RE: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Sun Aug 25 2002 - 12:19:44 MDT

> > 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.

Ah, we are now running into the ambiguity of the word "logic", which I use
to include probabilistic logic, which includes Bayes' Theorem and the other
results of elementary probability theory.

> 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.

This sounds about the same to me as Eliezer's "whatever works."

So, then, given that I have a human brain with its ensuing strengths and
limitations, if I rely largely on emotion to drive me in producing a piece
of music or in guiding me through a mathematical proof, according to your
view what I'm doing is being "rational." I'm being "rational" because by
letting emotion guide me, I am achieving my goal of constructing music or
mathematics meeting certain criteria.

And similarly, when my dog chases a female dog in heat, based on his
attraction to her smell, and then proceeds to hump her vigorously, he is
behaving rationally, because he is doing something that produces the right
answer for him, i.e. it achieves his goal of getting nookie. His heuristic
"smell it, chase it, hump it" consistently produces the right answer for
him. It's not a perfect heuristic -- it would be fooled by an appropriate
pheromone-generating machine -- but it works pretty well in reality.... Yet
it just doesn't feel right to me to say the dog is being "rational" in this


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