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As mentioned in the introduction to the podcast, this dialogue was initially released as part of the Wiser Pathways experiment. The link to the initial document is found here, where you will find much by way of explanation, along with links to published works referenced in the dialogue.
The conversation is now shared on Voicecraft because my feeling is there is value here worth sharing at broader distribution. The general orientation the Wiser Pathways initiative gestures at remains important, in my view. And like much else, continues to bubble.
About The Guests – John Vervaeke
John Vervaeke PhD is an award-winning lecturer at the University of Toronto in the departments of psychology, cognitive science and Buddhist psychology. He has published articles on relevance realization, general intelligence, mindfulness, metaphor, and wisdom. His abiding passion is to address the meaning crisis that besets western culture.
John’s remarkable and deeply educational YouTube series ‘Awakening From The Meaning Crisis’ can be found here.
About The Guests – Forrest Landry
Forrest Landry is a philosopher, writer, researcher, scientist, engineer, craftsman, and teacher focused on metaphysics, the manner in which software applications, tools, and techniques influence the design and management of very large scale complex systems, and the thriving of all forms of life on this planet.
Read more about Forrest here. Access a repository of his work here.
About The Guests – Tyler Hollett
Tyler is a father of two, and researcher of whatever seems necessary to support the healthy formation of communities, online and offline. Recently he has been instrumental in the development of several discord communities with members in the tens of thousands. He is using this knowledge to build a digital village that draws upon the wisdoms of our past to transform the challenges of the present into a gift for our future named The Metagora. He makes regular contributions to voicecraft.network
*This transcript was initially processed with AI, the manually edited for word accuracy and sentence structure. It should be much more reliable than merely AI generated transcripts, but cannot be taken as 100% accurate and ought not be shared without inclusion of the original audio. I hope it’s helpful.
Tim Adalin 00:55
So last time, and Tyler, you’ve listened to the conversation as well, between John, Forrest and I, wisdom was largely the lightning rod of focus that we spoke about.
Tim Adalin 01:42
And it felt as though we were moving to some interesting places of convergence regarding that notion. I don’t think that was exactly complete. And so I have sort of two minds as a context for this conversation. One of them, which I do think would be a good idea to do, is to see if we can’t roughly pick up where we left off. And I have an idea of framing questions for that. And then move into a sort of shared–with particular emphasis actually placed on each of your perspectives, and not mine necessarily–move into a shared, perhaps problem formulation, but maybe mutual understanding of the ecology of interrelating parts that make up this human experience, that make up this life experience, really. And what I can presently say is the binding or perhaps most hopeful, impetus I have is to see if it’s not possible to dedicate myself to creating wiser affordances along those paths, wiser pathways.
Tim Adalin 03:19
And so I’d like to maybe explore how we can look at this world now. And what we might do about it so as to, so as to effectively enable the most wise educational possibilities and affordances for as many people as possible. That’s effectively where I seem to be moving towards if I look inside to what’s most worth being in dedication to. Whether or not we can get there, whether or not I’m worthy in some sense of framing that, is another question. But it looks to me like a worthwhile light to see if we can move towards and so, you know, having the three of you here, to me is a real honor and something I’m extremely grateful for. And I also have this belief that there are deeply resonant instruments to be added to that orchestra of understanding. Not so much final solutions, but honest endeavors towards seeing if it’s not possible to do something just like this.
Tim Adalin 04:46
So, quite a bit for 90 minutes. We’ll see how we go. I think I will ask, if it’s all right, Tyler to share your reflections on what the context of this conversation here means to you, and how it interrelates with the work you’re doing at the moment, regarding trying to understand the dynamics of community formation online–what people are seeking, and why this kind of conversation is important and how it fits into your broader perspective. After that I have a mind for a question to ask John, and then Forrest, but we don’t have to take that route if it’s not appropriate. So I’m sort of opening us up here for Tyler to move us on.
Tyler Hollett 05:50
Thank you. Okay so, I mean, let me say first, because I was reminding myself as I was coming into this, because I feel like I do not adequately express the value that I have in the process that is taking place. I don’t give it enough of a personal testament to what I think is occurring here, I think. So it speaks, I think, aspirationally, to what I hope to achieve whenever I communicate. There’s something which is present, here, I think, right now in the moment is kind of an expectation that the individuals who are here will speak truthfully, and honestly, and probably in some sense beautifully, on aspects that are important to things that we’re experiencing. Right? Be it academically, or be it in just the direct lived experience of maybe the way in which institutions are breaking down–and in John’s language, the meaning crisis that’s personally affecting us–but if I could say, from my perspective, what we’re doing right now, and what I have been seeing take place on the media platforms, is honestly the aim of John’s program and certainly of Forrest’s clarity program with the Immanent Metaphysics which I am sinking my teeth into. It’s a phenomenal work. It’s so unlike the way in which my mind functions, it’s so much fun to pour my head into to fit to that form. It’s really interesting. And it’s ringing true in so many ways. But okay, don’t let me go astray.
Tyler Hollett 07:48
I have profound respect for what’s happening right now–profound respect for all three of you for what you have demonstrated in this process of communication, of instruction, of exposition, of seeking earnestly for answers, in some sense. Perhaps more than that. But okay, so I say that in part because, as maybe Tim is alluding to, what I feel strongly inside me is a kind of representation of a collective voice, of a kind of cultural wave that’s moving through, it’s like propagating through time here as a response to parts of the meaning crisis, as a response to the structural failings in certain cultural institutions and personal institutions. And that the groping aspect of that collective sense of needing a solution for it or solutions, right, a set of solutions is… it’s in this ever searching mode. Sifting through videos and sifting through articles and talking to each other about how to respond to these things. And they are finding themselves in various enclaves. Groups of affinity, or, you know, the ephemeral kind, but this great conversation is starting to take place, and it’s filtering out into distinct regions. You can kind of hop in and out of them. It’s really fascinating. But my sense is that the better the quality of the conversation in those who are participating, in a desire to search for clarity, for truth, for beauty, the more palatable the story will become, right?
Tyler Hollett 09:43
And I mean that not in a pejorative sense, I guess, in the way that we talk about narrative, but the more coherent it will become. And in some sense that means intelligible. And that means a kind of sensible narrative. A sense of causality that’s moving through what’s happening right now at multiple layers. Right? At the meta, at the subjective. And if we get it right, we can have this big giant collective conversation which is simultaneously instructive and participatory. Right? And participatory in a really novel way, perhaps, it’s never been possible before without the internet, or at least the digital layer. But if we can get this collective conversation going, then what we end up with is a suitable representation of the set of rules and instructions that will bind human beings together in a way that is sustainable, and sustainable in the sense that we avoid all the catastrophic collapse scenarios that, you know, everyone screams about being possible.
Tyler Hollett 10:51
So that I guess that’s the kind of reverence that I attach to what is ultimately taking place here. But that’s, that’s not to say that it’s not rife with error and I don’t screw it up all the time. But I’m hoping that the collective searching that people are demonstrating a need for is actually hidden, not necessarily even hidden, but it’s found conjoined within both of your work. And others, not just your own, but some and there’s other work. And John, yours is a condensation of a lot of work, right? There’s so much that you’ve brought together which is meaningful, in some sense. So this conversation that I think both Tim and I feel needs to be fostered right now is certainly something which has to take place between your bodies of knowledge. Right? And from it, we can get a sense of what is really going on in these isolated pockets of understanding that are resonant in ways that we can’t really articulate yet, or not well enough. We don’t have the meta narrative structure to it, to find out what the, I guess the, the class is, right? So yeah, so maybe I should stop there. That’s what I see taking place. That’s what I’m trying to encourage, in some regard with this conversation. And I see it as highly important and meaningful, and also a lot of fun. So.
Tim Adalin 12:29
Beautiful Tyler. Really beautiful. Okay, so pretty much from here, if you feel like I’m going off course in any way, I give everyone full permission to help me steer back on course. But I think perhaps we could begin — John, you have such an excellent ability to reframe things. I’m curious to hear what your relevance realization is calling you to recognize as what’s most important regarding the focus of your energy to this ecology of context we’re trying to presence, this evolving conversation that’s trying to understand itself better, and provide wiser pathways for people. But also in relationship to the conversation we shared last time in terms of where we reached as a point of potential convergence, where there might have been some clarity where there needs to be more clarity. And this notion of wisdom is in there for me. I don’t have the most clear question. But perhaps you can maybe frame where you feel like you’re at with this evolving conversation, perhaps between the four of us now here.
John Vervaeke 13:48
Sure I’d be happy to give it a try. So first of all, thank you for inviting me to this. And I share Tyler’s sense of reverence for the possibilities of what I call dialogos. And so I think, what we convey and what we embody in this is as important to people who might be watching it as anything we particularly say. And so I like the care that has is being given right now to that context. The context in which our conveying and coming into it and embodying it. And so I wanted to thank you both for doing that because I think that’s really, really important.
John Vervaeke 14:37
So for me, what’s central in my work right now, what I’m concerned with, that has to do with this space that Tyler’s been talking about is: I see there’s a race going on–I mean, that’s a metaphor, but it’s a helpful metaphor–between what Jules Evans has called con-spirituality, which is this fusion of conspiracy and spirituality and the way it’s proliferating. And both Jules and I were on the Rebel Wisdom podcast where we both independently sort of predicted that this was going to accelerate under COVID. And it has, and it continues. And I think we’re seeing that, on the way, it’s ramifying into the political arena, the social arena. I have so many people that I’m talking to now who say that they’ve seen friends and family being taken up into this, this con-spirituality, pervasively, and destructively. And I think it both feeds off of and feeds back into the meaning crisis in a profound way. And so I’ve been doing a lot of work with the help of others, Christopher Mastropietro and several other people, about trying to introduce a way of introducing the mutually supportive cultivation of wisdom within collective discourse, so that we can activate, actualize, accentuate collective intelligence, and perhaps exapt it into collective wisdom. So that we can give individuals the power to discern so that reality can more readily disclose itself to them, and we can give groups the power to discern so things can more readily disclose. I think that we’re confronting hyper objects now, to use Timothy Morton’s term, more and more often (and the internet itself, and these communities are becoming hyper objects.)
John Vervaeke 17:12
And I think the only resource that’s really well disposed to the discerning and disclosing grasp of hyper objects is distributed cognition. Because of the kind of machinery–cognitive machinery–that needs to be brought to bear to grasp these hyper objects, and I think that’s sort of a perennial lesson. So for me, this project that I call dialectic into diologos, where dialectic is the practice and diologos is the process that can catch fire between people, is really central to me right now because–and I don’t mean just what I.. there’s a whole family of these practices that are all emerging, all around. And trying to articulate that with the best cognitive science that’s available and the best history that’s available, and then put that into an ongoing participant observation and re-engineering of these practices, so that we have something that is a viable and competitive alternative to conspirituality, sort of maybe aspirational spirituality, something analogous, aspirationality? or something like that, I’m trying to do something on the fly here.
John Vervaeke 18:39
And so that’s uppermost in my mind right now. And as the ancient practice about trying to find out, what are the appropriate ways to activate the cognitive–both individual and collective processes–that best coordinate the individual and collective cultivation of wisdom. So that people, to use some language from Plato, so they’re tempted to the good, they’re tempted away from conspirituality and they’re tempted towards what I think we’re all aspiring to in this space right here right now. So you know, getting clear about what this is, getting clear about how it works, getting clear about how it… how it can whet our appetite for a greater and better way of being in a consistent manner is what’s uppermost in my mind these days.
Tim Adalin 19:49
Awesome. Thank you, John. Forrest, how does that framing relate to your dedication in the world at the moment? I’m curious in what ways you feel as though you might have something to add that can help us all deepen and further our clarity in relation to these notions.
Forrest Landry 20:20
Well, I think that the note of appreciation has been sounded really well. I would feel redundant to add to that, although I feel similarly. I’ve heard very strongly the note of humility, as well, all around. And I think that’s a very strong element as well. I’m really liking all of these elements. The directions that I’ve heard that have been spoken to all feel right. I mean I’m wanting to affirm the goodness of what has been spoken to.
Forrest Landry 21:00
John I think your remarks are very much in keeping with my own impressions, although I feel that my exposure is much less limited. So you have much more nuanced perspective in some of these areas than I could hope to speak to. I think that you know, first of all, just in terms of the embodiment part of the process, it’s been an element of my experience, particularly over the last week to really be exploring the embodiment piece, like how do we think about wisdom at an embodied level, at a personal level, as well as at a collective level? And how does that work in conversation? How does that work in conversational process?
Forrest Landry 21:51
So I think it’s just the answer to the question of what’s top of mind, I’ve really been, I guess, increasingly curious–both for my own sake, in terms of how I am embodying myself in the world, but also in terms of just the nuances of conversational process. And so, you know, I feel like I’m still learning about a lot of that. There is just such an amazing subtlety to conversational process. It is truly an art form. And sometimes I practice well, and other times, I don’t practice as well. In fact, you know, if I’m going to be, you know, keeping in the humility space, I feel that I was not sufficiently humble the last time I spoke with you, John, and I apologize for that.
John Vervaeke 22:35
I don’t think your apology is needed. I appreciate the sentiment but I don’t think an apology is needed. But thank you.
Forrest Landry 22:41
Well I feel that I risked maybe offending you, and I worried about that quite a bit after our last conversation. Because I am actually really interested in all of these things and these processes and people’s thoughts about all this.
Forrest Landry 23:02
But in terms of adding something substantive, I guess, you know, my reflections, I think, follow a lot with with yours is that, you know, I notice, for example, that we are all as people, that our level of wisdom varies, and that the level of variance that the wisdom encompasses, I mean, it’s probably not unlikely to be true that the wisest of us is not 1000 times more wise than the average, right. That the level of wisdom that we each hold is, you know, on a spectrum, but it’s not such a thing that, you know, if a person is going to be a leader of a million people or a billion people that they, you know, we would hope that they would have the wisdom of a million people, but that’s actually just an impossible thing to ask, right? I mean, it’s like, how could we possibly?
Forrest Landry 23:50
So therefore we must be thinking about wisdom at a distributed level, like how it’s embodied in culture and community. And so I think that there’s a really deep recognition of that, that we are all both looking at. How do we hold wisdom in community? And the embodiment piece I think, is actually really important. Because, at least when I think about what wisdom is, I mean, partly the notion of embodiment refers to the sense that there’s an encompassing view, that there’s a holistic view. That there’s experience. That a person who is wise is usually regarded as an older person who has had a variety of experiences in life and can kind of see in the present moment reflections and echoes of so many of these earlier experiences. And so that when they’re responding in the present moment, that they’re responding from a place that is informed by an infused by–that innate in their being is this capacity to respond more holistically, to not have gotten caught up in just the surface details, but to be able to see the deep motion that’s going on. To move from symptoms to causes. And to be responding to those causes is, you know, in effect more conscious. There’s a higher level of awareness that is, in a sense, being brought in. There’s a wider spectrum of values that are being brought in. There’s more awareness as to the kinds of things that might be unintended consequences, and all the usual things that normally we would ascribe to thinking well and clearly becomes intuiting well and clearly.
Forrest Landry 25:40
So there’s a feeling through that is as important as a thinking through. In much of my early work, I’m thinking of the effective choice book, particularly, there’s this real notion of trying to enable people to both feel through an issue and think through an issue clearly, and in the combination of those things, to be able to trust on some real basis that their choices would, in fact, be good choices as a result. And so I think that, you know, what we’re all seeking to do here is to find ways to try to create that same phenomenology at the level of the group. And, partly, that’s a recognition that, you know, if we’re looking for factors of say, a million to one wisdom over what the best of us could achieve today, that we really do need the diverse perspectives of a group to be able to do so. Right? That the embodied experiences of all of those people are part of the process. That we’re now looking for the kinds of conversational dynamics that are in Gestalt going to emerge that wisdom at the collective level.
Forrest Landry 26:54
So this emphasis on conversational quality and practice, therefore, feels very relevant to me. And so I, I guess, you could say, the top of mind for me, particularly recently is how I’m showing up or failing to show up in precisely that way. And also the kind of interplay between, say, how we speak to one another versus how we write to one another. And then the kinds of implications that that has. You know, if I were to maybe sum up in a sort of quip of how this reflection has come together: when we think about the level of intimacy that is created, it’s largely more often the result that it is lower bandwidth, slower communications, and that when we go to higher bandwidth, faster communications, that, well, it just doesn’t feel as intimate. It feels more like about power or, you know, influence in some sense, rather than about deep reflective inquiry. So in that particular sense, I’ve been coming to appreciate the notion of deep communication via text as slow, low bandwidth, low tech, as being more conducive to–at least in some respects–to the development of collective insight, than, you know, fast moving full media virtual reality experiences. You know, where the technology becomes so much of the intermediation of the communication between people that the tech itself becomes a barrier and it also becomes a vehicle for manipulation of the context.
Forrest Landry 28:51
And that also has been a theme that has been very much a part of my reflections is noticing that–and this is a very broad observation–that he who controls the distribution also, is there by enabled to and likely does control the extraction. And I’m using the word extraction in a somewhat pejorative way, I’m meaning it to mean, you know, extraction of not just, you know, materials out of the earth, or extraction of money from a community, but also the notion of the extraction of social benefit. And so, it’s not just the case, you know, in an industrial setting, or, you know, we’re talking about distribution of goods, you know, like Amazon has a centralized distribution of goods or, or Facebook as a centralized distribution of social connection or, you know, any one of our news companies, you know, pick one New York Times or something as being a centralized distribution of media information. That even in any case where there is a distribution process that is occurring, and it has a kind of focused central character and is high bandwidth and is oriented around creating scale and monetary flow and so on, that it is inherently having this other aspect, which is essentially extracting value from the commons.
Forrest Landry 30:25
And in my case, particularly, part of the reason why this is coming up is because I’m wanting to give value to the commons. I’m wanting to, you know, provide a way to have insights, whatever ones that I’ve been able to develop in my brief life, and hope that some portion of that is of utility to not just one other person, but to an entire community of people so that it may enable some increased capacity on the part of that community to genuinely be able to embody wisdom in their active practice. Not to say that, what I’m saying to them is wisdom. But to say that, what I’m hoping to provide as value is the capacity, or at least some, maybe minor increase in the community’s capacity to embody wisdom. And so from that, I’m now finding that I need to be very careful that it doesn’t become, you know, a dissemination or distribution process. And that, you know, if I’m doing that, that it did not become about me, but also that by leaving value on the table, that it doesn’t become about somebody else. And so, you know, in effect, it’s a larger question of how do we contribute value to the commons in any way, you know, if I was, maybe to make a metaphor of it, of like, say, we’re a community that’s in the desert, and there’s, you know, people there who, by whatever means, maybe they’re harvesting water from the air through some sort of tech that does that–and there are such things, by the way–but, um, and so they, you know, they each barely collect a little bit of water, and they know that there’s going to be a time, sometime in the future, maybe next year, where there’s just not going to be an ability for them to gather water.
Forrest Landry 32:26
So they collectively decide to pool their water. They have a tank, and they each contribute, you know, a liter of water a day. And so there’s this container that has all of this water in it, and at the end of the year, you know, it’s looking pretty good. And there’s a possibility by just the sheer fact that the water is valuable, and it’s all in one place, that somebody could basically just drive a truck up in the middle of the night and, you know, pick up the tank and just leave, right? And so, you know, if you’re a person in the community before all of this has happened, and people are saying, “hey, we have this plan to collect all this water, and it would be really good because next year there’s a chance we won’t be able to and this water will mean this community will survive. Can you please make a donation?”–and, you know, that’s, that’s like now the story. And as a member of the community, I can ask myself, “well, what is the capability that the community has to be a steward of this collective value to prevent a malcontented person to just basically abscond the collective efforts of the entire community after they have gone through all of this work, and therefore literally put their own lives at risk?”
Forrest Landry 33:43
And so this notion of stewardship of community value in a distributed way: stewardship of the capacity to produce wisdom in a distributed way; the notion by which there is a genuine relationship of trust between the individual and the community, knowing that the community is not only capable, but genuinely thoughtful, as a process, as some sort of total process, that is trustable, right? That the basis of choice is trustable, that there’s capacity to give to the community without putting oneself at disadvantage. So in effect I’m exploring these notions of altruism, right? And there’s a whole scale of altruism. And this is, you know, thinking that’s relatively recent for me, but it’s basically to notice that, at every increase in the scale of altruism, from individual to maybe family, to local community, to, you know, just regional or distributed community at some larger sense, national, international, species, ecosystem, and trans-ecosystem for those of us who are thinking maybe about futures in that space. But the idea here is that each of those levels, if we’re contributing to one of those levels, if we’re contributing value to a commons, that we are effectively making ourselves a little more vulnerable in that process. We are risking a bit of multipolar trap entanglement.
Forrest Landry 35:22
And so how do we create the capacity for wisdom in a community without having the individual participants feel that they are disadvantaging themselves in time or capacity in some other way? And to be able to hold that balance rightly? And what does that look like? What are the structures that enable that to be possible? What are the kinds of communication dynamics between individuals that allow for the Gestalt of this process to emerge? So that’s been a lot of what’s top of mind over the last three weeks.
John Vervaeke 36:07
There’s a lot there. And maybe this will make a difference. You feel different this time Forrest than last time I interacted with you. It feels very different. And I appreciate that. I just wanted to acknowledge that.
John Vervaeke 36:29
So I’m not going to try to respond to everything. I’ll pick up a couple pieces and I’ll try and keep this where I am confronting it. I had a discussion with one of my Patreon supporters the other night, and it was a really open discussion. I really asked him for his help, and for feedback, because he was noticing this pattern–and it goes to the issue of distribution, that’s why I’m bringing this up. He was noticing this pottering of the self silos of the people who get into these communities. They come in, they have ideas, they want to share in the comments. And then what happens is a community starts to build up around them. And they start to become beholden to the community. And then they start to become rigid and ossified in their capacity to interact, and they self silo, and then the whole thing turns into a comprehensive echo chamber. And then the whole thing, basically, at a performative level has fallen into contradiction, right?
John Vervaeke 37:31
And so I said, yeah, I’m really concerned with that problem. And I’m really wanting to get the best advice I can. I mean I have a bunch of negative templates that are saying: “Don’t do that. Don’t do that. Don’t do that. And don’t do that.” But you know, carving things out from negative space is not very good relevance realization. And so I’m trying to figure out, um, I mean, he was he was encouraging me, he was saying that so far, you know, there’s things I’m doing that are helpful. But I mean, I take this question–I know, I know Forrest it’s not comprehensively of everything you said, but I think it intersects with it in a powerful way. I take this question very, very seriously. Because I also know the sort of sociological fact of the 20-80 rule, right? You’re always going to get 20% of the people doing 80% of the work. Right? And so those people quite rightly want to… they don’t want to get into cognitive dissonance. You don’t want to say, hey, put in all this effort, but you know, you’re not going to get any extra feedback from that. And they’re going to basically, at some point, say, screw you. Because that’s too much–it’s too much cognitive dissonance for me to bear. Right? I’m not going to value it, if I’m putting all this effort into it, and I’m not getting anything back.
John Vervaeke 38:59
And so I don’t know, I don’t know — like, how do we… and I’m confronting this, in sort of my own community, it’s like, how do we intersect properly the 20-80 rule, and the self-siloing problem, as I’ve been calling it. Like, how do we get those? Right? I think trying to say, well, what we’ll do is we’ll just make it so we don’t have the 20-80 rule. I don’t have much confidence in that happening. And then, like I said, the self-siloing phenomena seems to be really robust. It seems to be really robust. And of course, the two really start to reinforce each other as soon as they start clicking. And so I don’t have an answer for this. I’m trying to do what Tim suggested. I’m trying to get a clear, at least a clear–and I’m asking for your Forrest–I’m being honest right now. I know you think about these things in a profound way. Like, I want to try and formulate this problem. I want to understand: is this an inevitable pattern? Is there a way of trying to steer around it? If it’s to some degree inevitable, can I at least ameliorate it significantly, so that… — I share with you, I want to drop into the commons as much as possible. But again, not in a way in which, right, you know–I’ll use your analogy–in which theft and misappropriation is not also being accelerated and enhanced.
John Vervaeke 40:28
So first of all, you’ve already added to that. I was thinking most of the 20-80 and the self siloing. But now you’ve also put in the vulnerability thing, and I think that’s appropriate. So I think there’s a triangle, like there’s a triangular problem, if you’ll allow me a geometrical metaphor, that needs to be really properly formulated, and hopefully in a way that can afford some insight of how to break out of this, or at least, at least ameliorated so that the balance of good is overtaking the balance of bad. I mean sometimes we can only satisfice our problems. But anyway, that’s enough. That’s, that’s my sort of response. I’, trying to get, you know, the poles of the problem and try to lay out the relationship between them. You’ve already helped by adding in this other one that I wasn’t paying enough attention to. And I see these three now as interacting in a very complex, but really robust pattern in human interaction.
Tyler Hollett 41:30
If I could insert a quick comment, I think part of the problem with the wisdom question, both in the specific and the general is that wisdom seems to come in different flavors, right? Depending on your tastes, the characterization, my salience landscape of the world, depends so much upon my tastes. What I’m looking for when I’m seeking in the world. And when our own experience is so radically divergent from others in our same communicative group, we end up using languages and experiences that mismatch.
Tyler Hollett 42:07
Then there’s a fundamental kind of conflict that starts to accrue over time and you see that played out all the time, the rich and the poor, urban and rural. There’s some kind of separation of, you know, this dynamic quality to the human culture, then alters over time, and it comes back and it clashes. And really, what we could try to do, I think, is rather than have this clash occur, find the meta narrative that ties it together beautifully, like, you know, the stranding of the DNA, right, it’s performing the spiral dance, rather than colliding and ending the strand, it continues on and allows for, like, incredible compaction of information in such a small space. There’s something in that metaphor about finding the right relationship by which one can continue through time. Opposing forces balancing out in some commons space. In that case the way the nucleotides fit together. But in our case, we’re in this much more complicated, as you were mentioning before John, this hyper dimensional space where the landscape that we’re attempting to navigate is, you know, is profoundly complex, because tastes are complex and they stack, right? They embed themselves. So sweet and savory combine themselves on my tongue into a single experience.
Tyler Hollett 43:34
But the same thing is true maneuvering through the internet. I’m getting this extraordinarily synesthetic complex set of tastes satisfied. And that is such an important part of this problem I think. It’s not just the acquisition or the establishment of a good definition of wisdom. But it’s also understanding this McLuhan point. That the medium is the message. The very capacity that it has to mold our internal expressions… or maybe that’s a little off in your language Forrest, since the expressive is the subjective. But okay, it almost seems like if we give ourselves enough time, this has to do with the age component, we come to wisdom. But if something hijacks that or circumvents the process. You know, something captures us, then we cannot progress along this kind of ordinary curve of development. So, I don’t know if we can recapitulate that whole kind of process in a shorter span. Right? In different, just in different compressions of time. There has to be, again, this is uniting both the singular egoic structure of the self with the disparate capacities of the cognitive architecture, or this singular nature of a kind of nation with its disparate parts of its citizens, or I mean, you name it, there’s a, like you were saying before Forrest — the Gestalt has a method by which its spirit is expressed. And something embodies that voice. Something always tries to give voice to it anyhow. I think this is part of the pattern expressed. So I just wanted to throw that in there. And I think we are in fact looking for an embodied wisdom. Right, but one that is.. it is pluralistic, in some sense, right? It isn’t just captured in a single individual, it’s expected across far more nodes in the network.
John Vervaeke 46:07
Well, I mean, first of all, I want to say something in response to Tyler, then I want to ask a question of possible. So one of the things we have going for us in collective intelligence is personality. Like, you know, whether the hexaco or the Big Five–I’m actually trying to get a paper published on this right now. And what do I mean by that? The differences between people on like, say, openness and conscientiousness, right, what you can see is these are, these are different distributions on trying to deal with the stability – plasticity problem. And whereas where an individual’s doing relevance realization, sort of within their cognition, balancing stability – plasticity, what you have with personality differences is you get relevance realization across individuals. Individuals are sort of different places. And so,you know, here’s a person with openness, just to use a really simplistic model, it’s way more multi dimensional. But here’s a person with openness and a person with conscientiousness. They actually do much better together than just openness or just conscientiousness, right? And it allows relevance realization to be distributed across individuals at a genuinely meta level over their individual cognition. Because personality is, in that sense, very much embodied. What, what I’m proposing is we need to look for the analogy, something analogous. What would be analogous at the level of discourse, if that’s the level we’re talking about, it would be something like what personality is, because we don’t really, we don’t have to do personality, it sort of gets given to us. It’s a gift. It’s evolutionary gift for us that helps to afford. And there’s now there’s now increasing evidence that we had been blind to personality differences in other species, and we’re starting to realize, oh, wait, this is sort of an evolutionary strategy in general. I don’t think personality is going to do the job at the level of collective wisdom is what I’m saying. And I’m wondering what the analog is. So that’s my response to what you’re saying there.
Tyler Hollett 48:21
Okay, well, let me just ask. So in my internal dialogue, I speak to myself, right, I construct two different inner archetypes, or some form by which they are conveying some colliding and interpenetrating notion, and I’m trying to get them to resolve themselves. And something, if I’m allowing it, if I reach some consensus, or agreement or conclusion, it unifies, right, it goes into this one thing. And that process is a little like the party system in politics, isn’t that an attempt to produce a single outcome with this kind of collective sense of what the–it’s like the texture of their thought is that their salience landscape again, this is to the taste thing, and this is, I think, dovetailing in exactly with your personality point, of course: that there’s something to what is being looked at in the world and attended to, that allows the collective attention to start sculpting what is important in that space. So in one party system they’re collectively agreeing that this is important and others are unimportant. And in the other party they, you know, they disagree, of course. But there’s something to the unification of that process where at least kind of implicitly, you’re hoping leads to some wisdom, consensus. In reality it’s always like this fever pitch battle that just goes back and forth.
John Vervaeke 49:46
Right. But what I was trying to say is we can rely on the evolutionary gift of innate personality differences to keep the differentiation side of the equation going and what I’m worrying about with the self siloing…–people will move to unity. Totally, I get that. But the kind of unity we see people moving towards is not the kind of unity that is conducive to the collective wisdom that we need for addressing the problem. That’s what I’m trying to get at. I’m trying to get at, what’s the count? I, I overwhelmingly see people move. That’s what I’m trying to get — the self-siloing–
Tyler Hollett 50:20
–Something like recruitment. Right? So neurologically something like recruitment, where the resonance of the structure incorporates local regions and brings it into sync. Maybe it’s something like that,
John Vervaeke 50:33
Or something. And I want to hear what Forrest has to say, and I’m not trying to shut you up, either. I am saying I think I’m talking too much. But to me, you know, figuring out… people will move to unity. I think that’s another given. We’ve evolved for that from the beginning. So like I said, at the level of collective intelligence we have this huge counterweight that’s given to us. And we just take it for granted. But I don’t know if at the level where what we’re trying to get at with collective wisdom, we have that kind of counterweight that will break out of that triangle problem of the 80-20 rule, the vulnerability to theft, and the self siloing. Because people will move to unity, to address those three things, but what I see is the unitys they’re moving towards are not–I don’t know what the adjective is–not healthy, they’re not adaptive. They’re not the kind of unitys that are giving us the distributed cognition to deal with the meta crisis that is looming over the planet.
Tyler Hollett 51:43
So sorry, very quickly, that’s it. That’s the creation of the shadow, right? That’s the exclusion of whatever is not like, right? Whatever is dissimilar is out. And that’s the forever schisming process that occurs and produces the outskirts of culture, which then congeal and create this new process. The question is one of something like legitimacy almost, right? The black market always exists, the fringes must persist. They have a legitimate right. Some claim on existence. Everything that lives deserves to be alive in some sense, right? So there’s something about the right relationship between those two marketplaces. That they have to have some non cannibalistic self consumptive aspect, right? It’s that ouroboric tendency? Sorry, let me let me shut up. You’re right, I think. But yeah there’s something to the answer in there. It’s developing a coherent language between the the shadow of the market, right, the collective expressive shadow, and that tendency towards self deception.
Forrest Landry 53:00
There’s a rather a lot I would say and there’s, unfortunately, not enough time. So I need to abbreviate a lot. And I’m apologizing if my abbreviations end up creating more confusion. But if that does happen to be the case, that there’s places that seem, on reference, expand those, ask me to expand those. In response to the question, and I’m going somewhat in reverse order–John, that you had asked: is there a technique that can ameliorate this at least at terms of the social physics level? Yes, there are several.
Forrest Landry 53:40
I think in this context one that comes to mind–and this is just an example of the class–but say, in a circle of a tribe, where there’s a tribe of people who are trying to have a wisdom conversation, the tribe is collectively trying to respond to the situation. And you brought up the notion of personality, although I think it’s actually simpler to just refer to it as age. And, in effect, in other words, there’s stories I could tell where I’ve actually tested this and done this, but you know, there’s a council, it’s got like 30, or 50, or however many people in it. And you basically say: put yourself in order of age, such that the person at the start of the circle is the youngest, and you go around until the person that is the last person is sitting right next to them as the eldest, right. And you have each of them speak, in order from youngest to eldest, saying fully what it is that is theirs to say. And as much time as is given as for that is given but when that person yields to the one sitting to his left, it is a true yield.
Forrest Landry 54:51
When the person that is receiving the yield of the person before him speaks, it is to build on what the person before him has said. It’s not to be in contradiction, but it is to build. And these are the agreements that are held in the group. And I have found that to work really well, assuming a few posits, which are once it starts going all the way towards the end of the circle, it’s going to slow down because people are going to spend more time being more thoughtful, because they’re responding in part to build on top of all of the stuff that has been said by all the people younger than them. And so going out of sequence, going out of order, you don’t let it go back to one of the younger people to respond to what the elder person has said. Now, this is a deceptively simple social technique. Don’t let that deceive you, it is very, very thoroughly thought out. It’s very, very nuanced. It’s a lot more going on there than it seems. But the net result is is that it is far more likely that wisdom will emerge in the group. And that it won’t end up in that siloing, for a lot of reasons, there’s a lot of compensatory stuff built into that as simple as it seems.
Forrest Landry 56:02
I want to speak to the broader question. And I I think I’m just going to first before even doing that, to preface this with an acknowledgment, which is that, I sense in the question and the way that you asked it, and also the awareness that you gave to, you know, how to distill all that I had said and cut it down to a central issue, which was thematically related to all the rest of the stuff that I had said, and I felt that that was actually quite discerning on your part, and I very much appreciate it. And so to respond to that question of how do we stabilize social process, that it doesn’t end up becoming this concentrated, unstable thing, right, because the 80-20 rule, as you said, is a real thing. Again this is one of the abbreviations you asked, Can it be done? Yes, it can be done. There is a way. Does it answer all of the concerns that have been answered.. so far as I know, yes, it has. I’ve tested this, myself. But this is again, an opinion that I’m rendering. To give you some sense as to the nature of what it is that I’m actually alluding to, I need to describe just a piece of how I came to even be considering this same question myself. So in other words, the kind of language that I was using to think about it, which is that same sort of two pole, three pole perspective. And this language might seem a little bit abrupt and or maybe too strong.
Forrest Landry 57:44
But nonetheless, when Daniel, Jordan and I were meeting consistently, some years ago, and I was presented with the same question, as they asked it, I basically said, well, to solve a problem in this particular space, we’re going to have to treat it as that there are two goals, there are two posts, there are two polls that must be passed. The solution has to pass as if these two things were true. The first one was technology is toxic. And the second one are people are predators. So in other words, a solution is only a solution if it’s good enough that it could treat it as if it was the case that technology was completely toxic, rather than just mostly toxic. And that people were completely predatory rather than just mostly that way. And I’m speaking again, in a technical way in both of these senses, but there’s strong ways to validate these concepts and to show that this isn’t– you know, these these aren’t unreasonable positions to basically say that a solution has to pass this.
Forrest Landry 58:45
And so it was from that, that, and at that time, you know, those are pretty, those are exquisitely stringent tests. You know, and again, I just said flat out to both of them, it’s like, you know, you understand that those two positions are almost diametrically opposed. And any solution that they would even be recommended in this space is going to run afoul of one of the other those. This is actually a really, really hard problem. And I’m very, very doubtful that a solution can be created. But fortunately, I literally spent all of my time working on it since then, and about two years later, I did get an inkling that it was possible to solve it. It was in mathematics, it shows up as a proof of existence, I was able to develop a proof that there was actually a solution. That it wasn’t perfectly contradictory.
Forrest Landry 59:35
That was good news. And it gave me the encouragement to keep looking. And so I began to explore manifestations of this issue in the sense of multipolar traps and rules for rulers dynamics, which again, I’m just alluding to whole fields of study here. But in describing it these ways, it’s coming closer to the question that you actually asked me. And so to respond, can it be done? Yes, it can. One way that I can give you a sense as to a little bit of what it feels like, although it is not anything more than a sketch–it’s a description that shows how the underlying thinking methodologies can actually be applied in this space. And it doesn’t look like anything we’ve ever seen before. Back in 2001, I wrote an essay about the dynamics of small groups. It’s on my website. It’s been published there for quite a while. And one of the things that it does, and this is again, just treat this as an example, it’s not a solution in itself.
John Vervaeke 1:00:43
Forrest Landry 1:00:43
We’re talking about _____** that are small. It’s not designed to be scalable. If we look at governance methodologies** we see it as having three orthonormal poles. Could be described as consensus, democracy, and meritocracy. And again, that essay formalizes those terms, and shows how we can treat those three as true poles, that it’s substantive** of the whole field of thinking about and so on. But if we take these three as kind of classic examples, then we see that the notion of how we do consensus, although it gives us very strong choices, right, if a group comes to consensus, you’ve really got buy in on the part of the group, but it’s also very slow moving, and it doesn’t always resolve. So those are the advantages and the disadvantages. You get to democracy, democracy tends to divide groups into subgroups, which are all fighting with one another. And it can’t deal with complex situations at all. It’s actually very poor at dealing with complex situations. And it’s actually amenable to subtle forms of manipulation of context. If you present all the options, and they’re all bad, then you know, that’s just what happens, right? And then when you look at meritocracy, meritocracy, well, we know the advantages of it: if you need a decision fast, it’s pretty good at producing fast decisions. And if you need a decision to be coherent, well, you have the coherency of the leader who’s therefore going to be making it the coherency of the group. And the disadvantages, obviously are, you can end up that leader acting on his own benefit, not the benefit of the group, right? So corruption and issues like that. And if you say, okay, well, they all have advantages, disadvantages, and nobody’s come up with a perfect governance model, because they all have these problems, and any superposition of these issues would have all these same issues. And if you look at it from that perspective, it seems like an impossible problem.
Forrest Landry 1:02:40
But it turns out that there’s another set of tools. There’s this thing called Axiom Two in the metaphysics. And it allows us to think about the problem in a way that actually comes up with a surprising answer that addresses all of this. There’s a convolution that can occur, you can basically treat the space as if it was…you treat the boundary of self between the group and the outside world as a variable. And you can basically say, if it’s internal to the group, and it’s just about the internal nature of the group, we want it to be about consensus. If it’s in relation to the group and the outside world, we need it to be in the sense of meritocracy, because in order for the action of the group to be coherent with respect to the world, it needs focus. Meritocracy gives you focus. But how do you make a transition from consensus to meritocracy, and from meritocracy back to consensus? Well, to go from consensus to meritocracy is relatively straightforward. You basically have consensus as to who’s going to be the focus for the group. But then you use democracy. to reverse that. You basically say that whenever there is a vote of no confidence in the currently selected from the consensus process to do the meritocratic thing,** then effectively, that vote returns the group to a consensus process.
John Vervaeke 1:04:04
Forrest Landry 1:04:05
And that is the only way in which you use a vote. And in other words, a vote is used for no other purpose, then to translate from meritocratic process back to consensus process. And there’s no mediation between consensus process and meritocracy process
John Vervaeke 1:04:23
It just emerges naturally.
Forrest Landry 1:04:25
It emerges. So what happens is, is that when you actually look at the math of the particular dynamic that’s evolved here. It’s really quite powerful. It has the capacity to essentially address the greatest strengths of all of the things that are the good things about consensus, meritocracy and democracy. And it doesn’t carry any of the weaknesses. The weaknesses cancel out.
John Vervaeke 1:04:51
Forrest Landry 1:04:53
So, you know, in a sense, it was like, okay, this works for small groups. It doesn’t work for large groups. There’s a lot of specific things that have to be thought of in order to think about this at scale. A lot of people tried to basically take this technique and just basically treat it as a scalable thing. “So we’ll make clusters of teams. And we’ll try to create some sort of peerage and some sort of federation of these…” And it was in a conversation with Jordan about several years later that at one point, I basically was saying, “no, you can’t scale it.” But you know, it is about the dynamics between choice, change and causation. And the underlying metaphysics allows us to view these concepts in a way that’s profound enough to really be able to think about the interrelationship between these things in clear ways. And that it was out of that, that I came up with, with an understanding of why the solution that I’ve described so far is not scalable, and also what it would take for a solution that was. And that gave me a hint as to how to take the proof of existence that I had developed earlier and begin to develop a plan for architecture of what might be possible that would have those characteristics downstream that was scalable. And so in effect I’m alluding to this because the dynamic that we’re talking to with the Axiom Two thing, because it was able to show a solution in the microcosm, it can give you a hint that there is a solution in the macrocosm.
John Vervaeke 1:06:20
Forrest Landry 1:06:23
And as has been mentioned, by Tyler, particularly, that there’s a lot more factors involved. So in effect, I can’t think about governance independent of religion, and I can’t think about it independent of market. And most of the time, when people try to treat these particular things, they entangle that phenomenon so deeply… our common Western perspective thinking about these problems, because our current toolset of how to do civilization has been so successful using market process and industrial revolution engineering and the Enlightenment thinking, and so on and so forth, that even the capacity to be able to think about solutions in this space is actually quite compromised.
John Vervaeke 1:07:09
Forrest Landry 1:07:10
So here’s a couple of things that I can suggest that would be hints. And that is, unfortunately, as much time as I’m gonna be able to do because we’re rolling into the last 20 minutes of this time. It is important for us to recognize that markets themselves are fundamentally… they’re pernicious with each other. It’s not going to be the case that you’ll have two separate markets. They will want to merge. Anywhere that there’s an opportunity for arbitrage, arbitrage will occur. This is a little bit something that Tyler was also referring to.
Forrest Landry 1:07:47
And in the nature of the solution, we need to disentangle process which is focused on evolutionary dynamics–what we normally think of as the invention aspect of culture. Versus activities which are focused on sustainability, which has to do with what could probably be called universal basic income. And by that I’m actually going to be quite explicit, I’m going to say it’s about clean air, it’s about clean water, it’s about food, it’s about shelter, it’s about medicine, and it’s about communication. Those six. And that if we’re looking at the aspect of culture which has to do with consciousness, with conscientiousness, we’re looking at what we normally think of as body of law and or particularly jurisprudence. And so in effect, you could kind of think about these three aspects as if they were markets. But immediately you notice that you don’t want to have entanglement between these three markets. Because if I have an entanglement with the market of justice that’s based upon the very asymmetric, just differential contribution, right? You talked about the 80-20 rule. The 8020 rule shows up on the invention side of things, right, who has which skills, which time and availability, it’s on the market side.
Forrest Landry 1:09:14
But if we basically have a huge level of inequality because of market force dynamics, which is normal and not unusual, right. We’re always going to end up with power law distributions and marketplace things rather than Gaussian distributions. But when we get to justice, we need it to be Gaussian distribution. It can’t be power law distribution, not to have any sense of the word fair make any sense at all. So in effect there’s a fundamental need to decouple the process by which justice works from what would normally be the money process, because if there was any way in which money could influence how justice worked, the richest would always basically take advantage of the system. And the same is true when it comes for basic survival needs. If there’s a sense in which money process defines whether or not another person lives, you will end up with wars.
John Vervaeke 1:10:02
Forrest Landry 1:10:03
So there is a situation here where we’re basically pointing out that we’re using one tool market process for three separate functions. And that these three functions must remain distinct, inseparable, and not interchangeable. So there’s more than just a little bit of an incidental relationship between how I’m thinking about this and the axioms. Because you’ll recognize that that language has already been applied.
John Vervaeke 1:10:29
Forrest Landry 1:10:29
In this particular sense, what we’re looking at here is essentially saying, in order to solve the problem of culture, we really need to think about it in a variety of different ways. And the ways in which the methodologies of this thinking process allow us to develop a new set of tools. In the same sort of way as in, you know, computer science, for example, we say, have each tool do one thing really, really well. Right, we’re using one tool, language, we’re using one tool, money, to try to solve multiple different problems. And the kind of communication process that we’re engaged in as human beings when we’re doing sensemaking is a very different kind of communication when we’re trying to basically elect who’s going to be the next mate.
John Vervaeke 1:11:11
Forrest Landry 1:11:12
So family dynamics, it’s just a different communication pattern, a different market. The sexual market is not the commercial market, and it’s certainly not the social or intellectual market. And that in effect, to the degree that there are entanglements between these, we end up with problems. We end up with ethical issues, because of the nature of the power asymmetries that cannot not exist in these dynamics. So in effect, it’s, it’s a bit like, and this is something that goes back to something that was a conversation, that was literally the very first conversation I ever had with Daniel, something like six or seven years ago, when I came to understand the nature of the kinds of things he was trying to do, which was, you know, solve world class problems. you know, deal with existential risk, and to think about what is the long term conscious, sustainable evolution for the planet. And that’s language, which all by the way, has some very specific meanings as well.
Forrest Landry 1:11:59
And so in a sense, there’s this recognition that if we are essentially going to address these underlying issues, we need to be able to understand the concepts upon which these questions themselves are based. And that’s why I’m saying to some extent, the answer is abbreviated. I can say, here’s some of the factors that involved. It’s not just about finance, it’s not just about infrastructure. It’s also about culture, and its relationship to ecology. It’s the relationship between man, machine, and nature fundamentally. And can we get to looking at the relationships between choice, change, and causation such that we can develop social paradigms that are distributed, that don’t end up with points of asymmetry as you were describing it, ie. the silo phenomena. EGP is a sketch in that particular direction. You notice there’s no centralized focus in that process at all. But you would be surprised at how hard it has been for me to deploy that process in any group or setting without somebody wanting to basically do an intro speech to sort of open the floor for the EGP process to begin, and then at the very end to want to do a closing speech to basically sum up what happened at the event. And those are places that those things are essentially counter intuitively wrong with respect to EGP process, right. They end up with that silo phenomena creeping back in again.
Forrest Landry 1:13:29
So I guess the summation that I would hope that you could come away with, and this maybe ultimately the point of saying all this is just that there is more than just a good reason to have hope that this kind of thing can be done. And that I’m at least encouraging you in your explorations, and so on and so forth, to feel that there is, at least on my experience, some really good reason to believe that it can be solved.
John Vervaeke 1:13:59
So I want to thank you for that. That was the clearest progressive presentation of your ideas that I’ve encountered. And that was truly helpful to me. First of all, the idea of the progressive circling is already something that I had also come to so that resonated with me, right away. You talked about the elder circling and that’s something I’ve been trying to incorporate into dialectic directly. And then I think the thing you said about meritocracy, democracy and consensus, I thought that was brilliant. And to be fair to me, you did say the next move was abbreviated and I get a sense of it, although I can’t quite grok it.
Forrest Landry 1:14:47
I haven’t given enough detail. I mean, I wish that… literally In fact, there’s there’s a bunch of conversations Tim and I and Tyler have had that talk about other aspects of this. I mean, it’s, I think that even in all of those conversations that we’ve had together, that I’ve really only been able to give hints. And not because I haven’t wanted to do anything else, but just simply because, you know, there’s certainly enough spaciousness created, it’s just that there’s just a lot. It’s a lot involved. And I don’t know a simple way to express all of it that makes sense in every situation.
John Vervaeke 1:15:25
And I get that, and I want to be respectful of the fact that you’re acknowledging that. But what I wanted to say positively (that was the caveat), but I what I wanted to say positively is I got some sense, though, of the trajectory that you’re outlining. How the principles at work in the small scale situation that you outlined are maybe, and I mean, that is a positive ‘maybe’, a real maybe, not a conversational polite maybe. Yeah, maybe they’re transferable. And I think that there was hope in me that I think is, is genuine.
John Vervaeke 1:16:08
And so I want to first of all read the paper from 2001. You really whet my appetite for that because I thought that was brilliant. I thought that was bloody brilliant. And I know you’ve gone beyond it. But that’s where I’m getting, you know, access to your thinking in a way that I can–“oh, I can see what he’s doing.” At least I’m getting a sense. I get a sense that, yes, there’s a way of abstracting the principles out of that, and scaling them up. So that’s very good. That’s very promising. And I just wanted to share that with you.
John Vervaeke 1:16:40
I don’t have any big like, you know, theory laden response. It’s just that I thought that was just an excellent presentation. And I found it, I found it genuinely hopeful. I mean, I get the, you know, like I said, the first move when you did the progressive circling. Yeah. It’s already convergent. And then I got what you said in the second one, I’m like, Oh, that’s great. That’s really good. And then that progression, and the sense I had of where it’s going. Yeah, I thought that was really good. And so I just wanted to thank you for that. I mean, I’m being genuine here that’s really exciting. It’s very interesting. And so like I said, I want to read the 2001 paper right away. I’ll try and get that read probably over the next few days. But what was… that’s very good!
John Vervaeke 1:17:33
Okay. So like, so this, this is just a genuine question that comes up, because I keep hitting into this, like, how do you how do you? How do you get to talk to people about this without slamming into the moribund, left, right, and all the other ways in which all of this discourse is constricted and ossified, and people immediately stop listening to you, because you don’t take up the identification that is the only invitation to join the party. And I sort of mean, the pun there on that term, right. And so, you know, I’ve been trying to get people to, to, like I say… I find the left, right, polarity, useless and stultifying, and actually, pernicious. And that we have to move to a meta political level if we want to try and address what’s going on. But, man, the resistance to that is… and it’s powerful. I mean, I don’t know if success is the right word. But I have some success with trying to manipulate that. But that’s just it. It’s just a question. It seems to me that there’s a bridging dialogue, a bridging practices is needed. To get people, if you’ll allow me this term, to get people to be willing to move to the meta political space so they can hear this kind of stuff. That seems to me to be an additional challenge.
Forrest Landry 1:19:07
I’ve heard your question. And I can answer it actually pretty briefly. The main distinction that is absolutely essential, that at least, that I’ve found, is between distinguishing and discerning the difference between social influence and reflective inquiry. And there’s so many layers to this. I noticed, for example, that when somebody is communicating with me, I’m asking two questions. Are they trying to engage in a process of reflective inquiry or are they engaging in a process of social influence? And how do I know which is which?
John Vervaeke 1:19:46
Right, right, right.
Forrest Landry 1:19:47
It’s usually pretty easy to tell, once you get the nuance of the distinction. And then I’m also checking myself: am I in this moment in relation to this person, acting in a level of social influence or reflective inquiry. Now, I will confess, at this moment, if I’m going to just give you an example, I am in the motion of social influence. Right? Reflective inquiry for me at this point is about what questions I’m asking you, and what questions I’m asking myself that I don’t have the answers to. But you’re asking me a question that currently I do have an answer to. So I am legitimately involved in the notion of social influence. It’s a very light influence. Mostly light influence because you actually asked.
Forrest Landry 1:20:27
But if I’m confronting with someone who’s in heavy social influence with me, then I’m just going to view it as them trying to manipulate me and I tend not to want to be manipulated. So for the most part, I will probably withdraw from the conversation. And if they pursue, then I’m going to basically say, I’m feeling manipulated, because you’re trying to get me to do something, you’re telling me it’s either or thinking–I have to be for you or against you. That’s like straight up psychopath technique. I’m sorry, I’m not interested in playing, I now am concerned that I don’t want to have anything to do with you. I’m not saying that to you personally. I’m saying that in the sense that I feel people who are deeply political, it’s like, well, yes, I can see that you’re trying to draft my time and effort into your agenda. And I don’t want to be a part of that. I am a free intellect. And, you know, my sense of being able to move that way in the world is something that I have earned. So in that sense, I basically am looking to notice, is it the case that they are essentially trying to take something from me in this case, my time and attention?
Forrest Landry 1:21:29
And so in that particular sense, if we get the notion for asking ourselves: ae they in social influence? Or are they in genuine reflective inquiry? Reflective inquiry is personal; social influence is public. So even just by asking that question, I can protect myself, but by teaching other people this particular distinction, because these are hard to fake signals. I mean, you could try to fake it, you could try to basically pretend that you’re in reflective inquiry. But you can know the difference. I mean, people can tell. It’s like there’s so many little subtle things. It’s like trying to dance when you have a broken elbow or something. You can’t really because the shape of your motions is going to reveal the integrity of your system. So in this particular sense, as we have a community that becomes more nuanced about the relationship between control of context, rather than just control of content. You know, we think free speech is about control of content. And section 230 talks only about content, which is part of the reason why social media and the way in which the government works, and so on and so forth, is at this point, so deeply disabled. Because the manipulation is happening at the context level, not at the content level.
John Vervaeke 1:22:44
Yeah, totally. I totally agree with that. Yeah, totally agree. I think that’s a very good answer. I mean, it goes towards the discernment aspect of wisdom–a discernment that discloses the difference between somebody who’s trying to manipulate, and somebody who’s trying to enter into some kind of collaboration. The collaboration can have differences and conflict in it. But people can still collaborate. And I think often people use the wrong metric. There can be disagreement, and even some degree of conflict within collaboration. And things can run really smoothly in manipulation. And looking for that, looking for conflict versus smoothness, which I think, to my observation, many people are using as the heuristic for how well things are going.
It’s an OK heuristic. A slightly better one, at least in my opinion, is distinguishing between work and play. Collaboration truly is play.
John Vervaeke 1:23:48
But if we’re looking at social influence, it’s work. I care about the outcome. I’m concerned with what’s happening.
John Vervaeke 1:23:56
I agree. Yeah, that’s good. And that picks up on a lot of work I’ve done myself on the work – play distinction. I pretty much have to go. But, I really liked this. I learned, and I really learned and understood in a way I hadn’t before, and I wanted to thank all of you, but especially you Forrest. You came in and just the taste and the tempo, and the tenor of everything just was different from the beginning. And it just, it adduced from me and I just wanted to be involved. So I just wanted to thank you for that. I meant what I said, I want to read your paper. I think that move you made is brilliant. And so I want to learn more about it. I would be very happy to do this again. But I do have to go right now. I thought my questions have been really well addressed. And so, like I said, I don’t know if other questions are still remaining that perhaps people want to ask me about, but unfortunately I am out of time.
Tim Adalin 1:25:15
Understood. Understood. Well. All right. Thank you very much everyone for being here. Absolute pleasure and privilege. Much love to you all. And we’ll talk again soon.
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