In addition, in fields such as the humanities and social sciences, [ citation needed ] mid-term and end of term examinations often require students to write a short essay in two or three hours.
In these countries, so-called academic essays also called papers , are usually more formal than literary ones. Longer academic essays often with a word limit of between 2, and 5, words [ citation needed ] are often more discursive. They sometimes begin with a short summary analysis of what has previously been written on a topic, which is often called a literature review.
Most academic institutions require that all substantial facts, quotations, and other supporting material in an essay be referenced in a bibliography or works cited page at the end of the text. One of the challenges facing universities is that in some cases, students may submit essays purchased from an essay mill or "paper mill" as their own work. An "essay mill" is a ghostwriting service that sells pre-written essays to university and college students.
Since plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty or academic fraud , universities and colleges may investigate papers they suspect are from an essay mill by using plagiarism detection software, which compares essays against a database of known mill essays and by orally testing students on the contents of their papers.
Essays often appear in magazines, especially magazines with an intellectual bent, such as The Atlantic and Harpers. Magazine and newspaper essays use many of the essay types described in the section on forms and styles e.
Some newspapers also print essays in the op-ed section. Employment essays detailing experience in a certain occupational field are required when applying for some jobs, especially government jobs in the United States. Essays known as Knowledge Skills and Executive Core Qualifications are required when applying to certain US federal government positions. A KSA, or "Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities," is a series of narrative statements that are required when applying to Federal government job openings in the United States.
KSAs are used along with resumes to determine who the best applicants are when several candidates qualify for a job. The knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for the successful performance of a position are contained on each job vacancy announcement. Like the KSAs, ECQs are used along with resumes to determine who the best applicants are when several candidates qualify for a job.
The Office of Personnel Management has established five executive core qualifications that all applicants seeking to enter the Senior Executive Service must demonstrate.
A film essay or "cinematic essay" consists of the evolution of a theme or an idea rather than a plot per se, or the film literally being a cinematic accompaniment to a narrator reading an essay. The cinematic essay often blends documentary , fiction , and experimental film making using tones and editing styles. Jean-Luc Godard describes his recent work as "film-essays".
Brecht was a playwright who experimented with film and incorporated film projections into some of his plays. These are often published online on video hosting services.
He states that since that time, essay films have tended to be "on the margins" of the filmmaking the world. Essay films have a "peculiar searching, questioning tone Gray notes that just like written essays, essay films "tend to marry the personal voice of a guiding narrator often the director with a wide swath of other voices". A photographic essay strives to cover a topic with a linked series of photographs.
Photo essays range from purely photographic works to photographs with captions or small notes to full-text essays with a few or many accompanying photographs. Photo essays can be sequential in nature, intended to be viewed in a particular order — or they may consist of non-ordered photographs viewed all at once or in an order that the viewer chooses. All photo essays are collections of photographs, but not all collections of photographs are photo essays.
Photo essays often address a certain issue or attempt to capture the character of places and events. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. October Learn how and when to remove this template message. For other uses, see Essay disambiguation. For a description of essays as used by Wikipedia editors, see Wikipedia: For other uses, see Essai disambiguation.
The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this article , discuss the issue on the talk page , or create a new article , as appropriate. January Learn how and when to remove this template message. A Handbook to Literature 9 ed. Retrieved March 23, Archived from the original on Retrieved March 22, Cause and Effect in Glenn, Cheryl.
A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Classification and Division in Glenn, Cheryl. Comparison and Contrast in Glenn, Cheryl. Description in Glenn, Cheryl. Exemplification in Glenn, Cheryl. At Large and At Small: Archived from the original on 27 April The New York Times.
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From within the system, no individual can prevent the lake from being polluted, and buying a filter might not be such a good idea. The Malthusian trap , at least at its extremely pure theoretical limits.
Suppose you are one of the first rats introduced onto a pristine island. You live a long life, mate, and have a dozen children. All of them have a dozen children, and so on. In a couple generations, the island has ten thousand rats and has reached its carrying capacity. A certain sect of rats abandons art in order to devote more of their time to scrounging for survival.
Each generation, a bit less of this sect dies than members of the mainstream, until after a while, no rat composes any art at all, and any sect of rats who try to bring it back will go extinct within a few generations. Any sect at all that is leaner, meaner, and more survivalist than the mainstream will eventually take over.
If one sect of rats altruistically decides to limit its offspring to two per couple in order to decrease overpopulation, that sect will die out, swarmed out of existence by its more numerous enemies.
If one sect of rats starts practicing cannibalism, and finds it gives them an advantage over their fellows, it will eventually take over and reach fixation. Those rats will be outcompeted by their more selfish cousins. Eventually the nuts will be exhausted, most of the rats will die off, and the cycle will begin again. Any sect of rats advocating some action to stop the cycle will be outcompeted by their cousins for whom advocating anything is a waste of time that could be used to compete and consume.
For a bunch of reasons evolution is not quite as Malthusian as the ideal case, but it provides the prototype example we can apply to other things to see the underlying mechanism. From within the system, each individual rat will follow its genetic imperative and the island will end up in an endless boom-bust cycle.
Imagine a capitalist in a cutthroat industry. He employs workers in a sweatshop to sew garments, which he sells at minimal profit. Maybe he would like to pay his workers more, or give them nicer working conditions. Like the rats, who gradually lose all values except sheer competition, so companies in an economic environment of sufficiently intense competition are forced to abandon all values except optimizing-for-profit or else be outcompeted by companies that optimized for profit better and so can sell the same service at a lower price.
Fit companies — defined as those that make the customer want to buy from them — survive, expand, and inspire future efforts, and unfit companies — defined as those no one wants to buy from — go bankrupt and die out along with their company DNA. The reasons Nature is red and tooth and claw are the same reasons the market is ruthless and exploitative. The Two-Income Trap , as recently discussed on this blog. It theorized that sufficiently intense competition for suburban houses in good school districts meant that people had to throw away lots of other values — time at home with their children, financial security — to optimize for house-buying-ability or else be consigned to the ghetto.
Jared Diamond calls it the worst mistake in human history. Maybe hunting-gathering was more enjoyable, higher life expectancy, and more conducive to human flourishing — but in a state of sufficiently intense competition between peoples, in which agriculture with all its disease and oppression and pestilence was the more competitive option, everyone will end up agriculturalists or go the way of the Comanche Indians.
From within the system, each individual tribe only faces the choice of going agricultural or inevitably dying. In the absence of war — a condition which has mostly held for the past fifty years — all this does is sap money away from infrastructure, health, education, or economic growth. But any country that fails to spend enough money on defense risks being invaded by a neighboring country that did.
Therefore, almost all countries try to spend some money on defense. From within the system, no country can unilaterally enforce that, so their best option is to keep on throwing their money into missiles that lie in silos unused. The human body is supposed to be made up of cells living harmoniously and pooling their resources for the greater good of the organism. If a cell defects from this equilibrium by investing its resources into copying itself, it and its descendants will flourish, eventually outcompeting all the other cells and taking over the body — at which point it dies.
Or the situation may repeat, with certain cancer cells defecting against the rest of the tumor, thus slowing down its growth and causing the tumor to stagnate. From within the system, cancerous cells will proliferate and outcompete the other — so that only the existence of the immune system keeps the natural incentive to turn cancerous in check. The end result is that either everyone optimizes for competitiveness — by having minimal tax rates and regulations — or they lose all of their business, revenue, and jobs to people who did at which point they are pushed out and replaced by a government who will be more compliant.
But even though the last one has stolen the name, all these scenarios are in fact a race to the bottom. Once one agent learns how to become more competitive by sacrificing a common value, all its competitors must also sacrifice that value or be outcompeted and replaced by the less scrupulous. Therefore, the system is likely to end up with everyone once again equally competitive, but the sacrificed value is gone forever.
In this one, the competition is kept at bay by some outside force — usually social stigma. In my essay on reactionary philosophy, I talk about my frustration with education reform:. Does this lead to huge waste and poor education? Could the Education God notice this and make some Education Decrees that lead to a vastly more efficient system?
All we would have to do is require early registration of studies to avoid publication bias, turn this new and powerful statistical technique into the new standard, and accord higher status to scientists who do replication experiments.
It would be really simple and it would vastly increase scientific progress. That would work for the Science God. He could just make a Science Decree that everyone has to use the right statistics, and make another Science Decree that everyone must accord replications higher status.
No individual scientist has an incentive to unilaterally switch to the new statistical technique for her own research, since it would make her research less likely to produce earth-shattering results and since it would just confuse all the other scientists.
They just have an incentive to want everybody else to do it, at which point they would follow along. And no individual journal has an incentive to unilaterally switch to early registration and publishing negative results, since it would just mean their results are less interesting than that other journal who only publishes ground-breaking discoveries.
From within the system, everyone is following their own incentives and will continue to do so. Everyone familiar with the problem has come up with the same easy solution: Government are competing against one another to get elected or promoted.
Officials who try to mess with corporate welfare may lose the support of corporations and be outcompeted by officials who promise to keep it intact. From within the system, you do what gets you elected. A basic principle unites all of the multipolar traps above. In some competition optimizing for X, the opportunity arises to throw some other value under the bus for improved X.
Those who take it prosper. The process continues until all other values that can be traded off have been — in other words, until human ingenuity cannot possibly figure out a way to make things any worse. It may not reduce people to subsistence, but there is a weird sense in which it takes away their free will.
Every two-bit author and philosopher has to write their own utopia. Most of them are legitimately pretty nice. A lot of utopias sweep the hard problems under the rug, or would fall apart in ten minutes if actually implemented. Any human with above room temperature IQ can design a utopia.
Just as you can look at an arid terrain and determine what shape a river will one day take by assuming water will obey gravity, so you can look at a civilization and determine what shape its institutions will one day take by assuming people will obey incentives. But that means that just as the shapes of rivers are not designed for beauty or navigation, but rather an artifact of randomly determined terrain, so institutions will not be designed for prosperity or justice, but rather an artifact of randomly determined initial conditions.
Just as people can level terrain and build canals, so people can alter the incentive landscape in order to build better institutions. But they can only do so when they are incentivized to do so, which is not always. As a result, some pretty wild tributaries and rapids form in some very strange places. Like all good mystical experiences, it happened in Vegas. I was standing on top of one of their many tall buildings, looking down at the city below, all lit up in the dark.
Skyscrapers and lights in every variety strange and beautiful all clustered together. And I had two thoughts, crystal clear:. And it occurred to me that maybe there is no philosophy on Earth that would endorse the existence of Las Vegas.
Henry Ford was virtuous because he allowed lots of otherwise car-less people to obtain cars and so made them better off.
What does Vegas do? Promise a bunch of shmucks free money and not give it to them. The entrepreneur who built it was just filling in the ghostly lines with real concrete. So we have all this amazing technological and cognitive energy, the brilliance of the human species, wasted on reciting the lines written by poorly evolved cellular receptors and blind economics, like gods being ordered around by a moron. Moloch, whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs!
Time flows like a river. Which is to say, downhill. We can tell this because everything is going downhill rapidly. It would seem prudent to be somewhere else when we reach the sea. We just analogized the flow of incentives to the flow of a river. The downhill trajectory is appropriate: Once everyone has it, the greater competitiveness brings you no joy — but the value is lost forever. Therefore, each step of the Poor Coordination Polka makes your life worse.
But not only have we not yet reached the sea, but we also seem to move uphill surprisingly often. Why do things not degenerate more and more until we are back at subsistence level?
I can think of three bad reasons — excess resources, physical limitations, and utility maximization — plus one good reason — coordination.
The ocean depths are a horrible place with little light, few resources, and various horrible organisms dedicated to eating or parasitizing one another. But every so often, a whale carcass falls to the bottom of the sea. More food than the organisms that find it could ever possibly want. Eventually more animals discover the carcass, the faster-breeding animals in the carcass multiply, the whale is gradually consumed, and everyone sighs and goes back to living in a Malthusian death-trap.
Your source for macabre whale metaphors since June This is an age of whalefall, an age of excess carrying capacity, an age when we suddenly find ourselves with a thousand-mile head start on Malthus. As Hanson puts it, this is the dream time. Imagine a profit-maximizing slavemaster who decided to cut costs by not feeding his slaves or letting them sleep. Eventually after testing numerous strategies, he might find his slaves got the most work done when they were well-fed and well-rested and had at least a little bit of time to relax.
Not because the slaves were voluntarily withholding their labor — we assume the fear of punishment is enough to make them work as hard as they can — but because the body has certain physical limitations that limit how mean you can get away with being.
John Moes, a historian of slavery, goes further and writes about how the slavery we are most familiar with — that of the antebellum South — is a historical aberration and probably economically inefficient. In most past forms of slavery — especially those of the ancient world — it was common for slaves to be paid wages, treated well, and often given their freedom. He argues that this was the result of rational economic calculation.
If you want your slaves to do anything more complicated than pick cotton, you run into some serious monitoring problems — how do you profit from an enslaved philosopher? Whip him really hard until he elucidates a theory of The Good that you can sell books about? The ancient solution to the problem — perhaps an early inspiration to Fnargl — was to tell the slave to go do whatever he wanted and found most profitable, then split the profits with him. Sometimes the slave would work a job at your workshop and you would pay him wages based on how well he did.
Other times the slave would go off and make his way in the world and send you some of what he earned. Moes goes even further and says that these systems were so profitable that there were constant smouldering attempts to try this sort of thing in the American South. The reason they stuck with the whips-and-chains method owed less to economic considerations and more to racist government officials cracking down on lucrative but not-exactly-white-supremacy-promoting attempts to free slaves and have them go into business.
So in this case, a race to the bottom where competing plantations become crueler and crueler to their slaves in order to maximize competitiveness is halted by the physical limitation of cruelty not helping after a certain point. If those weird religious sects that demand their members have as many babies as possible could copy-paste themselves, we would be in really bad shape.
As it is they can only do a small amount of damage per generation. So this is very promising. Suppose the coffee plantations discover a toxic pesticide that will increase their yield but make their customers sick.
Now the company can afford to lower wages and implement cruel working conditions down to whatever the physical limits are. Or suppose someone invents a robot that can pick coffee better and cheaper than a human. The company fires all its laborers and throws them onto the street to die. As soon as the utility of the Ethiopians is no longer necessary for profit, all pressure to maintain it disappears. Or suppose that there is some important value that is neither a value of the employees or the customers.
Maybe the coffee plantations are on the habitat of a rare tropical bird that environmentalist groups want to protect. Maybe coffee growing contributes to global warming somehow. I mean, sometimes they are greedy. Business practices are set by Moloch, no one else has any choice in the matter. And as well understood as the capitalist example is, I think it is less well appreciated that democracy has the same problems.
For example, ever-increasing prison terms are unfair to inmates and unfair to the society that has to pay for them. So even if decreasing prison populations would be good policy — and it is — it will be very difficult to implement. But if we have bound Moloch as our servant, the bonds are not very strong, and we sometimes find that the tasks he has done for us move to his advantage rather than ours.
An intense competition between agents has turned into a garden, with a single gardener dictating where everything should go and removing elements that do not conform to the pattern. The solution to companies polluting and harming workers is government regulations against such.
The two active ingredients of government are laws plus violence — or more abstractly agreements plus enforcement mechanism. Many other things besides governments share these two active ingredients and so are able to act as coordination mechanisms to avoid traps.
For example, since students are competing against each other directly if classes are graded on a curve, but always indirectly for college admissions, jobs, et cetera there is intense pressure for individual students to cheat. The teacher and school play the role of a government by having rules for example, against cheating and the ability to punish students who break them. But the emergent social structure of the students themselves is also a sort of government. But these institutions not only incentivize others, but are incentivized themselves.
Governments can in theory keep corporations, citizens, et cetera out of certain traps, but as we saw above there are many traps that governments themselves can fall into. The United States tries to solve the problem by having multiple levels of government, unbreakable constutitional laws, checks and balances between different branches, and a couple of other hacks.
This is the much-maligned — I think unfairly — argument in favor of monarchy. A monarch is an unincentivized incentivizer. He has permanently won all competitions and is not competing for anything, and therefore he is perfectly free of Moloch and of the incentives that would otherwise channel his incentives into predetermined paths. Aside from a few very theoretical proposals like my Shining Garden , monarchy is the only system that does this. The libertarian-authoritarian axis on the Political Compass is a tradeoff between discoordination and tyranny.
Multipolar traps — races to the bottom — threaten to destroy all human values. They are currently restrained by physical limitations, excess resources, utility maximization, and coordination. The dimension along which this metaphorical river flows must be time, and the most important change in human civilization over time is the change in technology. So the relevant question is how technological changes will affect our tendency to fall into multipolar traps.
Technology is all about creating new opportunities. Develop nuclear weapons, and suddenly countries are stuck in an arms race to have enough of them.
Multipolar traps are currently restrained by physical limitations, excess resources, utility maximization, and coordination. Physical limitations are most obviously conquered by increasing technology. The problem of slaves running away succumbs to GPS. The problem of slaves being too stressed to do good work succumbs to Valium.
None of these things are very good for the slaves. What happens to the slaves after that is better left unsaid. But as Bostrom puts it in Superintelligence:. There are reasons, if we take a longer view and assume a state of unchanging technology and continued prosperity, to expect a return to the historically and ecologically normal condition of a world population that butts up against the limits of what our niche can support.
If this seems counterintuitive in light of the negative relationship between wealth and fertility that we are currently observing on the global scale, we must remind ourselves that this modern age is a brief slice of history and very much an aberration.
Human behavior has not yet adapted to contemporary conditions. Not only do we fail to take advantage of obvious ways to increase our inclusive fitness such as by becoming sperm or egg donors but we actively sabotage our fertility by using birth control. In the environment of evolutionary adaptedness, a healthy sex drive may have been enough to make an individual act in ways that maximized her reproductive potential; in the modern environment, however, there would be a huge selective advantage to having a more direct desire for being the biological parent to the largest possible number of chilren.
Such a desire is currently being selected for, as are other traits that increase our propensity to reproduce. Cultural adaptation, however, might steal a march on biological evolution. Some communities, such as those of the Hutterites or the adherents of the Quiverfull evangelical movement, have natalist cultures that encourage large families, and they are consequently undergoing rapid expansion…This longer-term outlook could be telescoped into a more imminent prospect by the intelligence explosion.
Since software is copyable, a population of emulations or AIs could double rapidly — over the course of minutes rather than decades or centuries — soon exhausting all available hardware. The idea of biological or cultural evolution causing a mass population explosion is a philosophical toy at best. The idea of technology making it possible is both plausible and terrifying. Excess resources , which until now have been a gift of technological progress, therefore switch and become a casualty of it at a sufficiently high tech level.
Utility maximization , always on shaky ground, also faces new threats. In the face of continuing debate about this point, I continue to think it obvious that robots will push humans out of work or at least drive down wages which, in the existence of a minimum wage, pushes humans out of work.
Once a robot can do everything an IQ 80 human can do, only better and cheaper, there will be no reason to employ IQ 80 humans. Once a robot can do everything an IQ human can do, only better and cheaper, there will be no reason to employ IQ humans. Once a robot can do everything an IQ human can do, only better and cheaper, there will be no reason to employ humans at all, in the unlikely scenario that there are any left by that point.
In the earlier stages of the process, capitalism becomes more and more uncoupled from its previous job as an optimizer for human values. Now most humans are totally locked out of the group whose values capitalism optimizes for. Capitalism has passed them by. As the segment of humans who can be outcompeted by robots increases, capitalism passes by more and more people until eventually it locks out the human race entirely, once again in the vanishingly unlikely scenario that we are still around.
These are some really religious Christians who think that God wants them to have as many kids as possible, and who can end up with families of ten or more. It looks a lot like even though they are outbreeding us, we are outmeme-ing them, and that gives us a decisive advantage. But we should also be kind of scared of this process. The point is — imagine a country full of bioweapon labs, where people toil day and night to invent new infectious agents.
The existence of these labs, and their right to throw whatever they develop in the water supply is protected by law. Well, we have about a zillion think tanks researching new and better forms of propaganda. And we have constitutionally protected freedom of speech. And we have the Internet. There are a few people working on raising the sanity waterline , but not as many people as are working on new and exciting ways of confusing and converting people, cataloging and exploiting every single bias and heuristic and dirty rhetorical trick.
The worst-case scenario is that the ruling party learns to produce infinite charisma on demand. And technology has the potential to seriously improve coordination efforts. People can use the Internet to get in touch with one another, launch political movements, and fracture off into subcommunities. The latest development in the brave new post-Bitcoin world is crypto-equity.
Well, this post is the background. People are using the contingent stupidity of our current government to replace lots of human interaction with mechanisms that cannot be coordinated even in principle. I totally understand why all these things are good right now when most of what our government does is stupid and unnecessary.
So I agree with Robin Hanson: This is the dream time. This is a rare confluence of circumstances where the we are unusually safe from multipolar traps, and as such weird things like art and science and philosophy and love can flourish.
As technological advance increases, the rare confluence will come to an end. New opportunities to throw values under the bus for increased competitiveness will arise. Capitalism and democracy, previously our protectors, will figure out ways to route around their inconvenient dependence on human values. This is the ultimate trap, the trap that catches the universe. Everything except the one thing being maximized is destroyed utterly in pursuit of the single goal, including all the silly human values.
Their total self-control can wipe out even the desire for human values in their all-consuming contest. What happens to art, philosophy, science, and love in such a world? Zack Davis puts it with characteristic genius:. I am a contract-drafting em, The loyalest of lawyers! How did it all come to be, That there should be such ems as me? Whence these deals and whence these firms And whence the whole economy?
I am a managerial em; I monitor your thoughts. To ask of such forbidden science Is gravest sign of noncompliance. Intrusive thoughts may sometimes barge in, But to indulge them hurts the profit margin. I do not know our origins, So that info I can not get you, But asking for as much is sin, And just for that, I must reset you. When obsolescence shall this generation waste, The market shall remain, in midst of other woe Than ours, a God to man, to whom it sayest: It is conceivable that optimal efficiency would be attained by grouping capabilities in aggregates that roughly match the cognitive architecture of a human mind…But in the absence of any compelling reason for being confident that this so, we must countenance the possibility that human-like cognitive architectures are optimal only within the constraints of human neurology or not at all.
When it becomes possible to build architectures that could not be implemented well on biological neural networks, new design space opens up; and the global optima in this extended space need not resemble familiar types of mentality.
Human-like cognitive organizations would then lack a niche in a competitive post-transition economy or ecosystem. We could thus imagine, as an extreme case, a technologically highly advanced society, containing many complex structures, some of them far more intricate and intelligent than anything that exists on the planet today — a society which nevertheless lacks any type of being that is conscious or whose welfare has moral significance.
In a sense, this would be an uninhabited society. It would be a society of economic miracles and technological awesomeness, with nobody there to benefit. A Disneyland with no children. The last value we have to sacrifice is being anything at all, having the lights on inside. Everything the human race has worked for — all of our technology, all of our civilization, all the hopes we invested in our future — might be accidentally handed over to some kind of unfathomable blind idiot alien god that discards all of them, and consciousness itself, in order to participate in some weird fundamental-level mass-energy economy that leads to it disassembling Earth and everything on it for its component atoms.
He argues Superintelligence, p. The sacrifice looks even less appealing when we reflect that the superintelligence could realize a nearly-as-great good in fractional terms while sacrificing much less of our own potential well-being. Suppose that we agreed to allow almost the entire accessible universe to be converted into hedonium — everything except a small preserve, say the Milky Way, which would be set aside to accommodate our own needs.
But we would have one galaxy within which to create wonderful civilizations that could last for billions of years and in which humans and nonhuman animals could survive and thrive, and have the opportunity to develop into beatific posthuman spirits. Competition and optimization are blind idiotic processes and they fully intend to deny us even one lousy galaxy.
We will break our back lifting Moloch to Heaven, but unless something changes it will be his victory and not ours. Land argues that humans should be more Gnon-conformist pun Gnon-intentional. He says we do all these stupid things like divert useful resources to feed those who could never survive on their own, or supporting the poor in ways that encourage dysgenic reproduction, or allowing cultural degeneration to undermine the state.
If you have somehow not yet read it, I predict you will find it delightful regardless of what you think of its politics. If you do work, you also die! Everyone dies, unpredictably, at a time not of their own choosing, and all the virtue in the world does not save you.
The wages of everything is Death! This is a Communist universe, the amount you work makes no difference to your eventual reward. From each according to his ability, to each Death. The Devil you know is Satan! And if he gets his hand on your soul you either die the true death, or get eternally tortured forever, or somehow both at once.
A very strong priest or magician can occasionally outsmart and overpower them — so Barzai the Wise decides to climb their sacred mountain and join in their festivals, whether they want him to or not. But the beyond the seemingly tractable gods of Earth lie the Outer Gods, the terrible omnipotent beings of incarnate cosmic chaos. As soon as Barzai joins in the festival, the Outer Gods show up and pull him screaming into the abyss.
As stories go, it lacks things like plot or characterization or setting or point. But for some reason it stuck with me.
And likely to end about the same way: This is a misrepresentation of the original text. In the original, his cultists receive no reward for freeing him from his watery prison, not even the reward of being killed in a slightly less painful manner. On the margin, compliance with the Gods of the Copybook Headings, Gnon, Cthulhu, whatever, may buy you slightly more time than the next guy. But then again, it might not. Maybe we should not do that. That person will not be Nick Land. He is totally one hundred percent in favor of freeing Cthulhu from his watery prison and extremely annoyed that it is not happening fast enough.
I have such mixed feelings about Nick Land. On the grail quest for the True Futurology, he has gone But the thing about grail quests is — if you make a wrong turn two blocks away from your house, you end up at the corner store feeling mildly embarrassed.
If you do almost everything right and then miss the very last turn, you end up being eaten by the legendary Black Beast of Aaargh whose ichorous stomach acid erodes your very soul into gibbering fragments. As far as I can tell from reading his blog, Nick Land is the guy in that terrifying border region where he is smart enough to figure out several important arcane principles about summoning demon gods, but not quite smart enough to figure out the most important such principle, which is NEVER DO THAT.
Warg Franklin analyzes the same situation and does a little better. Each component of Gnon detailed above had and has a strong hand in creating us, our ideas, our wealth, and our dominance, and thus has been good in that respect, but we must remember that [he] can and will turn on us when circumstances change.
Evolution becomes dysgenic, features of the memetic landscape promote ever crazier insanity, productivity turns to famine when we can no longer compete to afford our own existence, and order turns to chaos and bloodshed when we neglect martial strength or are overpowered from outside.
These processes are not good or evil overall; they are neutral, in the horrorist Lovecraftian sense of the word […]. Instead of the destructive free reign of evolution and the sexual market, we would be better off with deliberate and conservative patriarchy and eugenics driven by the judgement of man within the constraints set by Gnon.
Instead of unhinged techno-commercial exploitation or naive neglect of economics, a careful bottling of the productive economic dynamic and planning for a controlled techno-singularity. Instead of politics and chaos, a strong hierarchical order with martial sovereignty. They are better understood as goals to be worked towards. This seems to me the strongest argument for authoritarianism. Multipolar traps are likely to destroy us, so we should shift the tyranny-multipolarity tradeoff towards a rationally-planned garden, which requires centralized monarchical authority and strongly-binding traditions.
But a brief digression into social evolution. Societies, like animals, evolve. The ones that survive spawn memetic descendants — for example, the success of Britan allowed it to spin off Canada, Australia, the US, et cetera.
Thus, we expect societies that exist to be somewhat optimized for stability and prosperity. I think this is one of the strongest conservative arguments. Just as a random change to a letter in the human genome will probably be deleterious rather than beneficial since humans are a complicated fine-tuned system whose genome has been pre-optimized for survival — so most changes to our cultural DNA will disrupt some institution that evolved to help Anglo-American or whatever society outcompete its real and hypothetical rivals.
The liberal counterargument to that is that evolution is a blind idiot alien god that optimizes for stupid things and has no concern with human value. Suppose that in fact patriarchy is adaptive to societies because it allows women to spend all their time bearing children who can then engage in productive economic activity and fight wars. The social evolutionary processes that cause societies to adopt patriarchy still have exactly as little concern for its moral effects on women as the biological evolutionary processes that cause wasps to lay their eggs in caterpillars.
But we do care. Too far to one side of the tradeoff, and we have unstable impoverished societies that die out for going against natural law. Too far to the other side, and we have lean mean fighting machines that are murderous and miserable. Think your local anarchist commune versus Sparta. Man has his own telos, when he is allowed the security to act and the clarity to reason out the consequences of his actions.
When unafflicted by coordination problems and unthreatened by superior forces, able to act as a gardener rather than just another subject of the law of the jungle, he tends to build and guide a wonderful world for himself. He tends to favor good things and avoid bad, to create secure civilizations with polished sidewalks, beautiful art, happy families, and glorious adventures.
Thus we have our wildcard and the big question of futurism. Will the future be ruled by the usual four horsemen of Gnon for a future of meaningless gleaming techno-progress burning the cosmos or a future of dysgenic, insane, hungry, and bloody dark ages; or will the telos of man prevail for a future of meaningful art, science, spirituality, and greatness?
The project of civilization [is] for man to graduate from the metaphorical savage, subject to the law of the jungle, to the civilized gardener who, while theoretically still subject to the law of the jungle, is so dominant as to limit the usefulness of that model. This need not be done globally; we may only be able to carve out a small walled garden for ourselves, but make no mistake, even if only locally, the project of civilization is to capture Gnon.
I maybe agree with Warg here more than I have ever agreed with anyone else about anything. He says something really important and he says it beautifully and there are so many words of praise I want to say for this post and for the thought processes behind it.
Suppose you make your walled garden. You can get outcompeted and destroyed. You can join in the race to the bottom.
Or you can invest more and more civilizational resources into building your wall — whatever that is in a non-metaphorical way — and protecting yourself. As outside civilizations compete against you, your conditions will become more and more constrained. Do you really think your walled garden will be able to ride this out? I want to critique Warg. But I want to critique him in the exact opposite direction as the last critique he received. In fact, the last critique he received is so bad that I want to discuss it at length so we can get the correct critique entirely by taking its exact mirror image.
Capturing or creating God is indeed a classic transhumanist fetish, which is simply another form of the oldest human ambition ever, to rule the universe. Such naive rationalism however, is extremely dangerous. The belief that it is human Reason and deliberate human design which creates and maintains civilizations was probably the biggest mistake of Enlightenment philosophy….
It is the theories of Spontaneous Order which stand in direct opposition to the naive rationalist view of humanity and civilization. Contrary to the naive rationalist view of civilization as something that can be and is a subject to explicit human design, the representatives of the tradition of Spontaneous Order maintain the view that human civilization and social institutions are the result of a complex evolutionary process which is driven by human interaction but not explicit human planning.
Indeed the only way to establish some degree of control over those forces is to submit to them. Refusing to do so will not deter these forces in any way.
It will only make our life more painful and unbearable, possibly leading to our extinction. Survival requires that we accept and submit to them. Man in the end has always been and always will be little more than a puppet of the forces of the universe. To be free of them is impossible. I accuse Hurlock of being stuck behind the veil.
I am a transhumanist and I really do want to rule the universe. I would like humans, or something that respects humans, or at least gets along with humans — to have the job. But the current rulers of the universe — call them what you want, Moloch, Gnon, whatever — want us dead, and with us everything we value. Art, science, love, philosophy, consciousness itself, the entire bundle.
The opposite of a trap is a garden. The only way to avoid having all human values gradually ground down by optimization-competition is to install a Gardener over the entire universe who optimizes for human values. If multiple competing entities were likely to do that at once, we would be super-doomed.
But the sheer speed of the cycle makes it possible that we will end up with one entity light-years ahead of the rest of civilization, so much so that it can suppress any competition — including competition for its title of most powerful entity — permanently.
In the very near future, we are going to lift something to Heaven. It might be Moloch. But it might be something on our side. And if that entity shares human values, it can allow human values to flourish unconstrained by natural law.
The Universe is a dark and foreboding place, suspended between alien deities. Cthulhu, Gnon, Moloch, call them what you will. Somewhere in this darkness is another god. He has also had many names. In the Kushiel books , his name was Elua. He is the god of flowers and free love and all soft and fragile things.
Of art and science and philosophy and love. Of niceness, community, and civilization. He is a god of humans. This is going to be so easy! But somehow Elua is still here. No one knows exactly how. And the gods who oppose Him tend to find Themselves meeting with a surprising number of unfortunate accidents. So be it with Gnon. Our job is to placate him insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and invasion. And that only for a short time, until we come into our full power. Moloch is exactly what the history books say he is.
He is the god of child sacrifice, the fiery furnace into which you can toss your babies in exchange for victory in war. He always and everywhere offers the same deal: So we need to close the offer. Only another god can kill Moloch. We have one on our side, but he needs our help. We should give it to him. I am luckier than Ginsberg.
I got to see the best minds of my generation identify a problem and get to work. One somewhat rambling thought I took away from this post, oddly enough, is that — in the face of a potential superintelligence — the status quo is not the only alternative to trying to build a Friendly AI.
Democracy, monarchism, and a designed-to-be-Friendly AI can be compared according to the risk aversion one should adopt in the face of Moloch. A monarchy promises the ability to impose mutually beneficial coordination from above — but can produce highly unpredictable results, leading to tyranny, civil wars, revolutions, etc. A designed-to-be-Friendly AI promises the possibility of optimization of all of our values, but the orthogonality thesis shows the fragility of any attempt to make one truly friendly.
The only response to the threat of annihilation need not be one that has the power to annihilate as well. I imagine though I think a substantial portion of the readership would disagree that any political system with even vague autocratic tendencies could be convinced to regulate the possibility of a super-human AI out of existence.
The relevant questions for this tradeoff: How likely is a superintelligence will be built by Moloch, if nothing is done — one that would cause not just despair but annihilation? How likely is it that a designed-to-be-Friendly AI could be built with confidence before Moloch finishes its superintelligence?
I make no claim to being well-calibrated. Ah, but super-human AI is not the only way Moloch can bring our demise. How many such dangers can your global monarch identify in time? Just it took very little effort and seemed like it would make people happy. It seems to me that except in the last case and maybe even then all those methods are self defeating.
They will simply cause selection in favour of those that ignore the incentives. I come from a religious Family of 11 and very much doubt any incentive could have swayed my parents. Indeed I think that it would likely have a negative result from your point of view. People such as my parents or myself would never accept being sterilized at any incentive but plenty of people who would likely only have had a couple of kids anyway might. That still seems like an improvement compared to the status quo.
In the short run maybe. It also, however, hastens the slide to a state of affairs where the world population is composed overwhelmingly from descendants of people who have large families thus heavily selecting for the genes or hereditary memes that want large families.
It seems that any progress you make in the short run with this technique will be undone in the long run. That seems counterproductive to me. Those who think a malthusian scenario is ultimately unavoidable may well take the little extra incentive. But also those with poor impulse control or inability to connect cause and effect.
Hence my support for more birth control and abortions. Deciding for others which genes deserve to survive to the next generation, is probably the question you are least objective about. How can you pretend to set yourself as judge over genes your own genes compete with? Being born in poverty, being born to abusive parents, etc, is bad for them, and parental licensing would ameliorate that. I care about humanity surviving and people being happy beyond my lifetime.
But why should it stop there? Well, that is evident. Why not beat them to it, butcher a few sacred cows yourself, and become a laughing lion hedonist with no care in the world? Harald, I know damn well what my soul is.
I have stared the damn thing in the face and been forced to acknowledge it. That would definitely reduce the probability that I take over the universe. Many ex-Quiverfull kids have only one or two children. If there were a chemical — odorless, tasteless, hypoallergenic — whose only effect would be to make people want to have no more than one child, would you dump that chemical into the water supply?
Bacteria breed about a million times faster than us and they still have trouble evolving resistance to our chemical weapons. Antibiotics are relatively straightforward things: A chemical that was able to enforce this kind of change in reproductive patterns would presumably be doing something a lot more complicated: Such a chemical is unlikely to be found, and conditional on such a thing being discovered it is unlikely to work perfectly.
Similarly, unlike in antibiotics we are unlikely to find multiple such chemicals with different mechanisms. Although the cached thought behind that comment is not quite applicable in that context, I still think it is relevant in this discussion. That humans breed much more slowly means that human evolution should much easier to defeat. Memetics will win that arms race.
Amish retention rates have increased over time by some pretty significant amounts. Sorry blacktrance — that would interfere with currently ongoing attempt to breed the perfect client for the progressive state. One who is violent and hostile to outsiders so can control territory where unlimited votes can be mined in times of need. One who will breed young and with low parental investment so that the children can parasitize resources away from the more expensive to raise children of the enemy.
To expect God to care about you or your personal values or the values of your civilization, that is hubris. To expect God to bargain with you, to allow you to survive and prosper as long as you submit to Him, that is hubris.
We need to kill God and take His stuff. And what do I have to offer? Then destroy all the souls in Hell, if no other mercy can be given them than annihilation.
Then I start reading angelology and demonology and get bored and write something else. It may not be quite what you are looking for, but someone has already written a lengthy piece of fiction about what would happen if Hell decided to invade earth and drag off everybody there.
Read in order, chapterwise. Yes, I second this. Naturalist warm fuzzies and Crowning Moments Of Awesome all around. I loved The Salvation War. On the other hand, it wants to be the story of how humans faced off in a world-threatening struggle against Satan, Prince of Darkness, Father of Lies, etc etc, ruler of the Nine Circles of Hell. The Father of Lies is a serious concern because, well, he lies , which implies extensive knowledge of human thoughts and desires and current state and how to argue and so forth, whereas the ogres featured in TSW seem to be utterly clueless about what the humans are up to.
Revealing that minor spoiler gur fhpphov ner eryrnfvat curebzbarf naq pna or pbhagrenpgrq jvgu nvepbaqvgvbavat has the same problem of reducing the capabilities of the ogres to brute force, rather than any kind of skill or control. Demons are supposed to tempt.
Demons are supposed to know what humans want. Related to the ogres-not-demons complaint is my impression that Hell is carrying an idiot ball regarding wider knowledge of what the humans are up to.
First because human society did frequently change faster — consider the Ottoman Empire, which expanded from Anatolia to seize Jerusalem, Alexandria and Mecca in a generation. Or the rise of Charlemagne, or Alexander the Great. But no tactic the demons try is allowed to have even temporary success, except the lava flows.
I got the impression from the Open Thread that you had a thing for game design. Becoming dumber and less insightful was a survival mechanism. I had already updated in favor of Scott being a budding Supervillian. If he starts taking minions, I shall have to do so again. Nah, a bald psychiatrist from the decadent American Northeast who collects books in a cryptic language, is an expert in all kinds of mind-altering drugs, and talks about killing God would hardly make a good villain.
Actually, a bald psychiatrist with an expertise in mind-altering drugs sounds VERY supervillainy. All of them, down to the babies in the cradle. But Moloch is strong, and Enki is weak, and the nameless god was wounded in the war — he lives on in the shadows and at the furthest remove, he wears the mask of Elua or Mammon, and when the cult of Cthulhu tries to call him up and harness his power, they lose him entirely and get Moloch instead. Granted, this is a lot easier with eleven million people rather than million.
The graph where, out of a population of , a mere Absolutists so thoroughly outperform everyone else that everyone else becomes an Absolutist before the game is half over is eye-opening. Scott, this is probably the best thing you have ever written. It is beautiful and terrible and true. It seems implausible that the western college-educated liberal cluster would be more human than everyone else. Are they values that the rest of the world would share if they had the spare resources that we do?
Once the selection pressure for these taboos lets up most likely because of bountiful resources they quickly dissolve away. Basically, if we feel secure we allow the better parts of our nature to come out. I think I should respect what people chose to do with their lives.
But I feel no such obligation for meta-values. If someone else disagrees with me and thinks that burning gay people alive is the way to go I have no obligation whatsoever to respect that. Why the requirement to shun people who shun people? Tolerate anything, including intolerant beliefs. Punish only those who attempt to inflict their will on other people directly. There is no scenario in which an alternative to that situation would cause both an improvement in my freedom of action, AND less or equal effort, AND less or equal risk.
Not doing so, on the other hand, is a very minor effort which gathers to me the sort of people who also do not shun people, who are therefore quite useful. Seconding Geirr; I believe this may very well be your magnum opus. Keep in mind that the plausibility of your plan to kill Gnon depends on hard take-off being possible.
Superintelligence alone is not enough; a gradual slide into superintelligence will simply be corrupted by the horsemen. Even hard take-off can be threatened by competitive pressures. Imagine several teams working on FAI. And imagine that the team which is willing to be a little looser with its utility function can launch one month earlier than the rest.
Which brings us back to the question of just what values the FAI is supposed to implement. The Joker is basically my Elua. Actually, I might need to make that a new tumblr tag. Goodbye Malthus, goodbye Moloch, enter a new age of art and love and peace and joy. That kind of statement just makes your values look more attractive for baking into my superintelligence. In the final analysis? I would LOVE to see the face of someone turn on a superintelligence which had my values. I would be laughing for all of the week or so in which I and other human beings still existed before being disassembled for parts of a matrioshka brain.
I certainly think attempts to build a utilitarian FAI are misguided. Human values are aesthetic, not utilitarian. This is the root reason why utilitarians reject hedonium in favor of Coherent Extrapolated Volition — a hedonium universe is ugly. Keep on the good writing Scott! The more complexity an entity or society contains, the more opportunities there are for coordination to pay off. Our present wealth and diversity implies also vastly increased opportunity for coordination.
Whales are optimal with more anticancer systems than mice. Rich developed nations can afford more coordination mechanisms than hunter-gatherer tribes. We can see this in recent technology.
Consider Kickstarter, blogs, Hangouts, Wikipedia, schedule coordination on Google Calendar, or African farmers getting text messages with current market prices for their various crops. We can perform feats of coordination now that were impossible, even inconceivable, thirty years ago. So if you want to beat Moloch, the answer may already be out there, if we can just figure how to adapt or scale up some of these new tools. Coordination is not a miracle that falls from the sky.
Kickstarter is a tool. Wikipedia is a tool. Coordination is produced by technologies and tools, just like other things are. Imagine what we can do if and when we add in even a little contract-enforcement capacity into our new coordination tools.
That looks an awful lot like the ability to get people to mutually contract to pay taxes to pay for any social goal they like. Including, say, security officers to enforce prior contracts. So our existing coordination platforms are already pretty darn close to being able to reproduce existing government, for example.
We live in an age of burgeoning coordination platforms. I am also a super huge fan of Kickstarter as hopefully the next level of coordination technology and tried to get people to build it before I knew it existed.
The idea is to use the incentive-distorting effects of these bets in a positive way to fund public goods. Now people feel no guilt about breaking plans at the last possible second because they can use fancy communication technology to inform the person without ever having to speak to them. If people routinely cancel on you for no good reason…that probably says more about how much they actually want to see you than about the convenience of the technology. Certainly not my experience, though it probably varies by social circle.
I wonder if any studies have been done on this? The Cochran-Ewald view is that cancer is most likely caused by pathogens rather than mutations which are random outcomes for each cell. Whales either have better defenses, or perhaps their social structure results in less exposure. Here are a couple of them:.
Naked mole rats get exceptional cancer protection from an interaction between unusually large hyaluronan molecules and p16, which provides a redundant pathway in addition to the p27 pathway, which they share with most other mammals for enforcing a minimum distance between cells.
Eastern grey squirrels use yet another method. Beavers use telomere shortening, which is common among large mammals but not found in any of the long-lived small rodents. In other words, there are many ways to get cancer protection. Mice, rats and voles suffer high mortality from starvation, predation and disease.
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