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Testing The Natural Abstraction Hypothesis: Project Intro

Another neat direction this work can go in is toward corroborating the computational feasibility of simulationism and artificial life.

If abstractions are natural then certain optimizations in physical simulation software are potentially not impossible. These optimizations would be of the type that save compute resources by computing only at those abstraction levels the inhabitants of the simulation can directly observe/measure.

If abstractions aren't natural, then the simulation software can't generically know what it can get away with lossily compressing wrt a given observer. Or something to that effect.

LINK: Videogame with a very detailed simulated universe

An example of a technical move forward would be a game world that is so large it must be procedurally generated, that also has the two properties that it is massively multiplayer, and that players can arbitrarily alter the environment.

You'd get the technical challenge of reconciling player-made alterations to the environment with the "untouched" version of the environment according to your generative algorithm. Then you'd get the additional challenge of sharing those changes across lots of different players in real time.

I don't get the sense that either of the two properties (massively multiplayer and alterable environment) are a big part of this game.

If a game with all three properties (procedural generation of a large universe, massively multiplayer, and alterable environment) were to be made, it'd make me take a harder look as simulation arguments.

Principia Compat. The potential Importance of Multiverse Theory

If you are just generating very elaborate confusions very fast- I don't think you are- but if you are, I'm genuinely impressed with how quickly you're doing it, and I think you're cool.

Haha! No, I'm definitely not doing that on purpose. I anonymous-person-on-the-internet promise ;) . I'm enjoying this topic, but I don't talk about it a lot and haven't seen it argued about formally, and this sounds like the sort of breakdown in communication that happens when definitions aren't agreed upon up front. Simple fix should be to keep trying until our definitions seem to match (or it gets stale).

So I'll try to give names to some more things, and try to flesh things out a bit more:

The place in your definitions where we first disagree is X. You define it as

X := Rah/R

But I define it as

X := (Rap + Rah)/R

(I was mentally approximating it as just Rap/R, since Rah is presumably a negligible fraction of Rap.)

With this definition of X, the meaning of "X > Y" becomes

(Rap + Rah)/R > Rah/Rap

I'll introduce a few more little things to motivate the above:

Rac := total resources dedicated to Compat. Or, Rap + Rah.

Frh := The relative resource cost of simulating heaven versus simulating physics. "Fraction of resource usage due to heaven." (Approximated by Rah/Rap.) [1]

Then the inequality X > Y becomes

Rac/R > Frh

So long as the above inequality is satisfied, the host universe will offset its non-heaven reality with heaven for its simulants. If universes systematically did not choose Rac such that the above is satisfied, then they wouldn't be donating enough reality fluid to heaven simulations to satisfactorily outweigh normal physics (aka speed-prior-endowed reality fluid), and it wouldn't be worth entering such a pact.

(That is kind of a big claim to make, and it might be worth arguing over.)

If I have cleared that part up, then great. The next part, where I introduced Z, was motivating why the approximation:

Efh == Rah/Rap

is an extremely optimistic one. I'm gonna hold off on getting deeper into that part until I get feedback on the first part.

If we can project the solomonoff fractal of environmental input generators onto the multiverse and find that they're the same shape, the multiversal measure of higher complexity universes is so much lower than the measure of lower complexity universes that it's conceivable that higher universes can't run enough simulations for P(issimulation(loweruniverse)) to break 0.5.

This gets to the gist of my argument. There are numerous possible problems that come up when you compare your universe's measure to that of the universe you are most likely to find in your search and simulate. (And I intuitively believe, though I don't discuss it here, that the properties of the search over laws of physics are extremely relevant and worth thinking about.) Your R might be too low to make a dent. Your Frh might be too large. (i.e. the speed prior uses a gpu, and you've only got a cpu even with the best optimizations your universe can physically provide).

Another basic problem- if the correct measure actually is the speed prior, and we find a way to be more certain of that (or that it is anything computable that we figure out), then this gives universes the ability to self-locate in the ranking. Just the ability to do that kills Compat, I believe, since you aren't supposed to know whether you're "top-level" or not. The universe at the top of the ranking (with dead universes filtered out) will know that no-one will be able to give them heaven, and so won't enter the pact, and this abstinence will cascade all the way down.

Regarding whether to presume we're ranked by the speed prior or not. I agree that there's not enough evidence to go on at this point. But I also think that the viability of Compat is extremely dependent on whatever the real objective measure is, whether it is the speed prior or something else.

We would therefore do better to explore the measure problem more fully before diving into Compat. Of course, Compat seems to be more fun to think about so maybe it's a wash (actual sentiment with hint of self-deprecating irony, not mean joke).

Regarding the quantum immortality argument, my intuitions are such that I would be very surprised if you needed to go up a universe to outweigh quantum immortality hell.

QI copies of an observer may go on for a very long time, but the rate at which they can be simulated slows down drastically and the measure added to the pot by QI is probably relatively small. I would argue that most of the observer-moments generated by boltzmann brain type things would be vague and absurd, rather than extremely painful.

[1] A couple of notes for Frh's definition.

First, a more verbose way of putting it is: The relative efficiency of simulating heaven versus simulating physics, such that the allocation of reality fluid for observers crosses a high threshold of utility. That is to say, "simulating heaven" may entail simulating the same heavenly reality multiple times, until the utility gain for observers crosses the threshold.

Second, the approximation of Rah/Rap only works assuming that Rah and Rap remain fixed over time, which they don't really. A better way of putting it is relative resources required for Heaven versus Physics with respect to a single simulated universe, which is considerably different from a host universe's total Rap and Rah at a given time.

Principia Compat. The potential Importance of Multiverse Theory

The weirder the phenomena, the less reliable the witness, the better. Not only is god permitted to hide, in this variant of the pact god is permitted to run around performing miracles so long as it specifically keeps out of sight of any well connected skeptics, archivists, or superintelligences.

That is a gorgeous idea. Cosmic irony. Truth-seekers are necessarily left in the dark, the butt of the ultimate friendly joke.

I don't follow this part, could you go into more detail here?

The speed prior has the desirable property that it is a candidate for explaining all of reality by itself. Ranking laws of physics by their complexity and allocating reality fluid according to that ranking is sufficient to explain why we find ourselves in a patterned/fractal universe. No "real" universe running "top-level" simulations is actually necessary, because our observations are explained without need for those concepts. Thus the properties of top-level universes need not be examined or treated specially (nor used to falsify the framework).

It seems like Compat requires the existence of a top-level universe though (because our universe is fractal-y and there's no button to trigger the rapture), which is presumably in existence thanks to the speed prior (or something like it). That's where it feels like it falls apart for me.

Compat is funneling a fraction X of the reality fluid (aka "computational resources") your universe gets from the top-level speed prior into heaven simulations. Simulating heaven requires a fraction Y of the total resources it takes to simulate normal physics for those observers. So just choose X s.t. X / Y > 1, or X > Y

But I think there's another term in the equation that makes things more difficult. That is, the relative reality fluid donated to a candidate universe in your search versus that donated by the speed prior. If we call that fraction Z, then what we really have is X / Y > 1 / Z, or X > Y / Z. In other words, you must allocate enough of your resources that your heavens are able to dilute not just the normal physics simulations you run, but also the observer-equivalent physics simulations run by the speed prior. If Z is close to 1 (aka P(pact-compliant | ranked highly by speed-prior) is close to 1), then you're fine. If Z is any fraction less than Y, then you don't have enough computational resources in your entire universe to make a dent.

So in summary the attack vector is:

  1. Compat requires an objective ordering of universes to make sense. (It can't explain where the "real world" comes from, but still requires it)

  2. This ordering is necessarily orthogonal to Compat's value system. (Or else we'd have a magic button)

  3. Depending on how low the degree of correlation is between the objective ordering and Compat's value system, there is a highly variable return-on-investment for following Compat that goes down to the arbitrarily negative.

Principia Compat. The potential Importance of Multiverse Theory

Ultimately, I just can't see any ways it'd be useful to its adherents for the pact to stipulate punishments. Most of the things I consider seem to introduce systematic inefficiencies. Sorry I can't give a more complete answer. I'm not sure about this yet.

Fair enough.

None of the influence going on here is causal. I don't know if maybe I should have emphasized this more: Compat will only make sense if you've read and digested the superrationality/acausal cooperation/newcomb's problem prerequisites.

I think I get what you're saying. There are a number of questions about simulations and their impact on reality fluid allocation that I haven't seen answered anywhere. So this line of questioning might be more of a broad critique of (or coming-to-terms with) simulation-type arguments than about Compat in particular.

It seems like Compat works via a 2-step process. First, possible universes are identified via a search over laws of physics. Next, the ones in which pact-following life develops have their observers' reality fluid "diluted" with seamless transitions into heaven. Perhaps heaven would be simulated orders of magnitude more times than the vanilla physics-based universes, in order to maximize the degree of "dilution".

I think what I'm struggling with here is that if the latter half of it (heavenly dilution, efficient simulation of the Flock) is, in principle, possible, then the physics-oriented search criteria is unnecessary. It should be easy to simulate observers who just have to make some kind of simple choice about whether to follow the pact. Push this button. Put these people to death. Have lots of babies. Say these magic words. If the principle behind the pact is truly a viable one, why don't we find ourselves in a universe where it is much easier to follow the pact and trigger heaven, and much harder to trace the structure of reality back to fundamental laws?

One answer to that I can think of is, the base-case universe is just another speed-prior/physics-based universe with (unrealizable) divine aspirations, and in order for the pact to seem worthwhile for it, child-universes must be unable to distinguish themselves from a speed-prior universe. I worry that this explanation fails though, because then the allocation of reality fluid to pact-following universes is, at best, assuming perfectly-efficient simulation nesting, equal to that of the top-level speed-prior universe(s) not seeing a payoff.

Ring universes... Maybe you'll find a quine loop of universes, but at that point the notion of a complexity hierarchy has completely broken down. Imagine that, a chain of simulations where the notion of relative computational complexity could not be applied. How many of those do you think there are floating around in the platonic realm? I'm not familiar enough with formalizations of complexity to tell you zero but something tells me the answer might be zero x)

Fair enough. I agree that we will probably never trade laws of computational complexity. We might be able to trade positional advantages in fundamental-physics-space though. "I've got excess time but low information density, it's pretty cheap for me to enumerate short-lived universes with higher information density, and prove that some portion of them will enumerate me. I'm really slow at studying singularity-heavy universes though because I can't prove much about them from here." That'd work fine if the requirement wasn't to run a rigorous simulation, and instead you just had to enumerate, prove pact-compliance, and identify respective heavens.

Principia Compat. The potential Importance of Multiverse Theory

This is fun!

Why reward for sticking to the pact rather than punish for not sticking to it?

How is it possible to have any causal influence on an objectively simulated physics? You wouldn't be rewarding the sub-universe, you'd be simulating a different, happier sub-universe. (This argument applies to simulation arguments of all kinds.)

I think a higher-complexity simulating universe can always out-compete the simulated universe in coverage of the space of possible life-supporting physical laws. You could argue that simulating lower-complexity universes than what you're capable of is not worth rewarding, since it cannot possibly make your universe more likely. If we want to look for a just-so criteria for a pact, why not limit yourself to only simulating universes of equal complexity to your own? Perhaps there is some principle whereby the computationally difficult phenomena in our universe are easy in another, and vice-versa, and thus the goal is to find our partner-universe, or ring-universes (a la https://github.com/mame/quine-relay )?

Examples of growth mindset or practice in fiction

I found this quality in The Wind Rises - protagonist achieves greatness through single-minded dedication to his craft (airplane engineering), and sacrifice.

This was the first film I saw that seemed to glorify hard work and focus, rather than an inherent "quality of greatness". Greatness itself is explicitly divorced from the protagonist, who perceives his ultimate goal through a series of dreams. It never belongs to him, it is something he is always working towards.

It doesn't do exactly what you're looking for though, because it also casts doubt on the ultimate achievement, asking, "Was it really worth it?".

Two Zendo-inspired games

It'd be cool if the test at the end was guaranteed to have coverage of each of the subrules in a combination. I got the rule:

(starts with 'l') or (not (contains 'as'))

The "starts with 'l'" case was never tested for. You could test each of the subrules (at least in the case of disjunction) by having a test word that passes and fails each. Little more complicated for other kinds of combiner.

Open Thread, Apr. 20 - Apr. 26, 2015

Cool question.

I have experienced a change in 'location' of my sense of self- it 'spreads out'. It is a feeling that "I" do not reside in the particular head/body of Bageldaughter, but instead in both my head/body and the other things I happen to be keenly aware of. If I am deeply engrossed in a conversation or social activity, "I" will begin to be identified with the group of individuals as a whole. The particular intentions, thoughts or feelings that I typically associate with myself lose some of their distinguishing quality from the ones I perceive from others.

There is often an accompanying "spreading-out" of "my" location in time- the round-trip time of ideas through a group is often slower than just through my own head. I will get the sense that my "current moment" spans back to a thought that originated in my friend's head one minute ago!

I can invoke this sensation pretty reliably. It can be fun. I get worried when people talk about experiencing this type of thing as some kind of higher truth than normal, because it seems like a sign of mental illness that may not end well.

Can we talk about mental illness?

I have anxiety/depression/ADHD and aspirations in conflict with my abilities and situation in life.

One strategy I have learned to employ which I consider "rational" is to approach maintenance of my mood and mental health as a limited resource allocation problem. One of the big leaps was learning to see my good mood as a limited resource which is spent as I think about potentially difficult or disturbing topics.

It is not "free" for me to consider all the ways I might do better in life, or past mistakes I have made, or ways the world is messed up. My ego is fragile. Dwelling on such topics, even when it may lead to an ultimately productive insight, is draining, and other things I value in life - my sense of motivation, my friendships, my work productivity - all suffer. My values discourage me from deluding myself to feel good, and so my approach is to allow myself to consider such difficult topics only in controlled doses.

If I am feeling particularly stressed out or guilty or ashamed, then I will deprioritize things like work and the needs of friends, and spend time and energy on improving my mood. And my model of the situation as a limited resource allocation problem helps me sidestep the ensuing thoughts of "you're being selfish/lazy/unproductive/ineffective" - such thoughts come from a place in my mind that does not recognize the resource is limited.

The result is, I keep my mood maintained more consistently, and as a result I am more effective overall.

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