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?
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.
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.
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!