Re: All is number

From: Eliezer Yudkowsky (
Date: Thu Aug 12 2004 - 20:00:43 MDT

Simon Gordon wrote:
> You might want to argue that words and descriptions can in principle be
> reduced to math, with sufficient understanding of the complexity of
> natural language. Eg by the analysis of the neural patterns generated by
> some generic artificial future mind when presented with different
> textual stimuli. I have reason to be sceptical that a direct translation
> from words to pure numerical information will ever be possible. My
> argument is that while the particular instantiations of each word may be
> analysed in great depth, the words themselves are abstractions until
> read or said etc and their meaning and the qualia they produce is
> variable in different instances and observer relative. Since there are
> an infinite number of minds in the metaverse, there are a infinite
> number of possible qualia associated with any given
> word/phrase/description. Im not saying it definitely isnt possible; just
> that i am dubious that even our post-Singularity minds will ever be able
> to accurately convert a fairytale universe described in natural language
> into pure numbers.

Suppose I ask you to imagine and describe the events in a fairytale
universe. You are a physical entity, physics is math, thus I can model the
events in the fairytale universe using math. If you write a computer
program to model the fairytale universe in more detail, the computer is
composed of particles and the particles are math. In principle, we could,
from within the fairytale universe, realize that the simplest explanation
behind our universe was math at a deeper level of recursion - that the gods
who created Elves and Men in the Dawn, and the mystical Laws of Sorcery,
must be the mythology of creatures who evolved in a strictly physical
universe governed by math. It would take a heck of a lot of computing
power to realize that the simulation argument was the explanation of lowest
Kolmogorov complexity. But in theory, in the math of rationality, it could
be done. And indeed this would be the correct explanation, because this
fairytale universe we are discussing, is, exactly, the mythology of
creatures of math, us.

I can't even imagine a universe with a simplest explanation that wasn't
math. It might exist, but I can't imagine it. I'm the one who has to
compute the simplest explanation, and this I do using math. If I saw a
nonmathematically coherent universe, I wouldn't see the coherence; it would
look to me like chaos. If there were people inside, modeling the
nonmathematical coherence of their universe using their internal
nonmathematical coherences, I wouldn't see any of it. To me it would just
look like snow on a television screen.

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

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