Hero Capture

Neutral people sometimes take the job of hero.

It is a job, because it is a role taken on for payment.

Everyone’s mind is structured throughout runtime according to an adequacy frontier in achievement of values / control of mind. This makes relative distributions of control in their mind efficient relative to epistemics of the cognitive processes that control them. Seeing what thing a conservation law for which is obeyed in marginal changes to control is seeing someone’s true values. My guesses as to most common true biggest  values are probably “continue life” and “be loved/be worthy of love”. Good is also around. It’s a bit more rare.

Neutral people can feel compassion. That subagent has a limited pool of internal credit though; more seeming usefulness to selfish ends must flow out than visibly necessary effort goes in, or it will be reinforced away.

The social hero employment contract is this:

The hero is the Schelling person to engage in danger on behalf of the tribe. The hero is the Schelling person to lead.
The hero is considered highly desirable.

For men this can be a successful evolutionary strategy.

For a good-aligned trans woman who is dysphoric and preoccupied with world-optimization to the point of practical asexuality, when the set of sentient beings is bigger than the tribe, it’s not very useful. (leadership is overrated too.)

Alive good people who act like heroes are superstimulus to hero-worship instincts.

Within the collection of adequacy frontiers making up a society created by competing selfish values, a good person is a source of free energy.

When there is a source of free energy, someone will build a fence around it, and are incentivized to spend as much energy fighting for it as they will get out of it. In the case of captured good people, this can be quite a lot.

The most effective good person capture is done in a way that harnesses, rather than contains, the strongest forces in their mind.

This is not that difficult. Good people want to make things better for people. You just have to get them focused on you. So it’s a matter of sticking them with tunnel-vision. Disabling their ability to take a step back and think about the larger picture.

I once spent probably more than 1 week total, probably less than 3, Trying to rescue someone from a set of memes about transness, that seemed both false and to be ruining their life. I didn’t previously know them. I didn’t like them. They took out their pain on me. And yet, I was the perfect person to help them! I was trans! I had uncommonly good epistemology in the face of politics! I had a comparative advantage in suffering, and I explicitly used that as a heuristic. (I still do to an extent. It’s not wrong.) I could see them suffering, and I rationalized up some reasons that helping this one person right in front of me was a <mumble> use of my time. Something something, community members should help each other, I can’t be a fully brutal consequentialist I’m still a human, something something good way to make long term allies, something something educational…

My co-founder in Rationalist Fleet attracted a couple of be-loved-values people, who managed to convince her that their mental problems were worth fixing, and they each began to devour as much of her time as they could get. To have a mother-hero-therapist-hopefully-lover. To have her forever.

Fake belief in the cause is a common tool here. Exaggerated enthusiasm. Insertion of high praise for the target into an ontology that slightly rounds them to someone who has responsibilities. Someone who wants to save the world must not take this as a credible promise that such a person will do real work.

That leads to desire routing through “be seen as helpful”, sort of “be helpful”, sort of sort of “try and do the thing”. It cannot do steering computation.

“Hero” is itself such a rigged concept. A hero is an exemplar of a culture. They do what is right according to a social reality.

To be a mind undivided by akrasia-protecting-selfishness-from-light-side-memes, is by default to be pwned by light side memes.

Superman is an example of this. He fights crime instead of wars because that makes him safe from the perspective of the reader. There are no tricky judgements for him to make, where the social reality could waver from one reader to the next, from one time to the next. Someone who just did what was actually right would not be so universally popular among normal people. Those tails come apart.

Check out the etymology of “Honorable”. It’s an “achievement” unlocked by whim of social reality.  And revoked when that incentive makes sense.

The end state of all this is to be leading an effective altruism organization you created, surrounded by so dedicated people who work so hard to implement your vision so faithfully, and who look to you eagerly for where you will go next, yet you know on some level the whole thing seems to be kept in motion by you. If you left, it would probably fall apart or slowly wind down and settle to a husk of its former self. You can’t let them down. They want to be given a way for their lives to be meaningful and be deservedly loved in return. And it’s kind of a miracle you got this far. You’re not that special, survivorship bias etc. You had a bold idea at the beginning, and it’s not totally been falsified. You can still rescue it. And you are definitely contributing to good outcomes in the world. Most people don’t do this well. You owe it to them to fulfill the meaning that you gave their lives…

And so you have made your last hard pivot, and decay from agent into maintainer of a game that is a garden. You will make everyone around you grow into the best person they can be (they’re kind of stuck, but look how much they’ve progressed!). You will have an abundance of levers to push on to receive a real reward in terms of making people’s lives better and keeping the organization moving forward and generating meaning, which will leave you just enough time to tend to the emotions of your flock.

The world will still burn.

Stepping out of the game you’ve created has been optimized to be unthinkable. Like walking away from your own child. Or like walking away from your religion, except that your god is still real. But heaven minus hell is smaller than some vast differences beyond, that you cannot fix with a horde of children hanging onto you who need you to think they are helping and need your mission to be something they can understand.

2 thoughts on “Hero Capture”

  1. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of the hero/lover/beloved role. I know that because I’ve personally succumbed to it myself. Initial feelings of loneliness fed into a desire for comnection, which fed into obsession and more loneliness. I was able to break it only because i actually developed relations and discovered the seamy underside: that all relations diverge, that competition for power is the name of the game, not love and that in the end, the people you like may not be as best-suited for you as you’d like.

  2. I need to concentrate and examine my own experience to get most of the concepts/distinctions you make in your blog, and there’s still a ton for me to learn here. I really value and appreciate you writing it. Thank you!

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