Quotes from Rationality: From AI to Zombies

Eliezer Yudkowsky ·  1813 pages

Rating: (600 votes)


“Since the beginning
not one unusual thing
has ever happened.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“Oops is the sound we make when we improve our beliefs and strategies; so to look back at a time and not see anything you did wrong means that you haven’t learned anything or changed your mind since then.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“Many philosophers—particularly amateur philosophers, and ancient philosophers—share a dangerous instinct: If you give them a question, they try to answer it.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“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. —Eugene Gendlin”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“Logic stays true, wherever you may go,
So logic never tells you where you live.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies



“When you find yourself in philosophical difficulties, the first line of defense is not to define your problematic terms, but to see whether you can think without using those terms at all. Or any of their short synonyms. And be careful not to let yourself invent a new word to use instead. Describe outward observables and interior mechanisms; don’t use a single handle, whatever that handle may be.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“The actual consumers of knowledge are the children—who can’t pay, can’t vote, can’t sit on the committees. Their parents care for them, but don’t sit in the classes themselves; they can only hold politicians responsible according to surface images of “tough on education.” Politicians are too busy being re-elected to study all the data themselves; they have to rely on surface images of bureaucrats being busy and commissioning studies—it may not work to help any children, but it works to let politicians appear caring. Bureaucrats don’t expect to use textbooks themselves, so they don’t care if the textbooks are hideous to read, so long as the process by which they are purchased looks good on the surface. The textbook publishers have no motive to produce bad textbooks, but they know that the textbook purchasing committee will be comparing textbooks based on how many different subjects they cover, and that the fourth-grade purchasing committee isn’t coordinated with the third-grade purchasing committee, so they cram as many subjects into one textbook as possible. Teachers won’t get through a fourth of the textbook before the end of the year, and then the next year’s teacher will start over. Teachers might complain, but they aren’t the decision-makers, and ultimately, it’s not their future on the line, which puts sharp bounds on how much effort they’ll spend on unpaid altruism . . .”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“So the next time you doubt the strangeness of the future, remember how you were born in a hunter-gatherer tribe ten thousand years ago, when no one knew of Science at all. Remember how you were shocked, to the depths of your being, when Science explained the great and terrible sacred mysteries that you once revered so highly. Remember how you once believed that you could fly by eating the right mushrooms, and then you accepted with disappointment that you would never fly, and then you flew. Remember how you had always thought that slavery was right and proper, and then you changed your mind. Don't imagine how you could have predicted the change, for that is amnesia. Remember that, in fact, you did not guess. Remember how, century after century, the world changed in ways you did not guess.

Maybe then you will be less shocked by what happens next.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“If you once tell a lie, the truth is ever after your enemy.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“Listen to hypotheses as they plead their cases before you, but remember that you are not a hypothesis, you are the judge. Therefore do not seek to argue for one side or another, for if you knew your destination, you would already be there.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies



“A random key does not open a random lock just because they are “both random.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“If you see your activities and situation originally, you will be able to originally see your goals as well. If you can look with fresh eyes, as though for the first time, you will see yourself doing things that you would never dream of doing if they were not habits.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“What does it mean to call for a “democratic” solution if you don’t have a conflict-resolution mechanism in mind?
I think it means that you have said the word “democracy,” so the audience is supposed to cheer. It’s not so much a propositional statement, as the equivalent of the “Applause” light that tells a studio audience when to clap.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“John Kenneth Galbraith said: “Faced with the choice of changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“If the box contains a diamond, I desire to believe that the box contains a diamond; If the box does not contain a diamond, I desire to believe that the box does not contain a diamond; Let me not become attached to beliefs I may not want.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies



“The police officer who puts their life on the line with no superpowers, no X-Ray vision, no super-strength, no ability to fly, and above all no invulnerability to bullets, reveals far greater virtue than Superman—who is a mere superhero.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“But in probability theory, absence of evidence is always evidence of absence. If E is a binary event and P(H|E) > P(H), i.e., seeing E increases the probability of H, then P(H|¬E) < P(H), i.e., failure to observe E decreases the probability of H. The probability P(H) is a weighted mix of P(H|E) and P(H|¬E), and necessarily lies between the two.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“Paolo Freire said, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“If science is a religion, it is the religion that heals the sick and reveals the secrets of the stars.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“Only God can tell a truly plausible lie.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies



“Asimov’s “The Relativity of Wrong”:3 When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“Why would you pay attention to your own thoughts, if you knew you were trying to manipulate yourself”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“The point of thinking is to shape our plans; if you’re going to keep the same plans anyway, why bother going to all that work to justify it? When”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“To be humble is to take specific actions in anticipation of your own errors. To confess your fallibility and then do nothing about it is not humble; it is boasting of your modesty.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“It’s amazing how many Noble Liars and their ilk are eager to embrace ethical violations—with all due bewailing of their agonies of conscience—when they haven’t spent even five minutes by the clock looking for an alternative.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies



“If the joy of scientific discovery is one-shot per discovery, then, from a fun-theoretic perspective, Newton probably used up a substantial increment of the total Physics Fun available over the entire history of Earth-originating intelligent life. That selfish bastard explained the orbits of planets and the tides.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“If there is no black and white, there is yet lighter and darker, and not all grays are the same.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“When you think about nonviolence, you think of Gandhi—not an anonymous protestor in one of Gandhi’s marches who faced down riot clubs and guns, and got beaten, and had to be taken to the hospital, and walked with a limp for the rest of her life, and no one ever remembered her name.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“Once you tell a lie, the truth is your enemy; and every truth connected to that truth, and every ally of truth in general; all of these you must oppose, to protect the lie. Whether you’re lying to others, or to yourself.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies


“If what you believe doesn't depend om what you see, you've been blinded as effectively as by poking out your eyeballs.”
― Eliezer Yudkowsky, quote from Rationality: From AI to Zombies



About the author

Eliezer Yudkowsky
Born place: in The United States
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