Grilling Everett Bogue Part II: Cyborg Edition

Yesterday I talked with Everett Bogue about why he’s over minimalism and why he took down most of his old work. With the launch of his new book, Augmented Humanity: Second Selves, Mental Cybernetics, and the Future of You his writing has taken off in an entirely new direction—a direction that has left many former fans in the dust.

I wanted to get an understanding of what Everett means when he talks about cyborgs, and see what factual basis there is for his ideas. Get the straight skinny below, and stay tuned tomorrow when I offer some of my own interpretation of Everett’s new movement.

Drew: What do you mean by cybernetics and cyborgs?

Photo credit: "Chang Cheng Lane" by Mugley

Melbourne, Australia

Everett: I’m talking about humanity’s ability to interface with mental tools in order to expand their understanding of the world. For example, I use a mental tool called Path with the group that’s organizing This is Mindful in Melbourne, Australia. They take pictures of their environment a few times per day, and so do I. This gives me six months of sensory data in Melbourne before I even put my feet on the ground.

What I’m not referring to is us starting to look like Terminator. In fact, embracing mental cybernetics simply gives us the ability to turn off the screens and become more human.

You call Twitter “one of the most powerful mental cybernetics tools you can cultivate.” But Twitter uses good old-fashioned typing as its interface. What is a “mental tool”? What makes it different than a physical tool, since it still uses physical interface?

As your Twitter presence grows, you’ll start to see interesting patterns emerge. When you’ve established a collective of 2000-3000 followers, you begin to notice that Twitter gave you mental super powers. Feet down in any city, and you have friends, a place to sleep, a warm meal. If you have any questions? Ask the cloud. Have a great idea for a web 3.0 startup, but don’t have a programmer? Ask the cloud. Can’t find the best coffee in LA? Ask the cloud.

Twitter is telepathy for people who can’t do telepathy. The biggest leap is learning to interface with the technology in a mindful way in order to get to a place where you can start to see these benefits emerge from the network.

You say that because of mental cybernetics, you can know what is in the minds of your colleagues—your “collective”—far away without actually communicating with them. Can you describe this more? How does it work?

Now we’re getting to the deep stuff. A few months ago, a few of us in the US who were following a group of people down in Melbourne, began to realize that we were writing blog posts for each other.

Photo credit: Deepwarren

A search for “Melbourne” on compfight returns this image. It is not meant to be offensive to cyborgs.

I’d be thinking about a blog post idea, but I’d get distracted, and then I’d come back and someone else would have written it in the collective (without me even tweeting.)

This began to happen more and more. In many ways, Augmented Humanity wasn’t written by me, but by a collective organism spanning the globe. Our ideas accelerate each other across space/time.

You talk about something called intuitive back-channel, or IBC. What is IBC, and how does it work?

Jan Stewart is one of the foremost teachers #ibc in the world right now, but she’s pretty exclusive in who she’ll take on as students. I couldn’t begin to explain it in words, because #ibc is only something you can experience when it happens to you.

To begin to learn how to #ibc, begin by learning to breathe deeply while using Twitter. Follow less than 50 people who you actually care about.

Even though it’s not easy to teach, surely you can at least define it for us? Give us a sense of what it means?

#ibc stands for intuitive back channel. Readers really need to read Jan’s post, follow less people on Twitter and pursue your own practice for the definition to become apparent from your own experiences.

As a leader of the minimalist movement you taught a life philosophy. You made a point that you didn’t need to reach everyone, and people who didn’t like it could just go their own way. But now you’re talking about science—your claims can be proven or disproved objectively. Has this affected your approach to leading a movement?

I’m not writing about science, I’m writing about experience. I don’t consider myself a scientist at all—I hope that’s clear. Other people are doing the scientific work to prove this stuff, but science typically lags behind human experience because of bureaucracy and the restraints of the system. A good book with a scientific perspective on what I’m writing about is What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly.

You may not be a scientist yourself, but you’re well read—I assume you know that the human brain can play many tricks on us. What makes you so sure that your firsthand experience is based on something real, like meditation is, and not on a glitch of the brain, like seeing faces in the dark?

The answer is I don’t, none of us do. All that we experience on the edge is an illusion. Everything we experience in the center is even more of an illusion.

This is why I travel to the edge with a crew of extraordinary individuals who are working in the same field. I trust they’ll tell me when I’ve slipped too far into crazy land. I have once or twice, they pull me out. See the crew of the time machine, they’re the people I follow on Twitter.

Photo Credit: "Departure Point" by Mugley

Melbourne, Australia

Jan Stewart and yourself both talk about Twitter expanding your consciousness, and equate it with deep meditation. The effects of meditation on the brain can be observed and measured scientifically. Have these “consciousness expanding” Twitter experiences been studied at all? Is there any evidence that they actually effect the brain?

Again, not a scientist. I’m sure someone is studying this stuff though. I think by the time science catches up with Twitter, we’ll have moved on from Twitter to pure intuition.

Science doesn’t know where consciousness is, so it can’t measure it.

The scientific understanding of meditation’s effects has been greatly expanded by research funded by meditators, including Deepak Chopra. You’re very open about making more income than you can use. Would you ever consider funding research into whether mental cybernetics can be proven, or has measurable effects? Do you currently donate to any research efforts?

I’m grateful for the work that everyone is doing to expand on human consciousness. I am doing my part to support the research, by exploring the edge of human experience. I’m not currently donating to scientific research into this topic, but who knows? Maybe someday.

Right now, my own team’s exploration is of paramount importance to me. For us, the experience and relaying of that experience is the most interesting. We take the work to the edge, science will follow at it’s own much slower pace.

What is the best way for people to understand your work?

Sync minds with me and the small group of people who I follow on Twitter for x days.

Three closing thoughts.

First, if you liked this interview, tweet it!

Second, Ev’s new book Augmented Humanity: Second Selves, Mental Cybernetics, and the Future of You is available now. Worth reading? Well, you’ve read the interview, I’ll let you decide. I wouldn’t have done all this if I didn’t at least find the topic fascinating.

And finally, as promised I’m doing a followup piece. In prepping for the interview I read the vast majority of Everett’s writing as well as countless other sources on cybernetics, singularity and cyborgs. I see some patterns in this movement that are truly striking. I’ll share what I’ve learned tomorrow!


13 thoughts on “Grilling Everett Bogue Part II: Cyborg Edition

  1. Pingback: Grilling Everett Bogue: Part I « Rogue Priest

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  3. This is just me, but this guy really rubs me the wrong way. His statements sound so vague, buzz-wordy, mystical, and up-in-the-clouds. Well, par for the course for mystical types, I guess – which I sometimes like in other contexts. But for some reason he and I are like oil and water.

    • Jason B. says:

      I feel the same way. Despite my previous opinion of him, I went into the interview with an open mind. And I read through the whole thing waiting for him to say something new, useful, or amazing, and he never did.

      Most of the benefits of Twitter he mention are things that science fiction fans, folk musicians, and SCAdians have been doing by other means for years. (I rented my current house, sight unseen, from 1200 miles away thanks to the help of fannish and SCAdian friends.)

      Also, the few concrete bits he gives on how to actually use Twitter don’t (can’t!) work. It is mathematically impossible for everyone to have 4000+ Twitter followers while only following 50 people. It just can’t be done.

      All in all, his talk reminded me of nothing so much as people who try acid and then go around talking about how it changes the world but they can’t explain it to you and you have to try it for yourself. An epiphany that can’t be shared isn’t much of an epiphany.

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  5. Interesting guys. I’m a little surprised no one has jumped in on the other side of things. But I guess anyone who agrees with Everett would hit Twitter for that, not the comments :)

    One thing I will say Jason – his suggestion for how to use Twitter does make sense. It’s only mathematically impossible if you assume everyone on earth uses Twitter and follows his advice.

    Since most people don’t, and new users are registering daily, it should be easy for eager Tweeters to follow 50-100 people and still accumulate followers. They won’t run out.

    Everett’s advice is basically how to become a Twitter super-user. Most people aren’t super-users, but if you want to become one, it’s a good first step.

    The quality of information I retweet has gone up dramatically since I took his advice. I have a nonstop stream of awesome articles flying through my Twitter every day.

    So I’m pretty pleased with that part :)

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  7. GJL says:

    Science needs to catch up with twitter? I really don’t think this guy knows what he’s talking about. He seems no more intuitive about social networking than your average 14 year old.

  8. A very fascinating interview Rogue, one thing you have to understand is as in jazz, there’s knowledge in the space between the notes. Here, we should pay attention to the space between the words too. There are things possibly being not said are just as impactful as things being said. One thing that does disturb me a bit, and I’m always interested in the evolution of humanity, is the fact that compassion is not a factor in anything Ev says or does. Compassion can help the human evolution move forward or destroy it and become like “cyborgs” and robots. In my opinion, knowledge is good, but without compassion, what good are we really? A good leader would understand this, hence the Dali Lama, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, etc…

    • That’s an interesting observation about compassion. I never assumed it was absent from Ev’s view, although you are correct that it is never mentioned in his writing. I remember when I started writing about the Heroic Life, I talked very much about how one can change one’s own life to live more heroically – to be bold, to be free, to take action, to live in a way that makes your life mean something. A few people asked me why I didn’t actually talk about helping other people. It was all about personal development. To me that was weird – I just assumed helping people has to be the motivation, otherwise, why are we even talking about heroism? I don’t know if the same is true for Ev or if it is just a disconnect. It is definitely one of the biggest criticisms I hear about his writing on minimalism, that it all seemed very selfish (invariably from people who balked at giving up their stuff). I’d be interested in hearing more of your thoughts on that.

      • Hey Drew, I am very fascinated with Minimalism because it does challenge as as consumers, and especially within the last few years, the economy has forced us to think about our own spending patterns, including myself. I don’t own as many possessions as I used to. I don’t think it’s selfish to take care of your own needs such as home, jobs and health.
        These are essential needs you must do to help live your own potential. How can you help others if you can’t help yourself?

        I want to be successful in all areas of my life so I can be in the position in helping others and becoming a good influence. Being a good leader involves trusting yourself, being around the right people and support group, and listening with compassion. Your own life experience is your best resume. I went through lots of college to figure that out. Education is not a waste of time. But not having compassion, you will end up as a tool of a sea of robotic minds, and if this what augmented humanity is suppose to be like, then I don’t want any part of it. Technology is very important in bringing our world together, but if not used wisely it can destroy the human fabric of our existence. Don’t let technology become your master, use it to help spread your compassion, your message, and bring the world some goodness that we all desperately need.

        I believe that Ev relished in becoming a scientist, always experimenting, and that’s a good thing if that’s his intention. I’m not sure if he wants to be a cult leader, but he’s striving for something that’s not commonly known, and I hope he finds us. We can believe or disagree whenever we want to. No single human has all the answers. Do your own research and make your own decisions, come to your own conclusions. I guess I’m a believer in “free will”, and if people want to follow or listen to me, it’s their right too. I won’t force any of my beliefs on anyone, I’m just trying to live a happy existence and use the gifts I was given. Jobs are need, but kindness and compassion are needed more.

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