Map of Concept


Nick C Tweets on Happiness

Nick Cammarata tweet collection on happiness.

This thread chain is a fantastic entry point too, and talks about happiness, meditation, jhanas, IFS therapy, MDMA, psychedelics.

  • This entire thread is fantastic on dispelling common happiness myths

  • (this from a QT thread from 6 months later)

  • (continuing on from original thread)

  • pulled out from the tweets above - some great responses in this particular thread

  • pulled from the threads above


  • https://qualiacomputing.com/2016/11/19/the-tyranny-of-the-intentional-object/

    • direct realist vs representative/ indirect realist perspectives on the world and pleasure/ pain
    • argues for ‘paradise engineering’
  • https://www.wireheading.com/hypermotivation.html

    Decoding the human genome - and soon the proteome and transcriptome - opens up technical possibilities it would be unethical to ignore in a viciously pain-ridden world. For we can potentially amplify, modulate and redesign the architecture of our own neural reward mechanisms. Unlike our bodily thermostat, which can operate only within a narrow temperature range, the homeostatic mechanisms that govern human emotion and motivation can be radically recalibrated. Recalibrating the pleasure-pain axis may endow us with a far higher emotional “set-point” around which to oscillate than the dismal Darwinian norm.

     Avoidance of crude pleasure-maximising interventions is prudent because uniform happiness is no more educative or illuminating than uniform despair. A wholly emotionally stable subject - and in theory an entire emotionally stable civilisation - could get “stuck in a rut”, whether that “rut” is a slough of despond or a globally sub-optimal plateau of bliss. But learning and personal development based on gradients of well-being can be both educative and powerfully motivating. A life animated by gradients of well-being is also personally more soul-enriching than learning based on gradients of pain.

    On this scenario, bad hair days in any future post-Darwinian era of paradise-engineering may be merely wonderful rather than sublime. Hedonic adaptation of a sort may persist. Centuries hence, the computational-functional analogs of traditional “painful lessons” will survive, but not their cruel Darwinian textures. Indeed the homeostatic baseline of even our own (un)happiness could potentially be reset at a level of sustainable well-being orders of magnitude higher than the norm adaptive for small social groups of naked apes on the African savannah.

    • very happy people find life inherently meaningful - meaning ‘built into’ the universe and is pervasive (interesting - direct realism of meaning?) - intellectual refutations of that simply aren’t impactful

      Today, meanwhile, many people find it hard to get out of bed in the morning. Given the prevalence of chronic dysthymia, anhedonia and low-grade depression in even the “well” population at large, such inertia is scarcely surprising. Why bother to exert oneself if the subjective payoff is so meagre? Depressive and unmotivated people are likely to find life “meaningless”, “absurd”, “futile”. Nihilistic thoughts and angst-ridden mindsets are common. Feelings of inadequacy and failure can haunt the ostensibly successful. And the world is full of walking wounded whose spirit has been crushed.

      Conversely (and for evolutionary reasons, less commonly), hyperthymic or euphorically hypomanic people tend to find life intensely meaningful. A heightened sense of significance is part of the texture of their lives. If our happiness is taken care of - whether genetically, pharmacologically, or electrosurgically - then the meaning of life seems to take care of itself.

      Depressives, philosophers and hard-nosed scientists may respond that “the meaning of life” is cognitively meaningless, a verbal placebo empty of propositional content. Happy and hypermotivated people, on the other hand, find the meaning of life self-intimating, written into the texture of the(ir) world.

  • https://www.superhappiness.com/

    • a well-reasoned FAQ on increasing wellbeing & happiness by magnitudes

Related To:
Created On: 2020-11-18 from C - Awakening From the Meaning Crisis
Last Updated On: 2021-08-22

Linked References

Falling In Love With The World

What this project has evolved to become is an experiment in figuring out how to convey that there are vast fields and potentials of subjective states that are not only possible but that, if the ‘point’ of human existence is to increase wellbeing, are almost ethically important to recognise.

The grid and the poem is only trying to get at that first part — how do I convey the sense of real potential and help expand people’s conceptions a little bit more?

Real Potential

Here’s what I mean by ‘real’. I’m drawing heavily inspired by two sources:

  1. Hanzi Freinacht’s discussion of states in his book ‘The Listening Society’.
  2. Nick Cammarata’s tweets on twitter — he works at open AI and talks a lot about happiness.

Hanzi’s States

Below is a rough sketch scale from Hanzi Freinacht’s The Listening Society.

  1. Hell

  2. Horrific (phenomenological reality breaks down)

  3. Tortured

  4. Tormented

  5. Very uneasy

  6. Uneasy, uncomfortable

  7. Somewhat uneasy, “okay”, full of small faults

  8. Satisfied, well

  9. Good, lively

  10. Joyous, full of light, invigorated

  11. Vast, grand, open

  12. Blissful, saintly

  13. Enlightened, spiritual unity

  • Lower states: 1-4
  • Medium states: 5-10
  • Higher states: 11-13

Most only experience a small range (most of us 3 or 4 states for our entire lifetimes e.g 6-9), and not only can not understand the other states, but don’t even believe that, particularly the higher ones, are even real/ is possible/ are a thing

In the hour of vision there is nothing that can be called gratitude, nor properly joy. The Soul raised over passion beholds identity and eternal causation, perceives the self-existence of Truth and Right, and calms itself with knowing that all things go well. Vast spaces of nature, the Atlantic Ocean, the South Sea; long intervals of time, years, centuries, are of no account…

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

What if we take this description not merely as fanciful ‘poetics’ or him trying to sell you something, but as a genuine, as accurate as possible description of his subjective experience?

The idea that life can only be, and more importantly should only be drowning in misery 95% of the time is tragic. It reminds me of Plato’s cave — life is the shadows, the prisoners claim, and should only be the shadows as they proceed to fight off the one freed prisoner who’s trying to help them break their chains.

It’s not only about the highs — it’s also about the lows. Recognizing that pain/ pleasure have long-tail distributions — that they very good and the very bad are expontentially higher and lower than the majority of the in-between states. See Logarithmic Scales of Pleasure and Pain: Rating, Ranking, and Comparing Peak Experiences Suggest the Existence of Long Tails for Bliss and Suffering. An excerpt:

Based on: the characteristic distribution of neural activity, personal accounts of intense pleasure and pain, the way various pain scales have been described by their creators, and the results of a pilot study we conducted which ranks, rates, and compares the hedonic quality of extreme experiences, we suggest that the best way to interpret pleasure and pain scales is by thinking of them as logarithmic compressions of what is truly a long-tail. The most intense pains are orders of magnitude more awful than mild pains (and symmetrically for pleasure).

This should inform the way we prioritize altruistic interventions and plan for a better future. Since the bulk of suffering is concentrated in a small percentage of experiences, focusing our efforts on preventing cases of intense suffering likely dominates most utilitarian calculations. [emphasis mine]

Nick C Inspiration

Nick C’s tweets convinced me that higher baseline happiness states are possible, that we aren’t just stuck in homeostasis and regulating back to a baseline of only being ‘okay’ or lower, but that this is actually a good thing!

Elsewhere, I’ve heard enlightenment described as ‘happiness without condition’ (see this video by Shinzen Young)

I’ve included a selection of his tweets below. You can see these and more at Happiness MOC.

An Ethical Case For Higher States

As to making a case for why we ought to explore this space more, and actively try and improve subjective states to these heights, I’ll just note three pieces:

  1. Increasing our subjective states radically seems to switch us from scarcity into abundance, and also one of fixed into growth mindset.
    • Scarcity mindset vs abundance, openess, short term, fight flight, decrease in decision making abilities and to have insight and frame breaks, digging heels in to your own particular viewpoint and perspective, decrease in IQ, bad impulse control, decrease in flexibility, transformation not sensed as viable
    • There’s a difference between ‘blissful’ and ‘blissed-out’
  2. There’s this conception of e.g UBI and people becoming couch potatoes who does crack and plays video games all day. This description is not one of human nature but of broken people. See Schmachtenberger on episode 36 of the Future Thinker’s podcast, starting from 20 minutes and 58 sec.
    • In reality, happiness can actually increase productivity because of at least two reasons:
      1. You’re not hindered by unhelpful depressive doubts — it doesn’t mean you become totally blind to bad things, but that the good becomes way better
      2. Meaning increases, and meaning drives rather than make us complacent. See this article on hypermotivation
  3. if we don’t think it’s possible, our idea of human nature and human potential will heavily affect the way we socialise our kids and socialise one another, our culture, our institutions, and importantly — our visions of what the future can and ought to look like. I think our failure of imagination is causing us a lot of problems, particularly in the realm of creating guiding narratives that’ll help steer us out of the current metacrisis we’re in .
    • That we can’t even imagine creating a new way of being, a different way of being in the world: see B — Capitalist Realism, particularly John Vervaeke’s conversation with Oshan Jarow, starting from 57 minutes onwards.
    • Related to importance of narratives and our conceptions of human nature are Joe Edelman’s Nothing To Be Done (it frames it from the angle of our institutions and beliefs), Brian Stout’s What if Darwin Was Wrong (I don’t agree with his characterisation and the conclusions he drew, e.g I don’t think competitiveness and collaboration are opposed, but I do really appreciate the overall thrust of ‘how we think about human nature is critical’) and Phoebe Tickell’s New Deep Narratives: we need new stories of what it means to be human.