Re: Metarationality

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Sun Aug 25 2002 - 09:06:22 MDT

Eliezer -

Thank you for your passionate prose on rationality. :-)

Once again you've struck a chord that resonates within many of us. How many
of us have found ourselves arguing passionately for reason and felt the deep
irony of doing so in a society that feels passion and reason aren't
compatible, when all around us our greatest works show they are necessarily

- Jef

----- Original Message -----
From: "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <>
To: <>
Sent: Saturday, August 24, 2002 7:56 PM
Subject: Re: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

> Everything that works is a form of rationality; works because it is
> rational; and is rational because it works.
> To be precise, everything that works noncoincidentally, with a probability
> greater than sheer random chance would predict, is a form of rationality;
> works because it is rational; and is rational because it works.
> That's what the Bayesian Probability Theorem *is* - a *universal*
> description of the way in which things can be evidence about other things.
> It is not limited to any one domain. It is not limited to deliberative or
> verbalizable thought.
> Intuitions are a form of rationality.
> The visual cortex is a form of rationality.
> Logic - real logic, the kind that works - is a form of rationality.
> Verbally clever rationalization, e.g. Plato, is not a form of rationality
> because it is not bound (does not correlate under the BPT) to the external
> variables about which it purports to provide information.
> Evolution, and everything created by evolution, is a form of rationality
> (DNA carrying on a limited kind of induction on past observations).
> A flower is a frozen truth - the expression of DNA's induction on a
> history of past successes. So is a smallpox virus. So is a human baby.
> Evolution's induction is an imperfect form of rationality - but to
> whatever degree it works, it works because it is a form of rationality.
> One of the oldest human stories is the universal, omnipresent force that
> confers power on those who wield it, serve it, and move with its flow; the
> Tao, the Force, the breath of God. The closest thing to that archetype
> that actually exists in our universe is rationality. Every nonaccidental
> correlation that exists is grist for the Bayesian Probability Theorem; it
> works because it is rational, and is rational because it works.
> Rationality is the universal of which evolution and brains are partial
> implementations, and the truth that confers upon them their powers. It
> underlies the inductive reasoning that gave birth to flowers, and the
> deliberative reasoning that put footprints on the moon. If you look past
> surface similarities and differences you can see the rationality burning
> underneath like blood flowing under skin.
> --
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
> Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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