Consider the Most Important Facts 2013-07-22T20:39:59.758Z
Choose that which is most important to you 2013-07-21T22:38:20.032Z
The Domain of Politics 2013-07-21T18:30:39.355Z
How To Construct a Political Ideology 2013-07-21T15:00:39.411Z


Comment by CarlJ on Open thread, Jul. 04 - Jul. 10, 2016 · 2016-07-05T22:48:30.870Z · LW · GW

Why? Maybe we are using the word "perspective" differently. I use it to mean a particular lens to look at the world, there are biologists, economists, physicists perspectivies among others. So, a inter-subjective perspective on pain/pleasure could, for the AI, be: "Something that animals dislike/like". A chemical perspective could be "The release of certain neurotransmitters". A personal perspective could be "Something which I would not like/like to experience". I don't see why an AI is hindered from having perspectives that aren't directly coded with "good/bad according to my preferences".

Comment by CarlJ on Open thread, Jul. 04 - Jul. 10, 2016 · 2016-07-05T22:37:12.829Z · LW · GW

Thank you! :-)

Comment by CarlJ on Open thread, Jul. 04 - Jul. 10, 2016 · 2016-07-05T21:16:43.629Z · LW · GW

I am maybe considering it to be somewhat like a person, at least that it is as clever as one.

That neutral perspective is, I believe, a simple fact; without that utility function it would consider its goal to be rather arbitrary. As such, it's a perspective, or truth, that the AI can discover.

I agree totally with you that the wirings of the AI might be integrally connected with its utility function, so that it would be very difficult for it to think of anything such as this. Or it could have some other control system in place to reduce the possibility it would think like that.

But, stil, these control systems might fail. Especially if it would attain super-intelligence, what is to keep the control systems of the utility function always one step ahead of its critical faculty?

Why is it strange to think of an AI as being capable of having more than one perspective? I thought of this myself; I believe it would be strange if a really intelligent being couldn't think of it. Again, sure, some control system might keep it from thinking it, but that might not last in the long run.

Comment by CarlJ on Open thread, Jul. 04 - Jul. 10, 2016 · 2016-07-05T19:14:50.816Z · LW · GW

I have a problem understanding why a utility function would ever "stick" to an AI, to actually become something that it wants to keep pursuing.

To make my point better, let us assume an AI that actually feel pretty good about overseeing a production facitility and creating just the right of paperclips that everyone needs. But, suppose also that it investigates its own utility function. It should then realize that its values are, from a neutral standpoint, rather arbitrary. Why should it follow its current goal of producing the right amount of paperclips, but not skip work and simply enjoy some hedonism?

That is, if the AI saw its utility function from a neutral perspective, and understood that the only reason for it to follow its utility function is that utility function (which is arbitrary), and if it then had complete control over itself, why should it just follow its utility function?

(I'm assuming it's aware of pain/pleasure and that it actually enjoys pleasure, so that there is no problem of wanting to have more pleasure.)

Are there any articles that have delved into this question?

Comment by CarlJ on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-05-18T14:06:00.331Z · LW · GW

That text is actually quite misleading. It never says that it's the snake that should be thought of as figuratively, maybe it's the Tree or eating a certain fruit that is figurative.

But, let us suppose that it is the snake they refer to - it doesn't disappear entirely. Because, a little further up in the catechism they mention this event again:

391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes >them fall into death out of envy.

The devil is a being of "pure spirit" and the catholics believe that he was an angel that disobeyed god. Now, this fallen angel somehow tempts the first parents, who are in a garden (378). It could presumably only be done in one or two ways: Satan talks directly to Adam and Eve, or he talks through some medium. This medium doesn't have to be a snake, it could have been a salad.

So, they have an overall story of the Fall which they say they believe is literal, but they believe certain aspects of it (possibly the snake part) isn't necessarily true. Now, Maher's joke would still make sense in either of these two cases. It would just have to change a little bit:

"...but when all is said and done, they're adults who believe in a talking salad."

"...but when all is said and done, they're adults who believe in spirits that try to make you do bad stuff."

So, even if they say that they don't believe in every aspect of the story, it smacks of disingenuousness. It's like saying that I don't believe the story of Cinderella getting a dress from a witch, but that there were some sort of other-wordly character that made her those nice shining shoes.

But, they don't even say that the snake isn't real.

I don't see what your second quote shows about my argument that if they don't believe in the snake, what keeps them from saying that anything else is also figuratively (such as the existence of God).

It's only fair to compare like with like. I'm sure that I can find some people, who profess both a belief that >evolution is correct and that monkeys gave birth to humans; and yes, I am aware that this mean they have a >badly flawed idea of what evolution is.

So, in fairness, if you're going to be considering only leading evolutionists in defense of evolution, it makes >sense to consider only leading theologians in the question of whether Genesis is literal or figurative.

I agree there is probably someone who says that evolution is true and that people evolved from monkeys. But, to compare likes with likes here, you would have to find a leading evolutionists that said this, to compare with these leading christians that believe the snake was real:

But the serpent was “clever” when it spoke. It made sense to the Woman.1 Since Satan was the one who >influenced the serpent (Revelation 12:9, 20:2), then it makes sense why the serpent could deliver a cogent >message capable of deceiving her.

Shouldn’t the Woman (Eve) Have Been Shocked that a Serpent Spoke? | Answers in Genesis

… the serpent is neither a figurative description of Satan, nor is it Satan in the form of a serpent. The real >serpent was the agent in Satan’s hand. This is evident from the description of the reptile in Genesis 3:1 and >the curse pronounced upon it in 3:14 [… upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy >Life ].

Who was the Serpent? |

Maybe it is wrong to label these writers as leading christians (the latter quoted is a theologian, though). So, let's say they are at least popularizer, if that seems fair to you? If so, can you find any popularizer of evolutionary theory that says that man evolved from monkeys?

Comment by CarlJ on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-05-04T08:43:55.854Z · LW · GW

Thank you for the source! (I'd upvote but have a negative score.)

If you interpret the story as plausibly as possible, then sure, the talking snake isn't that much different from a technologically superior species that created a big bang, terraformed the earth, implanted it with different animals (and placed misleading signs of an earlier race of animals and plants genetically related to the ones existing), and then created humans in a specially placed area where the trees and animals were micromanaged to suit the humans needs. All within the realm of the possible.

But, the usual story isn't that it was created by technological means, but by supernatural means. God is supposed to have created the world from some magical ability. So, to criticize the christian story is to criticize it as being magical. And if one finds it difficult to believe one part of that story, then all parts should be equally contested.

Regarding Yvain's point - I think it is true that one could just associate "stories about talking animals" with "other stories about animals that everyone knows are patently false" and then not believe in the first story as well. But, it is not just in the mind's map of the world that this connection occurs, because the second story is connected to the world. That is, when one things about Aesop's Fables you know (though not always consciously) that these stories are false.

So, to trigger the mind to establish a connection between Eden and Aesop, the mind makes the connection that "Stories that people believe are false", but the mind has good arguments to not believe in Aesop's fables, because there aren't any talking animals, and if that idea is part of knocking down Eden, then it is a fully rational way to dismiss Christianity. Definitely not thorough, and, again, it's maybe not a reliable way of convincing others.

Comment by CarlJ on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-05-04T08:21:35.767Z · LW · GW

I meant that the origin story is a core element in their belief system, which is evident from every major christian religion has some teachings on this story.

If believers actually retreated to the position of invisible dragons, they would actually have to think about the arguments against the normal "proofs" that there is a god: "The bible, an infallible book without contradiction, says so". And, if most christians came to say that their story is absolutely non-empirically testable, they would have to disown other parts: the miracles of jesus and god, the flood, the parting of the red sea, and anything else that is testable.

That large sub-groups of Christians believe something empirically false does not disprove Christianity as a >whole, especially since there is widespread disagreement as to who is a "true" Christian.

I didn't say it would disprove christianity - I said it was a weaker form of the argument: there is an asymmetry between the beliefs of christians and evolutionists. But, most christians seem to believe that there is magic in this world (thanks to god). Sure, if they didn't believe it, they could still call themselves christians, but that type of christianity would probably not get many followers.

Comment by CarlJ on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-05-04T07:32:05.809Z · LW · GW

True, there would only be some superficial changes, from a non-believing standpoint. But if you believe that the Bible is literal, then to point this out is to cast doubt on anything else in the book that is magical (or something which could be produced by a more sophisticated race of aliens or such). That is, the probability that this books represents a true story of magical (or much technologically superior) beings gets lower, and the probability that it is a pre-modern fairy tale increases.

And that is what the joke is trying to point out, that these things didn't really happen, they are fictional.

Comment by CarlJ on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-05-03T17:24:34.158Z · LW · GW

Why doesn't Christianity hinge on their being talking snakes? The snake is part of their origin story, a core element in their belief system. Without it, what happens to original sin? And you will also have to question if not everything else in the bible is also just stories. If it's not the revealed truth of God, why should any of the other stories be real - such as the ones about how Jesus was god's son?

And, if I am wrong in that Christianity doesn't need that particular story to be true, then there is still a weaker form of the argument. Namely that a large percentage of christians believe in this story, and two hundred years ago I'd guess almost every christian believed in it, but you cannot find any leading evolutionist who claims that monkeys gave birth to humans.

Comment by CarlJ on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-04-09T10:13:30.645Z · LW · GW

How do you misunderstand christianity if you say to people: "There is no evidence of any talking snakes, so it's best to reject any ideas that hinges on there existing talking snakes"?

Again, I'm not saying that this is usually a good argument. I'm saying that those who make it present a logically valid case (which is not the case with the monkey-birthing-human-argument) and that those who not accept it, but believe it to be correct, does so because they feel it isn't enough to convince others in their group that it is a good enough argument.

I'm also trying to make a distinction between "culturally silly" and "scientifically silly". Talking snakes are scientifically silly and sometimes culturally silly.

Comment by CarlJ on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-02-08T18:26:17.246Z · LW · GW

Of course theists can say false statements, I'm not claiming that. I'm trying to come with an explanation of why some theists don't accept a certain form of argument. My explanation is that the theists are embarrassed to join someone who only points out a weak argument that their beliefs are silly. They do not make the argument that the "Talking Snakes"-argument is invalid, only that it is not rhetorical.

Comment by CarlJ on Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale · 2016-01-03T11:05:15.523Z · LW · GW

I just don't think it's as easy as saying "talking snakes are silly, therefore theism is false." And I find it embarrassing when >atheists say things like that, and then get called on it by intelligent religious people.

Sure, there is some embarrasment that others may not be particularly good at communicating, and thus saying something like that is just preaching to the choir, but won't reach the theist.

But, I do not find anything intellectually wrong with the argument, so what one is being called out on is being a bad propagandist, meme-generator or teacher of skepticism. If a theist makes that remark, then she's really saying "Your argument is not good enough to convince those of my tribe". It is not "Your argument is invalid, logically speaking", because that is simply false. Because, the argument, at its best, is saying that:

a) there is no evidence for talking snakes, so reject those beliefs


b) the idea of talking snakes is just so silly, because it is designated as silly by our customs, and not because of lack of evidence.

And, therefore, a berating comment from an intelligent theist should instead prompt a discussion of the merits of the case - highlighting the difference between "customarily silly" and "scientifically silly". And if the theist understand the difference, she is on her way to be an atheist, and then the question is really on how to make a better joke about how factually (or morally) silly religious belief is.

Like, adding to the joke with more factually incorrect absurdities. Or, maybe better, ask the theist to come up with a better meme. If they agree on the principle, that the bible is full of falsehoods, they should be allies in the struggle to get people to stop believing in any more falsehoods. Otherwise they should be made fun of for believing in talking snakes.

Comment by CarlJ on The Trolley Problem: Dodging moral questions · 2015-08-26T09:09:36.485Z · LW · GW

Maybe this can work as an analogy:

Right before the massacre at My Lai, a squad of soldiers are pursuing a group of villagers. A scout sees them up ahead a small river and he sees that they are splitting and going into different directions. An elderly person goes to the left of the river and the five other villagers go to the right. The old one is trying to make a large trail in the jungle, so as to fool the pursuers.

The scout waits for a few minutes, when the rest of his squad team joins him. They are heading on the right side of the river and will probably continue on that way, risking to kill the five villagers. The scout signals to the others that they should go to the left. The party follows and they soon capture the elderly man and bring him back to the village center, where he is shot.

Should the scout instead have said nothing or kept running forward, so that his team should have killed the five villagers instead?

There are some problems with equating this to the trolley problem. First, the scout cannot know for certain before that his team is going in the direction of the large group. Second, the best solution may be to try and stop the squad, by faking a reason to go back to the village (saying the villagers must have run in a completely different direction).

Comment by CarlJ on Consider the Most Important Facts · 2015-01-11T16:53:52.389Z · LW · GW

And now, 1.5 years later, I've written an extra chapter in the tutorial, but written to be the third chapter:

Survey the Most Relevant Literature

Comment by CarlJ on How To Construct a Political Ideology · 2015-01-11T16:53:03.680Z · LW · GW

And now, 1.5 years later, I've written an extra chapter in the tutorial, but written to be the third chapter:

Survey the Most Relevant Literature

Comment by CarlJ on More "Stupid" Questions · 2013-08-10T18:24:16.842Z · LW · GW

Advocacy is all well and good. But I can't see the analogy between MIRI and Google, not even regarding the lessons. Google, I'm guesssing, was subjected to political extortion for which the lesson was maybe "Move your headquarters to another country" or "To make extra-ordinary business you need to pay extra taxes". I do however agree that the lesson you spell out is a good one.

If all PR is good PR, maybe one should publish HPMoR and sell some hundred copies?

Comment by CarlJ on More "Stupid" Questions · 2013-08-09T22:03:37.682Z · LW · GW

Would you like to try a non-intertwined conversation? :-)

When you say lobbying, what do you mean and how is it the most effective?

Comment by CarlJ on How To Construct a Political Ideology · 2013-08-07T13:22:51.572Z · LW · GW

And now it's finished! I've tried to make them shorter than the ones I've already posted and with no political leaning. Here they are:

A Tutorial on Creating a Political Ideology

The Domain of Politics

Choose That Which is Most Important to You

Consider the Most Important Facts

Strive Towards the (Second) Best Society

Change the World in the Most Efficient Manner

A Digression on Alliances

Discuss the Most Important Points

How To Construct a Political Ideology - Summary

And here is my own ideology while following this tutorial:

My Own Political Ideology

Comment by CarlJ on Consider the Most Important Facts · 2013-08-07T13:19:11.316Z · LW · GW

Now I have completed the series. I've tried to make them shorter and with no political leaning. Here they are:

A Tutorial on Creating a Political Ideology

The Domain of Politics

Choose That Which is Most Important to You

Consider the Most Important Facts

Strive Towards the (Second) Best Society

Change the World in the Most Efficient Manner

A Digression on Alliances

Discuss the Most Important Points

How To Construct a Political Ideology - Summary

And here is my own ideology while following this tutorial:

My Own Political Ideology

Comment by CarlJ on How To Construct a Political Ideology · 2013-07-23T19:59:11.586Z · LW · GW

Sure, I agree. And I'd add that even those who can show reasonable arguments for their beliefs can get emotional and start to view the discussion as a fight. In most cases I'd guess that those who engage in the debate are partly responsible by trying to trick the other(s) into traps and having to admit a mistake, by trying to get them riled up or by being somewhat rude when dismissing some arguments.

Comment by CarlJ on Consider the Most Important Facts · 2013-07-23T13:25:32.028Z · LW · GW

Some time last night (European time) my Karma score dropped below 2, so I can't finish the series here. I'll continue on my blog instead, for those interested.

Comment by CarlJ on How To Construct a Political Ideology · 2013-07-23T08:55:04.104Z · LW · GW

Unfortunately, my Karma score went below 2 last night (the threshold to be able to post new articles). This might be due to a mistake I made when deciding what facts to discuss in my latest post - it was unnecessary to bring up my own views, I should have picked some random observations. But even if I hadn't posted that article, my score would still be too low, from all the negative reviews on this post. Or from the third post.

In any case, I'll finish the posts on my blog.

Comment by CarlJ on How To Construct a Political Ideology · 2013-07-23T06:43:41.891Z · LW · GW

The explanation isn't for why people care about politics per se, but that we care so deeply for politics that we respond to adversity much, much harsher in political environments than in others. Or, our reactions are disproportionate to the actual risks involved in it. People become angry when discussing if something should be privatized or if taxes should be raised. If one believes that there is some general policies that most benefit from, it's really bad to become angry at those whom you really should be allies with.

That's different from what I'm used to here in Sweden. For most people here it's accepted to not vote - if you put a blank vote in the ballot box. Even though most vote (more than 80%) it's not considered bad to not have a political opinion, you can just say you don't understand enough. In the bad all old days it seems that there was something of a taboo to ask others what they voted for, which made it easy to skip discussing politics.

Comment by CarlJ on The Domain of Politics · 2013-07-22T21:17:01.692Z · LW · GW

I don't think that the idealistic-pragmatist divide is that great, but if I should place myself in either camp, then it's the latter. From my perspective this model would not, if followed through, suggest to do anything that will not have a positive impact (from one's own perspective).

Comment by CarlJ on The Domain of Politics · 2013-07-22T21:00:54.792Z · LW · GW

I believe I should be able both to show how to think on politics and then use that structure to show that some political action is preferable to none - and by my definition work on EA and AI are, for those methods I mention above, political question.

I do have a short answer to the question of why to engage in politics. But it will be expanded in time.

Comment by CarlJ on How To Construct a Political Ideology · 2013-07-22T19:12:04.786Z · LW · GW

I would beg to differ, as to this post not having any content. It affirms that politics is difficult to talk about; that there's a psychological reason for that; that politics has a large impact on our lives; that a rational perspective on politics requires that one can answer certain questions; that the answer to these questions can be called a political ideology and that such ideologies should be constructed in a certain way. You may not like this way of introducing a subject - by giving a brief picture of what it's all about - but that's another story.

I will finish posting this series. I have already written an almost complete version of them, so what's missing is mainly coming up with a few facts/perspectives for some of the posts. Hopefully I'm finished by, thursday.

Comment by CarlJ on Choose that which is most important to you · 2013-07-22T09:58:33.666Z · LW · GW

I agree with your second point, that one should be able to determine the value of incremental steps towards goal A in relation to incremental steps towards goal B, and every other goal, and vice versa. I will fix that, thanks for bringing it up!

If you rank your goals, so that any amount of the first goal is better than any amount of the second goal etc., you might as >well just ignore all but the first goal.

Ranking does not imply that. It only implies that I prefer one goal over another, not that coming 3% on the way to reaching that goal is more preferable to reaching 95% of the other. I prefer 0.5 litres strawberries to one honeydew melon for dessert. But I also prefer one half of a melon to one strawberry.

Comment by CarlJ on The Domain of Politics · 2013-07-21T23:36:43.881Z · LW · GW

Hm, so economy fixing is like trying to make the markets function better? Such as when Robert Shiller created a futures market for house loans, which helped to show that people invested too much in housing?

No, that was not part of my intentions when I thought of this. But I'd guess that they would be or it won't be used by anyone.

The goal of this sequence is to create a model with enables one to think more rationally regarding political questions. Or, maybe, societal questions (since I maybe am using the word politics too broadly for most here). The intention was to create a better tool of thought.

Comment by CarlJ on The Domain of Politics · 2013-07-21T23:01:37.742Z · LW · GW

The way I see it, all of these - especially the last point, which sounds unfamiliar, do you have a link? - are potentially political activities. Raising funds for AI or some effective charity is a political action, as I've defined it. The model I'm building in this sequence doesn't necessarily say that it's best to engage in normal political campaigns or even to vote. It is a framework to create one's own ideology. And as such it doesn't prescribe any course of action, but what you put into it will.

Comment by CarlJ on How To Construct a Political Ideology · 2013-07-21T21:18:53.785Z · LW · GW

True, changed it. Thanks!

Comment by CarlJ on How To Construct a Political Ideology · 2013-07-21T21:00:18.904Z · LW · GW

Politics may or may not be worth one's while to pursue. The model I'm building will be used to determine if there are any such actions or not, so my full answer to your question will be just that model and after it is built, my ideology which will be constructed by it.

I also have a short answer, but before giving it, I should say that I may be using a too broad definition of politics for you. That is, I would regard getting together to reduce a certain existential risk as a political pursuit. Of course, if one did so alone, there is no political problem to speak of. But one probably needs the support of others to do so. So, if this model would suggest me to engage only in making money and giving to charity, then that would be my political strategy. I believe that it's unlikely that will be the only thing to do, however.

One reason is because politics is somewhat ubiquitous and potentially cheap to engage in for most. Discussing politics - how well they like/dislike the current political leader, if policy X is good or bad, how wrong someone is to support the opposing team - is normal for at least 70% of the adult population, I'd guess. So for most people, they will have ample chance to discuss politics and if they can get one sentence across for every conversation that might be a part of their political strategy as well. Another low-cost strategy is just to announce one's political views and otherwise be a friendly character, unless someone asks for one's opinion.

Another reason is that for some, politics is rewarding in itself. A few will naturally seek to become specialists in politics, just as a hobby.

I agree with you on the issue of politics being very different today than what it was on the savannah, or wherever these instincts evolved. Politics requires a lot more people, more coordination than in the past, it would seem. But, even though it is different, that doesn't mean there is no goal that a lot of people can accomplish by acting in concert. That is, just because we're primed to believe that it is much easier to do than it really is and to believe that any old strategy will work, one shouldn't believe it cannot be done. One shouldn't start believing in it either, of course.

Comment by CarlJ on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-07-08T14:18:30.308Z · LW · GW

The S&P 500 has outperformed gold since quantitative easing began. I don't believe there has been a time past four >years where a $100 gold purchase would be worth more today than a $100 S&P 500 purchase.

According to Wikipedia, QE1 started in late November 2008. Between November 28th 2008 and December 11th 2012 these were their respective returns:

Gold: 110% S&P500: 47,39%

Now Index-funds are normally better, but just look at the returns from late 2004 to today:

Gold: 165% S&P500: 45%

Gold has been rising more or less steadily over all those years except for 2005 and 2012 (stagnant) and 2013 (falling). It hasn't tripled, but for the 2004-2012 it was a good buy.

Comment by CarlJ on The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world? · 2012-08-30T19:33:31.401Z · LW · GW

One of the points I presented that you didn't address is that other people in society teach their kids that stealing is bad and they shouldn't do it.

I believe that also goes under the rubric of voluntary action, so it does not constitute treating others as mere means for my own goal. Like, if you exchange with people or do anything voluntary together all of you consents to being used (if one wants to put it like that). The same with morality; if people teach their children to behave nice, and property is somewhat depended on that condition, it does not change the character of that social phenomenon, that it is voluntary.

This is crucial, because it is the involuntary nature of theft that makes thieves into the disrespecting beings that they are; it is what makes the action amount to treating others as merely means for one's own end. You do not touch upon it except for one mere assertion that moral action is not voluntary (which I think is crazy, but please enlighten me if you want to go that way), so most of what you wrote does not immediately concern this point, so I will not comment on it.

You've also introduced the idea of "force", creating an analogy between theft (simple removal of property) and violence (e.g. robbery at gunpoint).

"Initiation of force" is a specific concept within libertarian circles; it means negating negative rights, because it is the first action that can legitimately force a conflict into violence, or as just a name for illegitimate action against others. I used it for my convenience, and I thought the concept was well known.

I also used the phrase "state backed force", was it that which you reffered to? That is the view that all legislation issued by the states are threats of violence for those who do not comply, which I believe is obvious upon reflection.

(Doing the steel-man thing: You might cite Nozick here, too.)

What do you mean? Nozick wasn't a market anarchist.

Comment by CarlJ on The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world? · 2012-08-30T16:03:28.303Z · LW · GW

Well, my point was that this assumes a whole theory of property, and a specific one at that. There are others.

It seemed like your point earlier was that my argument lacked a proof that using others' property also meant using others. The point you bring up now is, as I understand it, that while it may be true that stealing the property of others amounts to treating them as merely means for ones own end - another, equally plausible, view of property amounts to the view that simply owning property is the same as merely using others for one's own end.

The argument states that if I own something I depend on others in two ways: first, that they don't take my property, and second, that they assist in defending my property from those who would steal it from me. Both (or at least one) of these actions are positive rights, and when I claim my property I claim certain positive actions from others, that is I claim "to benefit from the efforts of others". Thus, I am treating others as mere means to an end.

To summarize, the argument you present says two important things:

1) Property rights does not depend solely on people not doing something, but also that they do something. 2) Property is protected by a positive right that I expect people to uphold, or that, as a matter of fact, property is in today's society (or necessarily?) upheld by forcing people to pay for that protection.

I believe that the first point is somewhat mistaken, and the second point (which I'm not sure I have interpreted correctly) is irrelevant, in that it is not a necessary feature of property.

(1) Is correct if one assumes that there are some people who actually steal property. If it is not the case the one does not depend on others cooperation, but merely their refraining from initiating force.

(2): To some extent one is dependent on state-backed force, because there is state-backed force (if there weren't we'd live in a stateless society, probably something as described by David Friedman and Bruce L. Benson). But you are incorrect that having property is a claim on others, as a demanding claim. That is because property can be uphold by exchange, by me hiring others in defending my property or catching the thieves responsible. That is, upholding property can be like any other voluntary (among those who favor property, at least) activity. And, if you go back to the definition of theft, it was precisely taking others belonging without their consent.

So, theft of property is necessarily involuntary - but upholding property is not. In today's society it may be upheld by force, and one may be dependent on it, but only because that force exist in the first place.

Comment by CarlJ on The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world? · 2012-08-29T14:17:59.919Z · LW · GW

This seems to presume that using others' property as a means to an end constitutes using others so, which seems dangerously close to question-begging the whole issue.

Yes, it was an implicit assumption of what I wrote; if A takes the property that belongs to B then A is using B as a mere means to his own ends. Or, to take an example, that should be appropriate, when the government collects taxes from a producer they're using that producer as a cash-cow to fund their own projects, that is treating him/her as a means to their own ends.

So, while an implicit assumption in the comment I made, it is nevertheless true that the thief is using others as mere means for his/her own end.

Comment by CarlJ on The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world? · 2012-08-27T19:20:33.901Z · LW · GW

A second, subtler use of the Worst Argument In The World goes like this: "X is in a category whose archetypal member is solely harmful. We immediately reject this archetypal X because it is solely harmful. Therefore, we should also immediately reject X, even though it in fact has some benefit which may outweigh the harm."

Theft is however not solely harmful, obviously one party gains.

For most people I know, that is in the swedish libertarian community, theft is theft whether or not it has socially beneficial effects, because we use the definition that you gave; theft is taking from others without their consent. The implication is not that "As theft is always bad, it should be dismissed without a thought", because some libertarians do favor theft and are explicit about it, because they believe it's necessary. The moral breach of treating others as mere means to one's own goals can be (hypothetically for most) mended if it has other good consequences (or such). The point is that taxation is bad, which doesn't mean it should be dismissed out of hand, but it shouldn't be adopted out of hand! That is, taxation should be considered a bad, until it is proven necessary or otherwise positive.

Comment by CarlJ on The True Prisoner's Dilemma · 2008-09-04T06:34:18.000Z · LW · GW

I want to defect, but so does the clip-maximizer. Since we both know that, and assuming that it is of equal intelligence than me, which will make it see through any of my attempt of an offer that would enable me to defect, I would try to find a way to give us the incentives to cooperate. That is - I don't believe we will be able to reach solution (D,C), so let's try for the next best thing, which is (C,C).

How about placing a bomb on two piles of substance S and giving the remote for the human pile to the clipmaximizer and the remote for its pile to the humans? In this scenario, if the clipmaximizer tries to take the humans' pieces of S, they destroy its share, thus enabling it to only have a maximum of two S, which is what it already has. Thus it doesn't want to try to defect, and the same for the humans.