Fixing akrasia: damnation to acausal hell

by joaolkf 2 min read3rd Oct 201327 comments


DISCLAIMER: This topic is related to a potentially harmful memetic hazard, that has been rightly banned from Less Wrong. If you don't know what is, it is more likely you will be fine than not, but be advised. If do know, do not mention it in the comments.


Abstract: The fact that humans cannot precommit very well might be one of our defences against acausal trades. If transhumanists figure out how to beat akrasia by some sort of drug or brain tweaks, that might make them much better at precommitment, and thus more vulnerable. That means solving akrasia might be dangerous, at least until we solve blackmail. If the danger is bad enough, even small steps should be considered carefully.

Strong precommitment and building detailed simulations of other agents are two relevant capabilities humans currently don't have. These capabilities have some unusual consequences for games. Most relevant games only arise when there is a chance of monitoring, commitment and multiple interactions. Hence being in a relevant game often implies cohabiting casual connected space-time regions with other agents. Nevertheless, being able to build detailed simulations of agents allows one to vastly increase the subjective probably this particular agent will have that his next observational moment will be under one's control iff the agent have access to some relevant areas of the logical game theoretic space. This doesn't seem desirable from this agent's perspective, it is extremely asymmetrical and allows more advanced agents to enslave less advanced ones even if they don't cohabit casual connected regions of the universe. Being able to be acausally reached by powerful agent who can simulate 3^^^3 copies of you, but against which you cannot do much is extremely undesirable.

However, and more generally, regions of the block universe can only be in a game with non-cohabiting regions if they are both agents and if they can strong precommit. Any acausal trade depends on precommitment, this is the only way an agreement can go across space-time, it is done on the game-theoretical possibilities space - as I am calling it. In the case I am discussing, a powerful agent would only have reason to even consider acausal trading with an agent if that agent can precommit. Otherwise, there is no other way of ensuring acausal cooperation. If the other agent cannot, beforehand, understand that due to the peculiarities of the set of possible strategies, it is better to always precommit to those strategies that will have higher payoff when considering all other strategies, then there's no trade to be made. Would be like trying to threaten a spider with a calm verbal sentence. If the other agent cannot precommit, there is no reason for the powerful agent to punish him for anything, he wouldn't be able to cooperate anyway, he wouldn't understand the game and, more importantly in my argument, he wouldn't be able to follow his precommitment, it would break down eventually, specially since the evidence for it is so abstract and complex. The powerful agent might want to simulate the minor agent suffering anyway, but it would solely amount to sadism. Acausal trades can only reach strong precommitable areas of the universe.

Moreover, an agent also needs reasonable epistemic access to the regions of logical space (certain areas of game theory, or, TDT if you will) that indicates both the possibility of acausal trades and some estimative on the type-distribution of superintelligences willing to trade with him (most likely, future ones that the agent can help create). Forever deterring the advance of knowledge on that area seems unfeasible, or - at best - complicated and undesirable for other reasons.

It is clear that we (humans) don't want to be in an enslavable position. I believe we are not. One of the things excluding us from this position is complete incapability to precommit. This is a psychological constrain, a neurochemical constrain. We do not have the ability of even having stable long term goals, strong precommitment is neurochemical impossible. However, it seems we can change this with human enhancement, we could develop drugs which could cure akrasia, we could overcome breakdown of will with some amazing psychological technique discovered by CFAR. It seems, however desirable on other grounds, getting rid of akrasia presents severe risks. Even if somehow we only slightly decrease akrasia, this would increase the probability that individuals with access to the relevant regions of logical space could precommit and become slaves. They might then proceed to cure akrasia for the rest of humanity.

Therefore, we should avoid trying to fundamentally fix akrasia for now, until we have a better understanding of those matters and perhaps solve the blackmail problem, or maybe only after FAI. My point here is merely arguing everyone should not endorse technologies (or psychological techniques) proposing to fundamentally fix a problem that would, otherwise, seems desirable of fixing. It would seem like a clear optimization process, but it could actually open the gates of acausal hell and damn humanity to eternal slavery.


(Thank cousin_it for the abstract. All mistakes are my responsibility.)

(EDIT: Added an explanation to back up the premise the acausal trade entails precommitment.)