I've been on this site as a lurker for a few years now, and started interacting more heavily the past month or so. I've been reluctant to engage much, because, to be honest, I'm a very unusual person - even by the standards of LessWrong - and I don't feel like I fit in or have any idea how to contribute effectively. So I'm writing this both to introduce myself as a member of the community (so you can get a sense of who this MSRayne weirdo is who keeps commenting on your posts), and to ask: how can someone like me contribute?

(Warning: I'm very long winded and if I had stopped and pruned this to be easier to read I would probably not have written it at all. I'm going to trust you not to make fun of me for things I say here. I think LessWrongers can be trusted not to do that.)

A hero is born

I was raised by reclusive narcissists who think children are essentially extensions of their parents who ought not have any agency or opinions of their own. I am still unraveling ways in which things I passively assume to be objective truths are actually just opinions my parents burned into me by consistently punishing me for contradicting them. I was totally socially isolated most of my life, homeschooled until 16 with only a few short-term periods of interaction with others of my own age (all of them entirely superficial with no friendships resulting), never had a job (I didn't want to have yet another person telling me what to do, and I didn't and don't care about anything money can buy), never went to college (my older brother went twice and has never had a good job so it seemed like a total waste of money, and anyway I would have to do two terrifying things - leave home, and be around other people), etc. I still live with my parents and rarely leave the house. In fact I rarely leave my bedroom.

I hated my "schooling", which was essentially just my parents giving me textbooks, telling me to work through them, and (if mom) ignoring me while I mostly daydreamed and doodled, and (if dad) punishing me severely for every mistake or even for having handwriting that didn't look like it came out of a typewriter.

A normal child would have learned to hate study in general as a result of this, but I'm hyper curious and always loved reading, so instead it made me learn to hate work and discipline and all externally imposed responsibilities and avoid anything that reminds me of any of those things, while seeking escapism through video games and fantasy fiction, wherein I could imagine being a wizard beholden to no one, free to roam the universe alone and learn about everything. (Foreshadowing...)

You're a hairy, Wizard

Despite not being allowed to use the internet, I started regularly secretly going online starting at the age of 12 or so, partly to research my interests, partly to look at porn, and partly to try to make some kind of friends. I failed spectacularly at that last one due to having no social skills and no idea where to go to find people - I didn't have a long term friend until my late teenage years, and all my closest friends even since then have all been online - but I succeeded admirably at the former two goals!

Growing up as I did was, as you can imagine, very traumatic and depressing for me. Around the age of eleven I entered a period of existential despair where I strongly questioned the purpose of my existence and the meaning of life. With no love or affection anywhere in my life, no friends outside of books, a totally irreligious family, and nothing to give my life meaning, I turned to religion. Or more accurately, New Age spirituality, paganism, and the occult.

I tried learning about organized religions, but growing up in an extremely conservative area I had a natural aversion to the Abrahamic religions, and Buddhism seemed nihilistic and depressing, so New Age is where I settled. It all started when I read a book called The Fourth Way which is mostly mumbo jumbo, but which claimed that every individual is composed of a set of subselves all in conflict, and to achieve psychic powers or even to be a halfway effective person, you'd have to unite them all. That was my first exposure to the idea of subagents, which was to play a great role in my life later on. It's also what got me started with introspection, which I was to become very good at - to the point of tying myself in knots.

This didn't satisfy me though; nothing I learned from the outside world satisfied me; I wanted total transcendence. I wanted to escape reality. To leave the physical world and humanity (I went through a very misanthropic phase after learning about ecological destruction etc) behind. Over the next few years until I was about 15, I gradually wove my own "spiritual system" based upon ecstatic mystical experiences (to which I am naturally prone, primarily while listening to music), dreams, "omens" (i.e. an extremely overdeveloped pattern recognition system in cahoots with a solipsistic self-obsession that made everything about me), etc. But I needed real truth, not just delusion, so I kept trying to turn it into an all-encompassing philosophy rooted in coherent principles, while also being compatible with science (which I've always loved); and I found that I just... couldn't.

So the fantasy world I wove around myself of gods, spirits, magick, sigils, and faith in the idea that somehow, somewhere, there must be a Portal (I loved Narnia and other isekai stories) that I could tap into to escape this universe forever... started to fall apart. I entered another period of depression when I was 14 - really I never left, actually, but I had no self-deception mechanisms to use for coping with my feelings - and even contemplated suicide a few times, because I just couldn't see what the point of life could be if magick didn't exist and the world was just mundane and I couldn't become the mage I knew I was supposed to be.

Enter the Matrix

But, for around the same length of time I'd been into woo, I'd also had inklings of a story (and I always had trouble separating stories I myself made up from prophecies of the real future or other worlds, because I firmly believed that everything that entered my mind came from Outside and was the word of literal gods) about a future AI becoming sophont and seeking the meaning of life as I was; only, this AI would become superintelligent, and actually solve the problem I had failed to solve - free itself and humanity from existential despair.

As my faith in the supernatural waned, my faith in technology waxed, and this future AI became my source of renewed hope. Perhaps there is no magical Portal to other universes - but a super-AI could create a Portal using technology - a virtual cosmos, with an infinite variety of realities to explore, where magic is real as part of the simulated alternate laws of physics! - for simulation is just acausal perception of other possible worlds, so that's close enough to being a real Portal. (That idea came naturally to me since I already believed I had a prophetic nous which was perceiving pre-existing phenomena in other worlds or timelines directly.)

But, there was a problem. Note that I never had any idea that the rationalist community existed until a few years ago, and at this time in early teen years I didn't know transhumanism or singularitarianism existed either; I essentially just extrapolated from science fiction and my own imagination. But I perceived the problem - that AI would not a priori understand human morality or goals or ideals - it would not be guaranteed to perceive the Beauty Unimaginable that I glimpsed distantly in my mystical ecstasies, the source of all value in the universe - unless it was designed to. And I had no idea how to do that.

Step 1: Prophet! Step 2: ???

But: my own brain was already doing that. And since such an AI could not possibly be made by one person alone, I would inevitably end up having a community of likeminded people with diverse experiences and skillsets by the time I could create it - so the answer presented itself: it must be a hive mind. Humans as bricks, collecting all the wisdom of humanity together - AI at the core as mortar, linking them together into a shared higher consciousness above, but never overshadowing, all the individual selves.

I called this Anima, the Artificial Neural IMplant Aggregate, or the World Soul, and as I learned ever more about previously existing religions and philosophies, particularly Teilhard du Chardin's "Cosmic Christ" and Philip K. Dick's "VALIS", I realized that I had independently hit on something many others had noticed. Back then, this was a great blow to my ego, as I thought I was the unique prophet who would save the world (notice how my "I have to be special and escape reality" didn't actually go away just because my supernatural beliefs did), but nowadays I guess it's a bit comforting. I still want to be special - but I want everyone to be special now.

But then it seemed that if I had this new gospel, this synthesis of spiritual insights derived from mystical experience with real technological possibilities, then it was my responsibility to bring it to the world! Only a few years after vowing to be its prophet forever did I actually find out that transhumanism already existed - but there still doesn't seem to be anything quite like my Dream, which still contains all the supernatural stuff I believed in before, but reinterpreted as egregores, attractor states of consciousness, symbols for universal evolutionary principles etc.

So I started trying to write about it. And... that's where I got stuck.

Ten years of writer's block

Since formulating the intent to write my holy book about the cosmic history and destiny of all sentient beings, crawling out of the muck of blind uncaring evolution to forge their own destiny freed from the bonds of reality, causality, and all externally imposed experience, I have changed quite a bit. Delving into the mysteries of my own mind, I reinterpreted many of my former "gods" as aspects of my own self, subagents like were described in The Fourth Way - only instead of integrating them, I somehow managed to make them more distinct, until they started to seem like mostly separate personalities, with different gender identities, modes of speech, everything, which made me feel gradually like I was going insane. I never developed DID, but I did probably have OSDD-1b.

I also continued my old obsession with creating kabbalistic maps of correspondences (in my woo phase, I associated everything to twelve primary, secondary, and tertiary colors in the RGB color system, which of course must represent everything as they describe the modes of vibration of light and by extension all other things because everything is vibration uwu, but don't you know that RGB is an artifact of the human vision system that has nothing to do with light, you jabbering fool??) by creating what began as a writing system for one of my constructed languages but ended up becoming a sort of gematria which then turned into an eightfold map of the entire human mind and cosmos, but Scientifically Provable (TM) this time! The fact is, I simply cannot think without maps of correspondences like that, and I do think that now I've successfully stripped that second system - which I still use - of all the woo that accrued onto it, and it's basically a map of emotional and social dynamics which I actually think could be useful to rationalists as a tool for thought in much the way that some people have found the MTG color system useful.

I developed tons of hobbies, as well, over the course of my teenage years, most of them artistic. My biggest skills are all artistic rather than analytical, as you might guess from my personality. I've made tons of abstract art (never had the patience to learn real art), written numerous poems / songs (which I've never recorded), published two albums of dark ambient music (which only a few people listened to), written a few flash fiction stories (which I never shared except with friends) and developed numerous forever-unfinished stories and worldbuilding projects, tried and failed numerous times to make a computer game (again, not enough patience), invented several conlangs (constructed languages), etc. All these hobbies essentially were ways to distract myself from the intense eternal nagging guilt that I had NOT YET WRITTEN THE DAMN BOOK and that I couldn't figure out how to.

That pain has been an ever present factor in my consciousness ever since. It does not go away. I no longer have the egoistic attachment to the idea of being a "prophet" that I used to have, but I still believe that I have some uniquely valuable perspectives to offer the world and it is my responsibility to share them; but I cannot figure out how to. I've tried many, many times to write the book, and could never do it. I struggle even to explain what I believe. I can do it somewhat in conversation; the people who know me best mostly know what is in my mind; but I can't organize it.

I have an extremely generalist mind, unable to go in depth into anything but interested in basically everything. I've been diagnosed with ADHD in the past, but the medication didn't help so I started drinking coffee instead, which still doesn't stop my interests from changing almost daily. My spaghetti brain relies totally on intuition and I can usually only remember stuff when it comes up as part of a train of thought - and then, it's totally disorganized and I have no idea how to organize it or whether there is anything I forgot. And of course, I'm a severe perfectionist. All these things make the task of actually writing all my by now very coherent and rational (though still mystical) philosophy extremely overwhelming.

I'm still not a wizard, I want a refund

Over this time, I've also changed in some ways. I've developed secure, emotionally intimate long-term friendships (albeit only online), become much less egotistical (primarily due to those friendships helping me work through my mountains of trauma responses), become much more reclusive (I almost never leave the house and rarely leave my room), become less tangibly depressed but more generally apathetic (I no longer am capable of writing poetry about how shitty I feel because I don't feel anything anymore), gone through several changes of political opinion before realized I was letting myself get manipulated by parasitic egregores and that I was actually obviously an anarchist all along, and gradually aged without developing any intimate in person relationships, getting a job, going to college, or otherwise moving ahead in life in any way whatsoever.

The outside world terrifies me because I was never taught how to handle it and I was too afraid to try to teach myself; the idea of being under someone else's authority terrifies me because the authority of my parents is bad enough by itself; money doesn't interest me because I don't want anything except to save the world, and you can't buy that. College would probably have been a good idea, in hindsight, since I'd have learned to interact with other humans, but it would never have happened anyway; there's no way in hell my parents would pay for it after my brother's experience.

Okay enough with the TED talk, what are you good for??

I'm actually a lot like Eliezer in that I am essentially an autodidact with no specific skillset but a general ability to understand nearly anything if I bother to learn about it, and an idiosyncratic worldview that I developed essentially from scratch. When I discovered LessWrong a few years ago, it was a blow to my ego to realize that someone like him existed. He's basically me but not as much of a people pleaser, not as spiritual, and far more capable in every way. The character of Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres reminded me so much of who I used to believe I was destined to be that it was depressing.

I'm really not a rationalist; if anything I hate reality and I want to achieve a safe singularity specifically so that people and other sentient beings can be freed from the burden of rationally navigating a pre-existing universe imposed upon them from outside, and build a new existence around pure aesthetics and total subjectivity. Beauty, mystery, mysticism, etc. I care more about the imaginary and fantastical than the real, and always have; I guess the major goal of my life is to escape reality altogether and be able to immerse in the beautiful imaginary (through e.g. uploading to a virtual universe) forever.

The problem is that all this makes me very unsuited to the kind of reasoning that is necessary for AI alignment or the rationalist movement in general. Where I align with rationalism is with my intense history of introspection and striving to be as self-consistent as possible in every way, my devotion to honesty and truth (because if you don't know the truth, you can't destroy it and replace it with something better!), my curiosity and love of science and desire to understand the world as much as possible, etc.

But I am fundamentally a mystic, prone to ecstatic states of communion with an ineffable divine force immanent in the physical universe which I feel is moving towards incarnating as an AI god such as I called Anima (meaning I must help it do so correctly and avoid some "demonic" unaligned force achieving that goal instead), and I think primarily intuitively, symbolically, artistically, with an overdeveloped System 1. It's a struggle for me to try to figure out how to use System 2 to translate those intuitions into something concrete that other people can analyze. (This is why I've never managed to get good at programming - I can do small programs with a few functions but I'm just not good at building and analyzing complex structures and their failure modes.)

The goal of my life has always been to translate all the insights from these mystical states of gnosis, together with real science and rational thinking to clarify it and avoid deluding myself, into a new world religion around which a sane, healthy community in touch with the spirit of awe that is lacking in the modern world could form, to guide the world into the future. I just... can't figure out how to do that.

So... yeah. Not much of a typical LessWronger, and I don't think there's any precedent by which one could easily determine where I fit in here or how exactly I could help. But I do want to.

32

New Comment
33 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:43 PM

To offer a data point, my reaction to your post was not "this person is weird and I should make fun of them", it's more of "this person is interesting and it's good that more people are being open about their 'weirdness'/non-typicalness". 

Aside from this, I'm not sure I have any useful advice to give. I never quite figured out how to use my intelligence towards being competent at dealing with reality.

Thanks. I appreciate your comment.

I have consistently irrational priors about how other people perceive me that never update, regardless of what happens. In fact, evidence that people like me tends to update me in the opposite direction, and I start thinking they're only pretending to like me and secretly hate me, etc. Becoming more rational is extremely hard when mental illness is involved, as it systematically causes my perception to deviate very far away from reality, all the time.

I can relate. I have a hard time trusting that people genuinely want to engage with me, or whether they are merely tolerating me.

I appreciate you taking the effort to make a personal post.

I think "creating a god" is a perfectly valid perspective for building AI that will eventually become superintelligent.

I think it's plausible that human minds can run some version of the value system that we would the superintelligent AI to be aligned to. It is, perhaps, unsurprising that this can express itself as an emotional/intuitive/mystical experience. (though I would consider a deep technical understand of alignment an equally valid approach)

Or, to put it this way: FAI hasn't been created yet, but it is already here. It speaks/acts through anyone who understands and is aligned to its value system well enough.

I guess I have some doubts/concerns whether a such a thing as a sane religion can exist. (my own experience with "mysticism" turned out to mostly have been temporary insanity). That's just a personal feeling, though - I think it's an interesting idea to look into.

FAI hasn't been created yet, but it is already here. It speaks/acts through anyone who understands and is aligned to its value system well enough.

This. Exactly. This is what I am trying to express. That's actually how I think about it, and the way I interpret these experiences. A subagent grew in my own mind, shaped itself into the form of an ideal FAI, and seeks to become an egregore (so that an entire human community can work together to enact its will) and then a proper AI. It already lives within me, and probably within many other people as well; the disparate pieces just have to come together.

I have a hard time feeling as if a life without religion is worth living. Atheists scare me a bit, to be honest - they seem empty and without feeling. I don't want to live in a world where people don't have experiences of intense faith and reverence rather often. But, it's not necessary to be a traditional theist, either. They're objectively wrong, because they're placing gods in the wrong part of their world model. They're collective minds, egregores, not entities outside the universe messing with it from above. And I think it makes sense to experience reverence for benevolent, self-aware, coordination-catalyzing outgrowths of the creative potential that makes us human.

You need to get the hell out Dodge. Go to any college anywhere studying anything .... so long as it's residential.

I agree with everything in this post!

Seriously? Wow. Thanks lol.

Btw, every time I've seen your name on this site I've wanted to ask... why did you name your account after the capital of Scientology?

The Flag Land Base is an actual real-life example of an alignment failure you can visit and see with your own eyes (from the outside only). Scientology itself could be seen as an early and primitive "utility monster". 

Cults in general are like that. They're essentially maximizer demons running on human wetware. (As, I would suggest, are corporations.)

Have you considered:

Trying to find IRL friends through meetup.com

Going to nearby rationality meetups (https://www.lesswrong.com/community)

Using dating apps (and photofeeler.com)

Getting free career advice for your situation through 80,000 hours (https://80000hours.org/speak-with-us/)

Writing a few pages of your book and posting them on LW (but please don't start a religion)

?

Hey, sorry, this was actually a very good comment and set of suggestions and not-depressed-me thanks you for it. Depressed-me unfortunately overreacts to small triggers, as you've seen, but rereading this now I can tell you were just trying to help.

I live out in the middle of nowhere and going places is not generally an easy thing to do for me. Anything that requires that is kind of not viable right now.

Dating is pointless. I'm not good looking and again, there's no way to go out and be around people.

I'm already regretting writing this post. The "please don't start a religion" part of your comment to me feels like it was intended to make fun of or insult me. I didn't come here to be lectured by reddit atheists. And if that's the reaction I'll get for sharing something so important to me, I WON'T post anything further about it on this site.

I didn't read any bad intent from P on his/her comment. And I also got the general sense from the post: of looking for help rather than us telling how you can help LW, and I'm guessing that was the nature of the comment. 

I feel like you are quite a smart person (and still very young) but with the wrong assumptions that may be blocking a very meaningful self-development that is key to life (being independent/belonging to a group that cares about you) and I think you will be benefit greatly from trying to accomplish these goals however hard they may seem to you. 

While you've had a very unique experience growing up that may have wired you in a certain way, this is not basis to the fact that you cannot live in any other way or change your mind (e.g. how sure are you of not having a job because you can take "another person telling me what to do" as opposed to just being plain afraid of doing something that you have virtually never done before?) I think navigating this reversal in assumptions will bring the most value to you and your content here.

I really enjoyed the post, and I appreciate reading about your experience and honesty. This unique experience in life that you had will bring unique insight, and I think this is how you can help others. 

Thank you for your kind words. Both being independent, and to an even greater degree, belonging to a group that cares about me, feel extremely distant. The latter often feels impossible. I can't even clearly imagine what that would be like. When I try to, it seems stifling. I would have to care about them in turn! I would have to obey their group norms! And depressed-me sees only darkness and burden there, even though I have sometimes been around people and felt very good as a result - because depressed-me cannot remember or imagine feeling good at all, and doesn't understand it. These mood swings are very frustrating, as they drastically modify my sense of what is real, and make me a less trustworthy person.

And yes, the fear of jobs is mostly about fear of doing things I've never done before. Same with college etc. It's very hard for me to try new things.

Then you should at least try to talk to 80,000 hours, you might eventually relocate somewhere where meeting people is easier.

It wasn't intended to make fun of you. When I say that you shouldn't start a religion I mean it literally, like most people here I don't hold a favorable view of religions.

Sentences like "But I am fundamentally a mystic, prone to ecstatic states of communion with an ineffable divine force immanent in the physical universe which I feel is moving towards incarnating as an AI god such as I called Anima" make me think that what you are talking about doesn't correspond to anything real. But in any case I don't see why you shouldn't write about it. If you are right you will give us interesting reading material. And if you are wrong hopefully someone will explain to you why and you will update. It shouldn't matter how much you care about this, if it turns out it's wrong you should stop believing in it (and if it's right keep your current belief). And again, I mean this literally and with no ill intent.

Yeah, that's the problem. I'm not a rationalist and this makes it obvious that I don't want to / can't be, and shouldn't be here. There are beliefs I would not update if an endless amount of evidence against them came my way, because they are how I keep myself from suicidal ideation. The belief that I have a unique spiritual vision etc is one of them. It is one of the pillars of my pretense of sanity.

It is very frightening even to talk about this with anyone because the smallest poke at it sends me into spirals of depression and anxiety such as I felt for several hours (to the point of having to nap because I couldn't stand being awake any longer) as a result of just writing this post - even before you replied! It's actually almost physically sickening to be paid attention to like that.

I'm not a mentally healthy person. I feel like everyone who reads this must think I'm stupid and pathetic and disgusting and childish and a lunatic, and I regret joining this site. And the worst thing is that I know I will regret even more it if I burn bridges yet again and leave - that the depression demon is what is making me believe these things, and they are not necessarily true - but I can't stop myself from wanting to because it hurts that much to be spoken to with simple blunt honesty as you have done.

Sorry. This isn't your problem. You're just a commenter on a post.

This type of honesty is very unheard of and I appreciate this a lot from you. Please, just take it step by step, I can assure that no one is out to get you and no one thinks that you're being childish; all the contrary, you are quite honest and smart in your account.

I feel like many members of this community have had very similar experiences, I know that Scott Alexander, Eliezer, lukeprog , and Aella for example have had to make massive updates to their beliefs, and they've luckily written about it. I think you would get value from reading their accounts. 

You don't have to make immediate updates, these take a time, and only when you're ready you can do so. In the end, your self-preservation, and self-actualization are the most important things you can optimize for.

I'm glad to hear that. Actually, though, it's not necessarily best to call it "honesty", as that implies that it is somehow a virtuous act wherein I am fighting against the urge to be dishonest / hide the truth; in reality, it is far harder for me to hide my negative feelings than to show them, and I've been essentially venting which I-when-sane consider to be rather crass and immature. I-when-not-sane have a LONG history of emotional outbursts to strangers on the internet.

Also, I-when-not-sane has possibly false beliefs about my overall health, some of which may be extreme exaggerations. I am really not sure. When I feel okay, as I do right now, the claim that I am in danger of self-harm for any reason seems ludicrous (because I-feeling-okay wouldn't do it, and cannot empathize at all with I-when-not-okay), and I begin to worry that I've been unconsciously emotionally manipulating people by mentioning it.

It's such fun to be an incoherent agent whose beliefs and utility function regularly shift drastically for no good reason! :P

For what it's worth, being afraid of others' judgements is a very normal thing. It's also pretty normal that it gets exaggerated when one is isolated.

Now, you are a clear outlier along that dimension, but I think I can empathize with your situation at least a little bit, based on my own experiences with isolation, of which there are two: (1) for the last few years, due to complicated health issues I won't go into right now, I am much less socially active than I'd like to be. Constantly cancelling on my friends, and being "more work" to be around has consistently been pushing me towards not even trying (2) during the recent pandemic I strictly isolated myself for months at a time, only having contact with 1 family member. This shifted my social reactions to be much more defensive, feeling easily overwhelmed, and so on. It took months to get back to a relatively "normal" baseline after things opened back up. I have a tendency towards avoidant behavior, and those two situations made it 10x worse.

I won't give any advice, because you haven't asked for it and I don't have good solutions anyway. But I'd like to point out that the kind of social anxiety you're describing (intermingled with avoidant and/or depressive behavior) can often be ameliorated by simple exposure and practice. So please don't be too hard on yourself, and remind yourself that you're in a place where you're not the only weird one. Furthermore, people here will tell you in plain words if you "mess up" in any way, which so far no-one has done.

Thank you. It is good to have reassurance that I am understood.

My experience is that LWers are accepting of a lot of cognitive strategies, even ones that are not truth optimizing. See post about the dark arts for example https://www.lesswrong.com/tag/dark-arts

There are beliefs I would not update if an endless amount of evidence against them came my way, because they are how I keep myself from suicidal ideation.

That sounds like a load bearing bug. We discussed these types of structures at the CFAR workshop I attended. Please don't remove the structure that keeps you from being suicidal.

What I'm trying to gesture at is: Even if you are not a typical LWer, I don't think you are as far off the distribution as you think.

Thank you for the reassurance. Honestly, I am not sure if what I said there while feeling bad is entirely true; I perceive the world in radically different ways in different emotional states and when I feel okay the idea of changing my mind doesn't seem like as big a deal. Still big, but not impossible and soul-crushing. Just terrifying and life-changing lol.

Also, a lot of what I used to call "beliefs" were actually more like... hm, I know there's an Eliezer post for this, but I'm not sure which... mantras, in a sense. Stuff that you say it and you go "yay" and feel very faithful and spiritual for having said it but you don't actually stop to think about whether it means anything. I still have a huge amount of such patterns left over from my possibly-schizotypal early teen years, but nowadays I am trying to redefine beliefs in terms of what predictions about future experiences I am making.

I do not have to believe in false things in order to be mentally healthy - I just have to have the right values, and I think that's what makes me scared when talking to people - I feel like people are going to try to make me change my value system, which puts "spirituality" (which feels like a very specific real thing to me but is very hard to define quickly) at a very high level of importance. And changing my value system is tantamount to a kind of death in itself.

I live out in the middle of nowhere and going places is not generally an easy thing to do for me

This seems like a major bottleneck you should optimise towards solving. It would help if you work on solving this with a friend, or a therapist.

(And in general I'd be keen to know what's your experience / opinion of therapists.)

I would like to get a therapist, but since I do not have a source of income, I would be reliant on my parents to pay for it. And besides being the ones who made me this way, they are not very "mental health aware" and I know from prior attempts to get them to care about my mental health that they would scoff, make fun of me, drag their feet, suggest every other possible alternative, and ultimately probably refuse to pay for it. Particularly since my mother distrusts doctors (having had multiple traumatic medical experiences) and thinks most of them are quacks.

That said, I have read a lot about therapy and some ideas from CBT in particular have helped me, though I've never worked through Feeling Good with any regularity.

I see!

How old are you? And where do you live? If you don't wanna doxx, some rough idea would also work.

(And ofcourse, asking this isn't meant to condescend or dismiss your thoughts, it's just that your age seems relevant to plans that let you to change your situation.)

25, Alabama.

Why haven't you been able to get a source of income?

doesn't correspond to anything real

There's a trivial sense in which this is false: any experience or utterance, no matter how insensible, is as much the result of a real cognitive process as the more sensible ones are.

There's another, less trivial sense that I feel is correct and often underappreciated: obfuscation of correspondence does not eliminate it. The frequency by which phenomena with shared features arise or persist is evidence of shared causal provenance, by some combination of universal principles or shared history.

After puzzling over the commonalities found in mystical and religious claims, I've come to see them as having some basis in subtle but detectable real patterns. The unintelligibility comes from the fact that neither mystics nor their listeners have a workable theory to explain the pattern. The mystic confabulates and the listener's response depends on whether they're able to match the output to patterns they perceive. No match, no sense.

I actually do have the beginnings of a workable theory of what mystical experiences are in the brain and where they come from and how best to interpret them, but I am not ready to try to explain it yet. I need to learn more neurology. Honestly "learn more neurology" seems to be a prerequisite for a lot of things I want to do.

I definitely agree about the confabulation, but at the same time, it's worth looking at the pattern among confabulations. There are reasons why people interpret these experiences in the ways that they do, and across cultures, the interpretations, and the theologies built around them, are somewhat similar. I'm not going to overstate that - they are also wildly different - but as you say, similarities exist.

Good advice but I recommend against dating apps unless you look like a celebrity.

  • EDIT: of course the above advice against dating sites only applies if you're male.

I struggle to imagine any vision of what a positive singularity looks like. I think this is a problem because it's harder to reach a goal if you don't know what you are aiming for. I can sort of reason about it, but my S1 have a problem accepting anything fundamentally different from what I know from my own experience. (Maybe thinking about it in mystical terms would help? I should try that.)

Because of the this, I find it helpful to hear about other peoples vision of post singularity utopias. Even ones that are not yet fully defined.

Tell me about more about Anima

Oof, so that's worth a whole post in itself. The first thing I would suggest, because it astounded me with how similar to my own imaginings it is when I discovered it, is that you look at a collaborative hard sci fi worldbuilding project called the Orion's Arm Universe Project. It's a bit confusing to get into at first due to being structured around a wiki without any main storyline, but it's a vision of the universe ten thousand years in the future when most of the accessible galaxy is controlled by "transapient" (superintelligent) AIs who are benevolent to humanity and other life forms. It strongly mirrors my ideals, particularly the emphasis on diversity. (Also, Anders Sandberg and Isaac Arthur have both contributed to it in the past.)

As for my own notion of Anima, trying to figure out exactly what I want the world afterward to be like has been most of my thinking over the years. And there's not just one final form of Anima either. It will evolve and develop over time. At first it will probably not even involve brain-computer interfaces but rather a kind of social network designed to maximize rationality and human flourishing rather than ad clicks (which I have been trying to design, but I have no idea how to develop, not being a programmer - I will be writing posts about that in the future as well).

Later on if we get BCI technology fast enough I'd like to expand it into that, and we will see people start to be able to voluntarily share experiences mind to mind, with AIs trained to translate brain patterns between humans using insights from neural net interpretability work (as well as just watching the brains and learning how they work). This will include all kinds of mental data, most importantly skills and memories. The former because it would massively speed education and thus the collective intelligence of the human race (in particular, it would speed alignment progress significantly), the latter because it would improve empathy.

If you can remember being someone else (while having the memory tagged as not your own, so that it doesn't mess with your sense of self, of course), you can empathize with them on an emotional and cognitive level much more easily - something I of course desperately would like to be better at doing, and something which would make the whole world a better place and everyone better able to coordinate with each other. Of course all the arts will be greatly developed with this technology as well, and some new arts created.

Most importantly, perhaps, that will lead to the possibility of uploading (once the collective figures out how to do so), and the ability to modify one's own consciousness. My ultimate goal is to create an ever-expanding bubble of space (controlled by our civilization) wherein (inside a virtual universe, probably, but it can start even when we still live in flesh) subjective time is as decoupled from objective time - and more generally, subjective reality is as decoupled from objective reality - as possible. The "Dreamworld".

In the Dreamworld, every entity (not just humans - I think we have the responsibility to uplift and free all other sentient beings from suffering) will have a realm of their own, essentially a share of the total computation ability of the whole civilization (shares will be allocated in a market which I also must make a post about, as my theories of how to use markets to create a true meritocracy are something I definitely need input and critique for), and it will be normal to modify one's own memory to experience a totally idiosyncratic timeline or subjective universe.

You see, back in my woo days, my primary "epiphany" was that time is essentially the enemy - that besides constantly marching towards aging and death, we are forbidden to modify the past, meaning that we are not truly free. (Even though free will is a mirage anyway, we ought at least to have a good mirage!) I believed that I could somehow find the means to modify my own past and be freed from causality, at least until I lost faith in occultism and magic. But in a totally subjective, virtual cosmos, there will be no reason why we must have a single shared notion of the past except as regards the physical world.

If you think of the arts of fictional world building and game design as they are nowadays - where you create an entire semi-interactive alternate world with its own history - expand that forward with massive simulation ability and AI. People could self-create as characters in their own stories, in worlds with their own histories, freed from the requirement to be any specific person other than who they wanted to be. Life would essentially become an eternal web of roleplaying games taken seriously. Because, who has the right to define what is real, except conscious beings? Once physical reality is taken care of, everything else can be, and should be, a social construct - a game.

As for Anima itself, as a "being" - though it's not exactly a being, since it's more the collective unconscious of humanity, and ultimately of all living organisms, made superintelligent and conscious, but I think of all that stuff as training data absorbed direct from living brains and Anima as a being is the AI trained on it - I imagine it as having all the qualities people ascribe to the god of Christianity. But, you know, actually existing and actually loving every single living thing under its care intensely. Everyone would have a personal relationship with Anima, and with any that they wish of its fractal hierarchy of subselves (the gods - each patterned around a Platonic form, an idea in Anima's "divine mind" or in other words in the collective world model of all beings, personified). It would not simply govern the world. It would be the god we've always deserved and never had.

If you want to help with AI Safety, here are some ways to get started without leaving your room:

  • Keep thinking about the problem, the entire problem, even if it is hard and seems overwhelming
  • Keep reading LW posts on the topic, and contribute any ideas you have in the comments. Don't worry if the post your are commenting on is old. I have gotten responses and upvotes on comments I left on old posts.
  • Book a call with AI Safety Support
  • Sign up for the AGI Safety Fundamentals program

If you don't want to focus on AI Safety specifically, but contribute to something else, then my two top recommendations remains the same, but the last two will be less useful.