niplav's Shortform

It's sorta non-obvious. I kinda poked at this for hours, at some point? It took a while for me to settle on a model I liked for this.

Here's the full notes for what I came up with.

Physics: Feels close. Hm... biological life as a self-compiler on a physics substrate?

DNA or gametes seem really close to a "quine" for this: plug it into the right part of an active compiler, and it outputs many instances of its own code + a customized compiler. Although it crashes/gets rejected if the compiler is too different (ex: plant & animal have different regulatory markers & different sugar-related protein modifications).

I don't have a fixed word for the "custom compiler" thing yet ("optimized compiler"? "coopted compiler"? "spawner"? "Q-spawner"?). I have seen analogous stuff in other places, and I'm tempted to call it a somewhat common pattern, though. (ex: vertically-transmitted CS compiler corruption, or viruses producing tumor micro-environments that are more favorable to replicating the virus)

Spiracular's Shortform Feed

Live Parsers and Quines

An unusual mathematical-leaning definition of a living thing.

(Or, to be more precise... a potential living immortal? A replicon? Whatever.)

A self-replicating physical entity with...

3 Core Components:

  • Quine: Contains the code to produce itself
  • Parser: A parser for that code
    • Code includes instructions for the parser; ideally, compressed instructions
  • Power: Actively running (probably on some substrate)
    • Not actively running is death, although for some the death is temporary.
    • Access to resources may be a subcomponent of this?

Additional components:

  • Substrate: A material that can be converted into more self
    • Possibly a multi-step process
    • Access to resources is probably a component of this
  • Translator: Converts quine into power, or vice-versa
    • Not always necessary; sometimes a quine is held as power, not substrate

Parser and Code: the information can actually be stored on either; you can extract the correct complex signal from complete randomness using an arbitrarily-complex parser chosen for that purpose. There are analogies that can be drawn in the other direction, too: a fairly dumb parser can make fairly complicated things, given enough instructions. (Something something Turing Machines)

Ideally, though, they're well-paired and the compression method is something sensible, to reduce complexity.

A quine by itself has only a partial life; it is just its own code, it requires a parser to replicate.

(If you allow for arbitrarily complex parsers, any code could be a quine, if you were willing to search for the right parser.)

Compilers are... parsers? (Or translators?)

It is possible for what was "code" information to be embedded into the parser. I think this is part of what happens when you completely integrate parts in IFS.


Example replicons: A bacterium, a cell, a clonal organism, a pair of opposite-sexed humans (but not a single), self-contained repeating Game of Life automata, the eventual goal of RepRap (a 3D printer fully producing a copy of itself)

Viruses: Sometimes quines, sometimes pre-quine and translator

The distinctive thing about Lisp is that its core is a language defined by writing an interpreter in itself. It wasn't originally intended as a programming language in the ordinary sense. It was meant to be a formal model of computation, an alternative to the Turing machine. If you want to write an interpreter for a language in itself, what's the minimum set of predefined operators you need? The Lisp that John McCarthy invented, or more accurately discovered, is an answer to that question.

-- What I Worked On, Paul Graham

Related: Self-Reference, Post-Irony, Hofstadter's Strange Loop, Turing Machine, Automata (less-so), deconstruction (less-so)

Is Tiddlywiki a quine?

Is a cryonics'd human a quine? (wrt future technology)

The definition of parasite used in Nothing in evolution makes sense except in the light of parasites is literally quines.

(Complex multi-step life-cycle in the T5 case, though?. The quine produced a bare-bones quine-compiling "spawner" when it interacts with the wild-type, and then replicates on that. Almost analogous to CS viruses that infect the compiler, and any future compiler compiled by that compiler.)

Process is Art: Is art that demonstrates how to craft the art, a quine on a human compiler?

Some connection to: Compartmentalization (Black Box Testing, unit tests, separation of software components) and the "swappability" of keeping things general and non-embedded, with clearly-marked and limited interface-surfaces (APIs). Generates pressure against having "arbitrary compilers" in practice.

niplav's Shortform

DNA is a quine, when processed by DNA Replicase.

Although with a sufficiently complex (or specific) compiler or processor, any arbitrary stream of information can be made into a quine.

You can embed information in either of instructions/substrate, or compiler/processor. Quines usually seem limited to describing instructions/substrate, but that's not the only place information can be drawn from. I've kinda come to think of it as 2-term operation (ex: "this bit of quine code is a quine wrt python").

(More physical quines: Ink scribbles on a sheet of paper are a quine wrt a copy-machine. At about the far-end of "replicative complexity gets stored in the processor," you have the "activated button" of a button-making machine (which activates with a button, and outputs buttons in an active state). I think the "activated button" here is either a quine, or almost a quine.)

The cool thing about life is that it it is both a quine, and its own processor. (And also, sorta its own power source.)

I find it simpler to call systems like this "living" (at least while active/functional), since they're meaningfully more than just quines.

Viruses are definitely quines, though. Viruses and plasmids are non-living quines that compile and run on living biological systems.

How You Can Gain Self Control Without "Self-Control"

One little drawback of ThoughtSaver (although I generally like the idea!)...

The fact that I reclustered these right away, means I had better retention for the leaf-related questions but got annoyed whenever the cluster-branch questions came up. Memorizing how you had phrased it was sometimes in conflict with remembering a more useful clustering, for me.

I don't know how to build things that are resilient to this, but I wanted at least some awareness of this problem.

How You Can Gain Self Control Without "Self-Control"

I immediately reclustered your motivational-breakdown into the following:


  • Noticing distractions/impulses
  • Tendency to override distractions/impulses
  • High energy
    • High energy ~ High executive function ~ Agility: ability to deliberately direct or change what you're doing.
    • Separate from staying in flow-state, which basically maps to "momentum." However, initiating a flow-state deliberately can take some energy/agility.


  • Motivated towards healthy goals
  • Unmotivated by unhealthy desires

Pain Attitude

  • Pain tolerance
  • Pain enjoyment
  • Flow state

Time Discounting

  • Low discount on future gratification
  • High discount on future pain

Same low-level leaves, except that I slightly-rephrased lack of desire for unhealthy things, and I added "pain enjoyment" as separate from "pain tolerance." (I experience and model them as distinct things; one is buffer that can be overwhelmed, but the other can become a bona-fide addiction in some people.)

...might also mention that I see flow-state as potentially fitting into ANY of these categories.

This re-clustering maps much better to how I personally would calculate/model these.

Spiracular's Shortform Feed


TAPs are just abbreviated or stunted OODA loops, and I think I prefer some aspects of the OODA phrasing.

OODA: Observe -> Orient -> Decide -> Act (loop)

TAP: Trigger -> Action (Plan/Pattern)

TAPs usually map to "Observe->Act."

Orient loosely means setting up a Model/Metrics/Framework/Attitude.

(This can take anywhere from 1/2 a second to years; wildly variable amounts of time depending on how simple and familiar the problem and system is. TAPs implicitly assume this is one of the simple/fast cases.)

One case where OODA's phrasing is better, is "Attitude TAPs":

"Attitude TAPs" are one of the most valuable TAP types, but are a non-obvious feature of the TAPs framework unless this is explicitly mentioned.

Ex: (from here)"when I'm finding my daily writing difficult, and I'm thinking about quitting, I'll notice that and try to figure out what's going wrong (rather than mindlessly checking Twitter to avoid writing)."

Alternatively, this could be phrased as an abbreviated OODA that cements an "Observe ->Orient" without fixing an action. Personally, I find this a bit cleaner.

[Lecture Club] Awakening from the Meaning Crisis

A bit of context: I ended up with an odd connection between the way he described a "Realness-gauging heuristic," and how Blockchain works, that I wanted to share. This eventually led to the question bubbling up.

Vervaeke mentioned that a problem with some Higher State of Consciousness (HSC) experiences is that some people experience an "Axial Revolution in miniature," and decide that the real world is the dream, and their experience in the altered state was the reality. (Which they usually feel a need to return to, due to what he dubbed a "Platonic meta-drive" towards realness.)

Usually, with altered states (ex: literal dreaming), one ends up treating the altered state as a dream-like subjective experience, and understand your waking-life as reality. In these cases, this seems to get flipped.

To paraphrase Vervaeke...

Realness is the pattern of intelligibility with the widest, richest scope. It makes the most sense of your experience; your beliefs, your memories, etc.

The way I interpret this is that one of the common heuristics to ascertain "realness" is to search for the most extensive, highest-continuity, or most vividly experienced comprehension algorithm that you've ever built.

This calls faintly to mind fork-resolution in blockchains.

For the most part, blockchains branch constantly, but by design turn whatever is the longest and most-developed legal branch into the canonical one*. This is not purely continuous, since this is not always the same chain over time; one can overtake another. As long as it's the the longest, it becomes the "valid" one.

While this is one of the simplest fork-resolution metics to explain, it is not the only one.

Other varieties of forking (ex: a git repo for a software package) may use other canonicity-resolution heuristics. Here's a very common one: for a lot of projects, the most-built one is called an "Alpha" while the canonical version numbers are reserved for branches deemed debugged or "sufficiently stable."

(It is also sometimes possible to provide an avenue for re-integrating or otherwise feeding an off-branch to a main one (ex: uncles), but this can get complicated rather quickly.)

* With the notable exception of hard-forks: a rare event, where there is a social move to quash the validity of a chain in which a substantial misuse has occurred. Coming up with similar cases in history or social reality is left as an exercise for the reader.

[Lecture Club] Awakening from the Meaning Crisis

A question:

What are some of the metrics people use, to judge whether something felt "real?" What are some metrics used to resolve fork-conflicts, between different ways of making sense of the world?

What does it mean, when these are different, and how do you resolve that conflict?

(A few example conflicts: A dream that is obviously not self-consistent, but still makes useful predictions. A vivid memory you have, that none of your friends can recall. A high-confidence intuitive prediction you could make whose certainty colors your perception, but which others insist is based on invalid starting premises.)

[Lecture Club] Awakening from the Meaning Crisis

On a little further thought: "weaker sense of hunger" could be fine or beneficial for some people, and negative for others.

But some people don't seem to be able to undo this change, after doing it. So my advice around it defaults to cautionary, largely for that reason. It's hard to adjust something intelligently after-the-fact, when you can only move a knob easily in 1 direction. (And from my tiny sliver of anecdatums, I think this might be true for at least 1 of the mental-reconfigurations some people can do in this space.)

P.S. "Lonely mouth" is a VASTLY better term (and framing) than "oral fixation." Why the hell did Western Culture* let Freud do this sort of thing to the joint-metaphor-space?

* Do we have a canonical term for "the anthro for decentralized language canon" yet?**

** I get the feeling that a fun (and incredibly-stupid) anthropomorphizing metaphor could easily exist here. New words as offerings, that can be accepted or rejected by facets of Memesis. Descriptivist linguists as the mad prophets of a broken God. Prescriptivists and conlang-users as her ex-paladins or reformers, fallen to the temptations of lawfulness and cursed with his displeasure. An incomplete reification for "Language as They Are," in contrast to the platonic construct of an "Orderly Language that Could Be."

[Lecture Club] Awakening from the Meaning Crisis

I do know at least 1 person (...maybe 2, from another "bad childhood" case) who completely lost touch with their ability to detect their own hunger, and had to rely on social conventions to remember to eat.

(This person's childhood was awful. I think they had been stuck in a lot of situations where they couldn't satisfy their need for food through the "having" frame. While it might be impossible to not need food, it is possible for someone to adjust to not want or think about food much.)

This person was otherwise incredibly well-adjusted*, but the "no sense of hunger" thing stuck.

Do not recommend, btw. It seems to be something that is very hard to unlearn, once acquired. In the absence of other people, "timers" or "actual wooziness" were the shitty secondary indicators these people came to rely on.

* This one was well-adjusted compared to most people, period.**

** Given what he went through, this struck me as an unusual (but pleasant!) surprise. This person's life was far more difficult than most. But he seemed to be able to view a lot of his tragedies as statistics, and he still found it worth living. Had an incredible knack for making found-family, which probably helped.

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