X-Message-Number: 9493
From:  (John P. Pietrzak)
Newsgroups: sci.cryonics
Subject: Re: Pietrzak's Errors
Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 03:50:43 GMT
Message-ID: <>
References: <>

On 15 Apr 1998 14:20:54 GMT,  (Ettinger) wrote:

>John Pietrzak (Cryonet #9489) makes fundamental errors and badly
>mischaracterizes my approach to probability theory, even though he has made a
>valiant effort to understand my essay, "Cryonics: The Probability of Rescue."

I don't think I did (at least in the large view, if not in the
details), and thank you.

>The essence of his error is in the sentences, "He's essentially trying to give
>a large probability to the success of intuition…"  and "…we  now use our
>intuitive knowledge of cryonics and apply it (a priori) to a probability
>function which has…no samples at all!"
>That last is the exact opposite of the implicit and explicit thrust of the
>essay. There MUST be samples (prior experience) on which to base any estimate
>of probability. 

I'm basing my comments on the fact that, as I understand it, the
canonical experiment for cryonics cannot be completed for some years
yet.  Indeed, this is, I assume, why you were attempting to focus on
the idea of applying probability in situations where few samples are
taken; in the series of experiments involving the success or failure
of cryonics, there are no samples yet.  All the data upon which you
base your probability for cryonics success must therefore be drawn
from elsewhere; there is no actual prior experience in cryonics to
draw from.

>His confusion arises from the fact that intuition is often correct, although
>imprecise, because (unconsciously) it DOES rely on experience, on recollection

>of prior observations. For EXPLICIT application of the method, one DOES compile
>statistics; but often the thrust of experience is so obvious that compiling
>statistics would be a waste of time.

Intuition, as I understand it, is not only the gathering and
application of experiences, but also involves the user's own
subjective analysis of the experiences.  (For example, in my own
experience, I have often found that compiling statistics in situations
where the thrust seems obvious often leads to surprising and
non-intuitive results!)  At any rate, if indeed what you mean when you
rely upon intuition is that you are in fact relying upon the
experience behind the intuition, I'd like to see some of that data:
I'm quite certain that _no_ cryonics procedure has met with ultimate
success yet, so the experiences that you choose as being relevant
would be interesting here.
>John quotes from my summary, in part: "In the modern era, not a single goal of

>science, so far as I know, has been shown to be impossible…."  Perhaps I should

>have added another long section to include a statistical summary, but it hardly
>seemed necessary.

Ah, well this is my own bias showing through.  I received my
undergraduate degree at Case Western Reserve University, a school
whose most distinguished claim to fame involved one of this century's
most famous and important failures to achieve a goal of science, the
Michelson-Morley experiment.  Ever since light was shown to act like a
wave, scientists had been searching for the medium through which the
wave was propagating.  Michelson, using his "interferometer" for just
this purpose, collected data from all over the world to within an
accuracy of less than a wavelength of light, but was unable to find
the effects of Earth's movement through the medium in which light
propagated; in the end, the only way this could be accounted for was
to describe light as a wave which propagates through no medium at all!
(Of course, Einstein had been putting together just such a theory a
few years earlier, but there had been no experimental proof up to this
point.) (This result kinda blew Michelson's mind, and he sort of faded
away from the scientific world afterwards, but that's another story.)

All I'm trying to say here is that far from goals of science always
being possible to achieve, it is quite possible that a very obvious
and seemingly achievable goal of science can be shown to be completely
impossible.  Despite one's intuition.

>Incidentally, John mentions my technical example (the exponential life
>parameter, which has passed muster with experts in statistics), but fails to
>see that it is closely related to the summary as applied to cryonics.

It applies to cryonics, in that (given an appropriate distribution) it
can provide an appropriate likelihood to the chances of success of a
given procedure.  The question here, then, is the appropriateness of
your a priori distribution, is it not?  We can't compare the results
of your function to the real world, there being no experiments against
which to calibrate it.  You've got nothing against which to check your
answers.  If you still claim the function is correct without this
check, then a different intution of the probabilities (say, mine) is
exactly as valid w.r.t. this function as yours; my own probability,
even though it may vary significantly from yours, is just as
scientific using your system.

In yet other words, you're basically saying that you think cryonics
will be successful _exactly because_ you think cryonics will be


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