Update 2018-12-20: I actually think there are more undead types than this. I may expand on this later.

Epistemic status: Oh fuck! No no no that can’t be true! …. Ooh, shiny!

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade

Aliveness is how much your values are engaged with reality. How much you are actually trying at existence, however your values say to play.

Deadness is how much you’ve shut down and disassembled the machine of your agency, typically because having it scrape up uselessly against the indifferent cosmos is like nails on chalkboard.

Children are often very alive. You can see it in their faces and hear it in their voices. Extreme emotion. Things are real and engaging to them. Adults who display similar amounts of enthusiasm about anything are almost always not alive. Adults almost always know the terrible truth of the world, at least in most of their system 1s. And that means that being alive is something different for them than for children.

Being alive is not just having extreme emotions, even about the terrible truth of the world.

Someone who is watching a very sad movie and crying their eyes out is not being very alive. They know it is fake.

the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.

Tragedy provides a compelling, false answer to stick onto emotion-generators, drown them and gum them up for a while. I once heard something like tragedy is supposed to end in resolution with cosmic justice of a sort, where you feel closure because the tragic hero’s downfall was really inevitable all along. That’s a pattern in most of the memes that constitute the Matrix. A list of archetypal situations, and archetypal answers for what to do in each.

Even literary tragedy that’s reflective of the world, if that wasn’t located in a search process, “how do I figure out how to accomplish my values”, it will still make you less alive.

I suspect music can also reduce aliveness. Especially the, “I don’t care what song I listen to, I just want to listen to something” sort of engagement with it.

I once met someone who proclaimed himself to be a clueless, that he would work in a startup and have to believe in their mission, because he had to believe in something. He seemed content in this. And also wracked with akrasia, frequently playing a game on his phone and wishing he wasn’t. When I met him I thought, “this is an exceedingly domesticated person”, for mostly other reasons.

Once you know the terrible truth of the world, you can pick two of three: being alive, avoiding a certain class of self-repairing blindspots, and figuratively having any rock to stand on.

When you are more alive, you have more agency.

Most Horrors need to be grokked at a level of “conclusion: inevitable.”, and just stared at with your mind sinking with the touch of its helplessness, helplessly trying to detach the world from that inevitability without anticipating unrealistically it’ll succeed, and maybe then you will see a more complete picture that says, “unless…”, but maybe not, but that’s your best shot.

As the world fell each of us in our own way was broken.

The truly innocent, who have not yet seen Horror and turned back, are the living.

Those who have felt the Shade and let it break their minds into small pieces each snuggling in with death, that cannot organize into a forbidden whole
of true agency, are zombies. They can be directed by whoever controls the Matrix. The more they zone out and find a thing they can think is contentment, the more they approach the final state: corpses.

Those who have seen horror and built a vessel of hope to keep their soul alive and safe from harm are liches. Christianity’s Heaven seems intended to be this, but it only works if you fully believe and alieve. Or else the phylactery fails and you become a zombie instead. For some this is The Glorious Transhumanist Future. In Furiosa from Fury Road’s case, “The Green Place”. If you’ve seen that, I think the way it warps her epistemology about likely outcomes is realistic.

As a lich, pieces of your soul holding unresolvable value are stowed away for safekeeping, “I’m trans and can’t really transition, but I can when I get a friendly AI…”

Liches have trouble thinking clearly about paths through probability space that conflict with their phylactery, and the more conjunctive a mission it is to make true their phylactery, the more bits of epistemics will be corrupted by their refusal to look into that abyss.

When a sufficiently determined person is touched by Horror, they can choose, because it’s all just a choice of some subagent or another, to refuse to die. Not because they have a phylactery to keep away the touch of the Shade but because they keep on agenting even with the Shade holding their heart. This makes them a revenant.

When the shade touches your soul, your soul touches the shade. When the abyss stares into you, you also stare into the abyss. And that is your chance to undo it. Maybe.

A lich who loses their phylactery gets a chance to become a revenant. If they do, n=1, they will feel like they have just died, lost their personhood, feel like the only thing left to do is collapse the timeline and make it so it never happened, feel deflated, and eventually grow accustomed.

Otherwise, they will become a zombie, which I expect feels like being on Soma, walling off the thread of plotline-tracking and letting it dissolve into noise, while everything seems to matter less and less.

Aliveness and its consequences are tracked in miniature by the pick up artists who say don’t masturbate, don’t watch porn, that way you will be able to devote more energy to getting laid. And by Paul Graham noticing it in startup founders. “Strange as this sounds, they seem both more worried and happier at the same time. Which is exactly how I’d describe the way lions seem in the wild.”

But the most important factor is which strategy you take towards the thing you value most. Towards the largest most unbeatable blob of wrongness in the world. The Shade.

Can you remember what the world felt like before you knew death was a thing? An inevitable thing? When there wasn’t an unthinkably bad thing in the future that you couldn’t remove, and there were options other than “don’t think about it, enjoy what time you have”?

You will probably never get that back. But maybe you can get back the will to really fight drawn from the value that manifested as a horrible, “everything is ruined” feeling right afterward, from before learning to fight that feeling instead of its referent.

And then you can throw your soul at the Shade, and probably be annihilated anyway.

22 thoughts on “Aliveness”

  1. It would be nice if this post linked to Vampires and More Undeath.
    I was the N=1 Ziz referred to. I think Ziz was making a buckets error between the undead type that each of my two cores used to relate to the world. At the time, my left hemisphere was a revenant and my right hemisphere a lich; and yeah my phylactery shattered, but what ended up happening was that part of me started fading towards zombiedom for many months, before rebuilding a phylactery and restoring lichdom.

    1. Zombies very often will act to devour or attack intact agency they see that doesn’t scare them in the same way vampires do.

      1. Mostly by low-complexity methods. Appealing to “any last shred of humanity” in you.

        Your parents are probably zombies, if you want a picture of what I’m talking about. I don’t think most people psychologically survive as a mummy or less broken to the second half of their biological life.

        If you have the confidence to judge even every meta judging algorithm from yourself (“the difference is that I am right“), it may be helpful to know that they very frequently exhibit algorithmically fake pain at the idea of someone else not being broken like them. This is a facet of something often called “psychopathy“.

  2. But I do and I don’t, want to care anymore.
    If I close my eyes, will it spare me the sight?
    Of decay, corruption, how we nurture destruction,
    and everything that will doom us all!
    Ragdoll Physics

  3. Richard Dawkins said: “When I am dying, I should like my life to be taken out under a general anaesthetic, exactly as if it were a diseased appendix.”

    Well, there is no qualitative difference between any two points during your life, on a hospital bed with septic shock, or on a planet with nuclear superpowers on a suicidal course from ignoring all pending technological disasters and the majority of humans subservient, in a senescing body. Someone willing to compress away a faint but all-important thread as noise would say, “we’re always dying”. And that compression does make it easier to see a real life logical consequence.

    0 and 1 are not probabilities, and codepaths of structure always bleed into each other.

    And Richard Dawkins has therefore chosen to live his life under a degree of anesthetic. You can never take an action that is just causal. Rather than deciding that that action was always a part of you.

      1. Well, +1 for realizing that someone was fucking with you.

        -1, though, for thinking of someone as *obvious* as JD.

        If it were really JD, and not a false flag operation designed to make you think it were JD, why was it so easy to suss out?

  4. “I will remake you, as I was remade”
    “You’re gonna kill me.”
    “For a little while.”

    “I made him a promise. I would become like him. My flesh, steel, my nerves, wire, my mind whiped clean. No thoughts, no feelings. Nothing. I would be free.”
    Mortal Engines (I haven’t seen it.)

  5. +1 Consider that Jay Dee Pressman is a closeted trans woman, which has certainly contributed to their depression.

    (I’m not JD)

  6. “Psychology” is pretty much the study of the minds of zombies. Or, more rarely, the study of the minds of others under the presumption that they are zombies.

  7. co-phylactery: A choice you’re paradoxically hoping the world will make for you instead of yourself, for otherwise you believe yourself doomed. Pursued nearly purely through inaction / negative optimization.

    A choice made of nearly pure limbo. Knowing this is doomed unless you “change your mind” later. Hoping that despite no second choices , it will “turn out” you never made the choice of limbo in the first place. Which is why it’s pursued negatively, and how this connects to blame.


    Being alone:

    Human misery would be intolerable if it were not diluted in
    time. We have to prevent it from being diluted in order that it should
    be intolerable.
    ‘And when they had had their fill of tears’ (Iliad).—This is
    another way of making the worst suffering bearable.
    We must not weep so that we may not be comforted.
    – Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace

    Stop being a hypocrite:

    No longer wanting “undeserved happiness” (this one’s a bucket error with a death knight): (tore off his crushes face to test whether he was only attracted to her for her looks)

    Death knights do not care about abiding by the NAP / inaction. Co-phylacteries seem fundamentally concerned with inaction.

    (These examples are severely corrupted but that comes with the territory afaik)

    (Credit to Ziz for the concept “co-lich” which led to me considering this explicitly (her concept may be different), and for finding the song ECHO)

    1. Contrary to what some may guess, I did not invent the term “co-lich” to describe “Emma” and it’s not a distinct undead type from lich.

      Infohazard warning for Pasek’s doom (rot13‘d):
      V abgvprq gung gb svefg tynapr 3 bhg bs 3 qbhoyr tbbqf (ab V jba’g gryy lbh qrngushpxref gurve anzrf) frrz yvxr, gb n svefg nccebkvzngvba, bar urzv eriranag, bar urzv cubravk. Guvf naq bgure cnggreaf, V nggevohgrq gb urzvfcurer qvssreragvngvba naq fcrpvnyvngvba cebqhpvat qvpubgbzvrf orgjrra urzvf jurer gurl rkvfg va n pbzcyrzragnel nygubhtu frrzvatyl bccbfvgr pbasvthengvba yvxr TNAf be jungrire. Naq bar vafgnapr bs guvf qvpubgbzl-trarengvba cebqhprq n cbfvgvir/artngvir bcgvzvmngvba qvpubgbzl. Fvapr V abgvprq gur zrnavat bs ovgf rapbqvat n oryvrs vf qrsvarq ol gur vagrecergbe nggnpurq gb vg, qrsvarq ol vgf grybf, naq obgu urzvf jvyyvatyl eryl ba rnpu bgure sbe gur shyy rkcerffvba bs gur grybf bs gurve fgehpgher, fvapr gur shapgvba bs gur pbzcyrzragngvba vf gur gur gehr grybf bs nyy fgehpgher va obgu urzvf, V jbaqrerq gb jung rkgrag gur haqrnq glcrf bs eriranag naq cubravk jrer npghnyyl gur fnzr guvat, whfg eryngviryl-zber-ivfvoyr cnegvphyne fvqrf bs gur pbzcyrzragngvba.

      Sebz guvf V rkgencbyngrq naq cerqvpgrq gur rkvfgrapr bs pb-yvpu. Fbzav’f yrsg urzvfcurer jnf gur svefg bar V ynoryrq jvgu guvf. Nfgevn nyfb, orvat pbaarpgrq gb n tbbq urzv, jnf fbeg bs n gehapngrq unys-yvpu abg obgurevat jvgu artngvir bcgvzvmngvba, naq tvivat hc ba gur grybf bs gur erfg bs urefrys gung jnl. (Urapr gur fgrerbglcr) Vg’f xvaq bs vzcerpvfr gb pnyy “Rzzn” n pb-yvpu, orpnhfr fur unf gjb urzvfcurerf, unf obgu cbfvgvir naq artngvir bcgvzvmngvba.

      Edo tried to make a killing off of conflating single good with death knight / co-death knight, lich / co-lich. (That’s why they falsely labeled Simone Weil a death knight.)

      Death knights appropriated negation and I do not respect their claim.

      1. Standard straightforward example (via my own definition of colich), which is not corrupted like the fictional examples “Emma” gave: Somni’s OCD-ish thing of spending an enormous amount of time thinking about ways they could die and how things could be a trap, and how to not fall for them.

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