Interview with Alexander Bard
What is the essence of cyberphilosphy for you?
Philosophy originally means “the love of wisdom” in Greek. The Greeks in turn borrowed the concept from the ancient Iranians whose 4,000-year-old term mazdayasna means exactly the same thing. A Greek philosopher (or an Iranian mazdayasni) is consequently a person who pursues and collects wisdom to be recited and written down. Like for all other philosophers, this was also my ambition in life from an early age.
A more modern meaning of the term philosophy was formulated by the French 20th century thinker Gilles Deleuze when he said “philosophy is the art of constructing concepts to help us understand the world better”. In this sense, a philosopher is the opposite of a poet, who aspires to make the world ever more complex and ambivalent. Philosophy is a literary art form like poetry, but it is the opposite of poetry in the sense that philosophy seeks to understand and come to grips with the world through text – to “nail reality through words” so to speak – rather than to incessantly confuse humans ever more the way poets and other artists do.
However, it should be emphasised here that philosophy is an art and not a science. Science can be the subject of philosophy (for example through a discipline called “philosophy of science”) but philosophy can never be the subject of science. Physics (a science) is for example grounded within metaphysics (a philosophical discipline) and not the other way around.
The term cyber in all of this is then nothing but a prefix for the branch of philosophy that deals with technology and its relationship with and affects on humans, through human-technological interaction and through human-to-human communication using various technologies. Unsurprisingly, cyberphilosophy is the discipline within philosophy which has expanded the most over the past three decades, simply because technology and technological change have come to define the society and the age we live in.
An additional aspect of this fact that I certainly don’t mind is that cyberphilosophy has also become the most lucrative way for a contemporary philosopher to make a really good living from his work. So I’m personally doing quite nicely, thank you! As I believe that I deserve to.
Who or what inspires you most?
First I would of course have to say philosophy, including all the great thinkers from the ancient Greeks and their contemporaries in East Asia via the Enlightenment all the way through to the modern age. Next I would say technology – the sole and incessant motor of change throughout human history. Then I’m of course immensely fascinated with the human being – a fairly constant actor throughout the ages since our genes have pretty much remained unchanged for the past 50,000 years.
However, no matter how fixed he is in himself, Man is constantly caught in the whirlwind of change simply due to the fact that the human being is the only animal wrapped up in ever faster technological transformation. Add history in general and travelling around the world in particular and you have pretty much summarised the main interests and inspirations behind my work, so far epitomised in four books co-written with Jan Söderqvist: The Netocrats, The Global Empire, The Body Machines and the latest Syntheism – Creating God in The Internet Age, released in October 2014.
What is the most unique experience you have had as a result of your job?
I travel around the world and speak to all kinds of audiences about philosophy, technology, communication and what kind of future awaits us. But what makes this work especially unique is actually when I get to look into people’s most farfetched and abstact hopes and imaginations – which philosophers and futurologists increasingly have to do – then I also get to look inside the deepest and often most sensitive areas of both individual human lives and organisations and institutions.
And it is fascinating how different people and their environments come across when being observed and interacted with from inside their deepest positions. I often feel like a kind of mental surgeon. After all, it is precisely the parts that people, organisations and institutions are unable to see inside themselves which I am hired to expose to them. It is in this sense that my work and my travelling can never cease to amaze me. The depths of the human psyche are truly infinite.
As a speaker you claim to give not just another predictable power-point presentation. What does this mean for your audience?
I worked successfully in the international music industry for 25 years. And one thing I can assure you of is that a power-point presentation at a business conference would be regarded by music industry executives as hardly more valuable than a playback miming performance by a musical artist.
So I skipped the power-point presentations during my speeches some 15 years ago and decided that I would much rather speak assisted by a whiteboard with pens or even a blackboard with chalk than having a glitzy but pre-arranged and therefore utterly predictable power-point presentation behind my back. This way I can interact more freely with the audience during my speeches and make it truly participating rather than just treat it like a bunch of passive students with an authoritarian teacher, the way most international speakers unfortunately still do.
What kinds of clients have you worked with in the past?
My clients include major corporations going through technological change, especially multi-level digital transformation. There are also many organisations and institutions battling with globalisation and digitalisation. I meet with and teach young people like students and internet start-up entrepreneurs on how to understand and communicate and collaborate with the financial establishment and with network and marketing expertise. And I then teach their parental generation in return on how to tap into the digital youth’s ingenuity.
In this department, my own 25 years as a highly successful entrepreneur in the international music industry obviously adds rare but much needed weight and credibility to my arguments. But I always safeguard my own curiosity, it is my best asset of all, being constantly involved first-hand in new entrepreneurial projects myself. This is also where my current involvement in the fast-growing Syntheist Movement comes to the fore. Like any good teacher, I take pride in always first practicing what I then teach.