RE: Rationality and altered states of consciousness

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Fri Sep 20 2002 - 10:04:27 MDT

> > I mean I think Ben's full of crap saying implicitly that
> > working toward the
> > singularity isn't helping humans concretely in the present world.
> > CFAI is a
> > herculean task like the Augean Stables: Ben would have some of us
> > throw dung out
> > of the stable with old reliable spoons, while the bigger
> thinker sees the
> > solution (diverting most of a river with a giant hollow log or
> > such so that it
> > passes through the stables, according to the story).

To pursue your metaphor a little further... (and then explain why I think
it's a bad one ;)

You assume the hollow log strategem is going to work. But suppose the
hollow log theory fails, because, for instance, the water in that particular
river turns out to be acidic and dissolves the log....

It makes sense to put 100% of resources on the hollow log strategem only if

1) there is a 100% estimated chance of the stratagem working

2) without 100% of resources on the hollow log strategem, the odds of the
hollow log stratagem working drastically decrease; and there are no other
plausible strategies on the horizon

[These are just rough guidelines, of course one can make a thorough
probabilistic analysis of the optimum amount of resources it makes sense to
devote to the hollow log strategem, based on various assumptions.]

Otherwise, it may make sense to have some people focus on throwing dung out
of the stable with spoons, so that if the hollow log strategem fails,
everyone doesn't immediately drown when it fails -- but there's time to work
out another strategy, to build a reinforced log, or whatever.

But fortunately, this metaphor is NOT apt for the current situation.
Instead our situation is more like on in which there are 6 billion people in
the stables, a small handful of them are working on the hollow log
strategem, and a small handful of them are spooning out dung, and the rest
are watching Gilligan's Island reruns, reading People Magazine or trading
Pokemon cards. Arguing over whether the spooning or the log are better is
silly, when both are so under-resourced compared to what they should be.

So, getting back to the real world, I think that BOTH

a) singularity-oriented R&D

b) genuine efforts to raise of the consciousness of human beings

are under-resourced in our society, compared to what would be optimal.
Which is more under-resourced depends on interpretation of borderline cases.
(Which research counts as singularity-oriented --- do we count work on
faster microprocessors? Which work counts as consciousness-raising -- do we
count the yoga studio on the corner?)

I don't think it's worthwhile to think in terms of a zero-sum game between
Singularity-oriented R&D and human-consciousness-raising. Not at all. I'm
happy to see people spend their time on EITHER. And if someone has a real
passion for one of these, it's probably not going to be optimal to try to
compel them to focus on the other. Increasing the percentage of humanity
concerned with EITHER of these things would be a good thing.

-- Ben G

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