Scott Aaronson over at Shtetl-Optimized has a great post on dodging bullets vs. swallowing bullets when it comes to thinking about implications of a certain theory:

A bullet-dodger is a person who says things like:

Sure, obviously if you pursued that particular line of reasoning to an extreme, then you’d get such-and-such an absurd-seeming conclusion.  But that very fact suggests that other forces might come into play that we don’t understand yet or haven’t accounted for. So let’s just make a mental note of it and move on.

Faced with exactly the same situation, a bullet-swallower will exclaim:

The entire world should follow the line of reasoning to precisely this extreme, and this is the conclusion, and if a ‘consensus of educated opinion’ finds it disagreeable or absurd, then so much the worse for educated opinion! Those who accept this are intellectual heroes; those who don’t are cowards.

As usual with Scott Aaronson, it’s a great post. I sure can relate to the sci-fi connection – the coolest things I remember reading from sci-fi are the strange implications that come from a different worldview, like the bombing-in-reverse scene from Slaughter-House Five, or the constitutional congress in Green Mars where terraforming rights go into the constitution. Screw aliens and ray guns – unexpected conclusions is what’s sci-fi is all about. 


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