Transcript of Currents 065: Alexander Bard on Protopian Narratology

The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or Seth Jordan. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.

Jim: Let’s start off with an unpaid ad for something I’ve found useful. Cicero. That’s at A pretty fucking lame domain name, if I must say so, but it’s a new well curated set of articles by thinkers who you can follow. I found three articles worth reading in five minutes and two out of three were actually excellent. And the third wasn’t terrible and I’m picky as hell. So check it out, So now onto our show.

Jim: Today’s guest is Alexander Bard. Talk about a polymath. Holy shit. Alexander’s an author, a lecturer, an artist, a songwriter, a musician, a music producer, a TV personality, a religious and political activist, and one of the founders of the syncretist religious movement. Quite a list of accomplishments there. And I’m sure he is not done. Hi, Alexander. Welcome to the Jim Rutt show.

Alexander: Hi Jim. Thanks for having me.

Jim: Yeah. Great to have you back. We had you on the show once before. Let’s see if I can find… I put it in my notes, which show that was, but I have the invite if I can find it. Maybe it’s down here earlier on the page.

Alexander: It was probably the pre Corona version of you and me and now we’re doing the post Corona versions of Jim Rutt and Alexander Bard today.

Jim: Yeah, exactly. So anyway, this is a continuation of a discussion that’s been going on for a few months. Though I don’t think we need to really track and continue formally the previous conversation. The Game B movement put out a movie called An Initiation to Game B. Alexander and some of his compatriots on the intellectual deep web mailing list of which I’m a member on, but I’m frankly too intimidated by the high intellectual level to participate very much. But I do like to read it from time to time.

Jim: It had a whole bunch of commentary about it. Group of us went on the Stoa and talked about it. Some of their group went on the Stoa and talked about it. And then we had a meeting of the intellectual deep web and a couple of Game B folks and we talked about it and Alexandria and I agreed.

Jim: Well, we didn’t say nearly as much it still was kind of a… Not a good long form format. You basically get a few minutes to talk, blah, blah. And both Alexander and I are famously long fucking winded. So we figured that we needed to have a real live podcast to get into this a little bit more deeply. So with that, hence, we meet again.

Jim: The thing on the Stoa was called Game B Meets the Dark Renaissance. Worth checking out on YouTube. And as I promised, when we agreed to do the podcast, I have read one of Alexander’s books. I read a previous one about his network religion. I don’t remember what the hell the name of it was. What was the name of that book?

Alexander: Syncretism, Creating God in the Internet Age.

Jim: Yeah, that was the subject of our previous podcast. It was kind of fun. This book I thought was really good called Digital Libido: Sex Power and Violence in the Network Society, though, there was very little violence. I was disappointed. The first chapter is a true tour to force. And the first half of the book I thought was really excellent, the second half, eh, but definitely worth a read.

Jim: So I read the book and we’re not going to talk about the book per se, but I’m going to have it in my pocket as background to help me understand a little bit more about what Alexander’s getting at here. I will also note, just in passing, that from reading that book, I’m going to read another one of his books called The Netocracy. Sounds fucking fascinating.

Alexander: Yeah, the Netocracy is the first book I co-wrote with Jan Soderqvist. That was 22 years ago, the year 2000. So we first wrote three books that are being re-released as the Futurica Trilogy. So those are the first three books, The Netocrats, The Global Empire and The Body Machines. Then we began a new product 12 years ago and we decided to write three books that together be released and called The Grand Narrative Trilogy. And we are really interested in the kind of stories that human beings tell about ourselves. And we even think this merits its own philosophical discipline.

Alexander: You know, you’ve heard a lot about deconstruction in the 20th century and all that. I think we’re moving towards a specific philosophical discipline that we call neurotology. So neurology is like the logos of narratives. Like what kind of stories do we tell about each other and ourselves? And why are they different? And why it’s important to also hold them distinctly as different from one another because they serve different purposes.

Alexander: And this led us into, and in a very angalian way, start with the future. So the first book Syncretist, Creating God in the Internet Age is built on a very simple assumption. So this assumption goes this way. Number one, woman gives birth to child. Number two, man envies woman for giving birth to child. Number three, man, therefore gives birth to technology. Number four, since technology develops over time and children do not… They’re equally stupid at best from one generation to the next.

Alexander: That means you go into number five, which is technology will one day defeat the child. So the historical link is that civilization, as we know it, is leading forward towards us creating some kind of machinery or technology that will either outdo us or at least at best complement us in such a way that life will take off in a whole new direction.

Alexander: And we think it’s important to stress this, that we still have a say, and we still have an influence on whatever kind of programs built for AI and things like that. But also we’ve already built a machine that can kill us. We’ve already built the devil, it’s called the atomic bomb. And therefore the date of August the sixth, 1945 is still the most important date in modern times because after that date, we know that we can blow ourselves up.

Alexander: And before we go extinct. Maybe we should try to find another path. And one of your close friends, Don Emberg and I several years ago, agreed on working towards what we call the symbiotic intelligence. We don’t like the term artificial intelligence because it sounds somehow excluded from humans, but actually technology is very inherit to us humans. And we’re a homo technological today.

Alexander: So we’re not homo sapiens any longer. So we think that symbiotic intelligence is what we should talk about. How could we design that in such a way before it’s too late that it actually works in the favor of humanity in ourselves. So Double Syncretism, that’s the first book. Then the second book Digital Libido that you just plowed your way through is about now. It’s about the current state and the mess in the next 50 to 100 years we’re going to have, because the internet age is upon us. It’s not at all what we thought it would be. Old institutions are fighting back. You know? It’s messy. It’s going to be even messier over the next 50 to 100 years. And this is also of course, where we can go extinct through atomic warfare and all kinds of things. So that digital bit, that’s a warning.

Alexander: The third book we’re writing now it’s going to come out next year is actually a rewriting of history. As I say, we’re heligans, we do everything in the opposite order. And that’s a book called Process and Event. And that’s the one I’m working on at the moment with Soderqvist to complete the trilogy. And that’s a book we rewrite the history of ideas and we make some radical shifts. For example, argue that all the important ideas to humanity actually occurred already during the brown stage.

Alexander: We invented civilization during the brown stage, we set the conditions for it. We haven’t really improved on it, except we at best have created technologies to make it easier for us to hold large populations contained. That’s essentially what civilization is. So that’s me and Soderqvist, The Grand Narrative Trilogy.

Jim: Yeah. Look forward to reading that book. As I said, as I read Digital Libido… I’m also writing a book, my first one, will be an introduction to Game B and I have been-

Alexander: It’s about time. Jim Rutts finally becoming an author.

Jim: Yeah, exactly.

Alexander: Wonderful.

Jim: I’m working very hard on it and I have way too much material. And I have a goal of keeping it to 270 pages for arcane reasons. And one of the questions is how much in history of Game A to include? And actually reading Digital Libido encouraged me to think really seriously about history, because you pointed out the power of histography and the power of being allowed to reinterpret the past. Right?

Alexander: Exactly. That’s why we write about neurotology. So the logos is there. The logos is actually what actually happened. This is the truth as a fact, that’s the logos, but the mythos is how we then tell the story about that. Include ourselves in it. We cannot write a story about ourselves, just with zeros and ones. We can’t write a story about ourselves, just the facts in it.

Alexander: We have to imagine what it’s like to be human. We have to extend our fantasy way beyond just numbers. And that’s exactly why the mythos has to be retold because it is invented and it’s then projected onto ourselves. It’s projected onto our history. It’s also projected onto fantasies about the future. And that’s why if you’re writing this Game B, Game A, you’re talking about two different mythos and you’re putting them up against each other.

Alexander: I have no problem that whatsoever. I even proposed that the difference between the Game A and the Game B, if you just put it down into two words, is that Game A was an idea that you could infinitely exploit the world humans are living in and reality already in the [inaudible 00:09:12] 22 years ago, we proposed the opposite of the exploitation.

Alexander: There wasn’t a word for it. We called it emploitation and emploitation is essentially that you cannot use a resource unless you put it back again. It’s like, you cannot exploit the world industry because then the world goes down with you. So for that to occur, which any farmers known for the last 5,000 years to need to employ the planet and emploitation is the word we use for that. And for me, the great thing with Game B is a game that basically puts a mythos out that says emploitation is first principle. I think you agree with me on that one and it’s a great word to use.

Jim: And it’s the… I haven’t used the word, but I did pick it up in the book and I’m going to kind of play with it and see if I like it because I do think that you were right. And more and more I have been stressing the good things that came from Game A. In my own mythology, I tend to focus on the period from about 1700 forward where three things came together to invent the modern world, which are limited government during the glorious revolution, 1688 in England.

Jim: The invention of science, basically across the 17th century. Boyle and Newton and that whole crew and a bunch of others Descartes though Descartes led us down some wrong roads as I’m sure we’ll talk about later. And perhaps very, very importantly, the invention of modern finance in 1694 with the invention of the bank of England. But when you look back at the world in 1700, what was it like? The population of the world was, how big?

Alexander: Oh was a billion or something at most. I mean eight billion-

Jim: Less. 650 million.

Alexander: There you go.

Jim: And 50% of children died by the time they were five. Most people lived in houses with dirt floors, no windows in the temperate zones. Most of them had respiratory infections all winter from defective fireplaces. And again, no windows. Life was not great. The deal to go from forger to agriculturalist had turned out to be kind of a losing bet for most people.

Jim: But when these three things came together and a few other things… But I think those three were the enablers. The world suddenly took off. Population grew from 650 to 8 billion in a remarkably short period of time and everything we’ve created. Remember 1700, there really wasn’t much use even of fossil fuels. The industrial revolution hadn’t happened. Even clothing was essentially a spinning wheel on a hand loom in somebody’s cottage, right? And how fast we’ve come. And that was all good.

Jim: I mean, shit, I would vote for Game A just for modern dentistry. Right? If you look at the history of teeth. But to your point, the fundamental attribute of Game A, it was not designed with any breaks. It was designed, it’s inner loop, which is finance, I argue. Particularly short term money on money return is the parasite that we refer to indirectly in the Game B film.

Jim: Oh, by the way, the name of the Game B film is Initiation to Game Tilde B film. And you can find link to it at But anyway, this inner parasite of money on money return doesn’t have any breaks. And in fact, pushes always for exponential growth. And there’re some reasons why, if it doesn’t exponentially grow, it will die. And yet to your point, here we are living in a finite world. Doesn’t take a genius to realize you can’t exponentially grow forever in a finite world. God damn it.

Alexander: But you got it. You nailed it because we got the printing press in 1450, and I’m a huge fan of Marshall McLuhan. I think that’s the revolution. The revolution happened already in 1450. And then the Europeans, connected with America, not conquered it in the 1490s. And we got the world, as we know it today. And this explosion sets in about two to 300 years later when literacy has actually conquered the world more or less.

Alexander: And at least the leads all know how to read, write and count. And if you know how to read, write and count you’re way more powerful than if you’re illiterate. Napoleon was the first guy who actually created the whole army where everybody could read, write and count. And he crushed everybody because of it. And Hegel wrote about this in the early 19th century, The Power of Being the King of the New Paradigm, Haggle understood this firmly.

Alexander: And I think the printing press and the fact the Europeans went across the sea and from going from marginal in the world to becoming the dominant fact in the world, they saw no end to their success. And even today, it’s still this idea that we should conquer outer space and move to other planets and all these wild ideas. I tell Elon Musk that, “You want to go to Mars, why don’t you go to Siberia?” You know, “You can have Siberia to yourself. It’s warmer, less radiation. It’s all yours, go there.” Because going to Mars is another one of these sort of exploitative ideas that we should conquer the universe, when in reality, we haven’t even fixed the planet we live on and all we’re going to do is go somewhere else just to repeat the mistakes.

Jim: Ah, I don’t know about that one. Now, it is interesting. I don’t think Mars is the right place for a bunch of technical reasons. Initially, asteroids and comets. Put an asteroid and a comet together and you have everything you need. But I will say, that I do think that in the longer term, and it may be 10,000 years or more, we should think about the universe. And here’s why, at least until we answer the Fermi paradox question. You’re familiar with the Fermi paradox comes from Los Alamo.

Alexander: Absolutely. Yeah.

Jim: Are there other civilizations out there? And when I was a 12 or 13 year old, kind of techno file kid, I would’ve said, “Oh sure, got to be thousands. Hundreds of thousands of civilizations, probably in our galaxy alone.” Hell, just read Hynek and [inaudible 00:14:43]. We know they’re out there. Right? And of course now it’s not clear and there’s been some great writing and thinking about it and I’m actually now completely agnostic and it is certainly possible that humanity is the first and only general intelligence in the universe.

Alexander: Yes, I agree. And if you start doing transfinite mathematics rather than doing the traditional form of mathematics, you realize that the world we live in right now in this planet could be absolutely unique. It doesn’t matter how many other planets you find out there or solar systems. But, to our first disagreement, our friendly disagreement then, is that I think it’s going to be the AI with some bacteria that conquers outer space and not humans. And that they will probably leave us to ourselves. Hopefully here as a kind of human zoo on this planet to have fun with each other.

Alexander: Because we are breeding less than we used to. We’re going to have a peak population of the world before you and I die. And after that, there’s going to be fewer humans around. And I think all for the better, because if we’re going to have an emploitative rather than exploitative world, they should hopefully be fewer of us so we can stay around for much longer.

Alexander: But I think at the end of the day, this is a narrative thing. It’s like, yeah, you’d like to get in contact with other worlds. But when the Europeans came over to America, they were lucky. They only got syphilis back from the Indians, from the native Americans. But the native Americans, 90% of them died just due to contact with the foreign civilization. So that was lucky, colliding with another civilization could mean that we go extinct. So, let’s be careful with those kind of hopes to begin with.

Jim: Yeah. And of course that is key that, what’s really stupid for us to be doing, broadcasting to the stars, which some people advocate for, we should be listening and probing because as they say, there may be… The reason that we’re not hearing anything is because of the dark forest effect, right? You don’t want to make a lot of noise in the forest at night or the big predator will come and get you.

Alexander: Yeah. And we also reveal how stupid we are, which doesn’t make it any better. So there you go.

Jim: Yeah. And you know, again, humans are just barely, generally intelligent. And I think my favorite Rutt quote is, “Humans are to the first order of the stupidest possible general intelligence.”

Alexander: I totally agree.

Jim: We’re first, over the line and by evolution in modern nature, seldom propagate in her gifts and so why would we expect to be. And any knowledge at all of cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience, it’s just incredibly obvious how fucking stupid we are. A working memory size, a five plus or minus two or seven plus or minus two, whatever hell it is. Very low fidelity memories, a $1 calculator can do math that shouldn’t load better than you or I can. We are just barely across some bright line, but we are across it, which does matter.

Alexander: And the algorithms of the blockchains have arrived to help us. Thank God.

Jim: Yeah. I don’t know. Yeah. And they may or may not help, but more to the point, alphabet, but the invention of the alphabet and Roman numbers, Arabic numbers, I guess. We actually should say Arabic numbers and the zero that came with them are probably way more important than either the printing press or the internet in terms of us being able to do input output to exterior devices, to help our very, very feeble cognition.

Jim: But let’s go back to a little bit, McLuhan and I run into McCluhanist a lot. There’s quite a few of them the in the Game B world. And I would say, I am a semi-McCluhanist. I do think that these fundamental information technologies are important, but I would put a very different lens on it in that they didn’t bring into being Game A, let’s say the print press, but they provided a substrate in which new things could evolve and so I call it a portal into a new world of opportunity.

Jim: And some of the things that evolve were science, self-governance, modern finance, but there was a bunch of others as well. It’s very similar to the Cambrian explosion that occurred 500 million years ago. Great Jim Rutt show episode, by the way, with Doug Erwin, one of the leading scholars on the Cambrian explosion, you can look it up, where some changes in the biochemistry that was available to life, very suddenly allowed multicellular animals of the sort that we are.

Jim: And within about five to 10 million years, which is an eye blink in evolutionary time, all the Fila, minus one, and that one turns out to be very obscure and not important. All the main Fila of animal life came into existence in this tiny, short little window. So I would suggest that the McClhunast perspective is somewhat overstated and that what it really is, is a portal which enables other things to occur and that those things… The ones that happen to occur and they are contingent. Right? What I like to point out, that the bank of England in particular was a very historically contingent result, could have easily happened very differently. The glorious revolution, very contingent on all kinds of things.

Alexander: The fact that Americans speak English rather than German was highly contingent.

Jim: Exactly.

Alexander: You could have German as your language right now. You and I could sit here talking German, I’ll be forced to speak German with you because I have to talk to you because you’re an American you rule the world.

Jim: Yeah. And you know, frankly, William the conqueror’s invasion was also very contingent. If Harold Godwin hadn’t been in a fight at Stanford bridge three weeks before, probably a fair chance that the English would’ve defeated William there at Hastings. And so the world is full of contingency.

Jim: But anyway, let’s now get back to how we came to this, which is talking about Game B and other ways of thinking about the way forward and what are some traps to avoid? I think one that we strongly agree with and I saw you ranting quite eloquently in the book about it is, avoiding utopian thinking. And I was also happy to see you piss on my favorite pisse, Rousseau.

Alexander: Yeah, there we go. Well, the thing is, that I think, I always make a comparative study between Eastern and Western philosophy. I was one of the first philosophers who realized that we can’t start with the Greeks. That would be embarrassing to start with the Greeks all over again. I mean, you can’t think that the Westerners invented philosophy, but by the word philosophy and Greek was originally the Persian [foreign language 00:20:58], which is about 1500, 2000 years older than philosophy.

Alexander: So, clearly philosophy started in the east and then it’s developed with different schools. You have Indian, Chinese, Japanese Persian philosophy. And we even have them in the middle east and in Europe and America and we called it the west. I would say that the problem Western philosophyst have is that it got stuck with the sort of agnostic dualism, which both Christianity and Islam are guilty of.

Alexander: They’re guilty of promising us the afterlife. They’re guilty of finding the cheap way out. They’re guilty of being the perfect engines for futile tyranny. Even Putin today claims to be an Orthodox Christian, but even Putin in Russia is no different than the Islamist in the middle east because the Islamic state and Putin are very similar in their claims.

Alexander: And I think the problem is, we need to get rid of the dualism and starting with Spinosa. We have to remember that Spinosa was the first Western philosopher. He was Moroccan Jewish originally and he broke with that tradition, as I know everything in the world is dependent on everything else. And you and I do system and complexity theory. It starts with Spinosa, right? It starts with the modest worldview. And finally, we start to make a break with Christianity in Islam with the idea that there’s dualism out there rather than everything is dependent.

Alexander: Everything else means we live in a mindless world. Even mind and matter are our expressions of the same world. So I think that’s an important insight. It’s really the great part of the enlightenment. It was, it wasn’t the Descartes, as you mentioned, it was really Spinosa enlightenment. So were the great thinkers. So the 17th century that allow leading on to Haggle and [inaudible 00:22:29], guys like McLuhan and then later they just put the spots onto the kind of work that I do.

Alexander: I need McLuhan because it’s lacking in [inaudible 00:22:36]. That’s why I use him. But overall, the modest worldview that Haggle and [inaudible 00:22:40] should then represent fully in the 19th century in Germany actually is totally opposed to the idea of utopia and dystopia. Because the ideas of utopia or dystopia for that matter, come out of Islam and Christianity and they start with a dualist worldview.

Alexander: And if you separate the world, the physical world from spirit, if you say spirit is an entirely different substance from the physical world. If you say there are at least two worlds, you haven’t figured out how they communicate with one another. This was of course the problem with Decartes is that Decartes couldn’t respond to the fact, if mine didn’t matter are two different things. Well, how the heck did they communicate with each other? You must have a third substance then to communicate, right?

Jim: Oh, he made up a bull shit answer, which was the penial gland. Right?

Alexander: Exactly, which is great. You know, I think because at least it took something you couldn’t check, right? It’s like the Catholic church, every time you exposed them to their fraud and said that, “Where is God?” They just say, “Oh, God is further away. He’s just further away or further away, further away.” And until you discover that he’s so fucking further away, that he’s just further away, period. He’s not even there.

Alexander: So the Monist world used the radical break that we do in the west where we kind of become aligned with Eastern philosophy, because the greatness of Eastern philosophy is that it doesn’t compromise on the monist worldview. And now we can start doing philosophy Eastern or Western combined. And I always read the two philosophies through the eyes of this. And when I worked in Japan, in Korea, I lived in Zen temples and you know, in Japan and Zion monasteries in Korea, I’m a practitioner of [inaudible 00:24:08].

Alexander: And I realized that they were protopian. They weren’t utopian or distopian. They didn’t get the idea. They thought it was really weird. Why would we go towards a perfect world, according to Plato? Because a world that would be perfect cannot have change because if it changes, it becomes imperfect. Therefore, it must be a dead world. It’s like if the world was just a still picture and nothing moved, okay? This is Plato’s world and the problem with Western thinking from Plato and his dualism onwards that we got stuck with the dualism.

Alexander: And that’s exactly when you and I are now doing system and complexity theory, we can talk directly with the Japanese. We can talk directly with the Koreans because they are protopian and protopianism is the trick here. Protopianism means that, I tear down the world and I rebuild it every day and I try to slightly improve on its construction. So that’s how you build really good engineering, for example. You tear it apart and then you rebuild it and while you’re rebuilding it, you’re checking out if you could do it maybe slightly different than the last time you built it and improve on the quality or make it slightly cheaper. And by doing that, you improve on the product.

Jim: Yeah, sometimes you make leaps, right?

Alexander: Yeah. You can make leaps, but there often leaps in hine sight because something that just was very remarkable a certain Tuesday, 13 years ago, because the world is contingent, turns out to be dramatic innovation 13 years later. But that’s the fun of it. But to have a protopian attitude now means that you say, “I think you and I agree on this one, we must kill the utopianism and the dystopian. We must get those two ideas out of the way.” We’re not going towards a horrible war because that leads to Armageddon. And if the Muslims and the Christians have their say, they will have that final Armageddon with atomic bombs between the middle east and Europe or whatever eventually.

Alexander: We must stop them from doing that because we must call them out that they’re actually creating a false narrative leading to That Armageddon, which is the dystopian worldview, but equally the utopian worldview, which is like to me, just study Pol Pot for God’s sake.

Jim: Exactly.

Alexander: Pol Pot wrote his PhD at Sorbonne in 1967, it’s publicly available. Read Pol Pot’s PhD. It was not on Carl Marks, who I defend. It was on Rousseau. And then he went home to Cambodia and killed two million of his own countrymen. And he started by killing everybody who wore glasses like you and me, because he wanted to kill anybody who was more intelligent than himself. We called this character the boy Pharaoh in our work.

Alexander: He’s a really dangerous character. Hitler was the same way. Think of a boy who’s not a man, and because he’s a boy and he is narcissistic, he wants to be both the priest and the king at the same time. He’s none of them. And therefore he takes on the world and of course he loves Rousseau and ideas like The Noble Savage. Like if the world hadn’t gone corrupt, then everything would be perfect. Right? But because the world has been corrupted and I’m here to save the world from itself and un-corrupt the world. That’s what a boy Pharaoh always believes. And that’s why Rousseau is such a dangerous thinker.

Jim: Yeah. And I, as people know that listen to my show, I am a real fanboy for the enlightenment though I draw a distinction between the Voltaire [inaudible 00:27:17] branch of the enlightenment which led to the Scottish enlightenment, English enlightenment, and a bunch of other useful things. And then the Rousseau branch which led to various forms of horror in the 19th century and the 20th century, including both Nazi-ism and Marxist-Leninism.

Jim: And then particularly lovely versions like Khmer Rouge, right? You can track them all back to Rousseau. And again, it’s this utopianism. In fact, this book I’m writing. Yeah. I’ve already written the introduction. One of the things I have in there is if anybody quotes what’s in this book as catechism tell them Jim Rutt will kick their ass, right? I think that’ so important.

Jim: And we push continuously that Game B, at least at this stage and probably for a very long time is an exploration of the high dimensional design space of how to live and further, it’s an exploration in parallel. We expect multiple experiments to happen in what we call proto Bs, small Dunbar number size, or maybe two X Dunbar number size communities that will be quite different.

Jim: They will have a coherence, which is that we all agree that we must live within balance with mother nature. And in fact, pay back some of our debt, regenerative theory. And that we must not use money on money return as the inner engine and metric of all values. And many of us agree that something like self-actualization, we may disagree about this one, is a very important part of why we build these civilizations.

Alexander: Jim, I always knew you were a communist. I’m glad you were coming out because I’m a communist too.

Jim: I am, I’m a global communist. I’m a socialist.

Alexander: I knew socialism would fail. Right? But I defend communism. As long as it’s voluntary I think it’s a fantastic idea. Personally, I’m really involved with Burning Man and all the 250 different Burning Man spinoffs around the world. We got one here, Northern Europe called the Borderland. I’m deeply immersed in this culture. And I think it’s a good start to go somewhere for eight days and at least try to experiment in what it would be like to live in a communist protopia.

Alexander: That’s what I call it, so have a communist protopia and I think that’s a good start because then you can extend those eight days to two weeks and three weeks. And then you can extend it even further eventually. Like, would this be a lifestyle that would be sustainable and would it be okay with you? Would you like to take part in this? And that’s what I call voluntary communism.

Jim: Yeah. In fact, Peter Wang, one of our Game B folks, very interesting guy, came up with a very nice, simplistic way to frame the trade that we’re proposing, which is, we go back to a 1700. We’re now burning per capita, 10 times the energy or consuming 10 times the energy. We have 10 times as many people and each person’s consuming 10 times the energy across the world. And that includes cattle herders in east Africa. And so we have to cut back our energy consumption by about two thirds. So cut by three, but-

Alexander: Or at least produce energy differently than we do today.

Jim: Well right now, and in the future, new technologies may allow us to have even more energy. But right now, to not cook the planet, we need to cut back our energy consumption on the order of two thirds. But if we’re taking the Davos man approach, we’re just going to pound on the people and say, “Less, less, less.” That isn’t going to work.

Jim: I mean, just look at the yellow jacket movement in France, a relatively modest increase in diesel taxes. They almost overthrew the French government. You know,? If you let Davos man, just say, “Oh, you have to meet the 17 sustainable blah blahs, pound, pound, pound.” We are going to end up with as fascist dictatorships all over the west. So the Game B hypothesis is, while we take less inputs, we actually increase human wellbeing. And just for shits and grins Peter threw out the number three, we’re going to have our wellbeing go up by a factor of three while the material inputs come down by a factor of three.

Jim: So it’s the three, three transition. And you know, as we’ve gotten down to starting to design these proto BS, it looks like it’s quite possible where, if you invest in the commons, you invest in community in something that feels a lot like voluntary communism. And you have built in holidays. One a week, one a month, one a quarter, and one a year. You have singing and exercising together to tune up our serotonin and get us away from our addictions to dopamine, et cetera. We may actually be able to have a subjective sense of wellbeing. What the [inaudible 00:31:41] called state, which is considerably higher than we have in our very intense Game A.

Alexander: Yeah, in the phase that even if only some of the ideas work, they will then be implemented. You can do your own tech startup and implement something that improves on the world and you can make your own important contribution to global protopian by doing it. So what’s important here is that if you put the hope out there, if you put the vision out there and you set forward and say, “We’re going to create this community.”

Alexander: It’s a bit like an Exodus. I talk about exodologists in my work all the time. So the exodology here is that we’re going to leave Egypt and walk towards the promised land, which means that we’re basically going to leave one paradigm. We can call it the paradigm exploitation. We’re going to move towards the paradigm of exploitation. And as we’re doing that, we can reimagine the world. We can reimagine human life. We can reimagine society and see what we can do when we do so.

Alexander: The only thing to watch out for here is of course, that we have to make these things voluntary. And that’s why I talk about membranes. And the membrane here is that you got to be able to walk in and walk out of these systems. And that’s why I call it voluntary communism because otherwise you do get the totalitarian perspective. The totalitarian one is the one that says you must be included in the model. You have no way to opt out.

Alexander: And that’s exactly when you go totalitarian. And that’s the problem, for example, when you do urban planning, is that a lot of urban planners don’t see the Plato inside themselves. I’ve done urban planning myself quite a lot. And they don’t see that.

Alexander: Actually they become the little boy Pharaoh who wants to dictate how people are going to live their lives and they create places that look great from outer space if you looked at them, but actually on a Tuesday afternoon, they’re horrible neighborhoods to live in for human beings. And that’s why it often pays off to allow just a form to be there. For example, if you do really good architect these days, the principle is often that you don’t put the pathway through the lawn when you design it, you just put a lawn there.

Jim: And then see where the people walk.

Alexander: Exactly. And then you let the people design where they want to walk. And that’s where you build the pathway the next year. And it’s called Delian architecture after [inaudible 00:33:41] the French philosopher. And that’s the way you must do as many things as possible, again, because that’s the protopian approach towards architecture and urban planning rather than utopian approach.

Alexander: So what I would like to be careful about here is that when guys start saying, “Yeah, let’s design the future, let’s design a certain community here.” Well, you can design any community you like, as long as you’ve got an open membrane. As long as people can join that community but they’re also perfectly happy to walk out if it doesn’t suit them, right?

Alexander: If they have that possibility, then you basically presented something where your model to create the future competes with other models. And that’s the way forward. Anything else will be totalitarian and really dangerous. And I see a lot of environmentalists today, they’re going more desperate about the different causes and they’re going a bit religious about it. And what they’re doing is that they go for a totalitarian approach. And I think that’s a dead end.

Jim: That’s Davos man, right? Yeah.

Alexander: That’s Davos man. Yeah. And Davos man, of course like all these guys, they’re hypocrites. Davos man says that you and I can’t drive our car on gas any longer. So we change the electric engine cars, and then they go on about the electric engine while they’re flying in their private jets in and out of divorce.

Jim: I tell you the fuck what. Truthfully, first Rutt reform. Ground, all the private jets. Right? You know, I’ll confess, I’m a dude with two nickels to rub together. I used to have a membership in one of those private jet thingies. And that’s funny when I was doing the due diligence on it, I called one of the guys up from the company and said, “Well, do you like it?” And this was, I love this, his response to the question, do you like it? He goes, “It’s like champagne and cocaine for breakfast. The question isn’t do you like it? It’s how do you not do it every day, right?

Jim: And so I flew around on private jets like once or twice a year, but about 16 years ago, I concluded they were fundamentally immoral. I took my card and I tore it up. And I think that is one of the great examples of hypocrisy. But let’s go back to some of the things you talked about before the idea of urban planning. And we talked about that we’re both complexity people and Santa Fe Institute, complexity, science style, at least one of the early urban planners. We point to as being a proto complexitarion is Jane Jacobs and her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. She was the one who saved-

Alexander: Oh yeah. I’ve read her. Absolutely.

Jim: Yeah. She saved Greenwich village from being turned into a freeway, running through it and high rise apartments. Right? She believes in the organic, the emergent, the nudging. Right? And that’s exactly how we see proto Bs being is that they’re not going to be Brazilia. Have you ever seen pictures of Brazilia the-

Alexander: I’ve been to Brazilia it’s-

Jim: Is it as horrifying as it looks?

Alexander: Well, it isn’t because the people who live there kind of protested against the architecture, but living in a way that’s completely contradicted to what was the ambition of the architect. So I think Brazilia is a perfect example of utopian architecture that didn’t work. But it didn’t go dystopian. People just figured out their way to get around those crazy buildings that were dead. And they created life in between. Even the shanty towns between the skyscrapers are much more lively and fun and interesting than the sky scrapers themselves. And that’s what happens when you do utopian architecture.

Jim: Yeah. And the other thing I’d like to point to, you talk about membranes and we talk about membranes a lot in Game B, and that we think of Game B organizing itself as a whole series of membranes, including ones that include other membranes and then protocols that allow them to cooperate. Now I’d point to a book, a little known book. It was John Holland, the inventor of the genetic algorithms last book. And I would say he probably didn’t quite finish it because the copy editing isn’t great.

Jim: It’s called Signals and Boundaries, Building Blocks for Complex Adaptive Systems. And it’s a great book that gets you thinking. In fact, that’s where the thinking came from for the Game B approach of membranes and protocols, from that book. And I just pulled it up on Amazon. I purchased it twice. Holy shit. So I must really like it right now.

Alexander: A friend took the first copy.

Jim: Yeah. I think I sent that to Jordan Hall actually. But so, again, a hundred percent in agreement that thinking about membranes that are semipermeable, and this is important, because in life our membranes are semipermeable. They’re-

Alexander: That’s what we call membranes otherwise there would be walls, but they’re not.

Jim: Exactly, membranes.

Alexander: Yeah. So we talk about membranes as well, which is the great term for how membranes operate. So you can study anything from organisms to… It could be any natural system as well. There’s so many ways that nature creates membranes. And membranes are by nature something where information can walk in and out of the system. But it takes an effort to get in and it takes an effort to get out. And that’s exactly the point.

Jim: And it’s an interesting design point, right? That you can design the membrane and semi permeability and they can differ in the two different directions. Just like human membranes, do things that can go out, can’t come in. Right? And then the things inside essentially could decide what the membrane is. For instance, one of the things we talk about a fair bit in Game B land is, we are not Luddites. We do not believe that we can abandon technology, but we do believe we should have considerably more discernment about what technology we allow into our lives.

Jim: And one could imagine a proto B having a membrane that says, “No smartphones.” For instance, right? And if you want to live in this proto B, then you turn your smartphone in at the gate. And when you leave, you get it back because we have determined as this particular community and by just like the Mennonites in the Amish, by the way, these would be at the community level. Even though you think of the Mennonites and the Amish as being homogeneous, they’re not. Every pod of them has different technology roles. So I would see each photo B as well. Some of them may choose new smartphones, right. Or, there may be-

Alexander: Or at least start with the smartphone free weekend. A lot of people do these days and that’s a good idea.

Jim: Yeah. I did six months. I got rid of my smartphone-

Alexander: And I have an [inaudible 00:39:35] for when you give a smartphone to your kid. The kids don’t need them.

Jim: Yeah. There’s a perfect example. And this is a really important point of why building Game B is so important. I have a granddaughter that will be two here in another month or so. And my daughter and her husband are very aware of the dangers of too much online too early. In fact, my son-in-law had a Facebook account for about a week and then deleted it and has never been on social media otherwise. Right? Which is pretty impressive for a millennial. Right?

Alexander: Yeah. I’m sitting at the other end of that. I’m working with psychiatry over here in Scandinavia where I live and we got these 20 year old girls that come in and they scroll on Instagram 10 hours a day and they’re completely addicted and their lives are ruined. These are addiction tools as much as they’re helpful tools. And this is the problem, all technologies, a pharmacon, a good place to start with technologies to call it the pharmacon.

Alexander: A pharmacon, a perfect example of that, is that it’s both an atomic bomb that can blow up and kill humanity. And it can also be the nuclear power, the future nuclear power to the future that could save humanity. And all technologies are pharmacons, they’re neutral. What we then do with them is up to us. And what we do with technologies determines whether technologies a constructive force for good or destructive force for bad.

Jim: Well, let me continue this story that gets to this point, which is, and I said, these are thoughtful, discerning people about technology and control their own use of technology. So here they have a two year old, so it’s not yet an issue, but my daughter posed the question, “What happens when she’s seven and all of her friends have smartphones or even, let’s just say, her best friend shows up with a smartphone and the other kids are using smartphones to coordinate their social lives and all that. How in the hell do you say no to your kid in a traditional suburban setting? It’d be really, really hard. And it would come at great cost to the kid.”

Jim: On the other hand, if you’re living in a community that has a normative value that you would no more give a seven year old, a smartphone than you’d give seven year old cigarettes. And that, at a minimum, nobody gets a smartphone until they’re 18. It’s way easier for the parents to have such rules and enforce them with their children because the children aren’t forced to pay an externalities cost for the parental decision.

Alexander: Yeah. But these are all dialectical processes. So I always remind people that as a philosopher of the internet age, I’m always reminding them. We’re just at the beginning of this whole new age. And just beginning to understand what it means that the entire planet is connected in real time. That’s what’s so striking about the age we live in. But I’m saying that of course you’re going to have enormous amounts of problems and we have to encounter them and then eventually we’ll have debate about it.

Alexander: And then some people will walk forward and say, “Well, we are going to change our behaviors here accordingly. We’re not going to allow our kids to have that.” So maybe the entire community bans the smartphone for the kids, at least until they’re 15 or something. And that takes root and it turns out those kids become more successful. They’re smarter, they’re happier, whatever. Then it becomes the standard.

Alexander: But what it takes at all times, I’m a bit of a Marxist standard. What it takes at all times is for somebody to dare to do the new and to do it properly and then show everybody else that this was a better model. This was a better way of handling things. And once that’s done, the one thing human beings are really good at is mimicking each other. Once somebody’s got a model for how things worked and everybody else can mimic that model. Okay. That makes sense. Okay. Now we’re convinced, now we pay the price. Now we take the fight with the kids or whatever to implement the model that actually works better. And before that happens, we are always in an anarchy. So when new technologies disrupts the world, it results in an anarchy.

Alexander: The anarchy then shifts into what’s called a plurachy. Naturally a few people start doing the right thing and at least benefits them. So they will use the technology to their benefit. That’s called a plurachy. And when the plurachy happens, the pluralists become the leaders and they start to implement an order to the chaos. So we get out of the original anarchy that’s caused by technological disruption.

Alexander: We get a plurachy with a few guys who try to figure out how they could at least do technology to their advantage. They get a following. So they certainly have certain networks that become more successful. That’s exactly how an elite is created in a society. But, I don’t mind that there’s an elite in a society because the elite that starts implementing the new technology properly and figured out how you use it to the advantage of mankind can then be mimicked by everybody else.

Alexander: So the trick is to actually go to the elite quickly and try to embrace the elite first, because then will have the model others can mimic. And that’s exactly what you’re doing in your Game B, in your work. You’re doing exactly like… You’re creating models. And if a model is successful, it can be mimicked.

Jim: Yeah. And specifically we’re creating membranes that allow it to be easier for a model to cohere, right? To my point, that, for instance, banning smartphones for seven year olds really difficult when all the other seven year olds have them. But if you’re inside a membrane in which there’s a cultural norm that says, no, it’s actually quite easy. So it’s in the same way life… I just had a very interesting conversation. He’s going to be on the show in the fall with a fellow working the area of origin of life.

Jim: And he’s of the school that believes the membranes came first, even before the biochemistry and certainly long before the genetics. And so the membrane, semipermeable membranes, are really an important part of this experiment in parallel across high dimensional design space.

Alexander: Exactly. And let’s use the word, gated community here, retake it and own it because the gated communities we know so far have either been dystopian. Like we build the wall around ourselves to protect ourselves from a threatening outside world, or they’ve been utopian, very often religious gated communities that we believe in certain religion, and we’re going to practice it with affirmation. Therefore, we exclude ourselves on the outside world.

Alexander: But if you think of a protopian gated community, that’s exactly what you’re proposing here. You’re saying that we don’t have a problem with the outside world. That’s not the thing. We can have a certain set of rules inside our membrane. So we are going to create a certain protocol of membranicks and we’re going to implement it inside the membrane. And therefore we’ll see what kind of model that develops into. And if it works, we know it works because the protocol made it work.

Alexander: And therefore the protocol can a mimicked and used by others. And I think that’s the way forward. And I think to retake the word, gated community, we just kind of edged you today and say that there’s nothing wrong with gated communities. The problem is that they’re either dystopian or utopian. Today when a reality should be protopian, it should be about re-innovating the world every day and create new processes of optimization constantly.

Jim: I like that. I’m going to have to consider… I mean, as you say, gated, community’s got a negative veil. It’s a bunch of douche bags with their Porsche’s and what have you. But yeah, I’ll have to ponder whether it’s worth retaking or not, or whether we just jump directly to membranes and protocols. Membranes and protocols are awful nerdy, they’re not going to appeal to the mass market.

Alexander: You know, the law is a protocol. The law is, once you are inside a territory and that territory is a certain law, you have agreed on following that law. And if you don’t follow it, you better watch out. Right? So, protocol is basically standards. What’s great about the word protocol rather than law is that protocol is supposed to be copied and it’s supposed to be shared.

Alexander: So we got a certain protocol here in this territory. Why don’t you have the same protocol in your territory? You can gladly copy it if you like, because then communication between our two membranes becomes a lot easier. We have a standard and standards are incredibly good for creating new great technologies.

Jim: And one of the beauties of protocols is you can have multiples of them, right? For different purposes, right? You can have a protocol about the social discernment of technology. You can have a protocol for coordinating work. You can have a protocol for coordinating ideas, et cetera. And so that’s another beauty of protocols is that you can have ensembles of protocols rather than just-

Alexander: And they’re very AI friendly. The one thing AI’s going to help us with exactly is to keep track of the protocol. So we don’t need to worry about many protocols being around. If they’re being creative and constructive, we can have many of them because AI will help us really figure that out.

Jim: Well, we’re coming up pretty close to our time here, but I’d like to jump into a couple of topics that in the Stoa that we were talking about earlier, you and your associates specifically pointed out that, “Hey, these goddamn Game B boys, aren’t addressing… Boys and girls, I should say, and that is sex and violence. If you were going to be on our advisory team for designing an early Game B, what would you say we should be thinking about with respect to sex and violence?

Alexander: Well, I would say the opposition here between Game B and Dark Renaissance was a designed opposition. And I set it up with Peter Lindbergh at the Stoa and I said, “Why don’t we try to create an attack on Game B coming from the Dark Renaissance?” It was Raven Conley, [inaudible 00:48:25] and me, and we’re all on the intellectual deep web. You know, the intellectual deep web has a lot of Game B defenders. So that’s actually sort of a neutral [inaudible 00:48:32], we call it the Dark Renaissance.

Alexander: The Dark Renaissance is not actually an opposition. The Dark Renaissance is kind of a… Think of it like a very Gothic, artistically driven movement, which is more interested in the art of the future rather than in solving the social problems of the future. So it’s actually complimenting Game B for God’s sake. I mean, the point is, that if Game B is great as an idea, and I think you and I agree, and that we certainly, coming out as communist here today. Another bad word we’re going to turn around and make a beautiful word again, because it should be. If you’re coming out as communist of the future, both you and I here, I would say to think of Dark Renaissance as like the dark underbelly of Game B.

Alexander: Like where do you get all the energy, the sort of the bloody energy, from to create the really nastiest, splatter movies of the Game B societies or something like that? But I think the term Dark Renaissance, which I think Edward Bywater and Ray Conley came up with, I think is a great term. Dark Renaissance is a great term because it’s already happening. There’s a lot of that going on today in the undercurrents of the current state. And the 2020s is going to be roaring and difficult, and we’re going to have a huge recession the next few years.

Alexander: And it’s going to be important now to really make a distinction between what’s important to us and what’s not that important any longer. A lot of flack and a lot of hype is going to go out the window in the next few years. I find it incredibly refreshing. But I think at the end of the day, I think Dark Renaissance is like… Think of it like a dark artistic underbelly to the Game B product and I think you’ll figure it out.

Jim: But let’s talk specifically about sex, right? What do you think some of the issues are going to be in terms of… Because as you guys very eloquently pointed out in both the Stoa and in your book, Sex and the Sublimation of Sex are some of the key things from which civilizations are constructed.

Alexander: Yes. So sex is never harmonious or balanced. Let’s just get that out the window. And what I like about that, you and I are both complexity theorist, but what I do is that I always add Haggle to complexity theory because how you create solutions when you’re confronted with complexities is you create temporary solutions through dialectical process. That’s what Haggle is really brilliant at. I mean, Haggle was the first guy to really think systems and complexity in the west.

Alexander: So I apply Haggle dialectics onto complexity in systems when I work with them. And I think in this case, that’s exactly what makes… What is the point here, is to look forward to that. So you can say, for example, that what we call the path ethical narratives, the logical narratives are coherent. The mythical narratives are also coherent, right? But the pathical narrative is never coherent.

Alexander: And the pathical narrative is the location of the story about sex and violence and the subconscious, and the drives, the desires of humans, rivalry, envy. You know, all the dirty, nasty things. Every pagan lynch mob throughout history has had its beginning in the pathos. And the pathos is there, needs to be dealt with. And I like the model, how you do it in Eastern philosophy because you basically say the pathos is what we call tantra.

Alexander: And you can visit it if you’re ready for it, you got the psyche for it, but it’s there because it is part of humanity. It’s part of our world we live in, but the world you live in inside the community, inside the membrane is a world of the logos and the mythos. But the pathos must be there. Christianity and Islam both tried to just outright ban the pathical and put it and made a pressure cooker out of it. And that’s why constantly Christian and Muslim societies, the pathical narrative returns all the time. It blows everything up.

Alexander: But what we need to keep in mind is that the sex and the violence, even the art, I think even art, which never has a solution, art cannot be propaganda. Art must always be questioning of itself. Right? And I would place sex, art and violence into the category of pathos. They’re never harmonious, they’re never balanced. They’re huge forces, they’re pharmacon forces, if anything else, and they need to be dealt with exactly that way.

Jim: Interesting. Now, one of the things that did… Actually, when I was reading the book, I stumbled across it again, your formulation of mythos, logos and pathos, but you left out the fourth one, ethos.

Alexander: Well, it’s not really a narrative. I always get that question, but ethos is not a narrative. Ethos is, what is the right thing to do? And if you think of ethos without morality, right? You think of ethos purely as pure ethics. I’m a Zoroaster, by the way, converted to Zoroaster. That’s actually really hardcore religion, right? The original monotheistic faith that believes in nothing supernatural. So I could actually believe in it.

Jim: Do you have a fire going all the time in your house?

Alexander: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So I don’t have to do animal sacrifices that I got an eternal fire. Exactly, exactly. So I meditate in Ahura Mazda. I do all those things Zoroasters do, but why I converted to it was because it has this idea that all the world leading up until now must be accepted as it is. That’s called Armour of faulty nature. So the history up until now is a necessity. It’s just the way it is, what happened, happened, period. It just happened. Accept it.

Alexander: But then the future is contingent and this is where you and I agree so strongly because the featuring contingent, the future is full of freedom. It’s full of us being engaged with the future. Co-creating the future. And that’s what we’re doing as human beings. And that’s what we enjoy doing, you know? We’re the engineers of the future and we want to be responsible, good engineers.

Alexander: And that’s a good thing. But the way to do that is to focus on the fact, you can have a constructive mindset towards the future. You can’t do anything about the past. You can have a constructive mindset towards the future and that’s ethics. So ethics is that I identify with my thoughts, identify with my speech, identify with my actions. Because I do so, the actions I make today will determine how I think when I wake up tomorrow morning.

Alexander: So it becomes like a loop of you being engaged in a constructive medical, constructive mindset towards the world. This is called [foreign language 00:54:29] in an ancient version. And I love it because [foreign language 00:54:32] is the same word as [foreign language 00:54:43]. How the world works. The foundation of science lies in Phoenician philosophy, how the world works is what [foreign language 00:54:43] means in Chinese. It’s the same word as [foreign language 00:54:44] to an Asian person. [foreign language 00:54:45] in Hindu, even sounds great.

Alexander: So [foreign language 00:54:49] are the same word. I mean, how the world works and to be in collaboration with how the world works and constructively get engaged with how the world works, makes me an [foreign language 00:55:00], a practitioner of [foreign language 00:55:01]. And what I produce is called [foreign language 00:55:05]. And that’s what I do every morning. My entire morning meditation is just, what can I possibly do today to being constructively engaged with my fellow human beings in the world?

Alexander: That’s all I do is [foreign language 00:55:15] every day. And that’s the only value I need. And that’s the only ethos I need to have. I don’t need commandments or anything. I just need that ethos. It’s not a narrative in itself. It’s actually a result of the narratives, which is why the ethos is there. And so is the [foreign language 00:55:29], the landscape and the [foreign language 00:55:31], the timescales, the [foreign language 00:55:33] and the [foreign language 00:55:33] are there as well. But the stories we tell about ourselves are the logos, the mythos and the pathos.

Jim: All right. I think we’re going to wrap it right there. This has been a really good conversation. Not nearly as argumentative as I was hoping.

Alexander: We agree on being fucking gated community communist, you know?

Jim: Yeah, exactly.

Alexander: It looks like the world is going to go after us Jim, you know?

Jim: And protopian empiricist experimentalists, right?

Alexander: Yeah. And I owe always to Kevin Kelly wired, he came up with the word protopia so we should owe it to him who invented it. I think it’s a great word. And you know what? When I describe protopianism to my friends in Korea, China, and Japan they say, “Yeah, that’s how we make the next generation of Toyota electric engines.” You know? It just makes sense to any culture. Whereas the utopian dystopian divide, we should get rid of it because it was a Western construct we no longer need.

Jim: Audio production and editing by Andrew Blevins productions, music by Tom Mueller at modern space,