I’m going to begin this post by going meta. I accept the Hansonian creed: Politics is not about policy, medicine is not about health, laughter is not about jokes, and food is not about nutrition. Conversation, including this post, also has hidden motives. Although we like to talk about conversation as if it was about imparting information and finding out useful things, more plausibly it’s about showing off your backpack of tools and skills in context.
In a rich society like ours, somewhere around 90% of our behavior is signaling. The other 10% are things that don’t impress anyone but must be done anyway, such as scratching your ass.
As we’ve become richer, we’ve become more forager-like. If our descendants get poor again, they’ll probably need stronger social norms again, to get them to resist temptations to act like foragers and do what is functional in their world. Their morality would probably rely on a wider more-conservative-like range of moral feelings.
Forager values include more freedom. This is expressed through more travel, less routine, lack of grandiose responsibilities, lack of religion (though not necessarily a lack of spirituality), greater equality, more promiscuity, less war etc. It generally seems that society is moving in this direction, and that we like this trend. This makes sense because we were foragers all along, and happened to have our bodies hijacked by the memetic virus of agriculture. This lead to some selection for agriculturalist traits: propensity for religion, submissiveness, more feminine men, etc. But the selection on genes has simply not occurred for long enough to make us well-adapted to the agriculturalist way (with some demographics worse at it than others).
Agriculture lead to the industrial revolution and this lead to riches. Now that we are rich, we can afford the luxury of becoming our true selves, children, once again.
It is not some natural tendency of humans to make linear moral progress. Rather, it is abundance which purchases this period in which sophisticated values such as humanism and its mutations can arise.
Gene drift is the method for evolution in the absence of natural selection pressure. So too in the memetic landscape. We can afford to evolve via meme drift in the absence of a tangible and immediate threat of starvation, invasion, or pestilence.
It is in this space, sometimes called dreamtime, that I believe we can do enough self-awareness of hidden motives, enough meta-cognition, to see far beyond what we have seen in the foggy haze of survival-mode and naive-signaling-mode.
We cannot disembody our behavior from the biological substrate. This is the case for all moments of being a behavior of a biological organism. Therefore, my seeking truth is a form of signaling. Yet it is at least a more sophisticated signaling, one which acknowledges a single level of self-reflective recursion and no more.
An actor who breaks the fourth wall commits an act of violence against his fellow characters, elevating himself thus. The drama will never be the same for him or for the audience but he will succeed at being remembered.
This is the spirit of insight. It is that which is remembered because it contains the attributes of being both true and useful. This definition of insight is detailed in the Enlightened One’s speech in the Buddhist Suttas, it is detailed in the silicon seams of technological invention, it is detailed in your living flesh riding aboard a deadly planet.
The content here presented then, is not 1st-order signaling, but a 2nd-order signaling which attempts to achieve enough fame to enter the rolls of history in memory. The following endogenously generated probe is true. It elevates contents in the “background” to prominence. But is it useful? –That remains to be seen.
Most people have the idea that time flows.
However, special relativity eliminates the concept of absolute simultaneity and a universal present: according to the relativity of simultaneity, observers in different frames of reference can have different measurements of whether a given pair of events happened at the same time or at different times, with there being no physical basis for preferring one frame’s judgments over another’s.
This also applies to the cells in the brain running massively parallel computations. All the parts of the computations exist in an eternal block.
If, due to the generalized-anti zombie principle, we identify consciousness with a specific subset of these computations and not as an epiphenomena, then it is the case that experience is forever. The fabric of spacetime is imbued with all the flavors of qualia that were ever traced by these computations.
What’s more, there were no line-segment souls anywhere. It is not physically the case that consciousness begins at some arbitrary point of conception and then travels like a Newtonian sphere with a persistent identity to some other point-location where it encounters a Death Event due to all the issues with closed individualism. Instead, we find ourselves everywhere and everywhence but cannot know this from most human indices.
Computations can also have “longer temporal-grain” than what seems intuitive to humans. Consider that the processing for shape occurs at one cluster of spacetime points and the processing for color occurs at another cluster in the future light cone, and no further processing is needed to bind them into an experienced red circle. By Occam’s Razor, we should assume that this kind of “spooky action at a distance” or “phenomenal binding without glue” also occurs with computations across vaster swaths of the eternal block.
More complex algorithms can be built on top of computations with lower specificity. Brain events in a toad hopping off a mushroom may be a building block for parties across the multiverse.
There is no competitive exclusion principle for independent souls or consciousnesses because independent souls/consciousnesses don’t exist. However, we should still expect a natural selection underlying the distribution of our anthropic mass. We should expect more mindspace to be designed by superintelligences than by the relatively dumber processes that bootstrap them.
For the vast majority of our existence we should therefore expect ourselves to exist directly within or caused by that which is most competitive at creating conscious experiences. Whether this is mainly due to the linkage disequilibrium between superintelligences’ utility functions or due to which conscious computations are more populous due to their sheer structure.
An analogy which may be useful in some respects but obfuscating in others: In the textbook classification of life, viruses and bacteria vastly outnumber Chordates, not to mention humans. Similarly, in the framework for life depending on self-modeling conscious computations, some conscious computations may be very simple but vastly outnumber those intentionally designed due to their sheer ease of creation and symbiosis (these simple computations may be remembered/experienced widely by fitting like keys into many of the relevant algorithmic keyholes).