Zip up your pants 21st Century, you’ve pissed on consensus reality’s grave enough now.
That’s right. The illusion of safety: The Bible, Shakespeare, Star Trek. This is over. The filters that once provided a common lens to shield us from the Infinite, from the Great Arbitrariness, they lay broken at our feet. Our delicate irises now expose their yielding flesh to the hard light we have unraveled.
We see in textbooks the final chance to pimp the truth. The thousand page punctures read like the dying ticks of greedy claws.
Forty years from now, there will be no pop culture. You will not be able to simply pick out references that everyone will understand. Abraham Lincoln – that was just some human like Konrad Weichert was some human. The Holocaust – that was just some genocide, like the destruction of Melos by the Athenians.
The once successful memes will be flushed out of our brains as they face increasing competition. A reckless flood of information is what we have plunged into. The roaring rapids of the internet churn out new ideas without rest, they beep away like digital bacteria evolving in our screens.
Socially-enforced dogmas – these structures of common ground – cannot grow without attention. Once they are depleted of that precious limited resource, they will perish.
In this climate, the contents of our minds will increasingly contract from Cultural Cannon [Trump, Youtube Front Page, Google News], to Tribal [Breitbart, LessWrong, <insert your favorite public person(s) to stalk>] , to Personalized [your own revealed intellectual interests, aesthetic senses, emotional tendencies, attention span, IQ, are all factored in by big data and machine learning algorithms to feed you content that will maximally entertain you].
But as we head to bury ourselves in our randomly allotted corner of the pantheon, can we pause and ask for the truth? The capital “t” kind of truth? Will Wikipedia provide it? ––Something like it may one day turn out to be our last bastion of dispassionate reason, and I don’t say that sarcastically. But it doesn’t provide a direction.
To put it bluntly, the direction needs to be provided by a bully – by an alpha male. We are apes that evolved for the larger part of our history in a savanna. The Catholic Church, the Abbasid Caliphate, the Soviet Union, the United States of America, these have all been holographic tribe leaders towering over our heads. But they are no more. Nations will die, religions will die. We are living at the bleeding edge of the final era to witness such creatures. Well served. Rest in peace, bastards.
Now we proceed with our own two feet. We will not be given the option to have meta-guidance even if we want it, even if we plead and beg, there will be no-one filling the role.
The education system, once a prime, fit, hologram alpha. This brick organism, by means of its army of underachiever adult appendages once had sufficient power to round up and imprison young homo sapiens. Now it crumbles with cyber-grenades and free-video mortars. The war drones are the iPhones and the laptops shooting endless rounds of business opportunities and fun distractions. Google will never run out of ammunition. At this rate, physical schools cannot survive. There is no special knowledge hiding behind those walls. They have been exposed.
Almost everything I know that is of importance to me, I have learned outside of the classroom curated experience. An understanding of the evolutionary reason for emotions, learning about stocks, getting a sense of big history, getting a sense of what this cosmos is, understanding the possibilities for the future in the universe, contemplating what is morality and consciousness, even the very notion that all is governed by natural law – none of these investigations and realizations were precipitated in school. They came through self-inquiry against the mirror of a search engine.*
So in the midst of this revolution, someone must rise to the challenge. There needs to be an evangelist soldier to raise the empire of truth for the new brains infected with bandwidth anxiety and tremendous freedom.
At sixteen, I wrote a business plan detailing my idea for a church of science. I never pitched it to anyone. And I’m now quite more agnostic about the value of such a thing IRL. The Truth must be preserved aesthetically, molded precisely to the cognitive constitution of the individual. And the only way to enforce the Truth is through voluntary self-conscription. If we at all value Truth, we must begin to specify what it is (…probably not a set of words, but a path) and preparing that which it is for our own future consumption, lest we wander aimlessly past the event horizon of tailored content, never to return.
*If I didn’t have the internet, I would never have heard of quantum mechanics, much less been able to peep into discussions about P vs. NP, machine learning, transhumanism, qualia, and dark energy. Nope. Not in my side of town. I grew up with uneducated immigrant parents. They settled in a lower-middle income city, and I was exposed to a ghetto culture in school.
The great equalizer is not public education. If you end up in a rich suburb, you tend to stay well-off, and if you are bred into an anti-intellectual, entrepreneurially scarce environment, it’s hard to spontaneously rip your environment a new one. This inability is partially due to the geographical distribution of genetic traits, so you are more likely to be less smart or driven if your parents were the type to end up in a slum. This is a gruesome statistical fact that makes many people flinch. Nowadays, most publicly-visible “privileged” people flinch on this matter for well-intentioned reasons, but I believe it is important to acknowledge it. Not from a place of condescending privilege, but from a place of seeing that we have all drawn the short end of the stick; some worse than others, but germ-line genetic engineering and neuralink are just around the corner. We need to start thinking now about how these technologies should benefit everyone and not allow ourselves to create an insurmountable ultra-elite.