RE: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Fri Aug 23 2002 - 17:13:26 MDT

> Now of course you may have meant something entirely different by
> all this.
> But perhaps this explains what it is about this particular
> sentence rubs
> people like me (and perhaps Gordon) the wrong way.
> --
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Perhaps "people like you (and perhaps Gordon)" have an irrational attachment
to the idea of your own rationality? ;>

I think that most scientists and engineers like to delude themselves that
they are more rational than they really are. People in this category
probably *are* generally more rational than most people, but this doesn't
mean they're as rational as they think they are...

I think I have fewer delusions regarding my own rationality than most others
who consider themselves "highly rational." My rationality recognizes its
own limitations, it recognizes that it is just one participant among a large
number of valuable and powerful cognitive processes in my mind.

However, my own rationality has definitely gotten stronger over the years,
due to my conscious efforts to strengthen it...

As to my own rationality or otherwise as regards AI, I have in the past made
overoptimistic estimates about when various software projects will be
completed, including AI projects. I have an emotional bias toward
impatience and overoptimism, and I have learned to correct it to a large
extent, via "meta-rationality" (conscious control of my own thinking
processes specifically oriented toward dampening my natural optimism). I
have not fully internalized this dampening, in the sense that my FIRST
reaction is always still overoptimism, and the more realistic reaction only
comes thru further conscious thought. The trick, for me, is how to
maintain my enthusiastic optimistic *attitude* without the irrationally
overoptimistic time estimates that sometimes come along with it. I'm
learning, and some parts of my brain resist!!

I do think I'm significantly more rational than most people, and I think
this is largely because of conscious efforts I've made to correct emotional
errors in my thinking, of which the bias toward overoptimism described in
the previous paragraph is just one (relatively simple) example. My brain,
from birth, was endowed with an unusual capability for complex rational
thought; but adjusting my personality and habits of thought to *utilize*
this capability in a thoroughgoing way rather than just in isolated
intellectual contexts, has been a bit of an effort!!

-- Ben G

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