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Reality is weirdly normal

33 RobbBB 25 August 2013 07:29PM

Related to: When Anthropomorphism Became Stupid, Reductionism, How to Convince Me That 2 + 2 = 3

"Reality is normal." That is: Surprise, confusion, and mystery are features of maps, not of territories. If you would think like reality, cultivate outrage at yourself for failing to intuit the data, not resentment at the data for being counter-intuitive.

"Not one unusual thing has ever happened." That is: Ours is a tight-knit and monochrome country. The cosmos is simple, tidy, lawful. "[T]here is no surprise from a causal viewpoint — no disruption of the physical order of the universe."

"It all adds up to normality." That is: Whatever is true of fundamental reality does not exist in a separate universe from our everyday activities. It composes those activities. The perfected description of our universe must in principle allow us to reproduce the appearances we started with.

These maxims are remedies to magical mereology, anthropocentrism, and all manner of philosophical panic. But reading too much (or too little) into them can lead seekers from the Path. For instance, they may be wrongly taken to mean that the world is obliged to validate our initial impressions or our untrained intuitions. As a further corrective, I suggest: Reality is weirdly normal. It's "normal" in odd ways, by strange means, in surprising senses.

At the risk of vivisecting poetry, and maybe of stating the obvious, I'll point out that the maxims mean different things by "normal". In the first two, what's "normal" or "usual" is the universe taken on its own terms — the cosmos as it sees itself, or as an ideally calibrated demon would see it. In the third maxim, what's "normal" is the universe humanity perceives — though this still doesn't identify normality with what's believed or expected. Actually, it will take some philosophical work to articulate just what Egan's "normality" should amount to. I'll start with Copernicanism and reductionism, and then I'll revisit that question.

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Request For Article: Many-Worlds Quantum Computing

5 pre 19 November 2009 11:31PM

Through a path more tortuous than is worth describing, I ended up talking to friends about the quantum effects which are exploited by photosynthesis. There's an article describing the topic we were talking about here.

The article describes how quantum effects allow the molecular machinary of the chloroplasts to "simultaneously sample all the potential energy pathways and choose the most efficient one."

Which is essentially how Quantum Computing is usually described in the press too, only we get to set what we mean by "most efficient" to be "best solution to this problem".

Since I usually find myself arguing that "there is no wave collapse," the conversation has lead me to trying to picture how this "exploring" can happen unless there is also some "pruning" at the end of it.

Of course even in the Copenhagen Interpretation "wave collapse" always happens in accordance with the probabilities described by the wave function, so presumably the system is engineered in such a way as to make that "most efficient" result the most probable according to those equations.

It's not somehow consistently picking results from the far end of the bell-curve of probable outcomes. It's just engineered so that bell-curve is centred on the most efficient outcomes.

There's no 'collapse', it's just that the system has been set up in such a way that the most likely and therefore common universes have the property that the energy is transferred.

Or something. Dunno.

Can someone write an article describing how quantum computing works from a many-words perspective rather than the explore-and-then-prune perspective that it seems every press article I've ever read on the topic uses?

Pretty please?

I'd like to read that.


How to think like a quantum monadologist

-14 Mitchell_Porter 15 October 2009 09:37AM

Half the responses to my last article focused on the subject of consciousness, understandably so. Back when LW was still part of OB, I stated my views in more detail (e.g. here, here, here, and here); and I also think it's just obvious, once you allow yourself to notice, that the physics we have does not even contain the everyday phenomenon of color, so something has to change. However, it also seems that people won't change their minds until a concrete alternative to physics-as-usual and de facto property dualism actually comes along. Therefore, I have set out to explain how to think like a quantum monadologist, which is what I will call myself.

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Quantum Russian Roulette

6 Christian_Szegedy 18 September 2009 08:49AM

The quantum Russian roulette is a game where 16 people participate. Each of them gets a unique four digit binary code assigned and deposits $50000. They are put to deep sleep using some drug. The organizer flips a quantum coin four times. Unlike in Russian roulette, here only the participant survives whose code was flipped. The others are executed in a completely painless manner. The survivor takes all the money.

Let us assume that none of them have families or very good friends. Then the only result of the game is that the guy who wins will enjoy a much better quality of life. The others die in his Everett branch, but they live on in others. So everybody's only subjective experience will be that he went into a room and woke up $750000 richer.

Being extremely spooky to our human intuition, there are hardly any trivial objective reasons to oppose this game under the following assumptions:

  1. Average utilitarianism
  2. Near 100% confidence in the Multiple World nature of our universe
  3. It is possible to kill someone without invoking any negative experiences.
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