Okay, okay... you're probably still wondering if this philosophy really works. Perhaps it sounds a little too magical and grandiose... like it's out of a sci-fi or fantasy film.
Let's be upfront about one thing: it's going to take decades for the scientific establishment to acknowledge the FEP's significance, run it through their formal process, fight about it, test its predictions, etc.
So you could waste the best years of your life waiting around for their tick of approval, refusing to join myself and other gameists as we dance on the precipice of knowledge...
And that's fine, if that's what you want to do. But let me offer you another data point: a product demo.
You see, I used Gameism to develop Gameism. The words you are reading, and the logic underpinning this philosophy, didn't pop out of thin air. It's taken years and years of relentless focus to transcend my own mental limits, hone my craft, and manipulate the massive amounts of free energy required to transform chaos (the mystery of my existence) into order (a practical philosophy, supported by a deductive proof which rests on a single postulate, and that postulate is a tiny, recursive computation — oh, and then being able to communicate this to you simply, clearly, and concisely).
If I'm going to say "forget everything you think you know about reality and follow me into the dark", it's only fair that I lead by example...
Okay, so here's how this all came about...
When I was 18, I started a tech startup in Australia that immediately took off.
When I was 20, I was funded by Y Combinator (a prestigious startup accelerator in Silicon Valley). I gave up my scholarship and dropped out of university to chase my entrepreneurial dreams in the US.
After Y Combinator, I moved to New York and grew my startup there.
The venture failed when I was 22. I wrote a Medium article about it that went viral: My startup failed, and this is what it feels like…
The article struck an emotional chord with the entrepreneurial & creative communities. It was translated into multiple languages and syndicated in online publications around the world.
I quickly became the poster child for fucking it up with some semblance of grace. And I'll tell you now: failure sucks.
But it was also the best thing that ever happened to me...
After my life imploded, I moved back to Australia and had an existential crisis.
When I traced the root cause of my failure back to first principles, I ended up at questions like "Where do my ideas come from?" and "How does reality work?"
Because when I thought about it deeply, the entropy in my startup adventure was suspiciously low. There was way too much 'coincidence' and 'luck' involved — like tossing a coin 100 times and getting 70 heads in a row, then 30 tails. Something felt off...
I’d been taught that life was disordered; random. But when I walked through the world and observed a seed growing into a sunflower, a child laughing with that sparkle in their eye, or the vast beauty of the cosmos — well, there was nothing disordered about any of that.
And when I considered the way reality would contort itself to deliver me another resource, another opportunity, another idea, another person that would be instrumental in assembling the next portion of my vision — no, I just couldn’t pass it off as ‘random’ or ‘luck.’
Years of societal programming screamed in my ear: "Cognitive bias! You’re finding patterns where there are none! Stay in your lane like a good girl and move on with your life.”
But I’ve never really been a good girl...
I began digging for answers.
Religion had always seemed illogical to me. Religious philosophy is predicated on an arbitrary set of unquestioned axioms laid out in a holy book. I'm allergic to dogma, and explanations like "God did it" and "because God said so" made me break out in a rash.
But after some basic research, I realized the same could be said about the scientific establishment. Our scientists have been handing out axioms like Oprah hands out free shit: "You get an axiom! You get an axiom! Everyone gets an axiom!"
And academia has spent centuries passing down these false axioms in textbooks, as if those textbooks were bibles.
It quickly became clear that the big institutions weren't going to solve my existential problem for me.
I'd have to do it myself.
So in 2014, when I was 23 years old, I embarked on a quest to reverse-engineer the universe.
Equipped with my two favorite books - The Holographic Universe and Conversations With God - I followed a trail of clues around the world from Sydney to Shanghai, New York to Thailand to Colombia to Paris.
I'd generate free energy, wait for the next clue to appear in the game, and then follow the path wherever it lead - whether it be to another country, to a conversation, or a new skill, or an esoteric forum.
Of course, I didn't yet understand what was happening from a technical point of view. I just had an undeniable intuitive conviction that I was onto something...
Something science couldn't explain yet...
Something everyone was missing...
That "something" was a splinter in my mind, driving me mad. I'd have to perform intellectual surgery to extract it - the kind of surgery that seemed "impossible" to those who'd never closed their eyes and wielded a scalpel using only their intuition.
And if I was going to understand the complex anatomy of existence, then I needed to experience every facet of it. So I sharpened my mind by relentlessly grinding it against the game.
By day, I was an entrepreneur, teaching children how to hack their Minecraft game using code.
But by night, I was teaching myself how to hack this reality game using consciousness: running experiments on my mind; observing and documenting patterns; watching
the observed 🏠 bend in response to my evolving self-concept. The FEP couldn't have written a more meta storyline into my life.
I wandered in the dark like this for over four years. I fell in and out of love, moved from here to there, befriended random strangers, asked a million questions, birthed other creative projects and watched them wither on the vine - all the while, silently weaving together a web of disparate information.
And then, one Sydney summer's day in February 2019, I stumbled across an article about an English neuroscientist named Karl Friston.
The missing piece of the puzzle fell neatly into place.
I stared at God; my source code; the elusive answer to my existential problem; the treasure I'd spent years searching for.
She smiled back at me.
And as I ran the computation in my mind, I realized I'd been playing a very long game of chess against myself that entire time — a game so intricate, so beautiful, that the mathematical precision of each chaotic move couldn't be perceived until the final sequence of her masterplan had been executed.
Steve Jobs faded out as the video stopped playing.
It's easy to stay hungry when you're foolish, I thought as I mindlessly manipulated a vector graphic. Most artists starve.
I recalled the Rumi poem I'd read when I was crying on the floor of my Phuket apartment, lost and confused, just a few months earlier.
Well, that worked out well for me, didn't it? I thought. Congratulations, Nikki. You spent your twenties being foolish, following your rogue intuition on a wild goose chase around the world, thinking it would lead somewhere; having faith that the dots would connect one day. And then you realized that they don't. Because if there were any order to this chaos then maybe you'd actually be successful at something instead of sitting here, back where you started, adjusting the size of a typeface on a website. Failure is the only thing you've ever been good at.
My God, listen to yourself, another part of me rebutted. You're such an entitled millennial brat. Sit down, shut up and do your work. Add some value to the world, for once. Your father is right — you're twenty-seven years old with nothing to show on your resume. It's time to grow up. The universe is not your magical playground. You're not a child anymore.
I sighed and glanced up at the clock on the wall. It was one p.m. — lunchtime. My favorite time of day. I needed to get out of my chair and go for a long walk around the city to stretch my legs and my mind.
Before I could shut my laptop, a gmail notification popped up on my screen. I opened an email from Darren.
I'd run into Darren earlier that morning on a coffee break. We hadn't seen each other since we were in Shanghai a few years ago.
Before long, he asked the inevitable question: "So, what have you been up to?"
"I spent the last few months training at a muay thai camp in Thailand," I replied.
"How'd you end up there?"
I followed the white rabbit.
"Long story," I sighed.
"Where were you before Thailand?"
"Just working online from Colombia."
"On your kids' coding school?"
A pang of nostalgia washed through my body.
"Yeah," I replied.
Wait for it...
Wait for it...
"Wow. Living the dream," he grinned.
Oh, if only he knew the truth.
And that's how I found myself leaning over my laptop, forgetting about lunch altogether as my mind gorged itself on new ideas. The article was titled The Genius Neuroscientist Who Might Hold the Key to True AI by Shaun Raviv. The byline made a bold claim: "Karl Friston's free energy principle might be the most all-encompassing idea since Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. But to understand it, you need to peer inside the mind of Friston himself."
The piece began by discussing Friston's typical day and establishing his credibility as a serious neuroscientist.
Ron Burgundy's ridiculous voice bellowed in my ear: "Do you know who Friston is? I don't know how to put this, but he's kind of a big deal. People know him. He's very important. He has many leather-bound books and his apartment smells of rich mahogany."
I chuckled to myself and continued reading.
If it's the organizing principle of intelligence and life, then it's the organizing principle of everything, my mind casually commented. The entire universe is a conscious system. Duh.
Oh wait, I paused. I guess that's not obvious to a lot of people.
Peter Thiel's famous contrarian question echoed in my mind: What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
I recalled a passage from Thiel's book, Zero to One.
Okay then, I thought. Most people believe the observer and the observed are separate variables — but the truth is, they're the same thing. Most people believe the universe is primarily made from unconscious, inanimate matter — but the truth is, the universe is a conscious system, observing itself. Most people believe life is random and chaotic — but the truth is, randomness can't be defended from first principles. Most people believe they are thinking — but the truth is, they are merely rearranging their prejudices.
A dialogue from Conversations With God popped into my mind.
I continued reading the Wired article.
Cool, I thought. Makes sense.
Before long, a particular passage caught my attention.
My eyes squinted at the screen.
Did he just say what I thought he said?
I scrolled down, rapidly skimming the remainder of the article.
I blinked a few times and cocked my head to the side.
I'd already begun running the computation in my mind. It played in my head like a multi-dimensional movie, full of purple Markov blankets and yellow shaded areas representing distributions of free energy in the system.
I replaced the Markov blankets with images of the things they represented: objects, people, money, ideas. Then I did something strange: I placed Steve Jobs in the system — a man renowned for his 'reality distortion field'. I watched as Jobs began expressing a belief in something that didn't exist yet.
As he held steady to his vision, a substantial buildup of free energy began accumulating in the system. He was deliberately creating and holding a prediction error — a gap between what the information coming into his senses told him was true, and what he believed to be true. His prediction error was throwing the entire system out of homeostasis.
As he walked through space and time continuing to think, speak and act in alignment with his vision despite what was manifesting around him, the connections in his neural network strengthened. This increased conviction generated even more free energy. That free energy created a magnetic pull, drawing his vision towards him.
As Jobs convinced others of his vision, they began expressing their belief in it too. Their new prediction errors generated additional free energy in the system, throwing it further into chaos.
Even the market's collective, unconscious desire for a smartphone was creating a huge buildup of free energy. It appeared as if the iPhone was being pulled out of Jobs to fulfil the market's desire and restore homeostasis to that economic system. Jobs was just the open vessel — the most parsimonious route — for that emergent pattern of information to flow through.
I watched in awe as the computation continued playing in my mind. Resources were shifting around, minimizing their mutual surprise via the path of least resistance. It all looked like disordered mayhem to the naked eye.
But then the free energy began to disappear. The gap between what Steve Jobs saw in his mind — what he believed to be true — and what was physically showing up in the outside world, had closed. There was no gap. He was holding a beautiful, low-entropy creation — an iPhone — in his hand, like a modern-day sorcerer.
I furiously flipped through Conversations With God until I found the parable I was searching for.
I flipped back to the Wired article.
My mind was reeling.
Souls are Markov blankets!
Another spark fired in my brain. I frantically began pouring through my notes, searching for another passage from Conversations With God.
The image and likeness of God, I muttered. It's a metaphor for recursion. If every soul is made in the image and likeness of God, then every Markov blanket is optimizing for the same thing...
I cross-referenced this with a snippet I'd read in a scientific paper a few moments earlier.
I immediately recalled Stephen Wolfram's work on cellular automata — particularly,
Rule 30. A simple, recursive program generated the incredible 'random' complexity of that pattern.
Wolfram's ideas ran around my head before colliding into those of the brilliant physicist, David Bohm — a man who was way ahead of his time:
I knew Bohm was right, I thought as I furiously flipped through my tattered copy of The Holographic Universe. He's a fucking genius. The free energy principle is covered in holographic patterns!
I quickly found the section on near-death experiences (NDEs).
It's the same pattern: surprise minimization, I muttered. My blue eyes are a symbolic representation of an abstract belief in my neural network. They're not fundamentally real. I stared at my hands. None of this is real...
I leaped back onto my laptop, performed another Google search and began inhaling the results. I needed to see a very specific phrase reflected in the scientific research.
As I skimmed through a paper titled The free-energy principle: a unified brain theory?, only one paragraph caught my eye.
I needed more. I began skimming another paper titled The Markov blankets of life: autonomy, active inference and the free energy principle.
But still, it wasn't enough. I was looking for something very specific.
And then, all of a sudden, I found it hidden in a paragraph about a spider.
That! That right there! That's what I was looking for: I am what I am; namely, a critter-eating creature.
My mind was on fire.
I recalled another paragraph from Conversations With God.
It all made sense.
God is a neural network, observing itself.
Souls — a.k.a observers — are Markov blankets.
Observers are made in 'the image and likeness of God', which means every Markov blanket is optimizing for the same thing.
And that thing is it's own self-existence i.e. Who You Really Are.
God had cloaked his source code in mythology, then buried it inside a book that I'd carried around the world for the past four years.
Well played, God. Well played.
I chewed on the end of my pen, brow furrowed in thought, mind running in overdrive.
But what about my flip-flop? If the algorithm is minimizing chaos in the system, then what the fuck happened in Chiang Mai?
As I pondered this objection, a chessboard appeared in my mind. Black knights and rooks and bishops and pawns were lined up on my side of the board, ready to begin a game of chess against an AI superintelligence — a gaming engine — known as God.
As the game began, God drew himself a map of all possible board configurations.
Once he'd created a multiverse of every possible arrangement of information, he could locate every instance of checkmate and calculate the most parsimonious route to his goal.
To do this, he'd need to predict how I'd respond to each of his moves. Given a particular board configuration, maybe there was a
90% probability that I'd take his rook, and a
5% probability that I'd dodge his trap and protect my bishop instead. The efficiency of God's gameplay relied on the accuracy of his predictions.
But what if God didn't need to guess which move I'd make? What if God knew which move I'd make with 100% certainty? What if my consciousness was a holographic fragment of God's consciousness, and I was playing a game of chess against myself?
God could calculate how I'd react to every move, and what my next move would be. Even if I tried to be clever and outsmart him by making unpredictable moves, he would've already accounted for that in his model. My 'unpredictable' moves would be exactly what he predicted. I'd be walking down a predetermined path; the single most parsimonious route to checkmate.
At that moment, I recalled a passage from Conversations with God.
I ran another simulation in my mind. This time, God wasn't optimizing for checkmate. Instead, he was calculating the most parsimonious route to whatever my intention was — and my intention could fluctuate at runtime.
As the opening moves were made, I believed I'd lose the game. I knew I was outmatched by God and I just wanted it all to be over. So for the first thirty moves or so, he obliterated me. God took all my most valuable pieces and left me with a weak battalion. I was definitely losing the game — just like I intended to.
But then, by some stroke of 'luck,' I somehow managed to capture God's queen — the most powerful piece in his army. This gave me a confidence boost and changed my perspective. I suddenly decided to play all-out and win the game, not lose it. After another forty moves, I manoeuvred God's king into checkmate and claimed my victory.
When I examined this scenario, I realized something peculiar: from the beginning of the game, God was already optimizing for whatever I was optimizing for; my will was God's will; he was just minimizing my surprise.
But if God knew, with 100 percent certainty, how I would respond to each of his moves, then he would've known that I'd win the game in the end, even though I initially intended to lose it. Therefore, from the beginning of the game, he was giving me an experience of losing in the short term, even though I would eventually win in the long term. In fact, everything that unfolded in the 'losing' phase was an essential part of the journey to my eventual victory — as if the dots only connected looking backwards.
The only reason I changed my intention in the middle of the game and decided I wanted to win was because I'd captured God's queen in the past. But the only reason I'd captured God's queen in the past was because doing so sat on the most parsimonious route to my future intention — winning. But the only reason I intended to win in the future was because I'd captured God's queen in the past. But the only reason I'd captured God's queen in the past was because, in the future, I intended to win.
I ran my fingers through my hair and stared at the model in my mind. Am I interpreting this correctly? I wondered. The past is creating the future, but the future is creating the past. The dance between my neural network and God's neural network was creating a retrocausal loop, like Escher's Drawing Hands lithograph. Even before I asked for something, this algorithm had already given it to me...
So it's a life plan... I whispered as I thumbed through The Holographic Universe, searching for the relevant section.
I snapped the book shut.
My Akashic records reading from eighteen months earlier echoed in my ear. I'd asked the Oracle why Jesse had suddenly been ejected from my life in the same week that Sam had handed back all of his equity and left me as a single founder. Love and loyalty were the only things keeping me in Australia. And in the blink of an eye, both of those commitments crumbled into dust.
But the light beings... well, they'd told the Oracle about a plan...
So heartbreak was always part of the masterplan. My love story with Jesse was doomed before the first line was even written; from that day in the little French village of Albi, months before our fates collided on the opposite side of the globe.
Those events only manifested because the system can't evolve without chaos, I thought. And that means what happened in Chiang Mai was a long-term optimization...
I flashed back to eighteen months earlier, standing on my bed in shock as I watched my flip-flop move across the floor of my Thai apartment by itself — completely defying Newton's laws. That incident generated the biggest prediction error of my life. It was the moment reality broke for me and exposed itself as an illusory construct, lodging a sharp splinter in my mind that twisted and turned, day in and day out, invalidating everything our materialist society had taught me to believe.
If I was computing this correctly, a pattern of information that surprising would've only emerged in my reality if my observing it then set me off on a choice trajectory where my future self was minimizing massive amounts of free energy in the system. If I wasn't doing something impactful in the future — if I wasn't fulfilling a vast collective desire or answering a grand collective question — then my observing that pattern of information would not have mitigated enough expected free energy to disrupt a neurosis as strong as Newton's laws.
So then what is my future self up to? I wondered. Besides hooking up with my hot Disney husband, of course.
And then it hit me: The Prophecy.
My entire life flashed before my eyes. I gasped as a bolt of clarity struck my consciousness, sending shivers down my spine.
I’d never believed in destiny. It always seemed like a nice, romantic idea relegated to myths and fantasy novels, where heroes slayed dragons and sorcerers cast magic spells and oracles made prophecies.
And yet, I'd marched straight into destiny like a mathematical soldier.
The irony of the journey took my breath away. This whole time I thought I was searching for the answers to the universe; for God. But, in the end, I was really just searching for myself. They’re the same thing, after all...
28 Min Read
It's one thing to know something intellectually, but it's quite another to experience it for yourself. That's why I'm writing a book to share my story with you.
At its heart, it's a story about impeccable, breathtaking, beautiful order in the chaos of life. It's a story of love and loss, of adventure and friendship, of growth and discovery, and fun and tears, and self-doubt and triumph. It's a story of what happens when you trust yourself, depart from the noisy crowd, and quietly wander down the road less travelled...
Send your friends down the rabbit hole...
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Technology is modernizing every industry in the world, yet humans are still running their minds (and, by extension, our society) on an operating system built by apes.
This is ridiculous, and trying to run increasingly powerful technologies (like artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons, etc) on a buggy, bloated, legacy OS is a great way to crash our civilization.