Silver Tiles

November 23rd, 2010

Yet another Matt and Kim post, this time from their new album “Sidewalks”. Their wild, joyous sound often makes me think of all that we stand to win here.

“I think it helps some to remind myself that though we Singularitarians harp on about existential risks, the positive utility of winning is mind-boggling. We de-emphasize this to separate our perspective from the “Woo Singularity yeah!” crowd, but perhaps we go too far sometimes. Building the republic of heaven is a much happier thought than fighting to keep humanity from killing itself.”
-Will Newsome

Oh The Places You’ll Go

November 14th, 2010

I really enjoy this book. Those beautiful, surreal landscapes have really stuck with me.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.

It’s opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.


You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…
for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
‘cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike.
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

This is Not A Military Endeavor

November 7th, 2010

Recently on Ben Goertzel’s blog, he mentioned that he’s had the experience of FAI-minded persons telling him that if he got too close to AGI he may have to be killed, and then discussing how this may occur.  Clearly, these were not advanced rationalists. I know this blog has a small audience and such ideas are probably very rare, but given the style of my material, I feel like making a statement. Given my background in gaming,  science-fiction, and fantasy, I find martial imagery and allegory inspiring. As someone concerned about existential risk, I find the idea of martial action irresponsibly foolish.

If the world gets to a point where it’s likely that unfriendly AI is about to be released, it’s incredibly unlikely that there will be only one group ready to do so. It is also likely there will be many more AGI teams than there are today. Trying to stop them through attrition would be ridiculous. Even in such a situation, more widespread action would be possible through the (non-lethal!) actions of governments convinced to step in, or research coalitions convinced to step back, by the efforts of organizations like SIAI, FHI, etc. This may be unlikely and the effect small, but it is far more likely and helpful than having any kind of meaningful effect through attempted assassination. If AGI researchers were killed, significant blame will inevitably land on groups like SIAI. To say that this will hurt their credibility is an understatement.

This is likewise true with mentioning the idea of assassination to AGI researchers. The only way such threats could ever be prohibitive would be if they were actually thought to be legitimate, and those expectations can only exist in a world in which groups like SIAI have had their intellectual and academic reputations destroyed. Not to say that destroying such groups’ reputations also makes those threats credible; death threats do far more to tear apart reputations than they do to cause fear.

There is too much at stake here to be stupid about this. It is not too hard for our evolved intuitions to suggest that we solve problems by eliminating “opponents”. But then, it’s not too hard for our evolved intuitions to screw us over generally. A second Unibomber would get to feel like a hero and a soldier, and everyone else would get to pay for it.

As I said in my first post on this blog, our enemies are human error and human hatred, not human beings.

On Melancholy Hill (AN21 & Max Vangeli Remix)

October 7th, 2010

Positive vs. Negative Motivation

July 24th, 2010

This is just going to be a quick coverage of the concept; I don’t have much more explicit knowledge of it than this. Intuitively, the distinction between positive motivation and negative motivation is that of positive emotions versus negative motivations. Positive emotions being things that attract you, like excitement, anticipation, and joy. Negative motivation comes instead from fear, worry, guilt, etc. In a discussion with others two weeks ago, we came up with additional dichotomies between them. Besides the nature of the driving emotions, positive motivation tends to revolve around creating good results, and negative motivation seeks to avoid bad results.

Most central though, is the distinction between doing, and not doing. It’s a working hypothesis, but it seems that negative emotion is superior if there is a specific, concrete action you want to avoid taking. At least, it’s much better at that than avoiding abstract results, like “don’t disappoint others”. Positive emotion seems superior at taking an action, such as exercising. Judging from various reports of successful people and our own experiences, it also seems superior at long-term abstracts, such as getting more fit, impressing others, or completing a project.

Unfortunately, in most cases the language used to describe something can be interpreted through either motivational system, and one system or the other seems to dominate our perspective at different points in our lives. Take the goal of “getting more fit”. If you have this goal, are you doing it to not be overweight, to not look bad? Or are you doing it to feel great and look great? Are you trying to evade the current situation, or are you excited about the future state of affairs? Pointedly, are you trying to avoid the extinction of the human race, or working excitedly towards a brilliant future?

This post is mostly meant to explain the concept and its benefits. For anyone interested in techniques to move from a negative to a positive motivation, one thing that I’ve found helpful is being aware of my framing, and mentally reframe when desired. I can’t change my entire emotional undercurrent on command, but I can work a little change in the perspective I use, and that seems to have significant and cumulative effects. Generally increasing my positive emotions has also helped.

Closing this up, I’d like to point out that not only is positive motivation more productive, but it’s also a hell of a lot more fun.

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’- “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”

June 16th, 2010

This song is a favorite.

Starting Earlier

June 9th, 2010

There are things that I wished I did differently. With the benefit of hindsight, I can look back and note a lot of ways that I could have done better. Some things seem like such superior choices. Sometimes, they would have been clearly impossible to make, as I didn’t know then what I know now. Other times, it’s not so clearly impossible.

So, sometimes I regret. “Ah, if only I’d done that sooner, if only I had started then.” But then, ‘sooner’ is relative, of course. Sooner than today, yes.

And sooner than tomorrow? Sooner than a year from now, sooner than a few decades from now? How great would it be to have started years before?

Ah, but I did start sooner than that. I started years before that.

How much would I give then, to be able to start today, for all the progress I could have made?

I’ve found this small exercise helpful a number of times over the past year or so, in helping to move past regret and throwing myself into something, grateful that I’m starting earlier. Just as we can take frustration from the fact that we didn’t start sooner, we can also take satisfaction from the fact that we did.

A Song for Earth, Present and Future

June 1st, 2010

Beautiful song, from the main menu of the game Civilization IV. (No real relation to the gameplay.)

Recovered from Hack

May 19th, 2010

Thanks for sticking around through the period of inactivity and website downtime. I put up the material from prior posts, though I usually didn’t take the time to restore the formatting to its previous appearance. Unfortunately, all the previous comments were destroyed in the rebuild. For those who might be browsing backwards, I entered the dates that the posts were originally made. To err on the side of safety, the most recent post, which featured the introduction to Fallout 3, has not been restored.

Princess Mononoke – The World of the Dead

May 19th, 2010

April 11th, 2010