Re: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Sat Aug 24 2002 - 18:44:23 MDT

Gordon Worley wrote:
> 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.

There are feedback lines between conscious and unconscious
mental processes. The difference between the former and the
latter is the presence or absence of your attention and ability
to "drive". Perhaps it might also be fair to say that the
conscious mind is the one we think of most often as "self" and
"under my control". But it is built from and is utterly
dependent on the parts of the mind that are not "under my
control" or in my awareness. So to disown these parts is
suicidal. Of course they are not to be worshipped or given
carte blanche authority. But neither are they rationally to be

>> 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.

What a boring world where one is either wholly "right" or not!

>> 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.

Well no and that is why you test them. But you miss speaking to
the point that these processes are good at generating new ideas.

>> 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

Wrong if you are talking about new ideas only coming from such a
conscious and deliberate approach.

> 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.

And where does one understanding of or finding or appreciating
the connections come from? Where do flashes of association
between things you have never conciously connected at all come
from? <blank out> Do you consciously leap across an unknown
connection to an unknown destination?

> 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 it.)

Not really as I understand it.

>>> 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.

Not the same thing at all. I am very surprised by a
self-proclaimed rational thinker apparently not dealing with the
point at hand except to throw up defenses, bald assertions and
very weak obfuscating analogies. You write much better at other
times so I am confused by this difference.

- samantha

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