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

Comment author: Doug_S. 09 February 2009 05:28:00AM 3 points [-]

The story specifically asks a question that none of the commenters have addressed yet.

"So," the Lord Pilot finally said. "What kind of asset retains its value in a market with nine minutes to live?"

My answer: Music.

If your world is going to end in nine minutes, you might as well play some music while you wait for the inevitable.

Short story collections, perhaps? If you've never read, say, "The Last Question", it would be your last chance. (And if you're reading this now, and you haven't read "The Last Question" yet, then something has gone seriously wrong in your life.)

Comment author: Tamfang 14 August 2010 04:59:54AM 0 points [-]

Eh? Perhaps I was too young to get (or remember) what's so great about it. (I haven't read much Asimov since my early teens.)

Comment author: garethrees 13 May 2010 09:07:35AM 2 points [-]

Stanislaw Lem, "The Twenty-First Voyage of Ijon Tichy", collected in "The Star Diaries".

Comment author: Tamfang 14 August 2010 04:55:22AM 0 points [-]

hm, is ''Tichy'' the Polish word for 'peaceful'?

Comment author: Anonymous_Coward4 04 February 2009 10:32:57PM 0 points [-]

Regarding ship names in the koan....

Babyeaters: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midshipman's_Hope. Haven't read, just decoded from the name in the story.

But I'm having trouble figuring out the superhappys. I can think of a story with rational and emotional protagonists, a plot device relating to a 'charged particle', and the story is centered around a solar explosion (or risk of one). That story happens to involve 3 alien genders (rational, emotional, parental) who merge together to produce offspring. It should be known to many people on this thread but it's been about 10 years since I last read it. Asimov, the gods themselves.

Anonymous.

Comment author: Tamfang 14 August 2010 03:37:19AM 0 points [-]

Ah! I read it as "Sailor's Heart's Desire", with no particular significance.

Comment author: mitchell_porter2 04 February 2009 02:37:00AM 1 point [-]

The lesson I draw from this story is that in it, the human race went to the stars too soon. If they had thought more about situations like this before they started travelling the starlines, they'd have a prior consensus about what to do.

Comment author: Tamfang 14 August 2010 02:31:37AM 1 point [-]

Fiction like this may be the nearest thing to a way to avoid such a blunder. Occasionally a pundit says "Nobody has ever given any thought to the consequences of biotechnology," as if sf didn't exist, so I'm not hopeful.

Comment author: Tamfang 14 August 2010 12:47:49AM 3 points [-]

I don't buy the (fairly common) idea that in the post-national Future all humans will look alike, though it's a convenient device here. I wonder whether I've ever seen it used this way.

The traits that we now call ethnic may cease to be ethnic markers, but they'll continue to appear so long as the genes exist, albeit rarely in the same combinations. Is there any reason to expect Akon to recognize which clusters of traits were once ethnic markers, out of all the combinations existing in his time?

Comment author: Pavitra 22 November 2009 08:55:41AM 14 points [-]

I don't think this future society was intended to be perfect or utopian or a recommendation for how we should develop. I don't think that EY is seriously (or non-seriously) suggesting that society would be better with decriminalized rape.

Rather, this is most likely an expression of the principle that the future will contain things that we would consider a moral outrage, just as every century in recorded history so far has contained things that the people of one or two centuries previous to them would have considered a moral outrage.

There's a lot of discussion in this comment thread already looking at the question from different angles, and I recommend you take the time to look through it.

I agree, though, that the logical implications are not well-thought-out. Can I delay or prevent someone from getting from point A to point B by accosting them in the hallway for sex? What if three people all decide they want sex with the same person at once? Twelve people? A hundred? At a certain point, sexual intercourse is an unavoidably rivalrous good this side of forking uploads.

Comment author: Tamfang 13 August 2010 08:59:06PM 2 points [-]

I wonder how much fiction has been written about fucking forking uploads.

Comment author: Tamfang 13 August 2010 07:05:58AM 0 points [-]

<i>"The Babyeaters don't seem to have had humanity's coordination problems. Or they're just more rational voters. Take your pick."</i>

My pick is that they rationalize like the dickens.

Comment author: Manon_de_Gaillande 31 January 2009 04:22:06PM -2 points [-]

Eliezer, why do you hate death so much? I understand why you'd hate it as much as the social norm wants you to say you do, but not so much more. People don't hate death, and don't even say they hate death nearly as much as you do. I can't think of a simpler hypothesis than "Eliezer is a mutant".

Now, of course, throwing in the long, painful agony of children changes something.

Comment author: Tamfang 13 August 2010 07:03:56AM *  6 points [-]

"Every human culture had expended vast amounts of intellectual effort on the problem of coming to terms with death. Most religions had constructed elaborate lies about it, making it out to be something other than it was – though a few were dishonest about life, instead. But even most secular philosophies were warped by the need to pretend that <i>death was for the best</i>. ¶ It was the naturalistic fallacy at its most extreme — and its most transparent, but that didn't stop anyone. Since any child could tell you that death was meaningless, contingent, unjust, and abhorrent beyond words, it was a hallmark of sophistication to believe otherwise." —Margit in '<a href="http://www.gregegan.net/BORDER/Border.html">Border Guards</a>' by Greg Egan

Comment author: Larry_D'Anna 31 January 2009 08:33:56PM 0 points [-]

Did Ira Howard actually say that? In which story?

Comment author: Tamfang 13 August 2010 07:01:59AM 0 points [-]

That Ira Howard died well before 1911, let alone 2014.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 February 2009 01:59:56AM 2 points [-]

Simon: Also, it seems a little unlikely that a third ship would arrive given that the arrival of even one alien ship was considered so surprising in the first installment.

There are lots of starlines leading out from each system. They're somewhat expensive to open initially, then stay open. The nova acted as a rendezvous signal, causing all starlines leading to that star to fluctuate. Humans and aliens had never before explored the same world, but in this case, three different alien species had explored a world with a starline to the nova system. Without the nova, they never would have found one another.

Chris Yeh: Most people wouldn't feel horror over crystalline entities eating their young, but they would go apeshit over human beings doing the same.

Suppose I put your identical mind (including all memories, unchanged) into a crystalline body. Would you stop empathizing with yourself? How much do I have to change a human child's body (leaving the brain the same) before you would stop caring if they got eaten? How about a child severely disfigured by burns - do you stop empathizing with them once they no longer have a human-looking face and skin?

Kaj Sotala: Wouldn't the only reasonable decision in this case be to return to the rest of the humanity, let the actual government decide whether or not to go to war with an entirely new species? Sure, they'd lose the advantage of surprise

They're not going to duck out on the responsibility if that means already making the decision, e.g., losing the advantage of surprise. They have to decide now whether to fire on the Babyeater ship.

Armak: No cannibalism takes place, but the same amount of death and suffering is present as in Eliezer's scenario. Should we be less or more revolted at this?

Exactly as revolted. The problem isn't cannibalism, it's children being eaten.

Indeed, even if he wants to make war, the logical next step would still be to keep talking to the aliens and learning as much as possible about them.

The Babyeaters at least seem to have dumped their local Net, which removes some of that incentive, and the course of action you suggest is not without risk.

tim: How could they not be able to distinguish between the concept of good and the concept of baby eating if they understand that survival is good

What good is life without eating babies? How can you not understand that tribal loyalty is good?

Larry D'Anna: Did Ira Howard actually say that? In which story?

He didn't.

Furcas: It looks like their terminal value, instead of being "eating babies", is a actually something like, "eating babies in the way that our ancestors have always eaten babies". In other words, they put more value on upholding the _tradition_ of baby eating than on baby eating as such.

Clearly you don't value sex with your lover, since you're not having sex with him/her every minute of every day; you put more value on upholding the tradition of sex, rather than sex as such.

Comment author: Tamfang 13 August 2010 06:59:57AM *  3 points [-]

<i>Clearly you don't value sex with your lover</i>

Be serious: does anyone value fucking <em>as a terminal value</em> rather than as a means to enjoyment?

(assuming I understand the phrase 'terminal value', which is new to me)

View more: Next