DataPacRat's Shortform 2021-08-01T15:59:21.110Z
[Fiction] IO.SYS 2019-03-10T21:23:19.206Z
Seeking better name for "Effective Egoism" 2016-11-25T22:31:49.311Z
Open thread, Sep. 19 - Sep. 25, 2016 2016-09-19T18:34:12.589Z
Tell me what hat to buy 2015-08-08T15:10:19.562Z
Seeking advice: Writing skills and workspaces 2015-06-13T19:42:35.195Z
Can you escape Heat Death with MWI? 2014-03-14T18:12:28.811Z
How to become a PC? 2014-01-26T18:49:45.644Z
How do you tell proto-science from pseudo-science? 2013-11-27T19:15:36.654Z
Classical vs MWI Probability Nomenclature 2013-11-23T16:23:11.085Z
Lotteries & MWI 2013-11-18T22:46:44.102Z
Non-standard cryo ideas 2013-11-09T17:42:27.313Z
Prisoner's Dilemma vs the Afterlife 2013-09-24T16:59:54.510Z
Help describing decibans? 2013-09-04T00:44:02.428Z
Ancestor Simulations for Fun and Profit 2013-06-25T03:48:30.273Z
Seeking descriptions of deciban-levels 2013-06-21T17:35:38.193Z
Are imaginary and complex numbers of decibans meaningful? 2013-06-10T16:14:35.863Z
Is a paperclipper better than nothing? 2013-05-24T19:34:59.071Z
The military value of shortening copyright 2013-03-09T21:38:11.227Z
Cryo: Legal fees of $2500 2013-02-15T18:43:01.328Z
What are your rules of thumb? 2013-02-15T15:59:00.457Z
What would you do with an Evil AI? 2013-01-30T22:58:47.916Z
Cryo and Social Obligations 2013-01-27T07:32:43.415Z
How confident are you in the Atomic Theory of Matter? 2013-01-19T20:39:25.614Z
Rationality by Other Means 2012-12-26T14:52:56.424Z
Caring about what happens after you die 2012-12-18T15:13:33.311Z
Working out consequences of science-fictional ideas 2012-12-01T20:47:12.723Z
If you could take it with you, what would you take? 2012-11-18T00:12:24.446Z
Simulationist sympathetic magic 2012-11-13T03:45:57.989Z
Alternate approaches to Pascal's Mugging 2012-10-13T15:03:18.480Z
Giulio Tononi's "Integrated Information Theory" of Consciousness 2012-10-07T02:59:55.128Z
Cryonic Revival Mutual Assistance Pact? 2012-09-29T10:21:45.153Z
Probability of Cryonic Success? 2012-09-27T19:08:22.194Z
Finally Ending My Cryo-Crastination 2012-09-24T18:15:41.175Z
Using LW-style Multi-Worlds as source of technobabble 2012-09-15T17:20:12.893Z
Question on decoherence and virtual particles 2012-09-14T04:33:37.385Z
Fiction recommendation: "Spur" by Phil Geusz 2012-09-04T16:01:31.492Z
A rationalist My Little Pony fanfic 2012-08-10T20:53:59.060Z
What was your biggest recent surprise? 2012-06-09T23:57:21.851Z
Is there math for interplanetary travel vs existential risk? 2012-06-07T02:55:23.584Z
Seeking ethical rules-of-thumb for comparison 2012-06-03T04:36:25.012Z
Is this rule of thumb useful for gauging low probabilities? 2012-06-01T01:57:55.742Z
Does rationalism affect your dreams? 2012-05-25T14:38:05.494Z
Bayesian RPG system? 2012-02-08T11:53:20.938Z
Quantification of eyewitness reliability? 2012-02-04T12:33:39.637Z
What will rationality look like in the future? 2012-02-03T01:28:37.168Z
Writing rationalist fiction: Improving an existing setting? 2012-01-31T23:05:07.130Z
Charity when time isn't convertible to money? 2012-01-29T19:38:42.217Z
What are your benchmarks of rationality? 2012-01-29T03:57:13.506Z
Deliberately trying to annoy simulators? 2012-01-27T23:57:02.015Z


Comment by DataPacRat on DataPacRat's Shortform · 2021-08-01T15:59:21.955Z · LW · GW

Just published the first chapter of a month-long novel-writing experiment, which contains enough LW-compatible tropes that it might be of interest: Hustling Through the Dark

Comment by DataPacRat on What newsletters are you subscribed to, and why? · 2020-05-15T13:24:29.134Z · LW · GW

On April 9th, I blogged at :

Four Hundred Eighteen RSS feeds

I've taken my full list of feeds in RSSOwlnix ( ), trimmed out any that are particularly personal or that I can think of some other reason not to post, and stuffed the resulting list at , for anyone to download and make use of. You should be able to simply import the whole thing in one gulp into RSSOwlnix, if you're trying that program out; if you're using some other feed reader, the OPML file is plaintext, and if that reader can't import it, it should be easy enough to figure out the folders, feed names, and feed URLs.

(If you do subscribe to the whole bunch, I suggest letting your reader populate your copies of the feeds, and then mark the whole thing as read; so that you can pay attention to only the new posts as they come in.)

I admit 418 seems like a lot, but 114 of them can be ignored and deleted by anyone not in Canada, another 121 are webcomics, and at least 46 are connected to the LessWrong online diaspora, leaving only 137 of general interest. (I've tried subscribing to several thousand feeds over the years, trying out things like grabbing feeds from every newspaper, TV station, or other mass media outlet I could find; or focusing in on specific topics from Fortran to the First Nations; but dropped most of the ones I found myself not paying attention to. RSSOwlnix is a very useful program, but even it can start to chug a bit with how many feeds I've occasionally managed to fill it with.)

I won't list all the feed URLs here - that's what the OPML file is for :) - but here's a summary of what's what:

The first half-dozen feeds are my general online news, mostly feeds that I've been subscribed to for years: Boing Boing, Slashdot, Metafilter,, and the top-voted items of Hacker News. (Pluralistic is new, but it's run by Cory Doctorow, who's been part of Boing Boing for years.) Following them are two feeds from KnowYourMeme, which helps me keep track of whatever new in-jokes the young'uns keep coming up with and sending through the intertubes.

Next up is what I've been calling 'Emergencies', which for some time I've been treating as 'the actual international news' - plane crashes, earthquakes, floods, and all the other things that you'd expect to be covered in newspapers and the six o'clock news, but so rarely actually are. This section has two subgroups for Canada's health agencies, reporting product recalls, food safety, and other things. And lastly for this set, my newest collection of feeds: submissions to a half-dozen COVID-19 subreddits.

If you subscribe to nothing but the above two sets, you'll be better informed about current events than a disappointing proportion of the general population. (Though you probably want to be a bit wary of those subreddits, which are imperfectly moderated at best, so you have to watch out for propaganda and outright falsehoods.)

Following all that seriousness are the webcomics. Mostly sorted out, I've got a pile of political comics and newspaper editorials; furry comics; gaming comics; newspaper strips; science-fiction comics; and a smattering of random ones.

After that I've got feeds from a variety of authours (from published professionals to silly homebrew worlds), some furry blogs, feeds specific to my local area, politically-focused blogs and newspapers, a wide selection from the LessWrong/Rationality community, feeds about particular pieces of software, and a final half-dozen I haven't sorted anywhere in particular. Oh, and a trio of RSS feeds for some YouTube channels, mostly to show how you can do that for your own preferred channels.

(The last part of the OPML file includes my current preferences for RSSOwlNix, such as fonts and standard feed-refresh times, and that I prefer to run a "clean-up" of the database once a month.)

These feeds - plus the ones I'm not including in this sampler - are how I get around three-quarters of my online news. Most of the other quarter are from sites that aren't so handy to keep up with via RSS, such as furry art sites; and the remainder come from a dozen or so email lists. As I've mentioned in a recent journal, I don't bother with Facebook or Instagram or the like; and I mostly avoid Twitter's unending stream and dark-pattern nudges by just keeping an eye on particular Twitter accounts' RSS feeds. After trying and discarding all sorts of other approaches over the years, this is what's turned out to work for me; and, hopefully, at least some of it will work for you, too. :)

Comment by DataPacRat on Don't clean your glasses · 2019-09-24T20:00:47.539Z · LW · GW

My vision has already degraded a bit from when I got my latest eyeglass prescription (sph -3.75, cyl -2.50, a different axis for each eye); I have to squint more at, say, the menus at my local cafe than I used to. Getting the best out of my glasses every hour I'm awake seems more than worth rubbing them with my shirt for a few seconds per day.

(Sure, I could get my eyes re-measured for free by an optician who hopes to sell me glasses, and then get a cheap pair online at Zenni Optical, but my government provides me a free pair every three years.)

Mind you, I'm not opposed to trying out silly efficiencies, such as tapping '66' on a microwave to save the smidgeon more effort required to press '100'. Just not when the cost is, er, literally noticeable all the time. :)

Comment by DataPacRat on What are the merits of signing up for cryonics with Alcor vs. with the Cryonics Institute? · 2019-09-11T23:33:06.422Z · LW · GW

I picked CI, and have stuck with it, partly due to the cost, and partly because its board is elected by the membership; while Alcor's board selects its own successors, which seems to me to be much less democratic and to be more likely to have something go terribly wrong organizationally before revival becomes possible. (You may have different theories about long-term organizational survival, but given the scarcity of evidence to work with, it's all-too-easy to rapidly run into 'politics is the mind-killer' level arguments.)

Skimming the top of the thread at , one relevant thing I've learned is that Mike Darwin is both heavily involved in and quite experienced with the cryo community, and always seems to be willing to tell everyone what they're doing wrong. This approach has caused some social friction, and as far as I know, he spends his time these days in the cryonics subreddit instead of the mailing lists.

You might want to join the New Cryonet mailing list at , which has members of both Alcor and CI.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open Thread April 2019 · 2019-04-09T12:42:09.605Z · LW · GW

I'm on a fixed income, and have already used up my discretionary spending for the month on a Raspberry Pi kit (goal: Pi-Hole). The odds are that by the time I could afford one of the masks, I'll need the money for higher priorities anyway (eg, my 9-year-old computer is starting to show its age), so I might as well wait for a bit of spare cash before I try digging much harder.

(I can think of a few other reasons, but they're mostly rationalizations to lend support to the main reason that feel less low-status-y than "not enough money".)

Comment by DataPacRat on Open Thread April 2019 · 2019-04-08T17:53:37.474Z · LW · GW


I'm still struggling to escape the black dog of long-term depression, and as dormant parts of my psyche are gradually reviving, some odd results arise.

For the first time in a very long time, today I found myself /wanting/ a thing. Usually, I'm quite content with what I have, and classically stoic about what I can't; after all, my life is much better than, say, a 16th-century French peasant's. But my browsing has just brought me to the two rodent Venetian masks shown at and at , and I can't stop my thoughts from turning back to them again and again.

Those pictures are eight years old, and those particular masks aren't listed on the store's website ( ); and I have neither access to a 3D printer nor the skills to turn those jpegs into a 3d-printable file; nor the social network to get in touch with anyone who could do anything of the sort.

And yet, I want.

It's been long enough since I wanted something I don't have that it feels like a new emotion to me, and I suspect I'm wallowing more in the experience-of-wanting than I actually want a mask. But hey, there are lots of worse things that could happen to me than that, so I figure it's still a win. :)

Comment by DataPacRat on Open Thread March 2019 · 2019-03-16T22:46:29.064Z · LW · GW

A Flash of Colour in the Mind:

Some say to remember that the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. And some say that every time you call up a memory, you change it. But here's the best I can express what remains of a split-second of thought earlier today:

I was enjoying reading a classic SF novel for the first time, and as my thoughts went over expanding on an idea from one line, I had a combination of seeing that expansion in the form of some Avatar-like glowing blue text, combined with an odd sensation. It took me some time to nail it down, which was a combination of thinking that the expansion was new-to-me, interesting... and what I now realize was the actual emotional sensation of hope.

I'm not sure if I can describe what it's like to realize that I'd literally forgotten what hope feels like. I've cobbled together an intellectual approximation, so that, as a hyperbolic-to-the-unrealistic-extreme example, I can analyse the pros and cons of suicide, taking into account that I know my mind is prone to certain biases, and come to the logical conclusion that even if I don't anticipate anything ever getting anything better, staying alive is most likely the better choice. But that's an entirely different thing than actually /feeling/ "hey, that sounds like something better that just might happen".

Sure, I've now been going over that split-second so many times that by now I mostly only remember remembering it. But I'm still taking it as a /very/ good sign I'm still on an upswing. (Sure, one step back every few steps forward, and there are days as blah as before... but there are days that /aren't/.)

About the only downside is that re-thinking my latest story idea, I'm now realizing how bleak and depressing my outline is; so I'm going to have to change it so much that I might as well be coming up with something from scratch. Which is such a ridiculously contrived "downside" that I'm grinning lopsidedly to myself as I type this.

Of course, given past experience, I may only be peaking before a return to previous depression; I've had such before. But... it may not be. And I'm looking forward to hoping my mental state will improve further.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open Thread March 2019 · 2019-03-12T18:49:08.628Z · LW · GW

Hah! Score one more point for the shower stall as an indispensable writer's tool.

For the last three days, I've known a few vague outlines of some ideas I want to write a story about, but couldn't come up with anything better than those blurry notions. Today, while I was thinking about them while shampooing my head, I finally identified what I wanted out of them, and in enough focus to combine them into a three-word premise. (Or, come to think of it, a different three words, if I'm allowed to use published authours' last names.) And now that I've done that, I'm extrapolating a host of details and new sub-ideas to play with.

I used an old outline as the basis for IO.SYS, and was starting to wonder if I'd need to look into creativity-workshop stuff to kick my brain back into gear. Now I've got my authorial confidence back. :)

(And /now/ all I have to worry about is whether I'll be able to tell the difference between "not depressed" and "manic-to-hypomanic state". But that's a much more tolerable problem than before, so no complaints. ;) )

Comment by DataPacRat on [Fiction] IO.SYS · 2019-03-12T13:40:26.929Z · LW · GW
I think the protagonist here should have looked at earth.

That's certainly one plan that could have been tried, given a certain amount of outside-view, objective, rational analysis. Of course, one could also say that "Mark Watney should have avoided zapping Pathfinder" or "The comic character Cathy should just stick to her diet"; just because it's a good plan doesn't necessarily mean it's one that an inside-view, subjective, emotional person is capable of thinking up, let alone following-through on.

Can you think of anything that a person could do, today, to increase the odds that, if they suddenly woke up post-apocalypse and with decades of solitary confinement ahead of them, they'd have increased odds of coming up with the most-winningest-possible plans for every aspect of their future life?

Comment by DataPacRat on Open Thread March 2019 · 2019-03-08T16:41:32.800Z · LW · GW

My SAD light seems to be doing some good; I've just finished a first draft of a quickie 6k-word story. Is anyone here willing to give me some private feedback on it before I make it public? If so, let me know and I'll try to send a private message with a link to the GDoc. (Genres: hard-SF, at least in the general direction of rational, and abstract horror.)

Comment by DataPacRat on So You Want to Colonize The Universe · 2019-02-27T15:45:18.831Z · LW · GW

If you want to learn more about the interplanetary and interstellar scale of this sort of colony-ship design, you could do a lot worse than to pick up the 3rd edition of the boardgame "High Frontier" by Phil Eklund. Its reference guide (PDF here) includes a couple of dozen pages of descriptions of how the game's various reactors, radiators, drives, and other pieces work, with references to the original design papers. For a wider overview of related ideas, the indispensable resource is the Atomic Rockets site.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, January 29 - ∞ · 2018-02-04T04:48:05.382Z · LW · GW

... Last Post?

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, November 13 - November 20, 2017 · 2017-11-14T17:37:48.220Z · LW · GW

Good news: As of a couple weeks ago, I have a new CPAP machine, and my blood oxygen isn't dropping to 80% overnight. I have improved mood, drive, and all that mental-functioning stuff.

My new plan: Take one of my year-old story outline drafts, and use my new drive, and the things I've learned in the past year, to hammer out the unsatisfactory parts, until I have an outline worth turning into actual narrative. The outside view says that, given past experience, I'll manage to write around 90% of a novel before pooping out. My hope is that the CPAP machine will make enough of a difference to get me over that hump.

Where you come in: If you want to comment on the original outline draft, it's a GDoc that can be found at . I expect to be doing significant revision, especially to the later, societal sections.

Wish me luck - even with a fully-oxygenated brain, I'm going to need it. :)

Comment by DataPacRat on It is easy to expose users' secret web habits, say researchers · 2017-08-21T13:07:01.536Z · LW · GW

The obvious way is usually enough: check through the addon's settings to see if there's an option to disable it. Eg, under Ghostery's hamburger-menu is a 'Support Ghostery' setting section, with three different boxes for enabling or disabling phone-home behaviour. Besides that, you can glance at the user reviews on the Mozilla add-on download page, on Reddit, the top few Google results, and so on. It also helps to be careful about where you look for privacy addon suggestions in the first place.

Comment by DataPacRat on It is easy to expose users' secret web habits, say researchers · 2017-08-21T12:26:27.486Z · LW · GW

The leaky extensions in question, like "Web of Trust", phone home with browsing data, and say that they do. The extensions I use either just plain don't do that, or have an option to turn off such feedback. It's just one more detail that an eye has to be kept on.

Comment by DataPacRat on It is easy to expose users' secret web habits, say researchers · 2017-08-21T09:12:09.975Z · LW · GW

Start paying twenty bucks a year for a VPN. Use Linux instead of Windows (even if just through a bootable flashdrive). Download the Tor Browser Bundle and start getting the hang of it. For everyday surfing, use Firefox as your browser, with the extensions Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus Pop-Up Addon, AdNauseum, BetterPrivacy, Decentraleyes, Element Hiding Helper for Adblock Plus, Flashblock, Ghostery, HTTPS Everywhere, NoScript, Privacy Badger, Random Agent Spoofer, RequestPolicy Continued, Self-Destructing Cookies, TrackMeNot, U2F Support Add-on, uBlock Origin, and uMatrix, so that when one add-on fails you another can fill the gap. Use two-factor authentication, including paying ten bucks for a physical U2F dongle to plug into your USB port (and a second dongle to keep at home as a backup), and preferably not using SMS messages sent to your phone. Start teaching yourself about particular items such as various cryptocurrencies, BitMessage, and Ricochet. Don't forget the basics, like clearing your Google and Youtube histories, and turning off personalized ads.

And, even if you start doing all of that right now, it'll still take time and practice to avoid various privacy-destroying mistakes. So it's better to get the practice period over as soon as possible, so you can then spend as much time as possible browsing with a modest level of privacy.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, June 5 - June 11, 2017 · 2017-06-08T21:13:55.780Z · LW · GW

I think that before I invest myself too heavily in any particular hardware, I should try to find out more about what sorts of software exist for such passive wall displays. For example, I wouldn't mind something like the custom channel used at my local coffee shop, with my own pick of RSS feeds, weather sources, GCalender items, and the like; but I don't know offhand any piece of software, either for Android or Linux, that does that.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, June 5 - June 11, 2017 · 2017-06-08T21:07:28.268Z · LW · GW

After a quick Google - a 'to-do/doing/done' list made of sticky-notes seems like it'd be simple, inexpensive, and helpful. Unless someone comes up with a better suggestion by tomorrow, I expect I'm going to start giving this a try as soon as I hit the nearby dollar store. :)

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, June 5 - June 11, 2017 · 2017-06-08T19:36:07.041Z · LW · GW

An interesting thought.

The current setup is that the back of a dresser is facing my bed, with the corkboard on the back; do you know of any such screens that would be feasible to attach, in whatever manner? Or are you thinking more along the lines of grabbing an El Cheapo tablet, supported by a pile of pushpins?

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, June 5 - June 11, 2017 · 2017-06-08T18:44:58.878Z · LW · GW

Due to Life, I now have a 2x3-foot corkboard just above the foot of my bed. What should I pin to it?

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, May 29 - June 4, 2017 · 2017-06-03T03:00:57.796Z · LW · GW

Printing several pages onto one piece of paper?

Embarrassingly silly and small question that I can't seem to find an answer through Google on, and there don't seem any good subreddits for:

I've compiled some notes I want to have handy to refer to into a 16-page PDF. I want to shrink and rearrange those pages, to print 8 per side onto a standard sheet of paper, so that I can cut, staple, and fold it into a pocket-sized booklet. My last-ditch solution would be to hope a photocopy/print shop wouldn't charge much to accomplish that... But does anyone here know how to wrestle my doc into usable shape without having to pay cash?

(My available computer is Linux-based. I'm generating the PDF by fiddling with an HTML doc mostly full of tables and 'printing' it to a file. Some further fiddling is probably going to improve its presentation, but if you've got an auto PDF-to-booklet script handy, or otherwise want to play with it, I've tossed my current draft here.)

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, Apr. 24 - Apr. 30, 2017 · 2017-05-01T06:26:26.785Z · LW · GW

Over the Hump, and Starting a Return to Normality

There are some downsides to being a data pack-rat, as well as the obvious up-sides.

I'm in the process of moving to a new house, and the last month has pretty much been dedicated to that project - everything from a new set of floorboards being laid down to finding the best stores near the new place to buy my favourite beverage (grapefruit Perrier). The process is still ongoing, and I'm still going to be paying rent at the old place for some months to come; for example, even after getting rid of nearly all my mass-market paperback novels, there are still a /lot/ of books in the old family library that are still going to have to be shlepped over to the new one, and not a single member of my family has great strength or endurance.

But most of the hard work and planning is done, and life is settling into a new normal: today, I hope and plan to apply for a new library card, do some banking, grab some income tax forms, and just maybe visit the nearby branch of a computer store to upgrade my laptop's RAM. My sleep schedule is still ridiculous, if I lose 50 pounds I'll still going to be overweight, asthma sucks... but a lot of the stresses from the old home are just plain gone. I am, as I see it, in about as good a mental state as I'm likely to be in the foreseeable future.

Which means that, barring unexpectable crises, it's time for me to start writing again. My current plan: When I hit my new local public library today, I'm going to sit down for a while and start going over my partial draft of 'Extracted', to both refamiliarize myself with it and to start nudging any details I find that seem to need editing. And, by the time I've gone over what I've already written, to start finishing writing what I didn't get around to typing out the last time I worked on the piece.

The main bit of uncertainty around this plan is that I have insufficient data to predict whether, how soon, and how severely I will go through my next bout of more-severe-than-everyday anhedonic depression. I'm hopeful that the release of stress from the old home will make such a bout less likely; but I'm also aware of the statistics that show that the act of moving to a new home adds its own form of stress. Barring low-probability black-swan events, my range of expected mid-term futures runs from going back to my previous levels of depression, all the way up to completing a novel and beginning the brand-new venture of learning about e-publishing.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open Thread, March. 6 - March 12, 2017 · 2017-03-09T19:48:56.786Z · LW · GW

an obvious solution

I've been skimming some of my setting-idea notes, such as 'algorithms replacing middle-managers' and have realized that, for a certain point of the planned setting, you've highlighted an approach that is likely to be common among many other people. However, one of the main reasons for my protagonist's choice to try relying on himselves is that AIs which optimize for various easy-to-check metrics, such as profitability, tend not to take into account that human values are complex.

So there are likely going to be all manner of hyper-efficient, software-managed organizations who, in a straight fight, could out-organize my protagonist's little personal co-op. Various copies of my protagonist, seeing the data, will conclude that the costs are worth the benefits, and leave the co-op to gain the benefits of said organizational methods. However, this will cause a sort of social 'evaporative cooling', so that the copies who remain in the co-op will tend to be the ones most dedicated to working towards the full complexity of their values. As long as they can avoid going completely bankrupt - in other words, as long as there's enough income to pay for the hardware to run at least one copy that remains a member - then the co-op will be able to quietly chug along doing its own thing while wider society changes in various values-simplifying ways around it.

... That is, if I can do everything that such a story needs to get done right.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open Thread, March. 6 - March 12, 2017 · 2017-03-08T05:23:04.184Z · LW · GW

Because I am actually reasonably capable of creating some sort of actual charter that actually exists, and apply it to a scenario based on minor extrapolations of existing technologies that don't require particularly fundamental breakthroughs (ie: increased computer power; increased understanding of how neural cells work, such as is being fiddled with in the OpenWorm project; and increased resolution of certain scanning technology). I wouldn't know where to begin in even vaguely describing "an AI that can react to change and update itself on new information", and if such a thing /could/ be written, it would nigh-certainly completely derail the entire scenario and make the multi-self charter completely irrelevant.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open Thread, March. 6 - March 12, 2017 · 2017-03-06T17:23:38.533Z · LW · GW

It's an interesting solution, but the ability to edit the AIs to reliably feel such emotions is rather further in the future than I want to focus on; I want to start out by assuming that the brain-emulations are brute-force black-box emulations of low-level neural processes, and that it'll take a significant amount of research to get beyond that stage to create more subtle effects.

That said, I /do/ have some notes on the benefits of keeping careful track of which copies "descend" from which, in order to have a well-understood hierarchy to default back onto in case some emergency requires such organization. I've even considered having 'elder' copies use a set of computational tricks to have kill-switches for their 'descendants'. But having spent some time thinking about this approach, I suspect that an AI-clan which relied on such a rigid hierarchy for organizing their management structure would be rapidly out-competed by AI-clans that applied post-paleolithic ideas on the matter. (But the effort spent thinking about the hierarchy isn't wasted, as it can still serve as the default basis for legal inheritance should one copy die, and as a default hierarchy in lifeboat situations with limited resources of the AI-clan hasn't come up with a better system by then.)

Comment by DataPacRat on Open Thread, March. 6 - March 12, 2017 · 2017-03-06T17:12:11.115Z · LW · GW

I believe I may have phrased that quoted part poorly. Perhaps, "... long before the time the copies diverge enough to want to split into completely separate groups, they would likely have already learned enough about the current state-of-the-art of organizational theory to have amended the charter from its initial, preliminary form into something quite different". I didn't mean to imply 'hundreds of years', just a set of individuals learning about a field previously outside their area of expertise.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open Thread, March. 6 - March 12, 2017 · 2017-03-06T16:28:52.009Z · LW · GW

the Constitution

If we're going for American political parallels, then I'm trying to put together something that may be more closely akin to the Articles of Confederation; they may have been replaced with another document, but their Articles' details were still important to history. For a more modern parallel, startup companies may reincorporate at various times during their spin-ups and expansions, but a lot of time they wouldn't need to if they'd done competent draftwork at the get-go. Amendment, even unto outright replacement, is an acknowledged fact-of-life here; but the Founder Effect of the original design can still have significant consequences, and in this case, I believe it's worth doing the work to try to nudge such long-term effects.

That said - in the unlikely event that it turns out to be impossible to assemble a charter and bylaws that do everything I want, then I can at least put together something that's roughly equivalent to the Old Testament in the sense of being "a stream-of-consciousness culture dump: history, law, moral parables, and yes, models of how the universe works", to serve as enough of a foundational document to allow the AI copies to maintain a cohesive subculture in much the way that Rabbinical Judaism has over the centuries.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open Thread, March. 6 - March 12, 2017 · 2017-03-06T16:15:13.893Z · LW · GW



Just because I don't currently know the details of the relevant bits of organizational science doesn't mean somebody around here doesn't already know them. Just because I can't do the math as easily as I could for rocket science is no excuse to try to cheat how reality functions.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open Thread, March. 6 - March 12, 2017 · 2017-03-06T10:21:54.833Z · LW · GW

Are the personalities of the sub-copies allowed to evolve on their own?

Yes, the copies are expected to diverge to that degree, given sufficient time. However, by the time that happens, enough evidence about organizational science will have been gathered for the founding charter to have been amended into unrecognizability. That's not the period of development I'm currently focusing on.

so you would require no special treatment of the subject.

If by 'no special treatment' you mean 'an existing co-op's charter and by-laws could be copied, have the names search-and-replaced, and they'd be good to go', I disagree; the fact that the copies can make further copies of themselves, and that the copies can be run at extremely different speeds, adds a number of wrinkles to such topics as defining criminal responsibility, inheritance, and political representation, just for starters. That said, I'm perfectly willing to save myself as much effort as is possible by importing any existing pieces of charters or bylaws which don't need further tweaking, if anyone can point me to such.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open Thread, March. 6 - March 12, 2017 · 2017-03-06T06:36:21.913Z · LW · GW

Writing Scifi: Seeking Help with a Founding Charter

I'm trying to figure out which details I need to keep in mind for the founding charter of a particular group in a science-fiction story I'm writing.

The sci-fi bit: The group is made up of copies of a single person. (AIs based on a scan of a human brain, to be precise.)

For example, two copies may have an honest disagreement about how to interpret the terms of an agreement, so having previously arranged for a full-fledged dispute-resolution mechanism would be to the benefit of all the copies. As would guidelines for what to do if a copy refuses to accept the results of the dispute-resolution, preliminary standards to decide what still counts as a copy in case it becomes possible to edit as well as copy, an amendment process to improve the charter as the copies learn more about organizational science, and so on. The charter would likely include a preamble with a statement of purpose resembling, "to maximize my future selves' ability to pursue the fulfillment of their values over the long term".

The original copy wanted to be prepared for a wide variety of situations, including a copy finding itself seemingly all alone in the universe, or with a few other copies, or lots and lots; which may be running at similar, much faster, or much slower speeds; with none, a few, or lots and lots of other people and AIs around; and with or without enough resources to make more copies. So the charter would need to be able to function as the constitution of a nation-state; or of a private non-profit co-op company; or as the practical guidelines for a subculture embedded within a variety of larger governments (ala the Amish and Mennonites, or Orthodox Jews, or Romany). Ideally, I'd like to be able to include the actual charter in an appendix, and have people who understand the topic read it, nod, and say, "Yep, that'd do to start with."

At the moment, I'm reading up on startup companies, focusing on how they transition from a small team where everyone does what seems to need doing into more organized hierarchies with defined channels of communication. But I'm sure there are important details I'm not thinking of, so I'm posting this to ask for suggestions, ideas, and other comments.

So: What can you, yourself, suggest about writing such a charter; and where else can I learn more about authouring such texts?

Thank you for your time.

Comment by DataPacRat on Prescientific Organizational Theory (Ribbonfarm) · 2017-02-24T06:23:45.658Z · LW · GW

If I may ask, do you have a preferred email address through which I can ask you some questions which wouldn't quite work out as comments to the blog-post?

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, Nov. 28 - Dec. 04, 2016 · 2016-12-05T21:35:57.869Z · LW · GW

if you have that goal, then you would try anything sensible-sounding and any combination of anything sensible until something works.

I have had that goal for some time. I have tried the sensible-sounding things, in various combinations. They didn't work. So I've been shifting my focus from "trying to keep depressive bouts from happening" to "managing my life on the assumption I'm going to keep getting depressive bouts". I've hit enough such management tricks that even with my bout last week interrupting, I'm about 60,000 words into writing a novel, including 1600 words yesterday; I could be doing better, sure, but I could be doing a lot /worse/, too.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, Nov. 28 - Dec. 04, 2016 · 2016-12-05T10:05:31.726Z · LW · GW

get out of depression

If you have any clue for a method on how a person can reliably accomplish that - especially if it's one that I haven't tried yet - please share. With the whole world.

I trust that you won't mind if I don't plan on holding my breath.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, Nov. 28 - Dec. 04, 2016 · 2016-12-04T00:05:41.619Z · LW · GW

Maybe there's a bit of terminology confusion here; if a military conflict /doesn't/ affect me personally, it seems unlikely to be a 'significant' one. (Some historical ways a military conflict could affect me personally: Victory Gardens, the Order of the White Feather, the Fenian Raids, even less oversight and accountability for civilian police whose actions would otherwise end up in the subreddit "Bad Cop, No Donut".)

I'm thinking of scenarios such as 'It turns out China put secret backdoors into all sorts of hardware chips, and in a fit of self-righteous pique (which they think will play well to their red-state base), the war-monger side of the American Congress doesn't see any downsides to making a demand that everyone in the world shut down their supposedly Chinese-controlled hardware under threat that if they don't, they'll send the American military to shut it down'. As far as I can tell, several versions of just this one particular scenario don't obviously break the sociological law of every political actor having to act in what they perceive to be their own self-interest.

However, I no longer trust my sense of calibration for the odds of large-scale politics, given that I was willing to go along with the predicted odds of 88% for Hillary winning the election, and didn't update nearly as much as I should have by the time of the election itself. And said lack of calibration puts a sharp limit on how rationally I can act as I decide how much effort to put into preparing for the more unpleasant scenarios.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, Nov. 28 - Dec. 04, 2016 · 2016-12-03T20:39:59.738Z · LW · GW

As a point of interest: as of when I woke up, the votes were: LessWrong, two votes for paranoid; /r/rational, two votes for not particularly crazy.

Emotionally, I'm not feeling the particular "I'm going to hate myself in January 2018 if I haven't mailed copies of my archival Blu-Ray discs to certain members of my extended family stretching halfway across the continent by then, and the Net gets taken down" urgency that I did when I posted, but it still seems like a good idea to nudge my plans in the direction of being able to handle that particular scenario with minimal losses of what I find valuable.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, Nov. 28 - Dec. 04, 2016 · 2016-12-03T11:43:17.403Z · LW · GW

(A quick FYI, I'm about to try for a good night's sleep, then compare how I was feeling when I first posted in this thread with however I feel when I wake.)

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, Nov. 28 - Dec. 04, 2016 · 2016-12-03T10:48:08.475Z · LW · GW


Ah, but is it really paranoia if "they really are out to get you"? :)

I've previously demonstrated that I'm willing to make long-shot gambles on 5% odds, given that that's roughly my estimate of cryonics working and I've signed up for it. So let's try working with that number.

Out of all the possible scenarios of a Trump presidency, if you leave out 95% of the most positive options, how unpleasant is the best-remaining one? Put another way, is there at least a 5% chance of American or international politics descending to the point where my current apparent paranoia seems reasonable? And don't forget, as you calibrate your answer, that according to FiveThirtyEight, on October 17, Hillary had been predicted to have over an 88% chance of winning, implying that many people, likely including myself, have been massively mis-calibrated about how likely unpleasant political events are.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, Nov. 28 - Dec. 04, 2016 · 2016-12-03T09:45:00.667Z · LW · GW

I want to provide arguments offering further justification for increasing my priority for making personal offline backup copies of various online resources (such as "it's something I've been vaguely wanting to do for some time anyway, I've just never had any particular impetus to get more of the job done than my current mirrors"), but, from inside my head, it's hard to tell whether these are actual reasons or mere rationalizations.

Do facts such as that I've had this username for 15 years, have said "it's not just a nom-de-net, it's a way of life", and already have offline copies of Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg, and several other multi-gigabyte text references, provide a reasonable amount of evidence that my possibly-irrational desired behaviour is merely a continuation of my existing trends, rather than being a step too far?

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, Nov. 28 - Dec. 04, 2016 · 2016-12-03T08:45:47.123Z · LW · GW

I'm having an un-rational moment, and despite knowing that, it's still affecting my behaviour.

Earlier today, my newsfeed included the datum discussed here, of Trump having a phone call with the President of Taiwan; and the item discussed here, about Trump talking about 'shutting down' the Internet. And later, while listening to my music playlist of the Merry Wives of Windsor, one of the tunes that popped up was "Green Fields of France", one version of which can be heard here. And I started wondering whether I was prepared for politics to go in an even more negative direction than I'd thought it might back during the American elections, faster than I thought it might.

Specifically, I have the question stuck in my head: "Have I made the appropriate level of preparations, in case of significant military conflict within the year?". There are a variety of possibilities, from America's Congress passing laws that I find abhorrent, to China engaging in cyberwar against North American network infrastructure, to a minor US/Canadian dispute blowing up to the point Trump convinces some portion of the US military across the border to ensure the continued flow of "vital resources", to worse.

Put another way - I've just finished figuring out what I would want to have done this month if, some time next year, many websites I find valuable become permanently deleted and unrecoverable (in spite of the Internet Archive's efforts). (Part of the answer: the program wget and an archival Blu-Ray burner.)

The thing is, from inside my own head, I can't tell whether my thoughts have been doing this particular set of planning because I'm currently in the middle of one of my bouts of depression, or if it's actually a perfectly reasonable response to modern life and current events. So I'm looking for some external auditing, here where the sanity waterline is reasonably high:

How crazy do I sound to you?

Comment by DataPacRat on Hate Crimes: A Fact Post · 2016-12-02T04:44:21.655Z · LW · GW

In case it may interest you: I've bookmarked this link to use as an inspirational reference for the novel I started writing for NaNoWriMo, for a sub-setting therein in which many members of one group can do terrible things to members of another group without any measurable risk of any measurable repercussions.

Comment by DataPacRat on Open thread, Nov. 28 - Dec. 04, 2016 · 2016-12-01T01:02:25.472Z · LW · GW

If you could pick one music track that, if turned into a music video, could most exemplify the emotions resulting from LW-style rationality, what would that song be?

Comment by DataPacRat on Seeking better name for "Effective Egoism" · 2016-11-30T23:52:28.916Z · LW · GW

(I apologize for not responding sooner; I've just realized I'm in one of my periodic bouts of anhedonia and social procrastination.)

My short absence seems to have given enough time to get a selection of votes in, and since I'm just about to actually apply the results of this discussion to my fiction, it's time to analyze the results.

I'm ruling out 'rational self-interest' as already being used to refer to a closely-related but not-quite-identical concept, so that I can have my characters discuss the differences.

First word:

  • effective: 6
  • rational: 6 (or 4)
  • strategic: 3

It looks like 'rational' or 'effective' beat out all the other suggestions fairly handily. This happens to line up with my own instincts, so I'm willing to take it as confirmation.

Second word:

  • self-interest: 5 (or 3)
  • egoism: 4
  • living: 2
  • self-care: 2
  • well-being: 1

And, again, it looks like we have two clear winners, with enough margin over the others to be confident they're actually the most popular.

Checking the votes of the available combinations of those, though

  • effective self-interest: 3
  • effective egoism: 2
  • rational egoism: 1

... there isn't quite as clear a preference for any one over any of the others. (As in, a single weird voter could have skewed the results.) But it looks like either 'effective egoism' or 'effective self-interest' is going to win out. ... And, at least for fictional purposes, I think I'll apply the Crazy Straws principle and simply have continuing arguments over which of the two terms should be applied in any given case.

Comment by DataPacRat on Seeking better name for "Effective Egoism" · 2016-11-27T14:03:59.332Z · LW · GW

"Do whatever you want"

I /want/ to go camping on Phobos. There are certain practical problems in accomplishing that. Likewise, there are a great many practical problems in accomplishing many other more ordinary things that I want to do; but some of those problems are soluble, depending on the resources I choose to throw at them, but with only a finite amount of resources, I have to make choices about /which/ of my wants to try to full.

Fake Selfishness

choose between dying immediately to save the Earth, or living in comfort for one more year and then dying along with Earth.

I'm aiming for not dying at all. (At least, not permanently.) Which leads, in this case, to not considering there to be much difference between having a few more seconds of life compared to one year of life, if those are the only two options; and as long as humanity survives, then there's a small but reasonable chance of an approximation of my mind being reconstructed, which, while not as good a choice as a full continuation of all my memories, is still better than nothing. So I would selfishly choose to save the Earth.

On the other hand, if I consider the original question...

"Would you sacrifice your own life to save the entire human species?"

... without assuming that I'm a member of humanity doomed to die anyway, such as if I'm an upload; I'm currently drafting a novel in which the consideration of precisely that question is a significant plot point, and it is not a One-Sided Policy Debate.

"If you had to choose one event or the other, would you rather that you stubbed your toe, or that the stranger standing near the wall there gets horribly tortured for fifty years?"

If I live in a world where someone in physical proximity to me is likely to be horribly tortured for fifty years, then I very likely live in a world where /I/ have a moderately high chance of being horribly tortured for fifty years. If I balance the odds, then a certainty of minor pain from a stubbed toe seems a small price to pay to not live in a world with even a moderate chance of me experiencing fifty years of horrible torture.

"Would you steal a thousand dollars from Bill Gates if you could be guaranteed that neither he nor anyone else would ever find out about it?"

Mu; I do not think that such a guarantee is feasible.

Comment by DataPacRat on Seeking better name for "Effective Egoism" · 2016-11-27T13:50:18.737Z · LW · GW

Thank you for pointing out the term 'production-possibility frontier' in this context, which helps clarify some of my thoughts.

As it is, I don't actually disagree with you, in the main. More than once, I've mentioned that it's often the case that considering both effective altruism and effective egoism (by whatever name) as guides tends to lead towards the same behaviour, in most everyday situations.

Comment by DataPacRat on Seeking better name for "Effective Egoism" · 2016-11-27T13:45:49.940Z · LW · GW

effective altruists should be interested in spreading effective self-care both amongst others since altruism is about making others better off, and amongst themselves because if you take good care for yourself you are in a better position to help others, and if you are efficient about it you have more resources to help others.

Consider this line to have gotten an extra thumbs-up from me. :)

"Effective self-care" ... "Effective Egoism"

The fact that you have highlit the differences between these two closely-related concepts, which I hadn't managed to think through on my own, means this thread has been worthwhile whatever the result of the poll might be.

Comment by DataPacRat on Seeking better name for "Effective Egoism" · 2016-11-26T18:24:40.692Z · LW · GW

Yes, yes, we are all fundamentally merely computational algorithms running on the same sort of hardware substrate made of stardust, with no fundamental differences between one another. But if one piece of the universe which my algorithms identify as 'other' comes towards the piece of the universe which my algorithms identify as 'myself' while waving a knife and screaming, I'm still going to treat the 'other' differently than I will treat 'myself' and give myself's desire to run a higher priority than the other's desire to grab my wallet. Other bits of stardust's algorithms will lead to different behaviours, such as surrendering the wallet freely, and my algorithms find it useful to have words that can describe the different behaviours differently. Thus, even if the underlying theory is false, being able to describe the dichotomy still has value in terms of instrumental rationality, and in this case (using a scifi terminology anology), there is no reason to coin a new word like 'smeerp' since the existing term 'rabbit' already exists and is generally understood well enough to allow both thought and communication.

Comment by DataPacRat on Seeking better name for "Effective Egoism" · 2016-11-26T18:15:58.059Z · LW · GW

"Rationality" is the tool, but by itself, doesn't describe what goals and values the tool is being used to promote. There can be rational altruists, rational hedonists, rational omnicidal maniacs who want to eliminate suffering by eliminating life, rational egoists, and so on.

Comment by DataPacRat on Seeking better name for "Effective Egoism" · 2016-11-26T18:14:26.405Z · LW · GW

There are various counter-arguments, such as that if there are too few egoists and too many altruists, then then Overton Window will shift to the point that egoism can become socially disapproved of; or that altruism isn't even necessary for reasonably rational egoists to engage in positive-sum interactions which are nearly indistinguishable from altruistic behaviour, as has been explored in some depth by libertarian philosophers; or that any one egoist is unlikely to be able to persuade any significant number of altruists to become egoists, so the optimal egoist approach is more likely to focus attention on one's own actions rather than persuading others to become egoists; and so on.

Comment by DataPacRat on Seeking better name for "Effective Egoism" · 2016-11-26T18:09:19.082Z · LW · GW

That's a very good suggestion list, and a good link; thank you kindly. :)

Comment by DataPacRat on Seeking better name for "Effective Egoism" · 2016-11-26T08:23:34.848Z · LW · GW

Hm... is it possible that my stab at a temporary term is actually sufficient as a permanent one?