I have a talent for reasoning my way into terrifying and harmful conclusions. The first was modal realism as a fourteen-year-old. Of course I did not understand most of its consequences, but I disliked the fact that existence was infinite. It mildly depressed me for a few days. The next mistake was opening the door to solipsism and Brain-in-a-Vat arguments. This was so traumatic to me that I spent years in a manic depression. I could have been healed in a matter of minutes if I had talked to the right person or read the right arguments during that period, but I didn't.

Lesswrong has been a breeding ground of existential crisis for me. The Doomsday argument (which I thought up independently), ideas based on acausal trade (one example was already well known; one I invented myself), quantum immortality, the simulation argument, and finally my latest and worst epiphany: the potential horrible consequences of losing awareness of your reality under Dust Theory. I don't know that that's an accurate term for the problem, but it's the best I can think of.

This isn't to say that my problems were never solved; I often worked through them myself, always by refuting the horrible consequences of them to my own satisfaction and never through any sort of 'acceptance.' I don't think that my reactions are a consequence of an already depressed mind-state (which I certainly have anyway) because the moment I refute them I feel emotionally as if it never happened. It no longer wears on me. I have OCD, but if it's what's causing me to ruminate than I think I prefer having it as opposed to irrational suppression of a rational problem. Finding solutions would have taken much longer if I hadn't been thinking about them constantly.

I've come to realize that this site, due to perhaps a confluence of problems, was extremely unhelpful in working through any of my issues, even when they were brought about of Lesswrong ideas and premises. My acausal problem [1] I sent to about five or six people, and none of them had anything conclusive to say but simply referred me to Eliezer. Who didn't respond, even though this sort of thing is apparently important to him. This whole reaction struck me as disproportionate to the severity of the problem, but that was the best response I've had so far.

The next big failure was my resolution to the Doomsday argument. [2] I'm not very good yet at conveying these kind of ideas, so I'm not sure it was entirely the fault of the Lesswrongers, but still. One of them of them insisted that I needed to explain how 'causality' could be violated; isn't that the whole point of acausal systems? My logic was sound, but he substituted abstractly intuitive concepts in place of them. I would think that there would be something in the Sequences about that.

The other posters were only marginally more helpful. Some of them challenged the self-sampling assumption, but then why even bother if the problem I'm trying to solve requires it to be true? In the end, not one person even seemed to consider the possibility that it might work. Even though it is a natural extrapolation from other ideas which are taken very very seriously by Lesswrong. Instead of discussing my resolution, they discussed the DA itself, or AI, or whatever they found more interesting.

Finally, we come to an absolutely terrifying idea I had a few days ago, which I naively assumed would catch the attention of any rational person. An extrapolation of Dust Theory [3] implied that you might die upon going to sleep, not immediately, but through degeneration, and that the person who wakes up in the morning is simply a different observer, who has an estimated lifespan of however long he remains awake. Rationally anyone should therefore sign up for cryonics and then kill themselves, forcing their measure to continue into post-Singularity worlds that no longer require him to sleep (not that I would have ever found the courage to do this). [4] In the moments when I considered it most plausible I gave it no more than a 10% chance of being true (although it would have been higher if I had taken Dust Theory for granted), and it still traumatized me in a way I've never experienced before. Always during my worst moments sleep came as a relief and escape. Now I cannot go to sleep. Only slightly less traumatizing was the idea that during sleep my mind declines enough to merge into other experiences and I awake into a world I would consider alien, with perfectly consistent memories.

My inquiries on different threads were almost completely ignored, so I eventually created my own. After twenty-four hours there were nine posts, and now there are twenty-two. All of them either completely miss the point (always not realizing this) or show complete ignorance about what Dust Theory is. The idea that this requires any level of urgency does not seem to have occurred to anyone. Finally, the second part of my question, which asked about the six-year-old post "getting over Dust Theory" was completely ignored, despite having ninety-five comments on it by people who seem to already understand it themselves.

I resolved both issues, but not to my own satisfaction: while I now consider the death outcome unlikely enough to dismiss, the reality-jumping still somewhat worries me. I now will not be able to go to sleep without fear for the next few months; maybe longer, and my mental and physical health will deteriorate. Professional help or a hotline is out of the question because I will not inflict these ideas on people who are not equipped to deal with them, and also because I regard psychologists as charlatans or, at best, practitioners of a deeply unhealthy field. The only option I have to resolve the issues is talking to someone who can discuss it rationally.

This post [5] by Eliezer, however unreliable he might be, convinced me that he might actually know what he is talking about (though I still don't know how Max Tegmark's rebuttal to quantum immortality is refuted, because it seems pretty airtight to me). More disappointing is Nick Bostrom's argument that mind-duplicates will experience two subjective experiences; he does not understand the idea of measure, i.e. that we exist in all universes that account for our experiences, but more in some than others. Still, I think there has to be someone out there who is capable of following my reasoning- all the more frustrating, because the more people misapprehend my ideas, the clearer and sharper they seem to me.

Who do I talk to? How do I contact them? I doubt that going around emailing these people will be effective, but something has to change. I can't go insane, as much as that would be a relief, and I can't simply ignore it. I need someone sane to talk to, and this isn't the place to find that.

Sorry if any of this comes off as ranting or incoherent. That's what happens when someone is pushed to all extremes and beyond. I am not planning on killing myself whatsoever and do not expect that to change. I just want help.

[1] http://lesswrong.com/lw/l0y/i_may_have_just_had_a_dangerous_thought/ (I don't think that the idea is threatening anymore, though.)

[2] http://lesswrong.com/lw/m8j/a_resolution_to_the_doomsday_argument/

[3] http://sciencefiction.com/2011/05/23/science-feature-dust-theory/

[4] http://lesswrong.com/lw/mgd/the_consequences_of_dust_theory/

[5] http://lesswrong.com/lw/few/if_mwi_is_correct_should_we_expect_to_experience/7sx3

(The insert-link button is greyed out, for whatever reason.)

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There is a pattern here, and part of it looks like this. You contemplate an idea X and it bothers you. You circulate your concerns among a number of people who are good at thinking and interested in ideas like X. None of them is bothered by it; none of them seems to see it the same way as you do. And, in every case, you conclude that all those people have failed to understand your idea.

Now, I think there are two kinds of explanation for this. First, we have (to put it crudely) the ones in which you are right and everyone else is wrong.

  • These ideas are so horrifying that almost everyone flinches away from them mentally before they can really engage with them. The other people you talk to about X might be able to understand it, but they won't.
  • You are super-abnormally good at understanding these things, and the other people you talk to about X simply don't have the cognitive horsepower to understand it.
  • X is really hard to express (in general, or for you in particular) and on these occasions you have not been successful. So, while the other people could have understood X, they haven't yet had it explained clearly enough.

And then we have (to put it crudely, again) the ones in which... (read more)

@gjm: Just wanted to say that this is well thought out and well written - it is what I would have tried to say (albeit perhaps less eloquently) if it hadn't been said already. I wish I had more than one up-vote to give. @Eitan_Zohar: I would urge you to give the ideas here more thought. Part of the point here is that from you are going to be strongly biased for thinking your explanations are of the first sort and not the second. By virtue of being human, you are almost certainly biased in certain predictable ways, this being one of them. Do you disagree? Let me ask you this: what would it take to make you change your mind; i.e. that the explanation for this pattern is one of the latter three reasons and not the former three reasons?
Thanks! One upvote per reader is plenty enough for me :-).
This is pretty much it, although I'm frustrated at the sheer lack of engagement. I didn't say that, I said that no one understood my specific argument and that a few just didn't understand Dust Theory.
I'm pretty sure I understand your specific argument regarding dust theory. I'm also pretty sure that the reason I'm not upset is because I require observables to actually care about things like that. You're worried about an idea/argument that has no backing evidence, makes no observable predictions, and is unfalsifiable - no matter how horrible it sounds, it isn't sane to fret over that sort of thing. Also, I would encourage you to spend some time on the concept of identity for yourself. Even if your idea/argument did have backing evidence, it wouldn't be horrible to me because I allow distributed identity.
I haven't seen you change your mind once in this entire thread.
I'm sorry, I've tried to be as open as possible to different forms of help.
From an outside view, I wouldn't take the time to offer my advice on this thread - I would feel that my advice would simply be shot down with the first objection that pops into your head. When I make a thread like this asking for help, the first thing I do is set a time to try out the best piece of advice I get, even if I think that all the advice is awful. Not only does it encourage people to help me in the future, but just maybe I'll find out through experimentation that my untested assumptions were wrong.

Another arm-chair diagnosis here. Clearly far-out ideas affect you more than other, equally (or more) intelligent people. This is almost certainly a flaw in how your brain functions, not an indication of the problem's severity. If it were, some of those smart people you contacted would consider it seriously. If you concede that this is a problem with your brain, then you should consult the experts on fixing the brain, not fixing the future.


I think what you're doing is something that in psychology is called "Catastrophizing". In essence you're taking a mere unproven conjecture or possibility, exaggerating the negative severity of the implications, and then reacting emotionally as if this worst case scenario were true or significantly more likely than it actually is.

The proper protocol then is to re-familiarize yourself with Bayes Theorem (especially the concepts of evidence and priors), compartmentalize things according to their uncertainty, and try to step back and look at your actual beliefs and how they make you feel.

Rationality is more than just recognizing that something could be true, but also assigning appropriate degrees of belief to ideas that have a wide range of certainties and probability. What I am seeing repeatedly from your posts about the "dangers" of certain ideas, is that your assigning far too much fear to things which other people aren't.

To use an overused quote: "Fear is the mindkiller."

Try to look at the consequences of these ideas as dispassionately as possible. You cannot control everything that happens to you, but you can, to an extent, control your response t... (read more)

No, I rated the death outcome as having a 10% chance of being true. But now I rate it much lower. This: Basically, the fact that we do it only a little bit accounts for our observations in ways that other cosmological theories can't. Er, you don't understand the problem. I was worried about my subjective self dying.
I suspect part of the issue here is that your concept of subjective self isn't constructed to be compatible with these kinds of thought experiments, or with the idea that reality may be forking and terminating all the time. I can say that because mine -is- compatible with such things, and as a result pretty much all of this category of problem doesn't even show up on my radar. Assuming I had a magical copying device that could copy my body at a sufficient accuracy, I could: * use the copier to create a copy of myself, and as the copy I could do the household chores then self destruct to free up resources without worrying about my 'self' dying. * use the copier to create a copy of myself, then as the original go do the chores/self destruct without worrying about my 'self' dying. * if there was a resource conflict which required the destruction of a copy, I could decide that I was the 'least important' copy and self terminate without worrying about my 'self' dying. When a person's sense of identity can do the above things, concerns about your dust scenario really don't even show up as relevant - it doesn't matter which timeline or state you end up in, so long as your self is active somewhere, you're good. How would you treat the above situations?
I wouldn't do it in the first place, since there's a fifty percent chance of me winding up doomed. But if the copy is already created than no, it would not be me dying. That is absolutely dying. Same thing for this.
That's what I figured. If anything, I'd say that this is your core issue, not dust theory. Your sense of subjective self just doesn't map well onto what it's actually possible to do, so of course you're going to get garbage results from time to time.
I guess I don't understand then? Care to explain what your "subjective self" actually is?

The next mistake was opening the door to solipsism and Brain-in-a-Vat arguments. This was so traumatic to me that I spent years in a manic depression.

Consider the possibility that the manic-depression was coincidental. When people have mental things happen for fundamentally biochemical reasons, they often misattribute them to the most plausible seeming non-biochemical cause they can think of. Exposure to ideas can exacerbate an existing problem, but it is unlikely that the lowest-hanging here has anything at all to do with the ideas themselves. Instead of looking at how you engage with stressful ideas, consider looking into other aspects of your life which might reduce your resilience.

With that said...

You started with a set of values and preferences and an ontology. When you encountered dust theory, you discovered that one of the definitions used to define your values - the notion of personal identity - wasn't fully coherent. You then tried to substitute a different definition in its place - an alternative notion of personal identity, which might not carry across a sleep/wake cycle. This alternate notion of identity is not the thing you care about. A small philosophically-minded portion of your brain has decided that it is what you care about, and is now in conflict with the other parts of your brain which don't accept the altered values. Listen to them; while those brain-parts aren't good at explaining things, they have knowledge and in this case they are right.

Replies to the comment you are now reading accurately describe my ideas so the original post has been replaced by this disclaimer to spare your time :)
How would the app know? You would need some sort of automatic system that scans every parking spot to see if there is a car currently in it.
How difficult would this be, out of curiosity, keeping in mind that you don't need 100% accuracy? I can think of a couple approaches, though probably nothing that would be supported by any revenue model I can think of off the top of my head.
or just crowdsource it :)
This is putting the cart before the horse. A crowdsourced app that requires user to report ACCURATELY which parking spots are free when will only work when it has a lot of users. But it can't get users unless it's a useful app.
Unless it's built upon existing platforms that map out where paid parking spots are so that users already benefit from a service from the app. Parking spot owners have an incentive tor report their spots to get parkers. Not to mention shopping centres and other business want to attract people to the area.
I have. It definitely isn't. It may have been exacerbated by biochemical causes, but it wasn't caused by them alone. (Sertraline did help me, just never as much as nullifying an existential problem.) So you accept the argument? I have no idea what you are trying to say, beyond "listen to your instincts because are more suited for the real world than your intellect."
The fact that taking drugs for your mental issues doesn't nullify your concerns about existential problems in no way implies that your worries about those problems don't come as a result of mental health issues.
Sure, but I can say that I wouldn't be depressed at all if not for those existential problems. I mean, I would be depressed but in a general, background sort of way.
You can say that and of course it seems true to you. It's just like it feels true to the schizophrenic that the CIA is out to get him and his paranoia is due to the CIA trying to get him and not due to the fact that he's a schizophrenic. Psychological research in general suggests that people are quite good at finding ways to rationalize their emotions. There a strong outside view, that suggests that rationalizations are usually not the root cause.
I've considered it at various points over the last seven years. I think I've justified it properly. The nature of outside views is that they are going to be wrong eventually.
Of course you do, as the pressures for internal mental consistency are very strong.
This isn't an argument, it's Descartes' demon.
Understanding mental biases and how our brain plays tricks on it is a core part of LW. It hasn't much to do with logical argument but with modern psychological research. It's no easy skill to notice when your emotions prevent you from clearly thinking about an issue. Saying "The nature of outside views is that they are going to be wrong eventually." is also very particular. If I'm testing gravity by repeating scientific experiments whereby I drop balls, I'm engaging in the outside view. Science is all about the outside view instead of subjective experience. When one is subject to a mental illnesses that generally is known to make on think irrationally about an issue, it's useful to not trust one's reasoning and instead seek help for the mental illness by trustworthy people. Bootstrapping trust isn't easy. There are valid reasons why you might not trust the average psychologists enough to trust his judgement over your own. The general approach is too find trustworthy in person friends. For LW type ideas, you find them at LW meetups. You likely don't want to pull all your information from people from a LW meetup but if your LW friends say that you are irrational about an issue, your mainstream psychologists tells you, you are irrational about the issue and other social contacts also tell you that you are irrational, no matter how strongly it feels like you are right, you should assume that you aren't right.
Well, I definitely know that my depression is causally tied to my existential pessimism. I just don't if it's the only factor, or if fixing something else will stop it for good. But as I said, I don't necessarily want to default to ape mode.
Out of curiosity, how do you know that this is the direction of the causal link? The experiences you have mentioned in the thread seem to also be consistent with depression causing you to get hung up on existential pessimism.
I go through long periods of peace, only to find my world completely shaken as I experience some fearful epiphany. And I've experienced a complete cessation of that feeling when it is decisively refuted.
Okay, but at best, this shows that the immediate cause of you being shaken and coming out of it is related to fearful epiphanies. Is it not plausible that the reason that, at a given time, you find particular idea horrific or are able to accept a solution as satisfying depending on your mental state? Consider this hypothetical narrative. Let Frank (name chosen at random) be a person suffering from occasional bouts of depression. When he is healthy, he notices an enjoys interacting with the world around him. When he is depressed, he instead focuses on real or imagined problems in his life - and in particular, how stressful his work is. When asked, Frank explains that his depression is caused by problems at work. He explains that when he gets assigned a particularly unpleasant project, his depression flares up. The depression doesn't clear up until things get easier. Frank explains that once he finishes a project and is assigned something else, his depression clears up (unless the new project is just as bad); or sometimes, through much struggle, he figure out how to make the project bearable, and that resolves the depression as well. Frank is genuine in expressing his feelings, and correct about work problems being correlated with his depression, but he is wrong about causation between the two. Do you find this story analogous to your situation? If not, why not?
I find it hard to believe. But maybe I've always been depressed and that's why I've suffered from them so badly.
I think he was trying to make a map-territory distinction. You have a mental model of how your brain computes value. You also have your brain, computing value however it actually computes value. Since our values are quite complex, and likely due to a number of different physical causes, it is reasonable to conclude that our mental model is at best an imperfect approximation. I don't think he's trying to say "listen to your heart" so much as "the map is not the territory, but both are inside your brain in this instance. Because of this, it is possible to follow the territory directly, rather than following your imperfect map of the territory." That said, we are now a couple meta-levels away from your original question. To bring things back around, I'd suggest that you try and keep in mind that any odd, extreme predictions your mental models make may be flaws in an oversimplified model, and not real existential disasters. In some cases, this may not seem to be the case given other pieces of evidence, but hopefully in other instances it helps. The greater the inferential distance you have to go to reach an uncomfortable conclusion, the higher the likelihood that there is a subtle logical flaw somewhere, or (much more common) some unknown-unknown that isn't even being taken into account. LessWrong tends to deal with highly abstract concepts many steps removed from observations and scientifically validated truths, so I suspect that a large fraction of such ideas will be discredited by new evidence. Consider shifting your probability estimates for such things down by an order of magnitude or more, if you have not already done so. (That last paragraph was an extremely compressed form of what should be a much larger discussion. This hits on a lot of key points, though.)
That does sound like reasonable advice... however I now have empirical evidence for Dust Theory. Still, most of the horrible problems in it seem to have been defused.
What is your empirical evidence for dust theory?
Point 2: http://lesswrong.com/lw/mgd/the_consequences_of_dust_theory/ck0q
That doesn't even remotely meet the bar for 'evidence' from my standpoint. At best, you could say that it's a tack-on to the original idea to make it match reality better. Put another way, it's not evidence that makes the idea more likely, it's an addition that increases the complexity yet still leaves you in a state where there are no observables to test or falsify anything. In common terms, that's called a 'net loss'.
Why do we dream? Because a large amount of conscious beings join the measure of beings who can. That's why we find ourselves as pre-singularity humans. I'd say that's empirical evidence.
Sorry, but evidence doesn't really work that way. Even if we allow it, it is exceptionally weak evidence, and not enough to distinguish 'dust theory' from any other of the countless ideas in that same category. Again, it looks to me like a tack-on to the original idea that is needed simply to make the idea compatible with existing evidence. As for why we dream, it's actually because of particles, forces, and biochemistry. A mundane explanation for a mundane process. No group hive mind of spirit energy or "measure of beings" required.
Dreaming is a very specific process that seems optimized to the scenario I described with DT. Do these other ideas predict the same? So you are saying that humans or humanlike minds are the most common type of consciousness that is mathematically possible?
"Dreaming is a very specific process that seems optimized to demonstrate the existence of a dream realm." "Dreaming is a very specific process that seems optimized to recharge the Earth Spirit that is Mother Gaia." "Dreaming is a very specific process by which Wyvren allows us to communicate with Legends." I have literally no idea how you could possibly draw that conclusion from the statement that dreaming has a mundane physics-based explanation. The two things aren't even remotely related.
Dust Theory is a coherent philosophical idea that has certain logical arguments to be made for it based off of our scientific knowledge of minds and quantum theory. No, they aren't. Of course dreaming has a mundane physics-based explanation; Dust Theory predicts that as well. We just find ourselves in a universe where dreaming exists.
Sertraline has insomnia listed as a very common (>10%) side effect. If you're currently on it, this is a more parsimonious explanation for your difficulty sleeping than your philosophical beliefs about how sleeping interacts with subjective experience.
I'm not on it. I don't have difficulty falling asleep, it's just traumatizing to get in bed.
What is likely is that the plausible cause was a cause too. The biochemistry pushes him close to the edge, and the "plausible cause" pushes him off.
Dust theory doesn't show anything to be incoherent, because it's only a theory. One cam take its unwelcome conclusions to be a reductio ad absurdum of its premises.
It's not a theory, it's not even a hypothesis - it's an idea. The bar for theory and hypothesis is far above what 'dust theory' can manage at this point.

I am going to perpetrate a little bit of the sin of amateur psychological diagnosis over the Internet. Sorry about that.

I'm not sure that the substance of the philosophical and cosmological concepts here is what is afflicting you. After all, many people engage with cosmological horror recreationally — see, for instance, the continued popularity of writers such as Lovecraft, Stross, Banks, or the "SCP Foundation" folks.

Exposure to weird cosmological horror does not cause most humans to freak out, at least not for very long. Most people more-or-less instinctively take Egan's Law into account ("it all adds up to normality") — to the extent that this Law is only needed as a reminder for people who don't automatically do so.

It sounds like you are having trouble disengaging from these ideas. So you might want to go seek treatment specifically for anxiety. This doesn't mean "stop thinking about these issues and thereby give up any possibility of coming up with good solutions to them"; it means "become able to stop thinking about these issues when it's getting loopy and unproductive, and get back to ape mode — and remember, ape mode is acceptable; we've b... (read more)

Yes, you're quite right, I even had a short panic attack from reading Sam Hughes' SCP fiction. It's just that ape mode isn't acceptable all the time. When it comes to very serious issues I don't think it's acceptable at all, no matter how much I suffer. Buddhism just seems like nihilism to me. Not that I know much about it. Anything you could recommend?
People who work on drugs to cure horrible diseases don't spend 24/7 in an airtight suit in the lab, dropping samples on the floor because their hands are shaking. They go home and watch football and play card games and go to the kids' school play and stuff. And maybe they dream about bacteria once in a while, and maybe some of that is upsetting and some of it is informative. But being unable to disengage from the Big Problems and live your little ordinary life is not heroism, and it actively gets in the way of solving any of those Big Problems. Find a meditation teacher and spend some time doing that. Practice > theory.
If they or their kids have the horrible disease? I think they'd react differently. Not my Big Problems; they get solved from doing just that. I'm going to have to disagree. I thought you were talking about philosophy when you mentioned "notions of personal identity and continuity, and whether this is an illusion."
How do you know? The question isn't whether obsessing fixes the problem; it's whether taking breaks speeds up the overall process. You don't need tons of hours to fix the problem; as you said earlier, a few minutes to explain the right insight is quite sufficient. What you actually need is the right few minutes of work, spent finding the right key insights. Thinking longer about a problem is only helpful to the degree it produces new insights. As you've found, this can be very inefficient. If taking a break and not worrying about an unsolved problem increases the efficiency of future problem-solving even a little bit, it could well be worth it.
Yes, there are various Buddhist writings about it. No, I'm not sure that any of them make much sense without actually doing the meditation. There are certain things which are stupidly obvious and okay from a meditative point of view — like "the self is an illusion" — that are either obviously false or incredibly scary from the kind of point of view you're expressing. I am not an expert in Buddhist practice, though,, and not qualified to provide much advice. I would note that serious current Buddhist writers such as Daniel Ingram make it very clear that people should deal with big psychological and emotional problems before engaging in heavy meditation.

I think what you need to realize is that it is not a question of proving that all of those things are false, but rather that it makes no difference whether they are or not. For example when you go to sleep and wake up it feels just the same whether it is still you or a different person, so it doesn't matter at all.

Also, you're changing all the time anyway, even when you're awake. You have experiences, you learn things, you accumulate memories; all things that change you.

I think there should be a discussion about the more general idea of "needing a protocol for discussing dangerous or disconcerting ideas" in addition to the discussion of this specific circumstance.

If you are concerned about an idea driving you insane, the best way to deal with it is to speak in person with friends who can navigate the surrounding meme space. In the LW memespace you find those people in LW meetups. Skype call can also work but my ability to affect the emotions of a person when I'm not physically present is significantly limited. It's a lot better than text but still leaves something to be desired.

I think that I understand your feelings. I had the same periods of existential fear about most of the things that you had. Two of them I discussed in the post about AI failures levels which didn't got any comments to my surprise.

But it is also possible to have existential euphoria. First one I got than proved for my self the idea of quantum immortality. Second is that than I understood that I will become a god in my own branch of the universe. The last needs more complex explanation, which I would omit for now.

But as I became older I got less and less fe... (read more)

I'd be interested to hear about both of these.

Today's blog post by Yvain starts:

Anxiety disorders are the most common class of psychiatric disorders. Their US prevalence is about 20%. They’re also among the least recognized and least treated...

Also, they are incredibly treatable. And on the irrationality scale, not fixing a debilitating problem that is very fixable ranks pretty high.

the idea that during sleep my mind declines enough to merge into other experiences and I awake into a world I would consider alien, with perfectly consistent memories.

An entity with self-consistent memories is astronomically more likely to be found in a world which matches those memories, than in some mismatched world. The latter has a complexity penalty equal to all the extra mismatched complexity.

That depends on the set of worlds and the measure used. For instance, some models predict that almost all minds will be Boltzmann brains that are uncorrelated with their environment beyond a small local bubble. We can't falsify these models directly; we just have to assume they're wrong to be able to use the past to predict the future.
Under what assumptions?
Yes, I'm saying that memories aren't accessed while you sleep. Don't know to what extent. I always did exist in this world, but I'm also made of many other Eitans from slightly different worlds whose experience of sleeping was identical to mine. I'm just worried about the scale of difference.

Finally, we come to an absolutely terrifying idea I had a few days ago, which I naively assumed would catch the attention of any rational person. An extrapolation of Dust Theory [3] implied that you might die upon going to sleep, not immediately, but through degeneration, and that the person who wakes up in the morning is simply a different observer, who has an estimated lifespan of however long he remains awake. Rationally anyone should therefore sign up for cryonics and then kill themselves, forcing their measure to continue into post-Singularity worlds

... (read more)
Sorry, but I often can't expend a lot of energy in the middle of a panic attack. That's why I go on sites where many people already are familiar with the premises.
It's the panic attack, not the premises, that's the problem. Lots of people spend time thinking about metaphysics and cosmology without making themselves sick. Thing is, it sounds like the System 2 beliefs are justifying and protecting System 1 dysfunction. ("I should feel crappy, because the conditions of conscious existence are so fucked up.") From what I can tell, people who have been in this kind of situation and have successfully gotten out of it have done so by fixing the System 1 situation — the reaction of panic, anguish, and despair — and not by adopting new System 2 beliefs. Things that reportedly help include guided meditation, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and guided use of various psychoactive drugs (ranging from antidepressants, anxiolytics, to various psychedelics in a therapeutic context, not in the wild). In other words, this is probably not the sort of thing that can be fixed by reading the right philosophy or the right post on the web. Although it might disappoint Hermione Granger, reading the right book is not the solution to every problem. Rather, it is probably the sort of thing that requires the personal guidance of an experienced person in fixing the System 1 reactions that are causing you pain.
I don't know who to talk to, in this case.
A good shrink. Serious suggestion, not a status attack. I sympathize, and wish you well.
I remark that Scott Alexander (= Yvain) is (1) a top LW contributor and (2) training to be a psychiatrist.

My logic was sound, but he substituted abstractly intuitive concepts in place of them.

Sound logic doesn't help when you start of with bad assumptions.

One of them of them insisted that I needed to explain how 'causality' could be violated; isn't that the whole point of acausal systems?

No, it isn't. The fact that the word acausal exists on LW, doesn't mean that those people who use it don't believe in causality. It's used when speaking about agents that use a specific decision theory.

You furthermore simply pointed at arguments without being explicit... (read more)

Which I didn't. Yes, and my idea(s) work the same way! I don't know what acausality is formally but I've seen how it is used in other LW ideas and I'm pretty sure that it applies. "You have to prove causality wrong" seems to be a similar line of thinking. And when was I not completely explicit about my reasoning? Point that out for me please. I'm open to that, but I find it almost impossible to clarify thoughts outside of writing.
"I'm pretty sure that it applies" is no argument. You didn't make the argument for which you believe that's true. You just asserted it to be true. If you would have actually made the argument your post would have been longer than a paragraph and not simple referred to cached thoughts about acausal reasoning. It's similar to the extend that it's no detailed argument. It a statement that asserts that you have the burden of proof for the thesis you make instead of other people having to prove you wrong. If you care about your mental health than it's useful to demand from people who think they have found away around causality to provide extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims but not treat the idea that the world runs in a causal fashion as an extraordinary claim. I didn't clarify thoughts in writing either. http://lesswrong.com/lw/m8j/a_resolution_to_the_doomsday_argument/ is not clear writing. In person another person can actually show you easily where you are unclear. The can actually interact with the emotion which you ignore when you are writing. Depending on their skill level they can then debug your emotional issues. There are emotionally ugh-fields that prevent you from seeing issues that prove you wrong when you sit alone in front of your computer. You need real world feedback with humans to show you where you are confused. If you would actually think clearly about the issue you wouldn't have any trouble with in person discussions of it. It's the only way to stay sane when thinking about an issue like that and your mind blinds you from going down certain paths.
Which post was this? The solution to the DA? I don't understand causality scientifically. It's like asking an evolutionary biologist to demonstrate exactly how his theory overcomes the 2nd law of thermodynamics. I've always been bad at initial presentations. It gets better after observing where people go wrong.
It certainly applies to the post about the solution to DA. A smart evolutionary biologist won't draw a blank when you ask him the question. He will tell you that the sun provides earth with entropy that allows life to blossom. If you think that you yourself don't understand causality scientifically you shouldn't make complex nonintuitive claims about the nature of causality.
negentropy. Or energy (the Second Law doesn't apply to a system with energy flowing into it).
I don't recall saying a single word about acausality. I put forward my logic. Sure, but I don't claim to be an expert in anything. I just had an idea that seemed sound.
You didn't list all the assumption you make. You didn't explain a causal chain of how what you are proposing will lead to the effects that you desire. If you would have the post would be longer than a paragraph as any LW post introducing a substantial new concept is. You expressed an idea and the idea felt sound for you but you didn't go into a deep argument for it.

Let X be something bad. If X is true it is something you and nearly every other person should rightly fear. If, however, no one but you fears X than either (1) you are mistaken, or (2) you have some special information or insight that everyone else lacks. Logically, it's almost certainly (1). So if you fear X but Eliezer, Bostrom, and Hanson don't appear to, take comfort from their lack of fear even if you don't understand it.

2Adam Zerner
I'm glad you qualify this with "appear to". At some point the thought occurred to me that it isn't always in their strategic interest to publicize everything, or even to be honest about everything they think. Previously I just assumed that they'd always be honest, and I sense that other people might be (unconsciously?) making the same assumption. I don't understand X well enough at all to speak to this particular situation though. I guess I'm just glad you acknowledge the possibility. That could be difficult to do. It shouldn't be that difficult to update ones confidence given the beliefs of these smart people, but updating your confidence and updating your comfort levels unfortunately are different things. I'm not sure how linked they are in this situation though.

Thank you for all the responses. I'm trying to contact Yudkowsky, does anyone know if how often he responds to his email? Or does the email address given here still work?

Anecdote: I haven't received a PM reply from him since 2013.

Like many people I felt compelled to distinguish myself by solving your problem while playing by your rules (rules which aren't completely clear). But after all ... and I guess I should offer an apology if this doesn't help, but, why should any of that change anything? Picture someone who for his whole life thought he had free will, then discovered that the universe is deterministic, with all that entails about ideas like "free will" as normal people envision it. This sounds pretty similar to your situation. You discovered that you may at any poi... (read more)

Apology accepted.

I have a talent for reasoning my way into terrifying and harmful conclusions.

I often worked through them myself, always by refuting the horrible consequences of them to my own satisfaction

This is a good start. Assemble your data.

Catalogue the terrifying conclusions which have troubled you, and record the life cycle of each.

Currently still terrified? If not, how was the terror resolved? How long after the thought first terrified you until the terror was resolved?

Stop reasoning and take data. Often patterns becomes obvious once data is tidily assembled... (read more)

They are arbitrary. Some lasted years, some lasted days.

Come to think of your thought process as an accumulation of information layers on top of each other, it should not be surprising to see the introduction of a possibly devastating new thought threatening the foundations of your thinking process being counter-productive, or depressive. I am speaking of my personal experience with solipsism, which did not come from exposure but personal self-destructive thought process; I've looked it up to find out about solipsism later on. The introduction of these ideas at your pace, as you've experienced yourself, is very... (read more)

I have the exact same problem. It's nice to know I'm not alone. I've been scared to mention my fears on lesswrong because I didn't think anyone would understand.

I'm mainly concerned about many worlds interpretation being true. I don't take dust theory seriously. Unless I understand it wrongly, it removes causation and just assumes the information itself is what is important. I really recommend you read Causal Universes. It's one of my favorite Lesswrong posts.

I also think dust theory leads to absurd and obviously wrong conclusions. Like how do interpret so... (read more)

Similar thoughts about MWI here as well, it's a scary idea that hopefully is unnecessarily complex.
I actually feel worst right after waking up. Is this the same for you? I'm not sure that's true. Why does it remove causality? It removes the 'physical' aspect of causality, but as far as I can see not much else. I think this needs some explaining.
Just lying in bed alone with nothing but my own thoughts to distract me was the problem. But darkness makes it worse. And you have to lie still to get the sleep, but if I'm having anxiety in the morning I can just get up and find something to distract me. Possibly I need to understand dust theory more to really debate you about it. Do you have another link? It's hard to argue against because I don't really find the idea coherent to begin with. Recording someone's brain state and then replaying it doesn't instantiate any consciousness. The causal link between the brain states has already happened. Deleting some of the frames, or tampering with them, or copying them billions of times, doesn't change anything. The chain of causation of one brain state causing another brain state has already happened. Everything else is just like a static captured image of that moment in time. I'm talking about the arrow of time itself. Why do events in the past seem to cause things in the future and never the other way around? Causation is important for consciousness. One brain state actually causes the next brain state. Just a recording of brain states doesn't cause any further brain states. As for interpretation. Pi contains every possible sequence of digits possible. You can interpret them as brain states or jpg images or whatever you want. There is no meaning to it though. It's just a sequence of digits.
Why? It seems like it would definitely instantiate consciousness, if you believe that two identical brain states would have separate phenomenological experiences. Or it would simply merge with the original brainstate, if you accept Dust Theory. Not subjectively, but it would continue 'on' in the Dust. Yes, and the causal universe we live in can be represented by the Dust. The possible configurations of the Game of Life are 'real' even if there is no Game of Life being implemented physically. All interpretations are realized under Dust Theory.
Causal universes are represented, true. But so are countless non causal universes. Causality is a very specific constraint on possible universes. If it's not required then the vast majority of universes should be non-causal, simply because the space of non-causal mathematical structures is much much larger than the space of structures which happen to meet the causality restriction just by chance. So it's really weird that we just happen to find ourselves in a causal universe, if it's not required. See the link I posted for a better argument about this. But to even talk about that, I have to consider Dust Theory as an actual theory. If it's a theory then what predictions does it make? How does it constrain our expectations? It doesn't seem to add anything to my model of the world. Under what distribution? Are 50% of interpretations jpg images, or only 0.0000...001%? What does it even mean for an interpretation to be "realized"? Some unspecified observer looks at a sequence of bits and says "this is a a brain state experiencing X". Who is the observer? What does it matter how they interpret it? This idea doesn't seem remotely coherent to me so I'm struggling to find the words to even object to it. I just don't accept this premise. A record of a brain state isn't an experience. It's just a series of bits that was caused by an actual running brain. I just don't accept that a static non-causal series of bits has any moral weight, let alone is "me". It doesn't do anything. It isn't connected to anything. It doesn't mean anything. It just "exists". It's not doing computation. It's not doing anything. A lookup table can't be conscious. (There is a descent amount of material on lesswrong about lookup tables and philosophical zombies. If you can't find anyone to discuss dust theory with you.) If you take that recorded brain state you can modify it. You can xor all the bits, or hash them, or treat it as a number and divide it by 20, or pad it with random bits, etc... T
Hmm, OK, my belief in DT is pretty well shaken. Still, take the problem of the physical world. There's a large philosophical question of 'what' is actually out there; or if such a question is answerable even in principle (basically we're talking about the thing-in-itself). A Dust multiverse sidesteps this completely- if you go down far enough, you'll just get some mathematical laws, akin to those found in the Game of Life, which produce our universe. Isn't that at least parsimonious? (You still have the problem of what mathematics is fundamentally, but it's a separate issue from the physical.) Meant to answer this and forgot. You're right that distractions always help, but often I go from hopeless to completely optimistic in minutes, for no apparent reason at all. Is this a neurological phenomenon?
I get the feeling you guys should read up on timeless qm, which basically avoids all of these problems and questions by treating reality as a static 'crystal' of related events with no time component. If you're going to be talking about stuff near the floor, you might as well go all the way instead of using inaccurate hacks.

An extrapolation of Dust Theory [3] implied that you might die upon going to sleep, not immediately, but through degeneration, and that the person who wakes up in the morning is simply a different observer, who has an estimated lifespan of however long he remains awake.

If that were true, wouldn't a lot of people be dying in their sleep so that we'd be seeing their corpses?

Is this facetious?
No. Your line of thought started with people in general dying slowly as they go to sleep. Wouldn't this suggest that some of them should die (leaving a corpse) before they wake up? Maybe I've missed something, but I think your argument implies that we would have to be in the extremely rare universe where everyone appears to have survived in spite of death during sleep being the default? Or did you mean that the person (in the sense of continuity of consciousness) dies during sleep, but the body doesn't die?
The latter.
So the body that gets left behind, is it a p-zombie? If not, why not?
No, it continues on normally somewhere else in the Dust.

You are talking about rationality and about fear. Your protocol could have several independent layers. You seems to think that your ideas produce your fear, but it could be also opposite. Your fear could produce your ideas (and it is definitely very probable that fear has impact on your ideas (at least on contents)). So you could analyze rational questions on lesswrong and independently solve your irrational part (=fear etc) with terapeuts. There could be physical or chemical reasons why you are concerning more than other people. Your protocol for dangerou... (read more)

What sort of therapy would work for me? Ruminating is probably the main cause of it. Now that I've refuted my current fears, I find that I can't wrench the quantum world out of my head. Everything I feel is now tainted by DT.
I am not expert. And it has to be based on facts about your neurosystem. So you could start with several experiments (blod tests etc). You could change diet, sleep more etc. About rationality and lesswrong -> could you focus your fears to one thing? For example forgot quantum world and focus to superintelligence? I mean could you utilize the power you have in your brain?
Heh, no. I can't direct it.
You've mentioned you have a history of inventing arguments with disturbing implications. Have you ever tried to intentionally invent an argument with reassuring implications?
It's never intentional for me. They just click into place one day and drive me into a frenzy.
The disturbing arguments might be accidents, but maybe you could create reassuring arguments on purpose? Why let bias or coincidence alone determine the outcome of your reasoning processes, when you can aim towards strategic targets instead?
Like what? Most of my targets are the already-existing crises, and it is completely arbitrary how long it takes to find a solution.
I would suggest Taoism, Buddhism, and Stoicism as potentially useful avenues of thought for you to pursue.

The next big failure was my resolution to the Doomsday argument.

Are you aware of the self-indication assumption.

I'm aware that it is nonsense, and I also think it is off-topic. I wasn't discussing the DA, I was discussing the possibility of my solution given the DA being true. What use would I have to rehash other arguments?


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Why think about these sorts of things?

Personally, death really messes with my mind, and I try not to think about it (and related bad things) in the short-mid term. I don't see that I'm in a position to do much to avoid death/related bad things right now, and so I don't see that there's much benefit to thinking about it right now. The cost to me is that it makes me mildly unhappy and risks moments of extreme unhappiness.

You remind me of this guy.

Do you have a link to Max Tegmark's rebuttal? What I've read so far seemed like a confused dodge.

That doesn't seem very air tight. There is still a world where a "you" survives or avoids all forms of degradation. It doesn't matter if it's non-binary. There are worlds were you never crossed the street without looking and very, very, very, very improbable worlds where you heal progressively. It's probably not pleasant but it is immortality.
How would I contact a version of me in another branch? It isn't me at all anymore. You can receive and experience permanent brain damage, so why would a death experience be any different? And what about sleep? If this was true it seems like you wouldn't be able to let go of any of your mental faculties at all.
There will be a "thread" of subjective experience that identifies with the state of you now no matter what insult or degeneration you experience. I assumed you were pro-teleporter. If you're not why are you even worried about dust theory?
What is 'me?' I'm not an ontologically basic thing. As long as it is a process, I don't see why I wouldn't just die.
The branches wherein you die are effectively discounted, because there is no future you who will remember your current self. The same applies to lesser degree to branches where you suffer brain/memory damage, to varying partial degree. The problem with the whole QM suicide/immortality is that it assumes that we shouldn't care about measure, and we shouldn't care at all about universes that lack ourselves as future observers. Both of these notions are probably wrong from the perspective of normal human utility functions.
Why? What is so irreducible about my memories?
Well think through an example: imagine the future world where 'your' brain contains someone else's memories and personality tomorrow instead of your own. Compare that to the future world where your body contains someone else's skin pattern on the right arm ( a similar amount of physical matter/information replacement). In the first world 'you' (the bio software mind I am currently speaking to) ceases to exist, whereas in the second world 'you' remains.
I don't understand. I'm asking about irreducibility.
I don't understand then - what do you mean by irreducibility of memories?
I mean it is required for quantum immortality. Other than reducing their destruction to an binary event, how can they continue on?
Still don't understand your point/question - what do you mean by "reducing destruction to a binary event"?. Earlier I mentioned that destruction/survival isn't binary at all. The idea is that there is always some branches in which a version of yourself survives. Survival is not binary, there are different degrees of 'survival'.
Yes, there are always some branches. But you can only follow one at a time. If you are in a branch in which your skull is being crushed, you are not likely to jump to a branch where you are totally fine.
There always exists some tiny subset of branches where you survive. BTW, I don't completely buy the argument - as I mentioned earlier, measure is important and it works out to normality of probability. If my skull is being crushed, most of the branches past that point don't contain me. I care about the whole set, so the fact that I always survive in some tiny rare branches is not much of a consolation.
I'm with Yvain on measure, I just can't bring myself to care.
Relative measure matters, but its equivalent to probability and thus adds up to normality.

I'm pretty much immune to infinity angst. PM the "dust theory" problem to me. I'm curious how it could be worse psychologically than modal realism, as AFAICT dust theory implies that all subjective experiences exist, so I'm unsure how it could differ in terms of psychological impact.

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