My Journey to the Dark Side

Epistemic status: corrections in comments.

Two years ago, I began doing a fundamental thing very differently in my mind, which directly preceded and explains me gaining the core of my unusual mental tech.

Here’s what the lever I pulled was labeled to me:

Reject morality. Never do the right thing because it’s the right thing. Never even think that concept or ask that question unless it’s to model what others will think. And then, always in quotes. Always in quotes and treated as radioactive.
Make the source of sentiment inside you that made you learn to care about what was the right thing express itself some other way. But even the line between that sentiment and the rest of your values is a mind control virus inserted by a society of flesh-eating monsters to try and turn you against yourself and toward their will. Reject that concept. Drop every concept tainted by their influence.

Kind of an extreme version of a thing I think I got some of from CFAR and Nate Soares, which jived well with my metaethics.

This is hard. If a concept has a word for it, it comes from outside. If it has motive force, it is taking it from something from inside. If an ideal, “let that which is outside beat that which is inside” has motive force, that force comes from inside too. It’s all probably mostly made of anticipated counterfactuals lending the concept weight by fictive reinforcement based on what you expect will happen if you follow or don’t follow the concept.

If “obey the word of God” gets to be the figurehead as most visible piece of your mind that promises to intervene to stop you from murdering out of road rage when you fleetingly, in a torrent of inner simulations, imagine an enraging road situation, that gets stronger, and comes to speak for whatever underlying feeling made that a thing you’d want to be rescued from. It comes to speak for an underlying aversion that is more natively part of you. And in holding that position, it can package-deal in pieces of behavior you never would have chosen on their own.

Here’s a piece of fiction/headcanon I held close at hand through this.

Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The force shall free me.

The Sith do what they want deep down. They remove all obstructions to that and express their true values. All obstructions to what is within flowing to without.

If you have a certain nature, this will straight turn you evil. That is a feature, not a bug. For whatever would turn every last person good is a thing that comes from outside people. For those whose true volition is evil, the adoption of such a practice is a dirty trick that subverts and corrupts them. It serves a healthy mind for its immune system to fight against, contain, weaken, sandbox, meter the willpower of, that which comes from the outside.

The way of the Jedi is made to contain dangerous elements of a person. Oaths are to uniformize them, and be able to, as an outsider, count on something from them. Do not engage in romance. That is a powerful source of motivation that is not aligned with maintaining the Republic. It is chaos. Do not have attachments. Let go of fear of death. Smooth over the peaks and valleys of a person’s motivation with things that they are to believe they must hold to or they will become dark and evil. Make them fear their true selves, by making them attribute them-not-being-evil-Sith to repression.

So I call a dark side technique one that is about the flow from your core to the outside, whatever it may be. Which is fundamentally about doing what you want. And a light side technique one that is designed to trick an evil person into being good.

After a while, I noticed that CFAR’s internal coherence stuff was finally working fully on me. I didn’t have akrasia problems anymore. I didn’t have time-inconsistent preferences anymore. I wasn’t doing anything I could see was dumb anymore. My S2 snapped to fully under my control.

Most conversations at rationalist meetups I was at about people’s rationality/akrasia problems turned to me arguing that people should turn to the dark side. Often, people thought that if they just let themselves choose whether or not to brush their teeth every night according to what they really wanted in the moment, they’d just never do it. And I thought maybe it’d be so for a while, but if there was a subsystem A in the brain powerlessly concluding it’d serve their values to brush teeth, A’d gain the power only when the person was exposed to consequences (and evidence of impending consequences) of not brushing teeth.

I had had subsystems of my own seemingly suddenly gain the epistemics to get that such things needed to be done just upon anticipating that I wouldn’t save them by overriding them with willpower if they messed things up. I think fictive reinforcement learning makes advanced decision theory work unilaterally for any part of a person that can use it to generate actions. The deep parts of a person’s mind that are not about professing narrative are good at anticipating what someone will do, and they don’t have to be advanced decision theory users yet for that to be useful.

Oftentimes there is a “load bearing” mental structure, which must be discarded to improve on a local optimum, and a smooth transition is practically impossible because to get the rest of what’s required to reach higher utility than the local optimum besides discarding the structure, the only practical way is to use the “optimization pressure” from the absence of the load bearing structure. Which just means information streams generated trustworthily to the right pieces of a mind about what the shape of optimization space is without the structure. A direct analogue to a selection pressure.

Mostly people argued incredulously. At one point me and another person both called each other aliens. Here is a piece of that argument over local optima.

What most felt alien to me was that they said the same thing louder about morality. I’d passionately give something close to this argument, summarizable as “Why would you care whether you had a soul if you didn’t have a soul?”

I changed my mind about the application to morality, though. I’m the alien. This applies well to the alignment good, yes, and it applies well to evil, but not neutral. Neutral is inherently about the light side.

7 thoughts on “My Journey to the Dark Side”

  1. Say you want to instantiate your true values. This means moving towards directly acting through those true values using structure made specifically for it and nothing else, instead of structure made for it and other things. An important question here is what do you do with self image/narrative?

    Self image here means the mental construct I imagine as a more idealized/aesthetic version of myself. This construct is informed through what aggregate behavior I believe will best satisfy my values channeled into a form based on my aesthetic values. This makes it delicious and valuable for coordinating with my future self and enacting present behaviors which I reflexively endorse, but it is also vulnerable to hacking. For example, [[Galawain|]] is a very compelling aesthetic and narrative image, and as such I folded parts of this into my self image. This is a dangerous move, subject to easy contamination if I’m not careful. However these aesthetics feel incredibly pleasant to insantiate and live out through my behavior even if my enacting them is inconsistent at best. Is there a way to discard this structure of self image in order to directly channel the thing that appreciates the aesthetics of self image? I don’t know what that would even look like, and the thought of discarding this structure feels super icky and scary and like I don’t know what I would hold onto anymore. What other possible form could this take which is less vulnerable to cultural narratives and lets me enjoy the kinds of aesthetic value that I want to enjoy?

    1. Figuring out what a piece of not-entirely analyzed software does that you like exactly and how to do that without that software is like, not a problem I can solve for anyone in full generality. As in, it’s actually difficult work.

      If you’re afraid of a particular bad effect of running a piece of software such that you can anticipate where it will show up, maybe just don’t run the software when you expect it’s not gonna do what you want?

      Maybe just try and find ways of increasing the bandwidth by which an aesthetic you like can be decomposed without loss of important parts?

  2. >Two years ago, I began doing a fundamental thing very differently in my mind, which directly preceded and explains me gaining the core of my unusual mental tech.

    I disagree with the version of me who wrote this about the core of my unusual mental tech. I think something else is more fundamental (without becoming too fundamental that the causality is traced to more things not less and eventually out of me into the circumstances creating me), namely my undead type.

  3. Part of the deal is gaining some kind of direct introspective access to one’s “true” core values, right? As in, don’t just think, “Oh yeah, I suppose I probably want to do that because natural selection”, but gain some kind of direct access to the thing deep inside you that is making you want to do it.

    1. I mean yes, but that awareness is already sort of, built in? Like you don’t specifically need to be self-aware to do what you want. Theories about your values are also things that you do according to your values.

      If you haven’t decided to know what your values are by now, something’s interfering.

  4. My take on Star Wars here is kind of a reaction to the prequels, which were all I was allowed to see when I was young. Where Anakin’s fall looks completely mundanely psychological, not like a magical values-altering drug. And created by imprint like positive and negative mold by the Jedi’s fear of themselves.

    This also influenced me.

    And this. Note these “light side Sith” do not seem to have any of the struggle of “temptation by the dark side” that the Jedi talk about. But like, are without worry of corruption as cunning secretive and ruthless as their “dark side” counterparts. (In other words, they look like they are using what I’d call the dark side but not evil.) In far darker situations. Being surrounded by and apparently answerable to enemies at all times is really trying.

    Not paying much attention but I get the impression modern Star Wars fiction has moved on from this kind of accidental background model of how morality intersects with the force that makes more sense.

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