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Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 17 August 2014 03:00:23PM 3 points [-]

Sorry for the late response! I was avoiding LW.

Here's a copy of an e-mail where I summarized the argument in TWDHN before, and suggested some directions for the paper (note that this was written before I had read the post on Moloch):

In a nutshell, the argument goes something like:

  1. Evolution adapts creatures to the regularities of their environment, with organisms evolving to use those regularities to their advantage.
  2. A special case of such regularities are constraints, things which an organism must adapt to even though it may be costly: for example, very cold weather forces an organism to spend a part of its energy reserves on growing a fur or other forms of insulation.
  3. If a constraint disappears from the environment, evolution will gradually eliminate the costly adaptations that developed in response to it. If the Arctic Circle were to become warm, polar bears would eventually lose their fur or be outcompeted by organisms that never had a thick fur in the first place.
  4. Many fundamental features of human nature are likely adaptations to various constraints: e.g. the notion of distinct individuals and personal identity may only exist because we are incapable of linking our brains directly together and merging into one vast hive mind. Conscious thought may only exist because consciousness acts as an "error handler" to deal with situations where our learned habits are incapable of doing the job right, and might become unnecessary if there was a way of pre-programming us with such good habits that they always got the job done. Etc.
  5. The process of technological development acts to remove various constraints in our environment: for example, it may one day become possible to actually link minds together directly.
  6. If technology does remove previous constraints from our environment, the things that we consider fundamental human values would actually become costly and unnecessary, and be gradually eliminated as organisms without those "burdens" would do better.

What I'd like to do in the paper would be to state the above argument more rigorously and clearly, provide evidence in favor of it, clarify things that I'm uncertain about (Does it make sense to distinguish constraints from just regularities in general? Should one make a distinction between constraints in the environment and constraints from what evolution can do with biological cells?), discuss various possible constraints as well as what might eliminate them and how much of an advantage that would give to entities that didn't need to take them into account, raise the possibility of some of this actually being a good thing, etc. Stuff like that. :-)

Does that argument sound sensible (rather than something that represents a total misunderstanding of evolutionary biology) and something that you'd like to work on? Thoughts on how to expand it to take Moloch into account?

Also, could you say a little more about your background and amount of experience in the field?

Comment author: atorm 22 August 2014 03:02:27AM 3 points [-]

This argument seems like something I would need to think long and hard about, which I see as a good thing: it seems rare to me that non-trivial things are simple and apparent. I don't see any glaring misinterpretation of natural selection. I would be interested in working on it in a "dialogue intellectually and hammer out more complete and concrete ideas" sense. I'm answering this quickly in a tired state because I'm not on LW as much as I used to be and I don't want to forget.

I'm getting a PhD in a biological field that is not Evolution. Both this and my undergraduate education covered evolution because it underlies all the biological fields. I have one publication out that discusses evolution but is not actually specifically relevant to this topic. I'll happily share more detail in private communications if you can't find an explicitly evolutionary biologist.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 07 August 2014 01:00:21PM *  7 points [-]

As I mentioned in the comments of Scott's post, I've been thinking about turning my "Technology will destroy human nature" essay into a formal paper, but I'd probably need someone more familiar with evolutionary biology as my co-author to make sure that the analogies to evolution make sense and to otherwise help develop it. TWDHN was basically talking about various physical limits that are currently stopping us from racing to the bottom but which technology will eventually overcome. Now that I've read Meditations, I might want the paper to discuss the other things holding Moloch in check that Scott talks about (excess resources, utility maximization, coordination), too.

Comment author: atorm 07 August 2014 10:43:21PM 6 points [-]

I'm a biologist looking for co-authorships.

Comment author: wedrifid 19 July 2014 12:19:33PM 41 points [-]

Is there anything we should do?

  • Meet 10 new people (over a moderately challenging personal specific timeframe).
  • Express gratitude or appreciation.
  • Work close to where we live.
  • Have new experiences.
  • Get regular exercise.

ie. No. Nothing about this article comes remotely close to changing the highest expected value actions for the majority of the class 'we'. If it happens that there is a person in that class for whom this opens an opportunity to create (more expected) value then it is comparatively unlikely that that person is the kind who would benefit from "we shoulding" exhortations.

Comment author: atorm 19 July 2014 05:24:46PM 12 points [-]

I want this list posted in response to every "is there anything we should do" ever. Just all over the internet. I would give you more than one upvote just for that list if I could.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 11 July 2014 10:15:04AM 3 points [-]

I think that as an alternative to permitting deletion of posts, it would be better to give an x10 downvote hammer (in addition to the normal one; and perhaps only for posts) to all users with Karma 10000

I currently have 8,448 karma. I could reach 10,000 in a few weeks if I so desired. I don't imagine many here would want me to have a downvote hammer. Still, this general category of solutions is good.

Comment author: atorm 13 July 2014 12:27:47PM 1 point [-]

Part of me wants to just glimpse that world for a little while.

Comment author: drethelin 10 July 2014 09:28:31PM 3 points [-]

to be fair, bounded rationality is very reasonable, since rationality takes mental effort bothering to apply it to contexts that don't really matter to you is probably not worth it. I doubt Eliezer gives much of a shit about how Lesswrong.com is going these days, and his ban was almost certainly because that post annoyed him (as it did me).

Comment author: atorm 13 July 2014 12:22:31PM 10 points [-]

I miss when he cared. People give Yudkowsky a lot of flak these days, which may or may not be warranted, but when he was on form, he really produced a lot of engagingly written material. I worry that there is a feedback loop between people giving him a hard time because he hasn't produced anything to excite us recently and him not wanting to write because he only ever gets a hard time.

Comment author: atorm 06 July 2014 06:46:18PM 2 points [-]

Dafuq did I just read.

Comment author: pinyaka 07 June 2014 01:11:46AM 3 points [-]

With your and David's karma, it seems like you must have a fair number of comments. The 4xkarma limitation on downvotes suggests that it's someone who's got a fair amount of karma (or several accounts with a fair amount of karma if you're getting multiple downvotes per comment) doing the mass downvoting. That's just weird. It's hard to imagine which high karma person on LW would engage in individual persecution like that.

Comment author: atorm 22 June 2014 12:44:54PM 3 points [-]

We've traced the call, and it turns out it was Eliezer Yudkowsky the whole time!

Comment author: mgin 03 April 2014 01:13:26AM *  1 point [-]

fish antibiotics

gasoline

Comment author: atorm 03 April 2014 01:47:57AM 0 points [-]

Why for fish?

Comment author: 1986ED52 19 March 2014 06:48:45AM 3 points [-]

Both my eyes may from time to time perceive colors in a different way. When they do, one would see everything in more greenish-blue hues, the other in more red-yellowish hues. It's often the case when I closed one eye for a moment, or when that eye was on the pillow side after resting. So I assume it's either temperature-related, or simply that one of my eyes' cone cells were too exposed to, say, red, because of red light filtering through my closed eyelid, and therefore were less sensitive to it afterwards.

(I scored 3 on http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-well-do-you-see-color-173018)

Comment author: atorm 22 March 2014 03:07:43PM 0 points [-]

I have this too.

Comment author: atorm 05 March 2014 01:08:25PM 3 points [-]

Do you own many books for which digital copies don't already exist?

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