Aza is a cofounder of The Earth Species Project & The Center for Humane Technology, & Your Undivided Attention 🔊. He makes language and change in the world.
The first time I went canoeing, I remember noticing a mysterious phenomena no-one there could explain: as I pushed my paddle through the water, two little whirlpools spun from its edges, spiraling away into the lake long after I pulled my paddle from the water.
What were they and why did they form?
It was trying to figure it out for myself that pulled me into a love for physics and math: together, they give you a map by which you can work out the whys of the universe.
You can find the same vortex in the eddies at the edges of streams, in the rising warmth of dust devils, in the dangerous air-rotors lurking behind cliffs. There are simple, unseen rules that govern everything.
He helped architect The Social Dilemma; briefs legislators and heads of state; and his work has been covered in books, documentaries, and global press.
Metaphors are maps that preserve relationships.
They help you understand one thing by borrowing your understanding of another. They let you understand something huge by understanding something small; something you can’t touch by something you can.
The better your maps, the deeper variety of things you can understand with what you already know. The deeper variety of things you know, the more your maps can teach you how the world is actually the same.
By walking more territory and bettering your maps, you can find constant insight into whatever you care about most.
These maps—your metaphors—help light the universe’s simple, unseen rules.
Aza grew up steeped in the values that gave birth to Silicon Valley: the Englebartian-view that computers should augment our collective wisdom.
His father, Jef Raskin, started the Macintosh project at Apple, using the word "humane" to describe its philosophy.
Maps comes with a warning: “The map”, they say, “is not the territory”. The menu is not the meal. The representation is not the thing it represents; some parts must be minimized to make others more visible.
Maps clarify by obscuring.
A metaphor—as a map—is like a set of many arranged bulbs in a dark forest: the trees flush with light hide those in shadow. There is no way to see that isn’t also blind.
But moving between many maps and metaphors changes your perspective, moves the bulbs and their arrangement: lighting this way then that. Slowly—and sometimes all at once—you see patterns in what you can’t.
Truth is a process; more verb than noun.
Aza is a co-chairing member of the World Economic Forum's Global AI Council and a director at Stochastic, which convenes the best creative minds in the San Francisco and beyond for conversations and art residencies in a curious Berkeley Victorian.
He's collaborated on site-specific work in the Korean DMZ (2018), with Alexa Meade on experiential art installations (2017), and guest curated Ars Electronica on its 40th anniversary (2019).
My two younger sisters have a different answer to the unvoiced question of growing up with my father.
Aenea is a teacher, dedicating her life to nourishing the future. Aviva graduated with a double masters in social work and public health. Both follow the inspiration of my mother, Linda, who is a nurse practitioner with a passion for care and has helped thousands of families—one by one—find dignity in death.
There's a reality to their work beyond what pixels can muster.