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Nothing you do will ever matter

5 minute read

A photo of the death of the sun, courtesy bing image creator
Note: while this post sounds very depressed and angsty, my mental health’s actually pretty great. I’m doing perfectly fine.
Why do we even do this shit? We’re just gene machines tottering around, trying to reproduce. That’s absurd but not an argument for absurdism. We’re stuck here on a big terrestrial meatball called earth and just expected to figure out what to do. That’s pretty darn existential, but existentialism does jack shit to fix it.
So we’re all just Really Big Abstractions in a goop of particles. Forged by some deaf process of memetic selection. Weird cascades of structure reducible to the fundamental constants dreamt up the goofy fever of existence. We’re just passengers along for the ride. Meaninglessness is intrinsic to the universe. Any explanation we make just numbs out the mind-boggling deadness of it all.
What matters to you? Family? Understanding of the universe? Producing rubber duckies? Whatever it is, the void will happily swallow it. The universe is one crazy big stochastic process in which any arbitrary informational state will at some point appear. And then pass away, fading into the next. This is a fact. Unless quantum mechanics is deeply wrong, the universe is damned to forever cycle between random states in a frothy sea of entropy. You WILL die. As will your children, your children’s children, the human race, your opulent intergalactic empire. Everything you make, optimize, or love will be eaten by the final undoing.
The solution’s obvious. We should just enjoy the our tiny slice of Random Process or laugh and shout “fuck you” to the unhearing void. But that’s a hard cope. It feels nice to make some semblance of meaning while still “intellectually” understanding that the void is god. But in the process, you steamroll over the fact that this thinking itself is pointless, the product of an infinite recurse of nothing. And, haha, another little fact: even this reasoning is broken. We can’t ever know if our knowledge is true, or just an infinite self-sustaining paradox. Nothing I’m saying is of any consequence because I can’t even trust the universe to tell us the truth about itself - but neither can anyone else. Induction is fucked, now die like a dog.
But wait! There’s more! A final, unbeatable Great Meaninglessness. You’re an incidental agent, honed by billions of years of evolution. Your goals are totally accidental. You’re just a pawn to the Blind Idiot Optimizer in the Sky. Your values are no more coherent or useful than paperclip maximization. At the root of it all is a complex tangle of tendencies that in the ancestral environment led to reproduction. You will never escape this. You can never break free to forge your own destiny. The evolutionary bootloader is fundamentally, inescapably part of you.
Every impulse you have right now is an effect of evolution and physics. Your biology, society, your fundamental cognitive structure, whatever. You had no say in it. You have no free will. Information is the god that dictates everything, you’re just a fly surfing the random ripples of the universal information soup. You is inextricable from the means that made and make it.
Think about your wants. Sex? Evolution, duh! Happiness? An indirect proxy for social and physical fitness. Self-actualization? Turns out agents that have a good understanding of themselves are better at not dying. Modifying your values? Living forever? Believing absurdist philosophy? Making creative works? Turns out it’s impossible to ever run fully away from your evolved state. Evolution determined your initial parameters and your environment blindly transforms them through time. None of that is you. This is like determinism but worse: you cannot escape the values you were initialized with at birth because everything you ever do will be a knock-on effect of these values. That’s the horror of being conscious - you’re tantalizingly close to being more than just a giant physics simulation, but even the mere desire to do that comes from the simulation. You’re permanently beholden to a process of change dictated solely by outside forces.
Furthermore, in precisely zero senses are your values worthwhile or good. If you were evolved by a very different selection process, you’d think that murder was good. There’s no universal Book of Good, and no optimization target is better than any other. Someone who wants to nuke all sentient life in the universe into valhalla is just as “good” as someone who wants to have sex and smoke dope all day. Who is just as good as Mother Teresa. Who is just as good as Clippy. And so it goes.
Because we’re all just one big jiggling cosmic soup, any question that can’t be strictly formulated in terms of mathematical laws has no answer. Murder, rape, holocaust, and K-pop are all permitted.
That’s not the kind of thing you realize and just go “oh, how goofy,” and then go on “Indomitable Spirit of Man-ing” through your day. It’s the kind of thing that makes you curl up in a ball on the floor and shoot yourself. Because isn’t it FUCKED that nothing will ever mean anything? Maybe band-aids like existentialism and absurdism are the only way to survive the crushing weight of the void. I sure as hell still have things I care about and optimize - you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. But just remember that whatever you care about, whatever you love, it’s meaningless. Your values aren’t supreme, you have had and will continue to have no control over what you are, and everything will regardless end up a big goopy mess at the end of it all.
So, uh, live, laugh, love and never forget to smile! Kisses <3!

Note: follow-up post about why you should *still* care and, like, not check out of life despite all of this probably forthcoming.

Published Oct 30, 2023

"But what kind of freedom does one have if one can use it only as someone else prescribes?"