How to Make an Impact: An Interview with Daniel Schmachtenberger

How to Make an Impact: An Interview with Daniel Schmachtenberger

What follows is a transcript for the podcast How to Make an Impact: What You Need to Understand to Be Effective 

Topics in the interview include the following:

  1. Pulse Check on the World in 2020
  2. Impacts of Globalization
  3. How to Better Channel Grief and Rage in Social Protest
  4. How Did We End Up On Wartime Footing?
  5. What Is Accelerationism?
  6. Why Civil War in 2020 Would be Catastrophic
  7. What Is The Posse Comitatus Act?
  8. How Does Social Media Play a Role in Narrative Warfare?
  9. How to do Better Sensemaking
  10. Economic Inequality
  11. Understanding Game Theory
  12. When Should You Take to the Streets and March?
  13. How Can We Leave No Trace to Make a Mark?
  14. What is the Right Basis for Certainty and Trust?

Pulse Check on the World in 2020

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Thank you for the time [inaudible 00:00:03], I am rested and totally available and I would not have been otherwise. We'd have done it and it'd have been fine, but it would have been torturous like that Eric Weinstein podcast where I didn't sleep the night before was.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Well, although I heard that was good dude.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Apparently other people like it when I'm so brain dead and falling asleep that I'm not I'm using vocabulary or something. I don't know.

Jamie Wheal: There we have it. There we have it. All right. We'll will get going. All right. Well, Daniel Schmachtenberger, independent scholar and founder of the Consilience Project. Welcome to Homegrown Humans where we get to kick around end of times for stellar minds. Glad to have you, man.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Good to be here with you, Jamie. This is fun.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. As one of the people that I look to most often for a sort of pulse check on what's happening in the big wide world and what's the intersection of what might be called a sort of meta systemic crisis where there's a lot of different things to keep our eyes on. There's a lot of different unravelings braiding together. I'd love to just start with, what is your sense? I mean, you've been tracking the ecology, the geopolitics, the macro-economics, the information ecology, you've been tracking a number of these things for a number of years. I'd love to just start with what have you seen in 2020 as we've been sort of experiencing a general quickening? What are some of the things that are particularly catching your attention right now?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Yeah, I think that a lot of the people kind of looking at system dynamics as a whole and looking at also kind of specifically catastrophic risk possibilities have been saying for some time that there's increasing system fragility. I mean, you can go back like Club of Rome and Limits of Growth outlining hey, there's going to be system fragility for environmental reasons. Since then there've been more and more of those exponential tech mediated and whatever.

Jamie Wheal: That was the think tank convened as the Club of Rome in the early '70s. Is that right?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Yeah. Coming out of that is the book Limits of Growth that addressed, it was the first computer model, the world, 3D computer model that looked at pollution dynamics and unrenewable resource use dynamics. As a result of that, violent conflicts and human migration and whatever, and tried to model out a ways into the future. They came to civilization will collapse roughly around 2054 as we know it. They weren't, of course, modeling having Facebook or Google or exponential tech or anything. It was just pretty much looking at the materials economy, right? The results of the nature of exponential growth of capital requiring exponentiation of a linear materials economy that runs out on a finite planet. Then what happens? That's kind of a first place to start looking at system fragility. What I would say happened in 2020 starting with COVID is that we went from people saying that catastrophic risk was likely or eminent and that the current systems were fragile to that fragility actually started to cascade in terms of system failures.

Specifically, if I'm just to kind of outline why systemic fragility. Before World War II, we didn't have a global system. We had a bunch of local systems, individual countries could make a lot of their own stuff, depend on their own stuff. If an area failed, it didn't mean everywhere failed. Post World War II major empires could never fight with each other because the weapons were too big. They needed to become so economically interdependent that it was always more profitable to just figure it out via trade rather than bomb each other. The positive side of that was we didn't have kinetic World War III since then. The negative side was we got a world system that was so interconnected that a failure anywhere could cascade to failures everywhere. We've never known how to build civilizations that don't eventually fail.

Impacts of Globalization

Jamie Wheal: Just tease apart there for me the correlation and causation, because you said once we had super big empires in this case, likely US and the USSR who were too big to fight then, and throw in China in that mix, then we needed to figure out this highly, we needed to build this hyper-connected global trade system. Is that accurate? Was it an outcome of mutually assured destruction? Since we can't bomb each other back into the stone age, we better sell each other more stuff. Or, was there a co-arising for a bunch of different drivers?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Of course there were a bunch of different drivers. We couldn't have done globalization before we had the technology to be able to do transit fast enough, right, and transport fast enough and where we needed to start building things that required materials that had been mined from all around the world on faster production cycles and bigger populations. There was a trend already to the empires getting larger and larger with more kind of integrated capacity. No, I think there was absolutely, in the post World War II [Brettonwoods 00:05:30] world, a recognition that the major superpowers couldn't have kinetic warfare again. There had not been a time, if you look at the history of Europe or whatever, that the major empires didn't have kinetic warfare for any meaningful periods of time. We could do proxy wars. Other than that, we had to kind of sublimate that into economic interdependence. Of course, the capacity for that was already emerging. I do think-

Jamie Wheal: Just to define some terms, because you're introducing some nice ones here, but kinetic war meaning actually bullets and bombs, and proxy war is things like Korea and Vietnam.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Yeah. USA and USSR can test our weapons against each other in smaller countries, but we can't actually do it directly. What we see here in this situation is that a virus can start in a place that feels totally remote to us, right? It can start in China, and then pretty soon because of the nature of how interconnected via transport the world is, it's a global virus everywhere. Then, as a result of that, to start trying to deal with it via shutdowns, you get breakdowns of supply chains, which start to break down the food supply chains, and you see small businesses closing at scale, which exacerbates wealth inequality. A systemic set of cascades of decoupling the economy and the market of increasing wealth inequality, of changing the way that different countries handled it, creating geopolitical tensions in the EU, in Eastern Europe, and between the US and other places.

Then, of course, when we see the racial tensions that started here, there's been racial tensions for a long time. They became more violent, but of course, they're going to become more violent after massive unemployment because when people's needs aren't being met by the system, like fundamental survival needs, then violence is much more likely. 

How to Better Channel Grief and Rage in Social Protest

Jamie Wheal: Well, let's talk about that for a sec. I mean, I heard some interesting pieces that described the riots that, the Black Lives Matters riots and George Floyd protests as couldn't have been possible other than within the context of quarantine and lockdown. That it was a pressure valve release. Yes, of course those things had been there for a long time and were endemic in many ways, but the combination of that. We've been doing a very much sort of a sociopolitical analysis for a sec, but let's kind of do the exact opposite. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the role of basically collective grief in this and its relationship to rage and social protest. Well, what do you think about that as a category to be monitoring as a vector of risk, and also, do you have any thoughts on how we can work with those energies better than we seem to be?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: That's a great question. I do have some thoughts on that. I'm actually curious to hear your frame and thoughts on it. Because there's some, I'm sure you have them and went there.

Jamie Wheal: Well, I mean, I don't even remember what, I think I might've even been watching The Crown or something and somebody, oh, I know what it was. King George died, right? Then in the midst of that, the family was lashing out at each other. There was a sense of who is to blame. None of it made a whole lot of sense in the sense of was it you who took the car that day or was it you the one he loved the most or whatever. It doesn't really matter when a human nervous system and psyche is overloaded with grief. It is non rational or irrational, but it must be vented, if the person feels that it will collapse or destroy them if it's not.

It feels like with the amount of lashing out and thrashing that we're experiencing, even towards those that could be allies or that could be on the same side and be in common cause, it feels like we're sort of all suffering micro to even now macro PTSD. The sort of hand reaching out to help is actually seen as one that's going to strike. Then that justifies my counter attack. It just feels curious to me as to how we're going to work our way through that to find common ground again.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Yeah. I mean, if we context set, when you say PTSD, it's not the acute onset PTSD, it's the complex PTSD of a bunch of microtraumas from a whole set of amorphous things that lead to a PTSD, like reaction from lots of things. Right? The idea that the social reality, the civilizational reality right now is kind of generating complex PTSD, pretty ubiquitously in lots of people is a very interesting frame and the idea that there's pretty dysregulated nervous systems and people who also didn't really learn, where there wasn't a culture where people learned how to regulate their, or relate with their emotions in ways that were healthy and empowered them and connected their logical strategic capacity with their will, with their kind of emotional self. I think there is very increased load and not a good culture that teaches people how to deal with that load.

When we talk about the increased load, we can talk about most of news is vicarious trauma. If I'm a black guy in Oakland and my newsfeed has curated the thing that is maximizing time on site, and it's maximizing time on site by the things that kind of scare me and piss me off and whatever, or I'm going to share and engage with more than not, I might just see a huge amount of cops killing black people. Then, if I'm a white Trump supporter in Texas, I might have a newsfeed of black people, unprovokedly attacking white people and the most violent parts of the riots.

Both of the people are actually experiencing vicarious trauma that is statistically decoupled, right? They can't actually emotionally process the statistics of what percentage of police violence is actually a result of what. Then they go into trauma response. Then, they aren't necessarily doing strategy of what is it I care about? What is the end game? How is the thing I'm going to do going to create counter response from the other side, and am I doing something that will actually advance what I care about? Or, am I largely just responding, reacting, to a set of traumas in a way that might be part of a kind of death spiral?

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. On that, I mean, if we just kind of stay in the culture side of things for a moment, that is something that I've noticed the most in the sort of identity politic branch of the culture wars, which is the collapsing of, I suppose, perspective in the sense that if you rewind the clock for the last, I don't know, what? 30, 40, 50 years even, with the advent of conscious communication and Ricardo Flores. Some of the workout of that nonviolent communication, that whole neck of the woods of being more precise with our language, owning and separating the difference between thoughts, feelings, impressions, Chris Audrice at Harvard Business School and his ladder of inference. There's been a lot of work decoupling the stories we tell, like how I feel emotionally from the narrative that I generate.

Then, what I presume is shared or mutually true for you as well. Almost all of those schools of thought, they overlap, they have nuances and distinctions, but I mean, almost sacrosanct among them is the idea that no one can presume to tell me what my interior experience is. Right? That was sort of rule one. In this realm of white fragility and lots of other working concepts like that, it feels like that's completely broken down. It's broken down on the side of the conversation that in the past, and even up until quite recently, would have been the champions of that very perspective.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: I don't know that where, what I'm thinking is the right place to go with it. The thought that comes up is I think it's generally regarded across cultures that there are different right modes of being in peace time and war time. In peace time, there are kind of rules of civil society and civic engagement that includes things like presumption of innocence and due process.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: In war time, if somebody pops up, you don't like presume innocence and do a proper trial and et cetera, you might just shoot first because it's an existential situation to do. Even though there are still rules of engagement in war, there are different ones. I think a lot of people are not behaving civilly because they actually don't feel like we're in civil society. They feel like they're in war and that's why terms like culture war.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I think that's a great distinction. I like that.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: They aren't presuming innocence, they aren't giving the benefit of the doubt they aren't doing due process. They're doing let's attack this person in the court of public opinion without jurisprudence or due process, let's go straight to a punishment, right? Effecting how people perceive them at scale, because we're in war time and it feels like our side is so existentially threatened that we have to engage in that way. I see that across the board.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I think we saw some of the earliest with the early phases of the MeToo movement as well. I think there were even some op-eds by some fairly prominent feminists saying, "Hey, look, if this ends up taking down a few good men, so be it because it's been so long, this is so pent up and backed up that this now needs to be expressed as it needs to be." Versus within the confines of something else. I think there's something parallel even with some of the Black Lives Matter critique of Martin Luther King's methodology, where they're saying, "Hey, actually, King was potentially giving away too much rage to show up within the model, the sort of mainstream white approved model of Christian charity and forgiveness." In fact, there is something more central and more viscerally alive in raw anger right now.

In fact, Tony Schwartz, who you probably know who wrote the Art of the Deal famously with Trump and then kind of mea culpa'd his way out of it, but also has a very interesting career in human development and transformation and other things through throughout his life. He's actually close friends with a mutual friend of ours and they were in a conversation, I think perhaps last week or so. Tony was challenging this fellow to say, "Hey, there is no, you can't, the old Howard [inaudible 00:17:15] thing of like you can't be neutral on a moving train." Like to your point, this is war. Seeking to understand the perspective of alt right folks, seeking to understand the perspective of people continuing this administration, we're no longer there. You have to pick sides.

Of course, whatever that, I forget. What is that, the law of how long does it take you to mention Nazis, whatever that one is, we're about to mention it. But that idea of it's no longer relevant to be seeking to understand where white supremacists are coming from. A, when did we end up on war time footing? If you can look back through the tape, where do you put a pin in it? 

How Did We End up in Wartime Footing?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: First, I'll say that I see that some people and movements have embraced war time. As a result, a lot of the psychological principles and civility and Democratic and Republican, those kinds of principles are not the ones being engaged. I'm saying that I think that that's happening. I'm not saying I think it's good. I think it's a misassessment.

Jamie Wheal: Sure.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: I think it's a misassessment, even for the goals of the people who are doing it. Specifically, if you aren't factoring the way that the arms race will escalate, you aren't doing strategy. If we were playing chess, I wouldn't just think, "What move do I want to make because I'm upset at the thing that you did." Or just kind of feels like the appropriate thing right now. I'd be thinking about based on how I move, how do you move? As good a chess player as I am is how many moves down the way am I considering? I think if people are not factoring counter response, if I'm successful with this, because I developed some new way to use social media, some new propaganda techniques, some new way to use AI and Twitter bots and whatever to achieve my side of the info war, whatever, how will the other side find what was successful, reverse engineer it, who will be polarized by this and then what happens next? What other kinds of consequentiality are occurring?

I see that even just good strategic warfare is mostly missing in people who are embracing the warfare idea. For instance, and this is a very sensitive topic for like a dozen different reasons. If I think about the issue of addressing institutional racism in the US all caveats being that I, by no means, have real expertise in this, and I'm a white guy talking about it. We have a country that was built on slavery and genocide. It's very hard to be able to, like when we talk about founding fathers in a positive way, it's a mix. It's a very complex, tricky thing. I fully acknowledge that that is the case and that there is an institutional wealth being passed down because of those previous things in a way that creates total upper hand. I think the conversations around how we reconcile that and reparations are reasonable and important conversation.

That said, I think the way I hear about the racism, institutional racism argument on both the general kind of left and right don't match with the statistics as I understand them. I was talking with someone who is at a university that has the largest data set of police violence data. His assessment was that you can kind of cherry pick the data, however you want. You can say police shootings are twice for the black population what the black population is, 13% of the total population, 25% of the shooting. If you try and do it in a crime adjusted way, it's actually more likely that cops kill a white person than a black person and the engagement and whatever.

There are some signs of institutional racism that show up, but it's not as crystal clear as either side would have that it's not a thing at all or it's like a central thing. When I think about like, okay, current state, how do we deal with that? Then I just zoom out and they say racism writ large. It's very easy to say this is a boogeyman argument, but I think it's important. When I look at the Chinese treatment of the [inaudible 00:22:15] where we're talking about sterilization at the millions person scale and in internment camps and things like that.

Jamie Wheal: Tibet has not just gone away BEcause the Beastie Boys and Richard Gere stopped talking about it.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Exactly.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: And the anti-democratic crackdown in Hong Kong. I'm like, okay, sterilization and internment camps are more racist than what we're doing in the US today. A whole different category of that. When part of the major geopolitical context is a shift in who guides the 21st century, when the US Brettonwoods world is no longer clearly doing that, and the obvious contender is China by the US staying at odds with itself.

China by the US staying at odds with itself, so it doesn't have the coordination capacity to really do geopolitics. And China's not at odds with itself. She got rid of most of the people who disagreed with him in government and instituted Sesame Credit. And as a result, in the same way that they can build high-speed trains all around the world and we can't build infrastructure, they can also do geopolitical positioning.

Are we staying so focused on the near enemy that we're actually ceding control of the world for a longer [inaudible 00:23:31] is going to be on the exact same topic. Is it actually the most racist thing I could do over the next century?

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. And that was my inquiry around the grief and the lashing out, because it isn't strategic. That's the whole point. But once it's hijacked someone's system, it simply has to be dealt with constructively or destructively before a next step can happen. And you hinted at a couple of interesting things there, Daniel, which was the idea of you're not doing strategy if you're just thinking kind of one move ahead, and you're not thinking of the counters and the counters to those counters. And that sort of brings to mind Bret Weinstein's arguments about evolutionary biological encoding for tribal ethnocentrism, and be careful when you play identity cards because they do go deep, and that's how you end up going down the road towards genocide. And that's not to say that Jordan Peterson, any multicultural effort anywhere is a slippery slope to Stalinism. It's just saying, "Hey, humanism is optional, and tribalism is destiny."

Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic a few years ago wrote what I thought was a really interesting piece where he was talking about ... It was a little bit like Gladwell's piece in Outliers where he talked about honor cultures, like the goat herders in Sicily and the Scots-Irish and that kind of thing, where he's talking about sort of like an eye for an eye and, "You've dishonored me." But I think he teased apart honor cultures that work that way. "You wronged me, and it's now my duty to right that wrong for my family, for my name."

And then there were dignity cultures, and dignity cultures didn't do that. They had sort of set aside the eye for an eye in exchange for an appeal to authority. Right? And that's higher ideals, that's those kinds of things. And then he articulated the sort of the emergence of grievance culture, and the grievance culture is a sort of mutation of dignity culture. So it's still an appeal to an authority, but it's the cancel culture, it's the call-out culture, it's all of those things.

And what came to mind as you were describing all that is when people are being reactive and when we're throwing switches that we don't necessarily know all the downstream repercussions of, are we being quite naive to your point about China, which is a meta and global version, which is we're still assuming that there is a in-charge benevolent authority figure, basically a paternal figure, who is going to come after we cry foul and blow the whistle versus, actually, as you said, we're in a wartime footing now, and who strikes first has advantage. And so all the rules of the game are shifting around us, and we may actually ... And particularly, let's say the progressive side of the fence may be still operating under the idea that there are still arbiters of authority that respond to appeal and grievance. What is your sense of that?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: I think the important thing is there are a lot of people who think they're doing strategy, but they're not doing the right strategy for the moment. And kind of the history of warfare is someone who was the dominant force, who was doing the right doctrine, getting beaten by somebody who'd come up with a new doctrine that was more fit to a changed environment, that was Napoleon with the Prussians or whatever, and the people who were doing the thing that had been true, who hadn't acknowledged that it wasn't true anymore, completely lost it, but they thought they were doing strategy, which they-

Jamie Wheal: That was the 2016 Republican debates. Right?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Exactly.

Jamie Wheal: Completely.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: And so if I look at the left in that way right now, I'd say all the attacks on Trump mostly made his support base coalesce stronger. The Russiagate, the Stormy Daniels, all of those things. But they just kept trying to throw more like that, and they didn't stop and do an analysis of like, "We're neither getting more people signing up to be Democrats, nor are we weakening his support base. There's almost an antifragility effect happening that we're driving. Let's try a different strategy." It just kept trying the thing that was failing.

So to me, that is like a death spiral. That's a flailing of something that has lost the intelligence to know how to be effective. And I would say, I mean, all the way up to this election cycle and who was put in place on the side of the left, not the right strategic move at all.

Jamie Wheal: I mean, let's just check that because it's obviously going to be up for a lot of folks as to what's happening this fall. I get all the tired, dumpy, "Okay, boomer," time to move on, fresh blood, the whole bit, the centrist, back pocket of industry and business, never had an honest or inspiring position of his own, like that critique. Right? And feel free to add in any others.

But then there's also a sense of, is there not a functionality to him being blue collar, working class, Scranton, PA centrist who has a diplomatic ... several decades of relationships to go back and mend alliances and do those things. Is this idealistic? Not at all. Is it potentially stabilizing and potentially able to take some folks on the bubble and bring them over because it doesn't seem so entirely other, as the boogie woman of AOC or Bernie might?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: I think that's the argument. That's clearly the argument. And I think the idea that we don't want change that is so rapid that it might be totally wrong, so let's actually reinstitute things that are more like a kind of more stable phase of establishment. There's both a good rationale for why that could be true, and there's also the vested interest rationale. And how much it's each of those, interesting question.

It's a very attempting rabbit hole to get down, what I think has happened with the elections and the primaries and whatever. But I actually think it's maybe not the most interesting place right now. Something I wanted to say is with regard to not considering parts of strategy effectively, to go to the other side and go to the far right and accelerationism, I think there's the same mistake being made. And it's not exactly the same, it's a different one, but the ... It's not if there will be a civil war, it's when, and we're ready, that whole kind of meme complex. And we are more prepared for it than they are, so the sooner it happens, the better for us, so let's accelerate the thing happening and move on. I think that that-

Jamie Wheal: Just a quick time out. Daniel, is there a way you can just stabilize your laptop? Because somehow as you're moving, your screen is too.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Yep.

Jamie Wheal: I mean, also, if we have the chance, let's jack that puppy up. Do you have some pillows or something you can put under it? Beautiful. There you go.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Is that better?

Jamie Wheal: Oh, it's amazing. Okay. Get those beautiful blue eyes of yours. All right. So yes, so you wanted to make a comment.

What Is Accelerationism?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Yeah. I think accelerationism can make sense from the point of view of certain things we could study in military history in the past that are actually the wrong context, where that military history that's being applied is not the world we live in. I think that just a few parts of how I see that is the US hasn't been in a symmetric war in the lives of anybody alive. We haven't had bombs hitting our soil and actually had our kind of citizenry at existential risk. And we have mostly made sure that we could bring the war somewhere else and to developing nations. And so I think that nobody actually has an embodied felt sense of what war is actually like, like symmetric war is like. So there's a lot of kind of false ideas of it that are not grounded in real experience.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. That's so worthwhile unpacking for a sec. Right? Because obviously, the sort of the Pax Americana, the 50 years after World War II, Europe's in ruins, Japan is bombed to smithereens, China's still limping along and then straight into their own revolutions. Everywhere is hurting but America. And then even something like Vietnam, right? I mean, it did come home in the sense of Cronkite on the nightly news and the draft.

And something I think that most ... you just don't hear about a lot, but I think that the private contracting of the Afghan and Iraqi Wars and pretty much everything else that's happened since then with ... What is the ... I don't know, you probably know the ratio better than I do, but it might be like four to one, private contractors to actually service people? And the fact that that in itself not only has a massive economic cost because the government is often training people inside the military, they quickly get out as soon as they can, and then they bill back triple to the government for the very training the government gave them. But there's also the obviation of a draft, so American citizens never had to wrestle with, "Is this a just war? Is this my war? Is this our war?"

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Right. Yeah. I mean, the movement from war only by necessity that is kind of patriotically fought versus mercenary dynamics is very, very different set of motivations. I think there's a bunch of things to get into there in terms of privatization of military contracting, military-industrial complex being the one thing of all things Eisenhower could've said leaving government that in his last speech he wanted to make the whole thing about that he thought was the biggest risk to the country, as the great military general that he was and president.

If everyone hasn't watched that speech, Eisenhower's farewell speech, it's worth going back to watch of where he thought that it was the US had almost been completely strangled out of sovereignty at that time. And that was before even the private militias. That was just the contracting. Right? In its supply and demand equation, it's not just that there's authentic demand and then we create supply, it's that supply manufactures artificial demand. And that is actually one of the main things, manufactured demand, that broke the [crosstalk 00:34:48].

Jamie Wheal: Meaning sort of idle hands are the devil's work, and if you put AR-15s those idle hands, you have militias?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: I mean, if I'm selling something, and I'm making a lot of money selling that, I want more people to want it even if they don't already. I want to figure out how to manufacture demand in their mind, so if I'm ... how to make a new product that nobody ever wanted, that won't make them happier, but drive FOMO that they aren't cool and they're missing out if they don't get it, or whatever it is, right? Like marketing came about-

Jamie Wheal: My favorite example of that is Listerine, which was designed as an antiseptic in the Civil War for surgery, and then they had to go in and invent chronic halitosis as a category to then pitch it for something else entirely.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: I think the supply side manipulation, manufactured demand is one of the most critical things that made market theory kind of not real anymore. But of all the places where that's fucked up, military manufacturing's the worst one. And you just ask the question of like, if the military-industrial complex is the largest or maybe one of, depending on how you divide it, largest blocks of the global economy, and the entire global economy would fail if it wasn't there. And so we built a world economic system around managing war that requires the ongoing management of war at that scale. Can you have lasting peace and a very profitable for-profit military-industrial complex at the same time? And you see there's some perverse incentives there that we would be better to not have.

Jamie Wheal: Well, yeah. Okay. I often think about that, whether it's accelerationist ... Well, really, I mean, I think accelerationist of any stripe. So it can be blockchain techno utopians, it can be seasteaders, it can be anybody who's saying, "This system is so corrupt or broken that we are trying to drive it off the cliff because then, yay. Then we get our turn." And it always just seems hopelessly naive unless they've factored in who controls the banks and the tanks.

And you look at the collapse of Yugoslavia, you look at Milošević, and who gets the leftover weaponry of the empire? Generally, it has a pretty good spot on the new board. Who's controlling means of currency and exchange does, too. And I'm just blown away by the conspicuous absence of that in most people's utopian war gaming.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Well, I mean, I think you mentioned crypto, that was such an obvious one during the crypto bubble. Like, "We're going to make some effective cryptocurrency that'll become the new reserve currency and obsolete the central banks and, as a result, be able to completely change the nature of empire." And the conversation around like, "Okay, so now you control the country. Who just voluntarily gives the nukes up because you tried to make some interesting [inaudible 00:37:36] banking?" So what do the dudes who control the nukes do? That's a very important question. 

Why Civil War in 2020 Would be Catastrophic

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I mean, the Whiskey Rebellion right after the American Revolution is always a great test case to me because it's all those Appalachian farmers, and they were living ... It was the Scots-Irish who had fought in the war. They went back home. They grew their corn. They wanted to turn it into sour mash and into whiskey, value-added goods. Much more compact and easier to transport back over the hills down to the markets of Virginia and DC. But they didn't have to pay taxes on all the corn. And then George Washington rides up with a standing Continental Army, is like, "I know all you. You fought with me at Valley Forge. I will hang you in the morning if you don't pay your taxes." And that render unto Caesar element is so pronounced. And again, like you said, if you don't factor in state-sanctioned force and who gets to continue on with that big stick, I don't think any thoughts of radically transformative change pans out.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: And I think when people talk about Civil War in the US in a at all positive light, the idea of an actual civil war meaning that the military has turned against itself, right now the Army and the Air Force are at war with each other, something like that, or the military of blue states versus red states, there is no winning of that war. That's a war that just can't happen. Both red states and blue states have enough nukes to kill the world a heap of times over and are just catastrophic, devastating.

So I don't see pretty much hardly any scenarios where that happens. I don't see any scenarios where it would be a good thing, but I don't see anywhere it happens because I think, fortunately, the generals are better at military theory than that. Now, so civil war at that scale, I don't see. Civil conflict increasing of the groups with AR-15s and arson capabilities and whatever increasing, that's already happening. And that could increase quite a lot.

Jamie Wheal: Well, and as is, decentralized but coordinated, militarized, responsive civil peacekeeping. So you are seeing armored vehicles. You are seeing extreme SWAT gear. You are seeing the distribution of, obviously, everything from the pepper sprays to the rubber bullets to crowd control techniques that have generally been beyond the pale. And we've just started this spring right out of the gates with all of them. It was like, holy shit, that did not take long to escalate.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Right. And Posse Comitatus won't get in the way of the military figuring out ways to shut down the violence if they have to.

Jamie Wheal: Just explain that for folks.

What Is The Posse Comitatus Act?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Posse Comitatus, the rule that the US military should not be turned on its own citizens or deployed on soil against citizens. That's where you end up making special branches called federal police or whatever it is that have the ability to deploy that. And then of course, when the accelerationists think about civil war, it's important to be asking the question, okay, so when we're at civil war, what is China doing? What is Russia doing? What is Iran doing? Are they just watching and not getting engaged at all? Are they going to pick one side. Maybe, might they have incentive to support both sides, so just turn the enemy against itself?

Now, if we say before the conventional war of bullets and the unconventional, the narrative and culture wars we're talking about, do they already have an incentive to support extremist groups probably on both sides to be more extremist because it's a good idea to attack the guy with all the nukes head on? It's a much better idea, if you read Sun Tzu or the Thirty-Six Stratagems or any kind of book on Chinese strategy, but military strategy in general, is just make the enemy divided.

And so when we look at all the Chinese Twitter bots and Russian sock puppets and whatever influencing social media and influencing online chat groups and the memetic space, do I think that what people believe is already being radically manipulated in ways they don't know for foreign purposes in addition to domestic purposes? Totally.

Jamie Wheal: Well, yeah. I mean, even the FBI debriefs on the Russian interference in 2016. Right? I mean, the way exactly they were placing their chisels in the culture war and where they were tapping showed a greater psychographic awareness of the American mind than I think any pundit on mainstream American news had. The idea of having fake sites of Muslim women for Hillary or something like ... They were just mixing and matching the flammable materials. And it's been crazy to see. And obviously, in the last four years, it's only got far more intense.

How Does Social Media Play a Big Role in Narrative Warfare?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Well, this is where it's important to understand. Of course narrative warfare has always been a thing, and try to turn the enemy against themselves has always been a thing. But the exponentiation of information technology has made it a much easier and much more powerful thing. And I would not say that the defenses have been able to keep up with the nature of the offenses. And so if we go back to, say, pre-internet, we go to the pre-ubiquity of internet, go to the '80s or '90s even, it's pretty hard for Russia or China or whatever to control what's on CNN very significantly, but it's not very hard to be able to get YouTubers to make content or to be able to influence the million content streams that are going to go through decentralized broadcast. So that's one thing.

But then the other thing is once you have the kind of social media algorithm optimizing for time on site, and you optimize for time on site by appealing to people's current bias and limbic hijacks, so the right gets more right, the left gets more left, the conspiratorial people get more conspiratorial, the pro-establishment get more intensively there, everybody gets further away from each other, more certain than kind of more outraged.

And that's basically the AI attacking everybody without even intending to because it's just optimizing time on site, and it happens to do that by appealing to the lowest parts of our nature. In that environment where the lowest parts of our nature are being most appealed to, then just pushing people a little bit further in the direction they're already sliding becomes very easy. I don't have to get people to [inaudible 00:44:47] they don't believe. I just support them believing the trajectory they're already on.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I mean, I think there was some Soviet propagandist who outlined that very clearly. He's like, "We don't ever try and make them believe the lie is the truth. We simply muddy the entire concept of truth so thoroughly that they just, they give up looking."

Daniel Schmachtenberger: This is actually the culture thing that is so important to me because it's going to come back to this topic you're asking about perspective seeking versus passion. I think for the most part, almost everyone in the country has become an epistemic nihilist. They have given up on the idea that they can understand what's going on. In terms of their own authentic epistemology, for the most part-

Jamie Wheal: The technical term is shit or go blind.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Okay. And so I think that when I find most of the people who have extremely impassioned views on any topic, they have not done the primary literature research. They don't even know the counter-narrative points well, only straw man versions of them. And yet they're totally impassionate about a thing because some authority or tribe that they decided to agree with or defect to did. And so that ...

Or try that they decided to agree with her defect who did, and so that's not a pathology that's tribalism. And so I think trying to really figure out what is actually going on with China's agenda, or what's actually going on with DC corruption or what's actually going on with anything. Of course there's some people who try to figure it out by going down a pizza gate rabbit hole, but then they'll accept a narrative without breaking the narrative into individual propositions and trying to verify and falsify each proposition individually, as well as for a counter narrative, which means it's really not epistemology. It's the illusion of epistemology hijacked into patternicity and kind of dopamine, hijacks and group think.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I think I saw a meme saying, if you say you did your research to wake up, you didn't. You've just been targeted by a weaponized AI algorithm.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Yeah. Yeah. So if I want to do a epistemology, I've got to say, "Well, what are the various narratives on this thing? Do I understand them well, can I break the narrative into individual propositions?" And then what do I use to falsify or verify each one? What is the right epistemic basis for confidence? Where should I have a very low confidence margin? Am I emotionally disposed to want more confidence than I have?

Jamie Wheal: Basically, I mean, if you do the regression on everything you're suggesting, you're basically saying we all need classical educations in an exponential age. We need logic, rhetoric, hermeneutics.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Yep.

How to do Better Sensemaking

Jamie Wheal: Right. And none of us are going to be getting that anytime soon. So, and in an age that's super decentralized in its sense-making and yet it's also incredibly flat and muddy. So we have massive breadth and very little depth. And there's an antinomian sentiment of like no one should tell me what to do. And yet higher ground is called for almost essential. How do we reconcile that? How do we reconcile the great leveling tendencies and almost the no nothing tendencies, the anti intellectualism that is going on across the board and the decentralized you can... whatever, we'll say, let's just call it decentralized crowdsource movements with the utter lack of quality and disseminate because the natural thing would be, hey, either we all get rigorous classical educations that we didn't get, and probably don't know how to deliver it en masse at all, or we look to people who do make better sense more often, but it feels like we've got an immune reaction against that very move right now.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Okay. One thing I would say is the... I don't need better sense-making I have good enough sense-making. I need impassioned action, where that's definitely not true. I would like them to acknowledge the failures of their own movements more and the failures of the types of sense-making and strategies. So like, if we look at the sustainable development goals and how much progress they have not made, and then we look back to when they were called the millennium development goals and we had to kind of rebrand them because they didn't succeed. And it's like, why are we not succeeding with these things? They seem like universally desirable things. Why are we kind of... And for climate change. If any proposal for how to address climate change that some people really agree on is fervently opposed by huge percentages of humanity, can we make progress on anything in that environment?

So what I would say is that the... but if it's permanently opposed because, say, the approach to solving climate change involves taxes on whoever agrees to it. So if the U.S. and Europe agree to it, it actually lowers their GDP per year and as a result, China doesn't agree to it. And there's no adequate methods of enforcement, their increased GDP that goes into increased military and geopolitical positioning means that in trying to address climate change, we're ceding the control of the world.

That's where you have to better sense-making and say, "How do I think about climate change and geopolitics and economics together and come up with a solution for all that, because they're interconnected enough that I can't pick my favorite topic that I'm going to benefit while externalizing harm somewhere else, and not have a huge percentage of the population who doesn't want that harm externalized somewhere else." Focus on that thing and tightening. And so the sense-making to say,

Jamie Wheal: Excuse me, just one second.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: The people who I really disagree with, don't just leave the planet and stop doing stuff. And whatever I do counter responses happen. So how do we actually factor, how do we get invested in increasing the sense-making of everybody and increasing the quality of conversation that we can do participatory governing together, which requires participatory sense-making and conversation. So the first thing I'm saying is, if you're not doing that, whatever you are trying to succeed with will fail. The inner world of this kind of complexity, not trying to get asymmetric intel, those strategies will just all fail.

Jamie Wheal: But I mean [crosstalk 00:51:26] well, go ahead and finish. Sounds like you're building a case.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: I think that it didn't take that many people in kind of the European enlightenment to make a new thing that overturned the dark ages, right? If you think about Descartes-Newton and a handful of people, like figuring out something that would make cannonballs hit their target better, then the previous pendulum dowsing or whatever they did, the increased empirical effectiveness of it is what made it take off. But the increased actual sense-making about reality. If my map is wrong, but I think it's right, I'm not going to do that well. I'm going to navigate wrongly if my map doesn't correspond to reality well enough. So I really want a super accurate map, which means I want to know when my map is not accurate so that I can-

Jamie Wheal: There's actually something in expeditionary, like mountaineering. There's a phrase for that called bending the map, because what happens is when people are tired and lost and they really, really want that little nubby thing on the map to be that rock right there, there's means they get to go to sleep and eat. And yeah, bending the map is a known cognitive distortion under stress.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: And winds people up in bad positions.

Jamie Wheal: Oh yeah. And in fact, almost always the place where you bent the map is the place it goes from a casual accident to a fatal accident. That's irrecoverable. Yeah.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Okay. Then we have a perfect analogy here.

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Well, so-

Daniel Schmachtenberger: [crosstalk 00:53:07] Called classic education, I'm going to call capacity to read a map and navigate them out.

Economic Inequality

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. Route finding. Route finding and navigation. And so let's... something just kind of popped into my head as you were describing the algorithmic drives to the extreme and the fact that it was almost like an semiautomatic... Yeah. Just algorithmically driven fracturing. And as you were describing that, I thought of the establishment, right. It's basically the same way that never-Trumpers and the Bill Crystals of the world. The kind of longstanding conservative arm, pro business, libertarian free markets that can... They've just been roughly elbowed to the side. And I'm really staggered that they've actually haven't had more heft to do something about it. And then the same critique on the left. If you know, the people who have been concerned that Obama got a 400K speaking fee from Goldman Sachs and Hillary spoke there, and that Joe Biden is in the pocket of industry and all those kinds of things, where is that monolith?

I mean, in some respects, if you took the enlightenment and you followed that thread, these were the folks that won and expanded their winnings and consolidated it. And now they feel like they're left in the middle as the conversation has just gone much further afield than any of their businesses usual agendas would actually think is ideal or even acceptable. Where are they in this mix right now? Is this an accident? How have we disintermediated the man? Or have we not?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Just, there's quite a few parts to this that come to mind. So the creative disruption cycle that has the startup that beats the big juggernaut, because it's smaller and more agile and can make faster moves, get bigger and bigger until eventually it's a big juggernaut that is also bureaucratic and ossified and slow moving so a new startup ends up beating and displacing it. Whether it's a startup or an empire, that story, I think there's definitely something to... If you look at 2016 as Trump and Bernie both as insurgents and on an establishment, and Trump got over the hurdle, Bernie didn't, but there was a movement to insurgency relative to establishment because the establishment had went through a institutional decay cycle.

And specifically, like we're talking about where there was so much wealth, so there was also so much regulatory capture and breakdown in the authentic integrity of the liberal democracy system and no real war or real difficulty in that way. I think there's a bunch of things that led to pretty significant institutional decay. That's one of the factors. The other one takes us a little bit more into the people, but does that start to address the question you're asking?

Jamie Wheal: Well, I mean, yeah. I mean, I'm just baffled and fascinated that somewhere between the UN and Davos and the Koch brothers, right, which is a wide spectrum, but nonetheless, the folks who had been playing the back and forth tennis game of the last half century, none of them seem to be particularly expressed in either of the most dynamic and volatile movements on both sides of the spectrum right now. And in some respects, I guess my question, especially back to that algorithmically driven and even state actor exacerbated, fracturing appears to be happening beyond their direct control or influence, or am I missing something?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Whenever you have an insurgency in an establishment, it'll have new economic forces behind it that we're not at the top of the previous stack and couldn't have been, but who wanted to, so they ride an insurgency. So when I look at the Fed and Treasury's relationship with BlackRock right now, and how the COVID related money has mostly gone through BlackRock rather than the Goldman and usual bankers of the 2008 [inaudible 00:57:59] one went through, I see that as a kind of... It's not that we've disintermediated the man, there's just competition for who's the man and all the way at the top there's financial warfare, at the top, I see that the new tech money made a lot of new money that was not part of the old Atlantic council kind of game, Atlanticist game. And so then you do start getting, not just a somewhat stable hegemonic system, you start to get a destabilized system because there's a lot of destabilizing forces, which means more competition at the top. I think actually thinking in the lens of class warfare, relative to race warfare, gender warfare, and left-right warfare is one of the important lenses.

And you were mentioning the example of in the very beginning where people were so upset in some TV show you were watching where they had to focus on something, but it kind of didn't matter what it was.

Jamie Wheal: It was The Crown and The Death Of King George.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: So, if you think of, you sounded like Gerard right then. This is what I was thinking because the [Girardian 00:55:03] conflict ideas that the conflict energy is just going to build in the system as an actual result of people just wanting what each other have until it finds a scapegoat. And the scapegoat doesn't really matter. It's just a release of embodied tension. It only matters that it kind of works and the tension gets released on it. But if I think about it from the perspective of like, since COVID the huge percentage of all small businesses shut down, massive unemployment, evictions, a breakdown in the real productive economic base and employment, but then the market rebounded and a handful of billionaires doubled their wealth in almost no period of time. And so you have a decoupling of the economy and the market and a much more radical coupling in terms of economic inequality.

The people who are up here are doing pretty well, kind of in the chaos, no matter what happens. Independent of their political agenda, they're just doing pretty well because they're isolated from the whole thing by the increased capacity. They have to navigate financialized markets. I think that it is beneficial for anyone there to have the conflict energy never focused on them. And so left-right conflict is awesome. It's kind of like the prison guards keeping the prison gangs fighting with each other so they don't fight the prison guards. And I think racial conflict is awesome and I think gender conflict is awesome. I think all of those conflicts that kind of keep people divided, it's not only that that would be awesome from a Chinese or a Russian perspective-

Jamie Wheal: We want to rewind that and give you the opportunity to do air quotes on those statements. But yes, I totally, was totally following you. Just don't want somebody to snip that one and yeah.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Yeah, exactly. So, but I think in the same way that the people divided against themselves is better for foreign forces, it's also better for anyone who is doing asymmetrically better than everyone else in that system.

Understanding Game Theory

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. So that actually that brings up an idea and I do not disagree with you on that particular assessment, but it kind of hints at this question of game theory, right. And one of the critiques that I've just sort of have heard around the existential risk community, the intellectual dark web, a number of folks that we know and share conversations with, is the idea that the same way that [inaudible 01:02:08] economic is. The idea that there was a rational economic agent and he behaved accordingly, and it was cost benefit analysis all day long. And then along came Dubner and Levitz and Freakonomics and Richard Dayler and this whole idea of like, people are quirky and they do random stuff against their own interest sometimes. And behavioral economics was born. There are times when it feels to me that game theory is running a model of sort of homo Machiavelli's, the coldblooded rational calculator.

And when you run game theory based on the homo Machiavelli is you almost always end up in bleak, bleak outcomes. And yet somehow, and I mean, this is how to just say now with a straight face or at least with and believe it, but somehow humans managed to do the right thing sometimes. And we also managed to muddle along. So is there the equivalent update to game theory that we've seen in the field of behavioral economics? Is there some muddle through factor? Is there some leaving space for grace? Is there something else to add into game theory so it is not always so reductively nihilistic in its conclusions?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Okay. This is such a good question. And the first place I'd go with it isn't going to address it all. So, let's stay with this one until it's properly addressed. If everyone had exceptional game theory insights, I think we would be better off because it doesn't always lead in a terribly dark direction. If you understand game theory well enough to understand an iterated prisoner's dilemma, not just a single one, but we do that one prisoner's dilemma and then we're the other people aren't gone from the planet. They're still actors. They are going to do more shit. Did we just engender a bunch of enmity? In the iterated prisoner's dilemma... In the single prisoner's dilemma, I have the incentive to defect. In the iterated one, I have the incentive to not defect because of what happens longer term.

If somebody understands that winning this near term battle, but engendering more enmity and then teaching them the weapons, that one, it just drives arms races kills everybody, that you just keep getting more and more dangerous wars and including more fucked up Info Wars and et cetera, that you can't keep winning at a extraction pollution, destruction, misinformation game on an exponential curve in a finite space. That thing self-terminates.

Jamie Wheal: That's the don't shit where you sleep.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: And so if people actually got the long term attractive base and better, there would be more motivation to actually figure out coordination games. And that's kind of what shelling pioneered during the cold war and mutual assured destruction was, yes, we reserve the right to defect on the agreement, but the games theoretically were actually both better to agree than to defect on it, which was the mutually assured destruction thing. So even for our own rational self-interested purposes, we can get that. So that, okay. That's the first thing I was going to say. There's another thing do you... should I go there?

Jamie Wheal: Yeah. I mean, basically, I mean, the thing I'm most curious about is, is there an update to game theory comparable to the behavioral econ update because through the cold war, I mean, we got mutually assured destruction, but both Soviets and U.S. game [inaudible 01:05:46] out the opposition and blew us up a hundred times, but somehow where else, on the maps. And somehow we're still here. So what is that leaving space for grace? What is that? What is the progression from homo Machiavellian to something that is realistic, but also potentially leaves us a little bit more wiggle room for humanity?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: Okay. So just for what it is worth in terms of the cold war example, I don't know the history in here perfectly, so I'm going to say it rough. There were a few nuclear theorists of how we should deal with that. Khan and [Shelling 01:06:34] were particularly important. And Khan was for an idea that said, we should have anti-missile missiles, really invest in that and underground bunkers so that we could survive a tactical nuclear war. And Shelling was a very strong no. We should actually... Nobody should have anti-missile missiles. We should have only offensive offensive. So that tactical escalates hold strategic so nobody does tactical. And he won that thing. We ended up going that direction, mutually assured destruction with kind of the result and because you couldn't limit the harm, nobody did it. Now, of course, there's other arguments of like, when someone got the wrong message and the actual person defected on orders in the last moment or something. That's something other then the homo game theory. But the game theory itself, actually, I think that was the important thing when rightly understood, led to, "Don't escalate the arms race here."

And so I think I... It's just important to understand. That's not even an update on game theory. It's just that most people have not understood it adequately because understanding it adequately realizes it ends in a dystopia attractor if you keep doing short term optimization. And so you have to figure out coordination things in an iterated situation.

When Should You To Take The Streets And March?

Jamie Wheal: All right. So, I got two final questions for you. The first goes back to the passion and action question and we will invoke that Nazi clause one more time, but I was just reading Nancy Koehn's book from Harvard business school on... It was on Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Rachel Carson, Shackleton and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And so we zero in on Bonhoeffer, right? I mean, I think he was a Lutheran minister or something along the line. He was a man of the cloth. And seeing what was happening in the thirties and even early forties in Germany, watching that progression, his wheelhouse, his leverage as far as activity perspective, [inaudible 00:22:59] insight wisdom would have been to be preaching. And then b.

Would have been to be preaching and then beseeching everyone to live a more Christlike life. A 100% is wheelhouse zone of expertise the whole bit, and potentially the highest leverage most scalable thing he could do would be kingdom of heaven on earth. And at some point, he switched gears and said, "I need to take that little bastard out." And that question is looming increasingly large. It feels the notions of silence is violence and you're can't be neutral on a moving train. And these kinds of things are really starting to come up and they are being asked and sometimes they're being weaponized, and all of us have to be holding this. But at what point, I'll even phrase it most specifically, what in 2020 would you actually take to the streets and march for? And what would it take you to do so? What trigger?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: I mean, just personally as a kid, my mom took me to lots of rallies, as a young kid where everybody was handcuffing themselves to old-growth trees so they wouldn't get cut down and things like that. That seemed like a great thing to do if it worked. Seemed like a totally reasonable civil engagement. So it's not so much for me, what would I take to the streets for? Because there's a lot of things that are important enough that if taken to the streets would make it better, I would do that. My question is does it make it better? And this is now a strategic question. And this is where a lot of times I think people will have a truth, but it is a partial truth, it is so partial it ends up actually being misguided.

And so there's this question in ethics, the virtue ethics versus utilitarian ethics. Utilitarian ethics, I'll do the thing no matter what, if it achieves the right outcome because the outcome is what matters for everybody. The virtue ethic is I'm going to do the right thing just in some intrinsic sense of rightness no matter what. And they both fail. There's reductio ad absurdum arguments on both where if the right thing is, to tell the truth, and do you say yes, there are Jews in the house from the Nazis come by? No, that's nonsense in that moment I want to be more utilitarian and say, it's a right to lie in this moment. So one has to kind of think about the relationship of virtue ethics and utilitarian ethics. Is what I'm doing in integrity with myself in the world as best I understand it and is it leading to the things that are actually support the quality of life for everything I care about, which also ends up requiring it to support the quality of life for things that I'm not as focused on caring about, but that are interconnected. And so-

Jamie Wheal: I'd like to skip. Just bring that to life quickly. What would be a dynamic where that was true?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: If my marching, I have to say, what results from the march? Who is going to change their mind or their behavior in which way? So if I'm marching in a way that brings an injustice to the minds of people in a way that actually sensitizes them to that injustice. So people who didn't know about something and didn't seem to care about it now care. We've actually engendered authentic care. Great. That's actually a valuable thing. If I bring something to the street in a way where everyone who already agrees with me just now agrees more fervently, but everyone who disagrees also disagrees more fervently and a lot of people who were in the middle and who didn't really have a stance one way or the other now disagree with me because the thing that I'm doing isn't appealing to them. It's scaring them or something else, that might be actually damaging what I care about long run.

Jamie Wheal: I mean I hear you. I track all of that and there's still some element of that's just a very clever way to stay on my couch.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: No, because you say I'm committed to figuring out effective solutions. I mean, Malcolm X talked about a lot of economic solutions. He wanted to actually have the black nationalism idea was he wanted black police officers, black judges, but starting with black business owners who were going to be the economics that influence government. And so there were education and economic and civil engagement of increasing their own quality of local communities. I think strategy of what's effective is hard. And I think, in the presence of not knowing what's effective it's easy to either take one of two dysfunctional approaches. Which is do nothing or do something dumb. Do something that is strategically ineffective. But I think both of those are not okay. Because neither of them will actually be effective towards what I care about. Love can't be impotent. So what I was going to say, this was one of the things I really realized that the protests as a kid was, sometimes those guys were handcuffing themselves to the tree would keep the tree from being cut down for a minute.

If they never changed the economics of it, usually they failed. Eventually, the thing failed and the guys ended up cutting the trees down. And what I saw was that the people who were willing to take action and really cared had very low strategic insight and tools of power. And the people like the military-industrial complex and whatever that had very high strategic tools of power had usually pretty narrow interests that were willing to externalize or directly cause harm elsewhere. And that was the head heart divide at the level of the planet that seemed clearly existential to me. And it seemed that power was pretty decoupled with virtue, wisdom, and goodness, other than kind of the fake signaling of those things for the game of power.

And that was existential, that those things had to be recoupled. And so I kind of would think about that as the will center, the heart center, the mind center, which is the will of saying I'm actually committed to being effective and I'm committed to learning how to be effective, which means I'm committed to studying every failure I have and saying exactly strategically why and studying the...

Now the study is here. The will is the commitments to not become ineffective or disempowered. And the heart center is the what is actually sacred to me that I'm in service to. And I think the key thing here is recognizing life is sacred. Whatever part of life I'm focused on is connected to the rest of life. And if I'm not holding the whole thing, I'm probably driving an arms race where the thing that I'm okay causing harm to will end up harming the thing that I care about. And so how do we get clear strategy, devotion, and will aligned? To me, that's a minimum requisite for people to be effective. And then that in the individual and then the groups of people aligning who are all in that way for collective capacity.

Jamie Wheal: I mean, it feels to me a potential synthesis of the game-theoretic dynamics, as well as utilitarian and virtuous ethics, is effectively soul force. It's what Gandhi called Satyagraha. And that idea of being lived by love. That sense of because can I run all the traps? Yes, I can. Can I decide which interest I'm running with which hat, with which lens at each specific instance or juncture? Yes, I can. Or there is a surrender to the rightness of those three things that you just described and then letting us belived from there. That's the one I'm honestly, that's my last card in the deck at this point is us somehow collectively finding our way to that. And I've got half an idea here, and I don't know, maybe you can complete the other half, but as you were describing the effectively, when would I take to the streets? When would I March and be counted as one of a throng? One of the number.

And I've lost all my leverage. I've lost all my individuality. I've lost all my unique contributions. I'm marching to be, whether or not there's an outcome. It's sort of never mind do you, I mean, yes, you're hoping for utility, but it is something that I can't not do. Is there something that's the reverse of leave no trace ethics? Which if people have been to Birmingham they're familiar with that. If you've spent any time in wilderness areas or national forest service land there's principles on leave no trace. And that's based my actions as an individual in this seemingly infinite wilderness. I could kind of do anything. I could walk anywhere, I could leave, I could bury my teepee, my toilet paper under a rock and what difference would it make? I could throw an Apple core.

But leave no trace is saying, we commit to governing our actions based on the aggregate impact of thousands of us, of tens of thousands of us. And if one of us did that thing and ten thousand of us also did that thing, then there would be irreparable harm. So can you get that through the looking glass and back out into global consent? So is there a way for us to have an ethic of what ought I do based on the amplified model of what we all must do or can never do? What would be the inversion of LNT for an ethic of care and concern?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: It's interesting. I mean, that's kind of Sartre's categorical comparative. Which another one of those valuable ethical frames that is valuable but also has failure cases. You mentioned Gandhi and the Satyagraha movement. Gandhi was obviously not just doing himself something that if everyone else did it would lead somewhere. He was working very strategically to ensure that that happened and learning from the things that failed to continue to be more actually effective. Both in integrity and effective. So at the individual level, people realize factory farms are the whore that they are, should they stop eating factory farm meat even though that doesn't stop factory farms, but they're if everyone did this and I just won't be complicit, yes, they should do that. And is that sufficient? Is that the full extent of what that individual can do to address that thing? Nope. So I guess the, how do I live in a way that is aligned with maximum integrity myself is an individualistic question, but then how do I also have increasing capacity to influence others to do that? I guess I wanted it to be both of those questions together.

How Can We Leave No Trace to Make a Mark?

Jamie Wheal: Then my final question, I mean, it's sort of seems from leave no trace to make a mark. Let us show up in this instance, really not just trying to live rightly but to figure it out together. So you mentioned... Okay.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: I think, there's a very dangerous ego trap that people should just watch out for. Wanting to be seen as on the right side of history, wanting to be seen as I did the right thing here is a very easy way. It's our susceptibility to that, or ethical susceptibility to that is a way that we can be captured by someone telling us this is the right side of history and this whole group of people will judge you as wrong otherwise. So I actually take my own desire for group belonging and my desire for significance hijacks me into something that I haven't necessarily understood well enough, is that the right thing for me to be doing?

Jamie Wheal: Well, that seems to me, it's a pattern interrupt for sure. What side of history do I want to be on and subtext and which way does it seem it's breaking, but it could go either way. I mean, it feels what it can also do is decouple someone from short term game-theoretic self-interest. So they're, oh shit, this one's going down in the history books. I actually need to make the choice that I can look my grandchildren in the eye on. But then also as you just described, precisely because it's a pattern interrupt and I'm now in flux between meaning-making anchors, I can also be swayed into a group thing decision on which side is actually the right side.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: I think the thing that you were saying earlier that I want to come back to is, you were, okay, so are you saying everybody needs better quality education to be able to understand? And education in the Latin sentence of the development of the capacity of the individual not just cognitive education, but also their own ability to increase their own will and discipline so that they can continue to be more effective and their own ability to understand and work with their own emotions. When I say education, I mean or cultural enlightenment and that widest sense of the development of humans that have the capacities, cognitive, emotional, social, volitional, to be able to be in service to that which they would most care about and that are most worthy of caring about. Because they have been deeply introspective and reflective. I see no solutions that don't rest on that.

I see no solutions that don't rest on the increasing comprehensive development cognitively, emotionally, interpersonally, volitionally of every person and then their increased capacity to work together well with each other in their commitment to do so. Recognizing that if you don't, those people don't leave the world, they go somewhere else and take a different position and do stuff. Any solution that isn't based on that I bet against. 

What is the Right Basis for Certainty and Trust? 

Jamie Wheal: Well, I mean, I think we had a pretty good run at it. I mean, back to the Pox Americana. I mean, that was about as good a lie [inaudible 01:24:17] as we possibly could have had right in the middle of the fairway, all we had to do was just keep whacking it. And now we're in the same trap around the corner with a thunderstorm coming. So to go back to your hat tip to Eisenhower in his farewell address, if he had one thing to say and he cautioned against the military-industrial complex, what is the one thing that you would advise us all to keep our eye on, on the road ahead?

Daniel Schmachtenberger: What is the right basis for certainty and trust? What is the right process to go through to have adequate certainty to act acknowledging the consequentiality of inaction as well? And what is the right basis for trust of an authority of an in group of your own process, recognizing that everything is being weaponized? Every physical tool can be turned into a weapon. I can build a house with a hammer. I can hit somebody in the head with it. Because the tool is just an extension of capacity. Every cognitive tool and every religious tool, anything that affects and moves humans can be turned into a weapon and they all are right now. That doesn't mean that every time something looks like a virtue, it's actually a weapon, but it also doesn't mean it's a virtue. It means I don't know there are real virtues and there's virtue signaling.

The only way to know is to use my discernment. To really be present, to use my discernment, to not have a default kind of way of being. And my own ingroup is sometimes using their virtue as weapons and sometimes they don't even know it. And then sometimes it's authentic virtue. Sometimes it's not authentic virtue, but missing so much, it'll still be the wrong choice because other kinds of virtues are clearly missing. So it's kind of how do I take increasing responsibility for being effective towards what I care about factoring everything.

Jamie Wheal: Just that, just that.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: That I would leave people with. How do I take increasing responsibility to be effective towards what I most care about factoring everything progressively better?

Jamie Wheal: Beautiful, beautiful. Well, Daniel, thank you. Thank you for coming on the Homegrown Humans and thank you for your work in the world. Trying to keep this whole thing on the tracks.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: I want to hear your answer to the Eisenhower question?

Jamie Wheal: Eisenhower question. Fuck. Beware the military industrial complex. I mean it's fun. I mean, it's going to seem super old school, but it's going to being aware of false messiahs And false idols.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: The one you said and the one I said actually mapped to each other quite nicely.

Jamie Wheal: All right, buddy. Well, listen, man. Thank you for making time on a weekend.

Daniel Schmachtenberger: When you say that, it brought up so another biblical quote for, we could pick any religion that had some wisdom and then use them. But the quote in Ecclesiastes of "Time to kill and a time to heal in a time to sow and a time to reap in a time to every purpose under heaven." If there's a time for everything, so basically there was thou shall not kill announcing there's a time to kill. So it's a deeper more nuanced teaching saying that everything is medicine sometimes everything is poison sometimes. Well, then how do I know what the fucking right thing is in a particular moment? Well, it's presence, earnestness clarity, discernment is to have us to be able to sense beyond any specific formula what is actually the right thing? And that's the not having a false idol.

Because the model of this is the right thing to do has actually decoupled me from sensing the moment. And sometimes very different strategies and sometimes virtue ethics and sometimes utilitarian ethics sometimes taking to the streets and sometimes an economic strategy or a diplomatic strategy or an educational strategy. If I think about your no false idols and I say, okay, so what is the real idol is reality itself? And I can never understand it fully. So how do I be in direct relationship with reality? Well, it's any idea that is always the right thing to do is a false idol. So how do I have more presence in my connection with reality continuously, authentically that's informing right action in the moment? That's kind of how I relate the one that you said and the one I said, of how do I take more responsibility for what I care about?

Jamie Wheal: Nice. I love you brother. That was awesome. Thank you.

1 Comment

  • Rory McGill
    The conclusion seems similar to the Buddha’s methodology of contemplation and the eightfold path
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