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Comment author: advancedatheist 21 July 2014 04:28:48PM -1 points [-]

Why do transhumanists keep setting arbitrary (and frankly nonsensical) "immortality" dates in this century, like 2045?

One, these dates fall within the life expectancies of people alive in 2014. Plenty of people alive now could survive another 30 years and a few months any way, just through natural maturation and aging; they won't mysteriously "become immortal" by making it to January 1, 2045.

Two, you can't tell if a longevity breakthrough has occurred any faster than the rate at which humans happen to live. You would need institutions with the resources to collect data on the experimental groups and conduct longitudinal studies over many decades to see if they live a lot longer than the untreated control group of natural human populations. I don't know of anyone who has proposed doing that.

In fact, that shows the fallacy of Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw's writings over 30 years ago. They wrote their first book, Life Extension, in their late 30's, where they make unsubstantiated claims that they had figured out how to decelerate their aging by ingesting certain artificial chemicals. (As I recall, this book in the early 1980's became hugely popular with the predecessors to today's transhumanists.) Yet Americans in their late 30's who have helpful genetics, enjoy good health and take care of themselves, naturally look pretty good any way, as Durk & Sandy did at the time. These two simply did not have enough of a baseline circa 1980 to show that they had come up with effective hacks into their aging process. And if you can find recent photographs of them in their early 70's, you can see that they still haven't figured out what to do about their aging.

And three, why all the focus on this century for people who aspire to live a lot longer than normal? Why not think about things you would like to see or do in, say, the 24th Century, as Thomas Donaldson wrote about years ago?

References:

http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/24thcenturymedicine.html

http://www.scribd.com/doc/59655111/History-to-3400-AD

BTW, extra credit for finding the math error in the second article.

Comment author: gjm 21 July 2014 11:22:50PM 5 points [-]

extra credit for finding the math error in the second article.

Well, near the start it refers to "an exponential growth of 3 per cent per year, or multiplying by about 10 every 100 years" when in fact 1.03^100 is about 19. At which point I have little confidence that that's the mathematical error; it suggests a level of sloppiness likely to produce others.

Comment author: MrMind 17 July 2014 08:09:49AM *  1 point [-]

As a little side project, I entertain myself with the idea of writing fiction that blends fantasy and mega-structures engineering.
The first step will be to ideate a consistent magic system, but of course, to make the story interesting, I'll have to come up with interesting characters and their conflicts. Do you know about any good story, long or short, that revolves around or has as background mega-structures, that I can be inspired from? Fantasy or extreme science-fiction would be the best.

Comment author: gjm 17 July 2014 11:48:17AM 1 point [-]

Ra by Sam Hughes (http://qntm.org), kinda, though the mega-structures involved are very much in the background for much of the story: Warning: work in progress, completion date unknown; posting roughly one chapter per month.

Comment author: gwern 13 July 2014 11:03:28PM *  3 points [-]

The problem is, I want to see someone other than La Griffe do the numbers and I'm not happy relying on him.

I don't know who he is, I haven't gone through his derivations or math, I don't know how accurate his models are, he uses a lot of old sources of data like Project Talent (which may or may not be fine, but I don't have the domain expertise to know), and the one piece of writing of his I've really gone through, his 'smart fraction' doesn't seem to hold up too well using updated national IQ data from Lynn (me and Vaniver tried to reproduce his result & update it in some comments on LW).

But the problem is, given the conclusion, I am unlikely ever to see someone from across the ideological spectrum verify that his work is right. (Whatever the accuracy of his own arguments, La Griffe does a good job tearing apart one attempt to prove there is no variance difference, where the woman's arguments show she either doesn't understand the issue or is being dishonest.)

Comment author: gjm 14 July 2014 01:52:54PM 0 points [-]

OK, I understand. (I share your frustration, would count as "from across the ideological spectrum", and have at least a good subset of the necessary skills, but probably lack the time to try to rectify the deficit myself.)

Comment author: Vaniver 13 July 2014 08:12:59PM *  1 point [-]

Have you actually done the calculations?

I got the calculations from La Griffe, linked by gwern in a sibling comment. (For completeness, [1], [2], [3].) I have a vague recollection of checking them myself at some point.

Comment author: gjm 13 July 2014 08:26:51PM 2 points [-]

OK. Thanks.

Comment author: gwern 13 July 2014 04:58:24PM *  4 points [-]

If you just want some calculations, look at La Griffe: http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/women_and_minorities_in_science.htm and http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/math.htm / http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/math2.htm

(I haven't checked his numbers or looked for more mainstream authors, but then again, would you expect to find many papers by prominent authors doing the exact calculation you want, especially post-Sumners?)

Comment author: gjm 13 July 2014 07:27:50PM 2 points [-]

the exact calculation you want

You say that as if I'm asking for something specific and unusual, but all I'm actually doing is responding to "If you do the calculations you find X" with "That's interesting; have you done those calculations or seen someone else do them, then?".

Comment author: Vaniver 13 July 2014 01:50:45AM *  6 points [-]

The argument works just as well

I feel like the argument is slicing the problem up and presenting just the worst bits, when we need to consider the net effect on everything. This reminds me of a bioethics debate about testing error and base rate of rare lethal diseases: if five times as many people have disease A than disease B, but they look similar and the tests only offer 80% accuracy,* what should we do if the treatment for A cures those with A but kills those with B, and vice versa?

The 'shut up and multiply' answer is "don't give the tests, just treat everyone for A," as that spares the cost of the tests and 5/6ths of the population lives. But this is inequitable, since everyone with disease B dies. Another approach is to treat everyone for the disease that they test positive for- but now only 4/5ths of the population lives, and we had to pay for the tests! Is it really worth committing 3% of the population to the graveyard to be more equitable? If one focuses on the poor neglected patients with B, then perhaps, but if one considers patients without regard to group membership, definitely not.

*Obviously, the tests need to be dependent for 80% to be the maximal possible accuracy.

And people didn't notice the good blacks should be in the office and promote them at a higher rate to make up for it, either.

I don't know if it's possible to test this, and specifically it's not obvious to me that we need racial bias to explain this effect. That is, widespread cognitive stratification in the economic sphere is relatively new (it started taking off in a big way only around ~1950 in the US), and if promotions were generally inefficient, it's hard to determine how much additional inefficiency race caused.

These comparisons become even harder when there are actually underlying differences in distributions. For example, the difference in mean male and female mathematical ability isn't very large, but the overwhelming majority of Harvard math professors are male. One might make the case that this is sexism at work, but for people with extreme math talent, what matters much more than the difference in mean is the difference in standard deviation, which is significantly higher for men. If you take math test scores from high schoolers and use them as a measure of the population's underlying mathematical ability distribution and run the numbers, you predict basically the male-female split that Harvard has, which leaves nothing left for sexism to explain.

Comment author: gjm 13 July 2014 03:00:01PM 1 point [-]

If you take math test scores from high schoolers and use them as a measure of the population's underlying mathematical ability distribution and run the numbers, you predict basically the male-female split that Harvard has, which leaves nothing left for sexism to explain.

I've seen this said before (notably, Larry Summers took a lot of heat for saying it) and it seems like the kind of thing that might well be true, but I've never seen the actual numbers. Have you actually done the calculations?

Comment author: Vaniver 13 July 2014 12:32:54AM 5 points [-]

Having such a variance is a really bad thing.

I agree that it's a bad thing that some people are mismeasured, because that's inefficient. I don't buy the argument that the concentration makes it worse on anywhere near the same scale.

It's also worth pointing out that this is a continuum. Dull for a systems analyst is sharp for an accountant, and dull for an accountant is sharp for a salesperson, and dull for a salesperson is sharp for a machinist, and so on. And so if someone with salesperson intelligence doesn't test well, and so only has machinist scores, then they can get a job as a machinist and outperform their peers, and eventually someone may notice they should be in the office instead of on the shop floor.

Comment author: gjm 13 July 2014 02:57:56PM 1 point [-]

Perhaps it's a deliberate simplification for clarity, but that last paragraph seems to me to assume a one-dimensional oversimplification of how things are.

Suppose Frieda would be a great salesperson: she is enthusiastic and upbeat, she has a good memory for names and faces, etc. But her test scores aren't good, and she gets hired as a machinist. How much are those good-salesperson characteristics going to help her impress her colleagues in the shop floor? Suppose Fred has similar test scores and also gets hired as a machinist. He is conscientious, has a lot of tolerance for repetitive work, is dextrous and not very prone to repetitive strain injuries. He turns out to be a first-rate machinist. Do you want to send him off to Sales?

Now, it could be that there are people watching the employees on the shop floor and looking out for ones who (even though they may not be great machinists) would do well in sales, accounting, or whatever. But I rather doubt it, and I suspect that a machinist's work-life doesn't give a lot of opportunities to be noticed as a good candidate for a job in anything far removed from the shop floor.

Comment author: Ixiel 13 July 2014 12:48:23PM 0 points [-]

I think I remember an app in which one guessed the probability of things and then logged if they actually happened and kept track or ones record discussed here. Anyone know what it's called?

Comment author: gjm 13 July 2014 02:29:07PM 4 points [-]

Are you thinking of PredictionBook? Not an app, but otherwise fits your description and has been mentioned many times on LW.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 09 July 2014 05:31:20PM *  4 points [-]

The human brain is capable of registering "X is moving" without being able to point to "X was over here and is now over there". This can happen visually with the rotating snakes illusion, or acoustically with Shepard tones, for instance. It's also pretty common on some psychedelic drugs.

Comment author: gjm 11 July 2014 12:23:34PM 0 points [-]

Or if your inner ear is messed up somehow by illness, drunkenness, etc. (though what you then think is moving is yourself, or perhaps the rest of the universe around you).

Comment author: mwengler 10 July 2014 06:22:05AM 2 points [-]

$0.2B annually. That's a lot of money

What, that's close to nothing! $0.03 per person per year.

And the effect is even smaller than that. Higher sea level pushes the atmosphere up as well, which means we are improving land at higher elevations by having more air on it. This will reduce the net loss of valuable land.

Comment author: gjm 10 July 2014 07:56:41AM 1 point [-]

What, that's close to nothing!

If the most effective charities can save a life for $2k, that's enough to save 100k lives/year. But of course there are plenty of other things it's small in comparison to; I mentioned a couple of relevant ones.

improving land at higher elevations

I think this is likely to be a much smaller effect. The great majority of land is no more than ~1000m above sea level.

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