beyond a binary society

Binary thinking is a lower level form of cognitive understanding, as put forward by Kieran Egan, which he calls Mythic Thinking. More complex forms of thinking are: Romantic, Philosophic, and Ironic. But binary, or mythic thinking, is an easy sell. It appeals to our emotions which we developed as children. Binary thinking blinds us. It’s not black and white, or right and wrong, or even Left and Right. Human society is many shades along various spectra.

“Every day I’m told our society, our system, has two sectors: the public sector and the private sector — the former referring to government and its agencies, the latter to the market system and its businesses. I’m also told that one sector or the other, or both in partnership, say as a public-private hybrid, offers the best way to deal with this or that domestic policy problem.

Our politicians, policymakers, and media commentators constantly rely on this public-private framework when they talk about fixing America’s health, education, childcare, housing, welfare, infrastructure, energy, communications, and environmental issues. Some proposals call for broader government programs; others urge more privatization; a few recommend improving public-private collaboration.” —David Ronfeldt


mediated perceptions

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“For years, a small hand lettered sign hung on the West wall of McLuhan’s Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. It read, ‘The important thing is to acquire perception, though it cost all you have.’” —Eric McLuhan, Poetics on the Warpath 2001 —@McLinstitute

What Is Education For? Six myths about the foundations of modern education, and six new principles to replace them — via @cogden

If education is to be measured against the standard of sustainability, what can be done? I would like to make four proposals. First, I would like to propose that you engage in a campus-wide dialogue about the way you conduct your business as educators. Does four years here make your graduates better planetary citizens or does it make them, in Wendell Berry’s words, “itinerant professional vandals”? Does this college contribute to the development of a sustainable regional economy or, in the name of efficiency, to the processes of destruction?


our learning blueprint

“Culture is an emergent property of human groups, a new property of the whole not manifested in the parts themselves. And it arises from humans having the brains and social systems that allow for retaining and exchanging ideas.

Human culture also accumulates. This means that brains and social systems capable of coping with more and more stuff are increasingly advantaged across time. And it also means that the force that culture has been applying to our evolution has been increasing over the past ten thousand to forty thousand years. Once humans evolved to be capable of teaching and learning, they developed a parallel evolutionary strand, cultural evolution, side by side with genetic. These two strands intersect repeatedly in many places and times. Each leaves its mark on the other. ” —Nicholas Christakis, Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

Christakis’s ‘social suite’ is a range of traits that are common among all human societies, though not always manifested in the same way. For more information, read Howard Rheingold’s review of Blueprint. When it comes to the age-old question of Nurture versus Nature, Christakis answers that it is both, like a double helix. This is not a unique perspective. (more…)


To an older culture, a newer one often looks amoral, as morality guides older cultures. To a newer culture, older cultures appear to be primitive, lacking complexity. But each culture has its pros and cons. The challenge in developing what Lene Rachel Andersen calls ‘metamodernity‘ is in taking the positive aspects of previous human cultures in order to create a global culture that can deal with the complexity of technology, climate emergency, and evolving political situations.

The Nordic Bildung perspective of societal evolution aligns with David Ronfeldt’s TIMN Model, which I have discussed in: understanding the shift. Andersen suggests we can build upon the positive aspects of each previous societal form in order to create a metamodern society. We do not need to destroy the old ways. (more…)

Internet Time Alliance Award 2019

The Internet Time Alliance Award, in memory of Jay Cross, is presented to a workplace learning professional who has contributed in positive ways to the field of Informal Learning and is reflective of Jay’s lifetime of work.

Recipients champion workplace and social learning practices inside their organization and/or on the wider stage. They share their work in public and often challenge conventional wisdom. The Award is given to professionals who continuously welcome challenges at the cutting edge of their expertise and are convincing and effective advocates of a humanistic approach to workplace learning and performance.

We announce the award on 5 July, Jay’s birthday.

Following his death in November 2015, the partners of the Internet Time Alliance — Jane Hart,  Charles Jennings, Clark Quinn, and myself — resolved to continue Jay’s work. Jay Cross was a deep thinker and a man of many talents, never resting on his past accomplishments, and this award is one way to keep pushing our professional fields and industries to find new and better ways to learn and work. (more…)

the dark side of communities

Communities play a significant role in how we relate to others and perceive ourselves. I am a member of several online communities and manage one myself — the perpetual beta coffee club. Communities are more than social networks. Our open social networks may be great places for serendipitous connections but they are not safe places to have deeper conversations or to expose our points of view. Communities of practice, which are often short-term,  can provide the connective space between long-term loose social networks and temporary work teams. Communities are connectors. They are essential. We all need an inner circle to support our learning and make sense of our experiences.  (more…)

the challenge of the network era

“There’s no room for argument about whether hate-filled internet message boards encourage real-world violence: they do, and none more so than 8chan. It normalises racism, misogyny, and extremism – and helps turn nightmarish, loud-mouthed talk of action into reality.” —Destroyer of Worlds

This examination of the 8chan online community shows how anonymity can breed a very dark social structure that is impossible to control, even for the founder. It seems that even if this community was shut down, a new one will be created, as evidenced by the rapid migration of the Gamergate harassment group from 4chan to 8chan. The disruption of civil society becomes the raison d’être of these types of communities.

It is the structure of a chan site itself that radicalises people. “The other anonymous users are guiding what’s socially acceptable, and the more and more you post on there you’re being affected by what’s acceptable and that changes you. Maybe you start posting Nazi memes as a joke… but you start to absorb those beliefs as your own, eventually,” Brennan [8chan founder] says. “Anonymity makes people reveal themselves, but because there are other anonymous users – not just one person in a black box – it also changes what they reveal.” —Destroyer of Worlds


I heard the news today …

Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” —David Bohm, via @cogden

@jhagel“If you don’t follow the news you’re surprisingly good at estimating the views of people with whom you disagree — you misjudge preferences of political adversaries by under 10%.  If you follow the news, you’re terrible at understanding your adversaries.” — discussing — study shows Americans have little understanding of their political adversaries—and education doesn’t help

“Unfortunately, the ‘Perception Gap’ study suggests that neither the media nor the universities are likely to remedy Americans’ inability to hear one another: It found that the best educated and most politically interested Americans are more likely to vilify their political adversaries than their less educated, less tuned-in peers.”


liberating meetings

In meetings, bloody meetings I covered some common issues with how meetings are conducted and also provided some ways to address these. Another form is the silent meeting, put forth by David Gasca at Twitter and used at Amazon as well. These meetings are based on the common phenomena that most attendees do not read material in advance and that a slideshow is not the best way to convey complex information. Instead, a ‘table-read’ narrative of not more than 6 pages is presented at the meeting and attendees start by silently reading this document.

This type of silent meeting requires:

  1. An agenda — includes goals, non-goals, suggested timetable, & if a note-taker is needed.
  2. The ‘Table Read’ — the main source of discussion, commenting, & reflection.
  3. A facilitator to synthesize comments & lead discussions.
  4. Commenting silently & then reading others’ comments before engaging in discussion.


hybrid sailors

According to The Atlantic 2019-07, the US Navy has been piloting a new way of manning its Littoral Combat class ships, which are modular by design. The crew are all multi-purpose, with several roles onboard and always learning new tasks. They operate with one-fifth the crew size of a regular ship. Specialization is a thing of the past for these crews. One reason for this is that specialized knowledge has an increasingly shorter lifespan, so generalists who are good learners can make for a more flexible, or agile, crew. This approach also has its downsides, such as fewer redundant positions onboard to mitigate combat losses, and lack of deep knowledge for some complex problems.

The key question from the article is whether this is the way of the future. Is a neo-generalist a better fit for modern workplace conditions? It’s a good question that will only be answered with time.

“Minimal manning—and the evolution of the economy more generally—requires a different kind of worker, with not only different acquired skills but different inherent abilities. It has implications for the nature and utility of a college education, for the path of careers, for inequality and employability—even for the generational divide. And that’s to say nothing of its potential impact on product quality and worker safety, or on the nature of the satisfactions one might derive from work.”—The Atlantic