[extropy-chat] Superrationality (was Newcomb's Paradox (was Superrationality))

Lee Corbin lcorbin at tsoft.com
Tue May 23 17:55:59 UTC 2006

Russell writes

> > None of this was supposed to be about real life. At least not until
> > we've solved the strictly theoretical cases of what the optimal 
> > strategies are.  THEN, maybe----and only maybe---should we wonder
> > whether this has implications for real life.

> No problem - part of my point being that as long as one
> is doing that, it is important to be dispassionate about
> it, and not let emotion and value judgment backflow into
> one's mathematics; I dwelt on "superrationality" because
> it is an excellent example of a fallacy resulting directly
> from such backflow.

All right, let's for the moment make the arrogant assumption
that indeed we have dispatched Superrationality, i.e., that
defenders of Superrationality are no longer a part of this

Then, *granted* that Superrationality has been shown to be
of rather limited utility---or, as I gather you would say
---has been refuted, then we may move on to a new question
of exactly what promulgated this fallacy in the first place.

Your theory, if I understand it as expressed above, is that
Superrationality descended from wishful thinking, and that
victims erroneously allowed their hearts to begin dictating
to their mathematics. As you well put it: "[they] let emotion
and value judgment backflow into [their] mathematics".

I must fail to disagree. (I guess you're lucky that I didn't
say "I could hardly fail to disagree less!" which is yet 
another way of agreeing  :-)

Yes.  So I speculate further. First, wouldn't it be a nice world
if everyone were superrational in just the way that Hofstadter
described?  We *all* would be so much better off if we *all*
embraced Superrationality and all Cooperated with each other in
every real-life instance.  I don't think that there can be
any doubt about that.

Therefore, one might easily see it as one's duty to do his
part to both adopt Superrationality and spread the meme! This
very rosy (and highly desirable outcome) appears to have
backflowed into mathematics just as you say. Well, it wouldn't
be the first time that some Western notions were shown to be
too idealistic.

Now, often real harm can come from such untrammelled idealism.
It is this: the *very* people who succumb to it become the
victims not only of the more prudent or wise who do not---
that we could live with!---but also become the victims of
the extremely unscrupulous and genuinely evil who as a part
of their nature intend actual harm to many innocent people.

(It vaguely reminds me of laws which outlaw handguns but
which naturally succeed only in disarming those who obey
laws---but that is a subject for another other list.)


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