Re: analytical rigor

From: justin corwin (
Date: Mon Jun 26 2006 - 11:19:16 MDT

Ah, another Monday morning coming back to mischaracterizations:

On 6/25/06, Richard Loosemore <> wrote:
> You may be mistaking fuzziness in your own understanding of the issues
> for fuzziness in the issues themselves.

Lets be clear here. You had a quote by Strogatz, where he quotes Ulam
explaining that there are a lot of nonlinear systems. Then you went on
for two paragraphs about 'vast' areas and 'tiny piles of analytically
tractable systems' and "Outer Darkness" You characterize this
situation as a very obvious and important divide between linear and
nonlinear systems. You do, of course, neglect to reference anything
more than a quote of a casual quote, mention any specific claims of
intractability, or reference any "impossible" problems that have stood
for the "centuries" you're broadly painting.

That's what I mean by fuzziness. If you /mean/ something specific,
then by all means correct me. As far as I can tell, your point thus
far in your first two paragraphs and subsequent responses is to assert
that there are lots and lots of nonlinear systems, most of which are
insoluble, and that all of mathematics (and presumably other sciences)
has resulted in very little progress in this space, on the basis of a
quote and a lot of adjectives.

>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.

Yes, a well respected author is evidence for some depth in a debate somewhere.

> 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.

This is nice. Respond to the sub note, it's the most important part of
this paragraph. Do you have an answer to either question? To me, it
seems like you're twisting the definition of 'impossibility' (and the
applicability of the quote) to make a vague point about the big and
scary world of Complex systems.

Who are you talking about? What are you accusing them of?


> 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.

You are accusing unknown persons of having a 'stranglehold' on 'AI
research'. I'll use a different word if it makes you feel better.

> 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.

What 'view' would you say that paragraph was espousing? Did I claim
any mechanism or make, in fact, any claims about 'what science is
actually like'? All I said was that scientists don't care about what
you do. And have no motivation to interfere with your work.

> 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.

Luckily, I've already been interested in psychology a long time, and I
am familiar with the dominance of the Behaviorist model. It's true
that a lot of good research didn't get done because it did not fit the
Behaviorist paradigm. Unfortunately for your point, a lot of
scientists continued with what they were doing anyway, on their own
tenure, or in private research, or even outside established science.
That's why psychology has moved on. Certainly if the majority view is
'wrong', and that view is being taught to students, then less people
will be doing science the 'right' way. That's not an active force
preventing anything.

> 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.

I objected to your argument on the grounds that you weren't making any
concrete points, and challenged you to make some specific claims.
That's a valid criticism, under whatever philosophy of science you
follow. Also, I asked three questions, although the last was partly

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?

I'm sorry you don't like what most scientists are doing, so

> 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.

You filled an email with unspecific adjective-laden sentences,
accusing unnamed persons of being self-deluded, of obstructing AI
research, of not recognizing some grand truth about the
incomprehensibility of the world. I felt that you were sniping
opportunistically, writing without specific claims, making dramatic
points without support. I don't have a case to prove, you do.

If you think all AI research is missing something, what is that? You
refuse to specifically point to errors or approaches, or make any
specific predictions. You write about what stupid, naive, blinded folk
we are, and are aggravated when someone points out that you are just
asserting so with big words. I don't even have a clear idea who or
what theories or community you are slandering, only that they're
holding back all progress. So, by induction, since I think I'm making
progress, and part of 'the establishment' by virtue of having a job in
AI, I assume I must be part of the problem. So, where to begin
correcting my many faults?

What, in fact, is your issue that I'm avoiding?

Justin Corwin

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