Re: Otter vs. Yudkowsky

From: Xiaoguang Li (
Date: Fri Mar 17 2000 - 08:12:33 MST

some observations about an interesting debate ...

        it seems that the crux of the problem here is not logic, but intuition
-- and ultimately, emotion. den otter and yudkowsky, both products ofevolution,
have imperfect knowledge; but both believe that they know something fundamental
about reality. indeed, as human beings, no one could do better.

        the debate revolves around the creation of a _power_ -- an entity that
has no further charactrization than near infinite power and incrutability. to
den otter, an inscrutable power, at the very best, is neutral to human beings.
that is, we can only regard its potential actions as random. from this
perspective, a _power_ is little different from an detonating fusion bomb. at
the worst, den otter fears that the continuance of existence is an universal
goal of all existent entities, and as such, may direct the _power_ to pursue
the extermination of human beings as an explicit subgoal.

        yudkowsky, on the other hand, contends that the potential actions of a
_power_, while uncertain, is not random even from the present human
perspective. his intuition is that something resembling morality is embeded in
the deep structure of reality; therefore, a sufficiently intelligent being
would have access to that knowledge and entertain a chance of preserving
humanity. every agrees that the reasoning of a _power_ would be
incomprehensible to any human being -- one would have no way of verifying its
motives -- only through a priori knowledge of the fabric of reality could one
retain some peace of mind in the presence of a _power_.

        it is clear that the logic of both sides are nearly flawless;
however, the premises are inductively derived and not subject to algorithmic
analysis. i'm fairly certain that the premises are self-evident to their
respective authors, but self-evidence is evolution's quick-fix to limited
knowledge; at some level, somethings just feel "right" to some and "wrong"
to others ... a fundamentally emotional evaluation ... subject to
individual experience, genetic makeup, and all the other evolutionary


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