Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on Formative Youth · 2009-02-25T05:53:33.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So that's how you end up if your first book ever is "Mary Sue Gets a Dragon" ...

I think we could test your claims. I'd guess different cultures and times show different kinds of fiction to children. It would surprise me a lot if that was much difference when it comes to traits like altruism, trust etc. - it seems to me that there are too strong genetic forces at work here for just a bunch of fiction to do much. Religions stick because they work with genetic forces, as a way to mark your own tribe against other tribes. Fashion and other silly preferences stick because they're a way to get social status and tribal markers for youth tribes. You get plenty of real life reinforcement for them. For altruism/wanting to save the world I just don't see a plausible mechanism, or real world correlation. For full disclosure Le Guin/Tolkien/Herbert reader as a kid + tons of video games.

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on An African Folktale · 2009-02-16T19:42:52.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

@nazgulnarsil It is very unlikely people would give a lot more to charity just because their taxes are lower.

  • First, with lower taxes people would need to pay for services provided by government now, some of them would be cheaper on free market, others like healthcare and roads empirically are more expensive (market's very high transaction costs compared to government in such cases explain it all even without other causes), so total amount of free money wouldn't be all that different, invalidating need for rest of the argument.
  • There are billions of goods people prefer to giving money to charities. With more money around market would just provide more goods.
  • People give to charities to feel good about themselves, virtually nobody evaluates charities based on their actual effectiveness. That's one of the worst ways to spent money, worse than buying real stuff for yourself on the market, and worse than paying taxes and having government provide stuff for you. Criticizing governments for wastefulness and then praising charities is anti-government bias, not based in any real data.
  • What's the correlation between charity spending and taxes? I would expect something very close to 0, empirically disproving this libertarian charity theory.

Also - blaming NASA/LHC/etc. is a good idea in places like this, they're useless expenses but they gets a lot of support from the "smart" people because they sound cool and high tech.

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on An African Folktale · 2009-02-16T15:42:59.000Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

@Vladimir Golovin - Soviet state control over memes is vastly overstated, people are really good at adapting to bias in broadcast - some of it sticks, but not that much, and memes get primarily copied from person to person. Also what was broadcast was obedience toward the state, not independent cooperation between people, that was very much not welcome. See Pavlik Morozov story which was basically retold it Poland as "Soviet government are the worst scum of the Earth" tale -

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on Informers and Persuaders · 2009-02-15T17:48:56.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The "completely alternate universe where nothing is about status" is called 4chan (in b4: 4chan != /b/, also other chans), you can observe thousands of people posting on various subjects, and one thing they don't care about is social status because they're all anonymous (other than tripfags, pseudonimity combines worst of both worlds) so you cannot even have social status on chans.

You should try it Eliezer, full anonymity removes many of the biases you see in every other place in the world. Certainly chans have all kinds of other problems, but different a very bias profile is something that you might appreciate. Some of it is obvious, some effects are rather subtle and take time and participation to notice and appreciate. One thing I noticed is that people weren't significantly less truthful on chans - there is a total lack of concern for truth so outright making things up is a fair game, but all the coloring of reality to protect social status goes away, I think it pretty much evens out.

Go lurk and post a bit, not because chans are a better mode of communication, but because they're very different in a way that you will have a hard time finding anywhere else.

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on An Especially Elegant Evpsych Experiment · 2009-02-14T10:27:14.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

0.9 correlations in psychological studies indicate either a massive bias in study design or some new deep truth about human nature that everybody missed up to this point, in either case - get this damn experiment reproduced asap!

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on Investing for the Long Slump · 2009-01-22T11:38:36.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It makes no sense to use Nikkei 225 or Dow Jones performance as indicators of economy performance, standard PPP GDP per capita is better than that in every imaginable way.

Japanese growth rates of 1-2% a year are historically still among the best performing human societies ever, even during industrial revolution we didn't get that much, and estimates for earlier times are of order of magnitude of 1% a decade or less.

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on Failed Utopia #4-2 · 2009-01-21T12:30:31.000Z · score: 32 (34 votes) · LW · GW

Is this Utopia really failed or is it just a Luddite in you who's afraid of all weirdtopias? To me it sounds like an epic improvement compared to what we have now and to almost every Utopia I've read so far. Just make verthandi into catgirls and we're pretty much done.

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on Interpersonal Entanglement · 2009-01-20T18:30:09.000Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

People want to be high in the social hierarchy, it's an instrumental value stronger than almost all other human drives including sex (which is also an instrumental value). The civilization was developed only because of this drive.

Do you want to remove this strongest and most complex human drive, or populate the world with low status beings like catgirls so more people can feel they're high in the hierarchy than mathematics allows? There's no obvious third way, and catgirls seems to me like much less of a problem than drastically altering human nature by removing social status drive.

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on Getting Nearer · 2009-01-18T14:57:25.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Michael G.R.: I'm not sure correlation between what possible future would do with cryo-suspended people, and how much you'd like it on utopia-dystopia scale, are much correlated. I think that unless you're revived very quickly after death you'll most likely wake up in a weirdtopia.

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on Getting Nearer · 2009-01-17T20:18:18.000Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I should probably blog about it, but here's my opinion about cryonics:

  1. What are chances that signing up for cryonics will work? I estimate it's really really tiny, 1% or less kind of chance, even if cryonics works some day I might die in a wrong way like in a car accident or by cancer metastasis that will make me lose too much information; or will be frozen in a wrong way; or I won't stay frozen for long enough due to hardware failure, economic crash, or whatever reasons; or future might decide not to unfreeze me; or to modify me too much upon unfreezing etc. Anything goes wrong and it's a fail, and things tend to go wrong with first try of every new technology almost always.

  2. What's the benefit if it works? It could be very high like infinite youth in utopian society, but I guess it's most likely to be moderate to high, like a few extra decades of life of someone vaguely like me.

  3. What's the cost? I did a quick check and it seemed very high.

The most naively calculated expected utility of that doesn't match the price, with reasonable levels of time discounting and risk aversion it's really a horrible proposition. It's too much of a Pascal's Wager if you think a small chance of a very high win makes cost and risk irrelevant.

SENS sounds like a much more likely way to achieve much very long healthy lifespans. Cryonics depends on success of SENS anyway, it's just a bet that SENS is most likely to occur too late against chance of cryonics failing.

There are alternatives way to increasing your healthy lifespan with high expected return, low risk, and low cost - not smoking and avoiding obesity are the most obvious ones in modern Western societies. Unless you've done all these taking a high cost high risk chance like cryonics seems not much different than going to church every Sunday hoping afterlife really exists.

I wonder what makes you and Robin like cryonics so much. You most likely have much higher estimation of its chances. You might also have a higher estimation of its utility if it works. Or you might have lower estimation of its price, perhaps you have too much money and no idea what to do with it ;-)

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on Justified Expectation of Pleasant Surprises · 2009-01-15T16:03:14.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Cyan: I cannot think of any strategy game where fog of war was a good idea. The surprise works well enough in FPS where people are actively trying to use that to outsmart each other, but in strategy games it's just stupid, and reduces fun of gaming. AI in strategy games universally ignores fog of war, so there's not even fun of using that as a cover.

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on Justified Expectation of Pleasant Surprises · 2009-01-15T15:59:03.000Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I have no idea why you'd prefer not to know. Fun theory is mostly intuition, and my intuition says I really hate the feeling of loss of control that comes from not knowing important stuff, both in real life and while playing.

Another intuition is that irreversible decisions based on incomplete data feel horrible, in real life and while playing. Like deciding what temple to build in a city in Rome Total War without having any idea which one will be useful 30 turns from now when it starts to matter.

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on Building Weirdtopia · 2009-01-13T03:27:19.000Z · score: 23 (23 votes) · LW · GW

Economic Weirdtopia: Market is so efficient that nobody has to work, and everybody's basic needs can be sustained by just asking any charity. This prosperity hyperactivates everybody's social status chasing instincts, so people work harder and longer than ever, feeling inadequate if they don't earn more than their peers, and spending most of what they earn on making their 3d virtual avatars look better than other people's 3d virtual avatars.

Sexual Weirdtopia: Reproduction is completely separated from sex, children are taken care of by free market and government services with just token parental involvement, and all STDs all eliminated. This first leads to everybody having sex with everybody else, but people got bored with vanilla sex soon and many sexual identification based on shared sexual fetishes emerge. They replace religions, languages, citizenships and ethnicities as leading in/out-group indicators, and somehow Middle East is still in endemic state of war, now between guro and furry.

Governmental Weirdtopia: Government knows everything about everybody, but doesn't abuse it because everybody knows about everything it does. Universal transparency makes corruption impossible, so people are no longer interested in governing or lobbying and governments atrophy with time.

Cognitive Weirdtopia: Combination of efficient search and prediction markets made all knowledge easily available, so all schools shut down. People don't even learn basic mathematics any more, as easily available mathematical coprocessors for brains do that more efficiently and without prevalent human biases. People find themselves a niche hobby that wasn't explored yet and learn everything about that yet. If they're lucky it might get popular later and they'll make decent money in prediction market out of it.

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on Growing Up is Hard · 2009-01-06T00:19:22.000Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Evolutionary argument against human enhancements is at the same time completely true and really really weak when you look closer at it.

In the most explicit form it would go something like "there are no easy ways without significant side effects to change a human being in a way that would make him produce more children while raised in a hunter-gatherer tribe in a Pleistocene savanna". Making kids in hunter-gatherer environment is what evolution optimized for, it didn't care about intelligence, health or anything unless it significantly contributed to making more kids in this particular environment.

Now we have different environment, different goals, different costs, and different materials to work with. Humans are not even close to being optimized to this environment. Evolution barely did a few quick patches (like lactose tolerance) to make humans good at making kids in primitive agricultural villages, not only did it not adapt humans to current environment, it never adapted anything to a goal other than "making as many kids as possible in a resource-constrained environment", hardly what we're trying to do.

For example using any improvement whatsoever is a possible without breaking this argument if it uses more resources, according to their availability in stone age. What happens to be the case with pretty much every single proposed enhancement.

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on Dunbar's Function · 2008-12-31T23:51:50.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Can we have links to research on impact of television, Internet etc. on happiness etc.? This sounds interesting.

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on Whither OB? · 2008-11-24T08:56:00.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There's nothing wrong with going slow. OB generates valuable blog posts at a rate faster than any blog I know, even if it slowed down considerably it would still be a very good blog.

Speed doesn't matter that much on the Internet - you're not writing about politics or the latest Apple gadgets, so value of your blog posts lasts a very long time.

Comment by tomasz_wegrzanowski on Humans in Funny Suits · 2008-10-28T08:59:16.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think Star Trek TNG did a really good job at presenting alien protagonist culture. While most aliens were flanderized, Federation had a rich culture that was quite unlike modern human culture, with post-scarcity economy, Prime Directive and happy exploration as the main goal.

It probably didn't make a very good story, as DS9 make Federation a lot more human. It improved storytelling, but I still miss TNG Federation and its alien ways.