Means and Meaning

Right now I’m trying to figure out how to live in a place I want to be. And to learn to trust in the world and behave in a way that promotes trust in the world by others.

I’ve been poor. Very very poor. The kind of poor where you’ve just spent your last krown (Im swedish) on a kilogram of pasta two weeks before the end of the month and don’t know how to pay the rent. Somehow I did manage to be creative during those periods but I remember an omnipresent sense of fear about the future. Not fear of not being able to feed myself, because I could always ask my parents for help in the worst case scenario, but of being too low on the social ladder to have an exciting fun life with exciting sparkly people around me in exciting sparkly fun environments. And fear of lynch mobs.

My heart sank when the results of the national elections came in. I had always been warned that minorities, people who look different are always scapegoats as soon as the majority feels their livelihoods are at stake. But I saw first one fundamentally wealthy nation attack it’s minorities (Denmark) and then another one go down the ugly road of divisiveness (Sweden) within my lifetime.  A friend’s grandparents, Holocaust survivors, to this day always have a packed emergency suitcase in their hallway. And in  middle school many of my classmates were kids of Polish and Russian academics who had fled their respective countries to make a new life in Sweden. I can completely understand the drive and in fact I find myself always taking into account the possible need to leave very quickly, to escape. I think even my professional choices have been coloured by this in choosing to be in a new space (Tech) where the roles are not really all that cemented yet and the underlying values are ones of sharing and meritocracy.

At some level my brain is wired to equare money with security, and more money means more personal security- gated communities etc. And I yet never seem to be interested enough to stick to a path that leads to more of it. Actually my story is a string of failed attempts at mad and completely unrealistic projects that dont pay. First I decided I wanted to build an Online distribution platform for short films and interactive content, it was to be called the Digital Arts Mirror or DAM.  I tried to build it by writing plan after plan and pitching them to different parts of the public and private sector. What’s wierd is that people actually humored me and were’nt too condescending so I just kept going, running around between different film festivals, bullshitting my way into meetins etc. At some point I had managed to get together a group of 10 people, and we would have lots of meeting that never lead to anything until eventually it fizzled out. The reason being plain and simple that I didn’t have the production or programming skills to just go ahead and make it happen without needing to raise capital, to pay someone to do it for me. And it was too all over the place for anyone to want to invest their time into it. I was in Engineering school at the time, doing the bare minimum to scrape by with most of the courses. Then a friend started doing her master’s  (she’s a bit older than me) on sexual fetisches and that lead to alot of interesting conversations about the brain. I mentioned this to a guy I was dating at the time and he handed me, the minds eye, a book by Daniel Dennet. I talked my way into the neurobiology and cognitive neuropsychology courses at the Medical university and I think it was the first time I really put any serious effort into studiying. I was completely obsessed.

Obviously alot of stuff was going on, I was living with a very self-destructive friend who I had to to cut off after they threw snakes down my mailbox (yes, they did). And the final rush of the University program was up ahead with classmates finishing their degrees and heading off for stellar careers with me feeling very sorry for myself and very aware of the lack of any sellable practical skills after the DAM fiasco. So I did just that, felt sorry for myself and threw a full on tantrum in a computer lab at Uni. That set of a cascade of events I can’t really get into here but it ended up with me landing my first grown-up paid gig post college. Not a job, but a paid gig devising and implementing my own great project in a very hierarchical organisation with lots of strange rules designed to keep wildcards like myself out. And it was a position that wasn’t there for me to fill, I didn’t go looking for it. I think I was lucky to some extent. Just having the right mix of non-mainstream experiences and skills, a flamboyant personality and being at the right place at the right time. But the place was what is considered an elite university. And a large chunk of the reason I could afford to be there and also fail at all kinds of experiments is because of the conditions we have in Sweden: university is free of charge for citizens and you are entitles to take a loan and grant from the state to Study if you are accepted into any university course or program. Im eternally grateful that it exists and hope it never ever goes away so others can have the same space.

Back to money. The experience living on an ice-breaker with 12 lovely, warm people changed something for me- being in a nurturing environment where most never had any money taught me a few things about myself and about what makes me happy. It also taught me that you need to invest either money, or alot of time into creating a good social environment for yourself. You have to be engaged and excite others about it in either case, but you need time and or money. And if you’re working a dayjob, the time part goes out the window…and so does money because let’s face it, unless you’re an investment banker you’re never really going to make enough money to do what I want to do. So my way is to try to put alot of time and engagement into creating events that people I want to be surrounded by and learn from, will get excited enough to attend and that everyone else values enough to fund.

And finally the lynch mob. I’m still terrified of it. Even more so after learning more about the way the brain and the world are wired. But I’ve decided to try to do something about it. It’s really a nuisance because I am no do-gooder- and I’m still trying to figure out how to build a life where I have access to the people and things that make me feel good (great food, nice clothes, big home with big windows and high cieling etc). My brain is wired to equate money with security but my mind, aided along by my husbands optimism, has done the thinking and come to the conclusions that my access to all of those things I care about is determined by changes that happen on a global scale. And my mind also knows that unless I get in the game and try to affect change so that life doesn’t completely suck for those of us who are in the proverbial middle class, there’s a node missing in the needed network. And my heart knows that someone somewhere on the other side of the plane, maybe a cousin of someone I went to school with in one of the 10 countries I grew up in, is paying for me to live this life. And it tells me that our fates are connected that cousin and I and that in the big picture it’s way better if we’re both ok- if that means I have a little less of the great food that’s ok.

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Where is security?

Well, I was very interested in this story from the very beginning. The way I’m looking at it is as a quest for security. Money can buy it in part, but you seem not to want it badly enough to actually stick with well paid jobs that you don’t like; and even if you did it would offer only partial solace, because though you may be well off scary (“lynch mob”) politics can still come to haunt you.

So where is security, if any? In this story, it is mostly in the very sociable, nurturing life on the ship, and perhaps in your husband’s optimism. In other words, in a cohesive, supportive social network. Does this mean we should invest in each other,  you think?

What exactly did you learn about ‘the way the brain and the world are wired’? I also have a strong interest in neurosciences. One of my favorite neuro-scientists is Dr Gregory Berns. Do you know him? I also believe that the brain and the universe are connected (I feel this connection in my body. It is a physical experience. And it feels really good.)

Uh, security… I’m afraid this word does not belong in my vocabulary anymore. It vanished from my life at the same time as the word ‘husband’ broke in a thousand pieces. I am sorry, I am not the best person to have a lovely discussion on this topic…

I keep thinking about our discussion, from the other day. You do come across some very interesting professional opportunities. But freedom of mind and interesting challenges seems to have much more weight in your balance than security for the moment. Otherwise, you would be living in a subburb, collecting pics of babies, shopping for the best dishwasher, and playing golf with your friends every weekend. Somehow I cannot picture you doing these things (for now…).

However, you know, the biological clock might catch you up later. This stuff is very real! Who knows!!!

You have a ‘husband’s optimism’. Do you know how great this is? It is priceless.

So, what’s your plan about the ‘brain and the world’??? Maybe I can walk by your side for a while.

I’m still thinking about this

Haven’t forgotten…it’s taking some time to take shape, what I would write. Be back soon :


No problem Nadia, take your time. I have been thinking about your suggestion a lot too (ie feedback loops).

This stuff is hard to explain!

I found one group that suits my aspirations. Hey, they even have a data base project. Of course I proposed to turn it into an open data project. Whoa, I am jumping of joy! You know it right away, when you found the match that fits who you are. C’est un peu comme le coup de foudre, n’est-ce pas?

There aren’t tons of places to me to go for ‘feedback loops’, I just have to keep eyes and heart open to opportunities. Doing the map project with CitizensLab really helped. Not that I found a lot of groups responding to my needs, but the intent (wanting to find the right places) attracted me to the right people… That’s hard to explain too!

Emergence, increasing returns,behavioral change & feedback loops

Hey Lynne, I’m finally getting down to this. As you know I’m a visual thinker and there are a couple of abstract principles and concepts that are becing central to my thinking about how to navigate the world

The first is the concept of Emergencen is  beautifully and intelligently visualised in this piece by German artist Mey Lean Kroneman. I saw it during her presentation at the Transmediale festival last year and it’s even cooler irl:

lumiBots - short documentation on Vimeonew lumiBots documentation from Mey Lean Kronemann on Vimeo.

The second in the the law of increasing returns which basically says has more gets more :slight_smile:

And finally, affecting change…any real change in the end comes down to affecting behavioral change. And that more information, more awareness more motivation do not necessarily lead to behavioral change…at least they are not the approaches I would take in trying to affect change.

Which brings me back to feedback loops.  Basically I’ve come to conclusion that If we want to affect change, we need to put outselves and other stakeholders into different feedback loops with our environments. And that this is where art and culture comes in for me. Not culture for then sake of free expression. No. Culture as a way of helping us interact with, affect and become affected by our social and physical environments in ways that lead to better outcomes for everyone.

Does any of this make sense to you?

Opposite of feedback

Looks very fine. But nope, I am sorry. I have a hard time following you. Put ourselves in different feedback loops? What does this mean? Do such loops exist? I tend to bump on selfish loops instead, taking as much as possible, but not giving anything back.

I agree with what you wrote. Indeed, ‘more information, more awareness, more motivation, do not necessarily lead to behavioral change’.

Thinkers, artists, and philosophers have always been agents of change in societies. But unfortunately, their influence has declined.

Still trying to fomulate my thoughts

be back soon :slight_smile:

How can we make the world a better place?

I re-re-re-read your last paragraph, and slept on it.

You are on the right track…

1st >>> you understand that your brain (or Self) is connected to everything. (the brain and the world are wired”.)

2nd >>> you want to take responsibility for everything (“I’ve decided to try to do something about it”).

You have the MEANING. And it could grow even more, by becoming physically connected. It is possible to be in a physical state of connection with the world. Yoga classes, or meditation, could be a means to eventually reach such a state.

A 3rd step would be to become the change that you want to see in the world.

And the rest, the MEANS that must be taken, will show up as opportunities. It is very difficult to do that, not to try to control the means. There has to be trust in life. You said, “I’m still terrified”. Do not be afraid

If this can help you, even Dr Deepak Chopra, recognized as one of the 50 greatest thinkers of the 21th century, which is probably the most connected to new technologies on all leaders of his category, does not know yet how to proceed. “I thing the greatest challenge right now is How Can We Do That?”, he said. However, he is convinced that new technologies can be one of the tools (means) to reach the goal (a critical mass of consciousness, to reach the ability to collectively change the world).

His solution, what he suggests to everyone, is to work on ourselves first, by trying to see the light in others.

I subscribe to Deepak Chopra Daily Gift on my iPhone. Everyday, I receive one quote, or a video. This morning, it was this video, which answered my question, after re-reading your mission report.


How can we make the world a better place?

Be the change...

Make a difference…

Share our passion…


Seems I’m a bit late to find this, but it’s just too great. So after reading and thinking through itI, I thought to contribute my take on it.

Quoting Nadia:

“[…] my access to all of those things I care about is determined by changes that happen on a global scale. And my mind also knows that unless I get in the game and try to affect change so that life doesn’t completely suck for those of us who are in the proverbial middle class, there’s a node missing in the needed network.”

Same start, but … . Yea I pretty much came to the same conclusions: that the world won’t become any better place if not everybody, including me, jumps in and makes it so. But then it totally frustrated me to see how best efforts can be undone by others’ selfish acts and everybody’s carelessness.

For example, positive feedback loops are great while the self-enforcing process works, but “in the wild” one cannot do anything against negative mechanisms interfering and potentially destroying them. Real-world emergence has not just the peaceful, benevolent LumiBots, but also these guys. Sad as that is.

“Global”. There’s no way for anybody in a globalized society to create and maintain any improvement … if it happens, it’s chance. Even social movements cannot maintain their own cohesion and continuity - large systems just have too big momentum for any individual to steer their course. Globalized society is just unmanageable, in my view. Some try to occupy their node in the global network as good and responsibly as they can, without knowing if they will succeed in improving anything. I’ve got deep respect for these folks (like Nadia), but am too frustrated about uncertain and temporary success to join in.

“Local”. My view on things brightened again when I read resilience thinker John Robb say “Globalize information, localize everything else.” Local autarky is a kind of practical philosophy for me now - I envision living in a 200 people autarkic, sustainable, self-directed commune (hint, hint). And if that falls apart or surrounding policies go mad, all my personal equipment is (already, right now) in a truck to just leave. And if that fails, I should have survival skills and a backpack of good equipment. This is not being antisocial: I’m happy with sharing everything that enables such localization for free, for the world to replicate it. I’m just not happy with an unmanageable world, interfering with my life. Localization is just better systems engineering, in my view - compare it to cells in a body. More on that in an upcoming mission report.

On another note, Nadia: About being poor, I very much feel with you. And in retrospect, it’s good ingredients for understanding the world by experience, isn’t it? Had such poor times myself. I remember myself spending my last 15 EUR for food, and everything I needed was offered as a bargain that day. Felt like a miracle, and I attributed it to Jesus :slight_smile:

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So this post was written two years ago, ALOT has happened since

For one, I’ve been nominated to run for the Swedish Parliament in 2014. Which came as a total surprise, Ive never gone anywhere near party politics as I am deeply sceptical of the current political processes. Am writing an update to this post over the next few days…

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congrats Nadia!

Urgh, no I really wish I didn’t have to

I just don’t trust the current generation of leadership we have as they are too ignorant of the social implications of information politics/policies. They’ve put us all in a hot mess w.r.t mass surveillance for example. I would really rather spend my free time doing other things, being called a politician makes my skin crawl. Sometimes though you just have to set your own preferences aside and live up to your responsibilities as a citizen.