This anecdote illustrates my intuition that Hanson is wrong in his (fun for him because it's contrarian?) claim that relatively undiversified entrepreunership is rational for the individual:


I intuitively favor what I think are the more conventional views that a level of diversification which excedes most forms of entrepreneurship is a more rational approach to wealth-building for individuals, even though high levels of (individually irrational) entrepreneurship is a more rational approach to wealth-building for a society.

Expand full comment

A fun critique of Wolfram's book by someone who appears to be an expert on CA


Expand full comment

mjgeddes, I disagree on several points.1. The Langan evidence seems weak to me. "several times", "independent IQ testers" "close to the human genetic limit" -that's not strong evidence. Those seem to me to be buzz words in a good story with obvious counterhierarchical appeal. Frankly, the story has been a bit of a cliche in its various iterations for a few generations now.2. I share your skepticism about Yudkowsky and Chalmers, but I think you present it in a kind of caricaturish way (particularly Yudkowsky, I know less about Chalmers).3. I share your admiration of Wolfram's work. And I think there are real advances coming from high-IQ 'blow-hards' blogging on the internet. Like this guy:http://blog.wolfram.com/

Expand full comment


Langan is very likely close to the smartest person in America in terms of raw IQ, this has been confirmed several times by independent IQ testers. His adult IQ is at least 195, and could be as high as 210. This IQ is close to the human genetic limit.

The point is that IQ doesn't the person from holding all sorts of irrational beliefs unfortunately. Look at Yudkowsky, who as far as I can tell is actually serious in his Libertarian political belief and the idea that 'Bayes the secret to universe'. Another example would be David Chalmers and his 'property dualism' theory of consciousness. You know I actually fell for Chalmers for a while, but I've got an excuse, I'm not a super genius. For someone as smart as Chalmers to do on peddling that tripe, there's really no excuse.

The recent Wolfram example shows that the real advances are not coming from high-IQ 'blow-hards' on Internet messageboards. The real advances are being done by creative, original thinkers.

Expand full comment

mjgeddes,That wikipedia entry isn't particularly convincing to me that Langan is the smartest man in America.

Expand full comment

excert from 'Wolfram's Alpha'...

"One of the most surprising aspects of this project is that Wolfram has been able to keep it secret for so long. I say this because it is a monumental effort (and achievement) and almost absurdly ambitious. The project involves more than a hundred people working in stealth to create a vast system of reusable, computable knowledge, from terabytes of raw data, statistics, algorithms, data feeds, and expertise. But he appears to have done it, and kept it quiet for a long time while it was being developed."

Expand full comment

Big news! Stephen Wolfram has apparently completed implementation of an AGI Engine on top of Mathematica! I've pleased to report that it seems to operate on the same ideas I've been advocating (ontological building blocks, math, semantic web). LOL.

Wolfram's Alpha

Expand full comment

This has probably been addressed already, but I wanted to write it down anyways. When I first learned about overcomingbias it came as a bit of a shock. Since then I've tried to apply some of the ideas developed here in actual debates and conversations, updating priors etc... The good news is that I think I've changed my mind on many topics. The not so good news, is that when I analyze the way I've changed my mind I see that in many cases I have simply rectified deviations from some more primitive priors that were lurking in the background.

Expand full comment

Can someone point me to a post here on OB where the relationship between Newcomb and Prisoner's Dilemma is made clear? It's mysterious to me why it's often implied that defecting in a true PD and one-boxing in Newcomb are somehow inconsistent...

Expand full comment

>Forgive me for intruding in this conversation, mjg, but it strikes me that your real beef now has perhaps moved to Less Wrong? Just a thought. Carry on.

Yudkowsky's domain of virtual God Hood, complete with fake 'Karma' and all? No thanks.

Take it from me, IQ is way over-rated. Look at the fate of Chris Langan, the smartest man in America (IQ tested at 195+!), close to the limits of human intelligence, (he could have *smoked* even Bostrom, Hanson and Yudkowsky in any field, with one hand tied behind his back), but wasted his life generating theories that make no sense to anyone but himself:

Chris Langan

And most so-called 'rationality' is really nothing but a bunch of biases dressed in bad arguments, not to mention the fact that it's really boring anyway. Having fun and good conscious experience is far more important.

Expand full comment

Seen on Reddit, relevant to Eliezer's posts about tiling the universe with smiley faces: Robot Programmed To Love Goes Too Far

A Japanese lab tries to program a robot to love. The robot ends up trapping an intern in a hug and refusing to let her go until help arrives and manually de-activates it. Bonus: the researcher in charge calls it "the final step...in one of the fundamentals of the Singularity.”

Expand full comment


"The sooner fan-boys of Bayes admit their own absymal levels of human 'rationality'"

Forgive me for intruding in this conversation, mjg, but it strikes me that your real beef now has perhaps moved to Less Wrong? Just a thought. Carry on.

Expand full comment

>At any rate, there's a distinction to be made between "what is the basic activity of the human mind" and "what is the most basic way to model rational processes".

Yes , this is about foundations.

Category theory encompasses the whole of mathematics (its just as powerful as Set Theory). I’ve just pointed out that with a suitable interpretation, Category Theory recasts the whole of mathematics in terms of analogies (see Wikipedia ref in my previosus post).

The Bayes rule is a mathematical equation. All math equations can be recast as Category Theory. And all Category Theory can be recast as analogies (see above). Therefore, Bayesian Induction is merely a special case of analogy formation.

The sooner fan-boys of Bayes admit their own absymal levels of human 'rationality' and the fact they failed to spot the basic school-boy-level argument proving that analogy-formation is the real foundation of logic, the better.

Expand full comment

The current Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 might be of interest to readers of Overcoming Bias: The Decisive Moment by Jonah Lehrer.

"Since Plato, philosophers have described the decision-making process as either rational or emotional: we carefully deliberate or we go with our gut instinct.But as scientists break open the mind's black box with the latest tools of neuroscience, they are discovering that this is not an accurate picture of how the mind works. Our best decisions are a finely-tuned blend of both feeling and reason, and the precise mix depends on the situation."

Each program is available for 7 days following broadcast here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4...

Expand full comment

Beware, Geddes is a known crank.

Expand full comment

I seem to recall that Douglas Hofstadter has been promoting analogy-formation as the root of cognition for quite some time now, and I'd be surprised if most folks on this blog hadn't read one or two of his books (though some are better than others).

At any rate, there's a distinction to be made between "what is the basic activity of the human mind" and "what is the most basic way to model rational processes". Working closely with the brain's basic subconcious processes may in fact be suboptimal if they're too heavily tied to where cognitive biases arise from in the first place!

Expand full comment