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Friendly-HI comments on Truly Part Of You - Less Wrong

59 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 21 November 2007 02:18AM

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Comment author: Friendly-HI 25 May 2011 05:26:15PM *  3 points [-]

I feel really stupid after reading this, so thanks a lot for shedding light onto the vast canvas of my ignorance.

I have almost no idea which of the spinning gears in my head I could regrow on my own. I'm close to being mathematically illiterate, due to bad teaching and a what appears to be a personal aversion or slight inability - so I may have come up with the bucket plus pebble method and perhaps with addition, substraction, division and possibly multiplication - but other than that I'd be lost. I'd probably never conceive of the idea of a tidy decimal system, or that it may be helpful to keep track of the number zero.

Non-mathematical concepts on the other hand may be easier to regrow in some instances. Atheism for example seems easy to regrow if you merely have decent people-intuition, a certain willingness to go against the grain (or at least think against the grain), plus a deeply rooted aversion against hypocricy. Once you notice how full of s*it people are (and notice that you yourself seem to share their tendencies) it's a fairly small leap of (non)faith, which would explain why so many people seem to arrive at atheism all due to their own observations and reasoning.

I think I could also regrow the concept of evolution if I spent enough time around different animals to notice their similarities and if I was familiar with animal breeding - but it may realistically take at least a decade of being genuinely puzzled about their origin and relation to one another (without giving in to the temptation of employing a curiosity stopper needless to say). Also, having a rough concept of how incredibly old the earth is and that even landscapes and mountains shift their shape over time would have helped immensely.

It feels so hard to understand why it took almost 10000 years for two human brains to make a spark and come up with the concept of evolution. How did smart and curious people who tended to animals for a living and who knew about the intricacies of artificial breeding not see the slightly unintuitive but nontheless simple implications of what they were doing there?

Was it seriously just the fault of the all-purpose curiosity stopper superstition, or was it some other deeply ingrained human bias? It's unbelievable how long no one realized what life actually is all about. And then all of a sudden two people caught the right spark at the same point in history independently of each other. So apparently biologists needed to be impacted by many vital ideas (geological time, economics) to come up with something, that a really sharp and observant person could have realistically figured out 10000 years earlier.

And who knows, maybe some people thought of it much earlier and left no trace due to illiteracy or fear of losing their social status or even their life. Come to think of it, most people in most places during most of the past would have gotten their brilliant head on a stick if they actually voiced the unthinkable truth and dared to deflate the everneedy morbidly obese ego of homo sapiens sapiens.

Comment author: matthew-m 07 October 2011 06:10:13PM 3 points [-]

It feels so hard to understand why it took almost 10000 years for two human brains to make a spark and come up with the concept of evolution. How did smart and curious people who tended to animals for a living and who knew about the intricacies of artificial breeding not see the slightly unintuitive but nontheless simple implications of what they were doing there?

Just because you aren't aware of it, doesn't mean it didn't happen : )