John K Clark (
Fri, 6 Dec 1996 19:50:09 -0800 (PST)


On Thu, 05 Dec 1996 Eliezer Yudkowsky <> Wrote:

>philosophers are still debating over what causality is.

When I say that A caused B, I mean that if I place the events observable from
my frame of reference in a sequence ordered according to time, and I find
event A in the sequence, then I will always find event B at some later point
in the sequence, and that's all I mean. The debate is not so much what it is
but whether causality exists or not, the answer modern Physics tells us is,
not always, randomness is possible.

>philosophers still haven't untangled the four types
>[of causality] they know about - computational, platonic,
>thermodynamic and cognitive causality.

What's the difference between computational and cognitive causality?
Nothing, unless you believe in the soul and other such mumbo jumbo.

What's the difference between computational and thermodynamic?
Nothing, except that you can't find an effect from a cause in any algorithm
in polynomial time (x^n) you're stuck with exponential time (n^x).

What's the difference between cognitive and platonic?
Nothing, except cognitive wants to put mind in a special category for some
ill-defined reason.

What's the difference between computational and platonic?
Nothing near as I can tell, some claim there is a big difference, but are
vague about what exactly it is.

>The meaning of life may be defined as a self-justifying goal.

Which self-justifying goal? Who does the justifying? I want a cookie because
I want a cookie, is that the meaning of life? Perhaps I misunderstand,
perhaps the goal itself does the justifying, but how can a goal by itself
justify anything, much less itself? How can I tell if it is correct?
These are not rhetorical questions, I'd really like to know.

>that type of smartness which has to do with the rotation of
>mental pictures - is experimentally testable, precise

Yeah, that's a part of intelligence, a very dull part, an old Apple II can do
it better than a person can.

>The Meaning of Life is simply something meaningful in and of
>itself, without being part of a greater goal or being urged
>on us by evolution.

If I were to say "The Meaning of Life is something" would it contain any less
information than your sentence above? Hypothetically, if The Meaning of Life
were different from what you say, would the world be one bit different from
what it is now?

>not all sentences are self-referential,

Certainly true.

>nor is the term "self-referential" empty of content.

Also true, in fact I think self reference is a very profound concept.
It is fun to come up with self referential sentences of thirteen words.
I like statements describing how DNA is self referential and even describes
the construction techniques to duplicate itself, if you know the Genetic Code,
but that the Genetic code is not encoded in the DNA and you can't point to
exactly where it is encoded.

The trouble I have is that you used the term "self-justifying", I've never
seen a self-justifying sentence, at least I don't think I have, but I really
don't know what that means.

>An example of a self-justifying entity would be the reason
>why anything exists at all.

By far the deepest problem in Philosophy, why is there something rather than
nothing? Don't keep us in suspense, tell us everything you know, let's risk
rioting in the streets, complete your example, tell us the reason!

>An example of a non-self-justifying entity would be the
>goal of crossing the room.

- From your statement above we can safely conclude that another example of a
non-self-justifying entity would be any idea any human being has ever been
able to formulate in his head. If EVERYTHING is non self justifying then the
concept has no contrast and so no value.

>"Any major enhancement of human intelligence is a net
>evolutionary disadvantage." [...] Algernon's Law still works.

Just 3 million years ago, less than 1/1000 of the time life existed on this
planet, you would be in Lucy's world. The smartest animal on Earth looked
much like you or me from the neck down, but had a brain only slightly larger
than a chimp. Did Algernon's law work then, only an instant ago?

You mentioned that you took Prozac. The only reason to take Prozac is if
despite its negative features it made your brain operate in a way you liked
better than when you did not take Prozac. Evolution never came up with a
gland that secrets Prozac. Why do you take Prozac?

John K Clark

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