Follow-up to: Gears in Understanding, Fake Frameworks

This last September, I experienced enlightenment.

I mean to share this as a simple fact to set context. I don’t claim I am enlightened, as though I have some amazing property that makes me better than people who don’t have it. I mean simply that there’s something vaguely like a state that our culture calls “enlightenment” that I’ve been in and have returned to a few times over the last four months. In Rinzai Zen one would say that I had a kenshō: a moment of understanding that makes the path clear but is not yet full attainment.

Over the last several months I’ve tried to share what I now see so clearly. And this has mostly just failed. People who’ve had a kenshō follow what I’m saying just fine, but most people just get really confused. It feels a bit like being one of the only people around who understand scientific thinking: most people can see that the behavior of a gyroscope is weird when you show them, but most can’t really see its behavior through the lens of scientific epistemology. They just keep translating what you’re saying into e.g. isolated facts.

This is particularly vexing in the case of kenshō because enlightenment isn’t an insight. I claim it’s not a matter of inferential distance. It’s more like bothering to notice what you already know. When the moment of seeing struck me, I fell over laughing and basically didn’t stop laughing for two days, because it was so incredibly stunningly obvious. There isn’t something to learn: it’s already always here.

And what is “it”, you might ask? Well, I would honestly love to be able to tell you. But apparently my saying it doesn’t convey it hardly at all, unless you’ve already seen it for yourself.

(And yes, there’s most definitely an “it”. This isn’t just brains getting flooded with feeling-of-profundity without an object. And it totally makes sense that some people think that. Just… from this vantage point, those objections come across a bit like people arguing that science is just another religion. Or more to the point, it’s like trying to convince me that I have no subjective experience: no matter how cunning and logical and well-researched the argument, I’m still here listening to you.)

With all that said, I think I can share something one meta-level up. I think the reason it’s hard to convey enlightenment in words can itself be conveyed with words. And I think doing so illustrates something important about epistemology. And with some luck, this might give me a way of pointing at what enlightenment is, in a way that can land.

So, that’s what I’ll aim to do here.

First, a parable.

Imagine you’re in a world where people have literally forgotten how to look up from their cell phones. They use maps and camera functions to navigate, and they use chat programs to communicate with one another. They’re so focused on their phones that they don’t notice most stimuli coming in by other means.

Somehow, by a miracle we’ll just inject mysteriously into this thought experiment, you look up, and suddenly you remember that you can actually just see the world directly. You realize you had forgotten you were holding a cell phone.

In your excitement, you try texting your friend Alex:

YOU: Hey! Look up!
ALEX: Hi! Look up what?
YOU: No, I mean, you’re holding a cell phone. Look up from it!
ALEX: Yeah, I know I have a cell phone.
ALEX: <alex_cell_phone.jpg>
ALEX: If I look up from my phone, I just see our conversation.
YOU: No, that’s a picture of your cell phone. You’re still looking at the phone.
YOU: Seriously, try looking up!
ALEX: Okay…
ALEX: *looks up*
YOU: No, you just typed the characters “*looks up*”. Use your eyes!
ALEX: Um… I AM using my eyes. How else could I read this?
YOU: Exactly! Look above the text!
ALEX: Above the text is just the menu for the chat program.
YOU: Look above that!
ALEX: There isn’t anything above that. That’s the top.
ALEX: Are you okay?

You now realize you have a perplexing challenge made of two apparent facts.

First, Alex doesn’t have a place in their mind where the idea of “look up” can land in the way you intend. They are going to keep misunderstanding you.

Second, your only familiar way of interacting with Alex is through text, which seems to require somehow explaining what you mean.

But it’s so obvious! How can it be this hard to convey? And clearly some part of Alex already knows it and they just forgot like you had; otherwise they wouldn’t be able to walk around and use their phone. Maybe you can find some way of describing it to Alex that will help them notice that they already know…?

Or… maybe if you rendezvous with them, you can somehow figure out how to reach forward and just pull their head up? But you’re not sure you can do that; you’ve never used your hands that way before. And you might hurt them. And it seems kind of violating to try.

So, now what?

Here’s one way I used to try to convey part of the “it” from my kenshō:

“I’m okay. You’re okay. Everything is fundamentally okay. Whatever happens, it will be fine and good. Even our worry and pain is okay. There is something deeply sad about someone dyingand their death is okay. Obliteration of humanity would be tragic, but the universe will go on, and it’s okay.”

After several attempts at this, I gathered that many (but not all) folk were translating what I was saying into one of two categories:

  • Some thought I was saying that nothing matters and that all outcomes are equally good.
  • Some thought I was claiming that you’ll feel good no matter what if you’re enlightened.

And… nope. Not even close.

But it makes sense that so many people had those interpretations. I mean, what else are they going to think when I say “it’s okay”?

The thing is, I don’t mean “it’s okay” as something to think. I mean it more like an instruction, like “look up” in the cell phone parable. Trying to understand the meaning is analogous to Alex posting a photo of their phone and then scrolling above it in the text chat.

Another way I could try to say the “it’s okay” thing is something like, “The world is real in your immediate experience before you think about it. Set aside your interpretations and just look.” The trouble is, most people’s thinking system can grab statements like this and try to interpret them: if you think something like “Oh, that’s the map/territory distinction”, then all I can say is you are still looking at your phone.

It seems that most people do not have the type of conceptual Gears needed to intellectually understand what enlightenment is about. But instead of hitting a “this falls outside the current system” alarm, their minds grab the most fitting conceptual bucket they have to what they heard and plop it in there. This creates an impression of understanding that actually blocks the ability to understand.

This is why zen sometimes uses koans. A koan is meant to give the student’s mind something to chew on that it cannot understand intellectually. The hope is that at some point the conceiving mind will jam, the student will see “it”, and then they’ll have the raw data they need for their mind to start building the new type of Gear. That’s kenshō.

…which makes it kind of frustrating when rationalists are so pleased with themselves for dissolving koans. Yes, very good, you figured out how to download a few apps that prevent me or others from easily sending you messages that jam your cell phone. And that’s good and worthwhile. But you are still looking at your phone. And now you’ve removed one way you can be directly shown this fact.

At this point I’ll try to say the meta-level thing plainly:

There is a skill, analogous to “looking up”, which one will almost certainly misunderstand if we use normal words or concepts for it. I need a handle for it, though, so I’m going to call it “Looking” with a capital “L”.

(And yes, it’s conceptually related to Seeing With Fresh Eyes. But if you think it is Seeing With Fresh Eyes, you will miss the point, because you’ll be attaching what I’m saying to ideas you’re familiar with instead of Looking. And if you object based on the claim that that’s what Seeing With Fresh Eyes is about… then please reread the previous sentence.)

As far as I can tell, you need this skill in order to bypass a particular kind of epistemic trap, where your methods of gathering information preclude the ability to get an entire dimension of data type. It’s an ontological version of confirmation bias.

Once you have any meaningful grasp of how to Look, you can use it to see things that prompt novel Gears in your understanding of the world. A lot of things that previously sounded kind of mystical or incoherent will suddenly change meaning and be made of obviousness to you. And some of them really, really, really, really matter.

Seeing these things will probably transform you, although it usually seems to feel more like realizing who you have always been and what has always mattered most to you. Your reflective priorities rearrange, you start caring in a different and deeper way, and most of the things you had previously been so stressed or concerned about stop mattering. You actually start to get what’s at stake and what’s worth doing.

And then you, too, can experience the hilarious frustration of trying to get others to Look.

So, how does one learn how to Look?

Well, that’s a damn good question. And people with varying degrees of enlightenment have been trying to answer it for literally thousands of years.

So, rather than pretending I have some great novel algorithm for this, I’ll add three notes that I hope will be helpful here.

First, for rationalists in particular, I think skill with switching freely between frameworks is really useful. That is not at all the same thing as Looking, but it sort of stretches a thing I usually find is rigid in rationalists in a way that blocks their ability to Look. If you’re always interpreting everything through Bayesian updating or decision theory or epistemic hygiene or whatever, you’re always interpreting, regardless of the validity of which tools you’re using. I claim that being able to put those tools down for a second is actually really helpful — and, I claim, it can help contextualize where those tools are actually useful.

Second, one clear thing I noticed when I first intentionally Looked is that everyone has bodhicitta. There’s an important way in which everyone is already enlightened, and “enlightenment” is simply a moment of someone remembering this fact about themselves. This is why people know to build beautiful monuments to honor lost loved ones, and to be respectful while in them, across vast cultural and religious belief differences. We already know. This is the “already know” of that small quiet part of us that nudges us to notice that we’re wrong while in a fight with a loved one. The skill of Looking is closely related to the skill of pausing our usual habit patterns and actually paying attention to our quiet, clear sense of knowing.

Third, my kenshō was deliberately induced. I think I understand the mechanisms behind how, and I believe I can convey them in a usable way. I plan to do so in an upcoming post.

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It is occasionally said to me,

"Have you considered meditation and buddhism? Enlightenment is really powerful."

This feels similar to saying

"Have you considered giving up a massive resource - one of your scarce slots for a life-long habit, a daily time-sink with week-long retreats - to Buddhist meditation? It supposedly makes you feel funny at the end, as though you've had a major epistemological insight (but you aren't able to produce corresponding output as a result)."

Given the amount of people offering me something like the above, my background skepticism is very high.

The thing that will most cause me to believe that kenshŌ is valuable for epistemology, will be some examples of things you have managed to do better as a result. If, for example, you wrote sequence of recognisably useful insights unrelated to enlightenment (example), and then afterwards told me that it was due to your having felt enlightenment, I'd consider that interesting evidence. But I do predict that I find your subsequent post not much evidence either way.

I will mention that I have some notion of a thing you might be pointing towards: I've experienced ontological updat... (read more)

Bemused exasperation here. I'm grinning as I write this. I wondered if this post would produce this kind of effect… and I hoped not, but it's not unexpected!

The thing that will most cause me to believe that kenshŌ is valuable for epistemology, will be some examples of things you have managed to do better as a result.

I'm not advocating trying for kenshō. You can't try for it in any useful way. That's not how it works. I honestly don't care whether I persuade anyone of its value, because it does not matter whether you try for it. Or rather, if it does matter, it does so by making you obsessed in a way that can actually block the seeing. So, there isn't really any good benefit to fighting with your analysis to try to persuade you of its value. That's all on you!

And I imagine that's frustrating. And I do apologize; I'm really not trying to be frustrating or vague here. It's just… well, see the entire opening post!

But to steelman your… hmm, mix of a request and a challenge: I receive you as wanting either for me to give you concrete things learning how to Look has done for me, or to admit I can't and retract the value of what I... (read more)

I'm not advocating trying for kenshō.

I don't have any particularly good ideas for what an alternative goal of this post could be, and would be interested in more elaboration on that. It definitely seems to me that the goal of the post is to teach something, and as is usually required for teaching, to motivate why the thing you are teaching is important. If this post is only for people who are already motivated to learn about the things you describe, then that's fine, but I did not get that sense from the way it was written.

I was attempting to illustrate an epistemic puzzle, and that there is a known solution, but it is hard to tell people what it is, which is itself part of the puzzle. It seems many folk are getting caught up in the puzzle instead of zooming out to the meta-level. Which is probably my fault: I still suspect there's a way I could aim my explanation at the meta-level that would bypass this confusion. But instead, we're myred in the confusion. Which is okay; I'm learning, and this whole set of comment threads is doing a beautiful job of illustrating the phenomena I was talking about! If nothing else I'll be able to use all this to clarify something useful later.

Upon reflection, I think maybe I can spell out the logic of what I was trying to focus on a little more clearly.

There’s this thing, ``flibble’’, that is super hard to understand. Some people come to understand it and can then talk to each other about it. But they can’t explain flibble to pre-understanding folk. There’s some kind of process that’s basically unrelated to the attempts to explain flibble that lets people suddenly get flibble.

It really doesn’t matter what flibble is. The curious thing from an epistemic point of view (to me) is that there seems to be a skill to getting flibble. It looks like it’s a very general “get my ontology to update when I have no damn clue beforehand what the update is” skill. That seems damn useful.

The problem is, that skill is just as subject to non-understandability as flibble is. Which means you need the skill to some extent in order to bootstrap.

I do not care what flibble is. I’m not trying to convince anyone of the value of flibble. I’m trying to point at this puzzle and note that it suggests a really huge goddamn hole in epistemology as we normally talk about it.

It just so happens that flibble, when properly understood, is exactly... (read more)

I want to address this response, because it fits a pattern I’ve seen a few times, which I think is an important aspect of this discussion. Here’s the pattern:

Example 1

“I’ve invented a fascinating new baking technique! With it, I have baked an amazing new cake!”

“An amazing new cake?! Sounds delicious! Could we have a taste?”

“No, I don’t want to talk about the cake, I want to talk about the baking technique.”

Example 2

“I’ve invented an amazing new programming technique! With it, I have developed an awesome new app!”

“An awesome new app?! Sounds cool! Where can we download it?”

“No, I don’t want to talk about the app, I want to talk about the programming technique.”

Example 3

“I’ve come up with a whole new way to write fiction! With it, I have written an incredible novel!”

“An incredible novel?! Sounds wonderful! Could we read it?”

“No, I don’t want to talk about the novel, I want to talk about the new writing method.”

But the only reason we might possibly care about your new baking technique is if it lets us bake amazing cakes. The only reason we might possibly want to hear about your amazing new programming technique is if let us make cool apps. And the only reason we might have to ... (read more)

I do think there are things in this general topic area that are worth understanding, but the original post and most of the comments have been pretty useless to anyone trying to understand who doesn't already. Some could even be seen as taunting people over their lack of understanding, which be perfectly frank, I find obnoxious. So I'll try to give a quick overview of how I understand this while hopefully avoiding those pitfalls.

Take something like learning to wiggle your ears, raise one eyebrow at a time, or whistle. These can't be explained in words, but words and other stimuli can make it more likely that you'll stumble onto the correct action. Innate aptitude is probably a factor, too.

If you think of your current level of happiness or euphoria (to pick a simple example) as the output of a function with various inputs, some of these inputs can be changed through voluntarily mental actions that similarly can't be directly explained in words and aren't obvious. Things like meditating long enough with correct technique can cause people to stumble across the way to do this. Some of the inputs can be changed about as easily as wiggling your ears, while others can be much more difficul... (read more)

This is one of the most useful comments in this thread; there’s not much to say in response to most of it, except “that makes a lot of sense, thank you”. So instead, here’s some commentary to a part of this that I object to:

Take something like learning to wiggle your ears, raise one eyebrow at a time, or whistle. These can’t be explained in words, but words and other stimuli can make it more likely that you’ll stumble onto the correct action.

You may not be able to explain how to do these things in words. But you can certainly explain in words what these things are (for one of them, you just did)! And certainly, if you wiggle your ears, raise one eyebrow, or whistle, that you are doing something unusual (and what you are doing) will be blindingly obvious, without you even needing to point it out.

And so it would be a perfectly unsurprising scenario, if you and I were having an ordinary conversation, and suddenly you whistled (suppose I have never heard anyone whistle before):

clone of saturn: whistles

Said: Whoa! What… what did you just do?? You just made, like, a weird sound!

clone of saturn: yeah, it’s called ‘whistling’

Said: Gosh! Can you do it again?

clone of saturn: whistles aga... (read more)

FWIW, this aptly describes my own adverse reaction to the OP. "I have this great insight, but I not only can't explain it to you, but I'm going to spend the balance of my time explaining why you couldn't understand it if I tried to explain it" sounds awfully close to bulveristic stories like, "If only you weren't blinded by sin, you too would see the glory of the coming of the lord".

That the object level benefits offered seem to be idiographic self-exhaltations augur still poorer (i.e. I cut through confusion so much more easily now (no examples provided); I have much greater reserves to do stuff; I can form much deeper pacts with others who, like I, can See the Truth.) I recall the 'case' for Ander's Connection Theory was of a similar type. But at least connection theory at least sketched something like a theory to consider on its merits.

There needs to be either some object-level description (i.e. "This is what Looking is"), or - if that really isn't possible - demonstration of good results (i.e. "Here's a great post on a CFAR-adjecent topic, and this was thanks to Looking.") Otherwise, the recondite and the obscurantist look very much alike.

I like this comment because it's a relatively clear articulation of the central thing you seem to be frustrated about here, which is that you think that Val could show you the cake but is refusing to for some perverse reason that you can't fathom.

I think the cake analogy is a very poor fit for what's happening here. Everyone knows what a cake is. I don't have to teach you anything to show you a cake; I just show it to you and you've instantly understood that what you're looking at is a cake. This is very different from trying to show someone what "enlightenment" looks like, whatever that means. At a minimum "enlightenment" involves something screwy happening with ontologies, so there's no guarantee that you'll be able to "see" an example of "enlightenment" just by staying in your particular ontology.

Back to the cell phone world: Alex texts me demanding that I show him an example of what looking up looks like. What can I do? I can text him a picture of a person looking up from a phone. What's his referent for that? Other pictures he's seen, on his screen, of people looking up from their phones. Nothing he hasn't seen a million times, on his screen. Alex thinks the thing he is asking me to do is easy, and if he's right it's not in the sense that he thinks.

To the contrary; it seems very easy to show me ‘enlightenment’.

How? Well, just move down another level of meta: what is enlightenment good for? What does it let you do, in the real world? etc.—all the things I have been asking. Show us that thing! (Or, really, several such things.)

Having done this, you will thereby have demonstrated ‘enlightenment’, and can then proceed up to the meta-meta-level of “the technique you used to achieve enlightenment”.

Analogously, suppose what I claimed to discover was not a new baking technique, but a new process of culinary experimentation which might be used to discover new baking techniques.

So first you’d exhibit a cake, and we’d all have a bite and agree that it’s delicious. Then you’d show us a pie, and we’d all have a forkful and agree that it, too, is delicious. You would then bring out a tray of cookies, and we’d all have one and judge them to be delicious.

Then you’d tell us about the novel baking techniques you used in the process of baking the cake, the pie, and the cookies, respectively. We’d all be impressed (and would, at this point, have no doubt that the techniques work, as the taste of your delicious baked goods still lingered in our m... (read more)

How is Val's first response to Ben not what you are looking for? For some actual cake, here's what it can give you, based on my experience of what it has given me: * An example: there was a philosophical line of thought originating from lesswrong about the nature of reality. Enlightenent will allow you to see how there is a discrepancy between the use of the word reality in accordance with this theory and the original use of the word. It will then allow you to actually look at what is going on, what is the nature of the original use, and what is the nature of the new use is, and see how that conversation went off the rails. It will show you how to come back to the start and stay grounded, rather than being stuck in a pragmatist metaphysical nihilism. And this is why "nothing is probability 1, therefore real things are all 'out there' in the inaccessible territory and these 'things' are just my experiential maps in my brain which corresponds to things in the territory" is mistaken, just a model, and subordinate to the fact that you already always have been in the world and this is necessarily a precondition of your doing philosophy. * You will see that "you are your brain" is false and "you are a product of your brain" is an extremely narrow model that is useful in only a very constrained context. You will see how "everything is made of atoms" is a similarly very narrow model. These models are both way overrated in their use, very overrepresented in communities like this, and very not fundamental. * Things like your personal bubble, which is real and just there, despite it "not being made of atoms" and it "being just something that your brain injects into your map", will not be invisible by default. You will gain handles on many fundamental parts of you that were previously hidden behind a theory that doesn't account for them or calls them unreal.

I must say I am perplexed by comments such as this. (Don’t get me wrong—I’m not singling you out in any way; this is only the latest in a pattern.)

In what world does any of what you wrote, there, constitute anything like: (a) concrete actionable knowledge or understanding; or (b) actual, real-world benefits?

It feels strange to do this, given how vague all of this is, but let’s try to tackle at least your first bullet point:

there was a philosophical line of thought originating from lesswrong about the nature of reality

To what line of thought to do you refer? Are you making reference to the concept of the “map-territory distinction”? Or something else?

Enlightenent will allow you to see how there is a discrepancy between the use of the word reality in accordance with this theory and the original use of the word

What is this discrepancy? Tell us about it!

It will then allow you to actually look at what is going on

And? What is actually going on?

what is the nature of the original use, and what is the nature of the new use is

So what are they?

and see how that conversation went off the rails.

Yes? And how did it?

It will show you how to come back to the start and stay grou

... (read more)

People tend to get exactly the quoted part out of the sequences somehow, not the rejection of it. I didn't explain it there because it takes a lot of writing to do so, but I will do it here.

The image we are given in the sequences, in map and territory and in epistemology 101, is that light hits a thing, reflects off of your shoe, hits your retina, a signal is sent down some optical pathways, and you experience seeing your shoe. Then, note that there are many parts of this pathway that can be interrupted. So you have the reality out there, and the person experiencing in there, and there is a fundamental disconnect between the territory out there, and the maps in the brain in there. Since there is always a chance for somthing interfering with that connection, nothing can be probability 1. From this you conclude that any thing that you experience is just some image your brain conjures up from sensory stimulus. Those things that you experience are not real, and are only maps of the actual real things out there in ineffable reality.

Looking allows you to see that the entire thing I just described is just a model - an image. In going through that whole thing, Look at how you are shri... (read more)

The image we are given in the sequences… [snipped]

It would be a drastic understatement to say that what you wrote in that paragraph is a ludicrous misunderstanding of what Eliezer wrote. I could call it a ‘distortion’, but it’s more like literally the opposite of what the Sequences say. (The part about probability in particular makes me question whether we read the same posts or, indeed, live in the same reality; suffice it to say that you certainly did not understand what was said in the Sequences about probability theory.)

The entirety of that section of your comment consists of setting up and then knocking down this frankly shocking strawman of Eliezer’s ideas; this is then mixed with a rather amateurish recapitulation of selected bits of Enlightenment-era and 20th-century philosophy (which have been beaten to death by generations of analytic philosophers—who, even in those cases where they haven’t solved these issues, have said some much more significant and useful things about them then you have). Most of it, frankly, is not even wrong.

In the second section, you take some facts about how non-verbal signals work in human social interaction—facts which are, no doubt, interes... (read more)

(comment continued from parent, due to character limit)

The final section is yet more of the mind projection fallacy. Phenomenology is interesting, and your contributions to it are… not novel, of course, but written in a clear enough way to be of interest to investigators. Yet you have again chosen not only to construct a bizarre ontology out of a combination of fairly straightforward phenomenological facts and what are apparently some highly-idiosyncratic-at-best elements of your mental experience; you’ve also gone on to make the again outlandish claim that none of it is discernible without your capital-letter skill.

Thank you for taking the time to write this. I mean that in all sincerity and wholly sans sarcasm; I appreciate it, as I know that responding to skeptical internet strangers is a mostly-thankless task. Few people would attempt to respond in so concrete a fashion (and indeed almost no one else has), so know that I very much value the effort that you took to respond, and the product of that effort.

That you have responded with enough specificity and detail for me to be able to draw satisfyingly (though not nearly totally) definite conclusions, is icing on the (sadly, only proverbial) cake. So, again: thank you.

P.S. I upvoted dsatan’s comment, as I very much endorse encouraging detailed, specific responses to critical inquiries, here on LW.

What I went through is what I've seen many people get from the sequences. While I'm knocking down a strawman (insofar as what Eliezer's vague writing actually pinpoints a single discernable position), it is a strawman that many people actually believe. There are people who literally say beliefs are the same thing as probabilities or probability distributions after having read the sequences. I would be interested in how you'd summarize it though.

Yes, what I did was the same thing that a lot of enlightenment philosophers did, though sloppily since I've given you a quick and dirty argument. A lot of what they said is right. Analytic philosophers have mostly gone off the rails in the same way. There are some notable exceptions in the neopragmatist school, and late Wittgenstein, and probably a few other exceptions. I've had someone schooled in analytic philosophy be utterly baffled by me askng what the relation between his criterion for realness has to do with the act of holding up a spoon, looking at it and feeling it, and having the immediate impression if it being there, real, and in the world. It's stuck in ideas. Notice that a lot of what I'm... (read more)

The core dynamic here is: dsatan : Hey, via Looking I can see X, it is really cool Said Achmiz : I can't see X and it's absurd what you say about X. For dsatan personal bubble is likely as much of an abstraction as calling a spoon a spoon is an abstraction. You can directly experience the spoon by touching it or seeing it and you don't have any corresponding way to perceive the personal bubble. On the other hand, dsatan has that direct experience of the personal bubble. I personally had times where I had a clear direct perception of it. With that direct experience it feels as concrete as the spoon. It's likely not impossible to develop that perception without Looking but Looking makes it a lot easier to develop that perception.
A few points. The metaphysical nihilism I was referring to is taking the logical step of realizing that that image of a man in an image of reality is just a model, that everything you think of is just in your head, so everything is just a model. "real" becomes meaningless - dereferenced from any particular thing. Second, to be clearer about what actually requires Looking, you need Looking to some extent to understand what I'm doing in the analysis of reality (though I think I'm getting better at forcing people to Look so that they can understand it, but with regards to looking, that's like someone holding up your bike and guiding you along instead of you balancing for yourself). Looking is necessary to come up with such an analysis in the first place. Looking is not necessary to understand the personal bubble, or to understand action fields. Looking is necessary to see them for the first time without someone pointing them out to you, and is very helpful in analyzing their structure. (edit) Furthermore, a good chunck of people who read what I just wrote will be mislead as to what Looking is. The fundamental issue is that we are communicating in language, the medium of ideas, so it is easy to get stuck in ideas. The only way to get someone to start looking, insofar as that is possible, is to point at things using words, and to get them to do things. This is why I tell you to do things like wave your arms about or attack someone with your personal bubble or try to initiate the action of touching a hot stove element. (edit) Lastly, there is this so much to Look at. I am mostly Looking at Things, and The World. There is this whole realm of People which I have almost no experience Looking at and have only scratched the surface of with personal bubbles. Val is much more experienced at this, which is why he is able to do some of the things that he claims and I am not. It is also why I haven't actually tried to point at that sort of stuff. But it is still there,
7Said Achmiz6y
This turns out to be mostly addressed in my response to your other comment, so I don’t have very much to say here. I’ll comment only that as far as I can tell, you’re knocking down strawmen and solving problems that don’t exist. That those problems would not require any ‘Looking’ to solve even if they did exist adds insult to injury. Like, who has this “metaphysical nihilism” problem? Surely not anyone who has read and understood the Sequences (nor much of anyone else)… no doubt there are some people out there, who are confused in this particular way—but that’s true of almost any sort of confusion, no matter how silly. So if I don’t have the problem you cite, nor ever did have it, and can hardly even comprehend the confusion that would lead anyone to have it, what am I to think of your holding up your alleged solution to this non-problem as something which is unattainable without this particular unusual skill you vaunt? In any case—to reiterate what I say in my other comment: thank you for taking the time to respond; I really do appreciate it.
What is the metaphyiscal nihilism problem... Do you know the person Shminux? (edit) He's a lesswronger from way back. He avoids unsig "real", and "true", and things of that sort for this very reason. His catchphrase is "it's just a model". And I'm quite confident that you've misinterpreted or don't understand about 70% of what I've said, but your rejection is all "this is absurd" so it's hard to get anything to grab onto there. (Edit) the entirety of my response was a mistake. You've dratically missed the point of all that I've said, missed what I was doing and latched on to only the propositional content of those sentences that I wrote. Now you've taken this misunderstanding as licence to reject the whole thing.
1Said Achmiz6y
This seems important. Please elaborate! What were you doing? Wasn’t it “trying to answer my questions”, “saying things you consider to be true”, etc.? That’s what I usually assume people do, when they post comments in response to things I’ve asked. If you weren’t doing that, then (a) why on earth not, and (b) what were you doing?
a) I was saying things that I believed, but not all things you can do with words is to state true propositions. "Go wash the dishes" is not true. "Go to the kitchen and see what's in the sink" is also not true. That is a type error. There is also a sense in which "the thing in the sink is what I call a knork" is not true if "knork" is not a word used by anyone but the person who is telling you that that think is a "knork" - if there is no larger social context for that to contradict. That last one is what I'm doing with action fields. b) It was getting you to do things, and then pointing at the things that you subsequently experienced in doing those things. I'm trying to get you to have the realization that those things are things that are there. I'm also trying to get you to realize that those things are actually important. So for example, the personal bubble is a thing, which is just there in the same sense as chairs are just there, which (almost) everyone has, and (almost) eveeryone has an implicit understanding of in the sense that they know how to navigate personal space and they can understand when people are too close. But they don't stop and actually look at the thing which is the personal bubble itself and look at its experiential mechanics. To give you an understanding of what I mean by just there, I have to point. It is not an idea so I can't just tell you what it means, I have to get you to see it. Actually go and pick up an object somewhere around you (actually do this, don't imagine what it's like to do this). See how you have this immediate impression of how it being there, existing, in your hand. This immediate impression is what I mean by just there. Notice how it itself is not an idea that I can communicate to you in language. It's something that I have to get you to experience and then point to that experience. Back to the personal bubble, if you actually do the things that I said, which are designed to make the personal bubble come out an
5Said Achmiz6y
I understand, thank you. I believe I have gotten everything I could out of this thread. Your comments have been very valuable.
I really really don't think you have. And I really think that this interaction has been a net negative for you. You have not demonstrated at any point that you have understood me. You have, in fact, failed to engage with me at all save to dismiss what I've written out of hand and call it absurd. Do you realize how stressful this interaction has been for me? How I am putting myself out there and you just attack in poor faith? I don't really get the sense that you are even trying to understand me. This comment of yours makes me feel dismissed, as if you think I'm just some crazy person and you want to get away and ignore me but do so politely. I do not feel that everything has been said, that there are things I need to clarify. So I will: My critique of that train of thought originating from lesswrong comes in two parts. The first is interpretation, the second is turning inwards and looking at the gears of how that interpretation actually works and behaves in the mind. To look at what it actually does rather than just what it says. The interpretive part is this (slightly edited): That is the whole of the interpretive part. The rest is taking that whole interpretation as an object and look at what it actually does in the mind. Looking at the gears of the interpretation. If you think I've misinterpreted the sequences, then it is these two paragraphs here that you must talk about, not any of the rest, because the rest is not interpretation. The way to argue against the rest of that (given agreement about interpretation here) is to actually look at what it is doing in the mind and demonstrate that it is different from my account.
4Said Achmiz6y
I would be happy to take this conversation to another venue (public or private, at your option; I have a blog whose comments section we can use, or perhaps IRC; email is also an option). For various reasons, LW is not ideal for continuing this discussion.
What was the result of your request for further communication outside of LessWrong?
4Said Achmiz7mo
It was more of an offer than a request, but there wasn’t any result.
Valentine did list things in the above comment that are fancy. The core reason why he didn't put that in the initial post is likely that most of the people who are experts at "teaching" this have strong beliefs against doing this and believe that it isn't helpful. According to that conception enlightment isn't about doing or more trying to do more but about doing less. If you give someone a fancy list they are going to try harder and as a result are less likely to make progress.

Valentine did list things in the above comment that are fancy.

As I say in another comment, Valentine has certainly told us all about how great the cake is. What he hasn’t done is provide us with any. All of his listed examples are benefits that are (a) self-reported, unverified, and possibly unverifiable[1], and (b) very, very vague.

[1] Though even third-party testimony, if sufficiently diverse and credible, would be a good start.

According to that conception enlightment isn’t about doing or more trying to do more but about doing less.

What does “doing less” mean, in this context? (And why might I want to “do less”?)

Would you say that he provided the ex with cake? If you take the person who looks at the cell phone that's an active act. I think "Look up" is a bit the wrong frame. It's more helpful to say "Stop focusing on your phone" (even if the person still has no concept for that). If the person stops focusing on the phone they start to notice things that aren't on the phone but that's not an active act. It starts happening when the person stop distracting themselves by looking at the phone.
6Said Achmiz6y
Sure. Of course, the problem there—from a “public epistemology” perspective—is that we only have Valentine’s word on this. Now, you may be tempted to indignation at this comment; am I calling Valentine a liar? But I have no need to do any such thing; quite apart from the possibility of knowing mendacity, there is the far thornier problem that what we’ve got is an account only from Valentine’s perspective—who knows how his ex sees things? What would they say, if questioned on the matter—especially in private? We don’t know. This, of course, is why I suggested that a diverse lineup of credible third-party testimonials might be of use (though not, by themselves, conclusive) in convincing us of the value of Valentine’s ‘attainment’ (as seems to be the proper term of art). (Certainly there is also the fact that when one engages in public seeking after truth, and public debate of it, a higher grade of evidence is often needed than simply “I did this amazing thing—just trust me”. Not always—sometimes one’s word suffices—but in such cases as this, it does not; we all know the old saw about extraordinary claims…) Re: your comments about “doing less”, and about why it’s unhelpful to list accomplishments or benefits: RainbowSpacedancer has provided a satisfying response, and I am inclined to agree with them (i.e., if you don’t tell me what the point of any of it is, then this is merely frustrating for me, and saying that it’s ‘unhelpful’ to explain to me why I should put in the effort is… well… unhelpful).
(I wrote a comment and it disappeared. Hopefully it doesn't show up along with this one) How is Val's first response to Ben not satisfactory? But here are a few things that it's done for me: * Things like your personal bubble will not be invisible by default. Your personal bubble is real and just there despite it "not being made of atoms" and it "just being a thing your brain injects into your map". Looking will give you handles and sensors relevant to all sorts of different parts of you, like those handles and sensors relevant to controlling your personal bubble, feeling your personal bubble, and seeing and feeling other people's personal bubbles. Without it, you might be stuck in a theory that doesn't account for your personal bubble and it remains hidden, or it calls your personal bubble unreal and makes it hard to look at. As another example, the energy flows of feng shui are a perceptual primitive related to good movement and flows of attention. * There is a philosophical line of thougth originating on lesswrong which comes up with a certain notion of what reality is. Looking will allow you to notice that the use of the word "real" in accordance to this notion of real is very different from the original use of the word real. Looking will allow you to see what is actually going on in this new meaning of real, and see how it has gone off the rails. Looking will allow you to find your way back to the original meaning and keep you grounded in coming to a reflective understanding of the nature of realness so that you don't go off the rails again. And that's why "nothing is probability 1, therefore real things are all 'out there' in the inaccessible territory and these 'things' are just my experiential maps in my brain which corresponds to things in the territory" is just a model, mistaken, and is both subordinate and at odds with the fact that you have always already been in the world, and this fact is necessarily a precondition to your doing philosophy.
Quick meta note: neither comment of yours has disappeared, but once there are more than 100 comments in a post, they don't all render at first (because rendering more than 100 comments at once is a bit bandw idth intensive). You have to click the "load more" at the top of the comments to see your new one.
I think you aren't taking the cell phone world metaphor seriously enough. Moving down meta levels in this way will not help me explain anything to Alex about what looking up from his phone is like, except insofar as it involves doing "whispering into ear"-type stuff, which we've discussed elsewhere.

This seems like an odd reply. Suppose Alex were to ask what good comes of being able to do this “look up” thing, and you said “I can’t explain to you what looking up is”. Alex would see that as a non sequitur.

Similarly, suppose you launched into an explanation of your baking technique, and I asked you for a slice of cake. Does “serving you a slice of cake won’t help me explain the baking technique” make sense as a reply? It does not.

Where is the cake? Damn the explanations, man; show me the cake!

Making a photo of a cake and sending it to Alex doesn't help him to learn about the cake that he would see if he would look up. Alex might come up with a lot of arguments why he has much more beautiful pictures on his smart phone that look much tasty but that will be besides the point because cakes are for eating and not for looking at pictures of them.
1Muga Sofer4mo
Looking up from your phone provides experimentally verifiable "superpowers" - you can, for example, communicate with other Lookers Up via invisible gestures without texting them. Telepathy! Maybe that's a flaw in the analogy. But Valentine does claim real-world benefits, such as superhuman insight into psychology (as do other people who describe themselves as enlightened.) Maybe those aren't "the point", but demonstrating them convincingly would go a long way towards convincing the rest of us that there is a point and we just can't see it. The Buddha himself didn't just say "trust me guys", he supposedly did a bunch of miracles using his enlightenment-granted powers.
-5Nickos Ventouras5y
I theorize that you're experiencing at least two different common, related, yet almost opposed mental re-organizations. One, which I approve of, accounts for many of the effects you describe under "Bemused exasperation here...".  It sounds similar to what I've gotten from writing fiction. Writing fiction is, mostly, thinking, with focus, persistence, and patience, about other people, often looking into yourself to try to find some point of connection that will enable you to understand them.  This isn't quantifiable, at least not to me; but I would still call it analytic.  I don't think there's anything mysterious about it, nor anything especially difficult other than (A) caring about other individuals--not other people, in the abstract, but about particular, non-abstract individuals--and (B) acquiring the motivation and energy to think long and hard about them.  Writing fiction is the hardest thing I've ever done.  I don't find it as mentally draining per minute as chess, though perhaps that's because I'm not very interested in chess.  But one does it for weeks on end, not just hours. (What I've just described applies only to the naturalist school of fiction, which says that fiction studies about particular, realistic individuals in particular situations in order to query our own worldview.  The opposed, idealistic school of fiction says that fiction presents archetypes as instructional examples in order to promulgate your own worldview.) The other thing, your "flibble", sounds to me like the common effect, seen in nearly all religions and philosophies, of a drastic simplification of epistemology, when one blinds oneself to certain kinds of thoughts and collapses one's ontology into a simpler world model, in order to produce a closed, self-consistent, over-simplified view of the world.  Platonists, Christians, Hegelians, Marxists, Nazis, post-modernists, and SJWs each have a drastically-simplified view of what is in the world and how it operates, which always in
A+ to flibble analogy. I found this story about flibble much easier to understand and reason about than the OP.
3Ben Pace6y
Oh! If I followed you, that’s much clearer. Here’s some words that are wrong but I think close: Is that sort of what you meant? If not, I’ll tap out for now until your next post.
That is damn close, yes. The main point of contention I have is that I’m not trying to get people to experience enlightenment. I’m trying to have people notice that the fact that (a) enlightenment is a real thing and (b) they can’t understand it via explanations, indicates something really damn important about limits in the kind of epistemology we normally talk about here. And, it looks like Looking is a way of patching those limitations. So it seems worth considering.
9Ben Pace6y
Right. I'll repeat (in advance of your follow-up post) that while it's interesting to note that I can't understanding enlightenment via explanation (and that englightenment is a real thing), this is still not enough to suggest that it's worth exploring - even if it helps me understand other things like enlightenment. For example, there are many deep skills where the experience of the skill is not amenable to communication via text, yet the skill and experience are definitely real. As someone who has studied classical music for a decade, I'm not able to convey the experience of playing a Bach prelude to you via text. I can imagine similar things for great sports players, or other experts. This alone doesn't (I think) suggest anything too important about epistemology. I await your next post with evidence about why Looking does have something important to say about epistemology!
Well… your epistemic state makes sense… *sigh* Two points: * The analogy breaks down because you don’t need to be able to play a Bach prelude in order to listen to someone else playing it. What would it be like, for you, if that were the world we were in? Can you imagine what it would be like to try to convey to pre-music folk even that music is real and that it might be worth learning how to listen to it? And if that were something you could readily see about how people cannot see something that is so obviously real to you… wouldn’t that cause a more general worry about the epistemic state of the species? For that matter, how would you come to notice things like music that YOU can’t yet understand this way? * The next post isn’t about evidence about why Looking has something important to say about epistemology. It’s a model of how I have done several things like reach kensho, and the model has been refined as a result of what I’ve come to see as a result of Looking. So, I don’t think you’re going to find it scratches that itch. I expect the parts that I can convey that came from Looking won’t themselves seem like they require Looking, so the fact that I had to transcend my own epistemic state to get there won’t be visible. Alas.
3Rudi C2y
This analogy is capturing my current understanding of this post and its various comments pretty well: Looking is like music, in that it is a difficult, voluntaryish act of observing and manipulating hidden mental states. This will result in wireheading, among other things, but it might be sometimes useful. (Note that music is also wireheading, but it can still be useful in narrow contexts.)
Cool. FWIW, I've come to think that wireheading is an anti-concept as applied to humans. It's one of those "presume the conclusion" type mental movements. In practice it seems to act like a back door for arguments based on belief residue like the Protestant work ethic / "pleasure is sinful" stuff. (A little more concretely: It makes sense to talk about some system engaging in wireheading only when there's a goal imposed from outside the system. It's like glorified Goodharting. But if the goals come from within the system, it stops being clear what "wireheading" means. On the inside it might feel like "Oh, I just found a vastly easier way to get what I want — and what I want wasn't what I thought I wanted!" Without an external evaluation criterion, that actually just becomes correct.) With that said, I think I intuit what you mean by calling music and Looking "wireheading". I don't mean to dismiss that. Stuff like, if you meditate enough to get Great Insights™ such that you don't bother to eat food anymore and you die, that seems like a pretty dramatic failure and kind of throws those "insights" into question.
1Rudi C2y
An interesting fact came to my mind; music that affects one's mental state is forbidden in Islam. Perhaps the reason this theme of "sinful pleasure" keeps repeating is the observation that pleasure is a reward signal that does not quite match the utility functions of the conscious mind. At least, that has always been the key motivator of this idea subspace to me.
I'm confused. From your description, I thought that Looking was the same thing as Enlightenment, but now you're saying you only care about convincing us about Looking, not "enlightenment"?
Looking isn't enlightenment, it's a practice for getting there (and getting to enlightenment isn't the only thing that you can use it for).
Best mapped in the very dense book, "pointing out the great way". One path to enlightenment is to provide a moment of pure clear seeing (a state of mind) and align the rest of the mind with the path back there. Then let the result play out.

I appreciate you writing the list of examples, but also don't find them currently particularly compelling, mostly because they are hard to verify from my current perspective (which is fine and the real value might just be hard to communicate).

This seems like a reasonable request, and if the value of mathematical/algebraic reasoning had not been presented to me, I would have not invested as many hours as I have into learning math. I think, though I haven't tried too much, it's at least in principle not that difficult to explain the value of mathematical proof to new people: Either give them a bunch of false proofs and let them deal with the confusion, or give them any of the dozens of exercises in Thinking Physics (which are themselves pretty well-motivated) and highlight how an understanding of mathematical proof would help them solve the problems. I am interested in being given a concrete problem, of the nature that Thinking Physics provides, that I could solve more easily with the tools/perspective you describe.
I'm a bit frustrated with you, Oli. I don't think you're engaging with the hypothetical in good faith. A huge portion of my math teaching experience was with preservice elementary and middle school teachers. These were people who would come to my math class as part of a program to get a credential, because they like kids and want to teach kids. And most of them are at best bored of math. They really didn't get proof. Proofs were a kind of social ritual. Conveying to them what the value of proving is was not on the table; they did proofs in order to navigate being graded. The only way I was able to get them to engage meaningfully with math was to point out to them that their knowledge of math and good math teaching would impact their students. I'm guessing most of your math teaching experience is with UC Berkeley student caliber, yes? Of course you can convey proof to someone like that. Or someone like you. If you imagine you're in a world where the people around you are more gruff mechanic types, or caring "people-oriented" types, etc., who don't understand what analytical thinking is… then you'll find yourself in the position I'm talking about. Giving them Thinking Physics type problems won't work because they won't engage with them. After all, you haven't convinced them of the value of proof-based thinking! You have to show them something that they consider practical. Please work with me here, Oli. I know you're smart enough not to have needed me to spell out all of the above. Please turn off the "I must show my rational analysis skills by coming up with a sharp counterargument to literally everything" stuff and actually try to see my point? I like that question. It's a tricky one, because knowledge of physics isn't enough to generate Thinking Physics type puzzles. Likewise, I don't know if I can give you a good puzzle for Looking off the top of my head. I'll think on that and see if I can come up with something. Though I warn, even if I do come up with som

Yes, I don't think it is possible to convey the value that "understanding proof" provides to everyone. But even for someone who cannot easily understand, asking to be shown the value is a very reasonable response, and if they cannot be shown the value, it makes sense for them to not spend their time learning mathematical proof. Trying to teach them proof, without them seeing any value in it, seems doomed to failure.

I can imagine being in a world where it is similarly hard for me to understand the value of kensho. But in that world the necessary first step for me learning, is to be motivated to learn. As I said, it seems fine if the target audience for this post is not me. And it seems plausible, though obviously sad to me, that my mind is shaped so that I can not understand the value without spending dozens of hours on good faith on following your argument along. And if you continue writing this post-series, I will try to seriously engage with the things you are describing, even without seeing the value directly, because I do think you have some interesting perspectives and this whole area might have some value in it.

What I am trying to say is that for the goal of ... (read more)


I think that a) Val has obtained a real and valuable skill, b) Oli is engaging in good faith and making a reasonable request, and c) that there is a type of post that Val could conceivably write which Oli would find satisfactory.

I hope to eventually prove this by achieving enough skill in this area myself (making the assumption I'm correct in understand what Val's skill is), obtaining the value, and then conveying this in a convincing manner such that anyone reasoning as Oli does is motivated by my case.

Appreciation for you, Ruby. :-)
I’m honestly flummoxed about how to create the type of post you’re suggesting. Given the clarity of everything else you’ve written here about this, I’m inclined to believe you. And I’d much like to write that post, or see it written. Any pointers?

Thanks! Okay, some pointers :) You asked for them!

Your writing style is characteristcally evocative - the kind of writing I'd use to point at the majesty of stars, the tragedy of death, and the grandeur of all that could be. It's emotional, and that is perhaps both its strength and its weakness.

You have the right style to conjure strong feelings around things one already believes and endorses (perfect for Solstice), but perhaps less so to convince people of things they're skeptical of. A pastor's rousing sermon about Jesus's love for all mankind, while moving to his congregation, does little to convince me about the matter.


Unfortunately, it seems that people who don’t know how to intentionally Look literally cannot conceptually understand what Looking is for . . .

I emphatically reject this. You've observed that you don't feel understood when you explain your experie... (read more)


One more pointer - clarity on the purpose of a post is paramount. From your comments, it seems like a few different purposes got mixed in:

a) Kensho/Looking are very powerful, I want to motivate you to try them.

b) There is a puzzle around communicating things which you can only conceptually understand once you've experienced them. (I'd focus mostly on the puzzle and make it clear Kensho is but an example in this post.)

There's a dictum: "1) Tell them what you're going to tell them, 2) Tell them, 3) Tell them what you've told them." Going by your CFAR classes too, I feel like you don't like telling people what you're going to tell them (you even want them to be confused). I think this unsurprisingly results in confusion.

Thanks, this is clear and appreciated.

I do feel some exasperation. You’re right in picking up on that.

My experience is that even when I’m not exasperated, this doesn’t convey to people who haven’t done any Looking. I don’t mean that as a judgment against anyone; it’s just a really strong phenomenon, and I think it’s getting conflated with my frustration.

But I’ll take your push-back seriously and reflect on this.

Thanks. :-)

Even if the believe that Valentine has actually got those extreme benefits that's going to make them believe that Valentine is doing something special and not something very basic. In New Age circles you have plenty of people who believes in the magical powers of enlightment and who spent years searching for it with nothing to show for it. The openness about making extreme claims is one of the key differences that distinguishes New Age thinking from other spiritual traditions and the empiric results of it are poor.
Appreciation for you, Ruby. :-) I’m honestly flummoxed about how to create the type of post you’re suggesting. Given the clarity of everything else you’ve written here about this, I’m inclined to believe you. And I’d much like to write that post, or see it written. Any pointers?
I didn’t say, or think, that Ben’s response was unreasonable. I was trying to illustrate via analogy why giving him what he was asking for was going to be extremely hard. I also wasn’t trying to convince Ben, or anyone else, to seek kensho or do meditation or anything of the sort. I had hoped that the self-reference of the problem would encourage some people to want to learn to Look, which is why I gave some guidelines at the end for going in that direction if one wants. Unfortunately, it seems that people who don’t know how to intentionally Look literally cannot conceptually understand what Looking is for, so if y’all need that before you’ll try (which is understandable but still kind of frustrating from over here), then I guess you ain’t tryin’! …at least, not consciously as a result of this post.
>"actually try to see my point?" How do you think that would help? :P
I think what I was trying to say doesn’t require Looking to understand. The analogy of conveying the value of proof should make sense even if what it’s analogous to doesn’t. My frustration with Oli there was about him arguing with the analogy rather than using the analogy to try to understand what I was saying. This is a communication problem I’ve had with him in person too, so I was hoping to cut through the whole process by pointing at the meta-level of the communication and saying “Come on, man.”
I understand where you are coming from. Efforting blocks realisation and kenshō doesn’t come from discursive thought - those are common traps. This is good advice for the experienced meditation practitioner. The practitioner that has already seen the benefit practice brings and has the momentum built up to carry them through difficult periods. Further effort and analysis blocks progress after a point. The typical lesswronger is a beginner and needs the exact opposite advice. Kenshō needs to be advocated for because they need a reason to practice instead of doing something else. And they need to know that trying for it is useful so that they can establish the right discipline and mental habits.
You don't need to speak about Kenshō to talk about the value of meditation. You can advocate for taking up a meditation practice with arguments that are much simpler and that are about less time investment.
5Ben Pace6y
Ah, yes, I didn't respond to you as the person I know and have a relationship with in my comment. I regularly find it hard to connect online commenting to the person I'm responding to, and I think my comment does read as weirdly challenging. Sorry about that Val. Nonetheless, there are important trade-offs against being social on a place like LessWrong - for example, I don't want to take up the time of the hundreds of people who read the comments, and in general, I won't be having a lot of social discussion in the comments. For example, I've just cut from this comment two paragraphs of my thought processes that wrote such an impersonal original comment (will send you them privately). I just spent a while not talking about anything in your post, so I'll finish and not write more comments here (if you want Val, I'm happy to discuss this more offline). I'll now write an object level response to your comment :-) Added: I might not, it's 6am here. I should really sleep soon.
I'm at the moment wondering a bit whether I have what you are pointing at. What you are saying doesn't feel strange to me at all. I can conceptually relate to most what you wrote. I have no problem holding space in the way you describe where I don't suffer. On the other hand, I'm filled with various unresolved stuff that drains energy. I remember commenting in the post you wrote about grief on LW about the day I processed the fact my father died. When I'm faced with strong emotions and there's no other way to deal with them, I'm forced to go to that mental state ;) but on a daily basis I frequently distract myself in various forms. As far as interpreting the reaction of most people to your post happens to be, I don't see it as showing that the post isn't effectful. If it's effectful than my general model of how things in this nature are learned suggests that it will take months or years for readers to understand. It's plausible that in 6 months someone who read this post now goes: "Ah, I think that's what Val meant back then". That's just the time frame this takes. People being confused at first is a good sign and the fact that rationalists don't like that state of mind and comment accordingly is no sign that anything went wrong.
Sounds to me like you have “it”. …with the very slight caveat that there are lots of different things one can Look at, once one knows how to Look at all. And that one can get better at Looking, and thus better at coming to understand things that were falling outside of one’s ontology before. So I don’t know whether you and I see all the same things as a result of Looking. But it sounds to me like you know something about Looking at all… which fixes the hardest part of the communication gap. :-)
The fact that you recognize you have unresolved stuff that drains energy is actually evidence in favor of you having what Val is pointing at. It's much better than being completely unaware of it or believing that it's just how the world is.
I'm not trained in a Buddhist tradition but have gathered my experiences about elsewhere. I have a lot of mental model for various related phenomena. I have had a meditation experience after which I thought: "I think I have experienced the phenomenological basis on which karma is build." but I never had a proper Buddhistic teacher. Getting your mind "clean" is an essential part of the Buddhist way and my mind is at the moment anything but "clean". Take the mental state of presence that Buddhist monks who have meditated very long have where they don't have the startle response (besides the Buddhist monks psychopaths also often don't have the startle response). You need a certain level of mental cleanness for that, that I don't have. Given what I knew about Val before his development before his enlightment experience, I think it's plausible that Val has this. From my perspective it's plausible that this is part of what Val means with Kenshō. While we are talking about this. There's a concept of the "distinction of completion" that I think comes from the Landmark Forum. If anybody here was at the Landmark Forum and can talk in their language I would be very interested in talking.
I'm late to this comment thread. I had to read a lot of the comments (more than once) before it clicked in a way that I'm fairly sure *I recognize what Looking is* and that I already have the skill and use it more than I think is common (but not always or consistently). "I can form deep, deep pacts with others who know how to Look. This is harder to explain, but I can point to an analogy clearly, I think: if you're in the cell phone world and you see someone else who has figured out how to look up, there's a kind of deep collaboration you two can do, and a level of communication you can have, that others literally cannot understand pre-kenshō. In the real-world analog, this creates room for a kind of bond that lets us sidestep most primate political baloney, because there's common knowledge that we can both Look at all that stuff, and that that's not what's important." Now that I have a name/concept-shape for this "skill" of Looking, that paragraph brings up a lot of feelings of longing for me. These bonds are what I've rarely experienced and what feels to me like what I want out of interpersonal relationships. It's like most people aren't awake, or are NPCs, and it gets lonely. Occasionally finding bits of these bonds is enormously rewarding. Some comments ask questions about how you can know if someone else is "looking up from their phone." They want real world examples. I think you can't know if someone is doing the real-world analog of "Looking up from their phone" if you don't interact with them on a level beyond small talk or polite conversation. You won't pass a stranger on the street and just see it. Looking is a frame of mind, so if you don't interact with their mental processes, there's nothing to see. My personal examples of knowing someone else is Looking are composed of very private conversations that are, like I said, beyond small talk or polite conversation. I don't want to get specific, but I can give a vague example interaction: Imag
3Said Achmiz6y
Re: “it’s okay”: Can you say what it would mean for ‘it’ to not be ‘okay’? (This has been asked already in another thread, but I have not seen an answer.) In other words, “it’s okay”… as opposed to what? Or, to put it yet another way: I—as far as I know—do not have this ‘Looking’ skill that we’ve been hearing about. I have certainly never meditated, experienced enlightenment, taken hallucinogenic drugs of any sort, or done anything else which might trigger “non-symbolic experiences” of a similar sort (to use the terminology from the paper linked elsethread). However, I also don’t find myself “freaking out”, “moralizing reality”, or otherwise having any sense that ‘it’, or things-in-general, are “not okay”. Should I? What am I missing? Edit: To add yet another rephrasing of my question: presumably, you have gained this skill of ‘Looking’ at some point, prior to which time you did not possess it. What, exactly, was “not okay” before that, and how?
I would not personally use the phrases "it is/things are/whatever is okay." But one way reacting like "it's not okay" could look is the instinct to make reality retrospectively not be how it is. Denial. We can affect the future, but there's no use denying what already is. If the first thing you do is interpret that new info would make the world a bad place (moralizing reality), you may flinch into rationalizing ways it can't be so before you even notice what you did. I don't claim that I gained this skill of ‘Looking’ at some point, prior to which time I did not possess it. I claim I am recognizing a concept shaped thing that I already did more than average, and am now labelling it with the name Looking. I think I've gotten better over time and now that I label it, I think I could practice more deliberately. If I'm totally wrong, there's still this thing I think I could practice because I'm labelling it now. I think people are hung up on the meditation/enlightenment idea. It's not the skill. It's an old fashioned way to practice. I think the paper being linked is going to confuse more people than it helps. It is super basic and not as otherworldly or profound as people seem to expect it to be. Edit: I don't mean to say it's basic, so you should already understand. I mean to say it's basic, and you're looking for something complicated. Like maybe you are rejecting or will reject the answer even if YOU think of it, or already do Looking, because it's just not an impressive complicated thing. You've invested a lot of effort in understanding this concept, and I wonder if the realization, when/if you get it, will be disappointing. Maybe it will be a relief though.

I may have a better answer for the concrete thing that it allows you to do: it's fully generalizing the move of un-goodharting. Buddhism seems to be about doing this for happiness/inverse-suffering, though in principle you could pick a different navigational target (maybe).

Concretely, this should show up as being able to decondition induced reward loops and thus not be caught up in any negative compulsive behaviors.

6Said Achmiz5y
What is “the move of un-goodharting”?
noticing what candy crush is doing.
FYI, I think if I didn't already have a sense of what you were pointing at, this comment wouldn't help much.
I don't think you need to approach meditation as a wager of vast resources for a gain obtained only at the end. My experience is that a modest amount of meditation, properly approached, has offered me substantial benefits. My recommendation is to spend a modest number of hours trying meditation out, and use the information obtained to judge whether or not it is worth further investment. I have some detailed models of what meditation accomplishes and why, and I hope to write about them eventually. Till then, I'm happy to chat. I'd also recommend the Science of Enlightenment by Shinzen Young; definitely heavy on the grand promises, but he offers more models of what's going on than most texts.

Thanks for the offer Ruby. I've done a little bit of meditation (0.5-2 hours, 5-10 times) and think it may have given me a better phenomenological sense of my own focus and awareness, and slightly more control over it.

However, the improvement seems very low cost-effectiveness compared to the similar improvements in focus and awareness of my cognition I get from doing long stretches of math - noticing which strands of my mind think different things are useful to think about and focus on. I also find that most of the low-hanging fruit in improving my attention came from a CFAR class I had (that Val taught :-) ) about how removing drains on your working memory has increasing marginal value, and how to design your life environment accordingly (analagous to how rationality training on humans is very weak relative to being able to set up economic incentives to do well). This has helped me a fair bit, I think.

Regarding the practice of meditation, I'm currently at a level of skepticism where (I think) the only thing that will persuade me to do a bunch more will be someone doing something I personally regard as remarkable, and then telling me they believe it was causally due to their having done lots of meditation. It honestly just doesn't seem worth the time.

As I said, I'm very happy to read examples of people having accomplished impressive things, and then crediting it to the practice of meditation. Such examples will gradually move my credences up.

Tim Ferris says some kind of meditation is one of the most common habits he finds in the people he interviews (regardless of whether it's actually listening to a Headspace episode, or a runner just repeating the very same song throughout the entire 1h run). E.g. this (haven't read, took me 5 sec of googling, but seems fine). Also Ray Dalio says transcendental meditation is one of the key things that enabled him to cope emotionally with making mistakes and being wrong, and then building principles for never making the same kinds of mistakes again. He writes about that in Principles and talks about it here.
Glad to hear you've given it a decent shot. That being the case, I think it is pretty legitimate for you to not invest further time. I do think that meditation/mindfulness can offer things not obtainable via the alternatives you listed, but I don't think I could make a successful case for it briefly. My only remaining recommendation would be, if you haven't, to spend some time meditating with a focus on your sensations and emotional state, instead of the more typical breathing. I especially recommend it when experiencing stronger emotions. But I suppose I'll just have to go off and do some remarkable things!
3Ben Pace6y
grins at your last line
You may find it worthwhile to read Loch Kelly's book Shift Into Freedom. It's a relatively quick and easy read and teaches a style of practice oriented around "small glimpses" which don't take much time. It doesn't focus on developing concentration, which it sounds like you have a lot of already.
I think the advantage of meditation is that there has been a significant amount of research into it that has found all kinds of benefits - self-control, happiness, lowered stress. I suppose you might be able doubt this in light of the replication crisis, but I don't know if there has been any similar research into doing maths. I'm not doubting that it works for you, just explaining why it comes so highly recommended.
Shouldn't the fact that a lto of people believe somethign count as Bayesian evidence for it? And sometimes the person on the recieving end is not sufficiently prepared. One should not havet the expectation that everything is easilly communicable to everyone.

I think that the only coherent way to convince us that Enlightment is real is to provide a model from a 3rd party perspective. To use your phone parable, you can send the other person a diagram of a person holding a phone, explain to them how eir current perceptions arise (e.g. the phone is a computer attached to an LCD display, the display generates light according to commands from the computer, light enters eye retina; brain controls eye muscles, neck muscles and leg muscles etc.) and then explain how the new perceptions can arise (if eye + neck muscles rotate your line of sight s.t. it doesn't intersect phone display...) Scientific epistomology can be in principle explained in a similar way, through models such as Solomonoff induction (although in this case it took a lot of time from the invention of scientific epistemology to the invention of a sufficiently precise model.)

The model doesn't have to be fully mathematically rigorous: as always, it can be a little fuzzy and informal. However, it must be precise enough in order to (i) correctly capture the essentials and (ii) be interpretable more or less unambigously by the sufficiently educated reader.

Now, having such a model does... (read more)

What if - these are probably the wrong words, but even so - thinking in terms of models and 3rd-party perspectives is part of what needs to be bypassed in order to understand the thing?

Try sinking deeper into the cell-phone world. You send someone a diagram of a person holding a phone. What does that diagram refer to, in the cell-phone world? It refers to other pictures, on the cell phone, of people holding phones. The Archimedes Chronophone game isn't so easy to win as this.

What if - these are probably the wrong words, but even so - thinking in terms of models and 3rd-party perspectives is part of what needs to be bypassed in order to understand the thing?

This would be much more surprising than the situation with the cellphones (which, as Vanessa correctly points out, seems pretty easy for a rationalist). I would love to see a metaphor that explained how something like this could happen, even if that metaphor had to be much more of a stretch.

It looks like a normal scientific view should at least be able to talk about the experience of enlightenment in the same way that it can easily talk about the experience of "red" to a blind person, since ultimately it's just a thing happening with a brain.

I'm using the word "understand" in a broad sense. Talking about the experience of seeing red is a far cry from actually experiencing red, which is more the relevant cluster. And for most of human history it's been easy to show people red things even though almost nobody understood the mechanics of human color vision.
I agree that talking about experiencing red is very different from experiencing red. That doesn't answer Vanessa's question though. If someone was considering investing in curing their own blindness, it would be easy to explain to them what seeing is---even if you don't know how vision or light works, you can talk about the experience of seeing and how those experiences seem to relate to facts about an external world. If someone is considering learning to look up from their phone, it is easy to say lots of concrete things about what "looking" entails and how it works and why it might be useful. One can tell similar stories for some of the claimed benefits of meditation. For example: there is a bunch of cognitive machinery that gives rise to our perception of reality but which humans don't usually perceive. We can learn to perceive the action of this machinery, rather than merely experiencing its effects. That's a simple, concrete, story about what is going on. (Though it omits the important details, e.g. what can you actually learn to perceive about this machinery and how?) It's interesting to ask whether there are benefits of meditation beyond those that can be explicated in this way. My default guess is no.
I don't agree. In the cell phone world as I picture it, it's actually very difficult to say anything to a cell-phone-worlder about what looking entails, because all of the referents that a cell-phone-worlder has for the relevant words refer to images on their cell phone, which are the wrong types of things entirely. I have in mind a conversation at least as frustrating as the one about getting out of the car in the SSC post on cactus people. Why?
it's actually very difficult to say anything to a cell-phone-worlder about what looking entails, because all of the referents that a cell-phone-worlder has for the relevant words refer to images on their cell phone

The cell-phone-worlder has seen images on their phone, which comprise a model for the things outside of their phone. That model includes themselves, and all their actions and perceptions. You can tell them facts about that model, including facts about the consequences of actions they could take (though they may not have words for those actions). Yes, the cell-phone-worlder has not perceived reality (and neither have we). That's not how models work, they aren't supposed to be identical with the thing they are modeling, they are supposed to be used to draw inferences about the thing that they are modeling.

From my perspective your statement seems about as convincing as saying: "it's actually very difficult to say anything to a human about what a banana is like, because all of the referents the human has for the relevant words refer to photons impinging on their retina." That does not mean that our beliefs about the world are restricted to belief... (read more)

6Vanessa Kosoy6y
Taboo the word "understand". The diagram in itself doesn't refer to anything, it is a representation of an abstraction, like the digits 123 are the representation of the number 123. However, the explanation that comes with the diagram shows you how to translate between qualia and concepts in your model. This is all the reference I need. The Chronophone is not a good analogy. We are not communicating through a medium that clevery censores everything we say. We are communicating through a medium that allows transmitting rigorous mathematical constructions that we both can understand; and also less rigorous but still sufficiently inambiguous information, for the sake of convenience. See also my reply to Valentine.
I have, in fact, given the model. Or at the very least, the generators needed and some instructions on how to build the model. The problem is, your type signature for “model” is too low-dimensional. …which, ironically, is literally the thing being pointed at. If you could generate more dimensions to the type of thing you’re tagging as “model”, you would be doing the thing. Yay self-referential puzzles. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be literally the first human to suddenly GET language? How it would have felt to try to get your fellow human beings to try language? How it would have felt a bit like it does today to talk to animals? And how insanely relieving and transcendently amazing it would be once another person GETS language and you two can have A CONVERSATION? …and meanwhile, your non-talking tribe mates are grunting and doing ape politics and thinking you and your friend are making weird sounds and aren’t doing anything. A dear friend of mine was with me when my kensho struck, and we were able to Look at each other. From that moment on, coordination has been trivial. He’ll go into spirals of deep depression sometimes, and I’ll be able to sit with him, caring but basically unaffected in terms of our ability to sync up. Others who care for him but haven’t had shared Looking cannot keep up with this pace, and I end up needing to support them. Which is fine and good; it’s in service of a much greater cause, and I’m happy to use my resources to pull this off. And I can give pointers to those other supporters — often about how they can be more fully themselves and kind to themselves as the means of giving support. (One person exclaimed after something like the fourth time I helped her find her own inner sense of stability, “How do you KNOW this stuff?”) The model is really quite easy to give to you once you know how to Look. I haven’t a damn clue how to give you a model before that. …with apologies. I really would love to be able to.
I have, in fact, given the model.

Where exactly? Are you talking about this essay or some previous one?

The problem is, your type signature for “model” is too low-dimensional.

Can you give me a model of the correct type signature of models? Or is it Kensho all the way down?

I want an explantion on my own terms. It doesn't have to a perfect explanation, maybe there are things which are ineffable or unknowable or whatever (although one can ask what does it mean to say that they "are"), but it has to be something like the best approximation possible in my language.

Is Kensho amenable to mathematical description? If not, how is it possible, given that your brain understands Kensho and your brain is governed by mathematical laws? Or, do you claim to have discovered new physics? I understand that the map is not the territory and understanding a mathematical model is not the same thing as experiencing something first hand, but all I'm asking for is the 3rd party perspective.

Okay. What is a "mathematical description"? What does it mean that "your brain is governed by mathematical laws"? How and where are those facts encoded, such that you emit those words?

I think drawing may be a similar skill. I can't actually draw well, but my model of how one does this is by not interpreting your visual field by the laws of perspective and instead making lines that correspond to your actual sensations. This is why sometimes one sees it recommended, as a learning technique, to put a photo upside down and then try drawing that. It forces you to pay attention to the lines instead of performing the visual parsing step one ordinarily does. (The other half of drawing is causing the lines to show up on the page in the place where you want them to; this is not part of the analogy.)

One could consider this Looking at one's raw visual phenomena. The skill described in the OP would be Looking at one's own mental phenomena, a layer or two further up the stack from the raw visual phenomena. It's possibly important not to think one has the generalized skill of looking if one just knows how to draw (it may block you from actually learning how to Look). However, if this analogy holds as strongly as I think it does, then one ought to be able to learn both skills with similar techniques?

For drawing that implies perhaps spending time studying you... (read more)

I think I get what Looking is now. This draws together most of the things I thought Looking might be, and explains how they're the same skill applied to different things. The skill of drawing is transformative for some people. There's a phenomenon I've heard repeated a few times (most prominantly in the book IMPRO) where a person "lives in their head" so much that they become distant from their sense-data, things literally losing color and taste, or noticing that you aren't feeling touch very sensitively, and drawing can help you break out of that.

Learning to draw in itself might not help with Looking or might even hurt (if you get in the habit of thinking that all internal experiences reduce to atomic sensory observations), but it maybe if you learned to draw in conjunction with learning Gendlin's Focusing, and meditation, and another introspective/phenomenological skill, you might get the general thing!

So, my model is that Looking is the ability to see your experiences for what they are. Whereas learning to draw, or learning to pay attention to what your body is feeling allow you to Look at sense-data only, the general skill has to do with perce... (read more)

I like this analogy!

Of course, it suggests ever more strongly that—if ‘Looking’ is a real thing (i.e., a skill or ability that it’s possible to have, and that perhaps some people do have, but which most people don’t have)—then it should allow one to produce unmistakeably impressive artifacts or feats.

After all, what can one do with this ‘visual Looking’ skill you describe? Why—draw pictures! (Specifically, one can draw pictures that look much more realistic than those drawn by people without the skill, such that the beholder says—“My god! That actually looks like the real thing!”.)

There can be absolutely no mistaking the impressiveness of pictures drawn by a person with the ‘visual Looking’ skill. Crucially, their impressiveness is perceivable…

  1. … without the beholder himself having the skill; and even…
  2. … without the beholder even knowing about any such skill, nor, indeed, having any knowledge of drawing techniques.

(That’s not the only clearly real and tangible skill or ability gained by someone who has this capacity to perceive their raw visual field; there are others. Drawing realistic pictures, however, is one of the most unmistakeably impressive ones, and one of the easiest to demonstrate.)

What is the analogous product of general ‘Looking’—one which is impressive to someone who does not themselves have the skill, nor even know that such a skill exists?

3Moral Of Story6y
Not all domains have obvious outputs. It's entirely plausible to me that there is no equivalent of "drawing" for the skill of Looking-at-mental-phenomena.

This is an interesting perspective. I could respond by asking “then what good is it?”—but let’s dig deeper:

What examples can we think of, of other domains which have no obvious output, but which, clearly, are real and valuable?

No doubt there are some. Comparing them to ‘Looking’ may yield useful insights, yes?

Another dimension to that analogy is that "visual Looking" can be systematically taught. Art schools do that for generation after generation of students. They provide (to borrow another analogy) the recipe, the cooking instructions, examples of well-made and ill-made cakes, and give critiques of the students' work. There are books and videos showing you how to do these things. There is no mystery about how to learn "visual Looking". None of which seems to be available for Valentine's "Looking".
Actually, there absolutely can be mistaking the impressiveness of pictures drawn by a person with the 'visual Looking' skill. If you get certain stylistic aspects wrong, or come from the wrong class/race/etc., it gets called "degenerate" instead of impressive.
3Said Achmiz6y
Telling whether someone draws a realistic picture is quite easy because you can compare the picture to a photo. You don't have a similar comparision for subjective experience and ontology. In both cases getting better at those will allow you to make better predictions in specific cases but it's hard to put that into a structure.
If Looking is something like bypassing one’s own mental machinery that interprets & somewhat distorts reality, then maybe someone who’s enlightened has few cognitive biases, or at least is capable of noticing & maybe bypassing them when they arise?
3Said Achmiz2y
Bypassing one’s own mental machinery and instead using… what? Anyway, I have never noticed anyone “enlightened” having fewer cognitive biases than anyone else, or being more capable of anything in particular. If you claim otherwise, I should like to see the evidence.
What is your sample size here? How many "enlightened" people have you examined for cognitive bias?
0Said Achmiz6mo
I’m not the one making the positive claim.
This response makes it sound as though you are trying to win a fight rather than interested in understanding something. 
Direct embodied perception prior to thought. But I want to acknowledge you're probably using the concept of "mental machinery" differently than I am here. I'm guessing you mean something more like "internal human computation". (Forgive me, I'm not sure how to be really precise there. Hopefully you can see where I'm pointing.) Whereas I'm pointing at something in the structure of human experience. Like, seeing like an artist: When you look at a table and just see a table, you can totally miss nearly all the experience you are in fact having of the table. But if you set aside your idea of "table" and you look at it like you've never seen anything like this before, and you behold it with wonder… you start to notice the very subtle differences in color, and the grain of the wood, and the way the light glances off of it, and a bazillion other details. The main difference here is that instead of projecting your internal concept ("table") onto your experiences and staring at your concept, you're just looking at the experiences prior to thought. Michael Singer has a wonderful example of this kind of thing in "The Untethered Soul". I don't remember his example exactly but it goes something like this: Sometimes I go for a walk a bit after it rains and I see a rainbow over the valley near my house. And I think "Wow, that's beautiful." But in order to think those words, I had to already know it was beautiful. The words aren't informing me of anything. What is the experience I have prior to thought? What if I just… stay with that level of experience? Not that there's anything inherently wrong with thinking. But lots of (most? nearly all?) people seem to miss this process, and their thoughts carry on after that initial point and drag them into bizarre fantasies and illusions. Things like "That rainbow is really beautiful. I remember sitting on a hill with my ex looking at a rainbow like this. She broke up with me saying I'm selfish and emotionally unavailable. What a bitch.
I don't know anyone enlightened, so I'm not making a claim either way. Just that if this is roughly what enlightened is meant to mean (I surmise via the drawing analogy), then this might be an expected consequence, hence test, of it.
It may be the case that "enlightened" is historically correlated with "religious" or "esoteric" - so the downsides of "religious" or "esoteric" usually negate the upsides of "enlightened"? By the way, this explanation of enlightenment looks totally understandable to me.
I would expect someone who's really excellent at Looking would be better at tracking what actually matters. Sidestepping cognitive biases requires something else. Like, you can be tracking what actually matters instead of what you think matters, but still get surprised by your systematically overoptimistic estimates about how long things will take. If you notice that affects what you care about in a way that matters, then you probably have to actually do something about your thinking. Things like survivorship bias also require noticing when something true and important is hidden. Tracking that is a matter of rejiggering the mind to notice where this bias arises and adding corrective factors. …but if a master Looker[1] does not care about these effects, they might in fact use examples that arise from (say) survivorship bias precisely because they make the point the Looker does care about. And they might dismiss and be disinterested in corrections to their thinking, basically for the same reason someone writing a text message might find it annoying for someone to correct their grammar & punctuation. So I daresay that really grokking Looking runs the risk of making one enact biases more. …because much of the time they just don't matter for what you actually care about. 1. ^ I'm avoiding terms like "enlightenment" or "enlightened" because of serious overloading here. I'm just talking about skill with Looking here.

G’Kar: You must understand, Ta’Lon. I have had a revelation!

Ta’Lon: What kind of revelation?

G'Kar: A most profound and substantial one, Ta’Lon. The kind of revelation that transforms your mind, your soul, your heart—even your flesh—so that you are a new creature, reborn in the instant of understanding.

Ta’Lon: That was a stirring reply, Citizen G’Kar. Unfortunately, while all answers are replies, not all replies are answers. You did not answer the question that I asked. What do you understand now that you did not understand before?

— “Point of No Return” (Babylon 5, season 3, episode 9)

Ta’Lon’s reply is, basically, my reaction to this post.

So you’re enlightened. Ok. Now what? What do you understand now that you did not understand before? What do you know now that you did not know before? What can you do now that you could not do before? What have you gained? (And why should anyone want this thing? Or should they?)

Or, to put it another way: suppose that, just prior to reading this post, my view of enlightenment was “I suspect this ‘enlightenment’ business is mostly nonsense, though there’s a chance it’s not nonsense”. Would you predict that reading this post would shift my view? If so, in which direction would you predict that my view would shift?

Third, my kenshō was deliberately induced.

Can you say how? (Was it drugs?)

I'm betting that this is what he plans on explaining in the next post, where this post is a precursor to explain why it's difficult to convey.

Perhaps. If so, I certainly look forward to reading that future post.

However, I will say that before one begins to lay out an elaborate explanation of why something is hard to explain, one might perhaps begin by offering at least a taste of just why, exactly, anyone might be interested in having that thing explained at all.

An analogy: suppose I have invented a widget. Well, so I claim, anyway, having shown up in your office (you’re an investor, to whom I propose to license my invention). Upon entering, I immediately launch into a long, elaborate explanation of the fact that my widget is very difficult to manufacture—almost impossible, really. It’s quite a herculean effort, just making the thing! Yes, producing even one of these widgets is an ordeal worthy of song and story, because the process of its creation is long and arduous and complex…

Are you not liable to interrupt my tale, by saying “Yes, yes, but what is it? Do you have one? What the heck are we even talking about, here? Show it to me!”?

Coming back from the analogy, what I’d very much like to have seen first (and would still like to see) is a post along the lines of: “Observe, as I demonstrate unusual and impressive feats of thinking / writing / action! Are you not impressed? Yes, of course you are… and how did I accomplish these things? Enlightenment! And what is this ‘enlightenment’? Ah, now that’s a tricky one… settle in, because this’ll take a while…”

… or something. You know?

Your wish totally makes sense. And I might have tried harder at that. This is a teaching principle I understand well, I promise. But… the motivation problem is subject to the same puzzle I'm outlining in the OP. This is why so many meditation teachers and enlightenment gurus end up making claims about "lower your stress" and "improve health" and "increase concentration" and "better love-making" and "healthier relationships" and so on. Some of it is trying to point at things that actually can come from this, and some of it is people who have no clue what they're talking about copying the claims they've heard others make. But if I'm being honest, the motivation is already in you, and I don't really care that much what your conscious mind has to think about it. I'd prefer to ease your passage as you keep doing you, but if I literally cannot get your conscious mind to understand, then oh well! The thing I do hope is for your conscious mind to track that there is a kind of insight that it has trouble understanding the need for. "Well, why would I care about that?" Exactly. With all that said, I really did try to give your conscious mind something to hold onto — but it looks like it didn't stick at all, which is unsurprising given, um, everything I've been saying:
1Said Achmiz6y
I started writing a comment responding to things you said, there. Then I noticed that nothing in your comment was actually responsive to my comment. Hm. I asked you to demonstrate what you know, or understand, or can do, now that you’ve achieved whatever-it-is. But you responded by talking about what amazing (but, of course, hard to verbalize) things would happen for me if I were to achieve this thing (or, worse, not even what would happen as a result of achieving the thing, but reasons I allegedly already want this thing—without knowing it). That seems like a non sequitur, and is definitely not at all a response to what I asked. It would be as if—to return to the widgets analogy—I asked you to demonstrate your amazing widget, and you started telling me how great it would be if I made a widget of my own. I hope you can see how that might not quite be the most satisfying response. ---------------------------------------- Edit: This part… seems ripe for examples. You need not even tell us what amazing new insights you have gained; at least enumerate a few of these previously-confusing things which are now laid bare to you (and, preferably, tell us why they matter).
This doesn't strike me as much of a non-sequitur. At least the first part. Assuming that the benefits of the thing Val is describing are similarly for different people, then you getting benefit X after learning it, has a strong implication that Val got benefit X after learning it, and both are direct evidence for "you will benefit if you put effort into learning/engaging-with this". You might still have found his arguments weak, but at least the specific thing you describe doesn't seem to fall into the specific category of "non-sequitur".
3Said Achmiz6y
Hm, are you saying that this part … was intended to be read as a list of benefits that I would get, and Valentine has gotten, from his achievement? I did not read it that way, but if your reading was the intended one, then indeed, that is the sort of thing I meant. Valentine, could you clarify?
Ah, no. I was just responding to these two paragraphs in isolation. While obviously context is always important, this comment of mine should be parsable without any knowledge of Val's original comment. (And as such might also not be super valuable. The thing that generated this comment was more the part of my brain that goes through a proof/argument step-by-step and analyses its internal logic, and not the part of my brain that was trying to parse the larger context of the conversation.)
3Said Achmiz6y
Then, I confess I am having trouble grasping your point. You don’t think that “let me tell what you will get from this” is a non-sequitur in response to “show me what you got from this”? I think it is… but, perhaps reasonable people can differ on this. It is, in any case, a very unsatisfying sort of response, even if it isn’t literally a non sequitur. (There is also the fact that even as I try to think of just what specific benefits Valentine has made reference to, I find it hard to pin them down. Perhaps someone might make a concise list?) ---------------------------------------- Edit: It seems like you edited your comment shortly after posting, to add the second paragraph? Or did I just miss it the first time I read? Anyway, I retract the “trouble grasping your point”, in light of that, but the rest of my comment stands.
Ah, yes. I edited. I usually omit the explicit "edit" if I do it less than five minutes after posting, but I guess this time that was the wrong call.
(Quick terminology thing: "enlightened" is kind of a type error, but if we force it to mean something coherent, then I'm not enlightened. In Buddhism one might say that I've reached stream-entry but not full Buddhahood.) So… I'll answer your question. But first, I'd ask you to notice the combative tone that I think is easy to read in what you've written. This puts me in an odd position: if I just answer, then you're incentivized to poke and prod in a combative way. If I object to the frame, it's easy for the audience to see me as weaseling out of falsifiability. I'm speaking to this directly because that's not the tone I want here: I'd rather just offer what I can and work together to see truth clearly. I know that's not the standard tone of Less Wrong; I've been around a while. But it's a tone I prefer, so it's what I'll use. So! With that… I think I answered some of this in my reply to Ben. It's not exhaustive and doesn't really speak that much to what I understand/know now, but I currently think it's what you're looking for. Let me know if you were hoping for something different. "Should" is a broken concept here. All y'all can do what you like! You can want this, or not, however you see fit. …but in that, I'm yanking your chain a little bit. In this case I think I can answer your question in a way you'll find more satisfying: If you learn how to Look, you can see things that you can learn to interpret as novel patterns. This gives you a lot more room to do some pretty epic stuff. …but explaining that more concretely is really best left for the upcoming post. I'll say how in the upcoming post. Also, as a matter of game theory: I currently think it's a bit dangerous to have people record in public whether they have done something that's currently quite illegal. For the most part, people will tend to say "no" if they haven't, which means answers of "no comment" are evidence of "yes". Because of this, I'm implementing a strategy of answering "no comment" alo
It's illegal to take most drugs in most jurisdictions. It's not illegal to travel to a location where it's legal to consume then and then consume them in that jurisdiction. Drug legality also differs a lot in different countries. Germany for example has at the moment legal 1PLSD which is an LSD analgoue that likely gets processed the same way in the brain (there's an additional group on it that the body likely removes before it has effects). In cases where it's useful to communicate knowledge gained from drug experiments it might be worthwhile to create the plausible impression that the experiment was done in a jurisdiction where it's legal.
6Said Achmiz6y
It sounds like you’re basically saying “all will be explained in my upcoming post”. Fair enough. I look forward to reading it. (This ordering is very much not ideal, imo, but that happens sometimes.) Re: how this “kensho” state was achieved, and whether it was drugs or not: You are, of course, right that it’s imprudent to admit to illegal drug use on a public Internet forum. Your policy of a “no comment” response, if asked directly, is a sensible one. (It also sounds like it was not drugs in this case, because then—presumably—you would not be planning to tell us about it in your upcoming post.) But, in the counterfactual case where… * … you did achieve your not-really-enlightenment-but-something-related state via drug use, and then… * … made a blog post about having achieved this state, without revealing how… * … because it would be imprudent to admit to drug use… … then, in that scenario, you would have done this, knowing in advance that you would refuse to reveal this crucial fact, if asked. (“Crucial”, I say, because let’s face it—“I dropped acid and had a mystical experience and uncovered Truths, which, alas, it is nigh-impossible to put into words” is… not, shall we say, an exceedingly interesting story, nor a particularly novel one.) In that scenario, writing this post would, of course, be quite unethical! Anyhow, it sounds like my concern doesn’t apply here, which is gratifying.
Look, that's the question the entire post was attempting to answer, including the part with the metaphor about why it would be hard to explain with words, together with alluding to the existence of many other people who also had a hard time explaining it with words. You can claim that you still haven't understood but I think it's uncharitable to claim that there was no attempt to explain.

I do feel the post is not really trying to explain why you should care to achieve enlightenment. It highlights that it is difficult to talk about enlightenment, and that it is difficult to point at the benefits elightenment might provide, but it doesn't feel like it's actually trying to give me evidence about the benefits of enlightenment, and that's the part I am actually most skeptical about.

I believe we have many deep epistemic blindspots, and deep ontological frameworks we cannot easily break out off. I expect there are methods to expand your ontology in various ways, and this seems like one of them, but it is competing with hundreds of other ways I could expand my horizon (for example by studying math, or coming to deeply understand poetry, or going through intense social experiences like circling, or participating in intense religious experiences). Mindspace is deep and wide, and while I believe that you've had many internal experiences I haven't, just highlighting that you had them and I have not does not make me want to spend dozens of hours trying to achieve yours. It's not completely unconvincing, but a pretty weak sell overall.

My disagreem... (read more)

You're right, I wasn't trying to sell enlightenment. It really doesn't matter if I sell y'all on it. Promise. I do think there's something to Looking, though. And I think it's interwoven into the core of a lot of rationality. And the failure to learn to Look, instead replacing it with a particular kind of intellectual activity that simulates some of the apparent effects of having Looked, seems to me to be one of the hulking reasons why the sense that more is possible is so hard to actualize. You are in fact doing a beautiful job of being you. That's very you. You make sense. And also, I'm laughing. (In good faith. Promise.)
3Said Achmiz6y
Who said there was no attempt to explain…? I think you might be reading things into my comment that aren’t there… (That said, I don’t actually see where in the post my questions are, in fact, answered. Do you?) I’m sure you can see how that might be, shall we say, rather unsatisfying.
Man, alright, so I'm going to be honest here. I feel like you're being a huge asshole in this conversation, and I'm feeling a strong desire to defend Val from what feels to me like an attack on your part. I expect admitting this will give you plenty of ammunition to continue attacking if that's what you want to do, but I really wish you wouldn't. I don't want to win this conversation. I think Val is explaining something important and if someone gets something out of his explanation that would make me very happy. It's looking unlikely that you're going to be one of those people, and that's okay, but it also feels to me like you're implicitly accusing Val of having violated norms - that's the attack I want to defend against - and if that's how you're feeling I wish you'd be more explicit about it.
5Said Achmiz6y
Now you are definitely reading things into my comments that aren’t there. I would certainly like to get something out of Valentine’s explanations. It seems to me that I have been trying to do exactly that. That’s all.
It does seem like a somewhat common pattern that your comments get interpreted as hostile. I think this is both a reason to extend you more charitability, since I don't actually think those worries have ever been clearly demonstrated to be true, but is also a sign of something more general going wrong that I don't really know how to deal with. (Happy to continue this thread via private chat or in meta. I am hesitant to have even more meta on this post.)
Said, you do not get to decide what people read into your words. What you've communicated to others is what they get from your communication, no more and no less. There's a tight analogy to teaching: you do not get to decide what you teach to your students. What you've taught is what they've learned, no more and no less. I believe that you're trying to get something out of Val's explanations, but there are other things you're doing in the course of that trying and they're really rubbing me the wrong way. That is at least as much a fact about me as about you, but I am a real human having a real experience of being pissed at you, and you don't get to define that experience away just because you don't see anything in your comments worth getting pissed about.
[Moderation Note] Note that at this point the thread doesn't seem super valuable to continue to me, and that I might lock it down in case it continues in a way that I expect to go badly. Discussion via PM or in Meta is welcome.
I love Qiaochu's comment for its sincerity, good faith, and articulation.
Good faith strikes me as a weird descriptor. Do appreciate the sincerity and articulation. (I do think it's important that Qiaochu doesn't undeservedly get the label of "good faith", in particular in a conversation in which he is suggesting someone is lacking exactly that attribute) edit: replaced "accusing" with "suggesting" for less combatative framing
I also think good faith is a weird descriptor of what I said.
  1. - the folks who focus on delivering people the "it was here all along" realisation. They have a book of transcripts and you can read the forum. From the outside it looks entirely gibberish. From the inside it looks like they are pointing at something, and as you get closer in you can see what they are pointing at.
  2. My experiences in enlightenment states including links to a lot of things. This is woo-territory so you need to get people to not outright reject ENL before the conversation starts.
  3. PNSE paper. talking about enlightnment states. Which location do you think you arrived at?
  4. My take on zen koans with a recording that I ran at a dojo in Sydney.
  5. Some notes on convincing people of a thing. And how to frame the information.
  6. NVC - Val would know this but everyone else might not. It's possible to transmit understanding easier by understanding the reverse of NVC. Say - by repea
... (read more)

That PNSE paper makes disturbing reading. The four locations the author identifies on a spectrum of deepness of PNSE display progressively increasing sense of well-being and equanimity. However, he also observed that this subjective sense was not evident in the subjects' actual behaviour. Three examples from the paper:

"Over the course of a week, his father died followed very rapidly by his sister. He was also going through a significant issue with one of his children. Over dinner I asked him about his internal state, which he reported as deeply peaceful and positive despite everything that was happening. Having known that the participant was bringing his longtime girlfriend, I’d taken an associate researcher with me to the meeting to independently collect the observations from her. My fellow researcher isolated the participant’s girlfriend at the bar and interviewed her about any signs of stress that the participant might be exhibiting. I casually asked the same questions to the participant as we continued our dinner conversation. Their answers couldn’t have been more different. While the participant reported no stress, his partner had been observing many telltale signs: ... (read more)

I've read so many reports from people claiming enlightenment that it's become something of a genre. The common thread is that they all claim better emotional skills, but the writing doesn't reflect any such skills. It's like a house with broken windows that says "elite real estate". All this time I thought it was just me, but in retrospect any incommunicable superpowers should've seemed fishy from the beginning. Your comment confirms that someone else got the same impression and they fact-checked it. Thank you!

Harper's has a new article on meditation which delves into some of these issues. It doesn't mention PNSE or Martin by name, but some of the mentioned results parallel them, at least:

...Compared with an eight-person control group, the subjects who meditated for more than thirty minutes per day experienced shallower sleep and woke up more often during the night. The more participants reported meditating, the worse their sleep became... A 2014 study from Carnegie Mellon University subjected two groups of participants to an interview with openly hostile evaluators. One group had been coached in meditation for three days beforehand and the other group had not. Participants who had meditated reported feeling less stress immediately after the interview, but their levels of cortisol—the fight-or-flight hormone—were significantly higher than those of the control group. They had become more sensitive, not less, to stressful stimuli, but believing and expecting that meditation reduced stress, they gave self-reports that contradicted the data.

Britton and her team began visiting retreats, talking to the people who ran them, and asking about the difficulties they’d seen. “Every meditation cent

... (read more)
Scott discusses whether enlightenment (or at least, the jhanas that people may be mistaking for enlightenment) can be interpreted as wireheading of free energy minimization:

I looked up Jeffery Martin, the author of the paper, and found a remarkable disconnect between the negative things he has to say about PNSE and all of his other writings. He has a website for writing about these things, two organisations for researching them, and a string of books on the subject on Amazon.

The same four stages appear in the preface to one of these books, "The God Formula" ("A simple scientifically proven blueprint that has transformed millions of lives"). They are described in glowing terms. Producing those experiences is the very purpose of the book. And yet the book was published in 2013, and references his research on PNSEs, which was carried out over many years previous to that. I can't see enough of the book for free to see how he reconciles these drastically different views.

Apart from a two-volume work on Reiki (of which he is a "world renowned master"), his other books are a science-fictionalised account of what he calls the "Fourth Awakening". I am guessing that from behind the distance of fiction, this is more or less what he believes or hopes to be the case. From the blurbs: "For the past 500 or so years, t... (read more)

8Wei Dai6y
From viewing a couple of his interviews on YouTube, I gathered that there are two possible explanations for this. One is the he was initially motivated to study PNSE because he wasn't feeling happy despite achieving conventional success and saw PNSE as a possible way to achieve sustained happiness and well-being, so that could explain why he's not too bothered by PNSE being more like wireheading than making a person more effective at achieving real-world objectives. Two is that he didn't personally attempt to achieve PNSE until 2010, after he had done all of the research described in the paper (and probably after writing the paper itself), and having the actual PNSE biased him to think of PNSE more positively afterwards. I wouldn't read too much into those books, because according to the interviews they were almost entirely written by a co-author, for the purpose of trying to reach people with PNSE and gathering them as subjects for his research project.
So even when he knew it was wireheading (or at least, had observed all the parts of that concept without necessarily having a word for it), he got sucked in when he had the experience himself. Wireheading does that.
those books had such bad reviews that I didn't bother with them.

I wonder if Jill Bolte Taylor was temporarily enlightened? (Incidentally, The God Formula is now on Libgen.)

Holy crap wow.

The question of whether enlightenment is wireheading is really interesting (and perhaps important) to me. Would love to hear Val's explicit take on that.

(Context: I am more-or-less convinced that there is a repeatable phenomenon called enlightenment, and also that both meditation and CFAR-style introspection have the potential to trigger it. I also meditate moderately regularly and find it very beneficial and insight-provoking. I currently suspect englightenment might be wireheading.)

Edit: This theory only makes sense if "the enlightenment experience" is a distinct thing from "the clarity of sight that accompanies a lot of meditation". I definitely think the latter is a good thing and is clearly not wireheading. But I am confused/turned off by stuff like the "everything is ok" paragraph, and that seems to be an important part of most enlightenment experiences.

Is the inversion on NVC your invention? I think it is quite beautiful.
without explaining. yes. PM for more information.

The awakened community definitely needs more rationality and the rationality community could probably benefit from some Insight, so thank you for starting this conversation. Hopefully it's just the first step. For anyone interested r/streamentry is a mostly woo-free, friendly community for discussing this sort of thing.

A particularly useful and traditional guideline is to wait a year and a day before claiming an attainment and completely making up your mind. This is slippery stuff sometimes, and many states and stages can easily fool someone into thinking that they are something they are not.

Do you have a teacher? I ask for two reasons. Firstly a reputable teacher will be able to provide confirmation of your attainment. Secondly what you’re describing doesn’t sound like stream entry, it sounds like A&P. There’s typically a difficult period after this which can be brutal if you’re not expecting it and it’s extremely useful to have the support of a teacher who knows the territory to guide you through it. Whatever it turns out to be it sounds like it's reduced suffering considerably, so congratulations.

You linked to Rinzai Zen, is that the tradition in which you’ve been... (read more)

Meta: it looks like a few people (including me) are getting confused about comments disappearing on this thread. The page by default only displays 100 comments, presumably chosen by magical algorithm, and you need to request at the top to get it to display more comments.

To me this effect is jarring because when I see that a comment I wrote has disappeared I don't know whether it was 1) eaten by a bug, 2) put on another thread by a bug, 3) deleted by a moderator, or 4) hidden in this way, which is not a hypothesis I had before looking more carefully because I already had 3 other excellent hypotheses. I don't have concrete suggestions for what to do about this.

Yep, this is horrible and I apologize. We only had two threads with over 100 comments since he start of LW2, and so this is not something that I ended up optimizing super much for. But I will try to fix it soon.

Since we're talking about the behavior of comment threads, I hope you won't mind me mentioning here that I would love to be able to collapse a comment from below its nested replies in addition to the top of the comment. I'm finding that I often am scrolling down a chain of nested replies to see if anything new has been added, discovering that nothing has, and then scrolling up to collapse. EDIT: never mind, that's what the green bar is for! I just hadn't seen any new comments yet :D

I think you're talking about doing your own perceptual chunking, instead of projecting socially received models (or your own prior models) on top of something. This is absolutely critical for being able to do anything new, and almost definitionally difficult to verify based on legible standards. I don't actually think the problem is that people don't know how to do it - it's usually that they perceive an incentive not to do it, and to cover up this fact. And sometimes they're right!

Related: Do One-Eyed Rule Blind?, The order of the soul

9Said Achmiz6y
I would love to see an LW post that talks about this in detail.
Which aspect?
5Said Achmiz6y
“doing your own perceptual chunking, instead of projecting socially received models (or your own prior models) on top of something”, and how/why this is “absolutely critical for being able to do anything new”, and also, of course, the bit about incentives not to do it, and covering up. So, all of it.
Interesting. One of the terms that is used in Buddhism is "ego-identification" -- this is the belief that all of my perceptions come through a specific physical body, and therefore I am this body. I'm probably oversimplifying, but my understanding is that this belief should be understood to be erroneous, and actually seeing through and letting go of this belief is a major milestone. It occurs to me now that ego-identification is a kind of perceptual chunking, perhaps the most fundamental one.

[Edit: this comment starts off on a critical tone. After reading more comments which are very critical, I wanted to edit my comment to first at least indicate that I think you are communicating about it as best you can and am somewhat annoyed with those suggesting otherwise. Nonetheless, my comment focuses on a single paragraph in which you make a decision about how to communicate which I disagree with. This is neither a criticism of the central point of the essay, nor a criticism of the overall way in which you try to make your point here.]

[Edit 2: I think I get what Looking is now; see my reply to Moral Of Story's comment.]

Another way I could try to say the “it’s okay” thing is something like, “The world is real in your immediate experience before you think about it. Set aside your interpretations and just look.” The trouble is, most people’s thinking system can grab statements like this and try to interpret them: if you think something like “Oh, that’s the map/territory distinction”, then all I can say is you are still looking at your phone.

There's something very frustrating about this. Explaining in-parable: if you're trying to tell me to look up, and I send a di... (read more)

Any good koan that can't be immediately decoded feels that way for a person who feels the desire to decode everything. It a basic effect of the teaching tool. Telling koans is a time tested method for teaching these things and while it might be possible that there's a better way to teach it, but that doesn't mean that it's bad to go with it if you don't know of a better way.
I agree with what you are saying. I think I addressed. Again using map-territory as an analogy: It can help someone's understanding of the map-territory distinction to show them places in the territory which don't match their map. I'm saying there's also a different thing you can do, which is to draw a map of the map-territory relationship. I read Val as objecting to this approach with "you are still looking at your phone", which doesn't seem like a right objection to me. If I ask "Is Kenshō the map-territory distinction?" It seems like the answer is "no, you can understand that without Kenshō; I can see why you thought what I said sounded like map-territory, and it isn't irrelevant.... but for one thing, I'm talking about an aspect of moment-to-moment experience rather than an intellectual distinction..." etc etc
I think learning the map-territory relationship is about learning something new. Kenshō is in a fundamental sense not about learning something new. When it comes to the person who looks at the phone and the person unlearns to focus on their phone they begin to see other things. The act of unlearning to look at the phone doesn't add something new and is qualitatively different than learning a concept like the map-territory distinction.
I agree that the map-territory example is disanalogous with the phone example, since there aren't a lot of people who respond to the map-territory distinction with "what would that even mean??? are you OK???". I think maybe I understand what you mean about "not adding something new" -- you're saying it is more like you could have looked up from your phone all along, and you once did, but you've forgotten? But I also take it you mean to be pointing out something I'm missing. If so, I'm still not seeing it. Are you saying there's something fundamentally wrong with asking for a diagram of how the eyes point at the phone normally but can point away from it? The model I get from Val's post (and from reading comment threads here!!) is that this will mostly get a response like "I don't see where this gaze app is" (or worse). However, if someone is engaging with the question sincerely, it seems possible for it to be useful. With respect to enlightenment, this is like the method of direct instruction rather than meditation. (I don't remember the name of the school of thought I'm referring to, but it is discussed in Sam Harris' Waking Up.) Granted, even that school has traditions against trying to explain directly to a general audience I think? So maybe there is a general case to be made aggainst the attempt.

My sense is that "enlightenment" is a perceptual-emotional shift rather than any change of belief or judgment, and this makes the communication difficult, same as communicating any other qualia to a person who hasn't had it. It's not unlike trying to communicate what a hypothetical novel color looks like to someone who hasn't seen it.

Of course, if I can see ultraviolet colors (due to some novel Crispr treatment or something), I can offer a good description of the mechanics which are producing my unique experience , i.e. "I can see a wavelength you can't." In the case of enlightenment, however, we don't have commonly accepted and understood models like wavelength of light. If we did for qualia too, I think Val could communicate in an understandable what was going on his mind, even if the mechanical description cannot convey the actual experience. (I'm reminded of the Mary's Room thought experiment.)

In the case of Val's Kensho, I don't think I've ever occupied that mental state, but I've experienced enough variations in relevant dimensions of perception, emotion, and relation to reality that I get that he... (read more)

9Said Achmiz6y
If you could see ultraviolet colors, you could use that perception to, e.g., distinguish between an object that is radiating in UV from one which isn’t (which normal humans cannot do). It would be trivial to verify that you had some perception that others lacked (using any or all of a myriad reliable, repeatable, unambiguous experiments). No description of your internal state, or the true mechanism of your new power, would be necessary. What is the analogous trivially-verifiable power that is bestowed by enlightenment?

I haven't achieved any state profound enough that I'd consider it enlightenment, but I'll answer based on my understanding and what I've experienced so far.

I don't think there is a trivially-verifable power conferred by enlightenment, but I would wager that people who have experienced enlightened will perform systematically better at certain tasks, including:

  • Maintaining emotional stability and wellbeing regardless of circumstance, e.g. intense stress, uncertainty, tragic loss.
  • Better ability to stare directly at uncomfortable truths, and resultantly, less motivated cognition.

It's a useful state to achieve if you plan to wake up each day, confront the sheer magnituted of the suffering that exists in the world, or carry the burden of trying to ensure the far future is as good as it could be, while hoping to be a psychologically well-adjusted and effective human. All the more so if the tasks you carry out push you to your limits[1].

It'd take resource-intensive experiments to measure these effects, but I'd still wager on their existence. Much of my confidence is because each time I feel myself move along theses dimensions, I reap marginal benefits.

[1] I think many EA's suffer because they take on these tasks without the mental infrastructure required to bear them and still flourish.

Interesting! This is starting to sound quite a bit like something resembling verifiable claims (not quite, but much closer than most other stuff in this vein!).

Could you say a bit more about what sorts of experiments you envision, that could verify the effects you allude to? (Or, to put it another way: you said you’d wager on the existence of these effects—do you mind sketching out in more detail how we might construct the conditions of such a bet, with sufficient rigor to make it definitely resolvable?)

In any case, I very much appreciate this sort of response, thanks.

Likewise, I really appreciate Ruby's replies here. I haven't reflected deeply enough on the "perceptual-emotional shift" thing to know whether I fully agree, but it seems very plausible to me, and the claims he's putting forward sound right to me.
Glad it's helpful! Psychological resilience and motivated cognition are difficult to measure, but I'm very certain they're real things. Not everything real and which has a large causal effect on the world is easily measured. I'm not inclined to sketch out protocols for measuring these things in this comment thread, but I'd recommend How To Measure Anything as the book I'd turn to if I was to try.

I'm trying to decide whether or not I understand what "looking" is, and I think it's possible I do, so I want to try and describe it, and hopefully get corrected if it turns out I'm very wrong. 

Basically, there's sort of a divide between "feeling" and "Feeling" and it's really not obvious that there should be, since we often make category errors in referring to these things. On the one hand, you might have the subjective feeling of pain, like putting your hand on something extremely hot. Part of that feeling of pain is the very strong sensation on your hand. Another part of the pain is the sense that you should not do that. This Feeling is the part that sucks. This is the part that you don't want. 

It turns out that those two types of subjective experience aren't one in the same and aren't inseparable. For the vast majority of situations where you notice that one occurs you also notice the other. However, (and it's a big however), there are some times where the first type appears without the second type. It just so happens that our brain is wired so that you never notice that specific situation. But it occurs... (read more)

5Said Achmiz6y
I would very much like to know whether this is, in fact, related to what Valentine is talking about. (I have much to say in response to this comment, but don’t want to start a long thread about it if it would be off-topic.)
Given what Val did with his shoulder after the operation it would surprise me a lot if he wouldn't have been able to make that distinction pre-kenshō for a sensation like pain. I have the impression that Val points to things that are more advanced than that.
My understanding is that the skill you describe here is a prerequisite for what Valentine describes as Kensho or stream-entry. Stream-entry/Kensho refer to a broader kind of "getting it", a brief grasping of the illusoriness of the self and comprehenion of the oneness of all things, etc. I would add that there appear to be numerous different schools of thought on what these terms actually refer to. Some will say that you haven't achieved the target state unless you've experienced a jarring "cessation event", in which you witness your conscious mind blink out and then come back online, and this event prompts a certain set of realizations about the nature of the mind. Some other schools don't seem to regard the cessation event as necessary. I too would like to get a clear answer on this, because terms like "kensho" tend to have more than one possible interpretation.

Fantastic. It's seemed to me for awhile now that the stuff that people are actually talking about in-person (e.g. at CFAR workshops) has far outstripped the pace of what's publicly available in blog post format and I'm really happy to see progress on that front.

For what such claims are worth, I don't think this has happened to me yet, but I think I've gotten near enough to it that I believe it exists.

It is fairly effortful to write about because it is higher dimensional than the connotation space of words that you need to use to describe it. So you wind up having to halt every few sentences to say things in more ways in order to hopefully get your audience to triangulate on the correct thing. And it only sort of works.
Agreed, regarding CFAR stuff. And Qiaochu, even if you haven't experienced this yet, I believe you are or have gotten closer than most.

FYI, I have an impression that 150 comments in some kind of progress in understanding was actually made by at least some people, and I'd be interested in someone who learned anything significant writing a (much condensed) summary of the output of this thread.

Agreed. I found reading so many comments exhausting and, et, unenlightening, and after a while I just gave up

Not to put too fine a point on it: through the tone and content of the post, I can still see the old attachments and subconscious messed-up strategies shining through.

I am, of course, not free of blame here because the same could be said about my comment.

However, I reach out over both of these and touch you, Val.

In the dialogue between "YOU" and ALEX, not only does ALEX not have a place in their mind for "look up" to land, YOU does not seem to have a place in their mind for that fact to land. YOU just keeps on repeating "look up" and "you are not looking up yet", without noticing even after six repetitions that he is offering nothing that ALEX can use. Scott's green bat does the same thing in saying "get out of the car". Illusion of transparency, in spades.

I think it's really uncharitable to read that dialogue as a description of anything like an optimal attempt to get Alex to look up; it starts "in your excitement" for a reason. Read it as a description of a person's internal experience of being able to look up and then being frustrated at how difficult it is to communicate that to Alex. Instead of asking "how could I attack this person's reasoning as much as possible?" you could be asking something more like "what kind of experience would cause a person to be so excited, in this particular way, that they would try repeatedly to explain that experience, in this particular way, without remembering to pause to come up with a good way to explain it first?"

It's an attempt to get Alex to look up, but a completely unsuccessful one. As Alex -- or to drop the analogy, as me reading Valentine's article -- I am never impressed just by someone's enthusiasm. That way lies susceptibility to clickbait. As I said in my other comment, I look forward to the promised next instalment.

Loren ipsum

No, actually, I think you know the basics of how to Look. I also think there are several different types of things one can Look at, and I happened to have my head pointed in one direction, and you tend to point your head in another. You made a LOT more sense to me after this.
I would be interested in how you would falsify it regardless. I am confused about what I am meant to be confused about (what does it mean for it to not be okay?) and I suspect the excersise would remedy that.
Apologies, I don't really follow what you're saying here. What "it" is being falsified? What exercise are you referring to? Also, you're not meant to be confused by anything. It's just an observation, that pre-kenshō people tend to get confused when someone who has had kenshō tries to describe anything about what they've come to see and how they know they're seeing it.
The exercise in falsification refers to Conor's last sentence, only no longer applied specific to him. When I say I am confused about what I am meant to be confused about, I mean that I'm failing to identify as Alex. He at least has a command he knows he cannot do (Look above that! / That's the top.), whereas I am stuck in the realm of unknown unknowns. Your paragraph on the "it" from your kenshō is a much closer description of how I currently feel than the inverse is; I don't understand what it would mean for this claim to be untrue except in the sense that it "not being okay" accurately describes external reality. But that feels like it falls into the same trap that your bullet points are said to, only in the opposite direction. Your later post about the benefits does this more clearly; with absolute exception of the point about energy, and potential exception of the last, the other points seem oddly accurate representations of the difference between me and the average person. But I don't think I am enlightened. So, on a concrete level, this comes through as the question of how would you differentiate someone who was born enlightened from someone who was not, but is perhaps mistakenly labelling a shallow surface immitation?
Hi there. I think I understand Val's thing. (Specifically, I think I understand Val's thing enough that I am imagine Val being wryly amused by my saying "I think I understand Val's thing".) Let's talk about the cellphone analogy for a minute. Say you see someone who is looking down at their phone, instead of Looking around them. You're trying to explain Looking to them, and they keep staring at their phone and typing "yeah yeah okay, but how do you know I'm not Looking right now?" And you type "I'm watching you stare at your phone. If your Looking, your head would be up and your eyes would be pointed at me." And they type, "my eyes ARE pointed at you. I'm looking RIGHT AT YOU", as they look intently at your chat icon on their screen. And you sigh, stop typing, and gently speak right into their ear, "no. LOOK AT ME." They twitch uncomfortably and type, "I don't know what you did, but that was deeply uncomfortable. Please don't do that again." And then you sigh and shrug, and they type "so anyway, how do you know I'm not Looking?" And then you shrug and go look for someone else who's head is up, because trying to raise this person's head made them uncomfortable and you don't want to try any further.

And you sigh, stop typing, and gently speak right into their ear, “no. LOOK AT ME.”

They twitch uncomfortably and type, “I don’t know what you did, but that was deeply uncomfortable. Please don’t do that again.”

What is this part an analogy for, in the ‘enlightenment’ case? What can you (or Valentine) do, that would make the un-enlightened twitch uncomfortably and say “I don’t know what you did”?

(Similarly, in the ‘parable’ part of the OP, Valentine alludes to the possibility of reaching over and raising the person’s head, forcing them to look up. He then gives what I consider to be some quite unsatisfying reasons for not doing this—but what actually would that constitute? Can you demonstrate, or could Valentine? Surely we can find a willing subject…)

twitch I really REALLY want to explain why this is a bad idea, but explaining why it is a bad idea is currently a bad idea. Some local sociopolitcal stuff will need to calm down first, and then I can explain.

EDIT: No, wait. I think I can gesture at it, even if I can't explain fully yet.

There is something about ... concepts that I'm going to call "sovereignty" and "agency", which seem deeply connected with Looking.

Something I've learned to do, occasionally, is sit down with someone and say "Hey. You've been taught that you're not allowed to use your sovereignty and agency to Look. I really think you should Look." And then they flail a bit, like someone who doesn't know how to wiggle their ears trying to learn, and I sigh and say "hey. If I deliberately fuck with your agency, in a way that causes you to feel your sovereignty being attacked, you'll actually notice what your sovereignty feels like, and then you can learn to play around in that space. May I do that? It feels kind of scary and violating, so I don't want to do it without your permission."

And then they say "umm no?", and I go away.

But... (read more)

4Said Achmiz6y
No. I’d like the following: 1. Concrete description of what you’re talking about. Please avoid vagueness. It doesn’t help at all. 2. For you to bring in some of these people who reacted in the “oh wow!” fashion, and have them tell us just what you’re talking about, and what is this thing that they were suddenly able to perceive, etc. #2 may not be trivial, I understand, but it would be very nice to have actual evidence (even of this weak sort) of what you’re saying. #1 would be a good start, and seems like it should be very easy to provide. I appreciate you trying to explain. Please take my responses/questions as eager attempts to understand. I’d very much like to actually elicit (from anyone, not necessarily you) an actual, specific explanation, which is why I am following up with these requests for specifics, demonstrations, etc.
Please avoid vagueness. It doesn’t help at all.

Unfortunately, the vagueness is to protect him, not to help you.

#1 would be a good start, and seems like it should be very easy to provide.

Why does it seem like it should be very easy to provide? I imagine if you set a 5-minute timer and really tried to come up with a list of reasons a person might be some combination of unable or unwilling to provide a concrete description of something, you would come up with more than one possible reason.

I appreciate you trying to explain. Please take my responses/questions as eager attempts to understand.

I appreciate this. Thank you.

2Said Achmiz6y
This boils down to “I can’t explain this, for reasons I also can’t explain”, right? I mean, if you can’t explain it because if you do, the Secret Service will break into your house in a midnight raid to arrest you—fair enough. But you do understand, I’m sure, that this counts as “asked for an explanation or evidence, you failed to provide any”—yes? Can we agree that the situation as it stands is “claims have been made, but not backed up in any meaningful way”? Unwilling? Yes, easily. (Most of them rather… well, ‘uncharitable’ is the word that’s typically used around here, but one I wouldn’t use myself; ‘disreputable’, perhaps. I can certainly think of some respectable reasons, though.) Unable, though? No. What are some such reasons?
What would you get, if I agreed with this, that you want? (Try to use Focusing to answer this question.) In the local dialect, really long inferential distances.
4Said Achmiz6y
Long inferential distances would make you unable to report events that physically took place in the real world? How?
Fair enough, I think I misunderstood you and also used a poor choice of words. I meant "unable" as in "unable to provide a concrete description that would actually promote understanding." By analogy, suppose a layperson was reading about Fermat's Last Theorem and asked me for a concrete description of what a modular form is. On some level I could answer by quoting a textbook definition - that's what would count as concrete to a mathematician. On another level there is basically no answer that I could give short of teaching this layperson complex analysis that would allow me to give a description that would meaningfully qualify as "concrete."
2Said Achmiz6y
All I wanted was for ialdabaoth to describe the thing he was talking about—the thing that could be analogized to “whispering in someone’s ear and making them twitch”. Perhaps his account would promote understand, perhaps it would not, but the account itself—being a simple reporting of events that transpired—would surely be perfectly plain.
I DID describe that thing! "Physically moving, with intent, to cut off the girl's hair" is EXACTLY what "whispering in someone's ear and making them twitch" is! EXACTLY. It's not a different situation! But you seemed to want something more salacious, so I refused to give it to you. I want you to understand, but I'm not here to amuse you.
8Said Achmiz6y
I… think there is a misunderstanding here, and perhaps it’s on my end, but it seems at least partly to be on yours. First of all, I’m really not sure where you’re getting “salacious”, so let’s set that aside right away. Nothing even remotely like that is anywhere in what I wrote. Secondly, let’s recap. You said: You then analogized this to the “whispering in someone’s ear” scenario. I asked what this is supposed to be analogy for; i.e., can you in fact do something to someone, and have them not understand what it is you did, or how? (This, presumably, would suggest to us that you had some capability that this other person did not; and this extra capability would be something-akin-to ‘enlightenment’.) You also said some things about ‘sovereignty’, ‘agency’, and ‘Looking’. (These, too, it would seem—from your comments—are related somehow to Valentine’s ‘enlightenment’.) So what I asked you was simple: What is this unusual thing that you can do to someone, such that they are confused, or don’t know what you did or how; which signals some unusual capability that you possess? Clearly, your story with the hair-clipper doesn’t qualify. In fact, it so obviously doesn’t qualify as an example of anything like what you implied you could provide an example of, that it did not even occur to me that you were, in fact, giving me what you thought was an example. I mean—you (jokingly) threatened to cut off a woman’s hair. This showed her that there are some things she cares really viscerally about. Certainly a clever demonstration! But what on earth has this to do with… well, any of what’s we’ve been discussing? I’m sorry if I’m being dense, but I don’t see anything like a connection. Spell out your chain of reasoning, please. Even if I’m not convinced, I’d at least like to understand what you’re claiming.
Ohhhh. Okay. THAT I tried to cut off her hair isn't the "unusual thing". HOW I tried to cut of her hair is the "unusual thing". Specifically, the non-verbal signals of intent, dominance, objectification, and raw power, pointed directly at her, while threatening something she cared about, are the "unusual thing". I'm starting to think you were accusing me of believing in something supernatural?
7Said Achmiz6y
Indeed not; I can’t possibly be accusing you of believing in anything supernatural, since it has been quite unclear to me what, if anything, you are claiming to believe. Now, as of this last comment, the “if anything” part is withdrawn; clearly, you are saying something. But what? That’s what I’m still unsure of. I don’t quite follow. Could you elaborate? What is unusual about these ‘signals’ (and what are they, in particular)? Following the analogy, it would seem that the young lady in your account should have been confused about what you were doing, or how; and, perhaps, that I, or other unenlightened onlookers / those to whom you relate the story, should also be confused about this. But nothing in your story seems confusing to me. Should it? What you did seems to me to have been clever, but straightforward (which is not to deny the cleverness!). I don’t have any trouble fitting it into my perfectly ordinary view of the world; nor, I suspect, would any “man in the street”. Should I? What am I missing? Edit: Or is the claim here simply that ‘enlightenment’ (apologies, I know the term has been objected to—I mean whatever-state-you-have-achieved that is unusual and is the sort of thing being discussed—feel free to provide a better term) helps to generate this sort of cleverness (which, though not itself mysterious or unusual, is nonetheless clever, and thus useful—i.e., constitutes ‘cake’)? That would be a reasonable enough claim. Let me know if this is what you meant. ---------------------------------------- P.S. In a sibling thread, I asked you for a similar sort of account, but one that was pertinent to the topic at hand. You said you might provide one “another time”. This implies that there is such an account, and that the one you’ve provided so far isn’t it. But now you’re saying that what you already recounted is ‘it’. Again—what am I missing?
Imagine trying to tell a hunter gatherer about why we build the Large Hadron Collider and tell him about how we discovered the Higgs Boson. Then he asks you: "So it's somehow like the ritual our medicine man does to speak with ghosts he otherwise couldn't see?" The inferential distance won't allow you to give the hunter gather a good idea about the event that happens at the Large Hadron Collider.
Update: Just yesterday, I did a gentler version of "pulling someone's head up from their phone" to Eli Tyre. It was mostly wordless, and involved no action on my part that would be really perceivable to an outside observer. He said he would describe his experience here; hopefully he'll do so while the experience is still fresh in his mind.
Here's a concrete thing that actually happened once! (More or less. Small details have been modified to extract pith.) A girl came to me for dance lessons. One of the things that she wanted was to understand how to "push through" things that she knew her body could do, but her mind couldn't. We talked a lot about agency, about CARING. About how, when you know you really care, you can always find a way to push through. She wasn't getting it. Finally, I looked at her hair. It was strawberry-blonde, down to her knees, and always meticulously brushed, conditioned, and perfumed. Then I asked her, "what will you let me do, to explain to you what CARING feels like?" She looked at me and said something like "at this point, do whatever you have to." So I said, "watch this. This is what caring feels like." And I picked up a hair clipper and turned it on, and with my other hand I grabbed a fistful of her hair... And she freaked, and screamed at me, and I let go, and she pulled away, and she stormed out. And the next week, she came back and we had a long, intense conversation about CARING. And I would never, EVER have actually cut her hair. But if I hadn't aggressively reached for it, and turned on the clippers, she would have seen through it. She had to get, in her gut, what was at stake. The relationship was pretty strained after that, but she finally understood CARING.

Cool! This is exactly the sort of answer I wanted: one where you literally tell us what actually took place.

Now, could you give exactly that sort of answer—one that involves a literal account of events—but about the thing we were talking about in the first place?

Nope! Maybe some other time.
Have you actually experience at explaining this to someone and getting this result? I don't see theists going "HOW DARE YOU TOUCH THAT I DID NOT GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO DO THAT I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT YOU'D BE TOUCHING NEVER DO THAT TO ANYONE EVER AGAIN!!" after they read a good blog post explaining why God doesn't exist. In the same way I wouldn't expect to get that reaction for anything related to this. I remember sitting for lunch after a lecture on a related subject and other people at the table simply didn't remember the relevant things that were said in the lecture. They didn't register the claims at all. Human minds are quite resilient to being changed on a basic level in a short amount of time.
The thing that ialdabaoth is gesturing at with "fuck with your agency" is not an explanation (I don't know what it is, but it's not an explanation). An explanation would be a text message sent to someone's phone in the cell-phone world; ialdaboth is gesturing at the thing where you whisper directly into someone's ear, which is a very different sort of thing.
Do you feel there's a concrete thing he's gesturing at? If so, can you give an additional hint about what you mean that's not obvious enough that it doesn't do any damage?
2Said Achmiz6y
Write an explanation, and post it publicly, in encrypted form. Later, when you feel that it’s acceptable, post the decryption key. (In the meantime, send the key to some people—who will not to disclose it to the general public—so that they may immediately verify that your explanation is legit.) (Edit: Naturally, these should not be people from anywhere near ialdabaoth’s or Valentine’s social circles.) Sound good? ---------------------------------------- Edit: I wrote this comment prior to ialdabaoth editing it with a lot more material. Reading now. Edit 2: Ok, I’ve read the longer version now. Response in sibling. The initial part of my comment stands.
I imagine there might be thorny consent issues around doing this to a person who doesn't or maybe can't understand what sort of thing it is.
Brother, you ain't just whistlin' Dixie.
I believe I understood this metaphor. However, it seems to me this isn't a good place to be, since I predict the metaphor is only useful to ground discussion about the thing that's actually taking place. It is that second step that hasn't worked. Let's flip this around. How do you know when someone is Looking? Is there a way to do so based on external behaviours? What is your equivalent of the following? You give a good example with the hair clipper, but I don't know how much, if at all, that relates to Looking. If it is closely related I have a few follow-up questions that probably get to the crux of the issue I specifically am stuck on.
What kinds of things are good to Look at? My guesses: your own thinking (as Val stated earlier), your close relationships, group dynamics, the world. Anything I've missed?

I've been talking to some friends in philosophy for some time in what they describe as in the realm of post-rationality. Based on my reading of what post-rationality among ex-rationalists/rationalist-adjacents doesn't match what my friends have been talking about, so I guess they mean it in the sense that what they're pursuing seems thematically typical of what techniques rationalists tend to pursue after they feel they're not getting new value out of applying or re-applying mindsets typical of the rationality community. One feature tha... (read more)

Ontology shifts don't get you immediate gains (other than a few feelings of epiphany as you recompress things more efficiently). The gains come when you are able to perform more complex maneuvers in the re-ontologized domain because what were formerly thoughts that were expensive to think are now primitives out of which you can build more complex data structures. Notice the similarity between psychological development models and the kuhnian scientific paradigm model.

How accurate would it be if I characterized Looking as "the skill of being able to notice concept-shaped holes"? (with the difference that the "hole" in question may be an entirely different ontology that's necessary for making sense of something)

-edit: did not know about the pm feature

Oh man, I'd LOVE to hear what comes of this.
Some of your comments appear to be hidden. I shall reply here with a question they bought to mind. I think it worth talking about whether it is sustainable. Whether they can do what is needed to be done at the current time when going at that high speed? Before people go too far down that path. Basically I'm asking, "But at what cost?"

Brief footnote:

The post I mention at the end was already planned before September. It's (to me) the natural follow-up after Fake Frameworks. Having it work so quickly to result in kenshō just came as a surprise and had me delay the sequence I'm writing.

Not critical for y'all to know. I just thought it was amusing.

Earlier I quoted this from the PNSE paper:

"Many participants discussed the thought, just after their transition to PNSE, that they would have to go to work and explain the difference in themselves to co-workers. They went on to describe a puzzled drive home after a full day of work when no one seemed to notice anything different about them. Quite a few chose to never discuss the change that had occurred in them with their families and friends and stated that no one seemed to notice much of a difference."

I am wondering, has anyone, after achieving some great insight, or doing some sort of personal development work, received, from people unaware of it, unsolicited favourable comments on how they have changed?

Thank you for your very interesting post Valentine.

I am coming to this topic from a quite different viewpoint than most of the comments I read (did not read them all). That is because I believe I know exactly what you are talking about due to having this experience myself. Nevertheless, I think you are mistaken to call it enlightenment.

The base of what you are describing as 'Looking' is that there is a different way of perceiving the world. Something like a separate perceptual channel or mode. This concept and its various distortions can be indee... (read more)

Mmm, thank you. I will take a look. Gut reaction is confusion. I’m watching myself able to do things I couldn’t do before, and I understand both why I can do them now and why I couldn’t before. That seems… incoherent to “let go of”. …but I’ve learned enough to know that clinging to that kind of thought usually just gets in the way. So, I am sincerely listening. I will look where you’re pointing. Thank you.
I second the recommendation of Idries Shah. with the caveat that while I believe he Had Something, I have always been unsure just how much of a charlatan he also was.

Third, my kenshō was deliberately induced. I think I understand the mechanisms behind how, and I believe I can convey them in a usable way. I plan to do so in an upcoming post.

If you learn how to Look, you can see things that you can learn to interpret as novel patterns. This gives you a lot more room to do some pretty epic stuff.

…but explaining that more concretely is really best left for the upcoming post.

The next post isn’t about evidence about why Looking has something important to say about epistemology. It’s a model of how I have done several

... (read more)

I am curious too but it looks like Valentine is never going to write the promised post, as it's been almost 6 years and looking at his profile, none of the 4 immediately subsequent posts (1, 2, 3, 4) really deal with the topic of meditation & enlightenment, as only #2 even briefly links here (and then he stopping posting entirely for almost 4 years, and his resumed posts are on rather different topics - unless "Creating a truly formidable Art" is that?).

(If I may generalize about Internet writers, if someone has some big piece in mind about their current interests and their interest drift and they haven't written it up after a few years, then you can safely assume that it is never going to happen and be pleasantly surprised by the rare exceptions; this is why it is critical to 'strike while the iron is hot' and not let perfectionism stop you because for most people, what will happen is that nothing will happen, rather than write an exquisite perfect essay (or video, or fanfic, or novel etc). Once it exists, cleaning it up is less demanding, and if you don't, at least it exists, and can do whatever good it can do.)

This might be related to his statement in a followup discussion t... (read more)

It was Mythic Mode. I guess that went over everyone's heads. I had a sequence in mind, on "ontology cracking". I gave up on that sequence when it became obvious that Less Wrong really wasn't interested in that direction at all. So I ended up never describing how I thought mythic mode worked on me, and how it might generalize. But honestly, Mythic Mode has all the ingredients you need if you want to work it out. It also seems worth noting, I've gotten way more PCK on the whole thing since then, and now I have approaches that are a fair bit more straightforward. More zen-like. Kinder. So the approach I advocate these days feels different and is more grounded & stable. I might try to share some of that at some point.   You seem to have quite missed the point of that exchange. But honestly, I'm tired of arguing with logic machines about this. No, I cannot prove to you that it's not your daughter's arm. No, that fact does not cause me to question my certainty that it's not your daughter's arm. Yes, I understand you think I'm crazy or deluded. I am sorry I don't know how to help you; it is beyond my skill, and my human heart hurts for being so misunderstood so much here.

But honestly, I’m tired of arguing with logic machines about this. No, I cannot prove to you that it’s not your daughter’s arm. No, that fact does not cause me to question my certainty that it’s not your daughter’s arm. Yes, I understand you think I’m crazy or deluded. I am sorry I don’t know how to help you; it is beyond my skill, and my human heart hurts for being so misunderstood so much here.

Isn’t this an ironic choice of metaphor? The situation rather more resembles you insisting that it’s your daughter’s arm, being certain of this despite many other people thinking that you’re not quite in touch with reality, being impervious to demonstrations or proofs that it’s your arm, etc.

(Of course, I don’t think that the metaphor is quite apt either way. I don’t think that what you’ve said is obviously wrong in the same way that the stroke patient’s arm-ownership claim is obviously wrong; rather, it’s mostly unclear to me what you’re claiming in the first place, and to the extent that it is clear, the claims seem vague, etc. Indeed, it would be a much easier discussion if you were merely saying [apparently-]straightforwardly-wrong things… And, conversely, I don’t think that I’ve sai... (read more)

Of course it's not ironic. What do you think the patient must think about the doctor's certainty?

I'm a very occasional meditator but I think I mostly get what you mean by Looking. But it's 4am and I'm commenting more to report that something weird happened as result of this post. I read this earlier today, then later via Scott's review read this page about A&P events:

Then tonight in bed I started having some strange sensations. I started seeing some of those vibrations, maybe. This part was only visual and could have been imaginary. Then I started getting a strong sense... (read more)

This post really captured my attention. So much so I read it and most of the comments thrice.

Two of Valentine's claims:

A) Certan types of things are meta-cognitive blindspots (cfar jargon). For example, alcohol impairs your driving ability, it also impairs the ability to tell whether or not you're okay to drive. Given you've had N drinks, the feeling of "I'm okay to drive" is not to be trusted. Another example is recognising good outfits, If you're lacking in fashion sense you can't tell whether or not the clothes y... (read more)

I remember that I had enlightenment for about two days, back in fourth grade.

But of course, it wasn't real enlightenment, because I can explain what I mean.

When you consider whether to do something (e.g. my fourth-grade homework), you do many things. You think about what other people will think. You execute habits, both good and bad. You might let yourself get distracted, which is itself a sort of habit. And there is also some small part of you that can predict the costs and benefits of doing the thing.

In my state of enlightenment, I felt the costs an... (read more)

So glad you wrote this, and looking forward to where you take this thread of posts. There is a whole bunch of stuff here that doesn't get touched upon enough for what we're all trying to do, and I think writing about it needs to happen more.