Efficient Convergence Implies Ockham’s Razor
journal contributionposted on 06.03.2005 by Kevin T. Kelly
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A finite data set is consistent with infinitely many alternative theories. Scientific realists recommend that we prefer the simplest one. Anti-realists 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.