I think we are entering a selfish age. High trust societies are built from cooperation. When we get more through coordination than we do from conflict we have an incentive build more. Simple supply and demand can teach us a lot about improving the bargain of trusting each other.
Coordination suffers when trust goes down. But we can’t all maintain the same types of trust across all levels of our interactions. Some areas must remain high trust. Tight industries and clear lines of communication can help.
But we have to become intense skeptics to coordinate in otherwise hostile environments. Civilization has a thin veneer. To selfishly live your own life for your own good is often in conflict with others. The boundaries we tolerate are the rules for acceptable competition. This is how we civilize society. There are laws and then there is power.
Maintaining your own power in a crueler world is knowing when to be selfish to the benefit of other people’s coordination problems. Competition is good.
I am more careful in some interactions now because I see the fog of competing interests. Different rules apply to different people. Knowing when rules do and don’t apply can make you crazy. You’ve judged power and norms correctly when sympathy is with you.
There are few shocks as jarring as waking up to a war starting. I was preparing to leave for Germany when the current Ukrainian conflict boiled over. I woke up in Estonia today to news of an escalation in Israel. No matter who you are or where you live, the existential dread of a hot conflict finds you.
Trying to orient your life around exogenous shocks of violence and conflict is part of the human condition. One that we seem as yet unable to evolve beyond no matter how much we elevate rationality. Every time a new rift emerges in the fragile status quo of the global consensus, I find myself wishing I were more surprised. But it’s pointless to be surprised by chaos.
I hesitate to weigh in on a conflict as it emerges as no matter how closely you watch the news it’s a mess of conflicting narratives. All I know is that more external risks like war will continue to drive volatility across all our human systems.
Our many complex human systems, from trade to politics, are already riddled with known endogenous internal risks. You start adding in more variables that can impact a given system and we don’t fully understand what is exogenous anymore. What’s outside the system if we’ve networked the whole planet?
I wish I believed a sunnier outlook was reasonable in the immediate term. Destiny remains in the hands of men. And we are a species prone to reactionary behavior. We are evolved to it. But we are tied together on this planet and every conflict, shock and unexpected event can ripple out to touch us all.
I have felt a bit disappointed in my recent writing. I’ve not felt the urge to produce anything of much substance or synthesis in a week or two.
The exercise of writing daily isn’t meant to produce anything but the consistent repetition of a habit of critical thinking about my daily experiences. I sometimes have to accept that there will be weeks where it all feels a bit half baked. I’ve got no conclusions to share.
He is grappling very well with these themes considering the deep sense making challenges facing all of us. Attempting to find workable worldviews that are manageable to our human minds is a challenge as consensus reality is a competition between thousands of different competing narratives.
To retain fluidity, you must retain an unmediated connection to reality. But the unaugmented brain is clearly not enough for that connection to be tractable to manage.
How do you resolve this paradox?
I think the trick is to inhabit more than one interposing intelligence layer. If you’re only an economist or only a deep-state institutionalist, you’ll retreat to a fixed logic of caring; a terminal derp.
I’m doing my best to stay out of terminal derp but I’m still feeling like the fog is impeding my view. I’ll just have to keep putting out my own beacons and hope the lighthouse network illuminates enough for us to navigate together.
In one of my group chats, I hang out with a bunch of rationalist machine learning engineers who are happily climbing the rungs of accelerating life.
I really love the energy of the community as it’s centered tangibly around making things. It’s a little less talk and a lot more action. It’s got a bit of a feeling of Stack Overflow’s early helpfulness but without the Hacker News nerd sniping culture. It’s like the best of a small Reddit thread but for dudes who want to make shit with artificial intelligence.
Now, of course, every community finds itself with disruptive members and turf fights over social mores. Virtual spaces are notorious for clout chasing and personal dramas. Veterans of green text wars are familiar with Geeks, Mops and Sociopaths in Subculture Evolution.
I spent an hour watching it play out last night and then went back to reading before bedtime. I’ve got some personal investment in the space and it’s people, so of course that’s what I’m doing on a Friday Night.
But as I got up the next day and saw everyone going back to work, a insightful lowbie named bmorphism (slang for smaller anon accounts on Twitter within subcultures) introduced me to a term I’d never heard before. Autopoietic Ergodicity. Or how do multi-actor dynamic systems self regulate?
He introduced me Autopoietic Ergodicity via a link on PerplexityAI which seemed appropriate. And it got me thinking about how we as individuals interact on a much wider system and how it interacts with us.
The term combines two ideas by positing that complex adaptive systems (like living organisms or ecosystems) exhibit self-regulating behavior that enables them to maintain persistent patterns while also experiencing change from external influences. These systems are capable of minimizing changes caused by random factors, ensuring their essential dynamics remain stable without needing to undergo a complete reset or cycle back to the initial state. It’s like having a dampening mechanism that continually adjusts for fluctuations, allowing system resilience and long-term persistence in an ever-changing environment.
It’s my suspicion that something special is happening across portions of the fracturing social web as most of our platforms go back under more centralized control. The system is fighting back.
The grey tribes that have populated Silicon Valley have an opinion about the future. And it’s a positive one. We’ve got to find ways to be resilient in the face of memetic interference on our systems. There will be high energy distractions. We’ve got to be reminded that it’s a competition for efficient use of energy and we shouldn’t let it be drained. We’ve got to focus on making things that speak for themselves.
Humans are horny for hierarchy. We are eager to give our power away as a species. Please will someone else just be responsible for making our decisions for us? Can someone point me to the person in charge? “Take me to your leader!”
If someone seems smarter, richer, more capable, more aggressive, heck even if they have better taste than us, they become an instant candidate for us delegating our authority over to them. My most popular blog post ever was about dickriding. Yes it was about Elon Musk’s fans.
I’ll be the first to say that people who court you to gain power should be viewed as suspect. But someone who has power is not themselves always suspect by default. I know it’s a fine distinction. But people fall into positions of authority simply by going out and being competent. Competence is a fast route to power.
Sure being competent has a lot of downsides. Suddenly you’ve got power you maybe didn’t want. We have an incentive shunt power off to someone else as it generally sucks to be in charge. It’s energetically expensive to be responsible. Just ask one of your friends with a toddler.
Sometimes we have to wield power because it’s our job to take care of our corner of the universe. Again ask someone with a toddler. We are in charge of sustaining some portion of the grand experiment called life. Even if it’s just our own families. Even if it’s just yourself.
So why am I titling this post “I am Beff Jezos?” Right now online there is a movement gaining recognition for encouraging people to have agency and build for the future. It’s a movement that wants you to own your own power. And to help others get more power of their own.
It’s principles are simple. The future will arrive and we should build like it’s coming. Slowing things down, or even worse, going backwards, is not a solution to our problems. We can only go forward. If you’d prefer a driving metaphor, we should accelerate into the curve. Slowing down just spins out the car. Civilization is the car.
So what, you want to just uplift humanity, build AI and populate the universe with the maximum diversity and quantity of life?
The movement is more of a meme space than anything else. It is decentralized. I’ve not met anyone that runs it though I’ve spoken to many vocal supporters. And I’ve chatted with folks that are at the nexus of of its online presence. Everyone is positive and friendly. Most of them are anonymous. I’m not even of sure if some of the accounts are singular or plural. Which is pretty cool. It doesn’t have a president or a CEO or even a founder who owns anything with any amount of authority. It could be one dude or multiple dudes gender non specific.
It’s just a bunch of people who make stuff. It’s popular amongst engineers but it’s an ethos that to anyone who can make something. Even this blog post counts. I am e/acc as much as anyone.
Naturally if no one is in charge it’s a bit threatening. If there is no hierarchy how do we control it? If no one is in charge then what will we do if someone under their banner does something bad?
Such is the beauty of an idea. A meme can’t really be owned. A decentralized group of goofballs on the internet can’t really be snuffed out for bad think. Maybe a few nodes go down. They literally cannot kill all of us.
The messages does seem to be resonating. I know being hopeful has improved my mood. A decent number of people who make shit want the future to come a little faster. They want more people with more ownership of the building process.
More complexity and more abundance is appealing even if it seems impossible to achieve. Don’t worry, just build for your corner of the world. Put power and responsibility in as many hands as possible. We can build it together.
You too can have a toddler and own the joy of being responsible for your corner of the universe. It’s dangerous for sure. Folks will tell you for your own good you need to have a hierarchy and someone responsible for the power.
But guess what? It can be you. And sure heads will get bonked. Crying will ensue. Remember I said ask someone with a toddler? What if you are the competent and in charge parent? Shit right?
We’ve got to go forward. I am Beff Jezos. You too are Beff Jezos. And they can’t stop us all from arriving at the future. Go ahead and accelerate into the curve.
Rounding the bend into a thousand posts is teaching me some lessons in humility and frailty. I am reaching to get words word as my mind is slow.
I am not reacting to something in an average way and it’s been a struggle to keep going over the laser week or two. I’ve put one foot in front of the other but I can see that I only slept for a couple hours last night. Ironic to be considering averages when one’s own responses are so slowed.
Much of my struggle is probably just some better living through chemistry problems. A new addition to the biohacking routine went awry. I’m struggling with the heat wave and the air quality of summer in the mountain west. The long days of bright lights slowly unspooling my sanity as I wait for cooler less cruel months to come. Just breathe in and out and try to eat and sleep.
It’s clearly the deep dog days of summer as I’m in a bit of a mood. I’ve got all kinds of things on my mind and yet it’s slow going executing on anything. The doldrums has certainly gripped me. And yet I take hope.
This corner of Twitter is going through a paroxysmal fit of whether it’s rational to be embracing pro-social behavior. Without having to cite all my sources we had Jane Goodall being packaged into a deceleration meme about removing a billion or so people.
So I think my entire mood when staring down the barrel of the future is “what’s it going to cost me in my soul?”
The cost of knowing it’s not just about us is slamming into the hard reality that you can’t do a damn thing about other people. And so we have to ask if we preserve what we have or do we leap into the great unknown. I don’t know anyone who is in the mood for much safety at the moment. There doesn’t seem like much to be had.
It’s our autonomy of mind that is threatened by this unholy troika of smartphones, social media and linguistic weaponization, and there is no more important struggle today than to defend ourselves against that threat.
Humans have nervous systems that are easily hijacked. You give us something to imitate and within a few weeks we’ve learned a new way to get a social advantage. And so we have massive social cataclysms as the rules change. And the rules are changing fast.
Obviously this has anyone older than forty asking if the western world under attack. Is questioning liberalism actually the psy-op? Are we fighting amongst ourselves? Do you even know what memetic agents you are infected by?
I sure don’t what brain works in carrying but I don’t think animated porn is for me. But I also got taken in by lots of questionable narratives on modern medicine, fertility and children too. Untangling yourself from the desires you were given is exhausting. Good luck unpacking who jacked your frame!
And yet today inside this chaos without clarity, the internet is filled with enthusiasm as a small niche of enthusiasts try to replicate the results of a chemistry paper that claims to have made a superconducting at room temperature material LK-99 produced with common materials like lead and red phosphorus.
All of these glimmers of joyful uncertainty and hopeful chaos are emerging from a youth culture that is quite sure it has been abandoned by its own past as it is bombarded by a dystopian future by its own geriatric elite. Is it any wonder it feels like the social contract is hanging on by a thread?
When the equilibrium between ruling elites and the majority tips too far in favor of elites, political instability is all but inevitable. As income inequality surges and prosperity flows disproportionately into the hands of the elites, the common people suffer, and society-wide efforts to become an elite grow ever more frenzied. He calls this process the wealth pump; it’s a world of the damned and the saved.
Peter Turchin “End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites, and the Path of Political Disintegration
The broader popular rediscovery of historians Neil Howe and William Strauss is no coincidence. They wrote the The Forth Turning twenty five years ago.
Looking back at the last 500 years, they’d uncovered a distinct pattern: modern history moves in cycles, each one lasting roughly eighty to one hundred years, the length of a long human life, with each cycle composed of four eras—or “turnings”—that always arrive in the same order and each last about twenty years. The last of these eras—the fourth turning—was always the most perilous.
So perhaps these glimmers are here to show us that the churn is here, the fourth turning is now, and Turchin’s race to become an elite to outrun the effects of dislocation may already have its winners.
Amidst all of that there are those of us seeking to believe that we might find a way forward. I’d rather be looking for the glimmers of hope. I’ve already done what I can to warn about the need to prepare for hard times. If you haven’t yet come to terms with the doom then I certainly won’t convince you of the need for optimism either.
The rising volume on complaints about the mainstream media has struck me as a little bit silly as I’ve been entrenched in skepticism of institutional authority my whole life. Thinking the news had a bias isn’t new and conspiracy is practically an American art form. So be careful out there.
When I was a kid in the late nineties we still had the national broadcast evening news as the center of discourse. I was considered a bit odd for being interested in news at a young age but my hippie parent had a healthy skepticism for institutional authority so they encouraged it.
I remember before the mass adoption of social media and self publishing, if you wanted an alternative perspective you had to turn to AM radio. If you were lucky you lived in a college town and had access to library cooperatives and computer labs. If you were very lucky like me, your parents had invested in personal computers and internet access early on so you could mix formal libraries with early choose your own adventure newsgroups online.
Thanks to the confluence of the above factors I read Adbusters, went to the local anarchist book cooperative and listened to Art Bell late at night. I was practically stewed in every early conspiracy and counter culture narrative that had any amount of reach. If a zine cared or an indie publisher could cobble together a story I read it. This lead to a general fascination with media and how Americans decided on what was credible and what viewpoints were discouraged.
I was a curious child. My family welcomed skeptics and mystics. This is perhaps what happens when you take children on meditation retreats. I got inoculated to a lot of crazies, cults and whackadoodles because America has always been where utopians gather. Our evangelical cultures have led to uniquely American interpretations of our Gods. And I loved nothing more than watching these subcultures flourish.
My family bought a cable news package and I watched CNN and Fox News battle it out. I read Naomi Klein and Marshal McLuhan. I convinced my mother to get me a subscription to the Economist when I was fifteen. Embarrassingly I used their motto in a year book quote. I talked my way into a job famed talk radio juggernaut 77WABC when still technically in high school.
If there is one thing I learned from this lifelong obsession with who controls what we think, it’s that we rely on the same simple narratives over and over again. The conspiracies of yesterday are the facts of today. We change our minds. We recycle the same prophecy. If you start seeing a lot of chatter about aliens remember we’ve had this news cycle before.