How to change the world? Embrace the now.

This Sunday afternoon I attended a lovely conference held in the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam, organised by the Nexus Instituut. The set of people, thinkers of all kind, tried to answer the question ‘How to change the world?‘. Philosopher Alain Badiou held a keynote to kick-off the conference and two panel discussions dealt with the topics; ‘what is the state of our world’ and ‘how can we change it’.

Kars Alfrink did a nice recap in a tweet:

Nexus conf takeaway: Happiness is to be found in individual, real & local engagement with the world, while accepting its imperfections.

The opening keynote of Badiou was very well constructed and offered some great thinking. He analysed the sentence of the questioned first wondering ‘what is the world’. He stated there are five levels of worlds we are fulfilling. On the changing part he introduced 3 concepts. Event, Real and Consequences. Building up to the notion that the local and the real are the most important context for change. Where the separation following an disruptive event delivers a new constraint. What you want is an adaption of the world as it is. The result lies in the change itself.

The concepts of freedom and happiness were touched. Freedom is not what you want, the very sense of freedom is the art of discipline. Composed from differences. Happiness is not satisfaction. Satisfaction is the harmony between the own objectives and the context as it is.

So to answer the question how to change the world, Badiou stated that it is key to be happy in the change itself.

In the first panel the polemics went on. The strongest discussion emerged on the question if you need to have a fundamental yes before you can say no, or that this would block change and you rather go for an implicit yes.

In the end in this first debate the actual state of the world was less discussed than the approach to it. Or is this in the end more defining?

In the second debate the different speakers were less building on one statement and shared their own takes on the question. Like Rory Steward, who as a real politician knew how to engage the audience with his vision. We need to think less abstract and be more concrete. And Evgeny Morozov made a solid statement on Solutionism, the result of a tech driven society where we want to solve all problems. He stated that all the people want to be in the business of big ideas like the TED talks symptomizes, we need to get our hands dirty.

Margareth Atwood added our disconnection with reality in a digital age where we cannot fix anything anymore ourselves. If we kill the ocean we will not be able to breath.

The important of the local scale is repeated by Morozov and Parag Khanna: we will see devolution to local government. John Gray signalled that civilisation is a fragile state. Technology can not change the imperatives, but can change a bit of the balance.

So bottom-line you could conclude that the way to change the world lies in embracing the moment of changing the world. Not striving for perfection by finding all solutions for problems, but let the imperfections be the constant inspiration for our will to change. Fire this with events in the local context.

Here some of the tweets that were made during the conference.

  1. iskandr
    #nexus conference curious what to expect (@ Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam w/ @karsalfrink)
  2. Alain Badiou on how to change the world. Levels of world, of change and of how. @ Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam
  3. arthurkruisman
    Freedom is discipline of creation, not ‘doing what you want’ #nexus
  4. renegrotenhuis
    Alain Badiou at #Nexus conference: happiness is discipline and being ready to pay the price of being unsatisfied.
  5. vangeest
    Roger Scruton “The biggest scandal in the world is atheism” Deep comment IMO #Nexus
  6. arthurkruisman
    The biggest scandal is that we have the ability to do something, but we don’t – Alain Badiou #nexus
  7. venite
    Badiou: “A scandal is that millions of people have nothing, not only in their actuality, but also in possibilities.” #Nexus
  8. vangeest
    Rory Sutherland: “status is a scarce resource by definition and thus will always be part of human nature” #Nexus #NI
  9. arthurkruisman
    Dissatisfaction keeps us alive and kicking – Agnes Heller #nexus
  10. arthurkruisman
    Loneliness is a loss, but solitude is a gain – Agnes Heller #nexus
  11. arthurkruisman
    Democracy is a theater of power – Alain Badiou #nexus
  12. vangeest
    Crisis in the world: loneliness, capitalist system, atheism/values, lack of effective democracy, shorttermism & social engineering #Nexus
  13. arthurkruisman
    Before you have the possibility to say no, you have to say yes – Alain Badiou #nexus
  14. vangeest
    We have from Marxism to free markets back to Marxism but now from the bottom up not top down #Nexus #DIY #P2P #opensource #selforganization
  15. vangeest
    We have moved from collective ownership to individual back to collective / shared but opt-ined / permissioned by the individual #Nexus #P2P
  16. iskandr
    2nd debate. Aiming to find answers on how to change. Pax technologica following Pax America. #nexus
  17. arthurkruisman
    Solutionism is seeing a world that is imperfect and needs to be fixed – Evgeny Morozov #nexus
  18. iskandr
    Morozov on Solutionism. The result of tech drive society. Imperfection is not longer a feature but a bug. #nexus
  19. arthurkruisman
    I can’t fix my motor anymore because it’s digital – Margaret Atwood #nexus
  20. arthurkruisman
    Kill the ocean and we can’t breathe – Margaret Atwood #nexus
  21. Great talk by Rory Stewart on the God Delusion and downsides of top down thinking without any real substance #Nexus
  22. TimSW
    Rory Stewart : “We can do much less than we pretend, but much more than we fear.” #nexus
  23. arthurkruisman
    Interesting image: Being a priest of a dead religion – Rory Steward #nexus
  24. arthurkruisman
    We need to think less abstract and be more concrete – Rory Steward #nexus
  25. arthurkruisman
    We need to relearn to think small – Evgeny Morozov #nexus
  26. iskandr
    Morozov. Everyone wants to be in the business of big ideas. No one wants to make its hands dirty. #nexus
  27. arthurkruisman
    97% of charity goes to people, guess how much is left for the planet – Margaret Atwood #nexus
  28. kaeru
    Nexus conf takeaway: Happiness is to be found in individual, real & local engagement with the world, while accepting its imperfections.

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I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.

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