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Archive for 08/03/2011

Real prediction is not possible

Another interesting piece from the answers to the Edge question (here) is Rudy Rucker’s. She is author of Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul. Her piece of useful wisdom:

A little-known truth: Every aspect of the world is fundamentally unpredictable. Computer scientists have long since proved this. How so? To predict an event is to know a shortcut for foreseeing the outcome in advance….The world can simultaneously be deterministic and unpredictable. In the physical world, the only way to learn tomorrow’s weather in detail is to wait twenty-four hours and see even if nothing is random at all. The universe is computing tomorrow’s weather as rapidly and as efficiently as possible any smaller model is inaccurate, and the smallest error is amplified into large effects.

At a personal level, even if the world is as deterministic as a computer program, you still can’t predict what you’re going to do. This is because your prediction method would involve a mental simulation of you that produces its results slower than you. You can’t think faster than you think. You can’t stand on your own shoulders.

It’s a waste to chase the pipedream of a magical tiny theory that allows us to make quick and detailed calculations about the future. We can’t predict and we can’t control. To accept this can be a source of liberation and inner peace. We’re part of the unfolding world, surfing the chaotic waves.

The only way a decision is deterministic is that it is made by the brain. The only way it is free is that it cannot be predicted. The freewill vs determinism is a dead end (like nature vs nurture). We should be concerned with how decisions are actually made in neuro-scientific terms and how to make better ones in psychological terms.