The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or by Jamie Wheal. 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. Listeners have asked us to provide pointers at some of the resources we talk about on the show. We now have links to books and articles, reference to recent podcasts that are available on our website. We also offer full transcripts. Go to jimruttshow.com. That’s jimruttshow.com. Today’s guest is Jamie Wheal, Executive Director of The Flow Genome Project.
Jamie: Hey, Jim. Good to be here, my man.
Jim: Hey, yeah, good to have you here, Jamie. Jamie is an expert in the neurophysiology of human performance. His work combines a background in expeditionary education, wilderness medicine and surf rescue. If I wasn’t on me too time, I’d probably make a cool comment about that, but we’ll just move on over that.
Jamie: Play through.
Jim: He has over a decade of advising high growth companies on strategy execution and leadership on execution. I know some of that leadership needs executing, goddamn right. Jamie’s coaching range is from fortune 500 companies like Cisco, Google, and Nike, the Navy War College, and Red Bull. With Steve Kotler, he wrote the best selling book, Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Mavericks Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work. He leads a team of the world’s top scientists, athletes and artists dedicated to mapping the genome of a peak performance state known as Flow. And so you’ve got to hang out with the CEO, is that right?
Jamie: We have had got to spend some time with some of those guys and some of the guys in the UK as well.
Jim: What was that like?
Jamie: Well, I mean, I think just humbling and fascinating to see people that have honed anything, whether it’s elite, extreme athletes, or Spec Ops guys is just the degree of no nonsense precision in their world view mode of interacting situational awareness, choice making, all of it. They’re just fascinating specimens of the keen edge of human performance.
Jim: Yeah, I met some very elite military guys. And yet indeed they are all that. The thing that was interesting is they are not intellectual in the slightest, at least the enlisted men that I’ve met.
Jamie: Well, and that’s interesting because I think, I mean, a obviously massive, massive organization and different communities within it. But I have found that the more senior in the strategic Special Operations domain, the more humble, the more self-effacing, the more curious, the more lateral and divergent in their thinking. I mean, I experienced some very disciplined but voracious learners at that level of the organizations.
Jim: Yeah, of course, the higher level the officer corps, I would expect to see that. That makes sense.
Jamie: I’m continually blown away by the thoughtfulness, actually the depth and the thoughtfulness of leadership of those commands.
Jim: That’s good to hear, actually, because they are the sharp point of the spear protecting us all right?
Jamie: Yeah, at the whim of an executive department.
Jim: That it’s somewhat mechanical at best, right?
Jim: A lot of your work deals with individuals and groups achieving the state of flow. Flow was first defined by a guy I can’t even pronounce his name, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi or some damn thing. Why don’t you start by telling us what is flow?
Jamie: Well, I mean, it’s just a subset of a whole broad category of what you could call non ordinary states. We might as well even call these specific ones but non ordinary states. So not schizophrenia, not dissociation, not something like that, but actually ones of peak information, eight minute perception, and hyper efficient action from there. So it’s a kind of new chemical profile. It has a neuro physiological profile. It also has a psychological experiential profile, and then also an operational range of application of what to do with it when you’re in it.
Jim: Interesting. I’ve fallen into the flow states on several occasions in my life, and they have been extraordinarily productive, like 10X the normal horsepower. Quite remarkable.
Jamie: Straight up happy place.
Jim: But at some point tiring. I mean, I fell into one that lasted six weeks for no apparent reason. I was writing a business plan, and I just blew through it in about two weeks. I had so much mental firepower that a friend of mine just started lining up company CEOs, Chief Technology officers, and just had them march by me, and sit down for 10 minutes, tell me their problem, and I give them the perfect answer every time. It was remarkably uncanny.
Jamie: And then did you sleep for a month? What happened afterwards?
Jim: It’s funny. I could actually feel myself drop out of it over a period of about two hours. First one step down from immaculate to just really, really, really good, and then another two hours later back to normal. And I think I did sleep for a day, but it was pretty cool. I’d also know two other people that are on the website for your Flow Genome Project, there’s a thing called a flow profile. We’ll put a link up on our site, people go take a look at it, take a test. And I took the test.
Jamie: Oh yeah? What did you come out as?
Jim: As a hard charger.
Jamie: Oh, sweet.
Jim: Which was mostly right but was wrong about me being interested in physically active sports. I’m way too physically lazy for those, but I do like to do crazy shit and take risks like legally manufacturing homemade explosives, shooting large high capacity guns, high stakes poker or doing ridiculous things on a ATBs that might not be all that wise. As long as they don’t require breaking a sweat, I’m all in.
Jamie: Dude, that’s fantastic. All the risk, none of the calorie burn, it’s perfect.
Jim: Exactly. So yeah, I guess I fit as a hard charger non sweat variety. But yeah, it was kind of fun. I advise people take it. You also say on your website, we take a rigorous multi disciplinary and supremely practical approach to the science and research of peak performance at our core workflow hackers.
Jamie: Well, I mean, I would say that’s probably an anachronism and lazy copy on a marketing team I didn’t have full oversight over. I wouldn’t never actually position what we do as that. However, the understanding that at a neuro physiological level consciousness is programmable is a key insight. And then you start reverse engineering higher states of [inaudible 00:06:24] is not by trying to talk our way there through Zen Cohen’s or contemplative prayer or psychoanalysis but actually just to boost the body brain into those optimized zones, and then see what your information feeds and sense making feel like.
Jim: Frankly, I wasn’t terrible for marketing bullshit. I like multi disciplinary and particularly I like supremely practical, right?
Jamie: For sure that.
Jim: Because too much in this space is just unholy horseshit, right?
Jamie: No, I mean, that’s what I appreciate about mountains and oceans and gravity sports is that gravity does not lie. And it’s a no bullshit teacher. And the big wild environments drop you to your knees in the vastness and scale and the requirement of having your wits about you. I find them to be very, very clean teachers.
Jim: Yeah, reality is a very excellent teacher.
Jamie: [inaudible 00:07:24] per second, per second bitches.
Jim: Exactly. That’s gravity, right?
Jim: In an Harvard Business Review article by Steve Kotler, you’re quoted as saying research described flow as a source code of intrinsic motivation. Once an experience produces the state, we’ll go to extraordinary lengths to get more of it. I recently said something similar about myself on the Zion 2.0 podcast. We were talking what to do about the zillionaires? Is it time for the guillotines? And I distinguish between those driven by extrinsic motivations, big houses, flashy bimbos, private jets and the like, and those driven by intrinsic motivations, desire to create or to win or to explore. And I see Flow as a possible way to those intrinsic states, but not necessarily required.
Jamie: Yeah. I mean, I think if you could make a case that it’s really just the super ergonomic version of that general directional pursuit of intrinsic satisfaction, it’s the pathway.
Jim: There are two ways to do it better. Or at least-
Jamie: The second slide, Yeah. I mean, if you get that sucker going, it’ll speed you to your destination in the most enjoyable way in the least amount of time.
Jim: Yeah. But on the other hand, I would also like to warn people, that it could become a hoped for panacea. As I said, I’ve fallen into Flow states several times, and often at exactly the right time, but sometimes not. For instance, in 2011, after eight years of research, I sat down to write a long document. It was the digest of this research. And in fact, this document eventually gave rise to game B. If game B succeeds, this document was probably the most important thing I ever wrote.
Jamie: Oh, let’s jump over to game B stuff and future culture architecture, and what are the perils of non ordinary states as they get operationalize, commodified, and weaponized, and-
Jim: Let me finish this and we’ll hop there, how does that sound?
Jamie: Dude, perfect.
Jim: Because this is important, which is I started three times to write this document, and packed at it for two or three days, and the Flow state didn’t come. And so I just said, “Fuck it.” And let it go for another couple of months, did some more research. Finally, the third time it was after six months of wanting to write this thing. I just said to myself, Flow or not, I’m just going to hack through is thing. I just muscled it. And it was good enough, though it was harder to work and it took longer than if I had been in a Flow state. I would just put out the warning, yes, it’s great when you do get the Flow state to boost your power, but if you don’t that doesn’t mean you can’t still do good work.
Jamie: Yeah. I agree completely because I had to override that in my brain to waiting to craft the perfect verse and then I started thinking of myself much more like a carpenter, and there’s rough framing, and then there’s finish framing, and then fine detailing, and then there is cock and pain. Know which phase you’re at, and sometimes if you’re not, if you are having to just grind it out, to just be like, I am just rough planking some shit right now. It’ll all change later.
Jim: Yeah, exactly. And it may take three times as long but you’ll just get it done. Of course, it would be great if we had Flow state more or less on demand. In your view, is that something that’s possible?
Jamie: I mean, sort of, yes. I mean, as we get more skillful at all of these neuro phase interventions, we really are just kind of truly dialing or programming states of awareness for different conditions. And they’re already doing that in one offs and experiments and specific technical conditions. But let’s just say for all of us then, we still have the human existential questions. And we still have both grace and grief and life. That shit is table stakes. And you have to be able to metabolize those things, regardless of what type of button you got installed.
Jim: Yeah, no doubt about that. To that point earlier, let’s switch now to your book, Stealing Fire, which I read a long time ago. You actually gave me a copy of it.
Jamie: Oh, nice.
Jim: And I read it back then when we had coffee in Austin a few years ago, and I reread it over the last week or so as I typically do-
Jamie: Thank you.
Jim: … For my episode, so I can speak cogently about people’s work not just bullshit my way through. One of the things I loved about your book, like on page two, you talked about the Eleusinian Mysteries, right?
Jim: Eleusinian Mysteries. I don’t know how the hell you pronounce that, but something like that. Anyway, it’s something I did a bunch of research on 20 years ago, and 20 years ago there wasn’t much. Tell us what you know about them and how they were so central and grounding essentially the meaning of life for people back in the day.
Jamie: I mean, it was a nine day ritual. People from all different course of society could participate. It involved theater pantomime archetypal roles potentially even, and this was never disclosed, super secret. I don’t know whether it was like a coffin like death rebirth, but some form of fairly profound initiatory Shazam experience. Kind of like Michael Douglas in The Game. Something of that level juju. And then highly likely to be involving the intoxicating sacrament of [inaudible 00:12:43]. Their instructions were to dilute one to 10 with wine, and that Alcibiades ripped off on pain of death, took it, and threw a banging house party with it. So you’re like, okay, so we know it’s super strong and a little ton of fun. And that kicks off the western ecstatic tradition, I think.
Jim: And many of the great thinkers of both Greece and Rome or initiates including Plato, and I believe Aristotle as well.
Jamie: Yeah. Although, I’m not sure about Aristotle [crosstalk 00:13:16]. I think it was Socrates and Plato. But Aristotle, this is my gorilla thesis, which is, I think that Aristotle couldn’t hold his brew. He might have tried it. And just think about their philosophies. I mean, Plato was like, there’s this world of forms, there’s this super cool information layer, you can launch up there, everything is perfection, you can manifest that down here on the lawn. And Aristotle is like, the only stuff that’s real is what I can touch, taste, see or grab and measure. And we got the Aristotelian branch of the trip who couldn’t hang, and that became the modern Western scientific tradition.
Jim: That’s a really interesting theory. I like that although I will put my cards on the table and say, hey, on that big Platonic or Aristotelian, I’d go with Aristotelian every time.
Jamie: Oh, nice. I think I’m a vestigial Pythagorean by mistake. I think that it’s taken me this long to try and track down all the threads and be like, you know what, I think that’s the main lineage core that I feel most affinity for.
Jim: Do you hate beans?
Jamie: Do I hate beans? I’m not super keen I must say. I mean, even some hopped up fat back pork and beans from Texas, I could have a tablespoon full and then I’m good.
Jim: Well, you may be a Pythagorean because people don’t know that. That was the number one belief for the Pythagoreans, that beans were evil.
Jamie: You never know. You bunk with someone. Yeah, I mean, that whole thing of gymnastics physiology, the music of the spheres, the interrelationship between geometries, number, and chords, they were way into it. They were into wrestling and philosophy. They had a highly embodied kinetic mystic tradition. Mystery school, basically. I wish we knew more about him.
Jim: Yeah, all those Pre Socratic were … Was Pythagoras Pre Socratic?
Jamie: Yeah, he was the OG man. He was the absolute kicker to the whole thing. I wish I’d learned more about him earlier, but I just thought it was his triangles and shit.
Jim: Cool. [inaudible 00:15:11] the course you learn in school. I like the SEALs a little bit. One of the things you talk about in the book and I think elsewhere is something you call dynamic subordination, where leadership is fluid, defined by conditions, sometimes called this role based leadership rather than position based leadership. And to my mind, that’s something that’s very Game B. In fact, at ZION 2.0 podcast the other day, I said something like this, natural real leaders will arise. Soft role based leaders rather than position based leaders. Someone says I’m the president of Game B. I think everyone’s going to laugh and say bullshit, you’re not Game B, you’re a fucking asshole. Anyway, tell us more about dynamic subordination and leadership that changes as the need arises.
Jamie: I mean, I think pretty much the key is just that any form of structural hierarchy either is set aside or non existent in the first place for who is sensing, thinking, feeling, perceiving, and then acting with the most information closest to real time emergence. That person has literally become the tip of the spear. And so there’s a flock follow on effect of opposing action, so there’s a sort of degree of coding. It’s not like, well, he just made something up. Now, what do I do? And you end up with the Hokey Pokey or something. It’s discipline, formation, flying, and action. And so that allows them to basically offload into the logic of the algorithm. They’ve encoded a kinetic battle plan, and now they’re all acting it out moving through time and space in synchronized coordination, but also real time adaptation to novelty on the ground, and yet somehow keeping that coherent. I mean, it’s game five NBA Finals, no look passes and hell you dunks, that’s another one.
Jim: Is there any way for anything other than ultra elite people who spent 20,000 hours practicing to achieve that you think?
Jamie: I mean? Yes. I think Macro Man ketamine. Robert’s your mother’s brother. I mean, the point is that I think there’s a ton of ways in and actually in our research I think we have over, I don’t know how many, maybe 20,000 or 30,000 or maybe more psycho graphs of people’s Flow profiles. And I think it was 47%, 48% actually test as deep thinkers so that their way in is actually more contemplative, and marginal, creative, intellectual. That whole realm of interiority is where they find their pathway through. It does not need to be flash bang and external. It’s just those are often the easiest examples because what they’re doing is made visible versus someone sitting at a desk or a computer or a loom.
Jim: That’s interesting. From the earliest days of Game B thinking, it certainly been something that we thought ought to be part of the foundational code of Game B, the deep code, so to speak. That there are no names in boxes on charts. If there are hierarchies, they arise for a very brief time, for a specific purpose, and then disappear again as soon as the need is gone. And that literally might be ours. And it sounds like that’s what some of these elite guys have been able to achieve.
Jamie: Well, yeah. But it’s also way harder than it looks in the sense of it’s everything they had to say no to, to create the space for that to emerge. That’s where the battle is won and lost. It’s the no corner offices, no special exact team meetings with the same 10 people who are asked to present and everybody else are out in the hallways with their heads down, constantly changing things up. I mean, they grew beards, they didn’t wear chest uniforms, and often didn’t salute commanding officers, that the chief petty officers ran the ship. The guys from Annapolis were respected apprentices. They were on a rotation, they weren’t lifers, there’s a whole ecosystem of favoring and honoring experience and actual commitments in time versus the externalized hierarchies they could fall back on.
Jim: I love it. And as you point out, preserving that space is hard because unfortunately, in our modern world, particularly military guys, there everyone is trained to think that the way you get ahead in life is moving your name from one box to another up some chart.
Jamie: Yeah. Although, I would say that those guys are probably more internally motivated than most. That is embracing the suck in service of a very rare sense of satisfaction I think.
Jim: It is true that they are not into the big houses and the flashy cars because while these days the military officer’s paid a decent middle class income, you ain’t getting rich that way, and you’re putting your life on the line. So you’re right. It’s got to be a different set of motivations, and the people who climb the tree in Corporate America. Something that elicited from me when I saw that was remembering the book Hierarchy in the Forest by Chris Boehm. An anthropologist who has written an extraordinary book about how hunters and gatherers managed to defeat the tendency to hierarchy that’s probably in our genes.
Jim: If we look at our close relatives, both chimps and bonobos, there’s really rigid and really vicious hierarchies that are different in the two species, but they’re very rigid. Hunters and gatherers apparently had no such thing. And what they did once they invented weapons is, and apparently this was worldwide, there was a commitment to take down big men who tried to usurp positions. And the ability to have spears and bows and arrows meant that two betas could kill one alpha without any problem.
Jamie: But I mean, doesn’t that seem conjectural as all get out? How on Earth would they have [inaudible 00:20:50] kinship structures and big man theory?
Jim: Read the book.
Jamie: Do they make a good case?
Jim: I think so. I really do. One best evidence we have are existing hunter and gatherer peoples, and he surveys a whole bunch of them, and then looks at statistics on various attributes of other archeological societies. He goes into the genetics of both bonobos and chimps. It’s an amazing book. Hierarchy in the Forest. I would strongly recommend. How our ancestors developed an immune system to big men. And something we obviously lost about 12,000 years ago with the rise of agriculture then the state.
Jamie: I wonder. I mean, honestly, I truly don’t know. And I mean, my grad work was in neuro anthropology and millenarian movements and a lot of proto European contact. And I mean, that is such a fascinating inquiry. And I’m also just not sure how precise we can get about stuff that’s that old as far as cultural artifacts and up streaming, going to present day nominally intact or they’re not indigenous communities now is a wonky game of back costing what it might have been way back then.
Jim: And we also know there’s some weird selection effects going on, and the last few are probably different than mainstream 20,000 years ago.
Jamie: Yeah. I mean, it is amazing how far we’ve come how fast. A little staggering, kind of spooky, but I mean holy shit these little naked monkeys with clothes man.
Jim: Exactly. And even more so, in the last 300 years or so it’s just like what the hell? We’re going straight up. And whether that’ll kill us or not is another question.
Jamie: We found an accidental stash of fossilized sunlight in the Petro era. We’ve just unlocked millions of years of loaded starlight, and I mean, just bring it all around the world. It’s been a good ride.
Jim: And probably there’s enough of it to let us get to the next level, which is some combination of solar and nuclear and wind, et cetera. That windfall of petrified dinosaurs or whatever seems like, if we’re not stupid, is big enough for us to get to the other side where we won’t need it anymore.
Jamie: That would be rad.
Jim: That would be cool. Now let’s go back to something that has big bearings on, again, how to think about Game B, and how to think about what comes next in terms of a society. One of the things you talk a lot about with respect to the SEALs, but you also talk about with respect to some MBA students, is that there seems to be a very narrow keyhole type selection for these kinds of groups in terms of leadership. The number that are filtered out are astronomical. And so again, I’ll come back to the fact do you think these skills and types are inherently rare? Or is it that our society has been such that not many have been made? Maybe in a better society, we can build more people that are capable of this position based dynamic subordination.
Jamie: Yeah. I mean, because I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately in conversations with Jordan and Daniel and Benita and others, and my sense is there’s two different value systems at play. So if you look for like, hey, really dropping into high per coordinated group Flow is a very rare specific task with tons of attrition and tons of over training required to bring it about in most even elite populations. Then the question becomes, how do we do this communally? How do we do this where everybody is involved? How do we do this where everybody is on the bus, and there’s a commitment that nobody gets dropped?
Jamie: And coordinating that is often a progressive lefty shit show by any other term. And they never get off the ground. So there are these two competing poles of value sets. One is the extrinsic value, can you do the thing? And if you’re a SEAL, if you’re a pro basketball player, if you’re Miles Davis’s drummer, you either know how to swing or you don’t, and they get someone who can. So that’s pure extrinsic value system.
Jamie: But then on the other side, we’re a community, we’re an organization, there’s consensus, having everybody’s voice, having diversity, all having inclusion. Having all those things are things we really value. Then it can often be really hard to get off the ground. So the question is, is this there on the both ends? If coherence, which would be balancing those two polarities in the sense. And this is like Laszlo Bock at Google, and in fact, Mike Gervais is our buddy who’s the performance psychologist for the Seattle Seahawks.
Jamie: They’ve done the same thing and won Super Bowls that way. But it’s a culture of safety, a culture of risk taking, a culture where intrinsic value is affirmed and everybody actually feels it in their nervous systems. And at the same time, there’s a starting 11 on any given Sunday. And we also hold that that capacity. That plus dynamic subordination feels like a sort of potential provisional set of guidelines or protocols for Game B leadership in dynamic conditions.
Jim: You mentioned interesting the lefty shit show. These days I actually espouse a fair amount of lefty progressive shit when I can’t get my Game B right now, god damn it, because it’s better than the alternative. On the other hand, I’m not impressed at all with the quality of human functioning over in that space. In particular, you’re laughing your ass off I can tel right?
Jim: Keep in mind I’m a former Goldwater republican fun, longtime member of the NRA, huge gun collection. I still like hunting fish. Get off my [inaudible 00:26:11] you pesky kids. God damn kids. Fuck you. But anyway, one particular capability I was really been wondering about when I thought about I can talk to you, I was like, I got to ask this question. Can courage be taught? Physical courage, emotional courage, social courage, because that’s what I see missing so often amongst the screwball left.
Jamie: Balls and backbone.
Jim: Yeah. You’re only balls, but you certainly need background.
Jamie: Well, I mean, [inaudible 00:26:39] just the fortitude.
Jim: Yeah, exactly.
Jamie: It’s the thing.
Jim: [inaudible 00:26:43].
Jamie: I had a conversation with actually a commander of the SAS who’s just come off to lead the Center for Army Leadership at Sandhurst in England, and we had that conversation over dinner and he’s like, “Hey, we take 18 year old lads from the east end or from Glasgow, lousy social systems, poor role models, and in six months we train them to be able to legally take another person’s life.” That is a tremendous responsibility and imperative. And they held that so strongly that they actually guide a majority of those young men through that. And at the same time, even though my whole career is in learning and development and training, I kind of think that you either have an unbendable integrity or you don’t. And then if you find those folks, that’s the nature part. And then you nurture the hell out of those who have that ineffable core quality.
Jamie: And I know that sounds essentialist, reductionist about you, whatever, but you should have … The SEALs have that bell that they ring at BUDS if you want to quit. There’s the brass bell up on the pad, and they’re always being taunted and baited and encouraged to go out there and just ring the fucking thing and it’ll all be over. And then when they do somewhere in the last decade, they started allowing guys a second crack like, hey, you’ve been training your whole life for this. I know this is a big dream. If you want to go back then you can. And fascinatingly, not one who’s ever rung the bell once, ever makes it through BUDS. Where there are creases, they will fold again.
Jim: You used the word integrity, which is one of Jordan’s absolutely favorite and probably now foundational words for Game B. And if your sense is integrity can’t be made, that means at least for a while till we start getting into child rearing practices and education, Game B is going to have to be pretty selective.
Jamie: Well, here’s the thing though. It can be modeled and it can be untrained, and it can be encouraged and supported. You can create conditions by which we drop into resonance and we start actually creating cascades of verbal and nonverbal and imitated observed behaviors.
Jim: Does that include integrity.
Jamie: I don’t know. I honest to god don’t know because then we’re getting into a level of psychological modeling that I just don’t feel comfortable with in the sense of I don’t know, is there an essentialist soul based unique self? Or are we just neurons, habits, patterns and foggy memories?
Jim: And the answer’s probably some of both. And that part that we think of it as real, it’s actually a resonance back from our social group. That’s why I mentioned once Game B is far enough along that it has Game B child rearing for infants, very young children and game be education for older kids, I suspect even if integrity is hard to get inculcated, if you’re able to start young, you can probably inculcate it in most, if not quite everybody.
Jamie: Oh, that’s been the wishing well fantasy of every single utopian movement ever. And then you try raising goddamn kids, and you realize it’s way trickier than it looks.
Jim: Yeah, it is true. Here I am violating Rutt’s no new man hypothesis. We actually have an empirical question is the core capability integrity found in everybody or can it be nurtured in everybody from adulthood onwards? If the answer is yes, fine. If the answer is no, then Game B has to have a fairly tight funnel to only bring in people who are in integrity as adults and try to build them.
Jamie: Yes. File that one under absofuckinglutely.
Jim: Yeah. And I don’t know if we know the answer that, but I do agree with Jordan that integrity or what we used to call honesty and good faith, though I think his concept of integrity now is a little broader, is absolutely the bedrock on which Game B has to be built. And then if it turns out that we do have to be selective, then the next question is can we, without turning into utopian assholes, provide a culture that a much higher percentage of the next generation that comes up in the proto Game B culture as their foundation integrity?
Jamie: Yeah, I mean, obviously in the devils are in those deeds. So the question is how to enforce it. Now what I wonder is it sounds like yeah, if you’re doing a decentralized organization, that also is a poll of the decentralized pot and the organized pot. And do you go like, Articles of Confederation and the loose confederation of early colonies? But you cement it with a contemporary Eleusinian Mystery. So you get higher coherence with looser governance than we were able to pull off the first time around. Is that the kind of thing you’re imagining?
Jim: Yeah. Something like that. In fact, the term I’ve been trying to get out into the world a little bit, I called coherent pluralism, which is there is a core really strong coherence, and maybe it is something completely subjective like a mystery, or maybe it’s a series of doctrines like the founding fathers. But this is the key, is it’s not too all encompassing. So it leaves room for lots of variety. So for instance, if you want to believe in one of the old horror religions, go right ahead. Let’s say that’s not incorporated within the domain of the coherent. And outside the domain of coherent I would say I would be a rabid Matter Sonian and Jeffersonian, which is do what you will so long as you don’t violate the core.
Jamie: And that sounds Corellian more than Jeffersonian. But I respect your sass. Do what thou will. And [inaudible 00:32:22], do what thou will. That is the law of love under will.
Jim: Yeah, exactly. And it strikes me that if we look just in a caricature version of our left and our right today, the right wants to give a very long list of prescriptions of what thou shalt do, and thou shalt not do, very controlling. A lot of it pulled over bodily from the Old Testament, they forget about the New Testament. On the other hand, the left is lush and-
Jim: … Decadent, and lacking in strong values. And it strikes me that the right answer is something in between, which is we are going to be a society of values and here they are God damn it. If you don’t want to adhere to the values, the relatively tight core values of Game B, get the hell out. On the other hand, Game B needs to be self policed to make sure it doesn’t become a utopian nightmare where every single thing is specified down to the nth degree like a lot of these creepy ass cults that we see out in California.
Jamie: That was awesome. That was a Goldwater ran. That was perfect. I mean, the lefts actually become a bit more pious so that they’re not nearly as lush as they used to be. And some are really quite self serious. And then the right, you’ve got the super all right burn it all down folks that are literally outflanking like Eric Trump Jr. And booing him off stages because they think he’s a race traitor. They’re not going far enough out. So we’re getting a fragmentation on a fragmentation, and the centrists of each camp have been completely outmoded by the bomb throwers on either side.
Jim: But probably not out numbered. That’s the important thing.And these jackasses on both sides, fuck them basically.
Jamie: Well, I think there’s an important thing. It’s almost like we’re into an upside down sorting hat because it’s no longer that you’re … Necessarily. I mean, I think we’ve got a split on a 50, 50. So we’ve got quarters. The central quarters are nominally no matter how corrupt and entrenched and rent seeking stitch ups. The centrist are nonetheless, still ascribing to a version of the Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian infinite game of the American experiment. They are agreeing to give back the ball after they’ve won and not break the rules, et cetera. But the folks on either side are like fuck the infinite game. That’s 300 years of the French enlightenment to NAFTA. Fuck it. We’re burning it all down. And those folks want to go back to very finite games, identity, political, tribal, faction, and then data driven, almost.
Jamie: And [inaudible 00:35:09] and that’s the sorting. It’s like if you’re in on perpetuating the infinite game and the spirit of Lincoln, and Kennedy, and Obama, and whomever, right? And Churchill, that stands against fascism. The Western tradition to now through here, let’s dust that fucker off and stand it back up, and double, triple, quadruple down on the premise because if we don’t, and it goes Mad Max futile, that takes an awful long time and a world to rebuild from.
Jim: Yeah, and you said it in passing into my mind, this is the other critical one, we must fight to preserve the enlightenment. Now yes, the enlightenment was full of the bigotries of its age, but it made such a difference in the transition from essentially the past, the world dominated by superstition with no ability to tell truth from bullshit, to a world where we developed a mechanism where we can actually find incrementally and never perfectly movement towards what is actually true.
Jim: And we have the idiot postmodernists on the left, we have the rigid reactionaries on the right, both of which want to dethrone the enlightenment for God knows what on the left, and some on the right are explicitly saying they want to return to a medievalist perspective.
Jamie: Where is Bill Buckley when you need him?
Jim: Yeah, exactly, right? Anywhere from Hubert Humphrey to Bill Buckley. They were all decent folks actually.
Jamie: We saw that there was a show, I think it was the MacNeil Lehrer maybe, but basically it was Tim Leary and Bill Buckley having a discussion, and Leary’s in his full muslin smoke with the mala beads. The whole bit, and the level of discourse was so high, the engagement, the witty banter, it was like watching two swordsman engage in a foiling jewel. It was beautiful. You’re like, oh my god, what’s happened to civic discourse?
Jim: God, indeed. And people respected each other. You can imagine people in that time further apart then uncle Tim, and Will Buckley. We only got a few minutes here. I got a whole bunches and notes of things I wanted to cover. So I’m going to give you a choice. Two different branches, one are the three forms of [inaudible 00:37:22], selflessness, timelessness.
Jim: Effortlessness. Yeah, there it is. Or the four forces, psychology, neurobiology, pharmacology and technology.
Jamie: I mean, we can talk about this stuff but this is a couple of years in the review mirror from the things that we’re actively thinking about now. It all builds on it 100%.
Jim: All right. Fuck the [inaudible 00:37:46]. Let’s go. What are you thinking about right now?
Jamie: Well, I mean, how about this, that the notion that ecstatic technologies instantly fire laid out here’s the three pitfalls as we gain access to stay changing technologies, insights, experiences, and culture. And the challenges were threefold. One was weaponization, the other was commercialization, and then the third was heatonization. They’re getting hijacked by our own lizard brain impulses. And then as we see that playing forward now, into everything from the psychedelic renaissance, and the big move of venture capital, and IP protections and patents, and basically the full weight of the market economy piling into psychedelic therapies as they’re getting ready to launch, and that’s creating all sorts of ripples and disturbances in the extended professional and research networks, all the way down to the therapeutic communities. That’s one.
Jamie: DARPA investing in denaturing psilocybin, ketamine and MDMA. So there’s literally a modern day SOMA, and not the good kind, the brave new world kind. And then you have the excesses, and the delusion loops, and the dissociation, and the spiritual bypassing of the transformational culture scene, which is nominally the ones who are often the spokespeople for any form of progressive new vision for what’s coming, but very few of them have their feet in the ground. So watching those trends, and paying attention to those three things. And then obviously thrilling retina tracking, and full big data biometric assessment into neuro marketing in the commodification space. That’s the landscape, and it’s unfolding in real time as well as it intersects also with whatever your level of existential risk awareness and assessment might be.
Jim: Let’s jump into one of them because this was actually in my opinion, what killed Game B 1.0 back in 2013, and it’s a term which I only heard about two weeks ago for the first time, spiritual bypass.
Jamie: Good God. Yeah, it’s a thing.
Jim: It’s a thing and [inaudible 00:39:53] my scientists realist had on, which is what I basically am, in fact, again I think I denounce this using different words in a essay I wrote called In Search of the Fifth Attractor, which I have on Medium, which first talks about things with light Game B and complex systems talk, but also specifically warns about falling into the trap of spirituality. When things get tough, don’t retreat into yourself. Just suck it up and go out to the world and kick some fucking ass. Get some more allies.
Jim: And I now realize that this is not just something that poisoned Game B 1.0, but is big in the world that there are an awful lot of these social change people that instead of putting their life on the line for social change like every social change person in history has ever had to do, instead, they wimp out and decided to spend their time on these interior explorations instead.
Jamie: Yeah, I mean, I think I wouldn’t want a baby bathwater in the sense that people’s yearning for meaning and transcendence, legit psychosocial nutrients we crave for balanced growth. So the actual that the yearning for that, I just want to give a little bit elbow room to, the access is and the idea of the fact that it’s more enjoyable to go back to the wishing well one more time than it is to pull up the proverbial bootstraps, and go do hard things that scare you. That part. That bifurcation is certainly problematic, and it’s a known issue of ecstatic state technology.
Jim: And it kind of makes sense. As you and I know, going out in the world and doing something is hard. And sitting back and gazing at your navel is easy. Well, at least I would say so. And so yeah, a lot of people just don’t have courage, don’t have toughness, don’t really want to go out and engage the world and get their head beaten and all that good stuff like those of us who have ever been on the street know could happen.
Jamie: Check this out. So here’s an encouraging thing though. In the sense of wanting to believe in people and really believing in their best, and we’re trying to go, for me the key is can people start learning to play Game B together without collapsing into a game theory game, Game A dynamics? And it becomes really hard if you’re not sure your baseline needs are being met. It’s like we can play the highfalutin, lovey, lovey collaborative game, as long as everything’s sorted. But if I or mine have a different factional interest from the distribution of basically fungible sunlight, and whatever form is shown up in, I’m going to get needy and start collapsing down my stack. So what are the practices and protocols to keep everybody’s vibe super high and coherent versus getting dropped out of the cloud and guttering along the bottom maybe taking others with them?
Jim: Yeah, and I agree that Game B is going to become something real. It has to step up and actually start to build, provide a Game B way of life at least for a few pioneers. In fact, I’ll have an essay out in a week or so, which will have a very penciled hand wavy proposal about the road. I wouldn’t call it a proposal. A naming of the road forward. Because if Game B just sits around and is a talk shop about arcane spiritual values or philosophical bullshit, lots of people are going to drop out because it’s not doing anything for them. It’s only very, very, very few people that are interested in that stuff. Most people are interested in how can I live a good life and provide a better life for my children, and leave a society that I’d be proud to leave the next generation? That’s what most people are interested in. They’re not interested in some arcane inside baseball ethical argument.
Jamie: Oh, but yeah, I think you’re taking a rational utilitarian approach to what is much more volatile and profoundly emotional decision. Connecting this tribal affiliation belonging are huge drivers, and people will continually vote against homo economic self interest in favor of supporting tribal identity and affiliation. And that’s a deep [inaudible 00:44:08] bio structure, and if we’re attempting to articulate, idealize best cases on top of that while ignoring the longer leavers that those systems represent … I mean, if we think about it, oxytocin is the last thing that comes online for social engineering.
Jamie: You got dopamine in pleasure reward, you got endorphins, you got all these things that make you feel good and happy. But man, oxytocin, it’s not just the cuddle hormone or the trust drug. It’s the ethnocentric, tribal, stomp the other across the river and feel great about the drug. And after that, humanitarianism is optional, elective and fragile.
Jim: In fact, there was just some research that came out the other day that shows that high empathy also seems to be strongly correlated with stomping the other, which makes.
Jamie: Wait a second. High empathy?
Jim: Yeah, because empathy, where it’s really powerful is in the inner group. So your empathy, while you may have powerful empathy in general, it’s more effective within the tribe. And so people who have really strong empathy for their tribe are more likely to go stomp the other.
Jamie: Wow. Interesting. How about that?
Jim: And it’s not the first such paper. I’ll find a copy of it, and we’ll put it up on the website for this episode. But I think you’re absolutely right. Homo economic has obviously been disproved by anybody who looked at the human behavior even slightly. On the other hand, it does have to deliver the goods sooner or later. It has to be able to provide a way to make a living for people that’s honorable, ethical and resonates at the tribal level. So it can’t just all be symbols and talk.
Jamie: Yeah, you got to move some matter from time to time.
Jim: Yeah, I mean, again, we have food, energy, education for the kids, shelter from the storm, these things need to start being talked about, and again be [inaudible 00:45:55] or you’re going to just get yourself a more and more concentrated community of pin heads.
Jamie: Yeah, I mean honestly, I get baffled by any excess philosophizing about any kind of culture design because I mean, talk about battle plans not surviving first contact, culture architecture never gets out of the first meeting. It’s bricklaying ahead of the thing, and it’s a sense of unless or until you find ways to explicitly navigate currency, taxation, resistance of armed enforcement of said nation state with declared sovereignty, unless we’ve solved for those things explicitly, cleanly and durably, then everything else just feels like angels on pins.
Jim: Yeah. And you can’t jump up a cliff. You can’t solve all those things simultaneously, except in the case of collapse. But until collapse, it makes much more sense to build piece parts and try them out.
Jamie: Why people are rooting for the end is because they’re like this is just an utter cluster fuck. I’ve been staring at this for half my career, I think we better just blow it all up and start again like a giant Etch A Sketch from heaven. And that’s the scary thing because the moment that everybody starts [inaudible 00:47:00] that tipping point and we’re seeing it with the rescinding of the commitment to the infinite game and [inaudible 00:47:06] tribalist populist win, lose finite games are back on the table and strongly lobbied for.
Jim: Yeah, I got to say, anyone who understands their history knows that the pain from a true collapse is unbelievable. And yes, the current world sucks, but it does not suck so bad that we really want it to drop five levels of civilization in three years and watch 250 million people in the United States alone die. Actually, the best case would be give us some time to build many of the piece parts and even done some proto Game B communities to demonstrate what works from the social side, and some of it won’t work.
Jim: And then having a soft collapse like a financial collapse. A financial collapse, not that big a deal. Like the Soviet Union was essentially a financial and regime collapse. Nobody died. Life sucked for a few years, unfortunately, they got caught by a bad attractor that it wasn’t worse than the one they were in, but it wasn’t as good as it could have been by any means. They fell into the Neo fascist attractor rather than into one of the better attractors.
Jamie: Well, exactly. But that’s also a case study. I mean, those who still control the engines of war, like Milosevic in Serbia, he had the military, therefore he was able to project force. As things on unspool, you realize that those things have to be dealt with on basically feudal level dynamics.
Jim: If things fall, that’s how far they fall, right?
Jamie: Well, yeah. And I think as things fell apart, nobody paid much attention.
Jim: I think that’s the problem with anarchy. I read these arguments for anarchy like dude, come on, let’s look at history. We know how anarchy really goes. First it goes to criminal gangs, then warlords, and then a master warlord crowds himself king.
Jamie: I mean, yeah, human history is fascinating, and the modes and models that we’ve all grown up with in taking this table stakes and seeing regurgitated in our kids history books is a fleeting fiction. It’s just a temporary wobbly mirage on the arc of human culture and civilization development. We’re freaks. And I took it as table stakes.
Jim: Yeah. Since 1694, basically. Let’s switch back here now and use the last bit of our time so we can really get into your expertise. You know about a lot of what’s going on in pharmacology, technology, neurobiology, et cetera. What do you see that’s out there either proven or advanced in the lab and the R&D level that might help make this conversion to a better world happen faster and better?
Jamie: Yeah, I think you basically just put them all together and build badass star chambers to boot up next level humans. You just combine all integrative trauma release therapies. You make you use of schedule three, four compounds, and you integrate light sound music massage like an automated Japanese massage chair, gravity blankets for vague on that tone, et cetera, and then you basically dial people through a neuro physiologically programmed synchronized consumption of prescription pharmaceuticals and a breathing protocol and the whole bit that deliver a peak energetic pulse and release with whatever interior psychological content shows up for that person. They get to make sense of it themselves. That’s their own data set.
Jamie: And you use it to debug nervous systems, and then boot up post conventional thinking in basically particularly theta, gamma and waking Delta EEG signatures. So you basically just steer the self over to that place, make sense like process at high velocity information, lateral connections, patterns, meaning making, into relationships, and then come back down with a canal or crystal of a thesis and information, research, branches and arms that you can then follow up on and instantiate in 3D. That to me seems like it’s a necessary techno adaptive innovation.
Jim: That sounds like there’s a control system there too though. You need to make sure that you use the state correctly and don’t wallow in it, don’t burn yourself out, et cetera.
Jamie: Oh, yeah. You have periodization and certain protocols almost diving and the rules for the bends and ascending and that kind of thing. So you absolutely have that on rails. And then the other part is also 100% acknowledge that those reformatting psycho technologies are pretty much with few variations, identical for basically 21st century Western alchemy, or spook black budget brainwashing. Or [inaudible 00:51:57] is just that the latter is intended to dissolve sovereignty, and the former is intended to galvanize it.
Jim: How far along is the experimentation with this multi part approach that you’ve talked about? Do you know anyone that’s actually doing this?
Jamie: Yeah, I mean, there’s a whole lot of experimentation and innovation going on. Much of it in I suppose the EDM transformational festival scene because there’s a real progression of light, sound, interactivity, biometrics, that kind of thing. So it’s interactive experiential biometrically cued or indexed experiments, pieces of performance art, interactive exhibit, training spaces, that kind of thing. So yeah, it’s a fascinating field. And what’s really interesting is that you can absolutely program a peak state of whatever, five minutes to 15 minutes, dial it up, dial it down, send people out the door on a feather, and they can use it as a post conventional meta cognitive substitute for body work or a float tank or the spa day.
Jim: Let’s get a little bit more practical. I try to be a practical guy. If we’re trying to build Game B, how might we use that?
Jamie: Well, because all the leaders are going to be incorporating micro PTSD across their days, and need places to skillfully and efficiently defrag their hard drives, reset their nervous systems, and process and integrate information because as I said, the richness level of those states tend to be high data bandwidths. So it’s combinatory, active recovery, and also strategic cogitating.
Jim: Again, let me get a little even more practical. Let’s say there’s the first proto Game B group of 200 people that go out and decide to build a Game B village somewhere, would it be your thought that they should build or take with them the kernel of these capabilities to have that within their civilization as an important part of how they build out proto Game B 1.0?
Jamie: Yeah, I mean, sure, of course. It doesn’t have to be this. It could be any integrated, dedicated full spectrum life practice or set of practices that anybody else has found and sorted and learned and pursued in their life. It’s just absent that, and with a little bit of tech assist, and a little bit of fun instructional design, you can also just port this one in.
Jamie: But I mean, it includes basically what we need I think these days and more soon is going to be highly, highly coherent, highly, highly resilient, high integrity leaders who are completely surrendered to mission and selfless service, and to playing by the highest aspirational rules of the game and self policing when we don’t. And that doesn’t lend as well self to burn out reactivity, re triggered trauma, et cetera. So healing and rejuvenation are critical to then do all the other hard 3D shit you’re discussing. So all I’m talking about is what’s the psychosocial software to map to the technical economic stuff that you’re thinking about?
Jim: That’s also what I’m trying to get at. Should this be cooked in essentially to the initial boot program? And it sounds like there’s a good argument that it would help the boot program be more successful.
Jamie: Yeah, but I mean, utopian culture is tricky because then you almost always end up back to teach the children. You’re like, oh, it’s so hard. Once adults are big, they have all these bad habits. We don’t want them anymore. And then eventually, we start fantasizing about what we really need to do is get the kids first, and then it’ll be all right. And if you do that, then it’s actually you get a double edged sword because unless you’re truly putting your kids out of all mainstream society, then the better you do it raising them in Game B or any other utopian experiment or experience, the worst they fit.
Jamie: So you are wounding the children you love the most by making them misfits on the island of toys. And that is a brutal thing. Or you’re like, we’re leaving it behind, we’re never looking back so it won’t matter. And then you’ve gone full bore proper. That’s a lot to impart or inflict on a child. Some come out amazingly out of super alternative lives, and then others make a transition that’s a little bumpier.
Jim: I think an interesting datum is that the Israeli Kibbutz, which is one of the more successful alternative micro civilizations, only about 2% of the kids stay. It’s amazing. But yet they do very well in the world.
Jamie: Yeah. On that note about kids staying, have you seen that documentary The Devil’s Playground about the Amish and the Rum Springer?
Jim: Oh, no.
Jamie: Oh, my God, it’s so good. It’s the whole story of a present day Amish community in Pennsylvania, and their Rum Springer, which is their right of adolescent passage, which I think when they turn 16 or maybe 18, then it’s like wheels off. They’re completely officially lot of folks that get to anything they want. They hook up generators, they run Nintendo’s and play stations, they have parties in the farm, they have pictures of girls and bonnets, all passed out on Chevy Novas with the door open at sunrise, like mayhem. They move down to Florida, they start dealing methamphetamine, they get apartments, they go absolutely stark raving bad shit. And by the end of the movie, you’re just crestfallen.
Jamie: You’re like, “Oh, my God, that was the city on the hill, the last best hope for the Agrarian, Jeffersonian, contemplative, quiet and non-assertive piety that we just love in this country.” And you’re like, “It’s over.” There’s no saving the youth of tomorrow. And then The Credits Roll. And the credits, what does it say? It said 93% or 97% of teenagers in this era are coming back, and then formerly rejoining the church. So they can get their yayas out, but when they come back, then you’re all the way in. And the highest percentage in the last 300 years is right now, which is the absolute kicker to the whole movie in The Credits.
Jim: I love it. In fact, I posted something on … I don’t know where. It must have been on Twitter that there must be something in the Mennonites and Amish that’s worth Game B looking into. And it sounds like a perfectly good example. A way to make sure that you don’t dead end your kids into some weird cult, make it clear from the beginning that they have the right to opt out, and in fact are essentially kicked out temporarily and have to hop back in.
Jamie: I think the reducing valve, yeah.
Jim: Yeah, it’s a great way to keep the thing from becoming a cult because the spiritual bypass thingy that we talked about one is one noon bad attractor for the alternative committee. The other one’s cults. Every goddamn time you find these dime store cult leaders, and make it my job to move them down the road every time they show their ugly faces.
Jamie: You are a [inaudible 00:58:55] Jim. Yeah, that is absolutely a tendency of anytime you get peak states and some form of DP line, and/or catharsis, then you get cultic tendencies. And that feels to be way down the stack, the tribal primate level of identifying the silver back out of deference into pretty much the antithesis of your big man caveman book that you were describing. There is the notion of the [inaudible 00:59:24] that that is the minister of the sacred. And it does feel that when anybody is up front, and by hook or by crook managed to close that socket and boot folks up into either a pre-conventional or a post conventional sense of the collective either erosion and loss of self or of deepening, connecting and amplifying of self. It depends.
Jamie: But anytime you do either of those, you get all the other tribal monkeys in the socket who imprint on that [inaudible 00:59:51] like little ducklings. They’re like, that is the source of it all. And then how many of those folks because they could be idiot savant, they could be hucksters and shysters, they could be quick studies, they could be unnatural, but how many of them give it all back?
Jamie: It’s a little bit like winning the lottery. If anybody wins the lottery, do they say, “Hey man there, but for the grace of God, let it pass through my life, let me distribute it to everybody. I was fine yesterday, I won the lottery today, do I need to keep any of it?” And so those gurus with feet of clay, it feels like they probably hold on to some of the light that’s actually the metabolic output of the collective. And in doing so, it corrupts them slowly over time, but inevitably.
Jim: Or maybe not so always. Some of them as you say, probably even if they weren’t into it explicitly as con men, they quickly fall into it.
Jamie: See, that’s the thing. I think that that is a category for sure, at the basis least descending level, like cut rate mega church ministers. But the reality is, is that the more interesting cases are ones of people who had absolute juice. Otherwise, they couldn’t have possibly done what they did or gathered the people they gathered. So the question is how do you get these basically? It’s that old token thing of every dog was it started out in the pursuit of knowledge.
Jim: That is true. And I would put it in a category of another immune system that Game B has to build for itself. We have to have an immune system against spiritual bypass, we have to have an immune system about trapping our children in an impossible situation from which they can’t get out and can’t move forward, and we have to have an immune system against the gurus, quacks, and the swamis. Right?
Jamie: Yeah, but of course, I mean, that’s the trick. I mean, that’s baked into the book of Revelations that the Antichrist is going to walk like a Christ, and he’s going to talk like a Christ, but he’s going to be the Antichrist. We always have the ability to vilify the other in the name of upholding in ourself described standards of purity. So, that’s the trick. I mean, A, I think even just naming something like Game B is presumptive.
Jamie: It’s like we’re going to keep evolving culture, And it’s happening in real time, whether we’re discussing it on a podcast or whether it’s just happening all around us in a million tiny ways. Folks are trying to navigate the wreckage of all this. And there’s not going to be another flag planted on a city on a hill that has militarization, tax resources, protection, sovereign land, et cetera. So we’re integrating into existing systems and isolationism has never been less possible than it is right now.
Jim: That’s a very good point. Well, I think we’re going to wrap it up here. This has been a remarkably interesting freewheeling conversation. A little different than I intended, but I think people are going to love it. Thanks a lot, Jamie, and we will put links up to your book and your website on the episode page, and that’ll be out in a couple of weeks.
Jamie: Awesome man. Thank you so much. That was a blast to chat with you. And thank you so much for the thorough preparation and great questions. I loved it.
Automated Voice: Production services and audio editing by Jared Janes Consulting. Music by Tom Mahler at modernspacemusic.com.