Announcing Pillar Academy

A Manifesto for the 21st Century & the search for young global shapers

—by David Siegel

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Please note: the continuation of this project is at InReality.Show.

NEWS: This community has become the Cutting Through the Noise community! See our web site and join our Telegram channel.

Background: In 2017, the Pillar Project was created to give people a platform for owning and using their own data using blockchain technology. Our ultimate goal is to create a new operating system for the 21st century — an alternative to Apple and Android. In 2018, regulators and bureaucrats made it clear that innovation will be done using 20th-century laws and standards. We are expanding the scope of our enthusiastic Pillar community to address fundamental problems we see with society and the changes necessary to empower individuals. This is our message …

The world we have today is fantastic for rich people and wealthy nations. The world today is optimized for big governments, bureaucrats, regulators, gatekeepers, accountants, advertisers, search-engine algorithms, click farms, PR firms, middlemen, sales people, incumbents, and large multinational companies. Today’s governments, institutions, and markets are all based on 20th-century models that failed decades ago. Entrepreneurship and innovation have been decreasing steadily for more than twenty years.

The architecture of our digital world is based on old paper models from the 19th and 20th centuries. It is centralized and hierarchical. It does not empower individuals. We are being held back by the legacy institutions and a mindset of incremental — rather than exponential — change.

At the same time, the world is not as bad as most of us think. Despite institutional inefficiencies, we have made huge progress in literacy, health care, agriculture, life expectancy, education, the environment, war, the economy, and the quality of life in general across all income levels. Family sizes are down significantly, lifespans continue to increase, and cities are effectively absorbing people from rural lands. Doom and gloom scenarios from the 1980s and 90s are not supported by today’s trends. Most people are unaware how much better the world is today from what is generally reported.

There are big things that need fixing, yet it’s very tricky to know what’s really important and which tools to use. If we don’t understand the problems, how can we find the right solutions? Our institutions, our brains, families, and social relationships are based on thousands of years of gradual evolution that are about to be interrupted.

We can only do so much with technology if the laws continue to enforce old ways of thinking. We also need to work at the level of policy and society. This project aims to give people a social and digital platform for rapid change.

We are outsourcing our future to large companies, irrelevant laws, and old institutions.

In thirty years, every city in the world will be twice the size it is today, people will live another ten years longer or more, we may have nuclear fusion power, and information and artificial intelligent agents will be built into everything we use. This is a rereading of a speech I gave at the European Parliament building in November, 2018. It’s a 20-minute summary of what is wrong and what needs to be done in Europe. Please watch:

In thirty years, people who are today in their twenties will be in the cockpit of planet Earth, and most of the rest of us will be passengers. Our goal is to educate and empower this generation to make the big changes the world needs.

Here are the three “pillars” of Pillar Academy:

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We will …

  1. Help people develop skills to understand the world and its changes. This involves building the muscles of critical thinking, Bayesian reasoning, and rationality. You will be challenged to change your mind every time you learn that your previous beliefs were not supported by evidence.
  2. Provide a forum where we can construct new exponential models for society and institutions. We will learn and use the principles of decentralization, market-based solutions, behavioral economics, agility, and mechanism design. We will use the scientific method to do experiments and keep policies evidence-based.
  3. Create a new nonprofit operating system for personal data that has no shareholders and is governed by its users. We have already shipped the first version of the Pillar wallet.
  4. Create new platforms for news, commerce, trade, and industry that aren’t skewed by regulations, advertising, politics, and incumbents.

An important part of what we are doing is taking control of our personal data. As I explained in my book, Pull, people should own their own data and use it for their own purposes, and that’s what the Pillar Project is all about.

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The Pillar Project is a nonprofit foundation whose goal is to help people collect, manage, and use their own personal data. Today, companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple want you to put your data into their systems and use their algorithms to help you get what you want. Not surprisingly, their algorithms are also designed to trap you in their system and increase the value of their stock. All the large platforms are owned by corporations.

Pillar is different. Pillar is based on my book, Pull, in which I describe a world where we each own our own personal data in our personal data locker, and we can hire our own personal assistants (algorithms) that work for us. If you don’t like your personal assistant, fire it and get another one. In the world of Pull, you are at the center, and vendors present offers that you can accept or decline. In the world of Pull, you are in control.

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Pillar is an open-source, nonprofit platform that allows anyone to compete on a level playing field. The platform will be governed by its users, not by a for-profit company. Our first product — a crypto wallet — is already in the App store and Google Play. We have much more to build.

To learn more, read The Pillar Project Gray Paper.

Put simply: infrastructure is a public good; digital infrastructure should be open-source and governed by the users. Infrastructure should not be privately held.

In a podcast interview, Marc Andreesen recently said that because of network effects, the next generation of giant tech companies will be far larger than today’s Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook. Bad legislation also plays a big role in creating these giant companies. Pillar Academy is for people who understand that this is a world no one wants; we need to change direction now.

We are looking for people who have a bias toward action and informed discussion rather than opinion and anecdotes. We envision a small number of “core” people completing our training course, building a human “consensus algorithm” that helps us find the best understanding of each issue. Together, we will find answers to big problems — researching, debating, discussing, applying analytical tools, and evidence-based reasoning — then this work will go through writers and visualisers to feed multiple channels, including an app that gives people “the answers to big questions.” This will translate into action and policy at many levels.

This is an invitation to help us shape this program and make it powerful for young people. I would like it to include a bootcamp to help people get the skills of rationality and evidence-based reasoning. With your ideas, energy, and talent, we can build anything from a school to a think tank to a training center to a recruiting platform to a new United Nations. I would like our open community to be a complement to the World Economic Forum Global Shapers and to Singularity University. Help us design it, build it, and find great people for it.

If you are now 20–35 and want to join us, or if you are older and eager to make a difference, we are interested in you. Regardless of age, we want to know that you are open and willing to change your mind. See our web site and join our Telegram channel.

For the first half of 2019, we will …

  1. Build a community of young shapers in our own Telegram channel. We already have a strong Pillar community that we want to build on to go more mainstream. We are bringing together the doers who are concerned about the future and want to change it. We should have a weekly group call to keep everyone focused on our agenda.
  2. Build a web site to replace this essay.
  3. Write a book proposal that leads to a contract with a large publisher. I’ve published several bestselling books and know how to get a book deal, but we need to …
  4. Build a strong social-media presence that helps us build our community and get a book deal. We must have hundreds of thousands of followers before we can get a large publisher to give us a contract. It also helps us build our community.
  5. Plan and execute a big weeklong event, sponsored by Pillar, in June 2019, to bring our shapers together for a week of intense workshops, learning, planning, and collaboration. Can you help? We need to start planning now!
  6. Start to work with a social agency and PR firm to build our base. We are currently looking for a social media agency to help us increase our listening and outreach. See next section.
  7. Put a development team together to help raise money through donations for research, products, events, web site, software, etc.

We will need help building our audience. At least some of what we need:

Social Media — Taking our content and feeding to various media; newsjacking; setting up podcasts; repackaging our content for a young adult audience; connecting with influencers; helping listen so we can frame our content and test new messages; find young ambassadors to join us as influencers and come to our events.

How can we take our social following to the next level? We want hundreds of thousands of people who are young and eager to change the world. We are willing to rebrand, reshape, do what it takes to build our audience.

Public Relations — Getting interviews; promoting members of our community; getting us on podcasts, YouTube channels, shows; getting invited to speak at key events; connecting us to journalists; placing thought pieces; promoting some of our more prominent young members. We want to build the Pillar Academy brand into a premier destination for young change agents.

We would like to hear from PR and social media companies who will first spend some time understanding our message and respond appropriately. We are looking for partners more than just service providers. If you are interested, learn more at Pillarproject.io and then send a message to sonia@pillarproject.io and tell her what you think you can do for us. We have a limited budget but understand the value of a good partner team.

This call is for future leaders and shapers. It is not for influencers (yet). We are looking for people interested in science, rationality, politics, policy, statistics, data science, and people who are hungry to learn and change themselves first. We want to build a set of training tools and learning sequences to help people better understand the world.

We are not exclusive. We don’t believe in people applying and selecting them based on some random criteria. We believe in a meritocracy — anyone is welcome to join.

Please help us find them — tweet and share the this page (http://pillar.academy) with as many people as possible.

We will be reading and discussing a number of books to get started, you should consider these part of the foundation of our learning:

We will be discussing these books and more in our Telegram channel. If you haven’t read any of them, I recommend starting from the top. Here are some foundational online resources:

We look forward to working with you to create a better tomorrow.

Please tweet and share the this page (http://pillar.academy) with as many people as possible.

NEWS: This community has become the Cutting Through the Noise community! See our web site and join our Telegram channel.

David Siegel

Written by

Provocateur, professional heretic, slayer of myths, speaker of truthiness to powerfulness, and defender of the Oxford comma.

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