Re: analytical rigor

From: Michael Vassar (
Date: Mon Jun 26 2006 - 22:10:18 MDT

Shouldn't list-snipers have been on this thread from Loosemore's first post?

>From: "justin corwin" <>
>Subject: Re: analytical rigor
>Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2006 10:19:16 -0700
>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
>>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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