An Alien at the Tech Conference

The other day I spoke at an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) conference in Istanbul, Turkey. It was a very mainstream conference. Surely, I thought, there must be some mistake? Why would they invite someone like me? “I like to shake things up a little bit,” replied Ali, a consultant to the organizer in charge of finding the keynote speakers.

So there I was, feeling a little bit out of place, a feeling augmented by the contrast in attire between me and the vast majority of the attendees. I'm not sure if I was the ONLY man wearing a T-shirt, but I think I was. At least it was a clean T-shirt.

The opening morning before my speech didn't exactly assuage my feeling of being out of place. The talks by high government officials and corporate executives (for example, a vice president of Samsung) were all about the growth of the ICT sector, Turkey's economic growth, the progress in Internet connectivity and broadband penetration, and so on. They extolled the up-and-coming wonders of technology, the coming M2M (machine to machine) revolution in which not only will people interface with machines, but machines will interface with each other. Soon, my friend, your smart phone will communicate with your refrigerator. Aren't you excited? And you'll be able to video conference anywhere you are – at the airport, even while you are vacationing at the beach. Yes indeed, we were assured, life is going to get better and better, but to take advantage of it we'll have to adapt to some rapid changes.

You can imagine my apprehension as I walked to the podium to speak to those 2000 ICT professionals. I felt like an alien who had just walked off his spaceship.

I spoke of the unredeemed promise of technology to usher in a utopia, the impact of endless growth on the environment, and the feeling that everyone has that the world we know as normal is coming to an end. I asked them, in the most jovial tone I could muster, “Come on – is anybody in the audience really curious about the temperature of your refrigerator right now? Does anyone think your life will be better with more videoconferencing? Can't we do better than that?”

I also spoke to the desire of all human beings to contribute to something meaningful, to live a life that makes sense given all we know is happening to the world.

Usually my jokes provoke laughs and my passionate invocation of the possibility of a more beautiful world draws applause, but not this time. My remarks were met with stony silence and frowns, a whole sea of them. I took a different tack then, speaking of another purpose of technology that lurks like a recessive gene underneath the program of domination and control, a beautiful purpose, perhaps the purpose that lends to the ICT field, even in the age of refrigerator networking, a tinge of novelty, excitement, the promise of wonder. Perhaps it is this intuition of a wonderful happening through technology that draws people to the technology field. Because after all, we like all species have something unique to give to the planet. Our unique gift of technology has a purpose, and we can begin to turn it toward that purpose. I related ICT to a broader movement toward self-organizing, autopoetic systems, open collaboration, the creation of a social ecology that will go hand in hand with the rejoining of economy and ecology.

More stony silence and wooden faces.

I carried on as best I could, hoping the 40 minutes would soon be over. A little voice began whispering in my ear. It said, “Charles, the reason for this cold reception is that you are wrong. You were invited here by accident, but you are not really part of their world, and for good reason – you don't have what it takes. You are a pretender, a dilettante. You don't belong in the big leagues where everyone wears a suit and tie. Maybe the less intelligent, less successful hippies you usually speak to lap up your validation of their own failure, but these folks know better.”

After the talk a lot of people came up to thank me for the speech. They said the usual things about how inspiring it was, but I didn't believe them, not all the way. That little voice was attached to me like a parasite. Even when people said, “Turkish people are very reserved. They show approval by silence,” I wasn't mollified. Nor did the assurance mollify me that “many people in the audience are having such thoughts in secret. Your words will stay with them, even if they are not ready to fully accept them yet.”

Dear readers, please don't flood me with reassuring letters telling me that voice is wrong. I know it is just a voice, just a story. I'm not describing this experience to fish for reassurance. I want to expose that voice, to name it, because I think that almost everyone working to change the world hears that same voice from time to time. It is part of the defense apparatus of the world as we know it.  Consensus reality casts its shadow into the psyche of each one of us.

The stories that inhabit us are not mere intellectual constructs, devoid of emotional content, but are part of an entire state of being. A little part of me believes that voice, a hurting part of me. That voice is the voice of a wound, calling for attention. It is a wound many of us share, plunged as we are into a society whose consensus beliefs defy our sense of rightness, fairness, and justice a world that defies our heart-knowledge that the world is supposed to be more beautiful and life more authentic, intimate, joyful than what has been presented as normal. The voice says, “No, the world is fine. The problem is you.” And our social institutions back it up with shaming and humiliation from childhood on.

And there is more. I am sure that some of my supporters will hasten to assure me that the little voice is lying. Yes. But within every lie there is a grain of truth. To blithely dismiss any criticism or self-criticism with non-falsifiable excuses like, “They just aren't ready for it,” or, “It worked, there just isn't any evidence of it,” shuts the door to growth and creates a division of the world into those who “get it” and those who do not, those who are awakening and those who aren't. All of us, in one way or another, carry invisible habits and beliefs of the old world into the new. Only something from the outside – a collision with reality – can  reveal what was invisible.

The painful emotions I experienced with the voice that assailed me at my speech indicate that it indeed was expressing a wound. Beyond that, though, I am looking for the truth in the lie. The grain of truth here has yet to reveal itself. It isn't just that I “didn't respect where people are at,” or that I was judgmental, or that I need to conform to the protocol of a keynote speaker or display the symbols of legitimacy in order to be heard. I've gone through all those possibilities. There is something else.


  1. Once again Charles, you’ve managed to capture the doubts that I share that, if the corporate world, so to speak, is not listening to the message of the emotion-based, spiritual-based community, then this community must take some responsibility in not communicating the message, or even in not being able to hear the communication of the business leaders, many of whom comprise some of the most accomplished minds. How do we connect the two sides? Thank you once again for expressing your doubts with such honesty and have faith that you have got through on some level. Merely being in a position to express your truth has great benefit. Maybe also, it’s time for a suit and tie to get through to a few more of the harder to reach high achievers. Best of luck!

  2. I say that “The world is fine. The problem is you.” is the voice of separation. The voice of reunion is “If you have a problem, the world has a problem. And vice versa.”

  3. An interesting article for reflection. There seems to be a part of you that you felt was criticising you. Can I invite you to not to “expose it” but rather listen to that voice with compassion and curiosity (because that voice may not want to be “exposed”)? Perhaps we can accept all our thoughts and experiences – even all the voices (parts of ourselves) that tell us conflicting and different stories, even stories that a part of us doesn’t want to hear. While I could make suggestions about the speech (but I don’t want to give you advice) I just want to suggest that allowing the voices to be heard with compassion may result in some clarity arising. Calling a voice criticism may not be helpful – as this part may be just trying to help you. For me the word criticism can be a loaded and unhelpful word. Still, introducing new and radical ideas to a largely unreceptive audience must be very challenging – well done on taking that courageous step.

  4. I think that contrast was the best part of it because I felt the same strong tension between inspiration and business as usual there. Maybe, it was the very first moment they, the people with ties, might have come across such inspiring ideas! It might have been really an encounter for a fresh con(collective)-sci(knowledge)-ous-ness of ad cordis for sustainability based on sacred economy! Thanks for your gifts again!

  5. Hi Charles. As with some of your previous blogs, I’m impressed by your honesty and willingness to expose your vulnerability. I admire your courage. But this time I feel there’s an element of self-pity and melodrama as well. It seems likely that many of those people didn’t agree with you, thought you were talking nonsense, closed their minds even as you began. That little voice of yours was just your own insecurity in the face of a deeply uncomfortable situation. Don’t give it any more weight than that. Why wallow in self-criticism? Of course, there’s always room for growth in one’s ideas and I think you recognise that. But, if anything, your doubt and self-exploration makes it easier to take you seriously. It’s a strength. The truth is, the world is NOT fine, and you, and others like you, are part of the solution.

  6. Thanks Charles for your courage and all the work you do for change. Maybe you are describing another tentacle of the wound of separation we all carry. You are gifted with a unique understanding of that wound and the ability to build connections across the separation. It sounds like your intuition recognized a weaker connection (than you are usually able to establish) with that audience. Are we limited in our ability to influence change by our lack of affinity with some people? Is it possible to be authentic to ourselves yet at the same time flex our style and delivery to better connect with a unique audience? I have not been able to foster a good connection with individuals (even most family and friends) that do not share my values without avoiding or softening the areas of disagreement…

  7. Just be present in the moment and speak the truth as it appears to you at the time. Then you are doing your best. Then there is no need to look back.

  8. Less intelligent, unsuccessful hippies! Gasp! If we end up categorizing people and ourselves into narrow or judgmental categories or polarities ( like successful/unsuccessful, educated/uneducated, accepted/unaccepted) we ruin our chance to find common ground. Than our feeling of being alienated does really alienate us, you know? I think as humans we all feel alien at times when we are not accepted, it’s natural. Feeling alien is good for the soul I think.

  9. I think what you are talking about is a mindset issue. This is often caused by a psychological contraction that often brings about a victim mindset – I’m not good enough, can’t you see how hard I’m trying, you don’t understand me – these are some of the thoughts/words the victim mindset will use. It goes round and round in circles as the contraction gets deeper and never goes anywhere. It’s a poor me, self-obsessed, narcissist impulse that is born out of an inherent and artificial perception of limit. It’s behavior can be judgmental, reactive, and it’s reason for participation can be reluctant. The fact that your core values were so different to the other people could have resulted in resistance, feeling misunderstood, struggle, overwhelm and being closed and hard.. In an evolutionary context this mindset was born and developed in the age of separation, limit, scarcity.. Its ingrained in our systems and structures, not only external but in our own belief systems too. Key to getting out of it is mastering states of consciousness and relaxing the contraction which manifests out of the idea that there’s something wrong from which we need to escape – fight or flight.

    • I found these comments to be very insightful. It seems to me that you’re talking about mindfulness. I think that “better than” or ” worse than” mindsets lead to conflicts where we’re at war with ourselves and others. The event itself seemed to lack rapport building. Differing, even seemingly clashing core values, can and do co-exist. If a smartphone-refrigerator connection seems to be the next big thing, then what would that mean to them? And what would that then mean? And that? At a deeper level, there’s an undefined notion of happiness and fulfillment that’s idiosyncratically driving all of us individually. For most of us, we’ve never really been coached, trained, mentored or taught in the ways of mindfulness or collaborative ways of being. At best, we’ve had intellectual, logical arguments formulated or presented to us. But the amygdala, the lizard brain, overwhelms the logical brain in times of stress, such as Charles’ experience. To me, the lesson for Charles is that mindset shift that you allude to: get over the imagery of superiority over hippies or inferiority to techies. My suggestion to Charles is to replace that imagery, that language, with a vision as a compassionate, listener and reflector of reality, helping people discover that better way, that better future that makes sense for us individually and collectively. Help us all “connect the dots”. And thank you, Charles, for sharing your thoughts, fears, and weaknesses to help us all become better.

  10. I think you’ve touched on an important experience and articulated it extremely well.

    One of the issues we all have to deal with (but usually manage to isolate ourselves from) is that there isn’t only one narrative about how the world is changing. There are, in fact, multiple narratives – some, at least, of which are mutually exclusive. There will be videoconferencing on the beach, and many tens of thousands of people will be involved in making it happen, and it will create new possibilities and opportunities.

    I remember hearing the story of someone who, during one of the vicious sieges of WWII (was it Leningrad or Berlin, or somewhere else?) managed to rescue and care for the animals from the city’s zoo. It’s easy to imagine that in such a situation everyone’s focus should be on the same narrative: the enemy at the gates, surviving the hail of bombs and shells, finding enough food. But the thing that was both enchanting and fascinating about this story was that this person’s focus had pushed all of that into the background. Few people in that situation could care less about elephants, bears and penguins, but this person was fully preoccupied with them. As the world seems to us to be collapsing in different ways, it’s no less important to realise that some people’s focus is enabling mobile phones to talk to refrigerators. This is exactly how it should be: it’s not really for us to say that one narrative is more important than another, even if it may seem that way. And the interesting thing is that, while everyone else is running for cover, the animals man is single-mindedly following up a lead for where he can find the carcass of a horse to feed to the lions. What wonderful things we human beings are!

    • The concept of ‘stories’ and ‘personal narratives’ is critical in understanding the ‘truth in the lie’.

      I’ve worked with many executives and business owners over the years. The one thing that any successful business person learns is this: focus on your own problems and ignore everyone else’s. That attitude makes great business sense and it’s critical to survival in the businesses of today. (at least, I would expect that audience to agree with that statement)

      The other speakers at that conference were pitching their latest gadget. That gadget may solve a someone else’s problem, but selling it solves their own problem – that of making money. Ultimately, they were focusing on their own problems. And yet there you stood, trying to impart a story about how we’re all *connected*, how we improve our lives *together*. Not only is that a narrative that business people aren’t receptive to, it’s a narrative they are trained to actively reject. It’s ‘pie in the sky’ – as I’m sure most of them would have summed it up as.

      That wasn’t the voice of self doubt you heard. It was the realization that they *heard* you, but they refused to *listen*. If we view your message as a form of marketing, if could be said that the audience was not in your *target market*.

      Stay true to your message. You are an intelligent person who has researched your topic to excruciating detail. More importantly, you solicit feedback on your ideas because you know that collaboration is superior to any single mind. It is your job to foster the ideas in those who are receptive. If these ideas are truly as powerful as you (and I) believe them to be, they will find their way to all audiences. But *you* need to focus on *your target audience*.

  11. dear Charles,
    Thank you. I hear the ‘same’ voice within as well. You are so right…”There is something else”…what a wise wound you are listening to…you give me hope. Every time we allow our wounds into the light of consciousness, we make the world a better place.
    Bless you on your journey. love and light to all.

  12. Prophets hear both voices. The lense thru which you see the future is often turned inward to the human heart. Hear the voice, respond as you would hope that your audience would have – with courage and thoughtfulness, but don’t let it paralyze you. Vk

  13. Ali, you rock! I hope you did shake them up.

    Charles… get back out there. We have work to do. You have to keep sharing your ideas. How else can we make change happen?

  14. The voices perhaps are doorways to unmet childhood needs. We make decisions when we are very young that carry on in our adult lives — mostly unrecognized. Hearing them as voices, not truths, can signal a new level of conscious awakening. The access to these voices is generally given by our emotions; our feelings of “not enough.”

  15. The emotions and unmet needs trying to emerge have to do with connectedness and worthiness. We long to connect deeply and to be deemed worthy by our fellow travelers.

  16. Another excellent post Charles – thanks. It is always inspiring when we strive for truth. For me, that ‘little voice’ is often called ‘doubt’. Most of the time it just needs to be put to one side and ignored.

  17. I work in an ICT company and I know the attitude of people attending those conferences. However, changing the world is not easy. Of course there are doubts on the way. But all those stories are mere distractions.

    Oh, and you only need one person from the audience to get the “virus” and spread it further.

  18. Beautiful, thank you. My thought–where or when I experience separation, I inevitably dig deeper into my divine essence and revive myself. In doing so, I share divine light with myself and bring more loving into this world.

  19. Thanks for speaking from the heart, Charles.

    I find this collision, or this confrontation of the two “distinct”
    realities, very valuable. In both ways.

    About what that little voice was trying to tell you, where
    it came from, or why it came out, you are the only one that deep inside knows the answers.
    When you find that answer, it will for sure contribute to your awareness and
    personal story. And your heart will get even stronger. I believe that. Teachers
    are the ones who learn most. That’s how they can lead others.

    It is important to be the change that we seek for. So yes,
    everyone should try their best in realizing the change in their own lives first
    of all, in their own hearts. But when we start to construct this change as an “alternative”
    reality to the mainstream, in closed and isolated communities, away from the
    mainstream, I don’t believe we can make it through. That’s why this collision,
    as you speak feeling like an alien to a 2000 nonreactive audience, is much
    more valuable than speaking to 2000 people, who already think and feel very
    similar to you, among whom you feel “home”.

    The only way that both (or all) sides could develop is when
    they come together and confront each other. To know each other. Which opens the
    way to love.

    And yes Turkish people don’t express their feelings in
    public space very easily (except music concerts). Silence is a virtue in
    our culture. And yes it can mean both. One lady next to me, dressed all in a businesswoman suit, was nodding her head all throughout your talk. I don’t
    know the rest. What you felt may be right that more indifference was manifest
    than contemplating. Or maybe they really got impressed, but your little voice kept you from recognizing it. To be honest, I also felt a tension in that silence. But I don’t know if it came from you, or from the audience, or from both, or from me… And it doesn’t really matter. It’s of course much more complicated than accepting/understanding vs. being indifferent duality.

    Whatever was behind that silence, there is something more important than
    instant feedback of the audience: that you were talking your heart, your way. So
    you did your job; I’m sure they also did theirs.

    With Love,


  20. Wow! Thank you for your honesty. Your experience–internal as well as external–is what I call playing the fool for God. Sometimes we just have to trust that we are where we are for a reason, obscure though it may be to us. Then breathe through the discomfort of our doubts. Bravo!

  21. Thanks Charles for sharing also your emotions… Some years ago I learnt I cannot like everyone but still it feels weird when I can feel somebody doesn’t like me. You’ve experienced a great moment cause you will feel better when life takes you to another similar situation. Life is about learning… learning about the mystery.

    Big hug! : )

  22. Courage and sensitivity make for strange bed fellows. You have both in abundance, and I fear it condemns you to passages of deep pain. But that’s the path, at times. Or at least, it seems that way to me.

    There are lots of good comments here I’m sure you’ve benefited from. If it’s any help, a huge thank you from me for having the courage to do what you do, to risk what you risk. You do it exceptionally well, even though I don’t agree with you on everything. I’m sure you don’t agree with yourself on everything either. That makes 7 billion of us!

    One last thing. We can ‘fail’. I don’t really know what failure is, but the ego doesn’t enjoy it at all. And we can fail completely too, from the ego’s point of view. You say all of us have a gift to bring. That may be true, but some are very bitter pills indeed. A baby who dies in a fire at age e.g. 3 months might have existed to put its parents through pain (not a gift anyone wants to give or be given), then the parents endure a pain so horrible the chance they then have to discover the gift in that pain is probably very low. And some suffering seems so meaningless. A doctor friend of mine told me about a man crushed to death by a huge tire while at work at a scrap yard. Things like this happen every day in their thousands, and then there’s factory farming. Perhaps suffering is a type of bifurcation point; for creativity to be possible, something has to be destroyed, and suffering, sometimes very horrible indeed, cannot be avoided. So some must suffer, but none want to. At least, that is how it seems to me. And yet we fight on, those of us yearning for the (much) more beautiful world we cannot know is possible, though we know it is. Or hope it is. Or know…

  23. The truth within the “lie” is that a mind focused on the Short-Term (human lifespan) isn’t even playing on the same court as the mind contemplating the Long-Term. Never the twain shall meet in terms of one meaningfully communicating with the other.

  24. I would venture this explanation: when enough people are in a group agreeing on something, they create a lot of energy around that idea, and all the language, body mechanics, and thoughts that go with it. You were speaking directly in opposition to the patterns of that giant thought bank, and it’s no surprise you felt its reverberations as actual thoughts, put to language, in your own mind, It’s part of the collective’s defense mechanism, and says little about how individual within it received your message. As we know, a large system can have many individual dissidents before macro level changes can be observed.
    Another thing is, this seems like an archetypal situation, a battlefield of our times, a great opportunity – so often otherwise we are preaching to the choir, but this is where the “real” work is. So it’s also no surprise that your interpretation of it is taking longer to form than for other experiences. Because it’s a novel experience and involves archetypes and systems greater than you individually, it requires more mental space around it, less identification with the “you” that it occurred to, and so on.
    Does that make sense? Hope so. And I hope it’s helpful.

  25. I had a similar experience speaking at Comdex just before the great Dotcom crash. I asked if the ability to buy and sell equities over your cell phone was really a great advance in the human condition — was it really worth billions of dollars in capital, etc. Stony stony silence was my reward. Even when Dotcom crashed, and my stated fears were realized, I felt no relief from that deathly silent reception.

  26. First of all, I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU. And thank you for being so brave. I know you’re not looking for reassurance, I knew this before you even mentioned it in words. I just simply want to express how much I appreciate you and what you do.
    Also thank you for this entire post because I’ve already been thinking
    the ideas in it, and now I see them eloquently written out by somebody
    else. That reassures *me*, which is something I’ve needed!

    This all ties into a youtube video of yours I saw recently, the one
    about treating emotional pain/worry etc. as entities that need to be
    exposed, respected, and felt fully before they can be healed. I have
    been earnestly doing that in recent times, and thus I’ve been feeling
    some of the greatest pain I’ve ever experienced, but it’s also so
    good… because as each deep-seated issue is healing, I gain
    unprecedented strength.

    And I think many people around the world are doing this, everyone at different stages, but overall at an accelerating pace.

    See you around 🙂

  27. Dear Charles,

    I wonder if the cause of the wound you are
    describing so tenderly is actually a very genuine aspiration to wake
    people up to the illusion of separation, but the voice that’s speaking is the
    voice of separation? From our deeply rooted tendency as human beings to
    apply the story of separation to anything we encounter, there is a grain
    of truth in what this voice expresses, but it’s only true from the view
    point of separation. As you’re neither buying into it nor entirely
    dismissing it, I think that your study of this experience, of voice and
    wound, will help you to refine the stories you tell, and to discern which ones
    your various audiences may be ready to hear. But please don’t
    compromise! If the majority of us were immediately on board with what
    you have to say all the time, you wouldn’t be stretching our
    imaginations or challenging our preconceptions to (y)our full potential.

  28. I am in the process of freeing myself from excess bogusness of technology. I don’t need the news on my refrigerator, I don’t need to tweet every thought. They forget to realize that we are headed for an information overload where we becomes salve of information and technology that relatively does not change the fundamental wrongs of the world.

    Remember that we can fill entire stadiums of people who are thinking like you and this community. And yes we are expressing a wound that needs healed. The wound of a broken world. If we live in a system that is a Mind, and it is Universal mind evolving through us. ( Playing chest against itself ). Then as you said in your other articles and book. There may be a “Miracle” coming.

    Until I know that all humans of all present and past history are safe and what they went through was a needed process of evolution I will not say that I have lived or seen any Universe.

  29. Beautiful, Charles. Recent encounters with your writing have me consistently and deeply feeling a kinship with your journey, outwardly and inwardly. Thank you for the invitation to reunion. I am grateful for the post and also for you having spoke at the conference.

    My experience in environments like that (and conventional systems in general) is that we are experiencing the autopoeitic conditions of the culture as much as the individual’s responses and that you might just be touching hearts through the stoney wall you met. I know you didn’t ask for encouragement, so I’ll stop there. Much love. 🙂

  30. Charles,
    your brain vibration pattern was/is very much different than brain vibrations of people who were present at ICT conference in Istanbul. Different focus, different interest and different thoughts. So what happened? War among thoughts. Different vibrations behave as physical wave opponents. They harmonize or destruct each other. Little voice is energy lost in process of unsuccessful harmonizing. What your heart didn’t like is harmonization attempt with destructive energy.

  31. Charles,
    When I read your blog about your experience of the little voice I felt a resonance with my own experience. I worked for about 4 years for Environment Canada and went to a number of conferences where I felt like an alien in the room because of what I heard and secretly felt was wrong. I was a resource economist at the time and even during my training/indoctrination I heard a little voice saying see you aren’t good enough to be with the big boys. There was another voice too speaking so quietly that I could barely hear it. My heart was whispering this work, these conferences aren’t your true nature. That was 25 years ago. I had a dream a month or so after leaving the government back then which was a strong message to become an artist. Through a connection I went into therapy with a depth psychologist to explore this dream and trained to become a Waldorf teacher. What I learned was that within the lie in the wound is the truth, one’s own truth. Jung spoke about how these negative voices, dreams etc., have within them, at their core, an image/story that is different more like an energy of transformation. I found for my ego to actually change it had to confront and dialogue (active imagination/do art) with this negative voice and others. Slowly the flower of my own truth grew out of the soil of these dark energies until I found one day that a seed had formed and it’s name was play. Cheers.

  32. you were lucky to be there, to have such an audience!!! Those were the people that NEED to listen to you. Probably if you wanted them to ear you they would’t listen… It was a Gift for both you and those 2000 😉 mistakes do miracles 🙂

  33. I’ve just read this essay, and my response is this. Can you be sure it was really your own pain you were feeling and not pain you were picking up from any of the people listening to you? As you say, and as I know it to be, we are all connected, though this connection is at present in a part of us that is unconscious. It will not always be so, I think.
    You are looking deep within yourself, in order to identify these subtle voices and pains, but many people are doing just the opposite, wanting to hide from them, thrusting them away into their unconscious which is all part of the collective unconscious. I think this way, not through studying psychology but because I’ve been there myself.
    I don’t want to make a simple “us and them” statement here, I’m aware of this trap to fall into, but human beings do all have free choice, and there are those who are not ready yet to give up the idea of “success” in society’s terms.
    I’d also like to agree with the person who said that the black background makes it difficult to read!
    Pat Bushell.

  34. You were unprepared. Everyone is of equal worth and in some way engaged in their story. Your responsibility is to provide the vision of transition. If we look at technology at scale, it,s more a mirror of natures systems than we may first acknowledge. Long running physical networks with short wireless Hop off points providing an unrivaled connectedness. Natures pattern is also one of EVOLution, perhaps your gift is to envision the path of a gifted ICT technician and then your work is done. In any event when you do it right as always you’ll know.

  35. Turky is a hot place and it gets very hot in summertime. I can immagine that those people were looking forward to being able to push a button on their smartphone to cool up their drink while beeing stuck in a traffic-jam. Well, then they hear that they ruin the planet.
    I think hippies are not better or worse than people in ties and suits. Sometimes you dont feel understood, it happens to the other as well.
    What are the needs which need to be welcomed before a understanding or a change can take place?

  36. I think too that there are more narritives about how world can change. I do like your narrative very much. Yesterday evening I read for the first time your book Sacred Economy and it was a great suprise! I thank you very much for lightening up my understanding. I can imagine that you receive a lot of love and specially from an audience which agrees with your thought and your sentiment. Though your way of looking at things cannot have a continous growth/success either. Not everyone will love you for this way of looking at things.
    Its difficult to be in a situation where you dont find agreement, I think the other has this right too – not to agree.
    Some people say that the self-maintaining money-system has become something like a “beeing” itself. I resonate with that and think it needs always to be very aware of its power which can sneak in also in a very suttle way. I am convinced, it will not want to be transformed so easily.

  37. I can really relate to this as I am a sales engineer working for a very large telecommunications and IT company. We sell “collaboration”, “mobility solutions”, networks, security, managed IT, etc. Yes, we have a refrigerator that can talk to a cell phone (and many more such “innovations”). I just want to say that if someone like you had spoken at any of the conferences that I have to go to, I would have been inwardly jumping for absolute joy to hear such ideas at a sales conference. It would have been completely inspiring, and I would have been convinced that the world was changing, slowly but surely new ideas were coming around. Having you at my conference would have been proof of this. My heart would be leaping. Outwardly though, I probably wouldn’t have been doing much more than the occasional nodding. Why is that? Probably due to fear. Fear of not fitting in, fear of being looked at as being different or not a good fit for the job. Maybe someday I’ll leave this line of work and find something more meaningful, but in the meantime, just know that I am probably not the only one with feelings such as this.

    By the way, I absolutely love you. I’ve read your book “Sacred Economics”, and I think you are brilliant 🙂

  38. What a very insightful young man you are Charles. You do what so many are unable to do. You look into the ‘soul’ of people and try to understand why they do what they do, rather than completely castigating them. We wish you well with your mission to enlighten. Thank goodness there are people like you highlighting the need for connection over separatism.

  39. You spoke the truth as you saw it. You planted a seed, not all seeds will fall on fertile ground all the time. I am sure, that at least one seed will grow into an idea, an opinion, possibly even an action.
    All we can do is plant seeds. As you know, flowers grow in the most unlikely places.

  40. I admire your authenticity in describing your struggle, your courage to be vulnerable, to put light on your shadow, your genuine search for the “grain of truth” in the lie. So here are a couple of thoughts – and I must admit, doing this publicly rather than just dropping you an email is pushing my own boundaries…

    I have been deeply moved by the historical perspective, systemic view and pure wisdom of Sacred Economy. Yet when reading it, I was missing a couple of key aspects. And maybe that little voice inside of you feels the same. Maybe it realizes that your concepts and roadmap still lack a few key components to be able to offer real guidance to activists like me on how to most effectively support the coming systemic shifts. Yes, your book helps us envision what a new world may look like – and that is a wonderful gift for which I am deeply grateful. Yet for me at least and probably other social activists as well, it doesn’t provide enough concrete direction on how to make the shift happen.

    Taxing for use of commons and environmental costs, negative-interest currencies and social dividends are changes which under our present systems the government would have to initiate – and the existing power structure will do everything to resist such changes. So what can we, as social activists, do? And what role does “local community” play in creating the change?

    You write about the importance of community, but you don’t describe what it takes to rebuild community, and to rebuild it in such a way that economic and political decision making power move back to the community level. You write about the spiritual principle of having centers within centers but don’t describe how that might apply to community. I have been working with villages in Northern Pakistan for the past 5 years, and in the absence of effective government, we are trying to help them implement a multi-level participatory self-governance system where both political decisions and economic activity take place as locally as possible and as centrally as necessary. And we’re now trying to apply the learning from there to a major city in Germany (which is a complete new challenge of its own…)

    I believe that one core aspect of trying to create our “new world” is to build such “centers within centers” from the bottom up – centers where economic, ecological, social and spiritual/cultural aspects are integrated. One thing that I have learned from my work with communities is that this takes the active cooperation of all social and ecological changemakers on each level of community. Building such an alliance is an art in itself, an art mastered by few.

    Where I see that art of “alliance building” especially lacking is on your level, the level of the thought leader. I know many brilliant thought leaders with partial solutions who focus on “spreading their gospel” instead of working together with other thought leaders to integrate their respective knowledge and wisdom. But you’ll be the first one to admit that the world is too complex for anyone to have the complete solution. Only if thought leaders start cooperating actively with each other, only when they put all their puzzle pieces together, will a comprehensive picture emerge…

    Personally, I ask myself the following question, and I would love your input on this: As we succeed in building stronger participatory local community structures, is there a way that we can apply the concepts of taxing for use of commons or social dividends at the local community level? Is it a viable solution to make the taxes voluntary and use the proceeds to provide a social dividend only to those in need? If we make public who within the community pays the taxes and who does not, will that induce increasing numbers to take part in the system? Is social pressure an acceptable means of inducing change?

    In rural areas in Tibet, the villagers who volunteer their time as social mobilizers get a special flag by their house – a sign of honor. What can we do to shift our values within our local communities so that those who give the most are valued the most rather than those who own the most (this is, by the way, still the value system in rural Pakistan)?

  41. Eh! Maybe you screwed up. WE all do sometimes. When you said “does anyone think your life will be better with more videoconferencing? Can’t we do better than that?” that may have been deeply insulting to this crowd, and neither they nor you ever got past the temporary wall that insult created for the next 40 minutes. Maybe you don’t need more videoconferencing, but perhaps they feel they do. You don’t need another smart oven, but some people would love to have any oven. Even those these people were professionals and had good salaries, you don’t know in general their life stories. Emotionally, many tech professionals are children. Imagine looking out over an auditorium of Turkish children, destined to become engineers, some of them not from wealthy families. Some, most, of them work very hard to achieve. Now tell them the stuff they will create will be the last thing on earth that the world needs.

    Suppose instead you had talked exclusively about the nature and essence of communication without ever even mentioning technology per se. Could the outcome have been different?


    • I agree that many engineers are like children in their fascination with new toys, but I beg to differ on Charles’s calling them out on it. I have noticed that “connectedness” does not always foster good communication, especially with mobile devices, because people are often doing other things simultaneously so they take shortcuts which truncate their thoughts. To the recipient, often their speech is unrecognizable due to the limited range of the microphone, their careless handling of the device, ambient noise, and their sloppy pronunciation. The inconvenience of small keypads limits it further. Then there’s the problem of being connected to one’s friends or contacts while being totally disconnected from other people in one’s immediate surroundings, which increases the separation the latter feels. What bothers me about videoconferencing is the likelihood of worse rude behavior as people will be engaged more viscerally through their electronic devices while oblivious to everyone else locally, plus the obvious segregation created between the haves and have-nots. Finally, who will benefit most from these devices? …giant telecoms and corporate users. This could hog bandwidth, further entrench the telecoms’ and corporations’ domination of trade, and increase their power to track, exploit, and surveil users. It could also disqualify those who do not possess the devices from getting jobs. Technology is a double-edged sword.

  42. hey. it may be empathy. psychically feeling and tuning into what all those people are feeling/thinking. their pain, their doubts. can only separate it from your own to a certain extent. like if you’re psychic/empathetic you may not even realize it’s their pain/thoughts, not yours. although then again there is really no their and yours. also the pain of the disconnect, that disconnect really hurts the closer you are to the people. anyway this is something i been really learning to deal with lately. glad to have found you. and comforting just to know you’re out there. found you through the boom festival talk video. just from that and reading your blog now i come to learn to appreciate this pain thing more. the way you approach it. the vibe of that. your openness. so thanks 🙂 very strange learning about empathy from a dude, but good strange. xo peace

  43. During the 1980s when the powers that be were installing BBC Microcomputers in every primary school in the land – hitherto ALL micro-computer technology had only been provided to 16+ maths and science students – I said to Kenneth Baker the IT Minister – THAT the archives of the BBC were worth more to the British nation than all the country’s coal deposits and that in order to “mine” this wealth, an appropriate industrial infrastructure and facilities would have to be established – before the information could be put into IT (Information Technology) and subsequently distributed in a form which would be useful to all potential users – and most importantly that policy & funding would have to be geared to train the teachers to best utilise the technology for the purpose of teacher monitored computer assisted learning to learn – in a world that needed to ask itself the question – What changes when change changes ?”

    Inevitably those responsible continued to do everything to protect the status quo.

    As Machiavelli said – ”There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order, and only luke-warm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order. This quality of lukewarmness arises partly from a fear of adversaries, who have the law on their side, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.”

  44. Dear Charles,

    i can name this voice you experienced. Its the most fundamental human trait. Its what makes us this stange species that has developed a way to live together in complex societies even before we had the complex rules that governed them. In groups we tend to constantly alter our convictions towards a consensus that allows for harmonization. Most people are mainly driven by this when finding their convictions (and only a few can resist this when in large groups of people as our history sadly shows). Thats why Ali must have wanted to shake thing up, to bring in a different viewpoint to the crowd. Because it is a well established fact especially in the tech community that it is the outside views, the fresh look that drives progress in thinking. The simple recombination of established memes does not lead to new thought, it is the influx of new memes that does.

    And here come the nonconformists into play. They are more resiliant to consensus (and every homogenous group striving for internal harmony hates and sometimes emarginates them), but it is them that bring forth change when it is desperately needed. They seed new memes and challenge old dogmas. You might be an iconoclast, dear Charles, but you are human too, and therefore you hear this voice whispering to you, “if they all think differently, how can i be sure that i am right?”. Be asured they heard a voice too “this challanges what i belive in, but if he came to this persepctive there might be some aspects to it”.

    This voice does not make us all equal and mindless if managed properly, but it helps to develop ones world view and to make it compatible for discussion with different audiences. But it also challenges it and helps us to avoid dead end paths of thinking, if applied together with reason. It is neither wrong or right, it is an evolutionarily developed device to make community possible. And people like you are needed to change the path of these communities when they are headed straight to the cliff.

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