All of StephenR's Comments + Replies

I entered "Other: electic mixture" on the survey. On my Facebook profile, I elaborate this as "classical liberalism, Rawlsian liberalism, reactionary, left-libertarianism, conservatism, and techno-futurism." Ideologies are for picking apart, not buying wholesale. I gather a variety of them together and cut away the rotten parts like moldy cheese. What's left is something much more workable than the originals.

Believing that a theory is true that says "true" is not a thing theories can be is obviously silly.

Oh okay. This is a two-part misunderstanding.

I'm not saying that theories can't be true, I'm just not talking about this truth thing in my meta-model. I'm perfectly a-okay with models of truth popping up wherever they might be handy, but I want to taboo the intuitive notion and refuse to explicate it. Instead I'll rely on other concepts to do much of the work we give to truth, and see what happens. And if there's work that they can't do, I want ... (read more)

0Armok_GoB9y
Hmm, maybe I need to reveal my epistemology another step towards the bottom. Two things seem relevant here. I think you you SHOULD take your best model literally if you live in a human brain, since it can never get completely stuck requiring infinite evidence due to it's architecture, but does have limited computation and doubt can both confuse it and damage motivation. The few downsides there are can be fixed with injunctions and heuristics. Secondly, you seem to be going with fuzzy intuitions or direct sensory experience as the most fundamental. At my core is instead that I care about stuff, and that my output might determine that stuff. The FIRST thing that happens is conditioning on that my decisions matter, and then I start updating on the input stream of a particular instance/implementation of myself. My working definition of "real" is "stuff I might care about". My point wasn't that the physical systems can be modeled BY math, but that they themselves model math. Further, that if the math wasn't True, then it wouldn't be able to model the physical systems. With the math systems as well you seem to be coming from the opposite direction. Set theory is a formal system, arithmetic can model it using gödel numbering, and you can't prevent that or have it give different results without breaking arithmetic entirely. Likewise, set theory can model arithmetic. It's a package deal. Lambda calculus and register machines are also members of that list of mutual modeling. I think even basic geometry can be made sort of Turing complete somehow. Any implementation of any of them must by necessity model all of them, exactly as they are. You can model an agent that doesn't need the concepts, but it must be a very simple agent with very simple goals in a very simple environment. To simple to be recognizable as agentlike by humans.

Many of them render considering them not true pointless, in the sense all my reasoning and senses are invalid if they don't hold so I might as well give up and save computing time by conditioning on them being true.

I call these sorts of models sticky, in the sense that they are pervasive in our perception and categorisation. Sitcky categories are the sort of thing that we have a hard time not taking literally. I haven't gone into any of this yet, of course, but I like it when comments anticipate ideas and continue trains of thought.

Maybe a short run-lo... (read more)

0Armok_GoB9y
I don't mean just sticky models. The concepts I'm talking about are things like "probability", "truth", "goal", "If-then", "persistent objects", etc. Believing that a theory is true that says "true" is not a thing theories can be is obviously silly. Believing that there is no such things as decisionmaking and that you're a fraction of a second old and will cease to be within another fraction of a second might be philosophically more defensible, but conditioning on it not being true can never have bad consequences while it has a chance of having good ones. I were talking about physical systems, not physical laws. Computers, living cells, atoms, the fluid dynamics of the air... "Applied successfully in many cases", where "many" is "billions of times every second" Then ZFC is not one of those cores ones, just one of the peripheral ones. I'm talking ones like set theory as a whole, or arithmetic, or Turing machines.

That was a wonderful comment. I hope you don't mind if I focus on the last part in particular. If you'd rather I addressed more I can accommodate that, although most of that will be signalling agreement.

To assert P is equivalent to asserting "P is true" (the deflationary theory in reverse). That is still true if P is of the form "so and so works". Pragmatism is not orthogonal to, or transcendent of, truth. Pragmatists need to be concerned about what truly works.

I'll note a few things in reply to this:

  • I'm fine with some conceptual
... (read more)
0TheAncientGeek9y
Analysing P as "P is true" isn't some peculiarity of mine: in less formal terms, to assert something is to assert it as true. To put forward claims, and persuade others that they should believe them is to play a truth game...truth is what one should believe, So your epistemology can't dispense with truth, but offers no analysis of truth, How useful is that? Tabooing truth, or tabooing "truth"? It is almost always possible to stop using a word, but continue referring to the concept by synonymous words or phrases. Doing without the concept is harder....doing without the use, the employment us harder still. Nothing works just because someone feels it does. The truth of something truly working us given by the territory. Contextual truth is compatible with no truth?

Applying it to what problem? (If you mean the physics posts you linked to, I need more time to digest it fully)

No, not that comment, I mean the initial post. The problem is handling mathematical systems in an epistemology. A lot of epistemologies have a hard time with that because of ontological issues.

Nobody actually conceptualises science as being about deriving from thinking "pink is my favority color and it isn't" -> "causality doesn't work".

No, but many people hold the view that you can talk about valid statements as con... (read more)

0ChristianKl9y
Handling mathematical systems in an epistemology is in my idea a topic but not a specific problem. In that topic there are probably a bunch of practical problem but. Molecular biology is a subject. Predicting protein folding results is a specific problem. If we look at FAI, writing a bot that performs well in the prisoner dilemma tournaments that are about verifying source code of the other bots is a specific problem. The are also problems in the daily business of doing science where the scientist has to decide between multiple possible courses of action.

If you call for a core change in epistemology it sounds like you want more than that. To me it's not clear what that more happens to be.

I'm going to have to do some strategic review on what exactly I'm not being clear about and what I need to say to make it clear.

In case you don't know the local LW definition of rationality is : "Behaving in a way that's likely to make you win."

Yes, I share that definition, but that's only the LW definition of instrumental rationality; epistemic rationality on the other hand is making your map more accura... (read more)

0ChristianKl9y
Applying it to what problem? (If you mean the physics posts you linked to, I need more time to digest it fully) Nobody actually conceptualises science as being about deriving from thinking "pink is my favority color and it isn't" -> "causality doesn't work". Then pick on of those caricatures and analyse in detail how your epistemological leads to different thinking about the issue. Yes, obviously having a better philosophy of science would be good.

I think there's a bit of a misunderstanding going on here, though, because I am perfectly okay with people using classical logic if they like. Classical logic is a great way to model circuits, for example, and it provides some nice reasoning heuristics.There's nothing in my position that commits us to abandoning it entirely in favour of intuitionistic logic.

Intuitionistic logic is applicable to at least three real-world problems: formulating foundations for math, verifying programmes, and computerised theorem-proving. The last two in particular will have ... (read more)

0ChristianKl9y
If one wants to understand an abstract principle it's very useful to illustrate the principle with concrete practical examples. I don't think that anyone on LW think that we shouldn't a few constructivist mathematicians around to do their job and make a few proof that advance mathematics. I don't really care about how the proofs of the math I use are derived provided I can trust them. If you call for a core change in epistemology it sounds like you want more than that. To me it's not clear what that more happens to be. In case you don't know the local LW definition of rationality is : "Behaving in a way that's likely to make you win."

I've added an addendum. If reading that doesn't help, let me know and I'll summarise it for you in another way.

Intuitionistic logic can be interpreted as the logic of finite verification.

Truth in intuitionistic logic is just provability. If you assert A, it means you have a proof of A. If you assert ¬A then you have a proof that A implies a contradiction. If you assert A ⇒B then you can produce a proof of B from A. If you assert A ∨ B then you have a proof of at least one of A or B. Note that the law of excluded middle fails here because we aren't allowing sentences A ∨ ¬A where you have no proof of A or that A implies a contradiction.

In all cases, the assertion ... (read more)

0ChristianKl9y
I don't care of how it can be interpreted but whether it's useful. I asked for a practical example. Something useful for guiding real world actions. Maybe an application in biology or physics. If you want to be "pragmatic" then it makes sense to look at whether your philosophy actually is applicable to real world problems.

I've added an addendum that I hope will make things clearer.

I'm going to drop discussion about the universe in particular for now. Explaining why I think that the map-territory epistemology runs into problems there would require a lot of exposition on points I haven't made yet, so it's better suited for a post than a comment.

I've realised that there's a lot more inferential distance than I thought between some of the things I said in this post and the content of other posts on LW. I'm thinking of strategies to bridge that now.

That doesn't mean that it's helpful to just tell the positivists to pretend that map(un

... (read more)

Not among people who really follow the "the map is not the territory". There are many maps of the city of Berlin. I will use a different map when I want to navigate Berlin via the public transport system than when I want to drive via bike.

At the same time if my goal is staying remaining sane, it's useful to not forget that neither of those maps are the territory of the city of Berlin. In the case of the city of Berlin few people will make the mistake of confusing the two. In other domains people do get into issues because things get complicated

... (read more)
0ChristianKl9y
I do think that there a real universe in the same sense that there a real Berlin. map(berlin) is not the same object as berlin just as map(universe) is not the same object as universe. Positivists want to have a state of affair where there's no difference between map(universe) and universe. That goal doesn't seem in reach and might even be theoretically impossible. That doesn't mean that it's helpful to just tell the positivists to pretend that map(universe) and universe are the same and the issue is solved. In theory in bioinformatics different models of a phenomena have different sensitivity and specificity for a real phenomena. Depending on what you want to do you might use a model with high sensitivity or a model with high specificity. Neither of those models is more true and both aren't the same as the real phenomena. But to have the discussion about which models is more useful to describe a certain phenomena it's useful to have a notion of the phenomena. In bioinformatics someone who wants to simulate 100 neurons is going to use a different model of neurons as someone who wants to simulate 10,000,000 neurons. At the same time it's important to understand that the models are not the reality. The Blue Brain Project claims to simulate a brain. If you want to know how much computational power is needed for "human uploading" you can't just take the amount of computational power that the Blue Brain project uses for a single neuron. Forgetting that they are investigating a model of a neuron and not a real neuron screws you. If we take about whether or not there's more autism than there was 30 years ago it's very useful to be mentally aware of what you mean with the term autism. It could be that more people are diagnosed because they changed the diagnosis criteria. It could be that more people are diagnosed because there more awareness about autism in the general public and therefore fewer cases of autism stay undiagnosed. Of course autism doesn't exist in the sam

Do you think that some of that mysticism is a fruitful path that get's wrongly rejected?

No, but that's because I've seen it in action and noted that I don't have much use for it, and not because I've constructed an epistemology that proscribes it altogether.

I don't see the point of barring paths as inherently epistemically irrational. I would rather let anyone judge for themselves which tools would be appropriate or inappropriate, and model the success or failures in whichever way helps them choose tools more effectively later.

For example there's a co... (read more)

0ChristianKl9y
Maybe commonly held by positivists. Not among people who really follow the "the map is not the territory". There are many maps of the city of Berlin. I will use a different map when I want to navigate Berlin via the public transport system than when I want to drive via bike. At the same time if my goal is staying remaining sane, it's useful to not forget that neither of those maps are the territory of the city of Berlin. In the case of the city of Berlin few people will make the mistake of confusing the two. In other domains people do get into issues because things get complicated and they forget that their maps aren't the territory. For physics that true. For biology for example it isn't. It's not like the positivists are the only people around. In not sure whether you position is: "I don't like positivism, let's do something different" or "I don't like positivism, let's do X". If it's the second I'm not sure what X is. If it's the first, I think that reading Science and Sanity would be helpful.

What do you mean with "coherent" concept inside pragmatism? In what sense does a pragmatist worry about whether or not something is coherent?

"Coherent" is a stand-in for some worries I have: Does having our epistemology underpinned by a model-reality relationship skew our motivations for creating models? Does it close certain fruitful paths by making us believe they are epistemically nonsensical or questionable? Does it have significant limitations in where it can be fruitfully applied and how? I think the answer to each is yes, whi... (read more)

0ChristianKl9y
Thinking that there is a reality out there that's separate from you model means that you can't do magic "Law of attraction" stuff where you change the territory by changing your model. You reject a whole bunch of mysticism that presupposes that model and territory are the same. Do you think that some of that mysticism is a fruitful path that get's wrongly rejected? Different people have quite different motivations for creating models. There are logical positivists who think that the only goal of a model is to represent reality as accurately as possible. That doesn't mean that everyone who considers map and territory separate holds that extremist position. If I look at the public transportation map of Berlin then the distances between places aren't very accurate. The map isn't designed for that purpose. That doesn't make it a bad map and I can still mentally distinguish the territory of Berlin from the map.

In what aspect is your idea of pragmatism supposed to differ from general semantics with the slogan "The map is not the territory"?

I'm not requiring that "territory" be a coherent concept at all. Suppositions about territories are models that my epistemology evaluates rather than assumptions built into the epistemology.

That's a claim about ontology not a claim about epistemology. When it comes to modern source I consider Barry Smith worth reading. He's doing practical ontology for bioinformatical problems.

If you like, you can t... (read more)

0ChristianKl9y
What do you mean with "coherent" concept inside pragmatism? In what sense does a pragmatist worry about whether or not something is coherent? At the moment most of what you wrote seems like a bunch of catch phrase without a look at the deeper issues. General Semantics has in addition to it's nice slogan a bunch of thoughts about how to think. Why? What wrong with the word ontology? I think you get into problems if you want to do ontology but refuse to think of yourself as doing ontology.

A sentence's meaning is more like the odds ratio multipliers it provides for your priors than like a truth predication.

And what do you mean by this? That the old truth model is less correct than the probabilistic model, or that the probabilistic model performs better in applications? Or maybe you're prone to say that the latter is more correct, but what you mean by that is that there's more use for it. That's the tension I am trying to bring out, those two different interpretations of epistemic claims. And my claim is that the second gets us farther tha... (read more)

I think you greatly exaggerate your originality here.

I thought it might come across that way, but didn't want to invest a bunch of time listing my intellectual debts (the post is long enough already). For the record, I'm aware that my ideas aren't entirely original, and I suspect that when I think they are I would be able to find similar ideas in others' writing independently.

the fact that it has been around for quite a while without seeming to have radically triumphed over all rivals does provide some reason for doubt about the extent of its world-b

... (read more)

I'm fine with agents being better at achieving their goals than I am, whether or not computational models of the brain succeed. We can model this phenomenon in several ways: algorithms, intelligence, resource availability, conditioning pressures, so on.

But "most correct" isn't something I feel comfortable applying as a blanket term across all models. If we're going to talk about the correctness (or maybe "accuracy," "efficiency," "utility," or whatever) of a model, I think we should use goals as a modulus. So we'd b... (read more)

I think you're exaggerating. The amount of references he makes to publications in philosophy, social science, science and history suggests he was aware of a big chunk of the literature relevant to his interests.

Still, I'm interested in hearing some criticisms in more detail. Where specifically does he rely on straw man arguments?

1Protagoras9y
I don't have time to re-read the whole book to come up with examples, and there is unhelpfully no index in my copy, but checking through the footnotes quickly, I found exactly two references to actual positivists (or close enough); a quick dismissive paragraph on Ernest Nagel's use of probability theory, and a passing reference to Philipp Frank's biography of Einstein. No references to Reichenbach or Hempel or Carnap. The closest he comes is perhaps the (one) reference to Goodman, who was heavily influenced by Carnap, but Kuhn cites Goodman favorably, while apparently being unaware of how positivist-influenced the ideas he was agreeing with were. There's also a citation of Wittgenstein, which seems vaguely favorable but complains about Wittgenstein's lack of development of an idea, which is surely fair enough; I won't mark anyone down for complaining about that problem in Wittgenstein. But I do have to give low marks for talking so much about "the positivist" while citing only one major positivist philosopher of science (Ernest Nagel) and attributing many views to "the positivist" which are far more simplistic than that positivist would ever have endorsed. Also no references to Duhem. Quine doesn't get mentioned until the postscript, although it's quite plausible that the enthusiasm for Kuhn at the time was part of the same broader phenomenon that turned Quine and Putnam and Goodman into huge stars in philosophy around the same time (all three of those were also to varying degrees prone to denial about the extent of their influence from positivism, but at least they were generally better about citing actual positivists when criticizing them). Maybe he's referring to Comte or Mach? But I saw no references to them at all, and criticizing 19th century figures in 1962 doesn't sound very revolutionary. The most charitable I can be is that there may have been some confused historians of science employing some positivist ideas without understanding them (I don't know much

"We must not criticize an idiom [...] because it is not yet well known and is, therefore, less strongly connected with our sensory reactions and less plausible than is another, more 'common' idiom. Superficial criticisms of this kind, which have been elevated into an entire 'philosophy', abound in discussions of the mind-body problem. Philosophers who want to introduce and to test new views thus find themselves faced not with arguments, which they could most likely answer, but with an impenetrable stone wall of well-entrenched reactions. This is not

... (read more)

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. Very famous book, and worthy of its reputation by the looks of things. About halfway through at the moment. Something I did not know before reading the preface was that Kuhn was a grad student in theoretical physics.

Induction: Processes of Inference, Learning and Discovery by Holland et al. This is a collaborative interdisciplinary work that straddles computer science, psychology and philosophy of science. It's almost 30 years old now, but I still found that I gained some perspective by reading it. O... (read more)

0Protagoras9y
Kuhn certainly knew physics better than he knew philosophy. The frequently mentioned "positivist" in his narrative is entirely made of straw. He discusses a lot of interesting ideas, and he wrote better than many people who had discussed similar ideas previously, but most of the ideas had been discussed previously, sometimes extensively; he was apparently simply not very aware of the previous literature in the philosophy of science.

There's a nice conventional categorisation of behaviour modification programmes that goes like this:

Fixed-ratio: a reward is given after a fixed number of nonreinforced responses (e.g. an M&M after every pomodoro, or even fifth pomodoro). Fixed-interval: a reward is given after a fixed interval of time (e.g. you might always set the pomodoro for 25 minutes as per convention). Variable-ratio: a reward is given after a variable number of nonreinforced responses (e.g. you flip a coin after every pomodoro to decide whether you get an M&M). Variable-in... (read more)

0Armok_GoB9y
hmm, idea, how well'd this work: you have a machine that drops the reward with a certain low probability every second, but you have to put it back rather than eat it if you weren't doing the task?
0coyotespike9y
That's very interesting indeed. I get one reward per pomodoro, unless I chain the pomodoros together, in which case the reward matches the number of pomodoros completed (so if I do three in a row, 75 minutes of work, then I get 3 M&Ms). If I want to take a break, then I accept that I'll only get 1 M&M, instead of 2 or 3, after the next pomodoro. In practice, then, I'm using variable intervals. Based on your feedback, I'll experiment with eating all the rewards at the end of the time interval, instead of devouring them after each pom.
1Fhyve9y
Intervals and ratios are going to be essentially the same thing for conventional pomodoros. They are some time on, some time off, repeat. It might be weird to have variable pomodoros since the break is for mental fatigue, not reward. Perhaps some mechanism to reward you with an M&M at some time randomly in the second half of your pomodoros?