AI and cognitive psychology rant (getting more and more OT - tell me if I should shut up)

Andrew Dalke adalke at
Sun Nov 2 09:36:09 CET 2003

Stephen Horne:
> We cannot percieve either quantum or relativistic effects directly, so
> they could not be the earliest models.

[In general I agree with your post.  Just some comments.]

What about superfluid helium?

> And yes, even classical mechanics could not have been our first model
> for simple commonsense reasons. How often, for instance, did ancient
> Greeks get to observe objects moving through a frictionless
> environment?

Every clear night.

> I just love the way that a guy who got rich selling software to do
> fiddly maths jobs such as working with systems of differential
> equations has suddenly decided that all that fiddly maths is
> completely the wrong way to go ;-)

Excepting that he spent 10 years on that book  :)

> But even if, at some level, the universe is a cellular automata, I
> don't see that meaning that the fiddly maths can be abandoned.

I liked the scene in one of Brin's novels (from the Brightness Rift
trilogy).  Alien civilizations are the result of a several billion years
old lineage.  Nearly all knowledge is found in the Library.
Computer simulations are based on automata theory.  But Earth
isn't part of the culture ("wolflings") and developed this bizarre
math using infinitesimals which was sophisticated enough to make
pen&paper(&abacus) predictions of certain events which were
hard to simulate.

> I wouldn't go so far. No model (at least none we have yet) is perfect,
> so different models are bound to contradict each other - particularly
> when you push them beyond their limits.

True.  But some questions are meaningless.  "Wave or particle?"
"Where is the center of a black hole?"  "What would happen if you
were driving at the speed of light and turned the headlights on?"

> Hmmm - I suppose this depends what you mean by center. If you mean
> 'origin' in the graph-plotting sense, then you are right, of course.
> But my understanding is that the universe, so far as anyone can tell,
> is either an infinite space or finite without bounds. In either case,
> there is no such thing as a center.

Michele is a better one for this topic.  My point was just that many
different answers doesn't necessarily imply a mystic explanation.

> I find the 'infinite' theory dubious - if the expansion rate has
> remained finite since the big bang, then how can space have grown to
> become infinite?

There's also the Oblers' paradox, but that also requires infinite time.

I read a popular account of "branes", membrane theory, which
was interesting.  I don't know enough to describe it, other than
that the universe was created from high-dimensional membranes
hitting each other.

                    dalke at

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