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Marcello comments on Continuous Improvement - Less Wrong

16 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 11 January 2009 02:09AM

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Comment author: Marcello 12 January 2009 05:50:23AM 5 points [-]

ShardPhoenix says "I'd say that if they're willing to believe something just because it sounds nice rather than because it's true, they've already given up on rationality."

Humanity isn't neatly divided into people who have "given up on rationality" and tireless rationalists. There are just people who try to and succeed at being rational (ie. wining) to varying extents depending on a large complicated set of considerations including how the person is feeling and how smart they are. Even Newton was a religious fundamentalist and even one who is trying his mightiest to be rational can flinch away from a sufficiently unpleasant truth.

ShardPhoenix then says "Is the goal to be rational and spread the truth, or to recruit people to the cause with wildly speculative optimism?"

Because we aren't perfectly rational creatures, because we try harder to win when motivated, it makes perfect sense to pursue lines of speculation which can motivate us, so long as we keep careful track of which things we actually know and which things we don't so that it doesn't slash our tires. If you think that in his "wildly speculative optimism" Eliezer has, despite all the question marks in his recent writing, claimed to know something which he shouldn't, or to suspect something more strongly than he should, then by all means point it out. If he hasn't, then the phrase "wildly speculative optimism" might not be a terribly good description of the recent series of posts.