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Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on My Childhood Role Model - Less Wrong

29 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 May 2008 08:51AM

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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 May 2008 11:30:11PM 5 points [-]

@Anna Salamon: Fair point, these are conceptually different scales. I don't think the graphs on those two scales would diverge so much as the commenters seem to think, but you're right that it's less obvious for scale (2) than scale (1).

By choosing a sufficiently biased scale, like "Numbers of times this intelligence has invented General Relativity", you can obviously generate arbitrarily sharp gradients between Einstein and VI.

The question is whether a natural scale from any perspective besides the human one - like the scale a chimpanzee, or a General Systems Vehicle, might use - would favor Einstein over the VI so highly.

Also, I don't think we can hammer the graph too hard into the realm of measuring (what humans consider to be impressive) accomplishments, because then it no longer talks about the thing I'm trying to discuss, which is the generator that spins to produce accomplishments. I.e., if you throw Einstein-1 into a lunatic asylum while Einstein-2 is allowed to do physics and write letters, Einstein-2 will look much more "intelligent" on the graph of historical accomplishments that humans consider impressive, even though the two are clones and got the same education up to age 23 and had many of the same ideas.

An intuition pump I sometimes offer is that if a virus killed off sufficiently many high-IQ folks to shift the entire curve one standard deviation to the left, with a correspondingly shaped right-side tail, then the next generation would still have physicists. They might be people who, in the old world, would have been managers at McDonalds. But in the new world they would be directed into university jobs and educated accordingly, to fill the now-empty ecological niche. The competence gap wouldn't be like taking an adult McDonalds manager and trying to reeducate them as a physicist. The one who would have been a McDonalds manager, would now have been perceived and stereotyped as "bright" from a young age, and developed a self-image accordingly.

Einstein and the VI both live in societies that encourage economic specialization. Einstein finds himself studying physics, the VI ends up working as a janitor. If the average g-factor was sufficiently higher, Einstein might have been the "stupid kid" in class, developed a view of his own strengths and weaknesses accordingly, and ended up as a janitor - a much brighter janitor than our janitors, but he wouldn't think of himself as "bright" or of intelligence as one of his strengths. And the Village Idiot, born into the world of Idiocracy, might have been too relatively brainy to play well with the other kids, and ended up reading books during recess.

I usually tell this story with the moral of: "You are a Homo sapiens, not a lion: Your intelligence is the most important fact about you, and your greatest strength, regardless of whether other humans are smarter or dumber."

But the relevance to this debate should be obvious.