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The Gift We Give To Tomorrow

Most things humans like are super-colorful. Colorful things were probably a good sign of fertile land or some other desirable thing. As to the stars, don't you think the guy who looks up every night and likes what he sees is gonna have a better, more productive life then the guy who looks up and grimaces?

No Universally Compelling Arguments

Eliezer is jousting with Immanuel Kant here, who believed that our rationality would lead us to a supreme categorical imperative, i.e. a bunch of "ought" statements with which everyone with a sufficiently advanced ability to reason would agree.

Kant is of course less than compelling. His "treat people as ends, not just means" is cryptic enough to sound cool but be meaningless. If interpreted to mean that one should weighs the desires of all rational minds equally (the end result of contemplating both passive and active actions as influencing the fulfillment of the desires of others), then it dissolves into utilitarianism.

Fake Selfishness

When we weigh options in our mind, we pick the one that yields the cocktail of chemicals/neurotransmitters that induce the strongest positive response in our reward center. Or rather, the cocktail of chemicals/neurotransmitters that elicits the strongest positive response Is able to pass its signals through to the motor neurons.

A desire to be moral, a desire to avoid pain, a desire to protect kin, all release chemicals.

Seen in this light, the phrase "everything one does is selfish" appears to reduce to "all choices are weighed through one's own neural algorithm." Which is so obvious as to be trivial. The only way to get around this would be to detach your motor neurons from your reward center, and hook them up to a committee of, say, ten other people's reward centers, with the action that receives the highest average response being performed. And the detachment is crucial. You can't just willingly abide by the committee's decision, because your choice to obey would still be passing through your own neural algorithm.

Is this what people mean when they boldly assert that everything a person does is selfish? I don't think so. I think, when looked at like this, the question dissolves.

Just Lose Hope Already

In addition, as Eliezer's earlier post about the math proof shows, if the original reason that led you to believe you could do something was shown to be false, you should almost certainly give up. It's very unlikely you were right for the wrong reasons. If, knowing what you know now, you would never have tried, then you should probably stop.

Don't Believe You'll Self-Deceive

I'm going to go off the assumption that this post is deliberate satire, and say it's brilliant.

"Even if it's not true, I'm going to decide to believe that people can't sincerely self-deceive."

The Fallacy of Gray

But let's really look at the statement "The future will be like the past because in the past the future was like the past."

If by "like the past," do we mean obey the same physical laws?

If we do, then I think what we're trying to estimate is the chance, over a specified time frame, that the physical laws will change.

The problem then reduces to the problem of drawing red and blue marbles out of a hat. We can look at all the available time frames that we have "drawn" up to this point and get a confidence estimate on how likely it is that the physical laws will change over the next "draw" of the time frame

Bayesian Judo

To point 4 and inflation, the trick is to not invest in commodity futures (where the deflationary pressures of improved production technology cancel some of the inflationary pressures of currency devaluation) but rather assets. You can invest in the S&P 500 and achieve ~11% nominal returns. Now whether asset prices are relevant to "inflation" is dependent upon whether you are trying to answer the question of "how many apples could I buy for a dollar in 1960 versus today?" or the question "how many apples could I buy for a dollar today if they were produced with the same inputs and technological process as they were in 1960?"