Re: Hempel's paradox redux

From: Richard Loosemore (
Date: Fri Sep 16 2005 - 07:48:08 MDT

Michael Wilson wrote:
> Not directly. Of course everyone makes mistakes, large and small, and
> as long as they're caught and corrected it's not a problem. The question
> is one of attitude. Most people react to evidence that they have made a
> mistake by trying to downplay its significence. For scientists and
> engineers this is most often a claim that they just got some trivial
> implementation detail wrong, and that their basic ideas are sound. This
> isn't surprising; it's instinctual because it saves face and it's
> superficially rational because it preserves the perceived investment of
> time and energy in the 'big ideas'. Generously the person may be so
> passionate about developing/realising their concepts that they don't
> want to get sidetracked by fixing 'implementation bugs'; less generously
> they may be blind to the progressive accumulation of individually minor
> evidence that their theories are broken.
> In AI it is so easy to be subtly and irretrievably wrong, and there are
> so many traps to fall into, I do not believe it is possible to be
> successful without strongly checking this tendency. This is a question
> of attitude, the way in which the problem is approached, not one of any
> specific design choice. Unfortunately I don't think it's likely that
> your project will produce an AGI Ben, not so much because of what little
> I know about your design, but because your research methology does not
> seem to be rigorous enough to consistently cut through the dross and
> misunderstandings in search of the Right Thing. Unfortunately while your
> actual design has changed, this meta-level approach appears to have
> remained constant over the time that you have been publishing your ideas.
> [etc.]

That is astonishing. Everything - but everything - you say above
applies to your own attitude to ideas you do not like. When confronted
with evidence of a problem that originated in the Complex Systems
domain, you (a) claimed that it was incoherent (it was not: many people
other than you found it coherent and correct), (b) claimed it wasn't
evidence (it was, by standards that many other scientists live with on a
daily basis), then when you were faced with repeated demonstrations that
you were not even comprehending the argument, you (c) attacked the field
of Complex Systems as unworthy of study and (d) attacked the person
delivering the argument as being clearly incompetent.

Your analysis of the problems faced by human scientists trying to do
good science in spite of their own egos is quite accurate, in some
respects. What is shameful is the way you blatantly fail to apply the
analysis to your own behavior while at the same time being insufferably
condescending towards others.


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