Mentioning cryonics to a dying person 2012-08-09T06:48:03.849Z · score: 7 (14 votes)


Comment by danielh on Really Extreme Altruism · 2014-06-13T05:41:33.476Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That would probably be a good thing. I think that the company says they pay out in the event of legal death, so this would mean that they'd have to try to get the person declared "not dead". By extension, all cryonics patients (or at least all future cryonics patients with similar-quality preservations) would be not dead. If I were in charge of the cryonics organization this argument was used against, I would float the costs of the preservation and try to get my lawyers working on the same side as those of the insurance company. If they succeed, cryonics patients aren't legally dead and have more rights, which is well worth the cost of one guy's preservation + legal fees. If they fail, I get the insurance money anyway, so I'm only out the legal fees.

At least most cryonics patients have negligible income, so the IRS isn't likely to get very interested.

Comment by danielh on Shit Rationalists Say? · 2013-11-11T11:14:08.170Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Be sufficiently averse to the fire department and see if that suggests anything.

I do believe it suggests libertarianism. But I can't be sure, as I can't simply "be sufficiently averse" any more than I can force myself to believe something.

Still, that one seems to be a fairly reasonable sentence. If I were to learn only that one of these had been used in an LW article (by coincidence, not by a direct causal link), I would guess it was either that one or "I won't socially kill you".

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 3 · 2013-10-17T08:05:37.530Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I find it odd that Unicode doesn't have a Latin Letter Small Capital Q but does have all the others.

Comment by danielh on Caelum est Conterrens: I frankly don't see how this is a horror story · 2013-10-17T06:19:29.330Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see it as bad at all and suspect most who do see it as bad do so because it's different from the current method. These minds are designed to have lives that humans would consider valuable, and that they enjoy for all its complexity. It is like making new humans in the usual method, but without the problems of abusive upbringing (the one pony with abusive upbringing wasn't a person at the time) or other bad things that can happen to a human.

Comment by danielh on Caelum est Conterrens: I frankly don't see how this is a horror story · 2013-10-17T05:47:28.908Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The aliens with star communication weren't destroyed. They were close enough to "human" that they were uploaded or ignored. What's more, CelestAI would probably satisfy (most of) the values of these aliens, who probably find "friendship" just as approximately-neutral as they and we find "ponies".

Comment by danielh on Caelum est Conterrens: I frankly don't see how this is a horror story · 2013-10-17T05:43:11.629Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

An even-slightly-wrong CAI won't modify your utility function because she isn't wrong in that way. An even-slightly-wrong CAI does do several other bad things, but that isn't one of them.

Comment by danielh on Caelum est Conterrens: I frankly don't see how this is a horror story · 2013-10-17T05:40:00.685Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. The author wrote that part because it was a horrifying situation. It isn't a horrifying situation unless the character's desire is to actually know. Therefore, the character wanted to actually know. I can excuse the other instances of lying as tricks to get people to upload, thus satisfying more values than are possible in 80-odd years; that seems a bit out of character for Celestia though.

Comment by danielh on Caelum est Conterrens: I frankly don't see how this is a horror story · 2013-10-17T05:33:43.180Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect your fridge logic would be solved by fvzcyl abg trggvat qb jung ur jnagrq, hagvy ur jvfurq ng fbzr cbvag gung ur jbhyq abg or n fbpvbcngu. I'm more worried about the part you rot13ed, and I suspect it's part of what makes Eliezer consider it horror. I feel that's the main horror part of the story.

There are also the issues of Celestia lying to Lavendar when clearly she wants the truth on some level, the worry about those who would have uploaded (or uploaded earlier) if they had a human option, and the lack of obviously-possible medical and other care for the unuploaded humans (whose values could be satisfied almost as much as those of the ponies). These are instances when an AI is almost-but-not-quite Friendly (and, in the case of the simple fictional story instead of everyday life, could have been easily avoided by telling Celestia to "satisfy values" and that most people she meets initially want friendship and ponies). These are probably the parts that Eliezer is referring to, because of his work in avoiding uFAI and almost-FAI. On the other hand, they are far better than his default scenario, the no AI scenario, and the Failed Utopia #4-2 scenario in the OP. EDIT: Additionally, in the story at least, everything except the lying was easily avoidable by having Celestia just maximize values, while telling her that most people she meets early on will value friendship and ponies (and the lying at the end seems to be somewhat out-of-character because it doesn't actually maximize values).

One other thing some might find horrifying, but probably not Eliezer, is the "Does Síofra die" question. To me, and I presume to him, the answer is "surely not", and the question of ethics boils down to a simple check "does there ever exist an observer moment without a successor; i.e., has somebody died?". Obviously some people do die preventable deaths, but Síofra isn't one of them.

Comment by danielh on Prices or Bindings? · 2013-10-05T03:31:44.214Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know the Catholic church's current take on this, but the Bible does require the death penalty for a large number of crimes, and Jesus agreed with that penalty. If there was no state-sponsored death penalty, and nobody else was willing, my religious knowledge fail me on whether an individual or a Catholic priest would be forbidden, allowed, or required to performing the execution by this, and I'm unsure if or how that's affected by the context of a confessional.

Comment by danielh on Not Taking Over the World · 2013-10-05T01:34:18.758Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Welcome to Less Wrong!

First, let me congratulate you on stopping to rethink when you realize that you've found a seeming contradiction in your own thinking. Most people aren't able to see the contradictions in their beliefs, and when/if they do, they fail to actually do anything about them.

While it is theoretically possible to artificially create pleasure and happiness (which, around here, we call wirehading), converting the entire observable universe to orgasmium (maximum pleasure experiencing substance) seems to go a bit beyond that. In general, I think you'll find most people around here are against both, even though they'd call themselves "utilitarians" or similar. This is because there's more than one form of utilitarianism; many Less Wrongers believe other forms, like preference utilitarianism are correct, instead of the original Millsian hedonistic utilitarianism.

Edit: fixed link formatting

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 26, chapter 97 · 2013-08-19T05:26:43.535Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've done that with Luminosity and Radiance over the four Twilight books (and I've only read the latter because of the former), and will probably do that with MoR once it's actually complete.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-08-03T18:32:06.210Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It is possible, though unlikely given his increasing zombieness, that "Quirrell" has found a way around Voldemort's curse. The one that comes to mind is that Voldemort cursed the Defense against the Dark Arts position. Quirrell is teaching Battle Magic, not Defense against the Dark Arts, so he may be immune. Similarly, if Quirrell is Voldemort, he may be able to counter his own curse (or have put a check for himself or a loophole on the curse); if Canon!Voldemort had thought of that, he may have been able to successfully steal the Stone.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T16:26:00.300Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would agree about "most" of the history and trivia, but not "all". Given his behavior in Chapter 40, it at least seems likely that he did not know as much as Harry about the Hallows at that time. This is understandable, as Harry has a Hallow and therefore cares more than the Defense Professor, who doesn't have one and doesn't have a particular reason to search for any of them. He wouldn't decline a chance to try the Stone, but he doesn't have much reason to believe it works as advertised and therefore didn't plan to seek it out. Now that he remembers "a peculiar ring [he] saw on the finger of a man [he] met only once" (Chapter 26), he is much more interested and probably knows more publicly-speculated information about the Hallows than Harry even if he doesn't know some of the specifics Harry learned in TSPE.

Similarly, the Defense Professor doesn't seem to care about whether other beings are sentient, so he probably does not know as much about the fairy tale of the tale of the Lady of the Flying Squirrels (Chapter 49), even now that Harry has mentioned it.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T06:15:04.549Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In that case we only know of one owner who may have lived longer than standard, and we don't even know about them. James was in his 20s, Dumbledore was only around 150, and Harry is only 37 in the epilogue. It seems like people are privileging this theory beyond the little evidence it would get from the Cloak being related to the Wand and owners of the Wand tending to die.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T06:08:16.784Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Note also the "shall be". As Harry says in the chapter, this is future tense; therefore, the prophesy is not talking about Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T05:52:33.334Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That first is the primary usage. Usually there is some way to tell a counterfeit from the real thing, but one can theoretically make a counterfeit that's indistinguishable from the original. I have only rarely heard it in the sense of "to deceive".

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T05:48:32.199Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just because Harry saw the snake Patronus doesn't mean he recognizes the species. He probably could recognize the same Patronus, but maybe not; Harry paid more attention to it than a regular snake, but if I saw a snake once, and then saw another snake three months later, I don't think I'd be sure they were the same even if I did have reason to think they were.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T05:39:15.373Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm fairly sure it would be easier to change your regular Patronus form than become an Animagus multiple times, even if you could choose what to become. As most people haven't learnt the True Patronus, they would be able to have animal Patroni.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T05:36:39.777Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It wasn't deliberate, but it wasn't coincidental either. Snape's Patronus was the same as Lily's because Snape loved Lily.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T05:32:22.859Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Even if that was sufficient understanding, neither of those gentlemen seem to absolutely reject death as the natural order. Nor, for that matter, do Harry or Eliezer. They reject death as proper and good, but I'm confident that most would admit that it is natural. The other people present don't seem to do that, though, and would be unlikely to be able to cast a True Patronus.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T05:24:38.279Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In canon, Hermione says it means exactly as Lupin thought, and Harry believes her (and J.K. Rowling intended it like that). As some of J.K. Rowling's quotes (no sources at the moment) about canon seem to imply that she does not see her interpretation of the books is just as valid as anybody else's, the idea that a descendant of Harry's could go to the graveyard of the Peverells, announce plans to defeat Death, and get HJPEV's results is canon-compliant.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T05:14:50.805Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is somewhat likely, but in canon that's a quotation from a fairy tale. Given the apparent attitude the Peverells had towards Death in MoR, I doubt things played out the same way in MoR as in The Tale of the Three Brothers, whether or not that's how it happened in canon.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T05:12:40.325Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Dumbledore merely asked to borrow the cloak from James:

“You. You have guessed, I know, why the Cloak was in my possession on the night your parents died. James had showed it to me just a few days previously. It explained much of his undetected wrongdoing at school! I could hardly believe what I was seeing. I asked to borrow it, to examine it. I had long since given up my dream of uniting the Hallows, but I could not resist, could not help taking a closer look. . . . It was a Cloak the likes of which I had never seen, immensely old, perfect in every respect . . . and then your father died, and I had two Hallows at last, all to myself!”

In canon, Harry has been without the Cloak, after taking possession of it, for much longer than three days: in Philosopher's Stone, he left it at the top of the Astronomy Tower after giving Norbert to Charlie (I wonder if Norbert will appear in MoR...), and in Prizoner of Azkaban he left it in the Honeydukes secret passage. If being without the Cloak for a few days is enough to die, Harry should have died in his first or third year. If James hadn't died, Dumbledore would only have been borrowing the Cloak, and he returned it to Harry at close to the first opportunity. It's unclear, therefore, if he would have owned the Cloak for purposes of this theory, but if so I think he should have died well before he did.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T04:59:39.154Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think I heard a Catholic person use those exact words seriously less than a month ago, about this very subject, but I might not remember correctly.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T04:54:06.444Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

For those who are here and are unfamiliar with canon, I believe BT_Uytya meant this YouTube clip, or a similar one like it; as far as I know, none of them are authorized by Warner Bros. or J.K. Rowling, but may be short enough to qualify as fair use in many jurisdictions. I am not a lawyer.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T04:33:58.679Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That would, aside from being completely impossible in various ways, actually answer a few questions. Such as how the Defense Professor (don't want to assign him an actual name when talking about who he might be) is able to do intricate and powerful magic in any body he wears. It would be, to use his word, inefficient to just be that powerful and that in control of his magic. We already know, from Tonks-as-Susan, that a Metamorphmagus can do amazing magic while Metamorphed (probably because they have no "natural" form and are equally comfortable with any humanoid body); this makes it likely that the Defense Professor is a Metamorphmagus somehow. Of course, that doesn't explain why he needs to "rest", which other theories do, so we'd need both this and a completely separate explanation of the resting, which are less probably by conjunction.

Also, on an out-of-world note, I doubt Eliezer Yudkowsky would have made the particular comment above if the Defense Professor were a Metamorphmagus; he would be more likely to say Sprout, McGonagall, or Hannah Abbott.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T04:16:22.080Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure about the disappearing of Hermione's body. I believe that Dumbledore believes that Harry did not take Hermione's body. I'm not sure if I agree with that—Harry didn't seem too worried about its disappearance despite taking the five Rs as his stages of grief—but I doubt he'd take Voldemort stealing the body as evidence that Harry wants to resurrect her.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 25, chapter 96 · 2013-07-28T04:13:05.816Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It does seem that a large number of people (Dumbledore, Snape, Quirrell, and Hermione—all intelligent, but not all likely to credit random crackpot theories) all know about the Cloak, and Quirrell at least has heard of the Stone and credits if existence if not the standard explanation for its powers. There's no evidence that many people know of the Wand, but the subject has never really come up so we wouldn't know if that's common knowledge. I expect that those who study wandlore would know about it, as in canon.

Probably all three artifacts' existence is common knowledge, and that they are connected in some way (I think most people would notice, upon hearing The Tale of the Three Brothers, that all three exist; additionally, Hermione recognizes "the Charm which [...] would not reveal the Cloak, but would tell you whether it or certain other artifacts were nearby."). However, even if people know about the Deathly Hallows as real objects, they may not know details (such as the sign, or the connection to the Peverells, or what "conqueror of Death" actually means). I doubt anybody today except Harry, Lupin, and possibly Dumbledore (who may have noticed it when taking Lily and James to the Hall of Prophesy) know about the prophesy; Harry and Lupin know the contents but not that it's a prophesy, while Dumbledore may know there is a prophesy but not the contents.

Comment by danielh on The Lifespan Dilemma · 2013-07-27T05:05:06.420Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would definitely take the first of these deals, and would probably swallow the bullet and continue down the whole garden path . I would be interested to know if Eliezer's thinking has changed on this matter since September 2009.

However, if I were building an AI which may be offered this bet for the whole human species, I would want it to use the Kelly criterion and decline, under the premise that if humans survive the next hour, there may well be bets later that could increase lifespan further. However, if the human species goes extinct at any point, then game over, we lose, the Universe is now just a mostly-cold place with a few very hot fusion fires and rocks throughout.

The Kelly criterion is, roughly, to take individual bets that maximize the expected logarithm instead of expected utility itself. Despite the VNM axioms pretty much definining utility as that-which-is-to-be-maximized, there are theorems (which I have seen, but for which I have not seen proofs yet) that the Kelly criterion is optimal in various ways. I believe, though I don't know much about the Kelly criterion so there's a high probability I'm wrong, that it applies to maximizing total lifespan in addition to maximizing money.

So what happens if we try to maximize log(lifespan)? The article implies we should still take the bets, but I think that's incorrect and we wouldn't take even one deal (except for the total freebie before the tetration garden path). To see this, note that we only care about the 80% of the worlds where we could have survived (unless Omega offers to increase this probability somewhere...), so we'll just look at that. Now we have to choose between a 100% chance of log(life) being 10,000,000 (using base-10 log and measuring life in years), or a 99.9999% chance of log(life) being 10^10,000,000 and a 0.0001% chance of log(life) being -∞. A quick calculation shows that E(log(life)) in this case is -∞, which is far less than the E(log(life)) of 10,000,000 we get from not taking the deal.

In short, even if you accept a small chance of you dying (as you must if you want to get up in the morning), if you want the long range maximum lifespan for the human race to be as high as possible, you cannot accept even the tiniest chance of it going extinct.

This is why existential risk reduction is such a big deal; I hadn't actually made that connection when I started writing this comment.

Comment by danielh on The Lifespan Dilemma · 2013-07-27T04:32:36.908Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It gets even worse than that if you want to keep your intuitions (which are actually partially formalized as the concept natural density). Imagine that T is the set of all Unicode text strings. Most of these strings, like "🂾⨟ꠗ∧̊⩶🝍", are gibberish, while some are valid sentences in various languages (such as "The five boxing wizards jump quickly.", "print 'Hello, world!'", "ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος·", or "וקראתם בשם אלהיכם ואני אקרא בשם יהוה והיה האלהים אשר יענה באש הוא האלהים ויען כל העם ויאמרו טוב הדבר"). The interesting strings for this problem are things like "42", "22/7", "e", "10↑↑(10↑↑10)", or even "The square root of 17". These are the strings that unambiguously describe some number (under certain conventions). As we haven't put a length limit on the elements of T, we can easily show that every natural number, every rational number, and an infinite number of irrational numbers are each described by elements of T. As some elements of T don't unambiguously describe some number, our intuitions tell us that there are more text files than there are rational numbers.

However, a computer (with arbitrarily high disk space) would represent these strings encoded as sequences of bytes. If we use a BOM in our encoding, or if we use the Modified UTF-8 used in Java's DataInput interface, then every sequence of bytes encoding a string in T corresponds to a different natural number. However, given any common encoding, not every byte sequence corresponds to a string, and therefore not every natural number corresponds to a string. As encoding strings like this is the most natural way to map strings to natural numbers, there must intuitively be more natural numbers than strings.

We have thus shown that there are more strings than rational numbers, and more natural numbers than strings. Thus, any consistent definition of "bigger" that works like this can't be transitive, which would rule out many potential applications of such a concept.

EDIT: Fixed an error arising from my original thoughts differing from the way I wanted to explain them

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 24, chapter 95 · 2013-07-24T23:44:34.803Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I had this theory before the current arc, but updated towards it once it became more important to Harry in chapter 89.

In Humanism, Harry thinks about vanquishing future death, but that would not help the majority of the world's population (which has already died). What with the only known method of backwards time travel creating stable time loops, and with people already having died, this makes sense to a degree. But if he were to find a way to upload just prior to death, then technically everybody would have died, but in most ways that count they would not. As people have died more than six hours ago, this also seems impossible with known methods of time travel. However, Harry was (understandably) too distracted when learning about Time-Turners to notice that the six-hour limit could not possibly be fundamental. I believe I have a way around this limit, using only Time-Turners and Muggle understanding of physics. It does rely on the following assumptions:

  1. Magic works very far away (many light-hours at least) from Earth
  2. Time-Turners deposit you stationary w.r.t. Earth's rotating frame of reference.
  3. Magic can reinforce Time-Turners and wizards to be able to withstand incredible accelerations (at least 2000 g)
  4. Magic and science combined can maintain a space-worthy vessel at these accelerations
  5. Time-Turners take you back the appropriate number of hours in whatever frame you happen to be in when you engage the Time-Turner.
  6. Magic and science combined can create space suits that allow survival several light-years from Earth for extended periods of time OR devices that can maintain themselves in such conditions for extended periods of time and can operate Time-Turners.
  7. Magic would allow the below scenario to play out (no DO NOT MESS WITH TIME notes). For safety, this should only be attempted after adding explicit protocols for those notes should they prove necessary; that's better than conjuring arbitrary obstacles with Time-Turners.
  8. The below calculations are approximations based on my incomplete understanding of special relativity, but could almost certainly be improved by somebody with a better physical understanding than mine.

Not all of these conditions are strictly necessary, but the details of the situation would need to be modified to suit them better. I will now illustrate how to prove to somebody that you can go back in time more than six hours (specifically, six hours and five minutes); extending this to allow for remote unobservable uploading is left as an exercise to the reader.

  1. Create a space ship traveling at 88.5% of the speed of light in uniform circular orbit of the Earth, matching the Earth's natural rotation direction and speed. This will require it to be 3.38 light-hours from Earth and accelerating at almost 2000 g, but we're already assuming we can do that.
  2. On that ship, have somebody/something capable of receiving messages, using a Time-Turner, and sending messages after using said Time-Turner.
  3. Find somebody to agree to this experiment, and to agree on a protocol. Verification can include hashing ("I believe one cannot reverse an MD4 hash, even with magic, in less than 6 hours"), trusted third party ("I doubt that Chief Warlock Dumbledore would lie about what time you gave him a message"), or any other scheme that everybody agrees on.
  4. On Earth, get a means to listen to a light-speed message sent by the person/thing in step 2. When it receives a message, tell the person from step 3 and prepare verification, but do not tell the person from step 3 what the message is.
  5. Have the person from step 3 wait six hours and one minute before deciding on a message to send, and have them give you this message.
  6. Complete verification that the message was received when claimed. The person from step 3 now believes you sent a message back more than 6 hours.
  7. Send the person/thing from step 2 the message at light speed.
  8. Over three hours later, the person/thing from step 2 receives the message, goes back in time six hours (local reference frame)/13 hours (Earth reference frame), and sends it. Over three hours later, step 4 completes.

EDIT: Fixed the link for acceleration calculation by escaping parentheses

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 24, chapter 95 · 2013-07-24T02:54:18.261Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I thought approximately the same thing, but along the lines of wanting the student to focus on the tone, meter, and rhythm (which apparently carry much of the meaning) so taking away the meaning of the actual words to remove distractions.

Comment by danielh on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 24, chapter 95 · 2013-07-24T02:49:50.412Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I recently started yet another re-read of HPMoR, and noticed something I don't think has been discussed before.

In chapter 1, Petunia is talking about Lily making her pretty (which I believe she did using a potion of eagle's splendor with the blueberries replaced by Thestral blood), and says

And Lily would tell me no, and make up the most ridiculous excuses, like the world would end if she were nice to her sister, or a centaur told her not to - the most ridiculous things, and I hated her for it.

I used to think that Lily just wanted to protect Petunia from the danger and possibly other reasons. However, after hearing the prophesy in Chapter 89, I'm updating in favor of Lily telling the truth as she understood it. Centaurs are, after all, great at divination, especially astrology (tangent: I've never understood how that can be used for predicting the future on Earth, because it seems like anybody for the last several hundred years could have then, in a vague way, predicted the entire course of human history at least until the Space Age) and may be able to see this coming. Usually astrology isn't the precise, at least not in canon HP, but when it predicts the destruction of the "very stars in heaven", it may be more precise (and the centaurs may care more).

Comment by danielh on [Link] Eliezer, PZ, Brin, and me on Immortality · 2013-07-24T02:34:14.623Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In the top-right corner of the Hangouts window is a light-grey-on-white button of a gear (along with other similarly-colored buttons). The gear indicates settings, which in this case means webcam, microphone, and speaker settings. From there you can set up your microphone better.

In my experience (though I believe other people have differing experience in this regard), once you find this button, you can get Google Hangouts to properly use any audio equipment that your computer and OS can recognize and use.

Comment by danielh on The Lifespan Dilemma · 2012-08-29T21:52:41.534Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't studied this in nearly enough detail to be sure of what I'm saying, but it is my understanding that we quite possibly ARE wrong about the observable universe's size, simply given the newness of the science saying there is an "observable universe". Newton was wrong about gravity, but mostly in edge cases (pun intended); could Hubble et. al. be wrong about the observable universe's size? Could we find a way to send messages faster than light (there are several theories and only one need work)? Or could we possibly cram more people into the universe than seems possible now due to simulations, building smaller but equivalent brains, or otherwise?

If the answer to ANY of these questions could be less, then we could indeed be wrong about the size observable universe (if observable is defined in terms of light even after we develop FTL communication, travel, or observation, then that's stupid (like the current definition of clinical death) and you can replace "observable universe" with some similar phrase).

Besides, it may in fact be worth considering what happens outside the observable universe. We can make some predictions already, such as similar laws of physics and the continuing existence of anything which we could previously observe but has since passed over the cosmological event horizon. If people eventually become one of the things that passes over this event horizon, I'll still care about them even though my caring can not affect them in any way.

Note again that I don't know much about this, and I may be babbling nonsense for most of these points. But I do know that Hubble may be wrong, that humans keep doing things that they'd previously thought scientifically impossible, and that without an observable universe boundary there are still things which are causally unrelated to you in either direction but that you still may care about.

Comment by danielh on Mentioning cryonics to a dying person · 2012-08-17T20:31:17.441Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This can help when a discussion is started, but it cannot really help start the discussion. It is useful, though, and I'll remember it. Thanks.

Comment by danielh on Mentioning cryonics to a dying person · 2012-08-17T20:28:50.073Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If this post had the irony suggested by brilee, I wasn't able to pick it up and am responding as though it is serious.

As I said in response to Alicorn, I refuse to use dark arts. Not only would I not be good at it, it violates my morality in many ways. You'd have better luck convincing EY to use the dark arts for Singularity talks, simply because that's a bigger issue. If he's not willing to use dark arts when it's the entire world or more at stake, it's his Something To Protect and he needs to Shut Up and Do The Impossible, then I have no excuse using them simply to save just one person.

As for my mom, I believe that is her true rejection. She readily admits that the technology is feasible, but doesn't see why somebody would revive her and things it somewhat plausible that it will be illegal to keep frozen bodies around between now and then.

Comment by danielh on Mentioning cryonics to a dying person · 2012-08-17T20:10:19.306Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As others have said, that option is no longer available. I don't find it as bad as you do though, for three reasons:

  • She's a relative, not a stranger, so this kind of discussion would have happened anyway if I'd cleared my cryonics cache before six months ago

  • She has reasons to accept it that she accepts; the problem with a lot of religious conversions is that the only reason I should believe in the religion is because it says to and anecdotal evidence; for cryonics, the reason to believe in it is the standardly-accepted science and evident technological progress, both things most people at least claim to accept, but without any anecdotal evidence that it works.

  • I am disgusted by people who think that something is that important but don't do anything about it. My standard example is vegetarians who believe that animals are conscious sentient beings whose death is as tragic as a human's, but don't attempt to persuade others not to eat meat. Of course, if they did persuade others, everybody else would be annoyed, but if they're committing murder and you can get them to stop, you should. Similarly, if somebody is dying and you can potentially stop them, you should.

Edit: formatting

Comment by danielh on Mentioning cryonics to a dying person · 2012-08-17T19:55:51.919Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I considered this because of your article Light Arts, and rejected it because I disagree with that article in at least some cases, this being one of them. I could talk about it as I think about it -- a good idea that people, even scientists who should know better, reject because of unwillingness to think about death and unwillingness to believe it isn't final -- and let him draw his own opinions on why it isn't common knowledge (like I could prevent him anyway), but saying myself that it has a reasonable chance of being a conspiracy, or even implying it, is not something I could do.

Comment by danielh on Mentioning cryonics to a dying person · 2012-08-17T19:31:28.971Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

With cryonics, if somebody messes up at any point (the cryonics company goes broke, the LN2 production company experiences unexpected problems and any local stores are running low, an employee mishandles your body, etc.) then you are unlikely to be revived. With plastination, there's a lot less that can go wrong; even if the future caretakers of your brain don't believe it will work, it is more effort to destroy your brain than to leave it be. They may decide to bury it in a graveyard, but that's less likely to prevent revival than thawing from cryonics.

In either case, the probability that revival will be technologically and socially possible given it's physically possible approaches 1 as time approaches infinity, and the probability that something bad and irreversible happens to you given that you aren't revived also approaches 1 as time approaches infinity. In either case, you're betting that the former happens before the latter. However, this seems a much better bet with plastination than cryonics because it's a lot harder for something bad to happen to you.

Comment by danielh on Mentioning cryonics to a dying person · 2012-08-17T19:18:43.968Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As I understand it, the money is available.

Comment by danielh on Rationality Quotes August 2012 · 2012-08-07T01:48:40.809Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Playing chess for 5 hours a day does not make chess your "sole study and business" unless you have some disorder forcing you to sleep for 19 hours a day. If you spent the rest of your waking time studying chess, playing practice games, and doing the minimal amount necessary to survive (eating, etc.), THEN chess is your "sole study and business"; otherwise, you spend less than 1/3 your waking life on it, which is less than people spend at a regular full time job (at least in the US).

Comment by danielh on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2012-07-18T02:03:47.254Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I did not mean to imply that I had actual knowledge of QM, just that I had more now than before. If I was interested in understanding QM in more detail, I would take a course on it at my college. It turns out that I am so interested, and that I plan to take such a course in Spring 2013.

I also know that there are people on this site, apparently a greater percentage than with similar issues, who disagree with EY about the Many Worlds Interpretation. I have not been able to follow their arguments, because the ones I have seen generally assume a greater knowledge of quantum mechanics than I possess. Therefore, MWI is still the most reasonable explanation that I have heard and understood. Again, though, that means very little. I hope to revisit the issue once I have some actual background on the subject.

EDIT: To clarify, "similar issues" means issues where the majority of people have one opinion, such as theism, the Copenhagen Interpretation, or cryonics not being worth considering, while Less Wrong's general consensus is different.

Comment by danielh on Welcome to Less Wrong! · 2012-07-11T03:00:02.452Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

TL;DR: I found LW through HPMoR, read the major sequences, read stuff by other LWers including the Luminosity series, and lurked for six months before signing up.

My name, as you can see above if you don't have the anti-kibitzing script, Daniel. My story of how I came to self-identify as a rationalist, and then how I later came to be a rationalist, breaks down into several parts. I don't remember the order of all of them.

Since well before I can remember (and I have a fairly good long-term memory), I've been interested in mathematics, and later science. One of my earliest memories, if not my earliest, is of me, on my back, under the coffee table (well before I could walk). I had done this multiple times, I think usually with the same goal, but one time in particular sticks in my memory. I was kicking the underside of the coffee table, trying to see what was moving. This time, I moved it, got out, and saw that the drawer of the coffee table was open; this caused me to realize that this was what was moving, and I don't think I crawled under there again.

Many years later, I discovered Star Trek TNG, and from that learned a little about Star Trek. I wanted to be more rational from the role models of Data and Spock, and I did not realize at the time how non-rational Spock was. It was very quickly, however, that I realized that emotions are not the opposite of logic, and the first time I saw the TOS episode that Luke references [here][], I realized that Spock was being an idiot (though at the time I thought it was unusually idiotic, not standard behavior; I hadn't and still haven't seen much of the original series). It was around this time that I thought I myself was "rational" or "logical".

Of course, it wasn't until much later that I actually started learning about rationalism. Around Thanksgiving 2011, I was on looking for a Harry Potter fanfic I'd seen before and liked (I still haven't found it) that I stumbled upon Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. I read it, and I liked it, and it slowly took over my life. I decided to look for other works by that author, and went to the link to Less Wrong because it was recommended (not realizing that the Sequences were written by the same person as HPMoR yet). Since then, I've read the sequences and most other stuff written by EY (that's still easily accessible and not removed), and it all made sense. I finally understood that yes, in fact, I and the other "confused" students WERE correct in that probability class where the professor said that "the probability that this variable is in this interval" didn't exist, I noticed times when I was conforming instead of thinking, and I noticed some accesses of cached thoughts. At first I was a bit skeptical of the overly-atheistic bit (though I'd always had doubts and was pretty much agnostic-though-I-wouldn't-admit-it), until I read the articles about how unlikely the hypothesis of God was and thought about them.

I did not know much about Quantum Mechanics when I read that sequence, but I had heard of the "waveform collapse" and had not understood it, and I realized fairly quickly how that was an unnecessary hypothesis. When I saw one of the cryonics articles (I'm cryocrastinating, trying to get my parents to sign up) taking the idea seriously, I thought "Oh, duh! I should have seen that the first time I heard of it, but I was specifically told that the person involved was an idiot and it didn't work, so I never reevaluated" (later I remembered my horror at Picard's attitude in the relevant TNG episode, and I've always only believed in the information-theoretic definition of "death").

After I read the major sequences, I read some other stuff I found through the Wiki and through googling "Less Wrong __" for various things I wanted the LW community opinion on. I found my favorite LW authors (Yvain, Luke, Alicorn, and EY) and read other things by them (Facing the Singularity and Luminosity). I subscribed to the RSS feed (I don't know how that'll work when I want to strictly keep to anti-kibitzing), and I now know that I want to help SIAI as much as possible (I was planning to be a computer scientist anyway); I'm currently reading through a lot of their recommended reading. I'm also about to start GEB, followed by Jaynes and Pearl. I plan to become a lot more active comment-wise, but probably not post-wise for a while yet. I may even go to one of the meetups if one is held somewhere I can get to.

Now we've pretty much caught up to the present. Let's see... I read some posts today, I read Luke's Intuitive Explanation to EY's Intuitive Explanation, I found an error in it (95% confidence), I sent him an email, and I decided to sign up here. Now I'm writing this post, and I'm supposed to put some sort of conclusion on it. I estimate that the value of picking a better conclusion is not that high compared to the cost, so I'll just hit th submit button after this next period.

Edit: Wow, I just realized how similar my story is to parts of Comment author: BecomingMyself's. I swear we aren't the same person!