I haven’t posted in like forever, and so I wanted it to be special. I finally have something special to say, so here we are.
I feel a great deal of affinity for David Chapman. This is because, like him, I see the rationality community for what it is:
So close, just nearly perfect… but fucked up in a way that destroys anything good that could come out of it.
Now, granted, this has generated in me intense hate which is… less than ideal if you desire to pontificate. I have finally understood the source of the problem and with that the hate is now vanished. Time to pontificate.
If you’re smart enough and like better writing just go read [sam zdat – antecedents have consequences] and memorize it. You won’t which is why I’m going to have to connect the dots for you.
The problem starts with Eliezer – I don’t hate Eliezer either, not anymore I don’t, shut up, the problem is structural – but it must start with him, he is the community and the community is him. Now, Eliezer
is a beautiful man has a beautiful mind and a heart of gold. He realized that he needed to make people better at thinking and tried to do it. This is (1) insane and (2) laudable. Yes, in the process he damaged people a shit ton but that might be fine, counterfactually at least. It might have been the least bad thing for people that would buy into this stuff. I’m unsure, but I do think that he neither intended to have it do what it ended up doing nor that he had predicted it. Hell I think he likely is blind to see it right now.
So it starts with Eliezer. Nominally EY is no tabula rasa-ist. He is well-versed in the heuristics and biases literature – which sucks, by the way, bleach your mind with Gigerenzer and Klein and Gibson – and in evolutionary psychology. And yet, crucially and yet he writes a trillion words – I’m going for bigness here, not accuracy – on how to think well and why you think wrong and he overwhelms you with evidence that (1) your thinking sucks (2) your thinking not sucking is crucial (3) he knows the correct way to think.
Great, this is awesome if everyone is a tabula rasa and if they can just learn things that way. But they aren’t and they can’t. So what happened is that you got a bunch of people that can’t really interact with their minds from an user’s perspective who see how everything their mind is doing is wrong and bad, and, of course, by extension, they are wrong and bad.
Being wrong and bad sucks and being good and right rules so these people did the only reasonable thing: they crushed themselves over and over and over and over into oblivion because their thinking is terrible. Far worse, they created a community. Shit, now your social life depends on you doing that. People that get into rationality are not the most socialized of people, it’s not like they have tons of options. And now the way to have people to hang out with that you sorta identify with is to crush your mind into the correct shape. Fuckin’-A.
If you want to know why the community only has 5 or so people who actually thinks and everyone else just parrots that, this is why.
It’s gonna get worse before it gets better and it won’t get better.
Armed with the belief that they see further than others because they can recite The Correct Things they start seeing mistakes in everything. Remember when you were young and you just started being able to think and question and nothing made sense and you wanted to overthrow everything and make it sensible? Yea, imagine if you actually could.
You think I’m “overstating my case” – who the hell talks like that, hypothetical interlocutor? – so here is a perfect example. I don’t want to shit on anyone in particular but it’s gotta be someone and it’s gonna be aspies this time. Read [this shit]. Now make yourself a cup of tea, something calming, and go browse the aspy responses to that. THIS DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. AND WE ARE THE WEIRD ONES? WHY CAN’T THEY JUST SAY WHAT THEY MEAN?
If something is both (1) clearly insane and (2) absolutely disseminated you should infer that you are wrong and (1) is false. This is Chesterton’s Fence which is in anf of itself more valuable than all of LessWrong. Now [notice this].
Pause. What have we learned? It took one of the top 5 rationalists – you know the ones that are actually thinking – to say something utterly obvious. These people need reasons and they assume that everything is unreasonable until proof in the contrary and proof is one of the top-fivers pontificating.
What if they hadn’t found a reason? What if Scott was occupied with something else? Recall when I talked about you actually having the power to overthrow everything and make it “sensible”? Yea, now imagine a community of people doing that and then ask me why they’re weird.
Let’s recap. We have a bunch of people that have (1) learned to crush their mind so that they can “Be Rational”, (2) have their social goals depending on “Being Rational”, and that, as a social group (3) break things they don’t understand on the basis of them projecting their misunderstanding on to the thing.
Hold on to your seat, it gets worse before it gets better and I told you it doesn’t get better.
The worse part is that these people are smart.
You know, they’re smart, clever, can argue. There is a humility in people that don’t think themselves smart that makes them very easy to save. Give them a thing, they will in good-faith take it and try it. You can’t count on that here. Which means that (1)-(3) are all intensely defended, which means that anyone who is clued in enough to see them also has their time be too valuable to try to fix it. Which is why I’m writing a post – I can’t be arsed to actually try to fix them one by one. A Hail Mary pass, sorta.
Their cleverness allows them to defend their identity, hard. Question it and you question them and they react the way you’d expect. They know all the right answers because that is what they are crushing themselves with. They say all the right things and are trying to do them but for the wrong reasons. Which is where you get the depression, the burn-out, the “should but don’t want to”, the self-attacking, the ennui, the melancholy, the sadness, the emptiness, the loss of purpose.
You rejected my first solution. I have two left to offer and I promise you’ll like them even less.
One is radical and you won’t take it: Cut yourself from the community. Stop identifying as a rationalist. Say bye to your rationalist friends. Hang out with other people. Find the very smartest therapist you can and get to the core of *why* you want to be right/not wrong/less wrong/rational in the first place. The key is that you want to be [something] and the gate is that you don’t want to look and will thank me in 5 years. I know, I know, you’re twenty-ish and 5 years is like REALLY FAR AWAY MAN.
There is another solution and you also won’t like it, but for a different reason: It reveals you as the fool you are and you can’t take that:
Y’all need Jesus.
Jesus would be good in your life, but it’s too far away.
You need Gendlin, which tbh far as I’m concerned rounds out to the same.
It reveals you as a fool because the [very first virtue] is curiosity and yet you thrice failed at it – which in my book is cabal proof. You first ignored the Lithany. Then you read the Lithany and failed to further investigate. Someone else did it for you and thus you got the blessing of Focusing. And then you failed to investigate again. If you already understood the value of Focusing let me tell you this as someone that understood it half a decade ago, focusing is a drop in the ocean of value that Gendlin provides and that ocean is his philosophy.
Why is Gendlin the thing you need? Because you need to (1) be able to think and (2) stop crushing yourself but you can’t do (2) without (1) and you can’t do (1). And Gendlin will teach you to do (1). He will teach you to think from your experience. I know, I know you are so disconnected from that crushing that experience and emotions and interoception are all bad and who cares and you wish you already were a disembodied consciousness on the internet and when will that day finally arrive.
Stop defending. Look [here] – “Rather, for example, one specific concept about apes may require a restructuring of Zoology as a whole.” Do you understand the power of the thinking that produced that sentence? This man viscerally understands that you, already, in your body, without doing anything, have the power to reshape whole swathes of knowledge in accordance to your experience and this sweet sweet old man wants to hold your hand as you learn to do it via attending to your experience instead of crushing it.
And that is why he is your cure.