Tony Hollick (
Thu, 6 Aug 98 18:02 BST-1

Kathryn Aegis wrote:

> This may be a function of the manner in which the English language is used 
> on my side of the Atlantic--North Americans tend to use the word 'concept' 
> to indicate a broader idea rather than a concrete manifestation.  Can 
> someone clarify this?

A good maxim (due to Karl Popper) is that the value of any discussion is inversely proportional to the time spent discussing the meaning of words. >:-}

Kathryn goes on to quote two 'example' questions from Nick Bostrom:

>>What is nanotechnology?
>>What is superintelligence?

All 'What is?' questions are flawed by their essentialist framing of the question. The implication is the Platonic one, that there is an underlying pure concept which it is our job to define. The best you can end up with is a sort of glossary.

Whereas a nominalist approach (that discourse is conventional) would point out that good definitions (especially scientific definitions) read 'from right to left': thus:

'Nanotechnology' is the scientists' effort to answer the question "What shall we call a branch of science and technology addressing the design and construction of tiny (even molecular-level) machines?" instead of asking 'What is nanotechnology?" 'Nanotechnology ' is shorthand for the longer definition. That's all.

Those of us who are used to thinking of scientific advance in terms of hypothetico-deductive problem-solving would present the _interesting_ questions thusly:

"What problem(s) are we trying to solve here?"

where the problem-solving iteration is:

p1 --> th --> dp --> ee --> p2

whereby p1 is the initial problem; th is a testable hypothesis; dp is the deduction of testable propositions; ee is error-elimination via (inter alia) logical evaluation and real-world testing; and p2 is the (hopefully) smaller resulting problem.

So an FAQ which has an initial heading describing the problem-situations which chiefly concern extropians (i.e. forward-looking and forward-thinking people), followed by a presentation of hypothetical solutions, with a discussion of some of the possible difficulties, would be most useful.

The document could then be enhanced by a Neuro-Linguistic Programming style re-write, to give it added focus, zip and impact.

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      Tony Hollick, LightSmith  (LA-Agora Conference) (Agora Home Page, Rainbow Bridge Foundation) (NorthWest Coalition Against Malicious Harrassment)

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