On Geddes

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (sentience@pobox.com)
Date: Tue Jul 19 2005 - 10:05:04 MDT

A few people have asked me why I haven't removed Marc Geddes from the list.

First, he doesn't swear at people and he spells correctly. This counts for *a
lot* in whether someone stays on SL4.

Second, when someone obeys basic netiquette, I am biased against rejecting
them from the list because their opinions conflict with mine. There's some
known phenomena in social psychology that say: Leave the outliers in! Not
because they are valuable in their own right, but their presence shows that
dissent is tolerated, and mainstream people feel freer to express opinions
that leave the mainstream. If Geddes were not the list oddball, someone else
would be, and then people would ask why that person was still on the list, and
then when that person was gone, someone else would be the list oddball...

Third, Geddes makes a good, *clear* example of how *not* to do things. Fewer
serious posters have appealed to intuition to support their statements on AI
since Geddes made "intuition" look very silly, showing it could be used to
support completely arbitrary assertions. I still wish that people understood
*why* "intuition" is a poor way of arguing, but failing that, it's better that
they think the argument will make them look silly. "Not *looking* stupid" is
the closest thing most people have to a grasp on rationality, and Geddes helps
make "intuition" *look* stupid. Geddes has also helped show the folly of
believing that you understand everything but not being able to express it
mathematically, like those other guys can who are admittedly clever but alas
not so intuitively gifted as Geddes; may this encourage us all to study the
math. I realized that I could not get away with calling Bayesian probability
theory "the Way of cutting through to the correct answer"; it was nice poetry,
but Geddes rapidly appropriated "The Way" and started turning it into his own
gibberish, which tells me the effect nice poetry has on weak minds. Think of
Geddes as the SL4 List Canary. His function is to fall over first when people
start wandering into dangerous territory.

However, I would emphasize that nobody needs to reply to Geddes's more
incomprehensible screeds. If Geddes doesn't have to work at being
comprehensible to get a response - just like I or any other author has to work
at being comprehensible - then he will only wander off farther into the far
spaces, and that's not helping him. When Geddes seems to be going completely
nuts, just watch and learn what not to do.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                          http://intelligence.org/
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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