RE: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Mon Aug 26 2002 - 13:40:04 MDT

Eliezer said:
> What, specifically, is happening here that is
> outside the domain of evolved intuitions and trained intuitions? What is
> happening here that is outside the domain of genetic learning and neural
> learning of regularities in reality? Where does the
> irrationality come in?

Well, my subjective impression is that Dick's hallucinations of a
super-rational AI feeding information into his brain, were pretty damn
irrational. I feel the same way about his conviction that we actually live
in the time of 100AD or so, but are deluded into thinking we live around
2000 AD instead. I think the guy was half-nuts, to use a technical term...

Personally, I will call this stuff irrational, not just non-rational ;)

Even though these delusions were part of an overall mind that was very
effective, and were closely connected to important aspects of that mind's
effectiveness -- I will STILL call them irrational. Considered in
themselves, they are really terribly irrational, according to all standard
uses of that word.

And I think this stuff lies WAY outside the domain of "neural learning of
regularities in reality".

I suppose that, as part of our ability to learn regularities in reality, we
have emerged a strong capability to create complex hypothetical concepts --
which may then be tested to see if they reflect regularities in reality.

What seems to have happened in Dick's mind is that the
complex-hypothetical-concept-generator ran amok, generating a huge variety
of funky stuff that would never stand up to empirical testing (and that
didn't really make him very happy either).

It happens that, due to other properties of his brain, he was able to use
this concept-generation-run-amok to create great art. This is not the case
with most people who conceive really nutty ideas; what we see in Dick (and
many others) is partly a chance confluence of artistic ability with
nuttiness, and then the synthesis of the two in a single mind...

One might claim that the capability for concept-generation-running-amok has
arisen as a part of evolutionary learning, and that evolution was being
rational in giving us minds that are sometimes capable of incredibly
irrationality. [Because in doing so, it also gave us the capability for very
productive creativity.] Actually I attribute the creation of the modern
mind more to a combination of genetic drift and cultural self-organization,
than to evolutionary selection per se, but that's a side point.

> > Would they have created better philosophy and fiction without these
> > irrational processes, following a purely rational (in the
> narrower sense)
> > internal methodology?
> >
> > Well, *no human ever has*.
> So what? As I keep trying to say, rationality has nothing to do with
> deliberation. I am not talking about rationality in the narrow sense. I
> think that's a wholly useless and in fact actively harmful sense.

So you reject the sense of the term "rational" in which Dick's
hallucinations of a superintelligent AI orbiting the Earth beaming
information into his apartment, are "irrational". That's your right, but
it forbids the common use of the term "irrational."

Even after he became wealthy from royalties from Blade Runner, he refused to
move from his ratty apartment because it was where the AI satellite from
afar was allegedly beaming the information...

> > In the human brain, some sorts of creative achievement seem to
> go along with
> > rampant internal irrationality.
> No, some sorts of creative achievement seem to go along with rampant
> internal nondeliberation, perhaps even nondeliberative activities that
> create warped deliberative thought processes as side effects. It doesn't
> mean that the nonaccidental successes are rationally incomprehensible -
> that it is not possible for a Bayesian observer to understand how they
> work, and why they work, and conceivably employ a process of that type
> deliberately in order to arrive at the same answer.

It's been tried.... Rimbaud is one poet who tried to drive himself nuts --
partly by taking drugs, but also by other means -- in an attempt to put
himself in a state of artistic information. He sought "the systematic
disorganization of all the senses." I guess he succeeded, though he fucked
himself up personally in the process...

> But as said before, I am quite uninterested in the narrow sense of
> rationality. I've known since the age of eleven that that's not
> what real
> rationality is about. If it were, I would be forced to ignore all
> incoming information from my visual cortex because the process happens
> nondeliberatively. In fact, I would be forced to ignore my own
> deliberative thoughts because they are made up of nondeliberative
> components. Calling deliberation by the *normative* name, "rationality",
> means losing track of which deliberations are rational and which rational
> processes are nondeliberative. Using the word "rationality" to refer to
> deliberation carves up reality at the wrong joints, like the phlogiston
> theory of combustion.

Ok, I can see that using "rationality" to refer purely to deliberative
logical thought, as I have sometimes done, is overly narrow.

On the other hand, I feel that defining "rationality" in a way that
encompasses Phil Dick's whacked hallucinatory delusions, is overly broad...

-- Ben

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:40 MDT