Re: poly: What probabilities?

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Fri Apr 24 1998 - 09:49:27 PDT

Nick B. writes:
>When I say "The probability of H is 40%." I could mean to:
>... "Given the evidence that I have, the rational betting odds
for H would be 40%." ...
>2. ... the rational betting odds, given by the sum total of present
>human knowledge is 40%. ... what human knowledge should be included?
>approximated by the actual betting odds in ... idea futures. ...
>3. Say something about the objective probability of the event. I
>could, for example, mean that: if we were to create one million
>planets almost exactly similar to present-day earth, then on 40%
>of them there would be nanotech before superintelligence. ...

Why can't there be several concepts of "probability" frequently
denoted by the same word? I personally find the word's context of use
to be typically enough to sufficiently disambiguiate which meaning
the speaker had in mind. This is such a common feature of human
language that I find my self puzzled by philosopher's fixation with
this particular example.

It is true that some people don't seem aware that the term can mean
different things, and it's an important step in one's education to
realize this. But continued discussion of this issue beyond that point
seems only worthwhile if one is dissasfied with all the possible meanings,
and is seeking to create a new more satisfactory meaning for future use.

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614
Received on Fri Apr 24 16:55:59 1998

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