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August 27th, 2018

Part one is here. The question for part two is Will a Powerful Enough Computer Result in Unerring Predictions?

Annnnnd ... The answer is NO. No, it's not possible to amass enough information to make unerring predictions. It's like the problem of Glinda's record book in the Oz series. Glinda's record book was supposed to list everything that ever happened anywhere in the world, the problem being that to capture every single thing, you'd need a book the size of the universe (that's not even going into the recursive problems of describing the updating going on in the book). Data-based predictions have an added problem, because they assume you understand cause and effect. I'd argue that humanity's propensity for seeing relationships and patterns means that we're actually quite bad at correctly assigning cause and effect--if it's even possible. I sometimes wonder if beyond certain basic physical rules cause and effect might not be illusion. Meaning-creating illusion, but illusion all the same. BUT NOW I'VE SAID TOO MUCH.

Nevertheless, the notion that enough data will let you predict the future is a premise that has evergreen appeal for SF writers. You may remember it from such classics as the Foundation trilogy or The Minority Report. Tangentially, I think it's interesting that these days stories tend to support the premise that your fate is never fixed, whereas in lots of old stories, the opposite is true--like in ancient Greek stories, for example. If there's a prophecy, it will come true.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/892505.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

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