Gathering perspectives: knowledge
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12-04-2014, 12:18 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives: knowledge
"I know" = "I have sufficient confidence in this claim to treat it as reliable when making life decisions".

This required or implied level of confidence differs depending on how much impact the claim being false would have on my life decisions. For example, a claim "The big bang is the origin of space-time" is a claim that has very little impact on my life, so the level of confidence expressed by saying "I know the big bang is the origin of space-time" isn't necessarily very high. On the other hand "I know that I need to eat to live" might imply a high level of confidence in the claim because the decision that revolve around the claim directly impact my life.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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12-04-2014, 05:16 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives: knowledge
(12-04-2014 12:14 AM)GirlyMan Wrote:  ...
Asshole. Big Grin

No

ARSEhole!

Fucking Yanks!

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12-04-2014, 07:56 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives: knowledge
Hello LostandInsecure, how’s it going? Have you found yourself yet? :-)

(11-04-2014 10:21 PM)LostandInsecure Wrote:  My 18 month old knows not to touch outlets but she doesn't understand why. She points at them and says no no no, but she doesn't understand what they could do she still knows not to touch.
I can relate to that! I was closer to ten years old when I finally learned what the adults meant. Finding out was a shocking experience!

Would you say that your child understands that she’s not supposed to touch the outlets, but she does not know what the consequences will be if she touches them?

If you would, I’d guess you use both verbs as synonyms, and the difference in both statements lies in the direct object, not in the verb. Your child has some knowledge (“I must not touch the outlets”) but still lacks many other notions (for example, “if I do, an electric current will painfully flow through my body”).

If you wouldn’t, then would you mind describing for me the difference between, on one hand, knowing what behaviour is appropriate and not understanding the reasons why, and on the other hand, understanding what behaviour is appropriate and not knowing the reasons why?

(11-04-2014 10:21 PM)LostandInsecure Wrote:  I know the universe is 13.8 billions years old but I don't understand why that is true or how we know this.
So it is not that much that you know that the universe is 13.8 billion years old, but that you know that the universe is claimed to be 13.8 billion years old? Would that be an accurate description of the limits of your personal knowledge (regarding the history of the universe)?

I must confess I find myself in a similar situation. I think I can understand how the shift towards lower frequencies found in the spectral lines of familiar substances when we analyse electromagnetic radiation coming from distant objects, suggests that the average distance between objects in the universe is increasing as time progresses. I also think I may be able to understand how we can combine several astrophysical notions in order to estimate when the volume occupied by every thing in the universe was its minimum possible, although I say that with a lower degree of confidence because I have never performed the calculations myself. But I don’t think I understand how that can be the beginning of space and time.

I cannot really say that I actually know that the universe is 13.8 billion years old, all I might be able to say is that I take that notion as a truth. However, a certain sense of caution makes me try not to take notions as truths, especially if I cannot understand how they may be true, so I find it unlikely that I will make such a claim, at least for as long as I don’t understand it. That does not mean that I consider the notion false, it simply means that I don’t consider it part of my knowledge. If anything, it would be a part of my beliefs.

But the subject of space and time are interesting outside the scope of this thread, they may be worth their own thread.

Thanks for your interesting remarks. Have fun!
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12-04-2014, 07:58 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives: knowledge
Hello again, evenheathen.

(11-04-2014 10:51 PM)evenheathen Wrote:  
(11-04-2014 10:21 PM)LostandInsecure Wrote:  I know the universe is 13.8 billions years old but I don't understand why that is true or how we know this.

Because ultimately math is the only method in the observable universe that has never failed us.
It is an excellent tool for describing the structure and behaviour not just of reality, but of information in general.

I have a little question, though. In the abstract universe of mathematics, numbers don’t seem to stop at zero, zero seems more like a mid value between negative infinity and positive infinity, don’t you think? So if we choose to call the initial instant of the big bang instant t=0, why couldn’t we use maths to describe the universe in the instants t=-1, t=-2, t=-3…?

Thanks!
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12-04-2014, 08:02 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives: knowledge
(12-04-2014 12:00 AM)DLJ Wrote:  
(11-04-2014 09:55 PM)living thing Wrote:  Hello DLJ, how are you?

Let me see if I have understood the progression correctly. Let us consider two discrete “facts” (not factual at all, because I am making them up): “Bob is 30 years old”, “Billy is 5 years old”. These would be data, right?

I'm ok, thanks for asking. And you?

I would classify those statements as 'information' as they are messages conveyed and understood.

Bob, Billy, 30 and 5 are data.

More information: I have attempted to make this post 3 times and together with my earlier post on this thread, these attempts have consumed 16% of my phone's battery capacity.
This is due to the authentication software hanging and timing out.
With this knowledge, I can make the decision to stop posting for a while.

That would be wise. Drinking Beverage

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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12-04-2014, 08:03 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives: knowledge
Hello DLJ.

(12-04-2014 12:00 AM)DLJ Wrote:  I'm ok, thanks for asking. And you?
I’m very well, thank you. A little bit tired, maybe, because we have friends visiting from a different planetary administrative region, and my recovery period after a good night out seems to be getting longer and longer as I grow older. Other than that, I cannot personally complain. Still stuck in this planet, though Big Grin

(12-04-2014 12:00 AM)DLJ Wrote:  I would classify those statements [“Bob is 30 years old”, “Billy is 5 years old”] as 'information' as they are messages conveyed and understood.
If they are successfully conveyed and understood, wouldn’t that place them closer to knowledge, rather than information?

(12-04-2014 12:00 AM)DLJ Wrote:  Bob, Billy, 30 and 5 are data.
I am not sure I understood what you meant by “discrete facts”, then. Is 30 a discrete fact? It doesn’t really tell me anything by itself and it is not discrete (it is 1+1+1+…+1).

I think there is a parallelism between this subject and the increasing levels of structure we can find in material objects. One unit of oxygen and two units of hydrogen might all be seen as discrete units, although it is fairly well understood how so-called atoms are not discrete. In the same sense, the word “Bob” is not strictly discrete because it can still be decomposed into simpler sounds or symbols, but it can act as a single unit in reference to some person named Robert.

We can arrange those three chemical units so that each hydrogen forms a covalent bond with the oxygen, yielding a molecule of water, which is an entity that is meaningful by itself; it has its own set of implications. Similarly, we can arrange the notions “Bob”, “be”, “30” and “years old” and produce a more complex notion that is meaningful by itself: “Bob is 30 years old”.

Water molecules have a slightly asymmetric distribution of electric charge, implying that several molecules may be arranged in such a way that the complete structure is stabilised by electromagnetic interactions; the rigidness in a block of ice is an effect of that increased stability. Similarly, we can combine several complex notions like “Bob is 30 years old” and “Billy is 5 years old” into a concept that conveys an even more complex meaning: “Billy is younger than Bob”.

The degree of complexity of a material structure is a relative notion; things may be complex structures (meaning that they are not discrete elements) but they can behave as relatively simple components in structures that are even more complex. So-called atoms are simple when compared to molecules, but complex when compared to electrons, protons and neutrons.

This seems applicable to abstract notions too; the number 30 may be simple when compared to the statement “Bob is 30 years old”, but it is complex when compared to the number 1. The statement “Bob is 30 years old” is complex when compared to the number 30, but it is simple when compared to the statement “Billy is younger than Bob”.

So could we not say that whether a given notion is a datum or information depends on the context in which it appears? But if we can, we already are assuming that there is a context in which the notion appears, suggesting that data might be pieces of information too, just more simple.

(12-04-2014 12:00 AM)DLJ Wrote:  More information: I have attempted to make this post 3 times and together with my earlier post on this thread, these attempts have consumed 16% of my phone's battery capacity.
This is due to the authentication software hanging and timing out.
With this knowledge, I can make the decision to stop posting for a while.
That seems wise.

But I’d like to know if the concepts you describe are limited to our human minds, or whether non-human behaviours can also be described as wise. Any thoughts on that?

Thanks DLJ, take care.
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12-04-2014, 08:08 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives: knowledge
Hello Airportkid, thanks for extending your view.

(12-04-2014 12:14 AM)Airportkid Wrote:  Knowledge is what we use to direct our reactions, but more important is that we use it to direct what we initiate. The first is what machines do, and they can be said to "know" what's needed to respond or react appropriately; the latter is still the exclusive province of sentient life, initiating, creating, imagining what could be and, as the Captain says, "make it so".
Let me see if I have understood your words.

If I have a lightbulb connected to a motion sensor (a device that repeatedly estimates its distance to the objects in its surroundings, for example by emitting ultrasounds and measuring the time lapsed before the reflected sounds arrive back, and detects motion when those estimated distances change), and also connected to a timer so that it only operates during certain hours, turning the light on when I arrive home late in the evening, can that machine be said to know, in the sense that it can react to external and internal stimuli (the external motion and the main processor’s clock, respectively)?

That is very interesting.

Regarding belief, I thank you for bringing up such a related concept. I don’t believe that beliefs are vital, but I don’t believe that my view is an objective truth either, so I cannot even suggest that you may be wrong; I may be wrong too. But the point here is that I am little inclined to believe, in general. I try not to take any notion in my mind as a truth, just in case it is not true. In my opinion, replacing analysis with belief is not the wisest behaviour. For several reasons.

You have mentioned how changing established beliefs is hard, but while that seems to you a source of effectiveness, in my mind it is a source of problems. When our mistakes stem from a disbelief, the consequences can be expected. Maybe not the exact nature of the consequences, but if we’re not too sure about the reasons behind our actions, we can at least expect that the consequences may differ from our intentions. However, when our mistakes stem from belief, the consequences are all too often completely unexpected, we’re not prepared for them because we think we know what we are doing. Besides, belief generally leads to segregation; people who hold beliefs tend to split the rest of humanity between those who consider the same notions true, and those who don’t. If beliefs were easy to change once “established”, I might see them as useful alternatives to analysis, but seeing how some people are willing to kill and die to defend their “truths”, I think its cost outweighs its benefits.

I don’t believe that 2 + 2 = 4, but I think I can understand how that notion is true. If I have two sets of two things each, I do have four things. I’d be struggling to understand what you meant if you claimed that 2 + 2 = 5, because I’d be wondering where the extra thing comes from. But if you explained that if you have two sets (A and B) of two things each (1 and 2), you have five things (A1, A2, B1, B2 and you) then I would understand what you meant.

In my opinion, it is not belief what is vital, it is understanding. But that is only my opinion, it needn’t be an objective truth.

Thanks for sharing your view, Airportkid. Have a good day!
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12-04-2014, 08:10 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives: knowledge
Hello Hafnof, thanks for joining in.

When you say that "I know" = "I have sufficient confidence in this claim to treat it as reliable when making life decisions”, do they have to be life decisions, or can they simply be decisions? In other words, can machines that are able to make decisions based on some incoming information, be said to know anything?

Also, are you trying to say that the degree of confidence about the truth of a given notion is not very meaningful by itself, but it becomes meaningful when we consider the relevance of the notion? For example, the teapot orbiting Mars. I cannot say I know it is not orbiting Mars, although I find that most likely because all the explanations for how it would have got there seem very far fetched. But in any case, it does not really matter because the influence the actual teapot might exert on my life is negligible. Is that what you are saying?

Thank you, it is an interesting view. Enjoy!
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12-04-2014, 10:03 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives: knowledge
(12-04-2014 08:10 AM)living thing Wrote:  Hello Hafnof, thanks for joining in.

When you say that "I know" = "I have sufficient confidence in this claim to treat it as reliable when making life decisions”, do they have to be life decisions, or can they simply be decisions? In other words, can machines that are able to make decisions based on some incoming information, be said to know anything?

Also, are you trying to say that the degree of confidence about the truth of a given notion is not very meaningful by itself, but it becomes meaningful when we consider the relevance of the notion? For example, the teapot orbiting Mars. I cannot say I know it is not orbiting Mars, although I find that most likely because all the explanations for how it would have got there seem very far fetched. But in any case, it does not really matter because the influence the actual teapot might exert on my life is negligible. Is that what you are saying?

Thank you, it is an interesting view. Enjoy!

Perhaps it is the engineer in me, but when I think of something's intrinsic meaning I don't see a good way to separate that from its function. If the function of knowledge is made decisions about our lives (both our internal lives and the life we live in our shared reality) then this function must be relevant to and in some way guide what it is we mean when way say "knowledge".

When you ask whether a machine "knows" something we are in danger of overly trivialising both the similarities and the differences between us and the machine. We think we are special and different and that our knowledge is more significant than that of a machine. It is certainly more nuanced and less task-focused. However, consider a human and a machine doing the same job in a factory production line. Can the human in any real sense be said to know how to assemble two parts together while the machine is ineligible to claim knowledge? If it does not have the knowledge, how did it assemble the parts? If we do not call the ability to assemble the parts "knowledge", what would we call it?

At a basic systems engineering level we describe any system (human, machine, or some combination thereof) externally by its form, fit and function. The function describes the behaviour of the system and is generally also tied to performance. The fits describes compliance with specific interfaces to other connected systems. Its form describes the physical envelope the system resides within and potentially other non-functional requirements. From the external viewpoint it seems that knowledge is indistinguishable from function. The machine and the human perform the same function, the human doing so with knowledge while the machine operates on... some other principle perhaps?

Let's follow this reductionist rabbit hole down a little further. A system is composed of parts. Each part has fit, form, and function that when assembled together meet the fit, form, and function of the system they compose. Is the human's knowledge a part of the system, or is the human's knowledge (the knowledge that seems to be hiding within function at the system level) something that decomposes onto the function of one or more parts of the human?

So yes this is a bit reductionist, but I don't see any valid case for arguing that a human doing a task can have knowledge while a machine capable of the same task cannot. Either knowledge is a thing - a part that can be added to a human or a machine - or knowledge is whatever enables the proper execution of a function - in which case the machine and human both exhibit knowledge by virtue of being able to complete the function. That said, for the moment at least, many tasks are not achievable by machines. Perhaps we could say that we have not yet figured out the means of embedding knowledge specific to those tasks into a machine.

On the second point I also take a bit of an engineer's approach to the question. Russel's teapot doesn't have any influence over decisions in my external life (though it may affect the internal life I live, and its lesson may influence my external life). My belief or disbelief in a god claim influences my external life significantly, but my internal life even more so. Or I suppose it may not depending on where I am in my life and the nature of any observances I may need to comply with. I might not need to have much certainty in order to go to church on a Sunday and enjoy the company of friends and fellows. While I might claim some knowledge or belief the confidence I have in it doesn't need to be high to do these basic things. Perhaps if I am asked to offer 10% of my income the confidence I need to claim knowledge is or should be higher than the knowledge required for mere attendance. If the religion requires I pray five times a day and never eat bacon again perhaps my certainty must be a little greater. If the religion requires me to sacrifice the life of my firstborn or perform any number of other anti-social acts then my confidence must be higher again.

I feel that the greater the impact a given piece of knowledge would have on the course of my life, the more confidence I need in that idea in order to claim that I know it and I accept it. Perhaps this is the product of cognitive dissonance being reduced. If I act in the way I would normally live my life new knowledge that requires me to change my actions must be in some way reconciled with my current lifestyle. I can change my lifestyle, or I can reject or downplay the significance of the new information. In order justify actually changing my external life or even my internal life to a significant degree I need a high level of confidence in the new information. I may believe that losing weight will extend my lifespan, but if I ignore the information and downplay its significance can I be said to know it to be true? If I act in accordance with the information perhaps I can truly be said to know it and to live it.

That said, I suppose the ordinary philosophical viewpoint on knowledge is one of justified true belief. That there is a whole different kettle of fish Wink

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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12-04-2014, 10:39 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives: knowledge
(12-04-2014 10:03 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  Let's follow this reductionist rabbit hole down a little further. A system is composed of parts. Each part has fit, form, and function that when assembled together meet the fit, form, and function of the system they compose. Is the human's knowledge a part of the system, or is the human's knowledge (the knowledge that seems to be hiding within function at the system level) something that decomposes onto the function of one or more parts of the human?

Look at animals including humans as being composed of hardware and software.

Evolution has equipped us with "instinctual knowledge". The degree of this knowledge varies from individual to individual and item to item. That is evolution in progress. This knowledge is even supported by the production of mood/action changing chemicals to reinforce the required behavior. Like the fight or flight situation, the decision to risk injury to protect a baby, we somehow "know" what to do in the fraction of a second. Humans have lost a lot of this "hardware" in favor of software, like many females are not instinctual mothers and don't know what to do with a baby without all kinds of instruction.

A duck for instance knows exactly when to get pregnant, how to build something that prevents the eggs from rolling accidentally, how long she is able to leave the nest during what temperature, how much moisture she needs to bring back to wet the eggs (too little and the eggs dry out, too much and the babies get "mushy"), how often she needs to turn the eggs to avoid crippled offspring, ... a lot of specific and precise knowledge.

The software is the learned - a way to keep up with environmental changes and modify the output from the hardware to fit current events. This is also part of the process of evolution.

The difference between the knowledge of humans and other animals and machines is that the machines do at this time not know how to modify their knowledge through specific adaptation to current circumstances.

But, yes, I would call it all knowledge.

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Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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