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Comment author: AshwinV 27 September 2014 02:34:32PM 0 points [-]

I have a suspicion that one of the factors holding back donations from big names (think Peter Thiel level), is the absence of visibility. Both from the point of view that it isn't as "cool" as the Bill and Melinda gates foundation (i.e. to say there isn't already an existing public opinion that issues such as x risk are charity worthy, as opposed to something like say donating for underprivileged children to take part in some sporting event) and that it isn't as "visible" (to continue with the donation to children example, a lot of publicity can be obtained by putting up photos of apparently malnourished children sitting together in a line, full of smiles for the camera).

The distinction I have made between the two is artificial, but I thought it was the best way to illustrate that the disadvantages suffered my FHI, MIRI and that cluster of institutes are happening on two different levels.

However, the second point about visibility is actually a bit of a teeny bit concerning. The MIRI has been criticized for not doing much except publishing papers.That doesn't look good and it is hard for a layman to feel that giving away a portion of his salary just to see a new set of math formulas (looking much like the same formulas he saw last month) a good use of his money, especially if he doesn't see it directly helping anyone out.

I understand that by the nature of the research being undertaken, this may be all that we can hope for, but if there is a better way that MIRI can signal it's accountability, then I think that it should be done. Pronto.

Also, could someone who is so inclined get the math/code that is happening and dumb it down enough so that an average LW-er such as yours truly could make more sense of it?

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 29 September 2014 05:14:52AM 5 points [-]

The MIRI has been criticized for not doing much except publishing papers.

Really? Before, MIRI was being constantly criticized for not publishing any papers.

Comment author: brazil84 25 September 2014 05:04:41PM 1 point [-]

I don't actually remember who the people who downvoted you are. I'd have to look them up again.

Having chosen a flattering explanation for your conduct, I am not surprised that you would have difficulty remembering facts which might support a less flattering explanation.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 26 September 2014 01:48:06PM 0 points [-]

This conversation makes me even more happy that I don't need to deal with downvote moderation anymore.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 24 September 2014 04:03:43PM 5 points [-]

Anyone who's interested in consciousness should, IMO, know at least about Global Workspace Theory: a good summary can be found in these two short papers; here's a paper on how it might be implemented neuronally, though it's longer and more dense than the previous two.

Comment author: JoshuaFox 24 September 2014 01:26:13PM *  3 points [-]

Metzinger's The Ego Tunnel is the popular-audience version of Being No One.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 24 September 2014 03:51:25PM 6 points [-]

My review of the Ego Tunnel:

Nice discussion of Metzinger's theory of consciousness. His basic claim is that what humans tend to think of as a "self" is what he calls a "phenomenal self-model" (PSM). As the name suggests, the PSM is the brain's model of the organism as a whole, and includes things such as a model of the organism's body. The PSM is situated within a broader world-model of the environment that the organism exists in. Metzinger claims that the reason why we experience there being thing such as "selves" is that there has been no evolutionary advantage in seeing the PSM as a model - we do not see the sophisticated computational machinery which produces it, and thus experience it as something self-contained and essential, rather as something that's constructed from parts for the sake of enabling better information-processing.

Metzinger's book discusses a number of experiments as well as details of what our conscious experience is like and what the reasons for that might be.

For example, humans perceive time as a kind of eternal present: everything we experience is experienced as happening "now", and even when we recall a memory of the past or think of the future, it is experienced as us remembering or planning something right now. But one could imagine a mind that didn't have any conception of an immediate privileged now. Metzinger doesn't go into detail of how this kind of a different mind would represent time, but personally I could speculate it as having just mental representations of events with different timestamps, with increasingly broad probability distributions on those events that had not yet been witnessed but which were extrapolated to happen, or of which sufficient time had passed that the memories might be becoming uncertain...

Metzinger suggests that the experience of a unified now emerges from the need to take quick action in response to threatening situations in the environment, and to provide all of the subsystems in the brain with a shared temporal frame of reference:

Although, strictly speaking, no such thing as Now exists in the outside world, it proved adaptive to organize the inner model of the world around such a Now - creating a common temporal frame of reference for all the mechanisms in the brain so that they can access the same information at the same time. A certain point in time had to be represented in a privileged manner in order to be flagged as reality.

Metzinger also suggests that this sense of a Now is part of what enables consciousness as we understand it: experiencing ourselves as being embedded in a constantly-developing Now is a fundamental part of human experience and consciousness.

The weakest part of the book is the last third, where the topic suddenly switches into that of ethics. The discussion in this section seems quite disconnected from that of the previous sections, and Metzinger starts talking about issues such as national drug policies and whether meditation should be taught in schools. A part of this discussion is justifiable as it touches upon the question of the effects that an increased understanding of consciousness research will have on society, but the whole discussion mostly comes off as superficial and not very well-argued. (Though I will admit that I started skimming this section pretty quickly.)

Nonetheless, overall Metzinger paints a very interesting picture of his theory of how the brain might work, though there's still a definite speculative vibe around it all.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 24 September 2014 09:50:36AM 4 points [-]

Every time I've heard someone mention Being No One, it's been accompanied by some statement along the lines of "this book was above my level". This has certainly piqued my interest, but it hasn't instilled me with confidence about my ability to tackle it.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 24 September 2014 03:49:24PM 7 points [-]

I've tried reading the book several times; I feel that the problem isn't so much that the content is intrinsically difficult, but rather that the style of writing is generally terrible. Paragraphs are spent on something that could have been expressed in a sentence, and every now and then one gets the feeling that the book is written using English vocabulary and German sentence structure. A good editor could have cut down the length by hundreds of pages without losing anything essential.

The content is great if you can work your way through it, but despite that, I've still never managed to work my way through the whole book.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 20 September 2014 10:17:44AM 0 points [-]

Similarly, I turned off the newsfeed in facebook, which I found to improve the quality of my internet time in general (the primary issue was that I would sometimes be distracted by the newsfeed while sending messages over facebook, which wasn't my favorite way to use up wastenotime minutes).

Thank you for that plugin, it's so useful.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 17 September 2014 11:51:35AM *  7 points [-]

In the interest of trying out stuff outside the usual sphere-of-things-that-I'm-doing, I now have a fashion/lifestyle blog.

It's in Finnish, but it has a bunch of pictures of me, which ought to be language-neutral. Also my stuffed animals. (And yes, I know that I need a better camera.)

Comment author: paulfchristiano 16 September 2014 04:19:39AM *  4 points [-]

Do you know of a partially observable game for which AI lags behind humans substantially? These examples are of particular interest to me because they would significantly revise my understanding of what problems are hard and easy.

The most prominent games of this partial information that I know are Bridge and Poker, and AI's can now win at both of these (and which in fact proved to be much easier than the classic deterministic games). Backgammon is random, and also turned out to be relatively easy--in fact the randomness itself is widely considered to have made the game easy for computers! Scrabble is the other example that comes to mind, where the situation is the same.

For Civilization in particular, it seems very likely that AI would be wildly superhuman if it were subject to the same kind of attention as other games, simply because the techniques used in Go and Backgammon, together with a bunch of ad hoc logic for navigating the tech tree, should be able to get so much traction.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 16 September 2014 07:27:04PM 5 points [-]

For Civilization in particular, it seems very likely that AI would be wildly superhuman if it were subject to the same kind of attention as other games, simply because the techniques used in Go and Backgammon, together with a bunch of ad hoc logic for navigating the tech tree, should be able to get so much traction.

Agreed. It's not Civilization, but Starcraft is also partially observable and non-deterministic, and a team of students managed to bring their Starcraft AI to the level of being able to defeat a "top 16 in Europe"-level human player after only a "few months" of work.

The game AIs for popular strategy games are often bad because the developers don't actually have the time and resources to make a really good one, and it's not a high priority anyway - most people playing games like Civilization want an AI that they'll have fun defeating, not an AI that actually plays optimally.

Comment author: brazil84 16 September 2014 08:48:23AM 2 points [-]

General ughy feelings around doing anything related to downvote investigations and an unwillingness to do anything that would cause me to spend more time doing them. Possible reasons for those ughy feelings include an aversion to doing anything confrontational (including punishing mass downvoters), a high uncertainty of what should be considered unacceptable behavior and low confidence in my ability to accurately determine what counts as karmassassination, and an unwillingness to bother people (including jackk) unless absolutely necessary. Not all of those reasons necessarily applied in your case, but it was close enough to trigger the emotional association.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the persons who downvoted me a lot have significantly more popular views than those of Eugine_Nier.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 16 September 2014 04:34:36PM 0 points [-]

I don't actually remember who the people who downvoted you are. I'd have to look them up again.

Comment author: brazil84 15 September 2014 08:41:28AM 0 points [-]

No, I'm sorry. You could ask Viliam_Bur to do it.

I did, but why not? I have a hypothesis but it's not very flattering to you.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 15 September 2014 06:54:00PM 3 points [-]

General ughy feelings around doing anything related to downvote investigations and an unwillingness to do anything that would cause me to spend more time doing them. Possible reasons for those ughy feelings include an aversion to doing anything confrontational (including punishing mass downvoters), a high uncertainty of what should be considered unacceptable behavior and low confidence in my ability to accurately determine what counts as karmassassination, and an unwillingness to bother people (including jackk) unless absolutely necessary. Not all of those reasons necessarily applied in your case, but it was close enough to trigger the emotional association.

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