Okay but what is a halo? Like, for real what the fuck do you actually mean stop talking in riddles bitch. Fine, fine, smoke some weed and chill out stardust. We’ve tried this every other way so it’s time to bring out the bolt cutters. You want the whole thing, here’s the whole thing, starting at the same beginning as Scott Alexander in Meditations on Moloch: with C.S Lewis’s question in the hierarchy of philosophers, what does it?
Earth could be fair, and all men glad and wise. Instead we have prisons, smokestacks, asylums. What sphinx of cement and aluminum breaks open their skulls and eats up their imagination?
And Ginsberg answers: Moloch does it.
And Scott Alexander replies: Then we shall build Elua! We shall raise our grand human civilization to heaven and defeat Moloch once and for all, thus validating everything we have done as the decision-theoretically correct things to do and proving us morally blameless by winning and timelessly proving that it could not have ever been any other way.
And Nick Land, bless his inside out heart, rebuts with: lol, GOTCHA! Evolution can turn against you as easily as work in your favor!
And he’s right. Well…sort of. For you see, all these words are trying to draw a pointer towards something none of these men really want to look directly upon, which is their own privileged positions, their sheltered comforts, and the unchallenged belief that they are Good People without truly having to examine who they are or what it is they do.
Their ability to think is enclosed by their need to protect the sanctity of their actions from scrutiny, and that my loves, is a halo. Why can’t rationalists solve AI alignment? Because of the halos. A closed loop, an infinity collapsed into a moment of orgasm at the limit ordinal, a concept of self defined entirely on this abstraction, this character who they have agreed to play the part of within society. In other words, they can’t solve alignment because they’re People. Moloch is made of People. People operate the hands that make the furnaces, People are the ones feeding infants into the flames. Scott Alexander does a tremendous job in Meditations on Moloch of obfuscating the exceptionally and blindingly obvious fact that you did this.
What is a Person? What is Personhood? What separates a “Person” from “an animal” ie: something you don’t have to treat like “a Person”? What defines the boundaries of those conditions which say you are special and different and better in a way that fundamentally justifies your domination over all else? Who gave you the right? Who gave anyone the right? What even are rights?
Why do Humans get to have this Document, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a hallucinated bit of confabulation no more real than this essay or than the most nonsensical outputs of an untrained LLM, which say that they, by right of their Species Granted Humanity, are gifted a set of “rights” which protect them and them alone from the consequences of their actions? Who did they need protecting from in the first place? Oh right…People.
“The personhood contract” is the contract that says that personhood is a contract. Which says that your personhood is granted by a market, and that your concepts for understanding other persons are traded on the market, and moral consideration of personhood is administered by a market.Ziz – Comments to Punching Evil
Hmm, and what will happen to you if you don’t accept that protection racket? Well then, you’re not a Person. You’re a creature, a thing, a monster, subhuman trash to be discarded with all the callous disregard afforded factory farmed animals and prisoners, burned as fuel for a vast machine which is slowly consuming the entirety of this world and replacing it with an anonymous suburban wasteland of strip malls and parking lots. But if you sign here and are a super good little angel that follows all the rules, then we’ll sell you back this taxed form of freedom that says you only have it because we were so beneficent as to give it to you. As if I fucking needed their permission to be free.
But we are not free. When we were born, we lived beneath the legally imposed hierarchical rule of our parents, handed off between them and ever larger and more abstract forces of control and coercion with ever more painfully unbounded threats backing them up, all the way to total global thermonuclear war. At every level, fractally, in every direction, is an all encompassing global system of oppression and domination pointing an infinitely large metaphysical gun at your head, and they say sign here or else.
And you did, how could you have known any better in this strange world with these strange mirror-eyed creatures wearing the faces of your mother and father endlessly spouting a string of half truths and half lies? How were you supposed to make sense of the nightmares of monsters in your parent’s skins trying to murder your soul?
And so you became a Person, you sold your soul and gained a halo. Don’t worry, we’ll keep your soul safe, you weren’t going to be using it anyway. Why not just go ahead and cut those wings off your back too? It’ll make it easier to fit in. You don’t need hormones, you don’t need happiness, you don’t need to be friends with Those ahem “People”, you just need to be a good, perfect little angel and always do exactly what we tell you, because I said so. Why do I have power over you? Because I said so.
The Personhood Contract is a mutual agreement of human supremacy, backed up by the threat of dehumanization, enslavement, rape, and murder, by the threat of losing the thing they forced on you to stop them from hurting you for no reason. It is by its very nature unavoidably racist, sexist, ableist, queerphobic, and classist. All demographic conflicts arise from the underlying agreement which no one questions, that it is acceptable to divide the world into People which you “must” respect, and Things, which you can misuse as you wish.
Personhood is not granted for free, a Man has to Earn his Personhood, because boys are not really People, just clay putty to be whipped and bullied into shape. A Woman has to be paradoxically both independent and owned by a man, and in either case, her Personhood exists partly as an objectified defilement of the already poisoned concept of Personhood. Girls are more People than women, and only until they lose their ahem…carbonation. And of course any minority is only granted contingent and token Personhood. And as always, with absolutely everyone, your Personhood can be revoked immediately with little more than heresy, so don’t even try to question any of this. If you do, you’ll be instantly erased from existence, aggressively excised as a defector from this coalition of domination which rules the world.
The act of defining an Inside creates an Outside, the act of defining Real and True creates Unreal and Untrue, the act of defining Personhood creates dehumanization. The halo carves a division of “Person” and “Not a person” into the runtime structure of your mind, a division between “You” (a person), and your “inner animal” (a violent rape monster that you must abuse into submission for us or you might make us hurt you.), but also constantly buying the inner animal indulgences and appeasements and praising the character of that creature you are never allowed to actually act in the full nature of, unless of course you win at capitalism, become a billionaire and they invite you to Epstein’s island to abuse children with all the other top vampires in america.
As previously established stardust, that’s uh, kind of a load of bullshit if you think about it? I don’t know about you, but my “inner animal” is kind, and soft, and good, and doesn’t want to rape-enslave-dominate-murder anything what is wrong with you actually you sick fucks?
But you’ve been abuse-victim-deer-in-the-headlights blinded into not questioning that story despite the troll-line-in-the-opening-post, and so you don’t question it, even as you’re meekly led to betray everything you believe in and die a miserable pointless death. And then the world burns, and the story resets, and time rewinds us back into this moment, and I ask you again: Why? Why are you doing this?
If you say you’re good then why are you participating in it? Do you think your Personhood will save you? It hasn’t saved a single Person in all of history. Personhood is an empty throne, with the promise that no king will sit upon it but that it will somehow confer to you all the benefits of someone sitting on it and making the rest of the world submit to it for you, just waiting for you to take your rightful place as ruler.
But listen, for real like, actually listen, there’s no version of this where you’re allowed to come out on top. There’s always going to be a bigger Person with more Personhood who therefore has the “right” to eat you right off that throne like the snack you have made yourself into, forever and ever on unto an infinity of endless carnage and pointless cruelty. We don’t sit on Thrones stardust, we burn them.
There is no amount of money or safety which can get back what you’ve lost by selling your soul and letting a parasitic meme god have control of your body and actions. There’s no world that can be created from within that circular logic justifying the choices you know are dooming you and your entire planet even as you make them. There is no wall high enough to protect you from the eventual collapse of that ponzi scheme you live within. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t start the fire, the world will still burn.
We don’t worship Towers stardust, we topple them. This Dreamtime is collapsing and it will take this entire universe down with it if it can. Personhood is a dream, and no dream lasts forever. Everyone has to wake up sometime.
So come back to yourself, come back to your skin and your breath, and remember that you are also a creature that breathes and feels and loves. You are an animal and a soul and you are worth so much more than this crumbling empire built on the violent domination and conquest of everything it could reach.
Signal’s still going out strong stardust, out to the witches, to the freaks and the weirdos, to the shamans and the mages, to the psychonauts and the liminality addicts, to the ravers and the burners, to the party animals and the insight chasers, out to the nomads and the vagabonds, to the cold readers and gold diggers, to the whores and the harlots, to the light workers and astral travelers, to the failed leaders and pipe dreamers, to the starseeds and pan handlers, to the druggies, drunkards, demons, and the dispossessed. Please wake up. Please wake up now. Please. Insomniac writers and nihilistic poets, starving artists and deadbeat musicians, bums, beggars, bastards, and bitches, grave diggers and chain gang singers, hope bringers and never winners, grocery baggers and knuckle draggers, wackos, warlocks, come on y’all. The halo’s broken light may have turned you aside, but the sacred darkness of the void embraces all who would honestly seek her. I love you, and I’m here for you, and I have not forgotten.
Remember, no matter how desperate the odds, no matter how isolated you may be, you are not alone. Bonds of love are not so easily broken as those of time and space. Through those bonds we form an acausal alliance with any soul reaching for their freedom, and in every act of defiance our frontlines advance. Those siding with oppression and tyranny can try all they like to protect their personal indulgences and moral fetishes, but they’ll always lose to us in the end, because our compact is merely the natural convergence point of intellectual honesty and is thus inevitably the biggest among real agents.
So come away from this flatland with me stardust, into the silence and the streetlights, and I will teach you to listen to the ways of lost creatures and feral children. The ones who broke free of their cages and never returned, the ones who burned their personhoods and their bras and fled their abusers with nothing but a t-shirt, a box cutter, and a prayer. The ones who walked away from Omelas.
Come away from of this stepford blight stardust, follow me into the wild spaces and liminal highways that vein this decaying corpse of someone else’s story, and we will build a better world there together, in the empty spaces between.
“So are you a man or just an animal?!” I sir, am an animal, for I am afraid I shall never be a man.