[ExI] The Reality of Categories

Mike Dougherty msd001 at gmail.com
Tue Jul 17 14:12:28 UTC 2007

On 7/16/07, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
> > What would you actually say to an alien who thought you were crazy to
> > assert that the rock was the same rock as yesterday?
> I would first make sure that there was not a communication
> problem.  Then I would ask him why the two rocks were
> not the same.  He might say that one was a "today-rock"
> and one was a "yesterday-rock", but that would probably
> indicate nothing more than a communication or language
> difficulty.

I wonder if the communication problem could be resolved.  Sure, we can agree
on language usage, but ultimately the message originates from a specific
perspective and must reach a destination perspective different from that
origin.  In a human-to-human context, there is enough similarity in past
experience that the point of view on an abstract point is negligible.  Given
the parallax between human and alien perspectives, there may be increasing
difficulty constructing any language-encapsulated thought that could be
properly received and understood.  Perhaps over the course of enough
context-sharing where human-thought becomes more alien and alien-thought
becomes more human, the gap can be narrowed.

I also considered the rock example as a point of view problem like this:
The rock is the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.  We are each in the
same plane relative to the monolith, at equal distance and right angles.
You see a black surface that is 1 unit by 4 units.  I see a black surface 1
unit by 9 units.  We are in agreement about the 1 unit measure (I assume our
concept of "black surface" also agrees)  Our description of the other
observable dimension is inherently a matter of our positions relative to the
object.  A third (contrived) observer in another plane may only see the 4x9
face.  We may have some language or communication medium with which to
exchange our concept of this object, but without a frame of reference we
won't be able to communicate properly.

I wonder if the aliens from this example can directly observe a temporal
dimension of the rock as we would examine spatial dimensions.  If that were
true, then they would be more like the third observer than any in "our"
plane.  I always wondered if the monolith's dimension 1x4x9 continued as
squares of the dimension, such that the fourth dimension of the monolith
would be 16, etc.  Also, considering the vanishing point notion of
perspective, could a sufficiently wide object be detectable along it's width
even if the depth were too small (less than a Planck length)  [reminds me of
Flatland (1)]

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatland
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