you see is what you get”
I consider architect,
who by sure and wonderful reason
knows how to devise though his own mind and
and to realize by construction,
be fitted out for the noble deeds of man.
Leon Battista Alberti
On the Art of Building
suppose none of us feel like we are very often understood
- we all live - at least partially - in a world of
our own creation and seek to bridge the gap to other’s
realities. One can never successfully explain oneself;
however, it is often worth the effort to do so -
to attempt to bridge this ubiquitous abyss between
each of our world views and
Questions that I answer below are real questions
- not abstractions; they are not foils in order for
me to stake a position. The answers are honest. The
single biggest point to be
not come from any of the questions
nor their answers, directly - the main point is about
the underlying assumptions many seem to make about
what life is about and my
root motives. I find that most people think that
I have some complex, “hidden” agenda.
The fact is, I do not. What you see is really what
you get. As strange as it may seem, what I am saying
I am about is really what I am about. There is little
more to the story than what has been told and what
is not yet told is simply the factor of
resources and time. This web site, as of January
5,000 pages of personal notebook materials generated
over a 25 year period. Much of this material is blunt
and intimate. The relationship between motive, intent,
action and results (which are often surprising)
is well documented.
am an idealist and a humanist - I think one of the
few left; whatever my flaws and short comings, I
work very hard to govern my actions according to
I will stay true to these even when it seems not
to be to my short term interest to do so. I also
to my goals. Certainly, like anyone, I modify these
goals as I learn - more often that not this means
reordering them in time as my understanding grows
rather than abandoning them altogether. I define
accomplishing these goals - or helping others accomplish
them. It matters less to me who does these things
as long as they get done. I simply have no interest
in any success defined independently
these goals being accomplished.
not move me - doing what I set out to do does [link].
To obtain financial
rewards from this and a degree of recognition will
be very satisfying - but rewards without the substance
is not an attraction. And, I am willing to risk a
great deal to see them done. In this regard, I am
a social entrepreneur not a business person.
find that most people define a certain personal threshold
of wealth, security and social position and then
do what they can to accomplish their life-work (if
they think of it at all) within this context and
existing socially acceptable limits. They remain
their work as long as doing it does
to be their base-line social standing. This is, of
course, what I do not do and I find this
to be the primary source of conflict between myself
Because most cannot believe I mean it when I describe
what I am about and why, they believe I must have
some hidden agenda that is somehow
to my narrow self-interest in the typical social
definition of the term. They suspect a deep dishonesty
I say “not so.” The facts are such that
observation, over time and in the varying circumstances
of everyday life, will bear me
out. Many I have worked with have come
to realize this and they always report their discovery
to me as a matter of great surprise. I am, of course,
surprised at their surprise.
the way, I understand why people like myself are
considered dangerous. The line between a “principled” life
and a fanatical
one is not very wide and the judgements regarding
one and the other not simple. More damage has been
on this Earth by the abuse
just following a live-and-let-live life (although,
I think we now have to focus more on the moral consequence
of actions taken - or not - by voters and consumers).
I pay a great deal of this attention to this danger
sensitive to the ideology trap and the dangers
presented by the fanatical mentality. This has
moved me away, over the decades, from some
and causes I was attracted to in my early years.
It makes me challenge myself again and again when
I think about the projects I have in mind [link] -
are they real and useful or the ravings
of a mind totally
cut off from reality? This is a serious question
yet I always come back to their logic and the next
something like this is
not done - then what?” If I do not
see it being done, can I walk away if there is a
chance that I can accomplish it?
am also aware that what I say and what I do can be
an affront to many. If I am correct in my path it
does imply that a great many are “wrong.” I
do not like this concept of right and wrong because
it rejects personal circumstance and traps
people in hard positions that makes movement more
difficult than it should be. Nevertheless, my agenda
is a sweeping
one and it has buried in it a great deal of criticism
of the existing order. There is very little about
our present social construct I find moral, esthetically
pleasing or economically/ecologically sustainable.
This is a problem, no doubt; but I do not mean it
way. If I am wrong or have over stated things in
regards some of my positions (although I have been
diligent about my facts) there seems to me to be
little risk and
paying more attention to these areas - and acting
where advisable. If I am right and we do not act,
the harmful consequences can be great and not easily
undone. Since action has to come, in many of the
areas I have interest about, before absolute proof
is available - this makes a dilemma. The really interesting
and important issues do not come nicely wrapped up
with the instructions duly attached. I have tried
to create a method that deals with this circumstance.
I have stated, are not to be solved in traditional
last point leads to another problem and that is in
a world of over-specialization someone like me is
automatically suspect - “how can you know so
is the charge. Well, I have spent a lifetime looking
at the connections between things and tracking how
my design assumptions have played out over very long
periods of time - and, because I have not lived a
typical modern life with all its
simply have worked longer and harder at it than most.
A Matt Taylor week is literally several “normal”
work weeks. My life in this regard is fairly well
own. I actually believe I am more “traditional” in
this regard then modern - how did the those before
us get so much done in primitive circumstances without
modern conveniences and tooling?
this. One of our modern conceits is about our productivity.
A simple reading of history shows the fallacy of
this. What we are good at today is scaling - building
lots and lots of something when we decide we want
more of it.
average modern social standards, I am not a nice
guy; nor, am I the kind of public figure - so typical
today - who rides polemics and causes to some personal
political-economic end. As in many areas, I don’t
fit either mold. I am aware of this misfit-ness and
I am hyper
sensitive to the un-comfort and damage that one like
myself can cause. I cannot, however, disclaim or
ignore what my experience has taught me nor am I
willing to give up my art simply because it is controversial
- which all new art always is. I am not, however,
willing to live a deliberately aggressive and controversial
life of conflict - this deeply contradicts what it
is I am trying to
do. Therefore, I move as gently as I can and as patiently
as I can while staying true to that which I believe
is my mission [link] and
what value I can bring to society. This thin line
between public muckraking and private
antinomy is not a easy path to discern. I do not
- and the MG Taylor companies do not - promote this
work. It is done and left on its own to speak for
itself. Each opportunity we get comes to
us. We then take that opportunity as far as it can
I am greatly committed to collaborative processes
and means, and to the principles of democracy, I
do not believe that great ideas and innovations come
about unless individuals take on the task of offering
them up to the world as options. To do so
is not often an easy task and it is not undertaken
conflict, and at times, considerable risk. Innovation
is rarely appreciated in the beginning and it it
often consistent with a life of ease and pleasure
as normally defined. The measure, I think, should
not be the conflict - or even pain - involved. The
measure should be the grace that all (advocate
and opponent alike) bring to the process. Each of
us has the role we must play.
Success is in how well we play it and the humor we
bring to our appointed tasks.
this, many find difficult to believe, or accept -
I do not blame them. Below are my answers to a lifetime
of questions - it is for
to judge their veracity and if my life is consistent
with their spirit. It is for you to decide if any
of this need apply to you. If you choose to have
a relationship with me, however, be prudent - the
label of warning by the surgeon general is duly attached.
you are so smart why aren’t you rich?
a society where the dollar is almighty, I
hear this question often. It is a good question
and an interesting one. It is often asked
with a great deal of anger and rarely by
someone who is rich - which is also revealing
and interesting. Anyone who has real money,
that they directly earned by their own effort,
I expect already knows the answer.
I think I deserve to be rich. It is easily
documented that I have been instrumental
in helping many make millions and several
billions of dollars. And, someday I believe
I will be more than comfortable, financially.
The short answer is I have never worked to
be wealthy. The long answer is a bit more
are several aspects to this question. In
the first place actually making money is
not easy. After trying it one can appreciate
what any successful business person has accomplished.
In the second place, making money honestly
is becoming more difficult in our society
as the economy turns ever more to crass exploitation
as the short cut to riches. The third point
is more subtitle: how much is enough? I have
lived a solid middle class life all my life.
This means I have enjoyed a standard of living
in the top few percentage points of the world’s
population. My idea of wealth is something
to use to
do great projects, not for personal consumption.
And, what happens to people as they gain
economic power? Have we actually, as a society,
answered this question? There are a great
many wealthy people and I know some of them.
There are few happy people, today, from any
economic class. The pursuit of wealth and
things is endless in our society - is it
adding up to human benefit, to culture, to
health - is this pursuit sustainable?
does it mean to actually MAKE money? I like
Rand’s point about this [link].
I actually make a great deal of money and
I have shared it
along the path.
bit too much on the negative side? Perhaps.
A bit more balance needed? Yes, a little
- not a great deal. Can I make it honestly,
doing little harm and use it well when I
have it? I think so. But many have failed
at this - it is not a simple issue. I believe
the means and ends are on.
I write this, MG Taylor has about $5,000,000
in debt [link].
I take this seriously. This money is the
net negative cash flow resulting from
everything we have discovered, built, invented
and the opportunity and value given to others.
I think this is an incredible value and economic
accomplishment. The net negative - a small
number in regards the entire value exchanged
- and the 50 plus million revenues we have
accomplished, however, is a measure of unbalance.
This is the “mark” missed.
My immediate goal is to reach balance and
to the profit side. This will quickly fulfill
all obligations to those who have invested
MG Taylor and it will bring a measure of
social credibility to what we are doing -
and this is important. It will take little
beyond this to satisfy me, personally. Just
enough to be able to pursue my projects with
a measure of comfort seems like utopia from
the vantage point of the first 48 years of
innovation. Too much money is when it becomes
or something to
|The work method that I co-created is being
practice all over the world every day. At
present, we are working on a dozen challenging
architectural projects [link] that
are pushing the state of the art of what
is considered a
work and learning habitat. We are close to
signing enough work that will allow MGT to
meet it’s financial obligations for
several years out and perform the level of
for us to continue to advance our art. When
I am am home I live in a little wood and
glass house in in an Ecotopian redwood forest
by the sea [link].
I travel and work in environments of our
design transferring what we have learned
about organizational transformation and knowledge-work.
I work with a young team of dedicated, creative
designers intent on forging a new and better
future. Perfect?Not yet. Demanding, yes.
fragile? So far. Dull? Rarely. Important?
yes, it is important [link].
see, I am already rich [link].
very good question and one that must
be addressed on the grand scale of a
investment as well as on the increment
of each project and its parts.
to do no harm” has to be the ruling principle.
tools, processes and environments that
I work to bring into reality are designed
to be self-adjusting, learning systems.
They “pay” their way by effectively dealing
with commonly recognized real-world issues.
They do this in a way that opens the
door to transformation and the ability
to redesign systemic systems of great
complexity. I do not believe our society
is addressing these large-scale, complex
issues. I believe that ignoring them
is to take a great risk. I believe that
we should get at it sooner - not later.
I believe we can “pay as we go” if we
start now. I believe you don’t wait for
a someday future of ideal circumstances
to make art. You make art, now, with
what you have and the pursuit of such
art is a social good. It is the opposite
for chasing after “bads.”
I am wrong about these thing I think
the world will just be a little cleaner,
more beautiful and based on a more sustainable
economy as little sooner. If I am right,
we will have avoided some very bad times.
a personal level if I am wrong it may
be argued I wasted time and resources
that could have been invested better
in other ways. This is not serious risk,
however. Because I do not deferr the
making of art to a someday fantasy future
in never to be land, the odds are in
favor that the art will
be produced in any event. My art, being
architectural and demanding large resources,
will not be created without a high level
of social acceptance. If I am right about
my assumptions, then will have helped
solve these problems and paved the way
for the kind of society and economy/ecology
that will embrace the kind architecture
I want to build. I will have been able “to
realize by construction, whatever can
most beautifully be fitted out for the
noble deeds of man.”
is another way to be “wrong” in all
of this that has some interesting
implications. It can happen that
everything I want to do will be rejected
our present society. If some things
were to continue at their present
vector this certainly could be the
case. This would mean that I had
failed to find the intersection between
my view of the world and what the
majority decides is the best path.
I have been, of course, seeking this
“sweet spot” for all of my adult
life. Where, without compromise,
can I find the place to begin? I
was told when I started work that
I would never build [link].
I was told this not because older
architects disagreed, in principle,
with me but because they deemed it
impractical. I replied then as I
would today: “so be it.” These were
brave words for a 17 year old boy
and I have to admit that the many
years since have often been painful
and frustrating - there are times
when the words ring hollow. But,
that is my problem. One of the
we all have to make in life is about
what we want to do and the terms
by which we will do it - or not.
In reaching this clarity, one is
deciding all the things that are
“out” - not to be pursued. Life is
simpler after this point. I have
never had occasion to doubt my fundamental
stand. This had forced me - because
I did want to succeed - to seek ways
to bring value that are consistent
with by values [link].
MG Taylor is one consequence of this.
With MG Taylor I have built the tool
that I need as much as I think society
this also may come down in ruins.
It does not seem so, but it might
- what then? We come, then, one of
the major reasons for this web site.
The STORY will be told and published.
Humankind cannot be forced to embrace
the world that I see and I would
never want that under any circumstance.
If the world goes another way, I
will continue on, building what I
can, facilitating such change as
I can and publishing what I am learning.
This is satisfaction in this and
maybe some long term value [link].
have been very careful building this
edifice on which I have bet my life-time.
I am, at the heart of it, an engineer
and a careful one. I do not think
I am wrong in a fundamental way and
I have worked to remove all the errors
of implementation. I think that the
real risk is that I may not be able
to live up to the challenges when
the opportunities do come. No question
they will be demanding. I have tried
to get ready but still have a long
way to go. It is a race between the
opportunity development, training
and still having the time and energy
to do the work - when will these
curves intersect? Will I be ready?
Will MG Taylor and the ValueWeb
be ready? I think a lot about this.
can you be sure you are right?
cannot - and nobody can. This is, in
fact, the point. Being “right” is
overrated - BEING is very important.
being involved, taking a stand,
doing something, testing your ideas in
the real world, pushing the limits to
find the new and useful. This is the
only way you can “know.”
is not, of course, an argument for sloppy
thinking and careless fact-finding. It
is, in fact, an argument for fearless
attention to the totality of what our
civilization is doing. Most live “happily”
in their made-up world of self-restricted
viewpoints and conventional wisdom. This
is a comfortable place to be because
there is little challenge in it - until
the house falls down which, in time,
it surly will.
am I into crusades. I find what most
people argue about extremely boring and
For example, you can argue for 20 years
about all the ins and outs of US foreign
policy over the last 60 years and not
once embrace the simple fact of how many
of completely innocent people have died
in the name peace and democracy. The
details are arguable but surly something
is wrong when the most powerful nation
in the world can seek no other options.
Lets get down to it and look the dead
straight in the eye. Why wrapped it up
in flag and slogans and blame it all
on the “bad guys” many of
whom we actually put in power. This is
not about statistical
tables, the economy and elections; this
is not about simple right and wrong;
this is a moral issue and it is about
the way our basic, unchallenged, assumptions
play out in the world.
can be difficult but taking resonsibility
for the consequences is not too obscure
a point. Lets embrace reality and learn
from what happened so we can do it better.
Lets put everyone in the boat called
Humanity. And, while we are at it, lets
include all life in our concept of what
should be protected and nurtured.
is about finding the right problems to
solve and then not running away when
it gets a little tough. It is about turning
problems into the opportunity to do art.
It is about making it better for all
do you do this and live a normal life?
don’t live a typical life or an
average one. As for the idea of normalcy,
not yet ready to give that idea up. What
is NORMAL? I hope that the way work is
divorced from life today is not your
answer. Nor, spending 500 hours a year
in a car to get to and from work. Nor,
working in a personality driven hierarchy
where politics are more important than
knowledge and competency. I have lived
the life of a knowledge-worker all my
life and watched as this life-work style
has gone from the strange to the touted
that, I am not yet ready to say that
I have achieved anything like what I
would consider “normal” in my life-work
do you take such risks?
me, they are not risks. I see the alternatives
too clearly. I also have a low respect
for the illusions that most call safety.
is no such thing as social security.
One would think that the last century
would have convinced everyone of that.
It is not that I have a malevolent view
of the universe - just the opposite.
However, what we consider as socially
safe has proven again and again to be
not so. The old adage “live like you
are going to live forever and every day
like it is the last” is actually very
good advise. Your life could end tomorrow,
and, no matter how old you are you could
be alive a hundred years from now. How
do you deal with this?
job you spent 20 years securing can be
gone in a day, your social position with
the ink of one newspaper piece. Yet,
what you make of yourself can never be
taken away and the community you build
around you will remain surprisingly true.
Your QUEST [link],
if you can find it, is uniquely yours
and no one else can
it. What you create remains - if only
in the memory of our species. Each Era
presents its singular opportunity and
challenge. Our is the destiny of a planet.
This is the game we play if we recognize
it or not. Life is about being a player
- not a spectator. You can watch it all
on TV - and that is what I call a bad
of us has to design our life and finance
it - there are no exceptions. Each of
us has to deal with our times and the
society we are born into - there are
no exemptions. How we do this is totally
our individual choice and no one can
really judge the other on this issue.
me, that I am aware of, there were two
strategies that I could follow and remain
consistent to my values and quest. One,
was to live a quite life of contemplation,
in some community, while building whatever
few buildings of true architecture that
this community wanted and could afford.
The other was to take the system on and
transform it from end-to-end. I choose
the later - but with two caveats: that
I would not seek public notoriety and
conflict in this transformational task
and that someday I would find my community
to build wonderful human habitats. You
see, I wanted it all.
may conclude from these (in combination)
objectives that I came from some completely bizarre, broken background (and this
but no matter. It is what it is and the
decision is far behind me. You use the
hand you are dealt to make a silk purse
(to mix metaphors). I experienced what
I did and I will not
deny it - I seek to build a world that
is different. I was abused as a child,
saw my sister killed in front of my eyes
(defending me), came from a broken home
and walked through a city where a hundred
thousand died in one night of deliberate
fire-bombing - all before reaching the
fourth grade. After my class mates were
blown up by land mines, after experiencing
their pain finding out their father
was not coming home, I read about US
trade with Germany during WWII. Welcome
to the modern world. I would not trade
this background for anything. When most
people (in the isolated, pampered Western
society upper classes) talk about risk,
they do not have a clue.
| It is endemic in our culture that we play
hide and seek with ourselves denying what
is right in front of our eyes. We have to
stop doing this. We now have the power of
the gods and it is our choice how we use
it. This is a high stakes game with the life
of a planet in balance. I know this because
I experineced the seed of this era over 59
risk is denying what you know and failing
what your experience tells you you must
may fail in some part or all of my mission
this is acceptable. Failing to pursue
the mission is not.
are you so anti-social?
is an interesting question and one I
often get. From by perspective, I am
one of the few that gives a damn about
society at all. I often wonder what is
really meant by this question.
you ever be satisfied?
likely, not. I have too large an agenda
of works to accomplish to think that
I will ever be “done.” I do, at least,
have the satisfaction of projects well
done and of being on the path to what
I am about. This is, perhaps, enough
and more than can be reasonably expected.
idea of satisfaction - of happiness -
is actually very complex. I know few
who have achieved this ubiquitous human
goal which is surprising given how many
work so hard at it.
happens if you become the orthodoxy?
do you know there isn’t a Second
Foundation out there somewhere?
actually miss living in the society that
I have in my mind. I miss this deeply,
with great passion. I can feel like it
would be like to live there. I feel like
I once did and that I am an outcaste
as punishment for some horrible transgression.
This society is more real to me than
I live in. I keep waiting to be picked
up with the message “your time is up.”
So far, this has not happened so I keep
working to build a piece of it as an
example of what can be.
have to understand how extremely alienated
I am. There is no resolution here. This
is a total war. However, I have chosen
to fight this war by peaceful means.
To create - not destroy. To build - not
tear down. To love - not hate. This is
a discipline. My impulse is one of anger
and to strike out. I guard against this
and attempt Elliot’s principles of criticism.
My decision is to education and facilitate
- not attack. Even so, things have to
be said and pointed out.
guard against attacking
those that destroyed this world of mine because
I believe that people are basically good
and intelligent. It is the basic paradigm
our age that needs to be changed. As far
as I know, this world I seek has never existed.
It is “destroyed” only because attention
has turned elsewhere. It is yet to be created
communicated idea let alone example. Until
this is done, choice is not possible. So,
I take this project on at the beginning of
the task: to articulate options, design and
build examples, provide places of collaboration
where people can come together to overcome
differences and complexity and get the world
I was growing up, I listened to the words
describing America and its future. I
believed what I was told we were fighting
a war for. I thought, then, that there
was a consensus about what the new world
would be. The results have been very
different than this dream. I never expected
it to be exactly what I had in mind.
This is an issue of kind not of detail.
In fact, many of the details have come
about but entangled in Faustian bargains.
Nor have I been alone. Much has been
written and many exemplarily examples
created - all drowned in spectacular
what I miss the most is a future that
never was, is yet to come and that so
far I have failed to create.
would you do with massive resources?
are you greatest achievements?
remaining sane and human. I am very proud
is your biggest failure?
do not know if this small adventure into self revelation
has met its objective or not - this is, I suppose,
more up to you than to me. I gave it a try. There
is some relief, however, in thinking that, now, at
these questions can be passed on to a URL. I really
don’t mind exploring them in dialog but only
after the more superficial aspects are dispensed
with - there is nothing more de-habilitating than
starting at the beginning every time in what is often
an accusatory context. These are really good questions
but only if one can get to
deeper aspects. Unfortunately, most of what passes
for human dialog fails in this regard. We have become
a dismally superficial society, that skims the surface
of “spin” in an ever more accelerated frenetic manner,
looking for easy answers and quick fixes. We could
be called a society of information junkies except
guess the socially unacceptable but blunt answer
is this: I am happy to have a serious dialog about
kinds of questions because they cut to the heart
of our common social experience and present choices
we each have to make in our own way. Choices, the
sum of which, really do matter in regards the kind
of culture we make. But please do not bore me with
the surface viewpoint of these questions - there
are no satisfactory answers there and I really don’t
have the time for it.
December 29, 2003
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March 7, 2004
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