postures (twitter)

[I have been meaning to list all this out; somehow it happened first/more easily on twitter.]

many enlightenments? a nonrigorous position

[This is a heavily edited transcript. It’s not as organized or nuanced as it could be. It’s more like a position than an argument, for sure.]

[by enlightenment I mean a state or property of a mind versus an social/cultural/intensional [sic] construction. I think there are many of the latter, of course.]

Lots of people think that there are a bunch of different enlightenments. I actually strongly disagree with this. I think there are intermediate things that can be cultivated, and certainly different people will have a preference at least mediately for different things that they want based on what they think is out there, what they think they can get, and what they think is good/useful.

But, I tend to think that the mind is only trying to do one thing. I don’t know exactly what that is, but it’s probably something like predicting what’s going to happen next as elegantly and correctly as possible. Something in that space.

I think it used to be popular to model the brain as a heinous kludge, but I think that neuroscience is going to go in the direction of there being one fundamental operating principle for how the mind works. After all, in some sense animals or say especially humans have a fragmented telos, but in another sense the telos of a humans (and animals) is quite unified.

And that unity increases with training, etc. Importantly, people have different goals. But people’s goals can change, and there’s a question of how deeply those goals can change. And arguably, meditation or enlightenment are tools for changing desires/preferences/goals in a very deep way. So, what are the fundamental principles, neuroscientifically or phenomenologically, that underly the transformation of telos?

One way to look at this is using the concepts of goodness and “betterness.”

I think that, nonmonotonically, people can tack towards goodness or betterness in sort of a global way. Like, with dips and valleys and mistakes and backtracking, just aim for things being better and better.

Like someone might want to experience things as empty or someone might want to have less life problems, or realize that there’s no goal or one goal or lots of other things…

But, imagining people who’ve been doing the thing for forty years… I think that there’s a way in which people who don’t asymptote or who don’t paint themselves into a corner, or don’t get stuck, I strongly suspect that in the limit they will agree more and more about what the right thing to do is and what it looks like when it’s more and more “done”.

Like, the metaphor, there’s many paths up the mountain, but only one peak.

So, for the people who say there’s multiple enlightenments or multiple axes of development, I would imagine that, yes, that’s the case when one is say 5/7’s up the mountain. But 6/7’s, 7/7’s…

There will still be contingency in life situation, personal experience, and use of mind.

But, I think there’s this globally significant invariant or isomorphism at some level of abstraction, that does have a concrete referent, that is converged on at the highest levels of skill and attainment.

[Update: A part of this thread:


Perfect Enlightenment (is perfect rationality)

  • metaphysics: “the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space”
  • epistemology: “the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion”
  • cosmology: “study of the origin, evolution, and eventual fate of the universe”
  • phenomenology: “study of the structures of experience and consciousness”
  • ontology: “the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being”
  • eschatology: “[…] final destiny of the soul and of humankind”
  • etiology: “study of causation, or origination”
  • agathology: “science or theory of the good”

Perfect enlightenment is perfect embodied rationality acting on unconditional human values.

Perfect enlightenment is perfect global appropriate provisionality of belief/knowing and perfect up-to-date evenhandedness with old and new/incoming (sensational) evidence. Is there even a world or anything? Is love real or whatever? Sure seems like it but maybe.

So your metaphysics, epistemology, cosmology, phenomenology, ontology, eschatology, etiology, and agathology* will thoroughly rejigger and/but when you’re done you better be able to walk around without bumping into things and have caring, hilarious conversations (or whatever). If you fuck it up you’ll be broken, or a charismatic sociopath, or a risk-taking, desperate megalomaniac. If you get it right you’ll maybe seem really low-key normal and equanimous (or flashy-for-a-reason) and/but, even while making understandable harmful mistake after understandable harmful mistake, given starting position and contingent ignorance, you’ll keep getting on average “lucky” over and over again, cumulatively and compoundingly, in everything you apparently low-key decide to do. Your expected value for everything you do will be relatively positive with some all-things-being-equal relatively lower variance conditioned on starting point and state of world. You might get hit by a bus or meteor, and knowledge and wealth and capital and intimate and/or trusting relationships accumulate slowly in this bureaucratized, atomized, and deceptively high-competition world, but, you are (effortlessly) acting from first-principles-in-your-bones and conditioned by past and convention but not bound by it, etc.

And perhaps our world can run on human care, human trust, and human actualization versus machines made out of humans or metal or both.

technical debt, meditation, and minds

Technical debt (also known as design debt or code debt) is a concept in software development that reflects the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer.

Technical debt can be compared to monetary debt.[3] If technical debt is not repaid, it can accumulate ‘interest’, making it harder to implement changes later on. Unaddressed technical debt increases software entropy. Technical debt is not necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes (e.g., as a proof-of-concept) technical debt is required to move projects forward. On the other hand, some experts claim that the “technical debt” metaphor tends to minimize the impact, which results in insufficient prioritization of the necessary work to correct it.

People have really been liking this metaphor, so I thought it would be good to explicitly call it out in a post. It’s not even really a metaphor; it’s just what’s happening.

When a mind is really surprised, or things are happening too fast, or something is just too hard, or a mind enacts ingrained bad habits, in all these cases a mind takes on technical debt in order to keep dealing with the world in real time. The more technical debt a mind has, the harder it is for that mind to solve problems moving forward, so technical debt begets more technical debt.

Technical debt is hard to pay off. Sleep hacks away it and normal problem solving hacks away at it too. For the most part, though, most people are steadily accumulating technical debt their entire lives. That’s why you can’t teach an old dog new tricks or whatever, and I’m suspicious that e.g. the first-language learning window is anything special at all. I think that window closes because of normal processes that are always at work. (And second and nth languages get literally laid down in different places in the mind/brain.) That’s more elegant than supposing there’s like a special language learning window.

One way to look at meditation is that correct meditation pays off technical debt faster than it accumulates until it’s all paid off. As far as I can tell, this is very related to why some traditions call the enlightened mind the natural state. All those invariant structures get shipped around or homomorphically transformed until everything is in the right place–all the gradients and attractive basins that are pushing or pulling all the time, all the things that a mind would want to do if it could only figure out how, that all gets to happen. As far as I can tell, minds are really only trying to do one thing all the time, somethingsomething elegance collapse in terms of a predictive world model or something.

Most meditative practices or at least most practitioners’ interpretation of meditative practices actually increase technical debt!

Most meditative practices or at least most practitioners’ interpretation of meditative practices actually increase technical debt!

Most meditative practices or at least most practitioners’ interpretation of meditative practices actually increase technical debt!

One can get all sorts of positive effects, for months or even years, but eventually things grind to a halt, the practitioner tangles themselves into a corner or piles just too much stuff onto too much stuff.

In particular there’s a right way and a wrong way to use the maps or descriptions of valued states.

If you’re like trying to directly see things as empty or you’re “trying on” spiritual perspectives or construals, or trying to get particular isolated things to stick, whether you succeed or not, you’re probably taking on technical debt.

You can actually get some number of really real attainments, not fake versions, at the expense of increasing technical debt. But if you want all the attainments, or you want to make it all the way, you have to do it in a direction of decreasing technical debt.

Are you increasing technical debt or paying it off in your practice? How can you tell?


Talk About Meditation: Online Video Chat Poll Active to choose times over the next four days

In the left sidebar, click the link to propose video chat times over the next few days. It’s fast and anonymous if you use a fake or just your first name. This is an experiment to try accommodating all time zones, since there are blog readers in a bazillion different countries. Or, click here: