Friday, 17 May 2013

I generally like thought experiments. Nozick's Experience Machine is great, Rawl's Veil of Ignorance is useful at times, but why does Nozick give attention to Newcomb's Paradox?

You are at a game show:

  • There are two boxes, A and B.
  • You have two choices -- take box B, or take both boxes.
  • Box A contains R 1 000
  • Box B contains either R 1 000 000 or nothing. 
The host has made a prediction about your choice before the start of the game: If he predicted that you would choose both boxes, he put nothing in box B; if he predicted that you would choose just box B, he put the R 1 000 000 in box B. Apparently he is "almost certainly" right. 

The interesting part is that people disagree about the correct strategy. Should we choose just B, because we are "almost certain" to get our mil', or should we choose both boxes, knowing that our current actions can't influence past events? 

I don't see the problem as a paradox at all. People who argue for choosing only box B would probably agree with The Doctor: "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey, stuff." Those who argue for choosing both boxes probably wouldn't. And it's as simple as that. Ironically, the only Paradox (to use the word in its vulgar, common, sense) is that so much thought has been put into this "thought" experiment.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Studying computer science, one never doubts the fact that the world is moving towards new heights at a great rate. Technology is constantly better, faster, smaller. I read SlashDot, PCWorld, and ACM News on a daily basis, and the fact that they never run out of interesting news to report shows how fast technology is moving.

But my impressions from other fields of study are very different. The genius found in musicians and philosophers from long ago is not often seen today. After reading Descartes and Sartre last year, and Nietzsche last term, we are now looking at Social Epistemology. Yes, even Philosophy is now contaminated by the word "Social": how far are we from becoming a branch of sociology or psychology? Reading papers by contemporary Philosophers, I see none of the genius which is so readily evident in Descartes, Sartre, and Nietzsche. Attending the ECPO Beethoven concert a couple of weeks ago led to a similar impression - can modern music be compared to the Emperor? I doubt it.

Perhaps art, literature, philosophy, and music will simply become irrelevant as our world becomes increasingly virtual, and that the advances in technology are therefore all that is needed.

But maybe not...