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

Comment author: RedMan 28 March 2017 11:44:10PM *  0 points [-]

Negative utility needs a non-zero weight. I assert that it is possible to disagree with your scenarios (refugees, infant) and still be trapped by the OP, if negative utility is weighted to a low but non-zero level, such that avoiding the suffering of a human lifespan is never adequate to justify suicide. After all, everyone dies eventually, no need to speed up the process when there can be hope for improvement.

In this context, can death be viewed as a human right? Removing the certainty of death means that any non-zero weight to negative utility can result in an arbtrarily large aggregate negative utility in the (potentially unlimited) lifetime of an individual confined in a hell simulation.

Comment author: HungryHobo 31 March 2017 12:47:41PM *  0 points [-]

The quickest way to make me start viewing a scifi *topia as a dystopia is to have suicide banned in a world of (potential) immortals. To me the "right to death" is an essential once immortality is possible.

Still, I get the impression that saying they'll die at some point anyway is a bit of a dodge of the challenge. After all, nothing is truly infinite. Eventually entropy will necessitate an end to any simulated hell.

Comment author: HungryHobo 28 March 2017 03:12:48PM 1 point [-]

This sounds like the standard argument around negative utility.

if you weight negative utility quite highly then you could also come to the conclusion that the moral thing to do is to set to work on a virus to kill all humans as fast as possible.

You don't even need mind-uploading. If you weight suffering highly enough then you could decide that it's the right thing to do taking a trip to a refugee camp full of people who, on average, are likely to have hard, painful lives, and leaving a sarin gas bomb.

Put another way: if you encountered an infant with epidermolysis bullosa would you try to kill them, even against their wishes?

Comment author: Thomas 13 December 2016 12:07:28PM 2 points [-]

I have deviced a math problem, can you solve it?


Comment author: HungryHobo 13 December 2016 01:35:31PM 0 points [-]

"You may take ternary numeral system (base 3) and three basic instructions"

Wait, are we supposed to make up arbitrary operations for higher bases?

Comment author: siIver 12 December 2016 06:36:22PM *  3 points [-]

I'll cross-post this from here because no-one responded and I'm still interested in an answer.

There is a question in this rationality test which goes like this:

Question 11 of 21: Imagine that a fast food company called BurgerCorp has launched a new sandwich called the BacoNation: a bacon patty slathered in bacon jack cheese, pork drippings, and bacon-fat-fried onions, served on a bacon-bran bun.

The BacoNation was introduced in March of this year. So far, its per-month sales revenues have been inconsistent:

March: $55.0 million

April: $43.8 million

May: $59.4 million

June: $49.6 million

July: $46.1 million

August: $54.9 million

September: $44.5 million

As BurgerCorp heads into the holidays, its executives hope to boost sales of the BacoNation by having their advertising team create an ad campaign featuring a wacky animated mascot called the BacoNutcase—a wild-eyed bacon fanatic who is willing to commit unspeakably immoral and degrading acts in the pursuit of BacoNation sandwiches.

BurgerCorp launches the BacoNutcase ad campaign at the beginning of October. When the sales figures come in at the end of the month, the executives are ecstatic: it turns out that the BacoNation sandwich earned $60.5 million in sales during the month of October. This figure represents an increase of $16 million over the September sales figure, and a new record high for the sandwich.

How likely is it that the introduction of the BacoNutcase largely caused the increase in the BacoNation's sales?

They claim that the correct answer is "somewhat likely," arguing that the prize has fluctuated as much in past months as it did from September to October, therefore there is no strong evidence for the ads to have contributed. I think this is plain wrong, because

  • the a priori chance of ads increasing sales is high
  • October beat the past 7 months, therefore Bayesian updating increases the odds further

The way I see it, their explanation would possibly be correct if we only knew that there was a 50% probability that the ad campaign had taken place, and were to decide whether or not it did based on the results. But since we already know that it did take place, the correct answer seems to be "very likely."

Who is correct? The test or me? (I'm asking because if I'm wrong I really want to know why).

Comment author: HungryHobo 13 December 2016 01:28:05PM *  5 points [-]

ok, there's not really enough data points to do proper stats but lets give it a go anyway.

Lets consider the possibility that the ad campaign did nothing. Some ad campaigns are actually damaging so lets try to get an idea of how much it varies from month to month.

Mean = 50.5 Standard Deviation = 6.05

So about 1 and 2/3rds SD's above the mean.

Sure, October is a little higher than normal but not by much.

Or put another way, imagine that the ad campaign had been put into effect in April but actually did absolutely nothing. They would have seen an increase of 15.6 million along with a new record high.

The priori chance of ads increasing sales is high for good ad campaigns but as countless dot com bubble companies learned: it's entirely possible for advertising to get you absolutely nothing.

Remember that the priori is a fancy way of encoding your expectations into how you do calculations.

If you're trying to decide whether an ad campaign you've paid for actually worked a system of assessment which involves saying "well, I believed it should work in principle so I spent money on doing it in the first place and now I can confirm it worked partly because I believe it should work in principle"

Comment author: moridinamael 04 December 2016 03:59:08AM 3 points [-]

Will it "bust", or will it be superseded by the next wave of more general AI architectures designed to require less supervision, less data?

Comment author: HungryHobo 05 December 2016 04:54:19PM *  1 point [-]

If the typical pattern holds:

Step one: new trick is discovered solving some problem X which couldn't be handled before.

Step two: people try to apply it to everything that the old styles didn't work on like problem Y which is sort of in the same problem class. At this stage overly enthusiastic people may over-promise. "I'm sure it will work amazingly on Y"

Step three: "Bah! These CS types never deliver, Y will always be better done by humans."

Step four: Interest and funding flees as the news stops paying attention, a few people keep chipping away at the problem and eventually slightly outperform humans on Y and try to get it to work on Z.

Step five: Someone proves mathematically that it can never solve major set of problems in Z.

Step six: Someone comes up a new trick... GOTO 1

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 08 August 2016 01:40:20AM 1 point [-]

Note that with a goal to eliminate a species completely, the longer you wait to get experience and perfected technology, the better.

A major screw up in such a case would be some random factor, mutation etc. preventing us from wiping all mosquitoes, and leaving a group that would be resistant to current gene-drive technology.

I don't know enough about gene-drives to suggest how it might happen - but the point is that there are always "unknown unknowns".

That smaller group would then quickly spread and replace the previous population, and would be harder to deal with.

Repeat a few times, and you have gradually nudged the population of mosquitoes to be resistant to our attempts to eliminate it.

It's possible that waiting longer and using a better technology in the first strike, would have solved the problem cleanly.

Comment author: HungryHobo 11 August 2016 11:44:48AM 1 point [-]

I remember having a similar discussion about HIV and anti-retroviral drugs.

In short, it's an easy position to take if you and the people you care about aren't currently in the firing line and making policy choices on assumptions about future discoveries that we can't guarantee is ethically problematic.

Comment author: tut 08 August 2016 06:03:26AM *  0 points [-]

There are mosquito populations that you shouldn't try to exterminate, because they are important to their ecosystem. If you get rid of them a bunch of birds have no food and so they are gone too etc. But they are up here in the arctic. Getting rid of all the tropical mosquitoes is good for everyone and does not have any great effects on any ecosystem. Everyone that eats mosquitoes there also has other insects that they prefer to eat.

Comment author: HungryHobo 11 August 2016 11:38:58AM 5 points [-]

There's about 3200 species of mosquito. < 200 bite humans and perhaps a dozen are major disease vectors for humans.

We extinct about 150 species per day without really trying. Increasing the number of species we push to extinction by 10% for a single day would save half a million lives per year.

Comment author: ChristianKl 09 August 2016 03:10:19PM *  1 point [-]

Oxitec has already PR problem with it's current approach where they can prove that all mosquitos don't leave ancestors and where they focus on disease carrying mosquitos that are invading species.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3425381/Are-scientists-blame-Zika-virus-Researchers-released-genetically-modified-mosquitos-Brazil-three-years-ago.html http://naturalsociety.com/outrage-oxitecs-gm-moths-are-released-in-new-york/

According to Oxitec:

The economic cost of dengue is phenomenal and was estimated to have cost the global economy over US$39 billion in 2011 alone

Spending a few billions on eliminating disease carrying mosquitos would be okay.

Even if over the long-term using the gene drive technology is the best way to go, I don't think it's the best way to have the discussion at the beginning when they idea of eliminating mosquito species enters public consciousness.

Comment author: HungryHobo 11 August 2016 11:24:07AM *  1 point [-]

Oh my god those articles are stupid.

"Oxitec’s GM mosquitoes have a genetic ‘kill switch’ but no one is sure if it will work on just the GM variety or also on the bugs that interbreed with the GM ‘test’ insects. "

If only there was some way to physically scream "THAT'S THE FUCKING POINT!" at the author. The whole point is to spread the "kill switch" to the wild mosquitoes.To kill them.

The Daily mail article appears to be referring to this:


where people started pointing to GM mosquitos having been released in areas where zika has been spreading.

never mind that areas where mosquito's are the biggest problem are the areas where you try mosquito control, in a similar vein it's suspicious that most malaria deaths are in areas where bednets have previously been distributed. There can be only one conclusion: bednets cause malaria.

Comment author: Thomas 14 July 2016 04:15:03PM *  0 points [-]

The best way to win principals is to show them that a ridiculously complex constrain may be applied and calculated automatically.

  • 4.5 school hours of S per week (4 hours on odd weeks and 5 hours on even weeks)
  • when there is the fifth hour in the week, then this hour may be the second hour of the subject S on that day
  • if it is on the same day, it should be immediately after the previous hour of the subject S
  • in the above case, it must be the last hour for the teacher
  • three classes of students are divided into 5 groups for the subject S
  • there are 4 teachers for those 5 groups, one teacher teaches groups number 2 and 4
  • there is a given list of students for groups 1, 3 and 5 and a combined list for students for groups 2 and 4
  • computer should divide the combined list into two separated lists (2 and 4) but they must not differ for more than 4 students in size
  • as one of those groups (2 or 4) are always idle, the subject M which is equally divided, must be taught then - or the S should be the first hour of the day
  • for there are only 4 hours of subject M per week
  • there are only 3 teachers of M
  • there are also 3 hours of subject A per week for those same students in 5 differently set groups
  • there are 5 teachers of A, but one of them also teaches the group number 1 of S
  • it would be nice but not mandatory if the number of waiting hours for students were 0

This is a real life example, I have discussed 1 hour ago with one of the teachers (math teacher) in one of our schools. It is not the most complex demand we had, by far.

S = Slovenian language M = Math A = Anglescina (guess what that is)

Comment author: HungryHobo 15 July 2016 09:22:21AM 1 point [-]

fair enough, I was underwhelmed by your initial post describing it but I agree that showing that your system can handle weird constraints in real examples is an excellent demonstration.

The record thing to me just happens to be a good demonstration that you're not just another little startup with some crappy schedualling software, you're actually at the top of the field in some areas.

Comment author: Lumifer 12 July 2016 06:33:54PM 0 points [-]

North America's schools as a big market

The thing is, it's a very fragmented market. The US schools are local, basically run at the town level, so for you it is essentially a retail market with a large number of customers each of which buys little. I'm guessing that you'll need a large sales organization to break in.

Comment author: HungryHobo 13 July 2016 10:26:36AM 0 points [-]

Or possibly to find an existing company selling office/organization/planning software that's already got a big share of the market and selling them license to the tech.

View more: Next