This site is many variations on the same theme. But what is that theme? Stated simply: it’s unpacking the implications of the fact that human beings are computers.
This blog is like distributed systems mating with game theory, while traditional religion and pop culture pleasure each other behind the curtains. It’s written in an irreverent, goofy style, both because that makes it more fun for me to write, and because I want to say serious things about serious topics. I find authors who are goofy and playful to be more trustworthy than authors who are DEAD SERIOUS about DEAD SERIOUS topics.
If you write about religion and don’t make fart jokes, I think you’re selling me on yours. Like most people, I am not interested in being sold on a religion. I may try and sell you mine from time to time, of course, but hopefully it comes across to long-term readers with the underlying notion that I know i’m crazy and it’s more like I am trying to share with you the secret of enjoying the psychiatric hospital that is life as a human being.
You need to realize that when you walk about the doors of a mental hospital, it’s not that you’re healed (because basically nobody is, except for those we think of spiritual geniuses) – they let you out when you act normal, which is to say you can hold down a job, avoid talking about wanting to die, and keep your bizarre opinions to the confines of the internet. Except if those bizarre beliefs are considered normal, in which case, fire away!
If I’m going to write about religions and governments, economics and ego loss, I can’t do so without bringing up the transmission of dank memes. This blog aspires to simulate what would happen if Alan Watts and Jon Von Neumann did acid together, and then decided to call Chuck Klosterman in on the action. The party really gets going when they invite Alex Jones and dose him so hard on MDMA that everyone agrees they’ve never heard true love articulated so well, and that maybe all his anger and paranoia is just a bunch of fear projected from a scared, sensitive little boy who inhabits the body of a grown man.
My goal is to make you feel like a slice of butter, meltin’ on top of a big ol pile of floppy disks.
I use a computational lens to explore minds, which is to say, embodied computational models of reality. I write about patterns of cause and effect that I have noticed, I make predictions (which of course I score and report on afterwards, because I’m a blogger, not a journalist), and I try to give advice that has been useful at keeping me somewhere in the vicinity of ‘the box’ that most of us are told to think outside of.
If you can’t tell by now, you are reading the blog of a madman. At this point, hopefully you are thinking something like, “Why should I trust this idiot?” And I’m guessing “because I read your mind just now” is not sufficient 😉
About the author
My name is Mark Neyer. I humbly submit for your consideration that I wander the fractal boundary between genius and insanity. I normally try to stay on the ‘healthy’ side of it.
Of course, it takes either a profound lack of self awareness, or a significant quantity of it, to call yourself a genius. So first, let me tell you why you should consider me crazy:
Why I’m Crazy
I was hospitalized 5 times in the period 2012 to 2013. I seriously thought the world was going to end in December 2012. At that time, I was intensely addicted to cannabis, and heavily in debt, and skeptical of the notion that reality existed. After all, how could we prove reality is real? Doesn’t that require faith? I seriously did try walking through walls, and thought if i could just get high enough, I could solve the weird escher-like puzzle played out in my mind and the solution would lead me to enlightenment.
Eventually i got my answer: belief in reality constrains your anticipation about what will happen if you believe reality is real. If you the ‘reality’ theory is true (i.e. there is a consistent world outside your mind), and you believe in reality and seek to make your mind reflect it, you should eventually have a map of the outside world, which converges and stabilizes. So belief in reality is instrumental in constraining your anticipation about the relationship between your expectations and experiences. Eventually, after thinking this way for a while, I stumbled into the lesswrong/rationalist/ssc community. I see myself as part of that community primarily because of that shared interest in making the map match the territory. There are some differences, of course, but they aren’t too important.
Why You Should Take me Seriously
So yes, you should see that I have a crazy side. I’ve been diagnosed as ‘having’ bipolar disorder, but the way i see it, it’s just a part of who I am, not something I ‘have’. I diagnosed myself as being autistic, because of course an autistic autodidact would feel confident to do such a thing.
If you’re still reading, I’m guessing you suspect there’s more to the story than this. Having gone through the necessary steps of showing you my insanity, here’s my credentials:
- I worked on datacenter reliability at Google for 3.5 years, where i learned how fragile the internet is
- I currently work at another Big Tech company on machine learning infrastructure (my views don’t reflect my employer and i won’t name them here), where i learned how culturally powerful sorting algorithms are
- I am married, to an intelligent, competent, no-bullshit woman, who saw fit to procreate with me multiple times
- I managed to accomplish all of these things after being hospitalized and rebuilding my life more or less from scratch, with my only asset being my brain, my experience, and ability to translate English requests into computer code, plus my family background.
My grandfather ran a construction company for years. His oldest and youngest sons rebelled against him in different ways. My dad got a PhD in physics and spent his career using his knowledge of computers to work on rockets and explosives. My uncle joe rebelled by doing a bunch of acid and followed the grateful dead. I aspire to be a synthesis of all three of these men.
My grandfather and my uncle joe had to agree to stop talking about politics or religion because they kept fighting about these topics. I like to imagine that my belief system makes both their views compatible, and it revolves heavily around the awesome computational power of love.
What kind of stuff do you write?
You’re probably aware that human beings are primates, genetically somewhere between violent, hierarchical chimps, and peaceful, commune-oriented bonobos. Maybe you’ve read Sapiens, or you’ve at least encountered the core thesis – that what made homo sapiens different from other homo genus primates is that homo sapiens use stories to resolve our conflicts and coordinate our activity.
I think if Yuval Harari had a deeper understanding of theoretical computer science, he would have said that what makes Homo Sapiens different is that we are Turing complete. We use stories as our recursion mechanism. Unlike other primates, we can construct and believe in arbitrary stories about the world. Other primates use a genetic-hardcoded story as their top-down.
This is a good time to mention predictive processing, the theory of whole brain function which says, at a high level, your brain consists of a top-down model of reality, which is checked against bottom-up signals from your senses. This blog takes predictive processing more or less as a given, and shows how all kinds of other fun stuff naturally follows from predictive processing. I even show how you can use this theory to do handy things like improve your memory.
Sometimes I dive deep into the experience of being a single human being attempting to understand the traditional wisdom that says ‘the nature of self is illusory’. Sometimes i write little short stories or poems. Sometimes I write about politics and current events.
It will usually be goofy, sometimes earnest, and, hopefully, always interesting.
Thank you for the gifts of your time and attention. I shall endeavor to make it worth your while.