Monday, 25 July 2011

Less Wrong? So Wrong: Part I

 In the next few days I will be critiquing Less Wrong's Fun Theory Sequence from an Antinatalist perspective. Please don't think I have some kind of vendetta against this website, by the way - it's a good website, and I agree with a lot of what it has on it, but I disagree completely with the fact that despite how they are 'rational people' they don't realise that antinatalism is the ultimate conclusion of rationality. Read this blog if you're interested in logic and cutting edge philosophy - otherwise, don't.
 Prolegonmena to a Theory of Fun
Absolutely right when it is pointed out that heaven would be incredibly boring. But what this post is leading up to - and what it is trying to say, is that to persuade critics of transhumanism otherwise, one simply has to build a world EXACTLY LIKE OUR OWN HORRIBLE ONE, but with more cushions and safety gates, so no one gets hurt too badly. I don't get how the hell that is all even transhumanistic. A third-rate group of anarchists could create a place like that NOW, regardless of whether the singularity has been reached or not. The main problem I have with this is simply that, though this world may be all well and good for the people having fun, it doesn't take into account the extreme lack of purpose to the whole thing. In this sequence I think Eliezer mainly goes on about not modifying the human brain very much, for some strange reason (Evolution is not your friend, dude!), which would essentially result in lots of existentially angsty people, who like now, don't see what the point is at all. Have a game in virtual reality, rediscover scientific principles, learn something new, etc., why? What is the fundamental worth of living to run more pleasure chemicals through your brain? Wouldn't it simply be easier being dead?
High Challenge
This one I just don't get. Yes, humans are made to get bored with easy tasks quickly. No, just because you can create a world in which their boredom can be constantly monitored and ended, doesn't mean you should keep the boredom in the first place, EVEN IF YOU CAN EDIT IT OUT WITH POST-SINGULARITY TECHNOLOGY. Staring at a screen saying 'You Win!' could easily be the best thing in the universe for posthumans, if you modified them that way. "A happy blob is not what, being human, I wish to become." - Why? That's not based on rationality. That's based on your own human reality defence mechanisms. If happiness is the best thing you can hope for, and suffering is bad, then why the hell should you keep the suffering just to keep things the same horrible way that nature has always kept things? I agree with David Pearce so much more than with Eliezer on this topic, as you shall see.

I plan on doing a review on two of these articles a day. Please poke me if I'm slacking!


  1. Looking forward to reading your critiques, estnihil. I'm constantly surprised by how people underestimate the meaninglessness problem, but then again perhaps I'm just not as good as distracting myself with pleasures as other people.

  2. "What is the fundamental worth of living to run more pleasure chemicals through your brain? Wouldn't it simply be easier being dead?"

    Indeed. This is the point: life will always be meaningless, even if these silly utopias (which I find, like Hofstadter, kind of dystopic) had been realized. My choice would always be Pentobarbital or a similar way to painlessly put me out of this. Even if suffering had been abolished, meaninglessness would remain, maybe even more so. This thought really drove me nuts on one of my lone walks: that no matter what I do, no matter what people do or 'society' does, life will always remain futile and fundamentally pointless. (The sexual act alone that caused my being born is depressing enough for me -- so little thought involved!).

    A fitting Heisman quote:

    «There is a very popular opinion that choosing life is inherently superior to choosing death… This bias constitutes one of the most obstinate mythologies of the human species.

    This prejudice against death, however, is a kind of xenophobia. Discrimination against death is simply assumed good and right. Absolutist faith in life is commonly a result of the unthinking conviction that existence or survival, along with an irrational fear of death, is ‹good›. This unreasoned conviction in the rightness of life over death is like a god or a mass delusion. Life is the ‹noble lie›; the common secular religion of the West…»

    His site is offline, unfortunately. A back up:

  3. Most of my life I have either been in an imaginary dreamworld (ages 5-10, I'd say), or in a constant state of low-level background pain - on top of any other pain I'd happen to come across. This put my in a state where I believed very strongly that I would choose to live, if my life could be happier, like everyone else's (grass is always greener, but it may actually be greener when you've got a mental illness). But now I think if I could be incredibly happy everyday I'd be at the very most ambivalent about dying. If living involves no effort at all (super happy fun utopia), then it can only come to match death, which involves no effort. You can't have a negative amount of effort, and if you're a person who seeks to minimise effort and maximise laziness, consciousness will always seem like a disadvantage.

    Thanks for the comment and the links anon, as for Heisman - I tried to get into reading his note, but at the time I was convinced by a lot of blogs that it was a delusional piece, so did not finish reading it. I will now though, that I know that it contains such things. Thanks again!

  4. Anon: This is a great quote, I might have to look into his work; have been trying to, but 1905 pages seemed quite overwhelming.

    By the way, a fitting quote by Woody Allen: "... we all know the same truth; our lives consist of how we choose to distort it, and that's it. Everybody knows how awful the world is and what a terrible situation it is and each person distorts it in a certain way that enables him to get through. Some people distort it with religious things. Some people distort it with sports, with money, with love, with art, and they all have their own nonsense about what makes it meaningful, and all but nothing makes it meaningful. These things definitely serve a certain function, but in the end they all fail to give life meaning and everyone goes to his grave in a meaningless way."

    (Though I might disagree with Woody on the "everybody knows ..." line ... seems as if a lot of deluded monkeys are thinking they are *really* achieving something.)

  5. P. S. Sorry for the comments, just thought I'd add it's from the following interview: "Whatever Works Woody Allen's world":

    Another great one:

    "Well, you know, you want some kind of relief from the agony and terror of human existence. Human existence is a brutal experience to me…it’s a brutal, meaningless experience—an agonizing, meaningless experience with some oases, delight, some charm and peace, but these are just small oases. Overall, it is a brutal, brutal, terrible experience, ..."