• Web development in 2023
    Not a web developer (or a pro developer) here, so don't have anything to contribute. I have a slightly off topic question though if you don't mind. I've been doing a bit of coding for study, work, or small personal projects for about as long as Python has been around, but I've always been prejudiced against it. Its use of indentation for syntax seems like a monumentally bad idea. What do you have to say for that? And are there advantages to Python beyond its use in server scripting? (I also dislike JavaScript, but in that at least I don't seem to be alone.)
  • Philosophical jargon: Supervenience
    This is the source of the quotation and a good intro to the subject.
  • Paradox of Predictability
    Sorry for the late response. I've been traveling and otherwise preoccupied.

    Yes, but this is the man-made (artificial) case that I excluded. The determinist's claim is not a claim which limits itself to artificial realities. There is no formal model to justify the determinist's claim, which is a claim about all of reality.Leontiskos

    On the contrary, I wouldn't even know how to understand determinism other than in the context of a model (formal or informal, complete or partial). Even if we take your favored criterion of predictability, what would you make predictions from if not from a model? It's models all the way down when we talk about determinism or indeterminism.

    Okay, fair enough. Since our approach to the act of understanding may be different, I may be begging the question here. I would want to say that an intellect which understands something transcends that thing through its act of understanding. So if I understand a Roomba vacuum in its entirety then I have, at least in some way, transcended it. I have contained it in a way that it has not contained me. A concrete example of this would be the case where I am able to predict its movements whereas it is not able to predict my movements.

    From there I want to say that 1) to assert that something is deterministic is to imply exhaustive (in-principle) comprehension or standing-over or encompassment; 2) to assert that all existing things are deterministic entails asserting that I myself am deterministic; 3) to assert that I am deterministic involves applying (1) to myself; but 4) I cannot pretend to comprehend or stand over or encompass myself, for it is impossible for something to stand over itself or encompass itself.

    The weak premise here is surely (1). Someone will say, "I am not claiming exhaustive comprehension, but only a probabilistic opinion." To be naively concise, my point is not that the act itself is an act of comprehensive understanding, but rather that the supposition or hunch or opinion contains within itself a failure to recognize the boundary of (4). "I have a hunch that I myself am fully explainable in terms of deterministic principles," involves the idea that a theory which came from minds itself fully explains minds. But that can't be. Just as a mind cannot comprehend itself, neither can a theory produced by a mind comprehensively explain minds. Whatever else we want to say determinism is, it is surely also a theory.

    So feel free to have a go at (1), but do give me some insight into your own views in the process.

    The weak premise here is indeed (1), but not for the reason you give. As I already explained, "exhaustive (in-principle) comprehension" is not how I understand determinism, and I don't think this tracks with the general usage either.

    This is a different argument. I don't want to stretch this post too long, but I want to say something about it. Would you be willing to grant that it appears that the act of understanding is neither necessitated nor inevitable? Or does it simply appear to you that an act which is accepted to be necessitated, like two billiard balls colliding, and an act of understanding, like Pythagoras' act of understanding the Pythagorean theorem, equally possess the quality of "necessitated"? It seems that we usually take necessitation to preclude knowledge, e.g., "He's just parroting the definition of the Pythagorean theorem to pass the quiz. He doesn't really understand it." (Although this example doesn't utilize strict causal necessitation, it does utilize instrumental or consequence necessitation, i.e. <It is necessary to recite this theorem in order to pass the quiz, therefore I will recite the theorem>.)Leontiskos

    Would it be preferable to acquire beliefs as a result of a deterministic or a chancy process? I don't have an intuition one way or another, and I wouldn't trust intuitions anyway - I don't think they are informative in this instance. As for the example that you give, it doesn't seem apt: it is more about demonstrating the depth of knowledge or believing things for the right reasons than about causal necessitation.

    I suspect that your real concern here is not with necessitation in the sense of causal determination, but with sourcehood: being an autonomous and responsible agent, the true "owner" and originator of thought and action. Whether or not this is compatible with determinism is a matter of philosophical debate best known from the related subject of free will. It is probably best to leave that for another conversation, but I will only say that the contrary position - that the world is indeterministic - may not be of much help to you if what you really care about is sourcehood. This is something that gives incompatibilists the most difficulty.

    A scientist who calls an arbitrary system deterministic—such as a Roomba vacuum—is not thereby a determinist. Determinism is a philosophical theory about the entirety of existence, not some subset of itLeontiskos

    So apparently determinism is an absolute truth about the world and not a limited truth about certain parts of the world.Leontiskos

    True, which is why I think that to be a determinist or indeterminist in the above sense you need to hold to a kind of totalizing reductionist view in which there is (in principle) one true theory that describes the world in its totality. That theory can then be either deterministic or indeterministic. If you don't hold to that view, then I don't see what the terms determinism and indeterminism could even mean to you.
  • Paradox of Predictability
    Echoing my elaboration post, what justification is required to claim that a system is deterministic? Exhaustive predictability is the strongest form of justification, is it not? At least when it comes to systems which are not man-made (artificial)? And at the very least, everything in the system must at least plausibly be in-principle predictable. It's not at all clear to me that the thesis of determinism can be separated from a claim of in-principle predictability, and if this is correct then where in-principle predictability is incoherent, determinism fails.Leontiskos

    Predictability is the most straightforward and intuitive path towards inductive (or abductive, if you prefer) inference of determinism. But induction (abduction) is not exhaustive by its very nature. On the other hand, if you are looking at a formal model, you may be able conclude whether or not it is deterministic without demonstrating predictability, simply by analyzing its structure.

    Quantum mechanics is an instructive case in point. It is often thought of as a paradigmatically indeterministic theory. Indeed, as far as its observable predictions go, it is most definitely indeterministic. And yet, there are competing indeterministic and deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics, none of which are obviously true or false (or there would not be a competition).

    In practice, we are always looking at the world through a veil of epistemic underdetermination: unknown, uncertain and/or uncontrollable factors are always in play to a greater or lesser extent. But our mental models can be either deterministic or indeterministic, as suites the occasion, or as suites your taste, if the choice is not obvious. Those models that work best (or that we like best) we hold as saying something true about the world, however provisionally.

    I would want to say that no intellect which understands determinism could be deterministic. If such an intellect claims that it itself is deterministic, then either it does not understand what determinism means (and is therefore equivocating), or else it does understand what determinism means and is drawing a non-sequitur. To understand what determinism means is at the same time to place oneself outside of the deterministic paradigm. As I said in my follow-up, the theorizer can never be accounted for by his theory (at least in the way the determinist supposes he could be).Leontiskos

    Yeah, I didn't get that bit. I don't need to know everything in order to know (or have an opinion about) something. Perhaps it all just comes down to what you said later:

    My guess is that this rests on my conviction that true knowledge—which is different than Plato's "true opinion"—cannot be necessitated.Leontiskos

    Well, I don't share that conviction, and neither would any determinist, obviously.

    But determinism is a "final and absolute truth about the world," and even the minimal definition, provided in your very first post, is committed to in-principle predictability.Leontiskos

    No, it's really not.
  • Paradox of Predictability
    The distinction does save the logical coherence of determinism in the short term, but at what price? Does it rise above the level of an ad hoc response to the paradox of predictability? Is the determinist doing more than merely defending their theory by saying, "Oh, well in that case we stipulate that our observer is not part of the universe"?Leontiskos

    Depends on what sort of determinism is at stake. The definition that I quoted from one of the papers commits only to the existence of a one-to-one mapping between states of the universe at different times. This says nothing about observers and predictability, so determinists do not need ad hoc assumptions to defend against the paradox of predictability, as long as they are willing to concede that some types of predictability are not realizable in principle in a deterministic universe. Though I am not a committed determinist myself, to me that does not seem like a high price to pay. Limited predictability certainly does not go against our experience.

    ↪andrewk rightly makes the claim that the demon must be "causally isolated from [our universe]." But is it really coherent to envisage a being who is outside of the causal universe in this manner?Leontiskos

    Depends on who you ask. To Laplace the demon is just a thought experiment illustrating the concept. Laplace's determinism commits to causality and computability, so it is a little stronger than the minimal determinism discussed above, but it does not depend on the existence of an omniscient observer. If instead we are talking theology - that's different, but then our starting positions going in are different as well: we are no longer bound by the assumptions of naturalism and causal closure.

    ↪T Clark suggests that determinism without in-principle predictability is a meaningless idea. Whether or not that is right, such a form of determinism is a great deal more meaningless and toothless than the sort of determinism which brings along with it the intuitive consequence of in-principle predictability.Leontiskos

    @T Clark throws around accusations of meaninglessness rather freely, but that's on him. I rather think that a determinism that is demonstrably incoherent is a lot less meaningful than one that does not suffer from such a defect.

    I originally said that the minimal definition of determinism that does not commit to predictability of any sort is the more conventional one. That can be debated, but I would maintain that it is close to what is usually meant by determinism in the sciences, which are concerned with specific laws and theories, rather than final and absolute truths about the world. In such contexts distinguishing deterministic and indeterministic systems is meaningful and useful.

    I find that people's idea of "determinism worth having" or determinism to be avoided at all costs is strongly influenced by their underlying worries going into the debate: worries about human freedom, worth and responsibility on one side, and worries about order, predictability and intelligibility on the other side. I think it is worth making explicit your stakes if you are going to argue for a particular demarcation. Why is unrestricted in-principle predictability important to you?
  • To what Jazz and Classical Music are you listening?
    If Bach Kept Bees...

    Music from the young Arvo Pärt, from around the time when he got into early music.

    The buzzing tune heard at the beginning and throughout the piece is a slightly obfuscated B-A-C-H sequence (spelled out in German musical notation). The ending quotes a prelude from WTC 1.
  • Ukraine Crisis
    And if Russia succeeded in absorbing/subjugating Ukraine, it would then have four more NATO countries at its borders!
  • Ukraine Crisis
    Why would there be troops defending a city deep in Russia when Ukrainians are nowhere near Rostov?ssu

    Because it's a critical command-and-control center? And yet it was taken with hardly a shot fired, and two generals, including a deputy Minister of Defense, apparently taken hostage. More to the point, the Russians supposedly had advance warning about the mutiny. How could they be caught with their pants down like that?

    Compare and contrast with the successful defense of Mykolaev in the first days of the invasion. It was organized with very little advance warning and mostly local defenders.

    Clearly, there was a lack of will here, if not outright collusion with the mutineers.
  • Ukraine Crisis
    So why on Earth the weak timid response then from Putin and the references to 1917 and civil war?ssu

    And if the objective of Prigozhin was to capture the military leadeship (as WSJ writes), it is absolutely hilarious to deny that this wasn’t a coup attempt, because they weren’t going for Putin.ssu

    Particularly puzzling is how it happened that Wagner was allowed to cross the border and capture a million+ city hosting Southern Military District headquarters (by far the biggest prize in the entire campaign :rofl:) when Russian security agencies were aware of their plans (as both Western and Russian sources claim)?

    Prigozhin originally intended to capture Defense Minister Sergei
    Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of Russia’s general
    staff, during a visit to a southern region that borders Ukraine that
    the two were planning. But the Federal Security Service, or FSB, found
    out about the plan two days before it was to be executed, according to
    Western officials.

    Gen. Viktor Zolotov, commander of the National Guard of Russia, a
    domestic military force that reports directly to President Vladimir
    Putin, also said authorities knew about Prigozhin’s intentions
    before he launched his attempt.

    “Specific leaks about preparations for a rebellion that would begin
    between June 22-25 were leaked from Prigozhin’s camp,” Zolotov
    told state media on Tuesday.
  • Ukraine Crisis
    I don't understand why their military was pitted against itself to begin with. Was that on purpose to keep the military from taking over? Or what?frank

    Wagner wasn't military. They weren't even legal (an "illegal armed group" is how Russian law qualifies such formations). As for what purpose they served, originally they were a semi-secret pro-government mercenary group that functioned somewhat like old-time privateers. They operated mostly in Africa, enriching themselves with deniable help and blessing of the Kremlin. They saw action in Ukraine in 2014 and later in Syria.

    When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Wagner was not there originally; Prigozhin's relationship with the military top brass was already poor at that time. But, shrewd businessman that he was, he quickly got on the action, and following the failure of blyatzkrieg, Putin must have appreciated any help he could get. Wagner's mercenaries, boosted by tens of thousands of expendable convicts recruited directly from prison camps, proved to be the most effective assault troops (which says much about the state of the Russian military).
  • Ukraine Crisis
    For all that's already been known, the degree of dysfunction in the power structure and the society that this episode has brought to the surface is pretty amazing.
  • Ukraine Crisis
    How do commentators here compare the January 6 insurrection in the US capitol building with Prigozhin's coup attempt (if that's what it was)?BC

    I'd say you're comparing kids playing cowboys and Indians with a proper re-enactment of the October revolution.unenlightened

    Things are still in motion, and of what has happened so far a lot remains unclear, and a lot will probably remain hidden from view in the foreseeable future. But from what I can see, it was neither of these extremes. Comparison with the January 6 riots in Washington is inapt, but if there is anything in common between these events, it is that neither of them was an attempted coup, strictly speaking. Trump's rioters hardly had any definite plan, but their actions amounted to trying to force the hand of Congress, rather than to literally overthrow the government and install Trump.

    Prigozhin's mutiny was clearly well planned (US intelligence now say that they saw Wagner's preparations days in advance, and that is believable). But it seems that he was also aiming to force change within the system, rather than to overthrow Putin. Prigozhin may be a loose cannon, but he is not insane. Most likely, he sought to renegotiate the terms of whatever informal agreement he had with Putin, improve his standing, replace military leadership with whom he had been feuding. Such a feudalistic power play on the part of a warlord is not that out of place in today's Russia.

    My guess would be that Prigozhin hoped more people would bandwagon aboard, since dissatisfaction with Shoigu is apparently widespread in the military.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Yeah, that's my take too. Prigozhin was probably gambling on receiving support from parts of the military, but he miscalculated.
  • Ukraine Crisis
    Isn't arresting anti-war and dissident activists/protestors and then sending them to the front to gain leadership experience and a chance to b radicalize your army almost always a bad idea?Count Timothy von Icarus

    That was one mistake they did not repeat this time around. Reportedly, when Wagner and then MoD were recruiting fighters from prisons, political prisoners were strictly excluded.
  • Ukraine Crisis
    Gee I bet the CIA and State Dept are breaking out popcorn.Wayfarer

    Don't you know? It's a CIA/State Dept/NATO coup! They are omnipresent and all-powerful. Nothing in the world happens but through their agency and intent. Nothing important, anyway.

    Actually Putin referred to 1917 in his speech, so he is already using the dolchstoss argument.ssu

    He literally used the words "stab in the back" in his televised speech (and following him - a lineup of loyal politicians, including Chechen strongman Kadyrov, who had allied with Prigozhine on occasion).
  • Paradox of Predictability
    To take a step back, I see the whole issue of determinism as a metaphysical one, not subject to empirical verification or falsification. It's a matter of point of view, not fact. I don't see it as a very useful way of thinking - it's misleading.T Clark

    I rather see it instrumentally, as a characteristic of specific theories or models that we adopt. And I mean not just scientific theories, but also our informal folk theories, including theories of mind. At the same time, I am not convinced that there is one true theory to rule them all at the bottom of creation. Which in turn makes it meaningless to ask whether the world is really deterministic or indeterministic.
  • Paradox of Predictability
    The Paradox of Predictability concerns determinism. In particular, it concerns the idea that if determinism is true, then true predictions should be possible about the future state of the world (or people or subsystems therein).NotAristotle

    Predictability, in the sense that you employ in your thought experiment, is not usually part of the definition of determinism, nor does it follow as a necessary implication. The first paper that you cite gives a more conventional definition:

    a universe U is deterministic when, for any arbitrarily chosen time t0, there exists a law-like function fL which maps the initial state of the universe U0 at time t0 in a unique manner onto the state of the universe Ut at any arbitrarily chosen later time t:

    Ut = fL(U0)
    Determinism and the Paradox of Predictability

    Therefore, even if we accept the reasoning in your example, it does not logically follow that determinism is false. All that we can conclude is that not all of the assumptions can be true at the same time. Rather than determinism being false, it could be that predictability is not achievable under the specified conditions.

    The first paper that you cited makes an important point about predictability right in the abstract, by drawing a distinction between external predictability and embedded predictability:

    The inference from determinism to predictability, though intuitively plausible, needs to be qualified in an important respect. We need to distinguish between two different kinds of predictability. On the one hand, determinism implies external predictability, that is, the possibility for an external observer, not part of the universe, to predict, in principle, all future states of the universe. Yet, on the other hand, embedded predictability as the possibility for an embedded subsystem in the universe to make such predictions, does not obtain in a deterministic universe.Determinism and the Paradox of Predictability

    also made this point: a Laplacian demon might have the knowledge of the state of the world at a different time, but the demon, being external to the world, does not have to know its own state.

    Another point concerns the possibility of prediction qua computation. It is one thing for the function fL to exist in the abstract (and even for some hypothetical entity to have the knowledge of this function), but this is not the same as being able to compute this function given finite computational resources. Determinism, in its most general formulation, does not commit to computability. This, I think, is similar to the point made by
  • Ukraine Crisis
    Socialists sort of promoting nationalist authoritatian oppressive degenerative capitalist Kremlin...?jorndoe

    They publish articles about the Ukraine war under the heading "US-NATO Conflict with Russia over Ukraine" That's quality journalism for you :roll: Their parroting of Russian official narrative is tactical, sort of like the Iran-Russia alliance in this war. Anything that can be used to poke the Big Satan in the eye will do.

    These socialists' only concern is "the struggle," and they are indiscriminate about methods. Being truthful is not the objective; being correct - politically correct, in the older, unironic sense - is what it's all about.
  • Ukraine Crisis
    The most likely culprit is of course Russia as it's totally logical for them to a) make the end of the Dnipro unpassable and b) then withdraw forces from there to plug the Ukrainian counterattack. The only thing now is that after WW2 blowing up dams has been a war crime. But obviously Russia doesn't give a damn. Or a dam.ssu

    Russian propaganda is also trying to play the cui bono card. Their western proxies amplify that narrative:

    Although it is unclear who was responsible for the attack, last year, Ukrainian troops fired on the dam in an attempt to raise water levels downstream, and the military leadership had publicly contemplated destroying it altogether.World Socialist Website

    Militarily, it's not actually clear which side this benefits or hurts more. Ukrainian army wasn't likely to attempt crossing the Dnipro river there, except for amphibious incursions, which the flooding does not affect. For that reason, the Russians didn't have many forces defending the left bank. The flooding destroyed their first lines of defense, which, in theory, would make the crossing easier for the Ukrainians after the waters recede. But the Russians still hold positions on higher ground, which would make a full-scale assault across a half-kilometer wide river very problematic.

    Naturally, the Ukrainians had even less cause to fear Russian attacks in this area. Ever since their retreat from the right bank, all that the Russians could do - and continue doing - is conduct chaotic shelling of Kherson and other settlements in the area to terrorize and punish the remaining civilian population. They have no force left to conduct a large-scale assault anywhere, let alone in such a difficult place. Hell, it took them nine months, tons of ammunition and suicidal human wave assaults just to grind down one town of little strategic significance - and that was their only "success story" in half a year of war.
  • What is self-organization?
    In my opinion, Pattee makes the mistake of assigning human concepts to nature.Wolfgang

    This is precisely the issue that I have with this paragraph in your opening post:

    A functioning organization is something that works according to certain rules, and those rules are made by someone in, say, a social organization. If we assume that there is nothing and no one who has developed rules for life, then it must be life itself that has developed these rules.
    In addition to these rules, there must of course be an authority that monitors compliance with the rules and corrects them if necessary.

    Quite apart from the merits of the theory that you sketch further on, the problem here is that you run with the anthropomorphic metaphor without pausing to question its applicability out of its social context.

    Must there be "an authority that monitors compliance"? That's not quite true even in human societies, where social rules, most of which are informal, are largely heeded out of habit and good will stemming from mutual interest, without needing any active control and enforcement. In any case, there is no prima facie reason to extend the metaphor of social organization to systems other than human societies. In the end, you may even be right to do so, but to get to that point requires a good deal of reflection. You cannot just assume that the metaphor applies based on suggestive language alone.
  • To what Jazz and Classical Music are you listening?
    Cheers. Good stuff. I didn't realize there was a song to go with the instrumentals. That guitar dude's arrangement of the accompaniment is impressive as a technical and musical achievement, but without the song the overall effect is merely... nice.
  • To what Jazz and Classical Music are you listening?
    Speaking of Baroque... Many years ago I heard this tune in a garish synth arrangement, in some indie sci-fi flick:

    I had forgotten the movie, but somehow the tune impressed itself upon me. I had no idea what it was, and hadn't heard it since (except in my head once in a while). Until a couple of days ago, when I heard it on classical radio - this time with the title and composer's name attached.

    And here it is, in all its Baroque ostinato glory:
    Marin Marais - Sonnerie de Sainte-Geneviève (The Bells of St. Genevieve)

    (Curiously, this recording is also from a movie soundtrack. I'm going to watch the movie when I get a chance.)

    And a couple more affecting pieces by Marais, performed by the same stellar ensemble:

  • To what Jazz and Classical Music are you listening?
    I am not a connoisseur or anything (I don't even know who Steely Dan is), but wow!

    You can recognize Glass right from the first measure from his trademark arpeggios, but you need to keep in mind that this work was composed before he settled into his neo-Romantic groove. And indeed, while instantly recognizable, it doesn't sound stale to my ear.
  • To what Jazz and Classical Music are you listening?
    A combination of “nu jazz” and “acid jazz”javi2541997

    I don't know much about “nu jazz” and “acid jazz”, but I like this. Will listen more!
  • Climate Change (General Discussion)

    This is excellent.

    We need the technology of 2065: fusion.frank

    I see what you did there :D
  • Climate Change (General Discussion)
    "Breaching 1.5C threshold" in a single year is meaningless, because there is no such threshold.SophistiCat

    Not meaningless, it signals that we are going above predicted deviations.Manuel

    What predictions are you talking about? Climatologists don't make predictions for individual years.

    Eight of the past ten years were the warmest on record, and a similar trend held in preceding decades. That is meaningful. But a single-year record does not mean much on its own, and comparing it with a long-term average prediction is just ignorant.
  • Climate Change (General Discussion)
    While I share everyone's concern and have a feeling that things are indeed worse than expected, that Aljazeera headline is misleading if that's all you read. The article goes on to note:

    But that did not necessarily mean the world would cross the long-term warming threshold of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.Aljazeera

    "Breaching 1.5C threshold" in a single year is meaningless, because there is no such threshold. Single-year averages can deviate widely from the long-term trend, and in an El Nino year that's expected.
  • Boltzmann brains: In an infinite duration we are more likely to be a disembodied brain
    We were talking about subjective probabilities, not actual probabilitiesRogueAI

    Any probability has to obey additivity and normalization axioms, otherwise it's not a probability. If you find that your subjective probabilities add up to more than 100%, then you are being inconsistent.

    This is the basis for my suggestion that Boltzmann brains and human-life are equally likely to occur. Despite the latter's pattern being more complex.Down The Rabbit Hole

    You need to be careful about what exactly "equally likely to occur" means in this context. The way cosmologists might pose this question is: "Given an observer, is it more likely to be a regular observer (a human or a similarly evolved creature) or a freak observer like a Boltzmann Brain?" This is a tricky epistemological question involving concepts like reference class, self-location and self-selection.

    And yes, infinite, or just very big worlds seem to present a general challenge to observations:

    Big World theories, popular in contemporary cosmology, engender a peculiar methodological problem: because they say the world is very big and somewhat stochastic, they imply (or make it highly probable) that every possible human observation is made. The difficulty is that it is unclear how we could ever have empirical reasons for preferring one such theory to another, since they all seem to fit equally well with whatever we observe.Nick Bostrom

    Intuitively though it seems that simply adding "more of the same" to the world (more space or more time or more observers) should not make a difference to a generic observation made by a particular observer at a particular place at a particular time, so the challenge to epistemologists is to explain just how this challenge is only a seeming one. (Bostrom purports to meet it with his Self-Sampling Assumption, which he also uses elsewhere to analyze puzzles like Boltzmann Brains.)
  • Boltzmann brains: In an infinite duration we are more likely to be a disembodied brain
    If the universe is infinite, then there are infinitely many Boltzmann brains and infinitely many non-Boltzmann brains. Since the two sets are equal, the subjective probability that one is a member of either set is 50/50.RogueAI

    See the problem here? Probabilities don't work like that.

    In any case, this is not relevant to the OP video, which was comparing the probabilities of a "Boltzmann Brain" fluctuation and a "Boltzmann Big Bang" fluctuation. You don't need an infinite domain with its measure problems to do that.
  • Boltzmann brains: In an infinite duration we are more likely to be a disembodied brain

    How can we defeat the Boltzmann brain paradox?

    In an infinite duration, aren't all possible outcomes equally likely to occur?
    Down The Rabbit Hole

    The clip doesn't say that last bit. That said, it is more confusing than anything else. I only got what it was hinting and gesturing at because I've already read more about this topic. If you are interested, I would advise you to do the same.
  • Temporality in Infinite Time
    would such a progression of linear time to a conscious being allow them to understand its infinite nature though not being able experience infinity itself due to their limited timespaninvicta

    What are your criteria for understanding in this case? You have experienced living for N number of years. Can you understand the duration of N+1 years despite not having personally experienced it? You have seen a limited number of things in your life. Would this fact be an obstacle to you understanding some thing - a rock, a tree - that you have never seen and may never see?

    You will impatiently respond with "yes, of course!" to these questions and then tell me that your question is different because infinity, etc. But this is why it is crucial to first understand - and be able to explain - what it is that you are asking. In philosophy this is the most - and often the only - important thing.

    So, what sort of "understanding" are you after? What would satisfy you that you "understand" infinite time?
  • What is a good definition of libertarian free will?
    In a paper I wrote on the topicPierre-Normand

    I would be interested in reading it - it sounds like an interesting take. I lean towards compatibilism, but I am sympathetic to some libertarian perspectives, particularly agent-causal.
  • Dilemma
    I see this as a Sartrean-type dilemma where the ethical thing to do is to simply choose and take responsibility for our choice rather than try to justify it by any particular theory that would abstract us away from such responsibility and in any case could provide nothing more than arbitrary grounds for judgement when considered meta-ethically.Baden


    This highlights how we all choose selfishly every day based on proximity rather than ethics.Baden

    The only thing I disagree with is this opposition of "selfish" vs. "ethical." If you do as you say above - choose responsibly - that means you do what you think is the right thing to do (why else would you choose that course of action?) And that, by definition, is the ethical thing to do, theory or no theory. I don't see what selfishness has to do with that.

    Hiya Paul!
  • The Past Hypothesis: Why did the universe start in a low-entropy state?
    The problem with putting initial conditions off limits is that virtually everything we observe in the universe is dependant on initial conditions.Count Timothy von Icarus

    If that is how the theory is structured, yes. But that's a feature, not a bug. You could alternatively explain initial conditions in terms of later features - that is essentially what anthropic explanations do.

    That is, of the set of all physically possible things we could see, we shouldn't expect to see one universe more than the other. Thus, if we come to see "Christ is King," "Zeus wuz here," "Led Zeppelin rules!," scrawled out in quasars and galaxies at the far end of the cosmos, this shouldn't raise an eyebrow? Because, provided the universe is deterministic, such an ordering would be fully determined by those inscrutable initial conditions.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I am not sure what this fantastical hypothetical is supposed to argue.
  • The Past Hypothesis: Why did the universe start in a low-entropy state?
    When you think of the Big Bang, you just mean inflation, right? You're not adding a singularity to it, are you?frank

    Historically, the so-called Big Bang theory came first, and theor(ies) of inflation were developed later, around 1980s. Inflation pushes the Big Bang chronology a little further back, introduces some new theoretical posits, but in return it rather neatly explains some of the later features of the early universe.

    As I was saying earlier, the informal name Big Bang is variously attached to different theories, periods and events. Sometimes it is even used to refer to the entire cosmological timeline, going back to time zero (which historically has been called "Big Bang singularity," although few believe in an actual singularity.)

    In the context of the Past Hypothesis, again for historical reasons, we can take the initial state to be after the hypothetical inflation, perhaps somewhere around the beginning of nucleothynthesis, when hydrogen and helium ions formed. The precise cutoff is not important, because the same considerations can be extended to earlier periods.


    The difficulty of applying 19th century equilibrium thermodynamics to the early universe becomes even more severe in earlier periods, however, because they are extremely brief and thermodynamically unstable.
  • Exploring the artificially intelligent mind of GPT4
    Yes, I was going to post that. The really amazing thing is that the program provided fake references for its accusations. The links to references in The Guardian and other sources went nowhere.T Clark

    I am surprised that they haven't addressed the fake links issue. ChatGPT-based AIs are not minimalistic like AlphaChess, for example, where developers hard-code a minimal set of rules and then let the program loose on data or an adversarial learning partner to develop all on its own. They add ad hoc rules and guardrails and keep fine-tuning the system.

    A rule to prevent the AI from generating fake links would seem like a low-hanging fruit in this respect. Links are clearly distinguished from normal text, both in their formal syntax and in how they are generated (they couldn't be constructed from lexical tokens the same way as text or they would almost always be wrong). And where there is a preexisting distinction, a rule can readily be attached.
  • The Past Hypothesis: Why did the universe start in a low-entropy state?
    Historically, the line of reasoning has gone in the opposite direction. One of the most compelling arguments for the Big Bang was that, in an eternal universe of the sort people thought existed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the conditions we observed in the universe seemed highly unlikely based on statistical mechanics. That is, we accept such a starting point for observable existence, in part, because of arguments about the likelihood of entropy levels in the first place. An eternal universe could produce such phenomena, it just is unlikely too.Count Timothy von Icarus

    The Big Bang theory grew out of General Relativity, which allowed it as one of its general solutions, and astronomical observations that made it increasingly likely, until there was little room for alternatives. That this also solved the problem of entropy was a welcome bonus. But the plausibility of the theory was not evaluated by entropy calculations of the kind that are performed to justify the thesis about the improbability of the initial state.

    Before GR and Big Bang, in the Newtonian cosmology of the day, the most natural scientific picture of the world was that of an infinite, past-eternal universe. (Not because of some anti-religious bias, as some claim, but simply because it's hard to justify or even imagine a Newtonian universe whose timeline abruptly ends for no apparent reason some finite time in the past.) But that presented a challenge as people came to realize that many, if not all things in this world could not be past-eternal. The Sun, for example, which was thought to be a burning ball, could not have an infinite supply of fuel. Same for all the other stars in the sky. Who was lighting them up for all eternity?

    The development of thermodynamics posed that problem especially acutely. Clearly, in a closed universe that is not in thermodynamic equilibrium entropy must have had a minimum a finite time in the past. This is where Boltzmann came up with the idea of a gigantic entropy fluctuation giving rise to the observable universe. In an infinite, eternal universe such a fluctuation would be almost inevitable, so its improbability was not an issue as such. However, brilliant man that he was, Boltzmann also thought of a worrying problem with this conjecture: the one we now know as the Boltzmann Brain. And even now, as you noted further on, as updated versions of Boltzmann fluctuation conjecture are being proposed to explain the origin of Big Bang, that problem still keeps cosmologists awake at night.

    Anyway, all this is irrelevant to the question of the "probability" of the true initial state of the Big Bang universe, i.e. a state that comes with no known history and no theory of its origin. Boltzmann's entropy fluctuation was posited not as an initial state (that would be a contradiction of terms) but as an event in a Newtonian universe. In that context the calculation of probability can be meaningfully performed. Not so for a true initial state.

    I'm still not quite sure what your objection was because my original point was that claiming that there is no reason to think the universe would have low entropy (agreeing that it appears to be unlikely), and then invoking the anthropic principle to fix that issue, reduced explanations to the triviality that all possible things happen and so whatever is observed MUST occur. If you don't think the Past Hypothesis or Fine Tuning Problem needs an answer then there is no reason to invoke the Anthropic Principle in the first place.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Anthropic reasoning and fine tuning worries arise in the context of the origins of the universe, when theories such as Eternal Inflation are discussed. Such theories must explain the Past Hypothesis as a matter of course (or they would not match observations), but they raise other questions. Absent a theory though, worrying about the "specialness" or "improbability" of the initial state makes no sense, in my view.
  • TPF Quote Cabinet
    You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing farce of misperception. And yet what are we to do about this terribly significant business of other people, which gets bled of the significance we think it has and takes on instead a significance that is ludicrous, so ill-equipped are we all to envision one another's interior workings and invisible aims? Is everyone to go off and lock the door and sit secluded like the lonely writers do, in a soundproof cell, summoning people out of words and then proposing that these word people are closer to the real thing than the real people that we mangle with our ignorance every day? The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It's getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that—well, lucky you. — Philip Roth, American Pastoral

    Just finished that book :heart:

    And now, after an abortive foray into another book that I didn't really like...

    Call me Ishmael.

  • Ukraine Crisis
    Kremlin rhetoric regarding NATO expansion has been all over the place. To start with, NATO expansion was presented to the West as the main excuse for going to war. Putin's war ultimatum issued in the run-up to the Ukraine invasion demanded the roll-back of NATO to the Soviet-era status quo, and when these impossible demands were not accepted, that was given as a casus belli in his war speech. Later, when Finland and Sweden announced their intention to join NATO, while Russia's war against Ukraine was floundering, Putin sheepishly brushed that aside as nothing to worry about. All that hysterical rhetoric about NATO missile flight time was already forgotten. Now they aren't sure how to react. Peskov mumbles: oh noes, NATO expansion not good. Putin just pouts.
  • The Past Hypothesis: Why did the universe start in a low-entropy state?
    Thermodynamics isn't the only global asymmetry either. There is wave asymmetry in electromagnetism, the jury is out on of this reduces to the thermodynamic arrow; there is radiation asymmetry, etc.Count Timothy von Icarus

    As an aside, if you mean the retarded/advanced wave asymmetry, @Kenosha Kid had a thread here about Cramer's Transactional Interpretation of quantum mechanics, which eliminates this asymmetry.

    Not to mention there is an overarching microlevel problem. Observed wavefunction collapse only happens in one direction. This is a fundemental level asymmetry that is probably the most vetted empirical results in the sciences.Count Timothy von Icarus

    The usual formulations of quantum mechanics are indeed time-asymmetric, but QM can be equivalently formulated in a time-neutral manner, so that any time asymmetry is a matter of interpretation.

    It doesn't seem like thermodynamics can be exactly what we mean by time because if the thermodynamic arrow were to reverse, it doesn't seem like it would throw time in reverse.Count Timothy von Icarus

    I never said that thermodynamics is what we mean by time; rather, what we mean by phenomenal time asymmetry (the so-called arrow of time) is explained by the thermodynamic asymmetry on a large scale, which in turn is explained by the asymmetry of boundary conditions. The forward direction of time tracks the direction of increasing entropy in our observable universe. But I am not sure what you mean by the thermodynamic arrow reversing.

    If time reversed when the thermodynamic arrow reversed, we should expect that, when the very last area of the universe that is out of equilibrium and not contracting reaches equilibrium, particles should suddenly have their momentum reverse and begin backtracking.Count Timothy von Icarus

    You lost me here.

    Indeed, we can well imagine sticking an observer in a tank with a Maxwell's Demon and having them watch the isolated system they sit in reduce in entropy over time. Global entropy would reduce, but that says nothing about the observer subsystem and how it experiences time.Count Timothy von Icarus

    If your region of the universe that undergoes a uniform thermodynamic evolution is large enough, you won't notice anything, because your perception of time will track the direction of increasing entropy. Talking about biological arrow of time, you will always remember entropy being lower in the "past," and you will not remember the "future."
  • The Past Hypothesis: Why did the universe start in a low-entropy state?
    If nothing can be said about likeliness vis-á-vis the early universe how do you vet any scientific theories about it? How can you say "this explanation is more likely to be the case than this one?"Count Timothy von Icarus

    The same way we vet all other theories? All theories have some brute facts, some givens in them: equations, constants, boundary conditions. There is nothing special about the initial conditions of the Big Bang theory in that respect.

    As you point out, it is now commonly accepted that a period of cosmic inflation preceded the Big Bang.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Yes, but you are now talking about a different theory, or rather an extension of the Big Bang theory. What is taken to be the initial state in Big Bang is no longer the initial state in Inflation. Inflation leads up to the hot Big Bang, thus giving it a causal explanation, but raising questions of its own. (I think the Banks paper deals with those questions, but like I said, I cannot follow it.)

    A major piece of evidence in favor of inflation is that patterns of light from the early universe are consistent with proposed inflation and unlikely under other existing models.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Yes, and that (the bolded parts) is just like the Big Bang theory, and every other scientific theory, gets its justification.

    But you said it yourself: likely or unlikely under some model. The Big Bang theory doesn't model its own initial conditions - how could it? So to talk about the likelihood of Big Bang's initial state by converting dubious entropy into bogus probability makes little sense. You can talk about Big Bang's initial state in the context of the Inflation theory, and if you find that it predicts those conditions with a low probability, then that's a problem for Inflation.

    This seems as much of a mixup to me as when people claim "nothing can come before the Big Bang because time and cause are meaningless past that point."Count Timothy von Icarus

    If there is a mixup here, it is a mixup of terminology. When people say Big Bang, they can mean t = 0 in the Big Bang chronology (the theoretical singularity in the classical relativistic model on which Big Bang theory is based), or they can mean the earliest period where the Big Bang theory is applicable, which comes a little bit after t = 0 (and which would be preceded by Inflation), or they can even mean the entire period from there till now and beyond (the Big Bang universe). The worry about time ending or becoming physically meaningless as it approaches t = 0 is not unfounded, for although we know little about that earliest period, there is reason to think that physical clocks that give time its meaning beyond a mathematical formalism may no longer work there.

    If the universe did not expand after the Big Bang, it would have stayed as it was shortly after the Big Bang: a hot, dense, uniform plasma.SophistiCat

    Sure, but this is speculative. It implies that you can get the "Big Bang," under highly different conditions.Count Timothy von Icarus

    And that's my point. When you ask why something is this way and not the other way - for example, why the Big Bang universe has a time asymmetry - the implication is that it could have been otherwise. That is obviously problematic with things like laws, constants and boundary conditions, unless we already have a reductive theory in mind. If that is not available, then all we can do is imagine an alternative world. We can't say anything more, and we can't attach probabilities to these imaginary alternatives, because that would imply that we know more than we actually do.

    I don't have time now to discuss thermodynamics and the arrow of time, but I'll try to get back to this later.