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Archive for the ‘Epistemology’ Category

Tweeter, Claus Metzner (@cmetzner) alerted me to this cool area of study with this paper.

Suppose you meet a Wise being (W) who tells you it has put $1,000 in box A, and either $1 million or nothing in box B. This being tells you to either take the contents of box B only, or to take the contents of both A and B. Suppose further that the being had put the $1 million in box B only if a prediction algorithm designed by the being had said that you would take only B. If the algorithm had predicted you would take both boxes, then the being put nothing in box B.  Presume that due to determinism, there exists a perfectly accurate prediction algorithm. Assuming W uses that algorithm, what choice should you make?

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Despite hundreds of billions of dollars appropriated for cancer research, as well as the efforts of thousands of the world’s best minds, progress in preventing or curing cancer has been almost non-existent. I find this unacceptable. We should be doing better. We need to be doing better. So what’s the problem? and more importantly, how can we fix it?

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A few articles on the economy that were sent my way recently.

The Good: After Capitalism (Geoff Mulgan)

The era of transition that we are entering will be disruptive—but it may bring a world where markets are servants, not masters.”  I urge you to read this entire article, and leave your ideological biases at the door.  Despite the title, this is no polemic.  Here’s the punchline:

Contemporary biology and social science has confirmed just how much we are social animals—dependent on others for our happiness, our self-respect, our worth and even our life. There is no inherent contradiction between capitalism and community. But we have learned that these connections are not automatic: they have to be cultivated and rewarded, and societies that invest large proportions of their surpluses on advertising to persuade people that individual consumption is the best route to happiness end up paying a high price.

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One of my favorite talks of all time is Ken Robinson’s on how children are born naturally innovative and the process of schooling and growing up in our society beats it out of them by the time they are adults.  More recently, Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat Pray Love fame) opened some eyes with this talk on how we think of individual creativity and where it comes from.

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The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.  (James Branch Cabell)

I am currently reading What Are You Optimistic About?, a collection of short essays by thought leaders in many different disciplines on the eponymous subject.  I’m also reading True Enough, a compelling argument by Farhad Manjoo for how despite — nay, because of — the fire hose of information that permeates modern society and is available for the asking, the schism between what’s true and what we believe is widening; a polemic on polemics if you will.  Taken together, these two books suggest to me that there is a case, not for being optimistic per se, but for why you should consciously, actively try hard to become an optimist if you aren’t already.

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Continuation of: Focusing on “Autonomy”

I’ve been trying to reconcile Rafe’s an my views on this topic.  I actually think we agree on the broad themes related to our argument over “autonomy”.  From my perspective, it seems like the only real disagreement is on the implications for humans.

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Continuation of: Superfoo

Rafe and I had a great chat on the phone today about Superfoos.  I think we agreed that there will be multiple instances of agents emerging in the level immediately above humans but there is always a single top-level network in local space.  I think we also agreed that the “awareness” at this level will be different from human -awareness.  It probably won’t subsume our awareness (at least without a technological singularity) but will exhibit properties such as self-preservation.

Where we got stuck was on the concept of autonomy.  Stuck isn’t really the right word.  We both greatly expanded our conceptual space around autonomy.  But we didn’t come to agreement on a definition.  However, it was a very productive conversation, so I thought I’d put my impressions down here.

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