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Comment author: Azathoth123 12 September 2014 01:32:55AM 3 points [-]

There's no reason to think pursuing GMOs will be dangerous,

The phrase "no reason to think" should raise alarm bells. It can mean we've looked and haven't found any, or that we haven't looked.

Comment author: Mizue 12 September 2014 02:42:36PM 1 point [-]

There's no reason to think that there's a teapot-shaped asteroid resembling Russell's teapot either.

And I'm pretty sure we haven't looked for one, either. Yet it would be ludicrous to treat it as if it had a substantial probability of existing.

Comment author: private_messaging 11 September 2014 01:52:00PM *  1 point [-]

If it looks too different, we won't see them in space, though.

Our own intelligence is at the level where it's just barely sufficient to build a civilization when you got hands, fire, and so on. Note that orcas have much larger brains than humans, and had those larger brains for quite a long time, yet we're where we are, and they're where they are.

Comment author: Mizue 11 September 2014 05:21:32PM 2 points [-]

The Wikipedia article listing number of neurons in the cerebral cortex shows humans as significantly higher than whales, even though raw brain size may look better for whales. Wikipedia also describes an encephalization quotient which takes account of the fact that the brain is used for bodily functions, and on which whales don't score as highly as they may seem to from brain size.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 10 September 2014 10:47:32PM 3 points [-]

how to create the role of perfect agency?

It's someone who takes "heroic responsibility". Source:

"You could call it heroic responsibility, maybe," Harry Potter said. "Not like the usual sort. It means that whatever happens, no matter what, it's always your fault. Even if you tell Professor McGonagall, she's not responsible for what happens, you are. Following the school rules isn't an excuse, someone else being in charge isn't an excuse, even trying your best isn't an excuse. There just aren't any excuses, you've got to get the job done no matter what. That's why I say you're not thinking responsibly, Hermione. Thinking that your job is done when you tell Professor McGonagall - that isn't heroine thinking. Like (SPOILER) is okay then, because it isn't your fault anymore. Being a heroine means your job isn't finished until you've done whatever it takes to (SPOILER), permanently. You can't think as if just following the rules means you've done your duty."

So, I guess watching superhero movies, and imagining yourself being one, could be a good start. Preferably movies where the superhero is not defined primarily by their supernatural powers, but by taking action where others don't. In other words, less Superman, more Batman.

Comment author: Mizue 11 September 2014 03:28:46PM 1 point [-]

Doing everything it takes to achieve some result, rather than just following the rules, creates perverse incentives for other people to slack off because they know that you will do whatever it takes.

It may still be a good idea when the consequences of not getting the result are so bad that even the negative effect of the perverse incentive isn't as bad, but that usually happens only with superheroes and Harry Potter-like characters.

Also, Batman is not so much defined by taking action, but by plot armor.

Comment author: wedrifid 22 July 2014 07:24:28AM 3 points [-]

and I would never amuse myself at a cocktail party in ways that I thought had more than an infinitesimal chance of harming them.

Your ethical intent sounds fine but that is of limited use without competence. The sort of casual disclosure described in the ancestor anecdote would make me slightly downgrade my evaluation of the trustworthiness and social competence of any professional that works with sensitive information. Much like those observed casually gossiping about other people at inappropriate times will be silently downgraded as potential confidants.

If you prefer your advocates to go beyond a principle of 'do no harm'

The overwhelming majority of minor ethical transgressions that we make will "do no harm". Some do. If the consequences were that easy to predict we wouldn't need ethical inhibitions in the first place.

Comment author: Mizue 11 September 2014 03:14:54PM 2 points [-]

I think there's a difference between "does no harm, because it had a substantial chance of doing harm, but someone got lucky", and "does no harm, and the chance of harm wasn't ever substantial to begin with".

Comment author: Mizue 09 September 2014 08:59:58PM 2 points [-]

Replacing food with Soylent is weird. Perhaps in your social circle it's a plausible thing to do, but I'm pretty certain that most people would think it's a bizarre thing to do regardless of what certain geek social circles might think.

In fact, that's my impression of lots of LW-style ideas, such as cryonics and SI-style AI research.

Rationality always works when it is done perfectly. But it's incredibly easy to miss something and come to a weird conclusion by pure rationality. And being partly rational can be pretty bad when irrationality has evolved checks and balances and your rationality bypasses them but is not good enough to replace them. So I'm automatically very skeptical towards anything which is perfectly sensible--here--which people outside this circle of atypical minds would find ludicrous.

Not to mention the name. Yes, I know that in the book it was not made of people, but giving it a name that has negative connotations in the outside world suggests that the idea is insufficiently vetted by the outside world.

Comment author: Rain 08 September 2014 01:05:09PM 1 point [-]

The FAQ addresses Crohn's Disease: "more data needed".


It also has a full list of ingredients.


One thing from the link above that I didn't previously know: "The Soylent recipe is based on the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and is approved as a food by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)." (emphasis theirs)

Comment author: Mizue 09 September 2014 08:22:42PM 3 points [-]

Is "approved as a food" like those fake star naming companies which claim that that the star names are in the library of Congress?

The FDA approving it as a food doesn't mean the FDA approves of it being consumed in a specific way. I'm pretty sure ketchup is approved as a food too, but that doesn't mean you can drink a bottle of it for lunch each day and stay healthy.

Comment author: ChristianKl 09 September 2014 09:51:33AM 3 points [-]

Willpower and other putative psychological benefits of Christianity are nowhere in the top 100 reasons Taleb was born Christian.

If Christianity would lower the willpower of it's members then it would be at a disadvantage in memetic competition against other worldviews that increase willpower.

In Christianity's case the reasons seem obvious enough

Predicting complex systems like memetic competition over the span of centuries between different memes is very hard. In cognitive psychology experiments frequently invalidate basic intuitions about the human mind.

Trust bootstrapping is certainly one of the functions of religion but it's not clear that's bad. Bootstrapping trust is generally a hard problem. Trust makes people cooperate. If I remember right Taleb makes somewhere the point that the word believe derives from a word that means trust.

As far as "antiquity's incompetence at understanding the universe" goes, understanding the universe is very important to people like the New Atheists but it's for Taleb it's not the main thing religion is about. For him it's about practically following a bunch of rituals such as being at church every Sunday.

Comment author: Mizue 09 September 2014 05:36:13PM 2 points [-]

If I remember right Taleb makes somewhere the point that the word believe derives from a word that means trust.

I often see this argument from religions themselves or similar sources, not from those opposed to religion. Not this specific argument, but this type of argument--the idea of using the etymology of a word to prove something about the concept represented by the word. As we know or should know, a word's etymology may not necessarily have much of a connection to what it means or how it is used today. ("malaria" means "bad air" because of the belief that it was caused by that. "terrific" means something that terrifies.)

Also consider that by conservation of expected evidence if the etymology of the word is evidence for your point, if that etymology were to turn out to be false, that would be evidence against your point. Would you consider it to be evidence against your point if somehow that etymology were to be shown false?

Comment author: Capla 07 September 2014 10:37:52PM 0 points [-]

I might pose I similar thought experiment: if a scientist today, discovered he could raise the dead, restore anyone who had ever lived, what would we do with that power? Do we have a moral responsibility to "save" all humans ever? Even if resurrection were free, the earth couldn't (currently) support a population of every human (and perhaps some pets?) who's ever been. We'd have to decide who gets to live and who doesn't. Restoring past-people will almost certainly entail displacing some people who might otherwise have been born. Why do we privilege those that already got to live a "full" (typical human) life over the millions of potential humans that could populate the earth in our stead?

Furthermore, I don't see much of a distinction between deciding who gets revived and who doesn't, on the one hand, and killing the people we don't want around, on the other. Faced with a delemia of "who gets to live", unless we aim for a sort of "equality of time alive", out of a sense of fairness (in which case, most modern humans are running a deficit), it seems we would kill the ass-holes to make room for the cool people from history. Is that inhumane?

Or consider, maybe we'd stop giving birth entirely, so that all the existent people can take turns being the one's alive. Does a world where every person is old, where no one is falling in love for the first time, where children are absent, so that we can have more life, see like a good one?

I'm asking these questions sincerely. Maybe that is the world we want.

In response to comment by Capla on You Only Live Twice
Comment author: Mizue 07 September 2014 11:56:33PM 1 point [-]

I'd expect the answer to be similar to an analogous situation involving birth. If everyone had more children than they could afford to raise, society would collapse. We like to think that since the children are not responsible for their situation, we as a society would choose to support them, but this only is possible because the number of people who have children and demand that society support them is limited. At some point the drain on resources would make it impossible to support them as a society, and we would have to let them starve, and/or not permit immigrants from countries with high birth rates.

The same would go for resurrection. If you resurrect someone, you are responsible for supporting them for a maximum of 18 years and a minimum that depends on how long they are dead (so you're not on the hook for 18 years if you resurrect someone who died last week). If you resurrect more people than you can afford to support, this is treated like having more children than you can afford to support; the resurrected will have to live in poverty or starve. There will be a safety net to help some of them but it will be imperfect and it may not be possible to help them all. And of course you don't allow immigration from countries who like resurrecting lots of people and sending them across the border to take advantage of our social services.

If it is significantly easier to resurrect than to have children, we may need to have penalties that we wouldn't tolerate in the case of children, such as arresting people if they resurrect more than X others and do not support them, something we currently do only for child support cases.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 05 September 2014 09:39:00PM 4 points [-]

Airplanes may not work on fusion or weigh millions of tons, but still, substituting a few words in I could say similar things about airplanes. Or electrical grids. Or smallpox vaccination. But nobody does.

Are you sure? I looked for just a bit and found

There is no sport equal to that which aviators enjoy while being carried through the air on great white wings.


I imagine if inventors have bombastic things to say about the things they invent, then frequently keep those thoughts to oneself to avoid sounding arrogant (e.g. I don't think it would have gone over well if Edison had started referring to himself as "Edison, the man who lit the world of the night").

Comment author: Mizue 06 September 2014 02:49:34AM *  5 points [-]

I meant that nobody accuses people awed by airplanes of being arrogant; I didn't mean that nobody is awed by airplanes.

(BTW, I wouldn't be surprised if Edison did say something similar; he was notorious for self-promotion.)

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 01 September 2014 11:57:26PM *  9 points [-]

I feel it myself, the glitter of nuclear weapons. It is irresistible if you come to them as a scientist. To feel it’s there in your hands. To release the energy that fuels the stars. To let it do your bidding. And to perform these miracles, to lift a million tons of rock into the sky, it is something that gives people an illusion of illimitable power, and it is in some ways responsible for all our troubles... this is what you might call ‘technical arrogance’ that overcomes people when they see what they can do with their minds.

-- Freeman Dyson

Comment author: Mizue 05 September 2014 06:42:20PM 9 points [-]

Airplanes may not work on fusion or weigh millions of tons, but still, substituting a few words in I could say similar things about airplanes. Or electrical grids. Or smallpox vaccination. But nobody does.

Hypothesis: he has an emotional reaction to the way nuclear weapons are used--he thinks that is arrogant--and he's letting those emotions bleed into his reaction to nuclear weapons themselves.

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