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thepokeduck comments on Building Weirdtopia - Less Wrong

28 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 January 2009 08:35PM

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Comment author: thepokeduck 16 December 2010 08:28:25AM -1 points [-]

I really like your idea for comprehensive sexual education. Something I have said for a long time is that everyone should have their heart broken once, as part of being human, because once you know what that feels like, you understand the stakes of romance. I feel that this post takes that sentiment and expands and develops it much more fully.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 December 2010 01:07:54PM *  14 points [-]

Something I have said for a long time is that everyone should have their heart broken once, as part of being human, because once you know what that feels like, you understand the stakes of romance.

That's... horrible. You're advocating doing permanent emotional damage to people. Sure, most of the will heal, some will grow from the experience but none will be the same. It's torture.

Comment author: Jack 16 December 2010 03:34:38PM 2 points [-]

This is just a different variation on the human-Super Happy debate.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 December 2010 04:44:59PM *  7 points [-]

What? Without wanting to disrespect the relationship you have identified between the two concepts the difference are enormously important to my perception.. This isn't allowing people to have painful experiences. This is actively torturing them so they know what torture feels like.

I've never had my heart broken. But I have certainly experienced heartache enough to at least to at least be able to emphasise in part what it would be like for those who have endured months of turmoil from that kind of emotional wound. You just don't do that to people.

If you must give folks preparatory emotional experiences give them a two week summer fling that ends. Like Grease only Sandy goes back to Australia. Or systematically teach them some generic emotional coping skills like a sane society would.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 16 December 2010 04:52:37PM 4 points [-]

Actually "have their hearts broken" was the term he used. That you replace it with the word "torture" isn't helpful in keeping the focus on what is actually discussed.

Though I'm all in favour of torturing people that actually want to know what torture feels like. An American reporter had himself waterboarded, which was when he started opposing the practice of waterboarding.

If it helped make him a better person as a result, and helped him start oppose the much worse harm done on others, it was a good thing he got waterboarded.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 December 2010 05:10:57PM 3 points [-]

Actually "have their hearts broken" was the term he used. That you replace it with the word "torture" isn't helpful in keeping the focus on what is actually discussed.

No, and I actually downvoted your objection because this is important. What was actually being discussed was equivalence to Superhappy debates. I am asserting that torture is a far more appropriate analogy - albeit the stakes with mere torture are far lower than the stakes in systematically rewriting our species' DNA.

On a technical note and without necessarily being require for my point - breaking people's hearts would absolutely fit the definition of torture. Moreover if it were possible to do without the whole pesky 'falling in love' part it would almost certainly be used for that purpose by military organisations.

Though I'm all in favour of torturing people that actually want to know what torture feels like.

And if everybody wanted to have their hearts broken this proposal would not be outrageous.

Comment author: Jack 16 December 2010 05:37:32PM 1 point [-]

I'm not strictly endorsing the original proposal. But if we think some degree and certain types of pain adds depth to our personalities and enriches our existence then the question becomes how much pain and what kinds of pain should we let ourselves experience. We probably want to say no to water-boarding and yes to mild disappointment and scraped knees. A world without heartbreak (which I realize isn't the same thing as forcing people to experience heartbreak) seems to involve costs: fewer tragedies get written, people don't understand love quite the same way, no one understands pop music from the 20th century, etc. I'm not sure how one even begins to weigh the costs and benefits.

Making everyone experience heartbreak seems like going too far to me but in exactly the same way scraped knees are going too far according to the Super Happies.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 16 December 2010 07:33:11PM 1 point [-]

I'm not sure how one even begins to weigh the costs and benefits.

It's not a trivial problem. But I think if I don't at least attempt such a weighing, I'm not taking the problem seriously.

For my part, it makes no sense to me that the actual suffering should ever be valuable enough to want either to participate in it or to encourage others to do so. If having suffered through X is valuable, then I might encourage taking on the memory of having suffered through it, but that's no reason to make them go through X. (Assuming, of course, that my communications technology is adequate to that task. If the only way I know to communicate suffering is to make others suffer, then my options are of course limited, but I ought to work on relaxing that limitation.)

All of the examples you give are of the benefits of the memories of suffering. I don't need to currently be suffering to receive those benefits.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 December 2010 04:11:15PM *  6 points [-]

I agree strongly with wedrifid. This is like claiming that everyone should experience a death in their family at least once so that they can appreciate the value of life.

Comment author: Nornagest 17 December 2010 12:26:11AM *  4 points [-]

I think I'm still agnostic on the original debate, but the family death analogy fails. There is a difference in kind between an unpleasant but temporary experience and the permanent termination of sapient experience.

The analogy to the death of a beloved pet might be stronger. Similar emotional consequences, but doesn't implicitly require serious negative externalities unless you hold strong views on animal rights.

Comment author: [deleted] 22 December 2010 11:50:13PM 3 points [-]

I agree that the analogy fails if you take stock of the total damage caused, which is much worse in the case I offered, but I was focusing on the personal feelings of bereavement of the sufferer. I should have added a phrase mentioning that caveat; I was actually considering it, and I'm not sure why I decided against it.

Anyway, I can think of ways to make the analogy better in that regard, but it has the unfortunate side effect of making the analogous situation seem a lot more contrived and far less natural. The first thing that occurs to me is to take the example of warfare mentioned below and make it into a simulation; the person in question thinks they are killing people and watching their friends die and actually gets wounded and suffers PTSD and returns home to live with their memories and try to adjust for years, before it is all revealed to have been a carefully controlled experience, that everybody who "died" is actually fine and/or never existed, and that he was never in any real danger of dying or being permanently damaged.

Another would be to change my first analogy a bit; instead of the family member dying, they are forced to move away to a far away place never to return (and this actually happens, with proof and everything, as opposed to being some sort of unpleasant euphemism for extermination). No communication or reunion is ever allowed.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 16 December 2010 05:11:38PM 7 points [-]

Should people be allowed to have their hearts broken, ever, whether or not a society does it to them deliberately?

Comment author: MartinB 16 December 2010 05:34:36PM 3 points [-]

I would ask differently: Should one be able to have ones heart broken only after knowing a certain amount about the mechanics of relationships, or should one be able to go about this with out any preventative information whatsoever?

There is a reason why people learn about contraception as young as possible. A similar thing could be done for the social aspects of relationships reducing the pain and surprise experienced.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 December 2010 11:01:48PM *  21 points [-]

My own attempt at answering this question was to think for at least 5 minutes of ways in which a society could possibly avoid its people having their hearts broken, and evaluate the solutions on a do want/do not want scale.

The first method would be to never let anybody fall in love again. Either humans would be modified such that they would never feel love again, or they would be isolated such that they could never interact with the appropriate gender (so... straight men with each other, straight women with each other, gay men and lesbian women in single pairs, bisexuals by themselves, etc... if not just isolating everybody individually). This strikes me as completely unacceptable.

The second approach would be to avoid heartbreaks once a person has fallen in love. We consider the cases where a person might have his or her heart broken after that event: the other person might reject them initially, lie to them and string them along until revelation, love them back for a time but eventually stop feeling the same way and leave them, do something that causes first person to leave them while still being in love themselves (cheating, spousal rape, etc...), or be separated from the first person due to circumstances beyond control (death, physical separation due to economic circumstances, etc...). At least, those are all the ways I can think of.

Hopefully, by the time we can seriously talk about eliminating heartbreaks as an implementable policy, the latter will no longer be a serious consideration for people. The case of lying could be taken care of if humans were prevented from lying somehow, either in a specific case (humans can't lie to their partners while in a relationship/can't lie when saying "I love you"/some other constrain) or the general case (humans can't lie at all); I must admit that the former seems to me mildly attractive depending on how it is implemented. To handle the case of people falling out of love, humans could be modified such that they never fall out of love once they have become enamored of someone who loves them back and they have become lovers. This is definitely interesting; I can't see any immediate objections to that one that aren't part of the fully general "ick! You are changing me and taking away my free will" reflex. The rejection case could be solved by making it such that people reciprocate love once someone has fallen in love with them, maybe even changing orientations to do so; I don't really like this one. Comparing it with the last case discussed, the difference seems to be the difference between making a change and preserving a state; I'm not sure this is something I should care about much, so I will consider it more fully later. And the last case... oh, hell, I don't know. I don't think taking away the ability to do such things works without also removing the intentions, unless their partner never finds out about them.

The third way would be to let people fall in love, but only with people who would not break their hearts. It seems like creating human imitations who would always love one, a la Failed Utopia #4-2, is one possible venue of attack. It also looks like some ideas from the second set of situations coulde be re-applied with a bit of tweaking...

Aaaand I'm gonna stop there, because I just realized that on top of this, I have to consider all the cases for the polyamorists, too. Jesus Christ, people are complicated; Randall Munroe was right. Sorry if this seems confused, but that's mostly because it is; this is the first time I have seriously considered the problem. Still, I hope to have contributed something with my post.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 17 December 2010 03:07:17AM 7 points [-]

Aaaand I'm gonna stop there, because I just realized that on top of this, I have to consider all the cases for the polyamorists, too. Jesus Christ, people are complicated.

Upvoted for exactly this.

Comment author: orthonormal 17 December 2010 03:41:41AM *  0 points [-]

How about the proposal I came up with on this problem?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 17 December 2010 10:38:56AM 8 points [-]

Upvoted for thinking about the problem for five minutes.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 17 December 2010 01:47:41PM 4 points [-]

A General Theory of Love has the plausible idea that social animals (especially humans, who are the only ones who die in infancy from isolation) need contact to regulate various bodily functions.

Heartbreak could presumably be prevented if those bodily functions can no longer be disrupted beyond a certain point. This would also mean that grief would be blunted a lot.

I think it makes sense that the positive side of love could still happen without the misery of losing it.

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 18 September 2011 04:10:01AM 1 point [-]

As someone who has experienced romantic happiness without having ever experienced romantic tragedy, I can confirm that love without heartbreak is pleasant and is not meaningless for at least one person.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 18 September 2011 04:42:28AM 0 points [-]

You're probably at risk for romantic misery-- I was talking about the general structure, not about needing emotional contrast.

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 18 September 2011 05:03:51AM 0 points [-]

Ah, I misinterpreted you. I agree that I am at risk for romantic misery. I thought you were talking about the idea proposed above that everyone should be heartbroken once to make love more meaningful.

Comment author: Desrtopa 17 December 2010 03:16:07PM 1 point [-]

The rejection case could be solved by making it such that people reciprocate love once someone has fallen in love with them, maybe even changing orientations to do so

This sounds like a really bad patch.

Comment author: Kingreaper 17 December 2010 03:24:15PM *  9 points [-]

The rejection case could be solved by making it such that people reciprocate love once someone has fallen in love with them, maybe even changing orientations to do so; I don't really like this one.

A more elegant solution if you're going to be messing around with love, and modifying the whole courting element would be to have person 1 not fall in love unless person 2 was also in position to fall in love.

ie. when your system detects that a person is falling for someone, it deletes that, but keeps the fact on record. If the second person reciprocates, they're both allowed to experience love.

In such a world you could also help solve the heartbreak problem through the same means, once one of the two falls out of love, they both do.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 17 December 2010 03:28:32PM *  6 points [-]

That was more or less precisely the thought going through my mind when I was imagining how I would design the system if I was doing it from scratch. Though not with the "mark and delete" part, just "check to see if love is reciprocable before allowing process to proceed".

Comment author: Jack 17 December 2010 04:22:50PM *  7 points [-]

check to see if love is reciprocable before allowing process to proceed".

Does this mean extrapolating how person 2 will feel after they spend more time with person 1? Would you take into account the presence of a third person who might steal the affections of person 2? I guess we could solve love triangles by duplicating people.

Love also doesn't seem to me like a binary event, we'd want to allow relationships that would progress to any level on a mutual love spectrum and then stop people from falling deeper in love when their partner would not follow.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 17 December 2010 04:49:20PM 4 points [-]

Here and elsewhere, I don't really see the "don't let things get too bad" solution as categorically separable from just bloody optimizing the process already.

E.g., sure, a generate-and-test mechanism like you propose for relationships is an improvement over the existing no-test version; agreed. But I see it as a step along the way to a more fully optimized system... for example, one where the people most likely to construct mutually satisfying relationships (which include reciprocal-love arrangements, if that's what you're into) are proactively introduced to one another.

Comment author: Perplexed 17 December 2010 03:43:21PM 2 points [-]

I'm a bit surprised to see this topic being discussed here, but since it is, I'd like to mention a movie I saw recently (NetFlix streaming) that explored some of the complications that might arise.

Comment author: Armok_GoB 17 December 2010 05:31:34PM 10 points [-]

Another possibility is to have everyone always being in love with everyone.

Comment author: wedrifid 17 December 2010 02:00:48AM 2 points [-]

Sure, if they are into that sort of thing I don't particularly care. That said it isn't a right that I'm excessively enamored with. If the superhappys were going to remove our ability to have our hearts broken I wouldn't blow up earth to prevent it.

Comment author: xxd 14 December 2011 11:57:24PM 0 points [-]

Wow. I wonder what you are so afraid of... I've had my heart broken multiple times and it's not pleasant to be sure but it's hardly the end of the world. I actually am glad to have had the experiences though I wasn't at the time.

I have also been tortured a la marathon man and that also was seriously unpleasant but although even re-imagining it sends shudders down my spine I am also glad to have it.

But here's a question for you to consider: What if I had control over the AI and I decided that everyone were to be forced to go through physical painful torture AND have their hearts broken multiple times?

Pretty sure you would disagree strongly with that idea but I disagree strongly with the idea of my ability to have my heart broken AND/OR tortured removed.

Basically what I'm saying is that what a single individual thinks is right for everyone might not necessarily be so...

I'd go for a one-simulation-per-person scenario as being best fit where everyone gets some control over their choice of simulation...

Comment author: wedrifid 15 December 2011 06:00:31AM 0 points [-]

Wow. I wonder what you are so afraid of... I've had my heart broken multiple times and it's not pleasant to be sure but it's hardly the end of the world.

Nothing in Wedrifid_2010's comment seems to indicate fear. You seem to be replying to a straw man.

Comment author: xxd 15 December 2011 05:53:26PM 0 points [-]

If it's not fear what is your objection to having your heart broken? And how can you possibly take upon yourself the right to decide for everybody else?

Comment author: wedrifid 15 December 2011 06:18:29PM *  0 points [-]

If it's not fear what is your objection to having your heart broken?

The same objection I have to someone cutting off my little toe. It is painful and means that I'll forever be missing a part of myself. Not a big deal - just a minor to moderate negative outcome.

And how can you possibly take upon yourself the right to decide for everybody else?

You are responding to a straw man again - and I am rather surprised that you have been rewarded for doing so since it is rather insulting to attribute silly beliefs to people without cause. This is a complete reversal of what Wedrifid_2010 said. He vehemetly rejected thepokeduck's proposal that everyone should have their heart broken - because he found the idea of someone deciding that everyone else should have their heart broken abhorrent and presumptive.

Then, in the very comment you replied to, Wedrifid_2010 said:

Sure, if they are into that sort of thing I don't particularly care.

That is explicitly declaring no inclination toward controlling other people's self-heart-breaking impulses.

Comment author: xxd 15 December 2011 08:26:36PM 0 points [-]

You're deliberately ignoring this comment of yours: "If the superhappys were going to remove our ability to have our hearts broken I wouldn't blow up earth to prevent it."

You are therefore at least slightly in favor of controlling other people and many would interpret your tongue-in-cheek comment to say you support it.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 December 2011 08:32:53PM *  0 points [-]

You are therefore at least slightly in favor of controlling other people

What the? No. "Would not blow up the earth to prevent it" doesn't mean "slightly in favor". That's as absurd as saying "greater than negative twenty million" necessarily means "slightly positive".

EDIT: Ok, me getting downvoted I can understand - someone has been mass dowvnvoting me across the board. But xxd has been upvoted here. This makes no sense! I'd better stop responding on this subject.

Comment author: dlthomas 15 December 2011 08:54:11PM 2 points [-]

How is it inconsistent to object to taking away everybody else's choice whether they live or die more strongly than one objects to taking away everybody else's choice whether they can experience heartbreak?

Comment author: ponsegorro 15 December 2011 09:33:50PM *  0 points [-]

Not sure

Comment author: Strange7 18 April 2011 12:43:09PM 0 points [-]

Of course they won't be the same. That's the point, like the way your immune system won't be the same after a vaccination. Being a thoughtless jerk to someone who loves you isn't as serious a problem as dying of polio, but it might still be worth fixing.

Comment author: MartinB 16 December 2010 05:37:47PM 6 points [-]

You can construct similar arguments for other topics:

  • everyone should go to war once, to experience fights, and learn why peace is so valuable
  • everyone should get severely hurt once, to learn to value his body

And from recent experiences: everyone should get a root canal once to learn to take care of his teeth.

Heartbreaks are not necessary in my book.

Comment author: RomanDavis 17 December 2010 12:46:57PM *  3 points [-]

I do think I have a richer human experience because of the fights I've been in, and the heartbreak I've felt.

I'm not sure, if it for ''everyone.'' I tend to assume the future should be a place of less coercion, not more.

But I could see the value in a human race that partook of severe injury as an occasional vice in the same way as say, spicy food.

Comment author: Strange7 18 April 2011 12:45:53PM 3 points [-]

severe injury as an occasional vice

I count this possibility as a major point in favor of Sufficiently Advanced medical technology.

Comment author: xxd 15 December 2011 12:00:17AM 1 point [-]

Yup.

Comment author: xxd 14 December 2011 11:59:07PM 2 points [-]

But on the other hand, those who want those experiences should not be banned from having them.