Re: Dynamic optimism
Mon, 18 Jan 1999 17:17:59 EST

In a message dated 99-01-18 15:22:59 EST, (Eliezer S. Yudkowsky) writes :

>"Living vigorously, effectively, and joyfully, requires dismissing

> gloom, defeatism, and negativism. We acknowledge problems, whether
> technical, social, psychological, or ecological, but we do not allow
> them to dominate our thinking and our direction."

> Okay, this is what I disagree with.

> 1) I think that negative mental states invoke a higher order of
> intelligence than positive mental states; consider the evolutionary context.

I have, and I don't see that at all. Besides that, the ExI statements doesn't exclude negative states, just defeatist ones. Fear, panic, concern, worry, etc., aren't on the list. Those mental states certainly have their place.

> 2) Problems *should* dominate our thinking. First, worry about
> survival/Singularity. Then, worry about creating the Culture.

Potential solutions should dominate our thinking, as well as potential opportunities.

> In other words, I specifically object to, or "screw", the idea that
> enthusiasm enhances intelligence;

My enthusiasm certainly enhances my intelligence. I'm amazingly more productive when enthused.

> and blathering about the rewards but
> refusing to acknowledge the dangers, and particularly the dangers of
> deliberate misuse.

Well, similar issues provided the context for a previous discussion on the term "dynamic optimism". Several people, including me, thought that the term implied the kind of brain-dead optimism you see in some pep talks and sales seminars. But none of us thought that's what ExI was suggesting; there's nothing in the ExI statement about "refusing to acknowledge dangers" or other various difficulties. Max has addressed those objections (nicely, IMO)
with the shift to "practical optimism". Ignoring realities, including dangers,
is anything but "practical" but the emphasis is on how to improve things.

> Someone has to keep track of the threats.