Re: Rationality and altered states of consciousness

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Sat Sep 21 2002 - 02:17:11 MDT

Ben Goertzel wrote:
> 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.

I believe this is hookysun's point, except that he skips over the detour.

> 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.

No. A *large* handful, as in millions of people and multi-billion-dollar
foundations, are spooning out dung, and a *tiny* handful, as in a couple
of hundred, are working on the hollow log.

I have absolutely no qualms about saying that the hollow log is enormously
under-resourced as compared to the spoons. Now obviously both the
loggers and the spooners are the Good Guys, together, but it would be
moral cowardice not to have the guts to say: "You know, if you're just
getting into the Good Guy business for the first time, think about logging."

Because in actual cold hard solid fact, I think that becoming a logger has
an enormously larger effect than being a spooner, mostly because there are
so many *more* spooners than loggers.

> 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?)

Okay. You can refuse to judge if you like. I think that we should look
at all ongoing efforts, judge the probabilistic payoff to sentient life of
joining each one, and join the best. This is a Categorical Imperative OK
strategy - it works if "everyone does it" - because you aren't
automatically joining the project that seems "best", but rather joining
the project that combines the greatest degree of promise with the greatest
effect you can have on it. If one project grows too large and threatens
to suck up all the resources, individuals following this strategy will
tend to join small struggling projects because they expect to have a
greater impact here.

Of course, because the current distribution of efforts is so wildly
unbalanced, the issue doesn't really arise; Singularity research is the
least funded *and* most promising approach. I mention the above simply to
argue that this kind of thinking works even if everyone does it.

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

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