RE: Bad Bayesian - no biscuit! (was A New Year's gift for Bayesians)

From: Thomas Buckner (
Date: Thu Jan 20 2005 - 02:16:48 MST

--- Ben Goertzel <> wrote:
> Well, when I was a math prof at UNLV, a number
> of my fellow math professors
> liked to gamble on a regular basis.
> These folks had high IQ's, decently long lists
> of pure-math publications,
> and generally a lot of common sense and
> rationality in everyday life
> situations.

Probability theory was, after all, invented a
couple centuries ago by people who loved to
gamble and wished to improve their odds.

An earlier letter poses a lottery ticket as a
good investment if one values time over money. It
can be said that time is the only real thing we
have. Money is but a somewhat fungible method of
buying time (in the form of goods and services
which, if one has enough money, can be provided
in such quantity as to minimize the time one has
to spend on undesired activities, and to extend
one's time alive as well).

When Eliezer supports the 'blue tentacle parable'
by noting that laws of momentum are always the
same in our mundane world, he performs a sleight
of hand in exchanging 'alteration in inalterable
physical laws' (a true impossibility as we
understand it) for 'waking up with a blue
tentacle' (a heretofore impossible situation
which, given more advanced technology, becomes
more and more plausible, like landing a video
camera in the mud on Titan, while not becoming
likely unless someone has a motive to use such
possible technology in such a way). One can put a
rubber tentacle over a drunk friend's arm (see for activities almost as nefarious!)
What I am saying is that Eliezer could have
proposed that one imagine waking up and finding
that gravity is altered, or some similar true
viloation of physical law.

Given these considerations, I would have answered
Eliezer's blue-tentacle question with a much more
likely hypothesis: Since the sudden appearance of
a blue tentacle is so improbable, and since you
ask, I am most probably dreaming, until I can
gather good evidence otherwise.

Eliezer asserts that this cannot happen, but I
suppose I could dream later that it has happened,
because of having been given the idea.

Tom Buckner

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