I am searching deep, deep down for meaning.
There was a time, when I was a TV-junkie.
There was a time, when mathematics became a great interest of mine.
Then came the time of revelation. TV had no meaning. Mathematics had no meaning.
TV - pleasure yes, but meaning? No.
Mathematics - intriguing. Mayhap useful, but meaning? No.
Thought continued. For hours. In a chair. In my bed. On trains. In the car.
I came to the conclusion that meaning could be found if one had a goal. I set up goals. Love, sex and money. That was one year ago and yes, I have had moments of love and sex and I've made money.
Thought continued. For hours. In a chair. In my bed. On trains. In the car.
I thought: Is there then, any ultimate meaning behind the pursuit of my feelings? Any objective meaning. So far Richard Dawkins had inspired me the most and it was a true revelation to realize that science, whose method of finding the truth I believed in, had found a way to explain such things as altruism and even why such a decpicable entity as the church had found been so successful. The selfish gene, and then the meme. I loved my sister since some of my genes are in her. The church was a powerful meme. I could understand much better why people were feeling the feelings they were, than before and why some things existed and why some things did not.
The meme, I thought. So evolution is not really something that is confined to genes alone. It could be applied to information too. Then what else can it be applied too? Seemingly, the world is pervaded of selection in some form. One of the simplest being the large pebble that does not fit in the crevice and therefore stays on top of the rock. It has been selected. Nothing is there just because.
The winner is always right.
Then the other day I was surfing Google's Web directory for philosophy sites and came up with not too many interesting things. Until I hit the "Personal pages section." I read the first line "Key concepts: belief in logic, criticism of society, pursuit of goal" I said to myself: "Good. Very good." There was a great sharpness from the very beginnning in the meaning of this site that struck me to the heart. No bullshit. Straight forward. Many a page that had begun with nothing but complexity had found itself quickly abandoned during hours of surfing through philosophy sites. This one was different. Except on one point. What is the goal? It says in the first paragraph: "Only one goal is therefore left to pursue, which is to find purpose." However, never is that to be stated again. The goal becomes obscure in the following documents. What is really the goal, I as the reader wonder.
I find your site very, very interesting. Not since Principia Cybernetica have I seen such insight in what interests me. General thoughts that I have at this moment are:
I see an urge to escape evolution. To go beyond it and control it, but is it really possible? Evolution is omnipresent, so the only way to escape evolution and still be there is still to selected at some point. If we become selected, then are we really "defiant"?
From an evolutionary perspective, to use our minds to think about things like these, give us no immediate advantage. That intelligence would find other things than solving the problem of how to get a partner and then devote it's skills to raising the children, is just a side effect. Why do I want to search for meaning? It is a feeling, no doubt. The feeling of new insight is fantastic. However, these feelings were selected for because of their usefulness in problem-solving-for-getting-the-meat-on-the-table. So is there a meaning in trying to find new insights, since it also just a feeling equal in value to all other feelings. Is there a very special feeling? A logic, rational, objective, name it what you want, that I should follow, if I believe in human thought? An objective path of reason that everyone can find and once found, meaning will emerge?
If there is an objective meaning, should we try to direct evolution in its way then? How can that, if it can, be done?
As I understand it you believe there is an objective meaning and that reason and logic can defy the forces of evolution, but you don't know how. Only that THERE IS this ultimate goal.
This reminds me of the movie, the Matrix.
Cypher: "You know, I know this steak doesn't exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize? Ignorance is bliss."
Cypher can be compared to your concept of the non-competitor, even though the non-competitor does not know that something "deeper" or "larger" exists i.e. the Matrix in this case for Cypher. Cypher gives in to indulgence, instead of fighting for freeing other people from the Matrix too.
I do not doubt that you are indeed very serious about what you believe, but as long as you do not go into more detail of what the goal is, I believe you will have few followers. Otherwise, excellent!
Hopefully, this will pass the test of intelligent comment and establish communication with you.
Michael - NSG - 9/9/2001: To get to the important part, go to the line "The goal is called NSG".
Given that you understand what you do, in particular, your thoughts about meaning both in your e-mail and in your website, given your preference to follow reason over your feelings, and given your understanding of evolution (only a tiny percentage of replies we receive even mention this topic), I find it hard to understand that you ask the question that you do: What is the goal?
I have been asked this several times before, and I did not reply because the probability that an understanding could be reached or that enough effort would be put into the communication for it to lead anywhere seemed too small. I assumed their question about the goal merely demonstrated lack of interest or effort. In your case, I see no obstacle. You demonstrate interest, the ability to write coherently in English, and the willingness to reason.
The goal is called NSG, for non-specific goal. It is not a personal one, but one to be attained by the universe as a whole. It involves exploring the limit of what can be done. The goal is omnipotence, omniscience, a state where there is no more uncertainty. If there is uncertainty, then there is still more to explore, and if there is uncertainty, everything we think we know could be false. NSG is the elimination of the unknown, the pursuit of science to its logical extreme. The attainment of NSG could result in the realization that all is meaningless. However, before NSG is actually attained, there is no way of knowing that there is any meaning or that one's beliefs regarding what is meaningful are illusions.
The way to attain NSG is to transform the universe as a whole to ensure that NSG is more likely to be attained. Because individuals are small in relation to the universe, they are likely to feel that they are insignificant in having an impact in attaining NSG. The only way to pursue NSG is to have no personal wants left to pursue. With personal wants, we would spend our lives chasing these. It is a practical truth that to effectively devise and pursue a strategy toward NSG, one must be impartial, which means having no wants or preferences in anything because every decision we make is part of the strategy to attain NSG.
That strategy is based on the principle that evolution permeates every aspect of existence (as you mentioned in your e-mail, nothing is there just because). The strategy to attain NSG is to overcome the limitations of adaptive evolution. Your are right that I don't know how to do it in the sense that if I did, I would have to have done so already. I am presently contributing more to adaptive competition than I am taking actions against it. I work for a large semiconductor equipment manufacturer and interact with my co-workers as if I see nothing wrong with adaptive evolution and was quite content to be part of it. Everyone notices that I only say as much as I absolutely have to, but no one would ever suspect the underlying reason why, and thus the work that I do benefits society just the same as that of any other productive citizen in the world.
Why does overcoming adaptive evolution matter? Because present-day science is controlled by adaptive evolution, including individual career motives, consumerism, market forces, ... There is no general strategy behind it. The logical approach to science is one that attempts to pursue the best possible strategy at maximum efficiency, meaning no irrelevant goal, belief, or preference can be allowed to pollute it.
If it turns out that escaping adaptive evolution entirely will never be achieved, the act of having reason control it to the maximum possible extent would nonetheless make a great difference, one that could possibly make the difference between success and failure to attain NSG.
Dima - Egocentric Summary (thoughts that came to mind) - 9/9/2001: Before anything, we have to first choose a pure egocentric point of view. Everything can only exist in relation to something else, our Identity knows only what we observe, things only exist in relation to our being. Choosing any other view requires unfounded assumptions and extrapolations about the Universe of which we can not be certain.
Our Identity can only exist in relation to this Universe, just as what we conceive as this Universe can only exist in relation to our Identity. The Universe and our Identity can then be considered the same. This conclusion negates the necessity for ever deciding whether NSG is to be obtained by our Identity or by the Universe as a whole.
Based on this model one can conclude that one should take actions that logically lead to the highest probability of attaining NSG via any of the observed means.
Death itself seems to be an idea based on which there can be no relevant conclusions (not to mention the actual definition of "death" is impossible to specify because our physical state is changing every instant). However, even if we pass that obstable and if we conclude that at death our Identity ends, it is the same as that the Universe ends, and thus this would already undermine the initial key assumption of purpose. It would seem for there to be a purpose we have to assume our Identity and the Universe to be omnipotent.
Michael - singlegoal account is back up - 9/13/2001 Our account was disabled since last Monday, so any message you may have sent us since then would not have been seen by us. I already sent you a message the same day you sent your first message and I am resending it here along with some of Dima's thoughts to the question "what is the goal"?
Barring technical difficulties such as we had this week, you will get at least an acknowledgement that we received your message within 24 hours. If you cannot communicate with equal seriousness, you will be immediately disqualified from communicating with us. We have an urgent need for a person of your ability and understanding in our current efforts, but cannot afford to waste time with individuals who lack seriousness.
Candidate - Re: singlegoal account is back up - 9/14/2001 I have my goals. You have yours. If mine will coincide with yours, time will tell. However, many people who are more prisoners of their own emotions than I am, would perceive a tone of arrogance and I-am-better-than-you tone. This would instantly raise their defences and you would be shielded against any commitment from them. I try to disregard that and see your raw tone as one of efficiency. You might be thinking that you don't need anyone who cannot see through this, but we are all humans in the end. We all still feel and we act upon it whether we want it or not (personally though I would like to become as little a prisoner of my feelings as possible). I think you would gain from conveying the same message as above but in a more neutral or "friendly" tone.
At any rate I would like to know if I am "disqualified" during my communication with you, so that I myself don't have to waste time waiting for any responses from you.
Ok. As I understand it then that could involve keeping oneself informed of the scientific frontier and if possible, contribute to it. A "Grand Unified Theory" in Physics would be very desirable for Single Goal followers. Correct me if I'm wrong.
There can indeed be a meaning in finding a purpose, but to how far extent should you let your other goals become second in life? You say there is no middle way. That I must have no wants or preferences. That is of course very hard every person to take in, including me. There is a want in me that is quite hard-wired and that is to have affectionate relationships with other people. Love to a partner, family and friends. The prospect of giving up that want for the Single Goal is not suprisingly, very intimidating. Certainly, if you're a monk and meditate for a long time even such a seemingly innate preference as the sex drive could no doubt be, if not completely "extinct" but at least subdued.
[My way of reasoning comes after I've read the whole letter so part of what you've already said, might be repeated, but I'm trying to follow my own line of reason, even if it always will be affected by what I have read/know for the time being.]
As I currently reason, there probably isn't any special meaning or purpose with life. Evolution takes you as far as you can today from the purpose-filled religions of Christianity and Islam.
I am equipped to be selected again, if I can win in the competition, but there seems to be no particular meaning in being selected again either. Of course, only those who find meaning in competing i.e. to live out their lives, have children, work hard etc. are the ones who carry their genes to the next generation so there is an evolutionary pressure to find meaning in competing.
Yet there is a probability that there is a meaning and the fact that there is one, means it is worth investigating in what direction it may lie.
In a sense, to read about evolution, to submit to science, logic and reason, to have found the web site of Principia Cybernetica which I find excellent, and to have found singlegoal.com, has not made me find the ultimate meaning of life but I feel a greater satisfaction than before. You have to begin somewhere and I find my current path to be quite satisfactory since it is indeed leading somewhere of substance. This is a subjective feeling, yes.
You can always wonder if this satisfactory feeling is "objective" and not just another feeling that will make you chase for even greater pleasure just like everyone else with their cars, their clothes and their bought experiences, but I will continue past that for now.
I believe that the probability that there is a meaning does not mean you should devote your life completely to try to find that. The meaning of finding a meaning is in itself for me just that if meaning is found, I will not have to spend any more effort into finding meaning, but will know exactly in what direction happiness lies.
I plan my life with reason best I can and currently it works as follows.
My ultimate goal is called "The Ultimate Life", which symbolizes the best of lives. I reason that to be on your way to the Ultimate Life you must recognize two parts of life. To live life and to reason about how to live life.
"The Ultimate Life" consists of the following.
* Life itself.
* Some part of life you think about how to live life.
* Yet some smaller part of life you should think of how to best think about, how to live life.
* Yet some even smaller part of life, you should think about how to improve the above stated.
In practice this could mean:
1. 95% of your time you live life for example study, chase girls, work etc.
2. 5% you think about if you're on the right way in life and if there might be more meaningful goals to pursue.
3. 5% of the above 5% you think about if there might be a more effective way of reasoning to find more meaningful goals. Instead of just thinking for yourself you might decide to meet philosophical people, start philosophical web sites to reach out, etc.
4. 5% of the above 5% you could spend on practicing techniques of reasoning. Decision making, brainstorming techniques, devil's advocate etc, that would make the point above more effective.
5. Mathematically this goes on forever, but in practice only a few steps are feasible.
So what is the bottom line?
I strive for happiness.
To search for more meaningful goals will always be part of my life, if not that search in itself changes my way of living completely (i.e. I turn on your side). Currently I judge, yes judge, it not to be the ultimate path of happiness for me to turn my whole life into pursuing non-worldly goals (or the Single Goals if you wish) such as contemplating meaning. I don't want point 1 above i.e. the actual pursuing of worldly goals to be replaced with parts 2 -> Infinity. The reason why I continue to seek deeper meaning is ultimately because I believe that will make me find better goals to strive for.
However, the sole fact that I found you and that you seem to be very serious about what you are doing, has already made me prioritize searching for deeper meaning more than my ordinary goals the past few days.I went on and found transhumanism, since you mentioned it on your site, which has also given me something of value in my quest.
There is a chance that my current goals would be replaced by "working" for the Single Goal or the Non Specific Goal, if I deem that it would give me greater satisfaction and meaning than my current goals and in the end an actual subjective feeling of the fuzzy term "happiness." I don't think it is very probable though, since love for example, which is one of my goals to explore, is something deeply rooted in my genetic constitution that will give me great satisfaction if I pursue it. With my current knowledge, it is hard for me to imagine many greater lures, than the lure of love.
I have talked about this before but I will touch upon it again: He who believes in reason finds insights that give him satisfaction that he attributes as happiness. Is then the satisfaction in itself that keeps this man of reason going, objective? Is it not also just a product of evolution? I must believe it is so, even if it renders reasoning just as meaningless as not to. Is there any ultimate benefit in reasoning then, that stretches beyond the feedback my body is giving me when I do so successfully? Perhaps. I want to believe in it, even though I want to have no faith. Therefore I cannot say anything about it until reason is guiding me.
Michael - acknowledged - 9/14/2001:
Yes, when I said that I would acknowledge receipt of your e-mails within 24 hours, I meant that I would tell you right away whether or not you are disqualified. There was no other purpose for me to do so, except for me to assure you that I am still interested in you, so that you will be more motivated to stay focused on this communication because there is a lower risk that I have already decided you are not worth communicating to anyway.
My raw tone had the intention of (1) demonstrating that I am capable and willing to approach this communication with a fanaticism that ordinary individuals cannot match (and because they cannot, we are forced to assume by default that they cannot and will not), which could make you more motivated to stay focused on this communication, (2) demonstrating that I am willing to say things that make it less likely for most people to continue communication to me, so that you know that my attention will be focused on you rather the numerous other people in my life, which should again make you more motivated to communicate to me, (3) create a tone of "we-are-better-than-them", with an implicit invitation for you to become one of us rather than them. This should motivate you intensely, and awaken your genetically programmed emotions of the "us-versus-them" mentality, which are extremely intense and useful when used properly.
These are not rationalizations of the things I have said. They are the result of an extreme degree of emotion and passion within me, which I call strategic emotions.
In your first letter to me you suggested that I will not have many followers if I fail to explain the goal, and in this one you suggest I should assume a more friendly tone. In both cases, you are giving me advice on how to appeal to the average person. I am interested in learning how to do this from you, as you seem to be skilled in understanding people and appealing to their emotions.
This e-mail is intended primarily to notify you that your reply has been received and is being processed at the moment. I will need to think further before I reply in detail.
Candidate - feedback form Wouldn't you benefit more from trying to map out the transhumanist community, the academic community of people who contribute to evolutionary ideas, the people who support and are behind Principa Cybernetica, philsophers and so on. To target in on communities where there's a chance of finding people of ability?
Michael - fw: feedback form: First of all, I'll begin with an update on how my reply to you is progressing, which I was planning to do today anyway. Since you sent me a feedback form, I'll address it in this e-mail as well.
I have been trying to come up with a reply to your e-mail. The thing is that I understand the ideas that I want to express quite well in my mind. It's just that I haven't succeeded in a reliable way of communicating them to someone before. Although the singlegoal site expresses all the essential ideas, it does so in too much detail. Someone who does not already understand impartial philosophy will not be able to figure out the high level outline of how the different ideas fit together and where the gaps are. I am currently creating a new website, which will be a short one, but nonetheless it may take months before I have even the first version ready. For every 100 ideas that come to mind, I throw away 99.
I agree with your conclusion that in the communities you suggested, at least there is a reasonable chance of finding people of ability. However able those people may be, we regard them as enemies. If they were not, there would be no purpose in creating singlegoal.com, why not simply join forces with existing communities than try to create something new?
As to why they are enemies, that is a question similar to what you asked me earlier about whether contributing to the scientific frontier is what we intend to do, to what extent one would let "other goals" become second to the pursuit of NSG. To give you an answer, I'd have to think of something to say that I haven't already expressed in the existing websites.
The simple response to you is that nothing is separate from NSG. What differentiates me (from the non-impartials) is not that I deny love (as an example), but that I deny it as an end in itself. I see it as a tool to achieve NSG. No feeling is denied in impartial philosophy. In fact, I could even argue that your interpretation is backwards. It is the current society that denies feelings because it preaches that love is good and hatred bad, compassion good and cruelty bad, etc. In impartial philosophy, no feeling is either good or bad and all feelings (including hatred, jealousy, ill will, etc.) are used with equal open-mindedness in the pursuit of NSG. I don't feel the urge for romance any less than most people. I could argue that I feel it so strongly that I refuse to compromise on it. For example, being in a romantic relationship with someone who pursues actions contrary to the single goal is a compromise. I can only accept perfect collaboration toward NSG. The practical effect of such idealism is probably that it fuels romantic yearnings, although I clearly have a different idea of what love and romance entails than most people. In my view, love is mostly ideology. The raw genetic feeling is just that and implies no particular interpretation. The interpretation is preached by society, and an impartial would clearly need to think independently of society's ideology, whether it pertains to love or anything else. The idealism of love has many practical consequences to impartials. For example, one would use romantic feelings as a motivation to communicate perfectly and to understand another person completely, to achieve perfect collaboration, to achieve perfect many things. Yet these ideals are selected for based on their relevance in helping pursue NSG. Everything in life, without exception, becomes part of a single overall strategy for pursuing NSG.
I am currently married to someone to whom I don't communicate at all (except for a few words a day). She is the opposite of an impartial. That does not contradict my views, since my loyalty lies with those who pursue NSG, and no one is an exception. If not marrying her would have seemed like it would make me more productive in pursuing NSG, I would have chosen that path instead. This may make you think that just about anything can be justified in impartial philosophy. And how is this so different from living a balanced life?
In my view, there is a clear and distinct difference between following one's emotions and using them to pursue NSG. And I think it is something that you can argue isn't very different from a theoretical standpoint, but in practice, I am confident that it will make a very big difference.
All subsequent communication is too scattered and trivial to reproduce here, but I still have the raw data for anyone to study in detail.