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DanielLC comments on Making Beliefs Pay Rent (in Anticipated Experiences) - Less Wrong

110 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 July 2007 10:59PM

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Comment author: DanielLC 29 December 2009 02:17:02AM 2 points [-]

You can make exactly the same predictions with phlogiston. If you burn coal next to iron, it will refine it. You could predict this with oxygen (oxygen is moving from the iron to the coal) or with phlogiston (phlogiston is moving from the coal to the iron).

It's like with electric charge. If you think of it as positive charge moving around, it has almost exactly the same predictive power as thinking of it as electrons moving around.

Comment author: Sniffnoy 29 December 2009 05:42:33AM 2 points [-]

But you can only predict it if you already know that a gain of phlogiston refines iron; if you don't, you can only observe it afterward and write it down as a property of phlogiston.

If you don't know anything about oxygen or phlogiston beforehand, then, sure, they're pretty much equally predictive, i.e., not very much. But if "oxygen" is not in fact just an arbitrary label as "phlogiston" is, but in fact something you're already working with in other ways, then they're not symmetric.

Also as Nick Tarleton points out below there are other asymmetries, though those are not so much in the predictive power.

Comment author: DanielLC 31 December 2009 12:42:43AM 0 points [-]

"But you can only predict it if you already know that a gain of phlogiston refines iron"

Same goes for oxygen.

Comment author: DanielLC 31 December 2009 01:47:12AM -1 points [-]

Okay, I admit that that's not really a prediction, but until then, they couldn't even explain it.

If you're going to do it like this, what's one thing oxygen predicted?

By the way, I'm responding to the fact that I lost two karma points on that, not any actual post.

Comment author: Sniffnoy 31 December 2009 01:59:17AM *  2 points [-]

That's what I just said.

Comment author: DanielLC 31 December 2009 02:25:24AM 2 points [-]

Sorry. Too used to defending my position to realize you're not attacking it.