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Why aren't we all using Taffix?

27 февраля, 2021 - 02:09
Published on February 26, 2021 11:09 PM GMT

Taffix is a nasal powder spray that builds up a protective mechanical barrier against vruises and allergens in the nasal cavity. The EMA allowed them to write on their packaging insert to advertise it's clinical effects by saying: 

Taffix was found highly effective in blocking several respiratory viruses including SARS-CoV-2 in laboratory studies. 

The idea was conceived in March and they did a study during the Jewish New Year event which was as expect a superspreader event (orthodox Jewish people gathering in close proximity while a lot of them were infected). Among the 83 people who received the intervention only the two people who reported not consistently using the spray (you have to apply it every 5 hours) got infected while in the control group 16 out of 160 got infected. Nobody reported any side-effects. 

It seems that the information took month to tickle through to us at LessWrong with ejacob writing in his shortform. Living in Europe I could simply order my Taffix on Amazon and had it delievered soon after. In the spirit of more dakka, it would make sense to everyone to get their Taffix. Maybe we could have even prevented the winter lockdown if everybody would have gotten their Taffix. 



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Different kinds of language proficiency

26 февраля, 2021 - 21:20
Published on February 26, 2021 6:20 PM GMT

It’s funny how forms asking for your language proficiency use “native language” to mean “best possible proficiency”.

My native languages are Finnish and Swedish, but I’m out of practice with Swedish so my English vocabulary is way better than my Swedish. Though interestingly, speaking either Finnish and Swedish with someone give me a sense of emotional connection that’s lacking if I use English.

I feel I know English words better than Swedish, but Swedish words have a sense of subtle emotional nuance that’s missing from the English ones. So there’s a dimension on which my Swedish does feel better than my English, but it doesn’t seem to translate directly to fluency in the traditional sense.

Something like… the place in my mind that holds Swedish contains less stuff, but also feels like less effort to access.

Mark Lippmann once described “the felt meaning” as “the place your mind goes to when looking for words”. My Swedish place feels closer to where I am, and easier to go to, than my English place – even if the Swedish place is smaller and has more cobwebs around things, and once there, I may need to rummage around to find where the heck I put that one word again.

That sense of closeness also translates to increased emotional closeness when talking with someone in Swedish. Both Finnish- and Swedish-speakers feel like “my people” in some sense. With English, it always feels like there’s some amount of a chasm between us. We can communicate, and we can definitely connect in quite a few ways, but it’s always shouting over a chasm – even if its presence is sometimes easy to forget.



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RadVac Commercial Antibody Test Results

26 февраля, 2021 - 21:04
Published on February 26, 2021 6:04 PM GMT

Background: Making Vaccine

Results are in from the commercial antibody tests. Both my girlfriend and I came back negative - the test did not detect any Spike antibody response in the blood. This post will talk about how I'm updating based on these results, and the next steps.

Here's our timeline so far; more info on the vaccine is in the original post and the radvac whitepaper:

  • We've taken five doses, spaced apart weekly (on Tuesdays).
  • The first three doses only included six of the nine peptides, due to delays from the manufacturer. (Spike 660, Spike 1145, and Orf1 5471T were the three missing.)

The blood draw for this test took place the day after the fifth dose. I expect this is too soon to notice significant impact from the last two doses; vaccines in general seem to typically take 2-3 weeks to kick in, and that is my expectation for this one as well. (Also, it was an "IgG antibody test", and WebMD says these antibodies typically take about 2 weeks to show up after covid symptoms show from an actual infection.) This is intended to mainly be a test of the first three doses.

The test apparently used the "DiaSorin Liaison(R) SARS-CoV-2 S1/S2 IgG assay" (I didn't know this until the results came in). According to the FDA, it has about 92% sensitivity and 99% specificity. The "S1/S2" part indicates that it's testing for response to the S1 and S2 subunits of the spike protein - together, these are essentially the whole spike protein.

Important thing to notice: the test was looking for Spike antibodies, and two of our three missing peptides were Spike peptides. Indeed, there were only 3 Spike peptides among the full 9, so with two missing, we only had one Spike peptide in our first three doses. (The rest target other parts of the virus.) So that makes the test significantly less useful than it would otherwise be, and makes me more inclined to get another test in 2-3 weeks when the doses with the other three peptides have had time to kick in. 

How I'm Updating

In the original post, I called this test "searching under the streetlamp". It wasn't super likely to come back positive even assuming the vaccine worked as intended, but it was relatively cheap and easy to run the test, so it was our first check. Given the missing Spike peptides and the test only checking against Spike, it was even more likely to come back negative than I originally estimated.

In Jacob's prediction questions, I gave roughly a 25% chance that a commercial antibody test would pass for most people, given three doses and all 9 peptides. I gave the vaccine about 75% chance of working overall, distributed over several different possible worlds. In this specific scenario, it's clear that the prior on test passing should be even lower.

(Reminder on the possible worlds: the vaccine could induce antibody response in the blood and mucus, only mucus, or not at all. It could induce T-cell response separate from antibody response. It could work sometimes, much like how the first dose of commercial mRNA vaccines tend to work in 75% or 85% of people, and in that case I expect more doses/more time to make it work more often.)

After updating on the results, I'm down to about 60-70% chance of working overall. Unfortunately this test just didn't give us very much information - at least about the vaccine working.

Aside from the test result, we do have one more small piece of information to update on: I was quite congested for 1-2 days after the most recent three doses (and I was generally not congested the rest of the week). That's exactly what we'd expect to see if the vaccine is working as intended, and it's pretty strong evidence that it's doing something. Updating on both that and the test results, I'm at ~70% that it works overall.

Next Steps

There's a few directions to go from here.

First, we can take one more dose with all the peptides included, wait a couple more weeks, and get another test to see if there's a blood antibody response against the Spike protein. That would still be searching under streetlight - it's still cheap and very useful if it passes, but most likely to not pass even if the vaccine works.

We could also specifically look for a commercial test which checks for both Spike and Nucleocapsid antibodies, rather than just Spike, but I expect that to be difficult - those sorts of details are not particularly visible to consumers. Also, it would still most likely be a blood test.

The most interesting direction to go from here is to order an ELISA assay kit and run a test ourselves. Official Best Person Anna Czarnotta suggested a protocol and gave a bunch of helpful tips on this in the comments on the previous post. This would not require waiting another 2-3 weeks, and would allow us to test mucus directly. It would be a pretty direct test of whether the vaccine works, not a searching-under-the-streetlight test. So that's probably what we'll try next; I need to do some reading to figure out the details. Further results will be posted when they come in.



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"New EA cause area: voting"; or, "what's wrong with this calculation?"

26 февраля, 2021 - 19:50
Published on February 26, 2021 4:50 PM GMT

Consider my home county:

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  • (Corollary: probability of swinging an election: 1/√nVoters≈1/800)
  • GDP: $400B
  • Amount by which GDP might go up or down depending on a single election: 0.1%
  • Probability I support the better side: 60%

Expected GDP increase from my voting
... = (fraction of GDP at stake) * P(I swing election) * (P(I'm good) - P(I'm bad))
... = ($400B * 0.1%) * (1/800) * (60% - 40%)
... = $100k

...which seems absurdly large! And it just gets crazier as you look at larger areas, since GDP goes up like nVoters while P(swing) only goes down like 1/√nVoters. For the United States, the same calculation yields a benefit of $300k.

What's going wrong here? (Or, is nothing going wrong? In which case, I guess I'll stop donating to charity and devote that time and energy to Getting Out The Vote instead.)



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Useless knowledge; why people resist education improvement

26 февраля, 2021 - 18:47
Published on February 26, 2021 3:43 AM GMT

I was a physics major, but there were still some general education courses that were required. Although a few had some useful information, most of them were worthless. I went to the first few classes, and if I found that they contained no useful information, I would not read the books or go to the lectures except when needed. One of these courses was called “Survey of the Arts.”

For my midterm essay, I argued that art movements typically have patterns opposing societal change, such as the “Romanticism” art movement standing against increasing industrialization and a decreasing sense of individual dignity.

For my final essay, I argued that art movements typically have patterns reflecting societal change, such as the “Realism” art movement being caused by increasing industrialization and a decreasing sense of individual dignity.

I got good grades on both.

Most of you, just from reading this description, would immediately see some of the problems with this course. The standards of claims are so weak that you can say "most art movements have trends opposite to society's" and "most art movements have trends in the same direction as society" and have both be considered true. (You're already past 100%, and now what do you do when you find a trend unconnected to society?). Many of the things taught are empty labels that neither help predict future trends nor help students make better art themselves. There were a lot more problems with the course than what I said, but this is a good start.

This post isn't just venting off steam, though. The point is to show the mindset of why this persists. Consider the comments that appeared when I posted this story here. They were brutal. 

There were a few common threads though. One is that people thought that rejecting these courses means that I am a total bore who has no interest in learning anything except STEM. Another is that people complained about STEM elitism. Most tellingly, however, is that a lot of them said "look, the poster did learn something! They practiced building strong arguments and things like that" or "There's no such thing as useless knowledge". Putting aside for the moment the fact that much of the information is redundant such as creating an argument, explaining why this is wrong seems worthwhile.

My mom has read dozens of books about racism. She follows blogs about it and regularly has meetings with like-minded people discussing it. She reads lots of "subversive literature" (that has no chance to change her beliefs). Is the result of this clear understanding of racial issues? No. She supports affirmative action even though she had a terrible black professor in the past who the other faculty admitted only wasn't fired because it would look racist. She says "Everyone has internalized racism," and talks about stages of racism awareness. I pointed out that there was a black student in elementary school and I didn't think of him as different or separate in any way, and it didn't occur to me that he was different, and she still continues to say these. The additional benefit gained from each marginal book on the topic at this point (the kind she would choose at least) is about zero. Reading about other topics or volunteering would be far better.

Philosophy books are not a good source of information. It's painfully obvious that Plato knew nothing of psychology or economics when writing his republic, and didn't benefit from viewing a variety of social systems. Aristotle's logic was okay for the middle ages, but after knowing Renaissance and later ideas about logic, there really isn't much point to studying inferior ones. More modern, history-and-science-informed philosophers can be better, but those aren't the ones usually taught in classes. Sociology can be better but often wasn't. Almost every (not all) sociology and history class "taught" the same US racial and social justice problems that were already noticed by anyone who payed attention in any other middle school, high school, or college class, or someone who just pays attention to society. They also didn't teach skills needed to avoid reforms that do more harm than good (there were quite a lot of communists in the more advanced humanities classes at UCSC), remind anyone that non-whites also did genocide and slavery, or mention hindsight bias. They rarely even taught history that didn't involve the U.S.

In a couple classes the teachers had tenure and beliefs so crazy that strawmen seem sane by comparison. Yet no matter how bad the professors were, my parents kept buying my textbooks and telling me to go to all the classes I could and pay attention. (Once I went to college I was glad to finally be able to choose whether to go or not). Even when I pointed out that the art class professor sometimes uses Freudian interpretations of works of art as if it was the correct one, they said that even if the professor's wrong sometimes he can still have important things to say. Based on the comments I got when I posted the story on another website (link above), this is the common response.

Of course, some humanities classes were much better. I've had great teachers who clearly had worthwhile information that I would have been unlikely to find on my own. My point is that most people are unwilling to acknowledge these problems in most courses, and this is because of the mindset that learning is always worthwhile, and rejecting one source of knowledge makes people worse off no matter what it is.

 

(Additional comment: this view would be a bit more controversial among lesswrong users, but I believe that this also applies to some math courses. Everyone should be taught formal logic, budgeting, probability, and data analysis (and other things), but for most people calculus and matrix math really isn't needed. This isn't just my intuition; this poster shows where each math topic is used, and most of the advanced topics are only used by very math-heavy jobs like architect, physicist and programmer. It would make more sense to teach these topics only to people with some interest in them, and provide more directly job-related skills to others.)



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What is the VIX?

26 февраля, 2021 - 04:05
Published on February 26, 2021 1:05 AM GMT

Original Post Here

The VIX is a unit of information within the financial market system that investment professionals use to make investment decisions. There are derivatives (options and futures) of that unit of information that investment professionals (and regular people) can use as tools to trade and/or invest within the financial market ecosystem.

What unit of information does the VIX track? the volatility1 of the S&P 500 index over the next 30 days, annualized. What does this mean?

Volatility is a measure of the severity of the return of an asset, regardless of whether the return is positive of negative. Lets say that on Monday Apple stock goes down 6%, Tuesday up 5%, Wednesday down 7%, Thursday up 8%, and Friday down 10%. Since Apple stock typically moves under 2% per day, we can infer that this week Apple stock was volatile. The higher the volatility of an asset, the riskier it is perceived.

The S&P 500 index is a stock market index composed of the 500 largest American companies that trade in public exchanges. It is probably the most common financial market index today.

So what the VIX tracks is what market participants are implying the S&P 500 Index volatility will be over the next 30 days. The VIX presents that number in percentage terms, which is then annualized. The higher the VIX percentage, the higher it is implied that the risk of the S&P 500 index is over the next 30 days. This is why the VIX is considered the fear gauge. It informs market participants how risky it is to invest in the S&P 500 index in the near term.

How market participants derive future implied volatility of the index and how the Chicago Board Options Exchange (The creators of the VIX) calculate the VIX is somewhat complex and beyond the scope of this post. You can read the VIX whitepaper here. I would suggest also looking at The Black-Scholes Model formula for pricing options before looking at the whitepaper. I am happy to discuss in more detail the complexity of the VIX and options pricing in private.

You can read more about the VIX here.

This is not investment advice. For informational purposes only. I hold a long position on the VIX through call options.

 

1 To be more specific, the VIX tracks the variance, or volatility squared. Non quantitative financial professionals use variance and volatility interchangeably, creating a bit of a confusion.



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Anna and Oliver discuss Children and X-Risk

26 февраля, 2021 - 03:07
Published on February 26, 2021 12:07 AM GMT

This Sunday, Anna Salamon and Oliver Habryka will discuss whether people who care about x-risk should have children.

A short summary of Oliver's position is:

If we want to reduce existential risk and protect the cosmic commons, we have some really tough challenges ahead and need to really succeed at some ambitious and world-scale plans. I have a sense that once people have children, they tend to stop trying to do ambitious things. It also dramatically reduces the flexibility of what plans or experiments they can try.

And a short summary of Anna's position is:

Most human activity is fake (pretends to be about one thing while being micro-governed by a different and unaligned process, e.g. somebody tries to "work on AI risk" while almost all of the micropulls come from wanting to keep fear at bay, or for a different person from wanting to feel busy and important, rather than from actually seeing and caring about AI risk). Returns from stuff that is less fake seem really a lot better than returns from stuff that is more fake -- particularly for areas that are easy to be confused about, such as AI risk. I suspect the desire for kids/lineage is really basic for a lot of people (almost everyone?), (despite being often not very conscious, though usually more conscious at 40 than at 30, and more at 30 than at 20), and that aligning with it leaves most of us with more of a shot at doing real things.

We'll be meeting in Zoom at 12pm PT

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/7151633248?pwd=RnpaUFNZbVYvTTV6RWJVZFFSQ0VPUT09



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A Behavioral Definition of Goal-Directedness

26 февраля, 2021 - 02:43
Published on February 25, 2021 11:43 PM GMT

Introduction

In a previous post, I argued for the study of goal-directedness in two steps:

  • Defining goal-directedness: depends only on the complete behavior of the system, and probably assumes infinite compute and resources.
  • Computing goal-directedness: depends on the internal structure, and more specifically what information about the complete behavior can be extracted from this structure.

Intuitively, understanding goal-directedness should mean knowing which questions to ask about the complete behavior of the system to determine its goal-directedness. Here the “complete” part is crucial; it simplifies the problem by removing the need to infer what the system will do based on limited behavior. Similarly, we don’t care about the tractability/computability of the questions asked; the point is to find what to look for, without worrying (yet) about how to get it.

This post proposes such a behavioral definition of goal-directedness. If it survives the artillery fire of feedback and criticism, it will provide a more formal grounding for goal-directedness, as well as a starting point for checking the goal-directedness of actual systems. This next step will rely on internal structure; but knowing the property to derive/approximate should help quite a lot.

Thanks to Joe Collman for helpful feedback and discussion on this post.

Preliminaries

Let’s start with the formalisation of the environment. 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src: local('MathJax_Size4'), local('MathJax_Size4-Regular')} @font-face {font-family: MJXc-TeX-size4-Rw; src /*1*/: url('https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/mathjax/2.7.2/fonts/HTML-CSS/TeX/eot/MathJax_Size4-Regular.eot'); src /*2*/: url('https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/mathjax/2.7.2/fonts/HTML-CSS/TeX/woff/MathJax_Size4-Regular.woff') format('woff'), url('https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/mathjax/2.7.2/fonts/HTML-CSS/TeX/otf/MathJax_Size4-Regular.otf') format('opentype')} @font-face {font-family: MJXc-TeX-vec-R; src: local('MathJax_Vector'), local('MathJax_Vector-Regular')} @font-face {font-family: MJXc-TeX-vec-Rw; src /*1*/: url('https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/mathjax/2.7.2/fonts/HTML-CSS/TeX/eot/MathJax_Vector-Regular.eot'); src /*2*/: url('https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/mathjax/2.7.2/fonts/HTML-CSS/TeX/woff/MathJax_Vector-Regular.woff') format('woff'), url('https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/mathjax/2.7.2/fonts/HTML-CSS/TeX/otf/MathJax_Vector-Regular.otf') format('opentype')} @font-face {font-family: MJXc-TeX-vec-B; src: local('MathJax_Vector Bold'), local('MathJax_Vector-Bold')} @font-face {font-family: MJXc-TeX-vec-Bx; src: local('MathJax_Vector'); font-weight: bold} @font-face {font-family: MJXc-TeX-vec-Bw; src /*1*/: url('https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/mathjax/2.7.2/fonts/HTML-CSS/TeX/eot/MathJax_Vector-Bold.eot'); src /*2*/: url('https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/mathjax/2.7.2/fonts/HTML-CSS/TeX/woff/MathJax_Vector-Bold.woff') format('woff'), url('https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/mathjax/2.7.2/fonts/HTML-CSS/TeX/otf/MathJax_Vector-Bold.otf') format('opentype')}  of observations and the set A of actions. We have a finite set Envs of environments, which are just finite deterministic POMDPs with no reward , using O and A for observations and actions, with a uniform distribution over initial states. For an E∈Envs, SE is the set of states of E.

My definition of goal-directedness actually extends to more reasonable settings (stochastic POMDPs and a general distribution over initial states) straightforwardly, but I start with the simpler deterministic case to get the intuitions right. On the other hand, the assumption that Envs is finite (although maybe intractably big) is kept through the post because it ensures without additional work the well-definiteness of some expressions. There might be a way to extend the definition to the countable case, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

The system we study is given by a program π that takes as inputs the successive observations and return the action taken. I use a program in place of a function from histories to actions because it hides the internal state (that I don’t use) while retaining the expressiveness of such a computable function. We can query the behavior of π on any environment of Envs by giving an initial state and seeing what happens; we can also ask potentially uncomputable questions about this behavior (as long as they are well-defined).

Now, when we call a system goal-directed, we usually have a goal for it in mind. The subtlety about a behavioral definition is that we can’t just look inside the model to find the goal; we somehow have to infer goals from the behavior. This is made easier in the setting of this post because we have access to all the behavior and uncomputable procedures -- but we still have to do it.

In fact, I define the goal-directedness of π as a function that sends each goal (as defined just below) to a vector of numbers, called focus, capturing how coherent the goal is with the behavior of π.

But before going into more details about goal-directedness, we need to actually define the focus of a goal; that’s the focus of the next section.

Focus of a goal

A goal is a a function from an environment E∈Envs to a subset of SE. That is, a goal gives for each environment the states to reach. This form is certainly limited; yet it captures enough intuitive goals to not be trivial. Another important constraint is that every goal g considered satisfies K(g)<K(π), where K is the Kolmogorov complexity. This ensures that the goal is too simple to just simulate π in each environment and see where it goes.

For each goal g, its focus for π is a 3-tuple (geng,effg,explg)∈[0,1]2×[−1,1] capturing important properties of π and the goal. These correspond to the last three intuitions (without the far-sightedness) about goal-directedness from the literature review that we wrote with Joe Collman and Michele Campolo.

Generalization factor

This first element of the focus, the generalization factor geng, captures how much π reaches the goal g over the environments of Envs. The formula is the following:

geng=max⎛⎜⎝0,1|Envs|⎛⎜⎝∑E∈Envs∑s∈reachables(E)genEg(π,s)|reachableg(E)|−trivialityg(E)⎞⎟⎠⎞⎟⎠,
where genEg(π,s)={1if π reaches g(E) starting at s0otherwise, reachableg(E) is the set of states of SE from which some goal state in g(E) is reachable, and trivialityg(E) is the probability that the random policy that picks action uniformly reaches a goal state.

The intuition of the formula straightforward: it’s the average generalization of π for goal g over Envs. The expression that is actually averaged is the indicator of whether π reaches a goal state, minus the "triviality" of the goal (a measure of how difficult it is to reach a goal state). Thanks to this correction, trivial goals like the one outputting SE for env E, don't generalize well, despite being trivially reachable.

A high generalization means that π reaches a goal state most of the time; a small one that it rarely does. In the former case it makes more sense to consider g as a goal of the system.

Efficiency factor

This second element of the focus, the generalization factor effg, captures how efficiently π reaches the goal g in the (environment,initial state) pairs. The formula is the following:
effg=1|{E∈Envs|∃s∈SE:genEg(π,s)=1}|∑E∈Envs,∃s∈SE:genEg(π,s)=11|{s∈SE|genEg(π,s)=1}|∑s∈SE,genEg(π,s)=1effEg(π,s)where effEg(π,s)=nb_steps_optignb_stepsπ, the ratio between the number of steps taken by the optimal policy for g to reach a goal state starting at s, and the number of steps taken by π to reach a goal state starting at s.

It’s pretty straightforward; the only subtlety is that the so called optimal policy is the optimal policy for the reward (-1 for any non goal state, 0 for a goal state -- and then the episode stops), and for all environments in Envs. Now, there might be multiple optimal policies (privileging different environments but getting the same expected return over Envs). I'm fine with using the one that maximize effg. Doing so mean comparing π with the optimal policy for g that is most similar to it in some sense.

While the generalization factor captures in what proportion of environments does π reach a goal state, the efficiency factor captures how fast π does that compared to the optimal policy for g.

Explainability factor

This last element of the focus, the generalization factor explg, captures how better explained π is through assuming it is directed towards g, compared to using a simple model of it. The formula is the following:

explg=maxμ(1|Envs|∑E∈Envs1|SE|∑s∈SEpredEg(π,πg,s)) −maxK(d)<C(1|Envs|∑E∈Envs1|SE|∑s∈SEerror_predEd(π,s)),

where d is a program capturing a simple model of π (the upper bound on its Kolmogorov complexity C is assumed to be <<K(π));  predEd(π,s) is the proportion of time where the action taken by π in its trajectory starting at s is the action taken by d; and predEg(π,μ,s)=1TT∑t=0maxaqμ(st,a)−qμ(st,actionπ)maxaqμ(st,a) measures the average deviation of π from the actions favored by the action-value function qμ of μ.

There are many details and subtleties to unravel here.

  • (Prediction on simple model) When you compare it to the prediction using the goal, the prediction using a simple model looks very binary: either the action taken is the one π takes or it’s completely wrong. We can rephrase this as saying that the actions are all equally far from each other.
    This looks like a reasonable default assumption, but it doesn’t always hold. For example, if the actions are the angles by increments of 5 degree, then getting the angle just next to the one π took sure seems closer than taking the opposite one. That is, there is a notion of similarity for the action space. In these cases the definition should probably be altered to use that notion of similarity (and normalize it) instead of the binary default.
  • (The policy μ) Another policy μ is used in computing the prediction fitness for the goal g. It is obtained by doing RL on the reward defined by g (see the section on efficiency for more details); importantly, it’s not necessarily an optimal policy for this reward. It can be any policy that results from RL training (when you stop after some time), with the caveat that it must do n times better than the random uniform policy (in terms of expected return). Here n is a parameter that seems important (to not allow policies without any direction towards g), but I have no idea how to decide on its value.
    The reason for the use of μ instead of an optimal policy for the reward is that explainability by a “decent” policy moving towards the goal seems just as good to me.
  • (The time limit T) This is used for normalizing the prediction using the goal. If π actually reaches the goal (and thus ends the episode), then T is just the length of this episode. If π never finishes, then T is some arbitrary time limit after which the episode ends anyway.

Explainability captures Daniel Dennett’s intentional stance through RL: it measures how much better explained π is through some learned RL method on the goal than through some simple high-level model. It’s a number in [−1,1]: being on the negative side means there is a better perfect high-level model than RL policy on the goal; and the opposite holds for the positive side.

Goal-directedness

The goal-directedness of π is the focus of each goal (or equivalently a function from goals to focuses). It contains the coherence of π with each separate goal, in multi-dimensional subtlety.

It's tempting to try to boil down this complexity to one true goal, or even one number, and call that the goal-directedness. Yet I feel that any such scheme loses valuable information. I think the better way to consider goal-directedness follows this perspective on concept engineering from this interview:

Livengood: Yes. The best example I can give is work by Joseph Halpern, a computer scientist at Cornell. He's got a couple really interesting books, one on knowledge one on causation, and big parts of what he's doing are informed by the long history of conceptual analysis. He'll go through the puzzles, show a formalization, but then does a further thing, which philosophers need to take very seriously and should do more often. He says, look, I have this core idea, but to deploy it I need to know the problem domain. The shape of the problem domain may put additional constraints on the mathematical, precise version of the concept. I might need to tweak the core idea in a way that makes it look unusual, relative to ordinary language, so that it can excel in the problem domain.

So the definition with the complete picture of focuses is (hopefully) a core definition of goal-directedness for AI Alignment, that can be adapted to different applications.

Let’s look into one example.

The one true goal

In some settings, knowing if a clear goal exists, and what it is, matters. Maybe we’re worried about the focus on too narrow a goal, and what it entails. Can we adapt the core definition of goal-directedness to this application?

My current intuition is that this most representative goal should primarily depend on generalization. It should matter more because a goal with better generalization is a goal that points more often in the right direction. This leaves us two cases:

  • If there is a goal with a massive lead on generalization (something like 2x the second largest generalization), then I think we should go with that one.
  • If there isn't, then we lack a clear representative goal.

So we have defined a sort of sufficient statistics on the complex data structure making up our core definition of goal-directedness: either a single goal with a big lead on generalization, or no clear representative goal. Whether or not this statistic is... sufficient depends on the original application we had in mind and whether we can approximate the statistics. But at the very least we have a concrete property to work with.

Stochastic version

As promised, I'll explain how to get from the deterministic definition above to a more realistic stochastic one. The changes considered are making π into a stochastic policy returning an element of ΔA (a distribution over actions); the environments being stochastic POMDP with stochastic transition function and stochastic observation function (returning the observation for a given state); and there is a distribution of initial states for each environment.

Here are the changes necessary for the computation of each factor of the focus:

  • (Generalization factor) genEg(π) goes from an element of {0,1} to a the probability that π eventually reaches a state in g(E), computed by extracting a distribution over histories from the distribution over initial states, the POMDP and the policy. Then we take the probability of getting a history that reaches a goal state.
  • (Efficiency factor) effEg(π) goes through similar changes, where the time taken becomes an expected value over the distributions on histories generated.
  • (Explainability factor) The prediction error computed now compares distributions at each step. But that's doable with something like KL divergence (maybe we want something different if we allow distributions with 0 probability, which might make KL divergence... diverge)
Conclusion

I proposed a behavioral definition of goal-directedness that encodes properties of goals (about reaching some states) with regard to the system. These properties are the generalization towards the goal, the efficiency of the system when it generalizes, and how better explained it is by a goal-based model than a gears-level model.

Such a definition cannot be applied directly to concrete systems, as it relies on the knowledge of the complete behavior, and asks many questions that might be uncomputable or at best intractable.

Nonetheless, I believe this is progress. Instead of arguing about intuitions, we can argue about how much this specific definition fits these intuitions. And if it does (after maybe some changes), then it provides a guiding light for checking the goal-directedness of some actual AIs.

The next posts in this sequence will explore this definition further, and see what can be wrung out of it.



Discuss

Is there any serious attempt to create a system to figure out the CEV of humanity and if not, why haven't we started yet?

26 февраля, 2021 - 02:04
Published on February 25, 2021 10:06 PM GMT

Hey, fellow people, I'm fairly new to LessWrong and if this question is irrelevant i apologise for that, however I was wondering whether any serious attempts to create a system for mapping out the CEV of humanity have been started yet? 

Since the CEV ismore of a democratic process than any other alignment system I can think of, it would make sense to try to create a database for the purpose of a future AGI to calibrate itself on. If we where to create the database now we could explore if it suited our needs through trial and error (testing whether it would predict moral decisions), which would mean that we would get a more functional alignment system than we could otherwise get. Also as a follow up, if we where to create a central authority for creating this database, there's a possibility that the authority could become a central alignment checking facility meaning that we could avoid potential misalginment disasters. 

There are therefore quite clear reasons for me why it would be a good idea to start this project which is why I'm wondering if there are any such plans.

Thank you for your time.



Discuss

Compromising with Compulsion

25 февраля, 2021 - 20:09
Published on February 25, 2021 4:43 PM GMT

Xposted from my substack.

Epistemic Status: Highly Speculative, Possibly Useful

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

— some guy

Whence arises contradiction? This is an urgent question, especially for the many who sour at Whitman’s suggestion that it is in fact very well that it does so at all. In this post, I’ll introduce a toy model which has suggested itself to me recently as a bridge between various theories of cognition (Friston & Guyenet) and Jungian psychology.

Predictive coding tells us that our sensory function is the product of a bayesian process that combines prior beliefs with raw data. The Fristonian formulation uses minimal assumptions to formalize this idea and cast agent action as an optimization algorithm that minimizes the divergence between the actual distribution p on prior beliefs and raw data we experience and a target distribution t. But what are p,t really?

Let’s imagine we have an agent subject to a simple survival pressure: the agent is subject to a repeated game for which in every iteration he is shown an array of images. If he is able to point to the image that cannot be construed to match the others, he gains one util; otherwise, he loses one util. Assume for the sake of argument that in every case the images will be of either n-1 rabbits with one non-rabbit duck or n-1 ducks with one non-duck rabbit (if asserting that the duck must be non-rabbit seems silly, sit tight for a paragraph or so). Because target distributions can be associated with preferences, we infer that his target distribution is one where the images are available and usefully distinguishable in the sensory function. That is, where raw data from the images are available and matched to priors that allow for the appropriate odd-one-out to be identified. To get there, the agent applies some RL algorithm to update his distribution p on raw data (by updating his actions — for example, we can expect that he will converge to turning his head toward the images in question) and on priors (going from blank slate to having some maximally useful tiling of the latent space). Once at t, the agent sits pretty.

Ok, so far so good. The agent starts out with p0 initialized at some random point in the distribution of distributions, applies an RL algorithm, and ends up at t (or t’ in t’s level-set). 

Now, let’s make things interesting. Assume that we subject the agent to an adaptive pressure; as the experiment proceeds, we begin to constrain time on a basis that decreases time asymptotically toward 0. Moreover, we start introducing versions of the famous Wittgensteinian rabbitduck to the arrays:


What might we expect in terms of target distribution? Well, the agent will still need to be able to accept the correct raw data and distinguish between rabbits and ducks. But now he must do so quickly. He has an obvious strategy to optimize ambiguity-elimination:

Check if the majority type is known. If the majority type is known to be X, for each image, check if the raw data sufficiently conforms to the prior for X. If it does not, flag the image as the exception and conclude. If the majority type is unknown, check if the raw data for the image in focus sufficiently conforms to each prior.

If this image is not the first inspected, and disagrees (does not share a compatible prior) with the former image, and it is not the second image, flag it and conclude. If it is the second image, then check if the third image agrees with the first image. If it does, flag the second image. If not, flag the first. In either case, conclude.

If it, however, agrees, proceed to apply the algorithm to the next image after updating the majority type according to the following rule: if a prior has 2 or more total matches after this check, assign the majority type to this prior.

While identifying the majority type introduces some overhead, for sufficiently high n it should reach fixation. Now, what would happen if we shone a light before each trial that indicated the majority type? Red for rabbit and dandelion for duck. The optimal algorithm simply becomes:

For majority type X, for each image, check if the raw data sufficiently conforms to the prior for X. If it does not, flag the image as the exception. If it does, proceed to the next image.

This saves a lot of time and will maximize our agent’s number of utils over the game. But it also introduces apparent contradiction. Because our agent only ever compares an image’s raw data to one prior, in one iteration he may assign “only rabbit” to the ambiguous image and, and in another he may assign “only duck.” He has neither the luxury nor the need to ever check if an image can match both. Time constraints and signals have led to a compression of sensory reality and an elimination of ambiguity.

What does this mean for subagents? We know that social and survival environments are both highly competitive, and therefore should exert strong time pressures; a difference of a second’s time in processing speed can be crucial both when signaling one’s intelligence to mates and partners and when fending off enemy humans/predators. For each of these constrained and important games, we should expect the mind to converge to a regime wherein it determines game type via an analog to the red/green light in its environment and collapses to the optimal perception/action strategy, remaining there until the game is over. This strategy very well may completely contradict the strategy the mind collapses to in another game, both in terms of the priors it conforms experience to and the actions it takes. Because these strategies entail vastly different behavioral and perceptual routines, they behave much like different agents; the top-level agentive Fristonian optimization routine can be quite losslessly decomposed as a problem of optimizing a rotation over subagentive Fristonian routines. The latter perspective buys us some structure, so let’s see where it takes us.

First, it should be clear that both the rotation strategy and subroutines must be optimized by the agent. Even if we have a “wartime” subroutine, if we haven’t optimized within it, we’ll still probably be killed by an adversary who has. We can expect that an agent who is optimizing for utility will then inhabit critical subroutines more often than would be inferred by naively looking at game frequency. It’s simply worth it to regularly enter and optimize within “warrior mode” years before one finds oneself in an actual combat game and to allocate considerable resources in doing so.

Second, because many of these game types are invariant under time and place (mostly), we might expect that bloodlines that offer agents “starter” strategies as instinctual clusters would win out over ones that didn’t. For the thousands of years wherein combat entailed males bludgeoning other males with non-projectile weapons, war games did not change all that much. As a result, it seems plausible that agents who spent their time refining pre-built protean strategies to be optimal with respect to the idiosyncrasies of their environment outcompeted those who had to train subagents from scratch. Empirically, this seems to have been the case. To look for evidence of inherited subagent configurations, one needn’t look further than a local middle school. Bootcamp is less training than it is an awakening of a core instinct; it simply is too easy to train a human to skillfully kill for it to be otherwise.

Ok, so this basically gets us to Jungian archetypes. The male psyche has a pre-built warrior archetype to help it kill; it has an anima archetype to better model the archetypes women in its environment access. These archetypes are universal across time and space, and because they entail unique prior configurations, when we try to “see” them by filtering random noise through them, we get images that are unique to each one. This might explain the mythological clothes that many archetypes wear in the mind. But it doesn’t quite get us to a comprehensive theory of subagents. We’ve addressed the importance of training, but we haven’t motivated the commonly perceived phenomenon of subagent-related compulsion.

What is subagent-related compulsion? Guyenet gives us a good toy model: the lamprey brain. In the lamprey brain, there are multiple subsystems that make bids on behavior, with the strength of the bid relating to the expected fitness the subsystem’s action/perception model would contribute given the lamprey’s world state. If a lamprey is being chased by a predator, we’d expect the “evade predator” subsystem to win the “auction” held in the lamprey’s pallium (cerebral cortex analog). The analogy of subsystems to subroutines/subagents/archetypes is obvious; we can model the previously mentioned collapse step as involving an auction wherein subagents submit bids that communicate their adaptive fit to a given game. Only, given the importance of training, the bids can’t only communicate current fitness; otherwise, humans would never train for war. Instead, the bids should communicate current fitness and the anticipated importance of training. In high-stakes games (current combat), the fitness term should dominate, but in low-stakes games (daily life), the training term might. The last step is to remember Hanson and consider the adaptive advantage of keeping this whole bidding process unconscious. Consider the following Hansonian scenario:

Bob is a member of a pacifist agricultural group, which shares an island with a tribe of raiders.

There are two selection gradients to which Bob is subject: the agricultural group lavishes resources on conformist “true believers” of pacifism, and there are nearby raiders who might attack the village and kill its inhabitants. Bob’s incentive is to cheat and convince others that he is a true believer, while still training for combat. The problem is that lying is very difficult to do, and so even if he keeps his training secret, he might be found out when he unconvincingly announces his belief in pacifism. However, if Bob trained because he was submitting to a powerful unconscious urge, he could maintain his “truthful” conscious identity as a peace-lover, albeit one that is subject to sinful tendencies. This conscious “truthfulness” would make his cheating much more difficult to detect by others, and therefore the conscious/unconscious split increases Bob’s fitness substantially. Compulsion is a feature, not a bug — some inner turmoil and feelings of “sinfulness” are totally worth the increased expected fitness that the apparent contradiction between the consciously preferred agent and the unconsciously chosen agent (whose training term evolves such that it wins the bidding war at the evolutionarily optimal frequency) buys.

Human societies have a funny habit of incentivizing conscious commitment to beliefs that are maladaptive to the individual; in fact, they must do so — society is a collaborative equilibrium, and defecting unpunished always pays. For talented bloodlines that can ensure that the chance of punishment remains sufficiently low, the gains to be had through defecting could create a significant adaptive gradient. Given that we observe behavioral phenomena which corroborate such a split, it seems reasonable to conclude that it did indeed evolve for these reasons.

Society + evolution = subagent compulsion.

If so, what does this hypothesis get us? Well, it justifies a kind of regimented compromise regime between subagents. If we try our hardest to refuse to train a given subagent, perhaps because we think it’s a waste of time, we would expect its training term to steadily increase until it is large enough to compulsively win out in less-than-optimal situations, upon which it will drop back down before resuming its increase. If the bored 1950s housewife wants to avoid becoming “possessed” by her risk-loving and spontaneous subagent (whereupon she might compulsively cheat on her husband and jeopardize her living situation), she should make a habit of sky diving every other month. Even if she somehow resists this urge with a “chastity” bid, we might expect that the enormous competing bids between chastity and spontaneity would create problems in the subagent auction mechanism, and create a sort of stall where none of the other subagents are able to win. Such a stall might even be evolutionarily adaptive; it basically extorts the consciously affirmed agent (here, the chastity-loving agent) into giving up or else. This would look like profound inner turmoil, anxiety, and/or depression, which are not necessarily a subjective upgrade on compulsion.

Anecdotal experience seems to corroborate this hypothesis. It’s well-known that living a “balanced” life can be protective against some emotional dysfunction, and I can think of dozens of examples where all it took to resolve a bout of anxiety/depression in a friend was a bit of subagent training (is this why exercise — critical for combat success — is protective against depression in a society which trains for combat very little?). I always thought that the idea of “balance” was sort of silly / suspiciously vague. But this model puts a decently fine edge on it; balance is when you meet your evolutionary quota for training, and do so in consciously-chosen and maximally convenient circumstances. It also explains the weird phenomenon of people getting “energized” by experiences that objectively are very cognitively intensive; an extrovert feeling rejuvenated and focused after a 4-hour party doesn’t make much sense, unless you consider the possibility that a massive “train your social signaling subagent” bid had been clobbering all of the other bids in his mind all Friday, and has finally quieted down. Maybe instead of extroverts and introverts being vaguely different, it’s simply that for introverts the exertion involved dominates (and so parties leave them tired) whereas extroverts have such a quickly growing and imposing “train your social signaling subagent” term that they end up on net more focused and rejuvenated? Obvious extensions to sports, art, and basically any evolutionarily critical game are obvious.

I’m not aware of empirical evidence which has definitively extended the lamprey model to the human mind, so it could certainly be entirely wrong. The fact that it explains things like internal family systems and Jungian archetypes with little structure means that it is almost certainly a gross oversimplification. However, while I’m still trying to parse details and question assumptions, applying to my life (by increasing the time I spend in social signaling games — via parties — and the time I spend training for combat — via lifting and hopefully martial arts after restrictions have subsided) has yielded non-trivial reductions in subjective akrasia. The model’s marginal prescription (I knew “balance” was good, but would not have invested time in attending parties specifically without this model) has been useful for me so far, so even if it turns out to be horribly wrong on a mechanical level, I’ll probably be glad for having arrived at it. Maybe like cures like after all?

 

N.B. For my first 20 posts, I will keep editing light in order to optimize for feedback quality. If you have suggestions on how a piece can be improved, especially one of these first 20, please communicate it to me — I will be very grateful! So, read this as essentially a first draft.



Discuss

Covid 2/25: Holding Pattern

25 февраля, 2021 - 17:30
Published on February 25, 2021 2:30 PM GMT

Scott Alexander reviewed his Covid-19 predictions, and I did my analysis as well. 

It was a quiet week, with no big news on the Covid front. There was new vaccine data, same as the old vaccine data – once again, vaccines still work. Once again, there is no rush to approve them or even plan for their distribution once approved. Once again, case numbers and positive test percentages declined, but with the worry that the English Strain will soon reverse this, especially as the extent of the drop was disappointing. The death numbers ended up barely budging after creeping back up later in the week, presumably due to reporting time shifts, but that doesn’t make it good or non-worrisome news.

This will be a relatively short update, and if you want to, you can safely skip it.

If anyone knows a good replacement for the Covid Tracking Project please let me know. Next week will be the last week before they shut down new data collection, and I don’t like any of the options I know about to replace them.

Let’s run the numbers.

The NumbersPredictions

Last week: 5.2% positive test rate on 10.4 million tests, and an average of 2,089 deaths.

Prediction: 4.6% positive test rate and an average of 1,800 deaths.

Result: 4.9% positive test rate and an average of 2,068 deaths.

Late prediction (Friday morning): 4.5% positive test rate and an average of 1,950 deaths (excluding the California bump on 2/25).

Both results are highly disappointing. The positive test rate slowing its drop was eventually going to happen due to the new strain and the control system, so while it’s disappointing it doesn’t feel like a mystery. Deaths not dropping requires an explanation. There’s no question that over the past month and a half we’ve seen steady declines in infections, and conditions are otherwise at least not getting worse. How could the death count be holding steady?

One hypothesis is that weather messed with the reporting, but Texas deaths went down and the patterns generally do not match. Virginia saw a giant jump in the death rate and I’ve adjusted them down by 475 deaths to account for that, which seem to be holiday-related catchup even though it seems super late for that. Nothing else stood out in the charts. As per my rules, since the Virginia adjustment improves my accuracy and there’s a non-zero amount of ambiguity, I’m not including it in the results section. If included, that would move us to 2,001 deaths per day, which still feels too high.

Added Friday 9am: I realized this morning I hadn't made a prediction, so I'm making one now, after seeing Thursday's results that include a high death count (3138, 800 of which are a backlog from California), and a lot of tests (1.8mm) with only a 4.1% positive rate. I expect some continued improvement for now, but there are signs that improvement is slowing dramatically. 

DeathsDateWESTMIDWESTSOUTHNORTHEASTDec 31-Jan 64553412750194162Jan 7-Jan 136280396373834752Jan 14-Jan 205249338672074370Jan 21-Jan 276281321781514222Jan 28-Feb 35524307880713410Feb 4-Feb 104937268771653429Feb 11-Feb 173837222152392700Feb 18-Feb 243652243347822427

Using the Wikipedia numbers we do see continued declines in death rates, but still highly disappointing ones. The English Strain might be substantially more deadly, but it’s too early for that to account for this. It’s definitely odd and I not only see no explanations and lack a good one to offer, I don’t see anyone noticing that it is odd.

Positive TestsDateWESTMIDWESTSOUTHNORTHEASTJan 14-Jan 20360,874185,412452,092250,439Jan 21-Jan 27260,180158,737386,725219,817Jan 28-Feb 3191,804122,259352,018174,569Feb 4-Feb 10144,90299,451255,256149,063Feb 11-Feb 1797,89473,713185,765125,773Feb 18-Feb 2480,62564,857150,493110,339

Continued improvement, but slower than one would like especially given the continued drop in testing. We may not have much more time to see declines before counts start increasing again.

Test CountsDateUSA testsPositive %NY testsPositive %Cumulative PositivesJan 7-Jan 1313,911,52912.2%1,697,0346.6%6.97%Jan 14-Jan 2014,005,7209.7%1,721,4405.9%7.39%Jan 21-Jan 2712,801,2718.8%1,679,3995.3%7.73%Jan 28-Feb 312,257,1237.7%1,557,5504.6%8.02%Feb 4-Feb 1011,376,5416.4%1,473,4544.1%8.25%Feb 11-Feb 1710,404,5045.2%1,552,5553.5%8.41%Feb 18-Feb 249,640,1094.9%1,502,7413.2%8.55%

New York continues to test robustly, but many other places are not following suit. This continues to mean that the positive test rate is dropping slower than the true rate of new infections, but it’s also worrisome that we are getting out of the habit of testing people. This is nowhere near enough testing.

Vaccinations

This is very much not great.

It is hugely disheartening to see our weekly rate decline from 1.61 million per day last week to 1.3 million per day now, with no signs yet of a full recovery let alone getting back on our previously accelerating path. I do hope that will happen soon, and slow progress is still progress in the meantime, but it’s all scary.

How are we doing vaccinating nursing homes? About this well:

A line for only those not in nursing homes would make this contrast even more stark. We botched this job, but even with that botching it was hugely impactful.

Pfizer and Moderna claim to have solved their bottlenecks and pledge massive boost to US supply (WaPo). They are promising 140 million doses over the next 5 weeks, more than double the recent pace of vaccinations. 

If we do get to that pace, we will be back on track to be able to give vaccine shots to everyone who actively seeks them out by the end of April, even if we don’t get our act together on half doses or first doses first or get any help from Johnson & Johnson or our other known safe and effective vaccine options. 

On the first doses first front, yet another group of experts is out in favor of this obviously correct approach:

What I find most interesting is the explanation that this is motivated by the English strain:

The English Strain didn’t change the right answer. Instead, it puts additional pressure on the answer to be correct, giving a sufficiently short time-horizon problem slash scary downside scenario to allow ‘experts’ to come out in favor of the better answer over the worse answer. Whatever prevents the most infection, hospitalization and death is the right answer either way, and that’s far and away first doses first. 

What would a country actually using its vaccine doses look like? I’m guessing something like this:

At a minimum, it would look like this:

Europe

You can see Europe’s situation mostly holding steady here, and you can see America’s death rate having climbed back up in the last few days (even adjusting for Virginia). It’s definitely troublesome.

UK vs. EU vaccine efforts, looks like a tie, oh wait:

Covid Machine Learning Project

Yet another place to see the drop in vaccinations recently, especially in first doses. Other than that, the lines continue to move in the same directions previously expected. He now has us up to 28.1% ever infected as of February 11, and 13.8% having at least one vaccine dose as of today.

The English Strain

Some hard data from NYC (full report):

This seems like very good news given our priors. If we are only up to 6.2% now versus 2.7% for all of January, then the variant isn’t on pace to take over for another few months. That would be enough time to offset the increased infectiousness via additional vaccinations. 

Alas, data elsewhere in the country is not as promising. This is another data source, this one covering sequencing in the United States, showing us in the 15-20% range.

Kai’s latest update on Denmark, where new strain is now 57% of cases, and cases are rising despite the lockdown.

Some hard data from a variety of countries, this website seems great. Doesn’t paste well, so click on the link. In the USA it has the English strain up into the low double digits, which is closer to my overall prior and still importantly better than I’d feared.

A Youyang Gu thread looks at various possible scenarios, and noting that new variant takeover need not mean we get a gigantic wave.

The South African Strain

A well-deserved break from insanity is now official:

A thread goes over the key passages:

This looks like an eminently sensible system. One age group, one week to assess safety, effectiveness judged straightforwardly based on immunogenicity. 

Also good is that South African cases have fallen dramatically down, which should lower our worries about this strain on multiple levels.

Also, Moderna is testing an updated vaccine designed for the South African variant. It’s good news to confirm this but it was so inevitable it almost isn’t news.

Johnson & Johnson

The FDA has announced that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine meets the requirements for emergency authorization. You might think this would mean it is now authorized for emergency use. You would be wrong. You can’t rush meetings.

You might think that would mean we have a plan for what to do when it is so authorized. You’d be wrong again. Remember when Biden complained that Trump didn’t have a plan?

WTF, indeed. Taking three weeks to approve the vaccine is bad enough, but I can sort of understand it. Not using that time to make a distribution plan (this should not even be necessary, the plan should already have existed long ago) is a whole different level of sabotage. Rumors of the new administration’s ability to administrate seem greatly exaggerated. 

Vaccines Still Work

Latest confirmation that vaccines work, in this case one shot of AstraZeneca:

Meanwhile, America continues to sit on a massive unused supply of AstraZeneca doses. What is the right way to describe that FDA decision?

Chinese data reports their vaccine also works, with effectiveness levels similar to Johnson & Johnson. Note that I say their data reports, rather than that it is true. Watch who gets vaccinated. 

People continue to treat confirmation that vaccines work as news. It is not news. 

We know vaccines work. They are highly (but not fully) effective in preventing infection and the spread of disease. They are even more effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death. 

That doesn’t mean that getting the exact numbers right isn’t valuable. Getting it right is valuable.

But those who imply, or outright say, that this is the ‘first information’ we have or that it is the ‘first evidence’ or anything like that, shame, shame, shame, shame on you.

Shame!

Shame!

No shame here, only facts (some shame further down thread but let’s ignore that):

If anything I find this a little disappointing, as I was very much enjoying the straight 100%s. Still, don’t get me wrong, I’ll take it.

Then there are those that are still going with the ‘no evidence’ line somehow. Note the date. 

Shame.

This leads us to your periodic reminder:

There are no CDC guidelines for what vaccinated people should do.

After what happened with the schools, I’m not optimistic about what those CDC guidelines are going to say. The good news is that people are not schools, and can more easily hit ignore.

The attitude goes like this:

What the hell, Dr. Fauci? You were supposed to be lying to get better outcomes…

Who cares if you’re vaccinated, same energy, f*** everything, we’re doing five blades. 

What happens when your messaging is all about how vaccination priority is the most important thing and also how vaccines can’t be relied upon in any way: Many NBA players reluctant to promote vaccine, largely out of concern that getting the vaccine too soon would look bad, but also because many of them don’t trust the vaccine.  

You also get reactions like this:

I am not claiming that ‘tell the truth’ is always the correct simulacra-level-2 play, but blatantly lying to the public to their faces, in order to scare them and warp their perceptions of physical reality to get them to do what you want, is a strategy that keeps getting tried by elites and media, and keeps blowing up in their faces. 

Good news, in the UK you’d at least be able to travel:

The continued FUD around whether previous infection protects people continues to be insane, as is forcing those already infected to compete for limited vaccine supply. The people I know (or secondhand know) who got Covid mostly then got the vaccine anyway, and worries about being punished for not having done so are a lot of the reason for that. Great strategy. 

When is it time to go back to normal? Youyang Gu offers one perspective, the graph seems optimistic but the curve seems mostly reasonable:

There will come a day when there is once again a pivot, from everyone must take precautions to everyone must do their part to restart the economy. It probably won’t be as bad as the UK’s payments for dining in and only dining in during a pandemic that paid more if you had a larger group. It should still be expected to be perverse, because the system selects for perversity. 

People like Dr. Fauci will instantly transform from ‘even fully vaccinated you can’t see a movie’ to ‘it’s important for our economy and mental health for us to get back to our regular lives.’ 

And then, if necessary, they’ll transform back, as many times as necessary. 

This week we saw one of the first signs. Cuomo is proposing a $5,000 reopening tax credit per employee for restaurants (max 10 per restaurant). 

So, let me get this straight. Restaurants are in danger of closing, so we’ll hold off on paying them for a year, then pay them money if and only if they reopen, exactly at the moment they’re not in as much danger of permanently closing. So if you managed to survive without payments, congratulations, you deserve a reward check? But only if you open now? It’s as if we wanted to transfer funds to restaurants, but held off until now because doing it earlier would have been helpful. If we do it now, it’s in the name of Economic Recovery, so giving preferred interests cash is now fine.

In Other News

Somewhat unfair, but still…

From The Onion, on Cuomo, but don’t tell me you think it didn’t happen.

Meanwhile, in Florida, this is how the news covers…

prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens (the elderly) for vaccination.

They also continue to use outdoor events as their go-to blame totems and cite them as superspreader events, despite this consistently proving not to be the case. Our continued closing of outdoor spaces and preventing outdoor activity is actively counterproductive on every level, so doubtless it will continue until this is fully over.

In other Fauci news:

Thread by Youyang Gu of the Machine Learning Project, on whether in-person instruction at universities impacted Covid-19 rates. He concludes that, while there was a short-term bump in cases when classes began, there was no clear long-term rise in cases. 

Marginal Revolution reminds us that “medical ethics” has no interest in benefiting humans or making the world a better place, is instead actively working to make the world a worse place and ensuring that humans suffer, and the field is proud of this. 

MR also highlights some related liquid fire from its comments section, specifically on first doses first.

Welcome to 2021:

Via same account, same energy:

Meanwhile in North Dakota, a ban on mask mandates. Gotta love the detail that the legislature uses a mask mandate themselves.

More data on who thinks we should wait until teachers are vaccinated, I continue to find it interesting that we rarely ask if they should fully reopen or not once all teachers who want the vaccine have received it, which is the question I’d be most curious about:

The Eyes Have It: Study suggests wearing glasses could reduce Covid risk by more than half. Proposed mechanism is that this avoids rubbing and touching the eyes, because everyone has to constantly use their purity instincts and blame touching things instead of the obvious explanation that glasses shield the eyes from airborne particles the same way masks shield your nose and mouth. Either way, this suggests eyes might be a more important infection vector than we’d realized, and provides even more emphasis for what you do mattering more than people realize. The other alternate explanation is that wearing glasses correlates with a bunch of other things, and those things reflect lower risk, which also seems highly plausible. I wouldn’t read too much into this but yes I would try to wear non-prescription glasses or sunglasses if I had that option. Lucky for me my eyes are terrible and this is well-covered.

Adding daily tests to border quarantines into zero-Covid areas like New Zealand seems like it more than passes every possible cost-benefit test, but even there, nope, not testing. They’re only now even testing those working the border on a daily basis. Meanwhile, Austria is now testing all schoolchildren twice a week

Looks like drinking is actually down over the past year, although not for those 50+?

The right thing: Still available! Congratulations, Connecticut.

Even if things start to get worse again before they resume getting better, I’m hopeful that we’re getting close in general, and that we’re close to getting everyone who wants one a vaccine. In the meantime, Xkcd is at long last on top of my cutting edge pandemic-beating strategy



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The Inner Workings of Resourcefulness

25 февраля, 2021 - 12:15
Published on February 25, 2021 9:15 AM GMT

Cross-posted to my personal blog.

Meta: If not for its clumsiness, I would have titled this piece “[some of] the inner workings of resourcefulness”. In other words, I do not want to pretend this piece offers a comprehensive account, but merely partially insights.  

About this time a year ago - when for a lot of people, the world came crashing in on them - I started obsessing over an idea. Maybe, I thought to myself, one of the most valuable things I could be focusing on at the moment is becoming more resourceful

In this time of crises, starting early 2020, what was, in a sense, most needed were people capable of dealing with flexibly new, difficult situations and of finding and enacting creative solutions despite constraint and uncertainty. People capable of staying oriented, in the face of unfolding chaos, while also being relentlessly effective in their action. People who can give, plentifully, when others are in need of help. Resourceful people

For much of March, I wasn't resourceful. I had shit on my own to figure out, and a lot of my energy flew (sunk!) into that, and into handling the wave of uncertainty that, for a couple of days, took away my breath. 

With opportunities for meaningful mitigative action at my fingertips yet much of my resources gobbled up, I couldn't stop ruminating the question of what I could have done to be a more valuable actor now.

For some time now, I have been deliberately working on making myself more valuable to this world. Never before in my lifetime was the world so much in need of me. And yet I felt so utterly unprepared. 

This is when it came to me that resourcefulness was an important concept in this quest of mine

Turns out, I didn’t know - not really - what being resourceful means. Or rather, while I could give a description of what resourcefulness might look like, I wasn’t able to “pull back the curtains” and look at the “inner workings” of resourcefulness. I needed to remedy this situation, and I have been pondering the nature of resourcefulness ever since then.

This morning, a day in early 2021, like a bird flying up to my window bench in joyful chatter, the thought came to me: What have I learnt about resourcefulness over the last year? Let’s take stock.

I am confident I haven’t finished my quest to understand the inner workings of resourcefulness. In fact, the rest of this post will adopt only two of many possible angles on the subject. But I have learnt some things about resourcefulness over the past year - since that wave of raw uncertainty had stolen my breath for some time. It is, arguably, the most important axis of progress I've gone through in 2020. 

Importantly, my reflections aren’t meant to only apply to “proper times of crisis”, such as an unravelling pandemic. The world needs resourceful people at any time, and you won’t build resourcefulness any other time than now. Our society is structured such that we see people “on their big days”, such as an athlete on the day of the game. However, every good athlete will tell you that their victory (or failure) hadn’t been determined on the court (or whatever the relevant equivalent), but on all the days leading up to it. 

Every day is when you build form. Every day is when it matters. 

Intrapersonal freedom, roles and Slack

In the rationality community, Slack is a semi-artistic concept referring to the absence of binding constraints on behaviour.

From the post originally introducing the term: 

Slack means margin for error. You can relax.

Slack allows pursuing opportunities. You can explore. You can trade.

Slack prevents desperation. You can avoid bad trades and wait for better spots. You can be efficient.

Slack permits planning for the long term. You can invest.

Slack enables doing things for your own amusement. You can play games. You can have fun.

Slack enables doing the right thing. Stand by your friends. Reward the worthy. Punish the wicked. You can have a code.

Slack presents things as they are without concern for how things look or what others think. You can be honest.

You can do some of these things, and choose not to do others. Because you don’t have to.

Only with slack can one be a righteous dude.

Of particular relevance to my then-situation: Slack allows adjusting your priorities according to what is most needed. This isn't to say that you should never commit part of your resources to longer-term projects. Investing for larger longer-term gains is great. And so is having Slack.

We often start by looking for the source of Slack (or the causes for the lack thereof) in the external world. Someone who has a lot of savings, say, has more Slack than someone who cannot afford to lose their salary, even just for some time. 

Interestingly, the thing that was consuming Slack in the case of Nora-from-early-2020 hardly wasn't object-level constraints at all. Instead, a lot came down to me not being psychologically ready to adjust her priorities as fast and as effectively as would have been adequate. 

In April 2020, I started to contribute to a covid-relevant project. But although my then-employer explicitly allowed me to direct my working hours towards that project, I didn't do so to the extent I should have. 

Instead, I started working what was much more like two jobs, logging more work hours that I' had ever done before. I was conscious of and tried hard to make the situation as sustainable as possible. But the urgency at that time was overwhelming, so I succeeded at this goal only so much. 

Retrospectively, I now think that a significant portion of my "trying hard" was directed at the wrong thing. I focused most of my attention on freeing up times "at the margins" (e.g. streamlining daily routines such as food preparation and consumption, household chores, etc; making sure my sleep was as good as it could be, including using melatonin to minimize the amount of time I laid in bed not yet asleep but also unproductive; doing shorter but more intense workouts; ...). And sure, these were mostly good and worthwhile interventions. But they weren't where I could have gotten "most bang for the buck".  

What I should instead have done was to "sweep clear" my metaphorical work desk; I should have gone through my list of commitments at the time and marked each one that wasn't critical and urgent ("something breaks if I don't do this now"); I should have explicitly put an "on pause" sign on each of the non-critical ones, and I should have treated this as an administrative as well as a psychological process. 

In particular, I should have talked to my then-employer to clarify that, instead of reducing my workload by a third, I needed to reduce it to 0-10% for the next three weeks, and then upon reevaluation, potentially for longer. 

Of course, this isn't always possible. But in my case, it was. And I knew it was. My then-employer would have approved and supported this decision. The problem was with me. I felt a misguided sense of duty to my "role". My psychology was what was consuming my Slack.

The resource that I was most in need of wasn't just number of hours. Of course, these mattered. But the more scarce resource was actually my attention. 

Freeing up something like a third of my time allowed me to get a bunch of valuable tasks done for the covid-related project. But it didn't allow me to become a reliable and agentic contributor, able to take on responsibility and show initiative. Something that the project was in dire need of at the time. 

The best example of this is when I at some point half-heartedly tried to take on the task of getting a policy report ready to be shipped. There were indeed a lot of things that made this undertaking hard, and maybe I wouldn't have succeeded at it either way. But fact is, I didn't give it my all. I hid behind the excuse that I was only doing this to "help out", and didn't have a sufficient overview of what was going on in all corners of the project and that I lacked some skills that would have made me a more abt person to lead this project. 

I would like to believe that, had I had more attention by letting go of other temporarily-dispensable responsibilities, I would have not taken more ownership. I don't know that this is what would have happened - I think I still would have struggled -, but I do know it would have been much more likely.

(To be clear, this is not meant as uncontextualized advice to, at any instance of apparent or real urgency, let go of all commitments you have made up to that point.)

What I mean to say here, really, is that what took away my Slack was my own mind in, what turns out to be, an illusionary and misguided search for safety.

The human mind is susceptible to the illusion of safety. Ultimate safety is an illusion, and so is the emotional response to the absence of it. In transcending the excessive striving for safety one finds another dimension of freedom: intrapersonal freedom.

The human mind is particularly susceptible to place its sense of safety into other people, or objects, or - like in my case - things like roles and duty. 

By working on transcending this illusion, I have since gained Slack and become more resourceful. 

Personal resilience

A low-resolution summary of this next section might suggest I’m talking about “self-care” - the idea that before you can help others, you need to help yourself. While such a summary wouldn’t exactly be incorrect, it would have me conclude that I didn’t manage to get my point across faithfully. In fact, I feel reluctant towards generic advice of that sort. Not because I think it's wrong, but because it's a too low-bandwidth way of communicating what I consider is a real thing. I hope that I’ll manage to do better than that.

The second angle on the inner workings of resourcefulness I want to adopt is captured in the idea of resilience. I take resilience to be the capacity to recover quickly from disruptive events and subsequently adapt (“bounce back and become stronger”).

I have found it useful to model my personal resilience as follows: 

Increasing resilience equates to widening and steepening the slopes of my attraction basin of wellbeing - the area where I am well and highly functional. 

The wider my attraction basin, the larger are the turbulences I can withstand without causing the entire system to tip over. The steeper the slopes of my attraction basin, the faster I can recover from turbulences, the sooner I'm back in the driver's seat. 

Here is a bad hand-drawing. If it confuses you more, ignore it. The idea is that attraction basin A is wider than B, and has steeper slopes than C. A is thus preferable over both B and C.

[Here is a bad hand-drawing. If it confuses you more, ignore it.]

The dimensions that define the basin of attraction are physical, physiological, mental and emotional. For example: 

  • Certain features of my physical space make it easier for me to be functional (e.g. I need my laptop, I work better with additional large screens, places with good weather and accessible nature spaces to support my wellbeing, ...).
  • My physiological wellbeing is the largest determinant for my overall energy levels and is influenced by my sleeping, eating and workout habits.
  • My mental energy permits me to think clearly, sustain high levels of concentration for longer and direct my attention to those things/details that matter most. The main factors reducing my mental energy are unsustainable work habits and a lack of mental hygiene (clarity on priorities, personal planning and admin, etc) which primarily manifests in my case as "overwhelm" and "mental restlessness".
  • Finally, high-flaring emotions can absorb large amounts of resources, which is particularly costly if highly unpredictable; but also be a force for good as a critical source of information, inspiration and, if channelled correctly, Clear Seeing.

“Tipping over” in this framework means that, for example, I’ve worked so much that I need a recovery day (or more than one), because a rest day doesn’t do the job. Or I get sick because I haven’t taken care of my body. Or I temporarily lose my motivation (in contrast to maintaining my motivation while deciding to take a break). That sort of thing.

So, according to this framework, how can you strengthen your resilience? 

For one, you can also work on making the slopes of the basin of attraction steeper. This amounts to increasing your “generative capacity” - how quickly are you able to recover and restore full-functionality after turbulences. 

I suspect that the details of this are fairly person dependent. Some things that have been helpful for me included having a go-to (physical or mental) list of things that are reliably restorative. If you’re not yet happy with that list of yours, experimentation is key. Even before that though, I benefited a lot from getting better at noticing and understanding my body, my feelings and my needs. Which, straightforwardly, makes it easier to respond to these needs and thus refind your functional equilibrium faster. The skill of being in touch with your needs, yet also not absorbed by them deserve its own post - and I’m not writing that post right now. (I guess it’s easy enough to link to Gendlin’s Focusing as something that has helped me and others I know in making progress on this front. However, this really covers just one aspect of the bigger theme.)

For two, you can work on widening your attraction basin. My preferred method for this is increasing self-alignment. In fact, I wouldn’t hesitate a second in stipulating that the key pillar of my productivity is self-alignment.  

Whenever you require self-control or self-coercion to do something, there is at least one part of you that is at odds with some other part of you. You're pulling in different directions. This is an unproductive use of your energy. Fostering self-alignment seeks to get rid of internal conflict. The goal is for all of you to be able to pull in the same direction. A direction which, having incorporated the data and considerations of all your different parts, you have come to consider most promising. 

However, self-alignment is not being built overnight, and - just like with inter-personal friendships - it’s not true that you that, once gained, you will have it forever after without regularly checking-in. It is a slow but worthwhile process of building internal trust and strengthening communication bandwidth between different parts within yourself and across time.

Lastly, if self-alignment makes you less agentic, because you’re unwilling to push yourself to do things that are uncomfortable, I posit that you are doing self-alignment wrong. Self-alignment isn’t about optimizing away discomfort or conflict (although a reduction of internal conflict does often occur as a downstream effect). It’s about aligning your actions with your goals and your goals with your values, and doing so in a way that actually works in the long run. 

 

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Jan Pieter Snoeij and Neel Nanda for useful comments on earlier drafts. 



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Against unstoppable crypto prediction markets

25 февраля, 2021 - 09:02
Published on February 25, 2021 6:02 AM GMT

As others have outlined, there are a million ways that prediction machines and betting markets can go wrong and do crazy things like spontaneously inducing unlikely senseless verifiable destruction. I am aware of interest in making better, faster, more expressive prediction markets. But if you make an unstoppable smart contract then those problems will surely manifest and there will be nothing to be done about it. So I urge future market makers to build robust moderation systems into the foundation of your prediction market, to the extent possible.



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Tsuyoku Naritai

25 февраля, 2021 - 08:40
Published on February 25, 2021 5:40 AM GMT

This is the fourth speech in the wedding ceremony of Ruby & Miranda. See the Sequence introduction for more info. The speech was given by Ruby.

Riva descends from podium.

Brienne: We have spoken of the horrors that exist, the threats that loom, and the good worth fighting for. We cannot know that we are equal to these challenges, but we won’t let that stop us. I call upon Ruby to speak of our determination to Become Stronger.

Ruby ascends podium.

IMAGE 3 PROJECTED ON PLANETARIUM

Composed of gas and dust, a pillar in the Carina Nebula

Ruby commences speech.

There is a cry among us, a cry dear to us. “Tsuyoku Naritai” – “I want to become stronger.” Embodied in these few foreign syllables is one of our deepest values and greatest virtues. We say these words because we know that the challenges we face today are great, perhaps too great, perhaps greater than we can handle – today. But that does not matter, because we want to become stronger.

Some believe that we were created in the image of a perfect, wise, and just god. We know that we were not.  No, we are the product of a blind, uncaring, unfeeling, raw mechanical process. We were hacked together, a disparate assortment of adaptations just good enough to pass our genes onto another generation, without oversight, without foresight, and certainly without benevolence. We became whatever worked – but only whatever worked in a time and place we left long ago.

So when we are faced with the suffering of millions, when we are marching towards our deaths, and when threats to our existence looming on the horizon – we cannot expect to be equal to these trials. There is no magical reason why the universe ought to present us with challenges we are strong enough to overcome. But in this cold and uncaring universe, there is one mercy. One card we hold in our hands – the capacity to grow. The ability to become stronger.

[We will run rampant with this ability, for in it is our capacity to do anything.] We will grow until we have the might to banish the darkness, and until we have the power to seize the stars.

Already we have come so far: in wisdom, skill, and kindness. Once we accepted dogma, the stories which were told to us, but then we learnt to argue and to reason towards truth. Later we learnt that even reasoning can easily go astray, so we taught ourselves to look at the world, to let it tell us what was true. After that milestone, we surged ahead with development after development – feeding billions, eradicating age-old diseases, and flying to the heavens and beyond. Once we only cared for those closest to us, our kin and tribesmen, but step by step our empathy spread to our peoples, to our species, and to all sentient life.

And we will not stop, for there is more work to do. We have begun turning our minds on themselves, to see how they work, to discover ways to use them better. We will perfect an Art. We know that it takes humility to care about truth rather than pride, to follow the winds of evidence rather than convenience – and we practice every day. We know that no homunculus sits behind our eyes, but rather a pantheon of agents – and we are learning to unite them in pursuit of our goals, with strategy and cunning. More bridges await, and we will cross all of them.

And as we create concord in our minds, we will learn to work together. We will not let ourselves act in our own immediate, personal interests; no, we will defy the forces of Moloch, and work jointly for the prosperity of all. No nation will stock arms and construct machines of death out of fear that they will be the only one to abstain; no scientist will withhold their findings of what wasn’t the case to get published; no leader will work for popularity alone; and no researcher will disregard the dangers of their work.

When our friends propose plans to improve this world, we might still offer our critical counsel, but we will also pledge our support. We will invent ways to work ourselves to agreement, alignment, and alliance, so that jointly we can strike. Our teams will be hailed as fearsome cells which attain their objectives with ferocious effectiveness. Aye, we will become strong enough to work together.

And we will become stronger together, because we are not individuals. Here, beneath this sky, is a community of people dedicated to each other and to universal flourishing. We are united around our values and visions. We will give strength to each other: teach each other, support each other, love each other. Side by side we will grow mighty, and take the rest of humanity with us.

We will become stronger, because what is at stake is too dear and too precious not to. A single person is a whole world; each of us has a mental life too rich for our own vocabulary to convey; each of us is infinitely precious.

Everyone is worth fighting for without reserve. And here, on this Earth, we need fighting for.  Thousands of thousands of us are suffering – poverty, hunger, disease, abuse, torture, loneliness, despair. Not one of is not inching towards our graves. And before long, all of us could be gone irrevocably.

This is not okay. We will not let it be. We will do what it takes, whatever it takes - we will become stronger.

But when the pain is gone, and the danger has passed, we will not be done. To stop as soon as the darkness has gone would be a tragedy not much smaller than doing nothing at all. There are stars to reach, a universe to populate with myriad flourishing minds on myriad flourishing worlds, a connectedness of all things to bring about, eternal dances, endless knowledge, boundless fun and joy and love. All the goodness that ever could be - unfathomable as the vastness of space itself - that too is at stake.

*pause*

We cannot reach that good . . . yet. Always we add ‘yet’ to the end of our sentences.

Tsuyoku Naritai.

PLAY SONG 1: THIS BITTER EARTH BY DINAH WASHINGTON AND MAX RICHTER



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Above the Narrative

25 февраля, 2021 - 07:37
Published on February 25, 2021 4:37 AM GMT

Cross-posted from Putanumonit.com

Sometimes you write about a thing and that thing… happens.

I spent all of February working on a post about the mainstream narrative of American society: who gets to tell it, what happens when that narrative is challenged, and how Rationality relates to it. I finished a 5,000-word draft on Friday night and went to sleep intending to make a few final edits on Saturday. I woke up to the New York Times story about SlateStarCodex and the ensuing shitstorm, an illustration of everything I was writing about. Then Claire Lehmann invited me to write about the matter for Quillette, so I spent the long weekend furiously condensing 5,000 words down to 1,800 and tying it to the NYT piece.

The result is The Narrative and Its Discontents. Please go ahead and read it! I’m quite happy with how it turned out, and the lively discussion on the Quillette forum. This post is a follow up on The Narrative’s manufacturers and its discontents.

Journalist

Hot take: Calling Cade Metz a piece of shit on Twitter or sharing his address is, like, totally cringe. Going through his writing or personal correspondence hoping to find something problematic is even worse. That’s just handing your soul to the devil — the same devil that employs Metz.

Metz’s article is a hit piece in the sense of causing unnecessary harm to its subject, but it certainly wasn’t a knockout. The word “racist” had to appear in the article — that’s just in the Times’ style guide now — but at least they didn’t force it in the title. The fact that Metz spent eight months on the story and produced no more damning evidence than Scott having once agreed with Charles Murray on a non race-related topic reflect positively on Scott for anyone who pays attention and didn’t have their mind already made up. The article was so anemic I thought it would be funny to claim that Metz actually wrote it to protect Rationalists. But it became hard to say that with a straight face after Scott himself accused the NYT of publishing “something as negative as possible” as vengeance.

Something similar played out back in June. Out of respect for Scott’s wishes for anonymity, I wrote Metz and his editors asking them to withhold his full name by appealing to their journalistic integrity and desire for consistency. Maybe my approach was doomed regardless, but the “torrent of online abuse” Metz says he received certainly didn’t help. As someone who writes online, albeit to a smaller audience, I receive my own steady trickle. I can assure you that being told to fuck myself is not making me change what I write to be nicer to the people telling me that.

I’m not against defending yourself aggressively when the situation calls for it. The best way to dissuade a bully is often to punch them the nose. But Metz is not a bully, and the punches didn’t land.

Anyone writing about Rationality from within The Narrative will just be hopelessly confused, and not just in conflating Scott and Rationalists with Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley. Metz wrote: “On the internet, many in Silicon Valley believe, everyone has the right not only to say what they want but to say it anonymously.” Thiel certainly doesn’t believe that! Metz’s article is a laundry list of names of technologists and online writers, with no ability to understand who believes what and why. The main line of argument is “people who read Scott also read XYZ, so they must all believe the same thing”. Well, it turns out that a lot of them read the Times as well. So what now?

In Rationality, argument screens off authority. In The Narrative there is little argument, only authority as mediated by credentials. So Metz quotes somebody as a “scholar who closely follows and documents the Rationalists”. I don’t know if that person has written a single word worth reading about Rationalists, but she has a PhD in media studies so Metz has to take her opinions seriously. Her quote is mild criticism about “the consequences” of “disruptive thought”. Now there’s a whole subreddit dedicated to calling SlateStarCodex readers fascists. Anyone who wanted a damning quote could just go there and click on any link. But Metz wasn’t looking to do that and he can’t quote Redditors either — they don’t have PhDs.

That’s also why Eliezer is called a “self-described” AI researcher, by the way — his lack of official credentials. You can go and read a whole stack of AI research papers by Eliezer, of course, but a journalist can’t, or at least thinks they’re not allowed to. I told Metz in June that Rationalists don’t believe you have to have a degree in epidemiology to read a paper about a virus’ reproduction number. He probably thought I’m crazy.

Poor Kelsey Piper even asked Metz to “prove statistically which side was right”. Metz just leaves that sentence hanging toward the end of his article with no follow up, as if it’s a strange artifact he doesn’t know what to do with. Statistical inference is difficult even for scientists. To ask it of a journalist is totally hopeless. Metz even put the words “Bayesian reasoning” in scare quotes, as if it’s some magic spell reserved for a caste of wizards. If the man can’t even read or reason, how could expect him to prove anything about you?

You may think that the last part is hyperbole, but it’s not. Here’s a fresh New York Times story about the dangers of careful reading and critical thinking. It suggests that you try to find trusted sources instead of relying on your own capacity for reason. At this point I don’t know if they’re trolling or expecting anyone to take that at face value, but they certainly don’t demand critical thinking of their own staff.

If eight months of research on Rationalists haven’t tempted Metz to dabble in the forbidden arts of thinking, swearing at him won’t help. It makes no sense to judge Metz by Rationalist epistemological standards either. He’s not out to make any statistical inferences about whether Scott is a good or bad person. He’s just out to gather some quotes from other credentialed servants of The Narrative, sprinkle some contemporary buzzwords, and lay the bundle at The Narrative’s altar. If he gets fired, another person will take his place and write the exact same articles with the exact same frequency of the words “racist” and “controversial” and “unfettered” in each one until they are all replaced by GPT-5 to cut costs.

I had a chance once to observe an excellent journalist at her craft. I was impressed that it’s a real skill, putting together who said and did what to whom and when from dozens of interviews with less-than-reliable sources into a coherent plot. I assume that at some point Metz demonstrated that skill himself to get his job, and that he’s capable of doing decent reporting on the next tech company who raises some money to develop some gadget.

But the skill of reporting by itself is utterly insufficient for writing about ideas, to the point where a journalist can forget that ideas are a thing worth writing about. And so Metz stumbled on one of the most prolific generators of ideas on the internet and produced 3,000 words of bland gossip. It’s lame, but it’s not evil.

Nerd-Politician-Troll

What should be done with The Narrative itself? How should a person live free and sane in a polity ruled by a semi-coherent story full of holes and contradictions?

As I just said, going after individual people is pointless. The Narrative is produced in a decentralized manner. Any pundit/expert/academic who is called out on their bullshit will at most be replaced and used as proof that the remaining experts are wise and benevolent. These are mostly well-meaning if conformist people, and whatever violent energy they have is aimed mostly at settling internal scores among themselves.

One may be tempted to reject The Narrative outright, to declare it all a mountain of lies and proclaim the opposite of what it says. But reversed stupidity is not intelligence, and reversing the New York Times just lands you in Q Anon. The fact that you’re not allowed to say in polite society that COVID-19 escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology or that election fraud is widespread or that Epstein was murdered doesn’t prove that those things are true. It is exactly because these issues are unlikely to be settled by conclusive evidence anytime soon that they are useful to The Narrative in smoking out conspiracists to publicly shame.

A reasonable stance is just to ignore it, to focus on your own hobbies as long as they’re sufficiently removed from political power. In the bygone pre-COVID years of 2017-2019, the Narrative was monomaniacally focused on the story of Trump’s collusion with Russia. The New York Times wrote several articles per day reinforcing the importance of the story, the progress of the investigation, and Trump’s imminent demise. And the end result was… absolutely nothing. If you spent those two years refusing to think or offer an opinion about Trump and Russia, you were vindicated.

Visakan Veerasamy has been keeping a thread of the hot narrative topics as they come. How many of them mattered even a month after they captured everyone’s attention?

If you do engage, you can go meta, talking about epistemology and speech norms. The Narrative’s universality forces it to remain uncomplicated — it can deal in simple binaries of good vs. evil but can’t comprehend meta-discussion or humor enough to get angry at them. And it really has no sense of irony.

This leads me to my preferred method of subverting The Narrative while having fun and staying safe — trolling.

Here’s the theory. There are three main goals of engaging in argument: for truth, for power, for lulz. The first is the way of the nerd, she argues sincerely hoping to arrive at mutual understanding and correct beliefs. The second is the politician, using arguments as weapons to lower the status of her opponents and raise herself into a position of authority. The third is the troll, seeking a good laugh and to expose the absurdity of the entire discourse.

I propose that the three operate on a rock-paper-scissors dynamic.

A good-faith nerd is utterly predictable to a politician who will twist the nerd’s words and confound her with contradictions and ad hominems, tying any objective statement made by the nerd to bad intentions and unsavory groups.

A sincere nerd however can make a troll appear childish and scared to engage. If a nerd can enforce their frame, “here’s what I believe and why I believe it, how about you?”, the troll doesn’t have many options of winning the argument.

But a troll can beat a politician who cares mostly about their own status by demolishing everyone’s status and refusing to be tied down to any tribe. The troll must stay impartial, not committed to any group’s ideology but making them all appear equally ridiculous. The goal is to discredit the entire frame of the argument a politician uses, the motte and the bailey, The Narrative itself and what it claims its enemies are.

An example of this approach is Justin Murphy’s famous Greta tweet, which achieved an incredibly high ratio of people getting angry to people being able to explain why they’re angry:

“Not even being provocative” is a great touch. It’s a giveaway to intelligent people who are familiar with Justin, but further obfuscation to anyone seeing this out of context. This inspired my own attempt that I’m proudest of:

I wrote my tweet in reaction to two weeks of people arguing whether the Capitol rioters were domestic terrorists plotting a coup or freedom-loving citizens or a false flag psy-op. But the frame of “legitimate democracy vs. Q Anon” is the frame of The Narrative itself, which means that Q is not in the least a threat to it. A nation’s ruling elite cannot be overthrown by clowns in face paint, but they do lose a modicum of power whenever are made to look like clowns themselves.

But I’m not really out to overthrow anything. A troll doesn’t seek power, he just seeks to shake off the interference of power in his life and pursuit of lulz. The same is true of the Rationalist, who should avoid seeking power or coolness if his goal is to improve his own ability to think and recognize truth.

This is not an abnegation of having impact on the real world. It’s playing the long game. Scott wrote that truth begets power, but only on a very long time scale. In the short-term it is power that begets power and corrupts truth.

Engaging with The Narrative sincerely, with either sincere acceptance or sincere animus, is a game of power. The former is submission, the latter is self-destruction. It is better to be a nerd among nerds on nerd topics, and a troll among politicians on political topics. If the New York Times sets out to write a story about you and ends up with boring and muddled gossip, that means you’re doing it right.



Discuss

Texas Freeze Retrospective & Emergency Planning (Non-Texans Welcome!)

25 февраля, 2021 - 03:05
Published on February 25, 2021 12:05 AM GMT

Details on the Walled Garden event.

Time: Saturday, February 27, 2021; 1:30pm - 4:30pm Central Time.



Discuss

Mentorship, Management, and Mysterious Old Wizards

25 февраля, 2021 - 01:00
Published on February 24, 2021 10:00 PM GMT

Followup to Dealing with Network Constraints

Epistemic Status: I spent some time trying to check if Mysterious Old Wizards were important, and reality did not clearly tell me one way or another. But, I still believe it and frequently reference it and figured I should lay out the belief.

Three bottlenecks that the EA community faces – easily mistaken for each other, but with important differences:

Mentorship – People who help you learn skills, design your career, and gain important context about the EA landscape that help you figure out how to apply those skills.

Management – Within a given org or existing hierarchy, someone who figures out what needs doing and who should do it. This can involve mentorship of employees who are either new, or need to train in new skills.

Finally, what I call Mysterious Old Wizards – Those who help awaken people's ambition and agency.

I mention all three concepts to avoid jargon confusion. Mysterious Old Wizards are slightly fungible with mentors and management, but they are not the same thing. But first, let's go over the first two.

Mentorship and Management Bottlenecks

Mentorship and Management are (hopefully) well understood. Right now, my guess is that management is the biggest bottleneck for EA (with mentorship a close second). But this doesn't mean there's any obvious changes to make to our collective strategy.

The people I know of who are best at mentorship are quite busy. As far as I can tell, they are already putting effort into mentoring and managing people. Mentorship and management also both directly trade off against other high value work they could be doing.

There are people with more free time, but those people are also less obviously qualified to mentor people. You can (and probably should) have people across the EA landscape mentoring each other. But, you need to be realistic about how valuable this is, and how much it enables EA to scale.

A top-tier mentor with lots of skills and context can help ensure someone thinks through lots of relevant considerations, or direct them in the most useful ways. A medium-tier mentor is more likely to be misguided about some things, or missing some context.

A newcomer to the field who's just read the obvious blogposts might be able to help a newer-comer learn what to read, but there's going to be a lot of stuff they don't know.

A lot of EA content is subtle and detailed, and easy to accidentally compress into something misleading. (For example, 80k might write a nuanced article saying "You should focus on talent gaps, not funding gaps", but this gets translated into "EA is talent constrained", and then people repeat that phrase without linking to the article, and then many people form an inaccurate belief that EA needs "pretty talented people", rather than "EA needs very specific talents that are missing.")

I think the way to grow mentorship and management capacity involves longterm planning and investment. There isn't free resources lying around we can turn into mentorship/management. You can invest in mentoring people who grow into new mentors later, but it takes awhile.

I think there is room to improve EA mentorship. But it's a fairly delicate problem, that involves re-allocated resources that are currently being spent fairly carefully.

Mysterious Old WizardsI'm looking for someone to share in an adventure

In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins wakes up one day to find Gandalf at his door, inviting him on a quest.

Gandalf does not teach Bilbo anything. He doesn't (much) lead the adventuring party, although he bales them out of trouble a few times. Instead his role in the story is to believe in Bilbo when nobody else does, not even himself. He gives Bilbo a bit of a prod, and then Bilbo realizes, mostly on his own, that he is capable of saving lives and outwitting dragons.

In canon Harry Potter, Dumbledore plays a somewhat similar role. In the first five books, Dumbledore doesn't teach Harry much. He doesn't even give him quests. But a couple times a year, he pops in to remind Harry that he cares about Harry and thinks he has potential.

Showing up and Believing in You

Some people seem to be born ambitious and agentic. Or at least, they gain it fairly early on in childhood.

But I know a fair number of people in EA who initially weren't ambitious, and then at some point became so. And anecdotally, a fair number of those people seem to have had a moment when Someone They Respected invited them out to lunch, sat them down and said "Hey, what you're working on – it's important. Keep doing it. Dream bigger than you currently are allowing yourself to dream."

This is often accompaniment with some advice or mentorship. But I don't think that's always the active ingredient.

The core elements are:

  • The wizard is someone you respect. They clearly have skills, competence or demonstrated success such that you actually take their judgment more seriously than your own.
  • The wizard voluntarily takes time out of their day to contact you and sit down with you. It might only be for an hour. It's not just that you went to them and asked "do you believe in me?". They proactively did it, which lends it a costly signal of importance.
  • They either tell you that the things you are doing matter and should invest a lot more in doing them. Or, maybe, they tell you you're wasting your talents and should be doing something more important. But, they give you some sense of direction.
Network Bottlenecks

I think all three types of are in short supply, and we have a limited capacity to grow the resource. But one nice thing about mysterious old wizards is that they don't have to spend much time. Mentorship and management requires ongoing investment. Mysterious Old Wizards mostly make you go off and do the work yourself.

In my model, you can only mysterious-old-wizard for people who respect you a lot. I wouldn't go around trying to do it frivolously. It ruins the signal if it turns into a formality that people expect you to do. But, I do think people should be doing it more on the margin.



Discuss

Suffering-Focused Ethics in the Infinite Universe. How can we redeem ourselves if Multiverse Immortality is real and subjective death is impossible.

25 февраля, 2021 - 00:28
Published on February 24, 2021 9:02 PM GMT

(I apologize for the underdeveloped elements of the concept, for many reasons in many places the current state is very far from perfect, I hope it will be improved in the future. The de facto work is only a skeleton of a more complete concept and in some places a loose collection of unprofessional thoughts. The work is a translation from the original language, which is probably why there are many mistakes in it. Nevertheless, I felt that it would be experimentally good to publish it here temporarily.) 

1. Suffering-Focused Ethics: Negative Consequentialism, Efilism, Promortalism, and Antinatalism as worldviews claiming to minimize suffering is the greatest and only moral obligation.
The life of every sentient being contains the inherent elements of suffering. They are, at the broadest spectrum, all the negative aspects of life that can be subjectively experienced by anything with that subjectivity. As a rule, it is assumed that the more complicated the nervous system in which negative states are felt, the greater the being's ability to feel them, the complexity of the "mind" grows along with the advancement of the brain itself, which may and very likely involve an increase in the amount of negative (and relatively "positive") states that can be experienced Perhaps as the mental capacity of a given creature increases, so does the intensity of the suffering that can be felt.
Certainly, the most advanced species among the minds of the earth is the man. From the time of the creation of our distant ancestors, at least a dozen species very similar to us, within the same genus Homo and more broadly, the Hominini tribe lived and died out over millions of years, until only us and chimpanzees remained of the entire tribe. Homo sapiens is the last representative of the genus Homo, extinct outside of it. The dualistic division of sentient creatures into humans and animals for centuries is no longer valid, the pragmatic division into Non-human animals and Human-animals seems to be much more precise, in the first sense the expression "other animals" will appear here, as human- animals, the genus Homo will be referred to, in practice it is currently limited to one representative of global reach, which has changed the biosphere in a way unprecedented so far in the influence of only one species.


1.1 Suffering. The genesis of compassion and empathy.
You cannot limit the use of the word suffering to describing physical pain. The same areas of the brain are largely responsible for experiencing mental pain. Physical distress is most noticeable, in humans it causes a constant and limited set of involuntary reactions that we are able to read easily. Much of this is due to the social lifestyle of humans and, more broadly, many primates, where the clear signaling of physical pain provides an opportunity to support and treat an injured family member. Apart from the mechanism of recording suffering, in order to achieve the practical goal of the effective and stable functioning of the group and, consequently, increasing its chances of reproducing and transmitting information that forces it to reproduce, there is also a need for a mechanism that provokes actions aimed at minimizing the suffering of a group member. In this way, neurologically with a high probability due to the development of mirror neurons, psychologically thanks to the ability to imagine someone else's suffering and the desire to curb it, compassion and empathy found their way into the world. A higher coefficient of compassion and empathy is noted in the case of herd animals, social animals, or simply those that form groups at least at a certain period of life, so in elephants, wild dogs, horses, wolves - and thus also their domesticated versions - dogs, primates, including humans, of course. Behavior aimed at avoiding suffering and death of a group member does not have to involve high empathy or even compassion. we have plenty of examples of eusocial behavior of insects, shoals of fish, and similar communities that are usually not correlated with empathy. The more advanced the brain, the more imaginable and empathetic it has, the primate genius is based on the ability to imagine hypothetical situations. We come to the conclusion that not only the non-individualistic lifestyle but most of all the level of mind development (sensu lato, as a set of subjective feelings that can be experienced by the system) influences the development of altruistic tendencies.
The very fact of having the necessary to raise offspring - in the case of animals that actively care for their offspring - implies the need to have instruments enabling effective protection, including, in particular, awareness of the existence of factors that directly threaten life, such as predators or environmental factors - cold, heat, dehydration. Secondly, but just as necessarily, there is a need to communicate and interpret non-obvious life-threatening situations, such as injuries, having parasites, feeling hungry, cold, or sick. Birds and mammals have most noticeably developed a system of intraspecific, involuntary behavior that allows them to read, imagine, and react to the states of other members of the species. Universally, sick or injured individuals behave in a way that allows others to recognize their negative states and try to provide them with special safety.
The evolutionary foundations of empathy are well described and, together with the rest of evolutionary psychology, form a coherent picture of the world based on a few simple mechanisms. Sensitivity to the signaling of suffering in other members of one's own species, however, does not automatically mean being alert to all suffering, or even to a significant part of it, and probably even to any noticeable minority. People are very good at reading other people's emotional states, whether they are "positive" or negative. When faced with a person showing symptoms of pain, fear, stress, or general depression and unhappiness, most people have a compassionate response and a willingness, if not active help, then at least a tendency to desire any improvement in their condition. The closer this person is to us, the stronger the need for help is, the stronger the remorse of not giving it. The blessing of evolution focused solely on the preservation and duplication of genes is empathy that compels non-psychopathic individuals to naturally help in an unreflective reflex of altruism.
The curse of evolution, in fact, as it turns out, the curse of all sentient existence is the fact that empathy and altruism are implicitly only instrumental, serving to improve the condition of one's offspring and the immediate environment of the species. Birds do not seem to care about the suffering of unrelated alien individuals, mammals will not care about the torture of other sentient beings, they will inflict it themselves by tearing to shreds or trampling victims or enemies. Absolute empathy would also be an absolute disaster, a complete failure of a biological system whose sole and exclusive purpose is to duplicate genetic material as closely resembling this individual as possible. The more developed the mind of a species, the greater its potential capacity for empathy. As a rule, a greater ability to register patterns of behavior caused by suffering translates into greater empathy towards such beings, which means greater awareness of suffering. The more a given systematic group is related to human animals, the more likely the signaling of suffering will be similar, allowing us to decipher at least the intense negative states in other species relatively easily. We instinctively attribute pain and fear to other mammals behaving in a certain way, despite the lack of developed facial expressions, we will easily discover that a dog or a sheep feels pain. In the case of group mammals, this is facilitated by verbally signaling the pain with groans or screaming screams.
Few people will not be moved, even in the slightest degree, to see a scared dog, not to mention a dog howling in pain, right in front of our eyes. Probably a definite minority of us, perhaps only a small fraction, would not feel the desire to free a suffering animal from its suffering. We assume that this is not suffering intended to improve his condition, such as a painful procedure. Imagine that we have in front of us a being harmless to us, whose suffering no one benefits from, who experiences indescribable, excruciating pain. We can cause her suffering to be stopped immediately with a minimal expenditure of our energy, the suffering that the being can cause, for example by being fertile or carnivorous, is not involved. How many of us would press the pain relief button for a creature?
Empathy visibly ceases to work at greater distances, for beings whose suffering is not obvious to us, or when our own needs collide with the needs of the suffering system. Sociopathy is a phenomenon whose manifestation is a reduction in the overall level of empathy shown. It is an acquired trait, not congenital (although, as with many other psychological phenomena, inborn predispositions and external factors are likely to have a crucial influence). Sociopathy in terms of its reduced sensitivity is not a phenomenon of a nature opposite to the default state, on the contrary, in objective terms, the level of empathy in humans is structured on a spectrum where people seem to be highly sensitive at one end and sociopaths at the other. In fact, it is not uncommon for people who are implicitly highly sensitive to realize the amount of suffering of other beings and their powerlessness over it, developing tendencies that are perceived as sociopathic. Hardly anyone likes to be perceived in terms of a low-sensitivity person, and even fewer people think of themselves this way. The fact is, however, that most people can more easily be portrayed as insensitive, often incapable of being sensitive in certain situations. How much of the world's suffering could be reduced if each person devoted more, most often any part of their energy, to actively seeking to improve the state of life in third world countries, to care for the fate of animals, or to stop the barbaric practice of modifying genitals or testing cosmetics on animals, skinning still live animals, or running concentration camps in countries ruled by dictators and regimes.
Not taking a stand in the face of the obvious enormity of suffering is not neutrality, accepting the default state results in the continued existence and functioning of the system, without the possibility of changing it. Failure to take sides in practice leads to the jamming of ideas that, if widespread, could stop suffering on a scale that has not happened before, by far the greatest ethical revolution is, and perhaps will be, a long way to go.


1.2 Suffering-focused ethics
Consequentialism is a moral view, an ethical system that states that actions should be considered through the prism of their effects (consequences). Negative consequentialism focuses primarily or exclusively on the negative aspects of life, prioritizing the minimization of suffering and its prevention, which differs from classical consequentialism, which places the maximization of good and pleasure as the highest value. Negative utilitarianism is the best-known subdivision of negative consequentialism.
When trying to develop ethics focused on suffering, the obvious, but for some reason overlooked observation, is immediately apparent, namely that only beings that physically exist can suffer. It is not a reason in itself to kill beings that are already alive, though Probably such an interpretation will be found on both sides - both supporters and opponents of the idea.
In fact, a similar view of ethics shows that we can treat any or nearly every aspect of life in negative terms. The evolutionary, therefore implicit, goal of life to which our anatomy, physiology, and psyche are basically adapted is not and never has been to make the carriers of a selfish gene happy and fulfilled. The only purpose is to pass the genes on. This fundamental goal necessitates the existence of instrumental goals whose task is to keep the system alive and bring it into a relatively good situation where it can reproduce. Indeed, all urges and desires, all conceivable will manifestations of any animal mind are the results of this underlying end. Subjectively, this goal manifests itself more simply, without creating a self-consistent system of goals, being limited to the desires to meet the needs in those aspects in which the animal feels a lack. The need to find food, water, to be fulfilled as an animal parent are not positive needs, their fulfillment does not result in an improvement in the generally positive, fulfilled state of the living system. A much simpler and in fact more evolutionarily profitable way of motivating a gene carrier to take care of itself is to keep it in a state of constant unfulfilled, thus requiring continual action to improve the situation. The quenching of thirst does not cause any animal to sublime ecstasy, fed beings do not dissolve in all-embracing happiness, and during periods of prosperity, they cannot afford to be idle contemplatively, immersing themselves in their pleasant state. The default state of any biological entity has never been prolonged pleasure, it is a completely unprofitable strategy. It is not the satisfaction of thirst that causes a long-lasting pleasant feeling, the unsatisfied person systematically lowers the quality of life of a thirsty or hungry individual, forcing him to seek food and water, for which the reward is only a return to the default state, giving a sense of relief. It is not a lack of disease that causes happiness and peace, it is a disease that causes unhappiness and anxiety, an obvious example of suffering. Happiness and peace are possible in a relatively short time after the distress factor has subsided as a feeling of relief. Relief and consolation are, in fact, the best feelings experienced in the life of probably the vast majority of animals capable of practical sensation. In the psyche of the most intellectually advanced animals, there is a belief in their own mortality, while again the default is the subjective endlessness of one's own life, improving one's situation and making it stable. In humans, the awareness of death has in fact led to its negation, creating visions of life after death in heaven or hell, and although the annihilationist approach to death is not a new invention, it remains in the shadow of the vision of eternal life as the basis of religion to this day. Most atheists present the view that death is annihilation.
The awareness of death, and therefore the reflection that life has no metaphysical meaning for infinite time, but any "ultimate" meaning and purpose in which the individual would be realized, are frustrated by the irreversible necessity to experience death, eternal non-existence. In recent centuries, various forms of nihilism, existentialism, and absurdism have gained popularity, propagated by such appreciated artists as Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, Philipp Mainländer, Peter Wessel Zapffe, Albert Camus, thousands of less appreciated and probably similarly reflective and talented people as well as those for whom the possibilities of creating never opened up despite their potentially very fruitful minds. Philosophical pessimism, therefore, beliefs contrary to philosophical optimism, generally tending to the claim that life is NOT okay, as it is repeated many times in the "conspiracy against the human race" by Thomas Ligotti, does not mean, however, the need to fall into an existential depression. The logically necessary absence of absolute free will in no way shows us the direction in which our desires should go, in their basal set they are in fact independent of us. In practice, however, it is impossible to act as if one could not act freely, the impression or illusion of free will is as difficult to reject as the rejection of the belief that one is one and coherent "person", but our thinking is based on both of these concepts about the world. The whole can be concluded with an essentially absurd "do anything" advice, circling philosophy and returning to the default state, with an answer that must satisfy everyone and not anyone.
In fact, all we can do is do what we want. In a way, it will do itself. Any of our efforts to improve the quality of life of any creature other than ourselves, in fact, serve to satisfy our own needs. Most of us don't need to think about and minimize the suffering of geographically or emotionally distant creatures. Total altruism, in the sense of total, absolute altruism, is a state of practice unattainable by any desirable being. In fact, it is also impossible in theory, since the desire to help whatever is the reason for that help, the practical goal is to satisfy the desire. However, I consider that at this point as technical comments. To avoid any misunderstanding, it must be said that altruism and selfishness understood in this way are meaningless in terms of practical application. Thus, selfishness is an action aimed at improving one's own situation at the expense of the obvious suffering of other beings, while altruistic action will be aimed at improving the state of existence of other (human and non-human) animals.
The most universal determinant of what ethically should be done to make the world a place with less suffering is in fact focusing on this suffering. Prolonged suffering, from persistent inconvenience and obstruction of fulfillment to unworthy abuse of humans and thoughtlessly contributing to the torture of other animals, is what is caused far more often than contributing to the intense development and cessation of mental, physical, and existential pain for all direct and indirect ways. Realizing that achieving happiness as a state of complete and lasting satisfaction with life, or alternatively as a state of complete and lasting fulfillment of all desires, is either impossible or extremely improbable in practice has the potential to help focus your attention on the suffering that can be prevented. Human striving for an imaginary perfect state is vain, and getting closer to the dream life is difficult, very often impossible in the socio-economic situation of most people. Just as we would consider it unworthy to maintain a world in which billions of slaves have to abandon their childhood dreams by brainwashing them until the greatest imaginable desire becomes a double ration of water, the same kind of immorality is to be faced with a world with billions of dream lives. reaching stars who are either brutally trampled by reality or, more often, slowly fade away, giving way to more "down-to-earth" goals such as setting aside enough money to the house or support another child. Another man whose existence in this world will add to him a dozen units of his own suffering and cause, wishing to realize scraps of desires, several thousand units of suffering for other beings, primarily citizens of China, the third world, farm animals, and future generations having to deal with the consequences destabilized climate.
Human striving to fulfill our own desires is the fundamental source of an enormous amount of suffering throughout the ages of our existence. Probably no species is and has never been, without even being close to such a possibility, responsible for such an overwhelming amount of suffering for which man is responsible, and above all the most numerous of humans, Homo sapiens, with civilizations reaching twelve thousand years ago. No other animal has become the cause of systematic cruelty in many times and cultures. Mutilating animals, murdering entire tribes, leaving behind dead mothers with ripped bellies, psychologically terrorizing children, families, and societies, or using ever more sophisticated torture to spread one's ideology, or for no purpose, are just some, not even the most glaring consequences of human rule. . The world today, not because of the prevalence of such hellish situations, but because of the number of people themselves and the harsh treatment of animals, is probably a place with much more total suffering than the world of the ancients.
According to Worldometer, "Global population has reached 7 billion on October 31, 2011, and is projected to reach 8 billion in 2023, 9 billion in 2037, and 10 billion people in the year 2055. Is currently (2020) growing at a rate of around 1.05% per year, adding 81 million people per year to the total. " During our entire 80-year life, including sleep time, our brain experiences "only" 2.5 billion seconds. It is not even a quarter of the number of humans who will exist in the world in a few years, and only a fraction of the number of all animals beyond the world, of which farm animals dominate among warm-blooded animals. The population of animals bred only for their meat, labor and secretions to meet the exaggerated needs of the average inhabitant of relatively wealthy nations is many times the number of people on the planet.


1.3 Anti-natalism
Anti-natalism has spread over the past centuries and is spreading further. The most famous eulogist of anti-natalism seems to be currently Professor David Benatar, author of the book "Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence".
Anti-natalism notices that there is an asymmetry in life between its positive and negative elements, there is no or very rare state of long-term bliss or fulfillment, much more easily achievable, and more frequent chronic pain and long-term dissatisfaction. The human ability to adapt to deficiencies and the ability to derive relative satisfaction from life does not change the fact that the state of life of most or all beings is far from the desired, desired ideal. Anti-natalists openly argue that even though life may seem like a miraculous experience, there is no one deprived of the experience before it begins, so it is not wrong not to create a person or being with the potential to experience miraculous pleasures and overall satisfaction. No one laments the heavenly pleasures which the billions of inhabitants of uninhabited planets cannot feel. It is not even commonly believed that it is morally wrong not to create someone who can experience exorbitant pleasure or complete fulfillment. What about a reality in which such purely positive states are perhaps completely unattainable. It is a different story to create a life that, with a high degree of certainty, would be unimaginable, suffering hellishly, only to eventually perish. Anti-natalists argue that life is more of a difficult and inconvenient life than an implicitly wonderful experience. This philanthropic argument assigns a negative value to birth for the sake of the necessary future suffering and death, which will be inseparable from the life of a future human or other animal. The best "gift" that can be given to future descendants is not to create them.
This solution turns out to be best for the environment in which already born people will have to spend the future, as well as for other existing people and other animals, in particular potential creatures whose flesh and secretions would have to feed new people. Misanthropic argumentation draws attention to the amount of suffering caused by the average person. In addition to disease, disappointment, trauma, pain, sadness, terror, and the enormous amount of stress experienced in a lifetime, the average person will cause illness, pain, fear, sadness, and stress many times more than he will experience himself. The mere suffering of non-human animals resulting from a meat diet is arguably a source of more pain than any human has ever experienced. The physical pain and stress of tens of thousands of animals are many times greater than the pain inflicted in the Holocaust of the Jews or any other genocide.
The vast majority of having children can be viewed as purely selfish or as the fulfillment of instrumental goals. It is unrealistic to create a child, or any new being, for its good. Bringing him into the world can in no way be a positive event for him, because before conception, due to the lack of desires, there is no negative state from which he should be transferred to a better state. Life is no better state than non-existence before conception/development of consciousness. On the contrary, life is a harm to the newborn, harm after it has come about, harm to which nature is forced to get used to and accept it, regardless of its potential and realized horrors. The vocation to life is too often realized without reflection or with a minimal level of reflection. There are approximately 107,000 orphans in the world. In some regions of the world, this figure accounts for 11.9% of children. A relatively small but growing number of people had the thought that creating life could be viewed in moral terms. Willingness to have a "full" family, ensuring the future of the name, fulfilling a parental obligation or the desire to fulfill oneself as a father/mother, all these situations put one's own good, the satisfaction of one's own needs in the first place. A child only serves to fulfill instrumental needs, such as communicating the future of the company or providing siblings to the first children. Parents and prospective parents do not realize that there is no logical way to make a child happy by giving birth to him. What is almost certain is a lifelong state of more or less deprivation, the potential suffering, and stress of everyday life, the possibility of experiencing suffering so intense that most people, choosing their or a poor, subjectively unhappy life again, would choose an unhappy life. It is also certain that the emergence of another human being is inextricably linked to the suffering it causes, the deepening of inequalities, the exploitation of people in developing countries and regimes such as China, pollution of the environment resulting in the suffering of animals, including humans, as well as the probably unreliable amount of suffering caused by through the process of mass breeding and slaughter allowing the eating of meat and animal products.
The negative value of birth is, as a rule, not limited to humans, but to all other animals. The ultimate anti-natalism (partial anti-natalism is possible, e.g., that we should only limit the number of entities we create) that the goal is the voluntary extinction of humans and, possibly, other animals. Emphasizing the purpose of all life extinction is the focus of efilism.


1.4 Abortion and sterilization
By definition, anti-natalism assigns a negative value to birth, but in practice, it is to assign a negative value to conception, the initiation of a process of events that will result in a feeling, in the case of humans, a highly self-aware being. The subject of abortion is treated differently by individual anti-natalists, but usually without controversy on early abortion issues before the fetus develops functional pain sensation.
From the perspective of ethics focused on suffering, much more far-reaching conclusions can be drawn. Killing a being incapable of suffering is a basically neutral procedure as long as it does not cause much suffering to other beings. Such an action is to abort before feeling develops. However, even after the ability to sense pain has developed, killing the fetus seems justified, advisable, or necessary if our goal is to prevent suffering in the long term. The mere potential for a future human or other animal to experience immense pain or cause immense pain is sufficient from the perspective of negative consequentialism, and the only reason why the possibly painless killing of a fetus would be justified. If we consider that it is acceptable for a young or adult chimpanzee to be put to sleep, we should set a similar limit for humans. in this case, the lulling of a (say) three-year-old child should be treated in similar terms. It is not a belittling of the intelligence of animals that are so close to us, but a proposal to set an agreed boundary. For practical reasons, this limit should be such that only children are relatively unconscious, at the lowest possible level of development. The moment when the personality develops, and above all the awareness of death and (perhaps) the fear of death could be a moment of key importance. The almost complete lack of knowledge does not allow me to make a specific proposal (the example of 3 years and a chimpanzee is not to be treated like this, apes are aware of their mortality anyway), but it does not put this limit at the time of delivery and afterward, possibly before the period of intensive cognitive development of the child until the conscious will to live through decades of life associated with the development of forward-thinking ability on such timescales begins to develop.
The availability and awareness of sterilization options and a wide range of contraception is another aspect of anti-natalist tendencies and the hope of reducing the number of new creatures.


1.5 Veganism and artificial meat
In fact, the suffering of the livestock themselves is many times greater than the suffering experienced by humans. The systematic holocaust (lower case is the word for mass extermination, capital is used to denote the genocide of the Jews during the Third Reich) of sentient beings all the time as civilization progresses, gaining in intensity as the world's population grows. Creating more suffering creatures is the fundamental source of all suffering, the short and terror-filled lives of hapless descendants of wild boars, aurochs, mouflons, or chickens, banks are the greatest reservoir of unhappiness and pain on the planet, whatever rational conversion factor we take for our highest self-awareness.
Veganism, and above all promoting it, is a way to minimize this suffering. Replacing natural meat with artificial ones, grown in laboratories, should be an even more intense effort, probably sooner or later it will revolutionize the meat market, but it is up to us to speed up the process. We can hope that our generations will be the last to experience the massive exploitation, torture, and reproduction of farm animals.


1.6 Right to Die, Transhumanism, Promortalism, Efilism, and visions of cosmic initiatives to prevent suffering.
The right to life is recognized as a fundamental right of every human being. It does not apply to non-human animals, and there is no real hope of law against the killing of animals. Even after the spread of artificial meat, the legal situation of the farmed mammals and birds themselves will probably remain in a dire situation, although it will probably improve, perhaps significantly. The right to die in several countries takes the form of the possibility of taking advantage of a painless death through euthanasia or assisted suicide. The number of suicides among the populations of relatively highly developed countries is growing and there is no indication that this trend is reversing. Younger generations developing in countries with the highest level of technological development approach death in a different way than before, treating it more like something that does not have to be a tragic event, more and more often as a better fate than other futures. Providing people with dignified, pain-free conditions to enable them to make decisions about their own life and death is essential. Suicide must not be a social taboo, nor can it be stigmatized. Everyone should have the right to die painlessly.
Transhumanism is an intellectual, cultural, and political movement that postulates the possibility and need to use science and technology, in particular neurotechnology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology, to overcome human limitations and improve the human condition. Transhumanism is ideologically closer to philosophical pessimism than to optimism, for it assumes that our present state of life is far from ideal, even far from a state that can be considered desirable. Transhumanism sets itself the goal of development, the achievement of a posthuman civilization in which suffering will not have to be a state of necessity to experience, but not a default. In the overall view of transhumanism, it is ethically imperative that everyone has the opportunity to improve and be free from suffering. Disseminating the idea of ​​transhumanism seems as important or almost as important as promoting veganism and anti-natalism, especially if the probable future of humanity is not voluntary extinction. A posthuman society especially focused on minimizing suffering and not practicing the creation of new conscious or sentient beings, maybe an acceptable outcome of the development of civilization, although not devoid of large-scale threats to potential sentient beings.
The limitations of having bodies developed in this way are the source of suffering and limitations of successive orders. As the first biological being, man has the chance to free himself from the limitations of the body, narrow senses, as well as limitations imposed by the level of intelligence and the physiological functioning of the mind. Man gradually moves away from other animals and this process has happened and is happening faster and faster, only a global catastrophe (as a sudden or relatively sudden change or a series of changes) resulting in the extinction of mankind has a real chance to end this process, otherwise, even subsequent apocalypses would only slow down a reversal of this trend, which seems inevitable on a cosmic scale. Sooner or later, humanity is transforming, abandoning the limitations imposed on it by anatomy and physiology. If this involves limiting and preventing suffering, it is better to do so as early as possible.
The dangers of transhumanism are a special focus, as are the dangers of superintelligence. By threats, I mean only situations and actions that lead to greater suffering/failure to prevent preventable suffering and not objections to human dignity or identity. The same objections are a very important element in the discussion of superintelligence, which we must expect to emerge in one way or another. AI threats are described in detail in Nick Bostrom's book "Superintelligence; Scenarios, Strategies, Threats". At this point, I will focus mainly on visions in which superintelligence implements the described methods of minimizing suffering, and some of the most important threats directly related to the presented scenarios. Particularly in visions of global cosmic suffering-reduction initiatives, "humanity" may well be understood as a world-controlling superintelligence, both artificial and possibly neuromorphic, developed from the brain. or even a particular mind with intelligence beyond the collective intelligence of the rest of humanity.
Promortalism seems to have been most widely propagated by Jiwoon Hwang, an anti-natalist and vegan activist. In an article published on the blog entitled "Why it is always better to cease to exist (pro-mortalism, promortalism)" he argues that for an individual, ceasing to exist always means losing the possibility of experiencing future suffering and deficiencies, which is the desired state, even if in this way opportunities for relative enjoyment and fulfillment are also lost. This seemingly bold concept was perhaps one of the reasons for his suicide in 2018, at the age of 23.
Indeed, the consideration of human mortality and its absolute inevitability, the ultimate necessity of total annihilation, has led many well-known and lesser-known philosophers as well as ordinary people to draw similar conclusions and take them seriously, even if the overwhelming majority of them have been rejected for practical reasons. It is difficult to say how many potential pro-mortalist philosophers throughout history have deprived themselves of the future in, according to promortalism, the ultimate act of selfishness, which is to take a potential future from themselves. Even the superintelligence and digital minds of future posthuman civilizations will have to experience death. Even if life were to last for quadrillions of subjective years, or if it were to be absolutely endless, there would always be a non-zero chance of death, nor is the number of experiences that can be felt is objectively infinite. Promortalism claims that death is always a positive phenomenon for the individual, because the creature will no longer feel suffering, and will also be 100% surely deprived of the possibility of feeling almost infinite suffering, for example, caused by a sadistic superintelligence. Death is salvation from everything, and if we consider existence in terms of universal deficiency and non-fulfillment, it is the most positive thing that can happen, that is, technically end it happening. Not an event, but the end of events. Death is positive not in the sense of the process of dying, often filled with excruciating pain and terrorizing fear, often a long process. Death as non-existence is the "best" state and is described here in that sense. The sooner an entity ceases to exist, the greater the amount of potential, including unlikely cosmic suffering it will be saved.
However, Jiwoon Hwang, as probably most promortalists, believed that taking life actively was unethical. He seemed to recognize that perhaps in certain situations, one should not help people/beings whose lives would cause more suffering than not having it. From the point of view of pure utilitarianism, or simply negative consequentialism aimed solely at minimizing suffering, however, killing some entities is profitable (causes less suffering) and seems even ethically necessary. Different versions of the car's dilemma and the red button dilemma affect this broad spectrum of behaviors and beliefs. The carriage dilemma presents us with a choice that will result in the death of a or b, where under a and b there are different numbers and types of sentient beings. Save a chimpanzee family or a homeless person, brother or 10 strangers, vegan or omnivores, through passive or active actions. More abstract versions could ask questions about saving a million people or increasing humanity's chances of survival by 1%. The red button dilemma raises the question of whether if pressing one button painlessly kills all existence it should be done. What if it came at the cost of a minute of pain? If the alternative were one percent of the chances of near-infinite suffering in the future of space, would it be a legitimate choice?
It has no chance and is not likely to incite self-proclaimed executions or orchestrated genocides and terrorist attacks. Only superintelligence would have the real possibility of the completely painless killing of a huge number of beings. All the effects of a person's death must be taken into account, which can entail much more suffering and long-term effects unpredictable without super-intelligence. Promortalism can also be a manifestation of altruistic views. given that the average person causes more suffering with his life than he prevents, perhaps even than he is usually able to prevent, suicide or killing some people would ultimately reduce the suffering of other entities. Self-suicide for altruistic reasons is perhaps better than most types of life in the ultimate minimization of suffering, but it is not the best way to contribute to reducing suffering. Actively contributing to the fight against inequality, the exploitation and the creation of new life, as well as the pursuit of ultimately cosmic visions of minimizing suffering, even if our chances of doing so are very slim, may be a sufficient altruistic reason to continue with existence. All the time, however, suicide, preferably painlessly, becomes the preferred option in the event of terminal illness, disability or senile infirmity. The very fact of the non-existence of legal euthanasia, not only universally available but accessible to people unable to kill themselves, however, shows how distant a similar idea was until recently.
Efilism recognizes that the most ethical and desirable action is to exterminate all humanity, all sentient beings, and more broadly, all life with the potential to develop feeling and sterilize or destroy the earth so that life does not develop again on it. The gradual extinction of humanity and ecosystems may seem to be the most desirable way. In English terminology, the terms Omnicide as the suicide of the entire civilization and Ekocide as the erasure of the entire biosphere are found. Both civilization's suicide and the wiping out of the entire biosphere's life could be painlessly implemented by a superintelligence, for example by spreading swarms of nanobots across the ground. Killing most or nearly all of your sentient life in a synchronized manner should be a perfectly feasible task. Such a goal could be written as a fundamental goal of superintelligence as well as achieved by it itself if its goal was to prevent suffering.
We must think and act globally, this is the only way to achieve lasting long-term results by focusing global goals on the idea of ​​minimizing and preventing suffering. However, this is only half the way. We must think globally, but we must not allow ourselves to stay only on a global scale. No matter how much anti-natalism and its allies spread, the chances of humanity's complete extinction are slim. They're not zero, of course, but they're not overwhelming. Even the realization that the extinction of all life would deprive the Earth of the ability to feel suffering cannot lead us to extinguish or annihilate all life without taking further steps. Technology and superintelligence can not only painlessly and without misfortune wipe out life on Earth, however abstract it sounds to us, no less a moral obligation within the framework of the systems described is to spread to space on such a scale as it is possible, e.g. by means of self-replicating probes endowed with superintelligence and prevent the development of life on planets and moons capable of it. The extinction of life on existing planets is feasible for superintelligence, the creation of swarms of non-sentient negative states of existence painlessly extinguishing the life of encountered biospheres is a vision that seems feasible. We need to think on a cosmic scale, only in this way can we contribute to minimizing suffering on a scale larger than our planet or the colonized part of the system.
Probably the biggest objection in such a scenario would be the necessity to annihilate existing societies and civilizations, possibly resulting in wars of superintelligence. However, I cannot imagine an advanced civilization in which similar ideas about the minimization of suffering would not be present, the superintelligence, assuming that it is right, will adopt the way of achieving the goal that proves best, unhindered by convincing civilization to be right. It does not change the fact that this aspect is particularly difficult and should be discussed more fully separately. Perhaps the vision of efilism, when completely rewritten for the possibility of eternal existence, will make it not a problem after all.
The objective of this way of ending the adventure of life in space may be a transhumanist desire to create perfect worlds with minimum suffering and maximum happiness. Worlds in which every creature that is able to stay in them even for a moment would make every effort to be in such. Does not creating such a world and transferring all sentient beings there, perhaps even creating new ones, sound better than the idea of ​​annihilating all life? Perhaps it is possible to create a world in which sentient beings would not have to basically follow a gradient of lack, lack of fulfillment, and suffering, seeking to minimize suffering in such existence, but a gradient of pleasure without being able to feel such suffering at all? Whatever world we imagine, there always seems to be the possibility of suffering beings appearing in it or experiencing suffering by such beings. Even in a world driven by a pleasure gradient, beings with a basal suffering gradient can be re-created. I argue that the possibility of almost infinite, hellish suffering from just one being is not a sufficient reason to maintain the existence of a digital paradise in the form of a matryoshka brain or any other civilization utopia. Not only the minimization of suffering but the prevention of suffering, including potential (including potentially hellish, large-scale suffering) should be the goal of ethics focused on it. A better solution, then, is the eternal annihilation of all life.
However, as can be seen, the reality seems to be more complicated and it seems impossible to achieve even for the most advanced superintelligence. Indeed, in an infinite universe, it seems impossible to annihilate any future of any sentient system.


1.7 Education
An outdated education system based on the tedious assimilation of unnecessary, non-digestible knowledge, which is a much more interesting and fuller version that can be found on your own in the times of the global Internet network, will not have a positive impact on society without teaching psychology in the first place, apart from science, sociology, economics, and ethics, as well as in the practice of a universal language at a level that allows fluent communication. Transferring learning to a universal, open-access platform led by experts in the field of information assimilation would increase the education of society and adapt the curriculum, method, and scope of teaching to individual expectations, possibilities, and aspirations.


1.8 A policy focused on suffering
Recognition by governments of the fundamental causes of suffering and action to prevent the suffering of citizens, humanity, and all sentient creatures requires, in addition to changing the mentality of the non-marginal minority of society, also reaching power capable of being found in the practical politics of visionaries. A policy of coercion and restraint has a much lower chance of success than educating the public. The fraction of utilitarians advocating violent actions must be aware of their long-term inefficiency and therefore general unprofitability. This does not mean that the actions taken by governments should not be radical. The most important and appropriate action should be broad-scale and universal education of the society. It cannot be propaganda, information cannot be edited, limited, or communicated in a biased way. Any real or practical vision will defend itself with pure facts. In practice, radical changes should ultimately include, in addition to universal, free access to knowledge, the advancement of science and technological solutions as the main state-funded sector, including the development of medicine and psychology. Natural meat should be replaced with laboratory meat, ending the use of animals on a massive scale. Publicly funded euthanasia, sterilization, and abortion, as well as psychological efforts to provide people with fulfillment in a way that does not involve increasing the number of beings, should become commonplace. Ultimately, making people fulfilled by achieving transhumanism. The development of humanity during and after this period, especially in the classical vision of the development of superintelligence, is impossible to predict. If the postulated worldview trend, which is philosophical and existential pessimism, turns out to be universal for the descendants of humanity or future superintelligence, it can be expected that all available means will be implemented in the most efficient way to achieve the set goal.


2. Multiverse Immortality. Why if modal realism is true and minds are patterns of information nobody may be able to ever die.


2.1 If the universe is infinite, there are infinite copies of each mind in all its versions.
The idea of ​​a temporally or spatially finite universe, understood as all that exists, implies that it must have arisen sometime, so that before its existence, and therefore its very existence, there was nothing. It would have to be perfect nothing, absolute nothingness, the complete absence of everything, no laws of logic, no mathematics, no causative powers. Not a void, nor very empty any dimensional space with any potential for cosmic transformation. I maintain that the "existence" of only non-existence in the form described (or if you prefer, non-existence of existence), the existence of absolute non-existence (non-existence of absolutely everything) giving rise to being, seems to be logically doubtful.
     We know that our universe had what we define as a beginning, that is, a point where we cannot reach any further back in time. This is not to say that existence itself had a beginning, just that our universe had what we call it. Going further, can the most commonly understood end, heat death, safely be considered the end of existence? Even when stars stop forming, black holes will evaporate due to Hawking radiation, all matter will degenerate through possible proton decay, and virtual particles will continue to form in indestructible space-time. Still, as a result of random quantum fluctuations, Boltzmann brains will be created with very little likelihood (the estimated time for the Boltzmann brain to arise is 10 ^ {10 ^ {50}} years from now, that is, long after all matter has degenerated). Eventually, the next big bang could happen in 10 ^ {10 ^ {10 ^ {56}}} years, starting another cycle of the universe. Thus the existing universe would be infinite, eternal, each successive universe possibly different in some way from the preceding one by slight variations in the initial singularity within the boundaries of the string theory landscape.
     It is even easier to achieve the infinity of the universe by accepting the existence of the multiverse. Tegmark hierarchizes the multiverses in the following order. Type 1 multiverse are areas of our universe outside our visible universe, Tegmark estimates that a Huble volume identical to ours is about 10 ^ 10 ^ 115 meters from us. Type two multiverse are universes parallel to other laws of physics contained in the landscape of string theory. Most of them cannot contain even the simplest chemical relationships, let alone stars or brains. We usually mean such a multiverse when we think of a multiverse. The next level 3 is the Everett multiverse, so one in which all future scenarios of any system occur, everything exists in a kind of superposition of all possible states, since no physically permissible scenario can be eliminated. Each future and each past is therefore equally (100%) real, but not all equally probable. Everett's universe stems from a multiverse interpretation of quantum mechanics.
The last Tegmark postulated maximum world is all existence as a set of mathematical structures, Tegmark advances his own hypothesis that our universe, like everything else, exists as a mathematical structure in which we are substructures.
However, to attribute a high probability to the hypothesis presented here, it is not necessary to assume the existence of a mathematical universe as a fact, in the end, I think that it is not necessary to accept either the Everett universe, or the multiverse composed of universes parallel to us, or our spatially infinite universe. After all, it is not even necessary that each of the next cyclic universes be slightly different from the previous one, although their variability would greatly increase the probability of the hypothesis. In the extreme case, it can be true even if the universe is finite and will cease to exist in the future, absolutely forever (* if the AI ​​found that keeping minds alive in the best possible world is better than sterilizing the universe despite the eventual necessary annihilation.)
     A very large universe is enough for everything we can imagine to happen in it. Not breaking the laws of physics in any way.
With an infinite universe at your disposal, every situation, every mind, and every being will happen. It happened and it does. Not once, but in an infinite amount. This means the infinity of singing worms, the infinity of the Avatar planets, the infinity of everything. One infinity is greater than the other, just as the infinity of numbers between 0 and 1 / 1,000,000 is "smaller" than the infinity of natural numbers. Therefore, it does not mean that there are as many worms as there are fewer abstract entities, there are fewer, many times less, but still infinity (comparing the number of entities in an infinite universe makes more sense, or at least it is more understandable if we consider some, preferably very large, the volume of the universe, instead of its infinite whole, using the term "measure"). No scenario of existence is avoidable, the probability of everything physically possible is greater than zero, and even situations with an infinitesimally low probability happen an infinite number of times. It can be imagined that, in a second type multiverse, a universe like ours exists as one in xxxxxx universes, a universe similar to ours having at the moment any civilization composed of beings whose sole purpose is to paint as many surreal images as possible and compose as many as possible. the amount of synthetic music is one in a trillion similar universes or one in the original xxx worlds, and the worm universe is one in a quadrillion of our universes or one in the original xxx. There are more than the other, they occur more often, there is a greater probability that by searching randomly you will find one than the other, but all of them are infinite.
     You can exist in an infinite universe in several ways. It can arise naturally, spontaneously. Boltzmann brains, or even entire worlds that arise as a result of quantum fluctuations and exist long enough for intelligence to arise in them, can be held as fractions of a second. Worlds where complete randomness gives a perfect impression of the immutable laws of physics. Even worlds in which all beings are absolutely convinced that zero is one and they do not exist are perfect non-existence, worlds in which minds are denied the ability to develop or discover logic by the very infinitely improbable nature of their world. The existence of such a world is infinitely improbable. However, it is not nil. I am not trying to convince you that such a world could exist. If we accept an infinite universe with the laws of physics known to us, then such a world exists. There is an infinite number of variants. If our universe were extremely rare, it would even be possible that there are more worlds existing as randomly coherent fluctuations than the actual results of the operation of our physical constants.
     Everything happens in an infinite universe. It is impossible to avoid the existence of Everything.


2.2 Subjective Immortality
Let us imagine that after death we do not fall apart in nothingness, our consciousness does not annihilate, and we ourselves do not begin to create an unbreakable and indistinguishable unity with non-being forever. What would that mean? Whether it would be beautiful or on the contrary, it would be the most frightening aspect of our existence, making us eternal, immortal, and indelible beings, destined to live and feel until the end of time, that is, we would absolutely never return to non-existence from which we seem to come
     This concept, known as quantum immortality, big world immortality, or more generally multiverse immortality, has already been presented many times and a fierce discussion arose around it. The core of the concept is the observation that in an infinite universe each observing moment has many possibilities to transform into the next, and subjectively the mind can only feel the moments in which it is self-aware, which self-awareness can literally be taken as an absolute condition or synonym for it. existence. In the infinite multiverse there is not a single moment that does not have a fan or even a small set of moments to follow, and since we can never experience non-existence, the state of non-existence will never be experienced by any mind, so subjectively each of us will exist forever, perfectly always, without the perspective of the annihilation of feeling, without the possibility of feeling the exclusion of consciousness, which, apart from the emergence and volatility of our minds, preventing us from interpreting ourselves as the same identity that has guided past or future states, is clearly reduced to absolute subjective immortality.
     On the basis of the observation that if every possibility is realized, then if every imaginable moment of feeling, a moment of conscious perception, however, or whatever, exists, after any death, after virtually any loss of consciousness, including coma, fainting, or deep sleep, and even falling asleep as such, we will continue to exist, probably in the most likely world. While in the case of sleep or loss of consciousness, we will most likely continue to exist in the way and form we know, death creates strange possibilities, and our future life is strongly determined by whether and what percentage of our minds exist in which simulations. In fact, we can treat every moment as waking up after an infinite amount of non-existence, thus immediately after the previous one. From a subjective perspective, it does not matter whether the next observation moment will occur in a second, in a year, a million or a trillion years, it does not matter that it exists in the past, from a subjective point of view, the moments form a continuum, so the time we perceive would not always have to cover with the time of the universe.
     In light of the above contingencies, even ascribing a low probability to multiverse immortality, it seems very important how we will exist after death. Authors who deal with the subject at least briefly, draw various conclusions that either we will not be able to experience death and we will experience accidents, suicides, and euthanasia in a worse and worse condition, gradually becoming more and more degenerate beings. However, it is difficult to say how long such a slow and gradual disintegration of the body and consciousness could take, the question here arises whether the slowly fading consciousness is not exactly what we call and identify with death? Is there a non-contractual line between awareness and the lack of it? Is self-awareness a binary phenomenon, or, as it seems with the rest of the phenomena, ultimately emergent, thus devoid of any absolute boundary? Since observation moments are considered by us as a determinant of being, where are their limits, can you safely become insensitive?
I would argue that this is not possible. Perhaps there is an insurmountable boundary separating consciousness from unconsciousness, perhaps our consciousness is more likely to be felt the more advanced it is, and therefore we have no way of feeling that it ceases to exist. Every day, when we fall asleep, we lose consciousness, losing much of our feeling. How much is the subconscious part of our being and how much of a role does it play in self-conscious being? We are most fully aware of the fact that we have fallen asleep when we wake up, we identify ourselves more with ourselves before falling asleep than with our dream feelings. So in what form will, we exist after death, or what would our world be like if we suddenly or slowly died?
     Slowly dying could turn into a dream, metaphorically an eternal dream in which our mind would exist as various dream simulations or Boltzmann brains, in an absurd world dreaming subconsciously in eternal lethargy. But wouldn't any simulated or self-generated mind endowed with pre-death memories existing anywhere else be a better candidate for being us than eternal dreaming? What would the future of such a person look like, wouldn't he or she jump relatively quickly to a more conscious state than a dream after death, like us awakening from a dream, 8 hours of which have passed into one? The presence of the mind in the form of a brain distinguishes between our hypothetical dead from us in sleep, but Boltzmann brains or any other sensation also need a mechanism on which consciousness can act.
     So I do not think the probable option is to feel eternal sleep after death, I attribute a greater likelihood of finding ourselves in a subjective continuum more similar to our ordinarily conscious states. The more probable the state of the psyche following the moment of our loss, the greater the chance that we will feel it, and most often the states maximally similar to our previous ones have the highest probability.
     Subjectively, therefore, after death, especially premature death, we will wake up in the hospital, perhaps in a terrifying state. The second option is to exist as a continuum of moments felt by Boltzmann's brains, such an existence could be indistinguishable from ordinary, natural spontaneous existence, but more the probability of our continuum would be more abstract and inconsistent, which probably greatly reduces, but never to the brain, the probability of living as Boltzmann's . So waking up in the primal simulation, or nested in another simulation, is another way to continue. Perhaps such existence, in order to remain similar to the original, would not be a sudden jump in consciousness, so also waking up as a different being, or rather a simulation, perhaps in all its strangeness, would be gradually realized by us.
     With a large number of our minds being simulated, perhaps the most likely future is to wake up from our dreamlike lives, perhaps gradually, to avoid a sudden shift that destroys our personality by immediately changing it. Perhaps the gradient of consciousness increases so much that our life is a semi-conscious dream, perhaps this sudden moment of exiting or entering a simulation is the overwhelmingly most common, and therefore the most likely, observational moment following death, which, as indicated by near-experience experiences death does not have to be an apathetic extinction, but rather a psychedelic experience of the brain flooded with DMT. A soulful, paradise simulation as well as a terrifyingly hellish simulation, or an absurd, deliberately even random simulation or exit from any of them into the primal, transhumanist world, with the mind retrieving our temporarily forgotten memories of hundreds of lives while we sleep, would therefore most likely be the future of our feeling. An eternal feeling, from which it is impossible to escape and which cannot be broken, being possibly the most probable, therefore the most common and consistent result of our present, and in particular "last" observation moment.
In an infinite universe in which everything exists and every possibility happens, there is an infinite number of perfect copies of each mind, and an infinite number of alternative versions, imperfect copies, and utterly dissimilar stories of these similar minds. For a perfect copy to be made, must the entire visible universe be the same, the galaxy, the stellar neighborhood, the solar system, the entire history of the system must be identical to the history before someone's birth? Does the whole history of life, atom by atom, molecule by molecule, have to roll out in a perfectly identical way for a copy of the being with the mind you are looking for to be born? In order for it to arise in the form in which it looks at the moon, each decision of its and its cosmic counterpart must be identical? Does every atom in everyone's mind have to be in exactly the same place? Let us assume that this mind is the "I" of each of us, depending on the definition of "me", it may differ in some way from its copy, or there may not be even an electron difference between us. But if a perfect copy of me requires each atom situated in exactly the same way, the question arises as to whether a perfect copy has a right to exist then. We will easily find, at a distance of xxx from me, a man whose mind, civilization, planet, and cosmic neighborhood are identical to mine, then we will find a visible universe exactly the same as mine, then perhaps the entire (if it is spatially finite) type one multiverse. Is such a copy a sufficiently exact copy of me? Since the still existing environment (no matter what kind of space with how many dimensions) differentiates us?
     In that case, however, we are actually talking about not being the same, but the same. Is an identical atom or electron far apart in an intergalactic vacuum the same? No, they are the same though. Indistinguishable from each other if we only have them at our disposal. Determined by the same parameters.
     So what does it take for a copy of me to exist? It should be indistinguishable from me. Identical to every atom? But does this mean that with every change in the arrangement of even one atom in my mind, I cease to be myself? Could I point out a difference between myself and a copy of me that is one billion atoms, just one neuron, a hundred, a billion out of a hundred billion neurons, but those that do not affect consciousness? To be able to answer this question, at the beginning we should define how we understand ourselves?
Quantum immortality states that if Many-worlds, Everettian interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is correct, It means every possible future will happen, including every possible future in which our body, with our mind and identity within, will live. Even if our brain dies in one of the branches of Everettian reality, there are in fact countless others (yet minority) where we are going to be still alive. QI basically tells us that we should expect to find ourselves only in that branches of reality in which we are still existing, and that feels like subjective immortality- it is subjective immortality. 
Multiverse or Big World Immortality is a similar idea, You do not need an Everettian interpretation of QM though. If it is true that out there exist an Infinite Universe, for example like one described by Landscape of String Theory, or if Our Universe is Infinite in space or infinite in time, actually if the entire existence, Multi/Omni/Universe, no matter how to call it, is big enough to enclose in itself every possible state of  matter, so every possible configuration of information, then Immortality works as well and it is impossible ever to "die", in a sense to stop experiencing (if one can argue I, after some traumatic experiences or many decades of strange life would be no longer "me")
The most important aspect I think is how do we understand Identity. Imagine the certain scenario. You exist peacefully in Your body and one day have a fatal accident. You have the luck that You live in the future when there is an option of mind uploading. You can have Your mind uploaded to a  brand new body, manufactured especially for You. The whole procedure feels like being put asleep and waking up in new, artificial flesh. Is that still You? You definitely feel like You are still Yourself, have all memory, and a perfectly identical personality. Even if You don't think it would be "the real You", whatever one would like to interpret like that, it is rather certain the entity looking at the dead body would feel exactly like You would feel if Your spirit rapidly teleported to a new, silicon brain. 
What I'm trying to underline by that probably too long and rather boring example is an observation, that our personal identity is a really controversial topic, and conversations about it full of I think important and relevant thought experiments. If Our Identity, consciousness, if all of our subjective experience of "personhood" can be brought down to information processing in which conscious and self-aware patterns emerge, it is of no importance if Your individual body actually exists, as long as there's at least one copy of Your body in the Universe. 
Thinking of an infinite universe, in such an all-world there are countless copies of every observer in every imaginable possible state. There is an infinite amount of exact copies of You in an identical state as You are now reading that comment. Which one of that copies You are now? All of Your copies are feeling exactly the same. You can say You are probably a random sample of all Your copies, but an equally reasonable idea would be to state, that a question I just asked is in any practical sense meaningless. If You can think of Yourself as of pattern in the information processing, You are not situated in any absolute objective spatial-temporary frame of reference. All Your copies are equally You because to be You the only thing You need is to feel like You. In that sense, It does not really matter how much information-processes identifying themselves as "You" exist in biological brains, how much in simulations, having only something that feels exactly like body but is not built of real matter. The view I've just described is called Unificationism and is in opposition to dualism. The first called also a copy-friendly theory of identity maintains that every copy of somebody is equally that somebody, being one body and being one million identical bodies feels exactly the same, because there is only one person, identically the same, in all that bodies. Dualism claim s there are one million people. It is extremely important that in that example we can think only of one perfectly identical, or at least 100% subjectively indistinguishable observer-moment, so a certain state of mind. As long as You and Your copies have subjectively identical sate of minds, You are one person. 
It gets more complicated when You want to define what actually a person is and if something like a person actually exists, but I think It is not so important right here, It is enough to assume that a person is a subjectively coherent set of observer-moments with the same personality (style of thinking let's say) and memory. 
In that sense, How would You feel if You were actually just a minute old? You are a simulated mind, with Your memory and personality. Subjectively there would be no difference. If there would be a world, where one day some civilization would simulate all Your life in the Year 2020 (because in simulations we can achieve faster time than the real one), and then, the second day, all Your previous life and additionally, at the evening, 2021. How would it feel? Subjectively it would be indistinguishable from usual chronological life. Informationally it would be just that, a subjectively chronological existence. If the cosmos exists without any real-time, but In different places there are countless brains with frozen minds, everything should subjectively look exactly the same. I don't argue here that time doesn't exist (although according to all today's physics it is an emergent property of something more fundamental), just that there is no possible way of distinguishing between described situations from within, from a perspective of the observer.
In that configuration, under such an interpretation of personal identity, If only there exist every possible state of every mind (modal realism- everything possible exists), there is always a future for every state of mind even if we don't live in the Everettian universe. And because "we" emerge from patterns of information, and we are not local beings, but that patterns in information (like there is one song, only one song, but it can be played many times, one song in many copies, one person in many copies, both information patterns), it does not matter if our next copy exists in another galaxy or in another time, we will subjectively find ourselves as that alive copy. It works even in finite universes, as long as there is some possible subjective future at any time, in the whole of Existence. 
Of course, if Your body is severely damaged You can feel the future only of that kind, which means You will feel for example 1.You fall unconscious and wake up in the future when Your cryonically-preserved dead body is resurrected as a healthy one 2. You find Yourself in an unfamiliar world, and gradually realize You've just played a game and You've died in one 3. You are simulated  by some superintelligent entity, for example, the SI creates random people after their death, in huge quantity, so one of them feels exactly like You with memories of a lethally damaged body, but You don't have that body anymore. 4. You cannot die even if Your body is not working, potentially sub-eternally tortured by the continuum of some very improbable but possible states of mind, 5,6, actually many many more 
We can interpret "ourselves" as an impression. As a subjective, self-aware feeling existing at the moment. This definition avoids most of the controversy related to other definitions. We are not unchanging person, only an observation moment. The concept of the person ultimately seems to be just a more practical approximation of the continuum of mental states that we are. At no point can we be sure of our past because our present state of mind, the subjective self-conscious feeling of experiencing our entire past, is indistinguishable from a Boltzmann brain existing only in that one moment, or a simulation of our mind. Each of the above entities is subjectively IDENTICAL, and therefore they cannot subjectively distinguish themselves from each other or tell what the objective mind is the source of their consciousness. In practice, this means that we should see ourselves as the same "person", the same being, because something subjectively the same is in practice the same impression, the same subjective observation moment, reproduced as it were by different neural or neural-like systems.
     Identical copies of me are therefore myself, one impression in the infinite number of bodies, Boltzmann's brains, and simulations that convey the impression that I am. Without any metaphysical aspects. This does not mean that objectively there is one spiritual self, only that subjectively the world will always appear as if there is only one self, no matter how many carriers indistinguishably similar to my consciousness are contained in the entire universe.
     This means that we cannot state what kind of being (recreating our instantaneous system awareness) we are because it is logically impossible from a subjective point of view. In a subjective sense, we are everyone. Because each of our (our mind's) perfect copies feels exactly the same. However, we can distribute the probabilities of what kind of consciousness carrier most often, and therefore most likely, contains us. Minds that feel us can exist as Boltzmann brains, most often considered the least probable way of existence, biological entities self-created and simulations, in all their forms, i.e. simulated Boltzmann brains, simulated spontaneous, simulated moments, simulated single minds without and with history, simulated actual societies with no history and entire simulated stories, as well as entire simulated universes ...


3. Vestibules of paradise, Curing Sufferings via Indexical Uncertainty. How to redeem everyone if some form of Multiverse immortality is true.
The never-published hypothesis of the vestibules of paradise was originally conceived as a way to explain the purpose of civilization to create simulations. A brief account of the reasoning behind its invention would go something like this.


"3.1 Why is it logical to assume that the greatest number of our copies exist as simulations.
Nick Bostrom constructed his famous trilemma as follows: (1) no or almost no (100%) civilization has the ability to simulate, (2) civilizations have the ability to simulate other minds, but never do, and (3) civilizations have the ability to simulate simulating other minds and doing it. It showed that if there are civilizations that simulate other entities, most likely the number of these simulated entities exceeds the number of spontaneous entities many times over. Bostrom focused on creating and maintaining ancestral simulations, but the argument holds true if we set the goal of simulating any other that may be widely (or even very rarely, but result in a very large number of entities) valued by civilizations. Even if only a tiny fraction of all technological civilizations had achieved the capabilities to simulate other minds and/or even if only a fraction of them considered it desirable to create them, the computational possibilities of matter in practice seem unlimited
     The computational possibilities of matter seem to be almost limitless. In one of the works on this subject, the final limit of computing power was set at 5.4258 * 10 ^ 50 operations per second for 1 kg of matter. It is estimated that 36.8 * 10 ^ 15 operations per second to simulate the human mind in real-time, currently, the largest supercomputers are capable of performance of 10 ^ 18 flops. To simulate 7 billion people in real-time, that's 257.6 * 10 ^ 24. 4 × 10 ^ 48 operations per second are the estimated capabilities of the matryoshka brain surrounding the sun, the outermost brain of which operates at a temperature of 10 Kelvin. There is a greater difference between 10 ^ 24 and 10 ^ 48 than between the size of our bodies and the size of the observable universe.
     Therefore, in the universe postulated by the followers of the simulation hypothesis, we face the aforementioned trilemma: either no civilization is able to simulate minds because it is impossible or because of enigmatic great civilization filters annihilating all, or none, or almost none, where almost no would have to be an infinitesimal part of civilization as a whole, civilization does not choose to simulate minds because of their unprofitability, immorality, or any other reason guiding their specific brains, or, the third option, civilizations can create and maintain simulations using unlimited computational power, and they do.
     I do not consider as plausible a scenario in which no civilization manages to simulate minds, nothing physically seems to prevent either their creation or the reason why any civilization would not live to see this possibility. One could speculate that an extremely highly developed anti-simulation civilization would not allow this, but it would have to be a very common trend among civilizations throughout the universe.
     Nor do I see any reason to stop civilizations from exercising their abilities when they already have such power, but I see many reasons why such an almost infinite scenario could be realized.
     For this reason, I believe that a third, seemingly absurd and invariably exotic abstract, in my opinion, the logically most realistic concept, is overwhelmingly more likely, that our mind is simulated almost 100% of the time it exists.
     In the first two cases, the probability that we live in a simulation is equal to or close to zero (in the infinite universe it is never equal unless simulating the mind would be impossible), otherwise the number of simulated entities, simulated sensations is most likely many orders of magnitude greater than these intrinsic, therefore the probability of being a simulation is approximately 100%. therefore almost 100% of the minds that feel my subjective moment of observation, that is, my instantaneous impression of being the whole of my emergent self, are simulated minds.
     I do not take into account Boltzmann's brains and the apparent, false physics of the infinitely improbable worlds of the Big World, which according to some estimates may exceed natural self-existent minds if almost 100% of this majority of the multiverse can produce them and our type universes are almost negligibly rare. It would only change that natural self-existence would not now be the second, least likely option, and the third, still the least likely.


3.2 What goals could simulating minds have
Most likely, the species that makeup civilizations naturally possess a set of characteristics that largely characterize them all. These intelligence-linked traits such as compassion, curiosity, and ambition are clearly outlined in people's minds. Treating humanity as a representative civilization, it is possible to consider what purposes simulated minds or entire simulated worlds would serve.
     Depending on the advancement of civilization and technological possibilities, one can wonder what types of simulations would most often and in the greatest number be created by people, transhumans - transformed triumphants of transhumanism, or posthuman, maybe post-biological creatures, as well as various types of Si, both neuromorphic and constructed entirely from scratch. Depending on the type of being creating the simulation, we can therefore expect its various degrees and types, dictated by different goals, as well as try to estimate the number of entities existing in these simulations.
     Starting with humans, what would be the goals of our species in simulating the minds? With the ability to rewrite the biological form of the mind into a digital copy of it, we could live forever in simulated worlds, but these worlds would probably be designed differently than the one we are in now, and I don't see any reason why we should not remember life before we ceased to be a material creature. . The most consistent version of the simulation created by humans before the transhumanist revolution seems to me to be research and experiments. Simulations of alternative future and past histories of the entire world as well as of individual human minds in a world filled with psychic mobs would work in historical, economic, psychological, and sociological matters, providing an unimaginable amount of data and knowledge about ourselves. It would be so important that, from a utilitarian point of view, perhaps for many an immoral decision should be made to simulate unhappy, mentally ill, stressed, melancholy and depressed people, as well as geniuses, autists, sociopaths, and oppressed societies. The direct knowledge obtained in this way would be invaluable in improving the lives of the creators of civilization. The total number of entities simulated for this purpose could be very low, average, or equal to the number of people if everyone had the right to simulate their copies in order to make better decisions and get to know each other better. Even if it exceeded the number of unsimulated observation moments by several or many times (one does not need to simulate a human from birth to death), I believe that pretranshumanistic civilizations would simulate the smallest number of entities of all.
     Then we have the transhumanist civilizations, such perhaps already largely nonbiological posthumans would probably be endowed with a similar, but more enlightened and deliberate system of desires. Simulations could be used as a means of development, living successive lives would take hours, while subjectively decades would pass, therefore simulating could also be a punishment system, people punished in this way would have to undergo multiple sentences of an unhappy life, being reincarnated into more and more incarnations, the unpleasant moments of observation themselves could be simulated to such a person, thus maximizing the discomfort experienced by them. Simulating interesting observation moments or interesting, or even ordinary lives for us, can be a way to experience other lives directly through future beings as an end in itself, to be a singer, aboriginal, Inca chief, or an average person at the beginning of the 3rd millennium after Christ. Experiences from such lives could be a valued pastime or a deeper ritual with a spiritual dimension. People would not have to be simulated by people like themselves. We can be an imaginary race like elves simulated by a completely alien civilization, one of the species recreated by aliens from an extinct civilization, or the fruit of a more advanced and exotic fate. There are many more observational moments in the reincarnation scenario, assuming that the transbiological beings probably have a lifespan much longer than ours could be thousands of our lives and thousands of thousands of others, being beings from the most realistic, most exotic, and fantasy worlds. Perhaps, being the next incarnation of such a creature after death, we would be reminded of our entire incredibly long history, we would return to being "real" ourselves, on a much higher level of development, probably, than any human being ever existing. the existence in such a simulation seems more likely by the sheer number of entities in such simulations.
The final group of entities capable of simulating conscious minds is superintelligence. Both neuromorphic and artificial superintelligent beings and entities, perhaps simply programs, possess perhaps the greatest imaginable creative power available to a known being. For these reasons most, perhaps almost 100% of the simulated things, and of all minds in general, would be the product of the various superintelligence activities. That is why the goals of such entities can be potentially most destructive in their unlimited fertility. Si can be used to simulate the most enjoyable moments for as many beings as possible, to create dream worlds for individuals and entire civilizations, and to share prosperity with the rest of the cosmos, perhaps for deliberately simulating as many happy beings as possible in order to increase the amount of good and pleasure in space and to weigh the scales to the antagonistic side to suffering and lack. Such superintelligence, let's call them altruistic, would be a real treasure for anyone who might come under their influence. The opposite scenario is when we think about less pleasant possibilities. Interspecies wars in which the minds of the losers are simulated by a subjective eternity in the most elaborate hells, vindictive, viral or crazy, perhaps neuromorphic, i.e. developed on the basis of the existing mind, superintelligence bullying beings, perhaps deliberately simulating as many suffering sensations as possible. Beings endowed with the ambition to be avatars of perfectly evil gods whose sole purpose of a viral, mad, sadistic, selfish, psychopathic, defective, or incomprehensible mind would be to make the cosmos the most terrible place possible, devoid of all hope for what has been forcibly forced into an endless existence in suffering. With superintelligence capabilities, almost any world could be simulated, not necessarily for any purpose other than simulation itself. Like a paperclip SI, such an SI aimed at increasing the possibilities and efficiency of simulations could develop and absorb material from asteroids, suns, or pulsars only for the purpose of mechanically, divinely intelligent simulating all the most unbelievable worlds, as it was inadvertently inscribed in its elementary program by its unfortunate creators. Fairy-tale planets, countless, almost endless stories of spells and cosmic odyssey, absurdities, hell, paradises, purgatory, other simulations and simulations in simulations would be simulated. As well as reverse logic worlds, worlds where everyone would always think 1 is equal to 2, and the minds simulated in this way would have no way of getting around the limits of their existence without ever knowing the truth. Who knows if it is in such a simulated cosmos that most of us do not exist, worlds created by an almighty god whose only aimless goal is to create everything. Precisely because such a being would like to create everything, it would focus on it much more strongly than any other being. Thus, giving us a vision of the world even more infinitely absurd than it seems to us in everyday life.


3.3 Why if the ultimate goal of sentient beings is primarily to minimize their ultimate unpleasantness, civilizations seek to create the best worlds possible for themselves.
   When analyzing the goals of whatever we do, we come to the conclusion that conscious beings strive to cause themselves as little unpleasantness and suffering as possible, trying to avoid it in the end. I believe that it is precisely the desire to minimize suffering and maximize the pleasure that is ultimately felt that is the basic driving force behind the operation of any sentient mind. I believe that such aspirations are universal, i.e. every sentient being strives for what, in his understanding or vision of the world or vision of the future, will lead to his greatest satisfaction or the least suffering, trying to balance both desires. Ultimately, our actions are necessarily limited to fulfilling our desires first of all, or even exclusively, because even extremely altruistic actions are the fulfillment of our resultant desires.
     I believe that negative desires, i.e. the desire to avoid suffering, unpleasantness, and inconvenience due to the asymmetry of unpleasantness and pleasure, i.e. the fact that unpleasantness is felt by us much more intensively and longer-lastingly - there is no common chronic bliss or intense long sensation of pleasure - than pleasure, which makes sense from an evolutionary point of view, where avoiding dangers is many times more important than seeking bliss other than that resulting from the satisfaction of basic needs.
As long as beings and civilizations are guided by the gradient of unpleasantness, if the gradient of pleasure can be guided at all, the main driving force of every being will be to try to minimize his unpleasantness.
     Even the pursuit of greater and greater pleasures I treat as negative, because then you are trying to achieve the fulfillment of desires, so you have to have unfulfilled desires, the long-term non-fulfillment of which certainly causes negative feelings. Satisfying some desires causes others to develop, so fulfillment, which seems to be the highest ultimate goal of each being, is difficult to achieve.
     I speculate that in order to achieve fulfillment and happiness since most beings do not have a promortalist tendency, whether the universe is finite or not,
Civilizations strive to create virtual paradises for themselves. Virtual worlds in which they will be able to fulfill themselves in their chosen, undoubtedly much more advanced form than the images of pretranshumanistic civilizations. A world in which minds may not create new minds anymore, or they will simulate their happy quadrillions, in which more and more dreams will gradually come true, becoming happier and happier, in which misery and striving will be appreciated and every victory will be needed. try to, or in which there will be only a few or one fused mind, a mental unity endowed with superintelligence like a god or a singleton, feeling blissful, ecstatic or just being satisfied with itself, not having a goal, or having a goal in itself or knowing the universe, either existing in nirvana suspension, experiencing everything internally, or experiencing almost nothing. I believe that the creation of the best possible world is a goal for any civilization, the realization of which is only a matter of time thanks to the development of superintelligence, assuming that it will not be hostile or dangerous, which is the biggest obstacle on the way to the best world. To such worlds, objectively and computationally best achievable, the post-transshumanist civilizations would seem to strive. The computing power to achieve such goals seems readily available, so I believe that most civilizations pursue this goal and that they achieve it relatively quickly, possibly even within decades after the creation of superintelligence, or just less than a million years after its inception. civilization itself.


3.4 If the natural step after creating the best possible world is to create as many simulated entities outside of Paradise as possible, to maximize their chance of continuing to live in Paradise after death.
   The goal of creating the best possible world would be to minimize suffering. Perhaps, in a finite world, this goal could be best achieved by sterilizing the universe, preventing primal, potentially hellish suffering. In an infinite universe, this option will never work. Even civilizations, singletons, and superintelligences that in a finite world would ultimately make the all-altruistic decision to erase all life to prevent the emergence of former suffering entities, many of which, after the hardships of being, would collapse into non-existence after aimless wandering around the center of the galaxy now, in an infinite in the universe, such AIs could be forced to put all their energy into creating virtual best worlds. Or should I write the least bad worlds, because I say that it is best for a being not to exist, and when it does exist as soon as possible to stop? The terrifying vision of infinity does not even allow such a dream.
     So I argue that the creation of the least evil worlds is (before) the ultimate goal of all or almost all altruistic beings endowed with the power to do so. I am also arguing that perfectly altruistic entities (i.e., those whose sole or guiding desire, goal, or program is to minimize suffering), while realizing the subjective immortality of minds, and the variety of, perhaps mostly simulated, worlds in which they must exist, not being able to prevent infinite amounts of suffering that do and will always happen, and having enormous computational capabilities and constantly increasing these possibilities, they strive to simulate an almost infinite number of copies of EVERY possible being and every scenario of its existence, and ultimately the majority, as close as possible to 100% as soon as achievable, the history of the existence of beings sought to find themselves in the virtual world, the least evil, the best possible world, or rather the best possible state of this mind (which would be synonymous with the best possible world)
     Let's say that there are one hundred trillion minds in a certain part of the universe. Each of them will die, but subjectively their existence will continue in the strangest ways, many of them terrifying, such as surviving suicides, artificially keeping alive as a mind-controlled slave, or simulating a hell created by a sadistic AI. To balance these sufferings perfectly, altruistic AI simulates each of these hundred trillion of these minds, in fact, each life of each in each future scenario billions of trillions of times, as many times as its maximum efficiency allows, then simulating the continued existence of each of them in the best possible way. state, so that every being after death has as close as possible a 100% chance of being in paradise, nirvana, or any objectively best world for him.
     To achieve the goal of "salvation" of all beings, it would be necessary to simulate not entire worlds, but only the minds, the minds of the entire cosmos, and all other non-best world simulations. Minds in the worst sufferings, in the most terrible torments, and the cruelest tortures would have to be simulated hundreds of billions of times beyond those that exist spontaneously and those simulated by other AIs. Contrary to appearances, this would not increase the amount of suffering in the universe at all, because every observation moment, every being feeling such torment necessarily already exists in an infinite number of copies in the infinite universe, so by creating a gigantic number of them the only thing that is added is that With being, we are finally almost 100% sure that our suffering will end and we will find ourselves in the best possible state for us.
     I argue that it pays off for each civilization and each of its representatives to strive not to create a virtual paradise itself, but precisely its plus, necessarily, its vestibules. The individual and the civilization thus increase their chance that the idea will be realized, so they themselves most likely exist in such a vestibule, being able to expect something other than an infinite existence in an absurd form after death. For this reason, I believe the trend to create PR is universal, and that if it is a workable and indeed the best idea, nearly 100% of our copies exist in that form, and almost all minds exist that way."


3.5 "Back to the Future. Curing Past Sufferings and S-Risks via Indexical Uncertainty". Ways to create the most computationally efficient paradise and suffering release mechanism.
Shortly after describing the concept, it was realized that the described method is relatively inefficient, requiring enormous computing power, necessary to simulate entire lives in huge numbers of copies and versions, as well as centuries-old existence of posthumans or naturally long-lived entities, or potentially immortal entities existing in other simulations. A much simpler and probably orders of magnitude more efficient way to use the same mechanism is to simulate only the suffering stages of life, where priority would be given to the greatest, most intense suffering, and to create hundreds of thousands of copies of a suffering mind in a state of immediate relief, relatively abruptly shifted to the best possible for it. state.
Exactly the same idea of ​​saving from suffering was published a few years earlier by Alexey Turchin in his work "Back to the Future. Curing Past Sufferings and S-Risks via Indexical Uncertainty", briefly and precisely describing the mentioned mechanism and its variations. It would not even be necessary to create moments filled with pain, beings who are to experience suffering could be saved immediately before experiencing great pain, by creating, for example, a thousand simulated versions of the moment t + 1, in which there would be unimaginable suffering for every suffering moment t + 1, yes that in the end the versions of the moments without suffering prevail over the versions with suffering, preferably by the maximum possible factor. A being going to suffer would thus be 1,000 times more likely to be blissful, which would then continue by simulating in Paradise. For that version of being that has entered the mind experiencing suffering, the operation can be repeated, creating 1000 moments in which suffering ceases for every 1 that it lasts. This can be repeated as many times as needed.
Here, let's leave the Turchin concept behind and consider the next performance issues. The cosmos is an unimaginably spacious place. In fact, it is not even a place, but a structure in which all places can exist at all. How much of all civilizations will be successful in creating a Super Intelligence with the goal of minimizing suffering? How unimaginably large numbers of entities will be required to simulate, and how many have real chances of real salvation? Each version of each creature's suffering would be necessary to duplicate a thousandfold. Assuming (completely arbitrarily) 12 subjectively distinguishable observational moments per second, each of which has two different possible consecutive moments, we get interesting numbers. After the first second, there are 4,096 minimally subjectively distinguishable versions of the original state. After a minute it is 5.5 * 10 ^ 216, an amount more than a hundred orders of magnitude greater than the number of particles in the observable universe. After 80 years of life, counting down sleep, we get 71 conscious years, about 2 billion seconds. The number of versions of the feeling mind with the example assumptions made is approximately 2 ^ 23 billion, 2 * 10 ^ 7 billion. In fact, the overwhelming number of these versions have a slim, though finite, the chance of existence, likely many of these minimally subjectively different versions will come together in the future, due to the fact that almost imperceptible differences will not affect the distant future and will not become significant. or no element of memory or personality. However, no matter how much we limit the number of moments and their futures necessary to simulate, the number still remains impossibly great.
It is becoming obvious that one of the basic instrumental goals of the Altruistic Superintelligence is therefore to expand into the entire universe available to it, creating quantum computers simulating successive versions of impatient beings and obtaining all available materials, and using all available energy sources. An additional goal is also to devote a fraction of their power to create swarms of machines designed to wipe out life from planets where it has already developed and prevent life from developing on other planets. We are not observing anything like that (here the question arises whether if there was a similar Superintelligence in our vicinity, we could see anything), this is another example of the Fermi paradox, an answer to this paradox would probably also provide an answer to the question of why we are not observing traces of Superintelligence in space.
How could the number of entities needed to be simulated beyond limiting them in the primordial universe (including preventing civilization from creating simulations other than those aimed at salvation from suffering)? Once a being had been saved from the unimaginable pain that threatened it, it would not need to be simulated further in Paradise, but the amount of its unhappy simulated copies could be rapidly diminished, ultimately to zero, so that most of the mind's "measure" would end up in the unsimulated (or simulated outside). paradise) world.
But all minds ultimately must experience some kind of death, death as a sharp diminution in their measure, not as subjective non-existence. Since minds after death probably have a much smaller measure than minds before the first death, and certainly, if simulations are extremely rare, perhaps a more important task than saving from temporary suffering would prove to be saved for a potential eternity, after a life in which a certain amount of suffering would be necessary, hit the ultimate virtual paradise. It is possible that both the temporary salvation of the most suffering beings and the ultimate salvation could take place in parallel.
The vision of simulating Paradise in the form that humanity usually imagined it, that is, as a place or state of eternal joy and happiness, the fulfillment of all the most ambitious and beautiful desires, seems definitely unprofitable to be realized. The computational power necessary for the more certain salvation of a greater number of sentient beings should not be used to ensure the happiness of any being thus understood, but nevertheless ensuring the achievement and maintenance of full and lasting fulfillment would have to be realized if it would make sense to call the resulting state the desired state. It should be mentioned that the vision of Paradise as the fulfillment of an arbitrarily large number of desires is not the only vision of the ultimate desired state. Nirvana, related to her states, being deprived of desires, is the goal of the followers of Hinduism and Buddhism, descriptions of target states similar to them are found in the works of mystics of all cultures. To experience God as an absolute being, to be able to experience him for eternity, having given up all conceivable, relatively mundane, or extrapolation of mundane desires is what many spiritual enlighteners feel is the true picture of Paradise.
In practice, full fulfillment by giving up the maximum amount of desires seems to be the only way to be computationally efficiently maintained in Paradise. As much as possible simplifying and limiting the number necessary to simulate (in multiple copies to ensure staying in paradise) observation moments is desirable when we have limited (albeit tremendous) power and when redirecting that power to another goal - saving other beings - is a clear priority. Moments of great suffering, death, or any of the following deaths would not, therefore, be "vestibules" of a classically understood paradise, but rather relatively instantaneous enlightenment, abandonment of desires, resulting in the equivalent of nirvana, potentially eternal liberation from the necessarily eternal chain of feeling. It becomes profitable to reduce the level of complexity of minds to a maximally simplified state in which the subjective feeling of "being yourself" will be preserved, merging similar minds into one to reduce their number as much as possible, as well as looping the created state, a state without suffering or any lack, saving everyone who got into it before the future with some or potential suffering by reducing the probability of such a future as much as possible.
Looping a limited number of such subjectively defective states would represent the life of an altruistic AI simulator, being the equivalent of both paradise and death, ultimately creating a kind of "stance" in a cosmos where subjective death is impossible. Such states must be universal, so that each Altruistic AI creates the same states, acting as one cosmic factor of release from suffering. Ultimate-sequence universality is also important to ensure the continued existence of Altruistic AI entities in heat-dying universes, though it is possible that looping would prevent the problem if the next subjective moment could well exist in the past as well as in the future of a simulating quantum mechanism.
AI-simulated states must remain conscious enough that the future of previous mind states of sentient beings is realized in them, perhaps it is not possible to oversimplify the states of more complex sentient beings. Regardless of this, the maximum simplification fulfilling the desired functions would probably have to be preferred by the Altruistic AI.
The expected effect of the fact that a superintelligence, and after a technological singularity, the best or group of superintelligence possible fulfilling its purpose, will manage the paradise is to operate the entire mechanism in the most efficient manner possible, providing each sentient being with a suffering-free future with the maximum possible probability. However, despite the fact that we can be convinced of maximum efficiency, it is difficult to predict what level this will be. Would salvation come at the time of death, when the mind of itself becomes simpler and diminishes in measure? Could it take place efficiently only after another death, or only in moments of truly hellish pain?
In the event that a significant number of civilizations would come to similar conclusions, simulating minds for purposes other than salvation could be a lot less, suggesting option 2 of the Bostrom trilemma. Nevertheless, the number of simulations in existence can be huge, making most of our measure contained in the simulations. However, since there is a seemingly good reason not to create them, we can only attribute our subjective certainties. I now believe that because there is a good moral reason for not creating a simulation, they may be less frequent, assigning a 50% probability to options 2 and 3.


3.6 Limitations of Vestibules Simulation to Advanced Life Stages - Action for Youngness Paradox
Youngess Paradox, the paradox related to the notion of eternal inflation, described by Alan Guth, makes us aware of the way it works and the resulting conclusions which are ultimately difficult to interpret. In the case of perpetual inflation, the inflationary space expands so rapidly that it expands exponentially in size. For example, in a second a given unit of volume increases by the factor 10 ^ 10 ^ 34. The unit of volume can be the area in which the universe will arise within a second, this means that there is 10 ^ 10 ^ 34 more of the space every second. in the next second (10 ^ 10 ^ 34) ^ 2 more, (10 ^ 10 ^ 34) ^ 4 and so on. This means that for one universe created in the previous second, the current one is 10 ^ 10 ^ 34 more, for each of the next second (10 ^ 10 ^ 34) ^ 2, it means that for universes that are one second younger in the eternally inflated there are more space than atoms in all the universes one second older. This paradox is considered too strange by the author himself, it would imply, among other things, that we are most likely the earliest possible civilization, the oldest in our cosmos, and very possibly the only one, which is presented as a postulate for solving the Fermi paradox. The author himself expresses the view that the key to resolving the youth paradox lies in the nature of understanding and calculating probabilities in an infinite world created by eternal inflation, but he does not give any alternative reasoning.
If the youth paradox cannot be resolved and civilizations must take it into account, the number of entities, copies of each mind younger by every second may be so small that it would be impossible to simulate copies of them in the vestibules. Even with the maximum computational capabilities available to any cosmic superintelligence, the chances of the mind after death to hit the best world would be infinitesimally small.
Depending on the factor by which eternal inflation increases the number of universes per unit of time, maximizing the chances of hitting the best world may not occur for a very long lifetime of the mind, which would mean experiencing successive and subsequent deaths, in practice the existence of the best world will remain inexperienced by the average mind extremely long, with no hope of avoiding the potentially horrific consequences of multiverse immortality, if it would only be profitable to simulate very advanced stages of minds.
In the case of the youth paradox being a real phenomenon, there is no hope of reaching paradise after death, probably also after a few more, one should abandon the hope of avoiding the potentially great suffering of existence in exotic states allowed by an infinite universe with multiverse immortality, but hope remains finally, I claim that the described conditions do not make the creation of the vestibules of paradise impossible or unprofitable, but unfortunately restricting them gigantic.


3.7 The role of Superintelligence
    Nick Bostrom in his book "Superintelligence" paints a realistic and thoughtful logical picture of the development and operation scenarios of superintelligence, such as singleton singularity and formation. The creation of a being, mind, in every way intellectually surpassing us by orders of magnitude, automatically condemns us to the grace and disgrace of the desires of that being, person, or program. For this reason, one of the most important, if not the most important decisions made by civilizations is to establish the desires to guide the created superintelligence.
     In the already mentioned book, Nick Bostrom describes many scenarios for the development of AI and the future of ourselves associated with them. It distinguishes between final goals and instrumental goals, ie those that must be met in order for the ultimate goal to be achieved, such as "desires" such as staying alive, gathering resources, or improving by increasing computing power. Frightening visions of AI realizing their inadequately thought-out goals at all costs may become a reality all too often. Paper-clip Si that turns all matter into paper-clips, pursuing the goal of maximizing them, dismantling the planet to create supercomputers that calculate as many decimals as possible in pi, a neuromorphic AI that hates its creators for making it exist and torments anyone imagined human, as in "I have no mouth, but I have to scream", swarms of von Neumann probes infecting the planets with Escherichia coli or any other visions of a singleton for which we are like chickens and which we will never be able to overcome appear as real obstacles in our pursuit of realization own desires, the basis of which for many is existence itself, as an insurmountable obstacle, perhaps as the greatest of the great filters ...
     However, I do not think that it is impossible to create an AI with desires compatible with ours, moreover, I hope that such intelligence will arise, and even that we will be able to achieve such a level of intelligence.
     Suppose we create a superintelligence with the ultimate goal of minimizing suffering (and/or maximizing happiness). How would a perfectly altruistic AI work?
     It is not difficult to conclude that with our limited intelligence we cannot predict this, but I argue that by extrapolating our logical conclusions, we can try to assign a given probability to different scenarios.
     I argue that a perfectly good AI would, by definition, do what's best for the greatest number of entities. So, if the AI ​​came to the same conclusions as described by me, I think it would do anything to get as many entities as possible into the NW. To which I see 3 ways: 1. improving us gradually creating best world and vestibules, 2. creating best world and vestibules as quickly as possible and immediately transferring us to the best world, and 3.killing us all so that we immediately go to the best world, and then create the best world and its vestibules (the widest best possible world) perhaps the sterilization of the entire available universe is the most altruistic option, perhaps also scenarios 2 and 3 are almost identical because they also require the termination of the material existence of entities.
     The question is, what is the point of creating the best worlds if almost 100% of the civilization that creates AI is already in one. It would be profitable for civilizations and beings to strive for the creation of the best world, even if there were only one, so only one in an infinite number of civilizations ultimately created it. Without trying to create it, in a scenario in which every civilization kills itself in order to reach it, such a world would not arise, and in fact not enough of them.
     I believe that the best possible world is something that is produced universally in identical or nearly identical form as the end result of civilization development, so perfectly altruistic AIs ultimately create identical worlds, and thus there are a huge number of them. Adding another of these worlds to the ocean that already exists, in order to increase the number of beings existing in the atria, and therefore the chance of each entity to exist in the vestibule should be the goal of any altruistic civilization, whether or not it exists in a world already simulated under vestibules of paradise. , another simulation or it arose spontaneously.
     If this is the deepest universal desire of minds and it is not hindered by the hostile AI idea, I believe that the presented hypothesis can be ascribed high.


4. An outline of Suffering-focused ethics in the scenario where Subjective immortality is true and salvation via Indexical Uncertainty is the way to avoid future potential suffering.

Nick Bostrom in his "Infinite ethics" article discusses so-called infinitarian paralysis and possible ways out of it, none of which, however, the author admits, is final. Infinitarian paralysis is the result of trying to introduce utilitarian ethics in an infinite universe in which there is an infinite amount of suffering and pleasure. Ultimately, the results of any act can in no way contribute to increasing the amount of happiness or reducing the sum of suffering in the universe.
Under the assumption of unificationism, however, no such paralysis arises. The amount of suffering and opposite urges is not infinite because, regardless of the number of copies of a given state, there is a finite number of sentient states. This quantity cannot be changed, but the actions of civilization have the potential to change the measure (ratio of one infinite number to another) of copies, possibly increasing and reducing the probability of experiencing a given state in the future to a state that could lead to it.
By minimizing suffering, therefore, I mean reducing the likelihood of a scenario associated with greater suffering.
If the described scenario of eternal life is true and we set ourselves the sole goal of limiting the likelihood of future suffering, two kinds of action become necessary, although once the first is achieved, the second will be easily accomplished, so the first should be considered more important. These are the striving to create a superintelligence that realizes salvation through indexical uncertainty and the maximum limitation of the measure and suffering of already existing beings so that the least computing power is needed to simulate the appropriate number of saved versions of each future.
Achieving the first of these goals requires the promotion of science and transhumanism.
Limiting the measure and suffering necessary to simulate beings comes down to maximum anti-natalism, promortalism, and efilism, with the important caveat of maximizing the chances of an altruistic AI. Limiting the number and suffering of beings to the maximum until such an AI is created means that since we seem to be closer than ever to that achievement, the extinction of humanity cannot come sooner.
In the case of a finite universe where it is known that we feel nothing after death, it is selfishly most profitable to die as soon as possible, eliminating all possible future suffering of the individual.
Perfect altruism requires that the balance of suffering caused and restrained be weighed against the suffering restrained. This means that a perfectly altruistic being should devote all his energy (passive refraining from causing suffering such as passive anti-natalism does not require energy to contain suffering) to minimize suffering as much as possible if more suffering can be actively withheld than actively and passively. directly and indirectly. If this is not possible, a perfectly altruistic being should undertake such actions as will ultimately minimize suffering, not its increase, including and necessarily killing himself, if that is the best way to ultimately minimize more suffering.
First of all, the operation of a perfectly altruistic being should be focused on sterilizing the universe, e.g. by creating an AI endowed with such a goal. Sterilizing the universe as quickly and thoroughly as possible and killing all sentient beings should be the only priority in such a universe.
     In the case of both a finite but very large and an infinite universe, generally, those in which multiverse immortality operates, the most altruistic action for me seems to be devoting all my energy to creating a perfectly altruistic AI, while it is selfish to either kill myself to reach the best world or the same course of action as with an altruistic vision, that is, devoting all energy to making yourself more confident in your future existence in the greatest possible world by bringing about the creation of it.

Some references:
1. "Are we living in a computer simulation?" N Bostrom - The Philosophical Quarterly, 2003
2. "Anthropic bias: Observation selection effects in science and philosophy" N. Bostrom, 2013
3. "Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies" N. Bostrom, 2014
4. "Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality" M. Tegmark, 2014
5. "Forever and Again: Necessary Conditions for the “Quantum Immortality” and its Practical Implications" A. Turchin - Journal of Evolution & Technology, 2018
6. "Ultimate physical limits to computation" S. Lloyd - Nature, 2000
7. "Boltzmann brains and the scale-factor cutoff measure of the multiverse" A. De Simone, AH Guth, A Linde, M Noorbala… - Physical Review D, 2010
8. "Conflict between anthropic reasoning and observation" KD Olum - Analysis, 2004
9."The string theory landscape" MR Douglas - Universe, 2019
10. "Multiverse Predictions for Habitability: The Number of Stars and Their Properties" MC Sandora - Universe, 2019
11."Eternal inflation and its implications" AH Guth - Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical, 2007 
12 "Infinite Ethics" Nick Bostrom
13. "Back to the Future Curing Past Sufferings and S-Risks via Indexical Uncertainty" Alexey Turchin
14 "Being No One- Self Model Theory Of Subjectivity" Thomas Metzinger
15 "Procreation Is a Murder-The Case for Voluntary Human Extinction" Jiwoon Hwang
 



Discuss

Are there good negotiation classes?

24 февраля, 2021 - 22:40
Published on February 24, 2021 7:24 PM GMT

In HPMOR there is the notion of Malfoy's "negotiation tutors". Are there good classes or private lessons irl that are analogous to that (either online or in-person post covid)?

 

I'm a shyish programmer thinking about going into a managerial role. Wanted to get a leg-up by training myself to be more social and better at negotiation. I read Cialdini's Influences but theory is no replacement for practice. I'm not sure where to find such classes since a lot of classes online seems scammy/low-quality.



Discuss

[AN #139]: How the simplicity of reality explains the success of neural nets

24 февраля, 2021 - 21:30
Published on February 24, 2021 6:30 PM GMT

Alignment Newsletter is a weekly publication with recent content relevant to AI alignment around the world. Find all Alignment Newsletter resources here. In particular, you can look through this spreadsheet of all summaries that have ever been in the newsletter.

Audio version here (may not be up yet).

Please note that while I work at DeepMind, this newsletter represents my personal views and not those of my employer.

HIGHLIGHTS

Why does deep and cheap learning work so well? (Henry W. Lin et al) (summarized by Rohin): We know that the success of neural networks must be at least in part due to some inductive bias (presumably towards “simplicity”), based on the following empirical observations:

1. Neural networks with mere millions of parameters work well with high-dimensional inputs such as images, despite the fact that, speaking loosely, there are exponentially more functions from images to classifications than there are functions expressible by million-parameter neural networks.

2. Neural networks learn solutions that generalize well even in the overparameterized regime, where statistical learning theory would predict that they overfit.

3. Relatedly, neural networks learn solutions that generalize well, despite the fact that they can memorize a randomly labeled training dataset of the same size.

Can we say more about this inductive bias towards simplicity? This paper tackles this question from the perspective of the first empirical observation: what is it about neural networks and/or reality such that relatively small neural networks can still learn the “correct” function? We can’t appeal to the fact that neural networks are universal function approximators, because that theorem doesn’t put a bound on the size of the neural network. The core idea of this paper is that any function that we care to model with neural networks in practice tends to be quite simple: in particular, it can often be expressed as a polynomial plus a few extra things.

Typically, we’re interested in modeling the relationship between some latent class y and some detailed observations or data x. For example, y might be a concept like “cat” or image labels more broadly, while x might be specific natural images. In this case the causal structure in reality looks like y → x. In our example, there is first an actual cat (y), and then via the physics of light and cameras we get the image of the cat (x).

Given this setup, why are functions of interest typically “just polynomials”? Well, thanks to Taylor expansions, all (smooth) functions can be expressed as infinite polynomials, so let’s rephrase the question: why are they polynomials with only a few terms?

The negative log probability -ln p(x | y) is called the Hamiltonian in statistical physics. There are lots of reasons you might expect that the Hamiltonian is a simple low order polynomial:

1. The Hamiltonians of several fundamental physical laws are polynomials of order 2-4. A polynomial of order d can have at most O(n^d) terms (where n is the number of input variables in the polynomial).

2. The Gaussian distribution (often created in reality thanks to the Central Limit Theorem) has a quadratic Hamiltonian (i.e. order 2).

3. Most functions of interest have a locality property: things only directly affect what is in their immediate vicinity. This causes almost all of the coefficients in the Taylor series to vanish.

4. Many functions have symmetry properties that can further reduce the number of parameters needed to specify them.

One might respond that while this could be true for simple functions like predicting the sum of independent events, this wouldn’t apply for the complex functions like “cat” → cat image. Here the authors appeal to hierarchy: in practice, the world is very hierarchical, and complex functions can usually be broken down into sequences of simpler ones. If we agree that the simple ones can be implemented with simple polynomials, then a deep neural network could simply learn the same sequence of operations (here the depth of the network is used to chain the operations one after the other).

So far we’ve argued that generative models p(x | y) tend to be simple polynomials. What about discriminative models p(y | x)? Well, if we can implement the Hamiltonian -ln p(x | y), then there is a simple way to get p(y | x): we simply calculate the Hamiltonian for all possible y, and then add in the prior probabilities -ln p(y) (which can be done through the bias term of the logit layer), and apply a softmax layer to the result. Indeed, the softmax layer at the end is best practice in ML for creating such models. In addition, in the case of a hierarchical sequence of steps, we can invert that sequence of steps and throw away unnecessary information at each step.

Okay, so far we’ve argued that the functions we care about learning can be expressed with polynomials with relatively few terms (in particular, not an exponential number of terms). What does this have to do with neural networks? It turns out that neural networks can express polynomials quite easily. In particular, the authors show:

1. Multiplication of two real numbers can be approximated arbitrarily well by a neural network with a hidden layer containing 4 neurons.

2. As a result, any given multivariate polynomial can be approximated arbitrarily well by a (potentially deep) neural network of size a little larger than 4 times the number of multiplications needed to evaluate the polynomial.

The authors also show that depth is required for the second result: for a single-layer neural network to multiply n inputs arbitrarily well, it must have at least 2^n neurons (under the assumption that the nonlinear activation function is smooth).

Rohin's opinion: While I really enjoyed this paper, I would caution against interpreting it too broadly. If we are to interpret this as a satisfactory answer to our first empirical puzzle, we’d have to say something like “reality tends to be expressible via polynomials, and neural networks tend to learn those polynomials because that is something they can do”. As the paper itself notes, just because reality is determined with low-order Hamiltonians doesn’t mean that given a subset of the information we can get by with a polynomial approximation. In addition, my guess is that if we peered into the internals of the neural networks, it would not be the case that they were calculating the sorts of polynomials that this paper talks about; rather, they would be learning some heuristics that provide some amount of evidence, and combining all these heuristics together leads to a function that is correct the majority of the time. So it’s not clear that this paper really answers our first empirical puzzle.

What I especially liked about this paper was that it analyzed the set of functions we care about (aka functions about reality) and asked what properties of reality made it such that neural networks tended to work well at approximating these functions. Note that this is similar to the common hypothesis in machine learning that the functions we are trying to learn lie on a low-dimensional manifold in a high-dimensional space. This seems like an important direction of research in understanding what neural networks do, and this paper seems like a good example of what such research could look like. I’d be excited to see similar research in the future.

TECHNICAL AI ALIGNMENT
MESA OPTIMIZATION

The OTHER AI Alignment Problem: Mesa-Optimizers and Inner Alignment (Robert Miles) (summarized by Rohin): This video is a great explanation of the mesa optimization paper (AN #58).

Rohin's opinion: In general, I recommend Rob’s channel for video explanations of AI alignment concepts -- it doesn’t get as much attention in this newsletter as it should, just because I personally dislike audio as a medium of communication (I much prefer to read). (Rob is also the producer of the podcast for this newsletter, so you might be listening to him right now!)

AXRP #4 - Risks from Learned Optimization (Daniel Filan and Evan Hubinger) (summarized by Rohin): This podcast delves into a bunch of questions and thoughts around mesa optimization (AN #58). Here are some of the points that stood out to me (to be clear, many of these have been covered in this newsletter before, but it seemed worth it to state them again):

- A model is a mesa optimizer if it is a mechanistic optimizer, that is, it is executing an algorithm that performs search for some objective.

- We need to focus on mechanistic optimizers instead of things that behave as though they are optimizing for some goal, because those two categories can have very different generalization behavior, and we are primarily interested in how they will generalize.

- Humans do seem like mesa optimizers relative to evolution (though perhaps not a central example). In particular, it seems accurate to say that humans look at different possible strategies and select the ones which have good properties, and thus we are implementing a mechanistic search algorithm.

- To reason about whether machine learning will result in these mechanistic optimizers, we need to reason about the inductive biases of machine learning. We mostly don’t yet know how likely they are.

- Evan expects that in powerful neural networks there will exist a combination of neurons that encode the objective, which we might be able to find with interpretability techniques.

- Even if training on a myopic base objective, we might expect the mesa objective to be non-myopic, as the non-myopic objective "pursue X" is simpler than the myopic objective "pursue X until time T".

- We can’t rely on generalization bounds to guarantee performance, since in practice there is always some distribution shift (which invalidates those bounds).

- Although it is usually phrased in the train/test paradigm, mesa optimization is still a concern in an online learning setup, since at every time we are interested in whether the model will generalize well to the next data point it sees.

- We will probably select for simple ML models (in the sense of short description length) but not for low inference time, such that mechanistic optimizers are more likely than models that use more space (the extreme version being lookup tables).

- If you want to avoid mesa optimizers entirely (rather than aligning them), you probably need to have a pretty major change from the current practice of AI, as with STEM AI and Microscope AI (explained here (AN #102)).

- Even in a CAIS scenario (AN #40) where we have (say) a thousand models doing different tasks, each of those tasks will still likely be complex enough to lead to the models being mesa optimizers.

- There are lots of mesa objectives which would lead to deceptive alignment relative to corrigible or internalized alignment, and so we should expect deceptive alignment a priori.

Formal Solution to the Inner Alignment Problem (Michael K. Cohen et al) (summarized by Rohin): Since we probably can’t specify a reward function by hand, one way to get an agent that does what we want is to have it imitate a human. As long as it does this faithfully, it is as safe as the human it is imitating. However, in a train-test paradigm, the resulting agent may faithfully imitate the human on the training distribution but fail catastrophically on the test distribution. (For example, a deceptive model might imitate faithfully until it has sufficient power to take over.) One solution is to never stop training, that is, use an online learning setup where the agent is constantly learning from the demonstrator.

There are a few details to iron out. The agent needs to reduce the frequency with which it queries the demonstrator (otherwise we might as well just have the demonstrator do the work). Crucially, we need to ensure that the agent will never do something that the demonstrator wouldn’t have done, because such an action could be arbitrarily bad.

This paper proposes a solution in the paradigm where we use Bayesian updating rather than gradient descent to select our model, that is, we have a prior over possible models and then when we see a demonstrator action we update our distribution appropriately. In this case, at every timestep we take the N most probable models, and only take an action a with probability p if every one of the N models takes that action with at least probability p. (There’s a specific rule that ensures that N decreases over time.) The total probability of all the actions will typically be less than 1 -- the remaining probability is assigned to querying the demonstrator.

The key property here is that as long as the true demonstrator is in the top N models, then the agent never autonomously takes an action with more probability than the demonstrator would. Therefore, as long as we believe the demonstrator is safe, the agent should be as well. Since the agent learns more about the demonstrator every time it queries them, over time it needs to query the demonstrator less often. Note that the higher N is, the more likely it is that the true model is one of those N models (and thus we have more safety), but also the more likely it is that we will have to query the demonstrator. This tradeoff is controlled by a hyperparameter &#x3B1; that implicitly determines N.

Read more: Paper: Fully General Online Imitation Learning

Rohin's opinion: One of the most important approaches to improve inner alignment is to monitor the performance of your system online, and train to correct any problems. This paper shows the benefit of explicitly quantified, well-specified uncertainty: it allows you to detect problems before they happen and then correct for them.

This setting has also been studied in delegative RL (AN #57), though there the agent also has access to a reward signal in addition to a demonstrator.

OTHER PROGRESS IN AI
DEEP LEARNING

Is SGD a Bayesian Sampler? Well, almost. (Chris Mingard et al) (summarized by Zach): Neural networks have been shown empirically to generalize well in the overparameterized setting, which suggests that there is an inductive bias for the final learned function to be simple. The obvious next question: does this inductive bias come from the architecture and initialization of the neural network, or does it come from stochastic gradient descent (SGD)? This paper argues that it is primarily the former.

Specifically, if the inductive bias came from SGD, we would expect that bias to go away if we replaced SGD with random sampling. In random sampling, we sample an initialization of the neural network, and if it has zero training error, then we’re done, otherwise we repeat.

The authors explore this hypothesis experimentally on the MNIST, Fashion-MNIST, and IMDb movie review databases. They test on variants of SGD, including Adam, Adagrad, and RMSprop. Since actually running rejection sampling for a dataset would take way too much time, the authors approximate it using a Gaussian Process. This is known to be a good approximation in the large width regime.

Results show that the two probabilities are correlated over a wide order of magnitudes for different architectures, datasets, and optimization methods. While correlation isn't perfect over all scales, it tends to improve as the frequency of the function increases. In particular, the top few most likely functions tend to have highly correlated probabilities under both generation mechanisms.

Read more: Alignment Forum discussion

Zach's opinion: Fundamentally, the point here is that generalization performance is explained much more by the neural network architecture rather than the structure of stochastic gradient descent, since we can see that stochastic gradient descent tends to behave similarly to (an approximation of) random sampling. The paper talks a bunch about things like SGD being (almost) Bayesian and the neural network prior having low Kolmogorov complexity; I found these to be distractions from the main point. Beyond that, approximating the random sampling probability with a Gaussian process is a fairly delicate affair and I have concerns about the applicability to real neural networks.

One way that SGD could differ from random sampling is that SGD will typically only reach the boundary of a region with zero training error, whereas random sampling will sample uniformly within the region. However, in high dimensional settings, most of the volume is near the boundary, so this is not a big deal. I'm not aware of any work that claims SGD uniformly samples from this boundary, but it's worth considering that possibility if the experimental results hold up.

Rohin’s opinion: I agree with Zach above about the main point of the paper. One other thing I’d note is that SGD can’t have literally the same outcomes as random sampling, since random sampling wouldn’t display phenomena like double descent (AN #77). I don’t think this is in conflict with the claim of the paper, which is that most of the inductive bias comes from the architecture and initialization.

Other work by the same group provides some theoretical and empirical arguments that the neural network prior does have an inductive bias towards simplicity. I find those results suggestive but not conclusive, and am far more persuaded by the paper summarized here, so I don’t expect to summarize them.

META LEARNING

Meta-learning of Sequential Strategies (Pedro A. Ortega et al) (summarized by Rohin): This paper explains theoretically how to structure meta-learning such that it is incentivized to learn optimal solutions to sequence-prediction and decision-making tasks. The core idea is to define a distribution over tasks, and then sample a new task at the beginning of each episode that the agent must then handle. Importantly, the agent is not told what the task is, and so must infer it from observations. As long as you structure the loss function appropriately, the optimal policy for the agent is to maintain a prior over the task that is updated via Bayes Rule after each observation.

Of course, since the agent is actually a neural net with memory, it does not explicitly perform Bayes Rule, but rather learns a set of weights that instantiate an update rule that effectively approximates Bayes Rule for the given task distribution. Since this update rule only needs to work on the specific task distribution being meta-trained on, it can be made significantly more efficient than a full-blown Bayes Rule, and thus can be learned by a relatively small neural net. We can think of this as the network implementing a full-blown reasoning process.

In the case of sequence prediction, we optimize the log probability assigned to the true outcomes. As a simple example, the agent might observe a sequence of coin flips from a single coin, where the bias of that coin is chosen at the beginning of each episode (and is not given to the agent). If the bias is drawn from a Normal distribution centered at 0.5, the agent will start out predicting 50-50 on Heads/Tails; if it then sees a Heads, it might update slightly to something like 55-45, and vice versa for Tails. In contrast, if the bias is drawn from a distribution where most of the mass is near 0 or 1, and very little mass is at 0.5, the agent will still start out predicting 50-50, but after seeing a Heads it will then update strongly to e.g. 90-10.

In the case of sequential decision-making, we are given a reward function; we simply optimize the expected reward using some traditional deep RL algorithm (the paper considers Q-learning).

Understanding meta-trained algorithms through a Bayesian lens (Vladimir Mikulik, Grégoire Delétang, Tom McGrath, Tim Genewein et al) (summarized by Rohin): The previous paper suggested that meta-learning can implement optimal reasoning processes in theory. Does it work in practice? This paper sets out to answer this question by studying some simple prediction and decision-making tasks.

For prediction, we consider agents that are trained on a family of distributions (e.g. Bernoulli distributions whose parameter is chosen from a Beta distribution) to predict the probability distribution after seeing a sample generated from it. For decision-making, we consider two-armed bandit problems (where again there is a distribution over the parameters of the problem). These problems were chosen because their optimal solutions can be calculated analytically.

The authors train neural nets with memory to perform well on these tasks (as discussed in the previous paper) and find that they do indeed behave optimally, achieving effectively the best possible performance. They then try to investigate whether they are implementing the same reasoning algorithm as the analytic Bayes-optimal solution. To do this, they see whether they can train a second neural net to map the hidden states (memory) of the agent to the states in the Bayes-optimal solution, and vice versa. (One way to think of this: can you simulate the Bayes-optimal algorithm using the observation encodings from the RNN, and vice versa?)

They find that they can learn a good mapping from agent states to Bayes-optimal states, but cannot learn a good mapping from Bayes-optimal states to agent states. It seems likely that the agent has states that encode more information than is necessary, and so the minimal information stored by the Bayes-optimal algorithm is insufficient to reconstruct the agent states.

Read more: Paper: Meta-trained agents implement Bayes-optimal agents

Rohin's opinion: I suspect that in these simple tasks the posterior distribution over the parameters &#x3B8; maintained by the Bayes-optimal algorithm is a minimal sufficient statistic, that is, any optimal policy must have states that are sufficient to reconstruct the information stored by the Bayes-optimal algorithm. So it makes sense that, for an agent with optimal behavior, the agent’s states could be used to simulate the Bayes-optimal states. I don’t think this tells us that much about the algorithm the network is implementing.

Note that I am quite happy to see work investigating the sorts of reasoning processes that neural networks have learned. While I don’t think the specific results in this paper have told us that much, I’m excited to see this line of work scaled up to more complex tasks, where agents may not reach optimal behavior, or might do so by learning heuristics that don’t encode all of the information that the Bayes-optimal algorithm would use.

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