On 07/12/2008, at 3:00 AM, Brent Meeker wrote:

> Kim Jones wrote:
>> On 06/12/2008, at 6:18 PM, A. Wolf wrote:
>>>> I guess what I am on about is a bit closer to the 80s idea of  
>>>> "chaos"
>>>> - something that is inherently unpredictable; at least if you adopt
>>>> the stance of always launching your prediction from a single
>>>> present -
>>>> the one you happen to find yourself in.
>>> I think you mean randomness, not chaos.  Chaos theory deals with
>>> deterministic systems that vary widely in result based on small
>>> changes in
>>> initial starting conditions; these systems are 100% predictable.
>> Don't believe in randomness. "Random" means we don't understand what
>> determines it. Like "Junk DNA"; it's only junk up until we work out
>> what it's really for.
>> You can predict with 100% accuracy that systems with varying initial
>> conditions will bifurcate and become chaotic once driven beyond a
>> certain point. What you cannot say is what is determining the order  
>> in
>> the chaos once it arrives. That's closer to what I mean.
>> 2 men start to dig a hole. They are instructed to make it reach a
>> depth of 5 feet. One of them murders the other with his shovel.  
>> Nobody
>> predicted that would happen.
> How do you know that?  Maybe it was quite predictable.

Except nobody did predict it. That's my point. It was perfectly  
obvious why only after the event. Police checks, medical checks etc.  
revealed the pattern that pointed to the causation. Before the event,  
this information was available too. Nobody saw anything tending or  
pending in the information beforehand.

Schoolteachers have to do "Risk assessments" to evaluate the  
possibility of harm to students on excursion. Studies have shown that  
risk assessments do nothing to reduce the incidence of accidents or  
misadventure. Accidents simply happen. Accidents are still determined  
by something. We call it an accident only because we have no way  
before it happens of knowing that the cotter pin in the driving arm  
was about to shear off leaving the train without an effective brake  
system. Once the plane crashes, the black box reveals most of what we  
wish we had known beforehand.

The problem is TIME - the sequence of the arrival of information  
determines how we look at it

>> We can 'determine' the reasons for this
>> event only AFTER it happens, even though it was determined by
>> something that we might have noticed prior to the event if only we  
>> had
>> been able to. All action can be seen as logically determined in
>> hindsight.
> You must not have heard of quantum mechanics.

I have. I am clearly speaking about the macro world where time travels  
(apparently) in one direction only and there is this tendency for an  
action to be followed by an effect or another action. 'Action' in this  
context refers mainly to the activity of conscious agents, humans. It  
may yet be shown that protons and quarks have 'agency' but that is not  
really at issue here

>  And how can you know the
> causes seen in hindsight are correct.

Not causes - merely that there existed a logical pattern of  
connections that led from A through to D that we were blind to at the  
time. If, in hindsight we do not spot the logical connections then we  
have no way of understanding the event at all. I guess there may well  
be examples of that, too

> Modeling the past is hard too.
> In what sense do we know why the terrorists flew planes in the WTC?

Because everything we already knew about them before the event was  
still available to us after the event. After the event, everyone could  
see the powerful pattern in the data that they were blind to before  
the event. In a sense we knew this COULD happen. We simply could not  
predict that they would make the decision to act on what everybody  
(intelligence agancies, CIA etc.) already were aware of.

>> Before something happens is where we would like to be more
>> on top of things. Intelligence exists on terrorism but usually this
>> usually fails to determine our actions to prevent terrorist acts,
>> interestingly enough. If you look closely at what I am saying, it is
>> the rather messy human consciousness part of the equation that SPOILS
>> the mathematical modelling in most cases.
> Sure.  Humans and even most animals are extremely complicated.  Even
> things like weather and viscous flow over an aircraft are to  
> complicated
> to model except approximately over a limited range.
>> I am saying that a full
>> perceptual scan of the situation often takes us way beyond what the
>> data suggests. Just like the Mumbai massacre - intelligence WAS
>> available that suggested it could happen. Yet the massacre was
>> "allowed" to happen, because nobody could see the looming pattern in
>> the data until after it happened by which time it was bleeding  
>> obvious
>> to one and all. It seems that in many situations the sheer volume of
>> information available is as much a part of the problem as the  
>> decision-
>> making process. How do we decide? Data alone are incapable of making
>> decisions. You still need a wet, messy human brain with a  
>> perceptually
>> skilled mind to do that
> And apparently that doesn't work all that well either.

No it doesn't, if we only feed information and data into computers and  
expect the computer to do our thinking for us.

>>>> Isn't this kind of like an act of  faith?
>>> No.  Faith isn't based on evidence.  When we use math to model
>>> things in
>>> reality, we do so empirically.  If a distribution doesn't fit after
>>> testing
>>> it, we don't use it to model that set of data, for example.  How we
>>> use math
>>> functionally is different from math itself.
>> Sure, but correlations occur between sets of data and there is a
>> tendency for them to look like causations. Most scientists and data
>> collectors are trained to say "correlations do not necessarily imply
>> causations" which is great advice up until the correlation turns out
>> to BE a causation
> You just seem to on a rant against everyone who thinks, calculates,
> predicts, etc.

No - I am arguing for a different style of thinking, calculating,  
predicting. I am arguing for more of what I have called "Creative  
thinking" (Lateral thinking). Please go back and read my original post  

Creativity is not a matter of whether a particular idea is right or  
wrong. Creativity is not a matter of finding the best way of putting  
certain things together. Creativity is a matter of trying to get at  
what has been left out of the original way of looking at the  
situation. One can never get at this simply by judging the  
effectiveness of a particular way of looking at the situation. All of  
our mathematical formalities of calculating and predicting things are  
marvellous, wonderful and highly effective methods. I would be a fool  
to suggest otherwise. I in no sense advocate that we get rid of them.  
I suggest though, that we supplement them with creative thinking  
because this allows us to avoid or at best sidestep the traps of  
purely logical, vertical thinking. It is not a question of stopping  
doing something we are already doing. It is not a question of changing  
something we are already doing. It is a question of starting to do  
something we are not yet doing - or doing at best, only half-heartedly.

>>>> If we could perfectly model where things are heading then
>>>> please tell me why all the BTSOAPs of the dismal science of the
>>>> economics world could not arrange a more stable financial future  
>>>> for
>>>> us than the one we are currently moving into?
>>> The problem with (for example) economic forecasts is not that the
>>> mathematics is flawed; the math is fine.  It's the data collection
>>> that's
>>> flawed.
>> I would say that it is the premises - the starting assumptions that
>> are probably flawed, not the collection method, unless by collection
>> method we include the starting assumptions which are unavoidably
>> guiding the triage of the data.
> It depends on the problem.  Calculating the flow over an aircraft  
> isn't
> hard because of data collection, it's hard because there are no closed
> form solutions to the Navier-Stokes equations and because the airplane
> has a complex shape. Calculations about what humans will do is hard  
> both
> because knowing what's in their brains is hard and because there are  
> no
> good models

So it appears then that we are in perfect agreement. Don't try and  
MINIMISE the problem, Brent! The "wet, messy, human brain/mind  
problem" is THE problem!

>> The biggest flawed assumption of all
>> is the belief that data collection of itself will give rise to ideas
>> and concepts. Data do not do that. We choose our starting points and
>> assumptions in all cases. Often we aren't even aware of these because
>> - well, they are assumptions and nobody really questions assumptions
>> much.
> On what planet?

I am saying that on the whole (not always) people skate past their  
assumptions - in business, in politics, in religion, in education, in  
a hundred thousand human endeavours. Maybe not so much in science and  
math and philosophy - which is why I think this list is one of the  
better audiences for what I am saying.

>> Our way of looking at the data is not itself present in any way
>> in the data. I'm saying that if reality conforms to our model of it,
>> then the danger is we are looking at only a part of the situation.  
>> The
>> issue in question is the WHOLE situation, not just that part we  
>> to look at. How can we ever be ccertain that we are in fact looking  
>> at
>> the whole situation.
> Of course we are never looking at *the whole situation* (the
> universe?).  We know we are looking at enough of the situation when  
> our
> models make successful approximate predictions and when we understand
> where the errors come from.

Is it not interesting though, that "where the errors came from" is  
usually available to our minds only after the experiment has run,  
after the train has gone off the rails, after the planes have flown  
into the buildings etc.??

I'm not saying that we should be trying to invent some kind of  
"crystal Ball" technology - only that techniques, formal techniques  
which enable a better perceptual understanding of future possibilities  
is already available to us and that it is high time we started to  
value these techniques more - indeed, to teach them starting with pre- 
schoolers. Education for one, NEVER teaches "how to choose concepts".  
Yet, the concepts we use to view information are absolutely 100%  
behind the choices we make when we act on information. If we choose,  
for example the concept of "ALLAHU AKHBAR" as our starting premise for  
what we do, that then enables an enormous set of activities predicated  
on this idea. It is perfectly logical.



> Brent
> >

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