[FoRK] Capitalism, Contracts and Cronyism

Jeff Bone jbone at place.org
Wed Aug 27 11:05:59 PDT 2008

On Aug 27, 2008, at 12:14 PM, Stephen Williams wrote:

> I have little basis for assigning probability of correctness of the  
> suggested probabilities.  There are many possible forces and actions  
> that would be triggered when passing various tipping points that I  
> cannot accurately factor in for myself, and many that I cannot even  
> guess at.  If you can account for all of those factors with some  
> certainty, great, but I you'll have to show your work to be  
> considered too seriously.  It's useful to know you think there's  
> 10-20% probability of disaster, but not too useful.


Consider the conflict in what you're asking for, here.  On the one  
hand you bemoan the complexity of making such predictions yourself.   
Now consider if I were to offer you an oracle --- a program --- that  
had a significant track record in making correct a priori predictions  
of the kinds of things you are trying to predict, but had no ability  
to explain its reasoning;  it merely answers yes-or-no questions about  
its field of specialization.  Further, lets say that examining the  
source code is no good, because the learned prediction capability is  
stored in a neural network of tremendous complexity, and reverse- 
engineering it is on a scale that is prohibitive.  Would you, given a  
track record, trust it?  Sure you would, just like you trust other  
computer tools to perform complex tasks for you that in fact you might  
not be able to (or at least are not willing to) perform yourself.   
Indeed, based on your previous complaint about the complexity of the  
problem space, even if the oracle's "reasoning" *could* be explained  
to you, it might be complex enough to escape your comprehension.

Now, I'm not claiming to either be or possess such an oracle.  I'm  
merely pointing out that it's ridiculous to assert that you only  
accept answers based on fully-elaborated reasoning.  You accept all  
sorts of things all the time based on reputation, on certainty gained  
via epistemological method, etc.


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