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

Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on Archimedes's Chronophone - Less Wrong

20 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 March 2007 05:43PM

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

Comments (82)

Sort By: Old

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 24 March 2007 01:56:05AM 4 points [-]

Ger, the chronophone won't directly transmit decimal notation - it will come out as Roman Numerals. Maybe you could get a computer programmer who works on simple user interfaces, or a mathematician trying to teach category theory to high-school students.

Linksvayer, if you speak calculus into the chronophone, it comes out as some form of mathematics that is widely known in Archimedes's era - maybe Pythagoras's musical harmonics. Perhaps Andrew J. Wiles could speak into the chronophone.

de Blanc, for obvious reasons, Archimedes communicates literally with us if he can communicate at all - he just writes down his reply somewhere and hopes that it gets copied through a few thousand years. Transmitting information from the past to the future is conceptually straightforward.

Hal, you indeed seem to comprehend what I was aiming at with the chronophone parable. I may even have responded to Hanson incorrectly. In our time it is already widely believed, at least among the educational elite, that making money (especially by inventing new gadgets) benefits humanity. So if you said that into the chronophone, it might come out as a paean to the benefits of conquering enemy territories. In Archimedes's time a technological marketplace is a nonobvious idea; and a basic principle of the chronophone is that to make something nonobvious come out in the past, you have to say something nonobvious in the present.