RE: Books on rationality

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Thu Jun 06 2002 - 16:39:01 MDT

> Abduction is observing something which is true, then increasing
> the support
> of those hypotheses which are compatible with the observation.
> This form of
> cognition is similar to "rationalization"; and rationalization can
> manipulate slack in hypotheses to change their predictions post
> facto; which
> is why science requires prediction *before* the fact.

Science does not REQUIRE prediction before the fact, it only prefers it.

Well-known counterexamples are:

-- The theory of the evolution of species by natural selection
-- Cosmology: the theory of the origin of the universe

Neither of these, at this point, has made any verifiable predictions before
the fact ;>

> When you are using abduction properly you
> are simultaneously trying to assemble supporting evidence and negative
> evidence, unprejudiced. I do not think that trying to assemble only
> supporting evidence leads to any greater intelligence.

Well, we just have differing intuitions here. The idea of "brainstorming"
is basically to ignore negative evidence at the start of a discovery
process. The fact that this idea is widely-known indicates that I'm not the
only one in the world kooky enough to believe that sometimes ignoring
negative evidence in the early stages of discovery is a good idea ;>

One day we will be able to determine this empirically by running Novamente
(and other AI systems) with different inference control systems and seeing
how it works. (Of course, in the long run, NOvamente will adapt its
inference control system anyway.)

> If, historically, many scientists arrived at correct conclusions through
> rationalization, this does not show that rationalization is a
> good strategy
> for increasing individual intelligence.

You're right, it does not prove that. But I still believe the statement is
true, i.e. that rationalization is sometimes a good strategy for hypothesis

> I have found that, despite all common wisdom, the most critical part of
> being really creative lies in narrowing down inventiveness to
> correct ideas,
> not in "brainstorming". I don't need brainstorming. I'm inventive enough
> already. What's needed is inventiveness that hits correct
> targets and comes
> up with ideas that are *really* true and not just ideas that *sound* true.

The psychology of creativity shows that different people have different
creative processes, Eliezer.

I believe you about YOU, but not about everyone.

> I think that excellence in creativity is only achieved when you no longer
> need to make stuff up. I think that while you're in the "making stuff up"
> stage you occasionally hit the target, but you miss it just as often, and
> that's not good enough. When you're in the "making stuff up"
> stage you have
> your raw intuitions plus occasionally correct abductive
> hypotheses for those
> intuitions of yours that happen to be correct; "making stuff up"
> contributes
> occasionally correct rational support for those intuitions that
> happened to
> be correct to begin with, but it doesn't let you refine your intuitions so
> that they become more powerful.

Your report contradicts the reports of many great artists and scientists
regarding their creative process.

For instance, in my book From Complexity to Creativity, I discussed briefly
the creative process of Linus Pauling:

"Pauling won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his theory of the chemical
bond; he also did more than anyone else to found the science of molecular
biology, and made important contributions to other areas, such as mineral
chemistry and metal chemistry. He described one of his key creative
processes as the "stochastic method" -- the free-form combination of facts
into novel configurations, leading to original hypotheses. In applying his
stochastic method, he relied on his tremendous store of factual information
and his outstanding physical and chemical intuition. He also relied on the
altered state of consciousness experienced when falling asleep, a state of
consciousness in which ideas blend into each other more easily than usual,
and on the mysterious, long-term creative processes of the unconscious.

"In physical chemistry proper, Pauling's stochastic guesses displayed an
uncanny accuracy. The combinations of facts arrived at by his unconscious
were nearly always the same ones present in the physical world! In chemical
biology and medicine, his guesses were less accurate, though he still made a
number of important discoveries. His creative process apparently did not
change from one research area to the other, but the average quality of the
results did. It appears that Pauling's ability to see new connections was so
powerful, and at the same time so stochastic, that it needed a very solid
body of factual knowledge to tie it down. This body of knowledge was there
in physical chemistry, but less so in molecular biology, and far less so in
medicine. (I have given a more detailed discussion of Pauling's scientific
thought in the middle chapters of the biography Linus Pauling: A Life in
Science and Politics (Ted and Ben Goertzel, Basic Books, 1995))"

He felt like he was stochastically combining things, and liked to get into
an altered (hypnopompic) state of consciousness to do so. The results were
mighty good....

-- Ben

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