resilient like a fox    venkatesh rao   ribbonfarm.com   LIFT 13, Geneva
You are resilient if you keep getting up after getting punched down         Mnemonic image: classic Paul Newman scene from...
HOW do you get back up?WHY do you get back up?                          3
“The fox knows many things, the hedgehog knows one big thing.”                                                   -- Archil...
After being punched down…Gets up for new adventure                      Gets up for old passion                           ...
Story 1:The three stonecutters and the cathedral                                           6
Story 2:The three stonecutters at Chesterton’s Fence                                               7
Story 3:The three stonecutters and the Dogs of VUCA** Viciously Unpleasant Canine Adversaries                             ...
Moral of the storyIt is not clear whether it is better to be a fox or a hedgehog.Just don’t be a turkey.                  ...
Resilience 101 Concepts•   Fox vs. Hedgehog vs. Turkey•   VUCA -- Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity•   Illegi...
Fox vs. Hedgehog• Seven Little Comparisons• …And one BIG comparison                             11
1         Hedgehog resilience in nature: PandaKnows one thing: how to look cute for wildlife photographers                ...
1   Foxy Resilience in nature: sea birds at Mira Flores    Know: “4-Hour Fishing” by Tim Seagull Ferriss                  ...
2   Hedgehog Resilience for humans    Transition Village, Val David, Quebec                                            14
2   Foxy Resilience for humans    Jugaad Movement, India                                 15
Theory of3                                             Everything         Conservation        REALLY                      ...
Pointillist                                 Better at3         Disposability         prediction                           ...
4    (with apologies to Tolstoi)    Resilient hedgehogs are all alike. Every resilient fox    is resilient in its own way....
5And speaking of Tolstoi…     “*Isaiah Berlin+ postulated that while Tolstoi had the     talents of a fox, he believed tha...
Hedgehog 5      Tolstois                           Pure Hedgehogs      Some startup founders              Dante      Thoma...
6             Fox          Hedgehog           Inconsistent    Consistent           Unreliable      Conscientious          ...
Cathedrals                     (Hamiltonian)7          TOWER OF               GOTHIC HIGH          BABEL                  ...
Sacred1      Adventure             Love    Fox                            Hedgehog      Boredom               Betrayal    ...
four laws for foxy resilience         Law 1: Build on contradictions, not values         Law 2: Preserve memories, not ide...
Law 1: build on contradictions, not valuesRemember: “Enterprise” meant “adventurous voyage” (Sinbad the Sailor)before it m...
Law 2: preserve memories, not identitiesMint condition 1918 Russian stamp   Wabi-sabi bowl, courtesy web-japan.com(valued ...
Law 3: seek motifs, not truthsGlobalization understood through container as motif                         vs.Globalization...
Law 4: pursue adventure, not loveGlobal Orbiting Device (GOD)     Strongest weapon in the world                           ...
four consequences of foxy resilienceConsequence 1: Build on contradictions, values will emergeConsequence 2: Preserve memo...
Thank you!Email: ribbonfarm.com/contact                                30
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Resilient Like a Fox

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Slides from my talk at LIFT13 in Geneva.

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  • We’ve learned a lot about the HOW of resilience in the last few decades.
  • But we know very little about the WHY of resilience, which is in a way the existential raison d’etreof humanity.
  • The fox, the hedgehog and the turkey are working as stonecutters at a construction site. Peter Drucker comes along and asks, “what are you doing?”The fox says proudly, “I am building a cathedral!”The hedgehog says, “I am doing the best job of stone-cutting in the entire country.”The turkey says, “I am making a living!”Drucker goes away, after praising the fox for being a great leader, the turkey for being a reasonable worker, and blaming the hedgehog for being a narrow-minded specialist. Shortly afterwards, there is a recession and the cathedral project gets canceled. The fox gets a golden parachute payment, the hedgehog has bet against the project and has a big payday, the turkey ends up destitute.
  • After the cathedral fiasco, the three go for a walk in the English countryside, and start talking about their future plans. They all agree that cathedrals are a bad and idea that oppress the masses and bankrupt the economy. The fox excitedly starts talking about founding a grand bazaar there as his next project. Suddenly they come across an old fence on the road, with no obvious reason for being there. Beyond the fence there is a dark and illegible forest.The fox says, “Hah! I don’t know why this fence is here, but we can use it as one of the walls of my Grand Bazaar”The hedgehog says, “I don’t know  why the fence is there, but it is made from non-local, non-sustainable materials, so let’s tear it down. We can replace it with a stone wall made from locally sourced stones if we need it.”The turkey says, “maybe it’s there for a reason; perhaps we should just leave it alone and turn back.”The fox is anxious to keep the hedgehog on his side, so he says, “Oh well! I am sure we are smart enough to deal with any consequences” and cheerfully begins tearing down the fence.The hedgehog joins in and works even more ferociously.The turkey caves and joins in.
  • Just as they finish tearing down the fence, they hear a loud roar, and look up to see a pack of angry dogs rushing out at them from the other side. Now they understand what the fence was for.  The hedgehog immediately curls up into a ball. The fox starts to run.The turkey yells at him, “why are you running? We cannot outrun the dogs!” The fox yells back, “I don’t have to outrun the dogs, I just have to outrun you!”The dogs catch and eat the turkey and goes away.Later the fox and hedgehog start blaming each other for the death of the turkey, which they both agree was a tragic loss.
  • When the locks of the canal open, the salinity of the sea water kills the fresh water fish, which the birds then feast on. They hover and wait for the lock openings.
  • Val David is a “transition movement” village in Quebec, run by a community that hopes to prepare for post-peak-oil futures.
  • How a hedgehog thinks.
  • Fox and Hedgehog are Jungian shadows of each other in many ways
  • Babel: Large systems with lots of internal contradictions and built for temporary expedient exploitationGHT: Large systems, internally consistentFavela Chic: expedient slumming mentalityCargo Cults: Hipsters and such
  • Stories are built out of a hedgehog-fox-hedgehog template.
  • GOD is an open-source satellite that carries a random-number generator as a payload, that uses cosmic rays. A true tower of Babel.WMH is a nuclear-resistant container that prints out the message “I love” when a nuclear bomb goes off.
  • Resilient Like a Fox

    1. 1. resilient like a fox venkatesh rao ribbonfarm.com LIFT 13, Geneva
    2. 2. You are resilient if you keep getting up after getting punched down Mnemonic image: classic Paul Newman scene from Cool Hand Luke 2
    3. 3. HOW do you get back up?WHY do you get back up? 3
    4. 4. “The fox knows many things, the hedgehog knows one big thing.” -- Archilocus 4
    5. 5. After being punched down…Gets up for new adventure Gets up for old passion Attributions: Fox: Rob Lee Hedgehog: Lars Karlsson Turkey: Yathin S Krishnappa Gets up out of habit 5
    6. 6. Story 1:The three stonecutters and the cathedral 6
    7. 7. Story 2:The three stonecutters at Chesterton’s Fence 7
    8. 8. Story 3:The three stonecutters and the Dogs of VUCA** Viciously Unpleasant Canine Adversaries 8
    9. 9. Moral of the storyIt is not clear whether it is better to be a fox or a hedgehog.Just don’t be a turkey. 9
    10. 10. Resilience 101 Concepts• Fox vs. Hedgehog vs. Turkey• VUCA -- Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity• Illegibility and Chesterton’s Fence• Cathedral vs. Bazaar• Leadership vs. Collaboration 10
    11. 11. Fox vs. Hedgehog• Seven Little Comparisons• …And one BIG comparison 11
    12. 12. 1 Hedgehog resilience in nature: PandaKnows one thing: how to look cute for wildlife photographers 12
    13. 13. 1 Foxy Resilience in nature: sea birds at Mira Flores Know: “4-Hour Fishing” by Tim Seagull Ferriss 13
    14. 14. 2 Hedgehog Resilience for humans Transition Village, Val David, Quebec 14
    15. 15. 2 Foxy Resilience for humans Jugaad Movement, India 15
    16. 16. Theory of3 Everything Conservation REALLY Carry one Mindset bad at lifestyle prediction everywhere First-Principles Single modelThinking thinking Permaculture One identity for all Hedgehog situations Consistent Mind Values Creates by eliminating contradictions Autonomy Learn for fundamentals Locavorism Backyard Drones and chickens 3D printers and rabbits 16
    17. 17. Pointillist Better at3 Disposability prediction Thinking Adapt than lifestyle to Mindset location hedgehogsHacking Embrace Multiple-Model Transience Thinking Changeable Foxy IdentityExpedient Values Mind Creates by accepting Learn for contradictions Interdependence leverageArbitrage, “4 hour Globalism “get rich quick” week” schemes Run away from trouble Run towards opportunity 17
    18. 18. 4 (with apologies to Tolstoi) Resilient hedgehogs are all alike. Every resilient fox is resilient in its own way. Hedgehogs are predictable Foxes are unpredictable 18
    19. 19. 5And speaking of Tolstoi… “*Isaiah Berlin+ postulated that while Tolstoi had the talents of a fox, he believed that one ought to be a hedgehog” -- Wikipedia 19
    20. 20. Hedgehog 5 Tolstois Pure Hedgehogs Some startup founders Dante Thomas Friedman Asimov, Clarke Neal Stephenson James Collins (Good to Great) Values Steve Blank (Four Steps…) Alexander “Cathedral” HamiltonFox Talents Hedgehog Pure Foxes Shakespeare Antitolstois Bruce Sterling Nicholas Nassim Taleb: Justin Pickard Thomas “Bazaar” Jefferson Nate Silver John Boyd (OODA loop) Tim Ferriss Philip Tetlock Fox 20
    21. 21. 6 Fox Hedgehog Inconsistent Consistent Unreliable Conscientious Duplicitous JustHedgehog Selfish Communitarian Irresponsible Responsible Scheming Trustworthy Gullible Skeptical Open-minded Doctrinaire Resourceful Miserly Adaptable Hypocritical Fox Worldly Naïve Interesting Boring Adventurous Homebody Imaginative Predictable 21
    22. 22. Cathedrals (Hamiltonian)7 TOWER OF GOTHIC HIGH BABEL TECH Fox Hedgehog FAVELA CHIC CARGO CULTS Bazaars (Jeffersonian) 22
    23. 23. Sacred1 Adventure Love Fox Hedgehog Boredom Betrayal Profane 23
    24. 24. four laws for foxy resilience Law 1: Build on contradictions, not values Law 2: Preserve memories, not identities Law 3: Seek motifs, not axioms Law 4: Pursue adventure, not love 24
    25. 25. Law 1: build on contradictions, not valuesRemember: “Enterprise” meant “adventurous voyage” (Sinbad the Sailor)before it meant “institution.”Mission: To go boldly where no man has gone before!BUT: Prime Directive! Don’t interfere with pre-warp cultures 25
    26. 26. Law 2: preserve memories, not identitiesMint condition 1918 Russian stamp Wabi-sabi bowl, courtesy web-japan.com(valued by Hedgehogs) (valued by Foxes)More damage = lower value More damage = higher value 26
    27. 27. Law 3: seek motifs, not truthsGlobalization understood through container as motif vs.Globalization understood through World is Flat axiom 27
    28. 28. Law 4: pursue adventure, not loveGlobal Orbiting Device (GOD) Strongest weapon in the world (WMH – Weapon of Mass Happiness) Two pieces of art by Hojun Song 28
    29. 29. four consequences of foxy resilienceConsequence 1: Build on contradictions, values will emergeConsequence 2: Preserve memories, identity will emergeConsequence 3: Seek motifs, truths will emergeConsequence 4: Pursue adventure, love will emerge Act like a fox, your inner hedgehog will emerge! (but seriously, don’t be a turkey) 29
    30. 30. Thank you!Email: ribbonfarm.com/contact 30
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