The Halcyon Principle

Burning Man has gathered 100 of the leading thinkers in the Burner community at Occult Base Esalen, to try to come up with some ideas about increasing revenue Sustainable Creative Communities.

Think you’re cool for buying Leonard Da Vinci tickets for triple the price? Are you on the Burner100 list? No? Well, you might have to up your Gifting game if you want to swing with the Big Playa Players. If you kiss the right asses they might even name a Principle after you.

Halcyon with his dad, Bob Weir. Image: BJ

Halcyon with his dad, Bob Weir. Image: BJ

Pink Jesus, aka John Halcyon Styn, raised the radical idea that what used to make the art at Burning Man so magical was that people created it for free to share with each other. So paying artists could be Commodification.

He was roundly shot down by the group, but after breakaway sessions they came back with the idea that not paying artists was excellent, and they could blame it on him: aka “The Halcyon Principle”.

Gifting is the answer the everything. Or my answer, at least. Over and over at the conference, I brought the conversation back to Gifting. While there is so much magic happening in the Burning Man movement, I think the core of it is in Gifting.
A) It teaches us to receive joy from giving joy.

B) It helps us to start seeing ourselves as having talents and art of our own to share.

Shifting people’s from self-identity from “consumer” to “creator” is world-changing.
I spoke up on the first day and questioned a line of thought by reminding people that, while I want to get artists paid, I am more passionate about making sure the art remains a gift. I said I was transformed by that first awareness that all this amazing stuff on the playa was created — not for financial reasons — but purely to blow my mind. It created an energetic surplus in me that made me want to give back to this place and community for the rest of my life. There was a quick rebuttal to what I said and I instantly regretted speaking up. Maybe I am too naive for this conversation I thought. I shouldn’t be here.

But the next day, someone approached me and thanked me for saying something. Then another. Then a breakout group told me that they had a long conversation about what they were calling “The Halcyon Principle” based on what I had said.

A surreal highlight of the week (that was already a highlight of my life) was having Maid Marian, CEO of Burning Man, write “Halcyon Principle” on the whiteboard during the final Symposium wrap-up.

It’s not about paying artists! We can just give them hugs! Remember the Halycon Principle!

Read the full article here.

I’m not knocking Halcyon, he makes some good points and he has been kind enough to write guest posts here. Forgive me for being cynical about groupthink and congruency between words and actions, but I’ve been writing about BMorg for almost 5 years now. The ratio keeps growing, in the wrong direction. More people at the off-site symposia and invite-only conferences, more TED talks and panel discussions, lots of people being flown all around the world for words; less visible actions promoting art or making the world a better place. Who cares about which gender Burners identify with, buy some kids a skate park or a library.


This collective experiment in temporary community has owned Fly Ranch for half a year, and Burners are mobile and self-reliant even in harsh conditions. Especially the Top 100 of them. Yet somehow the future of Flysalen needed to be plotted in the acid-laced hot tubs of Esalen, rather than the oil drilling byproduct hot springs of Fly Ranch.

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

Being on the boards of both Esalen and the Burning Man Project, Chip Conley swings both ways. Image: Fest300

Being on the boards of both Esalen and the Burning Man Project, Chip Conley swings both ways. Image: Fest300

For $6.5 million They could have bought a lot, and done a lot. At Esalen it’s $900 for no accommodation or a sleeping bag and $1300 for a dormitory bunk bed; if a couple wants their own room it’s more than five grand. At these rates they might as well just have their symposium at Caravancicle or White Ocean. Was this a pay-to-plug-n-play deal, or did Halcyon and 99 others get comped? Where does your ticket money go?

The 2014 Afterburn report claims a total of 896 paid employees. Obviously at least 90% of them didn’t get invited to the Esalen symposium. There are about 100 year-round staff on the Burning Man web site, wonder what percentage of them got to attend?  The last payroll figure we have for the Burning Man Project is for 2014, $7,485,059 (plus another $3,441,179 in contractors). So one week of the Burning Man Project’s time is around $150k of salaries. For $150k I will give them a vision, I’m sure it will be better and easier to implement than whatever the Burner100 came up with.




100 people had a bunch of ideas and told each other how great they were…for a whole frikking week. Were there hugsies involved? Some form of Orange cordial, perhaps?

I got in the tubs twice. Most people were in there as much as possible. I spent much more time standing on the cliffs looking out at the jagged coast

Sounds productive. Vision 3.0. Coming soon.


A camel is a horse designed by a committee



Radical Self Reliance, Fly-In Culture, and Leave No Trace

Image: W Magazine

Burning Man’s airport is busier than ever, with BMOrg now pushing to bring in larger capacity planes. Image: W Magazine

A guest post from Jal Lee Mon, who poses a provoking question for your thoughts.


Ok everyone. Let’s get a conversation (not a name calling contest) going on a subject that is related to another open sore that festers still in our community. And by guilt by proximity, it is being called out as tabuoo as well, even when it really isn’t.
I’m going to start by saying this idea I want to talk about is, technically, following all of the tenants we so love and uphold. So just read the whole thing before you judge and unleash on the comment section.

I’ll lay it out as a story, to catch your attention.

This guy wants to go to Burning Man, as he has done ten years previous. But, he is unable to get the funds needed, which come to around $1000, all said and told. So, he has given up hope of making it, missing yet another year. Missing home. He has tried volunteering for the BMOrg, but has heard no response. He has contacted the Temple crew to help. He is covering all venues. Thinking up new ideas. And, one day, while talking to a friend who lived out of the country, he had a bit of an epiphany.

Imagine you are from another country, or even just really far in this one. Say, Maine. You want go to the Burn, but the thing that is holding you back is that you can only really, logically, and in many cases technically, get there by plane. This does two things instantly. It means you are sleeping in a tent, or bumming space from somewhere. If you are really lucky, you flirt with the guy who has the huge RV and he lets you stay with him.
Second, it means you are limited to what you can carry. Food, costumes, personal supplies. Etc.
In other words, being “Radically Self Reliant” becomes a gambit of bumming favours, buying shit from Walmart you will later give away or dump, and relying on beef jerky and diet shakes for your meals. Then there is the bike. Shit, I’ll just grab a $50 one from Walmart. The one in Reno overstocks hundreds of those cheap cruisers right before the Burn. You know the ones. They are abandoned by the hundreds when the burn ends.
Here is where the thought came from. By “forcing” this Law upon people, we are in fact making it harder for them to participate, and are actually directly responsible for a large portion of all the shit that gets left behind.
Stay with me here.
So, you have a veteran Burner, one that has been there and done that. He has all the extra gear, all the extra tools and needed supplies, and even an extra hexayurt. But, he can’t make it to the Burn, for lack of funds.
Enter the Burner that is coming in from the airport with a backpack and a few bags. Instead of them dumping hundreds, thousands and in a few cases, tens of thousands of dollars into cheap shit that will later be tossed, rental cars that are going to clog up the Playa, consume that much more fuel, and likely cost the renter that extra “cleaning fee” the rental shop nails Burners for after the event, etc, etc….
::takes breath::
Why not have them pay someone like the Vet, which would get him to the Burn, where he would supply the other Burner with the essentials. This would end up costing less, wasting far, far less, and it would facilitate the attendance, participation and enjoyment of someone that might otherwise decide it was too much money/trouble/etc?
This touches dangerously close to the Turn Key subject that drew so much hatred and anger, that it is a discussion we should have. Because there are a lot of Burners who are able to drive there with a thousand pounds of gear, and they could help those who can’t. Hell, who knows…there might even be a organization that already does this.
Is it breaking the rules if the services you are giving make you just enough to get you a ticket and to the Burn? No profit. Just, some kind of weird BM Air BnB that helps two people.


Cities of the Future Could Look Like Burning Man – if BMOrg let them [Update]

Gizmodo yesterday had a fascinating story about the Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning contest to design a new layout for Black Rock City.

Burning Man is an experiment, right? So why should only Larry Harvey and Stuart Mangrum be the ones conducting the experiment, by setting the themes? Why not experiment with new ways of living together, a temporary, pop-up civilization? Personally, I always thought was what Burning Man was all about. These days, I wonder if the nature of the experiment has perhaps been different all along from the sales pitch we were given over the Kool Aid water cooler.

The Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning competition was started last year, and was quickly covered by widely read publications like VICE and ArchDaily, the world’s #1 architecture website.

Despite BMOrg coming out to say “no change, no competition”, the response has been impressive.


The Results So Far

We have been pretty amazed by the scale of the response.

Since we announced the project last fall, 1629 people and teams from 168 countries have signed up to participate.

To date, we have received 72 submissions.

Gizmodo’s story goes through many of the submissions. I’ve selected a couple of examples:

Cities of the Future Could Look Like Burning Man
This proposal offers elements for “neighborhood improvement” like the addition of designated parks and public squares that could become locations for cafes and other meeting places, by Phil Walker of CallisonRTKL, USA

Cities of the Future Could Look Like Burning ManA proposal to redesign Burning Man’s Black Rock City as a Navajo mandala, by Sergio Bianchi, Simone Fracasso, and Chiara Pellegrin of Italy

The founder is a double digit Burner and software engineer:

The competition was spearheaded by Brian McConnell, a software engineer and ten-year Burning Man veteran. The original idea was to create a site-specific installation at the festival itself presenting visionary ideas for the urban planning of Black Rock City. But as McConnell quickly realized, thinking about designing a smarter temporary city also surfaced some bigger ideas which might extrapolate into other areas of city-building. McConnell was particularly impressed by the quality and originality of proposals, he said. “There are some designs that have gone completely out of the box.”…

The submissions, as well as all the online comments, will be published in a book that will be available for purchase and will be given to the festival organizers. “The best-case scenario would be that the planners see something that’s very interesting or extraordinary and decide to use it in some way,” said McConnell. But he also loves the idea of delivering annual feedback through the competition format. “The real goal of this would be to make it part of the annual planning process and kind of a ritual,” he said. Planners could offer up concerns and ask for improvements that could be implemented the following year.

McConnell also sees the potential value of completely reinventing the city’s plan each year, perhaps with a layout that responds to the theme, which changes annually. “It’s gotten so large they can’t do radically different things,” he said. “What if each time you went it was a significantly different city plan, and you would have to figure it out?”

Read the whole story here

As someone who’s only been to Burning Man 11 times, that sounds like a great idea. They’ve already shown they can have a “2.0” of any particular theme, so we can always go back to the past. That’s part of it too. In the future we will probably have “Fertility 21”.

Phillippe Glade’s Golden Rebar Awards highlight the incredible architectural creativity of Burners. The style even has its own name: burnitecture. The Tiny House movement is starting to follow in the revolutionary footsteps of the Maker Movement, and it too has links to Burning Man.

What is stopping us from making this experimental city in the desert an actual experiment?

Is it Tradition? Ritual? A lack of ideas, vision, leadership?

Or is it the nature of the existing experiment, that is still being done on all the rats in this alluring anarchic maze without walls – who ALL voluntarily assume the risk of serious injury or death by participating ?

1998 ticket

Rod Garrett was great, may he rest in peace; David Best is amazing, and doesn’t need Burning Man to be an artist on the world stage. Let’s give the fresh, young, new, unseen and untried ideas a chance. Why should only the Medici and their bankster friends get to decide the direction art, civilization, technology takes?

If you didn’t get it yet, I think an experiment to come up with different layouts for Black Rock City is an excellent idea. Bauhaus and the Panopticon have been tried, OK, let’s move on.

3nd attempt-almost final


Screenshot 2016-03-23 17.20.12

[Update 3/23/16 5:53 pm – added images and link to video clip of Burning Man Founder talking about the city design]

Here’s BMOrg’s official position on trying a new city layout, or even incorporating any ideas from Burnenrs. According to them, BRCUP have started a conversation, and we’ll see what happens next. Don’t hold your breath!

We recently caught wind of a Black Rock City Street Plan Design Competition hosted by an experienced group of participants calling themselves the Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning (BRCMUP). The Burning Man organization has nothing to do with it, but we thought, hey, this could be fun to watch. And then an architecture blog called ArchDaily wrote about the competition on August 16 without doing its journalism homework, so now we have to clear a couple things up.

Burning Man is not involved with this competition, and we aren’t “select[ing] a winner”. The BRCMUP organizers never said we were, either. They say they’ll present their winner to us, and then it’s up to us what we do with it. So the ArchDaily blog post was in error, and it has since been corrected.

As for the contest itself, the official description is worded pretty strongly:

“The final choice of design will rest with bmorg [sic] based on a combination of popularity, logistics and space considerations (including the option to retain the current city plan).”

We love the ingenuity of Burners and are curious to see what they come up with through this competition. We will certainly take a look at all the top designs in this competition, not just the winner, out of curiosity and admiration. The ideas generated by this competition could also be useful to Regional Events, which are in various stages of growth and planning, each with their own location’s design challenges, and we think that’s great. But there are no plans to redesign Black Rock City.

Thanks to BRCMUP for starting an interesting conversation, and we look forward to seeing what comes of it.


So, we started an interesting conversation. And so far 72 designs have been submitted. The designs show just how much unbelievable talent is available for BMOrg to tap into, if they truly chose crowd-sourcing, participation, civic responsibility, immediacy, and communal effort as their path.

You can view randomly chosen designs from the gallery and enter the competition at Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning. Seems to me that would be a much better official Ministry for BMOrg to have than their only one so far: Propaganda.

Let’s discuss these ideas. Many of them don’t even require the 0.666% of a circle pentagram design to change.

2013 double pentagram

Or, even better than just talking: put on parties based on those designs and we’ll promote them here and go check them out.




Kiwi Invents Ultimate Tiny House


Playa-ready? The Skysphere can withstand Category 3 winds on its 50 ton movable base, and it delivers beers on command. Imagine a few of these techno treehouses together, joined up with rope bridges and ziplines, maybe a slide or two…

Palmerston North, where the first Skysphere was erected by farmer/inventor Jono Williams, is very close to official Burning Man regional Kiwiburn. Kia kaha cuz!

From collective-evolution

You have to see this to believe it. Situated amongst the hills of Palmerston North in New Zealand, The Skysphere is the brain child of Jono Williams, whose passion for mechanical engineering and design led him to construct the steel structure. When Jono began working on the project he didn’t even know how to weld, but along the way he learned all the skills needed to build his dream. Overall, he estimates that over 3000 hours were spent on its construction.

Being a typical Kiwi bloke, Jono has installed an automated beer dispenser. Yes that’s right, an automated beer dispenser! Whether you think this is over-the-top or not, you have to give it to Jono — he is definitely creative and has the ability to engineer a high spec treehouse that runs on solar power. He had a vision and simply decided make it a reality: he just modelled it on a computer, did some Googling, and built it. It was that simple.

Built to withstand an 8.5 earthquake and 200 kilometre an hour winds, Jono’s Skysphere even has a ‘Zombie Mode’ built into it, just in case things really hit the fan. And absolutely everything is automated, from the lights and doors to the fingerprint reader. Unfortunately, if you are Jono’s 251st friend you won’t get inside, as his fingerprint reader can only account for 250 people! Jono controls everything, from working out how much power he has generated from the solar panels mounted on the roof, to the level of lighting, to his entertainment system, all run by an app. To top it off, this fully transportable high tech treehouse has a star view platform which gives Jono and his 250 friends access to the universe and a spectacular night time vista

[Source: collective evolution]

This is the sort of thing we have to do in New Zealand, to keep the orcs out.

Image: My Photo journeys / Flickr CC BY 2.0

Image: My Photo journeys / Flickr CC BY 2.0

Rethink Waste, and Help Save a Promising Green Technology

John Perry Barlow, left, on stage with Larry Harvey at Black Rock City

John Perry Barlow, left, in a panel discussion with Larry Harvey at Black Rock City

JohnPerryBarlowJohn Perry Barlow has been a fixture at Burning Man since 1994. That makes him a founder in my book. Recently he starred on stage with Larry Harvey in a session called The Founders Speak at Columbia University. He’s also a founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (with Burning Man lawyer Terry Gross), the Grateful Dead (he brought them to Timothy Leary’s castle in 1967 and wrote 57 of their songs) and WIRED (he was on their masthead when it launched).

Burner Barlow has given a lot over many years to our communities: Burners, Techies, Deadheads, and particularly the large Venn Diagram intersection of them all. Now he could use our help in return. For the past 6 years, he has been working with a company called Algae Systems, which has developed some amazing technology. The low oil price has made their investors jittery, and so they are now in a last-ditch effort to save the company and keep their breakthrough inventions alive.

Cutting a long story short, they can turn raw sewage into clean water and fuel, without wasting energy.

If ever there was a time for Burners to come together to support a positive environmental impact, where what we give will actually make a difference, it’s here and now. Their Indiegogo fundraising campaign is open for 8 days.

Barlow says:

Become a Better Ancestor: Save Our Technologies So They Can Save Your Descendants…

For the last 6 years, my colleagues and I have pursued a dream to address the most dangerous environmental problems we believe our descendants will face: poisonous drinking water, insanely variable weather, the end of the green revolution as we run out of mineable phosphates, offshore “Dead Zones” as more and more nitrogen and phosphorous is lost to the sea. 20 million dollars later we have proved it can be done. And done in a way that is consistent with our vision of closing the loop to turn wastes into resources.

Furthermore, we developed a method of photosynthetic energy capture much more efficient than solar cells and able to stand on its own without federal subsidies and using no land currently used to grow food.
But we have reached a surprising impasse with our strategic investor, the oldest company in Japan. They believed, with good reason, that they were investing in a company that would produce a green fuel that extracted more CO2 from the atmosphere than it returned when burned. But crude oil is now so cheap that they lost faith in their investment.

Moreover, we discovered that we had developed technologies along the way that could revolutionize wastewater treatment. As I’ve said, we recognized that we had created a sewage purification process that produces more energy than it uses. In addition, our unique HTL (Hydrothermal Liquefaction) process could transform noxious sewage sludge, currently being hauled to landfills at 30 million tons a month, into fossil equivalent crute oil and a nutrient rich biochar that can restore the millions of acres of depleted topsoil our grandchildren will confront.

But our strategic investor got out of wastewater treatment a decade ago and was unwilling to get back in, no matter how game-changing the technology. Our interests no longer aligned and they decided to withdraw support.

They offered us an opportunity to buy our company, including our plant and IP, for pennies on the dollar.

We saw this coming and had three investors lined up to cover the buyout, as well as the amount necessary to jump-start our operations in Alabama and commence building HTL skids we believe we can sell to enough wastewater treatment operators to make us profitable by 2017.

But one of our prospective investors developed cold feet and withdrew. Upon which the other two did as well. So we suddenly found ourselves looking at a January 17 buyout deadline to come up with the money. We decided to go long. Yeah, it’s nuts to think that we can raise this kind of money in a week, but we’re fresh out of alternatives. It’s a real Hail Mary, but we’ve been successfully hurling Hail Mary passes into the foggy future through the history of our company.

I pray you will look at our tech and see, as we do, the genuine prospect of a planet with life-support systems sufficient to provide for 7 billion passengers as they hurtle through space. We’ve developed an integrated system that can handle that. I personally endured this Sisyphean quest because I wanted, as ever, to be a good ancestor. My devout hope is that many of you will as well.

Please support them, this is aligned to Leave No Trace, Civic Responsibility, Communal Effort, Gifting, Radical Self Expression and Immediacy. This could be an amazing example of how Burners do care, are capable, and can make a difference. I urge BMOrg to get on board and promote this campaign too, perhaps they can find it in their hearts to give something back to this Burner who has contributed so much to us all – and this beautiful, beat-up planet.

More on Algae Systems:

Official web site and Twitter

Seeing Purpose and Profit in Algae – New York Times, 2014

Pilot plant in Alabama produced exemplary results – 2015

algae systems


From Indiegogo (emphasis ours):

Planet Earth has no externalities. As Bucky Fuller told us 40 years ago, it truly is a spaceship. We need solutions that recognize that waste is either a verb or a squandered resource, since all flows are in a closed loop.

Our team spent nearly every waking moment of the last 6 years of our lives, approximately 394,200 hours, dedicated to developing our waste treatment technology.  We’ve had numerous successes and exceeded our expectations.

We figured out how to transform raw sewage into energy-positive clean water and carbon-negative, water-positive green fuels. In the process of growing biomass and turning it into fuel, we discovered something much more valuable. We can purify wastewater without wasting energy.

We are excited about the viability of our technology and the benefits it can bring to a world where millions of children are killed every year by dirty water.

However, our primary investor, a large Japanese corporation who initially funded our small startup, isn’t interested in wastewater.  They are no longer willing to provide funding to us as our interests no longer align.

The truth is, we are in a tight spot. 


We have until Jan 17th to raise enough money to buy back our company and continue operating.  If we do not raise enough capital, our technology and IP will be shelved indefinitely, its benefits never brought to light.

To our knowledge, there is no other process that can provide the benefits we can and do so at a profit.

We are in a position to invite people like you to help us continue developing our waste treatment system and deploy it at a commercial scale to bring its benefits to communities.

Let’s harness the power of the crowd to support existing technology and is so critically needed on this planet. We hope that you are inspired by our work and that you see the benefits it can provide.


In Alabama’s Mobile Bay we successfully built and tested a demonstration facility that takes a community’s raw sewage into one end, and outputs carbon-negative fuel, clean water, and fertilizers from the other end.  Unlike most water treatment strategies our system generates energy while producing clean water. A community using this method could get energy back while treating their water.

Learn more about the science behind the system here.

When Alabama Governor Robert Bentley visited our facility, he had this to say:

“This took a lot of knowledge in biochemistry and the ability to take wastewater and use natural ingredients like algae and be able to produce clean water and oil…it’s a great system.” ~ Robert Bentley

AlgaeSystems CEO Matt Atwood (left) speaks with Governor Robert Bentley (right) on a tour of our Mobile Bay facility.

It is our hope that you will decide to support our campaign and empower us to continue on this path.  Every little bit helps. Please donate and share. Together we can change the world. One city water treatment plant at a time.HOW YOU CAN HELP
With your contribution, we will be able to:

  • Obtain full control of our science and patents by buying back our company from our current investor
  • Jumpstart our Mobile Bay facility to get it running again
  • Reinstate our dedicated employees who want to contribute to the success of our waste treatment system
  • Develop existing relationships for already selected sites to deploy HTL skids + photobioreactor bag technology
  • Scale up to an economy of scale that makes our waste treatment system competitive in the marketplace


Technologies like ours that generate new solutions to climate change, ocean warming, topsoil depletion, and greenhouse gas pollution are needed immediately. The world needs more resilient and resource-efficient infrastructure. That’s what we provide.

Our cities are in need of help.  Some municipalities use up to 30-40% of total energy for water systems ( EPA). We need more energy-friendly water production.
In the United States, we use about 40% of all water for fossil fuel energy production (DOE).  Negative implications of this practice include competition for water supplies among agricultural uses and human consumption. Additionally, warmed water coming out of thermoelectric plants has adverse impacts on local aquatic habitats.
This wasteful system is ripe for innovation. We need more water-friendly energy production.

Algae Systems disrupts traditional wastewater treatment with a more resourceful, systems approach. Our technology pushes wastewater treatment and energy production into new territory that is far more beneficial for humans and other living systems than current practice.

Solar and wind have grown leaps and bounds, but they aren’t going to get us all the way there, experts say.  Bill Gates recently announced the creation of a private equity fund to invest money in 20-30 companies with existing technology that can be scaled up to become commercially viable.  Algae Systems is the type of tech Bill Gates is talking about.  It is viable technology that needs financial support to scale up. As the deadline of Jan 17th looms ahead, we are working as hard as we can to capture the attention of the crowd to meet our crowdfunding deadline.

Algae Systems is a valid solution for a more resourceful water-energy nexus. You have the power to help us create a more sustainable world for future generations.

People are excited about the potential of Algae Systems.
Visit our press room here.

We are a group of professionals united in our efforts to apply an entirely new approach to solving some of the most basic problems impacting our communities, our environment and our public utilities. We are entrepreneurs, chemists, engineers (civil, marine, and aeronautic), utility operations managers, vanguards of more sensible futures. Click here to learn more about our team.

[Source: IndieGogo campaign]