Re: Plea (was ExI: Cognitive Extropians)

Eliezer Yudkowsky (
Tue, 21 Jan 1997 13:39:47 -0600

[Saith Lee Daniel Crocker:]
> Call me a button-pusher if you will; I hold the title proudly. Consider
> me the QA department for the mind. There's a bug here: if you push this
> button, it malfunctions. Your response is "well, don't push that button".
> Mine is let's /remove/ the button. Let's fix the bug. Maybe I've spent
> too much time in software QA, but sometimes you have to deliberately
> push those buttons and look for failures to get things fixed.

I also like the idea of redesigning the human mind to never take offense
at anything. Now, I am NOT about to say: "But we have to live in this
world for now." What I AM going to say is that the human mind is also
designed to *give* offense, not just to take it. Deliberately giving
offense calls your motives into question; they will almost certainly be
partially emotional. Maybe "deliberately" isn't really the word I'd
like to use. Acting in such manner as to give offense? Being angry
enough not to pull your verbal punches? Starting to demonize your

"Demonizing" your opponent, assigning numerous evil habits to him - be
those evil habits drinking the blood of innocent children or supporting
classical AI - is almost certainly not an aid to rational thought, nor
to winning arguments, for the simple reason that your opponent is most
*innocent* and if the debate is being conducted on any sort of rational
grounds, you'll wind up with egg all over your face. But if you're
trying to raise a mob, demonization is indeed a successful strategy.
Therefore, being offensive in certain ways is indeed a sign of
irrationality and should not be blamed on those who take offense.

Then there's being angry enough to stop weasel-wording and say what you
REALLY think. I live for the day I can do this on a routine basis,
speak the complete truth reflexively and without anxiety intervening.
So I don't see any problem with stripping away, in the heat of the
moment, a few unnecessary qualifiers, some jargon, and the legalese.

And then there's demonization on the part of the audience, or people who
have been persecuted by certain ideas to the point where they develop
"trigger" phrases that cause them to stop listening or shoot the
speaker; if anybody tries to tell me that I'm "intellectualizing", my
innate reaction is to kill them, without anger, in self-defense...
because I have learned to associate this statement with a personal and
physical threat. Those who have learned to associate "evolutionism"
with a threat to their religious beliefs... or to put it another way,
everything they love... may react similarly if you mention "Darwin".
And this reaction, I think, is simply there and not inherently rational
or irrational; sometimes arguments *are* used as weapons and one may
need to respond in kind.

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.