[FoRK] reas. conv. 11/7: Against Theocracy

Jeff Bone < jbone at place.org > on > Tue Nov 7 21:05:41 PST 2006

On Nov 7, 2006, at 5:43 PM, Dr. Ernie Prabhakar wrote:

> Hi Jeff,
> On Nov 7, 2006, at 3:05 PM, Jeff Bone wrote:
>> On Nov 7, 2006, at 3:18 PM, Dr. Ernie Prabhakar wrote:
>>> I'. Every viable society needs some Shared, Transcendent,  
>>> Unifying Beliefs (a "STUB" :-).
>>> Note that this can just as easily be tribalism, nationalism,  
>>> Confucian morality, or dialectical materialism as any sort of  
>>> theism.  Absent such, I honestly don't see how you can sustain a  
>>> bridge partnership[4], much less any sort of modern society.
>> Cooperation is clearly possible without more than a minimum, if  
>> any, "shared, transcendent, unifying beliefs."  Game theory.  Cf.  
>> Axelrod, cooperation --- evolution and complexity thereof, etc.   
>> (One might ask if computer PD players have beliefs at all;  I  
>> think we can dodge that by simply assuming that hard-coded axioms  
>> and game logic == beliefs.  The word "transcendent" is, however,  
>> extremely troublesome.)
> Actually, I think it makes perfect sense in the context of game  
> theory.  We typically have explicit beliefs about what's happening  
> *in* the game, as well as tacit beliefs about the nature of the  
> game itself.  Those rules themselves exist outside the game per se,  
> which is why I think transcendent is a fair term.  Though, if you  
> prefer "tacit" or "implicit" I can live with that.

I think there's a kind of circular reasoning here, but can't quite  
put my finger on it.  The problem is this:  there's no rule book for  
the game of life;  you and I can't necessarily rationally agree on  
what the rules are, we can only --- through the repeated experience  
of iterating through the game --- form our own models of the game,  
its rules, and so on.  We have no objective shared context about the  
rules, only objective shared experience of the outcomes of the  
iterations of the game.  Hence, no "transcendent" beliefs --- only  
empirical evidence.  At least, that's all that we can agree on.  Yet  
we can learn to cooperate.

It's a small point, I think --- this objection I'm having to the  
notion of "transcendent" belief and / or the equivalence of such with  
individual beliefs about the "tacit" or "implicit" fundamental nature  
of reality.  But I think that gets right to the heart of the matter,  
doesn't it?

I'll go one further.  It doesn't even take *intelligence* for  
cooperation to exist.  The computer PD models, particularly the  
learning ones, make that point.  And many of *those* don't have any  
explicit, internal models of the games they play.


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