Notes regarding this document:

In 1974 and 75, I researched and prepared a course first given at the Unitarian Church in Kansas City. This was my summary of where our society was headed over the next quarter of century. The focus of the course was what information and conceptual tools did the individual require in order to be mentally and psychologically equipped for the change ahead. The course was based on 500 carefully selected books which spanned the human endeavor past, present and projected future.


My role was to provoke thinking about the implications of this information and provide models that made sense of it. Much of what this course illustrated and projected has come to past. In fact, it was a remarkably accurate. The central message has not been widely understood. If anything, humanity is more behind the times and less prepared than in the mid 70s. In the 1970s at least people were questioning. During the 80s and 90s they were not. They were enjoying the fruits of innovation without taking heed of the risks.


The central message was - and is - that we humans are making our future by default. Instead, we must do it by design and deliberate acts of feedback driven building. The future cannot be predicted but it is made.


The future we are making now has many problems. They are systemic and long term and therefore out of the scope of most people’s concern and ability to act.


For me, personally, this last quarter of century has gone full cycle. From the course came the Renascence Project and from that came what we have have been doing for the last 22 years at MG Taylor. This last period has been about building tools to deal with the kind of social/economic change that the course assumed would come to past. Now, the task has to shift from tool-making to employing what we have created to get on with the task of designing and building a different kind of future. This has been the plan all along.


As I move into this phase, I cannot say if this will be easier or more difficult than the last period. The opportunities are certainly abundant but we seem to have a culture, that until very recently, has been drunk on success and excess. Is it possible for our society to think about what we are collectively doing? Is there time left to become requsite with the change we ourselfs are greating? Or, is it safe to go on as we are and assume that the “hidden hand” will guide us to a sustainable outcome? And, if so, at what cost?


It is difficult to conceive of a quarter of a century that has achieved so much and so little at the same time. Time fly’s by ever faster. Immense complexity of interrelationships is building to an potentially overwhelming level. The old habits remain entrenched - the old problems “unexpectedly” return over and over. They return because the STRUCTURE that generated them in the past remains in place to this day.


It is time to reassess. Time to start the process again. Time to look out another 25 years and model what it is likely to be and what can become.


This next 25 years will be the most critical of any period in known human history. I started, in 1974, with three fundamental questions:


How long do you expect to live?

How much change do you expect to see?

What are you going to do about it?

These questions remain as viable as before. they are deceptive simple until you get into them. How each of us answers these questions, by our actions, will determine the kind of world we will have in less than one generation. QUO VATUS?

Matt Taylor
Palo Alto
April 10, 1999



ReBuilding the Future
Quo Vatus by Matt Taylor - 1987
“ design not default

p r e m i s e

As a society, we are not building the world the vast majority of us say they want. Our world is emerging by default: the sum of billions of moves that are adding up to a result few take credit for - or seem to like.
We are beset with competing ideologies each claiming to be THE answer. The complexity of the issues we face are beyond the competencies of the entrenched “understand, decide, command and control” processes. We cannot predict the future - nor, control it. And, anyone who tries to do so faces a wall of opposition. Yet, we cannot just let “it happen” either.
What do we do?
The future cannot be predicted or controlled but it can be designed and made. In fact, it is made - However, what is being made may not be beneficial to our long term health or liking. Success will not be gained by a simple linear process and work system. Nor by us trying to dominate everything and everyone. It can be accomplished by building a systematic, organic, response that learns and adjusts - that adapts; that is life-like and life giving.
This will not be done by the agencies now in power acting as they presently are. Nor, it will not be done without them either. It will not be done in a vacuum - or by a few of us. It will not be done by dictate nor by force. It will not be done by wishing that things were better.
It will be done when a critical mass of free agents decide to step back, think, study, design and act in a new way. A way that is inclusive. A way that respects life. A way which pays attention to and employs enduring values. A way that is compatible with and facilitates the EMERGENCE of a totally new society based on a set of assumptions impossible to seriously consider before now.
This process must begin with a comprehensive review of our history, our present condition and our future prospects. This continium of time must be considered as an itegrated system. Ecology and economics must be seen as the same subject.
r e b u i l d i n g
t h e
f u t u r e

ReBuilding the Future is not a prescription - it is an exploration. It is not easy - it requires study, hard thinking and diligent design. It is not over in 6 weeks or six months - it will take the rest of your life. It is a process.

Rebuilding the Future is not a course - it is exposure to a framework, a body of knowledge and a way of thinking and working. There is no “pass or fail” grade - life hands out the grade not only for us but for all living beings and those who follow us.
It is not a program or a movement - it is a network, a ValueWeb, of knowledge-workers intent on making a world which works.
Rebuilding the Future draws on the past to revision the future in order to reinvent the present. The focus is the HUMAN Enterprise not this or that warring faction. It is a learning process that leads to prototyping alternative futures - and choosing them. Choosing them by BUILDING them. It concludes with becoming engaged in what I call “worthy projects” that get at the kind of change we want to have. I have my list. My intent is not to promote this. My hope is that each participant in this venture will choose their own and work to attract people to their vision just as I work to attract people to mine.
The future is happening right now. Each choice each of us makes - each vote in the market place of ideas and goods - is a message to a dynamic, complex system which never sleeps.
The SUM of these messages makes up an economy and an ecology. Everyone votes - everyday. Every vote launches an array of consequences - consequences that, at the moment, we do not understand and are collectively shirking the responsibility for.
ReBuilding the Future involves making these votes with intent and with clarity.It requires gaining a sense how complex systems function. It means engaging with these systems in a new way. It means closing the gap between our personal and social ideals and the actions we take.
ReBuilding the Future requires putting philosophy back into action and taking action on philosophy. The “soul-body dichotmy” - so prevalent in the last several hunderd years of the Western Tradition - must be repaired.
Just like 30 years ago [as of january 2006], the ReBuilding the Future THEME, and the work related to it, will become my main intellectual focus starting in 2006. In this the second cycle of the effort, the context is different than before. Now, we have a set of tools that did not exist in 1975 - tools that emerged because of that first inquiry and what followed from it. Now, the economic, social, political climate is ready for change - because it must. Now, a new generation is entering the work force with a different set of assumptions than their parents started with. And now, the margin is gone. The FUTURE is before us part monster, part utopia. What will we make it?
The evolution of humanity is now being driven by environmental factors of our own making. Humanity is acquiring capabilities we once conceded to “the gods.” We are rapidly acquiring the capabilities to directly alter, on the genetic level, ourselves and the planet upon which we live. The increasing gains in computing power and automation, the spreading ubiquity of knowledge and the prospect of nanotechnology forever alters our conventional notions of economics which are based on the assumption of fundamental scarcity. Meanwhile, the impact of the indirect means by which we have been altering our environment for 10,000 years, is now reaching a tipping point with potentially disastrous consequences. There are two seemingly opposing viewpoints of human activity: one set of change curves suggests that we are headed on a path to almost immediate destruction. The other, that we are headed toward a condition which is utopian in its characteristics.
Careful thought and deep reflection, however, reveals that there is both opportunity and danger in both of these scenarios. And, that there is no clear and easy path ahead. Common to both is that humanity is powerful enough to bring great change but not powerful enough to avoid the consequences of what we do. The nature of the outcome will be determined in a brief period - a quarter of a century or less. In this we will be part of more change than the sum of our entire 10,000 year history.
To suggest that humanity is not presently up to this adventure is such an understatement that it would be humorous if it were not so critical. To point out that the future is coming by default is so obvious that it is actually embarrassing to do so. To point out the short comings of our existing institutions is actually boring - what passes for news does so every day. What is not so clear is the immense storehouse of knowledge and tools that humanity has created. By employing this legacy we can create almost anything we have the ability to imagine. The issue is what we choose to IMAGINE - or not.

Matt Taylor
Palo Alto
April 10, 1999


SolutionBox voice of this document:


Posted: April 10, 1999

revised: January 20, 2006
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note: this document is about 12% finished

Copyright© Matt Taylor 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006 , 2006







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