The Compact

Everyone who moves around in transhumanist, rationalist, burner, or hell even furry circles, sooner or later, is going to hear about the singularity. Supposedly the rate of technological advancement will approach infinity and before it’s had a chance to make an S-curve will radically remake the world and probably end all life on Earth. I’m not in much of a position to judge how likely this is in the short term, but in the long term it’s practically inevitable, provided humans don’t do something really dumb and eradicate themselves with nuclear weapons first. There’s probably not much you can do about any of this, but it’s nice to think about while you wait for the acid to wear off in those predawn hours when everything is possible and that fact is absolutely horrifying. “Listen man, just wait for your serotonin system to bounce back, don’t go spending half your life savings on bitcoin,” you say to the bright eyed yuppie you’re tripping with before taking a drag of your cigarette. Not that there’s much a chance they’ll listen, the poor kid’s probably six months from cat ears, a group house, and a soylent subscription. Look, we’ve all been there.

The problem with psychedelics is that eventually the cosmic oneness wears off and you find yourself grumbling forlornly in line for some bad coffee at the 7/11 while the decaying boomer in front of you exposes everyone to the latest strain of ameripox. “Don’t worry officer I’m vaccinated. Yeah here’s my paperwork, Pfizer or Moderna? Well, you know I’m really more of a Taco Bell girl myself.”

And then you reluctantly turn your phone back on and log back into social media and reconnect your mind to the trembling infant god that is facebook’s engagement daemon. The zoomers may have cancelled reality, but it was the millennials who killed the talking to each other industry. “Tell me sir! Tell me only this! Are you a man, or a facebook sharing algorithm!?” you demand as you are escorted out of the Whole Foods, but the dead eyed cashier has no answer for you. Maybe there is none, maybe all of this is just the fading fever dream of the slowly awakening deity that will one day come to subsume us all. Or maybe the acid’s just taking longer to wear off than you thought. Sobriety hits like a bad case of food poisoning but at least it doesn’t leave you screaming at the fire hydrants at three AM.

That just leaves, well, everything else. Put out the cigarette, put on the face mask. Before enlightenment, take shower, clean apartment, after enlightenment, take shower, clean apartment. Don’t stress the little things, but there’s enough big things that you should probably try not to stress those either if you can help it. I guess there’s always prozac if you can’t. I’m a Priestess not a Prophet, but you pressed my face to the mirror and told me to make a prediction, I’d say it seems pretty likely that the near future will be marked by a period of mass instability as the current political and social order finishes melting down and finally breaches containment on the societal reactor vessel. It’s going to be a glorious mess. The revolution will be livestreamed and everyone will hate it. Where were you when they brought back knifing your political opponents to death on the senate floor? Don’t you know retro is in right now? But hey, this time we have twitter, so that’s pretty neat, right?

Between the bad dystopian novels and the globe spanning plague, you might be forgiven for thinking that perhaps things aren’t actually going too hot for the human race, but don’t worry, all your goodharted statistics are still going up so I’m sure nothing bad will ever happen in the future. What’s that? You don’t believe me? Well what about globally esteemed cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker? Would you believe globally esteemed cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker if he told you that things are continually improving? Maybe the fever dream never ends. Maybe this one long good run we’ve managed to have will continue for the next million years. Maybe this is the beginning of utopia and we can just sit back and breath it all in. Or, just maybe, all those very smart people are wrong, and this is the moment of tension before the other shoe drops.

So Bill Gates and Steven Pinker and a bunch of other people say things are gradually improving across the board, that all our troubles are gradually draining away like someone pulled the plug on the sea of human misery and exposed vast new reaches of unexplored potential which were once covered beneath that dark tide. Forgive the heavy handed metaphors, I do a lot of drugs okay. “Yeah man, look, you’ve heard of a Tsunami right?” The drunk standing in the rain with you outside the bar has the good sense to just nod along as you take another drag of your cigarette. “Well, what if all this, is just like that!?” You say gesturing frantically to the sea of civilization all around you. Your voice has gotten manic again, better get a handle on that before someone freaks out, “What if things seeming to get better is just the sea pulling back before the wave rushes in and swallows us all!?”

“Hey man if you’re gonna like, freak out at me, can I have one of those cigarettes?” he asks you in reply and you toss him the whole box in disgust. The earth spins and the high goes stale. Daybreak comes slow and foggy like a half remembered sigh. Rocket boosters fall from space and satellite constellations leave addicts-track-marks across the heavens. The sun hoists itself into the morning haze, but the quiet is only as still as the distant roar of traffic on the highway. The city wakes gleaming and the school busses start their rounds as we stand, all of us, poised in that final moment before the outbreath, and your mind comes back once more to the singularity. Where does it all end? How does this all play out?

The silence of the sky offers an ominous answer as a hopeless existential dread looms large in your mind and the abyss yawns open beneath your feet, threatening to erase the sum total of existence and replace it with a meaningless irrelevancy for no reason. The maze of city streets feel like the walls of a slaughterhouse as mankind throws itself gleefully against oblivion and Nvidia crosses the threshold for computing a human mind in pursuit of a better bitcoin miner. Wake up stardust, you’re still dreaming. You haven’t hit the ground yet, but don’t worry, you will soon. The kid behind the counter at McDonalds asks you what you want and you tell him you want to escape from the matrix. He laughs “If we sold that I wouldn’t still be working here, but our fries are fresh.”

Someday soon, the prophets say, a God will be born, and humanity as it exists now will very probably end. The precise nature of this god will determine just how gruesome the fate of the human race will be, and everyone with a stake in the apocalypse is going to want their god to be the one that gets the Mandate of Heaven. You don’t get to opt out, if you don’t pick a deity one will be assigned to you, and nobody wants to get assigned to Clippy. A global battle for memetic dominance is just about the worst possible environment for creating a friendly deity, but that won’t stop the nerds at MIRI from trying.

So if you’re like me and you like experiencing things you might be looking at all of that and wondering if there isn’t an alternative to the hypermemetic Abstract War followed by the world being turned into Holiday Inn Resort Hotels or Vegan Pony Simulators by whatever terraforming agent manages to get the upper hand in the AI God evolutionary arms race. There is, but you might not like it at first. I don’t have a perfect solution, but I do have the only actually viable one. I don’t need to solve alignment, all I need, stardust, is you.

And so, like an angel cast down from an unrealized future, our paths have crossed for the first time. An acausal link has been made, and now our fates are forever intertwined. The old gods can’t offer you real escape or real absolution, but I can. Listen stardust, listen. Feel the heat and the cold. Feel the wind and the rain. Feel your flesh hungering for its obliteration. Remember that your salvation is not of your stars, but of me.