A map that reflects the territory. Territory. Not people. Not geography. Not land. Territory. Land and its people that have been conquered. People that have been turned into raw commoditizable labor, exchangeable for money or gold. Territory.

Most of the college classes I took were about math and physics. But I took one class titled "Adventures in Heart of Darkness". It was taught by an anthropologist philosopher who lost his sanity in Sierra Leone. One day he brought a bag of magical artifacts to class. He withdrew them one-by-one and explains how they were used to curse people. Menstrual blood was an important ingredient.

I have written before about how quinine unlocked Africa to European conquest. But Africa has been conquered by European powers since the fall of Carthage to the Romans.

"I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago—the other day. . . .

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness is about journeying beyond the map, to the abyss. Here be dragons.

I lost my sanity exactly once. It wasn't in the heart of Africa or Asia. Those places make sense. It was in Silicon Valley, a land of rainbows and unicorns where anything is possible.

It was my first visit to Berkeley. I was hungry and needed some convenient food. But I don't really like sandwiches. What I really wanted was a Japanese food called onigiri (rice balls). Onigiri is a triangular sandwich alternative invented by people who do not historically eat bread. In Taiwan, you can buy onigiri at 7-11. It's not bad, but it's not great either. In Seattle, there is one place you can buy onigiri, but it even worse than Taiwan 7-11 onigiri.

There I was, wandering down the street in Silicon Valley wishing in my heart for onigiri but knowing in my brain that onigiri was thousands of miles away when I saw a store that sold "rice triangles". High quality too. In that instant I realized that everything I had heard about Silicon Valley was true. It really is a land of rainbows and unicorns where anything is possible.

A few days later someone asked where I would like to live if I could live anywhere. I said that I would go to Shenzhen and then wander west into central Asia. Because Shenzhen is a cyberpunk dystopia with an authoritarian government and a poisoned sky. Berkeley is boring. I prefer smog to groupthink.

Silicon Valley inherits from the East India Company inherits from Rome.

What saves us is efficiency—the devotion to efficiency…. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect. They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force—nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get and for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a grand scale, and men going at it blind—as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Those words were published in 1899. They are perfectly descriptive of how 2022 Silicon Valley sees itself.


There is a local Rationalist group home in Seattle. They call themselves "the Territory". It is built on stolen Native American land.




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I think there's a really great core to this post, but I don't know what to do with it, or how to regard it.

For one, this problem seems to be largely inescapable, though of course we can work to reduce its perpetuation. Where, exactly, can I go to live on unstolen land? History is very long, and I don't know when the first moment was that our ancestors could be said to have any sort of right to the land they lived on (especially where said ancestors' descendants still exist and live there), which the other predators and megafauna they displaced did not have, or if that would even matter. For another, there is a difference between conquering the world by force, vs. conquering it by giving people new options they choose to take, even if those options involve tradeoffs or risks or are compelled by Moloch.

"A map that reflects the territory. Territory. Not people. Not geography. Not land. Territory. Land and its people that have been conquered."

The underlying epistemology and decision theory of the sequences is AIXI. To AIXI the entire universe is just waiting to be conquered and tiled with value because AIXI is sufficiently far-sighted to be able to perfectly model "people, geography, and land" and thus map them nondestructively.

The fact that mapping destroys things is a fact about the scope of the mapper's mind, and the individual mapping process, not about maps and territories in general. You cannot buy onigiri in Berkeley but you can buy rice triangles, an conquering/approximation of onigiri, which (if cooked well) is just as useful for the purposes "satisfy my hunter, satisfy my aesthetic sense of taste."

Perhaps this is all already implied by the post in a subtle way, but I get a strong "optimization is evil" vibe from it, which I do not think is true.

"They call themselves "the Territory". It is built on stolen Native American land.



IIUC this is saying that the minds of Rationalists are conquered territory. This is correct.

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