Muddled by Moloch

Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash

Dedicated to Christopher Alexander

“All the efforts I have made, at their heart, just this one intention: to bring back our awe… And to allow us to begin again to make things in the world that can intensify this awe.” Christopher Alexander, The Luminous Ground, Vol 4 of the Nature of Order

This series was started to share some insights as to how the network marketing (a/k/a MLM) business model might be a feasible Game B structure, or at least a transitionary framework to something new in the direction of Game B.

I have struggled with this piece for months, but with the recent death of Christopher Alexander and growing buzz about Web3, the time seems very ripe for another installment to this series. I am pretty sure this is my last piece…we will see.

Web3 looks a lot like Multi-Level Marketing (at least to its Critics)

In the rush to tokenize everything, the Web3 marketplace is looking a lot like the much-maligned MLM world. Critics of Web3 are suggesting that the “products” of Web3, like NFT’s, are “pyramid schemes” that benefit a few whales and will eventually leave many ordinary people broke, broken and in great(er) despair — the Game A/Moloch machine fueled by venture capitalists will yet again enrich elites at the expense of ordinary people but on a greater scale than ever before — bursting the bubble of greater autonomy, an end to corruption and tyranny, financial freedom for artists/creatives, breaking down boundaries of wealth, power and status and leveling the playing field.

The MLM/Web3 comparison has become a way to criticize the Crypto/ NFT/Web3 mania that is consuming our attention. The criticism starts like this: “like an MLM, Web3 turns all of our human interactions into financial transactions…” Even Bitcoin pitches have begun to look like MLM pitches, along with the standard MLM “momentum” chart suggesting Bitcoin has hit “critical mass” and now it is the time to “get in”:

Source: Palm Beach Capital Research

I am in no position to jump into this Web3 fray other than to say breakthrough innovations do typically follow the “Adoption S-Curve” pattern whether you are talking MLM or not. What I do know is that Web3 is like a tidal wave that we can’t hold back and we ignore Web3 at our peril. Regardless of where someone stands on Web3, it is here.

What I am interested in is the MLM/Web3 comparisons. As Jordan Hall often does when he talks about Web3, let’s shift the discussion to a Game B orientation. If Game A forces are in control of Web3 and Web3 is like the Game A version of an MLM, the time is now to wrap up this series and get back “in the arena” of my Game B Network Marketing experiment.

It is also a ripe opportunity to talk about Christopher Alexander, who I believe was a master of Game B.

Game B is Dead, Long Live Game B

If you followed The Stoa this winter, you could not help but feel like Game B was dying. As I watched The Stoa Game B saga play out, I focused intently on the precision with which Zak Stein’s sharp intellect sliced through the main Game B talking points. Stein made it abundantly clear that Game B was inadequate to the challenges ahead.

But after a few days sitting with what Stein had said in the Game B meets the Dark Renaissance video, I realized that The Stoa debate had little to do with the version of Game B I have been trying to play.

My Game B work has always been guided largely by the work of Bonnitta Roy and in my view, her Theory of Complex Potential States(TCPS), as presented in the Christopher Alexander volume of The SideView, is our best guide on how to develop a Game B orientation, no matter how you are situated in the world. This is where I would like continue, and end, this Game B Network Marketing series.¹

The Nature of Order by Christopher Alexander

I had just completed Christopher Alexander’s magnum opus, The Nature of Order when I got word of his passing on March 17, 2022 at the age of 85. If you have read any of my Medium pieces and/or have any sense of the impact that Alexander has played in Roy’s work, you might find this very curious.

I had tried to read The Nature of Order a number of times over a period of several years and I finally committed myself this winter to complete the two thousand page, four-volume set. After months of reading Alexander and taking mountains of notes, I picked up Roy’s Theory of Complex Potential States piece again and there it was — six simple words I had read over and over for several months in The Nature of Order — a simple question that had become my guide for my Game B Network Marketing project:

How can I create more life?

Christopher Alexander — A Game B Grandmaster

It seems obvious to me now: Alexander was a Game B Grandmaster, before anyone was talking about Game B.

Alexander was an architect, a teacher, an artist, a husband and a father. He may be best known for his book, A Pattern Language, as well as his profound influence on software design over the last 40+ years.

He appeared to live his life — work life, academic life, family life — with a Game B orientation; a sensibility for the beauty and the aliveness of the world that is best captured in his famous “The Quality without a Name.

In my view, Alexander must have lived a life very much like the life of Jordan Hall, a current grandmaster of Game B, at least when you look at the patterns/deep code of how they move in the world with a Game B sensitivity.

“The grandmasters [of chess] prepare their opening strategy with a great deal of precision. But the best GM’s continuously scan the board as it evolves into new potential states and adjust accordingly.” ²

Alexander and Hall both seem to have been uniquely situated, in time and place, to experience (at a young age) the direction that Game A leads us — what Hall reduces to “Moloch” — and what Alexander calls “Ugliness.”

The Spread of Ugliness — Game B’s Orientation towards Beauty

Christopher Alexander did not reject the tools, techniques, products and materials that science and technology offered. His despair was the spread of ugliness ³ created by people using the same skills, tools and materials he used to generate beauty, ie. more life in buildings and landscapes.

In the short video below, Alexander speaks of his “orientation towards what is beauty and what is good,” delivering his advice with such clarity and simplicity it feels like he is speaking as a village elder sharing his hard-won wisdom with the village children.

“I started a long time ago to take an orientation towards what is beauty and what is good. It sounds almost childish to say it like that but I’m getting old now so I don’t care about making a fool of myself.

So my advice to you is to make sure whatever you are deciding or whatever you are doing or whatever you are making — any action you are taking — make sure that it has inner beauty — whether it’s an action or a thing or a saying or a picture or a poem — anything or just helping somebody get on the bus, it should have some kind of inner beauty which you can help it to have. If you take that seriously, it will change everything.”

Following Alexander’s sage advice, I plan to continue my Game B Network Marketing experiment with an orientation towards beauty and goodness, asking the question at each decision point — How can I create more life?.

I too am getting old, so I don’t care about making a fool of myself.

Generative Marketing — How can I create more life?

When I started this Game B Network Marketing series over a year ago, I asked the reader to “take for granted that the network marketing company with which I have been working has best-in-class disruptive products based on breakthrough science (in other words, game changing products)…”

What surprised me most about my first MLM experience (at 60 years old) was that the products really are exceptional. Every ingredient of the best-in-class gut-brain health supplements that I represent is clinically validated, the quality, testing and sourcing first-class and the microbiome science that backs the formulations is life-changing.

Most importantly, the products work — they are remarkably effective at improving the mental wellness of the consumer, regardless of the current state of mental fitness of the individual.

It now makes sense to me.

MLM products have to be exceptional if a MLM company is going to have sustainable success — there are simply too many MLM critics ready to attack bad actors, as well as, the FTC and State Attorney generals ready to take on any MLM transgressions.

Why does the MLM critics’ “pyramid scheme” claim hold so much weight with some people? It can’t really be the lame claim “only a few people at the top [of the pyramid]” make all the money. Or that people are still solicited to join (sell products) after the “hyper-growth” period is over? Isn’t that true at just about every company in our capitalist market economy?

People that join companies during the start-up/early stage are very often disproportionately rewarded when the company is successful. Hasn’t this been the main attractor of talent to Silicon Valley for the last 40 years? Isn’t it what is attracting so much of the digital-native talent to Web3 today?

Any rapidly growing business with a Game A orientation, in the words of Christopher Alexander, generates “ugliness” — our relationships with other human beings, and everything else on Earth, are increasingly being reduced financial transactions.

This is the real criticism of MLM, Web3 and Game A. MLM companies have certainly contributed their fair share to this ugliness — just watch LulaRich.

The ugliness is simply Moloch, not the MLM business model.

A Few Aspects of Network Marketing to Reconsider with a Game B View

I have re-examined a few of the uglier aspects of MLM’s by asking “how can I create more life,” and I began to see new possibilities. Maybe you will too.

1. Generative — Network marketing is maybe the best way to get exceptional products in the hands of ordinary people — exceptional products that can significantly improve their physical and mental health.

If it is done with a Game B orientation, network marketing can be generative. Network Marketing has a built-in “generator function” that gives every consumer a way to pay for expensive premium-grade products — share with other people who might also need the products.

Expensive “Prestige” products are marketed through Celebrity podcasters, Star Athletes and Instagram Influencers who attract affluent consumers. Price puts these products out of reach for the ordinary person, regardless of need.

2. A Different View of Ugliness — Most of us are attracted to products represented by polished sales people and/or paid “Influencers” — Celebrities, Athletes, Instagram Influencers, who are paid to “influence” their fans, but all too often have no relation to the product (before being paid) and/or any special expertise other than being an Influencer.

What if …we committed to be just a little more generous with our friends and neighbors? What would it take for us to be more intentional with our patience and listen as our clumsy friend as she stumbles to find the right words to share how her 12-year old is now managing his anxiety and how an exceptional new product is the reason.

What if… we suspended our immediate reaction to the intrusion on our time and space, or held back our question “Is this an MLM?”, and instead met her with the openness we reserve for young children.

What if…we saw every encounter with an ordinary person as an opportunity to cultivate our own capacity to feel and perceive each others’ unique beauty, to see these moments as a chance to expand our care for others — as a chance to “add more life.

3. Risk Free Experience — What expensive “prestige” product company offers a 1-Year “Sample program”?

The best MLM companies offer generous 100% money back empty-bottle guarantees because they want people who actually use and love their products to represent the products, not just people to sell them. These consumers of the products are the ones that are most likely to stick with it despite the social challenges of representing an MLM. This is something that is lost on most MLM critics.

What if…we were more open to trusting the experiences of ordinary people — the less-polished, the less-clever, the more-clumsy, the more-cringy, the more-humble, the “ugly” ones (in the eyes of Moloch) — Would it change things?

What if… we saw each others’ rawness as beautiful? Would we still reward the TikTok Influencer with so much of our attention — attention that translates into an incentive landscape that continues to feed Moloch?

Theory of Complex Potential States — Deep Code for Game B

This is my final installment because I really don’t want to write about Game B or Network Marketing any longer. For me, it is really less about how I am playing my version of Game B or how Christopher Alexander and Jordan Hall have played their versions of Game B.

To cut through the Moloch muddle, I sense that people need more support in their own Game B endeavors.

Yes, it is very useful to watch and learn from Game B Grandmasters and look at the patterns/deep code they have shared with us. But if you are not an architect or a Web3/digital native, it is more useful (IMHO) to know the meta-theory that best supports Game B — the reasoning that can be applied to your life and circumstances, so you can move wherever you are situated using your skills, talents, values and “build” things that have “inner beauty.”

Christopher Alexander left us some great wisdom, but he was not a theorist. He asked the question “How can we create more life?” but he did not leave us with “a theory of change that can account for beauty and generate life.

I want to end this series by highlighting the Process Meta-Theory that appears to best inform Game B play. We know Alexander was strongly influenced by Whitehead’s process theory. And from what I am hearing from Hall over the last several years, it appears that Roy’s Theory of Complex Potential States is informing his Game B play.⁴

Finding the Others — Immersed In Otherness

Rather than continued to be muddled by Moloch, I am committed to follow TCPS as the deep code for playing my Game B Network Marketing project. And rather than continue to write about Game B, I would rather use this piece to direct people to The Pop-up School where they might actual “find the others” interested in playing Game B — a virtual “campus” of people from all walks of life and all parts of the world, all sharing an interest how they might “create more life” in their own lives, in their work and in their communities.

I started writing this Game B Network Marketing series as a way to “find the others” — “others” who might be interested in joining me in my Game B project. At the time, everyone was still in lockdown, there was no Pop-up School and the Game B Wiki wasn’t really working for me.

Now I laugh at myself and imagine Christopher Alexander saying to me: “We are immersed in otherness you fool! Call off the search and get back to the work of creating more life. The “others” are the ordinary people (and the animals, plants, land, the buildings…that surround you). Just open your eyes and you can’t miss them.”

As I feel my way forward in my own Game B experiment, I now see it as so much more of a generative opportunity than the fragile business network I first wrote about — certainly not perfect, but a real opportunity to generate more life, at scale, but at a human scale and at a human-to-human pace and rhythm — hence the change in name to Generative Marketing. Exponential growth can, and does happen, but it comes through building trust, caring for each other and focusing on creating more beauty.

I find strength in the guidance of Roy’s meta-theory that is adequate to the challenges we face today and the widening circle of people at the Pop-up School where I can recharge and work through the muddle and despair that arises from too much talk about Moloch.

I will do my best to follow the Game B lead of Jordan Hall in the Web3 world, working out how to translate his insights from the Web3 digital landscape into the human-to-human networked world — how the deep code he shares might be useful in making the MLM business model work in a more “generative way” and how it might move ordinary people in the direction of a Game B world.

For now, I plan to continue to my work with my wife in the network marketing company where we landed three years ago when I was still doing Open Participatory Organization work with Bonnitta. At every decision point now I ask the question: “How can I create more life?” — to generate a growing network of humans caring for each other with exceptional products and opportunity.⁵

Game B is not easy. It is not tied to the success we would hope to see in our own lifetime, but more in the world we leave behind to our children. As Zak Stein so eloquently said:

“We are not going to see whatever new world stabilizes in the future…In this time between worlds, our job is to transmit some wisdom.” ⁶

[1] Special thanks to Peter Limberg (The Stoa) and Adam Robbert (The SideView) for their incredible, and tireless, efforts to convene some world’s most amazing people.

[2] Systems Breed Perplexity, Bonnitta Roy, C-Labs https://www.c-labs.net/blog/2022/1/28/systems-breed-perplexity

[3] The Spread of Ugliness — Thought Leaders — Christopher Alexander

[4] “Unlike the scientist, the metaphysician resides in the liminal space of speculation and seeks to accumulate and integrate all the speculations at the edges of all the various branches of science.” Zak Stein, Love in a Time Between Worlds

[5] I do find great comfort in the fact that the MLM products I represent are best-in-class nutritional supplements to optimize Gut-Brain health and mental wellness — supplements that are as exceptional as the products of the Neurohacker Collective — nutritional supplements which Jordan Hall and Daniel Schmachtenberger believe add to the health and beauty of the world.

[6] Game B Meets the Dark Renaissance

[Previous piece in this series]

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Brian Bradley

Brian Bradley

Experimenting with Game B Network Marketing, Breaking Kayfabe, Open Participation, Team Flow…