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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Book of the Week: Uncertainty

The following review appeared in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons:

This book has the potential to turn the world of evidence-based medicine upside down. It boldly asserts that with regard to everything having to do with evidence, we’re doing it all wrong: probability, statistics, causality, modeling, deciding, communicating—everything. The flavor is probably best conveyed by the title of one of my favorite sections: “Die, p-Value, Die, Die, Die.”

Nobody ever remembers the definition of a p-value, William Briggs points out. “Everybody translates it to the probability, or its complement, of the hypothesis at hand.” He shows that the arguments commonly used to justify p-values are fallacies. It is far past time for the “ineradicable Cult of Point-Oh-Five” to go, he states. He does not see confidence intervals as the alternative, noting that “nobody ever gets these curious creations correct.”

Briggs is neither a frequentist nor a Bayesian. Rather, he recommends a third way of modeling: using the model to predict something. “The true and only test of model goodness is how well that model predicts data, never before seen or used in any way. That means traditional tricks like cross validation, boot strapping, hind- or back-casting and the like all ‘cheat’ and re-use what is already known as if it were unknown; they repackage the old as new.”

Some of the book’s key insights are: Probability is always conditional. Chance never causes anything. Randomness is not a thing. Random, to us and to science, means unknown cause.

One fallacy that Briggs chooses for special mention, because it is so common and so harmful, is the epidemiologist fallacy. He prefers his neologism to the more well-known “ecological fallacy” because without this fallacy, “most epidemiologists, especially those employed by the government, would be out of a job.” It is also richer than the ecological fallacy because it occurs whenever an epidemiologist says “X causes Y” but never measures X. Causality is inferred from “wee p-values.” One especially egregious example is the assertion that small particulates in the air (PM 2.5s) cause excess mortality.

Quantifying the unquantifiable, which is the basis of so much sociological research, creates a “devastation to sound argument…[that] cannot be quantified.”

I could not agree more. As I have repeatedly observed, the only theories that are worthwhile are those that serve as the basis for successful predictive models. Or, as the ancients put it, let reason be silent when experience gainsays its conclusions. All the backtesting and p-values and statistical games are irrelevant if the predictive models fail.

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115 Comments:

Anonymous Icicle January 10, 2017 8:24 AM  

Let's move statistics and probability theory into the 21st century.

Make models great again!

Blogger dc.sunsets January 10, 2017 8:25 AM  

Most of what people think of as "science" today is simply another form of faith.

Distributed alongside the Utopianism begun in the 1960's with the Space Program and the Wars on Poverty and Disease (welfare state and Medicare/Medicaid) was the embrace of Scientism, or perhaps as this author might put it, deification of the "P<0.05."

To me, Utopianism is simply the conceit that Man (or the Men and Wymnn in Charge) are omniscient. This circles back to the criticism of Secular Humanism, that Man is God. No wonder the most zealous adherents of this delusion use the word, "grok."

Anonymous ODG January 10, 2017 8:26 AM  

"One especially egregious example is the assertion that small particulates in the air (PM 2.5s) cause excess mortality."

So, they failed to ban smoking outright with the secondhand smoke bogeyman, so now they're going after particulates? The auto industry is getting shackled with particulate filters on those oh-so-smoky gasoline engines because of this new PM 2.5 scare.

I'm still waiting for them to put CO2 scrubbers on all vehicles.

Blogger dc.sunsets January 10, 2017 8:34 AM  

FTR, I'm satisfied with the answer "I don't know" or "we don't know," and do not equate ignorance with a requirement for any particular faith. To me, this is defined as the agnostic premise. A baby (most especially my baby or one born to a direct relative) is miracle enough, especially given that my educational background provides me a vague idea of the vast unknown that pervades our best grasp of the process involved.

Regarding this book, it's a testament to how much of what people currently take for granted is nothing but a vast network of rationalizations for what amounts to a beehive of effort that produces nothing real and serves largely to support a labyrinth where most people are both robber and victim.

Blogger Bill January 10, 2017 8:34 AM  

Might be relevant as an example of a theory that serves as the basis for successful predictive models.

Why whites aren't the most racist people
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEYVCNgYA6s

Blogger Orville January 10, 2017 8:35 AM  

"Evidence based" medicine is everywhere in the Medicare system, and few realize how much influence Medicare has on the whole health care system in terms of so called quality improvement.

Another ridiculous fad is "Chasing Zero" seeking to gain zero harmful outcomes in health care. These twits live in fantasy land thinking you can get to zero defects in anything.

Blogger Deplorable Gaiseric January 10, 2017 8:38 AM  

@2: The notion that we can build heaven (or Utopia) here on a fallen earth in any form is a variation of the heresy of Babel. The notion of a secular, scientific process to get to heaven is a heresy of the heresy, so to speak.

If the fatal flaw of my people, the Borderers and Scots-Irish, is our flightiness and short tempers and (to some degree) our individualism and resentment and resistance of even valid authority, the fatal flaw of the Puritans and their descendants in New England and elsewhere, is their propensity to fall into the heresy of Babel and attempt to reach heaven while yet on earth—and of course their propensity to degenerate into totalitarianism and tyranny to get there.

Anonymous MIG January 10, 2017 8:39 AM  

If randomness does not exist, what about random events like the decay of radioactive atoms?

Blogger dc.sunsets January 10, 2017 8:42 AM  

If you add up all the jobs (and wealth transfers that support them, and then to where that wealth continues to transfer downstream) of all the industries based on either post hoc fallacy or outright circular reasoning, I strongly suspect you'd find that 80% or more of jobs and entire occupations today are just friction...a way for people to spend their entire adult lives digging ditches and filling them back in, while deluding themselves that the "work" is essential, good, productive and serves their community.

For instance, how many people who work in the pharmaceutical industry or in a hospital realize that 80-100% of what they do is actually just a spinning top? Can we imagine that a highly-skilled cardiac surgeon who spent two decades developing his ability and another three decades grafting saphenous veins to the outside of patients' hearts to provide coronary artery bypass, was nothing but a direct contributor to entropy?

Anonymous Clevon January 10, 2017 8:53 AM  

Can we imagine that a highly-skilled cardiac surgeon who spent two decades developing his ability and another three decades grafting saphenous veins to the outside of patients' hearts to provide coronary artery bypass, was nothing but a direct contributor to entropy?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-Q_yL0svDc

I'm gunna fuck all y'all! Woooo! WOOOOOO!

Anonymous Teapartydoc January 10, 2017 9:00 AM  

I'm a doctor and I can tell you that the vast majority of medical research is worthless crap. Some of what used to be the most prestigious journals are now reduced to having their chief articles being about achieving health care equities and sociological baloney. The reviewer is right. P-values are excuses for publishing nonsense and nonsense gets published anyway without them.
Much of the problem is that publishing itself is the religion. The real disease is the idea of the research university as God. The real God is the money they bring in, but the people involved transfer the God idea from the money itself to the recipient of the money. Yes, university administrations and professors worship the fuck out of money. Money money money. That is all these fuckers think about. And if you think they give a rat's ass about your sons, wake up and read about kangaroo courts and fake date rapes.
Defunding the research university would be the greatest accomplishment any legislature could have, but no one has the balls to do it.

Anonymous krymneth January 10, 2017 9:01 AM  

MIG wrote:If randomness does not exist, what about random events like the decay of radioactive atoms?

Without having read the book, I would hazard a reasonably informed guess that the idea there is that the vast bulk of medical outcomes are controlled by relatively deterministic processes that we either do not understand, do not have the ability to gather the data to see, or most likely, both.

While reality does seem to have an irreducible level of randomness in it, a visible medical outcome being caused by such a low-level random fluctuation is going to be very rare. Like, "let's count the number of nines we can put on the 99.999999" sort of rare. The only thing that leaps to mind that could be truly a quantum event is that you could get really unlucky and conceivably experience a genetic mutation that turns into cancer, probably during the sensitive time of copying the DNA for cell mitosis. Even then, though, the odds heavily disfavor it, as evidenced by the fact that for the vast bulk of us the vast bulk of the time do not have a dangerous cancer. (Seriously one of the medical miracles of the world. I doubt anyone who has ever studied cellular mitosis very seriously has ever failed to have the "Seriously? This works quadrillions of times over my lifetime? Really?" moment.)

Anonymous Teapartydoc January 10, 2017 9:04 AM  

One more thing. Back when I was working I dropped all my state medical association memberships and made the AAPS the only organization outside my specialty that I paid dues to. They have no pull whatsoever, but are the only organization saying any truth to power in medicine nowadays.

Anonymous Donald Trump January 10, 2017 9:12 AM  

Defunding the research university would be the greatest accomplishment any legislature could have, but no one has the balls to do it.

Fake Academia is a hotbed for sad failed Hillary supporters with low energy. I've decided to begin distributing grant money more to the private sector.

We're going to build new institutes! Peter Thiel will help me with biotech!

We're going to get the best researchers! Just the best. Let me tell you!

Blogger dc.sunsets January 10, 2017 9:14 AM  

I still recall well the Principal Investigator for whom I worked in 1983 going before the US Congress to testify against a proposed ban on the use of animals in experimental research.

Advocates of the ban proposed that "computer models" could be substituted for living creatures.

This was 34 years ago and such delusions have only metastasized. As I've said, the Utopian mass mania begun in the 1960's yielded over fifty years of increasingly bizarre and absurd fads...which became both public policy AND holy sacraments of the Cult.

It is positively fascinating to watch one brick after another simply fall out of that edifice. This book, the Trump Phenomenon, scholarship questioning the outcomes for even basic charitable works (much less the epic disaster of public "welfare"), and increasing attention given to Human BioDiversity are all signals that simply could not exist 20-60 years ago.

If you take a step back and look at the forest, it becomes apparent that the species of tree populating it is changing right before our eyes. Left/Utopian/Delusional trees are fast being felled in favor of Right/Realist/Unpleasant-Truth saplings.

Blogger Hauen Holzwanderer January 10, 2017 9:18 AM  

Chasing zero from a sociological point of view through better p-values and all of the various perturbations thereof sounds like another manifestation of mental illness. One that's asymptotmatic.

Anonymous JACIII January 10, 2017 9:25 AM  

What???? You mean you can't cure cancer, get into orbit, become a millionaire, predict the weather with just an H1B MBA in business math?

Anonymous Donald Trump January 10, 2017 9:27 AM  

What???? You mean you can't cure cancer, get into orbit, become a millionaire, predict the weather with just an H1B MBA in business math?

The institutes should be light and responsive! We want winners not diversity for losers.

American scientists first! Foreigners are a security risk. I'm tired of the Chinese stealing our research. Friendship as fake as their new islands!

Blogger Sagramore January 10, 2017 9:36 AM  

Is there anyone left here who still thinks that journal article about how "Sargon sux" and is too pleb to interpret research was simply "educating" people? Sounds to me like they saw him walking into a bank with no Hoffman glasses or bubble gum.

Anonymous JACIII January 10, 2017 9:36 AM  

It's American business that has bought Into to the nonsense. You can't blame foreigners for exploiting that.

Blogger seeingsights January 10, 2017 9:40 AM  

A determinist could say that the randomness is only apparent, due to our lack of knowledge of all the actions and reactions involved.

Blogger Tom January 10, 2017 9:42 AM  

To step back from the principle a bit, I think this sounds like a useful reversion to the mean with regard to our thinking about quantitative determinism.

I used to see this all the time in the quant hedge fund world. Someone comes up with a basic principle, which turns out to be correct and opens the door to a new way to think of things. It’s an orthogonal approach or something – something outside the box that leads people to believe there is a whole new box to poke around in. Collateralization of debt was actually a good example from finance.

Then come the followers. They distill it, and refine it, sometimes correctly and sometimes incorrectly. In the process, they simplify its description so that more people believe they can understand it, even if they can’t. They find ways to exploit it further and many are useful.

But what is actually happening among the people who work on it, is that the new decisions about what the breakout idea actually meant in the first place, is moving along the IQ bell curve of the people with the training and understanding to work on it. The process continues leftward until all of the factual information content of the original idea and the paradigm it represents, are all exploited (within the limits of practicality) and then you get other guys.

Guys with some training or basic understanding, who don’t appreciate the nuance at all. They misunderstand the original idea or at least oversimplify it, and try to apply it to areas where it shouldn’t be. So it goes, on and on, until the people who are working on ‘new things’ in that space are all well trained but minimally intelligent charlatans, fools, or a mix of both.

I can cite a number of examples, but I don’t want to get too into the jargon of finance. But to offer one (to try to stay within the blog rules), I once had a kid apply for a job as a quant PM (in 2011) that said he had a long volatility equity model which had a Sharpe ratio of 12. At that time no working model of that description with a multi-day holding period could produce a Sharpe higher than maybe 2. The market at that point was too efficient for anything else. His mistakes were honest, and obvious to me, but he thought he had found the 'magic formula'.

I can’t imagine the same sort of thing doesn’t happen just like that in medicine, since it’s a closed system with external inputs, just like the financial markets.

But here is a guy who is saying that (If I read it right) the process itself is imperfect and one way to fix it would be to change it so that the fools and charlatans can’t fake it any more. Make them actually produce something that in finance is represented as 'profit'. That kind of imperative was always present in my industry, so it’s rare that the fools or charlatans ever do anything except waste the time of people trying to hire quants.

If his ideas are adopted, I expect it will lead to an increase in fraudulent data like we see in finance, but hopefully no one will be hurt in the process.

Anonymous Donald Trump January 10, 2017 9:42 AM  

It's American business that has bought Into to the nonsense. You can't blame foreigners for exploiting that.

That ends now! I showed Ford and Fiat how it is done.

They have to go back.

Anonymous Rather, Not January 10, 2017 9:45 AM  

Vox, you obviously liked the premise and the review, have you read it and would you recommend it?

I ask this as someone educated in physics, and earlier in my career I was in and then ran from quantitative/financial risk management...largely because the math is fundamentally broken, and several of the premises behind the VAR models and other alternatives are just not true, and without those premises, the results are at best very misleading and more likely to lull users into disaster. So as someone who also very strongly agrees with the premise and review, is it still a worthwhile book?

Blogger dc.sunsets January 10, 2017 9:47 AM  

Direction of causality is my favorite topic.

For 50 years, any tree that said race causes differences in crime & poverty was cut down or burned, creating a monoculture of Universalist trees that posited poverty caused crime.

During our current transition period, people see that poverty is correlated with crime, but race correlates more. This yielded the notion of whites being incorrigibly racist to explain the problem of reversed causality demonstrated by our lying eyes.

Most interesting to me is that this radical notion, developed to "explain" a growing chorus of "causality reversal," fuels and amplifies the forces pushing back against the original delusion.

SJW rule #2 seems parallel. When their old "explanation" failed, they substituted one that actually fails (their purposes) even worse.

No army (or Cult Theocracy) can resist an idea whose time has come. History marches to natural laws, laws that can no more be thwarted or repealed than can the law of gravity. We don't understand the process, but we sure as hell can recognize its operation.

Blogger pyrrhus January 10, 2017 9:54 AM  

@12 Randomness exists, since no one can predict the effect of stray cosmic rays, but at the mass statistical level, it doesn't exist. That's probably the point he's making. It's an excuse for bad research.

Blogger The Other Robot January 10, 2017 9:57 AM  

Briggs is one of the good guys. He was a frequent commenter at Durham in Wonderland as well as someone who is like Steven McIntyre, the guy at Climate audit.

It sounds like a great book and worth the read.

Anonymous Bob Just January 10, 2017 9:59 AM  

@18 President Trump:

I have a theory on why "Heroin Kills White People More Than Anyone Else — And Nobody Is Sure Why" - and a possible *band-aid* fix to lower mortality (not focused on the addiction)

https://news.vice.com/article/heroin-kills-white-people-more-than-anyone-else-and-nobody-is-sure-why

I will need an expedited Schedule 1 license (Fentanyl & opiates are Schedule 1) - some money for reagents and preferably someone that likes lab-work.

-
@Dc.sunsets @Vox -

What you guys realize and a lot of folks don't appreciate is the limited scope a model might work in and what it predicts:

For example: if you computer model a chemical binding to the estrogen receptor, chances are, if the molecule can gain access to the receptor (and which receptor (membrane or nuclear)) it will probably affect the function of the receptor in the organism.

However, if your molecule doesn't bind to the estrogen receptor in your model, you can't say it won't have a function overall because of indirect (outside the modeling area - ex. helix 12 interactor) or crosstalk (molecule affects another protein; ex. Protein kinase A) that then phosphorylates and potentiates estrogen receptor action.

As for small particulates causing mortality - the predictive model might work if the particulates were alpha-particles. The model works (is predictive under limited circumstances) -
personally, I'd like to see more supporting data (weather, gravitational anomalies for an area, sunspot activity, etc) along with whatever is the focus of the research.

Blogger Noah B The MacroAggressor January 10, 2017 10:01 AM  

Aka garbage in, garbage out.

Blogger dc.sunsets January 10, 2017 10:05 AM  

@29 AKA "You can't take the human out of research done by humans."

Blogger JP January 10, 2017 10:06 AM  

That's not even a great example of randomness. Radioactive decay follows a logarithmic function pretty solidly. That's why you have such a thing as a half-life.

Anonymous vfm #0202 January 10, 2017 10:07 AM  

@15
DCS, last night I was re-reading the medical section of Antifragility; and this morning what to my wondering eyes should appear but this!

There is indeed, as you pointed out, something in the air. Let's drill some holes with these augurs!

Blogger dc.sunsets January 10, 2017 10:12 AM  

In the larger context, we're on our way from the apogee of !Science! informing our world view (and the "certainty" that belief system provided) to an eventual point where trust in such paradigms hits nadir and people cling to a different explanation.

It will look like people went from science/reality to religion/magic, but if being objective, since no man holds the all the knowledge to so much as manufacture a No. 2 lead pencil (and thus accepts as "given" so much of the world that it might as well appear by magic), there really isn't much difference in the foundation.

We are designed to understand the explanations (for our world) that existed 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. Everything else is a function of Toffler's Future Shock.

Anonymous Damn Crackers January 10, 2017 10:13 AM  

Reminds me of Lakatos's philosophy of science "research programmes", which were a correction to his teacher Karl Popper's falsification demarcation between science and non-science. Astrology predicts poorly. Thus, it is a failed research programme. Physics has predicted much. Therefore, it is a successful research programme.

Anonymous Bob Just January 10, 2017 10:19 AM  

@32 Careful on the pronunciation: auger augur Auger

Long ago, I remember reading about this (new to me) spectroscopy and piped up in class about my discovery-

I say ˈôɡər electron, when much to my dismay the Prof goes "what, it's pronounced, oh-zhey". Needless to say, I had to drop that class

https://infogalactic.com/info/Auger_therapy

Blogger Earl January 10, 2017 10:30 AM  

Chance = magic

Blogger VD January 10, 2017 10:49 AM  

Vox, you obviously liked the premise and the review, have you read it and would you recommend it?

I have not yet read it, but I will soon.

Blogger wrf3 January 10, 2017 10:50 AM  

JP wrote:That's not even a great example of randomness. Radioactive decay follows a logarithmic function pretty solidly. That's why you have such a thing as a half-life.

This demonstrates that randomness isn't well-understood without some math. The behavior of individual atoms is absolutely random (unless you happen to hold to quantum superdeterminism), but the behavior of individual random things, when taken as a group, isn't random. The law of large numbers enters the picture such that group behavior reverts to the mean. That's why you might flip a coin 9 times and have it come up heads each time, but after one million flips, you find that you get heads half the time and tails half the time.

Anonymous BBGKB January 10, 2017 10:59 AM  

Another ridiculous fad is "Chasing Zero" seeking to gain zero harmful outcomes in health care

I have to be careful I don't laugh, especially when same people believe in affirmative action.

how many people who work in the pharmaceutical industry or in a hospital realize that 80-100% of what they do is actually just a spinning top?

Its only in the past century that going to a doctor didn't have a negative overall impact.

Yes, university administrations and professors worship the fuck out of money. Money money money. That is all these fuckers think about. And if you think they give a rat's ass about your sons

So Graham Spanier was a good one?

I have a theory on why "Heroin Kills White People More Than Anyone Else — And Nobody Is Sure Why"

Is it something other than OxyContin was marketed to get whites hooked, or the (((system))) is anti white?

Blogger Noah B The MacroAggressor January 10, 2017 11:23 AM  

@28 "unless you happen to hold to quantum superdeterminism"

The author, Mr. Briggs, apparently does hold to quantum superdeterminism. I found the section on quantum mechanics a bit disappointing, as it's little more than an assertion that all quantum phenomena must be causal, ignoring the possibility that what we perceive to be causality ultimately arises from noncausal systems.

Blogger SirAdam January 10, 2017 11:40 AM  

Another reason so many "scientific" studies fail, most if not all are built on the assumption life has evolved, not life is created. If they are wrong, which all available physical evidence points to, then the theories will mostly fail.
For instance most science believes there was an early ice age, that's how they explain the discovery of large mammals frozen in ice with greens in their mouth. OK, so these mammoths just stood still and ate till they froze, OR, there was a global flood that caused it. See Earths most challenging mysteries by Daly.
My point, if God exists and the Bible is true than most scientific theories won't be able to predict

Blogger SirAdam January 10, 2017 11:42 AM  

Dang, using an iPad and Brave browser to comment always causes issues, at some point while typing the comment box freezes and I am done, no fixing is possible. I'll get it though

Anonymous MIG January 10, 2017 11:42 AM  

@31

It's not random when you look at it statistically, but it's random when you look at an individual. Try to predict an exact moment of decay for an individual atom.

Blogger Noah B The MacroAggressor January 10, 2017 11:43 AM  

Another reason so many "scientific" studies fail, most if not all are built on the assumption life has evolved, not life is created.

It is a common claim in introductory biology texts than understanding evolution is key to understanding biology, but that isn't true at all. At least for now, the theory of evolution appears to be at a dead end. It doesn't make any definite predictions and hasn't allowed us to develop any new technology.

Anonymous Kevin January 10, 2017 11:46 AM  

Disclaimer: I have advanced degrees in the fields covered by this book and work in fields related to medicine.

There is a book of this type every so often and the appeals apply to every field which does not do randomized controlled trials but much less so to randomized data (and often not at all). So- what fields are those? Sociology, economics, psychology, epidemiology, etc. You get the idea. The most public offenders are epidemiology and economics and climate modeling.

Epidemiology has corrective randomized trials and frequently is able to confirm the epidemiology or refute it. The biggest crisis of confidence probably came with the WHI which refuted prior evidence of a benefit from women taking hormone replacement therapy. That was such a big deal I still remember where I was when I first got the results. That led me to a path that resonates with the books author.

As models increase in complexity they replace data with assumptions. If you have enough data you can usually use simple models effectively. However, when you want to ask increasingly complicated questions you make increasingly complicated assumptions and often the people now using the model as a black box have no respect for the assumptions. When the assumptions are frequently violated they render the results all sorts of gibberish.

I now have reached a similar conclusion as VD's summary of the book suggests - I only regard as real science randomized studies, models that can accurately predict, or science that is hierarchal in nature in the real world (the next experiment or application reveals the flaws in the previous implicitly). Most epidemiology and economics is preliminary, though not without its uses.

The attacks on the p-value have many solutions which I am sure the author addresses. Fisher enshrined it as a good tool for a reason but as with all tools there remain many caveats that need to constantly be shouted from the roof tops.

Blogger Ron January 10, 2017 11:46 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Anonymous EH January 10, 2017 11:47 AM  

One particularly interesting application of predictive statistics is compression, or rather the other way around, with the right sort of compression of time-series data (e.g. exchange rates) one can potentially predict future data. The prediction / compression works better with many partially correlated time series, as in "compressed sensing" techniques. Another potentially practically important but surprisingly little-studied type of compression uses prior or shared "side information", which has analogies to coding theory, cryptography and the scientific method in general.

Blogger dc.sunsets January 10, 2017 11:57 AM  

@45 I enjoyed your comment.
However, when you want to ask increasingly complicated questions you make increasingly complicated assumptions and often the people now using the model as a black box have no respect for the assumptions.

One of my favorites is the notion that there's a threshold of lines of code, above which you get human intelligence. I can enjoy the (science) fiction explorations of such things even as I recognize the innate assumptions as invalid.

Anonymous Baseball Savant January 10, 2017 12:00 PM  

On the first day of our embryology class in medical school, the professor stood up and said, "In this class you'll begin to understand that none of us really know what in the hell we are talking about."

Anonymous Jack Amok January 10, 2017 12:06 PM  

One of my favorites is the notion that there's a threshold of lines of code, above which you get human intelligence.

Remember, the people most likely to believe that also most likely believe Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are super-geniuses, so their conception of "human intelligence" is... not the same as your's and mine.

Blogger 2Bfree January 10, 2017 12:22 PM  

all of statistics is applications of abstract measure theory, so whatever is backed up with rigorous definitions and proofs of theorems is OK with me. I don't consider it relevant whether ordinary mortals are confused by p-values, confidence intervals, etc. They are confused by sheaves and adjoint functors too.

Matt's "predictive statistics" approach is very interesting, and it does address the problem that conventional statistical methods often grossly underestimate the amount of uncertainty in an estimate, which is kind of what that Talib guy ("black swans") writes about.

Anonymous JI January 10, 2017 12:35 PM  

In my work, I do statistical modeling and years ago adopted the approach of using predictability as the measure of model adequacy. That is, I cost and scope a design that has extra "runs" built-n which will not be used for modeling, just for assessing whether the model based on the rest of the data provides an adequate fit.

That said, sometimes in the knowledge discovery process, one has to point the telescope to an empty part of the sky and just look to see what's there. This isn't relevant to what I do for a living, but I think that in some areas the scientists sometimes have to look even if they do not yet have theories to guide them.

Blogger dc.sunsets January 10, 2017 12:41 PM  

That said, sometimes in the knowledge discovery process, one has to point the telescope to an empty part of the sky and just look to see what's there. This isn't relevant to what I do for a living, but I think that in some areas the scientists sometimes have to look even if they do not yet have theories to guide them.

Yes, and even when they find something in that empty space, expect the hivemind status quo to attack.

https://youtu.be/UlFVUozGWyU?t=24m7s

Blogger weka January 10, 2017 12:47 PM  

Thank you for the review. Book ordered.

Blogger weka January 10, 2017 12:51 PM  

@45, concur. The fun bit is when you stand up in a conference and tell people that standard practice has not been shown to work in trials... when all the trials are accounted for.

(And yes, I have the same kind of degrees)

Anonymous A Deplorable Paradigm Is More Than Twenty Cents January 10, 2017 1:05 PM  

Some of the book’s key insights are: Probability is always conditional.

That statement is strange. It looks like an attack on basic probability itself. The classic coin flip is an independent trial with two equally probable outcomes, to say it is conditional means it is not independent. But to say a simple coin flip is conditional leads down some rabbit trails that become more mystical than anything else - is the outcome of my coin flip pre-determined by some previous set of events going all the way back to the beginning of time, for example?

Perhaps the comment is something taken out of context; all probabilities within some area, such as medicine, are conditional. That could be demonstrated.

But "all probabilities are conditional" rewrites a fundamental premise of probability theory. I sure hope I'm missing something.

Blogger Orville January 10, 2017 1:05 PM  

The reverse of this is that sometimes an unexplainable (doesn't fit the current models) discovery is discredited by the science priests. A possible example is the EM-drive which appears to produce mass-less thrust. It has been tested by a number of researchers, and the Chinese say they just tested it in orbit, but who trusts the Chinese? They lie all the time. Because it needs to be tested in a vacuum and the thrust is small, in the milli-newtons, it's best results would be orbital testing like the lying Chinese said they did, but the priesthood wouldn't support doing a results driven test because "models".

Blogger wrf3 January 10, 2017 1:56 PM  

A Deplorable Paradigm Is More Than Twenty Cents wrote: But to say a simple coin flip is conditional leads down some rabbit trails that become more mystical than anything else - is the outcome of my coin flip pre-determined by some previous set of events going all the way back to the beginning of time, for example?

See John Conway's Free Will Theorem" which addresses this question.

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 10, 2017 1:59 PM  

@3. As someone who has a fairly good idea of how CO2 scrubbers work, that will never, ever happen. Not least of all because you need to be absolutely illiterate in several sciences to even think it would be necessary or useful.

@4. "I don't know/I'm not sure" is at least always honest in accordance with the scientific method. IMO the scientific method being used for everything is an abuse of it though. One step at a time is good if it's the most we can carry.

@6. I for one have long regarded the bastardized derivative of the Hippocratic Oath "First do no harm." as an appalling idiocy with regard to not only the majority of what the medical profession practices, but what it ought practice.

@8. That is not random, however because we currently lack the knowledge to predict atomic decay, we consider it to be so. Again, the word "random" is just a lie that means "do not understand/know".

@15. Everyone sacrifices, and everyone sacrifices their entire lives, because every human being is mortal. The only question remaining: "On what altar do you sacrifice?"

@16. Decidedly NOT asymptomatic.

@21. Anyone who sees time as illusory/experietial to the material universe should immediately understand that nothing can possibly be random. Determinists are only a tiny portion of this set.

@25. The more I learn the more I wonder whether cause and effect might more accurately be termed entwined causes, as I see more and more that the effect causes the cause as much as the cause causes the effect. Again, this is not only plausible, but functionally inseparable from necessary from a viewpoint that ignores time.

@26. Randomness can only exist in a model that posits that the universe is of random and meaningless origin. It cannot exist in any other model, regardless of appearance to the contrary.

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 10, 2017 1:59 PM  

@30. Even beyond that, there's Heisenberg's famous principle.

@38. Atom behaviour is not random. Again, "random" is a convenient word that is a lie. We don't understand how things work. Stick to the truth, rather than clinging to superstitions arising from an ancient pagan (magical) world view, otherwise prepare to be called a liar.

If atom behavior were truly random, then random things would still happen occasionally at larger scales (with less and less frequency the larger the scale) and yet they do not. To believe that they do is to either be phenomenist and believe that nothing can ultimately be understood at any level, or to be quite religious indeed, as you're describing a literal miracle. (Then again, miracles are, by definition, not random either.)

@39. The past century? Sure you're not casting your time frame out too far, say approximately 100%? Sorry, I've seen one too many people on 5+ medications for the equivalent of a runny nose, one med leading to consequences that necessitate the next.

@40. You're speaking my language, please continue.

@43. You're only half right. It's still not random, we just don't understand it.

@45. The weakness of "standing on the shoulders of giants". You've likely no idea where they placed their feet, or how they go about maintaining their balance.

@48. The fun part about the Turing test is that it can (potentially) only mean the designer of the machine is an accomplished liar. Even if the machine could fool a perfect 100% of people (including its creator) and would perform exactly as a human would until the end of time, there's absolutely no way to prove that it even has self awareness, let alone anything beyond that.

A big part of why Star-Trek style "transportation" is so theoretically horrifying. No one can ever possibly prove that you didn't just die and a flesh-robot was created as your proxy on the other side. On the upside, at least only the first go-around would be murder. The only way you can possibly weasel your way through transporters morally if you believe in souls/spirit would be to say that the soul/spirit magically attach to the new body across whatever distance.

@49. Honest prof is honest.

@50. Anyone who believes that a human is simply a very successful animal could easily believe that lines of code may encompass the human mind.

Blogger wrf3 January 10, 2017 2:01 PM  

Orville wrote:The reverse of this is that sometimes an unexplainable (doesn't fit the current models) discovery is discredited by the science priests. A possible example is the EM-drive which appears to produce mass-less thrust. It has been tested by a number of researchers, and the Chinese say they just tested it in orbit, but who trusts the Chinese? They lie all the time. Because it needs to be tested in a vacuum and the thrust is small, in the milli-newtons, it's best results would be orbital testing like the lying Chinese said they did, but the priesthood wouldn't support doing a results driven test because "models".

No, the "priesthood" doesn't support doing an expensive results driven test because the inexpensive tests haven't been done well. See, for example, Uncertain Propulsion Breakthroughs. If you're going to propose a mechanism that violates conservation of momentum, then shoddy tests aren't the way to present it. Especially when the supposed effect is smaller than the measurement margin of error.

Blogger John Wright January 10, 2017 2:05 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 10, 2017 2:11 PM  

@56. I think you could also say that probability is always based on assumptions that are fundamentally untestable until the end of time if such exists.

@58. Indeed, free will is the only interesting thing between a random/nonrandom universe.

Interestingly though, free will does not exist in a random universe either, because any effort of will can randomly fail to produce effect, and even beyond that, any successful exertion of free will is meaningless outside explanation via circular logic. Beyond that yet again, will is fundamentally illusory in a truly random universe.

To me, as a Christian, I can say that I do not believe in the word "random", because if it were true, it is possible for evil to go unpunished, for actions to have no consequences, and for truth to be shown a lie.

Actions must bring about consequences, and truth must exist, else all is utterly meaningless.

Blogger John Wright January 10, 2017 2:17 PM  

@60
"A big part of why Star-Trek style "transportation" is so theoretically horrifying."

In one of my role playing games, when the player characters visited the Star Trek world, they found the crew of the Enterprise surrounded by ghosts of their dozens of twin brothers or clones created and killed by the transporter machine.

The angry ghosts followed them around, invisible and insubstantial, and ruined their love lives. Which is why none of their romances ever end well (Spock's wife even tried to have him kill Kirk, if you recall).

Only Dr. McCoy had avoided the transporter enough to be haunted by a small number of ghosts. (I think in my game, I had criminals from Krypton also trapped in the ghostly nonbeing). Being good secular humanists, the crew could neither see nor allay the ghosts.

If you can figure out how to use this idea in a short story, feel free. Be my guest. You can call the book REDSHIRTS II: THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN PIKE.

Blogger wrf3 January 10, 2017 2:21 PM  

John Wright wrote:@8We use the word "random" to indicate that he cause is unknown to us.
We also use to to indicate that the cause is unknowable to us, and we also use it to indicate that there is no prior cause for the event.
Saying something happens "due to randomness" or "because of randomness" is merely a shorthand way of saying something happens for a hidden reason.
We also use it as a way of saying that "it just happens and there are no hidden reasons" (i.e. no hidden local variables).
Quantum Mechanics is based on the proposition that a proper empirical scientist should not assume hidden things exist, and therefore that when a cause is unknown, we should treat the event as if it were arising without any cause.
Quantum Mechanics is not based on any such proposition. It's based on observation. Double-slit experiment, and all that.
Which may be good physics, but it is Alice in Wonderland metaphysics.
If your metaphysics doesn't conform to physics then your metaphysics is wrong.

Why do you think the universe has any obligation whatsoever to conform to your intuitions? Over and over and over again, physics shows that some of our most basic intuitions are wrong.

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 10, 2017 2:22 PM  

@64. I don't think I can touch your level of delicious irony. At least not intentionally.

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 10, 2017 2:29 PM  

@65. "Unknowable" is a statement of faith that cannot be proven.

No hidden reasons that we know of. This is borderline oxymoronic.

Technically science itself is based upon assuming that things which have not been found do not exist, so he's not wrong, as that basis extends to quantum physics as well. Obviously it's not the entire foundation.

Your physics is, according to what you've already said, observably based on your metaphysics. Hypocrisy much? You've no room to speak here.

Again, you're also positing that the universe must conform to your intuitions. No room have you to speak.

Anonymous grey enlightenment January 10, 2017 2:29 PM  

@3 I'm still waiting for them to put CO2 scrubbers on all vehicles.

The left needs such filters for all the hot air they spew

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 10, 2017 2:31 PM  

@68. Why settle for a filter when you can upgrade to a seal?

Blogger Orville January 10, 2017 2:56 PM  

@61 If you're going to propose a mechanism that violates conservation of momentum, then shoddy tests aren't the way to present it.

I've read that article too, and the author says...The latest paper, in the AIAA Journal of Propulsion and Power, is an improvement in fidelity on the prior tests and may be indicative of a new propulsive effect. However, the methods and data are still not crossing the threshold of “extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims” – especially since this is a measurement of small effects. With the improved fidelity of the reporting and the data traces themselves, I have to question my earlier bias that the prior data was entirely due to experimental artifacts and proponent biases.

He is in favor of more rigorous testing too. Because it is a small force, it is something that lends itself to better testing in orbit and various groups are looking a funding for a small-sat test bed to go up with a load of sats on a Falcon launch.

Blogger Gordon January 10, 2017 3:19 PM  

The thing is, telling them the CO2 scrubbers won't work will not stop the regulation. If these people could do math, they wouldn't be working for the EPA or the South Coast Air Quality Management District. They would be doing climate fantasy studies for fun and profit.

Blogger wrf3 January 10, 2017 3:21 PM  

Orville wrote:He is in favor of more rigorous testing too.

Sure. And he outlines some of the better ground-based testing that could be done.

Because it is a small force, it is something that lends itself to better testing in orbit and various groups are looking a funding for a small-sat test bed to go up with a load of sats on a Falcon launch.Sure, but space-based testing won't help if the problems with ground-based testing aren't worked out first, e.g.:

Regardless, there is absolutely no discussion of possible influences on the rotation from tilting, power lead forces, vibration effects, thermal effects, or others.
The behavior of the thrust stand was not characterized before installing the EmDrive. Testing the two together without first having characterized the thrust stand separately prevents separating their distinct characteristics from the data.

Blogger wrf3 January 10, 2017 3:27 PM  

Benjamin Kraft wrote:@65. "Unknowable" is a statement of faith that cannot be proven.
No, it's a proof based on observation. If Relativity holds, and if Kochen-Specker holds -- and we have plenty of observational evidence that they do -- then there is nothing in the past light cone of a quantum event that has any bearing on the event.
Your physics is, according to what you've already said, observably based on your metaphysics. Hypocrisy much? You've no room to speak here.
Really? What are my metaphysical assumptions that have influenced "my" physics? For example, if you can show superluminal communication, or violation of Kochen-Specker, then I'll stop agreeing with Conway's "Free Will Theorem".

Anonymous Ezekiel Cassandros January 10, 2017 3:32 PM  

"then there is nothing in the past light cone of a quantum event that has any bearing on the event."

Sure, if you hold to the Copenhagen interpretation. But if you prefer the pilot wave interpretation, it's all entirely causal, you just won't be able to exactly measure the state of the system because you would first need to have exact knowledge of your measuring apparatus. There is no (current) scientific experiment that can distinguish between the two metaphysical models. No preference for either interpretation can be even slightly scientific.

Blogger Jose January 10, 2017 3:38 PM  

VD wrote:I have not yet read it, but I will soon.

Well, I have read it, so here's a trio of observations:

1. It's a good intro to modern thinking on uncertainty, not on model-building or model-testing. The idea of testing a model, probabilistic or not, by out-of-calibration predictions is the foundation of all science; models that fit all existing phenomena but don't predict new phenomena are useless, and have been since at least Copernicus.

2. It's a good counterpoint to the way many people are trained in statistics and how statistics are used in certain "small data" fields, but almost all work in uncertainty measurement that matters (i.e. that people put their money behind, for example) these days is big data (finance, marketing, operations), so that the book is more of a criticism of the tools used in low-quality-of-modeling fields. (Social sciences, politicized science, public economics, for example.)

3. Like most polite people writing about uncertainty, Briggs underestimates the big problem with the use of statistical evidence: selection biases (personal and built into the "peer review" system -- a pre-publication veto system in reality), faked data, and p-hacking (more sophisticated faked data). The most sophisticated model in the world, and the best prediction-based testing strategy are no match for made-up data and papers selected according to fit to current narratives. (Guess who just published a single-author paper in Science Magazine. No, really, check it out.)

I'd recommend complementing Briggs, on the technical side, with Nassim Nicholas Taleb's recent papers (the books are ok, but they don't cover these problems) on his website.

Cheers,

JCS

Blogger Levi Shay January 10, 2017 4:22 PM  

Vox, what are some of these theories that serve as the basis for successful prediction models?

Blogger wrf3 January 10, 2017 4:39 PM  

Ezekiel Cassandros wrote:"But if you prefer the pilot wave interpretation...
Then you are holding to demonstrably false position. See, as one of many examples, All realistic "interpretations" falsified by low heat capacities:

"When I say that all realist "interpretations" of quantum mechanics are dead for thermodynamic (and many other) reasons, I mean all of them: the Bohm-deBroglie pilot wave theory and its variations, realist Everett's many worlds "interpretations", Ghirardi-Rimini-Weber "collapse theories", and other classes."


Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 10, 2017 4:54 PM  

@73. This is very basic, it's called proving a negative, which is what you're claiming to do. To put it quite simply, it's plain that you have no idea what you're talking about, and very poor training in the scientific method to boot.

Your metaphysical assumption is that the mechanisms by which atoms interact (among other things) - apparently randomly - is/are unknowable. This is a negative statement, and you claim to have it proven. I state that you aren't too bright due to that claim.

Are you familiar with nonlocality?

Blogger dc.sunsets January 10, 2017 4:59 PM  

For those who cite Heisenberg & quantum physics, I ask if Little's theory of elementary waves was considered and rejected.

I also observe that we live in a Newtonian world where a cat in a box is either dead or alive, not some sort of quantum flux phase until observed. When someone tries to explain that to me and then smirks, I put one hand on my wallet. The other might or might not be on my gun, and the answer to question of that state of being might not be obvious until later. (grin)

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 10, 2017 5:06 PM  

@79. Actually the article he linked covered wave form collapse, says it's not a thing.

Have fun with that.

Anonymous kagi January 10, 2017 5:11 PM  

"No wonder the most zealous adherents of this delusion use the word, "grok."

Whilst I can certainly sympathize with the people who have a sort of cultural antipathy to the word "grok", I can't support any sort of intellectual or linguistic rejection. "Grok," when properly understood (or maybe, when properly grokked) denotes a concept which we don't really have in Indo-European languages, and which is fairly useful. (A word like "satori" might suffice, but it isn't I-E.) Maybe we don't have the word or the concept because maybe humans are simply not capable of grok, but that doesn't mean it should be rejected as a word, and certainly not for dated anti-hippie reasons, however understandable. It's a good concept, worth contemplating at least. And I'm not aware of a functioning I-E substitute. Suggestions?



Blogger wrf3 January 10, 2017 5:19 PM  

Benjamin Kraft wrote:@73. This is very basic, it's called proving a negative, which is what you're claiming to do.
Sure. Proving a negative earned Andrew Wiles a well-deserved place in history, as one example. John Conway, with his "Free Will Theorem", proved another negative.
To put it quite simply, it's plain that you have no idea what you're talking about, and very poor training in the scientific method to boot.
Put up or shut up. Either tell me which of Conway's axioms you disagree with, and the experimental evidence you have for it, or show the mistake in his proof.
Your metaphysical assumption is that the mechanisms by which atoms interact (among other things) - apparently randomly - is/are unknowable.
Then you haven't been paying attention. Conway's Theorem is a proof that the spin of a particle that is measured has no connection to anything within the past light cone of the particle. There is no mechanism other than the particle is found in a random state.
Are you familiar with nonlocality?
Sure. Are you familiar with Relativity? Quantum entanglement isn't a non-local effect.

Anonymous Ezekiel Cassandros January 10, 2017 5:45 PM  

@77 So, an autistic rant that ignores the fact that in the pilot-wave interpretation, the wavefunction does not have as many degrees of freedom as a bunch of Newtonian-evolving particles.

But more importantly,

Who on earth cares? Are you really this flustered that somebody, somewhere, believes in causality?

Blogger Noah B The MacroAggressor January 10, 2017 6:03 PM  

Briggs is essentially arguing that everything is predictable and deterministic if you have enough information and computational ability.

Basically he's a Calvinist.

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 10, 2017 6:08 PM  

@82. First off, I did state earlier that free will was one of the most interesting parts about a nonrandom vs random universe.

I did not state that I disagree with the logic of free will theorem, but to me the first axiom is questionable. It also cannot be experimentally verified, so...

I mentioned nonlocality. Perhaps I ought have (less) specified entanglement to be clearer. However, your statment that Quantum entanglement isn't a nonlocal effect is interesting, in that it is both true and false. From the perspective of quantum entanglement as a whole, not all forms involve nonlocal effects. However, nonlocal effects require (AFAICT) entanglement, and thus some forms of entanglement DO include nonlocal effects. As a venn diagram, the circle of entanglement encompasses the circle of nonlocal effects, thus quantum entanglement both "is" and "is not" of nonlocal affect.

It "is" rather disingenuous to state one and not the other, is it not? Perhaps you ought to have said "are not all".

"Fin: There is a maximum speed for propagation of information (not necessarily the speed of light). This assumption rests upon causality."

Okay, so, causality:

"Causality is an abstraction that indicates how the world progresses, so basic a concept that it is more apt as an explanation of other concepts of progression than as something to be explained by others more basic."

Several forms of entanglement apparently defy causality, and by definition,

I also stated that I hold time to be ultimately illusory, something that we as humans are constrained to, but which falls away from a higher perspective. There are quantum mechanical interpretations (other than those disproven in your article) that support the appearance of time actually being a function or "side effect" of entanglement itself.

As a finality, Conway only "proved" his negative within the context of all three of his taken axioms being "proven" true, and they are not all. I don't need evidence against the first, because you have no evidence for. Put up or shut up indeed.

You really should avoid lying.

Anonymous kagi January 10, 2017 6:09 PM  

“The true and only test of model goodness is how well that model predicts data, never before seen or used in any way. That means traditional tricks like cross validation, boot strapping, hind- or back-casting and the like all ‘cheat’ and re-use what is already known as if it were unknown; they repackage the old as new.”

Lemme get this straight: it's taken them UP TIL NOW to figure this one out? I learned this by being a paperboy. It's like the friggin' economists suddenly figuring out that homo economicus, or if you prefer, the rational man who makes rational decisions based on rational considerations in order to attain rational goals, does not exist and has never existed. This is news? Knock me over with a feather. Anybody who's ever been in a bar fight with an angry drunk retard who could not possibly prevail, knows implicitly how this works out.

Nonetheless, congratulations to the author for underlining a very important concept. Very useful; better late than never.



Anonymous Eric the Red January 10, 2017 6:11 PM  

Does a mathematical probability of monkeys typing on keyboards producing the works of Shakespeare, mean that in reality such a thing could actually happen? Or instead, is there an alternative 'probability of reality' that nobody has devised yet?

One of the reasons I ask, is that increasingly the last bastion of Darwinists consists of probabilistic fantasies which are getting vanishingly small, leaving them no place to take a stand. If this continues, I predict that Darwinism will die a well-deserved death sometime in the next 50 years.

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 10, 2017 6:14 PM  

Perhaps though you are the one not paying attention?

Stating that time is illusory does not necessitate that time and the universe are deterministic in nature. Have fun wrapping your head around that one. Hint: One possible solution involves an extra-unversal deity and miracles, and that's the tame one.

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 10, 2017 6:19 PM  

Sadly I need to sleep now and cannot promise to be back any time soon. :|

Blogger Jose January 10, 2017 7:22 PM  

Noah B The MacroAggressor wrote:Briggs is essentially arguing that everything is predictable and deterministic if you have enough information and computational ability.



Huh? I assume you're inferring that from the review above, because the book itself is quite the opposite. The whole point of the book is that uncertainty is unavoidable in almost everything. (Actually the book implies everything, I'm the one adding the almost.) The point of the book is to help people deal with that uncertainty and to illustrate several problems with the way people are doing it at this time (basically, because of bad training)

For example, Briggs has a devastating attack on the pseudo-, I mean, social sciences and their attempt to appear quantitative when discussing qualitative matters:

(I don't see a way to add a screen cap, so it's tweeted here:

https://twitter.com/josecamoessilva/status/818974100454457345

)

Read the whole thing, where WB compares pseudo-, I mean social science "instruments" with actual instruments, like a x-ray spectrometer. This is precisely the opposite of suggesting a Newtonian predictability to the universe.

Cheers,
JCS

Blogger wreckage January 10, 2017 7:45 PM  

@84 if you're not talking about quantum physics, all measurable physical outcomes will be deterministic, even assuming the existence of free will.
Any effects from free will and miracles must be drowned out at any measurable level, indistinguishable from error.

Blogger wreckage January 10, 2017 7:47 PM  

@90 People don't like uncertainty. So they pretend it doesn't exist.

(Determinism and uncertainty are two different things to my mind. To be certain you'd need the computational power of the local universe, with all variables correctly measured.)

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 10, 2017 9:03 PM  

@91. I think it's more accurate to say that any effects from free will and miracles will be adjusted for in order to declare them indistinguishable from error.

"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen..."

"...and their foolish heart was darkened."

Blogger Noah B The MacroAggressor January 10, 2017 9:52 PM  

@90 I assume you're inferring that from the review above, because the book itself is quite the opposite. The whole point of the book is that uncertainty is unavoidable in almost everything.

I haven't read the whole thing but I read more than just the review. I jumped right into what looked like the heart of the book - quantum mechanics and causality.

His arguments strike me as contradictory. While in at one point he does emphatically state that man has free will, in discussing causality in the physical world he also states, "Things do not happen without causes, potentialities are not made actual by nothing..." Thus requiring that any choice one makes must also have a cause.

The noncausal interpretation of QM ties in nicely with the notion free will, in my view.

Blogger Francis Parker Yockey January 10, 2017 10:07 PM  

@BBGKB
"Is it something other than OxyContin was marketed to get whites hooked, or the (((system))) is anti white?"

Coindentally, the promotion of the "fifth vital sign," the "we're undertreating pain" meme, and the idea that opioids are not addictive when used to treat chronic pain, all began to be pushed around the same time as the initial Oxycontin campaign. Oxycontin, of course, is produced and marketed by Purdue Pharma, a privately held corporation owned by the (((Sacklers))). Just another coincidence, I'm sure.

Blogger Francis Parker Yockey January 10, 2017 10:23 PM  

An oldie but a goodie on this topic; I'm sure most are familiar with it, but just in case:
John P. A. Ioannidis's "Why most Published Research Findings Are False"
http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124

Blogger Jose January 10, 2017 10:28 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Anonymous Aaron January 10, 2017 10:35 PM  

The idea that chance and randomness don't exist is of course a metaphysical stance, as he can't "know" that.

Of course, the opposite idea, that they are actual forces, also cannot be known, so is also a metaphysical idea.

Of course "cause" itself has long been known as a mistaken concept - what we have are merely "event groupings", things that typically follow each other, or appear together, reliably.

Chance, then, merely means events that do not reliably follow other events, and are not part of an event group.

Such events are not really different from "caused" events metaphysical speaking - as cause doesn't exist - but for us earth bound humans it is useful to put them in another conceptual category when trying to control the world.

Of course, thwee might be event groupings we are not aware of, certainly.

Blogger Jose January 10, 2017 10:40 PM  


(Deleted previous comment because way too long to make this simple point.)

Briggs's framework is essentially that there's no randomness in reality (so a given electron, say, has a definite position and momentum at every moment) but either by modeling limitations or other measurement limitations (say Heisenberg's uncertainty principle) any model of that reality will have to include uncertainty.

The uncertainty is not in reality, but in the map between reality and model, therefore a construction of the model-builder.

Blogger Noah B The MacroAggressor January 10, 2017 11:08 PM  

@98 And this is a useful view in a classical situation, but it fails at the quantum level. Heisenberg Uncertainty isn't simply a human measurement problem; it is often said that it represents the lower limit at which the product of momentum and position can be known, but it would be more accurate to say that it is the lower limit at which the product of position and momentum of a particle actually exist. Without this uncertainty, the particle (such as an electron) would not have its observed wavelike properties.

Blogger wrf3 January 10, 2017 11:37 PM  

Benjamin Kraft wrote:I did not state that I disagree with the logic of free will theorem, but to me the first axiom is questionable.
You don't have to accept Conway's axioms. But it's important to know which ones you don't accept. If you don't think that free will exists, then fine.
However, your statment that Quantum entanglement isn't a nonlocal effect is interesting, in that it is both true and false.
It is not both "true and false." There are no non-local effects in Quantum Mechanics. Period. Entanglement is correlation, caused by two particles having interacted with each other locally in the past. Correlation is not causation. Too, you questioned free will, not the "fin" axiom. If you really thought that there were superluminal effects, you would also have questioned "fin".
It "is" rather disingenuous to state one and not the other, is it not?
No, because what I said was correct. Your understanding of entanglement is wrong.
Several forms of entanglement apparently defy causality
It isn't the entanglement that defies causality, but rather the observable states of the quantum objects. Quantum states do not exist until they are observed (i.e. quantum mechanics is a local, non-real theory). That doesn't deny causality, it just says that uncaused things occur. Christians don't seem to have a problem with an "uncaused cause" that gets everything started; I'm not sure why it causes such consternation to say that there are "uncaused causes" that keep everything going.
As a finality, Conway only "proved" his negative within the context of all three of his taken axioms being "proven" true,First, one doesn't prove axioms. Either one accepts them as true, or not. I accept Relativity and Quantum Mechanics as being true because repeated observation gives the same results. But that rests on the principle of observational induction, and that has to be taken as an axiom. It cannot be proven. Second, all proofs rest on axioms. That's why I asked you which axiom(s) you didn't take to be true. Certainly, if you deny free will, then Conway's proof doesn't hold.

But Nature presents a dilemma to us. If we hold to free will, then our notions of causality are suspect. If we don't hold to free will, then our notions about us are suspect (since the majority of mankind hold to free will). Pick your poison.

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 11, 2017 12:22 AM  

@100. Stop trying to put words into my mouth. It's a form of you lying about me by implication.

I do believe in free will, I believe it is a function of the divine "spirit" which God breathed into us, and is thus not constrained by the normal mechanisms of the universe, being akin to a continuous miracle.

Your definition of quantum entanglement is an interpretation that cannot yet be either proven or disproven, so don't state it like it's proven.

No, your understanding of entanglement is dictated by your metaphysics rather than what is actually observable.

Tell me, how do you "prove" that quantum states do not exist until they are observed? You cannot, by definition. This is the same logic as "because we exist as living human beings, evolution must be true and possible, because obviously we evolved". Blatant observation bias. You don't observe what you cannot observe, and thus should not EVER state with certainty about that which you cannot or do not observe if you are operating from a purely scientific point of view. This is yet another example of your metaphysics dictating your understanding of physics.

Are you effing serious? You posit the free will theorem based on causality, and then you expressly take a dump on it by saying that "uncaused things occur". Cognitive dissonance much? It's funny where you try to put me into a box of already believing in uncaused causes... which I already stated I do, in defiance of causality as you define and yet you don't see your own hypocrisy in positing both causality and uncaused causes.

"Every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause." < Uncaused cause? Violates this thoroughly.

First, his second and third taken axioms are experimentally verifiable, his first is not. I disagree that he has "proven" free will theorem, because it rests on what cannot yet be proven. Obviously if the axioms are true then it is proven, yet we cannot honestly say that the first is. Again, what part of this is hard to understand?

Again, I am not denying free will, I am denying that the entirety of causality as defined is proven.

You're aware that some of the best interpretations of quantum physics that may mesh with relativity are the same ones that theorize time is a function of entanglement, right?

I directly questioned the "Fin." axiom via causality. What part of this are you not understanding?

It's quite simple, I don't believe in causality as you define it. I believe that both time and space are ultimately illusory constructs produced by our physical bodies and senses interfacing with reality. Both are superseded by a "higher reality" if you will.

I feel like we're occasionally saying almost the same things here, but from opposite perspectives of the chain of logic. Perhaps the issue is that you're taking a perspective constrained by time and space, and I am not? Or perhaps to be more accurate we're both switching between both of them and assuming the other is not?

I could actually do a clean sidestep of your "pick your poison" if I wished to. If I believed in causality as defined, I would understand it to be part of nature (the universe), where God is not, and God is the source of our free will, thus free will is simultaneously present, and not part of nature.

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 11, 2017 12:33 AM  

@100. I do find the article you linked (the site really) interesting though, thanks for the link.

Blogger ViciousCreep January 11, 2017 4:53 AM  

Here is the blog which gives excellent coverage to the shortcomings of p-values and the alternatives: https://errorstatistics.com

Anonymous Rocklea January 11, 2017 6:27 AM  

So two guys wander into a blog post.

One guy is a theist who believes in determinism with free will.

The other is an atheist who believes in free will and non causal events.

And the punchline is...
How did they get their?

Blogger William M. Briggs January 11, 2017 6:50 AM  

Hi all, Briggs here. Thanks to Vox for the mention and thanks to all for many great comments and questions. Some of these need answers, which I'm going to give at my place tomorrow morning. http://wmbriggs.com

Anonymous buybuydandavis January 11, 2017 8:02 AM  

Some of the book’s key insights are:
(1) Probability is always conditional.
(2) Chance never causes anything.
(3) Randomness is not a thing.
(4) Random, to us and to science, means unknown cause.

I'll comment from my Jaynesian perspective.

(1) Yes. Conditional on your knowledge. You *assign* probabilities conditioned on what you know.
(2) ? Hard to tell what that is supposed to mean.
(3+4) Jaynes distinguishes between epistemological randomness and ontological randomness. Epistemological randomness is a limitation on our knowledge, while ontological randomness is what most people "think" of in terms of quantum fluctuations of teeny tiny billiard balls. Practically Jaynes would also be a determinist, on Einstein's side about the EPR paradox, though I don't think he strictly ruled out ontological randomness.

Does Briggs produce any actual *results* whereby he claims he makes better predictions than Jaynes?

I always enjoy a discussion of foundations of probabilistic inference, but his comments about cross validation are not encouraging, as he doesn't seem to realize that cross validation is all about *making predictions* and characterizing the error of those predictions.

Also, I get the impression that he too far limits what counts as "prediction". Off training data can be good enough as long as it hasn't really been used in your models.

It's not a matter of prediction in terms of the future, but just making sure that your model was not in fact conditioned on the data you're predicting.

(This is realizable in many contexts, but not so in areas like Climate Science, where so many assumptions are built into the literature of the field based on shared historical data.)

Maybe the minimal comments quoted don't do him justice. A number of things he says look encouraging, and I'm always interested in improving the foundations,

It's all fine and dandy to tear into misinterpretations of medical result (the failure to reject a null hypothesis does not *establish* it!), but I really don't need any more of that.

Can anyone familiar with both Jaynes and Briggs specify clearly what his value add is over Jaynes?

Anonymous buybuydandavis January 11, 2017 8:07 AM  

William M. Briggs wrote:Hi all, Briggs here. Thanks to Vox for the mention and thanks to all for many great comments and questions. Some of these need answers, which I'm going to give at my place tomorrow morning. http://wmbriggs.com

I'm particularly interested in the specifics of how you'd differentiate yourself from Jaynes, and what *results* you can produce that he can't.

Anonymous Mr. Rational January 11, 2017 9:23 AM  

SirAdam wrote:For instance most science believes there was an early ice age, that's how they explain the discovery of large mammals frozen in ice with greens in their mouth. OK, so these mammoths just stood still and ate till they froze, OR, there was a global flood that caused it. See Earths most challenging mysteries by Daly.
A flood that didn't just wash them away, and froze them in place... in a massive addition of LIQUID water?  Further, SALT water (it would have to be)?

Even a little bit of thinking shows that creatonut just-so stories are ludicrous, and creatonut analysis, isn't.  You can't even consider that a herd of mammoths might break through a semi-hard (maybe frozen) top layer over a bog and get mired en masse as winter was coming on.

Noah B The MacroAggressor wrote:the theory of evolution appears to be at a dead end. It doesn't make any definite predictions and hasn't allowed us to develop any new technology.
I read many years ago that evolutionary theory was being used to predict the evolution of plant pests and breed crop strains which were resistant to them.  Even one example proves the claim dead wrong.

Evolution is contingent; it can only create variations from what already exists, which is why no squid is going to evolve bones to be able to swim faster like a fish.  Given that it is contingent, you can predict what kind of variations will be advantageous in a given environment and would be passed on if they arose.

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 11, 2017 12:28 PM  

@108. An entire herd, not just one or two? And for some reason they were totally unable to spit out or swallow the food in their mouths. The only ludicrous one here is you my friend.

There are no examples, that's called adaptation, and you are far, far too short for this ride.

Okay, so what you're calling evolution is actually called adaptation. You literally describe it. I think we're done here. You cannot say both "contingent, creating variation of what already exists" (a sane claim) and "what kinds of variations will arise" (an insane claim), because in accordance with the first, nothing is arising at all, it's only things that have ALWAYS been there being expressed. The one not only does not follow from the other, but CANNOT follow from the other.

Blogger wrf3 January 11, 2017 2:25 PM  

Mr. Rational wrote:Evolution is contingent; it can only create variations from what already exists, which is why no squid is going to evolve bones to be able to swim faster like a fish.
So how did the first primitive single-celled organisms evolve bones, lungs, fur, gills, and eyes? Those things didn't exist. Why can't a series of mutations in a squid result in bones?

Anonymous buybuydandavis January 12, 2017 7:46 AM  

buybuydandavis wrote:

I'm particularly interested in the specifics of how you'd differentiate yourself from Jaynes, and what *results* you can produce that he can't.


Briggs responded on his site:
The results have to do with finite-discrete settings of all problems, and then taking them to the limit—as Jaynes himself recommended. I also correct a theorem where Jaynes hoped to find (but could not, as it turns out) finite exchangeability. And a few other things. See the book’s Table of Contents.

Looks like the answer is "see the book". Note the match to Jaynes on the correct procedure to take limits. A good sign for correctness, but a bad sign if you're hoping, as I was, for something new.

Briggs, if you actually have corrections/additions on Jaynes, you should contact Kevin Van Horn, who has compiled extensive errata/commentary for Jaynes.

Anonymous God Hates Cucks January 12, 2017 5:37 PM  

Eric the Red wrote:Does a mathematical probability of monkeys typing on keyboards producing the works of Shakespeare, mean that in reality such a thing could actually happen? Or instead, is there an alternative 'probability of reality' that nobody has devised yet?

One of the reasons I ask, is that increasingly the last bastion of Darwinists consists of probabilistic fantasies which are getting vanishingly small, leaving them no place to take a stand. If this continues, I predict that Darwinism will die a well-deserved death sometime in the next 50 years.


The monkey analogy doesn't even begin to describe the problems the atheists have in trying to explain the origin of complex biological coding.
Even if by some freak accident a monkey managed to randomly type out Shakespeare, what would it mean to someone who only understood Chinese?

Blogger William M. Briggs January 12, 2017 11:23 PM  

buybuyetc.,

The something new is there, and is an extension of Jaynes's own advice and starting problems with finite measurement. It has to do with how continuous-valued parameters are created. Jaynes's was, of course, hugely instrumental in "maxent" methods (I presented a paper once at one of these conferences), but these *start* with parameters; they accept them as given. But why not eliminate them altogether? Stay finite and discrete, create the probability models as a marriage of the fundamental measurement constraints of the observable and of decisions that can be made about the observable. Since explaining this involves much math, I leave it for the book.

Thanks for the tip about van Horn.

Blogger technovelist February 04, 2017 6:13 PM  

wrf3 wrote:Ezekiel Cassandros wrote:"But if you prefer the pilot wave interpretation...

Then you are holding to demonstrably false position. See, as one of many examples, All realistic "interpretations" falsified by low heat capacities:

"When I say that all realist "interpretations" of quantum mechanics are dead for thermodynamic (and many other) reasons, I mean all of them: the Bohm-deBroglie pilot wave theory and its variations, realist Everett's many worlds "interpretations", Ghirardi-Rimini-Weber "collapse theories", and other classes."



I don't always read about why the realistic interpretation of quantum mechanics is incorrect, but when I do, I read about it on a red pill blog!

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