The Metagame is the Process of Discovering its Own Constraints

The Metagame is an emerging subculture that I have been observing. Some of the more well known people who use this kind of framework are Jordan Peterson and Nassim Taleb, but there is a huge group of under-appreciated people who I would characterize as involved in the Metagame meme, they are interested in topics like the future of work, productivity, culture design, crypto, philosophy, science, religion/spirituality, etc. I am thinking of people like Daniel Thorson who hosts Emerge podcast, Jordan Hall who runs Deep Code and has a youtube channel, Michael Haupt who runs Society 4, Bonnitta Roy who writes a Medium blog, Moritz Bierling who works on Holochain, Tiago Forte who runs Praxis, and many others. There is this emerging subculture of people who are interested in going beyond how we are currently organized, in a way that is compatible with science and with the ancient traditions and deepest aspects of human nature.

In order to play a Metagame, we would have to know the rules or the constraints of the Game, and thereby we would know the goals of the Game. Now as it happens, we can hardly imagine what the rules of such a generalized Game would be. Thus, the central constraint of the Game is that we are confronted with this brute fact, that we know that we know nothing. However, by this very fact, we already have some shared knowledge. In other words, we can take the Unknown as a fundamental category. The Unknown is our fundamental constraint, it is the fundamental phenomenon that we are continually confronting. And so for this reason, the Unknown cannot be like a scientific, material fact. It is more like a metaphor or a fiction. We are continually testing the Unknown, through trial and error experimentation, positing something and then receiving feedback from the environment. But the Unknown remains essentially as it, no matter what information or knowledge we gain of it.

The Metagame is fundamentally a process for discovering its own constraints, and thereby discovering its own goals. The Metagame is trying to set up the process by which it can discover its own goals. And in order to do this, we start with a fiction, with a metaphor. That central metaphor is the Unknown. And this allows a kind of bootstrapping process which I will describe.

When we think of shared social conventions, or traditions, or widely held shared beliefs, they start off as a subjective idea in one person’s imagination. Someone has an idea, and then they share that idea. Then that next person shares it. The further that the idea propagates through the social continuum, the more it takes on something like an objective quality. It becomes part of people’s decision calculus, it affects the way that people statistically make choices and navigate the environment. And eventually it becomes part of physical reality, if it lasts long enough for that. In this way, we can say that ideas are things, in the way that they affect people’s decisions and movements through space.

The best example is the house. We are confronted with the brute natural elements, and so we posit a kind of architectural plan, which is basically fictional or metaphorical. Then we share that plan, and collectively construct a house. Then that house has an objective, shared, physical reality. No one has the total knowledge of how to construct the house, some people know the electricity, some people know plumbing. The information is distributed in a social brain.

Similarly, with the Game, no one knows fully how to play, the information is distributed. It starts out as an imagined hypothesis then is shared, refracted through the prism of other subjectivities, affecting their decision process, then reconstituted as an objective, external framework.

And this is how conceptual ideas become embodied. They start as a subjective idea, then become a constraint on movement, then become an aspect of the external environment, and then are reflected back into the psyche. We come to inhabit, to live inside of these shared information structures. They are the perceptual architecture of how we interpret the environment. We can only see the environment in terms of the shared structures that we use to survive and process novelty. But as individuals, we are sovereign, we can navigate these structures. We can choose between them, we can construct new ones, deconstruct old ones, and discover what will become objective equilibria.

If you live in a city, most of the environment that you navigate is a synthetic reality. It is constructed from these self organizing shared information structures. The more densely connected the nodes of the network become, the more that the information starts to blend. Information takes on a uniformity, a symmetry, which is a shared equilibrium. When everyone agrees on something, that becomes externalized as part of the physical environment. It becomes a social convention. It affects how people move through space, what they will say and do in relation to others.

For example, marriage is a social convention, a specific social constraint, that affects our physical movements through space whether we’re married or not, it affects what we will and will not say and do. It has both objective and subjective qualities that we constantly negotiate, construct, and deconstruct in a self organizing process that is not obvious to any one individual in the network.

In the flow state, there is little distinction or separation between discrete categories. Categories become over-associated. The flow state is an unconscious attractor in people’s psyche, people are reflexively, unconsciously drawn towards flow states. It is the deep structure of the shared social fabric. When you enter into a flow state, you enter into a structure of deeper collective intelligence. The awareness of social forms and pressures gets heightened to all of the subtleties and nuances of interaction.

There are collective flow states, like teams and group work. In this way, the Metagame is trying to bootstrap itself into physical reality. It exists as an imaginary plan. But different social constraints are continually being shared and re-processed, and externalized. This points ahead to a reality where internal desires are immediately reflected in the external environment. This is what society wants to become, this is how people want to be organized. Society wants a common knowledge platform, a platform for information liquidity. We want information to move to its natural symmetrical state as quickly as possible.

So there is this bootstrapping process, from the fictional, imaginary subjective to the shared, intersubjective, to statistical constraints affecting shared decision processes, to the concretized, externalized, physical reality and finally back to the subjective imaginary. Ideas go through this cycle all the time. Ideas affect what we will and will not say to each other. They affect how we move through space, literally how we interact with the environment, at varying levels of consciousness or unconsciousness. This is the sense in which thoughts are things. They participate in this feedback loop.

This process is not that efficient yet, the feedback loop is not that tight yet. Thoughts are not literally things yet. This is because not that many people are playing the Game. Most people are stuck in a money accumulation game because that is the dominant strategy. But this is changing rather quickly. The more densely connected the nodes in the network are, the more symmetrical the information becomes, the more there is an emergent shared, common sense knowledge. This common knowledge is an evolutive plateau. Once there is shared common knowledge of the Metagame framework, we will be coordinating our basic activities around it. Of course it will not necessarily use any of the same concepts I have laid out here. But once it is a widely shared reality, the information environment starts to become more “efficient,” meaning the external environment starts to reflect our internal thought more quickly. This is why we experience synchronicity and meaningful coincidence, because of this feedback loop and the bootstrapping cycle. Society wants to move into an evolutive plateau where it is completely organized around fluid, meaningful coincidence at all times. But it all depends on what initial, metaphoric conditions are fed into the system to begin with. We have to be playing the long-term Game. In other words, this isn’t about just getting what you want when you want it. This is about satisfying the deepest, most spiritual desires.

The Game, at the start, is really about constructing the initial conditions for the Game to even begin. And so it could be quite some time before the Game reaches the kind of network effects that gets it to a tipping point where it comes to be the dominant strategy. And it is not clear that it will ever become a dominant strategy. Maybe not everyone is suited to play. The Game might be reserved for a small minority, who in turn influence the rest of society indirectly with its discoveries. But there could also be a huge, massive societal change overnight, if there is a simple enough formulation of the rules.

Most ideas never have the strength or the validity to go through the whole cycle and actually become embodied. The most ancient traditions thus seem to be the most valid. They are the most tested, the most tried and true heuristics. But this is also why they are so reviled. They have become part of the physical environment, but they have this unnatural, constructed aspect. And so people want to reject tradition and create something new.

The circulation of memes and information sharing platforms is trying to realize a kind of shared framework that upgrades the ancient heuristics into a new organic, interdependent social reality. It is trying to realize a shared Metagame where we negotiate the underlying, unconscious structures, and thereby negotiate the physical constraints on our movements through space. In other words, by negotiating and discovering constraints, we are discovering our capacities, our goals, our fundamental values. The Game is recursive, but it is not tautological. In other words, going through every cycle gets you to a higher level, it is not repeating the same steps. We should therefore expect that nature of the Game to radically change as more people are involved.

The culture wars are obviously a distorted version of the Metagame framework. Everything is playing out in a super fragmented, jagged way. Alexander Blum has pointed out that, “when you attack another person, there is a real sense in which you are attacking an aspect of yourself.” The Blue Church needs to upgrade its centralizing, shared information structures so that it becomes a platform for negotiating and updating conventions. Wall Street is also a distorted version of the Metagame framework. The way information circulates on Wall St. is somewhat decentralized, but it is oriented around monetary incentives. The emphasis on only monetary incentives drives more social fragmentation and loneliness. The only motivation in the Game is to be aligned with truth and with the Unknown.

The Metagame is trying to move us to a new evolutive plateau. I think that it is possible to coordinate our activities entirely on this kind of information processing, because the ultimate shared information is this kind lucid, transforming, unified conceptual structure. It is infinitely fascinating and incorporates every possible aspect of knowledge without categories becoming too discrete or too over-associated. This, along with crypto, will eventually become the economic sector that replaces tech. It will be like Hollywood, combined with journalism, combined with natural science, solving the fake news problem by incredible, collectively architected hypernarratives. The whole activity of the economy will be oriented around mining the state space of consciousness, and negotiating fundamental, unconscious structures.

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Metagame, a Secondary Mutual Trust Layer on Top of Capitalism

The entrepreneur is no longer competing with other businesses, he is competing with the institution of monetary coordination. Monetary coordination unifies all of the diverse actors in the capitalist system. This monetary frame of mind, where everyone is oriented around the monetary accumulation, is limiting and inefficient. There are more important and effective ways to exchange value. But monetary coordination and exchange cannot be dismissed either. Money serves an important role in clarifying the motives between strangers.

The primary goal of the entrepreneur in the 21st century is to create a secondary platform for mutual trust. Capitalist monetary exchange is a kind of social brain, it is coordinated human activity. The task of the information entrepreneur is to construct a secondary layer of mutual trust on top the monetary exchange layer.

Monetary exchange is an ineffective way of transmitting and storing value, because monetary exchange implies that there is a single universal currency. This idea is associated the predominance of a single nation state. But the predominant currency just represents a universal layer of trust and cooperation. Where there is trust and cooperation there is economic development. Mutual gains and positive sum games have network effects that radiate out and benefit the entire interconnected community. These positive sum games are not limited to currency, people add value by contributing to the wholeness of experience, to the optimal lucidity, vividness and quality of aliveness.

In an information economy, the goal of the entrepreneur is to set up a platform of positive sum games and network effects, which is a secondary layer on top of the monetary exchange layer. This is technological because it is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. The entrepreneur sets up a practical, positive sum game, in which all members can connect and benefit from the network. We can see this with the emergence of social media companies and sharing economy platforms. Entrepreneurs are trying to build a secondary layer of mutual trust in which to embed monetary exchange.

We know that there are such things as positive sum games and mutual gains from trust and cooperation. It is just a question of “buying into” this secondary social brain layer that is constructed on top of the system of monetary exchange. This secondary layer is a platform, it is technological, but it is not computational. It is based on spiritual coordination, the absorption of the individual into a more profound level of connectedness. What the entrepreneur does is to convert monetary currency into coordinated spiritual activity, the secondary layer of the social brain.

Language, symbols and gestures reach a more profound level of human interaction. But they are often confusing, especially when communicating with strangers or people who do not share the same values. The transaction costs become too high, so in those cases it is preferable to use money to exchange value in order to clarify motives. But the point of the information economy is to construct a secondary layer of mutual trust on top of monetary exchange. This secondary layer of pure mutual trust and mutual information allows for a complex, shared goal to emerge.

In the monetary layer of exchange, the shared goal is profit. So when each party profits, then we have a mutually beneficial exchange. When there is information asymmetry, and one party benefits at the expense of the other, there is a constriction of the flow. In the secondary layer of mutual trust, the shared goal is adaptation. Each person is trying to fit in in their own unique manner in to the layer of mutual trust and belonging.

There is a single meta-perspective that each conscious entity participates in. Each individual is an instantiation of the entire meta-process unfolding as a completed whole. But the responsibility for this meta-process lies in each of those individuals who compose it. This whole can only be cognized by optimally mutual cognition and recognition. In other words, this static-processual whole, in its incompleteness, is the orienting telos of developmental, evolving life forms. It is the optimally meaningful recognition of novelty and significance compressed into each moment. Moments are no longer separate but are interwoven into a single thematic unity, layered into levels of complexity and interrelation.

Monetary exchange is the first layer of the social brain which orients the behavior of anyone living in a capitalist system, which includes the developing and developed worlds. Monetary exchange unconsciously absorbs all of the variegated perspectives into the global social brain. Movements like the punk, anarchist, or goth movement, which started as a rebellion against the capitalist order then got absorbed into the social brain and repackaged and commercialized.

Everyone is required to buy into the system of monetary exchange in order to survive. But through spiritual coordination, we build a layer of mutual trust on top of monetary coordination. Monetary exchange is not the ultimate stage of mutual human trust.

When people collaborate to collectively design the environment, this is an expression of the ultimate human coordinative capacity. When people mutually recognize the maximal wholeness of their personal experience, the maximally compressed information layered into their conscious perception, then they are able to recognize the entire environmental process as manifest in their microcosmic experience.

The entrepreneur is competing with the entire system of monetary coordination for the role of the global social brain. Monetary exchange is like the energetic flow of electricity between neurons. There are different degrees of the health of the exchange. There are exchanges in which there are mutual gains in quality of life and standard of living and everyone who participates is better off. Then there are exchanges that constrict the flow of energy, by cutting off information. These are information asymmetries that prevent mutual gains and externalize risk to one of the parties.

Money is the lower reflection of a higher reality of mutual human gains. There is an interaction of human beings in which there are positive-sum games that make everyone better off. How can we set up the foundation of a human social game in which there is positive-sum mutual gains in a network effect for all the players that are honestly contributing?

In the capitalist society, monetary exchange is an imperfect reflection of some of the supreme moral virtues- humility, courage, cooperation, trust, strength. We must build up a social reality in which monetary value is more perfectly correlated with the supreme human values. In other words, money is an imperfect reflection of value and how we exchange value. The successful information entrepreneur constructs an effective secondary layer of mutual trust, he creates a platform in which people exchange the more precise levels of value. The information entrepreneur is trying to arbitrage the difference between truth value and monetary value, to bring these two values into closer alignment, so that it is more profitable to tell the truth.

Value is most effectively exchanged in language and other symbolic or artistic gestures. Money is like a imperfect summary of these more efficient forms of compression. There is ultimately a higher form of biosocial coordination that is based on the intrinsic genetic faculties of human beings. All human beings share the same genomic qualities. We share a code of protein folding, and our outer actions are variants of this primordial biochemical process. Our actions replicate a primordial biological code, we are all entrained to the same ecological pattern of interaction, in which we compress data from the environment in order to usefully act, survive, and flourish. All of our social actions from the immediate environment are entrained and subconsciously coordinated.

Our actions are a compression of the layers of external spatiotemporal environment and by extension the environment of the environment. As the layers get more extensive, the compressions become less efficient. We compress the immediate reality most effectively, but as we move out levels of abstraction, to times that are not present, to spaces that are not here, our compression of the environment gets more vague, less crisp and concise.

Some human individuals obtain the capacity to compress the entire content of the interactions of humanity into a single thematic unity. They summarize or compress all of the data of human interaction into a single thematic gesture, which summarizes or makes available the story of what it means to be a human being.

Efficient compression is at the core of human cognition. Our perception or conception of the environment is an attempt to “take it all in at once,” to take in the whole world in a single view.

Money is the single technology that orients all of human behavior in the capitalist world. This is an inefficient technology which must be arbitraged. There are more efficient ways of coordinating behavior that are based on intrinsic biosocial human realities that integrate the spiritual wholeness of experience.

The last frontier of technological innovation is building a secondary layer of trust on top of capitalism itself, envisioning a more efficient and effective system of coordinated human activity than capitalism. Capitalism (coordinated monetary exchange) is an inefficient technology for accurately representing valuation and exchange. There are deeper technologies that involve the spiritual, the conceptual, and the scientific, and the multiplex interrelation between these.