X-Message-Number: 11907
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: For Bob Ettinger and Mike Perry
Date: Mon, 7 Jun 1999 00:15:12 +1000 (EST)

Hi again!

To Bob Ettinger: I did not say quite what you seem to think. The question
I asked is not whether there is any way to communicate with some other
intelligence (and note that an array of dots can be interpreted in more
than one way ... it will be interesting to see if the message to tell
about (I know about it too) will actually work) but whether the set of
symbols we use in our language, when considered in all the different
statements we make, will have an unambiguous interpretation. The message
you describe tried hard NOT to use undefined symbols ... though it may
have failed in its intent. 

One of the immediate difficulties in the kind of communication you
discuss (I think Sagan had a hand in its invention, but others did too,
so I can't give an author) is that our interpretation of a line of
dots need not coincide with that of some other intelligence (not to 
mention that lines of dots are not part of our normal language ... except,
that is, in ways that do not denote numbers). Suppose we interpret them
as pauses for thought. We then get, first, from this system, a ranking
of pauses for thought. Of course, ... + ... ...... just means that 
two people pausing with 3 pauses for thought will have the same thoughts
as one personal with 6 pauses for thought.

But I don't think that message bears on what I was saying anyway. It was
an attempt to define numbers (first) WITHOUT the use of a definition in
some language. I am asking whether any set of definitions of all the 
words in our dictionary will be so extensive that they have only one

Second, to Mike Perry: It is easy for a digital computer to SIMULATE
a small neural net. No one would claim that it actually is one. And of
course when the neural net gets larger and larger, the problem of 
simulating it becomes sufficiently hard that the best thing to do is
simply to build one rather than try to simulate it. It is that simulation
which makes the action of the computer symbolic rather than real.

Here is a comparison, to explain: digital computers can simulate
gasoline engines. That does not mean that we can put one doing that
simulation in our car and drive around with it as our power source.

			Best and long long life to all,

				Thomas Donaldson

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=11907