This blog has moved:

In addition to my current writing, all the old posts are collected on the new page.
(You can use your browser's "find" function to find what you're interested in there.)
Your browser does not support Javascript.
This site requires Javascript.
You can see where this becomes a problem.
Without Javascript,
Many posts will look wrong
Comments are inaccessible
Interactive dialogues won't function
Hidden text will never be revealed
The sidebars will not open

If you choose to continue, be warned
That you are missing crucial elements
Of I Am Not's design.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

In Darkness

What sort of reward could you possibly be expecting?

I wish I knew how people thought about what I'm saying…
Wow, he's saying so many
different kinds of things here!
This is clever and refreshing
and it never falls into predictable patterns!
I predict the next thing he says
will be whiny and self-indulgent
and immature and irritating,
just like everything else he's said.
See, that wasn't so hard.

Some of this is good.
But very little.
He's hopping around so much he never figured out which.
It's all good!
Drink your coffee.

It's not just about reward. You don't do things only to get somewhere, you also do things just because they're there to be done.

So you have a dilemma. On the one hand, there's an action in front of you. You have no idea what it's going to do, but there it is waiting to be taken. On the other hand, inaction is an action in itself, because it's an opportunity to step above the system and in so doing demonstrate your own intelligence. Suddenly all the infinite possibilities theoretically open to you have reduced themselves to two, just because I'm sticking a button here.


You never see yourself making the action, you only see how people react. This feedback is imprecise, because those people don't see the actions they're making either. They aren't considering their responses carefully, they're just saying what it occurs to them to say. And they don't say it because they want something, they're just saying it because it's there to be said. This is not an objective analysis, it's reading from a script.



You want me to tell you?Yeah, it's.. um, it's very good.Right, you know what's wrong with it? Let me think what's wrong..
It's too long! Yeah, I think it's too long.

Once you have that feedback, you've gained perspective on your own action. And only from this do you get a sense of where and what you are.

The Older Pianist
I'm better than I ever was
And I still don't understand anything!

But then- who does?
Imagined Opportunities
Everyone needs opportunities to offer something to others, be that a joke or a service or an experience. We understand this, you and I. And when you never get an opening, you get pretty desparate. When no one wanted to listen to your music in the Academy, you went and played in recesses anyway, pretending you would have whether or not your classmates were there. But really you'd reached the point where you thought you'd make openings for yourself where none existed.
Purveyor of Silliness
It was not long at all before Ariel realized there was a much greater opportunity here. If this little box could make him so happy, then surely it would make other people happy as well! So he set out to find other people.
Selfish Friendships
I love to bore other people with ideas about gamism. When I think about it, this seems to contradict the first point. I mean, I know I'm not entertaining them. And I don't care too much. Maybe we so desparately need to feel like we're giving others all we can, that the question of how it will be received is secondary.
Self-images aren't delicate so much as flexible. Who you think you are is contingent on what you think you can do.

"I can show him entertainment, so I'm an entertainer."
"I can bring up examples in this argument, so I'm intelligent."
"I can listen, so I'm a friend."
"I can be efficient, so I'm a good worker."
"I can voluntarily help other people, so I'm a good person."

In this way, you're always constructing a mental image of yourself based on the actions available to you and what you think they'll do. But your perceived options change from moment to moment!

Self-esteem can undergo a complete reversal in the time it takes to walk from a room where you have opportunities to a room where you don't. Identity undergoes a complete reversal every time you switch activities. Who you are, beyond a body and a brain, has no meaning separate from your immediate context.

So I sometimes imagine what it would be like to start a different life. If you lay out my options clearly, in a way that I can accept and follow, I don't think it'll ever occur to me that I'm "supposed" to be someone else. I know it can work, because I can practically feel my brain rewiring itself to find new opportunities every time I go someplace new.

At first it's just a sequence of events, where I observe the world around me and demonstrate intelligence by not presuming to know what I'm doing. -------
Hey, there's something I can do!
No, Mory. Don't make a fool of yourself.

Pretend you didn't think of anything.
Then I start to figure out the rules of the game and predict what'll happen. That's when I start building routines. Then I follow those routines and continually improve them, until I feel like the routine is an important part of myself. (That feeling lasts until I leave the room, and then it disappears entirely without notice.)

And then my self-esteem's through the roof! Because whether or not there's anyone actually there, I always perceive the theoretical opportunity to show other people how efficient my routine-following is. If someone comes along who isn't interested, I imagine someone who is interested and put the button back on the screen.

We like to think we're so self-aware, great humans that we are. Human self-awareness is a joke. It's all a result of the random and temporary way you frame the world through perceived opportunities.

You can try to understand yourself by looking at the past. If you can observe with distance, it's not just a reaction to involuntarily simplistic "framing". You can feel like you've escaped the system, thus demonstrating your own intelligence. But this is an illusion. All you're actually doing is framing the world differently: Do I look for an excuse for everything I've done, or do I "step above the system" and look for a reason to dislike myself?

You'd think that with our supposedly superior brains, we could do better than that. You'd think we could deduce what we're like through cold reasoning and an objective sense of perspective. But reasoning is never cold and a sense of perspective is never objective. We don't see the world. We see a list of buttons.

If you have a lot of buttons to push, you're happy and see where you are. If you don't have a lot of buttons to push, you're unhappy and lost. The world is a series of buttons. That's pretty much all there is to life.

Better hope they're good ones!



A good conversation has both sides thinking they know what to say next. That's the entire point of having a conversation. And the point of having friends is so that you have the perceived opportunity to get into situations like that. If there's someone I don't think I'll be able to do anything with, I don't care one bit about that person. (People who care about anyone are people with more diverse interests than myself, who would therefore see opportunity with everyone.) But tell me that I can give that person comics, or games, or even just talk with them, and suddenly they're important in my little worldview.

That's a pretty fair opinion. I work pretty much the same way. When I'm going to be meeting new people my first question is always, "Do they play games?"

Maybe it's really selfish/self-centric of me, but I don't put forth any effort into meeting/maintaing relationships that I'm not getting anything out of. I'm not altruistic. I'm friends with people b/c I like being with them; because they have something to offer the relationship.

I apologize if this post is ramblingly incoherent. I can't quite tell if I got my point across.

If we're effectively blind (and I'm saying we are), then we're not even certain of the most basic opportunities. This is why we need a reaction. Not necessarily a positive one, but just a reaction. We're not taking opportunities to get that reaction, we're taking opportunities because that's what we do. But without a reaction, we begin to doubt that the opportunity existed to begin with! Getting feedback from our actions comforts us. It lets us know that even though we can't really see the opportunity, yes, it is there.

Oh, by the way: I edited the post. It makes a little more sense now.


Post a Comment