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Wei_Dai comments on Existential Angst Factory - Less Wrong

40 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 19 July 2008 06:55AM

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Comment author: Wei_Dai 06 June 2011 06:03:33AM *  3 points [-]

I think that nihilism may be viable as a moral philosophy, in the sense that it's the default position, if you find that you reject all possible values you could have as "crazy" under sufficient reflection.

Does anyone have an argument why this is impossible or unlikely? For example, can anyone exhibit a clearly defined value and explain why (with high probability) this value would be part of one's CEV?

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 07 June 2011 11:16:42AM *  4 points [-]

Edit: This doesn't apply to Wei's comment.

Considering that "doing nothing" is also an action, what makes it a less likely target for declaring unmotivated than everything else combined?

Comment author: Wei_Dai 07 June 2011 07:02:05PM *  6 points [-]

Nihilism (or at least my version of it) does not say that one should "do nothing", but instead that there are no values (i.e., one is indifferent between all possible states of the world). If one does consider all possible states of the world to be equally preferable, there is an additional complication that our minds are largely collections of autonomous processes that are not affected by consciously held values, so you do not end up doing nothing even if you do end up being a nihilist. Instead, the part of your mind that is motivated by explicit verbal/philosophical considerations is no longer motivated to do anything, and leaves the rest of your mind to run your body on automatic. (If nihilism does say that one should do nothing, then you'd actively try to stop yourself from doing anything, but that's not my claim.)

Comment author: steven0461 07 June 2011 07:34:56PM 0 points [-]

I wonder if it's fair to say that indifference isn't a preference in the same sense that zero and one aren't probabilities.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 07 June 2011 08:39:58PM *  2 points [-]

0 and 1 as probabilities do make sense under the UDT probability-as-measure-of-caring interpretation (as opposed to the Bayesian probability-as-subjective-degree-of-confidence interpretation). In UDT you don't do Bayesian updating so you don't run into the divide-by-zero problem with probability 0 events, so you can rule it out as a valid probability on purely mathematical grounds. (EDIT: Obviously I meant to write "can't" in the last sentence.)

Comment author: cousin_it 08 June 2011 09:13:24AM 0 points [-]

Good point. Also, we can push steven0461's analogy a bit further by saying indifference is what happens when UDT finds itself in a universe that has prior probability 0 :-)

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 07 June 2011 09:22:32PM 0 points [-]

Nihilism (or at least my version of it) does not say that one should "do nothing", but instead that there are no values (i.e., one is indifferent between all possible states of the world).

This clarification makes my comment inapplicable.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 07 June 2011 08:02:56PM *  5 points [-]

I should acknowledge that at a low level of intelligence, nihilism (there are no values) may be indistinguishable from fragility-of-value (no value is valuable when considered by itself, but only in combination with other values). In other words, the fact that we can't exhibit a clearly defined value and explain why (with high probability) this value would be part of one's CEV can be explained by "value is fragile" as well as by nihilism. So I do not intend to demand that specific proof, and it's just an example of an argument that would work.