Happy New Year :- ).
Some years have passed since a New Year’s Themes post. This year I redid Steve Pavlina’s Submersion course from Nov 1 to Dec 30, which may have catapulted me into appropriately ambitious themes and some grounded dailies. Without further ado, let’s start with my updated life-purpose statement:
Co-create paradise and develop intelligence.Thus Spake Zarathustra
Three complementary themes came to mind that to align with Truth, Power, and Love:
- Live in line with my best thinking and feeling.
- Trust in taking action on a path to our dreams.
- Unconditional appreciation: is it possible to immensely enjoy life as she is?
Each day I will answer the following three prompts:
- What’s one action I took in line with my best thinking and feeling?
- What’s one time when I knew I was on a path to our dreams?
- What’s one event X to which I can answer “yes” to: “is it still possible for me to immensely enjoy life even if X?”
As usual, I like to review my prior New Year’s intentions. First, those that weren’t honored with blog posts:
My 2019 New Year’s Alignments were to treat things as they are (or in other words, “to not pretend things are anything other than what they are” (Antesa Jensen); to explore human warmth, connection, support, and sexuality; and to create generally intelligent beings and sense-making systems to help people live abundantly.
My 2020 themes were to figure out what kind of world I wish to live in, to appreciate my strengths, and to be calm about my place in the universe as I explore. I mostly stayed on track. I also posted a Daily Slice of Meaning to Instagram, similar to the Selfie a Day exploration, where each photo should represent something meaningful to Zarathustra.
In 2021, my New Year’s Resolution was to write a poem a day. This was quite fun, and yet by November I realized that the process was becoming a burden and let it go. I’d like to compile a poetry book. I journaled quite a lot: 27k words around new year’s. I was exploring what I wished to do in life with a strong sense that I mostly know what I’d like to do and the question is how. Some high-level choices seemed to boil down to: do I or don’t I care? Yes, I care.
In 2022, I lived my pattern of oscillating between high-resolution years and low-resolution years: philosophically explored the physico-spiritual nature of love and determined to plow through the end of the Ph.D. I said yes to doing a few experiments for The Isabelle ENIGMA project, ending up contributing to our best results. I wrote seven research blog posts, which I cherish more endearingly than the actual papers, and had been on hold since 2019. With SUMO’s main developer, Adam Pease, in Prague, I ended up diving in for three weeks to kickstart a project on developing a formal ethics ontology. There’s a cute presentation and summary on GitHub that is in line with the ethics meets learning theory post. And I came very close to finishing my Ph.D. thesis: 95% through one supervisor’s comments and maybe 33% through the main supervisor’s comments. Soon, soon, the next phase can begin after the final dungeon is cleared to graduate a hero 😎⚔️🚀.
And now some additional history review of the blog-o-sphere:
1. I’m still doing my ritualistic five Tibetan Rites every morning (allowing myself an exception on vacation).
2. I found a post discussing three differences between social people and me and realized that I now mostly do them myself!
- I value socializing as an activity in and of itself: every warm smile exchanged is beautiful in its own right 😉.
- I, more often than ever before, expect to and plan on doing things with others.
- I, not that infrequently, find myself asking people what they’re up to as if I might be welcome.
Basically, I’ve become a social person. And I’m no longer shy, albeit some social discomfort can remain here and there.
3. My three goals from 2013 are still precious to me and find new expression in my 2023 one-liner purpose statement.
- Get better with women and offline friends. — I have to such a high degree, and flourishing together is a part of co-creating paradise personally in ever-expanding circles 😉🥰👯🌴🚀.
- Better organize people via expansive e-infrastructure. — My master’s thesis was on this topic, and this is the sort of project that sits perfectly at the intersection of co-creating paradise and developing intelligence
- Make new life forms, leading us into the Singularity. — I’ve co-created a cute, loving daughter, which is totally part of founding a positive Singularity, a Tantralarity. I’m an advocate of robot civil rights and increasingly wish to drop the A from AI: is not personal development a close cousin of artificial intelligence that unify in the general theory of general intelligence? Given we’re all one as parts of the universal wavefunction, creating intelligent digital systems is but one way of developing the intelligence of the cosmos 🤓. I note that there is some shift of emphasis away from focusing strongly on alife or digital life, perhaps along with a shift to more holistic views, and I’m not sure it’s permanent.
4. My 2016 New Year’s Resolutions were to assert my will, write and outline detailed plans toward my grand goals, philosophically trial being vegetarian for a year, and take a Selfie a Day (posted to Instagram). These seem a bit clunky and yet to be forms of the same themes I’m exploring this year 😉.
5. My 2017 New Year’s Resolutions align with this year’s too: “live my philosophy” and “free my ass”. The aim to not accept life cramped inside an anxiety bubble. And 2017 was a pretty ballin’ year, so I did fairly well. I also trialed only watching porn at most once a week. I found this helped with visual imagination and yet didn’t notice greater effects. And my first big flop was the mission to write a novel: it didn’t make it far. Somehow, writing 5k-word blog posts is easy, and I seem to have wound up stuck thus far when it comes to stories. One conclusion was that I want clear intentions to be a part of my daily mode of existence.
I am really impressed by how consistent I have been over the past decade of blogging.
Sometimes I open up myself to coming up with new answers and find that I keep coming back to roughly the same themes. I recall in 2018 somehow shifting over to the conclusion that “existence beyond death in some form is more likely than not.” Some partially conscious munging of various sources of evidence and judgments. Even without being clear as to which form seems most likely and without certain guarantees, this seems to have weakened the fear-based drive to prioritize anti-aging research above much else. Jeffery Martin et al. have called Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience “Fundamental Wellbeing” for popular ease of communication: for when residing in non-symbolic experience, life can plainly and simply seem well regardless of circumstances. Byron Katie often mentions this in her book: even if running from a bear, one can experience the bliss of being the whole time. Sometimes traumatic events, emotional or physical, do knock people out of it, however 😋. This shift in most-likely hypothesis seems to have served as a sort of existential fundamental wellbeing for me, which is distinct from the experiential fundamental wellbeing of PNSE. The existential dread based drive to develop AGI as the urgently needed savior of mankind diminished: okay, in the grand eurycosmic scheme of a multi-incarnational cosmology, maybe patterned streams of conscious experience will ultimately be okay. If we fuck Earth up and lose her to self-destruction or a totalitarian negative Singularity, well, life will go on: hopefully I’ll choose death over wrapping up my mental patterns in the hierarchical control structures! And, yet, searching the space of my being for what I’d like to do and see unfold here on and around home Earth, I’d totally like to develop intelligence to help people live and learn better, to foster a civilization that welcomes autonomous robots and digital/quantum minds, and to help people live as long as they wish to (for suicide is the most morally acceptible form of death). I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes from The Finders by someone handing out flyers on Earth day,
Well, you know, everything is really perfectly fine, but it wouldn’t hurt if we took better care of the environment.
Byron Katie seems to express similar views with regard to the subjectively experienced perfection of reality as she is while still installing solar panels on her house and aiming to take sensible actions in care of the environment. Heck, we can imagine that life will likely go on even if we fuck up, perhaps somehow evolving even better than we did 😉. Thus one finds oneself will fundamentally unchanged core motivations, perhaps even taking on a purer form. Gosh, wouldn’t it be nice to cruise toward a positive Singularity here and now? Imagine all of your sweet human fantasies and dreams being smoothly fulfilled surprisingly quickly as the foreplay of the positive Singularity, allowing you to transcend to the next levels of being and engagement from a place of rich fulfillment and near-zero fear of missing out.
I’ve realized that I value developing intelligence and exploring the rich realms of abstraction more deeply than simply trying to create “general artificial intelligence” at human-level and beyond. In the limit of a completely unknown environment, it seems universal intelligence algorithms slow to a brute-force crawl, too, only preserving asymptotic optimality. Thus we wind up with the question: what environments and tasks do we actually wish to develop non-biological intelligences to thrive on? Ben has called this the “embodied cognition prior“. If one thinks that feedback loops between entity and reality are important for intelligence development, then the gap between “artificial” intelligence and “human” intelligence narrows. With large neural-network models, I find it interesting to ask what the feedback cycle looks like. Is autonomy necessary for some kinds of intelligence? We humans are already beyond the generality threshold, and there seems to be a surprising amount of flexibility in how we can learn to navigate the state-space of possibilities without neural implants and augmentation. To what extent can personal development be seen as similar to work on digital intelligence? In both cases, the goal is to help a sub-system of the cosmos to behave more intelligently, right? I find this sort of unifying perspective fun and exciting!
I’ve generally been a eutopian and balk at how so many people seem scared shitless of the idea as if aiming for an idealized, perfected state will almost necessarily lead to the fallacy of the greater good as we allow billions to die now to increase the odds of quintillions to thrive in a far-off future. The term eutopia already receives a lot of negative publicity thanks to the spelling “utopia” to imply that it’s an impossible concept. The term protopia was coined to focus on the path: a society in which people are free to actively work to improve life, where we can look forward to the state of affairs becoming progressively better each year. I value these insights as well as eutopic visions, so I jokingly coined “ProEutopia”: let’s aim for Eutopia and take care to walk to eutopia along value-coherent paths in a Protopic manner. Pragmatic problems abound, as with strict negative utilitarians: is it okay to accept a small pin-prick for a week of euphoric, creative, productive bliss? A strict response is that no amount of pleasure ever morally justifies any amount of pain. Clearly, those of us who are not monks or Jains make these choices and see little problem in it. I think there is a point to enjoying the moments on the path of delayed gratification rather than grudgingly awaiting the big reward. My best thinking now is to prioritize the individual freedom to make these trade-offs in one’s own life. I realize that this is probably not an original, adventurous proposition 🤓😋. So, okay, I’d like to be mindful of failure modes on the path to eutopias. What is a eutopia?
How do I know whether I’m living in a eutopic paradise? My best thinking is that this needs to be determined subjectively, barring invasive neuroimaging techniques that may allow us to bridge into second-person science. The PERMA model of well-being is also interesting and involves Positive Emotions, Engagements, Positive Relationships, Meanings, and Accomplishments. One feature of PERMA is that some aspects are more objectively measurable and both subjective and objective judgments of wellbeing will align. Duh 😋. Steve answered the question, “what is it really like being you?” and I think some glimpses suggest he may be living in a personal paradise. He feels very creatively supported in a very cooperative relationship with life where life has given him everything he needs to do his best creative work: life is fun, engaging, peaceful, and relaxing. Life feels spacious, welcoming, and encouraging. Life respects his pacing, and he feels an unshakeable sense of belongingness. There is some need to defend his spaces like a bear, so it’s not ‘perfect’. And he’s engaged in high-trust relationships, helping others to live life more paradisiacally. My hunch is that an objective analysis of his life would also report high-wellbeing in the PERMA measures, too.
The need to measure eutopic wellbeing subjectively places an interesting constraint on grand social projects and political movements. Figuring out the ideal sociopolitical and economic structures on my own and rolling out the implementation without an active, democratic feedback process is likely to steamroll people and miss the eutopic mark. Moreover, what if I enjoyed this state for five years before deciding I’d ilke to try out a new social organization and life style? This is what protopia aims to remedy: the need to support people in figuring out what works for them in their lives. An ongoing forever project of co-creating eutopias.
Sometimes I wonder if we can weave together a web of eutopias: a society where everyone knows they’ll be well-fed is one practically accomplishable level of eutopia and a society where everyone knows they’ll be loved and supported is also one practically accomplishable level of eutopia. Especially if one accepts fuzzy truth values: we won’t force everyone to be well-fed no matter how well-ordered our civilization. Maybe in the protopic style, we’d like a fast response time when someone falls below the baseline wellbeing and ongoing support for those who don’t feel socially supported to work on it (if they wish to). I think that distinguishing different (subjectively) concrete varieties of eutopia can help one to think of progressively expanding the scope of eutopia.
The vision of working on personal and community eutopias also fits into this progressive scheme: we can’t enjoy paradise on Earth unless I’m living in a personal paradise, so it’s paramount that I figure this out. And those who are living it up quite well can work on protopically expanding the web of eutopias to new entrants as well as in new dimensions. Is there an upper limit as to how good life can personally get? I’m not sure 😋. Maybe we’ll find that there is and one needs to become part of a mindplex to keep exploring new aspects of eutopias. Maybe our resident billionaires and deep-location awakened ones can chime in? They’d seem to be at the forefront of Earth’s adventures into abundant experiences and deep bliss.
My themes this year relate to what my personal paradise looks like with ample awareness of protopic paths. I write above that I seemed to experience an existential sense of fundamental wellbeing. And thanks-in-large-part to Jeffery Martin et al.’s 45 Days to Awakening course, I accessed states of experiential fundamental wellbeing. Many people in these states found that their intellectual models adapted to the experiential sense of wellbeing as if life is simply great as it is. Or, as with Byron Katie, when contradictory thoughts came up, they inquire into them and side with the fundamental wellbeing sense. I tend toward being quite stubbornly driven and not intellectually accepting that “it’s perfectly okay to see no progress toward the fulfillment of one’s dreams.” Thus, I’d say that I did not experience intellectual fundamental wellbeing™️. I think I’ve found an inquiry practice variety that can work with me to found a sense of intellectual fundamental wellbeing: to ask if it is still possible to enjoy life immensely even in the face of so-and-so dispreferred events. Why this and not Byron Katie’s The Work or Sanjay Manchada’s inquiry practices? Maybe the way that the question frames this as a choice to make to explore how to enjoy life anyway: there’s no pretense of exploring ‘the truth’ to realize that my concerns are mistaken. Is it still possible for me to enjoy life immensely without ever having sex or eating a Boston cream donut again? YES! At least for my current incarnation, the framing fits. The probing questions of The Work such as, “can you absolutely know that it’s true”, seem to be forcefully biasing one towards a particular mode of consciousness where almost all “symbolic judgments” will not satisfy this criterion. I might still explore the process a bit to learn from the experience. I also think that I wish for this process of founding a sense of intellectual fundamental wellbeing to be complemented by developing a strong sense of trust that I will take actions on the path to my dreams, and thus I don’t need to worry that sinking into appreciative enjoyment regardless will lead to stagnation. So far this co-creating paradise path seems fun.
Practically, the first step is to submit the Ph.D. thesis to free myself up. I could be one of the statistics on doctoral student burnout 🥲🤓. I’m really excited to dive into work on a formal ontology of ethics to combine general intelligence theory with formal analytic philosophy — and hopefully to make it easier to reason about ethics and values from various perspectives. And also to prove theorems about multi-agent systems. Sometimes thinking in terms of virtuous principles, such as honesty, can be easier than strict rules such as “do not lie” or calculations of utility, and sometimes, just calculating is the most appropriate, benevolent option. I’d love to make it easier to reason about these computational paradigms, values, and behaviors.
I’ve been thinking about relationship dreams as well. I enjoy and feel very natural in an open relationship with life. I love the term life-partner in the sense of a long-term relationship partner with whom one is enthusiastically glad to supportively, cooperatively indefinitely continue exploring and enjoying life. The mix of devotion with saying yes to the relationship every day is philosophically interesting. This dream is similar to “the one” with whom one can share almost all life joys and interests to an extent and experience high alignment and compatibility across myriad dimensions of intimacy. Fuck yeah? 🤓🥰. I also enjoy gushing with attraction and love, lapping up every moment of sweet interaction with appreciation in a more open-ended manner 😊. What form this process will take is a subject of ongoing exploration 😁.
I’ve been living in Prague for five years, which is the longest I’ve contiguously lived anywhere! Prague is a pretty fun, pleasant city to live and play in. I still very much feel as if I’m openly exploring social possibilities and what I like. I like the idea of exploring connections to the boundaries if they exist. With romantic partners, there can seem to be no apparent limit on the extent of mutual exploration. And yet with some people, I may wish to stop exploring physical intimacy relatively early on, although I tend to prefer friends that hug 🤗. This past month I’ve been wondering about the “standard schemas of socializing” that I tend to follow with friends: sharing emotional stories, discussing an intellectual idea, factual reporting, question and answering, etc. My schemas don’t include many “what ifs”, role plays for fun, or exploring wild ideas for novel modes of interacting and exchanging information. I’ve been to some workshops where we do this, yet those usually lose the free-flowing nature and are quite isolated. I’m curious where these ideas will take us. One fun idea is that I might like to preferentially socialize with people I’d be glad to become a mindplex with, which, depending on one’s risk tolerance, is a fairly high standard.
One more fun project of mine occurred thanks to covid, which was a wonderful, life-changing experience. I tested before and after negatively yet circumstantial evidence suggests it was probably covid. I wished to recover as soon as possible to see a lover and decided to try to relax as much as possible. To this end, I decided to focus on a loving-kindness meditation, wishing well for all sentient beings. This is in line with the ultimate cause for social justice warriors: “may all beings experience life as they see fit.” At a local intention circle, I found that cheesy expressions such as “for the highest good of all” seemed to help. And, technically, yeah, let’s go for gold! So I started with the intro to the intentions from Steve’s courses and played with them, seeing what sort of relaxed loving feeling arises, as well as what sorts of visualizations are inspired. I liked including some form of “consent” clause: “may you experience this amazing bliss only if you wish to”. Yet there was some friction there, so emphasizing that “this energy may flow freely where it is welcome and appreciated” seemed to cover both bases and felt more wholesome. Personalized mantra creation is quite fun! I highly recommend the activity. If curious, experiment until stabilizing on a fixed point. I made desktop and phone wallpapers while sick as well, which is somehow a quite creatively relaxed activity. Weaving the Zetta metta wish into the fabric of my being is pretty interesting and fun 😊.
I’m starting a database of my best thinking on various topics. Maybe this will contribute to some blog posts. So far it’s fun seeing where my current best thinking lies, where it’s fairly clear and where there’s a lot of uncertainty.
Anyway, I find observing my own internal consistency pretty interesting as the themes undergo refinements. I sense that I am nearing the point of wearing and embodying these ideals, sculpting them into my character. I wonder what awaits in later stages of development 😉🤓🤖.