Uncertain Knowledge

Any knowledge we have of the future is “Uncertain Knowledge”*. There are just no guarantees, nothing written in stone. The future appears contingent and not physically determined by the past and the laws of nature. It is not known what is next.
However the future is not independent of us and the past. It seems to follow in a straight line from the past, but is constituted by what people and everyone and everything else does. The future evolves in a hodgepodge mixture of human actions and biological and physical happenings that feed back into each other. c.f. Chaos & An Unpredictable Tomorrow

“Uncertain Knowledge”, this paradoxical property also seems to have delved deep into the minds of ancient time thinkers. Tracing some of the ideas from past to the theories of contemporary might get us in touch with the notion of “Knowledge without Certainty” and with an “Uncertainty that contains a Knowledge”.

Once the stoic Chrysippus (200 B.C.E.) said that

Everything that happens is followed by something else which depends on it by causal necessity. Likewise, everything that happens is preceded by something with which it is causally connected. For nothing exists or has come into being in the cosmos without a cause.

However, Aristotle clearly reckoned chance among the causes in his Physics and Metaphysics. He somehow added chance as an uncaused or self-caused cause – that happens when two causal chains come together by accident, when navigating uncertain waters.

Therefore, too, there is no definite cause for an accident, but a chance cause, i.e. an indefinite one. Going to Aegina was an accident for a man, if he went not in order to get there, but because he was carried out of his way by a storm or captured by pirates. The accident has happened or exists, -not in virtue of the subject’s nature, however, but of something else; for the storm was the cause of his coming to a place for which he was not sailing, and this was Aegina. (Aritotle, Metaphysics).

Aristotle’s statements on these indefinite causes that come to pass by chance, are perhaps his most significant contribution to freedom, in the world and in human decisions.

Instead, Laplace in 1814 claimed that given the exact position and speed of all objects in the universe at some time a superintelligent “Daemon” would be able to use the laws of physics to exactly predict their positions at an arbitrary time in the future. This is now called the Laplace´s daemon.

We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.” (Pierre Simon Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1814) / Laplace´s Daemon)

Nowadays, the Chaos theory has been advanced as one way to show a hidden Daemon is impossible, the random nature of quantum mechanics is another theory, and even the natural of computational complexity. The behavior of deterministic chaos is decribed as exquisitely sensitive to initial conditions, so that infinitesimal changes and errors at the start lead to large non-linear instabilities that can expand exponentially in time and make long-term prediction impossible.

However, chaotic systems are described as deterministic, not random, and are still basically calculable, but usually not analytically solvable and thus practically impossible to predict. What in principle can be calculated by the Laplace Daemon is practically unpredictable due to its extreme sensitivity to initial conditions. Laplace might have assumed that the information required by the super intelligent daemon was unobtainable by human. The initial conditions can never be pinned down accurately enough to make precise predictions about its behavior, means the measurements can never in principle be accurate enough.

Hence, deterministic chaos implies that the future is not predictable based only on past events. So how does WikiDaemon deals with this challenge of unpredictability? What is added in a prospective manner?


*”Uncertain Knowledge” of the future can be described as an Oxymoron. A paradoxical figure of speech in which seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side, that give voice to life’s inherent conflicts and incongruities.