Intuition and essentialism

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Our intuition is a powerful tool, sometimes hardly distinguishable from our rational process (as being part of it). An observant person would notice some caveats:

  • even at times, it can surprise us, intuition is mostly conservative due to status quo bias.
  • intuition has a strong correlation with a person’s emotional state.
  • it is quick (evolution made) but unreliable and with a limited number of choices.
  • you can train your intuition but few people would do this systematically (on purpose).

Essentialism is a way to identify things by their intrinsic attribute(s), sometimes called qualia. Another way to put it, it’s a method to intuitively encapsulate an agent or functionality into something undeconstructable. It feels right (comfortable) but it is very unproductive because restricts your analytical perimeter.

Essentially, that is an approach that puts labels on things that feels intuitively right. It is related to mysticism with the idea that some things have deep meaning (or essence) that is unknowable to us.

Let’s take a popular example: consciousness and the so-called “hard problem”. How can we be certain that a machine (AGI) really experiences the world? How can we be certain that a fellow human experiences the world? It’s because they say so and I can observe their reactions and behaviour, but most importantly because I can identify with them and I am conscious, so…

That is to say, I have a unique essence. I can recognize intuitively that essence in another human, and for most of us, that is quite enough. There is no recognized test for consciousness, even we have the Turing test as a crude initial attempt. For now, the only way AGI can be recognized as conscious is to trick enough humans with their intuitions and feelings that the machine really experiences the world. And don’t let me start how that involves emotions, common sense, etc. — maybe in another post.

The moral of the story is: value your intuition (especially if properly educated) but do not allow it to lock you out of things that at the moment you may not understand but you need to keep an open mind for further investigations.

Categories human condition


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