good now good later wellbeing suffering paradox (1300 words)

All things being equal, human beings are ridiculously ANTI-wireheading.

“I can’t feel ok, now. My life is shit, or falling apart, and/or my life has no meaning or purpose.”

We balk at seeming tradeoffs between something like “feeling good, now” and “good later.” The latter is something like the OPPOSITE of, “a tiger is behind that tree; and/or I’m going to get fired from my job and end up homeless; and/or the physical laws and the universal constants of this universe mean that human activity is a zero-sum game, and I’ll never be safe unless I destroy myself trying to be safe and not even then.”

So, we’ll sacrifice “feeling good, now” for “good later,” if we feel like we have to, to the point of sort coming to seemingly believe that “feeling good, now” is useless, pointless, or a dangerous distraction.

But there’s the weird thing where our physical body and mind, right here and now, is what enables the pursuit of the “good later.” Bodily homeostasis is sort of the attractor from which straying too far is disastrous.

Some people intuitively or intellectually recognize the importance of homeostasis or bodily health, while also feeling that tension of “feeling good, now” versus “good later.” And, they push homeostasis as far as they can, sacrificing sleep, using stimulants, eating problematic convenience foods, or even explicitly banking on future advances in healthcare to repair damage done now.

Some people aren’t thinking about health or homeostasis at all, and they come at it from “the other side” (granting that interoceptive wellbeing informs on the status of homeostasis). They’ve generalized to the point that “feeling good is bad,” and they strategically avoid feeling good as such: “I’m going to AVOID feeling good, because feeling good, in spirit or actuality, is the same as twenty hours straight of videogames and total loss of momentum and no progress on this work project.”

Some people go so far as to confusedly think that “good later” is the only “actual good,” some distant, improper reification which demands great sacrifices.

***

I want to invent a new word, “teleohomeostasis.” We don’t really need a new word, because people know that homeostasis can involve future-oriented and goal-oriented cognition and behavior. (And “telos” can be naturalized in various ways in a mechanistic universe.) See Derek Denton, Terrence Deacon, Karl Friston, Robert Rosen, Anatol Feldman, Alicia Juarrero, etc.

But, I want a new word because “diachronic is synchronic” (as the above authors say or allude to in various ways):

Any system’s “representation” of the future is somehow encoded or latent in its present structure.

Depending on how that “representation” interacts with “felt wellbeing,” there ideally shouldn’t be a felt paradox between “good now” and “good later;” there shouldn’t be a paradoxical dissonance or a paradoxical suffering.

Maybe this paradoxical suffering is just our evolved, hardwired human nature, until we start messing with it, with nth-generation CRISPR and Neuralink.

But there are these weird hints that maybe it’s not hardwired at all. We “doth protest too much,” maybe, in that ANTI-wireheading of, “I don’t want JUST/MERELY FEEL GOOD (unless maybe I’m transiently utterly dysregulated and desperate and despairing); I want things to ACTUALLY BE GOOD.”

And when things tick towards being ACTUALLY GOOD, our FEELING GOOD is often only a few hundred milliseconds behind. (Sometimes it’s a slow dawning.) And note again that interoceptive feeling/wellbeing is intimately tied to (teleo)homeostasis. Hmm.

(Note that that “tick towards actually being good” can be because you realized a problem wasn’t actually a problem, and so was DISSOLVED (from inference on prior data or new incoming information) or you figured out a clean solution (or were handed one), and so was SOLVED (from chewing on available solution pieces/capacities, or friend/family/ally/deus ex machina). Both SOLVE and DISSOLVE will work, importantly.)

So, anyway, there’s both this seeming paradox between feeling good and having things be good. And, also, there are these strange links between things being actually good (or getting better) and feeling good.

I’m going to state some principles, now, mostly without justification, which resolve this paradox. I’m partly not giving justification because I’m still working out some palatable/credible/true/”true” reasoning. And I’m partly not giving justification because these principles are self-discovered in meditation. Stay tuned for perhaps more details in future blog posts.

  • (1) Suffering is not a hardwired, fundamental motivator. It’s actually a stopgap, emergent motivator. There’s no (intrinsic) suffering “at the bottom.”
  • (2) Peak wellbeing is not only compatible with peak performance, peak vigilance, and peak contingency planning, but peak wellbeing is coreferential(?), coextensive(?), perfectly-co-something with peak performance, peak vigilance, and peak contingency planning.
    • wellbeing/well-being ~= the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. (google)
  • (3) The Human Handledness is Already Success Principle (Human HAS Princple or just “HAS” Principle):
    • (handled ~= stably controlled, managed, dealt with)
    • In terms of felt wellbeing, the bodymind doesn’t differentiate between:
      • (a) “already/currently have stably got it”
      • (b) “going to definitely stably get it”
      • (c) “utterly self-believed utterly already perfectly DOING MY BEST to get it, given truly all that is known, that accounts for literally the whole universe, everything, up to true-event-horizon-bleeding-edge-of-disclosure of previously-genuine-unknown-unknowns”
    • Put another way, if the bodymind believes it’s acting on the best plan to get something (everything), where “best” includes fully error-checked and fully meta-error-checked, this already feels like total success (with no wire-heading-flavored guilt/dissonance).
    • One elaboration is that the hardest most bleak situations can potentially feel like a (seemingly paradoxical, if one hasn’t experienced it) “real-stakes-vacation-adventure.”

Something like the HAS principle can maybe be used to explain some things (though plenty of objections could be raised, and additional pieces would be needed to make it airtight):

(a) People put themselves in danger, like free-climbing, to incline towards artificially actualizing the HAS principle. (One would need to be much more precise and elaborated about my anti-wire-heading statements above, to nail something, in here, with respect to  potentially outside-view-pathological environmental simplifications and stakes-raising.) And/or, “best plan” can be clarified to explicitly include self-ignorance and mental contingencies under personal “unknown unknowns.”)

(b) Valued stories maybe exemplify the actualized HAS principle. A protagonist-environment fit that, nearing the climax, narrows down to an utterly clear best plan and glory, whether success or failure (though success is preferred).

***

So self-discovering and self-aligning with the principles above, and I’ve said things like this a bunch of times, is like a circa 10,000-hour Tower-of-Hanoi, constrained-evolving-state-space problem, involving arranging and rearranging millions of Tetris tetraminoes and LEGO bricks the size of quarks, or whatever.

(I’m not done with all this, and “done” probably fluctuates because one keeps acquiring new capacities (which raise the bar for what the “best plan” is), identifying new challenges/unhandledness via those new capacities (which also raises the bar), and also previously-truly-unknown-unknowns [relative to one’s local knowledge and all meta-meta-proactiveness] keep disclosing from the other side of the “event horizon.” But, take this blog post for what it’s worth!)

So like the only shitty things, as I’ve said before, are that meditation is a privilege and luxury that requires some minimum amount of resources (some combination of time, money, food, shelter, relationships). And, the journey can be pretty terrible and seem like it’s taken everything from you, to the point of hopelessness, despair, and confusedly impulsive and risky/destrucive behavior. And there are physical health risks, too. And things feel sometimes/often hard and sad in the meantime; life is hard and sometimes/often sad. And, it’s worth acknowledging, as always, as an aside, that not everyone wants to or “should want” to meditate–life is pretty good for a lot of people, and/or they’re doing the right thing for them that might not look like meditation.

Anyway, we humans have a low-dimensional projection/representation of literally the entire universe, the entire Kosmos, inside of us. And meditators go over that with a fine-toothed comb, anyway. So let’s make meditation more accessible as part of that error-checked and meta-error-checked WORLD-WIDE-HUMAN-COLLECTIVE best plan, not to mention world peace; post-scarcity technological and health/longevity miracles; humane, millenia-long moon-shots, light-cone shots; and like VR Netflix or something.

3 thoughts on “good now good later wellbeing suffering paradox (1300 words)

  1. Maybe we are so anti-wireheading because of how nearby it is in configuration space. Like, Buddhists don’t have many kids, you know?

    • Interesting question, hmm. By configuration space, do you mean nature or nature+nurture (i.e. drugs+netflix+”capitalism”?). Also, it’s weird how fragile sexual reproduction turned out to be, or is it? I haven’t thought about it, yet. Maybe it’s not *stably* fragile in some very interesting way. But it seems to be unstably fragile, at least, maybe.

  2. Pingback: Fractal Home - Malcolm Ocean

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