torekp's Comments

Clickbait might not be destroying our general Intelligence
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Embedded Agency (full-text version)
People often try to solve the problem of counterfactuals by suggesting that there will always be some uncertainty. An AI may know its source code perfectly, but it can't perfectly know the hardware it is running on.

How could Emmy, an embedded agent, know its source code perfectly, or even be certain that it is a computing device under the Church-Turing definition? Such certainty would seem dogmatic. Without such certainty, the choice of 10 rather than 5 cannot be firmly classified as an error. (The classification as an error seemed to play an important role in your discussion.) So Emmy has a motivation to keep looking and find that U(10)=10.

Sam Harris and the Is–Ought Gap

Thanks for making point 2. Moral oughts need not motivate sociopaths, who sometimes admit (when there is no cost of doing so) that they've done wrong and just don't give a damn. The "is-ought" gap is better relabeled the "thought-motivation" gap. "Ought"s are thoughts; motives are something else.

Decision Theory Anti-realism

Technicalities: Under Possible Precisifications, 1 and 5 are not obviously different. I can interpret them differently, but I think you should clarify them. 2 is to 3 as 4 is to 1, so I suggest listing them in that order, and maybe adding an option that is to 3 as 5 is to 1.

Substance: I think you're passing over a bigger target for criticism, the notion of "outcomes". In general, agents can and do have preferences over decision processes themselves, as contrasted with the standard "outcomes" of most literature like winning or losing money or objects. For example, I can be "money pumped" in the following manner. Sell me a used luxury sedan on Monday for $10k. Trade me a Harley Davidson on Tuesday for the sedan plus my $5. Trade me a sports car on Wednesday for the Harley plus $5. Buy the sports car from me on Thursday for $9995. Oh no, I lost $15 on the total deal! Except: I got to drive, or even just admire, these different vehicles in the meantime.

If all processes and activities are fair game for rational preferences, then agents can have preferences over the riskiness of decisions, the complexity of the decision algorithm, and a host of other features that make it much more individually variable which approach is "best".

The Tails Coming Apart As Metaphor For Life

If there were no Real Moral System That You Actually Use, wouldn't you have a "meh, OK" reaction to either Pronatal Total Utilitarianism or Antinatalist Utilitarianism - perhaps whichever you happened to think of first? How would this error signal - disgust with those conclusions - be generated?

Stupid Questions September 2017

Shouldn't a particular method of inductive reasoning be specified in order to give the question substance?

Minimizing Motivated Beliefs

Great post and great comment. Against your definition of "belief" I would offer the movie The Skeleton Key. But this doesn't detract from your main points, I think.

Inconsistent Beliefs and Charitable Giving

I think there are some pretty straightforward ways to change your true preferences. For example, if I want to become a person who values music more than I currently do, I can practice a musical instrument until I'm really good at it.

Open thread, August 21 - August 27, 2017

I don't say that we can talk about every experience, only that if we do talk about it, then the basic words/concepts we use are about things that influence our talk. Also, the causal chain can be as indirect as you like: A causes B causes C ... causes T, where T is the talk; the talk can still be about A. It just can't be about Z, where Z is something which never appears in any chain leading to T.

I just now added the caveat "basic" because you have a good point about free will. (I assume you mean contracausal "free will". I think calling that "free will" is a misnomer, but that's off topic.) Using the basic concepts "cause", "me", "action", and "thing" and combining these with logical connectives, someone can say "I caused my action and nothing caused me to cause my action" and they can label this complex concept "free will". And that may have no referent, so such "free will" never causes anything. But the basic words that were used to define that term, do have referents, and do cause the basic words to be spoken. Similarly with "unicorn", which is shorthand for (roughly) a "single horned horse-like animal".

An eliminativist could hold that mental terms like "qualia" are referentless complex concepts, but an epiphenomenalist can't.

Open thread, August 21 - August 27, 2017

The core problem remains that, if some event A plays no causal role in any verbal behavior, it is impossible to see how any word or phrase could refer to A. (You've called A "color perception A", but I aim to dispute that.)

Suppose we come across the Greenforest people, who live near newly discovered species including the greater geckos. Greenforesters use the word "gumie" always and only when they are very near greater geckos. Since greater geckos are extremely well camouflaged, they can only be seen at short range. Also, all greater geckos are infested with microscopic gyrating gnats. Gyrating gnats make intense ultrasound energy, so whenever anyone is close to a greater gecko, their environment and even their brain is filled with ultrasound. When one's brain is filled with this ultrasound, the oxygen consumption by brain cells rises. Greenforesters are hunter-gatherers lacking either microscopes or ultrasound detectors.

To what does "gumie" refer: geckos, ultrasound, or neural oxygen consumption? It's a no-brainer. Greenforesters can't talk about ultrasound or neural oxygen: those things play no causal role in their talk. Even though ultrasound and neural oxygen are both inside the speakers, and in that sense affect them, since neither one affects their talk, that's not what the talk is about.

Mapping this causal structure to the epiphenomenalist story above: geckos are like photon-wavelengths R, ultrasound in brain is like brain activity B, oxygen consumption is like "color perception" A, and utterances of "gumie" are like utterances S1 and S2. Only now I hope you can see why I put scare quotes around "color perception". Because color perception is something we can talk about.

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