Re: virus: maxims and ground rules and suppositions

Eric Boyd (
Thu, 13 May 1999 15:32:34 -0400


TheHermit <> writes:

We expect not just other humans to recognize them, but also extra-terrestrials competent at science and engineering - because of the way the universe works.

True. We expect ET's to be able to figure of the context of the truths you have encoded and transmitted to us -- becuase they too have encountered the universe. However, that doesn't take away from the fundamental aspect of this discussion -- that truth itself is an encoding of properties of the universe, and that this encoding ("frame of reference") is almost entirely arbitrary. No doubt, those ET's will have encoded Pi in a much different way than us -- possibly not just a different base, but a radically different "map" entirely. In their context, (with their "frame of reference"), I do not expect to be able to recgonize "Pi" on sight -- just as the Pioneer 10 spacecraft message would be completely worthless to the average alien not skilled or knowledgable in (whatever counts as their) science and space-craft industry.

In short, when you say:
Now you can scream about context. This plaque was designed to create a context by using a combination of physical constants that an engineering space going race would be familiar with and ratios to conceptualize itself. Are you saying it doesn't work? Or is your argument specifically against my examples?

My counter is that you expect the Plaque to work precisely becuase you assume that any *intelligent* ET's will be able to reconstruct the *absolutely necessary* context from their own science and technology. i.e. the message or "truth" is communicated becuase you assume they share the same context in which the message was written -- and thus, in your example, the maxim about which this whole discussion centers *still holds true* -- with your proviso that there is a "universal" context (the universe) which all intelligent species are *capable* of understanding, with some difficulty (e.g four hundred years of science). The fact that the context is (potentially) universal doesn't mean that there is no context.


Final comment - Godel proved that any ***closed*** system is either incorrect or incomplete. Like a creationist playing with entropy, the omission of a key part of the specification allows you to use it to point out things that would horrify the originator. For every system, there is also a metasystem that allows one to prove the system's characteristic... i.e. complete or correct or neither. I think I'm seeing a lot of the latter.

Yes, but that meta-system itself is either incomplete or incorrect. (you can't out_Godel Godel -- Hofstadter, Douglas. _Godel, Escher, Bach: and eternal golden braid._)

I'm not sure what you mean by "closed" that I didn't cover with "formal". I understand the latter to include the former, and some.