Woven Gold: God | State | Network
Thursday September 15th, 2022
Woven Gold is a weekly update of braided threads instead of strands of random topics in a sea of standardized newsletters. These are some things I’ve been thinking about. Lately, the relationship between God, States, and Networks occupies a significant portion of my strategic RAM and what it means for the future of humanity. Heavy stuff, I know.
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My Mood in Comic Form
Network Defects & The Revaluation of Everything
In the early 2000s, social network companies did everything they could to maximize the number of users. This would, in turn, increase their valuations and, in theory, the value of their platform. Network effects. Metcalf’s Law N^2 assumes those interactions are positive-sum, but you have to purposefully scale a network for that to happen. Otherwise, networks become less valuable as the network scales. We’ve seen this with Facebook and Twitter, where adverse network effects reduce the value produced for each user as it grows. A network defect. A zero-sum game. Now that social networks have globalized, we know that the old adage about advertising is accurate and that half of all programmatic advertising is wasted. Almost half of the social media accounts are fake. This makes customer acquisition more difficult and expensive; connections with real people are what matter. The hype around community-based products is a way to hack CAC (Customer Acquisition Costs). But this is just another form of communication. Not community. Form, not Substance. Communal values are being commoditized and exploited for profit. A consumerized community cannot bring people together. It never has, and it never will.
Crypto Fuck Boys & The Metaverse of Madness
“99.9% of all crypto and metaverse projects are a scam. But there is the .1% of projects that will truly change the world.” And I agree. Bankless does an excellent job of covering the industry, but I can’t listen, watch, or read anything crypto and metaverse related that was published in the last few years. For the same reasons why I don’t go on Twitter or Discord anymore. It’s too spazzy and spammy. I particularly enjoyed this episode by Bankless about the Crypto Renaissance, which provides a helpful historical framework. Relating it to the reformation and whatnot. But honestly, you’re better off reading and studying the works of Edward Castronova and, in particular, his book on Virtual Economies Design and Analysis). The principles of virtual game economies will be more applicable to today’s digital economy. There’s your metaverse playbook.
I wrote the Metaverse Dreams of Reality because we have neglected our physical world in favor of this digital one. In doing so, we have summoned an entity that harvests human attention. Feeding on the collective narcism of our society. Sucking our cities dry, leaving only the banks behind. An egregore. We are already in the metaverse, my friends. We are the only animals on earth that are capable of consuming images. Brands exist only inside of our heads.
In the twenty-first century, games will be a primary platform for enabling the future. It is the most important medium of our times, but right now, both crypto and the metaverse both suffer from a severe case of retrotopia without even realizing it. Our phones have pacified our minds.
Retrotopia: True to the utopian spirit, retrotopia derives its stimulus from the urge to rectify the failings of the present human condition—though now by resurrecting the failed and forgotten potentials of the past. Imagined aspects of the past, genuine or putative, serve as the main landmarks today in drawing the road-map to a better world. Having lost all faith in the idea of building an alternative society of the future, many turn instead to the grand ideas of the past, buried but not yet dead.
I might be an idealist, but I don’t dwell on the idea that the internet, the whole world, should feel like an online message board with daily quests.
The Battle for Warp Drives & On-Demand Brains: AI Tools & The Future of Creativity
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understood the exponential function.
- Albert Allen Bartlet
Waiting for general artificial intelligence is like waiting for the coming of the holy messiah. It may or may not happen, and there are glimpses of hope every 10 years. An article on a16z’s future called Brains on Demand provides a helpful overview of where we’re at and where things are going. But I would personally follow the works of Jon Stokes to really understand how all of this works. The AI stuff is definitely more interesting than the crypto stuff right now. I recommend getting a Jetson Nano Developer Kit and playing with the open AI models yourself. You don’t want to be the one without extra brains. Trust me. The creative technologists are tinkering, the classical artists are mad, and the time tellers post the same content produced by the clock builders. Round and round we go.
It doesn’t matter what you can do with all of this until you synthesize some meaningful art out of it. Someone is going to James Cameron this shit. Probably Neill Blomkamp. If ADAM indicates the future, AI tools will further compress the production process. Concepting just got a lot easier. Map building just got a lot easier. Character Development just got a lot easier. But talent and craft just got a lot harder. Animation is now just real-time rendering with an infinite tool set. It will be exciting to see what the next generation can produce. Hopefully, no more apes.
The Agency Problem
The agency problem is when one party betrays the expected to act in the best interest of another. A conflict of interest. The agency problem is everywhere. This article on Why America Can’t Build is excellent. It’s worth a full read. Sit with it. Better-designed cities are the #1 way we can solve a lot of the crises we face in the United States. The world. And that’s what I’m betting the farm on. When Stewart Brand researched for the Whole Earth Discipline, he found nothing on economic infrastructure theory. Only something grey behind a chain-linked fence.
The End of the Nation-State
My craziest prediction for the future is that the nation-state will end. National interest is a dying industry. This is a good thing and something we need to normalize and not be afraid of. Nations are failing all over the world. The challenge of the 21st century will be to build the first truly humane civilization. I want to write and talk more about this, but I’m a little worried that everyone is already weathered and worn by everything else that’s dreadful. I hope you will stick with me. This is all actually a very good thing.
Quote of the Week
If the person doesn’t listen to the demands of his own spiritual and heart life, and insists on a certain program, you’re going to have a schizophrenic crack-up. The person has put himself off-center; he has aligned himself with a programmatic life, and it’s not the one the body’s interested in at all. And the world’s full of people who have stopped listening to themselves.
— Joseph Campbell
What I’m Working On:
Hard Mode: An essay on why life is about to get more challenging for all of us. It has to do with inflation and neo-liberalism. Big words, but again, working on poetically explaining these things. I promise I’m reading less non-fiction.
The Marketing Memo: I’m going to start publishing a marketing memo on the Good Monsters Blog to round up my thoughts on the industry and where everything is headed. This will be written like a brief for the smartest marketers in the world who aren’t afraid to understand how the real world actually works.
The Art & Design of Strategy: I’ve been working on this for a bit now. I saw some notable strategists publish some excellent pieces on strategy, and I intend to conversate with them. Yes, strategy is both an art and science, but most importantly, it is designed. But how it should be used is probably the most crucial question at hand. The above threads should give you some hints.
I’ll see you next week! Have a beautiful weekend.
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