Re: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Fri Aug 23 2002 - 23:32:16 MDT

Gordon Worley wrote:
> 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.

That is one of the most irrational accusations I have every
encountered. What is rationality *for* if it is not for
directing the facts and conditons of our own existence
intelligently toward the fulfillment of yoru goals? As we have
parts of ourselves that do not work on rational/logical (yet are
not random) grounds as we understand them and that are not
conscious, these parts must be acknowledged, understood and
brought under the guidance of our rationality sufficiently at
least not to lead us astray. Ignoring them just sets us up to
be blind-sided by that which we are not and have refused to be
conscious of. I don't see how doing otherwise than acknowledging
and moderating all parts of our reality could be remotely
rational. But perhaps you are operating under some notion of
*rational* that I am unaware of.

>> 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
> having.

Ignoring your massively parallel unconscious processing would be
lobotomizing. This is not exactly what I would call "rational".

>> 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.

I did not see anyone claim it is "mystical". But it is
certainly present and it is utterly crucial to your well-being
and intelligence. Are you denying that a great deal of
important processing in the human brain occurs at an unconscious
level? Are you making a claim that evolution designed things
that way to aid rationalization? Please explain. On the face
of it that seems absurd.

Rather than ignore, wouldn't it be more rational to take the
"inner parts of your brain" as a very fuzzy logic massively
parallel processing system whose results are often of some value
but the amount of value must be determined by the less fuzzy
rational consciousness?

> 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).

In many aspects of our lives, including mundante things like
safely crossing the street, it is crucial that a great deal of
processing happens quickly and unconsciously and that it is not
second-guessed - much less ignored. If you design an AI without
any such levels of processing you will have a most impressive
artificial nitwit that cannot survive or function outside a very
controlled environment.

>> I've seen you each make many judgments that seemed to me purely
>> emotional...
> Which decisions were those?

This is really getting tiremsome.

>> 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.

This sounds more similar to the results certain meditation
techniques of always keeping a "witness" or simply always paying
attention to what is going on in the mind without being dragged
away by its contents. This I agree is valuable although I would
not go so far as to imply daydreams are all of no use. There
are many types of things called "daydreams". Some mediate
between the conscious mind and the subconscious processing.
Some of those are quite valuable.

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

Are you aware within your dreams? I notice that when I meditate
  fairly steadily for a while that most of my dreams are lucid
and that there is more of a quality of watching them unfold.

- samantha

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