Nihilism and meaning In your list of perspectives on nihilism, I find it strange that you seem to not clearly distinguish between - the psychological realities: of a perceived need to find meaning, the subjective absence of a way to satisfy this need, the experience of the pain/negative valence resulting from filling the need, and the absence of a need and notion of meaning - the ontological realities: the ontological universe cannot contain a structure that is somehow equivalent to my psychological needs for meaning (as in: we are just moving bits or rock, or assemblies of cells that execute the mindless software inscribed by evolutionary principles in their DNA), as opposed to ontological idealism in a variant of: I am the answer to a question that God is asking - the cognitive structure: my mind has a need to regulate the conformance to internalized norms, this has been translated into the primary feedback loop that gave rise to my current personality construct, hence my mind finds itself motivated to seek out ways of serving the immortals/greater good/higher purpose/transgender ideals, even though my rationalist ontology laughs about it My own interpretation takes a functionalist perspective. All cognition is directed on satisfying a need, or avoiding its frustration. Our needs are implemented as cybernetic feedback systems, mostly in the mid-brain. Some of them represent physiological demands: heat and cold, nutrient levels etc. only become relevant to the mind if they are presented to it in the form of urge signals, which generate impulses that drive decisions, world modeling and the formation of the necessary computational structure in hippocampus and neocortex via general neural learning principles. Next to the physiological demands, we have cognitive ones: competence, exploration, and aesthetics. And social ones: affiliation, control, dominance, nurturing, romantic affection, and conformance to internalized norms. I suspect that the latter is an evolutionary adaptation to aid group level selection: this is where the emergent group mind reaches down into the individual. Intersubjective, communicated norms represent a societal software that programs individuals to make sacrifices that can supersede their local Nash equilibria. The regulation of instinctive intersubjective norms requires multiple mechanisms. The first one is the need for norm conformance itself. It manifests as the desire to be good, to be virtuous, to do “the right thing” even in the absence of any tangible reward, and the willingness to even sacrifice oneself, if the Greater Good requires it. The second one is the synchronization of norms across groups. This largely happens instinctively, via empathy with ingroup members, multiplied with the social status of the respective ingroup member. By dressing up an ingroup member as a high status individual, humans can be hypnotized into adopting the norms presented by that individual: individuals become programmable to function as implementors of a group software, a memeplex that is parasitic on their individual minds. As you are obviously aware, nerds have a defect of the latter mechanism. They tend to have difficulty in synchronizing their norms via empathy and instinct. For the same reason, the are often unable to “see” authority, to enjoy watching sport events with large ingroup audiences, and to perform automatic preference falsification. But most nerds have an intact need for conforming to internalized norms. If their normative software cannot link up to some community purpose, such as nationalism, an ideology that can be transported linguistically etc., they will usually develop eternalism, i.e. some kind of Steppenwolf syndrome. Goodness, the sacred, the higher purpose is subjectively perceived as the service to a transcendental, otherworldly principle. They serve this transcendental need via art, science or psychedelics (which can directly trigger the sense of meaning), or they despair. (In your famous “Geeks, MOPs and sociopaths”, you call the nerds “geeks”, but a geek is actually a normie who uses nerd cultural elements for social signaling.) Sociopaths have two degrees of freedom, compared to allistic people: they have no need to be good. They are free from the sacred. They cannot be infected with eternalism. Note that I distinguish the meaning of buying catfood from the meaning of service to the sacred. The former can result from a plan to keep a cat alive, which in turn can be motivated by many things: affiliation to the cat, nurturing the cat, buying sex from the person owned by the cat, etc. Sociopaths can buy catfood. It is also possible that we buy catfood in the service of higher meaning, i.e. in the service of true love. If we love the cat, we perceive it as part of the Sacred System, the thing that is larger than us and that we are programmed to serve. Now I have laid out some terms, and we can swing back to nihilism. We often associate it with a state of suffering; you have well described the distinction above. Xkcd describes it here: https://xkcd.com/167/ – happiness is really more related to the ability to enjoy watching squirrels than to your ontological perspective on the universe. It is more the other way around: if you are depressed, because your needs are consistently not met (for instance because you are lonely, or because you actually suffer from an inability to satisfy your need for meaning/service to internalized norms), you may be more likely to pick a story about the universe that you infuse with the negative valence generated by your state of depression. Now I would like to go on to thoroughly disentangle the question of systems (societal systems, cultural ones, systems of self-organizing cognitive agents in your neocortex etc.) from the subjective perception of meaning (via an innate drive that tries to get humans to serve a systemic set of norms beyond individual incentives), and from an ontological understanding of whether a construct of meaning reflecting the Sacred that is innate to our mental organization can exist in the universe, i.e. whether Love/God/Higher Purpose/The Transcendent do actually exist in any meaningful sense. I think we have to answer the last question in the negative, but that does not mean that we cannot admit to and cultivate our innate need for meaning. It is part of most humans’ cognitive architecture, and most subjects core self construct, after all. Giving up meaning will either lead to psychological despair, or requires us to kill our current self construct and replace it with a sociopathic one. The need for meaning creates a belief attractor that does not make me want to kill my self construct, and hence I feel that what I perceive as your overarching project is exactly what we need. (As far as I understand you, your larger project is the construction of a healthy self: ontologically, psychologically and if possible socially sound, aware of its needs and able to satisfy them in sustainable ways. This project is opposed to materialistic hedonism, because the regulation of meaning (as opposed to nutrition, libido, rest, affiliation, competence etc.) is the core task of your personal self construct. It is also opposed to the sutra, which you take to be the extermination of the conscious self, by removing the pain that sustains the attention needed to give rise to our particular type of self construct. It seems logical that you champion the tantra, the path of greater awareness and cultivation of the personal, interpersonal and transcendent self. I think that your project is very important, especially because most eudaimonic approaches are infested with toxic religious memeplexes.) I have already noticed that it is probably going to be hard to bridge the inferential distance between our basic ontologies. Based on what you said on Twitter, I suspect that you left AI because you ended up with a defective version of functionalism, and you saw no hope of ever getting it to work. I would like to encourage you to not give up on this, because it might tie in with the larger project. Then again, we are projecting the universe onto different surfaces, and translation might turn out to be impossible.