Singularitarian community LessWrong discovers Hell:
The claim is that this ultimate intelligence may punish those who fail to help it (or help create it), with greater punishment accorded those who knew the importance of the task. That bit is simple enough, but the weird bit is that the AI and the person punished have no causal interaction: the punishment would be of a simulation of the person (e.g. by mind uploading), which the AI would construct by deduction from first principles. In LessWrong’s Timeless Decision Theory (TDT), this is taken to be equivalent to punishment of your own actual self, not just someone else very like you.
The more sensitive and OCD-prone on LessWrong began to have nightmares. Within four hours, Roko’s post and all discussion was deleted by Yudkowsky, as the transhumanist side of LessWrong overpowered the rationalist side.
Warren Ellis on the difference between webcomics and digital comics—digital comics being what they’ve decided to call ebooks of comics, I guess? It is still a lot like the early days of ebooks, it feels like, with platforms and formats and devices all kind of up in the air. But they’re basically pretending to be paper comics, sitting there on the shelf until you buy them.
There’s no reason they have to be, I don’t think. Traditional monthly comics certainly have a broadcast-like schedule, it’s just that to get them electronically you have to struggle with the online comics-buying interface. (Or, one suspects, connect one’s bittorrent client up to the appropriate RSS feed? Cynics would say that paper and digital comics alike are webcomics these days, whether they want to be or not.) Which feels like most of what Ellis has an issue with; he just wants to be able to subscribe.
I do like when he goes into the history and craft of comicking; he goes on for a bit about the kinds of comics that are suited for each format. It seems to come down to digital comics being constrained in space (surely on account of being shackled to a paper edition, though perhaps also to a page-turny reading interface—there’s no reason that image files you pay for should are somehow more space-constrained than image files you get for free) whereas webcomics are… more free to ramble, to do what they want? American Flagg vs. Cerebus.
Which is still about pacing and page count, not Scott McCloud infinite scroll madness. (Though apparently that’s one of the default formats for Korean webcomics, which they successfully monetize—with microtransactions, even? This is something I know almost nothing about.)
I also want to mention how fascinating it is, however, to see that the Air Force Research Laboratory is involved in this project, as it actually penetrates the surface of the earth and is very much a project of the ground. It is a landscape project. But the implication here is that these autonomous spelunking units are, in fact, seen as a new type of ordnance—that is, they are intelligent bombs that don’t explode so much as explore. They are artillery and surveillance rolled into one. Imagine a bomb that doesn’t destroy a building: instead, it drops into that building and proceeds to map every room and hallway.
But, much more interestingly, there is perhaps also an indication here that a conceptual revolution is underway within the Air Force, wherein the earth itself—geological space—is seen as merely a thicker version of the sky.
Bombs that are also soldiers! Bureaucrats interpreting their portfolio as broadly as possible!
How do you design a utopia? In 1972, John B. Calhoun detailed the specifications of his Mortality-Inhibiting Environment for Mice: a practical utopia built in the laboratory. Every aspect of Universe 25—as this particular model was called—was pitched to cater for the well-being of its rodent residents and increase their lifespan.
Four breeding pairs of mice were moved in on day one. After 104 days of upheaval as they familiarized themselves with their new world, they started to reproduce. In their fully catered paradise, the population increased exponentially, doubling every fifty-five days. Those were the good times, as the mice feasted on the fruited plain. To its members, the mouse civilization of Universe 25 must have seemed prosperous indeed. But its downfall was already certain—not just stagnation, but total and inevitable destruction.
[…] could the same happen to humankind? For Calhoun, there was little question about it. No matter how sophisticated we considered ourselves to be, once the number of individuals capable of filling roles greatly exceeded the number of roles,
“only violence and disruption of social organization can follow. … Individuals born under these circumstances will be so out of touch with reality as to be incapable even of alienation. Their most complex behaviors will become fragmented. Acquisition, creation and utilization of ideas appropriate for life in a post-industrial cultural-conceptual-technological society will have been blocked.”
The IRL rats of NIMH: a cask-strength allegory, distilled by science. It’s kind of a jolt, finding these things that happened before I was born that cast such a long shadow. I’d literally had no idea; I’d grown up in this media environment full of Soylent Green and Logan’s Run and all the rest of these hand-me-down urban anxiety apocalypses—hell, even now people joke about overpopulation—but I’d never thought about its origins.
And all these things are still around and influencing how we think about and deal with the world, even after we’ve traded the problems that inspire them for entirely different problems, with what I suspect are the opposite solutions.