Lackofcheese's Brain Dump Thread


#1

I have recently had an epiphany, which has come with what feels like a real breakthrough in my understanding of the human condition (or at least myself). This epiphany has also been accompanied by a recovery from depression, i.e. massive improvements in my overall well-being, as well as a much better ability to see and understand the world around me. I think it explains a few key observations that I already, on some level, internally believed. In all seriousness, I feel like I have made major steps towards enlightenment (c.f. being a Dûnyain, and coming before).

Yet I know, at a deep and visceral level, the danger of hubris, self-deception, and ignorance. Thus I seek to verify my ideas in the most effective way I’ve learned in my short time on this Earth: to test those ideas against other intelligent, well-informed people, within the bounds of rational and intellectually honest discussion and argument.

Here’s some key thoughts I’ve been having recently:

  • Game theory, decision theory, and Bayesian statistics are among the most important branches of mathematics right now.
  • The most important fields of human endeavor right now are (likely in this order):
    • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, and most importantly the problem of alignment [so that we do not destroy the world before it can be made better]
    • Cognitive Science and Neuroscience [so that we can understand ourselves better at an individual level]
    • Political Science, Social Science and History [so that we understand where human society came from and where it could go in the future]
    • Economics [so that we have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to structuring society]
  • Some of the most important anime right now are:
    • Neon Genesis Evangelion
    • Puella Magi Madoka Magica
    • Shinsekai Yori
    • Ghost in the Shell
  • Some of the most important books right now are:
    • The Prince of Nothing series
    • Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • Multiplayer games (e.g. tabletop role-playing games) are among the most important forms of human social entertainment right now, because they reflect the importance of cooperation and conflict between groups of agents (c.f. game theory)
  • I seem to have developed a better understanding of exactly what some essential (and yet deeply confusing) human concepts, like “loving yourself” and “willpower” really, truly mean.

I’m sure there are some key examples of media that I am missing, either due to forgetfulness or ignorance. I would like nothing more than to have a serious, rational, empirically-driven discussion about these things.

@Rym
From what I know of you and the media you seem to have high up on your lists, I think you probably have some thoughts along these lines as well.


#2

Spot on. Cognitive science is rapidly discovering that older models of investigation and understanding are literally incorrect, and we are entering a new phase of understanding how we understand and learn.


#3

Let me go a step further and posit a testable hypothesis.

Although I have not read the book in detail, it appears Marvin Minsky is partly correct in his “Society of Mind” theory of human intelligence, i.e. that a human mind is simply a collection of agents.

In particular, the human mind consists of, essentially, a collection of reinforcement learning agents with differing drives which, due to the constrictions of being bound together into a single body and having the same basic need for sustenance to stay alive, must necessarily learn to cooperate in order to achieve their goals.

This video, which I linked in the “Things of Your Day” thread, points to a vital piece of the puzzle:

In this light, reconsider also the somewhat discredited notion of the triune brain. Once you analyse the parts of the triune brain in view of the fact that all of these parts are intelligent in their own right, and that their core differences are not in terms of their functions or their specialties, but rather in terms of their motivations, things start to make much more sense.

The core hypothesis is simple; what a human brain is is simply a tightly-knit bundle of five(-ish) reinforcement learning agents, each of which is intelligent in its own right (albeit to varying degrees), and with several high-bandwidth channels of communication between them:

  • The so-called “reptilian brain”, motivated primarily by the most basic desires of reproduction and sustenance.
  • The limbic system, motivated by needs for friends and family, and playfulness.
  • The “left brain”, motivated by the desire to explain things and to solve puzzles; c.f. the Left Brain Interpreter hypothesis. Absent proper support from the other agents, the left brain has a serious failure mode of “believing your own bullshit”.
  • The “right brain”, motivated by empathy and the desire to understand and be understood by others, i.e. to believe that which others believe, and/or to have others believe what it believes. Absent support from the other agents, the right brain has a serious failure mode of “believing other peoples’ bullshit”.

It’s not too likely that I am exactly correct about the precise number of these agents, what their motivations are, or their localization in the brain. But I definitely think I’m onto something here.


#4

Some further propositions:

  • Many (but, of course, not all) forms of mental illness are due to dysfunctional relationships between these agents. In particular, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts, represent a credible threat made by one or more of the agents against the others. One key reason suicide attempts so often fail is that they don’t need to actually be successful in order for the threat to be genuinely credible.

  • This mulit-agent split is key in explaining many important facts about human politics, especially why the political spectrum appears to break down so neatly into a relatively small number of factions, and why political affiliation appears to have a significant genetic component. To put it roughly:

    • Left-wing politics is dominated by the right neocortex, i.e. empathy. Taken to the extreme it can lead to groupthink and policy that lacks theoretical or empirical support (e.g. communism).
    • Conservative politics is dominated by the paleomammalian complex and the reptilian brain; it is mostly about Following the Rules. Taken to the extreme, people get hurt because the rules are too simple to deal with the complexities of everyday life.
    • Libertarian politics is dominated by the left neocortex, i.e. independence and solving puzzles. Taken to the extreme it means many people can suffer merely due to bad luck (e.g
      being born in Africa).

Of course, because the left and right neocortex are the largest and most powerful parts of the brain, it is usually one or the other that ends up dominating; thus conservatives and libertarians often have much in common due to the left neocortex having primacy over the right neocortex.


#5

The above posts are my contribution to the Logos; they are my attempt to understand the darkness that comes before.


#6
  1. Please read some more books. Orwell is clearly a product of his time and has next to nothing to say about the present moment. His casual imperialist racism and his Trotskyite screeds have aged incredibly poorly.

  2. Bakker is a piece of work too. He feels like one part 1990s End of History navel gazing, one part 2000s Imperialist angst at fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, and another Nietzchean self-absorbtion. The Dunyain are the clear monsters of the story. He spends a laborious amount of time in the AE comparing them to the sranc and the consult. The first two books are okay for what they are. The last four books double down on the weaknesses of the third book.

  3. The genetics, biology, and politics stuff is just premature sci-fi and unreadable projection. Somehow separating out libertarianism and conservatism as independent of each other, literally in two different parts of the brain, is such an American thing to do.


#7

Thanks for the feedback. In general, I would prefer to hear more objective, evidence-based responses; I think they would be more productive.

If you have serious suggestions for literature that is more relevant to the present day, I would be happy to hear them.

Now, to respond to your points:

  • Orwell may well an arsehole and be deeply wrong about some things, but one thing he understood very well indeed was the power of propaganda and ideology. His writing is more relevant to modern-day Russia, China and North Korea than it is to the U.S. or the UK, but if you look at Trump’s propaganda campaign against the media and against reality (c.f. “alternative facts”), pro-Brexit propaganda in the UK, and nativist nationalism in France, it’s clear that his writing remains relevant.
  • Bakker may be an arsehole, but even arseholes can be insightful sometimes.
  • Please critique the ideas empirically rather than resorting to ad hominem attacks.
  • Libertarianism and conservatism are clearly and obviously different. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so many libertarians who are OK with things like drugs, non-traditional family structures, and consensual sex of all the kinds.

#8

I understand quite well the danger of going too far outside the bounds of science and venturing into science fiction. I’ve seen people believe crazy things without having proper evidence for it, and the extent to which this can happen scares me. I have myself believed things that were completely wrong in the absence of proper evidence, and the thought of that horrifies me to this day.

But it’s nevertheless true that the relative simplicity of the political spectrum, i.e. its tendency to fall so cleanly into left and right with only rare exceptions, is so striking that there should, at least to some extent, be a good explanation for it.

Also, there is, in fact, relatively solid scientific evidence for very strong genetic factors in people’s political inclinations. The research of Jonathan Haidt and others, popularized in “The Righteous Mind”, is serious scientific research that shouldn’t be taken lightly.


#9

Winner-take-all elections are a pretty good one I think, in the US at least.


#10

Winner-take-all elections, as well as single-member districts, are both factors that tend to result in politics that is much more polarized and binary.

But even in countries like Israel and Germany and New Zealand, where they use systems of proportional representation, many of the political parties very often fall into left-wing and right-wing groupings.

Also, winner-take-all elections in any one country don’t do a very good job of explaining why there is so much agreement between left-wing politics and right-wing politics when you compare across countries, even when those countries have very different cultures.


#11

Here’s another interesting tidbit. Consider the origins of the terms “left-wing” and “right-wing” during the French Revolution:

Consider also that the left hemisphere of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body.

The actual seating arrangement could easily have been a complete coincidence, but one is still led to ask the question of why, exactly, these notions of “left” and “right” have become so very predominant in human thought and human culture.

I don’t see this as being particularly strong evidence, of course, but it’s definitely something to think about.


#12

Human pattern seeking tendency, Western philosophical and metaphysical obsession with dualities & polarities.

When you are in the left side of the room, you are no longer in the left side of the room.


#13

Hey Lack, it’s great you’re doing well. You’ve got a lot of writing here. What are you getting at? Your language is so flowery I’m not sure what you’re trying to say exactly.


#14

I’ll be blunt.

Looking back on my own history of depression, I see a pattern best described by, in essence, repeated defection in an Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma.

My current feeling of wholeness, well-being and overall motivatedness seems to reflect a phase of cooperation.

I am, in complete seriousness, positing a game-theoretic theory of human intelligence and human motivation.


#15

Also, apologies for the flowery language. Concise writing is not a skill I ever really learned.


#16

Can we get a better thread title? After reading this I still only have half an idea what this thread is supposed to be about.


#17

How about “In which lackofcheese uses flowery language to mask his true position in order to avoid the appearance of being an insane person, while seeking evidence from outside sources to confirm or disconfirm the veracity of his beliefs”.


#18

“Lackofcheese’s Brain Dump Thread” would not be a bad title.


#19

Done, done and done.


#20

I’ve heard Prince of Nothing series has these eerie “Men’s Rights”/Gomergater undertones to them. That or the author himself has expressed these feelings. Is that true? If the books are good beyond them, is there a way to check them out without support the author?