Re: Anti-singularity spam.

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Tue May 02 2006 - 21:08:54 MDT

Bob Seidensticker wrote:
> Eliezer: Yes, good disctinction between predictions made by people who are
> actually on the front lines vs. those who aren't.

That is *not* the distinction I'm trying to make. My distinction is
between people who are very careful about what they predict, and people
who are telling stories. Telling stories is a very ancient human habit.
  So far as we know, it goes back to the dawn of human intelligence.
Science is a recent invention, and it did have to be invented.

People who are highly skilled in a specific field, such as designing
computer chips, may not know the *separate and distinct* skills of
rationality required to realize *how difficult* it is to make a forecast
20 years out. They may not realize that their skill at designing chips
does not extend to predicting the factors of psychology, economics, and
sheer random chance that determine real-world events in 20 years.

> Let me ask another way: what predictions (or predictors) do you favor
> Who is in a position to know and is giving reliable forecasts of
what's to
> come in the area of AGI?

The default answer is NO ONE. Anyone who wants to stake the surprising
claim that some specific facet of the unvisited and unseen future is
predictable, carries the burden of proof.

This is not a sports game. I don't have to pick a team.

> As for AGI, maybe I've just been duped by predictions in newspaper stories
> and missed those by people who should know. We had Newell and Simon the the
> 50s, fresh from the success of their General Problem Solver, predicting big
> things for AI (and quickly). They certainly had me going. Was it wrong to
> listen to them?

By default, yes. If you listened to them, you ought to be able to
explain why. Or were you hearkening with awestruck ears to the words of
a Great and Eminent Priest, rather than evaluating the one's arguments?

Let me put it another way: *Rationality works.*

It's very hard to use correctly, but when you use it correctly, it
should *work*, not fail.

The novice makes a mistake and says, "The Art failed me."
The expert makes a mistake and says, "I failed my Art."

You seem to be thinking that it was perfectly all right for you to
believe Newell and Simon. And yet, this led you to an incorrect answer.
  This is a hint that you - and they - did something wrong. The true
Way should not fail you. This doesn't mean that the true Way can
predict the future - but the true Way ought to indicate correctly when
you are ignorant; it should not give you strongly confident predictions
of a wrong answer.

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

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