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Dpar 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: Dpar 07 June 2010 11:27:21AM *  1 point [-]

I was going to write a more detailed reply, but then realized that any continued discussion will require us to debate what exactly the OP meant to say in his post, which is pointless since neither of us can read his mind. So let's just call it a day.

DP

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 07 June 2010 12:25:34PM *  2 points [-]

I was going to write a more detailed reply, but then realized that any continued discussion will require us to debate what exactly the OP meant to say in his post, which is pointless since neither of us can read his mind. So let's just call it a day.

This is something of a fallacy of gray. Of course we can read his mind, through the power of human telepathy, by reading more on the same topic. We can't read minds perfectly, but perfect knowledge is never available anyway, and unless you can point out the specific uncertainty you have that decides the discussion, there is no sense in requiring more detail. You might want to stop the discussion for other reasons, but the reason you stated rings false.

Comment author: Dpar 09 August 2010 05:33:17PM *  1 point [-]

First of all, calling speech "human telepathy" strikes me as a little pretentious, as well as inaccurate, since the word "telepathy" is generally accepted to have supernatural connotations. Speech is speech; no need to complicate the concept.

Secondly, the article you linked seemed a little rambling and without a clear point. All I was able to take away from it is that the meaning of words is relative. If that's the case then I respond with "well, duh!"; if I missed a deeper point, please enlighten me.

Finally, when you take it upon yourself to question another person's purely subjective reasoning, you're treading very close to completely indefensible territory. If I say that I wanted to stop the discussion because I believe that the author's intended meaning is ambiguous, it's a tall order to question that that is indeed what I believe. Unless you can come up with clear evidence of how my behavior contradicts my stated subjective opinion, you more or less have to take my word that that really is what I think.

DP

Comment author: thomblake 09 August 2010 05:42:45PM *  1 point [-]

You misunderstand. Vladimir Nesov was not claiming that you don't believe that the author's intended meaning is ambiguous. Rather, he was claiming that your belief that "the author's intended meaning is ambiguous" is false, or at least not enough to constitute a good reason for stopping the discussion.

The point of calling speech 'human telepathy' in this instance is that you claimed there's no way to know what the author was thinking since we "can't read his mind". But there is a way to know what the author was thinking to some extent, so by reading your own reasoning backwards we therefore indeed can read minds.

Comment author: Dpar 09 August 2010 06:06:45PM 0 points [-]

I stated that taking the OP's reasoning to its logical conclusion requires one to "evict" all beliefs in everything that one has not, and does not anticipate to, personally see, hear, smell, taste, or touch. RobinZ responded by saying that the OP's point is less strong than I think. Since two (presumably) reasonable people can disagree on what the OP meant, his point, as it is written, is by definition ambiguous.

Where do we go from here other than debate what he really meant? What is the point of such debate since neither of us has any special insight into his thought process that would allow us to settle this difference of subjective interpretations? I believe that to be sufficient reason for stopping the discussion. I'm not sure what specifically Vladimir takes issue with here.

As to your point of human telepathy -- comparing reading what someone wrote to reading his mind is a very big stretch. I can see how you could make that argument if you get really technical with word definitions, but I think that it is generally accepted that reading what a person wrote on a computer screen and reading his mind are two very different things.

DP

Comment author: thomblake 09 August 2010 06:20:15PM 3 points [-]

I stated that taking the OP's reasoning to its logical conclusion requires one to "evict" all beliefs in everything that one has not, and does not anticipate to, personally see, hear, smell, taste, or touch.

Right, but RobinZ was not arguing against this claim (depending on what you mean by 'personally' here) but rather pointing out that your reasoning was flawed.

For instance I don't anticipate that my belief that The Crusades took place will ever directly affect my sensory experiences in any way.

RobinZ pointed out that your belief that the crusades took place affects your sensory experience; if you believe they happened, then you should anticipate having the sensory experience of seeing them in the appropriate place in a history book, if you were to check.

If you thought that your belief that the crusades happened did not imply any such anticipated experiences, then yes, it would be worthless and on the same level as belief in an invisible dragon in your garage.

Comment author: Dpar 09 August 2010 06:32:19PM *  0 points [-]

So reading about something in a book is a sensory experience now? I beg to differ. A sensory experience of The Crusades would be witnessing them first hand. The sensory experience of reading about them is perceiving patterns of ink on a piece of paper.

DP

Edit: Also, I think that RobinZ didn't state that as something that she believed, she stated that as something that she believed the OP meant. It's that subjective interpretation of his position that I didn't want to debate. If you wish to adapt that position as your own and debate its substance, we certainly can.

Comment author: Oligopsony 09 August 2010 06:40:37PM 2 points [-]

What's important isn't the number of degrees of removal, but that the belief's being true corresponds to different expected sensory experiences of any kind at all than its being false. The sensory experience of perceiving patterns of ink on a piece of paper counts.

Now you could say: "reading about the Crusades in history books is strong evidence that 'the Crusades happened' is the current academic consensus," and you could hypothesize that the academic consensus was wrong. This further hypothesis would lead to further expected sensory data - for instance, examining the documents cited by historians and finding that they must have been forgeries, or whatever.

Comment author: Dpar 09 August 2010 07:01:01PM -2 points [-]

If you adapt that position, then the belief in ghosts for instance will result in the sensory experience of reading or hearing about them, no? Can you then point to ANY belief that doesn't result in a sensory experience other than something that you make up yourself out of thin air?

If the concept of sensory experience is to have any meaning at all, you can't just extrapolate it as you see fit. If you can't see, hear, smell, taste, or touch an object directly, you have not had sensory experience with that object. That does not mean that that object does not exist though.

DP

Comment author: Unknowns 09 August 2010 07:11:15PM 2 points [-]

Yes, ghost stories are evidence for the existence of ghosts. Just not very strong evidence.

There can be indirect sensory evidence as well as direct.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 09 August 2010 06:45:13PM 0 points [-]

So reading about something in a book is a sensory experience now? I beg to differ.

You are disputing definitions. Reading something in a book is a sort of thing you'd change expectation about depending on your model of the world, as are any other observations. If your beliefs influence your expectation about observations, they are part of your model of reality. On the other hand, if they don't, they are sometimes too part of your model of reality, but it's a more subtle point.

And returning to your earlier concerns, consider me having a special insight into the intended meaning, and proving counterexample to the impossibility of continuing the discussion. Reading something in a history book definitely counts as anticipated experience.

Comment author: Dpar 09 August 2010 07:10:03PM 1 point [-]

Very interesting read on disputing definitions. While the solution proposed there is very clever and elegant, this particular discussion is complicated by the fact that we're discussing the statements of a person who is not currently participating. Coming up with alternate words to describe our ideas of what "sensory experience" means does nothing to help us understand what he meant by it. Incidentally this is why I didn't want to get drawn into this debate to begin with.

Also -- "consider me having a special insight into the intended meaning" -- on what grounds shall I consider your having such special insight?

Comment author: Cyan 09 August 2010 07:18:59PM 1 point [-]

Also -- "consider me having a special insight into the intended meaning" -- on what grounds shall I consider your having such special insight?

At the bottom of the sidebar at the bottom, you will find a list of top contributors; Vladimir Nesov is on the list.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 09 August 2010 07:19:43PM 1 point [-]

on what grounds shall I consider your having such special insight?

I've closely followed Yudkowsky's work for a while, and have a pretty good model of what he believes on topics he publicly discusses.

Comment author: anon895 09 August 2010 06:13:14PM 1 point [-]

I was expecting the link to be Mundane Magic.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 09 August 2010 06:32:13PM *  0 points [-]

The point is not that the ability is "magical", but that it's real, that we do have an ability to read minds, in exactly the same sense as Dpar appealed to the impossibility of.