Extro-Therapy (was Re: Nostaliga? (based on Back off! I'm gay!))

From: Alex Future Bokov (alexboko@umich.edu)
Date: Sat Oct 07 2000 - 22:46:39 MDT


On Mon, 2 Oct 2000, Geoff Smith wrote:

> I think I'll go even farther and say this might be a useful form of
> therapy for people plagued by a nightmarish past. "Extro-therapy" ...
> for people with a strong sense of purpose combined with a troubled past,
> I think a transhumanistic epiphany might be just what the doctor
> ordered.

That reminds me...

Anecdotal Case of Unconscious Extro-Therapy

The individual to whom I'll refer might not be out of the danger zone
yet, and I can't talk about too many details. Let's just say he's been
very, very seriously depressed and I don't think any of his housemates,
myself included, ever suspected it. They still don't know, but he told
me some scary stuff he was contemplating. He could have gone on to
become one of those newspaper stories where acquaintances get quoted as
saying "I don't know what happened. He seemed like such a well adjusted

Normally I'm against haphazard proselytizing. Recruiting people who
arlready are Extropians and just don't know it yet is one thing. Trying
to turn mundanes into Extropians is best left to professionals. More
power to you if you know how to do it, I choose not to mess with it. On
the other hand, here was a guy sitting accross from me telling me he saw
no purpose in life and no point in remaining alive. What else am I
supposed to do besides tell him what the purpose and meaning is, as I
see it?

So first, I asked him about what his happiest memories were. What he'd do
with his time if he didn't have to do anything at all. So we established
a baseline for how he'd like things to be. It's hard to maintain a
nihilist death spiral when there are specific events that made you happy
and specific situations where you can see yourself being happy again.
Now instead of being hopeless and insurmountable, the things that are
bothering you are reduced to mere obstacles standing between yourself
and the happy things you've just articulated.

I briefly went over Existentialsm Plus, the Millenial Edition [1].

Then, I reminded him just how quickly the world has changed even during
his own (young, oh so young) life. He acknowledged that yeah, it was
pretty unbelievable. I pointed out that the pace of change keeps
accelerating. He agreed that that made sense. So I start slowly
working in biotech, nanotech, and AI. Kind of makes one curious to find
out what happens next, doesn't it? Especially if one has a chance to
live long enough to see it happen. Would kind of suck to die and then
have godhood acchieved through technological means a few exponentially
advancing years later, wouldn't it? Which brought the conversation
back to the meaning and purpose thing. Existentialism Plus is all fine
and good, but (many) people still yearn for 'something higher'. That's
what all this meaning and purpose stuff might be rationalizing... that
we want mystery in our life, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Something to keep the taxes and homework and parking tickets and
hangovers and breakups and rejections and colds in perspective.

This man's own mystery happened to have burned out, so I tried to give
him a jump-start off mine which must be pretty resilient, considering
what it's allowed me to soldier on through.

Obviously, biochemical imbalances can't be stably fixed by reasoning
alone. I got him to promise me to see a shrink and start taking his
medication again. But the slow ramping up from the crappy and pointless
reality of right now (for him anyway) to the bright shining, fanciful
yet oddly persuasive future... maybe that helped momentarily get him
out of the dumps and bring him up to the energy level where he could
motivate himself to take the next step and seek professional help.
Philosophical first aid.

So will he be joining the Extropy list anytime soon? I doubt it (I HOPE
not, because otherwise I'll have a lot of explaining to do). However,
our memes touched his life and (again, I hope) made it better. I mean,
at least he's still around and has actually started socializing with
the rest of the house again.

[1] Existentialism Plus

Here's the standard existentialism portion, that for some reason
everyone who uses the word 'existentilism' seens unable to articulate
in a concise manner.

1. The universe has no inherent meaning or purpose or even truth. All
   is relative.
2. However, it's self evident that you need meaning, purpose, and truth.
   In this relative universe you still need a stable point of reference.
3. You are free to make up your own meaning, purpose, and truth. Put
   your pencil anywhere on the grid you like, and make that your point
   of reference. Who cares if you're pulling it out of your arse? The
   buck has to stop somewhere.

Here's the Plus portion, public domain courtesy of yours truly.

4. Actually, its unlikely that whatever meaning, purpose, and truth you
   come up with will be completely random. Billions of years of
   evolution have hard-wired certain values into your neural circuitry.
   Values that you have in common with every other living organism,
   regardless of sentience level. Certainly your own species. These
   values can't help but influence the 'arbitrary' axioms you impose
   onto the universe. The more these axioms are in concordance with
   the values evolution has put into you, the less cognitive dissonance
   you'll suffer, and the more easily your newly concieved axioms will
   influence other people.
5. You can even make the process of deriving your own personal axioms
   faster and more efficient by studying your underlying, deep-seated
   drives and making sure that your 'arbitrary' axioms are consistant
   with them to begin with. As I said, this will also make your belief
   system more stable.

"Get out the map, get out the map, lay your finger anywhere down.
 We'll leave the figuring to those we pass on our way out of town.
 Don't drink the water there seems to be something ailing everyone.
 I'm gonna clear my head, I'm gonna drink that sun.
 I'm gonna love you good and strong while our love is good and young."

                                --Indigo Girls

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