Re: Ad hominem? I think not.

From: John Clark (
Date: Thu Nov 22 2001 - 00:25:05 MST

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky <> Wrote:

> Just because violence has occurred, and further violence may be necessary,
> is no reason to switch off the cerebral cortex.

That's true of course, nobody is saying we should ignore the cerebral cortex,
but on the other hand don't turn your nose up at the amygdala, a part of the
Limbic system of the brain that has to do with fear, there is wisdom there too.
For the last several hundred million years every one of your ancestors has successfully
used the fight or flight response to survive. In this case we have no place to flee to so we
must fight. This algorithm has one advantage even over the scientific method, it is one hell
of a lot faster. If a man with a bloody ax is coming at you a mediocre solution to the problem
right now is far better than a perfect solution next month. All the alternatives I've heard to the
present war are rather vague , all I know is that the recommendations seem to have something
to do with universal peace love and happiness that would take generations to implement even
if we knew how to engineer such a utopia. And we don't.

Forget the long term let me tell you of some of my immediate worries. I worry that smallpox
will break out in 8 or 9 places in America in the next 90 days. let me make it clear that I think
this probably will not happen, however I would rate my chances of dying from this disease as
greater than my chances of getting killed in a airliner but less than my chances of dying in
a car crash. I also worry about a nuclear explosion in the USA sometime in the next 2 years,
again it probably will not happen but the consequences if it did are so horrendous that it can
not be ignored. In retrospect it's clear that we should have started this war 5 or 6 years ago
and if we continue to let things fester we're dead. By the way, I don't worry much about
offending religious fanatics because we bomb murderers during some Mickey Mouse
holy month, I don't think they could hate us much more than they already do.

> I am horrified when I hear we need to "look strong"

Do you think peace will be advanced if the only remaining superpower looks weak?
Power vacuums don't last long, something will fill it, probably something very ugly.

>or that expressing dissent is a threat to your personal survival which therefore
>needs to be suppressed.

I hope you weren't referring to me. Everybody has a right to say silly things and I have
a right to call them an idiot for doing so.

> National honor isn't defended by getting a reputation for an itchy trigger finger;

I don't give a hoot in hell about national honor, but you could not be more correct,
a superpower with an itchy trigger finger would be a disaster, however a superpower
with a reputation for an itchy trigger finger is a wonderful thing for world peace.

>"Remove from power those governments aiding terrorists attempting to acquire
> weapons of mass destruction, even if it involves harming the captive civilian
> populations of those governments" sounds to me like a reasonable principle,
> even if it can't be applied consistently because some such governments are
> too big to be spanked by the present democratic community of nations. Even if
> applied inconsistently, this principle still reduces risk.

I tried but I can't find anything to disagree with. Very well said Eliezer!

> I would propose "When somebody is coming at you
> with a knife, shoot them, but at least *try* and get the formal consent of
> the Security Council or even the General Assembly first."

What's the point, if you don't get formal consent, and you probably will not, are you
going to just stand there and let them stab you ? We must act no matter what and
at least this way the UN didn't formally say we can't. Sometimes it's better to
apologize than to ask permission.

     John K Clark

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