What does it actually mean to be rational? Not Hollywood-style “rational,” where you forsake all human feeling to embrace Cold Hard Logic. Real rationality, of the sort studied by psychologists, social scientists, and mathematicians. The kind of rationality where you make good decisions, even when it’s hard; where you reason well, even in the face of massive uncertainty; where you recognize and make full use of your fuzzy intuitions and emotions, rather than trying to discard them.
In Rationality: From AI to Zombies, Eliezer Yudkowsky explains the science underlying human irrationality with a mix of fables, argumentative essays, and personal vignettes. These eye-opening accounts of how the mind works (and how, all too often, it doesn’t!) are then put to the test through some genuinely difficult puzzles: computer scientists’ debates about the future of artificial intelligence (AI), physicists’ debates about the relationship between the quantum and classical worlds, philosophers’ debates about the metaphysics of zombies and the nature of morality, and many more. In the process, “Rationality: From AI to Zombies” delves into the human significance of correct reasoning more deeply than you’ll find in any conventional textbook on cognitive science or philosophy of mind.
Yudkowsky published earlier drafts of his writings to the websites Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong. Rationality: From AI to Zombies compiles six volumes of Yudkowsky’s essays:
- Map and Territory
- How to Actually Change Your Mind
- The Machine in the Ghost
- Mere Reality
- Mere Goodness
- Becoming Stronger
Collectively, these six volumes serve as a rich and lively introduction to the science—and the art—of human rationality.
As of December 2018, these volumes are available as physical books for the first time, and are substantially revised, updated, and polished.
In the meantime, the older edition of those volumes is available in electronic form, or as an audio book.
Eliezer Yudkowsky is a decision theorist and computer scientist at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute in Berkeley, California who is known for his work in technological forecasting. His publications include the Cambridge Handbook of Artificial Intelligence chapter “The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence,” co-authored with Nick Bostrom. Yudkowsky’s writings have helped spark a number of ongoing academic and public debates about the long-term impact of AI, and he has written a number of popular introductions to topics in cognitive science and formal epistemology, such as Rationality: From AI to Zombies and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.
Rationality: From AI to Zombies is licensed under CC NC-BY-SA 4.0 and is published by the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, a research nonprofit with a goal of ensuring that smarter-than-human AI systems have a positive impact. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.