The Solid State Entity, or the real reason why we can't have nice things.
Our legends tell we came from a seed
That travelled at a whirlwind speed
'Til it came to rest upon this land
That once was green and is now all sand
That buried us up to our eyes
And made us watchers of the skies
'Til the shadow wings came for our sight
And left us to conspire with night
- Hawkwind – Fable of a Failed Race lyrics by Robert Calvert
Daniel Pinchbeck: Technology in itself might be a form of consciousness, like there's a Solid State Intelligence which is actually using humanity to incarnate, in a way, which would really fit with Rudolf Steiner's ideas of the Ahrimanic Incarnation. Maybe Artificial Intelligence and all these ideas that are happening right now are actually technological sentience which is using us as its hands, its tools to recreate itself in this reality.
Liv Boeree: The problem with raging against the machine is that the machine has learned to feed off rage.
This is the first in what is going to be a series of articles about Moloch, who, according to Kevin Owocki, the founder of Gitcoin, is "the reason why we can't have nice things".
So what, or who, is Moloch? Many thinkers and traditions have warned of this Force or Element of Dissolution, and it is now once again rearing its head out of the collective unconscious in the form of social media memes.
The nascent DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation) community is using the idea of Moloch as a metaphor - the god of human coordination failures - to illustrate where multipolar traps, races to the bottom, and tragedies of the commons ultimately come from, and ultimately lead.
These ideas relating Moloch to failures to coordinate come from the seminal essay by Scott Alexander on Slate Star Codex, Meditations On Moloch, which itself comes in part from the poem "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg.
I will also go into the historical idea of Moloch and how it's similar to both Steiner's concept of Ahriman and John Lilly's idea of the Solid State Entity (SSE) - these can all be considered metaphors for a Dark Force which is influencing humanity - maybe we are falling towards a state of incoherence, of disassociation, maybe we are being dragged consciously or unconsciously towards this state by the dark force, or possibly it's simply the net result of 'externalities'; of coordination failures, outcomes no individual wants but which are the results of our collective selfish actions.
The fact of learning simultaneously about theories of life after death in Daniel Pinchbeck's Crossing The Threshold course, and Stephen Reid's How to DAO course has led me to make some unexpected correlations: a fundamental motivation of DAOs is to coordinate so well together that we 'bind Moloch' (although there is talk of ' slaying Moloch ', it's generally accepted that he cannot be defeated, only set back or limited in his effects).
The Crossing The Threshold course included some discussion of Rudolf Steiner and his concept of Ahriman which reminded me of the myth of Moloch, and I also recently saw a video about John C. Lilly's attempts to communicate with dolphins which put me in mind of his ketamine-inspired theory of the SSE or Solid State Entity , a machine-based intelligence (I hesitate to call it a lifeform as it is not alive by any measure we would recognise) which seeks to take over humanity and use it to bootstrap its own independent existence, after which humanity would not be needed.
Lilly has always fascinated me; I read The Centre of the Cyclone at a young age and it seemed in parts totally logical and in parts completely bonkers. I loved his insistence that the scientific method can be applied to 'spirituality', although it's debatable that using himself as an experimental subject allowed him to proceed with his scientific judgement 100% intact.
The reader may already have made the connection between the idea of the SSE and the concept of The Singularity, which is essentially the same thing, but flipped into something desirable for humanity: "We'll be cyborgs! We'll live forever! We'll colonise other planets! We'll upload our consciousness!" etc. I will touch on the apocalyptic quality of this modern tech 'religion' as we go.
Effectively there are two separate but intertwined ideas which I hope to explore in this series: on the one hand that the unforeseen consequences of our individual(ist) decision making are creating a nightmare world where nature has been entirely enclosed and/or destroyed, and on the other, that this encroaching darkness has some kind of identity or will of its own, and a desire to use humankind for its own ends. From my perspective the former is a more realistic notion of what is happening, with the latter more of a metaphor. I don't think the SSE, Ahriman or Moloch are literally real, at this point at least.
I hope to go into both the darkness of how we unwittingly and unwillingly end up destroying our own conditions for life, and the light of how we can use technology - possibly even against itself - to 'bind Moloch' and potentially successfully coordinate on a large scale to stop the destruction and begin the regeneration of our human society and the planet that is so badly needed today. There is more hope out there than one might think on watching the nightly news, that's for sure.
I'm excited to see where we go with this, and I hope you'll join me on the journey...
Image by quapan on flickr, creative commons licence, modified by neural network at instapainting.com