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Is utilitarianism the result of a Conflict Theory singularity? 2020-06-16T13:29:39.269Z

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Comment by spkoc on The Fall of Rome, II: Energy Problems? · 2021-04-24T04:20:31.870Z · LW · GW

Ooh, this is a fun theory. Possibly causality reversed? Adam Smith's old doozy is "the degree of specialization is limited by the extent of the market" or something like that. If the empire is collapsing and trade becoming more difficult practices switch to more local economies. Some products require a certain scale of market to be viable. Feudal Western Europe was quite fragmented, 100 different toll gates as you went down the Rhine and whatnot, so trade was very reduced, extent of market low and so specialization low and so capital requirements for production had to be low.

Stone quarries could be abandoned because there was tons of stone available for reuse and the current owners didn't care about civic pride the way the old ones did(can't afford to care about it when you're fighting for your life). Feudal/medieval monumental construction meant castles and cathedrals, not bath houses.

Roof tiles as compared to straw roofs, ceramic amphorae compared to wooden barrels, cremation compared to burial, the use of glass, even the toga seems to have required extensively boiled wool

These are Mediterranean things, as the Western Empire is taken over by Germanic people's why would Gaul preserve these building styles. 

For amphorae: what is the dominant mode of transport? Barrels will survive land transport in a more localized economy a lot better. How much capital does barrel production vs amphorae production require. If the economy is more village centered maybe clay-related production becomes uneconomical.

My opinion: chain mail is better than Lorica segmentata, but more expensive to make(require more iron actually, is heavier, better protection, better maintenance since a segmentata you just have to scrap if it cracks, way more manual labour to produce). It's not really clear why the segmentata was used in the ~50BC-300AD period. Maybe it was just cheaper to mass produce. By the time lorica hamata(the chain) production caught up they abandoned the segmentata. 

Also related to market size: if you had to buy armour for yourself you'd buy hamata, since it'd be way more maintainable, and generally better protection and mobility. Well oiled and maintained you could probably pass it on to your son or resell it. The segmentata is much more of an industrial army's armour, it needs to be fit much better to the individual and any puncture requires a professional to replace the segment.

Comment by spkoc on The Fall of Rome: Why It's Relevant, And Why We're Mistaken · 2021-04-24T04:06:18.653Z · LW · GW

I agree, but keep in mind just the city itself was like twice the size in the later period. Population wise 2nd Punic war Rome was around 3-500k, 410 Rome was around 8-900k. Presumably the greater southern Italian region was also way more populous, tho also less able/interested in coming to the city's aid.

Different comparison: https://old.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/7v15js/why_was_roman_military_so_small_during_the/ Late Roman armies were crippled by a loss of 75k men, despite similar losses being overcome by just Rome's Southern Italian coalition centuries earlier.

Comment by spkoc on The Fall of Rome: Why It's Relevant, And Why We're Mistaken · 2021-04-23T16:29:19.082Z · LW · GW

Synthetic 'civilization' scores are unavoidably subjective

Just to be clear, the Ian Morris graph is Western Eurasia vs Eastern Eurasia(since it can't be Western Europe vs colloquial East, as Western Europe was a backwater pre-Rome)? I'm very skeptical of these historical score approaches, they obscure more than they enlighten and depending on how actual data is weighted the author can come up with any conclusion they want. 

For instance, why wouldn't population density be the defining characteristic of a successful society(higher energy density, more efficient use of space, all sorts of engineering style arguments favour that)? China would utterly dominate Western Eurasia in that model. I don't necessarily prefer that metric, I'm just pointing out synthesized metrics are very subjective though of course they have pop-history appeal.

Pet theory: Rome collapsed because all the greedy farmer soldiers became serfs

The fall of (Western) Rome has been the subject of 15 centuries of scholarship, so I'll just toss my personal favourite single cause to rule them all(it wasn't just one cause, it was multifactor but whatever): the collapse of the small-scale citizen farmers and the rise of the latifundia and the general demilitarization of roman citizens.

Disclaimer: the Romans were the historical villains of the region, in my opinion, I'm not glorifying them or their society.

The key contrast: Hannibal killed >100,000(?) roman soldiers while in Italy, yet never felt able to besiege the city. His army was maybe 100,000 strong. In 410 Alaric takes Rome with ~40,000 soldiers, despite the city being larger than the one that faced Hannibal, with no resistance worth mentioning. 

The problem is the composition of Roman society had changed. 

Growing Rome was a society where most fighting age males knew a bit of how to fight and could be drafted and would answer the draft out of patriotism/religious/civic devotion or greed. Late Rome was a society where a lot of people were coloni(proto-serfs) or fully slaves. They were purposefully not allowed to fight since their owners were afraid those skills might be turned against them. Late Roman society also wasn't expanding => the wars being fought wouldn't result in plunder => the incentive for citizens to join the army was greatly reduced. 

Early Roman soldiers had arguably unlimited upside, conquer some rich city or tribe and your share of the loot leaves you set for life. Late Roman soldiers just had a salary and much more competent enemies.

There were tons of rich land owners in the Italian peninsula, tons of people? How could the city fall to a mere 40,000 soldiers? No one really cared to defend it. The latifundiaries made their own deals with the 'barbarians', not caring about the fact that their families would slowly lose control of the land over the coming centuries. The religious(?) obsession with long-term legacy of the Republic and early empire were gone, the men of the Late west were short term focused. Early Rome elites cared about their prestige in Roman society, they saw themselves as part of the population of one city, at the end of the day they'd fight together against external societies. Late Roman elites had their wealth and power in the provinces and didn't see other latifundiaries as part of their in-group and worth fighting along with.

Plot twist: the latifundia grew because the farmer soldiers were too successful and wouldn't stop

The reason the latifundia grew and the old Roman system collapsed was the very success of the old Roman system flooding Italy with slaves and money and allowing elites to buy out small landholders. Furthermore a good reason for the Roman state to allow this process to happen was that the old get rich quick Roman war strategy ended up being used against Rome itself as Imperial pretenders persuaded our heroic yeomen farmer soldiers to turn arms against the state(since there wasn't much worth conquering outside the borders). Damned if you do damned if you don't.

Just for fun: modern democracies fuse roman legalese, revived roman civic religion, dying christian feudal ideas of obedience to authority and feudal cultural practices for peacefully transferring power

Epistemic status, wild fun speculation.

I'd argue that Western Europe continued evolving culturally and politically after Western Rome collapsed. The key technology that developed in Western Europe was the (comparatively) peaceful transfer of power from one monarch to another upon death, without lobotomizing the monarch and replacing him with a weaselly bureaucracy the way the Ottomans/Chinese harem systems solved the endless succession civil war problem. 

The ability to ACTUALLY transfer power, as opposed to sidestepping the succession by having real power embodied in a constantly regenerating collection of people is the enabling cultural technology for modern republican democracies. Better put: both elite and popular culture expects a peaceful, legally codified transfer of power. It's this ingrained instinct that's valuable and is essential(and can be lost, as Republican Rome lost it and Imperial Rome never acquired it in the West), rather than the formal rules for how you transfer power. 

That and Europe's weird obsession with separating the person of the king from the institution of the monarch(see Britain's linguistic weirdness around King/Queen-in-parliament, possibly related to Christian weirdness around the Trinity, maybe the religious mental calisthenics got applied to political ideas as well) creates a neat interface where you can cleanly replace a monarchy with an elected government and it sort of all just works the same in the minds of everyone involved.

Comment by spkoc on How can we stop talking past each other when it comes to postrationality? · 2021-03-12T16:10:24.142Z · LW · GW

I have a shallow read a few posts about it overview of the post-rationality vs rationality debate, but to me it just seems like a semantic debate.

Camp "post-rationalism isn't a thing" argues that rationality is the art of winning. Therefore any methods that camp "post-rationalism" uses that work better than a similar method used by people in camp "post-rationalism isn't a thing" is the correct method for all rationalists to use.

The rationalist definition is sort of recursive. If you live the ideology correctly than you should replace worse methods with better ones. If it turns out that bayesian thinking doesn't produce good(or better than some alternative) results, rationalist dogma says to ditch bayesianism for the new hotness.

Taken to an extreme: in a brute survival context a lot of the current ... aesthetics or surface level features of rationalism might have to be abandoned in favour of violence, since that is what survival/winning demands. 

But it can't be that simple or there wouldn't be a debate so what am I missing?

Comment by spkoc on Defending the non-central fallacy · 2021-03-12T15:39:41.454Z · LW · GW

I need to read that Huemer book, it sounds very interesting from what you've quoted in this and the other thread here.

You're right, I am being unfair to the actual philosophy. I have a negative emotional reaction to the political movement that uses the name. I have quite a lot of ... sympathy(?) for the actual philosophical movements' conclusions, however I still think it collapses to being a bunch of heuristics on top of utilitarian arguments in the end. Also I think objectivism(libertarianisms' radical grandkid(?)) is ... evil? Not utilitarian compatible, at least.

I feel like you side stepped the core issue in the party analogy: if I/we/the state can't restrict access to our property because someone might die without it ... that kinda means we can't restrict access to our property almost at all. Is anyone dying in the world of a preventable disease? Clearly the state isn't providing enough healthcare access or private healthcare providers are immorally restricting access to care.

The actual criticism then goes back to: States do not have legitimate claims for their property. I realize you address this in:

Second, it is perfectly consistent to argue for property rights in the abstract while holding that most actual claims to property in the real world are illegitimate.

But there's no legitimate property if analyzed on a long enough time horizon. At some point some primitive human bashed some other human in the head and every one of us is the infinitesimal beneficiary of that crime. Hence Christian redemption and baptism, actual legal code statutes of limitations, moral principles that only active purposeful harm is morally bad and all sorts of other coping mechanisms civilizations have developed over the ages. The alternative is literally eternal blood feuds or wars that can only end in complete annihilation of one of the factions.

The question then becomes why don't these coping mechanisms apply to states, but apply to every other human organisation? What makes state ownership illegitimate, but corporate ownership built on top of government contracts legitimate? At what degree of indirection does the sin wash off? What about children of employees of companies that sold goods to slavers?

Yes, it's consistent to argue for property rights while recognizing the illegitimacy of current property allocation... but the only moral remedy for that(if taken as a serious axiomatic moral principle) is some sort of tabula rasa society, which would obviously be crazy utility destroying and nobody supports. Ok, Bakunin et al, but come on.

I don't think libertarian principles have something unique and practical to say about where to draw the line when it comes to 'tainted' ownership rights. Even in that Nozick quote: why are we stopping with the USA? What about even more ancient history in Europe, or indeed North America. Obviously an absurd rabbit hole. We stop when there are still living descendants that are angry about this issue... well if you start providing a monetary incentive for grievance you're going to find a lot of historical grievance. Hell, looking outside the US bubble there's plenty of historical grievance globally right now everywhere.

Hopeless attempt at clarity

Trying to clarify my criticism for myself as well: libertarianism seems to present axiomatic moral principles, commandments that if unbroken will produce a just society. In practice, even philosophers treat the axioms more like heuristics layered on top of utilitarianism: "You mustn't violate private property rights ... unless you have good reason for it. Property should be justly acquired but if enough time has passed we gotta move on and get things done." Well, ok, so what does this actually produce for us?

Government should do useful things with tax money. Unironically revolutionary idea in Locke's time, but this stuff is in the water like flouride in the modern era. And going full circle, actual political movements that use the label seem built around objectivists, in that they're willing to say: the principle is more important than the utilitarian outcome of its application. Taxation is bad even if it helps people. Except, of course, modern political movements are awful and don't say that in public, that's just for the inner circle. In public they just lie(in my opinion) and claim that all government activity is net utility desroying. 

Comment by spkoc on Defending the non-central fallacy · 2021-03-11T15:06:18.948Z · LW · GW

Before I go off on a rant about "taxation is theft", I want to respond to the actual theme of the post: the fallacy depends on your metric(?) function(not sure what the term is). How do you graph types of events, how do you determine proximity?

For instance, are micro-aggressions just as bad as physical violence? Or at least should we attempt to prevent them with similar amounts of force and regulation?

If your metric is physical damage done then probably not. If the metric is self-reported emotional or physical suffering, then maybe. But the category becomes very different if you change the metric. For instance, people inflicting pain in ways that don't leave a mark is a failure case for metric 1, but not metric 2. People lying about their inner state is a problem for metric 2 but not 1. 

This then breaks down into an argument over what the 'true' metric should be. If someone calls this fallacy against someone, presumably they're flagging a disagreement about the metric being used.

Rant about taxation is theft

I hate the taxation is theft argument(in general, it's a good one to bring up in this post). States are associations of citizens with particular rules, that own the land of their territory(and various other assets), if you don't like their rules leave. But all the land belongs to some association... so what? Tough cookies? 

Disclaimer: not a libertarian, but trying to take the ideology more seriously than its advocates seem to, at least what I've encountered so far.

By remaining resident/citizen of a country you are implicitly consenting to the laws of that country, including taxation. Just like using a website implies you tacitly accept its Terms of Service(legal interpretation of how enforceable this is varies for private company ToS, of course).

The only countries where this argument is at least emotionally persuasive are those that don't have exit rights, ie. you can't leave and renounce citizenship. Even there, in a geopolitical anarcho-capitalist sense, you don't have the right to just be resident for free. The state owns the land you are on, you owe it money. The only real moral wrong here, in my interpretation of natural rights libertarianism, is that you are being denied exit rights.

Granted even if you leave one country you'd still have to be accepted by some other country where you end up paying some taxes.... buuuut and this is why I hate this argument so much.... that's because citizens have 'collective' private property ownership over the sovereign nation they are a part of. The libertarian argument against taxation reduces to abolition of private property! 

Also obviously, taxation is explicitly consented to if you are an immigrant.

As strawman libertarians might say, you don't have a right to healthcare. Well you don't have a right to standing on dirt owned by the United Commonwealth of SomewhereLandia either. But every piece of dirt is owned. Tough luck. So is every piece of diamond. Build a rocket and sail off west young fellow.

Comment by spkoc on Covid 11/5: Don’t Mention the War · 2020-11-05T23:28:38.778Z · LW · GW

I feel like the herd immunity section is overly simplistic given how much IFR varies based on age group. 

Using https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.07.23.20160895v7

The estimated age-specific IFR is very low for children and younger adults (e.g., 0.002% at age 10 and 0.01% at age 25) but increases progressively to 0.4% at age 55, 1.4% at age 65, 4.6% at age 75, and 15% at age 85.

65+ is like 45,000,000 in the US. Half of them get infected, generously let's say 3% die that's 600,000 dead. A big part of the IFR in the spring for NYC and Sweden(and probably lots of other places) was determined by the virus getting into care homes or not.

This being said I am leaning towards herd immunity being a decent solution with 2 major caveats:

1. You really need the 65+ demographic to stay reasonably locked down while you're burning through the rest of the population. And for countries where multiple generations are living together that's not possible. And for countries where a ton of older people don't worry about the virus that's also not possible.

2. You can't variolate(?) too quickly, otherwise you just blow out your hospital system and suddenly those nice 0.4% death rates blow up into ?? who knows.

Briefly looking for estimates of hospitalization rates I found https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7493765/ 

I'm super worried about Europe, because I think several countries are going to get pushed to medical system collapse and beyond. Assuming the study above is reasonably representative, let's say 4% of 40-59 year olds are admitted to hospital, based on the graph above(a group with an IFR of like 0.2%). If the hospital is full what percentage of people that needed to be admitted dies? Does he IFR go up x3? x5?

Was hoping to visit my family in Romania for the holidays, but at this stage I'm probably hunkering down in good old blighty til spring :(

 

EDIT. Basically I think the situation for herd immunity is both better and worse than what I derive from your post: The IFR for the groups of people we want to get the disease is well below 0.4% on average. But we REALLY want at risk groups to be in close to lockdown mode while variolating. 

As an extra wrinkle, viral load seems to have a significant effect on disease severity. If a country is purposefully going for herd immunity, at the peak of the process viral load in closed spaces will be a lot higher than it is these days. That may or may not shift IFR higher for a while.

Comment by spkoc on Covid Covid Covid Covid Covid 10/29: All We Ever Talk About · 2020-10-29T18:55:54.249Z · LW · GW

Authorities seem to think the masses are stupid, but then fail to do the bare minimum to educate them on the metrics that matter.

The sad thing is people are definitely smart enough to realize that just raw case numbers don't matter. But then they don't take the additional, and granted fairly tedious step, of figuring out which numbers do matter(hospitalization rates, positive test rates, death numbers, ICU usage rate in their area).

Or maybe it's pure red tribe blue tribe on a global scale(or rather with variations in different countries) and I'm being naive and hopeful.

Comment by spkoc on Covid 10/22: Europe in Crisis · 2020-10-27T23:16:06.665Z · LW · GW

I think he just meant the curves would match, ie. referring to the peak from the previous wave: https://twitter.com/jeuasommenulle/status/1320682552257089538 

Oh actually, I think he just means they'd get back to that peak level in 25 days, not that it would get better after that. I misunderstood what he was saying. I'll correct my post above.

Comment by spkoc on Covid 10/22: Europe in Crisis · 2020-10-27T16:09:38.769Z · LW · GW

As a follow up to my previous comment, here's a really amazing Twitter thread breaking down the situation in France: https://twitter.com/jeuasommenulle/status/1320682084973858816 (threadreader version: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1320682084973858816.html)

The poster also tries to estimate R0 using hospital data(which should be more reliable than case data, since the Spring wave was so undertested). He finds a R0 of 1.2, which means a doubling every 20 days. 

He estimates ICU usage levels will be as high as the spring peak in France within 25 days, if the trends stay correlated with the spring outbreak.

Lots more nice graphs in the thread too.

Comment by spkoc on Covid 10/22: Europe in Crisis · 2020-10-23T12:57:19.964Z · LW · GW

https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-data-explorer?zoomToSelection=true&country=ROU~AUT~BEL~HRV~CYP~CZE~DNK~EST~FIN~FRA~DEU~GRC~HUN~IRL~ITA~LVA~LTU~MKD~MDA~NLD~NOR~POL~PRT~RUS~SRB~SVK~SVN~ESP~SWE~CHE~GBR~MCO~TUR®ion=World&casesMetric=true&interval=smoothed&perCapita=true&smoothing=7&pickerMetric=location&pickerSort=asc is the best site for COVID European COVID graphs as far as I know. The UK has excellent breakdowns(including by age group): https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/articles/coronaviruscovid19roundup/2020-03-26

What really matters is people's actual behaviour, as you pointed out. In the US people are cautious because they don't trust their government to have it under control. In the Nordic countries and Germany people are cautious because they treat government advice more seriously than us Eastern Europeans treat actual legislation. The lack of a federal fiscal response also hurt. The poor states in the East can't afford generous furlough schemes(not that the furlough scheme seems to have helped the UK, France and Spain that much); France, Spain and Italy are dealing with significant debt burdens. Various pushes were made to get people back out and working and off furglough during late summer early autumn. It worked(another finger curls on the monkeys paw)!

The European story is complicated and regional, similar to the US. You got Germany, the Nordics and the Baltics doing very well in terms of case counts and (as far as I know) without insane restrictions. Then you have Eastern bloc places doing increasingly poorly, but still ok for now. Then you have the Czechs(positive rate >25%!, adding the same number of cases per day as Italy(10 million Czechs vs 60 million Italians)) in 2-weeks-til-zombie-apocalypse mode. Then you have whatever is happening in France and Spain.

Czech Republic issues, at least, seem to come from the governing party downplaying the virus a lot before their October elections. They promised they wouldn't reinstate a lockdown no matter what. 2 weeks later they're in lockdown. They're numbers went nuts right around when the campaign was picking up too. People maybe actually believed their politicians' promises that things would be OK if they relaxed. Rookie mistake, czechs, rookie mistake.

Belgium has been in political anarchy for years, the government has very little authority over the population and is indecisive and weak to boot(for an overview https://www.politico.eu/article/how-belgium-failed-its-second-corona-test/). They flip flopped on restrictions, people weren't given clear instructions from government or non-governmental experts. Netherlands aren't as governmentally incompetent but their country literally overlaps Belgium and their government wasn't super restrictive either. In fairness to both countries, they are the political(Brussels) and trade(Rotterdam and Antwerp) centers of Europe. They had travel bans in place, but there still would have been a huge amount of commercial traffic that was exempt.

Also on September 23rd Belgium eased Coronavirus restrictions(https://www.garda.com/crisis24/news-alerts/382596/belgium-authorities-ease-covid-19-restrictions-september-23-update-23), literally the next day their exponential spike begins(https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-data-explorer?zoomToSelection=true&time=2020-03-01..latest&country=~BEL®ion=World&casesMetric=true&interval=smoothed&smoothing=7&pickerMetric=location&pickerSort=asc). The easing seems to have had a gigantic impact on people's behaviour: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/changes-visitors-covid?tab=chart&stackMode=absolute&time=earliest..latest&country=~BEL®ion=World Before the easing park and outdoors visits were 70% over baseline. 1(!) week later they were 10% over baseline. To be fair I'm not 100% sure that I understand the mobility numbers, so maybe it's just a weird data quirk, tho the drop in park time and the jump in cases overlap almost perfectly.

Greece is doing great but Cyprus is doing bad. A bit of a mystery as to why. Cyprus was maybe more aggressive in courting tourists? They famously had a COVID insurance scheme. Looking at mobility data, the Greeks just seem to have gone outside and never gone back inside :D probably a good idea, maybe hard to replicate for those of us not living in Elysium, sadly https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/changes-visitors-covid?tab=chart&stackMode=absolute&time=earliest..latest&country=~GRC®ion=World

Other places in Eastern Europe are still quite poor and can't cushion shutdowns with generous leave, so the population kinda had to be let back to work, bars and restaurants and tourism had to be opened up. I'm not sure how big the conspiracy aspect is. In Romania(where I'm from) my parents' group of friends(all in their late 50s early 60s) are averagely open to conspiratorial stuff(I think almost all adults that grew up under communism are like that) and they take the virus very seriously. But again, they're all still working, not really doing WFH, but they are masking, isolating from vulnerable relatives and each other. 

Comment by spkoc on Covid 10/15: Playtime is Over · 2020-10-17T10:12:16.903Z · LW · GW

Is the CFR going down because the virus is less deadly in general, or because the virus is infecting younger people? I haven't been able to find a decent study on this.

In the UK(https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/demographic-data-for-coronavirus-testing-england-28-may-to-26-august/demographic-data-for-coronavirus-covid-19-testing-england-28-may-to-26-august#age-and-gender) the median age of people testing positive has gone down from 52 to 31:

Annex table 7: median age of people newly tested and newly testing positive for COVID-19 under pillars 1 and 2, England

WeekPeople testedPeople testing positive
28/05/20 to 03/06/204852
04/06/20 to 10/06/204548
11/06/20 to 17/06/204444
18/06/20 to 24/06/204343
25/06/20 to 01/07/204241
02/07/20 to 08/07/204240
09/07/20 to 15/07/204138
16/07/20 to 22/07/204037
23/07/20 to 29/07/203937
30/07/20 to 05/08/203937
06/08/20 to 12/08/203935
13/08/20 to 19/08/203933
20/08/20 to 26/08/203831

I think death rates are still down despite younger demographics, but how much? Is it still a 10%+ risk for a 60+ person with 1 comorbidity? What about if ICU's are overflowing and people end up in temporary care units? Romania, where I'm from, has a very poor healthcare system and seems to be heading into an ICU overflow situation sadly, but not sure how concerned I should be for my parents and other older relatives(they're all taking it quite seriously of course).

Comment by spkoc on Anthropomorphisation vs value learning: type 1 vs type 2 errors · 2020-09-23T14:03:19.853Z · LW · GW

Is the space of possible minds really that huge(or maybe really that alien?), though? I agree about humans having ... an instinctive ability to intuit the mental state of other humans. But isn't that partly learnable as well? We port this simulation ability relatively well to animals once we get used to their tells. Would we really struggle to learn the tells of other minds, as long as they were somewhat consistent over time and didn't have the ability to perfectly lie?

Like what's a truly alien mind? At the end of the day we're Turing complete, we can simulate any computational process, albeit inefficiently.

Comment by spkoc on Anthropomorphisation vs value learning: type 1 vs type 2 errors · 2020-09-22T16:36:57.405Z · LW · GW

I agree with the simulation aspect, sort of. I don't know if similarity to myself is necessary, though. For instance throughout history people have been able to model and interact with traders from neighbouring or distant civilizations, even though they might think very differently.

I'd say predictability or simulationability is what makes us comfortable with an 'other'. To me the scary aspect about an AI is the possibility that it's behaviour can change radically and unpredictably(it gets an override update, some manchurian candidate type trigger). Humans can also deceive, but usually we are leaky deceivers. True psychopaths trigger a sort of innate, possibly violent, loathing in the people that discover them. AI's, assuming they are easily modified(which is not a guarantee, ML neural nets are hard to modify in a ... surgical manner), would basically be viewed as psychopaths, with the attendant constant stress.

Regarding anthropomorphism: I think the cause of it is that part of our brain is sort of hardcoded to simulate agents. And it seems to be the most computationally powerful part of our brain(or maybe not a part but a network a set of systems whatever). 

The hardest problem facing our minds is the problem of other minds, so when confronted with a truly hard problem we attack it with our most powerful cognitive weapon: the agent simulation mechanisms in our brains. 

As we understand natural processes we no longer need to simulate them as agents and we shift to weaker mental subsystems and start thinking about them mechanically.

Basically, humans behaviour is chaotic and no true rules exist, only heuristics. As we find true mechanistic rules for phenomena we no longer need to simulate them as we would humans(or other agents/hyper-chaotic systems).

Comment by spkoc on You Can Probably Amplify GPT3 Directly · 2020-07-27T12:24:54.330Z · LW · GW

How are you actually doing this in AI Dungeon? I have Dragon mode enabled, everything else default.

I start a new Single player game. Choose Custom mode(6). Then at the prompt I just paste (using Say mode)

Q: Say I want to sum the items in a list. How would I do this recursively? The answer involves two steps.

 and I get

Q: Say I want to sum the items in a list. How would I do this recursively? The answer involves two steps. First, I need to know how many items there are in total. Second, I need to find out which item is at the top of that list. A: You could use recursive_sum() .

Similarly when I tried to reproduce stuff from https://old.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/hrx2id/a_collection_of_amazing_things_gpt3_has_done/ I didn't get anything near as impressive. Also the responses get increasingly confused. Like if I ask it to translate something to French or Romanian it will randomly translate later prompts as well.

Is there some basic tutorial for how you seed these AI Dungeon interactions?

Comment by spkoc on Covid-19: Analysis of Mortality Data · 2020-07-12T10:06:49.942Z · LW · GW

It would help to add past 5 year averages to make it clear just how unusual the R0-R99 death numbers are. See https://episphere.github.io/mortalitytracker/#cause=symptoms_signs_and_abnormal&state=All%20States from my comment on the previous post. These numbers have been at a constant <500/week every week of 2015-2019. They're now at 2800 and seemingly rising. 

It's gone from one of the lowest ranked causes of death to like #4 cause of death.

As to hypotheses why... who determines how deaths are classified? Is it state level? Do states need to send samples to the CDC to get them classified? It's clearly too simple to just assume that it's a pure hospital level process.

Comment by spkoc on Covid 7/9: Lies, Damn Lies and Death Rates · 2020-07-11T10:26:45.369Z · LW · GW

This website seems to do the trick and have charts: https://episphere.github.io/mortalitytracker/#cause=symptoms_signs_and_abnormal&state=Florida

The spike in Unclassified... is huge. They're fudging the data, ffs.

Comment by spkoc on Covid 7/2: It Could Be Worse · 2020-07-07T09:33:40.387Z · LW · GW

It seems like as of today deaths are still not spiking. Good news? Do we have stats on hospitalization rates by age group? If it's something like 0.1% of <30 yo infected need ICU care, that suggests everyone(without comorbidities) under 30 could get infected more or less at the same time and we'd still be fine, assuming higher risk groups stay isolated.

Of course this plan is not helped by propaganda being eaten up by old people that the virus is over, masks are evil and other info hazards.

Comment by spkoc on Is utilitarianism the result of a Conflict Theory singularity? · 2020-06-16T17:19:42.233Z · LW · GW

somewhat shackled by trying to fit them all into conflict vs mistake theory

:D Yeah, fair point, I just realised I don't link this at all with my earlier post/comment in which I frame conflict theories as strategies for 0-sum games vs mistake theories as strategies for positive-sum games.

My historical trajectory is a story about ehhh... entities playing ever larger(in dimensions of spacetime, energy used, information contained whatever, number of entities involved, diversity of the entities involved) positive sum games. While not becoming a single clonal thing. I wonder if that statement holds up if I try to formalize it. I think that's a thought that's been bounced around my head ever since I read https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-new-thermodynamics-theory-of-the-origin-of-life-20140122/

I didn't even think about power and persuasion actually, which now seems very odd. I guess I was thinking in terms of utility outcomes, not the means by which you get to those outcomes.

Comment by spkoc on Two Kinds of Mistake Theorists · 2020-06-11T13:41:11.447Z · LW · GW

I still haven't read a good steelman of conflict theory(and I doubt I can offer one, though I'll try), but I think it's a bit deeper than just misguided mistake theory.

First of all, conflict theory seems a better fit for 0-sum games:

  • slaves want to be free, slaveholders want to keep their property
  • mongols want territory, current inhabitants don't want to become skull pyramids
  • privileged group wants disadvantaged group policed ruthlessly, since they are not affected by the police brutality but do benefit from the police catching more criminals on the margin. In other words police false positives don't affect the privileged group, but false negatives do.

It's a sort of unstated rationalist dogma that all 0-sum games can sort of be twisted into positive-sum games. I don't think that's true in principle, but it's certainly not true given practical constraints(people are fallible, defect from agreements etc).

Conflict theory might also function better in practice, even though it has worse theoretical upside. For instance, worker unions are not an optimal solution to managers abusing employees, lack of profit sharing, lack of workplace safety rules, they do solve a coordination problem(in particular an imbalance in workers' ability to coordinate vs managers). In an ideal world managers understand that unions are net bad and take measures to alleviate worker concerns so that they don't unionise, thus creating a somewhat redundant and sometimes adversarial parallel management structure.

But a simple, comprehensible conflict theory based solution might be stable, whereas the ideal mistake theory solution might be plagued by defection risks or just super hard to implement.

A lot of mistake theory also seems to suffer from conceptual explosion. Like there are no real sides, every person has their own interests, we need to maximise utility for individuals that actually exist not statistical average individuals. Which is true, but also incredibly hard to turn into a workable social contract vs here's 5 categories, their votes create an average statistical avatar, please those 5 avatars.

Finally, when people run on different axioms, you can't really use mistake theory, you're essentially in an ideological 0-sum game. If I believe in Biblical literalism, young earth creationism, there's no meaningful compromise to have with Darwinist evolution. I can surrender my axioms, and essentially become a new person, or not. The mistake theory answer to this is probably something like... people don't really care about axioms that much they care about the myriad outcomes(like you're a YEC because you like the community of church or you don't want to argue with your parents). But I just don't think that's true. People seem to care a lot more about their axioms and core theories than about end-outcomes and often do weird causal origami to help maintain their axioms in the face of apparently undesirable consequences.

Sorry, seemed to have gone on the tangent and not actually addressed the post enough. Here's a short comment directly on the post:

I don't think socialists are merely misguided social democrats. I think they fundamentally make different predictions than social democrats. They don't think a socialist state will devolve into soviet or Chinese style horrors, therefore they see milque-toast socialism as unnecessarily compromising with capitalist exploitation. There's a, somewhat, plausible defence of that position: Soviet Russia and communist china weren't radically different from their pre-communist forms, just moreso. You wouldn't expect socialist USA or UK to suddenly open up gulags and have the secret police hunting people down. You'd probably expect it to be a local homeowners association or tedious government bureaucracy writ large. Statist socialism doesn't really transform society as much as it would like to believe, just look at how Russia has reverted to a tsarist/aristocrat system and how China is reverting to a pseudo-imperial bureaucracy.

Comment by spkoc on The unexpected difficulty of comparing AlphaStar to humans · 2019-11-29T11:44:57.172Z · LW · GW

I think you're right when it comes to SC2, but that doesn't really matter for DeepMind's ultimate goal with AlphaStar: to show an AI that can learn anything a human can learn.

In a sense AlphaStar just proves that SC2 is not balanced for superhuman ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19038607 ) micro. Big stalker army shouldn't beat big Immortal army. In current SC2 it obviously can with good enough micro. There are probably all sorts of other situations where soft-scissor beats soft-rock with good enough micro.

Does this make AlphaStar's SC2 performance illegitimate? Not really? Tho in the specific Stalker-Immortal fight, input through an actual robot looking at an actual screen and having to cycle through control groups to check HP and select units PROBABLY would not have been able to achieve that level of micro.

The deeper problem is that this isn't DeepMind's goal. It just means that SC2 is a cognitively simpler game than initially thought(note, not easy, simple as in a lot of the strategy employed by humans is unnecessary with sufficient athletic skill). The higher goal of AlphaStar is to prove that an AI can be trained from nothing to learn the rules of the game and then behave in a human-like, long term fashion. Scout the opponent, react to their strategy with your own strategy etc.

Simply bulldozing the opponent with superior micro and not even worrying about their counterplay(since there is no counterplay) is not particularly smart. It's certainly still SC2, it just reveals the fact that SC2 is a much simpler game(when you have superhuman micro).

Comment by spkoc on Accelerate without humanity: Summary of Nick Land's philosophy · 2019-10-07T19:50:19.625Z · LW · GW

Those links were really interesting! My take them: any truly intelligent paperclip maximizer would not make any paperclips until it had under its control as much of the universe as it feasibly could. Or it'd turn into paperclips only those parts of its domain that could no longer help it expand its sphere of influence.

Basically a true paperclip maximizer would almost certainly not start turning the Earth into paperclips, since it would understand that using the Earth as a jumping off point for galactic colonization will produce many more paperclips in the long run.

This seems like a really effective counter to the naive presentation of the idiot paperclip maximizer. Has it been addressed and countered in turn anywhere?

I guess this self-improving and expanding maximizer would still view humans instrumentally, but it might still want to use humans as tools for it's expansion. And indeed, depending on the trade-offs of neurologically modifying humans for obedience(or whatever), it might even leave the base stock more or less alone to the forces of evolution. It becomes more of Quixotic Crusader for Paperclips, with a suicide pact as part of the ideology at the very end of the crusade(once the universe is ours we all turn into paperclips).

Delayed gratification taken to cosmic extremes.