(This is a copy-pasted blog post from https://sinceriously.fyi/, I’m checking how much demand here there is for my writing.)
This is theorizing about how mana works and its implications. (Edit: usable link: https://sinceriously.fyi/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Brent-Dill-So-wacky-RPG-session-from-a-riff-with-Anisha-and..pdf)
Some seemingly large chunks of stuff mana seems to be made of:
Internal agreement. The thing that doles out “willpower”.
Ability to not use the dehumanizing perspective in response to a hostile social reality.
I’ve been witness to and a participant in a fair bit of emotional support in the last year. I seem to get a lot less from it than my friends. (One claims suddenly having a lot more ability to “look into the dark” on suddenly having reliable emotional support for the first time in a while, leading to some significant life changes.) I think high mana is why I get less use. And I think I can explain at a gears level why that is.
Emotional support seems to be about letting the receiver have a non-hostile social reality. This I concluded from my experience with it, without really having checked against common advice for it, based on what seems to happen when I do the things that people seem to call emotional support.
I googled it. If you don’t have a felt sense of the mysterious thing called “emotional support” to search and know this to be true, then from some online guides, here are some supporting quotes.
“Also, letting your partner have the space he or she needs to process feelings is a way of showing that you care.”
“Disagree with your partner in a kind and loving way. Never judge or reject your mates ideas or desires without first considering them. If you have a difference of opinion that’s fine, as long as you express it with kindness.”
“Never ignore your loved one’s presence. There is nothing more hurtful than being treated like you don’t exist.”
“Walk to a private area.”
“Ask questions. You can ask the person about what happened or how she’s feeling. The key here is to assure her that you’re there to listen. It’s important that the person feels like you are truly interested in hearing what she has to say and that you really want to support her.”
“Part 2 Validating Emotions”
“Reassure the person that her feelings are normal.”
I think I know what “space” is. And mana directly adds to it. Something like, amount of mind to put onto a set of propositions which you believe. I think it can become easier to think through implications of what you believe is reality, and decide what to do, when you’re not also having part of you track a dissonant social reality. I’ve seen this happen numerous times. I’ve effectively “helped” someone make a decision just by sitting there and listening through their decision process.
The extent to which the presence of a differing social reality fucks up thinking is continuous. Someone gives an argument, and demands a justification from you for believing something, and it doesn’t come to mind, and you know you’re liable to be made to look foolish if you say “I’m not sure why I believe this, but I do, confidently, and think you must be insane and/or dishonest for doubting it”, which is often correct. I believe loads of things that I forget why I believe, and could probably figure out why, often only because I’m unusually good at that. But you have to act as if you’re doubting yourself or allow coordination against you on the basis that you’re completely unreasonable, and your beliefs are being controlled by a legible process. And that leaks, because of buckets errors between reality and social reality at many levels throughout the mind. (Disagreeing, but not punishing the person for being wrong, is a much smaller push on the normal flow of their epistemology. Then they can at least un-miredly believe that they believe it.)
There’s a “tracing the problem out and what can be done about it” thing that seems to happen in emotional support, which I suspect is about rebuilding beliefs about what’s going on and how to feel about it, independent of intermingling responsibilities with defensibility. And that’s why feelings need to be validated. How people should feel about things is tightly regulated by social reality, and feelings are important intermediate results in most computations people (or at least I) do.
Large mana differences allow mind-control power, for predictable reasons. That’s behind the “reality-warping” thing Steve Jobs had. I once tried to apply mana to get a rental car company to hold to a thing they said earlier over the phone which my plans were counting on. And accidentally got the low-level employee I was applying mana to to offer me a 6-hour car ride in her own car. (Which I declined. I wanted to use my power to override the policy of the company in a way that did not get anyone innocent in trouble, not enslave some poor employee.)
The more you shine the light of legibility, required defensibility and justification, public scrutiny of beliefs, social reality that people’s judgement might be flawed and they need to distrust themselves and have the virtue of changing their minds, the more those with low mana get their souls written into by social reality. I have seen this done for reasons of Belief In Truth And Justice. Partially successfully. Only partially successfully because of the epistemology-destroying effects of low mana. I do not know a good solution to that. If you shine the light on deep enough levels of life-planning, as the rationality community does, you can mind control pretty deep, because almost everyone’s lying about what they really want. The general defense against this is akrasia.
Unless you have way way higher mana than everyone else, your group exerts a strong push on your beliefs. Most social realities are full of important lies, especially lies about how to do the most good possible. Because that’s in a memetic war-zone because almost everyone is really evil-but-really-bad-at-it. I do not know how to actually figure out much needed original things to get closer to saving the world while stuck in a viscous social reality.
I almost want to say, that if you really must save the world, “You must sever your nerve cords. The Khala is corrupted”. That’ll have obviously terrible consequences, which I make no claim you can make into acceptable costs, but I note that even I have done most of the best strategic thinking in my life in the past year, largely living with a like-minded person on a boat, rather isolated. That while doing so, I started focusing on an unusual way of asking the question of what to do about the x-risk problem, that dodged a particular ill effect of relying on (even rare actual well-intentioned people’s) framings.
I’ve heard an experienced world-save-attempter recommend having a “cover story”, sort of like a day job, such as… something something PhD, in order to feel that your existence is justified to people, an answer to “what do you work on” and not have that interfering with the illegibly actually important things you’re trying. Evidence it’s worth sacrificing a significant chunk of your life just to shift the important stuff way from the influence of the Khala.
Almost my entire blog thus far has been about attempted mana upgrades. But recognizing I had high mana before I started using any of these techniques makes me a little less optimistic about my ability to teach. I do think my mana has increased a bunch in the course of using them and restructuring my mind accordingly, though.