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Mar 21, 2023Liked by alice maz

thanks for writing this- a good reminder at the right time.

I spent a good chunk of the last few years in academia, almost certainly too long. first it was fun, and there were always some good bits, but being surrounded by systems that are pointless- where everyone knows they're pointless, but does them anyway- rots your soul. it can become the way things are for a chunk of your brain, before you realize it.

it's odd- that sense of agency, that internal locus of control, is incredibly powerful, but also so fragile. things can erode it or damage it very directly. something you (or at least I) have to maintain, and cultivate, and fight entropy for.

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Very cool and awesome post šŸ‘

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This post, or something influenced by / glowing off of it, changed my life.

Forgot why, but back in elementary school I got violent against teachers and other students. This was obviously bad. It was quickly stopped when I was brought into the principal's office and gently verbally "set straight" by a cop. (Not sarcasm, he was quite soft-spoken.)

I later found WaitButWhy, LessWrong, 80,000 Hours, and went on the "CS track": I could do technical AI alignment, but also I'd have a "safe path".

Fast-forward to now: The safe path sucks, and all my problems were secretly ADHD that could be solved with medication and unhindered sleep. I got 3 big missed-or-mangled opportunities under my belt. My main mistakes:

- Getting good grades in college, instead of diving into ML and/or more advanced maths. (My math "minor" doesn't really count, as it's more a grab-bag extended from my uni's "immersion".)

- Getting into Eleuther early, giving (redundantly, unused) feedback on the Pile paper before publication, and... not prioritizing any of it above normal-path "responsibilities".

- Hearing about QACI (a recent vision for AI alignment), learning about maybe 25% of it, and then being the "one average performer" that "can drag down the entire group." While, additionally, being overall unpleasant and alienating to hear from, for at least one or two people involved.

The ADHD didn't help. The sleep issues didn't help. And my low(?) working memory didn't help. But... lack of agency, starting from (and actually *acted on* by) me, was the root of evil in my life. Every droplet of good came from me deciding things for myself alone.

(Well, so did several bad things, but failures are to be expected, ya?)

There's more I could lay out about like the current "strategic landscape", and the "artistic"/spiritual view thereof, but even *I'm* too smart to laboriously describe a painting we've both seen, and in fact both live in.

I don't know what to do next, but I *do* have a handful of people I really care about. And I can't keep living the low-agency life, just because of its effects on my health and enjoyment alone.

And I remember something I said to myself, maybe last year (a lifetime ago):

If I fail in the end, whatever I do wrong, it won't be from lack of courage.

So help me stars.

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the ending is a bit abrupt? "the longest lever you can..."?

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This essay really stuck with me and I've come back to it a few different times. Starting reading a Steve Jobs biography now on the back of the quote you included.

Would you still recommend reading stoicism? I've always found it interesting, but am put off by the association with toxic masculinity

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Shallow notions of reality guiding shit motions within society. I hope you find some ppl with whom you can bond soon...

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This speaks to me deeply. Thanks Alice for putting thoughts like these out there

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Cool article! You really gotta be agencymaxxing.

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