part I part II part III part IV part V part VI partVII part VIII part IX part X part XI part XII part XIII part XIV part XV part XVI

Let’s talk about projection. Or more specifically, projecting trends into the future.

When I was talking about my health previously, I engaged in a practice of tracking certain habit trends both forward from a past where I started them and into the future whereby I could predict where they would lead.

This ability is a function of the frontal or conscious mind, as it deals with constructs of linear time. The subconscious mind cares nothing for time. To the subconscious mind only the present moment exists. Even when it draws experience from the past or future, that experience is considered to be in the present moment. It cannot distinguish between an image and the reality.

But anyway. It seems like this ability to project trends is growing in the human race, both as we develop greater skill in recognizing patterns and greater ability to abstract beyond the present moment and take in a bigger picture.

And here’s the funny thing: because we can use that ability to tap into wildly extrapolated future states, it provides the subconscious mind with an avenue for plausibly accessing experiences that we might otherwise not dare to do.

Technology not a sufficient cause for optimism? Extrapolate it forward twenty years and imagine yourself as a transhuman demigod exploring space. There’s a headrush for you, and because all you did was plug things that are really happening into your future conjuring algorithm, it must be true. your subconscious mind buys it.

Disenfranchised with the present? Track the rates of oil extraction, ecological destruction, and population growth into your curve generator and shudder in terror, or else gasp in ecstasy that the hated world that is, is on the way out.

Same function either way. You’re utilizing a hypnotic principle called time distortion. If you can trick a person into visualizing an outcome, then their subconscious mind treats it as it were already happening and they don’t resist it. All you did was provide the raw data and the timeframe. So if you carefully frame the data and the time frame you could make pretty much anyone accept pretty much anything.

With me so far? Now here’s the big whammy. If you’re really clever with this stuff you can generate what is known as a catastrophic transition. You project some process so far into it’s future that it launches off the graph that you used to measure it and into a completely unpredictable realm of behavior. The reason things like peak oil or the singularity pack such a punch is that they use mathematical trends to convince your brain that you’re going into a totally unpredictable transition state. You’ve been tricked into confounding your normal categories and definitions of things.

What’s interesting is, you’ve sucked yourself into the realm of chaotic behavior, and in that state of imprint vulnerability, someone else can come along and implant some new set of ideas. It’s the same principle as brainwashing. You render someone helpless, destroy their existing model of the world and in the totally dependent state of confusion, they will grab hold of whatever you give them.

In short, you take someone’s model, time distort it until it explodes and then help them reinterpret the aftermath. TA-DA!!! New reality. New self, even, perhaps.

Now keep in mind, this is not usually an deliberate act on the part of another person to brainwash you. But human beings are hypnosis machines and these distortions and trances are how we construct our world and communicate with each other. Words are just the delivery vehicle for sharing our personal trance states.

Now presuming you understand this, or even if you don’t, you can use this to your benefit. I’ve said elsewhere that your frontal mind places strong limitations on what are accessible or internally consistent experiences for you to have. No matter how much fun or pleasure or joy you want, your subconscious mind knows you almost always prefer to preserve your sense of self and inner continuity, so anything too strong to incorporate into your reality stays in the category of ‘other’ or at least displaced so far into some vague future that there’s no danger in the present moment to your safe state of misery and confusion. If you’re reasonably together or progressively goal oriented you’ll have designed and implemented a kind of incremental curve whereby you can, over time, access more happiness, more love or more creative flow and relaxation or whatever. What I’m going to show is how to reshape the curve, perhaps even jump it altogether into the realm of catastrophic transition. I trust by now you’ve got the tools to do something usefull with it.

We already did something like this before, but this version is even easier and more shocking to your current equilibrium state. The two of them actually work together quite well, I find.

What you do is, and this is easy, is to presume that nothing in yourself is ever going to change. Your conscious mind should have no trouble accepting this, because most of us either crave stasis or fear it so much that we can’t stop thinking about it.

Imagine that for the rest of your life you’re going to keep doing exactly what you’re doing right now, and do it in all the same ways with all the same beliefs. Imagine it in five or ten year increments. Same job, same partner, same limitations, same hobbies and habit patterns. Some of them will be good, some will be not so good. Where will you be? Your mind shouldn’t have any difficulty accepting this scenario, because it doesn’t require you to do anything different. You don’t need to be mindful, or conscious of your activities. You just need to stay on autopilot.

 How long will you live? How is your health? What sort of experiences have you had? Children, real estate, extended family? What sort of markers for personal growth occur simply by adding more time into the equation?

Now I’m going to presume that you haven’t hanged yourself in the shower just now, probably because of the few things in your life that involve growth, creativity and learning. If I addressed this to a crowd of ‘average’ people they would probably shrivel in despair. But if you’ve been around for some time, you almost certainly have some kind of regimen of meditation, banishing, metaprogramming work, or artistic expession in place. So play it out. No more grand upheavals or ecstatic changes. Just play out what you’re doing as routine right now, right this moment in your life, and give yourself the time to see where you end up. Plug 40 or 50 years into that, in five year increments, and what comes out the other end? Do you even get 40 or 50 years, or does your diet, lack of exercise and generally shit state of mind do you in long before that? Or conversely, does your ongoing regiment of health enhancing activities and positive state creation see you through into your second century of life?

Think about education. Are you content with everything you’ve learned? If so, you can look forward to seeing your cherished assumptions systematically torn apart by time and change until you end up confused, rigid and disillusioned. OR, you do some simple math: you could get the EQUIVALENT of a PhD in pretty much anything in an average of about five or six years. Even a modest 50 or 60 years of adult life is the equivalent of ten PhD’s if you continue learning, even informally. How much learning have you picked up so far, and how much do think you will pick up just out of habit in the years to come?

Now change the exercise a little bit, because no human being is truly static. You are not a simple equation. As time goes on you do not simply continue at the same rate. Whatever you invest in right now is what you are getting better and better at. If you invest in negativity, rigidity, fear and toxicity, you can look forward to an exponential swirl down into the recycling bin. Life is cheap and the biosphere is never short of human beings. If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem.

BUT: If you invest in learning, growth, positivity, embracing healthy change and discipline, you will not only learn and grow more, but you will be learning and growing faster and faster as time goes by. The PhD equivalent you picked in 6 years will come in 4 years soon enough, then 3 years, then who knows? The joyous and creative states that come fleetingly now, will come sparingly soon enough, and reliably still later, and eventually the most outlandishly ecstatic states become your new baseline, until your current measurement system for understanding your life no longer is relevant. You’ve jumped the curve.

And these things are mixed. You have negative habits dragging you down and positive ones accelerating you towards your personal apotheosis. So as you shitcan the dead weight and install more useful behaviors, your accelerating curve becomes more and more like a vertical line shooting towards the great who-knows-what.

You see how this works? First you have habits that involve no change, then habits that involve predictable positive change, then habits that predictably accelerate positive change, then habits that predictably accelerate the acceleration of positive changes, until the whole concept of time and change and scales of positive experience cease to bound your consciousness. Your personal singularity. Because, all due respect to Ray Kurzweil but we don’t need some fucking computer to jump the curve for us. We’ve got the equipment right now.


12 thoughts on “Alchemy for the Braindamaged XVII: Shoot the Curve

  1. I’ve been wrestling with the practical problems of getting an “education” in various topics. I like your idea of getting the equivalent of a Ph.D. every five-six years, but wonder how feasible this is outside the context of a university education.

    If I had unlimited money with which to pursue higher education, I’d get degrees in philosophy, physics, music, and a whole heap of languages (starting with Portugese).

    The ease with which I could learn these subjects on my own varies. There are certain benefits from taking classes — formal structure, interaction with other students, learning from someone who actually knows what they’re doing (this is especially important in music) — that you can’t get on your own.

    I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on this, or anything you can share from your own experience.


  2. well, the operative word is ‘equivalent’. I have little regard for universities or degree as such, and that’s largely because of the failure of educational institutions to embrace the role of actually turning out fully formed human beings.

    increasingly you spend larger and larger sums of money to get an increasingly worthless piece of paper based on increasingly outdated and useless information bound up with increasing irrelevant and backwards ideology.

    even in thr 70’s most knowledgeable and forward thinking acedemics realised that the knowledge fields were changing so fast that any standardised body of knowledge was becoming useless faster than ever, and hence the role of universites had to switch from passing on information by rote, to teaching people how to teach themselves.

    of course this is the exact opposite of waht actually happened.

    one critical element to ‘shooting the curve’ at least insofar aseducation goes, is leaning how to learn. rather than submit yourself over and over to some kind of rigid authoritarian structure with no guarantee you’ll actually ‘learn’ anything, spend you first 5-6 years developing good concentration, study skills, and reading/practice habits. learn how to think and reason correctly. learn how to question ideas and test them.

    once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to teach yourself pretty much anything to an expert level quite quickly. any exception can be handled by finding a mentor. most real teachers teach out of love. if you can find one like that, and show them you share their passion, they will provide you with any assistance you might need for little or nothing in the way of money.

    mastering this strategy will turn a Phd equivalent every 6 years into one every 3 or 4 easily. or perhaps even faster.

  3. As someone doing a PhD, I’d say the value in it comes from just knowing how to tackle a very large three year project and just keep yourself together at the same time. The value in a good university education is knowing and learning the rules of the ‘rigid authoritarian structure’ so you can move past it. Just like a good artist learns the key techniques and structures of art, so that he can move past them later. Many do not do this, but this does not devalue the process. As much as the autodidact is a fascinating source of knowledge, often far more knowledgable in a limited field than the academic, they so often have holes in their knowledge or lack context (but not always).

    It is not just learning the tools, its understanding how they work and how to recreate them. I must admit, as much as I’m skeptical of the university system, and as much as I see these half formed human beings graduate around me, people so specialized they cannot exist properly in everyday life, doing a PhD is very different to being an autodidact.

    I cannot just study the bits that are interesting, the social theories I like, I have to know and understand it all, and then integrate it. I have to come up with an original theory or original data. It’s a collaborative process as I work with the structures around me, and in a way it is a kind of apprenticeship – where you are thrown into deep water and told to swim, to come up with the goods in three years (four max). That is why they have a 60% drop out rate here. I do not get taught anything, I get guided, and I have to apply the critical thinking skills and high level analysis I developed during and after undergrad, and learn myself.

    Of course, from what I gather, the Australian system is a bit different to the US though, I think the US is a little more structured, so who am I to judge.

    So Zac, I have real trouble with this flippant idea of a PhD, or even its equivalent. I think you characterize it as a different beast from what it is. A university was never meant to create a fully formed human being. It is an archaic structure based on the church, practically its own galaxy, and not the most efficient possible institution for learning. However, I’m not sure just saying do the equivalent is so easy. A PhD is learning through application, rather than just learning. It relies on the structures and networks of mentors and practitioners, and it cannot just be done like that because it is situated as a trial, to continue the church metaphor, to get into an order. Having lost so many nights of sleep and so much else over this thesis, I’m all too aware that above everything it is just a test of ability, skill and, above all, sheer bloody mindedness.

    Although, I appreciate what you are saying overall and as always you leave me with something to think about.

  4. oh I agree, it is flippant. and nothing in my intitial proposition precludes your going the full institutional route in your education. I personally cannot recommend it, but whatever floats yer boat.

    You yourself have characterised it as a torture test of mostly self directed activity. what’s to say you couldn’t find the wherewithal in yourself to apply the same skills and bloody mindedness of one’s own accord, and dispense with the acts of supplication?

    I agree there is value in submitting to the system and transcending it. but that presupposes the system is worthwhile in and of itself, or else why bother? The academic, economic and social systems we struggle to work within so as to transcend are on their last legs as it is. I don’t feel any particular need to lend them any more legitimacy than they already have. They haven’t exactly rewarded the faith placed in them, at least not in recent memory.

    But as I’ve said, I’ve no wish to polish the brass on the titanic, so I’m hardly in a postion to critique anyone who chooses to participate in things as they, for the moment, continue to be.

  5. Hi Zac, thank you for another great acticle. I just wanted to ask a question about banishing. How exactly do you do it? I’ve googled banishing rituals and the only examples seem long and inappropriate. I haven’t read all of the Alchemy for the Braindamaged articles so I’m not sure if you’ve given an example of how you banish, so sorry if I’m making you repeat yourself.

  6. Fair comment.

    I think the system, as it is, is faulty, but it’s the system that helped give me skills to critique it effectively. I think universities are full of some of the most closed minded dogmatic people I’ve ever met. As supposedly progressive institutions, they hold on to very backward values and structures, based on hierarchy, fashion and favour often far more than merit. I see them getting worse everyday as their purpose changes, as most of the essential values behing them, disappear in the name of running a profit. I struggle with my place in these academic, social and economic systems everyday, and I gamble on the fact that I can make a small difference from within. I am constantly mindful of acting on my values and in my way I influence people around me.

    A university does provide space, however, for a handful of inspiring mentors, who have changed my way of thinking and inspired me. Part of it is a process of legitimizing one’s self into a faulty system – true. I operate within the system critically and I pass on those values to my students. Transcending it means building new structures when and if the ship does go down, rather than building the same ship in a different colour (which is what usually happens). Critical thinking is a commodity sorely lacking in both our societies and it allows us to avoid the pitfalls of making the same mistakes again and again.

    I do not seek to criticize someone who stays out of the system either. I readily recognise its shortcomings, and the fact that people can make just as big, and usually a bigger, difference outside it. I think you always make the biggest difference to the world applying your strengths. My ability to learn, my curiousity, my analytical ability and my ability to teach are my strong points, this is currently the best place where I can develop those strengths to their fullest potential. Everything I learn is learnt critically, and I look at those who teach it critically. I do not supplicate to the system because I think it builds on false values: but I use the opportunities provided by it to challenge it.

    I just cannot ignore that while I could have gained the knowledge by myself, the skills to obtain the depth of understanding in my area. I need my work to be judged by other experts, because a PhD is not just knowing but possessing a full applied understanding (mind you, crap gets passed all the time, standards drop constantly). The pain is necessary, because anything worthwhile has a cost.

    The skills come from the institution, I can’t develop those without assistance, but I like to think the bloody mindedness is all my own.

    I think we are working on what we have, in the best way we can. I cannot criticise your path, and I appreciate and really value the fact that you take it. Too many people mindlessly submit to these institutions, we need people to think outside them too – a ‘biodiversity’ of thought. We inevitably have to take different paths to ‘give style’ to our characters.

    You’re right. Your proposition does not preclude an institutional path. I appreciate that this argument does not really hit on your actual point, which I think is very good. I think a PhD is a different kind of exercise though, painful and essentially instrumental.

    What you are suggesting is a far more personal exercise, possibly more valuable, but in a different life directing way. Your flippancy is illustrative, but I think the comparison is a stretch. Although, it does not hurt to seriously question the value of these things, I do it regularly, and probably will well after I submit my thesis.

  7. As someone who actually has a PhD, I must say that I agree with much of what Benjamin says. However, I also agree that there is much more to life than a PhD, and not everything of value is available at the university. For example, much of the critique of civilization that I have been studying over the past two years cannot be found in conventional academic circles. (As an aside, studying this critique has caused me a certain amount of internal crisis in turmoil, as my “field” is technical and very much part of the current Empire… what to do?).

    But even following the narrow trajectory of life that begins with a PhD, there is much to learn beyond the PhD: for example, how to obtain grant money, how to mentor students, etc.

  8. I stand in wonder at the varied ways of expressing essencially similar ideas.

    ‘Words are just the delivery vehicle for sharing our personal trance states.’ Thats a beautiful line.

    My own approach involves the examination of our current criteria for understanding. It’s historical genisys, the appeal of its fixed catigories,etc.

    Here is one paragraph, in case the trackback feature doesn’t work:

    The greatest hurdle in the attempt to create and promote any novel criteria for understanding will be to get the elites on board. In regard to this, two reasons for their inhibition come to mind. First, the more conventionally intelligent a person is, the harder it becomes to accept that most everything one knows is based on false premises. Second, because the intelligencia create apparent value by telling others which end is up, they do not listen well if you try to illustrate how their thinking contributes to social pathology.

  9. hey, zac– what do you think about the idea of ‘shooting the curve’ but for past events instead of possible futures? mayan shamans used to claim to be able to alter past events using their calendar magic, and the idea’s always intrigued me. i can theoretically come up with some nlp/alchemical ways it could be done, especially to other people, but the practicality escapes me . . . .

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