Re: How You *Say* You Tell the Truth (a reply to Robin's paper)

From: Jim Fehlinger (
Date: Thu May 03 2001 - 07:27:40 MDT

"Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" wrote:
> [S]aying "I am a genius" proves that you are either extremely smart or
> stupid, but the Bayesian priors indicate you are more likely to be stupid.
> This is an emergent social pressure in genuinely rational listeners which
> can force geniuses to either lie about their own self-evaluation or avoid
> discussing it, depending on their commitment to honesty.

Well, here's what Bertrand Russell had to say about that (from "Speaking Personally:
Bertrand Russell", a 1961 John Chandos interview originally released on a two-disc
LP set, Riverside 7014, 7015):

5. Background to National Greatness

RUSSELL: What sort of conditions cause a nation to produce great men?
Now, I've always maintained that Shakespeare would never have written his
stuff if it hadn't been for our defeating the Armada. I believe that the
sort of sense of successful energy that we got from that was essential to
the greatness of the Elizabethan age. That's very disputable; it's only
a hypothesis. I don't think it's very easy to say, but it seems to me,
looking over history, that countries which have been politically powerful
and then ceased to be, do lose culturally. People who might be culturally
great cease to have the self-confidence that is necessary. Because to do
anything great you have to have **enormous** self-confidence: 'Well, I'll
do this whatever people say...' because **everybody** will say you're

The man who thinks originally has at all times I think, in every
country and in all ages, been exposed to persecution. Buffon, who
contributed enormously to zoology and geology, was compelled by the
Sorbonne solemnly to withdraw the opinion that some of the mountains
that now exist did not exist when the world was older. And Vesalius,
who first dissected bodies for medical reasons, was sentenced to go
on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and lost his life through shipwreck
on the way home. And Galileo, we know, was condemned by the
Inquisition. And in general you may say that great innovators,
for the most part, have suffered... Einstein, of course, had to
leave Germany. And... it's the fate of them, but they think it

I think that liberty, in many of its forms, is almost bound to be
less than it was in the 19th century or in the later parts of the
18th. You cannot do your work as an individual, unless you
happen to be something like a poet or a... well, it's no good
being a composer, because then you'd have to get people to
perform your music. But a poet can be an individual still.
But most people can't.

I think the effect of the growth of authoritarianism will be
extremely unfortunate. I think that it'll spread to other countries;
I think America, in all that we don't like, is the pattern of the
future for us -- it's what we shall be. And I think that the
arts generally, and especially literature, will suffer very
much. But there will always be some rebels, some who manage to
produce immortal work before they're put to death. And that's
what we've got to hope for.


Russell also says (in _The Conquest of Happiness_ (1930), Chapter 9,
"Fear of Public Opinion":

"It is customary in these days of psychoanalysis to assume that, when
any young person is out of harmony with his environment, the cause
must lie in some psychological disorder. This is to my mind a complete
mistake. Suppose, for example, that a young person has parents who
believe the doctrine of evolution to be wicked. Nothing except
intelligence is required in such a case to cause him to be out of
sympathy with them. To be out of harmony with one's surroundings is of
course a misfortune, but it is not always a misfortune to be avoided
at all costs. Galileo and Kepler had "dangerous thoughts" (as they
are called in Japan), and so have the most intelligent men of our
own day. It is not desirable that the social sense should be so
strongly developed as to cause such men to fear the social hostility
which their opinions may provoke. What is desirable is to find ways
of making this hostility as slight and as ineffective as possible.

In the modern world the most important part of this problem arises
in youth. If a man is once launched upon the right career and in
the right surroundings, he can in most cases escape social persecution,
but while he is young and his merits are still untested, he is liable
to be at the mercy of ignorant people who consider themselves capable
of judging in matters about which they know nothing, and who are
outraged at the suggestion that so young a person may know better
than they do with all their experience of the world. Many people who
have ultimately escaped from the tyranny of ignorance have had so
hard a fight and so long a time of repression that in the end they
are embittered and their energy is impaired. There is a comfortable
doctrine that genius will always make its way, and on the strength
of this doctrine many people consider that the persecution of
youthful talent cannot do much harm. But there is no ground whatever
for accepting this doctrine. It is like the theory that murder
will out. Obviously all the murders we know of have been discovered,
but who knows how many there may be which have never been heard of?
In like manner all the men of genius that we have ever heard of
have triumphed over adverse circumstances, but that is no reason
to suppose that there were not innumerable others who succumbed
in youth. Moreover it is not a question only of genius, but also
of talent, which is just as necessary to the community. And it is
not only a question of emerging somehow, but also of emerging
unembittered and with unimpaired energy. For all these reasons
the way of youth should not be made too hard.

While it is desirable that the old should treat with respect the
wishes of the young, it is not desirable that the young should
treat with respect the wishes of the old. The reason is simple;
namely, that in either case it is the lives of the young that
are concerned, not the lives of the old. When the young attempt
to regulate the lives of the old as, for example, by objecting
to the remarriage of a widowed parent, they are quite as much in
the wrong as are the old who attempt to regulate the lives
of the young. Old and young alike, as soon as years of discretion
have been reached, have a right to their own choices and if
necessary to their own mistakes. Young people are ill-advised
if they yield to the pressure of the old in any vital matter.
Suppose, for example, that you are a young person who wishes to
go on the stage, and that your parents oppose the wish, either on
the ground that the stage is immoral or on the ground that it
is socially inferior. They may bring every kind of pressure to
bear; they may tell you that they will cast you off if you ignore
their commands, they may say that you will certainly repent
within a few years, they may mention whole strings of horrid
examples of young people who have been rash enough to do what
you contemplate doing and came to a bad end in consequence.
They may of course be right in thinking that the stage is not
the career for you, it may be that you have no talent for acting,
or that you have a bad voice. If this is the case, however, you
will soon discover it from theatrical people, and there will
still be plenty of time to adopt a different career. The
arguments of parents should not be a sufficient reasons for
relinquishing the attempt. If, in spite of all they say, you
carry out your intention, they will soon come round, much
sooner in fact than either you or they suppose. If on the
other hand you find professional opinion discouraging, that
is another matter, for professional opinion must always be
treated with respect by beginners."

> I <heart> the Bayesian Probability Theorem. More and more, I have come
> to realize that the Bayesian Probability Theorem exceeds even Google as
> the Source of All Truth.

And here I have been laboring for months under the misapprehension that Google's
PageRank system **is** some kind of Bayesian algorithm, but it turns
out that I was confusing Google with Autonomy -- the result of a decayed
memory of an article I had read in an issue of _Wired_ magazine from
Feb., 2000 (the issue with Kevin Warwick on the cover): .

;-> .

Jim F.

"Don't put your daughter on the stage,
Mrs. Worthington,
don't put your daughter on the stage.

The profession is overcrowded,
and the struggle's pretty tough,
and admitting the fact
she's burning to act,
that isn't quite enough.

She has nice hands,
to give the wretched girl her due,
but don't you think her bust is too
developed for her age?

I repeat, Mrs. Worthington,
sweet Mrs. Worthington,
don't put your daughter on the stage.

Regarding yours, Dear Mrs. Worthington,
of Wednesday the twenty-third:

Although your baby
may be
keen on a stage career,
how can I make it clear,
this is not a good idea?

For her to hope, dear Mrs. Worthington,
is on the face of it absurd!

Her personality
is not in reality
exciting enough
inviting enough
for this particular sphere.

Don't put your daughter on the stage,
Mrs. Worthington,
don't put your daughter on the stage.

She's a bit of an ugly duckling,
you must honestly confess,
and the width of her seat
would surely defeat
her chances of success.

It's a loud voice,
and though it's not exactly flat,
she'll need a little more than that
to earn a living wage.

On my knees, Mrs. Worthington,
please, Mrs. Worthington,
don't put your daughter on the stage.

Don't put your daughter on the stage,
Mrs. Worthington,
don't put your daughter on the stage.

Though they said at the school of acting
she was lovely as Peer Gynt,
I'm afraid on the whole
an ingenue role
would emphasize her squint.

She's a big girl,
and though her teeth are fairly good,
she's not the type I ever would
be eager to engage.

No more buts
Mrs. Worthinton,
Mrs. Worthington,
don't put your daughter on the stage!

-- Noel Coward

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