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Wei_Dai comments on The Hero With A Thousand Chances - Less Wrong

63 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 31 July 2009 04:25AM

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Comment author: Wei_Dai 31 July 2009 06:03:36AM 2 points [-]

"Ah..." Ghufhus said, puzzled. "How do you... know all this? Is there a Counter-Force in your own world?"

Fool, Aerhien thought to herself. The hero had seemed puzzled by the idea, at first, and had needed to ask for examples. She decided then and there that Ghufhus would meet with an accident before the next council meeting; their world had no room for stupid Eerionnath.

That's a bit harsh, don't you think? Maybe the Counter-Force is known by a different name in the Hero's own world, and he asked for examples to make sure they're the same thing.

Actually, why doesn't the Hero's world have a Counter-Force? Shouldn't every world have something like it? How many times have our world escaped from the brink of nuclear annihilation, for example?

Comment author: Furcas 31 July 2009 06:22:30AM 10 points [-]

Actually, why doesn't the Hero's world have a Counter-Force? Shouldn't every world have something like it? How many times have our world escaped from the brink of nuclear annihilation, for example?

It's not a question of how many times we've come dangerously close to annihilation, but of how obviously we've done so.

In Aerhien's world, it's obvious because, yes, it's happened many times, but especially because it's happened in such a way that they've noticed it every time, thanks to the Dust's habit of gradual conquest and oppression.

In our world, however... well, you ask how many times we've "escaped from the brink of nuclear annihilation". We don't know, exactly, and we don't know how close we really got to annihilation. It's not obvious that we really got that lucky, so we had no reason to dream up a Counter-Force.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 31 July 2009 08:15:19AM 1 point [-]

That's a good answer, but what about the fact that none of the heroes remember a Counter-Force? Because the summoning process samples according to measure, and worlds with Counter-Force have measures that are too small? But how could the Hero have inferred that, just by knowing that he doesn't remember a Counter-Force?

Comment author: Jordan 01 August 2009 12:23:52AM 2 points [-]

If the Counter-Force is the Anthropic principle then those worlds that have postulated Counter-Forces are essentially only those that have experienced very long sequences of unlikely events. Hence the measure of those worlds must be very small.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 02 August 2009 01:11:29AM 14 points [-]

I'm not sure why it took me this long to realize this, but by the anthropic principle, the Counter-Force is almost certainly not the anthropic principle, but something that really exists in the world, e.g., some kind of intelligent agent, physical force, principle of magic, or rule of simulation.

Consider two worlds that are otherwise identical except that world A has a real Counter-Force, and world B doesn't. Initially, world A has lower measure since it has higher complexity. But as time goes on, the fraction of world A that survives will massively outweigh the fraction of world B that survives. So, both the Hero and Aerhien should conclude that they're almost certainly in world A.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 August 2009 01:26:09AM 2 points [-]

I was waiting to see how long it would take for someone to point this out.

And the "answer" - which, yes, I devised in advance - is that the Dust destroys its worlds completely by compressing the probability out of them, whereupon the probability mass ends up in other worlds. Sort of like "mangled worlds" only these are "squeezed worlds" that have the reality-juice squeezed out of them.

However, anyone in a particular world thus destroyed, gets to observe the takeover of the Dust, since the Dust requires some time to actually compress that world out of existence.

Alternatively we can suppose that a majority of all worlds performing summonings are those in Aerhien's situation: no worlds with a "real" Counter-Force, or worlds that permanently destroyed their Dust, are performing summonings in significant measure. For example, the Dust's existence could be integral to the summoning process.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 November 2009 05:07:34AM 4 points [-]

Actually, a better answer than the one I originally thought of, is that the Dust is responsible for their world splitting (in a way which causes it to increase in measure). So worlds which permanently defeat the Dust don't increase in measure past that point, worlds in which the Dust takes over don't summon anyone, and hence the majority of measure in worlds that can still perform summonings are those worlds which have survived but not yet defeated the Dust.

Comment author: rwallace 02 August 2009 04:21:39AM 1 point [-]

I pointed it out a few days ago :-)

The Dust's existence being integral to the summoning process sounds plausible - it would help to explain why there isn't a large measure of surviving/victorious worlds engaging in cross universe commerce. Intuitively, that fits with the Dust squeezing probability mass; perhaps it creates something like a comet's tail of evaporating improbability, some of which the summoning spell taps?

Comment author: cousin_it 12 May 2010 12:37:09PM 0 points [-]

Wait, doesn't the same argument prove the existence of a God in our world that keeps rescuing life from disaster?

Comment author: Wei_Dai 12 May 2010 01:29:13PM 2 points [-]

No, because our world hasn't had as many "lucky coincidences" as Aerhien's. It seems to me that we are not seeing more "lucky coincidences" than a typical evolved intelligent species would see, looking back on the history of its world.

Comment author: FeepingCreature 23 July 2013 06:38:39AM 0 points [-]

I think the most we can say is that there hasn't been a disaster in our history that would have required great luck to stop. Our world has nothing like the dust; our destruction is not nearly that intrinsically assured. So whatever coincidence saved us, anthropomorphically, would not look like an Act of Great Luck; it would look like the sort of thing that you could convince yourself in retrospect must have been more probable than it seemed at the time. Long, drawn-out sequences of individually credible chances.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 August 2009 05:33:02AM 0 points [-]

Because the summoning process samples according to measure

This seems like a really reasonable assumption. I mean - what sort of summoning process would not sample according to measure? What would it sample according to instead, which would not be weighted by measure somewhere along the way?

Comment author: CronoDAS 01 August 2009 05:39:14AM 4 points [-]

You know, I just noticed that "Ghufhus" is a MeaningfulName. (It looks like it's pronounced "Goofus.")

Comment author: HalFinney 31 July 2009 09:58:55PM 3 points [-]

Actually, why doesn't the Hero's world have a Counter-Force? Shouldn't every world have something like it? How many times have our world escaped from the brink of nuclear annihilation, for example?

Right, like the way the LHC keeps breaking before they can turn it on and have it destroy the universe. Sooner or later we'll figure out what's happening.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 August 2009 06:12:36AM 2 points [-]
Comment author: Tiiba 02 August 2009 06:52:20AM 2 points [-]

I wonder what it will look like when the scientists finally realize that their precious creation will never work, because it's doomed to just keep breaking until it's scrapped.

Comment author: CronoDAS 01 August 2009 06:21:33AM 1 point [-]

I think that just goes to show that it takes a lot of tries to get all the bugs out of equipment still in the "experimental" phase instead of the "mass market consumer product" phase. Remember those failed space missions you've heard about on the news?

Comment author: wedrifid 31 July 2009 06:12:18AM 1 point [-]

Actually, why doesn't the Hero's world have a Counter-Force? Shouldn't every world have something like it? How many times have our world escaped from the brink of nuclear annihilation, for example?

It would seem likely! Obviously the strength and visibility of the perceived force would depend on the level of probabilistic threat your world has been exposed to.