Links for May

In English What would happen if a superintelligent AI was aligned with your values? The details here are a little too much in the “superintelligence is magic that can achieve anything” direction to my taste (I don’t think that anything will just be instantly teleported into safety, superintelligent AI or not), but I don’t doubt that the same results could be achieved via...

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Why I no longer identify as transhumanist

Someone asked me how come I used to have a strong identity as a singularitarian / transhumanist but don’t have it anymore. Here’s what I answered them: ——- So I think the short version is something like: transhumanism/singularitarianism used to give me hope about things I felt strongly about. Molecular nanotechnology would bring material abundance, radical life extension...

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My idea of sacredness, divinity, and religion

Here’s a conception that I have about sacredness, divinity, and religion. There’s a sense in which love and friendship didn’t have to exist. If you look at the animal kingdom, you see all kinds of solitary species, animals that only come together for mating. Members of social species – such as humans – have companionship and cooperation, but many species do quite...

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The 99% principle for personal problems

Often when people are dealing with an issue – emotional, mental, or physical – there’s genuine progress and the issue becomes less and seems to go away. Until it comes back, seemingly as bad as before. Maybe the person developed a coping mechanism that worked, but only under specific circumstances. Maybe the person managed to eliminate one of the triggers for the thing, but it...

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Creating a family with GPT-4

ME: Create a merchant character suitable for a medieval fantasy setting. Start by coming up with their age, gender, and one defining personality trait. Then add two other personality traits. Then describe some internal conflict created by the interaction of these traits. Describe the history of the character and how their personality caused them to end up where they are now. GPT-4: Age:...

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[Fiction] The boy in the glass dome

A boy is sitting inside a glass dome. It would just barely have enough space for him to stand. It’s night, and he’s watching the stars. He has been doing that for a long time. There’s a small tube attached to the bottom of the dome. A miniature cargo train runs through that tube, bringing with it small bubbles of nutrients and oxygen. When the train reaches the dome, the bubbles...

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In Defense of Chatbot Romance

(Full disclosure: I work for a company that develops coaching chatbots, though not of the kind I’d expect anyone to fall in love with – ours are more aimed at professional use, with the intent that you discuss work-related issues with them for about half an hour per week.) Recently there have been various anecdotes of people falling in love or otherwise developing an intimate relationship...

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Fake qualities of mind

There’s a thing where you’d like to have one “quality of mind”, but it’s not available, but you substitute it with a kind of a fake or alternative version of the same. Which is fine as long as you realize you’re doing it, but becomes an issue if you forget that what’s happening. For example, you have a job that you’re sometimes naturally motivated...

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My current take on Internal Family Systems “parts”

I was recently asked how literal/metaphorical I consider the Internal Family Systems model of your mind being divided into “parts” that are kinda like subpersonalities. The long answer would be my whole sequence on the topic, but that’s pretty long and also my exact conception of parts keeps shifting and getting more refined through the sequence. So one would be excused for...

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The horror of what must, yet cannot, be true

There’s a type of experience that I feel should have its own word, because nothing that I can think of seems like a fair description. A first pass would be something like agony, utter horror, a feeling that you can’t stand this, that you are about to fall apart. But those aren’t actually the thing, I think. They are reactions to the thing. The thing is more like a sense of utter...

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[Invisible Networks] Goblin Marketplace

"The Goblin Marketplace is that way. Assuming that you have ears on your head, you can't miss it." The expression is not metaphorical: even if you were deaf, you _would_ hear the sounds of the Marketplace. That is, assuming that nobody had cut your ears off.

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[Invisible Networks] Psyche-Sort

There are tendrils of pain running across society, fault lines on which our social infrastructure is built. You can imagine them as huge beating arteries full of thick flowing trauma, their contents seeping everywhere around them.

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How feeling more secure feels different than I expected

This year, I’ve been feeling more emotionally secure, thanks to various kinds of internal and external work (the stuff at https://attachmentrepair.com/ being one notable example). The effect of this doesn’t always feel like I expected it to feel. I once thought that in order to not worry so much about whether people like me, I would need to become convinced that they do like me. Or at...

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Experimentation with AI-generated images (VQGAN+CLIP) | Solarpunk airships fleeing a dragon

A few days ago I found the Twitter account @images_ai, which posts AI-generated images and links to these instructions for generating your own. I started playing around with it; some of my choice picks: The first image I generated, “sci-fi heroes fighting fantasy heroes” “cute catboys having a party” Someone had figured out that if you add words like “unreal...

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Imaginary reenactment to heal trauma – how and when does it work?

Some therapies involve various forms of imaginary reenactment, where you heal a trauma by first recalling the memory of it and then imagining how things could have gone differently. Sometimes the imagined alternative can be quite fantastical in nature, such as your current adult self traveling back in time to when you were a child and saving your child self from the bullies tormenting you. (Here...

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Open loops in fiction

A fiction-writing trick I find particularly compelling are open loops. A cliffhanger is an example: you want to know how the hero survives, so your thoughts keep looping back to the situation, trying to figure out what happens next. But you need the author to tell you. Really good writing uses open loops at the sentence level as well. The first sentence of the story is meaningful on its own, but...

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Different kinds of language proficiency

It’s funny how forms asking for your language proficiency use “native language” to mean “best possible proficiency”. My native languages are Finnish and Swedish, but I’m out of practice with Swedish so my English vocabulary is way better than my Swedish. Though interestingly, speaking either Finnish and Swedish with someone give me a sense of emotional...

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Bedtime reminiscences

Things that I imagine would be cool to do with my kids (if I manage to have some): taking bedtime as a moment to reminisce about the day together. Recalling enjoyable moments is by itself enjoyable. So ask, what parts of the day did you like? What were some good moments? What about it was enjoyable? At first, it’ll be just me mentioning things I noticed on that day: “You seemed to...

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Unwitting cult leaders

An insight that I’d kind of already had, but which this interview with Michael Taft (relevant section starts at about 32 minutes) helped crystallize: We tend to think of a “cult leader” as someone who intentionally sets out to create a cult. But most cult-like things probably don’t form like that. A lot of people feel a strong innate desire to be in a cult. In the podcast,...

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November 10-day virtual meditation retreat

So yesterday I finished a 10-day virtual meditation retreat taught by Tucker Peck and Upasaka Upali. Several people have asked me what it was like, so here are some highlights. First, a “virtual” retreat means that you spend 10 days doing pretty much nothing but meditation, and also don’t talk to anyone except the teachers, who hold daily lectures and once-every-two-days...

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