RE: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Sun Aug 25 2002 - 10:09:39 MDT

> > So, when I sit down to improvise at the piano, as a rationalist would I
> > have
> > to reason about which note to play next?
> Yes. Playing the next note is a fulfillment of playing the song which
> is a fulfillment of whatever reason you were playing the piano in the
> first place.

But there is no time to consciously reason about what note to play next.

So I need to choose the next note unconsciously, through an unholy mix of
cognitive and emotional processes...

Musical improvisation is intrinsically nonrational. You're appealing to
reason and emotions at once in music, and reasoning about which note to play
based on a rational analysis of what emotions and thoughts it can be
expected to evoke, is just not workable. Music theorists have been
straining in this direction for years with quite limited success.

There's more of an argument for classical composition to be rational than
jazz improv. But even so, there ain't no way Beethoven was carrying out
rational analysis when he created the Ode to Joy! A mix of unconscious
reason and diverse concept creation processes guided by irrational human &
spiritual feelings.... And far more beautiful than any melody that was ever
logically derived!

> > What about "going with the flow"? This seems to me to be a very
> > efficient
> > algorithm for producing good stuff. Reason seems to enter into such
> > processes mainly
> >
> > * to judge things afterwards
> > *when a particularly tricky spot comes up
> I have no idea what "going with the flow" is even supposed to mean, so I
> don't have any way of responding. Plenty of people talk about it, but
> that doesn't mean I'm any closer to knowing just what this thought
> process is. It's likely a thought process I've engaged in, but calling
> it "going with the flow" does not make me think of anything in
> particular other than write stream of consciousness style.

Check out "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" by Mihalyi

Although this book sold in pop psych circles, he's actually a very serious
research psychologist, who pioneered some new experimental methods...

> > If I had to consciously, logically reason about every note I played on
> > the
> > piano, or every sentence I wrote, then I would not get to do much of
> > anything with my time...
> Your brain does it for you. All you have to do is teach it not to be
> influenced by irrational thoughts.

In the context of musical improvisation, this strikes me as particularly

I relate to your approach much more in the context of my AI work. In my AI
work I make an effort to separate the process of combinatorial, emotional,
free-ranging, not-consciously-rational concept-generation, from the
consciously-rational, hard-nosed process of concept refinement and

> > I think that nonrational thinking is highly adaptive for me and other
> > human
> > organisms. It needs to be kept in balance with rational thought, and
> > the
> > different aspects of both rational & nonrational thought need to be
> > kept in
> > balance with each other.
> This sounds like an escape mechanism your brain would use to make sure
> you don't stop trying to reproduce.


Well, I've already reproduced quite a bit. However, I don't think that my
views on the psychology and philosophy of mind have had much to do with my
reproductive behavior.

Are you trying to say that reproducing is somehow irrational??

> Gordon will get back to you once he is an AI researcher. I expect
> Eliezer is creating his AI design to encourage rational thought.

Hopefully he is not creating his AI design purely by conscious rational
thought processes, or he will never get there ;)


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