Agency — The Fifth Joint Point

Thomas Schindler
2 min readSep 25, 2021


Gregg Henriques idea of the Tree Of Knowledge is a great framework to use when looking at the here-now of human existence on the planet.

Stuart Kauffmans idea of the Theory of the adjacent possible and its cousin, the idea of the combinatorial explosion as well as Geoffrey Wests findings around the scaling laws of systems point towards an acceleration towards a singularity which might give rise to the fifth joint point.

Up to now our cultural institutions evolved out of a series of highly context dependent necessities. Some of them turned into frozen errors, some of them into pumps of goodness. They are intertwined, interrelated and interdependent to a level that can be described as multipolar traps.

When faced with exponentially growing systems, nature (and humans, historically) responded by phase shifting into a new paradigm. While this is always hard, dangerous and uncertain — our current situation is special because it requires multiple such phase shifts at the same time.

We can only manage this towards a desirable outcome for our species if we take agency on the shape of our institutions from a holistic, systemic perspective. This begins with the individual.

As an individual we navigate the world driven by our System 1 — the fast part of our mind, using more or less accurate heuristics to make decisions — with our System 2 — the slow, structuring, planning part of our mind — coming up with explanations for our actions.

While our System 2 might be clear about what a desirable future should look like and what needs to be done to get there, our System 1 is locked in the past of the world that first coded its heuristics. The majority of these are baked into System 1 by the age of seven and are predominantly provided by people who have lived their entire live living on heuristics passed on for generations in the same way.

With slow, disciplined and deliberate effort we can recode the heuristics of System 1 with our intentions of System 2. In a way, you are providing agency for your “Self’ in the future by doing so. If you do so consistently and tighten the feedback and correction loop between System 1 and 2 to the highest extent possible, you reach true agency: your automatic decisions are fully aligned with your intentions. I call this deep alignment.

Now, imagine, we could do this as a collective. Imagine, we would:

  1. be clear on the horizon we want the world to move towards
  2. continuously re-negotiate the horizon among the entire species
  3. tune and correct our collective and individual actions towards this horizon

This might sound like a lofty idea, but in fact it might just be the age of agency which we are about to enter at the fifth joint point.