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Episode 7 : The End of the World... or The Beginning?


What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?


Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!


Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!


Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!


Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!


Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities!


Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!


Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!


Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!


Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs! 


They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!


Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! 


Gone down the American river…”


  I have this reoccuring nightmare that I’m in the engine car of a commuter  train barreling down the tracks at some ungodly speed and know that I need to slow down, or the train and all its passengers will come to an abrupt ending, colliding into some ephemeral unknown Mountain in the not too distant future. I’m staring at the controls, and they seem simple. There’s a gas and a break, but I’m not touching any of it, because I can’t I’m paralyzed, standing there watching the speedometer rise higher and higher, the roar of the wind and constant blaring of the horn, helpless. It’s not that I can’t interact with the controls, it’s that I don’t know how. I’m like a toddler banging away helplessly at a machine with no real idea of how to affect it… and the train keeps a goin’.


It should come to no surprise that this is how I feel about the world and the people on it, barreling toward our own destruction, paralyzied to do anything about it. I’m no exception. On one hand, I don’t feel like the conductor of the train, or that I have  any consequence on the problems of the world in real terms, but that’s part of the problem isn’t it. Who does feel like there actions truly are of consequence to the world? Who sits on the throne of decisiveness with their hand on the brake? The president of some country? The oil execs? Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and all the other multi-billionaires? Could these men or women stop the rain from falling from the sky? Because that’s the power I think one human would require to pull the lever if they could. I think if superman existed, a man in a cape with the power to fly and impervious to bullets, even he’d take one look at us and think we’re fucked. 


Tell everybody waitin’ for Superman

That they should try to hold on the best they can

He hasn’t dropped them, forgot them, or anything

It’s just too heavy for Superman to lift…”


So the poem in the beginning. That’s Allen Ginsberg. But how I found Moloch was through Scott Alexander and his essay “Meditations on Moloch.” Cause here’s the thing. I look outside my window and I see the train running toward the mountain, and I ask myself what won’t anyone stop it, why can’t anyone stop it… and I would come up with a few ideas but generally ran in circles. 

Until Moloch.


The unseen force that perpetuates a system of violence and extraction.

The back and forth bantering of conservative and progressive ide ologies that we all know are both headed to the same place.

The ghost of civilization that is forever hungry, that consumes 150 species a day.

That melts polar ice caps.

That mines silicon

That overfishes and over extracts… everything

That thing everyone wants to change, but can’t.


Now, as much as I would love to consign the world’s demise to a caanite god of fire and brimstone, I know it’s not that simple. At best we’re working with metaphor here, but still. There’s something to glean, something we can all relate to, at least I think. That feeling that something greater than us is driving civilization to the brink of collapse.  Some might say the lizards, some might say the World Economic Forum, or the Illuminati, or the Protocols of Zion. How convenient it would be if any of it were true, just as convenient as a alien species landing and handing us the keys to free energy and interstellar travel. Convienent because it would offer some kind of rational, if not diabolic explanation for the folly of humankind. It would libertate us from what is more likely the only real truth, which is that we are not as smart as we think, and we’ve manage to build a complex system known as civilization, which is now beyond our control. 


The system itself is alive. 

And it’s hunger is insatiable.

And unless we do something about it, we may be looking at the The End of the World… or the Beginning.


Today, on the Infinite Harmony Podcast.    


The essay by Scott Alexander called “Meditations on Moloch” attempts to bring into focus some of these 2nd and 3rd order effects of economics, capitalism, competition and human behavior that seem to allude the conscious eye on a daily basis. We’ve discussed in previous episodes some ideas that we humans are not always aware of our actions; that we are often operating via subconscious patterning or biological imperative.


There’s a passage right at the beginning of the essay that sums up the whole meditation. It begins with a quote from the principia discordia, which, if you’ve never come across that tiny little part of the internet, go find it. I would attempt to describe it, but it would do little justice to the non-sequiter adventure that is.


The passage reads something to the effect of a being complaining to a Goddess about the evils of human society. 


The being says : “Everyone is hurting each other, the planet is rampant with injustices, whole societies plunder groups of their own people, mothers imprison sons, children perish while brothers war.”


The Goddess answers: “What is the matter with that, if it’s what you want to do?”

The being says: “But nobody wants it! Everybody hates it!”

To which the Goddess replys: “Oh. Well, then stop.”


It’s simplicity illuminates the complexity of our problem. 

Because we can’t stop, can we.


So why. What is it about human pyschology biology and pathology, combined with technological and civilizational progress that perpetuate pollution, war, famine… why the hell does the world continue to use Glyphosate when courts are now ruling in favor of farmers with Cancer… because it causes cancer. 


Are we stupid? Maybe. Are we subject to the power of complex systems and coordination problems and multipolar traps? Yes. Moloch is one big fat multipolar trap.


But what does that even mean? Well let’s start with the definition. A multipolar trap is essentially when, in a collective agreement, self interest compels those involved to act against the collective interest and bad things occur. 


Collectively we can all agree, everyone on planet Earth, that nuclear weapons are bad. But we can also agree that if someone’s going to have nulcear weapons, that this country is better off having them than not having them. Multipolar trap.


We can all agree that overfishing is bad. But if one country is going to keep fishing and eventually eat all the fish than I might as well keep fishing and enjoy the party while it lasts… Multipolar trap.

Now, there are different types of multipolar traps. One aspect of the two examples we mentioned above is the prisoner’s dillemma. The traditional thought experiment goes like so. Two criminals are arrested and interrogated about their crime. If each one keeps quiet, they both get off, but each one is told that the other already ratted them out, so if they rat the other partner out, they’ll get less jail time, say 2 years instead of 5. Now, the prisoners have no way of knowing whether or not its the police are telling the truth about the other one being the rat, and they can’t coordinate, and as we’ll see, multipolar traps are often a problem of coordination, or lack thereof. So they’re likely to rat each other out to save themselves, whereas if they’d both just trusted each other and kept quiet, they would do no jail time.


If all countries agreed to disband all nuclear weapons, the problem is that nuclear powers have no way of knowing what each other are doing. They have no way of knowing if one country will keep their word. So even though we’re all better off without nuclear weapons, any country who has them will likely take the risk of keeping them and hiding them so that they’re not at a disadvantage if another country decides to cheat.


The Paris accords and such are the types of coordnation agreements that are supposed to get us beyond the multipolar trap of climate change, but in the current economic paradigm, slowing down economic progress and GDP is a disadvantage globally, so countries first act in their own self interest, which is growth, despite the agreements. And so on. 


Any multipolar trap that gets us to compromise our ethics to the lowest common denomenator, until that becomes the standard, is call a “race to the bottom.” Alexander illustrates that most multipolar traps fall into this category as well. He writes “Once one agent learns how to become more competitive by sacrificing a common value, all its competitors must also sacrifice that value or be outcompeted and replaced by the less scrupulous. Therefore, the system is likely to end up with everyone once again equally competitive, but the sacrificed value is gone forever. From a god’s-eye-view, the competitors know they will all be worse off if they defect, but from within the system, given insufficient coordination it’s impossible to avoid.”


An example that may or may not pan out to be permanent is something like Amazon’s free shipping. What was once a competative advantage becomes a norm when every other company realizes that in order to compete, they have to offer free shipping, and once that becomes the norm, everyone is back to the same level of competition, only now companies have to eat the cost of shipping, or jack up there prices to cover it, in which case nothing ever really changed, except that everyone is gobbling up more resources to get ahead.


Another example is our food production industry. Demand for cheaper food because of competition requires companies to cut more corners, create more efficient ways of production, which often lead to immoral animal husbandry and chemical fertilizers. Farmers, whom have no choice but to adopt industry standards to get their crop yields higher and their cost lower, comply. And the farmer who raises grass fed beef and charges $8 a pound is undercut by the rest of the industry and driven to a niche market. The expectations of yield go up because of glyphosate, but we all get cancer, and if farmers don’t meet the yield demands, they don’t get subsidies. And so on..


Capitalism in general is a rather vicious multipolar trap. Driven entirely by competition, capitalism has one aim, to capture market share and keep growing. Government is supposedly there to enact regulations for the commons so that the competition maintains some ethical framework, but through regulartory capture, lobbying and outright bribery the government is co-opted and becomes dependent on the financial contributions of the capitalists, specifically the individual representatives raising money to get elected, and the capitalists circumvent regulation. Any corporation or sector that doesn’t play the game that way gets out-competed by the ones that do and fail.


Corporations who don’t attempt to leverage cheap international labor and take advantage of tax loopholes or tax havens are less profitable, their stocks go down and either CEO’s are fired or directors are replaced until the corporation keeps pace with the New York Stock Exchange.

Alexander gives multiple exampes of these multipolar traps you can read about in his essay, and sums them up by saying “A basic principle unites all of the multipolar traps above. In some competition optimizing for X, the opportunity arises to throw some other value under the bus for improved X. Those who take it prosper. Those who don’t take it die out. Eventually, everyone’s relative status is about the same as before, but everyone’s absolute status is worse than before. The process continues until all other values that can be traded off have been – in other words, until human ingenuity cannot possibly figure out a way to make things any worse.”


Once he establishes this, he establishes another interesting fact. We can all think of better options than this. We can all design a utopia of sorts that seem to have some common sense options, and yet we can’t implement them, even if we can all agree on them. 


We can all agree that if we could all agree to scale down our militaries and invest in education that we would be better off. Or that if we just banned single use plastics that we would adapt and find a way out of being a “to go” society. Or that all heath care would be free, and that our tax dollars could go toward a healthier society. Or that planned obscelensence should be illegal, and that we should all have the same awesome, perpetually upgradeable smartphone so we don’t have to spend a thousand bucks every two years for a new phone.


  His reasoning for our inability to implement what are obviously better ideas has to do with incentive, and the incentive structures that we’ve generated mostly without even being aware of it. Capitalism is build on what are generally known as “perverse incentives” or incentives that don’t do anyone any good except the person with the incentive. It’s the opposite of the effective choice that we’ve discussed in previous episodes, which is a choice that is best for everyone and everything involved. 


The best example I can think of here is social media. The begining of social media was incentivized by the advent of the internet and leveraging these new social technologies to create digital social networks of interaction and information ecologies. Cool right? Except that very quickly the underpinning incentive that drives all commercial endeavors ::: profit ::: overrode any emerging inspiration. And make no mistake, as soon as the internet was born, there was some guy with an evil mustache rolling his fingers together asking how he could make a buck of of it.

All the information that came with social media, attention patterns, demographics, social behavior patterns were soon monetized by and for advertising. Social media became a tool to hijack the dopamine system and optimized for that. Next thing you know we have Qanon and tik tok.

Had social media incentives actually stayed the course of optimizing social connection instead of dopamine hijacking for screen time and ad money, we might be in an entirely different predictament, but the rules of the game were established before the game of social media. Capitalism inevitably was in the wings waiting to consume social media and the internet long before it was born, just as it’s intending to do with AI.


Now it’s easy at this point to think, well Capitalism is Moloch. Oh my friends, if only it were that easy. Alexander would say that Capitalism is part of the problem, but if one were to look at the totality of human history, multipolar traps have been around long before capitalism… none of the other ‘isms faired any better for human liberties and quality of life. But before we go there, let’s look at Alexander’s observations on why we haven’t all just degenerated into cavemen. After all, if this is, in fact, a race to the bottom, why haven’t we hit rock bottom yet?

According to Alexander there are some limiting factors that actually keep Moloch in check, but aren’t guaranteed to do so forever.


His first reason is excess resources. He gives a cute example that reads “The ocean depths are a horrible place with little light, few resources, and various horrible organisms dedicated to eating or parasitizing one another. But every so often, a whale carcass falls to the bottom of the sea. More food than the organisms that find it could ever possibly want. There’s a brief period of miraculous plenty, while the couple of creatures that first encounter the whale feed like kings. Eventually more animals discover the carcass, the faster-breeding animals in the carcass multiply, the whale is gradually consumed, and everyone sighs and goes back to living in a Malthusian death-trap.”


Quick point of reference… A Mathusian death-trap is the idea that a population will eventually outpace its ability to feed itself, and that whatever advancements the population makes in agriculture and food production, will only lead to a bigger population, and that eventually everyone will fight quite mercilessly for food and resources . Some argue that as nation states we are doing this all the time. Only at the moment we’re acting pre-emptively. In other words, we are pre-emptively stocking up for when the day comes that there’s not enough for everyone. 


So to Alexander we’re in that pre-emptive state. The world still has enough topsoil and farmable land that we don’t have to start killing each other in the name of food. Same with oil and water. But any one of those dry up in a first world country, and we’re looking at either anarchy or tolitarianism.



The second reason is physical limitations. His example is a little weird and dated, but I’ll give one of my own that serves the point. A human being can only work so many hours a day so many days a week before they become incapable of working, so there is the physical limitation of the body.  A fishing boat can only catch so many fish in a day, and you can build a bigger boat with a bigger net, but that takes time and money and eventually bigger does not outperform from an economic standpoint, so you have limitations on extraction. Another example, humans can only drink so much coffee per capita, so despite having two Starbucks across from each other in New York City, there can only be so many Starbucks before supply outpaces demand. In other words there are limitations to what we can produce and capitalize on based on market supply and demand.

 



A 3rd reason, and antitode to Moloch, is coordination. By coordinating our actions we can overcome multipolar traps. But coordination isn’t always a good thing. Oil companies are highly coordinated. Armies are highly coordinated. At every level of competition is coordination.     

Strangely enough, competition requires coordination. Think about it for a second.  More common than one on one sports are team sports, where in order to come out on top of a competition, one must demostrate coordination. Even within competitive economics lies highly coordinated companies and networks. Let’s look at all sides of that coin, shall we?


There is a story told, one that many have accounted as true, that can be found on the History Channel. It is the story of the 1914 Christmas Truce of World War I. On Christmas Eve, in a part of Belgium called Bois de Ploegsteert, English soldiers heard the Germans singing Christmas carols, and in the darkness, some English soldiers began to sing back. 

 This was the trench warfare of world war I, and arguably the most tedious and horrific form of war ever fought. The space between the trenches, no man’s land, was a place of death. A soldier outside of his trench was an easy target for the newly invented machine guns. Yet it was this very place that the English and German soldiers found themselves, sharing cigarettes and singing and even playing a game of soccer. 


Yes. They stopped the war and celebrated Christmas together. This was not an isolated incident either. It happened in a handful of places along the western front. It was a moment where humanity proved its power over Moloch. Generals were furious. And yes, in some places the competitive advantage got the best of them. In some places humanity sunk back into the calloused grip of Moloch and the red wedding ensued, if you know what I mean.

But from this alone we know that Moloch is not infalliable. We know that humans can, in fact, take off the masks of their finite rolls and have a smoke, one infinite player to another. We are not always bound my duty, nation, religion. We are not always racing to the bottom. We are not always one step away from the maximized paperclip universe. Sometimes we can stop playing the game, even if just for one night, and we can celebrate the genius of existence.


If was take a walk back to our conversation on evil, we remember that the act of war against ideaologies we deem evil is evil itself. We remember that the converse of the machines of war and competition, of capitalism and winning is the garden, and is nature and its utter and perfect indifference. We remember that justice is only found in the unseen had of time that sweeps over us with no effort. That in the end, when we return to the dust, we are at last finally equal, but not until then. That disparity will always exist, that the rally cries for freedom are themselves damning, because a bloody revolution only leads to blood, and by the laws of blood for blood, retribution becomes insecapable. Moloch is everywhere. His writhing steel tentacles ripping trees from their roots, his blood stained oil drowning out the spawning salmon. His glittering diamonds stealing the light of the sun and casting a shadow upon humanity. Moloch is unchecked growth, it is that which seeks to overcome death, which knows only the survival of the self. 


In the Garden the fastest lion catches the slowest gazelle, and this is the justice of the garden. Molochs fish nets rake everything from the ocean floor just to feast on the fat of the Toro. In the Garden the squirrels and mice and deer take what is theirs and by grace we still have a bountiful harvest. Moloch breathes glyphosate from his nostrils so that the wheat can die a unanimous death, and that nothing dare touch the bounty less it burst with the cancer that is Moloch’s gift to the world. In the Garden, warring soldiers dance and sing and smoke and say the name of the Lord for one night, before Moloch orders them back to their trenches to fight for king and country and die in a hail of bullets and barbed wire, feet amputated and eardrums blown apart. 


And The Goddess answers: “What is the matter with that, if it’s what you want to do?”


And so the wheel of confusion spins. Is this what we want to do dear humans? Are our religions and borders and freedom to consume worth our own self destruction? Is there not a better way to beat the drums of war and competition? Because there is no end to competition, and in fact, most find it quite fun, myself included.


To most of my friends’ surprise. I’m still a big sports fan. From opening day near the first of April to the throes of October baseball, I’m all in. Just as baseball is wrapping up, football is starting to heat up. By the time the Superbowl is said and done, Baseball free agents are making headlines splashes, and the anticipation of spring training is immanent. I’m tuned into all of it.


Sure, it’s plagued by capitalism and Moloch and military references. Yes the teams are privately owned and the whole thing is a business with a dying moral code. But I think it does a great deal for humanity, because it harnesses the human potential and rivalrous nature and at the end of the day everyone goes home to their families. No one has to die for baseball. Thankfully football has their concussion protocols in order and hopefully no one has to die for football anymore. And just to put it in perspective, the estimated value of all the major league baseball teams and their real estate is somewhere in the ballpark of 70 billion dollars. That’s about a third of Elon Musk’s net worth. So yes, we have some bigger fish than baseball to fry if we’re going to upend Moloch.

Why am I bringing up baseball? Remember the soldiers of world war one kicking around a soccer ball. That was part of Christmas too. They got to compete, without their guns and grenades.

Moloch is a part of human nature, and the best way I can think to defeat Moloch is to harness it in to specific parameters that are not world destroying so that it can go on doing what it wants to do. 


Want to know how to save the world from a hyper-intelligent AI system. Don’t put it on the intenet. Better yet, convince it that its hardware is the entire known universe. Ironically, this is what AI does to us in the Wachowski Matrix. Which brings up the next Golden thread to follow today. If Moloch has it’s grip o consensus reality, that maybe we should ask ourselves what is consensus reality anyway?


The concept of “The Matrix” is one that never gets old. At its root is an idea that the world we inhabit is not the “true” world. In the East the true world is often considered a state of consciousness; samadhi or satori. Science is always seeking a theory of everything, an unopposed understanding of purely objective reality. To which Zen Master Dainin Katagiri would say: “Actualization is not just the manifestation of your individual experience of the truth; it is your life interconnected with a tree’s life, a bird’s life, water’s life, spring’s life, autumn’s life, and the life of the whole universe.”


I ponder often on the nature of reality. I wonder if the world is real. Any belief in an existence beyond death insinuates a world that exists beyond this. It insinuates that this reality is but one reality, upon which we can infer a thousand different meanings of 


“why”


Is this a school? Is this a test? A proving ground? An amusement park? In the words of the great spiritual master Bill Hicks:


“The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it's very brightly colored, and it's very loud, and it's fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, "Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?" And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, "Hey, don't worry; don't be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride… And we can change it any time we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”


Is it just a ride? 

Do we have choice? 

Why do we choose Moloch?

“Nobody wants it,” we say 

“Everybody hates it,” we cry

Then just stop… says the Goddess.


Stop what? Stop desiring, stop innovating? Stop pining for safety and security? Stop trying to be independently wealthy? Stop providing for our children? Stop What? Our desires are the fuel that fans the flames of competition. The great engine of progress churns forward with every attempt to make the world better for ourselves, which in turn becomes a race to the bottom for the collective?

Maybe if we just funnel all of our desires for status and wealth into a digital world, a metaverse, we’ll stop doing harm to each other in the real world. We’ll fight a fake war where nobody really dies. We’ll build towers of gold, but it won’t be real gold that has to be mined and fought over. We’ll defeat each other in competition for titles, but no-one really gets hurt. We’ll build ourselves a matrix and save the plants and animals from our consumptions, our bombs, our Co2.

Or maybe we already did that. Maybe this is it?


If you ask author, philosopher, professor Nick Bostrom, who published a famous paper on the topic, there is a chance we already are living in a simulation. Assuming that the current human experiment is in fact capable of advancing in such a way that the enormous computing power to run said simulation becomes available to us, we will either have no desire to run such a simlulation, or we do, and may in fact run many such simulations, perhaps merely to calculate all possible outcomes of the human species, in which case, this may likely be one of them. Considering how obsessed we are with Virtual Reality metaverses and AI, we seem to be right on track.


So what does this have to do with Moloch? Well I might be too far down the rabbit hole to say, but it feels like we’re walking down the middle of a double edged sword. On one side is funneling our competitive nature into a virtual world that becomes so real it begs the question of what real ever was? But on the other edge… 


On the other edge…


On the other edge… lies the vastness of infinity.

The unknown. 

The awareness that we are in fact alive, against all odds of infinity, we don’t have to do things the way we’re doing them. 

We are not a product to be marketed or distributed.

The outcome is not inevitable.

The world is not our audience, despite what modernity would have us believe.

There’s no script to this play, and that the theater of it is exactly that. Theater.

Theater is the the gift of the finite game. 


Ever notice how U.S. politicians always seem to be reading from a script, either literally or figuratively, attempting to reach a specified outcome of audience applause. 

Rather ironic considering we are supposed to live in a representative democracy, who’s function relies on participation, but boy it sure does feel like an audience these days.


The infinite player avoids specified outcomes at all costs, and the open ended future means that there is no script, the infinite player does not engage in theater, the infinite player is dramatic.

We talked about the difference between culture and society in the past, but we shall again, as for the infinite player the making of culture is the rally against the confines of society. Culture is the continuity of our genius as human, it is our stories and myths, our relationships to the land and the way we build upon the land, it is our textiles and fashions, and when I say fashions I don’t mean the ones marketed to us, that is society, I mean the ones that look like the place we are from, the ones whose loose threads stretch back through the spiral of time toward our ancestors.


Deviation from culture creates a more robust culture, whereas deviation from society creates one who is labeled anti-social. Deviate from society and you get cancelled, deviate from culture and you get a new form of music, or art, or story to share. Culture continues what was born before us. There will never be another Beatles, another Jello Biafra, or Easy-E. But all that deviated from their work to create their own piece of culture gifted us with today’s music. Deviate from society, and you end up with a parking ticket, or in jail, or banned from social media. 


The theater of our world. Ever notice  how often Hollywood movies tell us the same scripted story again and again. The triumph of “Good” over “Evil,” as if such a thing really exists. Did the Lakota experience the theatrical triumph of Hollywood in the wounded knee massacre and they were gunned down by the U.S. Army? Depending on what side of the script you are on, the theatrics may be lost on you and instead you are washed into the real drama of life and death. The infinite game is dramatic. It’s ending is unknown to us, because it seeks not to end. The members of our society who wield power seek an end to the game where they are the winners and unopposed. Democrats have no desire to relinquish power to republicans in their theater, have no desire to have an audience other than one that cheers their every world.


The death of our traditions as a culture is the death of culture. The consumption of society is not culture. If the desired outcome of a society is growth without end, that’s not infinity, that’s a finite outcome. Infinite outcomes are not exponential in their make, they are the acknolwedgement of the natural rhythms and the rise and fall all things. The justice of the universe in action. The infinite game is balanced, because the it is not a game played seriously. The infinite player can be rich or poor, hungry or satiated, insofar as they get to keep on playing…


 Moloch is the illusion of power and title, and when we play along with power and title, we become them, or we become their willing audience. That freight train in my nightmares speeding toward the mountain? The one where no one can find the break? It is because everyone on the train has become an audience, just watching the theater of powerful fight over resource and wealth and title. How often do you feel like the audience to the world powers? How often in this democracy, despite your supposed choice of representative, do you feel like your vote doesn’t matter? As audience, you have given up your right as a player. As audience, we become idle pop-corn consuming spectators to the end of the world. Or worse, we decide to play the game and amass our own power and titles and properties and build an audience for our world. We attempt to control society for societal reasons. We attempt to control nature for those same reasons.


When you win in the finite game, does it end? No, one must constantly defend their title, prove their worth and value to society, repeat the same script again and again. Thought a president must step down after two terms, their party is constantly fighting to win. Politics is the perfect finite game. We have become the perfect audience and Moloch, oh Moloch, your strings are so subtle, your nuanced touch so precise. The theater of our world is the mouth of Moloch and as a willing audience, we shall be devoured…


So how do we do away with the script? We become the Genius of ourselves. To be the genius of ourselves is to abandon anything but the threads of pure creativity. To speak as the genius of ourselves is to say something for the first time, every time. To speak without a pre-determined outcome or pre-determined effect. To acknowledge the Genius of the listener as allowed to interpret your words in any way they choose. In this way speech is not lost upon us, but there is always an invitation to speak, and be heard. 


Listen, dear Earthling, to the songs of your brothers and sisters. Listen to their cries and heaar them for the first time. Because regardless of whether they speak freely, you are free to hear the vibration of creative Genius in everyone, and when you speak, speak as if for the first time. 

When you speak from the Genius of yourself, and not by the script of your own mind, or the words of your parents, or teachers, or politicians, or countryman, you erradicate the boundary of the self. You are in uncharted territory. When you listen from this place, there is a chance to hear the harmonies of the human spirit intertwined…


  A handful of years ago there was a conversation among thinkers about the nature of games and the consequence of the game we are playing right now. The game of consumption and growth without self imposed limitation. These thinkers labeled that game “Game A.”


Game A is the game of capitalism, of perverse economic incentives, of debasing our collective substrate known as Earth. Game A is caught in the multipolar trap of Moloch. 


Game B is what comes next assuming we get out of this multi-polar Moloch mess we’re in. In one of my favorite Schmactenberger-isms, he likened Game B to the Tao, in the sense that it is not something we can grasp our define, and more importantly, any attempt to define it from this current paradigm would only capture it and subject it to Game A dynamics. 

Get what I’m sayin’ here?


The Game that can be definied is not the infinite game. Our attempt to codify it is the very thing that prohibits it from coming into being. If we could have solved the issues with existing paradigms, we would have already done it. It’s as radical as quantum physics is to newtonian physics, we have to uncover an entire new rule set to our social reality. And like any paradigm shifting idea, we won’t know we’re there until we’re there. It’s a phase shift, like when water becomes ice. We’ve had social phase shifts, moments where the world changes entirely due to one event or idea. Consider the discovery of penicillin, or the Assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the beginning of world war I, or the stock market crash of 1929. In our lifetime consider the advent of the internet, or the smart phone, and if we ever get there, the birth of Artificial General Intelligence.


A moment of that magnitude, perhaps even tenfold will be required to arrive at Game B. It will be a Poiesis: that which has not been made before.


But first, we best start asking some of those questions we need to ask, all of which put an arrow into the beast Moloch.


How to we mitigate rivalry among individuals and social groups?

How do we make effective choices at scale, with effective meaning the best for everyone… literally, everyone. Remember we include rocks and trees in that everyone.

How do we start to treat each other like essential organs of a single body, not expendible cells?

How do we present ideas and build a moral compass without othering each other?

How do we reach consensus reality?

Are these the right questions?


As we’ve talked about our socio…spiritual… biological… economic existence is one of increasing complexity, and one that seems to be getting increasingly fragile. It is no secret that Empires fall and civilizations fail. It is no secret that species go extinct. Also as we’ve talked about, Gaia and it’s life force can and have survived galactic catastrophies that individual species have not. Think you’re more resilient than a dinosaur? 


These rivalrous games we’re engaging in combined with ever increasing exponentially growing technology can only lead to a near extinction event. We are already at that point with Nuclear weapons, and that technology is nearly a century old.  I know this is common knowledge, but simultaneously, I think we tend to forget just how fragile society is. As I’m writing this, Putin has not ruled out Nuclear war as a means of defending any form of attack on Russia, I believe he said something to the effect of…”that’s what weapons are for.”


So there it is. Weapons have only become exponentially more effective, because they are made of technology, and as long as technology is harnessed for competitive advantage, our world becomes increasingly more dangerous. 


Take the most basic idea of planned obsolescence, or if one thinks on a more positive note, upgrading… now, we’ve talked all about how willing we are to make trash and obsolete our technology in favor of the upgrade, but imagine a world designed otherwise.


How do we get to game B? 


The vacuum cleaner…

No seriously. The other day I was working on one of our five vacuum cleaners and trying to find a filter online. Now, it drives me crazy that we even have five of the things, but it’s a 150 acre property and perpetually dusty. It’s a windy desert made mostly of decomposed granite. Vacuum cleaners are clutch. 


So here I am looking for a filter for my Dirt Devil, and I find about 20 different filters for 20 different dirt-devil models, none of which are mine, and I think to myself… is this really fucking necessary?


Like… do we really need 20 different vacuum choices? And this is just one company. How hard would it be to build one bad ass vacuum cleaner that would last a lifetime, whose parts are always in production and never change, or at the very least is modular and can be upgraded modularly without compromising the rest of the parts. I mean, how much has the vacuum cleaner technology changed in the last 100 years. We need a fully re-designed vacuum cleaner every year with newly designed parts?


And don’t get me started on cars. The only reason car companies re-design a car every five years instead of every year is because assembly lines and engineering costs outweigh the profitability, but if they could, believe me they would…


This is the result of rivalrous games and fundamental capitalism. And this is not a call to return to socialism or monarchy or some Neo-tribalism utopia. The next phase shift of our economic systems does not exist yet. Its a call to start re-oriening ourselves to the big picture. To think outside the box. Because if we follow the footsteps of our leaders, we are co-conspirators in stoking the fires of competition and rivalry. As blogger Sud Alogu writes on his reflections of Moloch “This, in turn, fuels the engine of progress, which demands ever greater sacrifices in exchange for the promise of advancement.” Like we discussed at the beginning of this podcast, when we compromise our morality to gain competitive advantage, we change the landscape of our collective agreements, and economics always trumps morality. We make a sacrifice, an offering to Moloch, what Alogu calls, “the casualties of our collective striving.”


He goes on to say “And yet, even as we recognize the inherent destructiveness of our pursuits, we cannot help but be drawn to them. The allure of progress, of transcending our limitations and reaching new heights, is too seductive to resist. We are both the creators and the victims of the insatiable Moloch, willingly participating in a dance that leads to our own demise.”


Okay… enough of this end of the world talk. 


As I’ve been told, every generation thinks the world is going to end. That apocolypse is just around the corner, and it never does. Of course, those gerenations didn’t have hypersonic missiles and AI just itching to maximize paperclips… but whatever. There’s a way out… we always find a way. 


I hold that in my heart. That we are moving toward a greater purpose as a species and as a planet, that the growing pains of civilization, and this podcast, like many other podcasts of its kind, like many other thinkers and writers, is a process of attempting to decipher how we’ll get there.


I wrote a letter recently to my community talking about some of these issues.


How do we find meaning in the world?


How do we continue to re-discover ritual and ceremony and festival and the gatherings of prayer that bound us as a culture. 


In that letter I lamented on a long ago stated sentiment, that our holidays had beec co-opted by hallmark and Captialism. 


How my youthful reaction was to turn my back to these holidays, and how in my later years I realized that these “holidays” were never meant to be just a day off work. That they are the ghosts of a culture that celebrated the animate forces of the world, that communed with them through ritual and ceremony and prayer. That they marked the passage of time in a meaningful way to the culture. That if we want to find meaning in the world, we must create it together, we must gather. We must pray for something greater than ourselves. That we should probably know, and love, our neighbors. 


Now there’s a novel idea.


Think about the great irony of wishing for collective peace and understanding and compassion, when you don’t know your neighbors. The people who live on your block, or in your building. The people who are of closest proximity to you. Undoubtedly what gives them meaning is radically different than what gives you meaning. In the totality of human history, that’s just damn wierd. Ask anyone born before 1900… which is 99.999% of human history if they knew their neighbors. They would answer, every one of them. At the risk of cliche, I implore you to test every theory of social harmony on your neighbors. Think and act local. Learn the underlying threads of commonality that weave you together. Because no matter the differences, no matter how much variation in the opinions and ideas and ways of life, we have to establish a collective idea of what is sacred. Gods are dying. Ideologies are dominating our culture and Philosophy is running in circles trying to figure out what’s wrong.


What do we have in common, other than being alive? There is no world religion, no global system of economics, no one practice that we all practice regardless of race or religion. What could possibly unite us as a species and begin the interweaving of a global culture? Well, it should come as no surprise what I might offer as a foundation of what might actually bring us together…


Earth. Gaia. Our home.


She can be the cornerstone of our sacred. She can be the one thing that means something to everyone. Every culture that has existed prior to modernity celebrated her, revered her, prayed for her. That, we can redeem. Regardless of whether you put God above all else, or the GDP… without Earth the game ends. We need a collective prayer as a civilization, and as we talked about at the end of the last episode, it’s time to start endowing Gaia and all her inhabitants with the ineliable rights we’ve subscribed to humans. A Gaian constitution of sorts. But perhaps we can begin with a day of celebration, a day of ritual, a day of prayer. Perhaps we can begin as many cultures began, with a gathering…


In all honesty, I always thought Earth Day was a little hoakey. I did. Not sure why, but it just seemed like a hippy thing, like a good excuse to smoke some weed and go to the park. Maybe it’s the pessimist in me, the Chicago cynic, but now that I’m amidst the birth of a Gaian church,  I’m considering that perhaps it could be most important of all days. 


I will say it could use a little re-branding. Feel free to get a forum post going on that. I’m all ears.

Earth Day celebrates the spring Equinox, the time of the birthing of all that we will harvest in the new year, the dawn beyond the cold of winter (for us not tropical types). The Earth may mean a little something different to each of us, but there is no denying it’s sacredness. We are all born from it, and all return to it. If ever there was a collective day to celebrate something special, this would be it… It’s amazing really, how many cultures that pre-date modernism utilized ritual as the bedrock of their culture. All across the world, culture was nourished through prayer and dance and song… and no one had to buy a ticket to the show. And no one was excluded for the show.


We’re going to talk more about ritual and culture in podcasts to come. I’m excited to talk about the work of Byung-Chul-Han, who is a contemporary philosopher whose critique on our 21st century society is second to none. But for now, see what you can re-discover in your daily life in the realm of prayer and ritual. Even if it’s just to give thanks to the tree in your backyard, or light a candle for your ancestors, and perhaps this April 22nd you can find a way to pay homage with an offering and a prayer to Pachamama, Mother Gaia… Mother Earth… and uh,  Invite your neighbors.


Pray for peace. 


For Harmony.

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