I need a protocol for dangerous or disconcerting ideas.

I have a tal­ent for rea­son­ing my way into ter­rify­ing and harm­ful con­clu­sions. The first was modal re­al­ism as a four­teen-year-old. Of course I did not un­der­stand most of its con­se­quences, but I dis­liked the fact that ex­is­tence was in­finite. It mildly de­pressed me for a few days. The next mis­take was open­ing the door to solip­sism and Brain-in-a-Vat ar­gu­ments. This was so trau­matic to me that I spent years in a manic de­pres­sion. I could have been healed in a mat­ter of min­utes if I had talked to the right per­son or read the right ar­gu­ments dur­ing that pe­riod, but I didn’t.

Less­wrong has been a breed­ing ground of ex­is­ten­tial crisis for me. The Dooms­day ar­gu­ment (which I thought up in­de­pen­dently), ideas based on acausal trade (one ex­am­ple was already well known; one I in­vented my­self), quan­tum im­mor­tal­ity, the simu­la­tion ar­gu­ment, and fi­nally my lat­est and worst epiphany: the po­ten­tial hor­rible con­se­quences of los­ing aware­ness of your re­al­ity un­der Dust The­ory. I don’t know that that’s an ac­cu­rate term for the prob­lem, but it’s the best I can think of.

This isn’t to say that my prob­lems were never solved; I of­ten worked through them my­self, always by re­fut­ing the hor­rible con­se­quences of them to my own satis­fac­tion and never through any sort of ‘ac­cep­tance.’ I don’t think that my re­ac­tions are a con­se­quence of an already de­pressed mind-state (which I cer­tainly have any­way) be­cause the mo­ment I re­fute them I feel emo­tion­ally as if it never hap­pened. It no longer wears on me. I have OCD, but if it’s what’s caus­ing me to ru­mi­nate than I think I pre­fer hav­ing it as op­posed to ir­ra­tional sup­pres­sion of a ra­tio­nal prob­lem. Find­ing solu­tions would have taken much longer if I hadn’t been think­ing about them con­stantly.

I’ve come to re­al­ize that this site, due to per­haps a con­fluence of prob­lems, was ex­tremely un­helpful in work­ing through any of my is­sues, even when they were brought about of Less­wrong ideas and premises. My acausal prob­lem [1] I sent to about five or six peo­ple, and none of them had any­thing con­clu­sive to say but sim­ply referred me to Eliezer. Who didn’t re­spond, even though this sort of thing is ap­par­ently im­por­tant to him. This whole re­ac­tion struck me as dis­pro­por­tionate to the sever­ity of the prob­lem, but that was the best re­sponse I’ve had so far.

The next big failure was my re­s­olu­tion to the Dooms­day ar­gu­ment. [2] I’m not very good yet at con­vey­ing these kind of ideas, so I’m not sure it was en­tirely the fault of the Less­wrongers, but still. One of them of them in­sisted that I needed to ex­plain how ‘causal­ity’ could be vi­o­lated; isn’t that the whole point of acausal sys­tems? My logic was sound, but he sub­sti­tuted ab­stractly in­tu­itive con­cepts in place of them. I would think that there would be some­thing in the Se­quences about that.

The other posters were only marginally more helpful. Some of them challenged the self-sam­pling as­sump­tion, but then why even bother if the prob­lem I’m try­ing to solve re­quires it to be true? In the end, not one per­son even seemed to con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity that it might work. Even though it is a nat­u­ral ex­trap­o­la­tion from other ideas which are taken very very se­ri­ously by Less­wrong. In­stead of dis­cussing my re­s­olu­tion, they dis­cussed the DA it­self, or AI, or what­ever they found more in­ter­est­ing.

Fi­nally, we come to an ab­solutely ter­rify­ing idea I had a few days ago, which I naively as­sumed would catch the at­ten­tion of any ra­tio­nal per­son. An ex­trap­o­la­tion of Dust The­ory [3] im­plied that you might die upon go­ing to sleep, not im­me­di­ately, but through de­gen­er­a­tion, and that the per­son who wakes up in the morn­ing is sim­ply a differ­ent ob­server, who has an es­ti­mated lifes­pan of how­ever long he re­mains awake. Ra­tion­ally any­one should there­fore sign up for cry­on­ics and then kill them­selves, forc­ing their mea­sure to con­tinue into post-Sin­gu­lar­ity wor­lds that no longer re­quire him to sleep (not that I would have ever found the courage to do this). [4] In the mo­ments when I con­sid­ered it most plau­si­ble I gave it no more than a 10% chance of be­ing true (al­though it would have been higher if I had taken Dust The­ory for granted), and it still trau­ma­tized me in a way I’ve never ex­pe­rienced be­fore. Always dur­ing my worst mo­ments sleep came as a re­lief and es­cape. Now I can­not go to sleep. Only slightly less trau­ma­tiz­ing was the idea that dur­ing sleep my mind de­clines enough to merge into other ex­pe­riences and I awake into a world I would con­sider alien, with perfectly con­sis­tent mem­o­ries.

My in­quiries on differ­ent threads were al­most com­pletely ig­nored, so I even­tu­ally cre­ated my own. After twenty-four hours there were nine posts, and now there are twenty-two. All of them ei­ther com­pletely miss the point (always not re­al­iz­ing this) or show com­plete ig­no­rance about what Dust The­ory is. The idea that this re­quires any level of ur­gency does not seem to have oc­curred to any­one. Fi­nally, the sec­ond part of my ques­tion, which asked about the six-year-old post “get­ting over Dust The­ory” was com­pletely ig­nored, de­spite hav­ing ninety-five com­ments on it by peo­ple who seem to already un­der­stand it them­selves.

I re­solved both is­sues, but not to my own satis­fac­tion: while I now con­sider the death out­come un­likely enough to dis­miss, the re­al­ity-jump­ing still some­what wor­ries me. I now will not be able to go to sleep with­out fear for the next few months; maybe longer, and my men­tal and phys­i­cal health will de­te­ri­o­rate. Pro­fes­sional help or a hotline is out of the ques­tion be­cause I will not in­flict these ideas on peo­ple who are not equipped to deal with them, and also be­cause I re­gard psy­chol­o­gists as char­latans or, at best, prac­ti­tion­ers of a deeply un­healthy field. The only op­tion I have to re­solve the is­sues is talk­ing to some­one who can dis­cuss it ra­tio­nally.

This post [5] by Eliezer, how­ever un­re­li­able he might be, con­vinced me that he might ac­tu­ally know what he is talk­ing about (though I still don’t know how Max Teg­mark’s re­but­tal to quan­tum im­mor­tal­ity is re­futed, be­cause it seems pretty air­tight to me). More dis­ap­point­ing is Nick Bostrom’s ar­gu­ment that mind-du­pli­cates will ex­pe­rience two sub­jec­tive ex­pe­riences; he does not un­der­stand the idea of mea­sure, i.e. that we ex­ist in all uni­verses that ac­count for our ex­pe­riences, but more in some than oth­ers. Still, I think there has to be some­one out there who is ca­pa­ble of fol­low­ing my rea­son­ing- all the more frus­trat­ing, be­cause the more peo­ple mis­ap­pre­hend my ideas, the clearer and sharper they seem to me.

Who do I talk to? How do I con­tact them? I doubt that go­ing around emailing these peo­ple will be effec­tive, but some­thing has to change. I can’t go in­sane, as much as that would be a re­lief, and I can’t sim­ply ig­nore it. I need some­one sane to talk to, and this isn’t the place to find that.

Sorry if any of this comes off as rant­ing or in­co­her­ent. That’s what hap­pens when some­one is pushed to all ex­tremes and be­yond. I am not plan­ning on kil­ling my­self what­so­ever and do not ex­pect that to change. I just want help.

[1] http://​​less­wrong.com/​​lw/​​l0y/​​i_may_have_just_had_a_dan­ger­ous_thought/​​ (I don’t think that the idea is threat­en­ing any­more, though.)

[2] http://​​less­wrong.com/​​lw/​​m8j/​​a_re­s­olu­tion_to_the_dooms­day_ar­gu­ment/​​

[3] http://​​sci­encefic­tion.com/​​2011/​​05/​​23/​​sci­ence-fea­ture-dust-the­ory/​​

[4] http://​​less­wrong.com/​​lw/​​mgd/​​the_con­se­quences_of_dust_the­ory/​​

[5] http://​​less­wrong.com/​​lw/​​few/​​if_mwi_is_cor­rect_should_we_ex­pect_to_ex­pe­rience/​​7sx3

(The in­sert-link but­ton is greyed out, for what­ever rea­son.)