Re: How hard a Singularity?

From: James Higgins (
Date: Tue Jun 25 2002 - 17:26:07 MDT

At 06:25 PM 6/25/2002 -0400, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
>Suppose I did think that I was uniquely suited to playing a key role in the
>Singularity. It wouldn't necessarily make me confident of my ideas.
>Humility should not be confused with modesty. Humility is a way to conduct
>yourself in an interaction with Nature; modesty is a way to conduct yourself
>in an interaction with others. I believe in humility but not modesty.
>Humility is a form of rationality. Modesty is not. And how bright you
>think you are, and how far you think your ideas have gotten at any given
>point, are rationally unrelated, regardless of whether they may be linked
>emotionally by the factory settings of the human mind.

Many things could make a person extremely confidant despite being very,
very wrong. Even if the truth is spelled out in 100 foot tall letters, in
plain view right in front of them. (I'm having to deal with such an
individual in real life presently). Everyone I have ever dealt with that
behaves in this manor has either been off by a significant degree (but
refusing to consider such a concept) or wholly detached from reality. I'm
quite certain that there are people who display that much raw ego who are
100% correct, I just haven't personally met one yet. On the other hand the
few truly brilliant people I have met constantly question themselves and
rarely, if ever, display much ego.

I don't offer this info to insult or disrespect anyone. I offer it because
I think a good number of people share this viewpoint and while you may not
agree, in many circumstances you may go much further with some genuine modesty.

Personally, I know I'm exceptionally good at software engineering and
especially good at designing & comprehending large, complex
architectures. I know this mostly because I've been told such and it has
been demonstrated to me time and again. (I honestly thought I was horrible
up until 8 or so years ago when I started working with many other people in
the field). But there are numerous people out there that simply must be
vastly better than I, even at these things. Plus I am absolutely certain
there are when it comes to specialized subjects such as AI. Most people on
this list would probably make me look silly in comparison on that
topic! Even when comfortably within in one of my prime areas I try (and
sometimes it is difficult) to be modest. However, I've found it gets you
much further (which is why I try). Maybe you should give it another try
before dismissing it...

>The strongest statement I would make about Friendly AI is "I've been
>looking at this section of floor for two years, I have my trap detectors
>shoved out to absolute maximum, and I still haven't detected any basic
>flaws, so at this point, even taking into account how much is at stake,
>I'm ready to put one foot down and start shifting my weight over."

Hey, if you want to take solo risks of falling though the floor, be my
guest. But when doing so could wipe out all life on earth, please
don't. If for no other reason than if you were to fall though the floor
there would be no one alongside to pickup the pieces and carry on (or
effectively do damage control)...

I'd much rather get a few thousand of the brightest people on the planet to
look at the floor for two years before you took that first step. Letting
your ego prod you to go it mostly alone is insane given the circumstances.

Hell, if I had to give the answer to "623 + 377" but giving the wrong
answer would kill, well, even ONE person I'd get like 10 other opinions
before answering! And if even one of them was different I'd get 20 more, etc.

James Higgins

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