RE: The inevitability of death, or the death of inevitability?

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Sat Dec 29 2001 - 17:55:20 MST

Well, I suppose that "faith" shares with many other natural language terms
the delightful yet frustrating property of ambiguity.

Perhaps we should commence communicating only in higher-order probabilistic
term logic. I think this would work better than XML, which was previously
proposed on this or the extropians list as a future means of human
communication ;-) Also, the amount of time required to formulate each
e-mail would definitely serve to cut down on useless chatter...

  -----Original Message-----
  From: []On Behalf Of
Josiah Draper
  Sent: Saturday, December 29, 2001 1:49 PM
  Subject: Re: The inevitability of death, or the death of inevitability?

  Faith... is not the idea that "some things should not be rationally
questioned", but if you have faith in something I would say it is more like
knowing something is true or will happen although you don't have all the
proof it wil. For example : the sun will rise next morning. You know it will
happen, but you can't prove it or can you?
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Ben Goertzel
    Sent: Friday, December 28, 2001 7:46 AM
    Subject: RE: The inevitability of death, or the death of inevitability?

    About "faith" and whether Eli's gotta have it or not... (I really love
    endless threads dissecting Eliezer's psychology. We haven't gotten onto
    potty training yet for some reason; I guess there's a paucity of
    on the list...)

    Anyway, I partly agree with Samantha here, actually.

    But only partly!

    Of course, as Hume observed back when I was in diapers, the problem of
    induction is
    unsolvable. *Purely* rational inference about the universe is not
    Even highly-refined probabilistic inference engines like your own brain
    to make some a priori assumption about the background probability
    (to cast Hume in Bayesian terms).

    Call it faith, call it intuition, or call it Caledonia Mahogany's
    there's something in addition rational calculation going on when we make
    judgments, particularly in such data-poor domains as the end-state of
    the cosmos!

    I also agree with Eli's point that our physical models of the universe
    very unstable and not to be taken that seriously in the "big picture."
    I think the problem of induction show itself rather clearly in this
    The time series of physical models of the universe is really not very
    there's a lot of faith/intuition/assumption in extrapolating it *or*
even in
    estimating its variance as Eliezer is implicitly doing...

    BUT -- I guess the problem with the word "faith", Samantha, is that it
    goes along
    with the idea that *some things should not be rationally questioned.*
    you have
    faith in life after death, you should not even consider rational

    This is not the same as the kind of a-rational intuition that must
    assumption of background probability distributions. The mind must make
    underlying, biased assumptions in order to reason; but it can be
    about what
    these assumptions are. "Faith" implies a forced lack of flexibility in
    which is surely NOT optimal in terms of maximizing cognitive power
    it may
    well be optimal as a mechanism of spreading a certain assumption

    -- Ben G

> "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" wrote:
> > Perhaps. Understand that I do not have "faith" that immortality is
> > possible. I am simply stating that before we get all emotional
> about this
> > issue - that is, before we begin making value judgements or
> philosophical
> > assumptions based on it - we should remember that the model the
> prediction
> > is based on is a model which historically has often changed and
> currently
> > is still in flux.
> Faith may be a word that has fallen into disrepute in some
> camps. However, if I did not have "faith" that X (SI,
> singularity, immortality) was possible I wouldn't spend any time
> at all working towards actually producing such. In short, some
> questions are not effectively tackled by armchair cogitations.
> They can only be resolved, to the extent they are resolvable, by
> taking a working hypotheses and proceeding to check whether it
> is or can be made real.
> We know so very little about what "the universe" is and includes
> that it is extremely hubristic to claim that the universe simply
> does not allow X or that there is no way for anything that was
> part of the universe to survive the "death" of said universe or
> certain types of transformation thereof.
> - samantha

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