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Comment author: DataPacRat 04 August 2015 02:21:10AM 0 points [-]

Cardinal numbers for utilons?

I have a hunch.

Trying to add up utilons or hedons can quickly lead to all sorts of problems, which are probably already familiar to you. However, there are all sorts of wacky and wonderful branches of non-intuitive mathematics, which may prove of more use than elementary addition. I half-remember that regular math can be treated as part of set theory, and there are various branches of set theory which can have some, but not all, of the properties of regular math - for example, being able to say that X < Y, but not necessarily that X+Z > Y. A bit of Wikipedia digging has reminded me of Cardinal numbers, which seem at least a step in the right direction: If the elements of set X has a one-to-one correspondence with the elements of set Y, then they're equal, and if not, then they're not. This seems to be a closer approximation of utilons than the natural numbers, such as, say, if the elements of set X being the reasons that X is good.

But I could be wrong.

I'm already well past the part of math-stuff that I understand well; I'd need to do a good bit of reading just to get my feet back under me. Does anyone here, more mathematically-inclined than I, have a better intuition of why this approach may or may not be helpful?

(I'm asking because I'm considering throwing in someone who tries to follow a cardinal-utilon-based theory of ethics in something I'm writing, as a novel change from the more commonly-presented ethical theories. But to do that, I'd need to know at least a few of the consequences of this approach might end up being. Any help would be greatly appreciated.)

Comment author: asr 04 August 2015 03:26:10AM *  2 points [-]

It's a tempting thought. But I think it's hard to make the math work that way.

I have a lovely laptop here that I am going to give you. Suppose you assign some utility U to it. Now instead of giving you the laptop, I give you a lottery ticket or the like. With probability P I give you the laptop, and with probability 1 - P you get nothing. (The lottery drawing will happen immediately, so there's no time-preference aspect here.) What utility do you attach to the lottery ticket? The natural answer is P * U, and if you accept some reasonable assumptions about preferences, you are in fact forced to that answer. (This is the basic intuition behind the von Neumann-Morgenstern Expected Utility Theorem.)

Given that probabilities are real numbers, it's hard to avoid utilities being real numbers too.

In response to Recovering the past
Comment author: [deleted] 13 March 2015 03:18:40AM *  1 point [-]

One of the themes of current scientific progress is getting more and more information out of tiny amounts of data.

I think that if the universe was once a single spot and everything we see comes from there, then the information about everything is everywhere. If we had knowledge of the mechanics and enough computing power we could understand what has happened in the universe since the start just by observing the current state of one atom.

This is because, if we could measure them with full precision, the current position, direction, and speed of an atom (and all other measurements if we could do them physically) are only possible with one and only one specific history of everything else in the universe.

...to what extent can people be re-created from what they've left behind them...

I think us or any other intelligent species that continues after us will control every aspect of our environments. Just like now we are starting to understand the full "language" of DNA and we are in the first steps of cloning, AI, etc., we will also control the planetary weather, solar system level direction and orbits of planets, etc.

In this context it will be very easy to replicate past living beings. The problem is that because they will be operating on a different set of materials (h2o, salts, carbon, etc.) it will not actually be that original person even if it's an exact replica.

Unless there is some sort of entanglement possible, I think that If a person is copied, the copy is not the original person unfortunately, so when we die we will not be back unless its on the same set of materials, which is possible, but very improbable.

EDIT: The above phrase:

This is because, if we could measure them with full precision, the current position, direction, and speed of an atom (and all other measurements if we could do them physically) are only possible with one and only one specific history of everything else in the universe.

Replaced the original sentence:

This is because the current position, direction, and speed of an atom (and all other measurements that can be done physically) are only possible with one and only one specific history of everything else in the universe.

To reflect, as observed in the comments below by lesswrong.com/user/asr/, that "You can measure those things to only finite precision".

In response to comment by [deleted] on Recovering the past
Comment author: asr 13 March 2015 03:32:00AM 3 points [-]

This is because the current position, direction, and speed of an atom (and all other measurements that can be done physically) are only possible with one and only one specific history of everything else in the universe.

This seems almost certainly false. You can measure those things to only finite precision -- there is a limit to the number of bits you can get out of such a measurement. Suppose you measure position and velocity to one part in a billion in each of three dimensions. That's only around 200 bits -- hardly enough to distinguish all possible universal histories.

Comment author: Gondolinian 10 March 2015 06:57:12PM *  6 points [-]

Hopefully the apparent time limit on the Philosopher's Stone isn't going to get worse over time.

Good point. A time limit of 3:54 does seem too arbitrary to be hard-coded.

Harry also hasn't considered that it may only be good for some finite number of permanent transfigurations. He's going to try to use it many more times than it probably has been used in a very long time.

At least he only intends to use the Stone as a stop-gap measure for fighting death until he is able to properly end the world.

[edited]

Comment author: asr 11 March 2015 02:11:30PM 3 points [-]

Good point. A time limit of 3:54 does seem too arbitrary to be hard-coded.

Hrm. Maybe it's exactly one Atlantean time unit? Unsafe to assume that the units we are used to are the same units that the Stone's maker would find natural.

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 04 March 2015 09:56:49PM *  3 points [-]

Am I missing something? Why is Harry inventing this silly story?

I bet Hermione is just going to love being the center of all the attention and scrutiny this will bring on her.

Comment author: asr 04 March 2015 10:03:13PM 5 points [-]

I bet Hermione is just going to love being the center of all the attention and scrutiny this will bring on her.

She came back from the dead. Gonna be a lot of attention and scrutiny regardless.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 March 2015 07:12:42PM *  4 points [-]

I sincerely hope I am seeing an excellent parody of extremely irrational SJW attitudes here.

For what it worths, or if it is not the case, the central idea here is self-help for people who suffer. This is certainly missing from this reply. If this is a seriously meant as an SJW response, then I would translate it to that lingo as being hurt by patriarchy, and learning to undo this hurt by adapting to it.

A social, political response, New Athens or New Sparta is NOT a major point here, because for some people like me adapting to society is more important to changing it because we have one life, thrown into society (Heidegger).

But actually what little I wrote about a social-political response was less patriarchy, less toxic mascuilinity and less bullying, so it seems to be a misresponse at that. I think I am being pretty progressive here as a far social change is covered except that I simply don't care as much about social change helping future gens rather than self-help, adaptation for people who suffer NOW.

I think I am in a community of people who don't have very high fertility rates. I actually have a daughter and I have this impression - parenting hardly ever discussed on LW - that most of the community has no children.

From this it seems logical to me that social change is way way less important than self-help. We are not making many people to live in a future society where everything is right. People with 4 kids may sacrifice their happiness for their sakes. For no-children and few-children people and I think it is the case for us, adapting to society must be more valuable than changing it.

The East vs. West aspect sounds valid but only superficially so - relevant only to the letter, not the intent. Obviously it is about Westernized karate - and obviously to everybody who knows these stuff Muay Thay works just as well. One could raise the same parallel with Greek wrestling not training self-confidence (courage) enough and MT yes.

Comment author: asr 03 March 2015 03:42:37PM 2 points [-]

I have this impression - parenting hardly ever discussed on LW - that most of the community has no children.

Let me give you an alternate explanation. Being a parent is very time-consuming. It also tends to draw one's interest to different topics than are typically discussed here. In consequence, LW readers aren't a random sample of nerds or even of people in the general social orbit of the LW crowd. I would not draw any adverse inferences from the fact that a non-parenting-related internet forum tend to be depleted of parents.

Comment author: [deleted] 09 February 2015 03:11:22AM *  1 point [-]

State and local governments in the US have primary responsibility over education, road construction, utilities, policing, the courts, licensing restrictions, zoning laws, and public transportation. The federal government can and does sometimes overrule them in these areas, but they are mostly left to themselves. Federal government action tends to be restricted towards various welfare programs, foreign policy, and the health care system. I would not describe state and local governments as having little power.

In response to comment by [deleted] on Natural Selection of Government Systems
Comment author: asr 09 February 2015 05:55:17AM 0 points [-]

This graph would be more interesting and persuasive with a better caption.

Comment author: Vika 21 January 2015 08:49:47PM *  3 points [-]

Researchers outside the physical sciences tend to be inexpensive in general - e.g. data scientists / statisticians mostly need access to computing power, which is fairly cheap these days. (Though social science experiments can also be costly.)

Comment author: asr 21 January 2015 09:24:53PM *  4 points [-]

data scientists / statisticians mostly need access to computing power, which is fairly cheap these days.

This is true for each marginal data scientist. But there's a catch, which is that those folks need data. Collecting and promulgating that data, in the application domains we care about, can sometimes be very costly. You might want to consider some of those as part of the cost for the data science.

For example, many countries are spending a huge amount of money on electronic health records, in part to allow better data mining. The health records aren't primarily for scientific purposes, but making them researcher-friendly is a big indirect cost. Similarly, the census is a very expensive data-collection process that enables a lot of "cheap" analytics downstream.

While each data scientist might be cheap, there was a big up-front investment, at the national level, to enable them.

Comment author: alienist 20 January 2015 06:21:54AM 3 points [-]

It appears that you think autistic people are less rational than the average person.

Um, yes for most definitions of "rational". That's why it's considered a disability.

Comment author: asr 21 January 2015 06:27:45PM *  0 points [-]

Um, yes for most definitions of "rational". That's why [autism] is considered a disability.

Hrm? A disability is a thing that is limits the disabled individual from a socially-recognized set of normal actions. The term 'disability' alone doesn't imply anything about reasoning or cognitive skills. It seems at best un-obvious, and more likely false, that "rationality" encompasses all cognitive functions.

Some people have dyslexia; that is certainly a cognitive disability. It would be strange (not to say offensive) to describe dyslexic individuals as per se irrational. I suspect similarly for, say, dyscalculia. Or for that matter, short-term memory problems.

Autism is a big complicated bundle of traits and behaviors. Why are those behaviors "irrational" in a way that dyslexia isn't?

Comment author: asr 20 January 2015 10:22:09PM *  1 point [-]

One of the unfortunate limitations of modern complexity theory is that a set of problems that look isomorphic sometimes have very different complexity properties. Another awkwardness is that worst-case complexity isn't a reliable guide to practical difficulty. "This sorta feels like a coloring problem" isn't enough to show it's intractable on the sort of instances we care about.

Separately, it's not actually clear to me whether complexity is good or bad news. If you think that predicting human desires and motivations is infeasible computationally, you should probably worry less about super intelligent AI, since that complexity barrier will prevent the AI from being radically effective at manipulating us.

It would seem to require an unusually malicious universe for a superhuman AI to be feasible, for that AI to be able to manipulate us efficiently, but for it to be infeasible for us to write a program to specify constraints that we would be happy with in retrospect.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 09 January 2015 01:30:58AM 0 points [-]

Does that stop you regarding a theory as more credible when it's simpler (for equal fidelity to observed evidence)?

It's more credible in the range of data for which it's fidelity has shown it to be more credible. I expect extrapolations outside that range to have less fidelity.

Do you have more specific expectations?

No.

I don't have some grand unified theory.

I just observe that a lot of cosmology seems to be riding on the theory that the red shift is caused by an expanding universe.

Note that I ended my first post with questions, not with claims.

What if it light just loses energy as it travels, so that the frequency shifts lower?

That seems like a perfectly natural solution. How do we know it isn't true?

What would be the implications to the current theories if it were true?

Comment author: asr 09 January 2015 07:10:38AM *  1 point [-]

I just observe that a lot of cosmology seems to be riding on the theory that the red shift is caused by an expanding universe.

This seems wrong to be. There's at least two independent lines of evidence for the Big Bang theory besides redshifts -- isotope abundances (particularly for light elements) and the cosmic background radiation.

What if it light just loses energy as it travels, so that the frequency shifts lower?

We would have to abandon our belief in energy conservation. And we would then wonder why energy seems to be conserved exactly in every interaction we can see. Also we would wonder why we see spontaneous redshifts not spontaneous blue shifts. Every known micro-scale physical process in the universe is reversible [1], and by the CPT theorem, we expect this to be true always. A lot would have to be wrong with our notions of physics to have light "just lose energy."

That seems like a perfectly natural solution. How do we know it isn't true?

This solution requires light from distant galaxies to behave in ways totally different from every other physical process we know about -- including physical processes in distant galaxies. It seems unnatural to say "the redshift is explained by a totally new physical process, and this process violates a lot of natural laws that hold everywhere else."

[1] I should say, reversible assuming you also flip the charges and parities. That's irrelevant here, though, since photons are uncharged and don't have any special polarization.

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