Effective Altruism and Cryonics, Contest Results 2013-11-19T17:06:04.714Z · score: 14 (16 votes)
[Prize] Essay Contest: Cryonics and Effective Altruism 2013-11-08T19:55:27.747Z · score: 2 (9 votes)
Bitcoins are not digital greenbacks 2013-04-19T18:13:45.279Z · score: 6 (17 votes)
Bitcoin Cryonics Fund 2013-04-14T05:59:14.460Z · score: 7 (13 votes)
[LINK] Open Source Software Developer with Terminal Illness Hopes to Opt Out of Death 2013-02-13T05:57:55.058Z · score: 17 (24 votes)
[Link] Aschwin de Wolf on Chemical Brain Preservation 2013-01-15T01:33:14.476Z · score: 5 (8 votes)
[Event] Symposium on Cryonics and Brain-Threatening Disorders 2012-07-01T23:09:04.621Z · score: 2 (5 votes)
Avoid inflationary use of terms 2012-05-30T20:31:41.775Z · score: 74 (88 votes)
What is the best programming language? 2012-05-26T00:58:05.309Z · score: 4 (25 votes)
Two kinds of cryonics? 2012-05-10T02:43:59.814Z · score: 17 (20 votes)
Server Sky: lots of very thin computer satellites 2012-04-16T11:05:22.766Z · score: 3 (16 votes)
Social status hacks from The Improv Wiki 2012-03-21T02:56:56.298Z · score: 42 (45 votes)
Crocker's Rules: How far to take it? 2012-01-20T14:46:30.292Z · score: 7 (10 votes)
[Link] Simon Cowell plans to sign up for cryonics 2011-08-24T22:46:05.072Z · score: 10 (11 votes)
[LINK] Producing Open Source Software 2011-06-19T04:31:21.444Z · score: 2 (5 votes)
Bitcoin Bounty: Advice Requested 2011-06-01T03:52:04.379Z · score: 4 (5 votes)
Defeating Mundane Holocausts With Robots 2011-05-30T22:34:39.020Z · score: 26 (31 votes)
Cryonics Promotional Video Contest -- 10 BTC Prize 2011-04-30T20:31:22.620Z · score: 15 (16 votes)
Link: Forbes blog post on Cryonics 2011-04-13T18:31:25.887Z · score: 3 (6 votes)
Link: Cryonics and the Creation of a Durable Morality 2011-02-12T18:10:32.172Z · score: 10 (11 votes)
Moderation of apparent trolling 2010-12-12T22:16:17.636Z · score: 2 (8 votes)
Delayed Solutions Game 2010-12-09T05:12:49.474Z · score: 15 (16 votes)
The hard limits of hard nanotech 2010-11-07T00:49:21.431Z · score: 20 (28 votes)
Optimism versus cryonics 2010-10-25T02:13:34.654Z · score: 34 (45 votes)
The Threat of Cryonics 2010-08-03T19:57:59.883Z · score: 36 (49 votes)
Cryonics Wants To Be Big 2010-07-05T07:50:29.496Z · score: 28 (37 votes)


Comment by lsparrish on A question about the rules · 2017-02-02T02:10:29.663Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you still want to ban politics, whatever, your actions are law, but be transparent and say what you are doing.

Is there a reason to do that? Nobody said that a rule was violated, and the explanation given makes sense to me as it stands. What is the problem with just deleting the (not necessarily rule violating) post and explaining that we usually avoid stuff like articles with Trump in the title?

Comment by lsparrish on Open thread, Sep. 12 - Sep. 18, 2016 · 2016-09-15T23:17:59.200Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Phil Metzger on building space industry arXiv

Isaac Arthur on Self Replicating Machines and Technological Singularity

Comment by lsparrish on Open thread, Jul. 11 - Jul. 17, 2016 · 2016-07-17T18:17:39.533Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Found this great youtube channel by a guy named Isaac Arthur, covering a variety of space topics. Has videos on Dyson Spheres, colonizing the Moon, and even concepts for very long term survival of civilizations and people past the heat death of the universe. Very rational and comprehensive.

Comment by lsparrish on Revitalising Less Wrong is not a lost purpose · 2016-07-07T19:26:09.019Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

My long hiatus started a couple years ago, so my perspective might be different from yours.

I think the main issue for me it was more that it wasn't very fun any more. The people who made it fun (EY, Yvain, etc) were mostly posting elsewhere. The majority of posts were starting to be boring things like meetup announcements. Some of the new posts were interesting, but had more technical content and less humor.

Part of it could be that the commenters became more politically (in the sense of national politics) motivated, but that's not something I noticed at the time... I think that's perhaps a more recent thing, assuming that is indeed happening.

Another thing that might have been a factor is that I started using a smartphone more. So apps like twitter and facebook that can be easily checked there had more appeal. (This website still sucks for mobile.)

Comment by lsparrish on Crazy Ideas Thread · 2016-06-30T22:28:40.244Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It depends on the scale you are working at. A large body with no internal heat source can be kept cold over time at a lower cost because only the outside needs to be insulated. If cryonics were at the scale of a large cryogenic warehouse, it might be much less expensive.

Comment by lsparrish on Crazy Ideas Thread · 2016-06-28T00:37:18.008Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Orbiting landing tracks.

Payloads would be launched from earth with just enough fuel to loft them above the atmosphere and keep them hovering for a few minutes. Then they would electromagnetically couple to a long horizontal structure in low orbit, picking up velocity (or "losing" it, depending on the frame of reference) until they are orbiting at the same rate.

Electrically driven thrusters (e.g. vertical electrodynamic tethers which push against the earth's magnetic field) would be used to replenish the lost momentum. At any given time, the payload would be a fraction of the total track mass, but since it could be new track material this would permit (fairly rapid) bootstrapping.

Comment by lsparrish on Meme: Valuable Vulnerability · 2016-06-28T00:20:59.556Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

One possible reason is that it facilitates trust-building. Say you are stuck in a cell with another prisoner, and every day you have the chance to cooperate or defect on a small task (for example, sharing food equally vs trying to steal an unequal share). Later, you are asked to testify against each other and get a slightly reduced sentence in exchange for the other person having a drastically increased sentence. A history of the other person cooperating gives some evidence that they will cooperate in this new situation as well.

Another analogy to this would be the process of building credit. If you take out lots of loans and pay them back scrupulously, you build a history of credit worthiness. The banks are more willing to be vulnerable based on past behavior of not defaulting.

Comment by lsparrish on Why space stopped captivating minds ? · 2016-06-24T23:27:55.594Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A quick process like that is pretty much insignificant compared to a month or two, let alone 15 years. Unless there are tens of thousands of other steps in the chain of comparable length, it doesn't come close to explaining it.

As I see it, there are roughly four steps:

  1. Excavating.
  2. Refining.
  3. Power collecting.
  4. Manufacturing.

The ones towards the end seem to be the biggest time sinks. However, power collection should not raise it by more than a factor of two or so. I don't think it takes many months to mine enough coal to pay for the energy costs of coal mining equipment, for example.

Comment by lsparrish on Why space stopped captivating minds ? · 2016-06-24T19:20:59.291Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Exactly. Self-Replicating robotics on Earth is a global instant victory condition. Completion of one would result in machines that could double their production exponentially, leading to practically infinite production capability within no time.

Per Robin Hanson, a machine shop can put out its own mass in equipment in roughly a month or two. And yet, the economy doesn't double every month, or even every year. Why not?

There seems to be a fair chance the reasons are mostly rooted in cognitive biases, cumulative coordination mistakes, economic rent-seeking, and so on -- not anything technological.

A well planned lunar or orbital mission might well be free of these issues. Space conditions are mechanically simpler in some respects, so there's a stronger case for pre-planning everything rather than requiring a market economy to make it work. Supporting structures are less needed, transit is less two dimensional, and solar energy can be harvested at scale with low costs in equipment density. There is also instant access to ultra-high vacuum conditions which are useful for refining. And in addition to the endless cheap sunlight, there's no anti-nuclear lobby which can claim it's in their back yard.

Suggesting self-replicating robotics is akin to saying we should just solve this whole not being post-scarcity problem.

Maybe we should solve this whole not being post-scarcity problem...

Comment by lsparrish on General-Purpose Questions Thread · 2016-06-24T00:31:32.251Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good question. I am not sure where I originally found the idea that shorter commutes make you happier, but I suspect it might have been an earlier version of this from 80000hours, which cites a couple of studies. Googling for pre-2013 media articles shows a lot of mentions of the idea as well.

The idea about a well optimized train or bus ride that Dr_Manhattan brought up also makes sense, if you live in an area with decent public transportation. It's the car drives that are a big time-killer, since you can't really turn your brain off while navigating through traffic, and traffic is usually more stressful at times you need to get to work.

There are a few productive things you can do during long drives though. For example, you can practice speeches, elevator pitches, songs, comedy bits, and so on without anyone hearing. That may not be quite as effective as interacting with another person on a bus/train, but the lack of an audience/consequences can make it easier to try out new things. Also, there's the option of consuming audio content (which you could also do with headphones on the bus or train).

Comment by lsparrish on Look for the Next Tech Gold Rush? · 2014-07-21T06:13:50.713Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW


Comment by lsparrish on [LINK] Another "LessWrongers are crazy" article - this time on Slate · 2014-07-20T16:06:48.253Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

To be fair, the article got lots of things wrong.

Comment by lsparrish on Innovation's low-hanging fruits: on the demand or supply sides? · 2014-02-25T19:25:54.894Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a recent idea I had: A tattoo that responds to blood alcohol content over a certain level (e.g. causing an itchy sensation in the skin, or releasing a small amount of something that causes nausea), making it difficult / anti-habit-forming to get drunk. I'm thinking this could solve the alcoholism problem, comprehensively, without discouraging moderate drinking or relying on willpower.

Another variant would rely on social pressure. Although that is less reliable, it could be safer or easier to implement than one that creates a physiological reaction. For this version, one would have a tattoo that is usually invisible, but becomes visible in the presence of high alcohol level. It could e.g. spell "drunk" across the person's forehead.

Of course, such an invention is not quite on par with flush toilets. Not everyone gets drunk, and it is not infectious. Alcohol is not necessary for civilization. However, comprehensively eliminating alcohol overconsumption would be pretty darned helpful and would eliminate a lot of spillover costs of alcohol consumption, like drunk driving, spousal abuse, and so forth. Moreover, ethanol in excessive doses damages the liver, heart, and skin over time.

In addition to helping people who are alcoholics or at-risk directly, a side effect of such an invention is that people who do not drink due to perceived risk of alcoholism (or reluctance to expose oneself to such a risk) would be able to start drinking. This would probably have benefits that go beyond the extra hedons. Assuming it functions as a nootropic for social characteristics, it could lead to more people being better connected socially (i.e. having more close friends).

Incidentally, I don't see a reason something along these lines could not have been developed 50+ years ago.

Comment by lsparrish on Cryonics As Untested Medical Procedure · 2014-01-17T23:19:29.247Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you're trying to prevent information-theoretic death by preserving the brain it's critical that the information that makes you be "you" actually be preserved.

Look at it from the other side: In order to achieve information-theoretic death, it is critical that the information that makes you be "you" actually be lost.

By "lost" we mean it has to be scrambled at least enough that superintelligent computronium dyson spheres aren't going to be able to (reasonably) crack the code.

So let's say you dissolve the brain in acid. That is likely to be a good way to achieve information-theoretic death.

Leaving it to rot for a few days? Probably.

Freezing it in ice crystals? Maybe.

Vitrifying it? Probably not.

there are many aspects of the brain structure that might or might not be relevant. Is information stored in the positions of proteins within the cells? Are phosphorylation states significant? What scale of preservation is sufficient?

Any given bit of data is likely to be stored in multiple areas by multiple mechanisms, with lots of redundancy. Moreover, every time data is stored or accessed by some mechanism, there should be side effects, things you can infer the data from that aren't part of the mechanism. The complexity of the brain works in our favor, not against -- assuming we can develop good enough reductionistic models of the brain to account for all the details.

Comment by lsparrish on Looking for opinions of people like Nick Bostrom or Anders Sandberg on current cryo techniques · 2014-01-17T18:50:38.234Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Short for Intermediate Temperature Storage.

Comment by lsparrish on Why I haven't signed up for cryonics · 2014-01-14T04:47:52.570Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is good argument capable of convincing me into pro-cryonics position, if and only if someone can follow this claim by an evidence pointing to high probability estimate that preservation and restoration will become possible during a resonable time period.

At some point, you will have to specialize in cryobiology and neuroscience (with some information science in there too) in order to process the data. I can understand wanting to see the data for yourself, but expecting everyone to process it rationally and in depth before they get on board isn't necessarily realistic for a large movement. Brian Wowk has written a lot of good papers on the challenges and mechanisms of cryopreservation, including cryoprotectant toxicity. Definitely worth reading up on. Even if you don't decide to be pro-cryonics, you could use a lot of the information to support something related, like cryopreservation of organs.

If it so happens, that cryopreservation fails to prevent information-theoretic death then value of your cryo-magazines filled with with corpses will amount to exactly 0$ (unless you also preserve the organs for transplants).

Until you have enough information to know, with very high confidence, that information-theoretic death has happened in the best cases, you can't really assign it all a $0 value in advance. You could perhaps assign a lower value than the cost of the project, but you would have to have enough information to do so justifiably. Ignorance cuts both ways here, and cryonics has traditionally been presented as an exercise in decision-making under conditions of uncertainty. I don't see a reason that logic would change if there are millions of patients under consideration. (Although it does imply more people with an interest in resolving the question one way or another, if possible.)

I don't quite agree that the value would be zero if it failed. It would probably displace various end-of-life medical and funeral options that are net-harmful, reduce religious fundamentalism, and increase investment in reanimation-relevant science (regenerative medicine, programmable nanodevices, etc). It would be interesting to see a comprehensive analysis of the positive and negative effects of cryonics becoming more popular. More organs for transplantation could be one effect worth accounting for, since it does not seem likely that we will need our original organs for reanimation. There would certainly be more pressure towards assisted suicide, so that could be positive or negative depending how you look at it.

Comment by lsparrish on Looking for opinions of people like Nick Bostrom or Anders Sandberg on current cryo techniques · 2014-01-14T01:33:09.513Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you're worried about the effects of cracking, you can pay for ITS. LN2 is only used because it is cheap and relatively low-tech to maintain.

If you ask me it's a silly concern if we're assuming nanorepair or uploading. Cracking is just a surface discontinuity, and it forms at a point in time where the tissue is already in a glassy state where there can't be much mixing of molecules. The microcracks that form in frozen tissue is a much greater concern (but not the only concern with freezing). The fact that vitrified tissue forms large, loud cracks is related to the fact that it does such a good job holding things in place.

Comment by lsparrish on Why I haven't signed up for cryonics · 2014-01-13T21:35:11.830Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It feels to me like the general pro-cryo advocacy here would be a bit of a double standard, at least when compared to general memes of effective altruism, shutting up and multiplying, and saving the world. If I value my life equally to the lives of others, it seems pretty obvious that there's no way by which the money spent on cryonics would be a better investment than spending it on general do-gooding.

I think the scale on which it is done is the main thing here. Currently, cryonics is performed so infrequently that there isn't much infrastructure for it. So it is still fairly expensive compared to the amount of expected utility -- probably close to the value implied by regulatory tradeoffs ($5 million per life). On a large, industrial scale I expect it to be far better value than anything Givewell is going to find.

Comment by lsparrish on Open thread for December 24-31, 2013 · 2013-12-25T01:32:39.125Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I didn't notice my wording. Fixed.

Comment by lsparrish on Open thread for December 24-31, 2013 · 2013-12-25T00:52:35.648Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Max More just put out a response to Michio Kaku's video on the topic of cryonics. Seems to be getting some coverage (KurzweilAI, io9,

Comment by lsparrish on Effective Altruism and Cryonics, Contest Results · 2013-11-21T03:03:52.379Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is speculative, but I think cryonics could be useful to fix the biological body as well. Cryogenic conditions are easier for certain types of things, for example some types of molecular nanotech might not work well under warm conditions but should work fine if kept cold. Also, more finely detailed printing could be possible under cryogenic conditions. It might turn out to be the most reliable way to replace the body when it gets old -- vitrify, cut out the brain, then print everything else around it. When printing in a cold state to begin with, there would be less concern of overexposure to cryoprotectants or achieving perfusion (you could use less toxic, harder to perfuse cryoprotectants such as trehalose).

Comment by lsparrish on Effective Altruism and Cryonics, Contest Results · 2013-11-21T01:25:54.474Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If cryonics works in the here and now, we could in principle (with adequate PR, policies, and so forth) replace all funerals with cryonics and save almost everyone from dying today. I would expect regenerative therapies to finally get out of clinical trials after 50 years or so, even if we were to get them working right away. This represents a very large amount of expected utility (2.5 billion deaths worth, at 50 million per year) with that amount of time.

That said, it is not such a good comparison to hold current cryonics tech up against future advances anticipated in antiaging tech. If you want to put money into future advances in life extension, generally considered, it makes more sense to consider whether meaningful antiaging (say, something significant enough to get large numbers of people to actuarial escape velocity -- perhaps a 10-year improvement) is more/less likely than the cryonics equivalent (say, reversible vitrification of the brain) to be adequately solved, and cheaply distributed to the global population, first.

Some things to consider:

  1. Cryonics has already been pioneered to the point of reversible rabbit kidney, and the prospects for a brain are defensible (if uncertain) in patients right now, despite clinical death. By contrast, we can be pretty sure nobody currently has been rejuvenated from aging. The closest existing thing is caloric restriction, which appears not to work in primates. SENS is still speculative.
  2. The problem of cryonics is largely brute physics (cooling, diffusion, cryoprotectant chemistry), whereas aging is predominantly a matter of the biochemistry of metabolism and regeneration. The complex biochemical technologies we uncover that we can expect to be helpful against aging may be even more effective towards cryonics, because they can be combined/hybridized with mechanically based advances (e.g. cooling more rapidly to prevent toxicity while simultaneously mitigating toxicity with engineered biochemicals).
  3. Experimental feedback for cryonics research tends to be faster (and involve less suffering) because you do not have to wait for the animal to die of old age. The study can be done on a healthy animal, where the only relevant form of damage is the cryobiological/toxicological damage, which occurs instantly, and after anesthetization.

Apart from the technical advantages, it is worth considering that cryonics may be cheaper to deploy on a massive scale. Liquid nitrogen costs are much lower (per unit volume) for larger storage units. Perfusion with cryoprotectant could be worked into the existing end-of-life medical system. You wouldn't have to experiment on healthy old people with innovative therapies as SENS would need to to, only terminal or clinically dead patients would be subject to cryonics.

Comment by lsparrish on [Prize] Essay Contest: Cryonics and Effective Altruism · 2013-11-15T02:24:51.145Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The efficient charity essay contest had a bottom line, it just wasn't something anyone would be likely to dispute (and which had been previously argued for on Less Wrong). Qualified entries were supposed to explain, in less jargonistic terms, that you should optimize for utilions rather than fuzzies. The idea in that case was to put the existing ideas in more layman-friendly terms.

If the bottom line we're discussing is just "some utilitarians in some situations support cryonics", my thinking is that it shouldn't be controversial, since that's pretty much already implied by the fungibility of utility. At least, if the opposite were true, I'd be surprised and want a good explanation for it. But I'm wondering if there's a more subtle issue -- perhaps it is being experienced as implying in some dark-artsy way something like "no rational utilitarian would ever oppose cryonics", something I never intended (and don't agree with).

Another explanation is that there's a real disagreement about the relative plausibility of utilitarians supporting cryonics. I have more or less implied (by the existence of the contest) that it is fairly plausible for lots of kinds of utilitarians. That is something I actually think, but is open to question. Some might be thinking it is fairly implausible for most kinds of utilitarians. It could be seen as a dark arts move on my part, that I didn't really give the opposite perspective much consideration in composing the contest.

However, the results of the contest should render that idea more of a testable prediction than it was before the contest. If it's right, it should be possible to critique most of the essays produced for the contest by pointing out how implausible the scenarios are or how odd/implausible the particular kind of utilitarianism they discuss are. If it's wrong, at least some of the scenarios should be fairly plausible ones for realistic utilitarianisms.

Comment by lsparrish on Buying Debt as Effective Altruism? · 2013-11-13T19:59:58.284Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is the clock running? Loans are rarely made at zero interest rate, as the time goes by does my total obligation increase?

It could be zero interest, if the primary purpose for holding onto it is to remind the person of their obligation and produce good feelings when they return the favor.

Also, what is my incentive to make any payments?

If you hold onto a debt, it shows on your credit report. Paying it off could improve your credit. But apart from that, there's the matter that it is functionally identical to donating to effective charity.

How is this relevant to anything?

The subjective feeling of obligation with regards to the original debt might affect probability of repayment over time.

Comment by lsparrish on [Prize] Essay Contest: Cryonics and Effective Altruism · 2013-11-13T19:38:07.047Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Okay, that is the new deadline. (Updated.)

Comment by lsparrish on [Prize] Essay Contest: Cryonics and Effective Altruism · 2013-11-13T19:26:27.272Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Does Sunday 11/17 at 8pm PST sound good?

Comment by lsparrish on Buying Debt as Effective Altruism? · 2013-11-13T19:22:11.938Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So maybe hold onto the debt indefinitely and offer to forward any repayments to charity? That might work, but it seems like if their income increases later, it might not be as advantageous to forgive it then for tax reasons. Also, there might be a goodwill factor associated with debt-forgiveness that isn't there with repayment. The person may even feel the debt was unjustly accrued (e.g. medical bills for botched procedures) and feel repayment is a bad thing overall.

Comment by lsparrish on Buying Debt as Effective Altruism? · 2013-11-13T18:57:59.096Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if one could focus on something that often goes untapped like innate programming ability. Have the person take a test that sees if they can learn to program, and if they can, forgive their debt and enroll them in a program to train them and get them employed.

Comment by lsparrish on Buying Debt as Effective Altruism? · 2013-11-13T18:55:38.206Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but having the forgiveness happen in a low-income year would result in less taxes. So perhaps the charity could forgive debt in a way that is conditional on later income being donated to effective causes.

Comment by lsparrish on [Prize] Essay Contest: Cryonics and Effective Altruism · 2013-11-13T18:36:05.518Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's correct. However I will move the deadline out by a few days if anyone asks. If that happens, you will be able to use the time to edit and polish your submission further if you like.

Comment by lsparrish on [Prize] Essay Contest: Cryonics and Effective Altruism · 2013-11-12T15:11:22.910Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Would anyone like more time to complete an essay?

Comment by lsparrish on [Prize] Essay Contest: Cryonics and Effective Altruism · 2013-11-12T02:04:05.129Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What bottom line are you suggesting this contest has written into it? That cryonics is something that some utilitarians would support under some circumstances? Why is supporting cryonics more controversial than running someone over with a trolley car all of a sudden?

The only filter I'm putting up is a small chunk of prize money, and the only filter is to stay on topic with regards to a specific set of implicitly pro-cryonics issues that I am interested in. Anyone who wants to attack cryonics in a well-written essay is free to do so -- I'm simply under no obligation to pay them for it.

Comment by lsparrish on [Prize] Essay Contest: Cryonics and Effective Altruism · 2013-11-11T21:19:13.857Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That is not what I'm trying to do. I put up the prize with the intent of exploring a certain class of positions that I already know exist in concept-space (utilitarian frameworks friendly to cryonics). If there are weaknesses, I expect them to be highlighted better once explicated. That isn't the same as rejecting a fully different class of positions (utilitarian frameworks unfriendly to cryonics), although I feel no particular obligation to fund the latter.

Comment by lsparrish on [Prize] Essay Contest: Cryonics and Effective Altruism · 2013-11-09T17:05:42.256Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Feel free to make edits.

Do people have the impression that signing up for cryonics makes reversible vitrification much more likely?

I certainly assign it high probability (although not necessarily that it is the best way to accomplish this specific goal). The only scientists that I'm aware of pursuing the goal of whole organ vitrification are Greg Fahy and Brian Wowk of 21st Century Medicine, who are also cryonicists and whose main source of funding seems to be cryonics. Chana and Aschwin de Wolf are also cryonicists, and do neural cryobiology experiments -- a topic that is basically unheard of outside of cryonics.

My understanding was that the current vitrification process as used for cryonics is extremely toxic, but that's fine because the most likely revival process would be scanning.

I would describe it as somewhat toxic, but not on par with say fixatives. Effective toxicity is dependent on exposure time, so faster cooling is a factor there. In any case, vitrification is something we can expect incremental improvements to result in higher viability in larger organs over time.

I would expect future brain preservation research to be focused on issues like getting the cryoprotectant through the whole brain as quickly as possible, test scans of cryogenically preserved brains to see what level of detail is being kept currently, and alternative methods like plastination.

Yes, scanning is good, but viability assays are arguably better in some respects because something that doesn't harm viability is less likely to harm things that you can't detect with current scanning tech.

If you vitrify a small slice of brain tissue, the cryoprotectant can be washed out and the cells will resume functioning. I expect work that improves viability in larger organs and whole brains to involve the discovery of less toxic cryoprotectants and/or delivery of such past cell membranes and the blood brain barrier. Another approach is supercooling, which allows lower concentrations of cryoprotectant because it avoids ice formation below the freezing point.

While reversible vitrification would clearly be valuable for both cryonics and medicine in general, I think if you want more research into it you would need to explicitly fund it and you're not going to get much of it as a spillover from signing up for the current version.

That seems like a reasonable position, but it could be wrong due to network effects and so forth. I don't see any kind of public outreach designed to get people to donate money to focused cryonics research, rather I see private networking between wealthy cryonicists as being the major factor in the present environment. That's something that can be affected indirectly by an individual signing up (by influencing wealthy people in your social network to become interested), I think.

It's not just "is the effect positive" but "is the effect in the same range as the current best options". If you think it's 1/100th as much good for your money as donating to the best charity then you could count 1% of the spending as altruistic and the rest as self-spending, but I think you need to get up to at least 1/10th before this bookkeeping becomes worth it.

Perhaps, but note that the significance of x-risk overall is higher in a world where everyone lives a lot longer. So the percent to which this matters should be affected by your confidence in the soon discovery of life extension (even if you don't personally experience life extension).

What kind of utility are you thinking about? I was writing for someone with a vaguely hedonistic view, where death is bad because of the effect it has on those that remain and because it removes the possibility for future joy on the part of the deceased (if you're not at malthusian limits). A preference utilitarian will see death differently, though, as a massive violation of preferences.

I'm thinking that some kind of preference-based utility could still be considered as a total over time -- the more sentient beings whose preferences are met over time, the more utility there is.

Comment by lsparrish on [Prize] Essay Contest: Cryonics and Effective Altruism · 2013-11-09T06:13:54.481Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The question is, how much does your signing up do to improve these? Even then, I would expect you could get these same benefits more efficiently through an organization that advocated people sign up for cryonics.

This aspect needs to be given more focus, I think, as it shows how a person might possibly attempt to achieve cryonics-related goals more efficiently by abstaining from signing up and instead donating to a charity which advertises cryonics.

for it to be more cost effective than giving to the AMF you would need to think it's at least 10% likely give you 8,000 years of additional life.

This does not apply quite so straightforwardly to more general cryonics goals like achieving reversible vitrification and thus preventing death from a broad spectrum of diseases (including aging). If such a goal were achieved, it would dramatically increase the odds of cryonics being useful for the patient, which would increase adoption rates and also decrease use of heroic measures that prolong suffering.

Someone might hope to achieve such goals more effectively by donating to a research facility directly instead of signing up, but then again signing up does probably have a positive effect overall.

Also, the idea that there might be significant x-risk reduction in people anticipating extended life is another source of utility to factor in. Another notion to consider is that a utilitarian might join a cryonics organization for the chance to network with a group of relatively wealthy individuals, with the goal of attracting donations to proven causes like AMF.

If you're a total utilitarian, caring about there being as many good lives over all time as possible, deaths averted isn't a real metric. Instead the question is how many lives will there be and how good are they?

You lost me there. As I understand it, a total utilitarian cares about utility for all lives over all time, but that doesn't indicate that they don't disvalue death in and of itself. I could perhaps be a total utilitarian, but I think death is a negative event that isn't fully negated, utility-wise, by the creation of new people. So a world where more deaths occurred is one that I would prefer less than one where fewer deaths occurred, even if the same number of people exist in the end.

Comment by lsparrish on [Prize] Essay Contest: Cryonics and Effective Altruism · 2013-11-08T23:25:45.443Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

So this contest is essentially a cryonics propaganda competition?

Tongue in cheek answer: Sure, I'll admit to that. I'd never have lasted long in Slytherin anyway.


Serious answer: I'm just trying to avoid an awkward situation by not appearing willing to actively fund a position I don't agree with at a core level. An honorary submission would be welcomed, and in fact I think I've read and recommended Thrasymachus work in the past on this very topic. It's based on pro-natalism, if I remember right. So it is on topic in the sense that it would present interesting contrast to the other essays, it just doesn't answer the questions I actually asked / am willing to pay for answers to (which I expect that many here to already have thought of, but think they need incentive to actually write it out in a nice essay format).

Comment by lsparrish on [Prize] Essay Contest: Cryonics and Effective Altruism · 2013-11-08T22:37:41.710Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Some meta notes:

  • This is an essay contest because my previous attempt (in 2011) was for a video contest, and nobody entered. (The bitcoins were later stolen from the online wallet that was hosting them and half returned. The remaining 5.5 coins are in a more secure wallet valued at around $2000, which I plan to use for cryonics charity later, no sooner than next April.)
  • I consider essays to be Lesswrong's strong point. Further, utilitarians (of various kinds) and cryonicists (of various kinds) are common here as are ideas for how the two can/should overlap. I want to see those ideas.
  • If anyone wins and does not want a bitcoin, I would be happy to paypal them the equivalent value, although I consider that a bit less convenient.
  • There have been essay contests here in the past, at least one of which has resulted in good outcomes. I don't know if the culture has changed too much since then or if the value of a whole bitcoin is so high it will drive people crazy, but I am assuming not.
Comment by lsparrish on [Prize] Essay Contest: Cryonics and Effective Altruism · 2013-11-08T22:19:38.342Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

(Edit) An essay simply detailing considerations as to why cryonics has net negative effects if successful would not qualify. However, if you were to answer one of the questions directly (they aren't yes/no, but scenario based) you could still feature your argument prominently.

Example: Some particular kind of utilitarians think cryonics has net disutility for certain reasons (your argument), but in the event that they find that cryonicists are easy to work with (plausible scenario), they would cooperate to accomplish some particular instrumental goal despite the net disutility of cryonics.

(I'm not actively soliciting submissions of such a nature, just noting that they are possible. I actually think the utilitarian-against-cryonics space of arguments has been fairly well explored already, and there is motive to do so in the fact that cryonics competes for resources and is unpopular already.)

Comment by lsparrish on Open Thread, October 27 - 31, 2013 · 2013-10-28T18:18:19.874Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I find it harder to engage in System 2 when there are images around. Heck, even math glyphs usually trip me up. That's not to say graphics can't do more good than harm (for example, charts and diagrams can help cross inferential distance quickly, and may serve as useful intuition pumps) but I imagine that more images would mean more reliance on intuition and less on logic, hence less capacity for taking things to analytical extremes. So it could be harmful (given the nature of the site) to introduce more images.

Comment by lsparrish on Open Thread, October 20 - 26, 2013 · 2013-10-23T23:23:12.366Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is that a per-person maximum, or are you only accepting up to that much worth of bets?

Edit: I have contacted gwern via IRC and invested 1 BTC.

Comment by lsparrish on Open Thread, October 13 - 19, 2013 · 2013-10-22T02:16:41.108Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What I meant is that those properties are specific to the secret part of login information used for online services, as distinct from secret information used to encrypt something directly.

Comment by lsparrish on Open Thread, October 13 - 19, 2013 · 2013-10-21T21:00:46.528Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am certain that that it was a negative contribution to this site.

Well, that's harsh. My main intent with the links was to show that the system for picking the words must be unpredictable, and that password reuse is harmful. I can see now that 8-word passphrases are useless if the key is too short or there's some other vulnerability, so that choice probably gives us little more than a false sense of security.

in the particular application of bitcoin, quantum computers break it thoroughly.

This is news to me. However, I had heard that there are only 122 bits due to the use of RIPEMD-160 as part of the address generation mechanism.

Comment by lsparrish on Open Thread, October 13 - 19, 2013 · 2013-10-21T18:30:40.336Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

According to the Diceware FAQ, large organizations might be able to crack passphrases 7 words or less in 2030. Of course that's different from passwords (where you have salted hashes and usually a limit on the number of tries), but I think when it comes to establishing habits / placing go-stones against large organizations deciding to invest in snooping to begin with, it is worthwhile. Also, eight words isn't that much harder than four words (two sets of four).

One specific use I have in mind where this level of security is relevant is bitcoin brainwallets for prospective cryonics patients. If there's only one way to gain access to a fortune, and it involves accessing the memories of a physical brain, that increases the chances that friendly parties would eventually be able to reanimate a cryonics patient. (Of course, it also means more effort needs to go into making sure physical brains of cryonics patients remain in friendly hands, since unfriendlies could scan for passphrases and discard the rest.)

Comment by lsparrish on Boring Advice Repository · 2013-10-18T02:11:04.134Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You can generate a very strong passphrase with Diceware. Physical dice are more secure than almost any electronic device, and dictionary words let you memorize the randomness very efficiently.

This can then be used with KeePass or some other password manager. Also useful for brainwallets and other kinds of data where offline attacks are likely.

Comment by lsparrish on Open Thread, October 13 - 19, 2013 · 2013-10-17T18:25:00.594Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I recently memorized an 8-word passphrase generated by Diceware.

Given recent advances in password cracking, it may be a good time to start updating your accounts around the net with strong, prescriptively-generated passphrases.

Added: 8-word passphrases are overkill for most applications. 4-word passphrases are fairly secure under most circumstances, and the circumstances where in which they are not may not be helped by longer passphrases. The important thing is avoiding password reuse and predictable generation mechanisms.

Comment by lsparrish on [deleted post] 2013-10-12T00:01:49.674Z

I wonder if the degree of technological progress envisioned by transhumanists will eventually make the ethical problems posed by this particular sexual orientation a moot point. Just as we will eventually cure aging, and more easily switch genders, we ought to be able to alter development, for example. An adult-aged person could easily assume a childlike body, while retaining the ability to consent in every ethically relevant sense.

On the other hand, we should eventually know enough about neuroscience to make alterations to aspects of attraction and identity. Gays could become straight, straights could become gay, sadism and masochism levels could be adjusted, gender and sex could be flipped arbitrarily... And pedophilia could be added or subtracted.

We could end up with a society of only straight people -- or the opposite -- depending on our meta-level preferences. In fact, it would also probably be feasible to turn anyone who wants completely asexual -- in the extreme case, doing away with sex entirely (presumably with everyone perfectly okay with their new asexual identity).

Given that as possible, what are our meta-level preferences? Should we prefer to peacefully coexist with pedophile/pedomorph couples, and whatever other combination comes up (furries, tentacles, whatever) or should we just cut the crap and settle on something boring like all-asexual or all-straight?

Comment by lsparrish on What are you working on? October 2013 · 2013-10-02T16:13:30.608Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've been doing small bitcoin transactions by hand using bitcoind raw transactions, and storing the information in leveldb (which is dead simple, and apparently scales well). My near-term goal is to create a colored coin client that tracks inputs/outputs to make sure they have a common origin, so they can be distinguished from regular bitcoins and acquire additional value. I've been using python and getting promising results for interacting with leveldb and bitcoind. The same API can apparently be used with electrum servers, so the client does not need to download the whole blockchain.

My ambition with this is to create a type of coin that generally represents stock in utilitarian ethical causes. Anyone who confused about how they should best donate their money could buy these "Utility coins" and hang onto them, thus driving up the value for other prospective donors and ensuring that those who are less confused will have more to spend.

It's a munchkin idea that might or might not work. For now I'm telling myself the main reason to do it is because it is fun for me and as a way to gather information about what kinds of things can be done in this area (high-value research) rather than because it will necessarily be a good way to fundraise for high-utility causes.

Comment by lsparrish on A map of Bay Area memespace · 2013-09-24T23:20:57.244Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if the bitcoin/cryptocurrency community fits in the map somewhere, perhaps in the lower right area. It's newer, so the influence on other things would be weaker.

Comment by lsparrish on low stress employment/ munchkin income thread · 2013-09-13T19:39:20.037Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

About 90 minutes average. First time will be longer because of paperwork.

Comment by lsparrish on Request for Advice: Unschool or High School? · 2013-09-09T18:04:15.998Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I vote unschool, because lots of the time you spend at school is apt to be wasted on marginally low-impact social interactions, bureaucratic rules required to govern large bodies of people but useless to the individual, and so forth.

A high school diploma is essentially equivalent to a GED. So my advice is to get some GED prep books, take some practice tests, and see if you can get a good score with your current knowledge. If so, you can basically test out of high school early. If not, you can use the prep books to figure out where you are coming up short and fill in the gaps.

Curiosity-driven learning tends to be fastest and least boring. Look for reasons to be curious, e.g. about math and science stuff slightly above your current level. Try to write compelling essays. Less Wrong is a great place for both of these things. So are various online forums like Stack Exchange.

You can also get cheap college credit by AP, CLEP, and other standardized tests. Most people pay quite a bit more for college credit, and spend a lot more time in class than they really need to.

If you have boring homework to do that can't compete against video games and such for your attention (e.g. brushing up on some topic that you notice you are not testing well on), you will need to either become more interested or put yourself in an environment without distractions. You can get away with resisting distractions directly for a while, but eventually that tends to cause willpower depletion, so think of that as something that has to be budgeted carefully. Simple trivial inconveniences like putting games on the top shelf or protecting them with a long password that's a pain to type can reduce the willpower required to resist.