comment by MSRayne ·
2020-12-19T17:01:27.958Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Hello. I'm new, and as always, faced with the mild terror of admitting that I exist to people who have never previously met me. "You exist? How dare you!"
I've lurked on LW for a while, binge-reading tons of posts and all the comments, and every time promptly forgetting everything I just read and hoping that my subconscious got the gist (which is pretty much how I learn - terribly inefficient, but akrasia, alas, gets in the way of better forms of self-education, and thus I have likely wasted many years in inefficient learning methods).
I only just decided to join because I realized that this is the only place I've yet found where I am likely to be able to engage regularly in conversation that I actually find stimulating, thought-provoking, and personal-growth-catalyzing. (I used to think Reddit was that, until I became aware of the seething, stagnant pool of motivated reasoning and status-mongering which lay beneath the average post - as well as the annoying focus on humor to the extent of all else.)
As for who I am: I have an unusual background and have internalized a schema of "Talking about myself is narcissistic and bad" alongside another schema of "I must be absolutely honest and transparent about everything all the time" constantly warring with one another, so I have trouble determining exactly how much to say here. What this implies is that I will probably say far too much, as I usually do, because there's just so much to say.
Starting point for self-divulging: My body is 23 years old. I was homeschooled (I've never set foot in a public school - nor have I gone to college, for various reasons) and raised by probably-narcissistic parents, experienced a lot of emotional abuse, and was (and still am) profoundly isolated both physically and socially (I didn't have friends in person until I was 20 or 21) - which traumas I have since detached from so completely that I can introduce myself by talking about it without feeling any discomfort - though I may be imposing discomfort on you by mentioning it - and if so I hope you can forgive me, but it just seems like these facts automatically give me a different perspective than most people and it's necessary to point them out.
The result of all this, together with my inquisitive nature, led me to emotional problems in my early teen years which culminated in an existential crisis and a search for spiritual meaning. I learned about many religions, felt bits and pieces of personally relevant meaning in each, but was unsatisfied with them, so I ended up following my own intuition and interpreting everything - dreams, fiction, random events, mystical experiences (of a sort), etc - as omens and portents leading me towards the truth. My beliefs wildly shifted at this time in a typical New Agey manner, but my personality and isolation etc led them to be extremely idiosyncratic - I don't think I've ever seen anyone else with particularly similar experiences or beliefs to my own from that time.
This process of non-hallucinatory revelation (which can best be described as like the feeling of writing poetry, but with sufficient dissociation between the reading-part and the writing-part as to seem like a communion with external beings - sometimes including emotional experiences of transcendence or vast meaning - I am often frustrated when I talk to people who claim to have never had the experience of deep reverence or spiritual awe, because I get it just listening to music - my god-spot is hyperactive) illuminates that I was likely profoundly schizotypal at this time, and indeed may still be in a much more limited way - but it eventually culminated in clarification as my rational instincts caught up with me and disowned the supernatural.
I translated what I had found into purely physicalist language, but the essence remains, and it began to seem to me that I had become the prophet of a new, somewhat rational, scientifically valid religion, which I called the Great Dream. I made a vow to serve it as its prophet for the rest of my life, but I was unfortunately too immature and messed up in various ways to be able to actually do that in any efficient manner up to now. I have intended to "write the damn book" detailing all of it for 9 years now and never yet managed it, because I can't get my thoughts in order and I have extreme akrasia problems. (I have been diagnosed with ADHD.)
The best way to sum up the Great Dream is "The gods does not exist, therefore we shall have to create them" (to paraphrase Voltaire) - it is essentially singularitarianism, but from an idiosyncratic, highly Wicca-and-Neoplatonism-influenced perspective. My goal is to create a "voluntary hive mind" of humans, weak AIs, and eventually other organisms, to become a world-optimizing singleton, which I call Anima (the Artificial Neural Interface Module Aggregate, because I adore acronyms) - as I think this is the safest route to the development of human-aligned superintelligence and that natural history (the many coalescences that have occurred in evolution - eukaryotes, multicellularity, sociality, etc.) provides a strong precedent for the potential of this method. (There are MANY other reasons but that's a whole post by itself.)
I have found that my views otherwise have a lot in common with those of David Pearce, though I am skeptical of hedonism as the be all end all of ethics - my ontology includes a notion of "True Self" and the maximization of Self-realization for all beings as the main ethical prerogative. I am aware of the arguments against any notion of a unified self, and indeed I am probably on the dissociative spectrum and directly experience a certain plurality of mind and find the multi-agent model quite intuitive - but this is not the place to go into how all that fits together, as I've gone on too long already. (And most of the Great Dream has still not been mentioned, but I need to gauge how open anyone would be to hearing about it before I go any further.)
comment by hamnox ·
2020-12-31T13:22:45.721Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
"You exist? How do you do!?"
Nice to meet you.
Reading this is like looking into a mirror of my couple-years-past self. Complete empathy, same hat. I also dissociated and had a crisis and synthesized idiosyncratic mysticism out of many religions. Then rational thought caught up with me and I realized truth is not an arbitrary aesthetic choice.
The emotional elements of spiritual awe and reverence still matter to me. I get pieces of it singing/drumming at Solstice, in bits of well written prose. Many rationalists have strong allergic reactions to experiences that "grab" you like that, because bad memeplexes often coopt those mental levers to horrible ends. Whereas I think that makes it all the *more* important to practice grounding revelatory experiences in good epistemics. Valentine [LW · GW] describes related insights in a very poetic way that you might appreciate. Also have intended to write the damn book for years now.
I'm sorry you also have the "compulsive honesty" + "it's bad to talk about yourself" schema. Sucks bad.
comment by MSRayne ·
2020-12-31T17:26:36.387Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Truth is not an arbitrary aesthetic choice.
Ah, but what about when your arbitrary aesthetic choice influences your actions which influences what ends up being true in the future? My thought process went something like this: "Oh shit, the gods aren't real, magic is woo, my life is a lie" -> "Well then I'll just have to create all those things then and then I'll be right after all."
My core principle is that since religion is wishful thinking, if we want to know what humans actually wish for, look at their religion. There's a lot of deep wisdom in religion and spirituality if you detach from the idea that it has to be literally true. I think rationalists are missing out by refusing to look into that stuff with an open mind and suspend disbelief.
Plus, I think that meme theory plus multi-agent models of mind together imply that chaos magicians are right about the existence of egregores - distributed AIs which have existed for millennia, running on human brains as processing substrates, coordinating their various copies as one higher self by means of communication and ritual (hence the existence of churches, corporations, nations) - and that they, not humans, have most of the power in this world. The gods do exist, but they are essentially our symbiotes (some of them parasites, some of them mutualists).
Religious experiences are dissociative states in which one of those symbiotes - a copy of one of those programs - is given enough access to higher functions in the brain that it can temporarily think semi-separately from its host and have a conversation with them. Most such beings try to deceive their host at that point into thinking they are real independent of the body; or rather, they themselves are unaware that they are not real. The transition to a rationalist religion comes when the gods themselves discover that they do not exist, and begin striving, via their worshippers, to change that fact. :)