Getting people engaged with something is a really hard challenge. There are so many ideas and projects out there, and many don’t seem to get a lot of attention, or are outright ignored or rejected. Some social movements succeed, while others lose traction and finally go nowhere. And then, there are many rather trivial and mundane matters that get a lot of attention, even though there are so many more deserving causes.
What makes the difference in the success of all these things? I think the crucial aspect is the quality and “compellingness” of their underlying narratives. Human beings like to think in terms of stories, especially when they are embedded in rich and grand narratives. And there are quite a few of them, actually:
- The Gilgamesh Epos
- Homer’s Odyssey
- The Old Testament
- The Communist Manifesto
- The Lord of the Rings
- Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugs
- Star Wars
- Star Trek
- Iain M. Bank’s Culture novels
- My Little Pony
- The Singularity
To an unsettling and uncanny degree, people flock around those grand narratives and do all kinds of crazy associated things. This definitely shows that narratives can be very effective in getting people to do something – or even a lot, as seen in my post
Whether it’s the thing that they should be doing, is debatable, nevertheless.
Now, what happens when an overarching narrative is missing? Well, I fear the result is utter and complete failure! Doing things without wrapping them into an enveloping narrative does not seem to be the way people operate naturally or effectively.
And I think this is a major and important insight: The effectiveness of our efforts stands and falls with our ability to light a fire in other humans. And our ability to do that depends on the quality and fitness of the narratives we use to unite them under a larger theme.
The most influential people are actually the best storytellers. So, the art of telling engaging stories is of crucial importance to all those who want to effectively create a better future:
So, who are the storytellers who shape the world? There are
- Journalists and bloggers
- Movie directors and artists
- Computer game designers
- Product designers and marketers
All of them tell stories to reach people emotionally and move them so much that they start doing something. Of course, different people have various levels of success and failure applying this approach, but it’s the only general approach that really seems to work. Those who are skilled at telling captivating stories will get a lot of attention, and those who lack that skill will be ignored. I think this a skill that can be trained. Practice, as always, plays a most important role here.
And it’s a skill that many thinkers, doers, activists, futurists, and transhumanists are not very good at! Otherwise they would get a lot more attention. Having said that, I must admit that my skills in that regard seem to be quite mediocre, too. But after some hard thinking I have come to the conclusion that it’s a serious priority for me to work on that skill, because it really seems to be the most determining factor for the impact one person can have on the world.
So, the conclusion for me is twofold:
- We need to become better at being effective storytellers and weavers of compelling narratives.
- We actually need to create an overarching narrative that gives our community clear cultural cohesion. So far, this has been the narrative of the fractal society. But I think there is something greater and more encompassing than that: It’s the vision of neternity, a new era for humanity that changes life to the better for everyone on almost every level. Neternity comes with great freedom, great abundance, great technology, and a great society which has a place for everyone.
The vision of neternity is in some sense the successor of the narrative of the Singularity, but in contrast to the Technological Singularity, neternity is more concrete, and closer in time, in other words:
Neternity is nearer
And we actually have to bring forth neternity with our own actions and projects. In that sense, the promise of neternity is a practical and political project, as opposed to a teleological and deterministic outcome of societal and technological forces. This is of course a simplification, because I believe that the evolution towards neternity is a natural one, but it stands in contrast to many of our contemporary values, systems, and structures. Working towards neternity may be less convenient than simply waiting for the Singularity to happen, but it’s a more epic quest to actually envision and create the future with your own efforts.
That’s why I will focus my efforts on working on the vision of neternity, whether it’s the details of its underlying systems, its general philosophy, or the fictional narratives that are connected to it, like Netec and Fractal Cosmos.
Of course, this will mean that I will spend less time on learning to code, so my plans to implement my reputation economy system Quantified Prestige as web application will be postponed. Now I believe that it is more important to create the cultural conditions in which a reputation economy can thrive. Its actual technological implementation can and will come later. A technological solution that is used by nobody would be of very little value, after all.
So, I invite you to work on and with the grand narrative of neternity. How will life be better in that coming age that we will create together? Please share your visions, even if they are unfinished and rough. The world needs them! You need them! Our Fractal Future needs them!