Rationality Quotes April - June 2017

Another quarter, another rationality quotes thread. The rules are:

  • Provide sufficient information (URL, title, date, page number, etc.) to enable a reader to find the place where you read the quote, or its original source if available. Do not quote with only a name.
  • Post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson. If you'd like to revive an old quote from one of those sources, please do so here.  
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The answer to, "What idiot did this!?" is almost always, "A smart, well-intentioned person making tradeoffs you hadn't even considered." - Jason Specland

“Witches don’t often get angry. All that shouting business never really gets anybody anywhere.”

After another pause, Letitia said, “If that is true, then maybe I’m not cut out to be a witch. I feel very angry sometimes.”

“Oh, I feel very angry a lot of the time,” said Tiffany, “but I just put it away somewhere until I can do something useful with it. That’s the thing about witchcraft—and wizardry, come to that. We don’t do much magic at the best of times, and when we do, we generally do it on ourselves.”

-Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight

[the egg rolled passed Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico]

Skipper: Hey, anybody see that? That's an egg! Is somebody gonna go get it?

Penguin #5: We can't do that.

Skipper: Why not?

Penguin #6: Well, it's a dangerous world out there and we're just penguins. You know, nothing but cute and cuddly.

Penguin #7: Yeah. Why do you think there are always documentary crews filming us? [camera zooms out to see two men with a camera and a microphone for filming]

Penguin #8: Well, sorry, kid. You know, we lose a few eggs every year. It's just nature.

Skipper: Oh, right, nature. I guess that makes sense. But... But something... something deep down in my gut tells me that it just doesn't make any sense at all. You know what? I reject nature! [the other penguins gasp] Who's with me? [with a shout, Skipper goes after the egg, much to Kowalski's and Rico's confusion]

Penguins of Madagascar, 2014

No you won't... ...because the configuration of life that refers to itself as you will be gone.

We had succeeded in obtaining John yon Neumann as keynote speaker. He discussed the need for, and likely impact of, electronic computing. He mentioned the "new programming method" for ENIAC and explained that its seemingly small vocabulary was in fact ample: that future computers, then in the design stage, would get along on a dozen instruction types, and this was known to be adequate for expressing all of mathematics. (Parenthetically, it is as true today as it was then that "programming" a problem means giving it a mathematical formulation. Source languages which use "plain English" or other appealing vocabularies are only mnemonic disguises for mathematics.) Von Neumann went on to say that one need not be surprised at this small number, since about 1,000 words were known to be adequate for most situations of real life, and mathematics was only a small part of life, and a very simple part at that. This caused some hilarity in the audience, which provoked von Neumann to say: "If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is."

Franz L. Alt, "Archaeology of computers: Reminiscences, 1945--1947", Communications of the ACM, volume 15, issue 7, July 1972, special issue: Twenty-fifth anniversary of the Association for Computing Machinery, p. 694. PDF.

"... as the old saying went: 'Not all windowless vans have residential surveillance equipment.' In other words, not everything can be as good as it seems."

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