How many of the people who earn money and influence telling us things are out of control are actually providing us with a real plan?
Coming up with plans is hard and the best ones will be the most collaborative.
Before we begin: I’m pretty fucking worried about a lot of the big and catastrophic shit credible people are telling us to be worried about. I’ve been desperately trying to do whatever I can do address this stuff. Over the past few years I’ve written thousands of lines of code and built a new type of social media platform. I’ve written a 95 page book to explain why I built that platform. I’ve imagined an innovative new way to run a democratic social movement. I came up with a plan to use cryptocurrency to make a big dent in income inequality anywhere with the internet. I came up with a really accessible and innovative way to explore the inevitable creation of artificial intelligence. I’ve written a wide variety of essay-style content and some poetry about spirituality, faith, culture, and society. I discovered a new form of faith and used this faith to create some religious NFT art. I earned 10k karma on Reddit in just a few months trying to help people. I used Twitter to try and inspire reform within the Catholic Church.
I am, without a doubt, an esoteric technologist. I am, unironically and with all sincerity, a wizard. I’ve never really been paid for any of this work and that lack of support has been far more harmful than I’ve let on, but I’ve persevered anyway because of how worried I am about all the catastrophic shit people are telling me to be worried about.
Someone on Twitter said they thought I was listing these as accomplishments. I don’t view them that way and I’m glad that was pointed out to me. I appreciate the discussion that followed. What have I accomplished? Ideas without support or development cannot sustain themselves. My audience is virtually non-existent and I’ve never found success promoting any of this. An objective analysis of my history with these projects would seem to indicate that my main accomplishment appears to have been showing people what not to do.
So here’s a weird thing I can say:
I developed a social media platform. I imagined an inclusive social movement as well as a new religious movement. None of it is copyrighted or designed to require me, it’s all open source, the social movement is democratic, and the new religious movement doesn’t include a joining ritual.
… and here it is from a more professional standpoint:
I spent a few years building an open source Software as a Service (SaaS) product and building a brand around it.
SaaS is a product that can be reused by multiple companies, often provided by a 3rd party, so that they don’t have to build their own unique solution to an unrelated problem. My professional background relates heavily to this type of product design.
The problem I’m trying to solve is an obvious one.
When you launch a startup you want to fall in love with the passion you feel for the problem you’re trying to solve and not a specific solution you come up with. This is critically important because when you learn more about a problem it may be that it’s different in surprising and unanticipated ways and this often requires a reimagining of potential solutions in order to move forward. The problem I’m trying to solve is one discussed in many places and in many ways: it is the evident disharmony that exists throughout our cultures and in the international community. It is the inability of our civilization to successfully collaborate in addressing various shared challenges as a result of this disharmony. My solutions were a social media platform designed to operate democratically as a global public utility and a social brand designed to be very inclusive of other brands.
It seems to me the most effective solutions will amplify the efforts of as many people as possible. If the problem includes disharmony the healthiest solutions will prioritize consent. These solutions made sense to me because I didn’t see this anywhere else and I was able to move forward by repurposing or reimagining things that already existed and have functioned appropriately.
I was able to imagine and develop this open source SaaS product, in part, because I have a lot of direct experience with projects that contain many similar elements. I have a lot of direct and relevant professional knowledge. I’ve worked in a number of industry leading tech companies where I built and used SaaS products. I’ve taught university, college, and community courses about how to build digital products including the decisions that go into finding the right market fit and distribution strategy — which is basically just where and how to sell something. There are a wide variety of playbooks and methodologies to this type of development and SaaS products account for a huge amount of tech industry revenue every year. I made a conscious decision to work toward building something extraordinary and in order to protect myself I chose to build it using ordinary means.
Startups are often about disrupting existing markets or ecosystems. Unlike what often occurs in this process my goal wasn’t to disrupt in a way that would be destructive. I don’t think anything I’ve created should be adopted in a way that replaces other helpful things. These projects prioritize helpfulness and helpfulness is most impactful when it augments other efforts. Helpfulness is how we upgrade existing social connections.
Another thing to know is that SaaS is a Business-to-Business (B2B) product like Salesforce rather than a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) product like Spotify. This is important to understand because it speaks to my target market and promotional efforts.
Spiritual and cultural influencers discussing systemic change in response to shared global challenges are all around us. I don’t want to replace them or compete with them: I want to help them do more.
You are not the target market for this product.
Not unless you share a similar professional focus to Russell Brand, the Dalai Lama, Greta Thunberg, Marianne Williamson, Vandana Shiva, Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, Lex Fridman, or the Pope, and countless other similar examples. My values and beliefs aren’t a perfect match to theirs, nor are their values and beliefs a perfect match with each other, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t shared purpose. These are cultural entities that share a lot of related purpose despite some fundamental differences.
I’ve spent countless hours advertising this product while developing it over the past few years. Some of this effort has been public and some of it has been private.
The above list is an incomplete listing with just some of the people that have inspired me to work on this project in response to the things they say or do which I’ve consumed through our shared media infrastructure. I’ve been building something they didn’t ask me for directly but which clearly, from my perspective, seems to be required for their success. I’ve sent a lot of emails and DMs to people about this and, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever blocked me. I’ve reached out to countless folks in academia in fields like religious studies, philosophy, systems design, artificial intelligence research, and countless others. Mostly I get ignored, and I’m hit or miss on using analytics to track engagement, but I can say with confidence that a wide variety of people with power or influence have seen some of these projects.
I’ve done a deeply weird thing in a deeply weird way in reaction to our deeply weird society. I’ve only ever promoted it online because I felt that promoting this directly in person would have been harmful to me, and most importantly whatever solution I came up with needed to be able to convince people to consider it through purely online means. A big part of this effort is intended to be an online solution to problems that are manifesting online and spreading out into the real world.
The world doesn’t need me to be a spiritual leader.
At one point in the past I rather vainly and pathetically described myself as “failing to be Michelangelo” which I find profoundly embarrassing… but also there’s an element of truth to the description. I have been inspired by the most compelling leaders I see in our culture to create as much as I possibly can in order to amplify their efforts. My Sistine Chappel is a place for other pepple to create what I couldn’t. I’ve looked inside myself and found some sort of unimaginably (to me) transcendent creativity that clearly originates from beyond me. I have unanswered questions about what may be a metaphysical origin to some of this but I can say with certainty that a big part of this originated from the wide variety of amazing leaders that surround and connect us.
I’m not trying to be one of those people. I think that sort of activity tests the quality of someone’s character in ways that can be harmful and I believe it would be harmful to me. Cults are bad and cults happen because someone like me fucks up. The political system is a mess because people like me use it wrong. Companies fail because people like me make harmful decisions for foolish reasons. Success is a spectrum where failure is always a possibility. Part of what’s required here is to build a following and directly inspire people to be open to specific messaging… and since a bunch of awesome people are already doing that I figured I could just advertise my product to them.
I used a bunch of relevant skills and experience I have to create a startup, which is pretty common, but then I deviated from established formulas in a number of evident and uncommon ways. I limited how I would advertise it. I limited how I would profit from it. I tried to make it functional for as wide variety of target markets as possible without really focusing on any single one too hard. All of this made things harder. I knew it would make things harder.
I have a pretty good level of awareness of the types of folks who work in the tech industry and I’d definitely say my behaviour looks a lot more like that of an independent game developer than a traditional software or web developer. I’m not walking the walk of a startup founder because I felt it was important to create things a certain way, and to a certain level of completion, before putting them in front of certain people.
Parts of the systems we use to create startups, particularly startups with limited material footprints like social media companies, incentivize really harmful behaviour. That behaviour manifests in many ways that often has toxic and harmful outcomes on people connected to the software created by the software. Something about social media platforms amplifies the harm we can cause each other and how it spreads out into our communities. The business model of a social media platform directly and efficiently consumes our attention in order to turn our time into money for other people.
Even without wrapping that thought in mythic terminology it is quite evidently of grave concern. The best thing we’ve built to enable real, collaborative systemic change is poorly developed and fracturing our civilization.
We need our systems to better empathize with us.
Part of what I’m trying to do here is create a process by which we can collaboratively discuss large and complex ideas. We’re exposed to these ideas on a daily basis but combining shared efforts isn’t as easy as consuming shared content.
What can you do? Engage with the people who are focusing on the things you’re worried about and tell them to do more. And then help them.
Tell Russell Brand that the community he’s formed will result in a lot of wasted energy unless he can find a way to connect them beyond what’s in his immediate area and what’s available in the comments of social media posts.
Tell Robert Wright that his apocalypse aversion project needs to include people in ways beyond what he’s attempted with past book efforts unless his primary goal is to simply sell books.
Tell Marianne Williamson that the audience for her daily meditations is desperate for real connections with one another to augment the powerful connections they’re forming with whatever source of spiritual energy sustains them.
Tell Lex Fridman that he needs to start publicly showing the world how he thinks love can inspire the creation of the best possible artificial intelligence, one which is capable of helping us navigate an uncertain and complex future.
Tell the Dalai Lama to provide the world with greater and more effective infrastructure towards self-salvation.
Tell the Pope that the systems and infrastructure of the Catholic church have failed. These systems have been crucified by the materialist systems that originated in part from the impact of the Catholic church on our civilization and run through by generations of imperfect leadership and cowardly self-deception. It’s time for them to rise again, resurrected into this new world, and capable of addressing the harm they helped cause in the old one.
Tell John Oliver to stop trying to fix the world ironically.
Tell Greta Thunberg that unless she brings more people together at a more rapid pace her advocacy, despite being the best we’ve ever seen, will invariably look like so much Blah Blah Blah.
This list is small and incomplete. There are thousands of prominent people and organizations like this which must amplify their efforts in order to achieve their goals. They’ve all done more than me and it is the height of absurdity that I would ask more of them but we live in an absurd world.
Influencers are avatars for human energy.
We consume them and their ideals through media infrastructure designed to convert our time and energy into money for others instead of effort for ourselves. This process is inefficient and often skewed by harmful ideologies so a lot of our time and energy is wasted or misdirected.
There seems to be a growing and deeply profound sense of nihilism that permeates a lot of online communities. There is a hopelessness born of consuming tragedy without end through systems increasingly optimized for effective consumption. Some people seem to feel that everything must collapse in order for the world to be the way they want it to be. This is a mistake and a trap. Any systems we build after a collapse will have to solve the problems we need to solve now… but we’ll have less resources and energy to work toward these shared challenges after a collapse.
Why do I think I have any right to say this?
Everyone has the right to say stuff like this. Why aren’t you?
We need to find a way to compensate people for energy expenditures which are not incentivized through the current economic system because it’s very fucking clear that the current economic system is not properly incentivizing non-destructive behaviour.
Building a system that affords us that type of compensation can add an additional dimension of effort and energy to our civilization and infrastructure. I know that what can come from that new dimension is beyond my ability to imagine because I keep imagining new things that arise from it and my imagination is as imperfect as that of anyone else.
Everyone, everywhere, needs to be able to exist comfortably with basic levels of support. Everyone, everywhere, needs to be able to use that stability as a launchpad for the type of greatness that makes our world a better place.
You need to do more about this.
Please share this article. You don’t even need to share it in support, you can share it as something novel and interesting that merits critical review. That is required. Saying “I’m not sure what to think about this but it looks like it relates to a lot of what’s happening in the world” is more than enough. Every little bit helps.
History shows us that bad things often happen to the people who are doing what I’m doing, either as a result of their actions or as a result of the actions of people who disagree with their actions, and it’s probably only a matter of time until someone notices this and decides to stop me. There are many ways to do that and I’m critically under-resourced.
I’ve been trying and failing to find employment for months. I’ve applied for jobs with a number of the people I’ve mentioned in this essay, I’ve asked plenty of folks for jobs even if they’re not advertising one, and also I’ve applied for a bunch of jobs in other industries where I’m equally qualified. This project has been sustained through tremendous sacrifice, well beyond what I would have expected, but I’m finally depleted.
Look at how many people are suffering. Look at how similar their suffering is to your own once you move past the ideas we’ve consumed to inspire division among us. How many of the people we’re competing with are suffering the same way we are?
What do you think will happen if you just wait for someone else to do more?