“We are powerfully imprisoned in these Dark Ages simply by the terms in which we have been conditioned to think.” — Buckminster Fuller
To many Bitcoiners, “Bitcoin is hope” and the future appears bright. However, this is not the case for many non-Bitcoin people right now. Despite this, I think Bitcoiners and non-Bitcoiners alike can agree that our collective experience currently feels mired in muck. Our world has rapidly descended into acute polarization, and even within today’s chaos, fear and confusion, most people can point fingers and easily identify where problems exist. While many of our “leaders” appear to capitalize on the socially pervasive finger-pointing by simply providing even more emphatic finger-pointing, our political bureaucrats cannot step up to fulfill the role of the independent, creative problem solver. We Bitcoin plebeians who view the mayhem and disruption through the lens of Bitcoin often try to help by providing an alternative, insightful and analytical narrative as we attempt to “orange pill” friends and family. But like the crazy aunt in the basement, we are often either politely ignored, ridiculed or, at times, outright vilified.
Humans are biologically diverse analog creatures, yet here we are living in an ever-increasingly digital world of ones and zeros of a design not fully of our own making. Could this disconnect and lack of attunement between the more nuanced biologic analog and the binary digital be the basis of, or at least have something to do with, today’s culturally chaotic zeitgeist? It’s definitely worth exploring.
The cognitive bias of science, business and technology have long valued the idea of numeration: “If it can be measured, it can be managed.” Others have taken this ethos further and asserted that if something cannot be measured and managed, then it has no “value.” And while that may make pragmatic, logical sense to some, the artist in every soul knows the smell of puppies, an act of kind compassion or the spiritual touch of a glorious sunset are all immeasurable, invaluable and highly memorable aspects of life. The truth is that which is immeasurable and motivationally inspirational in life paradoxically makes life “worth” living. The value is subjective and uniquely individual to each of us. And very importantly, that which we inherently value intrinsically motivates us. Basic instinctual drives and intrinsic motivations emanate from ancient survival centers of the brain, and being precognitive, are not primarily logical or rational. If human behaviors are not driven by mere cognition and logic, why is not more value placed on exploring and developing affective computational design attuned to how humans naturally engage? Could it be that the infatuation with measurement has precluded engineers from venturing into the “immeasurable?”
If our world is increasingly devoid of that which inspires awe and makes us human, and instead enslaves us in body and mind via measured performance through exogenous and standardized digital platforms, then we will continue to experience increasing mental illness, disease and social malaise. Mother Nature is sending us clear messages. Are we paying attention and listening? Are we attuned with ourselves, nature and each other? Or are we hedonically escaping or perhaps angry and contracted in our polarized fear? How do we break our chains of control and claim our humanity and self-sovereignty in an increasingly centralized, binary and digital world where our behaviors and performance are measured and exclusively valued using exogenous criteria? Can Bitcoin fix this?
“The conquest of nature is to be achieved through number and measure.” — Rene Descartes
Our powerful digital computation sits on the shoulders of the 17th century Age of Reason’s father of Western binary thinking, Rene Descartes (1596–1650). The Cartesian mechanistic view of the material world believed that man was the only dualistic creature, consisting of the separation between body (matter) and mind, while relegating the animals to the lower mechanistic world of nature’s laws and instinct. In 1637, Descartes introduced his “Discourses” that the world is like a machine, that its parts could be removed and individually studied and then reassembled again to see the larger picture, sans sensory inputs. This rational reductionism comprises most of contemporary thought and science, including today’s computational science and design/engineering.
Coupled with industrialization and its global scaling of mass-produced goods and services, the technological outcomes from Cartesian legacy thinking have been nothing less than astounding. The avant-garde Cartesian epistemology and mechanistic thinking that led to these seemingly miraculous outcomes cannot be effectively argued as not having served the mass of humanity and raised our quality of life across the globe.
Yet despite all our advances and thanks to the great thinkers and scientists — from the dualistic Descartes to the certainty of Newtonian physics and many more — here we are. We have hit the wall. All that we once knew, trusted and believed appears to be rapidly unraveling or fake. Amid all of the abundance made possible by measurement, science and industrial scaling, families and communities are being torn apart, children are tethered to digital devices unable to freely play, and enforced compliance to overt and covert centralized authority erodes our basic human liberties.
“Totalitarian thought asks us to consider, much less accept, only one hypothesis at a time.” — Nick Szabo
So how can we as unique individuals rise above the stuck and muck about us? How can we explore the nuances of uncertainty and recreate ourselves as we seek correspondence and attunement with emergent decentralized systems of trustless self-governance? Can we design for this through Bitcoin?
Nick Szabo, a cryptographer, early Bitcoin developer and brilliant polymath, suggests we practice “quantum thought” and writes in a 2012 blog post:
“… quantum thought … demands that we simultaneously consider often mutually contradictory possibilities. Thinking about and presenting only one side’s arguments gives one’s thought and prose a false patina of consistency: a fallacy of thought and communications…. If you are unable or unwilling to think in such a quantum or scholastic manner, it is much less likely that your thoughts are worthy of others’ consideration.”
Szabo’s “quantum thought” celebrates the value of seeing things from divergent perspectives. It is predicated upon human thought, cognition itself, as perhaps the pivotal means for potential creative outcomes.
However, unlike quantum thought, binary thinking simplifies complex ideas or concepts and relegates them into one side or another. It disregards and devalues the gray area, the uncertain nuance in the middle. Binary thinking may appear to provide certainty during uncertain times and perhaps provides needed affirmation or a sense of belonging to a group. However, binary thinking can narrow us into a stuck, dogmatic rigidity that can quickly lead to polarization and conflict.
Consider instead the dialectic or the Venn diagram. It is the middle area, where one idea or concept converges or overlaps with another, where the real value is. This seemingly chaotic and often-times uncomfortable convergence of ideas and concepts is where the Holy Grail of creative potential resides. This is the playful exploratory engagement from which creative growth and transformation spring. Play, as defined here, is the first principle of self-generated, self-motivated and self-sustaining engagement design, whereas gaming and behaviorist design are not.
“I dwell in possibility.” — Emily Dickinson
Are you beginning to see the whole of how play and Bitcoin are integrally interconnected?
A fundamental premise of chaos and emergence theory is that as systems display more entropy and become more chaotic, self-organizing patterns of complexity begin to emerge. As Nietzsche once insightfully said, “One must have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”
It’s early. But indications are that we are in “labor pains,” birthing the new decentralized and disintermediated “quantum era.” The emergence of Bitcoin is one obvious and telling indication. Legacy Cartesian thinking and Newtonian physics work and provide us certainty until they don’t. Hence, if we wish to engage the frontiers beyond certainty — the gray, immeasurable, nuanced and inaccurate fields — we need to play. If humans are to explore the universe of paradox and hold two or more divergent and contrary thoughts or concepts together without going raving mad, we must begin to look at the role of play differently and with open, softer eyes.
In doing so, we will discover that play is literally the means by which humans develop psychological and individual self-sovereignty. Play is nature’s fundamental, first principles design for engagement and it’s how nature signals to us whether we are in attunement with ourselves and our environment, hence play gauges and promotes our sustainability. By looking closely through the lens of play science, which I have been doing for over 13-plus years, one can see play as nature’s meta-guidance and reward system. Those who play, adapt, create and thrive are rewarded with countless health benefits. Those who do not become rigid, stunted, ill-adapted and are inevitably superseded by playful creative innovators. Play drives evolution. It is not optional or trivial. Knowing what play is, and is not, is fundamental to authentically engage in this world and recreating ourselves.
While there remains much to discuss and explore relating to play in our emergent quantum era and Bitcoin application design, please allow me to cut to the chase and conclude by dropping some original, controversial insights I wrote and published years ago which you might now playfully contemplate further on your own:
“Play (itself) may serve as the ‘strange attractor’ that self-organizes the ever-increasing complexity within chaos. Play resides in both Newtonian and quantum systems as demonstrated by attunement (deep engagement of one with some ‘other’ — a person, object, activity, etc.) and entanglement (wave-particle superposition). Ongoing research into play may find play as a fractal strange attractor and organizing principle for both attunement and entanglement. Perhaps one day we will discover that play serves as the strange attractor between attunement and entanglement, the Newtonian and quantum, and as a major organizing principle of the uni/multiverse. This appears to ‘fit,’ since play is the genesis of creativity (there is no creativity without play), is iterative, and elegant in its simplicity of recreative design. Truly, it is only by being playful that we can even begin to conceive of the paradoxical nature of the universe.”
A deeper understanding of play and the various patterns and states of play will have direct applications in the development of Bitcoin distributed, disintermediated, peer-to-peer engagement design. I boldly assert that play is essential to Bitcoin’s emergent self-governance, identity and disintermediated social media and gaming design applications. By integrating universal “play precepts” all people already intrinsically and intuitively understand, we move closer to a time when we have not only “humanized technology,” but we have put humanity back into what it means to be human.
This is a guest post by Kristen Cozad. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.