Re: The Tao of the Sysop Scenario

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Sun Apr 29 2001 - 20:42:36 MDT

Brian Phillips wrote:
> Nice try Eliezer...but there is a ..ahem..rather large hole there.
> The Dao does not ask permission. It does not require it. It just *is*.
> The Sysop is not the Dao, but it's primary fundamental trait lacking
> for this qualification is not permissiveness or passivity, but it's
> origination. The Sysop is an artifact. Dao is (non)design.
> But it was a nice try. Pop-culture "Taoism" is not likely to pass unnoticed
> in a forum of this caliber. You have people hanging out who know
> as much about it as you do about your interests. :)
> But I doubt any of the people involved with Friendly AI know that much about
> Eastern thought, to judge from your posts. No offense.

Well, I do know a *bit* more about Eastern philosophy than shows up in my
post - I understand exactly the point you're making - but I guess I'm
basically guilty as charged when it comes to not knowing the details. Why
would I?

But just for the record, I deleted from the eventual post a sentence
saying "The Sysop has an identity, and the Tao is nameless; the Sysop has
an origin; it is a thing." And I could easily go on for days. They are,
ultimately, two unrelated concepts. The point I'm making is that, rather
than the Sysop not being God, the Sysop is not the Tao. If you see what I

Remember also that there are two kinds of pop Taoism. There's the pop
Taoism of the New Agers and the pop Taoism of Smullyan or the pop Zen
picked up by anyone who reads "Godel, Escher, Bach". My guess is that I'd
prefer the scientific community's pop version of Eastern philosophy to the
real thing, even if I was fully acquainted with both (while utterly
rejecting the New Age pop version, of course). After all, as far as I'm
concerned it's just a few interesting ideas about how to order one's own
mind, not any form of received truth, and thus the scientists' pop Taoism
is likely to actually be more useful than the original. "Pop" Taoism is
probably the wrong word, in fact; I would call it "filtered" Taoism.

> As a product of the agnostic/aethist/secular
> humanist/transhumanist philosophy spectrum FAI is bound to be perceived
> in religous terms by the Masses, and in that are the Whore of
> Babylon, and the FAI/Sysop is either the Antichrist or the False Prophet.
> That's the obvious perception most will make. ::shrugs:::

My religious family and friends, back when I was living anywhere near
them, made analogies between the Messianic era and the Singularity. But
of course people want to bring an end to suffering. Back when this was
technologically impossible, people satisfied their desire by prophesizing
an eventual better world. Now that it's become technologically possible,
people like me want to go out and build it directly. Common third cause
and association, not direct causation either way. I just want to note
that - in a sense, unsurprisingly - religious people who don't like
technology analogize between technology and the Devil, while religious
people who do like technology analogize between technology and Heaven. In
both cases the analogies are patently flawed, but I honestly don't see
that the first analogy as stronger than the second.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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