Open Thread

This is our monthly place to discuss relevant topics that have not appeared in recent posts.

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  • Aron Vallinder

    If your baseline em scenario or something close to it materializes, how likely do you think it is that patients in cryonic suspension will be revived?

    • Conditional in the patients surviving unthawed until then, very likely.

      • Aron Vallinder

        Would the incentive to revive be financial, pure curiosity, or to respect existing contracts? I’m guessing the final option will be your answer, but I’d be interested to hear you expand a bit on it.

      • VV

        What contracts?

        Even if a mean to revive cryopreserved people was discovered today, cryonics organizations would be under no obligation to attempt revival. Legally cryopreservation is considered a form of burial.

        Hanson’s imagined future is a subsistence economy where people struggle to survive. I would hardly believe that they would consider themselves bound by an obligation to invest resources to bring long deceased people back from their icy graves, even if it was technologically possible.

      • Aron Vallinder

        Those were my thoughts as well.

        However, Alcor’s cryopreservation agreement states that “[w]hen, in Alcor’s best good faith judgement, it is determined that attempting revival is in the best interests of the Member in cryopreservation, Alcor shall attempt to revive and rehabilitate the Member.”

        My guess was that this would be the basis of Robin’s high credence. As I’m skeptical that this would constitute a sufficiently strong incentive for actually going ahead with revival – for the reasons you outline – I’m interested in Robin’s response.

      • IMASBA

        Reviving people from cryonic suspension would be considered undesirable in Robin’s EM world that has built a value system around maximizing the number of lives that get to exist. The EMs would reason that the frozen people have already had a life so the EM value system would be better served by pulling the plug of the freezer units and using the resources to create new EMs. “Dreamtime-era” contracts would be disregardes just as 18th century slave contracts are today.

        In fact if this EM society was the least bit self-consistent it would abolish owning great wealth and the purchase of extra CPU cycles. The collective would set a maximum age and maximum amount of wealth for all, to ensure as many EMs get to exist before the end of the universe.

      • Readers beware: this is a prediction regarding the willingness of future society, not its technical capabilities. Most importantly, it doesn’t speak to whether current freezing techniques succeed in preserving function.

        Issued as a public service.

  • incompetent

    Robin, I know you gave credit to Geoffrey Miller for shaping your thinking about sexual selection in humans but now I suspect that he also influenced your thinking about “dreamtime” (at least in part). Is that true ?

    Here’s him in 2006:

    “Christian and Muslim fundamentalists (…) insulate themselves from our Creative-Class dream-worlds and our EverQuest economics. They wait patiently for our fitness-faking narcissism to go extinct. Those practical-minded breeders will inherit the earth. It will be a meeting of dead-serious super-parents who congratulate each other on surviving not just the Bomb, but the Xbox.”

    You in 2009:

    “our lives are far more dominated by consequential delusions: wildly false beliefs and non-adaptive values that matter. (…) richer nations have fewer kids, but we already see contrarian subgroups like Hutterites, Hmongs, or Mormons that grow much faster. So unless strong central controls prevent it, over the long run such groups will easily grow faster”

    • There are plenty of other folks besides me worried about falling fertility. Don’t think I said much about it before 2006.

  • consider

    I heard you mention Kurzweil on Singularity 1 on 1. You dismissed him as just cherry picking a few data points. That surprised me since I’ve never seen him do that. Can you expand on your comment? Thank you.

    • Ordinary economic measures strongly suggest that the sum total of all we value is growing via steady exponentials at best. Kurzweil shows lots of charts of things growing faster than that, and suggests thereby that overall growth of what is important is accelerating. I suggest he is cherry picking which trends to show.

      • consider

        Thanks for your response. But historical economic growth data clearly shows a double exponential from the 1700s to today if you look at Western Europe and then later the US. Average them out, and it is still a double exponential. The 2% growth GDP/capita is a recent 70 year old trend, or so. (on average) Someone posted the data on Tyler Cowen’s blog countering his misinformed Great Stagnation. He showed the double exponential and concluded “I’m not worried” Funny, and true.

        But with Kurzweil, he has shown 20th century data for computer power and GDP/capita. He adds DNA sequence costs and MRI imaging resolution. Those are facts, and he has not cherry picked at all.

        I only bring this up because cherry picking is a big offense and one I don’t think he is guilty of.

  • Marc Geddes

    Although I think the many-worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics is best, it’s definitely not the ‘slam dunk’ Yudkowsky claims it is. Here’s a very interesting new interpretation of quantum entanglement:


    “Building on earlier observations by Maldacena and by Ryu and Takayanagi, Van Raamsdonk proposed that quantum entanglement is the fundamental ingredient underlying spacetime geometry”

    There was also a recent New Scientist article about a paper on this idea from Maldacena and Susskind , suggesting it neatly solves a problem about the physics of black-holes.

    “MS (taking Van Raamsdonk very seriously) propose that whenever any two quantum subsystems are entangled they are connected by a wormhole.”

    What is so neat about this is that it links general relativity with quantum mechanics.

  • Signaling doesn’t strictly depend on what’s true, but when I think of signaling, the prototype is proving a trait that’s really, to some extent, present. I wonder whether there’s been any theorizing about human signaling oriented fundamentally to misdirection and concealment. This is how I think ideologies work. (See “The theory of ideological concealment” — .)