(In this freemuim post I argue that we are already have one foot firmly planted in the Metaverse, and the masters of our universe are the ones who work at the meta level, if not necessarily for Meta. I don't want to give too much away, but I will be talking about psilocybin, fear gaps, Adsense arbitrage, and war-dancing Indian chiefs. Paid subscribers get my analysis of the proper way to understand investment in virtual property at the end of the post.)
You don't live in the real world. This is not speculation, or a statement of religious belief, or even an acknowledgement that we almost certainly inhabit a synthetic world that was, in some sense, programmed. It's is a statement of fact that:
1. Like all creatures, our perception of the world is incomplete and skewed. We may not be in as bad a shape as the people watching shadows in Plato's cave analogy (an analogy I find ever more compelling as time goes by), but it is absolutely true that our senses our memories and our risk assessments are inherently incomplete and biased.
2. Unlike other creatures (so far as we know), humans have a thick layer of culture, religion, philosophy, and language that we use to interpret reality. This is our filter. Except under certain circumstances — deep meditation, psilocybin use, extreme physical exertion — this filter layer is non-optional. We can't just turn it off. It's also the source of every major societal advance, and every collective horror.
3. There exist strong incentives for others to manipulate us by manipulating our filters.
This is my starting point, and we are going to focus in on fact number 3, which may seem like an obvious observation, and it should be, but I don't think we fully recognized the extent to which our world is now ruled entirely by people who have recognized this, people who sometimes act with our explicit invitation, sometimes with malevolence, and sometimes with both.
From hunter-gatherer to TPS-stapler
Let's start by noting that for most of human history, most of our time was spent directly altering our environment to survive. We hunted and gathered, and then we farmed. Some people still feed themselves this way. But I don't, and I'm guessing you don't either. Over the years I've had plenty of jobs where I directly manipulated matter (and I've put "sweat equity" into the homes I've owned), but most of my time now is spent generating wealth from intangible things. My work is meta.
Even if you don't think of your work as meta, there's a good chance it is, in one way or other, because meta is eating the world. Let's break that down into some of the main categories:
Finance is eating the world. More and more money flows through central banks, investment firms, and complex financial instruments (the '08 crash was just a small window into this).
Government is eating the world. In just the past year as many nominal greenbacks flowed through the federal government as were represented by our entire GDP just 25 years ago. Five of the ten richest counties in America are within commuting distance of D.C., because of course.
Software is eating the world. Three of the world's largest companies are essentially software developers: Facebook (now Meta), Google (now Alphabet), and Amazon (still Amazon, but which now generates half of its operating income with digital services like AWS). This applies to personal time allocation as well. Most of us spend most of our waking hours interacting with devices that are powered by code.
Entertainment is eating the world. We spend more and more time amusing ourselves with digital experiences, and paying people do do that. What's more, the line between productive work and entertainment has blurred. Hopefully I myself am delivering you both, especially if you're a paid subscriber.
Millions of jobs are mostly bullshit. If you work in an office (or on Zoom) there's a good chance much of your day is spent doing things that make internal sense within your company, but don't connect directly to growing corn or building widgets. There's a good chance you spend time stapling TPS reports to memos.
What exactly is it that you do?
To be clear, meta work isn't necessarily bad, and only the government category is inherently exploitative. The "entertainment" category includes lots of meta workers who've been making human life more pleasant since the beginning of recorded history (i.e. singers, musicians, and women working in the world's oldest profession itself).
For my part, most of my work has been about trading high tolerance for risk and stress, along with low time preference, for what quants call alpha. And if this makes no sense to you, don't worry; you're not alone. The cartoon at the top of this section is what my attempts to explain what I do for a living usually look like, with a comic book character very loosely based on myself.
I don't see what I do as bad either, which I suppose is to be expected, but I spent years pondering its morality before before deciding it fit into the category of perfectly zen jobs. That's zen in the sense of the classic fable about a sequence of events that are categorized as "good" or "bad" by an observer, but to the enlightened person at the center of the story, each new event is met with a "we shall see" attitude. (Fun fact: Kung Fu Panda has a nice parody of this fable. If you remember that scene put the quote in the comments.)
Good or bad, my way of working at the meta level is predictive and reactive. I take the forces in the world as a given, and when not engaged in one of my many, and almost all fruitless, attempts to build a website that gains wide adoption, I'm not using meta-level activities to alter people's behavior.
Right now, our world is ruled by the people who do.
Finishing school for the ruling class
If you are thinking that America is headed to a dark place (and I agree so much that I wrote an entire book detailing how to survive and thrive in a decaying empire, much of the reason has to do with the ability of the Progressive Left (PL) to exploit the meta layer for power and profit.
Their great realization is that people who work at the meta level tend to highly susceptible to propaganda and attacks at the meta level. To some extent, they have to be.
I should note that we are all susceptible to indirect attacks, because we all care about not just how we interact with the physical environment, but how we stand socially. Unless you are a sociopath, you care about your reputation. Sticks and stones hurt our bones and words very much can hurt us, though we can develop our ability to be less reactive to them.
We care about the social level because living in groups is a basic survival strategy for humans, and getting kicked out of the group has, historically, meant extreme danger.
Humans have always had this social level, mediated through language, but that doesn't mean we've always had the same level of attainment to the meta. As noted, we used to spend much more time directly working the earth. Even our criminals used to be much more hands on. They literally raped and pillaged, instead of doing diversity training for government agencies.
From the parasite's perspective, extracting resources as a diversity consultant is much better than old style criminality. There's much less blood to clean off your clothes, and much less chance that your victim pulls out her own weapon and slices your head off. The problem with this new style criminality is, How do you convince people to hand over their cash to you in exchange for you telling them how bad they are?
The original priests of meta
Turns out we have a very old template for extracting wealth from people in exchange for telling them how sinful they are. This may upset you, but you know I'm right. Powerful, organized religions created a layer of belief on top of reality in which you were born a sinner, and you would have to spend the rest of your earthly existing trying to wash away those sins, from your watery baptism to your lifetime of tithing.
Traditional religions are extraordinarily powerful as a reality distortion filter, but there's not match for what the new masters meta have in store for us.
We've had a taste of this over the past couple years, as the parasitical meta class of governments, quasi-governmental companies, and establishment media went so hard on pandemic-related propaganda that they were able to bootstrap a new state religion and drive broad acceptance of the most aggressively tyrannical (and destructive) policies America has seen in well over a century.
The sweeping success of today's meta-level manipulators is, in large part, due to four factors:
1. Most of us now work at the meta level, which make the commandment "though shalt not leave thy home" an inconvenience for many, but a job destroyer for only about a quarter of the population, and those where mostly people without political clout. The power priest class (by definition!) works at the meta level.
2. Because most of us work at the meta level, or jobs depend on buy-in from others, and so we are more tuned in to . If you told an 1800's farmer that he shouldn't go outside to feed his livestock or else you'd call him a homicidal maniac who wanted to kill grandma, and all the papers would call him this, he'd shrug. Tell you to fuck off. Pick up a pitchfork and go about his business.
3. American Christianity has become soft, meek, ornamental. How many churches stayed open through the pandemic, risking legal and social scorn, in order to deliver salvation to their parishioners? Early Christian leaders chose death by lion over apostasy. Today's priests (and rabbis) shut down their houses of worship because they were afraid to stand up to panicked atheists, or they themselves were panicked atheists.
4. The PL have now had several generations of finishing school in the art of meta-level manipulations, especially at the level of language.
Language is war
Let's look at this final factor. Language can work at various levels. It can be a direct statement about reality (we got 2.5 inches of rain here yesterday), it can be an attempt to persuade, it can be an expression of tribal affiliation, it can be an abstract expression of virtue singling, regime compliance, or demonizing of the out group. [For a deep dive into communication levels, I recommend listening to The Filter episode I did with Zvi Mowshowitz.
The first palace of higher eduction I dropped out of, the University of Illinois, began life as a literal testing ground for the best way to grow corn. It was focused completely on concrete productivity. Now, like all Universities, its main function is as a Darwinian battleground for upper level communication strategies. The proximate fight at the time was about their Indian chief mascot, but of course the "horror" of having a student (trained by actual tribal elders) do a native American war dance during halftime at a game was never the issue. The battle was training for the PL in how to identify a soft target and use the force of language ("racist", "bigot", "cultural appropriator", "occupier of stolen land") to achieve a real world goal. As might be expected, they eventually won. The good Chief got canceled.
Universities are finishing schools for the art of making language more powerfully propagandistic. Academia churns out the new masters of the Meta class, people who operate entirely at the higher levels of expression, where the connection to object-level reality is completely severed, and the people using that language care not one bit about it. As you've no doubt noticed, when the ruling class calls someone a Nazi, that has absolutely nothing to do with their support of National Socialist beliefs, and everything to do with a call to hatred: Here is the person we must despise!
Phrases are chosen, and repeated ad nauseam, not for any connection they have with reality, but because they SOUND bad. Dangerous independent thinker Joe Rogan is taking "horse dewormer" (Horse dewormer!). Kyle Rittenhouse "crossed state lines". Sounds so malevolent, doesn't it? Especially when said with a sense of outrage. The underlying reality — that crossing state lines is no more nefarious than crossing the living room, or that because Rittenhouse family in Kenosha "he came home" would be a more accurate description — is irrelevant. Ominous-sounding phrases are used because they are useful.
The operation at the meta level is to create victory at the linguistic level, and create a situation where counter narratives only reinforce the establishment narrative. Talking incessantly about a topic makes it seem important. Talking about how the topic isn't important, or how the initial narrative about the topic is work, merely reinforces the importance of the topic. If you want to understand why the Right is so absolutely useless, it's because they think the appropriate response to "you're a racist" is "that's not true. My best friend is..."
Much of the Right still hasn't realized that this response isn't a rebuttal, it's proof that they are controlled opposition, or more honestly understood, compliant little bitches who are reacting from a place of fear.
Your fear is their gun
The power of the meta class is measured in their ability to drive compliance, and this compliance is driven by fear, either of getting cancelled, or called bad names, or it could be fear of a synthetic realty the meta class themselves created.
To fear is to care, and what the priests of the meta class care about most is the levels of caring of the people they rule over. They care only that their propaganda is working, or, and this is equally good, that people think it will work and therefore toe the line as if it was working. Remember all those people posting black squares to Instagram last summer in support of BLM? The meta class doesn't even care if those people actually care about the importance of being "anti-racist", all that matters is that people were afraid of getting cancelled so they complied.
Or think about those people literally crying literal tears of joy now that they are allowed to inject their kids with a vaccine against a disease that, on the plane of objective realty, possess less threat to their kids than the car ride to get the shot. Think about the people who tell pollsters that the odds of dying from the Wu-flu are 100 times higher than they actually are. That fear gap, between actual risk and perceived risk, is a huge source for exploitation.
You can't overstate the usefulness of Covid in this, or more precisely the propaganda effort around Covid, as an excuse to drive a wedge between reality and perception and exploit that wedge. As I say over and over in The Rise of the Covidians, the priest class of Covidians doesn't actually care about the disease, they care about your level of concern for the disease and how they can exploit it. Your fear is their gun. Their fear is that your levels of fear will start dropping. This is why we've had one wave after another of "be afraid" narratives (with moments of semi-calm in between to prevent hedonic adaptation to fear, and related to that I highly recommend the "Waves of Terror" segment of this explainer video related to the pandemic:
You will own nothing and be exactly as happy as we allow you to be
As noted in my last article on substack, AR will be the gateway drug to a dystopian world of total control over our activities. The metaverses are very much a part of this, and the rulers of these synthetic worlds will be the ones who are best at meta-level manipulations.
Also, the worse our real world gets for the peasants — or the more dangerous it seems — the easier sucking them in and manipulating them becomes. The promise of these metaverses is insulation from object-level reality, a reality that can be a bitch, to say the least. In real life you live alone in tiny basement apartment and eat processed food out of a bag all day. In the Metaverse you can live as a god in your giant mansion with your ten servile and svelte waifu wives (and no judgement from me; I started down the road to (IRL) polygamy myself, though that will have to be a story for another time).
Mark Zuckerberg can't fix your actual life, nor would he want to! But he and his minions can make Meta's Metaverse magical (and mandatory). And the better it is, the less you'll worry about the roaches on your walls, which you won't see anyway with your VR headset on. The better it is, the more you'll accept, or ignore, the awfulness outside of it. And as more and more of your money and energy goes into the Metaverse, the more that outside life is bound to suck, driving even more escapism into the virtual. But why would you care about the "real", you live in a fully realized virtual paradise, and are allowed to stay there so long as you spend enough time virtually operating a real forklift, or building custom gardens for other people's digital palaces. Turns out, you're one of those minions who make the Metaverse magical!
Making money on meta
(This is the begging of the premium part of the article for paying subscribers. In it I discuss mistakes that investors are already making in their approach to metaverses, and the right way to do arbitrage in virtual worlds. Subscribe now if you haven't already.)