Reflections on the ICON Future Human Conference

A few days ago, I attended the Integral Conference of North America (ICON) Future Human conference in Denver, Colorado. Overall, the conference was very enjoyable and inspiring and gave an excellent opportunity to connect with many notable integralists and integralites. Integralists are those who are understand and are conversant with the terminology, diagrams, and mental maps of Integral Theory and perhaps one or more other integrative metatheory, whether or not they bring these ideas into their personal practice. Integralites are those who embody integrally-based ideas and ways of life, whether or not they are familiar with the highly abstract philosophical jargon and maps. Many people would fall into both categories. I figure we can collectively call those who are in one or both categories the integralati.

Among the integralati are professors, authors, podcasters, psychotherapists, artists, coaches, activists, technologists, and grad students such as myself. Many of us embody archetypes such as “shaman”, “Earth mother”, “sage”, “priest”, “visionary”, or “prophet”. I think the archetype that best describes me is “mad scientist”. I suppose people such as us are seen as oddballs among the normies out there. I heard one of the hotel staff, after interacting with some members of the organizing committee for a while, asked if this was an autistic convention. Um, yeah, I suppose it was in a sense.

I was on the organizing committee since we first started having meetings a year ago. I attended the prior North American integral conference in Sedona, Arizona, which was called “WTF What’s the Future”. I remember an early meeting where we were deciding where to have this conference and I might have been the first to suggest that we go to Denver. This was an obvious option, since so many integral people are based there or in nearby Boulder, including Corey de Vos, Nomali Perera, and Ken Wilber himself. It also had the benefit of being accessible via a nearby major airport and it has a lot of hotels available. After some initial challenges regarding leadership and direction, Tom Habib became the lead organizer and he brought in Paul Bloch to do a lot of the creative work, such as designing the logo and website. Both Tom and Paul put in a ton of hours in planning this whole thing and it is truly amazing what they pulled off.

Lynn and Jose Fuentes were the creators of WTF and they were the ones who got the ball rolling on the follow-up conference that eventually became ICON Future Human. Initially we were thinking that WTF would be the name of the conference series going forward. That name is fun and playful, since it does (in our case) stand for “What’s the Future”. Paul figured that could turn some people off and he decided that going forward, it would be called ICON, which stands for Integral Conference of North America. In an agreement with Bence Ganti, creator and lead organizer of the Integral European Conference (IEC), these conferences will alternate so that ICON events will happen on even-numbered years and IEC events (which usually take place in Budapest, Hungary) will happen on odd-numbered years.

We ended up booking the Embassy Suites in an industrial part of Denver because it was affordable. Admittedly it would be better if we were able to go to a venue that is adjacent to nature, but this time we weren’t able to do that. We ended up teaming up with Integral Leadership in Action (ILiA) and that organization served as fiscal sponsor. This was partially because ILiA had a conference planned to take place over a weekend in Boulder during the fall of 2023, but Deion Sanders derailed it. Of course that is a bit of a joke, but the story is that because Deion Sanders got hired as head coach of the University of Colorado football team, there was a huge demand for tickets and they ended up having a home game on the same weekend as ILiA’s conference. As a result, there were no hotel rooms available in Boulder that weekend. This provided an opportunity for ILiA to team up and help make ICON happen.

When it came time for the conference, I was pretty excited. Even the cab ride from the airport was mind blowing, as the cab driver ended up being a Rastafarian from Jamaica who was also a philosopher and he said he was working on a formula that would save humanity from the negative pitfalls that would come from quantum AI. His solution, he told me, is based on the dynamic that fosters and strengthens mutual understanding and mutual agreement. I told him he should join our conference, but I didn’t see him there.

I stayed at the main hotel and I shared a room with Nick Hedlund. Nick was hard at work for the first couple of days preparing for his talk, wherein he needed to try to condense his PhD thesis on visionary realism and the metacrisis to a 20 minute talk. This was an extremely difficult thing to pull off and I think he did a great job. I enjoyed the other sessions that I attended as well. A lot of the sessions focused on the future of humanity and our role to play in shaping the future. Spiritual growth, AI, and psychedelics were common themes.

Overall the most significant highlights for me were the private conversations and the dinners and parties in the evenings. Steve McIntosh hosted a party at his house in Boulder one of the nights and I also attended a party hosted by the TLR team that featured a fire pit and a hot tub. There was also an awesome acoustic jam night, which I ended up missing most of, and an ecstatic dance night, which I only was there for a few minutes.

The legendary Ken Wilber did a live presentation and Q&A session during the conference and he looked healthier and stronger than he has in years. He recently published another book called “Finding Radical Wholeness”. I actually got a chance to ask him a question and I asked what is coming up in the future for him. I asked him if he was planning on revisiting the excerpts that he circulated over 20 years ago, which he had previously said could eventually be published as a part of a forthcoming volume of the Kosmos Trilogy. He responded “that’s not a bad idea” and then said he was planning on taking a bit of a break before going back to writing. He said he has dozens of essays on his computer and he might be able to figure out how to create another book from this, but that it would probably be at least a few months before that could happen.

For me, one of the central unresolved questions is what is integral, anyways? Now, it has been established that “integral theory” refers to Ken Wilber’s writings that defined the AQAL model and that of scholars and practitioners who have further developed this model through application, theoretical extension, and constructive critique (AQAL stands for all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, and all types).

Now, integral theory can be seen within a wider category known as integral studies and also known as integral philosophy, which includes the works of various thinkers who, like Wilber, produced some sort of integrative vision, such as Jean Gebser, Sri Aurobindo, and Rudolph Steiner. Integral studies refers to an approach to integrating a wide diversity of thought into a single unified framework. In this context, the term “Integral” points to a holistic inclusion of multiple human capacities, dimensions of experience, ways of knowing, skillsets, intelligences, styles, and types. At its most comprehensive, it can be portrayed as a “theory of everything”, which supposedly includes the living totality of matter, body, mind, soul, and spirit. This discipline tries to draw together a diverse array of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of approaches that are mutually enriching.

This is what I think “integral” is and it is this very broad and integrative vision that is the subject matter for these conferences including ICON and IEC. This is why I think there is a lot of potential with integral studies going forward and why I think these conferences and the various smaller regional events are worthwhile. I see integral studies being applied to a very broad range of real-world situations and I think we have the ability to actually address some of these large-scale challenges and crises with the aid of integral though. At the next ICON conference, I’d like to see more focus on the metacrisis and on what we can do to evolve our socio-cultural paradigms, reform our badly outdated and dysfunctional political and economic systems, and work toward protecting our natural environment and living peacefully and more sustainably. This last conference had a lot on spiritual growth and I don’t think it was deep enough with regard to the big picture of the greatest challenges of the world we are living in. I think if we took this very seriously, we could come up with some better roadmaps for addressing our most pressing needs and working toward some semblance of a better future.


TLR stands for Transdisciplinary Leadership Review. This organization was formerly known as ILR (Integral Leadership Review). For some reason they chose to re-brand, but they are still associated with integral. This is their website:

And obviously these events are more than just “feel good” get-togethers, since they offer the opportunity for people to comment on each other’s work and to form collaborative partnerships. But I sense that you would prefer not to think too optimistically about any of this, so for your own sake Sidra, you’d be better off just thinking of it as nothing significant.

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Yes, time will tell, but we also have some say in the matter. Our own passion, ingenuity, and hard work are also deciding factors in how the future will unfold. This is why I want to try to always have positive energy. I want to be mindful of constructive criticism and try to accommodate and a assimilate the reasoned critiques, but I always want to engage with can-do spirit. It is necessary to adjust and re-evaluate and reformulate one’s goals based on sober-minded and realistic perspectives, but it can unnecessarily dampen enthusiasm to spend too much time in the company of people with highly skeptical perspectives who don’t also offer something generative. Thanatos is necessary to help us get past our sacred cows and old-school ways of doing things that are no longer effective, but eros needs to overcome thanatos at the end of the day. I think an integral approach to critique would include each of these, not necessary within every response, but within the throughline of the conversation.


Hey, Brandon, maybe at our next conference some of us can cosplay (“costume play”) our favorite archetype.

Yes, it was a splendid conference. May there be many more.


Thanks Karen - yeah we should totally do that next time!