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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Old algorithms never die, they just code away

from Bryan Caplan:

...Robin Hanson sat me down and gave me the cryonics version of the Drake Equation. ...The Hanson Equation, similarly, multiplies a bunch of factors together in order to calculate how many expected years of life you will gain by signing a contract to freeze your head when you die.

During his presentation, I noticed that Robin spent almost all of his time on various scientific sub-disciplines and the trajectory of their progress. ... What disturbed me was when I realized how low he set his threshold for success. Robin didn't care about biological survival. He didn't need his brain implanted in a cloned body. He just wanted his neurons preserved well enough to "upload himself" into a computer.

To my mind, it was ridiculously easy to prove that "uploading yourself" isn't life extension. "An upload is merely a simulation. It wouldn't be you," I remarked. "It would if the simulation were accurate enough," he told me.

I thought I had him trapped. "Suppose we uploaded you while you were still alive. Are you saying that if someone blew your biological head off with a shotgun, you'd still be alive?!" Robin didn't even blink: "I'd say that I just got smaller."
Interesting. I happen to have designed a large number of the statistical algorithms used in my company's products. In a sense, that's an uploading of a good part of me (in multiple meanings of "good") into a computer.

So now, re-engineering projects are gradually replacing these algorithms with ones that are more appropriate for an era in which CPU is cheap.

No wonder it seems like a small death when an old algorithm is retired.