Reclaim the Impossible

September 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Today I’ll once again have to turn to Kevin Kelly, our contemporary sage of the technium.  His recent blog post “Why the Impossible Happens More Often” is a must read and it is extensively quoted below.  For a long time I have been trying to make the point that what is happening in the web is not just about social media and new technology – it is about us, and how we are with each other.

Kelly and others use the technium as their reference point – and that is the appropriate place to identify emergent patterns, but there really is no outside; what is happening online is also happening offline.  We are amidst one of the most significant paradigm shifts in human history; a true evolutionary leap – this is the moment to seize!

We had to tinker around the edges for a time; that was smart and appropriate then.  But this current (r)evolutionary upheaval is calling for something else.  Human relations are being redefined, which means that power is being redefined.  Everything is up for grabs, and this is where we step in.  Those of us who have devoted our lives to a more just world must now be ready to define, nurture and sustain the conditions for it to emerge.

Join me in reconsidering those dreams we had to give up – what do we really want that we might have given up for impossible?  How do we want our world to work? How do we align ourselves with these “impossibilities?”

Here is what Kelly has to say about our day [excerpted with emphasis added].

I’ve had to persuade myself to believe in the impossible more often. In the past several decades I’ve encountered a series of ideas that I was conditioned to think were impossibilities, but which turned out to be good practical ideas… These supposed impossibilities keep happening with increased frequency… But why now? What is happening to disrupt the ancient impossible/possible boundary?

In a word: emergence.

As far as I can tell the impossible things that happen now are in every case manifestations of a new, bigger level of organization. They are the result of large-scale collaboration, or immense collections of information, or global structures, or gigantic real-time social interactions.

Just as a tissue is a new, bigger level of organization for a bunch of individual cells, these new social structures are a new bigger level for individual humans. And in both cases the new level breeds emergence. New behaviors emerge from the new level that were impossible at the lower level. Tissue can do things that cells can’t.

Humans have long invented new social organizations… These social instruments are what makes us human… The technium is accelerating the creation of new impossibilities by continuing to invent new social organizations…

When we are woven together into a global real-time society, the impossibilities will really start to erupt. It is not necessary that we invent some kind of autonomous global consciousness. It is only necessary that we connect everyone to everyone else. Hundreds of miracles that seem impossible today will be possible with this shared human awareness.

I think we’ll be surprised by how many things we assumed were “natural” for humans are not really, and how many impossible ideas are possible…

Collectively we behave differently than individuals. Much more importantly, as individuals we behave differently in collectives…  Humanity is migrating towards its hive mind. Most of what “everybody knows” about us is based on the human individual. Collectively, connected humans will be capable of things we cannot imagine right now.

We are swept up in a tectonic shift toward large, fast, social organizations connecting us in novel ways… and each way will reveal something new about us. Something hidden previously… Connected, in real time, in multiple dimensions, at an increasingly global scale, in matters large and small, with our permission, we will operate at a new level, and we won’t cease surprising ourselves with impossible achievements.

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  • greg jobin-leeds says:

    Great job Gibran capturing the new emergent energy of believing in making the impossible possible today. we are in a network of people who are creating the impossible from Egypt and the Arab Spring to energy independent homes to being able to communicate and create networks around the world. I do wonder what specifically you and Kelly refer to when you say the impossible keeps happening. i think those specifics are key otherwise they are just marketing slogans like “hope” and “change” that anyone can read into it what they want. One of the impossibles of course is that we have a US President of African decent. Maybe the next impossible is a president that is not backed by Wall Street and Bank of America. Or networks of self-sustaining communities emerging so we are independent and off the grid of a Wall Street president.

    thanks as always for your great conversations.
    -Greg

  • Gibrán says:

    That’s a great point Greg, and part of what I want to do with my post is invite us to name those things that we want but find impossible. Kelly would say that many of them are unimaginable by definition, but I think that creating the conditions for emergence necessarily implies naming these impossible things. I appreciate your Obama example, and appreciate the idea of electing a president that is not owned by banks and corporations. I like to imagine of a whole new form of self-government, one with community and justainability at its core, one that exists beyond state boundaries. It is more possible than we allow ourselves to think!

  • Charlie Jones says:

    Gibran – excellent post, as per usual. Reading this, I could not help but make a connection to a piece I read by Robert Fripp (jazz fusion guitarist, songwriter, producer) as he explains how one learns to play guitar.

    “We do one thing until we can do it excellently and then move on to the next thing. We will start with the possible and move toward the impossible.” Robert Fripp

    While the Fripp quote is in reference to guitar playing, I believe it can easily be applied to all human endeavors. We must crawl before we walk or run. The challenge is to resist the urge to leap toward the impossible without first laying the groundwork in the realm of the possible.

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