In My morality 2.0: theory I decided to stop thinking about morality explicitly and instead to use emotions to answer these 4 questions for myself to guide my life:
- What kind of person do I want to be? (as an end, not as a mean)
- What do I want my life to look like?
- Assuming I’m no longer alive, how do I want the world to look like?
- What would make me feel a sense of accomplishment? What would I have to accomplish to feel on my deathbed that my life was well-spent and not wasted?
My wishes fluctuate. In the morning I might have one opinion and in the evening another. No one “version” of Saulius can decide what is best for all versions of Saulius that come and go. That’s why I answer these questions often to see what kinds of patterns are there. This post contains my personal answers. It’s a very personal post but I made it public because I have nothing to hide and because an example might be useful in case anyone would want to do the same.
Note (2018-05-30): I now think that writing down the answers publicly was a bad idea. It’s difficult for people to know what they actually want because we tend to focus on prosocial wishes while remaining largely unconscious about our selfish wishes. This bias is amplified when other people are watching/listening. Hence to be more honest with myself, from now on I will write down the answers privately.
What kind of person do I want to be? (as an end, not as a mean)
2017-03-19: Internally calm, warm, approachable, can make myself do anything I want to. Starts conversations with strangers, makes a lot of new friends, glows positivity, helps people to discover themselves and become better. Secure with myself. Alive. Resolved all the internal conflicts, in touch with my emotions.
2017-03-22: Previous answer feels a bit alien to me. I don’t want to be calm. I am frustrated now and I do want to feel this way sometimes. I want a colourful life with many diverse emotions.
2017-04-16: A perfect example of a human being: fit, knows a lot about everything, at peace with myself, knows many cultures, etc.
2017-04-17: Happy (I’m unhappy right now). Don’t want to hurt other people, don’t care about much else.
2017-04-18: I want to have visible deep emotions, child-like curiosity. I want to be an example to other people, to show them that it’s ok to be different, to dream, to feel, to get lost in the current experience, to forgo the adultness, integrity, seriousness and just be raw, emotional, silly. I want to have profound experiences and thoughts and teach others how to do it as well. Show them that there is more to life.
2017-05-03: Compassionate, emotional and passionate. Thinking with my own head and creative.
2017-06-21: Feels love and kindness for everyone, including myself. Clear mind, doesn’t ruminate. Has no desire at any level to show off, (other than to achieve a goal), humiliate others, be pitied, fail, be miserable, be an interesting story character, shock people, etc. Not doing or thinking things out of desire to be interesting so I would have something to say to people. If I’ll run out of things to say and will lose/fail to gain a (girl)friend, that is better than always sabotaging myself in order to be “interesting”.
2017-10-07: Always chill and friendly to everybody. Never tries to show off but doesn’t hide anything either if asked, total honesty and simplicity. Everyone finds it easy to communicate with me.
2017-11-29: Currently I do things in order to project an interesting image of me to others. I want to be my own authentic self, without fantasizing what others think of me.
2017-12-03: I often seek acceptance from others but I don’t make it clear that I like the people I am communicating. I want to often make that clear, send obvious friendly signals to everyone I like that I like them and establish warm friendly connections. Like that girl in San Francisco.
2017-12-27: Flexible person who is whomever he feels like being. Doesn’t try to please other people, listens to his own authentic voice.
2018-01-06: Visiems savas. Open and non-awkward about his emotions and inviting others to do the same. Doesn’t try to show off anything, no alienating layers between me and others.
2018-01-08: I want to always have stuff to say and make people laugh and relax. Like Craig Fergusson. Just say silly things when there’s nothing to say.
2018-02-08: I strongly want to get rid of all my cravings to impress other people or to make other kind of impressions onto them.
2018-04-02: In touch with my emotions, psychologically healthy. Less self-absorbed. Is curious about people around him and wants to help them. Says what he thinks but in a way that doesn’t upset people. Confident. Hears what other people say. Sam just went to Holly and asked how she was doing being all smiley I want to do things like that as well.
2018-04-07: Real, raw, brutally honest.
What do I want my life do to look like?
2017-03-19: A job where I learn communication or some other useful skill. And that I find meaningful. Spend a lot of my time making meaningful connections, both romantic and not. Making many people discover more of themselves. Maybe living in some group house like event horizon.
2017-03-22: Having a girlfriend and a stable, deep, colourful connection with her, living together. Or living in a group house. Both would be especially awesome.
2017-04-13: In the span of couple of days I’ve had a strong desire to:
- get some work of art done, be famous and admired
- read a shitload of books
- work or volunteer as a developer for an EA org
- travel the world
2017-04-16: I want to find a programming job in London, donate money to charities, go to EA conferences. Yesterday I wanted to go to festivals like burning man.
2017-04-17: I want to be happy but not because of drugs or something like that. As strange as it may sound, being happy isn’t usually something I care about much. I want to check out research on what makes people happy to know how to achieve it. I also want to have my schedule full of meetings and events I am excited about, my mailbox to be full, etc. I want to live with a girlfriend.
2017-04-18: Intense, full of different profound experiences with various other people. I want to establish many deep connections that help us to learn how to live from each other.
2017-04-19: Same as yesterday, plus I want some intellectual challenges that I would work on together with friends
2017-04-21: I want to be in a romantic relationship with someone cool again and be surrounded by cool people in general.
2017-04-28: don’t care. I am unhappy at the moment and don’t even have a desire to be happy.
2017-04-29: an hour ago I wanted to travel. Then I was determined to try to become an AI safety researcher and study relevant topics. Now I want to get any kind of job in some EA organisation to see if that kind of environment will motivate me.
2017-05-01: After reading this I feel motivated to do something big and altruistic again. That’s the second time Nate’s posts make me feel very motivated. I think if I surround myself with very motivated people, I’ll be motivated myself again too. But the thing is that I don’t care what happens to the world at the moment, I just want to be doing something.
2017-05-03: Partly motivated by a movie on trachoma, I want to be solving the world’s problems.
2017-08-17: 2017-06-21: Something different all the time. I want to experience as much of what life has to offer as possible, explore all the possible mental states and be living fully in the experience.
2017-07-23: Always relaxed, with friends and romantic partner(s) with whom we share a mutual love.
2017-10-07: Learned to never crave for things like love, sex, etc. Just like I never crave for material things. A lot of flexibility.
2017-11-29: I enjoy my job and do loads of different and fun stuff in my free time, meet new and interesting people all the time, experience everything life has to offer.
2017-12-27: Full of diverse activities I’d have an option but not an obligation of doing. I want to constantly be around interesting people and I want to live with such people.
2018-04-02: Flexible. I want different things at different times and I want to be pursuing whatever it is I want at that time. Not that important to live with a gf, only want a good gf.
2018-04-18: Working on making the world better. Don’t care about having a gf that much.
Assuming I’m no longer alive, how do I want the world to look like?
2017-03-22: Honestly? I don’t care much at the moment. I used to care a lot. I’d like to be the kind of person who cares a lot again. Maybe this is like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I only care about future of humanity only when my own needs are satisfied and currently I my social needs are not satisfied and I feel frustrated.
2017-04-15: somewhere there is a women being raped, an animal being eaten alive. I want there to be less of that. I want there to be more mutual orgasms and dogs being ecstatic about their owners getting back home. Yes, I guess that’s classical utilitarianism mostly.
2017-04-16: I want a diverse world to exist, rich of nature, different experiences, etc.
2017-04-17: Don’t care
2017-04-18: When I asked myself the question, for a while there was silence in my head. It felt like I was pouring water on almost perfectly flat surface and any small force can radically influence the direction it’s going. I didn’t find any caring for people far away inside myself. Finally a thought entered my mind: I want my mother to be happy. The thought made me laugh out loud for a couple of minutes uncontrollably. I was laughing at myself, at inconsistency of my wishes. Of course, I’ve always cared about my mother, but this time it seemed like one of the most important things in the world, which was new. When I meditated on the question more, I also realized that I want people to stop torturing animals and start feeling empathy for both farm and wild animals. It’s interesting that I felt that creating empathy (making people understand that animals matter too) is more important than stopping the actual suffering.
2017-04-21: I can only ask myself this question when I don’t have any problems or strong active desires. Currently that’s not the case.
2017-04-29: hedonium shockwave, although I don’t really care. I want there to be no suffering but don’t care much for happiness.
2017-05-03: People living in societies and helping each other. The act of helping, good intentions seem to be more important than the actual help.
2017-07-23: Lots of cooperation, little stress, no wars, open minds. I want there to at least be an island (or a community) like that, that consist of people who don’t know about the world outside. At the moment I can’t manage to care whether there is suffering in other parts of the world/universe.
2017-10-07: The whole world is one big cooperating community. Don’t care much about animals atm.
2017-11-29: I want everyone to be happy but I don’t feel passionate about working all the time to make that happen. Especially if it’s in the distant future.
2017-12-27: Don’t care.
2017-12-27: An hour after writing the last “Don’t care” I caught myself getting excited about donating some money to a charity. The thing is that wish to change the word is not the only driver behind my altruism. Firstly, every non-social need of mine is fully satisfied so I have no real use of money. The prospect of still spending money on things that I don’t really need disgusts me. This article conveys that disgust well. The prospect of getting more money so I could live without a job longer is also a bit disgusting, seems like I’d take life too easy. More importantly, I don’t really care that much about myself 1 year from now much more than I care about a stranger. He is a different person.
2018-04-02: Happy, flourishing, cooperative community of people. Like autentiškų patyrimų erdvė. I don’t really care about animals.
What would make me feel a sense of accomplishment? What would I have to accomplish to feel on my deathbed that my life was well spent and not wasted?
- Writing a work of art that many people like and praise
- Donating/raising money for effective charities
- Writing effective-altruism.com posts that receive likes.
- Expressing myself, successful youtube channel
- Sharing memorable experiences true long-term friends and romantic partners
It might be worthy to ask myself “What would make me feel sense of accomplishment after today?” every morning
2017-04-16: being a complete human being, learning something new each day, having memorable experiences
2017-04-17: In my current state of mind – nothing. Having plans for my future would make me feel accomplished in short term, but this question is about long term.
2017-04-18: Trying out as many different things as possible, having deep feelings and memorable experiences and sharing them with other people. Also doing good deeds for people around me and seeing their reaction. A separate concern is doing a lot of good in terms of utilitarianism/effective altruism.
2017-04-29: Achieving utilitarian goals.
2017-07-23: Lots of novel experiences, expand my mind as much as possible, made a positive impact on the world (or at least really tried).
2017-10-07: Achieving utilitarian goals. Also, being friendly to people around me.
2017-11-29: I currently don’t care about what I will think in my deathbed. Screw that (hopefully) old fuck.
2017-12-27: I tried to do whatever felt like the best and most moral thing to do at the time.
2018-04-02: Been a good friend to people close to me. Had people who are very close to me. Grew children. Donated to charity and its results make me smile.
Should I continue doing any altruism?
2017-03-19: If everyone lives selfishly, humanity is likely to go extinct and everyone will be worse off. I don’t want to be a free rider in x-risk reduction. Also, part if me still feels like I should do something utilitarian. I’m fine continuing to donate money because that takes little effort and doesn’t cause akrasia. Also it’s a fun task to choose the best charity. But should I change criteria how I choose it? I can postpone this question. Let’s just say that I’m staying with my pledge to donate 30% of my income . What if I find out that I want to live a freegan lifestyle with no money earning? Ah, I’ll deal with that only if it actually happens.
2018-04-02: Yes, that what gives life meaning.
Are these answers truly genuine?
2017-04-29: I’ve written down that I just want to achieve utilitarian goals and went on to play a pointless computer game. Sometimes this can happen, you can want to be on a diet but your wish to eat a cake can win. But I didn’t even have an intention to do anything that would make sense from utilitarian POV today. It felt that I want my wishes to be inconsistent to be more unconventional. Although it’s also true that my passion is low today even for utilitarianism. On some days there are many wishes in me competing for importance. Today, the only wish is utilitarianism and I can barely feel it.
2017-11-29: I feel that today they were.
2018-04-02: I feel so. But what about elephant in the brain? What about the values that I act on but I don’t know about. Maybe that’s why I haven’t written that I want sex, high status, etc. Hmm, maybe this document being public also discourages me from writing such things. And I actually want these things. Should I push myself to get these things? No, they are a cake and you want to be on a diet. Morality is the views you would choose to have if you could drink a pill and change your views into anything? I still wouldn’t know what my morality is. Natalie said that we know that when we achieve something that we want we don’t get happier. So we must cheat our brains, for them to be both happy and achieve our goals. And this document specifies my goals I guess.
My answers are also susceptible to biases (esp. scope insensitivity) and I don’t control for that.
Should I travel?
2017-04-16: I don’t list any truly new experiences here. Maybe because I don’t I want them because I haven’t experienced them. Maybe I should try them anyway. Though I’m uncertain. I want to be passionate about something. But do I really want to find out that I love doing something expensive and/or dangerous like mountaineering?
2017-04-18: I think that correct type of travelling can help me to become a better human being on various fronts, better equipped with achieving all my other goals. But I shouldn’t do much of it.
2017-07-23: Well, I guess I am travelling. Part of me wants to stop and focus on work but another part of me says that I can still do both at the same time, I just have to try harder.
2017-11-29: I feel it’d be pointless to do more travelling. I want to settle somewhere so I could find a girlfriend that I could see for a while.
What kind of work would I enjoy doing?
2017-09-25: I miss programming a bit. ACE work is interesting but I don’t feel excited about doing more of it.
2017-10-07: I want the ability to have free time when I want to.
2017-11-29: I have to be in the flow during the work so that I wouldn’t have to force myself to work all the time. A job where I talk with people a lot is a good bet.
2017-12-06: Programming seems to be a good choice. I was addicted to it for a couple of days, doing things for my father’s company. I can program even when I am very tired and it’s much easier to make myself do it than to make myself do research. However, now I am tired of it a bit and I am not that excited about it again.
2018-04-13: making the world better matters a lot.