Zachary Stein’s recent book - Education in a Time Between Worlds - is one of the most comprehensive, rigorous, potent visions for where culture might evolve over the next 50 years, and how.
His focus is education, for which he did graduate work at Harvard and co-founded a research oriented non-profit - Lectica - that studies reforming large-scale standardized testing.
He is also the co-president of the Center for Integral Wisdom, working closely with the philosophers Ken Wilber and Marc Gafni to bring an integral perspective to the evolution of consciousness and culture.
To top things off, Zak is on the scientific advisor board of Neurohacker Collective, where he collaborates with folks like Daniel Schmachtenberger and Jordan Greenhall on projects of all stripes. It’s a hell of a trio.
Zak has done a number of podcasts where he discusses education, the metaphysics of love, life & death, and the like. You can find him on Daniel Thorson’s Emerge, and Michael Garfield’s Future Fossils, or Collin Morris’ Zion 2.0, among others. But we grounded our discussion in an area I haven’t heard much focus on, his 13 Social Miracles.
Zak’s 13 Social Miracles are a practice in ‘design fiction’, or concrete utopian theorizing. He offers a pragmatic but unfettered set of policy proposals and global projects to support the emergence of our most vibrant, wholesome futures. His miracles include everything from guaranteed basic income, total planetary demilitarization, to the de-alienation and re-humanization of the global workforce.
So often, even the most radical philosophers do not engage with the political - that is, policy oriented - dimensions of their work. How do we get from here to there? We can talk about abundance, autonomy, and freedom all we like, but what kind of bills should we introduce into the House of Representatives in support of these abstractions? What social policies will help bring about these realities? Individual practices are great, but collective policies can help democratize these outcomes.
Zak’s philosophy is radical, and it’s political, making it some of the most refreshing, valuable work around.
In our conversation, we made it through the first 3, while skimming around a few others. That’s how dense each of these are - they require books of their own, or one podcast episode for each miracle just to penetrate the surface.
More broadly, though, we really dug into how neoliberal capitalism is globalizing a kind of commodity logic that holds back our capacity for true education, that constrains our potentialities.
Commodifying education leads to a commodification of our existential logic (because education is where, and how, we literally become who and what we are), and the full range of possibilities for what the human is, and what we might do, are reduced to the quantifiable metrics that justify investments, in service of efficient resource allocation.
We’ve always known the human experience is richer, and larger than what these efficiency driven investment mechanisms can model. But now, we might be in a moment of cultural transition where we can actually establish the sociopolitical structures that would enable our collective, democratic exploration of these richer penumbrae of human potentiality.