Re: >H SIs and the Incomprehensibility Issue

Doug Bailey (
Fri, 25 Sep 1998 14:07:29 -0400

Doug Bailey wrote:

> > The Knowledge Question raises an interesting issue. Even
> > if Strong SIs existed, how would we properly recognize them
> > as Strong SIs? Since the knowledge they accessed that heralded
> > their ascension to Strong SI status is beyond our ability to
> > appreciate, how could we distinguish between a Strong SI and
> > a Weak SI that has lost its marbles?

Doug Bailey later wrote:

> > Another problem is differentiating between knowledge that is
> > forever beyond us and knowledge that is beyond us for now but
> > will be understandable after another 200 years of scientific
> > work.

Allen Smith responded:

> How about utilitarian grounds, aka the scientific method? If the
> ideas it generates work (as in it can say "do such and such to
> reach this goal"), then it's sane. If not, it's nuts. (I said
> "aka the scientific method" because this is essentially what the
> scientific method does to evaluate a theory.) -Allen

If the knowledge is by definition completely beyond us then it would be completely beyond our heuristics to analyze as valid. It would be impossible to prove valid but it might seem invalid when applying the scientific method (SM). It should be extremely difficult to distinguish between Strong SI knowledge and bunk. Both will not be able to be proved valid by the SM and both will probably be considered patently invalid when analyzing it with the SM. I anticipate some may say we might be able to sense some validity due to mathematical beauty, consistency or some other trait of Strong SI knowledge. But I doubt this will be the case because Strong SI knowledge will be so completely alien to us that such characteristics will not emerge from our analysis.

If we are able to sense some trace of validity then odds are such knowledge is not Strong SI knowledge but instead knowledge forged by a Weak SI. For example, a Weak SI in 1700 might have come up with M-Theory. M-Theory might look like complete nonsense to an 18th century mathematician or physicist but odds are they might be able to discern some validity hidden in all the mathematical arcana. It might look like Strong SI knowledge but it isn't.

Doug Bailey