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Efficient convergence implies Ockham’s Razor
 Proceedings of the 2002 International Workshop on Computational Models of Scientific Reasoning and Applications, Las Vegas
, 2002
"... A finite data set is consistent with infinitely many alternative theories. Scientific realists recommend that we prefer the simplest one. Antirealists ask how a fixed simplicity bias could track the truth when the truth might be complex. It is no solution to impose a prior probability distribution ..."
Abstract

Cited by 17 (14 self)
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A finite data set is consistent with infinitely many alternative theories. Scientific realists recommend that we prefer the simplest one. Antirealists ask how a fixed simplicity bias could track the truth when the truth might be complex. It is no solution to impose a prior probability distribution biased toward simplicity, for such a distribution merely embodies the bias at issue without explaining its efficacy. In this note, I argue, on the basis of computational learning theory, that a fixed simplicity bias is necessary if inquiry is to converge to the right answer efficiently, whatever the right answer might be. Efficiency is understood in the sense of minimizing the least fixed bound on retractions or errors prior to convergence. Keywords: learning, induction, simplicity, Ockham’s razor, realism, skepticism 1
2007b)How Simplicity Helps You Find the Truth Without Pointing at it
 Philosophy of Mathematics and Induction
"... It seems that a fixed bias toward simplicity should help one find the truth, since scientific theorizing is guided by such a bias. But it also seems that a fixed bias toward simplicity cannot indicate or point at the truth, since an indicator has to be sensitive to what it indicates. I argue that bo ..."
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Cited by 10 (9 self)
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It seems that a fixed bias toward simplicity should help one find the truth, since scientific theorizing is guided by such a bias. But it also seems that a fixed bias toward simplicity cannot indicate or point at the truth, since an indicator has to be sensitive to what it indicates. I argue that both views are correct. It is demonstrated, for a broad range of cases, that the Ockham strategy of favoring the simplest hypothesis, together with the strategy of never dropping the simplest hypothesis until it is no longer simplest, uniquely minimizes reversals of opinion and the times at which the reversals occur prior to convergence to the truth. Thus, simplicity guides one down the straightest path to the truth, even though that path may involve twists and turns along the way. The proof does not appeal to prior probabilities biased toward simplicity. Instead, it is based upon minimization of worstcase cost bounds over complexity classes of possibilities. 0.1 The Simplicity Puzzle There are infinitely many alternative hypotheses consistent with any finite amount of experience, so how is one entitled to choose among them? Scientists boldly respond with appeals to “Ockham’s razor”, which selects the “simplest ” hypothesis among them,
A close shave with realism: How Ockham’s razor helps us find the truth
, 2002
"... Many distinct theories are compatible with current experience. Scientific realists recommend that we choose the simplest. Antirealists object that such appeals to “Ockham’s razor ” cannot be truthconducive, since they lead us astray in complex worlds. I argue, on behalf of the realist, that alwa ..."
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Cited by 4 (1 self)
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Many distinct theories are compatible with current experience. Scientific realists recommend that we choose the simplest. Antirealists object that such appeals to “Ockham’s razor ” cannot be truthconducive, since they lead us astray in complex worlds. I argue, on behalf of the realist, that always preferring the simplest theory compatible with experience is necessary for efficient convergence to the truth in the long run, even though it may point in the wrong direction in the short run. Efficiency is a matter of minimizing errors or retractions prior to convergence to the truth.