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I find this post interesting, because I wonder whether you really have periods where you can't work and therefore must do other things, or whether the other things get in the way of working. My default assumption is that website browsing keeps me from getting work done, because finding a cool website is instant gratification while serious work involves delayed gratification. Similarly, I'm doing national novel writing month right now, and I found my most productive fifteen minutes were when a friend said, out of nowhere, "want to see who can do the most work in 15 minutes?" It may have been the most productive fifteen minutes of my life, because the $0 bet meant doing semi-serious work = instant gratification, rather than the delayed gratification it usually involves.

Caledonian--You forget that in the first encounter with the Borg, they were saved by a shameless deus ex, in which an established character (Q) was made to do openly what writers normally do by contrivance. Don't know whether it's good writing, but it's not as bad as some of the "three thousand, seven hundred and twenty to one!" successes that appear in fiction.

I'll have to give it a try, though I kind of expect to be disappointed. It's ridiculously hard to work through the impact a new technology would really have on society--just remember your own example of transmitting pictures of lesbian sex by pretending they are made of numbers. But maybe I'll be surprised.

Eliezer: Thanks for the link, man.

Silas & Patrick: Don't think this applies only to liberal denominations. If you accept Dennett's idea that even fundamentalism is less about ordinary belief than belief in belief, there's the potential for common knowledge to disrupt religion's function as belief in belief. But it's more obvious in liberal religion.

Steven: Thanks for correcting my terminology. I was doing my best to follow Pinker's usage, but was unsure of this point.


In principle, it seems like AI should be possible. Yet what reason do we have to think we will work it out on any time frame worth discussing? It's worth reflecting on what the holy grail of AI seems to be: creating something that combines the best of human and machine intelligence. This goal only makes sense unless you think they are two very different things. And the differences run deeper than that. We have:

Different driving forces in development: gene survival vs. specific goals of thinking humans Different design styles: a blind watchmaker notorious for jury-rigged products, working over a very long period of time vs. design by people with significant ability to reflect on what they're doing, working over a short period of time Different mechanisms for combining innovations: sex vs. sharing information in a way accessible to minds Different micro-circuitry: digital logic circuits vs. neurons--messy bags of cytosol relying on neurotransmitters, ions, ion channels, all devices with analog behavior *Different overall design vision: Von Neumann architecture vs. nothing so straightforward as von Neumann architecture.

Do you get what I'm saying? Why think that within a few lifetimes we can replicate the fruits of millions of years of evolution, using something entirely different than the thing we're trying to replicate?

Oh, and chew on this: we don't even understand how the nematode worm brain works.

Question: where are these great introductions to relativity you speak of? I've had difficulty with the subject thus far.

But if you followed the physics and anti-Zombie sequences, it should now seem a lot more plausible, that whatever preserves the pattern of synapses, preserves as much of "you" as is preserved from one night's sleep to morning's waking.

Part of the problem here, though, is we don't even have proof-of-concept. We know the freezing process damages the brain, or else we'd already be able to revive people, no problem. Being complicated, the brain tends to get complicated in damaged ways. In spite of our best efforts to provide effective treatments for stroke victims, we don't even understand all the causes of neuronal death in strokes. Almost certainly, freezing and thawing a brain damages it ways we don't understand yet--maybe subtle ways, throwing of biochemical processes in ways that are hard to fix. Is there any reason to think we will ever learn to deal with all of the relevant problems?

Cool, I've always wanted something like this on QM. Question on supplementary reading: any books that you think do an okay, if not great, job explaining it, out there already?