Rationality Quotes 14

post by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2008-09-05T20:16:33.000Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 14 comments

"As for the little green men... they don't want us to know about them, so they refrain from making contact... then they do silly aerobatics displays within radar range of military bases... with their exterior lights on... if that's extraterrestrial intelligence, I'm not sure I want to know what extraterrestrial stupidity looks like."
        -- Russell Wallace

"Characterizing male status-seeking as egotistical is like characterizing bonobo promiscuity as unchaste."
        -- Liza May

"Introducing a technology is not a neutral act--it is profoundly revolutionary. If you present a new technology to the world you are effectively legislating a change in the way we all live. You are changing society, not some vague democratic process. The individuals who are driven to use that technology by the disparities of wealth and power it creates do not have a real choice in the matter. So the idea that we are giving people more freedom by developing technologies and then simply making them available is a dangerous illusion."
        -- Karl Schroeder

"Hans Riesel held a Mersenne record for 14 days in the 50's, calculated using the first Swedish computer. My old highschool computing teacher had worked as a student on the system and had managed to crush his foot when a byte fell out of its rack and onto him."
        -- Anders Sandberg

"Gentlemen, I do not mind being contradicted, and I am unperturbed when I am attacked, but I confess I have slight misgivings when I hear myself being explained."
        -- Lord Balfour, to the English Parliament

14 comments

Comments sorted by oldest first, as this post is from before comment nesting was available (around 2009-02-27).

comment by RichardKennaway · 2008-09-05T20:51:08.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Characterizing male status-seeking as egotistical is like characterizing bonobo promiscuity as unchaste."

Or characterising disagreement as disrespect.

comment by Caledonian2 · 2008-09-05T21:32:32.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The individuals who are driven to use that technology by the disparities of wealth and power it creates do not have a real choice in the matter.
Ah, this must be an extraordinary new meaning of the word 'choice' that I was previously unfamiliar with.

What, precisely, constitutes a 'real' choice?

comment by gwern · 2008-09-05T21:58:10.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Caledonian: I would suggest that a decent criterion would be whenever the outcome of not adopting the technology doesn't mean death.

comment by Tiiba2 · 2008-09-05T22:07:08.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

@Russell Wallace:

Arr... Erm... Anthropomorphism!

@Caledonian:

What happens if you try walking to work?

If the answer is NOT "my legs would fall off", you have choices. Otherwise, you can drive or you can drive.

comment by Z._M._Davis · 2008-09-06T00:48:34.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Characterizing male status-seeking as egotistical is like characterizing bonobo promiscuity as unchaste."

I don't get it. Bonobos are unchaste.

comment by mtraven · 2008-09-06T02:42:44.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I really liked the Schroeder quote, but I think it wrong to characterize it as "humor". It's rather terrifying actually.

comment by Nominull3 · 2008-09-06T04:00:17.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If we take the outside view, we can see that overall the introduction of technology has done humanity quite a lot of good; let's not make the mistake of being too cautious.

comment by sk · 2008-09-06T04:21:09.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What Nominull said. Let us also not forget that it's not just the wealthy and the powerful that choose to use new technology (availability is another issue that I'd think should be squarely in economics court. May be Prof. Robin Hanson already has some posts on that?). Often times, it's the people who are generally enterprising that adopt new technologies because they see efficiency gains in doing so.

I've been reading Elizer's posts for about 2 months now and I am completely hooked! I can't find enough time to catch up (although I work in IT and I do have free time ;-)

comment by Grant · 2008-09-06T08:41:07.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If one wants to walk to work, one can live close to one's workplace. I know quite a few people who walk or bike to work. Most people don't adopt new technology because they are coerced into doing so, they do it because it makes their lives better. In the zero-sum world of status-seeking, I could see how some people might feel coerced into adopting new technology, or loose their status. But feeling coerced and being coerced seem to be two very different things.

comment by Anonymous36 · 2008-09-06T15:14:18.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

On "real" choice: technology doesn't change your decision-making algorithm (yet), but it does change evaluated outcomes and, by consequence, your utility function is reshaped. You might choose the same, but you will choose differently (unless the change is small or you are stubborn enough). Free will explanation comes to mind.

comment by pdf23ds · 2008-09-06T16:49:08.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If we take the outside view, we can see that overall the introduction of technology has done humanity quite a lot of good; let's not make the mistake of being too cautious.

The quote does highlight the wrongness of one particular argument against the importance of studying Friendliness before making a working GAI.

comment by Tom_Breton_(Tehom) · 2008-09-06T18:59:35.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
"Gentlemen, I do not mind being contradicted, and I am unperturbed when I am attacked, but I confess I have slight misgivings when I hear myself being explained." -- Lord Balfour, to the English Parliament

C S Lewis termed this "Bulverism", this device of explaining why X is so {dumb, crazy, misinformed, w/e} as to claim Y, without lowering oneself to arguing against Y. Lewis however was not above committing Bulverism himself.

comment by Douglas_Knight3 · 2008-09-06T22:02:26.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tom Breton (Tehom), That is not how I interpreted it, though without context I cannot argue for either side. I thought him complaining that someone said "what Balfour really meant..."

comment by Stephen_Gash · 2008-09-07T23:44:51.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To Eliezer Yudkowsky

There is no English Parliament and there has not been an English Parliament since 1st May 1707.

England is the only country in Europe without its own parliament or even its own assembly.

That will change though.