All of JoshuaZ's Comments + Replies


This should not be reported this way. It should be reported as something like 66%. The other digits are not meaningful.

5Paperclip Minimizer5y
Yes, you're right, some people raised this in the /r/ControlProblem subreddit. I fixed this.

I don't know of any broader, larger trends. It is worth noting here that the Rabbis of the Talmud themselves thought that the prior texts (especially the Torah itself) were infallible, so it seems that part of what might be happening is that over time, more and more gets put into the very-holy-text category.

Also, it seems important to distinguish here between being unquestionably correct with being literal. In a variety of different religions this becomes an important distinction and often a sacrifice of literalism is in practice made to preserve correctn... (read more)

The Talmud from what little I know may be a poor example of this. In fact, last I checked the Torah came from a combination of contradictory texts, and tradition comes close to admitting this with the story of Ezra. I think most people in ancient times held all sorts of beliefs about the world which we would call "literalist" if someone held them today, but they rarely if ever believed in the total accuracy of one source. They believed gods made the world because that seemed like a good explanation at the time. They may have believed in the efficacy of sacrifice, because why wouldn't you want sacrifices made to you?

MWI doesn't say anything about other constants- the other parts of our wavefunction should have the same constants. However, other multiverse hypotheses do suggest that physical constants could eb different.

That seems like an accurate analysis.

I'm actually more concerned about an error in logic. If one estimates a probability of say k that in a given year that climate change will cause an extinction event, then the probability of it occurring in any given string of years is not the obvious one, since part of what is going on in estimating k is the chance that climate change can in fact cause such an incident.

Mainstream discussion of existential risk is becoming more of a thing, A recent example is this article in The Atlantic. They do mention a variety of risks but focus on nuclear war and worst case global warming.

The numbers appear to be more or less made up. []

When people arguing with VoiceOfRa got several downvotes in a row, the conclusion drawn was sockpuppets.

There was substantially more evidence that VoiceOfRa was downvoting in a retributive fashion, including database evidence.

Slashdot had Karma years before Reddit and was not nearly as successful. Granted it didn't try to do general forum discussions but just news articles, but this suggests that karma is not the whole story.

slashdot was very succesful... at least enough that I know it's name.

Further possible evidence for a Great Filter: A recent paper suggests that as long as the probability of an intelligent species arising on a habitable planet is not tiny, at least about 10^-24 then with very high probability humans are not the only civilization to have ever been in the observable universe, and a similar result holds for the Milky Way with around 10^-10 as the relevant probability. Article about paper is here and paper is here.

The most interesting unknown in the future is the time of creation of Strong AI. Our priors are insufficient to predict it because it is such a unique task.

I'm not sure this follows. The primary problems with predicting the rise of Strong AI apply to most other artificial existential risks also.

Many of them may be predicted using the same logic. For example, we may try to estimate next time nuclear weapons will be used in war, based on a fact that they were used once in 1945. It results in 75 per cent probability for next 105 years. see also a comment below.

Research on expert judgement indicates experts are just as bad as nonexperts in some counterintuitive ways, like predicting the outcome of a thing,

Do you have a citation for this? My understanding was that in many fields experts perform better than nonexperts. The main thing that experts share in common with non-experts is overconfidence about their predictions.

Yep, follow the summary here [] to the Expert Judgement textbook if you like. I was skeptical too before I followed up this claim and actually read the textbook.

I am not making claims about "any sense of order", but going by what I read European police lost control of some chunks of its territory.

In this context that's what relevant, since VoiceOfRa talked about "European countries that have given up enforcing any sense of order in large parts of their major cities." If you aren't talking about that then how is it a relevant response?

In the context of "given up enforcing".

Can you explain why you see a SETI attack as so high? If you are civilization doing this not only does it require extremely hostile motivations but also a) making everyone aware of where you are (making you a potential target) and b) being able to make extremely subtle aspects of an AI that apparently looks non-hostile and c) is something which declares your own deep hostility to anyone who notices it.

It results from exponential growth of victims in case of successful SETI-attack. The new victims will send the signal further. It is like virus behaviour. a) we know only location of the previous victim, not the starter. b) not so difficult if sender is more advanced civilization and AI may looks like a helper or gateaway of space Internet. с) the same as a. We don't know who started it. We could see only victims.

What probability do you assign to this happening? How many conjunctions are involved in this scenario?

I estimate total probability of human extinction because of SETI attack in 1 per cent. But much smaller in case of this star. There are several needed conjunctions: 1.ET exist but are very far from each other, so communication is wining over travel. 1 milion light years or more. 1. Strong AI is possible.

Yes, that would work. I think I was reacting to the phrasing more and imagined something more cartoonish, in particularly where the air conditioner is essentially floating in space.

So something like "put a big fan on the Moon and point it at the Earth" :-)

You seem to be operating under the impression that subjective Bayesians think you Bayesian statistical tools are always the best tools to use in different practical situations? That's likely true of many subjective Bayesians, but I don't think it's true of most "Less Wrong Bayesians."

I suspect that there's a large amount of variation in what "Less Wrong Bayesians" believe. It also seems that at least some treating it more as an article of faith or tribal allegiance than anything else. See for example some of the discussion here.

What do you see as productive in asking this question?

While we're meta, perhaps a better placement for this would be in a new Crazy Idea thread. The last one [] was quite popular.

Expanding the orbit of the Earth works under the known laws of physics but wouldn't be practically doable at all. A giant air conditioner wouldn't work for simple physics reasons.

Why wouldn't a giant AC work? Admittedly, you'd need to connect it to the Earth, not just "point it" at us. But an AC is basically a system that uses energy to move heat around; the trick is building one that puts the warm-air exhaust outside the lower atmosphere and gives it escape velocity. For instance, as long as we're talking mad science, if we could build a space elevator with a big pool of water at the upper end as its counterbalance, cooled by evaporating into space (and maybe by contact with the upper atmosphere?), with a series of tubes connecting the pool with the sea below, then we could run an AC cycle: send warm seawater up, get almost-freezing water down. Of course we'd need a huge throughput to affect global temperature, but the principle is sound :-)

Problems can have a mathematical aspect without being completely solvable by math.

The sourcing there is weak and questionable at best. That people assert that areas are "no-go" is pretty different than there being a genuine lack of any sense of order, and that's even before one looks at the issue of whether this is any different from some areas simply being higher in crime than others.

I am not making claims about "any sense of order", but going by what I read European police lost control of some chunks of its territory. Take Calais. Here [] is a sympathetic account which is actually a kinda-detective story: a body in a wetsuit washes up on Norway's shore and people are trying to figure out who-what-why. The clues lead to an immigrant camp in Calais and, well, it's pretty clear that the French state lost control there.

Still reading, quick note:


Should be tradition?

That seems to indicate that summarizing what they've said as the average age of death being 72 years is not accurate.

Yes. That summary is totally inaccurate.

Not far indeed: global life expectancy at birth was 26 years in the Bronze Age, and in 2010 was 67.2. Five years ago our life expectancy at birth was more than double what it had been.

This is a little misleading because low life expectancy at birth was to a large extent a function of very high infant mortality. It is true that even if one takes into account infant mortality (for example by looking at life expectancy at three years of age) that life expectancy has gone up. However, this is primarily average life expectancy. Maximum life expectancy has ba... (read more)

Here're some numbers! According to this paper]( [] (conclusions on page 349 []), once hunter-gatherers passed the age of 15, the average age age of death was 72 years. (!) Compare with the 2013 US average life expectancy [] of 78.8 years. Longevity among Hunter-Gatherers: A Cross-Cultural Examination Michael Gurven and Hillard Kaplan Population and Development Review, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Jun., 2007), pp. 321-365
Indeed, if you reached age 10 in the Roman empire you'd probably reach age 50 and if you reached age 20 your expectancy is near 60. Infectious disease has always been awful. And again, indeed the age of the OLDEST people has barely budged since ancient Greece.

Good analysis! A few remarks:

In practice even for a planet with as thin an atmosphere as Earth, getting past the atmosphere is more difficult than actually reaching escape velocity. One of the most common times for a rocket to break up is near Max Q which is where maximum aerodynamic stress occurs. This is generally in the range of about 10 km to 20 km up.

In worlds too big to escape by propulsion, people may come up with the idea of the space elevator, but the extra gravity will require taking into account the structure's weight.

Getting enough mass u... (read more)

You got me curious, and I read a bit more, and found this on Wikipedia: In lay terms, I guess this means that, unlike a cannon ball, which only gets one initial "push", a rocket is being "pushed" continually and thus doesn't need to worry about escape velocity. So first they get the rocket high enough to be safe from the air, and then they speed it up.

Or there are fewer civilizations than we expect, or something is wiping out civilizations once they go to space, or most species for whatever reason decide not to go to space, or we are living in an ancestor simulation which only does a detailed simulation of our solar system. (I agree that all of these are essentially wanting, your interpretation makes the most sense, these examples are listed more for completeness than anything else.)

Anyone want to take bets on whether or not this will turn out in ten years to be natural?

I don't think this conversation is being very productive so this is likely my final reply.

Just answer me a simple question.

? How do the first 1000 naturals look like, after mixing supertask described above has finished its job,

You may say that this supertask is impossible.

You may say that there is no set of all naturals.

The resulting pointwise limit exists, and it gives each positive integer a probability of zero. This is fine because the pointwise limit of a distribution on a countable set is not necessarily itself a distribution. Please take a basic real analysis course.

I don't give a damn about infinity. If it is doable, why not? But is it? That's the only question.

I'm not sure what you mean by this, especially given your earlier focus on whether infinity exists and whether using it in physics is akin to religion. I'm also not sure what "it" is in your sentence, but it seems to be the supertask in question. I'm not sure in that context what you mean by "doable."

Then, a supertask mixes the infinite set of naturals and we are witnessing "the irresistible force acting on an unmovable object&quo

... (read more)

This is not at all an attempt to banish infinity in any general sense.

Of course it is. Nothing infinite has been spotted so far.

I'm not sure how your sentence is a response to my sentence.

This is rhetoric without content.

Is it? Is this same "rhetoric" against aliens also without a content? If I say that people want aliens, because they have lost angels, is this really without a content?

Not only that there is no infinite God, even infinite sets are probably just a miracle.

Generally, yes, the content level is pretty low. It essentiall... (read more)


Ah, yes, I think that makes sense. And obviously a proof of say Friendliness in ZFC is a lot better than no proof at all.

I'm not sure what you mean by this, and in so far as I can understand it doesn't seem to be true. Physicists use the real numbers all the time which are an infinite set.

The problem there is that certain specific models of physics end up giving infinite values for measurable quantities - this is a known problem and has been an area of active research since early work with renormalization in the 1930s. This is not at all an attempt to banish infinity in any general sense.

Now, when there in no God, the Infinity is

... (read more)

I'm not sure what your point is here. Yes, experts sometimes have a consensus that turns out to be wrong. If one is lucky one can even turn out to be right when the experts are wrong if one takes sufficiently many contrarian positions (although the idea that many millions of civilizations in our galaxy was a universal among both biologists and astro-biologists is definitely questionable), but in this case, the experts have really thought about these ideas a lot, and haven't gotten anywhere.

If you prefer an example other than Wildberger, when Edward Nelson ... (read more)

I'm not sure that's strong evidence for the thesis in question. If ZFC had a low-lying inconsistency, ZFC+an inaccessible cardinal would still prove ZFC consistent, but it would be itself an inconsistent system that was effectively lying to you. Same remarks apply to any large cardinal axiom.

If you're at the state where the worst thing about a proof is that it relies on the axiom of choice, you're practically at the finish line (at least compared to here). Once proofs has been discovered, mathematicians have a pretty good track record of whittling them down to rest on fewer assumptions. From my (uninformed dilettante's) perspective, it's not worth limiting your toolset until you've found some solution to your problem. Any solution, even ones which rest on unproven conjectures, will teach you a lot.

Physics is only good, when you expel all the infinities out of it.

I'm not sure what you mean by this, and in so far as I can understand it doesn't seem to be true. Physicists use the real numbers all the time which are an infinite set. They use integration and differentiation which involves limits. So what do you mean?


I'm not sure why you think that. This may depend strongly on what you mean by an in infinitary method. Is induction infinitary? Is transfinite induction infinitary?

If the hypothetical external world in question diverges from our own world by a lot then the ancestor simulation argument loses all force.

Of course, but OTOH, we have simulated a lot of tiny, strange universes, so it's not completely implausible.

Wildberger's complaints are well known, and frankly not taking very seriously. The most positive thing one can say about it is that some of the ideas in his rational trignometry do have some interesting math behind them, but that's it. Pretty much no mathematican who has listened to what he has to say have taken any of it seriously.

Sure, I know he is not taken very seriously. That is his own point, too. In the time of Carl Sagan, in the year 1986 or so, I became an anti Saganist. I realized that his million civilization in our galaxy alone is an utter bullshit. Most likely only one exists. Every single astro-biologist or biologist would have said to a dissident like myself - you don't understand evolution, sire, it's mandatory! 20 years later, on this site, Rare Earth is a dominant position. Or at least - no aliens position. On the National Geographic channel and elsewhere, you still listen "how previously unexpected number of Earth like planets will be detected". I am not afraid of mathematicians more than of astrobiologists. Largely unimpressed.

What you are doing in many ways amounts to the 18th and early 19th century arguments over whether 1-1+1-1+1-1... converged and if so to what. First formalize what you mean, and then get an answer. And a rough intuition of what should formally work that leads to a problem is not at all the same thing as an inconsistency in either PA or ZFC.

Phrasing it as a "super-task" relies on intuitions that are not easily formalized in either PA or ZFC. Think instead in terms of a limit, where your nth distribution and let n go to infinity. This avoids the intuitive issues. Then just ask what mean by the limit. You are taking what amounts to a pointwise limit. At this point, what matters then is that it does not follow that a pointwise limit of probability distributions is itself a probability distribution.

If you prefer a different example that doesn't obfuscate as much what is going on we can... (read more)

The limit of your distributions is not a distribution so there's no problem.

If there's any sort of inconsistency in ZF or PA or any other major system currently in use, it will be much harder to find than this. At a meta level, if there were this basic a problem, don't you think it would have already been noticed?

Indeed, since you can prove ZFC consistent with the aid of an inaccessible cardinal. And you can prove the consistency of an inaccessible cardinal with a Mahlo cardinal, and so on.
What can one expect after this super-task is done to see? Nothing? It has been noticed, but never resolved properly. A consensus among top mathematicians, that everything is/must be okay prevails. One dissident. []

At least two major classes of existential risk, AI and physics experiments, are areas where a lot of math can come into play. In the case of AI, this is understanding whether hard take-offs are possible or likely and whether an AI can be provably Friendly. In the case of physics experiments, the issues connected to are analysis that the experiments are safe.

In both these cases, little attention is made to the precise axiomatic system being used for the results. Should this be concerning? If for example some sort of result about Friendliness is proven rigo... (read more)

I would think it faster to search for proofs of any kind, then simplify to an elementary/constructive/machine verifiable proof.
One of the open problems MIRI is working on for FAI is exactly this type of logical uncertainty. It should be able to modify itself if it finds out the logic underlying it's basic programming is incorrect.
Not that it counts much, but I do believe that the ZFC is inconsistent.

Yes, but there's less reason for that. A big part of the problem with neutrinos is that since only a small fraction are absorbed, it becomes much harder to get good data on what is going on. For example, the typical neutrino pulse from a supernova is estimated to last 5 seconds to 30 seconds, while the Earth is under a tenth of a second in diameter. Gamma rays don't have quite as much of this problem and we can sort of estimate their directional data better.

On the other hand, the more recent work with neutrinos has been getting better and better at getting angle data which lets us get the same directional data to some extent.

You do know that both sets of ideas predate HPMOR, right?

Slightly crazy idea I've been bouncing around for a while: put giant IceCube style neutrino detectors on Mars and Europa. Europa would work really well because of all the water ice. This would allow one to get time delay data from neutrino bursts during a supernova to get very fast directional information as well as some related data.

Spreading around gamma ray detectors would have similar advantages.

That's a rule I'd strongly support other than in cases of absolutely unambiguous spamming or clear sockpuppets of banned individuals.

While I'm deeply concerned about the possibility that AA has been engaging in vote-gaming which does seem to be a bannable offense, it isn't clear to me that, as reprehensible as that comment is, that it is enough reason by itself for banning, especially because some of his comments (especially those on cryonics) have been clearly highly productive. I do agree that much of the content of that comment is pretty disgusting and unproductive, and at this point his focus on incel is borderline spamming with minimal connection to the point of LW. Maybe it would be more productive to just tell him that he can't talk about incel as a topic here?

Not only does it not predict such large swings it also doesn't fit with the fact that after such a swing (which occurs rapidly) he then gets a slow downward trend. I pointed this out to the moderators a while ago and so I have a record of how rapid some of the changes were: was at -9 within 8 hours of being posted, 12 hours later or so it was at +4. Note that it has now reverted to +0. was at -5, then within 24 hours went t... (read more)

Another reason for optimism is that it seems that the level of political bias is actually lower today than it was historically. People are better at judging politically controversial issues in a detached, scientific way today than they were in, say, the 14th century. This shows that progress is possible.

Can you expand on what evidence there is for this?

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