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« Galen Strawson on Panpsychism | Main | Adina Roskies on Neuroscience and Free Will »

May 14, 2012



This is such an obvious point that I presume it must be wrong, however.... from Nigel's interview (I am unfamiliar with Nick's work) it seems as if there is no awareness of the epistemic concept of "uncertainty". (See Keynes 1937 ch 12).

"Uncertainty" is used in contradistinction to "risk". The latter being correctly applicable only to situations with probabilistic outcomes, rolling a dice for instance.

The consequences of ANY movement away from the "status quo" surely takes us into the realm of uncertainty, NOT into the realm of risk.

If that is correct then there would seem to be a problem: in the absence of probabilistic outcomes, choosing the status quo is, in fact, the only rational option. As Keynes put it "In the face of uncertainty, caprice is rational."

It's very interesting because the assumption of an intrinsically knowable set of possible consequences is precisely the methodological problem which permeates Neo-Classical Economics. And indeed precipitated the banking crisis.

In the the example cited: increasing or decreasing average intelligence, there can be NO rational basis to prefer either option. The consequences are not just unknown, they are intrinsically unknowable.

Finally the imposition of the concept of "an optimum", to behaviour in the face of "uncertainty" is mathematically incoherent. Optimality requires a set of outcomes which is fully known (ex ante).


Everything I've heard thus far about of from Nick Bostrom has been very good, but I found this discussion strange. Perhaps in the actual study he might account for this, (was it a real study?) but he seems to completely leave out the many other reasons people might be biosed or otherwise against a smart pill. 1. It is a cliche to have a drug commercial act as if the drug is the most fantastic thing in the world, followed by a scary list of side effects. For this and many other reasons, people don't necessarily trust experts when they say "completely safe." 2. Mr. Bostrom says available to the public, but then acts as if everyone will be expected to take it. People like to make their own choices. If it was sold to them as "every one must take this pill," you will get further bios, especially when you add point one. 3. Changes to self are scary! This pill seems to suggest it will change something fundamental about the way people think. That is freaky Nick!

So here are 3 ways out of the horns of dilemma this argument seems to rest on.

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