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Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on Polyhacking - Less Wrong

75 Post author: Alicorn 28 August 2011 08:35AM

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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 29 April 2013 06:28:27PM 22 points [-]

By analogy with an Idiot Plot which dissolves in the presence of smart characters, a "Muggle Plot" is any plot which dissolves in the presence of transhumanism and polyamory.

Shortly after generalizing this abstraction, someone at a party told me the original tale of the Tin Woodsman, in which there are two men vying for the attention of a healer woman who gives them replacement metal body parts while constructing a whole new body out of the spares. In the end, she decides that the men she's been healing are mechanical and therefore unloveable, and goes off with the new man she's constructed.

"Ah," I said, "a Muggle Plot."

They're surprisingly common once you start looking. I originally generalized it while watching the romantic subplot in Madoka. Blah blah, not a real human, blah blah, love rival..

Comment author: Nate_Gabriel 25 August 2013 08:01:11AM 7 points [-]

As cool as that term sounds, I'm not sure I like it. I think it's too strongly reinforcing of ideas like superiority of rationalists over non-rationalists. Even in cases where rationalists are just better at things, it seems like it's encouraging thinking of Us and Them to an unnecessary degree.

Also, assuming there is a good enough reason to convince me that the term should be used, why is transhumanism-and-polyamory the set of powers defining the non-muggles? LessWrong isn't that overwhelmingly poly, is it?

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 26 August 2013 05:05:49AM 4 points [-]

I don't really see the inherent superiority idea. Seems like there should be plenty of interesting ways to mess up everything with polyamory and transhumanism as well as with monogamy and bioconservatism, just like muggles and wizards both have failure modes, just different.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 August 2013 07:28:54PM 7 points [-]

Plots which are just about people not being rational are a subspecies of "Idiot Plots". Plots which are about people not behaving like SF con-goers are "Muggle Plots".

Comment author: PrometheanFaun 27 August 2013 11:02:03PM 0 points [-]

I thought for a while, and I really can't imagine any cases of works which would be unsuitable for all LWers that arn't worth hanging around and arguing about. I agree. We should be calling these people ignorant and criticising their work, not assigning them a permanent class division, shaking our heads, and going back to our camp.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 25 August 2013 01:08:18AM 6 points [-]


The retconned version is a bit more of a transhumanist story. Nick Chopper abandoned Nimmie Amee after his series of cursed injuries deprived him of his heart — construed here as the seat of the emotions. He was (some time later) fitted with a new heart; but it was a kind heart, not a loving heart, and so he didn't return to her.

Aside from the anatomic specifics, it's a problem of maintaining goals under self-modification!

Comment author: Carinthium 18 July 2013 05:42:22PM 0 points [-]

Requesting clarification on a point in reply to this post because it doesn't deserve it's own Discussion post but I want to know, and since the core question is Muggle Plots I can't think of a better point.

Basically, I'm not sure whether the following hypothetical scenario counts as a "Muggle Plot" (in Elizier's sense of a plot a rationalist would easily be able to avert) or not. The scenario:

-An individual, A, splits into two individuals (called B and C for distinction). This is a philosophical style fission- in every sense in which it is physically possible, B and C are each identical to the original.

-A was and B and C are selfish individuals. B and C get into a serious fight (let's say a fight to the death, though I think that's peripheral) over Selfish Gain X, a gain which one of them can have but not both by it's nature. There is no intelligent solution to the problem of X that gives both of them even 50% of what they want.

Although many people here would argue that this is a Muggle Plot as B and C are the same individual, I see no contradiction in B and C's semi-utility functions in acting selfishly and ignoring the other's desires. However, given arguments that A, B, and C are the same person some people might call it irrational.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 July 2013 05:55:30PM 0 points [-]

Not what I'd call a Muggle Plot, no. See also, The Fate of the Phoenix by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath. Can be read without its predecessor novel.