by Stephen Downes
Dec 23, 2016
While I agree that it is important to understand the values and principles that guide your life, I am cautious about formalizing them into rules, and I warn against self-serving rationalization. We see both in this article by Ray Dalio. At the core of his value set are two principles (one of which is stated explicitly): first, the value of seeking the truth, and second, the value of focused hard work. But is is equally an error to suppose that you have found the truth, and that your success is specifically due to hard work. I'm sure he believes "reality + dreams + determination = a successful life" but it also helps to get a job as a caddy at age 12 and to fill your summers as an intern on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. For me, empathy is as important as truth, and happiness is as important as hard work.
This is one of the better things I've read in a while, and I also like the way it's presented. The point of departure is the concern, expressed by many, that artificial intelligence might exceed humanity and ultimately wipe us out. Maciej Cegłowski has very clearly thought about this in some depth, and the argument he lays out against superintelligence is a nimble application of demonstration and reason. The talk ventures into some interesting territory as well, including the foundational crisis in mathematics, and the surprising story of the great Australian Emu War. And there are some searing comments about the AI community that spawned the argument in the first place, "like nine year olds camped out in the backyard, playing with flashlights in their tent. They project their own shadows on the sides of the tent and get scared that it’s a monster. Really it's a distorted image of themselves that they're reacting to." Awesome.
Keep it simple. Yes, that excellent advice - but what exactly do we mean by "simplicity". As this article notes, on the one hand there's ontological simplicity, in which the fewest number of objects possible is contemplated. But there's also syntactic simplicity, in which the shortest formal principles are employed. And what about causal simplicity, which prefers the fewest number of causes for each event? This raises the question of why we would prefer simplicity at all. I face that a lot - education is filled with simply explanations and principles that are probably wrong.
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