All of Laura B's Comments + Replies

We recently gave our 9-year old a 'kid license' attached to a tile to take around when he runs errands.  He's had not trouble with anything other than one store refusing to sell him cookies on the basis that they didn't think his mother would approve.  He really loves the independence.  I've given him a cell-phone in a fanny-pack to take when going someplace new, but he doesn't want to take the cell phone most of the time.  Of course we can't do this with our 6-year old, both because he is clearly not mature enough, and even if he was, I'm pretty sure strangers would object.

To what extent are people burning themselves out, vs using what they're doing as an excuse not to perform effortful and sometimes unpleasant mental and physical hygiene?  My understanding is this is a crowd prone to depression anyway, and failing to engage in self-care is a pretty common.  IE - if these people were working on something else, would we expect them to burn long-term resources anyway?

A bunch of people have told me they got worse at having serious/effortful intellectual hobbies, and at "hanging out", after getting worried about AI.  I did, for many long years.  Doesn't mean it's not an "excuse"; I agree it would be good to try to get detailed pictures of the causal structure if we can.

I notice that as someone without domain specific knowledge of this area, that Paul's article seems to fill my model of a reality-shaped hole better than Eliezer's.  This may just be an artifact of the specific use of language and detail that Paul provides which Eliezer does not, and Eliezer may have specific things he could say about all of these things and is not choosing to do so.  Paul's response at least makes it clear to me that people, like me, without domain specific knowledge are prone to being pulled psychologically by use of language in... (read more)

It was interesting to re-read this article 2 years later.  It reminds me that I am generally working with a unique subset of the population, which is not fully representative of human psychology.  That being said, I believe this article is misleading in important ways, which should be clarified.  The article focused too much on class, and it is hard to see it as anything but classist. While I wrote an addendum at the end, this really should have been incorporated into the entire article and not tacked on, as the conclusions one would re... (read more)

"That was when close friends started delicately checking to see if I was “okay.” "

I would suggest seeing some of your close friends in person and seeing if they think you are ok instead of 'reassuring' them that you are fine. Your 'explanation' is not at all reassuring on this front. The whole incident seems out of character from what I remember of you, and I'm guessing your friends are right to be concerned. I recommend not writing more in public forums for the time being.

Hey Laura, would love to talk by Skype if you are free. See my note to Ray below.
Seconding this. I hope I'm not overstepping bounds if I ask that anyone who knows him personally checks in on him.

There is a lot of arguing in the comments about what the 'tradeoffs' are for individuals in the scientific community and whether making those tradeoffs is reasonable. I think what's key in the quoted article is that fraudsters are trading so much for so little. They are actively obscuring and destroying scientific progress while contributing to the norm of obscuring and destroying scientific progress. Potentially preventing cures to diseases, time and life-saving technology, etc. This is REALLY BAD. And for what? A few dollars and an ... (read more)

Using peers in a field as a proxy for good vs. bad behavior doesn't make sense if the entire field is corrupt and destroying value.

This seems to imply that you think that the world would be better off without academia at all. Do you endorse that?

Perhaps you only mean that if the world would be better off without academia at all, and nearly everyone in it is net negative / destroying value, then no one could justify joining it. I can agree with the implication, but I disagree with the premise.

That might be true, but it is very hard for people to make reasoned changes when they are deeply depressed. Depression has real cognitive effects, which people frequently complain about. Depressive reasoning often looks like I SUCK I SUCK I SUCK I SUCK Everything is my fault and I screwed it all up, and I can't fix it, and I can't fix it because I SUCK I SUCK I SUCK. Ok - let me focus for a second - If I change this... I SUCK I SUCK ... Ok, if I change this thing then... why can't I think? Oh right I SUCK I SUCK I SUCK... etc, etc. Getting people out of that pattern is very helpful.

I think there's a "different worlds" thing going on here that might be impeding communication. My experience of people suggesting that maybe I'm depressed is that they think I'm misguided in focusing on changing the underlying conditions of my life or trying to figure out what's wrong. Maybe this is a deep depression vs moderate/mild depression thing. It makes sense to me that someone in the condition you're describing would benefit a lot from taking a pill to free up mental space. But, people I know very well have been prescribed pills to alter their mood without anyone checking whether their mental condition was anything like what you described.

Number 1 is the politically correct thing to say, but was not what I actually observed when working with Medicaid patients. People complained far less about poverty than I (who come from a middle-class upbringing) would have anticipated. People adjust to what they are used to. It's the middle class, with the constant fear of downward mobility, which really suffers from monetary issues. There were some interesting interactions between race and class, which are hard to express without the internet eating me. Being hispanic and poor is very differen... (read more)

The latter. Most 'analysts' today do not consider themselves primarily freudian.

That's why I am asking. Probably because I am not an American or native English speaker, I assume that "psychoanalysis" is just that school of thought, and the therapists I know really want to distance themselves from that Freud's couch image and just say psychotherapy or CBT.

My new practice is only 3 months old, so no one with full on DID yet, though some people have these rando dissociations (which are likely trauma related) I had one patient in my former position with DID. Very interesting case, but hippa lol.

I just read this article from the Atlantic - I wrote the comment first- but I think it eloquently highlights most of these points.

A few thoughts on why people dislike the idea of greatly extending human life:

1) The most obvious reason: people don't understand the difference between lifespan and healthspan. They see many old, enfeebled, miserable people in old folks homes and conclude, 'My God, what has science wrought!' They are at present not wrong.

2) They don't believe it could work. People as they get older start recognizing and coming to terms with mortality. It suffuses everything about their lives, preparations, the way they talk. The second half of a m... (read more)

5) status quo bias. Most people will change they minds the moment the technology is available and cheap. Or rather, they will keep disliking the idea of 'immortality' while profusely consuming anti-aging products without ever noticing the contradiction, because in their minds these will belong in two different realms : grand theories VS everyday life. Those will conjure different images (ubermensch consumed by hubris VS sympathetic grandpa taking his pills to be able to keep playing with his grandkids). Eventually, they'll have to notice that life expectancy has risen well above what was traditionnally accepted, but by then that will be the new status quo. 6) concern about inequalities. The layman has always had the consolation that however rich and powerful someone is, and however evil they are, at least they die like everyone else eventually. But what will happen when some people can escape death indefinitely ? It means that someone who has accumulated power all his life... can keep accumulating power. Patrimony will no more be splitted among heirs. IMO, people would be right to be suspicious that such a game-changing advantage would end up in the hands of a small super-rich class. 7) popular culture has always envisioned the quest for immortality as a faustian bargain. This conditions people against seeing life lengthening as harmless.
1Laura B5y
I just read this article from the Atlantic - I wrote the comment first- but I think it eloquently highlights most of these points.

Sick babies are often too weak to suck much - and this is true even if the baby isn't sick enough to require a nicu stay. If a baby has to be in the hospital - it can be difficult logistically to breastfeed them, and of course if women aren't dedicated to it, they won't maintain milk. My son was required to stay in the nicu for 4 days (for ridiculous reasons - he was fine). I was only allowed to stay in the hospital 2 nights, and I was exhausted and needed to sleep.
I ended up allowing them to feed him formula since my milk was slow to c... (read more)

Ozy - sibling studies have a major problem - they don't take into account the reasons why a mother would breast-feed one child but not the other. If you ask moms about this, they always have an answer, and it is usually something like, 'Josh was very sleepy and just wouldn't suck. We had to give him a bottle to get him to eat at all.' My mother basically gives this exact story for why I was breast-fed and my brother was not.
And my brother had developmental problems and I did not. I don't think this is because he was fed formu... (read more)

I'm confused - the Belarusian study Ozy is talking about wasn't a sibling study, right?

It's a mess. In general poor people are more likely to use formula since they have to go back to work/don't have the same level of indoctrination- oops education - about the benefits of breast feeding, and breast feeding is a lot of work. Then there's the issue that sicker babies often have to be formula fed, because they have weaker sucking reflexes and/or require special high-calorie formula. Multiples are more likely to be formula fed, for obvious reasons. Babies of older mothers are more likely to be formula feed, since older moms pr... (read more)

Why do you believe this? My son is currently in the NICU (born at 25 weeks), and they push breast-feeding extremely hard, even going as far as to make it sound like negligence if you don't attempt to breastfeed (due to higher incidences of NEC in premies, among other reasons). Babies whose mothers can't breastfeed are supplied with donor milk, not formula. When my first son was born (who wasn't a premie or otherwise sick), the nurses and doctors talked as if it were just a matter of personal preference. My experience could be unrepresentative though, so I'd love to see some kind of justification for the above-quoted claim.

There is another interpretation, which is that strong property rights *are* moral. I am currently 80% through Atlas Shrugged, which is a very strong thesis for this interpretation. Basically, when you take away property rights, whether the material kind, the action of one's labor, or the spiritual kind, you give power to those who are best at taking. Ayn Rand presents the results of this kind of thinking, the actions that result, and the society it creates. I strongly recommend you read.

Excellent post with good food for thought. I'm interested to hear more about how people on this blog avoid superstitions.

I agree with Ray - the chapter was too long and spent too many words saying what it was trying to say. I read it in several sittings due to lack of adequate time block nd couldn't find my place, which lead to me losing time and rereading portions and feeling generally frustrated. think the impact would be improved by reducing by a considerable margin.

I agree that this is an important issue we may have to deal with. I think it will be important to separate doing things for the community from doing things for individual members of the community. For example, encouraging people to bring food to a pot luck or volunteer at solstice is different from setting expectations that you help someone with their webpage for work or help out members of the community who facing financial difficulties. I've been surprised by how many times I've had to explain that expecting the community to financially support people... (read more)

Eliezer, Komponisto,

I understand the anxiety issues of, 'Do I have what it takes to accomplish this..."

I don't understand why the existence of someone else who can would damage Eliezer's ego. I can observe that many other people's sense of self is violated if they find out that someone else is better at something they thought they were the best at-- the football champion at HS losing their position at college, etc. However, in order for this to occur, the person needs to 1) in fact misjudge their relative superiority to others, and 2) value the supe... (read more)

Again, I have difficulty understanding why so many people place such a high value on 'intelligence' for its own sake, as opposed to a means to an end. If Eliezer is worried that he does not have enough mathematical intelligence to save the universe from someone else's misdesigned AI, than this is indeed a problem for him, but only because the universe will not be saved. If someone else saves the universe instead, Eliezer should not mind, and should go back to writing sci-fi novels. Why should Eliezer's ego cry at the thought of being upstaged? He shoul... (read more)

Scott: "You have a separate source of self-worth, and it may be too late that you realize that source isn't enough."

Interesting theory of why intelligence might have a negative correlation with interpersonal skills, though it seems like a 'just so story' to me, and I would want more evidence. Here are some alternatives: 'Intelligent children find the games and small-talk of others their own age boring and thus do not engage with them.' 'Stupid children do not understand what intelligent children are trying to tell them or play with them, and th... (read more)

I'm uncertain whether Eliezer-1995 was equating intelligence with the ability to self-optimize for utility (ie intelligence = optimization power) or if he was equating intelligence with utility (intelligence is great in and of itself). I would agree with Crowly that intelligence is just one of many factors influencing the utility an individual gets from his/her existence. There are also multiple kinds of intelligence. Someone with very high interpersonal intelligence and many deep relationships but abyssmal math skills may not want to trade places with... (read more)

Oh, come on, Eliezer, of course you thought of it. ;) However, it might not have been something that bothered you, as in- A) You didn't believe actually having autonomy mattered as long as people feel like they do (ie a Matrix/Nexus situation). I have heard this argued. Would it matter to you if you found out your whole life was a simulation? Some say no. I say yes. Matter of taste perhaps?

B) OR You find it self evident that 'real' autonomy would be extrapolated by the AI as something essential to human happiness, such that an intelligence observing ... (read more)

Ah! I just thought of a great scenario! The Real God Delusion. Talk about wireheading...
So the fAI has succeeded and it actually understands human psychology and their deepest desires and it actually wants to maximize our positive feelings in a balanced way, etc. It has studied humans intently and determines that the best way to make all humans feel best is to create a system of God and heaven- humans are prone to religiosity, it gives them a deep sense of meaning, etc. So our friendly neighbohrhood AI reads all religious texts and observes all ritual... (read more)

I was completely awed by how just totally-mind-blowing-amazing this stuff was the once and only time I tried it. Now, I knew the euphoric-orgasmic state I was in had been induced by a drug, and this knowledge would make me classify it as 'not real happiness,' but if someone had secretly dosed me after saving a life or having sex, I probably would have interpreted it as happiness proper. Sex and love make people happy in a very similar way as cocaine, and don't seem to have the same negative effects as cocaine, but this is probably a dosage issue... (read more)


Excuse my entrance into this discussion so late (I have been away), but I am wondering if you have answered the following questions in previous posts, and if so, which ones.

1) Why do you believe a superintelligence will be necessary for uploading?

2) Why do you believe there possibly ever could be a safe superintelligence of any sort? The more I read about the difficulties of friendly AI, the more hopeless the problem seems, especially considering the large amount of human thought and collaboration that will be necessary. You yourself said there... (read more)

Ok- Eliezer- you are just a human and therefore prone to anger and reaction to said anger, but you, in particular, have a professional responsibility not to come across as excluding people who disagree with you from the discussion and presenting yourself as the final destination of the proverbial buck. We are all in this together. I have only met you in person once, have only had a handful of conversations about you with people who actually know you, and have only been reading this blog for a few months, and yet I get a distinct impression that you have ... (read more)

Oh... I should have read these comments to the end, somehow missed what you said to sophiesdad.

Eliezer... I am very disappointed. This is quite sad.

I should also add:

6) Where do you place the odds of you/your institute creating an unfriendly AI in an attempt to create a friendly one?

7) Do you have any external validation (ie, unassociated with your institute and not currently worshiping you) for this estimate, or does it come exclusively from calculations you made?

Eliezer, I have a few practical questions for you. If you don't want to answer them in this tread, that's fine, but I am curious:

1) Do you believe humans have a chance of achieving uploading without the use of a strong AI? If so, where do you place the odds?

2) Do you believe that uploaded human minds might be capable of improving themselves/increasing their own intelligence within the framework of human preference? If so, where do you place the odds?

3) Do you believe that increased-intelligence-uploaded humans might be able to create an fAI with more su... (read more)

Eliezer- Have you written anything fictional or otherwise about how you envision an ideal post-fAI or post-singularity world? Care to share?

Michael- ah yes, that makes a lot of sense. Of course if the worm's only got 213 neurons, it's not going to have hundreds of neurotransmitters. That being said, it might have quite a few different receptor sub-types and synaptic modification mechanisms. Even so... It would seem theoretically feasible to me for someone to hook up electrodes to each neuron at a time and catalog not only the location and connections of each neuron, but also what the output of each synapse is and what the resulting PSPs are during normal C. elegans behaviors... Now that's s... (read more)

Doug- too much stuff to put into an actual calculation, but I doubt we have complete knowledge, given how little we understand epigentics (iRNA, 22URNAs, and other micro RNAs), synaptic transcription, cytoskeletal transport, microglial roles, the enteric nervous system, native neuro-regeneration, and low and behold, neurotransmitters themselves. The 3rd edition of Kandel I was taught out of as an undergrad said nothing of orexins, histamine, the other roles of meletonin beyond the pineal gland, or the functions of the multifarious set of cannibinoid recep... (read more)

Kennaway- I meant why can't we make something that C. elegans does in the same way that C. elegans does it using it's neural information. Clearly our knowledge must be incomplete in some respect. If we could do that, then imitating not only the size, but the programming of the caterpillar would be much more feasible. At least three complex programs are obvious: 1) crawl -coordinated and changeable sinusoidal motion seems a great way to move, yet the MIT 'caterpillar' is quite laughable in comparison to the dexterity of the real thing, 2)Seek- this invo... (read more)

All of this reminds me of something I read in Robert Sapolski's book "Monkey Luv" (a really fluffy pop-sci book about baboon society, though Sapolski himself in person is quite amazing), about how human populations under different living conditions had almost predictable (at least in hindsight)explicative religions. People living in rainforests with many different creatures struggling at cross-purposes to survive developed polytheistic religions in which gods routinely fought and destroyed each other for their own goals. Desert dwellers (semite... (read more)

I am pleased that you mention that (at present) the human brain is still the best predictor of other humans' behavior, even if we don't understand why (yet). I've always known my intuitions to be very good predictors of what people will do and feel, though it's always been a struggle trying to formalize what I already know into some useful model that could be applied by anyone...

However, I was once told my greatest strength in understanding human behavior was not my intuitions, but my ability to evaluate intuitions as one piece of evidence among others, ... (read more)

You can also replace, "Because you enjoy looking" with "Because you have to look" for many high-power jobs and positions. Dominance-Submission relationships in business and politics are very important to outcome. I would guess that a lot of bad decisions are made because of the necessity of this dance at high levels... how to crush it out? Not easy. Human nature, it would seem.

Why not, I can't help myself: Caledonian = Thersites, Eliezer = Agamemnon

Thersites only clamour’d in the throng,
Loquacious, loud, and turbulent of tongue:
Awed by no shame, by no respect controll’d,
In scandal busy, in reproaches bold:
With witty malice studious to defame,
Scorn all his joy, and laughter all his aim:—
But chief he gloried with licentious style
To lash the great, and monarchs to revile.
Sharp was his voice; which in the shrillest tone,
Thus with injurious taunts attack’d the throne.
Whate’er our master craves submit we must,... (read more)

I have great sympathy with this position. An incorrectly formatted AI is one of the biggest fears of the singularity institute, mainly because there are so many more ways to be way wrong than even slightly right about it... It might be that the task of making an actually friendly AI is just too difficult for anyone, and our efforts should be spent in preventing anyone from creating a generally intelligent AI, in the mean time trying to figure out, with our inperfect human brains and the crude tools at our disposal, how to make uploads ourselves or c... (read more)

Just another point as to why important, meglomeniacal types like Eliezer need to have their motives checked:
Frank Vertosick, in his book "When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales from Neurosurgery," about a profession I am seriously considering, describes what becomes of nearly all people taking such power over life and death:

"He was the master... the 'ptototypical surgical psychopath' - someone who could render a patient quadriplegic in the morning, play golf in the afternoon, and spend the evening fretting about that terrible slice off the sev... (read more)

Unknown: "But it is quite impossible that the complicated calculation in Eliezer's brain should be exactly the same as the one in any of us: and so by our standards, Eliezer's morality is immoral. And this opinion is subjectively objective, i.e. his morality is immoral and would be even if all of us disagreed. So we are all morally obliged to prevent him from inflicting his immoral AI on us"

Well, I would agree with this point if I thought what Eliezer was going to inflict upon us was so out of line with what I want that we would be better off wit... (read more)

Calhedonian: [THIS WOULD GET DELETED]The reason you are unable to make such arguments is that you're unwilling to do any of the rudimentary tasks necessary to do so. You've accomplished nothing but making up names for ill-defined ideas and then acting as though you'd made a breakthrough. On the off-chance that you actually want to contribute something meaningful to the future of humanity, I suggest you take a good, hard look at your other motivations - and the gap between what you've actually accomplished and your espoused goals.[/THIS WOULD GET DELETED]

Th... (read more)

Just because I can't resist, a poem about human failing, the judgment of others we deem weaker than ourselves, and the desire to 'do better.' Can we?

"No Second Troy" WB Yeats, 1916 WHY should I blame her that she filled my days With misery, or that she would of late Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways, Or hurled the little streets upon the great, Had they but courage equal to desire? 5 What could have made her peaceful with a mind That nobleness made simple as a fire, With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind That is not natural in an age like this, Being high and solitary and most stern? 10 Why, what could she have done being what she is? Was there another Troy for her to burn?

I second Behemouth and Nick- what do we do in the mindspace in which individual's feelings of right and wrong disagree? What if some people think retarded children absolutely should NOT be pulled off the track? Also, what about the pastrami-sandwich dilemma? (hat of those who would kill 1 million unknown people with no consequence to themselves for a delicious sandwich?

But generally, I loved the post. You should write another post on 'Adding Up to Normality.'

Oh- back on topic, I think the exploration of metemorality will need to include people who are only softly sociopathic but not 'brain damaged'. Here is an example: An ex-boy-friend of mine claimed to have an 'empathy switch,' by which he had complete and total empathy with the few chosen people he cared about, and complete zero empathy with everyone else. To him, killing millions of people half-way around the world in order to get a super-tasty toasted pastrami and cheese sandwich would be a no-brainer. Kill the mother fuckers! He didn't know them bef... (read more)

I think Caledonian should stay. Even if he does misrepresent Eliezer, he offers an opportunity to correct misconceptions that others might have regarding what Eliezer was trying to say... And on some rare occasions, he is right...

Oh yay! Do tell! I'm very interested to here your metemoral philosophy... Before you started posting on morality, I thought the topic a general waste of time since people would always be arguing cross-purposes, and in the end it was all just atoms anyway... Your explanation of metemorality helps to explain why all these moral philosophies are in disagreement, yet converge on many of the same conclusions, like 'killing for its own sake is wrong' (which people do decide to do- two students from my high school riddled a pizza delivery boy with bullets just to watch him die). I am wondering what universals can be pulled out of this...

When I first started reading the post, I had Keith's reaction, 'Get down to the point!', but I'm now very interested to see where Eliezer is going with this...

Obert: "I rather expect so. I don't think we're all entirely past our childhoods. In some ways the human species itself strikes me as being a sort of toddler in the 'No!' stage."

This in a way explains some of my own questions about my behavior... The first and only time I tried cocaine, I was shocked by just how much I loved it (I had thought it would be like smoking a joint and drinkin... (read more)

TGGP- While JFK's assassination may or may not (LBJ???) have been good for progressivism, RFK's was certainly NOT. Nixon won, and then we had drug schedules, and watergate, and all that bullshit...

Here's a counterfactual to consider: What would the world have been like if Bobby Kennedy had been president instead of Nixon?

Still think it would be a good thing for progressivism if Obama is shot and McCaine becomse prez?

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