Re: WAS: Re: Economic (ignorance) Nativism and me

From: Mark Walker (
Date: Mon Mar 26 2001 - 05:06:28 MST

----- Original Message -----
From: Robert J. Bradbury <>
, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> > Cognitive science. Physicists can build nuclear weapons but they can't
> > build better physicists.
> Eliezer, sometimes you make me smile. And towards the end
> of winter in Seattle, that usually isn't an easy thing to do.
I didn't realize Seattle now has season variation. :)

> However, if the physicists are approaching a complete TOE, or at
> least a sufficiently robust TOE that they can't take it any
> further without recreating a big bang, then even the very
> best cognitive science will not be able to build better
> physicists. Fundamentally physics is about reducing things
> to a set of simple principles. Once that has been done
> it becomes useless to try an extract any more from an empty
> well.
Of course the big question here is how to support the antecedent of your
conditional, viz., if [human] physicists are approaching a complete TOE ....
Even if a hundred thousand generations of human physicists agree that the
TOE published by the great physicist Newteinstein back in 2002 is the final
theory of everything this will not allay the skeptical doubts that humans
are cognitively incapable of comprehending the real final theory of
everything. The fact that our conceptual abilities are endogenously
constrained is perhaps more familiar from biology than cognitive science:
whatever the final TOE turns out to be we don't expect that chimps or
australopithecines would be able to comprehend it, what makes us so sure
that humans are far enough along the cognitive curve? Of course reasons have
been put forward for believing that we are far enough along this curve,
from philosophers like Plato, Hegel and Davidson, and physicists like
Hawking and Weinberg. The view that I put forward in my dissertation was
that this is all an interesting theoretical discussion--and of course as
dissertations go, this took about 300 pages to say--but, like any good
scientific, question it ought to be put to the test. The idea would be to
attempt to create better scientists in the sense that they come up with a
better TOE. If the experiment succeeds then we reject the null hypothesis,
if the experiment fails then we accept the null hypothesis. This experiment
is of course the one affectionately known as 'transhumanism'. (I used to
call this project 'Becoming Gods', which is the title of my dissertation). I
am presenting a paper on this topic at the Canadian Philosophical
Association at the end of May. Mark.

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