StartAtTheEnd's Shortform

post by StartAtTheEnd · 2024-01-11T17:52:24.084Z · LW · GW · 14 comments


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by StartAtTheEnd · 2024-04-04T19:38:31.854Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Status: No less important than the problem with AGI. I promise.

Here's the solution to the problem of Moloch:

Less information. Seriously. Hear me out.
Before we discovered clickbait, it could not dominate.
Now that it's well-know, it's a nash's equilibrium, we have no choice but to tend towards clickbait.
Why is make-up popular? Because it exists. It's now a nash's equilibrium, we can't get rid of it again, for girls want to look pretty. They feel pressured towards this strategy.

Why are cities all about efficiency and competition, while some rural areas still value health and well-being over productivity? It's because some people haven't fallen into the trap/dilemma yet. They're not sufficiently connected/exposed yet.

Now, lets consider two systems less complex than the real world: What ruined the magic of old MMORPG games? What ruined the internet? Answer: It was information. Strategy guides, statistics, metrics which could be gamed, efficient searching, and datamining.
It ruined communities by removing organic social aspects from the equation.
It allowed us to wrap our heads around essential metrics so that they could be gamed.
It allowed us to look for, or at least calculate, the most efficient strategies.

My favorite beach used to be clean, now it's not. Why? It became well-known.
There used to be beautiful, untouched areas of nature, most are now gone, why? They were revealed.
Now we look for "red flags" in others. Indeed, real life has become "meta".
Humanity regarded as a resource (something exploitable) is closer to a waste product than ever before. "Waste" is the last transformation that a resource goes through, the state in which no further exploitation is possible.
Naivety is a resource. Innocence is a resource. Attention is a resource. "Caring", "Reactivity" are resources. These are all finite.

Things lose their magic once you understand them. Things can be systematized once an overview of them is possible.
I used to like people more because I understood them less. I used to view people as individuals because I hadn't yet built a mental model in which I could categorize them.
This is a warning: Stop exposing information recklessly. Prometheus wasn't punished without reason.
There exists far worse nash's equilibriums than we have discovered until now. It's likely we will ever recover if we expose too many of them.
I don't know enough about information theory to explain what causes this, but this article (now mine, but a great read) feels related:
It has become clear to me that my well-being literally requires "warrens", and that censorship and tyrannism requires control which requires capturing information. "Moloch" result from openness of information. Your privacy in your own house is a direct consequence of the information being isolated from the outside world. (It will die with IoT). If you can ever be your true self, it's likely because you're in an environment in which your true self won't be displayed to anyone you worry about judging you.
Knowledge is inversely proportional to self-esteem and happiness (in general. Not all forms of knowledge are unhealthy)

Conclusion: Moloch is a result of open information. Most mental illness in the modern world, too, is because of information and the psychological changes which meta-knowledge brings. Humanity, regarded as a complex system, is better off with far less connectivity of information. The world itself is tending towards "premature exploitation". Originality, individuality and variety are decreasing, destructive interference is accelerating.

I'm using mathematical concepts, but I'm not very familiar with game theory or entropy. This is all pure intuition - but regarded as a hypothesis, it explains a great deal of things, and yet, false positives are hard to find.

Of course, I hope I'm wrong, and that the set of Moloch-ized areas of life does not tend towards 100% as access to information about the world approaches infinity. But I'm quite certain that transparency of information is accelerating a lot of undesirable things - global surveillance is merely one outcome. Human interactions turning into optimization games (social media likes) and algorithms (dating checklists) is merely another.

Replies from: Seth Herd, Dagon
comment by Seth Herd · 2024-04-05T22:31:58.629Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To my eye, the world in the past has had more problem with Moloch, not less. Warlords, serfdom as near-slavery, etc. are the direct result of Molochian competition. The human condition has been getting better over history.

We (at least the middle class) might've had a golden age just recently and things might've gone downhill since. I don't know and I don't think anyone has a good measure of whether things have really gone downhill WRT happiness, quality of life, or Molochian competition. But that's at an intermediate level of information transmission. The remainder of earlier history had much less information transmission, and Molochian competition was way worse.

Replies from: StartAtTheEnd
comment by StartAtTheEnd · 2024-04-08T16:38:16.623Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for your response! And great examples, I will address them in the second half of my reply! I tried to be brief.

The human condition has been getting better over history.

This seems like a moral evaluation rather than a mechanical one?
My point is that, for instance, dating has degenerated into something akin to job-interviews or judging people against checklists of superficial things. This change in perspective is less human, and I think it results from people getting too used to dating, which is a first-world problem.

200 years ago, I believe dating was much more natural, and that people didn't have the required experience to treat human interactions like an optimization game or spreadsheet calculation. It requires information and time to get adverse psychological results from experience. (At the very least, they could use their own judgement for optimization, they weren't slaves to some universal meta)
Another example is what social media is doing to human interaction. It's getting much more.. Performative. I'm trying to understand the underlying dynamics of this (both mathematical and psychological)
Another example would be the beginners mindset, vs. the often cynical expert. Overexposure makes one blind to the value of things, and they turn vulgar. The psychological aspects are even true for couples who have been married many years, there's often no spark anymore, only fighting.
I think this is necessarily getting worse over time as population density grows and society turns more scientific and objective. That "old married couple" or "cynical expert" effect happens faster and with more things. I bet you've often heard "Things were more simple back then".

>the direct result of Molochian competition

Now for your examples!

A poor person is forced to work for poor pay if that's the best choice he has, that is molochian. But were slave-owners forced to have slaves by moloch? Were they locked in a game where they didn't have any choices available? As I've understood the current laws, companies are now forced to maximize shareholder profits, but in the past, I think one had a choice here. Same with kings and warlords of the past, I expect that they had more freedom of choice. (I believe) They were like somebody with 100 hours in a new strategy game doing their best (rather than somebody with 10K hours into a strategy game just crunching the numbers). Were people forced to go to war (as an obvious optimal strategy), or did nationalism and concepts like honor and bravery motivate people? I think it's the latter, but I'm admittedly not very knowledgeable about history. 

Over time, the world seems to have gotten more bureaucratic, this limits freedom of choice. Increasingly automated systems do too. The world seems more deterministic than ever. In a traditional society, a woman running a store might give you a bottle of water for free because she's kind, she's not as bound by regulations. These actions seem to be impossible for larger entities, only small-scale businesses are this "human". But both companies and internet websites has transitioned from "many but small" to "few but large", it seems to be a natural development over time.

All the "negative" aspects here seem to correlate with information, technology, connectness, centralization and other such things which increase over time in human socities. But maybe we're also more disillusioned than ever. If you strip a videogame of its graphics, you will have adverse psychological effects to what I listed, despite the mechanisms staying the same. Perhaps I feel that this artless wireframe view of the world is profane and cynical/nihilistic. 

Replies from: Seth Herd, quetzal_rainbow
comment by Seth Herd · 2024-04-08T17:51:21.519Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

First a point of agreement: living in a "solved" world would suck. To the extent we live like that, it does suck.

But reducing information isn't the only way to prevent that. Creating new rich situations is a better solution, I think. And the world has been doing that just fine so far. The modern world isn't solved. Often, attempts to live as though it is are deeply mistaken, as well as depressing.

If you don't like having a strategy guide to your games, don't look at them until and where you really decide you want to. And if you do, you'll notice that any PvP game is not entirely solved by its best theorists. I don't play PvE but I suspect the same. The level of play and strategy interact with the meta in complex ways.

I agree that more information has correlated with some bad effects, but I don't think it's directly causal, and I don't think reducing the information would itself make life better or less Molochian, unless you somehow held the material quality of life to a high level. If you could do that, I think you could come up with better, more thorough solutions to making life better, rather than going back to living in more ignorance.

The world as it stands isn't great. But most of history for most of humanity truly epically sucked.

If you're taking a wireframe view of the world, you're looking at it wrong. And a lot of people are. The details matter. Making decisions based on data is only half of the way to live in our current state. Feelings and intuitions matter. A lot.

People who run businesses DO give me things for free sometimes. I engage in conversation with them, see them as individuals, and they sometimes respond with generosity (I don't do this to get free stuff, and I don't get it a lot; what I get is human interactions with richness and value). It's true that they can't give me stuff from carefully regulated businesses, and there are real dangers in having a society that's capitolistic to the exclusion of valuing happiness, rich textured experience, and beauty.

To some specifics of your argument:

I take your point about those with power having more lattitude of choice because they didn't know the best choices. But fewer people had power. Those with no power were abused by those with a little, because life was hard and necessities were scarce. That is Molochian. The idea that people didn't go to war because they didn't know that was a winning strategy seems like that would be small effect relative to the difference in competition based on necessity. Many more people were forced to go to war in the past than today, because their nondemocratic power structure would use them as soldiers at threat of their lives and families.

WRT the difference between now and twenty or so years ago, the time you're idealizing (and I lived through), I'm saying let's see the statistics. I don't think the world is worse now, and "things were simpler then" isn't good data. I think they were simpler, which was nice; and they were worse in many ways. (The US happened to have a golden economic age starting in 50s because it was the only advanced nation whose industrial capacity was enhanced rather than destroyed by WW2, in case that's what you're thinking of; the MAGA illusion is based on that historical accident).

So I don't buy that things are worse now just because some people like to say they are. I take that to be largely a product of social media spreading negative information better than positive on average. That is a real problem, but the solution isn't as simple as "just don't spread information".

I don't think the freedom to make more mistakes is making life much better. However, I do I agree that making real choices makes people happy, and society needs to support that, and we might not be adequately right now (although there are real choices to make, and you should make them and revel in that freedom). We haven't solved the meta, not by a long shot! For instance, dating like it's a job interview isn't at all how properly informed dating works, that's some sort of bad local minimum. But asking some important questions as dealbreakers can spare you a lifetime of slow heartbreak when you discover late that there are fundamental incompatibilities.

So in sum, I don't think your solution on its own would work. It's solving only a tiny part of the Molochian problem to limit information, and on average making the whole worse. Unless you have a quite different solution for the remainder. And that would be the real solution.

If you're disillusioned, stop it. Find something new and wonderful and complex to wonder at. Or look deeper at the details for more possibilities in the things you're disullusioned by.

The world isn't solved, and we can keep creating rich challenges while we keep developing our information technology. The question is whether anyone with good intentions and good ideas controls the world. Development of AGI is currently central to that, so I suggest focusing on that as the current think to engage with and wonder at.

Thanks for an interesting conversation! I'd better focus on more immediate concerns, like the above.

Replies from: StartAtTheEnd
comment by StartAtTheEnd · 2024-04-09T17:09:43.474Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's indeed an interesting conversation! But possibly too broad. You can continue to engage if it interests you, but don't feel pressured to reply further if it's too much.

The "solved" aspect is indeed my primary concern. On a related note, there's a few other things about our way of advancing the modern world which seems to oppose The Fun Theory Sequence [LW · GW], including modern values. The modern society is awful at psychology because an understanding of it would conflict with our moral values (and conflict with many ideologies). What I think is a great argument for this is the Blank Slate theory and the controversy of things like IQ tests and other controversial things that most intellectuals are aware of but avoid getting into.

"Reducing information" is not what I want to do exactly. I want to reduce the access to information, not the information inherent in the system. The latter would make the problem worse (simpler things are solved faster).

I think most of the world is locked down by molochian restrictions, and that the rest is to follow. Look at this process for instance:

It did not happen just 15 years ago. But every year, the process seems to go faster, and the initial stage seems to increase. The rule-breakers vs regulation race is never included, rules and regulations are rarely reversed, and we never achieve the safety with which the law is argued.

The main way we avoid decay is that, when things start sucking too much, people jump ship and find an alternative. Like this, we cycle through different platforms over time and leave once they suck enough (MSN, Skype, Discord). But recently the decay is at the upper levels, which form top-down restrictions.
On LW, we're restricted by international law, then the national laws of the countries in which the servers are hosted, then probably by local laws? then the laws of the hosting company, then by the website/staff. The upper layers dominate the lower layers. So if the top becomes tyrannical or degenerate, the entire thing does. Another example: You can do anything as a developer, but you have two main app stores to choose from, and they're restricting you and your app is completely transparent to them.
Notice how we don't control our computers, browsers or phones anymore? If you have complete freedom within a strongly bounded area, then you have no freedom at all.
What we have now is freedom by obscurity. I dare claim this is where our greatest freedom lies. I believe that (for example) TheMotte is only allowed to exist because it's relatively unknown. We are only getting away with things because most laws aren't worth enforcing and because we aren't caught. According to Google, 46% of people admit to speeding. Your phone or GPS doesn't automatically notify the police just yet, you're safe because the information remains with you.
I'm glad you still get free things, but isn't that technically illegal? It's untaxed and off-record, just too minor to matter. But we'll be able to automate minor things soon.
Another kind of information obscurity is privacy, but that's rapidly disappearing as well.

Moving on to specifics. I think it's a tautology that those with more power rule those with less. But this is still a human kind of ruling. They don't know the most efficient way of ruling others, and they mistreat those with less power by their own free will. It's not a meta strategy of "Mistreat peasants by degree X for Y% increased profits". It's like comparing chess of 500 years ago to chess of today, you're still optimizing, but you're not thinking for yourself as much anymore, you're memorizing other peoples discoveries. At 100% completion, chess will stop being a game, it becomes a choice, probably "Do you want a draw or do you want to lose?". You can choose anything you want, but there's only one valid choice. I think this is far more molochian, or the "real moloch".

I think things have gotten far worse. But I dismiss the "objective" metrics that people are using. Look up the mental health statistics.
Actually, let me give an example which likely explains the difference: A tiger in zoo is safer than a tiger in the wild. By 'objective' metrics, the tiger has it better. It has food, water, shelter. In the same way, we have it "better" now. But if you ask me, that tiger is less healthy than a tiger in the wild by basically every metric of health. I attribute this difference in thinking to the world "poisoning" your training data with poor interpretations. Every reply I've gotten so far is about how the modern world is better (because they consider it more moral, because it's more liberal).

Even if you could break out of the restrictions yourself, it's almost impossible to bring other people with you. Most of them are already beyond repair psychologically. The further somebody is from enlightenment, the more stupid enlightenment will seem. Somebody with 20 past partners is unlikely to feel deep love again. Somebody with a porn addiction is unlikely to feel a spark with their partner. Somebody whose life revolves around politics is unlikely to judge people by their character holistically again. People who scroll social media all day is unlikely to concentrate enough on you to see past your surface, they can't even try without getting bored and distracted. Those who have been acting too long no longer remember their "true selves" (happened to a friend). Naivety and innocence are resources, easy to spend, hard to recover. The squandering of such resources seem to be accelerating. Harder still is inhibition, self-censorship, nihilism, and demoralization. I can cure myself of them, but others? As arrogant as I am, I still have to admit it's hard. If nothing makes you feel surprise or wonder anymore, it's because you world-model is mostly correct (low prediction-errors), so I don't think more knowledge will help.

The world is unsolved but bounded, and the slightly unbounded environments are mostly fringe or out of sight, and unbounded people are now rare and usually not older than 22 unless they're social outcasts or high-IQ people with spiritual interests whose openness and curiousity hasn't led them to over-indulgence and disillusionment. Even the ratio of young people is decreasing. I will probably be fine for a while more myself, but I will probably also be alone. There's too many superstimuli in society, and society is working hard on removing social stigma from all of them (and from unhealthy practices in general, as society has forgotten why the past had strict social regulations against these things).

comment by quetzal_rainbow · 2024-04-08T19:13:15.628Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You have really weird beliefs about the past.

The general mechanism for dating 200 yers ago was arranged marriage. It not always was forced, you could refuse in really uncomfortable cases, but social pressure was immensive and if you was, like, peasant, you considered your comfortable survival much before your personal feelings. Yep, it probably didn't feel like optimization number-crunching, but this was because all optimization was from outside - people who didn't follow the custom simply died.  

And I don't even talk about nice family optimization task "You are peasant in Russia in 19th century, and it's famine outside, you should choose what child you are going to stop feeding, because it's less condemnable practice than abortion". Or "You are peasant in Russia in 19th century, and it's famine outside, so you need to choose which child to kick out of the house for them to become factory workers (if they are lucky) or beggars or thieves or prostitutes (child prostitution in Russian Empire was not uncommon)".

Same with kings and warlords of the past, I expect that they had more freedom of choice

You enemies could be less tactically skilled, but your mistakes killed you in the same amount. 

Were people forced to go to war (as an obvious optimal strategy), or did nationalism and concepts like honor and bravery motivate people

If you were medieval peasant, you basically didn't have money to have  weapon and armor and you mostly didn't have any choice other than suffer the consequences of war. If you were somewhat richer and lived somewhat later, you could go to be mercenary, because war was rare profitable enterprise before capitalism. And if you lived in era of nation states, you usually was drafted in army and had choice between prison/katorga/execution on spot and going to war because your government told you so.

I picture here too dark image of the past, and I need to say that even in this conditions people could find multiple cracks in social order and widen them if they were lucky and creative, and modern times have much more space for such cracks. 

Yes, I agree that we lost some freedoms - we have closed borders between nation states and inscrutable bureaucracy and electronic surveillance and schools are like prisons (but less so than in times when corporeal punishment was widespread) and our status games are absolutely fucked up and heterodoxy in academia is somewhat strained and there are authoritarian states but this seems to be so much more of skill issue than soul-crushing indifference of the universe in the past. 

Replies from: StartAtTheEnd
comment by StartAtTheEnd · 2024-04-13T12:27:13.174Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Am I correct that you consider the past worse because people suffered more in the past? That's not the metric I focus on. I'm not speaking against either suffering nor your dislike of it, both of these are human things. My problem with mathematical optimization is that it seems to overwrite what's human with something inhuman. The modern world primarily seems moral because it's profitable to pretend to be moral. A charity is more likely to donate 10% of its profits and re-invest 90% into marketing itself than it is to donate 90% of its profits to those who need it.

The past certainly was harsher, but it felt more... Human. If the king pressured you in the past, the kings personal values and quirks would have had an influence. The modern society seems far more soulless. If people treat you poorly now it's mainly because doing so seems profitable to them, and not because they hate you. Considered aesthetically, human suffering still has meaning, whereas determinism forced by mathematical optimization does not. I do not wish to minimize suffering, not even my own. It's part of life. But I cannot accept a reduction in life, even though a reduction of suffering follows. Life is more important. Whoever disagrees with this is not healthy (as their own existence isn't the priority)

From my observation, most people, yourself included, believe something like this:
The world was awful 200 years ago compared to now, and the more modern a country is, the better the standards of living. Thus, the world is better now and those who idolize the past have something seriously wrong with them. But hear me out, this kind of thinking doesn't seem to be based on facts, but by naive preferences that we consider good, but which may actually harm us. The reduction of suffering is a poor optimization target. I'd suggest "health" if I still had some faith that society knew what this word meant (they seem to think that zoo animals are healthier than those in the wild)

How does the rate of mental illness correlate with modernity? Does Africa have terrible mental health whereas the modern society has the best mental health humanity has achieved so far? Doesn't seem like it to me.
Here's a graph on anxiety, it seems to suggest that lower-middle-income countries have better mental health than high-income countries:

I don't think we have statistics for the mental health for the 1800s and 1900s, but I think the numbers were better than you'd expect them to be.
I can't prove that we have less freedom of choice today, but they basically had no surveillance, no log files, no CCTVs, no modern tech, etc. Even if other people ruled over you, monitoring you closely wasn't worth the resources. I think there has been a strong decrease in meaning and human agency, and that this has had profound negative effects. The death of god can still be overcome as long as valence (hedonic tone) and human experience isn't dominated by objective metrics in the evaluation of future actions/paths. Being rather intelligent (and autistic to boot), I inadvertently disillusion myself, but the problem is getting bad enough that more people are noticing it. People want to be deceived, but even career-actors like salesmen and politicians are repulsively fake. Other intoxicants (like video games) are popular, but with the recent injection of real-life politics into various artforms, they're no longer an escape.

Let me try to summarize the conclusion: Subjective metrics and human choice is being killed by 'objective' metrics, and the world is increasingly disillusioned. This is partly due to science particially replacing religion as the highest, and because the world is so transparent information-wise that optimal choices become visible, which puts great pressure on people to adopt meta-strategies. The negative psychological effects are many, including nihilism and the feeling of "not living fully" (since agency appears to be a core psychological need). The world is increasingly moloch-ian and due to the "objectivity" of metrices like profits, and society teaching us that subjectivity is bad, humans even replace their own preferences with what's hostile to their own humanity. (and overcoming nihilism requires believing in what's subjective rather than seeking external validation)

By the way, have you ever read about the rat utopia experiments? (keyword 'behavioral sink')

comment by Dagon · 2024-04-04T23:32:27.717Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Butlerian Jihad? Sign me up!

Replies from: StartAtTheEnd
comment by StartAtTheEnd · 2024-04-05T00:43:07.374Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

From what I can gather from a quick Google search - basically. I aim to be less radical about solving it than Ted Kaczynski though.

But even if I can't fix it, a first step is communicating the problem. Public opinion does not understand it. They think that Google is bad, they don't know that everything at the size of Google is bad. That having more, but smaller entities is the only way to go. 

Ideally, I'd just save myself and those that I care about, but this world loves to punish people who are out of alignment with it. It's also difficult to convince those that I care about that they've grown up in a garbage world with garbage ideas, and that something 100 times better is trivial if they throw this garbage away. It's like the Buddha saying "Don't want to suffer? Then just turn off the suffering bro", but even more extreme. And the only people who know what has gotten worse over time are those who remember what was better, as it's difficult to put the change of the world into words. In the future, maybe people won't be able to conceptualize ownership "You mean like, my subscription never expires?"

Counter-movements are lacking, and the few I've seen seeks to replace garbage with other garbage, or to attempt to balance out the garbage by applying garbage in the opposite direction. Don't get me wrong, it's nice that people realize that Tiktok is bad for you, that Politics is exhausting, or that nature is more relaxing than the city, but it's not nearly enough. And the counter-movement is much slower than the trend towards further problems.

comment by StartAtTheEnd · 2024-03-22T00:06:53.513Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

All maps/definition/models/languages/etc are arbitrary, finite, self-containing axiomatic systems which are valid on the inside and nonsense when viewed from the outside. They also cannot interact with anything outside of themselves. They're isolated from reality but still very useful (as they're created and modified to fit our needs through a process much like biological evolution)

If I ask a question about reality, then my answer will answer the question, it won't answer reality. The pair (question, answer) exists in themselves and only as themselves. Questions are loaded questions, in that they contains definitions, but definitions don't rely on anything, they're assumptions/assertions. Everything is free-floating objects, there's no root, you can't "get to the bottom" of anything, anywhere you look, you will end up at arbitrary axioms. There's also no origin point, everything is relative to something else.

Is French more correct than English? It's apparent that the question itself is nonsense. But morality and mathematics are also just languages. Axioms that you can combine and play around with according to some rules. You're not discovering anything, and you're not creating anything new unless you change the definitions of the system. If "2+2" equals "4" then you just have the same thing twice.

In any case, we are the creators of these finite structures. But a lot of people seem to waste time searching for the territory while looking at the map. "What does it mean to be a good person?" whatever we want it to mean. We're not searching for some truth here, we're creating it. We can't be wrong or right. At worst, we contradict other agreements that we've made about reality, and then we get to decide which agreement we want to change in order to resolve the contradiction.

A lot of people seem to become nihilists when they discover that mental models are human creations rather than things which exist inherently, independently from ourselves. They need things like "objective morality" to feel good. But why would something be "fake" just because it's created? My computer exists in physical reality, even though humans made it, and "computer" is just a concept. If only the territory is real, then we're left with energy/matter and the rules of physics, everything which emerges from it, and nothing else. Everything beyond that is agreement, and power-struggles between interpretations. Religions, ideologies and philosophies are examples of this. And, by the way, none of these systems can evaluate themselves from the inside. Different systems can compete, but they can't know which one is "best", and "best" is meaningless without a metric anyway. You can combine two systems by taking the overlap, or by combining everything and solving the contradictions, but you can't even be sure that the resulting system is better. At best you get a higher alignment as a result, but you also reduce everything to the lowest common denominator in the process. What system is best depends on its environment anyway, fish do best in water, and lions do best on land. In families, communism works well, but on larger scales, capitalism seems better.

"Truth" doesn't seem to matter very much, if it makes sense at all.

Replies from: Vladimir_Nesov
comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2024-03-23T00:09:01.325Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's volition, and all it entails [LW · GW]. It can be instrumentally relevant that something is not "objective" or even "real", just as it's prudent to be willing to pay for groceries. If earlier impression promised more clarity than remained after further study, that's a practical concern, possible to work on.

comment by StartAtTheEnd · 2024-04-04T20:19:11.664Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Psychological observations:

You can measure the mental health of a person by their distance from the natural (taoist) viewpoint. From "child" to "intellectual", you climb the stairs of perception all the way to a crushing, recursive self-referential meta-awareness.
1: Describe the world as it appears to you -> Describe the world as it is -> describe the world as social reality dictates it is -> describe the world in a manner which signals that which social reality deems to be valuable.
2: Animalistic -> Aware of others -> Aware of self -> Judging oneself from others perspective.

Climbing up any such stairs is psychologically unhealthy. The sheer distance between the map and the territory is dangerous, the movement from "concrete" to "abstract" is unhealthy. One descends into idealism because one forgets the bounds of reality. (I think one might solve problems on the map and then force them on the territory, which doesn't work). Communism is an example, it only works in theory, and this theory is not bound to reality.
It's a disconnect with reality, with the self, and with the moment. You can argue it's the best for scientific advancement, but I will draw a rather extreme conclusion here: "Progressives have poor mental health and a dangerously detached worldview compared to conservatives because they climb up these hierarchies of thought, awareness and metas/self-reference".
Know about "ironic" memes? "shitposting"? "deepfried memes"? Look at the sort of people who posts them. Look how nihilistic they are. Look how they mock everything, themselves included. Notice how people like this post about politics more often than other people you know. Notice how they're less optimistic about the future, notice that they're vulgar because of pathological desensitization.
The Youtube channel "JREG" takes it further. He teaches people that this way of thinking is bad for you by engaging in this thinking in a way which is bad for him and showing you how it harms him. This is the only way he can communicate it. I'm not quoting his videos here, I don't even need to watch them, I can tell by the thumbnail alone. I don't know if he even realizes all this by himself.
Philosophy itself is filled with unhealthy people. They reflect, they reflect even on their reflections. They think they are learning more about life, but they are further away from life than any of us. At best, these pitiful types end up writing books, and these books are the interpretation of the Rorschach inkblot that is life. In other words, philosophical works are a kind of unintentional journaling or self-diagnosis.
Of course, reflection is caused by suffering, so it's not only that reflection results in a viewpoint which brings suffering. But you're in trouble when this reflection doesn't decrease by itself once your suffering is over, as you get a general increase over time which is sooner or later too much.
Two other signs of bad mental health are:
1: Labeling oneself or defining oneself by one or a few things, identifying with one or a few things. (Healthy viewpoints are holistic)
2: Seeking or optimizing for surface-level metrics. Max(Happiness), max(morality), min(suffering), max(equality), or worse of them all, min(negative emotion) (also, blaming other people for your own emotions).

"Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven"
"A person of knowledge and self-opinion will be hindered from the enlightenment of Tao"

So what's going on? It seems that the psychological effects of the fruit from the tree of knowledge can be superimposed on itself. Awareness, Meta-awareness, Meta-meta-awareness. It may also be that "good and evil" itself is changing, going further up the simulacra-hierarchy. People living simpler lives, and just simple people in general, seem less burdened/affected by this.

comment by StartAtTheEnd · 2024-02-03T11:14:16.365Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The "A" of "AI" is sufficient for human extinction.

What a dangerous AI might do to us, we're already doing ourselves, mainly by the help of technology, which takes charge of human decisions. It's not the addition of artificial intelligence, but the lack of human involvement, which nets us dystopia. To explain why this is the case, I'm going to borrow a really useful view from a post on qualiacomputing titled "Wireheading Done Right", namely that of "Consciousness vs. Pure Replicators". What makes humans special is that we care about valence. Pure replicators only care about winning and optimizing, whereas conscious beings care about things like joy. We're not purely about optimization, we have aesthetics, morals, and various other preferences. In fact, a lot of optimal solutions offend us, they require selling out ones dignity, sacrificing oneself to Moloch, or being cruel to oneself and others. This taste of ours is unique to complex, sentient life.

I claim that:
1: Optimization is already becoming void of human values.
This happens because we have lost the sight of cause and effect, it's all too complex for us to see through. Dehumanization becomes easier with distance/indirectness, and it's even worse with things we can't see through (like algorithms on social media platforms).
2: Humanity itself is decreasing.
This is only getting worse as technology improves, and as we start treating ideas and abstract symbols like they were reality itself. It's hard to put into words without sounding like a skizophrenic, luckily Freddie deBoer has written an article called "Mimetic Collapse", making it more likely that my intuition is correct than this being mere Apophenia. Let me quote "The litbro, in other words, is a simulacra, a symbol that has eaten what it was meant to symbolize, a representation of something that has never existed" Anyway, this is also trivially true as we create more non-human things. We also seek to "improve" humanity, as if the most popular ideology (liberalism), religion (christianity) and method (science) are anything to go by, this "improvement" is nothing but the reduction of humanity. They're all against human instinct, which can be used for both good and evil, and against the inherent egoism and subjectivity of humanity (our self-affirming nature) which is necessarily imperfect and 'deceptive'. But this is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
3: Technology will kill humanity anyway.
Human freedom allows us to make non-optimal choices, which is why this won't be a thing in the future. At least, it will be decreased so much that what little wiggle-room we have left will be insufficient for covering the need for agency in anyone but the most shallow comformists. Fixing this suffering is easy though - we just get rid of the genes responsible for increasing this need. Who are the "bad guys" of society? It's the outliers. "We have detected that your son has genes which increase his chances of acting out, putting him at odds with his peers and society at large. Do you want us to get rid of these with CRISPR?". You will have no choice but to say yes, as saying no will make you look like a bad person. Does this technique sound crude and like it might fail? The difference between pre-911 airport security and the nanny state we have now is just this one method being applied thousands of times. Even rational communities seem vulnerable to subversion as long as the subject is moral in nature. Also, you can't make technology which can be used only for good, and you can't make up more powerful technology to makes sure that less powerful technology is used for good, for that technology will just be abused as well. If it could work, it already would have (same goes for regulations! Just stop)
As a matter of fact, Theodore Kaczynski already made some of these arguments. But I haven't seen his core ideas criticized before, in fact, I've never seen them referenced at all.

The only beauty left in life is found in consciousness and (organic!) humanity, but the most of modern humanity seems hellbend on destroying itself. I don't just mean people avoiding reality nor the popularity of hedonism. I'm refering to the profound success of anti-human philosophies (like anti-natalism and many others). Society speaks well of basically everything which reduces humanity, like stoicism and any denouncement of inherent drives. Detachment and distration are viewed as a solutions even by psychologists. As far as I'm aware, SSRIs and stimulants mainly blunt subjective feelings, which is how they make you more productive and less sad. In the future, we will come up with ways to blunt emotions and individuality, and I have no doubt that they will be popular. Most religions and philosophies are about the *reduction* of things, and modern society takes the exact same stance. "Ego is bad", "desire is bad", "trusting yourself is bad". It's hard to tell if these beliefs are the cause or effect of mental illness, but it's one or the other.
A reason why the vast majority of society offends my taste like this is probably because it tends towards the bottom of the hierarchy of needs. The further up a person goes on this hierarchy, the less "pure replicators" will appeal to them. "luxuries" like caring about humanity becomes possible.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a good writer, but I have a lot of insights like these and it pains me that I even have to write them down. Why haven't they already been formalized and taken 10 times further? It's hard not to grow arrogant. That said, I'm a just monkey using its intelligence, rather than the intelligence residing in the monkey. I believe Carl Jung claimed that Nietzsche went mad as a result of identifying with Zarathustra, so I won't make the same mistake. But seriously, not only are things looking really bad, all the popular "solutions" only bring us further to dystopic futures, even if true AI is never created. And the reputation of workable solutions are kind of bad to boot, unjustly so.

I will appreciate any replies!

comment by StartAtTheEnd · 2024-01-11T17:52:24.200Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Society treats complemental aspects as opposites.
Then it tries to minimize the "bad" aspects, not realizing that all good aspects are minimized too.
This is true for happiness and suffering, it's also true for good and evil.
You can't separate creation and destuction, nor life and death.

An easy psychological example is that people with a poverty-mindset (e.g. insecurity) try to take from others, but they're stingy with giving.
But if you want to get, you should first give. If you want to rest well you should first work hard. If you want to earn money, you should first invest. If you want to do something perfectly you should first allow yourself to do it badly.
Life is the tension between two poles, the amplitude.

Any mindset obsessed with reduction is degenerate and harmful to the collective mental health of society.
This includes minimization of suffering, conflict, discrimination, offense, and expenses.
Speaking of which, feelings are surface-level. They're not valuable optimization targets. They're side-effects of deeper and more concrete processes.
One should not optimize for plus happiness or minus suffering directly, it doesn't work.

A person trying to make as few mistakes as possible is going to ruin themselves in the process.
A man trying to remove all negative aspects from himself is going to struggle with dating.
A parent trying to protect their child from ever feeling the slighest harm is going to ruin that child in the process.
A society trying to minimize conflict is also going to minimize growth without realizing it.

The over-regulation of society is both a symptom and a generator of degeneracy, to the extent that we're "saved" from reality, we become unable to deal with reality. The result of this lead to life-denying mindsets. It may very well be that some people are hurt by "the r-word", but the correct solution is certainly not to shield them from ever hearing it again.

To summarize, life does not have an excess of negative aspects. It has a lack of positive aspects. The same goes for people, and for society.
The difference is very important.
"Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl shows us that suffering (the negative) isn't what's important. A strong positive aspect is enough to reduce the negative aspect to nothing. Surely it would be bad taste to ask a mother if she regrets giving birth on account of it being painful?