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The Moriarty Experiment is concluded


(Michael Hrenka) #1

The Moriarty Experiment

At the end of 2015 I got worried about the low level of activity within the Fractal Future Forum. That motivated me to start a rather desperate experiment. I invited one of the most notorious troublemakers of the transhumanist community, Peter H. Meadows, into the F3, in order to stimulate activity. We talked about this strategy and he agreed to leave, if I asked him to. Yesterday I asked him to leave, for reasons I will explain soon.

Peter H. Meadows was registered as “notatroll” initially. After a strategic meeting, I suggested to him to call himself “Moriarty”, the most notorious “Sherlock” villain. The intention was to have him as “forum villain” who forced the forum community to step up their game, in order to beat him. That strategy didn’t exactly work out as planned. PHM didn’t seem to embrace his role properly, and instead pretty much stayed in his regular persona, which is pretty disruptive and provocative anyway.

Some good

Contrary to my expectations he wasn’t as destructive and chaotic in the F3 as I had expected him to. That’s probably because of our clear agreement that he would leave the F3 (voluntarily or not), if he behaved too badly. Instead, he displayed his usual provocative style on Facebook, and the transhumanism Slack, in order to recruit members for the F3. While this strategy was not entirely unsuccessful, it might have slightly hurt the (almost non-existing) reputation of Fractal Future. Recruiting itself worked not too badly, but very few of the newly registered members have become active in the F3. This was the most positive outcome of his efforts. He actually succeeded at increasing the activity level within the F3.

Quite bad

On the other hand, he managed to poison the atmosphere of the community with his confrontational, provocative, delusional, and monomaniacal communication style, which urged me to distance myself from him and to argue against him. Debating with PHM is an arduous task, which sooner or later depletes neural resources, because he just won’t accept that he makes mistakes and that he’s not perfect. Under usual circumstances, the best strategy to deal with a lunatic like him is to ignore him, or even to flee from him. Neither argumentation nor insults have any discernible effect on him. He’s pretty good at stealing time from people by offering some kind of potential value, which he won’t deliver. For example, he offered to implement Quantified Prestige in his Pharo based application, which he never actually presented.

PHM is known in the transhumanist community for trolling and causing drama needlessly. He has been excluded at least from:

He seems to be fond of questioning authorities and criticising people for not sufficing his subjective standards. His disregard for social norms, his self-righteousness (he sees himself as transhuman who makes no mistakes), and his unwillingness to accept compromises make dealing with him a pain in the ass. The plentiful time he has at his disposal is used by him to entangle transhumanists into unproductive, pointless, nerve wrecking discussions or flame-wars. As such, he is a drain to the scarce temporal and mental resources that the transhumanist community possesses.

Very ugly

Even though he seems to have benevolent intentions, his character, and his communication strategies usually have the result that he amasses antipathies from a lot of the people he interacts with, which makes him quite ineffective at achieving any kind of positive result. He also doesn’t realize that his strategies and his behaviour are counter-productive. He’s furthermore not willing to accept that he might be wrong, and he certainly doesn’t have a growth mindset, because he seems to believe that he’s perfect already, even while his flaws are obvious to any normal person. Therefore, dealing with PHM is a waste of time. The chances of him improving his approach or his character or his people skills are very small. He’s not worth the effort dealing with him – it would be a massive waste of time and energy trying to change/fix him.

The best one can do is to avoid or ignore him. Because he’s skilled at luring people into discussions nevertheless, he poses a serious hazard for the transhumanist community and should be blacklisted and exiled as effectively as possible.

I do not make this assessment lightly. Dozens of hours of interaction with PHM have led me to this final conclusion. Sure, you might be willing to question my judgement, but that means you will waste precious hours of your lifetime dealing with a person who is likely to annoy, belittle, enrage, and frustrate you deeply. I suggest that you avoid him as completely as possible. You certainly have better things to do than dealing with PHM.

If this doesn’t convince you, then you should consider that PHM has the habit of threatening the persons who he sees as important and who disagree with him – he has also threatened me personally. His threats are harmless, but they leave the impression of him being an aggressive stalker and antagonist who disregards social norms, rules, and laws. Furthermore he is highly manipulative and will mobilize potential allies against his targets. He will always plead not guilty, arguing with the letter of the law, and with his simple and subjective version of rationality. Don’t buy that crap! He’s just trolling, manipulating, and harnessing people for his own purposes, as he pleases. He’s a self-righteous, deluded, relentless, uncompromising, blunt, socially awkward and disrespectful fanatic. Trying to use him for productive purposes will almost certainly backfire. I have made the mistake of assuming otherwise, so you don’t need to repeat that.

The verdict

It may be relatively rare to see such a horrible person with such good intentions, but those persons exist. These people are very toxic, so they need to be avoided, unless one wants to fall sick.

PHM has the tendency to create drama, conflicts, and a toxic atmosphere in the communities he haunts. This corrosive influence threatens the vitality of those communities. This is why I have come to the conclusion that PHM acts against the interests of Fractal Future, and therefore I have asked him to leave Fractal Future.

In the best case, he will accept that he messed this up, and leave us alone. If not, I am going to suspend or delete his accounts, and will advise the admins and moderators of Fractal Future to do likewise.

I am sorry for having caused this inconvenience for everyone, but I hope that this can be a valuable learning experience.


I would like to add, that as one of the potential new users specifically invited by PHM from Kanzure’s IRC hideout, I was positively surprised by such an invitation and then nearly immediately disappointed by the behavior of PHM.
I spent a significant amount of time, mental and emotional energy attempting first to give constructive criticism, and then actively trying to fix something which seemed blatantly wrong with the social dynamic.

In short I feel cheated, by you.
However, in context, now that this has been revealed, willing to forgive.

Just one thing seems entirely unclear to me; What is the role of “Z” in all of this?

(Michael Hrenka) #3

Thank you for sharing how you feel about this. And thank you very much for forgiving me nevertheless. I’m not even sure I deserve such forgiveness, so I am the more grateful for receiving it. :sweat_smile:

Z plays the role of a challenging philosopher and a psychological counsellor. @zanthia was not involved directly in the Moriarty Experiment. I and Moriarty alone are wholly responsible.

(Macius Szczur) #4

Willingly inviting a troll usually earns life-long ban - owners of forums can’t be expelled by definition, so you’re safe I guess :wink: Lesson to learn here is “do not do this”. I managed few mailing lists and forums and generally, if you see a troll, kick it out. They are always counterproductive an even if used for seemingly rational purposes they… don’t work.

I also wonder (this isn’t in any way connected to the person in question, it’s “note on a margin” if you will) if there is one word name for something that stays the same through any attempt of metasizing its meaning? I mean, name “notatroll” so obviously signifies a troll that even trying to give some benefit of doubt like for example thinking “the name is so obviously trollish that maybe the person is really not a troll”… even that results in “nah, it really is a troll”.


(Michael Hrenka) pinned globally #5


I remember seeing him for the first time with the account notatroll discussing something with you in the shoutbox. I joined the discussion trying to make some sense of it, but it didn’t seem to ultimately lead to anything. I remember being a little puzzled about him. The first impression didn’t strike me as someone I’d have expected to see here. Although, as usual for me, I found myself intrigued precisely because I couldn’t understand the way he thinks.

You two felt a little like two old friends talking to each other. I remember feeling slightly puzzled about that. I had some kind of nagging feeling that there’s something a little strange about you spending time with him. My interest in him died relatively quickly though, since I didn’t quite manage to get him to talk about anything that’d have interested me. He didn’t say anything that’d have given me much of a glimpse into his thought patterns.

Then the first time I encountered him as moriarty… well, it was a major WTF moment. The first message I saw was the “Open letter to Eliezer Yodkowsky” thread. I didn’t realize it was the same person until a couple of days ago. I tried interacting with him a little but the result was pretty much the same. I never felt like I really managed to actually communicate with him, so I ended up not talking to him too much.

My personal feeling about this is that I learned something, so I’m fine with what happened. At least if you don’t make it a habit :smile_cat: I’d probably be fine even if you did, but this forum would probably end up dying.

(Michael Hrenka) #7

I’m trying hard not letting inviting trolls into the F3 become my personal addiction. :sunglasses:

(Michael Hrenka) #8

I feel the need to specify what I meant with PHM leaving Fractal Future. It includes:

  • That PHM needs to stop creating threads or replies in the Fractal Future Forum
  • that includes private messages and the shoutbox
  • PHM is will also be required to leave and cease to rejoin Fractal Future associated chat rooms like the #fractalfuture IRC Chat room on the Freenode network
  • Finally, PHM is discouraged from contacting Fractal Future members, unless they seek out that kind of contact on their own

Failure to follow those points indicate that PHM is not taking his promise to leave Fractal Future after my request seriously.

(Mark Larkento) #9

There is a larger issue than the contretemps in F3 that is revealed by your interactions with Moriarty, Radvis.

In my own internet forum experiences, I also have spent significant periods interacting with brilliant, seemingly sincere individuals with histories of bad outcome.

The one factor that has been consistent is the relative position of these individuals on the autism spectrum.

This leads me to think that it is not bad intent on either side, but rather a failure in communication equipment or protocol.

This notion is my own, unsupported by research as far as am aware, so I only bring it up as a thought, not as a given.

That said, all those instances ended just as this one did for F3.

(João Luz) #10

Can’t you just ban him?

(Professor J. Moriarty) #11

OK. I’m done. Thanks guys. Hasta la vista.

(Michael Hrenka) #12

I could, but such administrative actions often create further fallout, and are therefore relatively problematic. Furthermore, Moriarty has a long history of subverting administrative actions against him, which makes him a real pain in the ass to deal with, even if you have all the administrative power in the world. It’s easy to imagine that banning a person like PHM would end this drama quickly and effectively, but such conflicts with obnoxious and persistent trolls tend not to end very quickly.

Instead, the goal is to get completely rid of PHM’s negative influence as effectively as possible. For that it is necessary to build up an incredibly negative reputation for him, which will stop him from being seen as welcome in any similar community ever again. By letting him continue to be active in his forum, I let him dig his own grave. Effectively, that’s what he chose to do, considering how he’s behaved in the “Should I leave f3?” thread. If he had some real decency, he would have left immediately after I asked him to. So, by not leaving he is proving that he doesn’t have any real decency, which makes clear to everyone that his removal from Fractal Future is fully justified without doubt. If doubts about his character remained, he would use them to disrupt the community even after a formal ban.

I agree with that notion. When it comes to PHM, I think that he suffers from some critical weaknesses which explain why he feels compelled to behave as he does, even though it makes his destructive and doesn’t further his goals one bit. The reason why he goes on like this is that he’s completely deluded about his own capabilities and about what others think about him. His delusions are so powerful that they stop him from questioning his strategy, and evaluating his own effectiveness realistically. To his detriment, and those who interact with him, his weak character prevents him from realizing his delusions as that what they are. If he ever realized his faults, this would come as a massive psychological shock to him, which he is neither willing nor able to handle – and that’s why his own psyche blocks him from facing the truth.

What makes PHM so interesting and even enigmatic is the degree of his psychological / neurological pathology. He’s broken in a very fascinating way. Some of the time he seems to be close to full functionality, but then he will inevitably make stupid mistakes and devastate the impression that he has solid potential. It’s really sad that he’s broken like that, but we can’t easily change that fact. The damage lies too deep. Trying to “fix” him is a waste of time. We simply don’t have the power, resources, or technology for that.

So, let’s just part ways with him.

(Mark Larkento) #13

Could you point me specific examples please? I’m attempting an analysis in private with PHM.


(Michael Hrenka) #14

If you want to do a good analysis, then find out how he communicates with people 1 on 1. That is most enlightening. But that also means that it’s not easy to point to the best material for analysis, because it’s private conversations, which obvious complications for shareability.

(Mark Larkento) #15

How are conversations that damaged the forum as a group now private?

I’m confused.

(Mark Larkento) #16

I am talking to PHM privately, btw.

The analysis of what happened publicly in F3 that damaged the group is part of that conversation with PHM.

(Michael Hrenka) #17

The point is that PHM pulls people into abrasive private conversations, in which he does most of the harm. Publicly he may behave badly, but it’s his private communications that really erode the nerves of people. It’s so bad that I have to warn everyone not to communicate with him.


this goes a little bit too far, don´t you think? we are all adults that could take care of ourselves and we should be able to decide for our own. and now that he is gone we should turn to normal and not overstep the mark and engange in defamation. the purpose of the recent development was to save the atmosphere of f3 so i don´t think it would be wise to poisen the atmosphere with gossip about somebody who could not defend himself anymore.


I’d add that this was a key feature of my own confusion.