TMMW 7: The Kingdom of God is Within You, But You’re Trapped in the Metaverse

Crunching the numbers on spiritual advice

I never seem to get far from the claims of techno-futurists who think it’s a great idea to upload their consciousness or who look forward to having AI take over the world.

Someone wrote to ask Wired’s spiritual advice columnist Meghan O’Gieblyn whether life would be better in the metaverse. Essentially, you don’t need to put on special gear:

Even now, amid the persistent, time-bound entropy of the physical world, you can access this virtual realm whenever you’d like, from anywhere in the world—no $300 headset required. It will be precisely as thrilling as you want it to be.

Behold, the Kingdom of Metaverse is here!

It’s the imagination.

Yeah, but I want the headset, you might say.

And I would, actually.

If I’m going to be in a metaverse, I want to have some bit of artifice that helps me discern myself.

In the beginning (or near enough thereafter), Adam and Eve put on clothing.

“Oh my God, we’re in a metaverse!” Eve said. “Adam, let’s customize our avatars.”

No longer were they one with everything. They defined their boundaries and sought to name things in the universe.

Maybe they were trying to identify themselves as the players of the game. Doing that successfully involves letting go of some pretty big preconceived notions about life, the universe, and everything.

Ready Player One

It is not the ideas we do not have that block our thinking but the ideas that we do have.

– Edward de Bono

Deconstruction is underrated.

I don’t know why de Bono isn’t lauded everywhere. Why, for example, is Steve Jobs taken to be a guru who in the same breath one might mention, “you know, like Gandhi, or Jobs.”

Because he drove a team to innovate and promote some new products, and it was successful.

We like products.

When I was a little kid, I would carry a toy car with me everywhere I went. I just wanted to have something in my hand, and I liked that it was sleek. I could press it to a surface and feel the smooth roll of the wheels. If nothing else (the metaverse) made sense, that did.

It’s valuable to consider the possibility of life being a simulation, a metaverse, a matrix, because doing so gets you to confront what it means to be a unique human.

On the face of it, this whole simulation thing is an absurd thing to assert. It is. I know it is.

But, if we aren’t willing to consider it just because it’s so ludicrous we’d be stuck in normalcy bias. Let’s face it, there’s plenty of ludicrous stuff about the world that we have come to accept, so why not entertain this possibility?

What’s most appealing about the matrix is that since it’s a simulation you can break the rules. Gravity, physics, time — you can do anything you want.

To me, that’s the point. When you were born [into the simulation], things were a certain way. With each moment, everything irreversibly changes. For the span of your life, you decide what happens.

People do the impossible all the time. They start families — they bring entirely new human beings into this incarnation. They create stories that become multi-generational favorites. They solve physics problems. They look up at the night sky. They release new products.

This metaverse is a story and it’s also a game. It doesn’t start out with everything in your favor. Some people play the game of life on Hard Mode.

No matter how big the matrix is, there is a part of you outside the simulation, and that part is even bigger.

There’s no denying the appeal of a virtual space in which I could be the character of a heroic game and bring light, freedom and justice to the galaxy.

But it is also horrifying to feel that the simulation belongs to someone else. It would horrify me to wake up and find myself in virtual reality. To know that I have dreamt inside the intelligence of some humming, indifferent, offgassing server rack.

The mind can only see what it is prepared to see.

– de Bono

Why does the metaverse seem inevitable? It’s wild to me that we would seek to engineer such things without even really trying very hard to resolve more basic concerns, like “Who am I?”

We occupants of the modern world believe implicitly that we are enmeshed in a story of progress that’s building toward a blinding transformation (the Singularity, the Omega Point, the descent of the True and Only Metaverse) that promises to radically alter reality as we know it. It’s a story that is as robust and as flexible as any religious prophecy. Any technological failure can be reabsorbed into the narrative, becoming yet another obstacle that technology will one day overcome.

– O’Gieblyn

The tool we strive to create is the solution in search of a problem.

So how do you feel about the boundary between the physical and the digital becoming more and more blurred?

I like snorkeling, but I like to take the mask off. Part of what I like about snorkeling is that eventually I won’t have to snorkel, eventually I’ll get to do other things.

The metaverse is inevitable because we like products, and we like to leave the most important questions for later.

I’d just prefer to have the metaverse be a product rather than for me to become a product of the metaverse.

Shifting Roles

For the past week, I did a little experiment while I drove. Instead of just seeing cars, I looked for the person behind the wheel of the car. I made an effort to look at each individual person in the oncoming lane.

First off, I noticed how many people are alone. One person per car — great big American car, great big American lanes, just one person inside.

Environmental impact and divisive social planning aside, you notice when you do something like that how everyone is just in their little thing.

Singing, listening to their thoughts, texting, or zoning out hardcore.

Making sense of the rest of the world behind the wheel of the car.

We all go from one role to another. When I step outside my car, I become Shopping Stephen. I am not here to socialize, I am here to pick up a few groceries and be on my way.

Shopping Stephen is no more real, no more “me,” than Driving Stephen.

Shifting roles shifts something in the matrix.

Give me a lesson plan, a classroom, and a salary and I become Professor Stephen.

When life takes a role away, you find yourself in a new one. You don’t always choose your role, and no role really encompasses the entirety of your being.

A role is a program in the matrix.

I think one secret to breaking the rules of the matrix comes from flexing our freedom beyond the roles and dynamics we have.

Customer and provider. Boss and employee. Stranger and stranger.

By discerning your role, you gain freedom to operate outside that role.

Life is a simulation that matters. Winning at life isn’t about collecting points or becoming a very important character.

We win by breaking out of the simulation. Breaking out of the simulation means stepping into something true.

I think we do this best through old-school means — by striving to create beauty, by working on ourselves, by authentically connecting and reflecting the best in each other.