Re: PHIL: Counter-Yudkowsky

Eliezer Yudkowsky (
Sat, 30 Nov 1996 17:49:47 -0600

> There could be things our minds aren't big
> enough to grasp, ideas we don't have the memory to hold the parts of;
> there could be Powers capable of thinking faster than we do; but those
> are the differences between a computer with 16 megs of RAM and 4K, or
> between a Pentium and a 8086. A qualitative difference would be that
> between any computer and a wristwatch. To believe that there is such a
> difference above us is purely a matter of belief. Act on it if you
> wish; I find myself believing that no Power could do something which a
> liberal-minded cosmopolitan could not understand, given time and data.
> My very vague thesis: All undamaged human beings, and other sentiences,
> share the same area of comprehensibility.

I have a totally irrefutable answer to that which this reply is
unfortunately too early to contain.

I can still try refutable answers, though.

Would a blind man - someone more than blind, with the visual cortex
removed, who loses all ability to visualize two-dimensional spaces or
even remember what it was like to see - be able to comprehend an Escher
painting? (The answer, incidentally, is "Yes, but only intellectually,
as a problem in constrain propagation.")

Perhaps in that "foil" sense, there will be some things the Powers can
offhandedly invent which it would take billions of lifetimes for a human
with unlimited memory to acheive a distant causal comprehension of, much
as a human might trace the action of the visual cortex neuron-by-neuron.

The totally incomprehensible things - it's too early.

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

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