Finally, even if we later find out that lo and behold, the inference algorithm we hard-coded into our AGI circuits was actually not so great, and somebody comes along with a much better one . . . that is still not an argument for simulating the algorithm in software.

If we have many generations of rapid improvement of the algorithms this will be much easier if one doesn't need to make new hardware each time.

Not at all true. The class of statistical inference algorithms including Bayesian Networks and the cortex are both extremely flexible and greatly

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This is mostly irrelevant, but think complexity theorists use a weird definition of exponential according to which GNFS might still be considered exponential - I know when they say "at most exponential" they mean O(e^(n^k)) rather than O(e^n), so it seems plausible that by "at least exponential" they might mean Omega(e^(n^k)) where now k can be less than 1.

EDIT: Nope, I'm wrong about this. That seems kind of inconsistent.

0jacob_cannell9yYes, and this tradeoff exists today with some rough mix between general processors and more specialized ASICs. I think this will hold true for a while, but it is important to point out a few subpoints: 1. If moore's law slows down this will shift the balance farther towards specialized processors. 2. Even most 'general' processors today are actually a mix of CISC and vector processing, with more and more performance coming from the less-general vector portion of the chip. 3. For most complex real world problems algorithms eventually tend to have much less room for improvement than hardware - even if algorithmic improvements intially dominate. After a while algorithmic improvements end within the best complexity class and then further improvements are just constants and are swamped by hardware improvement. Modern GPUs for example have 16 or more vector processors for every general logic processor. The brain is like a very slow processor with massively wide dedicated statistical inference circuitry. As a result of all this (and the point at the end of my last post) I expect that future AGIs will be built out of a heterogeneous mix of processors but with the bulk being something like a wide-vector processor with alot of very specialized statistical inference circuitry. This type of design will still have huge flexibility by having program-ability at the network architecture level - it could for example simulate humanish and various types of mammalian brains as well as a whole range of radically different mind architectures all built out of the same building blocks. We have pretty good maps of the low-level circuitry in the cortex at this point and it's clearly built out of a highly repetitive base circuit pattern, similar to how everything is built out of cells at a lower level. I don't have a single good introductory link, but it's called the laminar cortical pattern [
2wnoise9yTo clarify, subexponential does not mean polynomial, but super-polynomial. (Interestingly, while factoring a given integer is hard, there is a way to get a random integer within [1..N] and its factorization quickly. See Adam Kalai's paper Generating Random Factored Numbers, Easily (PDF) [].

Theists are wrong; is theism?

by Will_Newsome 1 min read20th Jan 2011539 comments


Many folk here on LW take the simulation argument (in its more general forms) seriously. Many others take Singularitarianism1 seriously. Still others take Tegmark cosmology (and related big universe hypotheses) seriously. But then I see them proceed to self-describe as atheist (instead of omnitheist, theist, deist, having a predictive distribution over states of religious belief, et cetera), and many tend to be overtly dismissive of theism. Is this signalling cultural affiliation, an attempt to communicate a point estimate, or what?

I am especially confused that the theism/atheism debate is considered a closed question on Less Wrong. Eliezer's reformulations of the Problem of Evil in terms of Fun Theory provided a fresh look at theodicy, but I do not find those arguments conclusive. A look at Luke Muehlhauser's blog surprised me; the arguments against theism are just not nearly as convincing as I'd been brought up to believe2, nor nearly convincing enough to cause what I saw as massive overconfidence on the part of most atheists, aspiring rationalists or no.

It may be that theism is in the class of hypotheses that we have yet to develop a strong enough practice of rationality to handle, even if the hypothesis has non-negligible probability given our best understanding of the evidence. We are becoming adept at wielding Occam's razor, but it may be that we are still too foolhardy to wield Solomonoff's lightsaber Tegmark's Black Blade of Disaster without chopping off our own arm. The literature on cognitive biases gives us every reason to believe we are poorly equipped to reason about infinite cosmology, decision theory, the motives of superintelligences, or our place in the universe.

Due to these considerations, it is unclear if we should go ahead doing the equivalent of philosoraptorizing amidst these poorly asked questions so far outside the realm of science. This is not the sort of domain where one should tread if one is feeling insecure in one's sanity, and it is possible that no one should tread here. Human philosophers are probably not as good at philosophy as hypothetical Friendly AI philosophers (though we've seen in the cases of decision theory and utility functions that not everything can be left for the AI to solve). I don't want to stress your epistemology too much, since it's not like your immortal soul3 matters very much. Does it?

Added: By theism I do not mean the hypothesis that Jehovah created the universe. (Well, mostly.) I am talking about the possibility of agenty processes in general creating this universe, as opposed to impersonal math-like processes like cosmological natural selection.

Added: The answer to the question raised by the post is "Yes, theism is wrong, and we don't have good words for the thing that looks a lot like theism but has less unfortunate connotations, but we do know that calling it theism would be stupid." As to whether this universe gets most of its reality fluid from agenty creators... perhaps we will come back to that argument on a day with less distracting terminology on the table.



1 Of either the 'AI-go-FOOM' or 'someday we'll be able to do lots of brain emulations' variety.

2 I was never a theist, and only recently began to question some old assumptions about the likelihood of various Creators. This perhaps either lends credibility to my interest, or lends credibility to the idea that I'm insane.

Or the set of things that would have been translated to Archimedes by the Chronophone as the equivalent of an immortal soul (id est, whatever concept ends up being actually significant).