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Curiouskid comments on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010-2011) - Less Wrong

42 Post author: orthonormal 12 August 2010 01:08AM

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Comment author: Curiouskid 06 November 2011 06:31:56PM *  5 points [-]

WARNING: long post. I detail my entire intellectual development and how I came to be interested in LW. More posts on LW should have short summaries like this one (IMO).

Hello! I'm a 17 year old high school student. I was raised a lukewarm christian (I went to church maybe 5 times a year). Around 3rd grade I deduced Santa Clause could not exist. Around 9th grade I first HEARD the word atheism (and shortly thereafter agreed). I've always wanted to have some big impact on the planet. When I was younger (5th-8th grade), I thought I would try to become a professional basketball player (this is embarrassing to write).

I decided in 9th grade that intellectuals have far more impact on the world than basketball players and have been reading as much as possible ever since. Brave New World had a profound impact on me was largely responsible for my turn away from basketball and more towards Utopian thinking. I know "Politics is the Mind Killer", but I feel that watching the zeitgeist films had an important impact on my early readings. It showed me how stupid everything that I'd been told before I could think critically was. I still want to create Utopias (Utilitarianism is the only ethical code that makes any sense). However, I think that after reading David Pearce's "Hedonistic Imperative" I've focused less on things like the zeitgeist movement and occupy wallstreet and focused more on finding happiness independently of one's external circumstances (Milton said that "the mind can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven).

This first led me to Buddhism. However, the lack of philosophical rigor coupled with the hypocrisy of swami's who have been accused of sexual harassment has led me to turn away from Buddhism as a perfect formula for happiness and Utopia (I still meditate though. As Sam Harris has said (paraphrasing), Buddhists don't have a monopoly on meditation). My researching Buddhism also coincided with me becoming depressed. I’ve certainly improved drastically since then,but I still will suffer brief bouts of negative emotion (rest. Exercise. Nootropics. And a weekend of productivity reliably quell these feelings). During this period of reading about Buddhism, I read a bit about parapsychology and the statistical evidence for it.

But recently, I've decided that the evidence for and against parapsychology is relatively unimportant (wireheading is more conducive to Utopia than levitating). But, I am not satisfactorily convinced of the truth or falsity of parapsychology (keeping an open mind). I’m not quite sure when I plan to conclude whether it’s true or not. I’ve decided that I’m just going to keep up my meditation practice because if it were true, I’d want to be able to do it and the first step is to be able to meditate better regardless of whether I regard it as true or false. Also, the notion of enlightenment doesn’t really seem consistent (people mean a lot of different things when they say it, just like when they say god). Furthermore, I think “enlightenment” is something that is purely neurological (no reincarnation) (Wiki:God Helmet).

So, based on all the previous information, I’ve concluded that I want to see neuroscience advance to the point that we can create a neurological utopia like the one proposed in David Pearce’s abolitionist project. However, after doing a lot of research on nootropics, I’m concerned that our current state of understanding of the brain is very limited and that there is a lack of funding for the type of research that we need (nootropics for normal individuals and whole brain emulation). Thus, I’m torn between deciding to major in neuroscience and majoring in something that would be conducive to the restructuring of society so that more neuroscience relevant neuroscience research can be done. I would try to restructure society by improving our educational system and creating seasteads (I was very excited to see that Patri Friedman is a member of this forum). Also, I came up with the idea behind debategraphs.org before I discovered that the site already existed. Either way, I realize that the contributions of any one individual are minimal (Somebody else came up with the theory of evolution at the same time Darwin did).

So that’s my intellectual development thus far. I’m currently reading Bostrom’s “Roadmap to WBE” in order to gain a better idea of the neuroscience and feasibility of WBE and this should help me make a more informed decision on what to major in. Also, I’m going to read the “Fun Theory” sequence as soon as I get enough time. I’m also reading about hypnosis and the placebo effect in order to get an idea of how much control the mind can have over itself (this fits in with my earlier Buddhism research).

After reading around here for a little while, I feel that I have finally found a home. I am the only person I know personally who is interested in all of the topics I’ve listed above. I have a few friends with a minor interest in philosophy and seasteading, but they aren’t nearly as serious about learning as I am. I really love it that this community exists. I’m not used to feeling dumb (and I don’t plan on feeling that way for much longer). I want to go to the rationality boot camp and meet some of you in person. I'm still puzzling out why I want to create a Utopia and have a big impact on the planet. I don’t really know what I’d do without this goal in mind. It seems relatively silly given my view on the historical impact of any one individual. Yet, I don’t know what belief I would replace it with (and I may not be willing to give it up).

I need to read Bostrom’s “Roadmap to WBE” and figure out how I think the Fermi paradox most likely plays out. It may very well be that if WBE is not possible that I will return to taking a parapsychological and meditative approach to creating Utopia (though I think that I’d create seasteads, education reform, and do a lot of reading on LW about WBE before I made such a conclusion.). I realize it's a little sad that I can sum up most of my intellectual development in one post. Random stuff: I’m very physically fit. I eat the healthiest diet possible and workout regularly. I enjoy a wide variety of music. I learned to read by playing pokemon on the gameboy color.

Comment author: lessdazed 06 November 2011 07:19:56PM 6 points [-]

When I was younger (5th-8th grade), I thought I would try to become a professional basketball player (this is embarrassing to write).

When I was younger (three years old), I thought I would try to become a helicopter.

Comment author: Optimind 19 December 2011 03:48:20PM 0 points [-]

We sound alike. I'm curious where are you from?

"On the other hand, I would have to take care of myself which would take a lot of time." Borrow 4 Hour Work-Week (by Timmothy Ferris) at your local libary, then that shouldn't be a problem if your just closely as smart as you seem. Yes, the title sounds like a get-rich-quick scheme (he has even made fun of it later himself.). But he's actually very sensible and practical minded, not very brilliant philosophically though.

Comment author: wedrifid 19 December 2011 04:06:13PM 0 points [-]

We sound alike. I'm curious

Alike indeed.

Comment author: Curiouskid 06 November 2011 08:03:11PM 0 points [-]

I've decided I'm going to tackle the sequences one at a time. I'm going to create a folder on my desktop for each sequence. I'm going to have a word document with all the insights I've had relating to a particular topic within the sequence. I think I'm going to start with "the craft and the community", "Yudkowsky's coming of age", and "fun theory" (These seem to directly answer my question of how I can help create a utopia).

Comment author: lessdazed 07 November 2011 07:31:36AM 0 points [-]

One reason to post what one is going to do is to establish a form of accountability for oneself. That's a good reason to post something like this, there are also other good reasons to post something like this. There are even bad rasons to post something like this. Do you mind sharing your reasons?

Comment author: Curiouskid 07 November 2011 11:18:22AM 0 points [-]

Not at all, first of all, it's useful for me to write all this out because then I can see the driving force behind all the books I choose to read whereas normally I don't go through this entire through process every time I choose something to read. second, I did ask for some specific advice for how navigate this forum. Obviously I asked because I wanted to know the answer. third, I want to learn, so if somebody has already read similar material for similar reasons, I want them to comment and give me some advice on which books to read and which ones not to read and to tell me if they see any flawed reasoning in my post. fourth, I'd love to make some friends on these forums. There are people here who are graduating early from high school (something I might do) and they could offer some advice when it comes time for me to make that decision. fifth, I've been talking about how little I know for a while, but if there were any way I could help the forum or offer up some insight that hadn't been thought of, I will do so.

Comment author: lessdazed 07 November 2011 05:10:07PM *  0 points [-]

One good way to set about learning something is to start with the specific sub-section you are most motivated to learn. It's good you have identified those.

Nonetheless, there are tradeoffs involved - some things might build on others, for example, so all else equal there might be a best order to read things in.

I recommend the first five subsequences of How To Actually Change Your Mind, A Human's Guide to Words, and Reductionism.

Comment author: Curiouskid 08 November 2011 02:34:29AM 0 points [-]

Thanks for the tip. I wish I weren't in high school right now. So much busywork.

Comment author: thomblake 08 November 2011 02:41:27AM 1 point [-]

Thanks for the tip. I wish I weren't in high school right now. So much busywork.

In my experience, it only gets worse.

Comment author: Curiouskid 09 November 2011 11:25:07PM 1 point [-]

I would think that if I were in college, I wouldn't have to take classes that are incredibly slow paced. Also, I wouldn't have to be physically present in the school for 8 hours. The classes would be more specific to my interests.

On the other hand, I would have to take care of myself which would take a lot of time.

Comment author: thomblake 10 November 2011 04:20:56AM 0 points [-]

Right, I forgot about college. If you do that right, it can be idyllic.

Comment author: MatthewBaker 12 November 2011 01:43:31AM 1 point [-]

In college I'm taking it slow because I have the luxury of money and time and a wonderful environment in silicon valley. I feel like if i was taking as many units as i could and not just a comfortable amount above full time status there would be a TON of busywork but so far I'm greatly enjoying my idyllic experience :) I think it all depends what you wanna optimize for.