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Latanius2 comments on Joy in the Merely Real - Less Wrong

63 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 20 March 2008 06:18AM

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Comment author: Latanius2 20 March 2008 10:17:56AM 1 point [-]

In what category does "the starship from book X" fit?

Definitely not into the "real, explainable, playing by the rules of our world" category. We can't observe it's inner workings more closely, although in the world of the book everything seems to be explained. (They know how it works, we don't.)

But also not in the "does'nt exist, is not worth caring about" category: we know that it doesn't exist in the real world even before reading the full book, but is nevertheless interesting and worth reading.

I personally would be less curious about bird droppings after reading such a book. (And read the sequel instead.) Does this count as self-deception?

So how should we overcome this "virtual reality bias"? Eliezer, you once wrote that reading sci-fi is one of the "software methods" to increase intelligence (and shock level). But to be accustomed to interstellar travel and AIs, and be interested in bird droppings and "mere reality" at the same time... If I could do that, I would be happy, but I can't, I think. So how do scientists manage to do that?

Comment author: taryneast 18 December 2010 11:41:27AM *  3 points [-]

So how do scientists manage to do that?

As a person that is interested in everything... I personally find that the more I learn, the more I'm interested in.

I suggest that you don't start by looking at bird-droppings (you'll probably get here in the end... or somewhere equally interesting).

You say you like SF? I'd suggest you start with "A brief History of Time". Or "Cosmos" by Sagan... from there move deeper into physics, maybe chemistry, then biology.

Eventually you'll find things that are interesting about everything (even bird droppings).

Comment author: bigjeff5 02 February 2011 03:21:18AM *  3 points [-]

"Cosmos" is absolutely fantastic. Can't recommend it enough.

I too can't understand the idea that knowing how a thing works can make the thing any less awe-inspiring.

Case in point: supermassive black holes. I understand the basics of what they are, but I find the idea that the mass sometimes in the neighborhood of billions of suns could be compressed into sphere smaller than I could ever hope to see, even if it didn't prevent all light from escaping its grasp, to be absolutely amazing. That the gas falling into these black holes can move so fast and so forcefully that the friction generates the most powerful bursts of energy known to exist in the universe, sending bursts of gamma rays lancing across the universe.

How can anybody find such things anything but amazing and worthy of wonder?