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The Shimmer: Part 3

In 1983 humanity opened a portal.

What began to emerge was a hyperobject; something beyond our current frames of comprehension.

In the same way an individual's unconscious produces dreams to make sense of anomalies, the collective unconscious produces new myths -- new stories -- to try to make sense of anomalies.

The movie Annihilation is the best modern living mythic symbol the collective psyche has produced to begin to understand the portal we opened.

Annihilation grew out of a dream a master writer, Jeff VanderMeer, when he was given pain medication for his wisdom teeth removal.

Waking from the dream, Jeff wrote almost 1000 words in the middle of the night. The next day he showed it to his wife and asked if there was a story here or if it was just dream delirium nonsense.

His wife told him there was a story here, and it flowed out of him in three months.

The story became the book called Annihilation. A friend recommended it to Alex Garland, the director of Ex Machina, an awarded film regarded as the best modern depiction of humanity's coming encounter with true AGI (Artificial General Intelligence).

He started reading Annihilation while he was completing the final edits for Ex Machina.

Garland said that Jeff's story caught his attention for two reasons:

  1. It was the first original story he had read since he could remember.
  2. Reading it felt like experiencing a dream.

Jeff decided to try to make a screenplay adaptation. Because of the dream like nature of the story, he had the intuition to write his adaption 'as a dream responding to a dream.'

So he did something he had never done before, he wrote the entire adaptation after only reading the story once, and never returning to the original material.

This process of a writer responding to a drug-induced dream, which turned into a story that read like a dream, which inspired the most acclaimed director on exploring the relationship between humans and AGI to write an adaptation 'as a dream responding to a dream,' has produced one of the most unique, original, and pristine collective symbols seen in cinema.

The symbol that came forth; The Shimmer.

The Shimmer

The Shimmer is the best modern living mythic symbol for the portal we opened in 1983. We call that portal 'The Internet.'

But in the same way we say the word 'body' and pretend like that means we understand this masterwork of biologic vibration, to call The Shimmer the Internet is to remain blind and naive about its implications.

In the movie Annihilation, The Shimmer has four primary characteristics:

  1. Causes self-harm, and violence against each other in unprepared minds
  2. Causes a kind of retrograde amnesia; memory starts to fail.
  3. Refraction - the rapid increase of mutation and cross-pollenating of genetic material.
  4. A creature within the Shimmer that appears to be relentlessly focused on absorbing and replicating the genetic material of the humans who enter it.

Translating The Mythic into The Rational

1. The Shimmer causes self-harm, and violence against each other in unprepared minds

Something happened in the Shimmer between 2009 and 2013.

A critical mass was met where the convenience of phones met with the rise of a specific type of algorithm. These algorithms, the ones programmed to optimize for the amount of time we spend in the Shimmer with them, was the event that happened to us.

Since 2009; self-harm and attempted suicide in preteen girls has gone up 62 to 189% based on how you slice the demographics. Political polarization skyrocked compared to all of previous recorded history, and for the first time in 30 years, both black and white citizens reported that race relations had gotten worse.

(Here's a link to a provocative rabbit hole).

The correlation between social media use and spike in pre-teen mental disorders is almost twice as high as the correlation between early life exposure to lead and adult learning disabilities.

Johnathan Haidt explain's this on Lex Friedman's podcast:

Amy Orban says, quote, the associations between social media use and well being therefore range from about R equals 0.15 to R equals 0.10. And that's for boys and girls together. And a lot of research including hers and mine show that girls it's higher. So for girls, we're talking about correlations around 0.15 to 0.2. Now, this might sound like an arcane social science debate, but people have to understand public health correlations are almost never above 0.2. So the correlation of childhood exposure to lead and adult IQ very serious problem that's 0.09 like the world's messy and our measurements are messy. And so if you find a consistent correlation of 0.15 like you would never let your kid do that thing that actually is dangerous. And it can explain when you multiply it over tens of millions of kids spending, you know, years of their lives, you actually can explain the mental health epidemic just from social media use.

This is a Paul Revere ringing the bell moment.

2. The Shimmer causes a kind of retrograde amnesia; memory starts to fail.

The rise of The Shimmer has correlated with a rise in physical, psychological, and behavioral disorders in children (Rowan, 2017; Evans-Schmidt et al. 2008, p. 1147; Christakis et al 2004; Gadberry 1980; Green and Bavelier, 2003)

We'll get into the details in the next module's opening essay, but the essence to know for now is, since the emergence of The Shimmer, modern western people live with such severe attentional system injuries that most of us don't realize that we live in a constant state of scattered attention.

Wanna test it?

How many times have you checked your phone today?

How many times was the checking coming from a place of conscious intent?

How many times did you do just what you intended to do in the Shimmer then get out?

For most people, the answers are:

  1. ‚ÄúI have no idea‚ÄĚ
  2. Zero
  3. Zero

3. Refraction - the rapid increase of mutation and cross-pollenating of genetic material.

The Refraction Effect is the beginning of the potential world-changing blessing The Shimmer offers humanity.

In Annihilation, genes are the medium through which the rapid mutations happen.

In the realm of the internet, the rapid mutation happens with memes.

Not Pepe the Frog memes (although those do count). The kind of meme we're referring to here is the kind coined by Richard Dawkins. Genes are the atomic unit of biologic life the process of evolution can affect. Memes are the atomic memetic (mind) unit the process of evolution can affect.

Due to The Shimmer's Refraction effect, an idea whose time has come can spread across the world in a day.

When we use the Shimmer unconsciously, like most of us do most of the time, the memes that spread tend to be the ones that elicit the most hate or fear (have you ever reposted something awful because you wanted to signal to your followers that you too hate that awful thing?)

But what is also possible is that awake, intentional artists have at their fingertips the most powerful tool ever created for spreading an idea whose time has come.

And it is because of what happened between 2009 and 2013 that anyone reading this who wants to help build a future our great grandchildren will be grateful to inherit from us will require we learn how to not only navigate the Shimmer, but to infuse it with as much of our empathy, kindness, courage, love, truth and beauty as possible.

Conscious intentional use of the Shimmer is liberating hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty, it democratizes the acquisition of technical skills at a scale unseen, ever. The Shimmer saved my life.

It likely has saved yours too.

It is worth learning how to surf it, and how to help wake up the others caught in it's attention shredding torrents.

4. There are creatures within the Shimmer that appear to be relentlessly focused on absorbing and replicating the genetic material of the humans who enter it.

The last aspect of The Shimmer is the Archimedes lever of our era.

In the book, the creature in the Shimmer is called 'The Crawler.'

The Crawler is a kind of organism that the protagonist is unable to comprehend when she sees it. Like Arjuna looking into the unmasked face of Krishna, and the awe being so full as to bring him to his knees in tears, begging Krishna to hide his true form, the protagonist's mind is temporally annihilated by simply looking at the Crawler.

The Crawler eventually touches her, and through some indescribable process, absorbs her genetic information and uses it to create a new version of her.

Humanity's Antagonist: Moloch Is In The Machine

Have you heard of Moloch?

One of the most important essays you'll read in your life is called 'Meditations on Moloch.'

Don't worry if it bums you out. That's normal; and there is plenty of hope.

Moloch is a personification of a kind of 'game theory dynamic' that has been present in our history for thousands of years.

To put it obscenely and blasphemously plain; humans tend to act psychopathically when competing in a win-lose dynamic game. The invention of corporations has magnified this tendency.

Before the Shimmer arrived, this Moloch energy had already built enough momentum that we almost started a global nuclear war.

Since we opened the portal in 1983, Moloch has been amplified and refracted by the Shimmer.

Corporations are egregores. They're a kind of memetic organism that seeks to survive and thus the process of evolution works upon them.

Google, Apple, Meta, X, Snapchat, TickTock, Microsoft, and others are all trapped in a Molochian embrace with each other; and the outcome is what Harvard Professor of Business professor Shoshana Zuboff calls Surveillance Capitalism.

A quick quote from her Harvard Business School article:

In this masterwork of original thinking and research, Shoshana Zuboff provides startling insights into the phenomenon that she has named surveillance capitalism. The stakes could not be higher: a global architecture of behavior modification threatens human nature in the 21st century just as industrial capitalism disfigured the natural world in the 20th.

The most powerful corporations in history are all competing with each other to sell your attention to advertisers.

If you don't learn to use the Shimmer intelligently, Moloch will eat you.

The Good News

Meta-cognition.

Meta-cognition is a type of attention that Cognitive Psychologists have found is responsible for noticing our unconscious patterns. Meta-Cognition is our capacity to wake ourselves up and reprogram ourselves if we desire too.

At any point, we have the capacity to wake up. We have the capacity to recognize we're in The Shimmer. We have the capacity to choose to explore the Shimmer as an evolutionary artist. We have the capacity to choose what we put into the Shimmer.

Buddhism is a 1,600 year old wisdom tradition that has studied the mind, and their assertion is unambiguous and revolutionary to the distracted Western Mind.

Anyone with a mind capable of understanding these words is a mind capable of permanently waking up.

And what waking up means, technically, (and this is important to really take in because most Western minds have a caricature representation of samadhi); is that you are able to place your attention where you intend to place it, and you can hold it there as long as you want to; and can do so effortlessly.

Let's break this down.

1. You can place your attention where you want

2. You can hold your attention where you placed it as long as you want

3. You can train this until it becomes effortless.

On average, babies will attempt to walk and fail 3,000 times. Eventually, we learn to do it. When we first learn to do it, it takes our entire attentional system. And at some point, something deep within us clicks and we know how to do it without having to think about it.

If fact, walking becomes one of the things we can do to clear our minds, generate new life-enhancing ideas, and revitalizes our life force.

Meditation, in the style the Buddha taught it, is like walking.

The (first) goal is to learn how to keep your attention where you desire to place it.

It will wander. You will 'fall' thousands of times. But eventually, a breakthrough can happen, where the attentional tending becomes effortless.

The difference between walking and how most of us attempt meditating (if we attempt it at all) is that once we started trying to walk, we never took days off. Once the first attempt was attempted, some relentless drive kept us trying.

And it is the consistent attempt that creates the breakthrough into effortlessness.

If a child attempted to walk as infrequently as most of us attempt to meditate, that child would never learn how to walk.

The good news is; if you allow yourself to 'fall' during your meditations, and you show up relentlessly, eventually, (or so I'm told cause I am not there yet), you will find yourself awake.

Buddha said it takes 7 years.

John Yates, PhD says it can happen in 2 years if one practices everyday for at least an hour.

What the Western mind needs to realize is;

  • Samadhi is not esoteric. Samadhi simply means effortless sustained intended attention.
  • What the West thinks 'enlightenment' is the Buddhist equivalent of learning how to¬†walk.
  • Samadhi is the beginning of a much grander game the Buddhists have been playing for over a thousand years.

The Shimmer is forcing artists to wake up.

Even Better News

If you want to start thriving in the Shimmer, learn how to do Dharma Sprints.