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: the fog thickens.

“Life on planet Earth is under siege”: these words of warning open the latest of climate reports. Meanwhile, the fog that’s seeding uncertainty and division is thickening. And the fire apprentices have convinced the Ministries of Magic that their AI golems, which are contributing to the fog, are also the solution to the fog. Doesn’t make much sense? Don’t worry about it, it makes money and helps everyone forget that apprentices – who still change their core values overnight – aren’t supposed to be in charge. (See The 2023 state of the climate report: Entering uncharted territory. and The Ever-So-Ethical OpenAI Just Replaced Its "Core Values" With Completely Different Ones)

The Ministries of Magic around the world feel mighty good that they’ve finally signed a document saying we all care about AI golem safety and about the people whom the fog is affecting. A new Institute for Golem Magic should help you sleep better at night -at least until the next extreme weather alert wakes you up. In the land of the golems, a new executive order has been issued that envisions better golem testing, yet also omits the impact the golems have on the climate (among other issues). (See Bletchley declaration: international agreement on AI safety is a good start, but ordinary people need a say – not just elites and What's in Biden's AI executive order — and what's not.)

To better understand this persistent fog, we recommend spending less time following and reacting to headlines that tend to intensify the fog in one’s head. Instead, we prescribe a healthy dose of listening and spreading the work of fog experts and poets who have been defying the golem makers by dissecting their creations and studying the direct effects the golems and the fog are already having on people’s lives. (Watch AI is dangerous, but not for the reasons you think and read Unmasking AI.)

Amidst this thickening fog, it might be getting harder to get enough vitamin D, but we do hope that the seeds we’ve collected in this past moon help you find some sunshine. We are hearing stories about collective imagination dispersing the fog and even sightings of fogbows, so don’t surrender to the fog just yet, Pathfinder. There is much to do to protect life on planet Earth.

Tethix Elemental seeds

Fire seeds to stoke your Practice

An illustration of people worshipping a raging wildfire
OpenAI, the company that changes core values like socks, has partnered with Anthropic, Google, and Microsoft to form the Frontier Model Forum and launch a new $10 million AI Safety Fund. Still no funding announced to study or reveal the environmental impacts of the foundation models these companies are unleashing onto the world. But you’ll soon be able to build and monetize your own GPTs, join Quora’s Poe creator monetization program or other marketplaces, and increase your environmental footprint by an unknown amount. Prompt engineering is so last month, monetizing AI chatbots is the next frontier!

It’s not that we’re against AI development, but given the increasing severity of climate reports, we’d really like to see these companies take some responsibility regarding the environmental impact of using LLMs to write bad jokes or generic marketing copy. This would give us the ability to take environmental costs into account when choosing which models to use, both as end-users or when developing AI-powered products.

Even Mozilla’s recently released AI Guide, which promotes the use of open-source models, doesn’t emphasize environmental costs in their Choosing ML Models section. Hugging Face, the platform for open-source AI development, is currently ahead of the pack by offering resources to report carbon emissions and helping developers find low-emission models. (And yes, carbon emissions aren’t everything, but we’ve got to start somewhere.)

We’ll certainly bring attention to this and other ignored perspectives in the AI space in the events we’re hosting as part of Australia's AI Month. Tethix is partnering with RSA Oceania and Co-Labs for the event Mythopoetic Sense-making of our AI future – online and in-person in Melbourne on Nov 16 – to dive into the narrative and symbolic layers of AI, its history and impact on society. We’re again partnering with RSA Oceania for AI and Collective Futurecrafting on Nov 21, a virtual yarning circle. We also have seats available at our virtual campfire as part of the immersive workshop Exploring the Gen AI Fire on Nov 28. And you can also catch Mat at a panel discussion at the AI Leadership Summit 2023 in Sydney on Dec 8.

With everything happening so fast in the AI space, it might be tempting to move fast and break things. In the blog post Taking the scenic route in product development, Alja reminds us that blindly following the GPS and taking the fastest route doesn’t always lead us to the right destination. Even though the fire of AI appears enticingly warm and bright, there is value in taking detours with moral imagination and exploring paths that are currently hidden or not taken.

Air seeds to improve the flow of Collaboration

An illustration of three rainbow mirrors showing different images
Another aspect we’re missing from a lot of the debates on AI is collaboration. AI principles are often developed top-down, without the involvement of diverse stakeholders – human and non-human. This is a topic Nate and Mat explored in the presentation Can a culture that supports participatory ethics enhance diversity and inclusion in AI development? delivered at the recent CSIRO Symposium for Diversity and Inclusion in AI.

The symposium had some wonderful research presented, but a standout for us was Rebecca Johnson's ‘Paws and perspectives: Fostering inclusivity in Generative AI Model Evaluation’ – but maybe we’re just biased as cat people. (Dogs are obviously pawsome too!)

The stories we tell – even ones of cats vs. dogs – are so often framed in competitive terms. This is one of a few criticisms we have of the recent, and mostly brilliant, Netflix docuseries Life on Our Planet. It was narrated by Morgan Freeman, which is perhaps enough of a reason to watch. The focus is life through the lens of the five previous mass extinction events, basically defined as events or circumstances that lead to greater than 75% of life on earth being permanently lost.

Freeman frequently repeats that life is defined by competition. But life really doesn’t seem to be defined only by competition – and you can love both cats and dogs, as we do! Ecologies are inherently relational. Within this relational context, there is competition, coopetition, and real collaboration. Consider this next time you’re pondering “our nature”.

Oh, and – spoiler alert! – we’re in the late stages of the sixth mass extinction event, with greater than 70% of wildlife being lost in just the last 50 years. This is almost exclusively attributed to human activities, thanks to the fact that current extinction rates are 35 times higher than expected background rates. Yikes.

Freeman suggests that our intelligence will be the key to solving these problems. But this doesn’t ring true. It’ll be our capacity to act with deep care and genuine wisdom, something that is sorely lacking in our current society.

And we are not just in a relationship with each other, but with the rest of the community of life, a living planet, as Daniel Christian Wahl explored in the excerpt Being a process, and seeing in relationships.

Despite all of this, we still tend to forget that humans are an especially collaborative species, full of imagination not just when it comes to destruction, but also collaboration. The internet is proof of our collaborative superpowers, and this past moon we were also inspired by the discussion with Nafeez Ahmed in the Planet: Critical episode The Interconnected Grid. Rather than competing for energy, we could connect to a grid that allows for sharing of energy to meet local demands and reduce the need for battery storage. The interconnected grid is just one piece of infrastructure we could build to break out of a simulation, as Planet: Critical’s host Rachel Donald explores in a follow-up post.

Earth seeds to ground you in Research

An illustration of a golem holding a tablet
Given the state of the climate and the current AI fog, it’s pretty clear we’ll have to rethink the stories we tell. Exploring the stories that came before can also help us increase our possibility space and feed our moral imagination. The paper Artificial Intelligence: Definition and Background takes a deeper dive into the definition and history of AI, including the mythical representations of AI in different cultures. This is something we’ll explore during the mythopoetic sense-making event as part of AI Month, and we do like to use the myth of golems to explore our complicated relationship with AI.

If you want to dig deeper into a lesser known myth that also serves as a cautionary tale, we recommend reading about the Estonian myth of Kratt – a magical household helper that turns onto its owner if it's not kept busy – and how it led to KrattAI, Estonia’s AI National Strategy.

As well as learning from past stories, it’s important to examine the new stories AI models – and their makers – are telling us. Rest of World recently analyzed 3,000 AI-generated images to explore cultural stereotypes and bias. These types of explorations are important given the low transparency scores achieved by AI developers in The Foundation Model Transparency Index research. Unfortunately, these are not surprising results for companies that pride themselves on moving fast and breaking things.

And it appears that even the models themselves feel the pressure, as new research explores how adding emotional stimuli (such as telling a model that the prompt is important for your career) boosts the model’s performance. Jokes aside, we still have a lot to learn about how LLMs work, how they can be used to optimize their own prompts – which apparently even leads to prompting each other to “take a deep breath” – and using larger models to train smaller ones. Well, at least smaller models might be better for the environment, though we suspect we’ll just find ways to use more of them – Jevons always seems to find a way to crash the party…

But wait! We also promised you seeds of hope, and in that spirit, we invite you to immerse and ground yourself in the booklet Seeding Futures for Wellbeing by the Griffith Centre for Systems Innovation. The booklet was designed as a collective imagination starter pack, weaving together diverse questions and perspectives to train your futurecrafting skills.

Water seeds to deepen your Reflection

Illustration of four people sitting around a campfire, each person with a place influencing their thoughts. The fire in the campfire is an app that represents ETHOS Gardening based on the Elemental Ethics framework.
The future is indeed not set in stone yet. We have the power – and responsibility – to explore and tell different stories. If you’re interested in exploring and reflecting on the stories we tell about our digital workplaces, we invite you to read our recent blog post Discovering stories about digital workplaces like Slack that can cultivate a culture of collective wisdom and care.

Now, the Newmoonsletter is all about planting seeds, and we consider ourselves lucky that seeds of reflection, grounding, collaboration, and practice are fairly abundant and easy to come by. Seed farming in the physical world is becoming harder though due to increasingly chaotic climate conditions. As with many things, supporting local and small seed companies seems to be a good practice when looking for seeds for your garden.

When it comes to adapting our lives to the changing climate, we could certainly learn a lesson or two from indigenous people, who have lived with their lands for tens of thousands of years. If you’re looking for a starting point – or just a bit of inspiration – start with the Ancient Wisdom with Anne Poelina episode of the Holding the Fire podcast (other episodes are worth listening to as well).

We do like to compare technology to fire. In preparation for the upcoming mythopoetic sense-making event, we’ve been revisiting Traditional fire stories compiled by Fire and Rescue NSW in Australia. This is a wonderful collection of stories that you might read with your children and perhaps be inspired to reflect on our relationship with technology – the fire.

The theft of fire for the benefit of humanity is a common theme in many mythologies. If we think of AI as stolen fire, we can open interesting discussions: who was the fire of AI stolen from? Why was somebody guarding the fire, why didn’t they trust the humans? What are the benefits and risks of open-sourcing the fire, making it available to everyone?

You can join us in an exploration of questions like this during our AI Month events. And if you need a break from all the AI news and climate doom, we want to remind you that we’re all living on a rock flying through space. And that there’s so much more than AI to learn about and be in awe of. For instance, a NASA asteroid sample has been found to contain water and carbon, the building blocks for life. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) continues to make fascinating observations, such as pairs of planet-like objects in the Orion Nebula that we cannot quite explain with our current understanding of astronomy.

And to bring it back home to Spaceship Earth, a reminder that oceans cover more than 70% of our planet’s surface, yet over 80% of them remain unexplored, with NASA now venturing into the deep unknowns of our own planet. Perhaps we should all acknowledge how much we still don’t know and can learn from each other and the Universe. Instead of pretending that the latest technology we’re building has all the solutions to problems we don’t fully understand yet.

Tethix Moonthly Meme

Speaking of changing core values overnight and being overly confident…
And that’s all the attention you get from us, Elon.


Your turn, Pathfinders.

Moonthly Pathfinding Seeds to plant & share

What a rollercoaster ride is to try to do good in this climate, eh? Well, we believe good intentions still need to be nurtured and that small actions can have compounding effects.

Which is why we started planting Pathfinding Seeds on LinkedIn every Friday to inspire a bit of positive action and help you explore new paths in your practice. Each seed is a tiny challenge that hones your elemental ethics skills and expands your possibility space. We invite you to share these seeds generously with your network.

Here are the seeds we planted in the previous lunation cycle:

🌱 Meet a friend or colleague you haven’t spoken with in a while for coffee and discuss how generative AI might change the way you work. Share your thoughts on LinkedIn. (More context.)

🌱 Send a message of gratitude to somebody who's relentlessly bringing up important issues others prefer to ignore. Let them know you appreciate their perseverance, and tell them how they’ve inspired you to think or act differently. (More context.)

🌱 Think about how you might contribute to a more responsible AI future. Write and share an action-oriented Responsible AI Pledge that you can meet in the next month. (More context.)

If you like these, you can follow Tethix on LinkedIn and hope that the algorithm brings them into your feed every Friday. (Don’t worry, we’ll share them in the Newmoonsletter too.)

And we also want to extend a warm welcome to Pathfinders who might be joining us via Substack. We are now posting our long form content, the Pathfinders Newmoonsletter, and other pathfinding explorations on Substack to make it easier to follow our updates and engage in conversations. That said, we are firm believers in giving you the choice of channels and ways of subscribing, so you can still follow our blog and Substack publication via RSS. But hey, if you enjoy Substack, you can now subscribe to Tethix Pathfinding and help us spread these seeds through your network.

Regardless of where you’re reading these words, we’re glad to have you here, Pathfinder, and we thank you for the gift of time. There is yet hope for better tech futures if we take the time to share stories and seeds of inspiration.

A special invitation to Full Moon Pathfinding

Speaking of sharing stories, we have just one more seed to plant. A special invitation to a 🌕 Full Moon Pathfinding session on Nov 27 at 7PM AEDT / 9AM CET (check your timezone), when the moon will once again be illuminated by the sun. We’ll yarn about AI golems, climate doom, seeds of hope, and anything else you choose to bring with you.

If you’d like an invitation, reply to this email (community@tethix.co for those reading this on the web) with your own weather observations. How thick is the fog where you live, have you spotted any fogbows yet?

Keep on finding paths on your own

And 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. Stay safe in the AI-generated fog out there until then, 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, Mat, Nate

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