Shut up and think!

To know that something is impossible. To keep your rational judgements entirely intact, without self deceit. To refuse any way to relieve the tension without reaching the goal. To shut up and do it anyway. There’s something in that that grabs at the core of the human spirit.

Does activating the ‘human spirit’ deactivate the human brain, somehow? Because it seems that the word ‘impossible’ is being seriously abused, here, to the degree that it negates the message that I presume was intended — the actual message is nonsensical, and I am willing to extend enough credit to the poster to take for granted that wasn’t what he was trying to say.

I am constantly amazed at how poor Eliezer’s arguments can become without his cadre of loyal fans becoming uncomfortable enough speak against them, but this is an especially horrifying example. Still, Hanson had some intelligent things to say, and he said them! He definitely pulls the weight over at OB.

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7 Responses to “Shut up and think!”

  1. True, but I also think Eliezer had a good point about not using quotation marks around “impossible” because it seems so in retrospect rather than at the time.

  2. I’ve noticed many of Eliezer’s groupies are anonymous. From an aesthetic preference, I’d prefer that they were sock puppets rather than actual sycophants -I’d have more respect for Eliezer if he was making this stuff up than if he was encouraging posts like “Eliezer your such a genius, this post changes the wrong way I was thinking about X for years” every day or so.

  3. I wouldn’t mind, except that most of Eliezer’s positions are seriously flawed at best, sometimes obviously so.

    It’s not the praise but the *undeservedness* of the praise that offends me.

  4. Z. M. Davis Says:

    But–but–what if we truly, honestly think that he really is a genius who changed the wrong way we were thinking about X for years? (This is my real name.)

  5. I’m willing to grant ‘genius’. Hell, *I’m* a genius under certain formal definitions. It’s not especially difficult to meet the qualifications.

    I’m also perfectly willing to grant that he’s changed your thinking about a variety of subjects — even to grant that he may have *improved* your thinking on some matters. But the things he’s most concerned with promoting are either wrong, trivial, or incorrectly represented.

    The real problem, though, is that there are always a suspicious number of people claiming their perceptions have been changed forever after banal and unilluminating posts. Perhaps they’re easily impressed by his charisma and not prone to thinking about the topics, or perhaps they’re trying to increase their status in a specialized society of Eliezer-praisers… but there usually isn’t anything especially valuable there.

  6. Occasionally I think that he’s unwittingly created a cult. Yes, I mean a literal cult – complete with promises of immortality, a benevolent God (FAI), and a long list of thought-ending cliches. And, as you point out, he’s got worshipers.

    When you look at the totality of everything he writes, it seems like a bit of it is nonsensicle, hypocritical, or hand-waving abracadabra. But there are, of course, specific domains on which I think he writes pretty well. His fiction is amusing, too.

  7. “Occasionally I think that he’s unwittingly created a cult.”

    I disagree — I think he’s done it consciously and intentionally. I think he is actively trying to surround himself with approval and validation, and cultivates yes-men while excluding criticism.

    It’s a fundamental human weakness that tends to manifest without our awareness if we’re not careful. I think it’s manifesting *with* his awareness.

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