Aug 18, 2022·edited Aug 19, 2022Liked by Handwaving Freakoutery

Good article. One caveat.

I see many articles lately that at least infer (if not feverishly enumerate and extoll) the many hideous strengths of the modern day, digitally enhanced egregore, but precious few that examine its weaknesses (which I believe to be inherent). To name just a few:

1. No sense of humor

An evolving superintelligence strongly selects away from laughter (and indeed from most spontaneous reactions that aren't violent and/or innately intimidating). This pogrom against spontaneous response to the absurd is a vast chink in the armor, because their gravitation towards absurdum (ad-reductio or infintum) is equally strong.

2. No sense of honor

By this I don't mean the ettiquettes of various ""blood and soul"-type honor cults. More like something along the lines of the tacit agreement of the hand not to stab the thigh, or the feet not to march the head off a cliff. Betrayal is innate to the system, and lack of trust breeds disastrous results on a long enough timescale. In the networked form, even a particular large and powerful demon can self-destruct quite rapidly, in waves of what I like to think of as betrayal cascades. Towards the end of such a cascade, it will find itself consumed in the task of building ever more buses to throw itself under, (and some will even allow its enemies to.lend a hand).

3.,No limiting principle

Like an artist with an infinitely large canvas stretched before him, it eventually loses the ability to effectively *plan* anything apart from its next meal. Again, I'd argue this weakness is actually broadened by digital networks. The word salad and toxic bromides that captivate attention today more swiftly lose their novelty, and therefore their potency. It doesn't mean the body falls asleep, but it becomes sluggish, disoriented, the constutent parts less attentive to commands.

These are just a few exploits that I think will prove useful in mounting an effective counter-offensive, even (or especially?) if we build communities with significant virtue overlay.

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Well said, but I would not call it "superintelligence" ... it is, rather, a reductionist, totalizing (totalitarian) and narcissistically self-referential mindset. And I find it more devolutionary than evolutionary.

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This is a fair point. I guess what I mean by "superintelligence" is the raw computational power and aggregate agency of a hive mind, which I assume includes in its collective a great number of individuals who are much smarter and immediately capable than I am.

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This finally made "egregore" click in my head! -

"Some ancient peoples believed in demons called “egregores,” which could be manifested by groups of humans focusing their thoughts and wills in concert. "

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I'm glad the author mentioned world religions. Without getting into arguments one way or another I wonder if ancient people used these same concepts (eg. Sovereign Creed) as part of their belief systems to protect against their egregores. Being Catholic, I find I'm often on the "outside" of much of what's going on in today's world and that 2000 year old religion does a good job at insulating me from the demons that are in the world. Said another way, I wonder if any community created now to protect against the modern day egregores will be just like Christianity 2000 years from now - warts and all.

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re: "crisis of meaning" and Axial mythic awareness

(Contemplative religion, evil, sin, suffering and spiritual liberation)

I've been doing amateur comparative religion stuff for 50 years, alongside informal study of cultural evolution and evolutionary psychology (Robert Kegan, Iain McGilchrist, John Vervaeke) and developmental "stage theories" (Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser, Ken Wilber's "integral theory", Cleare graves "spiral dynamics").


The Abrahamic tradition, including esoteric Islam, is largely purity myth, supported by renunciation-salvation rituals and practices. Evil and sin are "impure", God and heaven are "pure".

McGilchrist's work in brain science shows that there are significant areas in the brains of modern humans that suppress "primitive" ("wild") emotions so as to create higher levels of social cooperation and altruism. Darwin said similar.*

From what I can tell, cultural evolution after the Bronze Age collapse deselected for "pagan" (embodied) awareness in agrarian city-state societies and *selected for* renunciation-salvation (contemplative) awareness because renunciation and purity myths enhanced the survival of those agrarian city-states under conditions of *increasing social complexity and hierarchy* as they were being attacked by "pagan" nomads (and other city-states) over 1,000s of years.

Karl Jaspers and Karen Armstrong use the term "Axial" for the emergence of contemplative culture and purity-renunciation myth religion.

Axial culture and religion (contemplative purity myth) seem to be like a software upgrade to the underlying hardware in the human brain for suppression of embodied (pagan) awareness.

The classic problem is that with the emergence of modern rationalism (especially by the industrial revolution), "progressive-left" politics demand the rejection or deconstruction of mythic culture and religion. (Nietzsche's lament that "God is dead... and we killed Him")

By the 1700s/1800s there was intense worry that rational Enlightenment thinking was leading to the disintegration of awareness of Divine Order (as constructed by contemplative religious culture) would result in anxiety and the disintegration of social order.

So, the "left" (Marx, etc.) began to dabble in attempts, such as silly utopianism and anti-rationalist Romanticism (attacks on classical liberalism and the middle classes), at other ways to maintain psychological and social order. That stuff has not gone well, but neither has the classically liberal tradition, which is currently seeing its high-social-trust institutions (hierarchies of curated expertise) disintegrate under disruption from global economics, networks and postmodern relativism (Jordan Hall, John Vervaeke).

The proposed solution to the mess described above (the "meaning crisis") is an "evolutionary" paradigm shift to post-postmodern, "anti-fragile", holistic, meta-rational, construct-aware awareness and culture that transcends the limits of mythic awareness, modern-rationalism and postmodern relativism.


1. Postmodernism relativism goes too far in the direction of nebulousity over pattern.

2. Mythic and rational "absolutism" goes too far in the direction of pattern over nebulousity.

Nebulousity = relativism (including pluralism)

Pattern = absolutism (denial of relativism)


Here is one framing of that, for "geeks":

*jargon warning*


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*atheist warning*

Here is the two-part description of the pattern-nebulousity problem:


(same author, David Chapman, as metarationality.com)

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Nebulosity is unwelcome

The nebulosity of meaningness causes various problems: practical, social, and psychological. (Much of this book describes such problems.) Often, people would like to get rid of nebulosity, or pretend that it is not there.

Confused stances are attitudes to meaningness that refuse to acknowledge nebulosity. One strategy is to fixate meanings, attempting to deny their nebulosity by trying to make them solid, eternal, and unambiguous. Another is to deny meaningfulness altogether, or to say that it is not important, or cannot be known.

Because meaningness is both nebulous and real, these confused stances fail, and cause new, worse problems.

Complete stances acknowledge nebulosity, and its inseparable partner, pattern.


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* Darwin:

Peter Richerson [evolutionary ecologist, UC Davis] quotes Darwin (as an example of group selection hypothesis and the neurobiology of sympathy in "primeval times"):


"It must not be forgotten that although a high standard of morality gives but a slight or no advantage to each individual man and his children over other men of the same tribe, yet that an increase in the number of well-endowed men and an advancement in the standard of morality will certainly give an immense advantage to one tribe over another. A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes, and this would be natural selection (178-179)."

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re: "Axial culture and religion (contemplative purity myth) seem to be like a software upgrade to the underlying hardware in the human brain for suppression of embodied (pagan) awareness."

In other words, the "software upgrade" to Axial-mythic culture was a really big BOOST to social cooperation (and thus survival under the attacks of marauding pagans and wars with other city-states, dynasties or empires) in the increasingly complex social hierarchies that were evolving in agrarian city-states.


By the industrial revolution, mythic social order was replaced by classical liberalism, high-social-trust institutions (Constitutional order, rational education, corporations, etc.)

Then liberalism (bourgeois capitalism) came under attack from communism-socialism and then fascism. After that, liberal capitalism mutated into managerial capitalism (driven by rationalist absolutism), which mutated into digital capitalism.

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I have always thought of it as looking for the sweet spot on the bell curve of technology. Too little tech and we suffer...too much tech and we suffer differently. Somewhere in the middle gives us the most power without making us a slave.

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Values and morals are a scarce commodity, that as we can see in this current “new world order” are knowingly, willingly and with intent destroying.

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> If you’re not worried about any of this and are optimistic that everything will turn out fine


No... I'm more "pessimistic that everything will fall apart no matter what anyone does".


Though I'm sure the constant depression and unceasing sequence of horrible events in my life isn't helping that any.

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Aug 19, 2022·edited Aug 19, 2022

> To manage the spread of viral ideas, such a civilization would need to be founded on radical self-mastery, strong epistemic security, and strict etiquette governing information exchange.

Welp, we're fucked.

> "Your addictions are your true masters."

Welp, I'm fucked.

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deletedAug 18, 2022·edited Aug 18, 2022
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Lots of good stuff, thanks.

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