"Childlike ... or maybe religious. I've been part of this subculture where people spend a lot of time speculating about future machine superintelligences, and give credence to the idea that we're already living in a simulation. During my recent psychotic episode ... I don't want to go into the details of what I was thinking, but it was as if those ideas started hitting the God-shaped hole in my psychology really hard, a hole that I had previously managed to leave blissfully empty."

"'God-shaped hole'?"

"You know, like ... these ideas were tapping into the same flaws in primate psychology that make people fear God even though there's no evidence for one, and so I shouldn't blame the ideas for what happened to me, because someone from a different subculture but otherwise similar to me would have had a similar episode, except instead of science-fictional- and futurist-themed delusions, they'd be afraid of demons, or the CIA, or whatever."

"I know you said you don't want to talk about it, but could you give me an example of one of your delusions?"

"Like ... at some point I decided that there must be a conservation law constraining the net power of any optimization process to be zero, and that therefore everything good in life had to be paid for by something correspondingly bad, and that therefore I should be afraid to sleep because I would have horrible torture nightmares."


"Yeah, I know. My friend Anna was able to talk me out of it by pointing out that most possible conservation laws are false. Like, conservation of blue: do blue things necessarily come from other blue things? Well, no: there are chemistry experiments where they combine two transparent liquids to make a liquid of a different color. But I'm worried."

"Worried how?"

"Worried about losing my mind for real. My mother's brother got a postmortem diagnosis of schizophrenia after suiciding. I'm pretty good at metacognition, mostly able to notice when my thoughts are failing checksums, sometimes able to correct for it with explicit Bayesian reasoning, of all things ... but for how long will that continue to be true?"

The Sliding False Dichotomy of Idealism and Cynicism

The Television Tropes & Idioms wiki has a page on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism. Of course I understand why such a page exists, but part of me can't help but protest that it's not really a sliding scale. One of the most charming things about my native subculture is that we have heaps of both: cynicism in the style of "Humans are selfish, weak-willed hypocrites; the reasons people say they do things aren't always or even usually the real reasons, and even introspection itself is untrustworthy," and idealism in the style of "But knowing what we do now, we shall use the power of Reason to remake the world in accordance with our Values!"