[SEQ RERUN] We Don't Really Want Your Participation

post by MinibearRex · 2011-08-24T03:16:37.649Z · score: 6 (7 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 10 comments

Today's post, We Don't Really Want Your Participation was originally published on 10 September 2007. A summary (taken from the LW wiki):

 

Advocates for the Singularity sometimes call for outreach to artists or poets; we should move away from thinking of people as if their profession is the only thing they can contribute to humanity. Being human is what gives us a stake in the future, not being poets or mathematicians.


Discuss the post here (rather than in the comments to the original post).

This post is part of the Rerunning the Sequences series, where we'll be going through Eliezer Yudkowsky's old posts in order so that people who are interested can (re-)read and discuss them. The previous post was Radical Honesty, and you can use the sequence_reruns tag or rss feed to follow the rest of the series.

Sequence reruns are a community-driven effort. You can participate by re-reading the sequence post, discussing it here, posting the next day's sequence reruns post, or summarizing forthcoming articles on the wiki. Go here for more details, or to have meta discussions about the Rerunning the Sequences series.

10 comments

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comment by Bugmaster · 2011-08-24T04:15:58.804Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree that a poet or an artist probably wouldn't have much to contribute to the task of actually making the Singularity happen. However, they could contribute to the tasks of raising public awareness, building positive PR, generating discourse, and presenting the ideas involved to the general public. In fact, Charles Stross, Bruce Sterling, Cory Doctorow, and other writers, are doing just that, and they're good at it.

Actually, this reminds me of what Mariesa van Houten says in Michael Flynn's Firestar, when she's asked why she bothers focusing on fine arts education at all (paraphrased from memory): "The new generation will need scientists and builders. But it will also need a voice".

(of course, all of the above is contingent upon the Singularity actually being likely to happen, of which I am not personally convinced, but still).

comment by lessdazed · 2011-08-24T05:48:46.214Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

However...

How much are people calling for participation thinking that? To the extent some are, did they confabulate rationalizations for their politically motivated call for participation, did they think about how to achieve things and then conclude it useful to seek out and enlist poets and the like, or what?

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-08-24T18:03:23.607Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, I don't know what the SIAI people were thinking. It's possible, for example, that they were thinking "let's just get everyone we can, the more the merrier, filtering out specific professions is not worth the effort". But the original article implies that the Singularity movement does not need liberal arts participants at all; at least, not in their professional capacity:

I would call on you to participate as a human being, not an artist. If your artistry has something to say, it will express itself naturally in your responses, without you needing to make a conscious effort to say something artist-like.

I, on the other hand, believe that artists can contribute professionally, as per my post above. You seem to be more concerned with the question, "even if artists can contribute, should SIAI seek them out deliberately ?", but I don't have an opinion on that.

comment by JAlfredPrufrock · 2011-08-24T18:46:55.885Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But the original article implies that the Singularity movement does not need liberal arts participants at all; at least, not in their professional capacity:

That's not how I read it. Eliezer was pointing out that they were signaling - calling out for participation from poets and artists because saying that brings out the warm fuzzies. Later he implies that artistic and poetic responses are welcome and appreciated (and I agree that the SAIA can benefit from artistic and poetic responses) but resents that poets and artists are specifically called on to do so, apparently because he sees that as reducing their humanity to mere titles.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-08-24T20:52:35.060Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

but resents that poets and artists are specifically called on to do so, apparently because he sees that as reducing their humanity to mere titles.

I understood the rest of your comment, but I don't understand this part. I, for example, am a software engineer. If SIAI wanted me to write some sort of an AI-management console for them, I would gladly do it. I don't think this would "reduce my humanity to a mere title". Acknowledging that my particular skills are well-suited to writing AI consoles, and poorly suited to, say, writing poems, does not somehow objectify me. No one can be good at everything, after all (at least, not in our pre-Singularity world).

So... are artists somehow fundamentally different from software engineers in this respect ?

comment by JAlfredPrufrock · 2011-08-26T14:49:15.932Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree with you. I don't think calling on poets and artists to be poetic and artistic is a problem, I was just interpreting what I thought Eliezer was saying.

Personally, I think Eliezer was actually offended by the idea that non-poets and non-artists cannot be poetic and artistic, i.e. we need poets and artists because these Computer Science/Math people can't express themselves without equations.

But I'm making some big assumptions here, so I could have misread the whole thing.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-08-26T17:01:11.255Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

FWIW, I do believe that non-poets and non-artists can express themselves without equations. That seems kind of like a no-brainer, otherwise we wouldn't be able to communicate at all. Still, artists can probably express themselves better, on the average, than computer scientists and mathematicians. There's nothing wrong with that; we're good at one thing, they're good at another, it'd be a boring old world if everyone was the same.

That's just my personal opinion, though, I'm making no claim regarding whether Eliezer believes this or not.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-08-24T19:16:50.881Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You seem to be more concerned with the question...should

My comment didn't address what people should do or think or say or why they should do so at all. It was exclusively about why people said what they said and did what they did.

comment by Bugmaster · 2011-08-24T20:56:53.966Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ok, I think I see how I misinterpreted the original article. Eliezer (and you as well, I think) is not downgrading the contribution of artists; he's just pointing out the original speakers' hypocrisy. He claims that in reality, the speakers don't feel that the artists have anything to contribute; but they publicly claim otherwise in order to appear more sophisticated (or something).

This statement I can agree with. Hypocrisy is destructive and wrong.

comment by jhuffman · 2011-08-24T18:15:29.041Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree that a poet or an artist probably wouldn't have much to contribute to the task of actually making the Singularity happen.

I don't think Eliezer was saying that at all.