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"The Foresight Institute has the same problem: People want to donate time instead of money, but it's really, really hard to use volunteers. If you know a solution to this, by all means share."

There's always Amazon's Mechanical Turk ( It's an inefficient use of people's time, but it's better than just telling people to go away. If people are reluctant to donate money, you can ask for donations of books- books are actually a fairly liquid asset (

"Among all these comments, I see no appreciation of the fact that the version of many worlds we have just been given CANNOT MAKE PREDICTIONS, whereas "collapse theories" DO."

So far as I know, MWI and collapse both make the exact same predictions, although Eliezer has demonstrated that MWI is much cleaner in theoretical terms. If there's any feasible experiment which can distinguish between the two, I'm sure quantum physicists would already have tried it.

To quote E.T. Jaynes:

"This example shows also that the major premise, “If A then B” expresses B only as a logical consequence of A; and not necessarily a causal physical consequence, which could be effective only at a later time. The rain at 10 AM is not the physical cause of the clouds at 9:45 AM. Nevertheless, the proper logical connection is not in the uncertain causal direction (clouds =⇒ rain), but rather (rain =⇒ clouds) which is certain, although noncausal. We emphasize at the outset that we are concerned here with logical connections, because some discussions and applications of inference have fallen into serious error through failure to see the distinction between logical implication and physical causation. The distinction is analyzed in some depth by H. A. Simon and N. Rescher (1966), who note that all attempts to interpret implication as expressing physical causation founder on the lack of contraposition expressed by the second syllogism (1–2). That is, if we tried to interpret the major premise as “A is the physical cause of B,” then we would hardly be able to accept that “not-B is the physical cause of not-A.” In Chapter 3 we shall see that attempts to interpret plausible inferences in terms of physical causation fare no better."

"The same people who would never blindly accept a Bush Admin figure will blindly accept an anti-Bush figure."

Notice how you assume, without bothering to Google it, that the million-casualties figure was "anti-Bush". If it came from Clinton for President, or MoveOn, or the Democratic Party, you would have a case. In reality, the survey was conducted by Opinion Research Business, an independent polling agency which is not even US-based (their HQ is in London). The same group has published pro-Bush results in the past (eg, see

"The terrorists, with arms, attacked the unarmed. With intent to war, attacked those with no such intent. With planning, attacked those without notice."

Uh, we do this all the time, and nobody here has called us cowardly. Air Force bombers, from thirty thousand feet, routinely drop bombs without prior warning on people who cannot possibly retaliate. Even assuming no civilians are killed (which is almost never the case), insurgents with AK-47s cannot realistically hurt B-52s.

"The big puzzle here is the inverse square of the mutation rate. The example of improvement in a starting population with a randomized genome of maximum variance, which can't be used to send a strongly informative message, doesn't explain the maintenance of nearly all information in a genome."

(hacks program for asexual reproduction)

I've found that, assuming asexual reproduction, the genome's useful information really does scale nice and linearly with the mutation rate. The amount of maintainable information decreases significantly (by a factor the three or so, in the original test data).

"Wei Dai, being able to send 10 bits each with a 60% probability of being correct, is not the same as being able to transmit 6 bits of mathematical information. It would be if you knew which 6 bits would be correct, but you don't."

"Given sexuality and chromosome assortment but no recombination, a species with 100 chromosomes can evolve much faster than an asexual bacterial population!"

No, it can't. Suppose that you want to maintain the genome against a mutation pressure of one hundred bits per generation (one base flip/chromosome, to make it simple). Each member of the population, on average, will still have fifty good chromosomes. But you have to select on the individual level, and you can't let only those organisms with no bad chromosomes reproduce: the chances of such an organism existing are astronomical. You would have to stop, say, anyone with more than forty bad chromosomes from reproducing, so maybe the next generation you'd have an average of 37 or so. But then you add fifty more the next generation... the species will quickly die out, because you can't remove them as fast as they're being introduced.

"Each individual chromosome can be selected, mostly independently of the others."

All the chromosomes are packaged together in a single individual. Reproduction occurs at the individual level; you can't reproduce some chromosomes and not others.

"This increases the potential number of semi-meaningful bases (bases such that some mutations have no effect but other mutations have detrimental effect) but cancels out the ability to store any increased information in such bases."

If 27% of all mutations have absolutely no effect, the "one mutation = one death" rule is broken, and so more information can be stored because the effective mutation rate is lower (this also means, of course, that the rate of beneficial mutations is lower). So it may be a 40 MB bound instead of a 25 MB bound, but it doesn't change the basic conclusion.

"If the environment shifts, the homogeneous population may be wiped out but part of the diverse population may survive."

If you start postulating group selection arguments, you won't be able to understand evolution clearly. And the professional evolutionary biologists will think of you as a crackpot. And your dog will get sick and die.

"But all species are considered to be descendants of the same LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor), and there is no mathematical reason to consider each species separately."

If the species have stopped interbreeding, deletrious mutations can accumulate in each species independently. Evolution is a mathematical process which does not care what happened ten million years ago.

"What you forget to take into account is that a growing population changes the conditions of the population, and changes selection pressure."

Yes, that's precisely the point. If you have a long period of weak selection pressure, the population will increase and selection pressure will increase. If you have a long period of strong selection pressure, the population will decrease (unless the species is driven to extinction). Hence, you can reliably predict an average selection pressure, because the two must balance each other out.

"The next step should be to try and find some mathematics that applies to non-equilibrium states. Maybe then you can draw some conclusions about the real world."

This has probably already been done.

"The thing is that evolution is not just a thing of species, evolution takes places at all those levels"

I repeat: if you use group selection arguments, your dog will get sick and die.

"The notion of sacred values seems to lead to irrationality in a lot of cases, some of it gross irrationality like scope neglect over human lives and "Can't Say No" spending."

Could you post a scenario where most people would choose the option which unambiguously causes greater harm, without getting into these kinds of debates about what "harm" means? Eg., where option A ends with shooting one person, and option B ends with shooting ten people, but option B sounds better initially? We have a hard enough time getting rid of irrationality, even in cases where we know what is rational.

"An option that dominates in finite cases will always provably be part of the maximal option in finite problems; but in infinite problems, where there is no maximal option, the dominance of the option for the infinite case does not follow from its dominance in all finite cases."

From Peter's proof, it seems like you should be able to prove that an arbitrarily large (but finite) utility function will be dominated by events with arbitrarily large (but finite) improbabilities.

"Robin Hanson was correct, I do think that TORTURE is the obvious option, and I think the main instinct behind SPECKS is scope insensitivity."

And so we come to the billion-dollar question: Will scope insensitivity of this type be eliminated under CEV? So far as I can tell, a utility function is arbitrary; there is no truth which destroys it, and so the FAI will be unable to change around our renormalized utility functions by correcting for factual inaccuracy.

"Which exact person in the chain should first refuse?"

The point at which the negative utility of people catching on fire exceeds the positive utility of skydiving. If the temperature is 20 C, nobody will notice an increase of 0.00000001 C. If the temperature is 70 C, the aggregate negative utility could start to outweigh the positive utility. This is not a new idea; see

"We face the real-world analogue of this problem every day, when we decide whether to tax everyone in the First World one penny in order to save one starving African child by mounting a large military rescue operation that swoops in, takes the one child, and leaves."

According to, 10% of the world's adults, around 400 million people, own 85% of the world's wealth. Taxing them each one penny would give a total of $4 million, more than enough to mount this kind of a rescue operation. While incredibly wasteful, this would actually be preferable to some of the stuff we spend our money on; my local school district just voted to spend $9 million (current US dollars) to build a swimming pool. I don't even want to know how much we spend on $200 pants; probably more than $9 million in my town alone.

"For those who would pick SPECKS, would you pay a single penny to avoid the dust specks?"

Yes. Note that, for the obvious next question, I cannot think of an amount of money large enough such that I would rather keep it than use it to save a person from torture. Assuming that this is post-Singularity money which I cannot spend on other life-saving or torture-stopping efforts.

"You probably wouldn't blind everyone on earth to save that one person from being tortured, and yet, there are (3^^^3)/(10^17) >> 7*10^9 people being blinded for each person you have saved from torture."

This is cheating, to put it bluntly- my utility function does not assign the same value to blinding someone and putting six billion dust specks in everyone's eye, even though six billion specks are enough to blind people if you force them into their eyes all at once.

"I'd still take the former. (10(10100))/(3^^^3) is still so close to zero that there's no way I can tell the difference without getting a larger universe for storing my memory first."

The probability is effectively much greater than that, because of complexity compression. If you have 3^^^^3 people with dust specks, almost all of them will be identical copies of each other, greatly reducing abs(U(specks)). abs(U(torture)) would also get reduced, but by a much smaller factor, because the number is much smaller to begin with.

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