Comment by Abigail on Formative Youth · 2009-02-25T10:10:19.000Z · LW · GW

It seems to me that altruism is evolved, hard wired, rather than learned from influences. Watch kitten siblings fighting and stalking each other. They are practicing their skills, but they never hurt each other badly. How could humans live in such a huge, complex society of strangers without altruism? Guilt, shame, pleasure in helping another, all hard wired to an extent. They can be nurtured, or alternatively knocked out of someone by a chaotic upbringing.

Comment by Abigail on Against Maturity · 2009-02-20T10:54:13.000Z · LW · GW

If you quote Shakespeare, we can all see the name and might think, well, that is probably wise and well expressed. If you quote anime fanfic, we might see the source and decide that was probably silly and probably badly expressed;

or consider it a quote with Eliezer Yudkowsky's imprimatur, which might be arrogant of Eliezer, but actually I think worthwhile, that Eliezer values an idea is for me something in favour of that idea;

or I could just judge the quote myself, see what I think of it, see what good I could strain out of it.

Eliezer is my teacher, but I do permit myself to disagree with him.

Comment by Abigail on Epilogue: Atonement (8/8) · 2009-02-07T12:29:02.000Z · LW · GW

"So does that mean," asked the Master, "that now your life is finally complete, and you can die without any regrets?"

Well. That is indeed ridiculous. It fails (I think) to realise the Lady Sensory's lesson that she no longer needs to be the person she always thought she needed to be. I am moved to quote the Quaker Isaac Penington: "The end of words is to bring men to the knowledge of things beyond what words can utter". The Master of Fandom's words are meaningless, an ideal of what people should be, they imagine, rather than how things actually are.

Comment by Abigail on Normal Ending: Last Tears (6/8) · 2009-02-04T13:30:56.000Z · LW · GW

I have a very strong personal motivation for making the moral assertion, "Diversity is good". I am transsexual, often meet people who have never met a TS before and am rarely in a group which is majority TS. Yet, I do believe in it as a moral requirement. If we are all the same, we all have the same blind spots. If we are all different, we see different things, and this is good, and interesting, and in our interests.

I rather hope that the more powerful alien race we meet will also value diversity as a moral good. I even believe it is a moral good even when, for example during the Scramble for Africa, almost no-one or no-one at all believes it.

Comment by Abigail on Three Worlds Decide (5/8) · 2009-02-03T11:19:56.000Z · LW · GW

I thought these "events" might be a test for the humans, a mass hallucination. It is strange that three civilisations should encounter each other at the same time like this.

It is difficult to alter one human characteristic without changing the whole person: difficult to change from male to female. Far more difficult to Improve a civilization by changing one characteristic of the humans, take away the ability to feel pain. Take away the whole basis of moral action and cooperation, by preventing babyeaters from eating babies. Would the superhappies really desire to make every one else just like them? Possibly, I think that is a morally poorer choice but making that choice is very common among humans.

But I cannot think of a better ending.

Comment by Abigail on The Fun Theory Sequence · 2009-01-29T15:02:52.000Z · LW · GW

I want to be able easily to come back to this. Would you create a category of "Sequences", and post it to that, so that there is a link on the side bar? I think there is at least another such sequence.

Comment by Abigail on Rationality Quotes 25 · 2009-01-28T10:06:38.000Z · LW · GW

Oh, gawd. "Look upon the abyss without flinching". All that Nobility. You make it sound impossible, and it does indeed seem so: but it is very simple. A translation for normal life:

All the human being need do is see what needs to be done, and do it.

Comment by Abigail on Higher Purpose · 2009-01-26T15:04:12.000Z · LW · GW

After a great deal of navel-gazing, I have realised that I actually get pleasure from serving others. However, such pleasure need not be rescuing them from harm. If no-one is at threat from harm, it might be by entertaining them. My evolved highly social capacity to get pleasure from service will not be unsatisfiable. This can still be "all about me"- I get genuine pleasure, I get social interaction, I get increasing wisdom as I learn what works to "serve others" and what does not.

I might learn to accept what achievements I can make- not creating the perfect FAI, not even singing better than anyone else, merely singing something simple acceptably and giving transient pleasure to one other person.

The Zen arguments, spiritual growth, all that stuff is only relevant if one wants to be a Good person. I do not, I think I am good enough, already.

Comment by Abigail on Failed Utopia #4-2 · 2009-01-22T16:57:00.000Z · LW · GW

"Men and women can make each other somewhat happy, but not most happy" said the genie/ AI.

What will make one individual "happy" will not work for the whole species. I would want the AI to interview me about my wants: I find Control makes me happier than anything, not having control bothers me. Control between fifty options which will benefit me would be good enough, I do not necessarily need to be able to choose the bad

Being immortal and not being able to age, and being cured of any injury, sound pretty good to me. It is not just contrarianism that makes people praise this world.

Please do write your "actual shot at applied fun theory".

Comment by Abigail on Interpersonal Entanglement · 2009-01-20T10:26:02.000Z · LW · GW

I do not think you can refer to "The Christian Heaven" as if there was only one concept. One of the Spiritualist principles is something like "continuous development for every human soul". The carol refers to "the children crowned/ all in white shall wait around" which is bathetic, and it is hard to see the attraction of it. Someone said thinking about Heaven is like the foetus speculating on the nature of life outside the womb. I see the Christian heaven as being with God, who is Love, and probably with other people too: so how will your FAI maximise the best possible outcome for each individual, and the species? Finally, many Quakers would say that the kingdom of Heaven is here and now.

I do not want to defend religion here per se. I want to defend those ideas within religion which might have use or wisdom about them, including any which, if wrong, are wrong in an interesting way.

Comment by Abigail on Seduced by Imagination · 2009-01-16T10:24:56.000Z · LW · GW

I find it hard to conceive of falling into misery because I do not live in a future society where an all-powerful FAI seeking the best interests of each individual and of the species governs perfectly. I am glad that I do not have to work as a subsistence peasant, at risk of starvation if the harvest is poor, and I have some envy of celebrities that I see.

I think a lot of misery comes from wanting the World to be other than it is, without the power to change it. Everybody knows it: I need courage to change what I can change, serenity to accept what I can't change, wisdom to know the difference. It is not easy, but it is simple (this last sentence comes from House MD).

Comment by Abigail on Emotional Involvement · 2009-01-09T13:16:18.000Z · LW · GW

I want to Breed, with the most attractive possible real mate. I want to bring up my children to be the best they can be, and for them me and partner to continue to improve our ideas of what the Best is.

This raises the likelihood of, perhaps permanent, unhappiness for many people- and perhaps because of this, the possibility in whatever wonderful future, the possibility of happiness and fulfilment. Choices about how to spend ones time, how, if at all, to improve onesself, arise from the central problem of breeding.

"Pull out the wires"- the person is in a state of Cognitive Dissonance, perceptions of reality which conflict with all previous perceptions. I think it a strong possibility that the person would feel a complete crisis, having no way of trusting either the current perceptions or previous perceptions of reality. If I did not collapse into a shivering heap, I hope I too would say, "Pull out the wires"- if it IS real, I want to be there.

Comment by Abigail on Changing Emotions · 2009-01-06T14:03:04.000Z · LW · GW

Z M Davis, "Autogynephilia" is a theory, based on the observation that some M-F transsexual people are sexually aroused by female behaviour, which imagines that the arousal causes the desire to appear female. However, in reality the desire may be caused by other circumstances, such as innate brain differences, and supporters of autogynephilia theory have not established the causal link.

It is a failure of the imagination, an attempt to enforce the map on the reality. There are men, and there are women, in the map. Here is a woman with testicles. The map says that cannot be so, the person is a man. However, reality ought to trump the map.

The point of the post still stands. A man does not use a woman's body, and would have to learn how to do so. A man does not use a woman's brain, and would have to learn how to do so. Whether after the change was made it was "the same person" depends on what you mean by "the same person". Upgrading an adult brain is a very difficult problem.

Comment by Abigail on Free to Optimize · 2009-01-02T13:32:14.000Z · LW · GW

Do the humans know that the Friendly AI exists?

From my own motivation, if I knew that the rules had been made easier than independent life, I would lack all motivation to work. Would the FAI allow me to kill myself, or harm others? If not, then why not provide a Culture-like existence?

I would want to be able to drop out of the game, now and then, have a rest in an easier habitat. Humans can Despair. If the game is too painful, then they will.

A good parent will bring a child on, giving challenges which are just challenging enough to be interesting, without being too challenging and guaranteeing failure. If the FAI is always going to be more superior to any individual than any parent can be, could one opt to be challenged like that, directly by the FAI, to reach ones greatest potential?

What I want are fundamental choices, not choices within a scheme the FAI dreams up.

Comment by Abigail on Imaginary Positions · 2008-12-24T16:35:52.000Z · LW · GW

A British police blogger says that people sometimes want an off-record "talking to", but UK police will no longer do this. This is a false belief: the police will do as I want, or behave in the way I consider sensible. The blogger says that they will not.

Comment by Abigail on Complex Novelty · 2008-12-20T13:19:32.000Z · LW · GW

Well, let's see. There are friendly AIs and automated technology carrying out all the needs of life, so that human beings do not need to work, and anything which damages human cells can be fixed, so we are immortal if we wish to be.

For me, pleasure comes from achievement. But in this world, there is nothing which I can achieve which the AIs cannot achieve better. Or, if it is entertaining other people, perhaps a few manage this, and the rest fail to create any interest at all in their peers. If achievement is possible, failure is possible. If people decide to pass the time in conflict or competition, there is only one winner of chess or sprinting, and only a few people who are close enough to that winner to keep training.

So I become an eyeless limbless blob having endless orgasms.

So to avoid this, the AIs, being friendly, set challenges for the humans to overcome, so that the humans can be the best each can be. So that the species evolves. So the AIs go away and do other things, taking as much interest in the humans as the God of the Deists does.

Or- I fulfil myself by making my brain, body and Wisdom as good as they can be. I find, reading, say, the Tao Te Ching, or some sayings of Jesus (!) that I only understand them when I have learned the lesson elsewhere. I enjoy associating with other people who are at higher stages of wisdom, so that I can learn, and lower stages of wisdom, so I can teach, and am not always certain which is which. I take delight in what this world of utter comfort and endless possibility can bring.

Addicts recover. If you find the thought of having endless orgasms repulsive, might not the person who had, er, sunk so low, also find his state repulsive, eventually? I hope the humans and AIs together are creative enough to bring fulfilment for each human being in this paradise.

Comment by Abigail on High Challenge · 2008-12-19T10:18:19.000Z · LW · GW

I watch kittens "playing", definitely building useful skills for the future. I enjoy effort on puzzles and games because each gives me a moment of pleasure on success, and no bad consequences of failure, but some games improve reactions or are otherwise useful.

The "Culture" sequence of novels by Iain M. Banks suggests how people might cope with machines doing all the work. One man works in a cafe, waiting on tables and cleaning up. Yes, the machines could do this work, but he gains happiness from the feeling of serving other people. Other people use machines which "surf" on lava flows, involving some danger, for excitement.

The problems around breeding would still provide interest, angst, challenge.

Artists could still work, though machines might be better able to communicate than humans.

Comment by Abigail on Thanksgiving Prayer · 2008-12-03T13:52:45.000Z · LW · GW

Luzr asked, "Abigail: 'Religion has great benefits for a society and for individuals, even if there is no creator God.' And these are?"

Too many to list here. For example, people think religions cause wars, such as the Crusades. But what if humans would have the wars anyway, because we form tribal groups, but religion mitigates the worst effects of these wars, by just war theory?

Comment by Abigail on Thanksgiving Prayer · 2008-11-29T08:54:30.000Z · LW · GW

Billswift: I am not sure that I am "Obviously religious".

Luzr asked me "What makes you think religion is not understandable to atheists?"

Dawkins' concept of the meme. No, religion is not like a virus. Religion has great benefits for a society and for individuals, even if there is no creator God. Overcoming bias may have great benefits- if we can retain the benefits of religion for those who need it.

Comment by Abigail on Thanksgiving Prayer · 2008-11-28T10:26:44.000Z · LW · GW

Religion might be more understandable to atheists if they thought of "God" as a representation of humanity. Jesus was a sacrifice propitiating the wrath of humankind, not the wrath of God. The individual human, unable to be in control of his surroundings, nevertheless sees Society supporting him, providing food and DVD players from the other side of the world, and adopts attitudes of thankfulness and worship.

Comment by Abigail on The First World Takeover · 2008-11-19T15:40:48.000Z · LW · GW

Eliezer: Or the first replicator to catch on, if there were failed alternatives lost to history - but this seems unlikely, given the Fermi Paradox; a replicator should be more improbable than that, or the stars would teem with life already.

Why should you assume that they do not? Humans may not have detected other life forms, but you cannot deduce from that that they do not exist. They might not want us to detect them. It might not be possible for a civilisation to extend beyond its solar system.

Comment by Abigail on Whither OB? · 2008-11-19T11:53:32.000Z · LW · GW

The chief bias against rational thinking is the temptations of Satan. The way to overcome this is to read the Bible, which is the inerrant revealed word of God. A member can give much more detail than that, and get his post voted for by all his friends who agree with him. Therefore that member would be in favour of an open forum, where posts are voted on.

Comment by Abigail on Whither OB? · 2008-11-18T10:26:53.000Z · LW · GW

I am not capable of producing posts of the quality OB has had so far.

I would like a benign dictator, picking the best of a rationalist forum to post to an OB blog.

Why not have a moderated forum, whose members come by invitation, for the benign dictator to select from?

Also another forum, where anyone can post, from which people could be invited to the higher forum?

One could even have a long regression of such forums.

I would also like the blog as it stands to remain. I could still benefit from reading old posts.

Comment by Abigail on The Nature of Logic · 2008-11-17T11:03:34.000Z · LW · GW

I learned in my undergraduate degree, in about 1987, that "deductive" reasoning was different from "inductive" reasoning, that syllogisms did not add to actual knowledge, and scientific method which did was not deductive, and could not be certain in the same way.

I too would like shorter posts. Much of this post appears to be explaining what I have just said, even if in quite an entertaining way.

Comment by Abigail on Lawful Uncertainty · 2008-11-13T14:38:03.000Z · LW · GW

I was wondering whether to make the pedantic point that sometimes people do fight fire with fire, by seeking to stop a forest fire by burning a patch in the fire's path, so that the fire cannot leap over that patch.

I think too much pedantry can paralyse thought, but if our aim is rationality we should avoid untruths.

Comment by Abigail on Back Up and Ask Whether, Not Why · 2008-11-07T11:56:39.000Z · LW · GW

I disagree with ZM Davis. The method described in the post is a useful method of deciding Means, and may even help to decide Ends, if we see what we thought to be Ends as really Means to more fundamental Ends.

Read what the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible calls 4 Maccabees (I am not sure if the text has other names). In that, people decide that eating pork is to be avoided at all costs, and therefore suffer extremities of torture and even death rather than eating pork. The text is full of Stoic philosophy about how one can achieve ones ends if one is sufficiently single-minded.

In ZM Davis' parable, Jones might ask "Do I want to obey the Great Leader?" and then ask, Will that give me the supportive community which I need as a human being? Might other communities benefit me more than this one? And backing further up, Do I need a supportive community?

Are the Great Leader's commands the highest Good? (Moving into moral argument).

The question "Why do I do what I do?" may apply to Ends as well as means.

Comment by Abigail on Back Up and Ask Whether, Not Why · 2008-11-07T10:34:21.000Z · LW · GW

I might want to make even these decisions emotionally rather than rationally, unconsciously rather than by conscious thought. Conscious thought might not be the most efficient use of my brain.

Also, do I want to devote all the energy I would need to answer these questions, now? I use a QWERTY keyboard, it seems good enough at the moment, Why? Well, why not?

However for practice at being rational with that conscious thought bit of the brain, this is a useful exercise.

Comment by Abigail on Which Parts Are "Me"? · 2008-10-24T14:22:00.000Z · LW · GW

And- I get a great deal from the theories of Carl Rogers, who postulated an Organismic Self, or a "Me" which is my whole organism, and a "Self-concept", which is those bits of me which I allow myself to be conscious of, excluding bits which I am too ashamed of to be conscious of them, and including bits which are not really me, but which I pretend are me because of my concept of "good". I also see myself as an evolved being, and so draw from this that I fit into that habitat which I find myself: if an ancestor did not fit enough, he would not have become my ancestor.

If I feel divided against myself, opposing my own conscious goals, this may be because there is a shadow-part of the organismic self, a part which I deny because it is too uncomfortable. So I try to draw these parts out of the shadow, because they are Good. I also try to see what is self-concept, but not really me.

Perhaps some will manage to keep their self-concepts very close to their organismic selves, and such struggles are of little interest. For me, others' struggles are of great interest. Thank you for sharing.

Comment by Abigail on Which Parts Are "Me"? · 2008-10-24T10:17:00.000Z · LW · GW

I see "Me" as all that is within my skin.

I find it helpful to think of different bits of me. My "Inner Toddler" is the bit which Wants things, or is upset by things. If I just tell it to shut up, it will become recalcitrant. If I listen to it, even though I will not necessarily do what it says, it is happier and I am happier.

This is why I am not Rationalist. I try to use Rationality to understand the World, and "myself", but I use emotion to set my goals, just as it gives me my rewards.

Comment by Abigail on Entangled Truths, Contagious Lies · 2008-10-16T15:55:16.000Z · LW · GW

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive But- practice makes perfect. Soon, fair youth, Your lies will seem as pure as truth.

I thought quite hard before I came up with an answer to Sir Walter which rhymed and scanned. The hero of that poem, whose name I cannot remember at the moment, is fair haired. Perhaps it is not also true, but perhaps that is the point.

Comment by Abigail on Probability is Subjectively Objective · 2008-07-14T14:30:26.000Z · LW · GW

Is not subjective objectivity the highest degree of objectivity possible for a human being?

Objective truth does exist, but people can only perceive it with their own perception filters. And, perhaps, AIs with the perception filters of their makers.

I have to decide what is truth as best I can, and may choose to assert a truth even though every one else denies it, eg Galileo. It is to my advantage to seek to make my perception filters as little distorting as possible, but I doubt I could ever achieve that completely.

Comment by Abigail on LA-602 vs. RHIC Review · 2008-06-19T12:15:03.000Z · LW · GW

What about BSE? The Government said there was no risk, no problem, there turned out to be a problem, there was huge damage to the British beef farming industry, and certain people may have got nvCJD. I was a student in the high risk period, the 1980s, and I ate a lot of sausage, and I understand there is a very long possible incubation period.

It works both ways. In the case of BSE, such analysis as there was, was wrong; the risks turned out Not to be justified, and the losses were appalling.

So people like me, who cannot independently analyse all the papers, have even less trust in Government and those who advise on such things.