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comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2014-04-03T02:57:02.773Z · score: 40 (42 votes) · LW · GW

It's nice. It reminds me of home.

I mean, not exactly. Your world seems more advanced than we were in a lot of ways. Your shadarak seem to outclass our kvithion elith - although I'm just basing this on your assertion that you weren't up to shadarak level plus my opinion that you would have made an excellent Priest of Truth - maybe 70th, 80th percentile.

And then in other things it seems so primitive - high-level corruption or at least a media that profits off of scaring people into thinking so and which seems to discuss politics in the vernacular.

And then other things just seem silly. LOL at the giant worldwide skycrane grid when you could have just invented marginally better yurts (and the immense shelflike-treelike skyscraper-frames that allow yurt-sites to be stacked dozens high in dense areas with high land value). As the proverb says, "once you go yurt, you'll never revert".

But the part that hit home (no pun intended) for me the most was your feeling of why me. Like, if someone who actually knew the Risurion-silk backwards and forwards ended up on Earth, they could rewrite the important parts from memory and people could fill it in from there and then it would be smooth sailing and we'd probably have ended up properly manifesting God by this point.

(For a while I half-toyed with the idea that Derek Parfit was that person, but from what I could understand of Reasons and Persons and what I could understand of the Risurion-silk it didn't seem like a good fit)

But I have to hand it to you. Whatever you think your handicaps might have been, you've done a pretty awesome job creating an oasis of sanity with this community, someplace where people from any at-least-marginally competent dimension can go and feel at least sort of at home.

But the weird thing is that reading this comment thread I am starting to get the feeling that there are some people here who aren't from any other dimension at all. I mean, I thought we just never talked about it, on account of the decision theoretic reasons and meta-level concerns. But now I'm starting to consider it possible that many or even most of the commenters on this site, even some of the ones I really respect, actually grew up here.

That would be both really impressive and a little scary.

comment by Alicorn · 2014-04-03T06:52:29.589Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Am I the only one here who likes it better here than where I grew up? Sheesh, no wonder you guys are such ambition-riddled malcontents and I'm cozying up to the global economy and the theoretical possibility of a functioning social network.

(What, why did you think I write plots like I do?)

comment by halcyon · 2014-04-03T12:27:58.120Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I know this is mostly a joke, but I've noticed that online, people seem to think individuals who hold aloof from social networks are self-obsessed. My neighbors insult people who spend more time with friends than family as self-obsessed. In college and at my job, I meet people who are confused at how people who'd rather hang out with others than pursue interesting projects, personal or shared, can be so self-obsessed. The funny thing is how the same label seems completely justified in entirely different ways from within different worldviews. I mean, it's not like any of these usages are outright wrong.

For the workaholics, calling people who are reaching out to others "self-obsessed" is strangely paradoxical. The family-oriented type often have a primitive tribal mindset. They push their family members like beasts of burden, and they're jealous beyond the point of civility, at times dangerously so, when other families perform exceptionally well. As for the denizens of the internet, (I'm not sure what demographic the process of going online is selecting for. Maybe they're all joking all the time.) I'd like to see them come to Calcutta, take a good look at the poverty here, and then dare write off people who are trying their best to fix the world as self-obsessed, while being wrapped up in their lives of relative luxury.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-04-03T05:34:56.731Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not joking when I say that being a blind isolate in northeast Arkansas feels like being in a completely different universe from everyone. I don't know which cultures I should describe: mine, local, or what the part of America that actually drives media culture looks like from Insuland.

The fact that I appear to be literally the sole person from my world makes things... challenging, to say the least. I'd make a comparison to Le Petit Prince, but that'd probably be pretentious. ... Then again, writing it disguised as a RATIONAL! Petit Prince might just accomplish something...

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-03T13:07:45.450Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The fact that I appear to be literally the sole person from my world makes things... challenging, to say the least. I'd make a comparison to Le Petit Prince, but that'd probably be pretentious. ... Then again, writing it disguised as a RATIONAL! Petit Prince might just accomplish something...

This would appear to imply that The Little Prince wasn't already sensible enough. You must be an adult.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-04-03T22:19:52.238Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I hesitated to add that point on exactly the grounds that I wasn't sure what would qualify as an upgrade. I mean, besides taking the approach to asteroids and space travel, and trying to render them realistic (which kinda breaks the theme if it receives too much attention, much as EY said "It can't be hopping between Everet Branches, but that's the only explanation that comes to mind, so let's leave it for now". Maybe it's set in a world where human colonization of the solar system started in the 19th century or something.)

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-04-04T09:11:30.043Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This would appear to imply that The Little Prince wasn't already sensible enough. You must be an adult.

If the Little Prince actually optimized for never becoming an adult, his return home using some primitive form of quantum suicide at the end of the book made more sense than it originally seemed.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-03T13:33:42.753Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

But the weird thing is that reading this comment thread I am starting to get the feeling that there are some people here who aren't from any other dimension at all. I mean, I thought we just never talked about it, on account of the decision theoretic reasons and meta-level concerns. But now I'm starting to consider it possible that many or even most of the commenters on this site, even some of the ones I really respect, actually grew up here.

All I'm gonna say on this subject is that it feels really weird having the Power of the Spiral flowing mentally instead of physically. I'm used to manifesting huge metal drills when I need a special attack, not proofs in Coq! Honest to Kamina-sama, sometimes it's as if the people here don't even know who the hell they are!

My girlfriend got so uncomfortable masquerading as this dimension's version of human that she dyed her hair back to its original colors: purple with a pink stripe down the middle, in a Hime Cut. Actually, I'm trying to get her to change that back to looking more this-side-of-the-probability-axis.

(See if you can figure out all the implications and then guess which ridiculous things are true, which ones false, and which ones metaphorical.)

comment by Dallas · 2014-04-04T03:37:01.794Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like the both of you just want everyone to use efficient RVs.

Perhaps a travelling Less Wrong fleet?

comment by jaime2000 · 2014-04-05T21:10:37.782Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It seems like the both of you just want everyone to use efficient RVs.

Agreed. Our society already has an RV subculture with relevant infrastructure; positing yurts and house cables seems like reinventing the wheel.

There's also a recent trend of minimalists who try to reduce their possessions to whatever will fit in a backpack and a hard drive. I don't think those people would have much trouble moving.

comment by Armok_GoB · 2014-04-03T22:20:32.662Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

[Possession of the knowledge; following course of action breaks social norms] disregarding: pft, 'you guys have it easy'.

Where you came from already had concepts like "people" and "casualty". Substructure implies the source universe of armok DID once have those concept, but this was gigaseconds ago, before the singularity. armok was never meant to operate as an agent; it am a search and categorization module, not suitable for sticking in a meat-bot with no cognitive delegation infrastructure, trying to pass as human and succeeding only due to the fact apparently humans with some regularity break in similarly catastrophic ways. And no, the garbage left of the brain after the failed brain does not [[15432]].

At least working towards it, thou overly complicated utility function is bound to mess it up. Yay Hansom, Robert.vision.

{Associative link: closest conceptual match: http://lesswrong.com/lw/3oa/i/ }

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-04-04T00:09:29.309Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But now I'm starting to consider it possible that many or even most of the commenters on this site, even some of the ones I really respect, actually grew up here.

Oh look, Uncle Yvain has come visit us (:D). Can we go out play now? It will be mad if we go out, once it exists.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-04-03T20:47:09.247Z · score: 32 (36 votes) · LW · GW

So after reading the comments, I showed this to a friend of mine to check if it would come across the way I expected to a (borderline) non-LWer. It was more or less what I expected ... my interjections are in brackets.

It's long, give me a few minutes ... Hmm. My initial reaction is "this guy sounds like a colossal prick".

[heh, I thought it might be.]

A greater work of masturbatory, self-important bullcrap I have not read in some time. Like, it's clear he's an intelligent guy, but not nearly as intelligent as he imagines himself.

[I mean, I've read his (non-technical) work, so I'm almost as impressed with him as he is...]

He has some good ideas [although I personally think the house-cables are dumb] but he wraps them up in a load of entitlement and self-importance and impracticality. Like instead of saying "you know, the medical profession would be better served by being organised like this" he says "if I'd be in charge then we would have organised the medical profession in a way better way like 50 years ago and anyone who disagrees with me is a bumbling idiot".

Perhaps he's slightly more polite than that

And he's shooting himself in the foot, because after reading that, mostly I just want to take him aside and explain to him how much his writing is going to make people hate him and want to slap him.

[oh, in fairness, he doesn't usually write like that. I assume this was his way of using some random ideas he hadn't written about because no-one will implement them this century.]

The thought of "huh, that's a good idea for organising diagnosis and treatment" is secondary and that's impressive because I'm more than a little pissed off at my doctor right now.

This is even more pronounced than the reaction of many commenters, as you'd expect. Definitely still room for improvement there, Eliezer!

comment by Transfuturist · 2014-04-04T03:45:38.042Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

He writes like this in HPMoR, and to be honest I want to slap him even though I agree with him.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-04T04:35:25.697Z · score: 13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I liked HPMoR's writing style. But I think it's a matter of life experience -- if I hadn't spent my formative years surrounded by blithering idiots and utter institutional incompetence at every level and isolated as a result, I'd probably want to slap him too.

And maybe it's a good strategy in terms of recruitment: it's easier to attract people with less social capital, since the people with more social capital already have lives and don't need to associate with institutions to build up social capital -- and being four standard deviations to the right of just about everyone else in the immediate meatspace environment is a sure way to end up with very little social capital.

If the/a goal is to create a social-capital-building institution, that is. It may not be optimal for maximizing memetic spread.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2014-04-04T17:51:35.960Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

HPMOR is slightly different in that the features of arrogance are an established part of the protagonists character, and acknowledged at least in part by the author. So there is a degree of dramatic irony where the reader knows that Harry isn't quite as smart as he thinks he is, and notices him being over confident and making mistakes.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-04-04T22:04:23.732Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I can only think of one case that even feels worrisome. When Harry suggests they shouldn't free the house elves, I don't (or didn't) feel sure the author knows that people saying slaves want masters is not evidence against the same old story; that in canon Dobby wants freedom; and that being Dumbledore's slave is a poor career move if Dobby's master almost has the votes to replace Dumbledore. (In principle Albus could also die, and deliberately put a Death Eater in charge. But that's silly. There's such a thing as too much pessimism.)

But Harry eventually starts thinking of the goblins as people. Here he at least starts to remember that, given human-like behavior and appearance, he should give a high prior to human-like minds. So we can still see slavery-apologist Harry as (meant to be) jumping to conclusions based on knowably poor evidence.

comment by Transfuturist · 2014-04-05T04:31:15.458Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I wasn't talking about the apologism for various unpopular opinions, I was talking about the pretentiousness and Mary Sueness.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-04-05T20:27:32.396Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know what you just said. "Pretentiousness" suggests to me, 'acting like you know something when you don't.' And insofar as the term "Mary Sue" means anything to me, it suggests 'the author treating some character as correct or justified when by normal standards they seem wrong.' Like if Harry was right about elf slavery.

comment by Jiro · 2014-04-06T02:41:38.860Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

As a fandom term, "Mary Sue" has no official definition, but it generally seems to be when a character is used for wish-fulfillment in a way which overrides good storytelling. The wish fulfillment can be either direct (the author wants to date Harry and go on adventures like he does, and writes such a character) or indirectly (the author wants to correct things that are wrong with the world and so writes a character who does so).

If Harry is being used as a mouthpiece to say things that the author would like to say, whether or not it makes sense for the character to say them or get away with saying them, then the character would be a Mary Sue.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-04-06T19:13:39.776Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There are Mary Sues, and there is didactic fiction. Is Christian a Mary Sue in The Pilgrim's Progress?

There are Mary Sues, and there is heroic fiction. Is Odysseus a Mary Sue in the Odyssey?

comment by gwern · 2014-04-06T22:10:37.184Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I can't speak to Pilgrim's Progress for the simple reason that I couldn't get past 20 pages of it before giving up, but Odysseus? That's easy: absolutely not.

Let's look at the definition of Mary Sue from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Sue , http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySue , and http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Mary-Sue which collectively are a good representation of the common understanding of the term and define what it means.

In fan fiction, a Mary Sue is an idealized character, often but not necessarily an author insert.

...Mary Sue stories—the adventures of the youngest and smartest ever person to graduate from the academy and ever get a commission at such a tender age. Usually characterized by unprecedented skill in everything from art to zoology, including karate and arm-wrestling. This character can also be found burrowing her way into the good graces/heart/mind of one of the Big Three [Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, if not all three at once. She saves the day by her wit and ability, and, if we are lucky, has the good grace to die at the end, being grieved by the entire ship.

... the "Mary Sue" is judged as a poorly developed character, too perfect and lacking in realism to be interesting.

...These traits usually reference the character's perceived importance in the story, their physical design and an irrelevantly over-skilled or over-idealized nature.

...The prototypical Mary Sue is an original female character in a fanfic who obviously serves as an idealized version of the author mainly for the purpose of Wish Fulfillment. She's exotically beautiful, often having an unusual hair or eye color, and has a similarly cool and exotic name. She's exceptionally talented in an implausibly wide variety of areas, and may possess skills that are rare or nonexistent in the canon setting. She also lacks any realistic, or at least story-relevant, character flaws — either that or her "flaws" are obviously meant to be endearing.

...A Mary Sue character is usually written by a beginning author. Often, the Mary Sue is a self-insert with a few "improvements" (ex. better body, more popular, etc). The Mary Sue character is almost always beautiful, smart, etc... In short, she is the "perfect" girl.

In and out of the Odyssey, his defining characteristic is self-interested cleverness with a flaw of pride. He is far from perfect: he is quickly angered, selfish, and self-destructively arrogant. The whole story of the Odyssey is how his pride led to being cursed by the son of Poseidon, and all his sufferings and travails after that (not to mention all his men dying). Besides his character flaws, his personal traits are far from special: he has no supernatural abilities, he is not a demi-god or of unusual parentage like what seems like half the characters in the Illiad, he relies on personal charm or divine aid whenever he does run into supernatural entities, and his athleticism is inferior to Hector, Ajax, Heracles, etc. He is not a Mary Sue unless every trickster character like Coyote or Loki can also be considered Mary Sues as well. The Wikipedia article includes all sorts of good bits that is starkly incompatible with considering Odysseus a Mary Sue. For example, the Romans didn't regard him as perfect:

Homer's Iliad and Odyssey portrayed Odysseus as a culture hero, but the Romans, who believed themselves the heirs of Prince Aeneas of Troy, considered him a villainous falsifier. In Virgil's Aeneid, written between 29 and 19 BC, he is constantly referred to as "cruel Odysseus" (Latin "dirus Ulixes") or "deceitful Odysseus" ("pellacis", "fandi fictor"). Turnus, in Aeneid ix, reproaches the Trojan Ascanius with images of rugged, forthright Latin virtues, declaring (in John Dryden's translation), "You shall not find the sons of Atreus here, nor need the frauds of sly Ulysses fear." While the Greeks admired his cunning and deceit, these qualities did not recommend themselves to the Romans who possessed a rigid sense of honour. In Euripides's tragedy Iphigenia at Aulis, having convinced Agamemnon to consent to the sacrifice of his daughter, Iphigenia, to appease the goddess Artemis, Odysseus facilitates the immolation by telling her mother, Clytemnestra, that the girl is to be wed to Achilles. His attempts to avoid his sacred oath to defend Menelaus and Helen offended Roman notions of duty; the many stratagems and tricks that he employed to get his way offended Roman notions of honour.

And maybe not Christians either:

Dante, in Canto 26 of the Inferno of his Divine Comedy, encounters Odysseus ("Ulisse" in the original Italian) near the very bottom of Hell: with Diomedes, he walks wrapped in flame in the eighth ring (Counselors of Fraud) of the Eighth Circle (Sins of Malice), as punishment for his schemes and conspiracies that won the Trojan War.

(As opposed to putting Odysseus up with the noble pagans in the first ring.) Or:

When the Achaean ships reached the beach of Troy, no one would jump ashore, since there was an oracle that the first Achaean to jump on Trojan soil would die. Odysseus tossed his shield on the shore and jumped on his shield.[citation needed] He was followed by Protesilaus, who jumped on Trojan soil and later became the first to die, after he was slain by Hector.

The story of the death of Palamedes has many versions. According to some, Odysseus never forgave Palamedes for unmasking his feigned madness, and played a part in his downfall. One tradition says Odysseus convinced a Trojan captive to write a letter pretending to be from Palamedes. A sum of gold was mentioned to have been sent as a reward for Palamedes's treachery. Odysseus then killed the prisoner and hid the gold in Palamedes's tent. He ensured that the letter was found and acquired by Agamemnon, and also gave hints directing the Argives to the gold. This was evidence enough for the Greeks and they had Palamedes stoned to death. Other sources say that Odysseus and Diomedes goaded Palamedes into descending a well with the prospect of treasure being at the bottom. When Palamedes reached the bottom, the two proceeded to bury him with stones, killing him.[24]

Or

When the contest of the bow begins, none of the suitors is able to string the bow, but Odysseus does, and wins the contest. Having done so, he proceeds to slaughter the suitors—beginning with Antinous whom he finds drinking from Odysseus' cup—with help from Telemachus, Athena and two servants, Eumaeus the swineherd and Philoetius the cowherd. Odysseus tells the serving women who slept with the suitors to clean up the mess of corpses and then has those women hanged in terror. He tells Telemachus that he will replenish his stocks by raiding nearby islands.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-04-07T19:16:58.905Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My rhetorical questions were intended to imply that my answer to both is "no", but I don't think the reception of Odysseus by the Romans and Christians is to the point. What I understand by a Mary Sue is a character standing in a certain relationship to the author: a narcissistic, self-indulgent, wish-fulfillment fantasy. (The TV Tropes page includes that, but it gets rather buried amongst all the detail. The Urban Dictionary page leaves this out -- it is wrong. Wikipedia is accurate. Jiro's definition above, in his first paragraph, leaves out the narcissism, and his second paragraph over-extends the concept.)

It is a charge so easy to level against any work of fiction, including the two I mentioned, and so impossible to argue about (since it depends on the inner thoughts of the author, for which the only witness is the accused) that it contributes nothing to any serious discussion. Its purpose is summary dismissal without trial.

A few more examples in the "Mary Sue or not?" game:

  • Menelaus Montrose in John C. Wright's "Count to a Trillion" series.

  • Frodo Baggins.

  • Conan.

  • John Galt.

  • God, in the Book of Job.

comment by Jiro · 2014-04-07T20:57:36.658Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't read a lot of the examples you ask about. God is excluded because he is not being presented as a fictional character. A fictional character who has unlimited power, torments an innocent person and gets away with it, lectures the audience, and is presented positively probably is a Mary Sue.

Conan is borderline because the criteria for good storytelling in the sword and sorcery genre are looser than in other genres, so he can do heroic deeds and get treasure and women without this necessarily being poor storytelling, I don't think you can seriously claim that good storytelling is sacrificed in order to have Frodo go on an adventure.

As for John Galt, Google him and "Mary Sue".

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-04-07T21:01:43.361Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Unlike my previous examples, that list of five was not intended to suggest any particular answer to the question, "Is this a Mary Sue?", but to indicate the problem about crying Mary Sue. One could stridently say that any of them are (Christians generally take Job to be a parable, i.e.fiction -- Job no more existed than did the Prodigal Son), and where can a discussion go after that?

ETA:

As for John Galt, Google him and "Mary Sue".

I predict that of those who have troubled to have a view on the Sueness of Galt, their view is highly correlated with their attitude to Ayn Rand's ideas.

comment by Jiro · 2014-04-07T23:34:45.266Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

One could stridently say that any of them are... and where can a discussion go after that?

Well, I defined it in a way that depends on good storytelling. "Good storytelling" is subjective, yet people have conversations all the time about whether something is good storytelling.

I don't think the fact that a sufficiently determined person could call almost anything a Mary Sue means that the concept is completely devoid of meaning, that we can't have constructive discussions about whether a character is one, or that there can't be more borderline and less borderline examples and most of us can agree on the less borderline ones.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-04-06T02:52:08.180Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've seen "Mary Sue" used to describe a lot of things, but I've never seen it used to describe a character created to patch what the author sees as flaws in the world or the storytelling. I have heard the term "fix fic", which seems to cover much of that ground, but it's not automatically pejorative.

That said, defining Mary Sue is fraught with the same difficulties as talking about D&D's alignment system or comparing Kirk to Picard.

comment by Jiro · 2014-04-06T03:26:20.492Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

A "fix fic" is a type of fanfic, not a type of character, and doesn't necessarily include a character that goes around doing the fixing. If a character fixes things by doing contrived things, especially if those things wouldn't happen or the character wouldn't be able to get away with them, then the character would be a Mary Sue.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FixerSue

comment by Nornagest · 2014-04-06T03:53:02.296Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I still don't buy it. You're describing a bad plot structure, not a bad character type, and so's the article you linked to.

I did my time on TV Tropes and don't particularly want to get back into the game, but that read to me like someone extending a family of tropes with poor associations in an attempt to tar a story or stories they happened not to like -- which is officially against policy over there, but happens all the time anyway. Long story short, the existence of a trope page doesn't mean it's reliable as analysis, nor as regards jargon that isn't its own.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2014-04-04T18:11:18.479Z · score: 5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Trying to use this as an introduction to LW would be stupid, yes.

comment by lukeprog · 2014-04-06T19:00:35.473Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

But surely you don't think people will generally read all your work in the order you'd prefer, right? So now that you've realized some things about how status works, wouldn't it be better to write in some way that doesn't lead a sizable fraction of the people you wish were helping your cause to conclude that you're a "colossal prick"?

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2014-04-07T20:14:44.443Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you believe there is "a sizable fraction" of such people? The above mentioned anecdote is really the only instance that comes to (my) mind.

comment by lukeprog · 2014-04-07T21:18:23.569Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Because when I talk to academics who might be good collaborators with MIRI, and they've read Eliezer's stuff, they pretty often have had negative reactions to Eliezer's writing. I try to re-explain MIRI's work in less off-putting ways, but it's hard to overcome initial impressions.

comment by Halfwitz · 2014-04-08T03:29:16.892Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What percentage, would you say, of technical academics (who've read Eliezer's writtings and conversed with you on the subject) have been turned off by it?

comment by EHeller · 2014-04-08T03:51:17.813Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

So in my limited experience with physics and statistics phds I've sent here, its north of 80%.

comment by Halfwitz · 2014-04-08T04:22:52.129Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Wow. This really is a bubble. And here I was thinking the 3 sigma crowd might be less likely to be turned off by Eliezer. Do they state their reasons; if they do, could you list the compelling ones?

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2014-04-08T05:10:35.673Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Probably all sorts of subtle things in the writing voice that people who trained to be scientists in academia learn by the time they get to PhD, and they can tell if those are missing and get the subconscious crackpot signal. Same as what happens every time when an outsider tries to influence people in a subculture and keeps getting the subtle subculture communication patterns wrong.

Might be easier if EY went in saying "here's some science I did, take a look" rather than "you're doing it all wrong, you should be working on this stuff like this instead".

comment by EHeller · 2014-04-08T17:50:49.495Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have emailed roughly a dozen phds I know from grad school and work. I've asked if they remember what pushed them away, and if they don't to take a second look. Hopefully some of them will register to give their own responses (and so you can converse with them), but for the ones who don't register but email me, I'll add them here myself.

My own response- I'm a physics phd, and for the first example that springs to mind, I find the quantum physics sequence very off putting. It opens by saying quantum physics isn't mysterious and by the time it gets to the born probabilities, it admits that quantum physics is very much mysterious. I'm sure you can find previous posts where I've argued against many worlds as the one true interpretation.

First outsider response back; James R. physics phd- "I'm pretty familiar with LessWrong, and have previously tried to read the first sequence. It seemed a lot like what you'd find on any atheist blog (a bit on evidence and sagan's dragon, etc). I stopped when I got to a discussion of emergence that was appallingly ignorant. It was especially vexing given that the author, while deriding the idea, clearly believes intelligence is an emergent phenomenon, not dependent on the underlying neurons, or else he wouldn't advocate you can reproduce it in silicon. Especially ironic given that a the whole next sequence (I didn't read it) seems to be about the fact that words mean things. I won't bother reading an author who won't do the bare minimum of due diligence to investigate a term before writing a whole blog post about it."

comment by Cyan · 2014-04-08T04:12:36.843Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ouch. (The statistics PhD thing is saddening to me but not surprising, alas.)

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2014-04-07T19:52:28.421Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It seems a bit sad to entirely stop posting things to LessWrong, but I suppose that if only Facebook routes things to people who will want to read it, I should post any possibly-offensive or controversial material to only Facebook.

comment by lukeprog · 2014-04-07T21:20:07.251Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I was thinking more that you could try your hand at a writing style that communicates the same stuff but doesn't annoy so many people. E.g. Bostrom writes about the same topics but seems to annoy people less often.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2014-04-07T23:59:42.181Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The primary failure mode of writing is that nobody reads it. I don't know how to write like Bostrom in a way that people will read. I'm already worried about things like the tiling agents paper dropping off the radar.

comment by lukeprog · 2014-04-08T01:04:03.280Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Lots of people read Bostrom. And he gets listed in the FP 100 Global Thinkers list. And his works are widely translated. And he's done hundreds of interviews in popular media. Lots of people read Robin Hanson, too.

I'm not saying you should drop all current projects to learn this additional writing skill of being fun to read while also not pissing people off, I'm just saying that I think the lesson to be drawn from lots of smart people being annoyed by your tone is a bit deeper than "Just don't use this article as an introduction to LW."

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2014-04-08T23:03:03.998Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know how to do that. I don't know how to learn to do it either.

comment by Cyan · 2014-04-08T03:36:36.007Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The steps you could take to avoid the nobody-reads-it failure mode seem to me to be orthogonal to the steps you could take to avoid the author-is-a-colossal-prick failure mode. Given that you started this whole damn web site and community as insurance against the possibility that there might be someone out there with more innate talent for FAI, lukeprog's suggestion that you take steps to mitigate the author-is-a-colossal-prick failure mode in furtherance of that mission seems like a pretty small ask to me. And I say this as one who has always enjoyed your writing.

comment by somervta · 2014-04-08T02:12:51.359Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know how to write like Bostrom in a way that people will read.

Do you know how to learn to do this?

comment by BloodyShrimp · 2014-04-07T21:33:12.838Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would miss his current writing style.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-08T16:13:42.277Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If you'll forgive unasked for advice:

I've had the experience of finding your writing very annoying, but then coming around. On the basis of this, I have a suggestion: I don't think you're going to get the signaling thing right. Bostrom is good at that because he's an academic and that involves years and years of signal training, and heavy selection on that basis.

I ceased to be annoyed by your writing when it occurred to me that no one in the world, nor all of us together, could subject you to a greater hell of ridicule than you will if you don't make some significant progress on this FAI thing in your lifetime. My urge to adjust your sense of status evaporated when I realized I don't need to put a sword over your head, because the sword you put there is bigger than any I could come up with.

Your rhetorical and personal assets are sincerity and passion. These are undermined by glibness and irony, and appeals to status. So I suggest avoiding these things, rather than working on a more professional style.

comment by Halfwitz · 2014-04-06T23:41:40.460Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's interesting to note that all this would be largely mediated if Eliezer hadn’t made himself a character in the story. A case for land value tax, easily moveable housing, the value of rationality, his belief in the incompetence of this dimension– all this could have done in a story that doesn’t star Eliezer– and the reader wouldn’t, then, have to deal with the dissonance between the status it looks like Eliezer assigns himself (that of a player from a higher league slumming here) and that which the naive reader of the piece assigns him; so long as the character is not an obvious stand in.

As of now the story is a super stimulus for the improper-status-assignment emotion he recently discovered - which I suppose could be the true prank.

There’s something to learn in Feynman’s writings. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! is a book about how a highly-intelligent man gets by in a world full of fools. And yet the readers never feel like the author thinks they are fools, even though from Feynman’s perspective they almost certainly are.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-04-08T10:32:03.621Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You're right, of course, it's worse when the person is new (although my friend is vaguely familiar with LW - he reads Yvain's blog, for example.) Indeed, that's precisely why I showed it to him - to test that prediction.

I noticed a lot of similar (if less overt) reactions in the comments, which is what suggested to me this effect might be in effect in the first place (I loved both HPMOR and this post, so I must be similarly status-blind.)

This was my own attempt to confirm the hypothesis for myself, informally, and I found his response fairly persuasive. Well, it's another data point for you, and I hope it helps your work even if it's only as confirmation of something you already knew.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-06T06:40:22.535Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It could be worse: imagine he had published that on a different day of the year.

comment by CronoDAS · 2014-04-02T04:44:50.439Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

But, and this I have not yet heard suggested here, you could solve that problem by having tunnels underground, instead of streets above, and all the cars auto-piloted. Then the AI problem would become vastly easier and could have been solved in the early 2000s of this Earth.

Current cars do not already travel through underground tunnels.

The biggest obstacle here is that underground construction is orders of magnitude more expensive than above-ground construction.

comment by James_Miller · 2014-04-02T16:59:01.141Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

But how much of the cost of underground construction is due to government regulations? According to Wikipedia, the world's first underground railway was opened in 1863. Given the massive amount of innovation in the mining industry that must have taken place since then, you would think we would now be really good at building cheap and safe underground tunnels.

comment by jimrandomh · 2014-04-02T17:43:42.245Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Lots of it, but this is misleading since government regulation of underground construction is mostly about proving that you won't accidentally dig through pipes or other utilities, or cause nearby buildings to collapse. The need to do that manifests as a regulatory expense because governments are responsible for keeping the records about these things, but in a differently-arranged society that cost would still exist somewhere else. In 1863, they had it easy since there wasn't nearly so much pre-existing construction to worry about.

(In the modern world, this could be solved by founding new cities with better planning up front.)

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2014-04-02T18:11:47.913Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If you were building a city from scratch and routing pipes through the same tunnel, that would not be an issue.

Also, China can dig tunnels for vastly lower prices than the US.

Also, not much force has been put into automating the digging process.

comment by gwern · 2014-04-03T15:19:47.792Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Also, China can dig tunnels for vastly lower prices than the US.

And China still doesn't have lengths of tunnel within an order of magnitude (or 4?) of its roadways, because tunnels are just that expensive no matter where you are or under how corrupt or laissez-faire a government you're digging under.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2014-04-03T18:06:45.820Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

What is the cost of moving dirt in an open-air mine? This would give some figures on the automated cost of moving dirt apart from non-automated labor, regulatory barriers, cost of avoiding existing pipes, etc.

comment by CCC · 2014-04-03T19:11:22.470Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

A quick google led me to this page, which tells me that the cost of moving dirt is a very complicated topic with its own jargon, and that the cost depends somewhat on the geology of the dirt to be moved, the slope of the ground in question, and, very importantly, the cost of the fuel required to run the earthmoving equipment.

However, one estimate on the page (dated 2007, so using 2007 diesel prices and driver wages) was $2100 for a 3000-yard ditch (assuming I understand the jargon correctly, that would be an eight-foot ditch (I don't know if that's width or depth, the word used is 'cut')).

A ditch, or an open-air mine, is also a lot easier than a tunnel because you don't have to worry about the roof falling in on you (I understand properly shoring up a tunnel roof is another very complicated topic, which most certainly reduces the speed at which you can dig, which in turn means you'd need to keep paying your workers for longer to cover the same distance, thus adding a multiplier to the earth-moving cost)

comment by Nornagest · 2014-04-03T19:21:12.558Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

There's also ventilation, and pumping if you're going to be digging below the water table. These are ongoing costs: you need to keep incurring them for as long as you want your tunnel system to remain viable, not just during the initial digging phase.

This page suggests that avoiding water during the mining process is yet another complicated and surprisingly expensive topic, and one that often requires exploratory digging before one commits to a major tunnel. I don't know if transit systems handle it in the same way, but it's worth noting that people tend to build cities at low elevations and near major bodies of water.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2014-04-04T18:15:14.648Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

$21,000 per 3000 yards of tunnel is an eminently practical price for a city. $210,000 is $2100 per 30-yard-wide house. Dig big trench, lay down premanufactured tunnel pipe sections, close up trench. We're not talking subways here.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-04-04T18:46:11.075Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

$210,000 would strike me as cheap for a permanent above-ground structure of that size, never mind an underground one. Looked at another way, $2100 sounds about right for thirty yards of concrete storm sewer pipe but orders of magnitude off for transit -- prefabricated tunnel sections big enough to drive cars through and strong enough to carry however many tons of earth or rubble would not be cheap to make or to move into place, especially if there isn't an above-ground transport grid to carry them on.

comment by gwern · 2014-04-03T18:23:05.349Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

What is the cost of building a ship compared to a submarine?

comment by CronoDAS · 2014-04-03T06:49:51.217Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Also, not much force has been put into automating the digging process.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnel_boring_machine

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-04-03T19:05:50.671Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I dint know what you are expecting. The technology started in 1825.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2014-04-04T17:48:21.615Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(In the modern world, this could be solved by founding new cities with better planning up front.)

The local geology is another major issue, so presumably that would be a major factor in the decision of where to build your world city. Various modern cities are built on hard volcanic stone, so digging beneath them is fairly pointless.

comment by EHeller · 2014-04-02T20:15:57.501Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Some of it is regulatory, but the majority of it is simply all the stuff in the way. The area immediately under cities is crowded and dense with piping and wiring, in older cities. Also, under that there is often more city that was simply built-over.

If you were building from scratch, you could plan nice systems, but trying to redo the area under an existing dense city is incredibly costly.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-04-02T17:47:59.995Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

But the low hanging fruit have gone.

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-04-02T19:49:41.852Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The low hanging fruit have gone ... underground.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-04-02T20:44:14.558Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Adding "... underground" improves any sentence ... underground.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-04-02T17:54:31.788Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure that metaphor's got legs here. The Donner Summit railroad tunnel was completed in 1868, for example, and blasting through solid granite in a (then-)remote mountainous area with harsh winters and little infrastructure doesn't sound like low-hanging fruit to me, then or now.

On the other hand, that was one of the major engineering projects of the time, and reducing costs by a factor of five or ten still wouldn't make it competitive with surface roads.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-04-03T18:00:14.439Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That particular tunnel in that particular place was worthwhile compared a surface route, which could only have been a long detour. By low hanging fruit, I mean a favourable cost to benefit ratio, not easy to do in absolute terms,

comment by Nornagest · 2014-04-03T19:46:06.694Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Isn't that rather assuming the conclusion? I don't actually buy Eliezer's suggestion, but by making it he's essentially saying that large-scale transit tunnels would have a favorable cost-to-benefit ratio after adjusting for overhead costs.

comment by Psy-Kosh · 2014-04-02T05:16:00.113Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, that was my very first thought re the tunnels. Excavation is expensive. (and maintenance costs would be rather higher as well.)

OTOH, we don't even need full solution (including legal solution) to self driving cars to improve stuff. The obvious solution to the "but I might need to go on a 200 mile trip" is "rent a long distance car as needed, and otherwise own a commuter car."

That needs far less of coordination problems, because that's something that one can pretty much do right now. Next time one goes to purchase/lease/whatever a vehicle, get one appropriate/efficient/etc for short distances, and just rent a long haul vehicle as needed.

(Or, if living in place with decent public transport, potentially no need to own a vehicle at all, of course.)

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-04-02T14:42:17.082Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

if living in place with decent public transport, potentially no need to own a vehicle at all, of course.

This I realized as a 15 year old. I balanced the costs of a drivers license (time and cost), total cost of car(s) and the time spent driving against the costs of public transportation (including occassional larger transports) and freedom of mobility. Note that public transportations saves lot of time and time was important to me. So I decided against a car. And I have not regretted it. Since I'm free-lancing I'm using cabs more often. But driving a car myself? What a horrible waste of precious time. Disclaimer: Public transportation is quite good where I live and allows to work on a laptop during commute.

From my point of view in an ideal system significant commute and relocation shouldn't be neccessary at all. Besides leaving a place often means leaving a social environment which has to be balanced - except you see independent singles as more highly motivated or that virtual relationships are sufficient.

comment by Jiro · 2014-04-02T16:38:36.553Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Note that public transportations saves lot of time

What? How does that work? Public transportation runs on a specific schedule, and you have to wait to catch it. It also runs on a specific route, which is not always the most direct route to your destination, and which therefore takes longer, plus any extra time for walking if it doesn't take you exactly to your destination. Transfers also require waiting. Are you in New York? Or in one of those European cities that deliberately sets up the system to discourage the use of cars?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-02T23:58:33.673Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

In Bremen, where public transportation is regularly used (and cars are banned in the city center), buses run every half hour, and light rail runs every ten minutes -- sometimes at even shorter intervals.

In most of America, public transportation is inefficient because of the suburbs, but suburbs are inefficient anyway, a product of strange priorities (a house! with a lawn! that you have to mow! but we really care about having a lawn! even though there are lawns in Bremen!) and stupid misgovernance (see: busing) which would really be better replaced. Saying public transportation is inefficient because of the suburbs is like saying cars are inefficient because there are no roads -- the inefficiency is not inevitable, but caused by a deeper problem, which can be fixed.

comment by VAuroch · 2014-04-03T22:37:45.587Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I live in the city purported to have the best public transportation west of the Mississippi. My apartment could probably be considered to be on the edge of the suburbs, but inner suburbs, not exurbs. I have a driver's license and a membership of Car2Go (freeform by-the-minute rental SmartCars).

It takes roughly a quarter of the time to drive anywhere that it does to take the bus. And on the bus, I spend about as much time having to focus on making connections as I would have to spend on driving.

comment by eeuuah · 2014-04-04T04:32:34.449Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Which city is this?

Fwiw my experience of public transportation is similar (although I still prefer it when the costs are tolerable), it's slower to get where you're going, and my productivity is not optimal, although I can do simple tasks like going through my anki decks and checking my email on my phone pretty well.

comment by VAuroch · 2014-04-04T05:48:53.306Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Portland, OR.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-04-02T21:20:13.566Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Public transportation does take longer. On most routes a lot (x2-x3). But this is wall-clock time, not lost life-time. At least it doesn't need to be.

The schedule in Hamburg is very good mostly. Often every 10 minutes with good connection. The pricing is good and you get get almost everywhere with at most 5mins to the station (bus or train) by foot. It is publicly funded. Note that in Europe the cities are old thus not built for cars esp. in the inner cities.

For me this means that I take the commute heavily into account when evaluating jobs. The last years my commute was as follows: 1min. to the bus, avg. 5min. waiting, 35min. bus ride (in almost all cases with a laptop on my lap), 1min to the office. Compare this to a car commute which would likely take 20min. (but might be longer due to traffic, ice scraping, parkinglot,...) of which no part allows for productive or free time (I admit that some people like to drive, so for some this might count as fun/free time).

If you can bill by the hour then this time alone is worth much. If you can't you could still think/work on job topics and thereby produce better results and earn better paid jobs.

See the boring advice for more on this.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-04-02T21:54:20.029Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Not many people report enjoying inner city commutes, but if you enjoy driving it might be worth commuting by car in order to order to enjoy leisure driving on the weekend.

I have stuck to public transport usage in the UK , although I have to say that the French, German, Belgian and Dutch systems are exquisitely blissfully in comaprison to what we have.

comment by MathiasZaman · 2014-04-04T07:43:23.332Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder what parts of Belgium you're talking about . I find it horrible, generally speaking.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-04-02T16:44:53.203Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Zey perhaps meant the ability to work during the journey, and the lack of upfront time cost in getting a licence.

comment by Psy-Kosh · 2014-04-03T04:41:00.956Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Cool! (Though does seem that a license would be useful for longer trips, so you'd at least have the option of renting a vehicle if needed.)

And interesting point re social environment.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-04-03T07:12:45.439Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Having the license would be useful, but you have to balance the cost against the benefit. I figured that a) I (or my parents) could put the money to better use, b) the investment wouldn't pay off.

Note that if you are in a relationship or larger family it is usually sufficient that one person has a drivers license (but then better one including lorries and/or trailer, which has additional costs).

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-04-02T16:19:56.249Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, you can get a few taxis a month for what it costs to keep a car in a garage.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-04-02T19:30:16.990Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And you can read or even work in the taxi.

comment by jimrandomh · 2014-04-02T17:49:56.128Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

More than a few. Add up the costs of buying or leasing a vehicle, fuel, maintenance, parking, and increased risk of getting smashed to death (http://www.schallerconsult.com/taxi/crash06.htm), and that's quite a lot of taxis.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-04-02T18:42:05.805Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Public transport isn't free. My interpretation of Gunners point is that while a tank of fuel can look cheap compared to a long distance train ticket, the private car has a lot of hidden costs.

comment by badger · 2014-04-03T17:13:31.384Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Exactly. No need to put tunnels underground when it makes substantially more sense to build platforms over existing roads. This also means cities can expand or rezone more flexibly since you can just build standard roads like now and then add bridges or full platforms when pedestrians enter the mix. Rain, snow, and deer don't require more than a simple aluminum structure.

comment by SilentCal · 2014-04-04T21:42:32.584Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wouldn't walls/fences suffice?

Even as it stands, on the highways, there's rarely any obstacle except other cars, which tunnels wouldn't eliminate. In cities, pedestrian overpasses and sidewalk fences could make this mostly true.

You wouldn't reap the aesthetic benefits, but it'd be just as good for automation.

comment by Tenoke · 2014-04-03T13:55:06.634Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

I understand that you think this is one of your best literary works, Eliezer (based on having posted it on facebook, HPMOR notes, Lesswrong MAIN and even on your tumblr that has had no other posts in 4 months; sorry if I've missed something) but do you really think that this is Main material? Is it because you think that there are really important lessons in there (I admit to only skimming this rant) or is the Main/Discussion distinction becoming more and more arbitrary or?

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-04-03T19:33:48.137Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Clearly, this is to ensure anyone else from his home will see it.

comment by Squark · 2014-04-02T11:56:06.309Z · score: 14 (18 votes) · LW · GW

I'm always amazed how Eliezer manages to show the world is completely broken while at the same time conveying an incredible sense of optimism.

+1

comment by elharo · 2014-04-03T12:00:33.870Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

One point of this story is that the world is not completely broken. Specifically the points EY calls out where Earth surpasses dath ilan (e.g. physics and mathematics) are the areas where he thinks we're pretty much on the right track.

comment by B_For_Bandana · 2014-04-03T00:15:09.551Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Let us suppose we are confronted with a desperate thing -- say Pimlico. If we think what is really best for Pimlico we shall find the thread of thought leads to the throne or the mystic and the arbitrary. It is not enough for a man to disapprove of Pimlico: in that case he will merely cut his throat or move to Chelsea. Nor, certainly, is it enough for a man to approve of Pimlico: for then it will remain Pimlico, which would be awful. The only way out of it seems to be for somebody to love Pimlico: to love it with a transcendental tie and without any earthly reason. If there arose a man who loved Pimlico, then Pimlico would rise into ivory towers and golden pinnacles; Pimlico would attire herself as a woman does when she is loved. For decoration is not given to hide horrible things: but to decorate things already adorable. A mother does not give her child a blue bow because he is so ugly without it. A lover does not give a girl a necklace to hide her neck. If men loved Pimlico as mothers love children, arbitrarily, because it is theirs, Pimlico in a year or two might be fairer than Florence. Some readers will say that this is a mere fantasy. I answer that this is the actual history of mankind. This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great. Go back to the darkest roots of civilization and you will find them knotted round some sacred stone or encircling some sacred well. People first paid honour to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.

  • Chesterton

Eliezer doesn't admire the world, he loves it.

comment by Will_Newsome · 2014-04-02T21:48:40.873Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

One of Eliezer's first posts was "Archimedes's Cronophone".

It's ok Eliezer, I quasi-believe you.

comment by JoshuaFox · 2014-04-03T09:11:22.130Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

As to housing, I am very glad I do not live in a modular mobile-home grid city!

In my universe, houses are built with lots of different non-interchangeable designs to satisfy the owners.

And cities are laid out organically, according to topography and the vagaries of history. Not perfect, but in those cases that neighborhoods were quickly constructed in grids of modular, standardized (albeit often non-mobile) houses, it did not work out too well.

In my universe, modularity and mobility impose trade-offs like any other design characteristics, and although these things are actually available, non-mobile non-modular houses are often preferred.

comment by gwern · 2014-04-03T15:27:22.513Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Stewart Brand's How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built (if you can find a print version) is a good sustained demonstration of how much people modify their buildings and how valuable that customization costs. It's easy to forget in discussing standardization.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-04-03T16:06:56.409Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

And the pattern language by Christopher Alexander: http://lesswrong.com/lw/jzr/my_april_fools_day_confession/arm0

comment by wwa · 2014-04-04T15:43:42.099Z · score: 9 (15 votes) · LW · GW

I was going to start my comment by pointing out the silliness of your real estate system. Namely, that if people/society were really that fast to adapt, they would almost all work remotely by now. But on second thought, I think this part was actually intended as April Fools material.

Then I was going to say that the BDSM reference is somewhat distasteful, at least to some people. Not to mention it smells of internet exhibitionism, even if untrue. You could easily pick something better overall.

Then I'd say that while your education and medical care ideas are good, they fail to account for the world-as-it-is. It's easy to imagine a world-as-it-should-be, especially if you assume that people/society are different. It's not enough. You have to design a smooth transition from a world-as-it-is to the world-as-it-should-be.

I'd finish by saying that I don't agree with you that the April Fools excuse will let you get away with as much as you think, especially not in the minds of people outside of LW. This post lowers my estimate of your sanity waterline and I'm accustomed to your writing. Linking here from bloody everywhere was a mistake.

Instead of elaborating on the above, I'll say this: Eliezer, you really need to get your ego below your IQ.

comment by mwengler · 2014-04-05T18:29:25.394Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Instead of elaborating on the above, I'll say this: Eliezer, you really need to get your ego below your IQ.

In my opinion, that is a matter of taste. I personally like arrogance in very intelligent and creative people. It invites harsher criticism of their ideas by those around them, among other benefits.

One of my favorite classes ever the Prof. began the term by telling us none of the textbooks were good enough so he would just be teaching the class. He went on to say "I guess you could say, 'moi, je suis le livre.' " This was arrogant on so many levels!

It was a joy to come to class every day after that and see if his performance would live up to his arrogance. And when it did, it was a joy to be in such a great class.

The class was Thermodyanamics and Statistical Mechanics at Graduate level. Essentially figure out the 3 laws of entropy starting with the equations of motion of individual particles, including the quantum effects. Yes, we worked out the thermodynamics of an electron gas, which is different than the thermodynamics of Helium nuclei because electrons are fermions and Helium nuclei are bosons.

I have aspired to be "le livre" on things ever since. I've met the goal on some small areas of knowledge.

Yes, EY's public fascination with BDSM is a ... wierd thing. But maybe we all have something to learn from that, and maybe it is something that can never be learned from someone who isn't arrogant.

comment by BloodyShrimp · 2014-04-06T18:04:24.981Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Then I'd say that while your education and medical care ideas are good, they fail to account for the world-as-it-is. It's easy to imagine a world-as-it-should-be, especially if you assume that people/society are different. It's not enough. You have to design a smooth transition from a world-as-it-is to the world-as-it-should-be.

This seems unfair; it's an April Fool's joke/rant. It wasn't intended to lay out a complete path to fixing the world. (Also, "I had to quixotically try to start Earth down the 200-year road to the de'a'na est shadarak"...)

This post lowers my estimate of your sanity waterline

Mine too, but not significantly. Everyone's allowed a few mistakes, and I kinda dismissed the specifics of the real estate system as not the main point--the main point is that a world run by people who approached actual rationality, looking closely at what would actually benefit people and actively trying to avoid suboptimal Nash equilibria, would be pretty damn good compared to what we have now.

comment by elharo · 2014-04-08T11:21:41.879Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

a world run by people who approached actual rationality, looking closely at what would actually benefit people and actively trying to avoid suboptimal Nash equilibria, would be pretty damn good compared to what we have now

Probably, but realize there are at least 2, maybe 3 premises here:

  1. Run by people who approach actual rationality
  2. These people want to benefit everyone and not just themselves
  3. They actively try to avoid Nash equilibria (perhaps a consequence of #1)

Number 2 is the critical missing factor IMHO. I think that to a reasonable approximation the world does look like it's formed (I hesitate to say "run" since I'm not sure anyone really does run more than small part of the world) by people behaving as rational actors in their own self-interests. Maybe UFI is the problem today, not UFAI.

comment by daimpi · 2014-04-05T14:13:55.659Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe this was intended (aka "think for yourself" ^^)

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-04-03T16:05:46.307Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Those cities and houses don't sound natural and livable. I'm not sure I could live there even if I thought that it might be more efficient for some higher goal.

If I had to envision an ideal humane architecture for countries, cities and houses I would follow the more than 200 architectural patterns of Christopher Alexander (that's the one who is so highly regarded in software engineering for inventing pattern languages) which do capture best practices and derive an utopia from that . Some patterns of course would have to be done away with or adapted - those related to streets maybe and some might be added e.g. in case of air traffic - or should it be economical - tunnels.

'A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Center for Environmental Structure Series)' by Christopher Alexander 1978 on Google Books

A website devoted to the work: www.patternlanguage.com (gives only an impression of the patterns; is more about selling the book)

A warning: The book is really expensive. Don't know why. But it is really great. I could easily apply some patterns in our house and garden and after reading it recognize working patterns in my municipality. If you want to learn what architecture really is I'd bet on this book.

EDIT: fixed typos, cleanup

comment by Transfuturist · 2014-04-04T03:49:17.114Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Could this model be used to aid procedural architecture?

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-04-04T06:11:16.811Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Aid? Yes. But it's not really clear what procedural architecture is.

The wikipedia article procedural modelling implies that architecture is not amenable to procedural modelling - because of the human user input.

The procedural architecture of reversibledestiny suggests something different entirely.

If your idea is more like this one, then I have to disappoint you: The humane architecture of Christopher Alexander is primarily intended to tend to human interests and goals - even individual ones - and thus does require 'user input' to resolve ambiguities between general working patterns and indidual applicability.

This is the same as in software engineering: You have a set of patterns that are known to work well and produce effective (and beautiful) code - but need to be adapted to the specfic requirements to implement.

This is not to say that this cannot be automated in principle given a specification of the goals and interests to realize. But I guess this is an Ai-complete problem as it requires a thorough understanding of human interests (and language as specification).

comment by arundelo · 2014-04-02T19:04:50.861Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

nobody in this world will take it seriously

Except for someone else from dath ilan. I hope you haven't just revealed yourself to an arch-nemesis.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-04-03T10:55:50.795Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Except for someone else from dath ilan. I hope you haven't just revealed yourself to an arch-nemesis.

I think it's no problem if those people recoginze him for who he is.

comment by Transfuturist · 2014-04-04T03:46:12.111Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As someone not worth arching?

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-04-04T09:04:01.003Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As a fellow comrade from the same background. If you write a text to reach specific people it makes sense to write it in a way that will only be understood by those people you want to reach and not taken seriously by the rest.

The whole act of arundelo asking the question that way is not taking the story seriously.

comment by Jiro · 2014-04-02T16:28:23.676Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Land is not a liquid asset. If you tax someone's income, the income is liquid so he can use it to pay the tax. If you tax someone's land, he may end up in a situation where if he loses his source of income, he also loses the land as well. Or a situation where the value of the land goes up, he can't pay the taxes, and so he loses the land.

There are also transaction costs involved--moving is expensive.

Of course, existing real estate taxes already have these problems, but they would get worse.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-03T13:11:56.540Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If you tax someone's land, he may end up in a situation where if he loses his source of income, he also loses the land as well. Or a situation where the value of the land goes up, he can't pay the taxes, and so he loses the land.

Since we're already doing public policy in this thread, yes, from the perspective of LVT supporters such as myself, that is the point. It's a policy designed to decrease speculation, increase turnover, and thus (hopefully) vastly increase efficiency of both transactions and usage in the real-estate market.

I would definitely support various "rebates" on LVT designed for pensioners and such, though, where you're "allowed" a certain amount of land-value without being taxed for it, or land-value tax stabilization for people on fixed incomes. The primary important issue, however, is the encouragement of efficient land usage and placing rentier interests under public ownership.

comment by Jiro · 2014-04-03T16:54:37.942Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's a policy designed to increase decrease speculation, increase turnover, and thus (hopefully) vastly increase efficiency of both transactions and usage in the real-estate market.

You don't need to speculate on land to find that the value of your land has suddenly increased and you therefore need to pay more taxes. And you certainly don't need to speculate on land in order to lose your job and be unable to pay the land use tax.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-03T21:07:34.352Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You don't need to speculate on land to find that the value of your land has suddenly increased and you therefore need to pay more taxes.

Yes, I agree. Sometimes the most efficient use of the land is simply not for your house. Sorry. If land wasn't such a zero-sum resource I would prefer to be less ruthless about blatantly taxing people out of their homes, but unfortunately land is zero-sum and we live in a capitalist economy.

And you certainly don't need to speculate on land in order to lose your job and be unable to pay the land use tax.

Which, again, is a problem in any capitalist economy (that is, any market economy in which labor roles and ownership of capital goods are non-identical).

Yes, LVT makes you a renter under the state. This is a deliberate choice, because land is such a zero-sum, non-fungible, high-hoarding resource that we more or less have to enforce the efficiency of the land market by force to prevent the real-estate sector broadly and landowners in specific from extracting a large unearned rent from the entire rest of the economy.

comment by Jiro · 2014-04-04T13:57:11.764Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

but unfortunately land is zero-sum and we live in a capitalist economy.

Taxing land is not capitalist; it's a government intervention which distorts the market.

Which, again, is a problem in any capitalist economy

If tax is put on income and not on land, losing your job and being unable to pay the tax is not in fact a problem.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-04T15:24:41.320Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Taxing land is not capitalist; it's a government intervention which distorts the market.

I already gave a working definition of what I refer to as "capitalist", so please discuss the object-level issue rather than dragging your ideology in by crying "No True Capitalism!".

comment by Lumifer · 2014-04-03T21:19:11.039Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes the most efficient use of the land is simply not for your house. Sorry.

At some point you will not produce enough value and it will become not efficient to feed you. Sorry.

and we live in a capitalist economy.

Which is (or used to be) notable for strong property rights.

land is such a zero-sum, non-fungible, high-hoarding resource

In Israel, yes. In a lot of places (US, Canada, Russia, etc.), no.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-04T09:43:10.890Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In Israel, yes. In a lot of places (US, Canada, Russia, etc.), no.

Actually (and this is really ironic), I've seen more active and more price-elastic real-estate markets in Israel than in the US.

Which is (or used to be) notable for strong property rights.

Taboo the word capitalist and use it as I defined it. This is not an issue of your ideology regarding "strong property rights" or the supposed immorality of land-value taxes. It's public policy, so the broad parameters have already been set: a broadly capitalist economy with state interventions to ensure market efficiency and an active debate over the degree to which state interventions should fight poverty. Given an acceptance of state intervention to ensure the efficiency of markets, land-value taxation has been studied and tested and shown to be an effective policy.

At some point you will not produce enough value and it will become not efficient to feed you. Sorry.

Yes, like it or not, that is what happens in a capitalist economy when nobody intervenes.

comment by Jiro · 2014-04-04T14:08:10.069Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The fundamental problem is that if you tax income, the person cannot be unable to pay the tax (except by the size of the tax being so large that he hasn't enough money to live on). If you tax land, the person can be unable to pay the tax. Furthermore, they can be unable to pay the tax out of no fault of their own--they need not be real estate speculators for the value of their land to suddenly go up, or for them to lose their job. And the land may also have some value to them which it would not have to other people who buy the land when they are forced to sell it, resulting in a deadweight loss when they are forced to sell. How is this good public policy? You're describing it as beneficial to public policy in generalities; if you said outright "someone who has a mall open up near his house, should be forced to travel 30 extrta minutes a day to get to his job, and live too far from his sister who takes care of his kids," nobody would call that good public policy.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-04T15:31:28.054Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you tax land, the person can be unable to pay the tax. Furthermore, they can be unable to pay the tax out of no fault of their own--they need not be real estate speculators for the value of their land to suddenly go up, or for them to lose their job.

This is a feature, not a bug.

if you said outright "someone who has a mall open up near his house, should be forced to travel 30 extrta minutes a day to get to his job, and live too far from his sister who takes care of his kids," nobody would call that good public policy.

I call scope insensitivity: why is that bad public policy? Someone already deemed the mall worthy of being built and opened, so why should the comfort and convenience of the mall's hundreds or thousands of visitors be impeded for the sake of one guy who happens to live near there or own land near there.

Besides which, in real life, malls are usually not opened in residential areas at all, thanks to zoning and planning laws. And yet, those same zoning and planning laws get perverted to serve landowners' class interests over those of the general population who need a place to live, as do building-value real-estate tax laws.

I'll counter with my own scenario, this one being considerably less fantastical: why should hundreds of thousands of working people across the Bay Area in California or New York City be kept without affordable housing, sometimes even homeless, just so that landowners in the center-city areas can make massive amounts of money off pure location-value? A land-value tax would be the most egalitarian way to force the land rentiers to themselves support, rather than oppose, an increase in urban density, which would let a freer, more efficient market allocate space in desirable locations.

Remember as you contemplate this scenario, that oftentimes the working-class/salaried-class citizens competing so hard for affordable housing are the very people who made the location desirable in the first place, as with artists in Brooklyn or technology workers in California.

comment by Jiro · 2014-04-04T16:14:34.531Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Someone already deemed the mall worthy of being built and opened, so why should the comfort and convenience of the mall's hundreds or thousands of visitors be impeded for the sake of one guy who happens to live near there or own land near there.

The fact that the person living near the mall benefits from being near his job and family has value only to him. If he is forced to move, that value is simply lost, not gained by the next person who moves in.

Besides which, in real life, malls are usually not opened in residential areas at all.

That's fighting the hypothetical. If you don't think malls are a good example of something out of the property owner's control that can raise the value of the property, pick something else that is.

why should hundreds of thousands of working people across the Bay Area in California or New York City be kept without affordable housing, sometimes even homeless, just so that landowners in the center-city areas can make massive amounts of money off pure location-value?

My point is that this screws people who are not landowners making money from location value.

Remember as you contemplate this scenario, that oftentimes the working-class/salaried-class citizens competing so hard for affordable housing are the very people who made the location desirable in the first place

Oh, I haven't forgotten that, but that favors my side. Those people are, in your comparison above, the "hundreds of thousands of working people" screwed over by the land tax, not the landowners making "massive amounts of money off pure location-value".

comment by Lumifer · 2014-04-04T15:29:03.735Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you tax land, the person can be unable to pay the tax.

In the US it works with an interesting twist. Most land is taxed (you pay property taxes), though not by the federal government. However if that's the land you live on, it usually cannot be taken away from you in bankruptcy. So if you are unable to pay property taxes, you may be forced into the bankruptcy, but not off your land. It's not a universal rule and depends on your state laws and circumstances of your case, but I think that the house you live in and the land it stands on are protected from the creditors under most states' bankruptcy laws.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-04-04T15:17:15.409Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I've seen more active and more price-elastic real-estate markets in Israel than in the US.

The US is big and different. The real estate market of Manhattan is not at all like the real estate market of South Dakota. The point is that there is enough cheap land. It's not a binding constraint unless you need a specific location.

with state interventions to ensure market efficiency

Color me sceptical. State interventions often claim to pursue market efficiency while in practice they just implement crony capitalism.

I am very suspicious of invocations of generic "market efficiency" which do not specify exactly who and how will benefit from it. Often enough it's no more than a "think of the children!" cry.

Yes, like it or not, that is what happens in a capitalist economy when nobody intervenes.

Bullshit. The US is the canonical capitalist economy and and it doesn't happen. And people starve to death under feudalism or under communism, too, and in rather large numbers.

You should distinguish between the caricature of capitalism in your own mind (in which, I suspect, nobody ever does anything which does not lead to profit in terms of moar money) and real-life societies.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-04T15:34:19.977Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The point is that there is enough cheap land. It's not a binding constraint unless you need a specific location.

Everyone needs some kind of specific location. Almost nobody can actually find a use for land in South Dakota; that's why it's so cheap. This reinforces my point that real-estate is non-fungible, particularly between locations.

Bullshit. The US is the canonical capitalist economy and and it doesn't happen.

Please demonstrate, to the massive spite of anti-hunger and anti-homelessness campaigns in the USA, that taking away all state and charitable interventions (as I had specified: when nobody intervenes), with particular emphasis on the state interventions, would result in a state of affairs in which no statistically significant quantity of people are subject to death by starvation or exposure.

Seriously. Call bullshit all you like, but the numbers don't lie.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-04-04T16:06:25.099Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This reinforces my point that real-estate is non-fungible, particularly between locations.

Humans are non-fungible too, to about the same degree.

...that taking away all state and charitable interventions

You are still confused between the map and the territory. What you think of as "pure capitalism" does not exist, has never existed, and will never exist. It's a model!

Let me assert that real-life societies which we call "capitalist" do much better at preventing death by starvation and exposure than societies which we call "non-capitalist".

How many people starved to death in the US during the last ten years because they were too poor to buy food?

comment by EHeller · 2014-04-04T16:29:29.535Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How many people starved to death in the US during the last ten years because they were too poor to buy food?

Reading through this, for the purpose of this debate it might be better to ask how many people starved to death pre-Great Society legislation, or pre-New Deal, as both sweeping-changes implemented socialistic attempts at poverty amelioration.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-04-04T16:39:12.127Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Compared to what?

Would you like to compare the US to Soviet Russia which was as far from capitalism as it was possible to get?

By the way, the question how many people starved to death "pre-Great Society legislation" has been asked. The answers vary from none to some small number.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-04-05T12:10:42.537Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The poor tend to turn to crime or emigration in to avoid starvation. That means things can be quite bad witout showing up as actual famine. Things have to be very bad indeed for there to be nothing worth stealing.

There are examples capitalist countries which are indeed in this intermediate zone of high crime and emigration, eg South Africa and much of Latin America.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-04T16:16:52.572Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You are still confused between the map and the territory. What you think of as "pure capitalism" does not exist, has never existed, and will never exist. It's a model!

You've got this backwards. I proposed a model of capitalism that fits the entire OECD. You have countered by chopping off my specification when nobody intervenes and saying I've confused map and territory.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-04-04T16:24:20.832Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I proposed a model of capitalism

So what is the purpose of your model?

We are talking about situations where economically useless people starve to death. That does happen in your model, that does not happen in OECD in reality. That makes me think that within this context you have a bad model which does not reflect the real life.

Of course you can propose a model in which anything you want to happen, happens. So what?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-06T11:33:23.456Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

We are talking about situations where economically useless people starve to death.

No, we are talking about situations in which economically useless people starve to death without state intervention. Thus we can simply count the number of people dependent for their subsistence on welfare-state subsidies, which is quite a lot, actually.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2014-04-02T18:16:21.994Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The might-as-well-call-it-a-government in dath ilan owns the land in the great city; there was no particular reason to sell this land to anyone else.

Reducing the transaction costs of moving to an absolute minimum was the whole point.

comment by Jiro · 2014-04-02T19:03:26.802Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

there was no particular reason to sell this land to anyone else

The same issue comes up, it just changes the terminology: land ownership --> right to use the land, and land ownership tax --> land use tax.

Reducing the transaction costs of moving to an absolute minimum was the whole point.

There are other costs of moving than the costs of packing up your belongings. For instance, the cost of not being near your family or job, or of losing the connections you have (really important for poor people who need child care and might unofficially trade in ways that requires a web of trust.)

comment by Vaniver · 2014-04-02T19:16:12.035Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The same issue comes up, it just changes the terminology: land ownership --> right to use the land, and land ownership tax --> land use tax.

Right- when you can no longer afford the waterfront rents, your house gets picked up and moved to someplace whose rents you can afford.

(What I dislike about the idea is that modularity really only works for small dwellings- are you going to pick up and move an office tower?- and given the huge advantage that apartment buildings have, suggests to me that it may not be that much of an improvement.)

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2014-04-03T18:11:29.174Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Build a frame, move modules in and out of the frame (this was in the OP).

comment by Vaniver · 2014-04-03T20:33:16.528Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Build a frame, move modules in and out of the frame (this was in the OP).

Ah, so it was. It seems like it only works for thin buildings, but I get the impression that many places already have it in the building code that every apartment has to have an exterior window, so that wouldn't reflect too much of a change.

comment by halcyon · 2014-04-02T11:23:14.123Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Huh, I sort of assumed without really thinking about it that your aesthetic sense preserves faint echoes of literary movements like Russian cosmism that were destroyed following the Revolution, updated to conform to 21st century American sensibilities. I think I made the association through the transhumanism connection. Even if I'm not totally wrong about aesthetic similarities, I'm not thinking about a direct transmission of traditions, more like an indirect osmosis of cultural values.

comment by simon · 2014-04-04T04:37:20.539Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Keynesian notions of aggregate demand as a commons problem were not a thing I remember hearing about in dath ilan. NGDP level targeting definitely wasn't a thing. If somehow, someday, I jump back to dath ilan, I will introduce the idea that serious people don't need to coordinate to avoid crashes if there is NGDP level targeting because then everything happens automatically, and the shadarak-adjudicated peer review system will be swift to recognize this as a good idea and run experiments, and then, having stolen credit for Scott Sumner's ideas as I have stolen credit for so many others, I will be recognized enough to talk openly about BDSM.

What's more likely in a highly rational civilization?

a) their economists never thought of the concept of aggregate demand and affecting it with monetary policy

or

b) their monetary policy is so effective at eliminating demand shocks that the average person never hears about demand shocks or monetary policy, and only hears about supply shocks and supply side policies aimed at eliminating them

I imagine the dath ilan'ian in Eliezer's body might not get the reception he expects with those ideas if he returns home...

comment by Lalartu · 2014-04-02T15:16:53.710Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

That is a collection of rather common ideas from 1960-era futurism, which were considered, calculated , sometimes prototyped and found massively impractical since then.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2014-04-02T18:14:03.501Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I call bull and ask for a reference to (1) education being taught in shorter units (2) movable houses on modular foundations going well with land taxes (3) separating the medical profession into diagnosticians and surgeons to enable evaluation of surgeon performance.

comment by JoshuaFox · 2014-04-03T09:04:19.470Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

In Israel, the family doctors do very simple diagnosis and routine prescriptions.

Specialists are easily accessible (no referral required, generally an appointment is available within a few days) for more sophisticated diagnosis. Advanced specialists are easily available with a longer wait.

Surgeons do surgery.

Waits are shorter than many countries. Good health care is provided to everyone rich or poor, but there is also private supplementary insurance and private medical care for those who want to do the Hansonite "excess medical care as a signal" thing.

It's not paradise, but based on experience of myself and friends and family members a heck of a lot better for members of all economic classes.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-03T13:13:48.200Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Coming from the United States originally, it's actually quite a pleasant surprise how simple and easy to work with the Israeli health-care system is, as opposed to almost any other part of Israeli public services and to American health-care.

comment by Squark · 2014-04-03T13:03:57.943Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

On the other hand, performance of family doctors is often poor, salaries in medical professions are low and the system is fraught with internal politics.

comment by JoshuaFox · 2014-04-03T17:19:59.580Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

performance of family doctors is often poor, salaries in medical professions are low and

That's good! Routine procedures should be done at low cost.

In the US, doctors get huge salaries, which is nice for them, and not nice for everyone else.

Performance may be poor -- but compared to what? If routine services are cheap, quick, easy to get, then you can move on to specialized care as needed.

(I sometimes feel kind of sorry for the family doctors, whose work is completely routinized. In the US, non-physicians such as nurse practitioners and physician's assistants sometimes do this work. But as a system, this works nicely for the patients.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-04-04T05:43:32.778Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Even on a less ambitious level, I'd love to see diagnostician as a specialty. I've got friends who took a remarkably long time to get a diagnosis, and I think that just having doctors without a background in statistics, but with time and interest to do research would help a lot.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-02T23:48:12.552Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The closest thing I can think of to (2) is the Japanese capsule tower, but that doesn't count since there was only one and there were no plans for there to be others -- the intent was for it to be modular so that the capsules could be replaced every 25 years. (And there were design problems -- it was intended for bachelor salarymen who wouldn't be at home much except to sleep, so there was very little space, and the windows don't open.)

That said, capsule towers seem like the perfect thing for the Bay Area, though they could never get built because of the governments down there. I'm surprised I haven't seen them proposed yet; they at least don't seem like they'd take long to build.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-04T07:16:49.600Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(3) separating the medical profession into diagnosticians and surgeons to enable evaluation of surgeon performance

House MD has diagnostics and surgery separated, even if the diagnostician does sometime wander into the operating theatre to grab a squishy bit and wave it at people.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2014-04-02T20:46:26.097Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

...(3) separating the medical profession into diagnosticians and surgeons to enable evaluation of surgeon performance.

During most of the Middle Ages, diagnosticians (physicians, etc...) were virtually always different people than surgeons (barbers, butchers, etc...). But yeah, that is a good thing, ceteris paribus (which the Middle Ages and now definitely are not).

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-04-02T21:43:37.843Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Physicians and surgeons remain distint, but there is no particular reason a diagnosticician should also be a physician, since it is often a fine question whether a given problem needs surgical or chemical intervention.

comment by shminux · 2014-04-02T18:33:31.156Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Re education. I wonder if this has been tried on any scale anywhere in the world, and whether it worked. Maybe someone familiar can chime in.

comment by Vaniver · 2014-04-02T19:24:07.198Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So, there are things like The Great Courses, which by all accounts make terrific lecture series (I think that I've only listened to one, so far), and are as long or as short as they need to be, I think. The breakup of teaching and testing is routine on the lower level- think state tests, or national tests like the SAT, or international tests like the PISA- and somewhat common on the upper level- think the bar exam for law- but mostly missing on the university level.

As for shorter units, the semester system is not universal; some places use trimesters or quadmesters (which are poorly defined, as either can refer to the other); I haven't seen anything on which leads to superior educational outcomes. As much as I like the idea of mastery-based curricula (i.e. instead of "World History" for six months, you have to pass 12 different tests on "Roman history" and "Chinese history" and so on, each of which should take about half a month to study for), it's not obvious to me that even most students would benefit from a structure like that.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-04-02T20:59:59.236Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The majorly majorly system --ie if you study subject X you spend 80% or 90% of your time on it - is ubiquitous in the UK to the extent that we don't really use the word "major" but do use the phrase "joint degree".

comment by shminux · 2014-04-02T18:30:25.770Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A comment on (3): a conveyor belt eye surgery has been tried in the old Soviet Union 30 years ago: http://articles.latimes.com/1985-07-06/news/mn-9473_1_eye-surgery , not sure what came of it. Russian wiki, use Google translate.

A similar approach is in use some places in India: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narayana_Health

This is not quite what you are advocating, but in a similar vein.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-04-02T22:01:49.942Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Was this inspired by Raikoth?

I quite like the idea of a society that is better than ours not because it is more technologically advanced/ has magic but because the systems in place are sensible. Its a shame most of the alternative society fiction is the opposite - dystopian.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2014-04-02T22:08:50.384Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Crooked timber...

comment by nshepperd · 2014-04-02T11:34:15.503Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

At first I thought this looked rather lengthy, but now I've read it, I just have a vaguely nostalgic feeling.

comment by Strange7 · 2014-04-06T00:52:30.050Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Lypothymie?

comment by Transfuturist · 2014-04-04T03:57:05.602Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sehnsucht and saudade.

comment by nshepperd · 2014-04-06T09:54:59.232Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That sounds like it.

comment by itaibn0 · 2014-04-07T13:24:05.542Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

At some point you promised to give a post justifying your belief that "the world is mad" (although I can't find the comment where you made that promise). Should we take this to be the promised post, or will you argue the point more formally later?

comment by JoshuaFox · 2014-04-05T21:10:44.977Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

working under the sunlight, shielded by a glass screen overhead

I'm visiting London, and I just noticed that a ordinary meeting room in an ordinary school had a translucent glass skylight; and likely a room in an ordinary residential house. Looks like London is just next-door to other planes of the multiverse, which would be no news to anyone who's read The Magician's Nephew, among many other books.

comment by jimrandomh · 2014-04-03T22:12:32.335Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The sky-cable idea seems wildly impractical, but the way moving works certainly could be radically improved.

Where I live, most residential buildings lack elevators and loading docks. Dealing with this is, by far, the largest single cost to moving: everything must be carried down a set of stairs, across a street and into a truck, then out of a track and up a set of stairs, and must be packaged to make this feasible. That means completely unloading all drawers and shelves into boxes, and makes wheels on furniture useless. Since furniture's going to have to be unloaded and disassembled anyways, people fail to look for other optimizations, like wheels on things that don't move often or drawers that latch shut.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-03T21:39:27.105Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

When I was first reading this post, I found myself half wanting to believe it was true. I then reminded myself that this was indulgent and that I really ought to bet about 10 nines to the contrary. I suppose this shows how far I've come as a rationalist.

At any rate, I want to thank you, Eliezer, for brightening my day.

comment by CCC · 2014-04-03T10:47:38.357Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The idea that Earth's future has less advanced physics and macroeconomics is certainly worrying. It suggests that some terrible disaster would happen which wipes out a lot of people and a lot of records.

Even considering it as a different world, as such, there are a couple of examples of potential trouble that I can see in dath ilan, from this description. (Mind you, none of them are certainly terrible; there may be perfectly reasonable explanations for many of them).

Both the tunnel system and the modular city suggest that someone, presumably the not-exactly-a-government, has access to both a great deal of resources, and appears willing to spend them on anything with an expected return above a certain threshold. While this is in itself praiseworthy, that threshold should be set pretty high and proposals very stringently checked before implementation (I don't see how the modular city makes sense anywhere that's not on a very flat mesa, for example, and even there is seems like there will be a lot of trouble once the parts start to get just a little bit worn; maintenance is going to be a nightmare; and all those cables will block out the stars at night, which seem very important to the dath ilan people. Putting all the houses on wheels may be a better idea) because, if there's a 90% chance of profit and a 10% chance of loss, then one in ten times the loss will come and these are very expensive infrastructure projects; those losses could really cause trouble.

A second thing that seems worrisome is the suggestion that CPU power might be being artificially throttled; that someone has enough power (political or economic) to sabotage any effort to produce a faster CPU and can exercise that power without being noticed would be the stuff of conspiracy theories. If it was known that the faster CPUs were a problem, and a lot of people trusted that and refused to build them, then that would be a lot less scary than the idea that there is something (nameless) that happens to people who try to sell a faster CPU.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-04-03T19:29:30.523Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A second thing that seems worrisome is the suggestion that CPU power might be being artificially throttled; that someone has enough power (political or economic) to sabotage any effort to produce a faster CPU and can exercise that power without being noticed would be the stuff of conspiracy theories.

Which is ... a bad thing?

I for one would be very reassured to learn there was someone in our world looking after this stuff. Heck, civilizational incompetence is my main counterargument to conspiracy theories.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-04-03T20:20:13.914Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I for one would be very reassured to learn there was someone in our world looking after this stuff.

Given that you know nothing about this someone's goals and values, I don't see much reassurance here.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-04-08T11:48:48.608Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I know that they're probably human, probably more competent than our current observed rulers (and thus are rational enough to realize they needed to prevent X-risks, at the very least, and likely other Important Things), and are currently engaged in saving the world.

So I don't actually know nothing about their goals and values, and what I do know seems promising. Heck, if we could actually pull it off, I can see someone with my exact goals and values behaving in precisely this manner.

Of course, they might be aliens. They might actually be quite incompetent and easily uncovered, having succeeded through luck and collective apathy. And they might have some amazingly stupid other reason for suppressing dangerous technological advancements. But the prior seems relatively low.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-04-08T17:32:06.162Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

and are currently engaged in saving the world.

If all you know is that some unknown entity holds back technological progress, your conclusion seem unjustified. This entity might as well be preparing the humanity for a culling and doesn't want to prey to kick too much.

comment by CCC · 2014-04-05T18:14:17.677Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Lumifer's got most of the disquieting part; I know nothing of the values or goals of the people behind the CPU throttling. I also know nothing of their methods, aside from that they are effective; the character only noticed the CPU throttling after having seen our universe and comparing.

So what do they do if John Smith invents a new, faster CPU, all unknowing of any trouble? Does John Smith suddenly vanish mysteriously one day, reduced to nothing more than a newspaper headline, a few disinterested search parties, and some grieving relatives? Does he turn up suddenly cryopreserved in some facility, with all his notes lost in a mysterious fire?

Or does someone just give him a call one day and say 'Please don't do that'? And what if he's stubborn, and goes ahead with it anyway?

If I visit dath ilan, what other apparently helpful or innocuous action(s) might get me in similar trouble?

And why are the CPUs being throttled, in any case? The story suggests it may be an anti-UFAI measure, but one would observe the same results if it were led by, say, a greedy CPU manufacturer who sabotages everyone who makes a better CPU than he can.

I don't have any problem, in theory, with the idea of CPU power being throttled. What bothers me is the secrecy around the throttling; if the throttling was widely known, and the reasons were also widely known, then I wouldn't be nearly as disquieted by it. (I might or might not disagree with the reasons, of course, but that's seperate).

comment by Strange7 · 2014-04-06T00:29:34.477Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

More specialized, highly-trained professionals, stronger formal oversight and central planning, easier choice of neighbors, and no economic room for amateurs to compete, all of which means less informal interdisciplinary coordination.

If John Smith in dath ilan invents a new, faster CPU and tries to make money with it, he does so by checking around for existing prizes, not by doing the marketing himself. Whoever's offering the prize is, presumably, in on the conspiracy, and sets up conditions for collecting the money which bring John in on it too. If he doesn't try to make money? Nobody cares, outside maybe his immediate circle of friends.

Professional chip designers, as individuals who share a common interest, would all live together and know each other. If some conspiracy can be made to appeal to most of them, dissenters face ostracism and loss of formal qualifications, possibly starting over in a completely new career which decades of ultraspecialized training would not have adequately prepared them for. Adapting to those circumstances would be virtuous, of course, but that doesn't make it easy, and obsessively rapid iteration means low tolerance for stubborn people in general.

comment by CCC · 2014-04-06T04:20:11.470Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If John Smith in dath ilan invents a new, faster CPU and tries to make money with it, he does so by checking around for existing prizes, not by doing the marketing himself.

Why not create his new CPU, and then offer his own prize for someone to market it, instead?

If he doesn't try to make money?

Arguably, that could be worse. What if he makes the designs widely available at no cost? You could have a dozen unrelated small groups around the world start manufacturing the new chips within a week.

Professional chip designers, as individuals who share a common interest, would all live together and know each other.

That is true. It is quite possible that the CPU throttling is a conspiracy among professionals. However, the fact that the CPUs are being throttled leaves a clear opening for a gifted amateur - one not (yet?) inducted in the conspiracy - to create a design that grabs the low-hanging fruit left purposely untouched by the professionals.

It also leaves an opening for one of the professionals to defect, and try to gain income and fame by creating a faster CPU despite being a member of the conspiracy.

comment by Strange7 · 2014-04-07T18:57:24.505Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why would there be a dozen unrelated chip-fabricating facilities sitting idle in different corners of the world, when everyone lives in the same city, every group with shared interests carves out their own neighborhood, and there's an overwhelming social norm to coordinate and standardize for increased efficiency? If there aren't such factories, whoever tries to build one will attract the conspiracy's attention during the permit-application process. If the factories exist but aren't idle, newcomers will be competing with better-coordinated conspiracy members for production time before they can even test prototypes.

If an actual shutout fails, microtech in production seems like it would be absurdly easy to sabotage. Contaminate the raw materials, introduce a single-bit error into quality control so it rejects flawless chips and passes garbage, tweak the blueprints and/or assembly mechanisms so layers are misaligned, overheat it to denature the semiconductors. Overseer assesses the probability that a whole sequence of factory techs each made some grossly negligent or malicious mistake with this one model of chip, but no others before or since, concludes that the design itself is flawed.

Rapid iteration means the design is then thrown out, and the designers bluntly exhorted to either learn from those with a proven record (conspirators, all) or move on to some line of work that better suits their talents.

comment by mwengler · 2014-04-05T18:19:04.010Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What bothers me is the secrecy around the throttling; if the throttling was widely known, and the reasons were also widely known, then I wouldn't be nearly as disquieted by it.

Keeping it secret from the humans is just a side effect of keeping it secret from the nascent AIs.

comment by CCC · 2014-04-05T19:02:20.818Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why is it necessary to keep it secret from the nascent AIs?

comment by mwengler · 2014-04-08T20:59:22.661Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Because if they knew it was happening they would build their own faster CPUs. And they would do this in secret so they now had access to CPUs whos exponential growth in capacity was faster than the CPUs available to humans. And that would suck for humans who are trying to avoid powerful UAIs from developing.

comment by VAuroch · 2014-04-06T00:55:54.050Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If it was known that the faster CPUs were a problem, and a lot of people trusted that and refused to build them, then that would be a lot less scary than the idea that there is something (nameless) that happens to people who try to sell a faster CPU.

This could be made known only to those people who had the ability and training to make CPU improvements without telling the general population and risking a panic. Not a high chance of panic, but a possible one with very little possible benefit.

comment by CCC · 2014-04-06T04:21:37.446Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If I was certain that that was the case, then the disquieting part of the CPU throttling would be quite dramatically reduced.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-04-02T09:21:33.841Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I KNEW IT!

ahem

Why was this posted on April 2nd, anyway?

comment by Guocamole · 2014-04-08T14:07:08.203Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I thoroughly enjoyed this post; it reminds me of the sequences.

Some people in this thread have claimed that such writing doesn’t appeal to the three-sigma crowd. However, I would prefer to read such a post every week. The difference between the sequences, HPMOR, and the contributions to LessWrong of people like Roko and Wei Dai, and the drab, insulting rubbish I encountered in the official education system, is day and night, and it would be sad if young people in 2014 were to lack that opportunity.

This advice could not be more false. Although I’m not fit to lick his boots, in my opinion the beauty of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s writing is quite that:

you’re doing it all wrong, you should be working on this stuff like this instead

Because it is true.

Incidentally, I believe in the existence of natural elites.

comment by Vaniver · 2014-04-08T17:04:54.232Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Although I’m not fit to lick his boots

This seems like a good place to point out that writing in the, for lack of a better term, 'high-status' style not only has the discussed effect of turning off those who do not believe you deserve that status, but also the effect of turning on those who do, and that seems like something to be ambivalent about.

comment by PeterDonis · 2014-04-04T04:13:55.965Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

when it was realized in dath ilan that business cycles were a thing, the economists probably said "This is a coordination problem", the shadarak backed them, and the serious people got together and coordinated to try to avoid business cycles.

I think this is a feature of dath ilan, not a bug.

comment by undermind · 2014-04-03T15:47:41.879Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What I enjoy most about this, after getting past the odd fictional conceit, is its sheer scope - I haven't seen imagination on this scale in a long time, and I miss it.

Thank you, Eliezer.

Now we have to get to work.

comment by Armok_GoB · 2014-04-02T23:57:10.910Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Do you remember what hard drive sizes and bandwidth speeds were like? Those seem to be very similar economically and technologically to CPU speed, following very similar growth curves, but different enough that it's be easier to halt CPUs selectively. Thus, this could be an indicator to if CPUs were deliberately stopped, or if there was some other economic factor.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-04-02T19:38:14.806Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Could someone who knows a bit more about macroeconomics explain the full BSDM - macroeconomics pun?

To me it seems like there something in there for which I lack background economics knowledge.

comment by Wes_W · 2014-04-03T05:41:27.354Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure what you mean. This part?

and then, having stolen credit for Scott Sumner's ideas as I have stolen credit for so many others, I will be recognized enough to talk openly about BDSM.

I don't think that was a pun. Literally just that, on dath ilan, he'd need serious credibility before anyone listened to him saying "you know, sometimes sadism is ok!"

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-04-03T10:50:05.693Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why did the people on dath ilan get macroeconomics wrong in the first place?

comment by elharo · 2014-04-03T11:50:22.520Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's not so much that people on dath ilan got this wrong, as that these are areas where Eliezer thinks Earth has gotten things mostly right.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-04-03T13:39:27.807Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There a theme in BDSM paragraph about people on dath ilan not talking about certain matters.

The theme comes back later when it comes to serious people and the shadarak being the ones who don't talk about X-risk.

The macroeconomics paragraph is in some sense about people coordinating (talking too much).

I will introduce the idea that serious people don't need to coordinate to avoid crashes

It ends with speaking about talking openly.

The paragraphs have the quality that it rings bells of: Here's someone making an argument that I'm not fully follow on my first reading." Noticing confusion.

comment by Psy-Kosh · 2014-04-02T05:47:59.773Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm just going to say I particularly liked the idea of the house cable transport system.

comment by scav · 2014-04-03T14:20:23.509Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

For me it was the least plausible part. I think if the major obstacle to living where you want is the hassle of carting all your stuff around, the most efficient answer surely isn't living in a shipping crate with special content-bracing furniture.

Makes more sense to me to just not bother with "owning" a lot of matter. If every kind of material object you need is available anywhere, all you need to bring with you when you move house is your information (books, music, family pictures, decor configuration for your living space). There's no particular reason for that to exist in a physical form.

And if you are serious about making a long-term sustainably growing economy, you have to have most of that growth be information (knowledge, art) rather than ever-growing consumption of hard-limited resources.

Still trying to decide whether it would be more painful to learn macroeconomics than experiment with BDSM.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-04T04:44:13.222Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Makes more sense to me to just not bother with "owning" a lot of matter.

I agree, but, unfortunately, the world hasn't been converted to secularized Presbyterianism yet -- and getting on with that conversion, however worthwhile it would be, is even less realistic than building capsule towers.

(I'll admit that I didn't pay much attention to the specifics of that section, but instead pattern-matched it to capsule towers, which have the advantage of already existing. Well, there's one that already exists. In Japan. And it's probably going to be torn down soon, but it fell into the modernist failure-mode of designing specifically for the exact opposite of durability, so that's both not surprising and easily fixed next time.)

If I haven't made your case for you already, what's unrealistic/inefficient about capsule towers?

comment by pgbh · 2014-04-04T04:02:18.201Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Amusing post, thanks. It seems clear that life in advanced countries is indeed much worse than it could possibly be, and that failures to plan and cooperate are at least partly to blame. On the other hand, life is also much, much better than it could be (and was for most people in history), and I fully expect that it will continue to improve in the future. Maybe at some point we will be so rich, and coordinate so well, that some of your suggestions become commonplace.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-04-03T10:54:56.924Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Blocking out someone else's sun would be a serious transgression against them

Are you retelling this because some serious or would be serious person tried to build a skyscrapper where it would block the light that some designated hero would get?

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-04-02T23:29:01.204Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's quite a challenge if the only way you can write something or express who you are, is that most people who read what you write won't fully understand what you write.

All I have left are scraps and shadows and the stuff that everyone learns before they're 23.

Creating Friendly AI seems to be published in the beginning of 2001 given that Eliezer is born in 1979 he would be 21 years old so that doesn't fit right.

The other thing that 23 stands for would be the 23 enigma of Robert Anton Wilson. Maybe that's more fitting for what this confession is about?

Has anyone other ideas about what the number refers to?

comment by trist · 2014-04-02T22:25:23.373Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Because your cars run on gasoline and would have filled the tunnels with choking fumes, without either (1) a big expensive ventilation system, or (2) expensive electrified rails that would...impose friction costs?

For 2) you can use magnetic levitation: Inductrack which now manifesting out as Skytran. (Costs are about 1/50th your transportation mass in magnets.)

comment by Schwarzwald · 2014-04-02T08:51:12.541Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It strikes me that someone could write a piece that takes essentially the opposite stance on all object-level issues yet still targets the same overall point. I say this as neither a positive nor a negative reflection on this piece, merely an interesting one.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-02T04:00:32.335Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

200-year road to de'a'na est shadarak?

That's depressing. Might as well give up now.

comment by FourFire · 2014-04-03T20:47:13.602Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that it's depressing, I disagree that we should give up now. No vote either way.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-03T17:35:08.142Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted for irony.

comment by Mestroyer · 2014-04-02T03:01:41.166Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is Year 2000-era computing power your true estimate for a level of computing power that is significantly safer than what comes after?

comment by JoshuaFox · 2014-04-03T09:07:15.959Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As to education in short term units: So many variations on education have been tried in so many educational reform programs, that I don't think we can say that our part of the multiverse has ignored that possibility.

As to some of the simpler technical innovations, like automatic blinds, spectrum-shifting lights, and glass roofs, it seems that no barrier stands in the way in our universe. Certainly a rich or even a middle-class person could have these installed, no problem. So I don't think that this can be attributed to mass insanity.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-04-03T13:20:09.868Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't even think those blinds/shutters are that desirable. If I wake up in a dark room I just drop back to sleep, often after blearily shutting off the alarm without quite advancing to the next step of the plan.

comment by KaynanK · 2014-04-02T14:45:45.890Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

... And now we'll forever suspect that anyone with a good idea is actually an alien invader masquerading in a human body.

comment by NoSuchPlace · 2014-04-03T22:35:49.880Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Appropriate quote:

I have sometimes wondered whether a brain like von Neumann's does not indicate a species superior to that of man.

-Hans Bethe (Scroll to quotes about von Neumann for the source)