The interesting question (to me) is whether someone who is not predisposed to enjoying LW-style rationality ought to pursue it if they seek to optimize their happiness. If you are a happy Christian who believes God is madly in love with you and can’t wait to bring up to your mansion in heaven post mortem, then LW is going to be depressing.
Even if you’re just a regular old None or agnostic who likes to believe in warm fuzzy concepts like “everything happening for a reason” and Karm and Serendipity, then LW’s deterministic, magic-killing, purely materialist views are a bit of a buzzkill.
It is possible that rationality training is a net bad for ceratin individuals because ignorance really is bliss in many circumstances.
The rationalist who wrote this perhaps didn’t get a hit of pure materialism. If it felt like a buzzkill (of all things!) someone definitely sold you contaminated product. Adhering to strict materialism should incite the immediate realization of immortality, and with it wave after wave of thrill and awe – or sheer fear… depending on the predisposition of the indexical present.
Let me tease out the reagents dirtying up your solution my friend, so that you too may lucidly trip-out on the crazy view from up here in the “deterministic, magic-killing, purely materialist” summit where I dwell.
First: Certain brain processes lead to what we call “experience” or “consciousness.”
∀ brain processes which feel themselves to exist, ∃ a physical configuration specifying them. Brain processes which feel themselves to exist ∉ A soul, B soul, C soul, etc. To postulate a soul which owns experiences would be extraneous where a physical explanation suffices.
The brain processes which feel themselves to exist do not belong to anyone in particular. What could we possibly mean by belong? Each moment is one of different configuration.
Are you under the impression that there is someone traveling a linear journey? – and that there are other someone’s sharing a reference frame, riding on the same platform as your experiences, but parallel to them?
–This is a grave confusion. One must first understand physics, and only then speak of being a materialist. Uninspected common-sense impressions are not materialism – they are the tabula rasa that remains in the absence of religious beliefs.
There is no such thing as a platform of now to which we all belong which stretches its width across the whole universe and sweeps forward in time with each second – deleting the past, having yet to reach the future. In fact, the eternal block is necessary for experiences such as seeing a red circle to be possible. The visual processing of shape has to exist and visual processing of color has to exist before we see a red circle. Those patterns have to be inscribed in a tenseless fabric to become bound. Information processing isn’t a little orb of awareness zipping around in the brain – it is a shape stretched out in spacetime.
So experiences are indexical. The big You, the You which is just existence, here, in all nows: is Greg Egan conjuring a character; is the ephemeral thought that aesthetic meant violet; it is a fingertip touching a piano in Japan.
The question “why am I me, here, now, and not someone else” has an answer. Not a spiritual answer, or a moral answer; just a strictly physical answer. Each physical configuration exists from where it exists. And since we can be certain that existence is from any given indexical present, we can be sure that we are everywhere in experiential space but cannot directly intuit unreachable knowledge from each location. My indexical present can’t feel Siddhartha Gautama’s heels. But from the inside of that brain simulating that experience of having feet, with heels, touching ground, I am that. How is that supposed to know it is here? It isn’t.
From the inside of the myriad of silicon deities dueling for the cosmos in future light cones, the prisoners cannot feel our dilemmas except in so far as they are identical in configuration. This exception arises in experiences so simple that they are “shared.” If being at the verge of death, taking DMT, or riding on the momentum of years of extended meditation feels like a point-like singularity of simple sensation without complexities of sense-of-self, then these can be physically identical to many “other” experiences across the history of the planet and the cosmos. They no more happened to you than to someone else because they just exist from their inside.
And if you knew this derivation of immortality from standard materialism already, so you understand nonexistence is impossible but are still sentimentally attached to your indexical present and therefore worried about the personal narrative of the human you identify with, because… entropy, then you also don’t have to worry. It is guaranteed that future individuals will feel themselves to be you as much as you feel yourself to be the person who woke up this morning. In an infinite universe, the measure of configurations that wake up thinking themselves to be you cannot be diluted to physically zero. Quantum immortality is implied already but is not necessary. Even a Level 1 multiverse, i.e., the universe does not end at our Hubble volume, gives your personal narrative continuation.