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Eliezer Yudkowsky #psychoceramics #psycho lesswrong.com

Torture vs. Dust Specks

"What's the worst that can happen?" goes the optimistic saying. It's probably a bad question to ask anyone with a creative imagination. Let's consider the problem on an individual level: it's not really the worst that can happen, but would nonetheless be fairly bad, if you were horribly tortured for a number of years. This is one of the worse things that can realistically happen to one person in today's world.

What's the least bad, bad thing that can happen? Well, suppose a dust speck floated into your eye and irritated it just a little, for a fraction of a second, barely enough to make you notice before you blink and wipe away the dust speck.

For our next ingredient, we need a large number. Let's use 3^^^3, written in Knuth's up-arrow notation:

• 3^3 = 27.
• 3^^3 = (3^(3^3)) = 3^27 = 7625597484987.
• 3^^^3 = (3^^(3^^3)) = 3^^7625597484987 = (3^(3^(3^(... 7625597484987 times ...)))).

3^^^3 is an exponential tower of 3s which is 7,625,597,484,987 layers tall. You start with 1; raise 3 to the power of 1 to get 3; raise 3 to the power of 3 to get 27; raise 3 to the power of 27 to get 7625597484987; raise 3 to the power of 7625597484987 to get a number much larger than the number of atoms in the universe, but which could still be written down in base 10, on 100 square kilometers of paper; then raise 3 to that power; and continue until you've exponentiated 7625597484987 times. That's 3^^^3. It's the smallest simple inconceivably huge number I know.

Now here's the moral dilemma. If neither event is going to happen to you personally, but you still had to choose one or the other:

Would you prefer that one person be horribly tortured for fifty years without hope or rest, or that 3^^^3 people get dust specks in their eyes?

I think the answer is obvious. How about you?

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Eliezer Yudkowsky #psychoceramics #fundie lesswrong.com

The Dilemma: Science or Bayes?

"Eli: You are writing a lot about physics recently. Why?"

— Shane Legg (and several other people)

"In light of your QM explanation, which to me sounds perfectly logical, it seems obvious and normal that many worlds is overwhelmingly likely. It just seems almost too good to be true that I now get what plenty of genius quantum physicists still can't. [...] Sure I can explain all that away, and I still think you're right, I'm just suspicious of myself for believing the first believable explanation I met."

— Recovering irrationalist

RI, you've got no idea how glad I was to see you post that comment.

Of course I had more than just one reason for spending all that time posting about quantum physics. I like having lots of hidden motives, it's the closest I can ethically get to being a supervillain.

But to give an example of a purpose I could only accomplish by discussing quantum physics...

In physics, you can get absolutely clear-cut issues. Not in the sense that the issues are trivial to explain. But if you try to apply Bayes to healthcare, or economics, you may not be able to formally lay out what is the simplest hypothesis, or what the evidence supports. But when I say "macroscopic decoherence is simpler than collapse" it is actually strict simplicity; you could write the two hypotheses out as computer programs and count the lines of code. Nor is the evidence itself in dispute.

I wanted a very clear example—Bayes says "zig", this is a zag when it came time to break your allegiance to Science.

"Oh, sure," you say, "the physicists messed up the many-worlds thing, but give them a break, Eliezer! No one ever claimed that the social process of science was perfect. People are human; they make mistakes."

But the physicists who refuse to adopt many-worlds aren't disobeying the rules of Science. They're obeying the rules of Science.

The tradition handed down through the generations says that a new physics theory comes up with new experimental predictions that distinguish it from the old theory. You perform the test, and the new theory is confirmed or falsified. If it's confirmed, you hold a huge celebration, call the newspapers, and hand out Nobel Prizes for everyone; any doddering old emeritus professors who refuse to convert are quietly humored. If the theory is disconfirmed, the lead proponent publicly recants, and gains a reputation for honesty.

This is not how things do work in science; rather it is how things are supposed to work in Science. It's the ideal to which all good scientists aspire.

Now many-worlds comes along, and it doesn't seem to make any new predictions relative to the old theory. That's suspicious. And there's all these other worlds, but you can't see them. That's really suspicious. It just doesn't seem scientific.

If you got as far as RI—so that many-worlds now seems perfectly logical, obvious and normal—and you also started out as a Traditional Rationalist, then you should be able to switch back and forth between the Scientific view and the Bayesian view, like a Necker Cube.

So now put on your Science Goggles—you've still got them around somewhere, right? Forget everything you know about Kolmogorov complexity, Solomonoff induction or Minimum Message Lengths. That's not part of the traditional training. You just eyeball something to see how "simple" it looks. The word "testable" doesn't conjure up a mental image of Bayes's Theorem governing probability flows; it conjures up a mental image of being in a lab, performing an experiment, and having the celebration (or public recantation) afterward.

Science-Goggles on: The current quantum theory has passed all experimental tests so far. Many-Worlds doesn't make any new testable predictions—the amazing new phenomena it predicts are all hidden away where we can't see them. You can get along fine without supposing the other worlds, and that's just what you should do. The whole thing smacks of science fiction. But it must be admitted that quantum physics is a very deep and very confusing issue, and who knows what discoveries might be in store? Call me when Many-Worlds makes a testable prediction.

Science-Goggles off, Bayes-Goggles back on:

Bayes-Goggles on: The simplest quantum equations that cover all known evidence don't have a special exception for human-sized masses. There isn't even any reason to ask that particular question. Next!

Okay, so is this a problem we can fix in five minutes with some duct tape and superglue?


Huh? Why not just teach new graduating classes of scientists about Solomonoff induction and Bayes's Rule?

Centuries ago, there was a widespread idea that the Wise could unravel the secrets of the universe just by thinking about them, while to go out and look at things was lesser, inferior, naive, and would just delude you in the end. You couldn't trust the way things looked—only thought could be your guide.

Science began as a rebellion against this Deep Wisdom. At the core is the pragmatic belief that human beings, sitting around in their armchairs trying to be Deeply Wise, just drift off into never-never land. You couldn't trust your thoughts. You had to make advance experimental predictions—predictions that no one else had made before—run the test, and confirm the result. That was evidence. Sitting in your armchair, thinking about what seemed reasonable… would not be taken to prejudice your theory, because Science wasn't an idealistic belief about pragmatism, or getting your hands dirty. It was, rather, the dictum that experiment alone would decide. Only experiments could judge your theory—not your nationality, or your religious professions, or the fact that you'd invented the theory in your armchair. Only experiments! If you sat in your armchair and came up with a theory that made a novel prediction, and experiment confirmed the prediction, then we would care about the result of the experiment, not where your hypothesis came from.

That's Science. And if you say that Many-Worlds should replace the immensely successful Copenhagen Interpretation, adding on all these twin Earths that can't be observed, just because it sounds more reasonable and elegant—not because it crushed the old theory with a superior experimental prediction—then you're undoing the core scientific rule that prevents people from running out and putting angels into all the theories, because angels are more reasonable and elegant.

You think teaching a few people about Solomonoff induction is going to solve that problem? Nobel laureate Robert Aumann—who first proved that Bayesian agents with similar priors cannot agree to disagree—is a believing Orthodox Jew. Aumann helped a project to test the Torah for "Bible codes", hidden prophecies from God—and concluded that the project had failed to confirm the codes' existence. Do you want Aumann thinking that once you've got Solomonoff induction, you can forget about the experimental method? Do you think that's going to help him? And most scientists out there will not rise to the level of Robert Aumann.

Okay, Bayes-Goggles back on. Are you really going to believe that large parts of the wavefunction disappear when you can no longer see them? As a result of the only non-linear non-unitary non-differentiable non-CPT-symmetric acausal faster-than-light informally-specified phenomenon in all of physics? Just because, by sheer historical contingency, the stupid version of the theory was proposed first?

Are you going to make a major modification to a scientific model, and believe in zillions of other worlds you can't see, without a defining moment of experimental triumph over the old model?

Or are you going to reject probability theory?

Will you give your allegiance to Science, or to Bayes?

Michael Vassar once observed (tongue-in-cheek) that it was a good thing that a majority of the human species believed in God, because otherwise, he would have a very hard time rejecting majoritarianism. But since the majority opinion that God exists is simply unbelievable, we have no choice but to reject the extremely strong philosophical arguments for majoritarianism.

You can see (one of the reasons) why I went to such lengths to explain quantum theory. Those who are good at math should now be able to visualize both macroscopic decoherence, and the probability theory of simplicity and testability—get the insanity of a global single world on a gut level.

I wanted to present you with a nice, sharp dilemma between rejecting the scientific method, or embracing insanity.

Why? I'll give you a hint: It's not just because I'm evil. If you would guess my motives here, think beyond the first obvious answer.

PS: If you try to come up with clever ways to wriggle out of the dilemma, you're just going to get shot down in future posts. You have been warned.

(Emphasis original)

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sam0345 #fundie lesswrong.com

On "rape in marriage" you are clearly wrong. Freedom of contract is morally superior, the traditional contract for the past two thousand years being that a man and a woman each gave their consent to sex once and forever:

The concept of "rape" in marriage defines marriage, as it was originally understood out of existence, marriage as it was originally understood being the power to bind our future selves to stick it out

According to the New Testament:

"let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time,"

If consent to sex is given moment to moment, rather than once and forever, then marriage cannot be a durable contract: Consent to marriage then has to be moment to moment, which is to say routine hooking up, rather than marriage, thus producing the present situation where men are reluctant to invest in children and posterity, and where eighty percent of fertile age women have sex with twenty percent of men.

The concept of "rape" in marriage defines women as incapable of contract. Like so much of feminism, it infantilizes women in the guise of empowering them.

Saint Paul phrased it more delicately than I phrase it, or people in the eighteenth century phrased it, but what he meant, and what he rather delicately implied, and what people in the eighteenth century said plainly enough, is that if a fertile age wife is not getting done by her husband, she will be getting done by someone else pretty soon, and if a fertile age wife knocks her husband back, she is probably thinking about getting done by someone higher status than her husband, and pretty soon will be so. If she violates the marital contract by not servicing her husband, she is about to violate the marital contract a lot more drastically.

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sam0345 #fundie lesswrong.com

[I just think most new ideas are wrong and their proponents overconfident.]

Then presumably you think that the entire progressive agenda must be wrong, seeing as for the last two thousand years it would have been perceived as evil and insane, seeing as pretty much every taken for granted progressive verity was, before it became an article of faith, dismissed by progressives as a slippery slope argument.

For example, until the mid nineteenth century, everyone knew that female sexuality was so powerful, irrational, destructive, and self destructive that women needed their sex lives supervised for their own good, and everyone else's good. Everyone knew that democracy was stupid and evil because the masses would eventually try to vote themselves rich, and end up electing Caesar. Everyone knew that if you tried to tax more than five or ten percent, it would hose the economy, and you would wind up with less tax revenue. Everyone knew ...

I expect you to agree with me that we went of the rails when we emancipated women and gave the vote to every adult male.

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sam0345 #fundie lesswrong.com

Every long established functional family that I am aware of, where the couple remained married, the grown up children love and respect their parents, and so on and so forth, is quietly and furtively eighteenth century. Dad is the boss. When the kids were kids, Dad was the head of the family. The family was one person, and that person was Dad. Mum picked up the socks.

So, eighteenth century did it right, and it has all been social decay since Queen Victoria was crowned.

Show me a family where husband and wife fairly share the task of picking up the socks, and I will show you a family where dad sleeps on the couch and Mum's lovers visit every week or so to use the main bed.

It is just not in women's nature to have sex with their equals, so the egalitarian family just does not function. Legal measures to make it egalitarian invariably backfire and fail to have the desired effect. Maybe after some millenia of evolution, women will evolve the capability to have sex with their equals, but right now, does not work.