Citizen Planet: Cybernetic Governance in the Anthropocene



By Oliver Hockenhull 

Photo Courtesy of Oliver Hockenhull





Untitled3Beginning with some key definitions:

1.  The technological singularity is the hypothesis that accelerating progress in technologies will cause a runaway effect wherein artificial intelligence will exceed human intellectual capacity and control, thus radically changing civilization in an event called the singularity.


2.  Norbert Wiener, mathematician and philosopher, defined cybernetics in 1948 as “the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine.” 

The word cybernetics comes Greek κυβερνητική (kybernetike), meaning “governance”, i.e., all that are pertinent to κυβερνάω (kybernao), the latter meaning “to steer, navigate or govern”, hence κυβέρνησις (kybernesis), meaning “government”, is the government while κυβερνήτης (kybernetes) is the governor or the captain.


3.  The Anthropocene for the current geologic chronological epoch that began when human activities had a significant global impact on the Earth’s ecosystems.


We’re navigating rough waters, living in highly accelerated times and we haven’t caught up socially, culturally, intellectually, institutionally, economically nor ethically to the incredible capabilities of our computational technologies.

It bares repeating —each of us is wandering around with the power of devices that are more powerful than the computers used to help land Apollo 11 on the moon — and what do we use them for? Typing to one another and downloading cute videos of our feline overlords.

Our society and our politics are becoming increasing polarized, contentious, violent — though most of us would agree that our government system is falling to successfully manage our today let alone to envision a livable future  — and that our politicians and pundits are grotesquely over paid windbags of one sort or another — whose decisions are rarely wise.

We will soon have the capabilities to realize the utopian dreams of generations — a united world living sustainability in creativity, peace & plenty.  The singularity is closer than many suppose.  It only makes sense that we prepare ourselves to the inevitability of such remarkable knowledge tech eventualities.


Superhuman level Intelligence and the Singularity

“It should be obvious that if you can create an AI vastly smarter than humans, then pretty much anything is possible. Or at least, once we reach that stage, there’s no way for us, with our puny human brains, to really predict what is or isn’t possible.” – Ben Goertzel (chief scientist, Biomind LLC)


image2Citizen Planet: Cybernetic Governance in the Anthropocene is a documentary film and virtual 3d media art project.  It is to focus on the positive promise of what a responsible governance would be like in an enlightened, global networked civilization: the primacy of environmental integrity; the supreme valuation of life itself; and the wealth of human creativity, vitalized and activated upon.  It’s to be cinematic, educational, imagistic, enjoyable, enlightening & centrally a blue-sky cultural projection.


It will reflect on the antecedents of the premise, and dialogue on the means required, all wrapped in non-cliche, yet entertaining and information rich scenes, interviews and narrational linkages.


A primary goal is to outline through a montage of expert interviews and bright connective segues the capacities we have at present — and as they develop in the near / far future — to lead governance towards operation system refresh through advanced cybernetic and algorithmic determinations.  Though there is a rightful caution being expressed by the likes of Elon Musk and revealed in Nick Bostrum’s recent book Artificial Intelligence holds tremendous promise if informed by global sustainability, empathetic rules and aesthetic concerns.



Untitled2What if we treated governance & economy as a philosophical & aesthetic creative project, a matter of solving technical issues rather than warring clans fighting over the remains of a rapacious and absurdly imbalanced system?


What if we lived, worked and contributed in the reality of one decentralized planet rather than the programming of the corporate state?


What if we demanded much more from our political culture than a choice every four years between that which is sufferable and that which is worse?


What if we took ideology, religion, ego and even personality, out of governance?


Say — what if we rid ourselves of politics entirely and conceived governance, the management of resources, as a plumber might a toilet system, a farmer might a compost pile, a network theorist a web of relationships or a composer, a symphony?  


That “what if” and that “as if”, and the open mindset of speculative science is to illuminate the enquiry as to what we may achieve in the world we find ourselves in.  


That is what this project is about. 





Computational & algorithmic engines, the occasions of harnessing collective intelligence, cybernetic advancements and egalitarian demands are informing an awakened tomorrow of cultural and productive possibilities.


A not-yet-future holding our momentous dreams is gestating outside the edge of our peripheral vision and an extraordinary birth is at hand.


The agony we hear all around us, that we have heard for many generations, is the struggle cries of this birth.


“Science as well as technology will in the near and in the further future increasing(ly) turn from problems of intensity, substance and energy to problems of structure, organization and control.” John von Neumann


Whether it is yet another false hope, a dystopic collapse of justice, privacy, and democracy or the actualized radiance of dawn is yet an uncertainty and much depends on you & I.


This project is the accession of the heart of humanity’s unrequited love affair with the idea of one world, one life; the coming of a lucent mosaic of communities and of a planetary civilization actuated by a story as real as the technology that allows you to read this very writing.


“Today a new planetary scale of computation demands, nevertheless, a new planetary scale of politics. As the current debate on the Anthropocene points to, no political agency is possible without the recognition of a new cognitive perspective on the whole planet.” Matteo Pasquinelli



The intention is to create a passionate advocacy film essay | media project; a manifesto, a course of action, a history and a future about our duty to our home and to ourselves and the means psychological, cultural & technical that will allow us to do so.


It will feature the tailoring of interviews with the world’s edge visionaries, network scientists, cyberneticians, artists, ethicists, philosophers, blockchain evangelists, theoretical evolutionists, neuroscientists, lawyers, historians, Buddhists and Earth activists who are proposing and working towards a world utilizing our collective intelligence, our computing power and the elegant solutions of interdisciplinary-based holistic sciences — including ecological fundamentals (the “end ecocide” movement as the central example), the principles of emergence, and computational intelligence technologies to reset the very idea of governance.



UntitledThe following individuals have agreed to be interviewed and have included their names in this campaign:
Peter Norvig is a Director of Research at Google Inc; previously he directed Google’s core search algorithms group. He is co-author of Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, the leading textbook in the field. He is a fellow of the AAAI, ACMCalifornia Academy of Science and American Academy of Arts & Sciences.


Stephen M. Omohundro is a scientist known for his research on Hamiltonian physics, dynamical systems, programming languages, machine learning, machine vision, and the social implications of artificial intelligence.


Douglas Rushkoff is the author of Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now as well as a dozen other bestselling books on media, technology, and culture, including Program or Be Programmed, Media Virus, Life Inc and the novel Ecstasy Club. He is Professor of Media Studies and Digital Culture at CUNY/Queens.  He lives in New York and lectures about media, society, and economics around the world.


Other luminaries who have consented:  Vernor VingeNick BostromMatteo PasquinelliMark BuchananDavid BrinErik BrynjolfssonKevin KellyHoward RheingoldFrancis HeylighenCharles EisensteinHoward BloomMichael ChorostChristopher SteinerDavid PearceNatasha Vita-MoreJames J. HughesJohn Mayfield…more yet to be contacted & confirmed.


We are not immured from the dire straits of the planet, of the dismal situation throughout — however for the purpose of this project we have decided to circle our intent upon the orchestration of answers available in applied communication sciences and design — informed and guided by holism.


CITIZEN PLANET is to leapfrog out of the current of obstacles and to harness the decisive leadership of the imagination, inviting in the tomorrow we have looked forward to.


Ignorance is the principle cause of suffering — our project is about the ground of knowledge, knowledge of the self, knowledge of our collectivity, knowledge of our responsibility and the importance of accurately defining our problems and using (and knowing how best to use) the extraordinary tools at hand — not solely for our survival but for our sustainable flourishing.


Untitled5Director’s Vision:


In stark contrast to the intellectual content of the interviews, the image work is to be — on occasion — a bejeweled expression, at times refracted meaning will become baroque, ornamental — facets will become piercingly, fully abstract.


 To include startling, precise, b-roll material (some of which will be CGI built) that yes furthers the premise of the comments, that illustrate the verbal content, but in a way that is not as conspicuous as what is usually done in the documentary form.  It’s to be an  interdisciplinary refresh, an operating system renewal, explication, reflective POV on the future & history of governance — to materialize and experiment with alternate worldviews and open radical debate and discussion.


Evolution is a process of creating patterns of increasing order. I believe that it’s the evolution of patterns that constitutes the ultimate story of our world. Evolution works through indirection: each stage or epoch uses the information-processing methods of the previous epoch to create the next.” Ray Kurzweil



Oliver Hockenhull Photo credit: Noriko Nasu-Tidball

Oliver Hockenhull
Photo credit: Noriko Nasu-Tidball

A teacher and essayist as well as a filmmaker, Oliver Hockenhull has presented at numerous universities in Canada, the US, and Europe. He has blended the documentary, essay, and experimental genres in such previous works as Aldous Huxley: The Gravity of Light (1996), Building Heaven, Remembering Earth(1999), and Evo (2002).




Oliver’s most recently released documentary was featured at the Vancouver International Film Festival 2013, The Montreal Nouveau Cinema Festival 2013 and at the Seattle International Film Festival 2014.  “Neurons to Nirvana” is on iTunes and Netflix(USA) and is currently being broadcast on the Canadian Broadcast Corporation documentary channel. There will be an upcoming screening of the film at the Vancouver Cinematheque on March 18, 2015.


Post-screening discussion with filmmaker Oliver Hockenhull and Mark Haden.


Mark Haden worked for Vancouver Coastal Health Addiction Services for 28 years and is now an Adjunct Professor at the UBC School of Population and Public Health. He is a pivotal voice in the drug policy reform movement, providing viable models for reforming drug education and regulating markets for currently illegal substances. Mark is also the Chair of the Board of MAPS Canada (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies).


Moderated by Dr. Harry Karlinsky, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.


Co-sponsored by The UBC Neuroscience Graduate Student Association (with special thanks to Naila Kuhlmann).



Paypal donations for this documentary media project seriously required & most gratefully accepted @ — Contact Oliver with any questions or concerns. Thanks.