Re: [Fwd: QOTD: Moderately Gifted.]

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Tue Apr 10 2001 - 10:36:03 MDT

Anders Sandberg wrote:
> Eugene Leitl quoted someone who quoted Kurt Vonnegut:
> >
> > "... simply moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing
> > press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately
> > gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years
> > ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern
> > communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but
> > world's champions.
> I don't think this is true in all areas. Sure, why listen to your local good
> singer when you can get the song from the brilliant singer on radio? But for
> example in science all the Salieris are doing the necessary and important
> grunt work of filling out the system; the scientific Mozarts may break new
> ground, but they are too few and unreliable to make anything truly solid.

Well, I'm glad that someone understands the difference between the shock
troops that take the beach and the stolid regular army that follows in,
mops up resistance, builds fortifications, and holds the beach. I can't
help but think that you're underestimating the importance of the shock
troops, though. Sure, it could be that, without Einstein, General
Relativity would have been invented anyway, just five years or twenty
years later. But you'll never know because there *are* Mozarts in this
world, people who are more than moderately gifted, and these are the
people who wind up actually taking the beaches most of the time. Just as
you'll never know whether the scientific Mozarts are perfectly capable of
filling in all the blank spaces left behind, because there's always
another beach, and so few Mozarts to take it...

And sometimes, twenty years or even five years makes a BIG difference.

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

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