Re: The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science

From: Eliezer Yudkowsky (
Date: Sat May 29 2004 - 20:27:45 MDT

Mark Waser wrote:

> Check out number 6 in particular.

A pithy quote proves nothing. Do you want to argue point number 6, or just
cite it as authority? It appeared in the media, so I suppose it must be true.

> 6. The discoverer has worked in isolation. The image of a lone genius
> who struggles in secrecy in an attic laboratory and ends up making a
> revolutionary breakthrough is a staple of Hollywood's science-fiction
> films, but it is hard to find examples in real life. Scientific
> breakthroughs nowadays are almost always syntheses of the work of many
> scientists.

Both the thesis and the antithesis are heartwarming urban legends.
Examining scientific history shows that the degree to which work is
accomplished by lone genius depends on how much the field is in chaos
before the lone genius shows up. Yes, Virginia, there are scientific

It would be trivially easy to call my work a synthesis of the work of many
scientists. Laplace, E.T. Jaynes, von Neumann and Morgenstern, Fisher and
Price, Tooby and Cosmides, Tversky and Kahneman, and the entire fields they
represent, all come to mind. I am sure that those who purvey heartwarming
tales of cooperation will delight in pointing out theoretical precedents
and others who neared the same realizations. For myself I do not care. I
am here only to do this one act of engineering and any new theory it
requires, and I give not a whit whether afterward it is called a revolution
or an application of existing knowledge.

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

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