I recently caught myself browsing college courses in alphabetical order, imagining what it would be like to take all of them. It would kind of suck to start with African American Studies, but I could get used to it, and then move on to Anthropology and then Astronomy… and then I realized that investing time in this fantasy was negatively affecting my motivation to commit to my actual major. I was reframing it in a broader context, not one in which it was my special calling, but one in which the absurdity of human fate had committed me to it. Out of all the possible options out there… all the courses, all the textbooks that could have been used, all the colleges, and yet here I am.
The cause of my circumstances is not some well-thought out plan. It is not that some genius mastermind God of education reasonably calculated that the subjects and local topics we study are the very best use of our time. No, the data meeting your eyeballs and bouncing around in the topographical map of your visual cortex is dictated by Moloch who’s true master is the Laws of Physics.
In the past, I have sought answers to this turbulent nonsense by attempting to reduce it all to all-embracing simplicity.
What is simple?
Schedules are simple. I eat the same thing every day, with each item always at the same allotted time. I workout at the same time every day, always with the same workout cycle.
But this does not solve the entirety of life. What’s more simple?
Meditating non-stop is simple. When I was seventeen, I attempted a weird form of Buddhism that could only be invented in the age of iPhones. Call the practitioner a transhuman-yogi – someone who listens to the same set of guided meditations through their earbuds from morning to night until their mind is fluid, compassionate, tuned, and yet disturbed.
Okay, that radically changed me. Not all for the good, not all for the worst. But, what’s next?
Suicide is simple. Non-existence is beyond bliss and non-bliss. Truly Nirvana, when you realize that it cannot be grasped. We tend to project a sense of absence, a vacuity of a grey room onto the concept of nothingness. But nothingness doesn’t exist, it is beyond non-existence.
I was sufficiently comfortable with this, that at some point, I did something really stupid and killed off a bunch of my clones in other Everett Branches. On one side was the deep water, on the other was the sand. I passed myself out with alcohol on the ledge. The probability of death was 50/50. Somehow, I ended up on the sand. But I know that by doing this, I significantly increased the amount of branches where others like me are dead. Evidence for quantum immortality? Not enough to convince me… yet.
Being Filthy Rich ™ makes things simple. When I was sixteen, before I got into meditation and consequentialism and science, I was into getting rich. I worked and invested on a little eBay flipping business. I haggled over prices with the Chinese through the school’s library computers. I raised thousands of dollars, including money from family members, all to make it grow in the financial markets. I practiced with paper money, using different kinds of technical analysis tools such as the Moving Average Convergence Divergence(MACD for short), the ADX, and Bollinger Bands. I tried it on different regions of the market, and thought I was deriving valuable insights.
To the contrary, I was little more than gambling. Although, I managed to accumulate over twenty thousand dollars, I quickly lost most of it. In hindsight, I would have probably been comparatively better off by now if I had stuck to fundamental analysis, which is the first thing I had taught myself. But with my prefrontal cortex still developing, and my voracious hunger to break away from the bondage of school, the quick-money allure of day trading was too tempting to avoid.
All of this may seem to be an attempt to put to shame those who seek simplicity. It may sound like I have discovered a pattern from which it is possible to induce that seeking simple answers is bad. However, this is not the case.
It is not a common trait to seek The-One-and-Only-Answer, to this degree. People like us can deliver laser-like insight to a humanity that wallows in banal trivialities. I have recently discovered that in Internet culture, a word has been invented to describe these non-alien types, “normies” – for example, those who are perfectly comfortable on the front page of Youtube, watching political talk-shows and comedy.
Most of my family and the people I knew in school were, are, and will remain normies of some kind or another. I have accepted this now, long after having self-inflicted a damaging percept of disgust that led me to isolation in the past. Back in my more immature days, I didn’t want people to rub off on me because it always annoyed me how non-epic they were: “How do you not see that humans and all their cherished emotions as they presently exist are just one corner of all the possible regions in experiential-space? How do you not see that your culture, your religion, and your language is arbitrary and stupid? How do you not see that anime is better than SpongeBob?”
People like me must accept that the answer to human life is not simple because most humans don’t have a utility function they want to maximize even on paper. It is impossible to build a compass without a magnetic field to show us north.
If we attempt to analyze what moves humans, then hovering above the cryptic mist of quantum field theory, more intelligible causal factors can be gleamed. Canonically, these include a variety of memes and the underlying protein scaffold on which they run. There are local culture-viruses, such as whatever particular game with stones was played by village girls in the year 45 AD of what is now Biernatow, Poland. And then there are gargantuan-sized economic vectors which push millions of minds to explore some kind of mind-configuration space as opposed to another. None of the events at this level can be optimized for independently because they are intertwined and partially instantiated in other processes such as the behavior of mitochondria. What is there to optimize for when its all a mess that only appears full of intention? Even evolution is an abstraction caused by more simple molecular behavior (this is a common source of teleological confusion for non-biologists.)
The solution is to take a radically alien, detached, third-person view which seeks to optimize for positive valence. Sure, claiming that finding the peak of this valence plot is the goal, is also just a bunch of blind little causal factors inducing my brain to transmit particular electrical signals to the fingers on the keyboard. But the one thing that all experiences share is that they can be plotted on a graph of time vs. valence. They can not be plotted on a graph of time vs. justice, because our concept of justice varies. Or time vs. Allah-pleasing-righteousness, because even an attempt at the literal interpretation of religious text is impossible due to the ambiguity of language and contradictions.
However, the difference between positive valence and negative valence is crystal crisp and clear. The feeling of being lovingly hugged by your parents and the feeling of having a stake driven through your mouth really corresponds to the existence of different regions in qualia-space. It is not made up after the fact with meaningless, relativistic language. Experiences and their hedonic tones are direct properties of the universe. Once we have a fundamental physical explanation for qualia, and can hypothesize new structures and their properties in the same way that we can suggest new chemical compounds, we will be on our way to re-engineering our minds towards the best configuration that wins the game. And not just our own minds, but all available matter should be set up to run the peak experience on loop for as long as possible, harvesting Hawking radiation from black holes for trillions of years until the universe finally splits at its seams.
AnD thiS is WHy LOviNg SimplICiTy iS AWesomE;. It GIVeS A NeW PeRSPEcctIVE
And, and, when I’m rich, I will start a company that strives to incorporate these ideals and begin to wander with purpose. It will revolutionize the economy with cryptocurrency based on mining positive experiences in day-to-day life while brain activity is tracked. It will focus on designing cultural institutions and artifacts first, then pharmaceuticals, and then neuroengineering, finally culminating in packing matter into tidy cubes of perfect bliss that spread throughout the cosmos. It will be called SEELE, and I have already built a website for it.
… Okay, I am fucking crazy. “Consensus reality, come save me!”