Metamodern Choice

Hyperreality as a Consequence of Capitalism and Social Media

a lee
44 min readJan 21, 2019

Social media isn’t a one-way broadcast; it’s a multiway opportunity for dialogue.—Clara Shih

Ideology has very little to do with ‘consciousness’ — it is profoundly unconscious. — Louis Althusser

We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves. — Buddha

With the opening of 2019, we have an influx of new articles explaining meaning or predicting the future with lists. This article is only different from most other articles in that I want to focus on how we got here to determine where we will go. Many articles will tell us how we should be and what we should think. This article does some of that, but with the acknowledgment that we can never control the vast array of choices people will make. The last kind of future I want to have is one where we are all forced to do what some group wants because they don’t feel like they have benefited enough.

This article explains with more focus the ideas first presented in Informational Realism: Being Human in iReality. While Information Realism speculates on the thought processes that enable hyperreality, this article speculates on how hyperreality is the consequence of capitalism’s fixation on choice.

Philosopher Jean Baudrillard explains hyperreality in his book Simulacra and Simulation as a consequence of what he calls hypermakets.

Here a critical mass beyond which the commodity becomes hypercommodity, and culture becomes hyperculture, is elaborated — that is to say no longer linked to distinct exchanges or determined needs, but to a kind of total descriptive universe, or integrated circuit that implosion tranverses through and throught — incessant circulation of choices, readings, references, marks, decoding. Here cultural objects, as elsewhere the objects of consumption, have no other end than to maintain you in a state of mass integration, of transitorized flux, of a magnetized molecule. It is what one comes to learn in a hypermarket: hyperreality of the commodity — it is what one comes to learn at Beaubourg: the hyperreality of culture.

Image from Hyperreality and Simulacra.

Hyperreality happens whenever any culture has enough material prowess to materialize symbols, enabling narrative to emerge in experiential reality.

Of course, all cultures understood their narrative as being real. The major difference between hyperreality today and cultures of the past is that traditional cultures often used their narratives to deal with non-cultural phenomena. For instance, Mary Catherine Bateson writes in this article about systems thinking that Greek mythology mapped the seasons onto family relationships in order for people to translate what they understood about family onto understanding the weather as a drama of the Gods. Traditionally, narrative is a symbolic mapping that encodes phenomena.

Hyperreality, through material mastery, creates phenomena. When Baudrillard writes that hyperreality maintains a “state of mass integration” he means that the relationships of hyperreality map solely for the purpose of maintaining that hyperreality.

There are many reasons as to why this happens, including dopamine associations, belonging and other forms of reinforcement. (It is possible to see dopamine’s sole purpose as an imprinting mechanism, but more on that later.)

Regardless of why, these mechanics have worked throughout human history, binding human behavior to culture, reinforcing narrative and group cohesion. What’s different with hyperreality is that today we can create any reality we like.

Unlike the Ancient Greeks who had to pattern their culture on the weather, today we can influence the weather for our benefit. In fact, our materiality is so successful that we can create entirely fictitious worlds. Baudrillard’s two premiere examples in his book America are Las Vegas and Disneyland. These environments exist solely to present the experience of being there.

Hyperreality happens when humans get a choice as to the kind of world they want to live in. This the power of science fiction: that technological mastery will present unfamiliar worlds that form as a consequence of achieving desires, both spoken and unspoken. (This is also why the fantasy genre is often grouped with science fiction, both are about exploring created worlds.)

Creating worlds, of course, is not new. Many people’s origin stories, like the Aztec, and in more modern times, Neuva Germania, the founding of Israel, the American constitution, the Confederacy, and Napoleon as an Emperor mirror suburban planned communities and Dubai in that humans craft worlds from whatever environment they are in. The main difference today is our technology.

Currently, our technological capacity for presenting choice extends into politics, not just building and urban planning. Thus, we can understand Antifa, the alt-right, and Lock Her Up as part of our shared political conundrum today.

Our political problem and our ability to enact hyperrealities stem from the same mechanism: Choice.

This article is lengthy. I tackle choice from various angles to emphasize that the choice we have today has more than one dimension. Hyperreality isn’t the culmination of just one facet, as Baudrillard states. Hyperreality extends into physical, biological, social, and material systems as a fixed context that furthers universal expansion (entropy).

What’s at stake today is that human technology has exceeded the planet’s ability to absorb its impacts. As a result, engaging in choices that only foster greater hyperreal ideologies can lead to disaster when those material impacts are incongruent with maintaining our physical environment.

Additionally, because hyperreal symbols are fixed points in multiple dimensions, we cannot make decisions from solely one dimension, lest we ignore the impacts in other areas.

In a way, this article is a brief introduction of several distinct contexts which all support and foster our ability to have hyperreal choices:

  • Section 1 is about politics as the context of choice.
  • Section 2 is about technology promoting choice.
  • Section 3 ties life to metamodern society via choice.
  • Section 4 anchors all these contexts with symbology.
  • Section 5 is about how economic ideology led to hyperreality.
  • Section 6 is about hyperreal meaning and Truth.
  • Section 7 is about how choice today can be socially coherent in the future.
  • Section 8 is the conclusion and main takeaway focusing on the ground of choice, awareness.

1. Ideology Presents Choice by Defining the Self

Information is central to choice.

All information technology arose because information is how people make choices. We understand the world through difference. For instance, we are free to group the world through any symbology we like: Pokemon, Mormonism, Libertarianism, Political Correctness, and various ethnocentricisms, to name only a few.

Yet information is not synonymous with symbols.

Information is the raw stuff of difference. Information is data. Symbols are formalized information, presented in only certain ways. Where data is meant to be literal, symbols are meta. Symbols stand for extra-literal differences. Symbols are classes of created information, like the alphabet. As a result, to interrelate symbols as being of the same context so they can be chained, some extra material information is also needed to encode a symbol.

Stated in math-ese, symbols are to information as cardinal numbers are to ordinal numbers.

Sometimes we understand those narratives and symbols literally, but the mapping from narratives and symbols can be also used to map the intentions of other people.

We use symbols to map/narrate our reality so that we can interact within the same context as other humans who share those symbols/narratives. Within that context, we add information to make decisions about those symbols.

A largely shared narrative and symbology that organizes people en mass is an ideology.

Originally Marx coined the term ideology to talk about how capitalism creates a false consciousness in the working class. For Marx, ideology primarily hid how the working class was exploited. Louis Althusser and Slavoj Žižek extended ideology to describe the conceptual process by which people come to understand who they are. For instance, this interesting article on how Aristotle is to blame for AI binary bias shows how ideology can be used to foster binary identity — agreement with the article is a different issue.

From a functional perspective, both definitions see ideology as a shared network of symbols, narratives, and meanings. This network of symbology directs behavior by establishing values and creating identities within a given social organization (usually some kind of hierarchy).

Real life Barbie and Ken. Maybe an extreme example, but you get the idea. From here.

Conceiving of ideology as a shared conceptualization that directs people’s energy lets us understand that nearly all aspects of a socialized person are ideologically regulated. Ideology defines how we should act, appear, and compare ourselves with each other. Ideology tells us who we are and who others are to us.

In that sense, ideology is a broader concept than culture as ideology includes not only culture but also other forms of directives. For example, philosophy is often used to justify how humans should organize.

In his book Transcritique, Kojin Karatani notes the parallels between how the influx of thinkers in Ancient Greece (called Sophists) from surrounding nations like the Persian Empire disturbed the Athenians so much that Plato claimed in his book The Republic that the Greek language was the closest human tongue to Truth. Karatani also compares Plato to Heidegger for “in the end, the loss of Being was equal to the loss of the German agrarian community.” This kind of commitment to an ideology is what constitutes conservatism. In fact, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is essentially about people finding Truth like literally walking into sunlight. In his allegory, Plato defined Truth as an unfamiliar world to common people. This divide was used to justify how math and Greek language were the only gateway to Truth. This insistence on Greek language being the only human tongue for Truth was one way Plato justified the exclusion of foreigners and their ideas (i.e., Sophists). In today’s vernacular, Plato’s The Republic could sloganized with MAGA: “Make Athens Great Again.”

Where ideology and politics directly align is that both determine who/where one is in the world. While ideology can direct us in ways that are non-literal (such as by insisting that people with expensive things are worthier), politics is directly about the justified division of labor and resources. Political content is about justifying/determining who has validity, who belongs, who should work more, and who should get more.

Where ideology intersects choice is that ideology hides some choices while it presents others as valid, by pre-deciding who we think we are and what we think we should be. For instance, it is ideological that only certain people should be privileged, or that things should be owned by certain people.

Essentially as hyperreality highlights the presence of ideology, at least in others, so that hyperreality will also (in)directly highlight how we have choice between ideologies.

This condition of hyperreal choice is intensified by information technology.

2. Technology Expands Direction

With information technology becoming mobile, augmented reality is just around the corner.

Augmented reality is essentially technology directly overlaying information onto our everyday sensory context. (In contrast, virtual reality overlays information onto a non-everyday context.)

Augmented reality is different from other material technologies in that:

  1. augmented reality uses mobile electronics that frees our hands
  2. augmented reality allows non-local humans to synchronize their behavior in real time

Augmented reality is another step in furthering ideology, in directing people.

We can understand the immediacy of augmented reality by examining how apps have affected us.

Apps direct behavior and action. More information in the system provides more decision points for dollars to differentiate, which means there can be more dollars in the system with more products. For example, I bought an Oura ring so as to be directed toward better health. With more information I have more objective metrics to calibrate my choices (i.e., sleep and exercise).

Hence, as part of hyperreality, apps provide more choices.

Having a choice may sound mundane, but there is a larger picture. Our ability to make choices depends on our awareness of having a choice. This means that making choices is dependent on conscious awareness (which apps can help highlight). And as we all know, drilled into us from a young age, consciousness is what makes us different from other animals, different from other life forms.

To better understand that choice isn’t merely an economic imperative, we should now talk about what it means to direct energy.

After all, systematically directing energy is what constitutes life.

President Trump’s speech to reopen the government with temporary DACA protection in exchange for funds to build a wall seeks to direct all our energies in one way, but via Snap filter technology, Owen Bernard redirects the energies in a different way. Welcome to post-contextuality; more on that later.

3. Symbols, (Neg)entropy, and Life

In What is (Schrödinger’s) Negentropy?, Dr. Mae-Won Ho writes about how Schrödinger called the ability of living organizations to direct energy Negentropy.

To understand negentropy, let’s first recap entropy.

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is called a law because everything tends towards diffusion. This diffusion is called entropy. Living systems avoid becoming diffuse by limiting degrees of the freedom available for diffusion. Energy always goes in the easiest path. So living organizations metabolize energetic materials to store energy, and then later, trigger those stores for intentional release.

Diagram of how ATP stores energy via mitochondrial membranes. From here.

Storing and releasing energy in directed ways is what life, and technology, do via dissipative structures. Such structures use the properties of matter to regulate packets of energy to do work. Within our bodies, there are packets of chemical energy (like ATP) as there are packets of information — encoded matter — i.e., hormones, neurotransmitters, DNA, RNA, proteins) — which also trigger stores of energy to be directed in specific, contextually defined responses.

Registering difference is the minimum anchor for something to be information, such as in a synapse. When information is understood, by a sentience, to be meaningful, it is symbolized so as to be dealt with among other symbols/options. In information theory, the measure of unexpected difference (from a base expectation) is called entropy. Compared with the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the measure of the lack of difference (in terms of an energetic difference, which can be understood as heat) is also called entropy.

Whereas in heat entropy, we have the measure of the lack of variance, in information entropy, we have a measure of unexpected variance. Essentially, the increase of our inability to measure the expected positions, either as transmitted information or as heat/energy is called entropy.

The accuracy of one’s predictability is a direct measure of how directed energy is.

Dissipative structures defy entropy because instead of flying apart, the dissipative structure lets off steam at a regular way to preserve its structure and to do work. That “steam” is a difference regularized by the dissipative structure, leading that structure to leak information as it sorts itself in the environment.

Image from Adaptive Networks of Socio-metabolic Flows.

Dissipative structures include, obviously, life, but also stars, geothermic activity, our machines, and society as a whole. We can even go so far as to calculate/plan the energy cost in maintaining our symbologies when we look for sustainable directives as explored in The Social Metabolism: A Socio-Ecological Theory of Historical Change.

Some examples of dissipative structures at work include:

  1. Submarine detection which requires recognizing unintentional signals (patterns) the submarine’s energy leaves in the environment.
  2. Chess players who make mate with less moves control their energy against the energy of their opponent within the parameters of the pieces on the board.
  3. Human beings whose physical control can dissipate their bodily energy in a very symbolically contingent manner with expression and finesse, such as a musician, athlete or other performer.
Joanna Conner has a great deal of control in how she dissipates her energy with a guitar.

Thus, dissipative structures present a paradox: they seem to defy dissipation because they create energetic gradients, but in fact, their “steam” is part of dissipation as it takes more energy to manipulate energy.

Today our machines (computers) can measure difference down to electrons. IBM recently released the IBMQ, which is a publicly available quantum computer. A computer’s advancement is due to how fast it can change and process unique states that can be symbolizable (such as being printed on screen or displayed on a VR headset).

These symbols at their core, operate as an anchor so that people can then make coordinated choices.

In terms of the determinism and free-will debate, entropy is in alignment with both. Any activity we do is both determined via the constraints of energy, but it can also involve dissipative structures that function negentropically, by directing energy. Essentially, this debate becomes irrelevant once we de-prioritize the ideal image of humans as having super-rational control over a future and instead understand choice and dissipative structures as both expressions of limiting degrees of freedom and directing energy.

Seen in this way, symbols are a part of evolution as much as human culture is part of negentropic life. Different from traditional cultures, which often had only a few ideologies at a time, today, we share a vast number of symbols but often disagree what those symbols mean. Disagreement on meaning means those symbols can’t direct energy coherently en mass.

This video presents an understanding of Metamodernism that is affective rather than philosophical.

The current condition of meaning oscillation has been called metamodernism. Different from postmodernism, which only has fragmented narratives, metamodernism contains fragmented narratives that comment and peek in on one another. Necessary to metamodernism is the concept of a fixed point. Essentially media, symbols and other shared phenomena all offer fixed points for coordination, even though humans within iReality often fail to successfully coordinate.

4. Symbols are not just Political Fixed Points

Although fixed points are a mathematically defined concept, I extend its use to include non-mathematical contexts. Essentially, a fixed point is an identity regardless of context. This concept is fairly useful to denote “zero points” where two different contexts align.

Consider that symbols and materiality are enmeshed. Symbols can’t work if they aren’t relevant in some way to materiality since material is what humans are made of. Thus, a symbol has two dimensions, one material and one symbolic, even though a symbol is but one thing.

As Hegel says in Phenomenology of Spirit, the spirit is the bone.

We are used to thinking of symbols in terms of its material expression or in terms of its symbolic meaning. This is because the symbolic meaning may vary between people regardless of the materiality or a symbol may vary due to its material expression/style yet mean the same thing between people.

Meaning and materiality are recontextualized in this cover video. Is this video primarily a Bad Romance cover, or an expression for gender equality?

Nonetheless, where there is a symbol, material and symbol are literally the same, as a fixed point between material and symbolic dimensions. We can lose the meaning if the symbol’s material is manipulated. Likewise, we can lose meaning if a symbol is recontextualized.

The dual nature of a symbol means that the object of reference could be anything, however, a symbol is only formalized when we can account for some difference. Essentially our ability to detect a new kind of field requires that we have a new mechanism to account for that new kind of difference. What I am calling difference is both symbol and object of reference.

The force is one example of a unique symbology. This field is only recognizable/symbolizable because it is manageable in some way.

For example, in the computer, at the level of electron pathways, logic gates are both hardware circuits and often part of a software context supporting the current state of the computer, which can express many different symbols as your device’s screen currently does for you to read this article. The difference expressed in the material and the difference in symbol must be synonymous for us to understand a symbol as being expressed.

Symbols in a network can represent any information since symbols can map, remap, and map onto other maps.

In the language of Deleuze, this would be territorializing, reterritorializing and deterritorializing.

Here are some mapping examples:

  1. Science is a map (of reality) whose symbols follow the logic of nature.
  2. Mythology is also a map (of reality) whose symbols are chained to follow other logics. For example, the history of the Greek Gods before Olympus records the history of various local deities that were conquered or absorbed by those who became the Ancient Greeks.
  3. Technology uses natural logic to manipulate differences in matter. Those differences could be material products if we want their physical properties, or those differences could be informational if we want to interface with symbolized difference for various scenarios.
People often spend their energy making more symbols to give direction to even more people. Image from here.

This gets us to the heart of understanding how choice fits with symbols. Since symbols are both material and meaning, symbols enable us to direct energy.

If we imagine that humans can symbolize anything, then the consequence is that with the right symbolized materialities, humans can manipulate anything or realize any number of possible meanings, connections or behaviors.

In a coordinated mass, by sharing and manipulating information, we could easily create hyperrealities. We can create gigantic narratives that foster new worlds whose meaning may disconnect from anything that came before. Sometimes we call these closed networks of symbols cults.

The threshold for entering hyperreality has been surpassed with the amount of symbolic sharing going on today. To understand how our world enables hyperreality we must dive into the root culture shared by the entire world today.

From The Illusion of Choice in Consumer Brands

5. Capitalist Ideology Promotes Choice

20th-century capitalism with its mastery of centralized broadcasting and centralized manufacturing laid the ground for the Web 2.0's radical individualized sharing of information (social media).

By now, it should be clear that information manipulation is extremely powerful as it allows us to create new media, impart meaning and influence/direct each other.

Information’s impact is compounded by the internet’s universal structure (URL stands for Universal Reference Locator). This flatness enabled the connection of previously different contexts which often supported different networks of symbols. As the ecology of symbols becomes flattened so the informational ecology maintained by mass media, business, churches, and other organizational network communities becomes non-local and thus vulnerable to being disrupted by novel new sources, like blogs, YouTube channels that can be made by anyone or any new social media platform.

Isis, like perhaps China or the United States, all have insular worldviews, which may be disturbing and even brutal.

A consequence of this mix is that we now have a flood of information. Mobile technology adds even more metrics as novel combinations of meaning expresses as an explosion of the variety of decisions people could make. More information means even more choices, creating a vast network ripe for colonization by competing hyperrealities. To dive further on how colonization might happen, you can read my article: The Internet Trap: Self-Governance, Information Security and Identity with its follow up article: Information Security and the New World Order.

Regardless of what may happen, hyperreality could never happen unless people’s private meanings could be deeply varied.

5.1 Capitalism Hacks Dopamine

In Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, Temple Grandin explains animal (and human) behavior by demonstrating that many of the choices people make depend on dopamine enforced (or suppressed) associations. Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter that is released when we learn something we believe is useful. Dopamine is the reason why video games can be addictive. Dopamine is the good feeling we get when we talk to someone we admire, have a good meal, a finish a satisfying workout, ace a test or when we have great sex. Dopamine is experienced as a kind of high, as an internal reward for some kind of achievement. Some of these achievement experiences are hardwired (like orgasm or food) but achievements can also be highly personal (a writer might get high from writing but not playing music.)

From Mari Naomi’s comics.

Our minds are able to consider anything. We are made to be flexible so that we can learn and become anything that society or the environment needs from us. From the widest perspective, while humans are of a particular species but we are also highly adaptive generic thought machines.

What reinforces an individual’s specific thinking is dopamine.

Dopamine is how we encode what we want. I differentiate encoding from symbolizing in that symbolization is creating a symbol (such as a company somewhere casting a new icon). Encoding is when that symbol comes to extra/personal meaning for me (as with nationalism and personal identity).

Society rewards us for certain behaviors. Our parents could also (un)intentionally reward us for behaviors. When our rewarding is inconsistent or heavily unbalanced with poor boundaries, we can develop difficulty understanding who we should be, or who others are to us. In those situations, meaning becomes highly contingent, twisted as we use our narrative to justify having the emotions we want to have, often with unintended impacts to others. This justification is a running narrative that clothes us in a self-image where we are good and we belong. This justification operates to ward off unwanted feelings associated with narratives where we are invalid or do not belong. This twisting of justification can often take the form of gaslighting, denial or other forms of manipulation.

The reason for this twisting of justification is that one of our hardwired dopamine triggers is belonging. Dopamine as a reward is often used to entice us to belong with people we like and admire.

Where capitalism hacks dopamine is that in capitalism, rewards and labor calibrates to individuals as property is privately owned. In past economic systems, such as farming or Confucianism, belonging was more inherent as families or a clans were the basic politico-economic unit. As a result, today, we often miss developing our sense of belonging, since, on a personal level, we can work and thrive on our own.

As a result, we foster hobby clubs, trivia nights to be around strangers and friends, festivals, conventions and other many groupings to gain a sense of community.

Transformation and Community at Burning Man

Or, we could twist our own self-image and internal context to manufacture a sense of belonging. The Japanese call this social withdrawal Hikikomori. If our self-concept is particularly poor, we may make do with low-level, remote, connections (like developing close online friends) since those are the least threatening.

Dopamine works by encouraging us to find the easy triggers to get more dopamine flowing. In some cases, excessive dopamine release (via drugs) can also encode people into drug users as the drug “teaches” people to be addicts as they learn to get the chemical reward.

The ecstatic sounds of Christian belonging. These sounds are pleasant, epic and slow, making this a faith ballad with a very direct message about the enjoyment and validation of Christian belonging. Just look at the happy singers/audience.

The point is that common cultural associations shared between generic thought machines will more easily be available to be associated with anything. Ultimately the greatest belonging is centered on identity (bronies, fetishes, money, #metoo, shame, nationality, and so on). With a flattened internet and much social media disruption, in 2016, many sub-identities and brands congregated to fuel what Jordan Hall called the red religion, blue church distinction.

With social media, we will naturally create large networks. Billions of people provide enough variety to so that any distinct personal meaning will have others who accept and reinforce the validity of that meaning.

Often these reinforcements will congregate, shift and blend. Mimetic tribes will emerge forming what Peter Limberg and Conor Barnes called Culture War 2.0.

As current events continuously arise, micro-narratives may shift allegiances, mixing into larger narratives, which continue to interfere with other groups’ narratives.

A recent attempt to nail down on this marketplace of identities and values led to controversy with this commercial.

The shifting multitudes of male identity are exactly what Gillette attempted to capitalize on in this commercial. When people react, they read the shared symbol of manhood with their own personal meanings to reinforce their sense of self-concept (which is often triggered by their relation to the category “Man”). Much of the comments on this article are about who belongs, who is or isn’t included and why this is good or bad. Reading these comments can teach us much about the world we live in as identifiers have different relational boundaries to the fixed content of this commercial.

5.2 Capitalism as a Generative Ideology

As traditional narratives provide context, hyperreality through social media yields post-contextualization. Essentially, media becomes an anchor for discussion as we vacillate meanings without agreement. You can explore this thought in an article I wrote, Sensemaking in the Coherency Desert: 21st Century Participation in a post-Contextual World.

Ultimately meaning is only reinforced through some kind of anchor, which is a symbol of some kind, be it expressed in numbers, shared contractual agreement, or the dopamine sensibilities of shared belonging.

Outsiders to a narrative can see that shared narrative context is akin to a group fantasy since the meanings of a symbolic network has meanings private to the group.

The idea that all fantasies are inherently group fantasies was first realized by post-psychoanalysist Félix Guattari.

Here, the word fantasy here doesn’t mean opposed to reality. Sharing is how a symbology is reinforced but fantasy is a closed symbolic network.

When we start to see that some cultures have their grounding in fantasy, usually one that reinforces the belonger’s self-concept, we can understand that all cultures need fantasies in order to function. Culture tells a story, usually a very partial one, to convince their people of who they are so they know how they should act and what is worth fighting for (usually the narrative itself, and those who maintain it).

This coordinated acting directs people following the meaning of some image. Essentially what Guattari meant by fantasy is a psychoanalytic approach to what Baudrillard, with a capitalist market approach, meant as hyperreality. In fact, Guattari, in his book Chaosophy, wrote about how capitalism fragments identity through disconnected desires (think dopamine associated behaviors as expressions of desire) to create a schizoid society.

While I am arguing that our coordinated action is why capitalism is a culture, coordinated behavior is why any group has culture. If you want an exploration of this interrelationship of culture, resource, and groups, read this article I wrote, The New Way Humans Have Always Been: Life in Web++.

Essentially I am anchoring culture and ideology as a structure for resource allocation, one that is justified via a shared symbology and personal self-concept. Private meanings almost always derive meanings anchored on a shared symbology.

This shared symbology has always been an inherent aspect of being a people. What makes current symbologies more obviously hyperreal is the variety of shared and unshared symbologies. Traditional cultures were far more static. If we go back far enough in time, we get identities which exist in worlds with only one culture. A mono-culture is like a fish living in the ocean, unable to see the ocean. When we lived in multiculturalism, we started to see relative meanings.

As an aside, René Descartes the founder of modern math and modern philosophy was a well-traveled young man. He was surprised to see how different cultures held different meanings. His reaction was the opposite of Plato. Rather than reserve the Truth for one people, Descartes sought to find a Truth that all people could share, that was not derived from experience/contingency. This concept of universal inclusion later on became the foundation of the guiding principles of cosmopolitan liberalism that capitalism embraced, after the French Revolution politically, economically (and biologically) dethroned King Louie XVI.

After the French Revolution, legality was no longer dependent on a King, but on a universal procedure that any citizen had a right to partake in.

Since the Divine Right of Rule was no longer in effect, no longer was only Royalty validated. In this sense, the French Revolution follows analogous principles with Protestantism, whereby each individual has access to validity (God) not needing an intermediary like a Priest or a King.

As a consequence of this inclusion, if we are all included, then property should be private for each citizen instead of everything being ultimately the King’s property.

While Descartes did not invent private property, his idea of a Truth for all, lead to property for all. Belonging/validation and resource are inextricably entangled.

As we live in social media/post-contextuality, relative meanings are no longer purely dependent on culture but have also become individualized. This individualization of all choice (politics to identity) is a further consequence of capitalism’s enabling how we express personal meaning through product selection. When advertisement hooked into identity, identity also became a choice that could be manufactured through product selection.

As as an aside, this position has much common with Edward Bernays, who believed in harnessing the life energy of whole societies for the economic benefit of that society. The main difference with Bernays and what I am proposing is a multidimensional benefit for all, not just an economic benefit for those who own the means of production. A major consequence of Bernays’ fixation on economics is that the choice Bernays offered is superficial, one founded on consumer products, rather than on individual well-being.

Capitalist transactions are so devoid of meaning that a dog, through observation and experimentation, learns to participate in capitalist transactions.

In some sense, as a culture, capitalism is too impoverished to provide personal meaning.

Perhaps this is because capitalism destroyed traditional belonging by allowing us to be strangers and rewarding the individual, so we do not have enough need to establish the ties of belonging. Or perhaps capitalism is merely too new to have developed enough shared meaning to foster strong capitalist identities.

In some sense, capitalism isn’t by its nature inherently narrative. With the rise of Napoleon, narrative identity becomes the domain of nationalism. In that sense, nations also preserve culture within capitalism.

We see the nation as the intermediary to include citizens within a legal procedure. As stated in the text of the United States Pledge of Allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Today, what we often call culture is often either:

  1. what has been colonized by capitalism (such as East Asian food)
  2. what has not been colonized by capitalism (such as networks of relationships (and their behaviors/identities) of immigrant families)

Capitalism was able to replace traditional culture’s resource allocation infrastructure by providing more effective technology (as it was made by many many other people). Technology in capitalism is the culmination of many other cultures’ shared resources. For instance, traditional China had a strong cultural identity that resisted outside influence, preferring to shut itself away. But eventually, the Chinese saw the allure of advanced technology, and then embraced the economics that provided them access to this technology.

Being able to have access to the rest of the world’s resources is a huge draw for people. Capitalism can better “convert” new people as capitalism’s main strength is to enable transactions between strangers. Capitalism is easy to participate in as capitalism only needs an understanding that money is valuable so that strangers can transact with one another. No narrative is needed.

People, however, need narratives. So of course, capitalism fills the void.

Mass media still operates. Hollywood indoctrinated the world. In conversation, my friend Justin Ream patterned out world into three complexes: the Financial complex in New York, the industrial-military complex which arose out of the World War 2 War Machine (which mainly operates by processing food and products; see Twinkie Deconstructed), and the narrative complex in Los Angeles. All three of these are guilds of capitalism, structuring the economic infrastructure of the late 20th century.

This narrative complex is often implicated as part of Blue Church as it is called “liberal Hollywood.” This ideology factory littered us with narratives, each providing direction on who we should be. Seeing the awesome things movie heroes do gives us a dopamine rush, a sense of accomplishment. The more we identify with the hero, the more we feel good.

This narrative litter provided many status quo alternate views of who we are. We mapped onto so many narratives that those narrative identities mapped back to us. We don’t just anthropomorphize our fictitious characters, we “us-ize” any identity.

We’ve identified with brand iconography so much, that a show like Robot Chicken makes sense, by remapping the iconography back onto us as a mirror of our own dramas.

And of course, with any identity, we have a choice. This choice is what reality tv is about. This choice is the drama of being aware, of being conscious of all the possibilities and then going forward with one of those choices (such as on The Bachelorette).

We are used to our choices. We could be Superman, or we could be Batman. Coke or Pepsi. Republican or Democrat. We are littered with symbols, all of which are opportunities for making choices.

Today we can choose our religion. Some choose their race. With choice enhanced by technology, we get to choose our gender. We can make choices about any symbol. We can make reality into “our” image.

From here.

This is what social media is about. This is what hyperreality in the “iMe” era of capitalist desire is about. This is how social media brands each of us as we become a unique distribution channel via our choices and our networks. For everyone else, the symbol acts as a threshold for us to know who we are in relation to others through it. The symbol grounds ideology — an ideology of our choice.

Yet, within an ideology, all our choices are binary oppositions, the minimal differences expressing as good or bad (for the chooser). As a result, outside ideology, hyperreality is more like this:

The first image was ambiguous. If you had strong feelings for or against, its dramatic lighting makes an impact. This second image, especially with “cofveve” and “yanni/laurel” is far more obviously ambiguous. Louie XVI of France died on the guillotine at the start of the French Revolution. Depicting Trump as Louie XVI suggests that yes, he is “King” but he is also decadent, corrupt and deserves to be eliminated. Either way, there are multiple meanings present depending on how you, the reader, identify.

These kinds of oppositions are always anchored on some kind of symbolized difference. Without Trump, Louie XVI, yanni/laurel or cofveve — without all the content — what is there left to have any opinions or feelings about?

These relationships intercede within the grey gap of consciousness. Consciousness is the field for resolving impulses.

Teal Swan explains how awareness of the embedded oppositional meanings in our choices can us free. Developing this awareness is an “And consciousness”, which releases us from our symbolized ideologies by allowing us to develop our own choices.

Consciousness is a gap because it can be filled with thoughts. Our thoughts are impulses. But we are not aware of all impulses. This is why developing the gap of our consciousness between stimulus and response is why our awareness needs to be increased, so that we can make our choices consciously.

Our choices will always be either to devote more energy and go towards something or it will be to leave something else.

Our choices are essentially just going to or coming from. Yale Landsberg, founder of the Templix highlights these relationships in a non-standard form of math in A Course in Mind-Bending And/Vs Mind-Bending which is well worth the deep dive.

Regardless of the explanation/mechanics, which is an article for another time, we are all entering the early stages of an ever-expanding hyperreality.

Technology will push hyperreality further as entrepreneurs want to make money and users want their choices, real or fictitious.

This takes us directly to social media as each of us with social media get to choose what to share, who to connect with and what meanings we want to insist on.

6. Getting Metamodern: The Allegory of Social Media

Social media only arose because technology dropped the cost of producing and distributing. Nonetheless, social media is an extension of culture.

Despite many of these narratives being anchored on shared symbology, these personal narratives are often extremely disconnected, being full of personal meaning. Behavioralists call these personal meanings private events. Displaying these private events result in social media’s display of novel meaning.

One popular form of private meaning are memes, which are not like viruses but more like ripples in traffic, or whorls in a tide pool as people delight in sharing a private meaning.

As private meaning can become accepted by the public, so it can be rejected.

6.1 Private Meaning, Private Self

When we look back to any Golden Age of culture, which would be any time when people knew who they were, there is often a general consensus as to what we are doing, what we are supposed to be, and what life was like. People felt fresh and new, as if anything was possible. (Some common imageries are predicated via decade: late 1920s, late 1950s, late 1960s, mid-1980s, mid-1990s, late 2000s) These identities are also paradoxically characterized by a strong shared sense of identity. Ironically, by allowing private individuals to share en mass, the internet today has disrupted our sense of shared self as we are exposed to the immense variety of private meaning out there.

While this disruption due to sharing suggests that any sense of shared self has always been illusionary, regardless of privacy, symbology has a flaw when it comes to expressing meaning: symbolisms can always anchor any meaning.

For example, when Trump was elected, he came to an entirely new symbolic context. Since becoming President, he seems highly particular about what he thinks is or is not meaningful. Rather than submitting to a shared symbology, President Trump insists on deciding meaning on his own.

Ironically, in a non-Platonic but The Republic, kind of way, Trump could be a bastardized version of Plato’s Philosopher King, determining what is best for the State through a mastery of meaning.

The danger today is that while ideologies have immanent symbolisms that justify belonging and resource allocation, the meanings of the same symbol may be not compatible with an other’s meanings of the same symbol, nor may it be compatible with how anything actually is.

In the case of President Trump and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, their symbolisms and justifications are completely incompatible. Neither side understands the appeal of the other’s leader. Regardless of the truth-value of either of their arguments, for the other side, their economic reasonings are nonsense. Complicating the discussions, the appearance of nonsense is also juxtaposed with how economic distribution actually works, which means that even if you knew how it truly worked (which is hard to prove given alternate criteria of “working”), you would still have to convince the other that their view was not worth keeping. In some sense, both sides approach the conflict by demanding that the other side abandon their private meaning and embrace their ideology.

These two political figures have completely different and incompatible symbolic chains and justifications for how to distribute wealth, work and belonging. Image from here.

Thus, the problems of private meaning go beyond just isolated selves. When our capitalist choices extend to only thinking about our own preferences, we lose sight of the larger, shared narratives that determine what meanings are worth pursuing. When we all pursue our own pet ideas, there remains little agreement on how anything actually is.

How can a Democracy work this way? Even if we can all still pursue capitalism by buying and selling (as we do daily), how can we determine economic policy collectively if we can’t agree on what is our economic reality?

6.2 Private Events and Public Economics

Economics is the science of manipulating economic distribution via feedback loops of chained symbols. As symbolic creatures we can imagine any distribution of wealth, or any arbitrary social order. We can explore worlds in these imagined chains, but in the end, the chains are of our making. What often prohibits altering distribution is that not everyone accepts the same symbols.

This begs the question. What is valid? What is justification and what is fact?

When it comes to something like science, one way is to consider whether or not social order is unnecessarily implicated. If the social order is needlessly required to be altered, due to some claim of truth, then we know ideology is at work here, to try to convince us to alter how we spend our energies.

A Nazi Eugenics poster arguing for euthanasia of the disabled. From here.

This approach doesn’t quite work with economics as, in capitalism, social order is economically determined. Effectively, to argue in economics, we either end up arguing for wealth to be distributed to us, or we are arguing for it to be distributed to other people.

This public argumentation is essentially like Plato’s sunlight.

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, prisoners in the cave can’t tell what is real until they step out into the sunlight. Social media offers us this opportunity, to test our beliefs, to put our symbology out in the public/null meaning space of the internet.

Effectively, iReality offers the chance for all narratives to come out.

Jordan Peterson explains the importance of listening in a world where everyone only wants to talk of themselves. iReality offers the chance for all narratives to come out, including his, and this article.

And of course, many believe society can’t make decisions until we all decide on an ideology that narrows the scope of what meanings might be considered valid. At that point, that culture would enter Golden Age where zeitgeist and drive align with our material and social infrastructure. Essentially a Golden Age requires a reconfiguration of the social network of meaning.

This reconfiguration is what many philosophers, including Badiou, Hegel, and Žižek all understood as being the Event.

As an aside, to understand the Event as a process leads to the Event as a symbolizable difference includes philosophers like Deleuze, Bergson, and Leibniz.

I would consider Nietzsche to be a precursor to understanding the Event as a process, as he wrote extensively about what makes ideology a network of meaning and how we can’t escape it, except by founding a new one, i.e., the Eternal Return.

Essentially, what characterizes our predicament today is a lack of shared meaning. This lack of shared meaning leads us directly from post-modernism to metamodernism, where when we see a situation, we start to understand both sides of that situation, as characterized by the artists in the video at the end of section 3.

So what’s stopping us?

7. Choosing the Future

How do we choose our future?

We can choose our past, or at least what we identify from it. From here.

The problem with choosing a narrative is that people don’t always find everything about that narrative justified. Social transitions between narrative states can be rough. Either everyone must agree or some must die.

Sometimes, to get everyone to agree many must die, as with Stalin’s solidification of his hold on the USSR.

To avoid mass death and other imbalances (including those ecological or psychological), we must first consider how to navigate hyperreality.

7.1 The Map isn’t the Territory

If cultures are maps, then the metamodern context is the territory. Maps are partial just as history is partial.

Traditionally, a coherent narrative requires a central sign so that everyone can ascertain who they are in the group and act accordingly. A leader can work. Or a Jesus. Either way, a coherent narrative traditionally requires a central point for the group since everyone references it.

The metamodern view still has symbols as mediators between people, but rather than having that one point work for one narrative as a central locus, metamodernism allows multiple fixed points to link across many possible (and often conflicting) narratives. I call these points buoys, as metamodernism is like an ocean, as meanings are influx.

We may seem aware of our crisis as confusion, but as we are in it, we only see its inner effects. We cannot get outside of our culture to witness our confusion without our filters. This interesting article, Normativity Before All Lights; Hume’s issue of deriving an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ offers a reading whereby the gap between what is and what should be signifies the presence of our self-concept. Essentially, we often judge what is, rejecting it in favor of how we have been encoded. Ought happens when we want reality to be a certain way so that we can express our self concept and fit.

As hyperreality affords us alternate views through shared buoys. We witness how differently other people experience their media.

The TV show Fringe eventually introduces a parallel world, ruined by the actions of its anti-hero super-scientist. How this original sin resolves heals both worlds and the super-scientist. From here.

This huge variety of point of view offers us a plethora of media that feature alternate realities. In each world, we see how people can be coerced into different systems, their energies (re)directed and forged into a different order.

Successful (re)direction is what makes society.

However, many of us already have opinions on how to direct our energy. So, who gets to direct it?

Or, better yet, what do we decide should direct our energy?

7.2 Information is not Ideology

The justification of symbology is largely how we decide. Justification is the political question as different audiences have developed different symbolic discourses. In the United States today, the political divide is so great that in some sense, Republicans and Democrats can’t even talk to one another.

As a general rule, evolution doesn’t create from nothing. Evolution only modifies as what comes after depends on what comes before. Likewise, human technology is never from nothing. Technology has history.

Capitalism promoted choice through radical individuation. Choice was fostered in consumer products, then grouped into lifestyles. We can decide to be a Christian, a Buddhist, a Libertarian or whatever else we think we should be, so we can feel better about ourselves.

Since choice is baked into capitalism, psychology and our life force, systems that propose to remove choice have a slim chance of success. Likewise, forcefully removing money is like trying to remove a known technology from people, which is equally impossible. If people know something can exist, they can always find a way to remake it.

Symbolic belonging aside, for our materiality to continue, ultimately, what matters is deciding how we direct our energy. We always act individually so the question is, is there a means by which we each get what we want (don’t lose choice) yet results in a coordinated society?

In order to answer that, we have to decide what it is we want to progress towards. Do we want to live in a world full of specific meanings (ideologies), or do we want information with minimal orientation, leaving validation meaning open (information)?

iReality is my punny way of pointing out choice. The i in iReality, while definitely internet, could also be informational, or it could be ideological.

Often, it is all three, when information is presented from a point of view excluding other views.

What was once easily distributed geographically (by airwave or shipping) becomes easily lost in post-contextual dialog. News outlets, traditional and virtual, struggle with finding a relational audience that will be valuable enough to get paid subscriptions.

A world that can only have specific meanings must eliminate alternate choices by invalidating and forbidding alternate connections. Eliminating alternatives channels energy only following specific meanings.

If we don’t forbid alternate connections then we must choose an economic and symbolic system that allows for alternative meanings while aligning those meanings in ways that are socially coherent. Individuals must be allowed to choose. Such an economic and social system must teach individuals to self determine via self-development.

Essentially, self-development is developing the gap between stimulus and response, which is further discussed in section 8.

But for now, we have a paradox.

7.3 Metamodernism is full of Parallax

This paradox appears differently, from different angles. Žižek wrote an interesting book about this phenomenon called The Parallax View. I won’t go into the details too far, but essentially parallax is the phenomenon when one phenomenon appears as two different phenomena. Žižek’s insight is that a parallax can happen with light being refracted in water, via gravity, or it can happen philosophically. (Following this article, it can also happen energetically.)

We can note a philosophical parallax by imagining a “harmonious” metamodern culture.

7.3.1 Individual Rights
From the individual’s point of view, the paradox appears as a scoping problem. There is no clear boundary for the self, either in terms of rights or private property. For instance, libertarians believe that the boundary should set government involvement at a minimum. The opposite end of the spectrum is fascism, where the entire society self-determines for everyone.

Veganism might be one such ideology, as it imposes its image on all. What makes veganism metamodern is that often its membership comes to join veganism for disparate reasons (i.e., justice, health, the environment).

7.3.2 Justice
From the state’s point of view, the paradox appears as an equality problem. A metamodern world has multiple narratives, many of which are at odds. Since there is no shared ground except state procedures, how should the state consider preserving all values? In other words, how can a court take into account opposing cultural meanings so as to come up with solutions that everyone would accept as being fair?

Essentially, resolving contrary impulses for individuals is the job of consciousness. This may rely a different kind of calculus, such as the aforementioned Templix. But since we are resolving this paradox, we must also do so considering meaning as a shared endeavor.

7.4 Creating Meaning is a Social(ization) Process

The easiest suggestion at this point might be to discard all meaning, which would be impossible. People’s sense of self is the meaning they see in the world. Losing meaning not only means losing their sense of self, but it would also mean losing an inherent part of our ability to live. This topic is explored in psychologist and holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. Literally, our life force requires focus, and meaning is about focusing energy.

Nonetheless, meaning must be addressed since its dramatic dispersal in our post-contextual world often means creating friction among people.

The best way to address this friction would be to consider symbols in their invalidated form. How does invalidation logically follow with validation? For example, the video below considers how embodying the concept of being a woman simultaneously generates both the valid and invalid forms.

To include the invalid form into our awareness would require that we stop gaslighting ourselves about what we are doing. Blind spots exist when we only acknowledge the meaning we like. Forgoing our strict adherence to favorite meanings will open up our blind spots. Doing so will allow us to start to understand other people’s points of views.

Incompatible points of view are often incompatible because they occupy a blind spot that we have. When we are able to incorporate other people’s points of view with our own meaning, we will begin to shift our shared understanding of symbolic meaning towards a more objective reality. After all, other people came to a meaning based on their experience. There’s a reason why they and we both came to different meanings. The reason: reality is rich enough to generate both understandings.

Therefore understanding both meanings in their own terms will get us closer to understanding what is really going on.

From here.

The parable of the Blind Men and an Elephant was often used to illustrate how different points of view appear incompatible.

In some sense, metamodernism is not a point of view. It’s an attitude. Imagine if each blind man was open to considering how other people’s experience was valid, instead of trying to make their experience a sign of whether or not they would be considered valid. Might they figure out the elephant faster?

Symbols are materializations that can be shared. Symbols were made to carry the baggage of meaning and justification so that people could communicate and know where they stood with each other.

Shared symbolisms are only the first basis towards dealing with others. Consider this: unshared symbolic meanings often meant the presence of people whose resources are potentially closed off from us because we don’t know how to fit in with them.

Thats why shared symbols are effectively buoys. But they are only buoys for our common navigation if we can consider their alternative meanings in terms of how people came to them. Rejecting other points of view is tantamount to self-justifying at the expense of other networks.

We need to raise humans that can self operate. Children must be raised to be the adults that they want to be. Only then, can people self develop enough to be able to make their own choice, instead of confusing other people’s valued associations for their own preferences.

This video is well worth the watch, as a Metamodern examination of Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’

This can often mean a disjointed experience since meanings can emerge and disperse. This discontinuity doesn’t mean that meaning is invalid. Meaning by its nature shifts since contexts emerge and disperse. Brent Cooper explores this aspect of metamodernism in excellent his article The Metamodern Mythology of The X-Files.

Up until now, I have been using the word ideology to include meaning and direction. But consider that a metamodern ideology only contains direction. That direction must not have a meaning, per se, because it must be compatible with the meanings individuals see in it in order to pursue it.

A metamodern ideology is an ideology of “ands.” (To explore more, you can read Deleuze and Guattari’s Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature.) This ideology directs us to self-determination but it will also direct us to recognize others through the filter of our own meanings.

Seeing others as they see themselves, and their seeing us as we see ourselves is the way we can begin to be on the same page with them again.

The purpose of course, isn’t just to acknowledge meaning. Acknowledgement is only the beginning. The next step is harder; to find solutions that consider everyone’s ability to choose.

This brings us to…

7.5 The iState

iState is what I call the future state that is able to harness the wide variety of mimesis for its foundation. Thus, the iState includes a “Web 3.0” that will be able to enable individual choice.

Augmented reality isn’t Web 3.0. Augmented reality is a platform for further dimensions in social media (as we connect geographically, temporally, brand-wise and so on).

Web 3.0 will appear when we are able to unleash our mimetic potential; not to choose a tribe but to self organize into a larger coherency of like-minded individuals such that we can all coordinate without giving up our choice in symbology.

If you want to explore some more about what I consider Web 3.0 in relation to mimetics, you can read my article Web 3.0: Mimetics Unleashed: What ‘Going Viral’ Means in a Future for Advertising, Big Data and Decentralization.

To that end, many current symbologies are currently incompatible to the metamodern state as they are closed loops, declaring their exclusive stance towards universality.

Current paradigms of future states often require extreme policies appearing overnight. Regardless of how many iMilitaries (like Isis, the new Russian KGB or whatever iWarefare) appear, stopping mimetics is not something that has ever successfully happened, as to this day, people continue to copy, mimic and pursue their own meaning with no end in sight. The most a state can hope for, is to redirect energy for its own needs for a time.

Aldous Huxley imagined A Brave New World which sought to harness the full capacity of humans to feel pleasure. Yet even this world could not withstand the savage disruption of intellectual inquiry. To that end, Huxley had to add a braver newer world outside the brave new world, for intellectuals to have their own pleasure, one that could consider alternate meanings (an intellectual’s pleasure on an isolated island) while the rest of humanity drowned in their consumer experiences.

Huxley may not have intended the reading I have given, but I think his point is well taken.

For any future State to arise, people have to want to bring it to reality. This means that the future State has to offer the most meaning and opportunity so that enough people want it the most to see it materialize.

So do we why waste time bringing about States that will fight each other? Why not pool our perspectives together and figure out a deeper reality? Once we know what kind of elephant we are standing around, we can try to determine the maximal benefit for everyone according to their own meanings.

At a minimum, what would such a future require from us?

From here.

8. Conscious Awareness Begins and Concludes

Let us restate the original problem. The problem is choice. The ground of choice lies in awareness.

The actual problem is that as a people, we haven’t really realized the fullest extent of the choices that we each have.

Many of us may not want this awareness, since we may perceive radical choice as a loss of the meanings we derive pleasure and validation from. This perception is only accurate if our self concept is completely dependent on other people’s judgements of us. Otherwise we can have our meaning and others can have theirs.

Our future will calm down and become more palpable when enough of us realize that we cannot take away other people’s ability to exercise choice. This also means that we should not ask people to give up the meanings they enjoy. For children, while they must be socialized, they should ultimately learn how to consider others and themselves among each other to find win-win scenarios where everyone can be themselves without assumption of universality.

Image from The Use of Consciousness. Future coherency requires common acknowledgement and mutual respect so that we can move in the same direction, even if it will mean different things to different participants.

Moving forward with alternate meanings in mind is going to be difficult. Many of the hotbed issues today are fractured in parallax, where people are faced with alternates that can’t be coherent with their own narrative until they see how their narrative and other’s narratives work in concert despite the difference in ideological meaning (this may be a future article).

As an aside, Heidegger in his last book Introduction to Metaphysics predicted the 4th kind of Being would be “ought”. For Heidegger, living in the rural areas of Germany, seemed to acknowledge that the loss of the agrarian Germanic way of life was essentially the loss of Being. Nazism was not genuine Being. This 4th kind of Being is the limit of Heidegger’s conceptualization. Although Heidegger never experienced postmodernism, he could not foresee what Being came after postmodernism and its endless play with “ought”.

Image from Literal Poverty Divide in Brazil

Part of the issue today is that our current economic system does not allow many people to have enough space to be aware they have much choice. People are often incentivized to pursue what they perceive as minimum standards for belonging (in part, thanks to Bernays), which often involve spending more money so that the wealthy can become wealthier.

This directive leads people to live on the edge of debt, to live with insolvency, or to run in place by chasing personal validation, masturbating to their private events, because of, or through, social media.

Of course, this article participates in social media. It also appears as a serious work, but the primary goal isn’t to express seriousness but to foster authenticity. What we do online can never replace the sum of who we are, nor should it.

Thus, article functions for me, and if it resonates with you for you too, as connective tissue so that we can find each other and be on the same (meta)page in how we are to move forward in our daily and personal lives.

When we find others with whom we want to genuinely connect, so we practice developing an Ecology of the Other. This book, by Philippe Descola, though anthropological, is an alternate treatment of understanding ideology and self concept already touched on in this article. Below is my review. If you want a more complete treatment, I would suggest reading his book.

Through the field of anthropology, Descola notes the duality of nature and culture in ecology, anthropology and biology. Hard anthropology was to establish the unity of humankind. Social anthropology is meant to explain the variation within unity. This invariant cut aligns these sciences by pre-supposing an etic paradigm reflexive of a continuum of mind-body duality.

Thus, culture is either natured by material geography or material geography is natured by culture. Either way, nature becomes a container for the limits of the study of cultural variation, either as the generator or as the mirror.

In this way, the very study of anthropology imposes a search for an invariant ontology within all cultures. For the former (cultural materialism) we look for a master generator of material reality on a soft cultural milieu. On the latter (like the idealism of Claude Levi-Strauss) we seek a master grammar of cultural semiology. Descola points out that this structuration imposes a transcendental cut that acts as a transducer. This perspective eliminates the internal agency of the cultures that are examined, even if the ethnography is emic, in search of an invariant generator that would match the hard anthropological unity that limits the study of cultural anthropology.

As a result, this duality misses the deeper implication that all cultural ageis is expressive of a human agency that operates internal to a culture, one that serves only to reproduce itself as humans reproduce ourselves. Our desire to standardize all studies is also a desire to impose our form of agency (power) on others. His suggestion then, is to study these fields as separate cuts on their own, without looking for a hard biology/material/geography or a hard idealism to calibrate variance to. In this way, he suggests we look for rules within each culture to as determining their own values and topography. In essence, he seeks the fragmentation of the field further, to find the character of each, risking our inability to speak to one another, but at the same time, discarding the value judgement we make when we attempt to normalize the difference of the other, through generative theory.

Finding a generative theory for the other (one that acknowledges them in what they can do, desire and will to be) will also help us find ourselves. Having identified who they can be for themselves, we can then actually relate to them in a way that is coherent to all. Acknowledging our ability to choose and their ability to choose (or as Descola writes, agency) allows us to authentically deal with one another in a common shared reality.

In that way, developing an ecology of others means developing an ecology of ourselves, because going to the future together means that we need to first choose who we are going to the future together with.

Post Script

We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn. — Mary Catherine Bateson

In considering the future, one of the my favorite sci-fi series is the Rama series by Arthur C Clarke and Lee Gentry. After 800 pages of drama (many of it dry and exhausting — although the last 200 pages make it worth the journey) spanning innumerable light years, vast alien intelligences, and so many human injustices, compromises, and heartbreak, aging heroine Nicole des Jardins Wakefield gets a glimpse of a simulated galaxy from a superior and shrouded alien intelligence. Due to her frail human body she will never get to see this view with her own eyes but she imparts us with this deep wisdom the aliens agree with:

The only two emotions worth pursuing are love and learning. All other emotions either derive from these two, or they detract from our ability to survive, adapt and be unified.

This is what I think it takes to move forward authentically. Love provides the basis for acceptance. Learning activates ones ability to adjust to find a path for ours and others’ choices to work.

The future is wide. With our ability to invent new materializations, the vastness of the universe becomes the opportunity for us to thrive, assuming we maintain a species level awareness that includes our own interest and others instead of a purely individual selfishness that excludes other interests, which would also exclude others.

If you like this article, give it a clap or 50. If you think this article interesting and may want to move forward with me, check out some other articles I wrote.

Or, you can interact with like minds in this FaceBook group, Complexicated Assemblage. The concept of morality here isn’t to impose a moral image in the metamodern age, but to find the emergent “moral” guidelines we metamodern-ites will inevitably find, as a new human being.