Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

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

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

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (158)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: orthonormal 31 July 2009 06:20:56PM *  7 points [-]

It surprises me that nobody's shared my immediate reaction: that the world is most likely a simulation (run in another world that makes sense) which is set up to obey narrative causality (i.e. the Counter-Force) rather than a coherent set of laws. In other words, a Supervised Universe. And given that, I don't believe the main character should conclude that his Genre Savviness means the end of the Counter-Force...

ETA: Huh, somehow I missed ShardPhoenix's comment saying the same thing.

Comment author: CronoDAS 31 July 2009 07:13:48PM 4 points [-]

Yeah, the Counter-Force sounds a lot more like a fiction writer than the anthropic principle. Especially a writer like Stephen R. Donaldson, who loves torturing his characters before they manage to succeed in defeating the forces of evil.

Comment author: wedrifid 01 August 2009 11:01:37AM 4 points [-]

And yet, 'fiction writer' and 'anthropic principle' are incredibly alike in nature. In both cases we select universes from among the potential space based on the desired or implied survival of the protagonist. All else being roughly equal I would advocate the anthropic principle over a hypothesised external 'creator'.

Comment author: Kingreaper 03 December 2010 04:41:14PM *  6 points [-]

All else is not equal.

The anthropic principle would tend to involve the most minorly improbable thing.

ie. The whole volcano issue: which would be more improbable, not having the ridiculously close brush with defeat in the first place, or surviving it?

On the other hand, an authorial hand tends to seek out victories of low probability in preference over not just defeat, but also over victories of high probability.

Comment author: Peter_de_Blanc 31 July 2009 11:01:01PM 0 points [-]

We should have a rule against linking to TV Tropes.

Comment author: Nanani 03 August 2009 12:43:42AM 5 points [-]

The hero is so obviously a troper. Indeed, only a genre-savvy troper could hope to defeat the Dust.

Comment author: Fetterkey 01 August 2009 02:01:44AM 0 points [-]

Why?

Comment author: Peter_de_Blanc 01 August 2009 02:04:47AM *  3 points [-]

Because of this.

Comment author: CronoDAS 01 August 2009 05:44:15AM 1 point [-]

I don't consider that a drawback.

Comment author: Fetterkey 01 August 2009 05:28:06AM *  1 point [-]

Shouldn't rational individuals be able to avoid such perils?

Comment author: wedrifid 01 August 2009 10:57:24AM 6 points [-]

By, for example, acknowledging their weaknesses and managing their environment such that it doesn't waste valuable willpower on trivialities.

Comment author: Fetterkey 01 August 2009 09:29:26PM 0 points [-]

The amount of will necessary to close a window is itself trivial, if will can indeed be considered a resource to be spent.

Comment author: wedrifid 02 August 2009 02:08:13AM 4 points [-]

The amount of will necessary to close a window is itself trivial,

Many people find the will cost non negligible. While I don't actually know (or want to know) exactly what TV troups is, avoiding the temptation to, say, follow links from google reader to lesswrong.com is a sufficient expense that I often install leechblock for months at a time.

if will can indeed be considered a resource to be spent.

Willpower can absolutely be considered a resource to be spent. References on request or on google. In fact, I seem to recall the topic coming up here once or thrice.

Comment author: Fetterkey 02 August 2009 05:02:40AM 4 points [-]

You are right. Thank you for pointing that out, you have helped me improve.

Comment author: CronoDAS 02 August 2009 06:11:46AM 1 point [-]

The TV Tropes Wiki is a wiki about recurring elements in fiction, such as situations, character types, and plots, which are collectively referred to as "tropes".

Be warned, though. TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life.

Comment author: rwallace 31 July 2009 10:06:05PM 1 point [-]

Yes, especially since we are talking about a world where magic works, something like that would be my first alternative explanation to the anthropic one. As I remarked in another comment, I would reserve judgment on which was more likely until I looked more closely at the data, especially at just how many times the world got lucky, because the improbability of the anthropic explanation is an exponential function of that.

Comment author: ChrisHibbert 01 August 2009 06:00:43PM 3 points [-]

The (narrative) fact that the leaders of this world believe that magic works isn't a convincing argument that magic works. For most of Earth's history, its leaders have believed in various forms of magic. You're still better off believing in natural causality.

Even if it turns out that there is something that looks like magic before you study it, it ought to look like science by the time you're done formalizing it.

Comment author: rkyeun 16 April 2014 04:15:20AM 1 point [-]

When someone summons me from another dimension, they get a little bit of leeway to tell me it's magic. Because at the very least it must be a sufficiently advanced technology, and until I know better the axiom of identity applies.

Comment author: orthonormal 31 July 2009 10:11:49PM 0 points [-]

especially since we are talking about a world where magic works

Exactly: the principle behind Universal Fire would be strong evidence for the hypothesis of a narrative-driven simulation.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 August 2009 04:23:28PM 2 points [-]

One assumes that either their universe does run on QM and has additional principles laid on top of it, or the spell operated as a physiology translator. I assumed the latter, and yes, thank you, I worked it out in advance.

Comment author: orthonormal 01 August 2009 06:51:41PM 0 points [-]

Could you share some of the main character's thought process in ruling out the "narrative-driven simulation" hypothesis in favor of the anthropic one? I still would see that as the most likely conclusion were I in the main character's shoes, since it would require a much simpler root universe than a world with trans-universal magic spells and resistance to reductionism.

If I'm ruining the point of the story, though, then I'm OK with giving up this line of questioning. Some suspension of disbelief (and departure from Bayesianism in characters) is certainly warranted even in rationalist fiction...

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 August 2009 01:33:45AM 3 points [-]

Well, since the beginning, not one unusual thing has ever happened. Now in Aerhien's world, magic works, which is in fact unusual, and in reality has never happened. However, by writing the story, I counterfactually postulated, within the story confines, that magic has happened, implying that magic is not unusual. So the hero, within the story confines, does not see anything unusual about it either.

That is, along with the counterfactual "magic is not unusual" I also postulated the reflective levels "magic is not perceived as unusual", "magic not being perceived as unusual is not seen as an unusual thought process", etc.

Comment author: orthonormal 02 August 2009 03:16:40AM 0 points [-]

Fair enough; I don't want to ruin a fine story by nitpicking the protagonist's prior. I was mainly wondering whether there was some bit of evidence I was missing, or whether this was just part of the necessary suspension of disbelief. I'm fine with it being the latter.