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James_D._Miller comments on Devil's Offers - Less Wrong

21 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 December 2008 05:00PM

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Comment author: James_D._Miller 27 December 2008 12:03:47AM 2 points [-]

Eliezer-

“What justifies the right of your past self to exert coercive control over your future self? There may be overlap of interests, which is one of the typical de facto criteria for coercive intervention; but can your past self have an epistemic vantage point over your future self?”

In general I agree. But werewolf contracts protect against temporary lapses in rationality. My level of rationality varies. Even assuming that I remain in good health for eternity there will almost certainly exist some hour in the future in which my rationality is much lower than it is today. My current self, therefore, will almost certainly have an “epistemic vantage point over [at least a small part of my] future self.” Given that I could cause great harm to myself in a very short period of time I am willing to significantly reduce my freedom in return for protecting myself against future temporary irrationality.

Having my past self exert coercive control of my future self will reduce my future information costs. For example, when you download something from the web you must often agree to a long list of conditions. Under current law if these terms of conditions included something like “you must give Microsoft all of your wealth” the term wouldn’t be enforced. If the law did enforce such terms then you would have to spend a lot of time examining the terms of everything you agreed to. You would be much better off if your past self prevented your current self from giving away too much in the fine print of agreements.

“If you constrain the contracts that can be written, then clearly you have an idea of good or bad mindstates apart from the raw contract law, and someone is bound to ask why you don't outlaw the bad mindstates directly.”

The set of possible future mindstates / world state combinations is very large. It’s too difficult to figure out in advance which combinations are bad. It’s much more practical to sign a Werewolf contract which gives your guardian the ability to look at the mindstate / worldstate you are in and then decide if you should be forced to move to a different mindstate.

“why force Phaethon to sacrifice his pride, by putting him in that environment?”

Phaethon placed greater weight on freedom than pride and your type of paternalism would reduce his freedom.

But in general I agree that if most humans alive today were put in the Golden Age world then many would do great harm to themselves and in such a world I would prefer that the Sophotechs exercise some paternalism. But if such paternalism didn’t exist then Warewolf contracts would greatly reduce the type of harm you refer to.