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Old 27th August 2019, 12:09 AM   #41
David Mo
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After reading the article more calmly I think it has several basic flaws.

The first is a misconception of the concept of truth. According to Hoffman a perception is true if it "reconstructs" the quality of the thing itself. This is impossible: my perception of a red object does not reconstruct "red" as a quality of the thing. Red is a wavelength of light that affects my optic nerves and forms an "image" in the brain. Not that it is a simplification of reality. It is something else that only exists in my brain or in my mind, if you prefer to say so.

Therefore, in front of the same reality, a worm, a bat and a man "see" different things and none is more true than the other.

I suppose that when a biologist speaks of an accurate representation of reality he means that the representation that is able to discriminate between different stimuli that resemble each other is an evolutionary advance. If you have a stimulus that provokes an adapted response, you will have problems if your brain does not know how to distinguish between that stimulus and a similar stimulus with a potential negative effect. This is so simple that don't deserve to cram interfaces anywhere. The case of the lover beetle cited by Hoffman confirms this.

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Old 27th August 2019, 07:48 AM   #42
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Again that does not make sense in the context. He is saying that natural selection drives true perceptions to extinction.

If true perceptions are not even accessible to human science then of course they would have been intrinsically impossible in any stage of evolution.

It does not make sense to say that natural selection drove intrinsically impossible perceptions to extinction.
I messed up there - sorry - Hoffman is not saying true perceptions are impossible, he is saying that they lead to extinction. Evolution (stimuli / response / environment) favors an organism with an interface or set of hacks, over an organism with true perceptions.
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Old 27th August 2019, 08:04 AM   #43
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
After reading the article more calmly I think it has several basic flaws.

The first is a misconception of the concept of truth. According to Hoffman a perception is true if it "reconstructs" the quality of the thing itself. This is impossible: my perception of a red object does not reconstruct "red" as a quality of the thing. Red is a wavelength of light that affects my optic nerves and forms an "image" in the brain. Not that it is a simplification of reality. It is something else that only exists in my brain or in my mind, if you prefer to say so.

Therefore, in front of the same reality, a worm, a bat and a man "see" different things and none is more true than the other.

I suppose that when a biologist speaks of an accurate representation of reality he means that the representation that is able to discriminate between different stimuli that resemble each other is an evolutionary advance. If you have a stimulus that provokes an adapted response, you will have problems if your brain does not know how to distinguish between that stimulus and a similar stimulus with a potential negative effect. This is so simple that don't deserve to cram interfaces anywhere. The case of the lover beetle cited by Hoffman confirms this.
except it's kind-of-worse than that . . . Hoffman is claiming the object isn't even really there . . . if I am walking through my yard and I avoid a tree, and a bird also avoids that tree . . . that 'tree' is an icon on my interface and an icon on the bird's interface but the tree doesn't really exist, there is something else there not in time and space and not a physical object. This is what I get from his hypothesis.
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Old 27th August 2019, 09:47 AM   #44
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Originally Posted by LarryS View Post
except it's kind-of-worse than that . . . Hoffman is claiming the object isn't even really there . . . if I am walking through my yard and I avoid a tree, and a bird also avoids that tree . . . that 'tree' is an icon on my interface and an icon on the bird's interface but the tree doesn't really exist, there is something else there not in time and space and not a physical object. This is what I get from his hypothesis.
Hoffman's theory parallels the majority opinion of Buddhist. The tree is a place-holder. It is not real. The tree serves a different purpose and has different meaning to different subjective beings.

Ultimate reality (UR) cannot be reliably based on any individuals perception. If a human perceives the tree differently from a bird, what is ultimately real? Subjective reality is not UR. Perhaps the question is flawed. Humans cannot use their perception to make a determination on UR. We may be incapable of discovering UR.
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Old 27th August 2019, 03:05 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by LarryS View Post
except it's kind-of-worse than that . . . Hoffman is claiming the object isn't even really there . . . if I am walking through my yard and I avoid a tree, and a bird also avoids that tree . . . that 'tree' is an icon on my interface and an icon on the bird's interface but the tree doesn't really exist, there is something else there not in time and space and not a physical object. This is what I get from his hypothesis.

I agree that that's what he's saying. That's what I thought he's saying too.

Just pointing out that our perceptions aren't reality is nothing new. For instance, we hear tones as having a "pitch," as if a tone were a thing and a pitch a characteristic of that thing. But a tone is actually a characteristic of some pressure waves in the air (or other material), and a "higher" pitch is actually a shorter interval of time between waves.

I think even the ancient Greeks figured this out.

The tones we hear aren't reality, but do they map to reality in some way? To that question, a realist would answer yes but Hoffman would also answer yes. The icons in a user interface do map to reality; that's why they're useful.

So what question distinguishes realism from Hoffman's view? I think: "Do our sensory experiences map to reality in direct and comprehensible ways?" Realists say yes; for instance that pitches are our way of perceiving repeated time intervals that are too fast to perceive as passage of time between events, but that the time intervals and the pressure waves and the noisy things that generate them are real. Huffman thinks the mapping is more indirect so that we don't actually know what the reality is, but might be able to figure it out someday if we give up the idea that there's a direct and comprehensible mapping.
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Old 27th August 2019, 04:17 PM   #46
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What else would a perception be?

Organism A and organism B interact with some matter in common. The disturbance in the matter caused by organism A reaches organism B causes changes in its neural machinery which is linked to some behaviour.

So that, at a high level, is organism B perceiving organism A. Of course the new arrangement in organism B's neural mechanism is not literally organism A.

So the question is, what are the conditions that need to be met for that arrangement to be considered a 'true' perception of organism A?

I would suggest that, up to a certain level of complexity, the only criterion is whether or not the behaviour associated with the information is beneficial to the organism or its close relatives in some way.

We might meaningfully say that a cat that is stalking an artificial bird is making a mistake. It does not seem sensible to say that C Elegans is making a mistake if it moves towards a predator triggered by a behaviour associated with finding food unless all we mean by 'mistake' is maladaptive behaviour.
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Old 27th August 2019, 04:24 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by ServiceSoon View Post
Hoffman's theory parallels the majority opinion of Buddhist. The tree is a place-holder. It is not real. The tree serves a different purpose and has different meaning to different subjective beings.

Ultimate reality (UR) cannot be reliably based on any individuals perception. If a human perceives the tree differently from a bird, what is ultimately real? Subjective reality is not UR. Perhaps the question is flawed. Humans cannot use their perception to make a determination on UR. We may be incapable of discovering UR.
But I doubt that anyone, other than a Solipsist, would say that the perception of the tree is literally the tree.

To say that the perception is just a placeholder is simply common sense and you can find it, for example, said by Democritus.
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Old 27th August 2019, 05:28 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
So what question distinguishes realism from Hoffman's view? I think: "Do our sensory experiences map to reality in direct and comprehensible ways?" Realists say yes; for instance that pitches are our way of perceiving repeated time intervals that are too fast to perceive as passage of time between events, but that the time intervals and the pressure waves and the noisy things that generate them are real. Huffman thinks the mapping is more indirect so that we don't actually know what the reality is, but might be able to figure it out someday if we give up the idea that there's a direct and comprehensible mapping.
If you are right then Hoffman is asking us to waste time on the kind of pseudo-problem that philosophers have been warning us about for a century at least.

John: "What is shrdlu?"
Mary: "That depends, what do you mean by shrdlu?"
John: "That is what I am asking you".

Substitute "reality" for "shrdlu" and it doesn't change much.
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Old 27th August 2019, 05:44 PM   #49
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Also, and using the interface metaphor, maybe the "ultimate reality" (whatever that might be) is not what we are referring to when we talk about our perceptions.

I might say "drag the file icon onto this window to upload the file", you could substitute a number of "ultimate realities" without changing my meaning.

For example I could be referring to Mac, PC, Android phone or iPhone hardware, that would make no difference at all to my meaning.

A detailed description of the system at a microscopic level would not be a more "true" description, nor would it be more real, in fact it would only capture one possible instantiation of the event and would not even be explanatory of what we mean by the words.

If I say "I am feeling pain" is the "pain" just an interface to some reality? No. Obviously I am referring to the feeling of pain, not the components of the system causing it.
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Old 27th August 2019, 06:21 PM   #50
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If we characterise the jewel beetle's belief as "This, that I am trying to hump, is a desirable she-beetle" then it would indeed be making a mistake.

If, on the other hand, we characterise its belief as "This, that I am trying to hump, is the approximate colour and shape of things that I will try to hump" then it is absolutely on the money.

Obviously neither is a correct characterisation of the beetle's 'belief', the latter is probably closer to the kind of thing a jewel beetle would be capable of believing if a jewel beetle could believe.
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The non-theoretical character of metaphysics would not be in itself a defect; all arts have this non-theoretical character without thereby losing their high value for personal as well as for social life. The danger lies in the deceptive character of metaphysics; it gives the illusion of knowledge without actually giving any knowledge. This is the reason why we reject it. - Rudolf Carnap "Philosophy and Logical Syntax"
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Old 27th August 2019, 07:13 PM   #51
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And here is evidence that Hoffman is either sloppy or dishonest. He characterises the conventional view in biology by quoting a textbook:
Quote:
1.3 The Conventional Evolutionary Argument

Proponents of faithful depiction offer an evolutionary argument for their position, albeit an argument different than the one sketched above for the principle of satisficing categories.

Their argument is spelled out, for instance, by Palmer [27](p. 6) in his textbook Vision Science, as follows: “Evolutionarily speaking, visual perception is useful only if it is reasonably accurate. . . . Indeed, vision is useful precisely because it is so accurate. By and large, what 1.4 Bayes’ Circle 5 you see is what you get. When this is true, we have what is called veridical perception . . . perception that is consistent with the actual state of affairs in the environment. This is almost always the case with vision . . .”
[emphases his]. The error in this argument is fundamental: Natural selection optimizes fitness, not veridicality
However if you check the context of Palmer's text, he goes on to say:

Quote:
It seems like a perfectly clear window onto reality. But is it really?

In the remainder of this section I will argue that perception is not a clear window onto reality, but an actively constructed, meaningful model of the environment that allows perceivers to predict what will happen in the future so that they can take appropriate action and thereby increase their chances of survival.

Palmer, S.E. (1999). Vision science: Photons to phenomenology. (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA).
In other words Palmer was saying something very different to what Hoffman claims he was saying, but Hoffman truncates the quote in a way that radically changes the meaning.

The part that Hoffman quotes is followed by pages of argument, evidence and examples of perception that is non-veridical. Yet Hoffman chooses to characterise Palmer as such an idiot as not to realise that Natural Selection optimises fitness.
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The non-theoretical character of metaphysics would not be in itself a defect; all arts have this non-theoretical character without thereby losing their high value for personal as well as for social life. The danger lies in the deceptive character of metaphysics; it gives the illusion of knowledge without actually giving any knowledge. This is the reason why we reject it. - Rudolf Carnap "Philosophy and Logical Syntax"

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Old 27th August 2019, 09:09 PM   #52
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Hoffman tries to force the card by giving conventional descriptions of animal activity, but substituting "interface" where someone else might say "strategy":
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So Portia has evolved countermeasures. Its hair and colouration mimic detritus found in webs and on the forest floor; its gait mimics the flickering of detritus—a stealth technology cleverly adapted to defeat the interfaces of predators and prey. If Portia happens on a dragline (a trail of silk) left by the jumping spider Jacksonoides queenslandicus, odors from the dragline prompt Portia to use its eight eyes to hunt for J. queenslandicus. But J. queenslandicus is well camouflaged and, if motionless, invisible to Portia. So Portia makes a quick vertical leap, tickling the visual motion detectors of J. queenslandicus and triggering it to orient to the motion. By the time J. queenslandicus has oriented, Portia is already down, motionless, and invisible to J. queenslandicus; but it has seen the movement of J. queenslandicus. Once the eyes of J. queenslandicus are safely turned away, Portia slowly stalks, leaps, and strikes with its fangs, delivering a paralyzing dose of venom.
But the problem is that this strategy depends entirely upon veridicality or accuracy of Portia's perceptions. It depends upon the odor being detected actually being the odor of a prey that behaves in a particular way. If it is the odor of a predator that doesn't behave in this way then the strategy is fatal.

And it depends upon Portia's triangulation being correct and there being a spider, rather than empty space, at the place where it lands after the jump, otherwise it will get eaten. So there are 'real-world' elements that have to match Portia's perceptual models (a spider that behaves in a particular way having a particular odor, a spider being in the place that Portia has determined to jump to).

If Hoffman's theory was right, a Portia who's triangulation was accurate and always landed on the prey would be outcompleted by a Portia with inaccurate triangulation and always landed beside its intended prey. That seems pretty clearly wrong.
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Old 27th August 2019, 10:01 PM   #53
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Quote:
Supernormal stimuli have been found for many species, and all such discoveries are evidence against the claim of the reconstruction theory that our perceptual categories estimate the statistical structure of the world; all are evidence for species-specific interfaces that are satisficing solutions to adaptive problems.

Herring gulls (Larus argentatus) provide a famous example. Chicks peck a red spot near the tip of the lower mandible of an adult to prompt the adult to regurgitate food. Tinbergen and Perdeck [38] found that an artificial stimulus that is longer and thinner than a normal beak, and whose red spot is more salient than normal, serves as a supernormal stimulus for the chickís pecking behaviors. The colour of the artificial beak and head matter little. The chickís perceptual category food bearer, or perhaps food-bearing parent, is not a statistical estimate of the true properties of food-bearing parents, but a satisficing solution in which longer and thinner is better and in which greater salience of the red spot is better
Here Hoffman seems to have a different meaning for "statistical" and "estimate" to the one that I have.

But I would like to know how you could have a satisficing solution in which longer and thinner is better and greater salience of the red spot is better if you were unable to reconstruct longness and thinness and redness and spot shapes from sensory data coming from instances of these in the surrounding environment.

It has to reconstruct these from the sense data before it can apply that satisficing solution.
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The non-theoretical character of metaphysics would not be in itself a defect; all arts have this non-theoretical character without thereby losing their high value for personal as well as for social life. The danger lies in the deceptive character of metaphysics; it gives the illusion of knowledge without actually giving any knowledge. This is the reason why we reject it. - Rudolf Carnap "Philosophy and Logical Syntax"
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Old 27th August 2019, 10:46 PM   #54
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Still, to be fair to Hoffman he is probably not saying that this theory says anything true about the real world. That would be inconsistent with his theory.

It is probably more a satisficing solution to getting a book deal and a Ted talk.
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Old 27th August 2019, 11:53 PM   #55
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
What else would a perception be?
Perception is the process of recognizing and interpreting sensory stimuli in the nervous system.

Generalization occurs when an organism produces the same response to different stimuli. A classically conditioned response to a slightly different signal will depend on its similarity to the original.
The opposite of generalization is discrimination. Discrimination occurs when an organism responds differently to two stimuli.
A suitable organism depends on the correction of both devices.

It is as simple as that. True and false answers are irrelevant or must be redefined in terms of generalization and discrimination.
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Old 28th August 2019, 05:30 AM   #56
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Myriad, thanks for bringing this theory to our attention.

I'm in the same camp or should I say same interface with the rest of you, are we being a bit thick and simply not understanding his theory? Are we missing something?
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Old 28th August 2019, 08:08 AM   #57
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If I had to guess (not put hard earned $$$ on it) Hoffman is looking down the road and he sees the physics of time / space and the reductionist view of physical objects as losing cred. So all this science (measuring) we've been doing has been of a perception interface, not of any fundamental reality.
I think he's probably right there - and someday we'll be laughing how we thought the moon was real.
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Old 28th August 2019, 09:06 AM   #58
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Reading the preview of Hoffman's book, I can see why Chopra likes it.
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Old 28th August 2019, 01:52 PM   #59
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I found some of the more interesting publications, which make a better case than the article linked earlier in the thread. Here is Hoffman et. al.'s 2015 paper "The Interface Theory of Perception" in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, on researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/publica..._of_Perception

And here is the article I mentioned earlier, where Hoffman responds to a variety of comments and criticisms, in the same journal: https://link.springer.com/article/10...423-015-0931-3

The full text of both is available for free. However, some of the arguments Hoffman is responding to in the latter article are themselves in paywalled publications, so I have to rely on Hoffman's summary of those arguments.

The Psychonomic paper has more interesting examples than the ones I've discussed before, that seem to do better at making a distinction between veridical perception and payoff perception. He models situations involving homeostasis; that is, where "the right amount" of some resource is beneficial but either too much or too little is less beneficial. (For instance, how much water is in a territory. Too much and the organism can drown; too little and it may dehydrate.) In those cases he finds that perceptual systems that reduce "how much resource" in measured quantity to a few bits get outperformed by perceptual systems that instead represent "how close or far from the optimum amount" with comparably low resolution. He regards the former as veridical but the latter as not. The latter is "perception tuned to payoff."

We don't usually tend to sense too-much and too-little as the same sensation, though. Too bland doesn't taste like too salty. Too warm doesn't feel like too cold.

There are exceptions, though, that seem to apply to sensation of conditions extreme enough to cause damage. Too acidic doesn't taste like too alkaline, but on the skin strong enough acid and strong enough alkali feel similar. Too hot to touch without damage and too cold to touch without damage also can feel similar. In all four of those cases we describe the sensation as "burning."

It seems like Hoffman has a perpetual out, though; if veridical perception cannot evolve, as he claims, then none of those things or effects are actually real...
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Old 28th August 2019, 05:41 PM   #60
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These throw out a lot of new problems. He says that in order for a perception to be veridical it must be homomorphic with something in the real world.

It doesn't make sense. I can identify that a certain animal is a cat, but how could I do that if my perception of the cat was required to preserve the structure of the cat I am currently observing, rather than picking out a few salient features?
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Old 28th August 2019, 05:43 PM   #61
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And how much of the structure would I have to preserve? Would I have to sequence the genome before my perception was veridical? Presumably not.
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The non-theoretical character of metaphysics would not be in itself a defect; all arts have this non-theoretical character without thereby losing their high value for personal as well as for social life. The danger lies in the deceptive character of metaphysics; it gives the illusion of knowledge without actually giving any knowledge. This is the reason why we reject it. - Rudolf Carnap "Philosophy and Logical Syntax"
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Old 28th August 2019, 08:21 PM   #62
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Here is the start of his formalism:

Quote:
We represent the possible perceptual experiences of an organism by a measurable space (X, Chi ), where X is a set of possible experiences and Chi is a collection of subsets of X called events; in this case the events are perceptual events. The elements of X denote, we emphasize, perceptual experiences themselves and not, e.g., some kind of objects of perceptual experiences, such as so-called sense data. We represent the world by a measurable space (W, Omega ), where W is a set (of world states) and Omega is again a collection of subsets of W called events; in this case the events are in the world, but the notion of event used here differs from the notion of event in special relativity (i.e., a space-time point) and in particle physics (i.e., the results just after a fundamental interaction occurs between subatomic particles). Then the definition of a perceptual strategy is straightforward if there is no dispersion (such as noise), i.e., if each state w ϵW causes at most one perceptual experience x ϵX.
OK, let's describe a simple perceiver and see how this works.

An organism has a single receptor which absorbs light in a specific frequency range. If it absorbs light its simple neural mechanism releases a chemical which tightens a tendon and changes the course the organism is swimming.

If most of the predators in its environment reflect light in that range and most of its prey don't then this perceptual strategy will help it increase the probability that it will survive and reproduce.

So here is an example of the kind of perception that can be the source of evolutionary pressure.

Clearly every state of the organism and every state of every part of it is in W as are the states of its predators, prey and surrounding environment. Anything the organism does is clearly in Omega.

But what are the members of X and Chi in this case? Can this organism be said to have an "experience"?

On the one hand Hoffman has made it clear that the microphysical description of the perception I have just given is not what he has in mind for the contents of the space X.

But on the other hand I can't see what I have left out in my microphysical description of the perception that is still required to describe the perception.

So X (at least in this and similar cases) appears to be a null set.
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Old 28th August 2019, 08:57 PM   #63
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More conceptual problems, here from the "responses" paper:
Quote:
But suppose that an organism does evolve to have perceptual states exceptionally matched to the fitness payoffs. Is it appropriate, then, to say, as Cohen does, "those states are . . . veridical representers of the world?" Not at all. Fitness payoffs are not states of the world, nor are they properties of states of the world. They are ephemeral relationships between an organism and states of the world. Remove the organism, and the fitness relationship disappears
In the first place, the organism is in W, as Hoffman defines it. So a veridical representation of the world would have to include the organism itself, rather than being some theoretical W that did not contain the organism.

In the second place, if facts about potentials in systems were not states of the world then potential energy, for example, could not be a state of the world.

It would imply that my knowledge that it is dangerous for me to walk off the edge of a cliff does not count as knowledge of the world.
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Old 28th August 2019, 09:54 PM   #64
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
More conceptual problems, here from the "responses" paper:


In the first place, the organism is in W, as Hoffman defines it. So a veridical representation of the world would have to include the organism itself, rather than being some theoretical W that did not contain the organism.

In the second place, if facts about potentials in systems were not states of the world then potential energy, for example, could not be a state of the world.

It would imply that my knowledge that it is dangerous for me to walk off the edge of a cliff does not count as knowledge of the world.
I would suggest that an organism that thrives has more information about its environment than one which declines because, although there is no objective fact of the matter about whether thriving or declining is the right thing to do, nevertheless there are probably many more ways to lose an evolutionary struggle than there are to win it.
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Old 28th August 2019, 10:30 PM   #65
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
I would suggest that an organism that thrives has more information about its environment than one which declines because, although there is no objective fact of the matter about whether thriving or declining is the right thing to do, nevertheless there are probably many more ways to lose an evolutionary struggle than there are to win it.
This might make sense if information about the environment was the only factor deciding survival. In fact, in many circumstances, less complex organisms with simpler perception systems survive better than more complex ones.
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Old 28th August 2019, 11:07 PM   #66
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
This might make sense if information about the environment was the only factor deciding survival. In fact, in many circumstances, less complex organisms with simpler perception systems survive better than more complex ones.
I don't see why that makes a difference.

A simple data set might have more information about something than a complex data set.

There is a difference between information and "information about". String A might be very complex and have no information about string B, whereas string C might be quite simple and have more information about String B.
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Old 28th August 2019, 11:16 PM   #67
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All the ways not to make a light bulb that Thomas Edison discovered constituted less information than the one way he found to make a light bulb because there are more ways not to make a light bulb than there are to make a light bulb.
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Old 28th August 2019, 11:52 PM   #68
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
I don't see why that makes a difference.

A simple data set might have more information about something than a complex data set.

There is a difference between information and "information about". String A might be very complex and have no information about string B, whereas string C might be quite simple and have more information about String B.
"String"? I don't understand this word in the context of perception.

There is a relationship between the complexity of the organ and the amount of information it provides.
For example:
In my opinion, the human eye provides more information (amount of data) than an ocellus (it does not capture forms). But some insects are more adapted than men in a given environment.

It is obvious that the quality of information depends on the amount of data and its organization. But this is not decisive from an evolutionary point of view.
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Old 29th August 2019, 12:07 AM   #69
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
"String"? I don't understand this word in the context of perception.

He is specifically using information theory meanings and in information theory a "string" is the normal way to talk about a packet of information.

If "string" is an inappropriate term for biology then information theory doesn't apply.

In any case I don't really buy the definition. A footprint in the sand has a lot of information about the foot that made it but if we say the difference between a footprint in dry sand and a footprint in wet sand in a difference in truth or veridicality then it seems to rob the term of most meaning.
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Old 29th August 2019, 12:50 AM   #70
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post


It is obvious that the quality of information depends on the amount of data and its organization.
That may seem obvious but it isn't the case, at least when we are talking about "information about"
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Old 29th August 2019, 01:21 AM   #71
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
That may seem obvious but it isn't the case, at least when we are talking about "information about"
It seems obvious to me that if I want to be well informed about the causes of the 1929 depression I will need a sufficient amount of data and that these make sense (organization).
If I get both I will be better informed than someone who has barely read the Wikipedia article or who has so much data he doesn't know how to handle it.
Isn't this obvious?
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Old 29th August 2019, 01:47 AM   #72
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
It seems obvious to me that if I want to be well informed about the causes of the 1929 depression I will need a sufficient amount of data and that these make sense (organization).
If I get both I will be better informed than someone who has barely read the Wikipedia article or who has so much data he doesn't know how to handle it.
Isn't this obvious?
Well lets say that document 1 is 100 pages long, each page packed with text and and it is well organised.

Suppose document 2 is just a postit note with say 8 words on it.

Does that alone imply that document 1 has more information about the 1929 depression than document 2?
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Old 29th August 2019, 02:40 AM   #73
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Well lets say that document 1 is 100 pages long, each page packed with text and and it is well organised.

Suppose document 2 is just a postit note with say 8 words on it.

Does that alone imply that document 1 has more information about the 1929 depression than document 2?
If each page contains data (for example) of course it does. The same as an article in the Encyclopedia Britannica contains more information than a twiter. Another thing is for youare speaking about the quality of the information. But I include that in my previous comment = well structured.
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Old 29th August 2019, 02:43 AM   #74
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
If each page contains data (for example) of course it does. The same as an article in the Encyclopedia Britannica contains more information than a twiter. Another thing is for youare speaking about the quality of the information. But I include that in my previous comment = well structured.
What if document 1 is well structured quality information that is entirely about pre-Cambrian worm fossils and document 2 is 8 words about the 1929 Great Depression?

Is it still obvious that more well organised information provides more information about something than a smaller amount of information?
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Old 29th August 2019, 03:11 AM   #75
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
What if document 1 is well structured quality information that is entirely about pre-Cambrian worm fossils and document 2 is 8 words about the 1929 Great Depression?

Is it still obvious that more well organised information provides more information about something than a smaller amount of information?
I'm supposing we're talking about the information about an object. The information given by a twitter about the crack of 29 and the information given by the British Encyclopedia about the same event. The information that a beetle has on a beer can. And the information that a human being has on a beer can. If you compare the information of a twitter about the 1929 crack and a beetle male information about a female beetle the things become more difficult.
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Old 29th August 2019, 03:40 AM   #76
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
I'm supposing we're talking about the information about an object. The information given by a twitter about the crack of 29 and the information given by the British Encyclopedia about the same event. The information that a beetle has on a beer can. And the information that a human being has on a beer can. If you compare the information of a twitter about the 1929 crack and a beetle male information about a female beetle the things become more difficult.
All I said was that a smaller amount of information can be more information about something than a larger amount of information.

Suppose the 100 pages have "Here are some people who lost their house in the Great Depression of the 20th century" and it is followed by 9813 names organised in alphabetical order.

And the postit note has "More than 10,000 people lost their homes in the US alone in the Great Depression of 1929".

It is not obvious to me (even assuming both contain accurate information), although both are about the 1929 Great Depression that the longer document has more information about it than the smaller one.

Information Theoretic "information about" is more formal than this, but it tries to capture the same idea. Hoffman is using "information about" in the information theoretic sense and the situation is very complex, especially as applied to biological data.
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Old 29th August 2019, 08:09 PM   #77
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Something else I notice is that the interface strategy is fine if there is only one quantity in the environment that only has one survival implication.

If there is another quantity in the environment that that has different survival implications then the "interface" organism has to duplicate the expensive quantity assessment hardware, whereas the "critical realist" (as Hoffman defines in in any case) can reuse the same hardware for both cases.

If an "interface" organism evolves to reuse the same pattern matching hardware for both quantities then it has effectively become one of Hoffman's "critical realists"

Hoffman's model does not appear to capture the relative expense in new neural material involved in pattern matching and associating a stimulus with a response.
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Old 29th August 2019, 08:51 PM   #78
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Using a variant of my theoretical simple perceiver it is easy to see that the critical realist (again, as Hoffman defines this term) strategy is not really that much more expensive than the interface one.

The interface organism swims near an area of food and a the edge of a patch of food the colour change triggers its receptor and it starts to set a series of neural states. If the neural state reaches a certain area then the area of food is big enough and the organism can change direction towards it. Another colour change can reset this chain, ie "not big enough"

The "critical realist" does much the same but sets a series of, say 4, intermediate regions and thus can define 4 quantity values (lets call them "a little", "a little more", "quite big", "very big" although of course they are just some neural connections) for a series of locations (locations can be divided to ranges too so these do not need too many "bits".

Thus the "interface" organism has a "big enough/go eat" strategy, where the "big enough" can't even be decoupled from the "go eat", but the "critical realist" can swim past a number of areas of patches of food and detect the biggest for not much extra neural cost.

So if more than one organism might try to compete for the same patch, the critical realist might still have enough where the "interface" organism will find itself short.

Moreover it is easy to see how this quantity assessment mechanism can be adapted to size up food that might fight back where bigger does not mean better.

Also, the critical realist can add more size categories for little extra cost.

Essentially the critical realist strategy allows re-use of neural mechanisms where the interface strategy would have to duplicate them.

(I am not saying that these are how simple organisms perform quantity assessments, this is just a guess to show that assessing and storing quantity information for a number of regions need not be expensive in terms of neural mechanism).
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Old 29th August 2019, 09:12 PM   #79
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The extra cost would be:

1. Extra energy carrying around more material and;
2. The organism needs to gather extra material from its environment in order to duplicate
3. Extra time needed to duplicate

But if, as in this case, the difference between the "interface" organism and the critical realist is a few extra neurons, then really this extra cost is negligible or at least it would certainly be plausible that the survival payoff would be worth it.
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Old 29th August 2019, 10:50 PM   #80
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
All I said was that a smaller amount of information can be more information about something than a larger amount of information.

Suppose the 100 pages have "Here are some people who lost their house in the Great Depression of the 20th century" and it is followed by 9813 names organised in alphabetical order.

And the postit note has "More than 10,000 people lost their homes in the US alone in the Great Depression of 1929".

It is not obvious to me (even assuming both contain accurate information), although both are about the 1929 Great Depression that the longer document has more information about it than the smaller one.

Information Theoretic "information about" is more formal than this, but it tries to capture the same idea. Hoffman is using "information about" in the information theoretic sense and the situation is very complex, especially as applied to biological data.


Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
If each page contains data (for example) of course it does. The same as an article in the Encyclopedia Britannica contains more information than a twiter. Another thing is for youare speaking about the quality of the information. But I include that in my previous comment = well structured.
I think we are saying the same thing in other words.
I distinguish between quantity and quality. Regarding the quantity of information, a book always has more information than a twitter. Regarding quality a twitter can be better than a book. The book can be misguided or confusing. This turns data into noise, not information. This is not so absolutely exceptional although your book with 10.000 names is a bizarre case. But in general, more quantity of data offers the possibility to be better informed about any issue. It is an advantage. A book is better than a twitter if no additional conditions are set.

But I think that one risks creating a lot of noise by changing the usual terms of a branch of knowledge with others imported from different fields. I don't see any benefit in changing the usual biological concepts of evolution with computational ones. Yes, computers are fashionable but this is not a good reason.

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