The procrastination industry

How daydreaming, social reality, and VR will make you miserable.

Whenever you notice yourself suddenly slacking as you approach the victory point, stop and be brutally honest. Stop and admit that you really don’t want to succeed in this area. Admit that you’re afraid and that you choose to fail. Stop and say aloud,

I don't really want success in this area. I really don't want it!

It gets more complicated. Studies have shown that the so-called Law of Attraction has the opposite of the alleged effect. Dwelling on the post-victory glow postpones goal achievement. So the next time you daydream about your victory party, check your true motivation. There is a good chance that you are fantasizing in order to undercut its actual accomplishment.

The best way to fuck yourself over is to follow the Law of Attraction bullshit and “call those things which be not as though they were.” Why? Because this produces the feeling of accomplishment prior to actual accomplishment. Imaginary reality is just as disruptive as disruptive to accomplishment as social reality.

When you bask in the glow of achievement in imagination, you hinder the ugly work of actual undertaking. Work is effort, the application of actual physical force against inertial matter. Whether you are moving your limbs or forcing new pathways to fire or forging new synapses, work is intervention in the history that would have played out under the automaticities of entropy and inertia.

To achieve your goals, it is against matter that you must push. The work of work is effort against real recalcitrance. The work-aspect of work is painful. Much more pleasant to manifest your goal inside the imagination. We do this in two ways:

  1. Personal daydreaming. That thing you were just doing a few seconds ago.
  2. Friend-based social reality. Your friends affirm an interpretation of you that you like. You can be a winner under their gaze.
  3. Professional social reality. Landmark, Scientology, and service industries that treat their customers like royalty.
  4. Empirically verified social reality (aka real reality). Your identity lives inside social agreement but inside the defining, top-tier institutions that actually define the standards of success. Being paid real money by a company vs being paid compliments by a needy flatterer.

A new layer is now emerging between (3) and (4)—Virtual Reality. I actually lived only a few miles from VR headquarters in the late 1980s and was one of the first hundred humans to try out the system at UNC. It was exciting not only technologically but also for its potential in human evolution, education, psychedelic experience, social control. VR was one of the hottest topics in the literature and sociology departments at Duke.

It was also in the air culturally. Trendy students were reading William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, and I hopped aboard. I subscribed to Mondo 2000 used ResEdit to modify my Mac. Oliver Stone hadn’t made Windy Palms yet but he was thinking about it.

So when I heard that UNC was giving a demo of its machine, off I went. Lines were aliased and frames delayed but the sensation of immersion was exciting. Mostly because I thought of what it would be like to do it with Timothy Leary, on acid, in a wonder world of educational discovery.

If daydreaming is enough to postpone dreams for a lifetime, then VR will be even worse—a cul-de-sac for countless human lives. We will not be improved by improved fakification and substitution.

Imagination is bad enough. Social reality, even worse. VR combines the immediate response time of Cintāmaṇi (the “stuff” of imagination according to Indian metaphysics) with the vividness and perdurance of lawful physical substance. You will “have” everything you want and it will manifest with zero effort. Robert Solomon’s heroin chair will be a reality. Or just imagine the Matrix.

The Matrix in The Matrix kept friction and struggle around in order to keep the vegetable-people enthralled. VR could easily to that. In fact, online games provide both real community and real accomplishment: there are goals and successes inside the game. And because these are agreed upon by the player-inhabitants, these goals acquire top-tier social reality. Being a banker in WoW will be just as real as being a banker in NYC.

Daydream Catcher Tech

Next time you daydream, see that you are using the pleasure of the fantasy as a means of postponement. Then ask yourself why it is that you don’t want success in this area. You’re choosing to daydream, after all. What are you afraid of? This is probably the biggest and most important blindspot of all.

There are two Star Trek episodes that deal with the underplayed dangers of stasis and comfort. These dangers are underplayed for a reason: we but products as substitutes for real accomplishment. Capital has to trick us into not achieving our goals so that our dissatisfaction will drive us to buy more useless crap to compensate for that fact. (Exception: Stasis and comfort are attacked by marketers when they are trying to sell you gym memberships or self-help programs.)

These episodes are “This side of paradise” and “Errand of Mercy.” The first is traumatic because it has Spock on drugs acting like an aloof hippy. The second crafts a dystopia of non-achievement that is unique in TV history. Both highlight the dangers of being a happy, non-achiever—a moral you won’t see on TV these days since the non-achieving consumer is supposed to connote high social status.

Puzzle
Why did sci-fi and fantasy do so much social good? Why did Star Trek become the most ethical and philosophical show? Why did it valorize the virtue of compassion and goal of the greater good? Why was sci-fi the most progressive and liberating genre? Is it because metaethics is intrinsic to the genre?

No. It was because it was a marginal genre and had to be nice to everyone in order to gain strength. Outsiders are goody-goodies in order to gain acceptance and market share. New genres strive to be maximally lovable.