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Contingent, Not Arbitrary | Truth is contingent on what is, not on what we wish to be true.
A vital attribute of a value system of any kind is that it works. I consider this a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for goodness. A value system, when followed, should contribute to human flourishing and not produce results that violate its core ideals. This is a pragmatic, I-know-it-when-I-see-it definition. I may refine it further if the need arises.

I think that the prevailing Western values fail by this standard. I will not spend much time arguing this; many others have already. If you reject this premise, this blog may not be for you.

I consider old traditions an important source of wisdom: they have proven their worth over centuries of use. Where they agree, we should listen. Where they disagree, we should figure out why. Where modernity departs from tradition, we should be wary of the new.

Tradition has one nagging problem: it was abandoned by the West. How and why did that happen? I consider this a central question. I expect the reasons to be varied and complex. Understanding them seems necessary if we are to fix what may have been broken.

In short, I want to answer these questions:

1. How do values spread and persist? An ideology does no good if no one holds it.
2. Which values do good? Sounding good is worse than useless if it leads to ruin.

The ultimate hope would be to find a way to combine the two. Many have tried and failed. I don’t expect to succeed either, but I hope I’ll manage to clarify the questions.

Christianity Is The Schelling Point:
Restoring true Christianity is both necessary and sufficient for restoring civilization. The task is neither easy nor simple but that’s what it takes. It is also our best chance of weathering the collapse if that’s too late to avoid.

Christianity is the ultimate coordination mechanism: it unites us with a higher purpose, aligns us with the laws of reality and works on all scales, from individuals to entire civilizations. Christendom took over the world and then lost it when its faith faltered. Historically and culturally, Christianity is the unique Schelling point for the West – or it would be if we could agree on which church (if any) was the true one.

Here are my arguments for true Christianity as the Schelling point. I hope to demonstrate these points in subsequent posts; for now I’ll just list them.

- A society of saints is the most powerful human arrangement possible. It is united in purpose, ideologically stable and operates in harmony with natural law. This is true independent of scale and organization: from military hierarchy to total decentralization, from persecuted minority to total hegemony. Even democracy works among saints – that’s why it took so long to fail.
- There is such a thing as true Christianity. I don’t know how to pinpoint it but it does exist; that holds from both secular and religious perspectives. Our task is to converge on it the best we can.
- Don’t worry too much about the existence of God. I’m proof that you don’t need that assumption in order to believe – it helps but isn’t mandatory.

Pascal’s Wager never sat right with me. Now I know why: it’s a sucker bet. Let’s update it.

If God exists, we must believe because our souls and civilization depend on it. If He doesn’t exist, we must believe because civilization depends on it.

Morality Should Be Adaptive:
I agree with this
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5 days ago by nhaliday
[1804.04268] Incomplete Contracting and AI Alignment
We suggest that the analysis of incomplete contracting developed by law and economics researchers can provide a useful framework for understanding the AI alignment problem and help to generate a systematic approach to finding solutions. We first provide an overview of the incomplete contracting literature and explore parallels between this work and the problem of AI alignment. As we emphasize, misalignment between principal and agent is a core focus of economic analysis. We highlight some technical results from the economics literature on incomplete contracts that may provide insights for AI alignment researchers. Our core contribution, however, is to bring to bear an insight that economists have been urged to absorb from legal scholars and other behavioral scientists: the fact that human contracting is supported by substantial amounts of external structure, such as generally available institutions (culture, law) that can supply implied terms to fill the gaps in incomplete contracts. We propose a research agenda for AI alignment work that focuses on the problem of how to build AI that can replicate the human cognitive processes that connect individual incomplete contracts with this supporting external structure.
nibble  preprint  org:mat  papers  ai  ai-control  alignment  coordination  contracts  law  economics  interests  culture  institutions  number  context  behavioral-econ  composition-decomposition  rent-seeking  whole-partial-many 
6 days ago by nhaliday
Surveil things, not people – The sideways view
Technology may reach a point where free use of one person’s share of humanity’s resources is enough to easily destroy the world. I think society needs to make significant changes to cope with that scenario.

Mass surveillance is a natural response, and sometimes people think of it as the only response. I find mass surveillance pretty unappealing, but I think we can capture almost all of the value by surveilling things rather than surveilling people. This approach avoids some of the worst problems of mass surveillance; while it still has unattractive features it’s my favorite option so far.


The idea
We’ll choose a set of artifacts to surveil and restrict. I’ll call these heavy technology and everything else light technology. Our goal is to restrict as few things as possible, but we want to make sure that someone can’t cause unacceptable destruction with only light technology. By default something is light technology if it can be easily acquired by an individual or small group in 2017, and heavy technology otherwise (though we may need to make some exceptions, e.g. certain biological materials or equipment).

Heavy technology is subject to two rules:

1. You can’t use heavy technology in a way that is unacceptably destructive.
2. You can’t use heavy technology to undermine the machinery that enforces these two rules.

To enforce these rules, all heavy technology is under surveillance, and is situated such that it cannot be unilaterally used by any individual or small group. That is, individuals can own heavy technology, but they cannot have unmonitored physical access to that technology.


This proposal does give states a de facto monopoly on heavy technology, and would eventually make armed resistance totally impossible. But it’s already the case that states have a massive advantage in armed conflict, and it seems almost inevitable that progress in AI will make this advantage larger (and enable states to do much more with it). Realistically I’m not convinced this proposal makes things much worse than the default.

This proposal definitely expands regulators’ nominal authority and seems prone to abuses. But amongst candidates for handling a future with cheap and destructive dual-use technology, I feel this is the best of many bad options with respect to the potential for abuse.
ratty  acmtariat  clever-rats  risk  existence  futurism  technology  policy  alt-inst  proposal  government  intel  authoritarianism  orwellian  tricks  leviathan  security  civilization  ai  ai-control  arms  defense  cybernetics  institutions  law  unintended-consequences  civil-liberty  volo-avolo  power  constraint-satisfaction  alignment 
7 days ago by nhaliday
Easy and Accurate Reconstruction of Whole HIV Genomes from Short-Read Sequence Data
Similar to what we’ve been doing for HHV8, but for HIV: _de novo_ assemble reads, construct a sample-specific reference, and then use that to map the same reads to avoid as much reference-bias as possible. There’s a nice enhancement around the reference construction which considers the similarity of the various reference sequences, which is more useful for HIV with it’s many subtypes than HHV8.
hiv  sequencing  ngs  bioinformatics  work  alignment  mapping  assembly  paper 
24 days ago by trs
BoxShade Server
For color/shapding of sequence alignments.
sequence  alignment 
5 weeks ago by tvalerius
T-COFFEE Multiple Sequence Alignment Server
T-Coffee is a multiple sequence alignment server. It can align Protein, DNA and RNA sequences. You can use T-Coffee to align sequences or to combine the output of your favorite alignment methods into one unique alignment. It is also able to combine sequence information with protein structural information, profile information or RNA secondary structures.
sequence  alignment  multiple 
5 weeks ago by tvalerius
Are you out of alignment? – Camille Fournier – Medium
Getting into alignment with the company is often a challenge for senior ICs because it requires a major change in focus. The hardest part is now identifying the right problem to solve, instead of solving the hardest problem.
culture  alignment  productivity  career 
6 weeks ago by igrigorik
Are you out of alignment? – Camille Fournier – Medium
Don't get addicted to the buzz that comes with solving hard problems. If you're solving the wrong problems, your effort will be wasted. If you miss a chance to turn a hard problem into an easy one, your effort will be wasted. Find inspiration in progress, not problem solving.
fournier  careers  culture  alignment 
6 weeks ago by pinterb

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