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Carl_Shulman comments on The Baby-Eating Aliens (1/8) - Less Wrong

42 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 30 January 2009 12:07PM

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Comment author: Carl_Shulman 31 January 2009 01:58:23AM 0 points [-]

"Why doesn't modern society securitize hard assets into money of zero maturity, instead of using a purely abstract debt-based currency to denominate debts? Because it would be slightly more complicated, that's why." Eliezer,

I think you're mistaken about the relative complexity of parents selectively provisioning their own offspring, versus the baroque and complex adaptations for social intelligence and coordination required for this system to be stable.

"And anyone who tried to cheat, to hide away a child, or even go easier on their own children during the winnowing - well, the Babyeaters treated the merciful parents the same way that human tribes treat their traitors."

This means that the Babyeaters were capable of recognizing and preferring their own children after birth. Selectively provisioning your own offspring is an extremely common adaptation, as is allocating resources preferentially (e.g. starving runts) and most of the necessary complexity already seems to exist among the Babyeaters. Separate pens/nests are simpler than evolving a complex set of adaptations to manage and enforce an even-handed winnowing.

Consider that with pooled offspring in a single pen, we now have two commons problems, aside from even-handed winnowing, Babyeaters have strong incentives to shirk in their agricultural labor. For the Babyeaters to develop a set of immensely powerful adaptations for managing such conflicts of interest (exceedingly strong by the standards of Earth's biodiversity) is going to take evolution a long time, during which selective provisioning/penning/devouring would likely take hold in some groups and then sweep the population.