Re: [extropy-chat] Eugen Leitl on AI design

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Fri Jun 04 2004 - 09:24:16 MDT

Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote:

> Jeff Davis wrote:
>> I am of the "intelligence leads inevitably to ethics"
>> school. (I consider ethics a form of advanced
>> rationality. Which springs from the modeling and
>> symbol manipulation emblematic of the quality which we
>> fuzzily refer to as intelligence.) It has done so
>> with humans, where the "intelligence"--such as it is,
>> puny not "super"--has evolved from the mechanical
>> randomness and cold indifference of material reality.
> I too considered morality a special case of rationality, back in
> 1996-2000 before I understood exactly how it all worked. It's an easy
> enough mistake to make. But the math says rationality is a special
> case of morality, not the other way around; and rationality can be a
> special case of other moralities than ours.


> Everyone please recall that I started out confidently stating "The
> Powers will be ethical!" and then moved from that position to this
> one, driven by overwhelmingly strong arguments. It shouldn't have
> taken overwhelmingly strong arguments, and next time I shall endeavor
> to allow my beliefs to be blown about like leaves on the winds of
> evidence, and also not make confident statements about anything before
> I understand the fundamental processes at work. But the
> overwhelmingly strong reasons that drove me to this position are
> there, even if most of them are hard to explain.

Intelligence is one of the pillars of morality. Another pillar is
interdependence. Another, even more subtle, is growth.

Wasn't so long ago, in the evolution of humanist thought, that
*intelligence* was first seen as the beacon of enlightenment that would
allow humanity to move beyond the previous confines of religion and
superstition. "Free thinkers" made great progress and patted themselves
on the back for how smart they were. Naturally they applied this
powerful concept to everything they could, and impressed with the
revolutionary progress they had made, extrapolated that all of
humanity's questions could be best answered via the application of
rational intelligence. I think they were right, within the context of
their awareness.

A few of these rational free thinkers sensed that there was still
something missing. Rationality is bounded by knowledge, and a new level
of enlightenment arose in which people began to realize a need for
wisdom within uncertainty. Some of these people were mistaken for
mystics, but rather than abandoning rational thought, these newer
thinkers worked to incorporate rational thinking into a larger framework
that acknowledged, and even welcomed uncertainty. Mathematical
statistics (of the frequentist sort and more recently Bayesian) were
joined by newer concepts of entropy and theories of information and
incompleteness, and there was a pervasive belief among rational
free-thinkers that if humanity just learned the right equations, they
could understand the universe. And great strides were made in many
technological areas, and they were right, within the context of their

More recently, concepts of uncertainty and randomness are being
overtaken by ideas of chaos and complexity, and rational free-thinkers
are discovering some of the inherent limits of modeling and prediction
with finite computational resources. We're finding that much of the
really interesting stuff can't be modeled or predicted and the only way
to determine the end result is to actually play it out. *This changes
the focus of the game away from modeling and extrapolation, and towards
understanding what freedoms (points of influence) are available to us
in order to create an always evolving and unpredictable future.* These
new concepts do not replace, but encompass and extend the previous paradigm.

I offer this as a necessarily abbreviated and simplified history of the
development of rational thinking on the human scale, and also perhaps
the development of individual thinking among members of this list
growing up within that knowledge environment. Although overstated,
perhaps "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" applies here as well.

- Jef

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