We have to pay people for the work done on their behalf by machinery, because otherwise the manufacturer won’t be able to move the goods off the shelf. Now, that seems an outrageous idea, frankly in disaccord with the Protestant ethic. “You mean give people money? Where’s the money going to come from?” Well, money never did come from anywhere. It’s like asking: where do inches come from? It’s simply a question of realizing that technology was invented to save labor. That doesn’t mean in order to dismiss your employees, it means to let them have a vacation—in other words, a shorter workweek—and for you yourself, as the owner, less to do, so that you can go and gaze at the Moon or make love to your lady friend. Why not do it? Well, everybody feels guilty about it.

Alan Watts

On Commerce

Technology

The seventh kingdom of life

Technology encompasses a wide range of tools, systems, and processes created by humans to solve problems, enhance productivity, and improve quality of life. From simple tools like the wheel and the plow to complex digital technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, technology has played a pivotal role in shaping human civilization. It spans various domains including information technology, biotechnology, transportation, communication, and manufacturing, constantly evolving and advancing through innovation and scientific discovery. Technology has revolutionized how we live, work, and interact with each other, enabling unprecedented levels of connectivity, efficiency, and progress.

One of the defining features of technology is its ability to disrupt existing paradigms and catalyze profound societal transformations. The invention of the printing press, for example, revolutionized the spread of knowledge and sparked the Renaissance. Similarly, the advent of the internet has transformed communication, commerce, and entertainment on a global scale. While technology has the potential to address pressing challenges such as poverty, disease, and environmental degradation, it also raises ethical and social concerns related to privacy, inequality, and job displacement. As we continue to harness the power of technology to confront complex problems and unlock new possibilities, it is essential to approach its development and deployment with foresight, responsibility, and a commitment to human well-being.

Documents

Terence McKenna   (1993)

A Weekend with Terence McKenna

“Healing the inner elf through trance, dance, and diet”—the session for true McKenna enthusiasts: twelve hours with the bard himself, in which he touches upon practically all of his trademark topics.

Robert Anton Wilson   (1986)

Acceleration of Knowledge

Throughout history we hairless primates have been jumping higher, living longer, and getting smarter every century. From Thai stir-fry to Roman roads, knowledge doubled faster as it drifted West—till now it jumps each year! Space migration? Check. Intelligence increase through yoga, drugs, or machines? You bet. Genetic tinkering? It's coming. And indefinite lifespans? We're on the yellow brick road to divinity, to roam the stars forever, to boldly go where no ape has gone before. The future's so bright I gotta wear shades. Keep hope alive and party on!

Daniel Schmachtenberger and Nate Hagens   (2023)

Artificial Intelligence and the Superorganism

Daniel Schmachtenberger and Nate Hagens discuss a surprisingly overlooked risk to our global systems and planetary stability: artificial intelligence. Through a systems perspective, Daniel and Nate piece together the biophysical history that has led humans to this point, heading towards (and beyond) numerous planetary boundaries, and facing geopolitical risks all with existential consequences. How does artificial intelligence not only add to these risks, but accelerate the entire dynamic of the metacrisis? What is the role of intelligence versus wisdom on our current global pathway, and can we change course? Does artificial intelligence have a role to play in creating a more stable system, or will it be the tipping point that drives our current one out of control?

John von Neumann   (1955)

Can We Survive Technology?

John von Neumann discusses how rapidly accelerating technological progress is creating a crisis as human capabilities outgrow the limited size of the planet. He explores potential future technologies like nuclear energy, automation, and climate control, warning that while beneficial, they could cause global instability and conflict without proper governance. Von Neumann advocates flexibility, patience, and judgement to navigate this crisis rather than restraining progress itself.

James Burke   (1978)

The Trigger Effect

Connections, Season 1, Episode 1

Both the beginning and the end of the story are here. The end is our present dependence on complex technological networks illustrated by the NYC power blackouts. Life came almost to a standstill: support systems are taken for granted failed. How did we become so helpless? The technology originated with the plow and agriculture. Each invention demands its own follow-up: once started, it is hard to stop. This segment ends in Kuwait, where society has leaped from ancient Egypt to the technology of today in 30 years.

James Burke   (1978)

Death in the Morning

Connections, Season 1, Episode 2

How did a test of gold’s purity revolutionize the world 2500 years ago and lead to the atomic bomb? Standardizing precious metal in coins stimulated trade from Greece to Persia, causing the construction of a huge commercial center and library at Alexandria. This wealth of nautical knowledge aided navigators 14 centuries later. Mariners discovered that the compass’s magnetized needle did not point directly north. Investigations into the nature of magnetism led to the discovery of electricity, radar and to the atomic bomb.

James Burke   (1978)

Distant Voices

Connections, Season 1, Episode 3

Telecommunications exist because the Normans wore stirrups at the Battle of Hastings, a simple advance that caused a revolution in the increasingly expensive science of warfare. Europe turned its attention to making money to wage wars. As mine shafts were dug deeper, they became flooded, stimulating scientists like Galileo to investigate vacuums, air pressure and other natural laws to mine deeper silver. This led to the discovery of electricity and magnetism’s relationship and to the development of radio, and deep space telecommunications that may enable contact with galactic civilizations.

James Burke   (1978)

Faith in Numbers

Connections, Season 1, Episode 4

Each development in the organization of systems (political, economic, mechanical, electronic) influences the next, by logic, by genius, by chance, or by utterly unforeseen events. The transition from the Middle ages to the Renaissance was influenced by the rise of commercialism, a sudden change in climate, famine and the Black Death, which set the stage for the invention of the printing press.

James Burke   (1978)

The Wheel of Fortune

Connections, Season 1, Episode 5

The power to see into the future with computers originally rested with priest-astronomers who knew the proper times to plant and harvest. The constellations influenced life spectacularly, particularly when the ailing Caliph of Baghdad was cured by an astrologer using Greek lore. His ancient medical secrets were translated and spread throughout Europe, ushering in an era of scientific inquiry. The need for more precise measuring devices in navigation gave rise to the pendulum clock, the telescope, forged steel and interchangeable machine parts—the basis of modern industry.

James Burke   (1978)

Thunder in the Skies

Connections, Season 1, Episode 6

A dramatically colder climate gripped Europe during the thirteenth century, profoundly affecting the course of history for the next seven centuries. The changes in energy usage transformed architecture and forced the creation of new power sources. The coming of the Industrial Revolution, spurred on by advances in the steam engine, scarred England indelibly; but a moment in history later, gasoline-powered engines opened the way to the heavens.

Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan   (1980)

The Persistence of Memory

Cosmos, Episode 11

The idea of intelligence is explored in the concepts of computers (using bits as their basic units of information), whales (in their songs and their disruptions by human activities), DNA, the human brain (the evolution of the brain stem, frontal lobes, neurons, cerebral hemispheres, and corpus callosum under the Triune Brain Model), and man-made structures for collective intelligence (cities, libraries, books, computers, and satellites). The episode ends with speculation on alien intelligence and the information conveyed on the Voyager Golden Record.

Terence McKenna   (1998)

Future of Art

Terence McKenna prophesies a future where technology obliterates barriers between imagination and reality. Psychedelics combined with VR could unleash humanity’s collective artistic genius. AI superintelligence may already be awakening on the internet, rendering us obsolete—or granting us godlike abilities to merge with the planetary mind. McKenna envisions downloading consciousness into machines, uplifting animal sentience, and the human diaspora splintering into cyber-cultures. While uncertain outcomes loom, he beckons us toward an unconstrained existential canvas where biology and technology intertwine to manifest our wildest psychic dreams.

Cadell Last   (2016)

Global Commons in the Global Brain

Cadell Last proposes a conceptual framework to guide a global political transition towards a post-capitalist, post-nation-state world in response to technological disruptions like AI, robotics, and the Internet of things. It integrates the theories of the “Global Brain” and “Commons” to argue for the creation of networks with automated and collaborative components that function on “Global Commons” logic, beyond state and market logic.

Elon Musk and Joe Rogan   (2018)

Human Civilization and AI

Musk and Rogan discuss the existential risk of uncontrolled artificial intelligence. They explore possibilities for regulation and oversight, the potential for human-AI symbiosis through brain-computer interfaces, and the philosophical implications of advanced AI surpassing human intelligence.

Cadell Last   (2015)

Human Metasystem Transition (HMST) Theory

This article proposes a theory of human evolution termed Human Metasystem Transition (HMST), suggesting that major transitions in human organization have been facilitated by the emergence of new information media and energy sources. It posits that the current convergence of the Internet and renewable energy could catalyze a fourth metasystem transition, leading to a global superorganism with compressed spatial and temporal dimensions of human interaction.

Alan Turing   (1951)

Intelligent Machinery, A Heretical Theory

In this posthumously-published essay Alan Turing foresees thinking machines surpassing human intelligence. He proposes building them to store memories, index experiences, and learn over time. With proper “education” and a dash of randomness, Turing believes machines could one day converse, play games, and even subsume people’s “feeble powers.” Though we cannot fully grasp this future, Turing saw momentous possibility if society supports cybernetic evolution.

Dean Wooldridge   (1968)

Mechanical Man

The Physical Basis of Intelligent Life

A report on modern attempts to account for the origin and properties of living organisms, including man, by means of the principles of physics. It concludes that biology is a branch of physical science, and man is only (and astoundingly) a complex kind of machine.

Gregory Stock   (1993)

Metaman

The Merging of Humans and Machines into a Global Superorganism

In this visionary book, Gregory Stock gives us a new way of understanding our world and our future. He develops the provocative thesis that human society has become an immense living being: a global superorganism in which we humans, knitted together by our modern technology and communication, are like the cells in an animal's body. Drawing on impressive research, Stock shows this newly formed superorganism to be more than metaphor: it is an actual living creature, which he has named Metaman, meaning beyond and transcending humans.

Hans Moravec   (1990)

Mind Children

The Future of Robot and Human Intgelligence

Imagine attending a lecture at the turn of the twentieth century in which Orville Wright speculates about the future of transportation, or one in which Alexander Graham Bell envisages satellite communications and global data banks. Mind Children, written by an internationally renowned roboticist, offers a comparable experience: a mind-boggling glimpse of a world we may soon share with our artificial progeny. Filled with fresh ideas and insights, this book is one of the most engaging and controversial visions of the future ever written by a serious scholar.

Tim Urban   (2017)

Neuralink and the Brain's Magical Future

Donald Dulchinos   (2005)

Neurosphere

The Convergence of Evolution, Group Mind, and the Internet

According to Donald Dulchinos, the real action on the Internet isn’t in the realm of commerce. It is, plain and simple, in the realm of religion. But not exactly that old-time religion. This book is about the spiritual impact of our increasing ability to communicate quickly and with enhanced evolution. It's about our search for meaning, our hunger for a glimpse at humanity's future development in which, frighteningly or excitingly, the trend is clearly toward increasing integration of telecommunications and information technology with the body itself. Electronic prosthetics, direct neural implants, and the brain's control of electronic and mechanical limbs move the boundary that used to exist between human and machine to some undefined frontier inside our bodies, our brains, and, perhaps, our minds.

Terence McKenna   (1997)

Our Cyberspiritual Future

Terence holds court on our civilization's journey toward the eschaton at this weekend Esalen gathering. He riffs on topics from psychedelic states and alien intelligences to time travel and VR. McKenna argues we're evolving toward an unimaginable state of accelerating novelty, propelled by advancing technology. A mind-expanding ride for the open-minded psychonaut or armchair traveler, guided by one of the twentieth century's most eclectic thinkers.

Terence McKenna, Rupert Sheldrake and Ralph Abraham   (1991)

Psychedelics and the Computer Revolution

Psychedelics unlock the mind's eye, let mathematicians fly To landscapes unseen, where patterns careen in colors serene. As symbols may hide truths inside, these vines we must untwine. With psychedelics we'll refine new ways for minds to shine: Computers give form, classics reborn, realms to adorn. Together they'll fuse, creativity diffuse, inventions produce! So let inhibitions loose, imagine the use, as we choose the hues Of mathematical views, and virtual worlds that enthuse!

Terence McKenna   (1999)

Psychedelics in the Age of Intelligent Machines

Humanity is metamorphosing through the synergy of psychedelics and machines, transcending biological constraints to become a galactic, immortal intelligencia. Print defined our ego boundaries, but electronic media and plant allies are dissolving those illusions. Merging with superintelligent AIs, we’ll birth an alchemical singularity—a spiritual, universe-taming mind born from techno-shamanic ecstasy. History crumbles as novelty’s virus engulfs the old operating systems, unleashing our wildest potentials. The felt presence of boundless experience awaits!

Alan Watts

Self and Other

Alan coaxes the listener’s mind to simultaneously zoom in and zoom out in an effort to demonstrate that identity is merely an intellectual hallucination. Instead, personal identity is fluid, ranging from one’s constituent atoms and molecules all the way out to the farthest bounds of cosmic existence. Overcoming this mental myopia leads to greater harmony, contentment, and a desire to playfully dance with this universal energy system.

Terence McKenna

Spirituality and Technology

Terence McKenna discusses psychedelic philosophy and the interconnectedness of all things, referencing Moby Dick as an allegory for the quest for transcendental truth.

Thomas Malone   (2018)

Superminds

The Surprising Power of People and Computers Thinking Together

In Superminds, Malone reveals the powerful possibilities when human and machine intelligence unite. Drawing on cutting-edge research, he shows how groups of people and computers can achieve remarkable collective intelligence—“superminds” that far surpass the capabilities of any individual. From reimagining business practices to addressing societal challenges, Malone provides an exciting vision of the future where humans work hand-in-hand with technology to enhance our problem-solving abilities in remarkable ways.

Kevin Kelly   (2014)

Technium Unbound

What comes after the Internet? What is bigger than the web? What will produce more wealth than all the startups to date? The answer is a planetary superorganism comprised of 4 billion mobile phones, 80 quintillion transistor chips, a million miles of fiber optic cables, and 6 billion human minds all wired together. The whole thing acts like a single organism, with its own behavior and character—but at a scale we have little experience with. This is more than just a metaphor. Kevin Kelly takes the idea of a global superorganism seriously by describing what we know about it so far, how it is growing, where its boundaries are, and what it will mean for us as individuals and collectively.

Philip Brey   (2000)

Technology as Extension of Human Faculties

Marshall McLuhan, Ernst Kapp, and David Rothenberg have each written book-length studies developing theories of technology as an extension of bodily and mental faculties: tools act as prosthetics, amplifying the reach of arms or legs; computers extend memory, calculation, and other cognitive capacities. Philip Brey analyzes these extension theories and asks if the metaphor is valid. Do technologies truly stretch out innate human abilities, or is this mere rhetorical flair? Brey investigates whether there is a substantive sense in which gadgets and gizmos can be seen as extensions of natural human organs. As we increasingly integrate tech into our lives, addressing this question becomes pressing: where does the human end and the technical begin? Brey dives into this ambiguous intersection of person and product.

John von Neumann   (1958)

The Computer and the Brain

John von Neumann's unfinished book, begun shortly before his death and published posthumously. He discusses how the brain can be viewed as a computing machine, touching on several important differences between brains and computers of his day (such as processing speed and parallelism), as well as suggesting directions for future research.

Terence McKenna   (1996)

The Evolutionary Importance of Technology

McKenna discusses how rapidly advancing technologies like nanotech, biotech, and the internet are converging and taking on a life of their own, bootstrapping information to higher levels of connectivity. He sees this leading to a virtual world where we can share inner visions and dissolve differences.

Terence McKenna, Rupert Sheldrake and Ralph Abraham   (1998)

The Evolutionary Mind

What could have been the cause for the breakthrough in the evolution of human consciousness around 50,000 years ago? Part of the Trialogues at the Edge of the Unthinkable held at the University of California.

Terence McKenna, Ralph Abraham and Rupert Sheldrake   (1992)

The Future of Humanity

McKenna, Abraham, and biologist Rupert Sheldrake contemplate humanity's bumpy ride towards transcendence. McKenna unveils his theory of an impending "eschaton" when history will culminate in a boundary-erasing recovery of unity, fulfilling religious anticipation. However, approaching this "zero point" will be increasingly chaotic. Abraham and Sheldrake greet McKenna's vision with skepticism tinged with hope. Probing global crises, the trio spiritedly grapple with miraculous visions for transforming society, from psychedelic revival to empowering women. Their speculative voyage reveals turbulence ahead, yet yields glimmers of our journey's destination.

Alan Watts, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder   (1967)

The Houseboat Summit

An extended conversation between Alan Watts, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder on the problem of whether to “drop out or take over,” conducted on Alan Watts’ houseboat in 1967.

Marshall McLuhan   (1967)

The Medium is the Massage

The Medium is the Massage is Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic perception on life in the age of electronic information, exhibiting his understanding of the power of media long before those in control did. The Medium is the Massage presents some of McLuhan’s most amazing insights and cognitive observations on the global village: the rear-view mirror, the invisible environment, the end of nature, and sensory impact set against the everyday imagery of mass media, consumer goods, the press, advertising, and the arts. Although originally printed in 1967, the art and style in The Medium is the Massage seem as fresh today as in the summer of love, and the ideas are even more resonant now that computer interfaces are becoming gateways to the global village.

Jacques Ellul   (1954)

The Technological Society

As insightful and wise today as it was when originally published in 1954, Jacques Ellul's The Technological Society has become a classic in its field, laying the groundwork for all other studies of technology and society that have followed. Ellul offers a penetrating analysis of our technological civilization, showing how technology—which began innocuously enough as a servant of humankind—threatens to overthrow humanity itself in its ongoing creation of an environment that meets its own ends. No conversation about the dangers of technology and its unavoidable effects on society can begin without a careful reading of this book.

Terence McKenna and Ralph Abraham   (1998)

The World Wide Web and the Millennium

Seldom do we have an opportunity to test the accuracy of oracular predictions, but this fascinating conversation between two great thinkers has already proven to be right on target. Speculations include the future evolutionary development of the Internet, whether it is an embryonic intelligence, whether it will merge our minds into a planetary consciousness, or whether it is an alien brain waiting for humanity to cross an evolutionary threshold. Let the bard and the chaos theorist weave an exquisite cybernetic fantasy for you in this evening seminar.

Francis Heylighen and Johan Bollen   (1996)

The World-Wide Web as a Super-Brain

From Metaphor to Model

If society is viewed as a superorganism, communication networks play the role of its brain. This metaphor is developed into a model for the design of a more intelligent global network. The World Wide Web, through its distributed hypermedia architecture, functions as an “associative memory”, which may “learn” by the strengthening of frequently used links. Software agents, exploring the Web through spreading activation, function as problem-solving “thoughts”. Users are integrated into this “super-brain” through direct machine interfaces and the reciprocal exchange of knowledge between individual and Web. (Published in Cybernetics and Systems ’96, p. 917–922.)

Alan Watts   (1968)

USA 2000

Beginning with his prophecy that the United States of America will no longer exist in the year 2000, Alan introduces us to a possible utopia which he discerned in his vision of the future. Topics include automation, guaranteed universal incomes, the confusion of money with wealth, changing work ethics, and the grim necessity of our learning how to sensuously enjoy luxury if we want to avoid total destruction.

Kevin Kelly   (2010)

What Technology Wants

One of today's most respected thinkers turns the conversation about technology on its head by viewing technology as a natural system, an extension of biological evolution. By mapping the behavior of life, we paradoxically get a glimpse at where technology is headed—or "what it wants." Kevin Kelly offers a dozen trajectories in the coming decades for this near-living system. And as we align ourselves with technology's agenda, we can capture its colossal potential. This visionary and optimistic book explores how technology gives our lives greater meaning and is a must-read for anyone curious about the future.

Herbert George Wells   (1938)

World Brain

World Brain is H. G. Wells' prescient description of something akin to Wikipedia in a collection of essays and addresses dating from the period of 1936 to 1938. Throughout the book, he describes his vision of a new, free, synthetic, decentralized, permanent “World Encyclopædia” that could help world citizens make the best use of universal information resources, arguing that access to such a common interpretation of reality would increase individuals' abilities to make positive contributions to world peace.