[ExI] Increasing coherence over increasing context? Or Truth?

Aware aware at awareresearch.com
Thu May 21 12:00:31 UTC 2009

On Wed, May 20, 2009 at 11:03 PM, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
> Jef writes
> I do have to study that, thanks, because I so
> often mix up the three concepts /reliability/,
> /accuracy/, and /precision/ that one of my
> best friends is positively annoyed. However,
> fortunately for me, I don't think that I used
> one of those terms in our exchange.

So do you then ask yourself why, in the bigger picture, the greater
context, might Jef bring this up?

> I also have to remind myself that you are not
> exactly an anti-realist

So do you look closer to understand the difference in our views, or do
you mentally step back to take in the bigger picture, the greater
context of the discussion?

>>>> and embrace a pragmatic view of increasing
>>>> instrumental truth (probability) within a
>>>> context of ever-increasing uncertainty
>>>> (possibility.)
> I strongly suspect that this doesn't really
> harbor any ideas I disagree with.

Might you consider that the key to the puzzle is not "harbored" within
any sentence, but is instead represented by the shape of the envelope
defined by the many pieces of this discussion?

>> During my more than three decades in the business of analytical
>> instruments, I worked with countless customers who would naively ask
>> about the accuracy (veracity, truth) of their instrument.  Nearly
>> always, I would have to explain that the instrument performs in terms
>> of sensitivity, stability, and... most importantly, precision.  And
>> that is all that is needed, entirely useful, for any of their process
>> control needs.
> Hmm, you were there, but how did you know that
> they were not inquiring merely to the reliability
> of the instrument in matching, say, an international
> standard.

Rather than looking *in* to the scenario I presented and asking how I
could have been sure, might you not ask yourself why I present this
scenario, in what way might it be coherent with the overall message?

> Perhaps you can give me a hand, here:
> I paid $400 for a high precision thermometer because
> I got too interested in the "exact" temperatures of
> my various living rooms. It claims to be accurate
> (oh, hell, or precise, I don't remember) to one-tenth
> of a degree Fahrenheit. Now when I turn it on, and
> look skeptically at it as it fluctuates a bit, and
> I compare it to my cheaper thermometers, I testify
> that I have this in mind: I want to know the average
> temperature that the world's greatest scientists
> would report if they'd spent billions of dollars
> instrumenting the various rooms of my house. Since
> I do understand the kinetic theory of gases and
> I know that my instrument (and theirs) must vacillate
> a great deal, I think I do understand (you may
> disagree) the nonexistence of an infinitely
> precise temperature (given by some real number r).

First let's recognize the absurdity of your implication that any
measurement could be "infinitely" precise.

Next, are you conflating the actual state of the air molecules in the
room with *knowledge* of their state?

I think we went over this in a thread on the inherent subjectivity of
entropy initiated on 2008-02-28.  As I said then, I'm glad Eliezer
took the time to write it up, for example here:
<http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/02/second-law.html>, since it goes
far beyond my own customary 5-paragraph rule of diminishing returns in
a relatively unstructured online discussion such as this.

I will observe here, again, that you seem to be searching for Truth by
looking closer and closer, rather than finding truth in the
regularities observable in the bigger picture.

>> If they actually needed accuracy, then it was obtainable by taking the
>> measurement results and calibrating them relative to a reference
>> standard traceable to NIST or some other institution.
> Right. Okay.
>> But here's the key point:  If NIST were to arbitrarily modify their
>> standard, and everybody recalibrated to it so they again had a common
>> basis for comparison, everything would work just as well.  Accuracy
>> has NO MEANING independent of context.
> The first sentence I grant, of course. It's the
> second that troubles me. What does it mean? That
> there is a NIST standard somewhere (for this
> example)? Is that the sort of context you mean?
> I worry that the meaning/word ratio of your
> last sentence is pretty low.

The meaning was not "harbored" in that last sentence (((in the context
of that paragraph) in the context of this post) in the context of this
discussion.)   That final sentence was intended only to reinforce and
"lock in" the point built up prior to it.

Your apparent insensitivity to context continues to puzzle and amaze.

>> Lee, please don't forget that I spent over twenty years successfully
>> managing highly technical teams within a highly competitive
>> environment.
> Arguing from authority never gets anywhere with
> me, pal  :)
>> I'm not speaking from the ivory towers of academia, nor
>> from a background in the Humanities steeped in Postmodernist
>> Deconstruction, nor from any vague, mush-headed mystical point of
>> view.
> That's good. But I don't think that I could have
> made much of a case that you were (so speaking).

Again, you broke a paragraph that was meant to convey a single,
coherent unit of meaning.  Instead of dealing with it as a whole, you
invalidated the first part, validated the second, and missed the


> Take the temperature example again. Yes, I
> can admit that many people have a rather
> naive view of what temperature is (never
> having even heard any phrase like "mean
> kinetic energy" in their lives), but does
> it really lead to bad planning, bad investment,
> or wrong-headed approaches in practical life?

Yes.  it's analogous to how our national security apparatus has
traditionally operated more like a surgical team than as an immune
system, and how we see politics more as zero-sum conflict over
scarcity than positive-sum cooperation for increasing abundance. And
how most of us still see moral issues in terms of what is Right (the
inherited context), or in terms of maximizing expected utility (the
presently perceived context), but rarely in terms of promoting an
increasing context of increasingly coherent [hierarchical,
fine-grained] evolving values into an ever-broadening future.

- Jef.

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