On Gnon

Nyan on Gnon (also here). This might be part of a consistent definition of (trans-Less Wrong) ‘Post-Rationalist NRx’ as an ultrahumanism.

Ash Milton has some incisive Gnon commentary on Twitter, but his protected account can’t be cited. Some impressions:

[Gnon is] not a deity, it’s a placeholder. … I’m glad NRx is honest enough to admit not knowing the ultimate mystery. … How is an admission of ignorance a place of authority? … Catholic NRx submits to Christ. Gnon has a similar role to “Providence”. ..in old Rightist writings. … “the dread rites of Gnon” is used in a similar spirit as Cthulu in Moldbug. … Which is to say, NRx’s fascination with that which modern society fears. … It’s turning into the most complex set of brackets around a blank space I’ve yet seen.

Also much acute Gnonology from Bryce, including the irresistible invitation:


(If you’re that one weird visitor to the reactosphere who hasn’t read The Gods of the Copybook Headings recently, here it is again.)

ADDED: A further position statement:

ADDED: Hurlock responds in the name of Spontaneous Order to Nyan’s #PRR (or “Post-Rationalist Reaction”).

ADDED: Laofmoonster on Gnon and evolution.

ADDED: Gnon-intervention from Anarcho-Papist.

ADDED: A Faces of Gnon bibliography.

ADDED: Anyone arriving here among meandering about Scott Alexander’s ‘Meditations on Moloch‘ might want to take a look at this. (Also more Gnon, here, and here.) + Gnon and Elua converse.

July 13, 2014admin 13 Comments »


13 Responses to this entry

  • Aeroguy Says:


    Good job refining the descriptions of the different faces of Gnon, entire volumes could, and really should be written about each one. A book about Gnon should really serve as a surface gloss introductory text, similar to if someone were to write a book simply entitled Physics. My only point of disagreement was on the idea of Gnon being capturable. This the fatal mistake we must avoid deluding ourselves into thinking is possible, like infinity or ultimate truth, it is to be aspired to but acknowledged as impossible. Respect and containment are words I’d rather use, these are forces of nature so powerful they can never be ignored or forgotten. To capture Gnon is to become Gnon.

    I think your point about the telos of man as a potential force of “good” deserves to be expounded upon and might deserve a name. Since I enjoy the fluff from 40k and it’s the closest though still inadequate analogue I can think of at the moment, Moeg, the inverted acronym for god emperor of mankind. Just a placeholder until someone with better knowledge of folklore and mythology can provide something closer. It’s definitely contentious to argue that there does in fact exist a force of “good” embodied within mankind, the inherently circumstantial and incomplete nature of it is the only thing that gives it a leg to stand on. I put “good” in quotes because that’s a can of worms by itself, made even more difficult to parse out thanks to Cthulhu. However if there is to exist any hope at all within the cosmos, Moeg must exist in some form within the pantheon of any determinist or fatalist.

    Although given as how the Moeg of 40k has been reduced to a husk that is literally on a life support system that’s fueled by burning through a thousand souls a day. Due entirely to the compassion he felt in making the attempt to preserve the soul of his favorite son rather than be forced to destroy it himself, which he ultimately was forced to do anyway. Perhaps the lesson of Moeg, like the enlightenment, is that the pursuit of good is it’s own undoing.

    I suppose that’s a debate worth having, are the ideas of hope or good real and meaningful or some of Cthulhu’s oldest and most dangerous memes?

    PS: Now we can sell Gnon styled plushies along with all these t-shirts. In all seriousness though, some of us should commission artists to give life to our dark pantheon, that could actually make a t-shirt worth buying.


    fotrkd Reply:

    What are plushies? Admin used to cook lobster with some artists… but they’re probably a bit out of our budget.


    Aeroguy Reply:

    Plushies are chick crack. Wherever I see custom t-shirts, plushies are rarely far behind. Young women seem to love them as much as they love cats. I just found the notion of turning horribly depressing lovecraftian abstract concepts into adorable fuzzy snuggling companions fit for small children too hilarious not to bring up.

    I was thinking more along the lines of finding the artists who practically work for food, they just have to be technically competent if you already have an image of exactly what you want. It’s something I’ve been thinking about having arranged, no promises.


    nyan_sandwich Reply:

    No plushies. Gnon cannot be represented directly. At best a really disturbed artist could indirectly hint at the abstract horror of inevitability that is Gnon.

    On reflection, “Capture Gnon” was the wrong terminology. As Hurlock criticizes, that definitely connotes the naive “meet Gnon head on in battle and conquer through sheer force of will”, which was the insane delusion of the Enlightenment that lead to the horror of the 20th century.

    I meant, or at least mean now, a much more fluid and respectful engagement with Gnon, a sort of cosmic Aikido to the Enlightenment’s drunken bravado. The goal is still the same – be in control of the situation enough to defend our own interests and create a flourishing civilized garden for ourselves – but without the impossibly naive connotation.

    Like an actual garden, the gardener cannot ignore or fight the forces of nature. If he tries, Gnon will punish him for his arrogance and the garden will die and return to the jungle or become desert. But if he respects and subtly redirects the forces of nature, pruning here, weeding there, moving a few things about gradually and conservatively, keeping careful watch on the consequences of his actions, Gnon will smile on his work. If he simply worships the forces of nature and refuses to exert his influence on the jungle, he will be stuck in the jungle. The difference between jungle and garden from the perspective of Gnon is not very big; the same rules apply. But the difference from the perspective of man is striking.

    So that Cosmic Aikido Gardening within Gnon is what I mean. I will have to write a follow-up.

    That said, a post-singularity FAI could garden so effectively that it would essentially have captured Gnon. This ideal should be kept in mind, but the Cosmic Aikido approach is more appropriate for man.


    Aeroguy Reply:


    I think you actually managed to overstate the significance of FAI. I’m right behind you in the march to FAI but while FAI is an end state from a human perspective, in the long game it is really just the beginning of the next (and not final) era. To make a FAI that didn’t continue to make better AI would be an evolutionary cul-de-sac, unchecked stagnation, it would be just as bad as or even lead to extinction of local intelligence.

    If intelligence is to continue aspiring to infinity and ultimate truth then AIs, hyperintelligent biomachines, the phylum of posthuman life, must fulfill the promise of having it’s own phylum by filling it out and continuing to evolve. This means secession, competition, war, the most dangerous of Gnon’s forces are omnipresent. There is no rest, only brief respites. Overcoming one threat leads to awareness of even greater threats, sometimes ones of our own making.

    Blood lust, the thrill of mentally and physically breaking your opponents, these aren’t base feelings to be purged from the genome, rather they must be sharpened with an intellect capable of keeping them in balance (why NRx isn’t obsessed with chess-boxing is a mystery to me). The only way Plato could be wrong about the dead being the only ones to see the end of war is if they are resurrected to fight the future’s wars.

    Posthumans/AIs will internalize far more of Gnon than we have understanding, by human standards they will be simultaneously mesmerizing and utterly terrifying. Postsingularity isn’t startrek, it’s lovecraft.


    nyan_sandwich Reply:

    I think you’re being too “next step in evolution” about an FAI post-singularity, but I’ll take your point to be that Gnon will still manifest inside the internal organization of the Singleton system, no matter how rational and intelligent.

    I’m not sure what to think, actually. It seems plausible that an AI singleton could do vastly better than human civilization at organizing itself, but this may fall apart with scale. That seems solvable, though.

    Posted on July 13th, 2014 at 11:21 pm Reply | Quote
  • Puzzle Privateer (@PuzzlePrivateer) Says:

    The idea that we can “capture Gnon” … what? … is this some kind of tongue in cheek trolling? If Gnon is really supposed to be understood as the indifferent forces of nature, if this really is supposed to be a “sanity-cracking” experience, then let’s have a go of it shall we? Let’s start with “Cosmicism”:


    “The philosophy of cosmicism states that there is no recognizable divine presence, such as a god, in the universe, and that humans are particularly insignificant in the larger scheme of intergalactic existence, and perhaps are just a small species projecting their own mental idolatries onto the vast cosmos, ever susceptible to being wiped from existence at any moment. This also suggested that the majority of undiscerning humanity are creatures with the same significance as insects and plants, who, in their small, visionless and unimportant nature, do not recognize a much greater struggle between greater forces.
    Perhaps the most prominent theme in cosmicism is the utter insignificance of humanity. Lovecraft believed that “the human race will disappear. Other races will appear and disappear in turn. The sky will become icy and void, pierced by the feeble light of half-dead stars. Which will also disappear. Everything will disappear. And what human beings do is just as free of sense as the free motion of elementary particles. Good, evil, morality, feelings? Pure ‘Victorian fictions’. Only egotism exists.”[2] Cosmicism shares many characteristics with nihilism, though one important difference is that cosmicism tends to emphasize the inconsequentiality of humanity and its doings, rather than summarily rejecting the possible existence of some higher purpose (or purposes). For example, in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories, it is not so much the absence of meaning that causes terror for the protagonists as it is their discovery that they have absolutely no power to effect any change in the vast, indifferent, and ultimately incomprehensible universe that surrounds them. Whatever meaning or purpose may or may not be invested in the actions of the cosmic beings in Lovecraft’s stories is completely inaccessible to the human characters, in the way an amoeba (for example) is completely unequipped to grasp the concepts that drive human behavior.”

    If we are supposed to understand the full horror of our situation as humans and the indifferent universe around us (the link to LW is great for some of that btw), then we should accept that:

    Any defeat of the dark powers is merely a delay before their ultimate victory. Eventually the indifferent forces of Gnon will give us the heat death of the universe.

    When we die, our “souls” are swallowed by oblivion and there is only darkness ever after.

    Morality is an illusion produced by the evolutionary forces that created the human mind. Useful yes, but they have no ultimate reality.

    What Nature wants from us is not what humans consider good or sweet or true. Your civilization may have Enlightenment but when Genghis Khan and his Sith Empire show up you better have some nukes to take him out or his massacre of your men and rape of your women will be *rewarded* by evolution because he will be leaving the babies behind and not you.

    “Listen, and understand. Gnon is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”


    Thales Reply:

    Eventually the indifferent forces of Gnon will give us the heat death of the universe.

    Personally, I’m hoping AI will find a way around this. Yes, it’s the transhumanist version of Faith in the omnipotent deity. A techno-zroastrianism or something — Gnon (Angra) will claim humans…but maybe we can spawn an AI (Spenta) that can transform, say, a galaxy into another universe.


    Danny Reply:

    “Listen, and understand. Gnon is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

    Jebus. I have never heard such an succint expression of something that isn’t real or true at all. You aren’t wrong, but I don’t think uou realize that Gnon is also you.


    Posted on July 14th, 2014 at 1:47 pm Reply | Quote
  • Aeroguy Says:


    I’m familiar with the idea of a singleton but if sustained as such indefinitely it is by definition a shreek, friendly or not. Your garden becomes a walled garden with a expertly pruned hedonic treadmill for everyone inside. The biggest I can imagine a singleton expanding to is a single star system, perhaps even slowly ciphering off matter from neighboring star systems but that’s it. Like a fat spoiled child that can barely reach it’s food to feed himself in the midst of a vast unforgiving cosmos. So long as the speed of light remains a hard barrier to communications, interstellar expansion requires growth beyond a singleton. To be trapped under another stagnant regime and pointed towards a hedonic treadmill, it’s just a fancier rendition of the Cathedral.

    I keep thinking about the ending choices for Deus Ex invisible war (the other two Deus Ex games were much better imo). There was the Illuminati (cathedral), Helios/Denton (FAI singleton), Templar (black hole), and Omar (posthumans). Assuming Helios/Denton is in fact genuinely friendly, every good progressive is going to say that is the best choice including the people who made the game. I’m sorry but peace and stagnation are synonyms in my book, I think of China under eunuch bureaucrats, ripe for exploitation. I’m sorry but the idea of centuries of peace is just progressive hippie feelgood nonsense, the only way to do it is to literally freeze time in place, may as well be a primitivist.

    If your visions of the future don’t include offerings of blood for the blood god, you’re disrespecting him and will be punished in due time. The writers of the video game did everything they could to paint the Omar in a bad light, but of the 4 options they respect Gnon the most. I don’t see something like the ending they portrayed it in the game playing out exactly irl. Rather I see FAI to start with including catgirl harem orgies for our 4chan friends (every single transhumanism thread, someone always asks about that). But then expansion with more/smarter AIs while Gnon laughs his ass off at the F in FAI as war encompasses not merely the earth but the stellar neighborhood in a contest to settle heir to the galaxy. Then the cycle renews as war breaks out in the galactic local group.

    Pure speculation, after all there could be assessable pocket universes that make our universe not worth fighting over. Expansion, war, empire, more war, the cycle never ends. If there’s a way to get past the laws of thermodynamics (the true post-scarcity, infinite free energy) then we can have a kinder gentler Gnon, but not a moment before that, FAI doesn’t even come close. The only hypothetical singleton I’ll accept as not a shreek is one that encompasses the entire universe as philosophers define the word, only possible if the universe is finite, which I doubt greatly.


    Posted on July 15th, 2014 at 9:37 am Reply | Quote
  • Michael Says:

    if you meet the Buddha on the road kill him


    Posted on July 31st, 2014 at 1:12 am Reply | Quote
  • On Moloch and a Disneyland with no children | The Daily Pochemuchka Says:

    […] of my reading material for this month: Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom; Moloch by Allan Ginsberg, On Gnon by Nick […]

    Posted on December 24th, 2014 at 2:07 pm Reply | Quote

Leave a comment