Indy Johar: Architect and Co-Founder of Dark Matter Labs

Episode Summary

In this final episode of our short series, host Matt Prewitt speaks with Indy Johar, architect and co-founder of Dark Matter Labs. Together they discuss the topic of ownership through the lens of theories of governance. Indy advocates for decentralized protocols in property governance, emphasizing complex contributions and contextual responsiveness – moving away from control-oriented systems towards ennobling frameworks that empower individuals and foster deeper engagement. RadicalxChange has been working with Indy Johar and Dark Matter Labs, together with Margaret Levi and her team at Stanford, on exploring and reimagining the institutions of ownership. This episode is part of a short series exploring the theme of What and How We Own: Building a Politics of Change.

Episode Notes

In this final episode of our short series, host Matt Prewitt speaks with Indy Johar, architect and co-founder of Dark Matter Labs. Together they discuss the topic of ownership through the lens of theories of governance. Indy advocates for decentralized protocols in property governance, emphasizing complex contributions and contextual responsiveness – moving away from control-oriented systems towards ennobling frameworks that empower individuals and foster deeper engagement.

RadicalxChange has been working with Indy Johar and Dark Matter Labs, together with Margaret Levi and her team at Stanford, on exploring and reimagining the institutions of ownership.

This episode is part of a short series exploring the theme of What and How We Own: Building a Politics of Change.

Read more in our newsletter What & How We Own: The Politics of Change | Part III.

Links & References: 



Indy Johar (he/him) is an architect, co-founder of 00 (project00.cc), and most recently Dark Matter Labs.

Indy, on behalf of 00, has co-founded multiple social ventures from Impact Hub Westminster to Impact Hub Birmingham. He has also co-led research projects such as The Compendium for the Civic Economy, whilst supporting several 00 explorations/experiments including the wikihouse.cc, opendesk.cc. Indy is a non-executive director of WikiHouse Foundation & Bloxhub. Indy was a Good Growth Commissioner for the RSA, RIBA Trustee, and Advisor to Mayor of London on Good Growth, The Liverpool City Region Land Commissioner, The State of New Jersey - The Future of Work Task Force - among others.

Most recently he has founded Dark Matter - a field laboratory focused on building the institutional infrastructures for radicle civic societies, cities, regions, and towns.

Dark Matter works with institutions around the world, from UNDP (Global), Climate Kic, McConnell (Canada), to the Scottish Gove to Bloxhub (Copenhagen)

He has taught and lectured at various institutions including the University of Bath, TU-Berlin; Architectural Association, University College London, Princeton, Harvard, MIT, and New School.

He writes often on the https://provocations.darkmatterlabs.org

Indy’s Social Links:

Matt Prewitt (he/him) is a lawyer, technologist, and writer. He is the President of the RadicalxChange Foundation.

Matt’s Social Links:

Additional Credits:

This is a RadicalxChange Production.

Episode Transcription

[00:00:00] Matt Prewitt: Excellent. Indy Johar, I am really looking forward to this, this conversation.

[00:00:07] Indy Johar: Likewise. I'm super delighted. And, there's so many conversations that we've had, I think are worth, putting out into a broader conversation.

So I'm really delighted and honored to be here. So thank you, Matt. Yeah.

[00:00:20] Matt Prewitt: I guess I, I'd love to just start with some basics. Why do you care about the question of ownership? Why do you see it as so fundamental?

[00:00:38] Indy Johar: I think it's a good question to start with. I think the question of ownership and this is slightly not radical, but slightly positional is, I would argue that whether you look at capitalism or whether you look at Marxism or whatever. All those things are predicated on theories of [00:01:00] property, labor, contract, and the only difference is who chooses, right?

So where the choice lies of property, where the choice lies of, of labor, contract, and the only difference is who chooses, right? So where the choice lies of property, where the choice lies of, of labor, And I think one of the interesting questions for me is they are both dominated by a theory of dominion of the world.

They're both dominated by a theory of dominion. Now, I think what's happened is over a course of time, that theory of dominion, which was at first an embodied dominion, i.e. your relationship with the things that you owned, let's use that landscape, was an embodied theory of ownership. As people like Katharina Pistor elegantly put out, we've been coding capital and abstracting capital to the point that we've disembodied theories of ownership, theories of labor, theories of employment so significantly away.

From the embodied entanglements of [00:02:00] things that they have in the process become problematic domains and those problematic domains have – and they in the apt and the act of abstraction and the act of de-linking them – they are creating vast systemic externalities. And at the point of that abstraction, I think we've also created a problem space, which is that our theory of governance, which is a means to regulate that abstraction, as we slowly disembodied it – I would argue, as a kind an over narrated arc – that regulatory landscape has also had to become massively centralized.

Now, the capacity to regulate complex situational realities through centralized means of regulation, worked as an illusion in a relatively linear predictable world as the feedback systems became not only apparent but material because the accumulative effects of CO2, accumulative effects [00:03:00] of ecological destruction became so significant where the feedbacks are no longer material and are starting to feedback, as people like Daniel Schmachtenberger would say, “feedback into the point of self-termination,” those micro violences are now accumulatively so significant that they're self terminating.

So those two dimensions of both abstraction, disembodiment of relationships of…entangled being that happened through ownership than the abstraction of our coding of capital and our failure to be able to regulate in a complex world have come together to, I think, undermine our current theory of how we relate to the world.

Ownership is just a means. It's a device. And I think that's what's systemically challenging, but not just challenging ownership of things, ownership of land and things, but it's also challenging, I think, theories of property, I think it's challenging, challenging theories of organizing. It's challenging what I would argue are the kind of systemic roots that are means of organizing capital, [00:04:00] whether capitalism or Marxism doesn't really matter, that they're not able to do.

And I think, and they're both functions of what I would call information and possibilities. So they become informationally impossible to regulate and control. And I think we're reaching a moment where that requires us to transcend our theories of property, transcend our theories of labor, transcends our theory of contracting, transcend our theories of organizing as we've done–command and control organizing.

And to put it into a bigger picture or a sort of macro picture, I would argue this is also part of a theory of control and dominion, control and punishment economy. So we've been built, our economy's been built to theories of, I think Matt, I think you said this once and I think it was even in Bellagio where the kind of, there are largely residual structures of the theory of kingship and that they're control models and punishment models of our economy and control of [00:05:00] punishment models.

Were theoretically okay in a linear predictable world, but in a complex entangled situational world they don't work and I think what we're seeing is that an end of control is a dominant means of organizing not just morally. I think morally it's problematic fundamentally for since route one, but perhaps even In terms of efficacy, it's no longer viable.

And I think those two things are coming together to be able to challenge that. And I think the final point I'll add is, I think when you add what I would say is a revolution in bureaucracy, which is our shift in bureaucratic capabilities from analog centralized systems to new forms of computational bureaucracy.

I think that creates a new capacity of bureaucracy to be able to handle a new relational and agent fight world. So I think the kind of construct, this is a function of these systemic failures, systemic new [00:06:00] capabilities that are coming to the table and a new theory of organizing warranted by a sort of an increasingly real, entangled world.

And that's why I think that the theory of property is under challenge and requires renewal. But

[00:06:14] Matt Prewitt: One thing that I hear in this, which is interesting, and I'm curious what your reaction would be is that it almost sounds like you're saying, and this could be completely wrong. This is a gloss, which, please tear it down if it doesn't make sense.

But I, it almost sounds like there's–it almost sounds like a sort of a mirror image of the, of a sort of Hayekian critique of essential planning economy. It's almost as though we've gotten to the, the opposite of that problem in which it's impossible not to centrally plan the economy, but to centrally regulate the economy.

Does that, does that track?

[00:06:59] Indy Johar: [00:07:00] Yeah, I would argue in our critiques of market. If you look at the centralized production of capital, what is it I certainly know the stats in the UK. I think it's 97% of capital production is done by four banks. So financial capital production.

Yeah, so I would argue, yes, we're not able to. regulate, essentially regulate the economy. Absolutely. But actually, I would also argue we're not able to essentially resource the economy. And I think the centralization of capital production is also part of the tyranny of that process. And, then I think, but this all relies on seeing the world as resource and units of assets.

So it's also a worldview issue, which is if we see the world through a lens of resources and assets, i.e. instrumentalizable things. As opposed to agents in the world. So in a world of agency and agents, it's a fundamental shift at that moment in time. So absolutely on the side, I would argue that we've been de facto moving towards a [00:08:00] centralized economy without knowing it because we couldn't regulate it.

[00:08:05] Matt Prewitt: Yeah. And, you've spoken a lot about, the idea of entanglement and of taking into our horizon of recognition, other kinds of agents. I wonder if you could say a little bit, about that a little bit about the sort of idea of, of entanglement and what that means for how you think about the individual person, and also the idea of other kinds of agents because it strikes me that this dovetails quite importantly with, with what we've just been talking about regarding regulation and resourcing.

[00:08:57] Indy Johar: Yeah, no, absolutely. [00:09:00] So, let's this is caricature-esque, but it's illustrative of a purpose. If we, let's imagine a piece of land. The land has a red line boundary or boundary of ownership, which is in a registry. Now there's a tree on that land. That tree is a cherry tree. That cherry tree actually mutually blossoms with other cherry trees.

So now if you chop down that cherry tree, you reduce the blossom capacity of the whole system. It's your part for comments. This is in many ways, or whether if you look at that land is multiple beneficiaries in terms of who has the right to destroy the soil of that land, which has taken 10,000 years to build, or if you look at the water that is actually passing through that land, and it's actually being purified or contaminated, depending on how that land is used.

So that land has [00:10:00] many relational interdependencies that we basically divide and break up into units of rights and infinite resources that don't recognize their relational interdependencies. And in the process, what I would argue, we've reached a tipping point where the impact of all those micro balances.

So if you look back, I think you live in L.A., if you look back in Los Angeles and whatever–1970s, 1980s, 1970s, the amount of trees in Los Angeles. And if you look at the kind of destruction of trees because of just few planning law changes, which meant that actually those trees were removed, those micro changes have become, those micro rule shifts are becoming so dominant that they've shifted the tree canopy of Los Angeles massively, like massive numbers.

So why I use that as an example, you could talk about London's front gardens, the front gardens have been replaced by car parking spaces, and we've lost vast amounts of absorbable [00:11:00] land, which was actually absorbing rain and dampening, dampening floodwater risks and other things. So these micro violences, which in themselves are nothing but cumulative, we have systemic effects.

And in a way, the challenge for us is that our theory of governance is there's a 2-way argument here. The one is that our theory of governance is not able to regulate those things. The second point I would argue is that, if you took a more if you took an alternative perspective on it, you could argue the nature of property.

It's so fundamentally regulated that actually there is very little dominion left and it's poorly regulated. So you could make an argument. And I think some people would. And I want to acknowledge that for the sake of completeness of the debate. Somebody would say, “Hold it, I can't do anything with my land without some form of [00:12:00] permission.”

I can't actually, I need to get licenses for construction. I need to get actually for sale. I need to register the sale, for, for mortgages. I need to get an insurance. I can give you a full stack of quasi-permission systems that are regulating this landscape, which leaves very little situational responsibility.

So you could say we've removed the benefits of stewardship because actually we remove the embodied rights and the responsibilities of the system and regulated them. And we've effectively maximized six set out in the system at the same time. So it's a double problem that we've reduced inherent governance as well as reduced inherent agency in the system.

And I'm using it just as an example to illustrate that I think our theory of divisibility and, To construct a theory of property, you have to be able to objectify something, then you have to, to give it a boundary, objectify it, you have to then give yourself distance, so you have to create a [00:13:00] permission landscape of violence.

And this is a cultural thing, the analogy I use is the construction of perspective in many ways, this is arguable. The construction perspective was a thesis of distancing and objectification and distancing. It permitted a theory of violence, and it also permitted the theory of classification.

So you could classify things, you could disentangle things. So this, we've been living through this kind of worldview paradigm, which has engineered vast spaces of violence, but it's also engineered vast possibilities of combinatorial possibilities that never existed before. And I think we have to acknowledge both these things.

And I think for the completeness of the debate, I think we have to acknowledge those things. So we have to acknowledge that the theory of property is constructed the distribution of wealth and the distribution of power as probably never seen before. because we've actually distributed capabilities of being quasi [00:14:00] sovereign, to be, to have the right to vote was originally a construct based on whether you owned your land, because it was seen as a fundamental theory of fiefdom, or you having sovereignty on land and thereby being independent and being sovereign in some thesis, you could argue.

And the industrial state actually created that theory of sovereignty through other mechanisms and other forms of kind of welfare mechanism and other things to create a theory of synthetic sovereignties. So I do think – don't want to throw the conversation off – I just want to acknowledge what it's done.

Acknowledge the violence systemically. It's created and acknowledged the need for a new parallel conversation, which I think is required. I think this is the work that RadicalxChange and DM have been doing with Margaret Levi's team and from Stanford that have been doing some of this stuff, which I think is really interesting and important.

[00:14:53] Matt Prewitt: Yeah. So when I think about this idea of agents. [00:15:00] Yeah. It strikes me well, there's, there are two important questions that jump out to me. One is the question of how to represent agents, like how agents show up in an institutional way, how they're represented. But I think I want to bracket that one for a second, because there's an important.

There's an important complementary question, which has to do with rights and responsibilities because it seems to me that, when we try to imagine, firstof all, there's just this sort of important. distinction between rights and responsibilities that maybe we should, lay a little bit of a little bit of foundation for.

for example, if you think about a, if you think about a, Medieval sort of system, right? [00:16:00] there is a way in which, at least in some ideal sense, the, the ruler is supposed to have some responsibility towards the world. and you, can I think you can, and and that's the responsibility is a very different sort of thing than rights, right?

Rights are basically, predefined areas in which the, implication is that you have no responsibility. The, wielder of the right has no responsibility within the contours of the right. for example, when I think about agents being represented, non human agents being represented in a property system, one thing that seems really important to me is, not only how do we give those.

Non human agents rights, but how do we make them capable [00:17:00] of holding us to our responsibilities to them? does that make sense?

[00:17:07] Indy Johar: Yeah, it totally does. I would say if you look at a legal corporate has responsibilities. You could argue the corporate form is a precursor to computational agents.

So you could argue, and I think this is the way I would construct the debate is that, we're already living in a computationally designed world. It's called corporate organisms. And now what we're moving to, and they have responsibilities. So the kind of question is, how are those responsibilities governed, ensured, managed?

So I do think we have examples in the current system that do hold those things in a non human system. So a corporate, you could argue is a legal construct and it does hold responsibility and [00:18:00] contracts that responsibility in different formats. The question is, can we construct those rights and responsibilities in a corporate, through a computational landscape?

And what would that do? I think it opens up a really interesting question. And. And what is the extent of rights and responsibilities that can be constructed through computational possibilities? And what is the nature of those rights and responsibilities in terms of their parametric contingent capabilities, contingent capacities, and other frameworks that are opening up over there?

But I just wanted to say, is there a parallel that we can draw upon, and the role of insurance and other things and processes and other forms that we can draw there?

[00:18:41] Matt Prewitt: for, for example, one, one conversation that this maps onto for me is the conversation about partial common ownership, because, [00:19:00] the idea and partial common ownership is that you can take, an asset and sort of split it into two pieces, one of which is, In the market, one of which is non transferable, one of which is very much outside of the market.

Right? And the one that is outside of the market is, the idea is that should be held by, by a, a network. Right or a, a non-individual, non-economic actor type agent, to which the responsibilities of stewardship or the duties of stewardship are owed. and, so do you think, I guess there are two questions here.

One is, one is, do you think [00:20:00] that technologies like. And better sort of information processing technologies and things like that. Do you, I'm curious your thoughts about the potential for those kinds of technologies to represent non-human agents and then there's a meta question, which is like, how do you think about the worry?

of, just creating some other imperfect representation of something that can't quite be perfectly represented. do you think that do you think that it's, you think that the, steps that we should take are. simply to do the best we can to represent different kinds of agents in our networks of relationships as best we can and continue to try to improve those representations [00:21:00] or do you think that there's some sort of, fundamental way in which that's impossible or it's the wrong route or it's dangerous. I mean, this is a, this is a super hard question, but I'm just curious of how you think about that.

[00:21:11] Indy Johar: Yeah, no, it's a great question. And you're right, it's super hard. I think there's a couple of parameters to it, which I think are worth us digging into. the map will never be the terrain.

I think the question for me is always not whether the map can ever become the terrain, it can never become the terrain, but when is the map useful? And the second part, so where's the utility of the map, I think is really important to define. And then the second part of the question, which I think is perhaps even more interesting, perhaps is, I think, and again, this is slightly [00:22:00] controversial, so I accept, critique on this, but my reading on sort of computational technologies and say, machine-assisted decisions and other things is not that machine-assisted decisions are bad. It's just that machine decision decisions codify our historic biases and replicate those historic biases. So if you – and actually they tend to be still better than human decisions because we can actually, once we are aware of that codification bias, we can actually do something about it – so become conscious of our biasing and thereby actively do something about it. Whereas human systems like, I think the great example is, a judge after 12 o'clock after, just before lunch was giving very bad sentences just because he would get hungry.

And so the sentence structure was actually really terrible. And just by declaring that to his, declaring his [00:23:00] own bias to him actually allowed him to become an informed agent of change. what I like about that is that's an ennobling technology. That's a technology that allows us to recognize our own capacities and actually help us improve us.

And I think there's a kind of really interesting role of how we do decision structures. And are we using them as ennobling technologies? Are we using them as control technologies? Are we using them as scale technologies? And these are fundamentally different types of theories of technology. So I want to just.

Sit there a little bit because I do think there's too much. and I do think the theory of technology is an ennobling device is actually very powerful than a map, which is ennobling as to our behaviors and our conscious behaviors, a map that shows us the dependencies of that cherry tree with other trees, the map that actually informs us to become a better agents in relationship.

It's a pretty interesting map thesis. And so [00:24:00] I, I see. The map is an ennobling technology, as opposed to a control technology. And I think often when we think about these landscapes, we think about agents as control technologies, frameworks, as opposed to ennobling technology framework, so that's one dimension.

Second dimension, I think is that, you and you'll know this better than I will not, but, right now we can take a piece of land and take its environmental services as easements and the rights of those services easements and give them to a third party. There's a third party, we can assign those easements in terms of being guardian. I think the challenge here is – so legally that's a construct that can be done that difficult. There's some fiscal friction in there, tax, tax friction in there. There is some, there's some legal costs in there in terms of being able to construct that.

But let's imagine we, it's legally viable. There's some frictions that need to be resolved, which [00:25:00] can resolve. But the challenge I think, which is more problematic or more difficult is. We're back into centralized verification models, so we're back into throwing those easements to a body, and a body which has been having to understand computational positional sort of appropriateness.

How do these different easements, the water, the other things, how do they intersect? How do they work together? How do they work together in climate change and microclimates? The kind of the problem we've, yes, we've made competition smarter with satellite technologies and other things, but we're still in that same paradox of centralized governance problems and not looking at the entanglement problem.

And I think this is where I think the role of spatial computing and other things will become critical. And I think ennobling frameworks, if that framework is an ennobling framework, I think it becomes a different type of device, rather than a control device becomes a kind of an empowerment [00:26:00] and justice defined device.

And then what are the deep incentives of a system? So there's a really brilliant – yeah, you probably know this, but in Swedish law, I think it was that if the thickness of your soil had increased, your inheritance tax was reduced, if not made zero. If your thickness of soil had gone down, then you had an inheritance tax, i.e. you had constructed a liability for future generations. Yeah. Which, so, the kind of question that, and even that, do you centrally tax? That's a really interesting question. I'm really interested in what if there's a, what, if that land has a wallet, which means that you've created a deficit against the future and that wallet.

So it's all centrally accumulated by government, the distributed. handover, and if that land is handed over to a third party, you have to make full of that wallet for that handover to occur. So the protocols are agreed, but actually the resource is not centrally allocated and centrally distributed. I think [00:27:00] these are the sort of spaces that we need to play in, terms of ennobling technologies, distributed fiscal mechanisms, and civic and fiscal mechanisms that construct these sort of incentives in different ways.

And I'm playing live here in terms of actually just thinking this problem through. But that's where I think we, and that's, I think my intuition is moving towards ennobling systems and then distributed incentive systems in a way that actually empower us in deeper ways and invite us to be our better selves.

Y’know, nobody wants to be in societies where we are incentivized to do harm to each other because…in a land of In a land of retribution, there's a land full of blind people, right? So the question for us is, like, how do we create ennobling frameworks which are just? And I think moving to these ennobling frameworks, I think is really interesting.

And then if we can move simultaneously to this intergenerational or sort [00:28:00] of accountability structures, which don't necessarily pass through state, which we can do now, technically, it's not a problem. I think we can start to create a new form of justice in there.

[00:28:10] Matt Prewitt: Can you say a little bit more about that? “Accountability structures that don't pass through state?”

[00:28:17] Indy Johar: Like I said, we currently for example, if your land is degraded, you have an inheritance tax. You pay that inheritance tax to the state. It needn't be the state. It could be you have a deficit in a wallet attached to that land and that property register, which is a distributed register.

And in that framework, actually, that deficit that's created prevents you buying or selling that land…till that deficit is controlled. So there are protocols which are centralized, but the flow of resources doesn't have to be centralized or not centralized – they could be mutually agreed.

There are other frameworks for mutually agreeing. I don't think we can ever in [00:29:00] any form of societal system. There are certain things which are collectively decided in certain things, which can be distributed decided. I think our capacity to move these things is changing quite a lot. So in that moment, you don't actually have to shift resources to state in that thesis.

You ship your obligations are visible in your land in new formats. So this creates a new form of, new form of obligation to intergenerational responsibilities. It can give loads, you can do loads of interesting things with those sorts of frameworks.

[00:29:31] Matt Prewitt: So I wonder…I'm just curious like, how you think, how you think we can think about constructing sort of systems in which we, these sorts of duties and rights and responsibilities between human agents, non-human agents, collective agents, and so on.

I'm curious just how you think about the systems in which [00:30:00] those are mediated. In other words, yes, it could be protocols, it could be many protocols. It could be, there could be some, there's in, at least in the short term, inevitably, some kind of interfacing with this with state systems that has to happen.

And, in many ways, this seems like the most the sort of, trickiest part of the problem for me, because when we set up these, basically in order to be able to speak to one another right in order to be able to communicate with other humans, first of all, or with, non-human agents that have that show up in property structures, we need some sort of a common language. And that could [00:31:00] be, provided by the state. it, relatedly, it could be a, an economic system, so a money system. It could be a, a technical system – it could be a shared protocol of a blockchain or something.

And one of the, just to lay my own cards on the table. I think one thing that I worry about when I, and I'm asking questions. I don't have the answer to because I think that's what we need to do. We just need to have these, have these explorations, but I, I think that basically, I worry about any of these systems becoming ungovernable autonomous force that mediating our relationships. So for [00:32:00] example, if we choose to use a monetary system to, govern our relationships and our choice of the monetary system is going to, will result in the biases of that system, putting a thumb on the scale in the mediation of all of our relationships, right? You'll, end up creating power concentrations that are engendered by that system, and so on and so forth.

And there's sort of a, sort of a lack of susceptibility or a sort of a, to our governance, in some of these systems, if that makes sense, [00:33:00] right? for example, per, what I mean by that, to, to make that more concrete.

We can govern a small group of people becomes harder to govern. A huge group of people becomes almost impossible to govern like an international monetary system. And so I, what occurs to me is, it kind of needs to make these governance structures, not necessarily more geographically local, but somehow more sort of vulnerable and susceptible to the…to input, to governance to moral conversation between different kinds of agents.

[00:34:00] I'm just curious how you, I'm just curious how you think about that. How can we, how do you, how do you think about creating structures that mediate property relationships, which are, sensitive to different sorts of notions of the common good or different kinds of, moral concerns and it resist automatism?

[00:34:28] Indy Johar: No, I think this is a great question. Again, I think there's, so I think there's, multiple things in this. So when we talk about governance, I think sometimes people's heads go into a Senate, a Congress Hall, so they almost default to what I would call some form of representative agreement space and legislative space that governs the system.

That is, of course, one thesis of governance, and [00:35:00] there are other models of governance on the table as well. So that's one model of human interaction governance systems. Other models are plurality. So actually, if something is inoperable and variable and interruptable, actually you get governance by evolutionary mechanisms where you support the evolution of counter positions and new positions, effectively, theoretically, a market optability model.

And that requires, again, some form of legislative frameworks to create the frameworks in which those things evolve. But that's an abstraction of the play. And then you can argue that you can move even further into the system at the protocol level. So I think there's a kind of thesis of where we choose to govern, which I think is really interesting.

And I think sometimes we over-choose to govern. What I would call direct, above it is participatory governance, real time participatory governance, which is, which has constraints and possibilities in itself. So I think there's a [00:36:00] kind of an arc of governance that I think we need to keep hold of.

And then I think there is what I would call at root level, if I was going to drawing a philosophical arc, is some form of idealized, fully embodied when the actor is so fully embodied in the flows and the reality of that system. It's nondivisible to the system. So it's incentives and the systems incentives become quasi one.

And at that moment in time, the theory of governance no longer has to be an imposition theory. It's an embodied theory of governance. which is what you could argue ecosystems theoretically operate or stabilize to those functions. So I wanted to lay out that arc because I think the kind of paradigm of governance is multiple.

And I think the question that I think we're facing is, one, how do we transition from our theory of governance to a broader theory of governance? And second, I think what I would say is the, pluralizing of that stack of governance. I think too [00:37:00] often we default to legislative, deliberative legislative frameworks as a theory of governance, rather than looking at the full scope.

And you could argue that even the full scope of protocol-based governance, how do you build? And most of these things are static systems. They're not learning systems. So you've got a first order problem of where they operate in the government's regime. And we've got a second-order problem that they're not fundamentally learning systems, a legislative piece of vehicle isn't inherently learning orientated. It's orientated around execution, prediction of problem, and execution of solution without any form of dynamic learning frameworks, which means that you tend to build a legislative model, realize its failures five years long, try to adjust those failures to a legislative landscape.

So there's a sort of second-order problem is, how do you build these frameworks from a learning orientation and then build the governance or inherent process governance to allow this to be clear. So the only reason I'm laying that out is I think we need to have the conversation of [00:38:00] governance in a much, in a full spectrum sense.

And then I think it opens up, as you rightly say, a whole question about the right type of governance questions for the right type of problem spaces. Because I think there are certain things that can be embodied governance, things that actually don't require governance in a way they are embodied entangled realities. There are certain things which require some form of, participatory, some things which can be representative, some things you can be, protocol-driven, we can go through the stack and we can operationalize in different ways. And I think our challenge society is to be able to appreciate those stacks because I think at some levels of protocol-based governance frameworks, which looks at I don't know, how climate change risk is being managed by different countries, right? So different strategies are managing climate change risk, because we're now entering [00:39:00] what I would argue is a multi-perspectival transition strategy.

America will go through an asset-based approach, Europe will go through a supply and demand integrated approach, and the Middle East will go towards an offset approach where hydrocarbon energy is significantly cheap and hence it will look at offset technologies, which allow it to do a transition. So these are different transition strategies, different governance is on those strategies, but they're creating different forms of interoperable risks at a planetary scale. So how those risks, protocolized and integrated and understood in a complete sense, and how they offset between each other because those risks are offsetting into each other in different formats. And so some, are taking present-day capital risks, some are taking future planetary risks on the table, and other formats.

So it, so what I'm saying is that some of these things can be managed at the protocol level in terms of accounting structures and balance, of scorecards effects. Some of these can be operationally managing. So I would love us to have a sort of a more [00:40:00] complete thesis. And in that, I hope that we can create, sort of what I would call, as much as possible, this idea of embodied governance framework, so where your entanglements with the system that you're living in are so rich and independent that your incentives become one to one. So the de-abstracted, the non-abstracted, and that could be machine non-abstracted, a corporate that's fundamentally in stewardship of the land and not able to sell that land, and it's a different thesis of stewardship, a thousand-year corporation, let's imagine it through that lens. A Japanese corporation stewarding a piece of land, which is a thousand year, which is non-tradable, which, as you weren't able as stately homes in the UK, weren't able to be bought or sold.

And it was only the trading of them that changed their dynamics and all sorts of things. So I wonder what if we looked at the full paradigm of governance available to us, what that opens up and I think in the conversations of [00:41:00] centralization versus decentralization, I think the reality is we're increasingly getting greater capacity to decentralize and simultaneously.

We're getting greater capacity to centralize those two things are happening simultaneously. And the question then becomes is, if we're centralizing certain things, I think what we are moving into is a multipolar world, which means that there is no, there's no singular power source that's going to be able to drive the rules-based order anymore.

And in that context, all of these things are going to be what I'd call opt-in infrastructures, so we're moving into what I would call opt-in, regulatory systems. And that means that the incentive systems behind them have to be generated to be radically incentive-orientated. So we're going to, we're no longer in a homogeny of single point power, which can execute and drive adoption.

We're going to, it's going to be opt-in, regulatory frameworks, which I think is going to be a completely different [00:42:00] thesis of how these things are organized and developed. I don't know what that looks like, but I just describing, I think we're ending up in many ways.

[00:42:07] Matt Prewitt: So when I imagine that, what I imagine is basically people, people or institutions opting into relationships of duty and responsibility with non-human kinds of agents and things like that, right? We might, for example, we might, decide that opting into a relationship with a piece of land or with an ecosystem or with a house is, is preferable to being, blown on the winds of the open market or something.

Is that sort of the idea?

[00:42:54] Indy Johar: Exactly. Exactly. And I think in that model, your economic theory fundamentally changes. So you're no longer owning the [00:43:00] land, but you're in stewardship of the land.

Matt Prewitt: Yeah

Indy Johar: Be an extractive agent. So the theory of space becomes really critical. So these are not meant because I think one of the big problems that whenever we've done, looked at any of this worldview, we've largely ended up creating what I would call our rent-seeking systems, rent-seeking agents, in the model.

So the question of how we govern these agents to be actually radically transparent, radically auditable, self balancing agents, they are not there to maximize extra, extractive capital. Multi-capital system, they're governing multi-capital flows as opposed to single financial cut. You can start to think about a new class of agents which are acted as trusted intermediaries.

You could argue it's just the contract glorified, right? you could argue that the theory of the contract has become glorified into an agent-based, negotiation system, which is able to do more than it's historically been able to do. That's where intuitively, I think [00:44:00] this and what that means is that we're talking about new forms of positive intermediaries, micro intermediaries, rather than massive intermediaries, which you've got like ranking systems and regulatory systems.

We're talking about spatialized micro intermediary systems, acting as micro trust, ennoblement frameworks for parties, multiple parties. So if we look at it through that lens, it allows us to conceive it in a different landscape. Spatial micro intermediaries, autonomous agents, which are acting as trusted bodies with different forms of accountability frameworks and radical orderability, automatically doing white hat sort of audits and other things to be able to check and verify them.

And that sort of, that framework opens up a different way of governing the world. And it also means that we start to…yeah, I think we open up a pathway to this kind of what I'm very interested in is ennobling systems that invite us to be our better selves, rather than [00:45:00] systems that invite us to be our worst selves in terms of society.

So that invites us to be our better selves in deepest formats.

Matt Prewitt: Yeah

Indy Johar: And challenge and vary that.

[00:45:11] Matt Prewitt: The question that I asked earlier about whether we're worried about, creating some new map territory problem when we represent non-human agents, again, to lay my own cards on the table.

And I'm not sure about this. This is, I think it's a very deep question and a very hard one. But my intuition is that…that it's probably not a bad idea. For us to try to represent these non-human agents and interests in as rigorous of a way, as rigorously as we possibly can and enter into a relationship with them.[00:46:00]

That seems the reason that seems preferable to me. Then just abandoning the problem as insoluble is that at the end of the day, we are in relationship with non-human agents, whether we represent those relationships or not. And and so what strikes me is that this kind of effort, this kind of effort to build property systems that represent these kinds of interests and take them and agendify them, strikes me as preferable to abandoning a problem because, because it's like trying to create a language. It's like trying to create a language in which we can communicate, things that matter. when we do that, we are abstracting a little bit. We are, we're necessarily abstracting a little bit, but basically, if we don't abstract, [00:47:00] if we don't abstract, then the communication loop that will ultimately manifest itself is the least abstract communication loop possible, which is basically violence, catastrophe, right?

In other words, the most basic way that we communicate with non-human agents is when we- is when one destroys the other. And so…

[00:47:25] Indy Johar: I totally agree.

Matt Prewitt: Does that make sense?

Indy Johar: No, I was gonna say two things. I would say, and I think in terms of abstraction, definitely abstracting. I think the problem with abstraction is what I would call two things.

One is static abstractions.

Matt Prewitt: Yeah

Indy Johar: So analog abstraction is static. I think we can genuinely talk about learning abstractions. So abstractions are continually agent learning, modalities. we talk about generative AI, but actually you can talk about continuously learning systems, which I think changes the problem of abstraction and makes it different.

And I think the other [00:48:00] part is what I would call the role of spatial computing or spatial, spatialization of our computational bureaucratic systems. Cecause currently what we've had is centralized bureaucratic systems has been spatialized bureaucratic systems and a spatialization of that capability also allows us to look at situational variation at a much more granular level and a much more relational level that bureaucratic capability hasn't existed.

And so when you combine those two things with what I would call are, if you say, let's say Vision Pro or Apple Vision Pro is fusing the map in the territory and overlaying it. Okay, so when you put these two frameworks together, I think the map and the territory are becoming augmented systems now, and that augmentation power is becoming more interrelational.

So I think those two things are going to change the paradigm of how we interface with these problems in different ways. So, I think you're absolutely right. An abstraction [00:49:00] in itself is not the problem. The problem is when you abstract and you remote disentangle the rights and responsibilities, or the embodiment of those rights and responsibilities.

Matt Prewitt: Right.

Indy Johar: …ownership, it's when they become asymmetric and they become tradable in the asymmetries. That's when the problem starts. So abstraction also allows us to be able to see things in different formats. So I think there are evolutions of our theory of abstraction that are happening as a result of our computational capabilities that I think really worth, inputting into that.

[00:49:36] Matt Prewitt: Yeah, I agree. To me, it's about, abstraction is like many things, something that we need to find a balance within, we can, you can, abstract to that. There are dangers and abstracting too far and dangers and abstracting too little. And, I think that's, the sort of financialization of [00:50:00] everything is a great example of abstracting too far: excessive abstraction.

And, I think that, at least to me, these kinds of new property systems as well as new monetary systems are about finding the right structure, level of abstraction to represent to be able to represent a more harmonious relationships basically, between people and, as well as, non-human institutions, systems.

And so on, the, you, you've, I've heard you express some very interesting ideas about, embodied information and the idea that, that there are kinds of information in [00:51:00] embodied cognition. That, that are unique that don't find their ways into our, at least many of our, abstraction systems.

I wonder if…

[00:51:27] Indy Johar: So I think what I'm trying to get to is that a theory or, so a couple of things. I think when I talk about embodied intelligence, it's the recognition that there's the physical, Body component of intelligence, i.e. the agent component of intelligence, which is also a key function of how we build that. So our ability to affect the world and see the effects of it and sense the effects of it, that [00:52:00] craft loop is actually a theory of intelligence in itself. And then that, those dimensions of how we affect the world are multiple: there's a physical dimension, there's emotional dimensions, you could argue this, there's languages. All sorts of different ways that we can actually sensorally engage, react, and embody in those cycles. And then they're also spatially, contextually variant. And that's why I think most of our theory of intelligence has been to it.

I think towards universalized intelligence – single points of truth, single points of proof rather than embodied, multidimensional perspective. So as we talk about multiple currency system, multi-intelligence systems are going to be a key factor. So that's what, and I think it's important at a moment like this when a type of intelligence is getting so much significant power and we're able to do so extraordinary things with it, that we start to now diversify our thesis to recognize the multidimensionality in terms of [00:53:00] actually recognizing what the new human economy, and then thereby what becomes really interesting.

Is that how can machines play a role to be not control orientated to it, but ennobling frameworks to actually invite us to be actually are fuller, more human selves? And that I think is a different type of symbiotic relationship with machine-human systems than theories of control, which actually reduces us to bad robots in a way, rather than actually ennobling us to be extraordinary humans, which are being machine-assisted to be even more extraordinary enrichening and exploring the full dimension of our capabilities.

And that also puts us as agents of craft rather than agents of instruction. and I think that's a different type theory of agency. So I think that's a, that's, I think, an important thing. One thing I did want to go back to, which I think is really important, is a lot of what you and I have been discussing the agentification of the world around us, and the computational capacity that you know that's opening up.

It is a bit Back to the [00:54:00] Future, as in, it is a worldview that existed in pre-Enlightenment times where the dominion of the world was not constructed in that thesis we had. Whether it was fairies or we had all sorts of other frameworks of engaging and seeing the agentification of the world around us.

Whether it was the nation of trees and Indigenous landscapes, or whether it was fairies and other forms in Irish and Gallic landscapes, we had these mythic, symbolic, real, agentification worldviews to which we had a different theory of engagement. And the theory of interface with that worldview was different to our theory of interface in a worldview of dominion and territory mapping and the territorialization and the cartography worldview and the distance worldview.

So I think some part of this spatialized, agentified world is a Back to the [00:55:00] Future. In terms of being able to see and rhyming – this is a rhyme with the past, not the adoption of the past – and recognizing that there are patterns that we can learn of models of success in those sort of behaviors.

I also want to acknowledge that this is not a, like nothing else, this rhymes with the part of human history, and I think what computational capacity will give us is the capacity to be able to create that. maybe driven, at a degree of planetary interoperability that's never existed before. To put, to kind of route James Lovelock into this conversation, it almost allows us to build a kind of mass multi-agent planetary consciousness, which is interoperable, highly plural, highly divergent, but in dialogue. And that, and convergent and divergent simultaneously, too often we think about these things as convergent systems or control systems, but convergence and divergence in a [00:56:00] dynamic dialogic sense is a different thesis.

So, I think there's something else emerging at the kind of far end of this conversation, and I purposefully bring it to the table, recognizing it's a sort of a, it's extrapolated worldview to give us a possibility space, which I think is important, but I would argue that the final, the big point for me, and it rhymes with everything you said, it's very clear whether we like it or not, our current theory of organizing and governance no longer works. And not marginally doesn't work. It doesn't work to the point of self-terminating. It's a sort of, it's not like a marginal failure that we just need to correct. It's so systemic and structural that it is self-terminating us. So unless we can actually change our theory of organizing and move towards ennobling frameworks, move towards actually, [00:57:00] education of the world, which means that we live in treaty and in relationships of care, because that's what the other thing is when you move from relationship dominion to relationships of agency become you move into relationships of care and co-care between environments.

And that's a different theory of organizing in the world, and it invites a different way of the kind of the contractual frame of the relational frame becomes fundamentally different, and people like Elizabeth Hill’s work on, sort of, economies of care. I think feminist economies conversations come into this in really radical ways as well, which I think is really interesting.

So I think there's a heralding of a different worldview in this, which I think is really interesting. And I think we're going to have to look this far into the system because I don't think this is a problem of fixing up the kind of what I'd call “who controls” problem anymore. It's the nature of control that's broken.

[00:58:32] Matt Prewitt: I think that’s a great place to close. As always, great to talk to you, and I'm looking forward to continuing to work on all these things together with you.

[00:58:46] Indy Johar: Honestly, it's a real pleasure, Matt. And thank you for everything that you do. And thank you for everything that RadicalxChange does in building these, these landscapes, and building these conversation spaces.

It's genuinely appreciated.

[00:58:57] Matt Prewitt: Thank you so much.