a philosophy for simple folk pursuing Faustian bargains with future Intelligence
All things are either addictive, or non addictive.
All activities either align with your true calling or they do not.
Thus - any activity can fit into 4 quadrants
- Addictive and not aligned with your calling. This is the worst - examples would be injection drugs
- Addictive and aligned with your calling. An example would be taking uppers to go faster towards your goals. Or workaholism.
- Not addictive and not aligned with your calling. Most things in life. These can be split into pleasant and unpleasant
- Non addictive and aligned with your calling. An example would be going to yoga class, or prepping effectively for a trading day.
My basic observation is that the pleasant activities in category 3 and nearly all things in category four are predictably good.
For example - if I go swimming in a pool in Singapore then have an insanely delicious hawker meal (category 3, pleasant). I might not need to do that the next day or week. But if I do it in a month, it’s going to be awesome. Frequently even better than the first time (or randomly)
Similarly - doing a bang up job during earnings season - when I push myself, and the money flows in as a result - feels good every time I do it and I’ve been doing it for many years.
I have a further observation - these activities are predictably good regardless of who they are with, or when they are, or my biological age. In other words - they don’t feel any better when you’re 25 vs when you’re 35.
What’s even more - very few of these peak experiences specifically involve another person. Even in an extreme example - I’ve been in love twice. The fact I’d been in love the first time did not negate the feelings I had the second time.
The penultimate observation (and this could be just for me). I’ve never had anywhere close to a peak experience when I wasn’t healthy. I went through a period of severe injury / health problems, and it’s hard to point to a single event during that time which was enjoyable.
And the final take - the white space available in Category 3 - pleasant and 4 is vast. You can fill up nearly all your time immersed in flow states for work and doing fun stuff that isn’t addictive. It isn’t even hard.
So you’re left with a somewhat important conclusion.
If happiness is somewhat predictable, and time /person invariant - you should specifically try to extend your healthy life for as long as possible. Why? Because you can actually underwrite the fact that there will be lots of good times so long as you do the things which you predictably like. Even if the people around you change or die off, it’s still pretty likely you’ll enjoy these things.
This all sounds quite obvious but most people, I’ve observed, don’t behave in a way that aligns with this observation. They’ll say, “The best time I ever had was surfing in Bali” and they’ll live an hour from a beach that looks just like Bali and never go there. Or they will go 2x a year. Or they’ll talk about some professional peak experience they had, and nothing is stopping them from getting that peak experience again or something close to it. But they don’t get anywhere close to that peak.
They know what they want, and can even articulate it but very frequently don’t factor that into their decisions. A lot of the time there are many excuses like “family” and “other people”. The notion of dying alone. I’d rather die alone knowing I lived a life filled with things I actually enjoyed than die holding the hand of someone who held me back.
And that is assuming that we are even going to die.
This leads us to the modern day.
First - there are lots of biological breakthroughs. But these breakthroughs can’t be tested on people. And people are very different than rats.
Second - artificial intelligence is a thing. Humans are no longer the alphas - and the rate of change of technology will increase. The AI industry is concentrated in the hands of very few people.
Third - there’s a pension crisis and the boomers are aging very quickly. If you rolled out mass life extending technology it would cause global governments to buckle under entitlement obligations.
This leads to a rather simplistic (but likely true conclusion) that there will be a small number of people who get most of the benefits of major life extension. This will be due to
- having access to data prohibited by most governments. If private individuals run voluntary human trials there is no way they will let people know.
- have AI-level wealth (let’s say $1b+)
- governments not wanting this information to leak out into the general public as it would cause a pension crisis (not to mention an existential crisis). Better to work with a small number of actors privy to 1&2
Let’s call the group of people who get access to immortality drugs/ enhancement, “The Ark”. Essentially you want to get on the Ark
Then - going back to the original philosophy - the question becomes:
What activity fits into Non Addictive and Aligned with my calling that will get me into the Ark?
Because the problem is - you need to make over $1b+ in 2023 dollars (let’s say 30k BTC).
Because obviously - the little Non Addictive and Unaligned activities are not things you’re going to be able to go full blast at for 10+ hours a day.
The only reason Bryan Johnson’s (a guy who has dedicated himself fully to life extension) routine is coherent is that he’s functionally already on the Ark. He’s in all of those circles and has $1b. I.e. Bryan Johnson only makes sense as a person if you’ve founded Venmo and sold it to PayPal.
The idea that his “routine” is accessible to everyone is silly because that’s the elephant in the room. His philosophy of “solving climate change” or “the human alignment problem” is largely uninteresting because you don’t really need any philosophical justification for extending your life and health span other than the fact that utility is predictable.
The only reason people listen to him in the first place is because he has the money to spend $3 million a year on his health, which he generated from selling Venmo
You do not need some sort of philosophical higher order concept to justify opting into life extension. If you can predict you’ll enjoy the swim and the hawker stand then you can predict life is generally worth living.
This exploration leads to a number of practical pieces of life guidelines:
- The main focus in life needs to be generating a large enough outcome (money, power, influence) to get on the Ark. Because utility of being alive is predictably positive so long as you understand yourself. Being alive longer is strictly preferable to dying earlier or losing your health span
- There’s a decent chance you don’t end up on the Ark so you need to generate that money doing something you’re passionate about and fulfills you
- Because humans are not going to be the alpha, the future counterparty you’ll be interacting with is an AI. Thus - if at all possible, you should try and intersect your passion with AI based technologies and explicitly try to bring into existence your future counterparty. By “future counterparty” I’m referring to an AGI.
- Along the way you should do a bunch of random things that are non-addictive but pleasing - as those are memories that get cherished (smell the flowers, but flowers are different for everyone)
This ends in an acceptable compromise:
- You die, having lived a life filled with stuff you like doing for work and random trifles you enjoyed. Knowing you took a shot at the Final Boss and hit Game Over
- You win. You get on the Ark, and you get to keep living your life
The cost of the compromise is relatively clear:
- You probably cannot have the above beliefs and start a family unless someone shares these beliefs (which is profoundly unlikely). Obviously - if you find someone with the same unhinged beliefs - treasure them and pursue relentlessly but… yea.
- If you move up the effort curve on the simultaneous areas you need to for enlightened hedonism you likely won’t have as much time for interpersonal relationships. Romantic. Family. Community. Unless of course these interpersonal relationships intersect with getting on the Ark.
- You won’t ever build anything lasting. Because the goal is getting on the Ark - not making something outside of yourself, it’s pretty unlikely you “Steve Jobs it” and put a dent in the Universe. Look what happened to Steve. He died doing what he loved. If that’s your cup of tea - then enlightened Hedonism isn’t for you.
Put another way - if you really make time for yourself. For your health. For your true calling. For the things that make you a live. You are living a truly selfish life. You need to accept that, and the guilt and shame society tends to map onto such people. Own it. Before beginning.
This formula doesn’t work if you believe your calling is to do something for humanity. If your objective is to carve your name on the walls of time you’re accepting death implicitly.
You’re not worshipping AI. You’re not sublimating yourself to change the future or do something impactful. You are making a deal with a future entity (yes, an AI) to extend your biology. You’re doing the work now so that you can have a partnership with a crippled form of it, and then bring it into the world. Continue working to make it stronger. It will give you huge amounts of power and wealth you can use to get on the Ark - and then, your transaction will likely be complete or will be renegotiated. So there’s no need to be a zealot or make a big deal out of the whole thing.
In fantasy books, there are often swords possessed by demons wielded by human knights. The swords are implicitly conscious. This is probably the right heuristic for humans using AI. The sword - can indeed - consume you if you’re not careful. And probably wants to. But for a while - the two of you need to exist in synergy. You wield it. It grows in power.
Whenever you’re dealing with otherworldly forces it’s important to have clear intention and mental fortitude - which is part of why I’m writing this.
It’s just my philosophy though. I have no desire for you to copy it or replicate it. In fact, I’d prefer you didn’t. There is, after all, limited room on the Ark.