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If I could convince Aubrey de Grey to cut off his beard it would increase everyones expected longevity more than any other accomplishment I'm capable of.

Your interaction with your teachers is very similar to my experiences training more junior officers to stand "Officer of the Deck" on submarines (Officer of the Deck is the position ultimately in charge of everything having to do with the boat, internally and externally. Think of the role Picard or Riker assume when they sit in the "Captain's Chair" on the bridge in Star Trek. In real life people sleep and do other stuff so officers more junior than the CO/XO take on that role most of the time).

A lot of the same second guessing and reluctance to make decisions happens when people are training for this position. One small thing that makes a big difference in my experience is telling my students explicitly at the outset that I expect them to make decisions for themselves but I'll stop them if they're about to do something dangerous or horribly wrong. If one of the officers does something that's suboptimal but otherwise ok I'll let him see it through and we'll talk about it later. Even if your instructors haven't told you this explicitly I'd bet that they have a similar mindset. If you just internalize the fact that you'll be stopped before you do something extremely bad it might go a long way towards letting you relax enough to practice making quick judgements and acting on them.

Obviously if an instructor isn't around to stop you this advice is terrible.

1 billion dollars earmarked for whole brain simulation makes it seem a lot more likely that we'll brute force a naive version of AI well before we have the ability to prove any kind of friendliness. If that AI is seeded by the simulated brain of an actual human though... who knows. I'd like to think that if it were my brain and at some point I became singularity-scale intelligent that I wouldn't create a horrible future for humanity (by our present day perspective) but it's pretty hard to claim that with any confidence.

There hasn't been a lot of money spent researching it, but meta-analysis of the studies that have been conducted show that on average there is no placebo effect.

Because you're a human, not a butterfly. It seems like an animal that used a cognitive filter that defaulted to the latter case would take a pretty severe fitness hit.

This idea is primarily why I'm skeptical of the effectiveness of institutions like the federal reserve (despite not being a subject matter expert). It seems pretty clear that in order to be effective the leadership has to be comprised of people that are not only exceptionally brilliant, but exceptionally benevolent as well.

I'm curious about your personal experiences with physical pain. What is the most painful thing you've experienced and what was the duration?

I'm sympathetic to your preference in the abstract, I just think you might be surprised at how little pain you're actually willing to endure once it's happening (not a slight against you, I think people in general overestimate what degree of physical pain they can handle as a function of the stakes involved, based largely on anecdotal and second hand experience from my time in the military).

At the risk of being overly morbid, I have high confidence (>95%) that I could have you begging for death inside of an hour if that were my goal (don't worry, it's certainly not). An unfriendly AI capable of keeping you alive for eternity just to torture you would be capable of making you experience worse pain than anyone ever has in the history of our species so far. I believe you that you might sign a piece of paper to pre-commit to an eternity of torture vice simple death. I just think you'd be very very upset about that decision. Probably less than 5 minutes into it.

I wasn't one of the downvoters, but I'll hazard a guess.

  • pursuing personal-level solutions for society-level hazards is highly inefficient.

Viscerally for me, this immediately flags as not being right. I might not understand what you mean by that statement though. It's very difficult to make an impact on the probability of society-level hazards occuring, one way or the other, so if you think there's a non-trivial chance of one of them occuring a personal-level solution seems like the obvious choice.

  • I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that that was a given on this site, given previous discussions here. There's probably an argument to be made that all such actions are merely purchasing fuzzies and that protecting yourself is purchasing utilons, but I'd like to think that we're better than that.

I think you're significantly overestimating the uniformity of LW readers. The high-impact posters seem to have similar ethical views but I imagine most of the readers arrive here through an interest in transhumanism. On the scale from pathological philanthropists to being indifferent to the whole world burning if it doesn't include you subjectively experiencing it I bet the average reader is a lot closer to the latter than you would like. I certainly am. I care on an abstract, intellectual level, but it's very very difficult for me to be emotionally impacted by possible futures that don't include me. I think a lot of people downvote when you make assumpions about them (that turn out to be incorrect).

That being said, I don't have a problem with anything you wrote.

It's not easy to find rap lyrics that are appropriate to be posted here. Here's an attempt.

Son, remember when you fight to be free

To see things how they are and not how you like em to be

Cause even when the world is falling on top of me

Pessimism is an emotion, not a philosophy

Knowing what's wrong doesn't imply that you right

And its another, when you suffer to apply it in life

But I'm no rookie

And I'm never gonna make the same mistake twice pussy

  • Immortal Technique "Mistakes"

For those that don't want to do a google search, MLP:FiM = My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (I had to look it up)

Is this one of those kid shows that adults watch these days? A show that a decent fraction of male LW readers know enough about to "ruminate on"?

I already have to navigate through my social world with the handicap of counting a work of Harry Potter fanfiction among my favorite books. If I end up owning seasons of My Little Pony because of this site I'm going to be very upset.

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