A xT e s t a m e n t
Matt Taylor and Xanadu - 2000
t h e xp a t h xt o xX a n a d u
a n n o t a t e d xI N D E X
There will be some who will say that the world cannot be be free, that people cannot live in harmony, that an affluent human society means the sacrifice of the planet’s animal population and ecology, that wars are inevitable, that the economy is more important than human values and the lives of those others of different tribes or persuasion; that wars, corporate misconduct, government abuses and general dissipation are due to human nature and all we can do is try to control this, with the fear of a god and the control of the state, and never expect better - the litany goes on and on as it has for centuries. There are those who wistfully wish it otherwise yet succumb to the notion that we must be “practical” and cannot act to bring our best vision of ourselves into reality; that compromise is necessary and ideals cannot be reached. I reject all this. We have come to the era when, because of our accumulated wealth and capacity, the great aspirations of Humankind can be fulfilled. To fail to do so, because of the abuse of power this entails, may mean our destruction. This is a time when the ideal and practical must meet and become one.
This Testament is my report to what I call the last generation. Those being born and living today will witness - and, participant in - the emergence of a new species of human. This is the end of a long evolutionary and social trek and the beginning of a new one. Death of our species is a possibility to be seriously considered in the turbulent time of the transformation. Most likely, a new human will be born out of the sum of all that has happened in pre and historical times yet influenced, to a far greater extent, by what we do - or do not do - over the next 30 years. If this result be something which we will consider good or bad, from the perspective of our present understanding and circumstance, is an open question. My view is that we are “designing” our future by default [link: a future by design not default] and that there is great jeopardy intrinsic to this “method.” To design with intention does not mean to predict and control. A complex system and process cannot be understood and treated in this manner. Design, in this context is to create the circumstance within which humans successfully co-evolve with Planet Earth and all the species on it. This requires nether domination nor submission. It does require collaboration and far greater attention and care than has become our habit throughout the industrial era.
I started my work-life with the simple goal of becoming an architect who would build a few hundred beautiful buildings for people to live, work, love and play in [link: index of architectural projects]. I would have been happy to call this a good life well spent. These plans became derailed along the way by a growing vision [link: 1958 - what do you want?] of something more important and necessary, a number of experiences that pushed me in a direction I had not imagined, and a set of global circumstances that are both frightening and enthralling in their possibility.
I grew up in a military family in World War Two [linK: my personal history] and saw first hand the destructiveness, brutality, creativity and redemptive spirit of this phenomenon we call Humanity [link: 1947]. In this war and its aftermath, misnamed the Cold War, we honed both our ability to destroy and our ability to build. Destroy? For what reasons do we destroy? Build? Why? To what end? Over the last 60 years, Humanity has developed these abilities - to both destroy and build - to a god-like level while, it seems, our consciousness has remained mired in centuries old habits, hates and ambitions. This combination of capability, attitude and agenda is frightening [link: a future by design not default].
The rebuilding of planet Earth as a work of art, created and enjoyed by all people - and all life - became my mission [link: mg taylor mission]. Earth as a garden - the goal. A cybernetic forest [link: matt’s 5th domain] - a metaphore. Xanadu and a ValueWeb of NavCenters - a societal mind-like, neural net of capabilities [link: valueweb mechanics] necessary for making a future different than the path we are now on by default - the tool. In 1975, I looked at the last 25 years of the 20th Century and imagined a systemic approach to resolving what then clearly constituted the basic challenges and flash points ahead. This launched a two-generation project that now is becoming a global capability dedicated to stewarding, and engaging with, a transformation that has been long underway driven by its own evolutionary imperatives. This can become a Gaiaian-Human co-design of incredible beauty.
This personal odyssey required three difference levels of innovation: inventing and designing a new set of tools, processes and environments while becoming a business entrepreneur and a social entrepreneur before this role was recognized as legitimate in our society. Each of these is a challenge in itself. The combination has proven to be immensely difficult. Society awards, in status and wealth, what it recognizes to be valuable. In my case, while most of the specific work I have done has been successful and accepted as such. The totality of it and the reasons for it, and the goal of it, have remained, until recently, decades away from the focus of the times. This, and the fact that I made many decisions along the way that further removed me from the conventions of our society, has meant that the majority of my 50 years of work has been done in relative isolation of society’s institutions and the “family” of humanity. I learned to dress normally, walk down the street without causing alarm and ultimately understand the gears and levers of our society - but that is about the best that can be said about it. I have remained alien to the society in which I was born.
This isolation, while not always fun, has netted some benefits. I am relatively immune, after all of these years, to the seduction of fame and money. I do not own - or am I owned - by any part of the system in place. I have no ambition for success as it is now most commonly defined. All this leaves me freer than most to see, to speak what I see - and to do my work without illusion. I will be happy to succeed in getting my agenda and work accepted and applied in the immediate future - at the same time, I am resolved to the real possibility that it may remain totally ignored. In this case, the strategy is to build such examples as are possible and document the record as thoroughly as possible and distribute the seeds to become part of a future memory [link: the 22 aspects of memory of a dynamic system].
Long an advocate of free enterprise and the advancement of technology, I now experience the paradox of a growing distaste and alarm as I witness our emerging society - one that I accurately predicted a generation ago and in a small way helped bring about. From my perspective, Humanity took the enormous gifts of the last decades and has thus far squandered them on violence and dissipation. I believe that future generations - if there be future generations capable of it - will look upon the time from the end of World War II to the present with horror and declare it the most tragic period in human history. It is not only what we did that earns this condemnation. It is the enormity of the gap between what we have done and what we were - and are - capable of doing that stands as a monument to human neglect.
With the power of the gods in hand, Humanity is totally lacking an appropriate self image and vision of its own future. It does not possess the means to deal with the very complexity it itself is creating as the sum of billions of human actions made every day. If there was ever a train wreck in the happening, it is the Human Race on the course which we are on.
Fortunately, this is not the whole story. It is not even half the story. If members of a civilization from outer space were to look down on this planet they could only scratch their heads - if they have such anatomy - in wonderment. Such a paradox they would see! They would find, upon investigation, that the vast majority of all humans everywhere are honest, hard working, diligent and true. They would see genius in abundance, credible solutions waiting in the wings to almost every situation Humanity faces. They would see a common sense of life and a surprising level of agreement about what is important. They would see good will, friendliness and the willingness to help others, make investment and do what is necessary to build a better life for all. This is the common experience of our fellow humans which the majority of us - rich or poor - individually enjoy in the communities in which we live. Our visitors would have to conclude, however, that the preoccupation of Humanity, as a species, is compiling piles of money, consuming as much as possible and killing one another with gusto while trashing out the planet on which we live. This is the global experience of the greater number of humans on this planet. Looking for an explanation, our alien friends would discover what can only be named as the complete failure of virtually all human institutions including a ruined House of Intellect. We cannot even hold an effective, intelligent, honorable dialog about our common Human Enterprise let alone bring design to the potential we have to create a world expressing our best commonly held values. We argue and kill over minor differences while squandering the cooperative opportunities nascent in the common agreement we have already forged.
It is the deep architecture of our social system which brought us to the party yet is now destroying the celebration and turning it into a horror show of global proportions.
This book is about that architecture. Structure wins. The structure now in place is putting the entire Human Race - and most other species on this planet - at great risk. I argue that we know better. That little of what we are doing is right - nor necessary. That we know this and few actually support it. Yet, each buried behind their own Maginot Line, factions are preparing for a cultural war which can destroy what has taken 10,000 years of human effort and eons for nature to build. This condition, and its likely outcome, is the very definition of tragedy.
There are many who have diagnosed this crisis or some major aspects of it. Their analysis is often brilliant, their prescription as often inadequate. We have a complex, systemic challenge before us. We must recreate our entire global industrial society and we must do this in less than a generation. What has been notably absent from our efforts to do so is a means to address our problems on both system and parts levels and to release the genius - and group genius - necessary to dissolve them. Humanity needs a new way of thinking and working both firmly integrated with a viable view of the future.
We live in a nihilistic and indulgent time. Practical vision never comes easy. In times like this, there exists little patience nor resource for such efforts. This makes a society without a loadstone. Navigation is impossible. Direction is provided by the immediate circumstance, the loudest shouting and the most skillful use of “spin” - the modern euphemism for propaganda. Everything is proposed in the negative - what we are against. The negation of all negatives - even if it were possible - will not provide a healthy human future and a sustainable, joyfully evolving planetary system.
Planet Earth needs a new story. This book - which reports my work in context of the times in which it developed as one design/build process dedicated to a better future - is my contribution to this process.
Thre are four sections of the book: The Future of the Present; The Future of the Future; The Future of the Past; and, A Path To Xanadu.

A viable future does not easily evolve out to today’s circumstance. A transformation is necessary. Transformation means to change form - to change the structure, in this case, of a global society of our own making which is now the context and main driver of our own evolution. This structure is composed of our ideas, our language, our beliefs, our relationships, our technologies, organizations and institutions. It is found in the design of our cities, technologies and transportation systems. In our use of resources, economies and wars. This is an architecture - a fabric. It is integrated and it expresses its own logic. A society is identified by its myths, which express, are built on and reinforce its deep structure and ours no longer serve us.

Myths are more difficult to change than concrete. It is a societies’ myths you confront when you start the process of re conceiving the future. It is the institutions built on those myths that you confront when you take on the task of making fundamental change. These myths are re made by the success of new solutions - they are the story of these acts and those who achieve them.
The Future of the Present is an analysis and criticism of out present era with a focus on 1956 to 2006. I will show that, while there is great legacy in our past, this present is inconsistent with a viable future. There is no future for our present time. There is an ample opportunity for redemption and re-creation. It is from this reexamined present that the work to secure a viable future must begin. We can accomplish this task by bringing some of THERE - our vision of the future - to HERE - our present circumstance - with every decision, with every piece of work each and every day. I will show that Humanity is creating global, complex, systemic problems at a rate far greater than our ability to remain requisite with the consequences of our own actions. That, in the specific, there are solutions to these problems but that the decision making processes of government, markets and individuals cannot bring these to reality in time to avoid great waste and the real probably of disaster on a global scale. I will tell the story of my 50 years of work which has been devoted to building practical systems to radically close this growing gap. I will document successes that demonstrate that we can respond systemically and be requisite with the growing rate of change and complexity and that we can do so in concert with all life with respect for all life.
The Future of the Future explores the many aspects of a just and sustainable human use of Planet Earth and our beginning migration into space. The proper use of Earth and our venture into space are not separate subjects - they are two sides of the same coin. I doubt that we will get one without the other. This future-state view goes out one generation. It is this period of time when we will secure a different outcome or succumb to the distorted logic of our present time. I will present a future - not the future - radically different than our present path predicts. I will do this in some detail by the telling of several stories each one addressing a key aspect of a possible future scenario. You, the reader will be challenged to fill in the spaces between these tellings with your own imagination. What will emerge is a world very different from today yet one entirely possible.
The Future of the Past describes how we got to the present. It does so from the perspective of the future-view presented in Section Two. No matter the quality of the scholarship, the past is always a reflection of the current times. It is said that History is the propaganda written by the winners and there is truth in this. It is time to write an objective history of the past from the point of view of a successful future. There is a deeper reality, however. It is not possible to divorce past present and future. We actually live only in the present and do so based on our model of the future and our memory of our past. It is only by changing these mental constructs that we can begin to see our present circumstance and find within it the seeds of the future we actually want to create and live in. This past history will be explored via a dialog of a very unusual, by today’s standards, history professor and an equally unusual class of students who actually want to know their origins. This class is composed of students from all over the world on a one year cruise around the world. Their mission is to understand their world, each other, and the great heritage of the last 10,000 years. This voyage takes place in 2020 almost the half way point of the Great Change.
The Path Ahead is a prescription and Agenda. It describes, in some detail, how we can get HERE from THERE. It will describe practical programs - I call them Worthy Projects - some mine and some other’s - which tackle complex, systemic global problems while building immediate, short term benefit at local scale. The reality of of our present situation is that we can only afford to do both simultaneously.
This book is not an academic study from a detached point of view. While multi-generational in its time frame and sweeping in its content, this is a personal story. This is a book about my working life and the world I choose to live in. It is a personal perspective that I hope will stimulate many such responses. The future cannot be predicted nor controlled - it is emergent. A future that can be controlled will be very dull and most likely very dangerous. A future can be created. It is the sum of all human actions. These actions are based on our values and our assumptions. Very few are deeply aware of their assumptions about themselves and the future they will live. I call these hidden design assumptions. Re-creating the future starts with the examination of these design assumptions and making them the basis of a program of action steps taken over time and adjusted by feedback.
Humanity has choices. We are now building a planet as a human artifact. Will it be alive and organic - a home of all living creatures - or will it be a wasteland populated with megplexes devoid of true humanity and life? Will we collaborate in the creation of this new world, or will it be the product of the elite with the rest of humanity in third class? Will we learn to employ our diversity creatively to resolve conflicts, or will we continue to abuse economic power, apply the use of brutal force and mass destruction to “resolve” our differences?
These questions and many like them will be answered in my lifetime and most likely yours. The future before us can fulfill our greatest vision or our worst nightmares. There will be many unexpected events full of many surprises. There will be a number of things outside our control. There is a cost from our past that already we will have to pay. In the main, however, the future we enjoy or loath will be the one we make together. One thing is sure, there will be no place to hide and no way to escape our common-built destiny.

This is a personal statement. A report on 50 years of work. A pro forma of the task ahead. It is in this context that it is a testament. The greatest investment that one can make is one’s lifetime. Our society honors those who die for a worthy cause and we have an ingrained bad habit of asking far too many people to do this for what often, in the end, just turns out to be someone’s warped ambition. In the future, it may be more important for people to live to accomplish worthy work and causes. Living well is far more difficult than dying poorly. Creating the means for all life to live well, rather than for some to gain a short-lived temporary advantage in a tooth and claw game, requires a great deal more design talent and integrity than Humanity has displayed thus far.

The sub-title the Path to Xanadu underscores that the realization of the Xanadu Project [the xanadu project] is, for me, the most concrete form which provides humanity with the tools necessary to move away from conflict, as a systematic process, to collaboration on the scale required to forge a true alternative to our present path. Xanadu is critical however it is not just Xanadu that will accomplish this task. It is the range, scope and scale of the distributed collaborative infrastructure that will have to be in place before a Xanadu will ever get built that is the most important. Xanadu is both symbol of, and tool for, a world in transformation. For me, personally, Xanadu is a measure that I have completed my mission and can practice architecture in a world of Giaian-human harmony.

section one:
The Future of the Present


T.S. Elliot wrote a criticism on criticism. In it he outlined four steps he believed necessary to any valid criticism: The ideal must be stated. Evidence from the past must to brought forward in support of the ideal. The work to be judged must be shown in context of this ideal and how it exceeds, meets or fails to meet this standard. And last, what steps should be taken so that the subject in focus can be improved and made to approach or exceed the ideal.

In the House of Intellect, Jacques Barzun said that only the best examples of a type should be criticized as the poorer examples are too obvious and not worthy of the effort.

I intend to follow the wise advise of both Elliot and Barzun in this exercise.

And while I will use examples from politics, science, religion, education, economics, industry, technology, and society at large, I will cast my comments in the context of systems, cybernetics, innovation, collaborative processes, design and architecture as these are the fields in which I can claim competency. These are also the disciplines I propose to apply, later in this work, in pursuit of a better future.

This criticism is focused on the period 1956 - 2006 as this is the time of my working life to the date when this book was conceived. These are times that I can speak about with some authority for three reasons. First, I was there. Second, it is in these times which I learned and applied the disciples I referenced above. And third, the kind of future I propose in this book as possible to us has been my pursuit through this entire period. While much of this is clearer to me - and based on much greater knowledge - than 50 years ago, the essence of the quest has remained the same.

Finally, it is this period - the last 50 years - that I believe has been the time of greatest loss to our species and to our world. There may have been some argument from ignorance, scarcity, lack of tools, wealth and political means for the world to be as it was through WWII and its immediate aftermath. These excuses dissolve given the capabilities of the last half Century. No, we squandered the time. We have eaten our margin and now have to do in half the time what we could have done easily if we had started a generation earlier.

It is my contention that if we repeat this unfortunate cycle the consequences will be catastrophic This book is a warning and a proposal. We can become the scourge of the Earth worthy of the disdain of the future or we can be the bridge to the creative period of Humanity.

The genesis of this choice lies in the patterns of the last 50 years.

GoTo: Index of Part One
“brother can you spare a paradigm?”

section two:
The Future of the Future


Few would have believed, at the mid point of the first decade of the 21st Century what turned out to be the state of the world a generation later.

All of the dire forecasts turned out not to be true.

This was not because they were based on false assumptions nor because of good luck. They were proven false by the concerted effort of Humanity itself.

The cynics and the experts were proven wrong.

Humanity decided to honor diversity rather than killing it. To build wealth together rather than competing for it. To build an ecologically sustainable technology infrastructure and economy rather than using nature as supply depot and waste dump. Education and global connectivity was brought to everyone on Earth. And, the Human Race went into space.

A cornucopia of technologies were created in this generation and they were, in the main, used wisely. Wealth was redefined and became ubiquitous. The definition of life and what it means to be human took on a radical transformation.

A universal Humanity emerged while at the same time ethnic and regional traditions were honored. A great variety of life styles are now lived without rancor and conflict.

How did this transformation take place? Below are stories which highlight when people choose to turn away from one kind of decision to embrace another kind. When we - as a Human Enterprise - chose not death - but life.

GoTo: Index of Part Two
Stories of Transformation

section three:
The Future of the Past


What does the past look like form a future as far from today and today is from the Middle Ages? How does a Humanity deep into the process of transforming itself view its legacy?

A round the world voyage to see, touch and study this past, while bringing it actively into the present, is more than a metaphor - it suggests a necessary pedagogy and method.

These dialogs are a way to understanding by exploring the Human experience without fear or unnecessary judgment.

We are not bound by our past yet this past will always be a part of our future. This past is understood in context of our myths about it and these myths are created by our future aspirations.

I choose the midpoint of the great change because at this point the world view will be significantly different yet not totally alien to our present understanding. The issues that the students will have will still be relevant to our own times. There is no guarantee that this will be true much later in the future.

GoTo: Index of Part Three
Imaging Our Past

section four:
A Path To Xanadu


Society requires an infrastructure to support it. This has always been true and infrastructure can be found in every society in every era. Even a Kurtzweiling future will have an infrastructure although very different from a society of a radically different kind.

So, in each era, infrastructure is different than before and has to be recreated. What we know about past societies is what we can deduct from the remains of the infrastructure they built.

This infrastructure is made up of what we today call “hard” and “soft” elements. The fact that we distinguish them thus is one aspect of our dilemma. I will argue that infrastructure is made up of structures and processes and that these two are really the same. I will also assert that a so called hard infrastructure system - such as a hi way system - is no different, in principle, than a discipline such as science or art as taught in the university and practiced in a society. There is a unity of these types - they are a fabric - and they can only be understood together and successfully recreated when approached as a single system.

It is my main point that all of the “infrastructure” is a product of human imagination and engineering. It is the consequence of design. At the present time, our design process is flawed and not requisite with the task.

Only a fraction of humanity has been involved in this design process. Our present infrastructure is doing precisely what it was designed to do. It serves the interests of a few as they perceive their interests. If we want a better outcome, we must change the design process and include not only all humanity but also all life in the making of a habitat for all life in its myriad forms.

This section describes how this can be done and responds to the many objections that any intelligent reader is likely to have upon reading the above statements.

I describe a set of Worthy Projects facilitated by a process infrastructure which designs itself as it is employed to facilitate the emergence of a new Planetary Humanity.

GoTo: Index of Part Four
Doing Worthy Projects

As a reader, your greatest challenge when reading this book will be to not jump to conclusions each step along the way. We live in a society of cliches. Ideas and people are quickly put in some belief system bag. “If you said this, it means you must be a...” - fill in the blanks. Most words are co-opted and loaded with pre-digested meaning. This is the consequence of political spin aimed at winning the cultural wars. This does not support dialog nor easily lead to new understandings.

In the course of a few hundred pages, no doubt I will manage to offend almost everyone and make you angry from time to time. This is not my intention. The work is provocative because its subject is. It is not written to provoke. It, instead, honors the many cultures we humans have created and suggests ways that we can attenuate what is not longer working for us and continue our exploration of ourselves and the universe.

I propose an application of the Precautionary Principle: when in doubt, check it out before blindly plunging ahead; do as little harm as possible; hold a grand vision but take small steps; avoid dead ends; give up power as a means of solving conflicts; think deeply, design carefully, engineer to last; and, make life an art - enjoy the process [link: the precautionary principle]. Life is too serious to be approached from any direction except play.

Matt Taylor
June 4, 2006

SolutionBox voice of this document:


posted: June 4, 2006

revised: July 16, 2006
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Copyright© 2006 Matt Taylor

(note: this document is about 95% finished)

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