Fwd: We Can Understand Anything, But are Just a Bit Slow

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (sentience@pobox.com)
Date: Sun Mar 19 2006 - 14:18:04 MST

Lee Corbin wrote (to the Extropians mailing list):
> Damien writes
>> So most of cog sci is saying "no big jumps to us, no big jumps from us" except
>> for the computer theory side, which says "big jump to us, but no more
>> conceivable jump from us without invoking infinite computation or precision".
> Right! This fits my belief. Consider the following sworn testimony of an
> abductee:
> "The Alien was working on a doctoral dissertation
> entitled "A Human Can Understand Anything that I Can, Only
> it Will Take Him a Lot Longer, and You Will Not Believe the
> Trouble He Has to Go Through" (which, incidentally, happens
> to require only three symbols in written Alien language). He
> selected me for his guinea pig, and it took him 23,392 years
> to teach me that A proves B. It would have taken him longer
> ---several centuries, he said---if I had not already been
> good at math. There were 318 major parts of the theorem, and
> over four hundred thousand lemmas. Naturally, I don't pretend
> to have it all "in mind" at the same time, but I vaguely
> remember that even back on Earth by the end of certain long
> math proofs I was kind of fuzzy about how the earlier parts
> went. What was essential for my understanding the proof of B
> was that I built up a set of notes that's pretty elaborate
> (to put it mildly). You can check it out: I was allowed to
> bring all my notes back, and they take up nearly a third of
> the surface area of Ceres.
> "My Alien would have failed with a dog or a chimpanzee, no
> matter how long he tried. That's because I, as a human, have
> the concept of chunking concepts abstractly. Thus in his
> dissertation, my Alien proved that we humans are just barely
> on the right side of a complexity barrier that many stupider
> Earth creatures haven't crossed.
> "(By the way, don't feel sorry for me! I had the time of my life.
> Mainly, no doubt, due to the superb drugs and brain stimulation
> freely provided.)"
> I would not find such a narrative implausible on *theoretical* grounds.
> Lee

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