The Living Agent Lens

The CIIC Auckland workshop in September 2018 focused on reinventing civilisation. To frame the discussion we watched a 15 minute recording of a talk from 2014 by Eileen Crist titled Confronting Anthopocentrism.

For humans it is not possible to reason about the Anthropocene entirely without human bias. The best we can do from our human perspective is to consciously use language that broadens our perspective to include all living agents within the biosphere.


The latent human propensity to exert power over others and to shape the social environment is reflected in the pervasive use of language that implies some form of coercion. Language frames people’s thoughts and emotional response. 
It is time to replace language that is detrimental to life with a language that nurtures the web of life on this planet:

  1. Niche construction and symbiosis rather than competition 
– to create organisations and services that are fit for purpose and valued by the wider community
  2. Company rather than business – to focus on the people and things we care about rather than what is simply keeping us busy
  3. Values rather than value – to avoid continuously discounting what is priceless
  4. Physical waste rather than wealth – to focus us on the metrics that do matter
  5. Human scale and individual focus rather than large scale and growth – to create structures and systems that are understandable and relatable
  6. Competency networks rather than leadership – to get things done and distribute decision making to where the knowledge resides
  7. Coordination rather than management 
– to address all the stuff that can increasingly be automated, management is often the biggest obstacle to automation
  8. Creativity and divergent thinking rather than best practices 
– when facing the need to innovate and improve