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Part 1: A New Solution to the Value Paradox
The value paradox, also known as the diamond-water paradox, asks why is it that diamonds, which are useless, consistently fetch a high price, whereas water, which is most essential to human life, is inexpensive? There have been two prominent answers to this question, one from classical economics and the other from neo-classical economics.
In the labor theory of value, associated with the classical economists and with Karl Marx, the value of a good comes from the amount of work expended to create the thing. Diamonds require more labor to extract them, water does not require a lot of labor, therefore diamonds fetch a higher price.
The labor theory of value was considered displaced in the economics profession in the second half of the 19th century by the marginal utility theory of value, attributed to Menger, Walras, and Jevons. It became the basis of neo-classical economics. In marginal utility, value comes from the subjective attribution of value. Basically, we attribute more financial value to diamonds because they are more rare. Each subsequent unit of diamond beyond the first is still worth a lot. Each subsequent unit of water beyond the first decreases in value, because we only need so much at a time.
The split between the labor theory of value and the marginal utility theory of value has significant political consequences. Marxists, socialists, and left leaning people typically rely on the classical labor theory of value. They think that people should be adequately compensated for their labor time because they generate the underlying value of the economy, hence more redistribution of resources and taxation of the wealthy. The marginal utilitarians, usually more libertarian or free market oriented, say that labor fetches the price that it does because of the aggregate market interactions of subjective individual preferences. Each subsequent unit of minimum wage labor is not that much more valuable to the employer. Whatever the market decides will be the fair distribution that ensures that the most people are put to work.
The value paradox arises because there appears to be two senses of the word “value.” There is the financial sense, which is the price signal, and then there is the social sense, which is how essential the thing is to human life. The problem with the value paradox is the that it is framed in terms of rivalrous, materialist scarcity dynamics. The founders of the labor theory and the marginal utility theory were thinking about this problem in the time of industrialization, when the economy was focused on producing material goods. But our contemporary economic situation increasingly involves antirivalrous information dynamics. We do not yet have an adequate theory of value to understand antirivalrous information dynamics.
In rivalrous dynamics, there is a scarce material resource. An apple or a chair is a scarce material resource. If I have it, then someone else cannot have it. There is a limited supply of the good, and it is priced according to the demand. In rivalrous dynamics, there is always a tradeoff between social and financial value. The individual can either keep the scarce good for himself or sell it to someone else. Many market proponents say that acting in financial self interest is not opposed to the collective interest because mutually beneficial exchange brings about the optimal outcomes for all parties. This is theoretically true, but in practice there always seems to be Malthusian, zero sum aspects that prevent all parties from economically thriving, even if the rising tide does lift all boats. Inevitably information asymmetries arise. This is a valid argument against exclusively focusing on financial value to the exclusion of social value. But focusing primarily on social value to the exclusion of financial value also brings out zero sum, materialist scarcity dynamics. This was the outcome of over-centralization in the Soviet Union where there were bread lines and rampant corruption.
In antirivalrous dynamics, information goods can be replicated infinitely. If I learn calculus and share it with someone else, then calculus becomes more valuable to both of us. The more people who learn the underlying skill or platform the more valuable it becomes. We see this with the value of social networks and sharing economy platforms. The more people who use Twitter or Uber the more valuable it becomes and the less practical their competitors become. There is a kind of winner takes all dynamics in the antirivalrous, because it is in everyone’s interest to be synced to the same platform. This is why we see the monopoly accumulation of marketshare in the big tech companies.
Antirivalrous dynamics start to collapse the distinction between financial and social value. This is why we need a new theory of value that accounts for these kind of network effects that we see arising in our contemporary economic environment. We need a more general theory of value that incorporates both social and financial value, as well as the philosophical concept of value itself, understood as meaning, significance, importance, or priority. This would be able to explain much of what we see in the contemporary information economy as well as providing a more solid foundation to understand traditional forms of information dynamics like the spread of religions and belief systems. This would also perhaps provide the foundation for new innovations in the economy based purely on information and knowledge exchange, rather endlessly relying on material technology for growth.
From our contemporary position of relative abundance, we can see that antirivalrous dynamics are primary and determine the rivalrous dynamics. The fundamental belief structures that are acquired through information exchanges determine how people assign social or financial value to things rather than vice versa. The neo-classical economists still try to squeeze information dynamics into the antiquated framework of rivalrous, materialist supply and demand. This is what Gary Becker tried to do. But the marginal utility theory of value is increasingly irrelevant with respect to information dynamics like mimetics and social networks.
In order to articulate a new theory of value based in antirivalrous network effects, we have to understand why people would pay for an information good when they can acquire it for free. Why would people pay to learn calculus or a foreign language? Why would they use their scarce time and money to pay for something that they could get for free because there are infinite copies on the internet? People pay for information goods in order to have access to the network of people who already use that platform. They pay money if it will lower their future transaction costs (understood here as translation costs). In other words, I will pay to learn calculus if it gives me access to a network of people who already know calculus and are making money from it. The underlying value of a good does not come from labor value or from marginal utility value, it comes from synchrony. It comes from being synced with a collective intelligence that already has access to the platform. Being synced gives people a shared basis of knowledge. Once everyone speaks the same language, then they can teach it to people who want to learn the language either for free or for a price.
In the synchrony theory of value, there is not a scarcity of material resources, but a scarcity of temporal resources. In the theory of synchronic value, we don’t have to make the tradeoff between financial and social value as we do in rivalrous dynamics. Instead the tradeoff is between our present and future selves. We sacrifice in the present for the sake of being synced with the collective in the future. Sacrificing for the sake of your future self is the same as sacrificing for the sake of others. The other person is always regarded as your future self. When you sacrifice your time to learn some new knowledge, it is for the sake of being synced with the others who already have that knowledge. Notice that this is a more general theory of value that contains social and financial value as subsets. Value always comes from the emergent synchronization with the collective, rather than from labor or from utility.
We are constantly sorting information based on what will provide access to the most coherent collective intelligence. We are constantly attempting to resolve our state of individualized tensions into a collective regularity. This operates at the most basic, immediate level. Each person, at each moment, chooses between mutually exclusive options. In other words, they form priorities. They use categories to signal the priorities. These priorities circulate through society via the categories in conversation. The priorities are not at all as clear and distinct as the specific categories that are used to convey them. In fact, the same category may simultaneously signal two conflicting priorities. But the conversation itself is the arbiter of the conflict, in a Habermasian sense. The conversation resolves the individualized tensions into a shared collective synchrony. Even if there is conflict or disagreement, the underlying priorities are revealed or brought to the surface by conversation.
The motivation is that people always want to fulfill their desires. They try to fulfill their desires within social interaction itself rather than in an asocial way, because people are social creatures. This leads to an emergent simultaneity of fulfillments, where people match fulfillments within the conversation. In this way, conversation tends to converge towards unconscious shared assumptions. This happens whether they agree or not, the underlying assumptions get revealed.
If there are low transaction costs, then information propagates through the network of social relations. In other words, if there are shared, unconscious assumptions, then the information cascades costlessly through social networks. If the unconscious assumptions are highly fragmented and multipolar, then it will be hard for any information to travel across the social relations. There is a “market” or distributed self organizing process for determining how these shared unconscious assumptions coalesce and diverge.
When someone discovers a whole new strata of unconscious shared assumptions, everyone realizes that their actions have been oriented in the wrong way, or that their actions have already been unconsciously oriented in this new way the whole time. This shifts incentives toward learning the new platform in order to sync with the rest of the collective. This is what happened with something like the discovery of Christianity. It revealed a whole stratum of unconscious assumptions about the way people implicitly treat each other and organize their behavior. Or something like the discovery of Facebook, which revealed implicit social relations between people and externalized them onto a virtual social graph.
It is clear now why diamonds are more valuable than water. Diamonds give people access to a network of collective intelligence associated with desirable social status. But we can now begin to look at the diamond-water paradox through a different lens, replacing the materialist scarcity with temporal scarcity. Call it the programmer-artist paradox. Why are programmers paid so much in relation to artists? Why are artists paid so little money, when collectively they add such social value to society? Because they have no shared platform, they have no synchrony, no network effects that would lower transaction costs and save people time. Programmers have synchrony in their shared programming languages. Artists share no underlying belief structures that would make their productions more valuable as more people bought into them. In the Renaissance, the artists shared in a religious substructure that allowed ideas to propagate costlessly through social relations and synthesize with other ideas.
The ultimate synchronic value generator would be a metalanguage or ultimate spiritual structure which coordinated all of the various existing information sources in a single self organizing process, like a kind of verbal stock market or a spatial Wikipedia. Remember, that antirivalrous dynamics have winner take all effects. So we should expect that sooner or later, a platform will become the dominant information source, simply because it is in everyone’s best interest to be synced to the same platform, for reasons of lower transaction or translation costs.
Part 2: The Blue Church
As a matter of fact, in the United States and the Western world, we have already converged to such a shared platform. The liberal consensus is the information environment that we have lived under for the last 75+ years or longer. The liberal assumptions are the currency among the intellectuals and intelligentsia. In order to participate in the intellectual discourse, you must be either a classical liberal or a progressive liberal, either for capitalism or against it, or some combination. There is no other option. The market is a massive autonomous social machine and we are merely its byproducts. We must either correct for its failures or follow its oracular will. This is the kind of environment of shared unconscious assumptions which allows information to cascade across the system effortlessly. In this system, people who use categories in the “right” way are rewarded financially. These people make a living as bureaucrats, journalists, academics, scientists, programmers, or knowledge producers. There is a superficial culture war over the specific terms, but all the parties agree that liberalism and modernity are the best.
This social formation is called the Blue Church, or the Cathedral. It is the apparatus of contemporary knowledge production: journalism, academia, arts, administrative bureaucracy. The Blue Church consensus is globalist, materialist, and liberal, with an emphasis on expert specialization. Some experts favor more or less redistribution of resources and that determines the political divide. The Blue Church used to be edgy and countercultural, now it is stiflingly intolerant.
Imagine for a second that it is 1958. You grow up in a household of stodgy, conservative parents who work in institutional corporate or bureaucratic roles. You feel imprisoned by their straight-laced formalities and social scripts. But there is a social movement of youths like you oriented towards lucidity and heightened consciousness and art and music. It involves deep meaning. 2018 is like 1958, only now the stodgy conservatism is the Blue Church dogma of globalism, materialism, liberalism, and expert specialization. It doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal, progressive, neo-conservative, you are heavily indoctrinated by the dogma of the Blue Church because it has shaped the fabric of our society for so long.
The emergent countercultural milieu is based on true spirituality, mutual trust, responsibility, and entrepreneurship. Becoming a normal, responsible human being is the revolutionary and countercultural statement in the age of crazy. The culture wars and the legacy Blue Church political system is never going to solve the social problems of our society. We must instead look to each other and to our own cultural creativity to manifest a greater consensus than the Blue Church could ever imagine.
What will begin to address our social problems is a transfer of wealth towards meaningful social projects that are also profitable in the market system. Thus far, the fullest expression of this wealth transfer is crowdfunding and cryptocurrencies. These economic modes align social and financial value, providing both social benefits and effective incentive coordination. In 2017/2018 there was an explosion of ICOs, where investors were making huge returns in software platforms. They were not just investing in software, but in nascent communities often involving complex governance.
There is also an explosion of new media that is largely crowdfunded- podcasts, videos, and blogs. These all facilitate a novel form of collective sensemaking. The new media is a clean break from the 20th century modes of Blue Church asymmetric, broadcast media. Instead of a conversation happening just once, the conversation gets transmitted in an audio or video format and happens over and over again thousands of times in thousands of different places. This has the effect of exponentially amplifying the underlying meaning of the conversations. This is very different from the time when conversations happened just once and evaporated into air.
From this meaning amplification, we can observe an extreme multipolar divergence of different incompatible meanings, on the one hand. We see the culture wars, political polarization, fragmentation, incompatible vocabularies. But on the other hand, there is an underlying synthetic unity. Most of these conversations are trying to gain some new understanding or new perspective. The underlying meaning of the new media itself is learning. Thus, the underlying signal that is ultimately getting amplified over and over again by the new media, in spite of all the noise, is simply the underlying process of learning itself. This is the alternative consensus that is just now emerging.
By contrast, the signal that is amplified by the Blue Church broadcast media and the legacy news, is power, power, power. They want to maintain their hegemonic political discourse amidst the encroaching breakdown of legitimacy. Broadcast media and news is one person telling a multiplicity of people what to think according to the party line. This will never be convincing again. We don’t want a collapse of the existing systems of sensemaking, but would prefer a peaceful transition to the emergent system.
We would expect that the new media’s (podcasts, videos, blogging) underlying signal of learning would manifest collectively as some kind of nascent learning platform, a kind of distributed collective intelligence for learning. This is what we see with an idiosyncratic formation like the “Intellectual Dark Web,” a kind of open-ended dialogue across a myriad of different topics, some of which are political. This formation is also largely crowdfunded.
This new form of collective sensemaking is what I call the Game. It is peer to peer, symmetric conversation, which has self organizing information dynamics that lead to shared unconscious assumptions and equilibria.
The ultimate purpose of the Game is to realize a general spatial coordination system in which each person, by evaluating meaning in their local circumstances, is able to extrapolate to the generalized collective significance of the whole. And using this collective spatial intelligence, they are able to coordinate their individual actions in a collective synchrony.
In the transition from a materialist to a temporal economy, the only way out is through. You must be an entrepreneur. You must start your own business. The Game, the Metagame, or Game B, is the nascent collective intelligence structure that is emerging as the alternative to the Blue Church. The Game is a vast interdependent system of collectively allocating spatial information. We make each decision as a hyperconnected center node of a network of relations. All of our most fine grained choices immediately ripple through this network of relations. Value will start to accrue to those who take on the most collective significance, who bear the most collective burden.
The specialized domains of knowledge symbolize the activity of the whole. All of the disparate, specialized domains of knowledge become aspects of single multifaceted, divine Game. The people who master the Game, who master the synthesis of all existing domains of knowledge, will increasingly be the ones who can adequately make sense of what is going and convey it simply to other people. Authority, validity, and reliability should start to accrue to them and the institutions that they found. In the current cultural miasma of fragmentation there are few reliable sources. Mostly we rely on institutional and traditional credibility, but the Blue Church sources like Harvard and the New York Times are increasingly unreliable because of their homogeneous perspective. The most reliable sources are symmetric, peer to peer conversation. And from these compounded learning conversations will arise Masters of the Game.
If we want to address systemic social problems like climate change, inequality, fake news, mental health and substance abuse, the best way is to crowdfund cultural creators to shift the economy towards antirivalrous, Game B information dynamics. There is still competition over scarce temporal resources, but there is an emergent shared learning community of spirituality, mutual trust, entrepreneurship, and responsibility that can outcompete the Blue Church.
The point of the Game is to build up network effects to the inflection where people start to defect from the Blue Church and rivalrous economic structures into the nascent spatial knowledge economy. This is a collective intelligence for efficiently allocating scarce temporal resources, a collective attention model. It is a question of how we collectively make decisions in the emergent social brain. It only takes a sizable minority of cultural creators who make decisions based on intuition and aggregating collective significance, rather than making decisions based on materialist considerations. This sizable minority realizes that collective attention and mutual trust are the most valuable untapped financial and social resource and moves to arbitrage. They collectively discover the underlying platform that everyone is already unconsciously operating within. It is only a question of how the Game will get articulated, compressed, and framed to a wider audience.
It is still possible to shift the American economy to a purely spiritual knowledge economy, rather than being overly reliant on material technology. If we continue down the Blue Church trajectory, then we get dangerously close to fusing with metallic technology in ways that are frankly creepy. We must domesticate material technology in the same way that we domesticated wild animals. We invented the technology of spear, but then we domesticated wild animals and had no need for the spear. It is the same with metallic technology. We must learn from the synchrony and serendipity that metallic technology facilitates without becoming addicted to it. We must return to our deep spiritual roots in a way that is compatible with the insights that we have gained through the scientific revolution.
The hope is that enough people will start to defect from the decaying Blue Church and its economic systems into the new spatial coordination system that the entire economy will shift towards interdependent information exchange. This would represent a wealth transfer out of rivalrous dynamics, towards Game B information dynamics. This is an attempt to synthesize all domains of knowledge into a single coherent, unified conceptual structure that never changes or stays the same. It is continuous negotiation and convergence on the meaning of underlying spatial substructures. In this pursuit, we reach plateaus of coherence, negotiate them, and then discover new plateaus. It is like a truth engine that gains more efficacy the more people who feed into it. It is an alternative to the soul crushing materialist Blue Church universities, and a Singularity style attractor that pulls in everyone who dares to take the red pill.
Preface: This article is a deep, philosophical considering. Please try to read *through* the words with care.
In the contemporary situation, we are faced with several fronts of a seemingly insurmountable social crisis; political polarization, mental health and substance abuse crises, inequality, climate change, fake news. These issues can be viewed as separate, independent social problems. But they all feed back on one another and amplify each other’s depth. The mental health crisis causes people to do horrendous crimes which amplifies political polarization. Political polarization drives fake news. Fake news breeds nihilism and talk of a “post-truth” world, and exacerbates mental health problems. Substance abuse perpetuates inequality. Solving these problems one by one does not solve the underlying, structural problem and it does not address the problems fast enough to prevent systemic collapse. All of these problems are examples of systemic coordination failures. To address systemic coordination failures we would have to better understand how healthy social coordination works. This article describes social coordination at the philosophical-structural level, seeking to articulate and modify the deep code of adaptive social structures.
What is social coordination? Social coordination is an emergent property of the interaction between individuals that allows them to work together effectively. Social coordination is not a top down or bottom up solution, but a natural, human solution that is an expression of our natural biosocial tendencies. Social coordination is a certain compromise between individual and collective. It is not merely the convergence of subjective, imaginary beliefs. It is an almost objective property of human biosociality that allows individuals to rapidly merge maps and form compatible goals. Examples of efficient macro-scale coordination are: capitalist cooperation/competition through prices, religious community in Christianity and world religions, and knowledge production in the natural sciences.
How does social coordination emerge? At the individual level, people are motivated to map desires to fulfillments. Individuals are motivated by temporal symmetry between desires and fulfillments. This extends to plan structures that abstract from present to future states. As the plan structures unfold, there is symmetry between internal thought and external environment.
Each individual, motivated by this internal symmetry, interacts with other individuals. They form maps of each other’s maps. There are meaningful differences because they all have their own independent desires. Yet the ambient, differential pressures between their internal maps tends toward resolution in spatial simultaneity, when the internal matches with the external immediately and immanently; not as a plan structure, but all at once in the moment. Individuals fulfill the highest desire within interaction itself, rather than in some other way. The best example of spatial simultaneity is meaningful coincidence, a serendipitous occurrence that seems planned out in advance, but in fact emerges spontaneously.
In the contemporary situation, interaction is often seen as one subjective experience contrasted with another, different subjective experience, trying to either win an argument or to converge on understanding. This is a misguided notion. Categories (or words) are not localized. Usage propagates through conversation and then through the collective of interconnected conversations, immediately. Therefore any use of a category effectively incorporates all its possible social meanings. However, people also use categories in a specific, specialized way that necessarily distinguishes from other uses of the same category. One person uses the category “liberal” to refer to progressive social policies, while another uses it to refer to neoliberal, laissez faire economic policies. They are both justified because in the objective state of collective dialogue, the category “liberal” incorporates both meanings. There is a kind of ecosystem of usage in which categories circulate, interact with other distinct usages, and resolve their meaning in conversation.
The profound tension between personal usage and collective significance is at the heart of social coordination. Personal usage is implicitly an assertion of how the category should be used, and the collective significance is how the category is used objectively in the collective dialogue. The tension between these is the same as the ambient, differential pressure between internal maps that circulates through social interactions. This differential pressure tends towards resolution in spatial simultaneity, when personal usages align and the different unconscious assumptions cancel out. The ambient, differential pressure is a single field, a unified, immanent structure that is sensitive to all adjustments and inflections.
The collective significance is a single interwoven construct of meaning. It is an objective universal intermediary between interactions, like a currency of interactions. It is the objective state of category relations, of all conversations going on right now, as aggregated in the individual intuition. And because categories are spatial and embodied, this field extends out from internal, individual consciousness into the socio-physical external environment. It is a hypercomplex, hyperconnected, coherent social field that contains information and content. It is discerned and parsed using intuition, flow, and insight. It makes up the unconscious, contextual background assumptions connected to any specific usage of a category.
All expressions aggregate collective significance, more or less efficiently. When the aggregation is perfectly efficient, the individual speaks literally as and for the collective. The individual gives voice to the unconscious motivation of the collective. Each individual is the center node of network of relations and speaks as the collective in their own unique way, more or less efficiently. Collective dialogue is a constant negotiation of the status of this hypercomplex, unified, evolving field of meaning. Individuals constantly map it, convey it to others, receive feedback, adjust their internal map, and then convey it again. It can be parsed into a series of discrete categories, and also hypothesized as a single, prioritized category. It is multi-modal and discontinuous, yet adaptive and unified.
This is all to say that the individual is intrinsically motivated to fulfill his desires in such a way that he belongs in the social community. Yet he does not want to fulfill all of his desires, because then he has nothing left to strive for. Therefore, effective conversation sorts the collective prioritization of desires such that there will be a highest desire that is never fulfilled. Effective conversation sorts unconscious, asymmetric information to this natural, symmetric state of one highest unfulfilled desire. It sets up conditions such that fulfillment of the highest desire can be infinitely approximated without ever being reached. This is a kind of calculus of mutual fulfillments within social interaction that is the ultimate goal of emergent coordination and facilitates heightened collective spatial simultaneity.
All of the circulating, ambient social pressure is seeking resolution in an ultimate catharsis of collective biosocial simultaneity, in which the hyperconnective field finds its full cultural expression. All distributed spatiotemporal information is efficiently compressed into a single collective event. Individual’s movements through space are harmonized in synchronous macro-scale coordination. Individual action is a perfectly efficient platform of spatial information exchange. Each unique individual node aggregates and re-expresses the whole collective significance in a completely unique way, in perfectly harmonized emotional purgation. This is what capitalist, religious, and scientific coordination, as a grand synthesis, all tend toward.
However, this ultimate resolution is only a hypothetical model or construct, not a utopian ideal. It is useful only as an abstract tool for comparison, like a number or abstract shape. It is the highest desire which is never fulfilled, but continuously approximated, negotiated, and dialectically transformed.
The meaning, significance, importance, value of a conversation is an emergent property. One might say that it is the only thing that is truly objective. This property is the tendency towards temporal symmetry and spatial simultaneity. All conversations tend toward this end and sort information according to this criterion, consciously or unconsciously. When we have conversations and create cultural expressions, we sort information to its natural, symmetric state and thereby heighten the distributed collective simultaneity and meaningful coincidence of events. Conversation is organized around and oriented towards these deep, unconscious attractors of meaning. It is in the simple joy of being together in creative expression that we self organize in the most natural, meaningful way.
This essay is a follow up to A General System of Category Exchange.
Preface: This article is a deep, philosophical considering. It uses some private language and neologisms. Please try to read *through* the words in good faith.
The global financial system has the appearance of an interdependent ecology. Price changes in one area propagate out to affect all interlinked economic actors. But this financial ecology is not yet adequately integrated into the ecology of the natural environment. There are problems of asymmetric information and externalities. Capitalist coordination is actually embedded within a more general human coordination structure that naturally corrects for these problems. I will attempt to describe this more general structure:
The human being is motivated to fulfill his desires. His fulfills his desires effectively when his internal map accurately reflects the external environment. The individual is relatively simple, whereas his environment is complex and changing, so he uses simplified heuristics to process complexity and novelty.
Heuristics lead to prioritization. Some things are more important than others. Prioritization leads to a single highest priority. This highest priority is so immediate and practical that it is an unconscious reflex. All of the separate prioritizations mutually adjust to one another as if oriented around a single criterion. This is the sense of self.
The individual signals prioritization with categories. Categories are spatial and embodied- they trigger adaptive, physiological reflexes. Categories delimit a field of possible future actions. They constrain possible meanings, and therefore reveal what is most important or valuable about the spatial context.
The individual has personal associations between categories, based on his unique experiences. But there is also an overall, objective state of category relations, evolving moment to moment. This is the state of all usage relations happening right now and that have happened up to now. This is the collective significance of categories, as opposed to personal usage. The individual has an intuition of the collective significance from the social environment.
Collective significance has an overwhelming influence on personal usage, whereas personal usage does not affect collective significance that much. Personal usage is an aggregation of collective significance into simple expressions. An efficient aggregation of collective significance gives voice to the unconscious motivations of the group. In the contemporary situation, the individual increasingly speaks for the group.
Personal usage is highly interdependent. Its effects propagate through the interdependent category relations immediately. Collective significance is an objective intermediary between different personal usages. It is like a currency of interactions. The individual cognizes at both the personal and collective levels simultaneously. The collective level is often more subconscious or unconscious. No one has full access to it because it is too complex, but everyone knows that an objective state of category relations exists. It can be intuited or approximated from the social environment, particularly in states of heightened subtlety and nuance.
All dialogue is an attempt to discover its own collective significance. Individuals converse in order to better understand the social situation they are embedded within, which is the precondition to fulfillment of any other desires. Dialogue is not purposeless, it has cognitive attractors. When the dialogue converges to an attractor, the separate personal usages come into alignment and there is a social coherence. Unconscious information is sorted to its natural, symmetric state, and there are shared, unconscious axioms.
Because of the selfish motivation to map desires to fulfillments, there is a tendency towards symmetry between internal thought and external environment. Therefore, the interactions between different individual mappings leads to an emergent collective simultaneity. This is a simultaneity of the highest meaning, value, priority and importance, which self organizes spatial category relations. Unconscious social information naturally tends toward the shared, symmetric state because of the interaction between each individual’s selfish motivations.
All social activity is unconsciously correlated. But the correlations are not that tight yet, because meaningful simultaneity is not the dominant coordination strategy. And it may never become the dominant coordination strategy. But the Game is effective at sorting unconscious social information to its natural symmetric state. This is its social function, which heightens the collective simultaneity of meaning. And once a certain threshold of the population shares certain unconscious cultural axioms, then there are more efficient collective mapping relationships. The Game, a.k.a. Game B, or the Metagame, can emerge as a transitional coordination structure on top of capitalist coordination, which will shift the internal capital resources towards regenerative, omni-considerate, omni-win states and organizations.
Collective significance is the more general system that the price system is embedded within. The system of interdependent spatial category relations determines how people will allocate scarce resources and not vice versa. Techno-capital wants to realize its own generalized ecological interdependence. Resources have already begun to shift towards symmetric information platforms like social media, solar power, cryptocurrency. With every new expression of the cultural situation, the increasing density of interconnections between nodes in the network, there are increasingly higher plateaus of shared unconscious axioms, even as on the surface it seems that things are getting more and more fragmented. Once there is a certain threshold of shared unconscious cultural axioms, then there will be a foundation to catalyze a global intellectual, ecological, and artistic renaissance.
There is a nascent intellectual renaissance happening on the internet. Underneath the vapidity of the culture wars, the new forms of media- the podcasting format, video interviews, livestreams, crowdfunding, are fomenting a catalytic exchange of ideas that is rapidly hurtling towards cultural renewal, and maybe cultural collapse as well.
In the contemporary situation, we are faced with two seemingly opposed tendencies. On the one hand there is a kind of underground, emergent collective psychedelia self-organizing on the internet. People feel this but they don’t quite know how to articulate it yet. Every philosopher, artist, and cultural creator is empowered to share their vision, and these visions are rapidly catalyzing to greater and greater social forms. On the other hand, there is a legacy, institutional, liberal-techno-capitalist machinery. The market keeps incentivizing technology and biopharma even though people want genuinely creative answers to the systemic coordination problems. And liberal republican institutions keep slogging through situations of increasingly inept, incompatible vocabularies. These tendencies seem at odds with each other.
The cultural creators on the internet are doing the valuable, empowering social activity, yet they are not rewarded commensurately in the market. It seems to me that cultural creators are radically underpriced in the current economy. The reason is the fragmentation of collective sense-making between journalists, artists, philosophers, scientists. Not that these shouldn’t be separate, specialized roles, but they are more interrelated and interwoven than previously thought, and the cultural creators who are able to embody a kind of synthesis between many specialized roles will outperform.
Everyone who is coming to terms with their own and the collective awakening of consciousness, wants to see a healthy social dynamic emerge from the toxic political atmosphere and the decaying legitimacy of the legacy institutions. What prevents such a coordinated movement of activity seems to be an attachment to legacy institutions. It is in no one’s benefit for there to be a general collapse of the system. And at the same time, we don’t yet see an adequate replacement structure which would feel safe enough to jump to if we abandon the old forms of coordination. And so we are at a place where the emergent collective psychedelia of the internet must discover a way to seed growth within the legacy institutions. They seem fundamentally opposed to one another, the kind of contrarian creatives and the legacy power brokers. Yet they must somehow get along.
At least among a strong minority of internet creators, the political dialogue is moving from the superficial ideological level to the embodied, structural-philosophic level. That means that people are not just cheaply signaling their affiliations. They are aligning their motivations in an attempt to affect and change collective intelligence. What is emerging is a new social brain and distributed formation of collective intelligence.
The metabolism of the contemporary techno-capitalist social brain is the system of prices. Prices determine the distribution of resources in society. But this price metabolism is a specific subset of a more generalized, interconnected value coordination. We primarily exchange value through categories. Monetary exchange is downstream from category exchange. We first exchange categories through dialogue and conversation, and then through the results of these, we determine how we will allocate our scarce monetary resources. This applies on Wall St. as much as it does for the average person.
What is attempting to emerge is a platform for efficient, interconnected category exchange that will allocate resources more sustainably and efficiently. There is an inefficiency in the global financial market because a lot of people are deeply concerned about systemic, global coordination problems, but no one seems to have a market solution that systematically addresses all of these problems at once. We keep going about it with specialized, piecemeal band-aid solutions that have no enduring value. The market dynamics inevitably will move to incentivize enduring, sustainable sources of value. The culture wars attempt to deal with systemic problems through tawk and tawk and more tawk. But these problems will eventually get addressed by a market mechanism. The best solution will address systemic coordination problems all at once, meaning it will be a unified conceptual framework for social consciousness that will also be profitable in the legacy system. This suggests to me that radical cultural creators, people who design systems of embodied category exchange, are deeply underpriced in the current market.
Distributed language games are fundamentally different from post-modern meandering IYI (intellectual yet idiot) discussions, because they have an embodied teleology. They tend towards cognitive attractors that sort categories towards their natural, symmetric state, allowing people to access the information they most need in that moment. The materialist, physicalist, secular paradigm has a huge blindspot biasing it against self organizing dynamics of information and synchronous, harmonized, meaningful simultaneity of experience. This suggests that in the long run, organizations that are able to play the Game of embodied, self organizing social information, should be able to capture sizable market share from technology and eventually from government. These will become aspects of a more general kind of value exchange.
This new platform is not a social media platform, or a piece of technological infrastructure. It is the intangible, spiritual infrastructure of an interdependent society. It is a shared, unconscious, axiomatic structure deep within the collective psyche. It is well understood how changes in prices in one part of the economy can radiate outward and affect other parts. Yet this structural interdependence is embedded inside of the structural interdependence of category exchange. The moment to moment dialogue is a vast evolving network of interlinked category relations. There is an individual significance of category relations- my personal associations between categories. And there is a collective significance of category relations- the collective intelligence, distributed sense-making apparatus. The collective has an asymmetric effect on the individual. Collective significance has a large effect on how individuals use categories, whereas individuals have a small effect on collective significance of categories.We learn to speak by using categories in the way that other people use them. It is only by coming into a kind of individual sovereignty that we can start to assert our own individual usage as a kind of pushback against collective significance, asserting our own unique view.
The contemporary situation is defined by the shrinking distinction between the individual and collective levels of significance. Individuals speak more and more for the group. We are modern individuals who constantly think about how the group sees us. We are rapidly converging towards a kind of unified panopticonsciousness. We constantly reflect on our place within the group dynamics. The group is a cognitive avatar that we are always negotiating with, it is an aspect of our self. Whenever we negotiate relations between categories, we are negotiating individual and collective significance simultaneously. The changes in category relations rapidly propagate through the whole system and affect the collective significance at every moment. Working out our own personal associations and relations between categories leads to broader social resolution, it clarifies and coheres the collective significance.
The collective significance does evolve over time, categories are subject to slippage and the usage of categories is what is more fundamentally being debated in the culture wars. This is important because categories are not just abstract, disconnected entities, they are embodied. They relate to fundamental, adaptive, physical reflexes and responses. This is why individuals who are sovereign and can deeply structure relations between categories at the level of collective significance are radically undervalued in our society. They have the key to solving fake news, peer review, etc., a whole host of systemic coordination problems, all at once, through a kind of unified conceptual framework. The platform for category exchange will determine the integrity and the timbre of the negotiations which take place within that platform. This platform is convergent set of unspoken, widely shared axiomatic structures, also referred to as the Game, or the Metagame.
We are attempting to converge on a kind of unified collective motivation in which categories can be efficiently exchanged and thereby efficiently self organize socio-physical constraints on behavior such that individual motivations are mutually harmonized in synchronous omni-win, mutual gain dynamics. Relations between embodied categories affect how we move through space. They are a kind of socio-physical constraint on our behavior, and thus they also influence what we consider important, meaningful, worthwhile. If you wonder about whether categories are embodied, just consider the tradeoffs and the importance of prioritizing under conditions of information overload, and you realize that categories impose strict socio-physical constraints. The way that we associate categories affects our decision calculus, what we feel, how we relate to each other. The rearrangement of category relations can heal traumas, correct negative behavioral patterns, fix relationships.
There are a variety of common sense vocabularies to deal with the contemporary situation. The efficient exchange, transposition, and rearrangement of category relations within those vocabularies is the way that all parties can mutually benefit from each other’s insights to coordinate at a deeper structural level.
There is a selfish motivation in category exchange, which is the motivation for collective coherence. The environment is more manageable if the relation between internal and external reality are more tightly coupled. If internal thoughts are reflected in external reality faster, then we get what we want faster. We are selfishly motivated to achieve symbiosis with the natural ecology of the planet. This is why capital resources will inevitably shift towards embodied category exchange and away from tech, finance, and government. Tech, finance, and government will all become specialized aspects of embodied category exchange.
Social interactions have a selfish teleology, they are always tending towards a kind of broader social resolution. There are particular cognitive attractors that we converge on to bring about this social resolution. The social resolution is about resolving the asymmetry between the collective and the individual. The individual is always motivated to become the voice of the collective. He is always motivated to resolve the social tensions into social coherence, so that he can get what he wants faster. But this individual selfishness ultimately allows everyone to get what they want faster, by being more immersed in a synchronous, harmonized social form.
This is why the market will eventually shift towards embodied category exchange and distributed language games. There is currently an irrational bias towards secular, materialist, physicalist ways of relating to the world that do not incorporate a kind of responsive, emergent, embodied physicality. They do not allow for a dynamics of embodiment.
Faced with the contemporary situation of toxic, fragile political institutions, the emergent collective psychedelia of the internet is tending towards an anti fragile, enduring compatibility, rewarding creators who are insightful through crowdfunding. Ideas cooperate and compete to endure as stable forms. Only the most enduring ideas are the foundation for a stable society. There is a growing social momentum to externalize a lot of the psychedelic social wisdom that is being generated on the internet into coherent social forms.
You never hear the criticism that the culture wars are superficial. The divides seem to be so deeply rooted in different philosophical ways of seeing the world, to the point that they seem like alternate realities. But the culture wars are shallow! They are based on a naive kind of Enlightenment subject-object dichotomy and dualism. They are based in a dogmatic materialism, a kind of secular Gnosticism, in which subjects are competing with the hostile external world in a zero sum game. It is exactly the same evolutionary game we’ve been playing since we were hunter gatherers. Only the external world is no longer as hostile, there is no longer a zero sum game. The culture wars are based on the spiritually naive belief that there is an external enemy. Any spiritually inclined individual knows that the true enemy is within and any external expression of that tendency must be dealt with internally first.
The current systemic crises cannot be addressed at the level of the culture wars. The systemic social problems must be addressed at the level of their root causes, and that is why the cultural dialogue is deepening. We subvert the culture wars by moving to the interlinked structural level, the level of embodied category exchange.
The categories that we debate fundamentally affect our shared socio-physical constraints, the social conventions which organize our collective behavior and motivation. Every conversation and expression vitally affects feedback responses of the physical environment and the interplay of fundamental themes that is shaping the wider narrative. What is emerging from the chaos is the relation between one’s physical capacity to move through space in certain ways and the individual-collective significance of category relations. There is a new social brain that is being scaffolded on top of the techno-capitalist infrastructure. This is a transitional structure that moves towards omni-win, mutual gain dynamics.
Collective coherence can seem like an unattainable goal in the current situation. There is an unprecedented number of different perspectives competing for attention, and there is the momentum of decaying legacy machinery with its legacy platform, the culture wars. All of this can make the contemporary situation seem like nihilism or relativism is the best adaptive strategy. But there is a grand harmony seething beneath the surface, the field of lucid, synchronous, harmonized complexity and simultaneity. This is not a technological innovation, it is the resurgence of a primal atavism, embedded in the logic of insight.
The follow up to this article is Foundations of Ecological Renaissance.
Part 1 of this article is “Facilitating a Wealth Transfer Towards the Violet Congregation.” This part can be understood without reading Part 1.
What is the purpose of social games? The physician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott argued that the ability to play was the definition of good mental health.
Winnicott held that in infancy, we are unable to distinguish between “me” and “not me.” We are deeply connected physically and psychologically to our mother. As soon as we feel any sense of discomfort, we are immediately comforted and fed by our mother’s breast. But gradually, as we get older, our needs are not immediately met. We begin to feel a sense of separation from our mother. We begin to develop a sense of “me” and “not me.”
The primordial sense of comfort and belonging to the mother is transferred into a “transitional object,” a blanket or a toy that makes us feel comfortable, but helps us get used to the distinction between me and not me. Interest in the transitional object is later generalized into childhood games. And then later in life, into cultural domains like religion or mathematics.
The key is that, for Winnicott, play is about the primordial distinction between me and not me. The phenomena that I experience often seem foreign and unfamiliar. Yet in play, I should consider whether these unfamiliar things are not really an aspect of my own character, a part of my psyche that I haven’t dealt with yet, and whether those things would still bother me if I properly integrated them.
I would venture to say that in the contemporary situation, we are moving towards an immersive reality where “internal” thoughts are more immediately reflected in the “external” environment. In contemporary techno-capitalism, money and technology match desires with satisfactions almost immediately. But this techno-capitalist infrastructure is only a special case of more general, high bandwidth value exchange which takes place in social games. Social games are the way that we exchange value, in the sense of importance and meaningfulness, rather than in the capitalist sense. These social games serve as the corrective to the harmful, asymmetric aspects of techno-capitalist exchange.
The maximally meaningful interest that is exchanged in social games is a universally shared, unconscious structure. We are all unfailingly pulled toward flow states in which we are immersed in the environment. The flows can be attained in groups and teams, which involves synchronous, coordinated activity. Group flow can manifest as dangerous mimetic contagion and madness of mobs, or as collective intelligence and wisdom of crowds.
How could we achieve healthy group flow at scale? This is a hard problem that has been addressed by things like religions, nation-states, corporations. I think under techno-capitalism, the main barrier to healthy group flow is mental health. It is hard to learn how to play. It is hard to take responsibility for the environment as though it is an extension of my own psyche. And it is extremely dangerous. It requires care, caution, and guidance.
In order to play this new kind of Game, we would have to understand embodiment dynamics, the process by which the external environment reflects our internal thought and vice versa.
Embodiment starts in the imagination of the individual. An idea gets shared, and it thereby becomes a physical constraint on someone else’s action process. It affects how they think and what they say and do. It is then is reflected back to the individual directly or indirectly, through environmental responses. The individual can either embody the responses, accept that the environment is providing him with reliable feedback, or he can deny the reliability of the feedback. The feedback response may be haphazard and delayed if the system is inefficient. The individual embodies the feedback responses, he takes them as an aspect of the original expression. The more that the idea circulates, the more it takes on a evolving physicality that affects people’s established ways of behaving. The idea becomes a “thing.” Embodiment dynamics is a self organizing negotiation of social constraints. The social constraints are interconnected, any kind of interaction with the environment affects the whole chain of interlinked social constraints.
If an individual trusts that the environment is providing reliable and valid feedback signals, then he can trust his plans and intentions extending into the future. He can then generalize that trust to other people. They can coordinate behavior, they can play. If on the other hand, he can’t trust that his environment is giving him reliable feedback signals, then he can’t coordinate with his own future self, and he can’t generalize full trust to other people. He will externalize and repress some element of his own personal adaptive growth.
The sources of social reliability, validity, and credibility that coordinate our social experience start in direct, embodied experience. The current crises of legitimacy as reflected in fake news and faltering institutions, are a result of a breakdown in the asymmetric model of broadcast-style information exchange. Social coordination originates in the capacity to embody symmetric feedback responses from the physical environment. If two individuals can converge on a trusted feedback response, then they can coordinate behavior, they can play. The legacy institutions which served as the most trusted sources of information are no longer capable of conveying embodied information. Myths, archetypes, narratives seem to more closely convey the structure of experience.
The distributed play model is a more basic, immediate model of cause and effect than materialism or physicalism. It is rooted in an emergent, responsive physicality, rather than a dead, mechanical, externalized physicality. We have to trust that the environment is providing reliable signals, no matter how haphazard or delayed the responses. Dialogue and conversation are fundamentally a negotiation of physical constraints, which are interlinked through embodiment processes. The attractor equilibria of social convention influence how we discuss issues and ideas. Our thoughts are constantly adapting to these equilibria and gradually altering them through the interactions. We must converge on a fundamental level of embodied mutual trust in order to bring about healthier, coordinated social forms. A further path of inquiry will try to determine how we get past the steep adoption curve. This is what myths and religions are good at, they provide embodied narratives in a simple, understandable format.
Social conventions are traded, negotiated, and dialectically transposed in social games. These conventions compete for the stability and endurance, they compete to endure as social forms. The ones that have the most enduring capacity to coordinate and mutually organize human relations in the simplest way, will eventually win out because they make more practical evolutionary sense. They become the foundational axioms of coordinated group flows, which become traditions, institutions, and organizations.
The more people embody the environment, the greater the network effects and reinforcement of the equilibrium around harmonized, synchronous unions of activity. Many people cannot accept that the environment provides reliable feedback signals. Many prefer a zero sum battle with the external environment. There are systemic barriers to adopting the distributed play model, but this model is itself designed to overcome systemic barriers since it deals with self-organizing dynamics of social constraint. It has never been more clear that denying embodiment is against one’s own self-interest. The mutually beneficial strategy for everyone is to converge on embodiment.
The purpose of social games is to negotiate and trade common sense vocabularies in which we belong, in a deep psychological and spiritual sense. The environment becomes a womb, a stable reinforcing shelter for the imagination, an intricately evolving, maximally interesting place. This social form is the generalization and completion of capitalism, the corrective to its socially malignant aspects.
I have become aware and have been following the development of several internet and 21st century subcultures that seem to have a lot of overlapping and convergent themes. To name a few of these subcultures: meta-modernism, integral consciousness, neoreaction (NrX), accelerationism, transhumanism, vaporwave, psychedelics, the Intellectual Dark Web, and crypto. I cannot speak to whether some of these subcultures have controversial elements. What I know is that all of them are deeply concerned with philosophy, politics, culture, art, and improving the world. They all seem to have similar tactics, organizing through the internet and using memes and distributed collective intelligence. They all share a deep concern that we are at a critical historical moment.
For this purpose, it doesn’t matter whether you’re more aligned with the Blue Church or the Red Religion. Rather, the overlapping patterns signify the emergence of a Violet Congregation, people who are subverting the culture wars by moving to the structural level. I am writing this article to advocate the idea that these subcultures should mutually reinforce each other and build up network effects, and ultimately facilitate a wealth transfer into fundamentally new modalities of coordinated activity. In other words, use capitalism as a means, not an end, towards human-centered forms of coordinated activity.
Capitalism is a specific subset of more generalized, spontaneous order value coordination. If this more potent sense of value can emerge and take on socially objective form, then it will facilitate a rapid, auto-catalytic exchange of ideas. What I am advocating is the re-emergence of 60’s style collective psychedelia but instead of being organized around drugs and immediate gratification, it would be organized around personal growth, responsibility, mutual trust, and entrepreneurship. Capitalism can be a tool to get to this more potent sense of value, which involves importance, meaning and community.
These are things that the market wants, but hasn’t formed an adequate vehicle for yet. There is a massive inefficiency in the global financial market, in that people want to solve and are willing to pay money for, solutions to deep structural problems like climate change, inequality, fake news, etc. But these are mostly coordination problems, and our default mode of coordination is monetary exchange. So at the end of the day, we fall back on monetary exchange and reinforce the social problems. We have to move up a level to a more potent sense of interconnected value and coordinate around that, without rejecting the underlying infrastructure of monetary coordination. By processing and working through localized signals, we can propagate healthy, restorative information through the whole network.
Last year (2017), we saw a huge wealth transfer out of tech and finance towards crypto, indicating that internet-based subcultures can have the power to fundamentally affect the larger economy. Importantly, crypto didn’t take over the entire existing Wall St. financial infrastructure. I think that crypto didn’t have the adequate decentralized social infrastructure to support it. It didn’t have the appropriate level of self-organizing collective intelligence to correspond to the technical coding structures its creators envisioned. (Plus the technical aspects needed work, too.)
So what would be an adequate decentralized social infrastructure? My sense is that it has to do with a construct that I have simply called “the Game,” or the “Metagame.” This construct basically signifies that we are all involved in complex social games, perhaps signaling games or status games, or friendship and familial bonding, but that through these social games we are attempting to achieve a certain social form, a certain kind of broader social resolution. This social form is perhaps virtual or potential, but it has practical meaning and consequence. It is objective because it is an optimal solution to a real game theoretic coordination problem.
This solution has to do with a discovering a common sense vocabulary that will allow interested parties to rapidly merge and negotiate maps; to aggregate the abundant intelligence resources of various individual perspectives into a mutually correcting social brain. Currently, the intelligence about how to set up the conditions for such a Game is distributed throughout the social continuum. There is an objective Game, but no single person has access to it or knows what it will look like when it fully emerges.
The vocabulary around the Game is a distributed language game (DLG), rather than a software-based application. It is a social game that runs on peer-to-peer interactions. It runs on the basic social constraints and conventions that probabilistically influence the path of our interactions. What I am advocating is to attempt to set up conditions for a wealth transfer from tech, finance, and crypto towards distributed language game structures, which will feed back on crypto governance structures, which reinforce the DLGs, etc.
The prototypical distributed language game is an attempt to synthesize many different domains of knowledge into a unified conceptual framework, without over-specializing or over-associating categories. The DLG is an attempt to convey a sense of value that is more urgent than money, in a way that would allow us to coordinate our activity entirely around that value. People who are working on this need to be supported monetarily so that they can spend more time on this activity, and the system can start to bootstrap itself out of techno-nihilism. The wealth transfer to DLGs would allow for a new kind of unified, creative economy.
The most impactful of these distributed language games are hyper-narratives that adequately synthesize personal experience with the objective world. There are numerous examples of people who have designed effective social games that brought about incredibly widespread collective benefits. People who are motivated by true value will begin to find analogous concepts in each others’ work, and converge on an ultimate conceptual framework, which would hypothetically never change or stay the same.
There are numerous people working towards this kind of solution right now. I won’t speak for them, but some of the people who seem to be at least moving in this direction include: Jordan Hall, who runs Deep Code, Michael Haupt, who runs the ambitious Society 4 project, the Holochain project, which has innovated a field called Xenogaming, Daniel Thorson, who hosts the Emerge podcast and has created the Pragmatic Soulcrafting framework, Justin Murphy, a political science professor who synthesizes many different emerging subcultures and philosophical ideas, and many others who I am not aware of yet. It is not far-fetched to see these trends as moving towards something like a cultural convergence, especially as a healthy, measured response to the toxic political climates in the U.S. and many other countries.
This stifling political climate is largely a result of the culture wars surrounding the effects of post-modernism. It became fashionable in the second half of the 20th century and early 21st century to “reject metanarratives,” and embrace a kind of relativism. I think that one of the main reasons for this was the extremely rapid population explosion that occurred over the last 200 years. Between 1960 and 1999 alone, the population of the world literally doubled, from 3 billion to 6 billion. And before that, between 1800 and 1960, it tripled from 1 billion to 3 billion. Of course there was a sense that no one had the real answers, the perspectives were multiplying so quickly. And they still are multiplying. But that doesn’t mean that there is no true answer to our social problems.
It is now increasingly apparent that we live in one world, we are one interdependent humanity. We know from complexity science and emergence that no one person holds the whole answer. But there is indeed an answer to our social problems. Many people have talked about a phenomenon called the Singularity. This phenomenon is hard to describe, but it usually involves human somehow merging with technology. I don’t think the optimal solution necessarily involves merging human biology with metallic technology, but the Singularity remains a potent mythical construct. It think it is instead possible that we will unlock our deepest human potential solely through the coordinated primary motivation of true value.
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.
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.
The idea of a “product” began to change its meaning when there started to be “knowledge” or “information” products. What is a knowledge or information product? The US economy is now 80% service sector jobs. This means that 8/10 jobs are involved in knowledge production. This means that these jobs are involved in the development of human relationships.
However, this knowledge production is still coordinated by a profit motive. This means that what coordinates knowledge production is still itself a kind of knowledge. Money currency is not a tangible, material item, it is a kind of knowledge, it is a meta-agreement about how to attribute value.
Knowledge or service oriented organizations are successful when they create value. And so what do we mean by value? Value comes from an interaction between individuals oriented towards some shared end. As a byproduct of this interaction, they create wealth. Organizations become valuable precisely if they facilitate coordinated human activity.
Coordinated human activity is when people feel safe enough to be open and vulnerable with one another. Transaction costs are low. There is a kind of permeable membrane, where ideas can flow between people.
Coordinated human activity is always based on a shared premise, a kind of shared secret, a foundational myth that orients the behavior of the community. This myth is not necessarily literally true, but it is useful if it saves everyone time.
This founding myth saves everyone time by helping people avoid errors. The founding myth is a concise record of practical trial and error. The human being confronts novelty and consequently makes mistakes and has successes, and through this trial and error, refines the original premise to a greater and greater degree.
If we take this to its logical conclusion, the optimal founding myth is the one that compresses the most practical information into the smallest space. This is essentially what organizations compete for. They compete to compress the most varied practical information into the most concise form, in order to save each other time. Value comes from saving each other time. But what is the culmination of people saving each other time?
When we save each other time, the most important things rise to the top. We are no longer as estranged from one another. We become familiar to one another. We build a layer of shared trust. This can only come about if we can properly avoid errors. So we need the most concise possible record of trial and error. We need to compress all of the information about trial and error into the most concise format.
Computers and technology can compress information in the form of storage. But it is also possible to compress information through narrative structures. The wisdom of the ages is distilled into a simple story. These narratives are not “literally” true, the stories told in religion or in science, are not literally true, but they are useful for survival and flourishing, for saving time. Re-telling and synthesizing narrative structures in the proper way, compresses them further and further, to make the most concise possible record of trial and error.
The founding myth evolves and takes on different aspects to successfully contain the environment. Taking bigger risks leads to bigger payoffs and losses, that means more reliable information about survival and flourishing. The more huge payoffs or huge losses one has experienced, the more critical and relevant information for recording trial and error concisely.
From this, we can derive what the optimal founding myth is. The optimal founding myth is that we already compress the most possible practical information into the smallest possible space. The optimal myth is that our own personal experience is essentially the whole of reality. Our personal experience is the entirety of existence. We know this cannot be literally true because our personal experience is partial, limited, and incomplete. But it is the optimal myth because it usefully makes the field of experience maximally meaningful and consequential. All of the layers of time and information get nested into the present moment. Every moment and every decision is absolutely critical.
This is not to say that our personal experience is maximally true, just that it is maximally significant. The way that we confront the problems is not by attributing them to some external cause, but to an internal responsibility to always see things in their most important light.
In this way, the estrangement of people from one another can be overcome through coordination of knowledge. The profit motive is a kind of knowledge, money currency is a kind of knowledge. The entrepreneur seeks to coordinate based on mutual trust, and maximal information liquidity, to create value for others.
The entrepreneur is no longer only competing against other businesses, he is competing against the entire institution of monetary coordination. He is competing against estrangement and alienation. Every new, successful venture is one that could run on money, but is actually more fundamental than money. It must coordinate people more meaningfully than money can, in order to have any monetary value.
The point of entrepreneurship is value creation, and the only sense of value that has any relevance anymore is building communities of total mutual trust, where money is a measure of positive sum games.