The generalized past (was: Infinite hells)

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Thu May 08 2003 - 19:15:03 MDT

Simon Gordon wrote:
> Whether you can visualise it or not is not the issue.
> I use the Level IV because it is the only level at
> which the logical necessity of everything happening is
> implied. The lower levels are susceptible to changes
> via a sufficiently advanced ontotechnology;
> it is possible to conceive of an advanced technology
> (such as Quantum computers combined with time travel
> for example) which can distort the very fabric of our
> QM multiverse. It is inconceivable however that any
> technology can alter the fact that the periodic
> 2-state gliders in the game of life CA (specified by
> its exact set of rules) always comprise of 5 "On"
> Cells/Pixels. Thus Level IV is full of immutability
> because it contains definite mathematical structures
> that cannot be altered or distorted meaning that all
> conceivable structures exist at this level including
> constructible Hell worlds by order of necessity.

This need not, however, imply any emotionally unbearable response on the
part of an empathic mind.

We are already familiar with realities containing unbearable suffering
that we can never alter. We call them the "past". Nothing we can do will
ever unwrite the Holocaust; it is fixed. Nothing we can do will ever
erase medieval and modern torture chambers from the stream of time.

Let us call the "generalized past" the space of reality mathematically
unalterable by us; call the "generalized future" the space of reality
which could conceivably contain a dependency on our decision process or a
sufficiently similar copy thereof; call the "generalized present" the
surface along which the generalized future becomes the generalized past.

This makes resolving Newcomb's Paradox even *more* straightforward - you
just need to realize that if the unknown past contains a sufficiently
similar copy of your current self, then the unknown past can be part of
your generalized future. Your copy's decision in Newcomb's Paradox, and
the contents of Box B, form part of the generalized future - even though
they may be part of your past light cone - because they contain unknowns
that correlate with your unknown-until-decided action variable. It is no
different from supposing that an exact copy of you exists somewhere in a
distant galaxy that just happens to be part of your past light cone.

Unalterable Level IV Processes, if they exist, may be counted as part of
the generalized past - though of course it would be a terrible error to
write them off too early. At any rate I do not believe it would be
necessary to erase the knowledge. We already have emotional faculties for
dealing with mathematically unalterable known horrors; we call them the
"past". There is no definite temporal relation of an external Process to
Bayesia in any case. Since we cannot affect it, why not call it the "past"?

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

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