Technoshaman: from worldbuilding to mindbuilding: Part 3
Mar. 20, 2023. 10 min. read.
As the ancient adage goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” This leads us to the question: If used wisely, can the XR metaverse actually elevate human consciousness? Can worldbuilders craft virtual environments and experiences that make us happier and healthier as individuals and as a society?
We’re not talking about influencing participants with ideologies, philosophies, morality, political propaganda, brands, or even social causes for that matter. Can the power of XR help transform us into better people? More responsible citizens? Can it motivate us to unify in building a better world?
The need for transformation
We don’t need to dwell on the need for individual and social transformation — the signs are all around us. The last century of technological innovation has given us vast personal, computational and industrial power that continues to grow exponentially. Individuals can now mislead the masses with a single tweet. Nations have the power to annihilate cities with the press of a button. And our hunger for energy and material wealth is choking the planet with our own waste.
Gus Speth, author and top U.S. Advisor on Climate Change, put it this way:
I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.
Technology is but a natural extension of human consciousness and intent. We currently have the technological solutions needed to create an abundant world with clean, renewable power, materials, and resources. We have solutions for mitigating, and possibly reversing climate change. And we have the capacity for the altruism needed to overcome selfishness and act in our mutual best interests.
It’s time to transform, either consciously and intentionally, or involuntarily as a victim of our own ignorance. If we are to create a better world — or even just maintain our present quality of life — a “cultural and spiritual transformation” within this generation would appear to be essential. We all get to go on this journey of transformation.
The science of transformation
Neuroscientist Dr. Paula Tallal said of, “You create your brain from the input you get.” Shuler and Bear showed that we not only create our brain — we craft our perception from the beliefs and expectations we choose:
Visual neurons in the brain’s primary visual cortex — long thought to conduct purely sensory, value-free visual information — can also modulate their response as a function of expected reward. In a clever study that sharply revises the view of the fundamentals of how we see, Marshall Shuler and Mark Bear show that visual neurons once considered to be mere feature detectors are affected by complex cognitive influences such as reward expectancy. Even at the most fundamental level, it seems, our expectations influence how and even what we see. — Susana Martinez-Conde
To the extent that our beliefs, expectations, or worldviews are substantially changed due to exposure to media (of any kind), we can legitimately say that our brains have been “rewired” by the experience. Facilitating positive transformation on a personal, social, and ultimately, global level is the highest expression of worldbuilding.
Transformative experiences substantially alter a person’s “possibility space” or life’s path — ideally in a positive sense. L.A. Paul describes the transformative experience as:
…a kind of experience that is both radically new to the agent and changes her in a deep and fundamental way; there are experiences such as becoming a parent, discovering a new faith, emigrating to a new country, or fighting in a war. Such experiences can be both epistemically and personally transformative. An epistemically transformative experience is an experience that teaches you something you could not have learned without having that kind of experience.
Having that experience gives you new abilities to imagine, recognize, and cognitively model possible future experiences of that kind. A personally transformative experience changes you in some deep and personally fundamental way, for example, by changing your core personal preferences or by changing the way you understand your desires and the kind of person you take yourself to be. A transformative experience, then, is an experience that is both epistemically and personally transformative.
Many of the best stories ever told involve personal transformations of the story’s characters — timeless story themes such as the criminal who redeems himself, the scrooge who is re-awakened, or the hero who falls from grace. In XR, we ourselves can become the character who is transformed.
Paul’s epistemic and personal categories of transformation readily map into the two educational modalities: cognitive (intellectual realization through thoughts, facts, semantic language, narrative, and visuals) and affective (emotions, inspiration, and motivation transmitted through storytelling, drama, music, and semiotic language).
Worldbuilders are discovering that XR experiences can evoke a wider range of affective states, including flow states, mindfulness, unity consciousness, and mystical states.
Technoshaman: Maestro of transformation
In his 1985 book The Death and Resurrection Show: From Shaman to Superstar, Rogan Taylor traces our modern entertainment industry back to the earliest of all religions — shamanism. Shamans use rituals, feats, songs, stories, power objects, and performances to “fine-tune the psyche of his tribe.” Shamanism — like religion — was a “tool for both surviving and accomplishing transformation.” Rogan sees the shaman as a “maestro of transformation.”
While modern entertainment likely emerged from shamanism as Taylor suggests, he is quick to point out that, unlike today’s audiences…
… the tribal audience certainly would not have arrived at the shaman’s healing séance in the expectation of being mildly amused or merrily entertained. They came to witness, and take part in, something powerful and sacred.
According to evolutionary anthropologist Michelle Scalise Sugiyama, shamanic storytelling in indigenous cultures is a form of pedagogy used to communicate social norms and traditions. Storytelling is often accompanied by visual, auditory, and/or gestural modes, including drumming, singing, chanting, eye-gazing, vocal mimicry, and variations in volume, rhythm, timbre, pitch, and stress in speech that “cast a sort of awe on the audience,” according to one anthropologist she cites, who studied the Dena storytellers.
Taylor also details how these storytelling elements of shamanism survived as modern showbusiness while leaving behind the deeper sacred, mystical, and ecstatic dimensions of shamanism.
Showbusiness looks like the orphaned child of a divorce between art and ecstasy. Forever hiding its shameful origins, while, at the same time, secretly attempting the reconciliation of its separated parents.
With XR’s ability to form a wideband neural interface between worldbuilder and participant, future masters of XR experience design — the technoshaman — can bring the power of awe, mystery, and ecstasy back into mainstream arts and entertainment. The technoshaman is a maestro conducting the nervous systems of their audience.
However, like the shamans of old, the technoshaman must go within to access visions, or actually embody elevated, transcendent, or other beneficial states of consciousness in order to transmit them. They must themselves transform if they are to inspire transformation in others.
A 360 cinematographer with a deep love of nature will transmit this love through their work. A musician with years of mindfulness practice will bring their audience into deep contemplative states. A visionary artist who journeys into altered states will evoke psychedelic experiences in their participants. When the technoshaman’s consciousness is laid bare for all to experience through multisensory XR technologies, there is no room for inauthenticity. The artist becomes their work.
The same goes for larger worldbuilding teams that require a wide range of skills, including programmers, audio engineers, animators, lighting designers, composers, producers, directors, performers, and more. Participants will receive a transmission from the combined consciousness of the worldbuilding team.
This has always been the case in the entertainment industry, of course. But with XR, the transmission of consciousness is more profound. Worldbuilding teams that want to optimize positive impact must work to achieve authentic coherence of heart, mind and vision as they create and perform.
In their highest expression, all performers, storytellers, journalists, filmmakers, and influencers are contemporary shamans who wisely tend to the psyches of their tribes. Emerging XR technologies are supercharging their crafts, turning storytellers into worldbuilders.
The technoshaman knows that worldbuilding is mindbuilding and has pledged to use their power wisely for the upliftment and evolution of human consciousness. And, as the power of the XR metaverse grows, turning us all into worldbuilders — let us use these tools wisely for the betterment of humankind.
Here are select examples of experiences, venues, and platforms of interest to aspiring technoshamans.
|Artist, Project or Platform
|AI World Building
|Jason Silva’s Cyberdelic Dreaming
|AI Art, Inspirational Narratives
|AI World Building Application
|Meta’s AI World Building Demo
|Michael & Jahna’s The Journey
|James Hood’s Mesmerica
|Jhené Aiko’s Modern Mantra Immersive
|Sound Healing, Well-Being
|Metaverse Worlds & Events
|Artist Empowered Worlds
|Domensions (in BRCvr)
|Transformative Art Community
|Mobile & VR Experiences
|Laurie Anderson’s To The Moon
|VR Metaverse Platforms
|Immersive Art Gallery
|Wonder, Awe, Well-Being
|Immersive Art Park
Eight principles of the technoshaman
- The technoshaman uses advanced digital technologies to craft experiences that are positive, life-affirming, healing, or awakening, and that support or accelerate the natural evolution of human consciousness.
- The technoshaman awakens minds. Rather than propagating memes, philosophies, ideologies, propaganda, brand messaging, and other forms of influence, the technoshaman seeks to evoke mental states that empower, embrace ambiguity and diversity, awaken latent faculties, transcend dualistic thinking, slow the internal dialog, or leave room for deep contemplation.
- The technoshaman opens hearts. Rather than gratuitously evoking emotions such as fear, shock, horror, or loss, the technoshaman focuses on positive emotions, including love, empathy, a sense of connection, awe, or joy. Storytelling is used as a path towards empowerment, mood elevation, epiphany, communal unification, or liberation of the human spirit, not simply to manipulate emotions or behaviors.
- The technoshaman embodies the states of consciousness that they seek to evoke in others. The experiences they create are authentic and not contrived solely for influence or personal gain.
- The technoshaman’s creative medium is the nervous systems of its audience, most powerfully accessed through multisensory immersive media. As such, technoshamans are attuned to and respect the nervous systems of their participants.
- Technology is simply a medium for transmitting states of consciousness and is never an end in itself.
- The technoshaman promotes evolutionary communities by evoking a sense of unity, coherence, harmony, and connection.
- The technoshaman seeks not just to entertain, but to transform.