A Brief Introduction to a Darwinian Theory of Reality (video)

I collaborated with Infinity Maps to create a 10 min video that introduces the paradigm in my forthcoming book The Romance of Reality, and I recently appeared on The David Pakman show. Links inside.

Hello Neuromantics!

I call you Neuromantics already because by subscribing to this newsletter you are joining a plan to create a movement that will help “save the world through science, epistemology, and blockchain technology.” That means you are a part of the tribe—the anti-tribe tribe.

Or maybe you don’t want to identify as a Neuromantic, or any definitive label, in which case you are one of “the Others.” The Others are allies that the Neuromantics reach by producing or sharing content, in an effort to “find the others,” as Timothy Leary urged us to do:

“Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes. But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences…Find the others.”

What brings us together is a deep interest in either a) understanding the nature of reality, or b) making the world a better place. Hopefully it is both.

I know this second newsletter is a bit late, but I have a good excuse. I was telling the world about the Road to Omega project on The David Pakman show. Okay, maybe not the world, but 100k people, so far (the video is still getting some traffic).

In this video I talk to David about Terror Management Theory (again), a phenomenon known as amygdala hijack, how increasing division is leading us toward disaster, and how to avert that disaster by aligning interests. I also briefly mention free will (and how we lose it), the need for a unifying worldview, and a Bayesian reasoning system to fight misinformation and restore trust—though unfortunately I had no time to go into any detail. Fortunately, I’ll be returning to the show in the future to do so.

But in the meantime, I’ll be publishing content about these topics at my Psychology Today blog (Mind in the Machine), as well as here on Substack and on the Road to Omega YouTube channel, which you should subscribe to if you have not. Why? Because radical content is on the way, and I mean that in both senses of the word.

The first YouTube video now has over 60k views, and has gotten the channel over 1600 subscribers. If you haven’t seen it, it is an introduction to Terror Management Theory and the need for a unifying worldview, a worldview the Neuromantics call the Cosmic Perspective (which I wrote about in this article for Psychology Today). The video also talks about the benefits of psychedelics, and I’m guessing that’s why YouTube demonetized it right after asking to partner. That’s a bit disturbing, not only because I cited a neuroscience study in a respected peer-reviewed journal by a research group at Imperial College London, but because it sends content creators a message—don’t rock the boat! It seems harmless, and that’s why it’s so dangerous, and another reason to support this Substack. Signing up for the paid subscription (which will get you additional newsletters and other cool stuff) will allow me to create uncensored content. And with the proven medical and societal benefits of psychedelics, it is super important that they are not left out of the story.

So what’s coming next? We are currently editing a short film about the data privacy crisis and the decentralization movement that can save us from it, which stars the leader of the Neuromantics, a mysterious figure that calls herself Kiki Miyazaki (shown below). The film is both a warning and a call to action, but beyond that, the video itself is a test. The viewer must decide what is real and what is not. It won’t be as entertaining if I explain any more, so I’ll leave it at that for now, but know that it is part of a subproject known as the Global Bayesian Brain Project (GBBP), which is designed to fight misinformation by arming people with a logical reasoning system based on Bayesian epistemology.

For those who have been curious about who the Neuromantics are, we’ve uploaded a handful of bios on the Neuromantics page at the Road to Omega website (a work-in-progress), and another round will be uploaded next week. Our group is diverse, consisting of scientists, AI researchers, artists, and philosophers—even a pastor with a PhD who’s writing a book about about complexity science and genetic epistemology! Some of these members will be giving talks to the community in the coming months, and those will be livestreamed on the YouTube channel.

Speaking of livestreamed talks, next month (Oct. 13th) I’m giving a talk followed by a Q&A to the Active Inference lab called “Universal Bayesianism: A New Kind of Theory of Everything.” Active Inference is the framework based on Karl Friston’s Bayesian Brain Hypothesis and Free Energy Principle, a paradigm that is transforming neuroscience and machine learning. Here is the YouTube link in case you want to bookmark it.

This talk will give a brief introduction to the (non-reductive) “Theory of Everything” described in my book, The Romance of Reality: How the Universe Organizes Itself to Create Life, Consciousness, and Cosmic Complexity, and though it will be for a technical audience, it should be accessible enough to make sense to anyone (if I do my job well).

The Free Energy Principle is certainly not easy to understand—in fact, when I first came across it I wasn’t sure if it even made sense, because it used the thermodynamic term “free energy” in a way that was completely unfamiliar to me. Turns out, there is thermodynamic free energy but also information theoretic free energy, which is an abstract concept that really just refers to a model’s prediction error, or the amount of ‘surprise’ an adaptive system experiences upon observing something unexpected.

It’s a bit of a challenge, but the paradigm pays off, because it immediately makes sense of a lot of human behavior, and tells us how we can optimize that behavior. For an accessible-ish explanation of the Free Energy Principle, there are Karl Friston’s interviews with Sean Carroll and Lex Friedman. Karl Friston is the most cited neuroscientist in the world, by the way. My favorite talk on the web on Active Inference is by the Neuromantic we call Marco the Poet, who is a co-author with Friston on a wonderful paper called Active Inference, Curiosity, and Insight, which I highly recommend.

Last but not least, the Neuromantics have partnered with Infinity Maps (infinitymaps.io), a concept-mapping software company that is helping me map out the framework in my book. They recently launched their product on Product Hunt (check it out here), so we decided to make a video demonstrating how we used the mapping tools to visualize some of the complex ideas and mechanisms. Here’s the video, which is a brief introduction to the paradigm proposed in The Romance of Reality. I also just had my first child (!), and Julien makes a small appearance in the video as “Wittgenstein Von Neumann Azarian, the first newborn with an IQ of 200.” :)

If you enjoy the video, please ‘like’ and share it and give some love in the comments section! The book is also available for preorder at the BenBella site, here. We’ve got some pretty exciting things in the works that I did not have time to mention here, so stay tuned!