Rationality: From AI to Zombies

Length: 49 hrs and 40 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (134 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

A decision theorist and researcher at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, 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 into a single audiobook. Collectively, these sequences of linked essays serve as a rich and lively introduction to the science - and the art - of human rationality.

©2015 Machine Intelligence Research Institute (P)2015 Machine Intelligence Research Institute
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Great content. Some chapters should be re-recorded.

Start with the positive: the content is amazing, and perhaps life-changing if you aren’t already familiar with Yudkowski and rationalism. It is wide-ranging without being rambling. The ideas will break your brain.

And now the downsides. Some chapters were totally inaudible, as if the narrator was talking into a cheap webcam mic from across the room. Other chapters had decent audio quality but the narrator was so unfamiliar with the material that they mispronounced or flubbed key words and phrases. I get that it’s hard to narrate a nearly 50-hour anthology, but this is some low quality work.

Ultimately I wish this would get tightened up and organized into a true book — a bible of rationality — rather than a giant collection of thematically-connected thoughts. Trim some redundant bits, add connecting material, and take the audio recording process a bit more seriously.

22 people found this helpful

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Must read, for those who are ready.

This is a long and winding book covering many topics with the obvious theme of being more rational as a human despite our flawed machinery of cognition.

If you don't know Yudkowski (I didn't) I would recommend kicking around on the Less Wrong website to get familiar with his style and theme. This book is not right for everyone.

This is NOT a good introduction to the topic. Its math heavy in parts. It rattles the very foundations of your belief system in others and, oh yeah, it's 50 hours long.

That said, if you got here because you are engaged in the life long business of ridding yourself of flawed thinking and have read considerable then I would HIGHLY recommend it.

A background in AI, heuristics and biases, basic philosophy, and familiarity with Beyes Theorem would help a lot. I didn't really have the tools to fully understand it. But I still gained a lot.

A willingness to rethink your most cherished beliefs is probably the strongest prerequisite. If you're not in possession of that trait, don't waste your time.

For me, it's fair to call the book life altering and believe that it has strongly affected the way my life will turn out. It made me rethink quite a few things. That's good. Because, as Eliezer is fond of saying "that which can be destroyed by the truth, should be".

Reading this will definitely red pill you if you are ready.

9 people found this helpful

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One of my top three books ever, maybe number one.

Stop thinking until you've read this. Incredibly important book for everyone, especially, but not just, AI researchers.

9 people found this helpful

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Mediocre+

I like LessWrong, but this book was too much for me. I listened to about 30-50% before giving up. Most of points Eliezer makes are either too trivial or too complicated. There are a few nice pieces, e.g. the story about the color of the sky, but overall the book lacks consistency and failed to make an impact on me.

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Interesting read. Narration quality varies.

"Rationality" is a very interesting text with useful insights and important problems to think about.

For a few chapters you should still have the website in front of you, since they contain formulas and/or figures.

At least one of the narrators is very good, but not all of them are.

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Excellent content, amateur narration

The main narrator was excellent, and reads the majority of the chapters but the other narrators were quiet, muffled, and background noises could be heard

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Chapter Titles Should Replace Chapter Numbers

It's hard to keep track of articles when it's missing chapter Titles in the Audible menu.

I hope this can be fixed.

1 person found this helpful

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Fascinating and true

This book changed my life for the better. Anyhow, for the better or worse there's no coming back.

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Amazing, entertaining, informative, BRILLIANT!

A required read for all
If you like this check out Harry Potter M.O.R!!!
Thanks Audible!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Mind-changing

Yudkowsky has developed a framework for thinking and making sense that is unparalleled. He clarifies so many confusing questions, that it seems like you've made 10 years of progress, and you can literally feel your thinking becoming sharper as you read. Essential for anyone, who wants to understand the world and themselves.

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  • Dylan
  • 04-11-19

Clear, Important and Enjoyable

Yudkowsky rips through traditional ideas of rationality and clearly ties together Bayesian probability theory, cognitive psychology, epistemology, computer science, thermodynamics and quantum physics into an understandable and coherent picture of decision making systems.

Despite the length, I could not stop listening to this book. I've bought physical copies of the available books (RAZ:1 and RAZ:2) and I will likely buy more when they become available. The content of RAZ compares to Godel, Escher, Bach, although Yudkowsky doesn't have quite the artistic flair that Hofstadter has.

The serial-position effect from psychology says that memory recall for information dips in the middle of a list of points, so I will sneak my criticisms into this paragraph. RAZ is organised into a collection of 6 books which are created from essays written on LessWrong. As a result it can be a bit repetitive (Although it can sometimes help that important points are repeated). The thesis would seriously benefit from being condensed into 500-600 pages. I advise buying the Kindle edition alongside the audiobook and listening at 2x playback speed. I took notes and highlighted important points, and I plan to do my own small write-up of what I have learned.

I worry that for readers of a non-technical background Yudkowsky blows over topics in probability theory, computer science and physics too quickly. The insights might not be so readily available if you can't picture the processes that he discusses, but I think it's worth it for any non-techincal people to try to grapple with these ideas as much as they can. I can promise that if you put the effort in to learn some of this stuff you will be rewarded with a precise way to think about complex, interesting topics.

I can't emphasise enough just how clear-minded Yudkowsky is about the topic of rationality. He understands it deeply and doesn't hold back in showing how much he cares. Rationality isn't simply about "being right"; it's about thinking carefully to achieve the things that you want to achieve.

But don't be mistaken in thinking that this is a self-help book. The majority of the time is spent discussing how to make sense of reality. The corollary is that if you want to make changes in the world, hug reality tight, you can't navigate if your map doesn't reflect the territory, and learn to take joy in the merely real.

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  • Milan Topalov
  • 12-15-19

Writing style is just bad

I was sold on the subject and a few good reviews. But after listening for 20 mins I gave up. instead of philosophical book I got a badly written sales book. Writing is so jumpy, imprecise, all over the place I just quit. Mind you I am sort of a person who would read a bad book just to determine how bad is it, but I just could not stomach this.

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  • Mark
  • 05-08-18

Long but worth it

I think I understood about 70% of the book but it was enough to make me feel like I have super powers.

For the most part, I found the book highly accessible, largely entertaining and extremely useful.

Would recommend it to anyone who wants to know how to use their mind more effectively.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-17-20

Thought provoking and accessible

I mostly purchased this audio-book as a thank you to the author for Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality which is the most incredible fan-fiction I have ever read - and I have read a lot of fan-fiction. However this audio-book is way more than 49 hours worth of value. I had to pause it frequently to think about the implications of the ideas. I found it vastly engaging and interesting and would encourage audible listeners to give it a try. I think that my brain can process complex ideas more easily when I hear them, than when I read them myself and maybe that is true for others too. That is why I recommend the audio-book version of this book.

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  • Luke
  • 03-02-19

Outstanding Book; Incomplete Audio

Eliezer Yudkowsky is a shining beacon of hope for humanity, and this book on rational thinking does a brilliant job of teaching some of the most difficult things there are to teach.

The book itself is amazing, but this audio recording omits numerous chapters due to their inclusion of diagrams and mathematics. It is incredibly disappointing to hear "This chapter can be read on pages X through Y of the eBook", especially when a free audio version of this book is being made and it includes them. It should be up to me as a reader to decide if I need to see the pages or can get by on descriptions - this simply feels like a lazy narrator that thought it seemed hard.

Overall I love the book, but if this book isnt priority number one on your list I'd wait for the podcast to finish.

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  • raz
  • 02-17-19

Very good introduction to Bayesian thinking

Yudkowsky explains very well what it means to be thinking in rational way. The book can be thought of as a starting guide on how to be more rational. I’ve enjoyed the thought provoking stories like the jester. I will refer to this book for years to come.