The Hypnotoad Pill

Please watch while I butcher this sacred cow. After I’ve cooked up one of its steaks, and you’ve tasted its juicy flesh, you will realize – more to your amusement than your horror, that you’ve been eating it all along, and enjoying it, too. Here goes: The only rational reason to believe anything is because […]

Are we living through an Urban / Rural Phase Shift?

Historically, cities were places of knowledge, learning, and information. From a computational perspective, this makes perfect sense. Historically, computation and communication were very expensive. It made sense to do as much of those as possible in small, dense areas. For most of the last 10,000 years, if you wanted to be exposed to the latest […]

The Halting Problem

The world is a sea of energyAnd I, a current through which it flows.The world is a tree of knowledge And I, a branch through which it grows. I am not a thing which walks about the world on two legs.I am a song which sings itself. Everyday I write one page. I am not an […]

Rationalists are Neoalchemists

It isn’t too hard to imagine someone writing something like this, in the distant future: “The rationalists were often popularly lampooned for their concerns about the dangers of artificial intelligence. Many of them did sincerely worry about this outcome. And yet modern scholars generally agree that the idea of a rapidly self-improving artificial intelligence was […]

Ego and Free will are Fictions, not Illusions

Would you like to be better at accomplishing your goals and getting what you want from life? Perhaps what you need is some good old fashioned corporate propaganda! Every big company uses a mythology to convince people to do their part and contribute to the operation of the company. When I worked at Facebook, the […]

Ethical Systems as Computational Optimizations

Utilitarianism (selecting actions based upon how they are likely to impact the people of the world) sounds like a great idea. At first glance, this sounds like the correct way to make ethical choices; so long as you can accurately tell what will harm or help people in general, of course you should take likely […]

Sorting Algorithms are Operationalized Value Systems

Is there an objective notion of right and wrong, good and bad? People have spent a lot of time arguing over this question.  Whenever an argument goes on for a long time without a conclusion, I find it useful to ask the question, “What would any possible answer to this question look like?”    In computing […]

Faith is a Hard Dependency for Life

unshakeable faith in positive outcomes is a light that illuminates the search space of possible strategies absent this light, plausible strategies for navigating dangerous scenarios will not be visible absent this light, the search for plausible strategies cannot be justified absent this light, the best plausible strategies cannot be found, and we will suffer wildly […]