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If you're contemplating picking the book up, do, it's really excellent. Conceptually very dense but worth taking it nice and slowly.


As a general strategy for considering a black box, great. As a vehicle for defining a mysterious 'something' you want to understand, potentially useful but dangerous. Labelling can make a job harder in cases where the 'thing' isn't a thing at all but a result of your confusion. 'Free will' is a good example. It's like naming an animal you plan to eat: makes it harder to kill.


Ciphergoth - just coming back to this post to say a repeated, enormous, heartfelt thank you for taking what must have been a lot of time on this. Well laid out, wouldn't have done anything differently, and as good a read as when I was swept up in it on OB back in the day.


Hey, I think this link's dead. Converting from ePub to Mobi isn't difficult but if someone's already taken the time to get the formatting right, add chapters, ToC etc....

Apologies for coming to this party a bit late. Particularly as I find my own answer really, really frustrating. While I wouldn't say it was an origin per se, getting into reading Overcoming Bias daily a few years back was what crystallised it for me. I'd find myself constantly somewhere between "well, yeah, of course" and "ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" Guess the human brain doesn't tend to do Damascene revelations. We need overwhelming evidence, over a long period of time, to even begin chipping away at our craziest beliefs, and even then it's a step-by-step process.

The analogy I sometimes go over is something most people find fairly obvious like egalitarianism. You don't find many people who would attest to being pro-inequality. But all the same, you find very few people who have genuinely thought through what it means to be in favour of equality and really try to fit that into everyday life. The first step to becoming a rationalist is to admit how irrational everyone is without monumental efforts to the contrary.

BTW, I am totally on the road to de-Catholicising my mother. This is on the order of converting Dubya to Islam, so if I can manage that I'm awarding myself an honorary brown belt.

Very true, and well put. A combination of quantum events could probably produce anything you wanted, at whatever vanishingly tiny probability. Bear in mind that it's the configuration that evolves every which way, not 'this particle can go here, or here, or here....' But we're into Greg Egan territory here.

Suffice it to say that anyone who says they subscribe to quantum suicide but isn't either dead or richer than god is talking out of their bottom.

Voted up for sheer balls. You have my backing sir.

(B) if he thanks you for the free $100, does he ask for another one of those nice free hundred dollar note dispensers? (This is the "quantum suicide" option

I laugh in the face of anyone who attests to this and doesn't commit armed robbery on a regular basis. If 'at least one of my branches will survive' is your argument, why not go skydiving without a parachute? You'll survive - by definition!

So many of these comments betray people still unable to think of subjective experience as anything other than a ghostly presence sitting outside the quantum world. 'Well if this happens in the world, what would I experience?' If you shoot yourself in the head, you will experience having your brains blown out. The fact that contemplating oneself's annihilation is very difficult is not an excuse for muddling up physics.

The phrase "for me to be an animal" may sound nonsensical, but "why am I me, rather than an animal?" is not obviously sillier than "why am I me, rather than a person from the far future?".

Agreed - they are both equally silly. The only answer I can think of is 'How do you know you are not?" If you had, in fact, been turned into an animal, and an animal into you, what differences would you expect to see in the world?

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