PHIL: Counter-Yudkowsky

Twirlip of Greymist (
Fri, 29 Nov 1996 17:44:30 -0800 (PST)

"The Powers are beyond our ability to comprehend. Get the picture?"

No. I don't. It's possible, but I've seen nothing to indicate that
belief in Powers capable of thought we are intrinsically incapable of
understanding, Power capable of "solving the First Cause", is anything
more than religious faith.

Here's what "Perceptual Transcends" mean to me. There's a picture in
_GEB_ of all truths (or theorems) and those which are recursively
enumerable, if I remember my terms correctly. The former is a square
containing the latter represented as a fractal tree. If that tree is
all of human knowledge, everything we have learned through millenia of
trial and error, and a newborn Power has every branch of that tree as an
obvious primitive, it is still inside the square. It can more quickly
explore several more fractal branch-layers of truth, but all those
truths could well be still comprehensible to a broad-minded human with
enough time and desire to learn.

The Enlightenment after Newton thought of the universe as a clock. More
recently we thought of the universe as a computer -- but that's really a
more complicated clock. Now we have quantum mechanics and the metaphor
of cellular automata running around... but the universe still seems
fairly conceivable as a complicated clock with dice in the spring.
Perhaps those dice represent something fundamental we don't know... but
perhaps not. Dice make at least as much sense as a clock.

And we -- or many of us -- seem to be universal Turing machines, or
capable of acting that way. Given this view, it is hard to see how the
universe could generate any problems not capable of being comprehended
by us, apart from existence. There could be things our minds aren't big
enough to grasp, ideas we don't have the memory to hold the parts of;
there could be Powers capable of thinking faster than we do; but those
are the differences between a computer with 16 megs of RAM and 4K, or
between a Pentium and a 8086. A qualitative difference would be that
between any computer and a wristwatch. To believe that there is such a
difference above us is purely a matter of belief. Act on it if you
wish; I find myself believing that no Power could do something which a
liberal-minded cosmopolitan could not understand, given time and data.

My very vague thesis: All undamaged human beings, and other sentiences,
share the same area of comprehensibility.

Corollary: "I" may never know if I'm wrong.

Merry part,
-xx- Damien R. Sullivan X-) <*>

Mr. Knightley seemed to be trying not to smile; and succeeded without
difficulty, upon Mrs. Elton beginning to talk to him.
-- Jane Austen, _Emma_