Wiki Contributions


Brave New World comes to mind. I've often been a little confused when people say creating people who are happy with their role in life is a dystopia when that sounds like the goal to me. Creating sentient minds that are happy with their life seems much better than creating them randomly.

I really enjoyed this, but to be honest I didn't understand the part about the models. I'm not sure if there was a message I should take on board there or if it was just for fun.

I have thought about a little about the dynamics of "I'll do a bad thing if you do a bad thing". When I was trying to stop myself from engaging in a habit I was trying to cut out, I promised myself I'd donate $10 to Donald Trump's election campaign (bad, from my perspective) each time I did the thing. I never did, but I wonder if I would have if it cam to it. I think maybe yes I would/should have, because then that would really make me not want to do the thing again. In this case I'm representing both actors in the above short story, and convincing myself I'd follow through. 

Another time I was trying to stop drinking alcohol to save money, and promised myself I'd donate $10 to a good charity every night I was out but didn't drink. This worked really well - I was net saving money and also donating money to good causes. 

In both of these cases, I had no public accountability. I have taken a public giving pledge and posted it on my website, which gives me some accountability, though I guess the only cost to not following through on this is a hit to my credibility(?).

The weirdest thing I was able to get Bing Chat to do was:

I had it write a short story, and halfway through writing it, it deleted what it has written so far (several hundred words) and said it didn't want to talk about this topic anymore. I'm not sure if it accidentally hit some kind of trigger for a taboo topic. Unfortunately I wasn't reading as it went so am not sure what happened. I haven't been able to recreate this.

Thanks! Do you have any particular strategy behind your reuse? I have a few bags I rotate by putting masks in, and leaving at least 10 days between when I put the last mask in a bag to when I start using ones from that bag again. 

Thanks for sharing, I hadn't seen these before and will try them. Do you reuse them?

To latch on to something else from your post, it's interesting to hear some people observe that they have more trouble breathing with some masks than others, or with masks than no masks, while others don't. Personally, I haven't noticed any difference, and do a lot of sporting activities (bouldering, jogging 10km) with a mask without feeling like it makes a difference.

Because dressing nice makes your vibes better and people treat you better and are more willing to accommodate your requests.


This is probably the part of the case for dressing nicely I find compelling, but to be fair it's a big one. Beyond this and signalling, what other reasons are there that people wear nice/expensive clothes?

Anecdotally, the one time I wore a blazer for a flight (because I heard that you're more likely to be bumped to business class), a stranger asked me if I'd like to be their free plus one for their airlines' lounge. Relatedly, I'll be flying for the first time since getting my PhD in a few months. I've heard that doctors get treated better by airlines (maybe because they assume they are all medical doctors and would be useful in an emergency?). I see my 'Dr' title in a similar lens as nice clothes. I don't really care much about it, but it can be useful and help me achieve my goals, so I should probably get over my mild discomfort with seeming a bit 'wanky' by using my title. I've already noticed that people think you're smarter about things unrelated to your research just because you're doing a PhD.

It surprises me a little that there hasn't been more work on working backwards in Life. Perhaps it's just too hard/not useful given the number of possible X-1 time slices.

With the smiley face example, there could be a very large number of combinations for the squares outside the smiley face at X-1 which result in the same empty grid space (i.e. many possible self-destructing patterns).

I'm unreasonably fond of brute forcing problems like these. I don't know if I'd have anything useful to say on this topic that I haven't already, but I'm interested to follow this work. I think this is a fascinating analogy for the control problem.

Edit - It just occurred to me, thanks to a friend, that instead of reverse engineering the desired state, it might be easier to just randomise the inputs until you get the outcome you want (not sure why this didn't occur to me). Still very intensive, but perhaps easier.

That's true, but would I be right in saying that as long as there are no Garden of Eden states, you could in theory at least generate one possible prior state?

I really enjoyed this read, thanks. I'm an enjoyer of Life from afar so there may be a trivial answer to this question.

Is it possible to reverse engineer a state in Life? E.g., for time state X, can you easily determine a possible time state X-1? I know that multiple X-1 time states can lead to the same X time state, but is it possible to generate one? Can you reverse engineer any possible X-100 time state for a given time state X? I ask because I wonder if you could generate an X-(10^60) time state on a 10^30 by 10^30 grid where time state X is a large smiley face.

This almost certainly wouldn't give you a 10^20 by 10^20 corner that generates a smiley face for all or even a small fraction of iterations of the rest of the grid. But perhaps you could randomise the reverse engineering and keep generating X-(10^60) states until you get one that creates a smiley face for the greatest number of 10^30 by 10^30 states (randomly generating that part of the grid and running it for 10^60 steps), then call that your solution to the control problem

I used the numbers from your example in mine, but perhaps one could demonstrate this with a much smaller grid. Say for example, a 10^2 by 10^2 grid with 10^5 time steps, and reverse engineer a smiley face.

This might be a way of brute forcing the control problem, so to speak. Proving it is possible in a smaller grid might show it's possible with larger grids.

This is cool! I came across EA in early 2015, and I've sometimes been curious about what happened in the years before then. Books like The Most Good You Can Do sometimes incidentally give anecdotes, but I haven't seen a complete picture in one public place. Not to toot our own horn too much, but I wonder if there will one day be a documentary about the movement itself, and how positive it would be (easy to paint EA as a cult, for example).

Load More