Everybody wants to feel strong and powerful, and in control of their reality.
However, our society grows more disconnected every day. Rapid advances in technology render todays learning obsolete by tomorrow. We are losing the immediate knowledge of our own security.
Reality Merchants Build Worlds
This fragmentation is creating a new space, for people who create imaginary worlds of order. In the same way our direct experience used to fulfill our needs as humans, these synthetic worlds will take on the new role of fulfilling our need for a predictable world.
That Give Order Out of Chaos
A synthetic reality can be anything, a web site, a religion, a conspiracy theory, a game. The only thing a synthetic reality must do is provide an escape hatch, a way to fulfill one of the eight basic human needs.
A way for people to feel in control, even if only virtually. Apple sells realities for people, to feel cool, to experience a different sort of reality compared to the one PC users live within.
Paul Graham recently addressed how Reality Merchants are using technology to create more immersive worlds, going to higher levels of addictiveness through exploits in human psychology.
This is only going to get more subtle, more advanced, more seductive.
Deriving Power Through Gatekeeping
When do you know you’ve arrived to a position of authority?
Last weekend, I visited my friends on Warped Tour. It’s a traveling music festival targeted at the teen “punk” segment.
I got to go backstage, and see the split between people “with the musicians”, versus the people who had paid the $40 admission fee. I also got to the artists speak about the business people within music, the “suits”.
For the fans, there is nothing more seductive than to be a piece of the artist’s world. They are true believers in the ideas and concepts presented by the specific artists.
For the artists, there’s nothing more seductive than to be chased by suits. Suits are the people who control the money, who control the big venues. Gaining access to the suits means a guaranteed place in the music industry.
And Controlling the Dreams of the Seduced
It’s a cycle. When we were younger, we worshipped the musicians. And then we got older, and they became the successful musicians they had dreamed of.
Through both sides of the equation, the gatekeepers of the reality of music made their profit. And through more cycles, they will continue to exploit both sides of the equation.
The fans need the artists, and the artists need the suits. They are both reality merchants, but the suits are the supreme reality merchants. They create the entire context within which music and fandom and stardom and wealth occurs.
They give artists the justification and success they desire, and they give fans the opportunity to live within the artist’s world.
Power structures exist because people want models to live their lives by.
Even a dream as seductive as being a successful musician isn’t free from the people who would like to dictate realities.
The question becomes:
Where do we derive our authority? Externalities from above?
Are we really choosing our own dreams? Or have they been designed long ago by some seductive reality merchant?