What does it take? 2011-09-12T13:59:47.350Z · score: 2 (6 votes)


Comment by hyena on [link] SMBC on utilitarianism and vegatarianism. · 2012-01-19T10:22:29.164Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, that's my point. There's all these arguments hanging around here and when you take any of the general approaches, like utility theory, you tend to bump into them with nasty consequences. As I said: I don't really have a way to "solve" this.

Comment by hyena on Does Hyperbolic Discounting Really Exist? · 2011-12-03T10:39:54.864Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

So far as I recall, Ainslie's thesis is that the various "modules" of the brain have hyperbolic discount curves which are then composed to yield an exponential curve. Akrasia is what happens when particularly strong specific impulses spike above the exponential discount curve. Ainslie predicts what you actually see: lots of people making rational decisions punctuated by failures of "willpower" large and small.

I'm also unsure whether you're overstating LessWrong's obsession with akrasia. It's never felt over-generalized. The focus on it seems reasonable enough insofar as LeWers seem to be drawn heavily from students and techies, two groups for whom akrasia can be particularly destructive. So even if hyperbolic discounting is rarer (than I'm still not sure what), the expected negative value of akrasia may be particularly high for LeWers, leading to its perennial popularity.

Comment by hyena on LW Philosophers versus Analytics · 2011-12-01T02:23:40.872Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Your target populations are very different. Your average philosophy undergrad is closer to your average undergrad than is the average LeWer. Pitting LeWers against philosophy undergrads who spend substantial amounts of their time on unassigned philosophical investigation and discussion seems a more fair fight, at least if you also handicap LeWers for age.

Comment by hyena on How rationality can make your life more awesome · 2011-11-30T22:53:54.002Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Shokwave got it more or less in narrative form. Thinking rationally gives you a shot at breaking path dependence before you get too far gone to turn back.

Comment by hyena on What I think about you · 2011-11-30T22:45:49.299Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The irony of this thread is that there are, atm, 24 comments, one post and 46 karma points between them. So either there's a lot of counterbalancing karma or no one wants to opine!

Comment by hyena on Life Extension versus Replacement · 2011-11-30T22:41:07.824Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This presumes that extending the life of an existing person by 100 years precludes the creation of a new person with a lifespan of 100 years. We will be motivated to prefer the former scenario because it is difficult for us to feel its relevance to the latter.

Comment by hyena on Might I ask for some advice? · 2011-11-28T03:12:04.126Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, he's probably not wrong but he's also not relevant. The OP probably isn't importing the meme directly from 19th century France. In the US, you import the meme from two general sources: hippies or the tech industry. Given the author's own description of his life, the tech industry seems most likely.

But who knows: maybe he's a meme hipster and only imports French originals?

Comment by hyena on Might I ask for some advice? · 2011-11-18T09:15:49.660Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Facts that need to be cleared first: (1) you are 22, (2) "passion" is a meme imported from the tech industry.

You shouldn't have a sense of direction at 22. If you do, you're doing it wrong; it means forswearing experimentation, which is a huge net positive endeavor at that age.

People usually develop a sense of direction because of path dependence. Since you are not in a professional major, dependence is weak. The down economy, with its ebb of opportunity and grim signals, worsens any confusion. If you feel you are even more confused than you should be, that's probably the reason.

The passion thing is just what techies talk about to thump their chests. It means whatever the speaker needs it to, just ignore it.

Comment by hyena on Query the LessWrong Hivemind · 2011-11-08T12:59:35.794Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

If you query Less Wrong, what is the probability that the median response is acceptably close to correct? Please provide confidence intervals, feel free to break out any classes of propositions if you feel that it would be unfair/poor form/not very fun at all to group all classes together but explain why.

Comment by hyena on Low legibility of Cognitive Reflection Test dramatically improves performance? · 2011-11-08T12:53:46.437Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What is the proposed mechanism? Is it that they think harder about it or simply that they read more carefully? Test design criteria often specify a number of interventions to prevent mistaken readings (for example, using "NOT" rather than "not" or emphasizing queries in bold type after a long paragraph).

Comment by hyena on A clever argument for buying lottery tickets · 2011-11-07T03:59:19.934Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I see that Wei_Dai has come up with the answer. I was unwilling to dedicate the time to it, as your example was needlessly overgrown. I should have simply said nothing save that. My apologies.

Comment by hyena on A clever argument for buying lottery tickets · 2011-11-04T23:53:07.831Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think this works because you're submitting to the same probabilistic calculation but muddying the waters, so somewhere you should be missing something which pushes expected value in line and makes it a bad decision. There's also the issue that no lottery has proper payoffs where expected value is par.

A better argument is to note that we lose money with little utility gained all the time because we don't intuit our accounts very well unless we're close to the edge of them by some factor. In that case, buying lottery tickets is a good bet up to edge * factor because they have a higher expected value than simply losing the money altogether.

Comment by hyena on Do we have it too easy? · 2011-11-03T20:44:40.602Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One of the things Yudkowsky has done very well is coin memorable phrases for questions about cognitive bias or poor reasoning. Terms like "true rejection" are great mnemonics. But there is also a danger--which Yudkowsky himself would recognize--of forming a group identity around this patois.

That's the jargon I'm talking about. You should think twice before adopting these terms when writing or speaking.

Comment by hyena on Whole Brain Emulation: Looking At Progress On C. elgans · 2011-11-02T16:11:10.116Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe. I read a massive quantity of material daily, on the order of 80-90,000 words some weeks. This is combined with comment across a variety of forums and fields. I rely heavily on cues from websites to keep straight who I'm talking to and that I'm even on the right submission forms when I say something.

Comment by hyena on Do we have it too easy? · 2011-11-02T04:24:33.299Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

To avoid cult mode, try to avoid the local jargon. That will help you keep some distance by not turning on your slogan-loyalty loop. I've avoided this because I remember when this topic space was young, none of these sites existed and this sort of thing was still the stuff of excited conversation among college students. It's nice to see it all laid out in various places, but it will never appear to me as the work of monumental genius it does to some people.

Comment by hyena on Whole Brain Emulation: Looking At Progress On C. elgans · 2011-11-02T04:19:30.701Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Nothing to clarify, actually. I apologize; I've been busy and the header switch occasioned by using the context link threw me. It changes the title to "XXXX comments on YYYY". Not being someone who comments consistently, this tends to make me mistake who originally posted because it plants an association between the person I'm replying to and the title of the post.

Comment by hyena on Whole Brain Emulation: Looking At Progress On C. elgans · 2011-11-01T21:35:57.214Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"The first time around" for the OPer is the OP, from which it is absent and in which you identify the problem as incomplete attempts.

Comment by hyena on Whole Brain Emulation: Looking At Progress On C. elgans · 2011-11-01T13:45:15.306Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So why not just say "to clarify, I believe that we do not have enough knowledge of C. elegans' neuroanatomy to build new models at this time. We need to devote more work to studying that before we can build newer models"? That's a perfectly valid objection, but it contradicts your original post, which states that C. elegans is well understood neurologically.

If you believe that we cannot build effective models "without [additional] direct observation", then you have done two things: you've objected to the consensus that C. elegans is well understood and provided a criterion (and effective upload model of its neuroanatomy) for judging how well we understand.

Comment by hyena on Whole Brain Emulation: Looking At Progress On C. elgans · 2011-10-31T20:08:18.694Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think the problem here is that you think that each instance of a simulation is actually an "attempt". A simulation is a model of some behavior; unlike climbing Everest (which I did in 2003), taming Pegasus (in -642) or repelling the Golden Horde (1257 - 1324, when I was called away on urgent business in Stockholm), each run of a model is a trial, not an attempt. Each iteration of the model is an attempt, as is each new model.

We need more attempts. We learn something different from each one.

Comment by hyena on Whole Brain Emulation: Looking At Progress On C. elgans · 2011-10-31T15:22:42.501Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Everything that fails does for a reason and in a way. In engineering, mere bugs aside, everything fails at the frontier of our knowledge and our failures carry information about the shape of that frontier back to us. We learn what problems need to be overcome and can, with many failures, generalize what the overall frontier is like, connect its problems and create concepts which solve many at once.

Comment by hyena on Why would we think artists perform better on drugs ? · 2011-10-31T11:15:29.176Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There is a severe methodological problem here. The appropriate point of comparison is not between artists and the general population, but between artists and others whose social standing is not negatively impacted by drug use. The latter group, which includes much of the poor but also plenty of upper-middle class people in California, seem to have much higher rates of drug use than American Average Person.

That would likely explain the entire problem. As to historically significant alcoholics, my impression has been that drinking problems were more severe (much more) in the past.

Comment by hyena on Whole Brain Emulation: Looking At Progress On C. elgans · 2011-10-29T17:51:45.589Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This depends on whether the problem is the basic complexity of modeling a neural network or learning how to do it. If the former, then we may be looking at a long time. But if it's the latter, then we really just need more attempts, successful or not, to learn from and a framework which allows a leap in understanding could arrive.

Comment by hyena on Is math subjective? · 2011-10-27T17:29:04.318Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Subjective worlds must be causally closed; they cannot transmit information to other worlds since that would break the principle that each world is subjective. As such, there can be no subjective reality: if subjective reality were true, causal closure would demand that your observations about the world are semantically equivalent to a world in which you are alone as an observer.

For example, imagine that we lived in Minecraft, which has a procedurally generated world. We use a seed (say "404") to kick off the algorithm. But say instead that we use a seed and the username of the player. Is World 404 different for each user?

No; there is no "World 404", there is World 404-TheatreAddict and World 404-Hyena and so on. The reason is that the function we use to generate the world takes two variables, seed and username, to work. A world can only be defined by this pair and has no existence independent of it. Naturally, this world is causally closed; my playing does not effect yours, you will never see my buildings nor will you ever send me angry messages about burning down 16 chunks of forest.

While this world is trivially objective, all objections to a subjectivity thesis are trivial because it is trivially untrue or unprovable. Every attempt to prove it will require a condition, like causal closure, which collapses it to a special case of objective reality. The simplest of these is the resolution to the subjective proposition itself, independent of worlds: if everything is subjective, that principle itself is objective.

Comment by hyena on [LINK] Non-Conformists Better At Working Toward Common Good · 2011-10-27T16:50:02.159Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

From the "relevant link":

"Participants' conformity was measured by how much they wished to conform to social expectations and be seen in a positive light, known as 'social desirability'. They completed a standardised measure and were also asked about their attitude towards paying tax. People who score highly on social desirability are more likely to conform, for example by paying tax, and agree with others. The researchers expected that they would be more likely to co-operate as well."

Properly, they are not measuring conformity. What they have done is asked people to signal whether they want to be identified as a "member in good standing". This seems like an excellent way to generate an error because it also selects for people who have an incentive to be seen this way. People who are not particularly good at working with others or who lack competence will need to signal group identity more. This could explain why "conformists" appear to be worse at cooperating.

Comment by hyena on Subjective and Objective Reality: My Essay · 2011-10-27T16:41:04.267Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The opening is really bad and the essay is poorly organized. Do you have an outline of where you want this to go?

Comment by hyena on [LINK] Loss of local knowledge affecting intellectual trends · 2011-10-23T21:37:28.504Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Phlogiston was a substance hypothesized to explain fire, my comment supposes an architecture of pre-existing mechanisms which appear just as plausible as what the OP proposes.

You've aggressively chopped from my comment relevant details, for example, the qualifier "prima facie", which negates your objections.

You're overly presumptive about memes, presuming that we need to personally observe a complete trajectory from baby to success. This is not so; it is sufficient that we observe highly skilled people which are financial successes and ask about their trajectory.

Comment by hyena on Insulin Signaling and Autism · 2011-10-23T13:14:08.526Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm glad someone else has taken up the cause of telling people to take it easy.

Comment by hyena on Things you are supposed to like · 2011-10-23T13:10:02.510Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I will submit two things first: (1) Jackson Pollock paintings are excellent, that you don't like them just demonstrates you're not in their audience; (2) the normal way for Burning Man to change someone's life completely is through drug use.

Over the course of my art history degree, not once did anyone insist I had to like any work. I had to recognize its importance--either as inspiration others drew on or as an exemplar of some type--but never actually be attached to any of the work. I think this tendency to demand others like a work is unserious. But this is where I wonder about the work "like" is doing.

I'm not a fan of Bouguereau, for example, but I actually "like" his work in the sense that I often trot it out when I need an example of late academic painting. In fact, he might actually be my most-referenced artist and I admit that, while I wouldn't hang any of it on my wall, I have a certain affinity for his work borne entirely of my distaste for it. I think you should consider this possibility: experts "like" a work in this sense--it is useful to them in explanation--but not in the "hang it on my wall" sense but others posture using the term but not really understanding what is meant by the expert.

Naturally, I think the posturers are fairly useless and have since my seminar days.

Comment by hyena on [LINK] Loss of local knowledge affecting intellectual trends · 2011-10-23T12:39:06.619Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Consider a separate possibility: competition and opportunity abounds in urban areas, placing additional value on intelligence and skill acquisition. Since there is nothing which can be done about intelligence, really, focusing on skill acquisition is a better strategy. Parents who believe very thoroughly in the nurture argument may be much more willing to invest heavily in their child's education, expecting far greater benefits than are actually possible. Because the perceived value of success is higher it succeeds more often in the face of discounting.

In this case, the false belief is highly adaptive socially, with people adhering to it acquiring better positions in society. While this does not really lend itself to much genetic replication, meme spread should accelerate. I think that, prima facie, we should prefer this explanation; because it does not rely on stories LessWrongians may find aggrandizing, it is less likely that we will be accepting this narrative through bias.

Comment by hyena on [link] SMBC on utilitarianism and vegatarianism. · 2011-10-22T06:14:55.509Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Are you talking about objections or disgust? I can, through emotional manipulation, make you "object" to many things, but these don't occupy the same space as considered argument.

Comment by hyena on [link] SMBC on utilitarianism and vegatarianism. · 2011-10-16T21:07:22.237Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is perfectly well true, but I'm not interested in addressing this because I have never known this to be anyone's sufficient objection to eating meat.

Would you eat a well-treated chicken? How about a deer instantly killed by a Predator drone equipped to vaporize its brain faster than neurons react?

Comment by hyena on [link] SMBC on utilitarianism and vegatarianism. · 2011-10-16T21:01:18.833Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

First, see my thing on irrelevant critiques and context agreement.

Second, your question suggests an answer which we would generally find repugnant. We could likewsie ask whether it matters so much if, for example, they are doomed to die when a small bomb planted in their brain at birth goes off without which their birth would have not occurred.

Comment by hyena on [link] SMBC on utilitarianism and vegatarianism. · 2011-10-16T19:48:19.915Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I think the ethics of farming is another place where problems in utilitarianism crop up.

There's a Parfitian argument that, since none of these animals would have existed otherwise, then killing them for food is no problem. But this would also apply to farming people, whether for food or chattel slavery, which we find repugnant. Obviously, though, this world is just as utility maximizing as Hanson's Malthusian em soup universe, neither of which seem particularly "good" (in fact, it is the em soup, just with fleshy people).

I don't have a "solution" to this, I think it just demonstrates one of the edges of utility theory's map.

Comment by hyena on [SEQ RERUN] Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2011-10-16T02:06:54.268Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(1) It is a bad idea for everyone to go to college, at least as college is currently (4 years, etc.). College is foremost a technology for learning; it has advantages and disadvantages. If you need the advantages of this model, then go. However, it's a well-known fact, at least in the arts, that it is not ideal; that field also contains "schools" and "institutes" with differing educational models and environments.

The problem with Huffman is he has decided here to break with the plain meaning of my statement within the context of the debate; when people discuss this topic, they do not track through adversarial dynamics involving job markets. Instead, you cut straight through to the optimal outcome where if college is not good for everybody, then it is something we shouldn't demand, either, unless it really is the only/best source of a skill set.

(2) I don't, but his comment is also an irrelevant extension of what we're discussing. It's as if I was trying to model the orbit of Mars well enough to find it with a telescope only to have someone criticize that Newtonian mechanics is superseded by relativistic mechanics. It's true, I agree, but it is not important to what I'm doing and just makes things unnecessarily complicated therefore. This habit is common amongst analytical people, it should be guarded against.

(3) Context agreement is where we establish a limited domain of possibilities before proceeding. This is why when I talk say "endian" in a programming course, I don't need to worry much that a hand will shoot up to ask "do you mean Native Americans or people of the Subcontinent?" In conversation, it limits confusion; in argument, it prevents global skepticism because when I say "I know I'm in Los Angeles" we agree that we're talking in a "naive" sense and there's no need to interject with "but how do you know you know?"

When we break context agreement in an argument, we must constantly and hopelessly reconstruct justifications. These are the pyrrhonic depths. After the sort of skepticism. I consider this to be "aggressive" in that it rapidly makes conversation unworkable; other types just create hidden problems we can safely ignore or introduce avenues we need, albeit with potholes we'll need to grin and bear for a bit. "Aggressive skepticism" simply opens a sinkhole which swallows the whole town.

Comment by hyena on [SEQ RERUN] Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2011-10-15T01:07:37.013Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Because you've drilled as far as you can before making a determination.

Comment by hyena on Don't call yourself a rationalist. · 2011-10-15T00:58:47.613Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I always call you all "LessWrongians" or "the people at LessWrong" sometimes also using the word "dudes".

Comment by hyena on [SEQ RERUN] Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2011-10-15T00:55:16.415Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Downvoted for motivating an aggressive sort of skepticism: you've denied context agreement and therefore sent us straight to the pyrrhonic depths.

Comment by hyena on [SEQ RERUN] Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2011-10-09T19:14:52.475Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not confdent about which part? Skeptics or college-as-seminary?

Comment by hyena on [SEQ RERUN] Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2011-10-09T13:07:51.534Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Individual IQ differences are, in general "not okay"; racial IQ differences are downright verboten. I won't discuss either in certain company for fear of attracting any number of labels, with the exception of the effect of lead on IQ, which is a soapbox I mount often.

As ArisKastaris points out, those labels should adhere to you more often than not. I tend to think that this is because the rest of us have never developed a decent realm of discussion which includes IQ. I get the same feeling with the "not everybody should attend college" crowd, since it too often seems to consist of high status inviduals from elite schools vastly overstating their case. That is, signaling their status. (In fact, unless you're super interested in becoming a professor, you probably shouldn't attend college in the same way non-priests shouldn't have taken up seminary.)

Well, really, there are different classes of people who should attend college: would-be professors, poor autodidacts, akrasics, people who need separation from society for a few years. Probably others. The irony is that the people I thnk should be least interested in college are often those that are most interested in explaining why they but not others should attend.

Comment by hyena on Mike Darwin on Steve Jobs's hypocritical stance towards death · 2011-10-08T18:32:02.404Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by hyena on Mike Darwin on Kurzweil, Techno-Optimism, and Delusional Stances on Cryonics · 2011-10-08T18:30:05.894Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I feel like I have a fairly good shot at living forever without cryonics. I wouldn't give it 93%, but still.

Comment by hyena on Mike Darwin on Steve Jobs's hypocritical stance towards death · 2011-10-08T18:21:12.346Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've been observing my parents' rollover to 50 the last two years. As it happens, I'm also visiting them at this moment, so this is a salient dynamic to me. My stepfather has gone from hard ass to laid back from 50 to 52. My mother, looking at 50 is rearranging her priorities extensively. They've sold houses, left jobs, planned extensive vacations and so on. Priorities have shifted massively as have more general perceptions of life and success; both emphasize their age more and seem to use it as a social enabler to actually take on the early retirement they could have done years ago. They both point to their age, particularly the leading five when explaining themselves.

It is like a bit has flipped and this has been the background process in my mind since Wednesday when I flew out for a funeral. (Naturally, I could go on, given the family reunion status of funerals, the mix of ages and particularly the binary feeling of change you sometimes get when meeting people again after years.) So while this thought may be furthest from your mind meditations on "becoming an old man" have been a major component of mine.

Comment by hyena on Mike Darwin on Steve Jobs's hypocritical stance towards death · 2011-10-08T15:30:16.543Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

He would have been 50 that year, right? Isn't that usually a psychologically important age for most people which definitively separates the young and old?

Comment by hyena on Mike Darwin on Steve Jobs's hypocritical stance towards death · 2011-10-08T12:23:06.984Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Unless, you know, as Jobs got older and became less of a youth-obsessed person, his "utility of death" view was abandoned.

Comment by hyena on . · 2011-10-06T09:21:27.782Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I usually assume certain situations happen under "Crocker's or silence"; for example, I think most productive enterprise should be carried out in this fashion, Crocker's in discussion and silence in generation.

Comment by hyena on Peter Thiel warns of upcoming (and current) stagnation · 2011-10-06T09:10:09.827Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think I agree with you about Daniel Boone in space, that if the (personal) resource costs were more tolerable we'd start seeing it. What I'm missing originally is the number of people willing to pay even millions of dollars to simply skim the surface of our atmosphere, a healthy portion of which don't seem primarily motivated by status. So yes, you're coorect that we'd probably have had a lunar colony if it were feasible to deliver people at fairly low cost; in fact, if the cost is low enough, I can see this as highly likely both for Daniel Boones and high risk research.

It would not so much matter if an accident released a virus into the lunar vacuum or obliterated several square miles of lunar surface, but we might have found it useful to station researchers or at least maintenance there to carry this out without communications lag or other issues.

Comment by hyena on Peter Thiel warns of upcoming (and current) stagnation · 2011-10-06T04:21:11.674Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This seems like an interesting idea but it exaggerates things. First of all, I think that everyone thought that there was a large amount of overlap between research being done in the both the US and the USSR (look at the space programs for example). Second, the USSR did do a lot of very good research on their own (look for example how many Nobel and Fields medal they won as a very rough metric).

A quick and dirty estimation: the US shows 331 Nobel Prizes, France shows 58, Germany shows 102; Russia shows 27. Russia is also notably larger than either France or Germany, which it trails badly, and would have been the great majority of people in the Soviet Union.

This table of Fields medal winners shows only 3 for the USSR and 18 for the USA over the period in which the Soviet Union existed.

I think that this belief isn't misplaced. The cost and tech issues seem to be more relevant. Being Daniel Boone in space is really expensive.

The locus here is not "being" but "playing"; "playing Daniel Boone in space" conveys the notion of an unserious, wasteful endeavor. It turns out that people are not actually all that eager to waste those resources for the "thrill of adventure" or "to be pioneers" or the like; yet much of the popular science and science fiction seems to assume this motive, possibly because it was first vigorously marketed to young males at a time when Westerns were a dominant narrative mode.

Asimov wrote an essay for the World Book Encyclopedia in which he laid out what he thought was going to happen.

Asimov was, however, a biochemist and a writer. He wasn't an aerospace engineer or an important physicist; he certainly wasn't someone in a position or with expertise to actually know the feasibility of what he was discussing. In most respects, he was more a member of the media than a member of the sciences; he is certainly more remembered that way, no?

Comment by hyena on Peter Thiel warns of upcoming (and current) stagnation · 2011-10-05T04:41:19.767Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, the more I read over Thiel's essay, the more I question our ideas about the future at mid century. For example:

--How many of those predictions were based on the erroneous belief that communist states were also valiantly leading the charge of progress? We now know that half the world essentially squandered five decades of human progress.

--To what extent were they underestimating the technical challenges involved?

--How many misplaced ideas about society were there? Many ideas, like interplanetary colonization, seemed to spring from a belief that people would want to play Daniel Boone in space suits.

--How much of it was driven by the now commonly understood ability of media to twist scientific findings? The world seems very different when you think that physics just created infinite energy or psychologists had just discovered how to completely unravel the mind.

And, to me, most importantly:

--What was the cost of overactive imagination? I feel like there is a lot of cynicism driven by failed futures which were wildly implausible either technically or socially. I remember that old science fiction liked to speculate about interplanetary travel and living in spaceships in the 1990s. Rotting magazines laying around the garages of grandparents seemed to present these fantasies as a fact about the near future. The sort of cynicism bred by none of this happening because none of it was really plausible could be fatal. (I for one fell into cyberpunk, so I've been getting a good serving of future. :P)

Comment by hyena on Private Manned Moonbase in the 1990s, Yet Another Planning Fallacy · 2011-10-05T04:27:00.748Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think this should be read in conjunction with Peter Thiel's essay about stagnating innovation, where he talks about how society views technological progress. What I think Thiel misses is just how much the sense of progress was driven by a misestimation of the engineering--not to mention social--challenges to the future envisioned at mid century. The Artemis Project seems like an example of this sort of thinking.

I've been accused, rather angrily, of being unimaginative, but I feel like overactive imagination killed people's love of progress and so I have a duty to offer plausible near futures and pour some cold water on overactive imaginings.

Comment by hyena on Peter Thiel warns of upcoming (and current) stagnation · 2011-10-05T01:02:33.663Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Given that productivity growth was slow for most of human history, it seems more appropriate to ask why it was so fast for a while. I keep thinking it may have been that manufacturing precision reached a point where we could drink a couple centuries of scientific milkshake.