Conversations #17 - Samo Burja
Researcher, Speaker, and Writer. Founder of Bismarck Analysis, a Research Fellow at the Long Now Foundation, and a Senior Research Fellow in Political Science at the Foresight Institute.
A conversation with Researcher, Speaker, and Writer, Samo Burja—
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Hey Eclectic Spacewalkers!
Last month we sat down with Samo Burja.
Samo is a researcher, speaker, and writer. He is also the founder of Bismarck Analysis, a research fellow at the Long Now Foundation, and a senior research fellow in political science at the Foresight Institute. Samo has previous bylines in City Journal, Palladium Magazine, and The National Interest.
“There has never been an immortal society. No matter how technologically advanced our own society is, it is unlikely to be an exception. To achieve a positive future that defies these odds, we must understand the hidden forces that shape society.”
We became familiar with Samo’s work through the Twittersphere. His theory on how social technologies and great founders are integral parts of any well-functioning society was as concise as it was thought-provoking.
It is refreshing, and desperately needed, in today’s filter bubbled world to see a unique blend of historical synthesis that is both academic and respected while being critical from a nuanced contrarian position. Samo’s expertise on institutional and societal decline will only become handier as we march headlong into the Anthropocene epoch.
“The actions and capabilities of great founders determine the future social and material landscape of civilization, and thus the future of the world. Societies with many great founders will innovate and flourish, while societies with few will stagnate and deteriorate.”
Government, law, political theory, social norms, diplomacy, ideology, strategy, credentials, education, cities, healthcare, sacrifice, ritual, psychotherapy, awards, marketing, marriage, adoption, and dynasties all have integral roles to play!
Great Founder Theory
“What drives social change throughout history and the present? What are the origins of institutional health or sclerosis? My answer is that a small number of functional institutions founded by exceptional individuals form the core of society. These institutions are imperfectly imitated by the rest of society, multiplying their effect. The original versions outperform their imitators, and are responsible for the creation and renewal of society and all the good things that come with it—whether we think of technology, wealth, or the preservation of a society’s values. Over time, functional institutions decay. As the landscape of founders and institutions changes, so does the landscape of society.
This answer forms the basis of the lens through which I analyze current and historical events, affairs, and figures. But though it may be intuitively compelling, fully substantiating such a framework is no small task. This manuscript, titled Great Founder Theory, is my substantiation. It explains all of the models that are key to understanding how great founders shape society through the generations, covering such topics as strategy, power, knowledge, social technology, and more.
Our conversation was wide-ranging as we discussed Samo’s unique journey, the explosion of knowledge transfer through YouTube, and how different cultures have different relationships with their technologies. We riffed on writing as part of public discourse, the difference between live vs. dead players, and how we can really learn from history, our past, and our ancestors.
We also discussed his consulting firm Bismarck Analysis, and “building long-term partnerships with select clients who aim to make a difference in the world.”
We thank Samo for his time, research, and eclectic mind. Enjoy the conversation, and until next time - Ad Astra!
Below are timestamps of the conversation to skip around (or just clear your mind and press play to hear a thoughtful conversation).
Samo’s European travels helped foster his intellectual journey (04:45)
Samo’s research fellowships at the Long Now Foundation & the Foresight Institute (09:58)
YouTube’s role in the revolution of knowledge transfer (15:36)
History as a discipline, and how different cultures see & shape society (22:38)
Are we at the End of History as Francis Fukuyama posited? (32:55)
How does travel and tourism, like going to Göbekli Tepe, influence how we interact with history? (39:05)
Samo’s essay on how civilization is much older than we thought and his “Long Now” bet (49:45)
Samo’s thesis & manuscript The Great Founder Theory (1:02:34)
Founding Bismarck Analysis (01:10:52)
Samo’s answer to the Overview Effect question (01:16:30)
More on Samo Burja:
Great Founder Theory: https://samoburja.com/gft/
Bismarck Analysis Website: https://www.bismarckanalysis.com/#/
Palladium Mag article on Göbekli Tepe: https://palladiummag.com/2021/05/17/why-civilization-is-older-than-we-thought/
The YouTube Revolution in Knowledge Transfer: https://samoburja.com/the-youtube-revolution-in-knowledge-transfer/
Foresight Institute talk: Civilization: Institutions, Knowledge and the Future: