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Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate

Granting that the jokes you refer to are generally accurate, wouldn't that make the synagogue a better example for a rationalist Cat Herd than some other religious organization where people "think" in lockstep with the Dear Leader? The synagogue would represent an example of a group of people who manage to cooperate effectively even with a high level of dissensus (neologism for the opposite of consensus). Which, as I understand it, is the goal Eliezer is aiming for in this post.

Bayesian Nights (Rationalist Story Time)

I was trying to convey the Litany of Gendlin as the principle the story was based on. The lesson would be "Don't deny or ignore facts, even if there's lots of money in it for you, because the facts are still facts whether you like it or not." I think situations like climate change, peak oil, over-exploitation of aquifers and letting the FIRE sector run rampant over the real economy count as real-world examples.

Bayesian Nights (Rationalist Story Time)

Yes, I recognized this as a fantasy application of Jim Bell's "Assassination Politics." I think AP would work better in an Iron Age/fantasy setting than in a modern context where anyone with a computer and a 'net connection could donate anonymously to assassination jackpots. In an Iron Age setting, pretty much the only people famous and hated enough to garner significant jackpots would be despotic kings and priests, and their generals. Assassination itself would be as dangerous as the rulers could make it, so it probably would only happen when a king was genuinely tyrannical, or as a substitute for war. In other words, it would take a lot to provide incentive an assassin under those conditions. So, it would probably reduce the number of unjust or trivial assassinations, like a baker "betting" on the death of a rival baker.

In a modern situation where millions of people could easily and anonymously contribute small amounts to an assassination jackpot, it would (in my opinion) be too easy for a million people to, say, contribute a dollar each to a jackpot for some love-to-hate celebrity like Paris Hilton, Bill Gates, or the quarterback of an NFL team that's rival to theirs in the playoffs.

Also, an AP system could just as easily be used by the wealthy and privileged to fund the deaths of any upstart reformers as by any reform movements to target the powerful.

Bayesian Nights (Rationalist Story Time)

Not Always to the Swift

Captain Danae Andreadis glanced idly at the image of the Venture Free on one of the screens at her desk. Had she been looking out a window, it would have been a point of light not much brighter than the untwinkling stars. The Argos did not have any windows, since they would represent an unnecessary structural weakness and a breach in the ship's radiation shielding.

Venture Free was exactly like her own ship, the Argos, except for the company logo it bore. Manufactured by the same company according to the same plans. Three habitation rings two hundred meters in diameter rotating around a spindly-looking truss that mounted tanks of reaction mass, the ship's reactor, large heat radiators reminiscent of the giant fins on spaceships from the rocketpunk era of science fiction, and a VASIMR drive. A crew compliment of three thousand people plus equipment.

A chime sounded. "Acknowledge," Danae said. The image of the rival vessel was replaced by the face of Dr. Chandragupta, the biologist who headed the ship's life support team. He looked worried. Danae immediately gave him her full attention.

"Is there a problem, Doctor?"

"I'm afraid so, Captain. It's our soil nematodes. They're dying. If they die out, our life support ecosystem will collapse. We'll be out of oxygen before we reach Helium Diamond."

"Do you have any ideas on what's causing it?"

"I've chemically and genetically analyzed dead nematodes. The problem is an artificial polymer that's toxic to them. I've traced it to outgassing from the ecosystem's air cycling hoses."

"Why hasn't this happened before on any of the Mars missions or on Armstrong or Olympus Base?"

"The hose material is unique to the Deepspace Class ships. We and the Venture Free are the first of the class to go on long-term missions. It's a subtle problem, and it took longer than the Earth-to-Luna shakedown cruise to manifest."

"Is there something we can do about it?"

"I don't know yet, Captain. I have all my people working on it, and I suggest we contact the Venture and get their people working on it too. I'm close to certain they'll have the problem too."

"Is this a direct threat to the crew?"

"I have Medical checking, but the hoses in question are only in the greenhouses, and the polymer's lethality comes from the way it reacts to nematode biochemistry specifically. Can we still divert to Mars if necessary?"

Danae entered the parameters into the ship's navicomp. "Yes, but we'll have to make the go/no-go decision in five days. After that we won't have enough remass for orbital insertion. Do everything you can to find us a solution in that time. You have priority for supercomputer and comms time. If they have to divert too, we can still beat them to Helium Diamond if we get in line first at Phobos Station and get those hoses, and the nematodes replaced."


"I'm very sorry to hear that, Captain," Ray "Buck" Williams said. The hint of a sardonic smile and the way he casually leaned back into his command chair said otherwise. "Our little worms are doing just fine. You can still divert to Mars, can't you?"

"Yes," Danae said stiffly. "If your nematodes are immune, perhaps we could arrange to purchase a population of them?"

"I'm afraid not, Captain. It simply isn't in our interest. However much you might offer, it could hardly compensate us if you were to reach Helium Diamond ahead of us. And if you were to offer to split the claim with us, why should we accept, when we have a hundred percent chance of reaching it first after you divert to Mars?"

"I hate to break it to you Cap'n, but we've got it here too."

"I wouldn't worry too much," Captain Williams said. "Argos is going to have all the best minds on Earth trying to help them figure out how to save their worms. We can pick up all the transmissions coming back from Earth, so if Andreadis gets a solution, so do we. If she doesn't, we wait 'till she commits to Mars, then we raise Earth and keep 'em working on it.

"Helium Diamond is the richest, most concentrated source of He3 in the Solar System as far as anyone knows. It'll be worth trillions once we get it back to cislunar space. Every man jack on this ship will be a billionaire after we get our commission. Who wants to let a few dead microscopic worms get in the way of that? Not me, and not HQ. Sometimes you gotta go with your gut, and mine says we're all gonna live like kings."


"I've read the reports, Captain, and as far as I, or any of our science people can tell, the problem is intractable. But you and your crew are the ones on the scene, and we're not going to armchair-quarterback from Earth," the CEO of Argos Explorations said. "It's your call."

"Thank you, sir." Danae said. "Argos out." She looked to the grim faces of her officers, and sought their council one by one. Their prognoses were as grim as their expressions. Danae sighed. "What's true is already so. Owning up to it doesn't make it worse. Make ready to de-spin the ship for maneuvers. We're going to Mars."


Captain Danae Andreadis glanced idly at the image of the slowly tumbling icy comet nucleus on one of the screens at her desk. Had she been looking out a window, it would have been a point of light not much brighter than the untwinkling stars. As happy as she was for herself and her crew to be the first to reach Helium Diamond, she couldn't help but think of the comms that had come from the Venture Free as Captain Williams and his crew slowly suffocated. No human being would ever forget the mounting horror and pathos of those transmissions.

"Andreadis to Helm. Make ready to de-spin the ship for insertion maneuvers."

A "Failure to Evaluate Return-on-Time" Fallacy

So that's why '42' is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything...

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 3

Couldn't a Slytherinny parent who wants their child to become powerful coach their child into wanting to be in some House other than Slytherin? Say, MoR!Lucius, coaching his son in all the ways of seizing power, but telling him awful, awful stories of what it was like to be a Slytherin. "No, no my boy, you do not want to be in that House, whatever you do!" Then, Draco under that Hat goes, "No! No! Not Slytherin! Anything but Slytherin!" And thus, ends up somewhere else.

Thus positioned, he does not automatically have to wear a suspicion-generating Slytherin badge, and he gets to be the wolf among the sheep (if he ends up in Hufflepuff or Gryffindor, where there's no Harry and Hermione to match him). Being Slytherin is like being a Ferengi. People already expect you to scheme against them, so their guard is up. But a Hufflepuff or Gryffindor (especially Gryffindor!) MoR!Draco would start out with powerful advantages in his quest for world domination.

Since "rule the world" and "save the world" aren't really that far apart, he probably would have ended up in Gryffindor. If you want to rule the world, presumably you think you've got a better way to run it than the way it's being run. Some would-be rulers might just want the wealth and being able to boss other people around, but it's easier to get that as a cult leader and not have to have responsibility for administering the global economy.

If you want to save the world, you could be defending the status quo (keeping that other guy from conquering the world), or you could see some threat (climate change, death) that isn't being dealt with appropriately, and you have a better way. In either case, you are tacitly assuming that you have a pretty good idea what's best for the world, and act to see that things go your way. Though I'm over-simplifying a bit here, I think there is an element of "who's writing the history?" to whether one's a "Gryffindor" or a "Slytherin." Andrew Jackson: Gryffindor? Slytherin? What about Che Guevara?

My guess is it would be fairly common for partisans of Utopian movements (Communism, Nazism, religious fundamentalism, etc.) to fancy themselves as Gryffindor-type heroes out to save the world, while their opponents and victims would class them as Slytherins. Where would the Sorting Hat put them? :)

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 3

I could imagine a Hufflepuff developing some spell to merge or link minds so the group can be even more cohesive and cooperative. A Hufflepuff Borganism could be pretty freakin' scary. "We are One. We are Together. We are Loyal. You should join Us. Yes, yes, you really, really should. What's that? Oh. You just don't know what's best for you. Let Us help you."

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 3

Comments cover up to Chapter 46. UN-ROT13'd SPOILERS.

Love the new chapters! Harry's takedown of the Dementor was epic! Yes, I know, that term has been devalued by inflation quite a bit, but in this case its original value and meaning hold. A very nice and emotionally powerful summation of Singularitarian values in Harry's buildup. Also, I didn't stop and try to guess what Harry's Patronus would be, but "the rational animal" is the perfect choice!

One little quibble though. When Dumb-ledore and Harry were trying to guess why Quirrell might want to bring a Dementor to Hogwarts, Dumbles never bothers to mention, "Well, Quirrell did challenge me to a bet, that if any of the First Year students could produce a corporeal Patronus, that I'd let him teach the Killing Curse to anyone who was interested." Naaawwwww, there couldn't possibly be some ulterior motive to Quirrell's desire to teach Dark Magic to the kiddies, could there? Surely not!

And isn't this supposed to be an "Unforgivable" curse, as in, "life in Azkaban" or "the Dementor's Kiss" for using it? Given the existence of such a law in Wizarding society, it doesn't make sense to me for Dumbledore to allow Quirrell to teach young children something that, if used in a moment of immaturity, could completely ruin their entire lives. "The WIzengamot has decided that having a temper tantrum is not an excuse. Send for the Dementor!" Imagine a boy like Canon!Draco given the Killing Curse to use as a First Year.

On the other hand, there are other spells that could be equally lethal, like Diffendo (a cutting spell) or Fiendfyre, and those aren't "Unforgivable." I suppose the thing about Avada Kedavra is that there's no defense against it. So, while other spells might be like teaching a young kid to shoot, the Killing Curse is like giving them a rocket launcher. One that's always loaded, has unlimited ammunition, and is carried with them wherever they go. I.e., not the same thing as a young kid having a gun that they take out and use under parental supervision.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 3

The Wizards can create dimensionally orthogonal pockets of spacetime (for their bags of holding, mokeskin pouches, and TARDIS trunks). If a Horcrux simply has to be hidden where no one can get at it, and doesn't have to maintain a signaling link to the "rest" of the maker's "soul," perhaps Voldy could have made some dimensionally transcendent space (like a BoH or the Mirror of Erised), put a Horcrux in, then destroyed the connecting interface with our reality. Basically, a magical corollary of multiverse cosmology, where the Horcrux is placed in a new "pocket universe" that is then separated from ours so that it cannot be reached even in principle.

I would guess from MoR canon that relativity-compliant signaling is not necessary for a Horcrux to work, since light-lag between Earth and the Pioneer Horcrux would already be significant.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 3

As explained in some of the other comments, there are some good points about it, but it's got some major flaws. One thing I really don't like is that the teachers are House-identified. They're players in the game, and it's OK for them to arbitrarily punish kids from other Houses and show favoritism to their own. That's like making coaches the referees. Hmmm, maybe that's why the House Cup ends up getting decided by something as random as "Who can catch the golden mosquito first?"

An idea I had: Sort kids into the House that's their greatest weakness/what they're least like/the element they need most to improve. So the Hat would be like, "Well, Draco Malfoy, hrmmmnnnn...better be: HUFFLEPUFF!" "Harry Potter...unfamiliar to the Wizarding World, as like to eat an Exploding Snap as play it properly. If I don't do something you might just cast some random curse labeled 'For an Enemy' on somebody without figuring out what it does first...better be: RAVENCLAW!" "Neville could go faaaarrrrr, in Slytherin." "Not Slytherin! Anything but Slytherin!" "Ooooh, a wise guy, eh? GRIFFINDOR!"

In each House, kids are taught the virtues of that House, rather than put there because they've already got 'em. And also, everyone gets Sorted each year, so you're not pigeonholed once and for all as an 11 year-old (what, nobody who was a bully at 11 ever learns his/her lesson and becomes a better grownup?).

This system would help kids become more well-rounded. Just look how much MoR!Neville is benefiting from his "tuition" by Harry, who is the very model of a modern NiceGuy!Slytherin. Even in canon, Neville does seem to benefit in terms of developing courage and getting over his fears by being Sorted into Gryffindor when (in the canon Sorting process) he "should" have been a Hufflepuff. Plus, since everybody would probably be Sorted through more than one House during their school years, it wouldn't divide the whole freaking society into four sects. Also, it would change things up a bit so one House that got the good Seeker when s/he was 11 wouldn't always, always win the Cup.

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