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Comment author: Chriswaterguy 24 May 2017 05:11:48AM *  0 points [-]

Out of curiosity, do we know anything about the native language of the hero? Ahntharhapik and khanfhighur don't seem to be from existing languages.

Is there anything significant here for the story, or is Eliezer (say) just avoiding the assumption that the hero is an English speaker?

Comment author: entirelyuseless 24 May 2017 01:10:29PM 0 points [-]

"Ahntharhapik" = "anthropic"

"khanfhighur" = "configuration"

Comment author: qmotus 22 May 2017 07:52:24AM 0 points [-]

What cosmological assumptions? Assumptions related to identity, perhaps, as discussed here. But it seems to me that MWI essentially guarantees that for every observer-moment, there will always exist a "subsequent" one, and the same seems to apply to all levels of a Tegmark multiverse.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 22 May 2017 02:19:59PM 0 points [-]

I don't think MWI is sufficiently well defined or understood for it to be known whether or not that is implied. For example it would not be the case in Robin Hanson's mangled worlds proposal, and no one knows whether that proposal is correct or not.

Comment author: cousin_it 21 May 2017 08:54:48PM *  0 points [-]

Even if you're willing to work, some job offers are objectively pretty bad (let's say it's a five hour commute, the work is hazardous, and the salary isn't enough for your food and medicine). Do you think people should die if they refuse such offers and better ones aren't available? I'd prefer to legally define what constitutes a "reasonable" job for a given person, and allow anyone to walk into a government office and receive either a reasonable job offer or a welfare check. If the market is good at providing reasonable jobs, as some libertarians seem to think, then the policy is cheap because the government clerk can just call up Mr Market.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 22 May 2017 01:19:00AM 0 points [-]

Do you think people should die if they refuse such offers and better ones aren't available?

No, but this is a strawman in any case. To a very good approximation, no one dies of hunger in the USA except some anorexics and victims of child abuse. That includes people who refuse such job offers; they do not die.

I would not necessarily be opposed to your proposal if it were fleshed out in a reasonable manner. I am not saying that we cannot do some specific things to make things better. That is different from attempting to replace the whole market system with a different system.

One thing you cannot do, however, is to make sure that only effort is rewarded and that luck is either evenly distributed or distributed only to poor people. Many people currently make efforts to put themselves in a position where they have a better chance of good luck, and if luck will not be rewarded, they will no longer make those efforts, so average utility will be lower.

Comment author: cousin_it 21 May 2017 08:57:17AM *  0 points [-]

This kind of "stuff gets cheaper, everyone benefits" advocacy is why I wrote that comment to begin with. The free market can't be always pushing down the price of all goods (measured in other goods), that's a logical impossibility. There's no magic force acting on one conveniently chosen side of each transaction. Why isn't the same force pushing down the price of labor then, making labor cheap in terms of bread, instead of making bread cheap in terms of labor? Oh wait, maybe it is. Maybe all these forces are acting at once and going into weird feedback loops and there's no reason why the end result would be moral in any way. That's my point.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 21 May 2017 03:25:45PM 1 point [-]

"there's no reason why the end result would be moral in any way. "

This is wrong. The reason is that everyone is doing what they want, which is, on average, more likely to benefit people than having to do what they do not want, since people typically want to do things that benefit them and avoid things that do not.

The above is, in fact, the basic but extremely simplified reason why no one yet has been able to come up with a better system.

Comment author: username2 20 May 2017 12:23:46PM *  2 points [-]

Ok so I'm in the target audience for this. I'm an AI researcher that doesn't take AI risk seriously and doesn't understand the obsession this site has with AI x-risk. But the thing is I've read all the arguments here and I find them unconvincing. They demonstrate a lack of rigor and a naïve under appreciation of the difficulty of making anything work in production at all, much less out smart the human race.

If you want AI people to take you seriously, don't just throw more verbiage at them. There is enough of that already. Show them working code. Not friendly AI code -- they don't give a damn about that -- but an actual evil AI that could conceivably have been created by accident and actually have cataclysmic consequences. Because from where I sit that is a unicorn, and I stopped believing in unicorns a long time ago.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 20 May 2017 03:44:27PM 1 point [-]

People are likely to take the statement that you are an AI researcher less seriously given that you are commenting from the username2 account. Anyone could have said that, and likely did.

But in any case, no one who has code for an evil AI is going to be showing that to anyone, because convincing people that an evil AI is possible is far less important than preventing people from having access to that code.

Comment author: cousin_it 19 May 2017 08:39:12AM *  1 point [-]

I know the usual arguments why rewarding value creation is a good idea, and I'm not trying to argue against that. Instead, my first comment points out how markets don't always reward value creation. They do a more complicated and recursive thing. You can think of it as "if your product is awesome but your customers are poor, you're screwed". Only even worse because there's feedback effects, where value creators can become poor just because other value creators are poor etc.

To put it yet another way, in a PageRank-like system the utility will tend to clump together, leading to inequality and monopolies. That's more or less what the system does. The original PageRank had some nasty attractors after people started gaming it, which is why Google is tweaking it all the time. Someone on HN once made a cheeky comment saying "the end game of capitalism is one corporation selling everyone oxygen", and I can see how blindly trusting a recursive system to be fair can get you there.

Also, your St. Paul quote is a famous Soviet slogan, instantly familiar to anyone who was born in the USSR, so I chuckled a bit when you used it to defend free markets :-)

Comment author: entirelyuseless 19 May 2017 02:01:17PM 0 points [-]

I disagree with your first comment about the $100 and the loaves, as I said, because you are overly simplifying. For example, even aside from the things I already mentioned, you also ignore the fact that the person needs to spend money or goods in order to produce the loaves.

That said, you might be able to refine that example or come up with another; I certainly do not think that markets infallibly have the result of rewarding value creation. I agree that free markets leads to that kind of inequality and that this is a not particularly great aspect of it. However, it is not reasonable to say "this is a horrible process" if you cannot propose a better alternative. And I am not even saying there is not a better alternative. I am just saying that no one has found one yet.

The fact that the Soviets used the St. Paul quote is revealing in regard to what usually happens if you attempt to replace free markets with something else. The problem e.g. with a guaranteed basic income is this: either people have to work, or they don't. If they don't have to work, then there is the implicit assumption that wealth does not depend on work, which in our world is false. So if enough people decide not to work, the system will necessarily collapse. This does not of course prove that a basic income is impossible, since you could simply keep reducing the amount of the income until enough people are working to keep it going. But it does show a serious issue. And on the other hand, if they do have to work, then they are slaves. And so the way the Soviets were using the slogan, they were making people slaves.

The only alternative (to the the impossible option of wealth not depending on work or to slavery) is to admit that if people choose to do so, they do not have to work, but they will suffer the consequences. Europe has a better unemployment system than the USA, for example, but even in Europe (at least in general and if I understand it correctly, and obviously the details differ in various places), there needs to be at least a bit of ambiguity about why you are unemployed. If you openly say, "I am perfectly competent and well qualified for many jobs, and I know from experience that I could get one next week if I wanted. In fact I just received an offer, which I rejected. I do not WANT to work, and I won't," even Europe will not continue offering you support.

Comment author: cousin_it 18 May 2017 03:58:00PM *  0 points [-]

For me morality is mostly about maximizing average or total utility, not giving value to providers of value recursively.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 19 May 2017 04:51:01AM 3 points [-]

The reason the market approximates rewarding the providing of value is not because there is something morally special about that situation, but because without doing that, it is very difficult to get any value or utility at all, for anyone.

A system that rewards the creation of value results in a substantial amount of average utility, even if not high utility for everyone. But if you have a system that does not reward the creation of value or utility, there will be many people who will not bother to create any value, and consequently you will get low average value or utility. That was why St. Paul had to tell his communities that "if someone will not work, neither shall he eat."

If you think you have an idea for a system that will create higher average value or utility than markets do, as I said, you can propose one. I do not think anyone has yet made any reasonable proposal of that kind.

Comment author: cousin_it 18 May 2017 11:02:02AM *  1 point [-]

If every website was a sentient creature that felt pain in case of low PageRank, our world would be pretty much hell for those creatures. So the analogy between market and PageRank isn't flattering to the market.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 18 May 2017 01:12:15PM 3 points [-]

The analogy between the market and PageRank is this:

  • PageRank cannot directly give a high rank to useful pages, because there is no known algorithm for that. So it uses a recursive structure to approximate this.

  • The market cannot directly give value to providers of value, because there is no known algorithm for that. So it uses a recursive structure to approximate this.

And it does approximate it; if you think it does not, you can certainly propose a better algorithm.

Of course, people would be happy to have value even if they don't provide any value, and disappointed not to have it. And likewise, the unlucky people who do provide value but which the algorithm misses, are especially unhappy, like the low ranked but useful websites.

If your position is, "Let's not provide value just to providers of value, but to everyone!" then you can certainly propose a means to bring that about.

Comment author: cousin_it 17 May 2017 08:54:29PM *  0 points [-]

Free market is recursive -- you can only gain money by selling to people who have money, who in turn gained that money by selling to people who had money, etc. If you are a starving person with no money and nothing to sell, well, sucks to be you

I guess my point was that "sucks to be you" situations don't just happen when you have nothing of value to sell, as libertarian-minded folks (like Lumifer in this thread) seem to believe. It also happens when you have stuff to sell, but the folks who would normally buy it from you can't pay you enough to survive today, because they don't have anything to sell, and the problem can start randomly and build on itself. Or at least I don't know any argument why it wouldn't. It feels like this horrible recursive process that doesn't approach anything good except by accident.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 18 May 2017 05:09:25AM 2 points [-]

"It feels like this horrible recursive process that doesn't approach anything good except by accident."

Much like PageRank doesn't turn up any useful websites except by accident, naturally.

Comment author: cousin_it 16 May 2017 04:32:25PM *  1 point [-]

There's a free market idea that the market rewards those who provide value to society. I think I've found a simple counterexample.

Imagine a loaf of bread is worth 1 dollar to consumers. If you make 100 loaves and sell them for 99 cents each, you've provided 1 dollar of value to society, but made 99 dollars for yourself. If you make 100 loaves and give them away to those who can't afford it, you've provided 100 dollars of value to society, but made zero for yourself. Since the relationship is inverted, we see that the market doesn't reward those who provide value. Instead it rewards those who provide value to those who provide value! It's recursive, like PageRank!

That's the main reason why we have so much inequality. Recursive systems will have attractors that concentrate stuff. That's also why you can't blame people for having no jobs. They are willing to provide value, but they can't survive by providing to non-providers, and only the best can provide to providers.

Comment author: entirelyuseless 17 May 2017 02:51:34PM 1 point [-]

"If you make 100 loaves and sell them for 99 cents each, you've provided 1 dollar of value to society, but made 100 dollars for yourself. "

The argument here is that since the loaves are worth $1 to each consumer, and they pay $0.99, they gain only one cent by buying them. (That's improbable, since they would likely not buy them at all if it was only as useful as picking up a penny.) The problem is that something is going to happen to that $100 that the seller takes. If the seller does not spend it, then the average value of money in society will go up, meaning that society will have profited by $100, not by $1. If the seller does spend it, others will receive that $100 in return for other things that they valued less. And so once again, society will profit by more than $1.

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