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timtyler comments on In Praise of Boredom - Less Wrong

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

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Comment author: timtyler 15 June 2012 10:11:31AM -1 points [-]

But when the authors start claiming that this is basically the origin of all macroscopic structure, even when the "gradient" involved isn't really a thermodynamic gradient, things start getting crazy. Benard convection occurs when there is a temperature gradient in a fluid; arbitrage occurs when there is a price gradient in an economy. These are both, according to the authors, consequences of the same universal law: nature abhors a gradient.

That's right - MEP is a statistical characterisation of universal Darwinism, which explains a lot about CAS - including why water flows downhill, turbulence, crack propagation, crystal formation, and lots more.

Schneider's original work on the topic is Life as a manifestation of the second law of thermodynamics.

Comment author: Ghatanathoah 15 June 2012 05:11:28PM -1 points [-]

Of course, while this work has some scientific interest (a fact I never denied), it is worthless for determining what the purpose of intelligent life and civilization should be. All it does is explain where life came from, it has no value in determining what we want to do now and what we should do next.

Your original statement that started this discussion was a claim that our civilization maximizes entropy. That claim was based on a trivial map-territory confusion, confounding two different referents of the word "maximize," Referent 1 being :"Is purposefully designed to greatly increase something by intelligent beings" and Referent 2 being: "Has a statistical tendency to greatly increase something."

When Eliezer claimed that intelligent creatures and their civilization would only be interesting if they purposefully acted to maximize novelty, you attempted to refute his claim by saying that our civilization is not purposefully acting to maximize novelty because it has a statistical tendency to greatly increase entropy. In other words, you essentially said "Our civilization does not maximize(1) novelty because it maximizes(2) entropy." You entire argument is based on map-territory confusion.

Comment author: timtyler 15 June 2012 10:04:27PM *  -1 points [-]

Your comment is a blatant distortion of the facts. Eliezer's only references to maximizing are to an "expected paperclip maximizer". He never talks about "purposeful" maximisation. Nor did I attempt the refutation you are attribting to me. You've been reduced to making things up :-(

Comment author: Ghatanathoah 18 June 2012 04:23:05AM *  0 points [-]

Eliezer's only references to maximizing are to an "expected paperclip maximizer".

Eliezer never literally referred to the word "maximize," but the thrust of his essay is that a society that purposefully maximizes, or at least greatly increases novelty, is far more interesting than one that doesn't. He claimed that, for this reason, a paperclip maximizing civilization would be valueless, because paperclips are all the same.

Nor did I attempt the refutation you are attribting to me.

You said:

Our civilisation maximises entropy - not paperclips - which hardly seems much more interesting.

In this instance you are using "maximize" to mean "Has a statistical tendency to increase something." You are claiming that everything humans do is uninteresting because it has a statistical tendency to increase entropy and destroy entropy gradients, and entropy is uninteresting. You're ignoring the fact that when humans create, we create art, socialization, science, literature, architecture, history, and all sorts of wonderful things. Paperclip maximizers just create the same paperclip, over and over again. It doesn't matter how much entropy gets made in the process, humans are a quadrillion times more interesting because there is so much diversity in what we do.

Claiming that all the wonderful, varied, and diverse things humans do is no more interesting than paperclipping, just because you could describe it as "entropy maximization" is ridiculous. You might as well say that all events are equally uninteresting because you can describe all of them as "stuff happening."

So yes, Eliezer never used the word "maximize" but he definitely claimed that creatures that didn't value novelty would be boring. And you did attempt to refute his claim by claiming that our civilization's statistical tendency to increase entropy means that creating art, conversation, science, etc. is no different from paperclipping. I think my objection stands.