Tuesday, June 07, 2005


The irrelevance of warrant

Josep Maria Terricabras is one of the most well-know contemporary philosophers of Catalonia. In his blog he has a post reflecting about everyday “naïve induction”. The ultimate point is a reference of how people ignore “the irrelevance of warrant” thesis by David Hume (1711-1776). A rudimentary translation of an excerpt of his post elaborates like this:

“…Support the hypothesis that things that happened in the past in a certain way will keep repeating in the future in the same manner shows a great naivety…”

As I mentioned in an early post, I am revisiting some of the initial works about genetics-based machine learning. Reading such an elaborated argument by Terricabras, besides sending me back to my high school philosophy classes, it reminded the hypothesis that we almost always take for granted in learning process. Once you have properly learning from experience and history, such knowledge will be useful for understanding the new inexperienced situations. In another words, given a training data set (or environment), once I learnt a certain model, such a model will describe the new data I collect. Even in dynamic environments, people assume that a learned dynamic model may explain future dynamics.

Unfortunately, Hume’s irrelevance of warrant thesis reminds us how careful and humble our claims should be about the generalization/inducting capabilities of any machine-based learning system.

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