While not formally trained or institutionally credentialed, we are philosophers. We are captivated by, deeply admiring of, and always humbled by the living and breathing process that is wisdom seeking. It’s a core essence of our character. It’s a guiding orientation. We can’t help but deeply question and reason – no matter how hard we try – from first principles.
To be clear, our philosophy exists outside of the lab. We’re not bound by the comfort of an armchair. Instead, we are concerned with action. We seek to make a positive and enduring contribution.
From the paragraphs above, you may be developing the inkling that a specific, ‘tight’, or ‘bounded’ framing of our approach is beyond direct reach. After all, there’s an inherent transdisciplinarity to our work. But, we do what we can do to navigate the intricate dance between imagination and reality, tradition and innovation, complexity and clarity. Our philosophical compass, forged from a fusion of metamodernism and critical realism, illuminates our path. This is how we, together, explore the ever-evolving relationship between our shared humanity and the technologies we create.
A quick disclaimer: In doing this, we recognise that “the map is not the territory”. So although we are attaching ‘labels’ to our language constrained description of our philosophy, we are doing so with a deep respect for these limitations.
A metamodern odyssey
Our journey is metamodern in nature, embodying a quest that transcends dichotomies. We recognise the interplay of opposing forces, not as a battle, but as a harmonious dance, an expression of countervailing forces. In this dance, we find:
- Synthesis: Weaving the logical with the emotional, and the scientific with the mystical, to craft a more holistic understanding of humanity in this digital age.
- Oscillation: Moving fluidly between different states of knowing, embracing paradox and ambiguity as sources of insight.
- Transformation: Guiding our creative energies towards constructive change and positive societal impact.
This metamodernist viewpoint invites us to envision new possibilities. It forces us to dream and to dare. But this is more than a naive progress narrative. We do all of this with an attentive ear to the wisdom of the past.
We can’t help but acknowledge the deeply interwoven crises we face as a species. This is unavoidable. But we do have a choice. Ours is to move into this space as adventurers, motivated by a sense of existential hope and shared humanity.
Grounded in critical realism
While our metamodern spirit soars, critical realism anchors us. It’s the philosophical bedrock that ensures our feet remain firmly on the ground, even as our ideas take flight. Critical realism guides us in:
- Exploring complexity: Unpacking the underlying structures that shape our world, acknowledging the multifaceted nature of reality.
- Bridging perspectives: Embracing the coexistence of objective truth and subjective interpretation, honouring the richness of human experience and the ‘hard problem of consciousness’.
- Enacting change: Moving beyond mere observation to engagement and action, always mindful of our responsibility to future generations.
Critical realism, in partnership with metamodernism, forms a philosophical duet that resonates with our ethos of epic exploration, purposeful playfulness, intentional innovation, and radical responsibility.
For a funny, concise and impactful take on ‘why everyone should be critical realists’, we refer you to Tom Fryer’s work.
Ontology – The being of Tethix
The views we hold about the nature of our existence at Tethix are defined by interrelatedness. We perceive ourselves not as isolated entities, but as connected with, and dependent upon, the fabric of technology, society, culture and the natural world. “It’s all connected” says it best.
This shapes our journey through:
- Holistic integration: Seeing beyond fragmentation to embrace the unity of humans, machine creations, and the entirety of the natural world.
- Dynamic evolution: Recognising change as an intrinsic aspect of existence, allowing for growth, transformation, and responsive adaptability.
- Purposeful being: Aligning our actions with values that promote human flourishing and planetary stewardship.
This invites us to exist in a space of conscious co-creation. We are guided by compassion. We trust in the wisdom of emergence.
Epistemology – The knowing of Tethix
The manner in which we seek and interpret knowledge reflects our commitment to both breadth and depth. Our ongoing sense making journey towards broader and deeper understanding comes through:
- Multi-dimensional inquiry: Exploring issues from various angles, ranging from the analytical to the phenomenological.
- Collaborative wisdom: Building knowledge through dialogue and shared experiences, recognising the collective intelligence that arises from the diversity of active and equitable participation.
- Reflective adaptation: Continuously evaluating and refining our understanding, remaining open to new insights, and adapting to the ever-shifting landscape of the sociotechnical systems that we design, and that in turn, design us.
This approach ensures that our quest for knowledge is driven by an intent to be rigorous and critically grounded, yet open to the boundless possibilities of human imagination.
A dance of exploration towards positive impact
We see ourselves as explorers on a unique odyssey, guided by a philosophical compass that merges the imaginative flight of metamodernism with the grounded wisdom of critical realism. Our ontology of interconnection and our epistemology of expansive inquiry form the very fabric of our identity. Together, they shape our approach to the relationship between humanity and technology, as situated here on spaceship earth.
The intricate dance between imagination and reality, tradition and innovation, complexity and clarity, is not just an abstract concept for us. It’s a lived experience that permeates everything we undertake, every problem we are in love with and strive to solve, and every relationship we build with those around us.
Our philosophical grounding is not an isolated facet, but a vibrant thread woven through everything we do. It challenges us to think deeply, act responsibly, and create with vision that transcends the ordinary. In this synthesis of knowing and being, we find a path towards technologies that truly support human flourishing and planetary stewardship.
This is our intention. But, you rightly ask, how does the philosophy we’ve briefly described support this pathway?
Here’s a 3 part Q&A to begin the process of answering.
Where are we now?
To start with, we recognise that technology is not values neutral. It’s designed by humans. It’s shaped by our values, beliefs and biases. It is a reflection of the cultural context in which it is created. As a result, technology development and its various uses actually shape who we are individually and collectively. It changes us, sometimes in ways that are obvious, and other times in ways that we are almost certainly not aware of.
Technology can also be seen as a literal extension of us. Chalmers and Clark capture this with Extended Mind Theory, as did Donna Haraway before them (and many others).
At times this ‘extension’ seemingly augments and empowers us. At others it limits and disables. And, what’s become clearer than ever before, is that these effects are not equitably distributed.
Of course, we do not claim that power imbalances are a new thing. They’ve been explored by scholars around the world for centuries. But, the speed and scale with which power imbalances are realised as a result of information communication technologies, is different. Whether this phenomenon is best captured by Zuboff’s Surveillance Capitalism, Crawford’s Atlas of AI or even, as a less ‘direct’ criticism, the ecosocialism of Hickel, is beyond today’s scope.
What we’d like to clearly say is that we do not accept the current trajectory. We aren’t fully supportive of ‘where we are now’. Our future, in this sense, isn’t preordained.
Thankfully, we aren’t alone. Tech walkouts, corporate whistleblowing and responsible technology communities are present and accelerating. But, this is just one context specific instantiation of a broader cultural dynamic. This is also about the meaning and metacrisis, a ‘failing’ economic system, a broken health care system, hopelessness amongst large youth populations and so, so much more.
It’s our belief that no one really wants this. There’s so much more positive intent than there is action. This gap between intent and action – in a corporate sense, perhaps expressed by the lack of alignment between corporate values and culture – means that much of today’s technology is misaligned to what we care about most.
Where do we desire to be?
We envisage a world where humanity deeply recognises that we are nature, that we are together, that we are genuinely interconnected and interrelated.
In this world, given that we create technologies from the ‘raw materials’ of this planet, our technologies are also seen as part of nature. They’re not an abstraction ‘out there’, but rather a very tangible thing, ‘right here, right now’. Technology is part of the journey, part of what it means to live well, and part of what it means to responsibly steward within earth system boundaries.
All of this is the result of a paradigm shift. Culture has changed.
Organisations are living and breathing the things they say they value and stand for.
When we look into the mirror it reflects our diverse beauty, our embodied compassion, our deepest hopes for what is possible, and our highest ideals about what ought to be.
What is Tethix doing to help get us there?
To catalyse this paradigm shift in culture, specifically the culture within which diverse teams develop information communication technologies, we are creating tools and frameworks that interface at the level of meaning making.
If you’re interested in the details of what we will do, check out:
- SMILES (Symbio-Memetic Interwoven Language Embodiment System) is the blueprint for teams building technologies that are ecologically grounded, socially ambitious and economically relevant to humanity’s problems and opportunities today. It interlaces language, imagination, and practice, reflecting the symbiotic relationship between humanity, technology, and the natural world.
- Elemental Ethics™, a new type of ethics framework that uses nature-inspired language and familiar stories to make ethics interesting, fun, accessible, inclusive, memorable, and practical. And
- ETHOS™ (Ethical Tension and Health Operating System), suite of practical ethics products, designed to integrate into an organisations existing tools and workflows.
We’ll have plenty more to say as the journey continues.