Friday, 18 February 2011

Deep thought Friday

This week we go beyond alien life into logic, with thanks to meandmythinkingcap for bringing it up.

The law of identity, arguably fundamental to knowledge, states that a thing is the same as itself, that is:
A A

But is this true only as far as we can measure? Could A actually be quite different from A on a level beyond our current science or perception?

10 comments:

The Angry Lurker said...

Would this cover cloning, when you replicate A by cloning A is something not lost because of the complexity and repeated cloning of A will eventually degenerate into A-, I don't know I'm borderline WTF?

ArmChairGeneral said...

We could take it even further like so:
A+1/2A=A
A=A if A > A
If A = B then does B = A

You would undoubtedly end up with an answer very similar to 42.

Porky said...

@ The Angry Lurker - By my calculations, 'WTF' is above the usual 'What Factor 9, Mr Lurker', making it a trans-what speed. I think here that if we assume AA as it's understood to be, the clone is still what it is, in that the replication issues are what they are too. But we can get WTFF now - if a soul of some kind, or an extension of the individual of a similar nature, exists on another plane, beyond our perceptible, measurable A, and is not transferred to the clone, or not transferred in full, perhaps the clone is even less A than we are. That said, we could be moving so fast now we're catching our own rear ends.

@ ArmChairGeneral - I should have gone for 42 at the outset and just dropped the question. I see that now. Mr Adams will ever be one up on us.

Paul´s Bods said...

Isn´t A`s value different from the other A´s value, depending where you are present in relation to it?
For example...maths.
In Germany, sums are done in a left to right method, in the UK (and Russia) in columns, from top to bottom. Egyptians do maths completely differently again, in colums but similar to a binary system.
The results are the same but the mental perceptions are different.
I have read the thee are people who can do maths in a line going away from themselves..in thier heads...they perceive the numbers as being overlayed.
Is someones A worth the same as someone elses A? What is the value of A?
Cheers
paul

PS...just as I clicked to post this, the code that came up was ....exiled...the first set of letters that have made a word with any meaning or value since I´ve been posting messages as a blogger. A = A ;-D

Porky said...

Spooky stuff..! There's no way it's exile from the Expanse - your contributions only get more interesting.

These thoughts do tie in with the idea of perception beign important. As a first attempt I'd say that if we accept the doubt suggested in the post itself, A could depend on the individual, in that one person's perception may vary from another's, so that the two might comprehend the thing differently. It makes me think again of those overlapping circles in the scope of fiction sketch. I hope someone with a better mind than me is reading this and taking notes.

Paul´s Bods said...

Maybe I wasn´t 100% clear....These days I never am and after the events at work yesterday, even less so than usual.
Peoples perception of an event are not that varied...Like computers, the methods of input are virtually exactly the same, eyes, ears, nose, touch.the intepretation of the event that is experienced is the big problem...even indentical twins brought up alongside each other and having had almost (and there´s the catch "almost") exact experiences, when asked will use a slightly different set of valuations to interpret and relay the experience.
EG; a fight between two people is witnessed.
When asked what happened 99.999% will add things like, "the first guy was agressive, very agressive, totally out of order, very angry" etc or other sets of values that they, through thier own expreince (or lack of experience) of fighting will attach to the seen event. A timid bank clerk will experience the fight in a very different way to a proffesional cage fighter.
In other words (using a computer analogy) How many different programmes have been fed to thier hard drives and how do these programmes effect each other??
Cheers
Paul

kelvingreen said...

The law trumps perception, so if A and A are different on some level we cannot yet appreciate then no, they are not identical. Identity is a matter of the essence of things, not our perception of them.

That's a rationalist approach, but this is one place where empiricists would agree; if our perceptual experience of A and A are identical, then that's that. Anything beyond our experience is irrelevant.

Crikey, I haven't thought about this stuff for years. That's shaken some cobwebs out.

Porky said...

@ Paul's Bods - I see that point, that perception is less the issue than interpretion. It's an excellent one too. When I suggest bigger variation in perception I'm only wondering if we can keep a door open for all the possible phenomena we might not have measured yet, paranormal only in the sense that the concepts of bacteria and radio waves could have seemed paranormal in earlier ages.

@ kelvingreen - The rational and the empirical here are clear, though the rational strikes me as the more interesting. But I can't help but want to go beyond even that. Here's an idea for a thought experiment: what would it take for something not to be the same as itself? For example, could each moment of an existence, each perception of that existence and so on, be of a unique thing, with these unrelated except in a very tenuous or superficial way to the others?

Jennie said...

The way this question has been discussed so far treats "A" as a physical object, in many cases. I think the identity statement is far more defensible for precisely-defined logical statements or postulates than for things that manifest physically in our universe.

I think issues of perception certainly bear more exploration. I believe that it is grossly inaccurate to assert that most people's perceptions of phenomena are roughly the same, or that these perceptions reflect "objective" reality in a reliable and consistent way. There is a very broad human variation in perceptual ability - sensitivity to differences in color, form, position, sound, rhythm, movement, scent, taste, tactile discrimination, and other sensory inputs varies tremendously between individuals, even only including those whose perceptual abilities would be broadly categorized as "normal", and leaving out those people who would be recognized as color-blind, tone-deaf, clumsy, completely blind or deaf, or having some other sensory impairment.

Attention and stress also play a huge role in perception and, as a result, eyewitness testimony is, in fact, very unreliable.

We also need to recognize that our ability to observe is limited by our senses (and the devices that we make to extend them) to such an extent that two things that at first seem identical in every way may differ greatly when the sensory data collected about them is expanded, by looking at their ultraviolet and infrared signatures,for example, or by measuring the magnetic fields they generate. So, at best, we can say that as far as we can tell, things are identical to themselves, that we haven't yet developed tools that would allow us to assess characteristics that might yield two different answers at the same time to the same question. We need to recognize that the assertion that A is identical to itself assumes that all of the characteristics of A are such that any measurement of them would have a deterministic outcome - that A's qualities are not probabalistic, which is not necessarily a sound assumption.

It is also pretty well established that the frame of reference from which an object is viewed makes a huge difference in how that object will be seen to behave, and that these differing observations are not necessarily able to be reconciled with each other to find a single "right" answer about the "true" behavior. (IIRC, Brian Green's "The Fabric of the Universe" covers this in some detail.)

So, I think it is safe to say that either we need to look at "A" as "The system of A being observed by observer "O" at a given point in time within a specified frame of reference", which really doesn't talk about the nature of "A" independent of our observations of it, or we need to recognize that we can't really have a good grasp on what exactly A is, and so we can't make this statement with any degree of certainly.

Some interesting links about perception:

http://www.springerlink.com/content/13j8h6m358337r31/

http://www.visionsciences.org/symposia2011_4.html

http://ageing.oxfordjournals.org/content/21/3/171.abstract

http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03091900210156878

http://legalstudiesclassroom.blogspot.com/2011/01/eyewitness-reliability.html

http://www.fulero.com/

http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dorf/20010516.html

James S said...

Hey Porky your blog is fun!

I think that question is essentially an advancement of skepticism. It seems to ask whether we are justified in believing the evidence of our senses, or whether we should assume that they are being deceived. Many philosophers have put forward suggestions about this, and like everything else in philosophy I guess you have to go with what you find most convincing. Personally I'm a fan of pretending that our senses are reliable unless shown otherwise, because if we don't life gets pretty tricky pretty quick!

Epistemology and perception are not the only way you can approach that problem, though. It could also be about truth, possibility,and probability. Maybe A actually does equal A now in every way such a statement can be true, but tomorrow an inter-dimensional portal will tear open and change the laws of the universe, and A will no longer equal itself. Such an event is definitely conceivable, though unlikely based on past events.