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Paper Doll World, Controlled From Some Guy’s Couch

I read the same Times article Scott did this morning and was going to write the following spoof. I sort of feel bad now posting this because it might seem that I'm mocking Scott instead of the intended target. Not bad enough to keep me from posting this, however. Besides I'm sort of with Marvin Minsky on this thanks to Constant.

I found this statement from the Times article laughable:

In fact, if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom’s, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation.

Here's how I read parts of the article.

"Dr. Nostrom assumes that technological advances could produce paper crafts in the future that simulate entire worlds. The advanced papercrafts of these advanced humans or "posthumans" could run "ancestor simulations" by creating paper worlds inhabited by paper dolls with fully paper craft virtual nervous systems.

If civilization survived long enough to reach that stage, and if the posthumans were to make lots of paper simulations for research purposes or entertainment, then the number of paper doll ancestors they created would be vastly greater than the number of real ancestors. There would be no way for any of these ancestors to know for sure whether they were virtual or real, because The paper dolls can't tell they are just simulations. But since there would be so many more virtual paper doll ancestors, any individual could figure that the odds made it nearly certain that he or she was living in a paper doll world. The math and the logic are inexorable once you assume that lots of paper cutout simulations are being built."

See, isn't it so obvious this is right. Given these quite reasonable assumptions I think it's a mathematical certainty. It also explains why the World Trade Center went down so easy. ;)


Impoverished world

Randy brings up the hypothetical question first asked by Bryan Caplan, “How Would the World Change If Everyone Shared Your Factual Beliefs?” Randy points out that factual beliefs are not enough that he would also need to change peoples values. Well what if we changed the question to include values. I’ll answer for myself.

If everyone shared my factual beliefs and values then in many ways the world would be better. However in other ways we would live in an impoverished world. There would be no sports stadiums, no disco, no boxing, no dancing, no cosmetics, no more foreign languages, no native cultures except my own, etc,

I value using many things that I don’t actually value producing as much as others. So assuming everyone’s talents stayed the same certain goods would be produced less and the salaries would have to rise to compensate. However it’s clear that I’m not willing to pay more for those things. I’m not particularly fond of producing music because I don’t value it as highly as other activities. Yet I don’t mind listening to it when it’s free. So I benefit in many ways from things I don’t currently pay for that it seems just would cease to be produced in this new utopia.

Of course, I’m not sure my values wouldn’t change given different talents. If I were not so good at math and science I might value them less. So I’m not exactly sure what values should be considered universally identical to my current values given this hypothetical. If I was real good at dance and couldn’t think my way out of a wet paper bag would I really value math and science so much? I doubt it. Would I bother to obtain all the “facts” I know? I doubt that too. I think such a world of people with varying talents sharing all my factual beliefs and values is an impossibility.

So long as we have different talents we will have different factual beliefs and values. I wouldn’t sacrifice the former to obtain the latter either. The efficiency of division of labor depends on our differing talents. Without our differences we would indeed suffer and impoverished world.

Otherwise, like the other guy, I think this is mental masturbation. Although I’m not the kind of guy to criticize other people’s leisure activities because I’m not certain that this kind of discussion won’t produce an interesting thought.


Question for God

Protein Wisdom has got a post up titled "Answer Me, God" about "“If you could ask God one question, what would it be?”. The hypothetical being "accepting, for the sake of argument, that there is in fact a God".

Well here's my question:

Why can't you write a clear and concise instruction manual that isn't delivered with the anonymity and credibility of penis enlargement spam, and why so many different versions of these holy books?

... or is that two questions.


Pan Critical Rationalism

A few of us have been having a contentious debate in the comments section after I claimed that it wasn't true that everyone uses induction in their lives.

I do hold that some people might use philosophical induction with the intention of achieving absolute truth but that this is invalid. There are people who say, "The sun rose in the past so it must rise today."

It certainly is a method you could use to take a stab at the truth but it is so prone to error that it is likely to fail. Popper called this psychological induction. I say it's likely to fail because it is prone to error. Just because the sun rose yesterday and the day before does not mean it will always rise. I'm sure most people who would agree with this solar statement are smart enough not to use the method in this case although they may be mistaken in thinking they are in fact using it anyway. This is the error that Popper believed Hume made.

Now I feel the opposition has so far even failed to understand my position. I cannot even get him to the point where he understands Popper. Sometimes I'm just not sure how to get another person to see things correctly. I'm not saying that he must see that I'm right but that he at least understands my position. Then I might accept his claims as valid criticism, true or not.

In that spirit I went out to try and find a worthy opponent. Someone who I feel understands Popper and has a criticism I accept as valid. I had heard arguments in the past that were, I thought, acceptable criticisms of Popper. I thought I'd show one to move the argument up to the point where I am, and not remain stuck on the failure to even understand Popper.

So why then do I still maintain my position? The answer is that I didn't. I'm not a strict Popperian in the sense of being a believer in everything Popper says. I never was since I disagreed with him on some issues. I was however accepting of part of his beliefs. I was a critical rationalist but had to abandon that when I found arguments that showed critical rationalism to be false. I modified my beliefs to more in line with Bartley. I'm currently a variety of Pancritical Rationalist.

Does that help? Well, yes and no. I no longer have to deal with the prior criticism that worked on Popper but there are new criticisms that work on Bartley's position. I also accept that criticism. We'll get into why I continue to believe in a modified Pancritical Rationalism later.

The criticisms of Popper and Bartley that I accept are expounded upon in an article by Armando Cíntora titled "Miller's Defence of Bartley's Pancritical Rationalism ". You can read it here. Here's a google in case that link goes bad.

Here is the criticism of Bartley that I accept:

"W. W. Bartley thought it was possible, however, to reform Popper's critical rationalism into a consistent and comprehensive theory of rationality («pan critical» rationalism: PCR, also called comprehensive critical rationalism: CCR.) Bartley claimed that it was possible to reform critical rationalism into a theory that allegedly does not lead into a fideism of ultimate commitments. Bartley proposed a new rational identity one that allegedly does not lead into conflicts of rational integrity. Bartley's pan critical rationalist can be characterized as one,

... who is willing to entertain any position and holds all his positions, including his most fundamental standards, goals, and decisions, and his basic philosophical position itself open to criticism; one who protects nothing from criticism by justifying it irrationally; one who never cuts off an argument by resorting to faith or irrational commitment to justify some belief that has been under severe critical fire; one who is committed, attached, addicted, to no position. (Bartley, p. 118; emphasis added.)

This pan critical rationalist justifies nothing and allegedly criticizes everything, even his own rational attitude or position, he is not committed to any position, not even to a belief in the value of argument. This doesn't mean that the PCrationalist is without convictions, but only that he is willing to submit his convictions to critical consideration. PCR, however, leads to logical paradox, thus consider the following argument, due to Bartley himself and inspired by a critique of J. F. Post, an argument that Bartley finds unobjectionable:

(A) All positions are open to criticism.

And because of PCR's intended comprehensiveness it then follows,

(B) A is open to criticism. And,

Since (B) is implied by (A), any criticism of (B) will constitute a criticism of (A), and thus show that (A) is open to criticism. Assuming that a criticism of (B) argues that (B) is false, we may argue: if (B) is false, then (A) is false; but an argument showing (A) to be false (and thus criticizing it) shows (B) to be true. Thus, if (B) is false, then (B) is true. Any attempt to criticize (B) demonstrates (B); thus (B) is uncriticizable, and (A) is false. (Bartley, p. 224.) (Emphasis added.)

Hence, PCR is refuted and this conclusion is a result of the self-referential character of PCR -- a theory that intends to be a theory of all theories itself included, and it recalls the logical difficulties of classical rationalism, which also wanted to be comprehensive. Bartley claims that the paradoxical nature of PCR could be dealt,

...by type and language-level solutions, Zermelo-type solutions, category solutions, radical exclusion of all self reference... (Bartley, pp. 219-20.)

But, this is too vague, mere possibilia. "

I agree with this and I also agree that Miller was not able to resolve the issue to my satisfaction.

So, you might ask, "If I accept this criticism of Bartley then why do I continue to claim to be a Pancritical Rationalist?" The answer is that I have a solution in mind that is not in this list of "possibilia".

I leave it to the reader to see if they can come up with a solution. Remember to always consider the possibility that the problem was improperly stated.

If the problem is misstated then this would not be an excuse for Bartley since he was the one who formulated the precise statement based on a critique by J. F. Post. If any error was made it was certainly Bartley's.

So what's the solution?

Also, who the heck spells Defense as Defence? Is that a British thing?


Sexual Orientation Affects Orienteering Skills

The results of this study are exactly what would be expected if homosexuality and map reading were both influenced by genetics and in the same direction. Sexual attraction to women apparently hones your ability to find them. The opposite and you can just let the men find you.

"For instance, in mental rotation -- a task where men usually perform better -- they found the best performance to worst was: heterosexual men, bisexual men, homosexual men, homosexual women, bisexual women and heterosexual women."

So apparently it also affects your ability to visualize different sexual positions. No wonder men spend more time thinking about sex.

Of course this post is entirely in jest and it's sad I had to write that.