[extropy-chat] Coin Flip Paradox

gts gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 30 21:12:55 UTC 2007

On Tue, 30 Jan 2007 13:46:22 -0500, Jef Allbright <jef at jefallbright.net>  

> Gordon, principles cannot "fail miserably".  People can fail miserably
> when they try to apply principles out of context.

There you go again. :)

The context in this case was a simple problem in decision theory. *The  
principle failed*, so the author wisely urged his readers to reject it,  
throwing it out as a possible tool for making sound decisions.

> The principle of indifference is beautiful (to some of us) because of  
> its elegance;

I invite you to consider another possibility: your so-called "beautiful  
principle" is in fact nothing more than a heuristic device; a mental  
shortcut that often seems to work but, like all heuristic devices,  
sometimes does not work. That is, it is not a valid logical principle. It  
does not belong in that pristine chapel of Logical Truth to which you have  
so undeservedly promoted it.

It looks "beautiful" because it works most of the time, and because we  
humans are so vain and dazzled by our own mental machinations that we  
sometimes fall into traps: in this case we wrongly imagine this mental  
shortcut called the PI to be some kind of neo-platonic "truth", as if it  
were an analytic statement in the same category with "1+1=2". But it's not!

It's really just a wild-assed conjecture in the face of complete ignorance  
about the true state of nature.

It could aptly be named the "Your Guess Is As Good As Mine So What The  
Hell, Let's Just Flip A Coin And Pray" Principle. :)

More later...


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