Re: virus:"other reality"

Reed Konsler (
Fri, 10 May 1996 10:16:21 -0400

Dan Henry said (Thu May 9, 9:28pm):
I wasn't even thinking about handwriting. Just recognizing
computer-generated typefaces of the same letter is very difficult. But my
point was that we all know what an 'A' is, though I'll bet none of us can
write an algorithm to _detect_ one. Hence, definition does not directly
rely on detection.

I think I disgree on both points you make in this statement. First, it is
possible to write an algorithm which will distinguish an A from other symbols
in the environment. The algorithm, however, is not simple. It is an
indication of the processing power of a single human brain that it seems easy.

Definition relies on observation, which is the process of becoming conciously
aware of something. Observation requires both detection and perception. For
instance: In the place where you work there is probably a bathroom labeled
with a gender (Men or Women). Do you perceieve this sign every day? I don't.
I'm sure I detect it, but it gets filtered out as an insignificant detail of
the environment. I don't "perceive" (or notice) it. I know where the bathroom
is based upon a mental map of the building.

But, in an airport, I look for the sign.

Another example: the neutrino. We can define the hell out of it (charge,
spin, mass, symmetry, interactions, etc). But there are still some we
haven't detected or observed. And those we can find are detected by
inference only. The experimentalists think of ways to detect them, but
those detection methods are not part of the definition.

The methods of observation are implied in the definition. The wonderful thing
about science is it is a well referenced field and everthing must be
reproducable before it is given creedence. If you want to know what proceedure
was used then you can chech the "Experimental Section" of the appropriate
article. Sure, we are always arguing over what the observations mean, but
isn't that the point? We are in the process of creating memes that can be used
to generalize part of the environment. If you read something that contians the
phrase "Scientists say..." in the popular press if often seems like the
definitions are being formulated a priori. Usually (not always) however, two
things are true. First, there is a lot of evidence and a string of logical
inferences leading to the statement, which is merely the conclusion. Second,
scientists seldom agree. We negotiate, compromise, and hammer out an idea. In
most real scientific problems there is so much information that no simple idea
could explain it all, the best you can do sometimes is recognize a broad
pattern and then try to fill in the details. By the time you are finished the
"explaination" you have is a huge complicated thing that you would have never
proposed at Quantum Mechanics and/or characteristics of the