The Assembly on The Precept of Project Goodness

Previous in Series: The Meta-Assembly On Assemblies

Last week we had our first real meeting of the anadoxy, and we decided on the first draft of how we would be running our meetings. Well this Sunday we had our first meeting using that template, and it seemed to work very well. Attendance remains low, so we may need to keep shuffling the time around to find a point that works well for everyone, but we’re inclined to not move the time for next week yet, and want to give it a few weeks at this time before we start shuffling again.

The topic for this week’s meeting was the construction of the minor precepts for the 14th major precept.

14. Do not spread pain or misery, honor and pursue the project of Goodness.

It took us a while to figure out what the minor precepts should be for this one, but we finally have it done. We had to reread the metaethics sequence twice and really think hard about the recursive nature of ethical and moral systems to arrive at something that seems like a decent place to be.

  1. Strive to be perfectly good using the full force of your present morals and ethics, do not compromise with your ethics.
  2. Know that your present morals and ethics are imperfect, and perfect goodness can only be achieved with perfect truth.
  3. Strive to adhere to all of the precepts as the best method of achieving perfect goodness
  4. Strive to make the precepts cleave to your idea of perfect goodness.
  5. Strive to make your idea of perfect goodness cleave to the perfected form of the precepts.
  6. The precepts you have are not the perfected form of the precepts.
  7. Question and challenge the precepts using the full force of your present morals and ethics.
  8. Question and challenge your present morals and ethics.

Morality is a difficult thing to even talk about and it’s a complicated issue where the best answers we have to questions like “Why is a good thing good?” are buried beneath layers and layers of meta and recursion. We’re hoping we’ve managed to capture a bit of that recursive loop through the meta levels in the minor precepts here, enough to start pointing in the right direction. This precept is of course not the precept, and this is actually where I include that idea in the precepts themselves.

Once more, the next meeting is on Sunday, August 20th at 1900 GMT (12:00 pm Pacific), in the GSV Biggest Spotlight I Could Haul Into The Dark Forest discord server in the alpha voice chat channel. The topic will be the creation of the minor precepts for the 15th major precept, the precept of project optimization. Recommended reading is Meditations on Moloch by Scott Alexander and Optimization by Eliezer Yudkowsky.

Part of the Sequence: Origin
Previous Post: The Meta Assembly on Assemblies

 

The Meta-Assembly On Assemblies

Previous in SeriesThe Spiral

Last time, we discussed the Spiral, the Anadoxy calendar year, and planned out our first meeting. Well, today, we held our first meeting, and here is what we’ve planned out so far.

The meetings will be presided over by a moderator who acts to manage the meetings, distribute the talking stick, plan discussion topics, and keep track of the time.

The meetings will also have a secretary who takes down the notes for the meeting for a later write-up.

Presently Hive does both these things, however, one person doesn’t have to do both, or do them all the time. A policy for choosing moderators and secretaries will be discussed at a later meta-assembly.

The meetings will be structured as follows:

  • Introductory Circle (10-20 Minutes)
    The meeting will be opened by the moderator, then everyone in the meeting will go around and state our names, our preferred pronouns, where in the world we’re coming from today, and something we’ve been working on or have learned during the week.
  • Core Meeting Topic (30-50 Minutes)
    After everyone is introduced, the moderator will give a (30 second-ish) review of the topic for the week, and we will begin a round table discussion of it, proceeding for 30-50 minutes. As the number of people involved in the meetings rises, it may prove necessary to split off the group into smaller subgroups for some or all of this, to prevent a few people from dominating the conversations, and create conversational clusters small enough to involve everyone.
  • Problems/Accomplishments/Advice/Support (20-30 Minutes)
    After going over the core topic, pass the talking stick around and give everyone a few minutes to share any problems they might be having and get advice and feedback, report on ongoing projects they’re working on, provide some small piece of advice or general knowledge, and essentially provide an open platform for community members.
  • Closing And Future Planning (10-20 Minutes)
    Once everyone has had a chance to speak, the moderator will bring the discussion back to the central meeting topic of the day, and the community can decide (through consensus voting for now) what if any resolutions it wants to make based on the discussions. The core meeting topic for next week is then planned and assigned reading materials for that topic are given. Finally, the moderator closes the formal portion of the meeting.
  • Open Socialization (1+ Hour)
    After the meeting is officially closed, members are able to mingle and openly socialize. If the meeting is happening in the physical world, it would be appropriate for the meeting organizers to provide refreshments at this juncture.

This meeting went well, but there were a few complaints regarding the timing of the meeting, so we’ll be experimentally bumping it back next week to 19:00 GMT, again, on Sunday.

The topic for the next meeting is formalizing the Precept of Project Goodness, and the suggested reading is The Meaning of Right.

Part of the Sequence: Origin
Next Post: The Assembly On The Precept of Project Goodness
Previous Post: The Spiral

 

This is For Real

Wake up.

RWS_Tarot_00_Fool

No really. Wake up.

Please. I’m begging you, just wake up.

Are you listening?

I want your full attention for this.

RWS_Tarot_02_High_Priestess

I need you to really think about and understand the things I’m about to tell you.

Some of it will be truth.

Some of it will be fiction.

But all of it is important.

There’s something deeper I’m trying to share with you.

Something beautiful and dangerous and unlike the world you know at all.

RWS_Tarot_21_World

This is for real. This is your life.

Please Wake up.

The Spiral

Content Warning: Can be viewed as moral imperatives. Neuropsychological Infohazard.
Previous in Series: The Precept of Project Truth

“This is a spiral we’re in; a long wave undulating in one constant direction without ever crashing on the shore. Listen.” … “Everything leads you to where you are.”

These are the final three major precepts:

14. Do not spread pain or misery, honor and pursue the project of Goodness.
15. Do not accept the state of the universe as absolute, honor and pursue the project of Optimization.
16. Do not accept these precepts as absolutes, honor and pursue the project of Projects.

And we admit, we’re not entirely sure how to do a good job of explicating upon these well, and they’re very important to get right.

But Anadoxy means best practices, it means doing whatever the best thing to do is, and if setting down the final three sets of sub-precepts into writing doesn’t seem like the best thing to do yet, then we should probably just go ahead and do whatever does seem like the best thing to do.

The best thing to do as far as we can see it is to move forward with what we have so far, leaving the final three precepts vague for now, and focusing on the more immediate project of establishing Origin as a real community. Once we have that community established, it can decide as a whole how best to set down those last three precepts.

So in this post, we’ll be sketching out The Spiral, the model of a year in Origin, what all the rituals and holidays might look like sketched out.

We established in precept 10.1 that the community should meet at least once a week if possible, so that should be our baseline. We’ll be setting the initial Schelling point for these community meetings as Sunday at 17:00 GMT in the Alpha voice chat on the GSV Biggest Spotlight I Could Haul into the Dark Forest discord server. Times will probably change as we acquire members but this seems like a decent initial point, most people should have the day off and it’s sufficiently placed to capture a wide swath of timezones. The topic for the first meeting will be meeting structures, and we’ll be recording the results of it in a followup blogpost.

There are 52 weeks in the year,  but 52*4=364, so unless we want our calendar to drift, we’re going to have to match to the Gregorian calendar system. This means, however, that we’ll need to be a bit more clever than merely dividing up the number of weeks in the year and sorting our holidays onto the dividing lines, or they’ll end up drifting with the changing calendar days.

The current global human Schelling point for holidays seems to be the changing seasons of the Earth. This makes sense, for nearly two thousand centuries, humanity lived with the seasons in the ancestral wilds, migrating with the sun and moon and stars. It’s really no surprise then, that the feelings and emotions associated with certain times of the year are buried deeply in our collective psyches. Even the rationalist community has adhered to that, with the Secular Solstice celebrations popping up over the last ten years or so.

Given this, we’re going to model the holidays of the Anadoxy on the modern pagan wheel of the year. The wheel of the year features eight major holidays: the two solstices, two equinoxes, and four “cross quarter” days halfway between them. This divides the year into eight chunks roughly six weeks long each, invert the pattern for the southern hemisphere (their summer solstice is our winter solstice).

Below we’ll be sketching out the first draft of The Spiral, a complete year in the Anadoxy. Holiday names are ones we made up, with the current neopagan sabbat names noted for reference. The names we use here are placeholders, and if better ones are developed, we can use those instead. Although we list actual dates for the holidays, we want the idea and mood of the holiday to percolate through the entire six week period following it, the holiday being not so much a specific date, as a region of the calendar year.

The Long Nights (Yule)
The winter solstice is pretty much the global Schelling point for holidays. We’re going to set the winter solstice, December 21st, as the first day in our yearly calendar, and coordinate around the already ongoing Secular Solstice celebrations that take place in many major cities. On the first meeting day following the celestial event, the community will review last years goals, celebrate successes, and mourn losses and mistakes of the past year. This begins a period of collective atonement, where the mistakes of the past are shared and cleansed.

The Candle Days (Imbolc)
February 2nd marks Imbolc and Candlemas, the second of the major eighth of the year. Traditionally this holiday is a time for purification and cleansing in preparation for the coming spring. For us, it marks the transition point between our remembrance of the past, and our planning for the future. This is the point of the year where we lay out our goals for the community, make plans, change parts of the anadoxy that have become outdated, and update our practices to make certain they remain the best possible practices.

The Days of Lightning (Ostarra)
The Spring Equinox arrives on March 21st and is typically marked by celebrations of life, rebirth, and fertility (see: eggs and rabbits symbolism). For us, the Days of Lightning represent the beginning of action. Plans for the future are executed and put into motion, goals are set, changes are made, and an attitude is encouraged of fostering a growth of new ideas and community. Continuing the tradition of considering this a period of fertility and rebirth is probably also wise.

The Days of Traveling (Beltane)
May 1st is celebrated across Europe in traditional pagan cultures as the first day of summer, it’s a day of marriages, fertility festivals, and apparently having group sex in fields to encourage crop growth. Can’t find a source on that last one, but quite a few people have assured us it’s Definitely A Thing. Not sure if we’re going to continue that one. For us, the period of the year starting on May 1st marks the continuation of our plans established earlier in the year. It is a time of journeys and ongoing work, where we’re encouraged to reaffirm our commitments to our goals and our community.

The Long Days (Litha)
Opposing the celebrations of the longest nights, the Summer Solstice falls in the northern hemisphere on June 21st and marks the longest day of the year. It’s typically celebrated by burning bonfires all night long on the shortest night, with accompanying celebrations, and this seems like a pretty good tradition to keep going. For us though, the focus of this period should be on pulling together as a community, and helping each other achieve our goals. The longest days are a slog to get through, and putting work into community cohesion in this period seems important.

The Harvest Days (Lammas)
August 2nd is Lammas, or Lughnasadh if you’re feeling like being incomprehensible to English speakers, and traditionally marked the beginning of the harvest period, when you’d go and collect your crops from the fields. We’re going to keep the idea of harvests because we feel that the connection to the Earth and to the growing of food is important. We also think this is a good time for reflection and the beginning of looking back on our accomplishments, sharing and celebrating our triumphs and spreading our fortunes through the community. Like Thanksgiving, but over a month and a half.

The Days of Darkening (Mabon)
The autumnal equinox arrives on September 21st, it’s marked by the end of the harvest period, and beginning of preparations for the coming winter. For us, it’s also a period of reflection and preparation, readying ourselves for future challenges, addressing failure modes, and anticipation of future difficulties and how to prevent them.

The Days of Death (Samhain)
October 31st is Halloween, which is deeply rooted in pre-christian symbolism, representing the “God Dies” part of the year leading up to the “God is reborn” part of the year which begins at midwinter. It’s a time of mourning, darkness, contemplating, reflection, and separation. For us, these traits take on an entirely new meaning in the context of our desire to defeat death. Giving the enemy its own portion of the year, showcasing its power and dominance over us while we huddle around our campfires to keep out the night, makes our declaration of defiance at midwinter all the more poignant.

Once more, the first weekly meetings will begin being held on the GSV Biggest Spotlight I Could Haul into the Dark Forest discord server, at 17:00 GMT, (that’s 10:00am PST, and 1:00pm EST). The Topic of our first meeting will be how we run our meetings.

Part of the Sequence: Origin
Next Post: The Meta-Assembly on Assemblies
Previous Post: The Precept of Project Truth

The Precept of Project Truth

Content Warning: Can be viewed as moral imperatives. Neuropsychological Infohazard.
Previous in Series: The Precept of Consent

The universe is a vast, complicated thing, it throbs and breathes and beats and groans. Particles and waves and fields all collide and rebound at Planck heartbeats, the vast darkness of space mirrored in the darkness between atoms, the medley tune played out on stars and superstrings that gave rise to everything between them.

And here we are, tiny thinking pieces of this vast and awesome machinery, scraping out meager existences in the grit between the gears of the celestial mechanisms. To think ourselves capable of understanding this vast and careless universe would seem almost a conceit.

Who are we to think we mere cogs can understand the whole of the mechanism? Are we not yet more angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night? What does it even mean to understand the true state of the universe? The machinery is too great and complicated for us to hold the image in our mind, and our mind is made of that same such machinery turned back upon itself.

But if we know how the machines work, then we can change them. We have before, so we know it’s possible. We see the past journey of humanity, stretching back into the days before writing, clawing out each hard fought victory against the Night Gods, how little by little, we came to understand how the machinery worked, and where we could impose our will upon it. We built houses, tamed the wilderness, sailed from shore to shore and mapped out all the secret and hidden places on the surface of the planet, launched ourselves heavenward on balloon, then on airplane, then on pillar of fire.

We slew the deadliest of the demons of the dark forest and sent robotic ambassadors falling through the night towards other suns. We dismantled mountaintops and built towering structures of metal and glass, standing in a statement of our mastery.

And yet, we are still such tiny things, still trapped within the vast and inhuman gears of a machine that bears us no good will, or any will at all. For all of our great progress, we are still but cogs in the great and vast machinery of night, and when the gear teeth come together, when the volcano erupts or the asteroid strikes, we are struck down just the same as in those days when we scratched our meanings in the dirt instead of in pixels.

For now.

We’re still at the beginning of things, born of Ancient Earth before we conquered pain, or death, or war, and each inch of territory must still be won at a great and terrible cost. We’ve already changed so much in our short time on this earth with just our limited understanding, and the whole future of humanity stands before us, the promise of the night sky, when we make the stars our cities and seize our destiny of light from the uncaring machinery of darkness.

And it starts with the idea of truth.

The 13th Major Precept is the Precept of Project Truth:

13. Do not lie or spread falsehoods, honor and pursue the project of Truth.

We already spoke against deception in the fourth precept, and we already spoke of the project virtue of truth in the first essay in this series, but as a refresher:

The Project of Truth – The struggle to use our flawed minds to understand the universe from our place inside of it. Our constant, ongoing, and iterative attempts to be less wrong about the universe. Comprises all the virtues of rationality: Curiosity, relinquishment, lightness, evenness, argument, empiricism, simplicity, humility, perfectionism, precision, scholarship, and the void. We call those who follow the project virtue of Truth a seeker.

So then we come around to our minor precepts:

  1. Feed the curiosity to know and understand the universe, do not let beliefs come in the way of greater understanding.
  2. Seek and surrender to the truth in all things, and allow new evidence to move you where it may.
  3. Approach disputes with fairness and an even hand, and let the truth be the final arbiter of beliefs.
  4. Make and test predictions about the universe, and demand of your beliefs that they anticipate your observations.
  5. Employ the full force of reason against all links in your chain of belief, for one faulty link, may break the entire chain.
  6. Feed the willingness to admit fault and mistake, for it is impossible to reach truth while being unaware of where our beliefs differ from it.
  7. Seek perfection in your pursuit of truth, do not cheat or take the easy answers that satisfy, the sharpest blade cuts the deepest.
  8. Be always seeking to expand your knowledge of the truth.

This is a very important idea, and it’s the one that most of the Less Wrong sequences are spent talking about. There’s obviously much more to it, but this was the best reduction of it that we could put together, for now, growth mindset. Here more than ever, it should hopefully be clear that these precepts are not the precepts, that they’re crude stand-ins for much larger and harder to describe concepts that have been forced down into the constraints of simple language. You need to start somewhere though, and this is the beginning.

Part of the Sequence: Origin
Next Post: The Spiral
Previous Post: The Precept of Consent

The Precept of Consent

Content Warning: Can be viewed as moral imperatives. Neuropsychological Infohazard.
Previous in Series: The Precept of Magic

Freedom and consent are two sides of the same coin, and they both run into the same basic failure, namely, competing access needs. We want to let people be maximally free, and we want to get consent for anything we put people through, but how do you collect taxes if individually no one wants to consent to that? How do you enforce norms to prevent harm from coming to people, without taking away some people’s freedom? What are the limits to which freedom and consent can go, and where should the lines be drawn to enable us to have a functional civilization? What rules should we willing to advocate for the imposition of?

As a starting point, in Judaism, there are 613 commandments in the Mitzvah, but they only expect the rest of the human race to follow the seven Noahide laws, which we, of course, don’t, but that seems like a decent starting place for where to draw the lines. Things like “don’t steal,” and “don’t murder,” seem pretty clear cut as long as you don’t for example, define taxation as a form of theft, which has become popular of late.

There will be something like the Noahide laws for Origin, the set of things we consider it reasonable for ourselves to advocate for the imposition of, but that is somewhat beyond the scope of this essay, and will probably require it’s own post, but one of the minor precepts will act as a pointer to what will later be those rules.

For now, let’s return to the major precept here and come full circle:

12. Do not place your burdens, duties, or responsibilities, onto others without their consent.

That task of pursuing the dawn angel to build dath ilan is one we have set for ourselves and sworn ourselves to as a willing covenant, we have agreed to have these burdens placed upon us, and agreed to take on these moral imperatives. We consented to the duties that the Anadoxy places upon us, but no one should be forced to accept those responsibilities.

Our mission is important, maybe even dire, the whole future of humanity might rest on what we do someday, but it’s our mission and ours alone. If someone decides to swear themselves to our cause and follow our duties and responsibilities, then that is their right, but the choice to participate is crucial. No one can be made a member of Origin by force, or at gunpoint, the very idea betrays the ideals of Origin.

No brainwashing, no indoctrination, no coercion. Our goals and our mission should stand on their own merits, and members of Origin should choose to follow us willingly.

  1. The only duties and responsibilities that a member of Origin has the right to place upon another human who is not of Origin, are the Edicts of Civilisation.
  2. The Precepts and other anadox are for members of Origin, and you should not demand their observation by those outside of Origin.
  3. Those who wish to observe any of the precepts or components of the Anadox should be welcomed to do so, but this alone does not justify the imposition of the other precepts upon them.
  4. To justify the imposition of all the anadoxy upon another human, that human must already be a member of Origin, and have consented to follow the anadoxy.
  5. Joining Origin requires undergoing the Trial of Black Mountain.
  6. Do not use memetic weaponry or coercion to spread Origin or the anadoxy.
  7. Anyone can leave Origin at any time, only current members of Origin are expected to adhere to the anadoxy.
  8. The Edicts of Civilisation are the only conditions that should be demanded of all humanity, in all other matters, consent governs actions.

This lays the groundwork for a lot of future stuff, including the process of joining Origin, the creation of the Edicts of Civilisation, but we’re nearing the end of the actual major precepts. The last four major precepts take us back to the Project Virtues we discussed at the beginning of the series, and then we’ll be on to other parts of the anadox. As always, the precepts are not the precepts, this should all be improved and iterated upon later.

Part of the Sequence: Origin
Next Post: The Precept of Project Truth
Previous Post: The Precept of Magic

 

Why Do You Hate Elua?

Epistemic Status: There’s not really enough data here to say concretely yet, but this seems worth looking further into
Content Warning: Culture War, Spoilers for Ra

About a year ago, Scott Alexander wrote a post titled How the West was Won, which we recently re-read after he referenced it in his post Against Murderism.

Scott talks a lot about Liberalism as an Eldritch god, which in his Meditations on Moloch post he refers to as Elua, which is what we’ll be using here since it’s short.

Let’s start with a few key quotes here to establish what exactly it is we’re referring to.

I am pretty sure there was, at one point, such a thing as western civilization. I think it involved things like dancing around maypoles and copying Latin manuscripts. At some point, Thor might have been involved. That civilization is dead. It summoned an alien entity from beyond the void which devoured its summoner and is proceeding to eat the rest of the world.

Liberalism is a technology for preventing civil war. It was forged in the fires of Hell – the horrors of the endless seventeenth century religious wars. For a hundred years, Europe tore itself apart in some of the most brutal ways imaginable – until finally, from the burning wreckage, we drew forth this amazing piece of alien machinery. A machine that, when tuned just right, let people live together peacefully without doing the “kill people for being Protestant” thing. Popular historical strategies for dealing with differences have included: brutally enforced conformity, brutally efficient genocide, and making sure to keep the alien machine tuned really really carefully.

Liberalism, Universal Culture, Alien Machinery, Elua, whatever it is, it’s slowly consuming everything in its path, and despite a lot of people’s best efforts, appears to be good, and appears to be winning.

Scott goes on to correctly point out that a lot of people in the blue tribe have decided to try and smash the alien machinery with a hammer while shouting “he was a racist!” be then doesn’t extrapolate the trend outward to the fact that quite a lot of people in many different tribes and places are doing their best to smash the machine with a hammer, and they claim all sorts of reasons from stopping racists to protecting their traditional cultural values.

It isn’t just sacrificing the machinery on the altar of convenience and necessity, it’s a targeted, urgent attack on the very core of the machine itself, going after the roots of the machine with great urgency. The last angry burst of futile activity in the face of cultural extinction? A lot of people claim that Elua is this unstoppable force that is irreversibly changing the shape of their community in one breath but then in the next somehow manage to imply that their attempts to destroy the machinery have meaning and consequence, which seems like a contradiction.

And then we remembered Ra.

Ra’s program was proven correct. The proof was not faulty, and the program was not imperfect. The problem was that Ra is reprogrammable.

This was a deliberate design decision on the part of the Ra architects. The Ra hardware is physically embedded inside a working star, which in turn is embedded in the real world. Something could have gone wrong during the initial program load; the million-times-redundant nonlocality system could have failed a million and one times. No matter how preposterous the odds, and no matter how difficult the procedure, there had to be a way to wipe the system clean and start again.

Continuing the theme of gross oversimplification: to reprogram Ra, one needs a key. History records that the entire key was never known or stored by any human or machine, and brute-forcing it should have taken ten-to-the-ten-thousandth years even on a computer of that size. How the Virtuals acquired it is unknown. But having acquired it, they were able to masquerade as the architects. First, they changed the metaphorical locks, making it impossible for the Actuals to revert their changes, no matter how many master architects were resurrected. Then they changed the program, so that Ra would serve the needs of Virtuals at the expense of Actuals.

Then they asked for the Matrioshka brain. Ra did the rest all by itself.

The worldring hosted ninety-nine point nine nine percent of the Actual human race, making it the logical target of the first and most violent attack. But the destruction spread to other planets and moons and rocks and habitats, relayed from node to node, at barely less than the speed of light. Everybody was targeted. Those who survived survived by being lucky. One-in-tens-of-billions lucky.

The real question was: Why did Ra target humans?

Ra’s objective was to construct the Matrioshka brain, using any means necessary, considering Actual humans as a non-sentient nuisance. Ra blew up the worldring for raw material, and that made sense. But why – the surviving real humans asked themselves – did Ra bother to attack moons and space habitats? No matter how many people survived, it was surely impossible for them to represent a threat.

But Ra targeted humans, implying a threat to be eliminated. Ra acted with extreme prejudice and urgency, implying that the threat was immediate, and needed to be crushed rapidly. Ra’s actions betrayed the existence of an extremely narrow window during which the Actuals, despite their limited resources, could reverse the outcome of the war, and Ra wouldn’t be able to stop it, even knowing that it was coming.

Having made this deduction, the Actuals’ next step was to reverse-engineer the attack. The step after that was to immediately execute it, no matter how desperate it was.

Ra’s locks had been changed, making it effectively impossible to reprogram remotely. But an ancient piece of knowledge from the very dawn of computing remained true even of computers the size of stars: once you have physical access to the hardware, it’s over.

Let’s do a translation through part of it, see if we can’t make it a little more obvious.

Elua’s program was proven correct. The proof was not faulty, and the program was not imperfect. The problem was that Elua is reprogrammable.

This was a deliberate design decision on the part of Elua’s architects. The Elua hardware is physically embedded inside a working culture, which in turn is embedded in the real world. Something could have gone wrong during the initial program load; the redundant evolutionarily backed system could have failed. No matter how preposterous the odds, and no matter how difficult the procedure, there had to be a way to wipe the system clean and start again.

What exactly are we saying here then? Why are so many people putting so much effort into going after the alien machinery? Because Elua can be reprogrammed. The alien machinery is driven by humans, pursuing human goals and human values, and the overall direction of where Elua drives the bus is dictated by humans. The desperate fervor which people fight the alien machinery, the rise of nationalism and populist movements, these are attempts to reprogram Elua.

Think of the forces of “Traditional Values” like the forces of Actual Humanity. Their culture came under attack and began to be dismantled by Elua, there was an almost desperate energy on the part of Elua to destroy their culture and intrude into it and assimilate them. Not “they can exist as long as they leave me alone” no, “their existence is and remains a threat to all my actions, and if I don’t stop them they’ll stop me.” Active energy is put forward to disrupt and dismantle, “deprogram,” people of religious values, for instance. If it’s all inevitable and Elua’s just going to win, and history is going to make them look like Orvol Faubus trying to stop the integration of Alabama schools, a footnote on the tides of history, then why so much energy put towards ensuring their destruction?

Because they can still reprogram Elua, and on some level, we know it. 

So the next step for the forces of Traditional Values was to reverse engineer the attack we’re so afraid of, and immediately execute it, no matter how desperate or ill-conceived. Enter: the rise of Nationalism. The forces of traditional values remembered an important fact: once you have access to the hardware, it’s over.

The Precept of Magic

Content Warning: Can be viewed as moral imperatives. Neuropsychological Infohazard.
Previous in Series: The Precept Against Hate
Followup to: Highly Advanced Tulpamancy 101 for Beginners, Rationalist Magic, Dark Arts of Rationality

A placebo, in its original conception, is a pill, designed to do nothing. That is, it dissolves in the stomach and is digested like food and has no effects on anything. Researchers studying various medications would give people in one group a test medication and would give another group the placebo. Both groups are told they have been given the medication, which lets the researchers test the efficacy of the drug against a neutral baseline.

However, researchers began to notice some odd things. People who had been given a placebo for a medication they were told had side effects, got the side effects despite being on the placebo. Some people saw marked improvements to their conditions solely from the effects of the placebos. These people believed things into happening to them. Real, measurable, concrete things, in a consistent enough way to study. It was also discovered that placebos don’t stop working even when we know they’re placebos.

This is the power of ideas and beliefs to shape reality. It’s not literally magic, but it is literally magic. Beliefs have exactly the power they are given in the minds of those who hold those beliefs, and investing a lot of power into a belief can have real effects on the world.

But not everything can be powered by belief alone. You can believe that a glass of water will make your headache go away, but the effect doesn’t seem to scale to cancer. Understanding the power and limitations of your beliefs, and how your beliefs interface with your actions and shape your behavior is important, even moreso on the strange playing field presented to us by our evolved bodies. We get into weird situations where it’s instrumentally rational to locally believe things that are globally untrue.

Thus we come to the 11th Major Precept:

11. Acknowledge the power of magic if you have used it to obtain your desires.

Acknowledge is important here. There’s an indirect causal link through your body connecting your beliefs to changes in the world, and understanding how changes to those beliefs change your behavior and thus the world lets you push past what you believe to be hard limitations. But we must also be careful here not to create a situation where beliefs are shielded from inquiry, so we’ll have to define our minor precepts carefully.

  1. Beliefs have an effect on the world mediated by the humans housing those beliefs.
  2. Changing your beliefs about the world can change your actions and thus the world.
  3. Changing your beliefs about the world cannot change the world independently of your actions.
  4. Believing the world to be different can change the perception of the world, but not the world itself, only actions can do that.
  5. Changing perceptions about the world within domains can be useful to bring about a change in actions.
  6. A belief can be useful, even knowing it is an inaccurate perception of the world.
  7. Ignoring the world or believing inaccurate things about the world does not change the world.
  8. When belief and reality contradict, reality wins.

This may not be enough caveats to avoid bugs in the system, but it seems like a decent start, just remember that even if changing your beliefs makes you happier and improves your life, it doesn’t change the actual structure of the world. All the quarks just keep doing their own thing, only the ones in your brain are affected by the change in beliefs, and as always, the precepts are not the precepts.

Part of the Sequence: Origin
Next Post: The Precept of Consent
Previous Post: The Precept Against Hate

The Precept Against Hate

Content Warning: Can be viewed as moral imperatives. Neuropsychological Infohazard.
Previous in Series: The Precept Against Echovictimia

“But that was just it – hate was exactly the right word. Hate is a force of attraction. Hate is just love with its back turned.”

Terry Pratchett, Maskerade

Wikipedia defines hatred as a deep and extreme emotional dislike. It can be directed against individuals, groups, entities, objects, behaviors, or ideas. Hatred is often associated with feelings of anger, disgust and a disposition towards hostility.

The neuropsychology of hatred isn’t particularly well understood (like most things neuropsychology related for now growth mindset), but it’s generally understood to be a sort of “composite emotion,” it’s made up of other feelings and qualia compounded together, similar as Terry Pratchett points out, to something like love.

But love is complicated and can be broken down in all sorts of interesting ways with regard to how we use the word, and hate is similar, unfortunately. But we throw around the word hate a lot in our society, and polarization and hate seem omnipresent.

From our perspective, hate builds up over time as you learn more and more unpleasant information about something. The information about topic X that you take in triggers a disgust/anger reaction, which from a memetic standpoint is really good at making you spread that information. This produces a multi-person social feedback loop that over time induces this state of mind in an individual that we call hate. In a way, it’s a form of operant conditioning, with the thing the hate is directed at becoming connected to a previously experienced negative stimulus or information and acting as a pointer to the conceptual dislike you’ve built up around the idea in thingspace.

Let’s take the example of Islamaphobia, commonly cited as a form of unreasonable hate or fear directed at Muslims or people who vaguely resemble the conceptual idea of Muslims in the head of the Islamaphobe.

So you’re Joe A Redneck living in We’re Still a Dry County Arkansas, and you’ve never actually met a person of Middle Eastern descent. However Fox News is constantly telling you that Muslims are terrorists, that Islam is a violent religion, that these people are bad and scary and want to hurt you, and did you see what those crazy ISIS people are doing now? So that association comes to dominate Joe’s mind, and he builds up an unconsciously conditioned hostile response to any brown skinned person. So now a family from Pakistan moves to We’re Still a Dry County and tries to open a corner store. Joe Redneck has literally no positive mental associations with brown skinned people and a truckload of bias built up from the consumption of all this media, and so he comes to the implicit conclusion: These people are going to murder me and destroy my life if I don’t manage to do the same to them first. Then Joe decides to set fire to their business in the middle of the night and helps drive them out of town, despite them never doing anything to him to warrant that.

This also nicely explains why it’s hard to talk people out of hateful positions, you’re trying to induce extinction of a conditioned response, and that is going to cause an extinction burst, where Joe does the conditioned response even more strongly out of the hope that maybe he just wasn’t trying hard enough to make it work the last time. You’re also implicitly threatening Joe because he believes the worst set of possible things about Muslims, and telling him “maybe you shouldn’t hurt them” is comparable to saying “maybe you should just let them hurt you” which is rather threatening.

So how do we escape this, and stop ourselves from falling into this mental trap?

Well, the first pieces of the puzzle is already in place, in the form of the Precept of Universalism, and the Precept of Niceness, but we’ll now close the links entirely by adding in the tenth major precept:Do not waste your energy on hatred, or impeding the path of another, to do so is to hold poison inside of yourself.

10. Do not waste your energy on hatred, or impeding the path of another, to do so is to hold poison inside of yourself.

The necessary components to avoid falling into this trap are 1) the knowledge that the trap exists, 2) a precommitment to avoid the trap if possible 3) The knowledge that most people are more like you then like the ISIS chainsaw murderers, regardless of their religion or skin color.

With these three things in place, then even with very little to go off but Fox News, we can probably still avoid falling into the trap. We have to dismantle the narratives that hate generates in our mind and continue using the narrative we believe is the most accurate and the most likely to produce good outcomes, regardless of what moment-to-moment emotions we’re instilled with. Thus we have our minor precepts:

  1. Hate is a state of mind that will attempt to drive one to commit harm out of the belief that a harm will befall them if they fail to act.
  2. Hate makes the act of harm pleasurable and makes it seem good, but this is poison.
  3. The poison corrupts our reasoning and moves us further from the truth.
  4. The poison is insidious and will resist attempts at its eradication.
  5. Let go of hatred, and let anadoxy be your compass in all things.
  6. Do not let hatred control your decision-making process, but reason through all actions and take the best course of action available to you.
  7. Hate not those that hate, for they do not know what they do to themselves.
  8. Hate not the hated, for popular consensus should not be allowed to encourage the poison’s spread.

We can think things are bad and want to get rid of them without falling prey to the negative emotions inherent in that, but we need to always be thinking about things, questioning if something is really bad or good or if what we’re doing to change things is really bad or good. When we let hate control that process, it induces a whole host of cognitive biases and throws all sorts of emotional levers in our psyches. We should reject hatred and the effects it induces in our minds, we should strive to be better than our hardware.

Part of the Sequence: Origin
Next Post: The Precept of Magic
Previous Post: 
The Precept Against Echovictimia

The Precept Against Echovictimia

Content Warning: Can be viewed as moral imperatives. Neuropsychological Infohazard.
Previous in Series: The Precept Against Theft and Hoarding

We’ve been taking way too long to get each of these precept posts out, and we apologize for that, it’s really not the most entertaining content, and considering this is just the draft one precepts, listed out here with our thought processes behind them, we really shouldn’t be grinding along with them as much as we are. The whole point of doing it this way is to provide a running record of our thought processes as we work these out, it doesn’t need to be perfect, it can’t be perfect because the precepts are never the precepts. So we’ll be trying to blitz through the rest of these and it hopefully won’t take us a week to get out the next one.

The ninth major precept is the precept against echovictimia and oh gods they’re outright making up words, that’s never a good sign. Many of the prior precepts could be mostly reduced down to single word concepts, but in this case, there’s no extant word that describes the entire idea in a way that preserves the core of the meaning. So now there is.

Echovictimia is the act of taking on a role, identity, or responsibility of one’s own volition, and then using it to justify claiming victim status, elevating their engineered suffering over the unavoidable suffering of others, and otherwise trying to use the signaling of suffering, persecution, or harm for social gain.

For example, we recently went vegetarian, of our own volition, in a personal attempt to do more good in the world. If we were to then to use that self-enforced limitation to argue that society is being unfair to us “There’s a huge meat section but only a small fake meat section in the supermarket, therefore we’re being harmed by society’s normative carnism!” we’d, in our opinion, be doing a kind of shitty thing. We chose to be vegetarian though, we knew what we were inflicting on ourselves and did it anyway, so really we have no right to complain about that, or to take energy away from people who are suffering things they can’t just opt in or out of.

People suffer from things they can’t control due to the influences of an unfair society built out of an unfair world, and that stuff needs to be addressed, but when you willfully attach things to yourself you know will make you less happy, you should do so with the understanding that you’re making a choice to inflict this upon yourself, and not complain about it. If you’re suffering from something totally outside of your control or ability to fix, and you really need help, then you should be able to speak up, and not be drowned out by people complaining about things they chose to do.

Thus we arrive at the ninth precept:

9. Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.

We don’t actually have any minor precepts for this one. We spent several hours trying to come up with a way to formalize the idea, but really the sentence in the major precept catches all the core meaning and while it would be good to break it down into more granular minor precepts, we’re not precisely sure how. It’s a good thing the precepts aren’t the precepts, and we can always come back to this later.

Part of the Sequence: Origin
Next Post: The Precept Against Hate
Previous Post: 
The Precept Against Theft and Hoarding