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Rationality Quotes 5

6 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 January 2008 06:00PM

If you're seeing this, it means that I've moved, but that my Internet access isn't set up yet.  I've set up quotes to be posted automatically for the next few days.  Don't be surprised if I don't respond to comments!

"Perfection is our goal. Excellence will be tolerated."
        -- J. Yahl

"Morality is objective within a given frame of reference."
        -- Gordon Worley

"If there were a verb meaning "to believe falsely," it would not have any significant first person, present indicative."
        -- Ludwig Wittgenstein

"It takes 50 years for your parents to mature enough that they see you as an independent person."
        -- Ralph Lewis

"Impatience is a flaw. There's always just enough time when you do something right, no more, no less. Your sword has no blade. It has only your intention. When that goes astray you have no weapon."
        -- C.J. Cherryh, The Paladin

"They're space cannibals. They only eat other space cannibals. Q.E.D."
        -- Nikolai Kingsley

"My father said whoever tells the longest story is always the liar. The truth isn't that complicated."
        -- Bill Joy, cofounder and Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems

"My experience tells me that in this complicated world the simplest explanation is usually dead wrong. But I've noticed that the simplest explanation usually sounds right and is far more convincing than any complicated explanation could hope to be."
        -- Scott Adams, cartoonist

"There are really good and thoroughly bad people on each side in all wars."
"Nothing is more truly horrifying than the limits of human behavior."

"Determined efforts are better than a miracle."
"Things only get weirder the longer they go on."
"People will love you for who you are ... as long as you're secretly a super-hero."
"Lack of communication leads to 90% of all problems. The other causes being 5% magic and 5% giant robots."
        -- Tonbo, Things I've Learned From Anime

"And I heard a voice saying "Give up! Give up!" And that really scared me 'cause it sounded like Ben Kenobi."
        -- Rebel Pilot's Lament

"If you're a literary critic, keep in mind that I hate you, too, and I said it first."
        -- Scott Adams

"In any war there are always more of the enemy than you think, and there are always allies you never knew you had."
        -- John M. Ford, Web of Angels

"He told her about the Afterglow: that brief, brilliant period after the Big Bang, when matter gathered briefly in clumps and burned by fusion light."
        -- Stephen Baxter, The Gravity Mine

Comments (15)

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Comment author: Ron_Hardin 23 January 2008 07:04:42PM 0 points [-]

Check out Stanley Cavell's _The Claim of Reason_ if you like Wittgenstein ; lots on intelligent and empathetic robots too, in looking at what forms skepticism takes in people.

It's likely to affect your understanding of what Wittgenstein was up to, as well.

Comment author: Matt3 23 January 2008 09:46:17PM 0 points [-]

I'd be concerned about that Scott Adams quote. If I remember correctly, he does not believe in evolution and I wouldn't be surprised if that was what he used for justification of his non-belief.

Comment author: michael_vassar3 24 January 2008 12:13:02AM 1 point [-]

A flaw in the author of a quote doesn't make the quote non-insightful, though I would expect that the simplest completely accurate explanation of a the universe is actually correct. Also, Adams is complicated. He likes to mess with people but definitely and explicitly doesn't believe in intelligent design. Mostly I think he's just a skeptical philosopher who uses Evolution as a target to get at people.

Comment author: Caledonian2 24 January 2008 12:41:44AM 1 point [-]

Rejecting a position because of its author is a form of unjustified bias.

C.S. Lewis was a complete fool, but he still said some relatively intelligent things. Even a blind squirrel will find a nut on occasion.

Comment author: Nominull3 24 January 2008 02:16:15AM 1 point [-]

Isn't a completely accurate explanation of the universe correct by definition?

Comment author: Scott_Aaronson 24 January 2008 04:32:19AM 2 points [-]

Are there any witticisms that don't count as 'rationality quotes'?

Comment author: Matt3 24 January 2008 10:32:02AM 0 points [-]

@Caledonian, @michael vassar

These aren't unattributed declarations, they're quotes. As such, I think that the author's beliefs and character are fair game. Mein Kampf undoubtedly contains some true statements, that doesn't mean one would want to quote Hitler on a blog dedicated to rationality. Additionally, if the quote is so pedestrian (as I believe Adams's is) that "a blind squirrel" could find it, I think that might justify a search for a more worthy mouthpiece.

Yes, this is something of an aesthetic argument, but I think it's still valid.

Comment author: Caledonian2 24 January 2008 02:21:13PM 3 points [-]

Mein Kampf undoubtedly contains some true statements, that doesn't mean one would want to quote Hitler on a blog dedicated to rationality.

On the contrary, being willing to ignore the consensus that Hitler must always be demonized in every possible way and display a reasonable thing that he said seems to me to be a profound statement on one's willingness to be rational and consider arguments on their merits instead of weighing them by their sources.

But that's just me.

Comment author: dextre 24 January 2008 03:48:00PM 1 point [-]

Nominull : there may exist more than one completely accurate description of the universe, i.e accounting for all known, or even possible observations that can be made about this universe. These descriptions may be mutually exclusive. Which is true then ? Which is most likely to be true ? Historically, compare epicycles to heliocentrism. Think about Kolmogorov complexity, and occam's razor.

Comment author: MaxNanasy 03 June 2012 09:47:39PM 1 point [-]

I was reading "accurate" as "describes what is true", not "describes what is observed".

Comment author: Akiyama2 24 January 2008 05:43:19PM 0 points [-]

Some of the more "philosophical" posts on Scott Adams's blog exist to elicit interesting feedback from his commenters, feedback such as: what's wrong with his ideas, what he ought to know about the topic but doesn't, original ways of looking at the problem, interesting related topics and so forth. And sometimes he is trying to make a point obliquely; by asking awkward questions or "taking ideas to their illogiocal conclusion" he is trying to point out non-obvious flaws in commonly held assumptions. To take him literally or to jump to conclusions about his actual beliefs based on these posts would be missing the point.

He's serious when he says he thinks evolution "looks like a blend of science and bullshit" (http://tinyurl.com/39kcsg). But I have recently come to the conclusion that anyone who is both intelligent and creative will believe at least one thing that I find either batty or offensive! It doesn't mean that one should ignore everything else they say; Isaac Newton believed a lot of weird things, but some of the stuff he wrote was quite insightful.

Oh, and as this is my first post, I'd also like to say that I am really enjoying reading the blog. I've been hooked on it since I first discovered it a couple of weeks ago!

If you want to bring your ideas to a wider audience, perhaps you should think about doing a TV show. Maybe you could pitch something to the "Equinox" people at Britain's Channel 4 - they seem to show more intellectual stuff than the BBC's "Horizon".

Comment author: gutzperson 25 January 2008 12:08:48PM -1 points [-]

"Perfection is our goal. Excellence will be tolerated." -- J. Yahl

This is a really stressful one. And an impossible goal. There are so many of these. Like being good (in a moral sense) Reminds me of Olympia, the perfect doll for a not so perfect creator. Didn't this fail? (The Sandman, ETA Hoffmann). Thinking about the story, she was a robot. Is perfection only possible for a robot?

Thinking about it, if failure is anticipated, when it is quite a good quote. (Making the impossible possible. )

Or: a mother wants a perfect child. And Yahi has internalised this. Maybe he has to become a robot.

Comment author: Ben_Jones 25 January 2008 01:35:47PM 1 point [-]

Gutz, I think the idea is that if you set your goal any lower than perfection, you are creating a glass ceiling for yourself. Yahl doesn't need or expect you to attain perfection, and you won't have failed if you don't. You just can't settle for anything less.

Especially important to bear in mind when building an AGI. Setting terminal goals lower than what might be possible is the ultimate millennium bug. Except this time planes might actually fall out of the sky.

Comment author: gutzperson 25 January 2008 02:07:40PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for this, Ben. Perfection has got a 'bad smell', somehow. Because it is associated with flawless and the ultimate possible (actually a glass ceiling). There is of course, always something more perfect than perfect, especially if one thinks about the rapid changes in technology and knowledge. I have obviously applied it to human nature and psychology. It seems perfectly okay within the context you describe. I am still thinking about as good as possible or as high standard as possible or challenging oneself or according to the latest knowledge or... Perfection is still a bit problematic for me. As is excellence. I live in the UK and excellence is prescribed by the government and applied to all sorts of PC papers.

Comment author: Rolf_Nelson2 27 January 2008 04:34:39PM 0 points [-]

The difficulty with analyzing the "insightfulness quotient" of comedians like Scott Adams or Jon Stewart is that there's no reliable way of differentiating "things he sincerely believes" versus "things he means seriously at some level, but are not literally true" versus "things that are meant to be just throwaway jokes". If you're sympathetic to Scott Adams, you're likely to interpret true statements or true predictions as "hits", but classify false predictions as "just jokes", and overestimate how insightful he is on average.

Which begs the question, why bother to seek insights from Scott Adams in the first place, if he deliberately mixes in false or misleading statements in with true statements. There are already enough "unwittingly false" statements in the media to keep us on our toes in the first place.