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XiXiDu comments on Existential Risk and Public Relations - Less Wrong

36 Post author: multifoliaterose 15 August 2010 07:16AM

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Comment deleted 15 August 2010 02:35:51PM *  [-]
Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 16 August 2010 10:29:49PM *  4 points [-]

The trauma caused by imagining torture blackmail is hard to relate to for most people (including me), because it's so easy to not take an idea like infinite torture blackmail seriously, on the grounds that the likelihood of ever actually encountering such a scenario seems vanishingly small.

I guess those who are disturbed by the idea have excellent imaginations, or more likely, emotional systems that can be fooled into trying to evaluate the idea of infinite torture ("hell").

Therefore, I agree that it's possible to make fun of people on this basis. I myself lean more toward accommodation. Sure, I think those hurt by it should have just avoided the discussion, but perhaps having EY speak for them and officially ban something gave them some catharsis. I feel like I'm beginning to make fun now, so I'll stop.

Comment author: ciphergoth 16 August 2010 06:30:03PM 5 points [-]

The form of blanking out you use isn't secure. Better to use pure black rectangles.

Comment author: RobinZ 16 August 2010 06:48:13PM *  4 points [-]
Comment author: SilasBarta 16 August 2010 06:55:01PM *  20 points [-]

Amusing anecdote: There was a story about this issue on Slashdot one time, where someone possessing kiddy porn had obscured the faces by doing a swirl distortion, but investigators were able to sufficiently reverse this by doing an opposite swirl and so were able to identify the victims.

Then someone posted a comment to say that if you ever want to avoid this problem, you need to do something like a Gaussian blur, which deletes the information contained in that portion of the image.

Somebody replied to that comment and said, "Yeah. Or, you know, you could just not molest children."

Comment author: wedrifid 16 August 2010 07:20:35PM 3 points [-]

Somebody replied to that comment and said, "Yeah. Or, you know, you could just not molest children."

Brilliant.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 August 2010 07:22:37PM 2 points [-]

Nice link. (It's always good to read articles where 'NLP' doesn't refer, approximately, to Jedi mind tricks.)

Comment author: timtyler 16 August 2010 06:38:41PM 3 points [-]

That document was knocking around on a public website for several days.

Using very much security would probably be pretty pointless.

Comment author: timtyler 15 August 2010 02:44:35PM *  5 points [-]

Perhaps that was a marketing effort.

After all, everyone likes to tell the tale of the forbidden topic and the apprentice being insulted. You are spreading the story around now - increasing the mystery and intrigue of these mythical events about which (almost!) all records have been deleted. The material was left in public for a long time - creating plenty of opportunities for it to "accidentally" leak out.

By allowing partly obfuscated forbidden materials to emerge, you may be contributing to the community folklaw, spreading and perpetuating the intrigue.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 16 August 2010 10:58:00PM 1 point [-]

Sure, but it was fair of him to give evidence when challenged, whether or not he baited that challenge.

Comment author: jimrandomh 15 August 2010 02:55:20PM 4 points [-]

Please stop doing this. You are adding spaced repetition to something that I, and others, positively do not want to think about. That is a real harm and you do not appear to have taken it seriously.

Comment author: XiXiDu 15 August 2010 03:03:14PM 4 points [-]

I'm sorry, but people like Wei force me to do this as they make this whole movement look like being completely down-to-earth, when in fact most people, if they knew about the full complexity of beliefs within this community, would laugh out loud.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 August 2010 03:56:47AM *  11 points [-]

You have a good point. It would be completely unreasonable to ban topics in such a manner while simultaneously expecting to maintain an image of being down to earth or particularly credible to intelligent external observers. It also doesn't reflect well on the SIAI if their authorities claim they cannot consider relevant risks because due to psychological or psychiatric difficulties. That is incredibly bad PR. It is exactly the kind of problem this post discusses.

Comment author: HughRistik 16 August 2010 11:57:41PM 4 points [-]

That is incredibly bad PR.

Since the success of an organization is partly dependent on its PR, a rational donor should be skeptical of donating to an organization with bad PR. Any organization soliciting donations should keep this principle in mind.

Comment author: rhollerith_dot_com 17 August 2010 03:52:51PM *  7 points [-]

Since the success of an organization is partly dependent on its PR, a rational donor should be skeptical of donating to an organization with bad PR.

So let me see if I understand: if an organization uses its income to make a major scientific breakthrough or to prevent a million people from starving, but does not pay enough attention to avoiding bad PR with the result that the organization ends (but the productive employees take the skills they have accumulated there to other organizations), that is a bad organization, but if an organization in the manner of most non-profits focuses on staying in existence as long as possible to provide a secure personal income for its leaders, which entails paying close attention to PR, that is a good organization?

Well, let us take a concrete example: Doug Engelbart's lab at SRI International. Doug wasted too much time mentoring the young researchers in his lab with the result that he did not pay enough attention to PR and his lab was forced to close. Most of the young researchers got jobs at Xerox PARC and continued to develop Engelbart's vision of networked personal computers with graphical user interfaces, work that directly and incontrovertibly inspired the Macintosh computer. But let's not focus on that. Let's focus on the fact that Engelbart is a failure because he no longer runs an organization because the organization failed because Engelbart did not pay enough attention to PR and to the other factors needed to ensure the perpetuation of the organization.

Comment author: HughRistik 17 August 2010 05:04:01PM 1 point [-]

Yes, that would be an example. In general, organizations tend to need some level of PR to convince people to align with with its goal.

Comment author: timtyler 16 August 2010 04:58:08PM *  3 points [-]

I still have a hard time believing it actually happened. I have heard that there's no such thing as bad publicity - but surely nobody would pull this kind of stunt deliberately. It just seems to be such an obviously bad thing to do.

Comment author: katydee 16 August 2010 01:02:34AM 5 points [-]

The "laugh test" is not rational. I think that, if the majority of people fully understood the context of such statements, they would not consider them funny.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 August 2010 03:45:28AM 8 points [-]

The context asked 'what kind of things a typical smart person would find uncredible'. This is a perfect example of such a thing.

Comment author: katydee 16 August 2010 10:24:26AM -1 points [-]

A typical smart person would find the laugh test credible? We must have different definitions of "smart."

Comment author: timtyler 16 August 2010 05:01:26PM 2 points [-]

The topic was the banned topic and the deleted posts - not the laugh test. If you explained what happened to an outsider - they would have a hard time believing the story - since the explanation sounds so totally crazy and ridiculous.

Comment author: katydee 16 August 2010 07:11:06PM 0 points [-]

I'll try to test that, but keep in mind that my standards for "fully understanding" something are pretty high. I would have to explain FAI theory, AI-FOOM, CEV, what SIAI was, etc.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 August 2010 12:36:19PM 1 point [-]

(Voted you back up to 0 here.)

I think you are right about the laugh test itself.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 16 August 2010 01:07:42AM 1 point [-]

You don't seem to realize that claims like the ones in the post in question are a common sort of claim to make people vulnerable to neuroses develop further problems. Regardless whether or not the claims are at all reasonable, repeatedly referencing them this way is likely to cause further psychological harm. Please stop.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 16 August 2010 04:27:11AM *  20 points [-]

JoshuaZ:

You don't seem to realize that claims like the ones in the post in question are a common sort of claim to make people vulnerable to neuroses develop further problems. Regardless whether or not the claims are at all reasonable, repeatedly referencing them this way is likely to cause further psychological harm.

However, it seems that in general, the mere fact that certain statements may cause psychological harm to some people is not considered a sufficient ground for banning or even just discouraging such statements here. For example, I am sure that many religious people would find certain views often expressed here shocking and deeply disturbing, and I have no doubt that many of them could be driven into serious psychological crises by exposure to such arguments, especially if they're stated so clearly and poignantly that they're difficult to brush off or rationalize away. Or, to take another example, it's very hard to scare me with hypotheticals, but the post "The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You" and the subsequent thread came pretty close; I'm sure that at least a few readers of this blog didn't sleep well if they happened to read that right before bedtime.

So, what exact sorts of potential psychological harm constitute sufficient grounds for proclaiming a topic undesirable? Is there some official policy about this that I've failed to acquaint myself with?

Comment author: JoshuaZ 16 August 2010 03:10:15PM 6 points [-]

That's a very valid set of points and I don't have a satisfactory response.

Comment author: MatthewBaker 05 July 2011 06:20:53PM 1 point [-]

Neither do i, and ive thought a lot about religious extremism and other scary views that turn into reality when given to someone in a sufficiently horrible mental state.