Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Kavka's toxin, Newcombe's problem- meta-intention and credible threat
Re. Kavka's toxin and the problem of meta-intention and credible threat- G.E. Moore's paradox- 'can I believe x and simultaneously KNOW that x is untrue'- is relevant. Moore's position was- No you can't believe x. However, Loyalty and Identity politics- Nationalism, Family and other affectionate relationships- all depend on our Believing x with all our heart while knowing x is nonsense. Introduce even a small amount of epistemological uncertainty and our idea of Knowledge soon turns into some sort of 'Justified True Belief' where True Belief has an increasingly theological feel. Kavka and Newcomb derive part of their ability to grip because of the notion that the billionaire might be a very shrewd judge of character. He has Ashby requisite variety. He verges on omnescience. If only we could 'think like a billionaire' we too might get rich. Thus, it becomes important to fall in with his world view. Here, our preferences change during the game BUT can we be sure we will not relapse into our comfortable old ways as the minutes tick on? When we consider the Hegelian Struggle for Recognition- where the one more ready to risk death wins- or Abraham's intention to sacrifice his son- where essentially the guy sees a goat and reckons that God is saying 'kill the goat already- what are you a cannibal?" we see the advantage of subjecting our intentions to an external governor. But, perhaps, it would be enough to make that governor stochastic- i.e. hooking yourself to a poison machine with some probability of delivering the lethal dose. This explains, in the epic age- or in tribal societies- the importance given to oracles and prophets who introduce that vital stochastic element. Ultimately, Newcomb,Kavka, Axelrod etc- are posing dilemmas which reveal a problematic for decision theory- viz. the mind's need to see deep symmetries across agents such that (Noether's theorem) conservation laws operate. After all, Identity, too, is something conserved rather than given. The fact that the actual environment might be dissipative means however that such conservation is ironic.