Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

L._Zoel comments on Leave a Line of Retreat - Less Wrong

59 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 February 2008 11:57PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (72)

Sort By: Old

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: L._Zoel 26 February 2008 12:20:21AM 13 points [-]

How many rationalists would retain their belief in reason, if they could accurately visualize that hypothetical world in which there was no rationality and they themselves have become irrational?

Comment author: [deleted] 05 November 2012 09:34:28PM 0 points [-]

I don't know. But I would. Irrationality is caused by ignorance, so there will always be tangent worlds (while regarding this current one as prime) in which I give up. There will always be a world where anything that is physically possible occurs. (and probably many where even that requirement doesn't hold)

To put it another way, there has been a moment in time when I was not rational. Is that reason to give up rationality forever? Time could be just another dimension, it's manipulation as far out of our grasp as that of other possible worlds.

Comment author: faul_sname 12 November 2012 11:59:25PM 12 points [-]

if they could accurately visualize that hypothetical world in which there was no rationality and they themselves have become irrational?

I just attempted to visualize such a world, and my mind ran into a brick wall. I can easily imagine a world in which I am not perfectly rational (and in fact am barely rational at all), and that world looks a lot like this world. But I can't imagine a world in which rationality doesn't exist, except as a world in which no decision-making entities exist. Because in any world in which there exist better and worse options and an entity that can model those options and choose between them with better than random chance, there exists a certain amount of rationality.

Comment author: Benito 02 August 2013 08:42:39PM 2 points [-]

I suppose I'd just think about before I met LessWrong. I wouldn't choose that world.

Comment author: Voltairina 14 October 2014 02:13:04PM *  1 point [-]

Well, a world that lacked rationality might be one in which all the events were a sequence of non-sequiters. A car drives down the street. Then dissappears. We are in a movie theater with a tyrannosaurus. Now we are a snail on the moon. Then there's just this poster of rocks. Then I can't remember what sight was like, but there's jazz music. Now I fondly remember fighting in world war 2, while evading the Empire with Hans solo. Oh! I think I might be boiling water, but with a sense of smell somehow.... that's a poor job of describing it -- too much familiar stuff - but you get the idea. If there was no connection between one state of affairs and the next, talking about what strategy to take might be impossible, or a brief possibility that then dissappears when you forget what you are doing and you're back in the movie theater again with the tyrannosaurus. If 'you' is even a meaningful way to describe a brief moment of awareness bubbling into being in that universe. Then again, if at any moment 'you' happen to exist and 'you' happen to understand what rationality means- I guess now that I think about it, if there is any situation where you can understand what the word rationality means, its probably one in which it exists (howevery briefly) and is potentially helpful to you, even if there is little useful to do about whatever situation you are in, there might be some useful thing to do about the troubling thoughts in your mind.

Comment author: CCC 14 October 2014 02:34:32PM 2 points [-]

While that is a world without rationality, it seems a fairly extreme case.

Another example of a world without rationality is a world in which, the more you work towards achieving a goal, the longer it takes to reach that goal; so an elderly man might wander distractedly up Mount Everest to look for his false teeth with no trouble, but a team of experienced mountaineers won't be able to climb a small hill. Even if they try to follow the old man looking for his teeth, the universe notices their intent and conspires against them. And anyone who notices this tendency and tries to take advantage of it gets struck by lightning (even if they're in a submarine at the time) and killed instantly.

Comment author: Voltairina 15 October 2014 12:46:08AM 4 points [-]

That reminds me of Hofstadter's Law: "It will always take longer than you think it is going to take. Even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law."

Comment author: JustinMElms 22 July 2016 11:02:37PM 0 points [-]

I like both Volairina and your takes on the non-rational world. I was having a lot of trouble working something out.

That said, while Voltairina's world is a bit more horrifyingly extreme than yours, it seems to me more probably that cause and effect simply did not exist. I can envision a structure of elementary physics that simply change--functionally randomly--far more easily than that causality does exist, but operates in the inverse. I have more trouble envisioning the elementary physics that bring that into existence without a observational intellect directly upsetting motivated plans.

All that is to say, might not your case be the more extreme one?

Comment author: CCC 17 August 2016 03:02:59PM 1 point [-]

...it's possible. There are many differences between our proposed worlds, and it really depends on what you mean by "more extreme". Volairina's world is "more extreme" in the sense that there are no rules, no patterns to take advantage of. My world is "more extreme" in that the rules actively punish rationality.

My world requires that elementary physics somehow takes account of intent, and then actively subverts it. This means that it reacts in some way to something as nebulous as intent. This implies some level of understanding of the concept of intent. This, in turn, implies (as you state) an observational intellect - and worse, a directly malevolent one. Volairina's can exist without a directly malevolent intelligence directing things.

So it really comes down to what you mean by "extreme", I guess. Both proposed worlds are extreme cases, in their own way.

Comment author: JustinMElms 18 August 2016 04:30:17PM 0 points [-]

Fair point.

Comment author: Jotto999 27 November 2012 11:33:06AM 3 points [-]

I'm not sure what "no rationality" would mean. Evolutionarily relevant kinds of rationality can still be expected, like preference to sexually fertile mates, fearing spiders/snakes/heights, and if we're still talking about something at all similar to Homo Sapiens, language and cultural learning and such, which require some amounts of rationality to use.

I wonder if you might be imagining rationality in the form of essentialism, allowing you to universally turn the attribute off, but in reality there no such off switch that is compatible with having decision making agents.

Comment author: Yosarian2 21 January 2014 02:26:00AM 5 points [-]

That's not the idea that really scares Less Wrong people.

Here's a more disturbing one; try to picture a world where all the rational skills you're learning on Less Wrong are actually somehow flawed, and actually make it less likely that you'll discover the truth or made you correct less often, for whatever reason? What would that look like? Would you be able to tell the difference.

I must say, I have trouble picturing that, but I can't prove it's not true (we are basically tinkering with the way our mind works without a software manual, after all).

Comment author: accolade 30 September 2015 07:48:27PM 0 points [-]