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foxwizard ☾

💌 Wouldst thou like a fairy tale?

Also: 11 ways to wisen up about AI

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Ahoy friends. I’m so terribly behind on a post I have been writing for you—A Wizard’s Guide to ‘Being Productive’. It’s a good one, really, but it’s turned into a longer essay than intended, so I’m letting it bake. Meanwhile, I have a special event to promote. I also found myself writing a list of “recommended reads”* as a follow-up to a strategy offsie for a client where “Artificial Intelligence” was part of the quiver of options being explored. Longtime subscribers will know: I have Thoughts about AI; I share them with you here.

* As distinct from my list of fourteen ‘must reads’ for those who lead.

But first—allow me to briefly promote The Mythic Deep-Winter Rekindling Event. It’s happening on Wednesday 10th of July, 545–730pm at United Co. (425 Smith St. Fitzroy), then 730pm unto deep night in our private enclave within The Molly Rose brewery.

A Mythic Deep-Winter Rekindling

This is a special one; we’re flying in my sage friend—existential counsellor, (re)enchanter and poetDr. David Pecotić.

Join us in this introvert-friendly evening speakeasy haven-salon and ye might:

  • Find renewed solace in the hidden knowledge you already know.
  • Perhaps discover how to win the affections of your muse once more.
  • Develop an appreciation for the skill of wintering; of transmuting sadness.*
  • Revel in the kinship of likewise seekers who quest for brighter futures amidst the dark.

* Read more from Maria Popova’s exploration of wintering. In a world full of forced-cheer, optimism-and-denial, and blind faith in big tech—this sensibility is wise and much welcomed.

Download this poster to share ♡

Genuinely, it would be so nice to have you join us. I’m a socially anxious introverted hermit wizard at the best of times, and whilst I generally feel drained by events—The Rekindling is nourishing and enlivening. PK and I have a wondrous formula: a shared immersion followed by convivial hang time. Come, join us! ♡

Tickets and details at

This event is graciously hosted by Kearney Group.

Could it be time to Declare Thy Worde? I have myself a Worde for the Year—though, oddly, ever since creating The “Choose One Word” Ritual of Becoming in 2019, I’ve stopped declaring mine. This was partly due to the cascade of world-calamaties that befell us. And also partly due to what I perceived to be the [social media driven] performative nature of declaring our Worde. I found myself vexed at the superficiality that seemed to be manifest, and thought myself complicit.

Re-Enchanting Thy Worde

In the past half-decade, I have been at work, though. Quietly refining, finessing, and deepening the Ritual in a manner I hope to share with you someday... soon.™️

The tl;dr of it all is: emphasising The Ritual of Becoming more than The One Worde.

You can skip past The Ritual of Becoming, what with its deep, rhythmic call to Reflection, Introspection, and Projection. Who got time for that, amirite? But a Worde chosen sans Ritual may likely be but an incremental perpetuation of an existing pattern. A mere lowercase-w “word” (with no ‘e’); and but a continuance of your current chapter—not the makings of a new.

It’s a little tricky to put all of this into words—hence why it behooves a book proper, and a renewed program. I used to share this in my keynotes, but I’ve learnt to only hint at it now. Too many of us are too fond of shortcuts, these days. To quote Hayao Miyazaki: “We humans are losing faith in ourselves”.

But there’s hope yet; there are glimmers amidst. Case in point: this incredible /word update from my friend Kevin McGillivray. Kev exemplifies the contemplative practice of the Ritual in his /word page. He has inspired me to actually write mine again.

Brew yourself a pot and have a read of Kev’s /word page, if you’ve a moment, and savour the depth and richness of this. This has not been shared as a “hey look at me everyone” humblebrag linkedin post, but rather: something hidden away on a personal, hand-crafted website. Something to be shared directly with the friends-who-are-interested.

I love this, and the general thrust of dis-intermediated media. Of obscure gardens filled with hidden delights, rather than shopping mall cubicles (sub)stacked upon each other.

This links to the notion of an independent web (which, btw, Kev properly introduced me to as my OG coding tutor). I love the independent web, in the same sense of how I love independent journalists more than corporate/moloch media.

Many of us miss the weirdness of the web.Where have all the websites gone? asks Jason Velazquez. The answer is: they’re still there. It just takes some non-algorithmic curation and amplification. This is a role I am happy to play. Perhaps you’d relish in this, too?

Because it is a delight to find the beacons amidst the noise; the glimmers amidst the dark. Folks who aren’t trying to win the dead-end game of platform influencer-economics in our distraction economy—but instead are simply tending to their own patch of garden in the interwebs.

Manu Moreale cultivates a list of such people and blogs, and I’ve a set of browser tabs for folks I love to check in on, like a bricolage web-ring of my own cobbling. I’ll share more of these with you in time.

For now; read Kev’s update and perhaps find yourself enchanted, too.

Okay, with all this talk of enchantment; indulge me a provocation.

Disenchantment is useful and needed. Without disenchantment, we remain hoodwinked; trapped in a spell. “This, now, is mostly an era of spell-making,” writes mythologist Dr. Martin Shaw. “Of tacit enchantment, of stultified imaginations and loins inflamed by so much factory-fodder lust, our relationships malfunction in their millions.”

Disenchantment as The Herald

Martin Shaw talks of “breaking enchantment” in his book Smoke Hole—Looking to the Wild in the Time of the Spyglass. But this is not to simply leave us in a state of disenchantment, rather—it is to ensure we are open to better enchantment.

Yet disenchantment—like disillusionment—is not a nice place to be. We have our hopes, our beliefs, and our attachments. We have our ontologies that provide us with a sense of coherence—that who we are and what we do makes sense given our context. Pull the rug on that, and it’s likely we will experience a sense of betrayal, loss, denial, anger, and depression. Not nice.

Yet, these are the necessary interludes that occur betwixt dis- and re-enchantment. One can only hope you have a community, practice or some skilled support in how you are able to make this transition. And perhaps it is helped by one enchantment outshining another.

Disenchantment heralds new enchantment.

We need enchantment; we need illusion. But the enchantment and illusion we seek ought arise from something vaster, more cosmic and more alive than the blind faith we place in modernity, the market, humanity, and artificial intelligence.

Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence these days. At least, that is my experience in the myriad leadership and strategy offsites I have either facilitated or contributed to. And I am glad that folk are exploring this emerging phenomena. It behooves us to pay attention.

But we must do so with clear eyes; not misty eyes in the thralls of enchantment.

Approaching AI with Wise Discernment

There is much enchantment to the promise of [general] artificial intelligence. This enchantment has spawned the “effective accelerationism” movement (often abbreviated to “e/acc”), which sees unrestricted technological progress as a solution to poverty, war, and climate change. This stands in stark contrast to the degrowth movement, which holds that infinite expansion of the economy is fundamentally contradictory to the finiteness of material resources on Earth. The counter to this, of course, is the AI magic wand. Artificial Intelligence will solve for this. And we will colonise space, too. There’s a whole universe to explore!

As someone who relishes in science fiction, I’d be lying if I did not say there is some appeal to the vast vision of exploring the universe (SPACE!). I’d just rather we look after our own cradle-planet, first. “Too risky!” the e/acc’s say. “A single solar flare from our sun could wipe us out.” This is a logic I can’t really argue with.

Besides: how could one even curtail the development of AI, at this point? And even if we did somehow manage to regulate the space, would it simply mean that big data-collection corps like Palantir* get to continue the development in secret? I suspect so. OpenAI is now anything but open (and has a retired general of the US Army and a former head of the National Security Agency on their board). We are already well into an international arms race for AI—which brings me back to a point I continue to make in my contributions to leaders and teams contemplating their strategic positioning in this era of exponential AI (and collapse)—Keep Your Wits About You.

* Named after the palantír in Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. The very thing Gandalf warns us of. “I will not say that seeing things through the Palantír will tell you nothing. But it may be that it will not show you the truth as it is, but only such parts of truth as the Dark Lord wishes you to see.”

Over a year ago, I alluded to the rise of Artificially Intelligent “thought leaders”. Folks who perpetuate the narrative, the meme, the myth of AI without any wise discernment. There’s a lot of money to be made in this, because there is a lot of hope and hype baked into AI.

The result, though, is that many organisations look like the red team in this video below. Instead of positioning themselves for future relevance (like the blue team), they spend all their time and effort chasing the ball.*

* The ball, in this instance, represents the hope and hype of AI.

3 adults vs 100 kids in a Japanese Soccer Game

And so: disenchantment

Part of my role as a “futurist” advisor to leadership teams questing for enduring relevance is to ensure that we approach complexity and emergence as adults. That we do not chase the ball of blind faith, hope and hype alone. And that we do not succumb to strategy informed by mere bandwagonism.

This means that, sometimes, we must approach strategy with a disenchanted lens, first. To rid ourselves of naïve attachment to particular narratives so that we can ensure explorations come from a place of first principles and wise discernment. Then, of course, we can begin to both-and this with imagination.*

* A vital component of questing; which is why leaders must be avid readers of speculative and science fiction, poetry and magical realism.

Important note: this does not mean you sit back and wait. The dynamics of this multipolar trap are rivalrous. You cannot afford to sit on your hands. Nor can you leap to a fixed notion of what success looks like. You must be actively learning, exploring and paying attention (with all the sensibilities I discuss in the labyrinths of reason). That is: you must keep your wits about you.

It surprises me that, to this day, there are executives who still have not begun to experiment with AI. They do not have direct participatory knowledge of that which they discuss in their strategy meetings. And then, when they do finally have a play with chatGPT, midjourney or whatever—they become childishly enamoured. What then follows is that companies become invested. And then: dependent. And then defensive of their investments.

I do not want for you or yours to become dependent upon or beholden to any service offering artificial intelligence. You can approach this with some wit and guile.

Wisen up about AI with these sources

Here is what I currently recommend to any team seeking to develop their strategic positioning in response to the emergence of AI with wise discernment. Numbers 1, 3 and 11 are essential. 🏮

  1. Artificial Intelligence and the Superorganism
    This conversation between Nate Hagens and Daniel Schmachtenberger is essential listening. Essential. The thing is: this conversation is over three hours in length, and the first two hours are spent on the fundamental principles to keep in mind when considering the impact that artificial intelligence will have in our world. I’ve shared this with friends, imploring them to listen to it so that we might explore the topic together. It’s been well over a year and only a handful have listened to it. This is fine. Three hours of anyone’s attention is a big ask in this distraction economy. What with the new season of House of the Dragon just out, etcetera. But—given that few people will actually invest the time—you taking the time to immerse in this properly will convey distinct strategic advantage. This is how you cultivate in-house intelligence and wise discernment.
  2. Life 3.0 by Max Tegmak
    It’s a little old now, but I thought I ought share a reference that isn’t completely disenchanted and doomer. This book—whilst now six years old and thus ancient—does a good job of clarifying basic terms and key debates, whilst also dispelling the common myths associated with AI (robotic uprisings, and so on).
  3. Better Without AI by David Chapman
    It’s good to read from folk who have worked deeply within the field of artificial intelligence. David Chapman holds a PhD in artificial intelligence, and this metabook “explores moderate apocalypses that could result from current and near-future AI technology. These are relatively overlooked risks: not extreme sci-fi extinction scenarios, nor the media’s obsession with ‘ChatGPT said something naughty’ trivia. Rather: realistically likely disasters, up to the scale of our history’s worst wars and oppressions.”
  4. I Will Fucking Piledrive You If You Mention AI Again
    I don’t know who this (evidently Australian) anon author is, but I love the way they write. Such cut-through is refreshing in this land proliferated by what Professor John Vervaeke aptly calls a tsunami of bullshit. This author has also written a great hit-piece on “leadership off-sites”, too (which is, ironically, the work I do—but not like this). Anyways, it’s important to read from sources like this. Here’s a quote: “Unless you are one of a tiny handful of businesses who know exactly what they're going to use AI for, you do not need AI for anything—or rather, you do not need to do anything to reap the benefits.” Curious? Read more. (That’s a general statement, but here’s the link again).
  5. Ways to Think About AGI by Benedict Evens
    Benedict is a technology writer, it’s what he does. This recent-ish piece provides a decent frame for how you might think about artificial general intelligence. Would we even recognise it? This short piece is refreshing because it talks to the fundamental uncertainty behind AGI.
  6. If You’re Driving Off a Cliff, Do You Need a Faster Car?
    An apt summary of contextual concerns from Richard Heinberg (a Senior Fellow of Post Carbon Institute).
  7. Values, Education, AI and the Metacrisis
    This conversation between Nate Hagens and Zak Stein explores a topic that would be on the mind of many parents. What does the future look like for our children, in this world of exponential AI? What implications does this have for teaching, schooling and education (all distinct concepts, btw)? “How is unfettered technology and artificial intelligence influencing youth—and what should parents, adults, and teachers be doing in response?”
  8. The Culture series by Iain M Banks
    I’ve talked of this before. If you want a glimpse of a nice future where humans have given rise to mostly-benevolent super-AGIs (Minds), this series is a must-read. It skips over how we get there, though. But there are hints. “Money is a sign of poverty”, Iain writes in The Player of Games. The Culture—being a post-scarcity civilisation—has moved beyond the need for economic transactions; eliminating systems that perpetuate inequality and poverty. These books will help fill the wells of your imagination.
  9. Situational Awareness—The Next Decade
    This is a recent essay from Leopold Aschenbrenner, who used to work at OpenAI. “[...] all of this is based on publicly-available information, my own ideas, general field-knowledge, or SF-gossip”. Now, I do love me some gossip—and this is an example of the kind of stuff I try to stay across. I’m no expert in AI myself—but I do maintain enough of a working sense of the interrelated elements to stay abreast of things. Lines like—“America must lead. The torch of liberty will not survive Xi getting AGI first.”—highlight the very real ‘race’ that is in play right now.
  10. Exploring AI and the Metacrisis
    My friend Stephen Reid shares a grounded yet optimistic sense of how AI may yet be directed towards better outcomes for our planet. I’m including this here just to balance things out a little—it’s not all doom and gloom. Just: mostly. 😅
  11. AI in the Age of Mythic Powers by Josh Schrei
    I’ve linked you to the article above, but the second essential listen (in addition to the first piece I shared with you) is this audio artwork by Josh Schrei—So You Want to Be a Sorcerer in the Age of Mythic Powers. It’s balanced, grounded, and above all—mythic. And wise. All at once.

So, what are we to do about this exponential rise in artificial intelligence—with all of its enchanting hope and hype? And what does it mean to “keep your wits about you”?

It means you take the time to learn, explore and experiment with this emerging technology. It means that you listen to at least the first and last suggestion on this list I’ve given you. It means that you stay actively curious, accruing knowledge via direct participation and primary sources even more than synthesisers such as myself. It means you work on your own protosynthesis; your own living perspective. And it means you continue to pay attention—but via the lens of complexity, and disposition of wise discernment.

But that’s not what “the market” wants to hear. They want hacks! Shortcuts! Cheap tricks to 10x productivity, fast. Who cares about copyright, ethics, climate, or existential risk? We would rather not be awakened and alerted to these things, lest we have to reconcile our own complicity. Going woke is going broke, amirite?

Give us soothing lullabies that offer reassurance and hope. Do not disenchant us from our narratives. AI will save us and make everything easier. Trust the market. Humans will always find a way. It’s not that bad. Stop complaining; accelerate.

Bah; I think we can do better than lullabies.

Fairy tales, folklore, and myth. Those beautiful lies that tell a deeper truth, as Martin Shaw might say. And also: poetry—the language to which we have no defence (as David Whyte might say). There’s a distinctly mythopoetic thread running throughout many of my musings of late, you’ll likely have noticed. This is no mere affectation or passing fancy. Verily, there are deeper wisdoms that call to be heeded as we accelerate upon this seemingly self-terminating path.

I had originally thought to share one such with you now—but I don’t know that I can do it justice. So instead I prescribe to you a simple side-quest.

Find yourself a copy of Smoke Hole—Looking to the Wild in the Time of the Spyglass by Martin Shaw.* Ideally a physical copy; one that you can mark with your favourite soft-leaded pencil. And then: read it. Read the three fairy tales shared, and their unpacking.

* Get yourself Courting the Wild Twin, too, why not.

I’ll provide but two small samples for you. The first speaks to the very topic of this musing.

“We are not psychologically on the same page as where technology is taking us. We simply won’t be able to catch up. Artificial intelligence is not a future threat, it’s already arrived, designed to perfectly curate our dopamine addiction and desire to measure self-worth by hysterical visibility.”

And here Martin alludes to something else.

“As I’ve written on several occasions, whenever a culture is in peril, the answer usually arrives from the margins, and its manifestation is rarely demure. I light a lantern every night and sit patiently in my garden waiting for such an encounter. It’s called being a writer.”

Look to the margin voices, friends. Stare not at the bright shining lights; those grand and enchanting promises, seemingly obvious and assured; so full of promise, hope and hype. Look to the glimmers; seek them out. Sit with them, make sense of them, and see what better paths become available to you.


// Where to now? //

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