The Metagame is the Process of Discovering its Own Constraints

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Metagame, a Secondary Mutual Trust Layer on Top of Capitalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Value?

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.

Knowledge Production and the Coordination of Human Activity

There is a nascent economic revolution around “knowledge production.” Knowledge production now accounts for most of the production in developed economies. 80% of the jobs in the United States are service sector. This means that economic production is now mostly about how to manage and build relationships.

Almost every person on the internet produces some kind of art, music, video, photography, spoken or written words. More and more people are making a living in this through crowdfunding and through consulting. But what are the principles that coherently unify knowledge producers on the internet and in other fora? What does it mean to be a knowledge producer?

The industrial revolution was a way of harnessing the power of many individuals to focused ends. It was organized around the division of labor. Each individual had a specialized role, he did a very small, repetitive action that was a part of the whole process. But industrial production was primarily about producing material widgets.

Our era is a kind of inversion of the industrial revolution. Rather than having a specialized role, the knowledge producer attempts to represent the whole process. This does not means there is no specialization, it just means that knowledge producers are not coordinated by specialization, as they were in the industrial revolution. There is not so much of a division of labor, as division of interest.

Knowledge production is about particular interests, but it is about the way that those specific interests capture or relate all of the other nodes in the network to itself. It is about a way of seeing the world. A particular piece of knowledge must be so compelling that it can stand in for all of knowledge. We can suspend belief for a few moments and see the world entirely through this lens.

The technology of our time has revealed that knowledge is so extremely interdependent and interconnected that every action mutually affects every other. The only way to produce knowledge is for its expression to be the whole process, all at once.

What is the whole? This is the problem. The whole is mythical, it exists as an axiom, or a hypothesis. It is completion, finality, symmetry, in a world that is decidedly incomplete, evolving, and processual. We have an instinct for the whole because we are incomplete, just like we have an instinct to eat food when we are hungry.

We know that the knowledge producers cannot give us the whole picture, but we can momentarily buy into their picture of the whole. We are instinctively attracted to the completion and finality of the knowledge producer’s vision, the way it links together all aspects of life. Knowledge producers produce a kind of mythology. They present a way of seeing the world. And this background vision is what unifies knowledge producers.

Industrial production was coordinated around the incentives of monetary exchange. If you worked in your specialized role, you received a certain wage in exchange. By taking on more responsibility, you could move up the hierarchy. You could become a manager who organized the specialized wage-earners.

By contrast, knowledge production is coordinated around the incentives of completion and wholeness. It seems to be primarily individualistic because each person is incentivized to produce knowledge based on their own particular vision. Knowledge producers are not incentivized by monetary exchange alone. They contribute to the ecosystem of knowledge long before it is profitable, because it is for the mutual benefit of everyone. They are incentivized by the instinct for wholeness. The more that they embody the “true” whole, the more social activity is enduringly coordinated around their content. The mythology of the whole leads to coordinated activity which is value creation. Money is added as a side benefit of coordinated activity.

This is why the modern economy is so confused and unsure of where its value is coming from. The macro-level coordination of human activity is a role that is carried out by money currency. But knowledge production is now inherently competing with money currency for this role. Knowledge production is attempting to autonomously coordinate human activity on its own.

This is why valuations of technology companies are so confusing. Technology companies coordinate so much human activity, but it is not immediately obvious why they should be in the business of making money. It seems more like they perform a public service. But when they coordinate enough activity, money is basically added as a side benefit. Their primary role is to coordinate knowledge production.

Is it possible to shift from an macro-level equilibrium of monetary coordination to macro-level equilibrium of pure knowledge production? This would require a mythology and technology of the whole. It would require a mythical technology not instantiated on computers, but instantiated in the real world, in a real world application that guides human motivations.



Metagame and Adaptive Coordination

“The Game” is a mythical construct that human behavior is coordinated around an unconscious axiom. We are continuously confronted with the unknown, unconscious future. We try to make this unknown, unconscious future more certain or predictable. In making the future more certain, we “take responsibility” for what happens in the present. We take responsibility what comes into the field of experience. This means that we see the unexpected and novel things that happen as meaningful and relevant to our existing circumstance. We turn the unexpected and novel into significance, purpose, and meaning that is relevant to our desired state.

The most basic motivation is symmetry with the external environment. In this symmetric state, the external reality unfolds within our own internal domain of mastery. The internal reality is reflected in the external environment and vice versa, all of the unfulfilled needs and desires about the uncertain future are basically satisfied. In this state of completion, one feels as if his own experience is the whole of reality. We believe that our experience is final and complete and whole. This happens because our own first hand experience is the only thing that we ever know. We are tricked into thinking that our experience is the “whole of reality.” At certain times we actually believe that our own individual sensation is all that exists. This makes us better able to survive because we can convince ourselves that we are more important than we really are. We give ourselves the confidence to overcome incredible obstacles.

This “whole” is a useful fiction. We never actually obtain the state of pure symmetry, in which all of our needs and desires are fully satisfied, but we experience glimpses of it. This is the orientation of our biological machinery, it is what we are drawn toward. We are drawn towards finality, completion, toward understanding our own choices as responsible for the whole of existence. This is the mythical objective or the object of the Game. Behavior is coordinated around unconscious symmetry with the external environment. Each of us wants our experience to be the entire universe, yet at the same time we want to give this state to others. We want the feeling of wholeness for ourselves, yet we also want everyone else to experience that state. And we are sometimes willing to forego that state in ourselves in order to give it to someone else.

We are evolved to believe that our experience is the whole of reality, because our experience is the only thing that we ever know. We experience asymmetry in time, we feel that the future is unequal to the past. We feel that we are incomplete, partial, biased. We see the world in terms of our asymmetric plans, intentions, and goals. Having asymmetric (that is, unrealized) plans, intentions, and goals is advantageous because this gives us something to work towards that we do not presently have. But we are trying to make our goals symmetric, bring them from the external environment into our internal reality. Our ultimate, unconscious goal, the meta-goal, is perfect adaptation, perfect symmetry, perfect wholeness. All explicit goals are actually subgoals of this one meta-goal.

What we actually experience is a simplification or compression of the perfected adaptive state. Our first hand experience is a low resolution image of the perfected adaptive state. It is a compression of symmetry which lost some of the crucial aspects, and thus appears asymmetric. Our continuous confrontation with the unknown future is a Game of decompressing our experience. By preparing for the unknown future, we are trying to make ourselves more whole, more symmetric with the external environment. Decompressing our experience is recognition of novel occurrences as usefully significant and meaningful to the ultimate goal. It is experiencing the environment as useful and relevant.

Viewing the external environment as symmetric to the internal states is the optimal adaptive strategy, because it allows us to see our own blind spots. What comes up, what presents itself in experience is a reflection of some aspect of our internal state. We must adjust and adapt, take responsibility in ourselves for the problems that we perceive as external. The environment reflects some unconscious or subconscious aspect of our developmental process. Through the recognition of symmetry, we are able to recognize that we all mutually affect one another’s plans. All of our plans and goals are interconnected in a single substructure.

Our asymmetric experience is composed of an narrative. This narrative is seeking a culmination, an end. It finds its completion in other narratives. So my own incomplete narrative is completed by another individual’s narrative in the external environment, and his is completed by someone else’s, and so on. All of the individual narratives are in a mutual algorithmic chain of interaction. They affect one another in a continuous, tightly interwoven, interlinked substructure of awareness.

There is an affective economy of mutually interacting narratives. All of the individuals have internal narratives that are seeking the equilibrium state of symmetry with the external environment. By discovering other narratives, they discover more aspects of perfected adaptive symmetry. They decompress their experience to be able to handle more and more information, more layers of complexity. Yet each individual is attempting to simplify all of these embedded layers of complexity into a single narrative.

All of the individuals simultaneously attempting to simplify the complex interaction of narratives, means that each individual is simplifying each other’s simplifications. There is a virtuous feedback cycle of simplifying each other’s simplifications. Each successive simplification corrects for the errors in the others. The whole system of interactions is striving to compress all of the complexity of interacting narratives into a single, pristine metanarrative.

Adaptive mythology is discovering the symmetry or equilibrium in which all of the narratives spontaneously converge on a single, continuously updating metanarrative. Yet this final state of equilibrium is actually characterized by a continuously evolving asymmetric interaction of narratives. This is the mythology of the Game: there is a single substructure of awareness in which all of the individual narratives are participating. The individual actually only ever does one thing. Biologically, he strives for completion and finality, but he ultimately discovers this finality in the very process of striving.

jung red book 4

Carl Jung, Image from the Red Book



The Meta-game can be described as the effective use of one’s skills across multiple domains. Society is a collection of different games, each of which have rules, purpose, and hierarchy. Money makes all of the games compatible with one another. However, the mythological construct of the Meta-game is also supposed to make all separate games compatible with one another.

Humans coordinate large-scale social interaction by the incentives of monetary exchange. Everyone agrees to agree that money expresses value. But it is clear that money is not the ultimate signifier of value. It is clear that there are more important senses of value. The pursuit of truth is expressed in large scale social coordinators such as religion and science. The pursuit of truth in religion and science is often opposed to the pursuit of money. Money and the Meta-game compete and cooperate with one another.

The love, care, and sympathy that underlies mutually beneficial exchange and selfless acts of giving, are considered more important and more fundamental than the actual architecture of monetary exchange itself. Most of the incentive to accumulate wealth is actually a derivative of the more fundamental desire to coordinate human action more effectively. This explains why people contribute to a distributed knowledge ecosystem like the internet with no expectation of monetary reward, often at significant monetary costs. They are simply improving the system because it is mutually beneficial for everyone.

The entrepreneur generates a new game, he generates a new hierarchy, in order to inject new value into the system. By creating a new game, the entrepreneur is really trying to generate a new form of coordination, that is nevertheless compatible with monetary exchange. But the contemporary entrepreneur is not just competing with other businesses, he is competing with the institution of monetary exchange itself. He has to create more effective modes of coordination than monetary exchange. This is essentially what the nation state government has done. This is why the government is the largest corporation. The nation state is at least as effective at coordinating people as capital.

The contemporary entrepreneur must generate a game that is so fundamental to people’s sense of value that it can actually compete with the institutions of monetary exchange for the role of coordinating human action. This is a business that speaks to the core of human attention and motivation.

At the core of human attention and motivation is a desire for completion, fulfillment, wholeness. This desire is satisfied in everyday life by habits and routines, which simplify the complexity of life. And building on those habits, we create narratives of our situation, which radically simplify all of the internal and external complexity. So our psyche is trying to solve the problem of how to optimally simplify all of the complexity in such a way that we are continuously fulfilled.

Each of our successive decisions or choices is an attempt to take every one of our previous decisions and choices that we have made and bring it into a finality, bring it into one single culmination. We are constantly striving to compress all of our previous decisions into the one, single, best decision.

The entrepreneur who produces this sense of wholeness and finality will add value with his venture. However, this wholeness and finality is ultimately not a “product,” it is not something which one actually attains. It is more like a useful fiction, it is something that is strived for, reached for, and ultimately never attained. It is a mythical construct. It is the object of the Meta-game. And this is why the most successful entrepreneur is competing (and cooperating) with the social architecture of monetary exchange. He is trying to find more fundamental ways to coordinate than monetary exchange. He is trying to coordinate around pursuit of truth, and this is ultimately compatible with the pursuit of money.

The progressive evolution of capitalism is at an impasse. Capitalism is undoubtedly the most productive and effective form of social organization for giving people a better standard of living. Yet at the same time is alienates people from one another, it makes people lonely, it breaks down social forms, it degrades the family. The contemporary entrepreneur is trying to create or discover an equilibrium of mutual care. Anyone who creates this kind of value, money is added to that endeavor as a side product, as a derivative. But ultimately the complex social interaction of humans is striving to overcome the estrangement of monetary exchange and enter into a more fundamental interactive relationship of mutual trust.

This is a sociobiological phenomenon. We saw the first gasps of it in the sixties hippie revolution. But the sixties movement gave into hedonism and immediate gratification. We need a sociobiological movement of enduring fulfillment. Today’s entrepreneur is trying to compete and cooperate with monetary exchange itself. He is trying to re-humanize the human being, who has been estranged and alienated for so long that he no longer knows what social interaction is about. His interactions are about care, the system of mutual care and respect, the system of mutually corrective fulfillment. We need a social movement that is about responsibility, entrepreneurship, and using capitalism itself to overcome capitalism.

There are more effective ways to coordinate people’s interactions than capitalism. The modern system of capitalism is predicated on trust. The more people trust strangers in their community, the more effective economic development is. Is it possible that we could build up to an exponential culmination of trust? That we could trust one another so much that we overcome estrangement and alienation and find a more efficient way of coordinating than monetary exchange? This would be characterized by something like the social exchange of truth, the exchange of information in the pursuit of truth. It would be like a collective, socially inclusive quest for truth in which every stranger is a piece of the puzzle, and all of the pieces are interacting in precisely the right way to complete the puzzle.


Evolution and Phenomenology

Evolutionary theory tells us that we are not adapted to truth. Instead, we are adapted to useful fictions which facilitate the fluid coordination of human activity. Useful fictions such as religion, capitalism, and science became so useful that they facilitated the cooperation of increasingly large groups of people. In a sense, they became so useful that they were true.

For this reason, social science has been notoriously less successful than natural science. There is no standard model, no periodic table of elements, no canonical system of taxonomy, for the human social world. The empirical and quantitative approach to the social science has had limited success. We learn a lot from mathematical models, from collecting data, from doing empirical field work. But the empirical/rational/analytic approach to social science is unable to provide a sense of meaning, purpose, motivation in people’s lives. It treats people like data points, or like atoms. The scientific approach to social things doesn’t always hold weight because we are not adapted to the literal truth, we are adapted to useful fictions.

This is where a little know branch of social science enters in: phenomenology. Phenomenology was created by Edmund Husserl in the early 20th century. Phenomenology is a scientific approach to the pre-scientific. It is a rigorous evaluation of the common-sense, everyday experience of the world. The discovery of phenomenology is that our everyday, first-hand, direct experience of the world, is the whole of reality. It encompasses absolutely everything there is. But this is a useful fiction. What we see in the world is not the world as it is (whole), what we see is the world in terms of our purposes. We frame the world according to what we are trying to do. So we actually perceive a very narrow piece of the actual world. Phenomenology affirms both of these seemingly opposite conclusions- our experience is the whole of reality, and our experience is severely limited.

Contemporary evolutionary theory and cognitive science is consonant with this view of phenomenology, and adds more to the picture. Donald Hoffman asserts that the brain actively constructs the physical world. We do not see reality as it is, the world is far too complex. The brain actively constructs and simplifies the objective world for our perceptual purposes. He adds that our experience of the world is a data structure, it is a kind of error-correcting, data compression. We compress the objective world into our experience, we radically simplify it. Hoffman contends that felt consciousness, the experience of the world is fundamental, that is the most basic, objective reality at some level.

The problem with the rational/empirical approach to social science is that it seems to be working out okay. It seems to tell us a lot about society. But it doesn’t give people motivation, purpose, or meaning. And this is what people need most from science right now, because science has ultimate epistemic authority in society. People are running out of ideas about how to keep the economy going, people are running out of ideas about how to keep people off of drugs, people are lonely and feel a sense of desperation. It is time to look for a social science that is individualized, distributed/decentralized, and mutually correcting. Not a top-down, totalitarian theory, but a bottom-up, emergent theory.

Phenomenology gives people a sense of motivation, purpose and meaning because it tells us there is a goal to strive for: symmetry. The symmetry between internal and external environments is what all of our motivational systems are oriented towards. This is when our plans, goals, and intentions are being completed, brought into experience, when the inner and outer realities reflect one another. The ultimate goal of phenomenology is to experience the whole of reality, all at once, and it tells us that this is the true nature of our experience.

Evolutionary theory gives us the rational reason why this is a useful fiction. Our own direct experience is the only thing that we will ever know. We know that our experience is not whole, not complete, not final. But we are evolved to think that it is. Completing our plans, seeing through our intentions, bringing our wishes into reality, makes us feel as if our experience is the whole of reality, as if we are the only one who exists. And this makes us more attractive, our ideas spread and replicate. Symmetry with the external environment allows us to survive and reproduce. It is the ideal state of human adaptation. It is also what allows us to coordinate and cooperate. We feel that our own awareness is symmetric with that of the other person, we see things the same way.

Everyone is, consciously or unconsciously, striving for symmetry. And this means that they are striving to simplify, compress, reduce, the complex external environment down to simpler terms. They are striving to make it into a concise narrative, suited for their evolutionary purposes. We are striving to focus in on what we are trying to achieve. But we are faced with an immense sea of complexity, which is the external world, with all its layers, aspects and problems. And so we sum over everything we can conceive and reach a “good enough” conclusion, we reach a useful fiction that allows us to adjust to and control the environment.

But this useful fiction is not just a fiction, it is useful, and therefore it reaches down to the most fundamental, evolutionary structure of the world. It allows us to achieve goals, execute plans, realize intentions. Symmetry involves taking responsibility for our field of experience. Anything that comes into our field of experience is meaningful, significant, and important because we are evolved to see our own experience as the whole of reality. Every occurrence is a symbol or representation of some more fundamental social reality. There is an interdependent substructure of consciousness.

Since we are all dealing with the same objective substructure, all of our compressive experiences are synchronously correlated. We continuously simplify the world. And through mimetic processes, people simplify each other’s simplifications. We enter a virtuous feedback cycle in which there is a contagion of simplifying narratives, compressing more and more information into simpler and simpler structures. Eventually, we converge on the simplest possible narrative that compresses the most possible information. Once we enter this virtuous feedback cycle, then we will converge on something like a standard model of society. Our useful fictions converge on the ultimate useful fiction which coordinates all of human activity.