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Tim_Tyler comments on Recursive Self-Improvement - Less Wrong

14 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 December 2008 08:49PM

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Comment author: Tim_Tyler 03 December 2008 09:09:33AM 0 points [-]

Of course the brain has developed over the long course of evolution via sexual selection.

This is not obvious - and indeed for a long time it was not even a popular theory. Many people thought tool use - and its resulting survival characteristics was the important factor:

"Most traditional theories, including that of Charles Darwin, suggested some combination of tool use and hunting were the key selective pressures favoring big brains, but increasing evidence of hunting and tool use in other species such as chimpanzees indicates our ancestors were not unique in that regard," Flinn said. "The most exceptional of our mental gifts involves understanding what is going on in other people's minds by using skills such as empathy and self-awareness.

Still today, one viable theory is that the human brain developed as a result of nutritional constraints being lifted - as a result of a diet including meat and seafood providing omega-rich fatty acids in abundance (see "The Driving Force") - and that theory makes little reference to sexual selection.

You might as well argue that the "intelligence explosion" starts with the first prokaryote.

I refer to that as the "technology explosion" (though strictly that began much earlier). The term "intelligence" is usually associated with organisms which have brains - and I do indeed argue that the explosion began with the origin of brains.

You know, cave dwellers used tools to improve their tools. Is that when the "intelligence explosion" began with recursion?

In my view, the intelligence explosion is best though of as beginning with the origin of animal brains - since that is when we have evidence that brain size began increasing exponentially. So the answer to your question is "no": the intelligence explosion did not begin with cave dwellers. It is curious that you would ask such a wrong question if you had read my essay on the subject.

I am not the one using the "recursion" terminology, without saying clearly what is doing the recursing. My point is if what is doing the recursing is "intelligence" then this is not a new trick for evolution - far from it. Intelligence has been intimately involved in the origin of the next generation for millions of years. So it needs to be specified what type of recursion is going on - else the whole point falls flat.

What is going to be new in the future? It's not intelligence - but it is intelligent design. Previously we only really had intelligent selection. Intelligent mutations were there too in principle - but they had to be time-consumingly transferred into the germ-line via the Baldwin effect.