Re: Great books for young people?

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Wed, 30 Dec 1998 22:28:43 -0600

"Damien R. Sullivan" wrote:
> On Dec 29, 6:45pm, "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" wrote:
> > _Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition_, the one that changed
> > my life at age 14 (?) was _Godel, Escher, Bach_, and the one that
> > changed my life at age 16 was _True Names and Other Dangers_.
> >
> > These books must be read in the correct order!
> Why? I read GEB in high school, True Names beginning college, and Mambo years
> later.
> Of course, I'm not the radical Singularitarian Eliezer is.

Well, there you go. You read them in the WRONG ORDER, and LOOK WHAT HAPPENED.

The way it's SUPPOSED to go is that you read _Mambo_ at a young age, and get enthusiastic before your mind is sophisticated enough to accept anything more complex (or revolt at the lack of complexity). THEN you read _GEB_, once you appreciate how important AI is, and your enthusiasm gets supplied with detailed knowledge and an adult appreciation of the beauty of mathematics. THEN, once you're comfortable with AI AND enthusiastic about hypertechnology, you read _True Names_ and turn into a FANATIC.

The way YOU did it, you probably read GEB looking at it as a thing of beauty alone, not humanity's future - and you would form a deep emotional picture of AI as something striving to approximate humanity, a Great Work for humans to accomplish, but not anything threatening human dominance. THEN you read _True Names_ before you had any appreciation of how fast technology can move or how powerful it can become, so you probably envisioned a slow AI seventy years away, just like in the book. THEN, by the time you read _Mambo_, it would look JUVENILE and UNCONVINCING and would not possess the FORCE to change your picture of AI.

Now your sense of wonder has been PERMANENTLY CRIPPLED, resulting in DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES, to wit, NOT BEING ON MY SIDE.

For those of you who are HUMOR IMPAIRED, that I am writing in CAPITAL LETTERS indicates that I am speaking TONGUE-IN-CHEEK.

--         Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.