6 min read

The Zeitgeist needs therapy

The Zeitgeist needs therapy
"The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." - Steve Jobs

Check the news or social media and there is endless reports in wars, natural disasters, economic disasters and political fighting. It's all bad news. Bad news stimulates our primal fears and gets our attention. It generates ad review but it is driving us insane. The state of the world is depressing. The zeitgeist is anxious - the human organism is writhing. The existential threats we seem to be facing have no apparent solutions. People have learned helplessness.

The good news is that all this bad news is not "real." That is not that the news is fake, but it is outside of our control – it might as well be fake. Paying undue attention to bad news is futile and distracts us from things which are within our control. There are people for whom the bad news is real, immediate, and within their control. Those people are responsible for dealing with it, not me. It's outside my monkeysphere. I need to "accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference."

That is not that the news is fake, but it is outside of our control – it might as well be fake.

I use to believe I had a responsibility to do something about the bad news. I engaged with the news to understand what was going on; and argued about how best to solve social problems. All I accomplished was angering myself, and irritating others. Today, I believe that "live and let live" is the best solution. If we could each "mind our own business" all business would be minded.

If we could "mind our own business" all business would be minded.

Broadly speaking, most of our problems come from one group of people forcing their rules on another. Human beings are limited to knowing what is best for them – and sometimes we don't even know that. We need to have faith that other people will take care of the world around them, and do likewise. When we deviate from this, we cause harm. In trying to mind other people's business, we stop them from effectively minding their business – and more importantly, we stop minding our own.

Unfortunately, I live in and contribute to a system of things where people who do not mind their own business are in charge. My attention, and labor, is monetized by governments and corporations. The profits go towards minding other people's business. Voting is futile, the issues discussed are not the important issues. Local government is opaque and run by cliques. It is no wonder people are anxious and feel hopeless. I'd like to participate in something different.

Focusing on participation in community and creative work gives me a sense of meaning and lifts my depression. I've spent years looking for community that is creating something big and world-changing. I've been unable to find a community where my particular skill-set is useful, and which also could satisfies my hunger for purpose. I want to engage in a project where I am minding my own business, and it could help get other people off their addiction to social media and bad news.

I would like to be a member of a community where everyone minds their own business and joyfully coexists. It doesn't exist. Utopia cannot be created. Creating Utopia has been attempted many times before, and they always end as Dystopia. A perfect world exists only in the mind.

So, I have become like a child and engaged my imagination. I've retreated into a dream, and within that dream there is a kingdom, and within that kingdom I have found hope. I am becoming a citizen of Lotusia – I am choosing to participate in this delusion. It is a useful thought exercise to help me start creating a world that isn't so damn depressing.

In my mind, I have an idea of a Kingdom, which I call "Lotusia." One where I don't receive thousands of notifications and emails a day. The news isn't always bad – although some bad news keeps things from getting boring. People are free to say whatever they want without being censored. People treat each other as they would want to be treated. Community is strong. People have potlucks often. Everyone has a family. There's a benevolent King, but he really doesn't have to do any governing. He's put in place a simple set of laws, and everyone follows them voluntarily – because they make sense. The monetary system operates perfectly – there is no inflation or deflation. There are no student loans of mortgages. It can never exist – but some of it can exist.

"I reject your reality and substitute my own." - Adam Savage

For the parts that can't exist, endless iterative progress can be made – Lotusia exists only at the end of time – and in my mind – but I can make the world more like this. I can treat people how I wanted to be treated. I can build community and have potlucks. I can make a family. I can stop enforcing my rules on other people. And I can start building a communication network and value system which operates more like my ideal ones – this is my professional skill-set. In doing so, the real world becomes more like my vision. There's a clear path to getting closer to it. Some parts of this world I can't see clearly, and they are not within my skill-set. Maybe they're within your imagination and skill-set. Lotusia is within our grasp.

Lotusia is a whole universe, one which I cannot entirely fathom. It is an infinite canvas where there's room for every artist to paint. If many artists paint together, a complete picture can emerge – as long as we find our own spaces on the canvas don't start painting over other people's art. It becomes more real as more people participate in building their parts of the dream. Come be a crazy artist with me.

For me, the part I can see is the messaging system – or public forum. This is the foundation of a community. Many forums have been started in the past. Eventually the people in charge have to start to actively moderate the forum. The leadership has to decide who can say what. This gives them power over all other aspects of the community. This is the core problem I am trying to solve. I don't want to have to be a moderator, I want to participate. The forum I am building is called Stamp.

Stamp must be a place where I can't kick people off or moderate what they say. It must also be resistant to people spamming nonsense everywhere and drown out valuable content. Hal Finney – who helped create Bitcoin – had a good plan for doing this, but he died in 2014. Nobody has implemented his idea. It could not be built until 2009. Bitcoin was a prerequisite for the rest of the system.

Now, we can build messaging systems which do not have a position of absolute authority – because everyone is in a position of authority. These systems are not anarchist (no sovereign) but rather panarchist (all sovereign). Within Stamp anyone can be in charge – if they want to be – but nobody has the power to enforce their will or spam freely.

This characteristic of blockchains been proven out in reality multiple times – it is not theoretical. Panarchist systems are now possible. This is the true innovation of "blockchain" tech.

The difference between anarchy and panarchy may seem unimportant, but framing and worldviews are part of the basis of our behavior. Anarchist framing is in opposition to community. Nobody can be in charge of anything, and a true anarchist isn't even really in charge of themselves – they have no "King." Nothing creative can be accomplished where this worldview is the norm. A Panarchist worldview promotes community and voluntary hierarchies – everyone is both a "King" and "subject."

A community – a social network – with a worldview that is panarchist, and social norms that reflect that, can never have a tyrant. People understand they are expected to question authority, and choose to follow when the authority is requesting action, and not demanding action. The "law of the land" is that authority must be questionable. Built into blockchain technology is the mechanism for users to reject unquestionable leaders. Not even the developers of a blockchain application can force people to follow their rules. The users can reject changes to the software – and keep using the software.

Authority must be questionable.

Building an online community around this technology is relatively small project and may not seem that impactful. However, building out the technology can fundamentally change how communities organize and interact. It has the power to change government – and that wasn't possible in the past. That project is enormous, and it gets me excited.

Lotusia is only a dream, but if I "act as if," it can become progressively more real. Although, it will always be an imperfect copy of the Kingdom in My Mind. That is acceptable.

It is a foolish goal, but it would not be the first time delusion shared by a small group of people has grown large enough that it ceases to be delusion – and it changes the real world.

Come talk to me on Stamp.