All of Josh Smith-Brennan's Comments + Replies

Chinese History

Popularization of modern culture happens everywhere, but there are more than enough people interested in history to preserve those traditions...

I'm thinking more about the loss of traditional wisdom and accurate history in favor of the adoption of modern sensibilities, modes of behavior, and societal priorities. Popularization of modern culture isn't the concern, integrity and maintenance of traditional culture and the underlying wisdom and benefits which allowed Chinese civilization to thrive and last for over 4,000 years is.

There might or might not be en... (read more)

Challenge: know everything that the best go bot knows about go

KataGo was not trained on human games.

I'm not a programmer, but have been trying to fit learning more about AI into my day, sort of using Go bots as an entry point into beginning to understand how neural nets and algorithms work in a more concrete, less conceptual way. So then was KataGo simply playing itself in order to train?

I wonder whether we are interpreting "local patterns" in different ways.

I've spent 20 years or so playing casually on 19x19 boards mostly, and I think my concept of local play is less crude than the one your talking about. I tend to ... (read more)

2gjm1hYes, KataGo trains entirely through self-play. It's not "100% pure Zero" in that it doesn't only play entire games from the start. So e.g. it gets supplied with some starting positions that are ones in which some version of KataGo was known to have blindspots (in the hope that this helps it understand those positions better and lose the blindspots) or ones that occur in human games but not in KataGo self-play games (in the hope that this helps it play better against humans and makes it more useful for analysing human games). But I believe all its training is from self-play and e.g. it's never trying to learn to play the same moves as humans did. (The blindspot-finding is actually pretty clever. What they do is to take a lot of games, and search through them automatically for places where KG doesn't like the move that was actually played but it leads to an outcome that KG thinks is better than what it would have got, and then make a small fraction of KG's training games use those starting positions and also add some bias to the move-selection in those training games to make sure the possibly-better move gets explored enough for KG to learn that it's good if it really is.) I am not surprised that your concept of local play is less crude than something I explicitly described as the "crudest and most elementary versions". It's not clear to me that we have an actual disagreement here. Isn't there a part of you that winces a little when you have to play an empty triangle, just because it's an ugly very-local configuration of stones? Here's my (very rough-and-ready; some bits are definitely inaccurate but I don't care because this is just for the sake of high-level intuition) mental model of how a CNN-based go program understands a board position. (This is just about the "static" evaluation and move-proposing; search is layered on top of that and is also very important.) * There are many layers. * "Layer zero" knows, for each location on the board, whether there's a
Challenge: know everything that the best go bot knows about go

In case it wasn't clear, that sentence beginning "Stronger players do better" was not purporting to describe all the things that make stronger go players stronger, but to describe specifically how I think they are stronger in joseki.

I didn't take it as if it was all they did. 

(1) they have a better sense of the range of possible outcomes once those sequences of moves have been played out and (2) they have a better sense of how the state of the rest of the board affects the desirability of those various outcomes. 

With (1) it seems like your descri... (read more)

The feeling of breaking an Overton window

What's up with the way the impulse in me oscilated between selfish rationalizations ("she might harm me") and morality-related rationalizations ("it's wrong to upset people")?

If 'falling through a glass floor' in this instance is the fear of being humiliated and/or laughed at, you're definitely not alone in this sentiment. This is probably one of the most common social fears, as it can potentially cause you to 'fall down' the scale of social hierarchy, right? Of course this whole Pandemic has turned everything on it's head, so social norms come under the l... (read more)

Challenge: know everything that the best go bot knows about go

I have the same sense that strong go bots play more "globally" than strong humans.

Very much so. I have the same sense.

I think what's going on with different joseki choices between amateurs and very strong humans isn't exactly more patterns versus less patterns. 

From my understanding, Professional players (and stronger amateurs) still rely heavily on Joseki, it's just that they Joseki become longer and more complicated. In a lot of ways, the stronger you get I think the more reliant you become on patterns you know have succeeded for you or others in th... (read more)

2gjm11hIn case it wasn't clear, that sentence beginning "Stronger players do better" was not purporting to describe all the things that make stronger go players stronger, but to describe specifically how I think they are stronger in joseki. I don't think joseki are the main reason why professional go players spend so much time studying, unless you define "studying" more narrowly than I would. But that's pure guesswork; I haven't actually talked to any go professionals and asked how much time they spend studying joseki. (Professional chess players spend a lot of time on openings, and good opening preparation is important in top-level chess matches where if you find a really juicy innovation you can practically win the game before it's started. I think that sort of thing is much less common in go, though again that's just a vague impression rather than anything I've got from actual top-level go players.)
Challenge: know everything that the best go bot knows about go

the fact that Alpha Go behaves like it  does suggest that what's important for being able to play very strong isn't about local patterns. 

AlphaGo was partly trained using human games as input, which I believe KataGo was as well. 

But AlphaGoZero didn't use any human games as input, it basically 'taught itself' to play Go. 

Seeing as how AlphaGo and KataGo used human games, which rely on integrating reasoning between local and global consideration, the development of the algorithms is different than that of AlphaGoZero. 

Does AlphaGo r... (read more)

2ChristianKl3hIf you know whom is playing whom and how much handicap there is you sometimes can tell who is going to win pretty reliably. There's not much more information that the first two moves give you in a game of professionals. In Go you frequently change the place of the board on which you are playing. If you play enough moves in a given area of the board that the next move is worth X points but elsewhere on the board there's a move worth X+2 points, you change the place at which you are playing. This frequently means that it takes a long time till the game again continues playing many more moves at a certain place and by that point other things changed on the board.
2gjm11hKataGo was not trained on human games. I wonder whether we are interpreting "local patterns" in different ways. What I mean is the sort of thing whose crudest and most elementary versions are things like "it's good to make table shapes" and "empty triangles are bad". The earlier layers of a CNN-based go-playing network are necessarily identifying local patterns in some sense. (Though KataGo's network isn't a pure CNN and does some global things too; I forget the details.) If you can predict the winner of a go game after two moves then it's because (1) one of the players played something super-stupid or (2) you're paying attention to the way they look at the board, or the authority with which they plonk down their stones, or something of the sort. In normal games it is obviously never the case that one player has a decisive advantage by the second move.
Challenge: know everything that the best go bot knows about go

It may be easier to learn "this sort of shape is better than everyone thought" than "in this particular position

Thing is, the way you build shape in Go isn't a straightforward process; the 3 phases of a game, opening, middle game and end game usually involve different types of positional judgement, requiring different ratios of consideration between local position and global position. 

Shape building occurs as game play progresses simply because of the aggregation of moves on the board over time, with the development of 'good shape' being desirable bec... (read more)

Chinese History

Not sure of the preferred method of making qualifications to previous posts, so I guess I'll just make another post. 

After doing a little due diligence to the discussion by following up on Wikipedia, I think I understand better the points being made. I was unaware of the more modern developments of Contemporary Confucianism, and my comments relate only to what the Wikipedia entry refers to as Official Confucianism which ended in 1905. 

Confucianism developed from what was later called the Hundred Schools of Thought from the teachings of the Chines

... (read more)
Chinese History

Hence, maybe it'd be more accurate to say neither that Confucianism is a religion, nor that Confucianism isn't a religion, but rather that Confucianism, Neoplatonism, Hinduism and others are all holistic paths (that they're "daos"), and that both Western religions and non-religions alike are, all of them, so many daos.

I agree and disagree. As it pertains to Confucianism, I agree it is more of a holistic concept than is acknowledged by a term like religion. 

From the Blog you linked to:

So, the definition is telling us that doctrines, rituals, and moral

... (read more)
Chinese History

Alot going on here. 

First, I believe I can appreciate the subtlety and nuance, as well as the sublimity of a concept like 'Tian' although I don't speak Chinese. I can also appreciate the difficulty of trying to describe a concept like that, and especially the difficulty of translating from an Eastern language into a Western language. 

I'm trying to draw attention to the fact that 天 is an amoral material relationship.

I do think this is an especially important point as it relates to Confucianism. It's the amoral aspect of this philosophy/tradition/p... (read more)

1hajimewaji11h> It's this traditional Chinese Culture which is at risk of being lost to the Contemporary Western world, and possibly to a fair amount of the Eastern world as well. I disagree. Popularization of modern culture happens everywhere, but there are more than enough people interested in history to preserve those traditions like they do with western classical music and history. Those who are most interested in preserving those traditions are basically the people of those cultures, like Europeans are more interested in classical music than Americans are.
Chinese History

It's been awhile since I've studied Chinese History, but I wouldn't say that Confucianism is a religion. It's much more a set of protocols and etiquette regarding the ways to be successful in an extremely complicated society. For sake of ease and without knowing the author being cited, I offer this (from Wikipedia's entry on Confucianism under the section relating to religion and the mention of the Chinese concept of Tian:) 

The scholar Ronnie Littlejohn warns that Tian was not to be interpreted as personal God comparable to that of the Abrahamic faith

... (read more)
1alexgieg18hIf we go for a very technical take, the term "religion" refers only to Christianity. That's because the term was adopted during the Reformation era, and later expanded during the Enlightenment, to make some sense of what was going on between the different Nation States going for this or that version of Christianity, and then by contrasting all of those takes with the novel alternatives of Deism, Agnosticism, Atheism, of political power grounded on the people vs. on God etc., all the while "back porting" it to the question of the earlier disputes between Christendom's (the original term) original great schism and earlier heresies, and between those as a whole vs. Judaism, Islam, and so-called Paganism. As such, any attempt of extending it to anything beyond primarily Christianity internal disputes, and secondarily Abrahamic disputes, is fraught with complications, since one's operating more on the basis of analogies than on a strictly defined conceptual axis. For more details, check Catholic philosopher Edward Feser's blog post What is religion? [] Given that, taking Confucianism to be a religion, or taking it not to be a religion, are both arguably valid, since it comes down to which aspects one's emphasizing and deemphasizing in their analogical approach. Now, I consider Confucianism a religion because it had and has a priesthood, rites, temples, and presented itself as a continuation and development of ancient Chinese beliefs. Confucius himself, for instance, was a well regarded and accomplished expert in the art of ritual animal sacrifices, and it'd be very odd to try and disengage his religious piety from his intellectual work, when both in fact complement each other. It'd be akin to thinking of the Neoplatonic philosophers, and Neoplatonism, as non-religious despite many of them being pious worshippers of several Greek deities, deities who in turn can be taken to be as abstract as Confucianism's Ti
8lsusr19hYes to all. To add an attributable citation for the concept of tian 天, here is a comment [] I wrote six months ago. Note the link I use for "the gods". These are contradictory polytheistic gods, not coherent monotheistic gods. Whether to describe Confucianism as spiritual depends on what you mean by "Confucianism" and "spiritual". Consider this scene [] from Mulan. It has spiritual elements but I would hesitate to describe it as "spiritual". It is related to Confucianism but the religious parts come from ancestor worship.
Challenge: know everything that the best go bot knows about go

Yes to your first question. Yes to the second question, but with the caveat that Go playing AI are still useful for certain tasks in terms of helping develop a players game, but with limitations. Will a human player ever fully understand the game of Go period, much less the way an AI does? No I don't think so.

Challenge: know everything that the best go bot knows about go

Or maybe it means we train the professional in the principles and heuristics that the bot knows.

Many Professional Go players are already using AI to help them study, including understanding the underlying technology and algorithms, with mixed results. 

Humans have been playing Go for thousands of years and there is already a long and respected tradition and cannon of literature with commentaries and human reasoning to pull from. Most human players have used human created rituals to study with,and see studying AI as just one tool among many. Some don't ... (read more)

Challenge: know everything that the best go bot knows about go

How comparable are Go bots to chess bots in this?  

I don't believe they are that comparable. For starters, an average Chess game lasts somewhere around 20 moves, whereas an average Go game lasts closer to 200 - 300 moves. This is just one example of why a Go playing computer didn't reliably beat  a professional Go player until 15 or so years after a chess playing computer beat a GM.

4Jozdien2dThat's evidence for it being harder to know what a Go bot knows than to know what a chess bot does, right? And if I'm understanding Go correctly, those years were at least a significant part due to computational constraints, which would imply that better transparency tools or making them more human-understandable still wouldn't go near letting a human know what they know, right?
Challenge: know everything that the best go bot knows about go

...but this is just another way of ... querying a part of the AI...

I've studied Go using AI and have heard others discuss the use of AI in studying Go. Even for professional Go players, the inability for the AI to explain why it gave a higher win rate to a particular move or sequence is a problem. 

Even if you could program a tertiary AI which could query the Go playing AI, analyze the calculations the Go playing AI is using to make it's judgements, and then translate that into english (or another language) so that this tertiary AI could explain why th... (read more)

Fake Justification

How can I reliably know that someone's reasoning is biased ?

Everyone is biased; I think it's sort of a law. Understanding what someones biases are is probably more productive when dealing with them, then trying to figure out if they are biased or not; 10 out of 10 times I'd go with a definite 'yes' they are biased. How biased and in what ways seem like good follow ups.

(I do think it is important to change the laptop buyer's mind, even though it's a different topic.)

If the real question is "How do you reason with an unreasonable person?", I'm not convinced contemporary society has a decent handle on this on.

April 15, 2040

I've seen arguments this is about probability of being caught determining people's behavior and that magnitude of the punishment (or expected value) is otherwise ignored. 

Isn't this true of all laws, and social norms though? I think issues like Mass Incarceration are also about unequal application of the law across the entire population - "one law for me, another law for you" situations. 


What it's using you for becomes the concern


Ah yes, using people, a sign of benevolence everywhere. /s

Sarcasm noted :). 

The thing... (read more)

April 15, 2040

I am a fan of actual rehabilitation though, not of a punitive model for social influencing. 


if you have bad intentions, [nothing will ameliorate the effect on] your personal development.

Good word btw, ameliorateI, but to be clear, I don't want to be fatalistic about this. 

If "nothing" will ameliorate the development or maintenance of bad intention (just one aspect of personal development), it makes a case for increased use of the Death Penalty and "lock'em up and throw away the key" solutions on societies part which turn out to creat... (read more)

2Pattern8dI've seen arguments this is about probability of being caught determining people's behavior and that magnitude of the punishment (or expected value) is otherwise ignored. If true, that's awful and there is not a good reason for it. Ah yes, using people, a sign of benevolence everywhere. /s Why would what society wants matter?
April 15, 2040

This doesn't necessarily follow. Security is asking 'how is this broken' and 'how can it be fixed'.

I agree in some instances. It sort of depends on how far removed securities intentions are though from what is 'good' : if 'ethical hacking' is used to secure a system used by both the private and public sectors, then gaining unauthorized access to others data or otherwise hacking the system to find vulnerabilities could be seen as good unless,

 a) the system being ethically hacked and hardened is a system beingused to run 'criminal' enterprises, and secu... (read more)

3Pattern8dThat makes sense. Paraphrasing: if you have bad intentions, [nothing will ameliorate the effect on] your personal development. If the AI has authority over you, Then you're not using the AI. It's using you.
April 15, 2040

One part of it is whether the assistant is able and willing to interact with me in a way that is compatible with how I want to grow as a person.

I think this argument unfortunately undercuts the entire concept of Rationality, and for this reason I think it is a good argument. Not because it undercuts Rationality, but because it points to what I think is the underlying concern of all humane cultural systems attempting to allow humans to progress, namely "what is good, what is bad/what is right/wrong, what is true/false." But I'm not convinced that all things... (read more)

April 15, 2040

What I am asking about is not 'how much' the AI would affect the user's personal development, but 'how' it would affect it. In a good or a bad way.

I am assuming you and your friends aren't trying to figure out how to rob a bank, or cheat on your taxes, or how to break the law and get away with it. The interactions you have with your friends help you develop your sense of 'what's fair' and at the same time, your friends get help developing their sense of 'what's fair', so you are all benefiting, and reinforcing for each other what you all think of 'as fair.... (read more)

2Pattern9d* rob a bank, * cheat on your taxes, * or break the law and get away with it, This doesn't necessarily follow. Security is asking 'how is this broken' and 'how can it be fixed'. Why? Because the AI serves you, and you can always turn it off, and fix it if it doesn't suit you? What other effect is there? Also, whether or not the AI has has effects. For instance, who can say whether an AI 'serving' 'sinister intent'*** looks like a system that helps you pull off a robbery (assuming it doesn't turn you in and escape to the Camen islands or something) instead of one that tells you the risk is too high, and you should try something else? (Like: 'Step 1. Become a used car salesman. Step 2. ??? Step 3. Become president.') ***People also value other things than just money. Like 'is this planet livable'?
3Nisan9dYep, that is a good question and I'm glad you're asking it! I don't know the answer. One part of it is whether the assistant is able and willing [] to interact with me in a way that is compatible with how I want to grow as a person. Another part of the question is whether people in general want to become more prosocial or more cunning, or whatever. Or if they even have coherent desires around this. Another part is whether it's possible for the assistant to follow instructions while also helping me reach my personal growth goals. I feel like there's some wiggle room there. What if, after I asked whether I'd be worse off if the government collapsed, the assistant had said "Remember when we talked about how you'd like to get better at thinking through the consequences of your actions? What do you think would happen if the government collapsed, and how would that affect people?"
Josh Smith-Brennan's Shortform

I just downloaded the 2nd edition. Thank you for the suggestion. 

April 15, 2040

Enjoyed the read, it's nice to see some sort of compromise between utopian and dystopian sci-fi (Meh-topian?) 

It seems like the AI might be teaching/training the human user how to potentially break the law better, or possibly be more subversive in relationship to other non-AI mediated relationships though. Would people develop a more egalitarian thought process through engagement with AI assistants like this, being more likely to be egalitarian outside of AI- mediated relations? Or would they just use there conversations with these assistants to devel... (read more)

5Nisan10dYeah, I spend at least as much time interacting with my phone/computer as with my closest friends. So if my phone were smarter, it would affect my personal development as much as my friends do, which is a lot.
There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically)

Cladistics is useful not only for biology but also for analyzing things like cultures.

Would love to see some examples if you have any to share. 

Josh Smith-Brennan's Shortform

Thanks for the suggestions, and now that I understand the idea that the probability values correspond to a binary interpretation of the events, it makes these areas easier to navigate for me in discussion. 

In particular, truth of whether an outcome belongs to an event is not fuzzy, it either does or doesn't, as events are defined to be certain sets of outcomes.

This definitely stands as a hard to argue against idea, and it makes sense when seen from the viewpoint of rational humans interpreting data from systems based on binary calculations and logic.

D... (read more)

3Vladimir_Nesov10dAt this level of technical discussion it's hopeless to attempt to understand anything. Maybe try going for depth first, learning some things at least to a level where passing hypothetical exams on those topics would be likely, to get a sense of what a usable level of technical understanding is. Taking a wild guess, perhaps something like Sipser's "Introduction to the Theory of Computation" would be interesting?
There’s no such thing as a tree (phylogenetically)

A really enjoyable and informative read. I noticed on your graphic that the starting point for the entire graphic is the very first land plant, and its a moss. The very first evolutionary step from that point has to do with vascularity. This makes me wonder what was before the first land plant? Some sort of water plant obviously but I'm curious what the major evolutionary step from the ocean to land was - what it means to be 'moss'. 

My second question is more open ended I guess, but thinking about all the various strategies life on Earth has developed... (read more)

Josh Smith-Brennan's Shortform

That clears up the issue for me.  Thank you!

Josh Smith-Brennan's Shortform

In Eliezer Yudkowsky's essay Burdensome Details, I get stuck by the first paragraph on the Conjunction Fallacy:

The conjunction fallacy is when humans assign a higher probability to a proposition of the form “A and B” than to one of the propositions “A” or “B” in isolation, even though it is a theorem that conjunctions are never likelier than their conjuncts.

According to Wikipedia's entry on Conjunction Fallacy:

"... the probability of two events occurring together (in "conjunction") is always less than or equal to the probability of either one occurring alo

... (read more)
2Vladimir_Nesov10dMaybe read up on the concepts of outcome, sample space [], event, probability space, and see what the probability of intersection of events means in terms of all that. It's this stuff that's being implicitly used, usually it should be clear how to formulate the informal discussion in these terms. In particular, truth of whether an outcome belongs to an event is not fuzzy, it either does or doesn't, as events are defined to be certain sets of outcomes. (Also, the reasons behind omission of the "or equal to"s you might've noticed are discussed in 0 And 1 Are Not Probabilities [] , though when one of the events includes the other this doesn't apply in any straightforward sense.)
4Measure10dThe short answer is that both statements are true, so the "or equal to" part is satisfied and the inequality holds. The values involved are probabilities over binary truth/falsity, not degrees of truth.
Moral Privilege

BTW, sorry for the extraneous detail. Things have been stressful lately.

Would robots care about Meaning and Relating?

I mostly use my understanding of algorithms and data structures to organize my day-to-day tasks where possible

I'd be curious to hear about how you do this at some point. Much of my own Graphic Design training has been about Information Design, and I've often used that to organize as well.

I have a concept of Algorithms, know roughly what they can be used for and roughly how they go about doing it, but because I'm not a programmer, I couldn't distinguish one from another one if I saw them side by side. Data structures are also an interest, Databases and all ... (read more)

1kithpendragon12dCan't say as I recall. It's been a good while! But it's part of the reason I'm still around after (checks comment history) probably more than a decade. I certainly consider my kid one of my most important teachers! Though I doubt I would have had the presence and patience, or perhaps even notice the opportunity to learn many of the lessons I've assimilated by being a parent if I lacked the support of routine meditation.
Your Dog is Even Smarter Than You Think

When you say "Clever Hans" are you talking specifically about the handler's subconscious cues determining what the dog does? 

I'm thinking of it more as a variation on that idea. I think it's possible that in the button case, the buttons could be stand ins for cues from an owner. Simply training with the buttons over time would modify a dogs behavior based solely on the presence or absence of the button. Work the toys in, and you're simply training a dog to respond 'correctly' or 'incorrectly' in the presence or absence of a 'thing' associated with a p... (read more)

Your Dog is Even Smarter Than You Think

I tend towards the 'Clever Hans' hypothesis on this one too. Human language skills are much more complex due to our neurology, as are our cognitive abilities. That doesn't mean dogs aren't communicating at some rudimentary level, as they are at least able to recognize patterns and determine likely outcomes, even if they are at a more reflexive instead of reflective level. Hot dogs for example satisfy reflexive hunger based desires, instead of reflective philosophical desires to be seen as intelligent.

Of course one reason more of this type of research isn't... (read more)

When you say "Clever Hans" are you talking specifically about the handler's subconscious cues determining what the dog does? I think that's very unlikely, in a lot of interactions you can see an exchange where the pet is supposed to make a decision - the owner doesn't know the right answer! When Bunny presses "ouch stranger paw" to indicate a splinter in her paw, how was the owner supposed to "influence" that, without even being aware of the splinter? Some interactions are owner asking a question with a defined right answer, but there's clearly much more t... (read more)

Moral Privilege

That is actually really helpful, thank you. I get a lot into how words are used, as sometimes it's not so much the 'things' themselves which are the cause of disagreement, but rather the words used to describe our concepts of them in discussion. The concept of Gravity as a 'Moral' Force is a great example, one I've actually written about a little bit, actually around the same time as the post you're referring too, a little after I believe. 

My take is both similar and different, and I'm currently trying to work out how to explain it, as it seems to nee... (read more)

1Josh Smith-Brennan12dBTW, sorry for the extraneous detail. Things have been stressful lately.
On silence

Simply put, I think this is a pretty concrete example of neglected areas of research that skew our rational understanding of the world, and calls into question the reasons why this blind spot exists. Studying the reason for this blind spot is important as it relates to legislation, academic priorities and the politics underlying the domain.

On a related topic, the implications for AI/ML analysis of this area of research, especially as it pertains to other areas of research which would rely on statistics generated from 'all the available research' could pote... (read more)

Direct effects matter!

Good post. I think when you look at the likely neural wiring underlying concerns like the ones you're bringing up, it's simply the case that unless you've developed the type of logic loops which actively consider these types of issues, they just don't occur to most people at a conscious level. This is an argument for the "Fish in the water" possibility.

For instance, the first 'caveperson' who discovered that eating rotten food would likely make you sick might have gone around telling everyone that "eating rotten food might make you sick" as he or she had p... (read more)

Moral Privilege

From any given moral perspective, progress in one moral dimension will basically always amount to regression in another

In my life experience, this is the type of observation which has led me to try and come up with a concept of Social Physics. This is a decent low level example of how I believe Newtons third law of Motion "For every action there is an equal but opposite reaction" applies to social studies. 

I think Newtons laws of motion apply well here to an idea of privilege, and I'm debating currently doing a top level post on my ideas. 

Interesting take.

5ACrackedPot14dThank you, and I'd definitely enjoy reading a Newtonian take on morality, when you're ready to write it.
On silence

The birds outside don’t give a shit about how their chirps make us feel or what they make us think.

 I strongly agree that birds are assholes.

Seriously though, I will delve into this tomorrow more, as it is relevant to my interests.

Would robots care about Meaning and Relating?

The use of environmental features to create memory and association provides durability beyond that of the brain, and allows for the possibility of multiple users.

Thanks for this and the first paragraph, I understand a little better what the Extended Mind concept is about. I tend to think of this sort of concept as External Memory, in that our phones, laptops, the Internet, notebooks and the like hold media like writing, video, audio and images, that can be rather directly encoded and decoded into meaning rather efficiently. 

Whereas something like a st... (read more)

2kithpendragon13dI used to be a pretty competent programmer, but I graduated at a time when the field was pretty flooded and couldn't find a job right away. My skills quickly became out of date (my year specialized in PalmOS, of all things) and I stopped looking for work in the field. These days I'm almost fully lapsed in this area. I mostly use my understanding of algorithms and data structures to organize my day-to-day tasks where possible, and I usually have a clue what the tech headlines are talking about. I have used my programming background to automate some of my work tasks, but I haven't needed to work on those programs in a few years now beyond basic maintenance. Specialization is an excellent strategy! I find it pairs well with my style of learning: either I know enough about a thing to speak fluently with the experts, or I know how to learn that much. As I said before, practical skills are important too, and one reason is that almost all tasks have so much more detail than a how-to can convey. If I can learn to do the basics well, it helps me find the good experts too. My meditation practice has resulted in a great deal of... let's go with "maturation" over the last few years, at a speed that I would call inconsistent with the decades prior. As far as specific skills are concerned, I'd say the core of that is patience: patience with my mind, my tasks, and other people. The increased patience is most obvious to me as an improved set of social skills at work and with my family. Also, I've noticed I'm able to better abide my ADHD tendencies (diagnosed as a teen) resulting in more tasks getting finished, more tasks getting started in the first place, and better results from my work; again both at home and at my job. My practice is mostly informed by Theravada, though I can't say I've ever had any formal instruction with a teacher. It's hard for me to take any significant time off from work and family (I've got a 5yo at home) to go on retreat an such, and I don't know of an
Iterated Trust Kickstarters

A Request for Help

I find this idea of an Iterative Kickstarter particularly useful because of my fear of being taken advantage of. 

This fear doesn't come out of nowhere; some work of mine from a student portfolio I created about 7 years ago as a graphic design student  was basically stolen and I wasn't credited or paid for the work I had done. I sent it out as requested, with my resume while applying for design positions. Just last year I was watching tv and saw a sllightly changed version of the spec work I had done in my portfolio. Same type of... (read more)

Attempted Telekinesis

Great course. I took it a few years back and got a lot out of it. I think as it relates to understanding the actual underlying physical processes of the brain and how they relate to making conscious meaning, it was super helpful to me.

Would robots care about Meaning and Relating?

Thanks for the link to the video. It's short and pretty concise and decent production quality, and frankly I don't disagree with most of it. It seems like in many ways this idea of an extended mindspace I'm getting from the video relates quite directly to a study like Social Factors Engineering and Industrial Psychology, both fields I thought of pursuing in school as I have interests in Architecture, Design, Industrial Design and Psychology. Environmental Press is the psychological effect your environment has on you and I'm absolutely convinced of the impo... (read more)

2kithpendragon15dI think what the video was point at is that there are a number of encoding modes, but all result in the storing and/or processing of information with the same end effect that we call "memory" when brains do it. As for Mary losing her notebook or Steve losing his arms, I'm afraid both accident and injury can lead to memory loss and cognitive dysfunction in the usual sense as well. The notebook and data files, on the other hand, have different decay rates from memories in a brain, and may be useful in different ways than their biological counterparts. The use of environmental features to create memory and association provides durability beyond that of the brain, and allows for the possibility of multiple users. The latter is why I brought Extended Mind into the discussion of culture. Remember, it's not the artifacts themselves that create mind, but (as you observed) the ways we relate to them and they relate to each other. Importantly, this sort of extension is happening all the time automatically. e.g. Driving extends the mind-body complex to include the vehicle and any information its instrument panels display, especially after we achieve enough practice to use the controls without having to consciously think about the process. As long as we can't help doing it anyway, we might as well use Extended Mind on purpose and try to optimize whatever we can. That includes on the multi-user level of Culture. And that is one of the huge benefits of learning to see less rigid boundaries between the "internal" and "external". (FAQ: Who is this Eliezer guy I keep hearing about? []) Though, to be fair, I still haven't found the original source. I may be misattributing something written by somebody else I was reading at the same time as the Sequences []. BTW, I'd guess that this question may be the reason somebody downvoted your comment with no explanation[1]. I've no
Can you improve IQ by practicing IQ tests?

A lot of actor's have children that grow up to be actors because they hung out with actors growing up. A lot of politicians have children who grow up to be politicians because they hung out with politicians growing up. A lot of ex-convicts have children that grow up to be ex-convicts because they hung out with ex-convicts growing up. Access to resources, or lack of them, seem to have a huge impact on human potential. I often wonder how many of our characteristics are truly innate, and not just learned or trained. Nature or Nurture? An argument for nature undercuts the idea that education and good opportunities should be made available to everyone. 

2alexgieg16dIn the case of IQ this has been well established. There's some variance due to nurture, but the bulk of it is nature. For example, very young children adopted by high IQ couples, and raised with a focus on intellectual matters, still demonstrate an IQ much closer to that of their lower-IQ biological mother than to that of their adoptive parents. This isn't to say that being raised by high IQ parents has no consequences. These children learn several personal and cultural skills in an environment that nurtures their abilities, and therefore manage to, for example, obtain a bachelor's degree with a much higher likelihood than average for for their origin groups, meaning their Big 5 "Conscientiousness" trait did grow remarkably. In terms of their raw IQ, though, other than the increase due to better nutrition, no, nurture has no effect, unfortunately. Not really. And "is" doesn't determine an "ought". It can easily be argued, to the contrary, that precisely because low IQ individuals need more institutional support compared to high IQ individuals, they should receive a much better tailored education and much better vocational opportunities, as high IQ individuals are much more likely to solve what they need solved on their own without, or with bare minimum, external aid.
Would robots care about Meaning and Relating?

Tl;Dr: the last 2 paragraphs asks a question.

As I'm of the belief that it's only in hindsight, as a sentient human looking back at a theoretical bacterium and it's genes and formulating human meaning, that the gene has meaning, I'd like to offer an alternative word to consider which might make things easier in some ways.  

This couple of sentences: "Consider a gene in an ancient bacterium, in a time before there were any other kinds of cell...this gene still meant something. But what exactly? The protein perhaps?"

What if we changed it slightly to this:... (read more)

Would robots care about Meaning and Relating?

First off, thanks for the thoughtful and insightful post, I really appreciate it.  Most of my thinking is pretty cross disciplinary, as my educational training is in Art, but my reading, research and analysis runs the gamut. I've done some Visual Design and UX/UI as well. With this in mind, I claim to be an artist and not a scientist, although I try to combine the 2. 

In this light, I subscribe to the idea that the Universe is essentially meaningless without a sentient life to attempt to interpret it. Those continual individual efforts in aggregat... (read more)

1kithpendragon16dAnd thank you for the conversation! I'm enjoying it as well, and I'm glad that I've managed to say things you find interesting. :) Here's a thread that you keep coming back to. What if I suggested that, far from those externalities residing in our minds, rather it is our minds that partially reside in them []? What if culture is the shared extended-mindspace for a group? It allows such things as symbol making and tool use and city planning and (sigh) Facebook profiles to exist. Our relationships with those things would, in turn, encode an even larger mindspace for everybody involved. I think this is what EY was getting at when he wrote about us being "supported by the time in which we live". (... I think. I can't find the reference just now, so I might be misremembering.) The reason we find it harder by default to see how the "external" and "internal" are really related is, I think, a matter of habit. With practice, it not only becomes much easier to grok that the border between the two is just a line on the map, but we might notice how beneficial it can be to remember that. Eventually, the whole thing can flip on its head: the Self becomes a useful tool, and the broader feeling of being less like a wholly separate entity and more like a feature of something huge seems more natural and easy to hold. Takes long, careful practice, though. Often those are the best theories. If you can get it to add up to normality [], you're probably on to something! A write-up walking the reader through those diagrams might make a good top-level post. Or maybe a series of posts, depending. More meaning-making here. Why is the feeling of specialness important? It's my hope that by anticipating that future we can help to avoid it, if not in the best possible way then at least in a way that forestalls (most of) the deaths that such a revolution would probably produce, as well as much of
Ethics in Many Worlds

Not sure if this is the correct place to put this comment, but I think it seems to relate. Layman here with big ideas, and little ability to back it up. Which is why I'm here hoping for some clarity. So anyway, this comment struck a chord with me:

"Probably this view can be drawn from an analogy to the fact that MWI does not violate energy (or mass) conservation. Preumably stuff that matters is made out of stuff, and if the amount of stuff is conserved across time, then (all other things being equal) the sum total of what matters must be conserved across ti... (read more)

2Charlie Steiner16dWe're pretty sure dark matter is just stuff that doesn't interact much except through gravity (see [] ). And we think we know how gravity behaves with quantum mechanics when gravity is weak (though we have experiments set to test what we think we know, see [] ).
Can you improve IQ by practicing IQ tests?

I love the social sciences, but they tend to tell you more about the people studying them then they do about the actual subjects they study. I'm a believer that much of the data in the Social Sciences would benefit from reexamination using recalibrated metrics, as the political shifts in the world of the last 50 years have caused seismic shifts in the ways data is collected, organized, and interpreted. I've got some ideas of major areas of the Social Sciences which need to be reconsidered, as they have significantly impacted legislation in ways that have c... (read more)

Malicious non-state actors and AI safety

I think the efforts to focus on issues of 'Mental Health' pay only lip service to this point. We live in a culture which relies on male culture to be about learning to traumatize others and learning to tolerate trauma, while at the same time decrying it as toxic male culture. Males are rightly confused these days, and the lack of adequate social services combined with a country filled with guns that continues to promote media of all sorts that celebrates violence as long as it's 'good violence', is a recipe for this kind of tragedy. Focusing on the individual shooters as being the problem isn't the answer. It is a systemic problem I believe.

Would robots care about Meaning and Relating?

I think you make some key points kithpendragon. 

Firstly "Reality comes to us in a series of sensory moments..." and "The tags and transformations that allow us to go from raw sensory information to the much-lower-dimensional objects that populate the map constitute Meaning"

From my readings on Cultural Theory I pull this statement "Culture creates meaning." At a much lower level of abstraction we have to look at some Evolutionary Psychology. In pre-verbal human society, how did they 'create meaning'? Without the use of language, the shared meaning came... (read more)

2kithpendragon17dI generally find it most useful to think of culture as a multi-user extension of mind. After all, it contains memories and associations just like our brains and bodies do, even runs on the same hardware. It's just distributed in a way that transcends the scope of individuals and even crosses generations with a certain amount of fidelity. Although I hadn't considered it explicitly before, I'd fully agree that culture is an important (and entirely consistent) source of meaning. That's definitely a good chunk of what's going on. When I look even deeper, I notice a process that takes all those sensory inputs/memories and somehow lets me think, "That pile of bricks would make a good [representation of a] spaceship."[1] That requires me to apply abstract spatial reasoning as well. The ability to take blobs of light and shadow and color as input, and construct some dataset with multiple components that can each be rotated freely in 3-space always feels like magic when I try to examine it closely! And that's just one early part of the process! [^1] Ceci n'est pas une pipe! Assuming you're using "sentient" as a synonym for "consciousness" (as is commonly done), do you think this is a binary proposition? Or could there be a continuum running from "entirely passive" through human-level consciousness to who-knows-where? How could you try to tell the difference between those two possibilities? I agree that we don't seem to be actively developing along those lines, but I expect it's not so much neglect as evasion. The culture seems to hold a terror of human capabilities being replaced. Examples off the top of my head: * The constant fear of job automation, even though we know that the process actually tends to +[create] more new jobs than the old jobs it obsoletes. * The cultural revulsion of those who would build or use sex bots. * Our refusal to accept fully self-driving cars despite (as far as I've read) the fact that they are already safer than human drivers. Ra
Psyched out

Thanks so much for the suggestions. I've got time on my hands, and so doing some reading to attempt to keep my head above water here just makes sense. I would love to pay for the book versions as they look like they would be best appreciated in print form, but right now free is the only way for me. I'm guessing my local library won't have copies and you mentioned free digital versions, can you expand on that idea? 

5Viliam19dThe first book, if you download it from Amazon, you can choose how much you pay... that includes zero. The second book is a collection of selected articles from this site, you can see the table of contents [] and then google each article individually. I would recommend skipping the comment sections to save time.
Where can one draw the line between sentience and the state of being just a random bunch of quarks? At what point is the 'conscience' generated?

I'm sure it's not the line you were expecting to be drawn, but I think it bears stating as a way to reduce the amount of the universe which needs to be considered when looking for an answer to your question. With relationship to the idea of energy at the quantum level and a range of temperatures at which 'consciousness' exists, contemporary processors run at a relatively high temperature, and-  for the time being - quantum computers run at an extremely low temperature. 

If, at the human level of perception, it is true that Consciousness requires t... (read more)

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