jacob_cannell above seems to think it is very important for physicists to know about Solomonoff induction.

Solomonoff induction is one of those ideas that keeps circulating here, for reasons that escape me.

If we are talking about Bayesian methods for data analysis, almost no one on LW who is breathlessly excited about Bayesian stuff actually knows what they are talking about (with 2-3 exceptions, who are stats/ML grad students or up). And when called on it retreat to the "Bayesian epistemology" motte.

Bayesian methods didn't save Jaynes from being terminally confused about causality and the Bell inequalities.

jacob_cannell above seems to think it is very important for physicists to know about Solomonoff induction.

Nah - I was just using that as an example of things physicists (regardless of IQ) don't automatically know.

Most physicists were trained to think in terms of Popperian epistemology, which is strictly inferior to (dominated by) Bayesian epistemology (if you don't believe that, it's not worth my time to debate). In at least some problem domains, the difference in predictive capability between the two methodologies are becoming significant.

Physicists don't automatically update their epistemologies, it isn't something they are using to having to update.

2iarwain15yI still haven't figured out what you have against Bayesian epistemology. It's not like this is some sort of LW invention - it's pretty standard in a lot of philosophical and scientific circles, and I've seen plenty of philosophers and scientists who call themselves Bayesians. My understanding is that Solomonoff induction is usually appealed to as one of the more promising candidates for a formalization of Bayesian epistemology that uses objective and specifically Occamian priors. I haven't heard Solomonoff promoted as much outside LW, but other similar proposals do get thrown around by a lot of philosophers. Of course Bayesianism isn't a cure-all by itself, and I don't think that's controversial. It's just that it seems useful in many fundamental issues of epistemology. But in any given domain outside of epistemology (such as causation or quantum mechanics), domain-relevant expertise is almost certainly more important. The question is more whether domain expertise plus Bayesianism is at all helpful, and I'd imagine it depends on the specific field. Certainly for fundamental physics it appears that Bayesianism is often viewed as at least somewhat useful (based on the conference linked by the OP and by a lot of other things I've seen quoted from professional physicists).
1MrMind5yI think a more charitable read would go like this: being smarter doesn't necessarily mean that you know everything there's to know nor that you are more rational than other people. Since being rational or knowing about Bayesian epistemology is important in every field of science, physicists should be motivated to learn this stuff. I don't think he was suggesting that French pastries are literally useful to them. Well, LW was born as a forum about artificial intelligence. Solomonoff induction is like an ideal engine for generalized intelligence, which is very cool! That's unfortunate, but we cannot ask of anyone, even geniuses, to transcend their time. Leonardo da Vinci held some ridiculous beliefs, for our standars, just like Ramanujan or Einstein. With this I'm not implying that Jaynes was a genius of that caliber, I would ascribe that status more to Laplace. On the 'bright' side, in our time nobody knows how to reconcile epistemic probability and quantum causality :)

Open thread, Dec. 21 - Dec. 27, 2015

by MrMind 1 min read21st Dec 2015233 comments


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