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orthonormal comments on Words as Hidden Inferences - Less Wrong

40 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 03 February 2008 11:36PM

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Comment author: orthonormal 28 August 2011 03:33:16AM 14 points [-]

I was reading Nietzsche and found something striking. Compare this, from Eliezer:

But when a large yellow striped feline-shaped object leaps out at me from the shadows, I think, "Yikes! A tiger!" Not, "Hm... objects with the properties of largeness, yellowness, stripedness, and feline shape, have previously often possessed the properties 'hungry' and 'dangerous', and thus, although it is not logically necessary, it may be an empirically good guess that aaauuughhhh CRUNCH CRUNCH GULP."

and this, from Nietzsche:

Innumerable beings who made inferences in a way different from ours perished; for all that, their ways might have been truer, Those, for example, who did not know how to find often enough what is "equal" as regards both nourishment and hostile animals– those, in other words, who subsumed things too slowly and cautiously– were favored with a lesser probability of survival than those who guessed immediately upon encountering similar instances that they must be equal. [ . . . ] The course of logical ideas and inferences in our brain today corresponds to a process and a struggle among impulses that are, taken singly, very illogical and unjust. We generally experience only the result of this struggle because this primeval mechanism now runs its course so quickly and is so well concealed. (The Gay Science, Section 111)

Nietzsche doesn't have a modern grasp of how evolution works, but his intuitions on cognition were far sharper than any of his contemporaries. That's partially why I think he still has something to offer.