I apologize for this entry, which doesn’t really belong here: it’s a piece of fan fiction, or actually fictional history, with only a slight bit of relevance to the problems this blog is about.
Like many scientists I have a grudging admiration for the Star Trek franchise: grudging because the science is so often silly, and could often have been improved easily without spoiling the stories; admiration because it has created a hopeful vision of the future, some fun stories, and some enduringly interesting characters.
In Discovery we heard about the Logic Extremists, a dissident faction of Vulcans who wanted to leave the Federation. But we didn’t learn much about their core beliefs! They seemed rather similar to the Vulcan Isolationists, who came about a hundred years later. There seemed to be an interesting untold story lurking behind the name.
So, I went to T’Karath and spent a couple of weeks poring through the historical documents on this movement. Here’s a quick sketch of what I found.
In the first half of the 22nd century, the central government had become corrupt, with Romulan operatives infiltrating the Vulcan High Command. Some Vulcans, the Syrannites, attempted to reinstate and develop the original teachings of the Vulcan philosopher Surak. But around 2140, another small group decided that Surak had not developed logic with sufficient thoroughness.
This group of thinkers argued that all deductive reasoning should be formalized, all inductive reasoning should be Bayesian with explicit probabilities on hypotheses, and all decision-making should maximize utility.
This group, who called themselves the Pure Logic movement, moved to Xir’tan and set up a commune there. They began a program of formal concept analysis so that all words would have precise definitions. Before each meal they bowed, seemingly in prayer, but actually to optimize their activities to come. Children were schooled in an even more disciplined way than usual: less high-tech than the skill domes of the 2200s, but with an intense focus on logic, semiotics, probability, and statistics.
Conflicts erupted in 2200 between what we would call Jaynesian-Bayesians and hardcore subjective Bayesians. The former advocated entropy-maximizing priors. The latter argued that no prior counts as “right” without further assumptions, so one is free to start with any prior.
As the Pure Logic movement became established, they spread and set up communes the main continent, especially in Gol, Xial and Raal. They started influencing the political establishment, first locally and then at the federal level.
As this happened, factions with radical positions gradually gained influence. Especially important were the subjective Bayesians who argued that ethics could not be logically derived, so that instead of maximizing utility, a rational agent was free to maximize any chosen quantity. Their motto was remarkably similar to a saying credited to Hume:
Going further, the most extreme subjective Bayesians adopted spreading the Pure Logic movement as their only goal. All decisions were to be evaluated based on how much they furthered the spread of logical thinking. They took a vow to this effect, and pressed this vow on other citizens as a prerequisite for holding office of any sort. Their opponents dubbed them “Logic Extremists”, and the term stuck.
In 2226, in a hard-fought political struggle, these extremists triumphed and completely pushed the Jaynesian-Bayesians and moderate subjective Bayesians out of power. Two years later V’Arak took control: a charismatic leader who asserted with 100% prior probability that the Federation was trying to subvert Vulcan culture and stop the spread of the Pure Logic movement.
Any attempt to reason with V’arak and his supporters, or compromise with them, was interpreted as further evidence of an increasingly elaborate Federation conspiracy. Most Vulcans repudiated this stance, and as the Logic Extremists’ public support shrank they turned to terrorism.
The violence came to a head around 2256, when V’latak (shown below) attempted to assassinate Sarek before the peace talks on Cancri IV, saying:
logic above all. Vulcans will soon recognize and withdraw from
the failed experiment known as the Federation.
At this point support for the Logic Extremists rapidly dropped and the movement began to dissipate, though Patar still managed to infiltrate Section 31.
However, the most interesting aspect of the Logic Extremists are their early theoretical writings — especially those of Avarak, and Patar’s father Tesov. They were an extremely bold attempt to plan a society based purely on logic. I hope they’re translated soon.