(Essays 3) Production Notes

I never know which essays to pick when I do these episodes. There are soooo many of them, and they are all just spectacular. I don’t have any plans to do them all, partly because there’s so many, partly because some of them wouldn’t translate into audio very well (diagrams and such), and partly because quite a few of them are already available (for a small fee). So I’m trying to just pick a few that aren’t a great inferential distance away from an average listener that hasn’t read the Sequences, hopefully ones that such a listener would find enjoyable and interesting enough to maybe go and find the Sequences and read them for themselves. I’m never sure if I’ve done a very good job of that or not.

(Trust In God pt2) Production Notes

Yup, Evangelion is the reason I associate apocalyptic quasi-religious anime with old crooner love songs.

Note: I’ll be at the Denver Less Wrong Meetup on Weds Oct 15th, 6:30pm, at Strange Grounds. I’ve been meaning to go to a LW Meetup for a long time, and with one being hosted almost in my backyard by a friend I just plum ran out of excuses. Come hang out with us!

I really like the ending to Trust in God. I’ve never been a fan of “The End” endings. I prefer mine to feel like jumping-off points. IMHO the best ending is one that can be summarized as “and after that nothing was ever the same again.” It leaves an entire world wide open and alive and rich. I keep hearing that the ending of Snow Crash was terrible, but I never would have figured that out on my own. To me it was a perfectly fine ending. I’m very much of the opinion that nothing ever ends, except maybe when you die, and even then it only ends for you.

Request for help: I’m wracking my brain and flogging google trying to find a story, but I’m not having any luck. I figured I’d try here. A few years ago I read a short story about a company that requires its employees to work sealed off from the outside world, to preserve trade secrets. The employees also install a memory lock in their brains, which prevents them from remembering anything that happens in the workplace when they are not at work. These two coworkers really loathe each other, but they don’t know each other outside of work. By happenstance they meet out in the real world and start dating. Shenanigans ensue when they meet in the office again and realize who they are. Worse, one of them is already in a relationship with a different coworker, but of course no one remembers that outside the office. I recall enjoying it quite a bit, maybe someone will have read this and can remember what the story is called, or some way to find it? Or knows someone who may?

(Trust In God) Production Notes

Yes, I realize my pronunciation of “Nagato” was all over the place. I apologize for that. With everything else going on I didn’t have time to fix it. :(

Last year I was blown away by a short story by Seth Dickinson called A Plant (Whose Name is Destroyed) (audio). I want to bring it up again here, because it has a very similar premise to Trust In God/Riddle of Kyon – that a godlike being incidentally causes things to happen simply by desiring them. And like TiG/RoK, it’s told from the god’s lover’s perspective. They are very different stories because they explore different aspects of the problem, but at their core they both have the same dilemma. It’s a good read, and I wanted to recommend it.

Upon recalling how much I enjoyed A Plant, I went and checked out Seth Dickinson’s other works. I’ve read over half of them now, and I gotta say – I STRONGLY recommend this author. Many of his works have a very strong transhumanist message, and some could be called rationalist. Honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t already heard his name brought up on LessWrong, or SlateStarCodex, or /r/rational. I’m fixing that this week.

A few of my favorite stories:

Economies of Force – A post-GAI story where humanity made AI that *almost* captures our values, but not quite, and it results in the sort of utopia you might expect from that sort of failure. Shades of Amputation of Destiny and Bostrom’s Empty Disneyland. If anyone can figure out the significance of the name “Loom”, please let me know. It must have been chosen for a reason, but I’m not making the connection.

Sekhmet Hunts the Dying Gnosis: A Computation – A rather literal take on Meditations on Moloch, and/or An Alien God

Morrigan in the Sunglare – Like Bayesians vs Barbarians, told from the PoV of the Barbarians (sort of).

Kumara – a seriously beautiful post-singularity transhumanist story. Just… really beautiful. And murderous.

There’s more. His first novel will be coming out next year. If you haven’t heard of him yet, I’m willing to bet you’ll be hearing about him soon. I, for one, am gonna be reading whatever of his I can.

(Bloopers) Production Notes

Ugh, hear that echo in the first part? That’s what happens when you record in an empty, bare-walled room you just moved into, rather than in a closet. Ah well, it wasn’t a fiction episode so I’m not really concerned about the quality, as long as it’s listenable.

Anyway, during my recent move I discovered a number of old cassette tapes my parents bought me as a child. These are children’s stories in audio format, so sorta like the seeds of the HPMoR Podcast. :) I went and got a crappy old cassette player and ripped them to .mp3, and now I’ve put ‘em up on YouTube if y’all are interested. However I spent the first four years of my life in Germany, so they’re all in German. I tried listening to them again, and I realized just how little German has stayed with me over the past 30 years, I couldn’t understand a lot of it. They probably aren’t that interesting even if you do know German, but here’s a few things that jumped out at me when I listened to them:

Bibi Heals The Mayor – An entirely enjoyable story about secret witches hiding their powers from the muggles, that comes with the reassurance that if everything goes to shit, you can count on your mother to save you. Good children’s fare!

The Sheepish Lion – This was trying to be a good children’s story, and I remember loving it as a kid. But now that I look back on it, I think the main message it conveys is that if everyone torments and picks on you, what you really need to do is publicly murder one of your peers. Then you’ll finally get the respect you deserve. Not sure they thought this one through…

Lost in the Infinte – I… I don’t think this was intended for children. Maybe my parents should have screened my listening material? I’m glad they didn’t, because this was easily my favorite story, and I would listen to it over and over. But at 29:11 you can hear the mad scientist throw himself into the thresher maw of an alien war machine and scream as he’s torn apart. Fuckin’ awesome!! Yet I doubt my parents would have approved if they’d known. I actually didn’t remember this, or perhaps I didn’t quite understand what was happening, because it took me by surprise when I heard it last month. This was in my formative fiction? Damn!

(Essays 2) Production Notes

Every day I will repeat to myself: Any time you see a “ch” in a word you haven’t heard someone pronounce IRL, it is ALWAYS pronounced like a hard ‘k’. Grrrrr.

I wasn’t sure about doing Religion’s Claim To Be Non-Disprovable. Religion isn’t really a big deal in Rationalist circles, it’s basically a solved problem and no one much bothers with it anymore. Why resurrect it now? Well, I still love the Story Of The First Experiment In History. Massive fun! :) But more to the point, as Scott Alexander wrote, “I re-read the Sequences”, they tell me, “and everything in them seems so obvious. But I have this intense memory of considering them revelatory at the time.”  I also find this to be the case. And I have a memory of this post being awesome when I read it, so I will trust that this continues to be the case for first-time readers/listeners.

An Alien God is, of course, a foundational classic. Azathoth has become standard terminology, it’s been expanded on over the years, and the original post still sends shivers down my spine. I hope I did it justice.

A Brief Squee

10519668_10204212196615432_1080401869_nI just wanted to say that the Welcome to Night Vale live show was fantastic! It’s too late for those of us in the US, but the lucky listeners in Europe still have a chance to see it.

Great story, funny as hell, and touching on the nature of what it is to be a sapient being destined to die. So basically all the best things WTNV delivers so well. Getting to see the actors actually acting out their lines was great, and added quite a bit to it. There was good audience participation, as well a going meta, although I won’t give away any spoilers here. Seriously, one of the best things I’ve done all year.

Also, I went with the voices of Voldemort and Lily. Neither tried to kill each other, and they had a good time! If Welcome To Night Vale can bring those two together in a spirit of friendship, obviously there is nothing it can’t do.

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