# Abe Dillon's Posts

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An Intuitive Explanation of Solomonoff Induction

This is a pretty lame attitude towards mathematics. If William Rowan Hamilton showed you his discovery of quaternions, you'd probably scoff and say "yeah, but what can that do for ME?".

Occam's razor has been a guiding principal for science for centuries without having any proof for why it's a good policy, Now Solomonoff comes along and provides a proof and you're unimpressed. Great.

An Intuitive Explanation of Solomonoff Induction
After all, a formalization of Occam's razor is supposed to be useful in order to be considered rational.

Declaring a mathematical abstraction useless just because it is not practically applicable to whatever your purpose may be is pretty short-sighted. The concept of infinity isn't useful to engineers, but it's very useful to mathematicians. Does that make it irrational?

Occam's Razor: In need of sharpening?

Thinking this through some more, I think the real problem is that S.I. is defined in the perspective of an agent modeling an environment, so the assumption that Many Worlds has to put any un-observable on the output tape is incorrect. It's like stating that Copenhagen has to output all the probability amplitudes onto the output tape and maybe whatever dice god rolled to produce the final answer as well. Neither of those are true.

Occam's Razor: In need of sharpening?

That's a link to somebody complaining about how someone else presented an argument. I have no idea what point you think it makes that's relevant to this discussion.

Occam's Razor: In need of sharpening?
output of a TM that just runs the SWE doesn't predict your and only your observations. You have to manually perform an extra operation to extract them, and that's extra complexity that isn't part of the "complexity of the programme".

First, can you define "SWE"? I'm not familiar with the acronym.

Second, why is that a problem? You should want a theory that requires as few assumptions as possible to explain as much as possible. The fact that it explains more than just your point of view (POV) is a good thing. It lets you make predictions. The only requirement is that it explains at least your POV.

The point is to explain the patterns you observe.

>The size of the universe is not a postulate of the QFT or General Relativity.
That's not relevant to my argument.

It most certainly is. If you try to run the Copenhagen interpretation in a Turing machine to get output that matches your POV, then it has to output the whole universe and you have to find your POV on the tape somewhere.

The problem is: That's not how theories are tested. It's not like people are looking for a theory that explains electromagnetism and why they're afraid of clowns and why their uncle "Bob" visited so much when they were a teenager and why their's a white streak in their prom photo as though a cosmic ray hit the camera when the picture was taken, etc. etc.

The observations we're talking about are experiments where a particular phenomenon is invoked with minimal disturbance from the outside world (if you're lucky enough to work in a field like Physics which permits such experiments). In a simple universe that just has an electron traveling toward a double-slit wall and a detector, what happens? We can observe that and we can run our model to see what it predicts. We don't have to run the Turing machine with input of 10^80 particles for 13.8 billion years then try to sift through the output tape to find what matches our observations.

Same thing for the Many Worlds interpretation. It explains the results of our experiments just as well as Copenhagen, it just doesn't posit any special phenomenon like observation, observation is just what entanglement looks like from the perspective of one of the entangled particles (or system of particles if you're talking about the scientist).

Operationally, something like copenhagen, ie. neglect of unobserved predictions, and renormalisation , hasto occur, because otherwise you can't make predictions.

First of all: Of course you can use many worlds to make predictions, You do it every time you use the math of QFT. You can make predictions about entangled particles, can't you? The only thing is: while the math of probability is about weighted sums of hypothetical paths, in MW you take it quite literally as paths the actually being traversed. That's what you're trading for the magic dice machine in non-deterministic theories.

Secondly: Just because Many Worlds says those worlds exist, doesn't mean you have to invent some extra phenomenon to justify renormalization. At the end of the day the unobservable universe is still unobservable. When you're talking about predicting what you might observe when you run experiment X, it's fine to ultimately discard the rest of the multiverse. You just don't need to make up some story about how your perspective is special and you have some magic power to collapse waveforms that other particles don't have.

Hence my comment about SU&C. Different adds some extra baggage about what that means -- occurred in a different branch versus didn't occur -- but the operation still needs to occur.

Please stop introducing obscure acronyms without stating what they mean. It makes your argument less clear. More often than not it results in *more* typing because of the confusion it causes. I have no idea what this sentence means. SU&C = Single Universe and Collapse? Like objective collapse? "Different" what?

Occam's Razor: In need of sharpening?
Well, the original comment was about explaining lightning

You're right. I think I see your point more clearly now. I may have to think about this a little deeper. It's very hard to apply Occam's razor to theories about emergent phenomena. Especially those several steps removed from basic particle interactions. There are, of course, other ways to weigh on theory against another. One of which is falsifiability.

If the Thor theory must be constantly modified so to explain why nobody can directly observe Thor, then it gets pushed towards un-falsifiability. It gets ejected from science because there's no way to even test the theory which in-turn means it has no predictive power.

As I explained in one of my replies to Jimdrix_Hendri, thought there is a formalization for Occam's razor, Solomonoff induction isn't really used. It's usually more like: individual phenomena are studied and characterized mathematically, then; links between them are found that explain more with fewer and less complex assumptions.

In the case of Many Worlds vs. Copenhagen, it's pretty clear cut. Copenhagen has the same explanatory power as Many Worlds and shares all the postulates of Many Worlds, but adds some extra assumptions, so it's a clear violation of Occam's razor. I don't know of a *practical* way to handle situations that are less clear cut.

Occam's Razor: In need of sharpening?
Thor isn't quite as directly in the theory :-) In Norse mythology...

Tetraspace Grouping's original post clearly invokes Thor as an alternate hypothesis to Maxwell's equations to explain the phenomenon of electromagnetism. They're using Thor as a generic stand-in for the God hypothesis.

Norse mythology he's a creature born to a father and mother, a consequence of initial conditions just like you.

Now you're calling them "initial conditions". This is very different from "conditions" which are directly observable. We can observe the current conditions of the universe, come up with theories that explain the various phenomena we see and use those theories to make testable predictions about the future and somewhat harder to test predictions about the past. I would love to see a simple theory that predicts that the universe not only had a definite beginning (hint: your High School science teacher was wrong about modern cosmology) but started with sentient beings given the currently observable conditions.

Sure, you'd have to believe that initial conditions were such that would lead to Thor.

Which would be a lineage of Gods that begins with some God that created everything and is either directly or indirectly responsible for all the phenomena we observe according to the mythology.

I think you're the one missing Tetraspace Grouping's point. They weren't trying to invoke all of Norse mythology, they were trying to compare the complexity of explaining the phenomenon of electromagnetism by a few short equations vs. saying some intelligent being does it.

You wouldn't penalize the Bob hypothesis by saying "Bob's brain is too complicated", so neither should you penalize the Thor hypothesis for that reason.

The existence of Bob isn't a hypothesis it's not used to explain any phenomenon. Thor is invoked as the cause of, not consequence of, a fundamental phenomenon. If I noticed some loud noise on my roof every full moon, and you told me that your friend bob likes to do parkour on rooftops in my neighborhood in the light of the full moon, that would be a hypothesis for a phenomenon that I observed and I could test that hypothesis and verify that the noise is caused by Bob. If you posited that Bob was responsible for some fundamental forces of the universe, that would be much harder for me to swallow.

The true reason you penalize the Thor hypothesis is because he has supernatural powers, unlike Bob. Which is what I've been saying since the first comment.

No. The supernatural doesn't just violate Occam's Razor: it is flat-out incompatible with science. The one assumption in science is naturalism. Science is the best system we know for accumulating information without relying on trust. You have to state how you performed an experiment and what you observed so that others can recreate your result. If you say, "my neighbor picked up sticks on the sabbath and was struck by lightning" others can try to repeat that experiment.

It is, indeed, possible that life on Earth was created by an intelligent being or a group of intelligent beings. They need not be supernatural. That theory, however; is necessarily more complex than any a-biogenesis theory because you have to then explain how the intelligent designer(s) came about which would eventually involve some form of a-biogenesis.

Occam's Razor: In need of sharpening?

You're trying to conflate theory, conditions, and what they entail in a not so subtle way. Occam's razor is about the complexity of a theory, not conditions, not what the theory and conditions entail. Just the theory. The Thor hypothesis puts Thor directly in the theory. It's not derived from the theory under certain conditions. In the case of the Thor theory, you have to assume more to arrive at the same conclusion.

It's really not that complicated.

There's No Fire Alarm for Artificial General Intelligence

That's not how rolling a die works. Each roll is completely independent. The expected value of rolling a 20 sided die is 10.5 but there's no logical way to assign an expected outcome of any given roll. You can calculate how many times you'd have to roll before you're more likely than not to have rolled a specific value (1-P(specific value))^n < 0.5 so log(0.5)/log(1-P(specific_value)) < n. In this case P(specific_value) is 1/20 = 0.05. So n > log(0.5)/log(0.95) = 13.513. So you're more likely than not to have rolled a "1" after 14 rolls, but that still doesn't tell you what to expect your Nth roll to be.

I don't see how your dice rolling example supports a pacifist outlook. We're not rolling dice here. This is a subject we can study and gain more information about to understand the different outcomes better. You can't do that with a dice. The outcomes of rolling a dice are not so dire. Probability is quite useful for making decisions in the face of uncertainty if you understand it better.

AI Alignment Open Thread August 2019

The telos of life is to collect and preserve information. That is to say: this is the defining behavior of a living system, so it is an inherent goal. The beginning of life must have involved some replicating medium for storing information. At first, life actively preserved information by replicating, and passively collected information through the process of evolution by natural selection. Now life forms have several ways of collecting and storing information. Genetics, epigenetic, brains, immune systems, gut biomes, etc.

Obviously a system that collects and preserves information is anti-entropic, so living systems can never be fully closed systems. One can think of them as turbulent vortices that form in the flow of the universe from low-entropy to high-entropy. It may never be possible to halt entropy completely, but if the vortex grows enough, it may slow the progression enough that the universe never quite reaches equilibrium. That's the hope, at least.

One nice thing about this goal is that it's also an instrumental goal. It should lead to a very general form of intelligence that's capable of solving many problems.

One question is: if all living creatures share the same goal, why is there conflict? The simple answer is that it's a flaw in evolution. Different creatures encapsulate different information about how to survive. There are few ways to share this information, so there's not much way to form an alliance with other creatures. Ideally, we would want to maximize our internal, low entropy part, and minimize our interface with high entropy.

Imagine playing a game of Risk. A good strategy is to maximize the number of countries you control while minimizing the number of access points to your territory. If you hold North America, you want to take Venezuela, Iceland, and Kamchatka too because they add to your territory without adding to your "interface". You still only have three territories to defend. This principal extends to many real-world scenarios.

Of-course a better way is to form alliances with your neighbors so you don't have to spend so many resources concurring them (that's not a good way to win Risk, but it would be better in the real world).

The reason humans haven't figured out how to reach a state of peace is because we have a flawed implementation of intelligence that makes it difficult to align our interests (or to recognize that our base goals are inherently aligned).

One interesting consequence of the goal of collecting and preserving information is that it inherently implies a utility function to information. That is: information that is more relevant to the problem of collecting and preserving information is more valuable than information that's less relevant to that goal. You're not winning at life if you have an HD box set of "Happy Days" while your neighbor has only a flash drive with all of wikipedia on it. You may have more bits of information, but those bits aren't very useful.

Another reason for conflict among humans is the hard problem of when to favor information preservation over collection. Collecting information necessarily involves risk because it means encountering the unknown. This is the basic conflict between conservatism and liberalism in the most general form of those words.

Would an AI given the goal of collecting and preserving information completely solve the alignment problem? It seems like it might. I'd like to be able to prove such a statement. Thoughts?

EDIT: Please pardon the disorganized, stream-of-consciousness, style of this post. I'm usually skeptical of posts that seem so scatter-brained and almost... hippy-dippy... for lack of a better word. Like the kind of rambling that a stoned teenager might spout. Please work with me here. I've found it hard to present this idea without coming off as a spiritualist-quack, but it is a very serious proposal.