Skip to content

🔎 The search for a new humility

“This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen. It’s also a nightmarish time. Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both.” - Rebecca Solnit

We've constructed our three pillar approach to taking back the web, but what is the link between all three that will allow them to function as one, coherent foundation for a more equitably connected society? The answer harks all the way back to the play of pattern: humility.

How does this fit into KERNEL?

We need to turn back to Maria Popova and her careful digital curations in order to search for a new humility; to search for the kind of attitude which will allow a greater degree of clarity in our intentions; more sustainable kinds of personal freedom; and the sort of openness to old-new ideas which can help us realise the original dream of a world wide web of informed light.

"It is my profound belief that there is only one way to achieve this: we must divest ourselves of our egotistical anthropocentrism, our habit of seeing ourselves as masters of the universe who can do whatever occurs to us. We must discover a new respect for what transcends us."


"The world is now enmeshed in webs of telecommunication networks consisting of millions of tiny threads, or capillaries, that not only transmit information of all kinds at lightning speed, but also convey integrated models of social, political and economic behavior. They are conduits for legal norms, as well as for billions and billions of dollars crisscrossing the world while remaining invisible even to those who deal directly with them."

  • What is it that blockchains actually do, if not make the invisible flows of value visible again? While privacy, and the very real need we have for technologies which preserve it, is beyond the scope of this brief - it's worth noting that public, verifiable and auditable flows of value are exactly what we need to engender more empathy.

  • We can be sure our money gets put to the proper use, incentivising us to give more. We can encode economic ideals which encourage competition to be more kind, rather than win. We can make visible the best parts of our humanity, rather than hiding the economics so as to race to the bottom of our brain stems.

"It is a challenge to this civilization to start understanding itself as a multi­cultural and a multi­polar civilization, whose meaning lies not in undermining the individuality of different spheres of culture and civilization but in allowing them to be more completely themselves."

  • This is the whole secret, really. Personal freedom of expression - where money is speech - tied into a conscious, encoded set of constraints which incentivize optimal collective resource allocation can set individuals free to build sustainable, valuable communities.

"I have not lost hope because I am persuaded again and again that, lying dormant in the deepest roots of most, if not all, cultures there is an essential similarity, something that could be made­ if the will to do so existed –­ a genuinely unifying starting point for that new code of human co­-existence that would be firmly anchored in the great diversity of human traditions."

  • Recall Vannevar Bush - the whole story revolves around how we collect, store and consult our shared record. If we can do so collaboratively and in ways which use the differences in our trails to understand that which is essentially similar, then there will always be cause for hope.

  • As Maria suggests, "any real movement toward healing the ruptures of our natural interconnectedness lies not in reverting to ancient religions but in integrating the achievements of reason with the core values of the human spirit."

"Only a dreamer can believe that the solution lies in curtailing the progress of civilization in some way or other. The main task in the coming era is something else: a radical renewal of our sense of responsibility. Our conscience must catch up to our reason, otherwise we are lost."

  • A long section on the role of politicians follows which might not seem relevant to this course, or our goals - one of which could be read as removing entirely the need for politicians, given their abject failure across the globe to live up to Havel's standards. However, politics is implicit in any interaction between human beings, and the tools we're building on contain overtly political statements, so Havel's claim that the responsibility of politicians "is something quite different: to assume their share of responsibility for the long-­range prospects of our world and thus to set an example for the public in whose sight they work" is, actually, directly relevant to the technicians of a new web.

"After all, politics is a matter of servicing the community, which means that it is morality in practice [...] Pride is precisely what will lead the world to hell. I am suggesting an alternative: humbly accepting our responsibility for the world [...]

"I have been given to understand how small this world is and how it torments itself with countless things it need not torment itself with if people could find within themselves a little more courage, a little more hope, a little more responsibility, a little more mutual understanding and love."