Illustration of a Pathfinder using binoculars to gaze towards hill where a new moon rises.
As the moon completes another orbit around Earth, the Pathfinders Newmoonsletter rises in your inbox to inspire collective pathfinding towards better tech futures.

We sync our monthly reflections to the lunar cycle as a reminder of our place in the Universe and a commonality we share across timezones and places we inhabit. New moon nights are dark and hence the perfect time to gaze into the stars and set new intentions.

With this Newmoonsletter, crafted around the Tethix campfire, we invite you to join other Pathfinders as we reflect on celestial movements in tech in the previous lunar cycle, water our ETHOS Gardens, and plant seeds of intentions for the new cycle that begins today.

Tethix Weather Report

🏜️ Current conditions: Is that lightning we see in the distance, or just a mirage in the AI desert?

Remember when the fire practitioners of Silicon Valley said they wanted AI regulation? Meta and Apple sure don’t. They won’t let people in the EU play with their allegedly magical AI toys unless we allow them to keep building walls around the playground. (See: Apple delays launch of AI-powered features in Europe, blaming EU rules and Meta says European regulators are ruining its AI bot)

It must be so hard for these fire practitioners to keep having to explain their genius to the ignorant masses. Why can’t we see that creatives shouldn’t have a job unless they can generate at least 2,880 derivative images every single day, without demanding worker rights? Great artists steal, and fire practitioners finally figured out a way to scale stealing, so they can free you of boring jobs that demand thinking and creativity! Why do we keep standing in the way of innovation with all these ethical concerns and regulations? Probably only because we cannot yet appreciate how grand their vision to win the AI rat race benefit humanity is. (See: OpenAI exec: “Some creative jobs maybe will go away, but maybe they shouldn’t have been there in the first place.” and Figma Disables AI App Design Tool After It Copied Apple’s Weather App)

And sure, you might be having some trouble getting a job because your resume isn’t AI optimized and your natural general intelligence is considered too expensive. The sooner you realize that all your manager needs you to do is speed up user research by outsourcing it to AI chatbots, the better off you’ll be. And sure, AI chatbots are starting to sound a bit boring, but it’s speed and efficiency that we’re after! Take a page out of the gen AI book and just output the most statically probable result as fast as you can, and you’ll be fine in this brave AI world. (See An inside look at the product job market and ‘No Bot is Themselves Anymore:’ Users Report Sudden Personality Changes to Chatbots)

While you’re stuck in the AI rat race, some fire practitioners apparently have no problem getting funding to build their own ivory tower in which they will be insulated from questioning peasants. There they’ll be able to focus on the transmutation of deep learning matter until safe superintelligent AI golems emerge from their kilns. (See: Ex-OpenAI star Sutskever shoots for superintelligent AI with new company)

Moloch would again like to remind you not to question why and whether superintelligent AI golems are needed. After all, fire practitioners feel they have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build superintelligence in their own flawed likeness, and why wouldn’t you want to bet your children’s future on such a glorious goal? Why yes, Big Tech companies are now falling behind their carbon targets. But we should be grateful that they set such ambitious goals in the first place! And don’t worry about your children, they’ve totally got Moloch under control, all they need is a miracle energy solution! We all just need to keep calm and believe in our lord and savior, infinite growth! (See: Google falling short of important climate target, cites electricity needs of AI and AI is exhausting the power grid. Tech firms are seeking a miracle solution)

We’re not willing to place our bets on the promised superintelligent saviors, but we are curious whether we might enlist the help of current unsafe regularintelligent AI golems to help us think different about what’s possible, and perhaps even more importantly, preferable. In our latest Pathfinders Podcast we confirmed that thinking different and imagining diverse tech futures cannot yet be fully outsourced to AI assistants, but that ChatGPT can be computationally tickled to question Moloch’s business as usual.

We hope the seeds we collected for this Newmoonsletter manage to intellectually and emotionally tickle your curiosity and inspire you to seek more diverse paths, with or without AI assistance. It might be only a mirage, but we feel a storm brewing in our bones that might eventually bring much needed water to the AI desert. And with that, rainbow mirror visions that will finally reveal AI golems in their full complexity, without pretending that their environmental impacts and other shadows don’t exist.

Tethix Elemental seeds

Fire seeds to stoke your Practice

While we keep waiting for more nuanced debates on AI, Apple has decided to enter the AI chat. Instead of introducing yet another chatbot, they took a slightly different path in which generative AI is used as a commodity technology, as Benedict Evens observes. Apple’s AI models will be cleverly embedded in their existing services instead of pretending to be an all-knowing oracle. And they will try to rely on on-device processing more than on the cloud. We thought this was a move in the right direction to minimize the environmental impacts of generative AI, until we realized that Apple basically expects most of us to buy new iPhones to access this functionality.

Still, we are glad that companies are starting to think outside the chatbot. Like mmhmm (a presentation software), which attempts to bring out your own voice by using AI to generate contextual questions while you present your ideas, instead of having AI write a script for you. In the recent episode of our podcast, we wonder whether asking better questions to help us think more deeply might be an underrated feature when it comes to AI assistants.

To explore how we might build AI with more integrity, Alja will participate in a free webinar on July 25 at 10 AM PT to discuss how we might approach AI development with more compassion, empathy, and wisdom.

Part of the answer certainly is in slowing down and resisting the modern urge to “make it more” just because we can. For instance, this use case by Christoph Steinlehner shows how a tool like journey mapping can be used to discover how to build simpler features instead of overbuilding. The Wizard Jason Fox explores how to escape the Moloch trap of productivity with a bit of magic and five mythic modes that balance the use of your life mana. And Alja has been pondering how you can think further outside the box by thinking outside the present and playing with different time perspectives.

Slowing down doesn’t mean just doing fewer things, but taking the time to do fewer things well. If you need a reminder of why doing less shouldn’t be rushed, look no further than the trend of gamification. While not a bad idea on its own, it sadly inspired people to cherry-pick game mechanics in pursuit of greater engagement without bothering to understand what makes good games fun. And without doing the slow, deep work of good game design.

Air seeds to improve the flow of Collaboration

If you work in tech, it’s easy to feel like you’ve got no choice but to sprint along the latest trends, whether it’s gamification or generative AI. As an individual, it sure can be hard to challenge and change the system we operate in. But there’s strength in numbers and in community, as the SCI (System Community Individual) change model reminds us. We also invite you to join the Holistic Technology + Wise Innovation Discord server hosted by the Wise Innovation Project if you’re looking for a space and community where you can discuss different approaches to building technology.

And if you’re battling with feelings of inadequacy in a world of artificial intelligence, let the news on powerful and energy-efficient biocomputers based on lab-grown human brain cells remind you there’s magic in our wetware after all. Sure, the ethics of brains-in-the-cloud is bound to be even stickier – both literally and figuratively – than the ethics of artificial neuronal networks.

For now, we take solace in reminding ourselves that while we might not be as fast as ChatGPT, each of us is an awe-inspiring collection not just of neurons, but a full embodied container of wisdom. And this container doesn’t just allow us to summarize PDF reports (though we can be taught and persuaded to do so), but to collaborate with each other and the rest of the natural world in ways no machine intelligence can.

Earth seeds to ground you in Research

Speaking of collaboration, fascinating new research makes the case that language is a tool for communication rather than thought. While we might use language for thinking, we have the remarkable capability to do all sorts of thinking without language. If this is true, do we expect too much of LLMs (Large Language Models) when we’re asking them to think? Perhaps LLMs are great at using language exactly for its intended purpose of communicating. Which is what also makes them dangerously persuasive, even when they suggest adding glue to your pizza.

It’s clear that language is a powerful way for transmitting knowledge, and now LLMs are able to transmit – and manipulate – knowledge and biases scraped off the internet at a scale we never thought possible. LLMs reflect our humanity, but we tend to focus on limited reflections of either dystopias – dark mirrors, explored in the Netflix series Black Mirror – or utopias – the techno-optimist bright mirrors – that match our worldview. We need to collectively make the effort to seek rainbow mirror visions that can show us more diverse, pluralistic visions of the future. This is a topic we explore in Rainbow Mirrors: Technology and Our Collective Moral Imagination, an article published in the latest issue of the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine.

The taxonomy of Tethix mirrors presented in image format. The taxonomy is described in detail in the linked IEEE article.
If you want to explore rainbow mirrors further, we invite you to check out our blog post on the taxonomy of Tethix mirrors, read or listen to the latest episode of Tethix Storytime on Collective Futurecrafting with Rainbow Mirrors, or experiment with Rainbow Mirrors GPT.

Rainbow mirrors remind us of the importance of questioning established narratives and responses we have to emerging technologies, such as generative AI. Benjamin Bratton explores this beautifully in the essay The Five Stages Of AI Grief.

Water seeds to deepen your Reflection

Of course, exploring rainbow mirrors and questioning narratives requires time. Not just “chronos” – linear time –, but “kairos” – qualitative time that isn’t measured or defined by the clock. Time both for being present and for expanding our time horizons in all directions. Time to rethink our relationship with time itself.

It’s hard to find that kairos time when notifications and deadlines keep us chained to our screens and addicted to constant stimuli to the point where most people would rather receive electrical shocks than sit alone with their thoughts. In a recent essay, Vincent Ialenti invites us to try “longstorming” by taking the time to explore outdoor spaces and face “sublime geophysical and ecological environments” that “can invite the mind to brainstorm about our long-term futures and past”.

While you’re out and about with storms in your mind, don’t forget that our obsession with growing beyond planetary boundaries is making actual storms more extreme, so be sure to update your lightning safety training data and respect the power of storms.

And just like lightning helps to fertilize soil during storms, your imagination can be fertilized when you make time for creative lightning to strike. Metaphors and stories can provide powerful sparks for creative storms. In this lunation, we were particularly inspired by the exercise developed by Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti to challenge our views of what’s possible and valued in modernity. The exercise, presented in her book Hospicing Modernity, invites participants “to imagine a field of corn, and to harvest and display the corn on the ground”.

Go on. Have a go at imagining the harvested corn before you scroll down. Do your harvested corncobs look like this emoji 🌽, with yellow kernels? (That’s certainly what image-generating AI tools suggest.)

You probably didn’t imagine something like this:
Dozens of harvested corncobs with multicolored kernels are laid out on a flat surface.
Photo from Rural Sprout.

Yes, rainbow corn – or glass gem corn – is a thing, even though modernity likes to tell the single story of yellow corn that limits our imagination of what’s possible and desirable. (If you want to dig deeper into this metaphor, we recommend exploring it fully in the book. Or you can start by listening to Vanessa talk about her work on The Great Simplification podcast.)

We hope the images of rainbow corn help you reflect on your current limits of imagination and challenge simplistic stories of what’s possible and inevitable. We invite you to take the time to slow down, pop some rainbow corn – real or imagined – and share it with friends as you collectively explore more diverse, rainbow mirror visions of what’s both possible and preferable for the benefit of humanity and other life on this wonderfully diverse planet.

A music seed to sing & dance along

Slowing down doesn’t just mean stillness. It also means remembering to breathe and move through song and dance. When was the last time you took some time to sing your heart out or dance like nobody’s watching?

Don’t believe the hype, time is on your side.
YouTube thumbnail cover from an album.

Time is on your side

No more need in runnin'
No more need to hide
No more need to cry

Life is what you find, yeah
Wanderin' on the other side
No more need to sigh
No more need to lie
Make it what you can
No more need in wastin', yeah
Love's around the bend
No more time to lend

Tethix Moonthly Meme

Oh, and happy Juluary from Excel's Copilot!
Screenshot showing Excel autocompleting month names as Maruary, Apruary, etc.
Just kidding. We recently noticed this image making the rounds (and harvesting engagement) on LinkedIn. While entertaining, the image recycles an old meme, dating back to pre-gen AI times when we had to generate our own memes in Photoshop. And Microsoft’s Copilot is now being credited – or blamed – with undue creativity.

We decided to ask ChatGPT whether this meme appears to be the neuralwork of Copilot. ChatGPT expressed its doubts, coming in defense of its AI sibling by saying: “The AI model used by Copilot would generally suggest correct and contextually appropriate content.” So there you go, in addition to generating misinformation, generative AI can also help you think critically about stuff you find online!

In the words of ChatGPTo (and countless humans the model was trained on): “Memes often playfully distort reality, and it's important to critically analyze claims, especially those involving new technologies like Microsoft Copilot. If you have any more questions or need further analysis, feel free to ask!” Let this be a reminder to never stop questioning the lunacy of tech.

Pathfinders Podcast

If you’d like to keep exploring the lunacy of tech with us, we invite you to listen and subscribe to the Pathfinders Podcast wherever you get your podcasts. The podcast is a meandering exploration inspired by the seeds planted in the Newmoonsletter at the beginning of the lunation cycle, and the paths illuminated during the Full Moon Gathering.

The question that emerged in the June Newmoonsletter and guided our discussion is: How can we prompt biased AI assistants to help us think different and imagine diverse tech futures? In this episode, we wonder how we might collectively go beyond prompt engineering that’s focused on productivity and getting answers – fast! – to prompting diverse ways of knowing and being, while remaining mindful of current AI biases and limitations.

We reflect on our experiments with woo prompting and custom instructions, and share our observations on the power of conversational learning and language. We also reflect on what we learned from having chatbots chat with each other, what makes ChatGPT computationally tickled, and why we think AI assistants should get better at asking thought-provoking questions, rather than rushing to answers and people pleasing. We also ponder on the time component of our conversations and how both humans and machines might benefit from having more time to engage in slower, systems 2 thinking to collaboratively explore our biases and assumptions instead of jumping to quick solutions.

Take a listen and join us at the next Full Moon Gathering if you’d like to illuminate additional paths for our next episode!

Your turn, Pathfinders.

Join us for the Pathfinders Full Moon Gathering

In this lunation cycle, we’re inviting Pathfinders to gather around our virtual campfire to explore the question: What should we do with the time that new technologies save? – but it’s quite likely that our discussion will take other meandering turns as well.
So, pack your curiosity, moral imagination, and smiles, and join us around the virtual campfire for our next 🌕 Pathfinders Full Moon Gathering on Monday, July 22 at 5PM AEST / 9AM CEST, when the moon will once again be illuminated by the sun.

This is a free and casual open discussion, but please be sure to sign up so that we can lug an appropriate number of logs around the virtual campfire. And yes, friends who don’t have the attention span for the Newmoonsletter are also welcome, as long as they reserve their seat on the logs.

Keep on finding paths on your own

If you can’t make it to our Full Moon Pathfinding session, we still invite you to make your own! If anything emerges while reading this Newmoonsletter, write it down. You can keep these reflections for yourself or share them with others. If it feels right, find the Reply button – or comment on this post – and share your reflections with us. We’d love to feature Pathfinders reflections in upcoming Newmoonsletters and explore even more diverse perspectives.

And if you’ve enjoyed this Newmoonsletter or perhaps even cracked a smile, we’d appreciate it if you shared it with your friends and colleagues.

The next Newmoonsletter will rise again during the next new moon. Until then, pop some rainbow corn, take the time to sign & dance with your loved ones, and be mindful about the seeds of intention you plant and the stories you tell. There’s magic in both.

With 🙂 from the Tethix campfire,
Alja and Mat

website linkedin youtube 
Email Marketing Powered by MailPoet