Quarantine

June 2nd, 42 After Fall
Somewhere in the Colorado Mountains

They first caught sight of the man walking a few miles from the compound. At least it looked like a man. Faded jeans, white t-shirt, light jacket, rucksack. White skin, light brown hair. No obvious disabilities. No logos.

They kept him under surveillance as he approached. In other times they might have shot him on sight, but not now. They were painfully aware of the bounds of sustainable genetic diversity, so instead they drove over in a battered van, rifles loaded, industrial earmuffs in place. Once he was on his knees, they sent Javid the Unhearing over to bind and gag him, then bundled him into the van. No reason to risk exposure.

Javid had not always been deaf, but it was an honor. Some must sacrifice for the good of the others, and he was proud to defend the Sanctum at Rogers Ford.

Once back at the complex, they moved the man to a sound-proofed holding room and unbound him. An ancient PC sat on the desk, marked “Imp Association”. The people did not know who the Imp Association were, but they were grateful for it. Perhaps it was a gift from Olson. Praise be to Olson.

With little else to do, the man sat down and read the instructions on the screen. A series of words showed, and he was commanded to select left or right based on various different criteria. It was very confusing.

In a different room, watchers huddled around a tiny screen, looking at a series of numbers.

REP/DEM 0.0012 0.39 0.003

Good. That was a very good start.

FEM/MRA -0.0082 0.28 -0.029

SJW/NRX 0.0065 0.54 0.012

Eventually they passed the lines the catechism denoted “purge with fire and never speak thereof”, on to those merely marked as “highly dangerous”.

KO/PEP 0.1781 0.6 0.297

Not as good, but still within the proscribed tolerances. They would run the supplemental.

T_JCB/T_EWD -0.0008 1.2 -0.001

The test continued for some time, until eventually the cleric intoned, “The Trial by Fish is complete. He has passed the Snedecor Fish.” The people nodded as if they understood, then proceeded to the next stage.

This was more dangerous. This required a sacrifice.

She was young – just 15 years old. Fresh faced with long blond hair tied back, Sophia had a cute smile: she was perfect for the duty. Her family were told it was an honor to have their daughter selected.

Sophia entered the room, trepidation in her head, a smile on her face. Casually, she offered him a drink, “Hey, sorry you have to go through all this testin’. You must be hot! Would you like a co cuh?” Her relaxed intonation disguised the fact that these words were the proscribed words, passed down through generations, memorized and cherished as a ward against evil. He accepted the bottle of dark liquid and drank, before tossing the recyclable container in the bin.

In the other room, a box marked ‘ECO’ was ticked off.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I made a mistake – that’s pep-see. I’m so sorry!” she gushed in apology. He assured her it was fine.

In the other room, the cleric satisfied himself that the loyalty brand was burning at zero.

She moved on to the next proscribed question, with the ordained level of casualness, “Say, I know this is a silly question, but do you ever get a song stuck in your head?”

“Errr, what?”

“You know, like you just can’t stop singing it to yourself? Yeah?” Of course, she had no idea what this was like. She was alive.

“Ummm, sorry, no.”

She turned and left the room, relief filling her eyes.

After three more days of testing, the man was allowed into the compound. Despite the ravages of an evolution with a generational frequency a hundred times that of humanity, he had somehow preserved himself. He was clean of viral memetic payload. He was alive.

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2015/01/28 Shadow FOMC statement

The members of the Shadow FOMC would like to apologize for our extended absence; we were held under house arrest by the agents of Stanley Fisher.

Release Date: January 28, 2015

For immediate release

Information received since the Shadow Federal Open Market Committee met in September suggests that economic activity has been expanding at a pretty reasonable pace.  Labor market conditions have improved further, with strong job gains and a lower unemployment rate, and the employment to population ratio has improved, albeit off a low base. The end of extended unemployment insurance seems to have significantly boosted employment; we suggest that the federal government would benefit from privatizing and making optional the remaining unemployment insurance.  On balance, a range of labor market indicators suggests that underutilization of labor resources continues to diminish.  Household spending is rising moderately; recent declines in energy prices have boosted household purchasing power, though we worry they may have been caused by a fall in global aggregate demand.  Business fixed investment is advancing, though recent profitability among industrial companies has been disappointingly weak. The recovery in the housing sector remains slow. House prices remain well below the net present value of avoided future rent payments, probably due to regulation hindering the supply of mortgage financing, though recent data there has been encouraging.  Inflation has declined further below the Light Committee’s longer-run objective, as predicted by the Shadow FOMC, and they should not blame energy: while energy prices have fallen dramatically, inflation ex. shelter has been running below target for years, due to the unconsciously tight monetary policy the light committee has followed. Market-based measures of inflation expectations have declined substantially in recent months, and are now indicating that the Light Committee will miss its target for the next 10 years. We are highly disappointed that the Light Committee chose the Orwellian step of renaming them ‘inflation compensation’ instead of ‘inflation expectations’, ignoring the enormous predictive power the market gives us. Yes, survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable, but who cares? These surveys have been awful forecasters in the past.

The recent rise in the value of the dollar against a trade-weighted basket of other currencies (or, indeed, virtually any other currency other than the Swiss Franc) shows the high level of global demand for the USD. Since this is a product that can be created at basically zero cost, the Shadow Committee would accommodate this demand and print some more USD.

Inconsistent with its statutory mandate, the Light FOMC is failing to foster maximum employment and price stability. Unemployment is low, so the Light Committee’s actions could be justified if it was targeting that… but it is ostensibly targeting employment instead. Employment is still pretty awful; both employment and inflation suggest the need for loser monetary policy. The Shadow Committee expects that, even with a lack of appropriate policy accommodation, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace, as free markets have a tendency to grow. As the economy is kind of like a martingale; risks to the outlook for economic activity and the labor market will always be nearly balanced.  Inflation is anticipated to decline further in the near term, and though the Committee expects inflation to rise gradually as energy is a one-time shock and the oil forward curve is very steep, we have no idea why the Lighties expect it to reach the target at any point in the foreseeable future.  The Shadow Committee continues to monitor inflation developments closely; evidently more closely than the Light FOMC!

To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee today reaffirmed its view that the current 0 to 1/4 percent target range for the federal funds rate remains appropriate. However, we wish to remind people that this by no means represents a lower bound on interest rates; in the event the economy deteriorates further, we would be willing to lower interest rates further, or to deploy an array of other policy tools. In determining how long to maintain this target range, the Committee will assess progress–both realized and expected–toward its objective of a certain NPGDP level, which increases by 6% a year.  This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including market indicators, what people say on facebook, and the behaviour of our cats.

We regret that the Light Committee completed the taper of its bond holdings, though we believe that resuming the program now could be destabilizing and reduce the credibility of the Bed. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction.  This policy, by keeping the Committee’s holdings of longer-term securities at sizable levels, should help maintain accommodative financial conditions.

When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation, it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and NPGDP of 6 percent. The Committee currently anticipates that, even after employment and inflation are near mandate-consistent levels, economic conditions may, for some time, warrant keeping the target federal funds rate below levels the Shadow Committee views as more consistent with the fundamental level of human time preference, which implies long-run real rates of around 3-4%. Over the longer term, the Shadow remains concerned about value drift resulting in a future devoid of moral significance.

Voting for the SFOMC monetary policy action were: everyone, because I rule with an Iron Fist.

2014 charity choice: The Machine Intelligence Research Institute

This year, I’m donating to MIRI. Here’s a quick summary of the classic argument:

Even ignoring the risk of UFAI, I think that FAI may be one best ways of preventing run-away value drift from destroying all value in the future.

Killing suicides so that they may live

Many suicidal people are eventually grateful they didn’t kill themselves. This is sometimes used as an argument in favor of preventing people committing suicide, as Scott recently alluded to. A few years down the line, the argument goes, they’ll be thanking you for pulling them back from the edge, you should feel justified in doing so now. In the past they didn’t want to commit suicide – in the future they’ll be glad they didn’t commit suicide. Their current mental state is a temporary aberration, which we should not hold them accountable for; rather, we should protect their ‘true self’ from it.

There are many examples of similar arguments being used in different contexts.

  • People sometimes stage ‘interventions’ with alcoholics. In the past the alcoholic did not want to drink such excessive quantities. And post-intervention, the ex-alcholic will appreciate their newfound control over their life – they’ll be glad you took away the rum. Their current mental state is a temporary aberration, which we should not hold them accountable for; rather, we should protect their true self from it.
  • Pro-abortion campaigners often claim that, while abortion is terrible, it is sometimes necessary to prevent even worse consequences for the woman. However, pro-life campaigners point out that most women denied abortions are later pleased to have a child, describing the child they would have killed as being the love of their life – as even pro-abortion researchers agree. In the past the woman didn’t plan on having an abortion, and in the future she will be glad her request to have one was denied. Her current mental state is a temporary aberration, which we should not hold her accountable for; rather, we should protect her true self (and her child) from it.
  • Another application is disability. People generally over-estimate how unhappy becoming disabled will make them. Ought we conclude from this that becoming disabled is not as bad as we thought?
  • Or re-education camps. Suppose some enemies of the state, having been perverted by reading Ayn Rand novels, are sent to re-education camps in Siberia for being evil capitalist enemies of the revolution. The camps are very effective: 100% of survivors become devout believers in Neo-Bolshevism. In the past they didn’t want to betray the revolution, and in the future they’ll be glad for the re-education. Their current individualistic mental state is a temporary aberration, which we should not hold them accountable for; rather, we should protect their true proletariat self from it.

I am not a fan of these arguments in general. Part of what constitutes our identity is our beliefs and values. To the extent that these change over time for reasons we would not endorse, to the extent we suffer value drift, [we have to some degree died.](http://lesswrong.com/lw/2zj/value_deathism/) Dying is bad. Perhaps a heroic sacrifice to save something you care about deeply might be worthwhile – but if it is, being made to abandon your value is all the worse.

And if dying if bad, then murder is yet worse. And yet that is what our benevolent busybodies are doing – destroying some small part of their friend, and replacing it with another.

And yet! – this is not nearly so bad in the suicide case. A large part of what makes murder morally wrong is that the victim does not wish to die. In the case of suicide, (at least part of) the victim longs for the embrace of death. By intervening and turning them from suicide, you are killing precisely the part of them that wanted to die. Since it wanted to die, killing it is presumably significantly less immoral. You are basically allowing the suicidal person to commit1 suicide, and then recycling their body for the benefit of a new (or at least slightly different), life-loving person.

So I think that this argument is significantly stronger in the case of suicide than in other cases.


  1. How strange that one ‘has’ an abortion, yet ‘commits’ suicide. Yet when I try to change the language it reads so awkwardly I have to change it back.