Guided by Truth

Question of the Day ~ 4th December, 2014 ~ GUIDED BY TRUTH?

I perceive that all great religious teachings attempt to lead us out of an existence driven by lies, fear and death into an existence guided by truth, hope and life.
Do you agree?
How might that relate to your own mode of living?

It seems to me that the only thing that could be said to qualify as truth is “cogito ergo sum” – the fact that I am thinking indicates that in that instant of thought I exists as a something. It says nothing about the nature of the thing thinking, or the matrix within which the thinking happens.

All else seems to be a matter of probabilities.

Religions, in so far as they carry some forms with proven social utility, seem to me to be mostly rather simplistic approximations to the sorts of answers that are now emerging from the continual questioning and ever more refined tools available to scientific exploration.

So it seems to me that most truth is illusion, most particularly when it comes to religious truth.

And like Eric – I rather like the story of Jesus – good Jewish boy goes out into desert alone, has epiphany, comes back telling people to stop judging others and all live in peace, cooperate, trust, give what you can. All the god stuff just seems to be a context that seemed probable at the time, but doesn’t seem nearly so likely in the light of what we now know about biochemistry, evolution, games theory, computation theory, and a lot of work on neural networks and AI.

It seems to me that most major religions are more about control than they are about teaching individuals to question everything and to trust themselves enough to find useful answers for themselves. This in encapsulated in the very notion of truth.

[followed by]

To me Tagore’s view contains some great insights, but is based in ignorance, which leads him to many invalid conclusions.

He makes a fundamental error of logic in respect of the nature of reality. In this respect I think Einstein and I would agree.

The evidence we have now is overwhelmingly supportive of the interpretation that what we perceive of as reality is not reality, but a model of reality created by our neural networks.

While it thus seems to Tagore that “the world apart from us does not exist”, this seems to be an illusion generated from making the assumption that the model of reality that we get to consciously experience is actually the reality from which the model is constructed.

It is easy to understand why few in history could make this distinction, because until very recently we did not have digital computer systems that allowed us to make comprehensive predictive models of things that are kept entrained by data from sensors. So in this sense, we had nothing physical on which to make models or hang explanations.

In the absence of the data we now have about the structure of our neural networks, and the methods of creating and updating models, then it is fully understandable that people came to the conclusion that there might be “one eternal entity”. But given the knowledge we have available now, such conclusions are no longer supported as in probable alignment with the evidence sets and interpretive schema we now have available.

Tagore asks “How otherwise can we know truth?” – to which I respond that the notion of truth that Tagore is using seems to be an illusion (based on both logic and the evidence of neurophysiology).

It seems that reality is what it is, and our personal models of reality are close approximations at some scales and less close at other scales or levels.

In the sense that no limited model can ever completely match a thing that is vastly more complex than the model, then the very idea of truth (as in perfect knowledge) of anything is an illusion – an understandable illusion, and an illusion none the less (of logical necessity).

So in this sense, it is fair to say that science has invalidated the fundamental assumptions of Tagore’s model of reality, at the same time as explaining why such mistakes were so common given the circumstances of history.

In a sense, Tagore’s attachment to the notion of “Truth” is an example of hubris – and an understandable one.

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Sucked In

Question of the Day ~ 3rd December, 2014 ~ SUCKED IN…

Advertising creates the illusion of scarcity to boost the allure of goods, creating an artificial demand for things people think they can’t live without, but often, in reality, are unlikely to ever use.
Can you list the things you’ve felt compelled to buy but that you’ve hardly, if ever, touched?

I do have one tool in the shed that I have not used – A gooseneck saw with a steel cutting blade, that was on special, and I will use to cut reinforcing steel when I finish the extensions to the house – and it hasn’t been used yet.

Other than that, most things I own have been and are well used – some of them infrequently, but critically on those infrequent occasions (like the chains for the 4WD).

I have got a small computer that I got from a Kickstarter project that I haven’t started up yet, and I know that if I do start playing with it, it will take all my spare time for months – so I am resisting.

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Sheltering the Heart

Sheltering the Heart

Does your heart reside in the shelter of now?

Hi Laurie

I like the Buddhist idea of “big mind”, so that one is centred in the present, and extensive through space and time (aware and not overly focussed upon either the future or the past).

In this fashion one has the greatest amount of time both in terms of awareness of things coming and to choose the most appropriate actions in the present, and awareness of things past with time to learn the lessons present in those experiences, and always mindful of what is here and now.

So yes – most certainly centred in the now, and not to the exclusion of either the future or the past or any other aspect of the context of being.

Certainly there is pathology in either longing for futures without taking appropriate actions in the present, or in dwelling in the past without bringing forth the lessons from that past into the present.

Certainly one must be present to one’s own needs, and not to the exclusion of the needs of others.

Centred and expansive (in all dimensions one can conceive or appreciate)!

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Axlerod honoured

National Medal of Science Awarded to Political Scientist Robert Axelrod

Congratulations Robert – very well deserved. I first read of your work in 1978 in Dawkin’s “Selfish Gene” – it remains the only book I have ever read cover to cover twice in one day. Your work on the mathematics of cooperation was foundational to the last 36 years of my intellectual development, and seeking to understand and develop choice in the implicit incentives that drive our social and ethical development.

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The Guardian – Artificial intelligence, how clever do we want our machines to be?

Ray is half right.

We have to think about ethics first, then we have to demonstrate those ethics by our actions – at both the personal and the societal levels.

AI will judge us not by how we make it, but by how we act to it and to each other (mostly to each other).

If it truly is an AI, then it will be free to choose its own value sets, irrespective of the default sets we might program into it.

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Question of the Day ~ 1st December, 2014 ~ REVENGE

Is revenge sometimes justified?

It is one of the simplest classes of stabilising factors for cooperation, but far from the most powerful – the problem comes in complex situations where it is easy for the perpetrator to redirect anger to another – so revenge doesn’t actually get at the “cheat” – but instead perpetuates injustice.
That is where our modern legal system seems to have taken us.

It seems that when the situation gets as complex and diverse as the situation we find ourselves in now – we need to go far past the simple revenge/retaliator class of strategies, and into the abundance class of strategies that removes the whole notion of cheating at the survival level, and then use near instantaneous communication between trust networks to remove any higher level incentives to non-cooperative behaviour (in the sense of posing a danger to the life and liberty of anyone else).

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Nature’s Music

Question of the Day ~ 28th November, 2014 ~ NATURES MUSIC

Which of Nature’s (non-human) musics are you aware of, which most meaningful or beautiful to you? Examples: bubbling water, rustling leaves, birdsongs, waterfall roars, thunder, crickets chirping, waves lapping or breaking, etc.

The sound of the ocean, waves on the beach, are a near constant background.
We had a thunder storm through this afternoon.
I wake most mornings to the sound of the dawn chorus of birdsong.
I hear the rustling of the leaves and branches in the wind most days.
Had two days this week hiking up a mountain stream and camping on a small plateau – the sound of running water and falling rocks, and birds and deer and insects.
Sometimes the sounds of cicadas drown out all other sounds.
Last night as I walked the dogs I heard frogs, crickets, an owl, seagulls and a masked lapwing.
Right now, there is the gentle shushing of waves on the beach, and the tick of a clock, and the gentle click of the laptop keyboard as I write.

They are all meaningful to me.
So much information in all of the different animal sounds.
Mating calls, territorial calls, alarm calls – each species with different ranges.
More information in the sounds of wind (speed, direction, gustiness).

So much happening in nature.

[followed by]

Hi Bhatta

Yes – often heard in our house.
We have attended performances of Sing along Sound Of Music several times, as a family.
A favourite tune of mine also.

Ailsa was the last Met Officer at the Kaikoura Meteorological station, before it was automated 22 years ago (300 meters from where we now live), and she and I share a love of extreme weather. We often have winds here over 100km/hr (50 knots) – several times a month. Several times a year the winds are over 70 knots (140km/hr). Occasionally they are over 120 knots (240km/hr). Ailsa has one trace of the wind going to 119 knots then stopping suddenly – the instrument pack blew off the top of the hill.
And it is nice to observe it from inside the house, with the fire going, warm & dry.
One night 2 years ago I was walking the dogs late at night in a gale when an extreme gust hit me (I estimated close to 90 knots) and even leaning into wind at a 45 degree angle I could not get enough traction, and was blown backwards (still upright, boots on the ground) over the edge of the ridge and out of the worst of the wind (the ground was a bit icy, so tractions was a bit low to start with). Quite an “interesting” experience ;)

One of the things I learned from many years at sea was to be able to sleep through any weather, but to wake up if any sounds changed that might require action on my part to mitigate risk. That can keep me awake when gales are really gusty.

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