Quotes

The flying machine which will really fly might be evolved by the combined and continuous efforts of mathematicians and mechanicians in from one million to ten million years. ― New York Times, Oct. 9, 1903
We unpacked rest of goods for new machine. ― Orville Wright, diary, Oct. 9, 1903

There’s nothing I like less than bad arguments for a view I hold dear. ― Daniel C. Dennett

The very term machine learning is unfortunately synonymous with a pernicious form of totally impractical but theoretically sound and elegant classes of algorithms. — Rodney Brooks

A clash of doctrines is not a disaster, it is an opportunity. — Alfred North Whitehead

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it. — Buddha

We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community.
Unitarian Universalist adaptation of Deuteronomy 6:10-12

The optimist sees opportunity in every danger; the pessimist sees danger in every opportunity. — Winston Churchill

The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science. — Albert Einstein

To reverse the effects of civilization would destroy the dreams of a lot of people. There’s no way around it. We can talk all we want about sustainability, but there’s a sense in which it doesn’t matter that these people’s dreams are based on, embedded in, intertwined with, and formed by an inherently destructive economic and social system. Their dreams are still their dreams. What right do I — or does anyone else — have to destroy them? At the same time, what right do they have to destroy the world? –Derrick Jensen

You know what they say the modern version of Pascal’s Wager is? Sucking up to as many transhumanists as possible, just in case one of them turns into God. — Greg Egan (Crystal Nights)

Elegance is Not Optional — R. O’Keefe

People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. — George Bernard Shaw

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.  Impossible is not a fact.  It’s an opinion.  Impossible is not a declaration.  It’s a dare.  Impossible is potential.  Impossible is temporary.  Impossible is nothing. — Muhammad Ali

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. — Aristotle

Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them. — Alfred North Whitehead

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong. — Richard Feynman

Since our inner experiences consist of reproductions, and combinations of sensory impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seem to me to be empty and devoid of meaning. — Albert Einstein

There is much less “information processing” than it is assumed by the “life-as-information” or “life-as-computation” metaphor that has dominated biology for the last 50 years.  Constructions at all levels, from protein molecules, through cells, tissues, individual organisms, up to social institutions and culture represent embodied knowledge that has been accumulating and retained in evolution by natural selection.  Triggering of predetermined responses, and, indeed, selection from them, seems to be a more appropriate description than information processing. — Ladislav Kováč, Life, chemistry, and cognition

Atheists are routinely asked how people will know not to rape and murder without religion telling them not to do it, especially a religion that backs up the orders with threats of hell.  Believers, listen to me carefully when I say this: When you use this argument, you terrify atheists.  We hear you saying that the only thing standing between you and Ted Bundy is a flimsy belief in a supernatural being made up by pre-literate people trying to figure out where the rain came from.  This is not very reassuring if you’re trying to argue from a position of moral superiority. – Sydni Moser

Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society….To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil. — Gore Vidal, 1961

From her start, America was torn by the clash of her political system with the altruist morality. Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society. Today, the conflict has reached its ultimate climax; the choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequences of freedom, justice, progress and man’s happiness on earth—or the primordial morality of altruism, with its consequences of slavery, brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces. – Ayn Rand

It might be a good idea to let AI/NBI be, as we are, only vaguely moral.  A self-aware & morally pure machine might not be so kind to human nature.  Just saying. — Reno J. Tibke

You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it. — Scott McNealy, former head of Sun Microsystems

In order to design and build ‘the real future’. We need systems, strategies and teams of people that can respond to constantly changing contexts. — Rachel Armstrong, point 19 in Beyond Sustainability, 25 points (Intro/1, 2-5, 6-11, 12-16, 17-20, 21-25)

This linking together in turn lets us tap our cognitive surplus, the trillion hours a year of free time the educated population of the planet has to spend doing things they care about. In the 20th century, the bulk of that time was spent watching television, but our cognitive surplus is so enormous that diverting even a tiny fraction of time from consumption to participation can create enormous positive effects. — Clay Shirky, Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

For this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. — Socrates on the development of the alphabet over 100 years previously

As we contemplate the future of our increasingly lifelike technologies, <it> is hard to imagine their consciousness, feelings, empathy, and moral constraints. Yet if morality and immunity are developmental processes, if they arise inevitably in all intelligent collectives as a type of positive sum game (Ridley 1998, Wright 1997, 2000), they must also grow in force and extent as each civilization’s computational capacity grows. Each civilization has and needs individual moral deviants (Bloom 1995), but in all developmental processes, such deviancy gets profoundly better regulated with time. While evolutionary process is best characterized by divergence and speciation, the hallmark of developmental processes is convergence and unification. A planet of postbiological life forms, if subject to universal development, may increasingly look like one integrated organism, and if so, its entities will be vastly more responsible, regulated, and self-restrained than human beings. If developmental immunity exists, planetary transitions from life to intelligent life, and from intelligent life to postbiological life should be increasingly high-probability. The exact probabilities of each of these transitions also seems likely to be empirically measurable. — John Smart, The Transcension Hypothesis

For me, the moral system is one that resolves the tension between individual and group interests in a way that seems best for the most members of the group, hence promotes a give and take. — Frans B.M. de Waal

If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn’t. — Emerson Pugh (I don’t believe that this will always be true but its a nice little saying ;-))

Being abstract is something profoundly different from being vague… The purpose of abstraction is not to be vague, but to create a new semantic level in which one can be absolutely precise. — Edsger Dijkstra

Many of us like to believe that all adults possess the same capacity to make sound choices. It’s a charitable idea, but demonstrably wrong. People’s brains are vastly different.  – David Eagleman, The Brain on Trial

In those movies and TV shows whenever the computers get that smart they f*** us over. – Bill Maher

Individual organisms are best thought of as adaptation-executers rather than as fitness-maximizers.  – John Tooby and Leda Cosmides, The Psychological Foundations of Culture.

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. — Edward R. Murrow

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors. — Thomas Jefferson

We are probably not even optimized for the Paleolithic, much less for life in the 21st century. And yet, we are now acquiring the tools that will enable us to attempt our own optimization. Many people think this project is fraught with risk. But is it riskier than doing nothing? There may be current threats to civilization that we cannot even perceive, much less resolve, at our current level of intelligence. Could any rational strategy be more dangerous than following the whims of Nature? This is not to say that our growing capacity to meddle with the human genome couldn’t present some moments of Faustian over-reach. But our fears on this front must be tempered by a sober understanding of how we got here. Mother Nature is not now, nor has she ever been, looking out for us. — Sam Harris, Mother Nature Is Not Our Friend

Rational morality can be seen as the science of sustainability. The reason being that it is not about what one should or should not do neither about what one can or can not do but about what one can continue to do. — Stefan Pernar, Practical Benevolence – a Rational Philosophy of Morality

Contractarian ways of thinking, especially the idea that we ought to expect to profit from cooperation with others, have untold influence on public debate.  – Martha C. Nussbaum, Beyond the Social Contract: Capabilities and Global Justice, pp. 2-3

The fact that you consider only /human/ life to have value – that you would rather condemn the entire universe to being tiled with humans and then stagnating for all eternity, than take any risk of human extinction – that’s the Really Scary Idea.  — Phil Goetz

It is not pleasing that I placed humans among the primates, but man knows himself. Let us get the words out of the way. It will be equal to me by whatever name they are treated. But I ask you and the whole world a generic difference between men and simians in accordance with the principles of Natural History. I certainly know none. If only someone would tell me one! If I called man an ape or vice versa I would bring together all the theologians against me. Perhaps I ought to have, in accordance with the law of the discipline [of Natural History]. — Carolus Linnaeus (Nevertheless the theologians objected to humans and apes being placed into the same class no matter what the reason, and in 1775, Blumenbach revised the classification so that Humans were the sole members of Homo and Chimps the sole members of Pan. No real reason was given, as this was both intuitively (read: “religiously”) obvious, and the period in which Authorities got to make classifications based on what seemed best to them, stated or unstated. — John S. Wilkins)

Q. What do you call it when engineers do philosophy?
A. Science

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. — Philip K. Dick

I think there’s a limit to this process of Copernican dethronement: I believe that humans have already crossed a threshold that, in a certain sense, puts us on an equal footing with any other being who has mastered abstract reasoning. There’s a notion in computing science of “Turing completeness”, which says that once a computer can perform a set of quite basic operations, it can be programmed to do absolutely any calculation that any other computer can do. Other computers might be faster, or have more memory, or have multiple processors running at the same time, but my 1988 Amiga 500 really could be programmed to do anything my 2008 iMac can do — apart from responding to external events in real time — if only I had the patience to sit and swap floppy disks all day long. I suspect that something broadly similar applies to minds and the class of things they can understand: other beings might think faster than us, or have easy access to a greater store of facts, but underlying both mental processes will be the same basic set of general-purpose tools. So if we ever did encounter those billion-year-old aliens, I’m sure they’d have plenty to tell us that we didn’t yet know — but given enough patience, and a very large notebook, I believe we’d still be able to come to grips with whatever they had to say. — Greg Egan

So take my word for it, I know more than you do, no really I do, and SHUT UP. — Eliezer Yudkowsky (Reference)

Any claims that ethics can be reduced to a science would at best be naive.
– Wendell Wallach/Colin Allen, Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong, pg. 76
quickly followed in the same source by
Engineers will be quick to point out that ethics is far from science. Difficult value questions often arise both in situations where information is inadequate and where the results of actions cannot be fully known in advance. Thus ethics can seem to be a fuzzy discipline that deals with some of the most confusing and emotionally charged situations people encounter. Ethics can appear as far away from science as one can get.

Nevertheless, we believe that the task of enhancing the moral capabilities of autonomous software agents will force scientists and engineers to break down moral decision making into its component parts, recognize what kind of decisions can and cannot be codified and managed by essentially mechanical systems, and learn how to design cognitive and affective systems capable of managing ambiguity and conflicting perspectives. This project will demand that human moral decision making be analyzed to a degree of specificity as yet unknown.
– Wendell Wallach/Colin Allen, Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong

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