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lavalamp 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: lavalamp 31 July 2009 06:49:26AM 3 points [-]

So, is Aerhien's immortality the result of something like a quantum suicide? :)

This is a good piece of SF, but it suffers from a severe case of an ailment common to the genre, which is that someone who's never heard of X (in this case the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and the anthropic principle) isn't going to have a clue what the hell you're talking about. Additionally, it's kinda hard to tell at first what elements of the story are made up (magic words, dust, summoning, etc) and what we're supposed to connect up with something from science (I would have figured out ahntharhapik principle eventually, probably).

Comment author: eirenicon 31 July 2009 04:41:39PM *  7 points [-]

I caught on when the hero said the Counter-Force would never return, although what really made it click was when ShardPhoenix called it a "quantum luckworld", which is a beautifully descriptive term. Still, I would have liked to see the hero go on to actually explain a little of the ahntharhapik principle to the council at the end; then it wouldn't just be a good story for the LW audience but a good story for anyone. Right now, you have to figure out the payoff for yourself, which only works if you are already familiar with the underlying concepts.

Comment author: Hans 31 July 2009 09:35:45AM 1 point [-]

"someone who's never heard of X (in this case the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and the anthropic principle) isn't going to have a clue what the hell you're talking about."

Yeah, that must be why I didn't understand anything. But I got the tolkien reference!

Comment author: FrankAdamek 31 July 2009 02:38:37PM *  1 point [-]

I passed along the story that alien message to a friend of mine, and he thought it was an interesting story but completely failed to notice the AI connection, even though he was a little familiar with those ideas. I didn't disparage him for that, and I could see how unless you were familiar with Eliezer talking about AI boxes it wouldn't be be obvious, but here I really shared his experience. I actually thought for a bit "is Eliezer practicing for a side career in fantasy writing?" I know a little about the anthropic principle though, so when the concept was referenced most of the pieces fell together in a very felicitous way. Maybe that's actually an overall better effect, having the whole thing hit you '"at once"?

By the way, though I was able to scrounge up the Knuth UpArrow notatation, if it's convenient could someone point me to something explaining the scariest thing imaginable? I've yet to realize the soul-gnawing horror of 3^^^^3 dust specks going into Eliezer's eye.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 31 July 2009 03:19:50PM 1 point [-]

Click on the photo.

Comment author: thomblake 31 July 2009 02:13:26PM 0 points [-]

Well, you write for your audience. Most of the relevant background is actually discussed somewhere on this site.

Comment author: lavalamp 31 July 2009 03:30:31PM 3 points [-]

Of course. It's just that I'd like to use this to introduce (it's short and interesting) the anthropic principle to people (should I ever have the occasion to do so), but you can't understand this without knowing about the anthropic principle. :(