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Tyrrell_McAllister2 comments on Cascades, Cycles, Insight... - Less Wrong

14 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 24 November 2008 09:33AM

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Comment author: Tyrrell_McAllister2 24 November 2008 06:17:09PM 0 points [-]

anon and Chris Hibbert, I definitely didn't mean to say that Robin is claiming to be working with as much certainty as Fermi could claim. I didn't mean to be making any claim about the strength or content of Robin's argument at all, other than that he's assigning low probability to something to which Eliezer assigns high probability.

Like I said, the analogy with the Fermi story isn't very good. My point was just that a critique of Fermi should have addressed his calculations, pointing out where exactly he went wrong (if such a point could be found). Eliezer, in contrast, isn't really grappling with Robin's theorizing in a direct way at all. I know that the analogy isn't great for many reasons. One is that Robin's argument is in a more informal language than mathematical physics. But still, I'd like to see Eliezer address it with more directness.

As it is, this exchange doesn't really read like a conversation. Or, it reads like Robin wants to engage in a conversation. Eliezer, on the other hand, seems to think that he has identified flaws in Robin's thinking, but the only way he can see to address them is by writing about how to think in general, or at least how to think about a very broad class of questions, of which this issue is only a very special case.

I gather that, in Eliezer's view, Robin's argument is so flawed that there's no way for Eliezer to address it on its own terms. Rather, he needs to build a solid foundation for reasoning about these things from the ground up. The Proper Way to answer this question will then be manifest, and Robin's arguments will fall by the wayside, clearly wrong simply by virtue of not being the Proper Way.

Eliezer may be right about that. Indeed, I think it's a real possibility. Maybe that's really the only way that these kinds of things can be settled. But it's not a conversation. And maybe that will be the lesson that comes out of this. Maybe conversation is overrated.

None of this is supposed to be a criticism of either Eliezer's or Robin's side of this specific issue. It's a criticism of how the conversation is being carried out. Or maybe just an expression of impatience.