Wiki Contributions


This reminds me of a passage in Richard Feynman's memoir "What do you care what other people think?". Four pages into the chapter Gumshoes, (page 163 in the Unwin Paperback edition):


Then this business of Thiokol changing its position came up. Mr. Rogers and Dr. Ride were asking two Thiokol managers, Mr. Mason and Mr. Lund, how many people were against the launch, even at the last moment.


"We didn't poll everyone," says Mr. Mason.

"Was there a substantial number against the launch, or just one or two?"

"There were, I would say, probably five or six in engineering who at that point would have said it is not as conservative to go with that temperature, and we don't know. The issue was we didn't know for sure that it would work."

"So it was evenly divided?"

"That's a very estimated number."

It struck me that the Thiokol managers were waffling. But I only knew how to ask simpleminded questions. So I said, "Could you tell me, sirs, the names of your four best seals experts, in order of ability?"

"Roger Boisjoly and Arnie Thompson are one and two. Then there's Jack Kapp, and, uh ... Jerry Burns."

I turned to Mr. Boisjoly, who was right there, at the meeting. "Mr. Boisjoly, were you in agreement that it was okay to fly?"

He says, "No, I was not."

I ask Mr. Thompson, who was also there.

"No. I was not."

I say "Mr. Kapp?"

Mr. Lund says, "He is not here, I talked to him after the meeting, and he said, 'I would have made that decision, given the information we had.'"

"And the fourth man?"

"Jerry Burns. I don't know what his position was."

"So," I said, "of the four, we have one 'don't know,' one 'very likely yes,' and the two who were mentioned right away as being the best seal experts, both said no." So this "evenly split" stuff was a lot of crap. The guys who knew the most about the seals --- what were they saying?

That is the end of that section of the chapter and Feynman turns to the infra-red thermometer and the temperatures on the launch pad.

That was my introduction to this aspect of bureaucratic infighting. The bureaucrat asks his technical experts, the one closest to the issue. If he gets the answer that he wants, it is accepted. If not, he widens the pool of experts. Those too close to the issue are at risk of ignoring the social cues to the desired answer, but the wider pool of experts can be more flexible at responding to the broader social context. Then the bureaucrat gets to take an unweighted average (that is not weighting the original experts more highly). Which boosts the probability of getting the desired answer and reduces the probability of getting the correct answer.

Back in 1988 this was perhaps a busted technique. But that was many years ago. The notion of broadening your survey of experts seems to be back in fashion.

Consider the case of a reclusive mad scientist who uplifts his dog in the hope of getting a decent game of chess. He is likely to be disappointed as his pet uses his new intelligence to build a still and drink himself to death with homemade vodka. If you just graft intelligence on top of a short term reward system, the intelligence will game it, leading to wireheading and death.


There is no easy solution to this problem. The original cognitive architecture implements self-preservation as a list of instinctive aversions. Can one augment that list with addition aversions preventing the various slow-burn disasters that intelligence is likely to create? That seems an unpromising approach because intelligence is open ended, the list would grow and grow. To phrase it differently, an unintelligent process will ultimately be out witted by an intelligent process. What is needed is to recruit intelligence to make it part of the solution as well as part of the problem.


The intelligence of the creature can extrapolate forward in time, keeping track of which body is which by historical continuity and anticipating the pleasures and pains of future creatures. The key to making the uplift functional is to add an instinct that gives current emotional weight to the anticipated pleasures and pains of a particular future body, defined by historical continuity with the current one.


Soon our reclusive mad scientist is able to chat to his uplifted dog, getting answers to questions such as "why have you cut back on your drinking?" and "why did you decide to have puppies?". The answers are along the lines of "I need to look after my liver." or "I'm looking forward to taking my puppies to the park and throwing sticks for them." What is most interesting here probably slips by unnoticed. Somehow the dog has acquired a self.


Once you have instincts that lead the mind to extrapolate down the world line of the physical body and which activate the reward system now according to those anticipated future consequences, it becomes natural to talk in terms of a 4-dimensional, temporally extended self, leaving behind the 3-dimensional, permanent now, of organisms with less advanced cognitive architectures. The self is the verbal behaviour that results from certain instincts necessary to the functioning of a cognitive architecture with intelligence layered on top of a short term reward system. The self is nature's bridle for the mind and our words merely expressions of instinct.We can notice how slightly different instincts give rise to slightly different senses of self and we can ask engineers' questions about which instincts, and hence which sense-of-self, give the better functioning cognitive architecture. But these are questions of better or worse, not true or false.


To see how this plays out in the case of teletransportation, picture two scenarios. In both worlds the technology involves making a copy at the destination, then destroying the original. In both worlds there are copy-people who use the teletransportation machines freely, and ur-people who refuse to do so.


In scenario one, there is something wrong with the technology. The copy-people accumulate genetic defects and go extinct. (Other stories are available: the copy-people are in such a social whirl, travelling and adventuring, that few find the time to settle down and start a family). The ur-people inherent the Earth. Nobody uses teletransportation any more, because every-one agrees that it kills you.


In scenario two, teletransportation becomes embedded in the human social fabric. Ur-people are left behind, left out of the dating game, and marriage and go extinct. (Other stories are available: World War Three was brutal and only copy-people, hopping from bunker to bunker by teletransportation survived). It never occurs to any-one to doubt that the copy at the destination is really them.


The is no actual answer to the basic question because the self is an evolved instinct, and the future holds beliefs about the self that are reproductively  successful. In the two and three planet scenarios, the situation is complicated by the introduction of a second kind of reproduction, copy-cloning, in addition to the usual biological process. I find it hard to imagine the Darwinian selective pressures at work in a future with two kinds of reproduction.


I think that the questions probe the issue of whether the person choosing whether to buy the lottery ticket is loyal to a particular copy, or to all of them. One copy gets to win the lottery. The other copies are down by the price of the ticket. If one is loyal to only one copy, one will choose to buy if and only if one is loyal to the winner.


But I conjecture that a balanced regard for all copies will be most reproductively successful. The eventual future will be populated by people who take note of the size of the lottery prize, and calculate the expected value, summing the probabilities over all of their copies.

From the perspective of 2023, censorship looks old fashioned; new approaches create popular enthusiasm around government narratives.


For example, the modern way for the Chinese to handle Tiananmen Square is to teach the Chinese people about it, how it is an American disinformation campaign that aims to destabilize the PRC by inventing a massacre that never happened, and this is a good example of why you should hate America.


Of course there are conspiracy theorist who say that it actually happened and the government covered it up. What happened to the bodies? Notice that the conspiracy theorists are also flat Earthers who think that the PRC hid the bodies by pushing them over the edge. You would not want to be crazy like them, would you?


Then ordinary people do the censorship themselves, mocking people who talk about Tiananmen Square as American Shills or Conspiracy Theorists. There is no need to crack down hard on grumblers. Indeed the grumblers can be absorbed into the narrative as proof that the PRC is a kindly, tolerant government that permits free speech, even the worthless crap.


I don't know how LLM's fit into this. Possibly posting on forums to boost the official narrative. Censorship turns down the volume on dissent, but turning up the volume on the official narrative seems to work better.

My case for trigonometry: We want to people understand social cycles. For example, heroin becomes fashionable among young people because it feels good. Time goes by and problems emerge with tolerance, addiction, and overdose. The next cohort  of young people see what happened to aunts and uncles etc, and give heroin a miss. The cohort after that see their aunts and uncles living clean lives, lives that give no warning. They experiment and find that heroin feels good. The cycle repeats.


These cycles can arise because the fixed points of the dynamics are unstable. The classic simple example uses a second order linear differential equation as a model with a solution such as $e^{at} \sin kt$. We really want people to have some sense of cycles arising from instabilities without anyone driving them. We probably cannot give simple examples of what we mean with trigonometric functions.

I think that this is especially bad for science because science doesn't have anything equivalent to test and analyze before the medals are handed out. Peer review isn't an adversarial process aimed at detecting fraud. Anti-fraud in science is entirely based on your published papers being analogous to the stored urine samples; you are vulnerable to people getting round to checking, maybe, one day, after you've spent the grant money. If we can translate across from the Olympic experience we are saying that that kind of delayed anti-fraud measure works especially poorly with humans.

My analysis saw the fundamental problem as the yearning for consensus. What was signal? What was noise? Who was trolling? Designers of forum software go wrong when they believe that these are good, one place questions with actual one place answers. The software is designed in the hope that its operation will yield these answers.

My suggestion, Outer Circle got discussed on Hacker News under the title Saving forums from themselves with shared hierarchical white lists and I managed to flesh out the ideas a little.

Then my frail health got even worse and I never did anything more :-(

I think there are ordering constraints on the sequence of technological advances involved. One vision of how revival works goes like this: start with a destructive, high resolution scan of the body, then cure illness and death computationally, by processing the data from the scan. Finally use advanced nano-technology to print out a new, well body.

Although individual mammalian cells can be thawed, whole human bodies are not thawable. So the nano-technology has to be warm as well as macroscopic. Also a warm, half printed body is not viable, so printing has to be quick.

Well before the development of warm, fast, macroscopic nano-technology, society will have cryogenic, microscopic, slow nano-technology. Think about being able to print out a bacterium at 70K in a week, and a mammalian cell in a year. What could you do with that technology?

You could print human stem cells for rejuvenation therapies. You could print egg cells for creating designer babies. The first round of life extension is stem cells for existing people, and genetically engineered longer life spans for new borns. The second round of life extension provides those with a genetically engineered longer life span with stem cell based rejuvenation therapies. The third round of life extension involves co-designing the designer babies and the stem cell therapies to make the rejuvenation therapies integrate smoothly with the long-life-span bodies. Somewhere in all this intelligence gets enhanced to John von Neumann levels (or above).

Developing warm, fast, macroscopic nano-technology is a huge challenge. Let us accept Academian's invitation to assume it is developed eventually. That is not too big a leap, for the prior development of cryogenic, slow, microscope nano-technology was world changing. The huge challenge is faced by super-clever humans who live for tens of thousands of years. They do indeed develop the necessary technology and revive you.

Now what? Humans who live for tens of thousands of years have probably improved pet dogs and cats to live for thousands of years. They may even have uplifted them to higher levels of intelligence than 21st century humans. They will have an awkward relationship with the 21st century humans they have revived. From their perspective, 21st century humans are stupid and age rapidly, to a degree that is too uncongenial to be tolerated in companion animals. Being on the other end of this perspective will be heart-breaking.

Most world changing technological breakthroughs are easy compared to resurrecting the frozen dead. Much precedes revival. As the centuries give way to millennia Humans are replaced by Post Humans. As the millennia give way to myriad years Post Humans are replaced by New Humans. As myriad years give way to lakhs of years New Humans are replace by Renewed Humans. As the lakhs give way to millions of years Renewed Humans are replace by Real Humans.

The Real Humans develop the technology to revive the frozen dead. They use it themselves as an ambulance to the future. They revive a small number of famous Renewed Humans who lived lives of special note.

When you are revived, you face three questions. Why have they revived you? Why do the doctors and nurses look like anthropomorphic cats and dogs? Are Real Humans furry fans?

The answer to the second question is that they look like cats and dogs because they are the descendants cats and dogs. The Real Humans still have domestic pets. They have uplifted them to the intellectual level of New Humans. Which raises an interesting puzzle. First time around the New Humans were Lords of galaxy for thousands of years. Second time around they are domestic pets. How does that work?

The dogs and cats are imbued with the spirit of mad science. It seems natural and proper to them that the Real Humans would create double super intelligent cats and dogs as animal companions and it seems natural to them to do something similar in their turn. Asking permission, they use their masters' technology of resurrection to revive some some 21st century humans.

Imbued with the spirit of mad science, printing out ortho-human bodies is a little dull (as are 21st century humans). It is more fun to create novel bodies, centaurs, bird people who can fly (or at least glide) etc. The cats and dogs are not cruel. They don't print people out in bodies they didn't ask for. They do tend to revive furry fans, the con going, fursuit wearing, obsessive ones. When the cats and dogs emulate them, they ask to be printed out in anthropomorphic animal bodies and designing them is a fun challenge.

You ask if you can speak to a Real Human. Your request causes much merriment but it is not refused. It is awkward. The Post Humans did use 300 Hertz to 3kHz acoustic signals for interpersonal communication, but the New Humans used radio-telepathy amongst themselves. The dogs and cats are not to clear about what the Real Humans do, but the real cause of merriment is not the obsolesence of acoustic speech. It is not true to say that Real Humans are individuals. Nor is it true to say that they have formed a hive mind. It is hard to explain, but they don't really go in for interpersonal communication. The fun lies in trying to explain the obsolescence of interpersonal communication to a creature so archaic that one has to resort to interpersonal communication to explain that no-one does that any more.

Oh well. You have been successfully revived but your social status as a domestic pet's domestic pet is low, and the world, millions of years after your first death, is utterly incomprehensible. You try to settle into life with the other 21st century revivals. They are not really your kind of people. You make a few friends but they all have animal heads and fur covered bodies. Consumed with self-loathing due to being seduced into participating in their polymorphous and perverse orgies you kill yourself again and again and again ... The dogs and cats are kind creatures by their own lights and feel obliged to reprint you if you have a bad spell mentally and kill yourself yet again.

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One problem is that most people think we are always in the short run. No matter how many times you teach students that tight money raises rates in the short run (liquidity effect) and lowers them in the long run (income and Fisher effects), when the long run actually comes around they will still see the fall in interest rates as ECB policy "easing". And this is because most people think the term "short run" is roughly synonymous with "right now." It's not. Actually "right now" we see the long run effects of policies done much earlier. We are not in an eternal short run. That's the real problem with Keynes's famous "in the long run we are all dead."

Scott Sumner

The quote is easier to understand if you are familiar with Bradshaw.

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