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K-State Today

December 5, 2019

Chris Porter of Drake University to present philosophy talk Dec. 6

Submitted by Teresa Zerbe

Chris Porter, Drake University, will present "Updating Earman on Randomness and Disorder" at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, in 207 Dickens Hall. 

Abstract: John Earman's "A Primer on Determinism" contains one of the first extended philosophical discussions of the status of definitions of algorithmically random sequence. More specifically, Earman considers two types of formal definition of randomness, the first given in terms of effective statistical tests and the second given in terms of Kolmogorov complexity, a measure of complexity of strings of symbols. In Earman's view, the former notion has the virtue that statistically random sequences reflect the probabilities of an underlying stochastic process that typically outputs such sequences, while the latter notion "corresponds to the intuitive notion of disorder." Porter will survey the basics of algorithmic randomness and Earman's interpretation of the main concepts of the field. Porter will then argue that Earman's account is incomplete, as it fails to incorporate a number of results in the field that directly bear on his account. In addition, Porter will respond to a puzzle raised by Earman in support of his claim that the complexity approach to randomness cannot be used to formalize biased randomness — a claim that Porter will dispute.