This is part of a semi-monthly reading group on Eliezer Yudkowsky's ebook, Rationality: From AI to Zombies. For more information about the group, see the announcement post.

Welcome to the Rationality reading group. This fortnight we discuss Part K: Letting Go (pp. 497-532)This post summarizes each article of the sequence, linking to the original LessWrong post where available.

K. Letting Go

121. The Importance of Saying "Oops" - When your theory is proved wrong, just scream "OOPS!" and admit your mistake fully. Don't just admit local errors. Don't try to protect your pride by conceding the absolute minimal patch of ground. Making small concessions means that you will make only small improvements. It is far better to make big improvements quickly. This is a lesson of Bayescraft that Traditional Rationality fails to teach.

122. The Crackpot Offer - If you make a mistake, don't excuse it or pat yourself on the back for thinking originally; acknowledge you made a mistake and move on. If you become invested in your own mistakes, you'll stay stuck on bad ideas.

123. Just Lose Hope Already - Casey Serin owes banks 2.2 million dollars after lying on mortgage applications in order to simultaneously buy 8 different houses in different states. The sad part is that he hasn't given up - he hasn't declared bankruptcy, and has just attempted to purchase another house. While this behavior seems merely stupid, it brings to mind Merton and Scholes of Long-Term Capital Management, who made 40% profits for three years, and then lost it all when they overleveraged. Each profession has rules on how to be successful, which makes rationality seem unlikely to help greatly in life. Yet it seems that one of the greater skills is not being stupid, which rationality does help with.

124. The Proper Use of Doubt - Doubt is often regarded as virtuous for the wrong reason: because it is a sign of humility and recognition of your place in the hierarchy. But from a rationalist perspective, this is not why you should doubt. The doubt, rather, should exist to annihilate itself: to confirm the reason for doubting, or to show the doubt to be baseless. When you can no longer make progress in this respect, the doubt is no longer useful to you as a rationalist.

125. You Can Face Reality - This post quotes a poem by Eugene Gendlin, which reads, "What is true is already so. / Owning up to it doesn't make it worse. / Not being open about it doesn't make it go away. / And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with. / Anything untrue isn't there to be lived. / People can stand what is true, / for they are already enduring it."

126. The Meditation on Curiosity - If you can find within yourself the slightest shred of true uncertainty, then guard it like a forester nursing a campfire. If you can make it blaze up into a flame of curiosity, it will make you light and eager, and give purpose to your questioning and direction to your skills.

127. No One Can Exempt You From Rationality's Laws - Traditional Rationality is phrased in terms of social rules, with violations interpretable as cheating - as defections from cooperative norms. But viewing rationality as a social obligation gives rise to some strange ideas. The laws of rationality are mathematics, and no social maneuvering can exempt you.

128. Leave a Line of Retreat - If you are trying to judge whether some unpleasant idea is true you should visualise what the world would look like if it were true, and what you would do in that situation. This will allow you to be less scared of the idea, and reason about it without immediately trying to reject it.

129. Crisis of Faith - A guide to making drastic but desirable changes to your map of the territory without losing your way.

130. The Ritual - Depiction of crisis of faith in Beisutsukai world.


This has been a collection of notes on the assigned sequence for this fortnight. The most important part of the reading group though is discussion, which is in the comments section. Please remember that this group contains a variety of levels of expertise: if a line of discussion seems too basic or too incomprehensible, look around for one that suits you better!

The next reading will cover Minds: An Introduction (pp. 539-545), Interlude: The Power of Intelligence (pp. 547-550), and Part L: The Simple Math of Evolution (pp. 553-613). The discussion will go live on Wednesday, 21 October 2015, right here on the discussion forum of LessWrong.


New Comment
1 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 9:34 PM

The most interesting segment of this section was The Ritual. I find the problem of how to go about making an effective practice very interesting. I would also like to draw attention to this section:

"I concede," Jeffreyssai said. Coming from his lips, the phrase was spoken with a commanding finality. There is no need to argue with me any further: You have won.

I experienced a phenomenon recently that trends to act as a brake on letting go: the commentary following concession. I was having a conversation with someone, and expressed an opinion. They countered, and after a few moments' consideration I saw they had completely invalidated my premise. When I said so, the conversation came to a halt as they asked 'Did I just win an argument?' When I said 'Yup,' they said 'Write that down!'

This speaks to the way we value how we argue. Refusing to concede is a way to demonstrate commitment and strength. I have on more than one occasion experienced a modicum of ridicule for agreeing too quickly, from the person I was agreeing with. When I was younger, I even did this myself - yet it is insane as I reflect on it. I felt argument was a competition, and winning too easily was like a sporting event where one team played abysmally; no entertainment value. I reflect that I should dedicate more effort to arguing for the sake of exploration.

The person with whom I had the exchange has no knowledge of or interest in rationality. The experience happening so soon on the heels of reading served to illustrate that while developing the field of rationality may rely on shared complex ideas and values, developing the practice of rationality may not.

New to LessWrong?