By Danver Chandler
“Death is but a pause that punctuates the seasons of our life, nothing more.” – Dr. Christopher Bache
Marvelous. On November 4th Artemis I launches. You might want to check it out - seems we're going to the moon 🌚.
I want to experiment here with a personal anecdote. My sixth grade teacher, we'll call her Ms. Dean, opened up our world history class with Buddhism one day, and I'll never forget how that moment animated me. The years prior I'd only heard of Heaven and Hell, and I had little exposure to other religious concepts. Ms. Dean spoke of Buddha's life, and how he meditated under a tree. Then she described the four noble truths, eight-fold path, karma, and when she got to reincarnation I felt a jolt - the other-worldly kind- pulse through my body. I spun around in my chair to face her, giving her my complete attention, then I raised my hand and asked, "Can you say that part about reincarnation again, please?"
The moments that followed were eerie. Our class was a somewhat-rambunctious group of eleven and twelve year olds in one of the poorest parts of town, yet as she described these concepts, something about reincarnation silenced us. To me, parts of reincarnation, as she described, felt accurate.
Other hands flew up, "So you're saying, if I'm like mean to Roger, I'll come back as a cat in my next life?"
"Maybe. You could be a donkey, or a fly. Never know." Ms. Dean tempered the air with her cheeky response.
"But is it real? This is scary. Like, I don't want to be a bat." Students who'd been disinterested in other topics, were now alert and casually alarmed.
"Just be nice. That's all you gotta do." Advice now showered across the air.
"What you choose to believe is up to you." Ms. Dean, sealing the mystery of the concept.
In the greater human story, humanity has been shamed into its existence. From the Garden of Eden to concepts of Heaven and Hell to sin and suffering, our myths and religions have instilled in us a deep sense that we are flawed, that we have fallen - and that the way out of our flawed existence is via transcendence. Where religion argues that God is the grantor of transcendence, technology responds in kind. However, with each advance cycles emerge - tech births, tech changes, new economies, cultural changes - and then they repeat. While we boast that we are more civilized due to these advancements, our technological approach to transcendence may be superficial, entrapping us in tortures akin to the hell realms of saṃsāra -real or otherwise. There is an alternative. Web3 may offer a new path - where the ways in which we work might allow us to transcend the superficial in order to find our own authenticity.
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The Human Flaw
Humanity is on a journey - a unique story all its own. Individually and collectively we cycle through our call to adventure, followed by challenges and temptations, transformation, and finally our return home, completing and restarting the hero's journey, generation by generation. But our journey is not light - it is heavy laden with personal and collective trauma¹ and shame.
"Shame produces trauma. Trauma produces paralysis." - bell hooks
A few days ago, at a blockchain event I was not supposed to attend, I met someone that works for Interpol. Somehow, the password found me just hours before. Interpol fights crime of all sorts - human trafficking, environmental, war crimes, firearms trafficking, crypto scams, etc... I knew about one of their challenges - machine guns disguised as components of televisions and packaged as extra large luggage on airplanes, only to be assembled once at the destination. Interpol's list of crime-fighting categories are mirrors of societal ills, our collective vulnerabilities. But this reality is not entirely what shames us.
Origins of collective shame. Serpent. Fruit. Fig leaves. The fall. We may know the story of the fall from the Bible's third chapter of Genesis if following Christianity. In Islam, the fall is described in at least four different Surahs across the Qurʾān. And in Buddhism we are shown the Four Noble truths, the first of which proclaims that life is suffering. Concepts of the fall from perfection into sin, and suffering overlap - in this, our imperfection condemns us to death, suffering, reincarnation.
Even in speech we find the undercurrents of this deep conviction - religious, spiritual, atheist, or otherwise. We adopt stories and language that repeatedly point to our imperfection. In English, it's common to hear phrases that equate to, "I'm human. I'm not perfect." Yet, we continue to invent and innovate. We work to improve our personal lives, our families, and even society at large. But, why? Whether we adopt these religious and mythological concepts consciously or not, it is clear that humanity aims to be redeemed - shown in its drive to continuously improve. David Noble's The Religion of Technology, further details how this came to be:
Technology had come to be identified with transcendence...
A pattern...in the useful arts...emerged uniquely in the European Middle Ages. This unprecedented enterprise reflected a profound cultural shift...whereby humble activities ...came to be dignified and deemed worthy of elite attention and devotion...rooted in an ideological innovation which invested the useful arts with a significance beyond mere utility. Technology had come to be identified with transcendence, implicated as never before in the Christian idea².
Transcendence. Buddha outlines the path to enlightenment, where we may redeem ourselves through nirvana, or moksha from Indian philosophy, and be saved from reincarnation. The book of Revelations in the Bible outlines that God will come to redeem believers, and take them into Heaven for eternity. But it is argued that somewhere around the middle ages of Europe, the advent of the plow bestowed the first recognition that humanity could escape suffering itself². The plow offered an opportunity to exploit nature, and reclaim dominion over the land, charting a new path to salvation with technology - sometimes coupled with the path of dominance. Ever since, we have yet to stop innovating.
Technological Saṃsāra, LSD & Reincarnation
Imagine dedicating twenty years of your life to taking very high doses of Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) for science. In 1979, professor of religious studies, Dr. Christopher Bache, embarked on this journey, crossing the boundaries of the psyche with seventy-three journeys.
There are many dangers in such a quest. LSD at very high doses, can cause the body to experience seizures, convulsions, nausea. Because of the legalities surrounding Bache's trips, he kept his research private until he was finally able to publish his book³.
In 2019 he published the detailed account of his experience in LSD and the Mind of the Universe: Diamonds from Heaven. Bache's account is expansive - and what's poignant are his references to humanity and scientific evidence for reincarnation. His experience gives us a glimpse into a revised perspective of humanity absent of doctrine - that humanity is a singular organism, a singular whole of many parts, refining itself through reincarnation to transcend from homo sapiens to something new, homo santos. In a recorded interview, he asked the question, what do you want to be doing in a million years because we'll still be here.
🤔 Did you watch 2015's Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow? Similar to Bache's reincarnation description - though in total Hollywood fashion - the film follows a soldier who endures an endless loop of life and death in a war against extraterrestrials. The soldier is granted a chance at survival against the ETs once the formula for defeating them is figured out, but not before cycling through the entire life, war, and death experience repetitively.
The thread remains. Technological advancements demonstrate the undercurrent of the human drive to improve, or to perhaps redeem ourselves. We are doing the actions of improving, whether we find ourselves bound to religion or not - we are aiming to be better. We are driven to be better than before, and this shows up in our inventions - our technology. However, this drive can also generate superficial technologies that hijack us to pursue superficial aims.
Technological saṃsāra. In the tech life cycle, we witness the birth of new tech driven by culture. Then we see its changes, new economies and new cultural impact. When tech is generated from a superficial place, we may find ourselves in technological saṃsāra, the repeated cycles of tech life cycles that fill us with misery or trauma¹,⁴ and end with new tech that involves new misery, on repeat.
Digital society produces more information...and it produces pornographization
Cloud Atlas (🎥 movie trailer) didn't get rave reviews at the box office, but the film, adapted from the book of the same title became a cult classic. I love the story line. Viewers watch the reincarnation of its main characters over time. We see the fight against the Korean superstate and neocapitalism. We see robots cleaning radioactive water... The future is so savvy, yet dystopian.
While tech has filled us with information, and media channels all our own, a cultural challenge has emerged. Competition for attention in a world with lots of information may drive the pornographization of creations by creators pursuing a life in the Passion Economy. Pornographization is not strictly tied to pornography. It can also include vulgarity, which can get rebranded as edgy and cool. Philosopher Hanzie Freinacht explains:
Digital society produces more information in a few days than all of human history prior to the advent of the Internet. This means that there is always an immense abundance of information vying for attention—and to gain more attention, a meme must recombine what has hitherto been communicated in a manner that carries forth an element of surprise...That propels a rapid and powerful cultural evolution towards universality … and it produces pornographization⁵.
So, it begets the question - how will the future of work in Web3 appear when creators will need to vie for our attention, and build audiences and communities in a very crowded place? Will we find ourselves cycling through pornographization - experiencing the pitfalls of mental health, and more, or can we escape the digital saṃsāra and transcend?
Web3 ∴ Transcendence
I found this DJ, Virgo Deep, 🎶 a young kid just getting his start in South Africa. He uses the Amapiano to produce his music and the first time I heard his sound I put him on repeat for about three days straight. The tones escalate into this very deep place and they really just hit different. The fifty-eight minute experience 🎧 is worth the listen if you've a taste for the eclectic, let it all build and maybe you'll hear and feel what I mean. And should you choose to dance, it is full of uplifting sounds.
If superficial is the path to nihilistic emptiness, then deep is the path to transcendence. Holding reincarnation as a positive collective trajectory allows us to ask, what do we want to be doing the next time we reincarnate? And the time after that? I imagine, you're crafting something magical, and you're not interested in returning to any semblance of tech misery, right?
Reincarnation is the long view.
The Longnow Foundation in San Francisco, California fosters long-term thinking. They've built a mechanical clock, and placed it inside of a mountain to keep time for the next 10,000 years. Why? Steward Brand shares:
Civilization is revving itself into a pathologically short attention span. The trend might be coming from the acceleration of technology, the short-horizon perspective of market-driven economics, the next-election perspective of democracies, or the distractions of personal multi-tasking. All are on the increase. Some sort of balancing corrective to the short-sightedness is needed — some mechanism or myth which encourages the long view and the taking of long-term responsibility, where 'long-term' is measured at least in centuries⁶.
Reincarnation is the long view. Imagine that it's you, and everyone you know, returning back here to Earth, to witness your collective contributions a century or two later.
The Current Path. We don't have countermeasures. The Digital Revolution of today is a global phenomenon that is hitting the world all at once. And we’re unclear which countermeasures to put in place to protect ourselves. As a result, we are witnessing the decay of mental health as society progresses. Technology is over-exposing young, immature minds to stark and revealing imagery and language⁵. McKinsey's reports on the health of Gen Z is incredibly heartbreaking. 58% of Gen Z has more than two social needs unmet compared to Gen Y at 16%⁷. McKinsey lists a number of other alarming Gen Z health trends. It is no wonder that a youth mental health crisis advisory was declared in the United States at the end of 2021. This exposure distorts the view of adulthood and sexual relations, among other things. And it makes it easy for digital predators—commercial, sexual, or cult-like ones—to target them⁵.
I loved this very clear, two-minute tweet-vid of filmmaker Bo Burnham who very succinctly sums up our current status in the technological saṃsāra.
We don’t know which countermeasures to put in place to protect ourselves...
The New Path. Creators, contributors, and all at work in Web3 will need to enter the deep. The path out of the technological saṃsāra is through this red pill - a reacquaintance with your deepest, fullest, and most authentic self - where we are most strong. In so doing, that deep part of you can thrive, rather than be looped into miseries day after day - or perhaps century after century.
The environment that Web3 can offer for the future of work - what it promises - is to be a container for highly inclusive, highly diverse individuals who are allowed to be. It promises to be the space where we can thrive. What does this path look like? I've created a preliminary draft for how creators and those working autonomously might think about transcending technological saṃsāra in Web3 at the personal level, and I share it below. I welcome feedback, and your thoughts on its initial design.
Deep Truths of the Web3 Creator
- The creator is the trend setter.
- The creator is original in her own passion.
- The creator loves its creations, as a byproduct its creations nourish the ecosystem.
- The creator loves the deep, dark, and light parts of herself.
- The muse appears to the grounded creator.
The Web3 Creator's Path to the Deep
- Purge trauma of all kinds.
- Do not bow to the algorithms.
- Avoid confusing toxic environments with life's natural challenges.
- Express gratitude often.
- Be curious of your mystery.
- Find silence.
- Enslaved excitement is not grounded creativity.
Would you like to see these truths and the steps in the path more fleshed out?
Reframing our trajectory towards reincarnation or even millennia-long thinking can help us shape the future of work in Web3 more holistically. It can allow us to deeply consider our digital lives and our physical and mental well-being. We deserve to be in this world. We can chart new paths forward that transcend the misery of our current digital lives - with the aim that we can ultimately improve our relationship with the digital and ourselves.
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- Shridhare, L. (2020, June 17). Collective trauma. Collective Trauma . Retrieved November 3, 2022, from https://hms.harvard.edu/news/collective-trauma
- Noble, D. F. (1999). The religion of technology: The divinity of man and the spirit of invention. Penguin Books.Bache, C. M. (2020). Lsd and the mind of the universe: Diamonds from heaven. Park Street.
- Bache, C. M. (2020). Lsd and the mind of the universe: Diamonds from heaven. Park Street.
- Harvard Health. (2021, February 12). Past trauma may haunt your future health. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved November 3, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/past-trauma-may-haunt-your-future-health
- Freinacht, H. (2022, March 21). [digital] madness and [pornographic] civilization. Metamoderna. Retrieved November 3, 2022, from https://metamoderna.org/digital-madness-and-pornographic-civilization/
- Brand, S. (2022, August 4). The Clock of the Long Now. Clock. Retrieved October 31, 2022, from https://longnow.org/clock/
- McKinsey & Company. (2022, August 1). Addressing the unprecedented behavioral-health challenges facing generation Z. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved November 3, 2022, from https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/addressing-the-unprecedented-behavioral-health-challenges-facing-generation-z
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