Supposed To

On the general principle that our actions shouldn’t be caused by mysterious unnamed forces, I propose that we deliberately eliminate the words “supposed to” from daily conversation. Consider the sentence:

“We’re supposed to meet tomorrow at noon.”

It’s not at all clear who desires us to meet at noon- Bill? Steve? The government? God? This sort of sentence actually makes the mind projection fallacy worse, by imbuing objects with a supposed-to-ness, rather than considering how agents are imposing their desires on objects. If I think we should all meet at 11, it adds an extra cost for me to argue with a “supposed to”, as the other party in the argument is removed from explicit consideration.

“We should meet tomorrow at noon.”

This is a clearer sentence; the implication is that I, specifically, want us to meet tomorrow at noon.

“Mike wants us to meet tomorrow at noon.”

This is clearer still, as the agent doing the supposing is named explicitly. If you don’t like it, you can start thinking about Mike’s psychology, and how to convince him otherwise.

A Quick Guide to Handling the Recession

Note that kids, although they obviously have emotional implications far beyond those of “stuff”, really need be included among things you shouldn’t get if you can’t afford them. The average cost of raising a child in America is well over $100K; this doesn’t include college, or the huge subsidy given to every child in the form of the public school system.

Surprisingly Good Solutions

“The Singularity holds out the possibility of winning the Grand Prize, the true Utopia, the best-of-all-possible-worlds – not just freedom from pain and stress or a sterile round of endless physical pleasures, but the prospect of endless growth for every human being – growth in mind, in intelligence, in strength of personality; life without bound, without end; experiencing everything we’ve dreamed of experiencing, becoming everything we’ve ever dreamed of being; not for a billion years, or ten-to-the-billionth years, but forever… or perhaps embarking together on some still greater adventure of which we cannot even conceive.” – Eliezer Yudkowsky

This paragraph, as nice as it is, doesn’t really convey the principle inherent in Expected Creative Surprises. Dreams can be pleasant, but they can’t be surprising in some deep sense; if you already have a specific vision of Utopia, you’ve already mapped out your vision’s location in utilityspace. A superintelligently-designed Utopia should contain a large number of qualia which are surprisingly good, in the sense that we’ve never even imagined that point in utilityspace. Such qualia are relatively rare in the present world, but they do exist; imagine a starving African child eating their first chocolate cake. This, in some sense, is a more worthy goal for the future than, say, Iain Banks’s Culture series. The Culture is limited by human imagination, while superintelligently-designed utopias shouldn’t be.

Equal Evolutionary Utility

Suppose that a given gene correlates highly with social status in the ancestral environment. Social status is an extremely important factor in reproductive success, particularly for males; it’s not unheard of for high-status men to have hundreds of kids, while low-status men often have zero. If the common alleles for this gene differ significantly, one will be very rapidly pushed out of the gene pool by natural selection; most alleles only have a weak effect on reproduction prospects, but an allele which correlates strongly with status could double or even triple the expected number of surviving grandchildren.

Hence, in any current population, all of the existing alleles with nontrivial frequencies must not correlate strongly with social status, or with any other factor important to mating. This makes it, a priori, highly unlikely that we’ll find an “anger gene” or a “romance gene”; anything complex enough to have a strong effect on social relations will probably be controlled by large groups of genes that are hard to eliminate by a few centuries of selection.