"The kind of classic fifties-era first-contact story that Jonathan Swift
might have written, if Jonathan Swift had had a background in game
theory." -- (Hugo nominee) Peter Watts, "In Praise of Baby-Eating"
Three Worlds Collide is a story I wrote to illustrate some points on naturalistic metaethics and diverse other issues of rational conduct. It grew, as such things do, into a small novella. On publication, it proved widely popular and widely criticized. Be warned that the story, as it wrote itself, ended up containing some profanity and PG-13 content.
PDF version here.
In the ideal case, would you recommend reading each chapter separately, with the day-long pause in between to digest, or reading them all at once? Or perhaps you would like to hear feedback from people who have taken each approach to see which works better.
wellll.. it's kinda fun, Eleizer, I guess so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and keep reading .... but....but... is this format quite right for OB?
Would this series not be better in - ooh, I don't know - a new and more open sister site of some kind, perhaps with the key points written up at the end and posted on to OB, if they seem popular? Or am I wrong.
When it's done, is there any chance you'll stick it online in an ereader compatible format? PDF is ok, but EPUB would be better.
I don't tend to read very long things on a computer, so having it in a more friendly format would be nice.
Andrew, will try to remember. Remind me when it's done.
Botogol, Less Wrong isn't ready yet, and now is when people are asking me about what sort of values aliens might have.
yup. alien ones.
List of allusions I managed to catch (part 1):
Alderson starlines - Alderson Drive
Giant Science Vessel - GSV - General Systems Vehicle
Lord Programmer - allusion to the archeologist programmers in Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep?
Greater Archive - allusion to Orion's Arm's Greater Archives?
Oh, on the subject of stories and that post about dreams, that reminds me: You had said to remind you to tell us about your "most philosophically interesting dream"
Three worlds collide?
As of part 1, we've seen two...
Excellent. I was reluctant to start reading at first, but when I did, I found it entertaining. This should be a TV series. :)
I too felt a bit anxious about reading this but was glad I did! It's entertaining to read and very interesting to think about.
@Eliezer - nope, sorry, 3/8 now, seems like 10,000 words of cod fiction and OB has truly jumped the shark.
There's load of good ideas there but praps you shoulda' waited until LessWrong was working AllRight.
really good writing. keep them coming :-)
botogol, what is cod fiction? Is COD an acronym for "capacity on demand" or "change of direction"?
Personally, I liked the Babyeaters. At the outset of your story, I thought (1) that their babyeating would be held up as an example of the triumph of rationality (around population control), and (2) that their refusal to modify themselves would be based on their recognition that the specific act of babyeating nurtured and protected a more general capacity and respect for rational thought. I thought that Babyeating was being proposed as a bootcamp for overcoming bias. Maybe this idea would be interesting to explore?
In general, an interesting stor... (read more)
Even if one wishes to argue the virtues of mass murder as a method of intentional population control, which I find quite horrifying enough, I would hope that violent assault and month-long torture are not one's preferred methods.
I thought this was very, very good, probably my favorite of your writings that I've read so far. I think it's quite a bit better than the Harry Potter fanfic--which is itself good fanfic, but "good for fanfic" is a much more forgiving category than "good fiction." When you mentioned trying to get a Hugo for HPMOR I thought you were revealing an embarrassing inability to self-calibrate your own skills as a writer: HPMOR is not good enough to be publishable (even leaving copyright issues aside), and it's very far from being at a Hugo-winning level. It is not, however, ridiculous to think that fiction of the "Three Worlds Collide" caliber could compete for Hugo-type prizes.
In summary, I'd like to see more of your original fiction, and if you chose to I don't doubt that you could publish stories in major-market genre magazines.
Write an original work, and unless you are both very lucky and very good, the number of people who see it is more or less zero.
If you write an original work, then I am very sorry, but I probably will not read it. There is a barrier to diving into a new world, a trivial inconvenience, but nonetheless, a cost to high for the expected return, which by Sturgeon's Law is near zero. On the other hand, in fanfiction I already know the world, and that makes it easier to jump in.
Yes, for fanfiction there is an upper bound to the readership numbers, but in practice, that isn't what you should be worrying about when trying to get people to read your work. The hard part is separating yourself out from the Sturgeon's Law chaff surrounding you, and that is an easier task if your work is a work of fanfiction.
I agree that fanfic has a lower ceiling than original work.
But it isn't necessarily better to raise my ceiling than to raise my average.
There's quite a number of HPMOR readers who've never read HP. Admittedly this may be a special case, and it's not HPMOR's original intended optimal use-case either (reading Philosopher's Stone first is a good idea if you can).
I like fanfic.
I don't, in general, post even constructive criticism on fanfic unless I'm specifically asked to (as a beta reader or something) and even then I will sandwich the con-crit between the most heaping helpings of praise that I can come up with for the work as a whole. The reason for this is that most fanfic writers are motivated by praise. They're not getting paid, after all: the praise is all the reward they get, so the praise had better be good. If I like a piece of fanfic, if I want more of it, I try to provide praise, and the more effusive the better.
I think most fanfic readers intuitively do this, and I worry that EY is taking comments like "HPMOR is the best thing I ever read!!!" literally, when a lot of that sort of stuff is just characteristically enthusiastic fan-feedback. (I'm willing to accept that JohnWittle means it literally, although, seriously? You'd trade Shakespeare and James Joyce--Neil Gaiman and Tolkien and Ursula K. Le Guin--for HPMOR? It's pretty hard for me to wrap my head around that.)
But in general, the reasons that I don't think HPMOR is as good as TWC have to do not with sentence-level construction but with plot momentum, tightness of... (read more)
I feel like I'm missing out on most of the clever subtleties.
Is there a way to tell?
I'm also impressed, but not quite as impressed as I should be, for reasons just mentioned.
I actually liked it. Here are my reasons:
Oh, and a good friend of mine recommended reading it. But that's not a real reason, is it. ;-)
well that's to me looks very dystopian future... the principle of protection of human autonomy was tossed away already when they legalize 'non consensual' anything where it is legal for human being A to impose his notions of fun on human being B against human being B's will. So the mankind got raped very gently by superhappy - so what? They legalized this already, there's a legal precedent for a far worse case that in your universe everyone agreed on.
Plus you give zero thought to concept of human beings as autonomous, each an agent upon himself. ... (read more)
I've read this about half a year ago, enjoyed it, completely more or less agreed with Eliezer's point and filed it away.
Then, this morning, I literally woke up screaming. This is not an exaggeration, I must've dreamt of something that reminded me of 3WC, and my first waking thought was: "It's WRONG to be right!". I do believe that the human condition and human individuality are easily worth practically any number of lives (although holding ourselves hostage and threatening to voluntarily increase the amount of suffering customary for human culture unless the Superhappies give all people a choice in the matter might have worked as a third option - but wriggling out of the author's intent is pointless). I don't have a single problem with this logic.
What I have a problem with is myself. I was born with some brain damage (diagnosed only at 19, unfortunately for my teenage years) that, among other socially inconvenient things, strongly inhibits my instinctive empathy; I might value and respect individual people, but can feel very little compassion for them on a personal level, and I wouldn't hesitate in murdering someone if I believed it was right and necessary. In short, I e... (read more)
Oh, to anyone who agrees with the decision but is still disturbed/looking for a 3rd option due2 those specific victims: THEY DIDN'T DIE AND WERE IN LITTLE DANGER, Eliezer told us an implausible lie to make us think. In fact, the ship was a flotillia and it sent a runner home for each developement, AND they didn't settle 15b people in a frontier system - because people had read previous centuries' good SF and heeded its warnings. Same goes for every scenario with simple precautions or hidden third options.
I have converted the book to epub and mobi. Download link: http://www.filedropper.com/3worlds
I haven't started reading it yet so let me know if you find any problems with the conversion.
This was an interesting thing to read about, though I have to say the start, with the baby eaters, was the best and most interesting part. The babyeaters were, by human standards, unconscionably evil, but ironically, were actually probably much less so than the happy-happy. Indeed, the sad irony was that the happy-happy were far, far less capable of understanding humanity than the babyeaters were - and I think that the humans could have found peace with the babyeaters. But the happy-happy lack what the other two races possess.
The sad thing is that humans c... (read more)
I've created a new EPUB as the earlier link was dead. This one has a table of contents and improved typography. You can download it from my Dropbox (68kb).
I asked a friend of mine to read the story. He's a reincarnationist and he liked it a lot, although he preferred the first ending to the second. He sent me an interesting commentary on the reasons for this preference, which I'm copying and pasting below. I guess the few reincarnationist observations he made won't be of much interest to most here, but the other considerations are very well worth the reading:
This is one of the most amazing and uplifting stories I have ever read – at least in the ending one scenario.I am glad that the superhappies want to e
This is one of the most amazing and uplifting stories I have ever read – at least in the ending one scenario.
I am glad that the superhappies want to e
An interesting ethical exercise. It seems to me that it would benefit from cutting some slack, such as the entire pseudoreligious Confessor's line (I understand he's one of the more alive protagonists, but hey, it's largely drama out of nothing) and the superfluous "markets" (I understand the author is fond of prediction markets, but here they add nothing to the story's core, only distract). The core, on the other hand - the two alien races and their demands - is drama out of something and would do well with some elaboration.
For one thing, while... (read more)
Actually I am nearly completely on the side of the Super Happies on this one. It is not as if the humans are moral with rape legalized. I'd support the Happies provided: 1. The utility function will not diverge from the goals of a) spreading truth, and eliminating delusion, b) spreading happiness, and eliminating suffering, c) growing, and not dying. With the negative statements taking precedence over the positive ones. 2. That accordingly the babies they will eat to accommodate the Baby Eaters are not only not sentient, but also incapable of suffering of ... (read more)
I agree that killing billions on the off chance that the Superhappies won't find you is a horrific gamble. This is the sort of behavior we find in super villains in all sorts of fictional stories. That the ones making the choice sacrificed their own lives does not make it better. Atonement? Yeah, maybe he enjoyed every minute of it the same way he did torturing and raping a girl to death. Maybe that is what the laughter was really about.
Read Xenogenesis by Octavia Butler. It is a better story. We need to evolve and change. We don't get to refuse evolution. That is a dead end path. There are singularities. That is reality.