Re: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Gordon Worley (
Date: Fri Aug 23 2002 - 21:10:07 MDT

On Friday, August 23, 2002, at 09:49 PM, Ben Goertzel wrote:

>> This is not rationality!
>> What you are doing, Ben, is trying to moderate your irrationality.
>> This
>> is no different than what those `rational' scientists do. All this
>> allows you to do is stumble onto rational conclusions more often than
>> other people.
> Actually, I think that moderating your own irrationality can be a very
> rational act!!!

This is a form of macho rationalism. Rather than developing rational
content, you're developing rationalish behavior. You are only being
rational by consequence of the fact that your behavior coincides with
the rational choice most of the time.

> I don't see *eliminating* my own irrationality as a viable prospect,
> except
> thru radical neuromodification! It can be *reduced*, and then what's
> left
> can be *moderated*.

Of course you cannot eliminate it from you completely without cutting
out parts of your brain. What you can do rather than reduce and
moderate is ignore. And I don't mean ignore like you ignore a small
child begging you for a frozen treat. Ignore as in completely not
notice; your mind doesn't know the difference between ignoring and not

>> Consider my earlier example with the Randians. If I were thinking like
>> you, I'd have a heuristic that would tell me to avoid getting into
>> arguments with them. Consequently, I wouldn't ever discuss my thoughts
>> on Randianism with them. This is just as irrational as arguing with
>> every last one of them! What is rational is to determine *why* you
>> want
>> to argue them and if it is a valid reason or just a rationalized reason
>> generated by your brain. This is what is essential to rationality:
>> you
>> don't have a heuristic to make you more rational in a given situation,
>> you think the situation through rationally (using such tools as logic
>> and Bayesian statistics) and arrive at the most rational conclusion.
> You are proposing conscious rational inference above heuristics as a
> guide
> for action.
> I think that human consciousness has limited bandwidth compared to human
> unconscious. In situations requiring the integration of a huge body of
> weak
> pieces of evidence, conscious reasoning can't grapple, and you have to
> make
> do with unconscious reasoning (aka intuition). And ridding your
> unconscious
> intuition of emotional biases is the hard part.
> It sounds like you're advocating conscious logical reasoning as the
> solution
> to all problems. But conscious logical reasoning only works when there
> are
> a relatively few items of relevant information; otherwise the well-known
> limitations on STM size come into play.

The whole idea that your `unconscious' is some mystical part of your
mind is, IMO, nonsense. The only difference between the `conscious'
and `unconscious' parts of your brain are that the former allow for
feedback on the process of thought, whereas the latter only allow for
feedback on the results. It's a consequence of the way feedback works
in the brain and evolutions need to mask thought processes to make
rationalization easier. You can think rationally when it comes to the
`unconscious'; it's only the inner parts of your brain that cannot be
tamed and must be ignored.

Also, there is no reason that you must think quickly. Persons who know
me in real life or have chatted with me online have seen my odd speech
style in action. Someone will say something to me and after a pause
(usually after the conversation has already drifted some) I will respond
(that is respond properly, since I'm in the habit of saying things that
sound like a response that come out of a collection of canned responses).

>> I sometimes question whether you have made the fundamental shift to
>> rationality and if you are just a very logical thinker. At any rate,
>> even if you have, you have a *long* way to go to reach a reasonable
>> degree of rationality. Or, a better way of putting it is that you
>> haven't come very far. I and Eliezer have come a long way, but there
>> is
>> still a long way to go, some of it very difficult because it's
>> attacking
>> very fundamental ways of human thought. I hope that my book, when
>> done,
>> will serve to bring people along to greater degrees of rationality.
> Based on my interactions with both of you (and I've interacted with Eli
> significantly more than with you), I do not believe that either of you
> is
> significantly more rational than I am.
> I've seen you each make many judgments that seemed to me purely
> emotional...

Which decisions were those?

Also, I point out that I've only been serious about this for about 1.5
years; before then I was as irrational as anyone. The shortness of time
is not an excuse for any existing irrationality, but to show that even
recent actions and thoughts of mine are often less rational than my
current actions and thoughts. Not that this isn't always the case, but
it's more noticeable because of the rapid changes.

> Interestingly, though, I have not yet met anyone who
> a) seemed to me to be more rational than myself
> b) also seemed to me to be roughly as creative as myself -- or even
> *almost*
> as creative as myself

My use of the correspondence theory of truth indicates otherwise.

> I believe that high levels of creativity often go along with willful or
> automatic suspensions of rationality. (Of course, this may be rational
> on a
> meta level: one may find that it is rational to sometimes let yourself
> be
> irrational!) But when a mind spends a lot of "creative time" pursuing
> unlikely, irrational trains of thought, it often has difficulty shifting
> back into a less creative but more rational mode. I have seen this in
> very
> many others, as well as myself.

I used to daydream a lot. Since pursuing rationality, this has
stopped. Time spent thinking irrationally is not time worth thinking.
In fact, I've taken this to the extreme and, in cases of anxiety
attacks, have shut down thought since I can't think rationally. This is
different than pursuing merely interesting trains of thought, though. I
will spend time considering interesting ideas with no goal of how to use
them because it's fun and interesting.

Of course, my REM dreams are quite different. There's a special dream
`logic' that is at play there.

Gordon Worley                     `When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty            said, `it means just what I choose                it to mean--neither more nor less.'
PGP:  0xBBD3B003                                  --Lewis Carroll

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