Having a life

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (sentience@pobox.com)
Sun, 27 Jun 1999 02:00:34 -0500

Doug Jones wrote:
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> >
> > Doug Jones wrote:
> > >
> > > Jeezus, Eli! You need to get laid!
> > >
> > > No offense, man, but sometimes it really does seem that youth is
> > > wasted on the young.
> >
> > Just makes you want to strangle me, doesn't it?
> I'm not annoyed at you, I feel sorry for you, son. I know you're
> trying to advance the singularity, but hell, that's not a good
> enough reason to postpone having a life.

If that's not a good enough reason, then hell, what is? If things work out, I'll have *forever* to catch up on my life. I'm not sure that I'd want to have what you call a life, even then... but the option is certainly there. I plan to live forever. I can spare a few decades.

I don't know whether you watch "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", in particular the last episodes of Season Three... but I really liked those last episodes. For once Buffy was behaving realistically, like someone who'd had to kill or be killed and who'd seen friends die, not a teenager. I loved the "Graduation" arc. Why? Because I am the reality of which Buffy is an image. Like Buffy, there's something I can do better than anyone else in the world, and that means I can't have a life. Unlike Buffy, I know better than to try. Besides, I'm playing for higher stakes.

I don't have a life. I have a job.

And I am neither ashamed, nor proud, of that. It's what I am, and I try never to be ashamed or proud of that. Likewise for my attempts at idealism and altruism. Shame and pride are comparative emotions. My responsibility begins and ends with the reality.

But I will take out a few seconds to decry this cultural imperative that says you need to have a life. I *need* what I *decide* I need. If I decide that my life doesn't need any fun in it, not even the smallest second, then I don't see why anyone has the right to tell me otherwise, any more than they have the right to tell me to live for their church or their cult. As it happens, I'm neither strong enough, nor stupid enough, to live my life without fun. But that's my own business.

It's not wisdom that says "Take the time off to smell the flowers, live your life for what it's worth, don't try to do anything important." It's a cultural myth. Even getting written into science-fiction books doesn't make it any less a myth; and I certainly don't believe those writers were any wiser than I am. The same goes for the myth that "one person can't change the world", an assertion backed by neither history nor morality.

If Vinge tries to tell me to live like Magnate Larson, I'll tell him to take a hike. Nor is this, like the Slow Zone in _Deepness_, a world of limits and Failed Dreams. I do have the power to change the world. So I will live as ascetically as I please, not to shame others, not to make a big "Trust me, I'm an altruist" deal out of it, but because I think it is the correct choice. And if this ephemeron of a twentieth-century North-American culture wants to insist that I'm doing it out of either hypocrisy or youthful folly, they can take a hike to hell.

I don't demand that others live as I do. The wise choice for a Specialist isn't necessarily the wise choice for anyone else, even a different kind of Specialist. But if people start going all "oh-I'm-wiser" on me and spouting back the wisdom of the sages as seen on TV, then yes, I'm going to be annoyed. I am tired of a society that teaches us to believe that we'll fail at changing the world, that we'll fail at self-sacrifice, and that we'll shatter ourselves if we try to do our best.

> Intelligence does not preclude having a good time....

That's *right*! And conversely, it's possible to have a wonderful time using nothing but the RAW POWER of your mind. You need to come up with a brilliant solution to something.

Not that I really care, since the point of life isn't to have a wonderful time. But perhaps that will knock you loose of a few assumptions.

> Specialization is for insects!

Gee, thanks. But I suppose you didn't mean that personally.

           sentience@pobox.com          Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Running on BeOS           Typing in Dvorak          Programming with Patterns
Voting for Libertarians   Heading for Singularity   There Is A Better Way