Here are two more great essays from Eliezer Yudkowsky. First, the Twelve Virtues of Rationality. It’s like the Zen of anti-mysticism.
The second is The Simple Truth. This one is great. Remember, nuance is stupid, boring, and wrong.
Eliezer’s story is about a shepherd in the days before math. He learned to keep track of his sheep with pebbles in a bucket. His post-modernist shepherd neighbors debate the magical properties of the pebbles with ever more complicated explanations. The concept of “counting” eludes them.
[Mark says] “Maybe all pebbles are magical to start with, even before they enter the bucket. We could call that position panpebblism.”
[Autrey says] “I’m not superstitious. Postulating magic, in this day and age, would be unacceptable to the international shepherding community. We have found that postulating magic simply doesn’t work as an explanation for shepherding phenomena. So when I see something I don’t understand, and I want to explain it using a model with no internal detail that makes no predictions even in retrospect, I postulate special causal powers. If that doesn’t work, I’ll move on to calling it an emergent phenomenon.”
“A pebble only has intentionality if it’s inside a ma- an emergent bucket,” says Autrey. “Otherwise it’s just a mere pebble.”
I think Autrey’s on to something.
But the point is well-taken. Emergent is a synonym for “I don’t know what the f*&* just happened”