What is The TEN Project all about? – An interview with TEN director John Tattersall

So TEN is about promoting things like recycling and reducing emissions?

No. We are about using technology, social networking, games, urban projects and story telling across all media to engender action and change in attitudes globally.

To use your example, reusing, reducing and recycling is crucial not because it can ever reduce carbon emission, toxins, emerging diseases, disparity of wealth and resource access to anything near safe levels, but because of something much more powerful: The action of reusing, reducing and recycling changes our attitudes to our life systems and our consumer roles. For this reason alone, it is a crucial program to institute in the children of any society. However, it is only one of a thousand possible programs required to significantly shift attitudes for the future.

Many of these programs are fraught with problems and inefficiencies of their own, such as recycling. People should not be encouraged to just blindly follow a program, but should begin to think of themselves as in control, responsible and powerful. Then they need to collaborate, and decide in smart groups about how to redesign systems. What the programs do is catalyze the first shift in attitude.

What we really need is to focus on aggregating as many diverse attitude-changing programs as possible and in the most objective way possible, with the single aim of creating a new generation, unified at least in having renewed attitudes about where our economic and industrial system should be heading. Only once this is achieved can this new generation start disassembling the old design and building a new one. Only then, will they have the patience and motivation to go through that awkward transition.

So are you suggesting that the current economic system is of no use?

No. I am suggesting that transition and change is crucial.

Blindly continuing to consume conventional industrial products at an ever-increasing rate, is essential to maintaining the growth of industry. However, this growth has two conflicting results: It pays for a large chunk of that which makes life fun (A), and it causes that which makes life not fun (B).

A) It pays for water, food, shelter, protection from disease, opportunity for creative growth and expression, vital arenas for social interaction, research for new technologies to cope with a changing world and for finding new resources, maintenance of the environment, and organisations that help to distribute wealth more evenly across the world.

B) It causes contamination of water, food, air and the manufacture of toxic consumer products, new diseases, stifled opportunities for creative growth and expression, destruction of vital social interaction arenas, depletion of resources, destruction of the environment and a drastically uneven distribution of wealth, resource and power.

Knowing this provides three basic options for action:

1) To continue supporting and preserving the current economy because A+B is more desirable than having neither A nor B.

2) To stop supporting the current economy altogether because having neither A nor B is more desirable than A+B.

3) To strive to create some kind of new economy that grows A without causing B.

There is much debate about which of these directions to take, or whether they are alone at all realistic, or even if any kind of hybrid is possible. It is my contention that options (1) and (2) are fundamentalist options driven by fear caused by rapid world change, and that eventually we will either choose (3), or (3) will occur naturally. The question is how long this will take and what are the benefits of speeding up the process, the methods by which this can be done, and the consequences of not making a concerted effort to speed up this process.

It is naïve to assume that governments can be speedily motivated toward (3) due to their support the beneficiaries of (1) and unrealistic to assume that the world population can be either, due mainly to the difficulty, nay impossibility, of fitting the enormous effort involved in that into busy adult life, and also partially due to any radical support of (2). Yet, the risks of waiting for (3) to arise naturally, without any kind of effort, far outweigh the benefits of inaction. This is our great dilemma in 2008, as a species, and I believe that the secret to solving it lies nested in the bosom of this dilemma: in the rapid urbanisation that (1) has promoted. Somehow, the mega-city is the solution to moving speedily into (3).

Our only hope is that a creative and collaborative culture can be ignited amongst our kids as soon as possible, and as young as possible, to realise this urban solution, as the consequences that arise from option (1) become ever more pressing for a future that we adults will never see. They, on the other hand, will.

OK, so how do we unify these children, and how to we aggregate these programs?

With a fun game, playable across various communications devices and cultures in ten mega-cities, that requires its young players to make and post stories about urban-changing projects. They score in the game by voting and being voted for their stories across the game’s social network, and they are voted higher the more actively involved they get with the projects they are making the stories about. Their real-world actions are rewarded by high scores that could even be cashed in for real–world stuff like mobile phones to play the game on (or generate wealth, in the case of poorer communities) from investments by sponsors and phone companies who benefit from a globally expanding and trusted market.

Sounds pretty good. How do I find out more and even get involved.?

Keep checking in to www.thetenproject.org homepage and blog to keep abreast of the news on how the design of this game is developing, and even ways that you could become involved. We are currently testing a simple paper prototype in Sao Paulo, one of our focus target mega-cities.


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