Several years ago I became aware of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s “AI-Box Experiment” in which he plays the role of a transhuman “artificial intelligence” and attempts (via dialogue only) to convince a human “gatekeeper” to let him out of a box in which he is being contained (resumably so the AI doesn’t harm humanity). Yudkowsky ran this experiment twice and both times he convinced the gatekeeper to let the AI out of the box, despite the fact that the gatekeeper swore up and down that there was no way to persuade him to do so.
I have to admit I think this is one of the most fascinating social experiments ever conceived, and I’m dying to play the game as gatekeeper. The problem though that I realize after reading Yudkowsky’s writeup is that there are (at least) two preconditions which I don’t meet:
Currently, my policy is that I only run the test with people who are actually advocating that an AI Box be used …
There is a massive paradigm shift occurring: beliefs about the nature of scientific inquiry that have held for hundreds of years are being questioned.
As laypeople, we see the symptoms all around us: climatology, economics, medicine, even fundamental physics; these domains (and more) have all become battlegrounds with mounting armies of Ph.D.s and Nobel Prize winners entrenching in opposing camps. Here’s what’s at stake:
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In 1972 Kahneman and Tversky launched the study into human cognitive bias, which later won Kahneman the Nobel. Even a cursory reading of this now vast literature should make each and every logically-minded scientist very skeptical of their own work.
A few scientists do take bias seriously (c.f. Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong). Yet, nearly 40 years later, it might be fair to say that its impact on science as a whole has been limited to improving clinical trials and spawning behavioral economics.
In 2008, Farhad Manjoo poignantly illustrates …
Stuart Kauffman has a concept called the Adjacent Possible which I find incredibly useful in understanding the world. Simply put, if you think of the space of possibilities from the present moment forward and just concentrate on those that are achievable today — adjacent to the present moment — that’s the Adjacent Possible.
What’s interesting about possibility-space is that tomorrow’s Adjacent Possible depends on the actions and choices we make today; it’s not symmetric and it’s nonlinear. Certain actions generate more future possibilities than others. In my experience, those actions tend to be the cooperative ones, ones that produce network effects: financial, social and otherwise.
Due to our evolutionary heritage, having come from a resource-constrained world, we may be predisposed to see the more competitive actions which tend to shrink the Adjacent Possible. Whether or not this is a bias or an actual state of affairs, much of our thinking is based on scarcity, so we are drawn to actions that become self-limiting.
I liken cognition to a hill-climbing search on the landscape of theories/models/maps that explain/predict reality. It’s easy to get stuck on peaks of local maximality. Injecting randomness creates a sort of Boltzmann machine of the mind and increases my chances of finding higher peaks.
But I have to be prepared to be more confused — and question more assumptions than I intended to — because chances are my new random placement on the landscape is initially lower than the local maximum I was on prior. This part is scary. People around me don’t understand what I’m saying initially because I necessarily need new words, new language, to describe the new landscape.
And rather than start totally afresh with a new lexicon, I notice it’s more productive (personally and in communication) to overload old terms and let them slowly blend into their new meanings. We all resist the strain, especially those who did not sign up for the jump through hyperspace. They use the …
In my post about The Process it turns out that I stepped on a pedagogical minefield when using describing the Anthropic Principle (AP). Two preeminent physicists had a very public argument a while ago in which one called the AP unscientific because it’s unfalsifiable. I will return to that in a moment since it’s the crux of what’s wrong with Science right now, but I need to get the terminology issue out of the way first.
Lee Smolin claims that AP is bad and favors a Cosmological Natural Selection view instead (on grounds of falsifiability). I believe this is a false dichotomy and that they are really one and the same. Here’s why:
- Normally natural selection requires some form of “replication” or it’s not actually natural selection. But replication is not needed if you start with an infinity of heterogeneous universes. In other words replication is simulated via the anthropic lens over the life-supporting subset of all possible universes.
- Replication is a red herring anyway
I was just interviewed by International Mentoring Network and as a thank you for my time they asked if there was anyone I would like to interview. Anyone in their network, I asked ? No, anyone in the world. Whoever it is, they will try to make it happen. Now that’s an interesting question!
Okay, so who do you think I should interview?…
How do we know what we know?
If you grew up like me you were brought up in a culture based on a dualist metaphysics, one that asserts that there is an objective reality outside of ourselves (whatever “we” are) and that we know about it indirectly through our senses and conscious reasoning. This is the basis of the Western traditions of science, liberal arts and symbolic systems (such as mathematics and human language). Essentially anything that can be studied is part of this metaphysics. Gödel showed us that this metaphysics will never lead to complete knowing, though everyone agrees we can continually refine our knowledge and thereby at least asymptotically approach enlightenment.
Descartes proved to us that each of us individually do indeed exist, and he tried to argue further that the universe as we perceive it — however imperfectly — does indeed exist too. But before you drink too deeply from the Cartesian well, keep in mind that his argument for an external…
If you liked this, check out these posts:
- Behavioral Economics with Dan Ariely
- Management 2.0
- Executive Compensation
- World’s Most Ambitious Crowdsource
- My Favorite TED Talks of TED 2009
One of my favorite talks of all time is Ken Robinson’s on how children are born naturally innovative and the process of schooling and growing up in our society beats it out of them by the time they are adults. More recently, Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat Pray Love fame) opened some eyes with this talk on how we think of individual creativity and where it comes from.…