Re: Questions on Russell's "Why Occam" paper

From: Hal Finney <>
Date: Wed, 8 Jun 2005 09:09:04 -0700 (PDT)

Russell Standish writes:
> On Mon, Jun 06, 2005 at 01:51:36PM -0700, "Hal Finney" wrote:
> > In particular, if "an observer attaches sequences of meanings to sequences
> > of prefixes of one of these strings", then it seems that he must have a
> > domain which does allow some inputs to be prefixes of others. Isn't that
> > what "sequences of prefixes" would mean? That is, if the infinite string
> > is 01011011100101110111..., then a sequence of prefixes might be 0, 01,
> > 010, 0101, 01011, .... Does O() apply to this sequence of prefixes? If
> > so then I don't think it is a prefix map.
> Yes I agree this is vague, and seemingly contradictory. I'm not sure
> how to make this more precise, but one way to read the paper is to
> treat observers as prefix maps for section 2 (Occam's razor), and then
> for section 3 (White Rabbit problem) ignore the prefix property.
> It could be that the way of making this more precise is to assume
> observers have some internal state that is constantly updated (a time
> counter perhaps), so actually going through a sequence of prefix maps
> in (psychological) time, but at this stage I don't have an answer.

Unfortunately I still don't understand this. You agree that it is a
seeming contradiction but that doesn't help me to see how to interpret it.

Here's an idea. Would it be possible for you to explain how this
page is meant to be understood, in an INformal way? Often when people
present concepts they do a formal writeup, but if they give a seminar
or explanation they will depart from the formalism and explain what is
really going on behind the scenes. That's the kind of explanation I think
I need.

Could you explain how these concepts relate to the actual experiences
we have as human observers? What are "descriptions" and "meanings"
in terms of our sensory and mental experiences? Which "descriptions"
does an observer observe? What are the "sequences of prefixes" and
how do they relate to our day to day lives? What is the point of the
equivalence classes and what does that have to do with what we observe?

I think an informal explanation of these topics would help me, and
perhaps Paddy, to better understand the structure that you formally
describe. At this point I am still failing to see how it all relates
to my experience of the world as an observer.

Thanks -

Hal Finney
Received on Wed Jun 08 2005 - 13:11:20 PDT

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