This thread is intended to provide a space for 'crazy' ideas. Ideas that spontaneously come to mind (and feel great), ideas you long wanted to tell but never found the place and time for and also for ideas you think should be obvious and simple - but nobody ever mentions them.

This thread itself is such an idea. Or rather the tangent of such an idea which I post below as a seed for this thread.


Rules for this thread:

  1. Each crazy idea goes into its own top level comment and may be commented there.
  2. Voting should be based primarily on how original the idea is.
  3. Meta discussion of the thread should go to the top level comment intended for that purpose. 


If this should become a regular thread I suggest the following :

  • Use "Crazy Ideas Thread" in the title.
  • Copy the rules.
  • Add the tag "crazy_idea".
  • Create a top-level comment saying 'Discussion of this thread goes here; all other top-level comments should be ideas or similar'
  • Add a second top-level comment with an initial crazy idea to start participation.
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244 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 12:26 PM
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Legalize doping and other artificial human enhancements in sports, but require them to reveal what drugs they are using. Create new sports if you want to encourage specific enhancements.

It would lead to arms races between medical teams and pharmaceutical companies and even if it would harm sportsmen themselves, the fact that new drugs would constantly be invented and perfected would help even ordinary people, because after a while those new drugs and other human enhancements would become available on the market.

Use already existing Paralympic Games to test artificial limbs.

Allow a reporting lag of a few years to give participants an incentive to innovate without fear that any success would just be immediately copied, although require immediate reporting on the enhancements used by any athlete who dies or suffers serious harm.
I agree with the point, though my immediate intuition is that a few months might work better than a few years; in StarCraft, there's almost no lag, but that hasn't stopped people from innovating, and any meta that persists more than a few months starts feeling stale. Maybe have 3ish-month seasons like SC2*, and competitors disclose at the end of the season. * There's three stages of a season: qualifiers, lower league, and upper league. Anyone can compete in the qualifiers, which consist of single-elimination brackets. The lower league is composed of 24 qualified competitors and the bottom 24 (out of 32) finishers from the previous season's upper league. The qualified competitors match up against the competitors who dropped from last season's upper league, and the winner advances to this season's upper league. These 24 players, along with the top 8 competitor's from last season's upper league compete in a single-elimination bracket, until a champion is crowned (or, I guess, trophied). (There's also dual tournaments [], which have the exact same effect of eliminating half the players in a round, but I prefer because it's more forgiving of bad seeding—you don't have #1 seed knocking out #3 seed in round of 32, for instance).
Is that actually illegal or just against the rules? I would expect it would be perfectly legal to start your own, although I could see why people might object if you don't at least limit it to make sure it stays at safe levels. And if you do limit it, you'll have all those advantages you said, but not the obvious one of not having cheaters. It's just as hard to tell if someone's doping more than they should as it is to tell if they're doing it at all.
While I'm not sure about some of the details, I agree that performance enhancing drugs should be legal. They certainly are no less fair than the genetic lottery, and no more dangerous than training can be.
Agree, plus some PEDs improve healing time after injuries and possibly make some injuries less likely. The big reason people oppose PEDs in professional sports is they don't want to see their pre-PED-era heroes' records getting smashed all the time by roided out super-athletes. For example there was a huge backlash when Barry Bonds beat Hank Aaron's career home-runs record.
Great points. I can see the record argument, but that too seems unconvincing given how much our understanding of training has improved over time. Are we going to limit ourselves to training regimens developed decades ago in the name of fairness? I think the vast majority of people would see that as silly. Another argument against records: You'll still have records set by people who use performance enhancing drugs, but you won't be able to prove it solidly. For example, the women's 400 meter run record was set back in 1985 by Marita Koch []. Very few women have come close to her time, suggesting she probably did performance enhancing drugs, and there's documentation suggesting that she did. Yet the record still stands.
Once you legalize "anything goes", this will very rapidly change.
I have a few responses to this. First, I'm not arguing for "anything goes". I think performance enhancing drugs should be made available by prescription and require approval of a sports physician of sorts. Second, training injuries are quite common. A large fraction (perhaps even the vast majority) of my runner friends have had at least moderate injuries from training, and I see no one arguing to ban running in particular. It seems fairly clear to me that a smaller fraction of people who do performance enhancing drugs right now develop problems equivalent in severity. If you have evidence suggesting otherwise, I'd be interested in hearing it. Third, some performance enhancing drugs seem fairly safe. Take EPO [] for example. While I'm not an expert, it seems that even massive overdoses are not that bad []: Would you be okay with legalizing performance enhancing drugs which have been demonstrated to be safe? (Oh, and people reading this, don't read this as "EPO is safe" because I have not investigated that in depth. I'm arguing on the principle that some performance enhancing drugs have less potential for harm than others.)
Let me start by saying that I think people should be able to do whatever they want with their bodies. Having said this, I am wary of setting up an incentive system where you're encouraging people to achieve superior performance during seconds or minutes at potentially high long-term cost. We probably have different central examples in mind -- what comes to my mind is not steroids with lesser side effects or better versions of EPO, but rather PCP to suppress pain and something to throw your metabolism into overdrive (e.g. at the cost of future cancer). How well do you think this will work in e.g. Kenya or Myanmar? Don't forget that we have empirical data, for example East Germany in the 1970s and 80s. Eh. I am highly suspicious of spectator sports because by now they became a huge highly corrupt machine which is interested in nothing but generating money and maintaining control. It might legalize performance drugs if it thinks it will get more money and control this way. As to the answer to your question "in general", see the first sentence of this comment :-)
Perhaps I was unclear. My point is that this happens even without performance enhancing drugs. I know a few people who have permanently injured themselves from sports training and performance, and I'm very confident none of them took performance enhancing drugs. I am not convinced that legalizing performance enhancing drugs would make this worse, and I think it stands a good chance of making it better by putting it all out in the open. I'd be interested in seeing if there's evidence either way. Certainly, some doctors are better or worse than others. Athletes may get inappropriate prescriptions if prescription drugs are approved for athletics. Again, I don't really see your point given that I think poor training is comparably dangerous. As for the latter example, it seems to me that the problems in East Germany were not from use of performance enhancing drugs per se (though they played a role), but lack of informed consent, secrecy, and short-term thinking. Their system considered the athletes to be fungible, and valued short term winning over the athletes' health. And it's not drugs that did all of the damage; hard training (perhaps made more possible with drugs) is a major culprit as well. Athletes should have a choice about whether to take certain drugs or participate in certain training exercises, and they should understand the true risks involved with each choice. They should do this without coercion and be allowed to get other opinions.
I understand that. The difference lies in tools that you can bring to bear. Screwing yourself up via biochemistry is MUCH easier than screwing yourself up via hard training. The point is that the safeguard of "there is a doctor involved" is not much of a safeguard. These are going to be present regardless. The issue, again, is tools which you can use. Imagine a competition (winning which leads to money and fame) which is based on how contorted a pose can you get into. Under normal conditions you'll certainly get overtraining side-effects: winners will have overstretched ligaments and muscles, will suffer from habitual dislocation, etc. But now imagine that you allow breaking and resetting bones in new configurations, transplantation of organs to new places in your body and other things like that. It's the same competition, but the tools are different.
Appreciate your reply. I think it has helped me refine my thinking. My immediate thought was to agree, but upon reflection, I'm not sure I do agree. The availability heuristic could play a role here. I'll try to make your claim more precise. One interpretation is that you are more likely to injure yourself sooner by taking drugs than by training. I'm not sure that's actually true. I definitely can think of examples where someone taking a drug died shortly afterward. "Hard training" seems to imply things which take time to develop, like stress fractures. However, I'd include training related accidents under training, and I don't think those are unlikely early on. I'd also include things like heat exhaustion and heart attacks there. I'd give a higher probability to drugs being easier to cause severe damage in the short term, especially if they are illegal (impure) drugs (which are not relevant to the question of legalization), but I'd like to see more clear data on the precise risks. If I understand your argument, it's that some athletes will have less of a safeguard, not that doctors are not much of a safeguard in general. I also want to highlight again that the same is true for training. I'm interested in whether we are assigning blame appropriately. Do you think if the other issues I mentioned had been addressed, the athletes would still be taking on unacceptable risk from performance enhancing drugs specifically? I think I can understand the parallels you are making between taking performance enhancing drugs and body modification. I suppose this argument fails to convince me because I don't think body modification should be off the table either! Training already produces substantial changes in the human body, and I see no relevant difference between changes induced surgically or through natural biology, provided that the level of risk is equivalent for both. Perhaps one relevant fact is that training induced changes will generally revert themselves if you st
I can think of a variety of ways in which drugs are more dangerous than training (some of which you mentioned): * Drugs are easier in the sense that taking pills takes much less effort than hard training * There are many more drugs (and they are more diverse) than there are forms of training * Drug interaction is more complex and difficult to manage than mixing up types of training * The variety of things in your body that you can break by drugs is much greater than the variety of things you can break by training * Because of the point above, drugs are more likely to cause hidden damage which you are not aware of until it's too late * Drugs are generally (but not always) faster acting giving you less time to detect a problem and correct it I can probably produce more if I work at it :-) My point is that "someone with a medical degree is around" doesn't actually provide much safety by itself -- it all depends on the context. A wealthy US doctor (who can be sued, stripped of a license, kicked out of his country club, etc.) has a very different set of incentives than some guy with an M.D. in a poor country whose only chance of success in life is to extract superhuman performance out of a sports team he's advising. Again, it's up to the athlete to decide which risk is acceptable and which is not. My concern is with a system of incentives, not with whether an individual athlete will make a "right" or "wrong" decision. I think I'm more suspicious of long-term costs for short-term gains, rather than risk levels...
You make fair points, though ultimately I'm not convinced that legalizing at least certain performance enhancing drugs will lead to problems worse than that which can be found via bad training. I'll be thinking about this and might change my mind.

I've always thought that a site or subreddit simulating the gradual creation of a legal system might be worthwhile. Call it YouBeTheJudge or something similar.

That is, each week you give the readers an incident. Details should look vaguely like Mock Trial, They render judgement, guided only by their own morality. Initially nothing constrains the court, thereafter it is limited only by the precedent that it has established.

Spin off new world any time one world gets too far into the weeds, maybe they are nations and you can do international incidents eventually?

Seems like it might be popular enough to sell to someone eventually. Long shot, but then I'd never have predicted that Epic Rap Battles of History would have succeeded.

This reminds me of the game Nomic wherein the players simply agree on a small set of Initial rules like {players start with 0 points, player with 100 points wins, in each round each player may introduce a new rule, player that introduces a rule that makes the rule set inconsistent loses, the initial rules may not be changed or invalidated}. I've heard that these games can continue for years and result in pretty complex rule systems.
I vote to put this on 4chan X-D

This is a crazy idea that I'm not at all convinced about, but I'll go ahead and post it anyway. Criticism welcome!

Rationality and common sense might be bad for your chances of achieving something great, because you need to irrationally believe that it's possible at all. That might sound obvious, but such idealism can make the difference between failure and success even in science, and even at the highest levels.

For example, Descartes and Leibniz saw the world as something created by a benevolent God and full of harmony that can be discovered by reason. That's a very irrational belief, but they ended up making huge advances in science by trying to find that harmony. In contrast, their opponents Hume, Hobbes, Locke etc. held a much more LW-ish position called "empiricism". They all failed to achieve much outside of philosophy, arguably because they didn't have a strong irrational belief that harmony could be found.

If you want to achieve something great, don't be a skeptic about it. Be utterly idealistic.

In brainstorming, a common piece of advice is to let down your guard and just let the ideas flow without any filters or critical thinking, and then follow up with a review to select the best ones rationally. The concept here is that your brain has two distinct modes of operation, one for creativity and one for analysis, and that they don't always play well together, so by separating their activities you improve the quality of your results. My personal approach mirrors this to some degree: I rapidly alternate between these two modes, starting with a new idea, then finding a problem with it, then proposing a fix, then finding a new problem, etc. Mutation, selection, mutation, selection... Evolution, of a sort. Understanding is an interaction between an internal world model and observable evidence. Every world model contains "behind the scenes" components which are not directly verifiable and which serve to explain the more superficial phenomena. This is a known requirement to be able to model a partially observable environment. The irrational beliefs of Descartes and Leibniz which you describe motivated them to search for minimally complex indirect explanations that were consistent with observation. The empiricists were distracted by an excessive focus on the directly verifiable surface phenomena. Both aspects, however, are important parts of understanding. Without intangible behind-the-scenes components, it is impossible to build a complete model. But without the empirical demand for evidence, you may end up modeling something that isn't really there. And the focus on minimal complexity as expressed by their search for "harmony" is another expression of Occam's razor, which serves to improve the ability of the model to generalize to new situations. A lot of focus is given to the scientific method's demand for empirical evidence of a falsifiable hypothesis, but very little emphasis is placed on the act of coming up with those hypotheses in the first place. You won't
Am I correct to paraphrase you this way: maximizing EX and maximizing P(X > a) are two different problems.
What are the meanings of these symbols "EX", "P(X>a)"?
X is a random variable, E is expected value (a.k.a. average), P is probability. For example, if X is uniformly distributed between 0 and 1, then EX=0.5 and P(X>0.75)=0.25. Sarunas is saying that some action might not affect the average value, but strongly affect the chances of getting a very high or very low value ("swing for the fences" so to speak). For example, if we define Y as X rounded to the nearest integer (i.e. Y=0 if X0.5), then EY=0.5 and P(Y>0.75)=0.5. The average of Y is the same as the average of X, but the probability of getting an extreme value is higher.
This is probably obvious for others, but it wasn't obvious for me that by paying 0.1 to go from the first game to the second one you both decrease your average earnings and increase the probability of high earnings.
Yeah, that's one part of it. Another part is that some irrational beliefs can be beneficial even on average, though of course you need to choose such beliefs carefully. Believing that the world makes sense, in the context of doing research, might be one such example. I don't know if there are others. Eliezer's view of Bayesianism ("yay, I've found the eternal laws of reasoning!") might be related here.
Good point. It's worth noting that you can use Markov's inequality ['s_inequality] to relate the two.
I wrote a post [] arguing that what is irrational overconfidence for an individual can be good for society. (In short, scientific knowledge is a public good, individual motivations to produce it is likely too low from a group perspective, and overconfidence increases individual motivation so it's good.) To extend this a bit, if society pays people to produce scientific knowledge (in money and/or status), then overconfident people would be willing to accept a lower "salary" and outcompete more rational individuals for the available positions, so we should expect that most science is produced by overconfident people. (This also applies to any other attribute that increases motivation to work on scientific problems, like intellectual curiosity.) As a corollary, people who produce science about rationality (e.g., decision theorists) are probably more overconfident than average, people who work at MIRI are probably more overconfident than average, etc.
This starts to look like Lake Woebegon []. The argument that overconfident people will be willing to accept lower compensation and so outcompete "more rational individuals" seems to be applicable very generally, from running a pizza parlour to working as a freelance programmer. So, is most everyone "more overconfident than average"?
Good point. :) I guess it actually has to be something more like "comparative overconfidence", i.e., confidence in your own scientific ideas or assessment of your general ability to produce scientific output, relative to confidence in your other skills. Theoretical science (including e.g., decision theory, FAI theory) has longer and weaker feedback cycles than most business fields like running a pizza parlor, so if you start off overconfident in general, you can probably keep your overconfidence in your scientific ideas/skills longer than your business ideas/skills.
I think it is more interesting to study how to be simultaneously supermotivated about your objectives and realistic about the obstacles. Probably requires some dark arts techniques (e.g. compartmentalization). Personally I find that occasional mental invocations of quasireligious imagery are useful.
Isn't this the same or related to mental contrasting []?
In other words, laziness and overconfidence bias cancel each other out, and getting rid of the second without getting rid of the first will cause problems?
Yes, if you think Hume's problem was laziness :-)
Isn’t that growth mindset []? (Is growth mindset not rational?)
Yeah, it's a bit similar to growth mindset. Is it rational to believe in growth mindset if you know that believing in it with probability 100% makes it work with probability 50%? :-) I guess it only works if you're good at compartmentalizing, which is itself an error by LW standards.
I think, it's also similar to Newcomb's Problem ['s_problem], but I'm failing to think of a 1:1 mapping from what you say to it.
As a data point to support this, overconfidence correlates positively with income.
I think that very much depends on what you mean with rationality. The kind of rationality this community practices leads for better or worse to a bunch of people holding contrarian beliefs that certain things are possible that general society doesn't consider to be possible. In HPMOR you have "do the impossible", "heroic responsibility" and "having something to protect" all as part of the curriculum.
That is true. Well, umm... there is the slight issue of cost. If you are deliberately choosing a high-risk strategy to give yourself a chance of a huge payoff, you need to realize that the mode of outcomes is you failing. Convincing yourself that you are destined to become a famous actress does improve your chances of getting into the movies, but most people who believe this will end up as waitresses in LA. It's like "If you want to become a millionaire, you need to buy lottery tickets" :-/
Yeah. I actually wrote a post [] about that :-)
Agreed on all points. It could still make sense to adopt high-risk beliefs if you've already decided that you want to work on something, and the expected payoff outweighs the cost. Friendly AI development might be one such area.
I don't know if I would hate on Hume this much. Hume is pretty big. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I agree with your broader point, though, I think. At the highest levels, EVERYTHING has to go right, including having the hardware, and having a super work ethic, and having a synergistic morale (an irrationally huge view of own importance, etc.)
There are a lot of ways to be irrational, and if enough people are being irrational in different ways, at least some of them are bound to pay off. Using your example, some of the people with blind idealism may get stuck to an idea that they can accomplish, but most of them fail. The point of trying to be rational isn't to do everything perfectly, but to systematically increasing your chances of succeeding, even though in some cases you might get unlucky.
Achieving something great may require your confidence in its possibility, but the reasonableness of that confidence is only discovered in hindsight. It's not uncommon to stumble upon a true belief while having begun with wrong evidence.
Well, or find a way to bottle mania.
Hypomania would probably be better. I would give a pretty for an sf novel about a society where hypomania/depression cycles were considered normal and accommodated.

LW/CFAR should develop a rationality curriculum for Elementary School Students. While the Sequences are a great start for adults and precocious teens with existing sympathies to the ideas presented therein, there's very little in the way of rationality training accessible to (let alone intended for) children.

I think the General Semantics folks have some of this. []
Specifically this one [] seems useable. EDIT: There is also a version for kindergarten []. Rationalist parents, take note!
Around the age of pre-k and kindergarten, a rationalist parent can probably do best by modeling and responding to learning and exploring the world -- responding to all those many why-questions, along with carefully narrowing down their appropriate use; building vocabulary; and modeling that you expect to find answers to questions (let them see you Googling!). Young kids learn a lot from the modeling of their parents, and treating the world as explorable and knowable is a very good thing to model. Unfortunately, they will get a lot less of this sort of modeling, and a lot more formal curriculum, in the average elementary school. YMMV, of course, but in general the best academic thing you can give to a young kid is your knowledge-seeking personality. Curriculum for very young kids might be better used as a guideline; for example, the tasks demonstrating tone might remind you do say "oh, he sounds angry" either when reading aloud or when someone really does sound angry. But the odds are if you are playing with your kid, you will already hear them make their toys talk in angry, sad, scared, etc. voices. Likewise with the vocabulary; your kids should be picking up synonyms from regular conversation (at this age, more understanding than using), and are primed to learn best from natural conversation, not guided lessons. Which is not to say that if you do find the curriculum beneficial that you are doing something wrong (in fact, using additional resources for better results is doing something right -- as long as you are checking that you do get better results). My point is only that curricula generally gains value as kids age, and is usually more valuable in a classroom environment than in a home one.
from 1966! but the curriculum is awesome. I will definitely use some of that for my children.
Awesome is probably bad news, because it means the "great filter" of rationality is still far ahead of us. If we imagine General Semantics as a Rationality Movement 1.0 and LessWrong/CFAR as a Rationality Movement 2.0, the outside view seems to suggest that even after we publish a successful and influential book, create an organization, inspire dozens of famous people, and create easy-to-use textbooks for elementary schools and kindergartens... still the most likely outcome is that half a century later someone will dig in history to find our remains and say "oh, shiny!".
Yes and no. I think lots of advanced stuff (for a suitable def. of 'advanced') will just not be 'common knowledge' for multiple generations until it 'fixates'.
Most movements fail. Most ideas die before they get momentum. That doesn't necessarily mean the ideas were bad, just that they had bad luck or the circumstances around them weren't just right.
There's this [] book series.
Cool! Who is this Kris Langman person?
And/or a video game!
It'd be neat to maybe see something similar to Socrates Jones: Professional Philosopher [] but for rationality-related stuff.

Harvest organs from living, healthy, poor donors. Go to a poor country and find batches of 100 people earning $1 a day who are willing to give up their lives with probability .01 in return for 20 years wages. You will have to pay out $730,000 per batch, but in return you get the healthy organs from a living donor which should be worth a lot more than this. Run the operation as a charity to reduce negative publicity, and truthfully stress that the prime goal of the charity is to help the poorest of the poor.

Most people do not consider "perform a single step which has an X chance of death" and "perform two steps, one of which is an X chance, and another of which kills with certainty the person chosen in the first step" to be equivalent.

Most of the world has deontological ethics, not consequentialist.

Why does my idea violate deontological ethics if I get the legal approval of the relevant governments and individuals? Would it violate deontological ethics for me to build a factory in a poor country in which workers are knowlingly exposed to a small risk of death?
Since when "legal" == "ethical"? No. What violates deontological ethics is not you running this program -- it's the actual killing at the end that matters.
Deontology is funny like that. Making a one-in-a-million chance of each of a million people dying is fine, but killing one is not. Not even if you make it a lottery so each of them has a one-in-a-million chance of dying, since you're still killing them.
You can't treat "deontological ethics" as if that phrase gives specific rules. It refers to an entire class of ethical systems. However, you can look at various real world systems and cases to make predictions about how your factory would be received. It is common in a situation like this for people to believe that if you know that there is a risk, and you do not tell people about the risk, then you are morally (and often legally) negligent. If you do tell people of the risk, and then people get hurt, people will find you morally (and often legally) negligent, because most people actually hold teleological ethic beliefs on an emotional level. tl;dr -- neither of these cases necessarily violate deontological ethical systems. Get a good lawyer anyway. EDIT: Fixed typo.
Several issues; 1. I didn't think that many organs were needed. 2. tissue typing is difficult and rare to find a match. 3. this would probably discourage the creation of synthetic organs that would actually solve the problem without a need for removing the organs of other people.
Leaving aside all that ethical stuff.... What do you do when the 'winner' of the lottery runs away? The people who sign up will be weighted towards those who believe that they can escape, and once you have won the contest, the calculation becomes a risk of 100%, not 1%, so the motivation to escape is high. Politically, asking people from a very poor country to accept that people from rich countries (or perhaps even worse, a rich upper class) are taking their countrymen apart for spare pieces is almost certainly going to increase the risk of public unrest. And finally, while this is a solution, it is probably not the best or most workable. I suspect that you could get nearly equivalent outcomes in ROI and end up helping more people in both countries if you either paid people for becoming organ donors registered at the local hospital and with a contract specifying that you get the organs, or alternatively, paid families post-death for rights to organs. This might result in a delay in getting your first batch, and would mean more paperwork and more in depth ties with the local medical systems, but would cause much less social/political brouhaha. However, I do support you setting up your foundation simply so that when someone proposes the solution in the above paragraph, people consider it to be the sane option :-)
Before I give anyone money I inject him with something that's either harmless or incapacitating. I immediately put an incapacitated person in a chemically induced coma, and he never regains consciousness. Generalized, this can be my life's work.
Fly the whole living, healthy, poor person to the rich country and replace the person who needs new organs. Education costs are probably less than the medical costs, but probably it's wise to also select for more intelligent people from the poor country. With an N-year pipeline of such replacements there's little to no latency. This doesn't even require a poor country at all; just educate suitable replacements from the rich country and keep them healthy.
Even if we ignored the ethical problems with this system, imagine the horrifically creative ways people would find to abuse it. Especially as those countries are usually also famous for high corruption and occasional ethnic cleansings.
This proves too much since it's a reason to not trade with poor people in poor countries else they be made slaves.
You mean like calling for a boycott of products made in third-world sweatshops? :-D
Healthy people earning 1$ a day? How certain can you be of your choice?
Medical exams. And sadly there are parts of the world where healthy young adults do earn $1 a day or less.

We need to create more rivers! Water transport is still cheap and important for development, but sub-Saharan Africa and the middle of Asia are sadly deficient in rivers.

River creation is an interesting example of something which isn't forbidden by the laws of physics, but seems utterly unfeasible. Is there any imaginable technology for making rivers?

Canal creation was the infrastructure boom at the start of the industrial revolution, before railroads. One particularly impressive work is the Barton Aqueduct.

Use clean (mostly fusion) nuclear weapons to blast a channel through the landscape.
Could we do this to dig holes for geothermal power?
Apparently this possibility has been considered, but never got off the drawing board.
The obstacle to making a river is usually getting the water uphill to begin with. Regular cloud seeding of moist air currents that would otherwise head out to sea? Modifying land albedo to change airflow patterns? That's all dubious, but I can't think of any other ideas for starting a new river with new water. If you've got a situation where the water you want to flow is already "uphill", then the technology is simply digging, and if you wanted to do enough of it you could make whole new seas [].

Careful, as new seas can sometimes backfire horribly or change rapidly depending on local hydrologic, agricultural, or geological conditions -

Fair point-- I was thinking in terms of something more dramatic involving tectonics.
Rivers, even underground ones, never run deep enough for tectonics to be involved. The scenario is terrifying.
Tectonics create features of above-ground landscape which determine the flow (or even existence) of rivers.
Perhaps if you replace the word "river" with the word "canal"..?
Canals are smaller, though I grant there may be a canal which is longer than the shortest rivers. Still, I haven't seen proposals for canals which would be comparable to the Mississippi or the Amazon.

A quick Google, and...

The Grand Canal (also known as the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal) ... is the longest canal or artificial river in the world ... linking the Yellow River and Yangtze River. The oldest parts of the canal date back to the 5th century BC, although the various sections were finally combined during the Sui dynasty (581–618 AD). The total length of the Grand Canal is 1,776 km (1,104 mi).

I am also not sure why you think the technology is difficult. You just dig. The traditional "technology" is slave labour.

Not only the rivers. But also huge tunnels from the sea to the interior cities. like Denver or Munich. Large container ships may bring goodies deep inside the continents. A whole network of such underground channels would be nice.
Why tunnels, not canals? Particularly in the case of Denver, you've got a huge elevation gain, so you'd need the locks anyway, and digging tunnels is expensive (and buying farmland to put your canal through is relatively cheap).
To avoid the elevation to say Denver, you have to have a "basement" about 1600 meters down. And the port in the basement. No such a big problem, you have some deeper mines in the world.
You save energy not lifting a cargo ship 1600 meters, but you spend energy lifting the cargo itself. If there are rivers that can be turned into systems of locks it may be cheaper to let water flowing downhill do the lifting for you. Denver is an extreme example, perhaps.
If Denver ships out as much as it imports, weight-wise, pulleys could do much of the work of lifting. If there is a deficit in export weight, you could use the same water you were going to use as downhill flow to weigh down the counterweight.
According to Wikipedia: You already have to elevate each of those containers (with the train or truck from the coast). An electric elevator would be much more energy efficient than the current solutions are. A litter or so of diesel fuel of electricity per container. Less than 100 kilometers of shipping. Much less than 1000 kilometers of trucking.
Tentatively-- in hot dry country, a tunnel loses less water to evaporation.
Airship transport is even cheaper and more energy-efficient.
I wonder how many canals are being built these days. That used to be a big thing. Maybe all the low hanging fruit got done long ago. On river making technology, there must be something. Just read an article that the Danube had been straightened out in a section between Croatia and Serbia in the 19th century.

We should strongly discourage smart people from coming up with innovative new forms of torture, slavery, or other conditions that have been long recognized as social ills.

More generally I do sometimes worry that attack vectors which seem obvious and dangerous to me simply haven't been though of by deeply unimaginative malicious people and so feel vaguely worried about even mentioning them as a negative possibility if I can't find people already proposing them with google.
Eh, that's not really what I'm worried about. It just seems to me that there can be very little good outcome of (say) posting "crazy ideas" here about how to recreate slavery or whatever. Not because it'll make LW look bad, or because there's a significant chance of it coming about ... but because people shouldn't practice at creating social ills, since you get better at what you practice. Post "crazy ideas" about how to accomplish good ends, sure. But "crazy ideas" for creating conditions that nobody would want their son or daughter to live in? Why bother? History is bad enough. (This is intended to be a politically neutral argument, applicable equally given progressive or conservative premises.)
I tried to play devil's advocate and say -- if we can imagine creative bad things, there is a chance that sooner or later someone else will imagine them, too; but if we think about the idea first, we can find a defense. Something like inoculation. But the problem is: we are usually not thinking about the defense, only posting bad ideas. And even if we would post a hint at solution, if a few years later someone takes the idea seriously, people will probably already forget that the solution was posted here. Also, using the same argument, if we can find a quick solution now, most likely other people will be able to find it later if it will be necessary. Yet another problem is that attack is usually more simple than defense, so contributing equally to both sides creates a negative outcome.
I'm not so sure. There is some value in trying to guess at the limits of the behavior open to the least moral, most hostile and least cooperative individual. I wouldn't buy children, force them to work half-starved in an open pit diamond mine at gunpoint but in the real world there are people who actually do that and countries that are hellish pits of civil war because that's an economically viable option open to someone sufficiently unconcerned by human suffering. Just as it can be hard to guess how horrible the solution found by a non-human process can be [] it can be hard to guess just how horrible the options genuinely amoral humans may choose can be if you never practice even thinking about the most horrible options open to someone willing to take them. I wouldn't engineer a deadly virus, release nerve gas on the subway, [ADDITIONAL OPTIONS REDACTED] or put carcinogens in the water supply but if I'm trying to think of options open to a hypothetical Worst Person In The World who's aims might be served by such I don't think it's a good idea to just say "I refuse to think of such things because it might make me better at thinking of them". But as I said, I often fail to realize how thick and unimaginative many malicious people can be. There's far more skinheads who's first thought is going out and glassing someone than geeks who'll actually think about it and making it easier for the skinhead to just google ideas likely isn't a good idea.
By the same token, it is good for us to practice arguing against social ills. Of course, we can do that anywhere on the internet. But this way we get community support :-)
Speaking of crazy ideas.... sitting around Googling methods of terrorism may not be the best way to stay of the CIA's watch-list.
My impression is that the profile is more along the lines of "highly political" + "somewhat thick". The world has too many cities that are failing to be smoking craters for it to be otherwise. And I'm not terribly interested in politics.
I hope the CIA spend more time tracking people who actually have contact with terrorist organizations, and less time tracking people who are idly curious about how to blow things up and set them on fire ... if only for the future of the Boy Scouts.
Well, we definitely should not torture or enslave them.
That's so crazy it just might work...

A botnet startup. People sign up for the service, and install an open source program on their computer. The program can:

  • Use their CPU cycles to perform arbitrary calculations.
  • Use their network bandwidth to relay arbitrary data.
  • Let the user add restrictions on when/how much it can do the above.

For every quantum of data transferred / calculated, the user earns a token. These tokens can then be used to buy bandwidth/cycles of other users on the network. You can also buy tokens for real money (including crypto-currency).

Any job that you choose to execute... (read more)

I don't see how this competes with AWS on cost / reliability / etc. on the demand-side. On the supply side, consider cloud server racks as home heating devices [].
cost - you pay in your own CPU cycles/bandwidth. reliability - obviously, the startup would have to earn the reputation for reliability, but there's nothing inherently stopping it. etc - AWS is a beast, relatively speaking, and this offers a lot of smaller PCs for a short amount of time. I can't really think of a reason where that would be needed for computing, but as network relays it would be very useful. You could create your own custom Tor and deploy it on demand.
It would be like a competitor to AWS. Instead of renting hardware from Amazon, you are renting it from personal computers. Amazon isn't cheap, especially for higher performance computing, and especially if you want to use gpus - e.g. to train deep neural networks. It currently makes more sense to buy your own hardware. But a lot of people have GPUs just sitting around, and they could make a few bucks and help science, by renting them out. You could possibly even pay back the cost of the GPU at the current market rates.
It's been done, or at least, tried for legal services: [] [] [] [] and there were some older ones which I can't seem to refind at the moment. (Naturally, the illegal ones are fairly successful in being sold for DDoS and spamming and theft purposes.) My best guess at the failure is that relying on consumer hardware is too high latency, too failure prone, hard to guarantee any sort of security or confidentiality, high overhead in finding and negotiating with and supporting all the ordinary people running your cloud software, and not particularly cost-effective since consumer hardware may be energy-inefficient and long out of date, especially compared to cloud companies like Amazon EC2 where they build custom hardware to get more efficiencies of scale. (Note to other commentators: Ethereum isn't what he is proposing because it is incredibly inefficient compared to a regular distributed computing project, for mostly good reasons related to its goals and threat model.)
So, Folding at Home, but with money involved? Any idea if it can justify the increased electrical bills?
Yes, kinda like folding@home, just generalized and easy for everyone to use. Also, big advantage is the bandwidth usage (which would likely be a bigger selling point than CPU time). As for the electricity cost.. The tokens would have to be worth more than what you spend on extra power. And there's also the thing of "why don't I just use my own PC for 2 days instead of 10 PCs for 5 hours each?", to which the answer is go for it if you can. But you may have a problem where you just got the data and need it folded or whatever as soon as possible. Again, I feel the bigger use case here is the network, which very low extra electrical bill. For compute, you can just rent EC2 or some other compute station in the cloud, but having hundreds of network nodes for short amounts of time is really hard to buy currently.
Ethereum [] is somewhat close to this.
LOL But generally speaking it would be interesting to see what the kids of BitTorrent ("you can play only if you share") and Tor ("nah, thank you, we'll set up our own network") might look like.
This is the Crazy Ideas thread, I left ethics and legality at the door. I envision grieving gamers to be good customers. "You're beating me at this game where reaction time is really important? I'll spend some money to DDoS you so I can win!"
Unless you're hosting the game you typically don't know your opponents' IPs and if you are hosting the game you don't need to DDoS :-)
I think a system that does that does this that provides good VPNs/Proxys would be a winner. When the system runs on an internal currency it can get much faster than Tor. I would add a way to allow people to connect to your router and then connect to a VPN.
Ethereum does this

Since we'd rather look at well-dressed people than badly dressed people, good clothes have positive externalities, and should therefore be subsidized. (The main problem with this is who would get to decide which clothes count as "good" for this purpose.)

Employers pay well-dressed people more money and in general beautiful people get all sorts of advantages. Do you think that isn't enough of a subsidy?

If there is a net positive externality, then even large private benefits aren't enough. That's the whole point of the externality concept.
Since we'd rather look at fit people than fat people, physical fitness has positive externalities, and should therefore be subsidised. Since we'd rather look at people we can visually identify with than people we can't, ethnic segregation has positive externalities, and should therefore be subsidised.
Physical education in schools is more or less this.
I'm laughing hysterically. Maybe things have improved, but for a long time, the actual effect of physical education was to make people hate exercise.
Potential problem []. Jump to "now let’s get to the fashion."

America should take up the metric system.

It's not a crazy idea at all; it's more on the field of "The world is a dumber place because this needs to happen and hasn't yet."
Metrication of industrial products: clear benefit. Metrication of road signage: somewhat less clear benefit. Metrication of kitchen units: no.
Metric uses weight in many cases where imperial uses volume. This makes the translation of old recipes into metric a chore. And it means you need a kitchen scale, something that a lot of of good cooks manage without in the US. There are other barriers -- no one is going to replace their oven just because the numbers on the temperature knob don't match a new recipe (they might buy a new knob if it was easy enough, though!). All in all, the arguments for not going to metric across the board is the same old "we'd rather have our kids deal with it". But fubarobfusco is correct, it is unlikely that it will happen in the next decade or so. The market clearly won't demand or accept it.
Cooking by weight is common in the UK, and it's superior for two reasons: One, it's more accurate, because it's unaffected by packing density. Two, it's quicker, because you can pour all the ingredients directly into one container, zeroing the scales between each one. Cooking by weight is standard for professional baking even in the US.
That's not an imperial/metric problem. And in the case of recipes, the most frequent volume units are a cup and a {tea|table}spoon -- these are neither imperial, nor metric. A US "cup" is around 240 ml.
Yes - you could have other translation problems if you liked. You could have recipes that called for 240ml of flour (although there are good reasons to go by weight); or you could have recipes that call of 3.5 oz. of flour. But right now we have a lot of recipes that are carefully designed to be easily measured under one system or another (75 g; 1/2 cup). Changing systems makes the measurements come out less conveniently, whichever way you choose to change them. Of course, there are no shortage of recipes that do use the metric system, so basically this is a resistance to rotating out cookbooks. You are correct about the terminology; technically, the system used in the U.S. is United States customary units []. I have never heard that phrase spoken aloud, although this could be a problem with the people I speak to, rather than any indication of common usage. [Edited to adjust for polymathwannabe's correction -- thank you. The 240 is what I intended, but the 250 was an error.]
The liter and its derived units are primarily used to measure liquids. For flour you use grams.
I use dl. I have one of the most popular Swedish cook books, and it consistently gives volumes of flour, baking soda etc.
If you implement that, you get what the UK has.
Totally agree. Amusing story: I work at NIST [] this summer. They have posters that say things like "Think Metric" here, but the food scales in the cafeteria are still in pounds.
A good start would be using kitchen tools with both scales, and somehow try to make them popular.
Please post this in the next Open Thread.

The government picks arbitrary ages for when an individual has the mental capacity to make certain decisions, like drinking alcohol or having sex. But not everyone mentally matures at the same rate. It'd be nice to have an institution that allows minors with good backgrounds and who pass certain intelligence/rationality tests to be exempt from these laws.

Not [] arbitrary []! Those are not small effect sizes. To determine that someone's neurological development is such that they are not at the same level of risk for alcohol dependence as the general population, requires a test that doesn't exist. Moreover there is no need for such a test to exist because simple rules work better than complex rules. The drinking age law is simple and effective.
That rather depends on your definition of "better". An even simpler rule is two words: "No alcohol" -- for everyone. As I recall, the US Prohibition wasn't such a great success, though.
The U.S. prohibition was very successful [] at its goals (whether those goals were correct depends on your values). The minimum drinking age is also quite effective [] at its goals [].
US prohibition was very successful at its goal of reducing alchohol consumption, and you are right that this is insufficiently appreciated. But it also resulted in massive organised crime. Your linked article is extremely unpersuasive on this point. Ha! And lest anyone thinks I'm being unfair, that is literally its only discussion of the massive increase in organized crime caused by Prohibition. In an article that repeatedly discusses the possibility of people being socialised into different modes of behaviour, too! Now, "don't cause a massive increase in organised crime" wasn't exactly a goal of the WCTU et al when they were campaigning for Prohibition. It was simply not on their radar, so you're kinda right that Prohibition succeeded in its goals. But looking at the implicit goals more broadly, Prohibition was a disaster, despite its success at its ostensible primary goal, in exactly the way that Lumifer's "blinking ad" example demonstrates.
Heh. Was it successful, full stop? Do we want more of it? Was repealing Prohibition a mistake? If I want my computer to not show me the blinking ad, I can smash my computer to bits. Was I successful at my goal? Yes, I was X-/
I'm sorry, I find it very draining to respond to snarky, content light comments. I've provided substantial data to back my specific claims and I'm not going to get dragged into a meaningless debate [].
I think drinking is also about the idea that it might cause problems to people who aren't fully grown. I don't know if that's true, but I don't think that matters politically.
This has been proven true in rats.
This is called emancipation of minors.
Who would you trust to design the tests and the criteria for good backgrounds?

Keep kindergartens dirty to help children avoid developing allergies.

I think the research I've seen in this area has been looking at kids younger than kindergarten age. Also, be careful with your dirty -- bug, bird, and rodent droppings may may asthma worse.

A portion of a student's first two years salary (say, 10%) should go to the people who taught them the hard skills necessary to get that job (relative to how much those skills are needed on the job)


Companies could use relative importance testing to figure out which skills they valued to which degree, and teachers could keep track of which skills they taught students, and use standardized microdegrees to prove they had taught those students those skills.

immediate prerequisites would get say, 3% of the that 10%, and pre-pre-requisites would get 3% o... (read more)

Here are some perspectives on education: * Education of an individual provides expected benefits to that individual. He or she will have better career opportunities than if he or she did not receive that education. Therefore, the cost of education should be borne primarily by the individual, for instance in the form of debts that must be repaid. * Education of an individual provides expected benefits to the whole society in which that individual lives and works. He or she will be capable of greater productivity, which will have positive but diffuse externalities for a very large number of people. Productivity increases, however, accrue mostly to the wealthier members of society. Therefore, the cost of education should be borne primarily by the public in general, for instance in the form of tax-funded grants, but these should be funded by progressive taxes on income or wealth. * Education of an individual provides expected benefits to the individual's future employers, as workers with particular skills are scarce and obtained on a competitive job market. When an educated person is hired (and thus removed from the job market for the moment), there are fewer educated candidates available to the next employer. Therefore, the cost of education should be borne primarily by employers of educated workers, for instance in the form of a payroll tax; or a payment to the educator from the employer. * Education should not be modeled as a future economic benefit to particular parties, but as a duty of society to its own next generation, based on the benefit of past education: to a first approximation, everyone has received benefits that would not be possible without oneself and one's fellows and predecessors having been educated; therefore, everyone bears responsibility to pay it forward, proportional perhaps to the benefit that they themselves have received.
I'm primarily concerned with how to create a system of incentives that make people want to provide better education. I think all of these perspectives have something to offer to that, but other than the third (for which I already have ideas around) do you have any concrete proposals for incentivizing better education?
See Appendix B here [] and a long, rambly, unproofread fb post I don't entirely agree with (it's a stream-of-consciousness, get-an-unrefined-idea-on-paper-so-it-can-get-revised thing) here [].
Yes, I broadly agree with both of those. Thanks for the links.
But what would the student do, if he goes from the stipend of 60$ per month to the salary of 32? (And he cannot quit.)
I suppose he would cut down on expenses? If a worker cannot live for two years on 90% of their salary, it's probably not a job they should be taking given their lifestyle
If they're living on 90% of their salary, and you take 10% away, now they're living on 100% of their salary. Should they still be able to live on 90% of that? And 90% of that? The point of living on 90% is that you still have the 10%. So now the tax means you have to seek a job at 111% of what would have been enough. Best of luck with that. The incentive that this produces for the students is to earn more money to stay in the same place, and for the teachers to teach whatever subjects will earn more money. Say goodbye to anything being taught that doesn't translate into earning more money. It replaces teaching to the test by teaching to the bank balance.
I will simply point out that people and the economy seem to have adjusted perfectly well to income tax to respond to your first point. I don't think that it incentivizes people to stay in the same place. The only people who it incentivizes to stay in the same place are people who expect to get less than a 10% raise from a promotion or new job AND stay at their new job less than two years. And if companies wanted those people, they would make up the difference. To be fair, it does disincentivize career change... but only marginally more than career change is ALREADY disincentivized. I think that teaching to the bank account is probably not the optimal strategy. but I do believe it provides orders of magnitude more social value than the current system. As someone who works with liberal arts graduates to help them find their jobs, I think it's a travesty that liberal arts is as big as stem, even though the expected value and amount of jobs from a liberal arts degree is vastly smaller than STEM. What I think you're really getting at is externalities - there are some high paying jobs that are bad for society, and some low paying jobs that are good for society. But in my philosophical view,, that's the role of the government - to tax away negative externalities of jobs, and subsidize positive externality jobs. This proposal would make that process way more effective, because those taxes and subsidies would be felt by the teachers
The typical defense of liberal arts education I read online is: "But liberal arts education has nonzero value, therefore we must preserve it exactly as it is now!" Usually done by describing a strawman world with zero liberal arts education, and showing that something of value is lost. For example, in such world people would keep doing science, but would completely lose their ability to verbally explain why doing science is a good thing. Ironically, I think the success of this type of argument is itself another argument against too much purely liberal arts education. EDIT: Now that I think about it more, I think there is a huge hypocrisy involved. People who are successful at math but fail at e.g. philosophy are describes as losers, a kind of pathetic half-humans. On the other hand, successful philosophers who fail at math... what, is there any problem as long as they can provide a clever philosophical argument why they are still high-status? (What exactly is the lesson here? Being high-status is better than being right or being useful, I guess, and clever arguments are still the best road to high status in the eyes of masses.)

Discussion of this thread goes here; all other top-level comments should be ideas or similar.

I dislike these threads. They encourage and reward ill thought out contrarian (often straight up crackpot) ideas. Correcting them is a large cost, in part because convincing an audience doesn't require arguing things that are true, it merely requires arguing things that take more time to refute than to assert. I'd rather not get tangled up in object level for this reason by citing real examples but here is an example of the kind of idea I would expect to see here.

Made up crazy idea (that I expect some people here would endorse):

"Get rid of research ethics boards, they prevent useful research from being done that would benefit society out of an ill founded fear of us becoming the Nazis"

This sort of argument ignores the history behind why research ethics boards exist, and is usually asserted by people who are ignorant of the actual guidelines that research ethics boards abide by. It's also usually asserted without knowledge of the actual abuses of patient trust that were committed before research ethics guidelines were established), which include withholding known treatments and doing liver toxicity study in children without telling them (quite an extensive one in which biopsies were taken, and upon recovery, liver toxicity was re-induced leading to damage lasting at least a month).

(Of course, it took me much longer to write that response than to make the initial claim)

Why not just criticize the actual crazy ideas?
It usually takes a lot more time to do and a larger inferential distance to bridge. Also the existence of this thread itself encourages and creates positive reinforcement for low quality contrarian ideas. Edit: Oh are you asking why I criticized a made up idea instead of one in this thread? I didn't want to get dragged into the object level, and I didn't want to seem like I was picking on someone, I just wanted to illustrate why it takes longer to respond to an idea than to generate it. The idea I criticized is similar to comments I've read here and on the Facebook page.
I understand the former, but the latter seems to be false to me. In my view, crazy ideas are "crazy" because they require crossing a larger inferential distance. Either that or they make no sense at all (like some of the ones here), in which case the inferential distance needed to reject the idea is also pretty short. Edit: On reflection, I think I get this now and agree with you.
I don't think the only purpose of this forum is to make well thought out good ideas and then refute if they are in fact well thought out good ideas. Sometimes it's great to have a thread we're we use crazier less refined ideas to help with brainstorming or as the creative seed of a better idea.

I am in strong support of unrefined ideas, brainstorming and revision. Thinking about more, its not the undefinedness. There is a certain class of ideas that personally frustrate me - they are ideas that are deliberately edgy and extreme, and usually involve violating some common Western value.

I'd say in this thread, there about half top level comments which are genuinely unrefined uncertain but interesting ideas. The rest, maybe less than half are edgy contrarian ideas. Although looking back to the last Crazy Ideas thread, over 90% seem like genuinely experimental ideas. Maybe I should just wait for a few more iterations.

How about renaming it to "Brainstorming Thread"?
I agree that the crazy idea thread could benefit from some more focus. I think the poster of the thread could add a topic or specific constraints. I planned to do so but as polymathwannabe posted the thread this month (thank you polymathwannabe!) this didn't happen. I think it is fully OK to get this thread started with some more unrestricted crazy ideas and later add focus. Possible constraints: * choose a field (physics, politics, math, engineering...) * choose a idea maturity level (spontaneous, long though about, discussed with other people, ...) * in/out of ones field of expertise * level of detail required @pianoforte611: Could such constraints fix your objections?
After thinking about it some more, I don't think the problem is that large. This thread will probably continued to be used as a soapbox for a few edgy contrarian ideas, but most of the comments are interesting ideas that I would have never have thought of.
I'm 80% confident in my memory that I posted this thread to Discussion. Why is it in Main?

Adding rivers was thinking too small. What we need is planet-sculpting-- getting closer to a planet which is optimized for human beings. I suspect that we'd be better off with more and smaller land masses, but this is certainly open to discussion.

Since the politics might be almost (?) as hard as the physical engineering, perhaps the right thing is to move Venus and Mars to more convenient orbits and optiform them.

There are two major problems with how the earth is currently set up. Only the surface is habitable, and it's a sphere, which is known for having the minimum possible surface area for its volume. A Matrioshka brain [] would be a much more optimal environment. Although that depends on your definition of "human being".
Terraforming is the usual term. Artificial islands exist.
"Terraforming" usually means changing an alien planet enough so that people don't need special equipment to live there. This isn't the same as optimizing.
A more general meaning of terraforming is "changing a planet to make it better for humans" :-)
Also, we can (in theory) harvest a lot of gravitational potential energy by pulling Mars closer to the Sun.
Can't we terraform them without disrupting entire orbits []?

Let's talk about Von Neumann probes.

Assume that the most successful civilizations exist digitally. A subset of those civilizations would selfishly pursue colonization; the most convenient means would be through Von Neumann machines.

Tipler (1981) pointed out that due to exponential growth, such probes should already be common in our galaxy. Since we haven't observed any, we must be alone in the universe. Sagan and Newman countered that intelligent species should actually try to destroy probes as soon as they are detected. This counterargument, known as... (read more)

Murder is basically a victimless crime, because when you murder someone, there is no one left to be a victim. Murderers should be punished only for inconveniences that murder caused to other people who are still living.

Causing extinction of humanity would be a perfect victimless crime.

An additional reason to punish defection is to disincentivize would-be defectors in the future since they know they too would be risking such punishment.
That applies to the crime of "causing someone to die", but not the crimes of "causing someone to experience bleeding out" or "causing someone to (correctly) believe that they are about to die". Murder is a victimless crime when it is immediate and unexpected. I recommend a shot of morphine to someone while they are sleeping, and then slicing open the major arteries.

We could double humanity's genetic "shuffle rate" by allowing couples to have one child naturally but requiring men to donate their sperm to a central bank, and women to carry and give birth to "randomly-fathered" children.

Obviously the institutional and logistical (not to mention ethical) challenges make this impossible in any present society. But for a planned community of fixed size (e.g. a small colony of humans attempting to rapidly populate a planet, or a starship designed to support the minimum possible human population with the ... (read more)

I seem to vaguely recall a novel in which a world government had declared that in order to promote hybrid vigor and resistance to disease, same-race marriages and matings should be considered equivalent to incest. People who were not already mixed-race were permitted to marry or have children only with a partner of a different racial background. The slightly-secret reason for this was to prevent future outbreaks of racial violence by blending the races. Although everyone in the story's present day was opposed to racism, it might come back in the future. (I'm guessing the novel was written in the '60s or '70s.) And the real reason for it was to reduce population, since most people were still System-1 racist even though they were System-2 anti-racist. Making the only socially acceptable partners be ones of other races meant that people were overall less likely to find partners and have children.
Anne McCaffery's Nimisha's Ship mentions it as a duty of the first colonists of a planet. Important families from colonized worlds still check for any harmful combinations of recessive genes before siring a child. The book is more about the politics and cool space ships though.
Why would we want a higher "shuffle rate"?

How much of the expected rise in sea levels caused by melting glaciers can be rerouted to irrigate large deserts?

When glaciers (in general) are melting enough to be a significant source of sea level change, their flow (in general) is not going to be sustainable. If you irrigate a desert with a water source that is running out, you may make things better temporarily, but it is not likely to be the best solution. This only holds true for glaciers as a class, of course. You may be able to identify some glaciers that have significant runoff but are not shrinking, and you might use these productively, and in doing so help make up for some of the sea level change caused by those glaciers that are melting themselves out of existence. More specific to your question, I can say that the glaciers in the arctic and Greenland are not going to be useful in watering deserts that are conductive to significant plant growth (too cold), and many of the other glacier networks, such as those in the Himalayas, are already overused -- for example, the Gangotri glacier network, which is one of the major sources of the Ganges, is fairly well maximized in terms of basic flow, to the point where there is a very complicated treaty in place to make sure that India doesn't gobble up too much of the water before it reaches Bangladesh. There are still floods in monsoon season, though, so that would be the area in which to work on water catchment and redirection plans. As you might expect, the situation is different in each glacial system, but I don't know of any offhand that are underutilized and near a desert. I suspect that this is the case specifically because people in deserts want water, and redirected water to their benefit long ago.

Create a software for reading papers that hides actual p-values. Whenever the reader comes along a passage that contains the p value, the reader has to first enter a guess about the p-value before the software than shown him the true value.

What is the U.S. waiting for to annex Cuba?

If you break it, you have to fix it. Annexing Cuba would mean having to spend a lot of money on it and generally dealing with it. The population is Spanish speaking and currently the prospect of getting more Spanish speaking immigrants isn't popular in the US.
Why is Cuba a better target of annexation than, say Mexico? Or Puerto Rico? Or the whole lot of Caribbean islands? (I assume imperialist fat cats want beaches for their model girlfriends to tan on)
Puerto Rico?! But Puerto Rico is already a US territory!
We'll make it a double territory.
Minor details :-P
That just went bankrupt. Maybe they can show us how it's done.
If you are going to conquer a country make it a rich one. Ignoring morality, the best target would be Canada.
Would the rest of NATO be obliged to defend Canada? Also, I assume the idea is to annex failed states, not functioning ones.
Yes NATO would be obliged to defend Canada, but the U.S. would probably give them an out by saying that we are not really invading but fulfilling the long-held desire of true Canadians to join the United States.
Canada would totally work, they have oil! X-D
One could say that the US has tried before [], and it didn't work out well for them. The time to do it would have been after the Spanish American War; instead of a Cuban republic, absorb it into the US as a state (or collection of states). It is unclear whether nations are better off trying to have high average value (per capita gdp, say) or high total value (total gdp, say). If a nation is pursuing the first strategy, then they wouldn't accept a petition for a lower-value region to join. One could try to ask whether or not the US is better off with Puerto Rico than it would be if Puerto Rico were independent, for example. If a region has an economy dominated by agriculture and tourism, for example, a country whose economy is dominated by services and manufacturing will find any wealth redistribution schemes flowing out of the developed part to the undeveloped part. It's probably better to let the businesses do that with their own funds, rather than have the government play a part. As well, the general rule since ~1950 appears to be that countries should only become smaller.
But we also took Texas and California, and all Americans would agree that at least one of these acquisitions worked out for us.
Well the population of those regions was replaced/swamped with Anglos.
Yep, Texas has been a great acquisition.
I meant that the invasion plan failed, not that if the invasion plan had succeeded, it would have been worse than the mainline history. If we had absorbed Cuba in 1902 instead of letting it go, I think it would have worked out well (but not as well as Texas or California--it probably would seem comparable to Florida as a state).

Sensory Motor Amnesia as described by Thomas Hanna is a important part of aging that misses from Aubrey de Grey list. As most humans age they forget how to relax muscles in their body. The inability to relax specific muscles then leads to health issues.


Somebody should explore if Stonehenge, Carnac stones, and other megalithic formations were banking and payment systems.

More recently, in the isle of Yap, they used big Rai stones as money.

Many megalithic buildings are tombs, places of worship, or served as calendars, but many big stones aligned in open spaces have no conclusive explanation.

I suggest they could have been a way of storing value and were used for payments too. There is evidence that there was trade across the European continent and into the middle east in those times (~6000 BC). Central m... (read more)

I don't understand the mechanics of using giant stones as a store of value or a payment method. Do you mean they were used as a ledger or sorts?
Good money is easy to transfer. Those huge stones aren't easy to transfer.
I agree that is a good quality of modern money, but there were other models before. For example in the island of Yap, there are huge Rai stones that are static and the people just agreed who owned each stone when they traded. They achieved consensus by trading and changing ownership with witnesses or in public. [] The above public consensus system makes the stones transferable, very much like the tones of gold that are stored in the bank of England and The Fed in NY. They are not actually moved, but change owners all the time by using a certificate system.
They could have little tokens that represent the stones, and pass those around as symbols of ownership. And then the druids in charge of the stones might think, how many people ever check up on their stones anyway? We can create new tokens whenever we want to buy stuff! And when that goes too far and there are runs on the megalith banks, they might have to go off the megalith standard and just pass the tokens around.
How do you stop counterfighting of the stones?
Um...religious taboo. I'm not being serious here, just nailing the original crazy idea to the wall and seeing what confabulations accrete round it.
This is why I posted in the crazy ideas thread! I don't know how they could have made the bigger stones represented by tokens. Nevertheless, the stones didn't have to be divisible or transferable to be used as store of value and trade. The places where there happen to be thousands of stones aligned in the same place, like Carnac, could have been big annual markets where they traded goods, lands, political agreements, slaves, wives, etc. []
If you can have a stable consensus of who owns which (or how many) stones, why bother transporting the enormous stones across the country at all? What's the purpose of setting them up in formation rather than just having a big pile? (To make it easier to spot if one has been stolen? But if you've got someone watching the stones then it surely can't be much extra effort for them to count them every day.) [EDITED to add: Hi, downvoters! I see this is at -2. I honestly can't see what's wrong with it, so if this comment was downvoted on its merits rather than because I said something elsewhere that disagrees with your politics, please let me know what was wrong so I can improve. Thanks.]

Adoption of already existing orphans, refugees and homeless kids should take precedence over the creation of more babies. This should be mandatory in the entire world.

This seems like an enormous mismatch of needs and solutions. First and foremost, if you are in anything close to a position to mandate this sort of policy, you should also be able to control the number of homeless -- preferably by buying them homes. Taxes are good for this. If you mean runaways, in many cases the first response should be to return them to their birth parents, although there may be good reason to monitor and adjust the situation as needed. Adoptions are good thing, and people already recognize this. The three barriers to full adoption rates are: 1. Red tape. Newborns and babies are in high demand. People regularly pay between $10,000 and $25,000 to adopt these kids -- although it can take many months for the adoption to go through, especially when adopting from overseas. In these cases you don't need to make anything mandatory, just make it easier. 2. Age. People don't tend to want older children. This is where your model will be the most useful, but there is likely to be a lot of resistance. People who want a baby may resist a ten-year-old replacement even more than they would a random baby. I suspect that you will get a much better response if you don't model it as a replacement. It won't be hard to get these kids adopted (again, red tape is probably the biggest barrier), and they will be better off with parents that adopt them with the support of a stipend rather than those who adopt them as a legal mandate. 3. Problem children. Kids with mental, psychological, health, and behavioral problems are the ones who are hardest to place, least requested, most likely to change homes multiple times, and have the highest needs. The current lottery of children that nature has set up is pretty awful; not all parents are ready for a child with special needs. Requiring a subset of parents to raise a "problem" child as their first child is likely to help with population control, but isn'
You mean that pregnant women should get mandatory abortions when they could possibly adopt orphans?
In "My absolute dictatorship," yes. In "My moderate dictatorship where people would actually want to live," I have to recognize that, no matter how much utilitarian sense they may seem to make under conditions of overpopulation, nobody likes forced abortions, plus their implementation is prone to ugly policy manipulation from various fringe interests. In "My misguided dictatorship where I try to adjust the rules on a case-by-case basis, and end up being creepily intrusive in everyday affairs," the obligatoriness of the abortion would take into account how much emotional investment is already attached to that pregnancy. In "My dictatorship when I'm having a bad hair day and I'm feeling grumpy," I would take that emotional investment into account and write it off as a sunk cost.
Suppose you keep finding babies, and you know with some dictatorial certainty that law-abiding citizens take in the foundlings instead of having children of their own? Would it not mean that you have established a very efficient system of genetical parasitism?..
That's an interesting attitude.
I'd stick with birth control in the water and hefty fines, myself.
Oh, all the ways to game this...

Can MacDonalds be the next Give Directly?

Premise 1:

Salty food is addictive (repeat customers)

I haven't heard about salty chip vendors in developing countries.

Assuming potatoes could grow in those countries, labour costs for turning them into chips could be low.

Selling chips could be a financially sustainable business in developing countries

Premise 2:

Salt iodisation is cheap

Current competitors in salt iodisation work with governments, with no known private competition

Salt is like a nootropic for the malnourished

Let's open up salty chips vendors in the devel... (read more)

* There are several sanitary and political reasons to avoid eating at McDonald's. * McDonald's already has restaurants in developing countries. Unsurprisingly, labor conditions are substandard. * Yes, potatoes grow in developing countries; they come from Peru/Bolivia. Baking or boiling them it's much cheaper (and healthier) than frying them. * Some countries already mandate iodisation of salt, so people can get their iodine just by cooking their own food the way they normally do. * There is a worldwide epidemic of cardiovascular disease. The last thing people need is more high-salt, high-fat, low-nutrient food.
You would have to target your population, certainly, but I can personally vouch that: * There are many many sanitary reasons to avoid eating in most eating establishments in the developing world. If you make it a goal to make MacChippies more sanitary than the average competition, this will not be a significant barrier. * McD's is already present in the large cities on many developing countries. For this idea to be effective, it should target smaller towns. There is probably a pretty good market for snack foods, although in many places it will be a street-vendor based franchise. My experience has been limited to Africa, but from what I've seen the majority of street foods are either bready (taste good longer when out of the oil than do potatoes) or sweets, so there may be a significant market for salty, as long as you don't mind cutting into the already existent markets. * In Africa, it will probably be easier to to use the sweet potato and manioc, in Asia you might switch over to green plantain or banana (if you get them before they turn even a tiny bit yellow and soft, they taste like potatoes -- kind of). There will be a diverse number of other fryable plants depending on your locale. But there would be no strong need to start a new crop. * While this is highly dependent on locale, generally speaking developing countries have a high level of physical labor, and the additional calories of a serving of fried food is not going to be a major issue. If you want to avoid setting up those sort of franchise in towns where most workers are sedentary factory workers, that would be a reasonable adjustment. * It is not too uncommon for iodized salt to be 'mandated', but non-iodized salt to be easy available cheaply. It is generally not considered necessary to iodize salt for perserving meats, for example, which is sold cheaply in large bags, then re-packaged and resold in small bags 'unofficially'. R

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