Eliezer Shlomo Yudkowsky is an American artificial intelligence researcher concerned with the singularity and an advocate of friendly artificial intelligence, living in Redwood City, California.
Yudkowsky did not attend high school and is an autodidact with no formal education in artificial intelligence. He co-founded the nonprofit Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI) in 2000 and continues to be employed as a full-time Research Fellow there.
Yudkowsky's research focuses on Artificial Intelligence theory for self-understanding, self-modification, and recursive self-improvement (seed AI); and also on artificial-intelligence architectures and decision theories for stably benevolent motivational structures (Friendly AI, and Coherent Extrapolated Volition in particular). Apart from his research work, Yudkowsky has written explanations of various philosophical topics in non-academic language, particularly on rationality, such as "An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes' Theorem".
Yudkowsky was, along with Robin Hanson, one of the principal contributors to the blog Overcoming Bias sponsored by the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University. In early 2009, he helped to found Less Wrong, a "community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality". The Sequences on Less Wrong, comprising over two years of blog posts on epistemology, Artificial Intelligence, and metaethics, form the single largest bulk of Yudkowsky's writing.
Having now read EVERY post by Eliezer Yudkowsky on Less Wrong, I can say I have thoroughly enjoyed it and benefitted immensely. The Sequences are a smaller portion conveying many important ideas, but by reading all the posts you get a stronger sense of direction, and see where all of the philosophy leads to.
The book is very informative and I really liked some parts, but it was a very difficult read. Why? Because Yudkowsky simply LOVES beating a dead horse. There's just too much repetition and sloppy writing, although the ideas are great.
It's just... It ought to be more concise and clear.
This is about how to overcome bias, which is really important in order to take good decisions, so I recommend it to most people. And it's well written, so it's fun to read! The first sequence was about bayesian probability, which is something I already knew about since I study physics engineering, but I've still learned new things. And in the other sequences, I'm definitely learning a lot.
This one was really hard to rate as my reactions to each post and sequence varied from "jeez, this just nailed it" to "meh, why are you explaining the same thing over and over again". I admit only skimming through many of the metaethics-sequence posts and might have given four stars if that one was left out. My rating doesn't reflect on how much I appreciate the writer doing and writing what he does - it IS important trying to explain things out in various ways, even for the people with creationist views (for whom many of the posts seemed to be directed to). Still, I'd rather read a specifically written - and edited - book about these topics than a sequence of blog posts with a lot of unnecessary rambling. That book might well get 5 stars and a favourite.
The Sequences are blog posts from Eliezer Yudkowsky written from 2006 to 2009. Subjects include Rationality, cognitive biases, some psychology, evolutionary psychology, quantum physics, morality and more. The second and third books were my favorite.
It was gifted to me by my friend Neil, who thought that rationalism was a school of thought I would subscribe to. It contains a series of essays by Eliezer Yudkowsky and fellow rationalist thought leaders.
Some of the essays are brilliant and expanded my horizon. For example, in "What Do We Mean By "Rationality?", Eliezer lays out the analogy of false beliefs as a map of the world that doesn't correspond to the territory, following up with the expected prescription to use rationality to cure our false beliefs and build accurate maps.
Other chapters were less exciting and focused on more technical topics. To be honest, I skipped quite a few of those.
What I disliked about the book was that the essays were disjointed and did not follow a structured path. It would have been a great piece if the author cared to clean up and write a coherent narrative, making it easier for the layman to tag along.
Am I convinced by the rationalists? While I endorse their effort to identify flaws in our thinking, I am missing a fundamental "metaphysical" justification for their brand of rationality, in particular when it comes to dealing with incomplete information, or probabilities.