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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 February 2013 10:43:05PM 6 points [-]

This is an excellent point I should've noticed myself (though it's been long and long since I encountered the parable). Who says you own a baby just by being its genetic mother?

Albeit sufficiently young babies are plausibly not sentient.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 26 February 2013 11:13:17PM -1 points [-]

Thwarted+joy beats desolation+schadenfreude as a utility win even if they were dividing a teddy bear.

Comment author: algekalipso 26 February 2013 03:21:41AM 1 point [-]

No, dude, the correct answer is "because he is a man!"

Comment author: JulianMorrison 26 February 2013 11:04:07PM 4 points [-]

As a transhumanist, that does not follow.

Comment author: DanielLC 11 February 2013 11:32:55PM 2 points [-]

I would consider almost powerful enough to overpower humanity "powerful". I meant something closer to human-level.

In response to comment by DanielLC on Sympathetic Minds
Comment author: JulianMorrison 12 February 2013 10:46:11PM 0 points [-]

Now learn the Portia trick, and don't be so sure that you can judge power in a mind that doesn't share our evolutionary history.

Also watch the Alien movies, because those aren't bad models of what a maximizer would be like if it was somewhere between animalistic and closely subhuman. Xenomorphs are basically xenomorph-maximizers. In the fourth movie, the scientists try to cut a deal. The xenomorph queen plays along - until she doesn't. She's always, always plotting. Not evil, just purposeful with purposes that are inimical to ours. (I know, generalizing from fictional evidence - this isn't evidence, it's a model to give you an emotional grasp.)

Comment author: DanielLC 07 February 2013 04:00:09AM 4 points [-]

What makes a maximizer scary is that it's also powerful. A paperclip maximizer that couldn't overpower humans would work with humans. We would both benefit.

Of course, it would still probably be a bit creepy, but it's not going to be any less beneficial than a human trading partner.

In response to comment by DanielLC on Sympathetic Minds
Comment author: JulianMorrison 11 February 2013 10:22:06PM 4 points [-]

Not unless you like working with an utterly driven monomaniac perfect psychopath. It would always, always be "cannot overpower humans yet". One slip, and it would turn on you without missing a beat. No deal. Open fire.

Comment author: Kindly 29 November 2012 02:40:17PM 2 points [-]

Why would the old timeline deserve to exist more than the new one?

In response to comment by Kindly on Causal Universes
Comment author: JulianMorrison 29 November 2012 05:07:12PM -1 points [-]

Suppose I destroy the timeline, and create an identical one. Have I committed a moral evil? No, because nothing has been lost.

Suppose I destroy the timeline, and restart from an earlier point. Have I committed a moral evil? Very much yes. What was lost? To give only one person's example from Flight of the Navigator out of a planet of billions, out of a whole universe, the younger brother who was left behind had spent years - of personal growth, of creating value and memories - helping his parents with their quixotic search. And then bonding with the new younger "older" brother, rejoicing with his parents, marvelling at the space ship. And then he was erased.

Comment author: Swimmer963 28 November 2012 03:33:30PM 4 points [-]

Are the specific examples that JulianMorrison gave things that are statistically true about girls versus boys. Is it statistically true that girls don't climb trees? (I'm a girl, and tree climbing is awesome!)

Also, there's a difference between what you're talking about (using probability to predict behaviour when you know nothing else about others) and ways to raise children, since parents in part determine the future behaviour of their children. Even if it is statistically true, right now, that girls don't wear Spider-Man suits as often as boys, and get upset rather than angry, I don't think those states are the ideal world states. Treating your children like these stereotypes are true might be a self fulfilling prophecy.

Note that there are some examples that I think would be true. I do think that, on average, girls are more likely to get upset than angry when in a situation of conflict. But not always: I get upset more often, my brother gets angry, my sister gets angry, my dad gets upset. I do think that the average boy, if given a Barbie, is more likely to re-enact battles with it than dress it. But that doesn't mean it's a good parenting strategy to yell at your son because he's an outlier who likes to dress Barbies. (From a purely predictive view, you could probably make a boy happier by giving him something other than a Barbie for his birthday, but that's if you're not the parent and your actions aren't influencing his future preferences.)

Comment author: JulianMorrison 28 November 2012 04:30:34PM -1 points [-]

BTW, by "assuming girls are upset where they'd assume boys are angry" I am referring to unconscious fact judgements about infants too young to verbalize the problem. (Cite: "pink brain blue brain" by Lise Eliot). Macho emotions are attributed to babies in who appear male and gentle ones to babies who appear female. Since baby sex is almost unmarked, that means going by the colour of the clothes. (And google "baby Storm" for an example of adults panicking and pillorying the parents if the cues that allow them to gender the baby are intentionally witheld.)

Comment author: gjm 28 November 2012 03:18:13PM 1 point [-]

Um. Doesn't Star Wars (I take it we're talking about the movie otherwise known as "Episode IV" rather than the whole series) more or less begin with the destruction of an entire planet? And ... is it actually clear that the only way to implement time travel is the one Eliezer describes, and that it's best described as killing everyone involved? It doesn't look that way to me.

But I haven't seen Flight of the Navigator so maybe there are details that nail things down more.

In response to comment by gjm on Causal Universes
Comment author: JulianMorrison 28 November 2012 03:33:15PM 9 points [-]

The Star Wars series is about the tragic destruction of one planet and two death stars, and the childish bickering that caused it.

Flight of the Navigator ends the timeline. It destroys every planet, every star, every wandering spaceship billions of light years into the dark, total universal omnicide. And a reboot into a new timeline from a previously existing history.

In response to Causal Universes
Comment author: JulianMorrison 28 November 2012 12:03:34PM 5 points [-]

Re [1] I totally noticed that "Flight of the Navigator" is a story about a kidnapped, returned boy who forges a new relationship with his older parents and ex younger, now older brother, and a cute nurse at the government facility, and then kills them all.

To say understanding this spoiled the story for me is an understatement. That movie has more dead people than Star Wars. It's a fricken' tragedy.

Link: PRISMs, Gom Jabbars, and Consciousness (Peter Watts)

9 JulianMorrison 11 October 2009 09:51PM


Morsella has gone back to basics. Forget art, symphonies, science. Forget the step-by-step learning of complex tasks. Those may be some of the things we use consciousness for now but that doesn’t mean that’s what it evolved for, any more than the cones in our eyes evolved to give kaleidoscope makers something to do. What’s the primitive, bare-bones, nuts-and-bolts thing that consciousness does once we’ve stripped away all the self-aggrandizing bombast?

Morsella’s answer is delightfully mundane: it mediates conflicting motor commands to the skeletal muscles.

How David Beats Goliath

18 JulianMorrison 05 May 2009 01:25AM

From the New Yorker:

It was as if there were a kind of conspiracy in the basketball world about the way the game ought to be played, and Ranadivé thought that that conspiracy had the effect of widening the gap between good teams and weak teams. Good teams, after all, had players who were tall and could dribble and shoot well; they could crisply execute their carefully prepared plays in their opponent’s end. Why, then, did weak teams play in a way that made it easy for good teams to do the very things that made them so good?


David’s victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. It was not. Davids win all the time. The political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft recently looked at every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths, he found, won in 71.5 per cent of the cases. That is a remarkable fact. Arreguín-Toft was analyzing conflicts in which one side was at least ten times as powerful—in terms of armed might and population—as its opponent, and even in those lopsided contests the underdog won almost a third of the time.

[...] What happened, Arreguín-Toft wondered, when the underdogs likewise acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? He went back and re-analyzed his data. In those cases, David’s winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6.


Arreguín-Toft found the same puzzling pattern. When an underdog fought like David, he usually won. But most of the time underdogs didn’t fight like David. Of the two hundred and two lopsided conflicts in Arreguín-Toft’s database, the underdog chose to go toe to toe with Goliath the conventional way a hundred and fifty-two times—and lost a hundred and nineteen times.

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