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Lara: I believe that Eliezer1997 did conceive of the possibility that life has no meaning (apparently equated with a constant utility function for everyone?); my question was more along the lines of "why did he think there is only ONE meaning?"

After all, even classical candidates for "meaning of life" really imply different goals - e.g., "happiness" (or power or survival, etc.) could be MY happiness or YOUR happiness or the happiness of my future self, etc. and these "meanings" may well be mutually incompatible goals.


It seems that Eliezer1997 thought that there is exactly ONE "meaning of life", valid for all intelligent beings at all times and without any conflicts of interest.

It does not seem a very intuitive belief (except for very religious types and Eliezer1997 was not one of those), so what was its justification?


What about the possibility that the answer to "Is playing Devil's Advocate a good strategy?" is context-dependent?

There could be a set of psychological answers (possibly different for different kind of personalities) to the question applied to individual behavior - as in "would it help a type X person (on average) to overcome its biases and/or to think more creatively?"

And there could be a set of sociological answers (possibly different for different types or organizations, like schools, firms, research centers, etc.) to the question applied to organizational behavior - as in "would it help (on average) to always/sometimes have a "red team" that tries to shoot down the main team's theories?"

On the latter point, I have heard that the EU's Directorate General for Competition policy was quite happy with the introduction of a "Devil's Advocate" policy a few years ago. Assuming the policy was indeed successful, it may be however that the success was due to the peculiar nature of the institution (i.e., the fact that they are participant in a judicial process and that the "red team" simply prepares them better for the questioning they might face from the real "enemy advocates").

Any empirical research on these issues that you know of?



I think you are too harsh with the Science-goggles.

I was taught that, when first proposed, the Copernican theory did not explain the then available data any better than the Ptolemaic system.

It's main attraction (to Science-goggles-wearing types, though not to Bible-goggles-wearing ones) was simplicity: it just had to be true!

I don't know if Copernicus ever invoked Ockham's name in defense of its theory, but the latter triumphed much before Rev. Bayes's (or Solomonoff's) birth.

So maybe "simplicity" - like many other concepts - has always been one element of the Science-goggles, even before a formal mathematical definition of it was available.


I must be hanging with a very different crowd: I had never heard of anyone saying that death is what gives meaning to life. It seems such an obviously stupid notion that I can only imagine someone cooked it up to make him/herself look deep - and failed because everyone else cried "sour grapes!" P.S. I do think that I will grow old and die. I don't like it, but there are worse things (eg, I could die before I grow old).


Actually, the "emergence" and "complexity" pseudo-causal explanation are much worse than Felix's "gravity" example: the answer "Gravity!" does explain the fact that the block falls to the floor by noting that it is a specific instance of a general phenomenon for which we have very precise information on how it works (attraction force is constant x m1 x m2 /d^2). We may not know why gravity exists, but that is a different (higher level?) problem.

In the case of "emergence" and "complexity", we just don't know.

P.S. I do think that "emergence" is a useful concept to describe situations where modelling is more conveniently done at a (more) aggregate level, but that's yet another story.


Nice job, but the mention of Aumann's theorem looks a bit like a sleight of hand: did the poor fellow ever learn that the theorem requires the assumption of common priors?