I work for the founders and seed investors in PayPal, Palantir and Facebook recruiting advisors to their new portfolio companies. I live on a farm and commute, Scooby Doo-style, off an airstrip at the bottom of the hill in an old World War II open cockpit trainer.
My job is to surround the next generation of leaders--kids trying to build billion dollar companies by those who have--and in many cases am asked to find pretty unusual people, from physicists to political appointees, hackers and even the guy that killed Bin Laden. The human mind is actually pretty good at pattern recognition and we are always trying to learn the pattern of success. Repeat success, it turns out, is very very hard though.
On a personal level, retiring to a farm and commuting once a week to Palo Alto would seem like living the dream. And it is. But on another level, there is a realization that there must be more; sort of like looking into the star-filled sky and knowing there has to be other life. Life on all levels is a search for meaning.
Emile Durkhiem, in describing post-industrial capitalism said that one of the most pernicious things is the abundance of choice. Abandoning our clan, tribe and inherited line of work (farming etc) we could suddenly move anywhere, marry anyone, be anyone. This abundance is extraordinary, but it's also imprisonment: the rise of the individual, who could make so many choices now, was also saddled with the crushing reality that when it didn't work out, it was brutally personal. The buck always stops with you.
There's no turning back now, and optionality has become a strategy for life. It's the new Darwinian code: where adaptability and generalization used to be everything, now we have specialization and the ability to choose and specialize.
Or do we?
There is scientific proof that a split-second before a decision is consciously made, the corresponding parts of the subconscious brain have already been activated. This suggests that we do not decide anything consciously and thus that there is no free will.
Neuroscientists are saying similar things about the lack of free will. There is also a parallel between what particle physicists have discovered and what we might call the spiritual view of the universe. Physicists are exploring the subtler and subtler constituents of the universe and they have discovered that beyond atoms and sub-atomic particles such as quarks, matter is composed of energy.
So we are living in a very interesting time (setting aside the problem of time as a concept): scientific research and "spirituality" are starting to coincide in what they say.
This isn't a post about some kid that got lucky, got rich, then had a life crisis. It's a series of descriptions living between two worlds: a farm and The Valley (Silicon) and the people that inhabit them--especially the so-called extraordinary ones that have discovered freedom, built things, and got out of their own way. There's a radical shift from the individual to something greater, and we live at an extraordinary time when science is describing this in amazing ways.
If we unpack the individual, or even look at them in the context of a greater organism, we can take new perspective. Consider this: the heart pumps blood, the pancreas secretes insulin; the mind.......secrets thoughts. Just thoughts. Are you your thoughts? Have you ever built a thought?
Depersonalization offers radical direct contact with life, with mission. What the superhuman have in common is that they simply appear to get out of their own way. But there's something more here. What about life's meaning?
I have a visceral reaction to anything spiritual. Spirituality is just another form of materialism. What I'm talking about here is simply descriptive. I have no interest in anything we must believe/have faith in etc. I'm interested in how we describe a radical shift in perspective. That there is another place from which to look.