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Understanding the Hidden Forces that Shape Society with Samo Burja
Episode 3212th July 2021 • Charter Cities Podcast • Kurtis Lockhart
00:00:00 01:17:13

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There has never been an immortal society. No matter how technologically advanced our own society is, it is unlikely to be an exception. In order to achieve a positive future that defies these odds, it is critical that we understand the hidden forces that shape society. To help us do that is today’s guest, Samo Burja, a sociologist and the Founder of Bismarck Analysis, a consulting firm that investigates the political and institutional landscape of society. Samo is a Research Fellow at the Long Now Foundation, where he studies how institutions can endure for centuries and millennia, and a Senior Research Fellow in Political Science at the Foresight Institute, where he advises how institutions can shape the future of technology. He is also a writer and a sought-after speaker on history, institutions, and strategy, with a focus on exceptional leaders that create new social and political forms. He has systematized this approach as the Great Founder Theory, which he shares with us today.

Listening in, you’ll find out why Samo believes that a small number of functional institutions founded by exceptional individuals form the core of society, what an archeological site in Turkey tells us about the history of complex human social behavior, and what his predictions are for the evolution of the American state and its institutions. Learn what role software engineers play in accelerating cultural and perhaps even political change, what the chances are of the entire world becoming ‘weird’, and the effects that mass supersonic travel will have on cities, plus a whole lot more! Tune in today!

Key Points From This Episode:

•   Samo describes his Great Founder Theory and how it is distinct from “great man history.”

•   He weighs in on the natural endowments or geographical determinism arguments.

•   How incremental cultural developments and traditions fit into Great Founder Theory.

•   How Great Founder Theory differs from theories like Marxism.

•   Hear why Samo believes that social and material technology build on one another.

•   Some of the most underrated great founders in history; Confucius and King Ptolemy of Egypt.

•   What characteristics the great founder of a city needs, including dogged determination.

•   The importance of having an awareness of different cultures and how they co-exist.

•   What Gobekli Tepe tells us about the correlation between agriculture and early civilization.

•   Learn how Gobekli Tepe changes our view on the history of complex human societies.

•   Why Samo believes we will continue to find sites that force us to revise our preconceptions.

•   The reason for the inward-looking nature of many professions in the Western world.

•   How this myopia became particularly apparent in the public health sector during COVID.

•   How bureaucracies could benefit from working with talented and widely followed bloggers.

•   Samo shares his predictions for the evolution of the American state and its institutions; how decayed institutions are a barrier to technology.

•   Some of the reasons Samo has to be cautiously optimistic about the future of the US.

•   The cultural innovation that follows forging a new middle-class, as Samo is seeing happening with software engineers in Silicon Valley.

•   The bravery required to accelerate this change and engage political processes.

•   Samo’s response to the entire world becoming ‘weird’ (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) in two generations.

•   His reflection on recent alien observations discourse and the possibility of interstellar travel.

•   Where to build new cities and how they engage with broader regional and cultural economies.

•   Samo explains how he believes a city should be organized politically and otherwise to maximize its development and quality of life.

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Samo Burja

Samo Burja on Twitter

Samo Burja on LinkedIn

Samo Burja on YouTube

Bismarck Analysis

Long Now Foundation

Foresight Institute

Weapons Systems and Political Stability

‘Why Civilization Is Older Than We Thought’

Slate Star Codex

Marc Andreessen