Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

timtyler comments on In Praise of Boredom - Less Wrong

23 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 January 2009 09:03AM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (100)

Sort By: Old

You are viewing a single comment's thread. Show more comments above.

Comment author: timtyler 15 June 2012 12:32:25AM *  0 points [-]

Does Earth generate much more entropy than Venus?

I think that's comparing apples and cheese.

it seems to me that in the long-run you get the same effects. In the short run local life can use up free energy more quickly, but it can also stockpile resources for later extraction (fossil fuels, acorns, stellar engineering).

Your point here isn't clear. Orgainsms stockpile, but they also eat their stockpiles. Escosystems ultimately leave nothing behind, to the best of their ability. Life produces maximal devastation.

Think you can more accurately characterise nature's maximand?

Thermodynamics tells us that doing most anything at all increases entropy. Calling that a utility function looks like talking about how the utility functions of falling objects value being closer to large masses.

Except that that particular effect can be explained as a manifestation of the MEP principle - which is much more general. So the idea that objects like to be close to other objects is redundant, unnecessary - and can be discarded on Occamian grounds.

Comment author: CarlShulman 15 June 2012 01:46:08AM 3 points [-]

Your point here isn't clear. Orgainsms stockpile, but they also eat their stockpiles. Escosystems ultimately leave nothing behind, to the best of their ability. Life produces maximal devastation.

At any given time, much of the grasslands and fertile ocean are not engaged in photosynthesis because herbivores have cropped the primary producers, reducing short-term entropy production. You can swallow that problem with a catch-all "best of their ability clause," but now "ability" needs to talk about the ability of herbivores to compete in a sea of ill-defended plants, selfish genes, and so forth.

The move to biological and social systems is an attempt at empirical generalization with some success, since untapped free energy has the potential to power living creatures' reproduction, and mutants that tap such sources proliferate. Humans can use free energy to power machinery as well as their own bodies, so they tap available resources. Great, you have a correlate for the proliferation of life.

But this isn't enough to power accurate predictions about the portion of Earth's surface performing photosynthesis, or whether humanity (or successors) will use up the available resources in the Solar System as quickly as possible, or as quickly as will maximize interstellar colonization and energy use, or much more slowly to increase the total computation that can be performed, or slowly so as to sustain a smaller population with longer lifespans.

Comment author: timtyler 15 June 2012 10:50:22AM *  0 points [-]

Your point here isn't clear. Orgainsms stockpile, but they also eat their stockpiles. Escosystems ultimately leave nothing behind, to the best of their ability. Life produces maximal devastation.

At any given time, much of the grasslands and fertile ocean are not engaged in photosynthesis because herbivores have cropped the primary producers, reducing short-term entropy production. You can swallow that problem with a catch-all "best of their ability clause," but now "ability" needs to talk about the ability of herbivores to compete in a sea of ill-defended plants, selfish genes, and so forth.

Herbivores cause massive devastation and destruction to plant life. The extend life's reach underground - where plants cannot live. They led to oil drilling, international flights, global warming and nuclear power. If you want to defend the thesis that the planet would be a better dissipator without them, you have quite a challenge on your hands, it seems to me.

But this isn't enough to power accurate predictions about the portion of Earth's surface performing photosynthesis, or whether humanity (or successors) will use up the available resources in the Solar System as quickly as possible, or as quickly as will maximize interstellar colonization and energy use, or much more slowly to increase the total computation that can be performed, or slowly so as to sustain a smaller population with longer lifespans.

MEP is a statistical principle. It illuminates these issues, but doesn't make them trivial. Compare with natural selection - which also illuminates these areas without trivializing them.