posted Feb 22, 2001

An Actual Weblog-Type Entry
Personal Commentary
2/22/2001; 11:22:25 AM

iRights has suffered for the last few days, but I think it's over. Windows NT is still running, LinkBack is cranking, and I'm Interneting.

Thing is, while a lot of stuff went by, I don't feel like I've missed much that's actually important enough to make it worthwhile to post. Sure, Napster is discovering that letting the music industry run it is the fast track to destruction, but hey, who other then Napster and the music industry didn't see that coming? (And to be fair, Napster may have seen it coming.) So, I thought maybe an actual weblog-type entry is in order. 

My Favorite Philosophy/Math-Computer Science Results

Philosophy is a fascinating subject, but it rarely ever actually determines anything. However, there are a few results from mathematics and computer science that, if you accept the validity of mathematics (which is not a strain for most people), have absolutely fascinating philosophical implications:

1. There are problems that you cannot solve. This is a consequence of the formalization of problem solving given to us by the great mathematician and one of the original computer scientists, Alan Turing. Here's a page that discusses the issue.

2. We will never be completely certain how the universe we live in works. This is Godel's famous incompleteness theorum, applied to the universe. Any theory that might encompass the universe will itself have unprovable statements that might still be true. Everything2 has a surprisingly good essay on this theorum.

3. Not only are there problems you can't solve, and you can't know everything about the universe, there are still things you can't learn, even if could in theory prove them. This a bit more obscure, but the field of machine learning (which I'm taking a grad-level course in now) is doing a surprisingly good job of creating a theory of what can be learned, not just by computers, but by anything, by any method. One of the results is that there are things that are too complicated to be learned. For instance, the there may be stuff at the bottom of quantum mechanics that cannot be learned, because some effect or force may be too complicated.

There's a pretty obvious theme here, isn't there? The universe tells us, in it's own impersonal way, exactly where we stand, if we know how to listen.



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