Consilience (n):
“In science and history, consilience is the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can ‘converge’ on strong conclusions.
That is, when multiple sources of evidence are in agreement, the conclusion can be very strong even when none of the individual sources of evidence is significantly so on its own.”

We believe that today’s problems cannot be fixed by yesterday’s solutions. The Consilience Project’s purpose is to lay the foundations for a new kind of society that is capable of addressing the catastrophic risks humanity now faces.

What We Are

We are a non-profit organization that seeks to foster the emergence of new forms of open societies that are capable of employing exponential technologies as a safe and effective force for good. Our work aims to help develop a culture in which it is widely recognized that existing social institutions need to be redesigned if humanity is to survive.

The Consilience Project is focused on research, publication and the building of a decentralized movement towards enhanced collective intelligence. At the heart of the project is a series of interconnected articles called the Consilience Papers. Once complete, these articles will constitute an open curriculum that covers humanity’s current risk landscape, the inadequacy of existing social institutions, and the theoretical basis of the social technologies of the future. Over the next five years, we will share the ideas within the Consilience Papers through a variety of platforms and provide support to aligned projects and initiatives. Through our growing network, we aim to guide decision-makers, cultural influencers, and eventually everyone in society towards the issues necessary to address the unique challenges of our time.

All of our content is and always will be free and accessible to everyone, because we believe that universal access to high quality information is critical for the functioning of open societies. To protect the quality and integrity of what we do, we will not accept funding from sources that seek any kind of influence through their support. Guided by an ethical framework, we will develop and share the Consilience Papers in order to articulate the potential criteria for the next phase of civilization design. Our aspiration is to help people to develop the knowledge, understanding, and societal awareness needed for a new kind of emergent governance that will increase meaningful quality of life for all.

The future we aim to help create is based upon new types of social institutions and problem-solving capacities that are reinforced by new exponential technologies—and yet can manage their risks effectively. We believe that this approach can offer an alternative to the technology-enabled dystopia or societal collapse towards which humanity is otherwise inexorably drawn.

Why We Are Doing This

At no other point in history has humanity faced such a wide range of novel catastrophic risks. At the same time, human civilization has never been more fragile, as problems that emerge in one place can now cascade and impact other parts of the world as never before. This fragility is enhanced by new technologies, geopolitical instability, and the interdependence created by global economic supply chains.

Emerging exponential technologies have driven many of these changes. Even now, they are developing faster than our ability to assess and manage the impacts on society. Our new technologies are so much more powerful than all legacy forms of technology that only the groups leading their development and application will have a meaningful say in the future inherited by our children.

Currently, these technologies are being developed and deployed primarily by authoritarian nation-states and corporations. Authoritarian states are using this technology to make exponentially more powerful authoritarian states, enhancing mechanisms for state surveillance and population control. The largest digital corporations are using this technology to further their own interests in ways that are often directly detrimental to open societies. What has emerged is a new type of technologically-empowered feudalism in which there is little regulation or accountability.

Open societies are not applying exponential technologies to make more effective open societies. Instead, the most prevalent uses of such technologies have advanced institutional decay and eroded public sensemaking. At the same time, they have increased outrage and tribalism. Beyond effects on social cohesion and stability, the same exponential technologies are increasing the probability of the emergence of a growing number of global catastrophic risks.

The Consilience Project aims to help guide humanity onto a path towards a healthy open society. Our central goal must be the development of new social and cultural frameworks that employ technologies to enhance our collective ability to make sense of the world and collaborate effectively. At the same time, these frameworks must direct and bind the application of humanity’s growing technological power to avoid catastrophic risks. It is our belief that the only sustainable solution to these challenges lies in a social order that comes from the people, rather than from the power of the state.

Who We Are

In our current phase of development, The Consilience Project consists of a core team of passionate people from a wide range of disciplines relevant to our purpose. We have also started to build a network of advisors to assist in the development of the content, strategy, and execution. Meet the team behind our development so far here.

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” —Thomas Jefferson

Our Ethical Commitments

In an effort to address the erosion of trust in the media and guard against the biasing forces that arise from perverse incentives and human fallibility, we have implemented the following commitments:

Universal access to information is foundational to a functioning open society. For the duration of this project, none of our content will ever be behind a paywall.
This is a purely donation-supported endeavor, with no competing agendas beyond the stated mission. Neither the content nor its host site will serve as an income stream for the project in any way. To eliminate the possibility of manipulation or preference modification of our content, we will never sell our readers’ data or display paid advertisements of any kind.
As a US 501c3 non-profit organization, our finances are reported transparently to the federal government and publicly available on the FCC website.
To protect our content from influence, we will not accept funds from any person or organization that seeks to influence content through their support. Moreover, we will consider any actor that even suggests a conditionalized donation as a potential source of harm to the information commons and investigate accordingly.
Our commitments regarding freedom from financial influence present real limitations to our ability to fund the team. If we are limited in what we can raise with these commitments in place, then we will simply be smaller and do less with full integrity. We will not rationalize compromise for scale.
With the exception of possible occasional guest posts by specific individuals, we will attribute all articles to the collective authorship of the House. This serves both our readers and our writers in a variety of ways:
  1. The anonymity of authorship means readers are engaging with the content itself rather than the personality of its author, circumventing writer preference or mistrust on the basis of perceived content “ownership”.
  2. Anonymity allows our writers to be as truthful as possible without concern for professional, personal, or political repercussions or retribution.
  3. Anonymity insulates our writers from motives of individual ego by eliminating any incentive to alter content to maximize an article’s popularity.
  4. Anonymity encourages the entire research and writing team to support all work rather than having preferential focus on pieces for which they are lead author.
We will continue to seek out team members and advisors from across the spectrum of political perspectives, industries, epistemic disciplines, as well as cultures and regions of the world. This multiplicity of viewpoints provides a more complete picture of any given issue. It also serves as a mitigating factor against our own human susceptibility to bias and group reinforcement.
In our “Under the Hood” sections, we will show the evidence and methods of analysis we used to arrive at our conclusions. Rather than guarding our methods like trade secrets in a competitive environment, we will open-source all of our resources and processes in the hope that others will replicate, adapt and improve upon our methods of sensemaking and reporting.
The Consilience Project is set to discontinue operations five years from the date of its public launch. This deliberately finite timeframe is designed to make clear that we have no desire to hold long-term power in the media landscape. Our goal is not to be the center of a movement, but rather to support enough decentralized activity that our project is no longer needed. At the end of this period, we intend to write a public post-mortem assessment of the successes and failures of the project to analyse the impact of our work.

Coming Soon

The Consilience Papers constitute the core body of knowledge work at the heart of the Project. But social theory and an improved awareness of problem space is only the foundation for a wider cultural movement that is needed to fix the sensemaking and meaning-making processes at the base of our culture today.

The cultural shift needed to do this will require a movement commensurate with the technologies and actors exerting the damage. A movement at this scale must be decentralized and spread far beyond the immediate reach of The Consilience Project. Our success will only be realized by acting as a catalyzing agent for this larger cultural movement.

We seek to facilitate the work of projects addressing issues in education, journalism, open-science, social media and information technology. We see these organizations as components of the broader movement towards a cultural renaissance.

Our most immediate offering in our movement-building arm will be a curated directory of the best publicly-available sensemaking resources. This will include research tools, data sets, news sources, fact and bias checking sites, and educational resources. This will serve as a resource directory for the public and give shape to the landscape of the cultural movement.
We plan to host forums to facilitate the type of good-faith, generative dialogue that leads to better shared understanding, which we hope will serve as a model for how to steward our information commons. The forums will also serve as a space where we can experiment with social architectures that may improve the quality of discourse. For example, we’re curious to discover what the impact may be of requiring readers to answer questions proving they have actually read an article before they can post a comment.

We also intend to seed the environment with experts practiced in the kind of dialectic that generates shared understanding of consequential topics. An awareness that recognized experts are present might create an incentive for community members to ensure the content they share is of the highest quality. Our hope is that through a combination of discussion, moderation and social architectures, we can cultivate an environment that self-selects to upregulate the best information, leading to higher-quality discourse and increased understanding of critical issues.
Innovation prizes will foster a generative ecosystem to enhance the exposure of well-designed projects seeking to improve our information commons. These projects are likely to focus on: addressing issues of perverse incentives in journalism; countering social media algorithmic bias; fortifying public education in literacy and civics; improving academic science and peer review; and countering narrative and information warfare. The aim is to facilitate people and organizations that are already doing good work by connecting them with capital and community. They will be supported to expand their capacity and reach until a cultural movement is realized in which we as a society value sensemaking, empathy, mutual understanding, civic engagement and compromise.

The Financial Stuff

We will be filing and publishing our 2020 990 form in November of 2021 on our website and GuideStar. You can view our federal extension application here.

The Legal Stuff

© 2021 by the Civilization Research Initiative The Civilization Research Initiative owns all copyrights to the work of The Consilience Project.

The articles on this web site may be redistributed in other media and non-commercial publications as long as the following conditions are met. The redistributed article may not be abridged, edited or altered in any way without the express consent of The Consilience Project. The redistributed article may not be sold for a profit or included in another media or publication that is sold for a profit without the express consent of The Consilience Project. The articles on this web site may be included in a commercial publication or other media only if prior consent for republication is received from the Consilience Project.