As far as I can tell, "wisdom" is just a word that refers to the sort of knowledge that (1) defines the person being described as high status, and (2) is the result of extensive experience. When I imagine someone as "wise", I think of the person looking rather eminent, and most likely sort of old simply because long stretches of experience require long stretches of living--that is being at least somewhat old.

So we know that many smart people make stupid (at least in retrospect) decisions. What these people seem to be lacking, at least at the moment they make a poor decision, is wisdom ("judicious application of knowledge").

Many people we would label as "smart" make decisions we end up labeling "stupid". This doesn't seem very remarkable. When I think of the word "smart", what comes to mind is a comparatively high mental ability in certain subjects, or someone who's demonstrated a comparatively high likelihood of coming to interesting insights, or getting good at something requiring strong mental ability, such as chess. Someone meeting that criteria making a decision we end up calling "stupid" seems no more interesting than someone we call "athletic" getting injured.

You're saying these people--those who we would be likely to label as "smart", yet sometimes make decisions we would likely call "stupid"--what they're missing is "wisdom". This makes it sound like 'wisdom' is some sort of component they're missing, as if this insight would put us on some sort of useful quest, analogous to being told that the way by which to open this box we want to open is "to find the key, which is somewhere in this house" (a clue).

Well, I would rephrase what you're saying as the completely unremarkable observation that someone we would likely call "smart", if they were to make a series of stupid decisions, we would probably be unlikely to call them "wise". This is a fact about how we employ English words, nothing more. Part of the meaning of "wise" seems to be consistency. Someone erratic, yet "smart", we would be unlikely to refer to by the word "wise". I don't see how this observation could generate any useful hypotheses pertaining to building FAI, or anything like that. As it doesn't seem to concern anything but definitions, the only application to FAI would, as far as I can tell, be one of suggesting which FAI to call "wise", and which to not--a rather uninteresting conversation indeed.

Clearly, if one created a human-level AI, one would want it to "choose wisely".

Here I just want to point out that although you transitioned to this sentence as if it was part of your general point, it should be mentioned that although the grammar may suggest that "wisely" in "choose wisely" is a conjugation of "wisdom" or "wise", it seems to be a slightly different word. 'Choosing wisely' just seems to be choosing based on calm, rational deliberation, like in telling someone to "choose wisely" one is suggesting they not be hasty. It doesn't seem to suggest anything pertaining to extensive experience, or anything like that, as the words "wise" and "wisdom" do.

Call me pedantic, but I'm just trying to show how slippy words can be, and the sort of care that's necessary to not get sucked into shuffling around words to no real purpose.

However, as human examples show, wisdom does not come for free with intelligence

You mean calling someone "smart" doesn't mean it would be tautological to call them "wise", as in the classic example of calling someone a "bachelor" meaning it would be a tautology to call them an "unmarried man"? Yeah, that much is obvious. Wisdom seems to suggest consistency, but plenty of people we call "intelligent" are rather erratic in certain respects, to no contradiction of that label. Again, I see no interesting insight here. We're still just discussing English-language conventions.

Actually, we usually don't trust intelligent people nearly as much as we trust wise ones (or appearing to be wise, at any rate).

Yeah, because consistency is a component of the common definition of "wise". We trust people we would consider consistent more than those we wouldn't label with that word.

For example, Aaron Swartz was clearly very smart, but was it wise of him to act they way he did, gambling on one big thing after another, without a clear sense of what is likely to happen and at what odds?

Again, there is an equivocation going on with this sort of transition. Although related in meaning, and sharing the same sequence of characters, the word "wise" in the question "was it wise of him" seems to be of a different meaning than the word "wise" in referring to Aaron as a "wise elder". The question "was it wise of him" seems no more than just asking whether it was a good idea, whereas the idea of being a "wise elder" seems to be about his experience, etc. Again the definitions are just being moved around in a word shuffle that doesn't seem to be getting us anywhere.

What algorithms/decision theories make someone wiser?

I don't know, ones that make them more consistent? Or ones that signal higher social status, or allow them to react more calmly when confronted with shocking situations? As with the rest of your post, you seem to be just asking questions about definitions, or making statements about how we use certain words. I can't seem to find any real, useful content in your post. It seems like no more than an exercise in messing around with definitions, masquerading as being in some way insightful.

There's another cliche, though-- the wise, low status person. This person is usually old, though occasionally you get a child who's wise beyond their years.

I can't think of any tropes about surprisingly wise middle-aged people.

Quantifying wisdom

by shminux 1 min read16th Jan 201327 comments

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So we know that many smart people make stupid (at least in retrospect) decisions. What these people seem to be lacking, at least at the moment they make a poor decision, is wisdom ("judicious application of knowledge"). More from Wikipedia:

It is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgements and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one's emotional reactions (the "passions") so that universal principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one's actions.  

From Psychology Today:

It can be difficult to define Wisdom, but people generally recognize it when they encounter it. Psychologists pretty much agree it involves an integration of knowledge, experience, and deep understanding that incorporates tolerance for the uncertainties of life as well as its ups and downs. There's an awareness of how things play out over time, and it confers a sense of balance.

Wise people generally share an optimism that life's problems can be solved and experience a certain amount of calm in facing difficult decisions. Intelligence—if only anyone could figure out exactly what it is—may be necessary for wisdom, but it definitely isn't sufficient; an ability to see the big picture, a sense of proportion, and considerable introspection also contribute to its development.

From SEP:

(1) wisdom as epistemic humility, (2) wisdom as epistemic accuracy, (3) wisdom as knowledge, and (4) wisdom as knowledge and action.

Clearly, if one created a human-level AI, one would want it to "choose wisely". However, as human examples show, wisdom does not come for free with intelligence. Actually, we usually don't trust intelligent people nearly as much as we trust wise ones (or appearing to be wise, at any rate). We don't trust them to make good decisions, because they might be too smart for their own good. Speaking of artificial intelligence, one (informal) quality we'd expect an FAI to have is that of wisdom.

So, how would one measure wisdom? Converting the above description ("ability to apply perceptions, judgements and actions in keeping with this understanding") into a more technical form, one can interpret wisdom, in part, as understanding one's own limitations ("running on corrupt hardware", in the local parlance) and calibrating one's actions accordingly. For example, of two people of the same knowledge and intelligence level (as determined by your favorite intelligence test), how do you tell which one is wiser? You look at how the outcomes of their actions measure up against what they predicted. The good news is that you can practice and test your calibration (and, by extension, your wisdom), by playing with the PredictionBook.

For example, Aaron Swartz was clearly very smart, but was it wise of him to act they way he did, gambling on one big thing after another, without a clear sense of what is likely to happen and at what odds? On the other end of the spectrum, you can often see wise people of average intelligence (or lower) recognizing their limitations and sticking with "what works".

Now, this quantification is clearly not exhaustive. Even when perfectly calibrated, how do you quantify being appropriately cautious when making drastic choices and appropriately bold when making minor ones? What algorithms/decision theories make someone wiser? Bayesianism can surely help, but it relies on decent priors and does not compel one to act. Would someone implementing TDT or UDT to the best of their ability maximize their wisdom for a given intelligence/knowledge level? Is this even a meaningful question to ask?

EDIT: fixed fonts (hopefully).

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