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Rationality Quotes 15

4 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 September 2008 06:53PM

"Who thinks they're not open-minded? Our hypothetical prim miss from the suburbs thinks she's open-minded. Hasn't she been taught to be? Ask anyone, and they'll say the same thing: they're pretty open-minded, though they draw the line at things that are really wrong."
        -- Paul Graham

"In the same way that we need statesmen to spare us the abjection of exercising power, we need scholars to spare us the abjection of learning."
        -- Jean Baudrillard

"Because giftedness is not to be talked about, no one tells high-IQ children explicitly, forcefully and repeatedly that their intellectual talent is a gift. That they are not superior human beings, but lucky ones. That the gift brings with it obligations to be worthy of it."
        -- Charles Murray

"The popular media can only handle ideas expressible in proto-language, not ideas requiring nested phrase-structure syntax for their exposition."
        -- Ben Goertzel

"The best part about math is that, if you have the right answer and someone disagrees with you, it really is because they're stupid."
        -- Quotes from Honors Linear Algebra

"Long-Term Capital Management had faith in diversification.  Its history serves as ample notification that eggs in different baskets can and do all break at the same time."
        -- Craig L. Howe

"Accountability is about one person taking responsibility. If two people are accountable for the same decision, no one is really accountable."
        -- Glyn Holton

Comments (26)

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Comment author: Anonymous43 06 September 2008 07:13:59PM 1 point [-]

The Murray quote reminds me of another...

"With great power comes great responsibility." -Spiderman

Comment author: Hopefully_Anonymous 06 September 2008 07:49:44PM 0 points [-]

It's ironic that Murray is largely a myth-promoter posing as a politically incorrect empiricist attacked my pc myth-promoters. This quote is a good illustration of that.

Comment author: denis_bider 06 September 2008 08:18:12PM 2 points [-]

I stumbled over the same quote. What "gift"? From whom? What "responsibility"? And just how is being "lucky" at odds with being "superior"?

To see the nonsense, let me paraphrase:

"Because giftedness is not to be talked about, no one tells human children explicitly, forcefully and repeatedly that their intellectual talent is a gift. That they are not superior animals, but lucky ones. That the gift brings with it obligations to other animals on Earth to be worthy of it."

The few people who honestly believe that are called a lunatic fringe. And yet, it is the same statement as Murray's, merely in a wider context.

Comment author: Nominull3 06 September 2008 08:24:08PM 1 point [-]

I think perhaps the better rationality quote from that honors linear algebra site you linked is "See if you can use this proof to show the square root of three is irrational. Then try the square root of four. If it works, you did something wrong."

Comment author: pdf23ds 06 September 2008 09:25:05PM 0 points [-]

Nominull, either that or you've discovered an inconsistency in whatever system you're using to construct the proof.

Comment author: Tom_McCabe2 06 September 2008 09:39:07PM 0 points [-]

"Ask anyone, and they'll say the same thing: they're pretty open-minded, though they draw the line at things that are really wrong."

I generally find myself arguing against open-mindedness; because "open-mindedness" is a social virtue, a lot of people apply it indiscriminately, and so they wind up wasting time on long-debunked ideas.

"In the same way that we need statesmen to spare us the abjection of exercising power, we need scholars to spare us the abjection of learning."

How many people *want* to exercise government-type power over large numbers of people? A lot of people are, apparently, happy to let someone else tell them what to do. Most of the rest aren't very ambitious.

"Because giftedness is not to be talked about, no one tells high-IQ children explicitly, forcefully and repeatedly that their intellectual talent is a gift. That they are not superior human beings, but lucky ones. That the gift brings with it obligations to be worthy of it."

(remembers childhood)

When adults did tell me this, I didn't believe them- after all, wasn't it blatantly obvious that there was a strong negative correlation between intelligence and quality of life?

"The best part about math is that, if you have the right answer and someone disagrees with you, it really is because they're stupid."

This is true, but only for arbitrarily low values of "stupid". There are plenty of theorems which are obvious for a superintelligence, but counterintuitive to humans.

"Long-Term Capital Management had faith in diversification. Its history serves as ample notification that eggs in different baskets can and do all break at the same time."

If I recall correctly, LTCM was so highly leveraged that most of their eggs didn't *have* to break- if just 10% or so did, they were hosed anyway.

Comment author: Tom_McCabe2 06 September 2008 09:42:49PM 0 points [-]

My apologies, but my browser screwed up my comment's formatting; could an admin please fix it, and then delete this? Thanks.

Comment author: Tiiba2 06 September 2008 10:13:36PM 0 points [-]

@denis bider: I call them "vegetarians" and "environmentalists". Maybe I'm confused.

Comment author: Maeve 06 September 2008 10:49:10PM 0 points [-]

Relating my last quote to human rationality and super super human AGI (and immortality); perhaps worth keeping in mind is that IF AGI is NOT to be equivalent to human intelligence (as Ben said; big IF here Ben),then what is AGI to be MODELLED on?(I‘ve been mulling over Searle‘s water argument the last few days, I know Searle is wrong. As of yet my reply is incoherent.). Is AGI to be equivalent to prescriptive conceptualisations of rationality? For sure none of the top scientists/philosophers have reached agreement on what human intelligence is. Following from the value judgment of what intelligence is, I want a reply to the question ,“What use are super rational agents in a virtual world if they do not interact with people in the real world?”, and even IF super rational agents interact with real people in the real world would real people be able to figure out that the virtual agents were simulated? Reminds me of when I read Bostrom’s argument in my second year of college, I was shaking afterwards. There is no resolution to the question as to whether or not we are living in a simulated environment, and this is a question not publicly addressed by the Singulrity Institute as of yet. Hiccup. I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

Comment author: Maeve2 06 September 2008 10:54:01PM 0 points [-]

Here's my last quote, "As research progresses, we find that humans are less rational than we thought and other species much more."

Comment author: metahacker2 07 September 2008 12:42:35AM 0 points [-]

""Because giftedness is not to be talked about, no one tells high-IQ children explicitly, forcefully and repeatedly that their intellectual talent is a gift. That they are not superior human beings, but lucky ones. That the gift brings with it obligations to be worthy of it."

Oh, no, not that old canard. Took me many years to get that off my psyche.

Translate to, say, physical beauty.

...that the gift brings with it *obligations* to be worthy of it.

Right. So every beautiful person should be forced, for the good of mankind, to share that beauty as much as possible, freely distributing naked pictures of themselves that all may bask in it.

Doesn't make sense. Neither does pressuring smart, sorry, 'gifted', people to 'share' their intelligence out of some sort of misguided sense of obligation.

Comment author: Tiiba2 07 September 2008 01:43:27AM 0 points [-]

@metahacker: I do think that's a great idea.

Comment author: Ian_C. 07 September 2008 03:15:59AM 0 points [-]

Having a high IQ doesn't make someone a "superior human being" in my opinion, it's what you do that counts. An man of average intelligence who starts a small business and employs some people is superior to a lazy genius.

Comment author: denis_bider2 07 September 2008 04:24:40AM 1 point [-]

Tiiba: I did a poll asking people if they would be in favor of banning the eating of meat. I also asked if they were themselves already vegetarians.

Surprisingly, most vegetarians did NOT vote in favor of banning meat.

Apparently, most people who are vegetarians don't necessarily believe that it's not okay to slaughter other animals for consumption.

Comment author: denis_bider2 07 September 2008 04:33:35AM 0 points [-]

Ian C.: Objective superiority is undefined unless you specify "Superiority in terms of what?"

In the example you made, it appears as though you are using "superior" to mean "the one I like more" or "the one I think is worthy of praise" or "the one whose behavior should be encouraged".

Objectively, the lazy genius is, by definition, "superior" in terms of intelligence.

Comment author: Tiiba2 07 September 2008 04:45:11AM 0 points [-]

@denis bider: I guess I'm in a minority.

Comment author: michael_vassar 07 September 2008 05:15:06AM 1 point [-]

Dennis Bider: A BASIC and ESSENTIAL though these days largely forgotten principle of liberal society is that it can be the case, and often is, that behavior X is NOT OK but that banning behavior X would also be NOT OK.

Comment author: Ian_C. 07 September 2008 09:54:02AM 0 points [-]

@denis bider: 'In the example you made, it appears as though you are using "superior" to mean "the one I like more" or "the one I think is worthy of praise" or "the one whose behavior should be encouraged".'

I was using it as in "an actual is better than a potential."

Comment author: Zubon 07 September 2008 02:38:10PM 0 points [-]

Apparently, most people who are vegetarians don't necessarily believe that it's not okay to slaughter other animals for consumption. They are open-minded.

Comment author: Andy_the_Programmer 07 September 2008 08:53:11PM 0 points [-]

Ian: I would say that his results are superior, but that he is not. Also, it is a mistake to pretend that the internal life doesn't exist.

Whenever people accuse me of not being open-minded, I freely admit that I wouldn't claim to be, because I've reached conclusions. Does being receptive to new evidence count?

Comment author: tim3 08 September 2008 03:36:22PM 0 points [-]

>"Because giftedness is not to be talked about, no one tells high-IQ children explicitly, forcefully and repeatedly that their intellectual talent is a gift. That they are not superior human beings, but lucky ones. That the gift brings with it obligations to be worthy of it."

Thankfully. High-IQ children know they are high-IQ; if they can't figure out how smart they are, they aren't very smart. They don't need to be told they're special, though. We need people who live intelligently rather than live for the purpose of being intelligent.

Telling an intelligent person they are obliged to use their intelligence in service to others is the quickest way of convincing him or her not to.

>Apparently, most people who are vegetarians don't necessarily believe that it's not okay to slaughter other animals for consumption.

That's quite true. Most vegetarians have adopted their eating habits out of health related, not ethical, reasons. Those with ethical concerns are "vegans", and their diets usually go beyond vegetarian restrictions. This, of course, is a gross generalization.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 08 September 2008 04:11:56PM 3 points [-]

Telling an intelligent person they are obliged to use their intelligence in service to others is the quickest way of convincing him or her not to.

That... may be a pretty good point. I was socialized in service to humankind by science-fiction books presenting heroic examples of good behavior. If my parents had actually gone around telling me that I was obligated to use my gift in service of others... I might well have turned out as quite a different person. Mainly, my parents tried hard not to make a big deal out of it - they never told me I was ordinary, but also never said I was special; only my maternal grandparents ever said that, and I didn't see them too often.

I bet that, of the people out there who really do try to use their power responsibly (and not just tell other people to do it), more of them were socialized by Spiderman comics than by their parents telling them what to do.

Consider my opinion changed.

High-IQ children know they are high-IQ; if they can't figure out how smart they are, they aren't very smart.

This part isn't true. I knew I was the smartest in my class, but I had no idea I was anything beyond that until standardized tests showed me a much higher percentile, and as late as age fourteen I was still answering "Are you a genius?" with "No." Answering "yes" would have been socially inconvenient, therefore my mind found ways to make the answer "no". As late as age fourteen I hadn't yet begun to systematize my rationality.

(Side note: Much later, someone asked me "Are you a genius?" and I shot back, "What percentile is required to be a genius?" After I explained "percentile", he said "One in three hundred", so I laughed briefly and said "Yes.")

Comment author: tim3 08 September 2008 07:44:19PM 0 points [-]

>This part isn't true.

Perhaps. My experience was similar to yours in many respects, but very early on it became clear to me that I was a member of a very small club. We were subject to standardized testing starting in, I believe, third grade, and were delivered results that compared us to hundreds of thousands of other kids across the country. It is hard not to feel "gifted" when you are given a very officious looking document with a government letterhead and the number "99" on it (the primary metric of academic achievement was a percentile score from 1-99) every three years. What further set me apart was the honour of being the only atheist and sceptic in a religious elementary and secondary school. Perhaps I presumed myself intelligent only by virtue of the bottomless lack of rationality I was surrounded by. Overcoming Bias would have been exceptionally welcome in those days.

Comment author: Dan_in_EuroLand 09 September 2008 04:29:58PM 1 point [-]

Murray is empirically wrong that the effects of telling intelligent children that they are intelligent are positive. See here.

Comment author: Caledonian2 09 September 2008 06:25:52PM 0 points [-]

Humans are vulnerable to a very peculiar psychological weakness: if you give a thing a label because of a contingent property it possesses, they will tend to associate the label with the thing instead of the property. Eventually, they end up attributing the label to the thing, and the property as inherent to it.

In other words, if you tell kids that they're smart because of their accomplishments, they'll adopt 'smartness' into their identity, and eventually will cease putting effort into accomplishing because they'll believe they don't need to.

Comment author: David_J._Balan 20 September 2008 05:22:32PM 0 points [-]

After I explained "percentile", he said "One in three hundred", so I laughed briefly and said "Yes."

The "Yes" part is fine. The "I laughed briefly" part would be better done away with.