lsusr's Comments

[Poll] 'Truth' vs 'Winning'

It sounds like you are concerned about hypothetical situations that test the limits of philosophical ideas whereas Zack_M_Davis and I are concerned about real-world situations that happen all the time.

Fair enough. Let us dive into the fantastical. Suppose we lived in a world like you describe.

Slightly reducing one's own knowledge to prevent massive harm to others is the moral imperative. I don't think anyone here would disagree. But I don't think that's the fundamental problem either. The interesting question is whether you're willing to deceive yourself to achieve moderate instrumental ends.

Suppose there was an invisible monster that ate anyone who knew it existed. If I accidentally discovered this monster then I would want to forget that knowledge in order to protect my life.

But I would not want to replace this knowledge with a false belief. Such a false belief could get me into trouble in other ways. I would also want to preserve the knowledge in some form.

What follows is a passage from Luna Lovegood and the Chamber of Secrets.

Luna daydreamed a lot. She often found herself in rooms with little memory of how she got there. It was rare for her to find herself in a room with literally no memory of how she got there.

"I've just been obliviated, haven't I?" Luna said.

"You rushed in here and pleaded for me to erase your memory," Professor Lapsusa said.


"It is a crime for a professor to modify the memory of a student. And for good reason. No. I have never magically tampered with your mind and I will never do so."

Luna's felt like she had just run up several flights of stairs. She was breathing quickly. Sweat soaked from her fingertips into the diary she was holding.

"Have I been possessed?" Luna asked.

"No," Lapsusa said.

Lapsusa waited for Luna to work it out.

"This book I'm holding. Is it magicial?" Luna asked.

Lapsusa smiled.

"It is a tool for self-obliviation then," Luna said.

"Diaries store memories," Lapsusa said.

"Where did it come from?" Luna asked.

Lapsusa winked.

"Thank you," Luna said.

"You are welcome," Lapsusa said.

"Have you ever read it?" Luna asked.

Lapsusa looked out the window.

[Poll] 'Truth' vs 'Winning'

In my personal life, I've observed that self-deception is related to one's ability to deceive others. Narcissism is a less contrived conflict between instrumental and epistemic rationality.

The narcissists I know who genuinely self-deceive (as opposed to mere doublethink) tend to be unhappy, unstable and unproductive. But…they also have a superficial charisma. Evolutionarily-speaking, I think this is a Nash equilibrium.

I think self-deception is instrumental in acting unethically for one's own self-interest. In this way, believing false things can help achieve your evolution's goals.

Forget about humans and think about how to build an idealized agent out of mechanical parts. How do you expect your AI to choose actions that achieve its goals, except by modeling the world, and using the model to compute which actions will have what effects?

The AI depends on epistemic rationality to achieve its goals. Instrumental rationality at the expense of epistemic rationality may help the AI achieve yours.

[Poll] 'Truth' vs 'Winning'

For philosophical questions like this, I think there should always be a "the question is malformed" option, distinct from "unsure/no preference". Surveyees need a way to express their opinion that the question is wrong.

As for having more polls, it depends what the polls are on. With this question, I do not care very much how other people vote. I am curious about the underlying logic, which isn't something you can see in a poll. On the other hand, I am curious about this site's demographics.

[Poll] 'Truth' vs 'Winning'

Epistemic rationality depends on absolute truth. Instrumental rationality depends on well-defined values. I believe in absolute truth. My values are context-dependent; they drift with time. I believe I do not have well-defined values. When forced to choose between epistemic rationality and instrumental rationality, I consistently choose epistemic rationality because it has a solid foundation.

Bogus Exam Questions

I once counted the number of facts per minute in a psychology lecture and a chemistry lecture at the same university. The information density differed by an order of magnitude. This wasn't because the subject with harder individual facts had fewer of them. It was the other way around.

Predictive coding and motor control

I am sufficiently convinced that predictive coding is a worthwhile theory to explore. I want to understand it on the lower level, as an analog electrical computer. Are you aware of good sources that go into predictive coding with mathematical precision? Surfing Uncertainty seems to be written at too high a level for this task.

[Book Review] The Trouble with Physics

"Definitely"? No. I wouldn't even be surprised if True Fundamental Laws of Physics could be fit into string theory. Its just that string theory has too many degrees of freedom to be interesting, particularly when compared to the derivation of color forces and electromagnetism in quantum field theory.

lc's Shortform

The mandatory sign-up is a major obstacle to new users. I'm not going to create an account on a website until it has already proven value to me.

Pessimism over AGI/ASI causing psychological distress?

What if an AGI arms race leads to war & the Chinese (or Russians) win? Could they assign the AGI the goal of causing suffering as a way to 'punish' westerners (or to follow through with some type of blackmail)?

Suppose we flipped the flags around. The USA is the world leader in AI. The USA has a record of pursuing punitive action against defeated foes. It has a history of torture, genocide, concentration camps and bombing (nuclear + incendiary) civilian populations. Are you worried that the United States might win an AGI arms race and use it to torture Chinese and Russian civilians?

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