Getting Over Dust Theory 2009-12-15T22:40:55.602Z · score: 8 (14 votes)


Comment by jhuffman on Checking for the Programming Gear · 2012-09-14T19:18:20.470Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

People that code at 60 wpm without even stopping to consider their algorithms, data structures or APIs, but manage at the end of an hour to have a tight, unit-tested, efficient and readable module.

I've never seen this or even imagined it can happen. I can't even write comments or pseudo-code that fast (without pause) because I can't design that fast.

Comment by jhuffman on Russian plan for immortality [link] · 2012-08-03T17:26:29.443Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I interpret this as pandering to people who cannot presently comprehend how you can be alive without a body. I doubt it is a serious plan. But I think its more likely there is no plan to do anything but get funded.

Comment by jhuffman on Malthusian copying: mass death of unhappy life-loving uploads · 2012-07-02T19:01:07.845Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So you would contrive to make it illegal and/or impossible for an upload to do any productive work? At least none that they receive more benefit from than the average of all others?

Comment by jhuffman on One possible issue with radically increased lifespan · 2012-06-01T19:45:45.167Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I still find myself tempted to make fun of people who are just today learning the lesson of that comic - e.g. those original down-voters.

Comment by jhuffman on One possible issue with radically increased lifespan · 2012-06-01T19:37:23.802Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This "mechanism" provides no facility for spontaneous generation of new matter and energy resources.

Comment by jhuffman on How can I argue without people online and not come out feeling bad? · 2012-06-01T16:49:48.245Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You probably shouldn't spend 100% of your time exploring even very high quality counter arguments. Rather, you should probably spend some time on it.

Comment by jhuffman on File Under "Keep Your Identity Small" · 2012-04-07T03:20:43.281Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm interested in your ideas for such an app - how would you interact with it? The only ideas I come up with amount to window dressing on a journal.

Comment by jhuffman on Forked Russian Roulette and Anticipation of Survival · 2012-04-07T03:06:02.623Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, 100% is my expectation for both outcomes as well. Otherwise it wouldn't be a fork.

Comment by jhuffman on [deleted post] 2012-03-30T20:53:55.503Z

Other issue is that it is a hostage situation, and even in normal human hostage situations, whenever you should, or should not give the money to the hostage holder, depends solely to whenever you have higher probability that the hostages will be killed (or tortured) if money are given, than if money are not given.

Actually in real life, we also consider the future consequences of unspecified potential future hostage takers who may be motivated to take hostages if they see a hostage taker paid off. This is ostensibly why the USG will not (directly) pay off a hostage taker.

Also, we have to consider the value of the money, and our next best alternative to saving a hostages life. For example, if Dr. Evil is holding a hostage (doesn't matter who) for $1B, and you know we will not catch him if you pay him off, then you should probably just let him execute the hostage and use the money to buy food for a few thousand starving people somewhere who are just as desperate.

Comment by jhuffman on How can people be actually converted? · 2012-02-10T00:26:33.157Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm sure this is true in some cases but not all of them. I've barely ever talked to anyone about my own fall from grace as a child and then again after a relapse in my teens, it was almost a completely introspective experience although what is interesting is that my relapse into Christianity was very much a social product. Still, atheism has never been an important part of my identity. In my mind the fact that I don't watch televised sporting contests sets me further apart from my peers than the fact that I'm an atheist.

I de-converted my wife just by being an atheist and never making a big deal about it one way or another; I think she just needed to see an example of someone getting along fine without the theism.

Comment by jhuffman on The problem with too many rational memes · 2012-01-21T00:12:58.419Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Comes off as transparent and condescending to me. I'm sure I can tell the difference between my dead grandmother signalling me with spoons and my own memories, thank you very much.

Comment by jhuffman on The problem with too many rational memes · 2012-01-20T23:58:28.182Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes but these effects can be very short-lived.

Comment by jhuffman on [LINK] Two articles on Bitcoin · 2012-01-12T20:11:12.328Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

On the subject of 2.

People have speculated "could a government stop Bitcoin".

The answer is an unqualified "Yes", and the project will tell you the same thing. All it takes is having over 51% of the computing power of the world's mining operations.

A fork of Bitcoin called CoildCoin was killed by Luke-Jr. He explains his reasons for it a few pages into that thread, but basically he considered CoiledCoin to be fraudulent and/or a threat to Bitcoin. He claims he used only his own resources but its possible he used a large mining pool he operates.

Now the Bitcoin FAQ will tell you that there are a lot of limits to what you can do with 51% - little more than double-spending your own coins. That is enough though - once people know that the blockchain is corrupt they will walk away from it.

I've seen estimates that for only $80MM you could have an order of magnitutde more processeing power than the entire pool of miners that were operating at the peak last summer (many of who could come back online quickly). This puts the destruction of Bitcoin easily into the operating budgets of most Nation states, lots of companies and quite a few individuals.

Comment by jhuffman on Utopian hope versus reality · 2012-01-12T19:41:33.215Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes but this trade benefits both parties. While the labor is "cheap" it pays better than if there weren't so many foreign companies building factories in that labor market. So in terms of aggregate quality of life I do not think this can be much of an objection in itself - the fact that all sorts of exploitation typically accompanies such trade not withstanding.

I understand what you are saying though: the total cost in person-hours to maintain a particular standard of living should maybe be taken into account - although I think this can be misleading. For example in places where labor for personal servants is very cheap there are a lot more of them - some of my peers who are from India had several servants working in their home, driving their cars etc. It was almost looked at as an obligation to hire these people. In every other way to measure wealth they made more money after immigrating to the US but of course could not afford such services here.

Comment by jhuffman on What jobs are safe in an automated future? · 2012-01-12T17:45:59.305Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe but its still easily 50 years away. People are "messy" but they are so cheap and you need so few of them - there is no capital tied up in them at all its just a month-to-month expense. Even if you lease equipment you are still paying for the cost of the capital tied up in it. The diminishing returns for automating such a small cost will ensure its continuity for quite some time I think.

Comment by jhuffman on Utopian hope versus reality · 2012-01-12T17:42:38.538Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Are you saying we should not buy things from poor people?

Comment by jhuffman on Q&A with experts on risks from AI #3 · 2012-01-12T17:40:09.024Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think a lot of people make this mistake, to think that "very bad things" is equivalently bad to extinction - or even is extinction. It is unlikely that large scale nuclear war will extinguish the species, it is far beyond unlikely that global warning would extinguish humans. It is extremely unlikely large scale biological weapons usage by terrorists or states would extinguish humanity. But because we know for a certain fact that these things could happen and have even come close to happening or are beginning to happen, and because they are so terrible its just not really possible for most people to keep enough perspective to recognize that things not likely to happen really soon but that will eventually be possible are actually much more dangerous in terms of capability for extinction.

Comment by jhuffman on What jobs are safe in an automated future? · 2012-01-12T15:40:18.191Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

All these labor saving devices, even factories, are integrated by humans. While the productivity per worker skyrockets (fewer workers needed per X units of output), there is no factory that runs without people who do generally very easy tasks that are very difficult to automate.

The summer after high school I worked in a spray bottle factory. Yes, we made the spray nozzles like come on a bottle of windex. My job was to keep the bins full of the little parts that fed into the machine that assembled them. I also helped unload the boxes of the parts from the carts and stacked them near the bin where they needed to go. Someone else somewhere had a job to handle the "raw" plastic for machine that melted and molded the parts I needed. Someone else put the different parts in different boxes sorted for the cart driver.

These tasks were of course absurdly easy for any human to do with about five minutes of training. Somehow automating all this together into a single factory chain would have presented enormous challenges though. Because the labor is so cheap I could easily imagine that factory will run the same way for the next fifty years.

Comment by jhuffman on What jobs are safe in an automated future? · 2012-01-12T15:27:37.363Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think that may the only job that could be safe for a given length of time. Eventually what you own will be superseded by something owned by someone else, and what you own will be worthless. If you are constantly investing in different products, markets and technologies you might stay ahead of it for a long time but that isn't what most people think of as a "safe job". I think what people are asking for in a "safe job" does not and will not exist.

Comment by jhuffman on Utopian hope versus reality · 2012-01-12T15:24:02.215Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The set of average european noblemen from 500 years ago does not include 8th century anyones. Yes, I am aware that different people hold different opinions. You asked a very speculative question about what an average member might think. So, thats all I have to say about it.

Comment by jhuffman on Procedural knowledge gap: public key encryption · 2012-01-12T15:20:11.928Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

GPG seems to be gaining mindshare. It is an open-source set of libraries and command line tools that inherits a lot of the interface from PGP (which is proprietary).

I have used the Cryptophane interface on windows and it makes it pretty easy to generate keys and manage them in your local keystore as well as to sign, encrpyt and decrypt arbitrary text. This would get tedious if you did a lot of email though but based on what you described I think it would work well for you.

Here is a link to other front-end tools for GPG:

Comment by jhuffman on Utopian hope versus reality · 2012-01-12T15:04:10.645Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

We are not discussing what I think are good things. We are discussing what an average European nobleman 500 years ago might think. I think they would be pleased to hear how much more straightforward it is to buy influence these days, and how unlikely it is that buying that from the wrong person is likely to end up with your head in a basket.

Comment by jhuffman on Utopian hope versus reality · 2012-01-12T15:00:14.498Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

We are talking about a specific time and place. 500 years ago in Europe a lot of duels were still deadly.

Also, just because duels may have been necessary for gaining and maintaining status at that time doesn't mean that individuals would prefer that the most successful status seeking strategies were so dangerous. Today, you do not risk your life in the status games, and yes I think that would appeal to many average noblemen even 500 years ago.

Comment by jhuffman on Utopian hope versus reality · 2012-01-11T22:18:58.626Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The wealthy elite is sharing power?

With each other, yes.

Comment by jhuffman on Utopian hope versus reality · 2012-01-11T21:51:10.919Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I hate to admit it but sometimes I hope that is what I'm doing.

Comment by jhuffman on Utopian hope versus reality · 2012-01-11T21:24:16.241Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Yes but one of the reasons this is true is we tend to greatly discount all the suffering for ourselves that has been alleviated. Even if we are cynical, there is still less suffering.

Comment by jhuffman on Utopian hope versus reality · 2012-01-11T21:22:40.685Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

They might approve of the elite not being driven by boredom to constantly murder each other in useless duels. They might approve of the wealthy elite sharing the power rather than consolidating it with a king or emperor. They'd probably approve of Cinemax After Dark.

Comment by jhuffman on Bill Gates asks HS students "What are most important choices the world faces"? · 2012-01-11T21:16:05.865Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

What is the point of this?

Comment by jhuffman on [Template] Questions regarding possible risks from artificial intelligence · 2012-01-11T15:53:47.902Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with deleting Q5 and Q6 because not only would I not expect useful responses but also because it may come off as "extremist" if any respondents are not already familiar with UFAI concepts (or if they are familiar and overtly dismissive of them).

Comment by jhuffman on Utopian hope versus reality · 2012-01-11T15:23:53.250Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for writing this, it is a very good analysis of what I sometimes find to be a pretty creepy trend. It helps me understand some of my reservations about this story link that was posted recently.

History is full of new things coming to pass, but they have never yet led to utopia.

This is not convincing because 10,000 years is a pretty small sample size.

Comment by jhuffman on [Link] There is nothing like "intelligence", only an evolution is going on · 2012-01-10T22:14:11.535Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This article isn't about intelligence, its about innovation. He's talking specifically about the "lightbulb moment" - the inspriation part of invention. I don't think there is anything at all original about the article except the tortured analogy to evolution.

Comment by jhuffman on [Link] There is nothing like "intelligence", only an evolution is going on · 2012-01-10T22:11:09.793Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I don't know how other programmers do things, but what I do is I create models at various levels of abstractions, and play with those models until it occurs to me what ought to happen next. Like, I draw on the whiteboard with someone, and we generate all the known solutions we have and usually a known solution or pattern just needs to be adapted. So we're copying. Often, the adaptions aren't immediately obvious when you go down a couple levels and start actually coding it, and so I play around with a couple of different ideas, or maybe I'm guided by theory and just have to think it through and problem solve for this circumstance - which would be copying.

If I'm dissatisfied at any point and have exhausted my search space, what I'm going to do next is enlarge that search space by talking to more people or doing research. Copying.

Every now and then - but pretty rarely - something novel will occur to me that will out-compete all the ideas I already have or can find in research. And so there a new idea made it into the code. And if someone asks me how I came up with, I'll just describe the problem, and the search space and the research and so on, and then shrug. Because the idea seems pretty obvious in hindsight I just shrug away this question of where the idea came from.

It would be difficult to overstate the power of our abstraction and modeling, because it allows us to quickly test for fitness a rash of approaches iteratively. And in the process of that novel ideas do occur and get worked in and then communicated. But I am not at all certain the genesis of most of those ideas isn't more or less random, in the sense the author means it. Indeed most engineering work is copying, as the author terms it.

Comment by jhuffman on Non-theist cinema? · 2012-01-10T17:37:12.019Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It is very presumptuous of you to assume that I have an intiative like this. What I was really asking you is if there is any utilons offset that would change your mind - but I guess that really just amounts to asking if you are a utilitarian.

Comment by jhuffman on "Talking with God", a transhumanist short story · 2012-01-10T15:16:03.732Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I suppose that is one thing. I've been trying to figure out exactly what it is that bothers me about it, and I think my problem is that it suggests that Transhumanists are looking for some authoritative feedback that they are on the right path. Not that anyone would confuse this story for such feedback - but if it fills a hole then I guess I'm not happy to find out that I or anyone else in the target audience has a hole there for it fill.

Comment by jhuffman on "Talking with God", a transhumanist short story · 2012-01-10T13:16:07.621Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes I did, thanks!

Comment by jhuffman on An argument that animals don't really suffer · 2012-01-09T22:05:45.108Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah I can just imagine the coyote thinking "oh weird I'm running away from this snake and yiping. I wonder what thats all about.".

Comment by jhuffman on An argument that animals don't really suffer · 2012-01-09T21:59:52.898Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I agree let's euphemise them.

Comment by jhuffman on An argument that animals don't really suffer · 2012-01-09T21:57:27.698Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've heard it said that animal cruelty should be avoided for what it does to us as the perpetrator more than for what it is actually doing to the animal.

Comment by jhuffman on Non-theist cinema? · 2012-01-09T21:30:27.729Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What if we sold African hunting licenses for enough money that for each victim, enough money would be raised for a charity that would save two African children's lives?

Comment by jhuffman on [SEQ RERUN] Buy Now or Forever Hold Your Peace · 2012-01-09T17:23:13.352Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think many intelligent people will start with a bias that they are smarter than the average of a market, but the idea of risking property maybe boosts our awareness of the uncertainties we have about our own knowledge.

Comment by jhuffman on "Talking with God", a transhumanist short story · 2012-01-09T17:11:31.561Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Yes this is nice. I have some thoughts about why some people interested in Transhumanism will find it interesting and compelling. The reasons are not complimentary, though.

Comment by jhuffman on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2012-01-09T15:28:46.115Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The price itself doesn't indicate hyper-deflation. That price could be the product of years of single digit deflation. Hyper-deflation I think can only happen if there is a run on most real goods - where people are literally in a panic to exchange their goods for rapidly decreasing numbers of bitcoins. Otherwise how would it feed on itself the way hyper-inflation does?

Comment by jhuffman on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2012-01-06T22:43:17.149Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Under hyperinflation, people tend to run around with wheelbarrows of banknotes rather than reverting to barter. I'll have to think about it some more.

Hyperinflation only happens precisely because people have less and less interest in wheelbarrows full of bank notes. The reason it feeds on itself is that people desperately want to turn their notes into real goods or exchange for more stable currencies. That lowers the value of the notes even further since there are more notes chasing the same amount of desirable goods.

I'm not sure a hyper-deflation can really happen. What would that look like, merchants lining up outside my house trying to sell me another Blueray player for increasingly small fractions of a coin?

If no one wants to spend this money, can it really retain value for very long? I'm genuinely perplexed.

Comment by jhuffman on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2012-01-06T21:59:12.991Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm curious, are you still mining? Also, are you living in a dorm with fixed electricity cost?

Comment by jhuffman on General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011) · 2012-01-06T21:57:32.630Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I do not think the transactions are free even now, it is just that they are spread out across the entire money supply rather than charged only to the participants in the transaction. The cost of the block are the 50 coins added to the money supply, which slightly decreases the value of every other coin.

Comment by jhuffman on Inverse p-zombies: the other direction in the Hard Problem of Consciousness · 2011-12-19T16:38:47.059Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe this whole article is a stealthy way to assert that p-zombies are a meaningful idea.

Comment by jhuffman on [LINK] Cryo Comic · 2011-12-12T22:19:55.784Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Supply of labor decreases, driving up costs, driving inflation? Consumer spending decreases, lowering cost, reducing inflation? All things being equal changing a population should not change per-capita GDP (figured without the cryo-sleep people.) The sleeper's capital is dead money - not exerting any outside influence on resource allocation assuming the investment goals of their capital funds are sufficiently general to maintain a risk-adjusted rate of return.

Comment by jhuffman on Dreams of AIXI · 2011-12-09T22:12:24.761Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm suspicious that this entire [Forbidden Topic] is a (fairly deep) marketing ploy.

Comment by jhuffman on On "Friendly" Immortality · 2011-12-08T20:13:30.208Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't seem that relevant considering we're discussing the pro's and con's of "immortality". In any case my point was just that some people like children enough to want them at that rate.

If I can have one child every decade for eighty years, maybe I'd like to have eight children. As it is now, it would only be two.

Comment by jhuffman on On "Friendly" Immortality · 2011-12-08T20:11:43.848Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If the desire for it became so widespread that it was a major social need in the general population

And if most people were even modestly rational...