May 19th, 2010

April 6th, 2010
There are currently about 6,800,000,000 people in the world. There were up to 1,800,000 people at Barack Obama’s inauguration. That’s a pretty big number. The picture below probably contains over half of them.
Take a look. (You can click on the picture for a larger version.) Assuming it contained everyone who attended the event, and assuming population growth utterly and suddenly halted, you’d be looking at about 0.026% of the people who would be affected by an existential disaster.

(At Least) It’s Not The End Of The World

May 19th, 2010

April 2nd, 2010
From the Super Furry Animals

“We can live it large,
cause we’re only old once.
Let’s make a difference.

Turn all the hate in the world,
into a Mockingbird.
Make it fly away…”

Lessons Learned – Matt and Kim

May 19th, 2010

March 25th, 2010
A second great music video from Matt and Kim, kind of eclectic here. Somehow it makes me very happy about human beings and life in general. I couldn’t find a quicker loading version, but it’s worth starting and coming back to after it loads.

A long time ago…

May 19th, 2010

March 14th, 2010
I was a much bigger Star Wars fan before the continuity collapsed under its own weight, but I still get chills from the scene of Luke Skywalker looking out over the desert at the twin sunset. I gathered a few Star Wars soundtracks over the years, partly hoping for this song; little surprise I finally get it from YouTube.
I love to look backwards in time and think of how a younger me would react, if I told him all the things he was going to do, and how much he’s going to change. (Of course I wouldn’t actually try that, knowing that I apparently failed to do it.) I like the same thing on a larger scale: going back in time and having our society explain things to the society of several hundred years ago. Like Tony Robbins has said, we tend to overestimate what we can do in a year but underestimate what we can do in a decade. Steady change compounded over time can have a huge effect, as all readers are assuredly aware. I had a lot of generally unreasonable shorter term expectations and plans that didn’t pan out, but the total change since a few years ago would make my head spin. Looking back I seem childish, petty, and much less capable. Hopefully I can say the same thing a few years from now.
Dropping into fiction for a moment, what does Luke expect as he stands there in that sunset, gazing out at those suns? On some nowhere little planet, working on some remote moisture farm, how much could he anticipate everything to follow? Who would he meet, what friends would he make, what would they teach him? What strange situations will he encounter, what distant worlds would he find himself on? What adventures would he be a part of? What kind of impact would he make? What tragedies would he face and what triumphs would he accomplish? How would he grow, who would he become, and what would he become capable of? This little world in which he’s lived all his years, how long will it persist, and years down the line, how normal will that sort of life still seem to him? But he can’t know any of that, and he’s got to go back inside and clean droids.
So how about us?

Might as well throw this in too:
LUKE: I can’t get involved! I’ve got work to do! It’s not that I like
the Empire. I hate it! But there’s nothing I can do about it right
now. It’s such a long way from here.

BEN: You must do what you feel is right, of course.

Where the Hell is Matt?

May 19th, 2010

March 5th, 2010
This is pretty cool, you can find out more at Matt’s website.

For those who don’t follow LessWrong: the human mind suffers terribly from scope insensitivity. I.e. experiments in which people pay much more to save one child, than they do to save 8. The brain just doesn’t multiply well, and the world is a huge place.


May 19th, 2010

February 21st, 2010
A lot of people probably know DragonForce, among other things they’re featured with the hardest song on a Guitar Hero game. Wikipedia say’s they’re power metal, though a lot of people like them and don’t seem to like other power metal, myself included. The best way I can describe them is as ridiculously over-the-top, which is intentional and tongue-in-cheek on their part. Most of their songs are fairly similar, and tend to use a limited vocabulary focused on sword, warrior, storm, soul, stand, pain, ride, dragon, etc. Personally this just means it doesn’t really matter which song I listen to,  and I can expect the same enjoyable experience.
My experiences first hearing DragonForce followed successive stages. First I thought they were just ridiculous and out of touch, though I admired their guitar skill. Then I thought they were really funny. I still think they’re funny and ridiculous, but after going through those stages they became incredibely fantastic. I have a tentative hypothesis that enjoying them intensely becomes much more likely after first laughing at them. Perhaps simultaneously laughing about the music is signalling that one doesn’t take this that seriously, and allows one to enjoy more comfortably. I have an old fondness for fantasy and related imagery, so that might contribute as well.
I’m posting about them now as I remembered how extremely motivating they can be. I find them especially helpful when facing difficulties; comparing my own personal difficulties to their ridiculous lyrics both makes me smile and lends an invigorating, epic air to my struggles. Admittedly few people are actually working right now to prevent the extinction of humanity, and chipping in on that effort is fairly epic on it’s own. I refer more to laughing and becoming enthused when listening to them and thinking of my small, day-to-day challenges.
Give them a try and see what you think. Some very well known pieces are “Fury of the Storm” and “Through the Fire and the Flames”. In their main vein, “Black Winter Night” and “Operation Ground and Pound” are some I was just listening to, and something slightly different. My personal favorites though are the two quieter pieces I have, partially just because they stand out. I’ll include ”Dawn Over a New World” here, the other is “Starfire”.


May 19th, 2010

January 26th, 2010

This is a really great film, one of my favorites. It’s based loosely on the German classic, using a comic by the creator of Astroboy (after he died and couldn’t stop them), and written by the creator of Akira. The basic plotline is that of two detectives foreign to the city, investigating a rogue scientist. They meet up with his creation as political turmoil erupts in the city. It’s generally fun to watch throughout and the ending is fantastic. In particular relevance to this blog, it displays both the folly of anthropomorphizing AIs, and the existential disaster they can cause. It’s not like a lesswronger wrote it, but in comparison to most such films it’s excellent.

Some additional quick reasons to reduce existential risk

May 19th, 2010

December 30th, 2009

Steven Kaas at Black Belt Bayesian posted a great list of “sound-bite” reasons to reduce existential risk. Check it out, they’re both amusing and relevant.

2010 Singularity Research Challenge

May 19th, 2010

December 29th, 2009
For the readers I don’t share, check out this short piece by Michael Anissimov on the Singularity Institute, their work, and a recap of why they’re a great place to donate.

Human Step

May 19th, 2010

December 5th, 2009

If we pull this off, it’s really going to be a great story.
(I’m referring to the challenge of surviving to – and building – a positive future)