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[SEQ RERUN] Three Worlds Decide (5/8)

1 Post author: MinibearRex 17 February 2013 06:28AM

Today's post, Three Worlds Decide (5/8) was originally published on 03 February 2009. A summary (taken from the LW wiki):

 

The Superhappies propose a compromise.


Discuss the post here (rather than in the comments to the original post).

This post is part of the Rerunning the Sequences series, where we'll be going through Eliezer Yudkowsky's old posts in order so that people who are interested can (re-)read and discuss them. The previous post was Interlude with the Confessor, and you can use the sequence_reruns tag or rss feed to follow the rest of the series.

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Comments (6)

Comment author: Rukifellth 17 February 2013 08:58:44AM 8 points [-]

Looking back, I feel kind of disappointed with the way Akon negotiated this one. I feel like any one of the following could have really made things go better for all parties involved.

  • Asking the Super-Happies for "the gift of Untranslatable 2", perhaps by sharing thoughts via affectionate skin contact first, and then talking about further compromise. I just don't understand how this unwounded so quickly, it seems like ensuring that all parties have an equal means of negotiation and empathy would come first. Humanity may have had a much easier time understanding the pain of their children if they could feel it as well, making them more likely to see the Super-Happy point of view in such a way that is still compatible with human values. If necessary, simply lie about the nature of the gift, or even outright state "Feel the emotions of others at the touch of a palm! Better living through Plasmids!".

  • Give Untranslatable 2 to the Baby-Eaters. Really, the Impossible Possible World struck gold with the Super-Happies. If the adult Baby Eaters had the same capacity to feel the pain of others as did the Super Happies, then The Winnowing wouldn't last very long after.

  • Request that Humanity and Baby Eater populations be put into some sort of stasis while negotiations take place among smaller groups to figure out what can be done. Akon could assist in whatever subterfuge be needed.

  • Point out that given Humanity's more fragmented nature (compared to Super Happies), Akon being an unexceptional example of decision maker is not actually an advantage. He's not exactly made of stern stuff, and anyone who hears about the situation is likely to turn to whoever can come up with a better solution, an exceptional case of decision maker. The Super Happies didn't consider that exceptional can also mean better, since humans can't transfer skills via sex.

  • Point out that a lot of people are going to commit suicide from the offer. The Super-Happies ought to have taken the rebuke of both parties (whether explicit or not) as a sign that their method of negotiation was just wrong, instead of trying to force the method onto both.

Comment author: [deleted] 18 February 2013 04:42:04AM *  5 points [-]

I think you're not giving enough weight to the idea of alien motivations.

The Happies were overwhelmed by empathic suffering due to their interaction with the Eaters. They considered empathy for negatively valenced feelings a flaw in their own designs to be fixed and replaced with just a stronger desire to help others. They don't want to bestow humanity with a way to feel each others' suffering so that we'll eventually join them in zit popping, tentacle writhing, hair waving good times, only after our lives become unbearable from all the constant exposure to nursing homes and awkward dating. They want to skip the unbearable part and and go straight to mechanically aided, metal bar supported, super-stimulus enhanced genital bumping (and super cooled crystal nucleating).

Even if we forget that and assume they wanted to give us direct empathy right away, their first thought wouldn't be to do it through telepathic handshakes. Talking and having sex were a joint concept for them, and dividing it into the mere communication component would be as weird to them as a human giving them just the mechanical stimulation of one's digestive tract aspect of eating. They think more efficiently than we do, so maybe they'd come up with psychic palms eventually, but the first formulation would be more like "Hey, Humanity! How about, before we start bargaining, we give you a chance to feel the thoughts of your children while you have sex with them. We think that might make this whole operation go a lot smoother. And see if you can find any with broken fingers!"

If the adult Baby Eaters had the same capacity to feel the pain of others as did the Super Happies, then The Winnowing wouldn't last very long after.

The Baby Eaters want to feel pain when they eat their children, whom they love. It's part of the great noble sacrifice for the group. They aren't just-like-humans except for being numb to infantiphagia: they regard mercy as evil. Also the crew of the Impossible did debate convincing the Eaters that Eating is reprehensible, and decided against it.

stasis

That's very sensible if you're interested in cooperation. If however you're fleeing from monsters, putting your species in stasis is a tactical disadvantage.

as a sign that their method of negotiation was just wrong,

This was kind of addressed too. The Happies say, "That matters less to our values than to yours,"

I like your point about exceptionalism and skill transfer.

Comment author: Rukifellth 18 February 2013 05:30:56AM *  1 point [-]

The Happies were overwhelmed by empathic suffering due to their...

Even if we forget that and assume they wanted to give us direct empathy right away, their first thought wouldn't be...

For the first two paragraphs, are we assuming that the Super Happies are positive utilitarians in a moral sense? (which is to say, facilitating increase in pleasure among others is a moral per-requisite, and anybody who disagrees is wrong?)

The Baby Eaters want to feel pain when they eat their children, whom they love. It's part of the great noble sacrifice for the group...

Touche

That's very sensible if you're interested in cooperation. If however you're fleeing from monsters, putting your species in stasis is a tactical disadvantage.

The Super Happies would have flooded into the human star network if Akon said no, and the changes would have been forced regardless of any tactical advantage preserved by not cooperating with stasis. At the very least, asking the Kiritsugu to put Humanity in stasis after they've lost while the treaty is being drawn up would allow whatever changes made to be be gradual and performed in the right order.

This was kind of addressed too. The Happies say, "That matters less to our values than to yours"

The substance of her statement didn't seem anything more than "We don't care about what your preferences are, even though the justification of our intervention is that you adults don't respond to the preferences of your children." In fact, that line of reasoning was only saved from refutation by the Kiritsugu's appeal to the fact that children didn't share the adult's choice in choosing pain over pleasure based on abstracts. I don't think it does address the problem.

Comment author: Fadeway 17 February 2013 11:56:51AM 3 points [-]

I can definitely agree with 5, and to some extent with 3. With 4, it didn't seem to me when I read this months ago that the Superhappies would be willing to wait; it works as a part of 3 (get a competent committee together to discuss after stasis has bought time), but not by itself.

I found it interesting on my first reading that the Superhappies are modeled as a desirable future state, though I never formulated a comprehensive explanation for why Eliezer might have chosen to do that. Probably to avoid overdosing the Lovecraft. It definitely softens the blow from modifying humanity's utility function to match their own.

You definitely hit the nail on the head with 5. Finding the other guy's pain and highlighting it, as well as showing how your offer helps what they actually care about, is both a basic and a vital negotiation technique. Call me when I'm organizing the first contact mission; I might have a space diplomat seat ready for you.

Comment author: Rukifellth 21 February 2013 11:21:53PM 0 points [-]

Heh, in retrospect, I think I'd make a terrible space diplomat. My alternate solutions involved self-mutilation aboard the bridge of The Impossible Possible Word to demonstrate the temporary nature of bodily pain, and appeal to the idea that the pain threshold experienced by children isn't actually high enough to make invasion of the human starline worth going through.

Comment author: Document 17 February 2013 05:02:43PM *  1 point [-]

Humanity may have had a much easier time understanding the pain of their children if they could feel it as well, making them more likely to see the Super-Happy point of view in such a way that is still compatible with human values.

To be fair, it might not be trivial to get them to consider a plan that in the short term amounts to more beings feeling pain.