Okay, hold my gluten-free kefir, boys! Please let me say it in full first without arguments, and then I will try to find more relevant links for each claim. I promise it's relevant.
Introduction – Enlightenment?
Lately, I have been into hardcore mindfulness practices (see book) aimed at reaching "Enlightenment" in the sense on Buddha. There are some people who reliably claim they've succeeded and talk about their experience and how to reach there (e.g. see this talk and google each of the fellows if it resonates)
My current mental model of "Enlightenment" is as follows:
Evolutionally, we've had developed simple lizard brains first, mostly consisting of "register => process => decide => react" without much thought. Similar to the knee reflex, but sometimes a bit more complicated. Our intellectual minds capable of information processing, memory, superior pattern-matching; they have happened later.
These two systems coexist, and first one possesses second. However, the hardware of our brains has general information processing capabilities, and doesn't require any "good-bad" instant decision reactionary mechanism. Even though it was "invented" earlier, it's ad-hoc in the system. My metaphor would be a GPU or an ASIC that short-circuits some of the execution to help CPU process info faster.
However, makes a big difference in your subjective experience whether that first system being used or not. Un-winding this circuitry from your default information processing, which hand-wavily is "conscious attention", or the "central point"; is what mindfulness is about.
"Enlightenment" is a moment when you relax enough so that your brain starts being able (but not required) to run information flows around the the lizard brain and experiencing sensory stimuli "directly".
Similar "insight" moment happens when you realize that "money" is just paper, and not the Ultimate Human Value Leaderboard. You still can play along the illusion of money, you still can earn money, you still can enjoy money, but you can never go back to blindly obey what capitalism asks from you.
It should be quite obvious why this is good, but let me re-state again.
- Anxiety goes down and doesn't control you anymore
- Motivation issues go away, the gap between "I want this to happen" and "I find myself doing different thing" is removed
- You don't care about status and external judgement anymore
- You become more caring person to others internal states, but it feels freeing instead of locking-down
- You find yourself in a space between stimulus and reaction
- You can research your subjective experience deeper, e.g. find out how does brain constructs things like "time arrow" (answer: it's lazy-loading)
What does it all have to do with the question?
First answer is alignment becomes easier.
I believe that once we normalize this enlightenment thing, and once it becomes the normal part of human medical care system (or even child development as vaccines); the things we think we value and things we do value will synchronize much more. E.g. there is non-trivial number of examples of people losing their addictions after getting a week of hardcore training in mindfulness (see dhamma.org for signing up, it's completely free and worldwide).
Personally, for me alignment feels like "remembering" I always cared about other people, but was oblivious of that. It's like how it's hard to tune your attention to hear the music when there's loud noise around you.
It's like when there's a sound that bugs you a lot, but you don't notice it until it stops. In my case, when I noticed the "sound" (like how my actions hurt other people AND that I don't enjoy them being hurt) I stopped the behavior myself.
Second answer is even more tentative.
I'll say it anyway, because it's too big if true. However, again I can't promise any arguments and verifiable prediction. Read this as an invite to pick my mind further and try to strongman the position.
Love is the default human mode of perception, and it's informationally/computationally easy.
Most of the "enlightened" people report that if you look close enough, existence consists only of one building block, and that is Pure Universal Love, aka God.
It's not hidden somewhere or limited, it's literally everywhere. It's the same thing as "No-Self" or "True Self", and "God-realization". It was there all along and it will exist forever. It is fractally every small piece of reality, and the Reality itself as a whole.
When you really ask yourself what is that you want, and you skip the default "reactionary" answers, you find out that there's only one course of action that you won't regret and that you will genuinely enjoy.
In simpler examples, if you pay close attention to what you're feeling when you smoke, you might find out that the nicotine hit is not worth these mouth feelings, smoke it your lungs, instant slight headache, upcoming down-wave of tiredness. That requires attention and deep inspection, but that's presumably what our real nature is.
Same way, if you closely inspect your interactions with other people, you might find out that "winning" them doesn't feel good. And "helping" them sometimes doesn't feel good either. The only thing that deeply, really, genuinely feels good is caring for them. You might still be incentivized to not do that; or you might find yourself in situation not possible to change. But when you look close enough, there is no uncertainty.
Obviously, on the one hand it only tells us that Homo Sapiens are the agents that have their base execution layer wired to help each other (see Qualia Computing on indirect realism). It makes total sense from evolutionary standpoint.
However, it also feels computationally easy to do that. It doesn't feel like work to find "True Love". It's not always easy, but when you do this, it feels like a relief, like un-doing of work. Like dropping off the coat after coming home from rainy outside. Finally I get to be free and care about others.
Can this hint that there's some dynamic that makes is easier to align? That in some specific sense, alignment and cooperation is universally easier than defection?
I am not saying this because I want it to be true. I don't really believe computer can accidentally "wake up" to the "True Love".
I am saying this because it might happen so that there's some invariant at play that makes it easier to wish for low-entropy worlds, or to compute them, or something along these lines.
Finally, answering the original question. Yes, I consider myself fully aligned in the sense of my super-ego caring about each individuals' subjective experience.
In my current state, I don't always act on that, but wherever I catch myself in a tough choice, I try to apply the mechanism of "what's that answer that is most obvious?"
P.S. Two caveats:
- Looks like this is a societal change to integrate this unwind-reactionary-behavior-Enlightenment into normal medical practice is even bigger than AGI alignment program.
Even given we find a chemical that can trigger this change, people would most probably be very reluctant to normalize it (e.g. see MDMA-therapy only becoming socially acceptable around now). Most probably we would face the alignment problem faster than this, and after this it wouldn't matter
- I might have just gone crazy from meditation and have started believing things that are not true. Subjectively, I feel there's something to it that is very much worth exploring. But it might be similar to an LSD effect when you feel that "you've finally got it" but in reality you're just drawing triangles inscribed in circles