Re: Si definition of Friendliess

From: Marc Forrester (
Date: Fri Mar 30 2001 - 05:39:54 MST

From: Jimmy Wales <>
> I would like to encourage everyone _other than Eliezer_ to avoid using his
> goofball manner of speaking. It makes this list look like a bunch of
> frankly, and there is absolutely no valid reason for it. (I've asked
> to explain it to me, and I think his explanation is not good enough.)

That isn't Eliezer's personal vocabulary, it's the collection of words he
finds useful from the vast glossary of goofball
Scientific/SF/Hacker/Transhuman culture. Grok. Nusuth. Amortal. Upload.
Meme. The reason for these words is that they represent shared concepts
that cannot be comfortably or reliably communicated by twisting the grammar
of everyman English. The only way to get rid of them is to invent better

Who looks like a kook is a question of who's doing the looking, anyway.
Engineers, deep-sea divers, politicians, combat veterans, usenet regulars,
aristocracy, hairdressers, your parents and their school friends, all groups
have their own private goofball extensions to the common language, and the
generally useful ones tend to filter up. (Eg: Fubar, 'Cool')

> Gender-neutral writing need not be tortured. And gender neutral
> writing about AIs is particularly easy, as compared to gender neutral
> writing about humans. The difficulty with humans is that they *do*
> have a gender, but we may not wish to specify which gender. That
> makes for a _slightly_ difficult situation, particularly for
> inexperienced or clumsy writers.

Human gender is a multidimensional spectrum of reality that fits only
clumsily into the dyadic Male/Female categories, and people have been
surgically mutilated at birth in attempts to deny this. Even with humans,
there is a need for a gender neutral pronoun, and it will only become
stronger as our options increase. 'Ve' works. Read a few Egan short story
collections, you soon get used to it.

> There is no such difficulty when writing about AIs. Because they are not
> biological humans, they _do not have a gender_. Therefore, we can use
> Eliezer claims that using "it" gets to be too difficult and confusing,
> but I strongly disagree.

'It' isn't just grammatically restrictive, it's the wrong word. 'It' means
something non-mind. A brick. A photon. A tree. Anything far enough down
the complexity scale that the idea of 'murder' does not apply. I would be
uncomfortable applying this word to any possibly conscious AI.

> If anyone can come up with an example of a thought that can't clearly be
> expressed using normal English words, but for which 've/ver' helps...
please do so.

Anything -can- be expressed using he, she, it and they, but it's an ugly
hack if you don't -mean- he, she, it or they. Any suggestion that people
use language more comfortable to them if and only if it is an absolute
gramattical necessity has the tone of special pleading.

> I'm happy to take this off-list if the powers that be feel it is
> My argument that it *is* appropriate is that we need to move as quickly as
> on this list to understand each other, and to make this list accessible to
> Having a special (and _pointless_, mind you) set of pronouns really
doesn't help.

Surely all newcomers to SL4 are at least occasional SF readers who have
managed to look at some of the CaTAI and Singularity papers without
dismissing Eliezer as a loony. To me, that suggests the ability to cope
with the occasional use of words like 'verself'.

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