On Culture Technology

The general narrative is that we‘re facing increasing complexity and uncertainty in the world, information overload, distraction, shallowness of critical thought, and a lack of foresight. On the silver lining side, we have an overstock of creativity and imagination, sufficient to level up humanity and change the world and our crumbling systems, if we could only figure out how to unlock and unleash it from our billions of minds.

While some will posit that the ‘solution’ is technological (better algorithms! quantifying trust and reputation! big data! innovation!), I lean to the side that our breakthroughs will occur when we acknowledge and confront our most raw and human issues.

I’m finding that the barriers to our ingenuity are not stemming from a lack of desire, but from a range of cognitive and emotional barriers that have been set in place by most of the systems that surround us and condition us – the media, family and societal expectations, cultural standards, fear in trusting our own intuition, and the ingrained beliefs that any other way of thinking or being could be possible. (to name a few)

These barriers create a rigidity and calcification to how we perceive reality and ourselves, vastly limiting the potential for our inherent genius and heroism to manifest itself.

“Culture” is based upon a term used by Cicero, “cultura animi,” referring to the cultivation of the mind or soul.

In reviewing other origins and definitions, I resonated strongly with the ideas of culture as a pursuit for the highest ideal of human development, the liberation of the mind, and the attainment of freedom through the fullest expression of the unique and authentic self.

The other side of culture, beyond its internal cultivation, is the degree to which it can be communicated and propagated to others.

The American anthropological definition of culture “most commonly refers to the universal human capacity to classify and encode experiences symbolically, and communicate symbolically encoded experiences socially.”

It might then follow that a conscious effort towards cultivating the self, towards independent and critical thinking, towards direct experience, and hence towards wisdom, would then contribute towards the cultivation of human capacity at larger and larger scales.

I’ve found several people who are building these processes at the team level into a kind of art, which they refer to as “culture hacking.”

The premise is that culture can be treated like software — having a viewpoint, an architecture, an internal structure, and some familiar characteristics:

- ease of use
- reliability
- interoperability
- extensibility
- compatibility
- portability
- adaptability
- scalability

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