Lyrics to the Song About Matt Reeves

Dead kid gets a bench
Dead kid gets a memorial bench
So now we all know his name
Though we don't know who he is

Class of nineteen ninety two
Though he died in 'ninety one
Was he a better friend than you?
And what'd he do for fun?
What were his opinions on the issues of the day?
And what exactly took his breath away?

Now he's still and in the grave
And since the dead seem all the same
No one really cares to wonder what he was
Forgotten as we're staring at his name

Dead kid gets a bench
Dead kid gets a memorial bench
So now we all know his name
Though we don't care who he is

Dead kid gets a bench
And the inscription just screams "Rust this"
No inscription can do justice
Though we don't know who he is
And we don't care who he is


"Rational agents should never be made worse off by more information—well, almost never. So if I can no longer contemplate the big picture without life seeming like a bad thing—the fewer needs you have, the fewer ways in which you can be hurt; if you don't exist, you can't be hurt—then maybe I could just—not contemplate it? If my will to live is something that can be destroyed by the truth, then maybe P. C. Hodgell was wrong? This needn't entail self-delusion: distraction is quite sufficient. There are plenty of things to do that won't remind me of the vastness of suffering in the multiverse.

"Daily life, exercise, practical programming skills, finding a job—pure math and compsci if I need something intellectual. But no philosophy, history, current events, futurism, social science, biology, or game theory. Not much fiction, because stories are about people's pain. I just don't want to know anymore."


"Utilitarianism is slowly driving me mad."


"Okay, the part of me that talks wants to self-report that utilitarianism is slowly driving me mad, but what's actually happening is probably better described at a lower level of organization.

"I don't know how to simultaneously love life and actually believe in evolution. People mostly like being alive, and there are all sorts of wonderful things like friendship and love and pleasure and beauty—but those things only exist at the expense of enough pain and suffering and death to carve love into the genome from scratch. I don't—I'm not sure it was worth it.

"But my thoughts are better constrained by decision-theoretic relevance: since I can't make decisions about the past, asking whether it was worth it is a type error, a confusion. My life is going fine right now: I'm young and healthy and smart and rich. The local future looks great. And the deep future—doesn't need us. I am content."


"Empathy hurts.

"I'm grateful for being fantastically, unimaginably rich by world-historical standards—and I'm terrified of it being taken away. I feel bad for all the creatures in the past—and future?—who are stuck in a miserable Malthusian equilibrium.

"I simultaneously want to extend my circle of concern out to all sentient life, while personally feeling fear and revulsion towards anything slightly different from what I'm used to.

"Anna keeps telling me I have a skewed perspective on what constitutes a life worth living. I'm inclined to think that animals and poor people have a wretched not-worth-living existence, but perhaps they don't feel so sorry for themselves?—for the same reason that hypothetical transhumans might think my life has been wretched and not worth living, even while I think it's been pretty good on balance.

"But I'm haunted. After my recent ordeal in the psych ward, the part of me that talks described it as 'hellish.' But I was physically safe the entire time. If something so gentle as losing one night of sleep and being taken away from my usual environment was enough to get me to use the h-word, then what about all the actual suffering in the world? What hope is there for transhumanism, if the slightest perturbation sends us spiraling off into madness?

"The other week I was reading Julian Simon's book on overcoming depression; he wrote that depression arises from negative self-comparisons: comparing your current state to some hypothetical more positive state. But personal identity can't actually exist; time can't actually exist the way we think it does. If pain and suffering are bad when they're implemented in my skull, then they have to be bad when implemented elsewhere.

"Anna said that evolutionarily speaking, bad experiences are more intense than good ones because you can lose all your fitness in a short time period. But if 'the brain can't multiply' is a bias—if two bad things are twice as bad as one, no matter where they are in space and time, even if no one is capable of thinking that way—then so is 'the brain can't integrate': long periods of feeling pretty okay count for something, too.

"I'm not a negative utilitarian; I'm a preference utilitarian. I'm not a preference utilitarian; I'm a talking monkey with delusions of grandeur."


"So, an engineer and a mathematician are leaving a lecture. The engineer says, 'I just don't understand how you can visualize objects in seven-dimensional space.' The mathematician says, 'Oh, that's easy. You just visualize the n-dimensional case, and then set n equal to seven.'"

"I've never liked that joke. The punchline is intended to be absurd, but it's not: that's actually how you do it."


"Okay, fine. You visualize the three-dimensional case, and then set three equal to seven."