I For One Would Like to Welcome Our New Small-Press Overlords…

WiFi reception was almost as spotty as the buffet. (Photo: Kathryn Cramer)

Haven’t had much to say recently. I’ve been head-down against an imminent deadline while trying not to dwell on catastrophic medical scenarios grown suddenly personal (a family member, within a hairsbreadth of death for the past couple of weeks: the situation remains dire, but has at least stabilized for the moment). Topped it all off with a bizarre weekend at Ad Astra where I transacted some business, tried to find panels in a world without printed program grids (some folks showed up Saturday to find that their appearances had been rescheduled to the previous night), and where, apparently, one of ACrackedMoon’s Mini-Mes haunted the halls (although it was such a frail and wraithlike thing — imagine a twig in a suit and tie — that it was hard to be sure). Wound down Sunday with an unexpected ghost from Squidgate settling in at my side, regaling me over beers with tales of the CIA’s secret program in civilian mind control.

The closest thing to a high point would have to  be the ChiZine room party on Saturday night.  I like ChiZine.  They’re friends, for one thing. They’re fighting way above their weight class in terms of production values. They’ve built a successful publishing house by, wonder of wonders, eschewing common-denominator pap in favor of actual literature, in an economic climate that should be lethal to any small press. All this would have put them on my must-see list even if they hadn’t offered free booze.

But there was another (albeit related) reason to celebrate with these guys on Saturday: the 2012 Aurora nominations had come out the day before, and ChiZine fucking owns them.

Look at the contenders for Best Novel. Four out of six are from ChiZine: Michael Rowe’s Enter, Night, Dave Nickle’s Eutopia, Napier’s Bones by Derryl Murphy, and The Pattern Scars by Caitlin Sweet.

It goes on.  Best Poem/Song: three out of five of the finalists are ChiZinite, or at least fronted by a ChiZine shell corporation (Sandra Kasturi was running her boutique Kelp Queen Press years before she cofounded ChiZine with Brett Savory, and KQP’s nominated “Skeleton Leaves” is authored by Helen Marshall, ChiZine’s Managing Editor).  Helen and Sandra are also co-nommed in the Best Fan Organization category, for their Chiaroscuro Reading Series.

Best Artist: two out of five, Erik Mohr (for his ChiZine cover art) and Martin Springett (for The Pattern Scars‘s interior illustrations). (This means that Caitlin’s book is up for greater-than-two Aurora Awards: Best Novel, Best Art (interior), and whatever fraction of Mohr’s ChiZine output accounts for TPS‘s cover. Just saying.)

In fact, thanks to the ChiZine crew, even I’m up for an Aurora, and I didn’t even publish anything last year[1]. I seem to have been nominated for “Reality: The Ultimate Mythology”, a lecture I gave at something called the Toronto SpecFic Colloquium —  run by, you guessed it, ChiZine.

The Aurora committee wants us all to link to our respective products.  I’m not going to do that just yet. The talk itself went over well enough — it starts with an exploration of the way our sensory processes lie to us about the physical universe, and ends up fingering popes and pedophiles as the likely early-adopters if the Vinge/Kurzweillian singularity ever happens. But there were technical difficulties. If you check out the video posted online you’ll see me trying to beat Powerpoint into submission for the first couple of slides, and the last few minutes of the talk were lost to some technical problem at the camera end of things. The Aurora committee wants the nominees to bundle their works into a form suitable for a voting package, though, so when I get the chance I’ll probably just transcribe my notes into essay format and embed the slides as illustrations. You won’t get the benefit of my charming and mildly-flustered delivery, of course, but then again, you won’t get the benefit of my charming and mildly-flustered delivery.

Won’t happen today, though.  I now have four imminent deadlines to contend with — a couple of interviews, a piece for MIT Press, and a chunk of waterfowl statistics to crunch, all due before the end of the month — and whatever’s left of today will probably get sucked up answering the most vital of the e-mails in my current backlog.  And hopefully getting out for a run, at long last; the treadmill has much to commend it, but god I need to get outdoors for a bit.

Anyway.  Congratulations all.  At this point, it looks like a bit of inevitable vote-splitting might be the only thing that stands between ChiZine and world domination.


[1] Well, except for that Crysis 2 novelization.  But that wasn’t even my story, so it doesn’t count.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Monday April 16 2012at 08:04 am , filed under On the Road, public interface, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

113 Responses to “I For One Would Like to Welcome Our New Small-Press Overlords…”

  1. I listened to your ming-boggling talk, but as English is my second language (so most of the talks *are* mind-boggling), I would be interested to get the chance to read it.
    Thanks Peter, and congrats!

    (and yup, I’m a Chizine fan)

  2. Is “Reality: The Ultimate Mythology” available online? Would love to read it.

  3. See if you can get a craz^H^H^H^Hdiligent person to subtitle your video, at least in the parts where the sound is missing.

    The audio got borked from the first three minutes of a talk at pycon, and the speaker went and captioned the video for that bit. Worked out fine.

    Ps. I <tentacle> ChiZine.
    (dunno the emoji for that)

    Pps. Engineering Infinities came out in pb form last year, so you published Malak.

  4. Yeah, I was gonna say, don’t forget “Malak” because it’ll actually be in Imaginarium (our Canadian “year’s best” antho, out in July)! : )

    And, hey…thanks so much for the kind words!!! And also: wanna do a book with us????? (she said, hopefully)

  5. Mildly megalomaniac and slightly misanthropic IT-spooks with no respect for Greek shipwrecks are feeling offended due to being undeservedly left out of the “Robot God wannabe” club.

    Just sayin’

  6. That was a wonderful lecture, barring the technical difficulties. I too, await the completed version. Yeah, I know, more work.

    Waterfowl statistics? Once you start sciencing, you never really stop.

  7. Sandra Kasturi:
    Yeah, I was gonna say, don’t forget “Malak” because it’ll actually be in Imaginarium (our Canadian “year’s best” antho, out in July)! : )

    You sure you still want to do that? It is, after all, a deeply misogynistic story according to a reviewer over at Tor.com

  8. Why do people think that “Reality: The Ultimate Mythology” is mind boggling? It’s a silly, glib and superficial bit of babble talk.

    Peter is an excellent fiction writer. He can invent a narrative out of whole cloth and people will swallow it as “real” hook line and sinker. Which, if you’ve ever tried, does considerable damage to the poor fish when extracted.

  9. Brenda:
    Why do people think that “Reality: The Ultimate Mythology” is mind boggling? It’s a silly, glib and superficial bit of babble talk.

    Noen? That you?

  10. Brenda:
    Why do people think that “Reality: The Ultimate Mythology” is mind boggling? It’s a silly, glib and superficial bit of babble talk.

    Peter is an excellent fiction writer. He can invent a narrative out of whole cloth and people will swallow it as “real” hook line and sinker. Which, if you’ve ever tried, does considerable damage to the poor fish when extracted.

    You know, Brenda, recycling statements and comments across mediums is lazy, spammy, and indicative of a kind of sad, shallow mentality :(

  11. Peter Watts: Noen?That you?

    Yes. I like your work Peter but I disagree with the philosophy. But you know that.

    Is “Reality is a myth” a myth?

    If it isn’t then there are some things that are objectively true and others that are fiction, or are myths as you say. But if “reality is a myth” is itself a myth then that’s pretty circular isn’t it.

    Or maybe that’s not what you intended to say. But… if you really believe that reality is a myth then you can’t intend to do anything can you?

    The numeral 01 spoke thusly:
    “You know, Brenda, recycling statements and comments across mediums is lazy, spammy, and indicative of a kind of sad, shallow mentality”

    Oh, I don’t think so, but… it’s really not a big deal. Is it any worse than identifying oneself as a number? You shouldn’t worry about what other people think of you. I’ve read Peter’s blog a long time. I comment very very rarely. Sometimes a topic comes up that interests me. This one does and it seems very solvable to me.

    Is reality a myth? No, the very idea is incoherent. But maybe he meant that a lot of what we take to be real is not actually. I could go with that. But everything? No, that’s just nuts.

  12. Haha, of course identifying oneself as a number is better! Numbers are rather fundamental to mathematics and reasoning ”’cue smugness”’

    As to your inquiry as to whether “Reality is a myth” is a myth, it should be pointed out that reasoning systems in general can not assert their soundness without becoming inconsistent. So you are right when you say that, as soon as we try to assert “‘Reality is a myth” is a myth’ from with the “Reality is a myth” world model, we run into inconsistency
    However same would be true for any world model and/or reasoning system ( It would be nice if you could prove otherwise, formally or empirically, but I doubt you can. IIRC it is some very fundamental mathematical feature of any reasoning system).

    Mind you, not all reasoning systems are nice and tidy enough to throw exception and die upon being demonstrated as irreconcilably inconsistent (most don’t bother to even pretend to care).

    Even if objective reality exists (tough philosophical nut, lol), we have no way of ascertaining its exact state. Human condition is epistemologically pathetic. Ours is the fate of blind ones seeking light by following warmth, teased by tangential, weak glimpses through our hard cataracts, we desperately chase the nonobligatory association between “warm” and “light”.

  13. Your comment thread is truly impressive, Peter. Who knew you had such power to move the masses?

  14. 01:
    Haha, of course identifying oneself as a number is better! Numbers are rather fundamental to mathematics and reasoning ”’cue smugness”’

    As to your inquiry as to whether “Reality is a myth” is a myth, it should be pointed out that reasoning systems in general can not assert their soundness without becoming inconsistent. So you are right when you say that, as soon as we try to assert “‘Reality is a myth” is a myth’ from with the“Reality is a myth” world model, we run into inconsistency
    However same would be true for any world model and/or reasoning system ( It would be nice if you could prove otherwise, formally or empirically, but I doubt you can. IIRC it is some very fundamental mathematical feature of any reasoning system).

    Mind you, not all reasoning systems are nice and tidy enough to throw exception and die upon being demonstrated as irreconcilably inconsistent (most don’t bother to even pretend to care).

    Even if objective reality exists (tough philosophical nut, lol), we have no way of ascertaining its exact state. Human condition is epistemologically pathetic. Ours is the fate of blind ones seeking light by following warmth, teased by tangential, weak glimpses through our hard cataracts, we desperately chase the nonobligatory association between “warm” and “light”.

    I find these attitudes quite surprising coming from supposedly hard science believein’, nerdy science fiction fans. What would Dr. Spock say! “Reality is a myth” is incoherent. It is literally self contradictory because what is real is non-fiction and myth is fiction. It’s like saying P = ~P. It’s meaningless. And no, it is not true that all reasoning systems are inconsistent. Where do you get that? It’s just silly.

    “Even if objective reality exists” — I assure you it does. You believe it does too.

    “we have no way of ascertaining its exact state” — Fallacy. From the fact that we cannot determine the absolute position and velocity of an electron it does not follow that it does not exist.

    “Human condition is epistemologically pathetic.” — I don’t know what that means. I suspect you don’t either. Pathos is not a quality that epistemology can have, only people can experience emotions.

    “Ours is the fate of blind ones seeking light by following warmth” — I’ve no idea what that is supposed to mean either. My eyes are able to perceive light just fine but maybe you don’t mean that.

    There exists a real world that is independent of our thoughts, beliefs or language.
    If there is an objective world independent of us then there is a way that world is that is independent of our beliefs about it.
    If the world exists independent of us then we can say how that world is.
    Statements are true to the extent that they correspond to that world.

  15. Beverly:
    Your comment thread is truly impressive, Peter. Who knew you had such power to move the masses?

    That’s nothing. You should see my hate mail.

  16. (Why the name change, btw?)

    Brenda: Yes. I like your work Peter but I disagree with the philosophy. But you know that.

    I do. As I recall we argued the whole free-will/perceived reality thing at length in the past, and while I got the sense from the word go that your take came down to I feel it therefore it must be true, even you ultimately admitted

    I think that I am a self even though I arise from neurons and that I can act in the world and choose “freely” between alternatives. Even if that is untrue is seem to me I must live as though it were true.

    That last bit of which, it seems to me, kind of made my point. And the fact that we haven’t argued about this for almost a year now doesn’t hit the reset button on the validity of any of those arguments (or reluctant admissions).

    I’m also wondering where that Youtube comment came from, the one in which you claimed I wasn’t able to make it as “a real scientist”. Did we know each other in that past life? Were you familiar with my research, or the awards it got from the Canadian Society of Zoologists and the international Society for Marine Mammalogy? Or even, hell, the 93% average feedback rating I got from my students back in the day?

    Or was that one of those cases of “making shit up” you were talking about?

  17. (Why the name change, btw?)

    Different commenting systems. It’s just easier to let Word Press or whatever have it’s way than to fight it.

    “I got the sense from the word go that your take came down to I feel it therefore it must be true,”

    Well not quite. The argument is that if there is no such thing as free will then there is also no such thing as rationality because rationality depends on the ability to freely choose between alternatives based on their truth.

    In order for my belief that 2 + 2 = 4 is true to be a rational belief I have to be able to say it is true not because I was conditioned by my third grade teacher but because it is in fact true. If I have no free will how can I freely, rationally believe in the truth of *any* statement? Even if it is in fact the case that we do not have free will, we are still forced to act as though we do have free will because we cannot live our lives believing that *nothing* we do, think or say is the result of our own free choice.

    Science itself disappears. How can there be any science at all if we cannot make a rational choice between competing theories on the basis of their truth? How can any person live their lives believing nothing they have ever done was the result of their own decisions. If indeed the self is an illusion, an epiphenomena, how can anyone go through life believing that?

    You never wrote a book, never went to college, never fell in or out of love…. you never made a single decision in your entire life because you don’t exist and, even if you do exist, you have absolutely no control or agency over your life at all. It is all an illusion. How can anyone live like that? I don’t think people can.

    “I’m also wondering where that Youtube comment came from”

    Ok, sorry about that. That was wrong of me. But how can anyone seriously say that reality is an illusion? How does that make any sense at all? It’s an error that freshmen philosophy students make. So, when I saw the video, to me you were just pandering to an audience. Spinning a narrative to back up a current project or simply to be a contrarian or to be titillating or something. You can’t possibly believe that kind of New Age silliness and gibberish can you?

    If you do, I note that you pick and choose your science to support your conclusion and ignore any counter examples. But then, it isn’t like you had any choice about it. You have no free will so how could you have done anything different?

    And your response to this response is equally predetermined.

    And my future reply has also already been written and determined from the beginning of time.

    We are not actually communicating. No one is. All communication is impossible because all our responses were set long before we were ever born. We’re just mindless p-zombies blindly executing a predetermined script.

    There is no one here.

  18. I think that youtube comment was a case of “trying to get under your skin”, Peter :D

    More later

  19. Peter Watts: You sure you still want to do that?It is, after all, a deeply misogynistic story according to a reviewer over at Tor.com

    Seems like your fanboysgirls don’t agree. :D

  20. late to the party in a variety of ways so here’s a belated yay on Auroras.

    And I admit, I missed that bit about Malak. Not sure what I think about that, but I was still fond of the story, partially for its sheer strangeness.

  21. Well not quite. The argument is that if there is no such thing as free will then there is also no such thing as rationality because rationality depends on the ability to freely choose between alternatives based on their truth.

    What of it? Rationality is an abstraction, not a ‘thing’. As a behavioural descriptor, however, it continues to ‘exist’ irrespective of determinism – no freedom is required to make a choice based on perceived truth. ‘Freedom’ could be outright inimical to rationality, if it permits a choice thought to be wrong to be selected over one thought to be right.

  22. speaking of Malak, I completely missed the womb touchy-feely slant. My reaction to the gendering was “hell yeah!” because most of the time things are gendered male by default, particularly characters that can blow shit up. It didn’t occur to me to look at it in the way the reviewer did; however, I am not a nuanced reader. I made some shallow factual comments in the offensive squid malak thread in case anyone is curious.

    I got in to the story for the comp.risks aspect. anything about system design and unintended consequences is shiny and grabs my attention away from nuanced touch-feely stuff.

    okay, end of Malak tangent. back to the regular program

  23. Brenda: [snip] And no, it is not true that all reasoning systems are inconsistent. Where do you get that? It’s just silly. […]

    might be referring to the theorem that any reasoning system fancy enough to do ZF algebra can not be both consistent and complete.

    am probably mis-paraphrasing Goedel’s theorem and someone will follow up.

  24. Anonymous: What of it? Rationality is an abstraction, not a ‘thing’.

    Most people think rationality is a pretty big deal. Abstractions certainly exist. Universities, governments and cocktail parties are abstractions and they exist. You have a very impoverished ontology.

    As a behavioural descriptor, however, it continues to ‘exist’ irrespective of determinism – no freedom is required to make a choice based on perceived truth. ‘Freedom’ could be outright inimical to rationality, if it permits a choice thought to be wrong to be selected over one thought to be right.

    How would you know? You can’t know because your choices and judgments themselves are predetermined. 2 + 2 = 4 is true not because it was determined from the beginning of the the big bang that I would *believe* it is true. What makes 2 + 2 = 4 true is that it satisfies the conditions for truth in arithmetic.

    If everyone on earth was conditioned to believe that 2 + 2 = 5 is true would it (the belief that 2 + 2 = 5 is true) be true or false? How would you determine that it is false? If you were the lone person on earth who thought 2 + 2 = 5 is false and *all* of your arguments were rejected (because everyone is conditioned to believe 2 + 2 = 5 is true) …. would it still nevertheless be false?

    The answer is yes. The reason why is because 2 + 2 = 4 is necessarily true in all possible worlds. Relativism is thus refuted.

  25. Sheila: might be referring to the theorem that any reasoning system fancy enough to do ZF algebra can not be both consistent and complete.

    am probably mis-paraphrasing Goedel’s theorem and someone will follow up.

    Gödel did not show what believers in New Age woo think he did. All he showed was that there are true statements in arithmetic that cannot be proven true with the rules of arithmetic. None of this has anything to do with ontology (what does or does not exist)..

    The question at hand is one of realism. Does there exist an objective real world independent of our interests. Peter’s talk claims there is no such thing as objective reality and that such beliefs are fictional or are myths. I disagree and feel I have good arguments for my position.

    And I once again apologize for my intemperate remarks on the YouTube.

  26. Brenda:
    Ok, sorry about that. That was wrong of me. But how can anyone seriously say that reality is an illusion? How does that make any sense at all? It’s an error that freshmen philosophy students make. So, when I saw the video, to me you were just pandering to an audience. Spinning a narrative to back up a current project or simply to be a contrarian or to be titillating or something. You can’t possibly believe that kind of New Age silliness and gibberish can you?

    Firstly, it’s actually Old Age silliness and gibberish, insofar as I’m given to understand that the illusory nature of perceived reality is one of the fundamental tenets of Buddhism. Fortunately Buddhists are a pretty nonviolent lot, so you can refer to their beliefs as gibberish to their very faces and they probably won’t punch you out.

    Secondly, of course reality is illusory. If you actually listen to the talk (or for that matter just eavesdrop on this ‘crawl on its more sciencey days), you’ll encounter enough examples of that to see you through a couple of years. You have a blind spot in the center of your visual field: you do not perceive it; that’s an illusion. Someone you are having a conversation with turns into someone else when you are momentarily distracted, yet you perceive the same person throughout; that is an illusion. Your entire visual system goes offline several times a second, yet you perceive a smooth stream of input with no gaps; an illusion. Whole libraries have been written detailing the various ways our senses lie to us; you may think your gut sense of rightness is some kind of impartial arbiter of what is real, but that’s another illusion. We do not perceive things the way they are: we perceive them in a way that maximizes our fitness, and those are two totally different things.

    The Buddhists intuited it; the neuroscientists proved it; the evolutionary biologists explained it. None of this is in dispute among credible authorities. I know you don’t like it, but if reality were dictated by your personal preferences that would be an ugly illusion indeed.

    As for reality being “mythical”, if you followed the thread you’ll know that the theme of that entire colloquium revolved around “mythology”, in the sense of useful insight encoded into fiction. “Reality: the Ultimate Mythology” makes perfect sense in that context. It does not mean that nothing exists; only that we cannot trust our perception of the things that do. And seriously, if you can’t grok that, there’s no point in discussing it any further here; you gotta come back after you’ve done some relevant background reading on your own.

    We are not actually communicating. No one is. All communication is impossible because all our responses were set long before we were ever born. We’re just mindless p-zombies blindly executing a predetermined script.

    There is no one here.

    Not exactly; quantum indeterminacy leaves lots of room for random variation. But the role of a dice leaves no more room for free will than simple determinism. And I don’t actually see that you’ve made a case here: you’re simply repeating a conclusion, presumably hoping the bottom line is so abhorrent that all good-thinking folks will simply reject it without making you go to the trouble of presenting an actual argument. I think they call this “argument by incredulity”, which can pretty much be summed up by “it mustn’t be, therefore it isn’t.” I find that lacking.

    And I once again apologize for my intemperate remarks on the YouTube.

    And yet, after two such apologies, the intemperate remarks persist. In fact, you seem to have actually added to them in the interim.

  27. Neer: Seems like your fanboysgirls don’t agree. :D

    That’s heartening. I can use hearteningness, these days.

  28. Neer: Seems like your fanboysgirls don’t agree. :D

    That’s heartening. I can use hearteningness, these days.

  29. Brenda:
    How would you know? You can’t know because your choices and judgments themselves are predetermined.

    The combination of the stimuli I am exposed to and my state at the time I am exposed to them (as a consequence of previous stimuli, which can be traced back to arbitrary depth) determine my inevitable response to them, yes. This doesn’t preclude my gaining or acting on knowledge; those processes are just other predetermined interactions.

    Brenda: 2 + 2 = 4 is true not because it was determined from the beginning of the the big bang that I would *believe* it is true. What makes 2 + 2 = 4 true is that it satisfies the conditions for truth in arithmetic.

    I don’t dispute this.

    Brenda: The question at hand is one of realism. Does there exist an objective real world independent of our interests. Peter’s talk claims there is no such thing as objective reality and that such beliefs are fictional or are myths. I disagree and feel I have good arguments for my position.

    Whether or not you are correct, establishing your position as such is unlikely to be a tractable problem. The most you either of us can establish, for want of a magic objective frame of reference, is that the perceptible universe appears to be internally consistent.

  30. Peter Watts:

    Secondly, of course reality is illusory

    How does that make *any* sense? I’m sorry but that just makes my mind boggle. Worse, how can you possibly know that everything is an illusion? If you say “I know for a fact that everything is an illusion” then you have at least one thing you believe is not an illusion. Which means “Everything is an illusion” is false. If instead you say “Everything is an illusion” is itself an illusion then there is no reason for me to accept your claim since you don’t even believe it yourself.

    “If you actually listen to the talk […] you’ll encounter enough examples of that to see you through a couple of years. You have a blind spot in the center of your visual field: you do not perceive it; that’s an illusion. “

    The argument from illusion is a fallacy. From the fact that I have a blind spot or that the pencil in a glass of water is seen as bent it does not follow that I only have access to sense-data and never to the pencil itself. We perceive the world directly. Perception is an immediate or direct awareness of mind-independent physical objects or events in the external world.

    “We do not perceive things the way they are”

    Well sure but that doesn’t mean that everything is an illusion. We perceive objects directly and immediately but that doesn’t mean that they always appear exactly as they are. If there are several people observing a chair in the middle of the room each person has a different perceptual experience of the chair, each from a unique point of view but it is still the same chair.

    From the fact that perception of external objects is indirect in the sense that it involves a causal chain of events it does not follow that it must also be indirect in the sense of involving a prior awareness of something other than the external object. All you have established is the causal indirectness of perception and not cognitive indirectness.

    “None of this is in dispute among credible authorities.”

    Actually it is. Direct realism, what I am defending here, has considerable support with the added benefit of being true.

    “the theme of that entire colloquium revolved around “mythology”, in the sense of useful insight encoded into fiction. “Reality: the Ultimate Mythology” makes perfect sense in that context. It does not mean that nothing exists; only that we cannot trust our perception of the things that do.”

    That context is missing from the video I saw. However you do seem to be contradicting yourself. If it is true that reality is an illusion then yes it *does* mean that nothing real exists. The property of being real means that some thing’s existence is non-illusory. You are trying to say that 2 + 2 = 5.

    “I think they call this “argument by incredulity””

    No. I’m saying that if what you say is true then rationality is impossible. It’s impossible because rationality depends on freely choosing between alternatives on the basis their being true or false. That’s a perfectly good argument. A famous logician once wrote to Bertrand Russell to say “I have recently taken up Solipsism and am having a grand old time. I wonder why more people don’t take it up also.” Her actions give the lie to her words, as do yours.

    A determinist walks into a bar and the bartender asks him “What’ll ya have bud?” He replies “I’m a determinist, I’ll just wait and see what I order.”

  31. Anonymous: The combination of the stimuli I am exposed to and my state at the time I am exposed to them (as a consequence of previous stimuli, which can be traced back to arbitrary depth) determine my inevitable response to them, yes. This doesn’t preclude my gaining or acting on knowledge; those processes are just other predetermined interactions.

    It precludes you having any knowledge at all. Stimulus-response does not account for human language or behavior. Chomsky refuted that behaviorist canard long ago. The reason why is that if all responses are predetermined the stimulus “2 + 2″ and it’s response “4” does not represent knowledge. A calculator does not know that the correct answer is 4. It is simply a programmed response. So if you are no different than a calculator then you cannot have any knowledge that 2 + 2 = 4.

    You saying that you have such knowledge is like me saying that my PC is glad to see me because I programmed it to say hi.

    “The most you either of us can establish, for want of a magic objective frame of reference, is that the perceptible universe appears to be internally consistent.”

    Consistency is not the question at hand, existence is. If you accept that an objective reality exists that is independent of our interests then you disagree with Peter.

  32. I think you guys might be talking at cross-purposes. See, Brenda, you seem to be hung up on this “reality can’t be illusion… that’s what reality MEANS” idea.

    Except, I don’t think Peter Watts is necesarily saying that there is no, on some level, objective reality that embeds us all… merely that what we THINK of as reality, the everyday experience of everyday life, ISN’T reality, it’s just another mythology that we make up to help us deal with our lives.

    It’s like if we posited the Matrix theory… say Peter Watts was Neo, and found out it was absolutely true, we were living in a Matrix. He might tell you, blissfully living in the Matrix, “Reality is an illusion!” And you would again say “reality CAN’T be an illusion!”… and you’re both right, the problem is just that you’re using two different definitions of reality when you’re speaking.

    (Though it’s certainly at least thereotically possible that there is no objective reality, just subjective realities, unless you wanted to define “objective reality” as “the subjective reality in a given place and time or a given observer arbitrarily given preferential status”)

  33. Brenda: I find these attitudes quite surprising coming from supposedly hard science believein’, nerdy science fiction fans. What would Dr. Spock say!

    Not a Star Trek fan here, but judging from wikki and my meager ST exposures, he’d probably give you a long lecture about Godel and Lob, and use some witty metaphor to sum it up. It would probably involve lobsters.

    Brenda: “Even if objective reality exists” — I assure you it does. You believe it does too.

    Your assurance rings hollow. It’s not even notarized or something :p

    Also, please refrain from ascribing beliefs to other people – it’s not polite.

    Brenda: “we have no way of ascertaining its exact state” — Fallacy. From the fact that we cannot determine the absolute position and velocity of an electron it does not follow that it does not exist.

    Intentional misinterpretation.
    I made it quite clear that there is no causal link between two statements.

    I did not claim that reality’s existence hinges upon our ability to determine its exact state, merely that we are incapable of doing so even if it does.
    Our capacity to measure anything hinges upon our senses, which are unreliable.

    Again, dumbing down here, irrespective of whether reality “exists” or not, you’re not experiencing your reality anyway.
    You’re experiencing whatever various sensory organs and underlying unconscious (and unaudited ;) ) brain processes are “feeding” you. It does not necessarily have to correspond with reality as it is, or with anything at all. You might be hallucinating all the damn time.

    Trusting your simplest senses is a leap of faith (esp. given how glitchy they turn out, it seems ;) )

    Brenda: “Human condition is epistemologically pathetic.” — I don’t know what that means. I suspect you don’t either. Pathos is not a quality that epistemology can have, only people can experience emotions.

    1) I doubt you can prove that only people experience emotions.

    2) Pathetic
    Epistemology

    Epistemologically pathetic – being so fundamentally limited in ability to deal with issues of origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge that it arouses pity. Come on, we can’t really get past various breeds of solipsism, we have no built-in self-tests, we’re prisoners to our senses, and there is no road from is to ought.

    For crying out loud, that’s pathetic :p

    Brenda: “Ours is the fate of blind ones seeking light by following warmth” — I’ve no idea what that is supposed to mean either. My eyes are able to perceive light just fine but maybe you don’t mean that.

    Your lack of ability to properly parse rhetorical flourish is… pretty sad.

    If you are, due to a medical condition or other unpleasantry, are limited in ability to understand subtleties of human communication, such as ironic use of flamboyant phrasing, I will, of course, honor you by refraining from such turns of phrase in the future.

    Brenda: Gödel did not show what believers in New Age woo think he did. All he showed was that there are true statements in arithmetic that cannot be proven true with the rules of arithmetic. None of this has anything to do with ontology (what does or does not exist)..

    Actually, that also suggests that any meaningful decision making system (including your mind) can not assert its own soundness without losing consistency.

    Which in turn limits a mind’s ability to reason about the degree to which its internal states match “reality” without losing consistency.

    Unless you are willing to propose that biological brains are special little flowers and not subject to such limits – a proposal you’ll have to prove.

    Brenda: The question at hand is one of realism. Does there exist an objective real world independent of our interests.

    That is largely irrelevant since you can’t ascertain whether you’re experiencing that world as it is, or just having a hilarious brain tumor.

    Brenda: We are not actually communicating. No one is. All communication is impossible because all our responses were set long before we were ever born. We’re just mindless p-zombies blindly executing a predetermined script.

    You don’t need to be a mindless p-zombie to be a probabilistic machnine.

    Consider a B-RNG driven robot, and a p-robot.

    The B-RNG bot waits for a (slightly) biased pseudorandom number generator to feed it input, then, depending on exact properties of that input, it does several actions from a list of possible actions (the exact combination picked is also determined by what the RNG string looks like).

    The p-robot has none of that (neither RNG, nor any of the scripting) but somehow (PHILOSOPHER MAGIC) acts indistinguishably from the BRNG-bot with its probabilistic behavior.

    That’s basically the difference between human in a (weakly, hence RNGs, even biased ones) deterministic universe and a p-zombie

    Brenda: Perception is an immediate or direct awareness of mind-independent physical objects or events in the external world.

    Perception cannot be mind-independent, and, anyway, you couldn’t check from “within” your mental state whether your senses are truly reliable and independent.

    It’s like breaking out of a really good VM box.

  34. WWWAAAAIIIIT!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Na%C3%AFve_realism

    Direct realism ? Really ? REALLY ? After all the research into cognitive biases and sensory anomalies, after all the discoveries of how much post-processing happens before anything reaches neocortex, we’re seriously discussing direct realism as a…:)…realistic possibility?

    u gotta be trollin’

  35. ” How can anyone live like that? I don’t think people can.”
    Argument from incredulity, indeed.

  36. 01:
    WWWAAAAIIIIT!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Na%C3%AFve_realism

    Direct realism ? Really ? REALLY ? After all the research into cognitive biases and sensory anomalies, after all the discoveries of how much post-processing happens before anything reaches neocortex, we’re seriously discussing direct realism as a…:)…realistic possibility?

    u gotta be trollin’

    Argument from incredulity fallacy. And you are aware of course that the sense data theory of perception, the idea that our sense organs send data to the brain where it is then “perceived”, is utterly dead as it runs afoul of the homunculus fallacy. After all, if all we have are representations of things how can we have any knowledge of things at all?

    The simplest way around this is to say that we have direct immediate awareness of mind independent objects. Not as they are in themselves but simply unmediated by a prior awareness or reified appearance. Direct realism then is incompatible with indirect realism (sense data theory) and with Idealism and Phenomenalism.

    The claim here by Peter and presumably yourself that “reality is a myth or illusion” IS compatible with Idealism or Phenomenalism. Which, again, I find quite surprising coming from a supposedly hard sci-fi crowd.

    “Perception cannot be mind-independent”

    Of course not. I never said it could be. What I did say was that we have direct awareness of mind independent objects. Chairs and trees and galaxies exist independent of my perception of them. Again, it is surprising to me that this is controversial since the idea that reality exists independent of us is the very basis for all scientific inquiry. Indeed it is impossible to do science without that assumption.

    (continued)

  37. 01: Nota Star Trek fan here, but judging from wikki and my meager ST exposures, he’d probably give you a long lecture about Godel and Lob, and use some witty metaphor to sum it up. It would probably involve lobsters.

    Your assurance rings hollow. It’s not even notarized or something :p

    Also, please refrain from ascribing beliefs to other people – it’s not polite.

    I am not ascribing a belief to you, I know that you do not believe that objective reality does not exist. I can know this for the same reason I can know that the logician who told Russell that she was a solipsist and was perplexed that more people did not take it up also did not believe what she claimed to believe.

    “I did not claim that reality’s existence hinges upon our ability to determine its exact state, merely that we are incapable of doing so even if it does.”

    I still fail to understand what that has to do with whether or not it exists. The fact that I cannot determine the exact state of the tree does not mean it does not exist. You need to provide some sort of argument why this should be.

    “Again, dumbing down here, irrespective of whether reality “exists” or not, you’re not experiencing your reality anyway.”

    There is no such thing as “my” reality. What makes something real is that it exists objectively or independent of my own subjective thoughts or feelings.

    “You’re experiencing whatever various sensory organs and underlying unconscious (and unaudited ;) ) brain processes are “feeding” you.

    Really? So…. I am a little person in my head who receives this processed data? But…. how does the little person in my head perceive the data it is being fed? Is there another little person inside the head of the little person inside my head? But….. don’t we then need yet another little person inside the head of the little person inside the head of the little person inside my head?

    Sigh…. I fear this is not going well.

    “Come on, we can’t really get past various breeds of solipsism, we have no built-in self-tests, we’re prisoners to our senses, and there is no road from is to ought. “

    That you can’t see your way past solipsism does not mean no one can. Your solipsism, the idea that there exists only one conscious mind , one’s own, is instantly refuted by me. All I need do is reflect on my own existence. The Is/Ought distinction is irrelevant to this discussion.

    “any meaningful decision making system (including your mind) can not assert its own soundness without losing consistency.”

    Rationality does not consist in algorithms for decision making. Just as a theory of truth will not give you an algorithm for discovering which propositions are true, a theory of rationality will not give you an algorithm for making rational choices.

    Rationality is not a matter of obeying rules.

    “That [objective reality] is largely irrelevant since you can’t ascertain whether you’re experiencing that world as it is, or just having a hilarious brain tumor.”

    I don’t know what “experiencing the world as it is” means. It sounds dangerously close to Kant’s noumenal realm. Part of his theory of transcendental idealism. I’m pretty sure that if I drink a glass of water my experience is that of drinking a glass of water and not that of drinking motor oil. I don’t know what adding “as it is” does for us.

    The argument from hallucination fails to refute direct realism. It employs the principle that if x and y are phenomenally indistinguishable, x and y are ontologically indistinguishable. But why should this be? Why should phenomenology be a reliable guide to ontology? There are many counter examples. The glass of water above could just as well be XYZ. A substance that is in every phenomenal respect identical to H2O. A hologram could appear indistinguishable from a true perception but this gives us no compelling reason to suppose that the objects of awareness in hallucination and in (veridical) perception are ontologically of the same category.

    “That’s basically the difference between human in a (weakly, hence RNGs, even biased ones) deterministic universe and a p-zombie”

    You have not shown this is true, you’ve merely asserted that it is and you’ve cited a movie, the Terminator, as supporting your claim. The movie is fiction and therefore I do not accept a fictional robot as proving your case. You need to provide an argument. Not merely point to cool robots from your childhood fantasies.

  38. I know this appears horribly off-topic (scientists use lasers to control lightning):

    http://scifi.sparklist.com/t/21988/191555/4690/3/

    Back to our regular programming, I see that there’s another comment over at Tor.

  39. Brenda: Argument from incredulity fallacy.

    That would only be an argument from incredulity if I hadn’t elaborated, in the same post, why exactly is direct realism so unthinkable, specifically, due to all the unreliability in both the sensory organs and the neural structures they are connected to.

    Brenda: And you are aware of course that the sense data theory of perception, the idea that our sense organs send data to the brain where it is then “perceived”, is utterly dead as it runs afoul of the homunculus fallacy. After all, if all we have are representations of things how can we have any knowledge of things at all?

    Well, let’s break it down to simpler bits

    1) Sensory organs are faulty Y/N ?
    2) Numerous different structures in the nervous system are involved in parsing signals from the sensory organs Y/N ?
    3) If 2 is true, those structures are also quite faulty and have many documented persistent anomalies and failure modes Y/N?

    If 1, 2 and 3 all are “Y”, then how are you going to go about asserting that we can have a “direct realist” experience, with so many glitches, cruft and poorly managed post-processing involved in parsing data from “real world”?

    You don’t need to bring in Homunculus model to point out that both sensory organs and structures processing input from those are incredibly glitchy and prone to errors which are hard to recover from.

    Brenda: The simplest way around this is to say that we have direct immediate awareness of mind independent objects. Not as they are in themselves but simply unmediated by a prior awareness or reified appearance.

    I have no idea whether what I experience has been subject to prior awareness. In fact, I can’t prove, with any degree of certainty, that my experience of “apple” is indeed product of me interacting with an object in the “real world” and not, say, a hallucination of some kind. I could be lying in my bed, dying of stroke, with my entire life history past some unknown point being just something damaged, dying brain brought about. How could I prove otherwise ?

    I don’t have a POST routine on my sensory organs or any of the structures involved in processing sensory data. If you have some kind of POST routine implemented somehow, I’d like you to describe its operation in detail :)

    Brenda: Chairs and trees and galaxies exist independent of my perception of them.

    Can you prove it ? I mean, your best shot would be that I too experience them… but I might be a figment of your imagination too :)

    Brenda: I am not ascribing a belief to you, I know that you do not believe that objective reality does not exist

    You wouldn’t believe how serious I am about my moral and epistemological relativism :) No, seriously, I don’t “believe” in an objective reality. I just believe that it is a pedantic point that hardly matters outside very exotic circumstances (which so far are strictly sci-fi and horror material).

    Brenda: The fact that I cannot determine the exact state of the tree does not mean it does not exist.

    You also can not ascertain that it is indeed a tree and that it is indeed present at the location at which you happen to see it. Even if we assume that real world exists, the accuracy of our perception in regards to it can not be ascertained.

    You can “claim” there is a tree because you “see” a tree. That does not mean that there is a tree, only that you happen to have this experience (subjective) of seeing a tree.

    The question about whether “real” world “objectively” exists is irrelevant if you can’t trust senses that you use to take a look at it. It only matters if your senses and the nervous system that processes their input are reliable. Good luck with that one.

    Brenda: What makes something real is that it exists objectively or independent of my own subjective thoughts or feelings.

    How would you ascertain that something exists objectively?

    Again, the question about whether “real” world “objectively” exists is irrelevant if you can’t trust senses that you use to take a look at it.

    Brenda: Really? So…. I am a little person in my head who receives this processed data? But…. how does the little person in my head perceive the data it is being fed? Is there another little person inside the head of the little person inside my head? But….. don’t we then need yet another little person inside the head of the little person inside the head of the little person inside my head?

    Sigh…. I fear this is not going well.

    Oh come on, I admit to occasionally using “you” as a shorthand for the brain, since, you know, that’s pretty much the “seat” of your wonderful self. Language habits…

    the point isn’t whether you operate as a homunculus of some sort, the point is that signals arriving from the sensory organs and the integrity of said organs are in no way verified. Same goes for structures in your brain that deal with processing said data – neither the signals they receive nor their own integrity is verified (and it appears that, if one is to trust one’s experiences with mad people, the integrity of those faculties is oftentimes compromised :D )

    Brenda: That you can’t see your way past solipsism does not mean no one can. Your solipsism, the idea that there exists only one conscious mind , one’s own, is instantly refuted by me. All I need do is reflect on my own existence.

    Which does jack and shit for my solipsism, since your claims can be very well my own figments of imagination, or whatever. Brains in jars.

    Brenda: Rationality does not consist in algorithms for decision making. Just as a theory of truth will not give you an algorithm for discovering which propositions are true, a theory of rationality will not give you an algorithm for making rational choices.

    Rationality is not a matter of obeying rules.

    Are you proposing that human rational thought is somehow special and not subject to limitations of Godel et al ?

    Brenda: A hologram could appear indistinguishable from a true perception but this gives us no compelling reason to suppose that the objects of awareness in hallucination and in (veridical) perception are ontologically of the same category.

    Depends strictly on our ability to distinguish the hypothetical holograms/hallucinations.

    You don’t get a nice floating warning sign “WARNING: HALLUCINATION IN PROGRESS”, so you won’t be able to distinguish your hallucination from “normal” sensory experience, thus rendering your attempt to reliably separate hallucinations and “genuine” experiences into separate ontological categories moot.

    Simply speaking, there are no genuine experiences, only varying kinds of hallucinations (allegedly, some of those might actually be “real experiences” resulting from “actual interaction with reality”, but I have no tools that would reliably detect multimodal hallucinations as opposed to the “real deal” things).
    As long as my maybe-hallucinations are consistent enough for me to develop a line of behavior that maximizes my enjoyment of them, I’m fine :D

    Brenda: You have not shown this is true, you’ve merely asserted that it is and you’ve cited a movie, the Terminator, as supporting your claim.

    WAAAAAT?

    WAIT A MINUTE, WHERE THE FUCK EXACTLY DID I CITE TERMINATOR ?

    As far as I recall T1 and T2 (I hear there was going to be a T3, but I can’t recall what happened to that one…) it does not dwell upon robots equipped with random number generators (perhaps biased ones) to achieve really probabilistic behavior.

    The point of comparing a B-RNG bot (B-RNG = biased random number generator bot, a machine the actions of which are chosen depending upon input from an imperfect random number generator. You can build such at home, using a starter DIY robotics kit, a webcam, a smoke detector, and a bit of coding skills) and a hypothetical p-bot (a strictly hypothetical p-zombie of a robot, which acts in exactly same probabilistic manner yet has none of the code or the hardware) was to highlight that “blindly executing predetermined script” is neither necessary nor sufficient for being a p-zombie, one can very well be a crude machine you can build in under an hour and stil not be a p-zombie, and one can hypothetically be a p-zombie implementation of such a device (magically having same behaviors while lacking both hardware and “internal” software states associated with it) as long as we’re ready to entertain the possibility of p-zombie implementation of any decision making process.

    Assertion regarding humans being pretty much equivalent to the poor random-number-generator driven scripted bot was just a side dish. Honestly, I consider humans to be machines with probabilistic decision making, nothing more nothing less, and see no reasonable alternative to that outlook (alternative hypothesis would be to propose that we have magical properties a-la soul or superturing decision making, but I see no reason to suspect such qualities in humans)

  40. @ Brenda

    Oh, let’s do a thought experiment, shall we ?
    Let’s say tomorrow you look into the mirror and see a 30 cm glossy squid floating near your head, singing weird songs. It’s quite friendly and talkative so you can ask it questions.

    You can only see it in the mirror (but you hear it all the time). Nobody else sees or hears it. The squid asserts that it is intentionally hiding itself from people, except you.

    How would you go about proving the nonexistence of the flying squid ?

  41. I wander off, and this gets interesting.

    Unless he has radically changed his thinking in the last few years, Dr. Watts believes that there is an underlying reality that while we may misperceive it or disagree about what it contains, exists independent of you and me. Or so he told me off-channel.

    I would be really interested if he has changed his mind on that one. Also, a little surprised.

    @Sheila, thanks for the malek discussion link. It reminded me of good times past on the board. How can I retrieve my password, do you know?

  42. 01: That would only be an argument from incredulity if I hadn’t elaborated, in the same post, why exactly is direct realism so unthinkable, specifically, due to all the unreliability in both the sensory organs and the neural structures they are connected to.

    You are confusing direct realism with naïve realism. Direct realism claims that perception is the immediate or direct awareness of mind independent objects without any kind of prior awareness (a reified appearance, sense-datum, sensum, idea, quality-instance, species), It does not say that objects always appear exactly as they are. Naïve realism *does* make such a claim and so the objection that a pencil appears to us as bent in a glass of water even though it is not or that our senses are otherwise unreliable would indeed defeat naïve realism.

    Indirect realism is the claim that all we can ever know are sense data. That we can never know things as they are in themselves but only mediated by a prior awareness or faculty. Indirect realism would then say that we can have knowledge about external objects to the extent that our sense data corresponds to to the external world.

    Idealism and phenomenology claim that all we can ever know are ideas. They deny that mind independent objects exist at all. Idealism would say that perceived objects are ontologically dependent on their being perceived. Phenomenology that the objects of perception depend on the possibility of being perceived.

    Both forms of realism are at odds with both kinds of idealism. I take “reality is a myth” to be asserting some form of either idealism or phenomenalism. It is hucksters like DeePak Chopra that typically peddle this kind of quantum woo and it’s kinda surprising coming from a so-called hard sci-fi author and his fans.

    —————–

    The argument from illusion (the pencil in water appears bent) begs the question.

    It involves a question-begging assumption that if something appears F (the pencil is bent) to subject S, then S is immediately aware of something that is F, an assumption explicitly rejected by those direct realists who hold that object O may appear F to S, even though O is not F.

  43. 01: If 1, 2 and 3 all are “Y”, then how are you going to go about asserting that we can have a “direct realist” experience, with so many glitches, cruft and poorly managed post-processing involved in parsing data from “real world”?

    Because I am not claiming that I can perceive the world without error.

    “In fact, I can’t prove, with any degree of certainty, that my experience of “apple” is indeed product of me interacting with an object in the “real world” and not, say, a hallucination of some kind.”

    The argument from hallucination also fails to refute direct realism. Though it does defeat naïve realism.

    From the fact that I see pink elephants but that (1) no physical pink elephants appear before me and that (2) I am aware of *something* we do not need to conclude that (3) sense data (or the like) are the objects of immediate awareness when I hallucinate pink elephants. Why? Because (3) does not follow deductively from (1) and (2) nor is it the only viable explanation of (1) and (2). Direct realists can account for (1) and (2) without conjuring up such strange things like sense-data.

    “I don’t have a POST routine on my sensory organs or any of the structures involved in processing sensory data.”

    Of course you don’t. You are not a computer. Consciousness is not the result of computation and the brain does not do data processing.

    “Can you prove it ?” (that objects exist independent of our perception of them.)

    I can give consistent and rational arguments for my ideas about ontology and believe that I have done so.

    “Simply speaking, there are no genuine experiences, only varying kinds of hallucinations”

    I’m pretty sure that hallucinations are indeed genuine experiences of hallucinations. What else could they be?

    “WAIT A MINUTE, WHERE THE FUCK EXACTLY DID I CITE TERMINATOR ?”

    I did not know what you were referring to so I guessed.

    ““blindly executing predetermined script” is neither necessary nor sufficient for being a p-zombie”

    Philosophical zombies do not exist. The concept is self contradictory because it is assumed that the physical body is not what produces subjective experiences which is what p-zombies are supposed to prove.

    “Honestly, I consider humans to be machines with probabilistic decision making, nothing more nothing less”

    You have yet to produce a valid argument to support your assertion.

  44. Brenda: I take “reality is a myth” to be asserting some form of either idealism or phenomenalism.

    Not necessarily. You see, my interpretation of this statement is that, simply, the question as to existence of reality is pedantic, as well as largely irrelevant, since both structures involved in perception and structures involved in processing of sensory information are notoriously faulty. Reality might very well exist in the absolute pedantic philosophical sense (after all, even if you are a brain in a jar connected to a VR system of some sort, outside reality would still techinically exist – it would just be very incongruent compared to your simulated experience) but the damned futility of our senses kind of renders it mythological, in a way.

    BTW, “myth” does not necessarily indicate completely fictional nature. There have been actual historical figures that have been later heavily mythologized (pretty much the intent of any personality cult propaganda machine)

    The question regarding the existence of reality matters only to the extent to which you can do fault detection in your perception of said reality.

    Brenda: It is hucksters like DeePak Chopra that typically peddle this kind of quantum woo and it’s kinda surprising coming from a so-called hard sci-fi author and his fans.

    Well, no one so far has proposed leveraging various solipsistic shenanigans to heal self with pooowwwwaaa offff miiiind or something :D

    Brenda: Because I am not claiming that I can perceive the world without error.

    If the way by which you percieve the world is faulty, your resultant worldview would be, for all intents and purposes, fiction.
    Reality, for you, would be a kind of myth, despite the technical existence of some kind of “outside world” which you so faultily percieve

    Brenda: From the fact that I see pink elephants but that (1) no physical pink elephants appear before me and that (2) I am aware of *something* we do not need to conclude that (3) sense data (or the like) are the objects of immediate awareness when I hallucinate pink elephants.

    I gotta challenge (1).
    How exactly did you learn that no physical pink elephants are present ? Do you have a specialsauce “physical presence detector” ?

    Brenda: Of course you don’t. You are not a computer. Consciousness is not the result of computation and the brain does not do data processing.

    Pray tell, are you one of the OrchOR proponents who claim that brain can go beyond algorithmic reasoning and is not subject to constraints of formal systems (thus essentially becoming a kind of hypercomputer system) ?

    And later proceed to propose a rather ill-construed quantum explanation for alleged hypercomputational phenomena ?

    Brenda: I’m pretty sure that hallucinations are indeed genuine experiences of hallucinations. What else could they be?

    They could be genuine experiences of real world, percieved with a degree of error. in fact, something that I deem to be a hallucination might “actually” be a 100% correct, unadulterated experience of “actual reality”

    I don’t have a magical assistant to tell me how much a given experience corresponds to “actual state of affairs”, so deciding whether I am having a “genuine hallucination” or a “genuine experience of reality” is pretty damn hard, in some cases impossible.

    Brenda: Philosophical zombies do not exist. The concept is self contradictory because it is assumed that the physical body is not what produces subjective experiences which is what p-zombies are supposed to prove.

    If you bothered to read what I wrote, you would have known that I have indicated that p-zombies (and thus p-z bot) are used as purely hypothetical constructs. Thus, I do not see what you are trying to achieve with this remark, beyond making my claim regarding the practicality of p-z versions (of humans or robots or anything else) slightly more explcit

    Brenda: You have yet to produce a valid argument to support your assertion.

    Alternative hypotheses involve either hypercomputation (allegations regarding non-computable functions being performed by fleshy mathematicians) or outright magic (souls).

    Sorry, but given that kind of “competition”, I provisionally chose computational mind as hypothesis of favor based on Occam’s razor and the fact that there is no “workable” hypercomputer proposal known to date, and some solid arguments as to physical impossibility of hypercomputational systems.

    History will show who is right and who is not, eventually.

  45. The problem with Occam’s razor, as I understand it, is that how the alternatives are defined determines which is the simpler explanation, and when one favors one alternative explanation over another already, one is likely to define it as simpler than the others. Agreeing on the definitions of the various held positions alone is quite a task since they may be based on sub-beliefs that cannot be agreed upon.

    Or no?

  46. Kinda.

    But the main problem with OR is that it’s a heuristic, not some kind of Ye Grande Natural Law forged by Ye Olde Yog-Sothothe. So even if you are super-careful with definitions and framing, Occam can “get stuff wrong” in some cases.

    Still, it’s a decent heuristic and a good bullshit detector, especially when used in conjunction with other arguments (hence “and the fact” part :) )

  47. 01: You see, my interpretation of this statement is that, simply, the question as to existence of reality is pedantic, as well as largely irrelevant, since both structures involved in perception and structures involved in processing of sensory information are notoriously faulty.

    This sentence is incoherent. The reason is because if reality does not exist then you cannot talk in any meaningful or coherent way about the structures involved in perception since the very idea that we take in information through our sense presumes the existence of an external world.

    The sentence “Reality is an illusion” is logically incoherent.

    ““myth” does not necessarily indicate completely fictional nature”

    That’s exactly what it means. All myths are fictional accounts of real or imagined people, place or events.

    “The question regarding the existence of reality matters only to the extent to which you can do fault detection in your perception of said reality. “

    No. If reality does not exist you cannot do science at all. Which one would think was of some importance to science fiction writers and their fans.

    “If the way by which you percieve the world is faulty, your resultant worldview would be, for all intents and purposes, fiction.”

    FALSE. My perception of radio waves or of the interior of the sun is more than merely faulty. It’s positively nonexistent and yet I can know for a fact that radio waves exist and know the nature of the sun’s core. I can know these things because there is an external world that exists independent of my wishes. I do not need to be able to perceive microwaves or black holes to know they exist and to have knowledge about their workings.

    “How exactly did you learn that no physical pink elephants are present ?”

    It is a stipulation of the argument from hallucination that a hallucination is a visual perception of an object that is not physically present.

    “are you one of the OrchOR proponents”

    No.

    “They [hallucinations] could be genuine experiences of real world,”

    No they could not because then they wouldn’t be hallucinations would they? You cannot have a hallucination that is not a hallucination. Your arguments are incoherent and do not rise to the level of even bad logic.

    “If you bothered to read what I wrote, you would have known that I have indicated that p-zombies (and thus p-z bot) are used as purely hypothetical constructs. “

    It does not matter. If an argument is self contradictory it does not matter if it is hypothetical or not. It is invalid. Contradiction immediately invalidates any and every argument. David Chalmers’ p zombies are self contradictory and therefore any argument that depends on them is invalid.

    “Alternative hypotheses involve either hypercomputation (allegations regarding non-computable functions being performed by fleshy mathematicians) or outright magic (souls).”

    No they don’t, and…. that is not a valid argument because it is an example of the argument from ignorance fallacy or the false dilemma fallacy. Your claim that A must be true because B and C are unacceptable is a fallacy.

    “History will show who is right and who is not, eventually.”

    It won’t be you because your claims are either literally incoherent or else they are textbook examples of logical fallacies.

  48. That the pink elephants weren’t there wasn’t actually stipulated, except by you, which is what’s being challenged.

    The whole point is that we don’t know whether the pink elephants are real or not.

    You say you can KNOW radio waves exist and the nature of the sun. But you can’t. Because you can’t know for sure that everything you’ve learned about radio waves isn’t a hallucination, that every time you’ve heard the radio, it wasn’t a hallucination. Assuming that it is may give you no useful predictions, but whether something gives you useful predictions has no bearing on whether or not it’s true.

    [i]““myth” does not necessarily indicate completely fictional nature”

    That’s exactly what it means. All myths are fictional accounts of real or imagined people, place or events.[/i]

    And, in the case of fictional accounts of real people, it doesn’t indicate COMPLETELY fictional nature. It indicates partially real and partially fiction. Again, when people say ‘reality is myth’, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t some real reality that is true, what it means is that what people typically think of as reality is, in large part, a fictional reconstruction – our senses and memory are faulty enough that this is true even if the majority of what we think exists actually exists. Insisting that people can mean only exactly what you mean and that their argument is wrong because of it is never very convincing.

  49. Brenda: This sentence is incoherent. The reason is because if reality does not exist then you cannot talk in any meaningful or coherent way about the structures involved in perception since the very idea that we take in information through our sense presumes the existence of an external world.

    I do think that I have already mentioned that you don’t need to actually know whether you experience “reality” in order to build a coherent plan of action.

    You might be very well 100% hallucinating, but as long as your hallucinations are coherent enough, you can meaningfully “act” in regards to them (of course, such actions will be “imaginary”, but who the fuck cares ?)

    Peter D: That’s exactly what it means. All myths are fictional accounts of real or imagined people, place or events.

    If the “mythologized” account is of a real person, then by definition it is already not entirely fictional, is it ?

    Oh, D already said this. Ah well, I’ll repeat anyway.

    Brenda: No. If reality does not exist you cannot do science at all.

    See above. As long as my hallucinations are consistent enough, there is no practical reason for me to care about whether there is a “real” reality.
    Scientific method may be the best way of interacting with this brand of hallucinations, for all I care. Not like I can pick and choose a different hallucination where Eldritch Magics would be effective.

    Brenda: FALSE. My perception of radio waves or of the interior of the sun is more than merely faulty. It’s positively nonexistent and yet I can know for a fact that radio waves exist and know the nature of the sun’s core.

    (seconding D again)

    FALSE because you can’t know whether your experience of relevant equipment and physical models is not experience of interacting with a large, coherent halucination.

    Brenda: I can know these things because there is an external world that exists independent of my wishes.

    There’s no particular reason why everything you know couldn’t be a large set of hallucinations (which can very well be outside your control)

    Brenda: It is a stipulation of the argument from hallucination that a hallucination is a visual perception of an object that is not physically present.

    1) hallucinations are not necessarily limited to visual (would be pretty easy to detect them if they were)

    (seconding D again)

    2) There is no stipulation that you, the person experiencing the pink elephants, are aware of their nature. The person experiencing the hallucination (quite obviously) does not get to experience the wonderful third-party perspective of someone running a thought experiment.

    The person seeing the pink elephants is has no way of detecting their hallucinatory nature during the experience beyond randomly guessing.

    Trying to weasel out of the argument sideways, aren’t you :D ?

    Brenda: No they could not because then they wouldn’t be hallucinations would they? You cannot have a hallucination that is not a hallucination. Your arguments are incoherent and do not rise to the level of even bad logic.

    Since hallucinations don’t come with neat labels, I can’t know whether something I experience is a genuine experience or a hallucination.
    Thus, from the perspective of someone experiencing the situation, something he deems hallucination might “actually” be real and something he deems real might “actually” be a hallucination – there is no practical way to tell those apart “from the inside”.
    That’s the whole fucking point – one’s own experience can be unmarried from whatever hypothetical “actual” reality that might exist to an arbitrary degree, and the person won’t be able to tell.

    Brenda: It does not matter. If an argument is self contradictory it does not matter if it is hypothetical or not. It is invalid. Contradiction immediately invalidates any and every argument. David Chalmers’ p zombies are self contradictory and therefore any argument that depends on them is invalid.

    Are you, by chance, an Objectivist?

    Rand had similar attitude to highly abstract thought experiments.

    Anyway, my only goal, when concocting the comparison of (explicitly magical) hypothetical p-zombie robot to a realistic robot anyone can build at home was to refute your claim regarding that in a deterministic universe, everyone would be a scripted p-zombie automaton. Which I think I did okay (and you further contributed to this very effort by lashing out against use of postulated hypothetical p-z constructs).
    ”’Do note that I am not challenging the scripted automaton part of your claim, only the p-zombie part :D ”’

    Besides, under certain (plausible) assumptions, constructs that are sufficiently p-zombie like could exist (but they won’t fully satisfy the exact equivalence clause of “strong” p-z proposal) but that’s a different story.

    Brenda: No they don’t, and…. that is not a valid argument because it is an example of the argument from ignorance fallacy or the false dilemma fallacy. Your claim that A must be true because B and C are unacceptable is a fallacy.

    FALSE.

    I did not explicitly assign truth values (aka must be true), and explictly indicated provisional hypothesis choice.

    You see, reallistically, one can’t investigate all conceivable hypotheses – that’s impractical, so, under situation of uncertainity one could evaluate available hypotheses and choose a provisional one based on its comparative quality. One acknowledges that this choice, being provisional can be wrong (a new theoretical framework, better than any previously known can surface, evidence in favor of one of “provisionally discarded” hypotheses might surface, entire worldview of the one doing the chosing might be 100% hallucination, etc. ;) )

    It just so happens that of all the hypotheses I know, the family of hypotheses that involves “computable mind” is the most reasonable one (OrchOR would be a good second choice if it wasn’t based on an extremely exotic unconfirmed premise and did not require a whole new family of quantum effects that have never been documented)

    If you have a theory of non-computable mind that would require neither magical souls nor hyperturing superpowers, I would be very glad to hear you out.

    Perhaps you have a theory that would be a better provisional choice, or something :)

    Brenda: It won’t be you because your claims are either literally incoherent or else they are textbook examples of logical fallacies.

    Only if misinterpreted by someone who seems to have a perverse attachment to the concept of “strongly free choice” and “personal responsibility” ;)

  50. Peter D: Again, when people say ‘reality is myth’, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t some real reality that is true, what it means is that what people typically think of as reality is, in large part, a fictional reconstruction – our senses and memory are faulty enough that this is true even if the majority of what we think exists actually exists. Insisting that people can mean only exactly what you mean and that their argument is wrong because of it is never very convincing.

    I’d just like to quote this so that to make it more apparent, since it pretty nicely sums it up I think

    Thanks PD :)

  51. Hljóðlegur, Peter D., and 01 are correct in their understanding of my take on reality.

    Brenda, as far as I can tell, isn’t even wrong: she’s not even speaking the same damn language.

    Much of this seems to be semantic nitpicking: “Reality is a hallucination” is a perfectly legitimate thumbnail. It’s not “logically incoherent”, as Brenda asserts; it is not the claim that “the real is unreal”. It’s just easier to say than “everything we experience is filtered through faulty equipment and is therefore unreliable, and because the only way we can parse existence is through our error-ridden senses, we are unable to know for sure what reality is.” Most folks in the audience get that. Brenda’s response to questions like How do you know that the pink elephant is a hallucination all seem to boil down to Because I know it’s not real — which is a dangerous tack to take when you’ve accused everyone else in the house of logical incoherence.

    On the other hand, I do not understand how someone who readily admits that our senses are unreliable can, at the same time, state that she knows — “for a fact”! — the nature of the sun’s core. When asked if she has some kind of hyperspatial truth-detector against which to calibrate our admittedly-unreliable senses, the response generally falls along the lines of if we can’t know this stuff is true then science is impossible. Which is not only yet another iteration of it-mustn’t-be-therefore-it-isn’t; it also betrays a profound ignorance of what science even is.

    Science is predicated on disproof, on conditional acceptance. Science never makes claims of absolute certainty; we could be wrong about anything. The trustworthiness of our senses is just another model, accepted because it yields consistent results when put to the test. But sometimes our senses don’t yield consistent results: people swear that their limbs belong to someone else, or that they cannot see when they can, or that they floated to the ceiling of the OR and looked down at their anesthetized body. Science looks at those exceptions, and pokes around in brains, and explains them all — and yes, since those findings arise from data that can only be parsed through unreliable senses, they could be wrong. But so what? Science doesn’t claim to be Truth. It only claims to work; and when it stops working, we’ll look for something else.

    The thing is, all this stuff is obvious. The substance of Brenda’s arguments have been refuted repeatedly in these comments (which may be why she chooses to focus on semantics instead). She’s obviously not a stupid person by any stretch; my guess is that there’s something more personal going on. She’s invested in this, to the point of actually making ignorant personal digs about my competence as a scientist even before anyone had started debating about anything. It’s not consistent with someone who merely differs in opinion; it’s more consistent with someone who feels personally threatened, somehow.

    As to her take on determinism and free will, I laid down a challenge a year ago: if we truly do have free will, then show me where it might fit. Show me any component of the central nervous system whose behavior isn’t solely and predictably a result of inputs and action potentials. Show me anything that isn’t either deterministic or stochastic. Then we can talk about free will.

    She didn’t have an answer last year. Until she comes up with one, I don’t see the point of continuing to engage.

  52. I hate to play any sort of advocate here, but—though I disagree with Brenda—I think I understand where she is coming from. To say that we cannot *know* reality is, to some people, tantamount to saying that order is pointless, nothing matters, why bother with things like following the law, respecting authority and things like ownership? It’s scary to the authoritarian mind to undermine reality itself, and most of us are hardwired to be authoritarian (most likely because one of those previous scary theories—evolution—found that survival in our distant past required cooperation, and those who didn’t have the wiring for that were not the fittest for that time, were weeded out by circumstance). It’s an argument, these people think, for anarchy and / or nihilism.

    All of which is another way of saying, “It can’t be, therefore it isn’t.” And that’s a difficult kind of denial to break free from, to deprogram oneself from, to say that the evidence points elsewhere and accept it, to stare that fear in the face and say, “That’s what it has to be, denying it does not make it untrue.”

    My personal experience with a similar phenomenon came from watching *Robocop* (the first two, I think) and *Starship Troopers* when they came out. There was an accepted trope (I think it’s a trope) of a sort of callousness toward large (sometimes not so large) numbers of people meeting their demise. A sort of accepted inhumanity (largely based, I infer, on the idea that increasing population causes humans to become less sensitive to the plights of others). There were long debates about that with the friend I saw the movies with and little about the plots otherwise.

    It’s all about that damn lizard brain and offering a non-threatening view on these discoveries to those who would rather bury their heads in the sand and ignore it, or try to force-fit us all back into the “good ol’ days”, as if there actually are any or even if there were in the relative sense, that that is possible.

  53. Peter Watts: It’s just easier to say than “everything we experience is filtered through faulty equipment and is therefore unreliable, and because the only way we can parse existence is through our error-ridden senses, we are unable to know for sure what reality is.”

    If “Reality is a hallucination” is the same as “we are unable to know for sure what reality is” what you are then arguing for is Kant’s transcendental idealism. “Reality exists but we can never know what it is, only our ideas about it” IS idealism and renders science (knowledge) impossible.

    It is also incoherent. Saying that we can never know things in themselves, noumena, only their phenomenal aspect is like saying that I have two cars in my garage. A phenomenal car that I can see, hear and touch and an invisible noumenal car that is infinity removed from any possible perception and that I can never have *any* knowledge of.

    You cannot do science if you cannot know what is real.

    “Brenda’s response to questions like How do you know that the pink elephant is a hallucination all seem to boil down to Because I know it’s not real”

    Logical arguments are not scientific experiments. Philosophical thought experiments are intended to reveal logical errors in a particular position. I know that the pink elephant is a hallucination because it is *stipulated* as part of the argument that it is a hallucination. The argument depends on it being a hallucination, that’s the whole point. Which is to show that direct realism cannot distinguish between hallucination and reality. There has to *be* such a thing as a hallucination in order for the argument to work, if it does.

    Your claims, those of various people here, are far more radical than that. You really do appear to be saying there is no such thing as reality *or* that if it does exist we can never know it. That is a very radical skepticism about knowledge. One that is not accepted by ANY philosopher or scientist of rank I’m aware of. Most scientists today are in the indirect realist camp. That even while our senses are unreliable we can still know facts about the world.

    “We are unable to know for sure what reality is” renders science impossible. The claim that “we are unable to know for sure what reality is” is backed up with an appeal to scientific knowledge about the world. So the argument advanced by Peter and others here is “we are unable to know for sure what reality is and here are facts about reality to prove I am right”.

    That is a flat out contradiction and the claim is therefore false.

    “I do not understand how someone who readily admits that our senses are unreliable can, at the same time, state that she knows — “for a fact”! — the nature of the sun’s core.”

    The same way that Galileo knew the earth revolved around the sun without having seen it actually do so. The same way that we can have any knowledge at all. Reason. We have certain well established facts about nuclear reactions which allow us to know what is happening in places we cannot go. Such as the interior of the sun or beyond the event horizon of a black hole.

    “Science never makes claims of absolute certainty”

    But there are things that we can know with absolute certainty. 2 + 2 = 4 is one, if P then Q, P therefore Q another. Mathematical and logical relations *are* examples of absolute certainty. I reject relativism “What’s true for you is true for you and what’s true for me is true for me”. No, if a claim is true then it is true regardless of anyone’s opinion or feelings.

    Scientific knowledge is legitimate knowledge. Scientific knowledge is knowledge about objective reality. Reality exists objectively, that is it’s mode of existence, it exists independent of our needs, wants or desires.

    “The trustworthiness of our senses is just another model, accepted because it yields consistent results when put to the test.”

    How do you know? According you, you CAN’T know. You cannot appeal to the trustworthiness of our senses to prove that our senses are to be trusted.

    “But sometimes our senses don’t yield consistent results”

    It is a fallacy to say that because our senses can give inconsistent results that therefore we can never know anything.

    “Science doesn’t claim to be Truth. It only claims to work; and when it stops working, we’ll look for something else.”

    I reject the pragmatic theory of truth. Truth is objectively real. Only sentences can be true or false. “Science” is not a sentence. It is the label we give to a collection of true facts about the world. Which means that “The earth revolves around the sun” is an objectively true sentence that remains true regardless of what people may believe.

    “The morning star is the evening star” is also objectively true. There is nothing pragmatic about the statement. It doesn’t “work”, it actually *is* true.

    “The substance of Brenda’s arguments have been refuted repeatedly in these comments”

    I see no argument at all much less a refutation. Perhaps I am slow so maybe someone could put these refutations into a syllogism so that my poor brain can comprehend their profound truth.

    “She’s invested in this, to the point of actually making ignorant personal digs about my competence as a scientist”

    But…. you’re not a scientist. You’re an artist. You write fiction. I enjoy your artistic works. When you cay things like “Reality is an illusion” (I assume this is an acceptable restatement) I am not required to agree with you. Or to even think that makes any kind of coherent sense when it does not. Saying that reality is illusory and that we can never know it’s true nature is *literally* incomprehensible to me. It makes no sense at all. I am not kidding around.

    When people try to tell me how it could be that reality is an illusion I cannot make their arguments cohere. I say so. People then get upset because they are unable to convince me of the truth of what they say. So they say it louder, which I guess makes it true. I disagree.

    “It’s not consistent with someone who merely differs in opinion; it’s more consistent with someone who feels personally threatened, somehow.”

    Or it could be consistent with someone who is actually correct attempting to deal (sometimes not so successfully) with those who are emotionally invested in the truth of *their* beliefs. You seem to be arguing that you are correct and I am wrong but if your claim that reality is a myth that we construct for ourselves but can never know then there is no such thing as “truth” and therefore neither one of us are correct. It *must* be the case that we are both emotionally invested in our own mythical interpretation of reality and since there is no outside objective reality to which either of us can appeal your claim that I am wrong is just as false as mine.

    “I laid down a challenge a year ago: if we truly do have free will, then show me where it might fit. “

    That is a separate problem from whether or not reality is an illusion. Or whether the strong AI hypothesis is true. Or whether relativist or pragmatic theories of truth make sense. I don’t have a good answer for the problem of free will but that doesn’t invalidate my other claims. My best possible answer is that even if we do not have free will we have to act as if it does because rational choice only makes sense under the assumption that we posses free will.

    I honestly can’t see why you’d object to that. You’re willing to jettison all of reality for the illusion of a personal reality. The speck of the illusion of free will should be easy to swallow after downing in the planet of idealism.

    Besides, it’s all just material for another novel isn’t it?

  54. Peter Watts: it’s more consistent with someone who feels personally threatened, somehow.

    Well, the notion that minds are made of more or less the same stuff my software is made of could be considered terrifying, lol

    Also, I’m so stealing your challenge to troll OrchOR (quantum mind woo) fellows, if you don’t mind :)

  55. Brenda: You cannot do science if you cannot know what is real.

    I think I already told you – I very much can.

    See, I have no certainity as to whether something – anything – exists. However, I am experiencing things – which might be “hallucinations” of some kind, mind you – and those might-be-hallucinations appear to be following certain patterns in their behavior and responses to interactions.

    Scientific method is just a tool which seems to be quite decent in finding ways to cause rearrangement of might-be-hallucinations to my liking.

    I don’t really give a fuck about whether scientific method is just rearranging hallucinations that do not “really” exist, since I have no way to chose different hallucination set to experience or achieve certainity regarding whether might-be-hallucinations are figments of imagination or experiences of “actual reality”. Also, it just so happens that I do not know a better tool to rearrange available might-be-hallucinations in a manner that fits my fancy.

    The day I become convinced, though some might-be-evidence (it could be, of course, a hallucination of evidence, but hey, I have no way of telling those apart, so it’s as good as “real” as far as I am concerned ;) ) that chanting might-be-scary might-be-prayers to might-be-horrible might-be-forsaken might-be-gods and might-be-sacrificing might-be-15-yo virgins amidst might-be-standing might-be-stones is more effective than scientific method in finding new ways to rearrange might-be-hallucinations or in directly rearranging them, is the day I renounce all science and become an eldritch necromancer or something like that. :D

    But so far, might-be-standing might-be-stones shenanigans seem to be…a source of constant disappointment :(

    Brenda: But there are things that we can know with absolute certainty. 2 + 2 = 4 is one, if P then Q, P therefore Q another.

    Actually, there are numerous brain conditions (or rather, might-be brain conditions, if you so insist on being pedantic ;) ) that make evaluation of those statements subjectively untenable while rendering the person doing the evaluation anosognostic. That kind of makes a dent in one’s certainity regarding even mathematical matters, methinks.

    Brenda: I know that the pink elephant is a hallucination because it is *stipulated* as part of the argument that it is a hallucination. The argument depends on it being a hallucination, that’s the whole point. Which is to show that direct realism cannot distinguish between hallucination and reality. There has to *be* such a thing as a hallucination in order for the argument to work, if it does.

    You also have a thrid-party perspective, by being the one doing the thought experiment. From the first-person perspective of the person experiencing the hypothetical pink elephant (the only perspective that matters) no such ability is available.

    Again Brenda, would you kindly entertain my flying-squid thought experiment (since it does not stipulate the squid being a hallucination, at least ;) )
    I am quite curious as to how you would go about ascertaining the “nonreality” or “reality” of a flying, talking squid only you see or hear
    :D

  56. Whoever: To say that we cannot *know* reality is, to some people, tantamount to saying that order is pointless, nothing matters, why bother with things like following the law, respecting authority and things like ownership?

    Acting to the contrary is liable to make your might-be-hallucinations very unpleasant ?

  57. This is soooooo relevant : http://www.kevinjweir.com/subwayfire.gif :D

  58. 01: Acting to the contrary is liable to make your might-be-hallucinations very unpleasant ?

    Which does nothing to alleviate the fear that “the other” will defy that and fail to follow suit.

    Really, though, it’s the fear that society will unravel and that there would cease to be such unpleasant results for those who fail to follow the rules or that the rules will cease to exist/be enforced by consensus that they don’t matter (it’s all “unreal”, remember?). It’s the “what if everyone thought that way?” argument popular among our lowest common denominators (you know, like Congress, when they are admonishing some *other* group that’s being greedy and selfish).

  59. Hm. Just tried the edit function. Assume I missed the timeout.

    Added that overhauling the justice system so that prison is out and medication is in is good news for big pharma but bad news for your Holders, Barney Fifes, and private prison system.

    Deciding what is “normal” and therefore which crimes actually deserve a pill as punishment is also going to be a thorny one. As long as politicians, bureaucrats and cops are all forced to take guilt-trip to avoid being on the take, I suppose it might be a win-win. Of course, he who holds the keys to brain chemistry is probably king.

    “Pharmacists… they took ‘r jobs!” said the cops.

  60. *whew*

    Without some additional explanation, “Reality is hallucination” does sound logically inconsistent. I took it to be a snappy eye-catching tagline to get the audience curious, not a complete statement of the entire argument.

  61. Brenda: Or it could be consistent with someone who is actually correct attempting to deal (sometimes not so successfully) with those who are emotionally invested in the truth of *their* beliefs.

    Glancing back over the comments, you appear to be the only party to resort to outright ad hominem. That higher level of stridency would imply greater emotional investment even if you weren’t going to the extra effort of arguing the same case simultaneously in two separate venues.

    Philosophical thought experiments are intended to reveal logical errors in a particular position. I know that the pink elephant is a hallucination because it is *stipulated* as part of the argument that it is a hallucination. The argument depends on it being a hallucination, that’s the whole point.

    Then you should know immediately that your knowledge of the hallucination is from a third-party perspective not available to the subject of the thought experiment; 01 should not have had to point this out to you. You’re not debunking the argument, you’re avoiding it by conflating two utterly different perspectives, and all the fifty-dollar lingo in the lexicon doesn’t obscure that (nor does it obscure the fact that you’ve remained strangely silent on the talking-floating-squid question, which presents exactly the same premise but without the semantic wiggle-room for deliberate misunderstanding).

    It’s difficult to reconcile such elementary lapses with someone as otherwise articulate as you. It’s hard to avoid concluding that you’re either being willfully obtuse, or experiencing some kind of denial. And in either case, I can’t for the life of me see why it seems to get under your skin the way it does. Why does this matter so much to you?

    That [the free will argument] is a separate problem from whether or not reality is an illusion.

    You seemed to think it relevant enough when you invoked it in this very thread on April 18th, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Besides, it’s all just material for another novel isn’t it?

    It seems to be far more than that to you, for some reason. Judging by the vehemence of your reaction.


  62. If “Reality is a hallucination” is the same as “we are unable to know for sure what reality is” what you are then arguing for is Kant’s transcendental idealism. “Reality exists but we can never know what it is, only our ideas about it” IS idealism and renders science (knowledge) impossible.

    No one apart from objectivists or academic philosophers gives a damn about Kant.

    Objectivists hate him, because Rand hated him..

    As to debating them, you can’t win. The appeal of Objectivism is not in rationality, people like it because of emotional reasons that are too complex to describe here.

    I also concur with others, from what I know, science isn’t dependent on us being completely sure there is an objective reality.

    If there is not, I’m sure someone would sooner or later figure out that the lack of it is what keeps fucking up experiments…

    Besides, what is objective anyway? Only what we can measure, and quantum physics really hate us measuring everything and are completely against common sense…

  63. 01: those might-be-hallucinations appear to be following certain patterns in their behavior and responses to interactions.

    Are you trying to say that there might be an underlying reality to your hallucinations? That is what a pattern of behavior would indicate wouldn’t it? That is how one would TELL if one’s experience is merely a subject hallucination or …… wait for it….. real.

    “Scientific method is just a tool which seems to be quite decent in finding ways to cause rearrangement of might-be-hallucinations to my liking.”

    I’m sorry but that is NOT a definition of the scientific method. That is in fact the very definition of a charlatan.

    “Also, it just so happens that I do not know a better tool to rearrange available might-be-hallucinations in a manner that fits my fancy. “

    Perhaps that is a big part of the problem. You see, with science it isn’t up to you to decide what is or is not a fact. The Catholic church thought they could arrange their perceptions to their liking. They were wrong. To the extent that you or anyone believes you get to say what is or is not realYou are wrong.

    It moves still.

    “Actually, there are numerous brain conditions …. that make evaluation of those statements subjectively untenable while rendering the person doing the evaluation anosognostic. That kind of makes a dent in one’s certainity regarding even mathematical matters, methinks.”

    Nope, the very concept of one being anosognostic, of being unable to perceive one’s disability, depends on there being such a thing as not being disabled. If you believe that it is possible for everyone to be anosognostic then you cannot know anything at all.

    Again, 2 + 2 = 4 in all possible worlds. Even in worlds where some people have anosognostia.

    “I am quite curious as to how you would go about ascertaining the “nonreality” or “reality” of a flying, talking squid only you see or hear “

    The same way anyone else would. If I were having visual hallucinations, which btw are very rare, I would consult a therapist. If other people told me they could not perceive what I do then I would doubt the veracity of my perceptions.

    Having worked in a medical clinic for 30 years and being now in a “less than affluent” community I am familiar with schizophrenia. People who are actively delusional know that something is wrong. They are frightened. They cannot make sense of their illusory experiences.

    If the vision of a flying talking squid persisted I would test it. If it gave me information that I could not have known I would begin to wonder if it was real. If it’s behavior showed a consistency similar to real person, like say the Great Gazoo from the Flintstones, I would think there was something real, meaning independent of me, going on.

    But the truth is these things don’t happen. Schizophrenic delusions are not of a seamless nature the way daily experience is. People do not have multiple personalities inside their minds. They just think they do. People do not receive knowledge of people or events they could not have known otherwise from the Great Gazoo or from spirits. These things just don’t happen.

    Which is how we know they are not real.

  64. Y.: As to debating them, you can’t win. The appeal of Objectivism is not in rationality, people like it because of emotional reasons that are too complex to describe here.

    I’m not an Objectivist. Believing in an external objective reality does not make me an Objectivist. It makes me a realist.

    “Besides, what is objective anyway? Only what we can measure, and quantum physics really hate us measuring everything and are completely against common sense…”

    Not at all. “What the Bleep Do We Know” was bad science. QM does NOT mean that we can’t really know anything. The kind of quantum mechanics “Woo” in that movie and in other popular writings about QM get the science wrong.

  65. And yet the Catholic church and other groups do succeed in altering reality in the sense that they convince a majority or a vocal minority of things that are to those who don’t agree “not true” or “not real.” Something like 74% of Americans (a much larger number than actually attend church or self-identify as religious) believe in angels. To them, that is reality, perhaps in part due to experiencing something that they could not explain, and that in turn perhaps because of sensory or brain malfunctions. Yet, that is what their brain “told” them was the case.

    Another (I think) unmentioned underlying principle here is the hypothesis (or is it up to a theory now?) that evolution only goes as far as “good enough”, not perfection. Our senses are the way they are because at some point, they needed to be. Being able to perceive subatomic particles and their attributes was never in the cards for that. Heck, it might even be that we don’t see something that is there because it would be detrimental. Imagine if we could see oxygen or even nitrogen and hydrogen. That would complicate things greatly.

    The point is, depending on what “reality” we’re talking about, perception is reality. And if perception is unreliable, then our perception of reality is as well. Does overhearing (lost count of the times) someone complain about how cold it is in February followed by how global warming isn’t true because of it happen to everyone else here? That’s perception and reality to that person. If they cannot “feel” it for themselves, then it must not be true (and they have plenty of people with a vested shortterm interest in letting them believe that feeding them false data to back up that faulty perception).

    Perceiving things that aren’t there, missing things that are both point to faulty equipment and therefore faulty readings. I swear, sometimes I think blindsight works better. :)

  66. Brenda: Are you trying to say that there might be an underlying reality to your hallucinations?

    How the hell should I know, and why the hell should I care ?

    All I care about, is rearranging the might-be-hallucinations in ways that I find appealing!

    Brenda: That is what a pattern of behavior would indicate wouldn’t it?

    Not necessarily (though possibly, hence the might-be in “might-be-hallucination”).

    Also, completely irrelevant – I need to rearrange the might-be-hallucinations along the lines I desire, establishing the degree of undrelying reality of the migh-be-hallucinations is at best secondary objective, at worst a wasted effort.

    Brenda: Perhaps that is a big part of the problem. You see, with science it isn’t up to you to decide what is or is not a fact. The Catholic church thought they could arrange their perceptions to their liking. They were wrong. To the extent that you or anyone believes you get to say what is or is not realYou are wrong.

    I am sure actual Catholics disagree irreconcilably – devout Catholics exhibit very apparent signs of living in some fun Lovecraft County I can barely imagine.

    Also, it seems that you don’t “get” first person perspective in hypotheticals. Interesting.

    Brenda: I’m sorry but that is NOT a definition of the scientific method. That is in fact the very definition of a charlatan.

    How so ?

    I need to “get stuff done” (rearrange things I percieve, which might be hallucinations to some degree, or completely, or not at all), scientific method is good at informing me as to how would I go about rearranging the might-be-hallucinations to achieve desired result. Stuff gets done, in the sense, things which I percieved become more in accordance to my desire. Scientific method wins – and did not need any grasp of “true reality” to do so.

    If I had a set of might-be-hallucinations which would require me to sacrifice (percieved) virgins instead of using scientific method, then, with that kind of percieved might-be-hallucinations, sacrificing virgins would win.

    Brenda: Nope, the very concept of one being anosognostic, of being unable to perceive one’s disability, depends on there being such a thing as not being disabled.

    But you never know whether you have a condition that bends your mathematical reasoning :) . You only can detect it in might-be-hallucinations that are “others:.

    So yeah, reliable knowledge is a slimy, elusive thing. But I don’t give a fuck – I only want to alter “percieved reality” along the paths I desire (that includes avoiding might-be-conditions that would limit my ability to alter the might-be-hallucinatory world around me)

    Brenda: People who are actively delusional know that something is wrong.

    Hm? I heard that schizophrenics are quite commonly anosognostic, that is, unaware of that “something’s broken”.

    Anyway, one could say same thing about anyone who is faced with extraordinary experience, even if the experience is not explicitly “abnormal” in the might-be-madness sense.

    Also, I think that, assuming of course that clinics and patients are either real or very persistent and common illusions ;), I would wager that clinics tend to have a biased sample in regards to distress in people with psychiatric symptoms (both because various functional impairments are a criteria in DSM, as I’ve been told, and because people who are not disturbed by their experience do not seek out medical help)

    I think there’s a lot of subjective difference between “CIA-manufactured flesh-eating cockroaches are in my garage” and “blowjob-obsessed Annie Cruz is in my garage”, though, from a third party perspective both are apparent cases of delusions/hallucinations.

    Brenda: If it gave me information that I could not have known I would begin to wonder if it was real.

    You sure you could trust yourself on that, given that you’re seeing a flying squid ? :D

    Also, plenty of people don’t give me information that I didn’t know, and their personal consistency is kinda meh.

    Should I consider them un-real on those grounds ? Can I stop paying them salary on the grounds that I have concluded that they are hallucinations (boring slacker hallucinations at that) ? Pretty please :)

  67. Brenda, do I understand correctly that, to pass off as real thing, my squid would simply have to crack jokes you don’t remember hearing and behave in a manner you would consider consistent with a “stable personality”?

  68. That’s the problem. If you are already hallucinating a flying squid, why not hallucinate not remembering something you already knew to firm up the delusion?

    Additional question: what is the technical difference between believing firmly that one has multiple personalities and actually having multiple personalities?

    Also, I posit this as a possible (yet utterly unprovable) argument for the rare existence of free will: the fervent desire to watch the world burn, but deciding not to act on it. Just sayin’.


  69. I’m not an Objectivist. Believing in an external objective reality does not make me an Objectivist. It makes me a realist.

    No, it makes you a believer.
    Why ‘believe’ in something you cannot really prove?

    Why ‘believe’ in something that is not necessary for day to day functioning or scientific research?

    Believing is thinking something is there without having definite proof of it.

    So, I think that if one ‘believes’ in something, one has to assume many things. And if that belief itself isn’t necessary or useful, your assumptions may actually lessen your creativity or problem solving ability ..

    Why should one have unnecessary assumptions?

    And there’s actually been some research published that a pint of real beer improves problem solving ability in .. I assume college students. That is, problem solving when the task is novel and such.. alcohol lowers inhibitions and thus increases creativity.

    So, the Ballmer peak may not be fictious after all :-)

    http://xkcd.com/323/

    The question is.. when will Google allow it’s employees drinking during working hours?

  70. This isn’t relevant to this particular post, but after having been single for two years, I recommended Blindsight to a girl (whose New Year Resolutions were to stay single for the whole year and to read less scifi). She liked it, which spawned a huge email discussion. It turns out she is incredibly awesome and we’re dating now. So, thank you Peter Watts for helping me get laid!

  71. Actually, most of these comments aren’t relevant to this particular post. But you’re more than welcome. Blindsight helped me get laid, too.

  72. I’ve been recommending Blindsight to all my male friends, and my sister. So hopefully that getting laid thing isn’t some sort of mandatory result :S

  73. *Sigh.* NOW you tell me.

    Obviously packed the wrong book…

  74. ^^

    The philosophical question of whether a belief in an external reality is necessary in science is interesting.


    How can anyone believe we see reality as it ‘is’ and not as our brain sees it?

    The evidence that we use our brains to think is overwhelming. Has any human lacking a brain been ever observed to act rationally?

    It makes me think they fail to understand that all their thinking is biological, therefore constrained by biology.

    Perhaps Brenda should start reading lesswrong.com
    These guys are decent good at identifying cognitive quirks and biases..

  75. Michael W: Michael W

    Haha, girls dig vampires, don’t they ;)

    Re: Brenda, reality.

    Oh, too bad I missed the Brenda showdown. Come back honey, cause I think that back when 01 was trying (unsuccessfully) to improve my coding skills, I came up with a pretty nifty argument in favor of the “simulation hypothesis”.

  76. Y, I work for a medium size eccomerce website and we keep beers in the fridge and have happy hours. I’m sure g is happy to allow their coders to drink. actually, there was a nice rant recently about how people in the tech community get carried away with the drinking culture.

    Ps. I am going to talk this book over with my spouse and see if we can work out this getting laid thing.

  77. if 03 and 01 have some kind of kink that involves programming skills I gotta say that is pretty hot.

  78. @03

    Hmmmmm looks like the quote button isn’t as good for you as it was for me :P
    Now, I’m very curious about your simulation argument thingie – you know I adore such shenanigans

    Sheila: if 03 and 01 have some kind of kink that involves programming skills I gotta say that is pretty hot.

    Well, not specifically about programming, but…well… there’s a reason I got nicknamed “coach pinhead” in certain circles :)

  79. Peter Watts:
    Actually, most of these comments aren’t relevant to this particular post. […]

    Yeah, I would have thought to see more people loving on ChiZine. They’ve taken up particularly good ebook publishing policies. Even before some of the spiffier ones, they published them with no DRM. But now recently they started to include them with the hardback versions. And then on top of that, they allow people to subscribe to all of their books for a year, with the choice of ebooks versus physical.

    they are so kick-ass that I mailed them bacon chocolate once, but with the proviso that they shared some with you.

    Perhaps their authors are considerate as well. I once emailed the Napier’s Bones author to ask him if he has visited the Arithmeum while researching his book, and he was kind enough to reply. I don’t know how annoying it is to reply to fan mail, but I appreciate it when people take the time to.

    Ps. neat! a bug in the quote feature. The first time I hit quote on your comment it only quoted one word. I don’t know how it settled on that one. It was in my firefox find buffer, so perhaps that’s it. I haven’t had enough caffeine to obsessively figure it out.

  80. Sheila:
    if 03 and 01 have some kind of kink that involves programming skills I gotta say that is pretty hot.

    Yeah, it sometimes involves programming… though at this point 01 probably gave up on trying to get me on friendly terms with computers.

    01:
    @03

    Hmmmmm looks like the quote button isn’t as good for you as it was for me

    Yeah, I probably thought about vampires ;) and punched a wrong button somewhere, or something

    01:

    Now, I’m very curious about your simulation argument thingie – you know I adore such shenanigans

    Basically, the universe we inhabit happens to have a number of seemingly fundamental properties that are consistent with software optimization.
    For instance, Heisenberg Principle ensures that observer is limited to gaining only a portion of all potentially available information about a particle (kinda reminiscent of Z-culling and clipping procedures used in 3D engines to reduce rendering overheads)
    The facts that there happen to be a minimum possible magnitude, a strict minimum temperature and an absolute limit on the rate at which information can propagate through the universe seem conspicuously optimized for easier computation.

    Nifty, yeah ?

  81. Y.: No, it makes you a believer.
    Why ‘believe’ in something you cannot really prove?

    The English word “belief” means “mental content held as true.” So when I say that I believe in an objective external world I mean that I hold as true “There exists a world independent of my interests” as true. I can, and have above, given a proper argument to defend my position.

    Beliefs have the mind to world direction of fit. My belief That P depicts the world as being in a state of affairs such that P is true. Beliefs aim at the truth and so aim to fit the world. A belief is satisfied when it fits the world.

    Therefore “Snow is white” is true if and only if snow is white.

    But what is your claim? Is it that “Snow is white” is true but only relative to your point of view and that it might not be true for me? Is this not a plain contradiction and therefore false? If “Snow is white” is true for you but false for me then what you have said is *literally* incoherent because snow cannot be both white and not white.

    Please explain to me how it can be that violating the law of non contradiction does not render everything you say unintelligible.

  82. Y.: How can anyone believe we see reality as it ‘is’ and not as our brain sees it?

    Because saying that you can only see the world as your brain sees it begs the question and commits the homunculus fallacy.

    “The evidence that we use our brains to think is overwhelming. Has any human lacking a brain been ever observed to act rationally?”

    I categorically deny that I use my brain to think because, again, that is begging the question. Saying that I make use of my brain to think assumes that my mental abilities are somehow separate from my brain or exist independent from it and I deny that is the case. I am identical with my brain and my mental states are higher level features of the neurobiological processes which produce the phenomena of consciousness of which thinking is one aspect or activity it is capable of performing. I am that. I do not use my brain to think. I am that thought which thinks.

    “Perhaps Brenda should start reading lesswrong.com “

    Perhaps you shouldn’t leap to conclusions about who is right in arguments you do not understand. If you are seriously taking the contrary position in this debate then you are asserting that there is no such thing as objective reality. That is fine but I suspect that you are in the distinct minority at lesswrong and I know for a fact that you would not get past freshman PHIL 101 with the arguments presented so far.

  83. Snow is white could plainly be “false for you” if you have, say, a brain tumor that makes you perceive everything with a greenish hue, Brenda (you specified “white”, as a color, not an instrumentally measured wavelength of reflected light :-P)

    @ 03

    Hahaha, oh wow, that’s kinda…awesome, really. Thanks. Why didn’t you share it before ?

    Also… now that I think of it… you know… the elusiveness of various “unified” theories in physics (repeated failure to construct a UFT, GUT, or something like that) might be simply due to the fact that different interactions are governed by different modules which were just patched together, with no concern for assuring logical coherence of resulting physics. That suggests a sloppy “copypaste code-monkey” approach to coding.

    Not only we’re in a sim, we’re in a sim coded by a sloppy minimum-wager slob working from home :-O

  84. I wonder if Brenda would classify statement that “Facial recognition system is limited by its camera characteristics and properties of, as well as errors in, hardware and software it utilizes” to be a case of homunclus fallacy :)

    After all, a facial recognition system is that system which recognizes faces, much along the lines of Brenda being that thought which thinks.

  85. Brenda:

    Therefore “Snow is white” is true if and only if snow is white.

    Snow is not white. We perceive it as such as part of how our eyes receive and our brain interprets the reflection of photons off of water crystals. Color is a concept independent of the Universe and only relevant because eyes are how we mostly interact with the world. (We could measure instead its reflective qualities, but I’m sure someone smarter that me would find similar fault with that too).

    I don’t think that the argument is that the world outside us doesn’t exist, it’s just that our humanness portrays it in a way that is not accurate. We are not perfect enough (because we have never needed to be in terms of evolution) to perceive it accurately. Therefore (our understanding of) reality is a myth.

    At least that’s how I understand it. 03 is making me wonder about software optimization (which I always found funny because it tends to be a lost art among humans. At least in terms of economy of code, hence the term bloatware and the need to distribute major software packages on a growing number of CDs…easier to do that than program carefully for a smaller package… Hm. Maybe it’s the ‘smaller package’ thing that they are resisting unconsciously. :) ).

  86. Whoever: Snow is not white.

    I never said that snow is white in the sense that whiteness is a thing that snow has. I said “Snow is white” is true. The sentence is true even if I have a brain tumor or even in a completely black and unlit freezer because snow is, in fact, white. When anyone says things like snow is white, or just about any valid English sentence, they imply the existence of a vast background of knowledge and capabilities on the part of hearers that cannot be enumerated. When I said that “Snow is white” is true you did not think I meant on the surface of Mars or at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. The list of things I did not mean are limitless and yet you knew what I meant because you and I share a common background.

    If I have a yellow splotch in my field of vision because of some visual defect so that when I look on a white wall I see a patch of yellow it is nevertheless false for me to say “There is a yellow splotch on the wall” is true. It is not true just as it is not true that the pencil in the glass of water is bent.

    Colors are not independent of the universe. They are very much as real as anything else because the relationships they describe are real and exist independent of us. The colors of the rainbow are real but the rainbow itself is not. It is a good example of eliminative materialism where the phenomena can be eliminated by reducing it to the refraction of light through water vapor. But not everything in the universe can be so eliminated. Or at least that claim is very controversial.

    “I don’t think that the argument is that the world outside us doesn’t exist”

    As I understand it that is exactly what Peter claims in his youtube video and that the numeral 01 defends here. The only nuance I have been able to detect is that an objective world might exist but we can never know it. But if that is the argument then Berkeley’s argument for Idealism is superior because he rightly applies the law of parsimony to that claim and just removes reality altogether.

    If everything is perception and perceptions are mental states then everything is a mental state and there is no material universe at all and we are all fragments of God’s absolute mind.

    Praise Jesus!

    “Therefore (our understanding of) reality is a myth.”

    The fact that *some* people’s understanding of reality is false, is a myth, does not imply that everyone’s understanding is. I spent the last week in a cabin in north Minn relaxing. *Some* of the people with me believe that when they do a “sweat” in a proper sweat lodge with a proper native American medicine man that he can communicate with the spirits or energies in the rocks and the trees.

    That belief is a myth, it is false, it is not true. My belief that rocks and trees, and indeed all things, are composed of particles moving in lines of force is not a myth. It is true. It is true for everyone and not just me. It remains true regardless of how earnestly people believe in native American animism. It remains true even if it hurts their feelings to learn what they believe is false and just another myth.

    If everything is a myth then Native American animistic beliefs are just as good as quantum mechanics and we should let native medicine men teach physics at MIT. If everything is a myth then there can be no way of distinguishing truth from falsehood and so yes, that would be a very big deal and we should teach the myth of Creationism along side the myth of evolution

    Is “Everything is a myth” true or is it false? If it is true then there is at least one thing that is not a myth and therefore the sentence is false and what I’ve been saying is true. If it is false then everything really isn’t a myth and what I have been saying all along is true.

    That is a refutation that I believe no honest thinking person can deny.

  87. 01 & 03, sim stuff… oh! I think there is a short story with similar concepts. Or I am confabulating one. It might also be an episode of a web comic. If it exists, you might enjoy it.

  88. More than a bit OT, but the Amurrican regulation that permits the US Border Patrol to stop innocent Canadians for no particular reason is being challenged by the storied ACLU:

    http://news.yahoo.com/aclu-sues-over-border-patrol-stops-u-pacific-033648929.html

    The challenge is based on racial-profiling, but what the hey…

  89. dfoguy: The challenge is based on racial-profiling, but what the hey…

    Day late and a dollar short. Go, us.

  90. Brenda, you know I was kinda following you until we got to the Snow is White part. I’m gonna re-read and see if I can grasp your meaning.

  91. Brenda: I never said that snow is white in the sense that whiteness is a thing that snow has. I said “Snow is white” is true. The sentence is true even if I have a brain tumor or even in a completely black and unlit freezer because snow is, in fact, white. When anyone says things like snow is white, or just about any valid English sentence, they imply the existence of a vast background of knowledge and capabilities on the part of hearers that cannot be enumerated. When I said that “Snow is white” is true you did not think I meant on the surface of Mars or at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. The list of things I did not mean are limitless and yet you knew what I meant because you and I share a common background.

    Apparently he didn’t, because he challenged you on the ‘snow is white’ issue, and quite correctly, too. Because it’s not white.

    In fact, your supposedly true statement of ‘snow is white’ is kind of emblematic of the rest of the reality. You might be able to talk about qualities of it, to people with a common experience, who understand and agree with certain ground rules of meaning, and it might be generally useful to do so, but it’s not an absolute true fact in itself that you can prove. First you have to prove that snow really exists, that it isn’t just a hallucination/simulation.

    “I don’t think that the argument is that the world outside us doesn’t exist”

    As I understand it that is exactly what Peter claims in his youtube video and that the numeral 01 defends here. The only nuance I have been able to detect is that an objective world might exist but we can never know it. But if that is the argument then Berkeley’s argument for Idealism is superior because he rightly applies the law of parsimony to that claim and just removes reality altogether.

    If everything is perception and perceptions are mental states then everything is a mental state and there is no material universe at all and we are all fragments of God’s absolute mind.

    Praise Jesus!

    So your argument is that some sort of objective reality must exist, therefore the reality is myth argument is wrong, and if he’s saying that an objective reality may exist, but because of our limitations we can never know it’s true nature (which by the way, has been explained several times that this is what he means and what most of us mean), then he must be wrong as well, because a superior argument is to just remove reality altogether, by the law of parsimony (or Occam’s Razor, aka a decent rule of thumb but which actually proves nothing in a logical argument).

    Wait, I thought reality HAD to exist?

    So are you saying that reality has to exist, and if we can’t know it, it’s easier to say it doesn’t exist, so we have to be able to know it?

    Now who’s being incoherent?

    “Therefore (our understanding of) reality is a myth.”

    The fact that *some* people’s understanding of reality is false, is a myth, does not imply that everyone’s understanding is. I spent the last week in a cabin in north Minn relaxing. *Some* of the people with me believe that when they do a “sweat” in a proper sweat lodge with a proper native American medicine man that he can communicate with the spirits or energies in the rocks and the trees.

    That belief is a myth, it is false, it is not true. My belief that rocks and trees, and indeed all things, are composed of particles moving in lines of force is not a myth. It is true. It is true for everyone and not just me. It remains true regardless of how earnestly people believe in native American animism. It remains true even if it hurts their feelings to learn what they believe is false and just another myth.

    Please prove it. Start, if you will, by proving that we are not a simulation of reality in a giant computer in some truly real reality that may not operate on atomic theory.

    Unless of course you’re only saying that ‘within the context of the possible simulation environment (or likewise, possible mass hallucination), rocks and trees are composed of particles called atoms, snow is (usually) white, nuclear fusion occurs inside stars, and many other things that I have declared as ‘true’ are true’, in which case you’re probably in agreement with most of the rest of us and just don’t realize it. .

    If everything is a myth then Native American animistic beliefs are just as good as quantum mechanics and we should let native medicine men teach physics at MIT. If everything is a myth then there can be no way of distinguishing truth from falsehood and so yes, that would be a very big deal and we should teach the myth of Creationism along side the myth of evolution

    Again, because certain ‘facts’ have proven themselves to be more or less reliable in the manipulation of the apparent reality that we can see, we give them a special place. If Native American animistic beliefs proved to be reliable in predicting the possible hallucination/possibly misinterpred reality/possibly simulation (… this is a really unwieldy phrase to keep throwing around, and we could use a new one. Hey, let’s call it Myth! That’s a good short-hand, right? I know you seem to be very literal and like to use Myth as meaning something ‘not true’, but earlier we’ve already proven that many myths are partial fictionalizations of things which have some basis in ‘fact’, so I hope you’ll forgive me.). Allow me to start again… If Native American animistic beliefs proved to be reliable in predicting and controlling the Myth we find ourselves in and can’t escape from, more reliable than anything else, than they certainly should be taught. It happens that it’s not, at least as far as I can judge, and most people seem to agree. (Although if you ask Creationists, you’d find people just as certain that their views are reliable. I mean I obviously think I’m right because if I didn’t I’d change my mind, I have to at least remain open to the possibility that I’m wrong.)

    Is “Everything is a myth” true or is it false? If it is true then there is at least one thing that is not a myth and therefore the sentence is false and what I’ve been saying is true. If it is false then everything really isn’t a myth and what I have been saying all along is true.

    It’s been repeatedly explained that ‘everything is a myth’, means, to most of us something on the order of ‘our common experience of reality is unreliable and possibly mostly ficticious’. Once again, ignoring what people have said they mean and insisting they can only mean what you do and that they’re wrong because of it is never a good argument strategy.

    If your argument is that “there must be some true things”, then fair enough, you’re right… and so are we, as most of us have agreed on this from the beginning (even if the only true thing is ‘I exist’, I’d have to agree on that). But your argument seems to be “we can know vast numbers of absolutely true things, including what goes on in the middle of stars”, and so far, for virtually none of them have you been able to prove that these things are actually true, as opposed to Myth (my definition, remember). We’ll give you existence. Get to work on the rest.


  92. The English word “belief” means “mental content held as true.

    By ‘belief’ I meant anything held as true whose actual truth-value hasn’t or cannot be established.

    Like any religious belief, or the state of my fridge once I turn my back to it..


    Because saying that you can only see the world as your brain sees it begs the question and commits the homunculus fallacy.

    (sigh)
    So you’re saying you do not think we percieve the world through our brains?


    That is fine but I suspect that you are in the distinct minority at lesswrong and I know for a fact that you would not get past freshman PHIL 101 with the arguments presented so far.

    Why would anyone want to get past PHIL 101?
    Academic philosophy has about as much use as piercings. Flashy, good for group identifcation but useless.

    I’d much rather get past algebra I, II and discrete mathematics.

    Those things can be applied and are useful, arguing about questions such as the nature of external reality that can’t be answered (I’m a skeptic) is a waste of time.

  93. Y.:

    Why would anyone want to get past PHIL 101?
    Academic philosophy has about as much use as piercings. Flashy, good for group identifcation but useless.

    Not all of philosophy is about this. There are different types of engineers — chemical, mechanical, … by analogy, same thing with philosophy.

  94. Brenda: If everything is perception and perceptions are mental states then everything is a mental state and there is no material universe at all and we are all fragments of God’s absolute mind.

    “we’re all fragments of godmind” shtick is basically “simulation hypothesis” in a goth dress, and simulation hypothesis posits existence of external reality (the one in which “godmind”/”alien supercomputer” resides). So your jump from “reality is unknowable/nonextant” to a variant of simulation hypothesis is unjustified. ;)

    Brenda: Praise Jesus!

    I don’t think this brand of skymonsters could be expected to create a simulated-universe, tbh ;)

    Brenda: If everything is a myth then Native American animistic beliefs are just as good as quantum mechanics and we should let native medicine men teach physics at MIT.

    Like I said, my experience suggests that various mystical manipulations appear to be remarkably impotent both in terms of rearranging my might-be-hallucinations in a manner I like and in terms of providing me with new and more efficient methods of carrying out such a rearrangement.

    Thus, irrespective of the nature of reality, I have to discard those approaches as insufficiently effective at attaining my goals.

    Whoever: 03 is making me wonder about software optimization (which I always found funny because it tends to be a lost art among humans. At least in terms of economy of code, hence the term bloatware and the need to distribute major software packages on a growing number of CDs…easier to do that than program carefully for a smaller package… Hm. Maybe it’s the ‘smaller package’ thing that they are resisting unconsciously. ).

    What can I say ? “Agile” and “financially lean” development = bloated code frankensteined together from a bazillon open(ish) projects. If you think that sounds bad on its own, please think of all the lawyers that rush in as soon as Frankensoft’s sutures start coming apart. :D


  95. hence the term bloatware and the need to distribute major software packages on a growing number of CDs

    You are from another universe, right? No one uses CD anymore.


    What can I say ? “Agile” and “financially lean” development = bloated code frankensteined together from a bazillon open(ish) projects.

    Needn’t be bloated. Good Doctors can stitch it together so well it won’t come apart.

    @Whoever
    Only thing worse than bloatware is people who put ‘optimization’ ahead of maintainability and sanity.

    I know those jerks. They produce code that’s incredibly convoluted and impossible to fix once they’ve forgotten how exactly it works.

    But small and efficient. Until it breaks, or has to be customized. Then it’s a nightmare.

  96. Y.:

    Needn’t be bloated. Good Doctors can stitch it together so well it won’t come apart.

    Haha, you’re a consultant, right ;) ?

    Yeah, good doctors… “good doctors” ain’t cheap – and are also picky ;)

    Y.:

    I know those jerks. They produce code that’s incredibly convoluted and impossible to fix once they’ve forgotten how exactly it works.

    But small and efficient. Until it breaks, or has to be customized. Then it’s a nightmare.

    They also leave comments like
    # little one goes here

    or

    # Important! DO NOT TOUCH UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOURE DOIN

    More often than not, it’s very much on purpose.

    Kind of like code sadism. I should be able to relate, I suppose.

    Y.: You are from another universe, right? No one uses CD anymore.

    Well, I know some banksters who have updates and new soft shipped in on CDs because that’s how the contract is worded…

  97. Y.:

    hence the term bloatware and the need to distribute major software packages on a growing number of CDs

    You are from another universe, right? No one uses CD anymore.


    What can I say ? “Agile” and “financially lean” development = bloated code frankensteined together from a bazillon open(ish) projects.

    Needn’t be bloated. Good Doctors can stitch it together so well it won’t come apart.

    @Whoever
    Only thing worse than bloatware is people who put ‘optimization’ ahead of maintainability and sanity.

    I know those jerks. They produce code that’s incredibly convoluted and impossible to fix once they’ve forgotten how exactly it works.

    But small and efficient. Until it breaks, or has to be customized. Then it’s a nightmare.

    I was largely thinking of how, for example, MS does this and it has the intended or unintended side-effect of forcing an upgrade on the hardware as well. Organized and well-documented code (possibly a creature of the cryptozoological bent) is of course desirable.

    I almost wrote DVDs instead of CDs, but I switched Universes about five or six years ago when the company I worked for decided to work with what they had/stop upgrading and things took an even larger turn since then, so I’m out of the game.

    Does MS Office Professional Supreme with Anchovies actually fit on one DVD these days?

    (PS: Did anyone mention yellow snow? If not, remember: don’t eat it. And, of course, it only appears yellow because of the equipment used. Untasty all the same. But spelling your name if you have a cold-resistant writing instrument and sufficiently short name/large bladder can be fun I suppose).

  98. 01: “we’re all fragments of godmind” shtick is basically “simulation hypothesis” in a goth dress, and simulation hypothesis posits existence of external reality (the one in which “godmind”/”alien supercomputer” resides). So your jump from “reality is unknowable/nonextant” to a variant of simulation hypothesis is unjustified.

    Shorter:
    1) Idealism = simulation hypothesis
    2) simulation hypothesis posits the existence of external reality
    Therefore the argument that “if reality is unknowable –> simulation hypothesis” is unjustified.

    To the extent that is even coherent, and I cannot make even passing grammatical sense of most of it, it clearly begs the question. It is not a valid argument. You assume your conclusion in (1).

    “Like I said, my experience suggests that various mystical manipulations appear to be remarkably impotent both in terms of rearranging my might-be-hallucinations in a manner I like”

    Well that’s what you like. Other people, creationists for example, arrange their “mystical manipulations” differently according to their preferences. And since you deny that it is even possible to give an objective account of which mystical manipulations are “true” you cannot object to the teaching of creationism or any other mythology in place of evolution in universities.

    “Thus, irrespective of the nature of reality, I have to discard those approaches as insufficiently effective at attaining my goals.”

    But those are just your goals. Other people discard different “approaches” and accept those you reject because they *are* effective at attaining their goals. You have no basis whatsoever for rejecting anyone else’s claims that say… Biblical creationism is superior to evolution. They could say along with you that: “Thus, irrespective of the nature of reality, I have to discard evolution as insufficiently effective at attaining my goals.” To which you have no reply.

  99. Brenda: 1) Idealism = simulation hypothesis
    2) simulation hypothesis posits the existence of external reality
    Therefore the argument that “if reality is unknowable –> simulation hypothesis” is unjustified.

    Wat. 0__O

    I don’t remember Idealism formally mandating a godmind.

    …or me claiming that reality being unknowable posits such.

    Brenda: Other people, creationists for example, arrange their “mystical manipulations” differently according to their preferences.

    They can and will, irrespective of my objections lol

    Brenda: And since you deny that it is even possible to give an objective account of which mystical manipulations are “true” you cannot object to the teaching of creationism or any other mythology in place of evolution in universities.

    That would equal rearrangement of some might-be-hallucinations in a manner I find unattractive.
    That’s why me and might-be-hallucinations known as “creationists” don’t get along all too well.

    Brenda: You have no basis whatsoever for rejecting anyone else’s claims that say… Biblical creationism is superior to evolution. They could say along with you that: “Thus, irrespective of the nature of reality, I have to discard evolution as insufficiently effective at attaining my goals.” To which you have no reply.

    You see, if their argument is that for them, Jeebus is more effective at rearranging their might-be-hallucinations than the scientific method, then we can’t have an “argument” irrespective of my beliefs about reality. Cause they perceive a very different one.

    Now, if the subject admits that my approach to rearranging might-be-hallucinations is superior but nonetheless insists on pushing creationism, then we are unlikely to reconcile based on scientific argument despite sharing our might-be-hallucinatory perspective, since our goals differ radically.

    Now, if someone shares same general goals and might-be-hallucinations set, and thus has a respect for scientific method as a potent might-be-hallucination rearrangement tool, then we can have an argument that is productive irrespective of our underlying (unprovable) beliefs about whether reality is knowable, because we already agree that scientific method is the best known tool for investigating and rearranging our (might be hallucinatory) environment, and none of us has a radical goal that would require pushing a less effective method on might-be-hallucinatory kids :D

    Making an (unprovable) claim regarding nature of reality doesn’t help me arguing with creationists all that much, as you see.

    Thus I don’t make it.

  100. 01: I don’t remember Idealism formally mandating a godmind.

    It logically follows from Hegel’s dialectic that we are all part of “The Absolute”. Idealism posits that everything is idea, Idea-ism. Ideas are mental states. Mental states can only exist in minds. Hence when I perceive a tree I only perceive the idea of a tree, that is all there is to being a tree in Idealism. If the tree that I perceive is an idea that exists in a mind who’s minds is it? Not mine, I never saw *that* tree before. It must exist in some absolute mind which some may call god.

    “…or me claiming that reality being unknowable posits such.”

    You posit that reality does not exist, that only perceptions exist That is idealism. A consequence of idealism is that god or an absolute mind must exist for those ideas to reside in. If you state a belief that has as it’s consequence another belief then you also hold that belief whether you wish to admit it or not.

    “They can and will, irrespective of my objections lol “

    The fact that other people *can* hold different beliefs does not mean that those beliefs are true. I could, if I wished to, hold that 2 + 2 = 5 but then I would be wrong and someone could *prove* that I am wrong. You have no means of declaring people who hold what you believe to be false beliefs wrong because you have no objective facts to which you could appeal because you believe that *everything* is subjective perception and there is no objective reality which a claim could falsely represent.

    I don’t believe that 2 + 2 = 5 is wrong, I know it is. I don’t believe that “The earth is 6000 years old” is wrong, I know it is. I do not see how you could know either of those because you do not believe in any kind of realism at all.

    “That [creationism] would equal rearrangement of some might-be-hallucinations in a manner I find unattractive.”

    Who cares what you think? Why should your preferences trump anyone else’s preferences? What right do you have to tell anyone what “hallucinations” they should have? I have the right to say to a creationist that their “hallucinations” are wrong because I can appeal to an objective reality in which their claims are false. You have no such right.

    “because we already agree that scientific method is the best known tool for investigating and rearranging our (might be hallucinatory) environment”

    Most creationists say that the Bible is the best tool for acquiring knowledge. So if you went to court to argue that we should not teach creationism in the schools you would lose. They would argue that your personal preferences shouldn’t dictate to others what their preferences should be. Since for you preferring science over the Bible is just a choice, a preference, a matter of personal taste, you have no grounds other than your arbitrary choice for why they should *not* teach creationism.

  101. So… Idealism implicitly smuggles in a deity-thingie. OK, thanks.

    Brenda: You posit that reality does not exist, that only perceptions exist

    Uh, no, I posit that we can not have a completely trustworthy account of the nature of our experience due to unreliability of both our reasoning and our senses, thus establishing the nature and state of reality is problematic. I also posit that belief regarding existence and specific nature of “objective” reality is not strictly necessary for practical interactions, thus rendering this question somewhat pedantic.

    Brenda: The fact that other people *can* hold different beliefs does not mean that those beliefs are true. I could, if I wished to, hold that 2 + 2 = 5 but then I would be wrong and someone could *prove* that I am wrong.

    Good luck proving someone who believes CIA is out to get him using alien tech that he’s “wrong”.

    Brenda: You have no means of declaring people who hold what you believe to be false beliefs wrong because you have no objective facts to which you could appeal because you believe that *everything* is subjective perception and there is no objective reality which a claim could falsely represent.

    Well, I might compare my perception with that of my peers and opponents, and thus establish whether perceptions match.

    Situations when they don’t match (GOD TALKED TO ME I HEARD HIM) are of course most problematic, since both sides consider each other delusional (well, there’s always consult a shrink option, thus making reality “whatever most shrinks perceive as reality” :D )

    Brenda: Who cares what you think? Why should your preferences trump anyone else’s preferences? What right do you have to tell anyone what “hallucinations” they should have? I have the right to say to a creationist that their “hallucinations” are wrong because I can appeal to an objective reality in which their claims are false. You have no such right.

    Rights are a legal construct and exist only as far as we both have similar might-be-hallucinations regarding cops, courts and their interactions.

    The might-be-hallucinations most aligned with perceptions and reasoning of various legal operators (judges, jury, lawyers, etc.) will be deemed “correct” as far as court and people perceiving said court in a certain way are concerned (you ain’t no gonna sway a person who HEARS GOD with a mere court order)

    Thing to keep in mind is that legal operator’s perspective might very well be warped in a manner that renders it irreconcilable both with hypothetical objective reality and with your perceptions. Just something to keep in mind

    Brenda: Most creationists say that the Bible is the best tool for acquiring knowledge. So if you went to court to argue that we should not teach creationism in the schools you would lose.

    No, since court will match arguments against its own perception and reasoning frameworks, not those of mine or the creationist.

    If I manage to frame my argument in a manner that it appears more convincing as far as legal system’s frame of perceptive reference is concerned, I will win, irrespective of “objective reality” or “creationist perception”.

    The key to winning a court case is not being objectively “right” (that is irrelevant and maybe even unattainable), but being “right as far as legal system and legal practitioner perceptions are concerned”.


  102. The fact that other people *can* hold different beliefs does not mean that those beliefs are true. I could, if I wished to, hold that 2 + 2 = 5 but then I would be wrong and someone could *prove* that I am wrong. You have no means of declaring people who hold what you believe to be false beliefs wrong because you have no objective facts to which you could appeal because you believe that *everything* is subjective perception and there is no objective reality which a claim could falsely represent.

    And that is children that is your brain on philosophy..:p
    Furiously working all the time, yet no results of it will ever be useful to anyone.

    I suppose it’s a hobby. Like making model trains.

  103. I only do this because I can’t order a hooker to work (well, I could try, but I am reasonably certain that would turn out poorly)

  104. Or rather, can’t order a might-be-hooker to might be work :p

  105. This is baffling.
    Why can’t the tree you haven’t seen before have existed in its own mind?
    Why does it need an absolute mind somewhere?
    If we need an absolute mind somewhere, why don’t we need another precursor mind to see it?


  106. Or rather, can’t order a might-be-hooker to might be work :p

    Perhaps you need to covertly dose some of your more attractive female co-workers with testosterone.

  107. Perhaps you need to covertly dose some of your more attractive female co-workers withtestosterone.

    Wouldn’t that be, like, extra-dangerous and technologically contrived date rape ?

    Besides, workplace romance is always a bad idea…probably turbo-bad idea for someone with my preferences ;)

  108. Brenda:

    I don’t believe that “The earth is 6000 years old” is wrong, I know it is.

    How do you *know* it’s not 6,000 years old? I don’t believe that it is, I’m fairly certain it isn’t, but to *know* something that not a single person living was present for sounds like faith to some extent even if it is based on heuristic scientific tests (we can *know* that this rock is 50 years old and therefore can *extrapolate* that this other rock is 2,000,000 years old based on carbon dating, etc.).

  109. […] should have made fun of her (which he did later). Humour to someone like ACM is like water to the Wicked Witch of the West (yes, some sexist […]

  110. Whoever: How do you *know* it’s not 6,000 years old?

    There are two senses of what it means to know something. In one sense I know that 2 + 2 = 4 for the same reason I know that all unmarried men are bachelors. Because in both of those the conclusion (4, bachelors) is contained in the premise (2 + 2, unmarried men). Both sentences are *necessarily* true and represent analytic truth.

    The other sense is that of scientific knowledge. We can know the earth is greater than 6000 years old because we can *deduce* this fact from other facts like radioactive decay. Scientific facts are true but they could have been otherwise, it might have turned out that the earth is younger than 6000 years old but it didn’t. So our knowledge that the earth is greater than 6000 years old is *contingent* on other facts being true.

    All scientific facts rest on brute facts like…. the meter on the gauge says X, look down this microscope, here are the actual bones of the fossil, look into this telescope etc. Radical skepticism that goes beyond merely doubting claims people make to doubting that reality exists undermines science because if we cannot trust our senses then we cannot trust scientific facts derived from our senses.

    I am glad to see that the numeral 01 has abandoned his previous assertion and now accepts indirect realism (that we cannot know reality directly but we can get an arbitrarily close approximation). I think that is mistaken but at least it is realism.

  111. Brenda: I am glad to see that the numeral 01 has abandoned his previous assertion and now accepts indirect realism (that we cannot know reality directly but we can get an arbitrarily close approximation). I think that is mistaken but at least it is realism.

    “Arbitrarily close approximation” is, from a theoretical perspective pretty much as useless as “reality is unknowable” (since you can’t prove that your version of reality is “better” compared to someone with a radically different one).
    Practically what matters is altering your might-be-real/might-be-hallucinatory surrounding (including what might be other agents with separate models of reality, such as courts) in a manner you desire.

    The question regarding fundamental “knowability” of reality is thus extremely pedantic and largely irrelevant

    P.S.:
    I notice a new participant, devil in the flesh. Hallo thar !

  112. What? I just linked to this post, and my handle ends up here? Good to know, I guess.

  113. Ah yes, pingbacks!
    Usually, they are automatically marked as such, but I guess Peter’s blog is a mite misconfigured in that regard.