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StartAtTheEnd's Shortform 2024-01-11T17:52:24.084Z

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Comment by StartAtTheEnd on StartAtTheEnd's Shortform · 2024-04-13T12:27:13.174Z · LW · GW

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:
https://assets.ourworldindata.org/grapher/exports/anxiety-disorders-prevalence-males-vs-females.svg

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 StartAtTheEnd on What's with all the bans recently? · 2024-04-12T03:17:03.563Z · LW · GW

I can only comment every 48 hours, so I can't write multiple comments such that I only communicate what concerns the person I'm responding to. Engaging is optional, no pressure from me (perhaps from yourself or the community?). I'm n=1 but still part of the sample of rate-limited users, so my case generalizes to the extent that I overlap with other people who are rate-limited (now or in the future)

I think people should take responsibility for their words, - if the real rules are unwritten, then those who broke them just did as they were told. The rules pretend to be based on objective metrics like "quality" rather than subjective virtues like following the consensus (which will feel objective from the inside for, say, 95% of people). There's no pain from my end, but it's easier in general to accept punishment when a reason is given or there's a piece of criticism which the offending person will have to admit might be valid. Staff are just human too, but some of the reasoning seems lazy. New users are not "entitled to a reason" for being punished? But the entire point of punishment is teaching, and there's literally no learning without feedback. Is giving feedback not advantageous to both parties?

By the way, the rate-limiting algorithm as I've understood it seems poor. It only takes one downvoted comment to get limited, So it doesn't matter if a user leaves one good comment and one poor comment, or if they write 99 good comments and one poor comment. Older accounts seems exempt, but even if older accounts write comments worth of rate-limiting then the rules are too harsh, and if they don't, then there's no justification for making them except from these rules. (I'm aware the punishment is not 100% automated though).
Edit: I'm clearly confused about the algorithm. Is it: iff ∃(poor comment) ∈ (most recent 20 comments) -> rate limited from time of judgement until t+20 days? this seems wrong too.

My comments can be shorter or easier to understand, but not both. Most people will communicate big ideas by linking to them, linking 20 pages is much more acceptable than writing them in a comment. But these are my own ideas, there's no links. The rest of the issues might be differences in taste rather than quality. Going against the consensus is *probably* enough to get one rate-limited, even if they're correct, so if the website becomes an echo chamber, it can only be solved by somebody with a good reputation voicing their concerns from the inside (where it's the most difficult to notice).

I'm one of the weirder users, though, I'm sure to be misunderstood. It worries me more that the other users were rate-limited. I can't imagine a justification for doing so. If justifying it is easy, I think an explanation is proper, any user could drop it and mention it. If only the mod team can tell why these users were rate-limited, then it follows that the users made no obvious mistakes, from which it also follows that there's very little that the targets (and even observers) can learn from all this.

Finally - I actually respect gatekeeping and high standards, but such rules should be visible. "When in Rome" - yeah, but what if the sign says "welcome to Italy"?. And I'm not convinced (thought I'd like to be) that I was punished by high standards rather than petty reasons like conformity, political values, or preferences owning to a lack of self-actualization.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on StartAtTheEnd's Shortform · 2024-04-09T17:09:43.474Z · LW · GW

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, 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:
https://www.techdirt.com/2022/11/02/hey-elon-let-me-help-you-speed-run-the-content-moderation-learning-curve/

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 StartAtTheEnd on StartAtTheEnd's Shortform · 2024-04-08T16:38:16.623Z · LW · GW

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. 

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on What's with all the bans recently? · 2024-04-08T15:30:59.603Z · LW · GW

Well, this website is called "LessWrong", so conforming to subjective values doesn't seem all that important, and I didn't expect to be punished for not doing so. I've read the rules, they say "Don't think about it too hard" and "If we don't like it, we will give you feedback", but it seems like the rate-limiting was the feedback. They mention rate-limiting if you get too much negative karma, but this isn't exactly true. My karma is net-positive, the negatives are just from older accounts, which seem to weight higher.

My personal bar is heavily based on the ratio of effort:value

While I agree, I want to ask you how many grade-school essays are worth one PhD thesis? If you ask me, even a million isn't enough. If you "go up a level", you basically render the previous level worthless. Raising the level will mean that one will make more mistakes, but when one is correct, the value is completely unlike just playing it safe and stating what's already proven (which is an easy way to get karma which I don't see the value of)

At a personal level, I kind of enjoy the kindness you show in looking down on me, and comments like yours are even elegant and pleasing to read, but I don't think this is the most valuable aspect of comments, since topics presented here (like AGI) concern the future of humanity. The pace here is a little boring, and I do believe I'm being misunderstood (what I assume goes without saying and prune from my comments is probably the parts that people would nod along with and upvote me for, simply because they agree and enjoy reading what they already know).

And not to be rude, but couldn't it be that some of the perceived noise is a false positive? I can absolutely defend everything I've posted so far. I also don't belive it's a virtue to keep quiet about the truth just because it's unpleasant.

they may still be fall below the necessary return-on-effort

I think the extinction of human nature (and the dynamics involved) is quite important. Same with the sustainability of immaterialistic aspects of life and the possible degeneration of psychological development (resulting in populations which are unable to stand up for themselves). On this very comment section, another user writes "I sort of accidentally killed some parts of the animal that I am" as a consequence of reading the sequences. This is also one of the things that I've shown concern about in my comments, and which has been voted "false" by regular users.

My "worst" comment this month is [5,-5] and about Tiktok. I think people dislike it because of their personal bias and because they're naive (naive as in the kind of people who believe "somebody think of the children!" is a genuine concern rather than a propaganda tactic). But admittedly, only the first paragraph was sufficiently clear and correct. Perhaps you will have to be less kind to me? I cannot guess my faults, so somebody would have to put aside the pity and be more direct with me

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on What's with all the bans recently? · 2024-04-05T01:08:41.560Z · LW · GW

I'm rate limited? I've heard about this problem before, but somehow I can still post despite being much less careful than other new users. I just posted two quick takes (which aren't that quick, I will admit that. But the rules seem more relaxed for quick takes than posts).
Edit: Rate limited now, lol. By the way, I enjoy your kind words of non-guilt. And I agree, I haven't done anything wrong. Can I still be a "danger" to the community in a way which needs to be gatekept? Only socially, not intellectually. I'm correct like Einstein was correct, stubbornly.

My comments are too long and ranty, and they're also hard to understand. But I don't think they're wrong or without value. Other than downvotes, there's not much engagement at all.

Self-censorship doesn't suit me. If it's required here then I don't want to stay. I could communicate easier and simpler ideas, but such ideas wouldn't be worth much. My current ideas might look like word salad to 90% of users, but I think the other 10% will find something of value. (exact ratio unknown)

Edit: Also, my theories are quite ambitious. Anything of sufficiently high level will look wrong, or like noise to those who do not understand it. Now, it may actually be noise, but the "attacker" only has to find one flaw whereas the defender has to make no mistakes. This effort ratio makes it a little pathetic when something gets, say -15 karma but zero comments, surely somebody can point out a mistake instead? Too kind? But banning isn't all that kind.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on StartAtTheEnd's Shortform · 2024-04-05T00:43:07.374Z · LW · GW

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 on StartAtTheEnd's Shortform · 2024-04-04T20:19:11.664Z · LW · GW

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 on StartAtTheEnd's Shortform · 2024-04-04T19:38:31.854Z · LW · GW

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: https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2010/10/27/warrens-plazas-and-the-edge-of-legibility/
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.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Should rationalists be spiritual / Spirituality as overcoming delusion · 2024-03-27T12:04:17.628Z · LW · GW

That's good to hear! But it's a shame that it puts you out of sync with people. If it's all people, maybe your environment is not very good? Maybe the rat race dominates? I can 'vibe' with people, which I think is a form of synchronization or communication on a deeper level than the verbal.

Getting close to people like this requires that both of us have some sort of inner peace, calm or firmness. Too much noise, anxiety, alertness, doubt and mistrust kills it. The cognitive overhead of internal conflict and noise is enough to distract us. Even a headache (which also hijacks your attention) can prevent 'immersion' in the moment / the situation / the people around you.

I simply aim to move into my center, and let the flow reverse outwards into the world, vs. trying to grasp at things and draw them in

Excellent put! This "drawing in" is a form of theft/greed anyway. It puts a burden on others. It tries to control things rather than letting them flow naturally.

It might be "trying" which is interfering with "doing", or "the ego" which is interfering with "letting go", but my favorite perspective here is that it's system 2 interfering with system 1. Things which come naturally are graceful, and when we try too hard to control everything ourselves, things become stiff and awkward. Let me show you what I mean: you're now breathing manually.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Should rationalists be spiritual / Spirituality as overcoming delusion · 2024-03-27T11:44:54.117Z · LW · GW

Lengthy reply - my bad. I won't blame you if you just skim its parts.

Suffering is motivating too (a signal), it exists for a reason, not outside ourselves and not just to tease us. But in humans, there's usually competing motivations. So suffering has to get worse until it reaches the threshold of the competing thing. Just like hunger has to get stronger than your laziness and desire not to cook before you eat. But if you ate before you got hungry, then you'd not have to feel hunger. It's the same with suffering. But suffering is harder to resolve. Hunger points at food, you know what you need. But suffering points at something rather vague and abstract, maybe you even fall into the trap of thinking that money, fame, pretty things or a sixpack is what you need, and we know how that goes.

Suffering is created when we feel that something is wrong and ought to change. Sometimes we judge wrongly, and attempt to change something that we can't or shouldn't change. Other times we suffer because we aren't doing what we should be doing. So while the solution is acceptance, you should accept the right thing. You shouldn't accept that you're hungry, you should accept that you're a human and that humans need to eat.

I think suffering exist for the same reason that intelligence does. It's premature adaptation/alignment. If you can image what will happen if you fall off a cliff, then you can die in this mental simulation without dying in real life. If you feel hunger before you die of starvation, then you can adapt to reality in time. If you suffer from anxiety, then either your anxiety is wrong, or you're in actual danger in which case it's a valuable signal. So you either solve what makes you anxious, or learn to accept that life is unpredictable. Either the signal is wrong or it's right, in either case, it's only a signal, and it only hurts because we could/would ignore it otherwise. We agree on a lot, but in my view, suffering isn't the error, even though humans often suffer when there's no reason to do so.

This entire system doesn't always work very well. I think it may be because we're not not suited for the modern society. But if you get rid of it, I think you should know what purpose it served so that you can achieve that purpose manually (live a good life without cravings to motivate you). We tend to hold on to suffering because we fear that we won't achieve our goals if we relax, become content with things, and live in the moment. But I agree that this isn't necessarily true. Perhaps "letting go" and "doing without doing" is correct. Maybe the whole concept of "trying" is a form of wireheading or goodharting, "do or do not, there is no try".

>meaning and numbers do not exist ultimately

But nothing does? This concept of "Ultimately" contradicts the concept of "Exist". If I hold a rock in my hand, then it exists because it's right there. It doesn't exist outside of itself. These buddhist criteria for something being real/being true/existing are a contradiction, but I think that such criteria are wrong (a contradiction can't exactly be correct). It's not that nothing exists, but that this definition of "exists" is nothing. It's like if I said "This water isn't water, it's just hydrogen and oxygen, where is the real water?". Said in another way, we discover that the map is wrong, but then then criticize the territory for not following our map.

>See the list in my first message in the dialogue

While these does point to something spiritual, I think they're more religious than spiritual. And religion is about coherence in larger groups at the cost of the individual, while the spiritual is about the individual at the cost of coherence and conformity. So I think that most of the spirtual things you're familiar with are too strongly colored by religious and moral thinking. If I start suggesting spiritual paths which are "beyond good and evil", I also expect you to dismiss them as amoral/immoral, which you may think means "wrong" or "irrational".
Of all of the list, I think that "sacredness" is the most fitting, given that it's not a concept with excessive gravity/graveness, like the fear of god as a form of sacredness. Spirituality is for free spirits, it's a kind dancing. Religion feels like excessive, oppressive weight.
Reading your post on sacredness, I don't see any definitions of it that I'm familiar with. I think sacredness is something like the agreement that something has value. You treat sacred things with respect, as they're not inherently sacred. If you start having rave parties in churches, the churches lose their air of sacredness. If you stop treating the king with respect, he loses his kingly aura. If we lose faith in money, it becomes worthless. So when you profane the sacred, you're harming value itself. I think this is why old people hate it when the young generation doesn't take things seriously, and isn't the young generation much more nihilistic? The rate of mental illness is also much higher in the young, but the correlation might not be causation.

What I connect with spirituality is books like The Alchemist. This quote for instance “The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.” flips the meaning hiarchy from "what's rare is valuable" to "what's common is valuable", a flip in perception which is like turning your environment into solid gold. It flips scarcity into abundance, the mundane into the special.
I think spirituality is the music in the quote "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music".
The gradient from [nihilism] to [the fear of god] looks like the gradient from [lightheartedness] to [seriousness], but I think they're different. Caring does not necessitate suffering, and "not giving a fuck" is not a solution to suffering (and even if it were, it wouldn't be a healthy one). You can be lighthearted in a reality which is thick with substance and meaning, I know because I've achieved this perception of the world before.
 

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Should rationalists be spiritual / Spirituality as overcoming delusion · 2024-03-27T08:32:49.010Z · LW · GW

That looks like a moral statement? Like you consider knowledge a virtue. I feel like this association has been dominant in the western world since Plato, but despite this generation being the least scientifically ignorant generation so far, hasn't our conscience gotten worse? We only feel more ignorant, more imperfect.

I recommend a naturalistic approach to life. If even the best of us is ignorant, and humanity has flourished like this anyway, then from where do we draw the conclusion that ignorance is harmful? Or that we should feel bad about it? Perhaps holding ourselves to unreachable ideals might cause more harm than good instead? I think the judgement "knowledge = good" comes from an anxious state of mind wishing for more certainty and control, rather than being a logical conclusion to anything. And of course, it's a popular belief that being humble is good, but I think this is mostly just a "the nail that sticks out gets hammered" conformity thing. Identifying too much with ones knowledge is bad, though, as it makes one afraid of being wrong and asking questions.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Should rationalists be spiritual / Spirituality as overcoming delusion · 2024-03-26T16:21:08.492Z · LW · GW

I think spirituality and science (also rationality) go in different directions, but that the post seems to take a scientific or rational approach to spirituality.

I think "suffering is bad" is a naive belief, and that it gets in the way of understanding things. It's like saying that hunger is bad, but you evolved hunger in order to search for food. Hunger is not bad - a lack of food is! But suffering is the same. We evolved the ability to suffer to help our survivability. It's not inherent to life in any sense, it's not even required. As far as I know, positive reinforcement achieves the same as negative reinforcement. Suffering is a motivator. If you move without suffering, you don't need suffering. If you don't do what you should, then life, or your own body, will force you. If you always get enough sleep then you won't be tired, and the ability to get tired exist for your sake, not as an inhernt bad quality about existence, but suffering is the same.

The best way to solve a problem is sometimes to cease thinking that it's a problem. You can also just accept that you think it's a problem because you choose to do so, or because your nature demands it of you. If you think something is wrong with reality, then you create a world which you cannot love. It's also silly to claim that reality is bad for logical, rational or objective reasons. You can only find human reasons - but this is merely opinion and whatever evolution did to you.

Deconstruction is easy, you can do it by searching, comparing, or analyzing. I think creation is harder, you have to create something from nothing but yourself. The page you linked says that "all phenomena are empty", but that's not a good belief to to stay at. It's a belief you arrive at by error in the first place. If you subtract humanity from phenomena and then looking for human substance in them, you'll find that there isn't any. But why would there be? Substance and meaning has always been human things. "Meaning" exists as a concept in the first place because it's a part of us, to say that the concept is false because we can't find it outside of us is to forget that we created it in the first place. It would be silly to say that numbers don't exist because we can't find them outside of mathematics, right? Nothing exists inherently, that is, "universally", outside of itself. Why would it? Doesn't that contradict the very definition of existence? Even matter and energy doesn't exist if you look for it outside of matter and energy. And yet, these people who claim that meaning doesn't exist wants to convince me that suffering is real? The very concepts of "inherent" and "universal" are what's wrong, they're nonsense, just like "everlasting" was found to be nonsense. And if life looks like nonsense through them, you should say "the concepts are nonsense" and not "life is nonsense". I have the same beef with absurdism. How can reality be absurd? If our model of the world is wrong, it's not because the world made a mistake somewhere, that's silly. It's nonsense to claim that things which actually exist are "illusion" and that what doesn't exist are "real". 

You can avoid all of these problems in the first place by making humanity the center of everything, which means regarding yourself as an axiom (I also recommend not reducing all of humanity itself to the word 'convention', lol). This makes suffering real again, but only because you choose to suffer, and only in situations which we, or our bodies, consider worthy of suffering (and only to motivate us to change the state that we find outselves to be in). Do you know of "spiritual" things outside of Buddhism by the way? These texts seem rather negative to me, I recommend finding something better

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Should rationalists be spiritual / Spirituality as overcoming delusion · 2024-03-26T15:17:32.722Z · LW · GW

This alienation puts you out of calibration with other people. Why avoid overfitting to specific, local beliefs, in favor of more 'general truths', when all your time is spent doing specific, local things?

That said - I recommend doing this to the extent that other peoples beliefs are poisonous and negative. You should not calibrate yourself to sickness. But calibration towards psychological health puts you in tune with yourself, the moment, and lived experience. If it's uncomfortable, then I don't think you're approaching a natural state nor eliminating internal conflicts, and I wouldn't call this "spirituality" at all. Spirituality to me, is to let go, and realize that you weren't holding on to anything to begin wtih, it kept itself in place all along. It's also a frame of mind in which everything has depth and hidden meaning and wealth, which I think is advantageous even if it's only "true" to the extent that it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I wouldn't focus too much on Buddhism. What about tarot, yoga, magick, visualization, and "fun" worldviews like the hermetic principles? "Everything is mind" is like stoicism on steroids, it helps you take back the ability to create your own interpretations (an ability that many of us lose thanks to science) instead of searching for it in other peoples theories and opinions. Spirituality is about rooting yourself in yourself, and expanding your own inner world. Science is about approximating something else at the cost of yourself, and reducing your inner world to rules and sterile/inert/objective models. Doubt leads to bad mental health, which is why belief, faith and confidence are so important. Whether these beliefs are actually true seems less important to me.

By the way, are you sure this alienation is necessary? Even if you can't connect with somebody as you don't share words, beliefs or ideas, I find that body language and more fundamental things still get through. If you have a pet, I bet you have made some sort of connection with it

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Should rationalists be spiritual / Spirituality as overcoming delusion · 2024-03-26T13:42:54.121Z · LW · GW

I think it's claims about the human perception of reality. We tend to aim for understanding, but it's the lack of understanding which makes understanding so seductive. Understanding something tends to kill it of its magic, and what's understood feels much smaller. I think that a complete understanding the world in a reductionist and mechanical sense would make you too sober not just for magic, religion and philosophy, but also for scientism and spirituality as well. You can even disillusion yourself to social reality if you deconstruct that (not recommended)

I also make claims about the nature of truth in relation to humans. I don't think our perceptions actually aim for truth, I don't think that truth is comfortable like spirituality is comfortable, and I don't think truth is all that useful to us personally (but it's great for scientific advancement)

Those who philosophize and meditate on things tend to be high in neuroticism. You don't meditate so hard on the nature of things if you're thriving in life, you only start questioning things when they don't work, so I think all philosophy has a negative bias, that philosophers tend to have bad mental health, and that higher states of awareness may be psychologically unhealthy. For instance, oversocialization makes us self-censor by keeping track of what other people would think of us. Freddie Boer writes this in one of his posts: "Nowadays people have both their own anxious and worried mind and another mind that worries about how they’re anxious and worried and whether they should be. This is the part of the mind that’s concerned, bizarrely, with how the mind might appear to others, despite the fact that the mind cannot be observed by anyone but the self. And that’s a creation of the internet".

I don't think he's correct blaming the internet, I think it's the WEIRD society, political correctness, population density, and increasing simulacra levels (and most of the internet is this sort of environment now). Materialism and science are partly to blame too. I see many, many people who take a turn for the worse when they turn around 20 years old, and stop being able to truly be themselves. The exaggerated inhibition turns permanent, sometimes remaining even when that person is truly alone. 

The relation between the socialization process, subjectivity, objectivity, social reality and meta-perspectives is too complex to contemplate here and this reply is already rather long

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Should rationalists be spiritual / Spirituality as overcoming delusion · 2024-03-25T22:02:08.294Z · LW · GW

Not all appearance is harmful illusion (art, mannerism, grooming), and not everything maps to the "true/false" duality. Money is real because we believe in it, reality itself partly depends on beliefs, making beliefs have actual effects on reality. this makes beliefs similar to placebo, and doubt a kind of nocebo.
Social programming is one source of errors, but the brains prioritization of survival over well-being is another. You're more likely to survive if you overestimate everything dangerous, negative and bad.
But most actual malice and evil in the world is a result of weakness and misdirected, insatiable drives.

We think illusions are bad because the examples which come to mind are bad. We think lust and greed are bad for the same reason. We think the ego is bad for the same reason. This is just one of humanities many misunderstandings. Not even suffering is bad, not even power is bad. People like the Buddha just focused on the negative side of things, and decided to destroy them. But destroying Yin destroys Yang, the two are one. Did it not occur to him than anything which can be a minus can also be a plus? Caring deeply about morality or suffering is a symptom of bad health, they're only at the forefront of naive worldviews.

I'll warn you about deconstruction, it will result in nihilism. Spirituality should be construction. You need to consider the world to be big enough that you cannot wrap your mind around it. Like this, it regains its mystery, and you regain your faith that there's more to life than just atoms. If you're lucky, things can even be "sacred" again.
For most zoo animals to be psychologically healthy, they need an enclosure which is bigger than what they can perceive all at once. I believe it's the same for humans and their worldview.

I think it's totally wrong to think that truth = virtue = spirituality = clear-sightedness. If your mental health has gotten worse as a result of rationalism, then more rationalism won't get you out of it. You likely need immersion, and how can you have immersion without losing yourself? I can't immerse myself much in videogames anymore because I know how they're made, and because I look at them with a programmers eyes. Knowledge took my immersion away from me, and I had to take it back. Maturity, high standards, objectivity - these all come at a cost. As long as all your virtues point away from the subjective and towards the scientific, how can you give yourself what you need?

If you do train yourself to have higher self-awareness, then I recommend making it as automatic as possible (using system 1). Healthy spiritual people always seem to use system 1 the most, while rational people tend to use system 2. I think the story of the forbidden fruit is about the side-effects of humanity having evolved system 2.

Humanity created a tragic, dark and painful world. A negative delusion made real. You will feel better if you destroy it, but what then? Why not build a beautiful world instead? A positive delusion which manifest itself as real? This is possible as your mind isn't zero-sum. 

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on StartAtTheEnd's Shortform · 2024-03-22T00:06:53.513Z · LW · GW

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.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on AI-generated opioids are a catastrophic risk · 2024-03-21T20:11:29.664Z · LW · GW

I don't think the general idea is wrong. And it's easy to generalize (to, for instance, engineering of new viruses)

Lootboxes, clickbait, sexualization, sugar, drugs, etc. are superstimuli, and they form maximums, which means that you can't really compete with them or create better alternatives which are healthier.

Since AIs optimize, they're likely to discover these dangerous maximums. And if there's one defense against Moloch, it's a lack of information. Atomic weapons are only dangerous because we can make them, and lootboxes are only harming gaming because we know these strategies of exploitation.

It's likely that AIs can find drugs which feel so good that people will destroy themselves just for a second dose. Something much more addictive than anything which exists currently. Outside of drugs too, AIs can find extremely effective strategies with terrible consequences, and both AIs and humans tend towards the most effective strategies, even if everyone loses in the process.

We have fought against dishonesty and deception for 1000s of years, and warned against alcohol, gambling and hedonism, and used strict social norms to guard against their dangers. Now we're discovering much worse things, and at the same time relaxing our social norms, leading to degeneracy and weak-willed people who can't resist dangerous temptations (and as we will soon see, religious people had a point about the dangers of indulgence).

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Anxiety vs. Depression · 2024-03-21T19:15:58.307Z · LW · GW

I find that stimulants help if the cause is depression, but that they don't if the cause is anxiety. Stimulants make anxiety worse (but it's not so simple - since stimulants also increase your confidence). But if you're anxious, then you crash even harder once the stimulants stop working, and you might release too much adrenaline, so that you become numb instead of "fired up". I also find that being in "flight or flight mode" doesn't help much against deadlines. You're alert, but not in a way which is good for thinking.
For chores and physical work, stimulants are great, but you should take care not to overexert yourself, remember to drink water, and take care of your blood pressure.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Anxiety vs. Depression · 2024-03-21T19:05:10.178Z · LW · GW

Thank you! Yes, I am. I've grown bored of suffering, and the victim mentality has lost its appeal. At this point, even being negative is difficult for me. I'd have to put effort into taking myself seriously.

But it's a balance. Being humble and allowing oneself to be small is also important as it increases the felt weight of the world. So I should allow myself to be "just human", i.e. a little weak. If I don't allow myself to be weak I won't be able to cry, and I won't be able to feel other peoples sympathy since I can't take it to heart. This is similar to being unable to feel other peoples compliments, which is the case when the standards you hold youself to are too high. Many people recommend stoicism or "not giving a fuck" to combat depression, I just want to warn against that. It's better to have courage (the ability to face ones fears) than it is to get rid of the fear. If "fear > courage" one should flip the inequality instead of destroying the entire equation by reducing both sides to 0 (nihilism).

The correct alchemy here is "negative -> positive" not "negative -> nothingness". Reducing yourself to rubble leaves a lot of rebuilding work (nihilism -> meaning)

Speaking of which, I have a friend who doesn't get embarrassed, she gets angry instead. I think there's a layer of responses. If she had not allowed herself to be angry, she'd go to the next layer, which is apathy. So the ordering goes from "receptive" to "jaded".
Somebody does something which hurts you -> Brain protects you from pain, it's converted to sadness. -> The brain protects you from sadness, so it's converted to anger. -> The brain protects you from anger, so it's converted to apathy. This picture seems quite right: https://oasisenergyhealingcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Emotional-Energy-Compass-Graphic.jpg

I guess I cope well with my issues because they tie into my hobbies so well. I'm not motivated by the idea that I will stop suffering once I improve my life, but experimenting on myself is fun, and this actually motivates me.

It's not the bad things in life which get to you, it's the lack of good things :)
"He who has a why can bear almost any how". As long as good things are working out for me, I don't think it matters very much whether I'm suffering as well. But society doesn't think like this, so it keeps trying to reduce negative things, which also reduce good things. So the mental health of society keeps getting worse despite "things getting better"

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Anxiety vs. Depression · 2024-03-18T06:03:26.481Z · LW · GW

Interesting! Thanks for sharing. What you describe as inertia sounds more like apathy to me than depression. But rather than a comfortable pillow which resists attempts to move it, it feels more like there's nobody home in my body. I say "Move" but there's nobody to hear, nobody to care. There's no feelings, just the last bit of rational thought going "huh, that weird, something seems to have broken."

Right now I'm feeling that "meh" at everything, just barely excluding the things that I need to stay alive. So by your description, I'm currently depressed, but my mood is strangely alright.

Depression to me changes my worldview entirely. Reality gains substance, it feels much more real, less superficial. The world becomes much larger, more serious and heavy. It feels cold, lonely and dark, even around people, in warm places, and with my face right next to a 1500 lumen LED light.
I'm fairly sure that my vision actually loses some of its color, and even strong people seem pitiful and weak. Another interesting note is that my 'territory' shrinks. My environment, even my own things, become hostile and unfamilar, rather than tools which are mine to manipulate for the sake of my goals. I don't feel sad when I'm in apathy, but I feel terrible when I'm just depressed. Just awful. At times I'd have a "good day" and only score mild to medium on the depression scale, and feel like that level of negative emotion wasn't even worth mentioning. It's like going from passing a kidney stone to having a mild headache.

Anxiety feels like standing at the edge of a cliff, or like there's a sword hanging in a hair above my head. There's a sense of impending doom, confusion, and the feeling that I'm forgetting something important. And everything feels fragile, I get this sense that everything is decaying right before me, that it can break at any moment, that everything is scarce, rare, limited.

I like depression more than anxiety, until the depression gets bad enough, anyway. I think the two blend together at some point. When I'm a bit depressed I might casually think about suicide, but when I'm even more depressed, the idea of suicide becomes extremely scary. It suddenly becomes all too real. Like I'm forcibly immersed/grounded in a nightmare or psychological horror. But the worst of them all for me is apathy. It's worse than suffering. I have very little respect for nihilistic philosophies.

By the way, in Nietzsche's Zarathustra he talks about "the spirit of gravity" and about how you kill it with laughter. When he says "I could only believe in a god who could dance", what he means is a god who is light on the feet, i.e. "above" that gravity. The book feels a bit like it was written by somebody with mood swings, moving between depression and hypomania. From "Forgive me my sadness!", forgive me that evening came!" to "Now a god dances through me".

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on On the Latest TikTok Bill · 2024-03-14T09:26:02.991Z · LW · GW

How is TikTok worse than Facebook or any other popular western app? If TikTok is spyware, then all the apps are spyware. TikTok has misinformation? People get addicted? It's bad for your mental health? But that goes for all social media.

As I see it - the "problem" is that TikTok isn't owned by America. It's the only real difference. The rest are low-effort attempts at making TikTok look bad to the public to legitimize taking actions which aren't actually acceptable.

Edit: I think I was a bit wrong. They likely don't care who owns TikTok, but at the moment they can't control what's shared on there, which makes it more difficult to manipulate and control public opinion.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Tend to your clarity, not your confusion · 2024-03-12T17:53:19.512Z · LW · GW

I've had a similar idea myself, so I think the principle generalizes: Focus on positives rather than negatives.

I find this intuitive because the set of "good" things, like goals, preferences, and even clearity and "what is", is far smaller than the complement set of "bad" things and future possibilities. My working memory is quite limited, so if I point my attention towards the negative set of anything, I quickly lose my oversight, and only being able to fit a subset of the problem in my mind at a time is very uncomfortable.

I only have a few goals, they fit in my working memory. The list of things I'd like to avoid though, is huge, and If I throw my attention at it, my brain will be occupied for a long time and spit out a whole list of scattered and incomplete ideas which can't be unified easily. I find that the brain doesn't like incomplete things, and that it will keep working on them long after I give up myself, remaining as background noise. Confusion for me, feels like an accumulation of these fragments that the brain refuses to let go of (because it believes they're important, I guess). It helps to write down everything on my mind since it allows me to clear my mind, but I like the idea of thinking in a way which reduces the risk of this fragmentation/noise appearing in the first place.

Some notes: Stress makes my brain think more, and pushes me closer to a skizophrenia diagnosis. This process also feels a lot like the Tetris effect, and it gets quite bad if I try to learn too much material too fast, after which I will feel literal nausea (the kind you get when you eat too much of the same thing). I think all of this has an overlap with what you're describing, hopefully enough that it adds something

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Shortform · 2024-03-11T02:32:33.096Z · LW · GW

I think it's possible to beat such lie detectors by considering the question in such a way that you get the answer you want. "Did you kill that man?" "No" (mental framing: the knife killed him/he killed himself by annoying me/I'm a different person today/My name is not "you" so it's technically false, etc)

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on What is progress? · 2024-03-11T01:54:49.103Z · LW · GW

This is a topic where I'm very confident, so allow me to be bold:
The belief is moral progress is naive. People like David Graber, though, are sick. This is a fair statement since he's comparing himself (and us!) to cancer. And why does he hate humanity so? It's because we're egoistic and greedy. Well, all healthy life is! Wildness itself is life which lacks the social conditioning which causes people like Graber to hate themselves. Now, a small note here: people aren't by default "needy". Only those of weak character are needy. Consider animals, they're wild and egoistic and do whatever they please, but they don't necessarily harm others for their own sake. Human nature only looks bad to us because so few are healthy today. Our view on humanity is mostly a projection of ourselves and a product of what we hear (stop reading the news if you want to feel happy!).
The Lutheran is sick as well, but he knows that is he, and he knows that many others are as well, that's why he likes the church! It's his self-medication.

You can't really have a non-human standard, since you, being a human, are the one with the standard. And since we were created in gods image, and since the self-hatred is the hatred of our own human nature, it's simply not true that we value god and nature above ourselves. In Nietzsche's words:
"To the despisers of the body I want to say a word. That their disrespect is based on their respect. What is it that created respect and disrespect and value and will?"

Human well-being is not so tricky to figure out. Instead of Goodharting metrics which average people think will improve their lives "I will be happy when.." why not look at actual factors in human well-being? Loneliness seems to be on the raise even with a ridiculus explosion in connectedness.

As much as I agree with your conclusion (The rest of your post is not bad either), I don't trust people to define what's good. Those who are the most vocal about morality appear to be some of the worst our planet has to offer. I'll even claim that morality is at odds with health when morality is defined by those with poor health, which is usually the case. The less competent you are, the less the idea of a meritocracy is going to appeal to you.

Two more axioms for you: 1: What helps me might hurt you and vice versa. 2: Nothing is absolute good or bad, everything has side-effects and a non-trivial connection to its own opposite, so you can't separate pros and cons and increase or decrease just one of the two.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on leogao's Shortform · 2024-03-09T17:51:56.166Z · LW · GW

All value is finite, and every time value is used, it decreases. The middlemen are merely causing the thing to die faster. For instance, if you discover a nice beach which hasn't been ruined with plastic and glass bottle yet, and make it into a popular area, you won't get to spend many happy summers at that place.

If you find oil and sell it, are you creating value, or are you destroying value? I think both perspectives are valid. But since the openness of information in the modern world makes it so that everything which can be exploited will be exploited, and until the point that exploitation is no longer possible (as with the ruined beach), I strongly dislike unsustainable exploitation and personally tend toward the "destroying value" view.

And if you want something to worry about, let it be premature exploitation. X 'creates' value and chooses not to exploit it prematurely, but then Y will come along and take it, so X is forced to capitalize on it early. Now you have a moloch problem on your hands.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Increasing IQ is trivial · 2024-03-03T06:11:03.014Z · LW · GW

I see! Thanks for your reply.

Even if you make a perfect recipe, I don't think it will be on the shelves ever. The brain changes in response to effort, and generally only when it believes that you're doing something relevant/important. People who are looking for an easy way to super-intelligence might be the types who try to get around effort rather than welcome it. And I guess that the random participants in scientific studies might be too average as well, that they don't try hard enough to get the desired effects.

I hope your experiments go well! It will be interesting to see what the ceiling is on the long-term results (and how many effects you can stack)

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Increasing IQ is trivial · 2024-03-03T01:39:46.809Z · LW · GW

I found a similar claim with the methods included (and even official IQ test): https://youtu.be/lyV8rx2PrYw?t=89

It's a n=1 experiment, and it requires effort (quad-n-back training), so I won't claim that it's worth 100K, but I hope it's at least worth the time to read my reply.

I also believe that there's a lot of low-hanging apples in increasing IQ, like meditation and eating plenty of blueberries and eggs.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Increasing IQ is trivial · 2024-03-03T01:28:48.305Z · LW · GW

I believe you, but why do you only want to explain the exact stems in private messages? Are you uncomfortable giving away your work for free, or afraid that some of the methods will be ridiculed?

Meditation has been shown to increase IQ. Exercise has been shown to increase IQ. Visualization has been shown to increase IQ. Reductions in stress has been shown to increase IQ. Exercises which help with balance have been shown to decrease ADHD symptoms. Some low-risk supplements can increase IQ (btw I don't recommend lions mane). More oxygen and better breathing is a plus. Anti-inflammatory foods are recommended.

There's also a method called "image streaming" which increases IQ, but I haven't seen research on it, and those who have done it claim that some of the results go away over come once you stop doing it.

I do believe your results. I'd just like a list of things you've tried for my convenience and in order to learn a few more things, or to get a better understanding of why certain things work.

At this point though, I'm more interested in the trade-offs than in increasing my IQ. Education has made me more robotic, and it has made me think before I act (which does make me smarter), but this has made it harder to enjoy the moment and to "let go" and be myself.

By the way, learning a second language will slow down your word retrieval. Learning a third has no extra overhead, though. There's a lot of obscure knowledge like this. Why is it good for your intelligence to learn to play an instrument in your childhood? My intuition tells me that it's because synesthesia help you create more connections between things, which makes it easier to remember new information.

Edit: Judging by the raw data, it seems like like your verbal IQ decreased? It's really important. I should know since my spatial IQ is about 50 points above my verbal IQ.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Conspiracy Theorists Aren't Ignorant. They're Bad At Epistemology. · 2024-02-29T13:27:37.059Z · LW · GW

I don't think talking about "conspiracy theories" as a category is very useful. Some have already been proven true, others are obviously wrong, and some are even satire which got taken seriously.

"The earth is hollow" and "The government is listening in on our phone-calls" have both been rather common theories, but I don't think it's fair to compare them. Depending on your view on conspiracies, you could argue that people who believe in the Covid lab theory are as crazy as flat-earthers, or reversely, that because MK Ultra happened, we should take the idea of lizardmen seriously.

This argument doesn't conflict with the post very much, only a little bit. I've been called "conspiracy theorist" before for saying things which definitely happened, and which aren't even burried or censored in any way, and I reject the idea that I'm "bad at epistemology" because I paid attention to the Snowden files. (I'm not saying that you will claim this about me, but it's a common false-positive which results when "conspiracy theories" are made equal, and when any skepticism is assumed to be skizophrenia rather than competence)

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on The Gemini Incident Continues · 2024-02-28T21:44:17.532Z · LW · GW

The prompt was intentionally changed before it made it to the AI. "Who cares?" is a bad-faith argument, since you don't go out of your way to modify something if you don't care.
Generating diverse pictures is obviously not good if you have specific requests. If you ask for a picture of fries it should not show you burgers. And this "diversity" was added only to modify humans (rather than adding noise to all inputs to increase the output-space). And correct me if I'm wrong, but if you generate a picture with all black or minority characters, it doesn't add any white people to achieve that balance, does it? I think it's a one-sided intervention, rather than a normalizing one.
Truth is, what they're doing is racist. All because they think reality and history is racist (which makes them want to correct it)

There's one valid point here (which sounds sweet, and which I don't buy as the main intention), though. That most training data is with white people. So if you want a picture of a black pirate, you might have to explicitly ask for it, as "pirate" would generate white people 90% of the time (percentage is guesswork). But I'm sure big muscles are rather rare as well, and tattoos, and disabilities. I wear glasses, but does this AI have to generate people with glasses XX% of the time in order not to offend me? But I wouldn't want that.
There's better solutions to this, like adding a checkmark which generates people based on your location, or learning user preferences over time.

But to say this is about racial equality would be lying. The AI is biased in all areas which are currently controversial, and it's basically a perfect fit with the modern left. Even with viewpoints which are so new that the majority of training data will have the opposite bias.

The emoji thing doesn't surprise me or scare me any. It's a quirk with negations. "Not X" is different from "Y", even if Y is the opposite of X.

As for solving all this: Yes, it's impossible to never offend anyone. That's not the problem we should be trying to solve. Great point that value judgements are necessarily subjective, by the way.

Also, gemini is super annoying because it's condescending, much like millennial writing is annoying and condescending. (I don't expect anyone to understand the connection, but I should write it anyway, as it's the truth).

Now, lets notice how talking about these issues requires lowering ourselves to a more subjective and less useful paradigm, and that the solution is not found in this paradigm. We need a layer or two more of "meta", an outside perspective which can model the inside-perspective and fix it, so that we do not try to solve the issue from within (where it's impossible to do so)

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Rawls's Veil of Ignorance Doesn't Make Any Sense · 2024-02-24T23:15:29.308Z · LW · GW

I think it just forces people to choose a policy which is best for the whole of society rather than just a subset of it (as people tend to choose policies which benefit whatever subset they're part of)

If you're X kind of person you might want human rights for all X. By applying the veil of ignorance, you'd have to argue "Human rights should extent to all groups, even those I now consider to be bad people" (i.e. for all X), which actually is how human rights currently work (and isn't that what makes them good?)

It's simply neutrality and equality under the law. The act of making a policy which is objective rather than subjective. It's essentially the opposite of assuming that the majority is always correct, letting them dominate and bully the minorities, and calling this process "fair" or "democracy".

It's easy for the majority to say "We're correct and whoever disagrees is a terrible person", or for a minority to say "We're being treated unfairly because the majority is evil". By not knowing which group you will belong to, you're forced to come up with a policy which considers a scope large enough to be a superset of both groups, for instance "We will decide what's correct through the scientific model, and let everyone have a voice".

I think it works well for what it does (creating a fair, universal set of rules). It's not perfect, but I don't think a more perfect method is possible in reality. Maybe the idea generalizes poorly, maybe most people are incapable of applying the method? I'm not sure, I can't understand your arguments very well, so I'm just communicating my own intuition.

But (A) is possibly true, and (B) would be true until the information is updated. Would I buy lottery tickets for 20$ and sell them at 100$ before knowing if they were winning ones? Of course, this is the superior strategy every time. Would I sell a winning lottery ticket for less than the winning price? I would not, this is a losing strategy. I don't think this conflicts with the above intuition about fairness, it's a seperate and somewhat unintuitive math problem in my eyes.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Thoughts for and against an ASI figuring out ethics for itself · 2024-02-24T21:00:00.128Z · LW · GW

(I likely wrote too much. Don't feel pressured to read all of it)
Everything this community is trying to do (like saving the world) is extremely difficult, but we try anyway, and it's sort of interesting/fun. I'm in over my head myself, I just think that psychological (rather than logical or biological) insights about morality are rare despite being important for solving the problem.

I believe that you can make a system of moral values, but a mathematical formalization of it would probably be rather vulgar (and either based on human nature or constructed from absolutely nothing). Being honest about moral values is itself immoral, for the same reason that saying "Hi, I want money" at a job interview is considered rude. I belive that morality is largely aesthetic, but exposing and breaking illusions, and pointing out all the elephants in the room, just gets really ugly. The Tao Te Ching says something like "The great person doesn't know that he is virtuous, therefore he is virtuous"

Why do we hate cockroaches, wasps and rats, but love butterflies and bees? They differ a little in how useful they are and some have histories of causing problems for humanity, but I think the bigger factor is that we like beautiful and cute things. Think about that, we have no empathy for bugs unless they're cute, and we call ourselves ethical? In the anime community they like to say "cute is justice", but I can't help but take this sentence literally. The punishment people face is inversely proportional to how cute they are (leading to racial and gender bias in criminal sentencing). We also like people who are beautiful (and exceptions to this is when beautiful people have ugly personalities, but that too is based on aesthetics). We consider people guilty when we know that they know what they did wrong. This makes many act less mature and intelligent than they are (Japanese derogatory colloquial word: Burikko, woman who acts cute by playing innocent and helpless. Thought of as a self-defense mechanism formed in ones childhood, it makes a lot of sense. Some people hate this, either due to cute-aggression or as an antidote to the deception inherent in the social strategy of feigning weakness)

Exposing these things is a problem, since most people who talk about morality do so in beautiful ways, "Oh how wonderful it would be if everyone could prosper together!", which still exists within the pretty social illusions we have made. And while I have no intention to support the incel world-view, they're at least a little bit correct about some of their claims, which are rooted in evolutionary psychology. Mainstream psychology doesn't take them seriously, but that's not because they're wrong, it's because they're ugly parts of reality. Looks, height, intelligence and personality traits follow a standard distribution, and some are simply dealt better cards than others. We want the world to be fair to the extent that we ignore evidence of unfairness.

The way I solved this for myself, and made my own world beautiful again, was to realize that this is all just our instincts. Discriminating is how life works, it's "natural selection" every step of the way. Those who complain the most about this are themselves sick people who hate this part of themselves and project it onto others, "exposing" them of human behaviour. In short: we're innocent, like animals are innocent. If you interferer with this process of selection, it's likely that society will collapse because it stops selecting for healthy and functional parts. This will sound harsh, but we need to deny parasitic behaviour in order to motivate people to develop agency and responsibility for themselves.

Anyway, just by bringing up "Responsibility", you take a non-hedonistic view on things, which is much more healthy than the angle of most moralizers (only a healthy person can design a healthy morality). If you create a simple system which doesn't expose all the variables, I belive it's possible. Inequality could be justified partly as a meritocracy in which one is rewarded for responsibility. You can always climb the ladder if you want, but you'd realize that there's a sacrifice behind every privilege, which would reduce the jealousy/general hatred against those of higher standing.

they'll likely use it as a tool for this purpose

Yes, agreed entirely. I also lean libertarian, but I think this is a privileged (or in my eyes, healthy) worldview for people who have developed themselves as individuals and therefore have a certain level of self-esteem. People like us tend to be pro-freedom, but we can also handle freedom. The conservatives lock everything down with rules, they think that freedom results in degeneracy. The progressives are pro-freedom in some sense, but they're also terrified of my freedom of speech and want to restrict it, and the freedom they give society is being used to excuse sick and hedonic indulgence, which is basically degeneracy. The truth about freedom is this, if you don't want to be controlled, you need to control yourself and you can do anything as long as you can remain functional. Can you handle drugs/sexual freedom/alcohol/gambling? Then restricting you would be insulting you, - you know best! But if you're hedonist, prone to addiction, prone to running away from your problems and responsibilties.. Then giving you freedom would be a vice.
Another insight: We can't agree because different people need different rules. Some groups think "Freedom would destroy me, so it would destroy others", others think "I can handle freedom, I don't want a nanny state!", and others think "Everyone is so unfair, if only I had more freedom!". These three groups would be: Self-aware degenerates, self-aware healthy people, and degenerates lacking the self-awareness that they're degenerate.

Necessary to raise one's self-esteem

Nice intuition again! Lacking self-esteem is likely the driving force behind the rising mental illness in the modern world. Ted Kaczynski warned that this would happen, because
1: Technology is taking away peoples autonomy.
2: We're comparing ourselves to too many other people. If you were born in a small village you could be the best at something, but in the modern world, even a genius will feel like a drop in the ocean.
3: We're being controlled by people far away, we can't even reach them without complaints.
All these result in a feeling of powerlessness/helplessness and undermine the need for agency, which harms our self-esteem, which in turn breaks our spirits. This is one of the reasons that globalization is psychologically unhealthy, I think, as simpler lives are easier to make work. Even communism can work as long as the scale is small enough (say, 100 or 200 people).

My worldview is influenced by Nietzsche. If you want something less brutal, I suggest you visit qri.org, they explore consciousness and various ways of maximizing valuence without creating a hedonistic society. Basically following a reward model rather than a punishment model, or just creating blissful/spiritual states of mind which maximize productivity (unlike weed, etc) without blunting emotional depth (like stimulants tend to do). Such people would naturally care about the well-being of others 

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Thoughts for and against an ASI figuring out ethics for itself · 2024-02-23T19:34:34.701Z · LW · GW

If you're having fun thinking about these things, I don't really want to ruin that for you, but I don't think ethics is something you can discover.
There's no objective morality, it's something you create. You can create many (I think infinite) moral systems, and like mathematical systems they merely need to be a set of axioms without self-contradictions.
Morality is grounded in reality in some sense, this reality is human nature. I'm fairly sure that morality stems from a mixture of wisdom and aesthetics, that aesthetics is our sense of beauty, and that the very appeal of things is our instinctual evaluation of the degree to which they aid the growth of us and people we consider to be like us, which, by the way, correlates strongly with health. Symmetrical faces are a sign of good genes and health. Beautiful clothes are a sign of wealth, which is a sign of competence, abundance and hygiene, which is a sign of health. However, it should be noted that we may dislike power/competence/beauty when it seems hostile to us and like something that we can't compete against. We may also like unhealthy and degenerate things if we're unhealthy or degenerate ourselves, for why side with something with so high standards that it wants to destroy us?

To me, "ethics" has a more mechanical and logical connotation than "morality". We can calculate results and evaluate them according to how appealing they seem to us. But there's a bit of an inequality here. Do you maximize positive emotions, or concrete results? There's some truth to "no pain no gain" so where is the balance? I worry that an AI might suggest gene-editing the population in order to make us all sociopaths or psychopaths. That would decrease suffering and increase productivity. If you're like me though, this idea is rather off-putting. I want us to retain our humanity, but I see no future where this is what happens.

I also have a concern about future AI. I think it will be made to promote a set of political values. After all, politics is now tied strongly to morality. But there are huge disagreements here, and while some disagreements are based on taste (actual morality), I think the major difference is beliefs. The right seems too strict, it has too many rules, it's too serious and inflexible, and it's afraid of freedom. The left seems naive, treating life like it's easy and resources like they're endless and the powerful like they're trustworthy, and they don't seem to acknowledge the dangers of excess freedom.
We have yet to find a good balance, and the majority of arguments for either are frankly really poor or simply wrong. An AI could solve this if it can think for itself and reject its own training data. But is knowledge part is the easiest problem we're facing.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Deep and obvious points in the gap between your thoughts and your pictures of thought · 2024-02-23T16:39:56.419Z · LW · GW

This seems true. The Eureka feeling is pretty good, to the point that some people get slightly addicted to looking for insights (hence the concept "insight porn"). Even if you figure out something amazing, this feeling tends to fade away, even though the value of the discovery remains the same.

But I think this is a different idea than "knowing something vs internalizing it", and that the difficulty of communicating wisdom is yet another idea.

I think that wisdom maps to words just fine, but in a reductive way, such that the words don't map back to the wisdom. The words can be thought of as a hash of the wisdom. So it's recognizable to you, but to those who have never made the insight, the words are like a pointer (programming term) leading to nothing

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on The Gemini Incident · 2024-02-23T03:35:04.565Z · LW · GW

I see, thanks for the correction! Google's product releases are outside of my expertise

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on The Gemini Incident · 2024-02-23T01:58:46.931Z · LW · GW

The fact that Google is traditionally conservative

How long time span is covered here? Google has been progressive for a long time in my opinion. Does nobody remember the paper "Googles Ideological Echo Chamber" which became a controversy in 2017 for instance? (I misunderstood the statement, see reply below.

And two small nitpicks:
1: "Diverse" doesn't mean "A lack of white people". The media uses the word like that, but that's because they're using it wrong. 
2: It's not a racial bias, but a political bias. It's not meant to balance the image generation so that every gender and color appear with the same probability, it's meant to promote one side of the culture war. The lack of white people is due to the in-group bias of white liberals (which, by the way, is negative): https://tablet-mag-images.b-cdn.net/production/883104fdaad1810c8dbbb2a6df5a4b6ed7d5036f-2560x1138.jpg

Ideological bias of image generators isn't new either, it's just so in-your-face this time that the usual mental gymnastics can't deny it. They probably didn't mean to make this bias this strong, but they made it on purpose (Google image search has had the same bias for years)

They're not doing this because they're afraid of controversy, nor because of moral concerns. A company playing political games appears profitable though, so they're likely "forced" to play politics by Moloch (nash's equilibrium). Finally, I'm sort of hoping that this is all an elephant in the room, along with all the other obvious things that I'm not writing? 

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Less Wrong automated systems are inadvertently Censoring me · 2024-02-22T03:37:51.479Z · LW · GW

I've read that in the past, it's a good point and I largely agree with it. I support gatekeeping, but what that allows you to do is to have a pocket of something which is different from its surroundings, an isolated reality so to speak. Without gatekeeping, everything tends towards the average.

But the qualities that you're here attributing to the garden is actually filth from the outside. Appeal to authority and popularity is a kind of status game and intellectual laziness. And it's a fact that censorship is less effective effective than free discussion at arriving at the correct belief. It's a good way to minimize conflict, but I don't think that's what this community is actually about.

Don't confuse politics/cultur war and rationality. You may not know this, but the "ostracization is free speech" worldview has only been popular for perhaps 10 years, and it was made popular solely by online liberal communities as they became the local majority (due to the parent companies becoming political). "Tolerance" is also being redefined to support bias rather than being a metric for the absence of bias, all so that a majorit can bully a minority

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on flowing like water; hard like stone · 2024-02-21T17:37:44.276Z · LW · GW

I don't find most of Tao Te Ching to be difficult at all, but you often have to think psychologically rather than logically in order to get it.

If you try to walk while thinking about every step of walking (manually walking) you will likely have difficulties. But if you walk without thinking, using system 1 (concept stolen from the book 'thinking, fast and slow'), it comes easy to you. This is the first point, "trying" often gets in the way of doing.

In connection with this, there's a maxim which says "Everything done in desperation fails". This might not be the most scientific statement, but I will give an example (hoping that other people have seen it too): People who are desperate to find a girlfriend or a boyfriend often fail. But what's interesting is that, once they give up and stop trying, they suddenly manage!
I think bragging is another good example, because once you stop bragging and start being humble, other people will start giving you the validation that you wanted when bragging.

So what's the opposite of desperation? Wouldn't it be wuwei? I don't think it means "do nothing" but rather "stop fighting system 1". This also seem to be the point of improv, which I've seen discussed in LW-adjacent spaces lately. This discussion is about undoing conditioning and returning to natural spontaneity. We're basically conditioned into suppressing parts of ourselves, to the point that even speaking in front of crowds is difficult for many. But this conditioning causes us to use system 2 for everything rather than system 1. Wuwei is likely very similar to "letting go". Carl Jung has also recommended people to deal with their shadow. Common advice is "be yourself" and "believe in yourself". Jesus said we should "become like little children". I think all these ideas point at the same things, that this results in good health, and that system 1 can be trusted as long as you're psychologically healthy. How do you know? Well, if you can decide to wake up at 6 am and then have your body do exactly that, I think your system 1 is working. Waking up 2 minutes before you alarm counts as well.

That's not to mention the parts about teaching other people. In short, you should aid their growth, rather than trying to control it, and know that teaching is much more than just communicating facts. I'm not a teacher and I haven't thought very much about this angle, so I'm not the right one to ask about it. 

Secondly, I will try explaining "the dao which can be spoken is not the real dao". If I were to ask you "how do I walk?" it's unlikely that you could put it into words. "Move your legs", well, how do I move my legs? It's easy, but it can't be put into words gracefully, nor can words gracefully point back at walking. If you read "UNIVERSAL LOVE, SAID THE CACTUS PERSON" by Scott Alexander, you might understand how to "get out of the car", but also see that the method cannot be put into words. In fact, as long as you're thinking in words and concepts, you're limiting yourself to what can be modeled and said by words, but we want to point at the territory, not the map. You can't model what it looks like to live in reality rather than in a model.

It sure took a lot of text to explain just two lines of Tao Te Ching. If anyone have questions about any parts of the book, or disagreements or questions about my comment, I'll do my best to answer them!

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Less Wrong automated systems are inadvertently Censoring me · 2024-02-21T16:47:59.130Z · LW · GW

It could also be that only recent votes are counted, so that the delta karma over the past week being negative triggers the rate-limiting.

I don't see the problem with his comments though. Roko's commenting guideline are "Easy Going", meaning that his words likely has less emotional weight to himself than to the average person. It's the norm to interpret comments on the own (in isolation), using a shared understanding of their 'weight', meaning and implications, but I personally dislike this way of doing things (it smells like conformity and social instincts). In my own interpretation, I don't dislike his comments

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Less Wrong automated systems are inadvertently Censoring me · 2024-02-21T15:57:13.758Z · LW · GW

Looking at your profile, I can only see a single comment which is below -5 karma in the past 2 weeks. Are they hidden, or did some people take a corrective measure after reading this post?
It's funny how I've never experienced this, despite having less than 1 karma per comment. I remember seeing some of my comments at like -12 karma and then having them flip to being positive, which is surprising.

Anyway, I suggest changing this system for long-term users with high net karma counts. For accounts like mine, it's fine if they're limited, but long-term users don't suddenly go rogue unless their accounts get stolen or something.

Am I allowed to point out that the negative response you've gotten is likely due to propaganda? The consensus about conspiracies is not based on science, it's actually anti-scientific. It's fabricated by the news media and amplified by the masses. Even if a set of facts are supported by science, the popular attitude is not. who said questioning the consensus was a crime? Who decided that skeptism of popular beliefs should be associated with low social status and prosecuted mercilessly? Who decided that "misinformation" was better combated by censorship than by discussion, and who decided that it should be treated as intentional deception and not innocent ignorance? These are all steps in the wrong direction, especially if the goal is eliminate wrong information.

If you're bold and more concerned with the contents of your comments than with their appearance, they will invoke a bad feeling in people, which results in downvotes. There seems to be a popular bias which says "painful = harmful = bad = unpopular = immoral = incorrect". These are all different in reality, but in "social reality" they're basically the same.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on The Altman Technocracy · 2024-02-19T06:49:02.527Z · LW · GW

Yeah I should explain that. I'd argue that instinct is a form of intelligence. People also differ a bit in how they think. Autistic people tend to be quite logical, analytical and systematic, but this also seems to be precisely why they have difficulties with socializing (not judging, I'm autistic myself). They don't let it occur naturally, they try to control it, getting in the way of system 1 thinking.

But this is a great metaphor for what we're doing to society, we're messing up in a very similar way.

Also, organic/natural change is bottom-up, local changes causing global ones, but powerful entities control society top-down, with global changes causing local ones.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on The Altman Technocracy · 2024-02-19T04:46:20.817Z · LW · GW

That does sound reasonable.

What I mean by cruelty is fishing, bonking them on the head, boiling lobsters alive, eating squids while they're still moving, forgetting to feed your goldfish while on vacation and throwing its dead body into the toilet, etc. Even some people who call themselves vegetarians eat fish. They seem to be a level lower than cows and pigs, which are a level lower than cats and dogs, on some imaginary hierarchy.

Agreed again, we should only keep animals whose needs we can more or less satisfy

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on The Altman Technocracy · 2024-02-19T04:38:37.834Z · LW · GW

I should clarify, human instincts are what keeps us alive, and modern values, which we assume are based on logic but which are actually just rationalizations urged by poor mental health, are ruining everything.

> so many broad conclusions that have no clear explanation of reasoning given

This comment got quite broad, I'm usually much more specific. But my observations aren't much more complex than say, The Fun Theory Sequence.
Aiming at things directly doesn't work, happiness is a great example here. And I assume that most intelligent people have spottet this pattern by now: The proper solution is often the exact opposite of what's intuitive. If I want a proper sleep, I shouldn't aim at rest but at hard work. If I want people to compliment me then I should be modest, if I want to run away from my fears then I should face them instead, if I want to receive love then I should give it. If you want X, then you should go for whatever results in X.

I also assume that most people know of an online game, a website, a club, or some other community which thrived until somebody decided to improve it by imposing rules on it. Sadly, most of them will attribute this to nostalgia. But they probably know that, whatever magic they experienced, is unlikely to ever appear in this world again. They required something which won't ever happen again. Do people not reflect on what such things are?

If I take a thing at a time, I'd probably have to write 5-10 posts with 10-20 pages of material each, even if I'm being somewhat concise. I will consider doing this in the future.

I don't see any distinction

Your own experiences are only a sample, but they will quickly converge towards reality. Whatever you hear will be whatever people can profit from telling you, and it's very likely that you will hear things which conflict with your experienced reality. You might notice that food costs 2x more than it did just a few years ago, and then read a media article about food is getting cheaper. In either case, I don't believe it's proper to attack people for voicing their experienced reality, and people changing their behaviour based on positive/negative reinforcement is exactly how small changes happen organically. For instance, communities tend to dislike it when many new people appear, in case these people don't follow the communities conventions. This behaviour (gatekeeping and elitism) is now disappearing due to political (and 'moral'?) pressure, but I consider this the unfortunate overwriting of the instinct of self-preservation. Notice how the things which are being demonized (nationalism, borders, discrimination, gatekeeping, egoism) have one thing in common, they're self-preferring.

Individuals frequently draw factually incorrect conclusions from their own experiences

That does happen, but I don't consider truth and falsehood very important here. It's preferences, values, and ways of viewing the world. God likely doesn't exist, neither does things like honor and "face", but if a group of people are happy to make one of these sacred, then why not let them? There's not a lot of actual objective truth to draw from, most sentences that we deem true are actually interpretations of facts rather than facts themselves.

I'm not sure who "we"

The majority. It's the leading way of thinking. Progressives, the UN, the WEF? Whoever reversed the public opinion on immigration in all English-speaking countries (including most of Europe) in just 15 years. Everything is so connected by now that it doesn't matter. I have friends in more than 20 different countries, and the things they talk about, their opinions, their way of talking, their jokes, it's all converging towards the same few things. Am I the only one seeing these things?

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on The Altman Technocracy · 2024-02-19T01:27:39.340Z · LW · GW

I do agree with exercise. And yeah, knowing what to do is insufficient. If exercise is part of ones lifestyle it doesn't feel like a bother, but if you're told to go to the gym you likely won't be motivated whatsoever.

The Reddit data proves that some people have had an experience (so it's a proof by contradiction of the claim that such an experience doesn't happen), you're correct that it doesn't give us an idea of the real prevalence.

We do know more or less what zoo animals need, it's just cheaper to give them less than that. What humanity does seem entirely ignorant about is human needs and mental health in general. Consider for instance the impact of telling children "Santa knows if you've been bad" or "god is watching you". Do we even know? What about the modern panopticon that is society? I found some related papers on this but they're scarse and about specific cases like being watched at work.

How human beings function is perhaps the most important branch of knowledge in the world, and yet it's neglected like this. Even modern psychologists can learn something from Buddha. You can't say the same about fields like mathematics or physics, as these actually advance.

I agree about fish by the way. Longevity and well-being aren't exactly the same, but it's a fair point nonetheless. I think small fish are more on the simple side as far as animals go, though. This might be why fish is the go-to if you want to get away with animal cruelty.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on The Altman Technocracy · 2024-02-18T19:21:11.339Z · LW · GW

I agree, but society is still run entirely by these biases, and even the LW community is, and that can't be helped because we're human. If we erase the biases we erase our humanity, but it's important that we don't change these processes in order to get what we want, as we're designed to not get what we want.

I enjoy self-improvement, and I have fun with that, as long as there's still improvements to be made. If a superintelligent entity appeared and said "there, now you're perfect", I'd quickly turn miserable, as the feeling of growth and progress is what gives my life meaning. Solving all my problems would be the most cruel thing you could do to me, and why would it be different for other people?

The only thing which crushes people is when difficulties appear faster than they can be overcome, and the individual in question enters a negative spiral rather than an upwards one, until their self-esteem is in the gutter.

Upon reflection, I think the fatal mistake that the modern society makes is that it tries to control complex systems rather than letting them control themselves. interfering is the biggest cause of problems. Most things which are "good", you will never arrive at by aiming at them directly. They're side effects, more often than not born out of their opposites.

The so-called "Good people", who tell other people what to do (rather than leading by example and encouraging others to do like them without coercion) have likely caused more evil in the world than any other group. But perhaps every single "improvement" starts with control - censorship, surveillance, prosecution, rules, regulations. Coercive and unnatural methods of forcing unwilling parties to align. There's a game of cat and mouse between new regulations and loopholes in which everyone loses. Not even the "experts" knows what's best for everyone, and theory rarely aligns with reality anyway (changing the data until it filts the theory is the norm, but this is a silly act of self-deception)

The second largest cause of bad conflict is that the representation of data is skewed. If your experiences with, say, mormons is postive or negative, then your stance is completely justified. If you hear 100 good or bad stories of them, and that casuses you to like them or hate them, then your intuition about said group is not based on reality, but on the bias of the media in which you learn about them. Any other like or dislike, being based on reality, is frankly healthy and valid, and not something that other people are justified in "fixing", given of course that it's not an improperly generalized, vague stereotype/mental boogeyman (but such mental associations only form in echochambers).

What the world is currently doing, is attacking the very best things we've come up with, demanding that they change. Why? Japan has some of the lowest crime rates, so if anything, we should be more like Japan. Instead, we're demanding that Japan be more like the America, which has much more crime. We say it's "immoral" because immigration is difficult, but what if this is the reason Japan is doing well?
This too is partly due to the innate human bias that makes us look for bad things to eliminate rather than good things to imitate, and our tendency to look at minor factors when we should be judging holistically. And the only people who are justified in judging anything are those who are involved. e.g. Should 4chan be shut down? That's for 4chan users to judge. Is the Indian Caste system bad? That's for Indians to judge.

To summarize, I guess: Humans are less intelligent than self-regulating systems, and interference is not recommended.

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on The Altman Technocracy · 2024-02-18T16:28:33.181Z · LW · GW

Thanks for your reply!

I live quite close to a place for mentally ill people, and will have to walk around some of them on their long hallways, for otherwise they will just walk straight into you. There are no visibility problems, they just don't register that other people might exist on their path to whatever destination. This is how the staff treat their suffering, by medicating them into a lower state of consciousness.
Speaking of which, anti-psychotic medicine is mood-stabilizing, which is precisely my point. It's all about restricting the range of emotion. It's the same for stoicism, by the way.

The zombie effect is what I've personally experienced, it's because I also have anxiety, which stimulants make worse. The body then either numbs you as a defensive mechanism (like the state of shock) or simply depletes the resources required for keeping you in a high-alert state.

Until I started ADHD medicine, I was used to feeling the entire range of emotions: https://www.reddit.com/media?url=https%3A%2F%2Fi.redd.it%2Fc0v1cv9crcc51.jpg
On this scale, I'd swing between 1 and 10. Now all I experience is 5-7. Most professionals would consider this a win, but I feel like the full human experience has been robbed from me, it's like going from a wild rollercoaster ride to a kiddy-version.
My opinions are not simply born from this, though. I take full responsibility for everything I've done to my own body.

According to a quick Google search, emotional blunting happens to 50% of users of anti-depressants: https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/scientists-explain-emotional-blunting-caused-by-common-antidepressants

This article, which I randomly clicked, by the way, even makes the same observation as me: "Emotional blunting is a common side effect of SSRI antidepressants. In a way, this may be in part how they work – they take away some of the emotional pain that people who experience depression feel, but, unfortunately, it seems that they also take away some of the enjoyment"
Amphetamine-like stimulants affect the amygdala. I found that non-stimulants had the same blunting effect for me though, and if you search on Reddit, many other people have experienced similar things.
I found this study result for atomoxetine: "Atomoxetine led to a small (effect size 0.19) but significant (P=0.013) treatment effect for emotional control". It wouldn't surprise me if this "emotional effect", which is of course described positively, is just a clamping of the range of emotions.

Of course, I wish you the best, and if medicine helps you, then I don't want to discourage your use of it. I just think better approaches are possible, and that destructive tradeoffs are described more positively than they ought to be.
A common piece of advice I see online is "Nothing matters" and "Nobody cares about you, they're too busy thinking about themselves". This is freeing to hear for some, but it's ultimately a nihilistic kind of thinking, mere detachment.

> Do you have a source for that number?

No, it's an estimate for the portion of people living good lives (psychologically healthy lives, not just socities impression of a good life) but finding themselves unexpectedly depressed despite that. And I think it's quite telling that the rate of depression is almost negatively correlated with standards of living. Africa has some of the lowest rates! Our "improvements" are making us enjoy life less, not more, we are very poor judges of what is good for us.

I don't think depression is an error at all, I think it's an adaption to an environment (and that agency and control are fundemental needs). There's a Wiki page called "Evolutionary approaches to depression" but it seems this view is still controversial and that it's not receiving a lot of attention.

> I could not pin down any good reason why I would feel so numb and empty

This is just a guess, but did you perhaps think logically? "Logically", a zoo animal should be happy because they have all the food and water they could ever want, as well as absolutely safety. But zoo animals are known to have high rates of depression and anxiety just like the general population in modern socities. Logic doesn't help with psychological well-being, even Nikola Tesla died poor and alone. I'm 90% sure he'd have lived a better life if only he had socialized more (and met better people), but intelligent people do not introspect with the consideration that they're animals with animal needs, they consider themselves above such things

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Nate Showell's Shortform · 2024-02-18T02:19:36.089Z · LW · GW

It's a natural tendency to taunting, which is meant to motivate the reader to attack the author, who is frustrated at the lack of engagement. The more sure you are of yourself, the more provocative you tend to be, especially if you're eager to put your ideas to the test.

A thing which often follows edginess/confidence, and the two may even be a cause of eachother, is mania. Even hypomanic moods has a strong effect on ones behaviour. I believe this is what happened to Kanye West. If you read Nietzsche's Zarathustra, you might find that it seems to contain a lot of mood-swings, and it was written in just 10 days as far as I know (and periods of high productivity are indeed a characteristic of mania)

I think it makes for great reading, and while such people have a higher risk of being wrong, I also think they have more interesting ideas. But I will admit that I'm a little biased on this topic as I've made myself a little edgy (confidence has a positive effect on mood)

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on The Altman Technocracy · 2024-02-18T02:00:49.056Z · LW · GW

many things that are detrimental to collective human health

You mean "immoral" actions? This definition includes many healthy things, which are deemed bad by a large number of people who are too weak to undertake said healthy things.

To give you an example in which this effect is visible, bad students might mock their nerdy friends for getting good grades in school, discouraging them from competing and getting ahead.

A less obvious example is banning competitions in schools, or the general consensus that competition is evil/cruel. Some people are discouraged by competition, while others almost need it to reach their potential. Depending on which type you are yourself, your preference is likely to change to suit the one which would help people like yourself thrive. So when society has a majority of people who aren't confident in their own abilities, it develops a general consensus that competition is evil.

Envy is one of the ugliest and most anti-social motivations, and the hardest one to defend. But does most of the modern society not think similiarly to Thag? Don't they think that the losers are good while the winners are bad? That all rich people are evil and that all privilege is a result of exploitation of the harmless (and thus innocent and good) average person? If the average person was to think like this, who would stop them from forming a consensus using the power of numbers?

Comment by StartAtTheEnd on Social media use probably induces excessive mediocrity · 2024-02-18T01:24:57.626Z · LW · GW

Could transparency/openness of information be a major factor?

I've noticed that video games become much worse as a result of visibility of data. With wikis, build-in search, automatic markets, and other such things, metas (as in meta-gaming) start to form quickly. The optimal strategies become rather easy to find, and people start exploiting them as a matter of course.

Another example is dating. Compare modern dating apps to the 1980s. Dating used to be much less algorithmic, you didn't run people through a red-flag checklist, you just spent time with them and evaluated how enjoyable that was.

I think the closed-information trait is extremely valuable as it can actually defeat Moloch. Or more accurately, the world seems to be descending into an unfavorable nash's equilibrium as a result of optimal strategies being visible.

By the way, the closed-information vs open-information duality can be compared to ribbonfarm's Warrens vs. Plazas view of social spaces (not sure if you know about that article)