Public discussions of political and social issues are often characterized by deep and persistent polarization. In social psychology, it’s standard to treat belief polarization as the product of epistemic irrationality. In contrast, we argue that the persistent disagreement that grounds political and social polarization can be produced by epistemically rational agents, when those agents have limited cognitive resources. Using an agent-based model of group deliberation, we show that groups of deliberating agents using coherence-based strategies for managing their limited resources tend (...) to polarize into different subgroups. We argue that using that strategy is epistemically rational for limited agents. So even though group polarization looks like it must be the product of human irrationality, polarization can be the result of fully rational deliberation with natural human limitations. (shrink)
The Hong and Page ‘diversity trumps ability’ result has been used to argue for the more general claim that a diverse set of agents is epistemically superior to a comparable group of experts. Here we extend Hong and Page’s model to landscapes of different degrees of randomness and demonstrate the sensitivity of the ‘diversity trumps ability’ result. This analysis offers a more nuanced picture of how diversity, ability, and expertise may relate. Although models of this sort can indeed be suggestive (...) for diversity policies, we advise against interpreting such results overly broadly. (shrink)
This is an exploration of a cluster of related logical results. Taken together these seem to have something philosophically important to teach us: something about knowledge and truth and something about the logical impossibility of totalities of knowledge and truth. The book includes explorations of new forms of the ancient and venerable paradox of the :Liar, applications and extensions of Kaplan and Montague's paradox of the Knower, generalizations of Godel's work on incompleteness, and new uses of Cantorian diagonalization. Throughout, the (...) concern is with metaphysical and epistemological implications of these results: what such results may have to teach us about knowledge, truth, and possibility. (shrink)
Polarization is a topic of intense interest among social scientists, but there is significant disagreement regarding the character of the phenomenon and little understanding of underlying mechanics. A first problem, we argue, is that polarization appears in the literature as not one concept but many. In the first part of the article, we distinguish nine phenomena that may be considered polarization, with suggestions of appropriate measures for each. In the second part of the article, we apply this analysis to evaluate (...) the types of polarization generated by the three major families of computational models proposing specific mechanisms of opinion polarization. (shrink)
A scientific community can be modeled as a collection of epistemic agents attempting to answer questions, in part by communicating about their hypotheses and results. We can treat the pathways of scientific communication as a network. When we do, it becomes clear that the interaction between the structure of the network and the nature of the question under investigation affects epistemic desiderata, including accuracy and speed to community consensus. Here we build on previous work, both our own and others’, in (...) order to get a firmer grasp on precisely which features of scientific communities interact with which features of scientific questions in order to influence epistemic outcomes. (shrink)
Agent-based models have played a prominent role in recent debates about the merits of democracy. In particular, the formal model of Lu Hong and Scott Page and the associated “diversity trumps ability” result has typically been seen to support the epistemic virtues of democracy over epistocracy (i.e., governance by experts). In this paper we first identify the modeling choices embodied in the original formal model and then critique the application of the Hong-Page results to philosophical debates on the relative merits (...) of democracy. In particular we argue that the “best-performing agents” in Hong-Page model should not be interpreted as experts. We next explore a closely related model in which best-performing agents are more plausibly seen as experts and show that the diversity trumps ability result fails to hold. However, with changes in other parameters (such as the deliberation dynamic) the diversity trumps ability result is restored. The sensitivity of this result to parameter choices illustrates the complexity of the link between formal modeling and more general philosophical claims; we use this debate as a platform for a more general discussion of when and how agent-based models can contribute to philosophical discussions. (shrink)
‘The problem with simulations is that they are doomed to succeed.’ So runs a common criticism of simulations—that they can be used to ‘prove’ anything and are thus of little or no scientific value. While this particular objection represents a minority view, especially among those who work with simulations in a scientific context, it raises a difficult question: what standards should we use to differentiate a simulation that fails from one that succeeds? In this paper we build on a structural (...) analysis of simulation developed in previous work to provide an evaluative account of the variety of ways in which simulations do fail. We expand the structural analysis in terms of the relationship between a simulation and its real-world target emphasizing the important role of aspects intended to correspond and also those specifically intended not to correspond to reality. The result is an outline both of the ways in which simulations can fail and the scientific importance of those various forms of failure. (shrink)
The Law of Non-Contradiction holds that both sides of a contradiction cannot be true. Dialetheism is the view that there are contradictions both sides of which are true. Crucial to the dispute, then, is the central notion of contradiction. My first step here is to work toward clarification of that simple and central notion: Just what is a contradiction?
ABSTRACT This article distinguishes nine senses of polarization and provides formal measures for each one to refine the methodology used to describe polarization in distributions of attitudes. Each distinct concept is explained through a definition, formal measures, examples, and references. We then apply these measures to GSS data regarding political views, opinions on abortion, and religiosity—topics described as revealing social polarization. Previous breakdowns of polarization include domain-specific assumptions and focus on a subset of the distribution’s features. This has conflated multiple, (...) independent features of attitude distributions. The current work aims to extract the distinct senses of polarization and demonstrate that by becoming clearer on these distinctions we can better focus our efforts on substantive issues in social phenomena. (shrink)
Though my ultimate concern is with issues in epistemology and metaphysics, let me phrase the central question I will pursue in terms evocative of philosophy of religion: What are the implications of our logic-in particular, of Cantor and G6del-for the possibility of omniscience?
A small consortium of philosophers has begun work on the implications of epistemic networks (Zollman 2008 and forthcoming; Grim 2006, 2007; Weisberg and Muldoon forthcoming), building on theoretical work in economics, computer science, and engineering (Bala and Goyal 1998, Kleinberg 2001; Amaral et. al., 2004) and on some experimental work in social psychology (Mason, Jones, and Goldstone, 2008). This paper outlines core philosophical results and extends those results to the specific question of thresholds. Epistemic maximization of certain types does show (...) clear threshold effects. Intriguingly, however, those effects appear to be importantly independent from more familiar threshold effects in networks. (shrink)
What structure of scientific communication and cooperation, between what kinds of investigators, is best positioned to lead us to the truth? Against an outline of standard philosophical characteristics and a recent turn to social epistemology, this paper surveys highlights within two strands of computational philosophy of science that attempt to work toward an answer to this question. Both strands emerge from abstract rational choice theory and the analytic tradition in philosophy of science rather than postmodern sociology of science. The first (...) strand of computational research models the effect of communicative networks within groups, with conclusions regarding the potential benefit of limited communication. The second strand models the potential benefits of cognitive diversity within groups. Examples from each strand of research are used in analyzing what makes modeling of this sort both promising and distinctly philosophical, but are also used to emphasize possibilities for failure and inherent limitations as well. (shrink)
One set of neglected problems consists of paradoxes of omniscience clearly recognizable as forms of the Liar, and these I have never seen raised at all. Other neglected problems are difficulties for omniscience posed by recent work on belief de se and essential indexicals. These have not yet been given the attention they deserve.
The iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma has become the standard model for the evolution of cooperative behavior within a community of egoistic agents, frequently cited for implications in both sociology and biology. Due primarily to the work of Axelrod (1980a, 198Ob, 1984, 1985), a strategy of tit for tat (TFT) has established a reputation as being particularly robust. Nowak and Sigmund (1992) have shown, however, that in a world of stochastic error or imperfect communication, it is not TFT that finally triumphs in (...) an ecological model based on population percentages (Axelrod and Hamilton 1981), but ‘generous tit for tat’ (GTFT), which repays cooperation with a probability of cooperation approaching 1 but forgives defection with a probability of l/3. In this paper, we consider a spatialized instantiation of the stochastic Prisoner’s Dilemma, using two-dimensional cellular automata (Wolfram, 1984, 1986; Gutowitz, 1990) to model the spatial dynamics of populations of competing strategies. The surprising result is that in the spatial model it is not GIFT but still more generous strategies that are favored. The optimal strategy within this spatial ecology appears to be a form of ‘bending over backwards’, which returns cooperation for defection with a probability of 2/3 - a rate twice as generous as GTFT. (shrink)
Is simulation some new kind of science? We argue that instead simulation fits smoothly into existing scientific practice, but does so in several importantly different ways. Simulations in general, and computer simulations in particular, ought to be understood as techniques which, like many scientific techniques, can be employed in the service of various and diverse epistemic goals. We focus our attentions on the way in which simulations can function as (i) explanatory and (ii) predictive tools. We argue that a wide (...) variety of simulations, both computational and physical, are best conceived in terms of a set of common features: initial or input conditions, a mechanism or set of rules, and a set of results or output conditions. Studying simulations in these terms yields a new understanding of their character as well as a body of normative recommendations for the care and feeding of scientific simulations. (shrink)
We apply spatialized game theory and multi-agent computational modeling as philosophical tools: (1) for assessing the primary social psychological hypothesis regarding prejudice reduction, and (2) for pursuing a deeper understanding of the basic mechanisms of prejudice reduction.
John Abbruzzese has recently attempted a defense of omniscience against a series of my attacks. This affords me a welcome occasion to clarify some of the arguments, to pursue some neglected subtleties, and to re-think some important complications. In the end, however, I must insist that at least three of four crucial arguments really do show an omniscient being to be impossible. Abbruzzese sometimes misunderstands the forms of the argument themselves, and quite generally misunderstands their force.
How do conventions of communication emerge? How do sounds or gestures take on a semantic meaning, and how do pragmatic conventions emerge regarding the passing of adequate, reliable, and relevant information? My colleagues and I have attempted in earlier work to extend spatialized game theory to questions of semantics. Agent-based simulations indicate that simple signaling systems emerge fairly naturally on the basis of individual information maximization in environments of wandering food sources and predators. Simple signaling emerges by means of any (...) of various forms of updating on the behavior of immediate neighbors: imitation, localized genetic algorithms, and partial training in neural nets. Here the goal is to apply similar techniques to questions of pragmatics. The motivating idea is the same: the idea that important aspects of pragmatics, like important aspects of semantics, may fall out as a natural results of information maximization in informational networks. The attempt below is to simulate fundamental elements of the Gricean picture: in particular, to show within networks of very simple agents the emergence of behavior in accord with the Gricean maxims. What these simulations suggest is that important features of pragmatics, like important aspects of semantics, don't have to be added in a theory of informational networks. They come for free. (shrink)
Predicates are term-to-sentence devices, and operators are sentence-to-sentence devices. What Kaplan and Montague's Paradox of the Knower demonstrates is that necessity and other modalities cannot be treated as predicates, consistent with arithmetic; they must be treated as operators instead. Such is the current wisdom.A number of previous pieces have challenged such a view by showing that a predicative treatment of modalities neednot raise the Paradox of the Knower. This paper attempts to challenge the current wisdom in another way as well: (...) to show that mere appeal to modal operators in the sense of sentence-to-sentence devices is insufficient toescape the Paradox of the Knower. A family of systems is outlined in which closed formulae can encode other formulae and in which the diagonal lemma and Paradox of the Knower are thereby demonstrable for operators in this sense. (shrink)
Given certain standard assumptions-that particular sentences are meaningful, for example, and do genuinely self-attribute their own falsity-the paradoxes appear to show intriguing patterns of generally unstable semantic behavior. In what follows we want to concentrate on those patterns themselves: the pattern of the Liar, for example, which if assumed either true or false appears to oscillate endlessly between truth and falsehood.
Among the most telling atheistic arguments are those to the effect that the existence of any being that meets standard divine specifications is impossible – that there not only is not but could not be any such being.
We are increasingly exposed to polarized media sources, with clear evidence that individuals choose those sources closest to their existing views. We also have a tradition of open face-to-face group discussion in town meetings, for example. There are a range of current proposals to revive the role of group meetings in democratic decision-making. Here, we build a simulation that instantiates aspects of reinforcement theory in a model of competing social influences. What can we expect in the interaction of polarized media (...) with group interaction along the lines of town meetings? Some surprises are evident from a computational model that includes both. Deliberative group discussion can be expected to produce opinion convergence. That convergence may not, however, be a cure for extreme views polarized at opposite ends of the opinion spectrum. In a large class of cases, we show that adding the influence of group meetings in an environment of self-selected media produces not a moderate central consensus but opinion convergence at one of the extremes defined by polarized media. (shrink)
In God, Freedom, and Evil , Alvin Plantinga presents a new form of the ontological argument for the existence of God. Though he has reservations concerning its evangelical efficacy, Plantinga considers the proof both valid and sound, and presents it as a defence of the rational acceptability of theism.
Understanding the dynamics of information is crucial to many areas of research, both inside and outside of philosophy. Using computer simulations of three kinds of information, germs, genes, and memes, we show that the mechanism of information transfer often swamps network structure in terms of its effects on both the dynamics and the fitness of the information. This insight has both obvious and subtle implications for a number of questions in philosophy, including questions about the nature of information, whether there (...) is genetic information, and how to arrange scientific communities. (shrink)
We extend previous work by modeling evolution of communication using a spatialized genetic algorithm which recombines strategies purely locally. Here cellular automata are used as a spatialized environment in which individuals gain points by capturing drifting food items and are 'harmed' if they fail to hide from migrating predators. Our individuals are capable of making one of two arbitrary sounds, heard only locally by their immediate neighbors. They can respond to sounds from their neighbors by opening their mouths or by (...) hiding. By opening their mouths in the presence of food they maximize gains; by hiding when a predator is present they minimize losses. We consider the result a 'natural' template for benefits from communication; unlike a range of other studies, it is here only the recipient of communicated information that immediately benefits. (shrink)
Since the sixties, computational modeling has become increasingly important in both the physical and the social sciences, particularly in physics, theoretical biology, sociology, and economics. Sine the eighties, philosophers too have begun to apply computational modeling to questions in logic, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of biology, ethics, and social and political philosophy. This chapter analyzes a selection of interesting examples in some of those areas.
We extend previous work on cooperation to some related questions regarding the evolution of simple forms of communication. The evolution of cooperation within the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma has been shown to follow different patterns, with significantly different outcomes, depending on whether the features of the model are classically perfect or stochastically imperfect (Axelrod 1980a, 1980b, 1984, 1985; Axelrod and Hamilton, 1981; Nowak and Sigmund, 1990, 1992; Sigmund 1993). Our results here show that the same holds for communication. Within a simple (...) model, the evolution of communication seems to require a stochastically imperfect world. (shrink)
We work with a large spatialized array of individuals in an environment of drifting food sources and predators. The behavior of each individual is generated by its simple neural net; individuals are capable of making one of two sounds and are capable of responding to sounds from their immediate neighbors by opening their mouths or hiding. An individual whose mouth is open in the presence of food is “fed” and gains points; an individual who fails to hide when a predator (...) is present is “hurt” by losing points. Opening mouths, hiding, and making sounds each exact an energy cost. There is no direct evolutionary gain for acts of cooperation or “successful communication” per se. In such an environment we start with a spatialized array of neural nets with randomized weights. Using standard learning algorithms, our individuals “train up” on the behavior of successful neighbors at regular intervals. Given that simple setup, will a community of neural nets evolve a simple language for signaling the presence of food and predators? With important qualifications, the answer is “yes.” In a simple spatial environment, pursuing individualistic gains and using partial training on successful neighbors, randomized neural nets can learn to communicate. (shrink)
Talk of ‘robustness’ remains vague, despite the fact that it is clearly an important parameter in evaluating models in general and game-theoretic results in particular. Here we want to make it a bit less vague by offering a graphic measure for a particular kind of robustness— ‘matrix robustness’— using a three dimensional display of the universe of 2 x 2 game theory. In a display of this form, familiar games such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma, Stag Hunt, Chicken and Deadlock appear (...) as volumes, making comparison easy regarding the extent of different game-theoretic effects. We illustrate such a comparison in robustness between the triumph of Tit for Tat in a spatialized environment (Grim 1995, Grim, Mar, and St. Denis 1998) and a spatialized modeling of the Contact Hypothesis regarding prejudice reduction (Grim, et. al 2005a, 2005b). The geometrical representation of relative robustness also offers a possibility for links between geometrical theorems and results regarding robustness in game theory. (shrink)
There are many social psychological theories regarding the nature of prejudice, but only one major theory of prejudice reduction: under the right circumstances, prejudice between groups will be reduced with increased contact. On the one hand, the contact hypothesis has a range of empirical support and has been a major force in social change. On the other hand, there are practical and ethical obstacles to any large-scale controlled test of the hypothesis in which relevant variables can be manipulated. Here we (...) construct a spatialized model that tests the core hypothesis in a large array of game-theoretic agents. Robust results offer a new kind of support for the contact hypothesis: results in simulation do accord with a hypothesis of reduced prejudice with increased contact. The spatialized game-theoretic model also suggests a deeper explanation for at least some of the social psychological phenomena at issue. (shrink)
Let us sum up. The paradox of the Knower poses a direct and formal challenge to the coherence of common notions of knowledge and truth. We've considered a number of ways one might try to meet that challenge: propositional views of truth and knowledge, redundancy or operator views, and appeal to hierarchy of various sorts. Mere appeal to propositions or operators, however, seems to be inadequate to the task of the Knower, at least if unsupplemented by an auxiliary recourse to (...) hierarchy. But the cost of hierarchy appears to be an abandonment of any notion of all truth or of omniscience. What the contradictions of the Knower seem to demand, then, is at least an abandonment of these. As noted in the introduction, the argument is complicated enough that one must be wary of dogmatic and precipitate conclusions. One may legitimately wonder whether some new response, or some variation on an old one, will yet offer a way out.Far too often, however, it is asked what has gone wrong with paradox rather than what paradox may have to teach us. What the Knower may have to teach us, I think, is that there really can be no coherent notion of all truth and really can be no coherent notion of omniscience. In its own way that conclusion is perhaps as humbling as is any traditional notion of God. (shrink)
Allen s has proposed a new approach to possible worlds, designed explicitly to overcome Cantorian difficulties for possible worlds construed as maximal consistent set of propositions. I emphasize some of the distinctive features of Hazenworlds, some of their weaknesses, and some further Cantorian problems for worlds against which they seem powerless.
Plena are large-scale macro-totalities appropriate to the realms of all facts, all truths, and all things. Our attempt here is to take some first technical steps toward an adequate conception of plena.