Voice & Exit is an upcoming conference featuring twelve short talks about major innovation in social entrepreneurship and radical community.
RSE spoke with conference planners Max Borders and Seth Blaustein.
RSE: How is Voice & Exit different from TED or another conference?
Max Borders: Well, I love TED. But where TED focuses more on technology and design, Voice & Exit focuses more on social technology and radical community design. We want to challenge people’s assumptions about the less visible architectures around them. We want to share our vision of human emergence and pluralism — all while celebrating the innovations that will take us to the next phase of social evolution.
Seth Blaustein: Agreed. TED has done an amazing thing with a simple idea — share ideas and stories that inspire and then set them free into the world through the internet. Voice & Exit is similar to a TED conference, but we have narrowed the content down into a more specific range of ideas. The ideas we curate all exist within a foundational principle, which is ideas that are leading us towards a more free, tolerant and vibrant world. Voice & Exit features thinkers that advocate for creativity that pushes social structures and organizations towards a world that uses persuasion rather than coercion as a dominant means of making social change.
RSE: You say ideas are pushing us towards a better world. What’s the trend?
Seth Blaustein: I think the underlying trend is and has always been that human beings thrive when they are living within a community that is more aligned with their underlying belief system. When in such a community, we can find support and inspiration that nourishes us and helps us flourish.
Voice & Exit is a reflection of that idea. This isn’t to say that people thrive when living in homogenous communities — variety is essential — but sometimes it makes more sense to seek out those who want to live under the same basic principles rather than to fight against a tide of those who disagree and don’t want to live in the type of community you are advocating for.
We all have our ideals, and each ought to be able to live out those ideals as much as possible, so long as they don’t hinder another person’s ability to live out their own ideal.
Voice & Exit seeks to help open up the perspective that there are very real ways to go about attracting or creating a community that helps you thrive and find your own happiness. We want to showcase 12 speakers that offer some ideas and inspiration towards that end.
Technologically speaking, innovations in the world of the internet are making it easier every day to connect with those that have common interests and common ideals. Finding fellow visionaries and aligned individuals to help you change the world has never been easier.
Max Borders: Well, as you know, social technology has not caught up with information technology. So, part of what we’re doing is getting people to think about new social operating systems — both formal and informal. What in the world are new social operating systems?
Well, in IT, imagine trying to run a really cool app on MS DOS! It wouldn’t work well if it worked at all. In the social realm, the clearest example of these are our legal systems. Because they are so inflexible, it has become harder and harder for people to “write new apps,” that is, form new ways of living. So, for example, we have legal codes that govern swaths of territory. Why should this be? Why can’t people subscribe to legal systems that have nothing to do with where they live?
Another example comes in movements like Seasteading and Free Cities. The idea is to have more decentralization and experimentation with both legal and social rules. Experimentation with legal systems offers people more choices in how they want to live — just as they have the choice to live in California or Texas.
We happen to think that better, smaller (and more decentralized) systems of governance will be more likely to survive and evolve. Along with new rules, new communities can sprout up. Some will be more communitarian, some will be more about business — but all will be more likely to make the world a better place. How do we know? People will move into them.
RSE: Is there a special reason why Voice & Exit parallels SXSW? Good weather in Austin?
Max Borders: (Laughs) Well, we are basically winging it. We live here and that’s when our chosen venue was available. When we saw it was the same weekend as SXSW I looked over at Seth and said “Like the old Chinese proverb says, this is a threat and an opportunity.” We consider Voice & Exit a SXSW off-broadway show.
Seth Blaustein: Right — it happened to line up with when we were looking for a venue! However, Austin is, we believe, is ground zero for some really amazing innovations to come in social entrepreneurship. What better time to do it than when hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs will be in town to network and share these ideas together with local Austinites?
RSE: Voice & Exit bills itself as “innovating for a non-coercive world”. Do we really live in a ‘coercive world’? What is the alternative?
Max Borders: We define coercion as using violence or threats to make social change. But we believe it’s possible to make the world better through persuasion — that is, if the rules are more hospitable to persuasive forces. We can create a lot of mini Utopias by giving people more options for creating social systems and communities?
If a smaller community or jurisdiction isn’t a good fit for us, can we make it easier to speak up (voice) leave if we’re not happy (exit)? We are moving to a place we hope is beyond partisan politics.
Partisan politics is a king of the mountain game. Whoever wins makes the rules. Why can’t we just have diverse sets of rules and let people live more how they like? We can. Ask Switzerland. Decentralization, choice and tolerance is a better path to peace and personal happiness.
Seth Blaustein: Historically speaking, we live in a less coercive world than ever. But if we are to consider the impact that coercion has on human flourishing, there’s still too much in the world. In many ways, the types of coercion that exist today are akin to a small kid giving a bully his lunch money on a daily basis. He knows if he doesn’t, the bully will take it by force.
Even if the bully had good intentions, for instance if he were planning on using the money to help pay his father’s medical bills, it wouldn’t make it ok to shake down the small kid. Ultimately, there is a lot of “latent” coercion in the world today. People are afraid of what will happen if they don’t comply. Most people don’t realize that governments can and often do act as such a bully, and that hinders our ability to act freely and cooperate with others.
We say we are “innovating for a non-coercive world” because we are showcasing visionary thinkers who are doing exactly that, changing how we perceive and behave in social structures in a way that opens up greater opportunity for peace and human flourishing.
RSE: Who are some of the visionaries who will be speaking at Voice & Exit? Why should I come listen?
Max Borders: Some of these folks are people we deeply admire. They are revolutionaries. Check out:
- Michael Strong (Free Cities Institute / RSE)
- John Papola (Emergent Order)
- Max Marty (Blueseed)
- Paul Green, Jr. (Self-Management Institute)
- Magatte Wade (Tiossan/ TED Global Africa)
- Max Borders (The Freeman/Superwealth)
- Sam Elick (BrainJuice)
- Dr. Don Beck (Spiral Dynamics)
- Jason Rink (Foundation for a Free Society)
- Michael Gibson (The Thiel Foundation)
- Jacob Sullum (Reason Magazine)
- Mary Ruwart (Healing Our World)
Don Beck will share content about the psychological bases of peace. Michael Strong will talk about the structures of peace through good institutions. If after hearing these folks you don’t leave inspired and changed by what you heard, I suspect you had on a blindfold and earmuffs.
Seth Blaustein: Anyone who aspires to “make the world a better place” will love Voice & Exit. Each talk will be inspiring and engaging. The most organic way to create new communities is by finding others that are inspired by similar ideas. Who knows, you might meet a fellow problem solver at Voice & Exit and start something visionary together.
RSE: Thanks Seth and Max!