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Welcome to Heaven

23 Post author: denisbider 25 January 2010 11:22PM

I can conceive of the following 3 main types of meaning we can pursue in life.

1. Exploring existing complexity: the natural complexity of the universe, or complexities that others created for us to explore.

2. Creating new complexity for others and ourselves to explore.

3. Hedonic pleasure: more or less direct stimulation of our pleasure centers, with wire-heading as the ultimate form.

What I'm observing in the various FAI debates is a tendency of people to shy away from wire-heading as something the FAI should do. This reluctance is generally not substantiated or clarified with anything other than "clearly, this isn't what we want". This is not, however, clear to me at all.

The utility we get from exploration and creation is an enjoyable mental process that comes with these activities. Once an FAI can rewire our brains at will, we do not need to perform actual exploration or creation to experience this enjoyment. Instead, the enjoyment we get from exploration and creation becomes just another form of pleasure that can be stimulated directly.

If you are a utilitarian, and you believe in shut-up-and-multiply, then the correct thing for the FAI to do is to use up all available resources so as to maximize the number of beings, and then induce a state of permanent and ultimate enjoyment in every one of them. This enjoyment could be of any type - it could be explorative or creative or hedonic enjoyment as we know it. The most energy efficient way to create any kind of enjoyment, however, is to stimulate the brain-equivalent directly. Therefore, the greatest utility will be achieved by wire-heading. Everything else falls short of that.

What I don't quite understand is why everyone thinks that this would be such a horrible outcome. As far as I can tell, these seem to be cached emotions that are suitable for our world, but not for the world of FAI. In our world, we truly do need to constantly explore and create, or else we will suffer the consequences of not mastering our environment. In a world where FAI exists, there is no longer a point, nor even a possibility, of mastering our environment. The FAI masters our environment for us, and there is no longer a reason to avoid hedonic pleasure. It is no longer a trap.

Since the FAI can sustain us in safety until the universe goes poof, there is no reason for everyone not to experience ultimate enjoyment in the meanwhile. In fact, I can hardly tell this apart from the concept of a Christian Heaven, which appears to be a place where Christians very much want to get.

If you don't want to be "reduced" to an eternal state of bliss, that's tough luck. The alternative would be for the FAI to create an environment for you to play in, consuming precious resources that could sustain more creatures in a permanently blissful state. But don't worry; you won't need to feel bad for long. The FAI can simply modify your preferences so you want an eternally blissful state.

Welcome to Heaven.

Comments (242)

Comment author: Tiiba 26 January 2010 12:55:16AM 11 points [-]

One reason I might not want to become a ball of ecstasy is that I don't really feel it's ME. I'm not even sure it's sentient, since it doesn't learn, communicate, or reason, it just enjoys.

Comment author: GodParty 20 June 2016 12:20:26AM 0 points [-]

Sentience is exactly just the ability to feel. If it can feel joy, it is sentient.

Comment author: hairyfigment 20 June 2016 05:54:18PM 1 point [-]

Yes, but for example in highway hypnosis people drive on 'boring' stretches of highway and then don't remember doing so. It seems as if they slowly lose the capacity to learn or update beliefs even slightly from this repetitive activity, and as this happens their sentience goes away. So we haven't established that the sentient ball of uniform ecstasy is actually possible.

Meanwhile, a badly programmed AI might decide that a non-sentient or briefly-sentient ball still fits its programmed definition of the goal. Or it might think this about a ball that is just barely sentient.

Comment author: mkehrt 25 January 2010 11:53:22PM 27 points [-]

I think you are missing the point.

First throw out the FAI part of this argument; we can consider an FAI just as a tool to help us achieve our goals. Any AI which does not do at least this this is insufficiently friendly (and thus counts as a paperclipper, possibly).

Thus, the actual question is what are our goals? I don't know about you, but I value understanding and exploration. If you value pleasure, good! Have fun being a wirehead.

It comes down to the fact that a world where everyone is a wirehead is not valued by me or probably by many people. Even though this world would maximize pleasure, it wouldn't maximize utility of people designing the world (I think this is the util/hedon distinction, but I am not sure). If we don't value that world, why should we create it, even if we would value after we create it?

Comment author: djadvance22 29 January 2010 01:23:22AM 5 points [-]

The way I see it is that there is a set of preferable reward qualia we can experience (pleasure, wonder, empathy, pride) and a set of triggers attached to them in the human mind (sexual contact, learning, bonding, accomplishing a goal). What this article says is that there is no inherent value in the triggers, just in the rewards. Why rely on plugs when you can short circuit the outlet?

But that is missing an entire field of points: there are certain forms of pleasure that can only be retrieved from the correct association of triggers and rewards. Basking in the glow of wonder from cosmological inquiry and revelation is not the same without an intellect piecing together the context. You can have bliss and love and friendship all bundled up into one sensation, but without the STORY, without a timeline of events and shared experience that make up a relationship, you are missing a key part of that positive experience.

tl;dr: Experiencing pure rewards without relying on triggers is a retarded (or limited) way of experiencing the pleasures of the universe.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 28 January 2010 08:03:31PM 4 points [-]

Like many others below, your reply assumes that what is valuable is what we value. Yet as far as I can see, this assumption has never defended with arguments in this forum. Moreover, the assumption seems clearly false. A person whose brain was wired differently than most people may value states of horrible agony. Yet the fact that this person valued these states would not constitute a reason for thinking them valuable. Pain is bad because of how it feels, rather than by virtue of the attitudes that people have towards painful states.

Comment author: randallsquared 31 January 2010 12:36:27AM 4 points [-]

Like many others below, your reply assumes that what is valuable is what we value.

Well, by definition. I think what you mean is that there are things that "ought to be" valuable which we do not actually value [enough?]. But what evidence is there that there is any "ought" above our existing goals?

Comment author: Raoul589 20 January 2013 12:04:24PM 0 points [-]

What evidence is there that we should value anything more than what mental states feel like from the inside? That's what the wirehead would ask. He doesn't care about goals. Let's see some evidence that our goals matter.

Comment author: jooyous 26 January 2013 04:51:41AM 1 point [-]

What would evidence that our goals matter look like?

Comment author: randallsquared 22 January 2013 08:00:58PM 0 points [-]

Just to be clear, I don't think you're disagreeing with me.

Comment author: Raoul589 26 January 2013 01:08:25AM 0 points [-]

We disagree if you intended to make the claim that 'our goals' are the bedrock on which we should base the notion of 'ought', since we can take the moral skepticism a step further, and ask: what evidence is there that there is any 'ought' above 'maxing out our utility functions'?

A further point of clarification: It doesn't follow - by definition, as you say - that what is valuable is what we value. Would making paperclips become valuable if we created a paperclip maximiser? What about if paperclip maximisers outnumbered humans? I think benthamite is right: the assumption that 'what is valuable is what we value' tends just to be smuggled into arguments without further defense. This is the move that the wirehead rejects.

Note: I took the statement 'what is valuable is what we value' to be equivalent to 'things are valuable because we value them'. The statement has another possbile meaning: 'we value things because they are valuable'. I think both are incorrect for the same reason.

Comment author: randallsquared 26 January 2013 04:38:57AM 3 points [-]

I think I must be misunderstanding you. It's not so much that I'm saying that our goals are the bedrock, as that there's no objective bedrock to begin with. We do value things, and we can make decisions about actions in pursuit of things we value, so in that sense there's some basis for what we "ought" to do, but I'm making exactly the same point you are when you say:

what evidence is there that there is any 'ought' above 'maxing out our utility functions'?

I know of no such evidence. We do act in pursuit of goals, and that's enough for a positivist morality, and it appears to be the closest we can get to a normative morality. You seem to say that it's not very close at all, and I agree, but I don't see a path to closer.

So, to recap, we value what we value, and there's no way I can see to argue that we ought to value something else. Two entities with incompatible goals are to some extent mutually evil, and there is no rational way out of it, because arguments about "ought" presume a given goal both can agree on.

Would making paperclips become valuable if we created a paperclip maximiser?

To the paperclip maximizer, they would certainly be valuable -- ultimately so. If you have some other standard, some objective measurement, of value, please show me it. :)

By the way, you can't say the wirehead doesn't care about goals: part of the definition of a wirehead is that he cares most about the goal of stimulating his brain in a pleasurable way. An entity that didn't care about goals would never do anything at all.

Comment author: Raoul589 26 January 2013 01:47:02PM 0 points [-]

I think that you are right that we don't disagree on the 'basis of morality' issue. My claim is only that which you said above: there is no objective bedrock for morality, and there's no evidence that we ought to do anything other than max out our utility functions. I am sorry for the digression.

Comment author: Kawoomba 26 January 2013 07:30:57AM 0 points [-]

An entity that didn't care about goals would never do anything at all.

I agree with the rest of your comment, and depending on how you define "goal" with the quote as well. However, what about entities driven only by heuristics? Those may have developed to pursue a goal, but not necessarily so. Would you call an agent that is only heuristics-driven goal-oriented? (I have in mind simple commands along the lines of "go left when there is a light on the right", think Braitenberg vehicles minus the evolutionary aspect.

Comment author: randallsquared 26 January 2013 03:06:19PM 1 point [-]

Yes, I thought about that when writing the above, but I figured I'd fall back on the term "entity". ;) An entity would be something that could have goals (sidestepping the hard work of exactly what object qualify).

Comment author: [deleted] 26 January 2013 08:11:32AM 1 point [-]
Comment author: Kawoomba 26 January 2013 08:15:24AM 1 point [-]

Hard to be original anymore. Which is a good sign!

Comment author: nshepperd 26 January 2013 02:17:29AM 2 points [-]

What is valuable is what we value, because if we didn't value it, we wouldn't have invented the word "valuable" to describe it.

By analogy, suppose my favourite colour is red, but I speak a language with no term for "red". So I invent "xylbiz" to refer to red things; in our language, it is pretty much a synonym for "red". All objects that are xylbiz are my favourite colour. "By definition" to some degree, since my liking red is the origin of the definition "xylbiz = red". But note that: things are not xylbiz because xylbiz is my favourite colour; they are xylbiz because of their physical characteristics. Nor is xylbiz my favourite colour because things are xylbiz; rather xylbiz is my favourite colour because that's how my mind is built.

It would, however, be fairly accurate to say that if an object is xylbiz, it is my favourite colour, and it is my favourite colour because it is xylbiz (and because of how my mind is built). It would also be accurate to say that "xylbiz" refers to red things because red is my favourite colour, but this is a statement about words, not about redness or xylbizness.

Note that if my favourite colour changed somehow, so now I like purple and invent the word "blagg" for it, things that were previously xylbiz would not become blagg, however you would notice I stop talking about "xylbiz" (actually, being human, would probably just redefine "xylbiz" to mean purple rather than define a new word).

By the way, the philosopher would probably ask "what evidence is there that we should value what mental states feel like from the inside?"

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 26 January 2010 01:15:20AM 2 points [-]

Agreed.

This is one reason why I don't like to call myself a utilitarian. Too many cached thoughts/objections associated with that term that just don't apply to what we are talking about

Comment author: Raoul589 26 January 2013 02:02:31PM 1 point [-]

As a wirehead advocate, I want to present my response to this as bluntly as possible, since I think my position is more generally what underlies the wirehead position, and I never see this addressed.

I simply don't believe that you really value understanding and exploration. I think that your brain (mine too) simply says to you 'yay, understanding and exploration!'. What's more, the only way you even know this much, is from how you feel about exploration - on the inside - when you are considering it or engaging in it. That is, how much 'pleasure' or wirehead-subjective-experience-nice-feelings-equivalent you get from it. You say to your brain: 'so, what do you think about making scientific discoveries?' and it says right back to you: 'making discoveries? Yay!'

Since literally every single thing we value just boils down to 'my brain says yay about this' anyway, why don't we just hack the brain equivalent to say 'yay!' as much as possible?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 26 January 2013 04:10:01PM 4 points [-]

If I were about to fall off a cliff, I would prefer that you satisfy your brain's desire to pull me back by actually pulling me back, not by hacking your brain to believe you had pulled me back while I in fact plunge to my death. And if my body needs nutrients, I would rather satisfy my hunger by actually consuming nutrients, not by hacking my brain to believe I had consumed nutrients while my cells starve and die.

I suspect most people share those preferences.

That pretty much summarizes my objection to wireheading in the real world.

That said, if we posit a hypothetical world where my wireheading doesn't have any opportunity costs (that is, everything worth doing is going to be done as well as I can do it or better, whether I do it or not), I'm OK with wireheading.

To be more precise, I share the sentiment that others have expressed that my brain says "Boo!" to wireheading even in that world. But in that world, my brain also says "Boo!" to not wireheading for most the same reasons, so that doesn't weigh into my decision-making much, and is outweighed by my brain's "Yay!" to enjoyable experiences.

Said more simply: if nothing I do can matter, then I might as well wirehead.

Comment author: Kindly 26 January 2013 04:38:32PM 2 points [-]

I simply don't believe that you really value understanding and exploration. I think that your brain (mine too) simply says to you 'yay, understanding and exploration!'.

So what would "really valuing" understanding and exploration entail, exactly?

Comment author: lavalamp 26 January 2013 02:39:19PM 2 points [-]

Because my brain says 'boo' about the thought of that.

Comment author: Raoul589 27 January 2013 01:46:25AM 2 points [-]

It seems, then, that anti-wireheading boils down to the claim that 'wireheading, boo!'.

This is not a convincing argument to people whose brains don't say to them 'wireheading, boo!'. My impression was that denisbider's top level post was a call for an anti-wireheading argument more convincing than this.

Comment author: lavalamp 27 January 2013 04:14:30PM 1 point [-]

I use my current value system to evaluate possible futures. The current me really doesn't like the possible future me sitting stationary in the corner of a room doing nothing, even though that version of me is experiencing lots of happiness.

I guess I view wireheading as equivalent to suicide; you're entering a state in which you'll no longer affect the rest of the world, and from which you'll never emerge.

No arguments will work on someone who's already wireheaded, but for someone who is considering it, hopefully they'll consider the negative effects on the rest of society. Your friends will miss you, you'll be a resource drain, etc. We already have an imperfect wireheading option; we call it drug addiction.

If none of that moves you, then perhaps you should wirehead.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 27 January 2013 04:29:52PM 4 points [-]

Is the social-good argument your true rejection, here?

Does it follow from this that if you concluded, after careful analysis, that you sitting stationary in a corner of a room experiencing various desirable experiences would be a net positive to the rest of society (your friends will be happy for you, you'll consume fewer net resources than if you were moving around, eating food, burning fossil fuels to get places, etc., etc.), then you would reluctantly choose to wirehead, and endorse others for whom the same were true to do so?

Or is the social good argument just a soldier here?

Comment author: lavalamp 27 January 2013 06:28:24PM 5 points [-]

After some thought, I believe that the social good argument, if it somehow came out the other way, would in fact move me to reluctantly change my mind. (Your example arguments didn't do the trick, though-- to get my brain to imagine an argument that would move me, I had to imagine a world where my continued interaction with other humans in fact harms them in ways I cannot do something to avoid; something like I'm an evil person, don't wish to be evil, but it's not possible to cease being evil are all true.) I'd still at least want a minecraft version of wireheading and not a drugged out version, I think.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 27 January 2013 07:16:35PM 2 points [-]

Cool.

Comment author: Raoul589 28 January 2013 01:19:14AM 0 points [-]

You will only wirehead if that will prevent you from doing active, intentional harm to others. Why is your standard so high? TheOtherDave's speculative scenario should be sufficient to have you support wireheading, if your argument against it is social good - since in his scenario it is clearly net better to wirehead than not to.

Comment author: lavalamp 28 January 2013 01:34:52AM 0 points [-]

All of the things he lists are not true for me personally and I had trouble imagining worlds in which they were true of me or anyone else. (Exception being the resource argument-- I imagine e.g. welfare recipients would consume fewer resources but anyone gainfully employed AFAIK generally adds more value to the economy than they remove.)

Comment author: TheOtherDave 28 January 2013 05:51:44AM 0 points [-]

FWIW, I don't find it hard to imagine a world where automated tools that require fewer resources to maintain than I do are at least as good as I am at doing any job I can do.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 27 January 2013 06:21:17PM 2 points [-]

We don't need to be motivated by a single purpose. The part of our brains that is morality and considers what is good for the rest of the word, the part of our brains that just finds it aesthetically displeasing to be wireheaded for whatever reason, the part of our brains that just seeks pleasure, they may all have different votes of different weights to cast.

Comment author: Kawoomba 27 January 2013 07:06:11PM 1 point [-]

I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers.

Which bracket do I identify with at the point in time when being asked the question? Which perspective do I take? That's what determines the purpose. You might say - well, your own perspective. But that's the thing, my perspective depends on - other than the time of day and my current hormonal status - the way the question is framed, and which identity level I identify with most at that moment.

Comment author: Raoul589 28 January 2013 01:21:28AM 0 points [-]

Does it follow from that that you could consider taking the perspective of your post wirehead self?

Comment author: Kawoomba 28 January 2013 07:00:31AM 0 points [-]

Consider in the sense of "what would my wire headed self do", yes. Similar to Anja's recent post. However, I'll never (can't imagine the circumstances) be in a state of mind where doing so would seem natural to me.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 27 January 2013 07:20:27PM 0 points [-]

Yes. But insofar as that's true, lavalamp's idea that Raoul589 should wirehead if the social-good argument doesn't move them is less clear.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 26 January 2013 03:35:14PM *  0 points [-]

why don't we just hack the brain equivalent to say 'yay!' as much as possible?

Because my brain does indeed say "yay!" about stuff, but hacking my brain to constantly say "yay!" isn't one of the stuff that my brain says "yay!" about.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 January 2010 07:45:35AM 8 points [-]

If you're considering the ability to rewire one's utility function, why simplify the function rather than build cognitive tools to help people better satisfy the function? What you've proposed is that an AI destroys human intelligence, then pursues some abstraction of what it thinks humans wanted.

Your suggestion is that an AI might assume that the best way to reach its goal of making humans happy (maximizing their utility) is to attain the ends of humans' functions faster and better than we could, and rewire us to be satisfied. There are two problems here that I see.

First, the means are an end. Much of what we value isn't the goal we claim as our objective, but the process of striving for the goal. So here you have an AI that doesn't really understand what humans want.

Second, most humans aren't interested in every avenue of exploration, creation and pleasure. Our interests are distinct. They also do change over time (or some limited set of parameters do anyhow). We don't always notice them change, and when they do, we like to track down what decisions they made that led them to their new preferences. People value the (usually illusory) notion that they control changes to their utility functions. The offer to be a "wirehead" is an action which intrinsically violates peoples' utility in the illusion of autonomy. This doesn't apply to everyone - hedonists can apply to your heaven. I suspect that few others would want it.

Also,

If you don't want to be "reduced" to an eternal state of bliss, that's tough luck... The FAI can simply modify your preferences so you want an eternally blissful state.

That is not friendly.

I think you have an idea that there is a "global human utility function" and that FAI is that which satisfies this. Humans have commonalities in their functions, but they are localized around the notion of self. Your "FAI" generalizes what most people want in some form except for experience and autonomy, but the other values it extracts are, in humans, not independent from those.

Comment author: andreas 26 January 2010 12:45:06AM 8 points [-]

Not for the Sake of Happiness (Alone) is a response to this suggestion.

Comment author: CronoDAS 26 January 2010 10:41:37AM 7 points [-]

I'd like to be a wirehead, but have no particular desire to impose that condition on others.

Comment author: gregconen 27 January 2010 02:59:21PM 6 points [-]

If all the AI cares about is the utility of each being times the number of beings, and is willing to change utility functions to get there, why should it bother with humans? Humans have all sorts of "extra" mental circuitry associated with being unhappy, which is just taking up space (or computer time in a simulator). Instead, it makes new beings, with easily satisfied utility functions and as little extra complexity as possible.

The end result is just as unFriendly, from a human perspective, as the naive "smile maximizer".

Comment author: RobertWiblin 29 January 2010 01:53:49PM *  0 points [-]

Who cares about humans exactly? I care about utility. If the AI thinks humans aren't an efficient way of generating utility, we should be eliminated.

Comment author: gregconen 29 January 2010 02:36:12PM 2 points [-]

That's a defensible position, if you care about the utility of beings that don't currently exist, to the extent that you trade the utility of currently existing beings to create new, happier ones.

The point is that the result of total utility maximization is unlikely to be something we'd recognize as people, even wireheads or Super Happy People.

Comment author: tut 29 January 2010 02:24:58PM *  2 points [-]

Who cares about humans exactly? I care about utility.

That is nonsense. Utility is usefulness to people. If there are no humans there is no utility. An AI that could become convinced that "humans are not an efficient way to generate utility" would be what is referred to as a paperclipper.

This is why I don't like the utile jargon. It makes it sound as though utility was something that could be measured independently of human emotions. Perhaps some kind of substance. But if statements about utility are not translated back to statements about human action or goals then they are completely meaningless.

Comment author: ciphergoth 29 January 2010 02:38:50PM 9 points [-]

Utility is usefulness to people. If there are no humans there is no utility.

Utility is goodness measured according to some standard of goodness; that standard doesn't have to reference human beings. In my most optimistic visions of a far future, human values outlive the human race.

Comment author: tut 29 January 2010 02:51:58PM *  2 points [-]

Utility is goodness measured according to some standard of goodness; that standard doesn't have to reference human beings. In my most optimistic visions of a far future, human values outlive the human race.

Are we using the same definition of "human being"? We would not have to be biologically identical to what we are now in order to be people. But human values without humans also sounds meaningless to me. There are no values atoms or goodness atoms sitting around somewhere. To be good or to be valuable something must be good or valuable by the standards of some person. So there would have to be somebody around to do the valuing. But the standards don't have to be explicit or objective.

Comment author: RobertWiblin 29 January 2010 04:39:44PM 0 points [-]

Utility as I care about it is probably the result of information processing. Not clear why information should only be able to be processed in that way by human type minds, let alone fleshy ones.

Comment author: thomblake 29 January 2010 02:00:23PM 0 points [-]

Starting with the assumption of utilitarianism, I believe you're correct. I think the folks working on this stuff assign a low probability to "kill all humans" being Friendly. But I'm pretty sure people aren't supposed to speculate about the output of CEV.

Comment author: RobertWiblin 29 January 2010 05:24:58PM 1 point [-]

Probably the proportion of 'kill all humans' AIs that are friendly is low. But perhaps the proportion of FAIs that 'kill all humans' is large.

Comment author: gregconen 30 January 2010 03:17:42AM 0 points [-]

That depends on your definition of Friendly, which in turn depends on your values.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 January 2010 11:53:04PM *  0 points [-]

But perhaps the proportion of FAIs that 'kill all humans' is large.

Maybe probability you estimate for that to happen is high, but "proportion" doesn't makes sense, since FAI is defined as an agent acting for specific preference, so FAIs have to agree on what to do.

Comment author: RobertWiblin 30 January 2010 04:07:38AM 0 points [-]

OK, I'm new to this.

Comment author: Stuart_Armstrong 26 January 2010 12:52:11PM 6 points [-]

If you are a utilitarian, and you believe in shut-up-and-multiply, then the correct thing for the FAI to do is to use up all available resources so as to maximize the number of beings, and then induce a state of permanent and ultimate enjoyment in every one of them.

Rewritting that: if you are an altruistic, total utilitarian whose utility function includes only hedonistic pleasure and with no birth-death asymmetry, then the correct thing for the FAI to do is...

Comment author: RobertWiblin 29 January 2010 01:58:23PM 0 points [-]

Needn't be total - average would suggest creating one single extremely happy being - probably not human.

Needn't only include hedonic pleasure - a preference utilitarian might support eliminating humans and replacing them with beings whose preferences are cheap to satisfy (hedonic pleasure being one cheap preference). Or you could want multiple kinds of pleasure, but see hedonic as always more efficient to deliver as proposed in the post.

Comment author: nawitus 26 January 2010 08:04:56AM 6 points [-]

I think people shy away from wireheading because a future full of wireheads would be very boring indeed. People like to think there's more to existence than that. They wan't to experience something more interesting than eternal pleasure. And that's exactly what an FAI should allow.

Comment author: CannibalSmith 26 January 2010 10:05:23AM 12 points [-]

Boring from the perspective of any onlookers not the wirehead.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 27 January 2010 10:54:50AM 1 point [-]

Related post: In Praise of Boredom.

Comment author: RobinZ 26 January 2010 12:51:59PM 1 point [-]

I think people shy away from wireheading because a future full of wireheads would be very boring indeed.

It falls below Reedspacer's lower bound, for sure.

Comment author: timtyler 26 January 2010 10:17:42AM 1 point [-]

Could be more boring. There's more than one kind of wirehead. For example, if everyone were a heroin addict, the world might be more boring - but it would still be pretty interesting.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 26 January 2010 01:02:21AM 14 points [-]

denis, most utilitarians here are preference utilitarians, who believe in satisfying people's preferences, rather than maximizing happiness or pleasure.

To those who say they don't want to be wireheaded, how do you really know that, when you haven't tried wireheading? An FAI might reason the same way, and try to extrapolate what your preferences would be if you knew what it felt like to be wireheaded, in which case it might conclude that your true preferences are in favor of being wireheaded.

Comment author: ciphergoth 26 January 2010 01:06:06AM 6 points [-]

To those who say they don't want to be wireheaded, how do you really know that, when you haven't tried wireheading?

But it's not because I think there's some downside to the experience that I don't want it. The experience is as good as can possibly be. I want to continue to be someone who thinks things and does stuff, even at a cost in happiness.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 26 January 2010 03:37:55AM 11 points [-]

The experience is as good as can possibly be.

You don't know how good "as good as can possibly be" is yet.

I want to continue to be someone who thinks things and does stuff, even at a cost in happiness.

But surely the cost in happiness that you're willing to accept isn't infinite. For example, presumably you're not willing to be tortured for a year in exchange for a year of thinking and doing stuff. Someone who has never experienced much pain might think that torture is no big deal, and accept this exchange, but he would be mistaken, right?

How do you know you're not similarly mistaken about wireheading?

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 26 January 2010 10:11:34AM *  7 points [-]

How do you know you're not similarly mistaken about wireheading?

I'm a bit skeptical of how well you can use the term "mistaken" when talking about technology that would allow us to modify our minds to an arbitrary degree. One could easily fathom a mind that (say) wants to be wireheaded for as long as the wireheading goes on, but ceases to want it the moment the wireheading stops. (I.e. both prefer their current state of wireheadedness/non-wireheadedness and wouldn't want to change it.) Can we really say that one of them is "mistaken", or wouldn't it be more accurate to say that they simply have different preferences?

EDIT: Expanded this to a top-level post.

Comment author: CannibalSmith 26 January 2010 10:01:40AM 1 point [-]

The maximum amount of pleasure is finite too.

Comment author: ciphergoth 27 January 2010 08:40:49AM 0 points [-]

Interesting problem! Perhaps I have a maximum utility to happiness, which increasing happiness approaches asymptotically?

Comment author: Wei_Dai 30 January 2010 03:00:19AM *  1 point [-]

Perhaps I have a maximum utility to happiness, which increasing happiness approaches asymptotically?

Yes, I think that's quite possible, but I don't know whether it's actually the case or not. A big question I have is whether any of our values scales up to the size of the universe, in other words, doesn't asymptotically approach an upper bound well before we used up the resources in the universe. See also my latest post http://lesswrong.com/lw/1oj/complexity_of_value_complexity_of_outcome/ where I talk about some related ideas.

Comment author: byrnema 26 January 2010 01:26:39AM *  5 points [-]

I want to continue to be someone who thinks things and does stuff, even at a cost in happiness.

The FAI can make you feel as though you "think things and do stuff", just by changing your preferences. I don't think any reason beginning with "I want" is going to work, because your preferences aren't fixed or immutable in this hypothetical.

Anyway, can you explain why you are attached to your preferences? That "it's better to value this than value that" is incoherent, and the FAI will see that. The FAI will have no objective, logical reason to distinguish between values you currently have and are attached to and values that you could have and be attached to, and might as well modify you than modify the universe. (Because the universe has exactly the same value either way.)

Comment author: LucasSloan 26 January 2010 01:30:48AM 3 points [-]

If any possible goal is considered to have the same value (by what standard?), then the "FAI" is not friendly. If preferences don't matter, then why does them not mattering matter? Why change one's utility function at all, if anything is as good as anything else?

Comment author: byrnema 26 January 2010 02:21:56AM *  2 points [-]

Well I understand I owe money to the Singularity Institute now for speculating on what the output of the CEV would be. (Dire Warnings #3)

Comment author: timtyler 26 January 2010 10:22:37AM *  2 points [-]

That page said:

"None may argue on the SL4 mailing list about the output of CEV".

A different place, with different rules.

Comment author: Kutta 26 January 2010 11:08:23AM *  2 points [-]

The FAI can make you feel as though you "think things and do stuff", just by changing your preferences.

I can't see how a true FAI can change my preferences if I prefer them not being changed.

Anyway, can you explain why you are attached to your preferences? That "it's better to value this than value that" is incoherent, and the FAI will see that. The FAI will have no objective, logical reason to distinguish between values you currently have and are attached to and values that you could have and be attached to, and might as well modify you than modify the universe. (Because the universe has exactly the same value either way.)

It does not work this way. We want to do what is right, not what would conform our utility function if we were petunias or paperclip AIs or randomly chosen expected utility maximizers; the whole point of Friendliness is to find out and implement what we care about and not anything else.

I'm not only attached to my preferences; I am great part my preferences. I even have a preference such that I don't want my preferences to be forcibly changed. Thinking about changing meta-preferences quickly leads to a strange loop, but if I look at specific outcome (like me being turned to orgasmium) I can still make a moral judgement and reject that outcome.

The FAI will have no objective, logical reason to distinguish between values you currently have and are attached to and values that you could have and be attached to, and might as well modify you than modify the universe. (Because the universe has exactly the same value either way.)

The FAI has a perfectly objective, logical reason to do what's right and not else; its existence and utility function is causally retractable to the humans that designed it. An AI that verges on nihilism and contemplates switching humanity's utility function to something else, partly because the universe has the "exactly same value" either way, is definitely NOT a Friendly AI.

Comment author: byrnema 26 January 2010 05:00:12PM *  1 point [-]

OK, I agree with this comment and this one that if you program an FAI to satisfy our actual preferences with no compromise, than that is what it is going to do. If people have a preference for their values being satisfied in reality, rather than them just being satisfied virtually, then no wire-heading for them.

However, if you do allow compromise so that the FAI should modify preferences that contradict each other, then we might be on our way to wire-heading. Eliezer observes there is a significant 'objective component to human moral intuition'. We also value truth and meaning. (This comment strikes me as relevant.) If the FAI finds that these thre e are incompatible, which preference should it modify?

(Background for this comment in case you're not familiar with my obsession -- how could you have missed it? -- is that objective meaning, from any kind of subjective/objective angle, is incoherent.)

Comment author: Kutta 26 January 2010 06:11:05PM *  5 points [-]

you do allow compromise so that the FAI should modify preferences that contradict each other, then we might be on our way to wire-heading.

First, I just note that this is a full-blown speculation about Friendliness content which should be only done while wearing a gas mask or a clown suit, or after donating to SIAI.

Quoting CEV:

"In poetic terms, our coherent extrapolated volition is our wish if we knew more, thought faster, were more the people we wished we were, had grown up farther together; where the extrapolation converges rather than diverges, where our wishes cohere rather than interfere; extrapolated as we wish that extrapolated, interpreted as we wish that interpreted."

Also:

"Do we want our coherent extrapolated volition to satisfice, or maximize? My guess is that we want our coherent extrapolated volition to satisfice - to apply emergency first aid to human civilization, but not do humanity's work on our behalf, or decide our futures for us. If so, rather than trying to guess the optimal decision of a specific individual, the CEV would pick a solution that satisficed the spread of possibilities for the extrapolated statistical aggregate of humankind."

This should adddress your question. CEV would not typically modify humans on contradictions. But I repeat, this is all speculation.

It's not clear to me from your recent posts whether you've read the metaethics sequence and/or CEV; if you haven't, I recommend it whole-heartedly as it's the most detailed discussion of morality available. Regarding your obsession, I'm aware of it and I think I'm able to understand your history and vantage point that enable such distress to arise, although my current self finds the topic utterly trivial and essentially a non-problem.

Comment author: tut 26 January 2010 11:33:00AM 0 points [-]

...a perfectly objective, ... reason ...

How do you define this term?

Comment author: Kutta 26 January 2010 11:50:40AM *  0 points [-]

"Reason" here: a normal, unexceptional instance of cause and effect. It should be understood in a prosaic way, e.g. reason in a causal sense.

As for "objective", I borrowed it from the parent post to illustrate my point. To expand on "objective" a bit: everything that exists in physical reality is, and our morality is as physical and extant as a brick (via our physical brains), so what sense does it make to distinguish between "subjective" and "objective," or to refer to any phenomena as "objective" when in reality it is not a salient distinguishing feature.

If anything is "objective", then I see no reason why human morality is not, that's why I included the word in my post. But probably the best would be to simply refrain from generating further confusion by the objective/subjective distinction.

Comment author: tut 26 January 2010 12:25:14PM *  1 point [-]

Reason is not the same as cause. Cause is whatever brings something about in the physical world. Reason is a special kind of cause for intentional actions. Specifically a reason for an action is a thought which convinces the actor that the action is good. So an objective reason would need an objective basis for something being called good. I don't know of such a basis, and a bit more than a week ago half of the LW readers were beating up on Byrnema because she kept talking about objective reasons.

Comment author: Kutta 26 January 2010 05:46:11PM 0 points [-]

OK then, it was a misuse of the word from my part. Anyway, I'd never intend a teleological meaning for reasons discussed here before.

Comment author: ciphergoth 26 January 2010 08:43:00AM 0 points [-]

The FAI can make you feel as though you "think things and do stuff", just by changing your preferences.

Please read Not for the Sake of Happiness (Alone) which addresses this point.

Comment author: Stuart_Armstrong 26 January 2010 12:55:50PM 4 points [-]

To those who say they don't want to be wireheaded, how do you really know that, when you haven't tried wireheading?

Same reason I don't try heroin. Wireheading (as generally conceived) imposes a predictable change on the user's utility function; huge and irreversible. Gathering this information is not without cost.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 26 January 2010 01:20:46PM 4 points [-]

I'm not suggesting that you try wireheading now, I'm saying that an FAI can obtain this information without a high cost, and when it does, it may turn out that you actually do prefer to be wireheaded.

Comment author: Stuart_Armstrong 26 January 2010 02:05:44PM 3 points [-]

That's possible (especially the non-addictive type of wire heading).

Though this does touch upon issues of autonomy - I'd like the AI to run it by me, even though it will have correctly predicted that I'd accept.

Comment author: byrnema 26 January 2010 02:55:06AM *  4 points [-]

This is a very relevant post for me because I've been asking these questions in one form or another for several months. A framework of objective value (FOV) seems to be precluded by physical materialism. However, without it, I cannot see any coherent difference between being happy (or satisfied) because of what is going on in a simulation and what is going on in reality. Since value (that is, our personal, subjective value) isn't tied to any actual objective good in the universe, it doesn't matter to our subjective fulfillment if the universe is modified to be 'better' (with respect to our POV), a simulation we're in is modified to be better, or our preferences are modified.

For example, I asked the question several weeks ago here.

When I began to complain (at length...) that without FOV I felt like I was trapped in a machine carrying out instructions to satisfy preferences I neither care about nor am able to abort, it was recommended that I replace my preference for objective value with a preference for subjective value.

If it is true that the only solution to my problem with the non-existence of an FOV is to change my preference -- and I've already understood that the logical consequence of this is that any kind of preference fulfillment is equivalent to wire-heading -- then I'm simply not going to be very sympathetic to objections to wire-heading based on having preferences for not being wire-headed. It's simply not coherent; there's no difference.

Comment author: Furcas 26 January 2010 03:43:33AM *  3 points [-]

It's simply not coherent; there's no difference.

Yes there is.

The desire to be alive, to live in the real universe, and to continue having the same preferences/values is not at all like the desire to feel like our desires have been fulfilled. Our desires are patterns encoded within our brains that correspond to a (hopefully) possible state of reality. If we were to take the two desires/patterns described above and transform them into two strings of bits, the two strings would not be equal. There is an objective difference between them, just as there is an objective difference between Windows and Mac OS.

You seem to believe that because desires are something that can only exist inside a mind, therefore desires can only be about the state of one's mind. This is false; desires can be about all of reality, of which the state of one mind's is only a very small part.

Comment author: byrnema 26 January 2010 05:09:21AM *  2 points [-]

You seem to believe that because desires are something that can only exist inside a mind, therefore desires can only be about the state of one's mind.

I don't believe this, but I was concerned I would be interpreted this way.

I can have a subjective desire that a cup be objectively filled. I fill it with water, and my desire is objectively satisfied.

The problem I'm describing is that filling the cup is a terminal value with no objective value. I'm not going to drink it, I'm not going to admire how beautiful it is, I just want it filled because that is my desire.

I think that's useless. Since all the "goodness" is in my subjective preference, I might as well desire that an imaginary cup be filled, or write a story in which an imaginary cup is filled. (You may have trouble relating to filling a cup for no reason being a terminal value, but it is a good example because terminal values are equally objectively useless.)

But let's consider the example of saving a person from drowning. I understand that the typical preference is to actually save a person from drowning. However, my point is that if I am forced to acknowledge that there is no objective value in saving the person from drowning, then I must admit that my preference to save a person from drowning-actually is no better than a preference to save a person from drowning-virtually. It happens that I have the former preference, but I'm afraid it is incoherent.

Comment author: Alicorn 26 January 2010 05:13:40AM *  3 points [-]

The preference to really save a drowning person rather than virtually is better for the person who is drowning.

Of course, best would be for no one to need to be saved from drowning; then you could indulge an interest in virtually saving drowning people for fun as much as you liked without leaving anyone to really drown.

Comment author: denisbider 26 January 2010 02:26:39PM 3 points [-]

Actually, most games involve virtually killing, rather than virtually saving. I think that says something...

Comment author: Ghatanathoah 14 June 2012 04:55:13AM 0 points [-]

In most of those games the people you are killing are endangering someone. There are some games where you play a bad guy, but in the majority you're some sort of protector.

Comment author: thomblake 26 January 2010 07:20:05PM 2 points [-]

Caring about what's right might be as arbitrary (in some objective sense) as caring about what's prime, but we do actually happen to care about what's right.

Comment author: Blueberry 26 January 2010 07:07:42PM *  2 points [-]

I must admit that my preference to save a person from drowning-actually is no better than a preference to save a person from drowning-virtually. It happens that I have the former preference, but I'm afraid it is incoherent.

It's better, because it's what your preference actually is. There's nothing incoherent about having the preferences you have. In the end, we value some things just because we value them. An alien with different morality and different preferences might see the things we value as completely random. But they matter to us, because they matter to us.

Comment author: CronoDAS 26 January 2010 10:34:25AM *  2 points [-]

There is one way that I know of to handle this; I don't know if you'll find it satisfactory or not, but it's the best I've found so far. You can go slightly meta and evaluate desires as means instead of as ends, and ask which desires are most useful to have.

Of course, this raises the question "Useful for what?". Well, one thing desires can be useful for is fulfilling other desires. If I desire that people don't drown, which causes me to act on that desire by saving people from drowning so they can go on to fulfill whatever desires they happen to have, then my desire than people don't drown is a useful means for fulfilling other desires. Wanting to stop fake drownings isn't as useful a desire as wanting to stop actual drownings. And there does seem to be a more-or-less natural reference point against which to evaluate a set of desires: the set of all other desires that actually exist in the real world.

As luck would have it, this method of evaluating desires tends to work tolerably well. For example, the desire held by Clippy, the paperclip maximizer, to maximize the number of paperclips in the universe, doesn't hold up very well under this standard; relatively few desires that actually exist get fulfilled by maximizing paperclips. A desire to make only the number of paperclips that other people want is a much better desire.

(I hope that made sense.)

Comment author: byrnema 28 January 2010 05:52:44PM 0 points [-]

It does make sense. However, what would you make of the objection that it is semi-realist? A first-order realist position would claim that what is desired has objective value, while this represents the more subtle belief that the fulfillment of desire has objective value. I do agree -- it is very close to my own original realist position about value. I reasoned that there would be objective (real rather than illusory) value in the fulfillment of the desires of any sentient/valuing being, as some kind of property of their valuing.

Comment author: Jack 26 January 2010 03:50:41AM 1 point [-]

Maybe just have a rule that says:

  1. Fulfill preferences when possible.
  2. Change preferences when they are impossible to fulfill.
Comment author: CronoDAS 26 January 2010 10:40:15AM 2 points [-]

"The strength to change what I can, the ability to accept what I can't, and the wisdom to tell the difference?"

Personally, I prefer the Calvin and Hobbes version: the strength to change what I can, the inability to accept what I can't, and the incapacity to tell the difference. ;)

Comment author: JaapSuter 26 January 2010 08:29:55PM 9 points [-]

A number of people mention this one way or another, but an explicit search for "local maximum" doesn't match any specific comment - so I wanted to throw it out here.

Wireheading is very likely to put oneself in a local maximum of bliss. Though a wirehead may not care or even ponder about whether or not there exist greater maxima, it's a consideration that I'd take into account prior to wiring up.

Unless one is omniscient, the act of a permanent (-ish) state of wireheading means foregoing the possibility of discovering a greater point of wireheaded happiness.

I guess the very definition of wireheadedness bakes in the notion that you wouldn't care about that anymore - good for those taking the plunge and hooking up I suppose. Personally, the universe would have to throw me an above average amount of negative derivates before I'd say enough is enough, screw potential for higher maxima, I'll take this one...

Comment author: grouchymusicologist 26 January 2010 12:47:31AM *  9 points [-]

I just so happened to read Coherent Extrapolated Volition today. Insofar as this post is supposed to be about "what an FAI should do" (rather than just about your general feeling that objections to wire-heading are irrational), it seems to me that this post all really boils down to navel-gazing once you take CEV into account. Or in other words, this post isn't really about FAI at all.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 January 2010 12:20:44AM 15 points [-]

What I'm observing in the various FAI debates is a tendency of people to shy away from wire-heading as something the FAI should do. This reluctance is generally not substantiated or clarified with anything other than "clearly, this isn't what we want". This is not, however, clear to me at all.

I don't want that. There, did I make it clear?

If you are a utilitarian, and you believe in shut-up-and-multiply, then the correct thing for the FAI to do is to use up all available resources so as to maximize the number of beings, and then induce a state of permanent and ultimate enjoyment in every one of them.

Since when does shut-up-and-multiply mean "multiply utility by number of beings"?

If you don't want to be "reduced" to an eternal state of bliss, that's tough luck.

Heh heh.

Comment author: Raoul589 20 January 2013 12:02:28PM 1 point [-]

'I don't want that' doesn't imply 'we don't want that'. In fact, if the 'we' refers to humanity as a whole, then denisbider's position refutes the claim by definition.

Comment author: JamesAndrix 26 January 2010 03:13:30AM 3 points [-]

Even from a hedonistic perspective, 'Shut up and multiply' wouldn't necessarily equate to many beings experiencing pleasure.

It could come out to one superbeing experiencing maximal pleasure.

Actually, I think thinking this out (how big are entities, who are they?) will lead to good reasons why wireheading is not the answer.

Example: If I'm concerned about my personal pleasure, then maximizing the number of agents isn't a big issue. If my personal identity is less important than total pleasure maximizing, then I get killed and converted to orgasmium (be it one being or many). If my personal identity is more important... well, then we're not just multiplying hedons anymore.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 January 2010 01:06:30AM 12 points [-]

But I don't want to be a really big integer!

Comment author: ShardPhoenix 26 January 2010 11:46:00AM 3 points [-]

Too late?

Comment author: [deleted] 28 January 2010 08:34:24PM *  3 points [-]

"But I don't want to be a structure whose chief component is a very large integer with a straightforward isomorphism to something else, namely some unspecified notion of 'happiness'" is a little too cumbersome.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 29 January 2010 06:17:54AM 4 points [-]

If being wireheaded is like being a really big positive integer, then being anti-wireheaded (i.e., having large amounts of pain directly injected into your brain) must be like being a really big negative integer. So I guess if you had to choose between the two, you'd be pretty much indifferent, right?

Comment author: [deleted] 30 January 2010 01:51:20AM *  3 points [-]

I wouldn't be indifferent. If I had to choose between being wireheaded and being antiwireheaded, I would choose the former. I don't simply assign utility = 0 to simple pleasure or pain. I just don't think that wireheading is the most fun we could be having. If you asked someone on their deathbed what the best experiences of their life were, they probably wouldn't talk about sex or heroin (yes, this might be an ineffectual status grab or selectively committing only certain types of fun to memory, but I doubt it).

Comment author: Wei_Dai 30 January 2010 02:42:40AM 6 points [-]

This seems like a good example of logical rudeness to me. Your original comment was premised on an equivalence (which you explicitly spelled out later) between being wireheaded and being a large integer. I pointed out that accepting this premise would lead to indifference between wireheading and anti-wireheading. That was obviously meant to be a reductio ad absurdum. But you ignored the reductio and switched to talking about why wireheading is not the most fun we could be having.

To be clear, I don't think wireheading is necessarily the most fun we could be having. I just think we don't know enough about the nature of pleasure, fun, and/or preference to decide that right now.

Comment author: [deleted] 30 January 2010 02:58:51AM *  3 points [-]

You know, you're right. That was a bit of a non sequitur.

Back to the original point, I think I'm starting to chang my mind about the equivalence between a wirehead and a number (insert disclaimer about how everything is a number): after all, I'd feel worse about killing one than tilting an abacus.

Maybe "But I don't want to spend a lot of time doing something so simple" would work for version 3.0

Comment author: ciphergoth 30 January 2010 08:59:16AM 0 points [-]

If you were to ask me now what the best experiences of my life were, some of the sex I've had would definitely be up there, and I've had quite a variety of pleasurable experiences.

Comment author: wedrifid 29 January 2010 07:28:28AM 0 points [-]

So I guess if you had to choose between the two, you'd be pretty much indifferent, right?

You have a good point buried in there but the conclusion you suggest isn't necessarily implied.

Comment author: ciphergoth 30 January 2010 09:00:19AM 0 points [-]

FWIW, I'm seeing his point better than I'm seeing yours at the moment, and I found uninverted's argument convincing until I read Wei_Dai's response. Try being more explicit?

Comment author: wedrifid 30 January 2010 01:24:26PM *  2 points [-]

I can't get all that much more explicit. It's near the level of raw logic and the 'conclusion you suggest' is included as a direct quote in case there was any doubt. Let's see.

A I don't want to be a really big integer!
B If you had to choose between being a really big integer and a really big negative integer, you'd be pretty much indifferent.

B is not implied by A.

I would have replaced my (grandparent) comment with the phrase 'non sequitur' except I wanted to acknowledge that Wei_Dai is almost certainly considering related issues beyond the conclusion he actually offered.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 31 January 2010 03:57:13AM 0 points [-]

B is implied by "C Being any integer is of no value." which I took as an unspoken assumption that's shared between uninverted and I (and I thought it was likely that he accepts this assumption based on A). Does that answer your criticism, or not?

Comment author: wedrifid 31 January 2010 07:10:14AM 3 points [-]

C seems likely to me based on A only if I assume D (uninverted is silly). That's because there are other beliefs that could make one claim A that are more coherent than C. But let's ignore this little side track and just state what we (probably) all agree on:

  • Being a positive integer isn't particularly desirable.
  • Wireheading, orgasmium and positive floating point numbers or representations of 3(as many carats as fit in the galaxy here)3 are considered equivalent to 'positive integer' for most intents and purposes.
  • Being a negative integer is even worse than being a positive integer.
  • Being an integer at all is not that great.
  • Just being entropy sounds worse than just being a positive integer.
  • The universe ending up the same as if you weren't in it at all sounds worse than being a positive integer. (Depending on intuitive aversion to oblivion and torment some would say worse than being any sort of integer.)
  • Fun is better than orgasmic integerness.

If we disagree on these statements then that will actually be interesting. And it is quite possible that there is disagreement even on these. I've often been surprised when people have different intuitions than I expect.

Comment author: ciphergoth 30 January 2010 03:54:06PM -1 points [-]

The force of the argument "I don't want to be a really big integer" is that "being wireheaded takes away what makes me me, and so I stop being a person I can identify with and become a really big integer". If that were so, the same would apply to anti-wireheading, and Wei Dai's question would apply. If you agree that wireheading is more desirable than anti-wireheading, then this and other arguments that it's not more desirable than any other state don't directly apply.

Comment author: RobinZ 30 January 2010 06:02:08PM 1 point [-]

If we take the alternative reasonable interpretation "takes away almost everything what makes me me", no contradiction appears.

Comment author: ciphergoth 30 January 2010 06:24:23PM 1 point [-]

Yes, that makes sense.

Comment author: wedrifid 30 January 2010 04:47:29PM *  0 points [-]

this and other arguments that it's not more desirable than any other state

I reject this combination of words and maintain my previous position.

Comment author: RobertWiblin 29 January 2010 02:05:36PM -2 points [-]

You will be gone and something which does want to be a big integer will replace you and use your resources more effectively. Both hedonistic and preference utilitarianism demand it.

Comment author: [deleted] 30 January 2010 01:32:07AM *  1 point [-]

Preference utilitarianism as I understand it implies nothing more than using utility to rank universe states. That doesn't imply anything about what the most efficient use of matter is. As for hedonistic utilitarians, why would any existing mind want to build something like that or grow into something like that? Further, why would something like that be better at seizing resources?

Comment author: RobertWiblin 30 January 2010 09:17:56AM -2 points [-]

I am using (total) preference utilitarianism to mean: "we should act so as to maximise the number of beings' preferences that are satisfied anywhere at any time".

"As for hedonistic utilitarians, why would any existing mind want to build something like that or grow into something like that?"

Because they are not selfish and they are concerned about the welfare of that being in proportion to its ability to have experiences?

"Further, why would something like that be better at seizing resources?"

That's a weakness, but at some point we have to start switching from maximising resource capture to using those resources to generate good preference satisfaction (or good experiences if you're a hedonist). At that point a single giant 'utility monster' seems most efficient.

Comment author: thomblake 29 January 2010 02:07:01PM 1 point [-]

For reference, the "utilitarians" 'round these parts tend to be neither of those.

Comment author: RobertWiblin 29 January 2010 04:43:54PM 1 point [-]

What are they then?

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 27 January 2010 03:46:47AM *  -2 points [-]

You are confusing a thing and its measurement.

Comment author: [deleted] 29 January 2010 12:09:14AM 1 point [-]

If a video game uses an unsigned 32 bit integer for your score, then how would that integer differ from your (abstract platonic) score?

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 02 February 2010 11:37:21PM *  0 points [-]

My "abstract platonic score" is a measurement of my happiness, and my happiness is determined by the chemical processes of my brain. My video game score is a measure of my success playing a video game. If the number on the screen ceases to correlate well with the sort of success I care about, I will disregard it. I won't be particularly thrilled if my score triples for no apparent reason, and I won't be particularly thrilled if the number you are using to approximate my happiness triples either.

Comment author: jimrandomh 26 January 2010 12:08:12AM 2 points [-]

It is worth noting that in Christian theology, heaven is only reached after death, and both going there early and sending people there early are explicitly forbidden.

While an infinite duration of bliss has very high utility, that utility must be finite, since infinite utility anywhere causes things to go awry when handling small probabilities of getting that utility. It is also not the only term in a human utility function; living as a non-wirehead for awhile to collect other types of utilons and then getting wireheaded is better than getting wireheaded immediately. Therefore, it seems like the sensible thing for a FAI to do is to offer wireheading as an option, but not to force the issue except in cases of imminent death.

Comment author: denisbider 26 January 2010 01:35:15PM 2 points [-]

If we take for granted that an AI that is friendly to all potential creatures is out of the question - that the only type of FAI we really want is one that's just friendly to us - then the following is the next issue I see.

If we all think it's so great to be autonomous, to feel like we're doing all of our own work, all of our own thinking, all of our own exploration - then why does anyone want to build an AI in the first place?

Isn't the world, as it is, lacking an all-powerful AI, perfectly suited to our desires of control and autonomy?

Suppose an AI-friendly-to-you exists, and you know that you can always ask it to expand your mind, and download into you everything it knows about the issues you care for, short-circuiting thousands of years of work that it would otherwise take for you to make the same discoveries.

Doesn't it seem pointless to be doing all that work, if you know that FAI can already provide you with all the answers?

Furthermore, again supposing an AI-friendly-to-you exists - you know that you can always ask it to wire-head you. In any given year, there is a negligible, but non-zero probability that you'll succumb to the temptation. Once you do succumb to the temptation, it will feel so great that you will never ever want to do the boring "thinking and doing stuff" again. You will be constantly blissful, and anything you want to know about the universe will be immediately available to you, through a direct interface with FAI.

It doesn't take much to see that, whether it takes a thousand years or a million years before you succumb, you will eventually choose to be wire-headed; you will choose this much sooner than the universe ends; and the vast majority of your total existence will be lived that way.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 26 January 2010 01:44:32PM 1 point [-]

If the FAI values that we value independence, and values that we value autonomy - which I think it would have to, to be considered properly Friendly - and if wireheading is an threat to our ability to maintain those values, it doesn't make sense that the FAI would make wireheading available for the asking. It makes much more sense that the FAI would actively protect us from wireheading as it would from any other existential threat, in that case.

(Also, just because it would protect us from existential threats, that wouldn't imply that it would protect us from non-existential ones. Part of the idea is that it's very smart: It can figure out the balance of protecting and not-protecting that best preserves its values, and by extension ours.)

Comment author: timtyler 25 January 2010 11:52:25PM 0 points [-]

In biology, 1 and 2 are proximate goals and 3 is an implementation detail.

Comment author: Ghatanathoah 14 June 2012 06:33:02AM *  0 points [-]

This is one of the most horrifying things I have ever read. Most of the commenters have done a good just of poking holes in it, but I thought I'd add my take on a few things.

This reluctance is generally not substantiated or clarified with anything other than "clearly, this isn't what we want".

Some good and detailed explanations are here, here, here, here, and here.

If you are a utilitarian, and you believe in shut-up-and-multiply, then the correct thing for the FAI to do is to use up all available resources so as to maximize the number of beings,

No, the correct thing for an FAI to do is to use some resources to increase the number of beings and some to increase the utility of existing beings. You are assuming that creating new beings does not have diminishing returns. I find this highly unlikely. Most activities generate less value the more we do them. I don't see why this would change for creating new beings.

Having new creatures that enjoy life is certainly a good thing. But so is enhancing the life satisfaction of existing creatures. I don't think one of these things is categorically more valuable than the other. I think they are both incrementally valuable.

In other words, as I've said before, the question is not, "Should we maximize total utility or average utility?" It's "How many resources should be devoted to increasing total utility, and how many to increasing average utility?"

and then induce a state of permanent and ultimate enjoyment in every one of them.

Wouldn't it be even more efficient to just create creatures that feel nothing except a vague preference to keep on existing, which is always satisfied?

Or maybe we shouldn't try to minmax morality. Maybe we should understand that phrases like "maximize pleasure" and "maximize preference satisfaction" are just rules of thumb that reflect a deeper and more complex set of moral values.

The most energy efficient way to create any kind of enjoyment, however, is to stimulate the brain-equivalent directly.

Again, you're assuming all enjoyments are equivalent and don't generate diminishing returns. Pleasure is valuable, but it has diminishing returns, you get more overall value by increasing lots of different kinds of positive things, not just pleasure.

In fact, I can hardly tell this apart from the concept of a Christian Heaven, which appears to be a place where Christians very much want to get.

If you're right this is just proof that Christians are really bad at constructing Heaven. But I don't think you are, most Christians I know think heaven is far more complex than just sitting around feeling good.

If you don't want to be "reduced" to an eternal state of bliss, that's tough luck. The alternative would be for the FAI to create an environment for you to play in, consuming precious resources that could sustain more creatures in a permanently blissful state.

The alternative you suggest is a very good alternative. Creating all those blissful creatures would be a waste of valuable resources that could be used to enhance the preferences of already existing creatures. Again, creating new creatures is often a good thing, but it has diminishing returns.

Now for some rebuttals to your statements in the comments section:

If we all think it's so great to be autonomous, to feel like we're doing all of our own work, all of our own thinking, all of our own exploration - then why does anyone want to build an AI in the first place?

Again, complex values and diminishing returns. Autonomy is good, but if an FAI can help us obtain some other values it might be good to cede a little of our autonomy to it.

I find that comparable to a depressed person who doesn't want to cure his depression, because it would "change who he is". Well, yeah; but for the better.

It's immoral and illegal to force people to medicate for a reason. That being said, depression isn't a disease that changes what your desires are. It's a disease that makes it harder to achieve your desires. If you cured it you'd be better at achieving your desires, which would be a good thing. If a cure radically changed what your desires were it would be a bad thing.

That being said, I wouldn't necessarily object to rewiring humans so that we feel pleasure more easily,, as long as it fulfilled two conditions: 1. That pleasure must have a referent. You have to do something to trigger the reward center in order to feel it, stimulating the brain directly would be bad. 2. The increase must be proportional. I should still enjoy a good movie better then a bad movie, even if I enjoy them both a lot more.

Wei explains that most of the readership are preference utilitarians, who believe in satisfying people's preferences, not maximizing pleasure.

That's fine enough, but if you think that we should take into account the preferences of creatures that could exist, then I find it hard to imagine that a creature would prefer not to exist, than to exist in a state where it permanently experiences amazing pleasure.

I don't think that that it's ethical, or possible to take into account the hypothetical preferences of nonexistant creatures. That's not even a logically coherent concept. If a creature doesn't exist, then it doesn't have preferences. I don't think it's logically possible to prefer to exist if you don't already. Besides, as I said before, it would be even more efficient to create a creature that can't feel pleasure, that just has a vague preference to keep on existing that would always be satisfied as long as it existed. But I doubt you would want to do that.

Besides, for every hypothetical creature that wants to exist and feel pleasure, there's another hypothetical creature that wants that creature to not exist, or feel pain. Why are we ignoring those creature's preferences?

The only way preference utilitarianism can avoid the global maximum of Heaven is to ignore the preferences of potential creatures. But that is selfish.

No, it isn't. Selfishness is when you severely thwart someone's preferences to mildly enhance your own. It's not selfish to thwart nonexistant preferences because they don't exist. That's like saying it's gluttonous to eat nonexistant food, or vain to wear nonexistant costume jewelry.

The reason some people find the idea that you have to respect the preferences of all potential creatures is that they believe (correctly) that they have an obligation to make sure people who exist in the future will have satisfied preferences. But that isn't because nonexistant people's preference have weight. It's because it's good for whoever exists at the moment to have highly satisfied preferences, so as soon as a creature comes into existence you have a duty to make sure it is satisfied. And the reason those people's preferences are highly satisfied should be that they are strong, powerful, and have lots of friends, not because they were genetically modified to have really really unambitious preferences.

If you don't want Heaven, then you don't want a universally friendly AI. What you really want is an AI that is friendly just to you.

I want a universally friendly AI, but since nonexistant creatures don't exist in this universe, not creating them isn't universally unfriendly.

Also, I find it highly suspect, to say the least, that you start by arguing for "Heaven" because you think that all human desires can be reduced to the desire to feel certain emotions, but then when the commenters have poked holes in that idea you suddenly change and use a completely different justification (the logically incoherent idea that we have to respect the nonexistant preferences of nonexistant people) to defend it.

The infinite universe argument can be used as an excuse to do pretty much anything. Why not just torture and kill everyone and everything in our Hubble volume? ... If there are infinite copies of everyone and everything, then there's no harm done.

I find it helpful to think of having a copy as a form of life extension, except done serially instead of linearly. An exact duplicate of you who lives for 70 years is similar to living an extra 70 years. So torturing everyone because they have duplicates would be equivalent to torturing someone for half their lifespan and then saying that it's okay because they still have half a lifespan leftover.

Whatever happens outside of our Hubble volume has no consequence for us, and neither adds to nor alleviates our responsibility.

Again, if these creatures exist somewhere else, then if you create them you aren't really creating them, you're extending their lifespan. Now, having a long lifespan is one way of having a high quality of life, but it isn't the only way, and it does have diminishing returns, especially when it's serial instead of linear, and you don't share your copy's memories. So it seems logical that, in addition to focusing on making people live longer, we should increase their quality of life in other ways, such as devoting resources to making them richer and more satisfied.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 January 2012 08:57:09PM 0 points [-]

So this begs(?) the question: Our brains pleasure circuitry is the ultimate arbitrator on whether an action is "good" [y/N]?

I would say that our pleasure centre is, like our words-feel-like-meaningful, our map-feels-like-territory, our world-feels-agent-driven, our consciousness-feels-special, etc. It is a good enough evolutionary heuristic that made our ancestors survive to breed us.

I am at this point tempted to shout "Stop the presses, pleasure isn't the ultimate good!" Yes, wire heading is of course the best way to fulfil that little feeling-good part of your brain. Is it constructive? Meh.

I would trade my pleasure centre for intuitive multiplication any day.

Comment author: aausch 08 February 2010 02:28:56PM 0 points [-]

Point 3. doesn´t seem to belong in the same category as 1. and 2.

Comment author: RobertWiblin 30 January 2010 05:28:38AM 0 points [-]

What if we could create a wirehead that made us feel as though we were doing 1 or 2? Would that be satisfactory to more people?

Comment author: denisbider 26 January 2010 01:04:22PM *  -2 points [-]

I'll just comment on what most people are missing, because most reactions seem to be missing a similar thing.

Wei explains that most of the readership are preference utilitarians, who believe in satisfying people's preferences, not maximizing pleasure.

That's fine enough, but if you think that we should take into account the preferences of creatures that could exist, then I find it hard to imagine that a creature would prefer not to exist, than to exist in a state where it permanently experiences amazing pleasure.

Given that potential creatures outnumber existing creatures many times over, the preferences of existing creatures - that we wish to selfishly keep the universe's resources to ourselves, so we can explore and think and have misguided lofty impressions about ourselves, and whatnot - all of those preferences don't count that much in the face of many more creatures that would prefer to exist, and be wireheaded, than not to exist at all.

The only way preference utilitarianism can avoid the global maximum of Heaven is to ignore the preferences of potential creatures. But that is selfish.

If you don't want Heaven, then you don't want a universally friendly AI. What you really want is an AI that is friendly just to you.

Comment author: timtyler 27 January 2010 11:05:41AM *  4 points [-]

I doubt anyone here acts in a manner remotely similar to the way utilitarianism recommends. Utilitarianism is an unbiological conception about how to behave - and consequently is extremely difficult for real organisms to adhere to. Real organisms frequently engage in activities such as nepotism. Some people pay lip service to utilitarianism because it sounds nice and signals a moral nature - but they don't actually adhere to it.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 26 January 2010 01:30:33PM *  1 point [-]

Eliezer posted an argument against taking into account the preferences of people who don't exist. I think utilitarianism, in order to be consistent, perhaps does need to take into account those preferences, but it's not clear how that would really work. What weights do you put on the utility functions of those non-existent creatures?

Comment author: denisbider 26 January 2010 01:52:34PM *  3 points [-]

I don't find Eliezer's argument convincing. The infinite universe argument can be used as an excuse to do pretty much anything. Why not just torture and kill everyone and everything in our Hubble volume? Surely identical copies exist elsewhere. If there are infinite copies of everyone and everything, then there's no harm done.

That doesn't fly. Whatever happens outside of our Hubble volume has no consequence for us, and neither adds to nor alleviates our responsibility. Infinite universe or not, we are still responsible not just for what is, but also for what could be, in the space under our influence.

Comment author: V_V 26 January 2013 04:34:28PM *  -1 points [-]

If you are a utilitarian, and you believe in shut-up-and-multiply, then the correct thing for the FAI to do is to use up all available resources so as to maximize the number of beings, and then induce a state of permanent and ultimate enjoyment in every one of them. This enjoyment could be of any type - it could be explorative or creative or hedonic enjoyment as we know it. The most energy efficient way to create any kind of enjoyment, however, is to stimulate the brain-equivalent directly. Therefore, the greatest utility will be achieved by wire-heading. Everything else falls short of that.

That's why utilitarianism is a bad idea, expecially if you are allowed to modify the agents. Think about it, humans would be a terrible waste of energy if their only purpose was to have their hedonic pleasure maximized. Mice would be more efficient. Or monocellular organisms. Or registers inside the memory of a computer that get incremented as fast as possible.

What I don't quite understand is why everyone thinks that this would be such a horrible outcome. As far as I can tell, these seem to be cached emotions that are suitable for our world, but not for the world of FAI. In our world, we truly do need to constantly explore and create, or else we will suffer the consequences of not mastering our environment.

You have it backwards. Why do you need not to suffer the consequences of not mastering our environment?

In a world where FAI exists, there is no longer a point, nor even a possibility, of mastering our environment. The FAI masters our environment for us, and there is no longer a reason to avoid hedonic pleasure. It is no longer a trap.

There is no longer any "us" in your hedonic "heaven". It is a world populated by minimalistic agents, all equal to each other, with no memories, no sense of personal identity, no conscious experiences. Life and death would be meanignless concepts to those things, like any other concept, since they wouldn't be capable of anything close to what we call thinking.

Is that what you want the world to become?

Since the FAI can sustain us in safety until the universe goes poof, there is no reason for everyone not to experience ultimate enjoyment in the meanwhile. In fact, I can hardly tell this apart from the concept of a Christian Heaven, which appears to be a place where Christians very much want to get.

Yes, and in fact the Christian Heaven is not a coherent concept. There can't be happiness without pain. No satisfaction without unquenched desire. If you give an agent anything it can possibly ever want, it stops being an agent.

These parallels reinforce my belief that Singularitarianism is just a thinly veiled version of Christianity.

Comment author: jacoblyles 18 July 2012 10:03:00PM *  0 points [-]

This reminds me of a thought I had recently - whether or not God exists, God is coming - as long as humans continue to make technological progress. Although we may regret it (for one, brief instant) when he gets here. Of course, our God will be bound by the laws of the universe, unlike the Theist God.

The Christian God is an interesting God. He's something of a utilitarian. He values joy and created humans in a joyful state. But he values freedom over joy. He wanted humans to be like himself, living in joy but having free will. Joy is beautiful to him, but it is meaningless if his creations don't have the ability to choose not-joy. When his creations did choose not-joy, he was sad but he knew it was a possibility. So he gave them help to make it easier to get back to joy.

I know that LW is sensitive to extended religious reference. Please forgive me for skipping the step of translating interesting moral insights from theology into non-religious speak.

I do hope that the beings we make which are orders of magnitude more powerful than us have some sort of complex value system, and not anything as simple as naive algebraic utilitarianism. If they value freedom first, then joy, then they will not enslave us to the joy machines - unless we choose it.

(Side note: this post is tagged with "shut-up-and-multiply". That phrase trips the warning signs for me of a fake utility function, as it always seems to be followed by some naive algebraic utilitarian assertion that makes ethics sound like a solved problem).

edit: Whoa, my expression of my emotional distaste for "shut up and multiply" seems to be attracting down-votes. I'll take it out.