Tag Archives: Socrates

Logic Done Right (Almost) in Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter

I say “almost” in the title because what Sherlock mostly does, in the game and in lore, is induction. Deduction is logic to determine the categories and properties of objects, and how they relates. Simply:

1 All men are mortal
2 Socrates is a man
3 Therefore, Socrates is mortal

The logic Sherlock, and what any investigator would do, is mostly induction, which is much more uncertain since it deals with weighing probabilities and likelihoods through what is known (clues) and what is unknown. The idea is that Sherlock, or the player, induces the identity of the perpetrator through a series of interconnected inferences and some predictive human psychology.

As much of what can happen in the game is uncertain, the way it’s visualized when make a deduction an induction is effective. Inferences from clues are visualized as nodes, and as the player gathers more clues, the inferences he can make lead him to further inferences, visualized by the two or more nodes connecting:

Also, one can visually examine characters in the game to infer some things about them, with varying degrees of accuracy:

The other small issue I have is that when you complete an examination of someone, the game responds as to whether the profile is accurate or not. The game should save that feedback for the end of the case, when the scoring is determined, since you/Sherlock would have no way of knowing the level of accuracy.

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“Reason and evidence does sweet fuck-all”

Consider the source (the video will start at the beginning part of the conversation, for proper context): Molyneux is an atheist who is 150% invested in the Western philosophical legacy, stretching all the was back to the big three—Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Admitting that reason and evidence isn’t the panacea it’s purported to be is telling. He mentioned it in previous videos, but not quite so succinctly (or profanely).

And, as I have mentioned before, the blob of people known as “society,” cannot be run on “reason and evidence,” because the effectiveness of material epistemology goes straight to zero when broadened above a small group of agents. It’s best at the individual level; when it becomes a overarching strategy, it just ends up being tradition with heavy reliance on reliable authority, i.e., nearly every scientific fact is based on the trust of another’s observations and conclusions, unless we have replicated, via the same process and with the same results. Nearly everyone reading this will not have done this for a majority of scientific facts, including myself. Most implementations of “reason and evidence” as the gold standard for a society to live within usually involve the threat of violence. It really can’t be codified another way.

And even then, individuals only engage in reason and evidence effectively when it’s in small fits and starts, on equally small-scale, easily-perceivable objects: organizing the family calendar in the coming weeks, or following a cake recipe. It can also be effective in slightly larger groups, like a team of engineers working on a propulsion system.

The ethos of “I’m a scientist. I live by logic and reason,” is an bald lie, or at least a very hairy obfuscation of terms. The scientist, like any human, lives nearly entirely on instinct, senses, rote habit, and the force of tradition. The only time he lives by his professed credo is about a quarter of the time he is engaged in his profession.

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National Throw Words Onto A Screen Month

There’s an annual, month-long phenomenon called National Novel Writing Month (usually referenced by the offensively cutesy portmanteau, NaNoWriMo), and any writer with a blog worth its Google-salt is mentioning it — often through several posts. The idea is that participants spend the entire month of November writing, and completing, an entire 50k word novel, with the ultimate goal of completing the story. Please disregard awkwardly-worded clauses or continuity errors: crossing the finish line is the point.

I think it’s a rather noble idea to encourage people to embrace the extended written word, in a world of Twitter, “Top 10 Most” whatever articles, and (ahem) blog posts. But there’s something that makes me uneasy about it — not about doing it, but the concept itself. Naturally, one month completing a first draft does not a novel make; we call a child’s first misshapen agglomeration of dough and frosting a “cake”, but only in the most diplomatic sense of the word. Novels of any size aren’t pulled from the ground and immediately flash-fried, they are gathered from places far and wide and slow cooked over a period of months and years. They also require professional editors, especially in the realm of fiction, to rake the author’s puffed-up fantasies over the coals and get them to do more, better, simpler, less bloated.

There are writers that whittle their entire lives away to carve the most perfect (in their eyes, at least) story. To call a (relatively) hastily-cobbled group of words a “novel” when the ideal is more than likely so far removed from it cheapens the value of the word. It seems that the NaNoWriMo people know this in the back of their minds, because the website is littered with some kinds of disclaimers approaching this sentiment. It just seems to smack of dabbling-ism, which is a different post altogether.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, you should now stop reading this and getting back to naming your protagonist’s cat Socrates or Diderot or having your informant pile a file folder out of his trenchcoat.

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