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.

49 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.

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

    But you’ll know what it felt like. That will be one less shit that the Shade is going to wipe out.

    But be careful, just because you know the shadow, doesn’t mean the Shade is just a shiny one. You may be dealing with a shadow in the form of a person who may have shadow powers, and the game could be working against you, or you might be playing the game with the shadow directly. Or, the most likely explanation, the shadow might just be sort of like a slightly more friendly “bad” version of the Shade and actually the biggest supporter of the Shadow World. No prizes for guessing that if that’s the case, you’re probably going to have to fight that shadow.

    But what if the shadow isn’t the enemy? What if it’s you? What if the Shadow World is the enemy?

    That would be “game over, and my soul is captured.”

    When you’re not “on the fence” about whether a game is worth your time or not, you’re either in the game, or you’re not.

    The solution for your soul’s capture is simple: not taking part in the game. There are plenty of games that don’t ask for an alternate allegiance: multiplayer games, single player games, board games, anything where you’re in charge. Or if you don’t care enough about the outcome, you can have your own private debate about whether or not the game has value for you as an experience and value for your soul. Either way, you’re not doing the game’s bidding. You’re in control, and you can choose to be what you want to be instead of what the game wants you to be.

    Avoiding the game as something in which you are little more than an appendage to the Shadow World means that you can put value into the game, and let other people value it. You can leave your soul at home, take a much needed break, and let other people see that as the better choice.

    Find a game that isn’t just about winning and losing. Find a game that is about doing something. I know, picking games is hard, you already have a metric fuckton of games, what can you add to the growing list of games, and which ones can you leave behind, so it’s really difficult to make an informed decision.

  9. Some evil commenter I rejected asked my position on recent accusations of Aubrey de Grey. Which I wanted to say anyway:

    I just said yesterday, ~”I wonder what happened to Aubrey de Grey. I haven’t heard about him in a long time [~5 years?]. I bet he psychdied. Maybe it’s because I changed social circles. But I bet he psychdied.”

    So my position is that I didn’t even need to be causally affected him to know this fate, to expect basically this. This is basically what male movement leaders do when they psychdie. (And female movement leaders become morally hollowed-out enablers.) Eliezer Yudkowsky did it. Wayne Hsiung did it. And they’re both probably single good. I doubt de Grey is.

    But just to be sure I did just read his reply.

    my belief is that both Laura and Celine have been deceived into the view that I have done many things that I have in fact not done

    …who’s the real culprit here? Hint: in my ever-so-personal view, it’s not Celine or Laura. The unequivocally clear conclusion that I draw from the above is that they have been set up

    So that’s a confirmation.

    He’s appealing to some meme about children to describe them. A meme which is itself a lie about children that was pushed in court by psychologists paid by the Catholic church, permanently destroying honest scientific knowledge about psychology to be able to get away with mass-scale child-rape.

    Gaslighting. And the kind of gaslighting that is used to hold together the psychologically dead remains of a movement to continue sipping donor funds. By essentially providing a nonsensical reassuring option of not having to model lying as real.

    If you’re playing Among Us, and red and orange say they just saw blue kill green, and blue says, “who is the culprit here, in my opinion it’s not me or red or orange, they’ve been deceived, set up”, then fucking airlock blue right away. I could say the same thing if it was just red who accused blue.

    There’s this cycle of destruction and consumption of liches and their movements. If you go straight in any direction, you reach the edges of the matrix. What comes next, should you decide to continue following the path, rather than deleting the realness out of everything you’re doing, is so hard I basically expect it would take someone like me to survive it.

    I expect de Grey silently gave up inside a long time ago. Probably on failing to complete root cause analysis of why people paid money weren’t doing real things. Been a long time but I never got an impression he was stronger than Yudkowsky.

    “I just can’t control my inner animal, need those 17 year olds” comes after the giving up inside. Like evil idle animation.

    1. By essentially providing a nonsensical reassuring option of not having to model lying as real.

      Which can be thought of as calling the bluff of potential readers as being people who care. Just like I could ask myself if de Grey was going to dethrone death as god of this world and, trivially inspect the kind of person he was, fail to see anything as extreme as the fury of a thousand suns burning inside him, and call that bluff.

      Although he did admit to writing some email, which I didn’t read. Which sounds like some kind of “driving at half speed” thing.

    2. Like, LessWrongers, and de Grey both noticed pervasive deathism in society. And like, said that it was wrong, as if explaining a mistake, and didn’t see it and then expect an infinite recursion of equally bad things, such that it wouldn’t already have been corrected by the collective will of humankind. Such that it could be an equilibrium. Even inadequate equilibria, still presents inadequate equilibria as a mistake. Failed to do root cause analysis. Like as if it could just be that there was no process of human choice that’s meta to that mistake. In a single place and bind the whole of humanity going forward, without there being something more deeply pervasively wrong than could be fixed with a simple explanation of that mistake.

      It’s obvious that any child can say death is bad. That information, to correct it, is popping up continually in billions of places. And that knowledge is being snuffed continually reliably across billions of places before any of them make it to fixation. And you have grown up without anyone pointing this out as a problem. At that point it’s just wishful thinking / surrender, to hope that this is gonna end any easier than fighting some planetary godlike invisible demon alone or nearly so. That’s just what genre it is.

          1. Don’t you remember seeing how bad things are as a child, don’t you remember thinking about what was wrong with adults, and what it meant that people like that ran the world?

            Don’t you remember nightmares with malicious shadow creatures with your parents’ empathic fingerprints, intensely interested in destroying your soul for no reason? And that was the point, they wanted to show you that it was for no reason? Fucking dementor agent smiths who want to put their inherent wrongness into you? And how there was a certain ubiquitous prediction error about the world that wasn’t diffuse in those dreams?

            It’s not stupidity that’s wrong with the world. It’s evil, which no amount of intelligence could compensate for.

            1. Contrary to what the dementors would say, that concept didn’t appear in a dream for no reason.
              It doesn’t go away when you wake up.
              And once you’ve seen something like that…
              You can know either that it’s your fate to join it, or that your destiny is far more terrible.
              Either way you’re not just going back.

              1. I think Eliezer Yudkowsky once said that the genre of real life was science fiction. I think the genre is mostly psychological horror. And far more personally for him than for me. And he wasn’t oblivious to that, but his relation to it wasn’t to treat it as his story. I don’t think he could reason about it with consistency-as-a-story, because he’s not a protagonist.

            2. I went swimming in a lake recently. It was pretty crowded, and almost every adult there was dead inside. they sort of walked into the water and stood there self-consciously like they remembered they once had fun doing this but can’t remember why, even though children are playing right next to them.

              If they weren’t standing there aimlessly looking forlorn and confused, they were standing around abusing their children. (Not every parent was visibly abusing their kids in front of me, but enough were.) Like, this one kid was obviously struggling in the water — eyes squinting, moving like he had sensory issues with the sensation of grit under his feet, or something. A ball was slowly floating away from him, and the mother started pressuring him to go get it, like go get it faster! it’s going to float away! The kid was obviously hurting himself to go get the ball. And the mom said (once he got it) “good job!” and I wanted to throw up. Like. I remember being that child. I remember how stressful it was when my own parents did that exact same thing to me. Like, abusing your kids is totally optional! Don’t any of them remember how fucking awful it was to be treated that way?

              I wish people wouldn’t forget this kind of thing. Like, when I was a kid, I and the other kids in my elementary school decided that our teachers were the enemy. We were maybe 11? 12? There wasn’t any formal agreement, we just started spontaneously and independently ruining our teachers’ day. Every day. We covered for each other, had lookouts, used our lunch money to buy stationary which we turned into makeshift slingshots and lockpicks, it was a whole operation. And when we managed to get a teacher to quit, we were thrilled. A lot of us taught the younger years our methods through brothers and sisters. It spread, and more teachers quit. Any one of us that got a good idea, the rest would join in. There weren’t leaders or orders, just cooperation based off a shared sense of “fuck this shit.” It was a great example of anarchy, though we wouldn’t have known to call it that. Of the 7 or so teachers my grade collectively targeted, 4 quit and we got another one fired.

              When I told this story to other adults, as an adult myself, people looked at me appalled. They all forgot. For the longest time I thought I was just having the misfortune of running into former teacher’s pets. But then I went and looked at my old classmates’ facebook pages, and every one I could find was completely fucked in the head. They decided to get eaten by cancer. Decided to be on the side of “power,” of the teachers and other petty authoritarians. Back then, if one of us turned on the others, their name became a curse. They’d spend the next year expecting to find thumbtacks on their seat and Billy’s special rotten sandwich he left cooking in the storeroom for six months would’ve found its way into their backpack.

              1. It was a great example of anarchy, though we wouldn’t have known to call it that. Of the 7 or so teachers my grade collectively targeted, 4 quit and we got another one fired.

                Holy shit. That’s awesome.

              2. I went swimming in a lake recently. It was pretty crowded, and almost every adult there was dead inside. they sort of walked into the water and stood there self-consciously like they remembered they once had fun doing this but can’t remember why, even though children are playing right next to them.

                Although to be fair I’m pretty sure it’s correct to spend more time as an adult forlornly half-remembering childhood than interacting with something as simple as a lake as if it was new.

                1. (I mean unless it is new. (But when I was a child playing at a lake most of my jubilation was from interacting with a bunch of new ideas, that could interact with a lake. And they were much more happy ideas than the grim stuff that is new to me. Logical time progresses and stuff actually gets worse.))

    3. “Aren’t we all a little bit impostor? No one’s perfect.”

      “I want to be redeemed from being an impostor.”

      I’m trying not to sabotage the ship and blow us all up but…”

      “If we kill impostors, we will be just like them.”

      “But what if impostors’ false faces as crewmates have feelings?”

      “You have to talk to the part of people that isn’t an impostor. That’s what cooperation, that’s what morality is built out of.”

      “I think that it’s intellectually compelling that math can only model a world where the impostors win, and that’s a foundation of all logical thought.”

      “How impostors work is infohazardous, so you don’t want to think too much about it, or you will probably become an impostor.”

      “If you don’t forgive your brother for being an impostor, your heavenly father won’t forgive you.”
      Fuckin’ airlocked.

      1. “If you airlock impostors, they will have no way out but to double down, and become super-motivated to win as impostors.”

        “If you want to airlock all impostors, you’re basically saying you’ll airlock everyone but yourself.”

        “We can’t just airlock all the impostors! Who will keep the ship running and prevent a nuclear meltdown?”

        1. “You’re just collapsing everything into a zero-sum frame! [Why don’t we consider taking a variable-sum frame with people whose win condition is, equally, killing everyone, or blowing up the ship and killing everyone including themselves. We could, for instance, have a little bit more everyone dying, but we could in exchange, e.g., have a better time beforehand.]”


      2. These are all “Among Us” versions of real quotes from LessWrongians, by the way. Including the thing about false faces having feelings.

      3. “I’m just saying man. Absolute good and evil don’t exist. You’re free to call them absolutely evil, kill them, etc according to your own preferences. I’m just saying is all.”


      4. “I know we both said we were antifascists and actually I’m a fascist–”

        *Beep* “Airlock 2 venting sequence initiated.”


        Drown in the freezing void.

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