Sam Harris Dictionary: Orthogonal

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The word orthogonal is often used by Sam Harris on his podcast.

Orthogonal is a 25 cent word that may be hard to naturally work into a sentence, unless of course you’re a neuroscientist.

When Sam uses the word orthogonal, he could be using it in mathematical terms, as in the meaning “of a right angle”…

But more likely he is using orthogonal when making a point in a debate about one thing being unrelated to some other thing.

For instance, if you were in a debate with someone about potential unexpected outcomes of artificial intelligence, you could say:

It’s not unreasonable to assume that an artificial general intelligence capable AI powered robot could develop motivations that ultimately prove orthogonal to its creator’s original intent.

Different ways to use the word orthogonal in a sentence:

  • In Debate – Meaning “not relevant”
  • In Statistics – Meaning “unrelated”
  • In Computing – Meaning “isolated or partitioned”
  • In Mathematics – Meaning “at a right angle”

I support the Waking Up Podcast because it’s very often interesting and full of nuance.