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Comment author: Daniel_Burfoot 27 September 2016 01:51:27PM 0 points [-]

This paper makes me think again how amazing it is that science made any progress at all, before the middle part of the 20th century. Science is completely based on induction, and nobody understood induction in any kind of rigorous way until about 1968, but still people managed to make scientific progress. Occam, Bacon, Hume, Popper and others were basically just hand-waving; thankfully this hand-waving was nearly enough correct that it enabled science, but it was still hand-waving.

Comment author: vallinder 27 September 2016 05:28:28PM 4 points [-]

I don't think it's fair to say that "nobody understood induction in any kind of rigorous way until about 1968." The linked paper argues that Solomonoff prediction does not justify Occam's razor, but rather that it gives us a specific inductive assumption. And such inductive assumptions had previously been rigorously studied by Carnap among others.

But even if we grant that assumption, I don't see why we should find it surprising that science made progress without having a rigorous understanding of induction. In general, successfully engaging in some activity doesn't require having a rigorous understanding of that activity, and making inductive inferences is something that comes very natural to human beings.

Moreover, it seems that algorithmic information theory has (at best) had extremely limited impact on actual scientific practice in the decades since the field was born. So even if it does constitute the first rigorous understanding of induction, the lesson seems to be that scientific progress does not require such an understanding.

New Philosophical Work on Solomonoff Induction

2 vallinder 27 September 2016 11:12AM

I don't know to what extent MIRI's current research engages with Solomonoff induction, but some of you may find recent work by Tom Sterkenburg to be of interest. Here's the abstract of his paper Solomonoff Prediction and Occam's Razor:

Algorithmic information theory gives an idealised notion of compressibility that is often presented as an objective measure of simplicity. It is suggested at times that Solomonoff prediction, or algorithmic information theory in a predictive setting, can deliver an argument to justify Occam's razor. This article explicates the relevant argument and, by converting it into a Bayesian framework, reveals why it has no such justificatory force. The supposed simplicity concept is better perceived as a specific inductive assumption, the assumption of effectiveness. It is this assumption that is the characterising element of Solomonoff prediction and wherein its philosophical interest lies.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 06 November 2013 08:31:36AM *  7 points [-]

I would say that the orthogonality thesis does not necessarily imply moral non-realism... but some forms of moral non-realism do imply the orthogonality thesis, in which case rejecting the orthogonality thesis would require rejecting at least that particular kind of moral non-realism. This may cause moral non-realists of that variety to equate moral realism and a rejection of the OT.

For example, if you are a moral non-cognitivist, then according to the SEP, you believe that:

when people utter moral sentences they are not typically expressing states of mind which are beliefs or which are cognitive in the way that beliefs are. Rather they are expressing non-cognitive attitudes more similar to desires, approval or disapproval.

This would seem to imply the orthogonality thesis: different agents will have different desires and goals, and if goals have no inherent truth value and moral statements simply reflect our desires and goals, then there is no particular reason to expect agents with a higher intelligence to converge on the same goals/moral beliefs. They'll just keep their original desires/goals, since no amount of increased intelligence could reveal facts which would cause those desires/goals to change (with the possible exception of cases where increased intelligence reveals a goal to have been logically incoherent).

Comment author: vallinder 07 November 2013 11:28:55AM 1 point [-]

Non-cognitivism strictly speaking doesn't imply the orthogonality thesis. For instance, one could consistently hold that increased intelligence leads to a convergence of the relevant non-cognitive attitudes. Admittedly, such a position appears implausible, which might explain the fact (if it is a fact) that non-cognitivists are more prone to accept the orthogonality thesis.

Comment author: joaolkf 02 November 2013 03:48:40AM 0 points [-]

I know at least 10 Swedes, all of them attest to this. If you go through their departments, it becomes obvious also. It seems to be part of their culture by now. It is a technological oriented country. The downside is that universities there aren't so good as in UK. Merely the fact I know 10 Swedes, all transhumanists, while living in Brazil, being antisocial, and never being there, it is an evidence.

Comment author: vallinder 06 November 2013 11:19:45AM 1 point [-]

I don't think Sweden is significantly more transhumanist than several other western European countries. The fact that two influential transhumanists (Bostrom and Sandberg) are Swedish could be due to chance. Once they became known, they may have attracted a disproportionate number of Swedes to adopt similar views, but that number is still trivial compared to the population as a whole. In fact, it could be that the general egalitarian sentiment makes Swedes less likely to accept certain transhumanist positions (even though that sentiment is arguably weaker today than it was a few decades ago).

Comment author: DanArmak 05 November 2013 09:30:29PM *  2 points [-]

In itself, that view doesn't entail anything about the relation between intelligence levels and goals.

This is a bit of a tangent. But to someone like myself who thinks that moral realism is not just wrong but logically impossible - rather like other confused notions such as free will - the assumption of moral realism might lead anywhere. Just as you can prove anything from a false premise, so a moral realist who tries to decompartmentalize that belief and update on it could end up holding other false beliefs.

ETA: this is wrong, and thanks to vallinder for the correction. You can prove anything from a contradiction, but not necessarily from a false premise. However, it's still bad for you to believe strongly in false things.

Comment author: vallinder 05 November 2013 10:04:59PM 1 point [-]

You can prove everything from a contradiction, but you can't prove everything from a false premise. I take it that you mean that we can derive a contradiction from the assumption of moral realism. That may be true (although I'd hesitate to call either moral realism or free will logically impossible), but I doubt many arguments from moral realism to other claims (e.g. the denial of the orthogonality thesis) rely on the derivation of a contradiction as an intermediate step.

Comment author: vallinder 05 November 2013 09:18:59PM 6 points [-]

If moral realism is simply the view that some positive moral claims are true, without further metaphysical or conceptual commitments, then I can't see how it could be at odds with the orthogonality thesis. In itself, that view doesn't entail anything about the relation between intelligence levels and goals.

On the other hand, the conjunction of moral realism, motivational judgment internalism (i.e. the view that moral judgments necessarily motivate), and the assumption that a sufficiently intelligent agent would grasp at least some moral truths is at odds with the orthogonality thesis. Other combinations of views may yield similar results.

Comment author: shminux 05 November 2013 07:09:46AM *  -2 points [-]

From his wikipedia page:

has made significant contributions to philosophy of science, the theory of measurement, the foundations of quantum mechanics

Sounds like either self-advertisement or a hero-worship, depending on who wrote it.

Comment author: vallinder 05 November 2013 11:58:59AM 1 point [-]

I'm not familiar with his writings on the foundations of quantum mechanics, but in addition to his work on causality, the three volumes on measurement he co-authored have also been hugely influential. His intellectual autobiography (pdf) might be worth a look.

Comment author: joaolkf 05 November 2013 04:33:33AM *  0 points [-]

I would buy a modapuccino¹ if we lived in a 100km radius!

  1. Modafinil's version of a cappuccino
Comment author: vallinder 05 November 2013 11:45:13AM 0 points [-]

Well, I hope you're in Oxford soon again, João! :)

Comment author: vallinder 04 November 2013 07:30:02PM 16 points [-]

Patrick Suppes to the left?

Comment author: vallinder 29 August 2013 09:40:43AM 1 point [-]

Some might find it more convenient to set this up as a Google Form.

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