Cambridge UniversityUniversity of Chicago
Jeremy Lent (born 1960) is an author whose writings investigate the patterns of thought that have led civilization to its current crisis of sustainability. He is the founder of the non-profit Liology Institute, which is dedicated to a worldview that could enable humanity to thrive sustainably. He is the author of The Patterning Instinct and Requiem of the Human Soul. Earlier in his career, Lent was the founder, chairman and CEO of the internet company NextCard.
Lent was born and raised in London. He graduated from the University College School and earned an undergraduate degree in English Literature at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University in 1981. Lent left the UK to live in the United States. In 1986, he earned an MBA from the University of Chicago. He is married and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Lent joined Strategic Planning Associates, a strategy consulting company based in Washington, D.C. In 1989, he joined First Deposit Corporation (later renamed Providian), a direct mail credit card company in San Francisco. Lent was named Chief Financial Officer of Providian in 1991 and left the company in 1994.
In 1996, Lent founded NextCard, an internet financial services company. NextCard was the first company to enable consumers to apply for a credit card over the internet and be approved in real time and the first company to offer consumers the ability to design their own card by uploading a personalized image during the application process.
As chairman and CEO, Lent took NextCard public in 1999 and led a secondary offering in 2000. However, due to his first wife’s illness, Lent stepped down as CEO later in 2000, to care for her. After Lent’s departure, NextCard suffered serious setbacks. It was announced in late 2001, that the company was undercapitalized, and it was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in 2002. Along with the other board members, Lent was involved for several years in shareholder lawsuits and investigations by the FDIC and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). These were eventually settled, and in 2005 the SEC dismissed fraud charges that it had levied against Lent.
The Patterning Instinct
The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning (Prometheus Books, May 2017) is a cognitive history of humanity, tracing how different cultures patterned meaning into the universe and how that has affected history. The result of ten years of research, the book offers a thesis that “culture shapes values and those values shape history.”
This approach is in contrast to the predominant geographic determinist approach to history, exemplified by historians such as Jared Diamond, Ian Morris and Kenneth Pomeranz. Lent argues that “The cognitive frames through which different cultures perceive reality have had a profound effect on their historical direction. The worldview of a given civilization—the implicit beliefs and values that create a pattern of meaning in people’s lives—has, in my opinion, been a significant driver of the historical path each civilization has taken.”
The book conducts what Lent calls an “archaeological exploration of the mind,” using findings from cognitive science and systems theory to reveal the implicit layers of values that form cultural norms. In a departure from the mainstream science-religion debate, The Patterning Instinct shows how medieval Christian rationalism acted as an incubator for scientific thought, which in turn, shaped the modern vision of the “conquest of nature.” Evaluating the sustainability crisis, Lent argues that it is culturally driven: a product of particular patterns that could be reshaped.
The book concludes by exploring scenarios for humanity’s future, foreseeing a coming struggle between two contrasting views: one driving to a technological world of artificially enhanced humans, the other enabling a sustainable future arising from intrinsic connectedness among people and to the natural world.
The Patterning Instinct contains a foreword by Fritjof Capra. Prior to publication, the book received favorable endorsements from notables such as Paul Ehrlich, Thom Hartmann, Rick Hanson, J. R. McNeill, and Jonathon Porritt. Guardian journalist, George Monbiot, has called it "the most profound and far-reaching book I have ever read." The book received a Silver Award from Nautilus Book Awards in April, 2018 in the Social Sciences & Education category.
Requiem of the Human Soul
Beginning around 2005, Lent began an inquiry into the various constructions of meaning formed by cultures around the world and throughout history. The first expression of this investigation was his science fiction novel, Requiem of the Human Soul (Libros Libertad, 2009)..
The novel is set in the late 22nd century when most people are genetically enhanced. The minority that remains genetically unadulterated, known as Primals, consists mostly of the impoverished global underclass. The UN is holding a hearing in New York to consider whether to make the Primals extinct. The novel is written from the viewpoint of a Primal, Eusebio, who has been picked to represent his race in a last-ditch legal effort to save the Primals from extinction.
The novel raises questions about spirituality, history and global politics: Can the human race enhance itself to a higher plane? At what cost and benefit? If some “essence” of humanity was lost as a result, would that be so bad, given our sordid and shameful history? On the other hand, is there something special—a human soul—worth keeping at any price? Ultimately, the novel invites the reader to grapple with a fundamental question: what does it mean to be human?
Lent founded the nonprofit Liology Institute in 2012, with the aim of fostering a worldview that could enable humanity to thrive sustainably. The institute, according to its website, “is dedicated to fostering a worldview in which the human discovery and experience of meaning in our lives is compatible with the findings of scientific investigation, offering a deeply integrated and coherent understanding of humanity’s place in our cosmos which could enable us to thrive on our planet harmoniously and sustainably.”
Lent coined the term "liology" from the Chinese word li, meaning organizing principles of the universe, and “ology” of Greek etymology meaning “the study of.” The institute is intended to integrate traditional East Asian practices with the findings of modern systems science.
Its stated objectives are to:
- Stimulate and encourage a deep integration of scientific rigor with spiritual meaning.
- Distill East Asian spiritual traditions and integrate them with findings in systems biology, complexity science and neuroscience.
- Replace the mind/body duality of conventional Western thought with a concept that value is intrinsic to our experience.
- Join the worldwide movement towards achieving a sustainable way of living.
- Adopt an interdisciplinary approach to understanding humanity's history, current condition and trajectory.
- Cultivate skills that promote integration within a person and harmonization between humanity and the natural world.
In 2014, the institute began an annual series of workshops, exploring how the values and insights of Liology apply to people’s everyday lives.
Lent asserts that humanity is entering a period of transformation, of a scale that has occurred twice before in history: the Agricultural Revolution twelve thousand years ago, and the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions several hundred years ago. The trajectories he consider include a collapse of civilization, a posthuman techno society and sustainable human flourishing (a "Great Transformation").
Lent claims that, to secure the latter humanity needs a new suite of values based on a sense of intrinsic connectedness. These values emphasize:
- Quality of life, rather than material possessions
- Political, social, and economic choices based on shared humanity
- Environmentally sustainable societies.
- Requiem of the Human Soul. Libros Libertad, Vancouver, Canada, 2009.
- The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning. Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY, 2017.
- “Towards the Tipping Point: Understanding Trump in a Larger Historical Context.” Resilience (December 21, 2016)
- “The New Mind Manipulators.” The Huffington Post (April 25, 2016)
- “False Solutions? 3 Ways To Evaluate Grand Climate Proposals.” Resilience (April 1, 2016)
- “Surreal Spring: The Cognitive Dissonance of Our Climate Emergency.” Synchronicity Earth (February 22, 2016)
- “COP21—Is the Jubilation Warranted?” MAHB (December 29, 2015)
- "Website of Jeremy Lent – Author of The Patterning Instinct". Jeremy Lent Author and Integrator. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
- "NEXTCARD INC (Form: S-1/A, Received: 04/30/1999 09:49:46)". www.nasdaq.com. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
- Eavis, Peter (2000-07-24). "NextCard Mixes Good News, Quicker Profitability, With Bad, CEO's Departure". TheStreet. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
- "Jeremy R. Lent, et al.: Lit. Rel. No. 19903 / November 8, 2006". www.sec.gov. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
- Lent, Jeremy. "Patterning Instinct". Origins: The Bulletin of the International Big History Association. VI: 17–24.
- "The Patterning Instinct". edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
- "Stepping Back from the Brink". George Monbiot. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
- Lent, Jeremy (2009). Requiem of the Human Soul. Vancouver: Libros Libertad.
- "The Liology Institute". The Liology Institute. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
- “The Great Transformation, Or How We (Just) Avoided a Climate Catastrophe: A historian in 2050 looks back at the first half of the century.” Presented at the UC Santa Barbara virtual conference: The World In 2050: Creating/Imagining Just Climate Futures. October 2016