Re: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Gordon Worley (
Date: Sat Aug 24 2002 - 18:14:06 MDT

On Saturday, August 24, 2002, at 12:01 AM, Ben Goertzel wrote:

> Gordon wrote:
>> 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 think this is a false distinction. I think that rationality means
> rational behavior.
> There may be many different psychological processes, in different minds,
> resulting in similar rational behaviors.

Only behaving in a way that looks rational is macho rationalism.
Behaving rationally on accident is simply not good enough to be a
rational *thinker*.

>>> 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.
> I think that if you simply *consciously ignore* the large irrational
> components of your mind, they are going to end up strongly influencing
> you
> unconsciously. I think it's better to explicitly come to grips with
> them.
> Ignoring them, in my view, is likely to lead to what Freud called
> "sublimation" of them. [And no, I don't believe most of Freudian
> psychology.]

Okay, ignore was the wrong term. I thought that would convey the
message, but I guess it didn't.

I have these emotions turned off if you will. They are not turned off
the way a light is turned off, but the idea is similar. I am not
ignoring them as in pretending that they don't exist when they do. For
me, they don't exist 90% of the time (I'm not so good at it yet that I
can promise that emotions *never* seep through that have to be actively

>> 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.
> I think this is a very naive psychological statement.
> In fact, I think it's an *irrational* statement ;)
> It is a statement that constradicts many known facts of cognitive
> psychology.
> I feel you are making this statement with such confidence because you
> would
> *like* it to be true.
> Is it rational to hold such a strong belief based on such little
> evidence,
> when you're educated enough to realize there is empirical evidence on
> such
> topics, right there in the library for your reading pleasure?

I am not drawing the distinction along traditional psychological lines,
so that's probable the problem. Maybe I shouldn't use the words
`conscious' and `unconscious' and just stick with something like
`feedback-able thought' and `feedback-less though'. To be fair I don't
know a lot about psychology, but from what I know about neuropsychology
I get the impression that all thought is the same qualitatively and the
only difference is that some thought is feedback-able and some thought
is not. The problem is that your brain is good at tricking you into
thinking feedback-less thought is feedback-able thought and that's where
you have to watch for rationalization.

>>> I've seen you each make many judgments that seemed to me purely
>>> emotional...
>> Which decisions were those?
> One example is your habit of making strong statements about human
> psychology, which also happen to contradict known psychological facts.
> Now, I'm not saying that you make these statements explicitly KNOWING
> that
> they contradict known psychological facts.

Uh oh, seems I have Eliezer-itus. :-P

Seriously, though, to be honest I don't use a lot of qualifiers about my
current knowledge because I don't think it's particularly relevant.
Either I'm right or not. If I make errors, point them out. Maybe you
just think they're errors and maybe I am just more naive than I thought
I was.

>>> 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 don't understand what you're saying here.

A weak(ly) humorous phrasing of: "I don't think your comment correspond
to reality and therefore appear untrue".

> Some forms of irrationality are good at creating new ideas, but bad at
> testing, analyzing and refining them.

Just because the ideas are `new' (and most are just new to you) does not
mean that they are good or usable.

> Thus rationality works well in conjunction with some irrational thought
> processes, which involve various types of quasirandom concept creation.
> The most brilliant scientists have generally combined intensely
> effective
> rationality with quirky but effective nonrational thought processes...

Would you really call this process random and irrational? New ideas
come from following paths that connect ideas (using an appropriate
memory model, of course) to reach new ideas. Some of these links are
weaker than others, but connections none the less. You first explore
strong connections for new ideas, and if they fail, you try weaker
connections. Eventually, you hope to reach some new connection that no
one realized before.

This requires that you already have some knowledge. I'm not going to
get into the discussion of how to gather this knowledge, since it's not
relevant to humans trying to become rational; the AI researchers can
worry about that stuff. ;-) (This is not to say that how to gather new
knowledge is not important to rationality, but how to gain the initial
knowledge is a bit different than subsequent knowledge as I understand

>>> 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.
> Irrational thinking can generate ideas that are later useful in rational
> thinking. This is a subjective impression held by many many people and
> quite thoroughly researched.

Sure. And if I play roulette long enough, I'll probably win (of course,
there is no statistical guarantee that this will eventually happen).
Through directed thinking you can increase your ability to find usable
ideas. I'm not saying that random thought doesn't work, but that it's
inefficient and there are better ways.

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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