All of Lalartu's Comments + Replies

Polling Thread January 2016

I got 44. Six faces is too much.

Stupid Questions, December 2015

It is hard to tell in advance what is important. Quite a few innovations that were promised to change everything turned out to have much more limited value.

Within a decade we should know a lot about the genetic basis of intelligence

I don't see any reason for it. So far, all knowledge in this area is just correlation between some genes and IQ, with no understanding how it works. Judging from history of other technologies, with such theoretical base any major improvements take centuries of trial and error.

Open thread, Nov. 16 - Nov. 22, 2015

I don't think it is reasonable to portray Paleolithic tribe as dictatorship. When the best weapon is pointed stick, and every man is has skill to use it, minority simply can't rule by force.

3Lumifer6yThat's obviously wrong, as there is a large set of social animals which don't even have pointy sticks, and yet alpha males manage to rule the tribe with an iron hand (or paw, or beak, etc.).
Open thread, Nov. 16 - Nov. 22, 2015

If we define "progress" as "less slavery, less torture, more freedom" as in top comment, then yes it went in reverse.

0Lumifer6yThe top post actually talked about 'a "universal" progress of society towards a more moral baseline', but let's see. A fair-warning preamble: no one really knows much about cultural practices in the Paleolithic, so the credence of statements about what Paleos (sorry, diet people) did is low. Slavery -- sure, there was less slavery in the Paleolithic. So, what did they do instead? The usual source of slaves in Antiquity was wars: losers were enslaved. And during the Paleolithic? Well, I would guess that the losers had all the males killed and the fertile women dragged off to be breeding stock. Maybe it's just me, but I don't see how the Paleolithic way is morally better or closer to the "more moral baseline", whatever it might be. As to torture, it is entirely not obvious to me that Paleos had less torture than the Roman Empire. Primitive tribes tend to be very cruel to enemies (see e.g. this []). And freedom... it depends on how do you define it, but the Paleo tribes were NOT a happy collection of anarchists. In contemporary political terminology I expect them to have been dictatorships where the order was maintained by ample application of force and most penalties for serious infractions involved death. That doesn't look like a particularly free society. I have a feeling you are thinking about noble savages []. That's fiction.
Open thread, Nov. 16 - Nov. 22, 2015

Whether there is "universal progess" in described sense depends on which start and end points do we choose. If take say from Middle Ages to today, then there is. If from Paleolithic to the height of Roman Empire, then trends would be exactly opposite, a march from freedom to slavery. So growth of per capita wealth can coexist with different directions of moral change.

1OrphanWilde6yNot to espouse moral directionality, but from the Paleolithic to the height of the Roman Empire, we didn't go from freedom to slavery, we went from informal to formal modes of dominance. Informal modes of dominance -look- more like freedom than formal modes of dominance, because there are more rules on the slave - but there are more rules on the master, as well, which is, in the end, what that thing we call freedom is.
0Lumifer6yUm... You believe that between Paleolithic and the height of Roman Empire the progress went in reverse?
LINK: An example of the Pink Flamingo, the obvious-yet-overlooked cousin of the Black Swan

First, it is not. Idea that this Cold War doctrine was suicidal (for the Europeans) madness is rather popular, I think more than the opposite.

Second, given that exactly zero states were attacked by US for trying to make nukes, I wouldn't call this the most important reason. As for third-world politicians, they adopt the first-word attitude to nukes as thing you can only threaten with but can't really use.

0Lumifer6yIs popular? I am not sure today people spend a lot of effort in evaluating an obsolete military doctrine from quarter century ago. And is there an alternative proposed? Notice that I didn't say "invaded", though Iraq is an interesting case. But why did Iran make a deal with the US, then? You can't really use them offensively. I doubt the politicians would taboo the use of tactical nukes in the last stand situation. That's effectively what they are for: insurance. Funny how everyone is tiptoeing around North Korea... By the way, you know what didn't help non-proliferation at all? The way the Budapest Memorandum [] turned out to be a meaningless piece of paper.
LINK: An example of the Pink Flamingo, the obvious-yet-overlooked cousin of the Black Swan

The article makes a good point: USA can lose very much in case of such war. If the world sees that nukes can destroy enemy army without turning whole country into a blasted radioctive wasteland like scaremongers say, then non-proliferation is a lost cause and US military might suddenly turns into a heap of useless expensive toys.

0entirelyuseless6yIn my opinion the opposite is likely to happen if there is an actual war of this kind between India and Pakistan: once Pakistan uses nukes, India will be mostly ok as a whole, as you imply, but India will turn Pakistan into such a "blasted radioactive wasteland" in comparison, which will make anyone else terrified of such a war with the US. Apparently the Indian defense minister in 2003 said something like this publicly, saying something like "After we respond, there will be no more Pakistan."
2Lumifer6yThat's pretty obvious to anyone with a couple of functioning brain cells. The whole idea of tactical nuclear weapons is limited strikes against military targets. During the Cold War, the NATO doctrine explicitly relied on tactical nukes to stop Russian armored thrusts into Western Europe. Non-proliferation isn't based on some third-world politicians being afraid of a nuclear holocaust. It's based on the empirical fact that if you try to develop nukes, Uncle Sam will be very very mean to you.
Open thread, Aug. 17 - Aug. 23, 2015

If interstellar travel (and astroengeneering) is impossible, that is enough to explain Great Filter without additional assumptions.

0[anonymous]6yOops! That's right.
A map: Typology of human extinction risks

First, this map mixes two different things: human extinction and collapse of civilization. It has a lot of risks that cannot cause the former such as resource depletion, and has things like "disjunction" box that I would call not a risk but a desirable future.

Second, it mixes x-risks with things that sound bad. Facsism in not a x-risk.

Third, it lacks such category as voluntary extinction.

3turchin6yThe goal of the map is to show only human extinction risks. But collapse of the civilization and dangerous memetic system are things that rise the probability of human extinction. To make the map more clear I will add bottom line, there I will concentrate all things that change probability of extinction, which may be named as "second level risks".
SSC Discussion: No Time Like The Present For AI Safety Work

I don't think that so high estimate for first statement is reasonable.

Also, link now leads to bicameral reasoning article.

0tog6yThanks, fixed, now points to []
Stupid Questions May 2015

I don't think there will be, because sattelites themselves usually are much more expensive than their launch.

Resolving the Fermi Paradox: New Directions

I mean not collapse, but that there is an option that technologies necessary for interstellar flight and megascale engineering are either impossible in themselves or impossible to obtain for any civilization.

Resolving the Fermi Paradox: New Directions

One of the most likely candidates for filter (and variant of our future) is not mentioned here. That is, technological progress will simply end much sooner than usually expected, without any catastrophic events. There is not a filter, but a solid wall on the way from current technology to dyson sphere and starship building.

0jacob_cannell6yI agree this is a possibility - a special subtype of the collapse. It seems unlikely to be a convergent enough high probability outcome that it could explain the fermi paradox.
[Link] Hacking Technological Determinism for Fun and Profit

I think that is not true at all. That is, there is no significant dependency between availability of firearms and murder rate. Where aren't many guns, most common murder weapon is knife, it is the only difference.

2[anonymous]6yAvailability or widespread ownership?
Can we decrease the risk of worse-than-death outcomes following brain preservation?

3) Can you enumerate some specific world-states that you think could lead to revival in a worse-than-death state?

Any sort of Hansonian future, where your mind has positive economic value.

Superintelligence 19: Post-transition formation of a singleton

I would want both copy and person who created it dead.

1Luke_A_Somers6yWhat would your copy want? What if it was a near-copy without $fatalMedicalCondition?
The guardian article on longevity research [link]

A century ago there were scientists who said the same. Just because somebody is working on a problem doesn't mean it will be solved.

6Luke_A_Somers6yGood thing that isn't the argument, isn't it? Even a century ago they had good reasons to think it was possible. Medicine was getting a lot better VERY quickly. They turned out to be wrong, but I wouldn't say that they were utterly crazy for thinking that they could keep finding low-hanging fruit long enough to work out the underpinnings and solve the problem. Now, we can see a lot more clearly how far we are from the 'finish line'.
1benwr6yOn the other hand, the number of people working on a problem, and the speed with which they are individually able to work, can't be ignored. "Given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow" - Linus Torvalds, talking about something pretty similar (if much, much simpler).
Exams and Overfitting

You find what is going to be on exam, you memorize it, you pass the exam, you forget it.


Because you don't care for knowledge, you just want a diploma.


Because companies don't care for knowledge that university gives (and don't really need it), they just want to see your diploma. If you don't have it, good luck finding a decent job.


Because one who finished the university at least isn't completely dumb and lazy. If you have such a method to filter job applicants, why not use it?

That is how it worked for me. Is it different in countries where higher education is not state-funded?

0AmagicalFishy6yIn this country, we charge students tens of thousands of dollars for that diploma. In fact, at my "public" university, first year students are required to: 1. Live on campus (this comes out to about $700 per-person, per-month, for a very tiny room you share with other people) 2. Purchase a meal plan ($1,000 - $2,500 a semester) Of course, these and all other services (except teaching and research) are privately owned. Otherwise, everything's pretty much the same.
The decline of violence as a lens for understanding effective altruism

from 2012 to 2014, individual violence outweighed group violence by about 9 times. I think it is safe to assume that historically it's at least similar.

I think it is completely different. Take German or Russian statistics over whole 20 century - it will be much closer to historical average.

2alwhite6yCan you provide actual data for this statement? The trend on a global and historical scale has always been downwards, as far as we can tell. And this data spans thousands of years. (see the Pinker video for an overview of that data). This data is suggesting that wars, even the big 2 of the last century, aren't changing the global stats THAT much. The 2012 - 2014 doesn't perfectly represent history but that just means history isn't exactly 9 to 1 for individual to group violence. It could be 8 to 1 or 6 to 1 or even 3 to 1, I don't know that exact number. But I very strongly doubt the ratio flopped to a 1 to 4 ratio. That's a massive change that I don't believe has happened and I need to see real stats before I'll accept a contrary statement. Thus, I still contend the majority of violence is individual (Pinker video supports this idea too).
[Link] The Dominant Life Form In the Cosmos Is Probably Superintelligent Robots

Point is, most likely there aren't any advanced (that is, starfaring, dysonspherebuilding and so on) civilizations at all.

7passive_fist6yMore and more (as we continue to move up the ladder of technological progress) this is seeming like a valid and plausible hypothesis. Which is very disconcerting to me.
Open thread, Dec. 1 - Dec. 7, 2014

So what do you think about the conditions of human life over, say, the next 300 years?

By modern standarts it will be worse than present. This is how social change works.

Open thread, Nov. 3 - Nov. 9, 2014

Nobody has plans (in business meaning of term) to mine helium-3 on Moon. This idea was first proposed by Gerald Kulcinski in 1989. He gave very optimistic predictions regarging D-He3 fusion, underestimated cost of lunar mining and ignored possibility of specialized reactors for producing He3. Since then idea is pushed by space advocates.

Open thread, Nov. 3 - Nov. 9, 2014

Mining helium-3 on the Moon does not make slightest sense. It can be manufactured from lithium for a little fraction of that cost.

0[anonymous]7yRude tone without a source to back it up, tsk tsk :)
Open thread, Nov. 3 - Nov. 9, 2014

Strictly economic? There are none.

At least a tiny bit plausible? The same sort of legislation that made renewable energy profitable in some countries. That is, huge taxes on earthbound industry and big subsidies for spacebound.

Recovery Manual for Civilization

I think a better question is why would people try to rebuild civilization. Industrial revolution was driven by economic factors which are certainly not applicable in this case, unless you mean waiting until population rises to 1800 - level again.

2014 Less Wrong Census/Survey

Done, without finger question.

Open thread, Oct. 6 - Oct. 12, 2014

Historian David Wootton argues that until mid-19th century and the discovery of germ theory physicians did more >harm than good to their patients. Nowadays most people expect positive results when they go to the doctor.

This raises two questions:

1) Why, despite this, doctor was in general respected and well-paid profession?

2) What would have happened if use of statistics in medicine became widespread before germ theory. Could it lead to ban on medicine?

1) Why, despite this, doctor was in general respected and well-paid profession?

The faith-healing preacher, the witch-doctor, and the traditional healer are respected professions in the cultures where they occur. The Hippocratic physician was basically the traditional healer of Western civilization. He offered interventions that might kill, might cure, and were certainly impressive.

(It's worth noting that surgery was not within the traditional province of physicians. The original Hippocratic oath forbids physicians from doing surgery since they were not trained in it.)

Open thread, Sept. 29 - Oct.5, 2014

That means you are looking at a cost of 20 trillion$.

So? Obviously this means war-time economy and devoting industry to making nukes. Point is that it can be done in principle. Also, major part of nuke's cost is plutonium, and it's production is strongly affected by economies of scale. 5 trillion$ would be more reasonable estimate.

Given that the amount of cheaply minable uranium isn't infinitive the cost is likely more.

Cost of mining uranium is really small compared to cost of building and maintaining reactors.

3ChristianKl7yHow did you get that idea? Quick search for the cost of a single bomb is $20 million [] . That means you are looking at a cost of 20 trillion$. Given that the amount of cheaply minable uranium isn't infinitive the cost is likely more.
Open thread, Sept. 29 - Oct.5, 2014

Why there aren't any serious proposals to ban space colonization?

That is, successful attempt to establish a colony will most likely create society that blames Earth for their misery, and "self-sufficient" colony probably requires nuclear technology (Zubrin's plan states this explicitly). They will have both motive and means to nuke Earth for good. Colonization greatly increases extinction risk, contrary to what space advocates say.

If the reason is like "that is far-future problem", why it does not work for things like nanotechnology (there are organizations that want ban it right now)?

-2shminux7yIf history is any indication, separate cultures tend to end up fighting each other if they want the same resource. Whether space colonies end up in such a situation is unclear, but seems unlikely. There are also religious reasons one culture would try to convert or remove another, and that's a bigger worry. Hopefully establishing hundreds or thousands of colonies would mitigate this risk, since diversity tends to help to stave off extinction.
3polymathwannabe7yThat reveals a lot about where you stand on politics. Sometimes, people mature and stop blaming others for their own shortsightedness. I don't recall the US ever blaming the UK for 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, or Jersey Shore. On a more serious note, the Spanish colonies did fight a war against the Spanish Empire, but it was fought this side of the Atlantic, and it ended when the Spanish left. No Mexican warship has ever bombed the Iberian coastline, nor do they have a reason to do it. Besides, there is more than one way to settle and run a colony. You can become a neglected corner of the Third World, like Spanish America, or a world superpower able to threaten and bully the rest of the world combined, like English America, or an ascending exemplar of soft power, like Portuguese America, or more or less good friends with the mother country, like French America, or never even become independent, like Dutch America. So motives for resentment are not easily predictable. Having nuclear capability for self-sustenance does not equal having capability to build nuclear bombs. Also, you don't know whether the conditions on the planet will be favorable to a nuclear infrastructure: it's very different to settle a territory abundant in hydrothermal energy that doesn't even need nuclear plants (like Iceland), a territory prone to earthquakes where it should be obvious it's stupid to build a nuclear plant (like Japan), or a stable territory where nothing geologically notable ever happens (like Dubai). The risk of pushing our colonies to nuke us out of spite vs. the risk of destroying ourselves at home before we've even reached the stars weighs strongly in favor of launching as many rockets as we physically can.
The Octopus, the Dolphin and Us: a Great Filter tale

What are you building the diving bell out of

For example, out of animal skins. This construction is supported by internal pressure, it does not need strength.

More to the point, why would they want to? What would drive them to do so?

Want exactly what? If "smelt metal", then probably the same as humans, accidentally placing copper or tin ore in furnace. If "having underwater furnace" - it is easier to operate than one placed on raft. If "why use fire at all" - to make watertight pottery.

What are your contrarian views?

Well, I will predict this

would happen if we uploaded Von Neumann's brain onto an extremely fast, planet-sized supercomputer

Very bored Von Neumann.

if we selectively bred humans for intelligence for a couple million years

People that are very good at solving tests which you use to measure intelligence.

The Octopus, the Dolphin and Us: a Great Filter tale

a major showstopper: Iron smelting.

It is not a major problem at all. Given that creatures have hands and can keep them out of water, they can build a bloomery inside a diving bell.

3Azathoth1237yChicken and egg problem. What are you building the diving bell out of?
The Octopus, the Dolphin and Us: a Great Filter tale

First, hunting with stone age weapons is far fom easy. Second, most engineers and scientists are not hunters, noone of them know how to hunt with spear and almost noone with bow. Third, they have no food supplies and so no time to learn. They will survive olny in very favourable conditions, like on tropical island with plenty of shellfish and tortoises (I think most people can hunt those).

1private_messaging7yI were thinking of my experience in Russia where engineers, mathematicians, and physicists absolutely loved going out on various nature trips (Didn't really think of Sheldon and US tv shows). Of course, not everyone did, but we're dropping a huge number of people, and those who know can teach those who don't. Healthy person can go for 2 months without food. Let's say that they spawn on 1kmx1km zone in a grid with 10m spacing, in the temperate climate in the late spring, clothed in earliest stone age clothing (for same reason why we don't spawn dolphins into a desert, we don't spawn people into the Arctic).
The Octopus, the Dolphin and Us: a Great Filter tale

Meanwhile, a planet populated with those same scientists and engineers in human bodies - hell, dog bodies, cat >bodies, elephant bodies - would've had it all sorted out in no time.

Taken literally, no. There will not be any civilization above hunter-gatherers without domesticated plants and animals, and that cannot be done in one generation. Remember that ox and wheat also are human artefacts. Well, realistically (in human variant) most of them will be dead very soon, survivors become nomadic hunters.

1private_messaging7yHunter gatherers had a lot of free time, though. And as for the most of them getting dead very soon... I dunno, wildlife survival is not really that hard in general. We only have wildlife left in the regions where it's very hard for humans to live, so if you drop people into the remaining regions of wilderness, they don't fare very well. And we didn't start on the wheat cultivation with the grand plan of going to the moon, we did that because the wheat as it was naturally gave huge and immediate benefits. I don't think you'd end up with a culture resembling any culture that existed in history. You have those smartest engineers and scientists, who already know how to make bows, steel, glass, firearms, electrical generators, and so on, and once settled in, they have a lot of free time (because there's a ton of wildlife - buffalo herds, passenger pigeons, all that other easy to kill stuff that's extinct - which will take many generations to deplete. They're not in the modern day wilderness in the region where people can barely survive and almost all the food is extinct. They're the new predator).
The Octopus, the Dolphin and Us: a Great Filter tale

No they cant. For example to make copper you need copper mine workers, smeltery workers, woodcutters, charcoal burners, wagon drivers to transport wood, ore and coal, carpenters to make wagons, builders to build mine and smeltery and farmers to feed them. That is impossible for population less then few thousands at least. Industry nesessary to make a generator requires population in millions.

1private_messaging7yTo make copper, you need copper ore and charcoal and a fire and bellows out of animal hide. Those things weren't produced in a modern industrial manner until something known as "industrial revolution". You had a little town, it had a blacksmith, and the blacksmith could smelt his own iron (and copper, if he has the ore, as copper smelting is pretty easy). You'd be surprised how much technology existed entirely locally within a small village.
The Octopus, the Dolphin and Us: a Great Filter tale

Meanwhile, a planet populated with those same scientists and engineers in human bodies - hell, dog bodies, cat >bodies, elephant bodies - would've had it all sorted out in no time. They'd have steel, electricity, running water, >radio, and so on, in less than a generation - hell even 10 people can do that.

You greatly underestimate population size nesessary for civilization.

1private_messaging7y10 people, of course, can't rebuild the whole civilization, but 10 top scientists and engineers with relevant expertise, given access to the natural resources, can make iron, steel, copper, tooling, build an electric generator, and so on [assuming they don't get eaten by wildlife early on]. Of course, when they die out, it's gone with them - the heavily inbred future generations aren't going to be able to continue that, and probably won't even survive.
9mwengler7y|He is just plain wrong That might be overstating it. In both the articles you cite, some Apes are able to do some exchanges when the situation is set up for them by experimenters. Neither article reports exchanges occurring outside of highly artificial laboratory situations set up by humans, and the 2nd article states right in its abstract that
The Octopus, the Dolphin and Us: a Great Filter tale

Consider the following possibilities for how long it will take for humans to develop AI (friendly or otherwise) if we don't >kill ourselves via viruses, nuclear catastrophe etc.

There are other possibilities. One is simply "never", other is that AI is much less powerful than current predictions tell, third that interstellar travel is impossible, fourth that AI singletons don't reproduce and therefore don't colonize.

Stable totalitarianism has been suggested.

But does not exist.

Another would be a zero privacy world, where anyone could sp

... (read more)
The Great Filter is early, or AI is hard

You are missing at least two options.

First, our knowledge of physics is far from complete, and there can be some reasons that make interstellar colonization just impossible.

Second, consider this: our building technology is vastly better than it was few thousands years ago, and our economic capabilities are much greater. Yet, noone among last century rulers was buried in tomb comparable to Egyptian pyramids. The common reply is that it takes only one expansionist civilization to take over the universe. But number of civilizations is finite, and colonization can be so unattractive that number of expansionists is zero.

An example of deadly non-general AI

I think there can be a specialized AI that predicts human behaviour using just statistical methods, without modelling individual minds at all.

Have people made estimates of how cost-effective these are?

Yes, they did. In real world, "Plus" option means "one more person born in a middle-income country, in a poor and uneducated family". And even that is expensive.

0[anonymous]7yThat might be the most cost-effective Plus option, actually - if you crudely model the cost of one extra birth as proportional to the child's future income, then diminishing marginal utility of income means that it's better to promote births in poorer countries (up to a point). The optimal income level at which to do a Plus intervention (in terms of maximizing the cost-effectiveness of Plus+Minus) depends on the cost of preventing a birth in a poor country. If the cost is high, you'd want Plus to be in a richer country due to the "overhead" of the Minus intervention, but if Minus costs almost nothing, you'd want Plus to be in a country only slightly richer than the Minus country.
Claim: Scenario planning is preferable to quantitative forecasting for understanding and coping with AI progress

Futurists learn nothing from their mistakes. Predicting "human-level AI" from scratch makes just as much sense as predicting humanoid robot servants before PC. To get somewhat more grounded forecast, ask more specific question - namely, when computers will become better AI developers than humans.

Wealth from Self-Replicating Robots


[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
[QUESTION]: Driverless car forecasts

What probability will you give to statement that self-driving cars will never reach that 10% portion?

[QUESTION]: What are your views on climate change, and how did you form them?

What are your current beliefs on climate change? Specifically, would you defer to the view that greenhouse gas forcing is >the main source of long-term climate change? How long-term?

I have no particular opinion about that. I think any specific predictions are more likely wrong then true, especially predictions about climate change economic effects, and catastrophic predictions are almost certainly wrong. I strongly oppose emissions cut policies.

What were your beliefs on climate change when you first came across the subject, and how did your views e

... (read more)
0[anonymous]7yWhat do you think are the reasons you and your country see it as obvious? It doesn't seem obvious to many people.
Quickly passing through the great filter

"Very high probability" of this kind in practice means "always". So either technological progress brings some dangers that just cannot be avoided before building starships is possible, or starships thenselves are not viable.

Quickly passing through the great filter

If "late filter" variant is true, it means interstellar colonization is just impossible, for reasons that can be outside the limits of modern scientific knowledge.

0James_Miller7yand a reason could include that advanced civilizations destroy themselves with very high probability before they can colonize space.
Quickly passing through the great filter

I think "filter" itself is a bad metaphor. It implies that 1) some barrier really exists 2) it can be passed. One of this assumptions is likely wrong.

0James_Miller7y(2) Isn't wrong if the speed of light is really the maximum because then once we have started to colonize the universe our civilization will be beyond the scope of any one disaster and will likely survive until the free energy of the universe runs out
A Parable of Elites and Takeoffs

Encirclement operation works on much bigger scale, "small hole" here is tens of kilometers wide, through a defence line that is also tens of kilometers in depth. Using nukes against tanks makes no sense unless numbers of nukes and tanks are comparable.

Poor accuracy of strategic bombing was because of high altitude. On low altitude these bombers are very easy targets for anti-aircraft artillery (Soviet divisions had lots of it), and dropping nuke is a suicide mission.

Load More