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Comment author: JenniferRM 15 April 2015 06:06:09AM *  1 point [-]

It feels like there's a never-directly-claimed but oft-implied claim lurking in this essay.

The claim goes: the reason we can't consciously control our perception of the color of the sky is because if we could then human partisanship would ruin it.

The sane response, upon realizing that internal color-of-the-sky is determined not by the sky-sensors, but by a tribal monkey-mind prone to politicking and groupthink is to scream in horror and then directly re-attach the world-model-generator to reality as quickly as possible.

If you squint, and treat partisanship as an ontologically basic thing that could exert evolutionary pressure, it almost seems plausible that avoidance of partisanship failure modes might actually be the cause of the wiring of the occipital cortex :-)

However, I don't personally think that "avoiding the ability of partisanship to ruin vision" is the reason human vision is wired up so that we can't see whatever we consciously choose to see.

Part of the reason I don't believe this is that the second half of the implication is simply not universally true. I know people who report having the ability to modify their visual sensorium at will, so for them, it seems to actually be the case that they could choose to do all sorts of things to their visual world model if they put some creativity and effort into it. Also: synesthesia is a thing, and can probably be cultivated...

But even if you skip over such issues as non-central outliers...

It makes conceptual sense to me that there is probably something like a common cortical algorithm (though maybe not exactly like the precise algorithmic sketch being discussed under that name) that actually happens in the brain. Coarsely: it probably has to do with neuron metabolism and how neurons measure and affect each other. Separately from this, there are lots of processes for controlling which neurons are "near" to which other neurons.

My personal guess is that in actual brains, the process mixes sparse/bayesian/pooling/etc perception with negative feedback control... and of course "maybe other stuff too". But fundamentally I think we start with "all the computing elements potentially measuring and controlling their neighbors" and then when that causes terrible outcomes (like nearly instantaneous subconscious wireheading by organisms with 3 neurons) evolution prunes that particular failure mode out, and then iterates.

However, sometimes top down control of measurement is functional. It happens subconsciously in ancient and useful ways in our own brain, as when afferent cochlear enervation projects something like "expectations about what is to be heard" that make the cochlea differentially sensitive to inputs, effectively increasing the dynamic range in what sounds can be neurologically distinguished.

This theory predicts new wireheading failures at every new level of evolved organization. Each time you make several attempts to build variations on a new kind of measuring and optimizing process/module/layer, some of those processes will use their control elements to manipulate their perception elements, and sometimes they will do poorly rather than well, with wireheading as a large and probably dysfunctional attractor.

"Human partisanship" does seem to be an example of often-broken agency in an evolutionarily recent context (ie the context of super-Dunbar socially/verbally coordinated herds of meme-infected humans) and human partisanship does seem pretty bad... but as far as I can see, partisanship is not conceptually central here. And it isn't even the conceptually central negative thing.

The central negative thing, in my opinion, is wireheading.

Comment author: JenniferRM 09 April 2015 07:31:29AM *  4 points [-]

9 . Slowly lower the temperature to -173 centigrade or lower, as you wish.

If I'm reading the chart correctly, the additional cooling would send the ice III through the zone marked as ice II and then... wait for it... into the zone of ice nine!!!

If the secret of eternal life involves the non-fictitious version of ice IX... I mean... that seems like "the author" would be clubbing us over the head with the implication that we're living in a post-modern novel :-P

On a less metaphysical note, it seems like there is a technical question about whether additional cooling might cause problems due to transitions between different kinds of ice? From Le Wik on the real ice IX (not the fictional ice-nine):

Ice IX is a form of solid water stable at temperatures below 140 K and pressures between 200 and 400 MPa. It has a tetragonal crystal lattice and a density of 1.16 g/cm³, 26% higher than ordinary ice. It is formed by cooling ice III from 208 K to 165 K (rapidly—to avoid forming ice II). Its structure is identical to ice III other than being proton-ordered.

It looks like if you were in the ice IX zone, and then heated up from LN2 temperatures, you would necessarily go through ice II on the way to liquid water (see this awesome site):

Ice-nine (ice IX) is the low-temperature equilibrium, slightly denser, structure of ice-three (Space group P41212, cell dimensions 6.692 Å (a) and 6.715 Å (c) at 165 K and 280 MPa [385]). It is metastable in the ice-two phase space and converts to ice-two, rather than back to ice-three, on warming. The change from proton disordered is a partial process starting within ice-three that is only completed at lower temperatures, but with a first order transition near 126 K[1087]. The hydrogen bonding is mostly proton-ordered as ice-three undergoes a proton disorder-order transition to ice-nine when rapidly cooled in liquid nitrogen (77 K, so avoiding ice-two formation, see Phase Diagram); ice-three and ice-nine having identical structures apart from the proton ordering [389].

From what I can tell, if you start at ice III and cool things way down from there, you'll have to spend some time in the ice II zone, at the very least while being re-heated up from ice IX and perhaps as the state to be kept in for very long term storage. Luckily, ice II appears to also have a density of ~1.16 g / cm^3, so it is also denser than normal water and presumably would also not pop cellular membranes due to expansion :-)

Comment author: is4junk 20 March 2015 07:14:25PM *  4 points [-]

Brokerage accounts (fidelity/etrade) are better then bank accounts in every way (in the US). Use them with a margin account to safely maximize your investments. The margin account will basically function as an overdraft / short term loan at very favorable rates. Reasons:

  • direct deposit in to your brokerage account - all surplus money should be sweeped in to an index fund (SPY or global equiv)
  • You can have a ATM card and do all your checks through them usually for free
  • they all have bill pay service for free
  • depositing checks - they can be mailed in
  • Even if you don't invest the money it will automatically be in a money market account earning you interest
  • investment interest payments (on the margin) can be tax advantaged unlike credit card payments

I didn't have a bank account for over a decade. There is no reason to think about checking and savings being separate things.

Concerns about margin account being scary are only that way when you margin a substantial fraction of your account. If you are under 10% and invest in stable index funds you won't have a worry.

instead of investing in SPY consider Berkshire Hathoway (brk) for the tax advantages - (Warren Buffet doesn't like to pay taxes). I'd look at costco's sharebuilder if you can't afford to buy 1 share.

Comment author: JenniferRM 04 April 2015 06:28:03PM 4 points [-]

This seems like awesome advice that I have never heard before. Do you think it might be dangerous for some people? Like is it a "you must be this tall to ride this ride" kind of thing?

Also, it seems like it might help to have this made actionable by talking about the steps someone would take to convert their financial service provider setup to this. Do you have a good method for picking a broker? If someone was not very financially savvy (like they didn't know what a brokerage even was exactly) what should they do right after reading here to start on the path to setting things up this way?

Comment author: JenniferRM 03 April 2015 04:36:41PM *  3 points [-]

Perhaps this is the wrong venue, but I'm curious how this work generalizes and either applies or doesn't apply to other lines of research.

Schmidhuber's group has several papers on "Goedel machines" and it seems like they involve the use of proofs to find self-rewrites.

We present the first class of mathematically rigorous, general, fully self-referential, self-improving, optimally efficient problem solvers. Inspired by Kurt Gödel's celebrated self-referential formulas (1931), a Gödel machine (or 'Goedel machine' but not 'Godel machine') rewrites any part of its own code as soon as it has found a proof that the rewrite is useful, where the problem-dependent utility function and the hardware and the entire initial code are described by axioms encoded in an initial proof searcher which is also part of the initial code.

Their 2005 paper "Completely Self-Referential Optimal Reinforcement Learners" explained the design and their 2012 paper "Towards an Actual Gödel Machine Implementation" seems to be working towards making something vaguely practical. This is the same group whose PhD students helped founded of DeepMind (like Shane Legg as founder and several others as very early employees). Deepmind was then acquired by Google in 2014.

Since that architecture uses a theorem proving system, and creates new versions of itself, and can even replace its own theorem proving system, it naively seems like the Löbstacle might come up. Are you familiar with Schmidhuber's group's work? Does it seem like their work will run into the Löbstacle and they're just not talking about it? Or does it seem like their architecture makes worries about the Löbstacle irrelevant via some clever architecting?

Basically, my question is "The Löbstacle and Gödel Machines... what's up with them?" :-)

Comment author: JenniferRM 01 April 2015 05:27:10PM *  6 points [-]

I've heard (though it is probably not very accurate -- more a conversationally useful pop science myth than an empirically universal fact) that the advice parents give to their children varies by socioeconomic status. Poor and working class parents typically give advice like "think about what would make you happy". Middle class parents tend to suggest staying upstream of abstractly desirable financial options (like in HS and college take strong math, take pre-med so you can be a doctor, and so on). Upper class parents advise doing stuff consistent with finding and making friends with the highest quality people you can find.

In this framework it seems like your parents were giving middle class advice, and your girlfriend gave you working class advice. If I were your parents, I think I would have been somewhat upset. As a general heuristic, be wary of horizontally transmitted advice!

Personally, my object level advice is to young people for whom the middle class or working class life script was a background assumption and have their mind blown by hearing about the other script, is to just suggest that they compare many options along all three of these criteria (happiness, strategy, quality people), and try to find something that works reasonably well with all of them. Then run your plans by your parents to get their honest and caring and historically informed advice.

Another thing that jumped out at me was that it seems like you were thinking of the question as getting a job that defines your identity for the rest of your life, rather than thinking in terms of what to spend the next few years on that would give the highest enduring net value, with trust that you can re-evaluate and adjust in the future, building on the results so far. It seemed like you took for granted that a final decision would determine the whole future rather than being a decision that would precede potentially more important decisions farther down the line.

There's a meme going around (whose concrete truth is debateable) that "nowadays people will change careers N times in their life". If N=1 (from child to "something") then making a huge decision in one's young adulthood might make sense, but if N=5 then the first one might matter a bit, but you should probably optimize it at least partly so that it gives you information about how to make the next four changes. And if the singularity is really a thing, N could turn out to be larger than most people expect?

The article on the debate about the value of N, written in 2010, says that 2008 might invalidate attempts to collect statistics... but that way of thinking is itself the thing being questioned by people who think N might be high. Crazy economic gyrations from disruptive technology and obsolete institutions is the sort of thing that could cause both a higher value for N, and also macro-level economic instability. Thus if 2008 changed many people's careers, it incremented n for each such person. If something like 2008 happens again, that would increment n again for all the people it affects.

As meta-level life planning advice, I've found generating large lists of theoretically desirable traits that a next step could have, then trimming out (or just down-weighting) the ones that are non-central and statistically redundant, and then churning through lots of options trying to find one that is statistically rare in the awesome direction gives moderately good outcomes.

For reference, neither of my parents went to college, I grew up in a small rural town, I spent four years at a junior college, then four years at a UC, changed majors 3-8 times (depending on how you count), graduated with a BA in philosophy, then bounced between biological research labs and startups, and work at Google now.

The world is big, and "the adjacent possible" seems to be expanding pretty fast lately.

Comment author: JenniferRM 16 March 2015 05:46:48AM *  14 points [-]

I think the most interesting part of this ending (the thing that really surprised me the most) was the idea of Dumbledore not holding an idiot ball, nor being crazy, nor even being "apparently crazy just for the sake of complex strategically cultivated opacity"... but instead being the embodiment of the biggest point of departure from canon in that he knows every prophesy and thereby caused many other points of departure semi-intentionally.

Also, having Dumbledore essentially become the half-understanding servant of whatever it is that causes prophesies, turns the whole story into something that is fundamentally about time travel in a way I really wasn't expecting.

Maybe I should have. Eliezer's notes have mentioned that he thinks very highly of HP and the Wastelands of Time, but I thought that the time traveling themes would mostly be restricted to time turners, and time turners wouldn't be very powerful, because otherwise it would disrupt the rationality theme...

This makes me think that it would be moderately rewarding to read HPMOR itself again to try to examine Dumbledore's actions more carefully. Like... what if he said what he said during the feast on the first night (when Harry was drinking comed-tea) because it was what the prophesies said he had to do? How constrained was he? Was there really "crazy act" on his part, mixed into the prophesy hacking, to hide the prophesy hacking better? How much free agency did he have leftover? And for that matter, how much did Eliezer track such issues?

If this was just the finish of the first draft, rather than the entire and complete finish of the series, I'd expect editing to shore up the coherence of the necessities of time travel.

Knowing that the plotting was worked out the way a TV series is written it seems to imply that early content was probably optimized more to hook readers than to align with the rigors of plot. But still, my guess is that the core reason for Dumbledore to seem crazy was already in Eliezer's mind in the first few chapters. Sadly, there will be no more data to settle the question honestly, but it was a fun game while it lasted. I'm sad the data source has shut down, but happy to have played :-)

EDIT: Oh! Also it makes Dumbledore being outside of time (instead of actually dead) more interesting. Presumably he cannot be "raised from the dead" from this position. Also, it appears that there is some room for him to be causally related to the source of prophecies, from his position outside time... maybe? ;-)

Comment author: Duncan 01 March 2015 02:43:54PM 6 points [-]

You should look at reddit to coordinate your actions with others. One idea I like is to organize the proposal of all reasonable ideas and minimize duplication. Organization thread here: http://www.reddit.com/r/HPMOR/comments/2xiabn/spoilers_ch_113_planning_thread/

Comment author: JenniferRM 02 March 2015 12:11:44AM 1 point [-]

Thanks for the URL :-)

Comment author: Dorikka 01 March 2015 09:32:26AM 4 points [-]

In the shorter and sadder ending, I think it is likely that HarryPrime will escape, but not really care about people, and become an optimizing preservation agent of the mere planet. Thus Harry might escape the box and then start removing threats to the physical integrity of the earth's biosphere.

I'm curious just how dark Eliezer could make such an ending, if he were inspired to try as hard as possible without concern for other goals/strategy. 'Twould be an interesting read.

Comment author: JenniferRM 01 March 2015 10:09:07AM 4 points [-]

Maybe it would be intellectually interesting, but I'm not sure I'd want to read it... it has been a long time since I was into the horror genre.

Comment author: JenniferRM 01 March 2015 08:41:35AM *  7 points [-]

I can think of a solution, but may not be the solution because it relies on untested extensions of previous mechanisms having to do with "Dementers" which HarryPrime knows to be magical incarnations of death, that obey people's expectations about death. Critically, it depends on how much play he has in the distance and plasticity of dementer control.

My plan probably requires him to have put it into motion during the text we already read. Imagine that when he was surrounded at the end of chapter 112 at this moment, he put his plan into motion:

You know, said the last voice within Harry, the voice of hope, I think this is getting pretty bad even by my standards.

Right after that, he could have started expecting 40 dementers to arrive at his location without disturbing or being seen by anyone while traveling, so it doesn't change anything already known about the world before he time turned already.

He expects them to arrive in a group, and to kill everyone but him and Hermione, even if he himself has already been killed (this last clause might not work, depending on how the magic about dementer expectation control works). He expects the dementers to travel at a poetically appropriate speed (to help make the expectations plausible enough to happen), so perhaps the speed of a killing curse, which might be approximated by the speed of sound, or ~750 miles per hour.

If Azkaban is 100 miles away (doubtful) they take 8 minutes. If 200 miles (plausible), then 16 minutes. If 300 miles (also possible) then 24 minutes. I think 250 is most reasonable, so 20 minutes is the maximum likelihood for the arrival time? Unless killing curses move faster than sound, in which case earlier?

Azkaban is somewhere "unplottable" in the north sea so a 20 minute delay is reasonable. For strategic reasons, Harry expects the dementers to rendevous at a point far enough away from where he is that Voldemort and the death eaters can't sense the doom aura of the dementers. Then when 40 are ready in a group somewhere moderately close, he expects them to swoop together in at the speed of killing curses and kill everyone but him and Hermione. One for each death eater, and the spares for Voldemort.

To expect this, and expect that it had a good chance of working was a risk, requiring ~20 minutes to pass between starting the expectation and the dementers arriving, but all through chapter 113 he was not asked by Voldemort if he had betrayed Voldemort yet (this probably would count as that), so the risk has already paid off so far...

That chapter, but the way, took approximately 15 minutes and 30 seconds to occur. I read the verbal parts out loud to myself and timed how long it took.

There were bits like this where I generally assumed that it would be perceived as less than a minute (I counted 30 seconds for this line, rather than 60):

Mr. White screamed through his mask's distortion for what seemed like a full minute.

If my timing of chapter 113 count is accurate, then starting at the beginning of chapter 114 Harry needs to buy about 4 minutes and 30 seconds of conversation, and then he should expect his enemies to be attacked by dementers at an unusually fast speed.

One potential flaw in the plan is that he may not have started expecting the right things early enough. In chapter 113 this bit of narrator description of Harry's mental state shows up around the 11 minute mark and seems uncharacteristic for someone who expects dementers to show up as expected.

Harry was chilled, and shivering, and not only because he was naked in the night. He didn't understand why Voldemort was not just killing him. There seemed to be only a single line leading into the future, and it was Voldemort's chosen line, and Harry did not know what came after this.

So maybe he grew a spine and a brain right after that, in which case he started expecting dementers 4.5 minutes before the end of 113 and needs to buy more like 15.5 minutes in chapter 114.

So what does he do to buy time? Basically, he starts saying a lot of things that are true and interesting and require responses...

For each unknown power you tell me how to masster, or other ssecret you tell me that I desire to know, you may name one more of thosse to insstead be protected and honored under my reign.

Personally, I think Harry is actually HarryPrime now, and he doesn't care nearly as much about his family and friends as Voldemort thinks, at least not compared to preventing the end of the world.

So I think Harry's first move should be to think for as long as he can get away with. Then say out loud that he can think of five things off the top of his head that might be a power-known-not or other qualifying secret. This buys him time to emit more sentences and come up with more things.

(Things he could say that would make the claim of 5 reasonable include: the secret of patronus 2.0, the secret of dementers, flitwick's tourament curse, partial transfiguration, and the fact that magic is a homozygous recessive trait. But he doesn't list them right off the bat that shortly.)

After stating a number, I think he asks clarifying questions about what counts as a secret, or a power, and offers one thing that might count or might not, which would the idea of setting death eaters under other unbreakable vows (to themselves persist in the prevention of the end of the world after Harry is dead) as an example of a strategically helpful thing Voldemort might not have considered as a possible life saving thing to talk about (this also, btw potentially creates allies for HarryPrime's real new goal which is to prevent the world's destruction without stopping to be nice or fulfill other ideals).

Through his wording, he can honestly communicates that his new life goal, by the way, has in fact been transformed by the unbreakable vow that was just taken and he offers himself in service to Voldemort, conditional on Voldemort wanting to protect the world. He really wants to help.

Also it creates a potential conversational opening for him to say that in pursuit of protection of the world he actually cares more now about learn the wording of the prophesy that relates to the potential end of the world, so that he can be more effective in his world saving. Learning the prophesy is probably related to his new vowed goal.

If Voldemort is unhappy with stalling, and Harry has to get down to brass tacks fast, he let's Voldemort know that the secret of Dementers is one that he has composed a riddle for, for someone else (which he has already done for Hermione so it is in theory possible even though we haven't seen the contents of this riddle on camera yet), but it relies on insights and perspectives that Voldemort might not have and so he needs to ask some questions to restructure the riddle. But doing so could take a while and could be done after other secrets were exchanged for lives. Which order does Voldemort prefer?

If Voldemort wants a patronus 2.0 riddle that is optimized for him, then there are a bunch of potentially relevant things about Voldemort's mind and plans that determine whether and how to construct a riddle personalized to him, like "Can you cast patronus 1.0 and if not, why do you think not?"

It is hard to plan a conversation in detail, because the other person's reactions are always relevant, but I could relatively easily see Harry stretching out a conversation about secrets for a good 20-60 minutes, and somewhere in that conversation, hopefully, the dementers swoop in and maybe kill everyone but Harry and Hermione, or at least it gives Harry a distraction during which he might grab the time turner and escape.

I'd rather get the longer happier ending (though I am curious about the shorter sadder ending). Should I submit this plan to fanfiction as a possible solution, or does it need more polishing?

Comment author: Shawnsbert 01 March 2015 12:39:04AM 6 points [-]

Harry can talk to LV about the life cycles of stars and the heat death of the universe. All this could force LV to rethink what it means to be immortal when the sun engulfs the earth or the universe hits maximum entropy. This could buy some time.

Comment author: JenniferRM 01 March 2015 06:19:35AM 5 points [-]

I agree that this would be relevant, but Harry doesn't know the literal text of the prophesy yet. Only discussion of "destroying the world" has happened in his presence, not "tear apart the stars".

The fact that "protecting the earth" in the very long run requires protecting the earth from solar flares and supernovas hasn't yet been understood by Voldemort.

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