Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Gregory Chaitin: Why “impractical” things like philosophy are actually quite useful

arroba Email

Chaitin argues that the human spirit is capable of doing both practical things and impractical things which may have practical consequences later:

At least for me, it was purely philosophical. I was interested in incompleteness. I was interested in more practical stuff, but it looked very difficult. And now what is it? Algorithmic information theory goes back to the 60s. What are we now?

It’s 60 years later. Hector McNeil and his collaborators are using practical approximations to this ideal theory and for practical applications.

Oh, this is the biggest joke of all: The halting probability Omega is totally unknowable. It’s uncomputable, but you can calculate it in the limit from below. You look at more and more programs, you see which ones hold and that way, the halting probability keeps going up, your estimate keeps going up. But it’s very, very slow this process. But in the limit of infinite time, you can calculate it in the limit from below.

Well, the joke is that Hector McNeil has proposed using this as a new cryptocurrency that he calls Automacoin. This is a serious proposal because Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, uses an immense amount of computing power. Really scary amount of computing power that didn’t even exist before. But it’s all going for this. It’s not terribly useful computation except for financial transactions. But what Hector’s Neil has basically proposed is to calculate the bits of Omega in the limit from below.

This gives you a cryptocurrency where what you calculate is very, very useful. It’s useful in the way that Marvin Minsky pointed out, that it tells you the best theories for things. The most concise programs with things. That can be used for making predictions.

News, “Why “impractical” things like philosophy are actually quite useful” at Mind Matters News

Takehome: Gregory Chaitin reflects on the fact that if he had to do practical work 60 years ago, there wouldn’t be practical research today based on the Omega number.

But that raises a question: If materialism were true, why does theoretical stuff matter so much?

See also: Omega number: Getting to know the unknowable number, more or less

Agreed that experience has a much higher truth value than theory or even philosophical constructs. But to communicate some wisdom to people, we need theories to generalize from the experiences we have had. Why did [whatever] happen to me? I experienced it three times. So, we have the truth of the experience, but we want to know the reason and attempt to understand the future a bit better. A theory helps. We can test and improve our understanding. At the same time - yes, theories can distort reality and be used in place of experience, thus becoming very destructive of life, as we see happening frequently. People live in accord with the theory and not in accord with reality. Silver Asiatic
"If materialism were true, why does theoretical stuff matter so much?" 1. Theoretical stuff DOESN'T matter. Theory is worse than useless. Theory is lethal and genocidal. 2. Theory leads to materialism. Materialism is ALL theory. Experience leads to spiritualism, not materialism. polistra

Leave a Reply