0:58 – Discussion of unschooling. Two of the attendees were unschooled, and their opinions pretty much paralleled where the discussion went here – kids who are smart enough will learn stuff whether or not anyone is sending them to school; kids who aren’t may or may not, but they seem able to pick up what they need when they need it and no one ends up unable to read or anything like that (though some people take a very long time). The key phrase seems to be “steeper learning curve” – unschooled kids might wait until age 12 to pick up something schooled kids learn at 8, but when they want to they pick it up quickly and effectively. Some people never learn algebra, but then again if you asked me to do complicated things with polynomials I could only give you about 50-50 odds.
1:50 – Debate on cardinal vs. ordinal utility. Sure, ordinal utility is much more responsible and satisfies obscure technical criteria like “isn’t totally made up”. But on the other hand, not only would I prefer curing cancer and winning a Nobel Prize for it to getting one potato chip, but I would prefer it a lot. In fact, I would venture to say that in some important sense, the cancer cure + Nobel would be more than twice as good as the potato chip. Any theory of utility that doesn’t allow me to say this, which just says “Well, the cure + Nobel is better, but it’s meaningless to ask if it’s a lot better or only slightly better” doesn’t even come close to reflecting real human experience and is woefully inadequate.
1:59 – Mild concern over what if someone had a preference for having a round number of utils. Would such a preference be self-consistent? Would the universe stop?
2:41 – Discussion on how much should we respect the preferences of the dead. Aaron, channeling Robin Hanson, points out that exponential discounting means we consider preferences of people in the future much less important than those of people today – otherwise we would invest all our money to donate the interest to future folk. But this implies that people in the past had more important preferences. If a Neanderthal had preferences that everyone should make sacrifices to the fire god, should we sacrifice to the fire god more?
2:58 – Confusion over whether the wrong time preferences result in everyone eating grapefruit all the time. It was brought up that someone with infinite discounting ie total inability to identify with their future self would blow all their savings on drugs and prostitutes and grapefruit. We all figured grapefruit was some kind of metaphorical symbol of hedonism, and we discussed this for a while until finally I asked “Wait, why grapefruit?” and we realized that all of us had just kind of assumed the others were talking about it for some good reason. Turned out the first person had said “drugs, prostitutes and great food”, we had universally heard “grapefruit”, and just kind of taken it from there.
3:30 – Mild crisis. If we can’t decide on a topic, so we put it to a vote, but we can’t determine what voting system to use, so we put it to a vote, but we can’t determine what voting system to use, and so on, is there any way to end the infinite regress? There was a serious proposal to use Archipelago-logic and break up into subgroups with their own voting system, but the problem was eventually solved by me declaring myself dictator and going from there. I feel like this is a metaphor for something.