Realistic thought experiments

post by KatjaGrace · 2018-04-04T01:50:01.763Z · score: 69 (17 votes) · LW · GW · 8 comments

What if…

…after you died, you would be transported back and forth in time and get to be each of the other people who ever lived, one at a time, but with no recollection of your other lives?

…you had lived your entire life once already, and got to the end and achieved disappointingly few of your goals, and had now been given the chance to go back and try one more time?

…you were invisible and nobody would ever notice you? What if you were invisible and couldn’t even affect the world, except that you had complete control over a single human?

…you were the only person in the world, and you were responsible for the whole future, but luckily you had found a whole lot of useful robots which could expand your power, via for instance independently founding and running organizations for years without your supervision?

…you would only live for a second, before having your body taken over by someone else?

…there was a perfectly reasonable and good hypothetical being who knew about and judged all of your actions, hypothetically?

…everyone around you was naked under their clothes?

…in the future, many things that people around you asserted confidently would turn out to be false?

…the next year would automatically be composed of approximate copies of today?

…eternity would be composed of infinitely many exact copies of your life?

***

(Sometimes I or other people reframe the world for some philosophical or psychological purpose. These are the ones I can currently remember off the top of my head. Several are not original to me. I’m curious to hear others.)

 

8 comments

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comment by zulupineapple · 2018-04-04T13:50:26.227Z · score: 13 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What does "realistic" mean here?

comment by Dagon · 2018-04-04T17:06:54.291Z · score: 11 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it means that "reality supports these framings". They're not so much counterfactual thought experiments but uncommon ways of looking at what actually happens.

comment by TheWakalix · 2018-04-04T15:45:50.565Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm guessing "about reality".

comment by tinyanon (aaron-teetor) · 2018-04-04T04:16:52.524Z · score: 13 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

" …the next year would automatically be composed of approximate copies of today? "

This one was interesting to me. If you ask how I want to spend the next year my answer involves almost no hedonism, lots of hard work, and a scarily high chance of burn out. But when you phrase it this way my first response is "...I would try really hard to get laid by the end of the day" and it takes me a second to realize I actually want to accomplish things with that year too.

Possibly has helped me accept that adding more hedonism to my life could be better in the long run.

Edit: After some sleep, the moral I've pulled from this experience is "An AI can do much more complicated tasks when the reward function gives incrementally more as progress is made than when it is only rewarded at the finish line. Perhaps humans are similar"

comment by TheWakalix · 2018-04-04T15:44:14.611Z · score: 12 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"[What if] after you died, you would be transported back and forth in time and get to be each of the other people who ever lived, one at a time, but with no recollection of your other lives?"

Were you inspired by Egg? If not, that's a rather strange convergence.

comment by KatjaGrace · 2018-11-29T21:55:08.420Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, never heard of it, that I know of.

comment by james_t · 2018-04-29T13:30:51.159Z · score: 8 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

...you were an ancient being, with a mind vast and unsympathetic, concerned with all the events in the path of the light-cone, who has through some mistake been trapped in a smaller, duller mind, forgetting most of the wisdom natural to it, becoming encumbered by fleshy bounds, and who now must decide what to do with the potential it has left.

...the "you" listening to this was one of several complete agents inhabiting a body, each of which has their own plans, goals, and strategies, each of which jockeys for control over the actions of that body, and each of which can wage war or form alliances with each other to try gain more control over that body over the course of a lifetime?

comment by Dagon · 2018-04-05T22:19:22.427Z · score: 0 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Relatedly, I have annoyed many of my friends by interrupting them after they start a sentence with "if I were you" and asserting "you ARE me, just with different DNA, experiences, and environment".