All of Yelsgib's Comments + Replies

To what extent do you think:

1.) Culture itself evolves and follows the same principles of evolution as humans and honeybees?

2.) Culture defines worldview and horizon of knowledge/decision/ideation?

3.) Culture's means of communicating information to infants (e.g. "My First Big Book of A B C's") are evolving/changing to encode "more correct" ideas of the human organism (i.e. teach better)?

You seem to be avoiding theorizing on how society/culture -does- affect our maturation?. Can we bound this? Can we say anything effective about it?

"If I do not disregard it then I must consider it on equal grounds with all "accounts" of creation and concede the utter impossibility of making a decision."

"stupid postmodernists" would suggest a separate solution. Namely - the bible presents an account of creation which is "true" w/r/t certain cultural contexts.

Now, all "truth" in this sense is "equivalent" in that it is merely statements within a cultural or philosophical context. However, this is not the standard by which you, I, or anyone (si... (read more)

If two people were sufficiently motivated, they'd rapidly agree on what exactly "REAL Truth" is. Consider the telescope. Why did people trust telescopes? Probably because they learned to first trust spy glasses. It was pretty easy to trust that in fact there really was a group of brigands riding across that field towards us ...

Can we make statements of the form "X is Y" without the statement "X exists" being true? Because Eliezer does about reality - therefore I assume there is some sense in which he believes it to "exist." Note that my questions were directed towards his definition, not the claim itself (since I still obviously don't understand the way that Eliezer uses words).

To answer your questions:

"Where is the universe?"

Right here.

"What color is half-past three?"

For certain definitions of color in certain logical framewor... (read more)

Huh, I only counted one. ;)

Do you think it's possible that the word "exist" is overloaded?

In what sense does snow "existA" but love does not "existA?"

In what sense does "reality exist?" Is this tautology? If so, state it.

"This is the point missed by the postmodernist folks screaming, "But how do you know your beliefs are true?""

Does setting up straw men serve some sort of emotional purpose? Why do you keep doing it? You haven't performed an analysis of the "postmodernist position" - you just keep pointing fingers ... (read more)

I agree with Robin that there needs to be meta-analysis of what's been going on in Eliezer's recent posts and replies to those posts.

As a concrete example, Eliezer continually sets up the "silly post-modernist professor" archtype, but I haven't seen anything even vaguely resembling a critique of more serious post-modern thought (like Foucault, for instance). In any case, post-modernism makes sense under some interpretations - e.g. if it is taken to mean that "truth" is dependent on context (since statements cannot have meaning without r... (read more)

I'm not sure where you got that idea. I think the crux of Eliezer's post is that if you don't understand it, it's still a mystery, and it's worth discovering. Where is the condemnation?

Now here's something to sink the teeth into - a sort of challenge - can we do better?

I guess my reaction to this post is a sort of microcosm of my reaction to most of the content of this blog - I think that our biases are -necessary-, in fact, I think they are the way that we think. They are easily exposed and routed out in our interactions with very basic things, but can you tell me how to get rid of my biases in thinking about Category Theory? How do I get rid of my biases when reading the works of Foucault?

Our biases are a consequence of our computation... (read more)

Let me suggest a mechanism which explains Keat's (and my own - and every adult's [?]) "loss of wonder."

Part of what we do in using language is pointing to things and making noises so that other people who are experiencing the same thing (presumably) associate the noise to the thing. Now we have a nice way to refer to the "same thing."

The word "rainbow" then corresponds to more than just the visual input - it is all things associated with the rainbow. It is many things not explicitly associated with. It is a -loose- association... (read more)

I actually don't understand your point at all.

Before Keats found out about what rainbows "really are" he experienced wonder while looking at them. After, he didn't.

What else is the man supposed to do? He's got to try to investigate his experience, right? Where did he go wrong?

You are reducing his cognitive processes to those of a bumbling fool. They're complex, you just don't understand them. It doesn't seem like you're making enough of an effort.

I ask you again - what is the other option? How can we deal with the world other than via "mind-projection?" I claim that you do it too, you just do it in a more sophisticated way. Do you have an alternative in mind?

As always, there's the difference between "we're all doomed to be biased, so I might as well carry on with whatever I was already doing" and "we're all doomed to be somewhat biased, but less biased is better than more biased, so let's try and mitigate them as we go".

Someone really ought to name a website along those lines.

You could attempt to perceive the universe in all the other viewpoints of every other living being while you perceive it as you would naturally. Or, to make it extremely simple: Keep in mind that everyone else does not think in the same way that you do.

"Why do I believe I am conscious?" = "Why am I conscious?"

"This often confuses undergraduates (and postmodernist professors) who discover a sentence with more than one interpretation; they think they have discovered an unstable portion of reality."

I don't really know how to read this sentence. Are you claiming that there is a fixed, stable reality? Are you claiming that the postmodernist professor is implicitly claiming the existence of a fixed reality?

I think the more articulate postmodernist professor would claim "we cannot make reference to a fixed interpretation of phenomena outside of an assum... (read more)

Word as "pointer" implies the requirement for infinite storage - unless you say that "the word duck" is not a symbol referring to the symbol "duck" - or unless you claim that we can generate static memory spontaneously - or unless you believe that there is some special class or symbolized objects (like, you're -really- storing "duck" (content) somewhere but you are not storing "duck" (symbol) or "symbl duck" (symbol) somewhere).

Words, content, pointers, blah - it's all just computation until you can prove otherwise.

Do not presume structure.

What do you think the relation between the mental category of "certainty" and probability is?

For the primitive it is not true that "the sun will rise with 100% certainty" - it is simply "certain that the sun will rise." What's more, I think these statements are -not equivalent-.

For the "educated westerner" it is true that "the sun will rise with certainty very close to 100%, given some assumptions about the nature of the universe in earth's neighborhood." Certainty is not a necessity any longer.

My claim wou... (read more)

I disagree with you (kind of). The fact that the word art exists does, in fact, imply that it has a meaning...for each individual who uses it.

There are no absolute classifiers. Even if there were, we could not know them. Our knowledge is necessarily defined in terms of our own experience and the computations we have performed on this experience.

It is useful to think of the "meaning" of a term as the way in which that term relates to more primitive terms. This is not necessarily a list (e.g. Post-modernism cannot be defined in terms of a list). Th... (read more)

I started reading this blog a few days ago and am particularly interested in your posts since you seem to be a modeler. This sort of thing appeals to me.


I agree that it is not a good idea to cram too much into one point/label. However, what are your thoughts regarding the necessity of doing this? This is a point which I have not seen you address.

What I would claim is that our own personal "definitions" for words correspond strongly to the computational structures related to those words (as I expect you would agree) - however i... (read more)

If you can't think of any unifying features of a category, but you still want to use it, you could go about listing members: "Art" Includes (for all known English-speaking humans): * Intentional paintings from before 1900 Statues Stained-glass windows &c. Includes for many: abstract art modern art cubism Photography &c. Includes for a few: Man-made objects not usually labelled as art &c. Includes for no known English-speaking human: Non man-made objects The Holocaust &c. If the effect of knowing what "art" is (although that one's common-usage definition can be articulated in terms of features) is understanding what English-speakers mean when they say it, then a list-based definition is as effective, though not as efficient, as a feature based one. (You can make up for not knowing what criterion someone uses with a bit of Bayesian updating: The probability that Alice will call a Jackson Pollock piece "art" is greater if she called Léger's "Railway Crossing" "art" than if she did not)

If labels associate to concepts, what does the label "word" associate to?

You should be very careful when using terms like "falsely believes that" when referring to the way people are thinking. "False" as a label only has an association in the context of "verifiable fact." This places the onus on you to show that the claim "words have meanings" lies in the context of "verifiable fact." You must show that an entity is claiming implicitly or explicitly that the assertion "words have meanings&quo... (read more)

A few comments:

A dictionary is vastly more than a "history of past usage." It is a cultural touchstone. This may not be apparent to those without high degree of mobility, but the existence of dictionaries (and especially inter-language dictionaries) is critical to the ability of complete strangers (even in the cultural sense) to interact. I think we universally underestimate the extent to which our culture enables our "meaningful" interaction.

Your last sentence is right on the mark - we can start inventing all sorts of new definitions... (read more)