This image recently showed up on Flickr (original is nicer):

Zebra_4

With the caption:

"Alas for those who turn their eyes from zebras and dream of dragons!  If we cannot learn to take joy in the merely real, our lives shall be empty indeed." —Eliezer S. Yudkowsky.

"Awww!", I said, and called over my girlfriend over to look.

"Awww!", she said, and then looked at me, and said,  "I think you need to take your own advice!"

Me:  "But I'm looking at the zebra!"
Her:  "On a computer!"
Me:  (Turns away, hides face.)
Her:  "Have you ever even seen a zebra in real life?"
Me:  "Yes!  Yes, I have!  My parents took me to Lincoln Park Zoo!  ...man, I hated that place."

 

Part of the Joy in the Merely Real subsequence of Reductionism

Next post: "Hand vs. Fingers"

Previous post: "Initiation Ceremony"

50 comments, sorted by
magical algorithm
Highlighting new comments since Today at 2:49 AM
Select new highlight date
Moderation Guidelines: Reign of Terror - I delete anything I judge to be annoying or counterproductiveexpand_more

Her: "Pass me the laptop, I want to see if there were any comments on that post."

Me: "No, you don't. They're pretty awful."

(Girlfriend looks.)

Her: "That's awful."

Me: "Yep."

l, Aww, Ben_Wraith:

While I appreciate the effort toward optimal decision-making, surely there is some way to contribute without invading Eliezer's personal life?

Can you picture anyone doing peak creative work while trying to justify every ounce of their resource use? To others or to themselves? Eliezer presumably knows he doesn't need to do that, but... threads like this can't help his or others' morale. And morale is a precious resource.

Group efforts in general, and particularly philanthropic efforts, devolve too easily into shows of self-sacrifice. After all, sacrifice takes less effort in many ways, and it looks like trying . If we want to create a positive singularity, we'll need to make our project fun, we'll need to make the actual useful work attractive, we'll need to get people aim for achievement (not for an appearance of "using all their resources"), and we'll to make it something that real people want to join and don't burn out at.

It isn't only Eliezer who can help, by the way. If nothing else, you can help the effort get money; some of those willing and able able to do FAI research are spending their time raising money, right now, for lack of other ways to get money. If you find a way to gather money for the effort, more research will be done and the chances of a positive singularity will improve. There are other possibilities for helping, too. If you're concerned about the future, perhaps take a look at what you have, who you know, and what you might do? Creating a positive singularity can be a lot of fun.

I think the first 3/4ths are very well stated. I couldn't agree more.

On the last bit, my personal intuition is there are plenty of things people can do for FAI research beyond raising money. Moreover, such intangibles are likely often more important to the cause of FAI than cash.

(Also, the argument that "some of those willing and able able to do FAI research are spending their time raising money, right now, for lack of other ways to get money" may be undermined by the paragraph above it; e.g., I'd rather be thinking about FAI than raising money for others to think about FAI.)

It's not just about spending resources - In my experience, having a girlfriend makes you dangerously comfortable with being a mere human, whereas bitter loneliness makes you see the necessity of achieving incorporeal modes of existence much more clearly.

(this comment will be remembered as a significant milestone in singularitarian demographics)

I didn't know Eliezer had a girlfriend, how can you justify spending resources on that sort of thing?

Not an attack though, you probably have a good reason, I just can't figure out what it is.

Was this written in jest? It's hilarious.

Interestingly, I've read that young Chinese do treat zebras as near-mythical creatures: they're referred to as "cǎo ní mǎ" (i.e. "grass-mud horses") and there's a lot of fantasy literature about them, much of it with political overtones. In contrast, dragons are little more than cultural and decorative symbols--although conversely, Chinese dragons do appear in some Western fantasy stories.

I think you might have been misinformed about this translation..

edit: you're mostly right but it's not a zebra.

And with that, I'll close the thread. I may be mistaken, but I don't think this is what most of our readership comes here to read.

Note that the authors "SL5", "Reprogrammed goal system", "Baseline singularitarian", "Singularity sooner, fun later", "Awww, a girlfriend > Singularity", "Oppenheimer", and "Eli's other project" all seem to be the same person based on IP.

Well, a picture of a zebra is real.

And you'll probably agree that the merely real is, in some ways, in need of improvement, which is the whole point of transhumanism.

"Alas, for those who turn their eyes from dragons and dream of zebras! If we cannot take joy in the merely fantasy, our lives shall be empty indeed." - Eliezer S. Yudkowsky, in a parallel universe.

I never expected a post from Overcoming Bias as informal as a picture with commentary from flickr.com. (But I suppose that's a fact about my own state of poor calibration).

I didn't know Eliezer had a girlfriend, how can you justify spending resources on that sort of thing?

Not an attack though, you probably have a good reason, I just can't figure out what it is.

[missing the point] I like cats better. [/missing the point]

No time for love, we've got a world to save!

...or so the theory runs.

This does not seem like an evolutionarily stable strategy.

Alas for those who turn their eyes from ladies and google themselves.

gasp Hasn't Eli been working only on his mind-children? Can we expect another permutation of the superior genes that brought us so much awesomeness in the form of Eli?

Strong AI doesn't have to be the only thing that's really frikkin' hard.

My fears:

  1. Paperclip AI
  2. People I know IRL catching me reading something embarrassing on the Internet
  3. Nuclear war
  4. The zombie under my bed
Science: Best Sans Booty.

Schrödinger disagreed. (So did Einstein... and Feynman... I could mention Kinsey, but that would be cheating, I supppose.)

If there is a better way to see a merely real zebra than to have the photons strike a surface, their patterns be stored, and transmitted to my brain, which cross-relates it to every fact about zebras, their behavior, habitat, physiology, and personality on my internal map of a zebra, then I don't know it and can't experience it, since that's what happens when I am in fact actually there, as well as what happens when I look at a picture that someone who was actually there shares with me.

You probably get a much richer sensation of zebra-ness under some conditions (being there, touching the zebra, smelling the zebra, seeing it move) than just seeing a picture of one on flickr. Experiencing zebra-ness isn't a binary value, and some types of exposures will tend to commandeer many more neurons than others.

Through his cerebrations Eliezer appears to have attracted the Cream of the Singularitarian Crop here, who are now Collectively Disappointed.

I need physics more than friends. I place more importance on my studies than myself. I often go long periods without social contact outside of my professional colleagues, and at times even long periods without food or rest.

In medicine, the concept "zebra" represents a strange, unlikely condition or diagnosis, usually to be avoided or considered on a lower tier, iterated thus: When one hears hoofbeats, one should think of horses rather than zebras. Spending too much time chasing zebras detracts from making the diagnosis of "horse". Coincidence? Or just another example of the medical field's poor thought process?

The medical advice you're relating sounds quite reasonable. It's saying to consider base rates when making a diagnosis. If P(hoofbeats|horse) is the same as P(hoofbeats|zebra) but P(horse) >> P(zebra), then P(horse|hoofbeats) >> P(zebra|hoofbeats).

It probably isn't very good advice if you're practicing medicine on the savanna though. There, if you hear hoofbeats, it's probably a zebra!

Ohhhh... oh so many things I could substitute for the word 'Zebra'....

Do all zebras have the same (withing some accuracy range) ratio of black to white, btw?

Aspiring Vulcan: I didn't think it was written in jest, it seems like a legitimate question to me. It definitely seems plausible that having a girlfriend would have some benefits that would help Eli save the world, but how to justify spending time and resources on a girlfriend that could be spent on other things is a good question nonetheless.

Can we expect another permutation of the superior genes that brought us so much awesomeness in the form of Eli?

No.

Is this for intrinsic or simply instrumental reasons? For example, how much of your time would being a sperm donor have to take up before you would decline to do it?

Intelligence is roughly a function of genetics and some conglomeration of upbringing and chance. If you are looking for the human with the best genetics, picking from the most intelligent humans you can find is therefore not the optimal way to go.

Intelligence is roughly a function of genetics and some conglomeration of upbringing and chance.

Yes.

If you are looking for the human with the best genetics, picking from the most intelligent humans you can find is therefore not the optimal way to go.

No...? If scores on an IQ test are a joint product of genes & environment, then selecting the top scorer on an IQ test and using their genes will produce offspring with the highest scores on average compared to picking at random from the lower-scorers. To do better you'll need additional information we don't have (eg at the moment, no one can sequence a genome and extract an accurate predicted intelligence).

Somewhat tangentially... couldn't you do better by identifying IQ-inhibiting and IQ-enhancing environmental factors and weighting IQ scores based on those factors? If Sam's IQ is 5% lower than Pat's but Sam has lived in an environment 5x worse for developing IQ, if I'm interested in genetics it seems I'd do better with Sam.

You'd need to know the elasticity of intelligence and environments (5x on what scale? And does -5% really indicate outperformance on the genetics side?), which I'm not actually sure we know, and much of the 'environment' contribution is nonshared - immeasurable, random, we don't know what it is. But hypothetically, you could do slightly better by trying to measure environment & control for it, yeah.

To do better you'll need additional information we don't have (eg at the moment, no one can sequence a genome and extract an accurate predicted intelligence).

Actually, we could get some information that would help here- IQ up the ancestral tree. The correlation between grandparent and grandchild IQ is higher than one would expect from stacking two independent parent-child relationships.

Yes. I'm not sure how much they'd add; I ran into an interesting observation about this with regard to estimating cows' milk production based on their relatives and on SNPs, where the comparison runs the other direction:

The R^2 values were converted to realized reliabilities by dividing by mean reliability of 2008 daughter deviations and then adding the difference between published and observed reliabilities of 2003 parent averages. When averaged across all traits, combined genomic predictions had realized reliabilities that were 23% greater than reliabilities of parent averages (50 vs. 27%), and gains in information were equivalent to 11 additional daughter records.

So if an old SNP chip can add that much information in terms of family records, the family can't matter that much.

Now that I think about it I seem to recall seeing a clever excuse for indulging in the pleasures of the flesh that Eliezer had written. Can't remember where off the top of my head, though...

Can one make scientific breakthroughs without dedicating all of one's waking hours to it? Newton: Science: Best Sans Booty.

Not doing what your genes tell you to do, e.g. not having a companion (not wanting to have a companion), overcoming your genes, is an artificial goal, the result of reprogramming - of self-improvement.

Awful, perhaps, but are these arguments true?

Are you willing to take the risk that you're going to have to admit on your death bed: If only I hadn't succumbed to the dictates of my genes... If only I hadn't lived like the majority; if only I hadn't done what had been done so many times before by so many billions of organisms... If only I had been different enough. But I wasn't. I let my genes pilfer my time for simple, two-dimensional pleasure signals. I placed greater value on companionship than progress. I exchanged the now, for the eternity. I could have saved the world... but now I lay here dying, instead of living forever.

After the Singularity, there's plenty of time for girlfriends. And boyfriends. And robofriends. Trillions of them. You can super-saturate your re-designed gender-specific feedback modules again and again.

But not now. Lead the way. Go wirehead later. Delay gratification. Be a transhuman. Ditch the...