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Genetic "Nature" is cultural too

Heritability is not a fundamental quantity, and it often does not correspond to what is expected.

I found that a useful example for understanding this is consideration of the number of arms that a person has. This seems like it would be 100% heritable. You have two arms because your parents have two arms. This would be true if the group being analysed includes not only people but also other animals such as worms, which have zero arms because their parents have zero arms.

However, normally in these discussions only humans are considered and thus genetic differences play no part in how many arms you have. All of the people that don't have two arms are in that situation because of environmental effects. These effects include amputations and birth defects, such as those caused by thalidomide. Thus the heritability of the number of arms that humans have is actually zero.

A counter intuitive result of this is that if an ideal world means that everyone is exposed to a uniformly high quality environment, but there is a lot of genetic variation because we don't know how to genetically engineer humans yet, then heritability of beneficial traits such as IQ would be quite high, because the environmental variation would be suppressed.

Oracle AI: Human beliefs vs human values

I am not sure that I am following what you are saying here.

To use the map / territory distinction: My understanding is that belief refers to the contents of someone's map, while values are properties that they want the territory to have or maximise.

Talking to yourself: A useful thinking tool that seems understudied and underdiscussed

For me the benefit of talking out loud would be more a matter of focus. I have an inner conversation anyway and so it would be just saying the same words as I am already saying on the inside (which might slow me down, but not an issue when the problem is difficult). The real point is that if I say the words then I am only going to say the words related to the problem. The words related to the distraction will not be said out loud. Therefore, making an effort to speak out loud means that there will be more focus on the problem because allowing my focus to wander onto distractions more obviously results in silence.

I definitely notice that it is at times when I am most struggling against a distraction that I start talking through my problems out loud.

"Progress"

"The Evolution of Political Thought" by C. Northcote Parkinson (1958) points out that "political progress" actually happens in cycles and that the appearance of "progress" is just the result of people having short time horizons and not being able to see enough of history to see the whole cycle. Also not realising what is happening in the third world, where many democracies have collapsed into dictatorships.

Governing bodies can be either one person (monarch or dictator), a small group (oligarchy or aristocracy) or by a majority (democracy). (Parkinson included Communism in the chapter on Theocracy). States tend to cycle through these different types. This has been known from ancient Greek times. (The Greeks were the first place where there were lots of small city states in a small area and they could see each other in different parts of the cycle.)

Let's start with Monarchy.

A monarch has children and wants to give something to each child, not just the eldest. Thus the other children become nobles. Over time this family grows and grows and the number with political power keeps increasing until the government is really an aristocracy.

Its not fair that a limited number of people have power in the aristocracy so its size keeps growing. Eventually it is so big that there is not much distinction between aristocrats and other and the system evolves towards democracy.

The problem with democracy is that the populace can vote themselves largess from the treasury (cf current situation in USA where everyone wants "the government" to pay for their health care, or the situation in Greece where political parties that promised that Greece would not have to pay off its public debt (which would have required higher taxes and cutting pensions) were successful in the recent election). Sooner or later the government falls apart because it has no money. In the chaos a dictator arises and is GIVEN the power by the majority in return for making everything predictable and safe again.

The dictator passes on power to his children and over generations this becomes established by custom as a monarchy and so the cycle continues.

Parkinson does claim that different cultures fit more naturally in different forms of government, racing through the others until they get back to their natural form where they tend to be stable for longer.

Brain Preservation

I found this bizarre too. So I looked up a paper by the same authors who wrote the book in the "aging stops" hyperlink to investigate.

By aging they mean the increase in mortality rate as a person gets older. Ie an 80 year old is more likely to die this year than a 60 year old.

The theory is that there is a given high rate of mortality that would prevail for the whole of life if natural selection did not exist. However, natural selection does exist and so for the early part of an organism's life the mortality rate is lower than it would be otherwise. This lowering reduces over the reproductive part of the organisms life. Thus before reproductive maturity the lowering is maximum, and at the end of its reproductive life the lowering is gone and the organism reaches the (high) unadjusted level of mortality. Thus species that stop reproducing earlier reach this high level of mortality earlier.

From our perspective, and using this definition, it would be better if "aging stopped" later, because then we would live longer before reaching the higher mortality rate.

Of course, what we really want is to simly reduce that higher mortality rate permanently.

SotW: Check Consequentialism

Your check consequentialism sounds a lot like risk management. Risk is the effect of uncertainty on objectives (ISO 31 000). The risk management process involves indentifying risks, analysing how significant they are, and then treating the big ones so that they don't prevent you from attaining your objective. This is fairly straightforward to do. The difficult part is building a risk management culture where the risks are considered before making a decison, embarking on a project, etc. Just identifying the risks is often the big deal. Once you are aware that a risk exists you will probably deal with it. Sorry that I have not given you an activity, but perhaps I have given you a useful keyword to help your search.

Ego syntonic thoughts and values

I automatically assumed that John and Lisa were boyfriend/girlfriend. Comparing it with me and my wife - of course she should be the one to take the antidote. Although I am not sure that I am intelligent enough to have thought of shoving it down her throat without this prompting (or her disagreeing) though.

On the other hand with some one else, who has the same "right to live" as me (my interpretation of your "similar" - ie same sex, same number of kids etc) a coin toss still has problems. I would prefer that we put the antidote and lookalike into a bag and random draw then drink our selected bottles at the same time so that there was no time between knowing who had "won" and being able to do something aout it.

You'll die if you do that

He was fine. I think he spat most of it out. We found out what happened because we saw him trying to get it out of his mouth. The reason I gave the story was that while I would not eat it, the warning that it is poisonous did become relevant to me anyway.

You'll die if you do that

My nephew ate some of the contents of a packet of silica gel in a shoe store while his mother was trying on shoes. He was 3 or 4 at the time. Knowing that silica gel is labled do not eat prompted us to take it seriously and call the poisons board to find out what to do. I took it particularly seriously because I have no idea how it absorbs moisture (eg if it changes volume) and there is usually a lot of moisture in my nephews stomach...

How Many of Me Are There?

I agree with Robin Hanson that if two instances of me exist, and one is terminated, I didn’t die, I simply got smaller.

I am not to sure about this idea. To the best of my knowledge I am a biological being existing a universe obeying some sort of physics related to quantum mechanics and general relativity. If there are multiple instances of me then it is probably due to reality being some kind of multiverse. Lets keep things simple and assume that it is a Tegmark Level I Multiverse. This implies that there are an infinite number of copies of me.

Next what are these copies likely to be like? One arguement is that they could be Boltzman brains. This requires there to be enough of a statistical fluctuation in the randomness of the universe to arrange all of the atoms into a brain that remembers reading this article and experiences being in the process of typing a reply. Highly unlikely. Much more likely is that a set of atoms or stuff in general in the far distance past were in such a configuration that it evolved into a configuration including me. I expect this to me more likely because the level of organisation required at that time was much less than the level required now. Now if all of these parts of the universe that contain me evolved from parts of the universe that had similar initial conditions then all of them require for example my mother and father to be in them, both to get my DNA right, and also to create the meories that I have of them. Similarly all the other people that I have met need to be in all of those locations so that I would have memories of them. Thus all of those infinite copies of me would live in a world just like my own.

Now, given all this, for me to be terminated means to die. Whatever it is that kills this instance of me probably exists in the environment of each of those infinite copies of me. Thus I would expect that the fate of all of those instances of me to be highly correlated. If this correlation is high enough (say unity) then being terminated means that my measure is reduced all the way to zero, which is a bit more then just getting smaller.

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