return ✕︎

Conclusion

By E. Glen Weyl, Audrey Tang and ⿻ Community

Conclusion

This book describes a vision for the future of technology and society that we hope is ambitious and serious enough to be real competitor to, but will be more attractive to most readers than, that developed by Libertarians and Technocrats. If we are right and you share that vision, join us in the movement for ⿻.

Our concrete aspirations match our ambitious vision. By 2030, ⿻ will be as recognizable to people around the globe as a direction for technology as AI or blockchain are and as recognizable as a political movement as the Green movement. People will expect their democracy to progress as rapidly as their devices. They will see Taiwan as a guiding light and symbol for ⿻ and thus as important to the thriving of ⿻ as Israel is for the Jewish people or as Ukraine is for freedom in Europe. People around the world will find surprising allies and heroes through ⿻, like those concerned about authoritarian expansionism coming to admire a transgender Taiwanese leader on the front lines of that conflict and those seeking more ⿻ technology finding allies among devout conservatives.


Technology is the most powerful force transforming our world. Whether or not we understand its inner workings, deploy it tentatively or voraciously, or agree with the companies and policymakers that have shaped its development to date, it remains our single greatest lever to shape our collective future.

That collective is not simply a group of individuals but a fabric of relationships. Whether you look at it from a scientific, historical, sociological, religious or political point of view, it is increasingly clear that reality is defined not just by who we are, but how we connect.

Technology drives and defines those connections. From the railroad to the telegraph to the telephone to social media connecting us to old kindergarten friends and new like-minded allies to teleconferencing holding businesses and families together during Covid, we have benefited enormously from technology’s capacity to forge and strengthen human connection while honoring our differences.

Yet, technology has also clearly driven us apart and suppressed our differences. Business models based on a fight for attention have prioritized outrage over curiosity, echo chambers over shared understanding, and proliferated mis- and disinformation. The rapid spread of information online, out of context and against our privacy expectations, has too often eroded our communities, driven out our cultural heritage and created a global monoculture. As a new generation of technologies including GFMs, Web3 and augmented reality spreads through our lives, it promises to radically increase technology’s effects, good and bad.

Thus we stand at a crossroads. Technology could drive us apart, sowing chaos and conflict that bring down social order. It could suppress the human diversity that is its lifeblood, homogenizing us in a singular technical vision. Or it could dramatically enrich our diversity while strengthening the ties across it, harnessing and sustaining the potential energy of ⿻.

Some would seek to avoid this choice by slamming on the breaks, decelerating technological progress. Yet, while of course some directions are unwise and there are limits to how rapidly we should proceed into the unknown, the dynamics of competition and geopolitics makes simply slowing progress unlikely to be sustainable. Instead, we face a choice of directions more than velocity.

Should we, as Libertarians like Peter Thiel, Marc Andreesen and Balaji Srinavasan would have us do, liberate individuals to be atomistic agents, free of constraints or responsibilities? Should we, as Technocrats like Sam Altman and Reid Hoffman would have us do, allow technologists to solve our problems, plan our future and distribute to us the material comfort it creates?

We say, loudly and clearly, neither! Both chaos and top-down order are the antitheses not just of democracy and freedom, but of all life, complexity and beauty in human society and nature. Life and ⿻ thrive in the narrow corridor on the "edge of chaos". For life on this planet to survive and thrive, it must be the central mission of technology and politics to widen this corridor, to steer us constantly back towards that edge of chaos where growth and ⿻ are possible. That is the aspiration and the imperative of ⿻.

⿻ is thus the third way beyond Libertarianism and Technocracy, just as the life is the third way beyond rigid order and chaos. It is a movement we have perhaps three to five years to set in motion. Within that time frame, a critical mass of the technology that people and companies use every day will have become deeply dependent on "AI" and "the metaverse". At that point, we won’t be able to reverse the fait accompli that Technocracy and Libertarianism have generated for us. But between now and then, we can mobilize to re-chart the course: toward a relationship-centered, empowering digital democracy in which diverse groups of people, precisely because they do not agree, are able to cooperate and collaborate to constantly push our imaginations and aspirations forward.

Such a pivot will take a whole-of-society mobilization. Businesses, governments, universities, and civil society organizations must demand that our technology deepen and broaden our connections across the many forms of diversity, show us that this is possible, build the tools we need to achieve it and make it a reality. That is the key, and the only path, to strengthening human stability, prosperity, and flourishing into the future. For all that it offers, the internet’s potential for truly transformative progress has never materialized. If we want to realize that potential, we have a brief window of opportunity to act.

Promise of ⿻

Over the last half century, most Western liberal democracies have learned to be helpless in the face of technology. They are intrigued by it and alternately delighted and frustrated by it, but tend to assume that it emerges inexorably, like modernity itself, instead of as the sum of the choices small of groups of engineers. Most citizens in these polities do not believe “we the people” have any ability, much less any right, to influence the direction of the platforms that are the operating system of our lives.

But we do have the right, and even the duty, to demand better. Some technology pulls us apart and flattens our differences; other technology brings us together and celebrates them. Some fuels our resentment and obedience, some helps us find interdependence. If we mobilize to demand the latter, ⿻ technologies that are designed to help us collaborate across difference, we can re-engineer that operating system.

We see our opportunity to act across three horizons: the immediate, the intermediate, and the transformative.

Immediate horizon

Some of this change is ripe for action today. Anyone reading this book can explain, recommend and tell its stories to friends and help spread various surrounding media content. Anyone can adopt a range of tools already widely available from meetings in immersive shared reality to open source tools for making collective decisions with their communities.

Anyone can support political leaders and organize in political movements around the policy agenda we developed in the previous chapter, and especially political and policy leaders can work together to implement these ideas, as well as near-term political reforms in a ⿻ direction such as ranked-choice or approval voting. Anyone can choose to lean the diet of technology they use towards open source tools and those of companies that adopt and incorporate ⿻ in their work. Business leaders, engineers, product managers at these companies can both build ⿻ technologies into their products in modest ways, employ these tools in their productivity workflows, receive more effective feedback from customers and support public policies that embody them.

Academics can study ⿻ technologies and their impact on the ground today. They can devise rigorous measures to help us know what truly works. They can address key open questions in a range of fields that will allow the design of the next generation of ⿻ technologies and form relationships and collaborations across academic institutions through networks like the Plurality Institute. They can adopt ⿻ in the dissemination of research and peer review.

Cultural leaders, artists, journalists and other communicators can tell the stories of the ⿻ movement, like Oscar-winner Director Cynthia Wade and Emmy-winning Producer Teri Whitcraft are doing in a forthcoming documentary. They can incorporate ⿻ in their creative practice, as this book did and as we saw Mat Dryhurst and Holly Herndon doing. They can immerse citizens in constructive imagining of a more ⿻ future, like Miraikan in Tokyo does.

Intermediate horizon

With more systemic imagination and ambition, there are opportunities to pursue ⿻ across a more intermediate horizon, reinventing institutions to include more diverse voices, build deeper connections and foster the regeneration of more diversity. Anyone can become part of local ⿻ communities around the world, telling in a wide variety of idioms, languages and forms the potential for a more ⿻ future and inviting friends to participate in co-creating it. Anyone can join what will be increasingly organized political movements explicitly dedicated to ⿻, contribute to a growing range of ⿻ civil and charitable causes, attend a growing number of hackathons and ideathons that help address the local concerns of diverse communities using ⿻.

Policy leaders can form political platforms and perhaps even political parties around comprehensive ⿻ agendas. Regulators and civil servants can deeply embed ⿻ into their practices, improving public engagement and speeding the loop of input. Employees of international and transnational organizations can begin to reform their structure and practices to harness ⿻ and to substantively embody ⿻, moving away from "international trade" to substantive, supermodular international cooperation and standards setting.

Business and more broadly organizational leaders can harness ⿻ to transform their internal operations, customer relations, hiring practice and corporate governance. They can promote more dynamic intrapreneurship by gradually shifting resources and power from siloed hierarchical divisions to emergent dynamic collaborations. They can harness augmented deliberation to facilitate better meetings and better customer research. They can apply generative foundation models (GFMs) to look for more diverse talent and to reorganize their corporate form to make to make it more directly accountable to a wider range of regulators, diffusing social and regulatory tension in the process.

Academics and researchers can form new fields of inquiry around ⿻ and harnessing ⿻ to empower these new collaborations bridging fields like sociology, economics and computer science. They can invent disciplines that regularly train experts in ⿻, teach a new generation of students to employ ⿻ in their work and forge closer relationships with a variety of communities of practice to shorten the loop from research ideation to practical experimentation.

Cultural leaders can reimagine cultural practices harnessing ⿻, creating powerfully empathetic emergent experiences that bridge cultural divides. They can sell this to media organizations that have adopted new business models serving public, civic and business organizations rather than advertisers and end consumers. They can build participatory experiences that extend our ability to jointly design and imagine future, from the concrete design of physical spaces to the detailed interactive back-casting of potential science fiction scenarios.

Transformative horizon

For those of you with even more expansive vision, we have spent a good deal of this book articulating the kinds of truly transformative ⿻ that could ultimately rewire the way humans communicate and collaborate. This ambition goes to the root of the ⿻ movement’s insight—that personhood, the core unit of democracy, is not merely atomistic or “monistic,” but is also defined by social relationships – and it therefore gives rise to a broader conception of rights, going beyond individual rights to recognize concepts of affiliation, commerce, property, and other building blocks of our society. All these will require fundamental rewriting of a range of technical infrastructures, social relationships and organizing institutions.

Such change cannot come directly, but instead must follow a gradual process of transformation, occurring in a range of social sectors that build on one another. To be truly ⿻, these will need to engage and empower people across many lines of difference, which will in turn require that they understand and can articulate what they want from their future. Cultural creation, like those we have discussed above, will have to increasingly manifest ⿻ in its form and substance to make this possible. This can create broad public understanding and expectation of public steering of the direction of technology and diverse social participation its design.

This foundation of ⿻ imagination across lines of difference can empower social and political organization around such goals. This in turn can allow political leaders to feature such visions as core to their agendas and to make the implementation in the functioning of governments, in their relationship to each other and private entities and in their policy agenda the creation of ⿻.

Such policies and practices can in turn allow the development of novel technologies basically different, dramatically expanding the scope of the Third Sector and allowing the constant emergence of new social and democratic enterprise transnationally. These emergent enterprises can then take on an increasing range of responsibilities legitimately, given their democratic accountability, and blur the lines of responsibility usually assumed for nation states, building a new ⿻ order.

Such enterprise can thus rely on new institutions of research and teaching that will cross disciplinary boundaries and the boundaries between knowledge creation and deployment, engaging deeply with such emerging social enterprises. That educational sector will continually produce new technologies that push the boundaries of ⿻, helping build the basis of new social enterprises and forming a base of ideas which will in turn support the progress of cultural imagination on which this all rests.

Thus together culture, politics and activism, business and technology and research can form a mutually reinforcing virtuous circle: imagination drives action, which confirms the worth of imagination strengthening it further. This is why, whatever field you find yourself in, you have a chance to contribute to this truly transformative horizon, by being part of building that virtuous cycle, pushing momentum upwards by reinforcing others doing the same in other social sectors. There is no best or most important path to ⿻, because ⿻ is ⿻ and only succeeds by building on and proliferating the tremendous diversity of ways we all form part of networks of support and interdependence.

Mobilization

This is why, of course, there can be no top-down, one-size-fits all path to ⿻. What there can be, however – and soon, if this book has its intended effect -- are intersecting circles of people, linked together in groups and individuals loosely federated across the globe, who are committed to ⿻ over its foils: Libertarianism and Technocracy. In charting a third course, pluralists are committed to technology strengthening and diversifying relationships, rather than tearing them down, and regenerating diversity, not fostering conformity. Relationships and the love, loss, adversity and achievement are what makes life, not the violence of the jungle manifested in books like The Lord of the Flies or the optimization of undifferentiated data points.[1]

If you believe that the central condition of a thriving, progressing, and righteous society is social diversity, and collaboration across such rich diversity – then come on board. If you believe that technology, the most powerful tool in today’s society, can yet be made to help us flourish, both as individuals and across our multiple, meaningful affiliations – then come on board. If you want to contribute to ⿻’s immediate horizon, intermediate horizon, or truly transformative horizon —or across all of them—you have multiple points of entry. If you work in tech, business, government, academia, civil society, cultural institutions, education, and/or on the home-front, you have limitless ways to make a difference.

This book is just one part of a great tapestry. One author of this book, for example, is also Executive Producer of a forthcoming documentary (mentioned above) about the life of another, which we suppose will reach a far broader audience than this book can; together we have founded another institution to network academics working on ⿻, obviously a much narrower audience. While these are just a couple of examples, they illustrate a crucial broader point: for 1000 people to be deeply involved (say in writing the book), they will need each 100 that will read it and they in turn will need each 100 who know about it and are supportive of the general idea. Thus to succeed we need people at a wide levels of engagement in mutually supportive relationships.

If 1000 people are deeply enough involved with this book to speak about it publicly, 10000 are part of the community and actively contribute, 100,000 deeply digest the material, 1 million buy or download it, 10 million consume an hour of media content around it, 100 million see a film or other entertaining treatment of a related theme and 1 billion know about and are sympathetic to the aims, we will reach our 2030 goals.

Pluralists are in every country in the world, every sector of the economy. Connect, affiliate, rally, mobilize … and join us, in the deliberate and committed movement to build a more dynamic and harmonious world and let us free the future, together.


  1. William Golding, The Lord of the Flies (London: Faber and Faber, 1954). ↩︎