Laird Scranton is an independent software developer from Albany, New York. He is the author of several books and articles on African and Egyptian mythology and language.
Avi Solomon: Who are the Dogon?
Laird Scranton: The Dogon are a modern-day African tribe from Mali who seem to observe many interesting ancient traditions. In fact, their culture can be seen as a kind of cross-roads for several important ancient traditions. As just a few examples, they wear skull caps and prayer shawls, circumcise their young, and celebrate a Jubilee Year like ancient Jews, they observe the same calendars and establish their villages and districts in pairs called "Upper" and "Lower" like ancient Egypt, and they preserve a detailed cosmology that bears close resemblance to Buddhism, only expressed using ancient Egyptian terms. Read the rest
Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen grow food, keep chickens, brew, bike, bake, and plot revolution from their 1/12-acre farm in the heart of Los Angeles. They are the the authors of The Urban Homestead and Making It.
Avi Solomon: How did your urban homesteading adventure begin?
Erik Knutzen: I've always enjoyed making things and understanding how stuff works with many hours spent in lower level two of the LA public library - where all the howto books are shelved. Kelly has always been interested in urban survival and foraging. But our urban homesteading adventure began with the search for a decent tomato. Kelly and I were living in an apartment at the time so we started growing tomatoes in pots on our front porch. We were amazed that it worked. When we bought a house in 1998 and had some yard space to play with, we started growing more vegetables and herbs. As we went along, we kept adding things to our toolkit: composting, greywater, chickens, bees, etc.-and there's always more to do. The adventure never ends, really. Read the rest
Photo: Beth Darbyshire
Dr. Dennis McKenna has conducted research in ethnopharmacology for over 30 years. He currently teaches in the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota.
Avi Solomon: Tell us a bit about yourself
Dennis McKenna: I'm 60 years old, born in Paonia Colorado, a small town in Western Colorado in 1950. I experienced my teenage years in the turbulent 60's, but had a fairly normal life in my early years. I shared many interests with my brother Terence, and while growing up we were both 'nerds' (though the word hadn't been invented yet), meaning that we were more interested in science and science fiction than athletics or other 'normal' teenage interests. We were butterfly and amateur rock collectors; amateur rocketeers, and that kind of thing. My dad encouraged and supported this kind of thing. So that was an early influence; curiosity about the world which our parents encouraged. Then the 60's came along and we were well-primed for it. Largely due to our early exposure to science fiction and my father's occasional purchases of Fate magazine, we were open to the idea of paranormal experiences, UFOs, the occult, other dimensions, altered states, aliens, and all of that. So when psychedelics came along, naturally we were fascinated by them, though we knew little about them at the time. And in the early to mid-60's they didn't have the social stigma attached to them that they acquired later. Read the rest
Tom Hulme is a Design Director at IDEO
Avi: How do you define yourself?
Tom: An enthusiastic generalist. Lucky. Ultimately I hope it will be the stuff around me that defines me - startups, OpenIDEO, IDEO projects, family and friends...
Avi: What does Design mean to you?
Tom: It's thoughtful and passionate creation, in any medium. A considered approach to creating solutions that solve real human needs - as such I truly believe everyone has the capacity to be a designer... I guess I would say that as I have no formal design training!
Avi: How would you characterize IDEO?
Tom: IDEO is a function of its people - a diverse group united by a desire to have positive impact. We have developed various approaches to increase that impact: a truly human-centered approach (we centered on human needs even when working in business to business projects), diverse teams (we have learnt that this sparks creativity) and a increased emphasis on designing business models. I'm looking forward to seeing new approaches emerge too... Read the rest
Ran Prieur is a writer and permaculturist
Avi Solomon: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Ran Prieur: I am known on the Internet as somebody who writes about dropping out of society, the critique of civilization, sustainability and the collapse. I'm a softcore doomer. I write about why this entire society is unbalanced and a large mistake and why the mistake is ending and how you can, how we can get out of it. How we can live better.
Avi: Who has influenced you the most?
Ran: I always tell people my two biggest influences are Ivan Illich and Charles Fort. Everything I write can be derived from those two guys. Ivan Illich wrote his most famous stuff in the early 70s. He was a big critic of industrialization and centralization and certain kinds of technology.
Ivan Illich was not a primitivist. He thinks that technology can be used very well and can be used to live much better than primitive people but it mostly has not yet been used that way. Ivan Illich was so smart and wrote so clearly that reading him is like looking at the sun. You just read a couple of sentences and then you're like, "Wow! I have to look away, that's too much", and you kind of process those sentences and you go back and read a little more. Read the rest
Tim Ferriss is the author of the The 4-Hour Workweek, a Japanophile, tea drinker, tango world record holder, and language learning fanatic.
Avi Solomon: How did you get to Seneca?
Tim Ferriss: I came to Seneca by looking at military strategies. A lot of military writing is based on stoic philosophical principles. The three cited sources are Marcus Aurelius and his book Meditations, which was effectively a war campaign journal. The second is Epictetus and his handbook Enchiridion, which I find difficult to read. The last is Seneca and, because Seneca was translated from Latin to English as opposed to from Greek to English and also because he was a very accomplished writer and a playwright, I find his readings to be more memorable and actionable. Read the rest
Seth Godin writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything.
Avi Solomon: You inspire millions of people. What inspires you?
Seth Godin: I would say that I'm inspired by two things. The first is the opportunity. This is the first time in human history that somebody sitting in their living room has a chance to contact more than just a couple of people at a time.
And more important than that, the revolution that's going through our world right now is opening more doors for more people than ever before. When I look at the combination of those two things, I see an opportunity, and I wake up every morning hoping I won't waste it.
The second thing is that I'm totally addicted to helping people grow and watching the power that breakthroughs have with people, when you can see somebody doing something that they used to be afraid or used to believe they couldn't do. I find that really at the core of what it means to be a successful person. Read the rest
Avi Solomon: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Richard Koch: I have a very pleasant life and spend most days in the sun, switching between my homes in Cape Town and 'Iberia' (Gibraltar, Spain, Portugal) according to the season. Most days involve a few hours writing, playing tennis, cycling, hiking, walking the dog, gym, reading, and seeing friends for dinner. I try to do only things that I'm interested in, enjoy, and may help other people. Most people would say I'm rich, but I don't spend a lot of money, I drive cars that are years old, and I hate shopping except for food, wine, and books. My sole extravagances are travel and my homes - and sometimes betting, which fascinates me. Apart from that, I lead a simple life. I adore eating out with friends but never go to expensive restaurants. I have a partner and a brown Labrador called Tocker, and I love both of them too. Read the rest
Brian "Ziggy" Liloia is a 26 year old member of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, where he lives in his own handbuilt cob house, tends large gardens with friends, builds with natural materials, keeps bees, makes cheese and butter, blogs, and strives to live the good life. He is the author of "The Year of Mud: Building a Cob House"
Avi Solomon: Tell us a bit about yourself
Brian Liloia I grew up in the hyper-suburbs of northern New Jersey, in the shadows of New York City. In college, I learned what a huge mess civilization was making of the planet, and I realized, over the course of several years and through reading lots and lots of stuff about environmental and social issues, that I wouldn't be satisfied with a conventional kind of lifestyle. I was never excited about a mainstream career, or living in the city or suburbs, and now I had a better explanation for my lack of enthusiasm. I found out about Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage as a senior in college and immediately thought I would find myself moving there, or someplace similar, in the future. I visited less than a month after graduating, and realized that I didn't want to wait: I wanted to live a sustainable kind of life in a community setting as soon as possible. In order to learn how to live more ecologically and to provide more for myself, including my own food, shelter, and energy, I settled into Dancing Rabbit in 2007, a year after college graduation. Read the rest
Psychiatrist Dr. Rick Strassman was the first scientist to conduct U.S. government-approved human research into hallucinogens and psychedelic drugs after the so-called War on Drugs. He has published dozens of peer-reviewed papers and is the author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule
Avi Solomon: Tell us a bit about yourself?
Dr. Rick Strassman: I was born and raised in southern California in the 1950s and 1960s, and attended college on the West Coast. I grew up in a Conservative Jewish home, and went through my bar mitzvah ritual. I obtained my MD in New York City, and returned to California for psychiatry training as well as for a fellowship in clinical research. I worked at the University of New Mexico for 11 years where I performed the DMT studies. I then moved to Canada and the Pacific Northwest for 5 years before returning to New Mexico in 2000. After finishing my DMT project in 1995, I worked in clinical psychiatry until 3 years ago. I've since then been writing full-time.
Avi: What got you into studying DMT? Read the rest
Avi: Could you introduce yourself?
Ted: My name is Ted Chiang. I'm a science fiction short story writer.
Were there any formative experiences that led you to become a science fiction writer?
Probably the most formative experience was reading the Foundation Trilogy when I was about twelve years old. That wasn't the first science fiction I had ever read but it's something that stands out in my memory as having had a big impact on me. Reading Asimov and then Arthur C. Clarke when I was twelve definitely put me on the road to being a science fiction writer.
When did you actually decide to go pro?
It depends on what you mean by going pro. I started submitting stories for publication when I was about 15, but it was many years before I sold anything. I don't make my living writing science fiction so in that sense I'm still not a pro. Writing for publication was always my goal, but making a living writing science fiction wasn't. When I was a kid I figured I would be a physicist when I grew up and then I would write science fiction on the side. The physicist thing didn't pan out, but writing science fiction on the side did. Read the rest