Narrative and Metaverse, Pt. 1: The Living Word

Narrative and Metaverse

Part 1: The Living Word

Part 2: Gain of Function

Part 3: The Luther Protocol

Part 4: Carrying the Fire



Horatio:    O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

Hamlet:    And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
                 There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
                 Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.



I've spent a thirty-five year professional career spanning academia, technology companies, and Wall Street studying "linguistic patterns in unstructured data" ... or what are more commonly known as narratives. After all these years of probing this invisible world of stories and memes and scripts and tropes and archetypes, I've come to an inescapable conclusion that excites me to no end and also scares the hell out of me.

Narratives are as real and as alive as you and me.

When I say that narratives are alive, I don't mean this as a metaphor. I truly believe that narratives are an alien lifeform in exactly the same way that viruses are an alien lifeform. Neither is directly observable or easily comprehensible within the human-scale macroverse - the familiar world of Newtonian physics and multicellular DNA-based organisms where all us humans, past, present and future, live out our lives. But there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in the macroverse.

Both narratives and viruses have a lifecycle of purpose and intention - they are born, they grow, they respond to their environment, they reproduce and they die - all in service to preserving the existence of their kind. Both can be organized and understood through the same principles of species taxonomy as any organism in the macroverse, and both are subject at the species level to the same forces of natural selection as any species in the macroverse. We can't see them. We can't hear them. We can't feel them. They are not even made of the same building blocks as you and me. But I tell you that both narratives and viruses are alive, each a dominant lifeform within its respective world.

The world of viruses is the microverse, an invisible and completely alien world of infinitesimal scale.

A note on the use of the word 'alien' here, which is the most ruined word in the English language. We've turned the word into a joke, into the common usage for little green men or anthropomorphic 'alien races' that are non-human mostly by declaration, but in truth are intensely human and perfectly familiar to us in intentionality and behavior. The only science fiction writer today who gets close to preserving the true meaning of the word - and I am convinced it's because he doesn't write in English - is Liu Cixin.

When I use the word 'alien', I mean it in its true sense. I mean it as something that is profoundly non-comprehensible on its own terms, that is - like the microverse - only comprehensible through the use of human-scaled and macroverse-familiar objects like bouncy balls and suction cups and bright colors and hunter/prey animations.

How Covid-19 mRNA Vaccines Work

No one believed in the microverse 200 years ago. Germ theory wasn't even a thing. We had no words for a 'virus', and everyone in the world would have looked at you funny if you had said that these infinitesimally small packages of nucleic acid were real and alive. But today we all believe in germ theory. Today we all believe that viruses are real and alive, albeit in a truly alien way and within a truly alien world that no human has ever directly felt, heard, smelled, tasted or seen.

I'm asking you to give the same consideration to narratives. I'm asking you to allow for the possibility that there is another alien world besides the microverse, an alien world where narratives are born, grow, respond to their environment, reproduce and die. Where narratives are real and alive, albeit in a truly alien way and within a truly alien world that no human has ever directly felt, heard, smelled, tasted or seen.

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  1. They say only poets and comics get closest to the truth. I would add scientists, philosophers, theologians and perhaps a financial twitter writer…

    Thank you Ben for expanding mankind’s metaphors in search of that truth…

    This is the water in which I have been immersed in my whole life.

    Jim Handshaw

  2. “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.”

  3. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    From one swimmer to another, thank you, Jim!

  4. This feels like a massive crescendo in the work of Epsilon theory hitting at the core of the message you’ve attuned us all to.

    Something I noticed - if narratives are “real,” and you’ve convinced me they are, then “fiat news, currency, etc” and the “common knowledge” it helps bolster is the same kind of “real.” The word “fiat” has negative connotations and rightfully so since those narratives serve someone else’s cause at the unsuspecting’s expense. But the fiat world IS the real world if the narrative world is the real world.

    So what separates the “fiat” narrative and the “clear eyes” narrative? Good and bad aren’t the right classifications.

    In Sapiens, Harari goes on to give examples of how narratives win: “People are equal, not because Thomas Jefferson said so, but because God created them that way.”

    The winning narratives appeal to a higher power - God or nature. If I have one critique of your work (and it’s really from my ecclesiastical wife) it’s that you’re missing the higher power part. I know why - b/c Wallstreet, like the USMC, does not use those words. Rusty keeps you grounded there sometimes, but he has been swimming in the same waters.

    The good news? The message of Jesus that you’ve highlighted fits squarely in a higher power narrative we’re all familiar with. So maybe those with the language - non-finance types, non-Marine types, and definitely not both like me - can pick it up and run with it.

    In any case, this piece is brilliant and I can’t wait for parts 2 and 3. Keep up the amazing work!

  5. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    Your note made my day, Justin. Thank you! And yes, “fiat world” IS the real world. This was Orwell’s big insight, and it’s as spot-on today as it was in 1949!

  6. Glad to hear it, Ben! Keep on “fiat-ing” the full-hearted world. I’ll do my best to keep doing the same.

  7. There’s an essay written by Cormac McCarthy (oddly enough) about the origins of language: Cormac McCarthy on the Origin of Language

    The evolution of language would begin with the names of things. After that would come descriptions of these things and descriptions of what they do. The growth of languages into their present shape and form—their syntax and grammar—has a universality that suggests a common rule. The rule is that languages have followed their own requirements. The rule is that they are charged with describing the world. There is nothing else to describe.

    All very quickly. There are no languages whose form is in a state of development. And their forms are all basically the same.

    We dont know what the unconscious is or where it is or how it got there—wherever there might be. Recent animal brain studies showing outsized cerebellums in some pretty smart species are suggestive. That facts about the world are in themselves capable of shaping the brain is slowly becoming accepted. Does the unconscious only get these facts from us, or does it have the same access to our sensorium that we have? You can do whatever you like with the us and the our and the we. I did. At some point the mind must grammaticize facts and convert them to narratives. The facts of the world do not for the most part come in narrative form. We have to do that.

    He argues that language is entirely a constructed phenomenon, constructed by us, that it is not at all evolutionary. So, in relation to this piece, the fundamental idea that the tool of language actually alters the physical structures of the brain is a profound revelation. How did humans think before we had language? Once you start thinking like this it becomes apparent that how we receive the world through our senses is inherited, that the very way we think about the world is defined by the tools we use to interpret and communicate.

    The revolutionary idea embedded in the message of the Gospels which you mention is made clear in what must’ve been a shocking parable at the time: the Parable of the Good Samaritan - Luke 10:25-37.

    You should love your neighbor as yourself, but who is your neighbor? The parable relates the familiar story of an injured traveler being helped by an unrelated stranger, and contends that your neighbor is not a person of the same creed, race, ethnicity, family, tribe, or a person who resides in the same locality as you, your neighbor is “He that shewed mercy on [the injured traveler].”

    Christianity, in this way, challenges all the narratives that held together the Roman Empire (and perhaps all social and political structures of the time). People can be united by an idea (or belief) instead of the accidents of birth.

    The 19th century was the wellspring of the ideas that govern much of the modern world, and I keep thinking, “why is that?” I think it stems from the scientific refutation of the literal truth of the Bible and the slow liberation from physical poverty. When people stopped accepting the received truth about the nature of the universe, it left us exposed to an ocean of existential uncertainties. If there is no supreme deity, then what is the basis for morality? If there is no divine right of Kings, where does social authority derive from? If the Earth is actually billions of years old, what created it? If humans are just another animal which evolved, how are we special?

    When we think to the past, particularly before the 19th century, it should be evident now that people were actually different than they are now. The received truth of the world was different for them, their brains were structured differently, their thoughts coalesced differently. When we observe the thoughts of the Ancient Romans for instance, say, the stoicism of Marcus Aurelius, we should understand that his conception of society was entirely different from our own.

    I think the view you advocate here should free us from a type of determinism which restricts us to conceptions of narrow futures that are mere additions to what we believe now. Radical reconstruction of how we think about the world can fundamentally change human society, and this, as you say, has happened many times before.

    I’m just restating your argument here for the most part, but I think this is a revelatory and powerful way to observe the world!

  8. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    Thanks, Eric! Honestly, it was a personally revelatory experience to write this note. To use another biblical reference, I felt like the scales fell from my eyes.

  9. Ben, just a really really fantastic note! Thank you

  10. Avatar for rfleay rfleay says:

    Oh gee…
    I suspected Ben was building up to something “big” but I didn’t realise it was this big. I can’t stop reading certain passages and discovering a different dimension each time I do.

    I’m not sure how your mind stumbled on this concept Ben but I like to imagine it was something like this:
    “Drawing analogies between (the) virus and narratives is a neat idea…now I’m thinking about this, the similarities between the two are uncanny…its almost like narratives are real in the same way that (the) virus is real, but impossible to directly observe…wait a minute…oh god, that’s it” (sound of scales hitting the floor).

    I think this kind of revelation only happens when a singular mind devotes a life time to contemplating an unfathomably deep concept. My thanks.

    Can’t wait to see the next installment.

  11. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    The process of writing this note was, in fact, almost exactly like this!

  12. The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, coined the term “meme”. Memes can be defined as ideas, behaviors, and styles that spread from person to person within a culture over time. They, respond to selective pressures, mutate, and self replicate - kind of like viruses.
    Might a meme, or numerous memes, be considered a key part of a constructed narrative? Might memes be the building blocks of narratives, furthering the concept that memes are mimetic genes which create the narrative organism?
    Bevo made an interesting comment about winning narratives appealing to a higher power - God or nature. I tend to understand concepts better from the nature perspective. The idea that narratives can alter our brain chemistry and thus our biology is a concept which really needs continued exploring, and your discussion is not missing the higher power part IMO.
    Thanks Ben!

  13. This is fascinating Ben. Coincidentally (or is it?), there is a fascinating discussion at Rebel Wisdom about how ideas and narratives have taken on ‘a life of their own’, which they call Egregores - a form of emergent spirit: Covid & the Sensemaking Crisis, BJ Campbell - YouTube

    Paul Vanderklay goes further and says that our meta verse is now spirit haunted (and he isn’t being metaphorical): Secularists Discover Spiritual Forces Behind Social Media and the Culture War - YouTube

    The late James P. Carse wrote about the tension between religion and ideology, noting how the icons of the former can become the idols of the latter. He observed that:

    “In every form of tyranny, in every attempt to silence others into obedience, there is always an inherent idolatry.”

    Your insights alert us to the danger of the idol makers. Let us sing better songs.

  14. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    There are certain books that - if you read them at the right time in your life - will have a permanent impact. The Selfish Gene was one of those books for me. I can still remember checking it out at the library as a teenager.

  15. Perhaps this series’s should be renamed The Metaverse Survival Guide.

    Great work. Nearly brought tears to my eyes.
    Thank you, sir.

  16. Wonderful. My neck tingles when I read something like this that describes a thing I’ve known/felt in my bones for so long, and your version of the metaverse does about the best job I’ve seen.

    To follow up with one more book excerpt, I’m including a quote from Behavior: The Control of Perception, by Bill Powers, which was way ahead of its time and has been validated by a lot of recent neuroscience under the banner of predictive processing.

    “I am saying, basically, that system concepts such as Society or Culture are not to be found in the world represented by physical models of the universe; they are elements of psychological models of the universe. They are effective exactly to the degree that individuals learn to perceive them and choose goals with respect to them and develop means of maintaining their ninth-order perceptions in those goal states. To ask the physical significance of doing this is merely to mix one model with another. A society is a perception. That is its physical nature.”

    As you say, Ben, these ideas have been mulled over for a millennia. But I find the control theoretic view and Powers’ description of a perception to be powerful and relatively modern additions.

  17. Fantastic, and thought-provoking framework for thought, Ben.

    My. takeaway notes (influenced by a right-time-in-life reading of Godel, Escher, Bach):
    All software/information ultimately runs on the hardware of the physical world.

    Memes run on the hardware of our bodies and neurons, and the metaverse is the emergent property of those ideas. Whence the line between consciousness (e.g. the OS) emerging atop those neurons and the metaverse (the “system state”?) that runs on that.

    If there is a line (or singularity), maybe it’s where we glimpse the transcendent.

  18. Well that removed a few scales! Epic stuff Ben. Looking forward to part 2

  19. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    Thanks for the Bill Powers reference, Joseph. Spot on!

  20. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    Yes, Sutha, for sure Godel, Escher, Bach is another one of those right-time-in-life books, and unfortunately I think it just missed my window. Gotta give it another shot!

  21. Ben, I have been lurking your material for a couple (or more) of years for free- the gain of function metaphor for narratives really hit me upside the head. I am now a subscriber and look forward to Pt. 2.

  22. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    Wonderful! Welcome to the Pack, Steve!

  23. Avatar for 010101 010101 says:

    All very quickly. There are no languages whose form is in a state of development. And their forms are all basically the same.

    A wretched slough of mountebankery and humbug. Phrases familiar and mundane to the ancient ear become eloquent and gain an elegance of unfamiliarity as they fall into literary history, dropped from common usage as the language evolves.
    Innit brah.

  24. Avatar for JohnE1 JohnE1 says:

    Thank you for pushing, pulling and putting words to this.

  25. I can honestly say: I’m not sure what McCarthy means there, just as I’m not sure what he means when he says that the fundamental insight necessary for language is that one thing can be another thing (I feel like I’d really have to dig in on that - metaphor?…).

    But, I think that considering that our unconscious mind communicates using images and that language is something entirely separate and non-evolved (language is almost like a creature in symbiosis with us - “a virus” as McCarthy puts it - Snow Crash anyone?), frees the reader up to consider just how much of our literal thoughts are determined via the structures imposed by language - which I think was adjacent to Ben Hunt’s point (which is why I thought of it). The truth of McCarthy’s analysis? I have no idea. But it’s interesting.

    Other than that, I’m never entirely sure what McCarthy is talking about in anything he writes…

  26. Avatar for Tanya Tanya says:

    Ben, thank you for this. Not for the first time when reading one of your notes, I both laughed, and cried (with joy). I may post more as it percolates through my brain, but it was interesting to see “The Selfish Gene” brought up in the comments. I didn’t read the book until I met the love of my life when I was 35 and he suggested it, and I found it quite profound. (Of course it didn’t hurt that Dawkins was a friend of and greatly appreciated Douglas Adams!)

    The most moving part to me was the conclusion which felt like a great big hug, confirming and validating the principles on which I live my own life.

    (If I may add a humorous aside, the quote about ‘The Word’ brought to mind a line in the brilliant 1967 film “Bedazzled” which you all must see if you haven’t yet. Such a great dark comedy featuring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in swinging London – Dudley did the soundtrack, and it’s amazing – a brilliant retelling of the Faustian tale, and the last scene is jaw-droppingly prophetic.)

  27. Ben, thank you very much for this note. It has given me a new and improved way to think about the emergence of the Metaverse currently being constructed by various tech entities. I always divided the two concepts in my mind (the physically linked VR type landscape and the “land of ideas”) but this has given me a much improved grasp on the division.

    It immediately brought to mind “the Selfish gene” which I read when I was quite young and should probably read again from the perspective of an adult, and also a more “out there” book I read many years ago called “Biocentrism” by the stem cell guy Robert Lanza.

    Reading about biocentrism was a peculiar experience. I knew right away that the value of the book was not in whether it was true/real/correct etc. etc. but in the perspective-changing effect it had on me. It felt like a one-person paradigm-shift (if such a thing is possible) and I feel fairly certain that reading that book has made me better able to grasp new ideas as they have presented themselves in my life so far. As if reading it, made me less moored to the many fundamental assumptions that make our existence feel like it sits on solid ground. Again, I am not even sure that I believe Biocentrism is 100% correct, but it was persuasive enough to instil me with the ability to review life’s many “certainties”.

    As an aside, one of the the most valuable classes I have ever taken was one of my first Uni classes back home in Norway. At that time, all new students regardless of discipline were required to spend 6 months studying philosophy. I enjoyed the history of philosophy as much as the next person, but it was the science-of-philosophy and Thomas Kuhn’s view of paradigm shifts that left the greatest impression. I have found it extremely valuable to expect some sort of revolution of my world-view with regular intervals.

    All of which is to say that I think this note/series has the potential to be just that. The catalyst for many one-person paradigm shifts.

    And that, is no mean feat.

  28. Are we on a journey to discovering the R0’s of narratives and the laboratories that create them? When your notes makes me happy and sad at the same time, I can only imagine how you felt writing it. Thank you.

  29. Read this article yesterday. Last night, in a fit of nostalgia (or my subconscious reaching out), I decided to watch the first episode of a show I loved as a kid: “Space 1999”. The show’s premise? A large nuclear waste dump on the dark side of the moon explodes blowing the moon out of orbit and into space (where else?) stranding the scientists et al living on the base.

    Why were the scientists and astronauts on Moon Base Alpha? Prepping a mission flight to a newly discovered habitable planet. Now that they were careening through space and realizing that their past lives were over forever the commander decides that the new planet was their future (and only hope).

    The name of the new planet in the universe to start a new life? I shit you not, META.

    “There are no coincidences, only the appearance of coincidences”

  30. I did a Bible study a long time ago on words and speaking. It was just academic knowledge at the time to me, a passing curiosity. Until I just read that John 1:1 quote in context here… as the kids say John 1:1 hits differently now.

    The jist of that study (for our non religious folks) is of course that Jesus is the Word that John mentions. Now… think about the implications of that revelation in a non religious context.

    Dude, Ben you hit hard on this note.

  31. After multiple attempts to enjoy his work I have concluded one of two things (or maybe a mix of both) is happening:

    1. I’m too dumb to understand what the f**k he’s talking about 70% of the time
    2. Nobody actually gets his work, but everyone is afraid to admit it, so they pretend like they gleaned some powerful insight from his writing and thus they may remain in the good graces of those around them.
  32. Justin, I had similar thoughts reading through this piece. It’s a beautifully written, rich apologetic.

    I wonder, though – and possibly at the risk of belaboring a distinction without a difference – if there isn’t something missing in the opposition of fact and metaphor presented here.

    An opposition that echos another one I sometimes stew over–between “theory” and “myth.”

    Among my evangelical friends, my ears sometimes hear a “scientific” claim described as “just a theory,” with little credit given to what contributes to a robust theoretical understanding of the physical world.

    Among my materialist friends, my ears sometimes hear a “religious” claim described as “only a myth,” with little credit given to what contributes to a robust mythological understanding of the narrative world.

    So when Ben writes that he doesn’t mean “narratives are alive as a metaphor,” I wonder if that isn’t giving metaphor too short a shrift.

    I believe that at their best Scientific Theorizing and Mythic Poesis are proper ways of making sense of the world. I believe the best science and the best myth are the most robust ways we have of touching reality.

    This isn’t arguing with what Ben’s saying, as much as my attempt to add a point of emphasis.

    “They (narratives and viruses) are not made of the same building blocks as you and me,” writes Ben. I would go further and state that they are not made of the same building blocks as each other, either. And that this is important.

    It occurs to me that may be one reason I don’t find Dawkins; conjecture about memes compelling. Dawkins’ atomizing approach strips metaphor of content. It trashes the language-enabled intersubjectivity that makes us human.

    It removes agency. At least that’s my sense. And that tendency plays out in what I don’t hear from Dawkins – the capacity to write coherently (or at least interestingly) about narrative world – the metaverse – beyond the meme.

    As an aside, the early 20th-century Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin has it all over Dawkins on this, IMO. His writings – particularly, The Dialogical Imagination and Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics are master classes in the study of consciousness, or what I take Ben to be calling the metaverse.

    Similar to what RobMann mentioned w/regard to memes as building blocks of narrative, but with a slight difference:

    Perhaps metaphor serves as a sort of base layer of narrative – the unstructured data (insofar as I understand that term) if you will. And memes are their abstraction.

    Maybe in the same way we can say “molecules/proteins are the raw material of the biological economy in which viruses live,” we can say “metaphors are the raw material of the metaversal economy in which narrative lives.”

    So to say that the metaverse does indeed exist in the physical world doesn’t seem to me the most interesting thing there is to say about it. And I wonder if physicalist techniques, including Quid, don’t present a risk of instrumentalizing us as we swim in the living waters of narrative.

    Not to say that’s what Ben thinks or what Epsilon Theory seeks.

    The main body of the essay argues otherwise – that its physicality isn’t the most interesting thing to say about the metaverse – i.e. the ideated world posesses more power and reality than meatworld.

    I think at bottom Ben writes as scientist first, in the most generous definition of that term. But always a scientist with an eye for what makes this good world good. A scientist with an ear for poetry. In other words, as a human.

  33. I can’t wrap my head around the notion that the narrative is alive. I understand that, for example, our gut bacteria is alive and interacts productively (or counter-productively) with our biological system, or that viruses are are alive inside us and pursue their inherent objectives to reproduce and thrive, but can’t see that narrative similarly is alive in our brains. I have long believed that our human brains, and quite likely the brains of other species, have the capacity interact with the our environment by influencing energy around us through our thoughts, and that this energy can and does influence the thoughts of other living beings, and I can square everything Ben says in this brilliant note with that belief, but I still can’t see that our neurons or other brain cells live a life independent from us. I think that the rewiring of our brains based on narrative is part of how our biological systems are designed to influence and help optimally manage our lives. I certainly believe that propaganda and the strategic use of narrative are scientifically based methods for manipulating those features of our biological systems, and they’ve proven quite effective in that function.

    That said, the idea that my brain cells live as separate entities from me, that would explain a lot. :slight_smile:

  34. Wow, just wow, Ben. Thanks.

  35. <<<I think at bottom Ben writes as scientist first, in the most generous definition of that term. But always a scientist with an eye for what makes this good world good. A scientist with an ear for poetry. In other words, as a human.>>>

    Well stated Andy.

  36. Allen Watts might suggest, there is no “me”…

  37. I would agree with him entirely. We’re all made of the same matter and energy, different manifestations that make up part of a single dynamic experience of being. Dark matter and dark energy, which we can’t see and of which we understand almost nothing, together make up 96% of all matter and energy. What we see and understand, with all our modern “sophistication” is barely a small part of total reality.

  38. “Oh good and gentle townspeople of Locker C-18”

  39. Not that I ever doubted I did the right thing by subscribing, but your essay on narrative and meta verse was excellent. In thanks, I offer a favorite line from Milton’s Areopagitica:

    “For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively and as vigorously productive as those fabulous dragon’s teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men.”
    (Source: John Milton. Complete Poems and Major Prose. Macmillan Publishing Company.)

    All the best and looking forward to parts 2 and 3.

  40. It’s not easy to relate the powerful feelings this essay imposed upon me! And, I am deriving so much mindful commentary from fellow pack members. Ben created a high bar for Parts 2&3!

    I have to relay a discovery that ties back to an earlier discussion on attitudes about cheating. I am not nearly as well read as so many who post here for my edification. So, I start searching to learn more about Socrates based on Ben’s note. The site that got top search engine placement is IvyPanda. IvyPanda assumes I need to write an essay on Socrates and his views on Self. For only $11 per page, discounted from $16+, I could have my homework to turn in in 3 hours. Supposedly more than 300 writers are waiting to help write a 10 page essay for about $100.

    Every HS and college kid has to know this exists, with the means and temptations ratcheted up in the upper income enclaves.

  41. Avatar for Kevin Kevin says:

    Ben, I might be restating the obvious, but it seems that this concept of a physically “alive” and viral mental construct could extend into many areas. Things like songs that get stuck in everyone’s head, games we all love to play, social customs, etc.

  42. These excellent conversations are making me consider the hypothesis of narratives as a mostly symbiotic organism, with the potential to become a pathogenic one too.
    Like dark energy and dark matter, we lack the vocabulary and knowledge to describe what we are just beginning to become aware of - but working towards that goal here on this Forum.

  43. Rob,

    Thank you,

    Jim Handshaw

  44. Andy - Great thoughts. Your last paragraph is the thing we are chewing on in our house. To me, an underlying current in Ben’s work is a description of God or God’s relationship with humanity in scientific, or maybe just logical terms. I’m not sure if this is something he thinks about at all (would be interested to know), but discovering narrative is alive and has this impact on humanity is discovering the innerworkings of our relationship with God in my view.

    Using scientific or modern finance/academic language to describe God is sort of antithetical to someone who leans mystic in their theology, like my wife does. Or maybe it’s the comparison of Socrates to Jesus which turns her away. Justin Martyr was able to spread the gospel prolifically using the language of Greek philosophy. Even Paul did so when addressing Greeks. So, I think there is a lot of value in approaching theology this way (though I’m not even sure what realm of discipline we are in now).

    To your point about the most interesting thing to say about the metaverse isn’t that it exists, I think you are right. Your comment about metaphors makes me think about mimetic theory and how competing narratives echo each other. They use the same building blocks and they are constructed in the same way because the metaphors we use today are connected in our collective conscience. That is until something external breaks the connection.

    I’ve got a piece coming out tomorrow in the Houston Chronicle describing this in the American political context. Will post it here if it’s not against the rules.

  45. Two thoughts:

    1. As I understand it, viruses aren’t “alive” in the same way that bacteria are. SARS-Cov-2 is actually part of the homo sapiens species. That’s why viruses aren’t part of any evolutionary tree. Viruses only grow and reproduce in so far as they inhabit their hosts.

    This makes the microverse a powerful analogy to the metaverse, which only exists in so far as it inhabits its host.

    And just as ancient viruses can lie dormant (or exist within other species), so can narratives - which can also mutate and propagate and become lethal or benign.

    1. Emmanuel Derman has stated that it’s very important not to become idolators. Our models are always and everywhere abstractions of the true underlying reality. In fact, every model is an image, a formula, a picture of the Truth. But every picture lies. Every formula is limited. Even e=mc^2 is only an abstraction.

    That’s why John 1:1 echoes Genesis 1:1, it doesn’t restate it. That’s why Revelation 22:20 closes with a prayer for the true Logos to come. That’s why we science AND theology AND finance AND engineering AND literature AND ….

    “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” 1 Corinthians 13:9-10.

  46. Ben,

    There’s a lot going on with your Epsilon Theory writings. Your recent trilogy on the narrative (What I would call the tyranny of language.) has hit many trip wires that helps me understand the world around me.
    I’m the guy in the background jumping up and down in the last two Friday pack meetings.

    I came to Epsilon Theory for the financial narrative discussion. I’m staying now for other reasons, mainly the questions I seek to ask, at the age of 76, with the happy realization I’m still ‘coming of age’.

    To other pack members that think Ben has lost it, hang in there. I will predict he and Rusty will be reenergized with many new metaphors on the financial aspects of the tyrannical narrative we swim in.

    Jim Handshaw, my two daughters call be their sappy dad

  47. Doug, you’ve really added depth here. Thank you!

  48. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    Thanks for posting this in the Forum, Justin! Would love to get the Pack’s thoughts on this.

  49. Avatar for House House says:

    First, absolutely love the piece. The narrative framing of the metaverse as a virus with intent is brilliant and is actually the meta of the gaming metaverse framing, which stands great as a standalone example but not as a mental model.

    Here are some thoughts from a tech person:

    • The speed of narrative generation and adaptation seems to be continuously increasing (FB → Instagram → TikTok) and each more addictive than the other
    • The average folk have absolutely no defense against this stuff. (Try TikTok for an hour, and you’ll see what I mean)
    • The “Clear Mind. Full Heart” narrative lack distribution. I’m saying this because that’s what I see among young folks, they are so enamored with the allure of capitalism and social status that no other narrative matters. There’s a technological but also much stronger social network effect from these negative narratives. (Super easy to spot if you get on LinkedIn for 5 min)

    Unfortunately I don’t see any solutions to any of this stuff but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep thinking, doesn’t mean we can’t at least help to spread the positive narrative among friends and family.

    I stayed subscribed but haven’t read ET for a while but boy I am glad to be back.

  50. I’m fairly active on LinkedIn, but man, that platform is the worst!

  51. Firstly, thank you for your service. Second, thank you for sharing a well done opinion piece.
    Having dealt with In vs. Out at the corporate level, I appreciate an informed voice and a measured tone. That said, I question the characterization: ‘We all are either/or’.
    All? It may certainly seem that way–it’s designed to seem that way. However, is it possible a population sits quietly, refusing to feel/believe we are caught and likewise refusing to let the actions of others dictate our own, but instead standing silently rooted in and informed by our history?

    From McCullough’s Adams:
    We may please ourselves with the prospects of free and popular governments. But there is great danger that those governments will not make us happy. God grant they may. But I fear in every assembly, members will obtain influence by noise, not sense. By meanness, not greatness. By ignorance, not learning. By contracted hearts, not large souls…
    There is one thing, my dear sir, that must be attempted and most sacredly observed or we are all undone. There must be decency and respect, and veneration introduced for persons of authority of every rank, or we are undone. In a popular government, this is our only way." (Adams writing to James Warren, pg. 105 - 106.)

    It’s hard to stand firm with the amount of hyperbole, disrespect, and disregard seeming to rise waist high, but easier when I realize I’m hardly the only or the first. The men and women who lead us into revolution grappled with serious issues, like treason. They would have been hung had they been caught by the Crown. Adams was In, then Out, his friendships with certain peers (Jefferson) fractured, but were then repaired. The lesson of being true to oneself, one’s values and, to recognize, we can repair relations and move forward is powerful.
    Thank you for sharing your writing and all the best.

  52. Thank you for this Leslie.

    You are right the population sitting quietly, rooted in and informed by our history is a force against the armies. These are the folks quietly humming, or loudly singing “our song.” I meant to characterize this group as standing between the gunfire or at least drowned out by the noise. Some one mentioned the signal to noise ratio being lopsided - this was my way of illustrating that.

    Adam’s letter and, much of what Madison worried about with his writings about factions, foreshadowed what we are seeing. Many would argue there is no way to manufacture ourselves out of this environment and only catastrophic famine, economic collapse, etc. can force us back into cooperation games vice competition games. They may be right, but either way it’s those of us singing the song of “free and popular governments” will position us to build was is good when the culture armies quiet down.

    Really appreciate your thoughts!

  53. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    Great to have you back!

  54. This is why I am an Epsilon Theory subscriber! I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to see someone frame human consciousness as the OG metaverse. This framing can go a long way toward helping people understand why the following statement is a more useful description of what facts are:

    All facts are fiction; some of those fictions are useful.

    I can’t wait to help “write the songs to change it”!

  55. My head has been spinning ever since I first heard @bhunt introduce this interpretation of the metavese back in an Office Hours last fall. But that was nothing compared to where my mind has went after reading this first installment. Can’t wait to read the rest!

    Around the time of that Office Hours last year, I read the Icarus Moment note for the first time (which, for my money is a Top 3 ET Note - but the competition is getting tighter by the week in 2022). So the interaction of abstraction and alienation were fresh in my mind at that time. I then concluded something like “abstraction and meta = bad, real and the opposite of meta = good.”

    So that led me on a bit of a search for what actually is the opposite of meta, and by extension, the metaverse. I was delighted to find that some good folks on the Internet propose that “Mesa” is the opposite of “Meta” and that the “Mesaverse” is the opposite of the “Metaverse.”

    I stumbled upon this interesting exploration of the Mesaverse. An Alternative to the Metaverse. With the recent reveal of Facebook’s… | by Tim Andersen, Ph.D. | The Infinite Universe | Medium

    Here is a quote from that piece:

    “So, if the metaverse is about the verse, i.e., the real world, then what is the opposite of meta?

    The opposite of above, about, or beyond, is inside and within. The Greek word for this is mesa. Hence, a mesaverse is a world that is within the world. It is inside of it and below it, like a table, a mesa, supporting it.

    If I were to conceive of what heaven is, where God resides, it would be in such a realm, not above or about the world, like some cloudy Platonist depictions, but inside it and below it, supporting it.

    To enter a mesaverse is the opposite of entering a metaverse. Rather than entering a reflection or simulacrum of reality, one enters a deeper reality. Like waking up from the Matrix, the mesaverse is what lies behind the curtain of what we perceive reality to be about.”

    After reading Ben’s most recent note, I started to wonder if there was a connection to be made between how Ben describes the Metaverse - (my words here) almost sabotaging the inner workings of our cognition - and the concept of Mesaverse, possibly the very origin of all cognition and spirituality.

    Anyways, has anyone in the Pack come across the concept of the Mesaverse before? Would you add or correct anything that I’ve shared above? Does introducing it into this conversation supplement or instead confuse the picture Ben is painting? Thanks all!

  56. This reminds me of A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural by Peter L. Berger. I highly recommend checking it out. Berger also tries to connect his version of “narratives” to the processes inside the human mind, which reminds me of your metaverse as “a physical expression of the way that the human brain wires itself at the cellular level in response to linguistic stimulus…”

    Berger goes on to try to build a way forward based on some inherently human “physical/anthropological” commonalities that transcend narrative.

    Anyway, it’s a fun read – and relevant (unless I misunderstood your/his theses).

  57. Quote I just heard and thought some here might enjoy.

    Neoplatonism was just a “kabbalistic” lab leak into the pagan culture in Alexandria and I’m not sure if we want to give the pagans credit. They performed gain of function research on precepts from the Kabbalah, then inserted it into Christianity…

    “Neoplatonism seems to play the role of machine code that still needs a programming language on top of it.”

    “Universal grammars of the spirit, and of the intelligible.”

    From: The Success of an Embodied Thing is a Revelation about Truth Itself

  58. Avatar for fidnie fidnie says:

    Ben, I usually read your posts with some delay. They are the occassional dessert of the day.
    Here again, I respond with a nod, a wave, and a resonating blogpost.

    But all the same, not one person in a million sees the metaverse as real.

    Here’s my post from December: Seeing the Invisible (And How to Think About Machine Learning)

    I believe the invisible worlds are as real and natural as the visible ones, with their own forces, weather, and histories, and that we inhabit these realms even more naturally than the physical one.
    Does that sound wonky? Peter Thiel has a question he asks founders: “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?” Well, for me, it’s this one. A lot of my life philosophy follows from this core divergent belief. And because this belief is contrary to general science and to most people’s ideas, it’s one that I must keep carefully testing against reality. I cannot rely on the crowd here. If I choose to hold this strange, outlier belief, it’s my job to vigilantly assess whether it’s working or wonky.

  59. @bhunt So this came up in a discussion. I’ve never worked with bees or ants, but as a conservationist I spend a lot of time outdoors in my free time and I’m always observing nature. The hive-mind has always fascinated me at how alien it is. It can control such a mass of individuals and make complex order out of that seeming chaos. The pivots and changing orders across so many different individuals so rapidly is wild. Meanwhile, the ant and the bee on their own they’re very simple minded. They have a very task-oriented utilitarian life. Conception, birth, toil, and death. All very orderly and utilitarian and predictable, and governed completely by the queen. But that’s not quite accurate either. Because the queen herself has the exact same task-oriented utilitarian life, just a very different set of tasks. She’s just another individual in the hive-mind’s game. The hive-mind may be this original parasite. The original metaverse of using language to control and interconnect a series of neural networks across a mass of distinct individuals.

  60. Avatar for Zenzei Zenzei says:

    This video changed my entire conception of how I think about ants and ant colonies. It also led me to wonder how the whole can be so organized when no single entity (not even the queen) is producing a blueprint and saying “build me thus!”
  61. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    The hive IS the animal, not the individual bees or ants.

  62. Avatar for Zenzei Zenzei says:

    [Edit; I didn’t actually edit this post the first time - the forum auto-edited it for me cause I quoted the entirety of the previous post. Already reported to moderators.]

    This is one of my favorite all time documentaries. Paul Stamets is a national treasure.

  63. After a hiatus down the rabbit hole of alt-media, I have rejoined ET and found this most provocative post. I hope the ‘vax’ for the nefarious aspects of the metaverse will follow shortly and not have too many adverse effects. Cheers!

  64. Avatar for jrs jrs says:

    Did you learn anything interesting in that strange descent into alt media?

    I’ve been doomscrolling Twitter most of the weekend because it seems like a unique opportunity to see what people really think, given our heightened emotions.

    Mostly this reaffirmed to me that people who have one particular axe to grind can very persuasively make just about any emotional news topic associated with that one axe.

    The most salient example I found is a narrative supporting the Great Reset conspiracy theory: that this war is not actually about Ukraine, or even Russia: it’s being put on mainly to force Russia out of SWIFT and thus somehow accelerate the coming of global digital currency, or the Mark of the Beast, or something.

    (By “very persuasively,” I mean for me personally as an ignorant outside observer with admittedly heightened emotions. I’m sure experts on here would immediately call BS on most of the propaganda on both sides. But as Ben pointed out, just because we know propaganda is false doesn’t necessarily make it less powerful, and we can still agree with the truthiness of it. “Straight into my veins, please,” to paraphrase.

    But if we believe these means justify the ends, I am concerned that the secondary effect is to widen the gyre. And but sometimes secondary effects need to be damned.)

  65. @jrs Yes, I found it is very difficult to find juxtaposed competitive views on any one alt-media site, with perhaps the exception of
    I no longer use Twitter as it seems to be mainly for tireless self-promoters and venters, and it disappoints me to see really smart people still there; I guess it’s the water I don’t want to be in. The Great Reset is most likely real, IMO, but we won’t know for sure until it’s too late. Disruptions are a dime-a-dozen these days, and so it is easy to manufacture connections to Klaus Schwab et al. for some of them. Take a listen to a Klaus Schwab speech and the origins of the WEF and Davos as derivatives of the Rothschilds and subsequent Bilderberg groupies. It feels like watching Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin. Cheers!

  66. Avatar for jrs jrs says:

    I no longer use Twitter as it seems to be mainly for tireless self-promoters and venters, and it disappoints me to see really smart people still there; I guess it’s the water I don’t want to be in.

    Yes, I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter.

    Last night I learned that some really real people are doing some things with Twitter, “fake news”, and graph theory that are eerily similar to a very boring paper I wrote long ago. Not sure what I think about all this yet… all I really understand is their network topology at present, which took a while after not doing this stuff for ~20 years.

    The Great Reset is most likely real,

    On further reflection, I neither believe nor disbelieve this. All I really know about this topic is that Beavis and Butthead watched a video in like 1995 where this guy kept repeating the phrase “A New World Order”.

    I have questions, if you would humor me. What is your definition of The Great Reset? And, what are the (1) core pieces and/or (2) most salient pieces of it for you?

    I ask mainly for personal reasons. And, I am also interested eventually in posting a new essay about it. As I hope you can see from my piece on Russia and Ukraine, I try to be a fair-minded and thoughtful essayist.

    PS. D’oh, forgot the @Victor_K , although of course anyone can feel free to answer. Discourse bug that fails to preserve thread structure appears to persist.

  67. @jrs My definition of The Great Reset is simple. It is when the USD is replaced as the world reserve currency. The USD was not always the world reserve currency; it replaced the Pound Sterling if I am not mistaken way back when last century. Kissinger arranged for the petrodollar (during Nixon) with the Saudi’s in exchange for their security in the Middle East, which solidified the USD as the world reserve currency. Curiously, Kissinger and JK Galbraith recruited Klaus Schwab to formulate what eventually became the World Economic Forum while they all were at Harvard. As a result of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, the move away from the USD as world reserve currency has been accelerated. Therefore, The Great Reset from a currency standpoint is near; however, from a political standpoint, the Great Reset seems more distant.

  68. Bretton Woods international monetary agreement of 1944 saw the US dollar become the preferred currency to settle national balances with the newly formed IMF stabilising exchange rates.

  69. @010101 Righto! But later, I think that Nixon taking the USD off the Gold standard (1971) made the USD a little more flimsy (collapsing Bretton Woods), and so Kissinger’s deal with the Saudi’s and the petrodollar maintained the USD as the world reserve currency.

  70. I define the Great Reset as the US dealing decisively with its debts (internal and external). Same with private debts. I am influenced by John Mauldin and Ray Dalio in this framing. I see this happening either through restructuring (if not repudiation) of the debt, or as I think more likely, deflation of the dollar. Deflation seems most likely to me because the mountain of entitlement liabilities is too politically dangerous to repudiate or renegotiate. They already tax Social Security for all but lower-income recipients, which can be seen as partial repudiation. Best way to deflate the dollar? Allow high real inflation in dollar terms, by keeping nominal rates far below real inflation. “Wouldn’t want to spook the markets!” If used cars keep going up in price, that means the dollar is losing value faster than a used car. depreciates (This is not a long-term forecast for used car price behavior, just an illustration of dollar depreciation.) The most salient aspect for me? Providing real funding for my family’s future cost of living. No other concern comes close. I remember paying $0.32 a gallon for gas (albeit 50 years ago) and 5.65% per year brings that to today’s $5 per gallon. Whether the reset is sudden or structural, you’d best believe it’s real (pun intended). :slight_smile:

  71. Lately, there are a lot more articles about the world financial system going multipolar with at least a US/EU side and an East Asian side. The recent unilateral actions of the US with regards other people’s moneys are often claimed to have set this shift in stone. I am no expert, but I would now expect that if we are not all crispy, the US will then unilaterally default its debt held by those countries going off the dollar. So that’s pretty decisive, too!

  72. Funny, I just recently finished Xenophon’s “The Memorable Thoughts Of Socrates”. The philosopher’s logic was so clear and effective, something that we have lost in our present society. I was thinking to myself that his death sentence was very Christ-like, and that maybe the early Christians used his story to build Jesus’ life upon. Thanks for taking their connection to the next level.

  73. This is a fascinating discussion. I am having trouble putting my thoughts into words. Narrative shaping is definitely done deliberately and it does fool most people. If you can steer people deliberately into fear narratives, it changes your brain chemistry. When people are afraid they are easier to control. Fear destroys your immune system. But viruses are not necessarily bad. We have piles of them in our bodies along with bacteria and they are all part of our human system. They help direct evolution. If you change your perception then you can change your reality. Even here there is narrative shaping as it is easy to get people to fear something they do not understand. I did not realize where the word “meme” came from…I have been wondering lately what I am missing in the blockchain world with all these meme coins. There seems to be different intentions and energies behind these coins. I am trying to observe and learn rather than judge as it feels like a deliberate way to shape chaos in certain directions. Is it more control, fear or greed in some groups and something else in other groups? There is also the concept of false light and false prophets in this whole area which also fits the narrative shaping theme. Anyway thanks for the deep thinkers in this group. :grinning:

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