Comment by Sengachi on Be secretly wrong · 2018-02-03T08:07:46.261Z · LW · GW

"Not if they change their minds when confronted with the evidence."

"Would you do that?"


This is where I think the chain of logic makes a misstep. It is assumed that you will be able to distinguish evidence which should change your mind from evidence that is not sufficient to change your mind. But doing so is not trivial. Especially in complicated fields, simply being able to understand new evidence enough to update on it is a task that can require significant education.

I would not encourage a layperson to have an opinion on the quantization of gravity, regardless of how willing they might be to update based on new evidence, because they're not going to be able to understand new evidence. And that's assuming they can even understand the issue well enough to have a coherent opinion at all. I do work pretty adjacent to the field of quantized gravity and I barely understand the issue well enough to grasp the different positions. I wouldn't trust myself to meaningfully update based on new papers (beyond how the authors of the papers tell me to update), let alone a layperson.

The capacity to change a wrong belief is more than just the will to do so. And in cases where one cannot reliably interpret data well enough to reject wrong beliefs, it is incredibly important to not hold beliefs. Instead cultivate good criteria for trusting relevant authority figures or, lacking trusted authority figures, simply acknowledge your ignorance and that any decision you make will be rooted in loose guesswork.

Comment by Sengachi on "Flinching away from truth” is often about *protecting* the epistemology · 2018-02-03T06:37:51.222Z · LW · GW

Hmm. I don't think it's not useful to practice looking at the truth even when it hurts. For instance with the paperwork situation, it could be that not fixing the paperwork even if you recognize errors in it is something you would see as a moral failing in yourself, something you would be averse to recognizing even if you allowed yourself to not go through the arduous task of fixing those mistakes. Because sometimes the terminal result of a self-evaluation is reducing one's opinion of oneself, being able to see painful truths is a necessary tool to make this method work properly.

That said, I do think this is a much more actionable ritual than just "look at the painful thing". It also serves better as a description of reality, encompassing not just why certain truths are painful, but also how they become painful. It establishes not just a method for coping with painful truths and forcing confrontation with them, but also for establishing mental housekeeping routines which can prevent truths from becoming painful in the first place.

This has been a topic I started thinking about on my own some months ago (I even started with the same basic observation about children and why they sometimes violently reject seemingly benign statements). But I think my progress will be much improved with a written document from someone else's perspective which I can look at and evaluate. Thank you very much for writing this up. I really appreciate it.

Comment by Sengachi on Where Physics Meets Experience · 2018-02-03T06:12:30.558Z · LW · GW

Just so you all know, Clifford Algebra derivations of quantized field theory show why the Born Probabilities are a squared proportion. I'm not sure there's an intuitively satisfying explanation I can give you for why this is that uses words and not math, but here's my best try.

In mathematical systems with maximal algebraic complexity for their given dimensionality, the multiplication of an object by its dual provides an invariant of the system, a quantity which cannot be altered. (And all physical field theories (except gravity, at this time) can be derived in full from the assumption of maximal algebraic complexity for 1 positive dimension and 3 negative dimensions). [Object refers to a mathematical quantity, in the case of the field theories we're concerned with, mostly bivectors].

The quantity describing time evolution then (complex phase amplitudes) must have a corresponding invariant quantity that is the mod squared of the complex phase. This mod squared quantity, being the system invariant whose sum describes 'benchmark' by which one judges relative values, is then the relevant value for evaluating the physical meaning of time evolutions. So the physical reality one would expect to observe in probability distributions is then the mod squared of the underlying quantity (complex phase amplitudes) rather than the quantity itself.

To explain it in a different way, because I suspect the one way is not adequate without an understanding of the math.

Clifford Algebra objects (i.e. the actual constructs the universe works with, as best we can tell) do not in of themselves contain information. In fact, they contain no uniquely identifiable information. All objects can be modified with an arbitrary global phase factor, turning them into any one of an infinite set of objects. As such, actual measurement/observation of an object is impossible. You can't distinguish between the object being A or Ae^ib, because those are literally indistinguishable quantities. The object which could be those quantities lacks sufficient unique information to actually be one quantity or the other. So you're shit out of luck when it comes to measuring it. But though an object may not contain unique information, the object's mod squared does (and if this violates your intuition of how information works, may I remind you that your classic-world intuition of information counts for absolutely nothing at the group theory level). This mod squared is the lowest level of reality which contains uniquely identifiable information.

So the lowest level of reality at which you can meaningfully identify time evolution probabilities is going to be described as a square quantity.

Because the math says so.

By the way, we're really, really certain about this math. Unless the universe has additional spatial-temporal dimensions we don't know about (and I kind of doubt that) and only contains partial algebraic complexity in that space (and I really, really doubt that), this is it. There is no possible additional mathematical structure with which one could describe our universe that is not contained within the Cl_13 algebra. There is literally no mathematical way to describe our universe which adequately contains all of the structure we have observed in electromagnetism (and weak force and strong force and Higgs force) which does not imply this mod squared invariant property as a consequence.

Furthermore, even before this mod squared property was understood as a consequence of full algebraic complexity, Emmy Noether had described and rigorously proved this relationship as the eponymous Noether's theorem, confirmed its validity against known theories, and used it to predict future results in field theory. So this notion is pretty well backed up by a century of experimental evidence too.

Tl;DR: We (physicists who work with both differential geometries and quantum field theory and whom find an interest in group theory fundamentals beyond what is needed to do conventional experimental or theory work) have known about why the Born Probabilities are a squared proportion since, oh, probably the 1930s? Right after Dirac first published the Dirac Equation? It's a pretty simple thing to conclude from the observation that quantum amplitudes are a bivector quantity. But you'll still see physics textbooks describe it as a mystery and hear it pondered over philosophically, because propagation of the concept would require a base of people educated in Clifford Algebras to propagate through. And such a cohesive group of people just does not exist.

Comment by Sengachi on December 2013 Media Thread · 2013-12-20T03:07:56.465Z · LW · GW

I saw the path Frozen's plot took as well done.

I liked the fact that Anna's relationship with Hans didn't work out. Disney went out of its way to poke holes in the traditional 'love at first sight' meme, something I think is a huge improvement on how Disney portrays most relationships. Furthermore, they showed Anna and Kristoff's relationship to grow on a solid foundation over time, and to be mutually pursued, as opposed to being a one-sided chase. Whereas Anna wanted her relationship with Hans to miraculously change her life, her relationship with Kristoff is an important part of her life without being her reason d'etre. All of this, to me, seems much better than the stereotypical fairytale romance.

Yes, Elsa doesn't end up with a relationship. Which isn't really a problem to me. She has personal problems she needs to work out, and she doesn't show any interest in a relationship. So a relationship is unnecessary.

You made a rather big deal out of the trade deal being broken and the ramifications thereof. But honestly, I think it was the right decision. The mayor of Wesseltown shows a clear desire to exploit the resources of Elsa's kingdom (in classic Disney fashion, he says so out loud). He bears them no good will. When Elsa's power broke loose, a potentially salvageable situation was ruined by his hostile reaction. And when they attempted to capture Elsa, his orders to kill her almost got people killed and came dangerously close to permanently ruining any hope of resolving the eternal winter. He showed a clear disregard for their kingdom's well-being, demonstrated an inability to see past his own prejudices, and tried to KILL THEIR QUEEN. Any one of these would be good reason to break off trade. In particular, the political ramifications of a show of weakness on the order of ignoring an attempted assassination are probably much worse than loss of trade.

Fairytale stories have a habit of setting up female protagonists as damsels (who am I kidding, stories in general have this habit). Time after time after time we see female characters put in situations where their only hope is for the strong male to save them. This trope could see some time without use, which is what we saw in Frozen. Disney played on our expectations of Anna being saved by her newly minted boyfriend's love so they could violate that expectation. Instead they showed a selfless act, reconciliation, and a long-term bond as the ingredients for an act of true love. I think that's a good thing.

Yes, in the end things were not perfect. Elsa still needs to learn how to deal with people. Anna is a bit more idealistic and naive than is healthy. Kristoff still needs to learn how to deal with people. The trade repercussions with Wesseltown are going to suck. Which I find a nice change of pace from the neat and tidy "happily ever after" endings. Life goes on, still imperfect but better than before.

(Can't say anything about Sleeping Beauty. I haven't really been paying attention to it.)

Comment by Sengachi on Correspondence Bias · 2013-10-29T22:43:31.005Z · LW · GW

The Intelligence website links no longer function.

Comment by Sengachi on Only You Can Prevent Your Mind From Getting Killed By Politics · 2013-10-28T10:58:26.930Z · LW · GW

The whole point is how you change your beliefs in response to new evidence.

Of course the general concept of using a belief as a litmus test for rationality is foolish. But frankly, it's not possible at this point to have not been introduced to evidence about human-caused global warming. The people to which this test would be applied have been introduced to this new evidence and already failed to update.

And if someone lives in such a secluded bubble of information that they are truly getting information that would lead a rationalist to decry AGW, I think it safe to say that that person is probably not a rationalist. Someone in such a bubble would have no impetus to become a rationalist in the first place.

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes October 2013 · 2013-10-21T12:42:35.932Z · LW · GW

There was a time when I was very rude to religious people because I thought that made me wise. Then there was a time when I was very polite because I thought equity in consideration was wise.

Now I'm just curt because I have science to do and no time to deal with fools.

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes October 2013 · 2013-10-21T12:39:59.284Z · LW · GW

This ought to be embedded deeply in the minds of everyone involved in education. Most regrettably, it is not.

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes October 2013 · 2013-10-21T12:28:40.733Z · LW · GW

That last part is the most important.

We can't answer every question.

No, but I think we can answer any question.

Comment by Sengachi on Rocket science and big money - a cautionary tale of math gone wrong · 2013-04-26T03:09:03.016Z · LW · GW

There are cases in which you can relate dimensionless units. For instance, moles is a dimensionless unit, it just means times 6.022*10^23. But you can relate moles to moles in some cases, for instance with electrolysis. If you know how many electrons are being pumped into a reaction and you want to know how much Fe(II) becomes Fe, then you can compare moles of electrons to moles of Iron, even though neither moles, elements, or electrons can be related directly to one another in the conventional sense of m/s. In the same way one can relate dollars of one thing to dollars of another and get a meaningful answer.

You are right to point this out though, it is skirting very close to the gray areas of dimensional analysis without being explicitly mentioned as doing so.

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes March 2013 · 2013-03-03T23:37:35.712Z · LW · GW

And now I feel stupid. Thank you very much. (No sarcasm)

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes March 2013 · 2013-03-03T23:32:53.219Z · LW · GW

So far as I can tell, the only insurmountable disadvantage is that you can't use a Thorium reactor to make nuclear bombs. Wait, did I say disadvantage? I meant advantage. Or, well ... are you a politician or an average person? That'll make the difference between advantage and disadvantage.

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes March 2013 · 2013-03-02T01:06:42.424Z · LW · GW

But I don't think it likely that the quote would make others more likely to guess who made such a wish correctly.

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes February 2013 · 2013-02-16T21:40:12.188Z · LW · GW

That's the thing, the science wasn't good or bad, it was the to decision to give the results to certain people that held that quality of good/bad. And it was very, very bad. But the process of looking at the world, wondering how it works, then figuring out how it works, and then making it work the way you desire, that process carries with it no intrinsic moral qualities.

Comment by Sengachi on If Many-Worlds Had Come First · 2013-02-13T00:57:36.874Z · LW · GW

Read Elizier's sequence on quantum mechanics. The cat does not collapse into a dead or alive state, the cat is dead, and another cat is alive. One of the many worlds has a dead cat, another has a live cat.

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes February 2013 · 2013-02-08T00:35:44.481Z · LW · GW

A useful belief is an accurate one. It is, however, easy to believe a belief is useful without testing its veracity. Therefore it is optimal to test for accuracy in beliefs, as opposed to querying one's belief in its usefulness.

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes February 2013 · 2013-02-08T00:32:17.259Z · LW · GW

Then try to make it politically profitable to help sustain those changes you make. Make it so painfully obvious that the only reason to remove those changes would be for one's unethical gain that no politician would ever do so. The problem then though, is that people end up just not caring enough.

Comment by Sengachi on Right for the Wrong Reasons · 2013-01-24T04:36:27.756Z · LW · GW

Here is what I think is a better example of the Gettier problem, and a subsequent reason the Gettier problem is flawed in its definitions of truths.

You are driving down the highway, passing what appear to be several dozen barns. Unknown to you, all but one of these barns is a stage prop cutout. You decide to stop at one of these barns and by luck it is the only real one. You now have a belief (which is that the barns you see are real), which is justified, and in this case, true. But it cannot be called knowledge. Why? Because the belief is imprecise and leaves room for vagaries. A belief should describe the fundamental mechanisms of the universe. i.e. the presence of light patterns in format X indicates structure Y, because light interacts in ways Z. In this case the belief about the barns is unjustified and untrue, because there is an additional way format X could be created, by structure Y2 and light interaction Z2 (the cutout). Discovery of the real barn is only weak evidence for the belief that format X indicates a real barn, as the discovery proves the possibility thereof, but does not eliminate the alternative (cutouts). Under this new definition of belief, a concept of the universe fundamental mechanisms, as opposed to informal correlations, only accurate and precise beliefs that allow prediction generation constitute knowledge.

But this is not how we think. And for very good reason. Typically a scenario in which all options appear identical to cursory examination, and in which detailed examination provides some conclusion about one option, it can be a huge waste of time and effort to generate all theoretically possible contradictory scenarios and test them, not to mention the possibility that you may not think of or be able to test all such options. So our brain takes a mental shortcut. Barns appear to be same? Check. Barn 10 is a 3d barn? Check. Therefore all barns are 3d. Though nothing was falsified, it is a useful informal deduction which only fails us in extreme circumstances such as the problem listed above. But there is a very good reason that we don't use such logic in scientific experimentation. When we have not repeatedly experienced a phenomenon and have no hard-set reason to believe a correlation indicates causation, falsification is all we can trust. We don't have the huge backdrop of everyday data to fall back upon. Oftentimes we have a hard time realizing this though, and make assumptions as if we have such a backdrop when we don't.

Scientific Method: Don't do that.

Comment by Sengachi on Update Then Forget · 2013-01-20T10:35:58.065Z · LW · GW

And as the tired old joke goes: bullet-proof glass.

Comment by Sengachi on Closet survey #1 · 2013-01-14T01:55:08.758Z · LW · GW

Fertility and intelligence may be correlated, but that does not state much about intelligence and birth rate. Just because two -things are correlated, does not imply causation, and even if they are, their may be non-listed effects which cause results opposite those that would be anticipated with only two factors taken into consideration.

Comment by Sengachi on Closet survey #1 · 2013-01-14T01:50:00.212Z · LW · GW

.... and the Earth is flat, women are inherently less intelligent, spirits bring the rain, mingling blood creates babies, the brain cools the blood, and every other belief once believed by massive segments of the Earth's population is correct.

.... I would suggest that you start by reading all of , and if you already have, then I would suggest that perhaps this website is not for you. Or that you really, really need it. One of the two.

Comment by Sengachi on Closet survey #1 · 2013-01-14T01:44:27.947Z · LW · GW

I am a male bisexual. I believe this with a high level of probability, primarily due to my ability to have erections from naked or sexual pictures of both genders. Also the fact that I have felt heavy romantic interest for both genders would seem to indicate that this is very possible.

If you want documented research done into male bisexuality, look into the research of Alfred Kinsey. He researched all forms of sexuality extensively, and was a male bisexual himself.

Edit: Also, the society I have been raised in has practically no instances of homophobia, so I don't believe that could be a factor.

Comment by Sengachi on Closet survey #1 · 2013-01-14T01:41:11.628Z · LW · GW

Just because odd things occur, does not mean other odd things, like ghosts and ESP, exist. What mechanisms for these do you believe in and why do you believe in them? Why do humans have ESP and what mechanism fuels this? What exactly are ghosts and why should the chemical processes in the human brain transfer over to this this 'ghost' mechanism after they cease functioning? I guess I just want to ask, what do you believe and why do you believe it? Just because extraordinarily odd things have happened does not remove the need for extraordinary evidence to explain other extraordinarily odd things.

Comment by Sengachi on Closet survey #1 · 2013-01-13T19:16:00.227Z · LW · GW

I don't think what I'm about to post is strictly in keeping with the intended comment material, but I'm posting it here because I think this is where I'll get the best feedback.

The majority of humans don't have a concrete reason for why they value moral behavior. If you ask a human why they value life or happiness of others, they'll throw out some token response laden with fallacies, and when pressed they'll respond with something along the lines of "I just feel like it's the right thing". In my case, it's the opposite. I have a rather long list of reasons why not to kill people, starting with the problems that would result if I programmed an AI with those inclinations. Also the desire for people not to kill and torture me. But where other people have a negative inclination to killing people, flaying them alive, etc. I don't. Where other people have an neural framework that encourages empathy and inconsequential intellectual arguments to support this, I have a neural framework that encourages massive levels of suffering in others and intellectual arguments restricting my actions away from my intuitive desires.

On to my point. Understandably, it is rather difficult for me to express this unconventional aspect of myself in fleshy-space (I love that term). So I don't have any supported ideas of how common non-conventional ethical inclinations are, or how they're expressed. I wanted to open this up for discussion of our core ethical systems, normative and non-normative. In particular I am interested in seeing if others have similar inclinations to mine and how they deal / don't deal with them.

Comment by Sengachi on Closet survey #1 · 2013-01-13T18:58:22.853Z · LW · GW

I believe that the end results of the American Revolution were beneficial enough to justify it in hindsight. However at the time it was initiated, the projected benefits were indeed to little to justify what occurred.

Comment by Sengachi on Closet survey #1 · 2013-01-13T18:48:43.649Z · LW · GW

Could you give an example of such a negative consequence?

Comment by Sengachi on Closet survey #1 · 2013-01-13T18:34:38.173Z · LW · GW

There have been several studies indicating that the neocortex is the part of the brain responsible for self-awareness. People with a lesion on the Visual 1 section of their cortex are "blind" but if you toss a ball at them they'll catch it. And if you have them walk through an obstacle-laden hallway, they'll avoid all obstacles, but be completely unaware of having done so. They can see, but are unaware of their own sight. So I would say the point at which a baby cannot be euthanized is dependent on the state of their neocortex. Further study needs to be done to determine that point, but I would say by two years old the neocortex is highly developed.

Comment by Sengachi on Closet survey #1 · 2013-01-13T18:20:12.859Z · LW · GW

This is the crux of every modern dissent to old-age prejudices: If it harms no one, it's not a moral wrong.

Comment by Sengachi on Closet survey #1 · 2013-01-13T18:06:07.102Z · LW · GW

From personal experience (which I am unfortunately too nervous about to go into detail about), pre-pubescent sexuality is primarily based on exposure and knowledge of sexuality. Puberty simply forces one to become aware of sex, rather than being a prerequisite for it. Similarly, sexual reactions (erections, orgasm, etc.) are definitely possible pre-pubescence, simply different. This may be an anomaly in my case, I do not have any non-personal data to share.

Although I do know that Alfred Kinsey compiled an extensive body of research on child sexuality obtained from the interview of pedophiles, in particular one pedophile who was highly active and documented his explorations extensively. I have never read this body of research myself, but I thought its existence might be worth pointing out.

Comment by Sengachi on How to Be Oversurprised · 2013-01-12T01:22:51.006Z · LW · GW

Read Eliezer's , I think it will answer your questions on this topic.

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes January 2013 · 2013-01-06T10:15:38.964Z · LW · GW

Ding, rationalist level up!

Unfortunately, most people don't view things this way. I figured that so long as we were discussing a show based on how humans try to rationalize away and fight against the truly rational optimum, I might as well throw out a comment on how such people react to truly rational optimizers (martyrs).

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes January 2013 · 2013-01-06T10:11:10.996Z · LW · GW

It doesn't give you all the information you need, but that's how the problem was originally tackled. Scientists noticed that they had two contradictory models for light, which had a few overlapping characteristics. Those overlapping areas allowed them to start formulating new theories. Of course it took ridiculous amounts of work after that to figure out a reasonable approximation of reality, but one has to start somewhere.

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes January 2013 · 2013-01-04T08:08:48.162Z · LW · GW

The only ones to love a martyr's actions are those who did not love them.

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes January 2013 · 2013-01-04T07:44:41.062Z · LW · GW

Viewing the interactions of photons as both a wave and a billiard ball. Both are wrong, but by seeing which traits remain constant in all models, we can project what traits the true model is likely to have.

Comment by Sengachi on By Which It May Be Judged · 2012-12-21T08:45:13.789Z · LW · GW

And clippiness is obviously more clipperific. That doesn't actually answer the question.

Comment by Sengachi on By Which It May Be Judged · 2012-12-21T08:44:27.075Z · LW · GW

Ah, but Clippy is far more clipperific, and so will do more clippy things. Better is not clippy, why should it matter?

Comment by Sengachi on By Which It May Be Judged · 2012-12-21T08:41:03.297Z · LW · GW

Deism is essentially the belief that an intelligent entity formed, and then generated all of the universe, sans other addendums, as opposed to the belief that a point mass formed and chaoticly generated all of the universe.

Comment by Sengachi on By Which It May Be Judged · 2012-12-21T08:34:59.308Z · LW · GW

Child neglect implies harm. It is the harm that is immoral. If humans left young to fend for themselves, there would be no inherent harm and so it would not be immoral. We always need to remind ourselves why we consider something to be bad, and not assign badness to words like "child neglect".

Comment by Sengachi on The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world? · 2012-12-20T00:57:26.640Z · LW · GW

I dislike the fact that we're talking about the bias rather than the arguments. Here, more so than any other place I know of, we should be dissecting arguments and talking about the truths of the issues, rather than saying that a statement is incorrect because of its side on the political spectrum.

I can't be the only person thinking this, right?

Comment by Sengachi on The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world? · 2012-12-20T00:27:58.724Z · LW · GW

I like this article very much, and I think it's an important fallacy to take note of. I do not however, think it is the worst fallacy. I think the worst fallacy is: I don't need a reason/argument to believe what I believe.

Comment by Sengachi on Guilt: Another Gift Nobody Wants · 2012-12-16T20:00:07.300Z · LW · GW

Rationality can often allow us to overcome otherwise debilitating emotional responses. I think a non-rationalist in the same situation who let their psychopathic brother die ... they would probably feel a lot of guilt. A LOT of guilt. Finally, evolution isn't always fine-tuned, especially in social contexts. Guilt simply may not be a fine-tuned enough emotion to make you feel pain directly proportional to the odds of you being suspected for a crime; it's more likely that you feel guilt differently in different classes of situations rather than in different levels of the same scenario.

Comment by Sengachi on A Rationalist's Account of Objectification? · 2012-12-16T04:59:53.025Z · LW · GW

I think this is a problem about talking about two different things with the same word. When most people talk about objectification, they are talking about utilitarian principles, yes. Objectification is not actually the issue. But they are calling the issue objectification because is sounds right.

Objectification is not actually the issue. What non-rationalists call objectification is.

Comment by Sengachi on Dark Side Epistemology · 2012-12-09T22:09:36.180Z · LW · GW

You know, the Jedi had bad epistemology, same as the Sith. For instance: "Only the Sith speak in absolutes!" .... Give it a moment. Think about it. Only is what kind of modifier again?

Comment by Sengachi on 2012 Survey Results · 2012-12-08T00:46:12.707Z · LW · GW

I had no knowledge of such a survey. These might be more efficient if they were posted in a blatantly obvious manner, like on the banner.

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes December 2012 · 2012-12-04T04:26:45.154Z · LW · GW

There is nothing wrong with appeal to authority jointed with all the evidence that said authority uses in their argument, subject to disagreement and rebuttal the same as everything else. That's not how most people appeal to authority, though.

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes December 2012 · 2012-12-04T04:20:27.595Z · LW · GW

I would argue that everybody complains about poor service at the DMV.

Comment by Sengachi on Rationality Quotes December 2012 · 2012-12-04T01:55:13.806Z · LW · GW

Ah, we are forgetting that sometimes books may be actively misleading, and may deviate one from truth (no matter how much you read those propaganda books, they probably won't tell you what you really need to know).

Comment by Sengachi on Proofs, Implications, and Models · 2012-11-04T00:09:32.773Z · LW · GW

The problem with that program is that the information was already there. The information may have been scattered in a semi-random pattern, but it was still there to be reorganized. In this hypothetical simulation, there is a lack of information. And while you can undo randomization to recreate a blurred image, you cannot create information from nothing.

However, the human brain does have some interesting traits which might make it possible for humans to think they are seeing something without creating all the information such a thing would possess. The neocortex has multiple levels. Lower levels detect things like absence and presence of light, which higher levels turn into lines and curves, which even higher levels turn into shapes, which eventually get interpreted as a specific face (the brain has clusters of a few hundred neurons responsible for every face we have memorized). All you would have to do to make a human brain think they saw someone would be to stimulate the top few hundred neurons, the bottom ones need not be given information. Imagine a general telling his troops to move somewhere. Each troop carries out an action, tells their superior, who gives their superior a generalization, who gives their superior a generalization, until the general gets one message "Move going fine". To fool the general (human) into thinking the move is going fine (interacting with something), you don't need to forge the entire chain of events (simulate every quark), you just need to give them the message saying everything is going great (stimulate those few hundred neurons). And then when the matrix person looks closer, the Matrix Lords just forge the lower levels temporarily.

The problem with this is is it does not match the principle "Humans simulating old earth to get information". It would not be giving the future humans any new information they hadn't created, because they would have to fake that information. They wouldn't learn anything. It is possible to fool humans in that way, but the only possible use would be for the purpose of fooling someone. And that would require some serious sadism. So there is a scenario in which humans have the computational power and algorithms to make you live in a simulation you think is real, but have no reason to do so.

Comment by Sengachi on Savanna Poets · 2012-10-12T23:22:34.053Z · LW · GW

Doug_S.'s link is broken, so I'll stick my own in.

Comment by Sengachi on Universal Law · 2012-10-12T04:56:54.927Z · LW · GW


This is likely what I will study in the future. And we've developed metamaterials that can create negative indexes of refraction and optical black holes, once again supposed impossibilities. It may be best to save assumptions of impossibility for when we know the exact underlying universal laws.