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Manifesting sometimes succeeds in unexpected ways. The canonical example, which probably never happened: Someone requests money and their uncle dies, leaving an inheritance.
But why? Why does manifesting sometimes find unexpected path? No, not the simple answer, don’t say that’s just how manifesting works. Look for the deep answer, the answer that explains this bug, lets us avoid it, and just maybe lets us update our ethereal software to eliminate it.
Discussing unexpected manifesting results with friends this week, I recalled an article on genies, written by artificial intelligence researchers. The genie fails not because of malice, not because of user error, but because the genie doesn’t understand human values, can’t align itself to the user’s true intent. It’s probably the best explanation of unexpected results I’ve seen.
(The AI researchers are concerned about an intelligent machine that wants something different than what humans want, by the way.)
The rest of this post assumes you’ve read that article. It’s short and fun and you’ll be glad you did.
Read it? Excellent.
That explanation feels right to me. It’s not that some gods / spirits made this useful tool, then occasionally create bad results to spite us. It’s not that the forces we’re using misheard us (“I’d like a 12 inch pianist”). It’s that understanding human values, and eliminating paths we wouldn’t ever consider, is a really hard problem, and the forces we’re using don’t perfectly align to human values.
Wherever forces are behind manifesting, they seem to understand some of what we value, but also miss some of it. They value some goals too highly, others not enough, and some not at all. The forces aren’t being tricky or spiteful or malicious, they’re trying their best at a really hard problem. We don’t need to specify an iron-clad goal that can’t be weaseled out of, but we do need to help them in figuring out what we actually want. Notice how those goals (iron-clad agreement vs clear guidance) result in different approaches.
In my own work, I find that manifesting over-prioritizes my progress in magick. Sometimes it’s small, like wanting me to stay home and work instead of going to a fun-but-not-amazing party. Sometimes it’s big, like recommend staying in a relationship with someone who supports my work, but is not a great partner otherwise. It’s never malicious, it’s just a failure to understand my full priorities. And when I talk with the spirits who made that manifesting ethereal software, they misunderstand human needs in similar ways.
What to do about this? A few ideas:
1. Specify good goals. This is an art — I can’t tell you exactly what “good” means, but there’s a sweet spot between flexibility and precision, and a certain way of expressing goals that these forces seem to understand. I like to ask for paths that “I will be happy with,” so it knows to look for my happiness and not just a state of the world. And in my current work, I’m watching my manifesting requests, asking the ethereal software what phrasing it uses internally and what data it accesses, so I can develop a better sense of how these requests function.
2. Make a request, then ask how that request is likely to come about. Note that this gives the highest-probability path, which may still be fairly unlikely: With a dozen possible paths, the highest-probability path might only have 20% probability. But it gives me some idea of how the ethereal software will approach my request, which is useful for debugging my phrasing. Note that this requires techniques to receive information from these forces, not just sending out one’s intent.
But the real reason I care is because, eventually, people are going to understand how these forces work well enough to reprogram them, fixing these bugs. And the first step is understanding where the bug comes from.If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.