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anonymous16 comments on Artificial Addition - Less Wrong

36 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 20 November 2007 07:58AM

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Comment author: anonymous16 21 November 2007 09:30:58PM -1 points [-]

"When the basic problem is your ignorance, clever strategies for bypassing your ignorance lead to shooting yourself in the foot."

I like this lesson. It rings true to me, but the problem of ego is not one to be overlooked. People like feeling smart and having the status of being a "learned" individual. It takes a lot of courage to profess ignorance in today's academic climate. We are taught that we have such sophisticated techniques to solve really hard problems. There are armies of scientists and engineers working to advance our society every minute. But who stops and asks "if these guys (and gals) are so smart, why is it that such fundamental ignorance still exists in so many fields"? Yes, there are our current theories, but how many of them are truly impressive? How many logically follow from the context vs. how many took a truly creative breakthrough? The myth of reductionism promises steady progress, but it is the individual who gets inspired. It boils down to humility. Man is too arrogant to admit that he is still clueless on many fundamental problems. How could that possibly be true if we are all so smart in our modern age? Who amongst you will admit when something that seems very sophisticated actually makes no sense? You'll probably just feel stupid for not understanding, but the problem is not necessarily with you. Dogma creeps into any organization of people, and science is no different. We assume our level of understanding in certain subjects applies equally to all. Until people have the courage to question very fundamental assumptions on how we approach new problems, we will not progress, or worse, we will find much work has been done on a faulty foundation. Figuring out the right question to ask is the most important hurdle of all. But who has time when we are judged not by the quality of our thought but by the quantity? Some very important minds only produced a handful of papers, but they were worth reading...