EP 174 Fred Beuttler and Mark Stahlman on Trivium University




Jim talks with Fred Beuttler and Mark Stahlman about their new online graduate program, Trivium University. They discuss the trivium & the quadrivium, instilling a better sense of grammar, the current digital paradigm, five paradigms in communication technology, the outsourcing of memory, retrieving scribal ways of thinking, why we need another university, re-centering professor-student interaction, cost disease in higher education, three spheres in geopolitics (East, West, and digital), the replacement of globalism, shaping a new generation of leaders, alphabetic vs logographic thinking, the Ukraine War as conflict between 3 spheres, what it means to be human, averting the geopolitical dangers of the Davos attitude, Net Assessment, setting Great Conversation over Great Books, averting World War III, and much more.

Mark Stahlman is a biologist, computer architect and ex-Wall Street technology strategist.  He is the President of the not-for-profit Center for the Study of Digital Life (CSDL, 501(c)3,  digitallife.center) and its educational project Trivium University (Triv U, trivium.university).  He is also CEO of Exogenous, Inc. (EXO, exogenousinc.com), a strategic risk analysis group and on the editorial staff of its publication, the Three Spheres Newsletter (TSN).  He studied for but did not complete advanced degrees in Theology (UofChicago) and Molecular Biology (UW-Mad).  He has been widely interviewed and published, including teaching online courses (available on YouTube via 52 Living Ideas).

Fred W. Beuttler, Ph.D. is a fellow at the Center for the Study of Digital Life (CSDL), as well as one of the founding administrators of CSDL’s new Trivium University.   He also teaches history at the University of Chicago’s Graham School for Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies. From 2015 to 2019 he was the Associate Dean of Liberal Arts Programs at the Graham School, overseeing a masters in liberal arts, the “great books” certificate program for adults, and the Fortnight in Oxford. From 2010 to 2015 he was Director of General Education at Carroll University, in Wisconsin. In 2012 and 2013 he was a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in Germany, where he taught American political history. Prior to his return to academia, he was Deputy Historian of the U.S. House of Representatives, in Washington, DC, from 2005 to 2010, where he coauthored and edited a number of histories of House committees. He received a BA at the University of Illinois, an MA from Trinity International University, and his Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago, with a dissertation entitled, “Organizing an American Conscience: The Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion, in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, 1940-1968.”


Currents 081: Layman Pascal Interviews Jim Rutt on Twitter as Collective Intelligence



Layman Pascal interviews Jim about the principles and strategies that could transform Twitter into infrastructure for collective intelligence. They discuss Jim’s motivation in engaging the topic, Musk’s current lack of strategic intent, the least bad unfairness, avoiding point of view moderation, distinguishing between style and content, decorum, user-controlled filters, GameB’s erroneous ban from Facebook, principles of fair enforcement, setting thresholds between private & public domains, whether Twitter is a public utility, advantages & risks of open-sourcing Twitter’s code, two kinds of censorship, culpability around links, replacing the ad model with a subscription service, a connection with liquid democracy, issues with de-platforming, modulating viscosity, social media choices as socially consequential, adding groups, risks of the downvote, gradient rating systems, emergent engineering & why no one’s using it, identity authentication, likely near-future problems, automating sophisticated moderation, experimenting with character limits, wild-card content, a community disinformation immune system, optimizing for time well spent, and much more.

Layman Pascal is a public speaker, nondual theologian and yoga & meditation teacher based in Victoria, British Columbia. His family has lived in the coastal islands for five generations. He is a writer on themes of cultural philosophy, shamanism and organic spiritual development.


Currents 080: Joe Edelman and Ellie Hain on Rebuilding Meaning



Jim talks with Joe Edelman and Ellie Hain about their new movement, Rebuilding Meaning, and two recent talks introducing ideas towards a better world. They discuss tools for building toward more meaningful lives, the meaning of meaning, looking behind the void, the litany of shit, exercises in eliciting meaning, coherent pluralism, containers vs meanings, how religions lost their grounding, values articulacy, the importance of aesthetics, using language learning models to extract meaning profiles, values vs virtues, sobering up from internet optimism, the decay of spaces, when focus shifts from meaning to incentives, funnels, tubes, & spaces, piling up strangers vs creating spaces, metrics of meaning, meaning cards, space trains, the example of science, Carl Rogers’s concept of congruence, designing good ideal selves, spreading the message, and much more.

Joe Edelman developed the meaning-based organizational metrics at Couchsurfing.com, then co-founded the Center for Humane Technology with Tristan Harris, and coined the term “Time Well Spent” for a family of metrics adopted by teams at Facebook, Google, and Apple. Since then, he’s worked on the philosophical underpinnings for new business metrics, design methods, and political movements. The central idea is to make people’s sources of meaning explicit, so that how meaningful or meaningless things are can be rigorously accounted for. His previous career was in HCI and programming language design.

Ellie Hain is an artist, researcher, and cultural strategist working on new imaginaries and ideologies for the post-industrial age.


EP 173 Hanzi Freinacht on Metamodern Self-Help



Jim talks with Hanzi Freinacht about his book 12 Commandments: For Extraordinary People to Master Ordinary Life. They discuss the book as a response to Jordan Peterson & his “12 rules” books, metamodernism, fostering sober crazy people, magical thinking in highly developed personalities, integrations of science & spirituality, stabilizing higher phenomenological states, lower average states as a phenomenon of late-stage Game A, living in a mess moderately, fucking like a beast, sincere irony, quitting, doing the walk of shame, reverse death therapy, Carl Roger’s idea of congruence, healing with justice, burning your maps, the pernicious belief that our maps are complete, killing your guru & finding the others, Jung’s golden shadow, playing for forgiveness, and much more.

Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of The Listening Society, Nordic Ideology, and the upcoming books The 6 Hidden Patterns of History and Outcompeting Capitalism. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps.


EP 172 Brendan Graham Dempsey on Emergentism



Jim talks with Brendan Graham Dempsey about his book Emergentism: A Religion of Complexity for the Metamodern World. They discuss the meaning crisis & its symptoms, reciprocal narrowing, the pre-modern & the modern, the emergence of reductionism, the meaning of complexity & emergence, sacralizing the scientific creation narrative, Prigogine’s theory of dissipative systems, the universe as a process of endless complexification, marrying Bobby Azarian’s Unifying Theory of Reality & Gregg Henriques’s Unified Theory of Knowledge, consciousness vs sentience, Integrated Information Theory vs John Searle’s biological functionalism, the odds that intelligent life evolved only once in our galaxy, tying complexification to the God concept, making the “religion that is not a religion” accessible through mythopoeia & storytelling, the Omega Point, whether approaching the Omega Point implies pushing for a techno-Singularity, Emergentist ethics & practices, and much more.

Brendan Graham Dempsey is a writer whose work focuses on the meaning crisis and the nature of spirituality in metamodernity. He is the host of the Metamodern Spirituality podcast and the writer behind the six-volume (and counting) Metamodern Spirituality Series. He earned his BA in Religious Studies from the University of Vermont and his MA in Religion and the Arts from Yale University. He lives in Greensboro Bend, Vermont, where he runs the holistic retreat center Sky Meadow.


Currents 079: Douglas Rushkoff on Tech Escapism and Critiques of GameB



Jim talks with Douglas Rushkoff about the ideas in his essay series, “What’s a Meta For?” They discuss Facebook’s renaming to Meta, the semantic web, ChatGPT, a Turing test recalibration period, Rocco’s Basilisk, the conversion of the real world into a meta-world, Elon Musk as techno-monarch, the limitations of his understanding of free speech, returning Twitter to the people who use it, Zuckerberg’s Caesar obsession, Rushkoff’s criticisms of GameB, the dangers of an abstracted “omega point,” understanding the complex binding energies of GameA, dominant political isms as a result of industrialism, GameB’s schism over personal vs institutional change, the need to actually deliver, coherent pluralism, what being a member of GameB will mean, dangers of a totalizing narrative, not knowing what GameB is, cultivated insecurity, rejecting the metaverse, GameB’s resilient response to critiques, and much more.

Named one of the “world’s ten most influential intellectuals” by MIT, Douglas Rushkoff is an author and documentarian who studies human autonomy in a digital age. His twenty books include the just-published Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires, as well as the recent Team Human, based on his podcast, and the bestsellers Present ShockThrowing Rocks at the Google BusProgram or Be ProgrammedLife Inc, and Media Virus. He also made the PBS Frontline documentaries Generation LikeThe Persuaders, and Merchants of Cool. His book Coercion won the Marshall McLuhan Award, and the Media Ecology Association honored him with the first Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity.

Rushkoff’s work explores how different technological environments change our relationship to narrative, money, power, and one another. He coined such concepts as “viral media,” “screenagers,” and “social currency,” and has been a leading voice for applying digital media toward social and economic justice. He is a research fellow of the Institute for the Future, and founder of the Laboratory for Digital Humanism at CUNY/Queens, where he is a Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics. He is a columnist for Medium, and his novels and comics, Ecstasy ClubA.D.D, and Aleister & Adolf, are all being developed for the screen.