Re: Truth machines

Michael S. Lorrey (
Tue, 22 Dec 1998 09:55:53 -0500

"Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" wrote:

> Billy Brown wrote:
> >
> > Democracy, on the other hand, would not function even as well as it does
> > now. The truth machine would give us politicians who actually believe
> > whatever the majority opinion happens to be one the major issues of an
> > election, which is not a good thing when the majority is usually wrong.
> > Worse, it would remove one of the major barriers that prevents all those
> > stupid regulations from being enforced - imagine what agencies like the IRS,
> > the EPA and OSHA would do with it.
> The question is whether truth machines enhance the collective
> intelligence by eliminating liars and exploiters, or dehance by
> requiring rationalization and eliminating dissent. Perhaps the majority
> opinion will change for the better when their sole choice is between
> honest fundamentalists, honest liberals, honest conservatives, honest
> communists, and honest libertarians. It's the people selling dumb
> little compromises, and the people dishonestly pretending to go along
> with the majority opinion, who are the current problem.

No, the threat is in politicians who have dumb ideas, who totally beleive that they will work, and sell them to the public because the public thinks that since the politician actually beleives in it it must be ok. I don't give a damn whether the politician is sincere or not, I want policies that work.

> Perhaps true rational debate will become possible when everyone has to
> acknowledge the honesty and goodwill of all the others. The whole
> opinion space would be reshaped; it's not just a question of the current
> space being enforced. I think that on the whole it would wind up being
> an enhancement, but your position is certainly defensible.

Well, it will be a lot harder to just say that someone is a damn liar. You then have to call them an idiot or a moron to beleive the things they do, which seems to be less socially acceptable. Nobody likes a liar, but nobody can help being an idiot.

> If I turn out to be wrong, I'd have to drastically change my current
> strategy. Why? Similar questions apply to collaborative filtering -
> does it enhance intelligence by seeking out correct arguments and
> skeptical counterarguments, or does it dehance intelligence by telling
> everyone only what they want to believe?

Seeking out truthfulness is not the same as seeking out truth.

> Both, of course, but who wins? Regardless of the initial percentages,
> is there sufficient conflict for the advantages of the enhanced users to
> become apparent and the enhanced users to become the majority?
> Are there enough democracies for one of them to turn libertarian and
> incorruptible under the influence of truth machines (or collaborative
> filtering) and export leaders to all the others?
> My intuition perceives truth machines and collaborative filtering as
> fundamentally similar.

No, profoundly different. One tests for mere gullibility, while the second seeks out real truth.

> > In a world with truth machines, autocracy could easily be a more viable form
> > of government than democracy.
> You have a definite point, and perhaps it will depend strongly on
> initial conditions. A theocracy might have internal faction fights, but
> could easily fill the government and army with people who are not only
> "not planning revolution" but who fanatically believe in the current
> government. Regular interrogations could eliminate doubts (or in
> extreme cases doubters) and thus allow a wealthy theocracy, without the
> secularism that usually accompanies affluence.
> Basically the question is "Do you prefer Bill Clinton, a slimebucket
> who's too busy compromising to be a real communist, or do you prefer Al
> Gore, a reasonably intelligent person who's an environmentalist?" On
> the whole, I'd poison Clinton any day. Slimebuckets do more damage to a
> democracy than honest fanatics. I serve intelligence, and there is
> basically no circumstance under which I prefer stupidity to
> intelligence. Unless the other guy is, not just the loyal opposition,
> but actually sighting down a rifle at me.

Anyone who thinks Gore is not as slimy as Clinton is gullible enough to pass a truth machine. Considering the deal Gore 'the environmentalist' cut with the coal industry to kill the energy tax, I think he's just more beleivable than Clinton. Clinton drips ooze, while Gore seems too uptight and anal retentive to be a con artist.

Mike Lorrey