Re: Metarationality (was: JOIN: Alden Streeter)

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Mon Aug 26 2002 - 00:05:38 MDT

Ben Goertzel wrote:
>> Minds are physical systems.
> No, they are most certainly not!

For goodness sakes, Ben, credit me with knowing *that* much.

All minds exist as patterns *within* physical dynamical systems that are
governed by physical law. Yes? This is all that's required for my
statements about the BPT to hold.

> The system in question need not be physical, it could be virtual (e.g.
> a set of particle-like entities in a computer simulated reality running
> on your future PC).

You're using very shallow reasoning here, Ben. The PC is physical; the
system is a pattern within a physical system in our universe. This is not
the least bit dependent on whether the system is one that a human would
call "virtual".

>> If a mind has a particular U, that U must have come from *somewhere*.
>> That particular U has a physical cause; something shaped it. Those
>> shapers will be either rational or irrational depending on what kind
>> of reliable correspondence they bear to reality.
>> The Bayesian Probability Theorem is inescapable - it can be applied
>> to *every* causal system that exists in our universe to determine
>> whether a given pattern is likely to correlate to any other causes or
>> effects that exist in outside reality. *Any* causal system, *any*
>> physical process, not just the ones that we usually consider as
>> "rational" or even "mindful".
> Similarly, Bayes' Theorem and associated probabilistic results do not
> tell us how to construct the universal set U they need in order to be
> applied.

Again, because a mind exists as a pattern in a physical system which
possesses a causal history, *any* actual choice of U *will* have a causal
history, to which Bayesian rules will apply. No matter what reason you
have for choosing a given U, or even if you just stick with the U you
start with that happened for XYZ physical reasons, the Bayesian rules will
apply to that U and determine its likelihood of correspondence with
external reality.

>> If your U is a physical thing, it exists for physical reasons, and
>> the BPT will govern whether those reasons are such that U is likely
>> to bear any given kind of correlation to external reality.
> A mathematical set like the universal set U in probability theory is
> NOT a physical thing, any more than a mind is.

If a mind uses a representation of a "mathematical" truth, that mind is a
pattern in a physical system, and its arrival at that representation will
have a causal history governed by the laws of physics, to which the BPT

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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