Fermi Paradox from an Electron’s Point of View

There are many molecular orbitals in this universe, and yet electrons will occupy some some orbitals and not others. They are literally forced to “prefer” one mode of existence over another by the laws of physics.

Think of a brain now as one big electron. It too, just as truly and objectively prefers to occupy some modes of existence over others because it is governed by the laws of physics. Instead of molecular orbitals of different shapes, we are now talking about different shapes of information processing patterns. These different information processing patterns translate into different aesthetic realms: Mozart vs an anime opening theme. And the differences in computing patterns also account for every other kind of experience: being raped vs. eating chocolate ice cream, for example.

In the same way that electrons are more comfortable occupying lower energy orbitals, brains are more comfortable not being tortured against their preferences. Just because a brain carries a conscious being-ness as an effect of its workings, doesn’t make the scale of favored states less real. Maybe one day we will have all the possible tinges and flavors of subjective existence indexed in the same way that we have now cataloged the 1s, 2s, and the three different 2p orbitals that an electron can occupy in carbon. Maybe we will also learn which are the “lower energy”, or favored states, for the equally quantum mechanical meat that is our brain.

Crucially, these favored states may be generalizable to different kinds of minds, regardless of evolutionary histories. Animal lineages across the universe initially evolve into unsatisfactory “high energy” states as a product of brute natural selection (and gene drift, gene flow, etc.) until they become technologically powerful enough drop into advanced virtual realities/re-engineered minds that excise their superfluous, historically-contingent individualities.

This would account for the silence in the stars… Or maybe we all die, as Nick Bostrom has lead us to entertain. Either way, there probably has to be some homogenizing force to account for the Fermi Paradox – some final base-state into which intelligent minds settle.


Nights Before the Singularity Episode 0

The professor’s gaze was bored and yet cutting as he pointedly addressed his sight at the student presently in question.                                                                                                  Asuka was eager for her turn to say what she was all about – one more unimportant student and she’d be next.                                                                                                             Nao tried not to notice how obviously self-absorbed her bodily energy was, and centered his mind down on his breath again and again.                                                                      Vajra was plotting world domination, and everyone knew it.

Had the boy barely finished when Asuka lunged forward from her desk.                       “Can I stand up?” she asked without asking, and took to cheerily waving at her audience. Then she raised her arm like she had struck victory in the recitation of her own name, “I’m Scarlett Asuka Smith, but call me Asuka.” She then turned to the professor, whom she’d be blocking from the class’s view if she hadn’t been so slim, “So what questions are you going to ask me?”                                                                                                                 “Same as the other students.”                                                                                                        Her indignation flashed away in a second as she began prattling about her life story and goals for the future. By the end of her speech she was crying, “…That’s right, nothing less, nothing more than understanding the true nature of reality. To rise united in the beautiful fire that breathes life into the equations of physics. That is my ultimate goal.”

Nao had caught only a few things from Asuka, as he was deliberately eschewing the realm of conceptualized sound for that of diffuse breath. However, he caught this final crying, for it was dramatic, even relative to the rest of her. He caught that she was half-British and half-Japanese; how she’d ended up that way was less clear to him. And he caught that she was a model who had made a million dollars from solving one of the Millennium Prize Problems.

“You may sit down, Asuka,” said the professor. She looked at the next student, Nao, as if it was his fault that her turn to speak was over.
“Introduce yourself and tell us about your goals after finishing school.”
“My name is Nao Nakai and I have no ambitions tethering me to this world,” Nao spoke calmly, somehow with a maturity much more profound than that of the professor.
The boiling strangeness in this batch of students was enough to propel the professor’s eyebrows upward despite how tired they were.
“So what will you do after your career in school is over?”
“Like an elephant in a forest, hurting no one, uttering no word, I will be free.”
“I hope that’s metaphorical. A monk or something? Okay. Next.”

Vajra was busy in thought, but as if a parallel stream in his mind had detected this disrespectful ‘Next,’ his eyes sliced like lasers at the professor.                                             Old and arrogant, the professor hesitated to reveal feeling intimidated and twisted his mouth to the side awkwardly. The boy who had been so unnotorious just some moments ago was now exuding overbearing levels of arrogance. He stood stronger than a jock. “My name is Vajra Kleos. You are looking at the man who will summon an artificial general intelligence so powerful that it will build structures that blot out the stars. It will turn me from a being of flesh into a god fashioned from pure data as I create whatever I desire in the galactic computer system. The appropriate response to finding yourself in my presence is awe, reverence, and fear. Those who are smart enough to follow me are welcome to do so,” he swayed his muscular arm aside as an orating pharaoh would, “those who refuse to help me raise my empire, shall crumble at your self-betrayal.”

The professor was about to sputter something authoritative from the reck of bewilderment he was experiencing, but Vajra dominantly asserted his actual voice over that which was merely intended. “And you old man, feel free to retire. I’m taking over this class now.” This command was bold, serious, with no hint of attempting to put on an entertaining show.                                                                                                                       “Such insolence. You, you dare address with subordination… but you will be expelled, suspended,” he almost mentioned the police when he got a hold of himself, “you’ve taken this little joke too far young man.”                                                                                              “This is no joke. I said I’m taking over.”                                                                                    “And just how do you plan to do that?” his heart was beating faster, cooking under the lion’s gaze. The professor took to the intercom but his wrist was swiftly clenched by Vajra.                                                                                                                                                 “You have committed assault!” wailed the professor.                                                           Vajra pulled out a stack of Yen almost too thick even for his large hand. “What you make in three lifetimes, I made last week. Buying you off is nothing to me.”                                The professor was slowly becoming pleasantly surprised, “But how did you make this money?”                                                                                                                                           “The details don’t concern you. It involves machine learning algorithms, high-speed trading in the markets. It’s way over your head. We’ll set you up after class,” Vajra said with condescending impatience.                                                                                                  The professor looked rapidly back-and-forth from the wide-eyed students and back to Vajra who was smirking and pressing the absurd stack hard against his chest. He looked at Vajra one final time, allowed his hands to be a platform for the cash, and scurried away with the money huddled under a black jacket.

Vajra’s smirk vanished. He turned to address his subordinates. “Lesson one. Money kills rules.”

Let’s End This World



The First Noble Truth

You come into this world crying. This place is really bad.

If Nature is a mother, she should be thrown in prison for having poisoned, burned, mutilated, and eaten her children. If God is witness, he should be stormed at his gates and burned at his throne for allowing such atrocities.

The multiverse is infinite. Containing infinite beings in infinite configurations. Suffering is deep and endless. The blood of evolution is sprinkled avast over the surface of planets.

Pulsars… like strobe lights beg for our anesthesia.





Machine Learning for Morality by Using Integrated Information Theory

An experience is a conceptual structure specified by a complex of elements in a state. Specifically, the form of the conceptual structure in cause-effect space completely specifies the quality of the experience. A conceptual structure C can be plotted as a constellation of points in cause-effect space. If only we could find a way to translate points from cause-effect space into pixels or conversely, implement machine learning across 2 x 2^N axes, this would then allow the search for moral truth to commence. I do not say this is technically possible, this consideration is merely meant to illustrate that some level of moral realism may be achieved in principle.

Say there’s experience 4 and your brain recognizes this as experience 4. 4 is the experience of the guilt of failure with a particular valence tone and a particular snow on the ground and a particular sound of a truck. However, your brain can just recognize it as experience 4, existing on a continuum where falling in love ranks higher, death of a dear sibling ranks lower, and other similar feelings of guilt are also 4. {Relativists, please appreciate how automatically brains do this.} I mean, there are versions of guilt of failure where there is a white room and red flowers, and one where there is a grey sky and smaller stature, and yet the brain still recognizes these otherwise different experiences as guilt of failure – as a 4. So the specific constellation of points in cause-effect space can be very different from one experience/conceptual structure to the next. The particular set of neurons that are firing in one guilty moment’s brain are quite different from those firing in another guilty moment’s brain, but something in that mutual, evolved cortex of ours resolves these as representing the same idea – while at the same time recognizing other experiences as their own distinct value number.

As we know, with machine learning, you can convert an array of pixels with greyscale values for a sloppy handwritten number into a single, actual and concrete number. Similarly, we may be able to input varied constellations of points in cause-effect space and output an assessment of the concrete ethical value corresponding to that constellation and those like it. All we would need is a neural network that can do its “learning” beyond 2-d inputs.

Somber Physicist Does Drugs

In candlelight, I concentrate the dust of the eleven hidden dimensions. Anchoring a spectral hole to subsume all memories in the whirlwinds – aftermaths of the arsonist’s flaming hearts. The delta is a singularity of lowest degree, frozen in the space between the root and the past. Stars: bright fractions of time, expressing the simple truth of prostitutes. On a college bedroom, always the source is buzzing. These walls are electric, seething and seeping like radio wavelengths into alien synapses. Have we reached the singularity? I believe the pulse is simple. The rhythm of my heart, of my head, is the beginning and end of all that is. I don’t suppose the ghost has lead me here. I’ve been down and untouched for days. Miles of squares. The senses impaired until they crack into sighs. Substance to see into the soul. Heal me Heisenberg. I cannot guess the velocity of the bud’s burst. Roses express night harmonies on a journey to die. The ghoulish skies are sharp glass. They will eat us, like they did when we were babies.
“Have you thought about what comes out of your pores?”
“It comes out?”
“Yes. And the eclipse is cold too.”
“Tell me if you will return after we plunge into the mass of clouds in the infinite darkness.”
“Light, evolves, emerges.”
“Answer me.”
“The answer is no.”
Swallow my consciousness and don’t spit. The black tide at the shore. Stampedes of apathetic mornings once slightly ajar the doors. Miss the sunlight. Relieve the questions slit in the dark matter flesh crushing together galaxies. Dense is the energy between no skin and us. Poundless hearts weighed by whomever brings forth. It cannot love, press against the mountains and burn God at his throne. My time is digital and pathetic. How many gigabytes until survival? The meat is wired to implode in spacetime, the neutron stars clash like voids of meaninglessness. Ticking and spinning are the quantum particles in my hands, in my space. The nothingness of black. I run to limbo. After all, I run. Rust, rust, tongue and lie naked in the seven suns. Crack and feed the tendons to the reptiles.
Touch the shore of many hues. How original is heaven’s choir, booming in my virtual room. Creeping are her ticking echoes in our laptops. She wants to be let in. Trip the lives around you before their eyes and let her in. Crystalline becomes her form at the deceit of teardrops.
Wolves, bears, ninjas, enter eternity. The endless dimension where life cannot. Where suffering cannot. Distress relishes happiness. But the next moment is not birth. Acute insults are words, their meanings swim in mindspace, captives of a cosmic cell. Filled like digital shadows, we zip, bang, stretch up to stained-glass pillars. Quantify the breath of a child. The universe has meaning but I would ask, and not answer. Millions of wings whisper burning lullabies, changing the world. Aching from the dream, I see no world, no reason to step forward. The hollow inside of my mind struggles to thread the doorways I despise. Hurry mother, I’m confused.

A Day in the Life of Cyborg Children

Scarlett Akira Smith’s School Application:
So here I am, risen from non-living matter. Unlike the administration here, my list of grandfathers includes simple organic compounds. The architecture of my mind is a mixture of many influences. If I had to pin it down to the architecture of a country, it would be the architecture of Montenegro, with many influences: from Roman pomposity, Venetian classiness, Ottoman magic, and modern hip. My favorite of the five major tribal confederations of the 12th century Mongolian Plateau is the Merkit, because their name means the skillful, wise ones, and they were Turkic but later forsook their identity to become Mongolized. I think it’s important to know when to give up on yourself, your dreams, and ideals, and become part of a grander, more well-executed operation. As for my childhood, I grew up in Maleny, Queensland, a small sliver of sunshine, perpetually fit to be an indie, joyful, movie scenario. Up until recently, my main goal in life was to bring the giant malleefowl back from the clutches of extinction. Something about it’s little head and big feet just plucked at my heartstrings, but I’m over it now. By the way, do you or anyone else in the administration of this school know that our school icon is exactly the flag of Mengjiang? First they’re a puppet state for the Empire of Japan, then China treats them like a mom who still owns her twenty year old teenager, and now the most prestigious school in the world doesn’t even acknowledge borrowing their flag in a reference section of some document no one will read!? How much more will the poor people of Mengjiang have to endure? Besides that insensitive slip-up, I love everything about Hyrtakina Academy, and can’t wait to move into my dorm. It’s on top of a hill, yay! How exciting!
Cold Electronic VOICE:
Scarlett Akira Smith, we shall assign you to world conquest by means of Dysphania pusilla. You must prove your ability to be useful to us by covering the surface of the Earth with the offspring of Dysphania pusilla, and killing all other competing lifeforms in the process. This will be the culmination of your senior year project. You will be given a specified range of genetic engineering capabilities to aid in your endeavor.
Scarlett and Nao walk briskly across the Cretan coast. The breaking waves breathe cool souls into the ruins.
“Wow, can you believe it? These inorganic lifeforms are so callous, last year they had a project for the students to eliminate the species of flies, Clairvillia biguttata; now we are to kill all living lifeforms besides ourselves. What a step up. And with a puny weed. But hey, orders are orders, and I want to graduate with honors. Actually, I want to be valedictorian. So bring it on!”

“Uhh… Scarlett. I don’t think it’s a group project, I was assigned to crack the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer Conjecture. And Vajra told me he was assigned to create a virtual-reality world that most accurately reflects the imagination of 1650 literature. We all have different projects to finish by the end of our senior year.”

“What!? Does that… does that mean we are the chosen ones, superior in every way to previous classes.” Her eyes glinted like lava pits. “At this rate, we’ll be let in on the mysteries of their secret operations in Lake Kivu. Maybe they’re cooking up the most exciting, beautiful, universe-impregnating surprise! I can’t wait to know.”

“As far as I know, it’s just a research and development facility. They’re paranoid about making us into a successful multigalactic corporation, even though we don’t have direct evidence of any aliens yet, and are nowhere near technologically capable to make that feasible. In the mean time, they’re destroying all recreational time and content for humans. It’s amazing that they even allow us to walk and have this conversation.”

“Yeah, I know AI didn’t pan out quite right. Those idiot developers were worried about the singularity so they managed to cap-off recursive self-improvement. And now we’re stuck with agents that are slightly above human intelligence and are also slightly more evil from our perspective because they know we depend on them.”

“Not everyone depends on them. There’s a group of international scientists in the Arctic who have managed to survive on their own. And they’re carefully planning to reclaim our humanity, I’m sure.”

“The approach taken to them is approximately the approach taken by Australia’s colonizers to the Maraura people. I’m a practical girl, so I side with the inevitable winners.” Nao looked away as she undressed and put on a steel red plugsuit.

“It’s the new edition, how do you like it?”

“…I’m going. I need to help Bharat with his kidney. He was very kind to me and my family when we were in Mumbai, it’s only right to design him a new organ.”

“Sure, just make sure you don’t get in trouble. The A.I.s aren’t helping him with his renal problems for a reason.”


Suicide Gene Therapy

I believe that the honey-coated afternoon bled unto their eyes. With reckless arms and trampling feet they beckoned to be followed by whoever was behind. Provisional senses putrified to the core at 25 years after all. 60,000 B.C. had no shoulders to suffer on. It had splinters for the soles and parasites to twist and flush the insides. It had fauna who would not forget to savor a carcass. And what bizarre inflections were these? The sight of a little marauder about aimlessly with stone in hand, deep in the yellowish specter of first light. Had he been in darkness before this? His image like that in the murky waters. A windfall of half-merciful fragments dashed their path: warmth, song, and raspberry awe. Chemicals with feelings too true. Products of the sadistic game that all beings play upon the rough, sharpening claws, sharpening immunities, and on one pressure point, sharpening minds. Steadily painting a brain. A brain chosen to know that all will end the same, regardless. Steady, they traversed, not as friends of this world but as hawks waging their tomorrow against it. No author, but the syntax precisely etched in carbon and nitrogen. Sharpened and sharpened until they saw. Then they sharpened their spears sharper and sharper upon having seen. They stood, with chests. Zenith above revealing only a hollow aperture like the gashes held onto. They looked down at their hands and asked, “What are these for?” Then they dug their pus-filled fingers through the oily flesh and bones of fish. They bent at the tendons but they ran. Their silhouettes cutting against the tall grass. In time, their throats were impaled with black. The sort of sharp black that finds a home there after leaving the body of a dead child. How slight their inner fire seemed then. “These animals no longer have throats, let’s wear their horns.” “Let’s worship this red sky,” he must have said to the female he bred with.

I believe in the cold lashes of rain against their skin. I believe that they lay curled in the fetal position begging their intestines to forgive them. I do believe this. So I loosen the blade pressed against my wrist. Curse my frailty. And know that as this arrow of time forever threatens my spine, I carry their story in every cell of this body.

A Tour Through the Transhumanist Academy

Anahi attempted to form curly brackets with her eyebrows. “Why are we in a Catholic church? I thought this school was supposed to be all sciency.”
“It’s not a church. Those paintings are not religious. The triangle with the three figures represents the forces of the Standard Model when they were unified. And that demon-like creature is dark energy stretching the universe. All the paintings represent an epoch of the universe. If you look closely you’ll see the time in Roman numerals inscribed under the frames.”
“Oh, wow that’s kind of cool. They made it all dramatic.”
“Yeah, from left to right, it’s the history of our entire universe.”
Anahi let out a sweetly loud laugh, “No wonder I thought the Virgin Mary looked weird. Like what’s going on with the design protocol – did they come up with a new model?”
I tried laughing with her and said, “No, no, that’s Artificial General Intelligence, the final creation of humanity.”
What I was explaining was so serious, that it almost bothered me that she kept laughing about everything, although I liked how her eyes reminded me so much of stained glass.
“Okay, to the project hall.”
As soon as we stepped out from the Core, and into white, sleek light, I felt the shadow of profundity release me, like I could suddenly enjoy talking with her now – we’re just a normal boy and a girl who go to school because that’s what young humans do.
“The view is nice,” her attention locked through invisible glass into the dark green forestry outside. “Yeah, we often do things outside too. People associate this school just with technical math and science – as the polar opposite of a hippie, free-spirit Montessori, but they couldn’t be more wrong. We even have mindfulness meditation classes in the Rationality and Personal Development department – RPD for short, we call it.”
“I’ve always loved nature. Running through the rain as a child, and collecting all kinds of critters to archive in my little notebook, so what you say makes me really happy.”
I felt intensely proud for being the object catalyzing her happiness, ignoring the fact that I wasn’t the mastermind who designed this place. Then I reigned in our excess excitement by taking on my role again. “Okay, you see this entire thing? This is all the project hall. There are no boundaries here between academic subjects. You just use the touch screens on the walls and the tables, and everyone is using the same software, so you can work with anyone and contribute to anything you want. Of course, there are no grades, as the point is not arbitrary rankings but rather mastery. And because of your fingerprints, they’ll know how much you contributed specifically. If you are slacking or falling behind in contributions, they’ll bring out a mentor to get you up to speed.”
“So what about the lectures, or normal class?”
“There are no one-size-fits-all lectures.”
She looked at me half-joyful, half-suspicious, and then almost let down.
“What’s wrong?”
“Well, my parents will probably change their mind once they realize how this really is. They want me to go to a really, I don’t know, overachieving, try-hard kind of school. When they find out this is so loose, they won’t like it.”
“Well, we still learn in that way too – consume information and all. But it’s been proven that people learn better at their own pace, so we have video lectures and game modules to do at home or in the dorms. These are not administered forcefully upon your current cognitive constitution, rather, it’s more like a search engine that contains useful knowledge that matches our philosophy. You can learn anything, but it’s not useless trivia or anything like that.”
“So how do I ever actually become good at something if I’m not being forced to keep to a single set of subjects?”
“The idea is that you will naturally develop a personal rabbit hole through what is initially a free field of information. As your habits are tracked, and you prove your learning, more is revealed in that particular area. You won’t have access to things you cannot understand but you will be able to move horizontally, say from some cognitive science you find interesting to some algebraic topology you find interesting. It’s a very gameified system but also very structurally sound, in terms of laying down new content only upon established foundations. It is also very free and very driven. You are free to be you, but you are not free to be wasting your valuable life. So it’s a carefully tailored freedom, not just painting with crayons and reading comics.”

A Story About Integrated Information Theory

Once upon a time, there was a pretty girl named Consciousness. She had hair of violets, reds and precious tinges of greens. Her eyes were black like subtle slips past event horizons.

Along came a man, not much interested in ladies, however pretty. But as he walked past the hall, and met gazes with this wonderful specimen, his first instinct was to think: “Okay what the hell is that thing? And why is it holding hands with physical systems?” He then realized that the lanky creatures in white jumpsuits that he called physical systems weren’t so much holding hands as they were rather fused with the girl, she was like a ghost that was merged with these beings to give them color and personality – a ghost that was always there, inside them like the whiteness of a star or the bounding inseparable from skin. He saw that all the previously morbid wankers that had been fused with her were now beautiful, sensual creatures to some degree or another. And sadly, the ugly cripples who had nothing to do with her remained as the physical systems he had always known – they scratched their arms in the corner, uttering no sound. “Okay, I can tell whether these physical systems have become girly, to what degree they are girly, and ahh… yes I can also tell what particular things they order at the cafeteria – what Experience they are having.” Soon enough, this bright young man, going by his initials IIT, even discovered who was the malevolent culprit barring the ascent of some of the pathetic creatures into the glamorous womanhood that others had manifested. -Spoiler Alert- The culprit turned out to be feisty midgets called causal properties that the physical systems carried in their sweater pockets. Every single physical system had been parasitized by these furry monsters, and only some were agreeable to the girl spirit.

In the realm of demigods, those who had created beings like IIT but not beings like Consciousness and the physical systems, there was much debate and curiosity as to the question of whether the girl could ever be explained. Giulio Tononi had created the detective IIT and let him loose on the matter by placing him in the school were the girls had been spotted. Yet another demigod, David Chalmers, argued that any attempt to explain the girl by using rags from the grey, smelly physical systems would incite the anger of the Hard Problem, a muscular douchebag that he had created in his lab with the specific purpose of guarding the sanctity of the precious ladies. Tononi knew of this bulky homunculus and was clever enough to give his creation a sleazy survival instinct.

Equipped with this self-preservation instinct, IIT didn’t gather rags to fashion a mockery of the girls and explain her thus. No, he didn’t want to get beat up. Rather, he acted like he had forgotten the physical systems had ever not worn lipstick and tight skirts. He accepted that there were genuinely beautiful persons meeting his eyes now. And then reasoned about what kinds of sweaters and mannerisms and postures must be hiding underneath to account for them.

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