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Why I Live [Draft 1]

Date: 2020-10-30

(Cross posted to

I’m requesting feedback for the following draft. It’s not done, so I’ve left some of my own comments as quotes below – just the most important stuff which came to mind.

My biggest concern is that someone might read this and feel bad about choices they’ve made which are actually okay. If you have ideas about how to avoid this or whether it will happen I’d like to hear them. This is written because it’s how I see myself, not because it’s how I think everyone else should see themselves and eachother.

Some of the language is a bit fancy. I’ll do more editing in future drafts to simplify it, but suggestions/crits are welcome.

The draft is as follows:

Why I Live

Existing matters. Particularly: our existing matters. Existing–as a human–is special, unique, and full of potential. We are–or at least, can be–cosmicly significant.

My choices–today and in the coming decades–must have some impact on humanity’s future. My choices today, more than any other moment, have the greatest leverage in influencing the manner and magnitude of that impact. Tomorrow, tomorrow’s choices will have the most leverage. If there are important choices to be made, perhaps I should pursue an understanding of them with some urgency.

Can my choices be so significant that they make an appreciable difference in the volume, quality, and proximity of important milestones in the future of humanity? That is, they contribute to a future with more people leading lives of higher quality (both std of living and std of ideas) and achieving important philosophical and technological progress sooner.

If one’s choices could matter that much, how could one possibly know that? Humanity and the route we take into the future are, together, like a giant snooker table loaded with hyperactive billiard balls and a thousand collisions for each single choice any person ever makes. Unpredictable, chaotic, immesurably complex. Everyone will have some choices they make that will impact our collective future in a significant way. However, most people will never know which choices were the special ones. Most people’s choices–the ones that end up mattering–will be special by luck. Their other choices–the ones they hoped would matter–will end up swallowed and forgotten by the passage of time.

I need to remember to answer the questions I set up here. Currently I don’t actually answer them, though I intend to. The snooker table analogy is energetic (which I wanted) but doesn’t flow super well and is maybe over the top or dominating the paragraph w/ it’s length. I’m not sure if I should avoid answering ‘yes’ to the ‘can my choices …’ question. I think it might work better to answer (and explain) it later.


Imagine yourself at the divergence of your futures.

To the left is a future of hit and miss choices, erratic legacy, and the fog of cosmic uncertainty. However, you can have a straight forward life. Your choices need not carry the epistemic burdens of depth, nor urgency, nor consequence.

To the right is the alternative.

Not everyone can take the right path. But some people can. Some people have. Maybe I can. And maybe you can, too.

Before you think about which path to attempt, what would it mean to choose poorly?

What if you chose the right path but you fell short? What difference would that make compared to choosing left? At worst, realistically, there would be no difference; or at least no difference worth considering here.

What if you chose the left path, but you could have chosen the alternative … and succeeded? Would your decendents look back and think “they should have known better?” Would there even be decendents to look back? What good purpose could there be in avoiding greatness? What hope does a future of greatness-aversion have?

Can choosing mediocrity be evil? Certainly not always. Maybe sometimes.

The reality is that you are presented, not with two paths, but infinitely many paths every moment of every day. You are not constrained to a dichotomy of greateness or mediocrity. You are the beginning of a new infinity – if you choose to be.

What About Failure?

I used to be worried about failing. “Could it be that I will spend my life in vain pursuit of greatness and progress?” If the past half decade had been different, that might have become true. I know better, now.

Contribution to the future–to progress–is not zero sum. No thinker can contribute to progress if they are cut off from civilization. The credit for the impact of a great thinker’s choices must be shared. As a light-cone constrains the the causes and effects of an event, an epistemic idea-cone constrains the prerequisites and consequences of a great thinker and thier ideas. All those people inside the idea-cone share the credit. Without shoulders to stand on, an otherwise great man is blind. Without feet to stand on his shoulders, an otherwise great man is dumb.

The acts of pursuing, supporting, and nurturing greatness are noble and honourable deeds.

I think I will expand on this last paragraph/line. It’s okay to do 1 or 2 or 3 of those things. Arguably it’s hard to avoid doing all of them if you spend time improving your thinking and know about FI / CF. This seciton feels like it might be a bit out of place. I like the middle paragraph. I wrote the middle paragraph first during brainstorming and then decided it needed a section. So I picked the title and wrote the first paragraph around paragraph 2. I like the last line, but I think it needs elaboration.


What is my choice? Do I choose a future where my choices matter? Yes or no?

I do. And I will continue to.

I refuse to retreat.

I originally had paragraph 1 in the 2nd person, which might not go so well with the vibe. Originally:

What is your choice? Do you choose a future where your choices matter? Yes or no? I’m on the fence about stuff like “I refuse to retreat”. On the one hand I think it has some of the weight I want, but it feels maybe a bit too close to like a war/violence theme. That can be inspiring for ppl sometimes (“never give up, never surrender” sorta thing), but maybe there’s a better thing to say.

some leftover notes

  • end game for universe / civilization / intelligence?
    • dunno, but ~100 years humanity debated whether other galaxies exist
    • today, there are multiple conjectures–with disparate mechanics–accounting for the origin and nature of the universe (or at least some part of these things).
    • what ideas will we have in another 100 yrs? 1k yrs? 10k yrs?
      • yeah, I’m not going to worry about the endgame. There’s lots of time to figure that out. There isn’t much time for some other things, though.
  • i want to put together a philosophy intro pack for new software teams.
    • I’m worried that most ppl would react badly to it if I just got a bunch of curi’s essays together.
    • but I think there’s significant and important stuff to learn.

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