Re: large search spaces don't mean magic

From: Daniel Radetsky (
Date: Tue Aug 02 2005 - 00:24:42 MDT

You're still missing my point, Ben. You wrote:

> I think there is a reasonably good analogy with a dog who has cornered his
> human victim and thinks there's no way the human can escape -- until the
> human is rescued by a helicopter, something the dog has never seen or
> imagined, and which lies outside the world-model of the dog.

The problem with this is that it's uncontroversial that if there is a
helicopter, then dog won't account for it and will be surprised if the human
gets away. However, this puts a damper on the dog's strategy only if there is a
helicopter. If there is no helicopter, then the fact that the dog didn't
account for it doesn't make a difference.

You reason as though you had reason to believe that there was a
helicopter/exploit, and not just that helicopter/exploits are logically

> This doesn't mean that plausible, rational arguments can't be made (even if
> they fall short of full scientific rigor), of course.
> But the only arguments I know how to make to bolster my intuition that
> box-exploits are reasonably likely, are complex arguments that depend on
> detailed arguments about specific places where I think modern physics may be
> incomplete. This is a topic better reviewed in a long technical paper than
> a casual email...

Okay, well if you can't give me a precise answer, can you at least let me in on
the structure of your argument? I say this because I'm not sure rational
arguments can be made (for your position). Consider the structure of your
conclution: "I think I have good reason to believe proposition X about an area
of knowledge that I will never know anything about." That seems paradoxical.

Now, you mention *specific* places where you think that physics is incomplete.
I'm not sure what those areas are, but I assume they must be relatively small
sized portions of the domain of possible physics. In making claim (3) from my
previous email, you could have been saying that there is a box-exploit in
*some* area of physics, or in *this* area of physics, "this" being a pretty
specialized area.

I think the "some" argument is pretty hopeless. The "this" argument is somewhat
better, but I have difficulty understanding two problems:

a) How it has anything to do with the "some" argument, which seemed to be the
point of the original "magic" problem.

b) How it squares with this claim you made:

> I may have mentioned "quantum teleportation" as one particular possibility,
> but if this possibility is proved impossible, that doesn't affect my point
> at all.

It seems like the "this" argument just means bringing up a few more
possibilities. I know that you have a finite knowledge of physics, so you could
only have so many possibilities that you could be justified in suspecting had
an exploit. If all of those possibilities were known to not have exploits (or,
assume for the sake of argument that those possibilities do not have exploits):
would you still assert that magic is an issue worth worrying about? It seems
like you would. If so, then you still have to answer my arguments about why I
don't think it's rational to believe in "magic," and you can't use any of your
suppositions about incomplete theories of physics.


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