Definitely Griffiths Quantum Mechanics for undergrad. Lucid, clear, concise exposition. Also easily found online.
There are definitely cool parts in that sequence, as you said. Nonlocality, entanglement, the Liouville’s theorem and some other concepts are presented lucidly and understandably, and with the Bayesian view. They are other parts, that are basically advocacy of Many Worlds, that are much weaker, but still mostly fun to read. It’s just none of it is really needed for learning rationality.
I am not a good authority on popular literature about QM, as I had learned it academically from undergrad and grad-level texts, and it’s hard to go back to my previous self to do a fair evaluation of a popular book or a video series.
I read the Sequences as they came out and went back and read those that were out before I stumbled upon LW. They were in many ways, eye-opening, except for the Quantum Physics sequence, which I find superfluous, unnecessary, and, as someone with a Physics PhD, not very accurate. I have raised the ire of Eliezer here when I expressed this opinion quite vocally. I still think that it can be summarized in one sentence like “consider all possibilities and assign your best guess of probabilities to them”. There is no need for quantum at all, especially given that QM can be simulated on a classical computer, at worst with exponential slowdown.
My favorite sequence is, by far, Human guide to words. I am not so fond of the Map/Territory ontology though, being a “it’s maps all the way down” anti-realist (or post-rationalist, as some tend to define themselves). But everything that is related to cognitive biases and how to notice them in oneself is a must-read.
Would a utility function like U=happiness-tan(suffering) describe your intuition? Small amounts of happiness and suffering contribute linearly to the utility, but suffering becomes progressively more important as the amounts increase, until at some point (Pi/2 in this example, but the units are arbitrary, of course), the contribution of suffering to your utility function goes to negative infinity, so no amount of happiness can outweigh it?
Paul, is anyone at MIRI or elsewhere doing numerical simulation of your ideas? Or are those just open-loop thoughts?
The Wikipedia entry on the subject is also quite good.
The link is not to The Wikipedia, but to some pushy and confusing wiki reader app. Consider fixing.
On a different note, have you tried to do numerical simulations of the phenomenon you are describing? Multiple agents interacting under various conditions, watch if an equilibrium emerges, and what kind.
Have you read the backreaction blog where Sabine Hossenfelder details much the same phenomenon in high-energy physics? She claims that the prevailing groupthink ended up believing into String Theory without a shred of evidence for (only some vague hints), and so far with every single prediction of it refuted?
I am one of those who feel like the DA is utter BS. To test it further, I’d run a bunch of simulations and see how predictive the past history is of future developments. I don’t know if the simulations or their mathematical equivalents have been done, but here is what I would do:
Take a fixed-length fixed-population-size version, calculate the accuracy of the predictions based on the time of the prediction (it would be the best for those exactly midway-through the run). The rest of the observers would be biased in one of the two directions.
Take a fixed length exponentially growing population that ends abruptly, estimate the remaining future time based on the number of observers and on the growth rate. The unbiased prediction happens at the time of A-ln(2), which is basically at the very end of a run of any duration.
Repeat with: exponential total duration distribution with a given rate, with a variety of linear, exponential and other growth rates, Gaussian distribution with the same, logistic growth rates with all of the above total duration distributions, and anything else that makes sense to try.
My guess would be that the result of these calculations would show that there is absolutely no correlation in general between predictions and actual outcomes, and that the accuracy would vary wildly based on the assumptions, and there is little or no a priori reason to pick one specific distribution over another, except the impetus to speculate based on the lack of information, a natural human trait.
Consider first what worked and what didn’t work historically for coordination as a means to move between equilibria. Revolutions/uprisings/unionizing/boycotting sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. What determines the odds of success?
One of the better skills you can impart on them is internalizing their own fallibility. And not a one-time exercise that leaves them feeling that it was all a trick that does not apply to their day-to-day life. A personal reflection on how you came to realize your own limits, and how you grappled with being overconfident in something you believed. Maybe have them describe, to the class or in small groups, a case where they were 100% sure of something, and then realized they were wrong, and discuss the reasons they ended up being wrong, and what lesson they learned, or didn’t learn. Then another exercise talking about what they are currently 100% sure about, and why, and which of their implicit assumptions would have to be invalid for this certainty to decrease to something reasonable. Bonus points to those who, after doing the exercise, actually changed their mind about something important and dear to them. Extra bonus points to those who concluded that they need to learn more and ask for more information on how to do that. Just off the top of my head, anyway.
Not sure if it’s “contra” your post. In physics there are effective theories and the Intentional Stance is an example of one, which is, indeed, a “low-energy” approximation. My point is not about energy level, but more about finding the limits of applicability to see the constituents better. For example in a control system it is hard to figure out the innards until you, say, open the feedback loop in some way, or find a regime where the the system goes into resonance, or saturates, etc.
I meant it more in a sense that people like Michelangelo had to understand the inner workings of the human body, well, the anatomy of it, to paint it faithfully when it’s in one piece.
I agree that edge cases are not very good for synthesis. They are essential for analysis, however. Noticing patterns in a well functioning system is useful for building phenomenological models of the system, but not necessarily for figuring out its constituents. And yeah, sometimes it is possible to figure out a lot from a nominally functioning system.
An important metric is an independent expert estimate of how likely a particular equilibrium will be shaken if there is a large-scale coordination effort, and what potential costs might be. Strikes, localized (e.g. at a Walmart store) or country-wide (an air-traffic controller strike during Reagan years) often backfire badly. An inside estimate is guaranteed to be heavily biased, and so is largely useless. So I would run any suggestion for a kickstarter like that through a payoff estimate filter.
Yes, a few simple shutdown notifications without waiting for feedback is a reasonable thing to do. No waiting for replies, no grace periods. Maybe wait a second or two before cutting the power, if you are in charge of powering the clients and a shutdown means power off.
I suspect that the idea of a visible group identification symbol would evoke an immediate cringe from most regular readers of this forum. If you feel a strong urge to belong to a group and show that you belong to the others, a loose collection of people who are interested in improving their thinking patterns is a poor candidate for such a group.
I am not sure why you pick on blackmail specifically. Most of your points apply to many kinds of human interactions. The original reason for some specific actions being made illegal is based on consequentialism, to convert utilitarian reasons into deontological ones, and, after a time, into virtue-ethical. Not all high negative utility actions get outlawed, and many positive utility actions get outlawed for other reasons, but the general pattern persists. Changes in society eventually result in changes in laws. What used to be illegal becomes legal and vice versa, generally based on the amount of real or perceived harm it causes. When copying became trivial, copyright laws grew teeth. Once same sex is no longer an emotional horror, it is no longer outlawed. If one day human life becomes cheap again (like it is now in some places), murder will eventually become legal and accepted. To productively discuss blackmail’s legality one would need to evaluate the actual, not imagined or edge-cases harm it causes in the context of other activities, legal and illegal, and see where it fits on the utility scatter plot. If you find it to be broadly among the cloud of illegal activities, then you have a case for it being made illegal. If it is on the margins between legal and illegal, then you don’t have a case. That’s it.
Avoiding carrying fuel with you is certainly tempting, solar sail and various beam-powered types of propulsion are some of the better known ones. Various types of the solar wind sail would give much more thrust if one could figure out how to efficiently stop or deflect the solar wind particles (mostly protons), and various versions of a ramjet when in interstellar space. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_sail#Interstellar_travel is a decent summary. My bet is on that kind of technology, unless someone revolutionizes space travel by figuring out how to bend spacetime more efficiently than with sheer mass, and makes something like the Alcubierre drive feasible.