For anyone who’s ever been told to aim lower

I am launching a project in a few days. It’s a super-project, actually. I am calling it Autotelic.

The name Autotelic represents the essential spirit of the project, which is to create situations where the various sub-projects emerge and mature successfully in an organic fashion, each emerging ‘of itself’ naturally thanks to the situations I – the autotelic practitioner – engineer humbly.

More to come on this of course, but it’s worth noting and sharing now that the ultimate aim of this is to augment human problem solving power so effectively that we can actually address our global grand challenges with competence and the humility that complex problem solving requires.

Years ago, when I shared a desire to address our most difficult problems not one by one but as a set of problems that share generalizable characteristics, I was told over and over again that I was “trying to boil the ocean,” that my aspirations were essentially futile and that I should start smaller – much much much smaller – and be more humble in my ambitions.

Of course I bristled. Yes, there could be a hefty dose of hubris in my aspirations here. What I kept thinking, however, was that I didn’t see anyone anywhere who seemed to be stepping up to the task.

Some organizations have charged themselves with these problems, like climate change, shelter, water, etc. They are prone to the usual fragilities of organizations however.

Some people seek to address these problems as individuals and communities. They are prone to all the fragilities particular to these approaches as well.

I have long sensed, and had this sense affirmed by the unsung work of internet pioneers like Douglas Engelbart, that we need to innovate in the infrastructure of collaboration and creativity in order to better address these superwicked problems. I now have some pretty well-defined ideas about how to do this with the rapidity we require, which I will be sharing in public.

I have hemmed and hawed about sharing my work beyond close trusted circles. The risk to my private life has long weighed on my mind.

I think now that such deliberation has been a luxury we can’t afford. I must become a public man, though it might be a reluctant becoming. If I can articulate effective approaches to the world’s most pressing problems, it would be wrong of me not to share this work as broadly as possible.

As for boiling the ocean, my spirit remains the same as ever: hold my beer. When people use that phrase, I don’t think they understand that it is entirely within the realm of possibility to boil the oceans. (Why they would want to I don’t know.)

If it isn’t prohibited by the laws of nature, it is possible.

The impediment to our success as a species seems not to be our technical skill, but our social skill.

I should like to be part of bridging the two, and I am happy to now invite you, all of you, to join me.

More to come.

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