Anthropic Bias

Anthropic Bias : Observation Selection Effects in Science and Philosophy

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Anthropic Bias explores how to reason when you suspect that your evidence is biased by "observation selection effects"--that is, evidence that has been filtered by the precondition that there be some suitably positioned observer to "have" the evidence. This conundrum--sometimes alluded to as "the anthropic principle," "self-locating belief," or "indexical information"--turns out to be a surprisingly perplexing and intellectually stimulating challenge, one abounding with important implications for many areas in science and philosophy.

There are the philosophical thought experiments and paradoxes: the Doomsday Argument; Sleeping Beauty; the Presumptuous Philosopher; Adam & Eve; the Absent-Minded Driver; the Shooting Room.

And there are the applications in contemporary science: cosmology ("How many universes are there?", "Why does the universe appear fine-tuned for life?"); evolutionary theory ("How improbable was the evolution of intelligent life on our planet?"); the problem of time's arrow ("Can it be given a thermodynamic explanation?"); quantum physics ("How can the many-worlds theory be tested?"); game-theory problems with imperfect recall ("How to model them?"); even traffic analysis ("Why is the 'next lane' faster?").

Anthropic Bias argues that the same principles are at work across all these domains. And it offers a synthesis: a mathematically explicit theory of observation selection effects that attempts to meet scientific needs while steering clear of philosophical paradox.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 230 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 12.95mm | 340g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0415883946
  • 9780415883948
  • 667,784

Table of contents

Preface Content Acknowledgements Chapter1: Introduction Observation selection effects A brief history of anthropic reasoning Synopsis of this book Chapter 2: Fine- Tuning Arguments in Cosmology Does fine-tuning need explaining? No "Inverse Gambler's Fallacy" Roger White and Phil Dowe's analysis Surprising vs. unsurprising improbable events Modeling observation selection effects: the angel parable Preliminary conclusions Chapter 3: Anthropic Principles, the Motley Family The anthropic principle as expressing an observation selection effect Anthropic hodgepodge Freak observers and why earlier formulations are inadequate The Self-Sampling Assumption Chapter 4: Thought Experiments Supporting the Self-Sampling Assumption The Dungeon gedanken Two thought experiments by John Leslie The Incubator gedanken The reference class problem Chapter 5: The Self-Sampling Assumption in Science SSA in cosmology SSA in thermodynamics SSA in evolutionary biology SSA in traffic analysis SSA in quantum physics Summary of the case for SSA Chapter 6: The Doomsday Argument Background Doomsday a la Gottv The incorrectness of Gott's argument Doomsday a la Leslie The premisses of DA, and the Old evidence problem Leslie's views on the reference class problem Alternative conclusions of DA Chapter 7: Invalid Objections Against the Doomsday Argument Doesn't the Doomsday argument fail to "target the truth"? (Korb and Oliver) The "baby-paradox" (Delahaye; Korb and Oliver) Isn't a sample size of one too small? (Korb and Oliver) Couldn't a Cro-Magnon man have used the Doomsday argument? (Various) We can make the effect go away simply by considering a larger hypothesis space (Dieks; Eastmond; Korb and Oliver) Aren't we necessarily alive now? (Mark Greenberg) Sliding reference of "soon" and "late"? (Mark Greenberg) How could I have been a 16th century human? (Mark Greenberg) Doesn't your theory presuppose that what happens in causally disconnected regions affects what happens here? (Ken Olum) But we know so much more about ourselves than our birth ranks! (Various) The Self-Indication Assumption - Is there safety in numbers? (Various) Chapter 8: Observer-Relative Chances in Anthropic Reasoning? Leslie's argument, and why it fails Observer-relative chances: another go Discussion: indexical facts - no conflict with physicalism In conclusion Appendix: the no-betting results Chapter 9: Paradoxes of the Self-Sampling Assumption The Adam & Eve experiments Analysis of Lazy Adam: predictions and counterfactuals The UN++ gedanken: reasons and abilities Quantum Joe: SSA and the Principal Principle Upshot Appendix: The Meta-Newcomb problem Chapter 10: Observation Selection Theory: A Methodology for Anthropic Reasoning Building blocks, theory constraints and desiderata The outline of a solution SSSA: Taking account of indexical information of observer-moments Reassessing Incubator How the reference class may be observer-moment relative Formalizing the theory: the Observation Equation A quantum generalization of OE Non-triviality of the reference class: why must be rejected A subjective factor in the choice of reference class? Chapter 11: Observation Selection Theory Applied Cosmological theorizing: fine-tuning and freak observers The freak-observer problem places only lax demands on the reference class The Sleeping Beauty problem: modeling imperfect recall The case of no outsiders The case with outsiders Synthesis of the 1/2- and the 1/3-views Observation selection theory applied to other scientific problems Robustness of reference class and scientific solidity Wrap-up References
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Review quote

"From traffic analysis via a many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and the problem of the fine-tuning of the universe to the purely philosophical problems of the Doomsday argument and the Sleeping Beauty problem, Bostrom succeeds in shining a new and interesting light on all of these issues." --Wouter Meijs

"Bostrom presents a highly readable and widely relevant work which can be warmly recommended to everyone in philosophy of science."--Christian Wuthrich, Philosophy of Science

"Probably the worst thing one can say about this book is that it is too short....Anthropic Bias is a wonderful achievement, which should find place on the shelf of every serious student of modern philosophy of science, epistemology, and cosmology." --Milan Cirkovic, Foundations of Science

"Anthropic Bias is a synthesis of some of the most interesting and important ideas to emerge from discussion of cosmic fine-tuning, the anthropic principle, and the Doomsday Argument. It deserves a place on the shelves of epistemologists and philosophers of science, as well as specialists interested in the topics just mentioned."--Neil Manson, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
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83 ratings
3.98 out of 5 stars
5 36% (30)
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3 18% (15)
2 2% (2)
1 5% (4)
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