Don't Sell Your Soul

post by Jacob Falkovich (Jacobian) · 2021-04-06T19:02:55.391Z · LW · GW · 45 comments

Contents

  Advocatus Diaboli
  Contractions
  Haters Gonna Hate
  The Simulation Argument
  Newcomb’s Souls
None
43 comments

Cross-posted from Putanumonit.


You know the lockdown has dragged on for too long when people are selling their souls on Twitter.

Normally the soul-selling is of the NDA-for-a-six-figure-job kind, which is par for the course. But this time it went way beyond that. A self-described desert witch on Twitter offered people $10 in return for their signature on a stringent 54-point contract giving up possession of their souls, whatever that may mean. Twelve people took the deal.

Since I’m a Rationalist, and this happened in my corner of Twitter, and no-one knows how to define this corner except through vague associations with Rationality, and since everyone knows that Rationalists are atheists who don’t believe in souls, a common reaction was that the Rationalists are at it again.

But the actual Rationalists who chimed in seemed unanimous that selling your soul to a desert witch on Twitter is a really dumb thing to do. Even if in the grand scheme of things this is all just online silliness, I think it’s a useful case study of the difference between the popular conception of “rationalists” and someone who actually spent years in the community contemplating Rationalist questions of knowledge, confidence, and decision theory.

And so I would posit that Rationality is knowing better than to sign a contract selling your soul for $10, regardless of whether you believe in souls.

I don’t speak authoritatively for all “Rationalists”, of course. No one can really do that. I’m using the term because before I knew about Rationality the most I would’ve been able to say about selling your soul is that I have a hunch that it’s dumb. Rationality introduced me to many frameworks that can explicate why exactly is dumb. Since frameworks make for better blog posts than hunches, below are the Rationalist physical materialist reasons not to sell your soul.

Advocatus Diaboli

Let’s start with the devil’s case. Why may it be a good idea to sell your soul for $10?

One possible reason: it’s just a performance, art for art’s sake. I certainly believe that art deserves its sake! But it’s important to note that in this case Liminal Warmth, the soul proprietor, is the artist. She came up with the idea, she drew up the contract, she decides what to do with the souls. The seller is hardly a co-creator in this, they’re more of a prop. This is somewhat akin to letting a tattoo artist you don’t know ink whatever they want on your back. It’s art, sure, but it’s a very imprudent way to contribute to art on your part.

Another common reason that people brought up is that this is credible atheism signaling. I can imagine that if someone is surrounded by atheist friends who for some reason constantly suspect them of being a closet believer, this stunt will convince them of the sincerity of one’s apostasy. But it’s easy to signal atheism by committing some sin that will only be punished by God, if they exist. Curse God’s name in an empty church or whatever. There’s no reason to signal atheism by signing a contract with an actual person who pays you actual money for it.

Someone commented that being against soul-selling is a weak signal that I am unsure about the existence of souls. This argument has merit. Rationality is the art of not pretending you don’t know things. Pretending you’re not sure about the existence of souls when you’re a functional atheist is fake humility, a social defense mechanism as opposed to good epistemology. But there’s separate intellectual humility about being sure that you’re answering the right question. My arguments in this post are completely independent of the question of existence of magical souls that go to heaven or hell or are reincarnated or whatever.

But before we get to complex issues of meta-humility, let’s start with the basic numbers.

Contractions

$10 is a very bad price for your soul. It’s not a lot of money. But it’s a lot more than zero.

As a simple matter of finance, signing away your soul is giving up on the option of selling your soul at a later date for a higher price. Just two days after she filled her roster of souls for $10 each, Lim has offered me $22 for mine. That’s an appreciation rate of 120% in just two days! At this rate my soul will be worth more than Bezos’ entire fortune in just over two months, and I haven’t even shopped it around yet. Taking the first offer you get for an item you can’t replace is just bad business, regardless of what the item is worth to you.

But $10 is still money, and accepting it binds you to the contract. Which leaves one with two options: to abide by the contract or to disregard it.

Abiding by the contract is really bad. Section IV.E obliges the seller to “defend and support the Buyer’s claim of ownership […] to any person who challenges them on the matter of the Soul’s ownership”. Does this compel the seller to respond to all the tweets attacking Lim for this project? Defend her honor in single combat? Did they ask what it means before signing?

IV.N states that the seller “agrees to willingly act in accordance with the Buyer’s wishes subject to the rights and obligations provided by a record in any such ledger” The seller of course doesn’t decide what the ledger is and which wishes it obliges them to act in accordance with. The scope of the obligations this contract imposes seems constrained mostly by Lim’s personal goodwill.

Disregarding the contract is much much worse.

Outside of a small circle of family and friends, almost any productive cooperation between people is based on contracts and agreements that people are presumed to enter into in good faith. I collect a salary per my employment contract. I have fulfilled 20+ commissions per the promise made on this page. I made dozens of bets online and in person and paid every single one that I lost. I’ve saved thousands of dollars for myself and people I know by borrowing and lending between us with no intermediaries.

There’s no essential difference between my employment contract and a $20 bet I make online. Some contracts may be enforced by a third party, but what compels that third party to participate? Probably just another contract, and their conscience. Ultimately, it’s all about people just agreeing to play by the rules for everyone’s benefit. Both the friend betting me $20 and my employer enter into the deal because of my reputation for honoring contracts, not because they plan to summon violent enforcement. This reputation is immensely valuable to me, and I go to great lengths to keep it immaculate.

Taking $10 to sign a contract that one never intends to comply with is a huge stain on that reputation. The small amount involved makes it even worse — if the person is willing to tarnish their contract-abiding reputation for a mere $10 there must not be much of it left to tarnish. Several people commented that since souls are like totally fake the contract is like totally non-binding. I would think twice about hiring, lending anything, or making any deals with a person who says this sort of thing in public.

Haters Gonna Hate

It’s hard to find a good poll on belief in souls per se, but 89% of Americans believe in God and 72% believe in heaven, the latter probably being a lower bound on belief in souls. And all these millions of people are not going to look very favorably at selling your soul.

No matter what you personally believe, your existence is not independent of those people. There are almost certainly soul-believers among people in your life, although if you’re the sort of obnoxious atheist who’d sell their soul online they probably don’t want to talk to you about it. Divia Eden polled her followers, heavily selected for being at least Rationalist-adjacent, and a third of them said that they wouldn’t marry a person who sold their soul. That’s a lot of respect incinerated with a lot of people.

People chimed in saying that they welcome being disrespected by soul-believers. Thinking that someone having a belief you disagree with on an ill-defined metaphysical topic excludes them forever from mattering to you is crazy. It’s cult thinking. It’s a worldview of us vs. them where a single questionable belief puts someone in the “them” camp.

There’s a difference between doing your thing with a conscious awareness that you risk disapproval, and courting haters on purpose. The latter is vice signaling, and even to atheists vice is not virtue.

The Simulation Argument

There’s good business to be made in buying souls in bulk and holding them for ransom for when some of the sellers find religion or change their mind. If we think that a religious person will be willing to pay $10,000 to reacquire their soul, selling it for $10 amounts to a bet at 1000:1 odds against the chance that either you or someone like a spouse will think differently about souls at any point in your future lives. Whether your reference class is hardcore atheists who later find religion or the number of foundational beliefs a single person themselves will change their mind about throughout their life, these odds are terrible.

It’s a mark of intellectual laziness to be overconfident on subject one put little thought into.

Section I.A of the contract defines a “soul” as “the spiritual, immortal, and immaterial essence of their self which exists independently and distinctly from their material being”. Suppose that in the next few decades humans create technology for digital brain emulation, and as a result the vast majority of activity in the knowledge economy will be performed by “Ems” who may share their earnings with other copies and the original human. A digital emulation certainly exists distinct from a person “material being”, and counts as “spiritual” and “immortal” for reasonable definitions of these words. Did these people just sign away rights to their digital emulations for $10?

It took me 15 minutes from seeing the contract to come up with the example of Ems. If I had months to ponder and dozens of people to consult with about the possible things that would fall under this particular definition of “soul”, I may be comfortable naming a price for signing this contract. But everyone who signed it did so within 24 hours of seeing it, and most of them probably didn’t even put in 15 minutes of actual thought into it.

Just because you can’t immediately think of a reason not to do something doesn’t mean you have to do it, not even for $10.

Newcomb’s Souls

A prime example of the difference between the common stereotype of “rationality” and Rationality as practiced in the LessWrong community is their answers to Newcomb’s dilemma [? · GW]. The setup is this:

A superintelligence from another galaxy, whom we shall call Omega, comes to Earth and sets about playing a strange little game. In this game, Omega selects a human being, sets down two boxes in front of them, and flies away.

Box A is transparent and contains a thousand dollars.
Box B is opaque, and contains either a million dollars, or nothing.

You can take both boxes, or take only box B.

And the twist is that Omega has put a million dollars in box B iff Omega has predicted that you will take only box B.

Omega has been correct on each of 100 observed occasions so far – everyone who took both boxes has found box B empty and received only a thousand dollars; everyone who took only box B has found B containing a million dollars. (We assume that box A vanishes in a puff of smoke if you take only box B; no one else can take box A afterward.)

Before you make your choice, Omega has flown off and moved on to its next game. Box B is already empty or already full.

Omega drops two boxes on the ground in front of you and flies off.

Do you take both boxes, or only box B?

The stereotypical “rationalist”, fresh off an introductory course to game theory of philosophy, says that it’s irrational to leave money on the table once Omega has already departed and takes both boxes. Two-boxing is very similar to selling your soul. It involves accepting a small cash benefit in exchange for a cost that could be zero or could be hugely negative, and is justified mostly by the fact that it’s hard to think about what the cost actually is.

The Rationalist, on the other hand, should walk away with a million dollars (and their soul) instead of one thousand (and $10). The superiority of one-boxing can be formalized mathematically by using a decision theory that is richer [? · GW] than the intuitive one that justifies two-boxing.

I was initially convinced of one-boxing by the casual intuition for that decision theory. Consider that a likely way for Omega to predict your choice is to simulate your consciousness at the moment of choosing. So if you find yourself in the conscious state of making Newcomb’s choice, you should think it equally likely that you are the real person who will keep the money or the simulation inside Omega that will determine the content of box B. Or in other words, that the choice you make “for real” and the choice Omega’s simulation of you makes are one and the same.

Like selling souls on Twitter, Newcomb’s problem may appear to be some esoteric thing that’s of interest only to nerds. But humans always try to guess each other’s behavior and decisions, and they reward and punish each other based on these predictions. Even if other people’s predictions aren’t 100% accurate like Omega’s, they’re still more accurate than chance and depend on the person’s real behavior. The best way to make people predict that you’re trustworthy and reliable is to be that. In any human interaction involving trust and reputation, Newcomb-like problems are the norm:

I know at least two people who are unreliable and untrustworthy, and who blame the fact that they can’t hold down jobs (and that nobody cuts them any slack) on bad luck rather than on their own demeanors. Both consistently believe that they are taking the best available action whenever they act unreliable and untrustworthy. Both brush off the idea of “becoming a sucker”. Neither of them is capable of acting unreliable while signaling reliability. Both of them would benefit from actually becoming trustworthy.

Your life among other people depends to a huge extent on other people’s models of you. If you do things that cause others to model you as someone financially naïve, contemptuous of contracts, callous about being hated, intellectually lazy, and overconfident, you are causing yourself a much bigger harm than is made up for by 10 mere dollars.

Even worse, your behavior informs not only other people’s models of you but your own. If you begin to suspect that a decision you made was arrogant and shortsighted but refuse to correct for it (by offering Lim $50 and a sincere apology in exchange for the prompt return of your soul) you are making yourself much likelier to make arrogant and shortsighted decisions in the future.

What else can we say about simulated models-of-you? These models are spiritual in the sense of tracking your spirit, the sort of person you are and your persistent character abstracted from any particular circumstance. They are immortal, persisting after your death in the minds of others. They certainly exist independently from your material being. So if you’re wondering whether Lim’s definition of souls points to anything “real”, this is the obvious candidate.

And so selling your soul is really bad for your soul, regardless of whether you think you have one.

45 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Elizabeth (pktechgirl) · 2021-04-09T04:51:23.766Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I figured out the problem. "This is costless in my ontology and expensive in another, making it a good signal of which ontology I believe" is the exact same algorithm that led doctors to go from autopsies to childbirth without washing their hands. It was a way to prove they didn't believe the silly peasant superstitions about disease and demons.

comment by Elizabeth (pktechgirl) · 2021-04-07T04:43:47.688Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Souls aside, if you wouldn't watch an ad for $10, you shouldn't sign a 54 point contract for $10. It's just not a good use of your time.

Replies from: pablo-repetto-1
comment by Pablo Repetto (pablo-repetto-1) · 2021-04-07T16:59:44.531Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Who wouldn't watch an ad for $10? Hell, at 10 cents per 1-minute ad, that is near minimum wage.

Replies from: pktechgirl
comment by Elizabeth (pktechgirl) · 2021-04-08T06:18:28.381Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anyone for whom executive function is a limiting reagent, unless the $10 is exceptionally significant to them.  If it's a one-off transaction, it costs more than just the minute to watch the ad- it's the time and energy to evaluate the offer, see if there are any catches, refocus after disrupting your thoughts, fight against any impact the ad would have on you (they wouldn't keep making this deal if it wasn't positive EV for them. Maybe they're mistaken, maybe you're an exception- but that takes thought to figure out)... The fact that it's a pretty good hourly rate doesn't matter if it's not actually running long enough to amortize the evaluation costs.

comment by TurnTrout · 2021-04-06T22:19:20.169Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My gut reaction is... okay, sure, maybe doing it ostentatiously is obnoxious, but these reasons against feel rather contrived. 

(It's not at all a takedown to say "I disagree, your arguments feel contrived, bye!", but I figured I'd rather write a small comment than not engage at all)

If an acquaintance approached me on the street, asked me to sign a piece of paper that says "I, TurnTrout, give [acquaintance] ownership over my metaphysical soul" in exchange for $10 (and let's just ignore other updates I should make based on being approached with such a weird request)... that seems like a great deal to me. I'd bet [LW · GW] 1000:1 odds against my ever wanting to "buy my soul back." If future me changed his mind anyways? Well, screw him, he's wrong. I don't reflectively want to help that possible future-me, and so I won't.

EMs? Would a religious person really think that an EM is/has a soul? Would a judge later rule that I had signed my mind-computation into slavery, before EMs even were possible? 

Suppose instead that the acquaintance approached me with a piece of paper that says "I, TurnTrout, give [acquaintance] ownership over my florepti xor bobble." I'd sign that in exchange for $10. It's meaningless. It's nothing. I see no reason why I should treat 'souls' any differently, just because 'souls' have a privileged place in society's memeplex thanks to thousands of years of cult influence and bad epistemology.

Replies from: ShemTealeaf, DanielFilan, Raemon, DanielFilan
comment by ShemTealeaf · 2021-04-07T17:24:38.796Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Unless you're really desperate, it just seems like a bad idea to sign any kind of non-standard contract for $10. There's always a chance that you're misunderstanding the terms, or that the contract gets challenged at some point, or even that your signature on the contract is used as blackmail. Maybe you're trying to run for office or get a job at some point in the future, and the fact that you've sold your soul is used against you. The actual contract that Jacob references is long enough that even taking the time to read and understand it is worth significantly more than $10. Even with the simpler contract that you're envisioning, who knows what kind of implications it has? It's just not worth exposing yourself to these risks for the price of a burrito.

Replies from: TurnTrout
comment by TurnTrout · 2021-04-07T19:09:06.613Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I think these are good points.

comment by DanielFilan · 2021-04-07T01:18:53.127Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I mean "soul" is clearly much closer to having a meaning than "florepti xor bobble". You can tell that an em is pretty similar to being a soul but hand sanitizer is not really. You know some properties that souls are supposed to have. There are various secular accounts of what a soul is that basically match the intuiton (e.g. your personality).

Replies from: TurnTrout
comment by TurnTrout · 2021-04-07T02:07:57.316Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree that "soul" has more 'real' meaning than "florepti xor bobble." There's another point to consider, though, which is that many of us will privilege claims about souls with more credence than they realistically deserve, as an effect of having grown up in a certain kind of culture. 

Out of all the possible metaphysical constructs which could 'exist', why believe that souls are particularly likely? Many people believing in souls is some small indirect evidence for them, but not an amount of evidence commensurate with the concept's prior improbability.

Replies from: DanielFilan
comment by DanielFilan · 2021-04-07T02:54:36.259Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Out of all the possible metaphysical constructs which could 'exist', why believe that souls are particularly likely?

Because there are good candidates for what a soul might be. E.g. the algorithm that's running in your head.

Replies from: TurnTrout
comment by TurnTrout · 2021-04-07T03:59:30.738Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess I feel like this is a significant steelman and atypical of normal usage. In my ontology, that algorithm is closer to ‘mind.’

Replies from: Raemon
comment by Raemon · 2021-04-07T05:20:26.509Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So there's a specific thing of "the immortal part of you that goes to heaven", which is just false. 

But I think plenty of people draw a mind/soul/body, where the mind/soul distinction is pointing at a cluster that's sort of like:

  • System 1 (as opposed to System 2)
  • strongly felt emotions
  • the core of your being – the things that make you distinctly you, vs the parts of your algorithm that any ol' person could easily implement (i.e. design by committee, paint by numbers). your central identity.

When one says "that artistic piece has soul" or "they poured their soul into a project", one is saying (something like) "they invested their identity into it" or "they made it out of creative pieces that would be hard for someone else to replicate" or "they worked extremely hard on it, because they deeply cared about the outcome" (where if they had not deeply cared about the outcome they would have worked less hard).

I think people that talk about immortal souls are usually also talking about the cluster of properties that have to do with the above. And they're just-plain-wrong about the immortal part, and they don't have super great abstractions for the other parts, but the other parts seem like they're trying to engage with a real thing.

Replies from: DanielFilan
comment by DanielFilan · 2021-04-07T15:05:40.009Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

FWIW I'm pretty sure people have historically used words that get translated to 'soul' and not believed that it was immortal or went to heaven. I don't have time to read this at the moment but I guess this SEP article is relevant.

Replies from: TurnTrout
comment by TurnTrout · 2021-04-07T16:53:40.722Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

OK, if we're talking about central identity, then I very much wouldn't sign a contract giving away rights to my central identity. I interpreted the question to be about selling one's "immortal soul" (which supposedly goes to heaven if I'm good).

Replies from: Raemon
comment by Raemon · 2021-04-07T18:02:01.985Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think part of the lesson here is ‘don’t casually sell vaguely defined things that are generally understood to be some kind of big deal’

Replies from: TurnTrout
comment by TurnTrout · 2021-04-07T19:16:24.929Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I still don't fully agree with OP but I do agree that I should weight this heuristic more.

comment by Raemon · 2021-04-07T00:05:11.449Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I actually started this essay thinking "eh, I don't think this matters too much", but by the end of it I was just like "yeah, this checks out."

I think "Don't casually make contracts you don't intent to keep" is just pretty cruxy for me. This is a key piece of being a trustworthy person who can coordinate in complex, novel domains. There might be a price where there is worth it to do it as a joke, but $10 is way too low. 

Suppose instead that the acquaintance approached me with a piece of paper that says "I, TurnTrout, give [acquaintance] ownership over my florepti xor bobble."

I think you should feel about this the same way you feel about some arbitrary cryptocoin or NFT. Sure, it's an arbitrary stupid thing that only has value because people think it does. But, like, that's what the whole finance industry is built on.  You shouldn't feel any more comfortably making a contract you don't intend to keep about souls as you should about various currencies / beanie babies / whatever.  

I'd bet [LW · GW] 1000:1 odds against my ever wanting to "buy my soul back."

This actually seems obviously wrong to me, if for no other reason than "I think it's moderately likely at some point you will get approached by someone who'd buy it for more than $10."

Replies from: TurnTrout
comment by TurnTrout · 2021-04-07T00:16:10.552Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think "Don't casually make contracts you don't intent to keep" is just pretty cruxy for me. This is a key piece of being a trustworthy person who can coordinate in complex, novel domains. There might be a price where there is worth it to do it as a joke, but $10 is way too low. 

I agree that the contracts part was important, and I share this crux. I should have noted that. I did purposefully modify my hypothetical so that I wasn't becoming less trustworthy by signing my acquaintance's piece of paper. 

This actually seems obviously wrong to me, if for no other reason than "I think it's moderately likely at some point you will get approached by someone who'd buy it for more than $10."

I meant something more like the desperate "oh no my soul was so important, I'm going to pay $10k, $20k, whatever it takes to get it back!"; I should have clarified that in my original comment.

comment by DanielFilan · 2021-04-07T01:26:52.117Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

EMs? Would a religious person really think that an EM is/has a soul?

I declare replies to this comment to be devoted to getting data on this question.

Replies from: gjm, DanielFilan, joshuatanderson
comment by gjm · 2021-04-07T13:17:08.009Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's about 15 years since I was a religious person, but here's something I wrote a few months before my deconversion:

My view is that "soul" can usually be replaced by "mind" without loss of meaning, and that the mind is to the body roughly as a computer program is to the hardware it runs on, or as a piece of music is to a particular performance. If the hardware is destroyed -- if the performers are killed by a freak accident -- the program, or the music, can be set in motion again with a different substrate.

And something else from around the same time:

The language of "souls" is a useful shorthand sometimes, but it's wrong if taken at face value. "Soul" in the Bible sometimes seems to mean more or less the same as "being" ("and man became a living soul") and sometimes to mean something like "deepest part of the mind" ("now is my soul troubled").

So I'm fairly sure that late-Christian-me would have said (1) that to whatever extent people "have souls", if you make me into an em then I "have" the same soul as before, but (2) that ownership of "souls" in this sense is not a thing that can be transferred by signing a contract and (3) that if you're concerned that selling someone your soul gives them rights to future ems made from you, you should also be concerned that it gives them rights to your mind right now.

(This was not, and is not, a common point of view among Christians, though I have one Christian friend who I suspect would say more or less exactly the same things.)

comment by DanielFilan · 2021-04-07T01:27:56.473Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One protestant friend of mine thinks that the standard Christian view is that an em would not be or have a soul.

Replies from: simon
comment by simon · 2021-04-07T03:37:18.771Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

They say that now, but perhaps they would change their mind in a hypothetical future where they actually regularly interacted with ems.

comment by joshuatanderson · 2021-04-07T15:59:09.519Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm a Christian user of LessWrong.  

Although this isn't a universal Christian position (there are some Christian materialists/naturalists), most Christians believe that souls exist on a different metaphysical plane than your brain or an EM.  I wouldn't expect to find any physical atoms that could be identified as being part of a soul.  I would obviously expect to find those in an EM.  

Also, great article.  I think the 1000:1 odds bit is a reasonable analysis.  Given an atheistic starting point, although it may feel that future-theist-you is almost certainly wrong, this prediction isn't easily extricable from the fact that it is being created by atheist-you. 

Even if there is a 1:1000 chance that you have a metaphysical soul, you would certainly be making a bad deal (if it were actually possible to sell your soul online as this article posits).

If anything I said doesn't make sense, feel free to AMA.  

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2021-04-07T21:46:25.283Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

most Christians believe that souls exist on a different metaphysical plane than your brain or an EM

Even if that's true, do you think that the EM has a link to the same metaphysical human who was uploaded or does the soul that was linked to the human is not linked in any way to the EM?

Replies from: joshuatanderson
comment by joshuatanderson · 2021-04-07T22:03:36.117Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a great question, ChristianKI.  I have no idea if a soul-human link would transfer to an uploaded consciousness.  The thought experiment of the Ship of Theseus definitely intrigues me, and I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other.  I wouldn't expect to find any sort of material link to a soul, so I actually wouldn't know how to test for it even if I had an EM in the room with me right now.  

I will also add that I don't think a belief in a soul, given that it (as far as I know) has only anecdotal evidence, and doesn't fit into the scientific method, isn't self-supporting, and I wouldn't hold it if it didn't have borrowed strength from other theistic beliefs.  

Does that add any clarity?

comment by Donald Hobson (donald-hobson) · 2021-04-06T22:24:21.156Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I remember a similar discussion from somewhere. The summery is:  Don't stay in 'haunted houses' just because you don't believe in ghosts. Many 'haunted houses' are actually structurally unsound or infested. (and subtle mental effects like a creeping feeling of unease could even be caused by a low level pollution of psychoactive chemicals in the environment.)

Replies from: MondSemmel
comment by MondSemmel · 2021-04-08T16:03:20.134Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I had heard about the poisoning explanation before, and was amused to find that it constitutes a relevant part of the wikipedia article on haunted houses.

comment by Ozyrus · 2021-04-07T10:42:56.046Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does that, in turn, mean that it's probably a good investment to buy souls for 10 bucks a pop (or even more)?

Replies from: ChristianKl, alkexr
comment by ChristianKl · 2021-04-07T21:49:51.770Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A lot of ways to extract profit from having brought the souls involve some form of blackmail that's both unethical and a lot of labor. 

There are a lot more ethical ways to make a living that also pay better for the labor. 

comment by alkexr · 2021-04-07T19:24:39.061Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Non sequitur. Buying isn't the inverse operation of selling. Both cost positive amounts of time and both have risks you may not have thought of. But it probably is a good idea to go back in time and unsell your soul. Except that going back in time is probably a bad idea too. Never mind. It's probably a good investment to turn your attention to somewhere other than the soul market.

comment by Oleg S. · 2021-04-07T14:17:35.473Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the offer needs to be modified to generate more solid market.

First, instead of making a crazy N-point contract, the correct way to trade souls is through the NFT auctions/markets. The owner gets the same symbolic rights as the owner of the arts sold through this mechanism, and there are no those extra unclear requirements on seller's actions that will hinder the healthy financial derivatives market.

Second, only desperate people sell their whole soles. Obviously, you should trade shares of souls.

So, how much do you think it will cost to develop a platform, where one can register, put a share of one's soul for auction, or build a solid portfolio of souls? What do you think the market size would be?

comment by Anon User (anon-user) · 2021-04-06T22:10:29.645Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here is yet another reason this trade may be irrational. If souls were real, then I'd expect the value of a soul to be quite high. For the sake of the argument, let's posit the value of a soul (if it existed) at $1M. Now the question is - can you make 100,000 statements that you are about as certain of being true as the statement "souls do not exist" and not make even a single mistake? If the answer is "no" (and it's probably "no" for all but the most careful people), then the habit of selling souls for $10 is a bad habit to have - sooner or later you'd mess up and sell something way too valuable.

comment by cousin_it · 2021-04-06T20:43:20.804Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I immediately thought of Ross Scott's story about buying souls.

comment by Idan Arye · 2021-04-09T01:06:28.147Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Section IV, clause A:

Buyer and Seller agree that the owner of the Soul may possess, claim, keep, store, offer, transfer, or make use of it in whole or in part in any manner that they see fit to do so, conventional or otherwise, including (but not limited to) the purposes described in this Section (IV). Example uses of the Soul which would be permitted under these terms include (but are not limited to):

  • ...
  • Long term storage, usage, or preservation of the Soul in a state which would prevent it from taking the course of development, evolution, or relocation it may otherwise take naturally or due to the actions or material status of the Seller.

Am I interpreting it wrong, or is this clause permitting the buyer to kill the seller?

comment by Bunthut · 2021-04-07T16:11:36.649Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think giving reasons made this post less effective. Reasons make naive!rationalist more likely to yield on this particular topic, but thats no longer a live concern, and it probably inhibits learning the general lesson.

comment by benjamincosman · 2021-04-07T00:03:00.729Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So does your answer change if the soul-seller is the artist instead of the prop? Also Tim would argue that he did not sell his soul but rather an artwork entitled Selling My Soul; I haven't seen reason to argue yet ;)

Replies from: benjamincosman
comment by benjamincosman · 2021-04-07T00:04:24.294Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

...what's wrong with my link formatting? I checked all the [common failure modes](https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Comment_formatting#Links_2)

Replies from: Raemon
comment by Raemon · 2021-04-07T00:10:46.285Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're currently using the WYSIWYG editor, where you format links by selecting the text (causing a menu of formatting options to appear) and then choosing the 'link' option.

In your user settings, you can switch to the Markdown editor, where normal Markdown formatting rules apply.

Replies from: benjamincosman
comment by benjamincosman · 2021-04-07T00:17:37.577Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks!

comment by David Hugh-Jones (david-hugh-jones) · 2021-04-07T09:39:09.890Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can't believe nobody's mentioned Pascal's wager. Surely this is the simplest reason not to sell your soul.

The other reasons seem to me like the irrational tail wagging the rational dog. If you are sure you don't have a soul, then selling it for $10 is not a big deal, just as if someone offered to buy my Thetan and I'm not a scientologist.

comment by HDMI Cable · 2021-04-06T22:40:33.287Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Looking at it in a purely monetary way, a soul (being an eternal representation of you and all) would have an asymptotically infinite value, while $10 is $10. Even if there is a 0.001% chance of a soul existing (e.g. God existing, or some sort of Matrix-like scenario), then the expected value of keeping your soul would be on the same scale as: . Unless you view the value of a soul as non-infinite, and/or the chance that it exists as exactly 0%, it doesn't make sense to sell it.

Replies from: gwillen, Slider
comment by gwillen · 2021-04-07T05:49:34.367Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This seems like a classic Pascal's Wager, and as such probably not a great strategy to follow -- see "Pascal's Mugging" for a discussion of what happens if you start letting people push you around by declaring things to have infinite (or incredibly large) utility in some unlikely scenario.

... but I can't figure out how this comment got down to -9 points on that basis alone. I'm wondering if your username caused a bunch of people to assume -- as I did initially -- that you were a spambot, and thus downvote you extra-harshly after a bare skim of your actual comment.

comment by Slider · 2021-04-07T09:53:14.515Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it would be more standard to regard an item that is never sold as not being relevant for market mechanics.

But on the other hand if one doesn't sell for any finite price one could argue that revealed preference would need to be infinite.

I think iti s popular to assume that all items in a finite universe are within a single Archimedian class ie that for all items there is some finite R so that R x dollar triggers a voluntary exchange.