[I gave a speech at Mike Blume and Hannah “Alicorn” Blume’s wedding on Sunday. Some of the guests suggested I post it here for more general consumption. Content warning: polyamory.]
I’ve been asked to give an impromptu speech. Specifically, I was asked six months ago, when Hannah messaged me and said “You need to give an impromptu speech at my wedding. You’ve got six months to get it sounding impromptu enough.”
But I’ve been thinking about this day for even longer than that. The first time Hannah and I talked about her wedding was…maybe three or four years ago. She was staying at my house in Southern California on her way to Anna and Carl’s wedding. And this was actually an Important Historic Occasion, because the next night when she stayed in San Diego, in order to save money she shared a hotel room with a certain Michael Blume and the rest is history. But at the time they weren’t together, and Hannah and I were – kind of half-dating, I don’t think we had actually started dating at the time, but we were flirting. And Hannah asked if I was going to go to the wedding the next day, and I said no, I couldn’t stand weddings, I hated weddings, I would do whatever I could to avoid them.
And she looked at me with big eyes and said “But…you’ll come to my wedding? Right?”
I said: “Mumble mumble maybe mumble try.”
Hannah wouldn’t take that as an answer and demanded to know my probability that I would come to her wedding.
I remember what I answered. It was something like “Fifty percent. Rising to ninety percent, if I’m the groom.”
And that didn’t work out, but I still find that now that the time is here I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Hannah is still one of my favorite people. When I was out of a job and had no idea what I was going to do with my life, Hannah kind of saved me and gave me a place to live in Berkeley and threw me at her friend group so hard I have never been able to extract myself since. I have known her for five years now, I dated her for about three, I lived with her for one. And in the end, my only regret about attending her wedding was that it means I am visiting Berkeley on the ONE weekend that she’s not throwing a dinner party with her home cooking.
I’ve known Mike for a lot shorter, only about two years. Which is too bad, because it means that there were all these years of my life when I could have known Mike, but didn’t, which is a tragic waste. Mike is kind of like the Platonic ideal of the Good – to know him is to love him. I remember one Facebook thread where someone posted “Mike Blume is so nice and helpful and dreamy” to their wall, and it ended up ballooning to like a hundred likes and comments from people agreeing with the sentiment.
I was looking for that thread the other day so I could quote it, and I couldn’t find it. Part of the reason I couldn’t find it was that I kept asking people – “Do you remember who posted that Facebook thread praising Mike for being really nice and attractive and helpful?” – and they would say “Yeah, I think I was the one who posted that, it sounds like the sort of thing I would say.” And then they look and can’t find it, so I go to the next person, and they’re like “You know, I bet I was the one who posted that, it sounds like the sort of thing I would say…” annnnnnd I never did find the thread.
That is Mike.
So instead I hunted down something I once said about Mike once on my blog, which I would like to share with you today: “Hannah says Mike is her ‘happiness battery’, a source of emotional strength she can rely on to get her through difficult times. After living with him, I felt the same way, and he is at the center of so many social circles he might better be described as a giant happiness hydroelectric plant powering half of Northern California. The fact that flowers do not spring up everywhere he walks only proves that flowers are wrong.”
In fact, I took unfair advantage of this when I lived with Mike and Hannah to meet a steady stream of Mike groupies. That was how I met my current girlfriend Ozy – they dated Mike first. That was how I met my ex-girlfriend Kenzi, who officiated today – she dated Mike first. In fact, Mike and Kenzi were really good together. I used to wonder whether Hannah would marry Mike or Kenzi would marry Mike. I’m glad to see that they both married Mike, in different senses.
I’m trying to avoid using the phrase “emergent property” in a wedding speech, but I’ll say it – there is an emergent property to their relationship that makes them even better together than either one is alone. Their interactions with each other show such amazing mutual respect and love and complementarity that it adds new plausibility to the idea of soulmates. They are my model of how a good relationship ought to work. And one day, I hope some ambitious linguist will study their ability to communicate with each other entirely in adorable high-pitched noises (“eeeeeeeeeee!” “EEEEEEEEEEE!”)
I like Mike, and I like Hannah. But beyond either of them, I have a huge, huge crush on their relationship.
I want to marry their marriage.
I know my conservative friends tell me that we’re on a slippery slope, and soon people will be marrying animals, and trees, and rocks. And I can only hope that, somewhere at the bottom of that slope, someone legalizes man-relationship unions.
And when that happens, the rest of you, stay away! I called it first!
My friends got MARRIED!
But I’m sorry to get into politics at a time like this. Let’s talk about something more relevant. Let’s talk about population genetics.
A Dr. Joseph Chang of Yale University, using sophisticated statistical techniques, determined that ancestry mixes surprisingly quickly across populations. I promise this will become relevant. He found that beyond a certain horizon anybody who’s the ancestor of anybody in a population is the ancestor of everybody. The exact length changes depending on some assumptions, but for a relatively mixed population like descendants of Eurasians, it’s probably around fifteen hundred years. Some tribes on remote islands way out in the Pacific might be longer. Anyone from Papua New Guinea here today? No?
Then everyone here today is a descendent of Socrates. Everyone here today is a descendent of Confucius. Everyone here today is a descendent of Mohammed. Even if you don’t look much like him. Queen Elizabeth’s official genealogy confirms a descent from Mohammed, and she doesn’t look Middle Eastern either.
We’re all descendants of Nefertiti. The patriarch Abraham. The Japanese imperial line. Charlemagne. Qin Shih Huang Di. And not just genetically. We learned values from our parents that they learned from their parents that they learned from their parents and so on to Socrates or Mohammed or Charlemagne sitting their kids down at the dinner table and trying to teach them right from wrong.
Mike and Hannah met through the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, through the Visiting Fellows program at Benton-that-was. A lot of people here today are involved with MIRI, or other organizations trying to ensure the survival of humanity a thousand or two thousand years from now. And there’s a lot of discussion, within those circles, about what such a future would be like.
And I was reading about this population genetics stuff six months ago, at the same time Hannah asked me to write an impromptu speech, and it made me think.
Whatever else we’re celebrating with the ritual of marriage, we’re also celebrating this. We’re marking this incredibly audacious act of taking a genetic and memetic payload and shooting it into the far future, where it will spread further and further with every generation and eventually rewrite humankind.
And if we make it another fifteen hundred years as a biological species, someday we will have a world where everybody alive is a descendent of Mike and Hannah. And where everyone has received their values from someone who received their values who received their values…from Mike and Hannah.
And that’s pretty high up there for me as a reason to be incredibly excited about the whole project.
So, a toast. To Hannah. To Mike. To their relationship. And to the future.
ADDED: Here is the text of the wedding ceremony itself, written by Hannah.