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

Acausal romance

25 Post author: lukeprog 25 February 2012 09:13AM

I just realized I haven't previously pointed the metaphysicians on Less Wrong to "Possible Girls," a hilarious paper about acausal romance:

The ability to causally interact with your partner is important to many aspects of happy romantic relationships, but not to all of them. It’s quite pleasant simply to know that your partner loves you and appreciates being loved by you. A loving relationship with a faraway person can enhance one’s self-esteem and turn loneliness into contentment. As a lonely philosopher, I’ve come to wonder: If [all possible worlds exist], can I have a loving relationship with someone from another possible world? ...The answer, I think, is yes.

Even if you don't read the whole thing, don't miss the final paragraph.

Comments (35)

Comment author: fiddlemath 26 February 2012 10:34:37PM 20 points [-]

That link asks me to "download attachment." In this context, that's a beautiful idea.

Comment author: cousin_it 25 February 2012 06:57:10PM *  16 points [-]

At first, I had some major hangups about impossible girls.

Beautiful. The author also has a blog where he posts stuff like this.

Comment author: DanPeverley 26 February 2012 10:14:00PM 1 point [-]

I laughed, solved it, and am printing it off to share with friends and family. Thank you for showing me this.

Comment author: Emile 25 February 2012 03:32:48PM *  13 points [-]

The world's greatest lovers were undoubtedly Mellius and Gretelina, whose pure, passionate and soul-searing affair would have scorched the pages of History if they had not, because of some unexplained quirk of fate, been born two hundred years apart on different continents.

-- Terry Pratchett, Mort

Comment author: HeatDeath 28 February 2012 04:42:33PM *  11 points [-]

A potentially-existent immortal mind that knows and understands you down to the microphysical level and loves you and appreciates being loved by you?

Except for the stipulation of a feminine gender, that is /exactly/ the mode of relationship Christians advocate developing, and claim to have developed with God.

Comment author: lukeprog 26 February 2012 12:31:24AM *  6 points [-]

Oh yeah, and in case anyone is interested, I interviewed the author about this article and about the Humean theory of motivation, back in December 2010.

Comment author: Nisan 25 February 2012 05:37:25PM 6 points [-]

See also Ana Ng, which is about acausal romance within the actual world.

Comment author: Anubhav 26 February 2012 05:18:09AM 4 points [-]

Region-locked youtube videos FTW!

Comment author: Nisan 26 February 2012 08:49:16PM 0 points [-]

Oh, dear. Well, it's the music video to Ana Ng by They Might Be Giants.

Comment author: Bill_McGrath 25 February 2012 07:27:09PM 0 points [-]

A near-perfect pop song.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 01 March 2012 02:42:35AM 5 points [-]

Acausal marriage is a great way to lower your acausal taxes. Of course, most people don't actually pay their acausal taxes anyway.

Comment author: pedanterrific 01 March 2012 02:54:53AM 1 point [-]

Not to mention, there's no law against acausal same-sex marriage. I guess there might be an acausal law against it, though. It's kinda hard to tell.

Comment author: Multipartite 01 March 2012 01:10:25AM *  5 points [-]

(<reads>)

In practice, this seems to break down at a specific point: this can be outlined, for instance, with the hypothetical stipulation "...and possesses the technology or similar power to cross universe boundaries and appear visible before me in my room, and will do so in exactly ten seconds.".

As with the fallacy of a certain ontological argument, the imagination/definition of something does not make it existential, and even if a certain concept contains no apparent inherent logical impossibilities that still does not mean that there could/would exist a universe in which it could come to pass.

'All possible worlds' does not mean 'All imaginable worlds'. 'All possible people' does not mean 'All imaginable people'. Past a certain threshold of specificity, one goes from {general types of people who exist almost everywhere, universally speaking} to {specific types of people who only exist in the imaginations of people like you who exist almost everwhere, universally speaking}.

(As a general principle, for instance/incidentally, causality still needs to apply.)

Edit: <amuses self by imagining an immortal near-omniscient mind which would still engage in conversation with the exact replies that a mortal less-than-100-years human writing in a notebook would come up with, rather than say something more insightful/helpful or influenced by more experience/knowledge>

Comment author: Anubhav 05 March 2012 05:07:07PM 0 points [-]

'All possible worlds' does not mean 'All imaginable worlds'. 'All possible people' does not mean 'All imaginable people'. Past a certain threshold of specificity, one goes from {general types of people who exist almost everywhere, universally speaking} to {specific types of people who only exist in the imaginations of people like you who exist almost everwhere, universally speaking}.

Congratulations, you have discovered that most philosophy isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 26 February 2012 05:05:10PM *  4 points [-]

I don't like how every time you send or receive a love letter from her you're adding conditions. Under this framework, that means you're changing your girlfriend! I'm not sure what the point of monogamy is if every time you correspond with your mate you switch to a new one.

Comment author: Steven_Bukal 27 February 2012 09:41:19AM 3 points [-]

I think the condition from the beginning is that you're picking a unique girlfriend who knows all microphysical facts about your universe, including the content of any letters you have or will ever write.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 28 February 2012 03:27:37PM 1 point [-]

Quantum mechanics forbids that much knowledge. If you take the present state and apply the advanced Green function to it, you don't end up with one distinct letter written. Similarly, if you take a future state where you wrote one particular set of letters and apply the retarded Green function to it, you don't get the present state. So she isn't your girlfriend yet... but she will be once you write or receive your last letter from her.

Comment author: Baughn 27 February 2012 05:18:43PM 1 point [-]

Doesn't that just mean you're picking one who's simulating this universe?

Comment author: mwengler 29 February 2012 02:11:37AM 3 points [-]

What a relief to read this post! All along I have thought I was in love with someone imaginary.

Comment author: Anubhav 25 February 2012 11:26:48AM 3 points [-]

Possibly related: acausal sex

Comment author: J_Taylor 01 March 2012 03:44:56AM 2 points [-]

Everyone forgets the importance of acausal foreplay and acausal cuddling.

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 25 February 2012 10:31:30AM 3 points [-]

With the sex ratio around here we might have to take what we can get.

Comment author: Psychosmurf 26 February 2012 04:00:34PM 5 points [-]

Who says we have to restrict our choice of mates to Less Wrong?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 25 February 2012 04:06:46PM 2 points [-]

"I'd be foolish to ignore the possibility that if we'd ever actually met you would have hated me..."
Mystery, Hugh Laurie

Which is to say, sometimes acausal romances have certain perceived advantages.

Comment author: lavalamp 25 February 2012 03:31:43PM 2 points [-]

A "girlfriend" having the ability to specify the author's world with "microphysical detail" clearly has a great amount of computational power available to her, and the author ought to expect some minuscule amount of his measure to awaken in said girlfriend's universe, having just been fabricated via their equivalent of nanotechnology...

Comment author: ciphergoth 25 February 2012 04:29:12PM 1 point [-]

If you have some meaningful way to assign measure to these things then the whole idea falls apart. However that's quite philosophically tricky AFAICT.

Comment author: lavalamp 25 February 2012 04:45:52PM 1 point [-]

If you have some meaningful way to assign measure to these things then the whole idea falls apart.

Sure, but why ruin a perfectly good theory by estimating how much you should anticipate it? :)

Comment author: Anubhav 25 February 2012 04:33:42PM 0 points [-]

The MST3K mantra applies to philosophy to a far greater extent than it applies to works of fiction.

Comment author: lavalamp 25 February 2012 04:48:39PM 1 point [-]

MST3K mantra = "I should relax, it's just a show"?

Tone doesn't translate in comments very well, my comment was intended to be humorous...

Comment author: mindspillage 26 February 2012 05:05:04AM 1 point [-]

This has just beat out Alan Sidelle's "The Answering Machine Paradox" (paywalled, sorry) as my favorite philosophical paper.

Comment author: lukeprog 28 February 2012 01:15:55AM 4 points [-]

Hey look! I "found" a copy that isn't paywalled.

Comment author: Multipartite 01 March 2012 12:45:25AM 0 points [-]

(Absent(?) thought after reading: one can imagine someone, through a brain-scanner or similar, controlling a robot remotely. One can utter, through the robot, "I'm not actually here.", where 'here' is where one is doing the uttering through the robot, and 'I' (specifically 'where I am') is the location of one's brain. The distinction between the claim 'I'm not actually here' and 'I'm not actually where I am' is notable. Ahh, the usefulness of technology. For belated communication, the part about intention is indeed significant, as with whether a diary is written in the present tense (time of writing) or in the past tense ('by the time you read this[ I will have]'...).) enjoyed the approach

Comment author: Multiheaded 25 February 2012 08:45:37PM *  1 point [-]

Hah, that's nothing surprising. I always knew that Asuka and me would always love each other, even should it prove impossible for us to ever meet. (I consider substitutes to be vulgar.) *

*Link is highly NSFW, and that website/tabloid is generally devoted to reinforcing stereotypes about the anime fandom.

Comment author: Alex_Altair 25 February 2012 11:13:24PM 0 points [-]

Do we agree that Many Worlds provides a justification for modal realism? It certainly wouldn't imply every "possible" world, just every world dictated by the Schrödinger equation.

Comment author: endoself 28 February 2012 07:17:47PM 1 point [-]

I don't think anyone here is using Many Worlds to justify modal realism. The author of the linked paper doesn't even consider modal realism very likely.