25 August 2023


from "The Frame Problem," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

To many philosophers, the AI researchers' frame problem is suggestive of a wider epistemological issue, namely whether it is possible, in principle, to limit the scope of the reasoning required to derive the consequences of an action.
Using mathematical logic, how is it possible to write formulae that describe the effects of actions without having to write a large number of accompanying formulae that describe the mundane, obvious non-effects of those actions?
What we need, it seems, is some way of declaring the general rule-of-thumb that an action can be assumed not to change a given property of a situation unless there is evidence to the contrary. This default assumption is known as the common sense law of inertia. The (technical) frame problem can be viewed as the task of formalising this law.
The puzzle, according to Dennett, is how “a cognitive creature … with many beliefs about the world” can update those beliefs when it performs an act so that they remain “roughly faithful to the world”?
the question of how to compute the consequences of an action without the computation having to range over the action's non-effects. ...the “sleeping dog” strategy... not every part of the data structure representing an ongoing situation needs to be examined when it is updated to reflect a change in the world. ...

...the epistemological question is not so much how the computational challenge can be met, but rather how the robot could ever be sure it had sufficiently thought through the consequences of its actions to know that it hadn't missed anything important.

Fodor suggestively likens this to “Hamlet's problem: when to stop thinking” (Fodor 1987, p.140). The frame problem, he claims, is “Hamlet's problem viewed from an engineer's perspective”. But to warrant the award of depth, an epistemological problem must at least resist the most obvious attempts to resolve it. In the case of Hamlet's problem, the obvious appeal is to the notion of relevance. Only certain properties of a situation are relevant in the context of any given action, and consideration of the action's consequences can be conveniently confined to those.

... Fodor's claim is that when it comes to circumscribing the consequences of an action, just as in the business of theory confirmation in science, anything could be relevant (Fodor 1983, p.105). There are no a priori limits to the properties of the ongoing situation that might come into play. Accordingly, in his modularity thesis, Fodor uses the frame problem to bolster the view that the mind's central processes — those that are involved in fixing belief — are “informationally unencapsulated”, meaning that they can draw on information from any source (Fodor 1983; Fodor 2000).
solutions to the logical frame problem developed by AI researchers typically appeal to some version of the common sense law of inertia, according to which properties of a situation are assumed by default not to change as the result of an action.
According to Fodor, this metaphysical justification is unwarranted. To begin with, some actions change many, many things. ... But a deeper difficulty presents itself when we ask what is meant by “most properties”. What predicates should be included in our ontology for any of these claims about “most properties” to fall out?
These questions and the argument leading to them are very reminiscent of Goodman's treatment of induction... Goodman showed that inductive inference only works in the context of the right set of predicates, and Fodor demonstrates much the same point for the common sense law of inertia.
An intimate relationship of a different kind between the frame problem and the problem of induction is proposed by Fetzer (1991), who writes that “The problem of induction [is] one of justifying some inferences about the future as opposed to others. The frame problem, likewise, is one of justifying some inferences about the future as opposed to others. The second problem is an instance of the first.” This view of the frame problem is highly controversial, however (Hayes 1991).

From Susan Sontag, "Godard," in Styles of Radical Will:
The most obvious way Godard segments the forward-moving sequence of narration into tableaux is by explicitly theatricalizing some of his material, once more laying to rest the lively prejudice that there is an essential incompatibility between the means of theatre and those of film. The conventions of the Hollywood musical, with songs and stage performances interrupting the story, supply one precedent for Godard—inspiring the general conception of A Woman Is a Woman, the dance trio in the cafĂ© in Band of Outsiders, the song sequences and Vietnam protest skit performed outdoors in Pierrot le Fou, the singing telephone call in Weekend. His other model is, of course, the non-realistic and didactic theatre expounded by Brecht. An aspect of Godard Brechtianizing is his distinctive style of constructing political micro-entertainments: in La Chinoise, the home political theatre-piece acting out the American aggression in Vietnam; or the Feiffer dialogue of the two ham radio operators that opens Deux ou Trois Choses.

A lively prejudice ? Or a mere statement of the obvious? Who's to say?

At the risk of obscuring rather than clarifying the situation, I would suggest that us arty types pay closer (any) attention to our ontological predicates ; at which point there is little left to say about the import and export of means between art forms but quite a lot yet to be said about ends.

In other words:
if it works, it works;
it cannot possibly work the same way in cinema
as it does in theater

there remain
(despite spirited efforts to the contrary)
irreducible material differences
("ontological predicates," if you insist)
between the two mediums

In other words,

some actions change many, many things .

In other words,
means be damned;
the ends can have no precedent .

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