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Comment author: Lumifer 24 February 2015 04:16:38AM 2 points [-]

I'd wager that the best EVERYTHING has been produced within the last few decades.

Art?

In response to comment by Lumifer on Fake Justification
Comment author: TitaniumDragon 24 February 2015 06:11:11AM 0 points [-]

Art is part of everything, so yes.

Photoshop allows artists to practice and produce works vastly more rapidly, correct errors quite easily, and otherwise do a ton of things they couldn't do before. Other such programs can do many of the same things.

More artists, plus better tools, plus faster production of art, plus better understanding of the technology of art, probably means that the best piece of art ever made was made in the last few decades.

Indeed, it is possible that more art will be produced in the first few decades of this century than were produced by all of humankind for the first several thousand years of our existence.

Comment author: TitaniumDragon 24 February 2015 05:36:52AM 0 points [-]

The real flaw here is that counting arguments is a poor way to make decisions.

"They don't have the ability to make said meteor strikes" is enough on its own to falsify the hypothesis unless you have evidence to the contrary.

As Einstein said about "100 Authors Against Einstein", if he was wrong, they would have only needed one.

In response to Fake Justification
Comment author: nerdbound 01 November 2007 06:09:07AM 13 points [-]

There's always a problem with judging artistic works from different time periods. Shakespeare might be better than the Bible, but Shakespeare would not exist without the Bible. The Bible is an 'influence', as we would call it in indie music. Sure, you might not enjoy listening to Can all the time (witness the terrible "Drunk and Hot Girls" on the new Kanye West album), but Can's influence is seen throughout experimental music. So you don't diss Can either, or you'll lose all your cred. In the same way, the Bible's historical period gives it value, because it created so much cultural motion and thought. I think this is a deeper point than mere 'renown'. It's not even that the Bible is necessarily an 'innovative' literary work. It's that, rightly or wrongly, people thought it was deep and exciting stuff and copied and wrote about it until, rightly or wrongly, it became important. But that's how all art becomes art.

The Bible has a bunch of beautiful metaphors/parables in the New Testament, and beautiful poetry in the Old Testament. I think Job is an excellent literary work for its time, as is Ecclesiastes for its time. Hell, Ecclesiastes is an important literary work for any time, and should be required reading for anyone educated, IMO.

And what on Earth makes you think that a neutral reading of the Bible is easy if you're not a Christian? Are you saying that anti-Christian biases do not exist?

I don't think a neutral search is at all the right metaphor, as art's historical nature is inescapable. Plato isn't good because a modern reader finds it immediately appealing when compared to other books, or because it is the deepest philosophy ever, it's good because of its place in the history of thought.

I like a lot of your posts about religion, by the way. I only comment to argue. But keep up the good work.

Comment author: TitaniumDragon 24 February 2015 02:54:03AM -2 points [-]

It isn't a problem to judge things from different time periods; the Model-T might have been a decent car in 1910, but it is a lemon today.

New things are better than old things. I'd wager that the best EVERYTHING has been produced within the last few decades.

If you're judging "Which is better, X or Y," and X is much older than Y, it is very likely Y is better.

In response to An Alien God
Comment author: Silas 02 November 2007 06:02:15PM 0 points [-]

Eliezer_Yudkowsky: Did you see the recent "What's the most important[or whatever] idea?" thing on edge.org? Richard_Dawkins's answer was Darwin's theory of natural selection, and he justified that on the grounds that the metric for a good theory is:

"what it explains, over what it needs to explain"

and then pointed out how it "explains" billions of species.

Now, he may just be using different labels for the same point you made in your post, even so, that's a remarkably confusing way of describing the appropriate way to judge a theory. That would suggest that you can't blame popular confusion on errant usenet Darwinists, that the confusion comes from the most credible biologists.

In response to comment by Silas on An Alien God
Comment author: TitaniumDragon 24 February 2015 02:43:11AM 0 points [-]

The idea of natural selection is remarkably awesome and has applications even outside of biology, which is part of what makes it such a great idea.

In response to comment by Anonymous11 on An Alien God
Comment author: snowfarthing 24 May 2011 06:33:12PM 4 points [-]

Is that 24:11 a literal figure for every single person, or is it just an average, over a a group of individuals?

Since the day/night cycles vary all around the planet, it would make far more sense, from a design standpoint, to worry more about the synchronization mechanism, than to get the exact sleep-wake rhythm correct.

In response to comment by snowfarthing on An Alien God
Comment author: TitaniumDragon 24 February 2015 02:41:32AM 1 point [-]

It isn't literally that for every single person, but assuming you don't have a mutation in your chronobiological genes it is pretty close to that.

People with mutations in various regulatory genes end up with significantly different sleep-wake cycles. The reason that our bodies reset ourselves under sunlight is probably to help correct for our clocks being "off" by a bit; indeed, it is probably very difficult to hit exactly 24 hours via evolution. But 24:11 plus correction lets it be off by a bit without causing a problem.

Good enough is probably better than perfect in this case, both because it means that mutations to the clock are less deleterious (thus those who have mutated clock genes are more likely to survive if they have said adjustment capability, meaning that the adjustment gene is even more strongly selected for) and because it means that we can travel and adjust to new time zones. For most creatures, this doesn't matter, but for creatures which travel long distances, this is a real advantage for staying on the proper day/night cycle.

Comment author: Vaniver 27 May 2014 11:52:11PM 0 points [-]

Incidentally, you can blockquote paragraphs by putting > in front of them, and you can find other help by clicking the "Show Help" button to the bottom right of the text box. (I have no clue why it's all the way over there; it makes it way less visible.)

There's actually a pretty good counter-argument to this, namely the fact that capital is vastly easier to destroy than it is to create, and that, thusly, an area which avoids conflict has an enormous advantage over one that doesn't because it maintains more of its capital.

But, the more conflict avoidant the agents in an area, the more there is to gain from being an agent that seeks conflict.

Comment author: TitaniumDragon 28 May 2014 11:47:33PM *  2 points [-]

The more conflict avoidant the agents in an area, the more there is to gain from being an agent that seeks conflict.

This is only true if the conflict avoidance is innate and is not instead a form of reciprocal altruism.

Reciprocal altruism is an ESS where pure altruism is not because you cannot take advantage of it in this way; if you become belligerent, then everyone else turns on you and you lose. Thus, it is never to your advantage to become belligerent.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 28 May 2014 06:17:39PM 0 points [-]

The example of von Braun and co crossed my mind. But that was something of a side effect. Fighting a war specifically to capture a smallish numbers of smart people is frought with risks.

Comment author: TitaniumDragon 28 May 2014 11:43:59PM 1 point [-]

Opportunistic seizure of capital is to be expected in a war fought for any purpose.

Comment author: Lumifer 28 May 2014 02:28:58PM 1 point [-]

the fact that capital is vastly easier to destroy than it is to create

Capital is also easier to capture than it is to create. Your argument looks like saying that it's better to avoid wars than to lose them. Well, yeah. But what about winning wars?

we've already sort of engineered a global scenario where "The West" ... never attack each other

In which meaning are you using the word "never"? :-D

Comment author: TitaniumDragon 28 May 2014 11:42:54PM 0 points [-]

The problem is that asymmetric warfare, which is the best way to win a war, is the worst way to acquire capital. Cruise missiles and drones are excellent for winning without any risk at all, but they're not good for actually keeping the capital you are trying to take intact.

Spying, subversion, and purchasing are far cheaper, safer, and more effective means of capturing capital than violence.

As far as "never" goes - the last time any two "Western" countries were at war was World War II, which was more or less when the "West" came to be in the first place. It isn't the longest of time spans, but over time armed conflict in Europe has greatly diminished and been pushed further and further east.

Comment author: more_wrong 28 May 2014 03:59:55AM 3 points [-]

People talk about the grey goo scenario, but I actually think that is quite silly because there is already grey goo all over the planet in the form of life" ... " nothing CAN do this, because nothing HAS done it."

The grey goo scenario isn't really very silly. We seem to have had a green goo scenario around 1.5 to 2 billion years ago that killed off many or most critters around due to release of deadly deadly oxygen; if the bacterial ecosystem were completely stable against goo scenarios this wouldn't have happened. We have had mini goo scenarios when for example microbiota pretty well adapted to one species made the jump to another and oops, started reproducing rapidly and killing off their new host species rapidly, e.g. Yersinia pestis. Just because we haven't seen a more omnivous goo sweep over the ecosphere recently ..., ...other than Homo sapiens, which is actually a pretty good example of a grey goo - think of the species as a crude mesoscale universal assembler, which is spreading pretty fast and killing off other species at a good clip and chewing up resources quite rapidly... ... doesn't mean it couldn't happen at the microscale also. Ask the anaerobes if you can find them, they are hiding pretty well still after the chlorophyll incident.

Since the downside is pretty far down, I don't think complacency is called for. A reasonable caution before deploying something that could perhaps eat everyone and everything in sight seems prudent.

Remember that the planet spent almost 4 billion years more or less covered in various kind of goo before the Precambrian Explosion. We know /very little/ of the true history of life in all that time; there could have been many, many, many apocalyptic type scenarios where a new goo was deployed that spread over the planet and ate almost everything, then either died wallowing in its own crapulence or formed the base layer for a new sort of evolution.

Multicellular life could have started to evolve /thousands of times/ only to be wiped out by goo. If multicellulars only rarely got as far as bones or shells, and were more vulnerable to being wiped out by a goo-plosion than single celled critters that could rebuild their population from a few surviving pockets or spores, how would we even know? Maybe it took billions of years for the Great War Of Goo to end in a Great Compromise that allowed mesoscopic life to begin to evolve, maybe there were great distributed networks of bacterial and viral biochemical computing engines that developed intelligence far beyond our own and eventually developed altruism and peace, deciding to let multicellular life develop.

Or we eukaryotes are the stupid runaway "wet" technology grey goo of prior prokaryote/viral intelligent networks, and we /destroyed/ their networks and intelligence with our runaway reproduction. Maybe the reason we don't see disasters like forests and cities dissolving in swarms of Andromeda-Strain like universal gobblers is that safeguards against that were either engineered in, or outlawed, long ago. Or, more conventionally, evolved.

What we /do/ think we know about the history of life is that the Earth evolved single celled life or inherited it via panspermia etc. within about half a billion years of the Earth's coalescence, then some combination of goo more or less dominated the Earth's surface te roost (as far as biology goes) for over three billion years, esp if you count colonies like stromatolites as gooey. In the middle of this long period was at least one thing that looked like a goo apocalypse that remade the Earth profoundly enough that the traces are very obvious (e.g. huge beds of iron ore). But there could have been many more mass extinctions we know of.

Then less than a billion years ago something changed profoundly and multicellulars started to flourish. This era is less than a sixth of the span of life on earth. So... five sixths, goo dominated world, one sixth, non goo dominated world, is the short history here. This does not fill me with confidence that our world is very stable against a new kind of goo based on non-wet, non-biochemical assemblers.

I do think we are pretty likely not to deploy grey goo, though. Not because humans are not idiots - I am an idiot, and it's the kind of mistake I would make, and I'm demonstrably above average by many measures of intelligence. It's just that I think Eliezer and others will deploy a pre-nanotech Friendly AI before we get to the grey goo tipping point, and that it will be smart enough, altruistic enough, and capable enough to prevent humanity from bletching the planet as badly as the green microbes did back in the day :)

Comment author: TitaniumDragon 28 May 2014 11:27:36PM 5 points [-]

You are starting from the premise that gray goo scenarios are likely, and trying to rationalize your belief.

Yes, we can be clever and think of humans as green goo - the ultimate in green goo, really. That isn't what we're talking about and you know it - yes, intelligent life can spread out everywhere, that isn't what we're worried about. We're worried about unintelligent things wiping out intelligent things.

The great oxygenation event is not actually an example of a green goo type scenario, though it is an interesting thing to consider - I'm not sure if there even is a generalized term for that kind of scenario, as it was essentially slow atmospheric poisoning. It would be more of a generalized biocide type scenario - the cyanobacteria which caused the great oxygenation event created something which was incidentally toxic to other things, but it was purely incidental, had nothing to do with their own action, probably didn't even benefit most of them directly (that is to say, the toxicity of the oxygen they produced probably didn't help them personally), and what actually took over afterwards were things which were rather different from what came before, many of which were not descended from said cyanobacteria.

It was a major atmospheric change, and is (theoretically) a danger, though I'm not sure how much of an actual danger it is in the real world - we saw the atmosphere shift to an oxygen-dominated one, but I'm not sure how you'd do it again, as I'm not sure there's something else which can be freed en-mass which is toxic - better oxygenators than oxygen are hard to come by, and by their very nature are rather difficult to liberate from an energy balance standpoint. It seems likely that our atmosphere is oxygen-based and not, say, chlorine or fluorine based for a reason arising from the physics of liberating said chemicals from chemical compounds.

As far as repeated green goo scenarios prior to 600Mya - I think that's pretty unlikely, honestly. Looking at microbial diversity and microbial genomes, we see that the domains of life are ridiculously ancient, and that diversity goes back an enormously long distance in time. It seems very unlikely that repeated green goo type scenarios would spare the amount of diversity we actually see in the real world. Eukaryotic life arose 1.6-2.1Bya, and as far as multicellular life goes, we've evidence of cyanobacteria which showed signs of multicellularity 3Bya.

That's a long, long time, and it seems unlikely that repeated gray goo scenarios are what kept life simple. It seems more likely that what kept life simple was the fact that complexity is hard - indeed, I suspect the big advancement was actually major advancements in modularity of life. The more modular life becomes, the easier it is to evolve quickly and adapt to new circumstances, but modularity from non-modularity is something which is pretty tough to sort out. Once things did sort it out, though, we saw a massive explosion in diversity. Evolving to be better at evolving is a good strategy for continuing to exist, and I suspect that complex multicelluar life only came to exist when stuff got to the point where this could happen.

If we saw repeated green goo scenarios, we'd expect the various branches of life to be pretty shallow - even if some diversity survived, we'd expect each diverse group to show a major bottleneck back at whenever the last green goo occurred. But that's not what we actaully see. Fungi and animals diverged about 1.5 Bya, for instance, and other eukaryotic diversity occurred even prior to that. Animals have been diverging for 1.2 billion years.

It seems unlikely, then, that there have been any green goo scenarios in a very, very long time, if indeed they ever did occur. Indeed, it seems likely that life evolved to prevent said scenarios, and did so successfully, as none have occurred in a very, very, very long time.

Pestilence is not even close to green goo. Yes, introducing a new disease into a new species can be very nasty, but it almost never actually is, as most of the time, it just doesn't work at all. Even amongst the same species, Smallpox and other old-world diseases wiped out the Native Americans, but Native American diseases were not nearly so devastating to the old-worlders.

Most things which try to jump the species barrier have a great deal of difficulty in doing so, and even when they successfully do so, their virulence ends up dropping over time because being ridiculously fatal is actually bad for their own continued propagataion. And humans have become increasingly better at stopping this sort of thing. I did note engineered plagues as the most likely technological threat, but comparing them to gray goo scenarios is very silly - pathogens are enormously easier to control. The trouble with stuff like gray goo is that it just keeps spreading, but with a pathogen, it requires a host - there are all sorts of barriers in place to pathogens, and everything is evolved to be able to deal with pathogens because they sometimes have to deal with even new ones, and things which are more likely to survive exposure to novel pathogens are more likely to pass on their genes in the long term.

With regards to "intelligent viral networks" - this is just silly. Life on earth is NOT the result of intelligence. You can tell this from our genomes. There are no signs of engineering ANYWHERE in us; no signs of intelligent design.

Comment author: ChristianKl 28 May 2014 12:33:17PM 0 points [-]

Indeed, we have very strong evidence against it: surely, intelligent life has arisen elsewhere in the universe, and we would see galaxies being annihilated by high-end weaponry.

That's a bad argument. We don't know for sure that intelligent life has arisen. The fact that we don't see events like that can simply mean that we are the first.

Comment author: TitaniumDragon 28 May 2014 10:42:05PM 0 points [-]

That's a pretty weak argument due to the mediocrity principle and the sheer scale of the universe; while we certainly don't know the values for all parts of the Drake Equation, we have a pretty good idea, at this point, that Earth-like planets are probably pretty common, and given that abiogenesis occurred very rapidly on Earth, that is weak evidence that abiogenesis isn't hard in an absolute sense.

Most likely, the Great Filter lies somewhere in the latter half of the equation - complex, multicellular life, intelligent life, civilization, or the rapid destruction thereof. But even assuming that intelligent life only occurs in one galaxy out of every thousand, which is incredibly unlikely, that would still give us many opportunities to observe galactic destruction.

It is theoretically possible that we're the only life in the Universe, but that is incredibly unlikely; most Universes in which life exists will have life exist in more than one place.

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