On The Lotus Eater Trap

(Epistemic status: Adjacent to the introspection illusion/may just be restating it; actual issue my neurotype experiences; practical advice)

In the Odyssey, we are told of how Odysseus finds himself and his men blown off course to the shores of a land with benign inhabitants. These islanders share food from the lotus plan with Odysseus and his men. This food was incredibly delicious…so delicious that some of his men did not want to leave the island. This part of the tale concludes with Odysseus forcing the afflicted men back onto the ship, over their strenuous protests.

I’m going to tell you of one of the risks associated with mindhacking. As you might have guessed, I call it the lotus eater trap. In the past, meaning and action were often directly tied together for humans. You either fulfilled your place, your role in life…or you broke tradition and suffered for something Important. There’s a lot more there but the main point here is you used your body to do things, a thing happened, your mind rewards you for having caused a thing.

So, let’s skip to the modern era. A lot of meaning is a mental feedback loop. Think, do something through your magic focus, think some more. Our access to our reward button is a bit more direct. To further complicate things, introspection is carelessly touted as a life improvement tool without limit. Worse still, some people get very good at introspection without realizing the addictive potential. Overall, it tends to improve outcomes right up until they forget the entire reason they took it up in the first place.

Now, the reason it’s easy to lose your way is because introspective exercises generally feel good and/or meaningful. In particular, you generally find a lot of personal insights, repeatedly. It’s very easy to have this incredible sense of progress, of problem solving…without testing any of it outside your mind’s eye. Soon, it becomes habit and you spend less and less time in the real world. Eventually, you don’t really care about reality; you sacrifice everything to a religion of your mind. This is the lotus eater trap: creating such an amazing mental world that you are apathetic about impacting the external world with your “wisdom”.

My best advice for avoiding the lotus eater trap is simple. Embodying and testing. Embodying, as in occasionally spend time being a body; it reminds you that there is splendor outside of your mind. Testing, as in running your ontology into another mind and iterate it. Try to be predictive of what a belief does for you and for others. If you’re already too far gone to find your way back to Odysseus’ ship, then I hope you have a good friend to drag you back even if you cry and wail.

Discussion: Have you ever felt introspective meaning? Have your introspections ever truly changed your life? Have you ever seen people fall into the lotus eater trap?

 

On The Regulator

(Epistemic Status: HEY BITCHES I BET YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE DONE WITH ARCHETYPES. Slight dissociative risk, except this one is kinda meant to be anti dangerous.)

On the last post I made about archetypes, I thought I was down to five because I couldn’t figure out what The Analyst was for. I have since made several discoveries that have corrected this error. The first is the most mundane. I have Bipolar Disorder, Type II. It’s not terribly surprising, but I’ve basically been creating a lot of upper feedback loops, and didn’t think there could be any reason to go back down, so my tongue-in-cheek comments about how The Analyst is there to give me, “idk, anxiety or something” were an oversight of my dual nature. The second is that, things get weird when you get too up, and reality stops seeming really…real; right about that point is when something needs to intercede. The third is that, I have wonderful friends who are really looking out for me.

The Regulator is a specialized archetype that I don’t really aim outward. It is meant to be aimed inward, to break down the mental artifices I build up when they get too heavy. It’s the part of me that, when I start extrapolating competencies from a sample size of one asks “Really? And how, exactly, will that work?” It’s the part of me that stops a meaningfulness spiral by asking “But what, exactly, does this do?” It asks questions and brings me down when I’m starting to spiral away from reality, getting high on meaning, connection, and how amazing I am. I call the thing it does frame poison, because rather than completely breaking magical thinking frames such as “I’m a sparkly person!” it dissolves them step by step gently so I can rebuild the frame if it’s helpful in the future. The Regulator is basically why I haven’t had a psychotic break yet.

I realized the need for this archetype after a conversation where I distinctly changed because I got very excited about the discussion topic (postrationality). My speech became more pressured and circumstantial, my thoughts were more jumbled and loose, and my pupils were more dilated than usual. I was warned I might be at risk for going manic and should try to come down if I could and get sleep. I took this advice and thankfully did stay sane that week (though fairly anxious). During that process, I built The Regulator off of these grounding principles and the mental template I had for The Analyst.

Now, the weird trippy symbolic part is when I try to go to sleep while I’m really up. When there aren’t any stimuli to distract me. Before, I could feel like I was really close to unraveling and I’d kind of have a visualization of myself, coming to the fore of my mind very, very rapidly, like, flying up like a rocket towards my mental lens. That self would have wild eyes, disarrayed hair, and a crazy amount of energy. After I invented The Regulator, another actor would show up in this symbolic visualization, almost like a giant robot gatekeeper type thing, which would stop manic!me in her tracks.

Overall, this is another step in the balancing act of dangerous technology and trying to exploit what is, in the end, a mental illness. The Regulator is the thing that actually asks the real questions of how, rather than why and what. Previously this construct was overactive and inhibited action on my part but now it’s a much healthier part of my mindscape.

Discussion: Do you have your own personal Regulator? Do you have certain mindsets you would like to exploit more but might bring you to the edge of being less integrated in society?

On the Seelie and Unseelie Courts

(Epistemic status: Metaphorical bullshit. Seeing trees where there’s a forest. Narrative infiltration.)

The Unseelie court, or Winter court is where I call my home. A porcelain avatar, with hair blown by a cold wind. Knives, displayed openly, brazenly, so obvious that they could never be used…until the lights go out. The Seelie court, Summer court, finds these vulgar. You do not talk about the game. You do not acknowledge the poisoned flower in daylight. This can lead to interesting conflicts.

There seem to be two types of social reality people (that’s a story, but it’s the one I am telling). The type that fixates on the dark, manipulative aspects, explicating all the darkness in humanity’s soul, rolling in the filth as if they like it. The type that fixates on the light, positive, conversational flow aspects, politely ignoring the fetid swamp they’re perpetuating. The Unseelie place their bets on brazenness, manipulation, and acceptance of the cesspool of human communication. They are blind to the concept of a genuinely nice person. The Seelie place their bets on niceness, community, and civilization. They are willfully blind to the concept that their passive moves have consequences. Neither court contains good people, just a bunch of good intentions and frail hopes.

When the Seelie and Unseelie meet, it is not something explicitly recognized, yet somehow there is a change in the social atmosphere. There is a struggle that is won before either enters the room. The two play by different rules and the stronger will suffocate or stab the weaker. No one else notices and yet the dynamic is clearly there. An off feeling, a sudden sensation of tongue tiedness, a change in conversational flow that cannot be reframed.

I am Unseelie. I display my daggers for all to see and use as they will. Beware, as I will do exactly as I say. I invite a meeting of my bare blades with your courtly graces; together we can make a new story in this old play.

Discussion: Do you feel as if you are Seelie or Unseelie? What are the advantages of your court loyalties? If you are outside the courts, do you think it worth the cost to join one?

On The Meaning Gap

(Epistemic status: Speculative, moreso than usual, sweeping statements about society, possibly readable as pro-religion. Also better writers have totally written about this.)

There is a sense these days, felt by my bubble and alluded to outside of it, that the world is wrong in some way. That we live in a uniquely crazy time. This probably isn’t true, humans are just generally bad at perspective. However, if I do accept the premise that we live in a uniquely crazy time, I would like to offer my own just-so story to explain why, complete with a lack of palatable solutions.

So, if you’ve been reading along, you should understand the basic concept of narrative and how the world runs on it, at least socially. To go a bit further, every individual is attempting to write their own story, especially in Western society. Our culture memes don’t really allow other outcomes to feel meaningful. It’s your story or nothing. The drawbacks and tradeoffs of individualism are well traversed insight porn. So, instead, I’m going to illustrate a different point.

Most individuals want their own story, and there is a shortage.

The concept of a shortage of stories is pretty hard to comprehend. We live in probably the highest output society to have ever existed on earth. Not only do more people write more things all the time, but more of these things spread across the entire world. This isn’t a shortage, it’s a glut. There’s one problem. Few of those stories are particularly compelling, and the ones that were are being attacked. A single word is to blame for this trend.

Analysis.

Greek for up + break. Break up, release, loosen. Unravel. Our current society, even civilization to a degree, is built on the concept of analysis. This has been an incredible advance in systems, governance, knowledge, and tools. There is, of course, a cost. When you break the stories, the narratives that drive monkey brain 1.0, we end up out of context. Everyone wants a story and there aren’t any believable ones left. There’s nothing to be sure of, no role to embody. There is only a gap that screams “YOU ARE FUNDAMENTALLY ON YOUR OWN.”

This is the meaning gap, filled by tradition, religion, narrative, whatever you want to call it. People with the mantle of destiny are no longer taught how to wield it. Support characters more rarely accept their role. There are no more higher powers and therefore no meaning…and it is making. Us. Crazy.

There is a concept that there is a hole “meant to be filled by religion”, that people turn to drugs, sex, rock and roll to fill. I think it’s a very specific framing of the meaning gap, the part of us that strives to find our place in a story, not just a system. I also think this framing is surprisingly compelling and has lead several interesting people to pick up religious frames. I can see a future in which I do the same, but I am trying to avoid that. I think there’s more to the meaning gap than submitting to a god or gods, than taking part in myth to cure the madness. I hope to find other people who see it and feel the same way.

Discussion: Do you feel the meaning gap in your life? How do you try to fill it? Do the roles in your life help, or do they feel hollow? Does meaning even matter; is it best to just excise the idea that you even need meaning, filling in the gap with cement?

On The Fae and Things That Are Not Metaphors

(Epistemic status: Potentially a memetic hazard. This is a narrative about actualizing as a member of society.)

There are stories, faerie tales we call them. I don’t mean Disney, I mean the real faerie tales. The ones with the Seelie, the Unseelie, where the outcome is uncertain, almost arbitrary. The ones where the viewpoint character breaks The Rules and maybe they get out of it…or maybe they don’t.

A faerie tale is a story about tradition. A story about people doing bizarre things to appease an indirectly named force. A story where people don’t acknowledge the bizarreness of what they’re doing, or even that they are doing anything. It’s just…done, and not doing it is Bad. Usually, what happens, is someone slips up. They don’t understand why the things are done and question them (they never get a straight answer). They forget one day to put out the offerings (how could one possibly forget, on some level it MUST have been intentional, to break a habit like that). Sometimes? They even actively try to find the indirectly named force behind the traditions. These are the least likely to survive.

The story goes on, this one person, this FOOL (pause here, think a moment), gets Taken, or loses something precious, or something. They are Punished for their indiscretion. They are brought to the Court and see what’s happening firsthand…after a fashion. There are always glamours. There are new, different, more arcane rules to follow and even less guidance. The Fool is out of their depth. It goes a couple ways. They try to play the game, and they lose, and something worse than death happens to them. Even worse though? Sometimes they win. Sometimes they are Good Enough. Sometimes they get away, and they come back Changed, with a special power. The worst outcome, though? They’re The Best. They become part of the Court. The new rules become their rules. The Fool reverses.

The Fae are not a metaphor for many, many things. If you read the above story and understood the frame I was placing, you are likely already finding a path to the Court. If you didn’t, then the next paragraph might help…but I’m already infiltrating your narrative. It may be harder to go back.

Social reality is a construct about tradition. A construct that causes people to do bizarre things to appease Moloch. A construct where people don’t acknowledge the bizarreness of what they’re doing or even that they are doing anything. It’s just…done, and not doing it means you do not advance in social reality. However, people slip up. They don’t understand why the things are done and question them (they usually get an answer involving the words “collaboration” or “profit margins” or “human nature”). They forget one day to put out the offerings (how could one forget they are weak and have their place, a cog in the construct? On some level it MUST have been intentional). Sometimes? They even actively try to see what’s behind social reality. These are the least likely to survive.

The construct initially places high costs on this type of person, this FOOL (pause here, think a moment). They get fired, they lose their house, family, friends, they are Weird now. They are Punished for their indiscretion. They are banished from social reality and are allowed to see what’s happening from the outside…after a fashion. There are always masks. There are new, different, more arcane rules to follow and even less guidance. The Fool is out of their depth. It goes a couple ways. They try to play the game, and they lose. They stay banished from social reality. They go crazy, they end up on the street, the know what’s happening and cannot cope with it. Even worse though? Sometimes they win. Sometimes they are Good Enough to carve a new path into social reality, they get back in Changed, with a special power. Perception, the ability to conduct social interaction on a meta level above most people except the more powerful in the social reality game, a willingness to play for different prizes, something. The worst outcome though? They’re The Best. They become powerful outside the landscape of social reality, and draw other people into their Court. The new rules become their rules, and The Fool’s journey ends solipsisticly.

Not everything here is true, or the only way it can go. This is, however, the 101 of getting involved in higher level social games. Use this knowledge however you wish; it might be best to forget it.

No discussion this time.

 

 

 

 

On Priorities and Desire

(Epistemic Status:  Almost certainly written on by smarter and/or more articulate people than myself; helpful insight, pragmatic.)

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting experience where I noticed that I had a strong desire to do something but lacked sufficient resources to execute it.  I thought a little harder and I noticed I did have sufficient resources but I had already mentally earmarked them.  Once I realized this, I examined my priorities and desires, realized I wanted to keep the resources earmarked to the things they were allocated to and felt the desire to accelerate the project fade.  I also felt a sort of peace at having resolved the internal tension.

The concept of prioritization is far from new or original.  Generally, people have things they want to do more than other things and in situations of limited resources, will allocate resources to the things they want to do more.  The concept of revealing your preferences with how you actually use your resources, as opposed to your words, is also not new.  What felt new to me is the sensation of peace and ability to defuse the pain of desire by going through this process.  Statements like “I want” and “I wish” cause a simulation of the experience of loss, at least for me.  I notice I am missing something and that I would rather not be missing that something.  Sometimes this drive is very helpful and directs my cognition towards  gaining the desire.  Other times, it leads to a feeling of powerlessness or worse, to bad decisions because the want/wish is too powerful.   The concept of noticing the desire and interrogating my priorities feels like an antidote to that helpless feeling.

Overall, I think this is a good tool in the vein of figuring out what you really want and also discarding bad attachment feelings that you cannot act on.

Discussion:  This is a relatively short essay for a simple concept.  How often do you notice that you want something or want to do something?  How often does that desire lead you to unhappy places?  How often do you realize that you are allocating resources to the future mentally to maintain stability?  At higher levels of security and resources (or possibly access to “emergency resources”), does it become easier or hard to dispel a desire that would be costly to act on?

On Social Scripts and Story Spinning

(Epistemic Status:  I use this for reals, helpful for reducing social anxiety if you can grok it, likely not terribly controversial)

As promised, per script anon (thank you, I’m very excited to have a new reader!)

So, as mentioned in response to the ask, the basic concept of scripts is pretty uncontroversial (as far as I know).  People often are reactive; they say the things that fit most with the thing said to them.  The most obvious script is “Hi, how are you?”  “I’m fine, and yourself?”  “Oh, I’m doing well.”  Sometimes this even becomes “Hot weather we’re having, right?”  I mean, everyone knows this one.  The thing that makes this seem insightful is that most conversations are script based.  They aren’t word for word but you can generally class responses and map out the pattern.  I haven’t yet codified response classes but I think I will need to in the future.

Scripts happen because it takes a lot of thought and concentration to have a real, unscripted conversation and it’s scary and socially risky to go into unfamiliar territory.  Not having a script is confusing and confusion is really uncomfortable and vulnerable.  So largely, there’s an unspoken, mutual agreement to not make people confused; it’s social aggression to violate script agreements.  Social aggression isn’t always bad, a bit of it is stylish but it’s higher risk overall.  

This agreement also means that the person initiating has a lot more social power because they’re setting the script and you either react to the script and follow it, or break it and show yourself to be socially aggressive.  This happened to me several times with my boss; I assumed she was running one script (a coaching experience, where my feedback was desired and perception checking was welcome) and she was running another (one way feedback; I did a thing and she wanted a different thing), and both of us left meetings feeling upset at the other one for breaking the rules.  Things got significantly better when I chose to switch filters such that I could accept her script and start using my own more carefully (I went from more or less arguing with her because she was saying things that weren’t actually true to initially saying “ok well I accept that, that’s what happened, I’ll do better in the future.  Could you tell me how I could do this?” and basically asking questions that would bring her a little closer to my point of view while sounding open to feedback.)

So, I have a basic tiered model for this, level 0 is people deploying scripts mindlessly against each other.  This is the level most interactions operate on.  As I said, it takes concentration and energy to be in no-script land.  Level 1 is when you start changing scripts.  You have to have a story that still fits, but you can change your role and people will react to that and you’ll get better outcomes.  It’s harder to explain with examples; I mostly use this mode with black box intuition.  Level 2 is more or less making level 1 people think they’re in charge but their script changes are within your framework, basically the “field of allowed actions” kind of idea.  Level 3 is something I don’t understand because I largely work on level 1.

Going back to social aggression and violations of the script agreement, social aggression is not intrinsically bad.  Being the script initiator is one form of social aggression that uses the script agreement to your advantage.  Another technique is script breaking; in various contexts, people expect certain introductory questions, some light talk before getting to the serious stuff.  In a playful enough social context (such as parties), you can be endlessly fascinating by skipping all that shit.  One of my favorite techniques is opening with a script breaker.  I have a go-to one, “What’s the most bizarre thing that’s happened to you in the past week?” but it’s really best to come up with your own, something that would be legitimately interesting to you to find out about the person you’re script breaking.  A script breaker mostly just immediately forces people out of cached thoughts into new territory.  You can sometimes use the confusion to start feeding people a new script if you’re feeling a bit manipulative.  

Script breakers sometimes occur naturally.  I was in a situation where someone I was on a date with encountered a situation they couldn’t recover from.  They were more or less completely unable to interact meaningfully for a good 20-30 minutes.  If you want someone to do what you want, these moments are precious.  They’re desperately looking for a script, they’re practically on level -1.  If you give them one, they’ll thank you for whatever you do to them.  I think it might be slightly irresponsible to go into details on that so I’ll leave modeling this an exercise for the reader.

Overall, scripts are fun and make social interaction way better because it’s the easiest way to be on the same page as everyone you’re interacting with.  It ties into the whole narrative concept, thinking about what story you’re telling and what story the people around you are telling.  It ties into archetypes which is mostly my way of formalizing the general thrust of my roles.  I think knowledge of scripts also at least helps insulate one a little bit from being script broken themselves; it at least allows for you to install a default “script broken script” to buy time.

Discussion:  Did this help explain what I mean by scripts at all?  Do you see the scripts in your day to day life?  Do you think that the unspoken agreement that breaking script is aggressive is a good or bad norm?

Hey, can you go into a bit more detail about scripts? With examples and such. I’m a new reader and I’m not entirely sure of the thing you’re pointing to.

I’ll write a post on them this Sunday.  But the short version is, my general understanding of how people interact socially is we all basically say things without thinking to much about them.  We hear something, we say the Appropriate thing based on our relational axis and the situation we’re in.  It’s kind of a combination of cached thoughts, understanding one’s social role, and the fact that most people don’t actually pay attention when they talk.  My post will be about how my model works and how to subvert that model for personal conversational gain.  I’ll include examples.  Thank you for asking me!

On Good Girl, Or How Society Does Most Of The Work

(Epistemic Status:  Probably considered manipulative/terrible; How certain kinds of power work; pretty much water is wet.  Slightly incoherent, this is intentional.)

Begin

Good evening everyone, I’m happy to see you gathered here for Sunday devotions.  Dear readers, you’re all such good girls and boys, diligently reading what I have to say.  Do you hope to gain some wisdom tonight?  Perhaps a new dangerous technology?  A new social trick?  Perhaps you just want to know how weird I am going to be today.  Well, tonight I’m going to tell you all a little, teensy weensy secret.  It’s very, very important and I trust you’ll be so very careful with it.  I’m allowing you to know this because it’s vital to learning to be an individual…so it’ll all be ok.  Are you still with me?

Good girl.

So, society trains us to act pretty fucking submissively, overall.  I can’t say how universal this is since I’ve only really experienced American society but what I’ve heard (from the very society telling me submission is normal, of course) is that there’s not really a society exempt from turning its citizens into tools. 

Starting from school and parenting, the virtues are clear.  Cleanliness is next to godliness (because cleanliness is an accommodation for others and a waste of your time.  Because godliness is a community ethic of getting daddy dommed.)  Be still, be quiet, children should be seen and not heard (your value is aesthetic, for others, only Important People are allowed to talk.  Funny how you never seem to become an Important Person.)  My house, my rules (As if you’ll ever own a home.  Well, even if you do, is authority over a child, hammering your square pegs into round holes any better than submitting to societal desire?)  From childhood to adulthood, all we are taught is how to submit, never how to think, how to control, how to make decisions.

The issue is, we’re never taught this after becoming adults either.
Be still, be quiet (It’s disruptive to your coworkers if you don’t tap at your spreadsheets silently.  This chair is ergonomically designed to keep you healthy, please don’t wander into the spaces you’re Not Allowed.)  Don’t disobey or we’ll take away your job your money your car your home your life.  You aren’t allowed to be sick today, there’s no one to cover.

 
Oh, but eventually you move up, right?

I wonder exactly how many managers there are compared to line workers?  How often have you seen that delightful old lady, still greeting at Walmart.  How often have baristas spent 10 years mixing the same drinks different ways.  How often do you hear the same sweet secretarial voice answering your doctor’s phone?

 
Well, work is work, you have to sacrifice to function in society, and at least we’re in an individualist culture where you’re given fungible items to pursue your you.

I’m sorry, all lines are currently busy.  Please wait on the line and a representative will answer your call shortly.  

“I’d like to speak to my doctor?”  “Are you returning their call?”  “No, they’re my doctor though.”  “Let me pull you up here and see what we can do.  What would you like to speak with them about?”  “That’s none of your business.”  “Oh, ok, I’ll send a message and they’ll call you back. *click*”  Maybe in a couple days.

 You didn’t follow the rules of the system, therefore you must be punished.  I’m allowed to punish you for having the temerity to try to defy the system.  But I’m not allowed to do that all the time.  I’m not allowed to skip the line myself.  

End

The truth is, society is a castle.  The guard is each of us, hired to keep each other out of the status garden.  Even as you ascend the ranks in your organization, in your community, in your society, you only are getting a slightly more special key, a little closer to the garden.  The people truly at the top don’t follow the same paths that are listed in the castle brochure.  They sneak, bluff, charm, and sometimes outright fight their way in.  Society trains us to be submissive, so they approach every situation with dominance.  They know the right words to make us just a little nervous, to make us bend the rules just this one.  They’re not aggressive about it (unless they should be), that smells weak and just causes the ranks to close.  They’re charming, a clawed hand hidden under a silk glove.  However, all is not lost.  This power is something that can be wielded by those who don’t yet have status; the cost of a mistake is much higher though, because status comes with the ability to insulate oneself from a social failure.  Without that, the social risk of being dominant in a society of submissives is higher and possibly not worthwhile (or so we’re to believe.)  

The truth is, everyone runs on scripts.  If you want something unusual from a bureaucracy, be prepared with a script; tell the functionary the steps, they’ll be happy to just have something to follow for The Weird Thing.  If you want something romantically, know your role and know your script.  If what you want doesn’t have a usual script (queer relationships, certain D/s dynamics) write one that cues the other person’s script builder.  If you aren’t happy with your life following the paths laid out, make a decision to write your own script (startup founders understand this.) 

The truth is, most people around you do not want to change their script.  Society Punishes that, so they eventually learn helplessness.  That’s why you can’t do weird things without letting other people know what they’re supposed to in response to them.  However, something magical happens when you do let people know what their steps are.  They start doing them, as if the music never changed.

The truth is, the hard part of changing things is understanding what you want to change and getting other people to listen long enough to figure out their script; when someone notices they’ve run out of script, they’ll either reject or accept what’s going on.  The default is reject.  Accepting is easier when more script is provided.  If it takes too long for them to get on your script, then you’ve failed to change anything. 

The truth is, society does most of the work, but it doesn’t tell you how to do the rest.  I’m telling you how to do the rest; I can’t tell you how to achieve your specific goals by hijacking the scripts of those around you.  If you’re serious, this should be the connection you need.  If you’re not, well, you should be more comfortable following someone else’s lead anyway.  Good girl.

(This is the tl;dr) Overall, there are a lot of points in here expressed several different ways.  The first is that society instills submission in us.  This isn’t a bad thing, it greases the wheels of civilization.  The second is that someone is using those strings on us to keep society running.  The elite, the rich on the top level, your boss, your parents, and others on the more local level.  The third is that you can access the strings of the people around you if you know what you’re after.  The fourth is that those strings are scripts.  The fifth is that scripts can be hijacked if you tell people what they’re doing for you.  The sixth is that after script breaking, you have to write the new script fast.  The seventh is that using this for the sake of using it is stupid because it relies on knowing what you want; if you’re just fucking around stop fucking ruining things and be still, be quiet.

Discussion:  Do you know the scripts you run to get through life?  Have you ever had someone high status write your script for you to get what they wanted?  Have you ever written someone’s script to get something you wanted?  Are you a good girl/boy~?

On Dangerous Technology

(Epistemic status:  Generally how I feel about the stupid shit I try in terms of mind hacking)

In Stellaris, a space strategy game by Paradox, the tech tree is kinda variable based on a card system that deals semi random technologies every time you research a technology, based on tier, prerequisites, and weighting of the card.  The important part is that there are sometimes technologies, highlighted in reddish orange, that are considered “Dangerous Technologies.”  These technologies are dangerous for two reasons.  The first is they can anger other civilizations if you pursue them and even make powerful enemies.  The second is that they can provoke end game crises.  This is a useful metaphor for a recent trend I’ve noticed in myself and others: various high effect mindhacks that don’t strictly track with truth.

You see, mind hacking and trying weird things is relatively similar to researching Dangerous Technologies.  The typical example of a dangerous technology that I bring up is “sparkliness”.  It’s basically a weird blend of hypomania and introspection that can be directed outward, combined with an understanding of narrative and social reality.  It feels like something people independently realize if they have the right neurotype and it starts to feel like a real thing in thingspace when other people start validating these intuitions.  The drawback is obvious; hypomania that gets fed and pushed tends to become mania.  Mania is generally considered a rather broken state because of that whole unfortunate detachment from reality thing.  Sparkliness, or at least my conception of it, is therefore a dangerous technology.

There are other dangerous technologies out there in terms of mind hacking.  The category is generally defined by high variance interventions.  Dabbling in meditation is unlikely to be a dangerous technology but it’s recently become clear that the more you follow that rabbit hole, the more destabilizing it can become.  I’m sure people have read thinkpieces on how western meditation practices basically take the practice without respect for the tradition and then westerners are left lost and confused because they don’t have anyone to guide them through the rougher experiences meditation can lead to.  Nootropics are also a bit of a dangerous technology, some more than others; I mean, I doubt anyone is going to start highlighting caffeine in orangish-red.

The power of belief is also an up and coming dangerous technology.  We know the placebo effect exists and you can do really cool things with it.  You also can end up thinking you’re bulletproof when really you’re just working well together with the rest of your village because your risk assessment is skewed.  My basic understanding of conviction charisma also falls into the category, i.e. the infamous reality warping field of startup founders.  Belief is a powerful drug, but it’s one you inflict on yourself to inflict on others.

I will note that there are mindhacks that aren’t dangerous technologies.  Things like double cruxing, developing normal charisma through social practice, calibration games, various techniques for overcoming bias, these are unlikely to make you insane.  The notable thing is how these are largely in the rationalist canon, whereas dangerous technology seems to fall more into postrationalist territory.

Overall, dangerous technology is incredibly appealing in terms of really fast living and creating An Outcome, whether it’s good or bad, without having to do a lot of work (well, depending on your definition of “a lot of work”).  It just may, you know, literally break your mind; it also tends to be unreliable/unprovable enough that using it too much tends to make enemies of the more grounded people around you, especially those that have learned to properly fear and respect dangerous technology.  It’s a risk reward analysis where the data is opaque; if you aren’t already engaging in dangerous technology research, I would heavily advise against it.  If you’re already there…be sure to take a few moments and stop from time to time.  

Discussion:  Do you use any dangerous technologies in your life?  How would one approach a risk/benefit analysis when the risk is literally going insane or worse?  Are nondangerous technologies proven and powerful enough to be worth the work without trying to take dangerous shortcuts?