“We actually have to fundamentally upgrade our worldview in a way that is commensurate with science, and includes but transcends science’” –Daniel Schmachtenberger
Daniel Schmachtenberger is a member of the Neurohacker Collective and founder of the Emergence Project. He talks with Commander Divine about how our technology has outstripped our ability to use it properly. In other words, we need to step up our game to be able to use our technology effectively. As a result, Daniel is dedicated to finding ways to enhance people’s cognitive ability so that they will be able to make better decisions about technology and life in general.
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Commander Divine uses the product, and he has arranged for the Unbeatable Mind community to be given a special opportunity to arrange for a monthly supply. When you purchase an ongoing subscription for Qualia at neurohacker.com, enter the code “unbeatablemind15r” to get 15% off the price.
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Transcript & Shownotes
Hey folks Mark Divine coming at you with the unbeatable mind podcast. Welcome back. Thanks for joining me this week and we have a room really, really cool show for you this week.
Before I get going and introduce my really cool guest, friend and super-brain Daniel Schmachtenberger, let me remind you that nobody can find this podcast if you don’t go rated it on iTunes. And so my dream is that when people go and they search for, like, Joe Rogan or Tim Ferris, Unbeatable Mind podcast pops up and everyone says “Whoa, check that out. It’s got six thousand five star reviews, we better watch that.” So go rate it on iTunes if you have the time. And if you’re not on our email list, then you might be missing out so go to unbeatablemind.com/podcasts and just name drop your name on our email list and then you’ll see that we send you all sorts of cool things and we don’t spam you very often. But once in while we do. At any rate, that’s a different issue.
So Daniel, super-cool to see you again, my friend. Wow. Welcome. So Daniel, I’m gonna do the best I can with a short introduction and then will let Daniel speak for himself. Which is the whole point of this podcast by the way. So Daniel was born in Colorado, lived many, many different places and now settled in, believe it or not, Encinitas, California, right down the road from us. Daniel is a deep thinker. He’s like a human big brain computer. He’s the founder of the emergence project which is a think tank to take a systems view of the world and to see if we can bring some new thinking to solve problems that are hitherto unsolvable, or intractable is the word you use.
Also on the board of the Center for Integral Wisdom, where I met him with Ken Wilber and a few other notable integral theorists. And trying to evolve the core source code for spirituality, which is fascinating work. And now more recently the co-founder of the Neurohacker Collective.
So were gonna talk about all those things today, and probably more. Daniel it’s super-cool to see you again and thanks for coming.
Daniel: Thanks for having me. Really good to see you.
Mark: You as well. So like I mentioned a little while ago, your work is very interesting and inspiring and every time we talk I leave the conversation feeling like not only do I have a little bit more knowledge but like for more some reason a couple more connections have been made. Like my consciousness, just by the expansiveness of the conversation has actually grown a little bit. I think that’s fascinating. Your brain doesn’t work the same way… I keep saying that your brain doesn’t work the same way as most people’s. How did you evolve as a human being? Like, where did Daniel come from? Besides the DNA part and the moment mother’s womb part. Where did you come from? What were your influences? What helped you become who you are today?
Daniel: When you talk about connecting different areas, and then the kind of interconnected worldview, being able to do transdisciplinary and kind of interdisciplinary work I had a really fortunate really head start which is that I was homeschooled growing up. And my parents were kind of educational theorists and they want to run an experiment…
Mark: You were the experiment of one…
Mark: n equals 1.
Daniel: And the experiment was if you give the kid no curriculum at all, and expose them to as many topics as possible, see what they’re interested in and facilitate the interest. See what happens.
Mark: Is that like un-schooling?
Daniel: Un-schooling is similar to that idea, but it didn’t exist when I was growing up. So when I was a kid I didn’t have a certain amount of math, social studies, English, right? I never… I actually still have illegible handwriting… I didn’t do all the letters. I never learned state capitals.
Mark: Can you string a sentence together? I’m pretty sure you can.
Daniel: I can string a sentence together. But there were just areas I wasn’t called towards, but I was fascinated by all the sciences. And one of the neat things was because there weren’t subject divisions, I didn’t…
Mark: You didn’t have to vertical eyes them and compartmentalize them like a normal student.
Daniel: Took physics and chemistry and biology and astrophysics explaining how the Adams got created that are in our body within the kind of biophysics of how the human organisms work. It was all interconnected.
It was all interconnected also with the philosophic systems that gave rise to why this universe work that way. And so growing up that was…
Mark: Were you thinking about those things as a, like a seventh grader? Or ninth grader or something?
Daniel: Much earlier as one of the other parts of my early education was activism. And so it was like all the philosophic traditions, all the sciences, and all the areas of activism, that was the braid of my early experience. And so activism was, animal rights were, environmental work, social justice work, and so I got to see the worst parts of the world and most the most extreme unnecessary kinds of suffering.
Mark: Were you parents traveling around a lot? Were you being traipsed around the world to do this activist work?
Daniel: Some of that. But we didn’t have to go that far to find factory farms. And then as I got a little bit older I did go to them International, frontline work but getting to start to really dive into the metrics of ocean acidification, and product biodiversity loss, and climate change, and species extinction in the causes for those things.
One of the things that was really devastating for me early was because I was working a lot of across a lot of areas, I would see that there was a specific area… we’d be working on a certain organization’s, first one that really hit me wasn’t if elephant poaching project. And the solution to do decreased the poaching at that particular area was putting up big offenses around the preserves, to keep the poachers out, and increased sentencing for poaching. Which, after huge amounts of work, it finally worked. And the elephant poaching did go down in that proceeding particular preserve.
But the problem was the poverty of the people that had no solution other than poaching. The mindsets of people toward seeing animals as commodities, the economic system that created poverty in the first place… Like none of that could change. So the same poaching groups moved to start hunting the white rhino and the mountain gorilla and because I was working on enough issues I got to see that lateral displacement.
Mark: That problem just got squeezed into another domain.
Daniel: And so if you care about elephants as a success… if you care about quality of life comprehensively, it was a failure.
And as I started to look at the whole picture I got to see that almost all of the good work we were trying to do in the four benefit areas or in the non-profit, or in the government areas mostly just displaced issues, and the underlying causes continued to get worse. And so that’s where I was also getting to take a systems theoretic perspective, which is understanding not just individual areas of science, but understanding universal, how do whole systems work? Interdisciplinary. Answered of applying it to activism and saying what would it take to actually prevents the impending problems, solve the underlying basis of the existing ones, and create fundamentally better world structures.
Mark: Fascinating. So you’re… You sit on boards with world leaders and triple PhDs. Do you have any formal education yourself, besides you’re homeschooling? Do you have… Did you go to get an MD or a PhD or anything like that? Like in the formal system?
Daniel: Kind of. Most of the education that I have that’s relevant didn’t come through traditional training, and even the traditional academic training I did was very avant-garde, very small schools that had programs I was interested in. So I did undergrad in math and physics at small school called the Maharishi University, where they were actually doing physics work that I was really interested in…
Mark: I remember the Maharishi. The TM guy.
Daniel: Yeah exactly. But they were doing very interesting work at the intersection of physics and consciousness. How does consciousness and physics, what is it? How do they interact? And then graduate degrees for me were in… Never did my dissertation, did my PhD except dissertation in psychology. But again I didn’t bother because I was just… I was interested in the learning, not the…
Mark: I have a similar story. I have an eighty in a PhD in leadership that I never finished because I went to Iraq I looked at the whole period… I had some distance and I looked at it and I said “This isn’t relevant. Not worth me finishing.” Interesting.
Daniel: Feel you.
Mark: Yeah, make sense. Okay. So before I get into the Emergence Project and some of your work there, but where do you come across the integral theory and Ken Wilbur and start to merge those ideas into your thinking processes?
Daniel: So some of the most influential topics for me growing up were system science, systems theory and so this was the work of Fritjof Capra and all of the previous general systems dynamics, cybernetics, and information theory kind of people. And then also complexity theory. So the work of Stuart Coffman, Santa Fe Institute, that kind of work. Which is actually an upgrade to science itself, right? Which is when we’re not just studying small variable systems, where you can isolate a variable and control… very large variable systems where you can’t isolate them, what is the right methodology for complex systems? And so I was very interested in not just understanding specific domains but increasing the capability of understanding anything. And then being able to have better lateral thinking. How do you cross apply what we know in any area to other areas if it’s cross applicable because there are underlying generalized principles or mentor structures. That’s where I got into integral theory was looking at what are all the upgraded ways of knowing, right? Epistemologies that can potentially lead to novel, valuable insights in any area. And that can lead to better processes for coming to understand the topic.
Mark: Okay. And so that led I think, if I’m following your thinking and your own growth to the Emergence Project, which is about taking from all these disparate systems and complex… The knowledge around these things and then trying to distill practical solutions right there? Or solutions that may potentially have a more systemic impact as opposed to an isolated impact? So tell us about the emergence project and how that came about and your work there.
Daniel: So, when I saw the displacement that happened, right? From trying to solve certain issues where we didn’t address the interconnectivity, and we didn’t address the underlying causes deeply enough, that was…
Mark: When you say we you mean “we” as a civilization?
Daniel: Correct. And that’ll generally be the we… But I also saw that the… Many of the core metrics regarding the integrity of the biosphere and our ability to keep existing on this planet were continuing to get worse. Despite the collective work of all positive intended projects. And getting worse heading towards points of irreversibility, of existential risk, right? Our species not being able to continue on the planet where we’d damaged the life-support system too far.
Mark: Let’s pause there. You made a comment to me a couple months ago where you said something like that you believed that’s the route all human history… where at this point in time we have the greatest existential threat to our existence as a human race thus far, by far.
Daniel: Well think about it. Nuclear weapons were the first existential technology that we got because if her killing people with rocks or spears or guns, you can’t destroy all people, right? You can’t fundamentally destroy the biosphere. The technologies not strong enough.
Mark: At least one side wins.
Mark:(laughing) Which means half the population is still potentially there.
Daniel: Exactly. And you can’t, with axes, cut down all of the old growth forests in the world. You can’t with line fishing over fish in the ocean to the point of oceanic collapse. And so our increased population but mostly our increased technology, addressing… And technology increasing means increased power. So if we move from an axe to a D9 or slash and burn up for forest that can take down an acre a second or dredge nets that can pull out 90% of the large species in the oceans in the last hundred years, or nuclear technologies– the level of technology we have has made our ignorance of our interconnectedness with each other and with the biosphere no longer tenable.
Mark: It’s magnified it.
Daniel: Magnified it to the place of being existential. We’re basically… we either have to fundamentally change how we apply power or we stop existing soon.
Mark: So just because technology has advanced rapidly or accelerated doesn’t mean thinking systems or moral structures… So in other words the race hasn’t evolved to keep up with the technology.
Consciousness and Science
Daniel: This is Einstein’s famous quote, it has become so evident that our technology has far surpassed our humanity. One of the problems there is that science itself… Such a powerful system for understanding the physical world, the physical universe. And it’s a… It is up and applied philosophy which is it’s a way of going about understanding which has to do with scientific method, observation hypothesis. But science is based on the idea that what is real is observable, measurable, third person staff. Which means that consciousness which is first-person, experience ball, non-measurable stuff is not real just by definition. It’s outside of the domain of what science can address. Science can look at neural correlates. If someone says they’re experiencing estate, what is the EDG pattern? But if you look at the EEG pattern of someone you still have no idea what it actually like to be them. And so what that’s created was a split between ethics, which is concerned about the subjective experience and science which is our ability to have increasing mastery over the physical world in till we’ve had a ramping of technology from a system where technology is applied science, but a system that has no compass, moral compass in terms of how it should be applied…
Daniel: It’s not just ignorant of it. It… If we take physicalism, the idea, which is kind of the predominant philosophic system upon which science is usually based or derived. The idea which was fundamentally real was physical stuff. And so consciousness is either not real at all, or it’s an epiphenomenon of neural networks, of brains. But they couldn’t then be causal. It couldn’t affect physics, right? It couldn’t affect brains and bodies. We take that idea not only is science unaware of ethics, it says there are fundamentally no ethical systems that could be true. That’s been the kind of philosophic stance of the un-commenced her ability of science and any kind of consciousness oriented study. So when we have this system that’s creating all the power and determining how we create our physical, built world, that not only doesn’t have a compass, but says no compass uses are actually meaningful. Then the compass lies up being economics, which is directing all the science and research and the underlying philosophy behind how capitalism works is neo-Darwinian kind of idea that is actually… It’s not an adequate idea for the technology we have. And we can see that from all the major crises we have. This is why the Centre for integral wisdom work is important. We actually have to fundamentally upgrade our world view in a way that is commensurate with science and includes but transcends science and can make ethics and science into commensurate. So we can actually have a formalized kind of ethics, and essentialism that gets to be a basis for not just saying how do stuff work but also what should be.
Mark: I love that. And most people are going “hunh?” Because we still have the fundamental problem, it’s nice to have an upgrade of understanding, but if the people who are at the ground level, doing the work, and executing tactics and strategies, even if you understand it you don’t… You haven’t evolved yourself to where you own it. You feel it, you experience it, you know, you’ve elevated yourself to where you… This is much more than a concept. And I think that’s a challenge. You can have someone who believes something then they go and act completely different way because their patterns and their emotionality and everything is stuck in a different stage of development. So where I’m going with this, it’s nice to have the emergence project and new thinking. It’s nice to have the Centre for inner wisdom and new thinking, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to change a single human beings consciousness. Or evolve them. Unless they’re actively involved in those organizations. So how do we fill that gap? How do we evolve human consciousness at a global scale so that at least some tipping points that Wilbur always talks about. There’s 10%. He said he just pulled the number out of thin air. But how can we evolve consciousness, you know? I have theories about… Through unbeatable mind training that it requires active work. Because I’ve learned that through my martial arts and Navy SEALs and you’ll get traditions that we’ve gotta take responsibility for our evolving ourselves through training and practices like breath, and meditation, and concentration, right? Engaging with human beings in a common understanding and perspective taking, those types of things. So what sayeth you, about this massive subject?
Daniel: well when we ask how do we make a fundamentally better world than we are so ask how do we upgrade human consciousness, human experience and patterns of behavior. They’re the same question. Because when we look at ocean acidification, it’s cause my human action. When we look at overfishing, and population issues and violence issues these are all caused by human action. And human action caused by all of our determinants of human behavior. And so if we want to…
Mark: the… Let me stop there because I want to… We’re going to keep probing here. I get… So if new knowledge comes down and says, “okay these systems, the systemic thinking says okay now I can’t fish the oceans like we have because is destroying the ocean. We can’t chop down the rain forests the way we have. And so, you know, whoever the intelligent body of governmental organization at the time, whether it’s United States or United Nations, says, “okay, you can’t do that anymore. It’s illegal.”
Daniel: won’t work.
Mark: that’s not gonna work. Because that’s the old… The twenty-first century, top-down approach right? It’s already failed.
Daniel: and so what we’re looking at is how do we facilitate self organizing, self-governance? How do we facilitate a bottom up evolution of understanding consciousness and better predisposition of behavior. So if you have enlightened law, no matter how enlightened we are that developed at, and then you try to impose it by force on people who don’t understand it, then you get the sense and you have authoritarianism.
Mark: Or Donald Trump’s wall along the Mexican border.
Daniel: I wouldn’t say that was enlightened law to begin with, but exactly. If we look at the elephants task scenario, what was it take to have no one wants to have the elephant tasks. And that’s means economic solutions where nobody was in the poverty that needed that it means mindset shift…
Mark: or economic solutions where no one was buying it because they understood…
Daniel: both. Right. And so we look at this involves changes in macroeconomics, it involves changes in education and worldview. Like deeper changes, infrastructural changes. But we have the situation where the elephant is worth more dead than alive, in fact economically, it’s not worth anything alive on anyone’s balance sheet. But dead, those trusts are worth a meaningful amount, and whale dead is a million dollars on a Japanese fishing boat, but alive in the ocean it’s not worth anything to anyone. Even if it’s serving a role in keeping the whole planet…
Mark: except to his children and his family…
Daniel: but the commons has a balance sheet that were okay stealing from. That’s actually cord to the whole idea of how we do capitalism. And so each…
Mark: the linear approach. There is no’s systemic account of the way we handle economics.
Daniel: when were basically sealing from the commons and the externalizing our waste there, but there’s a very small number of us, the Earth can support it. When there’s a large number, with a large lever of ability to mine…
Mark: and most experts say that the number was about a billion people.
Daniel: well preindustrial revolution before we had the ability to start extracting from the savings account of the planet, it was half a billion. And then the population boom after that was based on a renewable extraction of savings accounts.
Mark: and that’s been only a hundred and fifty years, right?
Daniel: yeah. Eighteen fifteen was when we hit a billion people for the first time. And so there’s… How do we evolve human consciousness while there’s things that we need to do in each sector. There’s evolving human worldview. There’s evolving the social systems… Imagine if economics was such that the incentive of every agent economically was perfectly aligned with the well-being of every other agent and of the commons. We have a different kind of economic measurement system, metric system where you couldn’t externalize harm somewhere else in the form of pollution that’s going into the air or the water or killing and co-monetizing something. But the omni-positive metrics of systemic benefits to everyone was how you profited. That’s a fundamentally different system. It’s not communism, or socialism, or capitalism. It’s a system that we are just getting the tools and ability to do it we never had. But then you’re actually having economics be the tool of evolution of consciousness en masse. All the social systems… Same with we have to fundamentally upgrade the infrastructure that ends up affecting not only the planet, but how it affects human consciousness. But there’s also things at an individual level. And your work is focused there.
Mark: yeah. Now one of the things that there’s a lot of fear about in the world, even amongst people if you are having these conversations, and we’ve run at the time and that’s we can’t get their or he won’t get their without a major collapse. A systemic collapse either in food production or all of the above. Could be any one of five or six different trigger points. It could be influenza, flu, zika virus or nuclear war between Russia and the United States, or… You know what I mean? There’s the collapse of the ocean whatever. What is your view on that? Do you do you think were past the point of a return? Or whether we have the ability to pull ourselves out of this, or is this just a race against time and who knows?
Daniel: James Lovelock, the guy who, geobiologist who developed the Gaia hypothesis, the idea that the earth is actually an adaptive system, can actually self regulate and adapt. He’s been looking at biosphere changes across may be a longer period of time with more data than it but almost anyone. And two thousand eight he said we’d pass the tipping point for major biosphere damage. That we had maybe fifty years before civilization collapsed.
Mark: without radical change. You mean if we went along…
Daniel: he just said we’d pass the tipping point.
Mark: regardless of what happened in the future.
Daniel: right and then 2012 he was asked if you still agree with that? And he said, “it’s going faster than I had modeled.”
Now, when he was kinda probed a little bit deeper–and he holds a view that’s harder than some other people’s views– but he said, “if we did everything technologically right now we could shift it but there’s no indication that we have the right economic or political or individual will to do that. Because we don’t need to just emit a little bit less CO2 this year than last year, we need to emit less than none right away.” Meaning getting into active sequestering. Which technologically we actually have the technology to do, the only reason coal is cheaper in some places is because all of the costs are external to the environment in the form of this CO2, in the mercury and mountaintop removal, mining the… If you actually had to pay for the cost of leaving the commons neutral, the cost of coal would go up for orders of magnitude. And solar would’ve ridge reached grid parity the moment it was invented.
And so this is where you actually have to shift things like macroeconomics to be able to shift technologies within it. Now we were already fortunately at the points that the technology had gotten efficient enough that it was going to take over anyways. Do I believe that it’s too late no. Do I believe that it might be too late, yes.
Mark: I think that the big wildcard that… What was the name? Lovelace?
Mark: Lovelock could not foresee was artificial intelligence. And the ability of AI systems and, like, nano-bots and the convergence of all accelerating technologies to like radically shift it in an accelerating place in the opposite direction. For instance, I get all these letters from my friend, Peter Diamond, about what’s new breaking technologies and stuff like that. And, by the way, “the biggest obstacle to the deployment of these technologies is our own government.” Our own United States government, and European as well. So a lot of these things are still kind of in the laboratory or being tested in 3rd world countries where they don’t have the regulations, but they’ve got a nano-bot that can extract carbon dioxide from the ocean and replace it with oxygen. So we deploy–I don’t know how you deploy it — but you deploy these little nano-bots. Cleans the ocean up, right? It’s theoretically possible and with the right amount of investment in it we could do that. So if you have a hundred of these key, new, emergent technologies which are powered by an artificial system and nanotechnology it’s possible that we could dramatically alter the equation.
That’s the utopian view, I guess. I like to have the mindset that that’s possible. It’s too scary…
Daniel: It opens up possibilities. So exponential technology–technology where the tools create the ability to create more and bigger tools faster, and specifically we see that with computing, because computing because computing helps give us the knowledge to know how to do more computing. And so you get these exponential curves. So Diamandis, and Kurzewell, and Singularity University are focused on all the exponential curves in any kind of technology. That increased… and it’s something that’s unique you get about exponential growth, as opposed to any other kind of growth, is it means you have so much growth each year once you get to those inflection points where we’re at, then we have through the longest periods of time that our adaptation cycles have to increase rapidly or they can’t even begin to understand it, and that our intuitions and best practices from the past become obsolete faster and faster. So this is a big deal, right?
And those exponential technologies can both solve major problems, and cause major problems. ‘Cause it’s just like we were mentioning, nuclear was an exponential… it was a major technology, it was the first one that was existential. If we used it wrong we could actually take ourselves out as a species. We have a lot of existential tech now.
With biotech and nanotech, we have life ending applications, but we also have life-healing applications. Which is why we do have to rebuild infrastructure from scratch using the best technologies, but applied for the best things. Which means no more externalization of harm anywhere. Which means a worldview shift, where we recognize that on this little bitty biosphere, as powerful as we are, there is no place called “away.” Where we can put trash, or where we can mine unconscionably. Or where we can war and it’s just okay, ’cause it’s “away.”
AI and Survival
Mark: Do you think that that shift at the scale that we’re talking about will only happen when humans are augmented with artificial intelligence?
Daniel: No. That’s one possibility. Not necessary. We already see people who have… your world-centric warrior program, right? We see people with a world-centric worldview who recognize that it’s impossible for the liver to advantage itself meaningfully at the expense of a kidney in an inter-connected body where the kidneys die and the liver dies.
Well it’s actually impossible for any of us to advantage ourselves meaningfully at the expense of part of the biosphere that we’re all interdependent with. And if you start getting how inter-connected it is, we stop focusing on competitive advantage and start focusing on systemic advantage. And so we don’t need AI to do that. We can see that all the people who actually pay the most attention to how systems work, already get there.
So then it’s “how do we facilitate the evolution of a world-centric worldview?” And then corresponding economic systems that can then implement the infrastructural systems that are world-centric benefit, right? It’s a world level balance sheet we’re optimizing for, rather than optimizing for individual balance sheets at the cost of the world balance sheet.
Mark: Yeah. I think it’s ironic that the same set of trends that led to us getting to this what you call existential crisis, is also allowed the race for the first time to have the potential to have a world-centric point of view. And so Mass Transportation… all this stuff, mass transportation, global shipping and the Internet, all arose in the last 40 years. 40 years. We were talking about earlier how 200 years ago, population was 500 million and now it’s 7 and a half billion. 200 years. In the duration of the human race, that’s just a flick of an eyeball. And in the last 40 years, we’ve gone from local to global. Which is one reason there’s such a push-back against globalization right now with all the… you know, local thinking, and tribalism which never went away.
But I guess my point is that the Internet… the Internet of things, the Internet of people, cross-border collaboration, the ability for you and I to get in an airplane and be in Istanbul tomorrow is stunning. The change that that’s brought to the human race, and what we’ve seen and from my practices in yoga and martial arts… you know, I’ve seen–and teaching Navy SEALs yoga–I’ve seen a dramatic shift in the last 10 years even. In the languaging and the type of people who I’m training, and their level of awareness.
I’m actually starting to now train SEAL candidate who are world-centric when they come to be, or as soon as we start having the conversation. “Check.” I can tell that they’re there. Whereas 7 or 8 years ago, if I mentioned the word “yoga” their eyes would start crossing. And so my sense is that it’s happening already. And that’s the human spirit or human consciousness compulsion to evolve itself. Well I think it got stuck, and then all of a sudden with the Internet and the opening up of global travel and all this stuff, and the conversation now it’s spidering out and expanding. And the systems that have been created for the 21st century are obviously not capable of holding that together. So we’re in one of the most challenging and scary and risky periods of history for a lot of reasons.
Daniel: and opportunities.
Mark: and opportunities right.
Daniel: if you look at any kind of technology. Even old technology. You can use a hammer to build houses. You can also use a hammer to beat somebody. Any technology can have applications because it’s an extension of our ability and we can do wonderful or shady things.
Mark: we used to say in the SEALs the guns don’t kill people, kill people.
Daniel: and I’m not saying that the technology’s value agnostic, some technology does intrinsically do things move things in particular directions. But the foundational kinds of technological capability are just going to empower human choice. And the question is what’s conditioning the basis for how choices made. And so as we get existential technology, it’s a smart much more powerful and that much quicker. Were also that much last Q how to use it much better and much worse potentials for it at the same time. And we see right now some metrics in the world that are getting that exponentially worse, like we talked about. And we see others as you getting exponentially better. And Diamandis famously talks about things going exponentially better as a result’s of positive explication applications of tech.
Mark: we live in the most abundant period of human history, yet you turn on the network news and it seems like the world’s falling apart.
Daniel: Or if you really look at the biospheric effects of the way we have been using technology and infrastructure, right? And so, if things are getting exponentially better and worse at the same time, it means the current system is destabilizing, and we are moving toward either the end of that system, and the drop-down, which is one of the catastrophic possibilities, or the emergence of a fundamentally higher order system. Because what’s getting better are the capabilities, the parts, that if we repurpose them with a new whole, a new worldview, a new set of macrostructures. Become not just an evolutionary shift on a gradient, but an actual discreet jump up. And we’re right at the brink of the ability for a discreet shift in evolution.
Human evolution and change
Mark: In general trend throughout human history is the wholarchic evolution. Transcend and include what came before, and that’s the vision that you’re talking about. But you see these glorious moments in history where that didn’t work. Atlantis. Didn’t work. The island tribe.. the name’s escaping me, that just disappeared from the face of the earth, didn’t work. Population that consumed themselves out of existence. So I guess I’m just kind of reaffirming our point. It could go in either direction. Now I’m not trying to be the negative nanny here, but I’m trying balance to where we’re going with this conversation. In my opinion, and you share this because of your work, it’s not acceptable for the global population to sit back and wait for us to solve it. It’s not acceptable. It has to be everybody. All in. Right? We all have to step up into our Sheepdog skins and act world-centrically and start making different decisions. Because the or else is too scary, too… I guess, apocalyptic to even…
Daniel: Well you look at the work your doing, and how many people you have trained to be more effective and more capable at so many things. And nobody n childhood said, “All right, we’re training you to be part of the solution.” But your life brought you to that. Correct? You look at what Elon is doing. And take a single person, who’s saying, “I’m gonna take responsibility for climate change.” And that’s not being completely… having a stand only on one planet. You look at what… he wasn’t trained for that. Something happened that start to step up to take more responsibility and more agency for a larger collective whole.
it’s actually important that just like all ancient traditions wanted people to think about their own imminent death, to really use their time here well, it’s important to think about the possibility of imminent collapse. Because the idea that you can just focus on your little life, and have a definition of success for you, that isn’t a definition of success for everybody, it’s a misnomer. That concept is no longer relevant.
Mark: Yeah. So we’ve gotta shake people up out of that point of view, because that’s still the prevailing wisdom. “I just get up and go to work. As long as I mind my own business, and all of this stuff that I see and hear about, it’s always been there.” I hear that all the time. “It’s always been… there’s always been war. There’s always been doomsday. And this time, I believe, is different.
Daniel: It is. There haven’t always been 7 billion people. There hasn’t always been an ocean mostly fished-out, at the end of the ability to do it. We haven’t always at exponential technologies to empower bad decisions if we make them. So it is different.
Mark: It is different. And so…
Daniel: And it’s also different because we haven’t had the exponential technologies to make better solutions possible. We have the ability now to… technological automation is happening. Robotic automation. So either we get to automate the shittiest jobs and help everyone step up, create fundamentally better economic systems. Or automate the shittiest jobs, concentrate that wealth at the top even more, and have even greater economic disparity. Right? It’s going to happen, which way do we steer it? We have… we never had the ability to inventory all the world’s resources. Now, with the internet of things, and ubiquitous sensors, we can actually create a real-time balance sheet of the commons. Know all of the material resources available. Inventory all the areas that we need to allocate resources to. And be able to look at how to allocate the world’s resources, all the needs…
Mark: We should assign a block-chain code to every single resource in the known world…
Daniel: So we never had block-chain before…But we have the ability to do things like that. Data science, the internet, the internet of things has given us the ability to do things that Karl Marx or Adam Smith could have never thought about. Which means that the foundational axioms have to be rethought, ’cause they’re obsolete now.
Mark: knowing full well that talking about it and talking about in think tanks is only part of the solution, what’s Daniel doing these days through the neurohacker network or collective to be part of a tactical solution.
Daniel: Well there’s this classic question of, “Are individuals conditioned by the world they’re born into, which we know is part of the truth. So do we want to work on making better social systems. Infrastructure, social structures to condition people better statistically. The answer is yes, right? Communism and the Democratic platform mostly focus there. Or do individuals self-direct to various degrees, and then create the commons, create the built world. And so we want to empower individual agency. And Capitalism and the Republican platform have focused on it. And they’re both true. They’re both true. They’re interconnecting and there’s no dichotomy between those. WE want to make better collective environments, and we want to make more agentic humans, right? We want to make environments that condition individuals better, and individuals that are more resilient to any environment, right?
Mark: Correct. So it’s not an either/or, it’s a both. And they both need to emerge in a more healthy manner.
Daniel: And so on the individual side. Like, your work is focused on, “How do we evolve people who have more emotional resilience, more impulse control, more mental toughness…”So that they can make better decisions. Even in the face of hard environments. Your whole world was the hardest environments that existed. And how do we still make really good decisions?
Neurohacker is focused on that from the side of view of inventorying all of the technologies, and this is both processes–like things that you teach with the breath processes, meditations, psychotherapeutic training. And also physical technologies.
Mark: We’re talking about at an individual level. Not a systematic…
Daniel: Correct. And so we look at the technology side of everything from transcranial stimulation, to genomic solutions, to biochemical solutions, to using technology to meditate better, like EEG neural feedback. And saying how can we use our accelerating technology to evolve ourselves individually, faster, better, more comprehensively.
Mark: Okay. And so with the… by virtue of the name, neurohacker and being a collective, it sounds to me like you’re starting that journey by trying to enhance neurological processing power.
Mark: And so now we’re getting into the field–the emerging field of nootropics, right?
Daniel: Nootropics are one of the categories that we work in. And so when we say “neurohacker,” what we’re talking about, is, “How do we understand how the brain and nervous system–and the whole physiology that it lives within–how do they work in relationship with consciousness better. So we’re really looking at hacking the mind/brain interface.
Mark: Right. So first and third quadrant using the Will Barian AQL system.
Daniel: Yeah, the two upper quadrants primarily.
Mark: Yeah. Upper left, upper right.
Daniel: And the goal there is, everything from whether it’s increasing cognitive capabilities like short-term memories, speed of memory, long-term memory, digit span. Also increasing focus, attention span, processing, analytic capability, synthetic capability. How do we increase those kinds of cognitive capabilities, by understanding the neurologic hardware that mediates those capabilities, and then saying, “How can we help up-regulate the homeostatic capacity of those physiologic pathways so they can actually mediate those capabilities better?”
Mark: So let me use Unbeatable Mind and layman’s terms. In the subjective realm, we’re going to use something like a meditative practice, let’s say a concentration practice, and that practice is going to create some neuroplastic shifts in my brain structure, which can allow me to focus better. And over time, maybe an epigenetic shift in me which is going to make it a permanent stage conditional change. And what you’re saying is to augment that, let’s take a look at the whole systemic organization of what’s going on in the brain/biology system. And there’s potentially some methodologies or “hacks”–even though I have an issue with that word–there’s some ways to what you term up-regulate. To change, to evolve, to improve it. And so that together the first and the third quadrant, the objective and the subjective are supporting each other in a mutually upward spiral of virtuous growth. That’s cool.
Daniel: Yeah. And just to speak to it. We have an issue with many interpretations of the word “hack” as well. When you think about hacking “Big Brother.” Which the hacker ethos largely did. We’re not trying to say that nature is Big Brother and we’re trying to beat it, right? We have a very different stance.
Mark: ‘Cause usually that doesn’t work very well…
Daniel: It doesn’t at all.
Mark: Nature always wins.
Daniel: How do we understand and participate with it? But one of the other aspects of kind of the hacker ethos, was it took a lot more work to program the security system than it did to figure out how to break into it, right? It was also largely, “How do we identify ways of getting some new behavior out of the system that we hadn’t known was possible before?” Where we have the least amount of input creating the most amount of output. And so we’re focused on increased efficiency and efficacy from what had been possible before. But, so when you’re doing your focused meditation, for instance, and we look at what’s happening neurologically, we can see that there are certain brainwave states that are involved. And then we can say, “Well, we can actually measure your brainwaves, feed that back to you with a kind of biofeedback, and train you how to meditate faster. We can realize that part of your focus is being mediated by certain neurotransmitters. Acetylcholine is doing parts of it, Glutamate is doing other parts of it, Catecholamines are doing other parts. And we can say, “Can we up-regulate the body and brain’s ability to both produce and regulate those chemistries. Not just up-regulate them where they’re fixed, right? But up-regulate your body’s own regulatory capacity.
Mark: So teaching your body to fish, just not throwing him…
Daniel: Yeah. I mean, it’s very… When you’re working out, you’re up-regulating capacity, right? It’s not just that that muscle’s on all the time, but it has the ability to be more on when engaged.
Mark: Yeah. So you used the bodybuilding kind of analogy, so let’s use that analogy to help people understand how a nootropic is working on the brain. Like, HDH or something is working for a bodybuilder is working.
Daniel: Yeah, so if a bodybuilder was just taking creatine without working out, they’re not going to get increased muscle growth. Or if their just taking branch or just protein. But if they are working out enough, they’re dietary intake of those nutrients is actually the limiting factor. And then they increase the bandwidth of the rate limiting factor, then the whole system can move further forward. So it’s a synergy between how much stimulus is happening to the muscle and how much nutrients are available to repair it. and the detox capability. And the sleep. And the hormones that are involved in metabolism, catabolism, anabolism, right? So it’s a right synergy of those things coming together, and saying “Where are the limiting factors in being able to up-regulate those?” And so that’s true for muscle development, it’s true for cognitive ability, it’s true for meditation, it’s true for a lot of things. And so if someone were to take nootropics that say were going to increase some aspect of neurochemical function, but then not actually practices using their minds in any disciplined kind of ways, or for any meaningful activity, you’re going to get a limited effect. And anyone can notice they can take caffeine or Adderall, and have an effect. They can similarly not take any thing and focus, and study more, learn more, meditate more and have an effect. But if you combine those things you can have meaningful synergies of effects.
Mark: Fascinating. So meditation… they’re meant to be done together. The practices and the supplements through nootropics is what creates the magic. Just taking the nootropic might help an executive be more focused in a meeting, right? Maybe he’ll stay on track, acts as a flow state, but what we’re talking about… and you’re mission is really to help use these tools in compliment with or in coordination or concert with well-known and emerging practices and things like what Peak Brain Institute is doing with biofeedback, to really evolve the brain, consciousness system.
Daniel: Well and the reason that… if you go to our site you’ll see that what’s available right now to the public is a very comprehensive kind of nootropic. Cognitive enhancement neutraceutical. There’s a lot of other technologies we’re working on, it’s just that… if they’re actually addressing anything in a more medical direction, there’s a lot of science, and a lot of FDA things before we can give them out.
Mark: And you gotta start somewhere.
Daniel: And so this was a way that we could start providing value to…
Mark: So you have an initial product in the market. That’s called Qualia.
Daniel: Right. But we’re also working very deeply on transcranial stimulation technologies, on microbiomix solutions, on many things… But what’s cool about a nootropic, a really well formulated one, and we had looked at the whole field of nootropics in a lot of depth. And there were some things that were good, but there was nothing that did what we really wanted to see happen, which was again, a kind of comprehensive whole systems. Not approach to just certain neuroransmitters, or certain receptor sites, or certain transporter proteins, but all of the things that were meaningfully involved and rate limiting in cognitive capacity up-regulation. In a way that doesn’t produce down-regulation or dependence, because rather than doing an external over-ride of an internal regulatory system, we ‘re actually supporting the internal regulatory systems.
Mark: Got it. So you’re saying a lot of nootropics on the market are nootropics in brand name only, or in just… or they’re so limited in their scope that they might have a negative effect?
Daniel: Well let’s say we take people using off-label smart drugs. Like Adderall or… I mean, there’s so many smart drugs.
Mark: Adderall’s considered nootropic.
Daniel: No. Nootropic generally means something that increases some aspect of cognitive function beyond someone’s normal baseline without negative side-effect. Which is why it’s kind of this magically wonderful term, to the degree we can achieve it. Smart drug typically means some pharmaceutical that was for narcolepsy of ADD or some other purpose, that’ s then being used for off-label purposes. And it can increase some aspect of cognitive function, but it’s probably going to have side-effects.
Mark: And that’s a chemical, right? That’s not a naturally occurring substance.
Daniel: Well nootropics can be chemicals or naturally occurring substances. We’re not so much focused here on whether we extracted it from a plant or whether we synthesized it. We’re focused on what is the actual effect that it has on our physiology.
Mark: So your Qualia, does it have both synthetic and natural ingredients?
Daniel: It does. In general we’re oriented toward naturally derived things, ’cause we have a whole evolutionary history with them. There’s a lot of synergistic compounds that are there. But there are times where there are synthetic compounds that we’ve developed that have really wonderful properties that are very intercommensurate with human biology and don’t have any indication of meaningful side-effects, and actually have a lot of neural protection positive kind of up-regulation.
Mark: For instance?
Daniel: So the primary family of chemicals that we think about when we are thinking about nootropics are the Racetams. Piracetam was the first one. Then there’s many other Racetams. And they primarily up-regulate the uptake of acetylcholine. They do a number of things, but the up-regulation of the NMDA receptor sites, uptake of acetylcholine in the post-synaptic neuron, that’s their primary thing. And then Ampakines, primarily up-regulate glutamate uptake…
Mark: I’m nodding my head, and pretending that I know what you’re talking about…
Daniel: So these are basically categories of chemicals that increase some aspect of neurotransmission. And we’ve got, on some of these, 50 years of significant data showing that they’re extremely well tolerated and that in addition to actually up-regulating some aspects of human experience that are very meaningful, they’ve actually got physiologic benefits as well. Neuro-protective against oxidative damage in the brain, against glutamate excitotoxicity, against different things like that.
Again, we are technologists. We embrace technology. We just want to see right use of it. So we believe that… natural chemicals can be very toxic to you, right? Hemlock is natural.
And there are synthetic chemicals that used rightly can be beneficial. So we’re not fundamentally… our idea is that there is nothing not natural. If it exists in the universe it is part of the whole universe. And nature is the whole thing. So what we’re interested in is do we understand what nature’s doing well enough that any interventions we have are aligned with its homeostatic capability rather than not.
Mark: Interesting. So a 2 part question ’cause I wanna.. you know, this idea of creating a substance that can hack in and help us improve our cognition and our focus and concentration and all these other things. Like the list of benefits that you list for Qualia on your website almost sound too good to be true. But then, what’s most important is the list of the ingredients and how they act together is stunning in scope and breadth. And you put it all out there, for all your competitors to see. Why did you do that?
Daniel: So we deeply embrace the open-source ethos, and so our goal is to actually make the best technologies that can meaningfully enhance people’s lives available to everybody. So right now for instance, our product is expensive. It’s expensive because the cost to us is ridiculously expensive. We’re working on getting the price down with economy of scale, but how much we control the parts/per/million of any kind of pollutant that’s in there is way outside of traditional industry standards. The way we control for form, purity, so many things, and the total number of grams of product. The exoticness of the ingredients. Our goal was, if we’re not trying to say we need to have something that is 40 dollars in price, just unconstrained, what’s the best thing we can actually do? And so…
Mark: So your Qualia is the Lamborghini of nootropics.
Daniel: At this point. And we’re continuously studying and evolving, refining the process. We’re in both internal pre-clinical trials, and in clinical trials, and in more complex forms of trial that go beyond what the clinical can do. But our goal was, we want this to be available to everyone. We’re making it available as the highest quality we can, as affordably as we can. If anyone else can do a better job, we want them to.
And our unique value proposition is not that we kept knowledge secret, it’s that we actually do a good job at executing on what we learned. And we’re continuing to learn and iterate so…
Mark: I love, by the way, that some of the most successful social entrepreneurs, you invoke Elon Musk’s name, he’s got God-like status in the entrepreneur community, embrace this shared, open-source… you know, he’s giving his battery technology to the world. ‘Cause he wants people to improve upon it, ’cause he knows it’s going to be a virtual salute back to his thinking.
Daniel: And our goal is to continue to advance our own novel science, but also to synthesize all the great science that’s happening anywhere. So we’ve got partners at many different universities that have some of the best neuroscience departments in the world, and also in private sector at many different companies. So it’s like, part of why we call it collective, our goal is not just creating but also curating the very best technologies for anything. Whether we’re talking about sleep, anxiety, pain, cognitive, anything that’s at the mind/brain interface, and making them available to people because it’s very hard for most people to ascertain if something’s actually going to be good or not. And then of the thousand things that can affect cognition, or anxiety or sleep that all have some clinical support, which one’s most relevant to them based on what’s actually going on in their underlying regulatory process. So we’re actually working on building a kind of AI assessment and recommendation engine that can take all the technologies, and knowing what pathways they work with and gaining more and more data about individuals, customize recommendations to put people on the front end…
Mark: So personalized nootropics? Like exercise, nutrition, that’s a huge emergent field as well.
Daniel: Personalized neuro-tech. So it’ll go beyond nootropics into anything neuro-tech.
Mark: No kidding. Fascinating. So before I move on from Qualia, is there a place… I just wanna disclose, folks, that I’ve been trying this product. I think it’s fantastic. Definitely it’s been about 3 months now, I think, right? And I’m definitely experiencing some positive benefits from it. And so I intend to continue using it. I’m not a big supplementation. Most people know I’m kind of very much, warrioresque, in that I don’t like a lot of gadgets and I don’t like to have to take a lot of things, because they run out and then you have to worry about them. You have to go buy another set or whatever, and it’s expensive. But if there’s one thing that I won’t do without now, it’s become the Qualia. I can let my fish-oil run out, and I can let my multivitamins run out, but I don’t want to let the Qualia run out. That’s extraordinary for me to kind of get to that point where, “Wow. This is cool.” So I wanted to put that out there, that I do endorse this product. I think it’s fantastic. So where can people find out about it, and then I want to move on, so it doesn’t sound like a product pitch. But my community needs to know about this. Like there’s a few things that are cutting edge that I think are really cool. This is one of them. Ample is another, I’ve already talked about. New foods, non-bread bread is another one. That’s gonna potentially change major things. At any rate, what is it qualia.com? Or neurohacker?
Daniel: Yeah, so if you go to neurohacker.com you can read about the formulation, our kind of approach to science, about the product, and you can also see on the ethos page, some description of the future things that we’ll be bringing out. But the site is mostly focused on Qualia right now, since that’s the main public offering. And as we continue to have more offerings, they’ll be on the same site.
Mark: Awesome. So what’s next for you? Like, what’s the next piece of the puzzle for you?
Daniel: With neurohacker specifically?
Mark: Well, let’s start with neurohacker, and then for Daniel. What’s emerging for you?
Daniel: So the next thing that we’re doing from a kind of technology product point-of-view with neurohacker is making customized versions of Qualia. Which we did originally, we just can’t do that at scale very well, because it was based on blood labs and genome assessment and etcetera. So we’re building the underlying technology to actually do more customized stacks at scale.
Mark: I’ll volunteer for that study.
Mark: We need the world-centric warrior version.
Daniel: Well, we will.
Mark: For hard-core athletes and warriors.
Daniel: And a generalized up-regulation of cognitive capacity is very different from optimization for certain purposes. Where if you’re in a battle-like environment, you might not want empathy to be up-regulated, you might not be as interested in certain functions…
Mark: Minimize the oxytocin component.
Daniel: So realistically if someone is wanting up-regulated capability to do art versus to code versus to do athletics, they’re not identical.
Daniel: And then in different physiologies they’re not going to be identical. And so the next version that we’re working on is where there’s just a handful of different versions for different purposes and different physiologic phenotypes.
next, after that, we are working on the ability for people to actually upload labs. So blood labs, genetics, motion tracker, sleep tracker, any kind of biometric. As well as psychometric assessments to gain a better picture of what’s going on with them, and then be able to have customized recommendations based on that.
And then we’re also working on, like I said, moving into these other technology verticals and other purposes, like sleep and pain…
Mark: Will you come out with actual technical products like apps and like… what was the name of the thing that I put on my head?
Daniel: Virtual reality.
Mark: Not VR, but it was a brain interface device. One of the earlier versions of it. Help me out, what do I call it?
Daniel: Oh, you mean… oh, the Muse.
Mark: The Muse! I knew you were going to come with it. So stuff like that?
Daniel: We are working on hardware tech, and software tech. Software is like say someone is in an AR, VR environment, and we actually can develop software that helps brain training. So we are working in that space.
We are also working in hardware tech for neuro-tech that’s outside of the biochemical space. So you’ve got biochemical and biologic. Microbiomic solutions. As well as other kinds of hardware tech. We’re working in all those spaces, both in terms of seeing things hat partners are doing that we really like. Helping them and then curating their technologies, as well as developing novel technologies.
Mark: So you don’t have to develop it all yourself, you’re gonna take the best of breed and integrate with it.
Daniel: yeah. And this is a model that we actually really believe in.
Mark: Is there a platform approach to this that’s evolving. Do you think neurohacker collective could become a platform that other technologies could plug into?
Daniel: That’s the goal. And.. but rather than just people search through so many things and still not know what’s going to be most relevant. Where it’s just Amazon with stars. The ability to have a recommendation engine that is based on deep understanding of the underlying mechanics that they’re trying to effect, and personalized info about them, is where we’re going.
Mark: And how about yourself personally? Where are you heading? What’s next for you? You’re going to end up back at the big picture systemic? Or stay down in the company/weed level?
Daniel: They work together. We actually initiated Neurohacker kind of out of the emergence project to address one part of evolving the human condition, which is are there basically predispositions for anxiety that are just at the software level. Just psychologic trauma. Yeah, there are. And you address those to the right kinds of psychotherapeutic processes. But are there predispositions to anxiety that are physiologic? That have to be addressed physiologically? Or predispositions for psychothapy? For low empathy, and for increased violence. Yeah. There are physiologic predispositions for states of suffering and stares of shitty behavior. And so we wanted to work on the physiology side of predisposing… being able to support healthier, more well-integrated, happier, more capable–positively capable–humans. That obviously then works in conjunction with training, right? Mind, brain, body training. And works in the collective areas of social systems and infrastructure. And so, Neurohacker is actually directly a part of that larger goal, which is, “How do we support evolved humans that are capable of being agents of change?”
Mark: Right. Terrific. Wow. Well I stand by as well as the Unbeatable Mind community to support you in your efforts. And probably the simplest way we’ll do that is to support Qualia. And then offer ourselves up as research lab rats… and I offer my services too, to help out any way I can. It’s extremely important, and like I said, we all gotta step up our game and be sheepdogs. If everyone who was capable, I’m not talking about if you’re in Syria and surviving right now, or if you’re too young to really… but if everyone in the western world and the east who was capable. Just took one small action every day to evolve themselves and make the world more of a world-centric place.
Mark: Very quickly, things would shift.
Daniel: And just to say, in return, we built this for you. For groups like yours that are working on evolving themselves to have more capability, to do a better job at the things that they’re doing. That are hopefully progressively more and more big picture focused and meaningful. And then its how do we take people that are doing great work, and give them more and more tools to do better and better work.
Mark: Right. Right. Awesome. Well thank you so much for doing what you do, and appreciate it and appreciate your time today.
Daniel: Thank you so much.
Mark: All right folks. You heard it. Wow. Daniel–Neurohacker Collective—Emergence Project. We will have you back again, and continue this conversation. If that conversation didn’t open your mind a little bit, then that should tell you something. If it put you to sleep, that should tell you something too.
I’m gonna have to go back and listen to this myself. So I’m really excited about the possibilities here. So anyways, back to the practical. Go do your training now. So go box breath, integrate this conversation, make some journal notes and ask yourself how you can evolve yourself today. And what’s your training plan look like over the five mountains? Physically, mentally, emotionally, intuitionally, spiritually. Keep it simple but do the work. Day in and day out. And you will evolve. And then if you want to participate in this conversation, go check out Daniel’s work at neurohacker.com and actually you’ll see my bio somewhere on that website I think, as a collective member. Part of the Borg. I’m 8 of 9, right? So 7 of 9 was hot, I want to meet her, but I’m 8 of 9, right?
Daniel: It’s something like that.
Mark: All right folks. Train hard, stay safe. Stay focused. See you next time.
Coach Divine out.