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A LessWrong Crypto Autopsy

Thanks for rubbing salt in the wound. (Only a tiny bit serious.)

Back when mining was possible on a standard desktop computer I mined a block in my first week, and received 50 bitcoins. A couple years later, I found that bitcoins were trading at the mind-blowing sum of $1 each, and cashed in. (In my pitifully weak defense, I was really short on money at the time.)

If I had done something sensible, like sold a few each time the price went up 10x, I'd have a pile of cash and probably some bitcoins left.

Weep for me, oh ye internets.

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Open Thread April 2019

"Neural Networks for Modeling Source Code Edits"

Seems like a fascinating line of inquiry, though possibly problematic from the perspective of unaligned AI self-improvement.

5ryan_b2yFollowing on that: "Mathematical Reasoning Abilities of Neural Models," [] They have proposed a procedurally-generated data set for testing whether a model is capable of the same types of mathematical reasoning as humans.
Ideas ahead of their time

Good point. I really could have done a better job of getting my point across.

Ideas ahead of their time

Ideas that might pan out are generally plausible now given the evidence available, even if they cannot be proved, whereas bogus, crank ideas generally ignore what we know to claim something contradictory.

I think this is an important point to recognize. If an idea agrees with observation but makes predictions that can't currently be tested, it should be given more consideration than an idea which contradicts existing observations.

Ideas ahead of their time

To start with, the idea as it's expressed is wrong. The objects on the sky that we call planets are proper planets and not stars or moons.

I disagree, but perhaps I was not clear enough in my description of the idea. In particular I was not using the modern definitions of sun, star, moon, and planet. The ancient definition of "planet" was an object that wanders across the sky. Also, by "moon" I was trying to mean a body which shines by reflected light rather than producing light of its own like the sun does.

I do like your suggestion to look at mathematics for how to deal with statements whose truth is unknown.

3ChristianKl2yIf you care about ancient definition, shining light by reflection doesn't seem to be a popular way to think about moons.
Ideas ahead of their time

That's an interesting point of view. It makes me wonder if there's a useful definition of consciousness along the same vein as the "negative entropy" definition of life (meaning something is alive if it reverses entropy in its local environment).

1Pattern2yThere's a theory called IIT which Scott Aaronson rejected [] because he didn't think "every time you start up your DVD player you’re lighting the fire of consciousness."
What are the advantages and disadvantages of knowing your own IQ?

An advantage I have found of knowing my IQ is that I can consider the normal distribution of IQ scores and determine roughly how many people are smarter than I am in a given population (such as the city I live in, or the surrounding metropolitan area). In particular, it helps me to understand why I'm typically the smartest person in any particular group I participate in, but also reminds me that there are a large number of people smarter than I am within convenient travel distance, despite our social circles not obviously overlapping.

Ideas ahead of their time

The problem is that the visionary ideas ahead of their time are indistinguishable from the crank ones

Expressed very succinctly, thank you.

I suppose what I'm really wondering is whether there's some feature which can be perceived in the structure of the idea and its ramifications which indicate that it is on the right track, which would distinguish it from crank. Clearly there's nothing obvious or someone would have found it by now and made a bunch of correct predictions a long time ago. Still, it makes me wonder if there's something remaining to be found there.

5shminux2yI have a physics degree and ran the Freenode #physics channel for a few years, and so had to deal with a lot of crackpots. It's easy to tell the obvious nonsense (it raises a lot of standard red flags, like proclaiming a well tested model wrong) but within a well informed professional community ideas ahead of their time are very hard to tell apart from the chaff. Is Tipler's Omega point [] nonsense? Is AI fooming nonsense? Is Tegmark's multiverse nonsense? Is string theory? If you read Not Even Wrong [], you can get some idea how hard it is to tell promising ideas apart from the rest.
3Pattern2ySome things are dismissed as crank because of assumptions people make. Like "there's no way stars could be that far away!"
Ideas ahead of their time

Even if someone HAD postulated that there existed a distance so great that the sun would look like a point, and that our stars might be suns to them, they wouldn't be "right" in any useful sense of the word. There are zero predictions nor behavior changes to make based on that hypothesis.

On the one hand, I agree that beliefs should guide our expectations and in general should be required to "pay rent" as in the post you reference. On the other hand, truth is truth, regardless of whether it can be perceived as such. I am reminded of https://www.readthese

... (read more)
Ideas ahead of their time

My apologies, it's the best I could come up with. I'm open to suggestions.

4Raemon2yNod. I don't actually have one, and it may be that this sort of post is actually best suited for a (not currently existent) short form feed, where things don't need to have titles.
5Ikaxas2yAs one suggestion, how about something along the lines of "Ideas ahead of their time"?
Open Thread September 2018

This article seems to have some bearing on decision theory, but I don't know enough about it or quantum mechanics to say what that bearing might be.

I'd be interested to know others' take on the article.

3Pattern3ySomeone made a post [] on it.
7Mitchell_Porter3yIt's a minor new quantum thought experiment which, as often happens, is being used to promote dumb sensational views about the meaning or implications of quantum mechanics. There's a kind of two-observer entangled system (as in "Hardy's paradox"), and then they say, let's also quantum-erase or recohere one of the observers so that there is no trace of their measurement ever having occurred, and then they get some kind of contradictory expectations with respect to the measurements of the two observers. Undoing a quantum measurement in the way they propose is akin to squirting perfume from a bottle, then smelling it, and then having all the molecules in the air happening to knock all the perfume molecules back into the bottle, and fluctuations in your brain erasing the memory of the smell. Classically that's possible but utterly unlikely, and exactly the same may be said of undoing a macroscopic quantum measurement, which requires the decohered branches of the wavefunction (corresponding to different measurement outcomes) to then separately evolve so as to converge on the same state and recohere. Without even analyzing anything in detail, it is hardly surprising that if an observer is subjected to such a highly artificial process, designed to undo a physical event in its totality, then the observer's inferences are going to be skewed somehow. So, you do all this and the observers differ in their quantum predictions somehow. In their first interpretation (2016), Frauchiger and Renner said that this proves many worlds. Now (2018), they say it proves that quantum mechanics can't describe itself. Maybe if they try a third time, they'll hit on the idea that one of the observers is just wrong.
Reality versus Human Expectations

The Stoical scheme of supplying our wants by lopping off our desires, is like cutting off our feet when we want shoes.

Lovely quote, thank you.

Reality versus Human Expectations

In that case, how do you handle the problem of humans wanting the "wrong" things? (Meaning people wanting things that ultimately result in bad outcomes for themselves or others.)

Would altering reality so it more closely aligns with the humans' desires include avoiding negative consequences, side effects, and externalities?

2Richard_Kennaway3yYou can always come up with exceptions to general rules. Yes, these issues would have to be handled. How they might be handled is not something that strikes me as useful to talk about in the present context, which is concerned with very general and abstract scenarios, and which, in general, are preferable to which others. Generally speaking, I agree with Swift's likening of avoiding suffering by cutting off one's desires to cutting off one's feet because one lacks shoes.
Reality versus Human Expectations

I think that's my choice as well. Humans expectations are much narrower than reality appears to be. If reality conformed to human expectation then no one would ever be surprised, which I think would be sad.

Reality versus Human Expectations

So of the expanded options, which would you choose?

2Richard_Kennaway3y3, 3a, and 3b.
Physics question (slightly off-topic)

Perhaps there is nothing which it is like to be a bat.

Rationality Quotes: June 2011

There is a lot to be gained by delegating to a central authority the responsibility of maintaining a credible threat of retaliation.

Rationality Quotes: May 2011

In the book, it's presented as a translation from the neo-dolphin language Trinary. I expect the resemblence to haiku is intentional.

Rationality Quotes: May 2011

I'll take the upvotes here as a request for explanation.

I see two things in the poem. The first that occurred to me was the best way to predict the future is to create it. The second is related: Observe the situation and put yourself in the best position to affect or determine the outcome.

0[anonymous]8yFrom the context in the book, I always thought it was a sort of gentle Zen-esque admonishment. "Why are you worrying over hypotheticals and subjunctives? Get busy doing or get busy dying."
6wedrifid10yThat is something to quote. :)
Rationality Quotes: May 2011

Where does a ball alight,
Falling through the bright midair?
Hit it with your snout!

-- unnamed neo-dolphin poet, Uplift War by David Brin

1Desrtopa10yIs this supposed to be a haiku? It almost is one, but it's off by one syllable.
7wedrifid10yWhat the?
Inverse Speed

Thank you for that humorous insight. I am entertained by the knowledge that my car has a fuel efficiency of 0.0784 mm^2.

Rationality quotes: September 2010

One can't proceed from the informal to the formal by formal means. Yet.

(Apologies to Alan Perlis etc)

Rationality Quotes: July 2010

...pain is far stronger than necessary as a warning sign.

It seems pretty clear to me that this was not true in our ancestral environment. It may be the case in our present artificially benign environment however.

1WrongBot11yThat is precisely what I mean; but also note that there are circumstances in the ancestral environment in which pain is entirely useless, such as when one has been mortally wounded. So even in the worst case we can do better than pain, and in the current case I suspect we can do much, much better.
Rationality Quotes: July 2010

I think it would be more clear if it included the previous sentence:

Clearly, scientific education ought to mean the implanting of a rational, sceptical, experimental habit of mind.

Or perhaps just substituting "[Scientific education]" for "It".

Rationality Quotes: July 2010

[context added]

Rats had featured largely in the history of Ankh-Morpork. Shortly before the Patrician came to power there was a terrible plague of rats. The city council countered it by offering twenty pence for every rat tail. This did, for a week or two, reduce the number of rats--and then people were suddenly queing up with tails, the city treasury was being drained, and no one seemed to be doing much work. And there still seemed to be a lot of rats around.

Lord Vetinari had listened carefully while the problem was explained, and had solved the thing w

... (read more)
1mattnewport11yNeeds more context.
Open Thread June 2010, Part 2

I find a meditation-like focus on my breathing and heartbeat to be a very effective way to fall asleep when my thoughts are keeping me awake.

Rationality quotes: June 2010

"I accidentally changed my mind."

my four-year-old

0JoshuaZ11yWell, that hopefully lead to a teaching moment...
Rationality quotes: May 2010

I had a similar problem when I read Feynman's QED. His explanation felt so simple and easy to understand when I read it, but when I tried to explain it to someone else I couldn't make it make sense.

Rationality Quotes: February 2010

It's bad luck to be superstitious.

Normal Cryonics

Over time, wealth eventually causes the cultural changes we call "moral progress".

This seems a non-sequitur to me. There are a number of examples where wealth and moral progress are found together, but there are also examples where they are not. China and oil-rich Arab states come to mind.

3knb11yCulture changes slowly, but economic growth can happen quickly. China is still quite poor, first of all, but it still seems that significant moral progress has occurred in China, and in only 30 years or so. The wealthier Arab states are still pretty regressive, but we must consider how bad they used to be. For instance, as recently as the 1950s, 20% of the population of Saudi Arabia were slaves.
A Nightmare for Eliezer

This raises an interesting question: If you received a contact of this sort, how would you make sure it wasn't a hoax? Assuming the AI in question is roughly human-level, what could it do to convince you?

3Eliezer Yudkowsky12yWhy yes, as a matter of fact, I previously came up with a very simple one-sentence test along these lines which I am not going to post here for obvious reasons. Here's a different test that would also work, if I'd previously memorized the answer: "5 decimal digits of pi starting at the 243rd digit!" Although it might be too obvious, and now that I've posted it here, it wouldn't work in any case.
2[anonymous]12yMy first thought: Arrange Gregor Richards' Opus 11 for two guitars and play it to me. Play Bach's 'Little' Fugue in G minor in the style of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's 'Wizards in Winter'. Okay, you pass. Doing these things in real time would be extremely difficult for a human. Unfortunately, it might be extremely difficult for this AI as well.
7anonym12yAsk it lots of questions that a computer could answer quickly but a human could not, like what's the 51st root of 918798713521644817518758732857199178711 to 20 decimal places. A human wouldn't even be able to remember the original number, let alone calculate the root and start reciting the digits of the answer to you within a few milliseconds; give it 50 URLs to download and read, and ask it questions about them a few seconds later, etc.
1Madbadger12yIndeed, this is part of the nightmare. It might be a hoax, or even an aspiring UnFriendly AI trying to use him as an escape loophole.
Rationality Quotes: October 2009

"I can't see it, so you must be wrong."

my four-year-old

Rationality Quotes: October 2009

"Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives."

The Amazing Criswell

The Finale of the Ultimate Meta Mega Crossover

Incidentally, my favorite cameo in the all-cameo cast of dozens.

Quantum Russian Roulette

If mangled worlds is correct (and I understand it correctly), then sufficiently improbable events fail to happen at all. What kind of limit would this place on the problems you can solve with "quantum suicide voodoo"?

Some counterevidence for human sociobiology

An important consideration is that our society has a very strong taboo against polygyny.

The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You

It's ok. The orange juice vouched for the cereal.

4shopsinc12yWell that's the problem isn't it? You absolutely believe that you are talking to an AI.
The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You

Some of the people you believe are dead are actually alive, but no matter how hard they try to get other people to notice them, their actions are immediately forgotten and any changes caused by those actions are rationalized away.

Fabulous story idea.

1Magnap6yIt is a power of the witches in Lyra's world in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials".
4emhs8yThere's a character in Worm [] that has this power. People don't think of her as dead, but her power allows her to be immediately forgotten, and exude a SEP field while it's active. Some people are immune to it, but it's kinda awesome.

Actually, it was used in Terry Pratchett's ``Mort''.

1NihilCredo11yIt was actually an occasional fantasy of mine to be able to switch to such a state and then figure out how much fun I could have. The ultimate freedom - have your meals by stealing a king's plate, enjoy sports matches from the middle of the field, go listen to what they really talk about in the UN backroom deals, slap [insert disliked celebrity] ten times a day, joyride a fighter jet...
The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You

There is a simple way to rapidly disrupt any social structure. The selection pressure which made humans unable to realize this is no longer present.

Rationality Quotes - April 2009

When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice. Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for med... (read more)

1thomblake12yWelcome! Don't forget to post on the welcome thread []