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

Singularity Summit 2008

2 Eliezer_Yudkowsky 08 September 2008 11:26PM

FYI all:  The Singularity Summit 2008 is coming up, 9am-5pm October 25th, 2008 in San Jose, CA.  This is run by my host organization, the Singularity Institute.  Speakers this year include Vernor Vinge, Marvin Minsky, the CTO of Intel, and the chair of the X Prize Foundation.

Before anyone posts any angry comments: yes, the registration costs actual money this year.  The Singularity Institute has run free events before, and will run free events in the future.  But while past Singularity Summits have been media successes, they haven't been fundraising successes up to this point.  So Tyler Emerson et. al. are trying it a little differently.  TANSTAAFL.

Lots of speakers talking for short periods this year.  I'm intrigued by that format.  We'll see how it goes.

continue reading »

New Improved Lottery

41 Eliezer_Yudkowsky 13 April 2007 11:42PM

People are still suggesting that the lottery is not a waste of hope, but a service which enables purchase of fantasy—"daydreaming about becoming a millionaire for much less money than daydreaming about hollywood stars in movies".  One commenter wrote:  "There is a big difference between zero chance of becoming wealthy, and epsilon. Buying a ticket allows your dream of riches to bridge that gap."

Actually, one of the points I was trying to make is that between zero chance of becoming wealthy, and epsilon chance, there is an order-of-epsilon difference.  If you doubt this, let epsilon equal one over googolplex.

Anyway:  If we pretend that the lottery sells epsilon hope, this suggests a design for a New Improved Lottery.  The New Improved Lottery pays out every five years on average, at a random time—determined, say, by the decay of a not-very-radioactive element.  You buy in once, for a single dollar, and get not just a few days of epsilon chance of becoming rich, but a few years of epsilon.  Not only that, your wealth could strike at any time!  At any minute, the phone could ring to inform you that you, yes, you are a millionaire!

Think of how much better this would be than an ordinary lottery drawing, which only takes place at defined times, a few times per week.  Let's say the boss comes in and demands you rework a proposal, or restock inventory, or something similarly annoying.  Instead of getting to work, you could turn to the phone and stare, hoping for that call—because there would be epsilon chance that, at that exact moment, you yes you would be awarded the Grand Prize!  And even if it doesn't happen this minute, why, there's no need to be disappointed—it might happen the next minute!

continue reading »

Superstimuli and the Collapse of Western Civilization

60 Eliezer_Yudkowsky 16 March 2007 06:10PM

At least three people have died playing online games for days without rest.  People have lost their spouses, jobs, and children to World of Warcraft.  If people have the right to play video games - and it's hard to imagine a more fundamental right - then the market is going to respond by supplying the most engaging video games that can be sold, to the point that exceptionally engaged consumers are removed from the gene pool.

How does a consumer product become so involving that, after 57 hours of using the product, the consumer would rather use the product for one more hour than eat or sleep?  (I suppose one could argue that the consumer makes a rational decision that they'd rather play Starcraft for the next hour than live out the rest of their lives, but let's just not go there.  Please.)

continue reading »