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General_Optimizer comments on Emotional Involvement - Less Wrong

12 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 06 January 2009 10:23PM

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Comment author: General_Optimizer 08 January 2009 12:46:23AM 1 point [-]

Theoretical thoughts and experimental deeds involving computation, physics, and electronics - The Stuff Dreams Undreamt Are Made Of. :)

I've never learned to think "That looks awfully hard... I don't think I can do it in a year, not even a decade, so I won't even give it a try." For many people hearing something is hard equals "Don't bother, it's been attempted by people far smarter than you with far more resources; it's impossible." They have resigned to the "fact" that it's not going to be solved during their lifetime. Not by them, not by anyone. That may mean that not that many people are even trying to solve the "hard" problems. (Will the AGI-during-our-lifetime-for-sure crowd please raise their hand?) I target such problems specifically "not because they're easy, but because they're hard". I don't care if they're called hard. I need to find out for myself why they're called hard. Maybe I don't find them so hard. At least not impossible-hard. Maybe I just find them fascinatingly challenging.

My brain just won't let go of problems it finds interesting and solvable, when it's offered no other reasons than "too hard to even try". I has to get seriously stuck for years to give up. But even then, if it finds no logical impossibilities, just lack of skills and knowledge, it will not let go entirely. It mutters under its breath "I'll be back."

It's like there's a meat hook stuck in it with a cord attached to the solution far above, and the only way to pry it off is to pull myself inch by inch to the solution, which hopefully does not lie beyond the end of my health span. I can never solve everything I'd like to, but if I do have the time to solve something, I want it Solved for good.

The trip may be a barren landscape of few sights and sounds, but it's better than the alternative of "normal life", whatever that means by your cultural standards, which I find simply garishly decorated emptiness. I don't particularly enjoy the trip, I enjoy the thought of the destination. It's the first and last thing on my mind every day. I savor each precious drop of knowledge that quenches my thirst in this endless desert of drudgery. Now I'm hanging by these multiple meat hooks and they won't let my feet touch the ground until I've climbed up and parachuted down - if I ever do choose to come down...

From the Manhattan Project, I learned that there's at least one valid, socially acceptable reason to grin, laugh, and cry uncontrollably, and that is scientific discovery. But sometimes, silence is all you can come up with when face to face with matters vastly bigger than you are.