Why Radical Transparency Is Not A Luxury but A Prerequisite for Effective Engagement

BY Jillian McCall

Radical transparency is the bedrock of an effective and ethical organization. The brainchild of Bridgewater Associates’ Ray Dalio, the concept of radical transparency surfaced in the early 1990’s as a way to boost a company’s performance. Reflecting full translucency of an organization’s structure, vision, resources, and progress, radical transparency has since gained recognition not only as a winning, but a necessary business strategy – key to multi-stakeholder engagement and the only deeply ethical way to advance a mission with a global impact. “Any American administration that is serious about the future must make transparency – even somewhat radical transparency – a paramount goal,” stipulates David Brin, PhD, author of The Transparent Society (1993).

Colossal – the newly unveiled de-extinction company – is not just committed to, but quite literally founded on the principles of radical transparency.

A transparent company emerges from transparent networks. Colossal’s history and emergent architecture are an open book – seeing its inception in 2019 when serial entrepreneur Ben Lamm, galvanized from reading about his work, rung up leading Harvard geneticist George Church, Ph.D. A 2-hour phone call made way to an in-person visit to his Boston lab which set the stage for the inauguration of Colossal – built around the scientific vision of Church, who had by then established a decades-long tradition of transparency by openly sharing his deextinction ideas, regularly broaching ethical issues, and publishing his genome and personal and medical histories online. In the same vein, Colossal openly shares its array of funding sources, which range from film producer Thomas Tull to life and business strategist Tony Robbins, alongside the details of its 12-member official executive advisory board, which includes a U.S. astronaut, Emmy-nominated producer, New York Times bestseller, U.S. Air Force Chief Information Officer, and multiple biomedical technology entrepreneurs, as well as its 16-member official scientific advisory team, which spans 5 biologists, 3 geneticists, 2 bioethicists, and 1 conservationist, chemist, zoologist, cardiologist, biomolecular engineer, and biotechnologist each – 2 of which are also physicians.

“If a Nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed.” – Thomas Jefferson

Radically transparent scientific processes buoy all stakeholders with a similar mission. While guided by its set of 5 guiding Commitments and 4 core Values, Colossal’s process follows that of Science, which is – inherently – radically transparent. Science can’t (and shouldn’t) hide: Science is empirically based, peer-reviewed, communicated, and builds upon itself through an iterative process of informed trial and error. Colossal itself is founded on century-old pillars of laboratory-based research, beginning with the discovery of DNA by Swiss chemist Miescher in the late 1860s to the invention of CRISPR genetic engineering by Charpentier and Doudna in 2005.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard W. Thurman

(And yes – Science is amazing, and Colossal also believes that awe and imagination are driving forces of meaningful breakthroughs. Inspiration ignites Innovation.)

A mosaic of collaborations today is the springboard for a visionary tomorrow. Colossal is deeply embedded in a network of external partnerships with a panoply of conservation groups, ranging from zoologist Iain-Hamilton’s Save the Elephants charity to the international Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP), for which it will fund the genome sequencing and public sharing of the three remaining elephant species – all of which are endangered. Colossal is meanwhile enmeshed in conversations on Rewilding with a number of national and international government groups, including as regards to the strategic placement of woolly mammoth birthing stations in Arctic regions of low population and high carbon densities, as well as indigenous communities native to potential rewilding sites.

Public education and engagement is crucial to reflecting our global consciousness. Not only do extra voices catalyze innovation, but freedom is best guaranteed when all citizens are sufficiently knowledgeable to hold each other reciprocally accountable. Colossal to this end is committed to informing, engaging, and responding to our global consciousness. From lucid science communication to cameras in the lab, interviews, and an active social media presence, Colossal strives to nourish an aware, inquisitive, intelligent public empowered to engage in, feedback on, and inform its dynamic projects – in so doing democratizing the very process of climate change mitigation and biodiversity preservation.

“We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it, that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. We know that in secrecy error undetected will flourish and subvert.” – J. Robert Oppenheimer

Radical transparency is the new norm – and Colossal is leading the charge. The future will see more and more decentralized, self-directed networks of thought and action: As Wired’s executive director and author of Out Of Control: The Rise Of Neo-biological Civilization Kevin Kelly noted, “in the network era, openness wins, central control is lost.” Colossal to this end strives to serve as a platform that radically redistributes and engages the power, voices and visibility of knowledge and research. Emerging in the 15th century from Medieval Latin transparentem for “showing light through”, transparency as such – in its most radical definition – underpins Colossal’s very modus operandi: Leading the new charge of biosciences, and accepting this responsibility – while letting all the light shine through.