Welcome to PHX.

Ton van 't Noordende
Jul 22 · 12 min read

We’re entering a new dawn.

The age of science and exploration. Of freedom. Self expression. Non-conformity. Self reliance.

The time has come to thoroughly rethink the way we spend our time, with whom, why and for what reason.

A spectre is daunting planetary culture.

What are we missing? What if we accept that we cannot change everyone and that we can’t change the discourse of history. But consider this. What can we do on an individual level?

What if we could engineer and fabricate these moments of serendipity that lead to the creation of new ideas, transparency, a higher state of awareness, the notion that “we’re all in this together”.

There is no ‘perfect flow’ state of life. We may experience life as a marathon. A marathon has a clear purpose and timeframe and it admires and celebrates those who win. Life on the other hand, is not about winning or reaching the finish line: it’s about staying in the race.

The fact of the matter is: we’ve entered the age of uncertainty.

It’s impossible to change the discourse of history, but we can shape modernity.

A hundred years ago ‘to be modern’ meant to chase ‘the final state of perfection’ — now it means an infinity of improvement, with no ‘final state’ in sight and none desired. (Bauman, Liquid Modernity)

We know we don’t have all the answers.. In fact, we’re taking it one step further. We invite you to help us ask the questions..

Could we create an environment that could temporarily replicate a society that is free of preordained norms, the absence of guaranteed meaning, of absolute truths, in order to create a temporary no-time space where conventional rules are suspended?

Where we allow ourselves to think radically different. Where we will confront the “collapse of order” that seems to be accelerating in this time of uncertainty.

We feel strongly that this is the time to construct new ideas and practices that will bridge this “in between” gap — The space between stories — the story that has yet to be written.

Where we will create new and valuable links: new links between neurons and unrelated ideas; new links with unexpected individuals who we would not engage in real life but that would become our comrades; new links between our self and our self to be.

It’s a pivotal moment in human history, where modern prometheans and luminaries will be asked to steal the fire themselves, and bring it back to humanity.

The Story of Prometheus

Plural of /[promɛːtʰéu̯s].

In Greek mythology, Prometheus (/prəˈmiːθiːəs/; Greek: Προμηθεύς, pronounced [promɛːtʰéu̯s], possibly meaning “forethought”) [1] is a Titan, culture hero, and trickster figure who is credited with the creation of man from clay, and who defies the gods by stealing fire and giving it to humanity, an act that enabled progress and civilisation. Prometheus is known for his intelligence and as a champion of mankind [2].

The story of Prometheus is an ancient story. More relevant than ever today.

We no longer have to rely on someone stealing fire for us. Finally, we can kindle that flame ourselves.” (Kotler, Stealing Fire)

Welcome Prometheans

As we shift into interconnectivity, our only limit becomes the speed of light.

With the inevitable advancements in the current systems of thought, we look beyond the constraints of the past, and enter into modernity.

The creation of language has given us the ability to communicate and express ourselves. Enabling human kind, for the first time, to create and share stories.

The invention of writing has given us the ability to record these stories. In the beginning, only a select few were able to interpret these tales.

Advancement in technology has enabled the evolution of storytelling, prompting the era of instantaneity and ushering in the age of globalization.

A metaphor for the present stage of the modern era.

Flexibility is the catchword of the day. Flexibility can also be described as “being in fluid state or in fluidity”. Zygmunt (Bauman) eloquently introduces this construct in 2000 in his book Liquid Modernity.

The metaphor of liquidity is in this case spot on. It brings about a sense of unparalleled options or opportunities.

It’s about not knowing what’s next (the spectre). It’s about being in a continuous state of movement, or “flow”.

The combination in advancement in technology, instantaneity and having not yet invented or figured out what will be next brings about this sense of uncertainty we mentioned before.

“Even the most privileged position may prove to be only temporary and ‘until further notice’. (Bauman, Liquid Modernity)

Let’s dive into this construct as it holds truths to modernity: our current state of society.

[..] Unlike our ancestors we don’t have a clear image of what’s next — a clear “destination” towards which we seem to be moving — which needs to be a model of global society, a global economy, with global politics and a global jurisdiction.

As Zygment continues to state “Fluidity’ is the quality of liquids and gases. What distinguishes both of them from solids [..] is that they ‘cannot sustain a tangential, or shearing force when at rest’ and so undergo ‘a continuous change in shape when subjected to such a stress’. [..]

Fluidity can be seen as our leading metaphor for the present stage of the modern era.

Fluids hold certain interesting characteristics. [..] They ‘travel’ easily. They ‘flow’, ‘spill’, ‘run out’, ‘splash’, ‘pour over’, ‘leak’, ‘flood’, ‘spray’, ‘drip’, ‘seep’, ‘ooze’; unlike solids, they are not easily stopped — they pass around some obstacles, dissolve some others and bore or soak their way through others still.

From the meeting with solids they emerge unscathed, while the solids they have met, if they stay solid, are changed — get moist or drenched.

This holds true for current society.

As we’re moving towards global unification, cultures merge.

We used to tie identity by where we were born. Where you were from would define who you would become.

We’re moving into a state where identity is becoming a fluid definition.

Do you feel this? This transition is not an easy one. It’s inevitable.

It’s no longer the questions that we are asked, it’s about whether we want a life under the conditions that are being presented to us.

Obstacles need to be overcome, opinions need to be aligned.

We can feel it every day. We’re now no longer tied to one identity, we can become anyone or everyone. This transition can be heavy, but new ways are found to ‘pass around obstacles or dissolve some others’…

We are more mobile than ever.

Travelling light is the new traveling heavy. We associate ‘lightness’ or ‘weightlessness’ with mobility and inconstancy. It makes sense. The lighter we travel the easier and faster we move.

Welcome to PHX.

Let’s get personal.

Did you feel triggered by the principles we presented earlier?

We are not perfect. We are not prophets. We are realists. We’re conflicted. We don’t have all the answers. We feel there is something unsaid — something laying dormant in our inner most thoughts.

We’re not against one thing or another. We’re not trying to provide any answers; in fact we don’t even know which questions to ask.

The end of this story is actually the beginning of our story. What are we missing?

We invite you to steal the fire…

In September, over the course of two and a half days, we will engage in an open discourse presenting the themes and topics that are fundamentally shaping modernity.

From Quantum, Energy Transition, the Future of Money, New Frontiers and Space Exploration, from Arts & Music to the Green Industrial Revolution (underway globally today) the lesson from the past is that as time flows on, ‘modernity’ changes its form.

Scientists become visionaries. Investors become aware. Artists become bankers. Creatives become advisors. PHX is about the story behind the stories. About the untold stories.

We are literally a collective of our experiences. Modernity is giving us the opportunity to become whoever we want to be.

The Scientist that is the visionary.

Quantum Mechanics

Today’s advancements in technology call for accelerated learning and a more interlinked global community.

Only several months ago we had the pleasure of being joined by two individuals who are working on expanding the boundaries of modern world technologies, to shed some light on where we stand and what to expect:

Angela Kou, experimental quantum physicist at Microsoft Quantum Lab — QuTech and Professor Lieven Vandersypen of Applied Physics TU Delft & roadmap leader at QuTech and part-time research scientist at Intel Corp, joined us for dinner and an intimate fireside set around the current state of quantum mechanics and the potential of quantum computing.

As quantum mechanics is still in its infancy and there are four working theories that are being researched in parallel, one thing is for certain: change is inevitable.

We’ve come a long way since Alan Turing devised a mechanical computer which effectively helped stop the second world war. Then came electrical computers with electrical signals and codes for our bits — zeros and ones. Factually speaking, there’s no difference between the Turing machine and modern-day computing.

Then came a change of perspective, based on the idea that nature also calculates. And it does that exponentially faster than any supercomputer on this planet. Nature computes using quantum mechanics.

The implications of a working quantum computer are yet to be discovered, but at PHX we’d like to theorize on the commercial utility and applicability of this groundbreaking technology.

It holds the key to unlock the potential of an energy efficient world, and this is just the start.

The Investor becomes aware.

Green Industrial Revolution

“The other day I received a question from a friend that triggered me: what is it like being an impact investor? My response? I’ve never thought about myself as an impact investor. ”

As stated by Jochen Wermuth, who’s an investor running a well-known German family office. Next to that, he’s also on the investment committee of Germany’s new €24bn energy transition fund “Kenfo”.

As he puts it, “faced with the “4th” or “Green Industrial Revolution” underway globally today, the lessons from the past are that every single member of the first ever Dow Jones Index was wiped out by the time horse-drawn carriages were replaced by cars in large cities.”

Similarly, in the coming decade not only 90% of all jobs are likely to be lost, but probably most of the listed companies today will have disappeared.

The green industrial revolution is the nexus of the energy-, transport-, finance-, agricultural-, AI-, health-, education- and circular economy transitions going on globally driven by market forces.

The worlds most watched institutional investor, Yale University increased its venture capital allocation to almost one-fifth of its endowment, after the asset class helped drive returns for the third-richest U.S. school.

Yale helped pioneer a pivot to alternatives more than three decades ago.

Why are there such large allocations to venture? The US endowments typically pursue the “value investing approach” defined by Graham and Dodd in their book “the intelligent investor” and most famously practiced by Warren Buffet. They start out with a macro analysis if they should be just sitting in cash, move to debt, equity, or as the case may be to venture, growth, buy-out, infrastructure or real assets such as forestry etc.

Given the long-term horizon they would tend to exclude industries without a future such as fossil fuels and combustion engine industries. A long-term investor will thus look to invest more in venture companies with technologies addressing the challenges of humanity today.

At PHX we aim to address exactly this.

The Artist that becomes the banker.

Future of Finance

“When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss art. When artist get together for dinner, they discuss money (Oscar Wilde)

Money has become a part of our nature and it’s hard to realize that for a big part of the history of humankind, we lived without money. Maybe this will be the case again. One thing is for certain — regardless of the future of money, humanity is pushing forward.

One artist that is incredibly perceptive and who has been able to capture modernity and what’s to come, is our friend Daniel ‘Dadara’ Rozenberg.

The common thread behind Dadara’s work is that it provides a commentary on contemporary topics.

Maybe it’s his background — Polish ancestry — he’s the son of renowned computer scientist Gregorz Rozenberg, guru of natural computing, as he was promoting the vision of natural computing as a coherent scientific discipline already in the 1970s, gave this discipline its current name, and defined its scope. His mother was a clinical microbiologist.

Daniel briefly studied mechanical engineering, went on to study at the Academy of Industrial Design in Eindhoven, before graduating from the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam in 92’. By chance, he was brought into the upcoming international electronic house music scene in Amsterdam.

From the dusty dunes of Black Rock City across the Atlantic and to the city that he calls home (Amsterdam), Daniel has been immersed in the underground scene that has brought him to converse, via art, foundational topics. From government control, lack of transparency, privacy issues and regulations to value creation, money & dreams.

Flashback to 2016, when we were introduced by a common friend. As we first talked about the concept of ‘connecting the unconnected’, he designed a literal map to the island where we hosted our first unconference.

Dadara’s “Map of Angel Island” — 2016

Our story has brought us to this pivotal moment. A shift. From certainty to uncertainty. From the known to the unknown.

From discovered to unexplored territories.

No longer should we be bound by societal constraints.

PHX is not here to provide the answers to the questions that we have.

PHX is a safe haven. A temporary no-space/time continuum where you can build new links with unexpected individuals who we would not engage in real life but that would become our comrades; new links between our self and our self to be.

Quarks. Protons. Neutrons. Electrons. What makes you is what makes me, makes us.

A pale blue dot.

Spaceship Earth

28.5 gigaparsecs.

Or 93 billion light years.

Our observable universe is unimaginably vast.

The sun has a diameter of ~865,000 miles.

From pole-to-pole, planet earth is 24,860 miles.


[GROUND CONTROL]*

Close the hatch.

Roger. Clock.

Roger. We got a roll program.

Roger. Roll.

Roll’s complete and the pitch is programmed.

One Bravo.

This is Houston. You are GO for staging.

Staging.

Ignition….

Thrust is GO, all engines. You’re looking good.

Roger.

[ASTRONAUTS PERSPECTIVE]

Final check. Systems

3.2.1.

Ignition.

Lift off.

Feelings of claustrophia.

Loneliness.

Anxiety.

The earth grows tinier and tinier..

300,000 people have been collectively working on making this moment a reality.

BOOM. Slowly it’s settling in.

It’s no coincidence that every astronaut has the same profound realization.

Here are their stories:

“There are 6 million of us living in Pakistan. I realized that part of the world had become us for me. Six million of us? When is that no longer “them?” How did that part of the world, which I’ve never even been to, now, suddenly, because of the cumulative effect of where I am, start to feel like us? I think that’s when the world became one place for me.” Chris Hadfield, 166 days in space.

“It’s a feeling of interconnectivity that you sometimes just don’t get when you’re in the middle of something. I think separating ourselves from things that are important to us is good because you then appreciate it in a new way. That definitely happened for me with Earth.” Nicole Stott. 104 days in space.

We’re all connected. We’re all interlinked.

Welcome to Spaceship earth.

Welcome to PHX.

What story will you write?

Share your story with us and maybe we’ll see you in September at PHX.

Co-authors: Masha Kurilo & Ton van ‘t Noordende.

References:

PHX — Connect the Unconnected

Connecting the unconnected to write new stories for the future

Ton van 't Noordende

Written by

Founder PHX www.thephx.co | Investor in Residence Techleap http://techleap.nl/ | Founder and former partner deep tech VC @01ventures | Formerly @keadyn VC

PHX — Connect the Unconnected

Connecting the unconnected to write new stories for the future

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade