Erik Larson

Sep 27, 2007

The Phoenix Project

The Phoenix Project is my grandiose title for the project of rethinking, questioning, and trying to contribute to the solution of some of the pressing problems of the day. The project has its roots in the recognition or at least growing belief that we are very likely in a transition to one of two outcomes, not long off in either case:

  1. A transformation into greater stability (i.e., globalized markets, independence from oil with the development of alternative fuels, and increasing economic prosperity leading to an easing of geopolitical and national tensions and the beginning of what Robert Wright once called, in “Nonzero”, “The storm before the calm”.

  2. A continuing state of war, violence, and upheaval based on an outdated conceptual schema of who’s right, who’s wrong, and what ought to be done about it that is completely and very dangerously wrongheaded.

The Phoenix Project, then, is a theory-to-praxis rethinking of what we’re up to these days, and what sort of changes need to happen to get us somewhere better.

The project is often projected from a distinctly American perspective: it is rooted in the ideas, policies, culture, and problems we encounter in America. Part of this provincialism is based on personal limitation: I happen to be, well, an American, and like to speak more about what I know than what I don’t. But more importantly, it’s often America-centered because—like it or not—America’s direction influences the world’s direction, and thus ipso facto America has a lot to say about 1) or 2).

So, as this unfolds I’m going to dive into quite a lot of material that is of importance to us all, such as discussion on ethics and ethical theory. But I’ll also weigh in on quite practical policy matters, like our role in energy transformation and more generally the prospects and debate over alternative fuel sources. So, the Phoenix Project examines theory and then hopes to put sound practice into action. The aim is to make option 1) above more likely to any extent possible, and show that Wright’s suggestion, in 1999, that we may be storming quite a bit before a relative calm, is still worth discussing and working to make happen in our world after September 11, 2001.