We find ourselves at a threshold of tremendous transformation on every level. We see our technological capacities evolving rapidly, populations exploding, and natural resources becoming scarce. We see a rediscovery of ancient mystical traditions, the revival of authoritarian and racist ideologies, an explosion in communication tools that allow new ideas and initiatives to expand exponentially. We see the birth of Artificial Intelligence and the movement toward a surveillance society beyond the darkest imaginings of George Orwell, as well as the “archaic revival” of shamanic practices and growing movements for liberation. Right now, we can’t imagine what future historians will say when they look back at this time.
As an author, I have written about both the dangers and potential for regeneration — and redemption — inherent in this era. For my first book, Breaking Open the Head, I explored psychedelic shamanism, visiting tribal people in West Africa, Mexico, and Ecuador. My second book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, looked at the prophecies of indigenous cultures like the classic Maya and the Hopi, as well as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism. How Soon Is Now?, my latest work, considers the ecological crisis as a rite of passage or initiation for humanity as a whole. Ultimately, this crisis will force us to evolve to another level of consciousness as a species if we want to survive.
To make this leap, we need to define the new paradigm. This requires a combination of public dialogue and systemic analysis, as well as personal development and soul-searching. We need to de-program ourselves from the mainstream ideology which tells us violence and war are normal and inevitable, and programs us to compete against each other in the quest for monetary reward. We need to think beyond old dichotomies such as Left versus Right or Capitalism versus Socialism.
Last fall, I joined The Assemblage as a founding member. With its second building now open in New York’s Financial District, The Assemblage is an extraordinary initiative in coliving and coworking which has the mission of defining and co-creating this new paradigm. We are collaborating on a series of events, columns, and activations that will illuminate the many facets of this nascent paradigm. Our intention is to bring the community together in an ongoing, proactive conversation about our shared future. This will include gatherings with controversial figures from both the Left and the Right. We believe that without communication across our culture’s current dichotomies, we can’t evolve.
While we are now launching this New Paradigm series officially, we have already held some events in this vein. Recently, I hosted a public conversation with Peter Joseph, director of the Zeitgeist films and founder of The Zeitgeist Movement, which had hundreds of chapters across the world at its height. Joseph’s documentary was an early Internet sensation — probably one of the most watched and controversial films of all time. The film explored areas like the origin of Christianity, how money is created, and the hidden history of 9/11. Joseph now says the film was a work of personal expression. He put the footage together on his off hours while working at an advertising agency. He never expected it to become such a phenomenon.
I was inspired to speak with Joseph after reading his new book The New Human Rights Movement, which I consider a great achievement. The book makes a compelling argument that we can only solve the social and ecological problems facing us if we redesign our economic system to allocate resources rationally, eliminate overproduction, and reduce wealth inequality. He offers a comprehensive analysis of our current system, then proposes the alternative that will allow humanity and the Earth to flourish into the distant future.
Joseph proposes that “the most advanced adjustment” to our current system, ensuring “the highest reduction of scarcity and hence lowest amount of induced socioeconomic oppression,” would focus “solely on design, holistic development, and direct economic participation by the general population.” This would be “an economic system that actually has no market at all.” The transition to a participatory system based on the rational allocation of resources would be a massive shift.
It is, of course, difficult to conceive of this, from where we are now. However, in the near future, instead of incremental reforms, we may need to make some quantum leaps. In that case, works like The New Human Rights Movement will be crucial in helping us rethink how our civilization can function.
On April 20, as part of the New Paradigm series, I will be hosting a conversation with Brittany Kaiser, a former executive for Cambridge Analytica, which is infamous as the firm which employed personal data aggregated from Facebook on behalf of the Trump campaign. Kaiser has come forward to expose the company’s exploitation of personal data, as The Guardian reports. Since leaving Cambridge Analytica a few months ago, Kaiser has co-founded the Digital Asset Trade Association (DATA).
“My work involves developing successful strategies for politicians, governments, and corporations to achieve their goals using cutting edge technology,” Kaiser writes. She is now working on legislative reform for digital assets including tokens on the blockchain. She was instrumental in Wyoming, which just passed a number of landmark bills supporting the crypto industry.