Scott Aaronson, one last time, or: how smart people can be pretty stupid

I’ve talked about Aaronson here and here.

Scott Aaronson is the typical example of a high IQ philosophizing engineer who is supposed to guide us into the next phase of the information age. He knows physics, he knows quantum mechanics, he knows lots of fancy words. Elon Musk is for the proles, Scott Aaronson is for the intellectuals! Take his last post, a 6000-word juggernaut which contains beautiful sentences such as:

 According to my complexity-theoretic refinement of Aumann’s agreement theorem, which I later published in STOC’2005, two Bayesian agents with a common prior can ensure that they agree to within ±ε about the value of a [0,1]-valued random variable, with probability at least 1-δ over their shared prior, by exchanging only O(1/(δε2)) bits of information—completely independent of how much knowledge the agents have.

Isn’t that exactly what you’d expect a supersmart engineering philosopher to sound like? Yes. Well. Truth be told, I don’t know what he means and I have no intention of finding out.

See, when we boil Aaronson’s post down to its essentials we get the following:

> A witch hunt has begun against Robin Hanson for crimethink.
> I commit crimethink sort of similar to Robin Hanson
> I am angry and scared
> I am very different from Robin Hanson though
> Robin Hanson does not respect wahmen
> I respect wahmen!
> I respect wahmen so much!
> I hereby dub it the 0th commandment to respect wahmen
> pls don’t witch hunt me

Sigh.

Let’s give Aaronson a small Moldbuggian thought experiment.

Say there’s a nation, call it Oyth. There used to be peace and prosperity on Oyth, only lately it has collapsed into war and chaos because parents are forbidden from parenting their children. ‘Children are autonomous!’ is the party line. The consequence is disaster: children eat too much candy, don’t go to school, do self-destructive stupid stuff like playing Fortnite while driving their dad’s car. Families have fallen apart. But every time an adult protests that children should listen to their parents, the party cracks down hard: no no no, how dare you suggest children are not strong and independent!

In this thought experiment, is Aaronson still the hero he imagines himself to be? Or is he preventing parents (men) from controlling their children (women), e.g. doing evil with a smug smile?

He is doing the latter, of course. Back on earth, men and women are stuck in defect/defect equilibrium with all the expected consequences, which Robin Hanson hints at, which Aaronson screams is untrue and horrible to even think of.

Naturally, such a thought experiment goes right over Aaronson’s head, and he will immediately think of a million reasons why it is wrong. This is the annoying side of high IQ people: contrary to high IQ people opinion, high IQ does not mean better affinity for truth. High IQ means better affinity for status. Smart people are good at replicating and improving high-status memes. That is high-status memes, not truthful memes. This is why plenty leftists are very smart people: they use their high IQ to invent 50 shades of high-status bullshit. As always, power trumps truth. Gnon smiles upon us.

And so it is with Scott Aaronson, who perhaps invents only 25 shades of bullshit, yet who out of the palm of his hand shakes 6000 words of argumentation on how why he should really not be next on the witch hunt. It is the lament of the low-testosteron beta: ‘I want to be liked! Please like me!’  In his own words, he is ‘practically on his hands and knees begging you here: show him that his fears are unjustified.’

Poor guy.

Scott, your fears are entirely justified. It gets even worse: no one cares about you white knighting women. Not leftists, who take your placating for an admission of guilt, not rightists, who take your placating for virtue-signalling, and not in the least women, who really have just been shit-testing you all the time. But hey, at least it’s all within ±ε about the value of a [0,1]-valued random variable.

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4 thoughts on “Scott Aaronson, one last time, or: how smart people can be pretty stupid

  1. “According to my complexity-theoretic refinement of Aumann’s agreement theorem, which I later published in STOC’2005, two Bayesian agents with a common prior can ensure that they agree to within ±ε about the value of a [0,1]-valued random variable, with probability at least 1-δ over their shared prior, by exchanging only O(1/(δε2)) bits of information—completely independent of how much knowledge the agents have.”

    I’m an Engineer who actually builds stuff unlike Scotty who jerks off to mathematical symbols. Let me take a crack at what Scott-Boy is trying to say.
    “Two people with a common ideology will almost completely agree with each other on almost all points by exchanging very little information between each other. A small increase in the exchange of information will result in a much larger degree of agreement. Let me simplify this further by using real numbers

    Two lefties (common prior/ideology) both have 100 units of information/opinion each, have no fucking clue the other exists and agree on 80 of those points and disagree on 20.

    They get together, introduce themselves as lefties and start virtue signaling

    1. By exchanging opinions on just one unit, their agreement will go up to 90/100.
    2. exchanging on two units –> agreement 95/100
    3. exchanging on three units –> agreement 97.5/1000

    I think you get the picture! A gross simplification, but this is an arithmetic simplification of virtue signaling.

    I have used different epsilons, deltas and mathematical function from Scott-ster’s but that was to simplify and communicate the basic idea. Hope this helps

  2. As you describe, there is a no correlation between an individual’s “processing power” and his ability to observe the world honestly. This is why experience often demonstrates that the common man can often see the world more clearly than the “genius”. Here lies the distinction between wisdom and intelligence.

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