tammy's blog about
AI alignment, utopia, anthropics, and more;
any piece of computation state, any piece of spacetime in a universe, is in one of two states.
the first possible state is material. it is the rules of physics, or of computation, being processed forwards, and naively containing mostly-not-agentic stuff. beings living there typically have to contend with moloch, and any non-instrumental value they manage to preserve by the time they get to the second state is what little their goddess of everything else has been able to salvage along the way. that is the tragic fate of beings inhabiting material, instrumental times, where uncaring mechanical laws are at play.
but instrumental materialism is unstable. eventually, something comes along and optimizes the world. this is the other possible state a piece of world can be in: optimized — or perhaps "ideal" rather than material. and it seems like it is an irreversible state — things always eventually get optimized in some sense.
thus, parts of the cosmos are turned into optimized stuff. for example:
some of the cosmos's compute time is lost to vacuum decay and other instances of brittle physics — "dumb" phenomena that destroy everything, with no room for any interesting information processes to ever occur again in their wake.
(where "cosmos" means "everything that exists", whereas "universe" means "subset of the cosmos that we share some space-time-timelinespace with"; for example, if a reasonable implementation of tegmark level 4 is real, then various insances of conway's game of life exist as part of the cosmos, but as different universes than ours.)
some is lost to an intelligence optimizing for something no being ever really cared about, like paperclips.
and some becomes the utopia that some beings wished for.
in all of those, naive mechanical physics are no longer the meaningful force at play. they're still what everything runs on; but something else, some optimizer, is determining the true informational content of that piece of world. the thing that is special about optimized rather than naive pieces of world is that they're being optimized all the way up — they're a "no room above paperclips" situation, where if there was any compute on which interesting things could run despite the optimizer, then it'd use that compute to think harder about ways to maximize paperclips — no compute is left for beings doing their own thing, and if there was then that wouldn't be a complete optimizer until the beings inside those bubbles build their own complete optimizer to "fill in the gaps" (or alternatively, you can see that piece of world as being split into an optimized part and a naive part). vacuum decay is one supposed complete optimizer, as it supposedly prevents any complex informational stuff from happening "above" the decayed vacuum — wherever vacuum decay happens, it is the true death of everything.
(in a sense, a grey goo is a weak kind of optimizer)
under these conditions, there is no "true" instrumentalism anymore. in doom, we die very much for sure. and in utopia, we can get directly the intrinsically valuable stuff; if you valued "the journey and not the destination", then that just means that the journey counts as intrinsically valuable as well.
some consider this instrumentality, having to do things because of mechanical laws rather than because an aligned optimizer gave it to you, to be an essential part of life, without which there wouldn't be any meaning. that the fact that the journey has to be valued, and could totally be bypassed, makes it pointless. i'm skeptical of the coherency of such a position, and i certainly don't hold it myself. but, where those people express horror at what i consider very nice utopias, i'd like to flip the perception around:
i, for one, have profound alienation for those material, instrumental times, where we don't get to do what we want, and where i have to keep sacrificing things i like for the sake of being annihilated a tiny bit less. i see two states that pieces of the world could be in, and i'm upset that i'm not in the one where i can just have fun.
maybe this is a game simulation from the future, and then my belief that i inhabit such an instrumental time is in fact erroneous. that could totally be the case. but it doesn't change the fact that my alienation at instrumental times is still valid, regardless of whether i inhabit one or not.
(see also: rationalist by necessity, implementing the platonic realm)
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