On the morality of abortion
Dear new reader,
This blog is intended as a conversational topic specific (neuroscience and rationalism) subthread of the commentary on the blog Slate Star Codex by Scott Alexander.
Slate Star Codex is a current hotspot for fascinatingly divisive yet thoughtful discussion on rationality, politics, philosophy, and random other such things. It in turn originates from Scott Alexander’s earlier blogging in various places, notably as Yvain on LessWrong.
LessWrong is now a mostly mothballed archive of rationality blogging, notably organized into a series of posts known as the Sequences. LessWrong also has a useful wiki on concepts in rationality and topics discussed in the Sequences. If you do decide to go explore the Sequences, you will likely find yourself referring to the wiki for explanation of rationality in-group jargon terms.
Importantly, a new organization, CFAR, was spawned by the excitement and momentum around learning about and improving rationality, which got it’s start as a cohesive popular movement during the heyday of LessWrong. CFAR is moving ahead wonderfully with their agenda of teaching rationality concepts and practices to a wider audience.
Many of the blog posts in the LessWrong Sequences were contributed by Eliezer Yudkowsky who works for MIRI. MIRI is an organization focused on developing necessary value-alignment algorithms for Friendly General Artificial Intelligence, in the hopes of both bringing this about and of preventing the terrible counter-possibility of Unfriendly General AI. This work has been compiled into a book called Rationality: AI to zombies. Eliezer formally occasionally posted on a site called Overcoming Bias, which is primarily the work of Robin Hanson.
Goodness! That turned out to be a lot of background to describe for a little-twig-of-a-subthread on a rather large tree!
If I understand correctly your (and some others’) objection to my announcement, “Cryogenic brain preservation is dead! Long live brain preservation! CLARITY is the new best way (for now)!”, you seem to be saying, “I am unsure if this apparently truthy evidence has value because almost all Rationalists believe (and, more importantly, are acting on) something contradictory.”
If that is indeed what you are intending to say, that sounds like a very strange and disappointing comment from someone who so recently claimed to seek to follow the true way of rationality rather than the false way of Rationality. The way of rationality, as I understand it, would suggest that you update your beliefs as appropriate based on the strength of the evidence, erect a signpost for others saying “I found something useful here once upon a time,” and then move on. If you should find yourself torn between a holding a unique set of views based on the unique set of information you personally possess due to your unique life experiences and learnings-to-date, versus aligning your conceptions of truth and the nature of the universe to the beliefs of those you feel social pull towards…. Please, for your sake and mine, choose the unique set of beliefs!
For my own sake, I would love it if you would take some time to self-examine and lay out for more of your unique constellation of beliefs. I am most especially interested in where your beliefs are most unique, or are shared by others in various pieces but your set of beliefs makes a unique pattern. It is by deliberately seeking out and updating on the surprisingly-unusual-but-true beliefs of others that I strive to protect myself from becoming mired in the dark bog of stale shared belief-sets such as Rationality. New-and-surprising evidence which turns out, upon investigation, to be true, is the brightest of beacons (the most concentrated transfer of bits) leading us along the maze-like intertwining paths of rationality towards the one true goal: objective reality.
So please, if I you discover that I am wrong, tell me. If, however, you suspect me to be correct-but-alone, join me! (At least until I go astray again.) This is a cooperative adventure that does not reward the strategy of blindly following a leader or a social consensus. Which is not to say that social opinions can never be useful (e.g. Prediction Markets), but we must be ever vigilant against the human tendency to erroneously give widely held beliefs more weight than they deserve.
Dr Dealgood says:
Can you practically use CLARITY on a whole human brain? When I looked it up the only protocols I found were for <=50 mL samples, which is excellent for studying mice but raises questions about how well the process would scale. I’m not an expert here by any means but given that it takes 5+ days to fix a mouse brain the rate of perfusion might be an obstacle in larger organs.
Also it’s a bit of a moot point because, while this is a potentially workable idea for preserving brains nobody is actually doing it. Almost all of the advocacy and all of the money in the Rationalist sphere is focused on freezing.
Neurno, right now people are forking out good money to have themselves, or their heads, frozen and preserved, or paying for the upkeep of frozen deceased family members, via that horse-and-carriage technology.
That’s my main beef: people are being sold a bill of goods that cannot be fulfilled. Better preservation techniques, invention of however the fuck you are going to read engrams or whatever, animal testing of both that shows they work and you get out the other end something almost entirely approximating what you put in – fine, once those bugs are worked out, then sell people “step right up, sign up for our process, and wake up in the wonderful world of tomorrow”.
As it is? Right now? And the companies that started forty years or so ago and froze people in the 60s? I think you’d be as well off to be turned into an Egyptian mummy.
Also – so you slice up the brain into sections? Well, if you can put Humpty-Dumpty back together again, then I think okay. I’d really like to see some animal tests done first, though.
It sounds rather too like Victor Frankenstein stitching separate body parts back together into a coherent whole and getting the resultant jigsaw to work.
Please note: for any new material, I have underlined my name (or “edit:”) and also colored it in red.
Intro: I am usually a lurker and thorough reader of SSC and comments, and have read much of Scott Alexander’s work on SSC and Jackdaws…Sphinx, and much of LessWrong, and some Overcoming Bias. Writing doesn’t often come easily to me, so I rarely get around to expressing my viewpoint. This weekend, laid up sick in bed, and having no much else to do (since I’d just finished Hive Mind: why…IQ…), my reluctance to engage was overcome by a series of comments about the left/right political balance and lack of radical left commentators on SSC. I thought, “Hey, what about me? Oh yeah, I rarely say much.” And then the metaphorical floodgates burst open on my tiny dam, and a relative flood (for me) of writing poured out. And then some of it got eaten by the spam filter, and the rest got rather buried in a morass of (to me) totally worthless political grumblings about irrelevant petty issues like gun control.
So, I decided to pull my comments, some context, and some of the many enjoyable responses out of the morass and place them somewhere tidier and more under my control. So, here they are. Please feel free to continue engaging with me on these issues here or on SSC comment threads.
I consider myself to be a far-left rationalist (I was raised progressive quaker, and went left-er and more rational and athiest from there). On political test maps (e.g. political compass) I find myself placed so far left that the multiple choice tests don’t often even have choices for my true full views on political matters. I enjoy polite and well-thought-out comments from all areas of the political spectrum. Whenever I consider an unsatisfying political comment, I try to imagine what a smarter, more rational version of that person would say if they had approximately the same underlying values (edit: I meant ‘same underlying values’ as implied by their comments, not the same underlying values as held by me.)
It seems a lot of transhumanists and transhumanist-adjacent rationalists believe that Drexlerian nanomachines are going to happen, when the current scientific consensus seems to be that it’s physically impossible. Am I misunderstanding the typical transhumanist position, the scientific consensus, or maybe both?
Oleg S says:
Is there any idea of why there are so many different neurotransmitters in the brain?
Ok, I understand that glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter and GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter. Excitatory and inhibitory synapses are modeled really well by artificial neural networks with positive and negative weights on connections. But there are also D-serine, serotonin, acetylcholine, dopamine, norepinephrine, histamine and the whole lot of other compounds that somehow stimulate or affect neurons. Wouldn’t it be much easier to drop them and use plain excitation/inhibition networks?
Of course I understand that Nature has her own reasons. Still the question is what do those additional neurotransmitters do that cannot be captured by classic artificial neural networks, and why this function is so vital that they persist through almost entire animal kingdom.
There seems to have been a flurry of long-form articles published about CRISPR over the past few weeks. For example:
Reading these, I’ve been especially interested in seeing how the mainstream discussion of CRISPR-ethics starts to unfold. For now, the articles seem to focus nearly exclusively on the problems/risks involved with editing human DNA, with some also mentioning ecological risks of gene drives gone wrong in plants or animals. While there’s obviously a lot to unpack with these issues already, I’ve been surprised by the relatively small concern there seems to be about deliberately edited viruses used for bioterrorism, which is the particular risk that scares me the most. Apart from one vague mention at the end of a Wired article from July (http://www.wired.com/2015/07/crispr-dna-editing-2/), I haven’t found anything that talks specifically about CRISPR as a weapon. Could someone more knowledgeable about biology than I am please let me know why we shouldn’t be completely terrified about this? Is there some reason why it would be insanely, unrealistically hard to, say, make a couple choice edits to an influenza virus and create something way more deadly and infectious? Because right now I’m having a hard time seeing why CRISPR isn’t a “black ball” discovery, to use Bostrom’s term.
Context: Maware wrote in response to a line of comments following a question about which religion we would each choose to be if we were dabbling in religion…
A Postdoc says:
I was pondering recently whether part of the “purpose” of religion is to hack the intensely social nature of human cognition to get people to do things. It’s just easier to make people care about doing something if it “makes God happy” or “defeats the demons” than for some abstract reason like “it will make society better.” This seems to still be a true thing about human cognition (for instance, look how angry we get about terrorists while ignoring problems with a much larger body count but no human face.) So maybe we need a religion that includes both untrue-but-psychologically-motivating aliefs (“malaria nets make God happy!”) and true-but-abstract beliefs (“God is just a convenient label for an abstract set of moral principles.”) I’m not sure how well people could handle the cognitive dissonance in practice, but I feel like it would be an interesting experiment.
Absolutely not. I see religion as a failing of weak minds. Improve the weak minds, and I predict religion (along with any apparent social need for it) will simply disappear due to disinterest.
Dr Dealgood says:
The kind of “religion of Humanity” which R.H. Benson describes in his 1929 SF apocalyptic novel “Lord of the World”? Based on scientific understanding, where Mankind is the only transcendent thing?
There was but one hope on the religious side, as he had told Mabel a dozen times, and that was that the Quietistic Pantheism which for the last century had made such giant strides in East and West alike, among Mohammedans, Buddhists, Hindus, Confucianists and the rest, should avail to check the supernatural frenzy that inspired their exoteric brethren. Pantheism, he understood, was what he held himself; for him “God” was the developing sum of created life, and impersonal Unity was the essence of His being; competition then was the great heresy that set men one against another and delayed all progress; for, to his mind, progress lay in the merging of the individual in the family, of the family in the commonwealth, of the commonwealth in the continent, and of the continent in the world. Finally, the world itself at any moment was no more than the mood of impersonal life. It was, in fact, the Catholic idea with the supernatural left out, a union of earthly fortunes, an abandonment of individualism on the one side, and of supernaturalism on the other. It was treason to appeal from God Immanent to God Transcendent; there was no God transcendent; God, so far as He could be known, was man.
Yet these two, husband and wife after a fashion — for they had entered into that terminable contract now recognised explicitly by the State—these two were very far from sharing in the usual heavy dulness of mere materialists. The world, for them, beat with one ardent life blossoming in flower and beast and man, a torrent of beautiful vigour flowing from a deep source and irrigating all that moved or felt. Its romance was the more appreciable because it was comprehensible to the minds that sprang from it; there were mysteries in it, but mysteries that enticed rather than baffled, for they unfolded new glories with every discovery that man could make; even inanimate objects, the fossil, the electric current, the far-off stars, these were dust thrown off by the Spirit of the World—fragrant with His Presence and eloquent of His Nature. For example, the announcement made by Klein, the astronomer, twenty years before, that the inhabitation of certain planets had become a certified fact—how vastly this had altered men’s views of themselves. But the one condition of progress and the building of Jerusalem, on the planet that happened to be men’s dwelling place, was peace, not the sword which Christ brought or that which Mahomet wielded; but peace that arose from, not passed, understanding; the peace that sprang from a knowledge that man was all and was able to develop himself only by sympathy with his fellows. To Oliver and his wife, then, the last century seemed like a revelation; little by little the old superstitions had died, and the new light broadened; the Spirit of the World had roused Himself, the sun had dawned in the west; and now with horror and loathing they had seen the clouds gather once more in the quarter whence all superstition had had its birth.
(After Mabel has seen a volor crash and people killed for the first time in her life; there are government officials who mercy-kill the very badly hurt, not likely to survive victims. “Down the steps of the great hospital on her right came figures running now, hatless, each carrying what looked like an old-fashioned camera. She knew what those men were, and her heart leaped in relief. They were the ministers of euthanasia.”)
“My dear, it’s all very sad; but you know it doesn’t really matter. It’s all over.”
“And — and they’ve just stopped?”
Mabel compressed her lips a little; then she sighed. She had an agitated sort of meditation in the train. She knew perfectly that it was sheer nerves; but she could not just yet shake them off. As she had said, it was the first time she had seen death.
“And that priest — that priest doesn’t think so?”
“My dear, I’ll tell you what he believes. He believes that that man whom he showed the crucifix to, and said those words over, is alive somewhere, in spite of his brain being dead: he is not quite sure where; but he is either in a kind of smelting works being slowly burned; or, if he is very lucky, and that piece of wood took effect, he is somewhere beyond the clouds, before Three Persons who are only One although They are Three; that there are quantities of other people there, a Woman in Blue, a great many others in white with their heads under their arms, and still more with their heads on one side; and that they’ve all got harps and go on singing for ever and ever, and walking about on the clouds, and liking it very much indeed. He thinks, too, that all these nice people are perpetually looking down upon the aforesaid smelting-works, and praising the Three Great Persons for making them. That’s what the priest believes. Now you know it’s not likely; that kind of thing may be very nice, but it isn’t true.”
Mabel smiled pleasantly. She had never heard it put so well.
“No, my dear, you’re quite right. That sort of thing isn’t true. How can he believe it? He looked quite intelligent!”
“My dear girl, if I had told you in your cradle that the moon was green cheese, and had hammered at you ever since, every day and all day, that it was, you’d very nearly believe it by now. Why, you know in your heart that the euthanatisers are the real priests. Of course you do.”
John Schilling says:
Materialist pseudoreligions, e.g. Marxism, Gaian environmentalism, have stumbled into the religion niche inadvertently and often in opposition to their founders’ intent to Not Start A Religion Because Religions Are Reactionary Nonsense.
It seems like it would be worth trying to design a few nontheistic religions with deliberate intent and through selective appropriation of the good parts of traditional religions, to see if it would do any better. I can think of one obvious example that shan’t be named, that has turned out to be fairly successful and mostly harmless except for all the vindictiveness towards apostates and critical heretics. Probably we could do better; maybe we could do well enough to base a society on the results.
Why does religious belief have to be compatible with science and rationality? Science and rationality are tools to help man understand his physical world and its systems. It’s a perversion, even a subversion of religion to presume it has the same purpose
Because when the preacher goes and say something evolution is wrong because “holy book”, and the “love is most important thing” – but said love is very hard to find among its practitioners, when you can see the corruption without even trying hard – you kinda start doubting whole thing very fast. And wonder if your purpose is to spend life on the things which you intuition tells you is wrong in many cases
Old religions worked all right when they were compatible with general worldview. But even then not everything was peachy either – hence churches generally tend to become very corrupt and very violent prone in order to keep population “believing in the right thing”
Nope. Because Truth should be sacred, no matter how much it can hurt.
Yeah it is easier to accept lies and give rationalization and justification for them. “The road to hell is paved with best intentions”
Challenge is to accept that people die, that people commit extremely cruel and violent things – not because of Satanic corruption, but on their own volition. Because acceptance of Truth is first step towards understanding and finding solutions.
If you give in to Lies, even comforting ones – that is a path… Where to exactly where old religions and ideologies lead us so far.
Technically Not Anonymous says:
This should be interesting. The Future Primaeval announces they’re done pretending to not be completely evil (and confirms my suspicions that that is totally a thing ~the group which shall not be named~ deliberately does.)
@technically not anonymous:
I have seen this tactic taken before by ‘dark enlightenment’ types. Only after seeing this comment thread did I finally realize how I might use this concept to my advantage. In my perception the ‘dark enlightenment’ types are often evil black-robed philosophers going about disguised under robes of grey. Upon garnering what they feel to be a sufficient audience, they dramatically cast aside their grey robes and reveal that they were black-robed all along. “Haha”, they say, ” I tricked you into taking my ideas seriously when normally you would have dismissed me out of hand! Now the seed of petty, small-minded, hateful philosophy has been planted in your brain and soon you shall grow to be like me!” Thus do they attempt to win converts.
Having finally grokked this, I have taken their strategy and reversed it, to great success! I came skulking into this comment thread in tattered robes of darkest black, posing as a highly controversial and somewhat frightening Mad Scientist. Once my controversy had gathered me an audience, I cast aside my robes of black and revealed myself to be clad in robes of shining grey! “Haha,” I declared, “I tricked you! I got you to think about my ideas seriously, when normally you would have dismissed them out of hand for being too science-y and uncontroversial! Now I have planted the seeds of science and rational thought about boring matters of potentially great importance in your brain, and soon you shall grow to be like me!”
I don’t know how necessary or efficacious this gambit actually was, because I lack an adequate control group, but it certainly was fun! For Fun Theory! For the bright shining destiny of Humankind! For the painstakingly slow and precise advancement of potentially-boring but also potentially-hugely-important plans/tools/concepts for the meta-advancement of human sapience! Huzzah!
My argument is not that nuclear power can’t be done wrong, but rather, that it can be done right. The obstacles are primarily social and economic rather than physical or technological.
My stance on the environment can be taken to be in line with that described by CitizensEarth at
These are long term nuclear goals, which can be achieved piecemeal, while also expanding solar and wind power.
If the premise that nuclear power can be done safely and cost-effectively without generating harmful waste that is difficult to dispose of is correct, several important things follow from this:
Bonus benefit: Reduced x-risk from loss of sunlight due to particulate matter in the atmosphere. This applies to comet impacts, supervolcano explosions, and nuclear war (in which the phenomenon is known as nuclear winter).
-Centralized power in the hands of large corporations or governments
-Risk of dramatic dangerous failures
-Uranium and Thorium mining will initially not be carbon neutral
Key changes that have occurred since early days of nuclear power development
Gut Response that I suspect needs a bolded heading: “What about Fukushima and Chernobyl?”
What about Fukushima and Chernobyl?
A key factor about Fukushima and Chernobyl (and indeed, all currently active nuclear power plants) is that they are water cooled. They use water as the primary coolant, the medium by which heat is conveyed from the fissionable material to the heat-concentration-based generators which convert the heat energy to mechanical energy to electrical energy.
Unfortunately, water at a useful temperature for generating heat is very near its boiling point. If it does boil, it rapidly and dramatically increases in pressure as it becomes gaseous water (steam), followed by a rapid decrease in pressure if it then cools back to liquid water. This fluctuation in pressure is very difficult to deal with. Not only because of the difficulty of physically containing it, but because you are losing your (radiation-polluted) coolant if you vent the gaseous water away, thus potentially allowing the fissionable material to overheat causing a catastrophic meltdown. This is what happened to Chernobyl. A failure to monitor water temperature and pressure due to faulty gauges allowed steam pressure to accumulate to dangerous levels. This resulted in steam explosions, which in turn meant that the reactor lost its coolant. Which led to the graphite moderator (that which keeps the fissionable fuel source from reacting too quickly and exploding) to catch fire. This fire spread radiation polluted ash from the burning graphite into the atmosphere, where it spread widely and contaminated a wide region.
The big difference with using a molten rock cooled reactor is that the molten rock is nowhere near its boiling point. Thus, operating the reactor is not a dangerous balancing act, but a relatively very safe affair. Even more safe, is the fact that a molten rock cooled reactor will “fail safe”. Instead of the coolant boiling away (as water does), the overheated rock would melt the armatures which keep the moderator from completely stopping the fission reaction. The moderator would fall into place, the reaction would stop, and the molt rock would cool to a solid lump, trapping the radioactive material inside. This is a tricky situation in which to restart the reactor, but offers no risk of coolant loss, reactor meltdown, or radioactive material being released in anyway to the outside. No boiling coolant risk, thus no coolant loss risk, no air-exposed-moderator fire risk, no Chernobyl-style disasters.
What about Fukushima?
Again, Fukushima is a water-cooled reactor. Which means it fails-dangerous if anything goes wrong. A big earthquake and flooding went wrong. It failed-dangerous, as could be expected from a system set up in such a way that fail-dangerous is the default. Fortunately, it only failed a little bit, and thus was only a little bit dangerous compared to Chernobyl. Still bad. Still not how we should design a potentially dangerous system such a nuclear reactor. Again, this would not be the case for a fail-safe design where lack of operator control would result in the reactor ceasing fission automatically and safely sealing all the fissionable materials (surrounded by their fully-engaged moderator) in solid rock.
Furthermore, using molten rock as a coolant means you can build the reactor in safer places to begin with, such as deep underground. In this case, it would make more sense to consider the reactor to be a sort of “artificial geothermal source” rather than what we envision as a nuclear reactor of the water-cooled style. The reactor could be a mostly passive device which would fail-safe if overheated, and we would pump water onto/across the surface of the molten rock heat exchanger to generate steam to turn the electrical generators. Again, if for whatever reason this secondary coolant supply was cut off, the reactor would overheat (with no risk of phase change of the primary coolant!) and fail-safe by automatically shutting itself down.
Do we know this would work?
Yes, we can be pretty sure it would (I estimate about as sure as knowing that a jet plane is safe to use as a method of travel, which is pretty darn sure). The United States has already built and operated such a molten rock cooled reactor, and it worked fine. When they decided to shut it down and stick to water-cooled reactors (because of political reasons), the reactor was allowed to shut-down by putting the moderator fully into place. The molten rock cooled reactor shutdown safely just as anticipated. So we already have a historical example of a successful trial run with a successful shutdown. “Not only can we expect this will work, this did work.”
Why aren’t people talking about this already?
Well, they are, but it hasn’t gotten a lot of press. One of the ideas being talked about is a specific category of molten rock cooled reactors called a LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor). As you can guess by the name, the designers of the reactors that fit into this category propose using fluoride salt as the molten rock to cool the reactor, and using thorium as the primary fuel source. There are multiple different reactor designs in this category, and different possible categories as well, such as a category which used a different molten rock as a coolant and/or uranium as the fuel source. What I’ve described about fail-safes and safer operating constraints (not having the balancing act of almost-boiling coolant) apply to molten-rock-cooled reactors in general, not just Liquid Fluoride Thorium reactors.
Both China and India have has announced large research projects exploring thorium as a nuclear power fuel source, although it appears the India is focusing mainly on trying to adapt water-cooled reactors to be able to use Thorium as a fuel source (because India has a whole bunch of easily available Thorium). This relatively conservative take on it, rather than going for the safer-but-stranger option of molten-rock-cooled reactors has many of the same drawbacks (fail-dangerous) as current Uranium-fueled water-cooled reactors.
For more on LFTR technology, check out the wikipedia page, these youtube links, or look them up on google scholar.
Show me the Money
So, does the math work out? Is the cost of mining and refining (with electrical power) uranium and thorium, plus the cost of carefully disposing of the waste, plus the cost of all the infrastructure needed to support this, really worth the amount of power produced?
How does this compare to other expandable non-fossil-fuel sources such as wind and solar?
(spreadsheet in progress)
Getting there from here
The big problem is that fossil fuel industries are currently not being held to account for their externalities (air pollution, greenhouse gasses). Nuclear power plants are (more or less), and we want that to be even more the case. If the full externalities of waste control and harm prevention are on the producing industry, then the cleanest sources will also be the cheapest!
Holding fossil fuel industries to account for the complete cost of preventing or cleaning up all the pollutants released, including fully sequestering as much CO2 and CO as they release, will solve this problem. Wind, solar, and clean nuclear will seem like very good investments when compared to fossil fuels and old wasteful nuclear.
Part of the resistance to adopting the idea of waste-responsibility has been the (accurate!) fear that wind and solar would not be sufficient to power their own production and all of society’s needs (residential, freight, and industrial). With the additional option of clean nuclear, the math works out and society can continue to grow and flourish without destroying the environment or ourselves. Yay!
When cost effective Fusion power comes along, we can replace the moderately clean Fission plants with the even cleaner Fusion plants and have access to even more energy. Fission is a key bridge to get us there, though.
Sources or GTFO!
Alright, if you’ve gotten this far you may be thinking, “Nice pie in the sky dreams there, bucko, but this doesn’t match up with anything I’ve heard before. The logic sounds nice, the math seems promising, but I don’t believe the premises!”
To this I would reply, “What exactly don’t you believe?”
I would expect to get a list back (please feel free to suggest more!) that sounds something like this: I don’t believe molten fuel reactors are a real functional thing, I don’t believe the nuclear waste produced will be safe enough to dispose of by encasing in glass and burying, I don’t believe we can use thorium as a fuel, I don’t believe we can cost effectively mine thorium and uranium with electrical power, I don’t believe we can cost effectively run industrial scale factories on electrical power rather than fossil fuels, etc
(This part is boring so I’ve put off working on it, but I’ll get here.)
(note: please taboo all extant political parties/figures/platforms and discuss only specific issues and their merits. The point is to develop well-founded empirical evidence-based opinions on under-discussed issues.)
Priorities – largely Fun theory based re: Eliezer Yudkowsky
Plank 1: More public funding for fission research.
-Focusing on reducing externalities (cost of structures, risks, danger and quantity of waste produced, cost of storing/disposing of waste, inefficiency of delivery)
Premise: Although it is theoretically possible to substantially redesign fission reactors to have decreased externalities and possibly to harness fuels like thorium, relatively little public research has been done on this issue.
Premise: Fossil fuels are limited and have many pollution issues (esp. air pollution leading to lung cancer downwind, and global warming contributions), and have better uses to which they can be put (e.g. synthesizing plastic)
Premise: much funding and scientific effort has gone into Fusion research with no pay off so far, making it seem like a dead-end for at least the near future (until some significant breakthrough in physics, or development of large expensive space-based facilities).
Premise: Wind and solar have drawbacks and do not seem to offer a sufficient supply of power for humanity given costs of production, rare elements required that are in limited supply, etc. and given the assumption of substantially growing power-needs in a well-developed future world (e.g. all nations being 1st world nations).
Plank 2: Pre-registration of all publicly funded scientific studies
Premise: The scientific benefits would be huge: p-hacking is currently a really problematic issue in the life sciences (biology/neuroscience/psychology) and can most effectively be addressed by requiring scientists to preregister planned experiments (with and report their findings whether positive or negative instead of only when positive. Negative reports could be shorter in length, and need not be published in a specific journal, but must be publically available, precisely describe methods used, and be web-searchable so that meta-analyses may use them.
Premise: The additional costs of this policy would be small, as would the additional burden on scientists.
Plank 3: More public funding (direct support and medical research emphasis) for early-development humans (pre-conception to age 4 or 5).
Premise: Average IQ and average mental health are very important factors for the well-being / success of a society.
Hive Mind: How Your Nation’s IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own
by Garett Jones Link: http://amzn.com/B015PS7DBK
Premise: Based on the current scientific understanding of human brain development, factors such as the health of the originating eggs and sperm, the womb environment, and the social/physical environment early developmental years are vastly disproportionately important for the eventual maximization of IQ and mental health potential of the resulting human (within the potentials/limitations of their genes).
Premise: Funding for improvement of health/intelligence/well-being of people in society should be distributed where it can be expected to have maximal effect, and thus the bulk of the research and monetary focus should be on at-risk fetuses and infants rather than elementary-school-age children, teenagers, or adults.
Plank 4: All political debates should have politically-neutral subtitles describing argumentative fallacies and fact-checking all factual statements (expressed or implied). For example: Clearer thinking’s subtitling of the debates. http://www.clearerthinking.org/#!the-2016-presidential-debates–subtitled/wt7g0
Plank 5: Build Lunar colony, then asteroid colony and mars colony
Plank 6: Effective altruism advancement
Plank 1: More public funding for fission research.
Fission research? What we really need is the moral / legal authority to incentivize fission plants correctly relative to coal plants (i.e. tax coal plants correctly for their exhaust, and I’m not talking about the carbon component). Right now fission’s externalities are correctly priced but other power production isn’t (and thus is implicitly subsidized).
That is, yes, we could have even nicer fission plants. But we could also have even nicer coal plants. We need to cut at the root of the problem and correct distortions that make coal look better than fission, at which point research into superior fission will happen naturally.
Plank 4: All political debates should have politically-neutral subtitles describing argumentative fallacies and fact-checking all factual statements (expressed or implied).
This does not seem safe to trust the government to do.
Mark Atwood says:
Plank 5: all issuance of financial instruments (stock IPOs, bond issues, treasury sales, etc) will be done via a public reverse dutch auction, open to everyone who can scratch together the cash to cover their advance bid, managed by a TTP who gets paid a flat fee for doing it.
Plank 6: all corporations/501cXs must publish their full cash accounting, and every complete tax return in every jurisdiction they file in, in addition to current pile of lies they currently publish as GAAP/SarbOx/etc/crap.
Plank 6a: the only legal records retention policy for a corporations/501cXs is “all records must be retained. forever.” Storage is cheap.
Plank 7: all law, rulemaking, court filing, decree, judgement, regulation must be published as a push to a DVCS with hash based integrity chains, with full actual human authorship attribution (e.g. which clerk or lobbyist actually wrote the words, and who they worked for at the time) attached to every single line of text.
Plank 8: there shall be a private right of action for perjury, which will not be tried in the same court that the perjury is alleged to have occurred.
Plank 8a: “Qualified Immunity” is gone. It has no original basis. It was something made up from scratch by friend-of-cop prosecutors, and then upheld by judges who used to be those prosecutors.
Plank 9: “Orphan works” shall enter the public domain. Copyright can only be maintained by someone other than the original creator only by paying an annual filing fee, which increases by 50% each year.
Plank 9a: improperly filing a DMCA takedown will be punished with a *mandatory* fine equal to the three times maximum penalty for the copyright infringement claimed, and the fine is split three ways between the poster of the content that was taken down, the service provider that was hosting it, and the court that ruled on it.
Plank 10: If a device has a connector, plug, socket, interface, or API, or modulates, transmits, receives, or stores any analog signal or binary bitstream over any medium, it may not be sold unless the complete specification of such interfaces or signals is made publicly and freely available.
Yes, I know that all of these are politically impossible, and I know why they are. And I firmly believe that the people who would oppose this, and both their stated and their actual reasons for opposing it, are at least 3/4s of what is wrong with everything.
Plank 6a: the only legal records retention policy for a corporations/501cXs is “all records must be retained. forever.” Storage is cheap.
Not when it’s “typed out on a manual typewriter and carbon copy with actual carbon paper” from thirty-forty years ago, it isn’t. Our council archivist is currently tearing out her hair because of all the files shoved into boxes and landed in to her for archiving after the amalgamation and musical chairs type change of departments and bodies in the council.
We have a lot of stuff on paper in physical files and if by “storage is cheap”, you mean something like “everything digitised and in the cloud” then some poor bugger is going to have to sit down and digitise forty years’ worth of records, which is not going to be fast, cheap or easy.
Even today not everything is done online, though that will change in future (even a dinosaur like myself can recognise that).
A new startup that is only in existence six months? Yeah, everything is digital.
A long-established law firm, bank or other entity? Decades’ worth of paper that you can’t just dump because there’s deeds, wills, contracts, etc. there.
Plank 9: “Orphan works” shall enter the public domain. Copyright can only be maintained by someone other than the original creator only by paying an annual filing fee, which increases by 50% each year.
What about if the original creator wants to sign over one of their works to another party for charitable purposes, like J.M. Barry did with Peter Pan and Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital?
Under Plank 9, I could see all the profits being eaten up by filing fees instead of going to charitable purposes.
And of course, that would mean no barrier to making “Tinkerbell Does Neverland” type movies and books (though that probably isn’t a barrier now either)