Interesting: He makes the argument that progress in physical areas of technology (transportation, chemistry etc.) has slowed in part due to government regulation (which would explain why the computers and the internet have been the one thing progressing drastically). But the United States has never been the source of all or even the majority of the worlds’ new inventions, so an explanation focused on the U.S. government can’t fill that large a gap (although, I suppose a slowdown of 1/3rd or even more would be explained).
Any information on what the situation has been in other countries? I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire First World has trended towards drastically more regulation, which would indeed leave only the places with fewer inventors and little capital to invest or consumer-money to spend able to experiment with technologies in those fields (if true, the implications for the chance of changing the situation aren’t as bright as if it’s just the United States).
Still, this is something that has to be remembered in any discussion of technology, or for that matter any questions of this type. More generally there seems to be a general lack of tendency (among Americans at least) to check on or be aware of other countries in all sorts of questions, and the few times they are brought up it’s usually a single anecdote to reinforce the speakers’ point (but even these are less common than one would expect). That seems to be a serious impediment to actually figuring out problems.
If I were to steelman the usefulness of the argument, I’d say the conclusion is that positions on economics shouldn’t be indispensable parts of a political movement, because that makes it impossible to reason about economics and check whether that position is wrong. Which is just a specific form of the general argument against identifying with object-level beliefs*.
*For that matter, one should perhaps be careful about identifying with meta-level beliefs as well, although I don’t know if that’s entirely possible for a human to do, even discounting the argument that there might be conservation of tribalism. It might be possible to reduce ones’ identity down to a general framework for coming up with good meta-level beliefs, and avoid object-level
“He who builds his cart behind closed gates will find it not suited to the tracks outside the gates.”
-Unattributed (Chinese) proverb, quoted by Chen Duxiu in “Call to Youth” 1915.
The way to signal LW ingroupness would be to say “signaling progressiveness”, but that does cover it fairly well.
I suspect the logic is roughly that our current prison system (imprisoning people for 12 years for a 1st time drug offense) is bad in the direction of imprisoning far too many people, so opposing our current prison system is good, so opposing the current prison system more is even better, and the most you can oppose the prison system is to support abolishing all prisons.
(actually there might be something of an argument to be made that in order to fight a policy way too far to one side of good policy, it can be useful in some cases to overcompensate and bring a policy too far to the other side into the discussion, although I think in a politically polarized environment like the US that’s bad overall- the overwhelming majority people who hear such an argument will be people who were already convinced of a decent policy and will be sent too far to one side by it, while the people who actually would have their beliefs brought closer to a good policy by hearing the counter-narrative either won’t hear it, or will use it to strawman the opposition.)
I know I’m 5 years late on this but on the offchance someone sees this, I just want to mention I found Yvain’s/Scott Alexander’s essay on the subject incredibly useful*.
The tl;dr: Use universalizability for your actions moreso than direct utilitarianism. His suggestion is 10% for various reasons, mainly being a round number that’s easy to coordinate around and have people give that exact number. Once you’ve done that, the problems that would be solved by everyone donating 10% of their income to efficient charities are the responsibility of other people who are donating less than that amount (I’d also suggest trying to spread the message as much as possible, as I’m doing here).
Of course it’d be better to donate more of your income. I would say that if feeling bad about donating 10% causes you to donate more, then… donate more. If it just causes you to feel like you’ll never be good enough so you don’t even try, it’s useless and you’d do more good by considering yourself completely absolved. 10% is also incredibly useful for convincing people who aren’t already convinced of unlimited utilitarian duty to donate to efficient charity.
It’s also worth noting that “I would set off a bomb if it would avert or shorten the Holocaust even if it would kill a bunch of babies” would still answer the question…
…or maybe it wouldn’t, because the whole point of the question is that you might be wrong that it would end the war. See for comparison “I would set off a bomb and kill a bunch of innocent Americans if it would end American imperialism”, which has a surprising tendency to not end American imperialism and in fact make it worse.
Overall I think if everyone followed a heuristic of “never kill babies”, the world would be better on average. However you could get a problem if only the carefully moral people follow that rule and the less-careful don’t and end up winning. For a consequentialist, a good rule would be “any ethical injunction which causes itself to be defeated cannot be used”.
At the very least, the heuristic of “don’t violate Geneva Convention-like agreements restricting war to make it less horrible which the other side has stuck to” seems reasonable, although it’s less clear for cases like where a few enemy soldiers individually violate it, or where being the first to violate it gives a major advantage and you’re worried the other side might do so.
I think the first two of those at least can be read in any combination of sarcastic/sincere*, which IMO is the best way to read them. I need to take a screenshot of those two and share them on some internet site somewhere.
I assume what Will_Pearson meant to say was “would not regret making this wish”, which fits with the specification of “I is the entity standing here right now”. Basically such that: if before finishing/unboxing the AI, you had known exactly what would result from doing so, you would still have built the AI. (and it’s supposed the find out of that set of possibly worlds the one you would most like, or… something along those lines))
I’m not sure that would rule out every bad outcome, but… I think it probably would. Besides the obvious “other humans have different preferences from the guy building the AI”- maybe the AI is ordered to do a similar thing for each human individually- can anyone think of ways this would go badly?
A more practical and simple (and possibly legal) idea for abusing knowledge of irrational charity: Instead of asking for money to save countless children, ask for money to save one, specific child.
If one circulated a message on the internet saying that donations could save the life of a specific child, obviously if you then used the money for something unrelated there would be laws against that. But if you simply, say, A: lied about why they were in danger of dying, B: overstated the amount of money needed, C: left out the nationality of the child, and D: Used the money to save a large number of children, do you think a court would convict that?
Getting the money towards some cause where the child-saving is a lot less direct, like technological research or SIAI, would probably get hit for lying, but for something like fighting Malaria or the like that might be incredibly useful.
This probably is a bit late, but in a general sense Effective Altruism sounds like what you’re looking for, although the main emphasis there is the “helping others as much as possible” rather than the “rationalists” part, but there’s still a significant overlap in the communities.
If both LW and EA are too general for you and you want something with both rationality and utilitarian altruism right in it’s mission statement… I’m sure there’s some blog somewhere in the ratioinalist blogosphere which is devoted to that specifically, although it might be just a single person’s blog rather than a community forum.
Incidentally, if you did find- or found- a specific community along those lines I’d be interested in joining it myself.
Just want to mention @ #8: After a year and a half of reading LW and the like I still haven’t accomplished this one. Admittedly this is more like a willpower/challenge thing (similar to a “rationality technique”) than just an idea I dispute, and there might be cases where simply convincing someone to agree that that’s important would get them past the point of what you term “philosophical garbage” where they go “huh, that’s interesting”, but still hard.
Granted I should mention that I at least hope that LW stuff will affect how I act once I graduate college, get a job and start earning money beyond what I need to survive. I was already convinced that I ought to donate as much as possible to various causes, but LW has probably affect which causes I’ll choose.
I would be amazed if Scott Alexander has not used “I won’t socially kill you” at some point. Certainly he’s used some phrase along the line of “people who won’t socially kill me”.
...and in fact, I checked and the original article has basically the meaning I would have expected: “knowing that even if you make a mistake, it won’t socially kill you.”. That particular phrase was pretty much lifted, just with the object changed.
The thing is, in evolutionary terms, humans were human-maximizers. To use a more direct example, a lot of empires throughout history have been empire-maximizers. Now, a true maximizer would probably turn on allies (or neutrals) faster than a human or a human tribe or human state would- although I think part of the constraints on that with human evolution are 1. it being difficult to constantly check if it’s worth it to betray your allies, and 2. it being risky to try when you’re just barely past the point where you think it’s worth it. Also there’s the other humans/other nations around, which might or might not apply in interstellar politics.
...although I’ve just reminded myself that this discussion is largely pointless anyway, since the chance of encountering aliens close enough to play politics with is really tiny, and so is the chance of inventing an AI we could play politics with. The closest things we have a significant chance of encountering are a first-strike-wins situation, or a MAD situation (which I define as “first strike would win but the other side can see it coming and retaliate”), both of which change the dynamics drastically. (I suppose it’s valid in first-strike-wins, except in that situation the other side will never tell you their opinion on morality, and you’re unlikely to know with certainty that the other side is an optimizer without them telling you)
It seems like the Linux user (and possibly the Soviet citizen example, but I’m not sure) is… in a broader category than the equal treatment fallacy, because homosexuality and poverty are things one can’t change (or, at least, that’s the assumption on which criticizing the equal treatment fallacy is based).
Although, I suppose my interpretation may have been different from the intended one- as I read it as “the OSX user has the freedom to switch to Linux and modify the source code of Linux”, i.e. both the Linux and OSX user has the choice of either OS. Obviously the freedom to modify Linux and keep using OSX would be the equal treatment fallacy.
Some of the factors leading to a terrorist attack succeeding or failing would be past the level of quantum uncertainty before the actual attack happens, so unless the terrorists are using bombs set up on the same principle as the trigger in Scrodinger’s Cat, the branches would have split already before the attack happened.
I wouldn’t describe a result that eliminated the species conducting the experiment in the majority of world-branches as “successful”, although I suppose the use of LHCs could be seen as an effective use of quantum suicide (two species which want the same resources meet, flip a coin loser kills themselves- might have problems with enforcement) if every species invariably experiments with them before leaving their home planet.
On the post as a whole: I was going to say that since humans in real life don’t use the anthropic principle in decision theory, that seems to indicate that applying it isn’t optimal (if your goal is to maximize the number of world-branches with good outcomes), but realized that humans are able to observe other humans and what sort of things tend to kill them, along with hearing about those things from other humans when we grow up, so we’re almost never having close calls with death frequently enough to need to apply the anthropic principle. If a human were exploring an unknown environment with unknown dangers by themselves, and tried to consider the anthropic principle… that would be pretty terrifying.
I’d be interested to hear from other LessWrongians if anyone has bought this and if it lives up to the description (and also if this model produces a faint noise constantly audible to others nearby, like the test belt); I’m the sort of person who measures everything in dead African children so $149… I’m a bit reserved about even if it is exactly as awesome as the article implied.
On the other hand, the “glasses that turn everything upside” interest me somewhat; my perspective on that is rather odd- I’m wondering how that would interact with my mental maps of places. Specifically because I’m a massive geography buff and have an absurdly detailed mental map of the whole world, which I’ve noticed has a specific north=up direction. Obviously those glasses probably won’t help shake the built-in direction (if I just get used to them), but I’d still be interested to see what they do.
The specific story described is perfectly plausible, because it involves political pressure rather than social, and (due to the technology level and the like) the emperor’s guards can’t kill everybody in the crowd, so once everyone starts laughing they’re safe.
However, as a metaphor for social pressure it certainly is overly optimistic by a long shot.
I would really like to know the name for that dynamic if it has one, because that’s very useful.
It seems like in the event that, for example, such buttons that paid out money exclusively to the person pushing became widespread and easily available, governments ought to band together to prevent the pressing of those buttons, and the only reason they might fail to do so would be coordination problems (or possibly the question of proving that the buttons kill people), not primarily from objections that button-pushing is OK. If they failed to do so (keeping in mind these are buttons that don’t also do the charity thing) that would inevitably result in the total extermination of the human race (assuming that the buttons paid out goods with inherent value so that the collapse of society and shortage of other humans doesn’t interfere with pressing them).
However I agree with your point that this is about ethics, not law.