Friday, April 10, 2009

Predicting (Inferring) a Box's Behavior (Outputs, Reports)

Input: an observation (a signal, a possibly-sensed event).

Output: a statement.

Intermediary: a box.

Question: To predict a box's outputs given specified inputs, do you have to be able to see (or infer) the innards (or workings) of the box or is it sufficient to be able to observe the box's outputs in the past given specified inputs?

the dynamic evidence page

coming soon: the law of evidence on Spindle Law

1 comment:

ALG said...

This is a fascinating question. It seems like the basis of empiricism, i.e., what assumptions permit a person to use "observations" about the box's contents to predict its outputs?

I asked myself a similar question when I was reading about systems theory-- "Systems theory [seeks] a mental model of unity out of diversity, to view institutions [tribe, family, corporation...] from a holistic rather than a fragmentary perspective. ... [A system has four characteristics]:
1 interaction of parts or subsystems,
2 transaction of external inputs into outputs,
3 maintenance of dynamic disequilibrium through the mechanism of constant feedback, and
4 (for human institutions) a need for purpose."

This struck me as a verbose list of the features that human brains "evolved" to assume things have: i.e.
1) "volume" (i.e. an "invisible" portion);
2) "surface area" (i.e. an interface or "visible" portion, where we measure "inputs" and "outputs");
3) a mechanism connecting the events at 1 and 2 (volume to surface area - call it "shape"?);
4) a mechanism conforming 1,2,and 3 to some intuitable rules (call it "familiarity" or "design"?)

Then I'd paraphrase your question as, "can you predict an object's actions knowing what's on its surface, and also its shape, but not its contents?" And I'd answer, "Yes, if you're "familiar" with its "design"." I've never dissected a bird, but I evolved a mammalian brain that bestowed upon me principles of animal behavior, so I can intuit how it will behave. What I'm calling "familiarity" or "design" seems analogous to what you reference in your subsequent posts, e.g. the polygraph operator whose "gut instincts" we can trust.

I think these four things can be shoehorned into the four Aristotelian categories -- see Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought, p116:
"Who or what brought it about [4];
what it's made of [1];
what shape it has [3];
and what it's for [arguably 2 - e.g., "a road is for driving" means its input is tires, output is acceleration.].",M1