Game B - Between the Dark Renaissance and Dark Factories
Protopians of the world unite! You have only your blockchains to let loose!
Last week I took a break from my immersion in the ideas of Balaji Srinivasan to explore the discussion around the new Game B film published on The Stoa. My friends from the IDW circle around a Swedish philosopher of the internet, Alexander Bard reacted to the film with a critique that the piece lacks pathic energy and a kind of artistic death drive, and thus its narrative lacks the necessary conflict.
Alexander Bard, Cadell Last, Raven Conolly and Owen Cox in their critique at The Stoa say that if you want to produce great art you need to talk class, sex and violence. You cannot avoid these subjects. Raven Conolly gives a great example of what they call a Dark Renaissance art – something like “dark art meeting the Intellectual Dark Web” – embodied in Coleman Hughes’ rap project Coldxman and his music video Blasphemy.
I agree, but let’s define Game B first. It is a placeholder for a mode of living that is antifragile to existential risk and exponential technology. Something beyond Game A – which is a current unsustainable, violent and hierarchical civilization that started maybe from the invention of agriculture or even from the discovery of fire. But Game B is not going back to hunters and gatherers either.
Game B is a set of ideas cultivated over 10 years by a group of people around the Santa Fe Institute interested in complexity science and existential risk. The two prominent ideas of the movement are creating wealth through superlinear scaling and fighting existential risk through imagining the opposite of addiction.
Superlinear scaling explained by Bible is this:
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Superlinear scaling explained by science looks like Scale, a book by Geofrey West. If you double the size of a city, some of its dimensions, like average wealth scales super-linearly. You get more than double of it. Alexander Bard would call this membranics. An idea that you should choose your friends wisely, invite them to your club and then let them behave as free people they are. (With some limits and caveats).
The opposite of addiction is what John Vervaeke calls the reciprocal opening of actors and their arena. One can call it addition. Alexander Bard would call it the opposite of exploitation – the tantric practice of withholding, saving and restoring – what he calls imploitation.
To translate it for the NFT & BAYC kids - If you combine membranics (private keys, rule of code) and imploitation (HODLing), you get the promise of web3.
A truly global internet, where the spirit of freedom and the West lives on.
Opaque Renaissance: If dark is like fire, opaque is like water
Opaque Renaissance is the idea that black boxes are now everywhere to be explored in a playful manner.
Take AI-driven memetic tribes, engaged in a total cyber and social war. One needs noopolitics to separate weak signals from all the noise and sublimate this total social war into a pro-social noosphere where technologically progressive protopias and protopians can flourish.
I describe noopolitics as a combination between Baudrillard’s and Kegan’s frameworks:
L1. I can perceive reality
L2. I can manipulate reality
L3. I belong to a tribe
L4. I can manipulate tribes
L5. I can skillfully match my (mental) state to the L1-L4 task at hand
I mean I like the Dark Renaissance as the artistic twin to the Intellectual Dark Web. And I don’t want to create any new labels just for fun.
Newcomb’s Paradox is the following:
The participant sees two boxes. Box A is transparent and there is 1,000 dollars in it and the second Box B is opaque, and there either is, or isn’t a million dollars. If the participant chooses only the opaque box, there is a Predictor who sees this in advance, and will put the million dollars there.
It would be rational to take both boxes, because in any case the participant will at least end up with some cash. Even though three orders of magnitude less cash, but better than nothing.
But the idea of one-boxing, to take only the one opaque box, is according to Jean Pierre Dupuy, a French philosopher and a friend of René Girard, the abstract expression of the origin of Weber’s paradox of the predestination and Protestant ethics.
Again, to summarize in a web3 language: If Game A is maximalism, Game B is what Balaji Srinivasan calls optimalism. Forgoing the maximalization of one variable for a more holistic approach the ancient Chinese Mohists called collective utilitarianism.
Ok but this doesn’t sound too sexy, violent or class-y, does it? One can describe it with a playful layer of irony, or what Žižek calls I would rather not to. Imagine I would rather not to - but in service of libido as opposed to mortido. Let’s say someone is experienced in ascetism. But not today. Today they will go full speed while keeping it together.
A thousand plateaus, a thousand identities being able to stick together in one dividual – thanks to pseudonymous economy and HODLing.
Overcoming addition with a reciprocal opening of a player and her metaverse. Keeping her head in the clouds and her feet on the ground.
Dark factories – no person, no problem
Dark factory is an actual term for a not-so-distant protopia. A factory where the lights are out – because it is fully automated.
If the Dark Renaissance is the idea to combine pathic energy with prospecting for gold in the noosphere (the IDW meme), the dark factory protopia is pure logos of automating away the OrgChart. Balaji Srinivasan explains how automation solves the principal agent problem. One is left with debugging and cyber security. And web3 developers are cyber security veterans. Therefore it will be important to attract web3 talent to your jurisdiction or a network state. Because cybersecurity is upstream of drone armies.
Full automation may sound dystopian, but it can be used to build sovereign collectives that rely on automation in everything – from farming and precision fermentation to digital fabrication and drones. These sovereign collectives can be magnitudes smaller than the current legacy countries. Thanks to automation and dark factories one can get the best out of a band (80-200 people) and a tribe (1000-2000 people) and civilization without a trade-off. New Pareto-optimal network states can flourish.
Instagram had 13 employees when it was acquired by Facebook, Kodak had 140,000 employees at its peak. The four orders of magnitude difference is enabled by automation and (virtual, online) robots.
What dark factories are for precision manufacturing and sovereign collectives, the AI-driven sects, or auto-cults, are for manufacturing addiction and dissent. Dark factories don’t have humans in the loop. AI-driven sects do.
No human no problem. But we want problems to feel alive. And yet as Žižek notes, humanism is not enough.
The Dark Renaissance of bohemians on nootropics, a technological progressivism of web3 and dark factories, combined with protopian humility of Game B, and a dose of transhumanism.. might get us an inch closer to stars, and to philosopher rock stars.