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RobinZ comments on Archimedes's Chronophone - Less Wrong

20 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 March 2007 05:43PM

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Comment author: RobinZ 17 February 2010 08:37:37PM *  15 points [-]

Rereading this article from Emile's link:

I think my major problem with this article is that the perfectly reasonable conclusion - that you can't do better in the future today by thinking today's cached thoughts about how people in the past could have done better in the future of the past - is obscured by the utterly ridiculous device of the eponymous chronophone.

To elaborate: If you analyze the question, "how did people in the past figure out that ideas are tested by experiment?", then you can immediately rule out "by asking how people at their own time evaluated ideas". And indeed, generalizing to "how did people in the past become smarter than their contemporaries - i.e. better at solving their problems?", you see that it is trivially true that you can't count on the standardized thinking of the present to take you beyond the standardized thinking of the present.

But if you analyze the question, "what do you say into the chronophone to convince Archimedes?", you come up with "this thing couldn't possibly work - there is no way to draw a unique relation between rationalizations of current and past ideas, so it fails sci-fi". Which has nothing to do with anything.