An appropriate post : I’ve come to find EY’s posts very boring. Subtle, intelligent, all that, sure. A mind far finer than my own, sure. But it never gets anywhere, never goes anywhere. He spends so much time posting he’s clearly not moving AI forward. His book is still out of sight, two years down the line.
I can understand the main thrust of his posts, and the comments, if I invest enough, my intelligence and knowledge are just about up to that. But why bother ? It’s sterile. Boredom = sterility.
As for Robin’s comment, which is pertinent and bears on the real world of lived emotions, the connection is that boredom is not a result of what you are doing, it’s a result of what you’re not doing. Think about it.
We do not know that the territory is single- level. It is conceivable that it is not, and
the available evidence does not exclude the
The territory is single level...… BY DEFINITION ….… waaaahahahahahahahahahaha !!!!!
Things in thingspace commonly coming within the boundary ‘free will’ :
could have done otherwise
possible irrational action
possible self-sacrificial action
gallantry and style (thanks to Kurt Vonnegut for that one)
I am a point in spacetime and my vector at t+1 has no determinant outside myself
‘car c’est mon bon désir’
you can put a gun at my head and I’ll still say ‘no’
consciousness subtending matter
disagreeing with Mum & Dad
disagreeing with the big Mom & Pop up there in the White House
no taxation without representation
… no taxation even with representation (daft )
‘No dear not tonight I’ve got a headache....’
aw hell, just go read Dennett : ‘Elbow Room’, he did it better than I could.
You’ve forgotten one important caveat in the phrase “And the way to carve reality at its joints, is to draw your boundaries around concentrations of unusually high probability density in Thingspace.”
The important caveat is : ‘boundaries around where concentrations of unusually high probability density lie, to the best of our knowledge and belief’ . All the imperfections in categorisation in existing languages come from that limitation.
Other problems in categorisation, like those of Antonio, in ‘Merchant of Venise’, or those of the founding fathers who wrote that it is ‘self evident that all men were created equal’ but at the same time were slave owners, do not come from language problems in categorisation, they would have acknowledged that Shylock or the slaves were human, but from different types of cognitive compromise.
Apart from that, it’s an intellectually satisfying approach, and you might, if you persevere, end up with a poor relation to an existing language. Why a poor relation ? because it would lack nuance, ambiguity, and redundance, which are the roots of poetry.
It would also lack words for the surprising but significant improbable phenomenon. Like genius, or albino. Then again, once you get around to saying you will have words for significant low hills of probability, the whole argument blows away.
Firstly, saying “you can define a word any way you want” is not the same thing as “any way which is meaningful to you”.
Secondly, I don’t believe the development on entropy has anything to do with the convenience of using short words for often used concepts. “chair” is a meaningful piece of jointed reality not because of its intrinsic physical properties but because of its handiness for humans. A dolphin would find “chair” as a significant piece of jointed reality absurd.
Thirdly, there is an obvious distinction bewteen using language descriptively and using it predictively. I would agree with you that mistakes often arise when moving from the descriptive to the predictive incautiously. That doesn’t, however, make the descriptive use of language invalid, or even unwise, 98% of the use of language is descriptive. (I have proof of that statistic, but it won’t fit in this margin).
Psychoh, do not despair. Remember : “The real challenge can be played as a single-player game, without speaking aloud.”.
We are looking for the natural joints of reality, and that is a purely subjective assessment. Every single pair of phenomena in the Universe can be the subject of a natural join if the difference in one of their attributes happens to be a salient division for you.
So draw the line around Christmas any way you want, just like you can draw the line around ‘food things living in the sea’ any way which is relevant to your way of fishing.
Just don’t speak it aloud.
While we’re staking out the new language, I want a word for red flowers, because I like red flowers, and that is much more important to me than their genotype or taxonomy. Also, I want a special word for slightly-out-of-focus photos, which is a very important category for reasons I’m not at liberty to disclose.
The joints of reality are articulated in a rather large number of dimensions. Carving it correspondingly is going to need one heck of a …. dictionary.
Ben, Rolf, no problem, I just thought that ‘people who look at dictionnaries’ was starting to be a category subject to sneaky connotations.. :)
I’ll second Frank Hirsch’s comment and add one point. I don’t get this obsession with ‘dictionary definitions’ either.
An etymological dictionary is endlessly fascinating precisely because it shows you the evolution of thought processes, concepts, and word usages, in action. Very much the opposite of the sort of table thumping that dictionaries are here supposed to give rise to.
Eliezer’s examples seem to be taken from a pretty toxic discussion environment
So if we have 100 pieces of information about phenomenon A, then we have 100 separate, weaker or stronger, potential categorisations, each with its own set of potential, weaker or stronger, inferences. All legit. and above board, nothing sneaky about it.
One could imagine the interactions of these 100 sets of inferences as a multi-dimensional interference pattern, with some nodes glowing brightly as inferences re-inforce, others vanishing completely.
The 101st piece of information will bring its own potential categorisation and an additional set of potential inferences.
The alternative, I suppose, is just buying a whole truckload of hemlock and going round paying calls on all my friends......
Eliezer seems to want us to strike out some category of words from our vocabulary, but the category is not well defined. Perhaps a meta-Taboo game is necessary to find out what the heck we are supposed to be doing without.
I’m not too bothered, grunting and pointing are reasonably effective ways of communicating. Who needs words ?
Albert and Barry’s different usages of the word ‘sound’ are both perfectly testable.
Once they’ve taken the reasonable and sufficient step of looking ‘sound’ up in a dictionary, and having identified the two (out of many) possible meanings they were using, then one can go off and test for the presence of pressure waves in the air, while the other tests for auditory perceptions in the humans (and/or other animals doted with hearing) nearest to the event.
They can later compare their results and Albert will say ’there was sound according to the definition that I was using (Webster : sound(1) 1a), while Barry can happily agree while saying there wasn’t, according to the definition that he was using (Webster : sound(1) 1b).
Having got that over, they will go off for a beer at the nearest bar and have a good laugh over that time-travelling guy’s not even knowing how to use a dictionary....
Silas, billswift, Eliezer does say, introducing his diagrams in the Neural Categories post :
“Then I might design a neural network that looks something like this:”
Again, very interesting.
A mind composed of type 1 neural networks looks as though it wouldn’t in fact be able to do any categorising, so wouldn’t be able to do any predicting, so would in fact be pretty dumb and lead a very Hobbesian life....
The primary categorisation is “Threat / Not a threat”, and the main categorisation bias is “Better safe than sorry”.
You’ll find that many of your specific categorisation biases are particular examples of that. Examples are : nervousness about your Great Thing being a cult, Asch experiment situations where you have to join the group or stick out from it.
Diagram 1b has ‘Threat’ written all over it.....
To summarise :
A storm in a teacup between a pot and a kettle.
Excellent post, however,
“But people often don’t realize that their argument about where to draw a definitional boundary, is really a dispute over whether to infer a characteristic shared by most things inside an empirical cluster...”
Indeed so, but there are other aspects. Humans also have obsessions with
(a) how far your cluster is from mine (kinship or the lack of it)
(b) given one empirical cluster, how can I pick a characteristic, however minor, which will allow me to split it into ‘us vs them’ (Robber’s Cave).
So when you get to discussing whether an uploaded human brain is part of the cluster ‘human’, those are the considerations which will be foremost.
I sense these 6 essays on cognitive semantics are going to bring us back to transhumanism sooner or later. As of right now, whatever the radial distance from the prototype, and except on the Island of Dr Moreau, you are DEFINITELY human or definitely not, definitely a bird or definitely not.
Pluto is DEFINITELY a pla...… whoops.
Thanks for the stuff on typicality, interesting. Just as a side thought, I suspect this has a bearing on Robin’s recent post on complexity in political discourse. If one ‘plank’ of a candidate’s position becomes ‘typical’ of his whole set of ideas, then that gives strength and coherence to Candidate X as a concept.
I’m a little puzzled by all the above. A prediction market is supposed to squeeze out the last drop of (solvent) expert knowledge concerning a given outcome, but voting is a complex and chaotic phenomenon where ‘expert knowledge’ is thin on the ground or non-existent. If anyone could reliably forecast election results, I think we’d know about it by now. Think weather forecasting, as a comparison.
So we’re left with, at best, a few people who really believe in their favorite groundhog, and are prepared to place serious money, and others who are prepared to have a flutter on their hunch or their hopes.
The result, even ignoring any possible manipulation, looks awfully like a poll of forecasts, distorted by individuals’ like of betting and amounts of spare cash as selection biases. Polls of forecasts are less reliable than polls of intentions.
And as for Phil, who seems to think not betting is suspect, perhaps Un-American, or perhaps downright criminal, consider that many people have a conservative mindset, don’t bet as a general rule, and so just couldn’t be bothered.
Apart from which, my Dad told me you should work for a living and not to bet, and my Dad is an Authority.