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caspar42 comments on Multiverse-wide cooperation in a nutshell - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: JamesDrain 05 November 2017 04:10:30AM *  1 point [-]

I’m worried that people’s altruistic sentiments are ruining their intuition about the prisoner’s dilemma. If Bob were an altruist, then there would be no dilemma. He would just cooperate. But within the framework of the one-shot prisoner’s dilemma, defecting is a dominant strategy – no matter what Alice does, Bob is better off defecting.

I’m all for caring about other value systems, but if there’s no causal connection between our actions and aliens’, then it’s impossible to trade with them. I can pump someone’s intuition by saying, “Imagine a wizard produced a copy of yourself and had the two of you play the prisoner’s dilemma. Surely you would cooperate?” But that thought experiment is messed up because I care about copies of myself in a way that defies the set up of the prisoner’s dilemma.

One way to get cooperation in the one-shot prisoner’s dilemma is if Bob and Alice can inspect each other’s source code and prove that the other player will cooperate if and only if they do. But then Alice and Bob can communicate with each other! By having provably committed to this strategy, Alice and Bob can cause other player’s with the same strategy to cooperate.

Evidential decision theory also preys on our sentiments. I’d like to live in a cool multiverse where there are aliens outside my light cone who do what I want them to, but it’s not like my actions can cause that world to be the one I was born into.

I’m all for chasing after infinities and being nice to aliens, but acausal trade makes no sense. I’m willing to take many other infinite gambles, like theism or simulationism, before I’m willing to throw out causality.

Comment author: caspar42 07 November 2017 09:06:24PM *  4 points [-]

I agree that altruistic sentiments are a confounder in the prisoner's dilemma. Yudkowsky (who would cooperate against a copy) makes a similar point in The True Prisoner's Dilemma, and there are lots of psychology studies showing that humans cooperate with each other in the PD in cases where I think they (that is, each individually) shouldn't. (Cf. section 6.4 of the MSR paper.)

But I don't think that altruistic sentiments are the primary reason for why some philosophers and other sophisticated people tend to favor cooperation in the prisoner's dilemma against a copy. As you may know, Newcomb's problem is decision-theoretically similar to the PD against a copy. In contrast to the PD, however, it doesn't seem to evoke any altruistic sentiments. And yet, many people prefer EDT's recommendations in Newcomb's problem. Thus, the "altruism error theory" of cooperation in the PD is not particularly convincing.

I don't see much evidence in favor of the "wishful thinking" hypothesis. It, too, seems to fail in the non-multiverse problems like Newcomb's paradox. Also, it's easy to come up with lots of incorrect theories about how any particular view results from biased epistemics, so I have quite low credence in any such hypothesis that isn't backed up by any evidence.

before I’m willing to throw out causality

Of course, causal eliminativism (or skepticism) is one motivation to one-box in Newcomb's problem, but subscribing to eliminitavism is not necessary to do so.

For example, in Evidence, Decision and Causality Arif Ahmed argues that causality is irrelevant for decision making. (The book starts with: "Causality is a pointless superstition. These days it would take more than one book to persuade anyone of that. This book focuses on the ‘pointless’ bit, not the ‘superstition’ bit. I take for granted that there are causal relations and ask what doing so is good for. More narrowly still, I ask whether causal belief plays a special role in decision.") Alternatively, one could even endorse the use of causal relationships for informing one's decision but still endorse one-boxing. See, e.g., Yudkowsky, 2010; Fisher, n.d.; Spohn, 2012 or this talk by Ilya Shpitser.

Comment author: JamesDrain 12 November 2017 10:48:26PM *  1 point [-]

Newcomb's problem isn't a challenge to causal decision theory. I can solve Newcomb's problem by committing to one-boxing in any of a number of ways e.g. signing a contract or building a reputation as a one-boxer. After the boxes have already been placed in front of me, however, I can no longer influence their contents, so it would be good if I two-boxed if the rewards outweighed the penalty e.g. if it turned out the contract I signed was void, or if I don't care about my one-boxing reputation because I don't think I'm going to play this game again in the future.

The "wishful thinking" hypothesis might just apply to me then. I think it would be super cool if we could spontaneously cooperate with aliens in other universes.

Edit: Wow, ok I remember what I actually meant about wishful thinking. I meant that evidential decision theory literally prescribes wishful thinking. Also, if you made a copy of a purely selfish person and then told them of the fact, then I still think it would be rational to defect. Of course, if they could commit to cooperating before being copied, then that would be the right strategy.

Comment author: RobBensinger 13 November 2017 03:47:37AM *  1 point [-]

After the boxes have already been placed in front of me, however, I can no longer influence their contents, so it would be good if I two-boxed

You would get more utility if you were willing to one-box even when there's no external penalty or opportunity to bind yourself to the decision. Indeed, functional decision theory can be understood as a formalization of the intuition: "I would be better off if only I could behave in the way I would have precommitted to behave in every circumstance, without actually needing to anticipate each such circumstance in advance." Since the predictor in Newcomb's problem fills the boxes based on your actual action, regardless of the reasoning or contract-writing or other activities that motivate the action, this suffices to always get the higher payout (compared to causal or evidential decision theory).

There are also dilemmas where causal decision theory gets less utility even if it has the opportunity to precommit to the dilemma; e.g., retro blackmail.

For a fuller argument, see the paper "Functional Decision Theory" by Yudkowsky and Soares.

Comment author: JamesDrain 14 November 2017 12:10:45AM 0 points [-]

Ha, I think the problem is just that your formalization of Newcomb's problem is defined so that one-boxing is always the correct strategy, and I'm working with a different formulation. There are four forms of Newcomb's problem that jibe with my intuition, and they're all different from the formalization you're working with.

  1. Your source code is readable. Then the best strategy is whatever the best strategy is when you get to publicly commit e.g. you should tear off the wheel when playing chicken if you have the opportunity to do so before your opponent.
  2. Your source code is readable and so is your opponent's. Then you get mathy things like mutual simulation and lob's theorem.
  3. We're in the real world, so the only information the other player has to guess your strategy is information like your past behavior and reputation. (This is by far the most realistic situation in my opinion.)
  4. You're playing against someone who's an expert in reading body language, say. Then it might be impossible to fool them unless you can fool yourself into thinking you'll one-box. But of course, after the boxes are actually in front of you, it would be great for you if you had a change of heart.

Your version is something like 5. Your opponent can simulate you with 100% accuracy, including unforeseen events like something unexpected causing you to have a change of mind.

If we're creating AIs that others can simulate, then I guess we might as well make them immune to retro blackmail. I still don't see the implications for humans, who cannot be simulated with 100% fidelity and already have ample intuition about their reputations and know lots of ways to solve coordination problems.