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Piotr Kalinowski
perpetually perplexed software developer, allegedly human
perpetually perplexed software developer, allegedly human

Piotr's posts

A good way to troll your co-workers is by casually presenting them uncomfortable truths.

What is an uncomfortable truth? Well, let's not get into a philosophical discussion about truth, primarily because I slept through the majority of the philosophy course at the university.

So just take a thought framework they would at least hesitate to reject altogether, and pick something that could be reasonably construed as an objectively correct statement within that framework, but what the correctly functioning instinct of a well-adjusted human would not like to hear and try hard to remove from consciousness.

Then sit back and watch their reason struggle against their instincts.

It is especially important that your delivery is as casual and nonchalant as possible. You want to go for an impression that what you are saying is a common knowledge that is not worth discussion. This is also why any attempts to immediately object to your statement should be met with mild incredulity and equally casually dismissive, unconcerned tone.

As an example, when your co-worker remarks at the coffee machine that you look tired, perhaps because you had intentionally exaggerated your manner of behaviour to make a little fun of it, you could tell them how you are always tired and looking forward to when you won't wake up at all to finally rest.

“No, you can't say that!”

“But why not? Life is tiresome and full of pain and suffering and all that for nought. We will all perish after all, and so will everything we have ever worked for.”

Of course, you could end up talking to HR about how you feel, how's life and if you want to talk about it with a professional. After all, it wouldn't hurt, would it? The company will even cover the expense.

You have been warned.

For what it's worth, I haven't been sent to talk with HR. Not this time, anyway.

I remember reading about the example how attempts to make superintelligent AI friendly towards humans can go awry. You can't just program it to make people happy, because the really efficient way of doing it would be to hook everyone up to electrodes stimulating brain's pleasure centre. Or, you know, put them on drugs. Indefinitely.

I have to wonder: why would any of those be a bad thing?

I can already imagine people explaining to me that true deep happiness comes from having a purpose in life, pursuing something larger than oneself. That it is separate from mere pleasure.

Well, why is that? One explanation is that seeking a purpose/meaning and what not facilitates having more offspring. Or at least it doesn't hinder it so if it appeared randomly it wouldn't be selected against.

Additionally, in our evolutionary history indefinite and continuous supply of drugs was never, and still isn't, a feasible way to cope with suffering and futility of human existence. I mean, setting aside all the ways in which it not only fails to facilitate perpetuating the species but outright acts against it, there's always the question of where are you going to get those drugs from and how are you going to make it all work?

More interestingly, whatever it is that makes people truly happy rather than just feeling pleasure, the feeling itself is still a pattern of electrical activity in the brain. Superintelligent AI could easily just hook us up to the machinery inducing that pattern instead. And then we would spend our lives perpetually self-fulfilled, never knowing the existential dread caused by realisation how futile it all is.

Alternatively, the AI could just alter our genes to make it simpler for us to be happy.

That's one reason The Matrix would never happen. The machines there didn't even want people to be happy. They just needed energy from our bodies. People are waking up from your dream because it's too good to be true? Put them on stronger drugs or alter their physiology to remove the possibility of consciousness altogether. Problem solved.

This too shall pass.

Or will it, actually? According to the Wikipedia this adage is to indicate the temporary nature of all material conditions, positive or negative. At least one derivation presents it as true in both good and bad times.

The question is, why would your misfortunes pass away?

Say that you're a mildly socially disabled person in constant danger of psychological pain because unlike most of the people you meet every day you repeatedly fail at climbing Maslov's hierarchy of needs. So you suffer because you don't feel like you really belong anywhere, or romantic relationships seem completely out of reach. Or perhaps you keep failing at building self-esteem.

Why would those circumstances just pass away? Even if you actively keep trying to change them there's no real guarantee that you will eventually succeed at achieving anything, let alone if you just let the things go and wait for the situation to "pass."

I suppose it's more appropriate for the good times, then. I think we can agree that it is much easier to grow to take your blessings for granted, thus erasing happiness, than to come to terms with your continued misfortunes.

It is interesting to note that, apparently, counting your blessings does increase people's reported level of happiness. So let's assume that average person could benefit from it, because it would counteract the tendency to take things for granted, thus improving individual's capability to stay self-satisfied.

What if most you can think of is how you can hardly come up with anything other than having access to food and shelter?

Being a human sucks.

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Brilliant. I haven't seen this collection before, just the original tweet.

I read Ender's Game this week, and the first thought I had was that I remember the screen adaptation as being uncharacteristically accurate. That is quite a weird thought if you consider that they did, in fact, trim the source material, for all the usual reasons, as well introduce some changes here and there.


Then I realised that the book articulated one thing, using Colonel Graff, that the movie did not (not in a memorable way, at least), although I'm sure they tried to show it without words, in their own way: why couldn't Ender know that what he was doing was not a game, but for real?

They needed a commander that would have enough compassion to be a good leader and work brilliantly with others, and with enough empathy to understand the enemy to the point where he could defeat them. But could the person with that much compassion and empathy just go and destroy the whole alien race? They thought that person wouldn't just do it, or at the very least that it would be a serious obstacle for them, and if Ender's outburst at the revelation of the truth is any indication, they were right.

This reminds me of an omission that struck me in Howl's Moving Castle. That story is, of course, a completely different beast altogether — Miyazaki treated source material more like an inspiration rather than script prototype, which I read is a rather typical approach for Studio Ghibli.

Nonetheless, have you ever wondered why the scarecrow was just lying there in the bushes until Sophie picked it up? Why did Calcifer offer her the deal to break his contract? I mean, why her? Was it really just that he had some leverage over her because of her curse that she wanted gone?

To be fair, I have never asked those questions. I just enjoyed the story, and besides, you know, magic! ;-) But in the book, there's an explanation: Sophie has her own magical gift of talking life into things. She talked it back into scarecrow so that it could continue on its journey towards lifting off its own spell (the story of the original scarecrow is somewhat different, it wasn't a cursed prince). And because of this gift, she was the only person that could break Calcifer's contract without killing him in the process (as a falling star, he should've died long ago).

Just yet another small detail that the book elaborates upon.

Going back to Ender's Game, when Ender finds the cocoon of the alien queen, he writes a book based on the story she communicates to him in thoughts. A book about the history of her species, and their mistakes. Apparently, she was very sad, realising that the human species they had encountered and had been trying to wipe out in the effort to colonise our world, was actually a sentient species. They wouldn't have attacked, had they known, but they didn't suspect that creatures incapable of communicating their thoughts directly could evolve intelligence.

Isn't it interesting, how what sparked enough compassion for those different creatures, for us, was that we were conscious? When they didn't realise that we are, it was not a problem to slaughter us to make room for another colony. It was our sentience, it seems, that formed the common ground — it made us similar enough in a certain important way for them to be able to empathise. That's really how it works for us as well, isn't it? Nobody bats an eye, killing a fly. But a cat?

Of course, that's assuming that the whole thing is not merely a plot to make Ender restore their species, and enable their survival. A lie. That would be rather cliche, though, wouldn't it?

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"Intuitively, we think that rational decision-making means exhaustively enumerating our options, weighing each carefully, and then selecting the best. In practice, when the clock — or the ticker — is ticking, few aspects of decision-making, or of thinking more generally, are so important as one: when to stop."

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Many people know of Ockham's Razor. It is rarely discussed, however, why it makes sense and to what extent.

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Bugs everywhere, even in construction!

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“The humanities interrogate us. They challenge our sense of who we are, […] they take our measure. And we are never through discovering who we are.”

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"In other words, the rose-colored glow, no matter how unwarranted, helped people to maintain a healthier mental state. Depression bred objectivity. A lack of objectivity led to a healthier, more adaptive, and more resilient mind-set."

I am soooo screwed, aren't I? :D
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