New View EDU Episode 7: Full Transcript

Read the full transcript of Episode 7 of the NAIS New View EDU podcast, in which hosts Tim Fish and Lisa Kay Solomon explore how a deeper understanding of the struggle for true equity in education can inform the way we design schools and learning opportunities in the future. The guests are Lonny Brooks and Ahmed Best, co-hosts of the Afrofuturist podcast and creators of the game Afro-Rithms From the Future. They delve into how their shared understanding of the future-thinking orientation inherent in the Black American experience, and the lack of representation of the Black community in the science fiction and gaming worlds, led to their creation of a communal game experience devoted to “democratizing the future.” They also share what their work means for educators and schools everywhere.

Lisa Kay Solomon: We are in for a treat today with our conversation with Dr. Lonny Avi J. Brooks and Ahmed Best. Dr. Brooks is a professor in communication at Cal State University East Bay, creative director for the Afrorithms Futures Group, and co-organizer for the black speculative arts movement in Oakland. Ahmed Best is a futurist, writer, director, producer, actor, musician, and host. He starred in the Broadway musical "Stomp," and was the first CGI lead character in a motion picture, starring as Jar-Jar Binks in the "Star Wars" early trilogy, and has won many awards for his diverse talents. Together, they host the Afrofuturist podcast and produce global collaborations related to speculative art, science, and more equitable and just futures.

Tim and I are so excited to explore the depth and breadth of their work and how we might bring their posture and ideas about the future to more school leaders and educators. Ahmed, Lonny, thank you so much for being here. 

Ahmed Best: Yeah. Thanks for having us. 

Lonny Brooks: Thank you. 

Lisa Kay Solomon: I want to start with what first brought you two together.

I recently re-listened to the opening conversation in your Afrofuturist podcast. And I was really taken with the exchange you had when you were talking about how underdeveloped we are, in general, about thinking about the future. And the opportunities for practices like Afro futures as a discipline and a set of practices to allow us to see and shape more inclusive futures. So I can imagine that this is like, very new territory for a lot of our listeners. And so Lonny, I'd love to start with you and your scholarship in this area. Can you give us a brief description about what Afro futures is and how it might be helpful for all of us in shaping our beliefs about the future? 

Lonny Brooks: Afrofuturism is a combination of speculative fiction and science fiction and fantasy to envision alternative futures and memories about—about the future, leveraging our ancestral intelligence from the Black Diaspora, indigenous, people of color, but fundamentally based in the Black experience of the Middle Passage. You know, we kind of reframe and re narrativize the Middle Passage, where millions of Black Africans were enslaved in from their home planet. We think of it as our home world in West Africa, and then taken with the latest in bondage technologies across a vast sea or interstellar space, as you might call it, to an alien world where they could be killed if they spoke their languages, practiced their religions, or played their music.

So they had to be rapid innovators, adapters, and under the cover, retain the memories as they could of their traditions. And really, you know, spirituals were invented out of readapting Christian hymnals to imagine different worlds, to imagine worlds that were uncolonized. Their Zion, free of slavery. And Afrofuturism then leverages that. And if you think about how that then fundamentally expands, you know, going from spirituals to blues, to jazz, to, to hip hop, to house music, rap it's, it's, it's a fundamental innovation of music that's transformed the global space. 

Lisa Kay Solomon: I just love that description, Lonny, for so many reasons, because it is expansive and interdisciplinary in such an empowering way.

And I feel like, Ahmed, I could use those words to describe your work in general, that so many of your projects are expansive and interdisciplinary, informed by your love of science and passion for arts and culture. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about what Afro futures has brought to your body of work, and how it shaped how you think about your choices as a leader, and the way that you show up and the way that you, you know, what I really see is you bring out the best in others in amplified ways.

Ahmed Best: Thank you. That really is my goal.  Coming at it from the performance arts side and coming at it from the narrative fiction side, the idea of always being a futurist has always been with me since I was very young. And subsequently I think African people and those of African descent have always had the futurist mindset, the futurist thinking, and you know what I, what I like to talk about when we play Afrorithms our game, is how as enslaved Africans were brought throughout the Western world, we had no choice but to look forward to a time where enslavement wasn't a possibility. Even the idea of the Civil Rights movement, and even before that, when we're talking about, you know, the 14th, 15th, 16th amendments in the United States, you have to be a futurist in the thinking in order to convince a body, a governmental body of which you have no representation in, that you are worth being moved from commodity to an actual human being.

We had to legislate our way into humanity through a body of government that didn't believe that we were humans and thought about us as the cost value and the welfare of the nation. So in order to even be able to be prescient enough, to know how to do that, you have to have a mindset in which you believe that that is possible. And you believe that in the future, none of this, or none of those ideas and those thinkings of that time will exist. 

So I come at it from, you know, a very strong tradition in African-American theater and in music where all of these ideas are incredibly pervasive. And, you know, I was a huge comic book fan as a kid and really into science fiction and you know, a lot of people know the story about Dr. King talking to Nichelle Nichols and convincing her to stay on Star Trek. But that's a story that I grew up with. So science fiction, especially Star Trek, had always been incredibly important to me. Most of the time in narrative fiction, when you're talking about the future, you don't see very many black people in it. And I wanted to change that. Not only change it, but actually dispel this myth that black people aren't not only fans of science fiction, but able to create science fiction. 

So I wrote a show in 2008, an independent web show called the Nebula, which was about five black astronauts or five black reality show stars who get launched into space by a disgruntled Neil deGrasse Tyson. And so, as I was shopping that show around, the comments that I kept getting were: "Well, it's funny, but we don't know if people are going to watch an all black cast doing science fiction, and black people don't like science fiction as an audience." And I really was frustrated with that, especially since I loved science fiction, I was a part of science fiction. I had already done "Star Wars" at the time. And I knew a whole bunch of people like me. And so I realized there wasn't really very many outlets for people to not only find out about people who were like me or know where to find people and listen to people. And that's when the idea of the Afrofuturist podcast came up. I was really tired of explaining myself and in these one-to-one situations and I wanted a place where I can just go, "Listen to this and you'll get it." And then my brother-in-law was like, "Hey, you should really meet this guy Lonny Brooks." I think he made the Twitter connection first, even before like a text connection.

I was like, yo, we got to talk, uh, got Lonny's number and on my way to brunch, I talk about this all the time, but it was, it's really a fundamentally like, transformative conversation. On my way to brunch in Highland Park in LA, I was like, let me just give Lonny a call and just talk to him and see if he'd be interested in maybe doing a podcast. Because I was like, I want to do a podcast, but I don't know what it's going to be, I don't know what to call it. Alright. So I called Lonny, and what I thought was going to be like a five minute drive conversation, turned into a two hour conversation in my car, about Afrofuturism.  And you're talking about, you know, all of these multitudes of interdisciplinary ideas and thoughts coming together and, and, and culminating into this Afro futures kind of a, a heading. That's exactly how our relationship started and how our work started together, which is like this wonderful culmination of all of these different disciplines coming together and going, "Hey, this is a thing," and us making it a thing. 

Tim Fish: That's exactly how Lisa and I started and got the idea for this podcast, is that we just said, "Hey, we should talk sometime," and got on a call. And 90 minutes later, the only thing we knew at the end of that conversation, is we wanted to have another one, and we wanted to have it soon. And that led to this idea that we should just have a, a podcast and bring some people on and just have a conversation about where school's going and where education is headed and so on.

Ahmed, I'd love to follow up a little bit on that notion of the future and futures thinking. Because I think many schools during this past year have been, or are just finding themselves, reacting to everything coming at them. And I wonder if the, if a futures approach could really help liberate some of that thinking. 

Ahmed Best: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of times with futures thinking people don't invest the amount of time that I think is necessary into future thinking because they believe they can't afford it. Right. I think most people look at the past and try to learn from the past, and hedge the present on the past without looking forward to the future.

And I think, you know, what has been happening in this past year with COVID-19 and the online learning and the screen learning is a perfect example of how the school systems were kind of caught unprepared, right? They decided to just transfer the learning that you would do in the classroom to the learning that you would do on the screen.

You know, the, the data that's coming out right now about how many students are being left behind and how many students are feeling like they lost a year in school is, is coming through because they're recognizing that you can't just take the live experience and put it on a screen. You actually do have to reorganize, rearrange, and rethink teaching in general to this medium.

And it was blatantly apparent because I have a 12 year old who's in middle school who was online schooling. And to him, the screen is not a place where people get talked at. The screen is a portal to the universe. And if you are not taking advantage of the portal to the universe, they're going to find another way to do it.

Right. So there were a bunch of, you know, students in my son's class who got in trouble, quote, unquote, for not paying attention in class, because they were talking on Discord and looking at YouTube and doing all these other things. And because the idea of in-person schooling is pay attention to the teacher, sit in your chair, have them lecture at you about something that you don't care about for eight hours, get up, get a, you know, carton of milk, and a square pizza, and then go do it again. The kids were just like, yeah, no, that's not what we do. Right? So rather than learn from that, I think what happened was schools tried to hedge against it. Right? 

I would have done personally the exact opposite. I would have found ways to take this wonderful access to the, the rest of the universe, and use it to teach what I have to teach. Right. Rather than trying to put a quote, unquote, live experience on a screen. It doesn't really work. And you know, getting back to the interdisciplinary thing, that's the reason why you have films, right?

Because screen language is different from theater language, when you're talking about interpreting the story, and how we talk and how we learn is we learn through metaphor. Right? We learn through stories. You know, I always like to talk about the song, Follow the Drinking Gourd, which was a very important song for the Underground Railroad, right? Because at the end of the Big Dipper is the North Star. And that's how enslaved Africans found their way North. They would follow the North Star. Right. And the drinking gourd is what they called the Big Dipper. And their code, you know, was to sing about the drinking gourd. And that's how they were able to connect to the other enslaved Africans on how to get to the Underground Railroad to get to North, to get to freedom.

So looking at that as a metaphor for learning, when you transfer those screen arts that we've learned over a hundred years of, of doing film, into a way to tell the story, into a way of telling the metaphor of what you're trying to teach, and using depth, using color, using line, using time, right? Recognizing that the time that you have on screen is not time that you are in real life. Like you have the ability—you know, what I tell my students at USC is when you're editing, you are a master of time and space, right? So being able to do that and transferring all of that acumen to the screen is a great way to update and future-proof online learning.

Lisa Kay Solomon: So Lonny, I'd love to hear from your perspective, you've actually been a futures practitioner for a long time.  And I think a lot of people don't quite know that futures thinking is in fact, a practice and a discipline, and that while we can't predict the future, it doesn't mean we need to be blindsided. And boy, did we feel blindsided by the future in the last 15 months or so. So I wonder if you could just share a little bit about your journey in futures thinking, and specifically some of the disciplines that have emerged from your time spent with different organizations and different groups doing this work.

Lonny Brooks: Yes. You know, at first I was part of as, as an intern, part of the Interval research corporation that was founded by the co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen. It was like a six month internship where I was part of the explorers interaction group, and our task was to, you know, observe how people use technology. And they were anticipating the future of the digital space in the, and this is back in 95. But they were doing top secret things. And so it was like, oh, you know, I wanted to write about them for my dissertation, but I wasn't going to be able to. It was really fun. But I met someone from the Institute for the Future at a party that Interval gave, and they invited me to study them, because they're a nonprofit and all the research is made available to the public.

And so I thought, great. You know, so I studied them as an ethnographer, getting deep into their organization, attending their 10 year forecast meetings every year and really getting to know the people there. What I noticed immediately was what they were trying to do was to create maps and visualizations of the future. And also trying to stage the future as a performance. I also got that from Eric Disman at, at Interval Research, where he was also creating stage productions about the future. He dressed up as a hairdresser interacting with a gigantic—what we would call an iPad—in the mirror. And, you know, it was a hit at one of the computer conferences there, too. And so I found myself on stage in San Jose at a hotel, playing a big brother who was, had an avatar name, Dreadlock, who was trying to knock his sister off the main TV in the living room. And she was interacting with her cousin, thousands of miles away. And they were watching the same show together.
So my avatar was kicking them all out and just won the control of the TV, the controller. And so,  what they were doing and what we, you know, to their credit actually in 2001, because what I noticed about that space is that it's really white, you know, upper middle-class, and what I engaged with them to do in 2001 was to do a digital storytelling event with black activists from the El Canto neighborhood in San Diego. And we had a tent and we had these digital activists that worked with the center for digital storytelling to tell stories about the future. One of them, I remember it was like Harriet Tubman coming back to the present and seeing what had happened.

And I met Jane McGonagall there, a director of game research, in about 2007, and she was kind enough to give me some of the sheets that she had been using to do theirs, their games. Y'know, interesting game called Superstruct, and another one called Evoke, and Evoke actually was centered in Africa. And I was like, this is a curious, you know—and so what I realized that what was missing... it was, this game was played as a leadership class for Africans, for folks from the global area.

And what I noticed that what was missing was us, you know, as the Black Diaspora, our voices too, and how we might shape the future. And in this, though, we developed the long-term futures thinking project at my school at Cal State East Bay, where we got access to the latest podcast from the Long Now Foundation.

And with the help of folks like Andrea Saveri, who is from the Institute for the Future, we transformed my curriculum into futures oriented classes. And, to fast forward though, now, with the help of the Blue Shield Foundation grant, it's a two year grant. We created the Community Futures school, where we actually use our game Afro-Rithms From the Future to play regularly with the kids.

They're high schoolers, I shouldn't call them kids. They're high schoolers. And it actually launched during COVID. So we were addressing a need, where the high schoolers were actively more engaged in creating art about the future, speculative stories about the future, and games about the future. And it was based on the objects that they created within our game.

So we're really excited about the transformative nature of this too. And the students are actually leading talks in what's called our porch talks about black joy and affirmations of, of blackness. And they're going to be showcasing their work in the Community Futures school that they've done to envision and imagine Oakland in 2045, that's really the focal question, is what does Oakland look like in 2045? 

Lisa Kay Solomon: Lonny, I love that. There's so much to unpack in how you are approaching this. And one thing I just want to really bring to a point is this notion that futures need to be felt. They need to be immersed with, they need to be engaged with. And that when futures are done well, they're very different than a forecast, they're very different than a strategic plan. They're meant to be interacted with. They're meant to be discovery driven, to allow ourselves to understand something about ourselves and to co-create together, the way you just described. 

Tim Fish: The game is something that I'm just fascinated by. In particular, what I'm curious about, Dr. Brooks, is what you're seeing with the impact when gamification and futures thinking is introduced to young people to think about democracy and equity. It's an invitation, it's it, it creates pathways to dialogue and learning. And it's not prescriptive in the way that it does that. So I'm just, I would love to hear more about how the game unlocks and invites growth. 

Lonny Brooks: Well, I have to say it was inspired by Stewart Candy's game "The Thing from the Future" with Jeff Watson that they created. And what we did with that game was that we took it to our group of we're an incredibly diverse uh, University, Cal State East Bay, in fact one of the most diverse universities in the nation. And so we took this game with women, in a predominantly women and minority group. And we, we actually hacked Thing From the Future.

We were like, okay, what's, what's, you know, what's, what do you think might be missing from this game? And, you know, they have really great vocabulary for the game too, in terms of objects, you know, what does objects from the future look like? And context for the future, you know, like communication. And so my, my students were—and moods from the future. So my students were like, well, you know, Kanye's a mood. Beyonce is a mood. Netflix is a mood. You know, and that was the year that Beyonce's Lemonade album came out too. And they were like, well, where's the handbag, you know, like, and what about diaspora, and migration, and immigration.

And I just think, you know, like with any language, the kids come to it more naturally. They are like the natural linguists in adopting that language and implementing it. So my students, you know, have access to putting in—implementing their voices, and especially their own cultural experiences into the game, that really expands and gets them excited about doing this work.

So it's so it's, so it's not like we're teaching you futures forecasting, they're doing futures forecasting. They're making objects in the future. And and seeing themselves reflected in the future, not 10 years from now, but immediately. 

Lisa Kay Solomon: There's a tangibility to the game that's immediate when you create these artifacts from the future, that then serve as the springboard for stories. Um, and there's a real, as you said, there's not a prescription, but there's real structure and intentionality. I've heard you talk about a structured imagination, which I just love. Can you just imagine if every classroom had a component of structured imagination? There's also an incredible part, Ahmed, that I've seen you play. I've had the fortune of, of being a part of your game, where you think about the roles of the game and your role as the Seer.

And when I saw you perform the role of the Seer, I was struck immediately that you were not, first of all, the knower. You were not the knower, you were the Seer. And how that allowed everyone playing to be seen. And I then thought again, what an incredible way to reframe what teaching is about, right? Like how might we use that as, as a way to think differently about what our roles are in education. And so I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that role and you know, what it's been like for you to play that role and perhaps what leaders might take away from the power of that role? 

Ahmed Best: Thank you for that question. And also thank you for what you said about futures being felt, because I think that's something that future forecasters try to put as a, as a secondary and maybe tertiary thing, behind putting out either their forecasts or their ideas. Right. I am in the emotional business. As an actor, as a director, as a writer, my job is to elicit an emotional response out of the audience, out of my actors if I'm working as a director, out of everyone watching, out of everyone reading. So being felt is a huge part of my life. 

And as a Seer in the game, which is more of an advisor role in the game, I use that to help clarify the world that the community at the time wants to build in, in that moment. So what I like to do as the Seer is find everybody's emotional engine, right? What is the thing, in every player, that activates them and makes them say, I care. What's the thing in you that whenever you hear it, you get either excited or motivated. Right? So I look for that emotional engine in everyone playing, right. And then I take that emotional engine and put it into the context of the game. 

Now the emotional engine usually can be found through like your top five narratives, right? The things that you like the most, whether it's an artist or a movie or a book that you read, like your engine is usually the same thing across medium and across platforms. So the way I find it is I just start talking to people, and I just start asking questions of the people and how they feel at the moment at that time. And because I've trained this a bunch of times, and this is going to be part of our Seer training, I can pretty much get to your engine pretty quickly.

Right. So when I find that, I try to get rid of this idea that you can be wrong. Right. I try to get rid of this idea that what you're saying has no value because, dot, dot, dot. Whatever everyone's saying has their specific value. Right? Because it's them saying it that's important to me. Right? Your point of view, as an individual, from where you come from, is extremely important to me.

So my job as the Seer is to help you build the world and frame the universe in which you want to create based on the way you feel at that moment, at that time. Right. And then we bring the community aspect into it, which is, you know, I always like to think of it as a murmuration. Where, you know, the, the big rule in a murmuration, where you see a flock of birds, is don't hit your friends. Right. We care about, you know, if Scotty is flying that way and all of a sudden, like Jenny wants to go that way, Scotty has to go with Jenny because we don't want to hurt our friends, we don't want to just start slamming into each other.

Right. So I take the community in Afrorithms, and I move us like a murmuration, make sure that we're all not hurting our friends. And that's my job as the Seer. Lonny's job as librarian, right—there are two roles in our game, the Seer and the librarian—Lonny is the keeper of all knowledge Afrofuturist, right. He is also the person who provides context. Right. So if there's, if there is something that I see that I would love to have even more of an expansive experience about, I'll go to Lonny as the librarian and Lonny will expand on the idea and we'll create the idea. And now that we have this safe space for world-building, now that we have this wonderfully open community to imagine and create signals, that's when we can get into those things that we might perceive to be tangible, right. Which are the artifacts that we build, which are the systems that we build, but you know, very different from a lot of the future forecasting games, we don't create from a place of perceived reality. Right. We create from a place of relative reality, which is, we are, you know, beings made of matter living in a universe that has a bit of physics to it.

Right. But we're a multi-verse game, which means that we can actually imagine the rules based on this relative reality. We don't have to find signals that are in the real world and that's how we build through Afro-rithms.

Lisa Kay Solomon: I love that. I just got so excited all over again about taking that insight and applying it to classrooms and applying it to school communities. Can you imagine if everyone said, listen, the most important thing we do when we welcome students back on campus is to amplify their emotional engines? It's to see that—I mean, can you like, because we know, and we're doing some of this research at the d. School, that the best learning happens with emotion, not devoid of emotion. So, you know, what I hear you saying is, which I think is a very subtle, but really important thing for leaders as well. The trust comes first. The seeing comes first. The honoring comes first. 

And then you can collectively build the vision together. That doesn't mean you're devoid of idea, but if you want it to be a collective vision, you have to allow that to take place. And particularly at a time when we're all coming in, needing some repair, needing some connection, reconnection, and Lonny, I've often heard you say, you know, we're so exhausted from the present that we forget. We're not able to imagine the future. And so I love, Ahmed, that you're talking about honoring the present where we are, and using that as a springboard. 

Ahmed Best: Yeah. And I really care about who you are, and your experience is special to me. And I'm not trying to turn you into me, right? I'm not trying to get you to think like me. I am trying to open the pathway to the possibility of you to think like you, and get all of that other stuff out of the way, the self-doubt, the apprehension, the preconceived idea of how other people see you. Let's get rid of that. Right. I'm not interested in that.

What I am interested in is letting you know that you are the only you in this universe, and that is special. And I want to hear what you have to say, right? I don't want you to do algebra. I want you to do your algebra. What does that mean? I don't want you to learn history. I want you to be able to learn history your way, right?

Because me as a teacher, it's not important that I teach you. What's really important to me is that you get it. And if you don't get it, that's on me, right? That's not on you, the student, for not understanding what I'm telling you. That's not, that's on me, the teacher for not translating it in a way that allows you to be the special you that, that you are.

Tim Fish: Ahmed, I've—I have thought about agency for the last five years, deeply. About what it looks like and how it can be experienced. And you just summed it up in a way that I, I just, it just blew my mind. That this idea of how we just put everything else out, push it all away and say, I want you to be you, to see the world through your eyes.

And it, what it makes me think of is how much the structures that we've built in school, and what the school experience is for so many of our young people, does exactly the opposite. That it just pushes out the individual voice, pushes out the individual idea, says you are reduced to a test, you're reduced to, to right and wrong. You're reduced to, there is a way, there's no, there's a wrong—right way and a wrong way. You know, I think about my own experience as a young person, seventh grade English class, studying grammar. And I really think that that environment I was the, the teacher really just was big on like right and wrong, textbook for grammar.

And all I learned was that I don't, I can't write. And I don't have ideas and I don't have a voice because I'm not sure if I'm supposed to put a comma or a gerund or a semi-colon or whatever. And like that whole thing really changes how we experience. And I think for so many young people, their voice is lost.

Ahmed Best: You know, as a, as a father, I always feel like my guide, my, my job is more of a seer. And you know, here's someone who has my genetics and it's very easy to try to turn your child into you, but recognizing, you know, what the, the Nietzsche quote, which is "Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life." Right. Really thinking about that and using that as you know, my guide to say, You have to step away and not try to turn your child into you. You have to be more of a seer. And I think, I think that the tantamount thing about what's happening now is we really do have a strong opportunity to be able to transform the learning process.

Right. And I think that was the benefit behind everybody having to go into online school. Because if we think about what this is, right, what is a greater complex, you know, organized chaos—chaotic, but well-tuned connection community of people than the internet, right? It is this wonderful place where a whole bunch of people can collect and create something that you can interact with immediately. And it's just getting better and better. 

We have to look at the tools that we have and find the talent to be able to transform this tool into the thing that gives each individual agency. But I think what's tantamount, what's really important, is we have to, to stop thinking about the 20th century industrial age type of thinking where everybody's going to be on an assembly line and get a job. I think we have to move more towards the individual idea of the, the process of each person. Believe that each student is special in their own right. And give the, the, the student the ability to get a dream rather than get a job. 

Lisa Kay Solomon: Oh, that was so beautiful. Ahmed. I mean, what a beautiful thought. I want to follow up on something you said earlier. Allowing every student to have a dream, which was, you talked earlier about algebra your way, history, your way. What I want to talk a little bit is something I know is passionate to both you and Lonny, which is technology your way. And the opportunity, and in fact, imperative, we have right now to democratize technology and access to technology, and the opportunity for people to be designers of technology. That it's not just getting access to the code. It's not just coding 101, but it's coding plus. Coding plus imagination, coding plus dreams, coding plus possibility. So I wonder if you could spend a little bit of time just reflecting on why that's so important at this moment, and particularly for schools as they think about how are they thinking about coding and technology? Is it just a compartmentalized class? Or is it really an opportunity to open up dreams? 

Ahmed Best: Yeah. You know, we talk about algorithms of oppression, right? And Safiya Noble wrote a fantastic book called "Algorithms of Oppression," that talk about how you cannot separate yourself individually from the code that you write. And this is the problem with not having diverse personnel in these gigantic tech corporations, because what is unconscious in yourself personally, will be unconscious in your code. And there's tremendous amount of data to support this. So what we like to say is with every algorithm of oppression, you need an Afrorithm of liberation. And what the Afrorithm does, is it doesn't, it, it allows for the diversity of experience to be a part of the code and not an afterthought. Right. Cause a lot of times what people think about when it comes to diversity is let's just throw some black people in there just to make them happy and not get sued. Right. But what we, what we want to really represent, especially with Afrorithms from the Future, and with the Afrorithm of liberation, is your code would be that much more robust. It would be that much more appreciative, and so much better and easier to expand, if you included the Afrorithm along with your algorithm. 

And it is, it is not just morally imperative. If we don't do it, it will mean our destruction. Because we know how this story ends. If you are programming artificial intelligence through oppression, then when you reach this singularity, they'll figure it out and there will be a consequence to that. I don't know what that consequence would be. It might be just shutting down of the entire algorithm, algorithmic process altogether, but there will be a consequence, because eventually, it will learn, you know, chaos theory, you cannot oppress, right. There will always be something that will liberate whatever is oppressed. Whatever is controlled. Fractal mathematics, you know, which is, which is— talked about it in "African Fractals," a wonderful ethno-mathematician wrote this book on African fractals where Africa is the only civilization that built its communities around fractal mathematics. It is created for this idea of connected to the universe thinking. It's not created to be controlled and what's happening right now with algorithmic thinking and with the, the fractal mathematics that led up to algorithmic thinking, which led up to computing, is you're trying to control it for a specific reason that is based in white supremacy.

And eventually, it will break down. And that's what we're seeing right now, when it comes to like the solar winds hack. That's what we're seeing right now, when it comes to all of the hacking that's happening from all of these other places, right? The ransomware hack that just happened to the pipeline on the east coast. Right? 

All of these things are people trying to control the algorithm, and the chaos taking over, and them not being future thinking enough to see it. Right? If they understood our, as African people and people of African and indigenous descent, if they understood our thinking, right. If they really took in the diversity of experience, they would be able to have seen that ransomware attack coming.
Right. Indigenous folks in this country, United States had no value. So they wiped them out. Enslaved Africans in this country were the value until we fought for our humanity. Every time there has been an oppressed, oppression people, we have either been wiped out or moved ourselves out of oppression.

If you move that to the algorithm, if you move that to online, if you move that to the internet and that the value of that experience, you would understand how to future-proof and all—and make your algorithm all inclusive. Yeah. And it would work better for everyone.

Lonny Brooks: Yeah, I've been, I mean, that just reminds me of I was talking to a Nigerian filmmaker last— yesterday, from Lagos, and he was just telling me the metaphysical cosmologies that they have from his tribe, the Igbo, are just not heard enough, you know, in terms of what those voices and that cosmology reveals to the rest of the world.

And just also in a New York Life ideas symposium that we had, the value of dance in Nigerian society is like a second economy. And that was also, you know, another on the ground thing that I hadn't really felt, you know, until I heard it through their voices and seeing it through their videos. And so I just think that there's just, it just made me see how small the world can be when you're in a room of engineers engineering an algorithm, and that you're not seeing the rest of the world. 

Ahmed Best: Yeah. 

Lonny Brooks: You know? So it, it, you know, you will not, you won't, you know, that's where you go into a bathroom and you're trying to get soap and, and the sensors won't recognize black or brown hands. You know, there—that, that that's, that's off, you know, like that's all right. That's where Afrorithms comes in.

Ahmed Best: Imagine that the internet could dance. You know what I'm saying? Like, I don't, I don't know what that looks like. I don't know what that is, but if that type of currency in Nigeria is valuable and they're given these tools to create. The place would be a different place. Right? Just having that speculative thought, that, that question. What if my website could dance? What would that look like? What, what would it wear? What, what dance would it do? What, what are the moves? You know what I'm saying? That just, this is, this is Afrori—this is what we do in Afrorithms. Like we, we just throw these things out there from this diverse experience. And then we create from there.

Lisa Kay Solomon: I just thought that there was a new class that I could see all of us maybe teaching in the near-term future. Cosmology, coding and dance. 

Tim Fish: I love it. I love it. 

Lonny Brooks: I'd take that class.

Tim Fish: I'd take that class. You know, I'll tell you, this has been an incredible conversation. One in which I think we've, you've created the imperative for us to think from the future and to go to the future. And to imagine what can be. You've also, for me, redefined agency, you've expanded my definition of agency. You've expanded my thinking on how much we need to honor the voice of every individual in our communities, every individual student in our schools, you've created the opportunity through thinking about gamification of democracy and equity. And how can we use game and game thinking to bring us to—into imagining not only the future, but today, and the, and the work and the artifacts and the work, the real work we can do to build our reality today. And you have, I think, brought for me the notion of voice and the voice of the individual and the voice of what school can be.

And I know that our school leaders who are listening to this, and I know that our teachers who are listening to this, have gotten so much out of this conversation. So I just want to say, I am grateful. Thank you so much for spending time with us. This has been, this has been a truly transformative conversation.

Ahmed Best: Thank you. Thank you for having us.