Tuesday, April 19, 2016

An Honest Conversation About Determinism


Molyneux's antagonist here makes a good point right at the outset that the opposite of a determined event is not a free will chosen event it is rather a random (stochastic) event...

"...human caprice..."  Eph 4:14




59 comments:

nivekvb said...

I worked it out, although it took me a while, we don't have free will, but it makes no difference anyway, because we always do what we want to do, even if we do regret some some things afterwards.

Ignacio said...

Well, we don't always do what we want, because there are always constraints. And if you are doing what "you" want, they you have free will. The argument against free will is that what "you" want is not determined by yourself, so is an illusion product of chemical reactions in your brain.

It's not important if we have free will or not, choice is basically an illusion due to our material condition, even if we had, metaphysically speaking, free will (I don't think we have but that is besides the point), previous conditions determine available choices. Let's suppose we are 'homo economicus' like economists think, then given a concrete amount of available information to us, we will always choose the optimal choice (what is "optimal"?) of those already available. I think the fact that this does not happen is the first argument against free will.

But at the same time,even if you had free will, are there is always one right (better) choice, and you choose that choice, do we really have 'free will'? So if we are not choosing the right choice, it seems we are not acting on free will? And if we are, is it really a free choice, when is the only right choice?

The point is that we cannot determine if we have free will, because we cannot determine what the hell is the "best"/"optimal"/etc. choice and what is driving that choice, what entices making a choice. If we don't know that we cannot know the other.

About deterministic/stochastic. Considering our universe is deterministic, cause there is always causality, if we approach things stochastically is because we don't have access to all information, but that does not mean that events haven't been causally determined. IMO is an artificial divide/construction we humans make to try understanding things we don't understand. A process may appear stochastic, but it isn't really stochastic, because there is always causality, however, there is no way we have the knowledge to determine the causality of that process, then we fall into the trap of thinking it's 'stochastic'.

Matt Franko said...

"A process may appear stochastic, but it isn't really stochastic, because there is always causality,"


Remember the economists use the DSGE thing where the "S" stands for 'stochastic'....

Ignacio said...

Right, but that's like quantum dynamics. Quantum dynamics are treated statistically as an stochastic process, but that's because we lack the information and knowledge to treat it otherwise due to several problem (the observation problem). This does not mean necessarily that is a process without causality (truly random).

Approaching a real problem stochastically is to simplify underlying complexity. That's why it's an approach/model and will never be the REAL thing. That's the first disclaimer that should go with all economics models (or is an unwritten rule of what a model entitles, not even needed to write it). Unfortunately economists forget this conveniently too often, but that's because they are politicians in disguise, and politicians want to appear as always right(ous) to others, as of what use they are if they are not dealing with certainties?

Matt Franko said...

Seems to me that 'price' is not a stochastic outcome...

Bob said...

Excellent. Now I can sit on my ass and collect welfare. Who needs free will when there is free money?

Bob said...

Whenever I see videos with titles like "An Honest..." or "The Truth About...", then I know it's BS.

Bob said...

Jesus, this is painful to listen to :(

Matt Franko said...

lol sorry! I was just trying to draw attention to the point the guy made in the first 30 seconds! ;)

Random said...

"This does not mean necessarily that is a process without causality (truly random)."

One thing I have always wondered - is radioactive decay a "truly random" process? Anyone on here have an answer?

Matt Franko said...

I thought it was known and considered logarithmic?

nivekvb said...

There is no free money. The machines now do most of the work. Conservatism is now looking prehistoric.

Bob said...

If it can be analyzed statistically then it is not random.

Ignacio said...

Radiatioactivity decay is a good example of what I meant, is an stochastic process (that we can't measure deterministically), apparently random.

But is it truly random? Well, if is due to the interaction between particles in accordance to the nuclear weak force it's determined to happen causally in a certain way. The problem is, ofc, that there are some inherent observation problems so we cannot access the information to known the exact chain of events to predict how that decay will happen (so we can only measure it over certain time and build a probabilistic model of the decay with a certain degree of confidence).

You cannot predict how exactly an unstable atom will decay, but that does not mean that is not a deterministic event (not truly random).

But that's what Einstein implied when he said that "God does not play dice with the universe" and still an open question. So is treated stochastically, but no one has idea if those dynamics are truly random.

If something is random though, you cannot make any predictions (even if they are stochastic) about it, models are useless to predict random events. I don't think randomness exists in our universe, but that's an open question...

Tom Hickey said...

I don't think randomness exists in our universe, but that's an open question...

The ancient Greeks speculated that the primal state is random (Chaos). From that emerges order (Kosmos) through imposition of intelligibility (Logos) by a "demiurge" (Demiourgos). The demiurge was subsequently equated with intelligence (Nous). With the advent of Christianity and the conflation of the Hebrew and Greek traditions, the concept of a primeval and eternal Chaos was dropped and the primeval state was equated with Logos (the Word), as in "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God." John 1:1

Modernism physics revived the ancient Greek theory of Democratus and the Atomists that reality is atomistic. QM revived the notion that the primeval state is random, which is what stochastic essentially means.

Stochastic is synonymous with "random." The word is of Greek origin and means "pertaining to chance" (Parzen 1962, p. 7). It is used to indicate that a particular subject is seen from point of view of randomness. Stochastic is often used as counterpart of the word "deterministic," which means that random phenomena are not involved. Therefore, stochastic models are based on random trials, while deterministic models always produce the same output for a given starting condition. Wolfram MathWorld

How does the random appear ordered. We don't know (yet).

The question determinism-free will is "philosophical" in the derogatory sense of being unsettlable epistemologically for lack of knowledge.

The relevant question is freedom of choice. To what degree are individuals free of influence in making choices. According to psychological research, not so much. There are many influences operative, some of which are conscious and some not. For example, PR, marketing and advertising, and propaganda agencies have spent mucho bucks on such research. A lot of money is spent on influencing choice. Think advertising or information war, for instance.

A lot of this began with Edward Bernays book, Propaganda ( download ), published in 1928. Perhaps not coincidentally, Bernays was a nephew of Sigmund Freud. He combined the ideas of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, Sigmund Freud. Wikipedia .

Matt Franko said...

Whoa A LOT in there Tom thx.....

Tom Hickey said...

Seems to me that 'price' is not a stochastic outcome...

The assumption is that price is stochastic in a perfect market. To the degree that there are imperfections, not, owing to market power and other influences. In many if not most contemporary markets, there are price setters and administered price. This means that in most case, there is rent to extract.

Tom Hickey said...

If it can be analyzed statistically then it is not random.

Not exactly. The outcome of each coin tosses random, given a fair coin, but there are only two possible outcomes, so the probability is ½ or .5, or "fifty-fifty."

The difference between probability and statistics is that between math (formal) and science (empirical). Probability as math assumes a fair coin. Statistics looks at the result of a long enough run to determine whether the coin is fair. If the outcomes don't vary around .5, then the coin becomes suspect.

Tom Hickey said...

The assumption is that price is stochastic in a perfect market. To the degree that there are imperfections, not, owing to market power and other influences.

This means that in imperfect markets, the dice that are cast are loaded. Usually this is expressed as the playing field not being level, so the flow is in a particular direction rather than being fairly determined. Here "fair" is used in two sense. First, in the normative sense of just, and secondly, in the physical sense of the dice being loaded.

Ignacio said...

Tom I could present you with a number series generated by a random generator, and you would not be able to make a model that exactly predicts the series.

However, there is nothing random about that series, because the generator is not truly random, is pseudo-random.

Stochastic deal with 'random phenomena', but it could be something that appears random (due to noise), or something that is truly random (that has no causality, ie. is not-deterministic). I don't think that there are fundamentally random phenomena, and everything has causality, when we fail to establish it we can work out stochastic models which abstract the noise, but that does not mean the phenomena is truly random.

In that regard, I neither think that price is stochastic... but in practice, does it matter? It appears stochastic. However there are other things, like unemployment that are treated as stochastic by mainstream economists and are completely determined by policy choice...

Tom Hickey said...

This why information theory is important wrt signal and noise. What we are actually trying to do is isolate signal from noise. In most cases that are interesting to us, we cannot arrive at a pure signal and know that it is a pure signal based on perfect criteria.

We can tell whether a coin or dice are fair by weighing them, We can't do that with the random generator that statistics assumes. So we can't tell whether the random generator is actually random or biased, and what he call "cause" is really bias. Biases are "noise."

This is why we need a theory that explains causality in terms of transmission as a background against which to differentiate signal and noise. But again, there are many possible explanations. How know that "the best explanation" available is the correct one. Pragmatically the one we go with instrumentally.

Lars Syll explores this sort of thing in economics.

The medieval scholastic had a principle that knowledge is in accordance with the mode of the knower. Given what we are working with knowledge is something of a crapshoot in most interesting cases. Humans are the most intelligent of the animals, but we are not omniscient either. The best we can muster is an educated guess. That's what science is. Science is tentative on fresh data and improved methodology.

In econ, the assumption is that perfect markets with identical agents produce random outcomes with a normal distribution. if the agents are not identical, the distribution is not normal. Some agents get more and some less in a fashion that would not be expected for identical agents.

Then the question become whether this non-normality is due to bias (noise) in the system such being introduced by a tilted playing field (economic rent), or is just the reflection of different abilities and contributions of the agents, so that the system is "fair" both in the moral sense of being equitable (marginal contribution and just deserts), and in the physical sense of not being weighted.

This is the argument that is going on today.

Matt Franko said...

"price... It appears stochastic"

I think this is where they are making a big mistake... they must not really understand price... iow you make the point above that we often treat something as random that we dont understand... so if we see them treating price as a stochastic outcome, may follow that they dont really understand price...

Then their word "inflation" (another figure of speech...) comes in there which is related to price...

John said...

Ignacio: "Right, but that's like quantum dynamics. Quantum dynamics are treated statistically as an stochastic process, but that's because we lack the information and knowledge to treat it otherwise due to several problem (the observation problem)."

That isn't right. The indeterminacy/uncertainty is considered to be intrinsic. It is a property of the quantum world, without which the whole theory breaks down. To get a better idea of why this may be, forget about position-momentum uncertainty and concentrate instead on energy-time uncertainty. In a vacuum the uncertainty principle predicts an empty vacuum teeming with energy. That's exactly what is found on investigation. There is a deterministic theory, De Broglie and Bohm's Pilot-wave theory, but for interesting philosophical reasons was not adopted and is considered beneath one to even air.

Can you have a truly deterministic quantum mechanics? It depends on what you mean. If you mean can the present theory be made deterministic, it's hard to see how it can be done. If you mean can a theory of the quantum world be constructed that is deterministic? I suppose it is possible, like Bohm's, but even with Bohm's theory there are problems. Something strange would have to happen for standard quantum mechanics to be overthrown: it would have to fail (which it hasn't) and be unable to account for new phenomena. The newly constructed theory may be deterministic. The question, however, is would a wholly deterministic theory be useful? Statistical mechanics is by its nature statistical. At the time it was formulated, before the advent of chaos, a deterministic theory was possible in principle. Given the large numbers involved, however, a statistical theory was far more useful.

The issues are made more murky by non-locality and what we determine reality to be. We know for certain the universe is non-local: instantaneous action at any distance exists yet strangely in accordance with relativity. How much reality exists and what we consider reality to be is another matter. How this all ties into the uncertainty relations we observe in nature is not simple. There is a great deal of arrogance to be overcome. The prevailing idea is that we all but know everything about the quantum world and that we are on the verge of a theory of everything. In fact, we know little and the quantum world is going to give up a huge number of surprises. The quantum world will in the near future do for physics what the ultraviolet catastrophe did for late 19th and early 20th century physics. There are just too many problems with the present theory of quantum mechanics, notwithstanding its astonishing predictions and accuracy.

Pride comes before the fall: our accelerating universe has a cosmological constant that leaves nearly all of the grand theories advocated for thirty years or more by theoretical physicists and astrophysicists in the dustbin, supersymmetry (SUSY) has not been discovered at the energies so far probed by the LHC (leaving only the more esoteric and even more unconvincing SUSY theories at far higher energies). The truth is that we don't really understand much about the universe!

As for "God does not play dice", this is an unfortunate fate of history because Einstein wasn't concerned by the indeterminism! He thought the new quantum mechanics was very much like statistical mechanics. He was concerned with what appeared to be its nonlocality, which was shown to be true in the eighties, long after Einstein had died. What Einstein was absolutely obsessed with was the unreality of the structure of quantum mechanics: states don't exist until you measure them, leading Einstein to ask whether the moon existed prior to you looking at it. He thought a better theory could be constructed. I think he was right and will be proven to be right.

Ignacio said...

Thanks for the long comment John, appreciated.

I had the impression that assumed uncertainty in quantum mechanics was due to the current consensus, but not necessarily a 'truism' without which the theory falls apart, shows hoe much I know about it. I guess as I said above the ultimate nature of our universe still is unknown... but at macro scale, it seems to behave (be?) mostly deterministic (which makes it even harder to understand how it behaves at Planck scales.

In any case, all this fundamental questions seem to be plagued by the difficulty of testing and observation, most of them may never be answered.

"The truth is that we don't really understand much about the universe!"
Couldn't agree more, and from my layman point of view, it seems that much of string theory which a lot has been invested in the last decades is a dead end which is 'slowly' falling apart.

Bob said...

Tom, a coin toss is not random. There are 3 possible outcomes, 2 of which are equally probable when given enough tries or by using a different coin tosser for each toss. By extension, a lottery is not random because it has a finite pool of outcomes.

A 1 in 30 million chance of winning a lottery is daunting for the individual player. But a password based on 30 million combinations can easily be cracked.

Deterministic means that the outcome of a system or process can be predicted. Stochastic means it cannot be predicted, but probability distributions can still be arrived at. Random means that no distribution curve can be established through statistics, nor can one be assumed.

There are other definitions that involve information content (Shannon entropy) and compressibility, that are applicable to what can be considered random.

The daily weather is not predictable beyond a few days forecast, but no one would insist that it is random. There are a range of weather patterns that can occur, which can be used to define climate. Daily weather is stochastic, chaotic, but not random. Climate, on the other hand, is predictable within a reasonable time span. Much depends on homeostasis, not randomness.

Bob said...

Nice to see this kind of discussion as a product of that horrendous video.

Tom Hickey said...

BTW, the use of key terms is different between science and moral philosophy, which can result in ambiguity and conflation.

In science deterministic is opposed to stochastic. Determined means that the initial conditions fix outcomes. Think of a function where there is one and only one value for the dependent variable given a particular value of the independent variable. The outcome is known deductively as certain. Stochastic means that the initial conditions don't determine a single variable but a range. A stochastic function results in a probability rather than certainty. According to the law of large numbers, as the number of trials increases, the more likely the results converge at the average, that is, a "normal distribution" of an aggregate. See deduction v. induction.

In moral philosophy, determinism is opposed to free will. Determinism is a POV that so-called moral agents have no responsibility because they are not the cause of their action. Free will implies that moral agents are causal agents that have moral responsibility for their actions.

The two uses of determinism are linked by their relation to causality.

John said...

Ignacio: "In any case, all this fundamental questions seem to be plagued by the difficulty of testing and observation, most of them may never be answered."

Plagued by difficulty is absolutely right, and not just about the testing and observation. The theory of quantum mechanics itself makes little sense even within its own terms. This is something most physicists don't bother with. The theory allows for calculations to be made. And that's all they're concerned with. You can take Bohr's and Heisenberg's attitude: why should nature make sense to a human, a talking chimpanzee? There is some truth in this but it doesn't explain the problems within the theory itself. I agree with Bohr and Heisenberg but for an entirely different reason. They think nature should in principle be unintelligible: its essence is intrinsically mysterious, not that we can't make calculations. I think nature probably is intelligible but our talking chimpanzee minds are probably not appropriate for understanding many aspects of nature. It goes by the unfortunate title of "mysterianism".

Ignacio: "I had the impression that assumed uncertainty in quantum mechanics was due to the current consensus, but not necessarily a 'truism' without which the theory falls apart, shows hoe much I know about it."

It is a current consensus. But more than that it has become something like a religion. You just cannot bring some of this stuff up without being laughed at. Thirty or forty years ago you'd be committing academic suicide. There are certain things that are still in an intellectual sense "off limits". So much for the pompous scientific method. In many ways things are not so bad now. The reason is that all the new quantum technologies - quantum encryption, quantum information and computing - come straight out of these deep problems that people like Einstein, Schrodinger, Bohm, Bell and others grappled with.

Uncertainty essentially is a "truism" within the current structure of quantum mechanics. The theory really does almost revolve around uncertainty: too many of its predictions are a result of the uncertainty principle. There are other quantum theories which try to overcome the prevailing theory's problems. It's a bad example, but it's a bit like MMT against mainstream economics (but with the quantum mechanical MMT having its own problems, which of course the economic MMT doesn't!)

Ignacio: "...but at macro scale, it seems to behave (be?) mostly deterministic (which makes it even harder to understand how it behaves at Planck scales."

Even at the macroscopic scale, what do we mean by deterministic? The equations may be deterministic, but the resulting phenomena isn't. For something to be deterministic, you'd have to know the exact initial conditions. Even knowledge to ten decimal places is insufficient with enough time. Chaos is the subject that results.

John said...

Continued...

Understanding atomic, nuclear and particle physics is hard enough. Physics at the Planck scale is beyond baffling. I mean, what is space and time? How can they/it be discrete? The best theories we have are plagued with problems. Now imagine all but ignoring these problems and trying to reconcile them at the Planck level? It doesn't make any sense.

The only way any progress will be made is with the new experiments. The LHC and LIGO on the ground, and Planck and other satellites in space. I very much doubt that our current theories will be able to account for the observations. We know already that the best particle theories we have do not fit in with the LHC observations. When the LHC energies are ramped up then we'll know the fate of supersymmetry and string theory (my prediction is that they're fucked). The recentish observations of the cosmological constant are a major headache for nearly all. They just can't explain it. The best theories we have are out by 120 orders of magnitude orders or have a different sign! I don't know what's worse, to be out by 120 orders of magnitude or to have a different sign! Even though accurate, the 120 orders of magnitude discrepancy is properly thought of as being in fact 30 orders of magnitude. Success! Thirty orders of magnitude! One unimaginably large discrepancy replaced with another unimaginably large discrepancy. Ever since science sprung out of the human imagination, to be out by one order of magnitude would properly invite ridicule. Now it seems you can be out by thirty orders of magnitude and you are the recipient of endless research grants! This also means that other theories are not funded. It also means the unbearably egotistic and imperious lords of the dominating theories sneer at and undermine those who wish to work on different theories. There's the innocent investigation propaganda of nature that scientists cultivate for the public and, self-deception being what it is, even for themselves.

I don't think in the history of science have certain theories not only dominated but made difficult investigating others. String/M theory does that. So does inflationary cosmology, another absurdity. The prevailing quantum mechanics is another theory ripe to be torn apart. Another prediction. Theories to be abandoned in chronological order: string theory, then inflationary cosmology and lastly quantum mechanics. I only say that because the experiments are already in place that will provide enough evidence (no such thing as proof in science) to reject these theories. Strokes, heart attacks and suicide will suddenly do away with many scientists who have all but wasted their intellectual lives! Hubris. Nemesis.

Random said...

John,

Because they are thinking this:

"There is invariably a right, precise and perfect solution to human problems and it is awful if this perfect solution is not found."

http://changingminds.org/explanations/belief/irrational_beliefs.htm

John said...

Correction!

For those who don't know, the unbelievably absurd theory known as inflationary cosmology is infinitely pliable. You can make it give you whatever answer you want. If the experimental/observational results conflict with the theory, there's no need to worry. Another inflationary cosmology can be constructed, or indeed taken off the burgeoning shelves. Who knows how many inflationary cosmological theories there are. Even if none of these account for the observational data, they'll crank out another. It's literally unfalsifiable. So it may last longer than the other theories. Unless the lords of high theory are suddenly afflicted with shame and can no longer defend the absurd.

If they can crank it out at will, it's not science. The clue is in the "crank" - it's crackpot "science".

John said...

Random: "There is invariably a right, precise and perfect solution to human problems and it is awful if this perfect solution is not found."

That's partially true. The overwhelming tendency seems to be that of overreach and assume that because we have solutions to certain problems, the big bad boy problem is in reach. We have a decent theory of gravity. It's not perfect but general relativity is breathtakingly good. What's happened since Einstein formulated it back in 1915 is that rather than being humble about what we know and what we don't know, the field has gone nuts. We can now explain what happened at the big bang and/or before the big bang. We are part of a multiverse. Perhaps a multiverse within a multiworld within a multimind or any combination thereof.

The list of silliness is unending. Is this a product of human narcissism? The idea of knowing all, like some sort of god? I think that has something to do with it. We don't even know what space or time or matter really are, and yet book after book after book is churned out on what happened before the universe came into existence! It's all silliness to the power 30 or 120, take your pick.

Matt Franko said...

John they might not have knowledge .. so they will probably come up with something using other abilities they have been given...

iow from Tom's excerpt above (your namesake btw...) ""In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the word was God." John 1:1

They cant do anything with these words... so they probably come up with another approach/explanation and run with it....

You say here: "For something to be deterministic, you'd have to know the exact initial conditions." Well we KNOW the initial conditions... they probably dont... so they are only left with the stochastic type approach...

Tom Hickey said...

A coin toss is not random

If random is taken in the sense of "undetermined," each toss and every toss is undetermined. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that as a run of identical tosses increases, the next toss is influenced because of the probability. It is not.

With a machine, every instance is replicated, that is, determined by the design of the machine.

There is a fundamental difference between the manufacture of coins and tossing coins.

jrbarch said...

Wouldn’t something that is Infinite include everything: that is be both random and determined? (So everyone is half right).

IT can manifest itself anyway it does (you could have been made with your ears glued to your forehead); we can look back down the chain and see how one event ‘determined’ another.

As for free will: - try using your will to stop breathing. If you succeed you will faint, then start breathing again.

My understanding of the 'Word' is that's just another label for the Infinite and its first modification (as it says). Cause and (random/deterministic) effect.

Greg said...

@Bob

"a coin toss is not random. There are 3 possible outcomes, 2 of which are equally probable when given enough tries or by using a different coin tosser for each toss. By extension, a lottery is not random because it has a finite pool of outcomes.

A 1 in 30 million chance of winning a lottery is daunting for the individual player. But a password based on 30 million combinations can easily be cracked."

Right. Too many people use coin toss, deck of cards or roulette wheels analogies when thinking of randomness and it can lead them astray. All those things have very predictable odds. You do not know which card is going to come up but you know what the odds are of any one card as opposed to truly random events which have nothing to base a prediction on. There are some things that likely have happened only once in the 4.5 billion years of our earths existence.

What I find problematic about the way random is used by most of the econ guys is that it is used in a way to suggest that no one made choices for a certain outcome. That it was just the result of forces beyond our control. While our macro variables cannot be as fine tuned as maybe the Sumners of the world wish to believe they are certainly the result of choices. We can choose level of spending, a level of taxation and a level of employment.

jrbarch said...

For me, metals become ‘radioactive’; flowers give out ‘perfume’; animals become ‘human’; the human becomes the ‘soul’; the soul becomes ‘Divine’. That’s evolution: - absolutely random in essence but deterministic in appearance. I have no idea Why? Other than it is meant to be enjoyed.

Tom Hickey said...

They think nature should in principle be unintelligible: its essence is intrinsically mysterious, not that we can't make calculations. I think nature probably is intelligible but our talking chimpanzee minds are probably not appropriate for understanding many aspects of nature. It goes by the unfortunate title of "mysterianism".

The ancient Greeks had been strongly convinced that nature is intelligible in the sense of rational. Mathematical understanding was a crowning achievement for them in displaying this.

They were extremely upset by Pythagoras demonstrating the existence of irrational numbers. Unlike us, the ancient Greek philosophers were largely idealists who believed that reality was mathematical and not physical. Defects were possible in the physical realm owing to matter. Defect was impossible in the immaterial world. Irrational numbers, that is, numbers that are not expressible in terms of a ration of integers, broke that mold in being inexact even though the procedure for expressing the outcome was exact. This seems to suggest to them that at ground, chaos had not actually been transformed by logos and that the world was not as rational as they had thought.

Einstein seems to have reacted similarly to QM's implication that the ground state is stochastic (random) rather than rational (determined). The ground state is a state of least excitation or "vacuum state." However, this "void" is not empty, but rather a field that is full of (lively with) potential. This is somewhat similar to the ancient Greek conception of chaos as lacking in orderliness.

There is a problem because the human mind appears to be biased toward order. This is why we see faces in clouds. Science and math were devised to discipline such biases.

There are three possibilities regarding events.

1. Determined - enough is known about the initial conditions to enable precise prediction deductively.

2. Stochastic - enough is not known about the initial conditions to enable precise prediction deductively but enough is known inductively to enable calculation of probability.

3. Uncertainty - not enough is known to apply either induction or deduction. In economics this is the realm of the exogenous, e.g., "shocks" (unknown unknowns).

Some unknown unknowns are unknown owing to the limitations of human knowledge. This is epistemological uncertainty. Other unknowns are unknowable in principle because they are purely chance events. This is ontological uncertainty. There is a question as to whether there actually are chance events.

All three of these figure into the economics debate. A lot of the debate involves which apply where. Some economists are much more oriented toward deduction (formalism). Others toward probability (stochastic) but don't admit uncertainty (Bayesianism assumes it can handle everything). Others say that some things are uncertain and failure to recognize this results in a false sense of security.

While mystery makes many uncomfortable, even to the extent of denial, some people are quite comfortable with mystery. It is what makes like and knowledge interesting. It is viewed as the horizon that continually recedes as it is approached. Such people enjoy being on the cutting edge and pushing the envelope.

Paul Feyerabend investigated this is Against Method, which is anarchistic approach to knowledge as discovery. He held that good inquiry, specifically scientific inquiry, is at its best when approached anarchistically. Most scientists are involved in doing what Kuhn called "normal science," that is, working within the normal paradigm. Scientific method is often considered to be what they do. Feyerabend cautioned that this is the wrong end to be looking at. Science are a method of discovery is operative at the cutting edge, where innovators don't feel constrained by "the rules." They plumb mystery. The cutting edge of other disciplines do too.

Ed Seedhouse said...

"Quantum dynamics are treated statistically as an stochastic process, but that's because we lack the information and knowledge to treat it otherwise due to several problem (the observation problem). This does not mean necessarily that is a process without causality (truly random)"

I'm sorry, but this is completely wrong. QM research and experiments have proven beyond any doubt that "hidden variables" (which is the name for your claim above) do not and cannot exist. Look up Bell's Theorem.

Ed Seedhouse said...

So the real question is this: can you suggest any experiment whose result would disprove either determinism or "free will"? If you can't then you are just arguing about angels dancing on the heads of pins.

Tom Hickey said...

So the real question is this: can you suggest any experiment whose result would disprove either determinism or "free will"?

Doing so requires being specific about the meaning of "determinism" and "free will." That has shown itself to be elusive without begging the question.

The determinism v. free will argument began with the conundrum of how God can be omniscient as assumed and there also be human freedom, since if God knows everything in eternity everything that happens in time must be determined before hand.

Of course, the philosophical arguments are more sophisticated than that, but this is the generally idea and it suffices for present discussion.

This idea has been taken over by naturalists and scientists, who argue that causality prevails in the universe and so even through we may not understand the details yet, consciousness must be an emergent property of matter, hence materially determined. Therefore, free will is impossible.

The burden, then, is on the those defending the "free will" position. Their major asset in the argument is that most people "feel" free and highly value freedom of choice. In fact, people are willing to fight and die for "freedom" and nations are willing to go to war over it, even to "spread "freedom."

There is also a strong bias toward holding a view of moral responsibility, which determinism, that is, lack of free choice, contradicts.

It should be pretty obvious from this simplification that the issue is largely ideological. Even if some experiments could be designed, those in opposition would find some rationale based on their ideology to question or reject the outcome if it went against their position.

As I suggested above a key issue is causality. It's similar to Augustine's observation about time in Confessions, Book XI, ch 14:

For what is time? Who can easily and briefly explain it? Who even in thought can comprehend it, even to the pronouncing of a word concerning it? But what in speaking do we refer to more familiarly and knowingly than time? And certainly we understand when we speak of it; we understand also when we hear it spoken of by another. What, then, is time? If no one ask of me, I know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not.…

jrbarch said...

For the ancient Hindus, Infinite was not 'mysterious'. They knew it, face to face and said so. They also knew most people did not have this experience: - hence actions, knowledge, consciousness, followed accordingly. They were not dismayed by what happened in the world.

They also knew there was no separation in creation. The form of a cloud was a part of the sky, just as the form of a fish was a part of the ocean. Just as the many molecular, bacterial, and cellular forms in the human body, go to make up the organs and limbs of a higher form. Man was considered as the Logos (spirit) of his little Material System of mind, emotions and body, manifesting Consciousness (soul) as the bridging entity between Logos and Appearance (persona).

The West has 'cleverly' turned Infinite and its issue, the Logii, into Nothing; themselves along with it. The Infinite (Zero for the Hindus) contained all numbers within it, both rational, irrational, and every other flavour, from whose bosom proceeded in 'orderly' fashion, the universe as we know it (and universes that we don't). Intelligence is a pre-existent part of Matter, hence number (mind is its most rarified layer), but different to the intelligence of Consciousness. Consciousness exists on the first of the formless layers where geometry ceases to rule, but number continues.

Matter has imparted to it the internal fires which animate the system and cause it to rotate. Consciousness causes rotary Matter to build the many spheroidal forms extant in the universe, and spiral upwards (evolve to create better forms up to a point). Mathematics was one of the mundane keys to the esoteric wisdom, unlocking the first veil (physical Matter). Consciousness held the key.

Just as good a theory as the atom and evolutionary biology (?)

John said...

Ed Seedhouse: "I'm sorry, but this is completely wrong. QM research and experiments have proven beyond any doubt that "hidden variables" (which is the name for your claim above) do not and cannot exist. Look up Bell's Theorem."

This is a very, very common misinterpretation of what Bell showed and all the experiments that have tested this. What Bell showed was that local causality and objective reality were in conflict. At best, you could have one but not the other. We know nonlocality is a feature of the universe. Objective reality can therefore survive, as it absolutely must. What's the point of a science that doesn't believe the universe actually exists? As Bell himself asked, did the universe not in fact really exist until humans evolved and somehow our observance collapsed the wavefunction of the universe? Which human? How much intelligence was required? A smart gorilla presumably is not be able to collapse the wavefunction, but a slightly smarter human is capable. It's utterly ludicrous to suppose this, but the vast majority of physicists do believe this! The reason is that almost all are naive: they do not understand what the theory entails. Bell himself was delighted when Bohm developed a fully deterministic quantum theory, the Pilot-wave or De Broglie-Bohm theory, thus showing how unorthodox he was. The "collapse models" are also deterministic theories, and Bell was a supporter of these too. All these deterministic theories are beset with problems, but to my mind nothing like those within standard quantum mechanics.

Hidden variables can still be made a feature of a nonlocal realistic theory - they go by the name nonlocal hidden variable theories, or NLHVTs. There is a huge literature on this. Bell himself was a supporter of hidden variable theories - or as David Z Albert more accurately calls them "extra variables". Bell himself is virtually unknown, and a lot of his most important work is misunderstood. He was easily up there with the greatest minds of the twentieth century, and came up with one of the most remarkable contributions to science. A biography of him by Andrew Whitaker will be out later this year. Whitaker has two other books on the history of quantum mechanics and its interpretation. They're very useful books.

John said...

Another thing that throws people is the difficult to grasp fact that Bell's famous theorems and inequalities have nothing to do with quantum mechanics. He developed very general ideas concerning two wide areas of (meta)physical thought - local causality (essentially cause and effect specifically bounded by the speed of light) and objective reality (does the world exist whether or not you test that it's there). That these two vague ideas can be put into theory is amazing. Just as amazing is that what Bell showed could be tested. Note that the experimental physicist, Alain Aspect, who devised the tests understood that doing so would not further his career - Bell himself was anxious to learn that Aspect had a permanent position. That's how difficult it was to work on these problems thirty years or so ago. Before then, it was unimaginably bad: even Einstein became something of a pariah. Bell himself worked on these problems in his spare time. He was also a theoretical physicist and accelerator physicist at CERN. If he had tried to concentrate on his real interest (foundations of quantum mechanics), he would be a professional outcast. Just like MMTers!

Anyway, as predicted, the results were in accord with quantum mechanics. The point of the experiments was to show that local causality is at odds with objective reality. Its profound implications put it up there with the theory of evolution and anything else you can think of. One leading philosopher of science claimed it was the most profound discovery in the history of science.

Lest anyone feel at a loss, even Stephen Hawking believes that Bell proved that hidden variables cannot exist, proving that Hawking hasn't taken the effort to read Bell's papers. If Hawking had read Bell's papers, which are some of the most important in the history of science, he'd see clearly that the very opposite was being argued. Those who work in the area of foundations of quantum mechanics are perplexed by this near total ignorance. As disgraceful as it is perverse, the prevailing view in physics is the opposite of what has been demonstrated theoretically and experimentally.

nivekvb said...

I would live to be able to fly like a bird, but I can't, but that isn't what I meant.

Of course, I can't do all the things I would like to do. But all the things I do do, I do because I want to do them.

As an example, I might be sitting on a sofa and I get an urge for a cream cake, as I get up to get a cake I then feel fat and I think, oh dear, I better stop eating those cream cakes, so I sit back down again. All that had happened is that the urge to stay slim had won over the urge to eat a cream cake.

So, why do we need consciousness when our strongest urge is the one that wins. Well, our consciousness can see forward and backward in time and can work out the outcomes of any given action. It's the vision of becoming more fat, and its consequences, that causes the urge to stay slim to win through.

We always do what we want to do, but we can't choose what we want to do. It's like when Ford said, you can have any colour car you want, as long as it's black. If we always freely choose black, then we did what we wanted to do, except we really didn't have a choice.

The only time we do something we don't want to do is when someone, or circumstances, force us to do otherwise. And even then we decide that we better go along with it, or do as we're told.

Then one day things got even spookier, I started wondering about the animals and I figured they had 'free will' too, in the sense that we think we have. Every time an animal makes a decision, it really believes it freely chose that decision.

A seagull at the coast flies in the air currents, it turns to the right, and then the left, then it swoops down, and then soars up, but every decision it took, it believes it freely took. It was motivated by urges, desires, and feelings. It was motivated by pleasure, and needs, none of which it could choose, it is simply given. It makes no difference anyway, it's convinced that it always does what it wants to do.

Because we 'always do what we want to do' we are responsible for our actions, even though we had no choice.

jrbarch said...

Infinity has its center (manifest as causality + effects) everywhere and its circumference nowhere. Similarly, it has its reality everywhere and both objectivity and subjectivity nowhere - or if you are looking down the other end of the barrell - its objectivity and subjectivity everywhere, and its reality nowhere. One view is perplexed; the other is not..... but anyway, down here on planet earth, what will make me feel content? None of the formulas or mental machinations of the world work.

Being responsible is the first sign of maturity.

Ignacio said...

You are not free to choose what you want, that's the whole point. Phenomenologically it appears free will exists, as a subjective experience, but that's not necessarily what happens. I don't think this arguments gets anywhere because points stated by Tom above anyway, it can't be proved or disproved either way, and hence remains mostly metaphysical and out of our epistemic reach. As society though, in practice, we have to assume we have free will, otherwise... it would be chaos.

The question about determinism vs. non-determinism of the universe has a bit more legs, as it doesn't have to deal with abstract things like 'consciousness' (which no one really knows what it is, someone may think he knows, but doesn't really), 'choice', 'freedom', 'desires', 'goals' etc. but deals with just a couple concepts like causality and previous conditions (which are complex enough, even if are a bit more concrete).

And still is hard/impossible to say what it is, considering all points made in this thread.

Matt Franko said...

This from Wray's latest:

"On one hand, anyone who understands sovereign government finance knows that a program’s ability to “pay for itself” is not an important consideration for undertaking programs that are in the public interest."

So a main thing I'm taking away from this discussion from John is that to proceed deterministically, we have to KNOW the initial conditions, if we dont, then Ignacio observes that humans will proceed stochastically...

So where Wray says "anyone...knows..."....these people DON'T KNOW... so they cannot proceed determinitically... they use stochastics... they DO NOT KNOW the initial conditions....

I think we should always be trying to point out this difference between us and them, ie the difference in knowledge that we have vs that they LACK ... we possess knowledge that they manifestly do not possess... we KNOW the initial conditions they do not..... they are not qualified to administer our numismatic system as it is presently operating...

Its a big mistake to assume they have this knowledge and are lying about it... getting us NOWHERE...

If they had this knowledge, they would NOT be proceeding stochastically.....

Matt Franko said...

Warren often says: "All prices are a function of what the govt pays for things or what govt allows fiscal agents to lend against things..."

This is a deterministic statement not a stochastic one...

John said...

Matt: "So a main thing I'm taking away from this discussion from John is that to proceed deterministically, we have to KNOW the initial conditions, if we dont, then Ignacio observes that humans will proceed stochastically..."

I wouldn't confuse the physics of inanimate matter with whatever poor theories of human understanding that are currently in fashion. We know almost nothing about why humans do what they do. What are the processes inside your that grey meat inside your head that determines how and why do you should make any decision? You decide to wear blue socks rather than black socks. Why? It's taken for granted that you prefer to wear blue today. But why? How did that materialise from a preconscious decision to a conscious decision. Why does your brain start firing about 0.6 seconds before you're conscious of it? It seems that the preconscious decision has been made before you've made a conscious one! This is a very strange phenomena. None of the decisions you make are conscious ones! Many never materialise from preconscious to conscious! What to make of this?

We are at the very beginning of understanding the human decision making. Cognitive science is pre-Copernican. The Galileos, Newtons and Einsteins have yet to appear. The sciences of inanimate matter are essentially irrelevant to human consciousness and decision making. I'm very wary about making grand claims about human behaviour. We know almost nothing. Not that that is the story you hear from cognitive scientists and neuroscientists. Apparently after a mere forty years of investigation - most of it crude in the early years - we know almost everything there is to know! More total gibberish.

Is human behaviour stochastic? Well in some senses it is. Humans are constrained by the possible. There are only so many possible choices or outcomes. One of these possibilities will be realised. Some possibilities are more probable than others. That's it. Repeating what has been known for hundreds, even thousands, of years. There is some psychology of decision making that it interesting, like the work of Daniel Kahneman. One of the difficulties lies in putting realistic constraints on a system as complex as human decision making. Once you put realistic constraints on such a system - especially the economic ones that count - the possible outcomes shrink significantly. Some of you guys trade the markets. You see this kind of behaviour in markets, not only because people there's a tremendous amount of group think but also because money's at stake, and money will make you do stupid stuff.

Either you buy into behavioural analysis it or you don't. In the economic realm, institutions and general dynamics count. For example, most economists tell us that the economy is now doing well. There are people like you and Mike on one side, people like Tom and me on the other. We can have an honest disagreement. I think what ultimately counts institutionally is the banking sector, and in the general dynamics employment and personal debt. Currently, these aren't looking good, and some sort of crisis looms.

The stuff about initial conditions is really only applicable to physical and chemical systems, some biological hunter-prey systems, that kind of thing. It is inapplicable to human decision making. Those who try to do so get themselves into a mess. Supposing it were applicable, you'd get a useless general conclusion: we don't know the initial conditions of one human, let alone any significant group. The inaccuracies multiply such that whatever equation you've somehow been able to dream up is completely useless.

There is nothing wrong with deterministic statements and equations. There is a lot of useful information in them. The important point is to know the limitations of these statements and equations.

Matt Franko said...

John idk Ive grown to trust Ignacio's observations over the years here when it comes to human cognition... and he's able to be pretty objective too even tho of course we all possess some amount of biases...

If he observes humans without understanding having a tendency to use a stochastic approach then I probably believe it... and it becomes for me a tip-off that those people dont really know what they are talking about....

Stochastics like this appears to be to me the realm of the moron...

"We know almost nothing about why humans do what they do. What are the processes inside your that grey meat inside your head that determines how and why do you should make any decision? "

Its probably not important so it isnt given to us to know ... what we DO KNOW is that humans are capricious we get that from Paul here (via ROTE) in the scripture I quoted above and is related to what we are discussing here... a capricious nature is similar to some sort of random nature... humans are capricious, THAT is the initial conditions proceed accordingly...

ie Paul says "human caprice"... so we KNOW humans are capricious .... ie so much for homo economus and so much for the Rational Expectations Hypothesis...





Bob said...

A seagull at the coast flies in the air currents, it turns to the right, and then the left, then it swoops down, and then soars up, but every decision it took, it believes it freely took. It was motivated by urges, desires, and feelings. It was motivated by pleasure, and needs, none of which it could choose, it is simply given. It makes no difference anyway, it's convinced that it always does what it wants to do.

How often does a seagull engage in introspection?
Humans engage in it but for a fraction of the time they are alive.

John said...

Matt, my verbosity can be summed up in the word you used: "biases".

What the biases are and how they influence a person or a large group of people is the question. For a large group, there are some good indications of what will probably happen. You see that all the time in psychological tests.

All the other stuff above about preconscious decision making was just an example of how little we know about *individual* decision making. That isn't to say, given institutions and biases (social, economic, psychological, nationalistic or whatever) predictions about groups can't be made - law of large numbers. I don't need to know much about deep cognitive, preconscious neural decision making to know that group think, for example, is a major bias. As Charles Mackay wrote long ago: "It will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." I don't need to read the results of sophisticated experimental neuroscience experiments to know what groups of people will do. They're different questions, and different questions require different analysis. Group behaviour is not the same as aggregated individual behaviour. Social psychology and sociology are more useful than adding up all the brain MRIs you can get your hands on. More is different.

Ignacio's a smart cookie. I agree with a lot of what he says. He appreciates the subtleties and and the limits of our present understanding. (Like caprice, over confidence is of course another bias, and that is something to always be vigilant against.) Nobody agrees with everybody all the time. You're a smart cookie and I hardly ever agree with you. Tom's obviously the smartest cookie here because I find myself agreeing with him nearly all the time!

John said...

Bob: "How often does a seagull engage in introspection?"

Now that's a question to send you mad. It's a profound question. In the past I would have said that a seagull does not introspect because it does not have the capacity for self-awareness. Now I'm not so sure if self-awareness is not a thing but a series of gradations, with different species having different levels of self-awareness. Is self-awareness necessary for certain kinds of introspection? For example, many species of animals get "depressed" on seeing their loved ones die. There is obviously something going on in their brains. There is a good book I've been meaning to read on this general area of animal cognition called "Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think" by Marc Hauser. Wittgenstein famously observed "If a lion could speak, we would not understand him", but surely some understanding is possible, notwithstanding the enormous cognitive and experiential divide.

jrbarch said...

Matter does not really exist. It changes state to force. This was known thousands of years ago and rediscovered by science (then weaponised). For me, the blanket over people’s heads concerning $$$ that MMT lifts, is nothing compared to the ‘flat-earth theory’ (deduction, induction) of materialism. Consciousness is not a mystery. You exist – your existence is not hidden under some rock somewhere. It is obviously not a product of ‘grey matter’; or physical sex. A vehicle has been provided; matter has been precipitated, woven into a scaffold of force. You do not know how you exist, but you do. You do not know why you exist, but you do. You have never ever been introduced to yourself, but you would like to know who you are. Sometimes, you sit in the bath and wonder – (when you are not distracted). Those same people who declared the physical body to be simply a shell, the brain a transponder, described the refinement of force in subtler shells: - an emotional and mental ‘body’. When they arrived at a causal body they declared force to have crossed a barrier between form in the lower worlds and formless (spheroidal) in the higher, to become energy. The self-conscious energy unit occupying this causal body of energy is You. Just as lower mind sees the persona, they had a mirror (higher mind) in which they could see themselves; then they turned it around to see what was above and within. On further investigation of this self-conscious energy unit (soul) they discovered a spark at its essence, leapt from a Logoic flame. Then they understood what it means to be human, and more. This also is a possibility: – for me, if a human being is going to think about anything, they should start from whatever their conception of the Infinite is, and ask what is their relation? What do they want, and why? To what crutches are they clinging, when they know they could throw them away and walk free. A human being is known by their passion. What we love, is our highway (we are the traveller, road, and destination) and whatever our wisdom is, is where we walk. Walking changes our society.

nivekvb said...

A 1 in 30 million chance of winning a lottery is daunting for the individual player. But a password based on 30 million combinations can easily be cracked.

What! Do you mean by using a PC. That's why sites only let you have a few tries before they block you out for half an hour.

Routers use an eight digit password, but they do it in blocks of two. Crooks discovered this and were able to break the codes. Getting four digits right and then the next four is a lot easier than having to get all eight right in one go.

Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

Not just passwords, but information that has been encrypted by that password. In those cases, the password is called a key. Cryptography has high randomness requirements.

Bob said...

Or you can use a one-time pad:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-time_pad