Cosmos Café: How do we ask worthy questions of one another? [1/16] [Cosmos Development]


Members of the Infinite Conversation forum give feedback on the Cosmos Co-op initiative. We talk about what we like, what we don’t like, and what we’d like to have happen—both on the platform, and in our evolving creative community. We also touch on how this initiative relates to the wider world and the evolution of cultural technologies.

If you have your own feedback and would like add to this conversation, please add your thoughts below.


Caroline Savery
Marco V Morelli
John Davis
Douglas Duff
Geoffrey Edwards

Date recorded: 1/16/2018

Hey folks! Caroline here. @madrush (Marco) and I have heard back from a few people on the Key Documents–and thank you so much for taking the time to share your feedback, which has all been positive so far. Through this process, I am pleased to learn that the overall direction set out in the first batch of the key docs are resonant with the members we’ve heard from.

We’ve had zero participation on the Cosmos Dev conversations thus far on Wednesdays–so we’re cancelling the future sessions and switching it up. Specifically, there’s one big change we’re going to experiment with in our approach to development conversations. Here’s the mantra:

Questions before assumptions.

I’m taking it upon myself to practice asking questions before making (and stating) assumptions. What that looks like is, in conversations framed by Cosmos: orienting around juicy open-ended questions that tie in with the text–rather than centering on a text, per se. (Up to this point, we’d been framing conversations around specific pages in the Key Docs; instead, we’d pose thought-provoking questions and integrate those conversations with key doc content.)

As a community norm, the idea of starting from inquiry and asking one another direct and interested questions is appealing to me. We are still very much toying with what works and doesn’t work in this early system, but garnering critical participation in the visioning and development process from members is a fundamental aspect of our intended model.

Put more philosophically: may we live in the big, best questions, pushing the edges of our comprehension and tangible realization of solutions, while generating new fields of wonder.

I’ve got some questions for you now…

First question: Who would want to participate in conversations about the design, culture and configuration of (the platform, the cooperative business, and the community)?

Second: Would you like to meet in the format of a Cosmos Cafe?

Cosmos Cafe so far looks like this: vibrant cafe-style conversation, once a week, with conversational leadership being rotated among any volunteer who steps up. What do you think about borrowing this format, and discussing topics about Cosmos (our community, platform and co-op)?
Here are some example questions we might explore in group conversation:

  • What are the top three things you want to get out of Cosmos? What would give this platform the most value to you?
  • What would it look like to be successful?
  • What would it mean for Cosmos to be worth your time?
  • What gap or pain point are you hoping Cosmos could resolve?
  • What vision do you have for Cosmos? Imagine a perfect day using Cosmos to meet your needs, from beginning to end… what do you experience?

What do you think?

Third: Of those who answered yes so far… When would be the best time for you to meet? Fill out this doodle.

Fourth: How do you want to contribute? Feedback and conversation is just one crucial way. You can help Cosmos develop by contributing various forms of capital, too: financial, social, intellectual, labor, etc.

I will continue to release content Marco and I have worked on under the scope of the Key Docs project. And whereas the first batch released contained relatively “finished” content on the vision and theory, from here on out, it gets more, erm, happily chaotic? That is to say: although Marco and I have invested considerable energy in hashing out our ideas about all things Cosmos, in some areas, it still amounts to a necessarily rough sketch. There are big gaps in the picture! Some of our thinking might be shots in the dark: rife with untested hypotheses and vast, tantalizing gaps of unanswered critical questions.

All hands on deck. We WANT your critique. We NEED your participation. For this cosmotic experiment to work, we’ll need to break up the casual habitual social media site as a detached viewing and commenting experience. The distance between us might seem large, but it is merely computer screens. We’ll need to practice, in these virtual spaces, ways of treating our collective matters of concern as opportunities for doing something: for engaging more deeply in one another’s truths, for working collaboratively to innovate solutions, for calling to action one another’s inner hero.

Have any thoughts on how we could ask superb questions of each other? Your feedback, given and gratefully received, is part of the wealth of the whole.

Let the generative games evolve!



I mentioned in a personal email to you that finding the events page and links were difficult even for someone searching specifically for the event. Thank you for this great updated post.

Doodle should be complete, though I had no proof that it was finalized. Fourth Q TBAnswered soon!


Hi @care_save, just a thought: maybe we could do a kick-off session / reboot for this in our next actual Cosmos Café? We don’t currently have a topic for the upcoming session.

It is scheduled for Tuesday at 1 pm Mountain time. Perhaps, then, after this first one is done (which people who are still in observer mode can later watch) it will be easier to schedule spin-off dialogues on specific topics?


Thanks for the invitation and I hope to offer something useful in my brief comments here.

In giving feedback ( which is not the same as criticism) I follow these guidelines.

  1. What I like___________
  2. What I didnt like_____________
  3. What I want more of________________

What I have wanted to happen has happened. I have found a public forum that is open and tolerant of diversity, without falling into mayhem. Enough regulars appeared consistently, who were paying attention, so that it became a pleasure rather than a duty.

But there is also a sense of duty. I am compelled to show up and deliver something that I believe is of value. A group identity starts to emerge. Is it safe? How deep can I go? Is this group in the shallow end of the pool? I have found most of the conversations have lots of depth and humor and I enjoy them a lot. I want to protect and cultivate this initiative and ask questions that bring out the best in others.

This is my practice. I prefer participating in the video conferences, to study the video carefully after it has appeared on YouTube, search for the patterns that connect, and feedback those observations, in written form between calls, always respecting the aesthetics of the relationships.

I was able to do some workshop like presentations and have a keen interest in continuing in that direction. My interest is in research and development of consciousness and discourse events. This is a sort of vague area, and undeveloped, and since I am outside of academia, it is a challenge to recruit participants. I have been richly rewarded here and have found my colleagues willing to share their attention with me, and to allow me to develop an experiential approach.

I have also published two works of fiction in the Journal and received excellent editorial support. I want to do my writing projects, projects that emerge out of the research I have been conducting, and to put it into some kind of meaningful form that I can share. This is very tricky. I dont want to step on anyone’s toes. I am an observer but I am not an objective observer. I am aware that other participants have their agendas too and I hope we can make explicit what is usually unsaid and out of awareness.

As we stabilize around the ongoing participation of the few, who consistently show up, there will be others who will show up when they can, and there will be those who may be invisible, who are watching and thinking about our struggles to make sense of our complex social worlds. I expect that this will be the trend.

When new voices emerge, I have noticed that there is a courtesy extended, that I find encouraging. I believe we can balance stability with the airing of differences and take pleasure in the paradoxes we all bring with us to this infinite conversation. I expect that we can handle perturbations and become more resilient.

I am a bit overwhelmed by the information overload and do have a challenge figuring out the when and the where and the why. I try to have read the chapter and am prepared. I am pleased that I have found a high level of scholarship among us and learn much from other’s expertise in areas where I am unsure.

Since we now have a background history that many of us share, we can look backward and forward, in ways that balance theory and practice. I applaud the work that is being done here and appreciate the sponsorship of Marco and Carolyn and the regulars who are attending the conference calls and writing in the forums.

The ongoing challenge for me personally is how to create momentum in a world of asynchronous communications. I post something and if I dont get a response in a few days I delete. If someone doesn’t respond quickly enough, it is like watching paint dry and I usually do something else. I worry that a movement wont happen without a prompt response and a sense of urgency. I live in the New York City minute, you move fast here or get hit by the bus. Others are in more leisurely mode and have a different tempo. Of course some people are busy and have other things to do. So we can fragment even further without a disciplined flow. I try to respond promptly to a post if it interests me so that the other knows there is something happening. It is like prisoners, in isolated cells, scratching a coded message, through a chink in the wall.

I am grateful to have met some of you face to face and this greatly grounds the sense of presence that happens on the conference calls. It is about showing up. Quality emerges out of quantity. If you show up often enough, rehearse ideas, take an occasional risk, step a little bit outside your comfort zone, you can learn a lot here. I have been met with courtesy and kindness consistently, even when I was baffled and confused. This to me is a sign of health.


That is such excellent feedback, @johnnydavis54—music to my ears. I feel personally quite delighted by the eclectic range of characters who’ve shown up. I’m glad we don’t always know what we’re doing, but end up discovering something about ourselves, a useful pattern, a slipstream perspective, which filters into subtle processes of consciousness. I can sense something deeply creative is happening, even if I don’t always perceive all of its dimensions.

I feel sometimes we are in an underground laboratory, wearing fuchsia-stained white coats, with beakers of different sizes and conjoining tubes running in all directions, neon green liquids bubbling here, orange goo gurgling there—strange glyphs pertaining to diferential calculus and sacred geometry on the walls. What is going on here?

To me, this project only makes full sense as an artistic operation. It also must have recursively regenerative intelligence encoded in its language, like the book of Genesis, but with the stories we bring to it, our individual talents and obsessions, working with the methods and exegeses proper to the world we live in and who we are now.

I think the a more coherent organizational structure, and platform infrastructure and design, could help alleviate some of the information overload and interface confusion. I believe that one of the proper and important roles for a future Mindful AI will be to help us better navigate our communication across time, space, and personal boundaries. Like a GPS system for our communion with others. We set our desired destination, but the system helps us get there by the most efficient route.

Personally, I feel I struggle with tempo and momentum. I think slowly, and occassionally quickly, but sometimes feel that when I’m slow, it would be better to speed up, and when I’m fast, it would be better to slow down. I feel a sense of urgency but also an instinct to stop, observe, and allow—and especially to take the time to understand what’s going on. I listen, but the signal is not always clear. I speak, but don’t always receive a response. Then finally, someone hits the right note and something happens. I don’t mind leaving seeds to perhaps germinate later, or perhaps die. I believe there are strange easter eggs all over the place on this site.

I would like to continue to cultivate a thriving garden of thought, experimental research, insight, art, and consciousness exploration. I believe we can do it, and however inchoately, are doing it!


I bought Nietzsche’s Zarathustra again today in Powells bookstore in Portland. I seem to buy a copy every 5 to 10 years. I started reading it to my wife in the car. She loves to hear me read it. By the end of the day I wondered to myself - who else can I talk to about this book? I don’t really have anyone else. This is when I thought of all of you.

I have been so busy recently that’s it’s been hard to stay connected here. To add to that I don’t like social media, and also treat my writing time preciously because I get so little of it. So when I take even a small amount of time to respond here I wonder why when I have a book to write. As writers you probably know the feeling. So perhaps that is my main inquiry - how to weave this into our missions? In a way that facilitates progress?

I would like to know some of you more, but I often feel at capacity, so my responses are erratic, inconsistent.

@johnnydavis54 - you write so beautifully. Such delicacy. I was touched by your response to Caroline and Madrush, who also shared some interesting questions / reflections. I would love to know you all more.


Hello @ZacharyFeder
As a relatively new member, I find new responses from previous members most welcome. And welcome back, however brief you may come for a visit!

I was about to dive into reading Zarathustra for the first time based upon a recent listening of Rules for the Human Zoo by Sloterdijk, who’s massive series Spheres we are examining here. Though we haven’t referenced Nietzsche’s work directly here, Sloterdijk is responding in part to Zarathustra in the Human Zoo letter and I suspect it will arise in our Globes discussion, the second book in the Spheres trilogy.

A partial quote from Zarathustra found in Rules for the Human Zoo (on page 133 of the 2006 Cambridge edition):

"For he [Zarathustra] wanted to learn what had transpired in the meantime among
human beings; whether they had become bigger or smaller. And once he saw a row
of new houses, and he was truly amazed, and he said:
‘What do these houses mean? Truly, no great soul has placed them here, as a
parable of itself! …
And these parlors and chambers, can men go in and out here? … .’
And Zarathustra stood still and reflected. At last he said sadly. 'Everything has become smaller!

When oceans apart from my wife in the past, I recorded Siddhartha and a couple of her favorite books to bridge our watery gap. If travelling and reading to your wife, or even if travelling alone, can you record your voice? This can be a form of writing, though if you wish words to appear on the page, a voice to ‘text’ program does not suffice as the translation is less than decipherable. Even if you cannot write here as often as you wish, I can imagine you forming oceanic bridges by responding to comments here with a voice recording. Even a reading/partial reading of Zarathustra would satisfy my soul.


I’m curious about Zarathustra, too. I know it from the Richard Strauss tone poem. Maybe someone knows of a good translation? It is not a big book so we could probably read it out loud to each other and get the spirit of a performance going. If we could find a time for anyone interested ( probably evening? ) we could ask our fearful leader to sponsor a recital. Marco, I believe, is a Nietzsche scholar.


THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA was a seminal book in my intellectual development, which I first read in my early 20s but have only revisited in bits and pieces since then. I would love to re-read at least some part of it and have conversation with anyone here who is interested. Perhaps we could schedule it a few weeks out to allow time for reading and build-up, around our various other topics and comittments?

Regarding interacting w/ Cosmos as a writer, or any other creative type, I think you ask a really key question, @ZacharyFeder, and I can relate. I would like this platform to amplify and enhance my writing process, not take me away from it. The formative stages of our organization have definitely taken their toll on my pure writing time; on the other hand, I feel that I am becoming a much better writer and thinker through my interactions here, so that when I DO have the time and space for pure writing again (I have a novel, poetry, and essays all in various stages of development), the output will be coming from a higher, deeper, more sophisticated level; moreover, I will have a grown a community of readers who can respond meaningfully to my work.

We are each “use cases” for what this platform can become. As we express our real needs, desires, limitations, tensions, and aspirations, I think this contributes to the overall intelligence of the system and can allow us as individuals to better calibrate how we can contribute, and what we’d like to see happen in the common space.

What would a social media space that’s friendly to creative types, who need a lot of space and solitude, look like? I think there are some real design innovations that could come out such questions. What are some other questions we can ask that could lead to making this platform work better for all of us who’ve been bitten by whatever bug has brought us all here?


I agree Marco. I am in a similar space with several projects vying for my time. Is there a way those of us with projects could get together in some way to encourage, hone and directly move towards completion? I would be open to giving developmental feedback in exchange for same.

If we each had a 12 chapter project say, we could collectively circle them in the same way readings have have been done? Incredibly simplistic, but then to dive in and dynamically steer when and if complications emerge? As long as a general container was created with a finish line perhaps we could move forward in a way that then also generated material for Metapsychosis itself? All just thoughts.

I’ve often fantasized of recording a reading of Zarathustra as all the ones on line are disconnected, without grief, agony, or ecstasy. Just horrendously pompous performances. Editing it would be essential too, which Ive always thought it suffered a little from, especially for a larger audience …


Aside: I read your “The Human Singularity is Nearer” and loved it. I commented on you own site there.


That’s kind of you Douglas. The piece was originally a book called the spiritual singularity that is still incomplete but that I still think should be part of the larger conversation around AI. We’re in a dynamic and you can’t separate the two. I like your “Humane” idea as well …


I read through the Key Documents quickly, not in detail (there is a lot of it, and some of it seems redundant - there’s probably a need to streamline it a bit?). I like the « questions not assumptions » approach better, I think, although I realize it’s not an either-or proposition, but an addendum to the Key Docs.

My main concerns, quickly, have to do with the built-in « exclusions » in relation to this site. None of these are easy to deal with, I might add.

First, the language issues. Everything is in English. I live and work with a francophone community here in Quebec City - despite the fact that most of my colleagues and students are functional in English, the site as it currently operates offers no clear pathway to take part. These are hard topics to address even for those of us who are native English speakers. Most of my colleagues/students would be too shy/ conscious of making mistakes and are struggling to make sense of rapidly changing dialogue and ideas in the video encounters to participate, and would find the written exchanges equally daunting. So without some attempt to address the issue, the effort appears destined to limit itself to largely American/British and international English speakers, which would be a real shame.

Second, I laud the constructive approach implicit in the text, but I think there needs to be acknowledgement/accommodation and some sort of structure for a more critical framing as well. I say that even though I myself am not strongly inclined towards a critical approach, I favor the same values you’ve put forward - diversity, response to needs, attentional intensity, support, etc., but I think there needs to be acknowledgement of more critical stances within the community. I don’t think the platform needs to be self-consistent - in fact, I think it is important to see different even contradictory positions on the same questions. Maybe you agree with this, but I couldn’t see this clearly enunciated within the documents as laid out.

Third, I think there needs to be acknowledgement somewhere or another about power issues. I’m not a proponent of political correctness per se, but I do believe that discourse is driven, indeed is colored, by power differentials. In so-called neutral discourse, the privileged usually prevail. This comes back to both my earlier two points. Now, I don’t know how to address this, I think some discussion of the issue would be a starting place. The « questions not assumptions » is a good way to go, also, that is one of the reasons I like it. Also, focussing on « who » as well as « what » helps as well, as knowing who is speaking very much part of the discourse.

I also think a visionary effort needs to be grounded in the muck, the difficult questions, the darker areas of the human soul. Again, I’m not sure how to do this, but I found the document as a whole had an « upswing tone » which is good, but maybe needs to be modulated with a darker streak?

Sorry if I come across as more critical than accepting, but you did indicate you wanted feedback. aoverall a good first effort, but it needs to be forged through repeated heating and quenching to get it into something that will stand up to the complex world within which we live and function…


I certainly don’t want to be confrontational … I’m quite satisfied being curmudgeony.

Synchronistically, the following article popped up on my newsfeed today. The headline is a bit much, but apparently this is more emotional issue than I thought. Nevertheless, consider it a different perspective on the same topic. No more, no less.


Thank you for your feedback on this thread, everybody! At Marco’s urging, today’s regularly scheduled Cosmos Cafe will be co-opted by this topic. :wink: Just for this week, though. (Via the Doodle, we’ll explore the potential to continue these conversations in another time and space in the week.)

I figure I would frame the conversation using questions from this thread, focusing on “what would we like to have happen?/what do we most want to get out of Cosmos?” and leveraging the “what I like, what I don’t like, what I want more of” feedback framing offered by Johnny. That should be plenty to catalyze the organic conversation.

I’d like to suggest a goal for the conversation being simply to “get clearer” on our concerns and our aspirations and explore where there is common ground or overlap in our ideas. I want to dedicate this time not to talking about the Key Docs I’ve authored or the solutions I have in mind, so much as generating as much clarity as possible on the common “problem space” that Cosmos seeks to address–and maybe hearing your thoughts for creative solutions. :smile:

In such a framing, we wouldn’t be focusing on the Key Docs in this call, per se–although some of your feedback, Geoffrey, on what you feel is perhaps missing or are weaknesses in the Key Docs content can be explored through the lens of “what I don’t like” or “what I want more of” in Cosmos.

Thanks and see ya’ll soon… :star_struck:


Above is a test response. Just another potential idea for this. I can imagine much more creative responses via video than this “seed”


I see absolutely no reason why any quick-fix video response would be any less worthy than a text-based response.

The important thing has to be to communicate what one’s thinking, not the actual media via which it is presented.

Go for it.


Beginning Kaufmann’s translation now and already foresee this as a before (as in “what was I doing/thinking before reading this?!) and after (as in after reading this, it will remain lodged with the other influential giants) type of masterpiece. This is surely something that must be read aloud. Thank you for boosting this to the foreground.


Hi Everybody - I am new to Infinite conversations and am looking forward to joining in. I resonated with the concept of ‘problem space’ or perhaps even ‘opportunity space’ might be a appreciative view. I am the Chair of an not for profit organisation called the Center for Timeless Earth Wisdom and at the conception of the organisation we used Simon Sinek’s ’ Start with Why’ structure to gather the essence of our purpose onto one page. We call it our Evolutionary Purpose Document (EDP). I found that it cut through the volume of words and deeply tested our ( The Board’s ) collective seeing of what we wished for the organisation. On one page we have four belief statements that flow into three sentences. that respond to the following questions Why we exist? How we will focus our intention? What will we do? From the EPD we were able crafteour Strategy document which had four pillars of engagement. We recently made a video of the EPD which you can view at (We Believe… on Vimeo). Just about to leave for the weekend for our Winter Dreaming Ceremony and I am exploring how the EPD will flourish in 2018. Happy to share the oncepage document and I have other example too from my original exploration of Sinek’s work if of interest . Cheers