The Road to Omega 2023 Agenda
What does R2O have in store for 2023? Lots of new Substack and YouTube content, collaborations, interviews, a new book, a novel, a game, and community building.
Buckle up, fellow travelers on the road to Omega, because this ride is about to undergo exponential acceleration. Last year we put some big ideas out into the world, but 2023 is the year that those ideas be put into action. The aim of R2O is to explain reality and build a better future for its conscious inhabitants by publishing content and initiating projects that can plant the seeds for large-scale change. If you are new to this Substack, check out a rough outline of the project in this (somewhat outdated) introduction post, Road to Omega: a Plan to Save the World with Science, Epistemology and Blockchain Technology.
The goal of the project is to transform society, but the way to do that is by changing the mindset of the individual, because real systemic change must happen from the bottom-up. To achieve the necessary shift in consciousness and perspective, the paradigm underlying the R2O effort offers a radical new worldview — one that instills life with meaning and purpose, while casting a psychedelic glaze over your day-to-day experience.
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This worldview was briefly introduced in the post titled The Paradigm of Emergence: A Unifying Worldview for a Divided World and a Solution to the Meaning Crisis. The paradigm suggests that human civilization is a product of the evolutionary process that is driving the biosphere toward higher intelligence and computational power. Biological, cultural, and technological evolution are all part of a larger process of cosmic evolution, whereby the universe organizes itself into an increasingly complex and interconnected state. According to this view, the universe is not some big random machine that is winding down, but an intrinsically creative system that is generating emergent phenomena like matter, life, consciousness, culture, and future phenomena that we currently lack the capacity to imagine. The scientific details of this paradigm are described in detail in my book The Romance of Reality: How the Universe Organizes Itself to Create Life, Consciousness, and Cosmic Complexity, but the social, political, economic, and spiritual implications have only been superficially explored. The R20 Substack is an opportunity to flesh out all the philosophical implications and practical applications of the theory, so that we can put these ideas to use in the real world.
This worldview corresponds to a system for self-optimization called the Teleological Stance, which takes the evolutionary narrative described above and turns your life into a game, with explicit challenges, goals, and strategies. A brief introduction to the system was given in the post Turn Your Life into a Game With the Teleological Stance and Learn to Live Optimally, and expanded on in the follow-up article Introducing Three of the Teleological Stance’s Tools For Self-Optimization and Self-Actualization.
In a nutshell, the teleological stance takes the perspective that the universe itself is evolving towards a goal — a state of maximal complexity, integration, and computational power. In this new cosmic narrative, life is the mechanism through which the universe “wakes up” (inanimate matter becomes sentient). This means that the large-scale development of the universe will be shaped by the influence of intelligence. This story creates a cosmic context that gives human civilization an inherent existential goal: live in a way that contributes to human progress and the continued spread of consciousness in the cosmos.
Taking the teleological stance does more than give us a collective purpose—it is a very specific system for optimizing the way we live our lives, based on principles from complexity science, cybernetics, evolutionary theory, cognitive neuroscience and epistemology. It starts with the basis that to survive, agents must acquire information about the world they inhabit (knowledge). More specifically, an agent must possess a map or model of the reality it exists in. Once we realize that our mental world is a just an abstract model or simulation of the actual world, we can then assess whether or not we are adapting to our environment in the optimal way. For example, we would want to make sure that our world model — which is comprised of our beliefs about the world and ourselves — is being updated continually to most accurately reflect reality. Taking the teleological stance also means making decisions and behaving in a way that is most likely to move us toward our goals.
This year we will develop these ideas further, and bring them together with new ones to create what I call a “cosmic religion” in this Psychology Today article, Could a Cosmic Religion Unite a Divided Nation? Recently, the website Big Think published an article that was just a big excerpt from the end of The Romance of Reality, which makes the case for a cosmic religion that integrates science and spirituality, in the way that Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein advocated for. We can call this cosmic religion, which is a religion that values evidence-based thinking, “the Cosmic Perspective,” and it is a perspective that emerges from all the frameworks presented on this site — such as the Integrated Evolutionary Synthesis, Poetic Meta-Naturalism, and the Teleological Stance — which are really just different threads of one coherent Unifying Theory of Reality. This “theory of everything,” which guides the R2O project, is a sense-making lens, a catalyst for consilience, and potentially a recipe for a revolution.
I’m excited to announce that my publisher has asked for a follow-up to The Romance of Reality (!), so much of the content that will be published here in the coming months will serve as draft material for my new book, which you’ll be helping me write through your comments and feedback. I have not yet pitched a detailed proposal so the deal hasn’t been finalized (we’ll be pitching other publishers as well), but with a tentative offer on the table, the currently untitled book is almost certainly going to get written this year.
I’m also excited to announce that this newsletter now has over 1000 subscribers! With the two thousand subscribers of the Road to Omega YouTube channel, we have at least a few thousand neuromantics out there in the world. A future post will explain what it means to be a neuromantic in more detail, and it will introduce some of the neuromantics to the community. I could not have written the book or created all of the coming content without their help, and if the R2O project has any influence on the world, it will be due to the collective mind that is forming around these emerging ideas.
Speaking of content that required the help of the neuromantics, we are about to release a call-to-action video starring our leader, Kiki Miyazaki. This short (~10 min) film explains how our data is being used to control and exploit us, and how the problem is only going to get worse unless we consciously choose to do something about it. This video will be posted on the R2O YouTube channel in the next month or so (it is already completed), and will be used to promote this Substack and a novel titled Road to Omega, which is essentially a neuromantic manifesto. The 80k-word draft has already been written, but it is just a blueprint. One idea is to publish the book chapter by chapter (accessible only to paid subscribers) and let the community optimize it with feedback, so that the story becomes the product of the collective intelligence of the neuromantics. If we go this route, the book will be tokenized before being published and released to the public, and all contributors and paid subscribers will get some tokens that will be tied to the book’s sales (contributors would get tokens in proportion to their contribution, while subscribers would get a set amount). Let me know what you think about this idea in the comments. We hope to utilize NFTs as a way to give the community gifts with value, and to crowdfund projects, but because of all the bad press crypto has gotten recently, we are proceeding with those plans slowly and carefully to make sure everything is done right.
Some really neat collaborations are in the works as well. Big Think has asked me to write for them regularly about the kinds of topics that were in The Romance of Reality, so I will be trying to write an article for them on R2O-style content about once a month. Some of this content might also be turned into videos. Big Think is also doing a docu-series on the cosmos and consciousness, in collaboration with the Templeton Foundation, and I’ve been asked to help out with that. That’s all I can really say about it now, but I will be giving updates as these projects develop.
A few months ago I was hired by an organization called The Ludo Society, which is currently preparing to launch its Substack and website. The idea behind the Ludo Society is to get people to look at their life as if it were a game, so it has much in common with the Teleological Stance. The goal of the organization is to arm you with “meta-skills” that are basically life strategies that come from exercising metacognition, or thinking about thinking. I’m excited to see how the project evolves, because the creator has assembled a really solid team of contributors and consultants, like Frank Lantz, director of the NYU Game Center, and the evolutionary psychologist Brett Anderson, who wrote my favorite essay of 2022, Intimations of a New Worldview, and is now working with psychologist John Vervaeke. We have some pretty neat stuff in the works that goes hand in hand with the goals of Road to Omega.
I have also been working with the blockchain-based AI company Thought AI, whose software technology is inspired by biological intelligence. Thought’s AIs are programmable agents called Nuances, and they can reproduce with variation, form swarm intelligences, and simulate evolution and emergence. The tech is in its early stages, but I believe that the biologically-inspired approach, especially one that exploits the power of collective intelligence, will be the key to truly intelligent AI (for reasons nicely articulated in this new paper by Karl Friston and Maxwell Ramstead). In addition to creating content for Thought, we are putting our heads together to design a game that can serve as a demo for their technology while also being an educational experience that teaches people about evolution and emergence. My hope is that with the help of the neuromantics, we can build a Road to Omega game that is a vehicle for the Unifying Theory of Reality and the Teleological Stance. What better way to bring the ideas to the masses? Thought AI has agreed to donate a nice chunk of their crypto towards the effort, so there will be incentives for the community to help develop and test this project. I will provide more info on this project in a future post.
Since we’re on the topic of artificial intelligence, let’s quickly talk about the thing that is on everyone’s mind right now — ChatGPT. OpenAI’s ChatGPT, and similar systems like Microsoft’s Bing and Google’s Bard, have people excited and freaked out over the possibility that artificial general intelligence (AGI) is just around the corner. I don’t think it’d be an understatement to say that the creation of AGI would be the biggest technological advancement in history.
Because of this new wave of excitement, money from the world’s biggest corporations and wealthiest investors is pouring into AI like never before. As a result, the technology will progress faster than ever, and it is sure to change all of our lives in dramatic ways this decade. For many artists and writers, generative AI has already been a game-changer, for better or worse. Hundreds of millions of jobs could become obsolete practically overnight, and that is only the beginning of all there is to worry about.
With all this change coming, the Road to Omega project is more important than ever. Why? Because we need a scientific paradigm and an existential philosophy that can makes sense of things, tell us what to expect in the near future, and how to successfully adapt to these changes — as individuals and as a society.
Not only does the paradigm underlying the R2O effort answer these questions, it also provides a deeper understanding of the phenomena we call intelligence and consciousness, which is needed if we are going to have any idea whether the machines coming into our lives can truly understand, feel, and experience the world. (It turns out the people making these systems typically know very little about the neuroscience of consciousness or philosophy of mind, so they are playing with powers they do not fully understand.) We will come back to these topics in a future post in more detail, but the point is that R2O will provide a desperately needed sense-making lens for all things AI-related, along with a “religion for robots,” based on the concept empowerment from computational neuroscience.
The last thing to announce is that lots of new content is coming to the R2O YouTube channel this year, including explainer videos, presentations (like the two talks I gave at the Puzzle X tech conference in Barcelona last November, pictured below), and interviews with some fascinating minds. Staying on the topic of AI, we will be talking to the computer scientist Roman Yampolsky, who is one of the world’s experts on AI safety (check out his new article for Time on uncontrollable AI here). Together, we will be trying to figure out how to steer artificial intelligence in the direction of saving humanity rather than destroying it, and achieving that will require a conscious collective effort. Another advisor to the neuromantics is the popular author Howard Bloom, who will be telling us how we can avoid another existential threat that seems imminent — World War III. Bloom is the author of some really wonderful books like The Global Brain, The Lucifer Principle, and The God Problem, which all tell the story of a universe that is generating increasing complexity and organization through the evolutionary process. He was also the music publicist responsible for amplifying the careers of some of the most successful music acts of all time, including Michael Jackson, Prince, Queen, and The Talking Heads, and his backstory is fascinating. These advisors will be helping us keep an eye on existential threats that could keep us from advancing along the road to Omega.
Lastly I’d like to thank all of my paid subscribers, and let you know that it is because of your funding that I will be able to focus on the R2O project in the coming months. I apologize for getting behind track on the publishing schedule, but I plan to post an article about every week for the next two months until I catch up to what was promised (and I will pause payments if I happen to get behind again). I will also be emailing my patrons this week to give some small gifts as a token of my appreciation and to get names so that I can thank my contributors at the end of Substack posts and YouTube videos. If you signed up as a founding member and would like a signed copy of The Romance of Reality, please email me at email@example.com to let me know and I will send that out as soon as possible. Many of the signed bookplates went out last year, but there are still some that need to be mailed out, so please email me if you have not received yours, or anything else that was promised. I’m always trying to think of better incentives, so more will be offered as they come to mind.
If you are not a paid subscriber, please consider becoming one. You’ll not only get twice the content and the occasional digital gift, you will also be supporting the creation of content that could not get made without your help. In the coming months, we will be thinking of more ways to get the community involved in this social experiment, because as mentioned before, real change requires the power of a collective mind. And a collective mind composed of meta-aware agents like the neuromantics could have the causal power to influence the trajectory of our civilization.
We are many, and we are one.
PS. My essay challenging the infamous heat death and hypothesis — titled “Life Need Not Ever End” — was just published at the website Noema, so check that out if you are interested in the question of how long life can continue to exist in an open universe (spoiler: it might be forever). I’m currently geeking out because the article was shared by one of my science heroes, David Deutsch, who is the father of the concept of the quantum computer and the author of some of the best popular science books ever written, The Fabric of Reality and The Beginning of Infinity. He has probably been the greatest influence on my thinking out of every living scientist, so it was thrilling to see him endorse the piece, which he is featured in. Hopefully this will start to chip away at the erroneous belief that the second law of thermodynamics says that life is doomed to a transient existence, and contribute to ushering in a new age of cosmic optimism.
Road to Omega is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
This is the future.
Nice full agenda coming up, I love the variety of formats coming up!