Re: Friendliness and blank-slate goal bootstrap

From: Perry E. Metzger (
Date: Tue Oct 07 2003 - 11:20:24 MDT

"Ben Goertzel" <> writes:
> I suspect that, indeed, not everything that is important is within the realm
> of science.

I'm afraid that I feel uncomfortable with that. Once you dispose of
the methods of science, there is no way to distinguish true from false
hypotheses at all. Without such a method for distinguishing the true
from the false, any hypothesis becomes equally acceptable and we can
no longer make progress towards understanding.

> Also, we should distinguish mathematics from science --- some things that
> are important and true are within the domain of mathematics, which is a
> different domain from either subjective experience OR empirical science.

Mathematics in the general sense has nothing to do with the real
world. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Mathematics is really just a game that we play with formal
systems. The connection between any given formal system and the world
we inhabit can only be established by the methods of science --
mathematics will not shed any light on the question on its own. In the
world of mathematics, you can pick any set of axioms you like, and
different sets can yield very different results -- thus Euclidean and
the various non-Euclidean geometries. Both are perfectly workably, but
both cannot simultaneously describe our world.

> For example, mathematical truth has a problematic and subtle relationship
> with scientific truth. Truth is cleanly and easily definable in
> mathematical logic.

Given a given set of axioms, sure. However, there is no particular
reason to pick one set of axioms over another. We humans tend to pick
axioms based on the notion that they yield a mathematical system that
we find of use in describing our world, but other mathematical systems
are just as easy to play with. We only know about the connection
between given types of mathematical systems and our world through
empirical testing.

> Regarding qualia and experience, I guess that there are fundamental reasons
> why these are not fully scientifically comprehensible.

If that is true, I'm not sure why we should believe that they exist at

Lets say that I have two identical humans, but you have somehow
tinkered with one of them so that he does not experience some sort of
qualia and the other has been left alone.

If they behave differently as a result of the different perception of
qualia, science can then distinguish the qualia through the difference
in behavior between the people.

If they do not behave differently (and I include in behavior what
sensors like PET scanners might perceive about internal brain states)
then it is hardly obvious that the qualia exist at all. After all, if
their brain states cannot be externally distinguished, and they do not
make claims about differing perceptions, in what sense should we
assume that their internal perceptions should be thought of as

> Science depends on "the same" experiment being runnable by many
> different observers (the famous "reproducibility of results"), and
> yet my experience cannot be had by you, can it?

No, but I can duplicate you and then subject you to alterations and
observe differences in your behavior caused by said alterations. I can
even control external stimuli perfectly through the use of virtual
realities and such if need be.

In any case, I find it difficult to imagine any phenomenon associated
with the mind that cannot be externally examined by some sort of
experiment. Your mind is just a product of your brain operating, and
we can examine the brain in as minute a level of detail as we find
necessary. We can also (if needed) reproduce you and make alterations
in you so as to produce controls and replication for the experiment.

Perry E. Metzger

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