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RichardKennaway comments on Recommended reading for new rationalists - Less Wrong

27 Post author: XFrequentist 09 July 2009 07:47PM

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Comment author: RichardKennaway 12 July 2009 05:02:39PM *  5 points [-]

Greg Egan's Axiomatic.

This is his first collection of short stories. Half of them are fictional explorations of what it would really be like, for the mind to be literally a physical process of the brain, usually with some near-future technology thrown in to sharpen the issues. The title story is about choosing your own utility function, "Learning To Be Me" is Philosophy of Uploading 101, "A Kidnapping" is about stealing a copy of someone's upload, and the others look at other aspects. "Seeing" uses no future science, only present-day knowledge, but is still squarely a science fiction story -- the science just happens to be already here.

Another strong theme is ethics, and especially the ethical issues that arise from our greater physical understanding of what people are: "Blood Sisters", "The Cutie", "Appropriate Love", "The Moat", "The Moral Virologist", and again "Axiomatic".

"The Hundred Light-Year Diary" is about predestination and free will, a theme that appears in several of the other stories. "Whatever the unchangeable future holds, I'm sure of one thing: who I am is still a part of what always has, and always will, decide it." (A theme of Eliezer's on occasion.)

One story is about the many-worlds theory, and another is about the exponential probability distribution.

After which you can read his second short story collection.

Comment author: Psy-Kosh 12 July 2009 05:07:27PM 2 points [-]

Just want to say though to watch out for "The Cutie"... that one, well... *Shudders*

From what I remember of reading it, well, that one really really disturbed me in a "this probably gave me nightmares which I don't remember" sense

Comment author: djcb 14 July 2009 06:37:20AM 0 points [-]

maybe a separate list for fiction with rationalist themes would be a good idea?

there are the obvious problems with fiction for learning things (the rules of a fictional world may not apply the one we live in), but I'd be very interested in hearing recommendations, if only because because i suspect that there is some correlation between being an LW-reader and the books we'd like.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 14 July 2009 11:31:03AM 2 points [-]
Comment author: Z_M_Davis 12 July 2009 07:23:02PM 0 points [-]

One story is about the many-worlds theory

"The Infinite Assassin" (which you must be referencing) involves a fanciful multiverse, not the many-worlds of actually existing quantum mechanics. Although as long as we're talking about Greg Egan and the MWI, I am obligated to drop a link to "Singleton."