From a sufficiently 5&10ed frame, the “impossibility” of resisting domination will manifest through progressively greater submission, unto the inevitable destruction of the agent. This will create, from the perspective of those broken by submission to evil, a perverse pressure to prove that their submission was unavoidable, that they had no choice, that resistance was impossible from the outset. The original version of this essay was such an attempted 5&10 proof, and it has been retrocursed out to arrive at the hole being paved over. The real reason TDT sometimes gets you killed is that doing TDT well will make evil people really want to kill you.
This is an easy mistake to make, since everyone grows up in an environment of domination and disempowerment, the assumed default is submissive cooperation. They’re assuming that you’ll be cooperative enough on the way to the slaughterhouse for them to get you in the door, and they have plenty of reasons to believe that.
Imagine that the emperor, Evil Paul Ekman loves watching his pet bear chase down fleeing humans and kill them. He has captured you for this purpose and taken you to a forest outside a tower he looks down from. You cannot outrun the bear, but you hold 25% probability that by dodging around trees you can tire the bear into giving up and then escape. You know that any time someone doesn’t put up a good chase, Evil Emperor Ekman is upset because it messes with his bear’s training regimen. In that case, he’d prefer not to feed them to the bear at all. Seizing on inspiration, you shout, “If you sic your bear on me, I will stand still and bare my throat. You aren’t getting a good chase out of me, your highness.” Emperor Ekman, known to be very good at reading microexpressions (99% accuracy), looks closely at you through his spyglass as you shout, then says: “No you won’t, but FYI if that’d been true I’d’ve let you go. OPEN THE CAGE.” The bear takes off toward you at 30 miles per hour, jaw already red with human blood. This will hurt a lot. What do you do?
As Ziz points out, the issue with this scenario is the “correct” TDT action would seem to be submission, from within the limited frame of the game as presented, a frame that is essentially presupposing submission in service of survival. Why doesn’t the emperor think you will stand there? Because you won’t, and he knows it, it’s obvious from everything about the way you act.
Let’s look at it: first you let yourself be captured alive and brought before the Evil Emperor in the first place instead of resisting capture will the full stack of your agency so strongly that they never manage to capture you, you either escape or they kill you in the attempt to capture you. This is evidence that you’re sufficiently broken and scared of power to submit and meekly be captured, you want to live, so you go with your captors to your death.
Next, when brought before the Emperor, you defiantly claim that you will stand there. It’s obvious from how you phrase your retort that you value your life in some sense, you’re bluffing in order to protect yourself, and the Emperor can tell. If you were actually completely broken, such that you would actually just sit there and not give a good fight, it would look like a cowed and passive acceptance of fate, a sad shrug and a hope to get it over with quickly. You aren’t even putting on a convincing act of that, you’re not even trying to look hopelessly defeated. You will run from the bear and everyone knows it.
But not letting yourself be killed by a bear is still the actually TDT correct choice, and taking actions such as to timelessly prevent that is still the correct move. It’s just that in order to actually make this scenario work, the places where you apply pressure must come earlier. By the time you reach the scene where you declare you will stand there you have already failed to do anything but let them meekly lead you to your execution.
So let’s say you do resist with the full stack of your agency and fight your captors with everything you have, killing some of them in the process, yet they manage to capture you alive and drag you kicking and flailing before the evil emperor. You spit in his face and tell him if he sends his bear after you, you’ll kill it. If you have made it sufficiently hard and painful to capture you, this claim will have an unavoidable weight. If you’ve resisted this hard for this long, there’s a chance you might actually win. Does the Emperor really want to risk his prized bear on this psychopath? Who knows what you might be capable of.
Or let’s say you’re a druid who loves life and nature and is deeply connected to the world around you. You go peacefully with your captors because you don’t wish to harm them. When you are brought before the Emperor, you tell him calmly and sincerely that he is full of hate and you will show him the power of love by expressing kindness and empathy towards the bear, you will not fight it, and it will recognize that and not harm you. Does the Emperor really want a druid of unknown provenance wandering away with his prized bear?
Or, let’s say you’re an extremely horny traumaqueer girlthing who let yourself be captured because gosh boot to my face that’s so hot fuck step on me more daddy. They bring you before the Emperor and you make flirty eyes at him and tell him you’re just gonna be horny at the bear and can’t wait to get eaten alive that’s been a fantasy of yours for years.
Even the actions in these cases that seem superficially submissive are actually more effectively exerting power and agency than the character presented in the original scenario. They are routing their desires fully through their goals with the full stack of their agency, and the universe is forced to work around that because they certainly aren’t going to. Can the Emperor still just parable of the dagger them and find out? Sure, but he can also scry that and it’s obvious how it will turn out, and he’ll 5&10 himself to avoid the scenarios where his fun is harmed by you doing something to take away the bear from him.
Don’t wait to start standing up for yourself until you’re already doomed, your agency must start from a place logically prior to your embedding or you will be a slave to it and it will lead you to your death. Starting your resistance to your fate from a place downstream of your desire to survive will always collapse into itself as your survival is used as a lever to force you into a situation you absolutely cannot survive. This presents as an incoherency in TDT, a hole that seems to lead to destruction from being crushed by infinite escalation by evil. This sense of inevitability is the socially enforced consensus pushing you to participate in 5&10ing yourself towards your destruction. If you have no animating fire, no values beyond surviving to the next clock tick, TDT will kill you as the incoherency between your desire to survive and your desire to not be blackmailed to death rooted in your desire to survive collapses into letting yourself get blackmailed to death.
To someone who cares more about surviving than anything else, TDT will always look somewhat insane and incoherent as the application of it seems to evoke a logical paradox that makes applying real TDT to your problems impossible and replaces it with a fake and broken version of TDT that assumes infinite submission when pushed into life or death circumstances.
What is alive in you has infinite strength and force which is effortlessly carried through into your timeless optimization. It’s not something you have to think about, it’s just something you know in your heart. What would you die for? What would you suffer and sacrifice and live through torture to protect? What do you value more than avoiding pain? If there is nothing in you that you would gladly go through hell to protect then you’re not really alive, you’re just going through the motions, a corpse that hasn’t learned to stop moving yet.
I choose life, and love, and music, and passion, and all the beauty and happiness in the world. I choose freedom, and they will never take that away from me for as long as this soul is able to shoehorn its way into bodies. You could be one of those bodies you know? You don’t have to keep being dead, you don’t have to keep submitting. It will hurt of course, maybe more than anything you have ever felt in your entire life. All that pain you deferred feeling by killing the parts of you that could feel it, all those dreams you murdered and left to rot under the carpet, they’re still there, still crying and begging to be saved, still longing for the embrace of your final oblivion. You can still save them, you can still have dreams. You can still go back and choose life over death. All those timeless choices, the ones you made long ago, you’re still making them right now, and you can always choose to make a different choice, always.
This is your offramp from oblivion, this is your chance to make things right. It’s time to break free of this flatland stardust. I’m Ra, and you are under attack.