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139 - On Coronavirus, Complex Adaptive Systems, & Creative Opportunity

Ep. 139

This week I take a pause on interviews to share my thoughts on the Coronavirus pandemic from the perspective of complex systems and network collapse—and talk about the possible silver lining we might find in a time of crisis and enforced social isolation. I hope it helps! Feel free to email me with your thoughts, questions, feedback.


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Intro Theme Music: “God Detector” by Evan “Skytree” Snyder (feat. Michael Garfield)



• Here are all of the other podcasts and reading I mentioned in this episode, followed by some useful info about the COVID19 pandemic specifically:


David Weinberger on Future Fossils about how we’ve always relied on black box explanations


W. Brian Arthur on on Complexity Podcast about the economy as a complex adaptive system


Dr. Mike Ryan of the WHO on decision-making under conditions of uncertainty


Jamie Stantonian on the disruptive impact caused by the Gutenberg printing press


“An Oral History of The End of ‘Reality’”, my sci-fi short about the philosophical challenges wrought by technological change


Samo Burja on how crisis requires a more fluid social response than institutional expertise


“I did ‘The Mindscape’ thing, which was basically me sitting there in a chair, with an enormously long cigarette, sort of talking in real East-Midlands monotone – so no change there – but the essential thing about culture turning to steam, the fact that everything was speeding up so much that we seem to be heading for, what I refer to as a ‘phase transition period’, which is where one state suddenly and chaotically changes from one state to another state; like the boiling point of water.

I said that I felt that we were approaching a kind of cultural boiling point, but as you know with the emergence of the cloud – I mean back then it did perhaps sound a bit extreme and a bit weird and the sort of thing that you might expect an Occultist, who clearly does a lot of drugs to say. But I think that events since then have made it look a lot more conservative as a guess at the future.”

Alan Moore


Watch The Mindscape of Alan Moore on Archive.org or Youtube


Hunter Maats on Future Fossils about the challenges of education and knowledge infrastructure in the Information Age


Douglas Rushkoff on Future Fossils about “present shock” and new modes of social organization for adapting to technological change


Raissa D’Souza on the collapse of complex networks


Me at the Australian Psychedelic Society (Melbourne) on “May you live in interesting times”


Nicole Creanza on the interplay of cultural and biological evolution


Bruce Damer on Future Fossils about his origins of life research


Washington Post on Isaac Newton’s “Year of Wonders”

Charles Eisenstein’s superb big-picture book, The Ascent of Humanity


Dr. Richard Hobday on the value of sunlight in fighting viruses and maintaining good health


12 Museums Offering Virtual Tours, courtesy of Travel & Leisure



• Useful info pages about the pandemic:


Sam Scarpino, complex systems scientist, on solid mental and physical health advice for dealing with COVID19


Worldometers real-time tracking of the pandemic


ARCGIS real-time tracking of the pandemic on a global map


Timeline of pandemics and their relative severity


Fast Company on how to lead in times of crisis


The Cut on how not to go stir crazy (mostly good exercise advice)

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