Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ted Chiang's What's Expected Of Us

I strongly recommend to read this brilliant story (if you haven't read it before).

Some minor commentary. Consider the Free Will Device, put next to the predictor. Free Will Device is actually entirely deterministic, and doesn't have any free will of its own. It consist of photocell which watches the LED on predictor, timer, which gets reset to 0 every time light hits photocell, and actuator which pushes the button when timer reaches 2 seconds. If predictor blinks within those 2 seconds, there won't be a button press, and if predictor doesn't blink, there will be a button press. That's fairly deterministic and if you had been given a box and told that it works as Predictor in this story, you're bound to try doing exactly this - setting your mind to press the button if LED was dark for several seconds, to check if it really works.
The laws of universe in this story would forbid you to press Predictor button 2 seconds after the start of experiment or flash of LED (rather than 1 second) but not forbid you to take egg out after 3 or 5 minutes of cooking depending on your decision whenever you want it hard boiled. That's not mere determinism; that would require some special malice on part of the universe, forbidding you to set your mind to make even a deterministic, predictable decision.

No comments:

Post a Comment