Re: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Mon Aug 26 2002 - 02:02:10 MDT

Ben Goertzel wrote:
> I think you really push the envelope of the definition of "rational" by
> saying that a bird acting on instinct is acting "rationally"....

But that's *not* what I'm saying.

What I'm saying is that if you view {the bird acting on instinct} as
something that works to propagate the bird's genes, then this
something-that-works, works because it has a partial correspondence to

> I don't dispute your right to use the word that way, but I do maintain
> my right NOT to use the word that way...

I respect your right to make your own mistakes, of course. This should
not be confused with respecting the mistakes themselves.

My working assumption has been that, to pursue rationality, I must
sacrifice my individual right to have wrong opinions and regard my beliefs
as being either "correct" or "incorrect" according to how well they
correspond to reality. The mere fact that a belief is "mine", apart from
its causal history, is not evidence about its truth or falsity; therefore
this naked fact is not relevant to rational reasoning. Although of course
it plays a large role in various arational/irrational social cognitive

And to anticipate your obvious response to this, you are free to assume,
if you like, that I have not succeeded in counteracting these social
mechanisms. But it is nonetheless what someone pursuing the truth would
try to do. No?

> For instance, as I've argued, there needs to be, in any finite system
> within the universe, some non-prob-inference process for adapting the
> universal set U used in the system's prob-inference processes.

Does it work nonaccidentally? Or is it entirely random? If it works
nonaccidentally, some form of rationality is behind it whether you like it
or not.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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