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vinayak 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: vinayak 15 May 2012 04:26:41AM 1 point [-]

I have read this post before and have agreed to it. But I read it again just now and have new doubts.

I still agree that beliefs should pay rent in anticipated experiences. But I am not sure any more that the examples stated here demonstrate it.

Consider the example of the tree falling in a forest. Both sides of the argument do have anticipated experiences connected to their beliefs. For the first person, the test of whether a tree makes a sound or not is to place an air vibration detector in the vicinity of the tree and check it later. If it did detect some vibration, the answer is yes. For the second person, the test is to monitor every person living on earth and see if their brains did the kind of auditory processing that the falling tree would make them do. Since the first person's test has turned out to be positive and the second person's test has turned out to be negative, they say "yes" and "no" respectively as answers to the question, "Did the tree make any sound?"

So the problem here doesn't seem to be an absence of rent in anticipated experiences. There is some problem, true, because there is no single anticipated experience where the two people anticipate opposite outcomes even though one says that the tree makes a sound and the other one says it doesn't. But it seems like that's because of a different reason.

Say person A has a set of observations X, Y, and Z that he thinks are crucial for deciding whether the tree made any sound or not. For example, if X is negative, he concludes that the tree did make a sound otherwise it didn't, if Y is negative, he concludes it did not make a sound and so on. Here, X could be "cause air vibration" for example. For all other kinds of observations, A has a don't care protocol, i.e., the other observations do not say anything about the sound. Similarly, person B has a set X', Y', Z' of crucial observations and other observations lie in the set of don't cares. The problem here is just that X,Y, Z are completely disjoint from X', Y', Z'. Thus even though A and B differ in their opinions about whether the tree made a sound, there is no single aspect where they would anticipate completely opposite experiences.