Talk:Nick Bostrom

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Does this guy have a birth certificate?[edit]

The point being, it appears there is information missing in the Wikipedia entry about him that is false. Even if presented with a credible-looking birth certificate, I'm skeptical of this guy. He appears to be an extra-terrestrial good at making implied arguments. Also, as a person of whom has considered himself a Wikipedian, I am, in general, against Wikipedia entries about people themselves (I think it best such persons make a nice user page for themselves). However, if this guy is the philosopher of whom is alleged to have originally posited the computer simulation hypothesis, then I don't think it's a huge issue. It seems to me that he is an extra-terrestrial with experience on posthuman civilizations (thus arguing that #1 and #2 propositions are true of his propositions for a computer simulation) of whom is claiming the following: "We are living in a simulation which has been generated by our [probably not *his,* though] descendants for their own creation in the future." It might also be interpreted that he is an alien of whom is able to generate a signal that manages to get into isolated dimensions via a randomization process to inform persons, "If you're reading this right now, and there is no one or evidence to the contrary, despite the relative nature of space-time and reality to inform you otherwise, then I'd like to inform you that you're in a computer simulation right now." - Dennis Francis Blewett (January 26th, 2022)


Should the article be moved to Nick Boström? Nick is Swedish (unless he has changed citizenship lately) and that is his correct name. On the other hand, he himself uses "Bostrom" in the English-speaking world. —Naddy 01:42, 21 Mar 2005 (UTC)

FWIW, I've never seen it as anything but "Bostrom" (reading only English material), and since it is the spelling he himself uses in English leaving it here seems sensible on the English Wikipedia. I've created a redirect, though, and mentioned the original spelling, among other things. --Mindspillage (spill yours?) 02:39, 21 Mar 2005 (UTC)
"Nick Bostrom (born Niklas Boström in 1973)" It sounds to me as he changed his surname from Boström to Bostrom. Is this the case? If not, that line should be rewritten. Ran4 15:52, 24 July 2007 (UTC)[reply]

A quick Google showing only Swedish pages would indicate that he's called Nick Boström, but usually calls himself Bostrom. I might also note that Bostrom is pronounced entirely differently than Boström. Tubba Blubba (talk) 03:57, 23 June 2008 (UTC)[reply]

Stand-up comedian[edit]

A pdf available here - - says that Nick had a short career as a stand-up comedian, which seems an unusual choice for a rapture-style transhumanist and a swede. Can the comedian information be confirmed? If so, it must be put into the article. Strangerstome (talk) 07:30, 8 June 2008 (UTC)[reply]

So, why is the fact he is a swede contradicting the fact he used to be a stand up comedian? I remember him from some Swedish stand up comedy TV show in the early 90's where they occassionally exposed upcoming young talents. It seems like he continued his stand up comedy career in UK when he moved there - just take a look at his homepage where he mentions it. // Jens Persson ( (talk) 10:10, 30 June 2008 (UTC))[reply]
What was his act? Was it funny? It just seems unusual, since Swedes are not known for their humor, and science and humor are not connected. This perhaps makes it notable. Strangerstome (talk) 23:08, 3 July 2008 (UTC)[reply]
A possible explanation for why Swedes might not be known for their humor is because most of the material is in Swedish it usually doesn't spread to other countries. And while science and humor might not be directly connected, that clearly doesn't exclude the possibility. But I agree that it seems odd for someone now focusing their effort on reducing existential risk. Erik.Bjareholt (talk) 18:58, 6 November 2014 (UTC)[reply]
IEEE Spectrum is a WP:NPOV and WP:RS reputable source. If IEEE Spectrum said that Nick Bostrom performed as a comedian at an earlier time in his life, then that is sufficient sourcing. It is rude to suggest that someone isn't capable of being a comedian because of their nationality and field of study.--FeralOink (talk) 08:49, 5 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]

potential resource[edit]

Guardians of the Apocalypse; The tech-nerd legion bent on saving humanity from asteroids, contagions, and robot revolutions December 15, 2011, 4:30 PM EST by Ashlee Vance in BusinessWeek, excerpt "Professor Nick Bostrom ranks various threats to mankind (Illustrations by QuickHoney)" (talk) 11:10, 28 December 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Simulation Argument/Hypothesis[edit]

Firstly, this section should be named Simulation Argument as the simulation hypothesis refers only to the concept of the world as simulation, an idea not original to Bostrom. The important contribution by Bostrom is the argument resulting in his trilemma. Secondly, the statement "Because H will be such a large value, at least one of the three proximations will be true" is incorrect, as should be obvious to anyone glancing at the formula given above. H cancels from the formula and is thus irrelevant, permitting the statement of the trilemma. Also, the three propositions are not completely correct, they are stated in terms of absolutes, something the argument itself avoids because it cannot make such strong statements, it deals in averages not absolutes. Randomnonsense (talk) 22:42, 29 January 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Hah! Just noticed someone else edited the article to express their bafflement at "Because H will be such a large value, at least one of the three proximations will be true". Reading the description of the argument carefully I feel it would benefit from being entirely rewritten in a more compact and faithful way (to the original paper). For instance, why are the propositions not given as Bostrom himself gives them in his paper? The same for the definitions of fp, N, H and fsim. The commentary on the history of the hypothesis seems irrelevant when the article could simply point to the Simulation hypothesis article instead, it is after all an article on Bostrom not the history of the simulation hypothesis. It would also be nice to briefly mention the basis of his argument for empirical reasons to believe in the simulation hypothesis i.e. information content of human sensory perception and technological projections. Any update should also mention his recent paper on a bug in the argument, "A Patch for the Simulation Argument". The mention of the Strong Self-Sampling Assumption is also odd, considering that the argument explicitly doesn't utilize that assumption, as is evident from the formula used to derive the trilemma (H is the number of people not the number of observer moments). Randomnonsense (talk) 00:36, 30 January 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Delete eventual fate?[edit]

I have some issues with the "eventual fate" section: first, it seems rather odd to have claims about future biographical information in an article. Second, and more seriously, the information is slightly incorrect - there was some errors in the Sunday Times article that triggered the information cascade the Oxford Today article is part of. Nick has actually *not* confirmed that he is signed up. Of course, by now there will be plenty of articles making the claim based on the original article, so it will look like a confirmed fact when it isn't. I suggest that we remove the eventual fate section, but I do have some misgivings that the claim will reappear. Anders Sandberg (talk) 07:14, 12 July 2013 (UTC)[reply]

I had a look at this comment by Anders and looked at the original source and agreed that this section is problematic. First, aside from Anders' complaints, the title "Eventual Fate" is strange and nonstandard for biographies, and seems suspiciously tongue-in-cheek joke, given that Bostrom studies the future and thereby the "fate" of humanity. Second, the sentence itself is worded weirdly - people don't normally state that they have "agreed to pay" for a service. Third, this seems like a bit of strange hearsay that seems inessential to providing important information about the person in question. Fourth, there seems to be questions about the reliability of the source itself, and I don't see any other references here supporting it - but even if there are, those sources may track back to the same unreliable foundations. I don't see why this deserves its own section and even if the statement about cryonics is retained with that reference it should be moved to another section (with the 'Eventual Fate' section removed)and reworded.LanceSBush (talk) 14:20, 1 August 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I agree with Sandberg and Bush. The section is inappropriate, poorly worded and factually incorrect. I am removing it. Sir Paul (talk) 14:34, 1 August 2013 (UTC)[reply]


The television section feels a bit odd; Nick is on TV fairly often as a public intellectual - those examples are just a scattered handful. Anders Sandberg (talk) 17:40, 18 October 2014 (UTC)[reply]

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Nick Bostrom not a futurologist?![edit]

Recently User:Apollo The Logician removed Category:Futurologists from the article, saying "Not a futurologist".

I contest this removal in that I'm relatively sure that Nick Bostrom can, should and is considered a futurologist. See the definition at futurologist: "futurists or futurologists are scientists and social scientists whose specialty is futurology or the attempt to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present, whether that of human society in particular or of life on Earth in general."

That's exactly what Bostrom is doing in most of his studies.

Maybe "futurologist" has a bad connotation for some users here? It doesn't have to and that's no reason to not add it.

He's also been called a futurologist by multiple sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [...]

Also of relevance here: List of futurologists.

--Fixuture (talk) 13:34, 11 December 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Fair enough Apollo The Logician (talk) 13:36, 11 December 2016 (UTC)[reply]
It's an irrelevant point because he's categorised (2x) in Category:Transhumanists, a subcategory of Category:Futurologists. Per WP:SUBCAT, the latter category ought to be removed again. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 01:43, 12 December 2016 (UTC)[reply]
I think "futurologist" applies to people who try to extrapolate future trends in a lot of different domains. Otherwise a typical stock-market analyst is a futurologist too. The first three WP:RS on a Google news search for "Nick Bostrom" gave me [8][9][10], none of which describe him as a futurologist. So I don't think Bostrom fits under futurology per WP:NONDEF, as it's not a consistently-used description. Rolf H Nelson (talk) 06:05, 16 December 2016 (UTC)[reply]
"Futurologist" does have a moderately bad connotation in the scientific community! This probably means the description should be used sparingly, not just from Bostrom but for everybody, per WP:LABEL. Rolf H Nelson (talk) 06:03, 16 December 2016 (UTC)[reply]
@Rolf h nelson: Per User:Michael Bednarek I think it's irrelevant, anyways: your Google search doesn't look like a honest attempt to check whether he's been called a futurologist. The top 3 Google search results not calling him so is a sincerely ridiculous argument I never heard here until now. I already listed 7 sources calling him so and there are more - I think that should be enough.
And I already supposed that the term has a bad connotation in the scientific community and hence I addressed that earlier as well! To expand on the "it doesn't have to": if people like Bostrom aren't called futurologists despite them being so no wonder why the term keeps up with its bad connotation: people like him should be showcases how future studies can be approached in a serious and useful manner.
--Fixuture (talk) 20:46, 21 December 2016 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks Fixuture, perhaps I'm not communicating my point well, so let me try to clarify. I agree 100% that Bostrom has been called a futurologist in occasional WP:RS. Stephen Hawking has been called a visionary, and a mathematician. We don't put Stephen Hawking in a category called 'visionaries' nor 'mathematician', per WP:NONDEF, because he's not consistently described as either of those. The fact that 'visionary' additionally is a WP:LABEL (in this case, a positive one) is an additional reason not to put him in such a category, or perhaps to not even have such a category. My personal opinion, which could be wrong, is that there isn't enough consistent description of him as a futurologist to merit adding him to the category, which I consider to be a fuzzy category. Rolf H Nelson (talk) 02:01, 22 December 2016 (UTC)[reply]
"I addressed that earlier as well!" Yes, I saw, but the thing I would've liked you to expand on is the more relevant "that's no reason to not add it" and not the "it doesn't have to" part. :-) That said, I don't feel strongly about it; if you feel strongly, then unless other editors speak up and state they think WP:NONDEF a significant issue here, I'm conceding to the change. Rolf H Nelson (talk) 02:01, 22 December 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Sourcing issues and OR[edit]

This article seems to contain a quite a bit of OR and self sourcing. Please cite from RS before reverting. Thanks. Inlinetext (talk) 19:06, 13 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Primary sources are considered reliable sources.Apollo The Logician (talk) 19:26, 13 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
That is incorrect. See WP:PSTS. To help you, I am setting out the relevant text All analyses and interpretive or synthetic claims about primary sources must be referenced to a secondary source, and must not be an original analysis of the primary-source material by Wikipedia editors.. Please provide reliable secondary sources. Since this is about a BLP I am obliged by policy to immediately remove the controversial text to protect the encyclopedia and the trust of our readers. Inlinetext (talk) 19:40, 13 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
The key words their are interpretative and synethetic. Simply saying what he says sumarising in different words is not those things.Apollo The Logician (talk) 19:43, 13 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
Please provide a reliable secondary source for these alleged summaries in different words. You cannot force an editor to read the book / paper to verify these summaries. If the work /BLP is so notable surely there would be secondary sources, and lots of them ? Inlinetext (talk) 19:52, 13 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
FYI, WP:3RRBLP Removing violations of the biographies of living persons (BLP) policy that contain libelous, biased, unsourced, or poorly sourced contentious material. What counts as exempt under BLP can be controversial. Consider reporting to the BLP noticeboard instead of relying on this exemption. Inlinetext (talk) 19:52, 13 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
Inlinetext is a long term disruptive user. He wasted a huge amount of time at Geodesics on an ellipsoid falsely claiming copyright violations and "original research". He also deleted more than half of Stanton Foundation and Parker Conrad without a good reason. I am reverting back to the edit before Inlinetext's first edit. Jrheller1 (talk) 19:56, 13 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
(edit conflict) I am applying Wikipedia policy to this article, you are edit warring by reverting me on this BLP. Now please quickly find reliable secondary (preferably scholarly showing wide peer acceptance) sources for all this OR /SYNTH and SPS which I have clearly identified, instead of raising red herrings and HARASSING / STALKING me. You are of course aware that this is exactly the sort of dubious poorly sourced EA puffery which is littering Wikipedia inserted by paid EA advocacy editors like Vipul, Issarice ? Inlinetext (talk) 20:04, 13 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
Since there is no response or citation of authentic secondary sources, I shall proceed to delete those poorly sourced controversial portions in this BLP I had previously excised. I am doing this under the BLP policy to safeguard the integrity of this article from Original Research, synthesis, and cite-fraud. Inlinetext (talk) 03:39, 15 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]

@Apollo The Logician: re: BLP and OR doesnt apply to primary sources and Primary sources are considered reliable sources, could you point me to the 'basis' on this, or set it out here ? Inlinetext (talk) 18:30, 15 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Not "pseudo-science" ? You may want to see "far beyond the edge of absurd". Inlinetext (talk) 18:30, 15 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
I am not exactly sure what you mean by that but read WP:PRIMARY and WP:RS. Primary sources are considered reliable though it is better to use secondary etc.Apollo The Logician (talk) 20:06, 15 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
I suggest that you have misread a stray phrase from inapplicable sections of those policies. For BLPs the sourcing policy is WP:BLPSOURCE, eg WP:BLPREMOVE. Inlinetext (talk) 03:15, 16 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
For this topic there are a large number of reputably published primary sources as well as primary sources which have been extensively discussed by secondary sources and can therefore be used for augmentation. The book Superintelligence, for instance, has received multiple reviews not only in the press but also in academic journals. If material is lacking proper sourcing then flag it and suitable sourcing material will probably be found. K.Bog 11:18, 17 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  • The removals have been very much undue, especially since they were done without any attempt to build consensus on the talk page or find better sourcing. I have restored most of the removed material with the benefit of secondary sources, since that seems to be the latest pet peeve of deletionists. In the future, you can just write "this needs secondary sourcing" or "this primary source is not being used appropriately", and I can find such a source and we'll all be able to go home happy, or alternatively we can verify that the sources are in fact being used appropriately as per WP:PRIMARY. In my mind, removing improperly sourced material without first verifying that there is no viable source available is grounds for a speedy revert. FWIW, I have read many of these primary sources. K.Bog 10:26, 17 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]

Lede emphasising he is known for the AI argument[edit]

The lede is cluttered with info that does not belong, cluttering up the article. The lede should be emphasising the reason that Bostrom has his own page and be intriguing enough to make readers would want to read through the main body of the article That reason is his AI concerns and his main arguments from the AI book should be touched on. Critical responses should also be mentioned. Refs should not be in the lede anyway. Overagainst (talk) 15:36, 28 October 2017 (UTC)[reply]

I disagree. The previous lead paragraph gave a more comprehensive overview of Bostrom's work, in line with MOS:LEAD. Your version focusses only on AI. On a formal level, the lead now links 3 times the term superintelligence – see WP:REPEATLINK, but omits a link to Instrumental convergence where paperclip maximizer is explained. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Michael Bednarek (talkcontribs) 05:12, 29 October 2017 (UTC)[reply]
I agree with Michael. GojiBarry (talk) 01:54, 5 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
@Fixuture, Rolf h nelson, and Kbog: Do you have any thoughts on this change in the lede? GojiBarry (talk) 01:25, 11 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
Most Wikipedia BLP leads are bland CVs because that's the easiest way to do things, but MOS:LEAD doesn't really support that; rather MOS:LEAD states "Like in the body of the article itself, the emphasis given to material in the lead should roughly reflect its importance to the topic, according to reliable, published sources", so whether to even mention the anthropic principle, the reversal test, and consequentialism in the lede is a judgement call which I don't have a strong opinion about. Most of the MSM media coverage appears to be about superintelligence, followed moderately distantly by the simulation argument. Looking at [11], human enhancement ethics should definitely be mentioned in the lede. I don't know what "touching on" the main arguments would entail, but it would probably be difficult to be concise, non-technical, and NPOV in the lede; this isn't a large article and therefore wouldn't need a four-paragraph lede. Rolf H Nelson (talk) 02:03, 12 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
I liked the old intro better and from a pure style point of view, if you elaborate on his AI theories, then it should be at the end of the second paragraph rather than right up front. The way it's written now is kind of weird and jarring, and it detracts from his other notable work. Definitely don't exclude mention of the other topics besides AI, sure pop media doesn't talk about them as much but they are still popular and have decent academic recognition. Remember one of the main purposes of an introduction is to tell the reader why the subject is notable; talking about what he believes doesn't tell us why he is a notable person, and talking about what he believes right in the beginning of the introduction forces the reader to go further in order to find information about why he is notable. I don't have a problem with elaborating on AI if it's at the end of the introduction. K.Bog 05:20, 13 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
Also, I don't see any reason to mention critical responses to his theories in the lede - that's not important for telling the reader who he is, why he's notable, etc. As far as I can tell we don't normally do that, even for researchers with theories as controversial as, say, Karl Marx. Refs in the intro are also fine, I don't see any problem with them. K.Bog 05:27, 13 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
To be clear: this version of the intro was good, people can add one or two sentences about the end going into detail about superintelligence if they want. [12] K.Bog 05:35, 13 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]

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Musk merely said Borstom's book Super intelligence is "worth reading". Musk has warned about one country's advanced strategically programmed computer starting a nuclear world war three in a preempting attempt to prevent the state it is part of the defences for from being defeated, but he has never ever mentioned the possibility of AI deciding that its own very particular interests are best served by killing off all humanity, which is the main concern that Bostrom is raising. Eliezer Yudkowsky sketched a scenario for how an artificial intelligence could fulfill the worst fears of Borstom.

Musk's thinking is not similar to Bostom's at all. And he is spreading open source AI all over the globe, which does not sound like someone worried about a scenario in which AI bootstraps itself into a undercover Supeintelligence with only one logical move left; a three act play in which humans disappear during the second act. Overagainst (talk) 20:24, 12 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]

You have a good point that the sources provided, besides being weak, are indeed ambiguous about what kind of existential risk Musk believes AI poses. I added vanity fair, which states "Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates are all raising the same warning about A.I." and quotes Musk in more detail to make it clearer that Musk does claim to be strongly motivated by concern about superintelligence deciding to kill off humanity: “Let’s say you create a self-improving A.I. to pick strawberries,” Musk said, “and it gets better and better at picking strawberries and picks more and more and it is self-improving, so all it really wants to do is pick strawberries. So then it would have all the world be strawberry fields. Strawberry fields forever.” Rolf H Nelson (talk) 05:26, 13 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]

Problems with body[edit]

I see problems with the body.

1 - too much writing on superintelligence. It's fine to give it much more weight than the other topics, in accordance with its greater notability. But right now it is just a thick summary of his book with some disparate excerpts and ideas. Also, there is too much attention given to certain aspects of the book, like way too much info on the illustrative scenario, which is only a small part of his book. The article needs to zoom out and look at his research/career as a whole, in context of other researchers and ideas. Right now it is too zoomed in, extracting lots of details from his writing.

2 - organization is off, lots of things are listed under "Superintelligence" even though they are different topics. The little "Philosophy" section only has x-risk even though x-risk is not really philosophy at all.

3 - I don't like some of the writing, I think it could do with some copyediting. Should have less jargon and technical concepts, less examples and quotes from the book, more generality and more clarification of exactly what makes his ideas different and notable compared to other ideas.

I thought I had watchlisted this page, maybe I was just busy when all these edits are made. I see User:Overagainst contributed a lot here and I was not paying attention before it was all completed. Well I intend to change it up but I'm posting here first in case anyone has anything to say. K.Bog 05:50, 13 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]

If you want to expand the philosophy section and have it solely on Bostrom's analytic philosophy background and ideas, I see no problem. However, Bostrom is notable for his Superintelligence book and existential risk institute. Any article on him that did not give that a lot of weight and explaination would be badly flawed, and I don't think it should go back to being like that. Here is what you had
[13]In his 2014 book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, Bostrom reasoned that with "the creation of a superintelligent being represents a possible means to the extinction of mankind", and "there are actions that can be taken to reduce this risk," such as "the creation of a ‘friendly’ superintelligent being."[20] In January 2015, Bostrom joined Stephen Hawking among others in signing the Future of Life Institute's open letter warning of the potential dangers of AI.[21] The signatories "...believe that research on how to make AI systems robust and beneficial is both important and timely, and that concrete research should be pursued today."[22]
You left it completely vague as to why Bostom thinks there is a risk and the massive difficulties he sees in creating such a being. And you did not tell the reader that Bostroms book notes that any number of possible aims an AI could have might converge on the single instrumental one of exterminating humanity. The takeover scenario is a distillation of Bostoms's book, in which repeatedly raises the specter of an AI defeating various attempts to hardwire program it to be friendly. Throughout the book Bostrom is pointing out flaws in Yudkowsky's ideas on control. Those are the technical parts of the book that I did not think i could do justice to. Perhaps you can. However the takover scenario is Bostroms most notable argument and without it you are misleading readers about what he thinks the risk is. I suggest you write a philosophy section (long as you like) and put it here for discussion. Same with the Superintelligence section. Overagainst (talk) 20:15, 13 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
WP:SUMMARY doesn't prohibit have a large summary section that duplicates the content of Existential risk from artificial general intelligence, but IMHO given finite editor resources and given the presumably low reader traffic to this page, the simplest thing would be to have the summary go back to being just a paragraph as the reader can link through to the main article if they want to learn more. Rolf H Nelson (talk) 06:17, 14 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
You have done a pretty good job at Existential risk from artificial general intelligence but the article lacks some things this one has, and you seem to want it to be the go to page for Bostom. Yet there is no link to Bostom in the lede. Now you want to chop this article down. But this one has things that Existential risk from artificial general intelligence lacks. You came here and cut out mention of a point that Bostom has repeatedly made in interviews, namely the Fermi paradox. Something he has also done in a book Global Catastrophic Risks Nick Bostrom, ‎Milan M. Cirkovic - 2011 which has several pages on Fermi's paradox. So I am afraid it is one of his main arguments as far as he is concerned. Another thing Bostrom mentions in his book and I put here but isn't on your edit of the main AI risk page is John Von Neumann and Bertrand Russell advocating during the 40s that the US threaten or use its nuke monopoly to eliminate any possible future nuclear threat from the USSR. Kindness or manevolence doesn't really come into it, and in my opinion the basic argument is not "If superintelligent AI is possible, and if it is possible for a superintelligence's goals to conflict with basic human values, then AI poses a risk of human extinction." at all. Obviously John Von Neumann and Bertrand Russell did not oppose human values, they just took what they saw as a realistic view of the situation and tried to eliminate a threat to the entity they were part of. Bostrom's book seems to be making the point that a super-AI acting absolutely rationally might well be led by logic to try to eliminate the potential threat that humans represent, and it will be able to surreptitiously manufacture nanotech weapons to do it. In contrast your AI risk article is not explicit about the threat of a strategising super AI deliberate extermination of humanity scenario at all, and you don't say anything about the means. So IMO the Bostrom page has things the supposedly main article on the subject lacks despite its very great length.Overagainst (talk) 15:45, 14 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
Bostrom's elaboration of Robin Hanson's Great Filter can certainly go in this article if it's well-sourced from reliable secondary sources, as can the nuke monopoly point. If it's only from primary sources about Bostrom's beliefs such as the book or from interviews, we should be more cautious; if nobody besides Bostrom has found a point interesting enough to talk about, then it may be that our readers won't find it interesting or insightful either. Re existential risk from artificial intelligence, The Great Filter only makes one appearance in one footnote in Chapter 13, so I don't think it's a main part of Bostrom's AI arguments nowadays.
Proceeding to "eliminate the potential threat that humans represent" against the AI would seem to me be a conflict with basic human values, but you and other editors should always feel free to edit the existential risk from AI page since if you consider it unclear I'm sure the average reader is probably utterly baffled. Rolf H Nelson (talk) 04:56, 16 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
I disagree, on his page if Bostrom has said something in a non-self-published book, we most certainly do not need reliable secondary sources that have cited his book as a ref; Bostrom's book is sufficient as a ref for him saying what he said in it. It has to be made very clear that it is Bostrom's opinion and similarly or possibly more qualified people disagree with him, and maybe that needs emphasizing more. In his latest book, Daniel Dennett (who seems to have quite a bit of knowledge of the AI milieu) mentions Bostom by name in the text (not just footnotes) and Dennett's last chapter is bout AI and the final words in the book are about how it is in humanity's hands to control the development of AI, and prevent a strong AI takeover. Dennett says that strong AI/incipient super intelligence is not worth worrying about as it could not be here for at least 50 years, although that is only 40 years off of Bostrom's lowest estimate.Overagainst (talk) 23:14, 16 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
The problem is we have a dense 350 page book about superintelligence, so if an argument inside the book (a) only occupies one footnote, and (b) that specific argument is ignored by the rest of the world, it probably isn't going to be interesting to our readers either. Otherwise we would end up with hundreds of pages. It's better when Wikipedia articles are based mainly on reliable secondary sources. Rolf H Nelson (talk) 20:29, 17 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
Not unclear to an educated person, but the ERfAI page is maybe a little dry, especially the lede.
You mean From Bacteria to Bach and Back, yes? Martinevans123 (talk) 23:55, 16 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
Martinevans123, Yes Bacteria to Bach Hisearlier books used the example of weak AI to teach Darwinism. Dennett admits he is now more "tentative" about strong AI being unfeasible in the forseeable future, but he still thinks it would cost too much and not give us anything we need. In Bacteria to Bach Dennett is equivicating on what Bostrom is ultimately worried about. Dennett only scoffs at the he prospect of super-AI as overlords, while Bostrom is very definitely predicting super-AI as the possible exterminator of humanity. Moreover Dennett thinks the film Ex Machina is about Turing test type moral problems as in the earlier Her, but take away the female form and gamine appeal of the AI in Ex Machina, and it seems much more about a manipulative AI breakout and treacherous turn. Again, Dennett ends the book with a para about how if the future follows the trajectory of the past, AI will never be independent of human control.Overagainst (talk) 20:20, 18 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
Rolf H Nelson, It is not a footnote it is several pages, not in Superintelligence, but in another book (Global Catastrophic Risks Nick Bostrom, ‎Milan M. Cirkovic - 2011) that has several pages on Fermi's paradox. So I am afraid it is one of his main arguments as far as he is concerned. And Fermi's paradox is also mentioned in Khatchadourian's New Yorker article, which Dennett cites in his latest book as an example of "alarming" predictions about the future course of AI. Bostrom's Fermi paradox/ great Filter idea has had enough notice taken of it to be included here as one of his arguments I think. It has to be made clear that it is just his opinion of course>Overagainst (talk) 20:42, 18 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
You said that the article on xRisk from AI doesn't mention the Great Filter/Fermi paradox, but the Fermi paradox is a minor xrisk argument for things like gray goo but not for most AI takeover, since the paperclip maker would carry on colonizing the universe. Bostrom brings it up in the context of xrisk as a whole (or in the context of anthropic reasoning), rather than specifically superintelligence xrisk, and so does the article. Feel free to expand the mention under existential risk and/or mention it in the lead if you want to, but I don't think it belongs under superintelligence.Rolf H Nelson (talk) 04:50, 22 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]
Whatever the article used to look like is kind of irrelevant. I never did core writing for this whole article, I just contributed to it. And if the ERfAI article is missing something then we should just go improve that, not try to patch up its omissions in a different article. K.Bog 06:10, 26 February 2018 (UTC)[reply]

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Citation for analytic philosophy[edit]

@Kbog: There are plenty of primary sources associating Bostrom with the analytic tradition. For example, his homepage and CV mention it, and his old homepage was even "Nick Bostrom's thinking in analytic philosophy"! As for secondary sources: [14], [15], [16]. GojiBarry (talk) 02:06, 4 March 2018 (UTC)[reply]

"I hate those bloody n******"[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I believe it is important that this page clearly articulates the full extent of Nick Bostrom's bigoted and racist views, which he himself took the pains to highlight publicly, due to how incredibly racist and anti-Black they were. The only appropriate measure in such an instance is to fully quote the relevant material, which is itself the only reason this e-mail is considered a notable event. The full quote, to be clear, is "I hate those bloody niggers!!!!" The four exclamation marks are Nick Bostrom's choice, not mine.

While it is clear that Nick Bostrom did not intend to plainly state that he "[hates] those bloody niggers," he clearly did not find it problematic to write out such an offensive statement, even as an example, and he paired such an offensive statement with his very clearly articulated view that Black people are "more stupid" than white people. The intended meaning and unequivocally racist sentiments in this context are clear to any decent person and should not be whitewashed to protect Nick Bostrom's reputation, which is not the job of Wikipedia or anyone else. Anybody who is interested in learning more about Nick Bostrom should be free to read and understand why this e-mail in particular was so noteworthy that Nick Bostrom himself took pains to "pre-emptively" surface it and why its contents were covered in national (if not international) news outlets. The reason is, plainly, because Nick Bostrom wrote "I hate those bloody niggers!!!!" and felt no qualms about doing so. This should not be minimized or whitewashed, it should be openly and plainly stated for everyone to know what his views on acceptable conduct were/are. 2A02:A03F:8095:4100:FD6E:9F5D:10DB:CFB6 (talk) 20:52, 12 January 2023 (UTC)[reply]

If I were reading these quotes attributed to someone, it would make a lot of difference if I knew they were examples of offensiveness interfering with communication. I think it would give an inaccurate picture of the email if we don't mention this. I'm not sure if you were arguing for excluding the context, but if so it's not our job to write hit pieces either.
I'm new to editing but I suspect a full exploration of the multiple ways the email (and apology) were bad would take up too much space. Perhaps it would be better to mention that there was a racist email and let interested readers get the full picture from the references. TheDefenseProfessor (talk) 07:02, 13 January 2023 (UTC)[reply]
2A02:A03F:8095:4100:FD6E:9F5D:10DB:CFB6: You also just wrote that same thing, twice in a row. jp×g 20:28, 13 January 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Wait, no, thrice, I forgot about the section heading. jp×g 20:29, 13 January 2023 (UTC)[reply]
The current version is clearly POV straight from the title and usage of media sources considered marginally reliable by Wikipedia (Vice and tabloid Daily Beast). The mentioning of n-word usage without any further context falsely communicates that it was meant to use as an offense instead of how he thought his claim would be misinterpreted. Furthermore, the last sentence "Neither the original email, nor the apology, addressed Bostrom’s views on race science, which has been linked to eugenics movements in the past." reads like an accusatory opinion piece. It should not be the job of Wikipedia to misrepresent Bostrom's former of current views or scold him. Polystratus (talk) 17:31, 16 January 2023 (UTC)[reply]
He was trying to make a point about communication styles, albeit in poor taste. I am not sure why should the wikipedia page highlight an email from a quarter century ago. His apology was a way to "get ahead" of him being cornered by a bad faith journalist and so was probably a hasty and rushed job. He is one of the most remarkable philosophers of all time and it seems a bit unfair to highlight this as a separate section on his wikipedia page. The email from decades ago doesn't prove that he is a racist or holds objectionable views and the apology seems to be misguided in that it was responding to a hit piece on him, and so was probably designed to address specific points that he felt needed to be addressed, rather than his rounded opinion on race and such. Therefore I think this should not feature on his wiki page, and definitely not as a separate section. It was not picked up by mainstream media and should not be something that folks looking into his work should encounter. His philosophy has nothing to do with IQ, race, genetics, and this is a jarring deviation from his work. Racism and bigotry are career destroying allegations and slapping these on his public profile without sans the nuance and texture of the email and apology controversy seems like a bad faith move. Fish 2023 (talk) 14:28, 2 February 2023 (UTC)[reply]
The subject's racism is worthy of both a mention in the lead and a section in the main body. I have edited accordingly. He is a widely known and otherwise respected scholar; his apology for racism is of note of itself. However, his racism is pertinent to his academic work since the latter is informed by his wider perspectives upon humanity. The apology is also of note for being reluctant and ambiguous by design, a point observed by other scholars and mentioned in the article. Moreover, the subject used the term; "I hate those bloody n******" as an example of an offensive statement in 1996, when such usage would certainly have been the subject of a disciplinary procedure if used in a tutorial or lecture; it would certainly not have been permitted in any journal. His use of the term as an example could reasonably be described conveying, at the very least, unexamined racism on the subject's part. It is, for example, hard to imagine a scholar in the late 90s using this example when talking to a black student; the phrase therefore conveys the strong sense of a white author assuming he is talking or writing only to white people. It is not credible to suggest that the subject would not have understood the racist implications of his use of the phrase when he used it. The episodes (both 1996 and 2023) have nothing to do with; "poor taste". It may or may not be that the subject's career will be harmed by his racism; that is not a matter for Wikipedia unless or until it becomes a reported fact. All the best, Emmentalist (talk) 09:18, 31 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I Rolled back the recent additions which I see as WP:UNDUE overkill. I very much support including the present, more restrained discussion of the controversy, and identifying Bostrom's comments as racist in Wikivoice (following RS), but the addition to the lead was out of proportion. A much briefer mention in the lead may be warranted, especially if coverage of the controversy continues. The additions to the header were also unnecessary. Generalrelative (talk) 14:44, 31 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks, @Generalrelative for the comments. I diametrically disagree with you. A very senior scholar at a world famous institution making profoundly racist statements then apologising (with caveats), under internal investigation, should certainly have these points noted in the lead. I also profoundly disagree with the fully spelled out and entirely unnecessary use of the N-word. I think your revert minimises what is a very important feature of the subject's career trajectory. I do not think the word "controversy" is appropriate either. His remarks are not 'controversial' but simply racist. Racism should not be minimised or understated in Wikipedia articles. I believe that my edit should stand. All the best, Emmentalist (talk) 15:59, 31 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]
If you look at the edit history of this page, you'll see that I've worked to correct unbalanced editing in the other direction too. To be clear, Bostrom's remarks were both controversial and racist, full stop. I think the matter is very serious, and a significant stain on Bostrom's reputation. Which is one more reason to observe Wikipedia's policies and guidelines scrupulously when handling the matter. Per WP:NPOV and WP:BLPBALANCE, we need to be careful to present this matter in proportion to the amount it's been covered in reliable sources. No more, no less. That's why I said above A much briefer mention in the lead may be warranted, especially if coverage of the controversy continues. We need to be wary of WP:SENSATION, but also to remember that Wikipedia is WP:NOTCENSORED. I'd be more than happy to work with you on improving the language and presentation, but please keep all this in mind. Cheers, Generalrelative (talk) 16:22, 31 May 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks for this, @Generalrelative. I've looked at your edits and your previous edits elsewhere. They're subtle and effective and I think we have very different perspective on issues like scientific racism; that influences our respective approaches to Bostrom's comments. That sounds like a good combination to improve an article. I should say that I took all the relevant WP policies into account and while we can disagree, of course, I'm confident my edit/s conformed to the latter and principle of the four you've flagged. That said, you're a more experienced editor and it's perfectly possible your judgement is better than mine on that. Can I just start by making two proposals? First, can we agree to remove the full spelling of the N-word and replaces most of the letters with asterisks? A lot of black people find repetition of the word in quotes offensive and I don't think it's at all necessary to the meaning of the relevant part of the article. Second, can we agree, as you suggest, to have a smaller reference to the racism affair in the lead? Perhaps at the end instead of in the middle as I put it? And perhaps just a sentence in view of the fact that there has been no further coverage yet (as far as I can see the investigation has not yet concluded). That could be updated if/when there is more information in the public domain? Emmentalist (talk) 08:55, 3 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Wikipedia should not do original research on who's condemnworthy. If you want Bostrom further reproached you can campaign for that outside of Wikipedia. Wikipedia can record any successes of your activism after they are referenced elsewhere but should not itself be a vehicle for it.
Currently Bostrom is not fired and the extent of the controversy seems rather limited (little media interest etc.) so I don't think the investigation merits inclusion in the lead or as a separate section, the issue should be under Public engagement. As a random example of a more curated Wikipedia page, Stephen Colbert's page doesn't even mention his cancellation attempt at all anywhere on his page, despite it "trending on Twitter and widely covered in US media". The current compromise is still overkill. Polystratus (talk) 01:45, 5 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Kanye West, on the other hand…they’re just different situations where people said different things. I’m amazed that Bostrom still has a job but I think this is a significant part of his career even if he suffers no further repercussions. Prezbo (talk) 02:11, 5 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Hi, @Polystratus, see my comments below. All the best, Emmentalist (talk) 21:06, 5 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
If you read between the lines of his apology, he clearly does still believe that white people are smarter (on average) than black people…he’s just willing to stipulate that this difference may be due to environmental factors (systemic racism) rather than genetics. The article should make that clear. Prezbo (talk) 20:29, 4 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
To be fair, the idea that people who self-identify as black have a lower average IQ than those who identify as belonging to other census racial categories is a matter of scientific orthodoxy. On that basis, I think most WP editors would say it isn't relevant in a biographical article.Emmentalist (talk) 21:34, 4 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Maybe. I don’t know what the statistics are. Argument around these issues often circles around the relationship between IQ and “intelligence,” whether intelligence can be quantified, what might cause differences in measured IQ other than differences in intelligence, etc. My point is that his apology itself is pretty confrontational/controversialist. I know if I said anything like this IRL I would be unemployed pretty quickly. I’m curious to see how this plays out. Prezbo (talk) 00:02, 5 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Prezbo, we aren't supposed to "read between the lines" of his apology. That is WP:SYNTH or maybe WP:OR. I'm in agreement with Emmentalist and Polystratus, and feel that mentioning in the lead is overkill but won't mess with that for now. Given that it is there, I am going to add that he made the statement in 1996, a full 27 years ago. The section on the racist remark is a rather large part of the article though not quite at the WP:UNDUE point. The remark and subsequent apology came to light about 5 months ago and there haven't been any repercussions to date, so it is probably best not to write more about the incident until we see if there are any other consequences or not. (Prezbo, I'm curious how this plays out too.) I am going to move that unformatted blog-like reference in the lead to the body of the article. (Also, it is repeated WAY too many times that he is the director/founder of the Future of whatever institute and the existential risk institute at Cambridge, 3 times at least! I'll try to clean that up, and also find better sources which are badly needed as others have remarked already.)--FeralOink (talk) 09:08, 5 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I think it’s fine to “read between the lines” or express personal opinions on the talk page, just not in the article. We’re not robots. Prezbo (talk) 10:31, 5 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Oh gosh, I'm sorry! I misunderstood what you meant by that, Prezbo. Of course it's okay to read between the lines or express opinions on the talk page. I thought your were referring to doing it in the article. I misread what you had written; your comment didn't suggest that you intended to do that.--FeralOink (talk) 02:36, 9 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
No worries! Prezbo (talk) 10:07, 9 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Wikipedians, thanks for all the comments here. I see some have edited without discussion. I will take account of the discussion so far and edit now too. The situation is ongoing so perhaps we can leave it at this for now? If not, please discuss here for consensus before making more edits as that is more practicable that reading through all the separate edits.

Bostrom is clearly a figure of world renown in one way or another. His racist remarks deserve a reference in the lead, my feeling is that most agree here to a greater or lesser extent, but I agree that we should not overstate the case since the episode is still running. My own sense, for info, is that the investigation, which is important enough to be in the lead for now, seems unlikely to be disatrous for Bostrom or it would have concluded already. Depending on how the epidisode concludes, reference might be justifiably removed at that point. It is important to bear in mind in all of this that Bostrom works in an area which will almost inevitably touch on matters which are controversial from time to time. He has yet to respond fully (we may reasonably presume he is waiting for the outcome of the investigation). His email of 1996 understandably remains notable for some editors (including me) since it appears to reveal values which might be present in his present work and they were, in any case, certainly contentious in 1996. His 2023 statement is unequestionably important at present because of what it reveals of his more recent thoughts (he may well have changed them since Jan 2023 since previously it seems they were not likely at the centre of this thinking while they will be now. Again, depending on his eventual response we might decide that this justifies removal from the lead and better contextualisation in the main body).

I have taken account of all the policies mentioned above by other editors in all my edits; they are elementary and quite foundational policies. I think what disagreement exists orients around how those policies should be applied in this case rather than around errors in the application. I do mention one policy below, but that is not intended as an exhaustive statement about policies, obv.

My edits: In the lead, I have inserted a reference to the Oxford University investigation, which is significant (and salient in view of the Oxford-related content of the main body) and ongoing. I suggest here that this might be removed depending on the outcome of the investigation. In the main body, I have removed "controversy" from "Racist email controversy" sub-title as it is uncecessary since Bostrom has acknowledged the original statement's racist nature. I have asterisked the n-word on the basis that its full use here is unecessary and repeats what Bostrom himself did in his own 2023 apology (which is regarded by some editors, including me, as contentious). I have removed the Anders Sandberg Twitter quote as it does not comply with WP:Verifiablity (e.g. it is a tweet about a third party): In addition, at least one critical quote has previously been edited out. It seems better to have neither rather than both. I have removed the second half of the first paragraph from "Bostrom" to "question". The passage amounts to a subjective contexualisation so the alternative to removal would be to include arguments in the public domain which critique that argument; this seems to me to introduce an unecessary element of discourse into a WP:BLP at at time when the episode presumably has an end-date (shortly after the Oxford investigation reports?) but has not yet concluded. In addition, the main body reference already seems unwieldy in view of the fact it will likely have to be amended soon. All the best, Emmentalist (talk) 19:32, 5 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]

I don’t think there’s a verifiability problem with the Anders Sandberg quote. It’s just Sandberg stating his own views on Bostrom. Prezbo (talk) 12:08, 6 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I'm going to revert for two reasons. First, there's been quite a bit of discussion here and it seems reasonable to seek consensus here before altering yet again. Other editors in this discussion might well have a view. Please leave it a couple of days for people to contribute if they wish. Second, I have provided a rationale for not including the Anders quote; notably, the quote does not appear to satisfy WP:Verifiability; and the inclusion of the Anders quote will lead to other quotes such as Weinberg's (which you edited out with a poor rationale, in my opinion) being included, giving the impression of an ongoing discourse about the subject and making the article imbalanced. Simply saying "I don't have a problem with it" isn't a rationale. For balance, in addition to removing the supportive Anders quote I have also removed the condemnatory EA quote. Please put your case here and don't revert until others have had a chance to contribute. All the best, Emmentalist (talk) 12:29, 6 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Emmentalist, respectfully, you could express yourself more concisely. Could you explain how the Sandberg quote presents a verifiability problem? I honestly don’t see the problem. Are you saying that we can’t verify whether this is really Sandberg posting on Twitter or someone impersonating him? Prezbo (talk) 12:58, 6 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Hi @prezbo.My comments are comprehensive and concise. However: Twitter is generally an unacceptable source. Where Twitter is used, it should not entail comments about third parties. Even if verifiable, the Tweet still requires consensus. Finally, you have removed a critical quote and replaced a supportive one; that imbalances the article (see WP:NPOV). Happy to discuss further once other editors have had a chance to take a view. All the best, Emmentalist (talk) 13:22, 6 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
The essay (note that it's an essay, not a Wikipedia policy) you link to states that "A specific tweet may be useful as a self-published, primary source." I believe that's the situation we're looking at here. Prezbo (talk) 13:51, 6 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
The policies and essays are there to guide editors; we'll naturally have different interpretations. I think there isn't a good case to use the Anders tweet in this article most particularly because it introduces competitive quotes on the supportive and condemnatory side in respect of the subject. These quotes can be discussed ad nauseam (e.g. you describe a critic of the subject's who is a well-known philosopher writing in a philosophy magazine as not notable enough for inclusion - I disagree) yet add no value to the article. Indeed, they detract from it by introducing obfuscation, small 'p' politics and unnecessary verbiage. Anyway, let's just wait to see if any other editors have a view. All the best, and very nice to chat. Emmentalist (talk) 17:09, 6 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I don't see why it's bad to have "competitive" supportive and condemnative quotes. We want to provide a picture of the conversation surrounding this incident, which includes people with different viewpoints. You're right that we can't include quotes from everyone who has an opinion. I think that CEA and Sandberg are worth including because they're very close to Bostrom personally and professionally. This is the same reason I see the reaction from the chair of his department as noteworthy. Maybe Justin Weinberg is worth including too, if he's prominent enough in the field of philosophy...I've never heard of him, but maybe that's just my ignorance. Prezbo (talk) 19:46, 6 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
It is now a few days later. You two, Prezbo and Emmentalist, have done a good job with your collaborative editing. I'm impressed, after looking at the page history, how you didn't excessively revert each other, or bicker in other ways that are so common in Wikipedia editing! You help restore my faith in this project.--FeralOink (talk) 02:36, 9 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks so much, @FeralOink! That's very encouraging and thanks for taking the time! Emmentalist (talk) 07:48, 9 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks for the kind words! Prezbo (talk) 10:08, 9 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
@Emmentalist, we can discuss further if you want but I don't think anyone else is likely to chime in here. I still think it's worth including a brief reference to the Sandberg and CEA comments. Prezbo (talk) 12:04, 11 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Yeah. Fair enough,@Prezbo! Fire away! All the best, Emmentalist (talk) 13:05, 11 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]

A little more context from the email is warranted. I suggest:

...where he had stated that he thought "Blacks are more stupid than whites" ("I like that sentence and think it is true"), and where he also used the word "n*****s" in a description of how he thought this statement might be perceived by others.[1] The statement was given as an example; preceding it Bostrom had explained, "I have always liked the uncompromisingly objective way of thinking and speaking: the more counterintuitive and repugnant a formulation, the more it appeals to me given that it is logically correct."

The two additions help convey meaning that isn't clear in the current version: He knew that the statement was "counterintuitive and repugnant", but also believed, in the moment (mistakenly with respect to his own views at the time, according to his apology), that he was being "uncompromisingly objective" and that the statement was "logically correct". Imsecretguy (talk) 20:06, 16 July 2023 (UTC)[reply]


  1. ^ Ladden-Hall, Dan (2023-01-12). "Top Oxford Philosopher Nick Bostrom Admits Writing 'Disgusting' N-Word Mass Email". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2023-01-12.

Support of "enhancements" and "genetic engineering"[edit]

In Bostrom work Existential Risks:Analyzing Human Extinction Scenarios and Related Hazards, sectiom 5.3 “Dysgenic” pressures, he discusses"enhancements" and "genetic engineering". I wonder if someone interested in colabrating in summarising his views and book about this, and Posthuman in general. Here a list of article that we can start with: Embryo Selection for Cognitive Enhancement, , In Defense of Posthuman Dignity, Human Enhancement Ethics: The State of the Debate, Human Genetic Enhancements: A Transhumanist Perspective, Ethical Issues in Human Enhancement, SMART POLICY, Why I Want to be a Posthuman When I Grow Up, Cognitive Enhancement: Methods, Ethics, Regulatory Challenges, The Reversal Test: Eliminating Status Quo Bias in Applied Ethics = all of these formed his book on Human Enhancement (not Human enhancement) .. FuzzyMagma (talk) 15:43, 10 April 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Please see my comments on this topic at Talk:Dysgenics#reverted edit. In general, Wikipedia is based on WP:SECONDARY rather than WP:PRIMARY sources. This is especially important when discussing potentially WP:FRINGE topics like dysgenics in humans, where race pseudoscience and fallacies about population genetics abound. Any discussion of a FRINGE topic should be sourced to an *independent* secondary source, per WP:FRIND. Generalrelative (talk) 16:02, 10 April 2023 (UTC)[reply]
@Generalrelative I understand your point in Dysgenics, but book analysis are different, see WP:NONFICTION FuzzyMagma (talk) 16:09, 10 April 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I am just going to summarise what is written, so WP:PRIMARY does not apply to synposis. if they are wrong or right this is not the point unless it was issued in reponse to the book, which is different if I was writting about the topic itself, e.g., Dysgenics or Human enhancement then WP:FRINGE and WP:SECONDARY applies. FuzzyMagma (talk) 16:29, 10 April 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Generalrelative, there is a body of literature on human dysgenics that does not pertain to race/ethnicity nor culture/society; evolutionary biologist William D. Hamilton is highly respected and wrote about the subject, as did others. I do agree with you, that Nick Bostrom's self-authored work (he is quite prolific!) about any sort of dysgenics should not be directly included in his Wikipedia BLP. We need secondary sources, especially about something like transhumanism, dysgenics (for whatever reason), etc. I arrived here after viewing the article on Instrumental convergence, which is in the effective altruism realm of Less Wrong. There's a lot of rationalist fan cruft in the talk page (e.g. multiple suggestions to use Eliezer Yudkowsky's own tweets claiming that Eliezer came up with something, as a source). I'm not accusing or casting aspersions of similar tendencies toward you, FuzzyMagma. This article already has some of that "true believer" feel to it, and it is likely to increase as the subject of AI existential risk gets more attention. Let's keep that in mind regarding further self-sourced content for a BLP. Of course, WP:RS secondary sources are totally okay.--FeralOink (talk) 09:24, 5 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Hey all, thank you for your engagement here and for the pings. I am traveling and will not have time to engage much for the time being. I trust the community to arrive at good solutions in the meantime, but will insist that the idea that evidence exists for dysgenic effects in humans is indeed fringe, and will be happy to make time to continue to argue that case when I have time if it becomes necessary. For now, please refer to the sources cited for this at Dysgenics. Generalrelative (talk) 18:47, 6 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Racist email inclusion in the lede[edit]

Another user has removed this from the lede (twice). Maybe we can build some consensus about whether this should be in the lede or not. I think it's a big deal, for reasons explained at length above...but curious to hear other opinions. Prezbo (talk) 02:46, 19 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Thanks for your open mind.
Doesn't this give an excessive importance to something he wrote more than 20 years ago when he was a student ? I think we should take into account the fact that he said : "I completely repudiate this disgusting email from 26 years ago. It does not accurately represent my views, then or now". And so we shouldn't use quotes from this email to interpret his opinions. We all do stupid things in our lives, and we wouldn't like to have our reputation ruined 20 years later for that.
What he seems to actually think is that "it is deeply unfair that unequal access to education, nutrients, and basic healthcare leads to inequality in social outcomes, including sometimes disparities in skills and cognitive capacity" ( We can't totally deny that the lack of education or basic nutrients statistically has a destructive effect on individuals, I guess ? At least it seems ok to point it out as an important way to improve society. Alenoach (talk) 16:27, 19 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
In my view, what he thought 20 years ago is that White people are smarter than Black people...and he still thinks that, he's just learned how to say it in a more oblique way. But he still has a job, so maybe I'm the crazy one. If we fall back on reliable sources, which is what we're supposed to do...this was covered by The Times and Oxford said that they were going to investigate it, but then everything went back to normal. It's just strange to me. Prezbo (talk) 17:29, 19 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Embarrassingly, there actually is an IQ statistical gap, and intelligence seems at least somewhat correlated with IQ. I don't like it either and I think it's mainly due to poverty, but we can't force Bostrom to confidently deny that gap or blame him for believing it exists.
This doesn't mean that it would be ok to say that blacks are more stupid than whites. This is highly disrepectful and shouldn't be said, and the 2023 Bostrom agrees with that. (talk) 11:53, 20 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I think it's mainly due to poverty Mainstream science agrees with you. See Race and intelligence, especially the sections "Education" and "Socioeconomic environment". --Hob Gadling (talk) 14:05, 20 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
No disrespect to the authors of that article, but I wouldn’t rely on Wikipedia as a way to educate yourself on this topic. Prezbo (talk) 22:18, 21 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Usually, when people link to a Wikipedia article, you are supposed to rely not on the article itself but on the reliable sources cited in the article. --Hob Gadling (talk) 10:40, 22 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
That's Bostrom's 2023 position, as I understand it--that he expressed himself disrespectfully, but he wasn't wrong about anything per se. Others would disagree. I added a quote that hopefully makes clear what he's apologizing for and what he isn't, with reference to media sources that took note of this at the time. Prezbo (talk) 10:38, 22 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Giving 3 condemnatory quotes seems still overkill to me, given that he didn't say anything racist in the apology letter and explicitly repudiated the 1996 email. I think a disagreement on the fact that the apology letter isn't racist should quote the relevant excerpt, explain why this is disrespectful and prove why it is factually incorrect. This shouldn't rely on the comparison between black and white people from the old email, because it was repudiated and it leaves the impression that the problems would be about being black, whereas the problem that he actually cites is "unequal access to education, nutrients, and basic healthcare".
Given that the link to his apology letter has been removed, it is hard for readers to make their own unbiased opinions. The best source of truth about someone's opinions should be what he said, and in this case, the apology letter (which gives all the relevant context). So I suggest to add it back. Alenoach (talk) 19:50, 22 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I thought there was a link to the apology letter. If not, feel free to add it back.
The quotes—-those are the responses from people around him that were covered in reliable sources. If there are quotes defending him that got some press coverage, I’m not opposed to adding them.
His own quote—-I don’t see that we need to explain to readers why this might be seen as racist, or prove that it’s incorrect. The sources we’re citing didn’t choose to take on that burden. Readers can draw their own conclusions. Prezbo (talk) 20:56, 22 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I haven't been clear, sorry, I meant if there is a disagreement in the context of this discussion. Alenoach (talk) 21:39, 22 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
No worries. I don’t know if it’s racist or not. Some responses I’ve seen online view it that way. As an apology, it reads strangely. I think there’s more to the story than “he said something racist a long time ago but apologized.” That’s why I’m being insistent about including this quote. Prezbo (talk) 22:13, 22 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]
I don't think the email is a big enough part of Bostrom's life or public profile to go in the lede. However, the lede does have some WP:PUFF that I will remove. Jmill1806 (talk) 08:11, 20 June 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Superintelligence section[edit]

The section on superintelligence probably needs to be restructured. Notably because it focuses too much on illustrative scenarios. The risks scenarios are pretty anecdotal, they are just examples amongst others of how things could surprisingly go wrong. Here they are too detailed and speculative. We could instead briefly present the paperclip maximizer, which is popular, purposefully unrealistic (it's just a thought experiment) and illustrates well instrumental convergence and the orthogonality thesis. And the possibility of an intelligence explosion is just one risk factor, it is not necessary for a catastrophe. Moreover, Bostrom doesn't seem central to the "23 principles of A.I. safety", whereas there are a lot of concepts that he discovered and that deserve more attention in this article.

In my opinion, this section should roughly follow the structure of the book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. First, it should explain why superintelligence seems possible. Then, what kinds of properties it would have, how not to anthropomorphize it. Then, why it's risky (intelligence explosion, instrumental convergence...), and what's the benefits. Then, how we could try to make it safe. And finally, Bostrom's overall strategic picture as he sees it. Of course, this could use recent articles if he updated his views since 2014. Sorry to propose that after you took so much time to improve this section, @FeralOink.

What do you think ? Alenoach (talk) 09:35, 3 August 2023 (UTC)[reply]

I made the modifications that I was asking for, so this message is no longer relevant. Alenoach (talk) 17:13, 14 August 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Delete 1996 email controversy?[edit]

The 1996 email controversy has been addressed and come to a conclusion. I propose that we delete the 1996 email controversy because of this. (also im new to wikipedia so if this is short thats why) (talk) 21:37, 4 February 2024 (UTC)[reply]

No, I disagree. It happened and was covered by reliable sources, that's all that's needed to justify inclusion in the article. I also don't think it's "come to a conclusion," it may be something critics of Effective Altruism and related ideas talk about for a long time. Prezbo (talk) 12:42, 7 February 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Result of Oxford investigation[edit]

In reference to[17] Not that I think Bostrom is lying, but the article should make clear that this quote is coming from Bostrom’s website. He says that it’s the result of Oxford’s investigation but we have no independent evidence of this. Evidently Oxford sent Bostrom an email/letter with this statement but chose not to make any kind of public announcement. Prezbo (talk) 04:25, 13 February 2024 (UTC)[reply]