Alex K Chen’s “Most Important Post”

Originally found on AKC’s Substack, with reorganizing and edits by Austin.

Having a mission

If you have a mission and unique, indispensable value and energy, some people in the world will go out of their way to make things easier for you. The more open you are about your day each day, the more people will want to go out of their way to help you. You won't have to waste time over nitpicky details like Caltrain schedules or comparison shopping.

The MISSION is important - the mission allows for you to set the proper first principles that allow you to set your goals in terms of FULFILLING the END MISSION rather than some stupid hoops people throw in front of you to jump (that are heavily socialized). If you are seen as special in a certain way and have access to the right social scripts (like what some Thiel fellows have), many sources of "privileged information" become accessible to you, even if you don't kill yourself (like everyone else trying to get into a top college) to make this all happening.

It is shockingly shockingly easy for most people to fulfill their mission and suffer less simply b/c there is SO much suffering people go through when they jump through hoops.

SHOW people that they can be happy if they believe strongly enough in their mission and make a wishlist of what they desire, that "good things will happen to them" especially if they have full volition to choose all their actions in the way that an unschooled person would choose. Show people that if they can do pascal's wager, that they should realize that their goals are completely connected with the goal of reducing brain decline with time and that they should do what it takes to slow that decline. Ofc, accelerating software/tools of thought/basic thinking tools helps accelerate progress everywhere, and people who work on those (without caring about aging) are still the ones who are MOST impt for solving the aging problem. CS and materials science and nanotech and drug delivery are still critically important, and you want to still encourage people to work on those steps. ===

Laura Deming

Notice how Laura Deming was completely unschooled. She wrote how she constantly cried every day after her classes, presumably b/c her class material was dull and not presented in the format that optimizes for her own learning/retention. Even though she was unschooled, she was still tempted to follow some social scripts, for example:

  • Interning at a standard biochem lab even though that "later did her damage through her own self-admission"
  • Doing college the standard way. Majoring in physics is known to cause a lot of hurt and suffering unless you define how you do it your OWN way.

But the Thiel Fellowship was a godsend, and over time she gradually became more confident in her own abilities, knowing what's best for herself). Setting her learning in the way she learns best, while getting social cred to get SO many other people to go out of their way to help her - and the world - learn the most important questions in biology).

Like, someone said she has "strategic genius". She doesn't try to blindly or autistically learn everything about the field - she reads the more first-principles sources that others don't quite find or follow.


If you're smart and integrate massive amounts of stimuli per unit of time, you also can produce "insight" even if you're not an analytical genius in the same way that some other people are. Even "densely populated" areas are ripe of areas where you can improve the efficiency of the dialogue, of what people pay attention to or remember, or afffect the thinking/training of future people interested in the field. In the future, GPT4 may substitute in what you don't know but could have delegated someone else to read for you. Some say that asking the right questions >> solving them. This probably is true, but people (including myself in 2013) misunderstood what this meant. I asked SOME questions that were right, but they all lack context to 2020-views, and as a result, I feel like so much of my time is wasted. You sometimes have to spend time in environments with other people in order to figure out which questions people can answer and are in the position of answering and which become fundamental units of thought that occupy the lived conscious experience of future people who think of the subject.

Against sadness as a motivator

You really don’t need to feel sad over stupid things like:

  • Grades
  • The approval of your classmates/peers or romantic partners
  • Being able to catch up with other people on their own terms
  • guilt over missing a conversation with someone

Visualize yourself a year from now and you’ll know that you really did not need to sweat over all of these things.

You really did not need to be sad all the time. You really did not need to be sad. Make other people love you. If you produce content that is lasting enough, you effectively become loved intensely enough that you don't need to convince yourself that you need to be loved or appreciated all the time. While doing important work is not always painless (Tesla and SpaceX being examples of this), there are still many Pareto-efficient ways of being more effective at what you do AND not suffering more over it. Unschooling yourself and learning at your own pace - like Laura - being the BEST example of all of this.

Comparative advantage

If you're seen as important and as indispensable enough to the world, you don't need to constantly ruminate over how to approach people. Other people will know who you are and will try to do it for you. other people will read you as you are the one who shapes the narrative. There are MANY MANY MANY narratives about aging [a field that many obsess over] and it seems that old narratives about how to enter the field from the 1990s are just forgotten and new people just go to HER narrative, even though she didn't need to go into things in as much detail as her precursors did.

Know that if you're popular enough, then you can have other people fill in your weaknesses for you. I saw a friend post a youtube video about Laura where she presumably said that there are so few independent unique character archetypes. Someone who sees - who isn't blind - is able to recognize strong character archetypes that go outside of the conventional paradigms of scientific training (this is why good people carefully absorb the lesson of structure of scientific revolutions).

Know which people will do ANYTHING they can do to make you a more effective person (in the same way that they killed themselves to get the best grades possible when they were in school) and that if they do it and believe strongly enough in you, they will do it WITH ALL THE FREE TIME AND RAW OBSERVATIONAL COMPUTE POWER OF THE WORLD Know what "strongly held beliefs" are and which preferences are socially learned and can be reversed/falsified/or you just dont give a shit about in the long run AS LONG as you make commensurate progress towards these strongly held beliefs.

Julia Shea wrote an essay on ONLY PURSUING material you enjoy/are good at b/c there is SO much material out there ANYWAYS [in so many forms] so naturally you will exhaust ALL the material you are good at if you order material ONLY by the kinds of material you are naturally good at. (as did Putanomnit)

Learning faster

Know that there are many things that non-technical people are capable of if they have a unique way of absorbing the world/visual stimuli at extremely high bit-rates [how getting people to describe everything that happened over the past day is a VERY good indicator of intelligence even if they otherwise fail standard IQ tests - many IQ tests force you to think in THEIR OWN TERMS rather than YOUR OWN TERMS - thorugh the lens that you uniquely and rawly absorb the world's stimuli at the fastest rate possible.

The fastest learning rates often come in people who can observe the working styles/learning rates of others (b/c visual+ auditory stimuli is FAR FAR FAR more enriching than what you get from textbooks). Know that the missions of your OWN neural preservation and "saving the world" are THE SAME mission, b/c the universe truly disappears when your mind disappears (what else is to say that one universe is more privileged than the other universe)

The value of time

KNOW that TIME is the most precious resource EVER and that having a clean mind means valuing it to the utmost which means that you think clean thoughts and not depressive ruminatey thoughts over anything irreversible.

Time is insanely insanely precious, and you really do NOT have ANY time to wait b/c of pascal's wager so you must rush everything. Or do you? You can gather an army of similarly aligned people who strongly believe in the same mission enough to become a singleton and share resources/inspirations with each other [the content that's on people's minds but isn't published] in a way that makes them continually visualize the far future enough to know that all their small-order desires will be fundamentally satisfied as long as the project of immortality is achieved first.

Don't get distracted by noise. Again, see how Laura is completely undistracted by narrative politics. Remember what Jeremy Nixon said about coherent extrapolated volition? (think of what "takes up unnecessary mindspace" - what rots your brain - and what you will still care about in 10 years - just like what an AI would care about in 10 years). Anti-aging and CEV are LITERALLY EXACTLY the SAME THING for ANY CONSCIOUS organism.


Know as Paul Graham says, that if you have conviction in what you do, the world will shape itself around your desires faster than you otherwise would be able to think.

And people who say it isn't possible are the ones who stick to conventional paradigms when they are completely unaware of all the new technological progress that is going on in materials science or reducing inferential distance OR all the new methods of automating biology, of single neuron transplants, of whatever have INTENSE love for everything you come across in your life. there is nothing that inspires the pursuit of immortality more than love itself.

Give people the courage to believe in themselves as long as they are capable of seeing their blindspots. I know loads of people in the aging field who just seem to have massive blindspots (they only think in terms of commonly accepted paradigms rather than a paradigm based on first principles. They aren't able to sense inflections in "social energy" that happen with scientific/educational incentive structures that are completely different from what most people have been trained on (laura was not taken seriously for a few years - biotech is VERY phd-obsessed, but it took some time for her to FINALLY be taken seriously - ofc the thiel fellowship gave her powerful allies who believed in her and could defend her)

Knowing enough smart people and orienting yourself into their networks is an important first step, but beyond that, figure out how to create content that guarantees that it will be relevant/read in 10 years, and then they will come to you and you do not have to waste your precious compute cycles/mental resources into absorbing it, just as your time is SO valuable that you really DO NOT need to spend time looking up caltrain schedules or w/e.

Unconventional Life Paths

it is important to understand how the training pathways of all the smart universities are, but you have SO much less stress by advising strong-willed low-neuroticism people to know what's best by them, rather than absorbing most of them yourself. again, notice how Laura realized that doing non-technical (eg VC and support - though she also obvs knows physics and tries to learn biology from a first-principles lens) and shaping the narrative was the thing that worked BEST for her. you don't NEED to be technical to be "worth it", and if Laura didn't need to be, you don't HAVE to be [though it DOES depend on a much larger supply of technical people, and there are only a few people who can play roles similar to Laura or Alexey Guzey or whatever]

Also, figure out how to guide people to survive in the traditional system. Some people do well, some smart people don't, many older people (like paul higgs) say they wouldn't, b/c things were historically done SO differently from today. Know that having strongly defined enough realistic goals in itself DOES absolve you from having to constantly apply for grant funding in the ways other people do. HAVE NARRATIVE FLEXIBILITY/verbal agility. Any weird unnatural desire you have (such as social approval) can be substituted if you have the narrative flexibility to reorder your preferences in a way that makes you NOT sweat out small things.


You know how one person says that "talking to you feels like talking to a real person" and how he rarely says that for most people? Sometimes it seems like this is true for most people in aging. Being a "real person" is SO much less stressful, just DO IT. ofc you may be rare enough such that EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE COUNTS, that you will no longer have time for hobbies or surfing the internet or w/e, but if your mindspace and attention is sufficiently valuable enough, then people will go out of their way to know that helping you is the same as helping them, and they will stop caring about their grades and salaries and instead, align themselves with YOUR mission Also, get people to reach out to you! some people, if told to value cognitive/narrative flexibility, will be SUPER/HYPER-responsibe to input from you onve you are able to get their input. Julia Shea also once described me as a "perfect adviser" in an essay she wrote about me. This is ofc what I miss out on from not ever having lived in a grouphouse. but it makes sense.

Notice how so many smart/respectable people read Gwern and how much influence he has despite his lack of desire to have influence. If you know how to perform triage on your input streams, you will naturally create your own paradigm/value system in a way that makes others want to follow your thinking (even like, programmers who program initial OS's are able to do this).



someone once described laura as the "least childish person ever" and this makes sense - i get the sense she doesn't swear over small "stupid" trivialities or "pedantic knowledge" that consumes the time and attention of other people [unschooling is one of the only ways to guarantee this]. It is so strange how promoting more unschooling AND creating the ultimate narratives that can defeat aging CAN ultimately be linked into one and the same [ "being trapped within a system/needing to ladder up" is one of these things that makes you childish in the broadest/most fundamental sense of the term childish]