Re: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Gordon Worley (
Date: Sun Aug 25 2002 - 11:51:45 MDT

On Sunday, August 25, 2002, at 12:20 PM, Ben Goertzel wrote:

>>> It evolved from and arises from a complex of
>>> other processes. These other processes are arational or non-rational
>>> (language consistently used by Goertzel and others here), not
>>> _irrational_ (language incorrectly implicitly attributed to them).
>> They are neither arational nor nonrational; they are *rational*.
>> Or rather they are arational processes which, insofar as they work,
>> work
>> because they sometimes happen to implement something which roughly
>> resembles rationality - we *are* thinly modded chimps hacked to support
>> general intelligence, after all. But the point is that, insofar as
>> these
>> processes work, they work because they are rational and are rational
>> because they work.
> Eliezer, you're using the word "rational" to mean "anything that works".
> So if you have an organism with a goal, then any process that it uses
> that
> significantly helps it to achieve that goal is "rational" by your
> definition. (Correct me if I've paraphrased your idea incorrectly,
> please.)

If this is what Eliezer means I think he is wrong. I don't think that's
quite what he meant, though it does read that way.

For something to be considered rational, it must not just be workable,
but also right and efficient. This is probably what I should have told
you when you asked for a definition of rationality earlier (this idea of
rightness is so obvious to me I forget to mention it sometimes). What
Eliezer described so well is that everything is capable of rationality
if all irrationality is removed.

> I generally have been using the word "rational" to mean something
> narrower.
> Basically, to mean "following a process of logical inference", meaning a
> process inside some mind in which premises are represented, conclusions
> are
> represented, and processes for getting from the premises to the
> conclusions
> are carried out. Note that this sense of "following a process of
> logical
> inference" is implementation-independent; it applies to neural nets and
> so
> forth as easily as to minds embodying some sort of explicit
> symbol-manipulation component.

I think that this is too narrow of a way to look at rationality, since
"following a process of logical inference" does not allow for the
statistical nature of decision making.

> I guess that your broad definition, and my narrow definition, both
> capture
> different aspects of the ambiguous natural language term "rationality."
> In my sense, there are nonrational cognitive processes, because there
> are
> processes that don't proceed step by step but LEAP to conclusions based
> on
> nonlinear-dynamical integration of a vast amount of weak pieces of
> evidence,
> sometimes using emotion as a guide. In your sense, if these processes
> "work" in terms of achieving system goals, then they're rational.

You need to expand your notion of rationality. It is any process that
produces the right answer. Not by accident or only in some cases, but
consistently produces the most right answer possible. Rationality is
not too narrow or two broad of a word, IMO, but is just right.

Anyway, I think we're spending way too much time arguing over what the
word rationality should mean. It's just a word I keep using because, to
me, it does the best job of all words that I know of evoking the proper
ideas in a persons head.

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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