Along For the Ride

February 10, 2014

Recently a friend asked me a rather peculiar question: “do you ever doubt your sanity?” Without missing a beat, I replied “no, I doubt everyone else’s.”

This isn’t just blithely flippant on my part; I really and truly think it to be the case. Sure, I’m weird and I do some really strange things relative to other people, but I consider the reasoning behind these things (described in depth later) to be quite sound.

And then I go and look at the strange behaviors that other people have relative to me and the only line of coherent line of reasoning I can come up with behind them is that these people just haven’t really thought it through to the logical extreme. This bothers me no small amount, so I’d like to spend part of this post positing questions:

  • Why are so many resources wasted on social signaling? [exercise to the reader: can you come up with a sustainable alternative that provides the same benefits? answer in a forthcoming post!]
  • Why are people so keen to hyperbolically discount, especially vis-a-vis optimizing for local utility maxima at the expense of dooming the planet?
  • How often does the average person question whether this is the way that the world should look?

It is a strong tenant of my belief structure that most people in the world are wrong. However much I believe that to be true, I am unable to adopt the obvious belief for why this might be the case: that most people are stupid. I really and truly don’t think most people are stupid, so my only alternatives are that I’m wrong or that other people are crazy. The latter of which seems more probable to me.

If this doesn’t seem more probable to you, I’d love to hear where in the following chain you disagree with me:

  • The future looks grim if we carry on the way we have been.
  • Human problems are not fundamentally intractable – they might be hard and require unrealistic amounts of cooperation, but they’re not in principle unsolvable.
  • Most people are not actively working towards changing the future.

Seriously. If you disagree with any of those three points, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Don’t get me wrong. There are smart people out there who care about – and are actively working on – these things, but they are few and far between. It seems that most people in positions of power either don’t care or are ineffective, and for the most part, the people who do care aren’t in power. And they’re ineffective also (my argument here being if they were effective they would have obtained power already).

I care, but by my own admission, I’m ineffective.


But I’m working on it. These weird things that I do with my life are an attempt to find effective ways of leveling up my POW stat. This blog is my proof of work, and a relatively low-cost means of documenting the process. I think that journaling is extremely important because it might help bring others into the fold of taking responsibility for the future. The only reason I am where I am is because Eliezer Yudkowsky had the foresight to provide solid documentation on what a normative approach to thinking would look like.

I spent my last year working directly on self-improvement and making myself more effective in life, and I feel like I’ve tapped off most of the low-hanging fruit from life and thinking hacks. The next step to changing the world, I think, is building allies. I’m making a conscious effort to network with like-minded folk. I’m also working on finding people with significant potential and, with their permission, accelerating them to my level.

The advantages to this are twin-fold. Firstly, having effective friends is nothing to scoff at. But perhaps more importantly is that having high-level friends with a context around friendship of improvement means that they can help me level-up. I’m hella down for that.

I’m not saying that you’re either with me or against me, but if you’re not with me you’re probably in the way, so come along for the ride. It’ll be worth it. I promise.