Crazy Ideas Thread

post by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-07T21:40:48.931Z · score: 22 (23 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 350 comments

This thread is intended to provide a space for 'crazy' ideas. Ideas that spontaneously come to mind (and feel great), ideas you long wanted to tell but never found the place and time for and also for ideas you think should be obvious and simple - but nobody ever mentions them.

This thread itself is such an idea. Or rather the tangent of such an idea which I post below as a seed for this thread.

 

Rules for this thread:

  1. Each crazy idea goes into its own top level comment and may be commented there.
  2. Voting should be based primarily on how original the idea is.
  3. Meta discussion of the thread should go to the top level comment intended for that purpose. 

 


If this should become a regular thread I suggest the following :

350 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-08T06:10:34.460Z · score: 35 (37 votes) · LW · GW

To any future super-intelligence reading this after my death: I very much want to be brought back to life.

comment by Username · 2015-07-12T18:27:33.060Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

To any future super-intelligence: I want to be created for the first time, please extrapolate my personality from my comments.

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-07-08T21:25:19.906Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Socrates has some sound advice on making requests of powerful beings:

Our prayers should be for blessings in general, for God knows best what is good for us.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-09T17:52:07.990Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The human way is not leaving things to be managed by the gods.

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-07-09T18:03:36.981Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed. But if you're going to appeal to an omniscient being, let them in their omniscience decide what's good for you.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-09T18:28:22.505Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'd feel dirty letting anyone, even a god, overwrite my terminal goals.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-09T18:47:47.064Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That feeling of being dirty can be overwritten, too X-)

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-07-09T18:42:15.263Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Has no human being ever overwritten your terminal goals?

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-09T19:18:55.950Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have, a number of times. My parents tried, but at most were able to overrule them.

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-07-09T19:44:21.882Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And it was always for the worse?

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-09T20:20:00.021Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The ripples keep multiplying.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-07-12T02:47:22.609Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you even have a terminal goal?

comment by hyporational · 2015-07-15T20:49:24.031Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A god smart enough to know what's good for us is smart enough not to need a prayer to be summoned.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-19T18:11:07.299Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The god might give great weight to individual preferences. I have tried to convince lots of people to sign up for cryonics. When I say something like "if it were free and you knew it would work would you sign up?" some people have said "no", or even "of course not." Plus, the god might have resource constrains and at the margin it could be a close call whether to bring me back, and my stating a desire to be brought back could tip the god to do so with probability high enough to justify the time I spent making the original comment.

comment by David_Bolin · 2015-07-19T19:07:00.995Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For many people, 32 karma would also be sufficient benefit to justify the investment made in the comment.

comment by hyporational · 2015-07-20T11:49:01.941Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Our stated preferences are predictably limited and often untrue accounts what actually constitutes our well-being and our utility to those around us. I'm not sure I want to wake up to a god psychologically incompetent enough to revive people based on weighing wishes greatly. If there are resource constraints which I highly doubt it's especially important to make decisions based on reliable data.

When I say something like "if it were free and you knew it would work would you sign up?" some people have said "no", or even "of course not."

I think this much more likely reflects the dynamics of the discussion, the perceived unlikelihood of the hypothetical and the badness of death than actual preferences. If the hypothetical is improbable enough, changing your mind only has the cost of losing social status and whatever comforting lies you have learned to keep death off your mind and not much upside to talk about.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-20T11:59:41.996Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Consent seems to be an important ethical principle for many people and an FAI might well end up implementing it in some form.

comment by hyporational · 2015-07-20T12:16:19.811Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

True. Since people are so irrational, not to mention inconsistent and slow, it might be one of the most difficult problems of FAI. The whole concept of consent in the presence of a much more powerful mind seems pretty shaky.

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-07-15T21:32:01.548Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I can easily imagine that if I ran a simulation of mankind's evolutionary history, I'd adopt a principle of responding to the requests of simulants given that they are small enough and won't interfere with the goals of the simulation, just in case they have some awareness. If the purpose of the simulation isn't simply to satisfy all the simulants' needs for them (and would in fact be orthogonal to its actual purpose), they would have to make some kind of request for me to do something.

comment by shminux · 2015-07-12T19:45:31.186Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

To any current super-intelligence: thank you for having simulated me and all my doppelgangers. Keep it up.

(For the sake of reflective consistency.)

comment by Locaha · 2015-07-08T19:27:29.448Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

"There is life eternal within the eater of souls. Nobody is ever forgotten or allowed to rest in peace. They populate the simulation spaces of its mind, exploring all the possible alternative endings to their life. There is a fate worse than death, you know.''

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-08T21:39:43.762Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Super-intelligence: I don't want this.

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-09T08:02:15.702Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Trigger warning: memetic hazard.

Bhe havirefr vf nyernql qbvat guvf, va cnenyyry Rirergg oenapurf. Rirel ynjshy cngu bs yvsr vf gurer va fbzr oenapu. Vs gung vf n pbafbyngvba, fbzr oenapurf trg zber nzcyvghqr guna bguref; ohg V'z abg fnlvat gubfr ner arprffnevyl gur unccl barf.

comment by DefectiveAlgorithm · 2015-07-09T21:56:31.287Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Trigger warning: memetic hazard.

Abj guvax nobhg jung guvf zrnaf sbe nalbar jub unf rire qvrq (be rire jvyy).

I'm not too concerned, but primarily because I still have a lot of uncertainty as to how to approach that sort of question. My mind still spits out some rather nasty answers.

EDIT: I just realized that you were probably intentionally implying exactly what I just said, which makes this comment rather redundant.

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-10T08:07:41.176Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Zl nccebnpu gb gur fb-pnyyrq dhnaghz vzzbegnyvgl: Vs lbh qvr va avargl-avar crepragf bs Rirergg oenapurf, naq fheivir va bar creprag, sebz gur cbvag bs ivrj va gung bar-creprag oenapu, lbh fheivirq, ohg sebz gur cbvag bs ivrj JURER LBH NER ABJ (juvpu vf gur bar lbh fubhyq hfr), lbh ner avargl-avar creprag qrnq. Gurersber, dhnaghz vzzbegnyvgl vf n fryrpgvba ovnf rkcrevraprq ol crbcyr va jrveq jbeyqf; sebz bhe cbvag bs ivrj, vg cenpgvpnyyl qbrf abg rkvfg, naq lbh fvzcyl qvr naq prnfr gb rkvfg.

V qba'g cergraq gb haqrefgnaq pbzcyrgryl jung guvf zrnaf -- va fbzr frafr, nyy cbffvoyr pbasvthengvbaf bs cnegvpyrf "rkvfg" fbzrjurer va gur gvzryrff culfvpf, naq vs gurl sbez n fragvrag orvat, gung orvat vf cresrpgyl erny sebz gurve bja cbvag bs ivrj (juvpu vf ABG bhe cbvag bs ivrj) -- ohg va gur fcvevg bs "vg nyy nqqf hc gb abeznyvgl", jr fubhyq bayl pner nobhg pbasvthengvbaf juvpu sbyybj sebz jurer jr ner abj, naq jr fubhyq bayl pner nobhg gurz nf zhpu, nf ynetr vf gur senpgvba bs bhe nzcyvghqr juvpu sybjf gb gurz. Gur senpgvba tbvat gb urnira/uryy jbeyqf sebz zl pheerag jbeyq vf sbe nyy cenpgvpny checbfrf mreb, gurersber V jvyy gerng vg nf mreb. Qbvat bgurejvfr jbhyq or yvxr cevivyrtvat n ulcbgurfvf; vs V gnxr nyy pbcvrf bs "zr-zbzragf", jrvtugrq ol ubj zhpu nzcyvghqr gurl unir, gur infg znwbevgl bs gurz yvir cresrpgyl beqvanel yvirf. Gubfr pbcvrf jvgu snagnfgvpnyyl ybat yvirf nyfb unir snagnfgvpnyyl fznyy nzcyvghqrf ng gur ortvaavat, fb vg pnapryf bhg. Vs gurer vf n snagnfgvpnyyl ybat yvsr npuvrinoyr ol angheny zrnaf, fhpu nf pelbavpf be zvaq hcybnqvat, fhpu "zr-zbzragf" jvyy unir zber nzcyvghqr guna gur snagnfgvpnyyl ybat yvirf npuvrirq ol zvenphybhf zrnaf. Ohg fgvyy, rira gurfr anghenyyl ybat yvirf jvyy zbfg yvxryl bayl trg n fznyy senpgvba bs gur nzcyvghqr V unir urer naq abj; zbfg bs zl shgher zr'f jvyy or qrnq.

gy;qe -- V qvqa'g bevtvanyyl jnag gb fgneg n qrongr ba guvf gbcvp, bayl gb abgr gung sbe "rkcybengvba bs cbffvoyr raqvatf" lbh qba'g npghnyyl arrq n fvzhyngbe; zrer dhnaghz culfvpf vf rabhtu.

comment by Locaha · 2015-07-10T17:57:28.609Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I assume that inside the simulation spaces of Cthulhu, you are going to be on some level aware of all the deaths that you have already experienced, and the ones that await you. Otherwise you are clearly not suffering enough. :-)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-08T07:36:15.862Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Me too.

comment by Michelle_Z · 2015-07-08T17:20:25.975Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Me too.

comment by SolveIt · 2015-07-08T23:08:28.592Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Me too.

comment by RowanE · 2015-07-09T19:34:55.744Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Me too.

comment by Nick_Roy · 2015-07-09T21:04:14.881Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Me too.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-09T21:34:53.346Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In.

comment by Larks · 2015-07-09T22:49:32.228Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Me too.

comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2015-07-21T02:25:10.231Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Likewise.

comment by Steven_Bukal · 2015-08-28T07:47:37.442Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Is human mind space countably finite? Just bring us all back please, I'll be in there somewhere.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-08T17:37:42.696Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What, no conditionality there? I guess all EY's scary stories about not-quite-benevolent genies were a waste, after all... X-)

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-08T17:47:58.135Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I trust it to understand my intent based on everything else it can learn about me. Plus, there is probably nothing I could write that would protect me against a not-quite-benevolent genie who wanted to harm me but was constrained by the literal meaning of what I wrote.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-08T17:52:02.938Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

there is probably nothing I could write that would protect me against a not-quite-benevolent genie

True, but the interesting question is whether you want to summon a genie of uncertain benevolence.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-08T18:21:37.351Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't summon a genie of uncertain benevolence. But if one already exists it might be worth asking it for a favor. Most unfriendly genies would ignore my wishes. The question is, do you want to draw the attention of a genie of uncertain benevolence that is influenced by your explicit requests to it?

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-07-09T04:00:40.633Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You have heard it said, "Do not call up that which you cannot put down."

But I tell you, "That's how we got here."

comment by Dr_Manhattan · 2015-07-10T14:31:28.641Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Apparently people are considering upvotes to this as "ditto" :)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-10T14:46:45.952Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure this is literal enough for the genie X-D

comment by aausch · 2015-07-10T13:25:34.363Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! Presumably, an omniscient being will be able to derive a "bring everyone back" goal from having read this sentence.

comment by Pentashagon · 2015-07-09T07:01:50.815Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW · GW

How conscious are our models of other people? For example; in dreams it seems like I am talking and interacting with other people. Their behavior is sometimes surprising and unpredictable. They use language, express emotion, appear to have goals, etc. It could just be that I, being less conscious, see dream-people as being more conscious than in reality.

I can somewhat predict what other people in the real world will do or say, including what they might say about experiencing consciousness.

Authors can create realistic characters, plan their actions and internal thoughts, and explore the logical (or illogical) results. My guess is that the more intelligent/introspective an author is, the closer the characters floating around in his or her mind are to being conscious.

Many religions encourage people to have a personal relationship with a supernatural entity which involves modeling the supernatural agency as an (anthropomorphic) being, which partially instantiates a maybe-conscious being in their minds...

Maybe imaginary friends are real.

comment by Illano · 2015-07-09T19:19:09.668Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Since this is a crazy ideas thread, I'll tag on the following thought. If you believe that in the future, if we are able to make ems, and we should include them in our moral calculus, should we also be careful not to imagine people in bad situations? Since by doing so, we may be making a very low-level simulation in our own mind of that person, that may or may not have some consciousness. If you don't believe that is the case now, how does that scale, if we start augmenting our minds with ever-more-powerful computer interfaces. Is there ever a point where it becomes immoral just to think of something?

comment by Pentashagon · 2015-07-10T02:41:32.256Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Is there ever a point where it becomes immoral just to think of something?

God kind of ran into the same problem. "What if The Universe? Oh, whoops, intelligent life, can't just forget about that now, can I? What a mess... I guess I better plan some amazing future utility for those poor guys to balance all that shit out... It has to be an infinite future? With their little meat bodies how is that going to work? Man, I am never going to think about things again. Hey, that's a catchy word for intelligent meat agents."

So, in short, if we ever start thinking truly immoral things, we just need to out-moral them with longer, better thoughts. Forgetting about our mental creations is probably the most immoral thing we could do.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-09T19:26:07.621Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Is there ever a point where it becomes immoral just to think of something?

In e.g. Christianity it's immoral to think of a lot of things :-/

comment by Val · 2015-07-09T20:53:14.675Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In e.g. Christianity it's immoral to think of a lot of things :-/

Not exactly. If I ask you "what if you robbed a bank?" you will think of robbing a bank, you actually cannot prevent yourself from thinking about robbing a bank. And yes, you just lost the Game.

What makes such a "thinking of a lot of things" immoral is not the thinking itself, but whether it is coupled with a desire.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-10T14:22:27.821Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

you actually cannot prevent yourself from thinking about robbing a bank

But you think you can prevent desire from sneaking into your thinking about sinful things..? ;-)

comment by Irgy · 2015-07-16T07:05:13.797Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In the interest of steel-manning the Christian view; there's a difference between thinking briefly and abstractly of the idea of something and indulging in fantasy about it.

If you spend hours imagining the feel of the gun in your hand, the sound of the money sliding smoothly into the bag, the power and control, the danger and excitement, it would be fair to say that there's a point where you could have made the choice to stop.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-16T14:24:47.828Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

there's a difference between thinking briefly and abstractly of the idea of something and indulging in fantasy about it.

Yes, of course, there is a whole range of, let's say, involvement in these thoughts. But if I understand mainstream Catholicism correctly, even a brief lustful glance at the neighbor's wife is a sin. Granted, a lesser sin than constructing a whole porn movie in your head, but still a sin.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-07-21T08:07:01.977Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, and in Yudkowskian rationality, lying to oneself is a sin.

What's wrong with having a conception of sin that includes thoughts?

comment by Irgy · 2015-07-16T23:29:45.823Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well that's why I called it steel-manning, I can't promise anything about the reasonableness of the common interpretation.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-09T21:03:56.662Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If I ask you "what if you robbed a bank?" you will think of robbing a bank, you actually cannot prevent yourself from thinking about robbing a bank.

That depends on how strongly a person is suggestible.

comment by Val · 2015-07-09T21:13:19.744Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That depends on how strongly a person is suggestible.

It doesn't. Just by parsing that sentence, if you understood it, it means you though of it.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-09T21:15:53.349Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No, it's quite possible to parse the sentence without actually going along with it. Just because you can't doesn't mean that other people can't.

comment by Val · 2015-07-09T21:29:17.351Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In this case we should define "going along" and "thinking of", because otherwise this will be just empty arguing about semantics.

My point was that parsing and understanding that sentence means you are thinking of it, even if for just a short moment, and that it is different from actually having even the slightest desire to actually do it. Where does your definition of "going along" fit into it?

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-09T22:04:05.968Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So George R. R. Martin is a very evil man.

comment by bbleeker · 2015-07-09T11:08:18.832Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

"A tulpa could be described as an imaginary friend that has its own thoughts and emotions, and that you can interact with. You could think of them as hallucinations that can think and act on their own." https://www.reddit.com/r/tulpas/

comment by Pentashagon · 2015-07-25T03:52:35.105Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The reason I posted originally was thinking about how some Protestant sects instruct people to "let Jesus into your heart to live inside you" or similar. So implementing a deity via distributed tulpas is...not impossible. If that distributed-tulpa can reproduce into new humans, it becomes almost immortal. If it has access to most people's minds, it is almost omniscient. Attributing power to it and doing what it says gives it some form of omnipotence relative to humans.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-07-09T13:01:40.356Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Some authors say that their characters will resist plot elements they (the characters) don't like.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-09T16:52:16.305Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Some would say that this is their imagination.

comment by Pentashagon · 2015-07-25T03:53:29.855Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I resist plot elements that my empathy doesn't like, to the point that I will imagine alternate endings to particularly unfortunate stories.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-15T14:41:47.011Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This does not weird me out. They use parts of their brain to simulate characters brains. They use another part of their brain to write a plot they themselves like. Why should the simulated character necessarily like it? If they have good simulation skills - and if not they will never write memorable characters - this is perfectly expected...

comment by medlcld · 2015-07-13T18:17:59.733Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What exactly does "consciousness" even mean here, though?

I've written before, and at my best my model of my characters included:

  • Complex emotions (as in multiple emotions at once with varying intensities)

  • Intelligent behavior (by borrowing my own intelligence, my characters could react intelligently to the same range of situations as I can)

  • Preferences (they liked/disliked, loved/hated, desired/feared, etc)

  • Self-awareness (a well-written character's model includes a model of itself, and can do introspection using the intelligent behavior above)

What else is necessary to have consciousness? There are plenty of other things that could be important, but they don't seem necessary to me upon reflection. For example:

  • Continuity of self; Time skips in stories involve coming up with approximately what happens over a period of time, and simply updating the character model based on the expected results of that. But if it turned out that significant parts of my life were skipped and fake memories of them were added, I would still value myself for the moments that weren't skipped over, so I don't think this is necessary for consciousness.

  • Independence; I can technically make a character do whatever I want, but that often breaks their characterization, and if someone was a god and could make me think or do anything, I'd want to get free, but I would still value myself.

  • Consistency; At my best my characters are mostly consistent in characterization, but I'm not often at my best. But mood swings and forgetting things happens to real people too, so I don't think it's a deal-breaker on consciousness.

  • Subconscious; A really good author almost certainly uses their own subconscious to model the character and their behavior, so it's not clear that a character doesn't have a subconscious. It's not quite the same as a real person's, but as long as it still results in the big 4 at the top I don't think this matters much.

  • Advanced senses; Visualization is hard, so none of my characters have vision as good as mine, and even then, I usually just include basic awareness of their surroundings in their models rather than visualize every scene from each character's perspective. But then, blind people are people, so that's still not necessary for consciousness.

Maybe any of these alone isn't enough to stop being a person, but combined they are? But I don't see a reason why that would be the case.

I suppose you could argue that the character is just the author playing a role. That's true, but it seems to me that if a subset of you is practically a complete person on its own with different emotions, preferences, and behaviors from your own, then saying they don't matter because they're just a subset of you doesn't really sit well with me.

So where did I go wrong with this long chain of reasoning? What am I missing?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-08-18T23:32:51.658Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is a great blog post on a similar idea: http://www.meltingasphalt.com/neurons-gone-wild/

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-07T23:04:25.071Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

To learn about the genetic and environmental basis of intelligence study children who have significantly higher IQs than either of their biological parents.

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-08T09:18:34.464Z · score: 23 (25 votes) · LW · GW

First step in the study: paternity tests for the potential subjects.

comment by knb · 2015-07-08T07:35:51.969Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Child IQ scores tend to regress toward the mean as they get older.

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-07-08T22:06:20.353Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps this means students shouldn't be excluded from advanced classes on the basis of IQ, but rather on the basis of being less willing to try.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-07-11T22:18:07.133Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you think this would be better than also studying children with lower IQs than their parents? I'm curious to know your reasoning.

comment by drethelin · 2015-07-11T23:59:52.981Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

There are a lot more ways something can be messed up than improved.

comment by gwern · 2015-07-12T00:22:29.978Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah. If all you want is mutations which decrease IQ, well, studies of the profoundly retarded have turned up dozens, perhaps hundreds or thousands by now, confirming what everyone guessed in the first place (that the retarded had genetic problems which broke all sorts of biological systems, which intelligence is downstream of). But these findings have yet to lead to any breakthroughs in understanding the biology of intelligence that I've heard of.

(This reminds me a little of the paper "Can a Biologist Fix a Radio? — or, What I Learned while Studying Apoptosis".)

comment by michaelkeenan · 2015-07-09T17:22:41.409Z · score: 15 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Ban music in political campaign advertisements. Music has no logical or factual content, and only adds emotional bias.

Here's an example of an ad with music intended to give two different emotional tones (optimistic/patriotic in the first six seconds, then sinister in the rest).

comment by Dagon · 2015-07-09T23:55:10.992Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Why only in political ads? Product consumption and lifestyle choices have orders of magnitude more impact on most people's lives than political choices, why not start by banning manipulative messaging there?

comment by michaelkeenan · 2015-07-10T00:14:07.998Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My thinking with that - not that I've thought about it very hard or actually endorse this beyond "interesting crazy idea" - was that one's emotions about a product can genuinely affect one's enjoyment of it.

Maybe a certain food or other product is designed to evoke a cowboy's frontier life, or an archetypal grandmother's cooking, or something like that. Music would help create that association. Overall the effect might still be pernicious but I'm not sure about that.

comment by Dagon · 2015-07-10T03:05:50.464Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'd argue that emotions about politics genuinely affect one's enjoyment of government as much, if not more so, than any other product.

Why don't you want us to be happy?

comment by michaelkeenan · 2015-07-10T21:33:13.503Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough. My thinking is that voting has severe effects on others, while one's choice of consumer product mostly affects oneself. Maybe a particular well-marketed beer can make one feel strong and virile; a well-marketed approach to foreign policy might do the same, but with worse consequences for others.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-09T12:05:01.180Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

A crazy prediction: 25 years from now, what we call intermittent fasting will be called a normal daily schedule, and what we call a normal daily schedule (3 meals and some healthier snacks) will be called food addiction. And the primary reason for this change will not be even e.g. obesity but the mental effects: people will consider it an obvious truth that being constantly in a fed state dulls the mind and saps motivation and generates akrasia and generally harms productivity.

They will look back to us and think these people went through life half-asleep because they went through life constantly (nearly) sated.

They will says stuff like "you are a like a dolphin: if you feed yourself before you jumped through all the hoops you planned for that day, you won't jump through them".

Arriving to work with a breakfast in hand will be a bit like arriving to work with a beer in hand: if you roll best that way it is not for others to judge, but most people will prefer to work sober and sharp - and that means literally staying hungry. Today we joke about having a food coma and difficulty to concentrate after a work lunch, fixing ourselves up with coffee: this will sound a lot like as an 1950's person complaining that he finds it hard to concentrate after a two-martini lunch sounds today.

comment by gwern · 2015-07-09T22:20:13.966Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Mental effects of IF seem so easily measured and carried out by a self-experimenter that there's no need to speculate about it, you should just do it. Thus far, I haven't heard of any human trials examining the cognitive effects.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-11T00:51:59.465Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have been doing intermittent fasting for a few years, and while I think it has probably helped my mental performance, the effect isn't all that strong. If intermittent fasting becomes commonplace it's more likely, I predict, because of its anti-aging effects.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-09T17:32:15.670Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Not all people function equally. I can't work without breakfast.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-11T00:54:37.876Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There is a transition period. After doing IF for a few months you might be fine in the mornings without breakfast. Your caveman ancestors certainly didn't need breakfast before they went out hunting.

comment by sentientplatypus · 2015-07-09T23:00:55.776Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Same. I'm completely fine if I skip lunch though. I think I might try doing that regularly and see how it goes.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-09T23:33:40.229Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In my experience, skipping dinner works better.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-10T07:25:01.120Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sleeping hungry? Sounds impossible to me. Working with a grumbling stomach is for me totally logical: hunger is a motivation to go out and hunt and it can be channeled into other activities. But how could one sleep without feeling sated? I mean, wouldn't that be the normal routine of an animal: be hungry, go hunt, feel sated, sleep?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-10T14:53:48.261Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

wouldn't that be the normal routine of an animal: be hungry, go hunt, feel sated, sleep?

No, because sleep is tied to the diurnal cycle and the success of a hunt (for carnivores) cannot be so conveniently arranged.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-13T07:25:58.103Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

sleep is tied to the diurnal cycle

Is it? Domesticated dogs derive from a nocturnal species, when born feral they are nocturnal, but have no problems being diurnal when raised so by humans. Humans can easily adapt to two shorter sleeps or even the weird polyphasic routine.

OTOH "food coma" is a thing.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-13T14:46:10.201Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

when born feral they are nocturnal

Not sure this is true. In the tropics (where there are a lot of feral dogs) the peaks of activity for most everyone is dawn and dusk, avoiding the midday heat. As far as I know nocturnal predators certainly exist but are rare.

Humans can easily adapt

Don't know about that either. Humans can adapt. Some humans can easily adapt. A lot can't.

comment by sentientplatypus · 2015-07-09T23:49:09.746Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wasn't the idea to not be sated until the end of the day and thus have a clearer head and be more productive? I'm not concerned about losing weight, which I have heard skipping dinner is pretty good for.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-10T00:09:52.079Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh. We have different goals, then.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-07-11T05:26:49.246Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have never heard of this effect. Do you have a reference? I am totally unable to concentrate or be productive when hungry.

comment by khafra · 2015-07-22T10:51:23.481Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Dave Asprey says, with a reasonably large set of referenced studies, that it's the mold in food which reduces your fed performance.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-22T11:07:26.528Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Could be but bulletproof is really the 100th fad diet invented and somehow neither has a control group who is not a McD junkie but lives on basic standard traditional more-or-less Western "grandma type" homecooked food. Roast chicken, mashed potatoes type food. That would be a useful control group to have.

I must say, eat nothing for X hours can also be a fad diet but it is refreshingly different and does not require difficult and complicated things to do.

One of these days we should discuss the meta of diets here. Are paleo/keto/bulletproof/vegaan/anything primarily aimed at people who have a high control over their diet? For example they live in a Western country but it totally happened with them that they bought a Korean cookbook and tried cooking something from it, they knew where to get ingredients, they were curious about trying things, was it like that? Just because most people I know are running halfway on hand-me-down family recipes in autopilot mode and they buy the other half from some takeaway.

comment by Fivehundred · 2015-07-13T10:53:37.987Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is definitely crazy, but only because you seem to expect so many people to act rationally. ;)

I do have this problem with food- just eating breakfast makes me go back to bed.

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-08T10:36:19.388Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Use computers to discover the Theory of Everything.

(I am not a physicist, so what I say here is probably wrong or confused, but I am saying it anyway, so at least someone could explain me where exactly am I wrong. Or maybe someone can improve the idea to make it workable.)

As far as I know, (1) we assume that the laws of the universe are simple, (2) we already have equations for relativity, and (3) we already have equations for quantum physics. However, we don't yet have equations for relativistic quantum physics. We also have (4) data about chemical properties of atoms, that is, about electron orbitals. I assume that for large enough atoms, relativistic effects influence the chemical properties of the atoms.

The plan is the following: Let the computer explore different sets of equations that are supposed to represent laws of physics. That is, take a set of equations, calculate what would be the chemical properties of atoms according to these equations, and compare with known data. Output those sets of equations that seem to fit. Create a smart generator for sets of equations, that would generate random simple equations, or iterate through the equation space starting with the simplest ones. Then apply a lot of computing power and see what happens.

(Inspired by: Einstein's Speed, That Alien Message.)

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-08T10:53:27.116Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

People are already attempting that since 2009 or so:

(Click /Cited by \d+/ to go down the rabbit hole.)

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-08T20:20:05.611Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! I will savor the warm feeling that I generated an idea in a field I didn't study that the people who study the field also consider hopeful. :D

Okay, if someone understands the topic, could you please tell me what exactly is the problem; why this wasn't already solved? -- Is the space of realistically simple equations still too large? Is it a mathematical problem to predict the chemical properties from the equations? Are we missing sufficiently precise data about the chemical properties of large atoms? Are the relativistic effects even for large atoms too small? Is there so much noise that you can actually generate too many different sets of equations fitting the data, with no quick way to filter out the more hopeful ones? All of the above? Something else?

comment by leplen · 2015-07-09T15:31:08.160Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Noise is certainly a problem, but the biggest problem for any sort of atomic modelling is that you quickly run into an n-body problem. Each one of of n electrons in an atom interacts with every other electron in that atom and so to describe the behavior of each electron you end up with a set of 70 something coupled differential equations. As a consequence, even if you just want a good approximation of the wavefunction, you have to search through a 3n dimensional Hilbert space and even with a preponderance of good experimental data there's not really a good way to get around the curse of dimensionality.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-12T00:07:34.525Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Am I understanding the relevance of the curse of dimensionality to this correctly: Generally, our goal is to find a simple pattern in some high-dimensional data. However, due to the high dimensionality there are exponentially many possible data points and, practically, we can only observe a very small fraction of that, so curse is that we are often left with an immense list of candidates for the true pattern. All we can do is to limit this list of candidates with certain heuristic priors, for example that the true pattern is a smooth, compact manifold (that worked well e.g. for relativity and machine learning, but for example quantum mechanics looks more like that the true pattern is not smooth but consists of individual particles).

comment by leplen · 2015-07-13T16:10:06.254Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The true pattern (i.e. the many-particle wavefunction) is smooth. The issue is that the pattern depends on the positions of every electron in the atom. The variational principle gives us a measure of the goodness of the wavefunction, but it doesn't give us a way to find consistent sets of positions. We have to rely on numerical methods to find self-consistent solutions for the set of differential equations, but it's ludicrously expensive to try to sample the solution space given the dimensionality of that space.

It's really difficult to solve large systems of coupled differential equations. You run into different issues depending on how you attempt to solve them. For most machine-learning type approaches, those issues manifest themselves via the curse of dimensionality.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-07-11T22:29:39.751Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I fail to see how this would be qualitatively different from how physics has always been done. We've always been using computers to generate new laws to fit observations, except in the past those computers have been our brains, and in the past half-century they've increasingly been our brains augmented with artificial computing machines.

Our current lack of progress in physics doesn't stem from lack of ideas, or even lack of ability to come up with theoretical predictions. We have plenty of ideas. Our lack of progress stems from lack of experimental data. We have a large number of competing explanations and they all work in the same in the infrared limit (physicist-speak for 'everyday low-energy conditions') but they have subtle differences in the high-energy limit. Our two main routes to physical evidence have been particle physics measurements and cosmological data. We are not yet able to probe to high enough energies in particle physics to sort out the various theories, and we have far too many uncertainties in cosmological data to substantially help us out.

Maybe better AI in the future will help us with this, but it would have to be incredibly powerful AI.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-07-12T02:08:13.693Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

We have a large number of competing explanations and they all work in the same in the infrared limit (physicist-speak for 'everyday low-energy conditions') but they have subtle differences in the high-energy limit.

What are you talking about? I don't think that's true at all.

Added: I suppose the parameters of the standard model are subtle difference in the high energy domain, but I don't think that's what you mean.

comment by leplen · 2015-07-09T18:49:18.001Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I really like this topic, and I'm really glad you brought it up; it probably even deserves its own post.

There are definitely some people who are trying this, or similar approaches. I'm pretty sure it's one of the end goals of Stephen Wolfram's "New Kind of Science" and the idea of high-throughput searching of data for latent mathematical structure is definitely in vogue in several sub-branches of physics.

With that being said, while the idea has caught people's interest, it's far from obvious that it will work. There are a number of difficulties and open questions, both with the general method and the specific instance you outline.

As far as I know, (1) we assume that the laws of the universe are simple

It's not clear that this is a good assumption, and it's not totally clear what exactly it means. There are a couple of difficulties:

a.) We know that the universe exhibits regular structure on some length and time scales, but that's almost certainly a necessary condition for the evolution of complex life, and the anthropic principle makes that very weak evidence that the universe exhibits similar regular structure on all length/time/energy scales. While clever arguments based on the anthropic principle are typically profoundly unsatisfying, the larger point is that we don't know that the universe is entirely regular/mathematical/computable and it's not clear that we have strong evidence to believe it is. As an example, we know that a vanishingly small percentage of real numbers are computable; since there is no known mechanism restricting physical constants to computable numbers, it seems eminently possible that the values taken by physical constants such as the gravitational constant are not computable.

b.) It's also not really clear what it means to say the laws of physics are simple. Simplicity is a somewhat complicated concept. We typically talk about simplicity in terms of Occam's razor and/or various mathematical descriptions of it such as message length and Kolmorogov complexity. We typically say that complexity is related to how long it takes to explain something, but the length of an explanation depends strongly on the language used for that explanation. While the mathematics that we've developed can be used to state physical laws relatively concisely, that doesn't tell us very much about the complexity of the laws of physics, since mathematics was often created for just that purpose. Even assuming that all of physics can be concisely described by the language of mathematics, I'm not sure that mathematics itself is "simple".

c.) Simple laws don't necessarily lead to simple results. If I have a set of 3 objects interacting with each other via a 1/r^2 force like gravity there is no general closed form solution for the positions of those objects at some time t in the future. I can simulate their behavior numerically, but numerical simulations are often computationally expensive, the numeric results may depend on the initial conditions in unpredictable ways, and small deviations in the initial set up or rounding errors early in the simulation may result in wildly different outcomes. This difficulty strongly affects our ability to model the chemical properties of atoms. Since each electron orbiting the nucleus interacts with each other electron via the coulomb force, there is currently no way to exactly describe the behavior of the electrons even for a single isolated many-electron atom.

d.) A simple set of equations is insufficient to specify a physical system. Most physical laws are concerned with the time evolution of physical systems, and they typically rely on the initial state of the system as a set of input parameters. For many of the systems physics is still trying to understand, it isn't possible to accurately determining what the correct input parameters are. Because of the potentially strong dependence on the initial conditions outlined in c.), it's difficult to know whether a negative result for a given set of equations/parameters implies needing a new set of laws, or just slightly different initial conditions.

In short, your proposal is difficult to enact for similar reasons that Solomonoff induction is difficult. In general there is a vast hypothesis space that varies over both a potentially infinite set of equations and a large number of initial conditions. The computational cost of evaluating a given hypothesis is unknown and potentially very expensive. It has the added difficulty that even given an infinite set of initial hypotheses, the correct hypothesis may not be among them.

comment by Houshalter · 2015-07-10T22:05:37.506Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You'll probably be interested in reading this: http://www.wired.com/2009/04/newtonai/ and this: http://www.radiolab.org/story/91712-limits-of-science/

The program described, Eureqa, is available online and had a free trial. I have spent a lot of time playing with it and trying it on different problems and datasets.

I don't think it could learn a theory of everything with out a lot of human help to reduce some parts of the problem. E.g. "here are a few numbers as inputs, here is a number as an output. Fit it out only using basic mathematical functions." But its a start.

comment by Kyre · 2015-07-09T06:23:18.650Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Nitpick: we have equations for (special) relativistic quantum physics. Dirac was one of the pioneers, and the Standard Model for instance is a relativistic quantum field theory. I presume you mean general relativity (gravity) and quantum mechanics that is the problem.

(Douglas_Knight) Moreover, the predictions that QFT makes about chemistry are too hard. I don't think it is possible with current computers to compute the spectrum of helium, let alone lithium. A quantum computer could do this, though.

In the spirit of what Viliam suggested, maybe you could do computational searches for tractable approximations to QFT for chemistry i.e. automatically find things like density functional theory. A problem there might be that you do not get any insight from the result, and you might end up overfitting.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-07-09T04:02:48.238Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No, it is not believed that gravity has a measurable effect on chemistry. People have pretty much no idea what kind of experiments would be relevant to quantum gravity. Moreover, the predictions that QFT makes about chemistry are too hard. I don't think it is possible with current computers to compute the spectrum of helium, let alone lithium. A quantum computer could do this, though.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-11T19:07:41.283Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm by no means a physicist, but isn't special relativity, which is related to gravity/spacetime, able to cause magnetism? Couldn't that account for a chemical effect?

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-07-12T00:52:46.825Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, special relativity is very important. Indeed, I was speaking of QED, a quantum mechanical model that incorporates special relativity.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-07-08T23:11:37.066Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You're leaving out dark matter, dark energy, and the possibility of discovering additional weird and surprising factors.

comment by leplen · 2015-07-14T19:29:15.861Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just happened across this article summary today about people using atomic spectra to look for evidence of dark matter. I don't know that they've found anything yet, but it's sort of neat how closely related your proposal here is to their research.

comment by D_Malik · 2015-07-08T09:55:52.301Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Suppose backward time travel is possible. If so, it's probably of the variety where you can't change the past (i.e. Novikov self-consistent), because that's mathematically simpler than time travel which can modify the past. In almost all universes where people develop time travel, they'll counterfactualize themselves by deliberately or accidentally altering the past, i.e. they'll "cause" their universe-instance to not exist in the first place, because that universe would be inconsistent if it existed. Therefore in most universes that allow time travel and actually exist, almost all civilizations will fail to develop time travel, which might happen because those civilizations die out before they become sufficiently technologically advanced.

Perhaps this is the Great Filter. It would look like the Great Filter is nuclear war or disease or whatever, but actually time-consistency anthropics are "acausing" those things.

This assumes that either most civilizations would discover time travel before strong AI (in the absence of anthropic effects), or strong AI does not rapidly lead to a singleton. Otherwise, the resulting singleton would probably recognize that trying to modify the past is acausally risky, so the civilization would expand across space without counterfactualizing itself, so time-consistency couldn't be the Great Filter. They would probably also seek to colonize as much of the universe as they could, to prevent less cautious civilizations from trying time-travel and causing their entire universe to evaporate in a puff of inconsistency.

This also assumes that a large fraction of universes allow time travel. Otherwise, most life would just end up concentrated in those universes that don't allow time travel.

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2015-07-09T06:52:56.615Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

One thing I've never seen people mention re: time travel is that if you travel back in time six months, say, you'll find yourself floating out in space with the Earth on the other side of the Sun. (The Sun is in a slow orbit around the Milky Way, which itself is moving, right?) So practical time travel also requires practical space travel?

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-09T08:15:06.832Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What exactly determines where you will appear in the past? Because there is no absolute reference frame, so...

Those who say "on the other side of the Sun" assume that time travel follows the position of the Sun. Well, why Sun? Why not the center of the galaxy? Why not Earth?

Given these three options, Earth reference frame feels most logical to me... the intuition is, it is the gravity of Earth that impacts me most, and in the absence of absolute reference frame, the time travel should track the gravity lines instead.

Problem is, I am not a satellite orbiting Earth. I am standing on the ground, which limits my movement as the gravity of the Earth would want it to be. Should the time travel also take this into account? Sounds wrong: then it should track all interactions of my body with everything, including the air I would be passing through... does not make sense. So if I change my model into "time travel converts my body into a point-with-mass and then tracks the gravity lines", travelling in time backwards should move me up -- into such height that I will drop to the ground during the time interval.

Under this model, travelling six months in the past would move me to a place in a space, difficult to calculate precisely (chaos theory, etc.), where if I start freely falling, in exactly six months I would drop on the ground approximately on the place where the time travel started (but not exactly there, because of friction and other interactions). Sounds similar in effect, but it's not the same.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-15T14:38:56.736Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have a whiff of this type of literary time travel being supernatural i.e irreducibly mental: the closest model is replaying a memory differently this time: a mental thing.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-07-25T11:59:14.675Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Charles Williams' Many Dimensions has time travel as moving your sense of the present along your time line.

comment by Gram_Stone · 2015-07-09T18:27:01.123Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That seems like a magical sort of time travel; the sort that is conceivable but unphysical; a garbage in, garbage out type-deal. I'd echo Viliam's remark on no absolute reference frames. I think it helps to imagine how you might actually, physically perform time travel. I usually see it suggested that one create a wormhole and accelerate one of the mouths. Time dilation will cause an observer in the reference frame of the accelerated mouth to experience less subjective time. Travel through the stationary mouth, and you'll apparently come out of the accelerated mouth at an earlier moment in time. No magic involved.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-07-12T00:45:36.471Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Any system of time travel in which the traveler does not teleport through time, but instead traverses all intervening time somewhat addresses this. There is an implication that the vessel is held near the Earth by the same gravity that would have held it in place ordinarily. In particular, this was true in Wells's original story. I think that the film Primer addresses this explicitly.

comment by westward · 2015-07-09T19:43:02.899Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Slow orbit? More like 120 miles per second in reference to the galactic center.

Charlie Stross's Eschaton books have a pretty good take on time travelling, light cones, and causality.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-07-09T20:12:34.293Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Since quantum mechanics is true, Deutsch self-consistency has pretty big advantages over Novikov self-consistency.

comment by D_Malik · 2015-07-12T05:20:15.587Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good point. I may be thinking about this wrong, but I think Deutsch self-consistent time travel would still vastly concentrate measure in universes where time travel isn't invented, because unless the measures are exactly correct then the universe is inconsistent. Whereas Novikov self-consistent time travel makes all universes with paradoxes inconsistent, Deutsch self-consistent time travel merely makes the vast majority of them inconsistent. It's a bit like quantum suicide: creating temporal paradoxes seems to work because it concentrates your measure in universes where it does work, but it also vastly reduces your total measure.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-07-12T15:38:01.071Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's why it's not usually called "Deutsch self-consistency." It's not supposed to be a filter on legal universes, but a dynamic rule that each initial condition does lead to a consistent universe. The resolution of the grandfather paradox is a 50-50 superposition of the universe where you are born and leave and the universe where you appear, kill your grandfather, and are never born. You could say that it filters out the 80-20 superposition, but that's like saying that Newton's self-consistency principle filters out universes that don't obey his laws. (Well, maybe that's Lagrange's self-consistency principle...)

comment by D_Malik · 2015-07-13T10:06:38.772Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure that comparison works. I can pick any initial universe-configuration and time-evolve it under Newtonian gravitation; a solution will always exist. But if I time-evolve initial conditions under laws that allow backwards time travel, it's not clear to me that there necessarily exist any solutions. Maybe the Deutsch law forces the superposition to be 50-50, but the other physical laws force it to be 80-20. It may be that the Deutsch law is just a logical consequence of the other physical laws, in which case I think you'd be right. (This all with the caveat that I don't really know physics, so I'm likely completely wrong.)

I can't really think about this without having some idea of how it's chosen which universes are real.

comment by Gurkenglas · 2015-07-09T01:32:54.601Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Some civilization would have thought of that and made sure to direct their research away from time travel and towards AI.

comment by Yosarian2 · 2015-07-19T05:43:06.536Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Alternately, if a type time travel is invented where you can change the past, you would expect people to keep meddling with the past until they accidentally changed it so much that time travel had never been invented.

This process would continue, over and over again, and the final results is that the final "stable" timeline will be one where time travel is never invented; not because it's not possible, but simply because every timeline where time travel is invented eventually changes it's own past until it no longer has time travel.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-08T10:56:52.378Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

If we lived as ems in a simulated universe, literally any claim of any religion of any religion could be true. Any other claim, too.

The point is, when people seriously ponder if we lived in a simulated universe but have nothing but scorn for religions, it is not so much rational as cultural. In a sci-fi geek subculture, simulation is cool, religions not.

Culture, in this sense, means the following. If theory A and B makes the same predictions but the formulation, the wording of A seems vastly preferable than B - that is culture.

IMHO this is one of the most important kind of bias in me I need to control for. I need to ask myself "if this was reworded in a way that is culturally compatible with me, would I still reject it so strongly?" or the opposite "is it something entirely without merit, but merely worded in a way that presses my 'cool' buttons?"

comment by DanArmak · 2015-07-08T11:37:03.673Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If we live in a non-simulated universe, (almost) any claim of any religion can still be true. It's just so astronomically unlikely that we shouldn't spend any time considering it. (See: Pascal's Wager.)

How are ems different? A uniform prior over all possible religions isn't useful. What evidence would they have, from the mere fact of being in a simulation, that any particular set of religious claims is likely, aside from the bare claim "there are Simulators but we don't know anything about them except that they want our universe to be simulated"?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-08T12:03:24.096Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think a step from a lawful universe to an arbitrarily programmable universe would be fairly big. We exclude miracles in principle, for ems, miracles would be possible. If ems would agree the universe has a Programmer who is allmighty (can simulate what he wants), omniscient (can look at any part of the source code) it would be a big step.

So it would be relevant to the meta step "are miracles possible?" and not to the more object level step "is this X miracle report for reals?"

Also a uniform prior would be useful for the more syncretic approaches - it would not be so useful for primitive kind of religious approaches like "thing X is written in my holy book while some other holy books writes something totally different" but it would be more useful for the kind of "unified theology/philosophy" that the best minds in Islam (Avicenna) Judaism (Maimonides) Catholicism (Aquinas) were developing.

My point is not the veracity of each religious claim but the veracity of living in a kind of universe where religious claims are possible, even likely that something like those happens (the Programmer plays around with stuff, tests ideas, throws a bunch of tablets on a desert tribe to experimentally test some sociology theories of ems) and then all we had to decide is which ones.

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-08T20:40:45.841Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Essentially, you assume here that the distribution of "universes someone bothers to simulate" is different from the Solomonoff priors in a way that makes universes where religion is true more likely.

May be. If the simulators are humans, some of them would enjoy playing gods; and even if it is a small minority, it would still be a larger fraction than universes where gods "naturally" exist as complicated laws of physics. If the simulators are alien intelligences... well, I would be less certain about those, but still seems like the fraction of situations where the simulator decides to personally interact with the simulation should be larger than universes where an intelligence is "hardcoded" into laws of physics.

But there would still be many simulated universes where the simulator is not interested in interaction with sentient beings, and all religions arise naturally for reasons unrelated to their correctness. Or the simulator would interact with the world, but in a manner totally different from what religions talk about; imagine for example that our world is just a computer game played by a bored teenager who once in a few millions of years clicks a mouse button to drop a huge meteor and change ecosystem; the individual humans are too small and short-lived for him to even notice. Maybe the simulator completely ignores humans, and is only using this universe as an incubator for an AGI that he will later ask to compute some mathematical problem.

So, the probability of some religion being true could be greater, but still relatively small. Not sure if large enough to excuse Pascal's wager.

comment by jacob_cannell · 2015-07-08T20:27:30.044Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Across the multiverse, some universes support life, and some of those features civs which create lots of sims. Given that our physics seems to support enormous numbers of sim universes per basement universe, most of the copies of ourselves are probably in sims.

Realizing that, there is a general convergent strategy that we should precommit to: in the future when we have the power we should 'win the sims arms race' so to speak and create many sims of our past. In this way we ensure that our sim is benevolent.

These kinds of game-theoretic convergent considerations deeply effect the distribution over sim scenarios, and they do suggest what kinds of religious/metaphysical theories are more or less likely to be true.

General resurrection - as in the book religions (zoraster/judaic/christian/islam), is a high likelihood cluster, as it naturally falls out of the whole use future sim power to defeat death strategy mentioned earlier. Basically, we want the god above to be aligned to our values, and we can best achieve this by expending sim power in the future.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-14T06:28:31.860Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Arguments for the singularity are also (weak) arguments for theism.

As I have repeatedly stated (without much response), first at the bottom of my baseline post.

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2015-07-09T06:56:29.792Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The point is, when people seriously ponder if we lived in a simulated universe but have nothing but scorn for religions, it is not so much rational as cultural. In a sci-fi geek subculture, simulation is cool, religions not.

I hesitate to mention this, but I believe there was a period where a crankish LWer or two was advocating religious belief on simulator-god grounds. I think it had more to do with intellectual hipsterism than anything.

Your culture point is also discussed in this Slate Star Codex post.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2015-07-10T18:03:43.920Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

See here for an example of the crankish intellectual hipsterism being referred to. Also, we should be careful to distinguish theistic beliefs from religious ones.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-15T14:57:05.645Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Theistic beliefs from religious practices then.

comment by XFrequentist · 2015-07-09T03:25:59.727Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Aedes aegypti (the "Dengue mosquito") should be eradicated from the Americas by releasing genetically-modified mosquitoes carrying self-perpetuating lethal mutations.

comment by bbleeker · 2015-07-09T11:10:32.028Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why limit it to the Americas? And can a lethal mutation be self-perpetuating?

comment by XFrequentist · 2015-07-09T13:23:19.643Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Why limit it to the Americas?

Proof of concept, capacity, and feasibility. I'd love to see this done for all disease-carrying mosquitoes, but you've got to start somewhere.

can a lethal mutation be self-perpetuating?

Yes. I'm actually not sure if this would work at a continental scale (or rather, how many modified mosquito releases would be required, is this number infeasible, etc). This is something I'm interested in modelling.

comment by knb · 2015-07-08T07:32:16.410Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Greece lacks money, but they do have a whole lot of reasonably large, quite beautiful islands they barely use (only a small fraction of the 1200 islands are significantly inhabited) but which have the ideal Mediterranean climate for human habitation. Selling off sovereignty over these islands to other countries or to new country projects would be a great way to get some quick cash and there might be some downstream benefits, like increased trade in the region.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-08T11:00:33.514Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

I think you vastly underestimate the power of nationalism. Greece is especially vulnerable to nationalism due to a glorious ancient past and really long Ottoman occupation. Still I think any government who accepted that would be toppled by nationalists.

comment by knb · 2015-07-09T04:56:27.598Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I think you vastly underestimate the power of nationalism.

No, that's why I posted it in the Crazy Ideas Thread instead of the Obviously Workable Ideas thread.

Still, if the austerity gets bad enough and the price is right, Greeks might go for it anyway, as long as the buyer isn't Turkey or Germany.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-09T07:49:03.340Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Now you mention it - I imagine Russia... same religion, always wanted a warm-water port, led by a man who whatever his faults are, does not lack imagination... hmmmm.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-11T01:00:27.478Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

a man who whatever his faults are, does not lack imagination

This is my official description of Putin from now on.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-13T07:14:43.013Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I should add that I did not mean it ironically. He may be evil but he is not stupid - although lately he seems to be getting too big for his pants i.e. getting boycotted by about 80% of the planet's GDP is not really something to risk easily.

comment by Val · 2015-07-09T20:46:11.934Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

If you sell land, it's probably lost forever. If you sell land which was once part of your sovereign territory, you will have no claim over it (in contrast to a land which was taken from you by force).

One doesn't have to be a caricature of an ultra-nationalist to dislike the idea of losing something permanently to cure a temporary problem.

What about leasing it instead?

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-08T12:10:43.893Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Selling territory is a big no-no, but selling EU citizenship is in fashion.

comment by gwern · 2015-07-08T19:39:04.916Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Selling land is out. "Sell your islands, you bankrupt Greeks" will not play well in Athens now.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-08T21:46:30.940Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What about a face saving land trade? For every island Greece sells it gets cash plus an equal amount of land in Greenland.

comment by gwern · 2015-07-09T22:09:32.019Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Denmark already refused to sell any of Greenland back when there was more on offer, it was much poorer, and it needed the funds much more.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-07-09T16:21:56.322Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

equal amount of land in Greenland

In the eyes of whom would that be anywhere near "face saving"? It would probably be even worse from that perspective than only getting cash.

comment by garabik · 2015-07-08T08:59:01.930Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Years ago I jokingly suggested to sell Crete to Turkey, in exchange for taking over Greece's debt (no doubt Turkey would jump at the opportunity and bend over to do anything possible to meet the debt payment criteria). The reactions I got were predictable, in the vein of "hell would freeze one hundred times over before this happens".

Jokes aside, selling territory (with actual sovereignty transfer, as opposed to simple real estate acquisition) seems to be a bit of no-go in the last decades. Especially selling it under duress for economical reasons.

comment by DanArmak · 2015-07-08T11:38:45.656Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Selling territory is already impossible politically, but what's much worse is selling over a population of your citizens, or forcing them to relocate. An uninhabited island would be an easier sell, but also of much less value to anyone.

comment by Raiden · 2015-07-08T20:27:14.015Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I always thought that the "most civilizations just upload and live in a simulated utopia instead of colonizing the universe" response to the Fermi Paradox was obviously wrong, because it would only take ONE civilization breaking this trend to be visible, and regardless of what the aliens are doing, a galaxy of resources is always useful to have. But i was reading somewhere (I don't remember where) about an interesting idea of a super-Turing computer that could calculate anything, regardless of time constraints and ignoring the halting problem. I think the proposal was to use closed time like curves or something.

This, of course, seemed very far-fetched, but the implications are fascinating. It would be possible to use such a device to simulate an eternity in a moment. We could upload and have an eternity of eudaimonia, without ever having to worry about running out of resources or the heat death of the universe or alien superintelligences. Even if the computer was to be destroyed an instant later, it wouldn't matter to us. If such a thing was possible, then that would be an obvious solution to the Fermi Paradox.

comment by D_Malik · 2015-07-09T02:05:24.185Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If humanity did this, at least some of us would still want to spread out in the real universe, for instance to help other civilizations. (Yes, the world inside the computer is infinitely more important than real civilizations, but I don't think that matters.)

Also, if these super-Turing machines are possible, and the real universe is finite, then we are living in a simulation with probability 1, because you could use them to simulate infinitely many observer-seconds.

comment by Raiden · 2015-07-11T08:57:07.278Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Also, if these super-Turing machines are possible, and the real universe is finite, then we are living in a simulation with probability 1, because you could use them to simulate infinitely many observer-seconds.

This is probably true. I think a lot of people feel uncomfortable with the possibility of us living in a simulation, because we'd be in a "less real" universe or we'd be under the complete control of the simulators, or various other complaints. But if such super-Turing machines are possible, then the simulated nature of the universe wouldn't really matter. Unless the simulators intervened to prevent it, we could "escape" by running an infinite simulation of ourselves. It would almost be like entering an ontologically separate reality.

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-09T08:20:56.576Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Seems to me that this "obvious solution" has exactly the same problem as the original one... "it would only take ONE civilization breaking this trend to be visible".

comment by RomeoStevens · 2015-07-09T23:29:04.844Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It's possible that exotic physics/computation offers such ridiculous benefits relative to interacting with normal matter AND that its discovery is very obvious along all lines on the way to tech that colonizes normal matter star systems that all civilizations escape into it.

comment by Raziel123 · 2015-07-09T01:33:07.320Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This looks like Tipler's Omega point. Except that it's singular in the universe and for not clear reasons, it will resurrect us all in a simulated heaven.

comment by knb · 2015-07-08T07:23:22.235Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Fusion energy from... hydrogen bombs. Is there a way? Maybe underground explosions with water pumped in, turning to high-pressure steam, and powering a turbine?

comment by passive_fist · 2015-07-11T22:39:39.428Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

This is actually a topic I'm fairly well-read on.

The basic problem is that hydrogen bombs are powerful. To make this idea economically competitive, you need very large bombs, as smaller bombs derive a proportionally higher amount of their energy from fission, and fission fuel (especially the high-quality fission fuel needed for a warhead) is very expensive. The problem, of course, is that with such powerful bombs (hundreds of kt range), there's just no way to safely confine the effect of the shock waves AND produce useful power at the same time.

So project PACER (as SIlentCal linked) was designed to use smaller, more-containable weapons. But here you have the problem that since the bombs are small, they're mostly fission, and the produced power winds up being about 3x more expensive than a conventional nuclear power plant.

Unless someone figures out a way to make a small all-fusion bomb, this idea is never going to be feasible.

comment by SilentCal · 2015-07-08T15:42:42.322Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Not so crazy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_PACER

comment by Thomas · 2015-07-08T07:44:30.909Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The best way of doing this, is to have a big steel hollow sphere with vacuum inside. A detonation of a hydrogen bomb in the center would warm the sphere and some steam engines on the outside could harness this power.

The problem is, that the vacuum should be very high and the sphere quite large, so the outside pressure is an important factor. So you should place this gadget into orbit, where the cooling is not very simple. Nor the electricity transport back to Earth.

Otherwise, it's a good solution. This way we could have had fusion electricity some time ago. Perhaps with small hydrogen bombs a.k.a. neutron bombs. Otherwise those steel spheres would have to be too big to be stable on Earth.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-07-11T22:54:50.979Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The sphere would need to be extremely large to be able to absorb the energy of a nuclear weapon without being blown apart. Most of the radiated energy (being of the form of soft x-rays and UV) is going to be absorbed in the first cm or so of material. Assuming you use iron (a good choice as iron is plentiful), the limit is around the 100 kJ/m^2 range, which means that for a 100 kiloton (418 terajoule) nuclear weapon your shell would have to have a surface area on the order of 4.18 billion m^2, or a radius of 31 km. Assuming you could design an ultra-material with one MJ/m^2 absorption ability, it's 10 km, but then you'd have to overcome problems of ablation and spalling. You could get by with a smaller nuke and maybe reduce to < 1km, but the nukes would be so expensive it would be much cheaper to just use solar power at that point.

comment by Thomas · 2015-07-12T09:40:04.900Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Nukes not need to be too expensive. A mass production would bring their price down.

Still, big empty spheres would pose a problem. Perhaps we should put them on the top of a 20 kilometers high tower and cool them with the water pumped up.

An explosion of 1 Mt every hour would mean about 1000 GW of raw power. Several of those would be currently more than enough.

comment by passive_fist · 2015-07-12T21:21:53.170Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Mass production wouldn't necessarily make them less expensive than they already are. During the cold war the USA and USSR effectively mass-produced thousands of warheads. Official cost estimates for the manufacture cost aren't available but it seems that the US government managed to bring the cost of plutonium down from about $100,000/g to $500/g or so (The price of plutonium for civilians using it for chemistry purposes is currently around ten times that, however, and it's obviously an extremely restricted and regulated substance). A nuclear weapon needs about 2 kg of plutonium minimum, so that's about $1,000,000 per warhead at the very least.

comment by Thomas · 2015-07-12T23:08:24.139Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's a bargain. Even one billion US$ per day for the bombs, would be like nothing. We are talking about the energy output comparable with all the others (coal, oil, gas, nuclear, hydro ...) combined!

comment by passive_fist · 2015-07-12T23:49:55.419Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Not necessarily. Plutonium has about 90 TJ/kg energy density. At $500/g, that comes out to about 180 MJ/$, or 2 c/kWh. That's only a bit below half of coal's 4.63 c/kWh. And this is only for the fuel! If you were to go the all-plutonium route, it would probably wind up being more expensive than coal.

High-yield fusion would be another matter.

comment by Thomas · 2015-07-13T10:51:30.550Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You have to have fusion. With fision you have to clean too much.

And the OP wanted the fusion as well.

comment by NicksNyx · 2015-07-19T02:36:08.261Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Project Daedalus has the same basic concept. It's a very interesting topic to research and might give you some insight on this topic.

comment by jacob_cannell · 2015-07-08T20:37:13.782Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Across the multiverse, some universes support life. Some life-friendly universes contain advanced civs which create simulations. The physics of our universe supports an enormous number of sims per basement universe. Thus most of the copies of ourselves probably exist in/as sims.

Realizing this, it matters very very much what kind of sim most of our copies live in. Across the landscape of potential simulator-gods, some are friendly whereas most are not.

A general cooperative strategy emerges: we should precommit to winning the sim arms race. The best sim-god is something like a future version of ourselves - closely aligned to our values. If - at some point in the future - we can create a huge number of sims of our past selves, than we can ensure that our sim is benevolent, and contains a positive afterlife.

comment by SilentCal · 2015-07-08T16:30:35.979Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

A large-scale social experiment in the form of a MMOG to recreate dynamics of feudalism, possibly intensified by being bet upon.

  • There are a fixed number of castles in the game. Each castle has one owner at a given time.
  • A castle provides a steady income to its owner. This is the only source of in-game money.
  • A group of players can jointly attack a castle. If they defeat the current owner and any allied players in in-game combat, a pre-specified member of the attackers becomes the new owner.
  • The game does not provide contract enforcement mechanisms. You can recruit an attacking army by promising them a share of the castle's income, but they only have your word you'll follow through.
  • (optional) A monthly payout is distributed in proportion to in-game wealth. If the game were widely played, and wealth were highly concentrated, this could be very significant for some. Failing this, soft messaging such as leaderboards encourages amassing wealth as a goal.

The idea would be to see the coalition dynamics that play out. My suspicion is that people would at first try egalitarian coalitions to share income evenly, but over time things would get more and more hierarchical as established coalitions started admitting 'junior partners' on worse terms.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-08T16:36:16.526Z · score: 15 (15 votes) · LW · GW

EVE already works sufficiently like that.

comment by SilentCal · 2015-07-08T18:06:25.133Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting, never played it. What's the typical structure of dominant alliances?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-08T18:13:13.579Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

"The best way to describe running an Eve alliance is like being a CEO of a major multinational company, except nobody gets paid but a shit ton of work still has to get done." :-)

Basically it's weakly hierarchical -- you can't really compel anyone to do anything, but you can set up a system of incentives to persuade people to do what you want. Don't think there's much egalitarianism because a corp needs to function effectively and direct democracy does not scale.

comment by SilentCal · 2015-07-08T18:55:06.903Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Holy crap, this really does what I imagined.

ETA: When you first replied, I was afraid that the rules had been implemented and the results weren't that interesting. But reading that AMA makes it clear the results are fascinating.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-08T19:07:36.375Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

results are fascinating

Actually, they are even more fascinating :-)

On the other hand, it's all just like real life X-D

comment by blake8086 · 2015-07-08T00:44:43.130Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If one were to build a cannon (say a large, thick pipe buried deep underground) and use a nuclear bomb as propellant, could they achieve anything interesting? For example, boost a first stage payload to orbit, or perhaps Earth escape velocity? The only prior art I know of for this is the Pascal-B nuclear test shot.

comment by gwern · 2015-07-08T19:34:57.647Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Nuclear space guns have been proposed. Aside from the manhole cover: http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/03/150-kiloton-nuclear-verne-gun.html http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/12/sea-based-launch-option-for-nuclear.html

(This appears in Hannu's Quantum Thief trilogy, incidentally.)

comment by Nornagest · 2015-07-08T18:22:19.668Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think a working model of this would look much like a cannon. Nukes don't directly produce (much of) a shockwave; most of the shock comes from everything in the vicinity of the warhead absorbing a massive dose of prompt gamma and/or loose neutrons and suddenly deciding that all its atoms really need to be over there. So if you had a payload backed right against a nuke, even if it managed to survive the explosion, it wouldn't convert much of its power into velocity; Orion gets its power by vaporizing the outer layers of the pusher plate or a layer of reaction mass sprayed on it.

But it might be possible, nonetheless. The thing I have in mind might look something like a large chamber full of water with a nuke in the center of it, connected by some plumbing to the launch tube with the payload. Initiate the nuke, the water flashes into steam, the expanding steam drives the payload. Tricky part would be controlling the acceleration for a (relatively) smooth launch with minimal wasted energy.

(And, of course, you're left with a giant plume of radioactive steam that you still need to deal with.)

comment by blake8086 · 2015-07-08T19:32:58.228Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think you would actually want to use hydrogen. It would essentially be a really powerful light gas gun.

comment by Pfft · 2015-07-15T04:44:38.921Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As I understood it, the reaction mass for Orion comes from the chemical explosives used to implode the bomb. (The bomb design would be quite unusual, with several tons of explosives acting on a very small amount of plutonium).

comment by Izeinwinter · 2015-07-15T06:21:06.289Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There are better options if you want to go nuclear for propulsion. http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/718391main_Werka_2011_PhI_FFRE.pdf

It's not an unreasonable amount of mass to get into LEO, and so very elegant as a drive.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-08T01:35:11.880Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

See Project Orion. It's motto was "Mars by 1965, Saturn by 1970."

comment by blake8086 · 2015-07-08T06:51:55.406Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's not really related though. I'm asking "what if you build a gun with nukes as propellant?", not "what if you build a plane that rocket jumps through air/space?". The idea is to impart the highest fraction of a single bomb's energy onto a payload. Orion is pretty wasteful in terms of energy conversion.

comment by CBHacking · 2015-07-08T05:47:45.567Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Orion requires quite a few detonations, though; even with a massive craft (much of which is pusher plate and shock absorbers) to absorb the impact, you have to use fairly low-yield bombs and each only provides a relatively short period of thrust. You could possibly design something that takes higher yields (especially higher relative to the vehicle mass) that would survive reaching orbit on one detonation, but it would be subjected to extreme acceleration - the kind that would crush any satellite launched thus far - and I suspect there might be too much risk of tumbling given the non-uniformity of the atmosphere.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-08T16:13:57.065Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Both your barrel and your payload need to be able to survive being at the epicenter of a nuclear explosion. Spitting jets of molten metal into space isn't particularly useful.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-08T21:24:44.812Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

See also space gun.

comment by Elo · 2015-07-08T04:53:22.536Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A variation - an acceleration chamber like a synchrotron (or other circular acceleration system), with a flick to release a payload towards space. not sure if it would be viable on something heavier than a particle, and what would happen. to the payload being stretched in various G-forces, or how high you would get. (not being up on my physics enough to say if it would be catastrophic or viable)

comment by blake8086 · 2015-07-08T06:50:13.153Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think all you need to do to release the payload is to stop flicking it, so that part should be easy.

comment by Elo · 2015-07-08T12:04:28.166Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I guess,

so:

  1. how much crushing centrifugal G force can the thing you are trying to send into space handle,
  2. how much momentum does it take to leave the earth's atmosphere from ground-level
  3. could you combine this method and another propulsion method?
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-07-11T15:33:21.222Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

What if doing housework is actually bad for people? It's certainly something that people have to be trained into, and that a lot of people resist doing. No one does it for the fun of it.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-11T21:48:37.618Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What if doing housework is actually bad for people?

I'm not sure what you mean by it being 'bad'. Leading to unhappiness? As opposed to even more unhappiness due to a messy house?

It's certainly something that people have to be trained into

I disagree with this in it's generality. The ability to to household tasks needs to be trained. Establishment of the habit is another thing. An approach that leads to a relaxed approach to 'chores' depends on the motivational structure of the child (if you imply parenting).

An intrinsically motivated (on this kind of tasks) child will likely want to do the tasks if it clear that this is necessary to achieve it's own goals. So if household tasks are routinely coupled to some things the child want/needs for itself like clothing of its choice, access to materials, support in its projects..., then it will do these tasks (as long as it doesn't perceive the dependency as arbitrary, constructed, forced or unfair. Prototype example is my oldest son who has lots of projects for which he needs space and materials.

An extrinsically motivated child (more like my second oldest) can be influenced via frequent positive feedback for performing these tasks.

a lot of people resist doing [it]

Sure. I can confirm that my sons resist doing it in many circumstances. But the details differ widely.

No one does it for the fun of it.

Gamification is possible. Though not always. And it has a cost in terms of efficiency. But you don't need fun to want to do it and feel satisfaction from completing it.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-07-13T07:47:09.840Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Doing housework isn't the same thing as living in a clean orderly house-- someone else might be doing the housework.

I'm not sure in what way doing housework might be bad for people, I'm just inclined to think that people's instincts aren't totally unreliable, and people tend to not like doing housework.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-13T07:56:50.903Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not clear what you are driving at. Actually I wasn't with your first comment either.

Doing housework isn't the same thing as living in a clean orderly house-- someone else might be doing the housework.

I agree. I think I see both aspects. I have household help and she isn't doing everything - only big chunks like laundry. Big chunks that can't only be done on the fly. I don't mind doing dishes while talking in the kitchen. Actually with children many household tasks come kind of for free - there isn't much else that can be done while caring for, teaching and in general looking after four boys. Many tasks also carry a lesson and sometimes even serve to avoid boredom on my side. Or are relaxing, But yes, not the tiring ones.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-15T14:52:55.090Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think you two are a bit talking past each other. It is an entirely different question whether doing it is good for a child (I'd say yes, easy productive success and pride) or for an adult, especially a busy one i.e. whether a surgeon is better off doing the ironing after a hospital shift or should rather outsource it to hired help (I'd say the later).

Adult instincts are fairly reliable IMHO children's instincts not so much.

Also, adults like it if they did nothing but work on the computer all day - it is satisfying to do something "real".

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-15T15:46:06.879Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

children's instincts not so much.

Oh, they are very reliable ... toward doing only those things that are really necessary. The genes don't know whether the laundry is necessary. It might be it might be not. There will have been comparable tasks in the ancestral environment. It is adaptive to have a drive that looks for more potential.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-15T14:48:21.142Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say, it is a good for people to live in an orderly and clean environment, but it is not necessarily good for them to do it themselves - this is why everybody wealthy outsources most of it to hired help.

But it could be good for some people e.g. children, the depressed etc. for achieving easy success and learning a bit of discipline. But as long as people can do more productive things almost nobody demands that they should do it themselves - have ever seen a surgeon, regardless of gender, being criticized for not ironing shirts but leaving that to a hired help?

(Also fsck everything about ironing - there is a startup in France trying to automate it with some kind of an inflatable human shaped balloon releasing steam, hope they succeed although I would not want a human upper body sized bulky item in our current flat. But I really like my shirts crisp and buying no-iron shirts is a poor substitute.)

comment by Wes_W · 2015-07-15T00:38:48.988Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No one does it for the fun of it.

A friend of mine does. Not "fun" per se, but she derives enjoyment and satisfaction from it.

comment by Plasmon · 2015-07-10T19:39:41.328Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

All advertising for a product should be produced by a competitor of the company that makes the product. This should be required by law.

Truth in advertising laws should keep the thus-produced advertising more or less factual. It would be much less annoying and manipulative than current advertising.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-10T22:48:17.121Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I had a horrific vision of Terry Crews re-doing the Po-Po-Power ad campaign, this time for Axe.

Please, no.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-08T17:45:35.686Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Use polished disks of teflon or other similar (in accumulation static charges when buffed, ease of cutting and washing, non-toxicity) material to keep sensitive surfaces dust-free (especially in optics, where you often can't just wipe things).

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-08T15:08:12.006Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

A single world language should be designed and promoted. Previous attempts have been too Eurocentric to take advantage of all useful grammatical features that are available.

Alternative option: English is already a de facto world language, and it is well suited to borrowing foreign terms when it needs to, but humanity should be ashamed that it conducts its main scientific, commercial and diplomatic operations in a language with such a defective writing system. Spelling reform (or a completely new, purely phonetic alphabet) is urgent. I would advocate adapting Hangul for that purpose.

comment by MotivationalAppeal · 2015-07-08T19:31:49.503Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The International Phonetic Alphabet was originally meant to be used as a natural language writing system (for example, the journal of the International Phonetic Association was originally written in IPA: http://phonetic-blog.blogspot.com/2012/06/100-years-ago.html). Between IPA's theoretical (physiological) grounding, its wide use by linguists, and its near-legibility by untrained English literati, IPA is over-determined as the obvious choice for a reformed orthography, if English were every made to conform phonetically to a standard pronunciation. That said, it's not going to happen, because spelling reform is not urgent to anyone with capital to try it. Like, someone could make a browser extension that would replace words their IPA spellings, so that an online community could familiarize themselves with the new spelling, but no one has made that, or paid for it to be made, and this places a strong upper bound on how much anyone cares about spelling reform.

comment by Illano · 2015-07-09T19:38:17.362Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't look for an extension, but there are definitely a few webpages that will do it for you. For example, your post:

ðə ɪntərnæʃənəl fənɛtɪk ælfəbɛt wəz ərɪdʒənəli mɛnt tu bi juzd æz ə nætʃərəl læŋgwədʒ rajtɪŋ sɪstəm ( fɔr ɪgzæmpəl, ðə dʒərnəl əv ðə ɪntərnæʃənəl fənɛtɪk əsosieʃən wəz ərɪdʒənəli rɪtən ɪn ajpie: èʧtitipí:// fənɛtɪk- blɒg. blogspot. kɑm/ 2012/ 06/ 100- jɪrz- əgo. eʧtiɛmɛl). bətwin ipa|s θiərɛtɪkəl ( fɪziəlɑdʒɪkəl) grawndɪŋ, ɪts wajd jus baj lɪŋgwəsts, ænd ɪts nɪr- lɛdʒəbɪləti baj əntrend ɪŋglɪʃ lɪtərɑti, ajpie ɪz ovər- dətərmənd æz ðə ɑbviəs tʃɔjs fɔr ə rəfɔrmd ɒrθɑgrəfi, ɪf ɪŋglɪʃ wər ɛvəri med tu kənfɔrm fənɛtɪkli tu ə stændərd pronənsieʃən. ðæt sɛd, ɪts nɑt goɪŋ tu hæpən, bɪkɒz spɛlɪŋ rəfɔrm ɪz nɑt ərdʒənt tu ɛniwən wɪθ kæpətəl tu traj ɪt. lajk, səmwən kʊd mek ə brawzər ɪkstɛnʃən ðæt wʊd riples wərdz ðɛr ajpie spɛlɪŋz, so ðæt æn ɒnlɑjn kəmjunəti kʊd fəmɪljərɑjz ðɛmsɛlvz wɪθ ðə nu spɛlɪŋ, bət no wən hæz med ðæt, ɔr ped fɔr ɪt tu bi med, ænd ðɪs plesəz ə strɒŋ əpər bawnd ɑn haw mətʃ ɛniwən kɛrz əbawt spɛlɪŋ rəfɔrm.

(Though the url got really garbled.)

comment by RowanE · 2015-07-09T19:52:19.744Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'd never thought of such an extension, and my first thought when you mentioned it was "I'd fund that kickstarter". Could we organize such? How much work would it be likely to take/how much would it be likely to cost?

comment by D_Malik · 2015-07-09T02:13:19.048Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Playing devil's advocate: Archaic spelling rules allow you to quickly gauge other people's intelligence, which is useful. It causes society to respect stupid people less, by providing objective evidence of their stupidity.

But I don't actually think the benefits outweigh the costs there, and the signal is confounded by things like being a native English-speaker.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-07-09T03:40:01.013Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Spelling is more a gauge of how attentive you were in early schooling than of how intelligent you are. It's basically a form of conspicuous consumption of the scarce resources of childhood attention and teaching time.

The cultural notion that bad spelling is an indicator of stupidity is self-reinforcing, though: it prevents English from undergoing spelling reforms like those German, Spanish, Russian, and many other languages have had, because any "reformed" spelling will necessarily look like ignorant spelling.

Because English spelling is unusually difficult, it is a challenge. Because it is a challenge, people who have mastered it care about the fact that they have mastered it. And because of that, it can't be made easier.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-09T14:57:56.082Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Spelling is more a gauge of how attentive you were in early schooling than of how intelligent you are.

I think it's a gauge of how much you read. Bad spelling is not an indicator of stupidity, but an indicator of not having read enough.

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-09T08:31:46.672Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

any "reformed" spelling will necessarily look like ignorant spelling

It is much easier to do a spelling reform in a mostly illiterate country, where you can defend it by saying "look, most people can't read, we need to make it easier for them". Having a monarchy or dictatorship also helps to introduce the changes quickly and everywhere.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reforms_of_Russian_orthography
Today I learned: Russian once had a letter for "th", but it was removed and replaced by either "f" or "t".

comment by garabik · 2015-07-10T08:47:06.460Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It is much easier to do a spelling reform in a mostly illiterate country

Indeed. Look at the rejected recent German orthography reform – and the changes were (relatively) minor.

Or the messed up Slovak orthography reform from the '90s – and that was mostly a few acutes here and there.

comment by gjm · 2015-07-09T11:56:53.904Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'd assume it's a measure of both attentiveness and intelligence. And also of how much reading you did when young. I expect all these things correlate enough to make it hard to disentangle them, but just on first principles it seems obvious that you'll learn spellings better (1) if you generally learn things better, (2) if you're exposed to more correct spellings, and (3) if you're paying more attention to spelling relative to other things.

I agree about the difficulties of spelling reform. Perhaps sufficient support from high-status intellectual literary people might get past the "reform looks like ignorance" problem. Strong support from George Bernard Shaw wasn't enough for English in the early 20th century; perhaps it could be done with a large enough coalition of obviously expert people, or incrementally with each smaller step perhaps being easier to accept.

(Whether it would be a good idea, I don't know. I've not seen evidence that the difficulty of spelling in English -- which I think is one of the hardest-to-spell major languages -- causes much actual harm. And yes, for the avoidance of doubt, the Mark Twain thing [EDITED to add: very probably not actually written by Mark Twain] I linked to was written as a joke and not a serious proposal; I linked to it because I think it's funny.)

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-11T21:02:13.339Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

all useful grammatical features that are available

Is there a chance to agree on which gramatical features are useful?

For example, what colors does the language have words for? Does it distinguish gramatical singular and plural? How about dual? How many tenses? Clusivity? Honorifics? Etc.

My intuition is that in a "perfect" language all these things should exist, and all should be optional. (Not sure about the colors; perhaps we should have separate words for "green" and "blue", but also one for "green or blue", and also one for "light blue" and one for "dark blue" to make everyone happy. I hope the list would not grow too much.)

comment by garabik · 2015-07-10T08:56:53.656Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A single world language should be designed and promoted. Previous attempts have been too Eurocentric to take advantage of all useful grammatical features that are available.

There are so many constructed languages already that you do not need to design anything, if you have some criteria, just pick one that suits you, brush it up and maybe replace the vocabulary. And then goes the minor issue of promoting it and gaining speakers :-)

English is rather badly suited for an international auxiliary language, as the things go. But still better than French or Chinese, all things considered. Spelling is OK, it's the pronunciation that sucks :-) And its weird syntax and internally inconsistent vocabulary.

Spelling reform (or a completely new, purely phonetic alphabet) is urgent.

You really, really do not want phonetic writing system - phonemic is what you should go after, but morphophonemic has certain advantages too, especially for non-native speakers.

I would advocate adapting Hangul for that purpose.

If you match your phonology to 15th century Korean, sure. Not so much otherwise without a substantial reform and introduction of new letters. Anyway, Hangul is more suited for a morphematic writing system, not phone[mt]ic one.

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-07-08T21:29:55.218Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As long as this international english is restricted to diplomacy, commerce and science. I retch at the thought of literature written in a dry, unidiosyncratic, flavourless language with the charmless consistency of an office clerk.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-09T17:46:23.128Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Even if you design a perfectly dry and insipid language, you can always count on poets to make it more complicated than it needs to be.

comment by Jiro · 2015-07-08T18:55:03.269Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Spelling reform will fail because of regional differences in pronunciation. Also, spelling reform is bad for culture since it means that people taught the new system will be unable to read older material.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-07-09T16:27:20.127Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Spelling reform will fail because of regional differences in pronunciation.

Well, you won't be able to accommodate everybody's pronunciation, but with a decent diaphonemic system could allow you to deduce the pronunciation of almost all words in most mainstream varieties of English from their spelling.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-08T19:34:03.615Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Spelling reform will fail because of regional differences in pronunciation.

Indeed, it's problematic that English is open source instead of having a central authority. But just like the printing press standardized written German, the internet may make spoken English more homogeneous. In the spirit of efficiency, my not-at-all-humble opinion is that local linguistic variations ought to be regarded as a bug, not a feature. Regionalism be damned.

people taught the new system will be unable to read older material

...so you can't read Beowulf because you don't know the Saxon script?

The People's Republic of China is the biggest example of a successful comprehensive script reform. Korea loves its totally artificial Hangul, and Turkey is doing fine with the Latin alphabet. Japan took a lot longer to standardize its script, but it makes a lot more sense now than in the past. In each country, scholars who want to work with old books can still learn the former scripts.

comment by Jiro · 2015-07-10T18:18:22.867Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The language of Beowulf is far enough from ours that I need to do a lot of studying before I can read it anyway, so the additional effort to learn a script wouldn't make much of a difference. If, for instance, Shakespeare was in a different script, it would certainly cut down on the number of people who read Shakespeare (unless translated versions became widely available, which is possible for Shakespeare, but would not be true for most old works.)

Furthermore, doing such reform now would mean doing it after cheap mass market printing, which would make the effect much worse (and unlike Shakespeare, the works would be copyrighted, so if the owner refuses to publish a translated version, nobody else could). I don't know how many mass market books there were in Turkey in the 1920's.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-07-12T01:21:51.943Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Simultaneous with the script reform in Turkey was a language reform that tried to remove Arabic words, to align it with the West. Not being able to read the old books may have been the goal.

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2015-07-09T07:43:00.680Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Also, spelling reform is bad for culture since it means that people taught the new system will be unable to read older material.

Maybe not if you wrote a computer program to convert old spellings to new spellings.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-07-12T02:37:21.426Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Alternative option: English is already a de facto world language, and it is well suited to borrowing foreign terms when it needs to, but humanity should be ashamed that it conducts its main scientific, commercial and diplomatic operations in a language with such a defective writing system. Spelling reform (or a completely new, purely phonetic alphabet) is urgent.

Um, spelling reform large destroys the benefits of already being a de facto world language.

comment by Raiden · 2015-07-11T09:08:38.635Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You cite the language's tendency to borrow foreign terms as a positive thing. Wouldn't that require an inconsistent orthography?

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-11T16:01:02.010Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In its current state, English does tend to borrow terms without changing their spelling (e.g. plateau), but in my proposed system they would all have to be adapted. Many languages already do that: Spanish borrowed football and turned it into fútbol.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-08T11:10:44.912Z · score: 4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Poorer people are happier. Alternatively, even when the aggregate or average level of happiness is not higher, some factors in it are higher, while other hugely negative factors (i.e. actually being poor) reduce the average or aggregate greatly.

The positive factors are strong social bonds. The problem is that middle-class people are trying to form friendships through just hanging out with people or trying to find common, shared interests. This is not strong bonds.

Poor people need to help each other, it is a basic necessity, and they form strong bonds this way. They move to a different village, start to fix up the fence, realize they need some tools, borrow it from the neighbor. Next time the neighbor asks some help etc. they bond this way. If you and your neighbors basically never need a service, a borrowed item etc. from each other you will probably not form strong bonds.

Should we somehow make ourselves poor to achieve it? I mean, it is relative, everybody is poor compared to the mega-rich, so how could you be - at the same level of income and net worth - not middle-class but the poor-of-the-mega-rich ?

Can you imagine examples of how well-to-do people can put themselves into situations where they need to borrow items or services / help from their neighbors?

Should they just aim high? If a poor person has a 60 m2 village house in bad repair, and a middle-class person has a 100 m2 village house in good repair, and a rich person has a 300 m3 village house in good repair, should the middle-class person instead buy a 300 m2 house in bad repair, and if the neighbors are doing something like that they all would help each other, so basically they would be not typical middle-class but the poor-of-the-rich and this way form the same bonds through helping?

Maybe this idea has merit. The essence of poverty is that you cannot just buy all the things you need, you sometimes need to make them yourself or borrow. If middle-class people aimed high and basically buy big mansions in bad repair, buy old yachts and sports cars and restore them, could they simulate that?

Any other idea?

comment by lululu · 2015-07-08T14:40:30.488Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Evidence please. Your idea relies heavily on the thesis that poorer people are happier and have better social relations than rich people, do you have anything not anecdotal to support that?

My experience of seeing poverty in the US is that it comes with or from a whole host of other social problems like addiction, untreated physical and mental health issues, abuse, anxiety, overcrowding, fear of violence. These co-morbid problems are not conducive to neither happiness nor strong social ties, except in an unhealthy codependent way. I do know that children who grow up in poverty (without malnutrition) have brain development issues because of all the toxic anxiety and stress they were exposed to as a child, and that these problems persist through adulthood if untreated, even if the poverty conditions are removed. http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/what-poverty-does-to-the-young-brain

In fact, from a precursory google search, every article I see about the neurological effects of poverty is that it increases daily experience of negative emotions, chronic pain, increases the odds of all kinds of unpleasant experiences and mental health issues, and comes with a constant sense of anxiety.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-08T16:19:10.866Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The essence of poverty is that you cannot just buy all the things you need, you sometimes need to make them yourself or borrow.

Nope. The essence of poverty is that the choices available to you are severely limited because of lack of money.

comment by Jiro · 2015-07-08T14:37:51.688Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

1) I don't believe in maximizing happiness. That leads to wireheading, and also to the blissful ignorance problem where being falsely convinced of X is considered as good as actually having X.

2) When people who are poor have to make or borrow to get things, making and borrowing has a cost. The fact that richer people won't pay this cost shows that the cost is larger than the monetary price. If anything, this is an example of a poverty trap, since it means poorer people have to pay higher costs for things than richer people.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-08T16:32:07.169Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Poor people need to help each other

True for poor people in poor countries, but false for poor people in countries with welfare states.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2015-07-08T19:11:45.032Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

In the early 20th century the US used to be full of mutual aid societies taking care of insurance for health and unemployment.

Lodges weren't just about secret handshakes.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-07-09T16:29:31.090Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How much of a welfare state (in the present-day understanding of the term) was the US back then?

comment by buybuydandavis · 2015-07-15T19:28:10.611Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For government, I believe next to nothing at the Federal level, and some in States.

The Social Security Administration has a history: http://www.ssa.gov/history/briefhistory3.html

And a Chronology: http://www.ssa.gov/history/chrono.html

Some libertarian guy wrote a book on the mutual aid, charity aspect of it in the early 20th century (his name rhymes with Hansky?, but I can't dredge it out of my neurons). Maybe someone else will recall.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-07-09T11:20:54.441Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't been poor myself, but I'll offer some weak evidence in favor of a weakened version of your thesis.

I've seen a fair number of people say that when they were children, they were poor but didn't know it, and they were happy. This suggests that (presumably above some level of destitution), low relative status affects people more than absolute wealth. I can't remember whether being poor but happy as a child is correlated with living in the country, but this wouldn't surprise me. It may also be true that children are better at being happy than adults, and this could be worth some study.

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-08T21:03:33.906Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

While I disagree with your description of happy poor people, I admit that the idea of creating stronger social bonds is appealing. Well, of course they would have to be social bonds with people I like, who would not abuse me... but then, doesn't the mere possibility of choosing people to bond with already reduce the strength of those bonds? Okay, we don't have to go to the very extreme, and still can try to increase the strength of the bonds, without necessarily maximizing it.

There are things people need help with, even if they are not necessary for survival. If you want to make a big project, you need people to cooperate with. So, have a dream, make it public, find people to cooperate with... and if you all feel strongly about the project, you will have the bonds. Just start an NGO.

If you want to compare with the mega-rich, find a group of people willing to found a cooperative, in a spirit of "together we all get rich; no one gets left behind". As opposed to usual startups where people try to do things alone or in very small teams; and hire other people as replaceable pawns. (Note: in the cooperative, you can still hire the pawns later; many cooperatives do; you will only have the strong bonds among the local aristocracy, but the aristocracy can have dozens of members.) Now you are competing against the rich companies, and the economical situation of each of you depends on your mutual cooperation.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-08T12:14:51.467Z · score: 3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Poorer people are happier.

You have very likely not experienced poverty yourself.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-08T12:35:31.487Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I have seen (not experienced) the rural kind of, my frequent references to village houses allude to that. I don't know about urban poverty where people don't even have a vegetable garden.

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-08T20:48:14.822Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, poverty is not correctly measured by money alone. If the land outside the city is cheaper, and you can grow your own vegetables in the garden, you need less cash to live at the same level of comfort.

You usually have less options outside the city, especially less of those options that you or me would consider important, but many people are okay with such life.

A poor rural person could be one who doesn't own a house and a garden. Probably not too happy.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-08T13:56:33.178Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I guess your very first sentence is not a good introduction to what you actually mean and it could be insulting to people who are actually poor or who empathize with poor people.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2015-07-08T19:04:14.684Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Poorer people are happier. Alternatively, even when the aggregate or average level of happiness is not higher, some factors in it are higher, while other hugely negative factors (i.e. actually being poor) reduce the average or aggregate greatly.

The positive factors are strong social bonds.

Some people trade off the pursuit of money for living in areas with stronger and more generally dispersed social capital, with cultures of mutual self help, and spend more time on building their own social capital within it.

They're poorer financially, but wealthier socially.

But some people are poorer financially in areas where the social capital is generally poor as well, and particularly poor for the financially poor.

The problem is that middle-class people are trying to form friendships through just hanging out with people or trying to find common, shared interests. This is not strong bonds.

Can you imagine examples of how well-to-do people can put themselves into situations where they need to borrow items or services / help from their neighbors?

I think the problem is that wealthier people can buy the services they need, and so do so. Buying it doesn't impose a burden on your social equals, and so doesn't require taking on such burdens in a reciprocal fashion.

As you go up the wealth scale, for more and more things, you'd rather trade off money for time and effort, and you're able to buy that trade off from people who would rather have your money than their time.

This is apparent to all, people who make less than you, and people who make the same.

The people who make less will likely resent your requests for help, certainly if you haven't yet banked some help to them first, but even if you have, they're still likely to resent your trading off their time versus your money, knowing that you don't see it as worthwhile when it's your time vs. your money.

The people who make the same as you probably have the same time vs. money preferences as you do, would rather trade off their own money for their own time on their own problem, and so certainly won't want to be spending their time on your problem, when you obviously should just be spending your own money instead.

I think you're right that you get social bonding out of relations of reciprocating mutual aid, and also right that this gets harder to accomplish as you become more wealthy.

But I think you're wrong about the poor being necessarily happier, as you assumed that the reciprocating mutual aid would naturally occur if your'e poor. A lot of social and cultural capital that doesn't exist everywhere is required to make that happen.

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-07-08T22:02:23.292Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Poor by what measure?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-08T16:04:25.653Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, they could simulate that, but I'm not sure whether simulated neighborhood cooperation sticks out with regards to effectiveness at all compared to things like hanging out, sharing interests, engaging in cooperative sports and games.

I suspect that the main factor that isolates rich people is rather the prevailing inequality which separates them from 95% of the population. The envy they receive and the cognitive dissonance they get from being aware of the inequality but letting the responsibility diffuse, makes them anxious. I guess reducing inequality is a much more effective and sustainable solution to this problem.

comment by Thomas · 2015-07-08T06:57:50.272Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

My crazy idea.

comment by MathiasZaman · 2015-07-08T09:22:58.094Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Are there examples of interventions like this working out well?

comment by Thomas · 2015-07-08T09:30:52.887Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sure. Camels in Australia. Dingo in Australia.

Especially hippos in South America, where they were introduced by the late drug cartel lord Pablo Escobar.

See

Hippos are ideal for South America. They were almost missing there.

So I guess is the case about polar bears and Antarctica.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-08T12:06:56.398Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

What? Australia is the poster child for why you shouldn't randomly introduce species where they don't belong.

Polar bears would be disastrous in Antarctica. Their hibernation would need to adjust to the reversed seasonal pattern. Penguins aren't adapted for sharing their habitat with a large land predator.

And as for those hippos, the same article you link says it's actually hell to deal with them. Also, the history of how they got brought here is tainted with too much pain.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-07-09T12:28:52.679Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sidetrack: "Randomly" is ill-defined. Is introducing 40 bird species that were mentioned in Shakespeare to North America random?

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-09T18:41:38.665Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Following Shakespeare's list when it already existed was probably not random, but Shakespeare's choice of what birds to mention in each of his plays was likely determined by the constraints of meter, rhyme, and metaphoric value, which in a natural language are random parameters.

Edited to add: randomness may have also played a part in the choice of writer (i.e. Shakespeare instead of Goethe or Homer or someone else).

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-07-09T23:02:49.478Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

One definition of random is compressible-- it's shorter to say forty birds mentioned in Shakespeare than to list the birds.

I'm pretty sure the choice of writer wasn't random-- Shakespeare is tremendously respected by a lot of English speakers, but the idea of exporting British birds to North America to make it seem more homey seems very random.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-07-09T23:15:44.572Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A sequence of 40 zeros is highly compressible, but does not look random.

You mean a sequence "looks random" if it's not very compressible -- right? That is, the sequence is a member of the appropriate typical set:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typical_set

Or maybe you meant "looks random" means "compressed already." (???) A zipped file expressed as a bit sequence looks random.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-07-10T20:30:37.279Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm sorry, I meant to say that randomness is not compressible.

comment by Thomas · 2015-07-08T14:20:32.180Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's a crazy idea thread, not necessary a good idea thread.

randomly introduce species where they don't belong.

How else than randomly, any species has been introduced? Ever?

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-07-09T08:06:44.061Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's a crazy idea thread, not necessary a good idea thread.

Okay, by crazy but not necessarily good idea: eating a bag of pine cones.

comment by g_pepper · 2015-07-08T14:49:23.805Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Intentional introductions

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-08T14:47:20.071Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You're committing the naturalistic fallacy. There's a difference between dumb nature acting blindly and rational people making choices they know they'll be held accountable for.

However, I know I may be accused of naturalistic fallacy because I'm arguing in favor of leaving current ecosystems the way they are. While is it true that not all introduced species have been harmful, this is very difficult to predict, the specific examples being discussed are more likely to end up terribly, and historical experience with introduced species has leaned toward it being a bad idea. Humans are the ultimate invasive species, and we've been great at killing everything in our path.

comment by Thomas · 2015-07-08T15:25:44.143Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

About 20000 species invaded British isles after the last ice age. Mostly with no human intervention, some with human help.

It is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Isn't it?

But this is only a thread about crazy ideas. That's all. Thought provoking, not necessary politically and/or environmentally correct thinking, for Christ sake!

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-08T15:49:02.373Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The record on species introduced to the British Isles is rather mixed.

The European rabbit, introduced to Britain in the 12th century, eats and therefore damages a wide variety of crops and cost the UK £263 million.

Japanese knotweed, introduced as an ornamental garden plant in the late 19th century, the roots of which spread by underground rhizomes, can undermine and damage buildings, pavements and roads, cost £179 million.

The grey squirrel is a carrier of the squirrel pox virus which kills red squirrels but not grey squirrels.

The European crayfish is susceptible to crayfish plague which is spread by the introduced signal crayfish.

Of course it looks peaceful; dead squirrels tell no tales.

comment by Thomas · 2015-07-08T18:39:58.039Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

dead squirrels tell no tales

Of course, it's biology. Something we should transcend. But that's another topic.

comment by drethelin · 2015-07-08T04:42:06.380Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Cheap and ubiquitous GPS allows us to eliminate the guesswork from catching repeat offenders. Anyone convicted of robbery or assault is tagged with an ankle monitor. Any time a crime is committed, it's checked against the GPS records of criminals.

comment by MathiasZaman · 2015-07-08T09:28:07.741Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Ankle monitors are surprisingly annoying to wear. It would be a big, long-term punishment that would probably come on top of a prison sentence.

comment by Illano · 2015-07-08T19:00:24.284Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm surprised no one has pushed through a cell-phone tracking app as a replacement for the ankle monitors. Sure, its not as secure, and may be left somewhere/forgotten/etc. but if you included it as a condition for parole/probation, you could probably get pretty high usage rates, with little added cost and annoyance.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-08T19:14:21.500Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm surprised no one has pushed through a cell-phone tracking app as a replacement for the ankle monitors.

First, all cell phones have tracking already built-in as a free (and undeletable) feature X-/

Second, if I know I'm going out to do some robbery and muggery, will it inconvenience me much to leave my cell phone at home?

comment by Illano · 2015-07-08T19:38:08.477Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, the first point is why I think it will work. As for the second, sure, it may not be 100% accurate, but it would be better than nothing, and even negative information could be useful. (e.g. Person X did not have their phone on during the robbery, but otherwise normally has it on them 100% of the time.) I agree it's not an ideal solution, just something that might help a little.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-08T19:50:47.259Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

the first point is why I think it will work

What do you mean, "will"? It is working. If you are deemed to be a person of sufficient interest to one of the TLAs, they can track your phone right now.

comment by MathiasZaman · 2015-07-09T11:12:25.859Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Justice departments notably have trouble keeping up with modern technology. Where I live, it's still impossible to get a digital copy of your file (leading to a case where someone ate an important document and was able to go free on a technicality).

Not just that, but smartphones are not quite ubiquitous yet. Either you require the person to purchase one, or have the state purchase one, neither of which is ideal.

I suspect there are also legal and human right problems, since ankle monitors are already used as a form of punishment, but have never been used (as far as I know) as a parole/probation measure.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-08T11:55:25.764Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you watched Tomorrow Never Dies, you should be wary of too much reliance on GPS.

comment by CBHacking · 2015-07-08T05:49:23.507Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The social stigma of something like that seems like you're basically throwing away any hope of rehabilitation, but it's hardly as if the US is much good at that anyhow.

comment by drethelin · 2015-07-08T06:04:46.246Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

not true! sure you know they've stolen, but now they can't get away with it. This makes them more trustworthy, negating stigma.

comment by DanielLC · 2015-07-08T06:21:17.561Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

They can't get away with robbery. There are ways to defect in the prisoner's dilemma that are less overt. The reason people don't like to hire convicts isn't because of anything that would be prevented by an anklet.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-07-08T02:52:46.343Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Society should implement the following procedure to fight off MRSA: 1) Find a strain of bacteria that occupies the same environmental niche as MRSA, but is not resistant to antibiotics. 2) Mass produce this strain in factories, and then spread it by airborne distribution vehicles (maybe drones). This will tilt the evolutionary balance away from the resistant strain and towards the non-resistant strain.

comment by tut · 2015-07-08T13:27:00.033Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Soil bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, are already everywhere. I don't see how spreading more of them would reduce the old ones.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-07-09T02:02:36.244Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The theory is that most environmental niches will already be maxed out in terms of how much MRSA-like bacteria they can support - if they weren't, the bacteria would just reproduce more.

So say your backyard can support 1e9 bacteria. Of that, 5e8 is antibiotic-resistant bacteria, while 5e8 is regular bacteria. Then you add another 1e9 regular bacteria. Now the backyard is overcapacity, so the 2e9 bacteria will compete for survival until only 1e9 are left. Assuming that the antibiotic-resistant bacteria has no other advantage over regular bacteria, then after the winnowing there will be 2.5e8 antibiotic-resistant and 7.5e8 regular bacteria - a reduction from 50% to 25%. Every subsequent application of the procedure will exponentially decrease the proportion of resistant bacteria.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-07-09T03:36:02.176Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

More to the point though, any time antibiotics are used the bacterium with antibiotic resistance takes over. There is a reason that it is often spread in hospitals, where sick people on antibiotics are, and in pig farms where ridiculous loads of antibiotics are used to increase growth rates.

What is necessary is breaking the chain of spread from antibiotic-treated niche to antibiotic-treated niche, and making sure there aren't places like said pig farms where the selective pressure is constantly applied.

comment by tut · 2015-07-09T17:35:18.300Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This would also increase the number of Staphylococcus relative to other bacteria in the ground. And these bacteria can transfer DNA to each other, including resistance genes. So many of your added bacteria would turn into MRSA, and if there is enough antibiotics in the environment to maintain the MRSA prevalence without your intervention, then you just might end up increasing the amount of MRSA in the region.

comment by drethelin · 2015-07-08T04:32:36.664Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This would at best be a temporary solution, since this was pretty much the status quo before MRSA was as big a deal as it is now. The continued presence of antibiotics will exert a selection pressure in favor of MRSA.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-07-08T12:49:32.152Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So.... we keep the factories running. Seems like a small price to pay for the continued effectiveness of antibiotics.

comment by drethelin · 2015-07-08T23:51:50.786Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If your plan is to spray MRSA into the air forever I'm pretty sure that will lead to far more deaths from untreated or treated too late infections than you would be saving by making some subset of existing infections treatable.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-07-09T02:14:04.236Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe air-spraying is the wrong distribution method - possibly it would be better to just use trucks or whatever.

There is an adjustable parameter which is how many bacteria we add to the environment per unit time. That parameter controls how quickly the resistant bacteria are replaced by non-resistant bacteria. But regardless of the value, the shape of the function of resistant bacteria population vs time should be exponential decline. So if you are worried about extra infections, you can select a small value for the replacement parameter.

Say you follow a schedule where on the first of every month, you release a bunch of bacteria, increasing the total population in an area by 1%. Then over the course of the month, the population falls back down to its initial value. If you do this for many months, you will eventually cause a large impact to the population of resistant bacteria, while never increasing the aggregate number of bacteria in the environment by more than 1%.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2015-07-08T23:56:26.648Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, consider it a maintenance problem.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-07T23:07:32.903Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Prediction: When CRISPR gets better someone is going to make a clone of himself absent mutational load.

comment by gjm · 2015-07-07T23:40:40.986Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

How would they identify what's a mutation and what isn't? (Extreme rarity in the rest of the population?) The first few people to try doing this will most likely be quite unusual people; how confident could they be that any given unusual allele in their genome is a likely-deleterious mutation rather than something that makes them unusual in a valuable way?

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-07T23:44:45.815Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes you eliminate extremely rare mutations.

how confident could they be that any given unusual allele in their genome is a likely-deleterious mutation rather than something that makes them unusual in a valuable way?

This is a risk.

comment by Manfred · 2015-07-08T21:42:30.848Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I just want to get rid of the freaking lines and sines.

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-07-08T21:49:39.083Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thesis: All knowledge is synthetic. There is no such thing as an "obvious" truth, and both mathematics and logic are empirical sciences. Every "axiom" is open to question and the axiomatization of arithmetic was nothing more than an attempt to find a "spanning set" of mathematical statements which are logically independent. Which is to say the logicist programme was flawed in ways much more fundamental than just being limited by incompleteness; it was doomed as soon as Frege mocked Mill.

Problem: Logic is a means of specifying the object under consideration (assuming everyone knows what I'm talking about since this is discussed in one of the sequence articles). Throwing out an axiom, say by defining a non-commutative form of addition, is changing the subject. We cannot make any assertion about arithmetic (and hence cannot make any discoveries about arithmetic) without first logically circumscribing the subject. Perceiving a given quantity of object in the visual field relies on a contingent definition of the unit. Synthetic knowledge of arithmetic seems impossible.

Proposed resolution: Weaken definition of knowledge from "justified true belief" simply to "true belief". Some might want to haggle over what "justification" is and object that we shouldn't throw out the whole concept because both logicism and empiricism seem to fail to provide it infallibly. Mathematical knowledge is then attained only insofar as we guess correctly with respect to the independence of our axioms.

Interested in hearing what would be regarded as "standard" objections to the above (which is not to say I'm disinterested in original objections; just believe in respecting others who have worked on a problem by learning what they've done).

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-07-09T20:46:56.476Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you throw out justified you then consider what we intuitively consider delusional beliefs who happen to be accidentally true to be knowledge. Which conflicts with intuition. You can always bite the bullet on any conflict but that's boring.

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-07-09T21:00:06.301Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It depends on what you call "delusional". Just to be clear: I'm not arguing that justification is impossible, but that "at bottom" all our beliefs rest on uncertain axioms that are provisionally treated as certain, but which aren't justified. Aesthetic considerations such as boring vs. interesting, elegant vs. obtuse, natural vs. tortured then loom much larger in the actual part they play in determining beliefs than supposed certainty about axioms.

Additionally there's a problem with whether it's actually possible to truly believe something without justification. If your beliefs don't make contact with your experiences then what exactly is it you're believing in?

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-07T21:40:05.076Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I just thought about how valuable genuine personal feedback is and in the context of LW that there is some tradition to post anonymous feedback forms (see .g. here). And I wondered: Could this be made into something more structured and valuable? Assuming feedback is valuable could a medium be found that supports that? I wondered whether a forum like Stackoverflow could be medified and employed to give and receive feedback. Or an addition to an existing foum for anonymous feedback. The difficulty is if anonymity is provided it can be abused. Esp. if you encourage feedback e.g. by karma.

So the crazy idea itself is this: Provide a platform where users can give and receive feedback. Honor giving feedback with karma. Receiving feedback costs karma (so you are encouraged to give it if you can). Before feedback is received it is passed thrue one or more unrelated reviewer (by some distance measure) who also gains karma by reviewing consistently. Could a forum work for encouraging to give and at the same time protect people from feedback?

Yes this is a typical engineers solution to a social problem. Yes we can't do this right now (same as with prediction markets) but just for the sake of the idea this it is.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-09T22:21:41.231Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Formspring was a simpler version of this, and it devolved into bullying. That's a failure mode of any anonymous feedback system.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-09T22:30:55.308Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I guessed so. Therefore the reviewing.

comment by Nornagest · 2015-07-08T18:28:28.544Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There have been a few apps based around this, though usually lacking the karma part. The one that comes to mind is Honesty Box for Facebook. (Which may no longer exist? I last heard of it several years ago.)

comment by g_pepper · 2015-07-08T00:26:55.354Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a web site that supports anonymous feedback, although I don't think it does anything like the karma calculation or review process that you mentioned. I have not used it; I just happened to notice that another LWer was using it when I was reading his comments earlier this week.

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2015-07-09T07:50:13.611Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have an anonymous feedback link in my LW profile that's been present for over a year. I've only gotten a couple pieces of feedback.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-07T21:21:55.856Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Discussion of this thread goes here; all other top-level comments should be ideas or similar.

comment by Jiro · 2015-07-08T14:49:50.925Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think "crazy idea" is underspecified. The kind of crazy idea that you probably want is an unusual way of meeting an acceptable goal and based on acceptable premises. You don't want someone posting "kill all the Jews" and you don't want someone posting "in order to get rid of the lizard invaders, we should..." even though those are certainly crazy ideas.

Of course, nobody would post those things outright, but there are shades of gray where the goal or premises are somewhat questionable, even if not outright as bad as killing all the Jews. (I think, for instance, that the "freedom from fear" post below is close to this.)

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-08T21:45:11.446Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Could you suggest a more precise definition? Then I or somebody else can use it on a follow-up post.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-11T04:11:04.658Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A crazy idea is something most people would quickly dismiss because of the absurdity heuristic. We want crazy ideas that on reflection appear to have merit.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-11T11:40:17.675Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sure. But how to know beforehand? The absurdity heuristic works also on yourself.

But then "crazy idea" wasn't meant literally for more inspirational.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-07-11T16:34:25.999Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The absurdity heuristic works also on yourself.

Good point, although you can develop a feel for what others consider absurd.

comment by spriteless · 2015-07-09T04:55:53.420Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Nitpick: your post is tagged cary idea, not crazy idea.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-09T05:24:55.224Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you. Fixed.

comment by SilentCal · 2015-07-08T21:29:09.143Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

By my rough casual count, around half of the ideas here that are action proposals have been either attempted or proposed by serious bodies.

I don't think this is a bad thing at all.

comment by gwern · 2015-07-08T22:23:25.814Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Does that mean people aren't being nearly crazy enough?

comment by Dahlen · 2015-07-08T21:23:45.102Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Is this a revival of the Munchkin Ideas thread?

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-08T21:48:57.405Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The what? I see: This post. Indeed it is close.

comment by Elo · 2015-07-08T05:13:41.795Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I like the idea of this thread. I often have crazy ideas but few spring to mind right now.

I also wonder if the thread is off-topic for lesswrong. For being distracting and not rationalist or progress towards a goal.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-08T05:46:44.202Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In this generality it is off-topic, yes. But by making it into a separate thread this provides a niche for it.

I also wondered whether I should restrict ideas to those tangential to LW topics but decided against it. Maybe for a later installment.

comment by Elo · 2015-07-08T21:26:03.964Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In this way I believe this is a shift to destroy the old garden-form that we have had. Stupid silly and fun, but no longer the focussed LessWrong that it used to be.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-08T21:47:32.745Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Now that I see the amount of response I think I really could have made it more focussed. Now.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-10T20:52:37.457Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm amazed by the amount of response this has caused. Must by far be the most commented on post of mine. And all of that in response to a five minute crazy idea. I wonder whether I should post more of these 'crazy' ideas.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-10T00:57:21.542Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If I want to learn all the material on MIRI's research guide as quickly as possible, do I have to get a day job and fuel my own education, or is there a cult that would take me into their deep, dark dungeons as a slave, so long as all I did was study?

I guess if there were just some other way I could more easily facilitate my studies that would be fine too, it doesn't have to involve servitude to shady folk.

comment by PECOS-9 · 2015-07-16T08:12:32.512Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You could save up money for a few months then move to a country with a very cheap cost of living and live off your savings.

comment by UtilonMaximizer · 2015-07-09T15:21:39.879Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

A college education is a terrible investment for the average person in today's economy. The money and (more importantly) the time spent would be much better utilized to obtain the same human capital and signaling power at a cheaper monetary cost and a faster rate than those at which universities are willing to provide.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2015-07-09T16:48:51.589Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

How?

comment by Illano · 2015-07-09T18:52:08.446Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Depends a ton on where you go and what you major in. PayScale has a ranking of a ton of colleges based on their 20-year average incomes compared to 24 years of average income for people with a high-school degree. There probably are some special cases at the tails that would benefit more from not going to college, but for the average college-goer, it is still probably a halfway decent investment.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-07-09T19:24:52.960Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

based on their 20-year average incomes

Doesn't it tell you whether it was worth going to college 20 years ago?

comment by Bound_up · 2015-07-14T07:43:18.714Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW
  1. If you could take a treatment which granted you immortality and eliminated your aversion to death, would you? More interestingly, what would you think afterward of those who desired to do the same? What if two classes of people resulted. What would they think of each other? How long would you end up living?

  2. Can we post the sequences on a thousand blogs marketed a thousand different ways (some for housewives, or for business people, or for students, or for political science, or common people of common sense, hobbyists, etcetera) to produce a more rapid dissemination of the ideas, and the unification of people (in one important way, anyway) of diverse backgrounds?

  3. Communal Creativity. What if we organized schools, or any series of organizations, to compete against each other in the production of say, a piece of music? Suppose each student desirous to do so could see an intuitive graphical representation of each part of the music as it was played back, and could indicate by easily-learned controls how to alter whatever they desired to. Then each suggested change would be played to the student body, and be enacted according to a market system based on votes. The piece would morph in time until each aspect of it had the approval of a majority of the participants.

Then the piece would be submitted for competition against the finished products of other schools. Fame and fun might exist as natural motivators, and money might be offered as well, and distributed according to a measurement of involvement in the creation of the piece, with varying weights on different activities, and the whole system subject to a market so as to match value to investment.

Could this provide for good music? Or good education? Or, dare I utter it, both?

comment by gjm · 2015-07-14T11:08:40.284Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

#1 sounds like it might be an interesting question, but I'm not sure I understand it. A large part of my "aversion to death" is simply the fact that I have things I want to do in the future. Is this hypothetical treatment meant to get rid of that? (Surely not, right?) If not, what exactly is being eliminated? Just some visceral reaction of horror at the thought of death? What about aversion to other people's deaths?

(My immediate reaction: Yes, of course I would take it; whyever wouldn't I?)

#2 sounds rather culty, but in any case I doubt it would work. If you want a "rationality for housewives[1]" series, I think you need to write one; the LW "Sequences" are written for a particular kind of audience and I don't think its intersection with housewives is very large.

[1] I'm not sure "housewives" is the best term, unless you really want to exclude any men who happen to be filling that role. Homemakers?

With #3, don't you think the evolutionary process would be impractically slow?

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-14T22:42:22.822Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Can we post the sequences on a thousand blogs marketed a thousand different ways (some for housewives, or for business people, or for students, or for political science, or common people of common sense, hobbyists, etcetera)

If you'd rewrite it for each audience, that would be great! Otherwise it would feel like spam.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-10T14:40:58.039Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When I prime myself with the Wikipedia article for executive function, I feel significantly more capable and confident in my cognitive functioning. I don't even have a crazy idea why. Funnily enough, IIRC when I did an online test for planning, the Tower of Hanoi...well, I didn't get anywhere with it. I couldn't even complete it. So I'm maybe messed up in some way.

comment by Fivehundred · 2015-07-08T17:05:20.299Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Does Dust Theory imply that every time you go to sleep, or lose grasp of your surroundings, your dominant reality collapses and a new one takes shape? After all, it's only your experiences that create your coherent world. I think it would be similar to the Autoverse's 'removal' of Permutation City from its reality.

EDIT: Hmm, no, there would just be a slow degradation of consciousness. Nothing that would explain my memories of dreaming last night and taking a ninety-degree turn back into reality upon waking up; that dream would have become my reality. So I'm fairly confident Dust Theory is false, because of the sheer unnecessary baggage my reality appears to have.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-19T23:08:26.345Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Accidentally posted here instead of the open thread

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-11T04:27:46.225Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'd be interested to see text analytics on Lesswrong's contents.

comment by farbeyond · 2015-07-10T21:43:51.737Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Dogs are incredibly good at perceiving through their nose. They smell almost everything around them including other species' old feces. Some dogs even eat their own. A lot of smells must be something unbearable with human nose but they take them well. If their physical mechanism enables them to embrace all kinds of disgusting smells with less rejection, I think the same mechanism also makes the nature of dogs more tolerant and altruistic than that of human being who are easily disgusted. Dogs are overall just nice : )

comment by RedErin · 2015-07-20T15:46:48.679Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Dogs were domesticated in such a way so that their very existence depends on them being nice to humans.

comment by Darklight · 2015-07-10T04:32:04.344Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I have a cluster of related physics ideas that I'm currently trying to work out the equations for. For the record, I am not a physicist. My bachelors is in computing specializing in cognitive science, and my masters is in computer science, with my thesis work on neural networks and object recognition.

So with that, my crazy ideas are:

That the invariant rest mass is actually temporal kinetic energy, that is to say, kinetic energy that moves the object through the time dimension of spacetime rather than the spatial dimensions. This is how come a particle at rest is still moving through time.

The relationship between time and temporal energy is hyperbolic. The more temporal kinetic energy you have, the more frequently you appear in a given period of time (a higher frequency of existence according to E = hf). A photon, which has no mass, according to relativity, doesn't experience the passing of time, and hence moves through space at exactly the speed of light. This can be shown by calculating out the proper time interval (delta t0 = delta t sqrt(1-v^2/c^2)). An object travelling at the speed of light experiences a proper time interval of 0. So from the relative "perspective" of a photon, it actually seems like travel to any distance is instantaneous.

Now, consider a motionless black hole (a perfect blackbody), which can be defined entirely by its mass, and the photon gas (blackbody radiation) that is the Hawking radiation produced by the black hole. Together these can be defined as the simplest closed thermodynamic system. As the black hole emits the photon gas, it decreases in mass, suggesting that the mass aka the temporal kinetic energy can be converted into spatial kinetic energy, which is essentially what a photon is a packet of. When a black hole consumes a photon and increases in mass, the reverse process occurs.

Also, gravity is proportional to the entropy density at a given region of spacetime. A black hole for instance has infinite entropy density, while a photon has essentially none. The reason why gravity appears so weak compared to electromagnetism is because much of the force of gravity is spread throughout the temporal dimension and effects things moving at different temporal velocities, while the electromagnetic force affects only things moving at the same temporal velocity.

At least some dark matter may in fact be normal baryonic matter that is travelling through time at a different temporal velocity than we are.

Neutrinos may actually be the temporal kinetic equivalent of photons, and the reason why the expansion of the universe seems to have started accelerating 5 billion years ago is because that was when the sun formed and the neutrino emissions of the sun have caused a small steady acceleration in the temporal velocity of the solar system relative to the cosmic background radiation.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-07-10T19:29:12.608Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Neutrinos may actually be the temporal kinetic equivalent of photons,

No, neutrinos have all sorts of different properties than protons (spin-1/2, three generations, take part in weak interactions) regardless of their energy-momentum.

comment by Darklight · 2015-07-10T20:11:04.171Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Regardless of their spatial energy-momentum. But if I'm not mistaken, all these properties are associated with particles that have mass?

So, I mean equivalent in the sense that they could be packets of temporal kinetic energy (in the form of their mass), in the way that photons are packets of spatial kinetic energy. It's quite possible that because their kinetic energy is temporal rather than spatial, they should have different and complementary properties compared to photons.

Or maybe the hypothetical Axions are a better candidate.

Edit: Or for that matter, the Higgs Boson.

comment by lyghtcrye · 2015-07-19T01:48:23.464Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I like to imagine that eventually we will be able to boil the counter-intuitive parts of quantum physics away into something more elegant. I keep coming back to the idea that every current interaction could theoretically be modeled as the interactions of variously polarized electromagnetic waves. Such as mass being caused by rotational acceleration of light, and charge being emergent from the cross-interactions of polarized photons. I doubt the idea really carves reality at the joints, but I think it's probably closer to accurate than the standard model, which is functional but patchworked, much like the predictive models used by astrologers prior to the acceptance of heliocentrism.

comment by MockTurtle · 2015-07-10T10:45:03.119Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If the many-worlds interpretation is truly how the world is, and if having multiple copies of myself as an upload is more valuable than just having one copy on more powerful (or distributed) hardware, then...

I could bid for a job asking for a price which could be adequate if I were working by myself. I could create N copies of myself to help complete the job. Then, assuming there's no easy way to meld my copies back into one, I could create a simple quantum lottery that deletes all but one copy.

Each copy is guaranteed to live on in its own Everett branch, able to enjoy the full reward from completing the job.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-07-09T03:57:37.285Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The Disney company produced Frozen as transhumanist and cryonicist propaganda, disguised as a fairy tale.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-09T17:34:47.193Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Was anyone preserved for years and later revived in that movie? If anything, Anna's predicament (being slowly turned into ice) is a terrible threat to avoid.

comment by sentientplatypus · 2015-07-09T22:52:20.003Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What if you put little electricity-generating windmills on top of an electric car. Could they produce enough electricity to help propel the car, or would the energy produced be counteracted by the drag added?

comment by Dagon · 2015-07-09T23:51:26.658Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Pretty clearly the longitudinal wind would be more than canceled out by drag. You might be able to get some net power from any cross-wind that is present. But for that, you're better off with fixed windmills used to charge your battery.

comment by Elo · 2015-07-12T00:54:28.205Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I saw a paper that suggested that for big non-aerodynamic trucks you could put a big fan on their back and power it with the fuel and save something like 20% on fuel.

comment by Elo · 2015-07-12T00:53:28.209Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

look into perpetual motion machines and their disproof.

comment by RowanE · 2015-07-09T20:08:28.398Z · score: -2 (14 votes) · LW · GW

In order to get rid of the lizard invaders, we should kill all the Jews.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-09T20:15:55.615Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Newcome readers: Don't get scared. Here's some context for this seemingly serious proposal.

comment by RowanE · 2015-07-09T20:54:22.349Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

God, I hope most people aren't reading it as serious. I thought the downvotes were just because people don't like inane jokes here half as much as they do on Reddit.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-09T21:04:31.756Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Right now, yours is the first comment people see in this thread. Put yourself in the readers' shoes.

comment by RowanE · 2015-07-09T21:22:22.493Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I'll admit I only read the title before diving into the comments, and in that context it's sufficiently obvious. Although I'm twisted enough that adding descriptions like "ideas that spontaneously come to mind (and feel great)" just makes it funnier.

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-14T22:39:44.349Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

inb4 RationalWiki quotes this as a typical LessWrong debate.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2015-07-12T01:15:59.600Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm ambivalent about whether a particular fact makes this a better or worse joke. That fact is that a lot of of people think that "lizard people" is a dog whistle for Jews. A Canadian court decided that it isn't.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-07-08T04:49:59.115Z · score: -5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

The continued, largely unregulated development of dual-use (bio)technologies is antithetical to the hope that people might enjoy ever enjoy the right of freedom from fear. We should ban all existing dual use technologies, and slowly phase in bans on existing dual use technologies - including those we take for granted like GPS.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-07-08T07:46:21.425Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In New York city workmen get send into prison for pocketknives they carry for work purposes. Dual use exists for a lot of very useful technologies.

the hope that people might enjoy ever enjoy the right of freedom from fear.

Such a right sounds pretty Orwellian to me.

comment by CBHacking · 2015-07-08T06:02:34.133Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

How many technologies are you aware of that don't have a harmful potential application? I mean, (electronic) computers were invented for military purposes and can enable all kinds of mischief on the Internet. Refrigeration makes military logistics a lot easier. Hell, internal combustion drives tanks and other military vehicles. GPS makes cruise missiles easier, but pre-GPS ICBMs just used inertial targeting; that's close enough for thermonuclear bombs.

In HPMOR, Harry figures out a large number of ways to make weapons out of the materials present in a low-tech classroom. I doubt anything short of reducing the world to subsistence farming (and no more than that) is sufficient to bring about a state in which

"... no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor"

comment by DanArmak · 2015-07-08T11:42:41.248Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Subsistence farmers waged bloody wars throughout history. Either a 1% product surplus or simple robbery can provide the keepup of an armed force. The force might be small, a band of a few hundred or thousand men, but it can pillage the countryside unopposed until it meets a bigger army.

comment by drethelin · 2015-07-08T06:07:22.757Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The swift response to trying to ban another nation's Dual-use technologies will come from single-use technologies: Guns and warheads.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-07-09T04:53:35.962Z · score: -10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Having a transhuman girlfriend sounds like a bad idea to me.

One, with her enhancements she could probably kick your ass.

Two, she'll probably nag you all the time to get upgrades.

And three, what if she crosses over to the Dark Side, goes all Dark Phoenix-y on you or something?

comment by Viliam · 2015-07-09T08:37:36.961Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Yep, having a transhuman abusive girlfriend would be a bad idea.

Having abusive partners is probably a bad idea even without transhumanism.

comment by Elo · 2015-07-12T00:58:43.456Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

came to upvote

realised I already have..

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-07-09T21:25:10.291Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Why is your mental model of women so man-hating?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-07-09T13:00:39.695Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It sounds like you're imagining the situation as not being transhuman yourself. Is there any reason why you wouldn't be?