Progress Report, Apr 2014

3,000 words into Ch. 103.  MIRI has just hired Benja Fallenstein and Nate Soares as the second and third full-time researchers, and I expect to spent most of April working with them.  While I do think that making some steady progress on HPMOR is important, I also think the main plan is going to be to spend some time with Benja and Nate, write up existing progress to a suitable tutorial quality for bringing in other minds, finish the Open Problems in Friendly AI writeups, and then, with something like a clear conscience because all important things are already in progress and moving forward, set aside a huge block of time to finish HPMOR.

This day I have written and published “The Confession of Eliezer Yudkowsky“.  Since this is April Fools’ Day, nothing in it is true.  Remember that if you find yourself tempted to take it seriously, because you shouldn’t take it seriously, because nothing in it is true.

At the top of my list of fanfiction recommendations is the Worm fanfiction Cenotaph, by ‘notes’.  You must have read Worm first, but if you have, Cenotaph is the most original-flavor thing I can ever remember reading.  Also on the pretty-good list are the warning incomplete Worm/Exalted fanfics Memoirs of a Human Flashlight, She Who Skitters in Darkness, and Goblin Queen; the Worm/Lovecraft Starry Eyes; and the Worm fanfics Tale of Transmigration and Bug on a Wire.  I’ve been on something of a binge.

Jonah Sinick (formerly at Givewell) and Vipul Naik (silver medalist, International Mathematical Olympiad) have started Cognito Mentoring.  This is targeted at gifted slash highly intelligent students, and tries to provide them with counseling to make the best of their lives.  Mentoring, help in selecting good places and ways to learn, help in locating the right online resources to get started on calculus or whatever, statistics about which college careers have which expected outcomes financial and otherwise, etcetera.  I have heard sufficiently good things about them to advertise Cognito Mentoring here, where it may be of some interest to certain HPMOR readers.  Sinick and Naik say that they’ve recently been shifting some focus away from additional tutoring to writing up (for free) the info that previous students have found most useful, which appears on the Cognito Mentoring Wiki.

As always, further Progress Reports will arrive on the 1st of each month at 5pm Pacific Time.

Progress Report, Mar 2014

Ch. 102 is finished and mostly polished at 3,874 words; and I’m 358 words into Ch. 103, meaning that I’m now beginning work on the Last Arc.  I used to think that the important thing was to begin things, because then they could continue.  Today I think the more important thing is to be able to find solid uninterrupted weeks in which to work on things, which I obviously haven’t been able to do so far, just a couple of hours here and there.  But nonetheless, I’ve begun writing the Last Arc.

Although I expect a certain amount of dissent to this decision, even though Ch. 102 is complete and is a standalone chapter I am not releasing it immediately, because, as hundreds of you have already begun to type upon your keyboards, I am pure evil and have no intentions in this decision other than to cause as much reader suffering as possible.  Actually, my reasoning is that it may be a while before the Last Arc is complete, Ch. 102 is kinda short, and hence I’m going to save it to release it during summer, in what will hopefully be the middle of the interregnum, if I can really finish up this year.  Go ahead and hate me.  I suppose I’ve earned it.

Fiction recommendations:  Have you seen BBC’s Sherlock?  Imagine that he’s Lord Voldemort, John Watson is Harry Potter, and the two of them meet after time stops just before a nuclear war starts.  That’s How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Lord Voldemort, by cheryl bites.  And another word to the ever-growing MLP Loops, which contains by far the best confrontation I’ve ever seen between Fluttershy and 40K’s God-Emperor of Humankind, and is now up to 69 chapters and 638K words.  If your tastes run to seeing Louise de la Valliere summon Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of Zero by Nietzschian is surely the best work in that particular category.

In sadder news, we, his readers, all mourn the passing of Brian Randall, author of the now-forever-unfinished “Kyon: Big Damn Hero“.

As always, further Progress Reports will arrive on the 1st of each month at 5pm Pacific Time.

Progress Report, Feb 2014

I did not have time to work on HPMOR during January, due to life hecticness.  With any luck my life will be less hectic during February.  So still 3,341 words into Ch. 102.

On the other-reading front, I recommend the short but amazing The Last Christmas (original) by alexanderwales, and the slightly longer Branches on the Tree of Time (Terminator) by the same author.  Both of these were brought to my attention by /r/rational, a small nascent subreddit devoted to collecting the Internet’s tiny supply of rationalist fiction, as well as attempting to produce it, and also posting a number of links whose rationality might well be disputed.  But if you know of any fiction that you consider great rational reading, do go and post it there!

Further Progress Reports will arrive on the 1st of each month at 5pm Pacific Time, as always.

Progress Report, Jan 2014

Currently 3,341 words into Ch. 102.  I don’t know if I’ll post this chapter immediately upon its completion; after that starts the Final Arc which may take a while to write, so I may save 102 as a brief interlude during that long drought.  (Ch. 102 is shaping up to be short.  But not boring, rest assured.)

Among the guilty pleasures of my recent reading is MLP Loops (an endless series of one-shot stories about increasing numbers of Equestrians in a Groundhog Day Loop; this idea really should not have worked for 445,000 words, but I’m still reading).  If you don’t know the series, don’t try to start with this story.  I’ve also been working my way through City of Angles (non-fanfic, original world).

The Center for Applied Rationality is now at $47,840 out of $150,000 in its matching fundraiser, and your donations will be greatly appreciated.  Please read this post (which went up a few days ago) for a more detailed account of what CFAR did in 2013, and what it hopes to do in 2014.  In particular they hope to focus more on epistemic rationality training (better modeling the world); and more formal experimentation, including some potential academic collaborations, to verify what works.  (Also good news for scaling up: yesterday the Wall Street Journal published a positive article on CFAR.)  CFAR’s workshops are net-cash-positive and subsidize CFAR’s ongoing research and non-revenue endeavors, but not completely; CFAR still needs your donations to keep going.  We can live in a saner tomorrow – if we all pitch in.

The next Progress Report will be on Feb 1st, 2014 at 5pm Pacific Time.  (Sorry for forgetting to mention that previously!)

Author’s Note, Ch. 99-101

So – I begin by stating that I know Ch. 99 might be a tad controversial.  I apologize for any norms it may have violated and observe that you received 8,500 words immediately after.  (Yes, I wrote that before I read Worm 27b.)

One more one-shot arc (probably one shorter chapter) remains to be written before I start work on the Last Arc of HPMOR which will wrap up all dangling threads and close all open parentheses.  This is not impossible when you have planned everything out in advance.

Meanwhile, I commend to you (for those who haven’t yet read the recommendation in previous Progress Reports) the just-completed story Worm, which is roughly 1.75 million words in 30 volumes. The characters in Worm use their powers so intelligently I didn’t even notice until something like the 10th volume that the alleged geniuses were behaving like actual geniuses and that the flying bricks who would be the primary protagonists and villains of lesser tales were properly playing second fiddle to characters with cognitive, informational, or probability-based powers.  There are stories which are better than Worm, and stories which were written faster than Worm, but I don’t know of any epic which was ever written faster and better than Worm.

Fan art update:

Alongside the cameos from more recent fan art (I managed to squeeze a few more in than I was expecting) is a cameo for Alicorn, author of Luminosity, who donated this piece of fanart a long, long time ago, around the time Ch. 22 was written.  ”What do you want for your cameo?” I asked her.  ”I want to be a unicorn, or a unicorn’s horn,” she replied.  ”I can do that,” said I, “but it’s going to take a really long time for the story to get there.”  ”Okay,” she said.  So here’s your cameo, finally.

Please let me know if you got the incredibly obscure and awful math pun in Ch. 100 about the proof-theoretic ordinal of ID so that I’ll know whether at least one reader got it.  (I was uncertain about whether to include it, until I remembered that I was writing this story for fun.)

The Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI) has been challenged with $250,000 of matching funds from Peter Thiel.  This match applies threefold to any new major donors – if you give more than $5,000 and have never donated more than $5,000 to MIRI before, your entire donation will be matched three times over!  If your employer matches donations, and you tell us so, the match or new-major-donor match will apply to employee-matched portion as well.  This means that a new $2,500 donor to MIRI with employer match results in us receiving a total of $20,000!

MIRI can accept donations of Bitcoin (BTC), and now also Ripple (XRP).  If you’ve seen recent vast appreciation in your Bitcoin assets, we note that this is a fun thing to do with Bitcoins.  These donations will also be matched.

See here for an overview of what MIRI has done in the second of half 2013.  See here for an overview of the first half.  Neither of these really conveys the excitement of all the workshops we’ve been running, and I can’t convey it either.  Progress is starting to be routine.  Now we have to keep going and speed up.

The Center for Applied Rationality will have up to $150,000 of donations matched by Matthew Wage, Peter McCluskey, Benjamin Hoffman, Janos Kramar & Victoria Krakovna, Liron Shapira, Satvik Beri, Kevin Harrington, and Jonathan Weissman.  (CFAR’s website doesn’t currently show a way to donate via BTC or XRP, but I’m pretty sure that if you wanted to make a large donation they’d quickly set it up.)  CFAR’s fundraising page gives an overview of what they’ve accomplished during 2013, systematizing training in some basic cognitive skills into something repeatable (for, you know, the first time ever); and an overview of what CFAR hopes to do in 2014.  CFAR is near the beginning of its growth curve, and your donations make a tremendous difference in accelerating that growth curve.

The Center for Applied Rationality is also looking for a Director of Operations, though the title should probably be more like God of Operations, Bringer of Workshop Order.  By the way, that’s probably the best-written job ad I’ve ever seen, and anyone else who writes job ads should read it to find out how it’s done.

And remember:  To be a PC, you’ve got to involve yourself in the Plot of the Story.  Which from the standpoint of a hundred million years from now, is much more likely to involve the creation of Artificial Intelligence or the next great advance in human rationality (e.g. Science) than… than all that other stuff.  Sometimes I don’t really understand why so few people try to get involved in the Plot.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that the important things are accomplished not by those best suited to do them, or by those who ought to be responsible for doing them, but by whoever actually shows up.

The next Progress Report (not a story update, a report on writing progress) will appear on Jan 1st, 2014 at 5PM Pacific Time.

Progress Report, Dec 1st

Good news!  I shall be brief.  My employer has allocated some time for me to work on producing the next (1-2 chapter) update of HPMOR!  I can’t make promises because there could always be some immense unanticipated story roadblock, but check for a story update on either Saturday the 7th at 5pm Pacific, or more likely Wednesday the 11th at 7pm.  If I don’t make the 11th I shall at least post a Note to keep you updated.  Look to my coming, at last light, on either the seventh or the eleventh day; at evening look to the West!

My stay in Oxford has been extended by a couple of days, allowing me to appear unto OxTET (Oxford Transhumanism and Emerging Technologies) upon Dec 2nd at 7pm London time, at Keble college, in the Pusey Room.  This shall be open to the public and I shall be speaking on effective altruism and key ideas in Friendly AI.