Venkat borrows Nassim Taleb’s metaphor of the hydra from his forthcoming book Antifragility. The point of the metaphor is to demonstrate how an antifragile system works: when hit with an shock, an antifragile system will respond by becoming more robust, just like cutting off one of the hydra’s heads will result in two new ones springing forth.
In this brief interview, Taleb explicitly cites both nature and evolution as examples of antifragility, of the hydra in action so to speak. But here’s the thing: the hydra mythology is itself a metaphor for the complete and final defeat of nature.
And in fact, all of Greco-Roman mythology is rooted in the defeat of nature and the rise of civilization as The Divinely Ordained Way Of Things.
Is this remotely useful? Isn’t this the mythology that got us where we are right now? I understand that Taleb uses it simply as a metaphor, but to see someone even of Taleb’s stature left without a better metaphor seems really telling. Our smartest and most influential thinkers don’t even have access to any competing archetypal universes.
The contents of our irrational, collective unconscious drive us with far more power than does our supposedly almighty rationality and logic. The metanarratives into which we fit our experiences determine the outcomes of our efforts. If we don’t get some better stories, we’ll just repeat the same mistakes again and again.
I don’t like Western pantheism, nor any of the pantheisms that trace their genealogies back to Sumeria. Pantheisms in general are fundamentally agricultural — agriculture being the cornerstone development upon which we’ve built our crowns of shit, making up stories about nonexistent deities along the way to legitimize the destruction we dole out so nonchalantly.
The only Mesopotamian mythology that calls bullshit on all the rest is the ancient Hebrew mythos as recorded in Genesis. And in fact this is the only Western-Mesopotamian mythology I am aware of that posits nature, and those who adapt successfully, as ultimately victorious. I realize that is a supremely distasteful thing to say but it’s true. Don’t we need a story, a mythos, in which we learn from our mistakes and create something better? Is shooting ourselves in the foot really the best mythology we can come up with?