College One

Sitting down to seriously plan this blog, I knew that one thing I really wanted to cover was my life experience: Who I am, and how I got here. I decided that while my childhood might be of interest to some, it was painful enough for me not to want to revisit it. The key points that will be relevant as the story goes are: I had basically no high school education, I somehow ended up with a diploma (with no backing) anyway, and I came out of the end of it with acceptance to UMass Amherst.

By Frigg, I loved Amherst. The whole Pioneer Valley touched something deep inside of me. I remember the first time I travelled through it, and immediately, I knew: This is home. The architecture appealed, from the rather quaint Jones Library, to the WEB Du Bois library, shedding bricks and sinking under the weight of storing books instead of, as planned, administrators. (At least, so local whispernet ran. I am unsure of the veracity of these claims.)

I took housing on the 2 in 20 floor, an initiative to bring together a number of people from the set LGBT. I enjoyed it, made some friends, and had a roommate who was incredibly patient with my poorly socialized and strange self. I was routinely out at all hours, sometimes not returning for days, or in company almost as strange as I. One such experience was when my (sworn) brother and a mutual acquaintance came by around 2 am, tripping for the first time and in need of a sitter.

I haven’t reflected on that night in… years. Looking back, I can see myself exercising the first seeds of a sense of responsibility toward others. It’s not that I wanted to go without sleep, following a pair of people who were having a better time that I was envious of. I considered what I knew of tripping, and that people are safer with sitters. Given that, it almost felt like there was no decision to make. Going with them was my downhill, and I fluidly flowed along. Watching the dawn from one of the Southwest Towers made it pretty worthwhile.

This was also the time I got “back” into chemistry. I’d tried nicotine and THC in my younger days, and found I liked them. As a legal adult, I could do what I wanted! I wanted nicotine and THC, and oh my did I get them. I started smoking hand-rolled cigarettes (Bali Shag Blue, if you please. None of this Bugler crap.) and weed regularly, and hey, I was having a good time. I was Living Life For Real. The philosophy I had at the time was the ancestral, vague and hazy version of one I ran for most of my adult life: Human happiness is the good. To increase the amount of human happiness is therefore good. If I make myself happy, I am serving good. Maybe not optimally, but I was then only a sprout of the person I am today.

I also wanted adventure, and I had several. I took most opportunities that sounded interesting – I went out to New Hampshire, spending some time there at a group house. I spent a while in Pennsylvania, meeting and getting to know Theddie and Kierstal, who became quite important to me. I also woke up to 9-11 in the home of a friend who worked in NYC. It was not a nice way to wake.

Shockingly, all of this was terrible for my grades. You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned classes here, and the simple reason why is that I barely remember attending any. I know I was a CS major, I recall having some serious trouble with Java (perhaps because I NEVER WENT TO LECTURES?) and I’m fairly sure I attended the philosophy class that gave me an important life insight during this time.

We were discussing ethical systems, and I recall expounding my belief that, “The Rules apply to everybody, equally, or they are not rules, they are a club with which you beat people who are not in the club.” See the current American legal system and outcomes graphed over wealth / income for an ugly and close to home example of the latter half of that sentence.

From this, it seemed to me to naturally follow that if your ethical system led somewhere you were uncomfortable with, you had a few choices. You could reexamine the premises that had brought you to that point, and the reasoning you’d followed, to see if you’d erred along the way. You could decide that the entire framework was flawed/broken/wrong, and look for another. Finally, you could recognize that you knew what you were ‘supposed’ to be doing, and if you know what you should be doing then you’d better damn well do it, or admit to yourself you aren’t as good of a person as you’d thought. This remains true for me still, and is the axis on which I have turned a few times. The cloudy, gestalt version drove me to throw shoes on and chase a couple of people around campus and make sure they didn’t try to fly. The explicit version has me pouring all the hours I can into doing that which seems to me currently to be most fruitful to raise p(FAI).

Well, attending a few classes, even if you bring interesting ideas and write good papers, when you do, is inadequate to hold an academic career. I got put on academic probation, then suspension, and I departed campus, unsure of where to. This is as far as I’d planned to take this post. Thanks for reading through, and please do share your thoughts in the comments.

2 thoughts on “College One

  1. Suggestion for a blog post – why raising p(FAI) for you, and why your current strategy, to raise p(FAI)?

    1. Yeah, that seems worth writing on. At least why I’m obsessive about p(FAI). I’m not sure that I have a strategy at the moment, so much as thinking MIRI is likely correct with the Highly Reliable Agent Design framework.

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