Re: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Gordon Worley (
Date: Sat Aug 24 2002 - 18:33:44 MDT

A good deal of this was already covered in my replay to Ben. This is
the stuff that I think is substantially different, but if there was
anything I did not discuss fully in that reply, e-mail me privately and
I'll respond to the sections that you think need more emphasis on list.

On Saturday, August 24, 2002, at 01:32 AM, Samantha Atkins wrote:

>> 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.

Eliezer, IIRC, already discussed this somewhere, probably in CFAI. In
short, an AI does not need quick response heuristics like humans do
because it can think through each situation when it occurs because it
can think much faster than a human assuming it has adequate hardware.
For example, I have to have rules to act on quickly when I'm crossing
the street. An AI would have enough time to think through crossing the
street without resorting to canned responses.

>>> 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.

Actually, I'm very bad a meditation. I'm getting better, but I have a
hard time quieting my mind but it's getting easier; my trick is to find
some way to blow my thoughts up.

Anyway, feedback-less thoughts are important and I use them all of the
time to solve hard problems (it just takes a couple of days). I would
not say, though, that I day dream in any sense of the word that I know.

>> 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.

Yes. I always know that I'm dreaming, but they are very lucid. They
are also worth watching. I think this is credited to my practicing
Falun Gong.

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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