How Narratives Override The Mind & "Truth" In The Information Age (Part 1/3)
The following article is Part 1 of a 3-part series diving into crypto group psychology. Having first been written on Twitter here, we will be covering the below macro arcs:
From "Open Access" to "Noise Distortions"
The Power & Legacy of Jesus' Story
Subjective Perspectives vs Absolute Truth
Crypto communities provide an interesting look into group-think, behavioral psychology, and crowd "intelligence" (or lack thereof sometimes). We're all susceptible to both the pros, and cons, of what occurs when people band together under perceived identities.
“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.” ~Charles MacKay (1841)
In Charles MacKay's seminal piece, Extraordinary Delusions & The Madness of Crowds, he explained why individuals give up their sense of self, and rationality, once they find others to identify with.
As a result, cultures build around the strongest narrative from within groups. This is why stories and narratives are so powerful. They provide a cultural operating system from which the "hive mind" operates.
Granted, groups can also form collective intelligence, as evidenced in cognitive sciences here. But only if the conditions are positive and constructive. Otherwise, they can deteriorate into toxicity.
But we live in an age where information can be made available for everyone at the swipe of a finger or the push of a button.
The Cycles of Open To Closed
In 1999, Eric S. Raymond released a book titled The Cathedral & The Bazaar, where he outlined the shift from "free software" to "open source" and compared it to the hierarchy of centralized "Cathedral" power, to the decentralization of a bazaar. It became known as the "accidental revolution."
Richard M. Stallman is another notable figure in this history. He was a programmer responsible for the start of the "free information" movement - in regards to software - in the 1980s. Previously, decisions had been limited to executives furthest from the user, but he saw greater effectiveness in being more public, more open.
You can see how this sort of culture has permeated hacker culture over the decades. And why Linux has such a strong community following.
So where's the issue?
Manipulating Open Source
The issue lies now in how open systems can be used for nefarious means, or even against itself. The open-source movement, being more about principles than tech, makes it easier for people to adopt. In the crypto world, however, especially in Bitcoin communities, it is the underlying foundations of the technology that is coming under scrutiny.
In the case of Stallman & Raymond, there were very clear individuals who could help steer and clarify the direction of the movements. This enabled clear directives. For Bitcoin, there was a pseudonymous creator plus a Ten-Commandments-like document known as the Satoshi Whitepaper.
Due to both the "openness" and "vagueness" of this pseudonymous author, Satoshi Nakamoto, creator of Bitcoin, things started out humbly but morphed into something now worthy of a blockbuster film. Open collaboration resulted in the strongest voices commandeering the project, appealing to people's base fears, and adjusting narratives based on their interpretation of what they wanted Bitcoin to be.
Because no definitive figure was around long enough to help keep things "on track" - Satoshi unfortunately disappeared for a few years - the rest became history. But this is the irony of "open".
In order to have strong open systems, you paradoxically need to start with strong "closed" foundations.
Start Closed & Controlled, Then Release
In Community Management, there is a "close, then open" approach. Start tight and controlled, culturally, then release and let go over time.
The alternative is harder to pull off, as you then have to deal with cultural behaviors already engrained from the beginning stages. Not impossible, but usually met with a lot more resistance.
This ensures firm foundations so that others can build on top without worry of everything crumbling down the line.
Think of planet Earth - if it were not "stable", people would not build on top of it. They'd have to fight the elements constantly, risk things being lost frequently, and start all over again. Consistency and predictably ensures the growth and development of many other endeavors.
This is not to say that this doesn't already happen in many places around the world, but it's an analogy for why if you can start something off with a solid base, do so, and then let it be. Constant tinkering with foundational elements, especially when it comes to code, becomes an undoing over time.
A great example is Facebook, believe it or not. It started out as a closed beta for Ivy League schools, but then quickly opened up to other schools, and finally the general public.
Another more recent example is Club House , an invite-only audio platform, which is now valued at $1 billion. And it isn't even generating revenue yet.
Over Time, People Prefer Closed Groups
Most people like the idea of being "open", but a large majority relish the comfort and intimacy of closed, intimate groups. Safety and security.
This is something I learned during my tenure as a professional Community Manager. Social media platforms, who once advocated for "open networks," are now learning an inconvenient truth: that people prefer closed, more intimate groups.
This explains why you are now seeing a battle between those who wish to remain "free" and open, while larger platforms are learning that people (in action) actually want closed, more intimate groups.
This now brings us to how "open access" has led to what I call "noise distortion." How do you handle "truth" in an era where everyone has access to everything at any moment? If "facts" are all there, how can "bad actors" get around it?
Flood distribution with "noise."
This is another inconvenient truth I discovered while exploring "truth", group psychology, and accountability. It is something Donald Trump understood, and utilized surprisingly well, during his presidency.
Flood people with "noise", question authority figures, and people then start to question everything they perceive.
Facts now mean little.
Even in courts of law, we know that facts can actually be manipulated to suit a narrative.
Stories are always controlling our perceptions. Even our own inner stories around how we see the world. What we believe. It connects to the "third eye."
So, with noise distortion, we now have a way to manipulate truth. Manipulate group narratives to a point where, even if evidence is presented, the clouded "third eye" will only see what it wants to see. The third eye filtered only to look at what agrees with it.
This is how you go from a noble "open" movement, to the desire for humans to become more exclusive, private, and "intimate."
This is the irony of some crypto groups.
Money and power, which are powerful motivators, is intertwined into the story of Bitcoin. Open, until not.
Skin In The Game
Once money enters the picture, average people's behaviors change.
When more "skin" is in the game, therefore, more returns are expected. More investments have to be made. "Untold riches" is a narrative as old as time itself, which is why it holds such a mighty grip on individuals.
So if you've ever wondered why the Bitcoin (BTC) world holds so much drama, it's most likely due to the narrative of "digital gold", "price go up", or "get rich quick" schemes. The only way to disrupt such a narrative is through pattern interrupts.
Stayed tuned for the next part to this series, where we dive into pattern interrupts, the legacy of the story of Jesus Christ, and how that correlates to Bitcoin communities today. The power of stories and narratives on people's minds, and the unconscious bias it forms...