,עברתי בית העכביש
.ראשי נמלא טל
,עליי צמרת כוכבים ומשי
.ושיר הعنكبوت עלי ליבי
—בלעתי איזה מין חשמל
.מוזר האור, מלא משגל
The impossibility of penetrating the divine scheme of the universe does not, however, dissuade us from planning human schemes, even though we know they must be provisional.
— Jorge Luis Borges, “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins”
… as the world becomes even more random and confusing, the brain very slowly adjusts its highest level parameters. It concludes, on a level much deeper than consciousness, that the world does not make sense, that it’s not really useful to act because it’s impossible to predict the consequences of actions, and that it’s not worth drawing on prior knowledge because anything could happen at any time. It gets a sort of learned helplessness about cognition, where since it never works it’s not even worth trying. The onslaught of random evidence slowly twists the highest-level beliefs into whatever form best explains random evidence (usually: that there’s a conspiracy to do random things), and twists the fundamental parameters into a form where they expect evidence to be mostly random and aren’t going to really care about it one way or the other.
Antipsychotics treat the positive symptoms of schizophrenia – the hallucinations and delusions – pretty well. But they don’t treat the negative symptoms much at all (except, of course, clozapine). Plausibly, their antidopaminergic effect prevents the spikes of aberrant prediction error, so that the onslaught of weird coincidences stops and things only seem about as relevant as they really are.
But if your brain has already spent years twisting itself into a shape determined by random coincidences, antipsychotics aren’t going to do anything for that. It’s not even obvious that a few years of evidence working normally will twist it back; if your brain has adopted the hyperprior of “evidence never works, stop trying to respond to it”, it’s hard to see how evidence could convince it otherwise.
— Slate Star Codex, “Treating The Prodrome“
Let us meet ourselves exactly where we are.
Let us salute ourselves,
and each other,
and the moment,
and everything that is.
Let us meditate on the words of the teacher:
“All forces have been steadily employ’d to complete and delight me,
Now on this spot I stand with my robust soul.”
Let us give thanks for everything that has brought us here.
Let us give thanks for this vessel.
Let us pray for an auspicious voyage.
And let us make an offering,
of our hearts,
of our souls,
of our bodies,
of our minds.
Let us approach with reverence, joy, and a lightness of heart.
Let us hold nothing back.
Let us make full contact.
Let the stories fall away,
Let the geometry speak for itself,
Let every impulse and thought be accepted and beautified,
Let the wall between God and not God be revealed for what it is.
For indeed we are this creation,
And the Ground of Being is the ground of our being,
And the processes of nature cannot be evil,
And nothing in this universe is alien to us.
And let us meditate on the moment,
And on the journey ahead,
And on where we will find ourselves tomorrow.
And let us dedicate this experience to the betterment of all beings.
Let there be peace.
Let there be light.
Let there be love.
Let it happen!
Stances are very simple, and don’t require any specific beliefs or practices. No one explicitly promotes them. You pick them up automatically from our cultural “thought soup.” They are the ways people talk about meaning in soap operas and cafes.
Confused stances are insidious, because they are unnoticed. Because no one argues for them, no one argues against them. They are memes, mental viruses that people propagate by talking, without awareness of them.
— “Stances trump systems“, Meaningness
Just used DNA Painter for the first time. Astonishing. With new genealogically-known cousins popping up every few weeks on my lists at 23andMe and MyHeritage, I can now localize DNA segments to 1 grandparents, 4 great-grandparents, one (non-overlapping) great-great-grandparent, and one (overlapping) great-great-great-great-grandparent — for a grand total of 14% of all possible segments securely identified with an ancestor (if I chose to be looser about it, the % would approach 20).
This awesome free utility makes it possible to visualize them all in one chromosome map, which you can compare against matches of unknown provenance. Something I never thought possible.
And my position on the larger problem of meaning is to notice that my life always seems really meaningful and great when I have coffee. If I’m going to try to figure out what the actual meaning of life is, in some sort of deep principled way, I’m going to do it with as much attention to Truth as possible. And if I’m going to give myself some emotional hack that lets myself go on and continue finding life worth living, I think caffeine probably has fewer side effects than falsehood, and is just as effective.
And if you don’t respond to caffeine as well as I do, then I think the overall lesson is that the emotional problem of meaning is a basically biological one, that doesn’t connect with the philosophical problem of meaning nearly as much as you think. Get a good psychiatrist and you’ll solve the emotional problem. The philosophical problem might not be solvable, but “helping others” or “creating a positive singularity” or “[your ingroup’s political goals here]” are, though not Perfectly Objectively Grounded, grounded enough that most people don’t really want to question them once the emotional problem is solved.
I find some of Peterson’s non-truth-value-having writing effective in the same sense as caffeine; it makes me more emotionally willing to follow the truths I know I should be following. Since, jokes aside, I can’t literally be drugged 100% of the time, I appreciate that. And maybe the drug would be stronger if I were to swallow his truth-value-having claims too. But that’s not a risk-benefit profile I’m okay with right now.