Rationality: From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Despite just a few niggling quips I might have with a few parts of the structure of this absolutely fantastic collection of essays, I think I've found one of my most absolute favorite books of all time.
I've read a ton of philosophy over the years and more psychology, thanks to my degree in psychology, but nothing QUITE prepared me for this. What we have here is not just a man in the process of designing, from the ground-up, a nice AI that won't turn around and rationally destroy us all because we're vermin, but a man who has gone ahead and taken the idea of real rationality and turned it not only on his work, his life, and himself, but has gone out of his way to give us the benefit of his experience.
Sound like a self-help book? It isn't. Or, at least, any of us could use it that way, but to me, it's probably the single-most-useful, courageous, funny, and excruciatingly smart book I've read in a very long time.
Does Eliezer have charm? Hell yeah. Does Eliezer champion Bayesian probability? HELL YEAH. Does Eliezer throw a perfectly understandable spotlight on our desperate need to reduce bias and seek truth no matter how painful? Yes. Very much so. And he sends a lot of great light on the whole field of AI research, Cognitive Science, Philosophy, Quantum Physicists, and everyone who might be laboring under faulty models of thought and lazy thinking.
Above all, he's passionate as hell about Thinking Clearly. It also helps that he's fantastically devoted to rigorous standards, correct predictive models, and thorough ethical considerations. This isn't all about AIs although we know he is passionate about it. It's about EVERYTHING.
And he's right. We need rationality, and I mean, REAL RATIONALITY. I mean meticulously and carefully considered thought. Courageous exposing of our own faults. Our stubbornness, our ability to get up when we fail and learn from our mistakes and DON'T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES AGAIN.
This isn't just a primer on logic. It's pretty much a beacon of shining light in the darkness. :) And Eliezer brings it all to us in such a charming and self-deprecating way that I wouldn't be surprised if he gains a cult following of aspiring Rationalists flocking to his cause.
Of course, he would question the HELL out of that. Jeeze... I feel like we have a modern Socrates in our midst. Only, this modern Socrates is building on ALL the myriad scientific foundations of those who have come before and is unwilling to take even a dram of Hemlock. :)
(He already tried that as Eliezer of '96.) :)
So. What am I trying to say here?
Oh, nothing much. I don't care who you are or what you're into. EVERYONE should read this monster of a book and see for themselves. This world is not hopeless. Not when we have such minds in it. Of course, that means we all need to step up to the plate and don't let bias, willful ignorance, or intellectual dishonesty win.
Everyone needs to step up. Even if you don't use Bayesian. :)
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