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Codex Vitae

A living and dying record of my beliefs.

What are beliefs?

A belief is a personal perspective constructed out of pieces of information and experiences that we have. Beliefs are influenced by many. The believe can be a perspective on anything from “what is the best burrito in SF?” to “how did the universe begin and how will it end?” to “how easy should it be to buy a gun?” and beyond.

What is this document?

This is a public, living, dying, document that I created as an experiment one Sunday in April of 2012, and has been revised at least yearly ever since. Brief timeline of that history here. Maintaining it has become one of the most treasured activities in my life. It’s a way for me to remember who I am, catch inconsistencies in how I respond to different events in the world, react to current events from a position of how I believe the world is, should be, and will become. I’ve updated it at least once a year since 2012, and all changes are tracked. Rather than attempting to avoid all errors in this doc, I’m attempting to be as specific as possible and to quickly correct errors when they become apparent.

Why does it exist?

My main goal here is to get smarter over time by identifying new connections and inconsistencies so I can course-correct when necessary. A secondary goal is that I’d also like to extend an invitiation for others to spark conversations with me about anything they find interesting and to also help keep me accountable.

What if some of these are clearly wrong?

Some most definitely are. These beliefs are my best guess and articulation of my own beliefs, which were inherited and molded partly by the environment I’ve lived in, partly by the people around me, and partly by my own interpretation of life experiences. Your mileage may vary. Caveat lector.

What do the emoji symbols mean?

  • 🧠 A belief about information. Can be falsified with new information.
  • ❀️ A belief based on my personal values. Can be falsified by a strong story.
  • βœ‹ A belief about the outcome of some action. Can be falsied by an experiment.
  • πŸ’ͺ A belief with high confidence.
  • 🀞 A belief with low confidence.
  • 🐲 A belief that triggers anxiety when challenged.

Beliefs by topic

  • Other intelligent life forms exist somewhere in this universe.
    🧠 🀞
  • I think we'll discover the creations of alien civilizations (ie. long-lived, patient robots they send into space) before we discover their original biological species.
    🧠 🀞
  • Aliens will probably discover our own long-lived, patient robots before they discover us.
    🧠 🀞
  • The vast majority of intelligent beings throughout the universe are probably more similar to robots and cyborgs than organically evolved life.
    🧠 🀞
  • Aliens are unlikely to be aggressive. Any sufficient reason to come specifically to us is unlikely to be motivated by typical warlike intentions, because we don't have anything special in the universe that they can't get elsewhere for cheaper.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Machines will eventually become more intelligent than humans are today.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Machines will make humans more intelligent than we are today.
    🧠 βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ
  • Intelligence isn't a single skill that can be acquired all at once, but the result of learning processes that take in one or more flows of new information, and communicate out analysis of the data in meaningful ways. Every flow of data will favor different intelligences, and intelligences that exist on one or more flows of data won't necessarily be adapted for other flows of data.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Every single person, including myself, has many implicit associations that lead to bias that they can't fully eradicate in themselves. It's more effective to accept that fact, and account for it by being transparent about it, than to try to hide it.
    🧠 ❀️ βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ 🐲 More context
  • We're susceptible to many cognitive biases and logical fallacies, because our brains require them to get any thinking done within our constraints of time and energy.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • The sensation of consciousness is real, but beyond that is tough to say.
    🧠 🀞
  • Free will exists within constraints, in the same way a goldfish has freedom and autonomy within its fishbowl.
    🧠 🀞
  • When assigning responsibility for life outcomes, there are two poles: one being a high-agency stance that treats individual freedom and responsbility as absolute, and the other a low-agency stance that treats choices as constrained so much by social structures that responsibility is best placed on the system as a whole. I think it's necessary to carry both of these positions simultaneously or else injustices will increase over time.
    🧠 🀞 🐲 πŸ“ More context
  • Most questions have no answer (but asking them and talking about them anyway is often entertaining).
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I subscribe to Hume's Fork, which claims that there are two kinds of knowledge: matters of fact, and relations of ideas. Matters of fact aren’t accessible to usβ€”we can never know something for certain, only that it hasn't been proven wrong yet. We can only create a self-referencing network of ideas that are related to each other. '2 + 2 = 4' and 'My name is Buster' are both conclusively true if we agree to the definitions and relations between each word and symbol.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ 🐲 More context
  • Logic is a helpful tool, but has flaws and if relied on too heavily it can cause more problems than it solves.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • Even if absolute truth about matters of fact aren't accessible to us, it's still possible to get closer to it. Especially in the context of making better predictions on limited data.
    🧠 ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • The human brain (in its current state of evolution) can't comprehend the universe.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • The conversation is the relationship. If the conversation is going poorly between two or more people, so are the relationships. And vice versa.
    βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • If you're stuck in an unproductive or harmful conflict that seems impossible to resolve, the best course of action is to consider other alternatives to resolution like learning about how the other side thinks, connecting on a personal level, and inspiring action that both sides would benefit from.
    βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • There are several ways to make a conflict productive other than through resolution. For example: learning something that was previously hidden, connecting with someone at a deeper level, having fun, becoming inspired to act in collaboration, etc.
    βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • Human-influenced climate change is real, and it's appropriate to panic.
    🧠 ❀️ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • Climate change is of particular importance to humans, because it poses an existential risk to our survival, but it's not the only risk and not the greatest risk (see existential threats).
    ❀️ 🀞
  • Within this universe, we evolved through natural systems that required no outside intervention.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Micro and macro evolution really happen.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Disrupting the world's ecology (through deforestation, overfishing, monocultures, etc) poses a 5% existential threat to us.
    🧠 🀞
  • Climate change poses a 1% existential threat to us, partially because of the problem and partially because our solutions to it might backfire.
    🧠 🀞 🐲
  • Nuclear war poses a 3% existential threat to us.
    🧠 🀞
  • The supervolcano erupting poses an 2% existential threat to us.
    🧠 🀞
  • Asteroid impact poses a 1% existential threat to us.
    🧠 🀞
  • A runaway artificial intelligence poses a <1% existential threat to us.
    🧠 🀞 🐲
  • The magnetic poles reversing poses a <1% existential threat to us.
    🧠 🀞
  • Aliens pose a <0.001% existential threat to us.
    🧠 🀞
  • If and when humans become extinct, the Earth will barely notice (perhaps just giving a long sigh of relief).
    🧠 🀞
  • We are part of a larger system that cycles materials through processes that include what we call life, as well as many other things (like tectonic movement, weather systems, the magnetic field, the cycling of water, carbon, and many other molecules and compounds).
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Dirt is what living things do in times between being alive.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ More context
  • The optimal strategy in a game like Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma dances around in response to all of the other strategies around it. Whenever a strategy is effective and gains popularity, it opens up an opportunity for another strategy to exploit those strengths and turn them into weaknesses.
    βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ More context
  • As history progresses, power will tend to be more quickly redistributed when it gets too heavy at the top.
    🧠 🀞
  • When power is redistributed (through disruption, revolution, or disaster), it will have undesirable short-term consequences.
    βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ
  • Power often becomes motivated to remain in power, which results in systemic discrimination, harrassment, and abuse. It is against power's first-order objectives to build structures that might lead to them being removed from power, but as awareness of this dynamic increases, so should accountability. It will be a very slow uphill battle with many movements backwards, but all the more reason to always push on increasing awareness and accountability within all systems.
    βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ
  • A lot about health and medicine is mental, which opens the door for things like placebo effect and fake remedies.
    🧠 🀞
  • Acupuncture works, somehow.
    🧠 🀞
  • Tulpa are super weird, but extremely fascinating as a concept. 'Tulpa' is a term that refers to our internal thoughtforms of conscious entities. For example, while Santa may not exist in the real world, we all have an internal tulpa of Santa that we've trained to essentially simulate Santa in our minds. Tulpa can exist for living people, dead people, historical people, and even our concept of ourselves is a tulpa in some ways.
    🧠 ❀️ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • Some tulpa are trained off of our religious cultures: Santa, God, Jesus, etc. Others are trained off of our memories of people who have passed away: ghosts, dreams, and all of our internal voices.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • All of our classic mental archetypes for father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, boss, teacher, etc are loosely defined tulpa that will pull partly from cultural sources, and partly from personal experiences.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Even our personal sense of self identity is a tulpa that we feed, act through, and help train other people on as they get to know us.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • For beginners, private journaling and going on a long walk are both better than sitting on a pillow and trying not to think (aka meditating) or talking to an imaginary omniscient being (aka prayer).
    ❀️ βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ More context
  • Nothing in our universe can travel faster than light.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Perception of time can be sped up or slowed down, but not reversed (forwards time travel is possible, backwards is not).
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Teleportation, if it's ever invented, is more likely to resemble the creation of copies than 'true' teleportation.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Our universe began with low entropy and continues on a long, slow path to high entropy, powering literally everything along the way.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • The universe, at the most fundamental level, may just be a mathematical structure (ala Max Tegmark's The Mathematical Universe).
    🧠 🀞
  • Something like the Big Bang happened, and will probably happen again.
    🧠 🀞
  • Something existed before the Big Bang (outside of time and space as we know them).
    🧠 🀞
  • Other dimensions and universes exist.
    🧠 🀞
  • The laws of physics (see physics) likely prevent us from ever proving that other universes exist.
    🧠 🀞
  • Our universe is probably a simulation or sandbox within a larger universe or set of universes.
    🧠 🀞
  • The electoral college is out-dated and too easily manipulated. It should be replaced by something like delegative democracy or another simple system founded on popular vote.
    🧠 ❀️ βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • Abortion and birth control should be made available for readily accessible and free to people who need it and can't afford it.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • Marijuana should be legal to grow, sell, buy, carry, and use.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • Free college education should be available to everyone who wants it.
    ❀️ 🀞
  • As a citizen, you should make full use of your right to vote as a tool to influence the country's direction towards improvement. This right includes choosing not to vote, since that too influences the country's direction.
    ❀️ βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • When using your right to vote to influence the country, you should weigh not only the direct outcome, but also the 2nd and 3rd order outcomes that ripple outward from the act (both intentional and unintentional).
    ❀️ βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • Owning a gun should require certification and licensing from a firearms officer verifying that they've taken a safety course, are free of criminal record, and pass a psychological mental health check every few years. The licenses should expire every couple years and require re-testing.
    ❀️ βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • Health care should be available and affordable to everyone who needs it.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • Hunting endangered animals in order to raise money to conserve them is okay if it can be proven to actually work.
    🧠 βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ
  • Guaranteed basic income should be a thing available to everyone that is living below the poverty level.
    ❀️ βœ‹ 🀞 🐲
  • Assisted suicide (or medically-aided death) should be legal and available to people in a certain set of dire situations that they feel prevent them from having any chance of a pleasant future.
    ❀️ 🀞
  • The death penalty should be used only in very extreme and certain cases to protect the public, because of the risk of false-positives.
    βœ‹ 🀞
  • Prisons should be about protecting the public, not about punishment, and should be tested for efficacy alongside other interventions like restorative justice.
    🧠 ❀️ βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • There should be special measures made to insure that criminal behavior by people in high-power positions get punished with equal or higher frequency than criminal behavior by people in lower-power positions, because those in higher-power positions are better equipped (and incentivized) to avoid accountability.
    🧠 ❀️ βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • Any sufficiently powerful entity to enforce the limits of free speech shouldn't be trusted to do so without bias for protecting their own power.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • Speech is a form of power, and just like power, free speech has constraints and is never absolute. However, because speech is often regulated by those in power, it's important to make sure they are not in charge or even capable of determining the constraints of free speech.
    ❀️ βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • Memento mori is a useful tool for remembering you're alive.
    βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • There is no official purpose or meaning granted to our lives.
    ❀️ 🀞 🐲
  • It's okay to identify our own objectives in life and call them a purpose.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should try to follow a few guidelines when participating in a disagreement: use friendly language, understand first, ask questions that aim to surprise me, speak for myself, and help everyone become better.
    βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ More context
  • I should avoid using group labels for people unless they explicitly request it.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should regularly review my beliefs and update them.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should review my year every year on my birthday.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should not dilly-dally if something needs to be done.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should be my word.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should have good intentions towards people I directly or indirectly impact.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should admit to being the maker of my own meaning.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should not feel sorry for myself and avoid competitive suffering.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should create and articulate a clear vision that I'm striving for, stand behind it, and review it often enough to make course-corrections along the way.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should rally others with my vision.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should be the change I want to see.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should stake my reputation on my better self, then strive to live up to it.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should be comfortable with the consequences of being who I am, even if they were unintentional.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should make my own advice after consulting others, and then take it.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should manage my stress, health, and clarity by consistently eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should study my mistakes so I don't repeat them.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should retry things I don’t like every once in a while.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should go slow, work hard, and avoid shortcuts.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should cultivate quality time with myself, with others, and with my interests.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should face things that make me uncomfortable.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • I should take responsibility for things I find important, even if I can’t fully control them.
    ❀️ πŸ’ͺ
  • Being good/moral increasingly becomes our default state as we learn more about the world and are more connected with others.
    βœ‹ 🀞
  • We were not created in the way described in any of the major holy texts, if you take a literal interpretation.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • There is no afterlife.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Prayer is useful as a mental maintenance tool, but doesn't tap into any special lines of communication to powerful beings.
    🧠 ❀️ βœ‹ πŸ’ͺ
  • Souls don't exist as separate from the physical body.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • The gods of organized religion don't exist in the way that they are currently defined.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ 🐲
  • There is no heaven or hell in the sense that they're currently defined.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Angels, demons, and other spirits exist as antropomorphised agents in our minds that are useful shortcuts for abstract concepts (see tulpas).
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Ghosts don't exist outside of our minds (see tulpas).
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • The supposed law of attraction can't create reality through intention, it just primes our perception of it and makes us more likely to notice opportunities).
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Astrology can be fun entertainment, like the Myers Briggs test, but there are no actual external forces powering it.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Astrology can stunt healthier forms of analysis if taken literally and seriously.
    🧠 πŸ’ͺ
  • Technology has or will eventually disrupt all other human-created institutions (politics, religion, identity, economics, energy).
    βœ‹ 🀞
  • We will die. Memento mori.
    🧠 ❀️ 🀞 🐲
  • The only way to be invulnerable is to be dead. To live is to be vulnerable, because that's the only way we can be seen. And everything that can be seen can also be hurt.
    🧠 ❀️ 🀞 🐲
γ€œ γ€œ γ€œ

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