Getting to Yes, And

Christian Madsbjerg: Look


Christian Madsbjerg

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Kelly speaks with Christian Madsbjerg, cofounder of the consulting firm ReD Associates and professor of applied humanities at the New School in New York City. He has a new book called "Look: How to Pay Attention in a Distracted World."

You were ahead of the curve in discovering a thing you dubbed ‘social media’ and this happened because you were confused by the prevalence of remote controls.

“You know, I'm from Denmark, and I grew up with one channel. They added another one in in the late eighties. So, we had 2 channels. But then, seeing hundreds and hundreds of channels, and seeing people just flip through them and then start all over, it seemed like such an absurd thing. So, I tried to figure that out because that can't be the future – like, it has to change in some way. And then I spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out what that future was - which turned out to be the future of Media.”

You talk about growing up as a Marxist – at least that’s what your family was – and the fact that when your own politics changed, it set you on a path to consider the future differently.

"There's a theory about the structure of history and your own role in it. So, it's kind of a cultish situation. And when I turned 14 or 15, it just became more and more absurd to think that we were right. And of course, the wall came down, and I happened to be in the middle of it, which was because I was on a trip with my class in Berlin and the whole thing just collapsed. And after that I've not been so sure about much. When you've been very sure about what the future is and what your role is in it for a long time, and you grew up in a culture like that, then when that collapses, you will end up seeing that it's all up for debate. There is no necessary reason for thinking that AI is the future. There's no necessary reason for all these predictions that people have. And I think it's a healthy sort of - not skepticism - just a fundamental ontological position that we don't know.”

This whole book is about looking at the world in a different way – but really looking – and looking at the everyday world.

“For me, the magic of every day is not just seeing very skilled people like in Second City or jazz musicians in the Blue Note. It is just walking down the street. When I open the door to Thirteenth Street, where I live, and see how children play, trucks, electric bikes, people from all over the world somehow coordinate how to co-exist. And that's the scale I call hyper reflection: to see how other people do that, and to see how other people do that but based on what do they do. So, kind of a second order, meta skill. And I think you can observe those situations, and when you do, the everyday becomes magic.”

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