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Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on Beyond the Reach of God - Less Wrong

68 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 04 October 2008 03:42PM

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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 04 October 2008 05:14:02PM 16 points [-]

The claim isn't that Germany would have been perfectly fine, and would never have started a war or done anything else extreme. And the claim is not that Hitler trashed a country that was ticking along happily.

The claim is that the history of the twentieth century would have gone substantially differently. World War II might not have happened. The tremendous role that Hitler's idiosyncrasies played in directing events, doesn't seem to leave much rational room for determinism here.

Comment author: kilobug 05 November 2011 02:01:12PM 5 points [-]

Well, the raise of fascism and anti-Semitism in Europe at that time was wide-spread. It was not just a man. From the Dreyfus affair in France, to Mussolini and Franco, to the heated rivalries between the fascists leagues and the popular in France, ... the whole of Europe after WW1 and unfair Versailles treaty, then the disaster of the 1929 crisis, was a fertile land for all fascist movements.

World War II feels much more like a "natural consequence" of previous events (WW1, Versailles treaty, 1929 crisis) and general historical laws (that "populist" politicians thrive when the economical situation is bad), than of a single man. It would have been different with different leaders in the various major countries involved, sure. If Leon Blum helped Republican Spain against Franco instead of letting them stand alone, things could have changed a lot. And many other events could have gone differently - of course, without Hitler, it would have been different.

But different enough so WWII wouldn't occur ? Very unlikely to me - not impossible, but very unlikely with only a single turning point.

Comment author: Smokeskin 07 January 2013 03:01:24PM 5 points [-]

Be aware of the hindsight bias: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindsight_bias

Comment author: MugaSofer 15 April 2013 10:46:27AM 1 point [-]

Depends on how strictly you define "WWII", for one thing. For example, I've seen it argued that Hitler crippled the Nazi defense strategy to the extent they might well have won without him. Is it still WWII if it's the War for Freedom under the First Glorious Father? Probably. Still ...

Comment author: pnrjulius 05 July 2012 02:15:49AM 1 point [-]

It's a subtle matter, but... you clearly don't really mean determinism here, because you've said a hundred times before how the universe is ultimately deterministic even at the quantum level.

Maybe predictability is the word we want. Or maybe it's something else, like fairness or "moral non-neutrality"; it doesn't seem fair that Hitler could have that large an impact by himself, even though there's nothing remotely non-deterministic about that assertion.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 July 2012 02:19:38AM 11 points [-]

Macroscopic determinism, i.e., the belief that an outcome was not sensitive to small thermal (never mind quantum) fluctuations. If I'm hungry and somebody offers me a tasty hamburger, it's macroscopically determined that I'll say yes in almost all Everett branches; if Zimbabwe starts printing more money, it's macroscopically determined that their inflation rates will rise further.

Comment author: shminux 05 July 2012 11:47:45PM 4 points [-]

Macroscopic determinism

The relevant mathematical term is well-posedness, specifically

The solution's behavior hardly changes, when there's a slight change in the initial condition

Specifically, the short-term changes are small or at least bounded, though the long term behavior may change drastically.

Comment author: Sniffnoy 05 July 2012 02:32:46AM 2 points [-]

Perhapss something along the lines of "stability"? The idea being that small perturbations of input should lead to only small perturbations down the line. ("Stability" isn't really the proper word for that, but I'm not sure what is.)