Abstract
In this thesis I investigate the theoretical possibility of a universal method of prediction. A prediction method is universal if it is always able to learn from data: if it is always able to extrapolate given data about past observations to maximally successful predictions about future observations. The context of this investigation is the broader philosophical question into the possibility of a formal specification of inductive or scientific reasoning, a question that also touches on modernday speculation about a fully automatized datadriven science.
I investigate, in particular, a specific mathematical definition of a universal prediction method, that goes back to the early days of artificial intelligence and that has a direct line to modern developments in machine learning. This definition essentially aims to combine all possible prediction algorithms. An alternative interpretation is that this definition formalizes the idea that learning from data is equivalent to compressing data. In this guise, the definition is often presented as an implementation and even as a justification of Occam's razor, the principle that we should look for simple explanations.
The conclusions of my investigation are negative. I show that the proposed definition cannot be interpreted as a universal prediction method, as turns out to be exposed by a mathematical argument that it was actually intended to overcome. Moreover, I show that the suggested justification of Occam's razor does not work, and I argue that the relevant notion of simplicity as compressibility is problematic itself.
I investigate, in particular, a specific mathematical definition of a universal prediction method, that goes back to the early days of artificial intelligence and that has a direct line to modern developments in machine learning. This definition essentially aims to combine all possible prediction algorithms. An alternative interpretation is that this definition formalizes the idea that learning from data is equivalent to compressing data. In this guise, the definition is often presented as an implementation and even as a justification of Occam's razor, the principle that we should look for simple explanations.
The conclusions of my investigation are negative. I show that the proposed definition cannot be interpreted as a universal prediction method, as turns out to be exposed by a mathematical argument that it was actually intended to overcome. Moreover, I show that the suggested justification of Occam's razor does not work, and I argue that the relevant notion of simplicity as compressibility is problematic itself.
Translated title of the contribution  Universele Voorspelling: Een Wijsgerige Onderzoeking 

Original language  English 
Qualification  Master of Philosophy 
Awarding Institution 

Supervisors/Advisors 

Award date  18Jan2018 
Place of Publication  [Groningen] 
Publisher  
Print ISBNs  9789403403199 
Electronic ISBNs  9789403403182 
Publication status  Published  2018 