Posts

[Resolved] Is the SIA doomsday argument wrong? 2014-12-13T06:01:31.965Z
[Link] Physics-based anthropics? 2014-11-14T07:02:03.307Z
Multiverse-Wide Preference Utilitarianism 2014-01-30T18:08:55.878Z
International cooperation vs. AI arms race 2013-12-05T01:09:33.431Z

Comments

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on How is reinforcement learning possible in non-sentient agents? · 2021-01-06T19:05:56.945Z · LW · GW

An oversimplified picture of a reinforcement-learning agent (in particular, roughly a Q-learning agent with a single state) could be as follows. A program has two numerical variables: go_left and go_right. The agent chooses to go left or right based on which of these variables is larger. Suppose that go_left is 3 and go_right is 1. The agent goes left. The environment delivers a "reward" of -4. Now go_left gets updated to 3 - 4 = -1 (which is not quite the right math for Q-learning, but ok). So now go_right > go_left, and the agent goes right.

So what you said is exactly correct: "It is just physics. What we call 'reward' and 'punishment' are just elements of a program forcing an agent to do something". And I think our animal brains do the same thing: they receive rewards that update our inclinations to take various actions. However, animal brains have lots of additional machinery that simple RL agents lack. The actions we take are influenced by a number of cognitive processes, not just the basic RL machinery. For example, if we were just following RL mechanically, we might keep eating candy for a long time without stopping, but our brains are also capable of influencing our behavior via intellectual considerations like "Too much candy is bad for my health". It's possible these intellectual thoughts lead to their own "rewards" and "punishments" that get applied to our decisions, but at least it's clear that animal brains make choices in very complicated ways compared with barebones RL programs.

You wrote: "Sentient beings do because they feel pain and pleasure. They have no choice but to care about punishment and reward." The way I imagine it (which could be wrong) is that animals are built with RL machinery (along with many other cognitive mechanisms) and are mechanically driven to care about their rewards in a similar way as a computer program does. They also have cognitive processes for interpreting what's happening to them, and this interpretive machinery labels some incoming sensations as "good" and some as "bad". If we ask ourselves why we care about not staying outside in freezing temperatures without a coat, we say "I care because being cold feels bad". That's a folk-psychology way to say "My RL machinery cares because being outside in the cold sends rewards of -5 at each time step, and taking the action of going inside changes the rewards to +1. And I have other cognitive machinery that can interpret these -5 and +1 signals as pain and pleasure and understand that they drive my behavior."

Assuming this account is correct, the main distinction between simple programs and ourselves is one of complexity -- how much additional cognitive machinery there is to influence decisions and interpret what's going on. That's the reason I argue that simple RL agents have a tiny bit of moral weight. The difference between them and us is one of degree.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on "The Conspiracy against the Human Race," by Thomas Ligotti · 2020-08-26T17:26:41.282Z · LW · GW

Great post. :)

Tomasik might contest Ligotti's position

I haven't read Ligotti, but based on what you say, I would disagree with his view. This section discusses a similar idea as you mention about why animals might even suffer more than humans in some cases.

In fairness to the view that suffering requires some degree of reflection, I would say that I think consciousness itself is plausibly some kind of self-reflective process in which a brain combines information about sense inputs with other concepts like "this is bad", "this is happening to me right now", etc. But I don't think those need to be verbal, explicit thoughts. My guess is that those kinds of mental operations are happening at a non-explicit lower level, and our verbal minds report the combination of those lower-level operations as being raw conscious suffering.

In other words, my best guess would be:

raw suffering = low-level mental reflection on a bad situation

reflected suffering = high-level mental reflection on low-level mental reflection on a bad situation

That said, one could dispute the usefulness of the word "reflection" here. Maybe it could equally well be called "processing".

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Solipsism is Underrated · 2020-04-12T22:43:57.511Z · LW · GW

My comment about Occam's razor was in reply to "the idea that all rational agents should be able to converge on objective truth." I was pointing out that even if you agree on the data, you still may not agree on the conclusions if you have different priors. But yes, you're right that you may not agree on how to characterize the data either.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Solipsism is Underrated · 2020-04-11T00:48:30.395Z · LW · GW

I have "faith" in things like Occam's razor and hope it helps get toward objective truth, but there's no way to know for sure. Without constraints on the prior, we can't say much of anything beyond the data we have.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_free_lunch_theorem#Implications_for_computing_and_for_the_scientific_method

choosing an appropriate algorithm requires making assumptions about the kinds of target functions the algorithm is being used for. With no assumptions, no "meta-algorithm", such as the scientific method, performs better than random choice.

For example, without an assumption that nature is regular, a million observations of the sun having risen on past days would tell us nothing about whether it will rise again tomorrow.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Solipsism is Underrated · 2020-04-10T18:23:27.042Z · LW · GW

I wouldn't support a "don't dismiss evidence as delusory" rule. Indeed, there are some obvious delusions in the world, as well as optical illusions and such. I think the reason to have more credence in materialism than theist creationism is the relative prior probabilities of the two hypotheses: materialism is a lot simpler and seems less ad hoc. (That said, materialism can organically suggest some creationism-like scenarios, such as the simulation hypothesis.)

Ultimately the choice of what hypothesis seems simpler and less ad hoc is up to an individual to decide, as a "matter of faith". There's no getting around the need to start with bedrock assumptions.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Solipsism is Underrated · 2020-04-10T17:12:48.124Z · LW · GW

I think it's all evidence, and the delusion is part of the materialist explanation of that evidence. Analogously, part of the atheist hypothesis has to be an explanation of why so many cultures developed religions.

That said, as we discussed, there's debate over what the nature of the evidence is and whether delusions in the materialist brains of us zombies can adequately explain it.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Solipsism is Underrated · 2020-03-31T01:40:40.123Z · LW · GW

Makes sense. :) To me it seems relatively plausible that the intuition of spookiness regarding materialist consciousness is just a cognitive mistake, similar to Capgras syndrome. I'm more inclined to believe this than to adopt weirder-seeming ontologies.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Solipsism is Underrated · 2020-03-29T00:31:47.314Z · LW · GW

Nice post. I tend to think that solipsism of the sort you describe (a form of "subjective idealism") ends up looking almost like regular materialism, just phrased in a different ontology. That's because you still have to predict all the things you observe, and in theory, you'd presumably converge on similar "physical laws" to describe how things you observe change as a materialist does. For example, you'll still have your own idealist form of quantum mechanics to explain the observations you make as a quantum physicist (if you are a quantum physicist). In practice you don't have the computing power to by yourself figure all these things out just based on your own observations, but presumably an AIXI version of you would be able to deduce the full laws of physics from just these solipsist observations.

So if the laws of physics are the same, the only difference seems to be that in the case of idealism, we call the ontological primitive "mental", and we say that external phenomena don't actually exist but instead we just model them as if they existed to predict experiences. I suppose this is a consistent view and isn't that different in complexity from regular materialism. I just don't see much motivation for it. It seems slightly more elegant to just assume that all the stuff we're modeling as if it existed actually does exist (whatever that means).

And I'm not sure how much difference it makes to postulate that the ontological primitive is "mental" (whatever that means). Whether the ontological primitive is mental or not, there are still mechanical processes in our brains that cause us to believe we're conscious and to ask why there's a hard problem of consciousness. Maybe that already explains all the data, and there's no need for us to actually be conscious (whatever that would mean).

Anyway, I find these questions to be some of the most difficult in philosophy, because it's so hard to know what we're even talking about. We have to explain the datum that we're conscious, but what exactly does that datum look like? It seems that how we interpret the datum depends on what ontology we're already assuming. A materialist interprets the datum as saying that we physically believe that we're conscious, and materialism can explain that just fine. A non-materialist insists that there's more to the datum than that.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Electrons don’t think (or suffer) · 2019-01-03T00:09:36.011Z · LW · GW

Electrons have physical properties that vary all the time: position, velocity, distance to the nearest proton, etc (ignoring Heisenberg uncertainty complications). But yeah, these variables rely on the electron being embedded in an environment.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Preliminary thoughts on moral weight · 2018-08-18T15:18:30.967Z · LW · GW

The naive form of the argument is the same between the classic and moral-uncertainty two-envelopes problems, but yes, while there is a resolution to the classic version based on taking expected values of absolute rather than relative measurements, there's no similar resolution for the moral-uncertainty version, where there are no unique absolute measurements.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Preliminary thoughts on moral weight · 2018-08-15T12:16:42.542Z · LW · GW

I think the moral-uncertainty version of the problem is fatal unless you make further assumptions about how to resolve it, such as by fixing some arbitrary intertheoretic-comparison weights (which seems to be what you're suggesting) or using the parliamentary model.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Is life worth living? · 2017-10-03T03:51:17.640Z · LW · GW

Currently I don't care much about strongly positive events, so at this point I'd say no. In the throes of such a positive event I might change my mind. :)

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Is life worth living? · 2017-10-03T03:49:47.457Z · LW · GW

Yes, because I don't see any significant selfish upside to life, only possible downside in cases of torture/etc. Life is often fun, but I don't strongly care about experiencing it.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Is life worth living? · 2017-10-03T03:46:47.176Z · LW · GW

Yeah, but it would be very bad relative to my altruistic goals if I died any time soon. The thought experiment in the OP ignores altruistic considerations.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Naturalized induction – a challenge for evidential and causal decision theory · 2017-09-23T05:11:16.963Z · LW · GW

However, if you believe that the agent in world 2 is not an instantiation of you, then naturalized induction concludes that world 2 isn't actual and so pressing the button is safe.

By "isn't actual" do you just mean that the agent isn't in world 2? World 2 might still exist, though?

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Is life worth living? · 2017-09-03T06:35:05.468Z · LW · GW

I assume the thought experiment ignores instrumental considerations like altruistic impact.

For re-living my actual life, I wouldn't care that much either way, because most of my experiences haven't been extremely good or extremely bad. However, if there was randomness, such that I had some probability of, e.g., being tortured by a serial killer, then I would certainly choose not to repeat life.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on S-risks: Why they are the worst existential risks, and how to prevent them · 2017-06-20T22:06:55.802Z · LW · GW

Is it still a facepalm given the rest of the sentence? "So, s-risks are roughly as severe as factory farming, but with an even larger scope." The word "severe" is being used in a technical sense (discussed a few paragraphs earlier) to mean something like "per individual badness" without considering scope.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on S-risks: Why they are the worst existential risks, and how to prevent them · 2017-06-20T22:04:12.248Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the feedback! The first sentence below the title slide says: "I’ll talk about risks of severe suffering in the far future, or s-risks." Was this an insufficient definition for you? Would you recommend a different definition?

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on False thermodynamic miracles · 2015-08-14T08:28:49.577Z · LW · GW

I guess you mean that the AGI would care about worlds where the explosives won't detonate even if the AGI does nothing to stop the person from pressing the detonation button. If the AGI only cared about worlds where the bomb didn't detonate for any reason, it would try hard to stop the button from being pushed.

But to make the AGI care about only worlds where the bomb doesn't go off even if it does nothing to avert the explosion, we have to define what it means for the AGI to "try to avert the explosion" vs. just doing ordinary actions. That gets pretty tricky pretty quickly.

Anyway, you've convinced me that these scenarios are at least interesting. I just want to point out that they may not be as straightforward as they seem once it comes time to implement them.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on False thermodynamic miracles · 2015-08-12T23:07:33.628Z · LW · GW

Fair enough. I just meant that this setup requires building an AGI with a particular utility function that behaves as expected and building extra machinery around it, which could be more complicated than just building an AGI with the utility function you wanted. On the other hand, maybe it's easier to build an AGI that only cares about worlds where one particular bitstring shows up than to build a friendly AGI in general.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on False thermodynamic miracles · 2015-08-12T00:43:50.770Z · LW · GW

I'm nervous about designing elaborate mechanisms to trick an AGI, since if we can't even correctly implement an ordinary friendly AGI without bugs and mistakes, it seems even less likely we'd implement the weird/clever AGI setups without bugs and mistakes. I would tend to focus on just getting the AGI to behave properly from the start, without need for clever tricks, though I suppose that limited exploration into more fanciful scenarios might yield insight.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Satisficers want to become maximisers · 2015-08-11T22:25:57.345Z · LW · GW

As I understand it, your satisficing agent has essentially the utility function min(E[paperclips], 9). This means it would be fine with a 10^-100 chance of producing 10^101 paperclips. But isn't it more intuitive to think of a satisficer as optimizing the utility function E[min(paperclips, 9)]? In this case, the satisficer would reject the 10^-100 gamble described above, in favor of just producing 9 paperclips (whereas a maximizer would still take the gamble and hence would be a poor replacement for the satisficer).

A satisficer might not want to take over the world, since doing that would arouse opposition and possibly lead to its defeat. Instead, the satisficer might prefer to request very modest demands that are more likely to be satisfied (whether by humans or by an ascending uncontrolled AI who wants to mollify possible opponents).

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Two-boxing, smoking and chewing gum in Medical Newcomb problems · 2015-07-01T21:52:11.985Z · LW · GW

If there were a perfect correlation between choosing to one-box and having the one-box gene (i.e., everyone who one-boxes has the one-box gene, and everyone who two-boxes has the two-box gene, in all possible circumstances), then it's obvious that you should one-box, since that implies you must win more. This would be similar to the original Newcomb problem, where Omega also perfectly predicts your choice. Unfortunately, if you really will follow the dictates of your genes under all possible circumstances, then telling someone what she should do is useless, since she will do what her genes dictate.

The more interesting and difficult case is when the correlation between gene and choice isn't perfect.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Two-boxing, smoking and chewing gum in Medical Newcomb problems · 2015-07-01T21:51:57.203Z · LW · GW

(moved comment)

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Two-boxing, smoking and chewing gum in Medical Newcomb problems · 2015-06-29T22:15:10.147Z · LW · GW

I assume that the one-boxing gene makes a person generically more likely to favor the one-boxing solution to Newcomb. But what about when people learn about the setup of this particular problem? Does the correlation between having the one-boxing gene and inclining toward one-boxing still hold? Are people who one-box only because of EDT (even though they would have two-boxed before considering decision theory) still more likely to have the one-boxing gene? If so, then I'd be more inclined to force myself to one-box. If not, then I'd say that the apparent correlation between choosing one-boxing and winning breaks down when the one-boxing is forced. (Note: I haven't thought a lot about this and am still fairly confused on this topic.)

I'm reminded of the problem of reference-class forecasting and trying to determine which reference class (all one-boxers? or only grudging one-boxers who decided to one-box because of EDT?) to apply for making probability judgments. In the limit where the reference class consists of molecule-for-molecule copies of yourself, you should obviously do what made the most of them win.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Taking Occam Seriously · 2015-06-14T02:26:34.997Z · LW · GW

Paul's site has been offline since 2013. Hopefully it will come back, but in the meanwhile, here are links to most of his pieces on Internet Archive.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Seeking Estimates for P(Hell) · 2015-03-23T20:46:17.261Z · LW · GW

Good point. Also, in most multiverse theories, the worst possible experience necessarily exists somewhere.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Seeking Estimates for P(Hell) · 2015-03-22T22:18:26.310Z · LW · GW

From a practical perspective, accepting the papercut is the obvious choice because it's good to be nice to other value systems.

Even if I'm only considering my own values, I give some intrinsic weight to what other people care about. ("NU" is just an approximation of my intrinsic values.) So I'd still accept the papercut.

I also don't really care about mild suffering -- mostly just torture-level suffering. If it were 7 billion really happy people plus 1 person tortured, that would be a much harder dilemma.

In practice, the ratio of expected heaven to expected hell in the future is much smaller than 7 billion to 1, so even if someone is just a "negative-leaning utilitarian" who cares orders of magnitude more about suffering than happiness, s/he'll tend to act like a pure NU on any actual policy question.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Seeking Estimates for P(Hell) · 2015-03-22T00:03:33.217Z · LW · GW

Short answer:

Donate to MIRI, or split between MIRI and GiveWell charities if you want some fuzzies for short-term helping.

Long answer:

I'm a negative utilitarian (NU) and have been thinking since 2007 about the sign of MIRI for NUs. (Here's some relevant discussion.) I give ~70% chance that MIRI's impact is net good by NU lights and ~30% that it's net bad, but given MIRI's high impact, the expected value of MIRI is still very positive.

As far as your question: I'd put the probability of uncontrolled AI creating hells higher than 1 in 10,000 and the probability that MIRI as a whole prevents that from happening higher than 1 in 10,000,000. Say such hells used 10^-15 of the AI's total computing resources. Assuming computing power to create ~10^30 humans for ~10^10 years, MIRI would prevent in expectation ~10^18 hell-years. Assuming MIRI's total budget ever is $1 billion (too high), that's ~10^9 hell-years prevented per dollar. Now apply rigorous discounts to account for priors against astronomical impacts and various other far-future-dampening effects. MIRI still seems very promising at the end of the calculation.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on [Link] Physics-based anthropics? · 2015-03-17T01:47:57.251Z · LW · GW

Nice point. :)

That said, your example suggests a different difficulty: People who happen to be special numbers n get higher weight for apparently no reason. Maybe one way to address this fact is to note that what number n someone has is relative to (1) how the list is enumerated and (2) what universal Turing machine is being used for KC in the first place, and maybe averaging over these arbitrary details would blur the specialness of, say, the 1-billionth observer according to any particular coding scheme. Still, I doubt the KCs of different people would be exactly equal even after such adjustments.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Can we decrease the risk of worse-than-death outcomes following brain preservation? · 2015-02-21T23:29:15.813Z · LW · GW

Ah, got it. Yeah, that would help, though there would remain many cases where bad futures come too quickly (e.g., if an AGI takes a treacherous turn all of a sudden).

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Can we decrease the risk of worse-than-death outcomes following brain preservation? · 2015-02-21T23:16:57.764Z · LW · GW

A "do not resuscitate" kind of request would probably help with some futures that are mildly bad in virtue of some disconnect between your old self and the future (e.g., extreme future shock). But in those cases, you could always just kill yourself.

In the worst futures, presumably those resuscitating you wouldn't care about your wishes. These are the scenarios where a terrible future existence could continue for a very long time without the option of suicide.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Inverse relationship between belief in foom and years worked in commercial software · 2015-01-15T03:12:51.414Z · LW · GW

This is awesome! Thank you. :) I'd be glad to copy it into my piece if I have your permission. For now I've just linked to it.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Inverse relationship between belief in foom and years worked in commercial software · 2015-01-09T02:30:00.696Z · LW · GW

Cool. Another interesting question would be how the views of a single person change over time. This would help tease out whether it's a generational trend or a generic trend with getting older.

In my own case, I only switched to finding a soft takeoff pretty likely within the last year. The change happened as I read more sources outside LessWrong that made some compelling points. (Note that I still agree that work on AI risks may have somewhat more impact in hard-takeoff scenarios, so that hard takeoffs deserve more than their probability's fraction of attention.)

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Inverse relationship between belief in foom and years worked in commercial software · 2015-01-08T03:19:12.983Z · LW · GW

Good question. :) I don't want to look up exact ages for everyone, but I would guess that this graph would look more like a teepee, since Yudkowsky, Musk, Bostrom, etc. would be shifted to the right somewhat but are still younger than the long-time software veterans.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Inverse relationship between belief in foom and years worked in commercial software · 2015-01-07T21:06:17.432Z · LW · GW

Good points. However, keep in mind that humans can also use software to do boring jobs that require less-than-human intelligence. If we were near human-level AI, there may by then be narrow-AI programs that help with the items you describe.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Inverse relationship between belief in foom and years worked in commercial software · 2015-01-07T20:51:52.236Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the comment. There is some "multiple hypothesis testing" effect at play in the sense that I constructed the graph because of a hunch that I'd see a correlation of this type, based on a few salient examples that I knew about. I wouldn't have made a graph of some other comparison where I didn't expect much insight.

However, when it came to adding people, I did so purely based on whether I could clearly identify their views on the hard/soft question and years worked in industry. I'm happy to add anyone else to the graph if I can figure out the requisite data points. For instance, I wanted to add Vinge but couldn't clearly tell what x-axis value to use for him. For Kurzweil, I didn't really know what y-axis value to use.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on Inverse relationship between belief in foom and years worked in commercial software · 2015-01-07T20:44:44.710Z · LW · GW

This is a good point, and I added it to the penultimate paragraph of the "Caveats" section of the piece.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on [Resolved] Is the SIA doomsday argument wrong? · 2014-12-15T05:03:27.217Z · LW · GW

Thanks for the correction! I changed "endorsed" to "discussed" in the OP. What I meant to convey was that these authors endorsed the logic of the argument given the premises (ignoring sim scenarios), rather than that they agreed with the argument all things considered.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on [Resolved] Is the SIA doomsday argument wrong? · 2014-12-13T19:16:29.456Z · LW · GW

I don't think question pits SSA against SIA; rather, it concerns what SIA itself implies. But I think my argument was wrong, and I've edited the top-level post to explain why.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on [Resolved] Is the SIA doomsday argument wrong? · 2014-12-13T19:08:26.866Z · LW · GW

Not sure of the relevance of eternal inflation. However, I think I've realized where my argument went astray and have updated the post accordingly. Let me know if we still disagree.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on [Resolved] Is the SIA doomsday argument wrong? · 2014-12-13T19:07:03.545Z · LW · GW

Thanks! What you explain in your second paragraph was what I was missing. The distinction isn't between hypotheses where there's one copy of me versus several (those don't work) but rather between hypotheses where there's one copy of me versus none, and an early filter falsely predicts lots of "none"s.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on [Resolved] Is the SIA doomsday argument wrong? · 2014-12-13T08:31:45.787Z · LW · GW

Yes, but the Fermi paradox and Great Filter operate within a given branch of the MWI multiverse.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on [Resolved] Is the SIA doomsday argument wrong? · 2014-12-13T08:30:56.153Z · LW · GW

Thanks! I think this is basically a restatement of Katja's argument. The problem seems to be that comparing number of brains like ours isn't the right question. The question is how many minds are exactly ours, and this number has to be the same (ignoring simulations) between (B) and (C): namely, there is one civilization exactly like ours in either case.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on [Resolved] Is the SIA doomsday argument wrong? · 2014-12-13T07:46:45.752Z · LW · GW

Sorry, I'm not seeing it. Could you spell out how?

I agree that allowing simulation arguments changes the ball game. For instance, sim args favor universes with lots of simulated copies of you. This requires that at least one alien civilization develops AI within a given local region of the universe, which in turn requires that the filters can't be too strong. But this is different from Katja's argument.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on [Resolved] Is the SIA doomsday argument wrong? · 2014-12-13T07:26:58.592Z · LW · GW

That's what I originally thought, but the problem is that the probabilities of each life-form having your experiences are not independent. Once we know that one (non-simulated) life-form has your experiences in our region of the universe, this precludes other life-forms having those exact experiences, because the other life forms exist somewhere else, on different-looking planets, and so can't observe exactly what you do.

Given our set of experiences, we filter down the set of possible hypotheses to those that are consistent with our experiences. Of the (non-simulation) hypotheses that remain, they all contain only one copy of us in our local region of the universe.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on [Resolved] Is the SIA doomsday argument wrong? · 2014-12-13T07:21:26.724Z · LW · GW

Sorry, that sentence was confusing. :/ It wasn't really meant to say anything at all. The "filter" that we're focusing on is a statistical property of planets in general, and it's this property of planets in general that we're trying to evaluate. What happened on Earth has no bearing on that question.

That sentence was also confusing because it made it sound like a filter would happen on Earth, which is not necessarily the case. I edited to say "We know the filter on Earth (if any)", adding the "if any" part.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on You have a set amount of "weirdness points". Spend them wisely. · 2014-12-13T07:17:15.264Z · LW · GW

Thanks, Peter. :) I agree about appearing normal when the issue is trivial. I'm not convince about minimizing weirdness on important topics. Some counter-considerations:

  • People like Nick Bostrom seem to acquire prestige by taking on many controversial ideas at once. If Bostrom's only schtick were anthropic bias, he probably wouldn't have reached FP's top 100 thinkers.
  • Focusing on only one controversial issue may make you appear single-minded, like "Oh, that guy only cares about X and can't see that Y and Z are also important topics."
  • If you advocate many things, people can choose the one they agree with most or find easiest to do.
Comment by Brian_Tomasik on [Resolved] Is the SIA doomsday argument wrong? · 2014-12-13T07:02:20.601Z · LW · GW

Thanks, Wes_W. :)

When using SIA (which is actually an abbreviation of SSA+SIA), there are no reference classes. SIA favors hypotheses in proportion to how many copies of your subjective experiences they contain. Shulman and Bostrom explain why on p. 9 of this paper, in the paragraph beginning with "In the SSA+SIA combination".

We know the filter on Earth (if any) can't be early or middle because we're here, though we don't know what the filter looks like on planets in general. If the filter is late, there are many more boxes at our general stage. But SIA doesn't care how many are at our general stage; it only cares how many are indistinguishable from us (including having the label "Earth" on the box). So no update.

Comment by Brian_Tomasik on [Link] Physics-based anthropics? · 2014-11-22T11:28:01.449Z · LW · GW

One of the most striking things about anthropics is that (seemingly) whatever approach is taken, there are very weird conclusions.

Yes. :) The first paragraph here identifies at least one problem with every anthropic theory I'm aware of.