Re: Ben's "Extropian Creed"

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Tue Nov 14 2000 - 00:50:40 MST

Patrick McCuller wrote:
>> Actually, I think that our model of the future should deprecate shaping
>> forces which are clearly and specifically modeled on aspects of biological
>> life which are strict properties of our own evolution, and for which no
>> equivalent shaper exists in the futuristic scenario.
>> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
> I've become confused. What do you mean by a 'shaping force' in this context?
> Is it evolution? Is it social organization? Something else?

A "shaping force" - I think of them as "shapers" - is a source of pattern.
Evolution is *the* method by which patterns are transferred into the human
genome, but sometimes that complexity is copied from specific selection
pressures, or specific frequently-encountered scenarios that create specific
selection pressures. Sometimes details of how evolution occurs - differential
rates of reproduction, kin selection, and so on - combine with specific
scenarios to yield patterns that are the product of both shapers.

Okay, this is getting too abstract. Let's say that I need to go to sleep
because I have certain brain hardware which shuts me down every 16 hours,
hardware which exists because of a selection pressure based on the
differential design utility of sleeping to regenerate the brain and immune
system and, well, whatever the heck sleep does that's so important, and synced
to the pattern of daylight and darkness caused by Earth's rotational period.
That is, the 24-hour period was copied from the Earth-rotation shaper, and the
proper source of such pattern is the rotation period, rather than magic
numbers derived from complexity inherent in the process of evolution itself.

If we wanted to know what life would be like on a planet with a 36-hour
rotational period, we would mentally do a causal rewrite: alter the key shaper
in the causal chain - in this case, the rotational period - and then rerun the
causal model forwards in time, which in this case involves a more-or-less
direct pattern copy from the rotational period to the sleep cycle length,
outputting the final pattern of a 36-hour sleep cycle - the way things "would
have been" if the Earth had had a 36-hour rotational period.

(Yes, I know humans actually adopt 25-and-some sleep cycles if shut off from
external light-cycle inputs. I didn't have time to think of a simple example
that was actually simple instead of simplified.)

So when I say that you can't reason from biology, what I mean is that the
post-Singularity future has a different set of shapers from our own world, and
that you need to deprecate shapers that look specifically biological as the
default assumption (i.e., until somebody comes up with a good source for that
shaper in that scenario), a precautionary heuristic adopted because futurists
have a known tendency to anthropomorphize.

And now, since I am actually becoming dizzy due to lack of sleep:
Good night!

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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