Re: Riddles (was: Lateral Thinking)

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Wed Jan 03 2001 - 09:33:15 MST

Damien Broderick wrote:
> At 01:21 AM 3/01/01 -0500, Eliezer asked me in particular:
> >Did you read Godel, Escher, Bach?
> Aw, let's see... Yep, I reviewed it very favorably in a national newspaper
> in August 1981, so it's just possible that I read it even before you did.
> (I reviewed `The Mind's I' in April 1983, ditto.)

Yes, that's what I figured.

> >You seem to be exhibiting waaay too much shock over a simple bit of fun...
> I thought we were having a reasoned discussion here.

Yes, we are. It's just that I get the impression, from the quotation you
posted, that you don't like self-reference. *Authorial reference* is part
of Old Author Syndrome, with the canonical example being Heinlein.
Authorial reference rots modern culture. Authorial reference is always
bad. It is bad even, in my opinion, when Hofstadter does it at the end of
GEB. Authors should stay out of the way of their work. The riddle I
constructed whose answer is "Eliezer" or "an AI researcher" is a bad
riddle even if it scans, and I constructed it only to make a point.

Self-reference - such as a riddle which refers to itself, or a Godel
statement, or an Epimenides paradox - is entirely innocuous and in no way
erosive of real-world grounding. Sure, it's possible to construct
self-referential paradoxes, and it's possible to analyze them, and you can
have fun doing it; it's part of the fresh, clear skies of science. There
is no connection to the murky waters of deconstructionism.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:56:16 MDT