Re: Iconoclasm (was: Chunking intelligence functions)

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Thu May 10 2001 - 16:29:35 MDT

Ben Goertzel wrote:
> > I am the
> > Iconoclast of
> > > > the Better Way.
> > >
> > > Perhaps, Eliezer, you have not yet fully outgrown your
> > religious roots ;>
> >
> > What on Earth is that comment supposed to be about?
> About the implicit assumption that in the default case, there is *a* better
> way rather than being a multiplicity of ways each with their own advantages
> and disadvantages...
> One true God, one true keyboard layout... one true path to AI ... you've
> given up the God but not the "one true" ;p

Yes, that's quite right. I didn't leave Judaism because of a decision
that there was no one true religion; I left Judaism because it was WRONG.
It made assertions that are, unambiguously, factually untrue.

There are, of course, many cases where there is no one true way. I am
totally uninterested in having a preference in such cases, except where it
reflects a personal taste of some kind, in which case I am uninterested in
trying to persuade others of my personal taste. There's no point in
trying to communicate an opinion to others unless it's an objective fact,
or the unambiguous result of objective facts plus panhuman cognition or
audience-majority common assumptions.

In other words, there's a selection bias in my verbal outputs. I have no
interest in trying to convince you what kind of pizza to order. Dvorak,
however, is unambiguously better than Qwerty.

As for your assertion that my distaste for cultural relativism is
religiously derived, does that mean that science, which states that
Einstein's theory is THE law of gravitation and superior to any law of
gravitation that uses an inverse-cube law, is religiously derived?

Cultural relativism is not a means of finding truth; it is an excuse for
avoiding the social discomfort that sometimes accompanies the act of
expressing an uncomfortable truth or a truth which is not widely held.
Cultural relativism is a defection in the game known as Finding the
Truth. Things can get better only if people are willing to speak the
words "better" or "worse".

> The thing is that there is just not enough objective data to choose between
> two political parties as similar as the ones we have in the US. So the
> choice largely comes down to bias, or habit.

There are more than two parties. And if you don't have a strong reason,
or even a weak reason, to prefer one candidate over another, then you
shouldn't vote in that contest.

> > 2) Do you have the same religion you were brought up in? They can't all
> > be right, can they? Would that strategy really work if everyone used it?
> In a sense, religions can all be right. I'm not religious as you know. But
> the benefits conferred on people by believing in religion may be largely
> independent of the particular religion in question.

My personal philosophy is unambiguous on this topic; it says "You
shouldn't believe something because it benefits you; you should believe
things because they're true." When I come across a force that could mess
this up, such as an evolutionary selection pressure that translates into a
cognitive pressure on what people believe, I do my best to counteract the
cognitive pressure to maintain clarity of reflection.

> Nietzsche said "People believe what they need to believe in order to
> survive."

Screw him. Science isn't somebody's opinion.

> > it? Just once in your life? Doesn't continuing to use Qwerty indicate
> > that sheer mental inertia is just about the only driving factor in your
> > life?
> Frankly, no. Sheer mental inertia is not just about the only driving factor
> in my life.
> There are also the ever-present cravings for sex, food, and water.

Ben, take a stand on something. You'll feel better.

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

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