The Magic Box

Wed Jan 4 13:29:52 PST 2006

On Wed, 4 Jan 2006, Maximilian Wilson wrote:

> On 1/4/06, Philip Hart <philiph at slac.stanford.edu> wrote:
> > > >I'm pointing out one of various simple scenarios consistent with SKZB
> > > >being bound to here/now.  Incidentally, it is not necessary that X be
> > > >an intermediary.
> > > Perhaps you would care to explain how Vlad could have arranged to have
> > > an "old fool" pay him money to tell stories if they never met face to
> > > face, and there was no intermediary involved?
> >
> > Look up "intermediary", then reread the scenario.  Incidentally, your
> > sentence above is confused.
> I don't really want to involve myself in a linguistic controversy, but
> I can only understand your point if you're using a very narrow
> definition of "intermediary." Are you just being pedantic, or are you
> postulating e.g. that the "old fool" could have been an independent
> agent who resold the material to Brust the Translator?
> One definition from the OED: "Acting or of the nature of action
> between two persons, parties, etc.; serving as a means of interaction;
> mediatory." If the information gets from Vlad to Brust through the old
> fool, that definitely makes him intermediary.

Hmm, I don't see the necessity.  X finds a box.  X gets a vision that
Vlad should talk into the box.  SKZB happens to be at the other end.
One day the box starts talking to him in Hungarian with some funny words
thrown in.  Is X an intermediary here?  What about Y, who sent the vision?

To be pedantic: isn't an intermediary something like a map defined on
the set (A_0, A_1, ..., B_0, B_1, ...) indexed by all sentences, with
B' = i_A(B) and A' = i_B(A)?  To me, Vlad's statement that he's convinced
nothing he tells the box will get back to him indicates a one-way
communication (though perhaps someone as talented as Paarfi can make it
work in two directions, or can copy the box to make a reversed version,
or ...)

Do we have any sense that Vlad knows what's on the other end of the box?
That X does?  That X is acting on either's behalf?  What if X has arranged
for SKZB to be paid - that makes him a boss, not an intermediary, doesn't

Anyway, I doubt anything useful can be adduced from this discussion,
except that SKZB likes on occasion to make gestures at explanations
so cursory that they mock the expectation of consistency.