Defining "rationality"

From: Chen Yixiong, Eric (
Date: Wed Oct 10 2001 - 00:34:55 MDT

A few postings ago, I just made a major mistake in defining what I meant by a rational society.

I thought I could postpone correcting it until I finish construction of another round of clarification, but the recent postings I received changed my mind and so I accelerate its development. Even though I placed a disclaimer, the mistake I made still seems inexcusable.

The dreaded message:
At the risk of oversimplification, rational classification means that one will give higher weight to maximise the common good, and seek to cooperate to achieve common goals while competiting to put out the best solutions to achieve the goals. It also means that one will not sacrifice self-interest so much that it will prevent one from fulfilling his or her purpose in life. Perhaps very importantly, a rational person has a purpose or purposes in life, and does not live simply for the sake of living.

Correcting this, a rational person, under my definition, has:
1) a mind receptive to new ideas in order to minimise regret caused by mistakes due to ignorance
- The concept of Intellicracy explains this in greater detail.

2) preferring a consistent (even if incomplete) system (of memes) over inconsistent systems
- This has common relationships with the scientific method

3) acting in accordance with his or her goals
- The very basic goal that a rational person has, I assume, would consist of exploration and seeking more knowledge as this reduces ignorance and thus regret. From this, other goals follow. A rational person will also have the constrain of maximizing the amount of flow state he or she attains, in accordance to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

- Without goals, a person has no purpose, and thus without purpose, a person does not have any criteria that we can establish rationality due to goal seeking, nor can we assume non-rationality. This reminds me of the story of Alice in Wonderland.

'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
'I don't much care where--' said Alice.
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
'--so long as I get somewhere,' Alice added as an explanation.
'Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, 'if you only walk long enough.'

1) The incorrect definition follows as the consequences that I think that would apply to a rational person living in a rational society, not as the definition themselves. In a "normal" society, the "normal" (as in self-oriented or selfish) behaviour will dominate the rational because doing otherwise will prevent them from accompolishing their goals (such as death due to insufficient life resources). Examples do exist despite of this limitation, such as freeware.

2) Binary logic does *not* apply for my definition that someone *not* rational must oppose rationality or has no capability for rational thought. This shows how much ambiguity our language has.

3) The definition has a highly idealized nature, and exists to simplify our thinking. It functions like an idealized blueprint from which we can construct our building. In practice, humans (and most likely other sentient beings) will fail to maintain such consistency, just as the actual building would definitely differ from the blueprint specifications (even if by a few millimeters). However, how we will handle the problem of this topic will appear in the implementation of Project Sociologistics, the New Colony Project.

What can we then call a rational society? In short, a society to allow people to express their rationality in as much of a non-interfering manner as possible instead of normal behaviour, without worrying about other issues not relevant to them.

Such a society should achieve nothing more and nothing less, meaning, this project does not intend to build a utopia, and neither does this intend to judge other societies or peoples's behavior. It merely takes for granted that some people want to self-actualise by exploring the universe (both the "outer" physical one and the "inner" mental one). To achieve self-actualization, one should have lower hierarchy needs taken care of, so the economical systems, as well as other systems, will function differently than the ones we know today.

We cannot meet the objectives of such a society without sufficiently advanced technology (such as full-scale automation, advanced information processing systems), for which we still had not achieved today. Hence, I do not intend this project for immediate implementation, but as a possible model for a future society not too far from now. It will not take too long (perhaps around 2030?), as the Extropians can attest to (refer to This also explains why such societies do not (as they cannot) exist in recorded history.

More details follow in other postings and the main text at


I also discovered that I had made secondary mistakes in labelling my concepts, such as calling conjectures theorems.

My dictionary defines a theory as:
1) An organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena
2) A concept that is not yet verified but that if true would explain certain facts or phenomena
3) A belief that can guide behavior

Hypothesis then means:
1) A hypothesis that has been formed by speculating or conjecturing (usually with little hard evidence)
2) A message expressing an opinion based on incomplete evidence
3) Reasoning that involves the formation of conclusions from incomplete evidence

I did make an earlier mistake of calling the unfinished paper of Project Sociologistics the Theory of Sociologistics instead of plainly a hypothesis, though it appears that this may fit a little under definition (2) and quite a bit under definition (3). However, currently it first the definitions of "hypothesis" better.

Fortunately, a few people had kindly informed me of both mistakes. However, I think I had also made more labeling mistakes and so if anyone noticed it, please feel free to correct me.

Hence, I would like to call the project "Project Sociologistics" instead, with the following goals:
1) formulating a theory under definition (3) that could show how to build such a society
2) conducting experiments to prove the viability of the theory under definition (2)
3) as much as possible, find evidence to prove the conjectures under definition (1) from real-world data (and from what I read of people *not* behaving in accordance to Game Theory's prediction, room for improvement most likely exists)

For those confused by my mistakes, I offer my apologies. Currently, I formulate my work without input or guidance from anyone, except for comments with limited usefulness I receive on the discussion groups (usually of a negative or highly skeptical nature). I would greatly appreciate some help or guidance.

I also carry on this work without a full, clear picture of the systems I propose, especially that no rational societies had existed in known history (due to technological constrains). I discover more of the system as I explore it a little bit day by day, and thus the picture I manage to reconstruct may seem very confusing initially.

Thank you for reading this posting.

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