AlanCrowe

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What topics are on Dath Ilan's civics exam?

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.

Old urine samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics show massive cheating

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.

Turning the Technical Crank

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 :-(

Survey: What's the most negative*plausible cryonics-works story that you know?

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.

Survey: What's the most negative*plausible cryonics-works story that you know?

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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Rationality Quotes Thread March 2015

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

Quotes Repository

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

How can one change what they consider "fun"?

A computational process is indeed much like a sorcerer's idea of a spirit. It cannot be seen or touched. It is not composed of matter at all. However, it is very real. It can perform intellectual work. It can answer questions. It can affect the world by disbursing money at a bank or by controlling a robot arm in a factory. The programs we use to conjure processes are like a sorcerer's spells. They are carefully composed from symbolic expressions in arcane and esoteric programming languages that prescribe the tasks we want our processes to perform.

Frederick P. Brooks Jr. wrote something similar in The Mythical Man-month, 22 years earlier.

Finally, there is the delight of working in such a tractable medium. The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds his castles in the the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures. (As we shall see later, this very tractability has its own problems.)

Yet the program construct, unlike the poet's words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separate from the construct itself. It prints results, draws pictures, produces sounds, moves arms. The magic of myth and legend has come true in our time. One types the correct incantation on a keyboard, and a display screen comes to life, showing things that never were nor could be.

Rationality Quotes November 2014

Stories always outlasted their usefulness.

That is an interesting thought. When I try to ground it in contemporary reality my thoughts turn to politics. Modern democratic politics is partly about telling stories to motivate voters, but which stories have outlasted their usefulness? Any answer is likely to be contentious.

Turning to the past, I wrote a little essay suggesting that stories of going back to nature to live in a recent golden age when life was simpler may serve as examples of stories that have outlasted their usefulness by a century.

2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey

I took the survey. Started on the BSRI but abandoned it because I found the process of giving vague answers to vague questions distressing.

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