Ben Hunt — Preserving the Physical Metaverse | Infinite Loops Podcast with Jim O’Shaughnessy (EP.106)

Key Takeaways

  • Ben Hunt’s research (both in political science and markets) has always been on how language is used against us
    • By “against us”, he means against human interests and in service to what he calls the nudging state/the nudging oligarchy 
    • According to Ben, that’s how the power of the state (of giant corporations) is exerted today
  • We use language to think new thoughts and create beauty and joy
    • However, we are hardwired to respond to certain ways of language and that can be exploited by organizations of power for their interests
  • There are two types of stories that have been adopted by the nudging state:
    • These are the archetypes, the grammar, stories of the “other” and stories of “transactions”
  • The metaverse is an invisible world, but like the micro verse, it’s no less real
    • “It [metaverse] is the quadrillions of human neurons across billions of human brains that are linked together by these linguistic structures, these grammars, these archetypes of story.”Ben Hunt 
  • The two biggest differences today then versus a hundred years ago:
    • We are always plugged into the metaverse and the linguistic viruses that come out from the metaverse via smartphone
    • “The second is it’s an intensive effort by big tech, big politics, and big media to weaponize those viruses for maximum impact on our brain chemicals.”Ben Hunt
  • Ben’s two big projects:
    • Narrative Early Warning System (NEWS)
      • NEWS is a browser app that identifies the linguistic structures of various “corrupted” narratives (e.g. othering) and warns the reader
    • Narrative Omni Archive for Humanity (NOAH)
      • Saving universal stories of empathy, love, and sacrifice via blockchain
      • It’s an ark, an ark for stories.”Ben Hunt

Key Books Mentioned

  • The WEIRDest People in the World by Joseph Henrich
    • How culture, psychology, and institutions shape one another and what this means for the morphology of our brains
  • How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
    • Facing the destruction by the Huns, the Irish monks saved all the old books, stories, and preserved them for the future
    • This is similar to Ben’s idea of Narrative Omni-Archive for Humanity (NOAH)

Intro

  • Ben Hunt (@EpsilonTheory) is the CIO and co-founder of Second Foundation Partners, an independent financial research firm and registered investment adviser and the author of Epsilon Theory
    • It’s all about narratives (underlying ideas and stories that shape how we understand information) we tell each other time and again
    • This is the story of a kid from Alabama, Ben, going up to Harvard and learning how to fight against the “nudging” state determined to forever change our brain chemicals

The Ideas and Stories That Shape How We Understand Information

  • Ben spent most of his adulthood trying to understand the power of words
    • Ants, bees, termites, and Homo sapiens are the four most common social animals
    • Humans are basically giant termites with opposable thumbs and the ability to use fire and language
    • That’s the hallmark of a social animal in the technical sense of the word
    • It’s all about intra-species communication 
  • All four of those species navigate via signals and communications from their kind
    • For most of those insects, the communication is chemical (e.g. pheromones)
    • For humans, it’s language or words 
    • However, the way that we have evolved and socially trained is identical to insects
  • Ben’s research (both in political science and markets) has always been on how language is used against us
    • By “against us”, he means against human interests and in service to what he calls the nudging state/the nudging oligarchy 
    • According to Ben, that’s how the power of the state (of giant corporations) is exerted today
    • “It’s not a jackbooted thug stepping on your face, the image of 1984.”Ben Hunt 
    • It is more like Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World
  • In 1984, the idea was to remove words from the language, to remove the ability to think differently
    • If we have no words for something, we can’t think the thoughts about it
    • The metaverse is the world of language, it’s not a virtual place where you have your little avatar
    • Language is both our superpower and our weakness
    • We use language to think new thoughts and create beauty and joy
    • However, we are hardwired to respond to certain ways of language and that can be exploited by organizations of power for their interests
  • “The cost we pay, at the end of the day is that I think we lose our autonomy of mind. We lose the ability to think certain thoughts.” Ben Hunt

How Language Impacts and Limits Us

  • “There’s a finite number of scripts. Whether we’re talking about investing, whether we’re talking about our political lives, we tell the same stories ourselves over and over and over again.”Ben Hunt
  • There are two types of stories that have been adopted by the nudging state:
    • These are the archetypes, the grammar, stories of the “other” and stories of “transactions”
    • We are hardwired to respond to these stories
    • These narratives remove the stories of Jesus and Muhammad and Buddha and every other great religious figure, and non-religious figures like Socrates, Aristotle, Martin Luther King, etc.
    • “My strong belief is that at the neuron level, in our brains, these stories of transactions and othering rewire our neurons, our neural clusters, the way we understand language.”Ben Hunt

The Cost of the Metaverse

  • The metaverse is as real as the macro verse (the place where Jim and Ben are sitting and talking), and the micro verse (the place of viruses, microbes, and bacteria) 
    • The metaverse is an invisible world, but like the micro verse, it’s no less real
    • “It [metaverse] is the quadrillions of human neurons across billions of human brains that are linked together by these linguistic structures, these grammars, these archetypes of story.”Ben Hunt 
    • The narrative archetypes drive how we think, and there is a real effort to weaponize these grammars and these narrative structures 
  • Whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former data scientist at Facebook
    • This is exactly what Haugen talked about, certain content is designed to trigger dopamine and norepinephrine receptors in our brains to reconfigure our brains at a neural level

How the Nudging State Is Rewiring Us

  • The beauty of language is it allows us to make new connections and think
    • The intention of the nudging state is just the reverse; to make us think fewer new thoughts
    • “The intention is to domesticate us, not through selective breeding, as we have with animals for tens of thousands of years, but through selective narratives.”Ben Hunt
    • This has been an effort since people existed, but the big difference is the smartphone
  • The little portable dopamine machine
    • We all have them, and they are our windows into the metaverse 
    • “It’s like being exposed to a virus, we are exposed to these messages, these stories of transactions, and stories of othering constantly.”Ben Hunt
  • The two biggest differences today then versus a hundred years ago:
    • We are always plugged into the metaverse and the linguistic viruses that come out from the metaverse via smartphone
  • “The second is it’s an intensive effort by big tech, big politics, and big media to weaponize those viruses for maximum impact on our brain chemicals.”Ben Hunt

How Technology Can Fight the Nudging State

  • Ben’s two big projects:
    • Narrative Early Warning System (NEWS)
      • NEWS is a browser app that identifies the linguistic structures of various “corrupted” narratives (e.g. othering) and warns the reader
    • Narrative Omni Archive for Humanity (NOAH)
      • “I think that what we have today is a world where the universal stories of empathy, of love, of sacrifice, of self-reflection and self-knowledge, I think those stories are being either directly pushed out.”Ben Hunt
      • The goal of the NOAH project is to make these stories inviolable: put them in a blockchain and “…create a protocol where they can be archived. It’s an ark, an ark for stories.”Ben Hunt
      • Ben believes it is our birthright as humans to have access to all these universal stories found in both religious and secular texts
      • They must be preserved and available to all; that’s the antidote
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Notes By Dario

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