Re: answers I'd like from an SI

From: Norman Noman (
Date: Mon Nov 12 2007 - 13:39:02 MST

On Nov 12, 2007 12:52 AM, Stathis Papaioannou <> wrote:
> On 12/11/2007, Norman Noman <> wrote:
> > That's just stupid. The smarter you are, the better you are at
> > explaining anything to anyone. If an explanation exists which a human
> > would understand, a superintelligence should be able to find it. It
> > should be able to explain general relativity to an eight year old so
> > well that their intuitive understanding of the skewing of reference
> > frames is better than stephen hawking's.
> Assuming such an explanation exists; I would guess that it does not,
> and we are somewhere near the limit of the best possible explanation
> for an eight year old at the moment. It is irrational to assume that
> just because we humans are not infinitely intelligent, we can't
> possibly have discovered the best answer to a technical or theoretical
> question.

Well, speaking from personal experience, I can explain general
relativity in nontechnical terms a hell of a lot better than I've seen
anyone else do it, and I find it hard to believe my explanation is the
best one.

When I was first taught that when travelling near the speed of light,
distances become shorter and the rest of the universe gets slower
(from your point of view), it didn't make sense to me, because if from
my perspective it only takes a day to get to alpha centauri, why is it
that when I get there, five years have gone by, and when i take the
one day trip back to earth, an additional five years have gone by back
on earth? From my reference frame, where does the extra time get in

I asked the professor and he wrote some equations on a napkin, but
essentially he couldn't find the words to explain it. The answer turns
out to be that as you accelerate to near the speed of light, your
reference frame "tilts" so to speak, and the five years happens all at
once for alpha centauri, then when you get there and decelerate it
tilts back, and five years happens on earth. Like letting down a set
of venetian blinds.

In all the handy "guy on a train with a clock and einstein's on the
platform with two mirrors and a bouncing photon" intros i've seen,
regardless of how computer animated they are, I've never seen this
basic fact mentioned at all, and it's kind of the keystone of the
whole system.

On Nov 12, 2007 1:41 PM, Matt Mahoney <> wrote:
> --- Norman Noman <> wrote:
> Ability to communicate is limited by the intelligence of both sender and
> receiver. We can observe the dancing of bees as they tell others in the hive
> where the pollen is. We can also create dancing robot bees that signal the
> bees where to fly. But that is about all we can do. Their language is quite
> limited. They can't ask where to build a hive that would best ensure their
> survival. They don't know the difference between a beekeeper and an
> exterminator.

Yes, but my point is, there is a difference in kind between a human
and a bee. It's like the difference between a computer and a
calculator. If you know what you're doing, you make the computer do
damn near anything, without any kind of physical tampering, just by
typing on the keyboard and clicking on the mouse.

Just as with bees, my desktop computer can communicate with the other
computers on the internet far more efficiently that I can communicate
with it. But the things I can teach it to do go beyond what the other
computers can teach it by a long, long way.

The idea that we humans are near the limits of our capacity for
understanding is absurd. Just as a computer, what we are capable of
understanding surpasses what we are capable of figuring out on our own
by miles and miles and miles.

> A superintelligence would know the complete state of your brain. You would
> not need to ask it anything. It would already know your questions. It it
> chooses to, it could answer by reprogramming your brain.

What does this have to do with anything?

> But we can know nothing about its intentions or motives.

Except if we defined them, or if it told us, or if we observed the
results of its actions? Kind of like everything else?

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