The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or by Jordan Hall. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.
Jim: Howdy. This is Jim Rutt and this is the Jim Rutt Show.
Jim: Listeners have asked us to provide pointers to some of the resources we talk about on the show. We now have links to books and articles referenced in recent podcasts that are available on our website. We also offer full transcripts. Go to jimruttshow.com, that’s jimruttshow.com.
Jim: Today’s guest is Jordan Hall, a good friend, as well as one of the broadest and deepest thinkers around, about the future of society, economics, politics, and more.
Jordan: Thank you, Jim. It’s very nice to be back by the way. And I’ve been quite interested to listen to the various podcasts you’ve put together and perceive the things that are going on in your piece of podcast land.
Jim: Yeah, it’s quite amazing. When I jumped into podcasting in June, I didn’t know if I’d like it or not, or if I would feel it was adding value to the world, but I think both have been true. I’ve enjoyed it and I think, I hope, fingers crossed, I’m adding some value.
Jim: But yeah, great to have you back. We’re going to be talking a lot about Game B today, but in the previous podcast that Jordan was on in August, episode eight, we talked a lot about Game A. So if you want to get the backstory, definitely go and check that out. Either go to our website, jimrutt.com or just Google Jim Rutt Show, Jordan Hall, and it’ll turn up.
Jim: A little bit more about Jordan, before he set out to save the world from itself, Jordan was a successful tech exec and tech investor. Today he’s the chairman and co-founder of Neurohacker Collective, a Nootropics company. In fact, you’ll like this Jordan, you’ll make your quarterly numbers, I actually ordered a bottle today. I finally got curious enough to give it a try.
Jordan: Well that is quite groundbreaking. You’re a tough guy to sell.
Jim: Yeah, exactly, right? Old school pretty much. But I’ll give you a report on how it did.
Jim: On the Neurohacker website, Jordan said something I think, which sums up where he’s at. And I’m going to read it, and we’ll go from there. As Jordan said, “Humanity is in the midst of a world historical transition, which will likely kill all of us. See Mad Max. But just might end up in a truly amazing future. See Star Trek. Getting there is going to require many things of us, notably a significant upgrade of our individual and collective capacity for thought and action.”
Jim: That’s, I think a really great way to sum up Jordan’s view of the world. Those are his words. We’ll talk very briefly about how the world could kill us. But we’re going to try to spend most of our time today on talking about how to get past that and onto a better world. So where are we? What’s happening in the world of Game A? Where is the status quo headed if something isn’t done?
Jordan: Okay. Well, I think to make it quick, because we spent a whole, previous podcast, I think doing a deep dive on … Like a meta theory that describes why this would be the case. But one way that I’ve thought about it a lot over the past is something along the lines of, in the context of gaming, which is to say in the context of the way that we’ve done civilization things, forever. The very first time that we actually found ourselves in a situation where the way that we ordinarily deal with things at the civilizational level, I.e. at the end of the day, if people really, really don’t agree on something, they just fight it out. Could actually be really bad. Like truly, truly catastrophic was right after World War II.
Jordan: So we suddenly found ourselves in this existential awareness of “Oh shit.” We actually have to do a whole new thing. We have to really be good at something in the the direction of peace. Because now, if the people who are nuclear power start throwing nukes around, it could end everything. And you and your generation were the first generation to be developing in that consciousness. The consciousness of war’s not merely bad, war’s not merely destroys cities and nations, but actually could kill everybody. It was a big deal and a massive impact.
Jim: Yeah, I very much remember the duck-and-cover drills during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I think I was in third grade. Of course it was bullshit and wishful thinking since we were seven miles from the White House. But nonetheless, for the baby boomer generation, the fact that we thought there was a goodly chance we’d be blowed up before we growed up. It was a significant part of who we were.
Jordan: Yeah, exactly. And that way of deciding we’d blowed up before we growed up is it. We really had to figure out how to grow up as a species pretty darn quickly. And we did, right? We so far at least have dodged that bullet. And if you look at the history of it, we actually did dodge the bullet. There were certain points where we got awfully close. But, and this is I think is the key insight, is that one of the drivers, one of the things is that the deep, deep code of Game A, is an increase in technological capability and always in a context of competition. But what my friend Daniel would refer to as a rival risk game theory. And so what that means is, we’ve gotten a lot better at all kinds of things. But among those things is destroying stuff.
Jordan: And what happens now is the footprint of the degree to which we have to grow up continues to have to accelerate at a pace that is equal to our capacity to blow up. And so now we can look at things like say CRISPR, which makes possible both in terms of impact and in terms of the number of people who can deliver that impact. The risk footprint that we’re looking at, biological style warfare that makes the scares of the 70s look, well either prescient or inadequate to the reality.
Jordan: And so the technology of gene editing is now crossing a threshold where large criminal enterprises will have the capacity to do things that only the United States and the Soviet Union could have done up until recently. And it’s getting and easier and stronger and stronger, which means of course that, what was pretended by nuclear conflict back in the fifties, sixties, and seventies is now opening up into genetic conflict.
Jordan: And of course we can just generalize that. If you’re on a curve of accelerating change in the technological domain, one of the characteristics of that is the capacity to destroy things. And I should add, so not only do we have an increase in capacity to break stuff, and we have an increasing distribution, like more and more people have access to that capacity. We also noticed that a deeply technological civilization has a lot of fragility built in. And so 150 years ago shutting down the power grid wouldn’t have made much difference. Now, shutting down the power grid would be catastrophic.
Jordan: And the capacity to shut down the power grid is increasingly plausible to an increasingly large number of vectors, right? It could be an EMP, but it could also be a distributed drone swarm that just hits weak points. Or perhaps a purely computational cyber warfare attack on smart grids. Like each iteration as we move up this technological curve, the fragility of the system, or the availability of the system to particular perturbations that have cascade effects, as well as the distribution of the capacity to deliver those perturbations.
Jordan: And then the consequences, the magnitude of the consequences of these perturbations increases. And there’s nothing in the context of Game A, that is well designed to deal with that problem. And so there’s a careening towards the edge of the cliff sensibility. And in fact quite the opposite. If you talk to the good folks at Google for example, about the AI research, like the people who are in the center of it, who really do AI research, they are aware of the arms race problem. They’re aware of the fact that there is an arms race that is driving a certain, let’s call it heedlessness or even recklessness in AI research.
Jordan: We know we’re dealing with big stuff and yet at the same time we feel we have to just keep running forward as fast as we can because if we don’t, we fall behind somebody else who does. And that’s at the bottom of it, like the very bottom of Game A is that logic. The logic of, we’re all ultimately competing for the capacity to deploy or wield power in some domain. If it’s not military, it’s economic and therefore we’re all willing to make choices that even we ourselves realize are reckless because if we don’t, we’ll lose and loss is real bad.
Jim: We’re forced into a game theoretical trap in many cases, right? In the AI case, the way the story is often told is, well, if we don’t get there before the Chinese were fucked, right? And so therefore people cut corners, don’t do what they should be doing with respect to safety, et cetera.
Jim: Before we move on, I’m going to add other part of the Game A nearing the end of its cycle, which is, it certainly seems to me that we’re reaching the limits or perhaps have already exceeded the limits of the long-term carrying capacity of the ecosystem to support 8 billion people at the current average lifestyle. And we also know that our population will peak at 10 or 11 billion and that more and more and more people are moving up the lifestyle curve to a closer to Western society. So it seems that even if we don’t kill ourselves with game theoretical traps, we’re caught in another trap, which is there’s no way to slow the machine down before it on its own, just drives over the cliff.
Jordan: Yeah. Well from my perspective, that’s more or less the same thing, but through a different lens. So when we say blow up, we could talk about blow up in the sense of like TNT. We could also talk about it in the sense of putting toxins into the water supply. We’re breaking the feedback loops that maintain the homeostatic equilibrium of our physical bodies and the larger systems that support that going out. So if you think about the logic of what you just said, exactly.
Jordan: As lifestyle is cybernetically enhanced by technology, we’re outputting externalities into the environment that are more and more, the magnitude just continues to increase. And as more and more people are enabled by that technological footprint, we just have more energy and resources that enable would be alive. They’re creating more externalities, blowing up at the micro level, micro corrosion or toxicity.
Jordan: And also as more and more of those people are themselves participating in more technology, they’re increasing their power, their access to get what they want from the world. That externality vector continues to increase, right? So you can in fact, should, look at it through both of those lenses. And I think those are the same machine, that’s delivering the same impact. And it leads to the conclusion that this unconscious drive and this game theoretic drive of, if I don’t do it then I’m just, I’m not helping anything because everybody else is. Or even worse, I’m losing, leads to the conclusion that it ends. Like the game just has a finite point.
Jordan: Again, Daniel’s language I think is quite nice is that, if you just run the logic forward, if you just put out the model, you see this crossover point through multiple different possible vectors, but it’s inexplicably self terminating.
Jim: Daniel also had a beautiful line. I don’t think I got the words quite right, but it was pretty close that we’re approaching the power of God’s without the wisdom of God’s. That sums it up very nicely.
Jordan: Jim, can I just add one more piece to it because I think this is very salient and I think it’s important to grasp. Because we mentioned power in the context of of just macro explosive power and then we mentioned power in the context of our relationship with the niche of the ecosystem with the context that we sit on and depend on. But we should also talk about it in the relationship with ourselves. And the languaging here was the term that I used, the war on sense-making. Which is, you can see it in terms of say AI enhanced marketing on social media for example, where the power here now is the increasingly sophisticated nuanced understanding of cognitive neuroscience being used against a very large number of people, billions of billions of people feeding this science, generating input into algorithms that are using that science to produce events that circumvent our own neurocognitive structures to manipulate our choice-making.
Jordan: And you can use it any way you want. It can just be banal marketing, just pointing my mind, my attention at buying a widget as opposed to doing something that is actually in service of me or it can be political propaganda. It doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day what happens is that our own capacity to shit in our own front yard or something like that. But our own capacity to make our own cognitive systems, the way that we ourselves make sense of the world and then are able to make effective choices. Our own capacity to disrupt, our own capacity to make sense of the world and make choices is also part of this accelerating curve, and part of the race to the bottom.
Jordan: So you’ve got all three, right? You’ve got old-fashioned, just big disruptive perturbation power. You’ve got decay or toxicity in the complex systems power. And then you have this war on sense-making power. And they’re all linked, and they’re all mutually supporting each other and that’s a bad thing. So hopefully that gets us to the end of, okay, it’s at least reasonably plausible that this story ends badly. And maybe even in not too long, you start looking at the numbers and see how they’ve been evolving. That then leads to the, okay, well what then? What might else we do?
Jim: Yep. So let me ask one last thing before we transition out. That last bit about sense-making, I’ve come to start calling the autoimmune disease on sense-making. Because essentially it’s the tools that we could be using for sense-making that have turned upon themselves. Just the way an autoimmune disease, our immune system, which is supposed to protect us from disease actually becomes the disease. Diseases like lupus being a classic example. I think it’s a reasonable model to say that what’s happening to our sense-making is literally an autoimmune disease where the tools of sense-making have been turned on themselves in a diseased fashion.
Jim: But with that note, it’s time to move on so we don’t spend all of our time talking about Game A. You and I and many folks we know call a possible better world or a trajectory towards a better world Game B. And for those people out listening to the podcast who are interested in going beyond what we talk about today, there are some resources that are starting to become available on the nets about Game B. There’s a Game B Facebook group, it’s got a lot interesting things going on. On Twitter, #GameB will bring you lots of interesting conversations. And there’s a really cool Google Doc with pointers to lots of things about Game B, excerpts from podcasts, really a cool thing. I’ll put a link of that up on the episode page of this podcast. So come to the episode page at jimruttshow.com. That link to the Google Doc and you’ll get all kinds of interesting things.
Jim: So let’s go talk about Game B. But just before we do that, I’m going to put a warning or a flavor or something. And this is again something you said, Game B is notoriously difficult to think and talk about for the very good reason that if you are using the conceptual structures that came out of Game A to do so, you may well be poisoning the well. Nevertheless, can you try and give us a reasonably succinct bit on what is Game B?
Jordan: Yeah, sure. One of the ways that I’ve noticed that seems to work in navigating the problem you just brought up is to almost do a parallax perspective. Like try several different succinct constructions and then notice that there’s something about them that is the same thing. And then you can say, okay that, in that direction. So it’s not any one of them. But if you think about all of them and you say, hmm, what is the union of these feel like? Then you’re getting in the right direction.
Jordan: So for example, one of the constructions that I’ve put out is Game B is building or developing capacity to navigate complexity without resorting to complicated systems. I’m obviously invoking concepts like complexity and complicated to use that phrase. But if there’s land in any way, that’s a nice pointer. It’s say okay, we need to figure out how to build an approach or a skillfulness in ourselves as people, individuals and groups to be able to respond to complexity.
Jordan: And notice, by the way, we can actually now think about multiple different kinds of complexity. There’s natural complexity of the natural environment and there’s also anthro-complexity, the complexity of people. And possibly even techno-complexity, the complexity of the way that people can create technology that changes the state of possibility in the natural environment. And these may be ontologically different. But to navigate complexity without resorting, this is an obligate or knee-jerk requirement to use a complicated approach. And so Game B is that.
Jordan: Another way of putting it, which I quite like is that the Game B is a meta-protocol for hyper-collaboration, which would be fun to double click on.
Jim: That sounds real interesting. Why don’t you double click on that one a little bit.
Jordan: Sure. So you mentioned that one of the reasons why we’re even having this conversation is that we’ve actually observed that there seems to be a totally, from our perspective at least, a totally spontaneous emergence of people gathering around and talking about and co-discovering and co-creating this thing, Game B. And what I mean by that is that you and I and a bunch of other folks were working on this as a group. Like there’s a group of people who were meeting together in physical space and talking about this notion and coming up with the language and beginning to try and understand it years ago, like six years ago. And then we kind of stopped. We just said, okay, we can’t go any further from what we’re doing right now. We went into what you called spore mode, and we just all spread to the four corners and did our thing.
Jordan: And I suppose that some of us somewhere, had some conversations that it percolated out, and for some reason, some portion of what we said was interesting and people began to upregulate it. And that has led to what is more or less a spontaneous emergence, meaning that I didn’t have a direct conversation with essentially any of the people who are part of the Twitter sphere about any of this as far as I can tell. And yet they’re doing something and they’re doing something that is really good. It’s really much in the right direction.
Jordan: So we have is like an emergent, distributed cognition. It’s a bunch of people who are not coordinated formerly and don’t have any top-down structure that drives their coordination. And yet they’re able to actually collaborate and they’re generating things that are real and useful. And here’s a key piece. This was meta-protocol. They’re generating things that are able to support the orientation of other people who want to begin to participate in the distributed cognition. So it’s a boot protocol.
Jordan: It’s a way for a person, anyone, anywhere to be able to suddenly have this sense of, hmm, for example, things are really fucked up, but what might I do? Let me start looking around. This person over here who’s having this conversation seems to be saying interesting things. Let me follow that thread a little bit. As I follow the thread of one person who just happens to catch my attention as having something that seems relevant and interesting. I might notice that they have #GameB in their Twitter identity. So I’m like, okay, that’s interesting. And so I search for that. And as you say, I see this huge conversation of people that are going on.
Jordan: And one of the things that I find is I find a Google Doc. And so I go in the Google Doc, and inside the Google Doc I see that people who have collaborated on creating pointers to podcasts and pointers to other documents and linkages to conversations. And there’s actually a permanent coffee shop, like a virtual coffee shop that people are having conversations at, and meetups are beginning to self-organize. And now I can, on my own, not necessarily with any top-down guidance, begin the process of orienting myself on what this is and finding my way into participation that seems meaningful to me and then allows me to begin the process of on the one hand discovering more and more on my own terms, using my own way of knowing the world, what the hell’s going on.
Jordan: And find the ways that I can actually add value to it, that again are simultaneously meaningful for me. They seem like a good idea, and add value to the whole. They are creative to the larger project. And so that’s a thing that’s actually happening and so in that context, if we take this phrase, that Game B is a meta-protocol for hyper-collaboration.
Jordan: What I would like to say, this phrase hyper-collaboration makes the proposition that, and funny, I’m really stealing this from Eric Weinstein who taught me this move that apparently is a thing that one does in in certain kinds of mathematics. Is that everyone is currently playing Game B. But you might be playing Game B at level zero. Meaning that it is always, it’s fully present, it’s omnipresent, it’s in the field of what of play. And at any point, you could simply choose to step into it. And if you did, you would be able to move from zero to something Epsilon greater than zero. And then you begin the process of more.
Jordan: So it’s not like there’s 10 people who are playing Game B, but rather everyone is. But most people aren’t consciously choosing to do so in a way that will increase their skillfulness in collaboration with other people. So that’s when I say hyper- collaboration, it’s something like that.
Jordan: Then the other piece of it is this, if that’s the case, if everyone is playing Game B, but it’s a matter of of how skillfully and consciously are you doing so, then you get this really interesting event and it looks a lot like a really neat way of understanding this notion of a synchronicity. Which is, today, so whatever it is, nearly noon my time on Wednesday, I don’t know if there’s this woman in Toronto who’s currently working on something with a collaborative team in Bulgaria, consciously in the space of Game B, but very much from their perspective. And what I really don’t know is that what they’re working on is exactly the thing that I’m going to need in six weeks. And yet, perhaps it’s the case. And perhaps what happens is, is that in six weeks, precisely as I’m getting to the point where I really need this thing, something has happened that has increased my capacity to be aware of, or at least to find quickly those things that I need.
Jordan: So I show up, and like wow, I need this thing. And I come back up and I look back out and I look into the larger Game B meta-protocol and I start seeing, asking questions. And suddenly somebody says, “Oh yeah, yeah, I was talking to this group in Bulgaria that I think are working on something like that. Let me connect you to them.” And two conversations later, I’m having exactly the right conversation with people who on their own, have actually been working on something which perfectly supports or at least meaningfully supports what I’m doing.
Jordan: And so I’m calling that hyper-collaboration, meaning it’s something like, we’re not explicitly formally defining the terms of our collaboration, but because we’re all actually looking at a real problem, it’s just a problem in reality that’s out there. We can each take a look at the pieces of it that make sense to us and if we each are able to focus on those pieces with clarity and then we communicate with fidelity and with, I’m going to call it integrity, out, what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and are ready, willing and able to support each other and orienting our attention towards those things that seem to be most fully in alignment with our own direction, the things we’re trying to do and with what is emerging in the larger whole. Then what happens is we start finding that we are actually collaborating with people we didn’t even know. Does that make sense?
Jim: Absolutely. It’s amazing because our first run at Game B never quite caught fire but I’m now seeing that the deep principles we laid down are actually an important part of this self-booting and self-growing. I mean, I think the three we chose as top-level architectural attributes of Game B, well actually two of them are architectural, and the third is a goal. Heuristic for a goal, is it would be non-hierarchical, network oriented and long-term meta-stable. And all three of those things seem to be, the meta-stable, we’ll see how long-term it is but the other two things really seem to be are what’s driving this self-booting and self-growing aspect of Game B 2.0.
Jim: It’s actually doing it just like we said that it would, but we somehow didn’t figure out how to do it back then. It’s very interesting to me that those principles turned out to be right. They just had to have a different set of people on different set of technology tools and a different mindset. People’s minds have grown over the last six years to the point where I think these ideas are much more accessible. And also of course, the situation in Game A has become more obviously worse. And so people are willing to do a bit more work to explore an alternative.
Jordan: Right. So I apologize if what I’m about to do feels like an oblique turn, but it feels like it’s a good thing to right now talk about why we might have optimism that this meta-stable is possible. And almost like a meta-frame for why we might have optimism that that Game B is not just possible but actually has a lot going for it. Both in the context of the magnitude of the challenges that we’re trying to deal with, and in the context of its struggle with Game A. Does that seem like a good place to go right now?
Jim: Hilarious that you went there because that was my next point. Which is Game A is huge and powerful. Game B doesn’t even exist yet. But why should we be optimistic? So we’re on the same page. Go for it.
Jordan: Okay. And there’s a lot that’s about to happen as we move into this. So I would just, my sense is this is probably going to be quite rich and there’s going to be a lot of different implications which can’t be explicated in the time that we have. So I would just want us to listen closely and allow exploration to come.
Jordan: So recently, on your podcast we had a conversation with Stuart Kauffman who discussed the adjacent possible. And he talked about something in the adjacent possible that has this characteristic of a faster than exponential growth, just to compress it, to make sure that those foolish people who don’t listen to all of your podcasts, have access to this concept. It’s something that I think Stuart has noticed in a number of different domains, so as diverse as chemical primordial soups and technological economies.
Jordan: But it’s something along this line, which is you’ve got stuff, you’ve got basic components. And to the degree to which there are ways to combine these components in ways that generate something that has novel capacities. Which is to say we can now describe it as a new thing. We’re now expanding the set of components. And we haven’t lost a component, we’ve gained a component, and now the set’s larger. And then we can run a combinatorial against it, and again to the extent that that combinatorial generates an expansion, some new capacities emerge, you get a an expanding field. That the number of possibilities expands and expands faster than exponentially. It actually goes to infinity in a finite time, which is its own problem. We’ll deal with, talk about that later. But liken it, the thing that moves faster than exponential, as a characteristic of being quite flat for a while. It starts relatively slow and then it has this curve. And as it goes into the curve gets steeper and steeper and steeper.
Jordan: I’m bringing that up because if we look at the relationship between Game A and Game B, we might say is that Game A is defined by a very high state or stock of power. It is big and powerful. It’s like a big oil tanker that’s driving forward. There’s a lot of momentum and inertia to what it’s about. And for that matter it actually has a pretty high rate of increase in power. But when you’re in the acceleration, in the steepening of the adjacent possible, differences, even small differences in capacity to ride that curve, to find combinatorials faster, make huge differences.
Jordan: A slightly higher exponent makes all the difference in the world. So what’s happening, and by the way, I would say that this is something we can just notice. If you look at the way that Game A itself has had to evolve to maintain competitive advantage inside Game A. Let’s just do it in the context of military. So for a long time, just having more people mattered, just the raw capacity of the human body was the decisive factor. Even sticks and stones and then suddenly when swords, say for example or or spears were developed, if you didn’t have that level of technology, you were deeply in trouble, but once you did it fell back on the human body, right? And you could just keep going, and just watch the evolution of military power.
Jordan: But as you start moving past the beginning of the 20th century, you begin moving into World War I, and particularly as you move through World War II, it becomes increasingly obvious, that human power ain’t the thing, and technology power, innovation power has become the thing. And these are different. The approach to amassing a large number of people and disciplining them into a fighting body that has the capacity to throw human power strategically at a problem, that’s a Game A speciality. But, creating a collective intelligence which is more capable of searching an increasingly large field of possibility in the adjacent possible. And doing the combinatorials that actually deliver on an expansion of technical capacity is a very different kind of thing. There’s a bunch of of distinctions.
Jordan: And these are not mysterious. Like if you just take a look at the sub-specialty of how we want to go about increasing creative collaboration, which we can just literally say, that’s the tool, that’s how collective intelligence … Creative collaborations is another way of saying the kind of collective intelligence that can surf the expanding sphere of-
Jordan: Surf the expanding sphere of the adjacent possible. And you just compare, for example, the motivational infrastructure of peak game A, which has things like bonus structures, and carrot and stick, and hierarchical control. And that’s like if you want to make a really, really good factory, that’s what you do. And in fact if you want to make a really, really good technology factory, you still have that as a big piece of what you’re doing because most of what you’re doing is pumping out widgets. So if I’m making computers, I have a small amount of innovation and a large amount of production. And so most of what I’m doing is that kind of structure.
Jordan: But if you look at the cutting edge of how you go about supporting creative collaboration, you see for example, that extrinsic motivation inhibits creative collaboration because whatever extrinsic motivation you’re imposing on the system is actually distracting from the free play of exploring the actual space of possibility. You’re pre-orienting people’s minds towards things that are not necessarily the right answer, if they were you wouldn’t need them.
Jordan: And hierarchical organization also inhibits creative collaboration. So what we notice is that if we want to support creative collaboration, if we just look at what those people who are most focused on figuring out how to make that better and better, how they’re doing it, they’re beginning to orient towards something that begins to look an awful lot like a meta-protocol for hyper collaboration, which is to say begins to look a lot more like how do we actually create individuals who have in themselves the maximum, what I call sovereignty, or the maximum capacity to consciously respond in an effective way, to an increasingly diverse number of contexts.
Jordan: And we’re increasing the capacity for people to rapidly enter into what I call coherence, which is to say rapidly enter into a way that they themselves are able to be in integrity with themselves, but also entering into a liminal relationship with other people that has a high degree of possibility of insight, which I just said a lot of words right there, we can go into that if we’d like.
Jim: Yeah. If you would, define the word liminal, it’s one you use a lot, which I don’t think is known to a lot of people. If you would just define what you mean by that, that would be helpful.
Jordan: Sure. Yeah. What I mean by that is really just a reference to a state of not knowing. A state of what the Buddhists would call child’s mind. A state of really, truly being in a place of being like, “Whoa, wow. I wonder what.” As opposed to a place of… Like when you’re solving a puzzle, you’re in a space of having a pretty decent sense of how to go about doing it. You’ve got even a strategy, find the edges, find the corners, build it in from the outside. And there’s a strong sense that there’s an end, an objective.
Jordan: You can look at the puzzle, the box and say, “That’s what it looks like.” So you’re processing something that is a puzzle, but you have all these characteristics. When you’re in the space of an actual mystery, one of the characteristics of a mystery is you don’t even know what to hold onto to make sense of what’s happening. Part of the mystery is disorientation of your basis of sense-making. To be in the liminal space is to almost, well first you can fall into a liminal space. We do more powerfully is to consciously choose to put yourself in a place of what I call a listening, or what Benita Roy calls still hunting. Meaning you’re maximally not trying to project meaning on the phenomenon that you’re experiencing, but instead are actually trying to perceive with as much subtlety as possible, which is to say without prefiguring.
Jordan: So you’re really just trying to perceive before making sense, and well before making meaning because there’s just shit going on that you know for sure you don’t understand. So anything that could be signal, you have to be very, very sensitive to. And hunting is a good metaphor, right? When Benita uses this phrase still hunting. The metaphor of imagine that you’re very skillful hunter, but you’re in a niche you’ve never been in before. So you don’t know what the signs are that indicate prey and what indicate predator. You’re a desert hunter but you’re in the jungle, and so you don’t know if that sound is the sound of a predatory cat that’s about to leap on you, or it’s the sound of a pig that you could eat. So you’re just listening, you’re tuned in like crazy. And anything that happens you’re like, “Okay, I don’t know what that is, but it may be the kind of thing I should be paying a little bit more attention to.”
Jordan: So that’s what I mean. Does that make sense?
Jim: Yeah, it does. And I would use perhaps a more prosaic term from evolutionary computing called premature convergence. It turns out that there’s a trade off between exploration and exploitation. And game A has a tendency to move to exploitation very rapidly because it, I would argue, is driven by exponential discounting around money on money return. While a wiser world would spend more time exploring and learning. And the hunting analogy is bang on. As you know I’m a hunter with 50 years experience, and there’s a whole bunch of things that you know about the ecosystem in which you hunt and the prey in which you hunt, that you only gather over a very long period of time. And if you were thrown into the desert, you’d have no idea what time of day the animals are active, how often do they have to go to the water hole, et cetera.
Jordan: Yeah, exactly. See even as you used that very concrete example, one of the key insights here is that it’s all what I would call embodied, meaning that you’ve experienced it, you’ve actually learned it through experience. And we can think about that as to say that it’s almost like recorded in a very, very rich way. Think about your whole body as an instrument for perceiving and also for making sense. And as a hunter with 50 years of experience, you have what we would call wisdom in the domain of hunting. And one of the characteristics of wisdom of the domain of hunting is you’ve got a deep sense, like a sense like kind of in your bones of how this dilemma of hunting how rich and complex it is. And so you’re like able to say with no hesitation if I’m a woods hunter and I’ve shift to the desert, I definitely know what I do not know.
Jim: Very true. Again, I like to go to the tangible as you know. An example of say woodland deer hunting, and it takes a while to develop is really valuable and important, is how to master multiple modalities, particularly vision and sound. It turns out you can waste a whole lot of time jumping around, looking for what’s that sound? Is that a deer or not? And in fact, as a young hunter, I remember doing that way too much. Once you to have enough experience, it all depends on the person, some of them get it earlier, some of them get it later. You have a high fidelity ability to say, “Nope, that’s a squirrel,” or, “That’s two squirrels, one chasing the other, not a deer.” In which case you keep your eyes where the higher probability of payoff for vision is while your auditory senses continue to scan horizontally, looking for sounds of deer.
Jim: And this is important because you can only look in a relatively narrow 60 degree angle with high fidelity, and yet the deer could be sneaking up on you from any direction, or trying to bypass you from any direction. And sound is your second sense, that oftentimes will give you a warning that a deer is trying to sneak by you, in which case you then orient your vision to where your sound tells you to look. But that only works well if you can filter out the non-dear sounds.
Jordan: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. And my guess from exploring these sorts of things, and you can do this in literally any… This is kind of liminality or the thing that you’re talking about, which is to say beginning in liminality and then building from direct experience in a holistic way, right? Where there’s no prefiguring of what the right answer might look like. Actually just sophisticated, real capacity. The way that John Vervaeke would talk about it is participatory knowing, meaning that you are yourself actually changing your capacities in relationship to the domain or to the arena that you’re in. You’re becoming capable of conforming to the problem domain that you’re in. I would imagine that as you begin to become more and more mature, more capable as a hunter, you would even begin to describe it as sort of sixth sense, right?
Jordan: You’ve got 1 sense, 2 sense and you’re like, wow. At a certain point, I’m beginning to realize that analytically I can’t really talk about vision or sound, but there’s some way for me to just kind of be, call it perceiving, and I just kind of have an inkling that this is the right place to go. And that’s that difference between when you’re learning how to juggle, when you go from two balls to three balls, and there’s a point where you are trying to juggle three balls like a two plus one, and you notice like that really doesn’t work. And there’s a shift that happens that you can’t analytically name because it’s super complex, that’s the whole point. It happens in a very large number of subsystems of your body, your perceptive and actuating functions.
Jordan: But once you get over that hump and you get it, you’re like, “Oh yeah, well how do you juggle three balls?” Well you kind of juggle three balls, you realize that it’s an embodied capacity, it’s completely available and you can become very, very, very good at it. But it’s not the sort of thing that is analytically describable as a simple set of algorithmic processes because it’s actually an extremely complex set that… Well that’s that. So that’s that direction.
Jim: Well, let me just add a couple, just get tangible examples in hunting because you’re right, the longer you’re hunting, the more you’re starting to juggle a very high dimensional space that you cannot even think about doing analytically. For instance, there’s vision and there’s sound, but you also eventually unconsciously bias both of those based on time of day, where you are on acorns versus grass as the leading food source, right? And that varies by year. Some years are great acorn years, some are spotty acorn years, some are completely busted acorn years. Acorns are are stronger earlier and gradually get eaten, so they go back to grass, et cetera.
Jim: So there’s a whole number of these dimensions that are kind of hard to be explicit about. But once you become an experienced hunter, it goes into your real-time model, how you tune your vision and your sound based on all these other parameters that you’ve only gradually learned. So anyway, we’re moving here in time. Let’s not go too far down the line, we both have that tendency.
Jordan: A good thing here to say that just comes from this, if anybody’s listening, so just to convert this from a digression into something useful, is that humility is the handmaiden of liminality. And humility is a primary capacity to play game B well. And as I’m listening to what you’re saying, one of the things that I remember is humility, which is hunting as a thing, and it’s got richness, and depth, and complexity, that I’m not going to be able to like read the user’s guide on hunting and then jump into it and be a hunter. It actually takes real life capacity building.
Jordan: And that’s, I think is a crucial insight. This insight of humility and an increasing awareness of complexity is complex. And I need to always be in relationship, almost even beginning at humility before I step into anything, so that I’m able to be truly open to the full reality of what it is that I’m about to get to myself into. Sorry, so that’s that.
Jim: Yeah. Let me try summing up what you’ve said so far, and you can tell me if I’m full of shit or not, or close, or off. Which is that the answer to the question of, or at least an answer, a beginning answer to how game B could beat game A despite the fact that it’s tiny today, and game A is huge and powerful. Is that game A, if it’s crafted correctly, will do a better job of processing the world in a nonlinear, high complexity fashion. And even though it starts small, it will have a higher exponent. And those of us with a little bit of quantitative background know that over a long enough period of time you can start mighty small and if you’re growing at a higher exponent, you’ll eventually beat the big guy who’s growing in a broader sense of solving the world’s problems, then the bigger guys. That getting something near the sense of what you were trying to communicate?
Jordan: Yep. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I think you may have started with game A, but it became evident that you definitely meant game B there, and yes. So that would be that. And this is particularly the case when this rate versus state trade off is so important. So if you’ve got a starting gate where the ability to be able to do this innovation thing, the raw material for doing the innovation, the adjacent populace, the phase space of possibility is now very, very large. And so the leverage of increasing your capacity to do innovation, to move the adjacent possible is very high. So if we had tried to do this game B thing in 1750 we couldn’t have gotten there because there wasn’t enough stuff in the space of possibility. Even if we tried to do in 1950 we couldn’t have gotten there, but now we can, or at least in principle it’s possible that we can.
Jordan: And so it was kind of this weird thing where almost exactly the same characteristic that causes game A to be so challenging, which is to say accelerating change, happens to be the same exact characteristic that drives the possibility of game B. And we can exactly say that the game B is just designed from the get go to be substantially better at innovation than game A. And okay, that’s actually kind of simple. It’s like, okay, that’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to figure out how do we take a look at this thing called creative collaboration, and how do we design something which is just a whole lot better at creative collaboration, recognizing that we’re now in a place where escape velocity through the innovation vector is available, we might actually be able to do something that’s just so much better that it just lifts off.
Jordan: Let’s say that game A right now has a million power, and I’m just going to in numbers just re-articulate what you just said. Game A has a million power, and its rate of change is 100,000 per unit time. As so next unit T plus one, it’s a 1,000,001. And let’s say game B right now is starting out at 10,000 power, but it’s rate of change is actually something like compounding curve, so it’s not 100,000 per unit time, it’s 1.1 times its current number. And so it’s going to take a while, for a while 10,000 times 1.1 is not getting a lot bigger, but obviously if you just draw the curves there is a crossover point. And that crossover point the way is a crossover point with wings because you’ve crossed over, and within a not very long time after you’ve crossed over, you’ve blown right past. And not very long time after that you’ve actually gone so far past that, it’s not even clear what the hell just happened. And we can actually be in some sense even very concrete about this.
Jordan: I think it was an SFI book but maybe it wasn’t. I think it may have been the Origin of Well. And there was a conversation about what it meant. Actually maybe it was Matt Ridley’s book, where they’re talking about like to have been Louis the 14th, and on the one hand to have been Louis the 14th at his timeframe was massively, massively better than just being an average person. And on the other hand, almost everybody alive right now is better off than Louis the 14th. The simple fact of say for example, we have toothbrushes, and obviously telecommunications, transportation, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, antibiotics, fill in the blank. And the rate of innovation compared to the state is one where we have all blown right by.
Jordan: So if you imagine that you had a choice, that Louis the 14th was sitting there and had a choice, he could either ride train A, where he gets to be Louis the 14th and gets to be the top dog, but train A has a particular rate of change. Or he gets on train B, and train B has a characteristic where he no longer gets to be Louis the 14th, he just has to be a peer along with everybody else, but it has a faster rate of change. He may be hard pressed to make that choice. He may be like, “Man, I really prefer to be Louis the 14th.” But it’s actually a better choice if you like things like toothbrushes and indoor plumbing.
Jim: And modern dentistry in general. Whenever people would talk about the good old days, I just say, “Modern dentistry.”
Jordan: Right. And of course when a lot of the languaging is focused on stuff like technology, like physical technology, like modern dentistry or toothbrushes. But in the context of game B, what we notice is that a large amount of the innovation field actually has to happen at the level of people, relationships, human beings, innovation happening in the domain of how human beings are able to show up in relationship with themselves, with each other, and with nature. For the obvious reason that if all you do is run forward at a faster pace along the technology vector, you’re just going to blow us up faster. So we have to actually do something, and this is okay. This is one of the reasons why I at least spend a lot of time thinking about it in terms of meta design and not in terms of just engineering.
Jordan: If we’re going to develop something which is just a whole lot better at creative collaboration, we actually notice from the very get go that we also have to design something that is a whole lot better at cultivating collective wisdom that is at least symmetric with, and probably more superior to the power that we’re generating through this creative collaboration. So that’s a meta design constraint. Game B must, must, must orient it’s primary innovation capacity first and foremost towards cultivating individual and collective sovereignty, which is to say wisdom and maturity, and an awareness of how choices actually show up in the world more than the rate at which it increases individual and collective power.
Jim: That makes a lot of sense. So there’s one of two ways we could go here. I think it’s time to get more tangible. A critique of game B is that it’s too intangible, too much talk not enough action. And so you and I have had an email conversation over the last few days talking a little bit about how to describe the phasings of game A and what some of the sub-components might be. And I’ve kind of taken that a little further, and I’m going to-
Jordan: Game B.
Jim: Oh, game B. Game B people. Right. If I’m saying something about the future, it’s game B. Even if game A comes out of my mouth. And I’ve extended it to a whole bunch of fairly tangible topics, which I’m going to run through relatively rapidly. So let’s both try not to go down the rabbit hole of digressions.
Jim: First, I think we both agreed that a reasonable way to present the current state is we could call the pregame B world or pre B for short, where there doesn’t actually exist a whole of a functioning game B group, not even a small one, but there’s lots of things that people are working on to get ready for that first real step. And first, you called this out in 2017, finding the others, and that starting to happen, right? Through Twitter, through Facebook, through all traveling around the country and meeting the people, and telling people about game B. So let’s let that one go because that one seems to be happening, and though of course we’d encourage any of our listeners who think that they would like to play game B to reach out to these connection points we talked about earlier. The game B group on Facebook and #gameb on Twitter, and find the others.
Jim: But then the next one, I know you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and also started applying it to your own life is making changes in our lives to be more game B ready. Things like building courage and optimism, integrity, honesty and good faith, escaping the matrix of status oriented consumerism, and being programmed by psychologically astute mass and social media. What are some other things in the changing one’s own life that you would say fit to this pre B world?
Jordan: Hmm, well, three things pop up immediately and there, I don’t know if they’re related. So one is that I’ve noticed that many people who come with a, “Hey, let’s get going,” attitude, have often not done a lot of work on what I would call a [transparentdigmatic 00:51:44] mind. And so there’s what I would call a naive assumption that the paradigm that they are very familiar with, whatever it happens to be, is the right paradigm. And what ends up happening of course is that then they reshape the story of game B into something that is a like their paradigm. So one of the things is to actually take quite seriously this notion of the liminality, even down to the level of what I would call transparentdigmatic mind, which is a real thing. That is not a trivial capacity to be aware of the axiomatic assumptions that you are bringing into your sense-making, and to be able to actually shift between different paradigms as the arena that you’re in changes. So that’s one.
Jordan: Two, is building a capacity for orienting your choices on the basis of sensed meaningfulness, and these two things are actually very connected. So in game a, we are very, very separated from developmentally and socially separated from our capacity to orient our sense-making on the basis of the sense of meaningfulness. So for example, we spend more time on bullshit at work than with our kids. And so something is off, and yet we don’t actually choose the thing that if we were to spend real time on it is a more meaningful, we rationalize and or just delude ourselves, or ignore. And that has to be broken, you cannot do game B because that’s a primary piece of the capacity is this primordial or prefigured capacity in the human body to be able to just notice, and be able to be aware of what is more meaningful than other things, just to you, what feels more meaningful. Just that.
Jordan: And being able to be this really concrete self discipline to make sure you’ve got shit straight in order. So if you’re sacrificing that, if you’re radically unaware of what is most meaningful, fix that. And then if you are noticing that your choices aren’t actually in accordance with the values that you think you hold, fix that. And then notice what is the capacity in you that actually allows you to sense what are the values that are going to orient towards meaningfulness? What are the values that you hold? What’s the sense that gives you that? And what’s the sense that allows you to use those values to actually notice what seem like really good choices in front of you. And you have to relearn a lot of machinery that was pounded out of you largely by both education and the economy, and being able to know in yourself what you actually care about and make choices on the basis of what is actually important to you.
Jordan: God, it’s so insane how hard that is because I find many, many people are actually running ideologies, which is to say that they substitute somebody else’s code, somebody else’s proposition for what is important in exchange for their own. So instead of listening to my own sensing of what I actually care about, I actually override myself in favor of some particular ideology that has somehow been able to impose itself on me as being more important and therefore more valuable than the values that my whole self are actually yearning for. That’s a piece that has to be done.
Jim: Let me throw in a tangible you know me, I like the tangible. To the the introduction piece I said we need to deprogram ourselves from status oriented consumption. So if a person thinks they need to have a fancy BMW to be who they are, and therefore they have to take a high pressure job with a 90 minute commute so that they can afford this BMW, the result is they’re not going to have the time to spend with their children, or their spouse, or their friends. And so they have taken this ideology, which has programmed into them by psychologically astute media and advertising, and have inserted that instead of their actual really meaningful goals.
Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. And you can see that happening in all kinds of interesting ways, where for example, rather than hanging out with friends and family, they go to an upwardly mobile business meeting with people that they have very little sense of actual connection with because in the back of their mind they don’t even like the job that they’ve got, right? So you’ve got this huge explosion. And what’s interesting about it is there’s a synergy value that shows up because the way I’m describing it, it’s kind of like freeing your mind and increasing a capacity to make more meaningful choices, but at the same time it’s also freeing your economy because if you’re not addicted to this particular vector of status consumption, you’re obviously not necessarily dependent on as much of a flow of money, and this gives you a lot more actual freedom.
Jim: Exactly. And at least to my mind, I strongly suspect that one of the roads to getting ready to for game B is to get one’s financial life in order. And that doesn’t mean making more money. It may well mean just spending less, less having your buttons pushed to make you think you need X, Y, and Z.
Jordan: Right. Right.
Jim: Let’s go sidebar here. I have it way down my list, but you’ve mentioned it several times now and frankly I’m not entirely clear what you mean by it. So I’d love for you to take a five minutes, no longer, I’m going to blow the whistle, on meaning. What does meaning mean, and what is it to be meaningful?
Jordan: Five minutes on meaningfulness.
Jim: Five minutes. Start now.
Jordan: So I’m going to rely on old school skills and do a compression. So first is a in bed reference to John Vervaeke’s 43 hour series on escaping from the meaning crisis. Go watch that, you’ll then have a much better sense of what that means. John has a good framework, so I’ll use that as well as I can. Four ways of knowing, propositional, procedural, perspectival, participatory. And they’re in a stack, which is to say that participatory is more fundamental, and propositional is more rapidly changeable. You can move propositions around faster. Propositions are like what we’re doing right now, language. I’m conveying language to you, you’re absorbing language and to some extent you’re moving your ideas around in relationship to what I’m saying.
Jordan: Participatory has to do with, it’s almost like the fitness of your way of being in relationship to the world that you’re in. So if you actually use just evolutionary fitness and extend that to include the whole way that a human can be in relationship with the kinds of niches that we find ourselves in, that’s where meaningfulness comes from. That is meaningfulness. So meaningfulness has to do with the wholeness of your entire mode of being in the world. All the different ways that you respond to what is coming at you. That gives rise to your increasing capacity to respond well to what is in the world. So meaningfulness is simultaneously the means to the end, of being able to respond to the world in a way that furthers your capacity to respond to the world in the next moment of time, that you are fit in that sense. And also it is the capacity in yourself of how you sense what kinds of changes in yourself are more affordant to increasing that capacity. Does that make sense?
Jim: Almost. What exactly is the capacity? Let’s make that clear.
Jordan: The language I think Plotinus talked about the notion of conformation, to conform. So there’s a pistol. Let’s do that. I have a pistol in front of me. It’s a Glock actually. And so what I noticed is there’s a way for my hand to be configured so that my hand is holding this Glock in a way that is actually able to pull the trigger effectively. Does that make sense?
Jordan: Now there’s a very large number of ways that my hand can be conformed that isn’t in conformity with the affordance of the pistol. So meaningfulness is simultaneously on the one hand, the practical, which is if I get my hand in the right conformity to the pistol, I can actually pull the trigger, and in fact if I get it my whole body in the right relationship with the affordance of the pistol, I can actually shoot with accuracy. And so that’s meaningfulness from the point of view of effectiveness in world, in relationship with the world does offer.
Jordan: And then there’s the sense of meaningfulness, which is the, how do I go about figuring that shit out? Well, what I noticed is that if I sort of experiment with it, there’s something about the way that I knew I’m holding the gun upside down and I’ve got like all my fingers stuck together like a mitt. There’s something in me that is telling me that that ain’t the right way. And so the sense of meaningfulness is the capacity to be able to discern in reality, in this case with the pistol, what are the affordances of that pistol and how does my capacity as a body relate to those affordances? And how do I change myself to conform to that, so as to increasingly realize a capacity to be an ineffective relationship with reality? Now expand pistol to be the whole fucking world.
Jim: So essentially you’re saying is a meaning figuring shit out?
Jordan: Yes. Figuring out how to actually live in life well, which is to say by well what I mean is not just to live now, but to live ongoingly, right? It’s this double order. I have to be able to be in effective relationship with what the world is throwing at me now. But by effective relationship, what I mean is that what I do, how I actually show up increases my possibility of being in an effective relationship with what the world is throwing at me in the future. That’s it.
Jim: Okay. I’m going to push back a little bit. One could argue that in the current world that would say to be meaningful is to become a very good game A player.
Jordan: Well, if game A was in fact a really valid future, then that would be true.
Jim: And it was at some point. So there was a time that being meaningful was figuring out what are the affordances of game A and getting damn good at it.
Jordan: For a period of time that was very true. And this is actually quite challenged because remember I said, I think this is actually a very interesting piece. When I said that game B is a sort of omnipresent, but we may be playing it at level zero. I mean that quite seriously. I mean that 35,000 years ago game B was present, but game A and game B are co-present. And so there’s this really interesting tension that we can feel in ourselves that as we sort of follow the.
Jordan: Intention that we can feel in ourselves that as we sort of follow the meaningfulness vector in the direction of game A, we can notice a attention or a lack of integrity, a fragmentation of ourself in relationship to the meaningful, the spectrum, the direction of game B, because there’s a discontinuity between the two. And I think that is really, really a deep point. It speaks to why we may have a subjective sense of, the fuck is [Rhett 01:02:28] talking about or what is Paul talking about when he says that to play game A well was meaningfulness in say the 1950s or say the 1300s and that’s because in the larger scheme of things, we’ve been doing this human thing for a million years and so the 35,000 years where game A had a certain conformity to it, in just a blink of the eye.
Jordan: So we might say is that our deep, deep, deep sense of meaningfulness has kind of always felt that game A has this taste of short term ism, a taste of I’m making trade offs between things and maybe they are the right trade offs. Maybe I have to make those trade offs if I want to continue to be able to play the game, but I also feel a certain wrongness to it. And so one of the things we might say is that the fulfillment of game B is a recovery of that and a moving back into an alignment that even our evolutionary selves can feel is a [inaudible 01:03:26], now I no longer have to, in order to pursue this path of what is actually meaningful, I can actually pursue a path that is feeling increasingly meaningful all the way down and all the way out, which is a very nice orientation.
Jim: It’s interesting you talk about the sense of wrongness that keeps popping up and I going to give two good examples that were actually pretty major and had some result in game A and twice challenges game A. One is Marx’s idea of alienation. The idea that the ever crunching machinery of capitalism, while it delivers the productive goods, at least for many people, alienates people from a holistic approach to life and work. And he predicted would eventually realize that they were alienated and revolt. And in reality it turned out game A was good enough at buying them off from their alienation, that they had been so far, willing to remain alienated.
Jim: The second I think closely related concept, again, a sense of wrongness, was from the 60s, call it the hippie movement or whatever it was was going on in the 60s, the word there was in authenticity that people were walking away from. And a lot of people about my age, especially one’s just a little teeny bit older, got decent college educations and walked away and built hippie commune, so to speak, to try to achieve more authenticity in their life. The feeling that putting on the gray flannel suit and going to work at the big bureaucratic behemoths was not an authentic of honoring our being as creatures in the world.
Jim: Those both sort of, I think, get in your sense.
Jordan: Absolutely. And we can say that one of the words that I think rings very nicely now in this context of meaningfulness as we’ve described it, is integrity. And here integrity has a lot of, like [inaudible 01:05:17] quite nice when you think about it like structural integrity, which is to say that all of the pieces are fitting together well. And so alienation is fragmentation where, okay, I’ve got some pieces that are fitting together well, but there’s a whole other bunch of pieces that are not and that’s what alienation is. And in authenticity is kind of the same thing. And so in this perspective, we can look at it from a meta level, like, “Oh wow. So the orientation towards meaningfulness includes within itself an awareness of all of the different pieces of myself.” And in fact, by the way, of the whole world, that are not in integrity, they are not in right relationship with each other and by the way, therefore have less structural integrity.
Jordan: So as we begin to be aware of this, we’re like, “Okay, yeah, those guys were picking things up.” And by the way, we can run back in time and see this happening all the time. Constantly, we were noticing that the trade offs that we were forced to make by the reality of the world that we were in, and that’s just been the reality, whether it was the trade off of which of your children dies because you haven’t got enough food or the reality of you’re going to kill that other sentient human being because you’re at war. Whatever it is, is a separation from a larger integrity, a larger movement of meaningfulness that is subject to the contingencies of now. But we feel in ourselves a wrongness to it.
Jordan: And it’s like a pragmatic acceptance now of saying, “Okay, we’re going to be very aware of how do we move more and more in that direction of a greater and greater rightness?” Non utopian, I’m not proposing by any stretch of imagination either that we’re going to be able to teleport from here to there. We have to actually grow our capacity to include more and more of ourselves and the world in this meaningfulness. And also non utopian in the sense of there is no end point, there’s just an ongoing ness of an increasing capacity to include more and more of ourselves and other people and the world, in something that has deeper and stronger and richer integrity.
Jim: All right. It’s 11 minutes. Not bad for Jim and Jordan trying to talk about meaningfulness. Let’s now ratchet down a little bit more into the tangible, in our pregame B world, one of the other pieces that we agreed is very important, I think you called it transition. I decided to rename it, experimenting with the piece parts. Game B is going to have a bunch of things that have to be solved for it to be holistic and to be able to create the first whole game B. And it seems to me that game B’s going to have to think about, design, find, I think we don’t have time to design everything, we have to find some existing things that work or can be modified a little bit, in a whole bunch of domains. And I’m going to run through a couple of these domains and see if you can just say a few things about them and we can move on. I’ve got 15, when we run out of time I’m going to stop.
Jordan: Before you go down the line, let me just put a little bit of a frame on that, a little bit more color on this space of transition. Because there’s three characteristics that I think are important to think about. So one characteristic is this notion of the adjacent possible. So if you’re going to think about it through the metaphor of a series of steps, if the thing that is meta stable in game B, is three steps away, the transition is to say, “Well shit, we’re actually going to have to go through one and two before we get to three.” And you don’t get to three unless you go through one and two. So it’s actually very important to recognize that there are things that need to change from where we are now, that are not the end state, or at least are not the game B piece of it, but nonetheless are actually necessary for us to get there.
Jordan: That’s one side. Another piece of transition is kind of like the Noah’s Ark piece or the the lifeboat, which is, we humans, we individuals and we as a species have to make it, so it doesn’t do us any good if we’ve got a really cool design document for what game B looks like and nobody makes it. It doesn’t do you any good if you and the things that you care about don’t make it. So another part of the transition is how do you create, what we call it back in the day, zones of cultivated security. So that as we’re moving forward into this effort to get to a place we’re calling game B, we and as much of what we care about make it into that place. So that’s another piece of the transition story.
Jordan: And then the third piece is the one that you mentioned, which is to say experimenting with the piece parts. Really recognizing that in many cases we really don’t know how to do a lot of this stuff and we have to start learning right now.
Jim: And they’re all tied together. You can’t build the zone of security until you have piece parts at work and that don’t have toxic side effects. And if we look at the history of people trying to build, for instance, intentional communities, almost always they failed due to bad design or lack of understanding of human nature. So these things are not linear. These are all non linearly interrelated. Anyway, let me hop down, start down the list a bit. I probably will stop after I get through a few of them.
Jim: Parenting, what does game B have to think about how children are raised, how they relate to their parents and how spouses relate to each other?
Jordan: All right, so here’s what I think is probably the easiest piece. So I’m going to play a game where I’m just going to try to say the thing that I think is the most fundamental and not do a lot more because there’s a lot.
Jordan: So if you have an intuitive sense that the relationship between parent and child has a strong fundamental asymmetry, like it’s a relationship between master and student, a relationship between boss and employee, then game B will have some surprises for you. That within the game B context and remember humility is super important, there is a deep, deep awareness of the degree to which really effective parenting has a sense of symmetry. Which is to say, and here’s the way that I’ve said it to people and I have a one year old daughter so this is very concrete for me.
Jordan: I am aware that she is a fully realized soul, at least as rich and fully realized as I. As a human being, we are equal. I happen to have been in a body that’s gone around the sun many more times than her particular body. So when it comes to a lot of the kinds of things that had to do with how bodies maneuver in time and space, I’ve got a lot more experience and so I play a particular role of asymmetry in terms of supporting her, building the capacity in herself to become a more capable being in the world. And notice, by the way, what I said there, I said, supporting her and building the capacity in herself. I don’t mean impressing the things that I’ve learned on her, propositionally top down because that gets in the way. That’s what a teacher, a bad teacher does to a student. You’re not learning how to fish. I’m just giving you the fish in this metaphor.
Jordan: But at the same time, I certainly have noticed that in terms of my own developmental journey, my own building of integrity in myself and my own learning and growing, she has as much to teach me. In terms of liminality, she’s the master of liminality because she really is coming with the child’s mind to reality. And so if I look at that and say, “Wow.” So what’s really happening here is that we are teaching each other this question of meaningfulness and I’m opening myself up to the possibility of how deeply she can change me and honoring the responsibility I have of how deeply she’s opening herself up to the possibility of how much I can change her. And we are now peers collaborating in this crazy shit show of parenting child’s family and reality, that’s a game B way of looking at that problem.
Jim: Cool. Let’s go on to the next one. Making a living.
Jordan: Damn, this is a fun game. It feels like a 50s game show. All right, so we have a couple of different things here and for me it has this, like a double loop. So one loop is what I’d like to put out there as this good old fashioned language of vocation, Voco or calling and in that one of the things that’s implicit in the notion of vocation is the capacity to perceive what in fact you are being called to do. And that’s a very game B thing. Because remember if we propose that we’re engaging in hyper collaboration, each of us has some piece that is the piece that we are ultimately responsible for. And we can invoke kind of the Japanese mission of ikigai, which is to say that which you are, for whatever reasons, the way that you happen to have been thrown into this world are uniquely capable of actually doing with exquisite care and capacity.
Jordan: And also that you are drawn towards, that your sense of meaningfulness really lights up and you feel like conforming yourself to that reality, feels quite right and also is good as most [inaudible 01:13:57] in the larger story. So building in yourself the discernment to be able to move more and more, by building experience, by actually trying in the world more and more towards that, which is your ikigai, moving more and more towards that, which is your calling. This becomes a right livelihood. This is how you actually play the role that is yours to play in the context of game B. And then we can notice in that that we then have the subsidiary challenge of how do I accrue to myself to resources that are necessary to be able to continue to live while I am pursuing that vocation. We can talk a lot about that, but I’ll stop for now.
Jim: Okay, next, and this is a word which I’ve probably known since I was 15 but I see, coming at it from many different directions and I’ve now come to believe this is God damn near the key to making game B happen and that is conviviality.
Jordan: It’s a beautiful word, isn’t it?
Jim: It really is. But why don’t we start, probably not a word known to everybody, why don’t you start by defining conviviality and then explain how do we make that piece part work better, is so important for game B.
Jordan: Well, so the easiest part is, conviviality literally just means living together, living togetherness. At a certain point in my life about 12 or 15 years ago, the word came into my vocabulary and then almost immediately I ended up actually running into it in the context of this really beautiful 70s author, Ivan Illich, who wrote a book, Tools For Conviviality. And the proper use of how we humans can create culture of which technology is a subset. Technology is something that we create to afford our ability to be in the world.
Jordan: So what is the right relationship between how we create culture, to support our actually living as human beings in the world with ourselves and with each other? So conviviality for me at least, is the way that I understand it, is the conscious design of culture, which includes rituals and tools and techniques and gatherings and events that are able to increasingly fully support our personal growth, our capacities of ourselves to be more richly living and our relational growth, our capacity to find and be in relationships that are themselves increasingly rich and our sort of relationship with the bigger picture, like with the whole of life.
Jim: I would add maybe, this is my loading on conviviality. I put a strong emphasis on face to face, our actual primate being and that learning how we live with other people and get a tremendous amount of positive valence from that, as opposed to … things that really pisses me off. You go into a restaurant, you see four people sitting around a table, all of them on their phones. That to my mind is the opposite of conviviality. They should be enjoying each other as humans and interacting with each other as peers in a convivial style.
Jordan: Yeah, we could say, to like really, really hit it with some poetry, we can say that conviviality is taking relationship as being sacred and taking the sacred as being most appropriately realized in the absolutely ordinary.
Jim: I like that. Sitting around a campfire singing goofy songs. It doesn’t get much better than that as it turns out.
Jordan: Yeah, it doesn’t. If you’re under the stars and you’re with people who you truly love and your connecting in this way, on the one hand, absolutely ordinary. I mean what could be more ordinary than that? And at the same time-
Jim: We’ve been doing it for 200,000 years, right?
Jordan: Yeah. And at the same time, if you really are in that place, you begin to notice, “Oh shit. This is what they mean.” When they say connected to the sacred, that’s it. So that’s conviviality.
Jim: I love it. And I’m more and more convinced that if conviviality can really be triggered, this may be game B’s secret weapon. I suspect that a lot of people would give up the BMW and the 10,000 square foot house or the rat race, to live in the 600 square foot house in Palo Alto, in return for a life with real conviviality.
Jordan: Well, you know who would agree most strong with that?
Jim: Who’s that?
Jordan: Our old game B co conspirator, Joe Edelman. Remember him?
Jim: Oh yeah, in fact, I’m still in fairly regular communication with Joe, at least electronically, not convivially though.
Jordan: When he went into sport mode, he went to Berlin and he has been working on that, which is his, that’s his heart forever and I mean his argument is very straight forward. If you actually look at what people … he did a real work on having people do certain kinds of things, like say, here’s what I care about, then do various things and report on over time, many, many different check ins. What felt more meaningful? What felt like it was actually fulfilling their needs. And what he discovered, exactly as you’re saying is that a potluck picnic was universally perceived short, medium, and longterm, as much more fulfilling than a fancy dinner or an expensive vacation and free.
Jim: Yep. Joe’s time well spent research.
Jordan: Yep, that’s exactly it.
Jim: Good remember. Hey Joe, why don’t we get you on the Jim Rod show? I think we should talk about conviviality and nothing but for the whole show. Okay. We’re going to move on. Conviviality, maybe the secret weapon for game B. And we talked about sense making and I’ll give another little sidebar to a resource. There’s a Facebook group called Rally Point Alpha, which was started in response to one at Jordan’s essays and the focus on Rally Point Alpha, is sense making. So if people are interested in thinking about sense making and learning how to do sense making, not necessarily very well, but maybe better than we do now, check out Rally Point Alpha.
Jim: But after sense making, and this is one of the critiques of sense making, sense making by itself isn’t all that important until we then use that for action taking. And it strikes me that we need to do a lot of exploring and experimenting in how we go from sense making and meaning and meaningfulness, to action taking. One of the people I’ve talked with about this, that’s impressed me a fair amount, is Forrest Landry, who’s done some very interesting work on how do we go from making sense, to taking action. So thoughts you have around action taking.
Jordan: Well, I mean if we’re going to invoke Forrest, I’ll just defer to Forrest, just find a way to have a conversation with him. There’s nothing that I could say about this that would be close to what he could say about it and so it’d be bad sense making for me to put noise into the signal with my poor version of what he could be doing at a much more exquisite level. So you’ve just got another person.
Jim: At least the last I checked, he had not put out his ideas in a relatively condensed and coherent form. Maybe he has, I’ll go look and if he has, I’ll put a link up on the episode page and people can check it out, if not I’ll have to get Forrest on here, which I like to do anyway. Okay. Next health. And that doesn’t mean just healthcare, but health.
Jordan: Yeah. So what I’ve done in the past, is I’ve actually taken this framework of saying, okay, health and wellbeing and put them next to each other. So I’ve described health as we have to think about it in terms of the whole being, the whole person in life. So obviously you’ve got physiological health and you’ve got psychological health and you’ve got relational health. These are all characteristics and they’re all part of the whole human being. And we have to really be thinking about all of them and we need to be thinking about this mission in terms of symmetry and synergy, which is just say that if you optimize for … it’s funny, I actually had a really, really, really skilled body worker, which is to say torturer, come by two days ago and maybe it was last night, I can’t remember. I think I blacked out. And he was giving me … he asked, “Do you want a relaxation massage or a release massage?” And said, “Man, I’ve been feeling pretty worked over, give me a release massage.”
Jordan: And it was really painful, I’m not kidding, I think I may have blacked out somewhere around minute 90. And afterwards he comes and says, “You really need to stop the exercise regime that you’re doing. It’s working in the sense that you’re becoming stronger and you have certain levels of fitness, but it’s also not working in all these other ways. Your body is hitting the wall in a bunch of different dimensions.” So health of course, is a whole systems thing, you really have to be mindful of the nature and characteristics of the whole system and mindful of how to actually support all of them without making externalities or trade offs that are falsely optimizing for certain subsystems.
Jordan: And then of course you have to embed that whole thing, that whole healthy self in time, it’s moving through time. And so this is that meta notion of from health to wellbeing is something where you’re finding a way to actually be in relationship with a context that supports health ongoingly. And so this might be linking back to things like conviviality and vocation. It’s one thing to be aware of good nutrition, it’s another thing to be able to actually put food on the table and both are necessary. If you actually want to have wellbeing, you have to have a context that supports the practices of health ongoingly and ideally under increasingly diverse circumstances. So that you can find a way of of, as I say, travel from home to a different location, have I built a certain set of techniques that I know are the ones that support my health, in that, say travel context. So that’s what I have to say about that.
Jim: That’s cool. I’m going to skip over a few and go to another one that I think is hugely deep and we’ve talked about a fair amount. Policing and justice. And I’m going to start with a quote from David Sloan Wilson. I think I might’ve yanked this out of one of your essays, I don’t remember. Selfishness beats altruism within groups, but altruistic groups beat selfish groups. The rest is commentary.
Jordan: Yeah, this is a tricky, tricky business isn’t it? Because then you have that trade off between the two, where a group that succumbs to too much interior selfishness, becomes feed for that group which has more capacity to maintain its integrity and have a high enough level of altruism that it’s actually stronger than the other group. And this is fractal, meaning that when we say group, we mean the two people and also 10 million and a billion as it were, you’ve got this fractal set of dynamics playing. So you said policing and justice?
Jim: Justice. To my mind, those are at least in the game A world. Let’s say the the game B analogs to policing and justice, which are, I would argue, are rough and ready attempt to find a balance between selfishness within the group and yet enough altruism to have liberty, at least enough Liberty and yet have altruism within the group, it’s a very tough balance.
Jordan: Here are the things that come to mind and I’m noticing that there’s a … and this is good because what’s happening is that through these different questions, I think if you’re able to kind of do a meta perception and seeing what are the commonalities, I’m noticing them. So in the context of say something like health and in the context of sovereignty, one of the things that that comes up, I think I talked about this maybe yesterday on a live stream. So check this out, I think this is going to be really nice. When something happens to me that feels bad, broadly speaking, I have kind of two ways of responding to it. One is selecting from the different approaches that we might call avoidance, so avoidance in here includes, by the way, just pounding it down. So destruction, destroying that which is coming at me, is a version of avoidance. I can dodge it, I can delude myself, I can become deadened to it, I can fight it. These are all sort of characteristics of one way I might react to something that feels that.
Jordan: Another way of reacting when something feels bad, we might call, let’s say curiosity, meaning there’s signal here, something is telling me that there’s something about the nature of A, the world and being me, it isn’t working. And rather than just trying to avoid the signal, taking the signal and the thing, I’m actually going to decouple them and I’m actually going to become deeply, deeply curious about what the hell is going on, which means in some sense I have to actually be able to stand in the discomfort for some amount of time.
Jordan: And it may be quite unpleasant, but it allows me to have a much more intimate relationship with what’s coming at me and begin to decouple, for example, maybe the prefigured sense making liminality, the prefigured sense making that I have of phenomenon and notice that there’s some deep learning that I can actually have that allows me to grow my capacities in response to the world and may in fact resolve that problem completely and forever. It turns out that it was actually bad mapping on my part. When I was seven, something happened and I wrapped the signal around trauma and then every time the signal comes by, I feel the trauma and I avoid it. And it turns out that if I simply deal with it right now as a mature adult, I can resolve it altogether, for example.
Jordan: Now let’s do the same thing, that same kind of movement in the context of policing and justice. And let’s say that every time an event occurs that shows up as some kind of injustice, some kind of violation, we can look at it as a problem to be addressed or we can actually come at it with a lot of curiosity and say, “Okay, what’s really happening here? What’s showing up?” Oh cool, I’ll invoke parenting now. So now as long as I have two kids, I’m in the right space. I could take an approach of let’s say, punishment or retribution. Your brother took your cookie, you can throw a rock at him. And by the way, as absurd as that sounds now I’m sure that’s written in some kind of religious texts from 3000 years ago.
Jim: [inaudible 00:25:47].
Jordan: But that’s not very good parenting. The good parent gets to say, okay, well we have, once again, we have a found opportunity to notice a possibility for increasing capacity, a possibility for more, a more meaningful relationship, whatever happened here. And part of it might be increasing the maturity and wisdom of our archetypal sister. It’s like, “Hey, your brothers two.” And here’s what happens when we’re in relationship with two year olds and here’s where you are and here’s how all of us can become more aware of the very complex problem about human beings in a relationship with each other. And do we have a sense of sitting, still connected to a deeper sense of love, a deeper sense of conviviality as the basis of where we are? Have we reconciled the hurt feelings first? Have we come to really understand at a deeper level ourselves and the other relationship to what happened?
Jordan: And then finally as look, the last piece, and by the way, very much the last piece, is there something about an imbalance that has occurred that needs to be put in place to make sure that we in fact have set things are right, in that order. So this kind of coming from the bottom up and recognizing that anytime something that happens in the ,zone of injustice is first and foremost a signal of telling us to attend and to slow down and enter into a liminal space and listen deeply and notice what exactly is happening and what’s the depth of what’s happening. Because it may actually be quite, quite deep and it may not be easy to know how to respond to it well. And the things that need to be healed, may be deep things that take a lot of work to heal.
Jordan: And if you don’t heal them, you’re not solving anything, in fact you’ll be making the problem worse. But if you do attend to it and you get a sense of what it is that needs to be healed and you’re continuing to maintain that basis of conviviality and strengthening it from the bottom up, then you’re actually building something which is actually becoming anti fragile to injustice and justice is now something that is almost like hysteresis in exercise. It’s actually making you stronger as you’re learning more and more about how to practice this act of applied conviviality. All right, that’s that.
Jim: Well, I love that, but I’m going to push one step further, which as we know from history, both recent and deep, that societies have ways to fail that have to do with defectors, free riders, predators and sociopath’s. These are infections of the body social, that if they’re not dealt with the body social will die. Any thoughts on how that very rich and beautiful description of justice can be applied to these more specific and known failure modes of social groups?
Jordan: Absolutely. So there’s a couple of things to immediately start with. So remember that I hit a couple of times on the necessity of starting from the bottom, from the ground, and staying in this place of conviviality, staying in this place of love. And I mean this even in the sense of Bushido, in the way that a true warrior encounters another warrior. If it turns out at the end of the day that we are in such a conflict that I have to kill you or you will kill me, it is nonetheless the case that it is always best if I am not attached in hate or anger when I’m doing that. So what I can do is I can say, let’s talk about moving, in the context of justice, let’s also talking about the concept of right relationship.
Jordan: So I’ve got my two year old and I’ve got my five year old and the little boys is having a tantrum and he’s out of control and he’s swinging fists. Well, right relationship in this particular moment to maintain the integrity of conviviality means that I need to create boundaries around him that he can’t hurt himself or others. That’s not that fucking complicated. That’s pretty simple parenting. And I need to do it from a place in myself that I am the mountain. And by the way, this is not trivial, I myself, I encountered this exact problem the past night. That I’m not getting drawn into a reactive kind of conflict, it’s a fucking two year old and he’s having a tantrum. I need to come from a deeply mature place, recognize what’s going on and notice that whatever I’m doing is in his interest. I’m actually supporting him as much as I am protecting everybody else. And as long as I’m doing that in every step. So something along the lines of thinking about it in the context of really just two things.
Jordan: One is what is right relationship? Meaning what is the real possibility of the highest relationship that is truly available, can that actually be realized? Not aspirationally, not ideally, but really can it be realized, right now with this person. And always recognizing that I’m intending to come from a place where I’m authentically endeavoring to, in that relationship, support and further that individual, but in the context of the larger conviviality.
Jordan: So the example that I was using was the example of, again, parenting, where my two year old is having a tantrum. And if my two year old is having a tantrum, he poses a potential threat to the physical space that he’s in. And so there’s a big difference between me kind of becoming reactive, getting angry and grabbing him and kind of pulling him away and me still being the mountain, being anchored in, I am supporting his wellbeing in creating boundaries that enable him to not hurt himself and other people and property. And kind of, that’s that. We can make those choices. We can come from that place and with wisdom and caring and thoughtfulness.
Jordan: … and with wisdom and caring and thoughtfulness, recognize that a person who is defecting may often in fact be making choices that seem to make a lot of sense in the short term or because of the deep lack of capacity or understanding that don’t actually further their personal interest in the medium or long term. If we do our job in Game B, that should in fact always be the case, by the way and I do very much believe that that is quite possible and or they may nonetheless be maybe making choices because of some characteristic of their interior that just makes them, you know, self-destructive so the sociopath is sort of even part of the DSM diagnosis of the sociopath is that they make self-destructive, high risk choices and so if we’re looking at that, that’s a way, that’s a design or an approach that helps us figure out how we solve those kinds of problems from the inside out, if that makes any sense.
Jim: Yeap. I think there’s a lot more work to be done there by the way and I would tell people that the failure modes of a lot of attempts to build new social operating systems have been around not getting policing and justice right. Either it becomes a dictatorship or it becomes so nonjudgmental that nobody bothers to take out the trash and everybody leaves.
Jordan: I think there’s a real weird dichotomy. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because I’ve actually learned this term discernment and I think the term discernment is very helpful here because this notion of nonjudgmental is just wrong. Straight up wrong. Just a bad idea and I think you and I even kind of talked about this back in the old days. You actually support it. It’s like, “Wait, isn’t good judgment of virtue?”
Jim: Absolutely. I hate the word nonjudgmental. I said God damn it. That’s what humans do. We make judgments, right?
Jordan: The key is like if I just like use this term discernment, which is in some sense just a different term but what I’m saying is something like really just being aware of what’s actually happening and like the reality. Again, if the guy’s got a gun and he’s irrational, then that’s what’s happening and the way for me be in relationship with that is very constrained by the possibility space. Now I’ve found a way to disarm him and I put him in a context where whatever it was like maybe he was on some sort of kind of mind altering chemicals that’s processed through a system, well now we have a possibility of maybe exploring something else. I could have a very concrete, very real, it’s not nonjudgmental, it’s just reality-based relationship with how human beings work and where they come from and what leads individuals to certain circumstances and what’s possible now, by the way, what’s not possible now?
Jordan: It’s not about being … I’ve used this actually in the context of a conversation I was having around something that I think is really harming millennials and gen Z, which is an ideological bias towards empathy and that’s just wrong, right? It’s just brutally, brutally wrong because if I turned my empathy way up, what happens instantaneously is that I am catastrophically overwhelmed by the end comprehensible tragedy of every single human life. I can barely handle my own life. There’s no way I can handle your life and you’ve got a pretty fucking good life but if my empathy is way up, I’m just kind of like an open vessel.
Jordan: What I want is discernment, which is that I want to be able to really without like filtering or without projecting my own framework on you, be able to perceive you as this sort of unique singular being that has all kinds of stuff going on but only bring into myself that which in a deep sense is, A, something I can actually be in relationship with without blowing myself up but also B is the right piece of that big story that is furthering the relationship that we’re actually in.
Jordan: I think there’s actually a higher order notion here that need to be brought to bear that is neither steely-eyed pragmatism in the totalitarian sense or pollyannish idealistic nonjudgmentalism that neither of those are even vaguely reasonable and this is just a whole other level of kind of like mature relationship with real people in real context would be sort of like the bizarrely simple answer to that problem in the Game Be aware.
Jim: Great. I’m going to skip a bunch of others. I’m going to go to the one I have come to believe is right up there with conviviality as the secret to making Game B work but it has some interesting risk aspects to it. It’s coherence.
Jordan: Hmm. Well, first of all we recognize that even as you’re saying it that that’s a word that has a lot of … many people use that word to mean many things and so the way that I use it and in John [inaudible 00:01:37:30], and I were just actually talking about this exact issue just before this call, is something along the lines of the way that distinct parts can generate a synergistic relationship, which is they create an emergent whole that is greater than the sum of the parts that has a very specific characteristic, which is that this larger whole simultaneously is autonomy enhancing for the parts and therefore, that therefore is crucial, increases the probability and the intensity of the synergy that creates the emergent whole.
Jordan: I’m almost just defining coherence from a design perspective that there’s many, many different ways of parts coming together to form wholes and I’m saying I’m using coherence to describe this exact slice and we see this happening. The things that matter in the world are coherent in that fashion and the more you are able to be coherent in that fashion, the more wellbeing and the way that I described it earlier emerges for the parts and the whole.
Jim: Yeah. I like that a lot actually. It helps clarify what you’re getting at because when I hear the word coherence I start to think a little bit like a colt. Everybody believes the same thing but when you say your kind of coherence should also be trying to people’s autonomy, then you actually have a very interesting design problem to make both real coherence to get things done but also to try to maximize or at least do a good job with autonomy. You have a very interesting and difficult design problem and an approach I’ve called coherent pluralism that you have to find out where should there be agreement and where should there be liberty and getting that design space right it’s going to be tricky.
Jordan: Yeah. It’s tricky but what’s interesting is that it looks like human beings and I think this is something that Brett and we actually talked about with Brett back in the day. This may be the thing that human beings are … what makes us what we are. That the capacity for … Think about working backwards. Let’s say you’ve developed … that an organism has emerged and this organism has the capacity to be coherent in the way that I’m describing it. One of the things that falls out of that is this. The capacity for division of labor becomes a thing because now I can have people, individuals who are specialized, meaning they actually have quite distinct perspectives and capacities in life and it’s important to recognize that, right? If I’ve become a doctor and you’ve become a farmer, the specialization in these particular skills implies for sure also distinct epistemologies and distinct habits of mind and how we just relate to life because just that’s implicit in becoming skillful.
Jordan: Well, one of the things that we know of course is that is distinctness in that sense oftentimes leads to out group and we see this happening willy nilly in our current environment. That unique, distinct perspectives oftentimes just can’t find ways to agree and so they fall apart. Well, but if as a species you happen to have figured out how to maintain the kind of coherence that I’m talking about, then you get this massive, massive up regulation. Huge superpower, which is that you can support enormous specialization and division of labor while maintaining the integrity of the whole and that will out-compete anything that can’t do that and I think that’s the thing I think. I think Brett really nailed it when he said that that may in fact be precisely what we are about.
Jordan: We’ve got that. That’s one of our fundamental codes in our bodies is a skillfulness and being able to do that and then we’re kind of back to the problem on the whiteboard in [inaudible 00:08:21], which is our biological code helps us do that kind of coherence at the Dunbar level and for us to pop through to Game B, we need to figure out how to do that at a much larger level.
Jim: Well, you just hit my last bullet point on this section, which is all the above have to be engineered to work at the Dunbar number and above. Well above and for those of you in the audience who don’t know what the Dunbar number is, Robin Dunbar, I think he’s an anthropologist, studied human pre-modern societies and concluded that the remarkable regularity around the world free agricultural groups of hunter gatherers and other sorts of folks tended to have populations of no more than 150 before they [inaudible 00:09:06], and his theory was that human cognitive architecture was able to do the social network math on a face to face community of 150 and no more and of course we’ve had to build all kinds of artificial structures to get us way beyond 150 but one of the big challenges of Game B is to get all these things we just talked about to work at very much larger groups than 150 so why don’t you talk about massively exceeding the Dunbar number and yet nonetheless making these good things happen.
Jordan: Yeah. Here we have like, here’s the phrase that the hard problem of consciousness. This is the hard problem of Game B and we came across this problem seven years ago. We drew it, wrote it down, we looked at it, we banged her head on it and it definitely over-matched our capacity back then and I can say for sure if we still haven’t got even a vaguely good approach on how to solve the problem although really smart people, so like forest are working on it diligently. Here’s something that has come to me a lot on how the solution to this problem may in fact be, let’s call it discoverable and it has to do with gluing together some of the things we’ve talked about and most notably it has to do with gluing together this idea of accelerating change, the adjacent possible and the characteristics of what is a kind of organism in this case a distributed cognition group of people that is able to maintain it’s continuity and what’s the right … the visual image I have is like being in the middle of the river. In the sweet spot on a wave.
Jordan: Being able to actually find where the energy of the most rapid coherent location on the wave of the adjacent possible is located. The proposition that I’m making is there may be in fact be something like an attractor in reality itself that is the relationship between the accelerating curve of the adjacent possible, the way that a distributed cognition is constructed such that it can simultaneously most fully move through or accelerate with that accelerating curve while also not falling apart. I’m a visual image of this series of soap bubbles in a current and there’s a flow around the outside of a spot that has a stability to it and those bubbles that migrate to the outside just get pulled out in the flow.
Jordan: Those bubbles that stay on the inside stay in the sweet spot. It’s something like that and I mean that is obviously, I’m not even sure that I just spoke to be perfectly frank. I was definitely out there trying to stitch hard stuff together. Invoke rule omega but the proposition is there’s something about this notion that we’re actually looking at reality, where we’re working with reality here, where we are not the ones who are designing this. It’s more like we’re discovering it and at the same time that we’re designing it and there’s something about the way that the intrinsic dynamics, the intrinsic relationships of how distributed cognition comes together and is able to maintain an integrity in itself, which if it reduces its integrity, it slows down but it actually becomes less and less effective. That is the answer to the question of scaling a coherent collective intelligence.
Jim: Yeah. It strikes me of using complexity speak that the problem here is to grow in emergence, right? One of the things about emergence is we don’t know what it is to let emerge is, which makes it damn tricky. We’re in a kind of a chicken and egg problem. We know that there … and the words you gave are actually evocative. They weren’t descriptive but they were evocative so they weren’t entirely nonsense. Even at times it may seem like it but they’re evocative of what this emergence might be that provides us the ability to do long span, coherent problem-solving, using much larger groups of people than 150.
Jim: Yeah. We have to experiment it seems to me and try things and make guesses about what might drive this emergence but we won’t know what it is until it gets here.
Jordan: Right, exactly. There’s something about like meta-learning, which is our ability to experiment extremely effectively that I think is key. I’ve noticed for example that like I’ve had this recent set of conversations with this guy named Guy Sengstock and he has built a lot of skillfulness in a particular psycho technology called Circling and one of the things that happens in Circling is you build a lot of sensitivity to what’s happening right now. He’s actually aware of like what’s going on at the level of like we’re mammals interacting and at the level of subconscious assumptions that we’re bringing in and because he has that skillfulness, he can point or move or shift the conversation in a place that’s actually able to achieve a higher level of quality and more … we’re learning more things faster and there’s a recursion there, which is that knowing that I can say, “Okay, well let me see if I can find a way to experiment by bringing Guy into a conversation.”
Jordan: This is going to happen actually in a couple of weeks. Me, Guy, John, Johnny V and another guy, Chris, who I don’t know are going to have a conversation with the four of us and we’re going to notice is there something about this combination of skills that we’re bringing that actually generates a more potent conversation? Are we actually creating a meta-learning community? Are we learning faster about how to go about learning? And that’s a powerful thing, right? Because if you’re actually working at the level of metal learning, then every step that you take actually gets to work on the vector of acceleration instead of on the vector of velocity and that’s how you get places fast. There’s something about that, right? There’s something about being able to have lots of basics. A lot of the things that I spent a lot of time on describing is, look, if you haven’t built your sovereign to a certain level, you’re very unlikely to be able to participate.
Jordan: This whole notion of like the pre B, there’s a lot of basic stuff that we can now point to and say, “Look, in order to be able to participate in a community of meta-learning, here’s a bunch of pre-work that you have to get in place because these seem quite likely to be minimum requirements and then you have the higher level approach of okay, well we’re doing in community middle learning and meta-learning is about not just experimenting but actually using the output of experiments to improve the experimental protocol so you’re getting better and better and better at actually orienting and designing your experiments and you’re getting acceleration on your learning instead of just a velocity of learning.
Jim: I like that. A way to get maybe get beyond … hopeful way to get beyond the chicken and egg problem. All right, let’s switch to the next topic. We only have about 10 minutes here so we won’t be able to get into it very deeply but the idea is we have this pre B, preGame B world, pre B and we just talked about in great depth and it’s where we are today. It’s what we all who are interested in Game B should be working on some or all of these things. Actually nobody can work on all of them but you know, find some of them and work on them but they’ll become a time at some point in the future where some group of people think that we’ve mastered enough of this and minimally enough of this to try to create the first, I think what you called whole.. An attempt to create a integrated way of Game B life.
Jim: As I think about this more mechanically, I think we probably mix and match piece parts and wrap the piece parts in some form of integrated operating system and give it a whirl. It may not succeed but it will be the first attempt to build a coherent whole and by no means will it be complete on day one, right? If we spun up a prodo Game B or prodo B as I’m calling it, we’re going to be very likely to be very dependent on things from Game A. Things like computer chips, hospitals, maybe public schools. I hope not hoping to do a better job than that but there’ll be a number of things that we may well still be dependent on and this is the point that you made from the very beginning of the Game B story.
Jim: We will also in the prodo B days, be consciously and hopefully talented at parasitizing Game A. Essentially pulling energy out of Game A to help build Game B and in fact, the earliest prodo B’s may well be dependent on getting good at that parasitism.
Jim: Does that seem reasonable to you? This idea of a prodo B, which is a mix and match plus an attempt at an integrated operating system that’s not complete but is nonetheless whole?
Jordan: Yeah. I think and the answer is yes and it’s funny because in some sense I remember, I keep bringing up this point that we’re all already playing Game B but maybe at a lower level. My family, which is a Vanessa Eloise and I are a prodo B in a very low level because we’re doing parenting from a Game B perspective, which implies we’re also doing education from a Game B perspective. We take into account conviviality from a Game B perspective. We’re kind of looking at all the pieces and trying really hard to do them, recognizing that almost all of our actual lives are spent in the context of Game A. There’s like this really interesting thing. Like it’s a … what’s the term like in-cohate or possibility not yet actuality but nonetheless something there.
Jordan: The reason why I wanted to bring that up is that I sense that the popping or emergence of prodo B we’ll have a look like almost, maybe even a little bit of a level of surprise on the part of the people who are involved. Less about, we’re all going to … all at once. Like this 500 people are going to gather together and try and do some things but rather a bunch of people have been actually living more and more and learning better and better how to do more Game B living and all of a sudden they discover that certain pieces have dropped the pop. Wow. Something really has changed.
Jordan: Suddenly there are more people showing up and it’s working or big pieces of what we had previously really had to be dependent on Game A has just dropped away or this group would be here at a massive insight of how to solve some particular problem and as soon as we were able to share that insight with each other, it shifted something for us and now we’re holding a bunch of capacity. That kind of a thing, I feel like that’s how it will show up.
Jordan: The next piece is really, really, really want to distinguish this from every intentional community that has ever existed. As far as I can tell and a big piece of it is this thing that I’ve been kind of hammering on, which is if we do Game B right, the thing that Game B can do really well, then the AB can do much, much better than Game A happens to be at the absolute cutting edge of generative capacity in Game A. Most of the time. Like oftentimes.
Jordan: For example, I remember watching a documentary around a pretty well established intentional community that was established in the 60s or 70s down in central America and one of the problems that they had was that of course for a lot of the time they had to import resources from what we would call Game A and to do that they had to get money and to do that they had to sell stuff but what could they make? Well, they were making coconut furniture or like handwoven clothes or some [inaudible 00:20:22], crap like that and that’s very, very weak. There’s not a lot of strength in that relationship. They’re operating at the lowest level of Game A which means that they’re extremely low resilience to any change.
Jordan: In the context what we’re doing in Game B, the capacity for people to … the highest quality members of the creative class, software developers and designers and scientists and even people who are markers and fill in the blank, the people who actually have very, very high level capacity that actually is the generator function of almost all of the current killer economic innovations in Game A, if they choose to step into Game B one of the things that shows up is an increase in their capacity for creative collaboration. It’s entirely feasible and in fact I would propose more likely than not that the next wave of highly disruptive economic innovations that would show up in Game A will actually be coming out of Game B experiments. Game prodo, Game B experiments, which would just be like this new form of say a startup and the blockchain stuff was almost there.
Jordan: Some of the blockchain stuff you could feel like it’s almost moving in that direction, that this notion of widely distributed, even in many ways like disorganized, like not part of corporate structures and getting really, really counted smart people to say fuck it, I’m just going to stop working at Microsoft and work on this and move the ball forward and if you could just move that forward, that whole notion that one or two steps and say, “Wow, if I could get the seven people who have the best insight on AI to actually enter into a truly sovereign creative collaboration, maybe I could get a 3X improvement in their capacity, which would be a decisive strategic advantage against all the other guys and I could do something which would then have massively asymmetric competitive advantage on Game A which are nearest to a whole lot more money than selling coconut furniture and hand handwoven clothes.” That’s the thing to be thinking about.
Jim: I like it a lot because it’s … to what I was describing as smart and effective and intentional parasitism of Game A will essentially create things that allow us to pull energy out of Game A to build more Game B to pull more energy out of Game A and actually do that right and if the R is greater than one, eventually Game B gets bigger than Game A. However, I’m going to push back a little bit or at least put a pruning or propose a pruning rule. Love to get your reaction to this. You talked about the distributed decentralized autonomous organizations. You had named them. That’s what we were, I think alluding to from the blockchain world and I’m going to suggest that if conviviality is central to Game B, that provides a very hard pruning role, which is that a prodo B has to be geographically anchored as a face to face community, which constrains the possibility space for the early prodo Bs.
Jordan: I think you’re quite likely right but not necessarily completely right. I think there’s at least two variations on that theme that I’ve seen. I would say for sure embodied relationship is central. I think there’s very little wiggle room on that. Anchored physical communities living together 24/7 is going to be the lifeblood of this thing but I noticed at least two other things that definitely seemed to work. One is episodic physical. It was just a huge difference for me collaborating with a digital avatar out in the world that I’ve never met and spending a week with somebody in embodied space and then maintaining the relationship through virtual. That difference is a real difference and if I think about that as in terms of a flow, like maybe once a quarter or twice a year or once a month being in physical proximity and building the strong bonds and deeper sense of relationality and meaningfulness and then doing other work at a virtual level, there may be something there where you can actually maintain continuity of coherence while still getting the advantage of a much wider footprint of what’s possible now and that’s one piece.
Jordan: I have reasonably that’s true. Like I’ve definitely noticed that for example, you and I have not met in person now for years but because we really did do a lot of work in person, our virtual relationship is just a lot stronger and faster.
Jordan: And then the other one is the ability to engage in collaboration between groups that are themselves anchoring, right? There’s this mutual synergy the Game B groups have at least in principle in a much higher level to engage in distributed collaborations where it may be the case that it’s actually group one is in the Santa Cruz forest in group two is in Southern France and both groups are like really rich convivial communities that are their own thing and the groups are collaborating largely virtually but they’re nonetheless able to be synergistic with each other and because they’re able to be synergistic with each other, there’s something about the velocity of innovation that is actually quite generative. That’s a third piece to add to the equation just to kind of make the story richer.
Jim: Yeah, that was my exact next point that I would expect there to be multiple prodo Bs and each one will be different initially. They’ll have different selections amongst the piece parts that they incorporate and they’ll even choose different versions of the piece parts that they do incorporate and that if there really is a holistic Game B, that they can interact at long range via online tourism and what I will call refugee, right? People who, let’s say they’re in the South of France, Game B convivial community but they find that it doesn’t, it isn’t really right for them personally but from what they’ve heard, the Santa Cruz one sounds more like to their taste. They say, “Well look, I’m going to leave Southern France and move to the Santa Cruz community.” This way that of interactions will happen on all these levels simultaneously and that together, this cloud of prodo Bs is what will take Game B forward to the next level and some of the prodo Bs will fail. In fact, I hope some of them do, right? Evolution moves forward by failure.
Jordan: Yeah. It’s funny because we can think about it almost like meta-failure because we’re now we’re talking about groups. The prodo B fails but the individuals involved actually carry in themselves the deep learning that you can only really get when something you’re trying really hard fails and then they bring that which would now be called wisdom. They can bring that back out. Now by the way, think about that [inaudible 00:26:54], distinction. As I was thinking about it, there’s wisdom in this trauma and it’s crucial that as these things fail, they fail in the direction of wisdom and not in the direction of trauma. We have to actually give ourselves permission to fail even though we’re also very committed on making it work.
Jim: I very much like the venture concept of honorable failures, right?
Jordan: Yeah. Honorable failure. Exactly.
Jim: Yeah. Fail for the right reason. Not the wrong reason. The reason that there was just something you couldn’t have seen from where you started. Don’t fail because you had a toxic culture and were [inaudible 00:27:25], within fighting.
Jordan: Right and then recognize that this makes a lot of sense when you’re part of a larger whole. Honorable failure in venture has this really weird thing where clearly the team failed and there’s very little remuneration that they yet from the larger whole but in the context of Game B, if your prodo B fails but it furthers the larger progress of the larger Game B effort, there is something very real about the degree to which that will flow back to you. Certainly if the story I’m telling is correct to the degree to which you further the possibility of Game B happening at all and therefore avoiding the catastrophe of Game A, hallelujah, and you benefit from that as much as everybody else but even more to the very nature of Game B. There’s something about the … sorry, I just realized we see this adventure all the time. Remember like the Silicon Valley story of I’d always rather hire somebody who’s already been part of two failed startups because there’s things that they’ve learned.
Jordan: Same kind of idea. Like if you’ve actually been through two prodo Bs that have failed but they’ve honorably failed and you’ve grown in wisdom, I kind of really want you to be part of my prodo B. There’s a likelihood that you’re going to be bringing some experience to this is pretty hot.
Jim: Yep, exactly. Well, I think that’s probably as much as we have time for today. We covered some amazing ground. I think this will help people who will keep asking the question, well what exactly is Game B? It doesn’t answer that question but I believe it would put a lot of meat on those bones.
Jordan: My thing that I just put out there for anybody who feels unsatisfied with the conversation either in terms of the scope or the quality is that’s probably a pretty reasonable assessment but just an invitation to recognize that if you look at the science of anything, let’s just go with lasers, the underlying deep physics that gave rise to the laser I think was 1919 and the very specific physics that actually described the specific capa … what it was required to be a laser was I think 1953, which is a long time and then the actual physical implementation of a real live laser wasn’t for another like 7 to 10 years and that was with massively funded research, industrial labs like Bell Labs working on this kind of a project and it’s a very narrow project, right?
Jordan: That was a good sense of the challenge and the scope of that kind of a deal and what we’re trying to do is a whole lot harder and with a whole lot less resource. Yes, you are quite right. In the however long we just spent on this conversation. We barely scratched the surface of even a very small number of these deep things. Probably didn’t do a very good job on any of them and probably had a lot of cringe worthy efforts, even the ones we did a mediocre job at. Nonetheless, hopefully we move the game forward at least a little bit and the next one can be better.
Jim: Yeah, I think that’s a perfect way to describe it and we’ll have to have you back in another month or two and take the conversation further.
Jordan: All right. Talk to you later man.
Jim: Production services and audio editing by Jared Janes consulting. Music by Tom Mueller at modernspacemusic.com.