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1 Elo 26 August 2016 08:34AM

Original post:  http://bearlamp.com.au/hedging/




  • Men are evil 
  • All men are evil 
  • Some men are evil
  • most men are evil
  • many men are evil
  • I think men are evil
  • I think all men are evil
  • I think some men are evil 
  • I think most men are evil

"I think" weakens your relationship or belief in the idea, hedges that I usually encourage are the some|most type. It weakens your strength of idea but does not reduce the confidence of it.

  • I 100% believe this happens 80% or more of the time (most men are evil) 
  • I 75% believe that this happens 100% of the time (I think all men are evil) 
  • I 75% believe this happens 20% of the time (I think that some men are evil) 
  • I 100% believe that this happens 20% of the time (some men are evil)
  • I (Reader Interprets)% believe that this happens (Reader Interprets)% of the time (I think men are evil) 

They are all hedges.  I only like some of them.  When you hedge - I recommend using the type that doesn't detract from the projected belief but instead detracts from the expected effect on the world.  Which is to say - be confident of weak effects, rather than unconfident of strong effects.

This relates to filters in that some people will automatically add the "This person thinks..." filter to any incoming information.  It's not good or bad if you do/don't filter, just a fact about your lens of the world.  If you don't have this filter in place, you might find yourself personally attached to your words while other's remain detached from words that seem like they should be more personally attached to.  This filter might explain the difference.  

This also relates to Personhood and the way we trust incoming information from some sources.   When we are very young we go through a period of trusting anything said to us, and at some point experience failures when we do trust.  We also discover lying, and any parent will be able to tell you of the genuine childish glee when their children realise they can lie.  These experiences shape us into adults.  We have to trust some sources, we don't have enough time to be sceptical of all knowledge ever and sometimes we outsource to proven credentialed professionals i.e. doctors.  Sometimes those professionals get it wrong.

This also relates to in-groups and out-groups because listeners who believe they are in your in-group are likely to interpret ambiguous hedges in a neutral to positive direction and listeners who believe they are in the out-group of the message are likely to interpret your ambiguous hedges in a neutral or negative direction.  Which is to say that people who already agree that All men are evil, are likely to "know what you mean" when you say, "all men are evil" and people who don't agree that all men are evil will read a whole pile of "how wrong could you be" into the statement, "all men are evil".

Communication is hard.  I know no one is going to argue with my example because I already covered that in an earlier post.

Meta: this took 1.5hrs to write.

Inefficient Games

13 capybaralet 23 August 2016 05:47PM

There are several well-known games in which the pareto optima and Nash equilibria are disjoint sets.
The most famous is probably the prisoner's dilemma.  Races to the bottom or tragedies of the commons typically have this feature as well.

I proposed calling these inefficient games.  More generally, games where the sets of pareto optima and Nash equilibria are distinct (but not disjoint), such as a stag hunt could be called potentially inefficient games.

It seems worthwhile to study (potentially) inefficient games as a class and see what can be discovered about them, but I don't know of any such work (pointers welcome!)

The map of the risks of aliens

4 turchin 22 August 2016 07:05PM

Stephen Hawking famously said that aliens are one of the main risks to human existence. In this map I will try to show all rational ways how aliens could result in human extinction. Paradoxically, even if aliens don’t exist, we may be even in bigger danger.


1.No aliens exist in our past light cone

1a. Great Filter is behind us. So Rare Earth is true. There are natural forces in our universe which are against life on Earth, but we don’t know if they are still active. We strongly underestimate such forces because of anthropic shadow. Such still active forces could be: gamma-ray bursts (and other types of cosmic explosions like magnitars), the instability of Earth’s atmosphere,  the frequency of large scale volcanism and asteroid impacts. We may also underestimate the fragility of our environment in its sensitivity to small human influences, like global warming becoming runaway global warming.

1b. Great filter is ahead of us (and it is not UFAI). Katja Grace shows that this is a much more probable solution to the Fermi paradox because of one particular version of the Doomsday argument, SIA. All technological civilizations go extinct before they become interstellar supercivilizations, that is in something like the next century on the scale of Earth’s timeline. This is in accordance with our observation that new technologies create stronger and stronger means of destruction which are available to smaller groups of people, and this process is exponential. So all civilizations terminate themselves before they can create AI, or their AI is unstable and self terminates too (I have explained elsewhere why this could happen ). 


2.      Aliens still exist in our light cone.

a)      They exist in the form of a UFAI explosion wave, which is travelling through space at the speed of light. EY thinks that this will be a natural outcome of evolution of AI. We can’t see the wave by definition, and we can find ourselves only in the regions of the Universe, which it hasn’t yet reached. If we create our own wave of AI, which is capable of conquering a big part of the Galaxy, we may be safe from alien wave of AI. Such a wave could be started very far away but sooner or later it would reach us. Anthropic shadow distorts our calculations about its probability.

b)      SETI-attack. Aliens exist very far away from us, so they can’t reach us physically (yet) but are able to send information. Here the risk of a SETI-attack exists, i.e. aliens will send us a description of a computer and a program, which is AI, and this will convert the Earth into another sending outpost. Such messages should dominate between all SETI messages. As we get stronger and stronger radio telescopes and other instruments, we have more and more chances of finding messages from them.

c)      Aliens are near (several hundred light years), and know about the Earth, so they have already sent physical space ships (or other weapons) to us, as they have found signs of our technological development and don’t want to have enemies in their neighborhood. They could send near–speed-of-light projectiles or beams of particles on an exact collision course with Earth, but this seems improbable, because if they are so near, why haven’t they didn’t reached Earth yet?

d)      Aliens are here. Alien nanobots could be in my room now, and there is no way I could detect them. But sooner or later developing human technologies will be able to find them, which will result in some form of confrontation. If there are aliens here, they could be in “Berserker” mode, i.e. they wait until humanity reaches some unknown threshold and then attack. Aliens may be actively participating in Earth’s progress, like “progressors”, but the main problem is that their understanding of a positive outcome may be not aligned with our own values (like the problem of FAI).

e)      Deadly remains and alien zombies. Aliens have suffered some kind of existential catastrophe, and its consequences will affect us. If they created vacuum phase transition during accelerator experiments, it could reach us at the speed of light without warning. If they created self-replicating non sentient nanobots (grey goo), it could travel as interstellar stardust and convert all solid matter in nanobots, so we could encounter such a grey goo wave in space. If they created at least one von Neumann probe, with narrow AI, it still could conquer the Universe and be dangerous to Earthlings. If their AI crashed it could have semi-intelligent remnants with a random and crazy goal system, which roams the Universe. (But they will probably evolve in the colonization wave of von Neumann probes anyway.) If we find their planet or artifacts they still could carry dangerous tech like dormant AI programs, nanobots or bacteria. (Vernor Vinge had this idea as the starting point of the plot in his novel “Fire Upon the Deep”)

f)       We could attract the attention of aliens by METI. Sending signals to stars in order to initiate communication we could tell potentially hostile aliens our position in space. Some people advocate for it like Zaitsev, others are strongly opposed. The risks of METI are smaller than SETI in my opinion, as our radiosignals can only reach the nearest hundreds of light years before we create our own strong AI. So we will be able repulse the most plausible ways of space aggression, but using SETI we able to receive signals from much further distances, perhaps as much as one billion light years, if aliens convert their entire home galaxy to a large screen, where they draw a static picture, using individual stars as pixels. They will use vN probes and complex algorithms to draw such picture, and I estimate that it could present messages as large as 1 Gb and will visible by half of the Universe. So SETI is exposed to a much larger part of the Universe (perhaps as much as 10 to the power of 10 more times the number of stars), and also the danger of SETI is immediate, not in a hundred years from now.

g)      Space war. During future space exploration humanity may encounter aliens in the Galaxy which are at the same level of development and it may result in classical star wars.

h)      They will not help us. They are here or nearby, but have decided not to help us in x-risks prevention, or not to broadcast (if they are far) information about most the important x-risks via SETI and about proven ways of preventing them. So they are not altruistic enough to save us from x-risks.


3. If we are in a simulation, then the owners of the simulations are aliens for us and they could switch the simulation off. Slow switch-off is possible and in some conditions it will be the main observable way of switch-off. 


4. False beliefs in aliens may result in incorrect decisions. Ronald Reagan saw something which he thought was a UFO (it was not) and he also had early onset Alzheimer’s, which may be one of the reasons he invested a lot into the creation of SDI, which also provoked a stronger confrontation with the USSR. (BTW, it is only my conjecture, but I use it as illustration how false believes may result in wrong decisions.)


5. Prevention of the x-risks using aliens:

1.      Strange strategy. If all rational straightforward strategies to prevent extinction have failed, as implied by one interpretation of the Fermi paradox, we should try a random strategy.

2.      Resurrection by aliens. We could preserve some information about humanity hoping that aliens will resurrect us, or they could return us to life using our remains on Earth. Voyagers already have such information, and they and other satellites may have occasional samples of human DNA. Radio signals from Earth also carry a lot of information.

3.      Request for help. We could send radio messages with a request for help. (Very skeptical about this, it is only a gesture of despair, if they are not already hiding in the solar system)

4.      Get advice via SETI. We could find advice on how to prevent x-risks in alien messages received via SETI.

5.      They are ready to save us. Perhaps they are here and will act to save us, if the situation develops into something really bad.

6.      We are the risk.  We will spread through the universe and colonize other planets, preventing the existence of many alien civilizations, or change their potential and perspectives permanently. So we will be the existential risk for them.


6. We are the risks for future aleins.

In total, there is several significant probability things, mostly connected with Fermi paradox solutions. No matter where is Great filter, we are at risk. If we had passed it, we live in fragile universe, but most probable conclusion is that Great Filter is very soon.

Another important thing is risks of passive SETI, which is most plausible way we could encounter aliens in near–term future.

Also there are important risks that we are in simulation, but that it is created not by our possible ancestors, but by aliens, who may have much less compassion to us (or by UFAI). In the last case the simulation be modeling unpleasant future, including large scale catastrophes and human sufferings.

The pdf is here



Open Thread, Aug. 22 - 28, 2016

3 polymathwannabe 22 August 2016 04:24PM

Notes for future OT posters:

1. Please add the 'open_thread' tag.

2. Check if there is an active Open Thread before posting a new one. (Immediately before; refresh the list-of-threads page before posting.)

3. Open Threads should start on Monday, and end on Sunday.

4. Unflag the two options "Notify me of new top level comments on this article" and "

Willpower Schedule

4 SquirrelInHell 22 August 2016 01:05PM


TL;DR: your level of willpower depends on how much willpower you expect to need (hypothesis)


Time start: 21:44:55 (this is my third exercise in speed writing a LW post)


There is a lot of controversy about how our level of willpower is affected by various factors, including doing "exhausting" tasks before, as well as being told that willpower is a resource that depletes easily, or doesn't etc.

(sorry, I can't go look for references - that would break the speedwriting exercise!)

I am not going to repeat the discussions that already cover those topics; however, I have a new tentative model which (I think) fits the existing data very well, is easy to test, and supersedes all previous models that I have seen.


The idea is very simple, but before I explain it, let me give a similar example from a different aspect of our lives. The example is going to be concerned with, uh, poo.

Have you ever noticed that (if you have a sufficiently regular lifestyle), conveniently you always feel that you need to go to the toilet at times when it's possible to do so? Like for example, how often do you need to go when you are on a bus, versus at home or work?

The function of your bowels is regulated by reading subconscious signals about your situation - e.g. if you are stressed, you might become constipated. But it is not only that - there is a way in which it responds to your routines, and what you are planning to do, not just the things that are already affecting you.

Have you ever had the experience of a background thought popping up in your mind that you might need to go within the next few hours, but the time was not convenient, so you told that thought to hold it a little bit more? And then it did just that?


The example from the previous section, though possibly quite POOrly choosen (sorry, I couldn't resist), shows something important.

Our subconscious reactions and "settings" of our bodies can interact with our conscious plans in a "smart" way. That is, they do not have to wait to see the effects of what you are doing, to adjust to it - they can pull information from your conscious plans and adjust *before*.

And this is, more or less, the insight that I have added to my current working theory of willpower. It is not very complicated, but perhaps non-obvious. Sufficiently non-obvious that I don't think anyone has suggested it before, even after seeing experimental results that match this excellently.


To be more accurate, I claim that how much willpower you will have depends on several important factors, such as your energy and mood, but it also depends on how much willpower you expect to need.

For example, if you plan to have a "rest day" and not do any serious work, you might find that you are much less *able* to do work on that day than usual.

It's easy enough to test - so instead of arguing this theoretically, please do just that - give it a test. And make sure to record your levels of willpower several times a day for some time - you'll get some useful data!


Time end: 20:00:53. Statistics: 534 words, 2924 characters, 15.97 minutes, 33.4 wpm, 183.1 cpm

DARPA accepting proposals for explainable AI

4 morganism 22 August 2016 12:05AM

"The XAI program will focus the development of multiple systems on addressing challenges problems in two areas: (1) machine learning problems to classify events of interest in heterogeneous, multimedia data; and (2) machine learning problems to construct decision policies for an autonomous system to perform a variety of simulated missions."

"At the end of the program, the final delivery will be a toolkit library consisting of machine learning and human-computer interface software modules that could be used to develop future explainable AI systems. After the program is complete, these toolkits would be available for further refinement and transition into defense or commercial applications"



Corrigibility through stratified indifference

4 Stuart_Armstrong 19 August 2016 04:11PM

A putative new idea for AI control; index here.

Corrigibility through indifference has a few problems. One of them is that the AI is indifferent between the world in which humans change its utility to v, and world in which humans try to change its utility, but fail.

Now the try-but-fail world is going to be somewhat odd - humans will be reacting by trying to change the utility again, trying to shut the AI down, panicking that a tiny probability event has happened, and so on.

continue reading »

Weekly LW Meetups

1 FrankAdamek 19 August 2016 03:40PM

Deepmind Plans for Rat-Level AI

14 moridinamael 18 August 2016 04:26PM

Demis Hassabis gives a great presentation on the state of Deepmind's work as of April 20, 2016. Skip to 23:12 for the statement of the goal of creating a rat-level AI -- "An AI that can do everything a rat can do," in his words. From his tone, it sounds like this is more a short-term, not a long-term goal.

I don't think Hassabis is prone to making unrealistic plans or stating overly bold predictions. I strongly encourage you to scan through Deepmind's publication list to get a sense of how quickly they're making progress. (In fact, I encourage you to bookmark that page, because it seems like they add a new paper about twice a month.) The outfit seems to be systematically knocking down all the "Holy Grail" milestones on the way to GAI, and this is just Deepmind. The papers they've put out in just the last year or so concern successful one-shot learning, continuous control, actor-critic architectures, novel memory architectures, policy learning, and bootstrapped gradient learning, and these are just the most stand-out achievements. There's even a paper co-authored by Stuart Armstrong concerning Friendliness concepts on that list.

If we really do have a genuinely rat-level AI within the next couple of years, I think that would justify radically moving forward expectations of AI development timetables. Speaking very naively, if we can go from "sub-nematode" to "mammal that can solve puzzles" in that timeframe, I would view it as a form of proof that "general" intelligence does not require some mysterious ingredient that we haven't discovered yet.

The Future of Humanity Institute is hiring!

10 crmflynn 18 August 2016 01:09PM

FHI is accepting applications for a two-year position as a full-time Research Project Manager. Responsibilities will include coordinating, monitoring, and developing FHI’s activities, seeking funding, organizing workshops and conferences, and effectively communicating FHI’s research. The Research Program Manager will also be expected to work in collaboration with Professor Nick Bostrom, and other researchers, to advance their research agendas, and will additionally be expected to produce reports for government, industry, and other relevant organizations. 

Applicants will be familiar with existing research and literature in the field and have excellent communication skills, including the ability to write for publication. He or she will have experience of independently managing a research project and of contributing to large policy-relevant reports. Previous professional experience working for non-profit organisations, experience with effectiv altruism, and a network in the relevant fields associated with existential risk may be an advantage, but are not essential. 

To apply please go to https://www.recruit.ox.ac.uk and enter vacancy #124775 (it is also possible to find the job by searching choosing “Philosophy Faculty” from the department options). The deadline is noon UK time on 29 August. To stay up to date on job opportunities at the Future of Humanity Institute, please sign up for updates on our vacancies newsletter at https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/vacancies/.

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