Re: Extropian Form Letter (was: an exhortation to action)

Eliezer Yudkowsky (
Mon, 02 Dec 1996 01:37:28 -0600

"Why we get sick: The new science of Darwinian medicine."
Randolph Nesse, M.D. and George Williams, Ph.D.

Answers most of your questions.

> Suppose Keyes had allowed Charlie to find a permanent fix to his
> deterioration. After all, medicos have come up with fairly good kludges for
> tissue rejection. The story would then not have been a tragedy, and it
> would not have made us cry, and while that would have been a Good Thing on
> an extropian analysis (I take it) it wouldn't have made the story famous
> either.

Maybe I'll email Keyes and ask him whether Algernon's Law ever occurred
to him. In any case, Charlie might have been shown as deducing his doom
from first principles before Algernon went bad. This might allow a
thrill of hope followed by crushing despair, and would have enhanced the
reader's perception of Charlie as a genius. Knowing Algernon's Law
implies not a fix, as I know to my sorrow.

> How do we know that (to take an extreme case) a point mutation doubling the
> number of neurons in the cortex might not massively benefit its bearer?
> Because it hasn't happened, or if it has happened has proved a hindrance?
> That's what Lucy would have predicted, the pea-brain. I wonder if the
> bottleneck (sic), as is generally supposed, has until now been the
> limitation on pelvic size in mothers <snip>

Didn't I say exactly that in "Algernon's Law"? I think it was in the

Algernon's Law, like most of the Universe, is not absolute. There will
be minor counterexamples. My main point was that you couldn't expect to
stick an electrode into the brain and get a Power, and you had to work
out the disadvantages in cognitive terms.

Remember: "A *practical* guide ... using *modern* technology."
Not "A flawless theoretical discussion covering all possibilities."

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I know.