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You don't believe in free will, correct?


That's probably closer to the truth than one might think. Once a belief system moves beyond rote memorization of its basic principles and becomes associated with other domains, non-rational beliefs can get very heavily embedded with outside belief networks. The feedback loop that can be created by having just a few anecdotal connections to an already established system would be severe.

The key factor is that, for people who are not strict rationalists already, the "correlation=causation" attitude is quite strong, so any neuronal links I make from new information to outside branches of knowledge can freely flow right back the way they came. Where the rationalist would have to find additional evidence to ingrain a belief, the fundamentalist is free to draw from his outside branches of knowledge to find reverse reinforcement to support the belief he's trying to learn.

Of course, we all do this to a certain extent, bootstrapping our new, tenuous beliefs by looking for associations we can make to older, more familiar territory. But fundamentalists can get through the neuronal rut-treading faster than rationalists, allowing a belief system to become ingrained that much faster.

Also, part of rationalists' training involves maintaining belief system elasticity, so we are ready to shift our conceptions as new information comes along. Fundamentalists, on the other hand, strive in exactly the reverse direction, wanting each neuronal pathway to be as unchanging as possible. There are two main reasons I can think of that this would be important: The one is that God's morality is eternal and unchanging, so the closer we bring our thought patterns out of that messy doubting game, the closer we come to "perfection". The other is that certain idea like adultery or homosexuality are expressly forbidden not to just do, but to even think about. What's a person to do? Well, once you hit the Stage 3 described above, your neural pathways will just naturally flow in the proscribed direction, avoiding extraneous pitfalls that you've edited out.

I remember reading something about this stage with professional chess players a long time ago--a chess master simulates less possible moves in their head than a player with only moderate experience, because past a certain stage, their brain pathways have seen enough games that the obviously "bad" moves simply drop out of their neural net.

Charlie Parker echoed a similar thing about jazz:

“You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.”

Unfortunately, the same neural embedding that makes great chess players and musicians possible, also makes cults and other forms of indoctrination possible.


This is good. It seems (to me) to mean that the LessWrong community is starting to "get the hang" of the importance of explanation...

By that I mean that a person who found themselves in the state of being "very" "intelligent" might, at the exact same time that they realized their state of intelligence had been the result of what we call "insights"--a working out of the problem on a level-independent way from the presuppositions inherent in the overwhelming bias of the problem as stated...

that that agent would also concurrently understand that the simple act of "explaining" how it might look to another person trapped further down the scale would cause them to agree, and hence look upwards, seeking the thing we had described for their benefit.

tl;dr in this case is: explanation IS intelligence, as much as insight if not more. "Misunderstood geniuses" is an oxymoron, no matter what genius-level you find yourself in,

Hi all, my name's Drew. I stumbled upon the site from who-knows-where last week and must've put in 30-40 hours of reading already, so suffice to say I've found the writing/discussions quite enjoyable so far. I'm heavily interested in theories of human behavior on both a psychological and moral level, so most of the subject matter has been enjoyable. I was a big Hofstader fan a few years back as well, so the AI and consciousness discussions are interesting as well.

Anyway, thought I'd pop in and say hi, maybe I'll take part in some conversations soon. Looks like a great thing you've got going here.