Artificially Intelligent

Any mimicry distinguishable from the original is insufficiently advanced.

Be Stupid

| 432 words

There is a type of person that is very concerned with the appearance of intelligence. This person might use a lot of large words that people don’t understand, talk a lot about complicated philosophical theories, and be overly concerned with injecting nuance. For example, when asked to give opinions about various issues, this type of person might repeatedly emphasize the issue’s complexity, give arguments for various sides, but never take a stance. When asked about animal suffering, they might say “it all comes down to whether or not you think animals are conscious”. Then they might start talking about various theories of consciousness, but never say whether they thought animals were conscious or not.

I know this type of person exists because I used to be one of them. For a long period, the driving force behind my beliefs wasn’t “believe true things” but rather “don’t believe stupid things”. When making decisions, I didn’t try to make the best decision, I tried to decide such that no matter what happened, I could explain why my decision was actually smart. In my competitive activities, I would execute standard strategies and fail because failing with a non-standard strategy would seem stupider. Most of my beliefs were of the form “person A thinks B, but person C thinks D”; I never decided between B and D because then I might get it wrong, which would be stupid.

Being smart is about getting things right in advance, not being able to always explain why you were right in retrospect. It’s about getting things correct, not being vague enough that no one can ever show that you were incorrect. It’s about actually winning, instead of always being able to justify your loss.

It is a theorem of probability theory that if you believe something, there could have been a sequence of observations that caused you to believe the opposite. By analogy, if not by exact argument, for you to look back on a belief or decision and think “that was smart”, it must be possible for you to think “that was stupid”. If you can explain any belief, you have zero knowledge; if you can justify any decision, you have zero strategy.

So what might a person do, if they were willing to expose themselves to stupidity? They might ask dumb questions about phenomena that confuse them, make quantitative predictions about various events, bet on the truth of various propositions, publicly state their many beliefs, and give unsolicited recommendations based on half-formed models of the world.

Be stupid. Become smarter. Repeat.