Abandoning Cached Selves to Re-Write My Source Code Partially, I’ve Become Unstable

For very long I’ve been car­ing a lot for the prefer­ences of my past selves.

Rules I es­tab­lished in child­hood be­came sa­cred, much like laws are (can’t find post in the se­quences in which Yud­kowsky is amazed by the fact that some things are good just be­cause they are old), and that caused in­ter­est­ing un­usual life choices, such as not wear­ing for­mal shoes and suits.

I was spend­ing more and more time do­ing what my pre­vi­ous selves thought I should, in a sense, I was com­posed mostly of some­thing akin to what Anna Salomon and Steve Ray­hawk called Cached Selves.

That meant more ded­i­ca­tion to long term is­sues (Longevity, Cry­on­ics, Im­mor­tal­ity). More ded­i­ca­tion to spa­cially vast is­sues (Sin­gu­lar­ity, X-risk, Tran­shu­man­ism).

Less ded­i­ca­tion to the parts of one’s self that have a shorter life-span. Such as the in­stan­ta­neous grat­ifi­ca­tion of philo­soph­i­cal tra­di­tions of the east (bud­dhism, hin­duism) and some he­do­nis­tic tra­di­tions of the west (psychedelism, self­ish in­stan­ta­neous he­do­nism, sex and mas­tur­ba­tion-ism, drugs-isms, thrill-isms).

Also less ded­i­ca­tion to time spans such as three months. Per­sonal pro­jects visi­ble, com­pletable and doable in such scales.

This pro­cess of let­ting your past de­ci­sions trump your cur­rent de­ci­sions/​feel­ings/​emo­tions/​in­tu­itions was very fruit­ful for me, and for very long I thought (and still think) it made my life greater than the life of most around me (school­mates, uni­ver­sity peers, the­ater friends etc… not nec­es­sar­ily the peo­ple I choose to hang out with, af­ter all, I se­lected those!).

At some point more re­cently, and I’m afraid this might hap­pen to the Effec­tive Altru­ist com­mu­nity and the im­mor­tal­ist com­mu­nity of Less Wrong, I started feel­ing over­whelmed, a slave of “past me”. Even though a lot of “past me” or­ders were along the lines of “max­i­mize other peo­ple’s util­ity, help ev­ery­one the most re­gard­less of what those around you are do­ing”.

Then the whole ed­ifice crum­bled, and I took 2 days off of all of life to go to a ho­tel in the woods and think/​write alone to figure out what my cur­rent val­ues are.

I wrote sev­eral pages, thought about a lot of things. More im­por­tantly, I quan­tified the im­por­tance I give to differ­ent time-spans of my self (say 30 points to life-goals, 16 points to in­stan­ta­neous grat­ifi­ca­tion, 23 points to 3Mon­thGoals etc...). I also quan­tified differ­ently sized cir­cles of al­tru­ism/​em­pa­thy (X points for im­me­di­ate fam­ily, Y points for ex­tended fam­ily, Z points for near friends, T points for smart peo­ple around the globe, U points for the bot­tom billion, K points for aliens, A points for an­i­mals etc...).

Know­ing my past com­mit­ment to past selves, I’d ex­pect these new quan­tifi­ca­tonal reg­u­la­tory forces I had just cre­ated to take over me, and cause me to spend my time in pro­por­tion to their now known quan­tities. In other words, I al­lowed my­self a ma­jor change, a rewrit­ing which dug deeper into my source code than pre­vi­ous re-writ­ings. And I ex­pected the con­se­quences to be of the same kind than those pre­vi­ous re-writ­ings.

Seems I was wrong. I’ve be­come un­sta­ble. Try­ing to give an out­side de­scrip­tion the al­gorithm as it feels from the in­side, it seems that the nat­u­ral or­der of at­ten­tion al­lo­ca­tion which I had, like a black­smith, an­nealed over the years, has crum­bled. In­stead, I find my­self be­ing prone to an evolu­tion­ary fight be­tween sev­eral dis­tinct de­sires of in­ter­nal selves. A mix of Ge­orge Ainslie’s pi­co­nomics and plain neu­ral dar­winism/​mul­ti­ple drafts.

Such in­sta­bil­ity, if not for any­thing else, for hor­monal rea­sons, is bound not to last long. But thus far it car­ried me into Ex­is­ten­tial­ism au­dio­books, con­sid­er­ing Vagabond­ing lifestyle as an al­ter­na­tive to a Utili­tar­ian lifestyle, and con­sid­er­ing al­low­ing a per­son­al­ity dis­solu­tion into what­ever is left of one’s per­son­al­ity when we “al­low it” (emo­tion­ally) to dis­solve and re­forge it­self.

The in­sta­bil­ity doesn’t cause anx­iety, sad­ness, fear or any nega­tive emo­tion (though I’m at the ex­treme tail of the hap­piness set­point, the equiv­a­lent in hap­piness of hav­ing an IQ 145, or three stan­dard de­vi­a­tions). Con­trary­wise. It is re­fresh­ing and gives a sense of free­dom and choice.

This post can be taken to be sev­eral dis­tinct things for differ­ent read­ers.

1) A warn­ing for util­i­tar­ian life-style peo­ple that al­low­ing deep changes causes an in­sta­bil­ity which you don’t want to let your fu­ture self do.

2) A tale of a self free of past en­slav­ery (if only for a short pe­riod of time), who is feel­ing well and re­lieved and open to new ex­pe­riences. That is, a kind of un­usual sug­ges­tion for un­usual peo­ple who are in an un­usual time of their lives.

(Note: be­cause of the un­usual set-point thing, pos­i­tive psy­chol­ogy ad­vice should be dis­carded as a ba­sis for ar­gu­ments, I’ve already achieved ~0 marginal re­turns af­ter 2000pgs of it)

3) This is the origi­nal in­ten­tion of writ­ing: I wanted to know the ar­gu­ments in fa­vor of a self­ish vagabond­ing lifestyle, ver­sus the ar­gu­ments in fa­vor of the Utili­tar­ian lifestyle, be­cause this is a par­tic­u­larly open-minded mo­ment in my life, and I feel less bi­ased than in most other times. For next semester, as­sume money is not an is­sue (both Vagabond and Utilil­tar­ian are cheap, as op­posed to “you have a mil­lion dol­lars”). So, what are the ar­gu­ments you’d use to de­cide that your­self?