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Posted by Aurino Souza on September 29, 2003 20:01:11 UTC

Hi Harv,

I hope I made it clear that I'm not criticizing you in any way; all I'm saying is that Dick sucks at explaining himself. But despite his shortcomings, I think I got a pretty good understanding of where he's coming from when he posted that "I think you've got it" thing some time ago.

Again, understanding is not the same thing as agreeing.

Whenever we talk about the human experience of reality, I agree - and have always agreed - that we can represent any concept (or object, process, etc) as a series of numbers.

I don't even agree with that, but the issue Dick is dealing with is far less controversial than you think. In essence, all he's saying is that any explanation of anything can be converted to numbers and stored on a computer's hard disk. It's no big deal really.

BUT, this is NOT the same thing as saying that reality is representable by a series of numbers. This is what we do not know. Reality, for all we know, may exist far outside the scope of being captured by quantitative methods (and there's good reason to suggest this), and therefore I reject this naive notion by Dick.

I have no problem with your argument here, except that I don't think it has much to do with what Dick is talking about. I know it appears to be related, but it's not. The problem in his argument, if I can ever explain to you, is far more serious than that, so much so that I was troubled for several days when I finally "got" it. But I can't tell you what troubled me before you understand what the problem is.

However, let's assume for argument's sake that Dick is talking about the communicating our human experience and not representing reality itself. The quantitative model that he holds as restrictive to human model construction is still naive since to represent our experience of reality by numbers doesn't mean anything unless you can show how the so-called restriction to our model making conforms to new observables.

Actually, this thing about observables doesn't really have much to do with his argument. That's why he dismisses the issue everytime you bring it up. If you understood his ideas the way I do, you'd see why. In short, I can say that the issue of making scientific predictions has very little to do with the problem of decoding the meaning of words in an unkown language.

This is what science is vastly composed, finding how our new theories conform to new observables such that the new theories can described as a restriction in our observations. Stafford scoffs at this requirement, however mathematical models have shown continual fallibility of being non-restrictive to our experience (i.e., wrong), and therefore just being a mathematical model is not a high enough standard to gauge whether a new model is restrictive or non-restrictive to human experience such as what Dick would like everyone to believe.

The biggest difference between scientists and Dick is that scientists are not skeptical of their sensory experience. The argument you presented above means nothing to a person who doesn't rely on his own sensory perceptions of the world, and chooses to rely on logic alone.

I strongly believe in my senses, by the way, but I'm fully aware there's no logic to that. It's more like an act of faith.

Dick is all over the map here. At times he wants us to believe he has found an ontological restriction and at other times he wants us to believe he has found an epistemological restriction. Both cases fail. As an ontological restriction his model fails because he cannot show that reality is necessarily mathematical. And, as an epistemological restriction his model fails because he cannot show that our experience of reality is necessarily dictated by every conceivable math model. In fact, quite the opposite is the case, and the only fully verifiable means we have to know whether our experience is in anyway constrained to certain observations is through the scientific methods and subsequent models that emerge as a result. Since Dick only has ridicule for those epistemological methods, he is very far from having a clue as to why his model cannot be seen in any serious light.

You're basically saying that, because Dick doesn't think as a scientist, no scientist will take his ideas seriously. But it's actually worse than that.

This problem [of deciphering a language] is far from solvable, and I hope you aren't suggesting an answer.

I'm not suggesting an answer, but you have to agree with me that the first part of your sentence is wrong. How many words did you know when you were born? The problem obviously has a solution, although I'm fully convinced it has nothing to do with Dick's paper. I'd say Alan knew-it-all-when-I-was-born approach is closer to the truth, but I'm only speculating.



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