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Comment author: ChristianKl 25 November 2016 10:08:12AM 10 points [-]

In science there's a lot to be gained by false results and little expected costs...

Comment author: AlanCrowe 26 November 2016 12:24:28PM 2 points [-]

I think that this is especially bad for science because science doesn't have anything equivalent to test and analyze before the medals are handed out. Peer review isn't an adversarial process aimed at detecting fraud. Anti-fraud in science is entirely based on your published papers being analogous to the stored urine samples; you are vulnerable to people getting round to checking, maybe, one day, after you've spent the grant money. If we can translate across from the Olympic experience we are saying that that kind of delayed anti-fraud measure works especially poorly with humans.

Comment author: Dagon 07 April 2016 04:45:00PM 2 points [-]

I'm pretty sure the problem isn't primarily technical - it's not that Usenet mechanisms or protocols stopped working, it's that the interesting conversations moved elsewhere. Sure, a woeful security model (trivial forgery, unauthenticated moderation headers) helped it along, but the fundamental community tension (it's not possible to be inclusive and high quality for very long) is what killed it.

LessWrong is actually pretty good in terms of keeping the noise down. There are a few trolls, and a fair number of not-well-thought-out comments (case in point: what you're reading now), but they're not enough to drown out quality if it were still here. Where we're failing is in attracting interesting deep thoughts from people willing to expand and discuss those thoughts here.

Comment author: AlanCrowe 07 April 2016 08:09:00PM 6 points [-]

My analysis saw the fundamental problem as the yearning for consensus. What was signal? What was noise? Who was trolling? Designers of forum software go wrong when they believe that these are good, one place questions with actual one place answers. The software is designed in the hope that its operation will yield these answers.

My suggestion, Outer Circle got discussed on Hacker News under the title Saving forums from themselves with shared hierarchical white lists and I managed to flesh out the ideas a little.

Then my frail health got even worse and I never did anything more :-(

Comment author: AlanCrowe 01 January 2016 10:23:40PM 0 points [-]

I think there are ordering constraints on the sequence of technological advances involved. One vision of how revival works goes like this: start with a destructive, high resolution scan of the body, then cure illness and death computationally, by processing the data from the scan. Finally use advanced nano-technology to print out a new, well body.

Although individual mammalian cells can be thawed, whole human bodies are not thawable. So the nano-technology has to be warm as well as macroscopic. Also a warm, half printed body is not viable, so printing has to be quick.

Well before the development of warm, fast, macroscopic nano-technology, society will have cryogenic, microscopic, slow nano-technology. Think about being able to print out a bacterium at 70K in a week, and a mammalian cell in a year. What could you do with that technology?

You could print human stem cells for rejuvenation therapies. You could print egg cells for creating designer babies. The first round of life extension is stem cells for existing people, and genetically engineered longer life spans for new borns. The second round of life extension provides those with a genetically engineered longer life span with stem cell based rejuvenation therapies. The third round of life extension involves co-designing the designer babies and the stem cell therapies to make the rejuvenation therapies integrate smoothly with the long-life-span bodies. Somewhere in all this intelligence gets enhanced to John von Neumann levels (or above).

Developing warm, fast, macroscopic nano-technology is a huge challenge. Let us accept Academian's invitation to assume it is developed eventually. That is not too big a leap, for the prior development of cryogenic, slow, microscope nano-technology was world changing. The huge challenge is faced by super-clever humans who live for tens of thousands of years. They do indeed develop the necessary technology and revive you.

Now what? Humans who live for tens of thousands of years have probably improved pet dogs and cats to live for thousands of years. They may even have uplifted them to higher levels of intelligence than 21st century humans. They will have an awkward relationship with the 21st century humans they have revived. From their perspective, 21st century humans are stupid and age rapidly, to a degree that is too uncongenial to be tolerated in companion animals. Being on the other end of this perspective will be heart-breaking.

Comment author: AlanCrowe 25 December 2015 12:58:15AM 0 points [-]

Most world changing technological breakthroughs are easy compared to resurrecting the frozen dead. Much precedes revival. As the centuries give way to millennia Humans are replaced by Post Humans. As the millennia give way to myriad years Post Humans are replaced by New Humans. As myriad years give way to lakhs of years New Humans are replace by Renewed Humans. As the lakhs give way to millions of years Renewed Humans are replace by Real Humans.

The Real Humans develop the technology to revive the frozen dead. They use it themselves as an ambulance to the future. They revive a small number of famous Renewed Humans who lived lives of special note.

When you are revived, you face three questions. Why have they revived you? Why do the doctors and nurses look like anthropomorphic cats and dogs? Are Real Humans furry fans?

The answer to the second question is that they look like cats and dogs because they are the descendants cats and dogs. The Real Humans still have domestic pets. They have uplifted them to the intellectual level of New Humans. Which raises an interesting puzzle. First time around the New Humans were Lords of galaxy for thousands of years. Second time around they are domestic pets. How does that work?

The dogs and cats are imbued with the spirit of mad science. It seems natural and proper to them that the Real Humans would create double super intelligent cats and dogs as animal companions and it seems natural to them to do something similar in their turn. Asking permission, they use their masters' technology of resurrection to revive some some 21st century humans.

Imbued with the spirit of mad science, printing out ortho-human bodies is a little dull (as are 21st century humans). It is more fun to create novel bodies, centaurs, bird people who can fly (or at least glide) etc. The cats and dogs are not cruel. They don't print people out in bodies they didn't ask for. They do tend to revive furry fans, the con going, fursuit wearing, obsessive ones. When the cats and dogs emulate them, they ask to be printed out in anthropomorphic animal bodies and designing them is a fun challenge.

You ask if you can speak to a Real Human. Your request causes much merriment but it is not refused. It is awkward. The Post Humans did use 300 Hertz to 3kHz acoustic signals for interpersonal communication, but the New Humans used radio-telepathy amongst themselves. The dogs and cats are not to clear about what the Real Humans do, but the real cause of merriment is not the obsolesence of acoustic speech. It is not true to say that Real Humans are individuals. Nor is it true to say that they have formed a hive mind. It is hard to explain, but they don't really go in for interpersonal communication. The fun lies in trying to explain the obsolescence of interpersonal communication to a creature so archaic that one has to resort to interpersonal communication to explain that no-one does that any more.

Oh well. You have been successfully revived but your social status as a domestic pet's domestic pet is low, and the world, millions of years after your first death, is utterly incomprehensible. You try to settle into life with the other 21st century revivals. They are not really your kind of people. You make a few friends but they all have animal heads and fur covered bodies. Consumed with self-loathing due to being seduced into participating in their polymorphous and perverse orgies you kill yourself again and again and again ... The dogs and cats are kind creatures by their own lights and feel obliged to reprint you if you have a bad spell mentally and kill yourself yet again.

Comment author: AlanCrowe 05 March 2015 09:01:19PM 28 points [-]

One problem is that most people think we are always in the short run. No matter how many times you teach students that tight money raises rates in the short run (liquidity effect) and lowers them in the long run (income and Fisher effects), when the long run actually comes around they will still see the fall in interest rates as ECB policy "easing". And this is because most people think the term "short run" is roughly synonymous with "right now." It's not. Actually "right now" we see the long run effects of policies done much earlier. We are not in an eternal short run. That's the real problem with Keynes's famous "in the long run we are all dead."

Scott Sumner

In response to Quotes Repository
Comment author: WalterL 10 February 2015 07:48:19PM 13 points [-]

I've always loved the initial exchange between Gregory and Syme in "The Man Who Was Thursday".

Context: Gregory is an anarchist poet, Syme is claiming to be a poet of respectability, which Gregory maintains is impossible.

....The poet delights in disorder only. If it were not so, the most poetical thing in the world would be the Underground Railway."

"So it is," said Mr. Syme.

"Nonsense!" said Gregory, who was very rational when anyone else attempted paradox. "Why do all the clerks and navvies in the railway trains look so sad and tired, so very sad and tired? I will tell you. It is because they know that the train is going right. It is because they know that whatever place they have taken a ticket for that place they will reach. It is because after they have passed Sloane Square they know that the next station must be Victoria, and nothing but Victoria. Oh, their wild rapture! oh, their eyes like stars and their souls again in Eden, if the next station were unaccountably Baker Street!"

"It is you who are unpoetical," replied the poet Syme. "If what you say of clerks is true, they can only be as prosaic as your poetry. The rare, strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss it. We feel it is epical when man with one wild arrow strikes a distant bird. Is it not also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a distant station? Chaos is dull; because in chaos the train might indeed go anywhere, to Baker Street or to Bagdad. But man is a magician, and his whole magic is in this, that he does say Victoria, and lo! it is Victoria. No, take your books of mere poetry and prose; let me read a time table, with tears of pride. Take your Byron, who commemorates the defeats of man; give me Bradshaw, who commemorates his victories. Give me Bradshaw, I say!"

In response to comment by WalterL on Quotes Repository
Comment author: AlanCrowe 10 February 2015 08:27:48PM 2 points [-]

The quote is easier to understand if you are familiar with Bradshaw.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 22 November 2014 11:40:04AM 4 points [-]

Try to build a map between something that has fun associations for you, and what you want to find fun. Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs has a famous opening paragraph comparing programming to conjuring spirits as a sorcerer.

Comment author: AlanCrowe 23 November 2014 08:31:42PM 2 points [-]

A computational process is indeed much like a sorcerer's idea of a spirit. It cannot be seen or touched. It is not composed of matter at all. However, it is very real. It can perform intellectual work. It can answer questions. It can affect the world by disbursing money at a bank or by controlling a robot arm in a factory. The programs we use to conjure processes are like a sorcerer's spells. They are carefully composed from symbolic expressions in arcane and esoteric programming languages that prescribe the tasks we want our processes to perform.

Frederick P. Brooks Jr. wrote something similar in The Mythical Man-month, 22 years earlier.

Finally, there is the delight of working in such a tractable medium. The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds his castles in the the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures. (As we shall see later, this very tractability has its own problems.)

Yet the program construct, unlike the poet's words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separate from the construct itself. It prints results, draws pictures, produces sounds, moves arms. The magic of myth and legend has come true in our time. One types the correct incantation on a keyboard, and a display screen comes to life, showing things that never were nor could be.

Comment author: alex_zag_al 01 November 2014 09:40:09PM *  4 points [-]

This is from a novel (Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone). The situation is a man and a woman who have to work together but have trouble trusting each other because of propaganda from an old war:

[Abelard] hesitated, suddenly aware that he was alone with a woman he barely trusted, a woman who, had they met only a few decades before, would have tried to kill him and destroy the gods he served. Tara hated propaganda for this reason. Stories always outlasted their usefulness.

Comment author: AlanCrowe 03 November 2014 06:49:16PM 3 points [-]

Stories always outlasted their usefulness.

That is an interesting thought. When I try to ground it in contemporary reality my thoughts turn to politics. Modern democratic politics is partly about telling stories to motivate voters, but which stories have outlasted their usefulness? Any answer is likely to be contentious.

Turning to the past, I wrote a little essay suggesting that stories of going back to nature to live in a recent golden age when life was simpler may serve as examples of stories that have outlasted their usefulness by a century.

Comment author: AlanCrowe 24 October 2014 06:34:20PM 59 points [-]

I took the survey. Started on the BSRI but abandoned it because I found the process of giving vague answers to vague questions distressing.

Comment author: Salemicus 04 September 2014 04:45:08PM *  39 points [-]

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.

  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.

  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

D.C. Dennett, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking. Dennett himself is summarising Anatol Rapoport.

Comment author: AlanCrowe 05 September 2014 11:07:11PM 12 points [-]

I don't see what to do about gaps in arguments. Gaps aren't random. There are little gaps where the original authors have chosen to use their limited word count on other, more delicate, parts of their argument, confident that charitable readers will be happy to fill the small gaps themselves in the obvious ways. There are big gaps where the authors have gone the other way, tip toeing around the weakest points in their argument. Perhaps they hope no-one else will notice. Perhaps they are in denial. Perhaps there are issues with the clarity of the logical structure that make it easy to whiz by the gap without noticing it.

The third perhaps is especially tricky. If you "re-express your target’s position ... clearly" you remove the obfuscation that concealed the gap. Now what? Leaving the gap in clear view creates a strawman. Attempting to fill it draws a certain amount of attention to it; you certainly fail the ideological Turing test because you are making arguments that you opponents don't make. Worse, big gaps are seldom accidental. They are there because they are hard to fill. Indeed it might be the difficulty of filling the gap that made you join the other side of the debate in the first place. What if your best effort to fill the gap is thin and unconvincing?

Example: Some people oppose the repeal of the prohibition of cannabis because "consumption will increase". When you try to make this argument clear you end up distinguishing between good-use and bad-use. There is the relax-on-a-Friday-night-after-work kind of use which is widely accepted in the case of alcohol and can be termed good-use. There is the behaviour that gets called "pissing your talent away" when it beer-based. That is bad-use.

When you try to bring clarity to the argument you have to replace "consumption will increase" by "bad-use will increase a lot and good-use will increase a little, leading to a net reduction in aggregate welfare." But the original "consumption will increase" was obviously true, while the clearer "bad+++, good+, net--" is less compelling.

The original argument had a gap (just why is an increase in consumption bad?). Writing more clearly exposes the gap. Your target will not say "Thanks for exposing the gap, I wish I'd put it that way.". But it is not an easy gap to fill convincingly. Your target is unlikely to appreciate your efforts on behalf of his case.

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