TurnTrout's shortform feed

post by TurnTrout · 2019-06-30T18:56:49.775Z · score: 22 (5 votes) · LW · GW · 12 comments


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comment by TurnTrout · 2019-06-30T18:57:46.543Z · score: 24 (7 votes) · LW · GW

comment by TurnTrout · 2019-07-05T23:00:58.761Z · score: 14 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I passed a homeless man today. His face was wracked in pain, body rocking back and forth, eyes clenched shut. A dirty sign lay forgotten on the ground: "very hungry".

This man was once a child, with parents and friends and dreams and birthday parties and maybe siblings he'd get in arguments with and snow days he'd hope for.

And now he's just hurting.

And now I can't help him without abandoning others. So he's still hurting. Right now.

Reality is still allowed to make this happen. This is wrong. This has to change.

comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2019-07-06T03:12:51.584Z · score: 8 (6 votes) · LW · GW

How would you help this man, if having to abandon others in order to do so were not a concern? (Let us assume that someone else—someone whose competence you fully trust, and who will do at least as good a job as you will—is going to take care of all the stuff you feel you need to do.)

What is it you had in mind to do for this fellow—specifically, now—that you can’t (due to those other obligations)?

comment by TurnTrout · 2019-07-06T05:02:37.715Z · score: 13 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Suppose I actually cared about this man with the intensity he deserved - imagine that he were my brother, father, or best friend.

The obvious first thing to do before interacting further is to buy him a good meal and a healthy helping of groceries. Then, I need to figure out his deal. Is he hurting, or is he also suffering from mental illness?

If the former, I'd go the more straightforward route of befriending him, helping him purchase a sharp business professional outfit, teaching him to interview and present himself with confidence, secure an apartment, and find a job.

If the latter, this gets trickier. I'd still try and befriend him (consistently being a source of cheerful conversation and delicious food would probably help), but he might not be willing or able to get the help he needs, and I wouldn't have the legal right to force him. My best bet might be to enlist the help of a psychological professional for these interactions. If this doesn't work, my first thought would be to influence the local government to get the broader problem fixed (I'd spend at least an hour considering other plans before proceeding further, here). Realistically, there's likely a lot of pressure in this direction already, so I'd need to find an angle from which few others are pushing or pulling where I can make a difference. I'd have to plot out the relevant political forces, study accounts of successful past lobbying, pinpoint the people I need on my side, and then target my influencing accordingly.

(All of this is without spending time looking at birds-eye research and case studies of poverty reduction; assume counterfactually that I incorporate any obvious improvements to these plans, because I'd care about him and dedicate more than like 4 minutes of thought).

comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2019-07-06T05:53:48.328Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, a number of questions may be asked here (about desert, about causation, about autonomy, etc.). However, two seem relevant in particular:

First, it seems as if (in your latter scenario) you’ve arrived (tentatively, yes, but not at all unreasonably!) at a plan involving systemic change. As you say, there is quite a bit of effort being expended on this sort of thing already, so, at the margin, any effective efforts on your part would likely be both high-level and aimed in an at-least-somewhat-unusual direction.

… yet isn’t this what you’re already doing?

Second, and unrelatedly… you say:

Suppose I actually cared about this man with the intensity he deserved—imagine that he were my brother, father, or best friend.

Yet it seems to me that, empirically, most people do not expend the level of effort which you describe, even for their siblings, parents, or close friends. Which is to say that the level of emotional and practical investment you propose to make (in this hypothetical situation) is, actually, quite a bit greater than that which most people invest in their family members or close friends.

The question, then, is this: do you currently make this degree of investment (emotional and practical) in your actual siblings, parents, and close friends? If so—do you find that you are unusual in this regard? If not—why not?

comment by TurnTrout · 2019-07-06T06:08:46.662Z · score: 11 (3 votes) · LW · GW
… yet isn’t this what you’re already doing?

I work on technical AI alignment, so some of those I help (in expectation) don't even exist yet. I don't view this as what I'd do if my top priority were helping this man.

The question, then, is this: do you currently make this degree of investment (emotional and practical) in your actual siblings, parents, and close friends? If so—do you find that you are unusual in this regard? If not—why not?

That's a good question. I think the answer is yes, at least for my close family. Recently, I've expended substantial energy persuading my family to sign up for cryonics with me, winning over my mother, brother, and (I anticipate) my aunt. My father has lingering concerns which I think he wouldn't have upon sufficient reflection, so I've designed a similar plan for ensuring he makes what I perceive to be the correct, option-preserving choice. For example, I made significant targeted donations to effective charities on his behalf to offset (what he perceives as) a considerable drawback of cryonics: his inability to also be an organ donor.

A universe in which humanity wins but my dad is gone would be quite sad to me, and I'll take whatever steps necessary to minimize the chances of that.

I don't know how unusual this is. This reminds me of the relevant Harry-Quirrell exchange; most people seem beaten-down and hurt themselves, and I can imagine a world in which people are in better places and going to greater lengths for those they love. I don't know if this is actually what would make more people go to these lengths (just an immediate impression).

comment by Raemon · 2019-07-06T03:30:46.593Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I predict that this comment is not helpful to Turntrout.

comment by Raemon · 2019-07-05T23:07:11.852Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW · GW


Song I wrote about this once (not very polished)

comment by TurnTrout · 2019-09-18T21:57:15.893Z · score: 13 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Good, original thinking feels present to me - as if mental resources are well-allocated.

The thought which prompted this:

Sure, if people are asked to solve a problem and say they can't after two seconds, yes - make fun of that a bit. But that two seconds covers more ground than you might think, due to System 1 precomputation.

Reacting to a bit of HPMOR here, I noticed something felt off about Harry's reply to the Fred/George-tried-for-two-seconds thing. Having a bit of experience noticing confusing, I did not think "I notice I am confused" (although this can be useful). I did not think "Eliezer probably put thought into this", or "Harry is kinda dumb in certain ways - so what if he's a bit unfair here?". Without resurfacing, or distraction, or wondering if this train of thought is more fun than just reading further, I just thought about the object-level exchange.

People need to allocate mental energy wisely; this goes far beyond focusing on important tasks. Your existing mental skillsets already optimize and auto-pilot certain mental motions for you, so you should allocate less deliberation to them. In this case, the confusion-noticing module was honed; by not worrying about how well I noticed confusion, I was able to quickly have an original thought.

When thought processes derail or brainstorming sessions bear no fruit, inappropriate allocation may be to blame. For example, if you're anxious, you're interrupting the actual thoughts with "what-if"s.

To contrast, non-present thinking feels like a controller directing thoughts to go from here to there: do this and then, check that, come up for air over and over... Present thinking is a stream of uninterrupted strikes, the train of thought chugging along without self-consciousness. Moving, instead of thinking about moving while moving.

I don't know if I've nailed down the thing I'm trying to point at yet.

comment by TurnTrout · 2019-09-19T16:04:52.767Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, if people are asked to solve a problem and say they can't after two seconds, yes - make fun of that a bit. But that two seconds covers more ground than you might think, due to System 1 precomputation.

Expanding on this, there is an aspect of Actually Trying that is probably missing from S1 precomputation. So, maybe the two-second "attempt" is actually useless for most people because subconscious deliberation isn't hardass enough at giving its all, at making desperate and extraordinary efforts to solve the problem.

comment by TurnTrout · 2019-09-16T22:19:19.496Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I seem to differently discount different parts of what I want. For example, I'm somewhat willing to postpone fun to low-probability high-fun futures, whereas I'm not willing to do the same with romance.

comment by TurnTrout · 2019-09-22T02:28:49.631Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How does representation interact with consciousness? Suppose you're reasoning about the universe via a partially observable Markov decision process, and that your model is incredibly detailed and accurate. Further suppose you represent states as numbers, as their numeric labels.

To get a handle on what I mean, consider the game of Pac-Man, which can be represented as a finite, deterministic, fully-observable MDP. Think about all possible game screens you can observe, and number them. Now get rid of the game screens. From the perspective of reinforcement learning, you haven't lost anything - all policies yield the same return they did before, the transitions/rules of the game haven't changed - in fact, there's a pretty strong isomorphism I can show between these two MDPs. All you've done is changed the labels - representation means practically nothing to the mathematical object of the MDP, although many eg DRL algorithms should be able to exploit regularities in the representation to reduce sample complexity.

So what does this mean? If you model the world as a partially observable MDP whose states are single numbers... can you still commit mindcrime via your deliberations? Is the structure of the POMDP in your head somehow sufficient for consciousness to be accounted for (like how the theorems of complexity theory govern computers both of flesh and of silicon)? I'm confused.