Posts

Why you should consider buying Bitcoin right now (Jan 2015) if you have high risk tolerance 2015-01-13T20:02:20.732Z · score: 4 (23 votes)
Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin mentions LessWrong, discusses the various camps and ideologies in Cryptocurrency development 2014-12-31T22:23:09.227Z · score: 6 (7 votes)
An explanation of the 'Many Interacting Worlds' theory of quantum mechanics (by Sean Carroll and Chip Sebens) 2014-12-18T23:36:48.683Z · score: 5 (6 votes)
Downvote stalkers: Driving members away from the LessWrong community? 2014-07-02T00:40:26.138Z · score: 41 (51 votes)

Comments

Comment by ander on Why you should consider buying Bitcoin right now (Jan 2015) if you have high risk tolerance · 2016-06-14T17:12:47.030Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

18 months later its worth about 3x this price. You could sell 1/3 and have no risk, and let the rest ride.

Comment by ander on Open Thread March 7 - March 13, 2016 · 2016-03-09T07:39:03.465Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

WOW AlphaGo beat lee Sedol!

lee was ahead most of the game but the computer beat him in the endgame I think.

Comment by ander on Why you should consider buying Bitcoin right now (Jan 2015) if you have high risk tolerance · 2015-09-16T17:38:31.336Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Diversification is good.

Comment by ander on Why you should consider buying Bitcoin right now (Jan 2015) if you have high risk tolerance · 2015-08-28T20:38:21.014Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

8 months later, price still in the same range of around $200-300 all year.

Transaction rate has continued to rise steadily throughout the year, though a spike occurred this summer due to stress testing of the network, but has not experienced the rapid growth needed to sustain the late-2013 enthusiasm.

Bitcoin is suffering a bit recently with the Core vs XT debate. If it can make it through this and get to a state with a better block size, without forking and splintering the community, then it will be in better shape.

As time goes on and blockchain technologies continue to be worked on, the likelihood that Bitcoin eventually becomes surpassed/replaced by a useful 2.0 altcoin rises, imo. By 'useful' I mean something that could be a useful real world application of the blockchain, and be profitable to holders of the crypto token, rather than just have a value fueled by speculation.

So not something like Dogecoin or Litecoin, but projects that are actually trying to do something cool with the blockchain, such as smart contracts, prediction markets, financial stock/bond/forex exchange, decentralized web, etc. The era when you can just copy bitcoin, and change parameters like block time or switch to scrypt or whatever are past. For a blockchain project to be interesting/promising now, it has to be useful.

However, there is not yet any clear successor. There are a number of promising projects, but most of them are really still in alpha stages of development right now (Ethereum, Bitshares, Maidsafe, etc). They are really at the stage where only super users can do anything with them yet. Ripple is the most advanced and highest market cap, and is being used by a some financial institutions, but it is still extremely centralized, and the value proposition of its coin (XRP) is questionable in my mind, given that multiple companies have cloned the technology, stripping out the XRP token from the network because it really isnt necessary. Still, I own a bit.

Given that I now have the majority of my crypto funds into about 8 or so different 2.0 projects, most of which are in the top 20 market cap of crypto projects.

I think there are a lot of people out there who were told by someone 'buy bitcoins', and they did, and they either got in early enough that they made good money, or they bought in Nov 2013 or later and have a loss, and they either bailed since then or they are sitting there, and they dont really know much about the technology. That might have worked in 2011 when barely anyone knew of bitcoin, but at this point it got enough media attention that plenty of people have heard of it, and its going to be hard to make more order of magnitude gains unless it becomes highly useful and adopted.

The real money left to be made in the sector is in picking what 2.0 blockchain projects (either existing or yet to be made) have a future, and buying into them before they become well known. Diversifying among all the most promising ones is probably the best idea, because you only need one to make it big and give you a 100x or more return, and it can cover you even if every other one goes to zero. However, most people find out about cryptos when they are in a hype/pump phase, so if you just buy them at the time you find out about them, you will be looking at a huge loss, every single time. You have to either research every project and determine which ones are both promising and currently low prices relative to their price over the last year or two, or you have to wait until whatever coin you just found out about has a large correction. For example, Ethereum just came out and got a lot of hype this month, but its priced at around 5-10x the IPO price right now, (the price investors bought it for in early 2014). If you buy now there is a good chance youre buying the hype bubble, better to wait until it has corrected and stabilized in a price range first.

One very neat thing about cryptocurrencies to me is that its like an entirely new venture capital market ,that is open to everyone on earth, not just to wealthy 'accredited investors' with a $1M+ net worth. Anyone can help to fund IPO crypto startup projects, and has the chance to be their own venture capitalist and try to pick something that will succeed. Its so much better than funding a kickstarter for something you like, and then having no equity at all in the project you helped make possible.

I still think there is probably a place for Bitcoin as the store of value coin, at least if it can be forked with community approval and become more useful (larger block size). Most other proof of work coins are pointless in my mind, though coins that try to improve on the anonymity features could have a place (dash/bytecoin/monero are the main contenders there).

Most of the useful blockchain 2.0 projects that are trying to do something other than being a store of value have discarded proof of work, or are in the process of doing so (Ethereum), because its too expensive to secure a network that way when your goal is to, for example, provide smart contracts or prediction markets. Also, other security algorithms don't waste lots of electricity to run a bunch of ASIC miners, which would be a huge problem for the earth if bitcoin actually became the primary currency.

Disclaimer: I own at least some of every crypto I mentioned in this post. Except Litecoin, because its pointless. Doge is pointless too, but I still own a little because its fun, even though I think it will probably eventually die.

Comment by ander on Cryonics: peace of mind vs. immortality · 2015-06-24T20:00:01.420Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I don't want Cryonics companies to focus on selling fantasies, I want them to focus on making the technology work.

The value of giving people 'peace of mind' is low, and there are already tons of religions out there that do that. The value of actually letting people live again after death would be immense.

Focus on reality.

Comment by ander on Open Thread, Jun. 8 - Jun. 14, 2015 · 2015-06-08T23:43:11.831Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Please no spoilers from people who have read past this point in the books.

The event that occurred in the show hasn't even happened yet in the books. So there are no additional spoilers for a reader to give.

Comment by ander on "Immortal But Damned to Hell on Earth" · 2015-05-29T22:05:55.837Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed, Surface Detail was an excellent book, one of the best Culture novels, imo.

Yes, technology which made immortality possible could also making torturing/punishing people forever possible, but this does not mean that death is good, rather it means that its important for people to have empathy, and that we need to evolve away from retributive justice.

I usually find articles like this from the deathists annoying, and this wasn't an exception.

Comment by ander on Happiness and Goodness as Universal Terminal Virtues · 2015-04-22T18:19:58.274Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

They need it, therefore if it randomly happens, they will keep the outcome.

Yes this. Of course it is not a given that something that would be a useful adaptation will develop randomly.

Great analogies with the hand of cards.

Comment by ander on Happiness and Goodness as Universal Terminal Virtues · 2015-04-21T23:23:46.019Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Welcome to LessWrong, and thanks for posting!

Regarding the evolution of emotions, consider this:

Imagine a group of life forms of the same species who compete for resources. Lets say that either they are fairly even in power level, and thus it is superior for them to cooperate with each other and divide resources fairly to avoid wasting energy fighting. Alternately, some (alphas) are superior in power level, but the game theoretically optimal outcome is for the more dominant to take a larger share of resources, but still allow the others to have some. (This is superior for them to fighting to the death to try to get everything).

If life forms cannot communicate with each other, then they suffer from a prisoner's dilemma problem. They would like to cooperate in the prisoners dilemma, but without the ability to signal to each other, they cannot be sure the other will not defect. Thus they end up defecting against each other.

We can thus see that if the life forms evolved methods of signalling to each other, it would improve their chances of survival. Thus, complex life forms develop ways of signalling to each other. We can see many, many examples of this throughout a broad range of life.

The life forms also need to be able to mentally model each other now to predict each other's actions. Thus they develop empathy (the ability to model each other), and emotions, which are related to signalling. If each of the members of the species have similar emotions, that is , they react in similar ways to a given situation, and they have developed ways of expressing these emotions to each other, then it greatly improves the abilities of the life forms to model each other correctly. For example, if one life form then tries to gain an unfair distribution of resources (defecting in the prisoners dilemma problem), the other will display the emotional response of anger. They are signalling 'you cannot defect against me in such an unfair way. Because you are attempting to do so, I will fight you'.

Because the emotional responses occur automatically, they act similar to a precommitment. Essentially, the life form having the emotional response has been preprogrammed to have this response to the situation. This is a precommitment to a course of action, which can help the life form to achieve a better game-theoretic result.

(For example, if we are playing 'chicken', driving our cars toward each other on a road, the best strategy for me to win the game is to visibly precommit to not swerving no matter what. Thus, the optimal strategy would be to remove my steering wheel and throw it out of the car in a way that you can see. Since you now know that I CANNOT turn, you must turn to avoid crashing, and I win the game. This shows how a strong precommitment can be an advantage).

If we think of emotions as precommitments in this way, we can see that they can give us an advantage in our prisoner's dilemma problem. The opponent then knows that they cannot defect against us too much, or else we will become angry and will fight, even though this gives a worse outcome for us as well, it is an emotional response and thus we will do it automatically.

We can see that emotions are thus an aid to fitness, and life forms that evolve them will have a genetic advantage.

Now imagine that the problems that the life forms need to signal about become much more complex. Rather than just signalling about food or mates, for example, they need to signal about group dynamics, concepts like loyalty to a tribe, their commitment to care for young, etc.

Under these circumstances, we can see the need to develop a much greater range of emotions to deal with various situations. We need to display more than just anger over an unequal distribution, or fear, or so on. We also need to have emotional responses of love, loyalty, and so on, and be able to demonstrate/signal these to each other.

This is my understanding of how emotions should evolve among complex life forms that are at least remotely close to humans. Perhaps for extremely different life forms, emotions would not evolve. Or perhaps in pretty much all complex forms of life which are communicating with each other, some form of emotions would evolve, I don't know. I don't see the need for a magical sky-father to have desired emotions to exist, who then guided reality to this point.

Also, I am not sure how the universe-creator would accomplish this. If the degrees of freedom they have are to create the underlying fundamental laws of physics, and the initial conditions of the universe, how would they be able to compute out what sets of laws/initial conditions would lead to the physics which would lead to the chemistry which would lead to the biology which would lead to the life forms which would have these emotions? And why would that be the goal of the universe-creator? In the absence of evidence which would distinguish this hypothesis from others, I don't see why we should privilege this hypothesis to such an extent, when it is pretty clear that the real reason for "believing" in it is actually "I want it to be true". (And also "A strong meme which many people believe in is threatening that I will be harmed if I do not "believe" that this is true, and promising to reward me if I do "believe" it is true).

If anyone can correct my thoughts regarding evolution and emotions, or can point to some studies or scientific theories which either support or refute this post, I would love to read them!

Comment by ander on Open Thread, Apr. 13 - Apr. 19, 2015 · 2015-04-15T22:14:57.692Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

SPOILER ALERT:

Here is the solution I just came up with.

1) Albert says "I don't know when Cheryl's birthday is, but I know that Bernard does not know too."
If the birthday had been May 19 or June 18, then Bernard would have known it immediately after being told the day, because those days only appear once. In order for Albert to know this about Bernard's knowledge, he must know that the month is not May or June. (Becuase if the month was either may or June, Bernard might know the birthday right away). Therefore the birthday is not in May or June.

2) Bernard says: "At first I didn’t know when Cheryl's birthday is, but I know now."
After Albert gives Bernard the information that it is either July or August, Bernard learns the exact date. This indicates that the day is not the 14th, because the 14th is present in both July and August. In order for Bernard's information to not remain ambiguous, it must be one of July 16, August 15, or August 17, because those three have a unique day value out of the remaining possibilities.

3) Albert says: "Then I also know when Cheryl's birthday is." This indicates that for our three remaining possibilities, the month is not ambiguous, and therefore it must be July. (Because August had two possibilities left, while July had one). Therefore the birthday is on July 16.

I found it fairly easy, but I am experienced with logic puzzles, including those where characters in the puzzle use their knowledge about the knowledge of others in the puzzle in order to solve it. If someone wasn't experienced with these kinds of logic puzzles it would probably seem very hard. (The first time I encountered one of these I think I agonized over it for many hours).

Comment by ander on On immortality · 2015-04-09T23:56:34.819Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This seems significantly shakier than even the idea of quantum immortality.

Lets call your idea "Boltzmann Brain Immortality". That is, the idea that "because a Boltzmann Brain version of me might possibly pop into existence somewhere in the multiverse at some point in time, ever, I am immortal".

I have two main objections to this: 1) Boltzmann Brains are generally considered a problem in theories of physics which allow them. That is, if a model of physics allows Boltzmann Brains to be possible, with non vanishing probability in comparison to 'real' intelligent life, this is considered generally considered a flaw in the theory.

2) I wouldn't consider a Boltzmann Brain version of me to qualify as 'life' or 'immortality', since there si no continuity of experience - the Boltzmann Brain just vanishes again an instant later.

Comment by ander on Why bitcoin? · 2015-04-02T19:34:30.407Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Regarding 51% attacks, proof of work algorithm and alternatives: https://download.wpsoftware.net/bitcoin/new-pos.pdf

This is a good technical article that describes the mining/consensus algorithm of bitcoin, (but maybe not very readable to non-technical people). It also discusses the main current alternative, proof of stake, and shows that an issue with proof of stake which is not present in proof of work is that anyone who is new to the network or goes offline and then is reconnected is required to trust some entity / community / etc, that the blockchain they are using is the 'correct' one, and not one which was reforged over a period of time using old private keys purchased from former holders, etc.

"This is not a distributed consensus! It is a different sort of consensus, which may be formed amongst always-online peers in a decentralized way, but depends on trust for new users and temporarily offline ones. It is correspondingly vulnurable to legal pressure, attacks on “trusted” entities, and network".

On the other hand, Bitcoin's proof of work algorithm is expensive and energy consuming, while Proof of stake is low cost.

Depending upon the purpose you are using the blockchain for, this is a tradeoff that might be acceptable. If the goal of the blockchain is to be the ultimate store of ALL value, then I think Bitcoin's Proof of Work algorithm is probably required. If the goal is to utilize blockchain technology for various other applications, where you might not need to pay for absolute security and merely being 'very difficult' to attack might be sufficient, the lower cost alternative might be superior, imo. There is more of an element of human consensus and trust in PoS than in PoW, for example, you might have to trust a developer team, the reputation of a company, or the collective community of users.

However, large mining pools also are a threat to decentralization, as you noted. If a few or even a couple mining pools control enough hash power to launch an attack, then you have to trust the mining pool operators in PoW just like you have to trust a developer / community / company / whatever who you are downloading a blockchain snapshot from in PoS.

I don't think there are yet any definitive answers on these issues yet, which is why I favor diversifying among different experiments. Of course, many others believe they have the answer, so they either only want Bitcoin, or only want . If the Bitcoin maximalists are correct, they save themselves the ~10% cost of diversifying among the different experiments right now. I'll pay the uncertainty tax and diversify in order to not be wrong.

Comment by ander on Why bitcoin? · 2015-04-02T18:03:58.466Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I do have an idea for a distributed public ledger in which attacks are possible but always negative-sum. I have little experience with cryptography so its probably rubbish. If it looks to not be terrible I will probably post it here for comment.

Feel free to post your idea. No one expects you to revolutionize an industry in one post. Its fun to throw ideas around.

Comment by ander on Why bitcoin? · 2015-04-02T17:06:34.695Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The necessity for each wallet to contain the entire block chain.

This isn't actually an issue. Lite wallets exist.

Governments have never seemed keen to give up their monopoly on the money supply.

Indeed, they would prefer not to give up this monopoly. Earlier attempts at creating things similar to Bitcoin such as e-gold failed because they lacked the decentralization component, and could be attacked by governments. However, it is extremely difficult for Governments to kill bitcoin. They can make it dangerous to use in their localities, but thats about it. At the present time it seems that most governments are not even attempting to take this action. Bitcoin has been legitimized sufficiently in the US, and has hundreds of millions of dollars of VC funding poured into its infrastructure now, so it would be difficult for the government to now do a 180 and try to ban its use.

The computing power wasted by mining.

Or as you noted, 'used inefficiently'. I agree this is a problem. The question is: is there actually a better answer out there which does not require this. If a solution existed which was equal in ability to secure the network but required less computaiton power (energy), then it would clearly be superior. There are a number of other methods being experimented with in altcoins. I don't think there is a clear answer right now. (But there are definitely lots of people who believe strongly that proof of work is the only way, and some people who believe strongly that it is nothing but a waste of energy).

After reading about BC and 51% attacks, I am beginning to think "the network effect is the mind killer" might be a more general expression of "politics is the mind killer".

If you mean that lots of people tend to become devoted to one blockchain, and start treating it like a religion where it is the only true blockchain and all others must die, then yes there are people who do that. (Both for bitcoin and for others). It can be mind killing for many. Tribalism is the mind killer!

That said the size of the network of adopters of a blockchain ledge is probably the most critical measure of its success. Bitcoin has grown significantly over the years in this regard which is why it is valuable. So when people quote network effect as being a big deal, they are correct.

Comment by ander on Bitcoin value and small probability / high impact arguments · 2015-03-31T21:38:02.943Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

You still have to account for the probability of Bitcoin holders seeing the change coming and deciding to modify the Bitcoin codebase to adapt the new desirable features, but still use the Bitcoin ledger (aka current ownership of Bitcoins).

I don't know how to evaluate the probabilities of these various outcomes happening, however it only costs about 10-20% more to go from 'buy X bitcoins' to 'buy X bitcoins, and also diversify by buying an equivalent percentage stake in all other promising blockchain technologies'.

If you do that you can change the equation from Bitcoin winning and continuing to have value, versus the blockchain technology succeeding and some instance of it continuing to have value.

Comment by ander on Bitcoin value and small probability / high impact arguments · 2015-03-31T20:02:49.194Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not just that. Being only a store-of-value is a poor functionality set. The Indian gold jewelry doesn't just sit in a vault -- it is worn on big occasions and serves a major status display.

I would say the property of Bitcoin to be both a store of value and easily transferable anywhere in the world extremely quickly far exceeds the value of Gold to "look pretty when you wear it".

Also, if by "Bitcoin", we mean "Bitcoin and/or any future blockchain technology that replaces it" (such as Ethereum or others), then features can be developed using the blockchain technology which would have immense value, such as prediction markets, assets (stocks, etc) tradeable in the blockchain, voting, website naming, smart contracts, escrow, and many others. While also being a store of value, these features would have immensely more value than Gold's "looks pretty when you wear it".

Comment by ander on Bitcoin value and small probability / high impact arguments · 2015-03-31T19:55:47.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good answer. :)

Comment by ander on Bitcoin value and small probability / high impact arguments · 2015-03-31T19:07:40.535Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure what a better term would be. Maybe 'lottery tickets', but that is still too low probability/high reward for what we are talking about.

Comment by ander on Bitcoin value and small probability / high impact arguments · 2015-03-31T18:59:05.675Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Also, Bitcoin has an advantage over gold in terms of security. Guarding a lot of gold in a vault is expensive, but keeping a Brainwallet is not.

Which brings up another hilarious Bitcoin Pascal's Mugging scenario: "What is the probability that you die, are cryopreserved, and are resurrected at some point in the future. But this future world is a dystopia, and cryoresurrected people are indentured servants of the company that revived them until they are able to pay back their debt. Since most jobs have been automated it is extremely difficult for you to get the money to ever earn your freedom. However, if you had created a Bitcoin brain wallet, you would be able to access it (because the cryoresurrection process is very good), and you would have something of value with which to pay off your debt and live comfortably in the new world".

Good luck trying to come up with numbers for the probability and value of that scenario. :)

Comment by ander on Bitcoin value and small probability / high impact arguments · 2015-03-31T18:58:09.467Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Measuring Bitcoin against "gold market cap" is dangerous because gold has uses which Bitcoin cannot replace. For example, traditionally most of the wealth of Indian families (those who have wealth, of course) have been kept as gold, specifically golden jewelry. Bitcoin will not replace that use. Another big advantage of gold is anonymity which Bitcoin will not be able to replicate either.

I don't think its unreasonable. Bitcoin competes for best-store-of-value status with Gold. Indian families and many others store wealth in Gold, which indicates that Gold has a strong network effect: a large network of people who highly value it as a store of value. For Bitcoin to capture X% of the market of Gold, it would mean that it captured some fraction of that network size.

Bitcoin has one massive advantage over Gold, which is its capacity to be transported quickly anywhere in the world, which makes it possible to use as a convenient means of payment.

Anonymity is debatable, and its also debatable whether it is a positive or negative, but it is quite possible that other blockchain technologies will develop or have already developed better anonymity features, which means that potentially these could be incorporated into Bitcoin.

Comment by ander on Bitcoin value and small probability / high impact arguments · 2015-03-31T18:29:49.597Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that the probability of Bitcoin's success is so low as to qualify for Pascal's Mugging status. While it is difficult to value the worth of a 5% or 1% chance of success, or whatever value one assigns, its still nothing like 1/3^^^3. It simply isn't low enough probability, or high enough payoff to qualify as a Pascals Mugging.

If you want to actually approach Pascal's Mugging territory with Bitcoin, then you need to change from the question "What is the chance that Bitcoin will capture 10% of the Gold market", to something much less likely such as "What is the chance that (a future version of Bitcoin which uses its current blockchain ledger) will eventually become the main currency of a future post-singularity human civilization expanding outward at some fraction of the speed of light".

When you imagine a scenario such as Nick Bostrom's astronomical waste: http://www.nickbostrom.com/astronomical/waste.html and you ask the question "what is the probability that buying Bitcoin now would give me the resources needed in the future to allow us to colonize the Virgo Supercluster one second faster, thus saving the equivalent of 10^29 potential human lives", THEN you can say that you are getting Pascal's Mugged.

Or you could imagine other questions, such as "what is the probability that my buying Bitcoin now would enable me to secure life for humanity in a future run by an AI that is unfriendly but can be negotiated with, and has been programmed to desire Bitcoins?" Now you are actually being Pascal's Mugged.

(Obviously these are incredibly low probability scenarios, not things that I think will occur. That is why I am using them as Pascal's Mugging examples).

Comment by ander on Bitcoin value and small probability / high impact arguments · 2015-03-31T18:04:10.907Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Nitpick: BTC can be worth effectively less than $0 if you buy some then the price drops. But in a Pascalian scenario, that's a rounding error.

No, that would mean that you have an investment loss. Bitcoin is still worth $X each, whatever the new market price is. When you buy something and it goes down in value, its not worth less than $0, its just worth less than you paid for it.

Comment by ander on [POLITICS] Jihadism and a new kind of existential threat · 2015-03-25T20:25:55.605Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

suggest changing religions for a billion people?

Indeed, it is humorous to suggest this as a solution. You have now created a task that is probably about as hard as defeating aging of creating a friendly AI. (Well maybe not quite as hard but close!)

Comment by ander on [POLITICS] Jihadism and a new kind of existential threat · 2015-03-25T20:08:06.224Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps someone who knows more about Bahaism (without being one of them) could tell whether promoting Bahaism might be a way to stop violent Islam.

I was raised Bahai and used to consider myself one when I was younger, before discovering rationality, so I will give my perspective. (If you're wondering, I'm a white American just like many of you. If anyone else was Bahai and converted to atheism feel free to message me, it would be interesting to talk to someone else).

I don't think this is a viable solution to ISIS, at least within any timeframe less than centuries. Converting people to a different religion is very hard, they've already been trying for the past 150 years, so they aren't going to suddenly succeed just because we want ISIS to go away. An easier short term strategy might simply be to support non-radical elements within mainstream Islam, and support economic growth and education in the region, trying to prevent the populace of the area from being influence by the more radical elements. But that was probably a strategy to use prior to ISIS taking over large parts of the region. At this point the best strategy is probably to contain them and stop their military progress, and then wait for them to crumble and weaken internally.

If one did somehow succeed in replacing violent Islam with Bahaism or another peaceful religion, it would probably be preferable to violent Islam, as you noted. I don't believe the religion will ever not be peaceful, since that is very much at the core of the religion. While Bahais are persecuted in the middle east (considered apostates by Islam), in most of the world they are not oppressed. (Over the course of many centuries however, anything could probably happen).

I do agree that peaceful religions are preferable, but I do worry that if they are successful it might create a greater opponent to rationality and transhumanism in the long term. Fundamentalist religions appear very obviously wrong to reasonable people, its not that hard to realize that evolution is true and that new earth creationists are wrong, for example. But it is much more difficult for a reasonable person to realize that religion is untrue when it claims to be allied with science, and tries very hard to not make claims that are disprovable. Many newer religions (created after the development of the scientific method) do this, and they promote the view that science and religion are not incompatible, that science is correct in everything we have discovered, but that God, souls, afterlife, etc, exist but cannot be tested by science (separate magisterium).

This is a harder premise to show to be true than those of fundamentalist religions, and still lead to the ultimate problem of people accepting death, not seeking to end death and aging, and believing that no matter what happens, nothing truly catastrophic will happen to humanity, leading them to ignore existential risks. (Though the sequences are still effective in refuting these ideas as well, imo).

On the other hand, maybe more liberal religious ideas are actually easier to break people out of than fundamentalist ones? I am not sure. While they don't tend to be militant like ISIS, they still oppose transhumanism and thus must be defeated in order for us to build a world without death.

Comment by ander on Open thread, Mar. 16 - Mar. 22, 2015 · 2015-03-18T00:16:56.474Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

One thing I noted when doing this. Most of my true answers were more specific than my made up answers, which might give them away. I look forward to reading the results!

Comment by ander on Open thread, Mar. 16 - Mar. 22, 2015 · 2015-03-17T23:34:33.044Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

These questions are quite difficult and will require effort. I'll try to submit an entry.

Edit: Completed. :)

Comment by ander on Open thread, Mar. 9 - Mar. 15, 2015 · 2015-03-09T22:06:32.178Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For example: last night, I briefly considered the 'Multiple Interacting Worlds' interpretation of quantum physics, in which it is postulated that there are a large number of universes, each of which has pure Newtonian physics internally, but whose interactions with near-identical universes cause what we observe as quantum phenomena. It's very similar to the 'Multiple Worlds' interpretation, except instead of new universes branching from old ones at every moment in an ever-spreading bush, all the branches branched out at the Big Bang.

The "Many worlds" interpretation does not postulate a large number of universes. It only postulates:

1) The world is described by a quantum state, which is an element of a kind of vector space known as Hilbert space. 2) The quantum state evolves through time in accordance with the Schrödinger equation, with some particular Hamiltonian.

That's it. Take the old Copenhagen interpretation and remove all ideas about 'collapsing the wave function'.

The 'many worlds' appear when you do the math, they are derived from these postulates.

http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2015/02/19/the-wrong-objections-to-the-many-worlds-interpretation-of-quantum-mechanics/

Regarding the difference between 'the worlds all appear at the big bang' versus 'the worlds are always appearing', what would the difference between these be in terms of the actual mathematical equations?

The 'new worlds appearing all the time' in MWH is a consequence of the quantum state evolving through time in accordance with the Schrödinger equation.

All of that said, I don't mean to criticize your post or anything, I thought it was great technobabble! I just have no idea how it would translate into actual theories. :)

Comment by ander on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 114 + chapter 115 · 2015-03-03T18:55:16.614Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The rules stated that we couldn't change Voldemort's utility function or turn him good, but his utility function already placed an extremely high value on not having the world destroyed, or losing his immortality. It was quite possible that the solution would have been to convince him that killing Harry would end the world, or that he required Harry in the future in order to save it. The Vow and the parseltongue both were valuable tools in convincing Voldemort of this.

Comment by ander on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 114 + chapter 115 · 2015-03-03T18:50:16.914Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am surprised that using transfiguration and defeating Voldemort played such a large role in the solution.
I thought that it was much more likely that the solution would be to lose in some way, but to lose in a way that maintained hope / constrained Voldemort's actions to not be evil, and then to continue to work towards a better situation once out of immediate danger.

I also thought that the Vow that Harry had made would be the biggest key to the solution. After all, transfiguring carbon nanotubes and antimatter were things that Harry could have achieved earlier to defeat Voldemort, prior to the situation having gotten truly terrible. (He couldve done what he did to stun and obliviate Voldemort this during the entire forbidden corridor storyline). Therefore, it made sense to me that the new addition of the Vow would be critical to the solution, not just something throw in to stall for time.

Anyways, I am glad that the community collectively came up with all of the elements of the final solution as it was written.

Comment by ander on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 113 · 2015-03-02T18:04:48.799Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes I agree.

If there is some Magical reason why Voldemort would be constrained to keep his promise, (even though he feels he had been tricked), then Voldemort might be rendered unable to harm anyone.

There needs to be another Magical effect which causes Voldemort's parseltongue statements to become binding in some way.

Comment by ander on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 113 · 2015-03-02T02:57:09.915Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Voldemort has promised in Parseltongue:

"For each unknown power you tell me how to masster, or other ssecret you tell me that I desire to know, you may name one more of thosse to insstead be protected and honored under my reign."

1) If Harry was able to give Voldemort an infinite number of powers, through the use of recursion or some mathematical trick or something - some way that Magic Itself will consider to be a large/infinite number of separate but related powers, and

2) If Harry was able to enunciate in some way an infinite number of beings which would Voldemort would then be required to spare, which would include all of the inhabitants of the earth (even future ones?).

Then Voldemort will be tricked into having promised to spare every human.

3) If there is some Magical reason why Voldemort would be constrained to keep his promise, (even though he feels he had been tricked), then Voldemort might be rendered unable to harm anyone.

I dont know if this is at all useful, but it was an idea I had which I haven't seen posted by anyone yet. (Thought I havent looked around at everything).

Comment by ander on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 112 · 2015-02-25T22:41:16.191Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think that one of Harry's biggest mistakes in the whole scenario was not bargaining harder with Voldemort before they entered the corridor. It was clear that he had some leverage over Voldemort there, Voldemort needed him for some unknown reason. He should have been less fearful for his own life (since Voldemort apparently needs him), and tried to barter for limits upon Voldemort's future reign of terror should he succeed. For example, if he agreed to help, Voldemort would need to promise in parseltongue not to Kill, Torture, or Imperius (or have minions do it for him), more than X people per year. (Limiting to X instead of 0 might be enough to get Voldemort to go along with the plan, and Harry might be able to morally justify his assistance given that he would be saving hundreds of students lives that Voldemort was holding hostage, so the net result might be less lives lost).

He could have sold this to Voldemort as the only way that his moral compass would allow him to assist him: by making the scenario into a trolley problem, where Harry helping Voldemort was the option that cost less lives.

Comment by ander on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 112 · 2015-02-25T22:38:17.193Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, that makes sense. It seems Harry shouldve been much less confident that Voldemort was making a mistake, but he was very rushed.

Comment by ander on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 112 · 2015-02-25T21:38:35.157Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I think that attempting to shoot him there wasnt giving an intelligent enemy very much credit. It would only work if the stupid mistakes that Voldemort was making were real, and not a ruse. Given that Harry possibly has only one chance (because Voldemort promised in parseltongue not to try to harm Harry unless he tried to harm him first), taking the first opportunity that presents itself, which might be a trick to get Voldemort out of that promise, is probably unwise.

Comment by ander on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 109 · 2015-02-24T04:51:23.571Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Continuing on Izienwinter's reasoning:

Harry and Voldemort sprung the trap, they are now inside the mirror, Dumbledoor is outside.

It is now an AI box experiment, with Dumbledoor as Gatekeeper and Harry as the AI wanting out!

Comment by ander on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 109 · 2015-02-24T00:21:34.863Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think there could definitely be a few chapters of resolving the mirror plot followed by a few chapters of wrapping everything up.

Comment by ander on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 109 · 2015-02-23T21:52:06.333Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It looks like AI will make an appearance in hpmor! I had thought that Eliezer was simply going to go with an anti-death plot for the climax and not include AI, but here we are with the mirror. Looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

Comment by ander on Open thread, Feb. 16 - Feb. 22, 2015 · 2015-02-21T00:17:12.516Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The time travel seem even more magical to me than the simulation hypothesis.

Comment by ander on Open thread, Feb. 9 - Feb. 15, 2015 · 2015-02-19T20:49:02.236Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That comic was an excellent depiction of a 'utility monster'.

Comment by ander on An alarming fact about the anti-aging community · 2015-02-18T22:04:15.611Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Welcome to LessWrong!

Yes, we are generally very anti-aging here. It is probably one of the core parts of our culture.

If you are not hating your life but not loving it very much either, then the idea of dying in a few decades IMHO sounds logical and good.

My response would be: my desire to continue living or die would depend on my expected future utility of continuing to live. That is, if I expected that my future utility would be negative and would continue to always be negative, I might want to die, but that is not the case.

I don't consider myself someone who is either ecstatically happy or depressed. Like you I am in the middle. However, I feel that this middle state still has an overall positive utility.

But even if I was currently suffering so much that I considered my life to be negative utility, I would still want to live if I expected things could improve in the future, which I do. If we observe the course of human civilization, life conditions have generally improved greatly for almost everyone in society over long periods of time, and will probably continue to do so if our civilization continues to advance technologically, economically, socially, etc.

Thus, I do not wish to 'only live a few more decades and then die'. Instead, I anticipate that the utility of my living could continue to increase in the far future, and might actually be significantly better than it is now.

For many people in our current time, quality of life declines as they get old, especially near the end, due to health decline, loss of social connections due to friends deaths, etc. As a result, many people 'accept' that death is necessary, as life would only keep getting worse anyway.

But if we are able to cure and reverse aging, this would no longer necessarily be the case. We may be able to reach a point where we are able to restore youth, energy, and health to people. If so, living forever would not be a state of being an old., decrepit person with no social life, but would be a return to the healthful youth state that many associate with the best years of their life!

Regarding having a purpose for one's life: If you do not feel that you have a purpose for you life, this does not mean that you would never find one in the future, especially if one were to live a very long time. For example, if you knew you were going to live forever, and you didn't have to deal with some of the sufferings and energy drains of your current life, would you then perhaps be more motivated to find such a purpose?

If you are afraid of running out of different experiences to enjoy, consider that people are continually inventing new things to be interested in. Stories, games, knowledge, shared cultural experiences, etc. People are generating new information that you can consume at a rate faster than you can consume it, and in a future more advanced world this would only become more and more true.

f you think you will get bored of everything that there is, consider that we now have ideas and experiences and potential hobbies which were almost inconceivable 100 years ago, and in a universe that allows for infinite complexity we can continue to generate them for as long as the universe lasts, for as long as there is negentropy left for us to consume.

I want to see the future, not just because I think living has positive value, but because I anticipate that value might increase in the more technologically advanced future.

I don't think I could ever run out of things to explore, but if I did, and I eventually wanted to not live anymore, I would rather make that choice myself when I reached that point, and not have it forced upon me too soon because of accumulated damage to my mitochondrial dna, loss of telomeres, accumulation of mutations, and/or whatever else is the cause of the aging process.

Comment by ander on Open Thread, Feb. 2 - Feb 8, 2015 · 2015-02-04T01:13:03.950Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't believe in the strong form of the efficient market hypothesis. (I agree with some weaker versions of it).

If all humans made all investing decisions from a perfectly rational state, then the efficient market hypothesis would probably hold true, but in reality people sometimes become either overly confident or overly fearful, creating opportunities to exploit them by being more rational.

That said, in order to beat the market you must be better than the average participant (which is a high bar), and you must be enough better that you overcome trading fees. This is similar to playing poker, you must be significantly better than the average of the other players at the table in order to beat both them and the rake.

For the average person, the advice to simply buy index funds with a portion of every paycheck is the advice that will bring them the most utility, and one could be considered to be doing them a service by convincing them that the efficient market hypothesis was true, even if it isn't.

Comment by ander on Open Thread, Feb. 2 - Feb 8, 2015 · 2015-02-04T00:46:18.382Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I agree. Given that they had one remaining timeout, the sequence of pass, run (timeout), gave them three chances to score instead of 2.

Still, its quite possible that a less risky throw might have been superior, even if it was lower chance of success.

As it was, that throw was inches away from being the game winning touchdown instead of the game losing interception.

Comment by ander on Why you should consider buying Bitcoin right now (Jan 2015) if you have high risk tolerance · 2015-01-14T20:13:19.642Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I agree, people who are in debt should probably pay off their debts first. Bitcoin is the definition of a risk investment. You only buy with money that you can afford to lose 100% of. You must accept that a 100% loss is possible.

Comment by ander on Why you should consider buying Bitcoin right now (Jan 2015) if you have high risk tolerance · 2015-01-14T20:09:23.269Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I believe that the moving average of number of transactions is a better indicator of the health of bitcoin than the price. If transactions are declining, then bitcoin is declining in use. If they are increasing, then adoption is growing, even if the price drops.

The price reflects the average market participant's opinion about whether bitcoin will succeed or fail. Right now a lot more people believe it is going to fail, who used to believe it would succeed. To some extent this could be a self fulfilling prophecy, but I think that the fact that transactions have been steadily growing over the past year indicates that bitcoin is still doing fine.

Bitcoin has dropped over 90% and been proclaimed dead before and recovered. This does not mean that it is guaranteed to do so again, but it does mean it is possible it will do so again. Heck, the price could go to around $50-75 or so, and then recover and go to $10000 two years later! That would merely be a repeat of its history. If I had to give a 90% confidence interval of what the bitcoin price would be in a year, and I said "between $10 and $10000" I think I would still be overconfident, and that range would be too small. Bigger moves than that have already happened in its history. Literally anything could happen here.

Comment by ander on Why you should consider buying Bitcoin right now (Jan 2015) if you have high risk tolerance · 2015-01-14T17:52:00.536Z · score: 1 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Kindof amazing timing, haha!

The process of a new person learning about bitcoin, getting an account with an exchange, getting money there, etc probably takes a week or more, even if they started right away. I'd rather post a few days before a bottom than after it really.

That said, we were already in full on crash mode when I posted, which is exactly why I posted, because those are the best times historically to buy.

Of course, there is really no way to know where the crash will stop. Catching the exact bottom is pretty much a matter of luck.

The principle still stands, and is more true now than yesterday: Either Bitcoin is dying, or buying it now is a good idea in the long term. Either of those could be true.

Comment by ander on Why you should consider buying Bitcoin right now (Jan 2015) if you have high risk tolerance · 2015-01-13T23:42:01.339Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, it is similar to rebalancing.

The benefit is that you get more shares during the times when it is down, the mathematics helps reduce your average cost.

For example, lets say I take $3000 and buy a stock all at once at $50. I get 60 shares. Now instead, what if I buy $1000 each at 3 different times, once at $40, once at $50, and once at $60. I end up with 25+20+16.66 shares = 61.66 shares, even though the average price I bought at was identical.

This is generally a good idea, whether one is buying stocks or Bitcoin or anything else.

It works similar to reallocating. For example, lets say you wanted to keep 10% of your net worth in Bitcoin (or anything else). If Bitcoin doubles in price, you now are misallocated, and have close to 20% of your net worth in it (if other things stayed the same), so you would sell some. If it dropped by 50%, you would have a little over 5% of your new net worth in it, so you would need to buy some. This helps you to, on average, buy low and sell high, even without really knowing what you are doing. You don't want to reallocate constantly, due to trading fees, but you need to do it sometimes, to gain the benefit.

Comment by ander on Why you should consider buying Bitcoin right now (Jan 2015) if you have high risk tolerance · 2015-01-13T21:46:08.219Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, I added a statement. (I thought it was obvious that I do own Bitcoin, but I'll make it more obvious!)

I do not believe in the efficient market hypothesis. I do believe in a weaker form of it, but not in a strict form in which there no way to benefit from information.

I think that evidence does not support the efficient market hypothesis. You can make testable predictions using fundamental analysis or technical analysis, and see whether following certain rules would allow you to beat the market over time. But that would be another post which would be even longer than this one.

Comment by ander on Why you should consider buying Bitcoin right now (Jan 2015) if you have high risk tolerance · 2015-01-13T21:15:26.751Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed, and I've also been dollar cost averaging it. From the 400s on down.

The risk is that the previous bubble was the last one and it never recovers. The upside is that the previous bubble was another in the string of booms that must occur in something that is growing exponentially from 0.

Comment by ander on Why you should consider buying Bitcoin right now (Jan 2015) if you have high risk tolerance · 2015-01-13T21:12:35.326Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed!

Whats even funnier is how many different people that there are that you can subscribe to and pay a monthly fee to, in tons of different financial markets, who also "don't give investment advice". :)

You should mentally replace this statement with "you are responsible for your own actions, not me".

Indeed, Bitcoin has survived a previous crash (severe bear market), several times in fact. Buying now is essentially a bet it will survive again. That bet will either pay off, or it wont.

Comment by ander on Some recent evidence against the Big Bang · 2015-01-07T22:37:57.037Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It seems that in the 1980's, when I was first introduced to the Big Bang as a child, the experts in the field knew then there were problems with it, and devised inflation as a solution. And today, the validity of that solution is being called into question by those same experts:

The dominant Big Bang theory (the Lambda CDM model of inflationary cosmology) today has evolved significantly from the Big Bang theory of the 80s. For example, the realization in the late 90s that the expansion of the universe was accelerating rather than decelerating required significant changes.

And yes, we know that we do not yet have a perfect understanding of it yet, and that more tweaks and modifications are needed. But I think it is inaccurate to talk as if the big bang model needs to be thrown away. The situation is more like a jigsaw puzzle where we have a good idea in general what is going on, but there are still missing pieces.