Re: analytical rigor

From: Richard Loosemore (
Date: Sun Jun 25 2006 - 10:57:24 MDT

justin corwin wrote:
> Your email is full of characterizations and rather low on specific
> claims. You say there is a vast "Outer Darkness" of "insoluble
> problems". That progress has been "negligible". That people have
> conjectured the impossibility of solving 'most' of them(for "decades",
> no less). That there is a large group of people convinced that there
> isn't a prevalence of nonlinear systems, and that these people ignore
> 'massive' evidence to the contrary.
> I don't like fuzzy characterizations, and I especially don't like
> anonymized attacks.

You may be mistaking fuzziness in your own understanding of the issues
for fuzziness in the issues themselves. If Stephen Strogatz could
understand these points well enough to write about them in his book, and
if he has not yet lost his job or his status as a world-class
mathematician specializing in nonlinear systems, and if I repeat them
here, applied to AGI issues, then it begins to look like the points I
made actually have a great deal of depth, whereas your criticism
contains nothing that indicates understanding, only complaints.

Are you claiming that the SL4 list imagines the
> world is a linear place? Did you think that the statement "most claims
> of impossibility usually turn out to be unreliable" applied largely to
> mathematical claims of intractability(which it doesn't, as far as I
> can tell, it refers to specific technological achievement, deriving
> from the older quote "If a respected elder scientist says something is
> possible, he is very likely right, if he says something is impossible,
> he is very likely wrong", deriving from older embarassing anecdotes
> about Lord Kelvin, who was very prone to declarative statements.)

I can't think of anything more vague and fuzzy than the idiotic quote
about elder scientists. I am not operating at that level, I am talking
about deep methodological issues. I wouldn't dream of wasting my time
on debating whether or not old scientists talk garbage.

> In short, your email is very passionate, but fails to persuade on the
> account of it containing no facts and no specific claims.

It replied to Michael Vassar's pointer to a debate: read the
background. In that context (and even if you don't understand the
broader context), it makes sense.

> And this last:
> On 6/24/06, Richard Loosemore <> wrote:
>> I wouldn't care so much, except that these people have a stranglehold on
>> Artificial Intelligence research. This is the real reason why AI
>> research has been dead in the water these last few decades.
> This is an example of reasoning that many have about science which is
> absolutely wrong. There is no such thing as a conspiracy of scientists
> keeping new science or technology down.

Oh, please: let's keep "conspiracy" talk out of this. I didn't say or
imply anything about conspiracies, so it would helpe if you didn't put
words into my mouth.

> They don't care about you,
> what you do, or what you think. The vast majority of scientists
> believe, in an abstract way, that diversity of research is a good
> thing, and they might even applaud you, while privately thinking your
> research is doomed to failure. What they won't do, is be convinced, or
> give you money.

This is a ridiculously naive view of what science is actually like. Get
out there and talk to some real scientists about biasses and funding
bandwagons and prejudices and power centers. Or, if you can't do that,
read some books by people who study how science works. Failing that, at
least don't say anything about it.

You could trying to read about the role played by Behaviorists in the
psychology community. That situation is closely analogous to the
present situation in AI.

> That does not constitute a stranglehold. You are still free to do
> whatever you want. In fact, the majority of interesting AI work in the
> last few years has been outside of academia anyway (with a few shining
> exceptions, like AIXI), so that particularly speaks against your ideas
> of "strangleholds" and consensus opinion.
> The opinion of other scientists does not affect how your experiments
> turn out. I'm sorry you don't like what most scientists are doing, so
> what?

It would have been nicer if, anywhere in your message, you had addressed
a single, solitary grain of the issues I raised, or asked questions to
clarify some aspect of what I said, so you could go further and talk
about the issues.

The fact that you did not, but instead just complained about nebulous
faults that you imagined you saw, is part of the collective abdication
of scientific responsibility I was talking about in the first place:
you avoided the issue.

Richard Loosemore

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