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Leafy 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: Leafy 13 May 2010 12:56:52PM -1 points [-]

How is this not just a simple arguement on semantics (on which I believe a vast majority of arguements are based)?

They both accept that the tree causes vibrations in the air as it falls, and they both accept that no human ear will ever hear it. The arguement appears to be based solely on the definition, and surrounding implications, of the word "sound" (or "noise" as it becomes in the article) - and is therefore no arguement at all.

Comment author: bigjeff5 27 January 2011 06:12:59PM 2 points [-]

I think that may have been the point:

The two think they have different models of the world, but they have no difference with respect to what they expect will happen to them.

You can define a thing based on any criteria you like. It simply has to allow your expectations to agree with reality in order for it to be true.

One says "it is sound because it vibrates regardless of whether anyone hears it." This person believes that sound is the vibrations.

The other says "it is not sound because it is never processed in a mind." This person does not deny that the vibrations exist, he simply believes it isn't sound until someone hears it.

These two have different definitions of "sound", but within their definitions both allow expectations that are completely consistent with reality. The point is to make sure your beliefs "pay rent" - that they allow you to have expectations that match up with reality. If the second person had the same belief of what sound was as the first (i.e. vibrations in the air), yet also believed that vibrations in the air do not occur when there is nobody to hear them, that belief would not pay rent. When they recorded the sound with nobody around he would expect there to be nothing at all on the tape, yet there would be something on the tape. The only way to resolve this is to adjust your belief after the fact, which means your belief couldn't pay its rent.