FOM: from Intel to foundations of subjects (was Chou vs Hersh)
jacquesg at pratique.fr
Sun Mar 1 08:23:08 EST 1998
At 05:25 +0200 98.03.01, Stephen G Simpson wrote:
> ... For instance, Ching-Tsun Chou (posting of 27 Feb 1998
> 20:06:39) is an engineer at Intel. Aren't you glad that Chou uses
> Boolean logic and classical mathematics? Do you think the Pentium
> chip would work if the Intel engineers switched to some other kind of
> logic and/or mathematics?
This remark is perhaps a bit unfortunate, Stephen.
BTW, my intuition has led me not to use Pentium-based machines (not because
of what I believe to be Intel engineers' logic and mathematics).
Intel-bashing aside, I do not share your strong confidence that
Boolean logic is the only one to be used in designing computer
chips or building bridges. Even a strong realist does not have
to restrict a priori the intellectual tools he uses to understand
and act upon reality. May I recall anyway that many efficient
computer algorithms were designed by constructivist mathematicians ?
Speaking of building bridges, chips or rocket science, I am struck
by the importance in such activities not of the sophistication of
the science or technology involved, but of the skills of organizing
large team of very different people for many tasks with a huge
count of constraints. A common logic and scientific culture helps
very much for people to understand themselves on something sufficiently
exterior to them but I would not say that in our societies, application of
boolean logic is the perfect or quickest path to masterising
Everyone who has been involved, even a few times, in decision
procedures in the organization he belongs to, can understand
what I mean. As living in society is our common condition, I
deeply regret that efficient, logical, reasoning can most of the time
not be conduced because it is not recognized as such by your
interlocutor (for whom it has no special appeal) or because of the very
subject being treated.
Clearly, the reason lies in the way people modelize.
So this leads us back to f.o.m and more generally to what
Harvey Friedman has several times expressed as his horizon,
Foundation of Subjects.
He said, for instance, that he found more important, more
exciting, foundation of maths, than mathematics itself.
While being a mathematician and a computer scientist by
taste and trade, I would also prefer bringing progress to
more fundamental aspects of our intellectual tools. But I
do not feel at ease with Stephen Simpson's aristotelian-hierarchical-
one-way-trough top-down pyramid of rationality f.o.m . But perhaps I am
misrepresenting his views. I trust he will comment if it is
I would also very much like to hear a more detailed description
of Harvey ideas.
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