Rational Optimism Is the Way Out

Pessimism is self-fulfilling
Professions in which you get your feedback from other members of that profession tend to get corrupted. When you see a journalist writing articles to impress other journalists or a restaurant owner trying to impress other foodies and restaurant owners, it’s usually not practical or high-quality. The journalist or restaurant owner may receive accolades within certain elite circles, but that doesn’t reflect reality. More

Pessimism Seems Like an Intellectually Serious Position

We’ve innovated our way out of previous traps
If you’re an academic, being able to explain all of the problems that are out there and how dangerous these problems are and why you need funding to look at them in more depth appears to be the intellectually serious position; whereas, someone who claims that we can solve it sounds a little bit kumbaya. More

It’s Easy to Extrapolate How Things Will Get Worse

It’s harder to guess how life might improve
A lot of the theories as to why we’re imminently going to create an AGI are based in a naïve extrapolation of computational power. It’s almost an induction of more and more computational power. They say, “AI has already gotten good at vision and beating humans at chess and at video games; therefore, it’s going to start thinking soon.” More

We’re All Equal in Our Infinite Ignorance

The door is always open for new ideas
Induction says that prediction is the main reason science exists, but it’s really explanation. You want an explanation of what’s going on, even if you can’t necessarily predict with any certainty what’s going to happen next. In fact, knowing what’s going to happen next with some degree of certainty can be deflating. More

It’s Rare to Have Competing, Viable, Scientific Theories

General relativity vs. Newtonian mechanics is a recent example
There’s also Solomonoff’s theory of induction. I don’t know if you’ve looked at that at all? I’ve heard of it, but I haven’t investigated it. I’m going to mangle the description. It says that if you want to find a new theory that explains why something is happening—in this case something that’s encoded as a binary string—then the correct one is a probability-weighted theory that takes into account all possible theories and weighs them based on their complexity. More

Science Advances One Funeral at a Time

Even the best get stuck
There’s some deep symmetry between multiverse theory and Feynman path integrals, right? You’re absolutely right. Feynman believed in multiple histories, but it’s an open question whether he thought these were actually physically real things or merely mathematical objects. He was relatively silent on the matter. Feynman was a realist and an absolute genius—probably the second greatest physicist of the 20th century after Einstein—but he made one of the worst quips. More

Make Bold Guesses and Weed Out the Failures

The best theories come from your imagination, not extrapolation
Going even further, it’s not just science. When we look at innovation, technology and building—for example, everything that Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla did—this came from trial and error, which is creative guesses and trying things out. If you look at how evolution works through variation and then natural selection, it tries a lot of random mutations and filters out the ones that didn’t work. More

Science Is an Error-Correcting Mechanism

It does not presume to predict the future from the past
Where do good explanations come from? There’s currently an obsession with induction, the idea that you can predict the future from the past. You can say, “I saw one, then two, then three, then four, then five, so therefore next must be six, seven, eight, nine.” There’s a belief that this is how new knowledge is created, that this is how scientific theories are formed and this is how we can make good explanations about the universe. More

Science Expands Our Vision of Reality

The multiverse is another step in this direction
Many scientists and philosophers have talked about the concept of a multiverse. But we’re talking about a very strict, very sober understanding of what a multiverse is.  All of these universes in this multiverse obey the same laws of physics. We’re not talking about universes where there are other laws of physics. More