Steven made the following comment at Chizumatic recently: “The fact that you and I disagree about something doesn’t mean you know more about it than I do. Sometimes people who have exactly the same body of knowledge will disagree anyway.” He correctly notes that I am a disciple of this axiom. In fact, I even launched a blog dedicated to that idea. The blog, Super-rational, makes reference to a very interesting experiment run by Douglas Hoftstadter, a variation of a single-shot Prisoner’s Dilemma. That blog is really structured as an extended discussion, between contributors as carefully filtered as the participants in DH’s priginal experiment. I consider the blog itself to be a meta-discussion on the statement above – and the statement above to be self-referential in a sense because the point it makes is itself an unprovable statement, to which different observers will come to different conclusions!

Ultimately, why do people disagree? Because we never are able to truly have the same body of working facts? Or because of a deeper flaw with the very process of reason itself?

16 thoughts on “Super-rational”

  1. I think perception and personal experience play a big role. I grew up in rural MI and if I told my neighbors that I was planning on purchasing a few guns, they would want to know what type and share what guns they have. I currently live in Boston and if I told my neighbors the same thing, they’d probably assume I was preparing for a mass murder spree. In both cases, my neighbors would have the same information, but would interpret it differently. This fits with the idea that not everybody has the same “facts”, but perception and personal experience aren’t necessarily based on fact.

  2. Ultimately, why do people disagree? Because we never are able to truly have the same body of working facts? Or because of a deeper flaw with the very process of reason itself?

    because we never have exactly the same genome….or the same memome. 😉

  3. invoking memomes though is just swapping out one general concept (“reason”) with another (“meme”). One might ask, what if ytwo people had the same memome. Then would they always agree? The answer is either yes or no depending on how you define it. I dont really see any value to the memome concept for this reason – its just a semantic label. Unless you can define a memome on the basis of some biological parameter or structure (the way you can with genome) it’s really just a distraction.

  4. well, this is good.
    i can work some bugs out of my argument before i post at SR. 😉

    “Unless you can define a memome on the basis of some biological parameter or structure…”

    i will define memome largely on the basis of these three books,
    Cultural Transmission and Evolution– cavalli-sforza and feldman
    Explaining Culture– dan sperber
    The Origin and Evolution of Cultures– boyd and richerson.

    should the definition go into my argument at SR, or should i frame it here for your preview?

    btw, the maths in cavalli-sforza/feldman and boyd/richerson are quite rigorous.
    sperber takes a “naturalist” approach.

  5. how about a post at QG about the definition of memome. I’ll critically review it and give you a final thumbs-up or down on whether you can use it at SR after discussion there 🙂

    but in general I am extremely skeptical of introducing new concepts to this topic. Frankly the whole thing smells of hand waving to me. I’m going to hold you to more rigour than neurocognitive types would.

  6. I’d like to have a definition for a memome since this is the first time I’ve heard of it.

  7. Why do people disagree? I don’t think two people can come to different conclusions and yet neither one is acting outside of reason. They just have different priorities. In the classic PD, one prisoner may value truthfulness and loyalty over their freedom. I’d rather be in jail than be a backstabber, as it were. The PD sort of assumes from the outset that everyone is simply trying to minimize jail time, but once other values come into play it becomes far too complex to distill into neat tables of proability of various outcome scenarios.

    This is one reason I’m slowly becoming an anarchist of some sort. I refuse to impose my own particular set of values onto anyone else (assuming they are not trying to hurt me) and any attempt from them to make me live according to their values is just tyranny in my book.

    This is not a popular of prevailing view by any means, but using my own values and priorities I find it inescapable.

  8. Sigh. I screwed that up and inverted my opening statement. I DO think two reasonable people can have the same data and come to differing (even directly opposed) conclusions.

    The fact that Otaku and I are both adherants to this belief, are both reasonable people, and yet have opposing political leanings seems to bear this out. 🙂

    The political Left and Right differ greatly in values, yet are always trying to pursuade each other with facts, which is probably such discussions seem so maddening and fruitless.

  9. One point I made in my recent post to SR that I think is particularly relevant to the question being asked here is simple: people don’t “keep it in the game”. Shamus above comments similarly that other values come into play.

    However, an important tool of philosophy (and programming, and engineering, and science, etc.) is compartmentalization–that is, drawing a box around a problem. First, identify the problem, identify its inputs, and identify its outputs. Then simplify the problem by eliminating various inputs (and thus outputs). Finally, compute and arrive at an answer.

    I believe part of the difference real people have in their answers, however, comes from a premature (and un-agreed-upon) adjustment for other inputs, such as, oh, the whole of their lifetime experience, its impacts on their value system, and how that impacts their conclusion. It’s as if both people are drawing new inputs into their boxes without agreeing on their values or even telling the other person!

  10. Ultimately, why do people disagree? Because we never are able to truly have the same body of working facts? Or because of a deeper flaw with the very process of reason itself?

    ha ha, perhaps both.
    we are never able to have the same body of working facts, like L6’s inputs and my memomes.
    for example, Hofstadter was surprised when Charles Brenner cooperated– Brenner said ” i didn’t want to go on record in an international journal as a defector.” people have reasons– Dan Dennett said he would feel better spending $3 he got by cooperating than the $10 for defecting. Both those players were looking outside the box for payoff.

    and, aziz-habbibi, we had a great discussion on Pixy Misa’s blog about conciousness…oh…a year ago?
    what if reason itself is non-deterministic, random– quantum consciousness any one?

  11. matoko-chan – how about a URL to that pixy misa discussion? i gooogled it but came up short. My google-fu is weak tonight.

    I might have to create a Page dedicated to Metamagical Themas for a more in depth discussion of the book. That means I should-re-read it first though 🙂

    quantum consciousness? feh. more buzzwords like memomes 🙂

  12. Too many buzzwords. I don’t really understand the desire to describe consciousness, etc. with the genome and/or quantum mechanics.

    As an aside, I’m a little worried that the traditional method described by L6 may not be the best method for investigating this type of question. The required simplification of putting a box around the problem may remove it far enough from reality that the result isn’t meaningful.

  13. It’s simply an idealization, Quorlox. Idealizations are good for setting bounds, not expectations. 😉 Obviously we know from as far back as physics class that some problems can be solved making ideal assumptions while others can not.

  14. I don’t know how many scientists actually accept this. Intellectually, they will acknowledge science has limits; science can’t tell you if you’re in love. But, many assert it can answer every physical question and then, they assume everything is physically based. 😀 This is one of the reasons I’m hesitant of connections like “genome – memome” and “quantum properties – quantum consciousness”. But, it’s a moot point if that’s not what the people here are espousing.

  15. I skimmed one of her articles (J. Comp. Neur. 493 58-62 2005) and although interesting, the results don’t suggest a way to identify whether somebody is in love or not, at least not to me. It focused on a very narrow definition of love, “romantic love”, which is basically the initial pink fuzzies typically felt in the first part of a relationship. It is an fMRI study, so Aziz might reach a different conclusion if he reads it (since he has more experience in that area than I do).

    On a related note, I found it interesting that the study relied on self-reporting of the volunteers to determine if they were suitable for the study, i.e. if they were in love. And also relied on self-reporting to make certain the subjects only entertained “appropriate” thoughts during the scan. If science had a test for love, why didn’t the just use that to separate the participants into “in love” and “not in love” categories?

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