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steven comments on Mundane Magic - Less Wrong

103 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 31 October 2008 04:00PM

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Comment author: steven 31 October 2008 04:53:53PM 46 points [-]

Awesome post, but somebody should do the pessimist version, rewriting various normal facets of the human condition as horrifying angsty undead curses.

Comment author: sfb 19 December 2010 06:21:57PM *  57 points [-]
  • The curse of visible intent. Those afflicted by this find their innermost secrets such as fear, surprise, eagerness, alarm, desire, all show up in consistent facial muscle changes for all the world to read, a betrayal by their own flesh.

  • St Addahad's Symptoms. A small group of symptoms including fleshy growths, nerve clusters and neural pathways which result in a near permanent state of distraction as patterns of air pressure change are translated into thoughts and inserted into the mind with disruptively high priority. "Sounds" from all around, indoors and out, near and far, from nearby footsteps to distant thunderstorms or even one's own bodily functions all combine to make a state of prolonged focus nearly impossible to achieve, though this ability can be regained somewhat with practise.

    As with many curses, St Addahad's sufferers describe benefits as well, such as being able to know things are happening without needing to see them, and to know which direction they are happening in, and some even report being able to balance without handholds. These trivial sounding benefits appear so addictive that most refuse to be treated. Efforts are underway to cause the onset of these symptoms by technological means, but there is debate on the moral issue of such experiments on humans as the necessary interventions cannot wait until the age of consent.

  • The Ultimate Affliction Unimaginable torment and suffering by subtle and cruel methods. A mind's model of the universe is realigned so it perceives through the flaws in itself, and senses an ability to change the world however it pleases, where no such ability can exist. The state of the world is observed, interpreted into 'events', and compared against imaginary desired states, and with each mismatch comes suffering, every moment bringing another opportunity to suffer. Taunted by confirmation bias, such a mind can be driven insane when the outcomes it desired and the outcomes it observed match on some occasions; believing that this is proof that it's delusion is real and if only it was better, stronger, cleverer, it could turn these incidents into a continual happening, only to keep discovering that Fate has a different plan.

    Habituated into assigning labels to areas of concept space, each area is meta-tagged with "good" or "bad", and this is the subtle yet effective twist by which the mind is turned against the very reality in which it inhabits, and by the mystical wonders of self-reflection begins to generate it's own suffering. No other known suffering is so simply induced, so long lasting, so wide ranging and so difficult to temporarily calm completely.

    Happily this most horrifying of all known curses has both a near term cure from a reworking of though processes to dismiss the "desired outcomes", though this can be very hard to induce; and apparently a far term cure, as our universe is trending towards states that many of these minds desire it to have. We theorise that as the universe and the desires match more and more closely, suffering will be correspondingly reduced.

Comment author: SilasBarta 25 December 2010 03:58:05AM *  8 points [-]

Very clever (and upvoted), but ...

These trivial[-]sounding benefits

Probably not the best metaphor to use there ;-)

Comment author: DanielLC 12 October 2012 06:55:31AM 2 points [-]

The curse of visible intent.

That can be pretty useful. If everyone knows that you can't lie, they'll be much more likely to trust you. If you need money, you could just borrow it from someone and promise to return it with interest. They'll happily lend it to you, knowing that you intend to pay it back. You might change your mind, but you probably won't, so it's worth while for the interest.

Comment author: Rixie 27 July 2013 01:16:37AM 0 points [-]

But then you can't just borrow and not give it back.

Comment author: DanielLC 27 July 2013 02:23:08AM 1 point [-]

You can't anyway, since nobody is going to lend it to you without a good reason to believe you'll give it back.

Comment author: [deleted] 24 December 2010 11:55:52PM *  96 points [-]

Thermodynamic Jurisdiction: This curse causes its victims to become addicted to the inert corpses of dead plants and animals. They are forced to consume them near-constantly, and are unable to go without them for a single day before experiencing withdrawal symptoms. So dependent are they upon these unholy carcasses that a regime of 3 daily dosages is considered normal among sufferers.

This habit is incredibly expensive in the long run; many poor souls, needing a steady supply of this so called "foodstuff" to deal with their affliction, have been led to sell themselves into virtual slavery as a means of procuring it. Such a practice is sometimes referred by the euphemism of "earning the daily bread".

Cyclical Unconsciousness: Beings affected by this curse are said to fall comatose on a regular basis, a condition that last for several hours. While in this state they are not only defenseless, but also emit a loud, rhythmical noise that gives away their location to their enemies and is unpleasant to their allies. They are furthermore often tormented by horrifying visions; hallucinations of such vividity that they leave their unconscious state panting and screaming in fear.

Worst of all, though, is the fact that those cursed are guaranteed to waste a third of their lives doing nothing but staying still, thus being forced to wonder what great things they might have accomplished in their time had their productivity not been sabotaged in such a devastating manner.

Continuous Combustion: One of the worst curses known to man, Continuous Combustion causes a need for its victims to be forever submerged in a specific substance of particular chemical composition in order to live. While so embraced, the afflicted may be said to live almost normal lives, but when removed from their protective environment death is sure to follow in a matter of minutes, and even the strongest among them can barely last a little over a quarter of an hour before he must return to the gaseous mixture he is so reliant upon.

Even when the cursed have managed to achieve such feats as walking on other celestial bodies, it has only been by carrying with them specially engineered suits designed to maintain the space around them hospitable to their existence; a sad reminder of the impairment that will follow them until the end of their days.

The Succubus's Allure: People placed under this curse feel a strong compulsion to engage in coitus despite not trying to conceive a child. As such, not only do they expend energy and time in a completely unnecessary activity, but they must also navigate a host of social, legal, and moral obstacles in order to find willing partners with whom to relieve their urges. Worse, they must also beware of the biological calamities that plague those who have succumbed to the Allure and spread from person to person during the act of fornication.

The only saving grace available to those suffering of these symptoms is that their pain may be relieved by a crude simulation of the sexual act which is much easier to deal with than the aforementioned carnal quest; but this is small consolation indeed, for those who find themselves resorting to such measures incur a status loss among their peers which varies as a direct function of their age.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 24 April 2012 10:12:58PM 3 points [-]

This comment is awesome. Anyone know who wrote it, and why he or she deleted their account?

Comment author: wedrifid 24 April 2012 10:24:59PM 0 points [-]

Roko perhaps? He's the first thought I have when I am guessing the author of old orphaned comments and posts (when said comments are awesome).

Comment author: steven0461 24 April 2012 10:27:15PM *  1 point [-]

I believe it was user:jaimeastorga2000.

(ETA: Happy to delete this comment if someone feels it's a violation of his privacy or something.)

Comment author: Wei_Dai 24 April 2012 10:34:21PM 5 points [-]


I think we need to do something about this [deleted] business, or eventually LW will be half-filled with comments and posts written by deleted accounts, plus discussion about who wrote them.

Comment author: wedrifid 24 April 2012 10:48:27PM *  9 points [-]

I think we need to do something about this [deleted] business, or eventually LW will be half-filled with comments and posts written by deleted accounts, plus discussion about who wrote them.

On the other hand there seems to be a certain benefit in allowing a user who no longer endorses their contributions here to disaffiliate with their historic words. While as a matter of course it is wise to assume that what you say on the internet is hard to escape from people do tend to mature over time and also find themselves in new situations where reputation may be more important to them than it once was. Leaving the comments there by default but removing the identity information is something of a compromise.

I don't want to be the one responsible (in the sense of endorsing a general policy) for leaving a person forever vulnerable to sabotage by rivals if that person becomes sufficiently socially relevant to have rivals that would do such background research and find ammunition in a misspent lesswrongian youth. (Maybe it's unlikely that anything extreme like this would happen but the principle so illustrated by the extreme is significant to me.)

Comment author: cousin_it 25 April 2012 01:35:05PM *  1 point [-]

I see the username jaimeastorga2000 mentioned in the page title :-)

Comment author: Tyrrell_McAllister 25 April 2012 07:19:26PM *  8 points [-]

I think we need to do something about this [deleted] business

Wow. That's the closest I've ever seen you come to swearing in this forum.


Comment author: DanielLC 27 April 2011 09:50:50PM 17 points [-]
  • Akrasia

Sufferers do things despite thinking they're bad decisions. They tend to be things that bring small amounts of happiness in the short term, but other times they seem to do nothing more than alleviate boredom. Some examples are simple games, and classifying literary devices. It's not uncommon for the victims to spend most of their lives on unproductive things.

  • Antipleasure

Antipleasure is a rare disease in which a victim's happiness is so low that they would prefer the events not have happened in the first place. Not simply that it's replaced with an average event, but removed altogether. It can be short but powerful, commonly triggered by physical damage, long and weak, generally triggered by psychological issues, or in rare cases, long and powerful, triggered by such things as kidney stones and jellyfish venom. In extreme cases, sufferers have been known to take their own lives.

  • Inherent Limit

This affliction causes the victims to atrophy. The damage gets more extreme, eventually leading to death. No victim has ever survived longer than 122 years.

  • Inevitable Cessation

People afflicted with this syndrome can generally heal from small wounds, but large enough wounds, along with several other possibilities, lead to them degrading into inert matter. The victims go to great lengths to postpone this unimaginably horrific fate, but it's believed to be impossible to prevent completely.

Comment author: lessdazed 27 November 2011 02:02:29AM 4 points [-]
Comment author: contravariant 03 January 2014 07:28:04AM 6 points [-]

The Curse of Downregulation: Sufferers of this can never live "happily ever after", for anything that gives them joy, done often enough, will become mundane and boring. Someone who is afflicted could have the great luck to earn a million a day, and after a year they will be filled with despair and envy at their neighbor who is making two million, no happier than they would be in poverty.