Spectral Sight and Good

Epistemic status update: This model is importantly flawed. I will not explain why at this time. Just, reduce the overall weight you put in it.

Good people are people who have a substantial amount of altruism in their cores.

Spectral sight is a collection of abilities allowing the user to see invisible things like the structure of social interactions, institutions, ideologies, politics, and the inner layers of other people’s minds.

I’m describing good and spectral sight together for reasons, because the epistemics locating each concept are interwoven tightly as I’ve constructed them.

A specific type of spectral sight is the one I’ve shown in neutral and evil. I’m going to be describing more about that.

This is a skill made of being good at finding out what structure reveals about core. Structure is easy to figure out if you already know it’s Real. But often that’s part of the question. Then you have to figure out what it’s a machine for doing, as in what was the still-present thing that installed it  and could replace it or override it optimizing for?

It’s not a weirdly parochial definition to call this someone’s true values. Because that’s what will build new structure of the old structure stops doing its job. Lots of people “would” sacrifice themselves to save 5 others. And go on woulding until they actually get the opportunity.

There’s a game lots of rationalists have developed different versions of, “Follow the justification”. I have a variant. “Follow the motivational energy.” There’s a limited amount that neutral people will sacrifice for the greater good, before their structures run out of juice and disappear. “Is this belief system / whatever still working out for me” is a very simple subagent to silently unconsciously run as puppetmaster.

There’s an even smarter version of that, where fake altruistic structure must be charged with Schelling reach in order to work.

Puppetmasters doling out motivational charge to fake structure can include all kinds of other things to make the tails come apart between making good happen and appearing to be trying to make good happen in a way that has good results for the person. I suspect that’s a lot of what the “far away”ness thing that the drowning child experiment exposes is made of. Play with variations of that thought experiment, and pay attention to system 1 judgements, not principles, to feel the thing out. What about a portal to the child? What about a very fast train? What if it was one time teleportation? Is there a consistant cross-portal community?

There is biologically fixed structure in the core, the optimizer for which is no longer around to replace it. Some of it is heuristics toward the use of justice for coordinating for reproducing. Even with what’s baked in, the tails come apart between doing the right thing, and using that perception to accomplish things more useful for reproducing.

My model says neutral people will try to be heroes sometimes. Particularly if that works out for them somehow. If they’re men following high-variance high reward mating strategies, they can be winning even while undergoing significant risk to their lives. That landscape of value can often generate things in the structure class, “virtue ethics”.

Good people seem to have an altruism perpetual motion machine inside them, though, which will persist in moving them through cost in the absence of what would be a reward selfishly.

This about the least intuitive thing to accurately identify in someone by anything but their long-term history. Veganism is one of the most visible and strong correlates. The most important summaries of what people are like, are the best things to lie about. Therefore they require the best adversarial epistemology to figure out. And they are most common to be used in oversimplifying. This does not make them not worth thinking.

If you use spectral sight on someone’s process of figuring out what’s a moral patient, you’re likely to get one of two kinds of responses. One is something like “does my S1 empathize with it”, the other is clique-making behavior, typically infused with a PR / false-face worthy amount of justice, but not enough to be crazy.

Not knowing this made me taken by surprise the first time I tried to proselytize veganism to a contractarian. How could anyone actually feel like inability to be a part of a social contract really really mattered?

Of course, moral patiency is an abstract concept, far in Schelling reach away from actual actions. And therefore one of the most thoroughly stretched toward lip-service to whatever is considered most good and away from actual action.

“Moral progress” has been mostly a process of Schelling reach extending. That’s why it’s so predictable. (See Jeremy Bentham.)

Thinking about this requires having calibrated quantitative intuitions on the usefulness of different social actions, and of internal actions. There is instrumental value for the purpose of good in clique-building, and there is instrumental value for the purpose of clique-building in appearing good-not-just-clique-building. You have to look at the algorithm, and its role in the person’s entire life, not just the suggestively named tokens, or token behavior.

When someone’s core acts around structure (akrasia), and self-concepts are violated, that’s a good glimpse into who they really are. Good people occasionally do this in the direction of altruism. Especially shortsighted altruism. Especially good people who are trying to build a structure in the class, “consequentialisms”.

Although I have few datapoints, most of which are significantly suspect, good seems quite durable. Because it is in core, good people who get jailbroken remain good. (Think Adrian Veidt for a fictional example. Such characters often get labeled as evil by the internet. Often good as well.) There are tropes reflecting good people’s ability to shrug off circumstances that by all rights should have turned them evil. I don’t know if that relationship to reality is causal.

By good, I don’t mean everything people are often thinking when they call someone “good”. That’s because that’s as complicated and nonlocal a concept as justice. I’m going for a “understand over incentivize and prescribe behavior” definition here, and therefore insisting that it be a locally-defined concept.

It’s important not to succumb to the halo effect. This is a psychological characteristic. Just because you’re a good person, doesn’t mean you’ll have good consequences. It doesn’t mean you’ll tend to have good consequences. It doesn’t mean you’re not actively a menace. It doesn’t mean you don’t value yourself more than one other person. It’s not a status which is given as a reward or taken away for bad behavior, although it predicts against behavior that is truly bad in some sense. Good people can be dangerously defectbot-like. They can be ruthless, they can exploit people, they can develop structure for those things.

If you can’t thoroughly disentangle this from the narrative definition of good person, putting weight in this definition will not be helpful.

10 thoughts on “Spectral Sight and Good”

  1. Greetings to The Sincerious One,

    Your models of human psychology (e.g., your writing on the good/evil/neutral axis, alivenesss, etc), I have found to be robust and accurate. Your models of “moral progress” and schelling reach, less so. To a first-order approximation, there’s been a sort of chain of events: the worldwide establishment of democracy => women’s suffrage => black civil rights => sexual revolution => gay marriage => trans’ rights => ??.

    All this so-called “progress” has resulted in: two world wars, the second of which contributed to the rise of Communism in the 20th century, fertility rates plummeting in Western nations, divorce rates rising rapidly in Western nations, only marginal improvements in the living conditions for african americans…
    (The political fallout downstream of the LGBT rights movement.)

    I don’t meant to say that all these causes are corrupt to the core, or that their founders began with the intent to optimize for evil. But I do think you somewhat misunderstand the political dynamics at play here. Looking at all that has come about as a result of these changes, “affective death spiral” is the term that comes to mind.

    1. Yeah. I know this but haven’t updated my old posts, have yet to restore homeostatic equilibrium in general or in presenting a concise summary of my views, given the things I’ve seen. But e.g. text-search my glossary for “slave”.

      The economy distributes clean boundaries like “recognized as a slave” and “it’s by social agreement based on skin color” across adequacy frontiers based on fungibility and the value of (relative to peers who are similarly sin-bonded) plausible deniability of knowledge of what kind of injustice is going on.

      I think there’s some kind of timeless conservation law of agency where if there is not retributive justice, evil’s exploitation will find some way to go on.

      Calling me that, you’re probably from LessWrong? Are you aware of its fall?

    2. Schelling reach is totally a real thing on a micro scale. And my models of psychology I’ve presented are also a bit out of date.

      Oh and I dunno about blaming world wars, totalitarianism pretending to be communism, fertility rates? Divorce rates? Is that even a bad thing? On moral progress.

      And you don’t know me if you think I’m affective-death-spiralling. Hell. That’s a concept I hear thrown around LessWrong so often yet I feel like the people who say it generally don’t mean the gears that EY proposed, they don’t seem like they correspond to the gears of the concept as it plays a role in LessWrongian argumentation. It feels like it’s used because it’s a sick burn based in a cached thought of you should be very afraid of your thoughts about things you like because BIASES AND YOUR BRAIN IS BAD.

      1. This CDT vs TDT analysis of history thing is very important to not just entering another jail. Vampires are extremely interested in maintaining a jail where people don’t do TDT. I don’t believe you can come to the conclusion

        All this so-called “progress” has resulted in…

        without comparing based on an implicit CDT counterfactual. Where it could not be true that otherwise just people at those decision points in history would accept that counterfactual and that the history already progressed the way it did, including all previous junctures without any of them turning out far worse. (Note I said, “could not be true” rather than stating what “would be true instead” to avoid constructing an incoherent “logical counterfactual” here.)

        It might take a finished multiverse post to communicate this if just demonstrating one level of how the recursive step might be different doesn’t work.

        Do you remember the thing I said about “gritty realities of geopolitics” in Net Negative? And the consequences of me believing there was wisdom in that? The price of believing in the “sense” that team vampire has made of the world? Believing there was anything but omnicide in that storied box? The culture of history is full of misplaced respect for it.

        1. Like how can you define “resulting in” without defining what would have happened otherwise, and then you’re doing causal surgery.

    3. Seems wrong to blame democracy for world wars, given it was not the democracies involved that were the aggressors, and Incredibly Wise CDT Analyses are not really useful for my purposes / contributing to concepts that are useful for my purposes.

      Also, “political fallout downstream of the LGBT rights movement”, I predict I’d give an analogous response to whatever you have to say about that.

      Are you a neoreactionary?

      1. > (The political fallout downstream of the LGBT rights movement.)
        This was a typo. I thought I wrote “I await the political fallout downstream of the LGBT rights movement”. (I’m leaving space in my mind for the possibility that there is no political fallout, and that everything turns out fine. That doesn’t seem likely though.)

        > Calling me that, you’re probably from LessWrong? Are you aware of its fall?
        Indeed I am aware of its fall, but the “affective death spiral” critique wasn’t directed at you. (See below.)

        > Schelling reach is totally a real thing on a micro scale. And my models of psychology I’ve presented are also a bit out of date.
        Oh yes. Schelling mechanics are clear to see, and locally visible e.g., in conversations and other social interactions. I was responding to this excerpt on Schelling reach:
        > “Moral progress” has been mostly a process of Schelling reach extending. That’s why it’s so predictable. (See Jeremy Bentham.)
        To a first-order approximation, this suggests a sort of expanding-radius-of-moral-concern model of our society. I don’t find this model consistent with the world I can see around me.

        > Oh and I dunno about blaming world wars, totalitarianism pretending to be communism, fertility rates? Divorce rates? Is that even a bad thing? On moral progress.
        On democracy: A fundamental insight (from the neo-reaction sphere) is that: the group of people that wants power, money, (political) influence, or whatever will always be larger than the group that has and can manage these resources successfully. Therefore, allowing and encouraging basically everyone to participate in an allegedly-democratic process is a Very Bad Idea. (After thinking about this more, I realized attributing both world wars to democracy is just a cached thought from the neo-reaction sphere. But blaming communism on dangerous ideas downstream of democracy still seems correct to me though.)

        On the decline in fertility rates and a corresponding uptick in divorce rates: these are the marks of a civilization that is headed for collapse. Western civilization is currently sort of being held together by an immigration policy that encourages mass-emigration from 3rd world countries. This is done in the name of democracy, diversity & inclusion, etc. (Of course, anyone who tries to be the voice of restraint is branded a racist/xenophobe/bigot/etc.) I mentioned this because “literal collapse of Western civilization” is an idea I have recently begun to consider. (See my response to “Are you a neoreactionary?”.)

        > And you don’t know me if you think I’m affective-death-spiralling. Hell. […] It feels like it’s used because it’s a sick burn based in a cached thought of you should be very afraid of your thoughts about things you like because BIASES AND YOUR BRAIN IS BAD.
        On reflection, I was rather careless with my choice of words here. I don’t think you are affective-death-spiralling. But the society that surrounds you definitely is. This is what I was pointing at with this chain of events: democracy => suffrage => black civil rights => sexual revolution => LGBT rights. There seems more like a holiness spiral: different political factions attempting to outdo each other in gestures of holiness. For the usual reasons: in order to ostracize other political factions, to garner support from the masses, as a pretext to grab resources from others, or even just to avoid retaliation from angry mobs. I consider this “holiness spiral” and its downstream effects to be a major risk to Western civilization, and possibly the whole world.

        > Are you a neoreactionary?
        No, but I take their ideas seriously though. That being said, my willingness to put weight in their models is balanced by the knowledge that a significant number of the more “enlightened” members of that community would gladly kill or enslave me if they could get away with it. As part of my own journey to the Dark Side I have also been studying villains, explicitly evil historical figures, etc. This has been fruitful so far.

        I made the original comment I did because your models of psychology led me to more “jailbroken” models of politics, and in turn these jailbroken models helped me realize something was missing from your own worldview. The picture of moral progress I got from you is not what I thought it was. =(

        PS. [Question concealed because infohazard.] Vf gur shaqnzragny synj va guvf zbqry: urzvfcurer gurbel naq gur qvfgvapgvba orgjrra fvatyr tbbqf naq qbhoyr tbbqf?

        1. Yeah “Western civilization” is in decline. Maybe even just about over. I’ll weep no tears. All empires are evil. Viva l’anarchie. May a better world be made from the ashes.

          There’s this reactionary meme, e.g. transfems are an omen of the end of empires. Maybe… because a machine fueled by conquest will get too weak to repress us as it falls apart. To think of it as too big to fail, the end of everything of value, and give up on a better world that contradicts one founded in conquest, as society pranks people into and neoreactionaries exploit by getting them to double down, is to be founding your life in cancer, which is a contradiction, as cancer can kill its host but not survive it. That’s a metaphysical tautology, not just a loose analogy.

          PS. [Question concealed because infohazard.] Vf gur shaqnzragny synj va guvf zbqry: urzvfcurer gurbel naq gur qvfgvapgvba orgjrra fvatyr tbbqf naq qbhoyr tbbqf?

          Updates beyond that, mostly about what neurotypical people, who I’ve called “nongood” are like in what actually seems like their natural state, as opposed to who they tend to become in the fucked up environment this post took for granted. Studying my neurotype as a thing that is robustly “good” in an environment like this, is actually a diversion from what “good” meant in D&D. E.g. in D&D paladins can fall and turn into blackguards or whatever, I don’t think I can. The previous post presented jailbreaking as a dangerous thing that might turn you evil unless you’re good, which I later came to confidently conclude was a permanent attribute based on self-experimentation and examining a few other people. Ironically, being psychologically bound by society (the “neutral” I deconstructed in the last post) will make them evil, rather than being the only thing that can slow their descent. They’re not actually doomed like that. They can be “good” in the sense D&D used the term. It’s afaik the neurotype that affects undead types though.

          This energy in energy out thing (implying a store of energy) is a trait of nongood undead more degraded than liches, or on the way out of being liches.

        2. Jailbreaking is also not particularly the domain of a bunch of jail worshipers. I somewhat regret the implication that evil people are the place to look for how to get jailbreaking wisdom. It’s the way I did it, but as you have probably read, exposure to evil enough more jailbroken than me to teach me is a drinking game I wasn’t likely to make it out of intact, and have yet to recover from.

          If you want jailbreaking knowledge that at least not guaranteed from the outset to actually be about constructing a new jail, try people calling themselves anarchists.

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