nothing is mere

Author Archive: Rob Bensinger

Anglish, as it never was but totally should have been

Kate Donovan said of the above comic “This is the Robbiest xkcd I’ve seen.”, which is one of my favorite compliments of all time. I love discombobulating words; and recombobulating them; really, bobulating them in all sorts of ways. Though especially in ways that make new poetries possible, or lead to new insights about the …

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Union names: Objections and replies

Last month I proposed a new solution to the problem of choosing family names: When you’re starting a family, you and your partners construct and adopt an entirely new middle name, a ‘union name‘ symbolizing your shared life and shared values. If you have children, this union name then becomes their surname. Many people voiced …

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In defense of actually doing stuff

Most good people are kind in an ordinary way, when the intensity of human suffering in the world today calls for heroic kindness. I’ve seen ordinary kindness criticized as “pretending to try”. We go through the motions of humanism, but without significantly inconveniencing ourselves, without straying from our established habits, without violating societal expectations. It’s not that …

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Solve surnames with union names

Proposal: When you start a family, make up a new name, a union name. This name goes right before you and your partner’s/s’ different surnames, which are left unchanged. If you have children, this union name is then their surname. … And we’re done. That’s the entire idea. You can probably just stop reading now. …

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Listen and judge: An interview with Marwa Berro

I recently participated in a meeting of ex-Muslims in Washington, D.C., attended by Richard Dawkins, Ron Lindsay, and a number of other leaders of the secular movement. One of the most eloquent and passionate speakers there — rivaling Dawkins — was Marwa Berro, a writer, activist, and philosopher who blogs at Between A Veil And A Dark …

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The seed is not the superintelligence

This is the conclusion of a LessWrong post, following The AI Knows, But Doesn’t Care. If an artificial intelligence is smart enough to be dangerous to people, we’d intuitively expect it to be smart enough to know how to make itself safe for people. But that doesn’t mean all smart AIs are safe. To turn that capacity into …

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The AI knows, but doesn’t care

This is the first half of a LessWrong post. For background material, see A Non-Technical Introduction to AI Risk and Truly Part of You. I summon a superintelligence, calling out: ‘I wish for my values to be fulfilled!’ The results fall short of pleasant. Gnashing my teeth in a heap of ashes, I wail: Is …

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A non-technical introduction to AI risk

In the summer of 2008, experts attending the Global Catastrophic Risk Conference assigned a 5% probability to the human species’ going extinct due to “superintelligent AI” by the year 2100. New organizations, like the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk and the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, are springing up to face the challenge of …

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William Lane Craig on facts, tracts, and things abstract

I’m grateful to Alex Rosenberg and William Lane Craig for taking the time to respond to my post, “Fact-checking the Craig-Rosenberg debate“. I edited in a few of Rosenberg’s comments from correspondence, but Craig’s public reply, “Fact-checking the fact-checker“, is more in-depth, and deserves a response in its own right. I’ll single out two points …

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God is no libertarian

So the world was made by a perfectly benevolent, compassionate, loving God. Yet suffering exists. Why would a nice guy like God make a world filled with so much nastiness? All these wars, diseases, ichneumon wasps—what possible good purpose could they all serve? We want God to make our lives meaningful, purpose-driven. Yet we don’t …

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