Re: Iconoclasm

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Fri May 11 2001 - 22:28:52 MDT

Damien Broderick wrote:
> The drive to discover truth cannot possibly be innate and hardwired, since
> survival in a hypercomplex world is best attained by pragmatic adjustments,
> and hold the grand theory.

I don't understand what you mean by this. I would say that the drive to
believe true things is an emergent global property of individual cognitive
steps that are locally adaptive. If you see a yellow tiger, you will
thereafter believe that tigers are yellow, and not that they are blue. If
someone says that tigers are blue you'll say "What?" and walk away. This
is not necessarily the result of an explicit hardwired Quest for Truth -
although there may well be one. It is the result of the procedure we use
to determine, locally, which things we believe in.

> We know for certain that human minds are very
> bad at logic and reasoning (Johnson-Laird, Tversky and Kahneman, et al).

No; we know that human minds commit acts of reasoning that do not
correspond to formal logic. Our "failure" on the Wason test is simply a
specialized form of reasoning that is more useful in the real world.

> Cultural anti-relativists who argue the other guy is full of shit gets
> beaten savagely, shunned, left mateless and perhaps killed as a real pain
> in the ass and know-all-know-nothing.

No, anti-relativists who don't choose their fights carefully get beaten
savagely. Since the act of choosing *not* to say the truth is a local
benefit at a global expense, one should always strive to be just a little
less "pragmatic" than the people around you.

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

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