me my phone.


AB: Give me my laptop. The Netocrats are nomads. The Netocrats are moving everywhere. You spot them in airplanes all the time. They’re everywhere because they don’t want to live anywhere anymore. They have this cradle, wherever my laptop is, that’s my home. That’s clever because if you’re a nomad, if you’re ready to move and be on the move all the time, you’re going to serve this world and you’re going to make it beautiful to yourself and your friends.


Why do you think I’m writing my next book on Burning Man? Nobody has done a proper social theorem on Burning Man, the biggest social phenomenon at the moment. Burning Man is now having spinoffs all around the world. There are local burns everywhere and they’re magnets for the Netocrats. That’s where Netocrats go because Burning Man is the internet as a physical version. It’s the physical version of the internet. That’s exactly what it is. But nobody has done the proper social theory.


I was there three years ago and I met this really beautiful naked Canadian actress. She was like taking tons of cocaine and she was really funny and she was taking me around for a night and we were just sweeping the place. Suddenly she says, “You know what, this is our hutch. Burning Man is our mecca.” And I just realize this is a practiced religion. Why hasn’t anybody written a book on what the Burning Man really is? It’s not a holiday for people. It’s a damn mecca. It has to be constructed as if it is your religion because I think what it is. That’s where Syntheism comes in that he was born a burning man. It’s the idea of the burning man is already a practiced religion. Now let’s find out what the religion is, we already practice it, let’s find out what it is.


KF: I think there have been some books on spirituality of Burning Man but one thing that I think hasn’t been discussed as much is its connection to the new elites in terms of people like Jack Dorsey. Actually I don't know if Jack Dorsey went to Burning Man but he’s part of that. He certainly was part of those types of networks in San Francisco in the late nineties and now he’s one of the biggest shots in the tech industry. He name drops a Hakim Bey, he talks about temporary autonomous zones and all of the concepts that were popular during that time and probably still are at Burning Man. I don't know if anyone has really looked into the connections between that type of network culture thinking and that old Burning Man rave scene from that period.


AB: Yeah, I can see from the outside, Klint. I can see the best for being a Scandinavian and not an American because for the Americans probably Burning Man is like a big rave party for old grumpy people. I know for a fact you don’t get a top job at Google unless you’ve been to Burning Man. That’s a requirement. That is what I call Netocratic manifestation, if anything. That’s where I would look right now for the future.


I’m going to give two TED speeches this fall. One is called “What If The Internet is God?” and the other one is “What If A Free and Open Internet is the Only Way to Save the Planet?” So I’m going to tie the environmentalist movement to the pirate movement, making people realize they could have two sides of the same coin. The other thing I’m going to do is to actually start discussing the metaphysics of the internet which is going to be my next book. I’ve dug into that before in the previous work but this is going to be one book that only deals with the metaphysics of the internet age. I think the metaphor of the interactivity of everything being connected with everything else is what’s brand new in history and is just a strong metaphor and it completely changes everything.


KF: Do you know Smári McCarthy? He’s Icelandic, pirate party activist and hacker type guy. I know he’s getting involved in that same sort of area trying to connect up the green movement with the hacker movement, specifically an Icelandic but probably Scandinavian.


AB: A lot of that thinking goes on in Scandinavia. Two of my best friends [names] have started the pirate movement and I’m taking [27:49] who runs Greenpeace over here. So I’ve seen the connection for a long time and I think the connection between ecology and the pirate movement is what it takes. If we’re going to fight stuff like the NSA we have to make the connection.


CD: I haven’t smoked in a while and I need a cigarette.


KF: Speaking of religion, I saw on Wikipedia so who knows if this is true or not.


CD: It’s Wikipedia, of course it is. It’s run by the Netocrats.


KF: Yeah. That you, Alexander, are a Zoroastrian, and I was curious about that because it sounds like that came about after the Netocrats book was published.


AB: No, I converted in 1992.


CD: For our listeners, Zoroastrian?


AB: Zoroaster lived 3,700 years ago and probably was the smartest guy ever lived. He lived in Iran and he founded a philosophy called Mazdayasni which means literally philosophy. The Greeks borrowed the idea from Zoroaster. Many of the original Greeks that I love, Heraclitus and Anaximander, are Zoroastrians. Even Jesus Christ was actually Zoroastrian. The problem with Saint Paul it came after him and destroyed it.


Zoroastrianism is incredibly interesting complex of ideas. I started by studying eastern philosophy and realized that in the East in Asia, India and China are two out of three major cultures, the third one being Iran, and I got really interested in their philosophy and it said a lot more about our age than Indian or Chinese philosophy ever could. So I got incredibly interested and decided to convert in 1992. It’s actually a philosophical system. It has no beliefs in supernatural things or anything like that so any decent, modern human being can become a Zoroastrian without being ashamed of themselves.


KF: What are some of the core philosophical ideas in how they connect up the Netocratic concept?


AB: I started Zoroastrianism by being a sociologist studying Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran to Europe and America. The fascinating thing when I came and met Zoroastrians in Los Angeles was that this community had left Iran from the late 1970s and within one generation they had higher education and higher incomes, even the Jews in America. What made this group of immigrants in America the most successful immigrant population ever in American history was that of course their ideas were incredibly adaptable to the California mindset. They practiced radical equality between the genders for 3,700 years. They never had any problems with things like homosexuality that all other religions find problematic. They happily shared their assets. Any new Zoroastrian when they arrived in California were given $40,000 and a house to start with from the community which I think is a brilliant idea to get them off and it also makes them committed to the community forever. They had all these clever ideas. They also practiced ecology for 3,700 years living in a perfectly sustainable society.


So I just got on this small group of people coming out of Asia having this incredibly modern mindset and perfectly adapted to our society. I found it incredibly interesting to study and of course I convinced myself that this was a brilliant idea. Then I traced the root to Greek philosophy back to Zoroastrian and the Iranian philosophy and discovered that all the things that I hate about the Greeks like Plato were something Iranians also would hate and all the things I loved about the ancient Greeks, like Heraclitus and Anaximander, came from Iran, so why not convert?


KF: Did you see a connection between Zoroastrian fire temples and what’s going on at Burning Man? I mean I don't know if that’s a superficial comparison but -


AB: No, I do. I do. The Zoroastrians stopped sacrificing. We’re the first religion not to sacrifice, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have any gods to sacrifice to. They stopped looking at gods as something exterior and threatening and realized that they were gods themselves and therefore things to be entangled with and encouraged communal living. They created completely white temples where everybody would be regarded as equal and put a fire at the center and the fire is the symbol of the eternal expansion and intensity of the universe. Doesn’t that sound like a religion that appeals to you guys too?


CD: I don't know, I’m sitting here mixing Kool-Aid.


KF: I’d have to give it more thought.


AB: Just to give you a connection, what’s interesting is that most people who believe Zen, Japanese Zen, have something to do with Buddhism. Zen is not Buddhism. Zen people don’t believe in reincarnation. Zen came to Japan from China and in China it’s called Chán. Chán was introduced in China by Iranians about 1,300 years ago so Chán is Zoroastrianism in its Chinese and Japanese forms. That’s what Chán and Zen are.


CD: Whirling Dervishes, what are they whirling for?


AB: They’re Muslims, they’re Sufis.


CD: They’re Sufis, okay. That’s my whole point. I’m not sure about Zoroastrian but I know that I want those outfit, I want to twirl on one of those dresses. I just think they’re fabulous. I don't know, I’m really loving everything about today.


AB: Is this the deepest, most profound podcast you ever did?


CD: It’s probably one of my favorites. Klint is really actually smart.


KF: I don't know if that’s true, but -


CD: I want to go over two things with you guys, let me get to two tweets because we do tweets of the week, and then jump into few things. Two tweets I saw this week that I thought were interesting on a bunch of levels. One was by Google itself and Google said in their tweet: “Don’t send the sensitive information by email. Use a secure checkout system or your phone.” This is Google tweeting. I’ll put a link on the shownotes. They’re saying, “Don’t use email.”


The second tweet I saw was by @PaulGrahamRaven but he was quoting William Blake and the tweet said: “I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s.” Thoughts on those things?


AB: First one I would know because I work with Google. Google hate the NSA immensely but they also look at the conflict between Google and the NSA as the conflict over resources. The problem is that 70% of all top mathematicians that are living in American universities are being dragged in by the NSA and about 30% go to Google. So Google have a less mathematical human brain capacity than the NSA do and that’s why the NSA are ahead of them, and that’s the only reason why. So Google are looking at the part of the conflict with the NSA as a conflict of strategy. What I think Google will do is they have increasingly placed capacity outside of the United States, outside of US borders and they will encourage countries like Brazil or Russia to build their own internet lines, so a lot of internet traffic can go outside of the US.


The problem with the NSA is that America today controls 99% of information flow around the world. They’re passing through American territories but that’s going to be less than 50% ten years from now because all these other countries are going to do their very best to disconnect from the American system. That’s a problem with eavesdropping. Once people find out, they eavesdrop, they don’t want to talk to you anymore.


CD: I think that’s great too. Klint, any thoughts on Google and email or “You must create a system or be enslaved by someone else’s”


KF: The second one sounds like pretty typical anarchist’s thoughts. It brings to mind one of my issues with anarchism, a question of how anarchism kind of wants everyone to be a leader in some way. Not everyone is capable of being a leader, not only that but most people don’t want to be. Most people want to be “enslaved” by a system. They don’t want to deal with making a system -


AB: Oh, you’re a Nietzschean.


KF: I’m a cynic.


AB: Nietzsche was a cynic.


KF: Yes.


CD: It goes back to what Alexander said and that’s what I love about the Netocracy, not everyone is and that’s okay and if we have to feed off the couch sitting 41 BMI masses surfing for BS and we have to surf off their attention to feed the rest of us then that’s the way it is. It is what it is.


KF: I kind of want to go back to education now that you mentioned that in Consumtariat - what do you think about the odds of getting people a little bit more on board for the modern economy because here in the United States at least our education system, at least our undergrad, our high school level and below education is all about preparing people to work in factories. Everything about it was really about getting people to sit quietly, be still, pay attention, get up only when the bell rings, etc. It was all assembly line skills and now the only type of job that really can take advantage of that is like working at a fast-food place and we’ve never adapted and it’s crazy because we should have adapted decades ago and we just cannot seem to do it.


AB: I think you are doing it in certain parts of the states and the big conflict here in the US is between the coast and the flyover states obviously. Mississippi, for example, is not part of the third world. It’s technically by any measure not part of the third world. It’s poor, people are unemployed, they’re obese, they’re dying early out of all kinds of weird diseases and they’re frankly not behaving very intelligently, because brain drain for decades and a lack of resources and a lack of understanding of what it takes to make things work and old models rather than new models destroy the societies. Empire’s always risen and fallen and parts of America are going down the drain, but the companies start doing just fine. There at the forefront of everything. I mean, nine out of the ten biggest companies in the world right now are American. I have great hopes for America. I think America will do well at least as long as it keeps importing brains from the rest of the world which it has been doing for the last hundreds of years. But it’ll be the coast and eventually that could be a huge military conflict between the flyover states and the coast. Right now it’s conflicting congress between those two categories and sooner or later America has to be divided. That’s what I think.


KF: We’re seeing the old conflict between the north and the south.


AB: That’s where it’s at, yeah. Give kids computers. That’s the best hope we have. If the teachers don’t get it any longer then the kids might be able to find out for themselves and do it with computer.


CD: Klint, what’s that term you used for the people who don’t have any stable -


KF: The Precariat.


CD: Yeah, the Precariat.


KF: People who are precarious or the Precariat. We can teach the kids at least what they need to know for the future, but what about all the adults who have been laid off from factories or laid off from office work, and looking at the study that shows something like 47% of the jobs in the United States are at risk of being automated in the next -


CD: I think there’s a very good chance we have parents moving in with their kids or parents’ house mortgages being paid for by children.


AB: These children have money and right now they don’t.


CD: Yeah, but I think that will switch.


So the Quantified Self Conference - Sorry, Alexander, we’re talking about Quantified Self. One time I went and spoke there, big shift away from collecting massive amounts of data which people know that I collect massive amounts of data and use it to assist me in my life. Two techniques, so they think it’s all about the technique that you use to collect the data. So they’re moving away from the data being the core or principle of the conference to Gary Wolf saying, really it’s about the technique you use to collect it. So this kind of brought me back to it really is about having a smart relationship with the information that you create and you can consume and if you don’t have an intelligent dialogue literally, mistresses with some types of information, other types of exotic love relationships types of data, your technique is all wrong. So I just thought that it was really interesting they’ve gone away from it’s not about the data you collect but the technique you use to collect it.


AB: The great potential of big data, the only really interesting thing with big data, is if you can make the big data ask questions itself. If you can make big data intelligent enough to ask its own questions, to produce questions, then that is really great. That is a huge advancement to anything we’ve done before because we used to being human beings and ask questions and then use the machines to try to answer those questions. If actually intelligent questions can be produced, if patterns can be found by big data, or big data is intelligent enough to draw conclusions, that will be wonderful change that has enormous potential.


CD: Perfect. I checked out a company I discovered when I was at Singularity University called Exogen. They’re not paying me for this, but what I like about them was that they’ve got a low-cost reoccurring service where you do a finger prick and they measure your DNA, tell you how much your DNA is dying, so your DNA dies every day, some days too much sun, poor diet. What’s really about this is that it’s something you can check randomly, so think about checking your blood sugar it’s like checking your DNA.


I want to run by you four or five quotes from Singularity University and we’ll close with that. One of the ones I like was a simple definition of a quantum computer. It’s a computer that breaks all cryptosystems, Ralph Merkle. Prepare your workforce for technological unemployment, Dan Berry. Never mistake a clear view for short distance, Paul Saffo. The ultimate performance metric is death, John Hagel.


AB: I love that one!


CD: A prototype beats a plan, Ray McCauley. Our institutions in the name of scalable efficiency have been designed purposely to squash passion and innovation, John Hagel.


AB: Good tweets there.


CD: Yeah, thanks. I was kind of enjoying that. Where can we catch with you next, Alexander? We’ve got the TED talks coming up. Is there any place people can find you? I mean, you’re all over the place.


AB: I’m mostly Europe for obvious reasons, I live over here.


CD: Mississippi doesn’t have you in all a lot.


AB: No, they don’t pay me to go over there. They don’t have intention to track me right now either. If I go to the states I usually end up in San Francisco and New York.


CD: Find Alexander @Bardissimo. I will put the links on the shownotes. He’s very accessible on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, but I’ll put a bunch of links on the shownotes. Mr. Klint Finley, where can we find you?


KF: Like you, I’ll be at Defrag, November 4 in Denver, talking about quantified work. What are you going to be speaking about?


CD: They’ve asked me to bring existence to the platform so using all the information from your quantified self and your internet of things to actually shape an environment around you, so harnessing the Consumtariat for the batteries that they are, and then actually I just got asked to speak at Salesforce. And then we’ll be at SouthbySouthWest. Alexander -


AB: We’ll stay in touch and we should mention that we’re both members of the Syntheist Movement. You can just go on the Facebook forum, there’s like 900 people in there. I’ll tell you what, Syntheism is the greatest idea I’ve run across since the internet itself which was in 1987 so I think it’s a brilliant idea. Again, it’s taking off in the most beautiful way and it’s really fascinating.


CD: Alexander Bard, thank you so much for being here. I didn't mention anything about how originally learned about you, but thank you for your musical career as well. You saved me during my formative years as a twenty-something struggling with a lot of things.


AB: That’s only my hobby.


CD: Klint, thanks for taking time out of your vacation.


KF: Thanks, guys.


CD: Bye, everyone. See you next time.


AB: Bye-bye.