Laurie- Boundaries

Are your boundaries in good condition?
Are they effective?

Hi Laurie,

Boundaries is a topic I have written a lot about over the years.
Every level of form or distinction requires boundaries, to enable it to be different from what is around.

Without boundaries form cannot exist.
And, as you say, we have many different types of boundaries.

And complex boundaries can be very flexible and responsive to context, letting some things come and go, stopping others, actively transporting others.

We are very complex and ever changing entities, much more like a fountain than a statue in the nature of our forms.

We breath, we eat, we drink, we listen, we contemplate, we observe, we interact, ….
Our boundaries always changing, responding to context in more or less appropriate ways.

We have history and memories, and we are an ever becoming, full of possibilities and tendencies and creativity.

Yes, we must have boundaries, and hard boundaries tend to become brittle and break.

The essence of complexity lies in responsiveness and cooperation, in our ability to transcend our current being and create something beyond, repeatedly.

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Artificial Life

Link from Foundations of Logic group to Genome article

Yep – can now synthesize and insert one of the key components.

Have yet to do the whole thing from scratch.

It will very probably happen, just hasn’t happened yet.

Still quite a few challenges to using this or similar approaches in indefinite life extension – we can’t yet accurately alter the secondary and tertiary modulators of gene expression; and we need to get that sorted.

[followed by – Pawel stated “The genome isn’t a working/functional component”…]

Hi Pawel,
This is something I do know a little about. I completed 3rd year biochem at age 18 a long time ago, and have maintained an interest.

Much of the machinery of protein synthesis is actually RNA chemistry. Modern ribosomes are usually a mix of RNA and protein, and some organisms still have ribosomes that are 100% RNA.
So RNA genome/chemistry can be a working system. DNA has far greater fidelity over time, so has been selected for in complex organisms as the preferred long term memory system, and RNA can have sufficient fidelity to achieve sustained replication (look at all the RNA viruses that are still doing well).

And there are many modulators of gene expression.

Methylation of the outer surface of a chromosome is one well studied pathway.

The secondary and tertiary folding of DNA, and the areas that are exposed as a result are another influence on the frequency of expression and of mutation.

The analogy of book is sometimes useful, and always inadequate.

Yes certainly, there is information in the sequence, and there is also information and function in the structure. And there is a relationship between sequence and structure, but it is not a simple one, and it is very dependent on the chemistry of the environment in which synthesis occurs.

So sometimes the particular context at critical times in a sequence is important (hence the need for a womb with constant physical and chemical conditions for the development of humans, and the common ways it can go wrong – like fetal alcohol syndrome as one example).

As a simple example, the sex ratio in many reptiles is very dependent on temperature during incubation, not simply the genetic sequence.

So yes – there is information in several levels of RNA and DNA, and in respect of RNA in particular there are several levels of function.

There is also information in the wider environment, and it is the interaction of these sets of information that determine the range and success of any organism.

Most organisms still have RNA based catalysts as part of their chemistry, though protein based catalysts are now much more common.

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Quora – Lifespan

What is the expected lifespan of the human race in this rate of consumption of natural resources?

That very much depends how you measure the changes in rates and changes at higher levels of abstraction (changes in systems, and changes in conceptual systems available with which to categorize and optimize systems).

We are getting exponentially better at doing more with less. Ray Kurzweil documents some of those important trends.

We are getting better at recognizing the complexity and uncertainty of the systems within which we find ourselves embedded (physical, biophysical, social, cultural, technological and conceptual) and at finding more useful tools to identify and mitigate risk that exists (to both individual life and individual liberty {applied universally}, and to the biophysical systems within which we exist).

The real question seems to be, will we find effective technological and cultural tools to escape the scarcity traps that exist in concepts like market exchange, and linear process thinking?
Kate Raworth’s “doughnut economics” is a step in a direction of identifying system constraints that must be acknowledged, but still fails to identify the key issue with markets – that they cannot assign a positive value to universal abundance of anything, and thus pose existential level risk, in and of themselves.

So if we do manage to keep on getting exponentially better at doing more with less, and if we do recognize that all sapient life requires as a given a universal abundance of the essentials of life and liberty, and we identify and optimize within the very real limits on biophysical systems, and we also individually acknowledge that existence in reality does impose real limits on liberty {like limits on reproduction} (and all of those are infinitely complex and continuing explorations, not things that have simple solutions), then it does seem to be a real possibility that we may continue for the remainder of eternity (which seems likely to be a reasonably long time).

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Dirty Laundry

Airing Laundry

What’s your take on airing “dirty” laundry?

Hi Laurie,

The essence of the saying is in the “dirty” part.

The dirty part implies something toxic to others (in the dirty knickers sense).

The idea that we should be responsible for what we put out in public is something I strongly favour. Whatever we put out, we should attempt to make it as beneficial as possible to us, to society and to the environment. And that rapidly gets extremely complex.

It seems that we are, each and every one of us, complex beyond our capacity to know in detail.
It seems that the reality in which we exist is equally complex beyond our capacity to know in detail.
Those twin realities force our subconscious brains to make the best guess that they can about what is likely to be important to us in the context of the moment, and present that to us as our experiential reality. A vastly simplified model of something vastly complex.

And we have to make decisions and act in it.

So we make our simple conscious models of the model of reality that is our experience (mostly mistaking it for reality itself).

Often our models are so simple that they come down to simple binaries (good/bad, right/wrong, etc).
Sometimes the necessities of urgency and lack of information demand such simplicity.
Sometimes we do it out of habit.
Sometimes we do it out of expediency.
Sometimes it is down to laziness.
And always it is a vast simplification of complexity, rather than anything accurate.

Often useful, never accurate.

So in this context, we need to be as clean as possible, in our own actions, in our own thoughts – and often that means doing the hard work to clean up the messes we have lying around in the hidden corners of our minds and our lives; and giving others the room and understanding and respect that they need to do the same.

Doesn’t seem to be any end to the process.
It just seems to be a necessary part of this journey we call life.
We do in fact seem to be that complex.

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Metaphysics and Truth – Robert again.

Foundations of Logic – Muhammad asked “Is metaphysics possible?”

Robert replied – “Yes, of course”


This explains completely why Robert & I can agree about very little.

For me, it seems clear from evidence that metaphysics as it is generally conceived is illusion, and that the very idea of a priori knowledge is an illusion gained from a failure to understand the complexity of the evolutionary process that seems (beyond any reasonable doubt) to be responsible for the existence we experience.

Evolution does not require perfection of anything, it only requires that whatever emerges is more capable of surviving in context than any of the other things around. Given the vast array of contexts, and the very tight limits on time and energy available for computation, the emergence of simplistic approximations to complexity is to be the expected norm. Hence very simple ideas like true and false, right and wrong, tend to dominate, and more complex and subtle ideas that take far longer and require vastly greater computation are rare.

Hence the simple idea of “a priori” knowledge is what one would expect to emerge early in the process of gaining some beginnings of an understanding of the evolution of consciousness and knowledge and the capacity for abstract thought (which is an extremely complex and multi leveled set of understandings and approximations to something that seems to be complex beyond the capacity of any human mind to know in detail – only by rough approximation and analogy).

Various forms of mathematical and logical conjectures are possible and can be derived from sets of axioms, and some of those give very reliable results when applied to some sets of experiments, in some contexts. But, there is no method other than experiment to determine which of the infinite class of possible systems actually gives the best approximation to whatever reality actually is in any particular context.

Nor does it seem to be necessary that reality necessarily follow any set of conjectures in all possible contexts.

It does in fact seem entirely possible (though not provable beyond all doubt), that this reality we find ourselves in is, in some set of fundamental ways, some balance between the lawful and the random – some sort of probabilistically constrained randomness.

[followed by – Robert responded with … “Then provide any context where the foundational Truths of Mathematics such as the Continuum Hypothesis do not apply/ follow exactly.
You obviously will fail to provide any such context or scenario with any such counterexample.”… ]

Such is clearly your unquestionable belief.

[followed by Robert responded “Put up or shut up.”]


I do not, and have never, denied that within the postulates of ZFC, the continuum hypothesis is provable.
I have not done the work to either confirm or deny it.
You seem confident that it is proven.
I am certainly not denying that.

From my perspective, the conversation has never been about the Truth’s of derivations of ZFC or any other set of postulates, but of the idea of truth in respect of reality (whatever reality actually is).

In another sub-thread below you use the term “a priori necessary conditions of the understanding”.

That term seems to have a rather strict meaning for you.

For me, the idea of anything being “a priori necessary” is not required.

We seem to be the result of a recursive process of evolution.

Our ability to understand anything (at least to the degree that we do) seems to derive from the ability of that process to select those systems that survive better.
In terms of the evolution of brains and the ability to model and abstract, there have been strong pressures to use heuristics that are good enough to survive.
Most survival contexts have limits of time and energy available for computation.
Many contexts have very tight constraints of both time and energy, demanding simplification of the complexities obviously present.

Thus we expect evolution to deliver neural networks that are strongly biased to the acceptance of the simplest model that works (recursively – all levels).

In exploring the space of all possible ontologies, it does not pay to get stuck on the first and simplest one that one encounters.

It is not necessary that reality obey the rules of logic for complex systems to evolve, only that it approximate them to some useful degree of reliability in some set of contexts.

If one is dealing with a single “tick” of a cesium clock for example, one is dealing with some 10^30 instances of Planck level existence. If that Planck scale quantum existence is actually random within constraints, then a distribution populated with some 10^30 instances will have a very reliable form.

In such a manner, constrained randomness can deliver a close enough approximation to causality for the sorts of systems that we are to emerge, and for the equations of quantum mechanics to give us useful probabilities about the sorts of things we should expect to see at that scale.

Does that mean that “reality” follows hard rules?


Not required.

Possible certainly.

It is possible that everything follows hard rules and that some of the variables behind those hard rules are hidden from us.

It also seems possible that real randomness may be at play in the game.

If it is the latter, then it seems to be a very different sort of game from the one that you seem to be insisting always follows the rules of a set of postulates (rather than simply approximating them in practice).

All I am stating, is that in my experience, my individual investigations, the latter seems to be a likely scenario, and seems to hold greater promise for notions like “freedom” and “responsibility”.

It seems to be a different way of conceptualising the ability to conceptualise.

[followed by]


Clearly, you have not understood the argument I have proposed.

I am not arguing about mathematics as a logical construct, or any truth expressible in it, or any form of logic. I accept that such forms of truth follow from the stated assumptions of those systems.

What is at issue, is the idea of proving that the relevant sets of assumptions necessarily apply in all of “reality”.
That cannot be done.
It is a logical impossibility.
It seems beyond all reasonable doubt that we do not and cannot have access to all of “reality” to be able to test and make such a claim.

We are inside of reality, not outside of it.

Vast evidence sets indicate that we are evolved cooperative entities with brains with neural networks with large sets of biases that aided the survival of those systems in our past, but are not necessarily well adapted to our exponentially changing present and future.

Being able to distinguish that what we experience as reality is a vastly simplified model of reality created by our neural networks and associated sets of molecular and computational and cultural system, is an essential step in moving towards understanding.

We cannot prove the constraints of the system that we are ourselves embedded in.

We can search the space of all possible systems, looking for those systems that provide useful explanatory power when applied to the datasets of observations we have available. And sometimes the mathematical and logical implications of those systems give use useful approaches to designing new experiments to look for things we had not previously noticed.

But in the set of all possible mathematical and logical systems, only a very small subset seem to have any sort of fundamental utility in explaining what we observe. And it isn’t at all obvious just from looking at mathematics and logic why any of those particular systems or numbers work as well as they do in the experimental results we observe.

So my argument is, and always has been, about the applicability of anything to reality.

Reality seems to have many sets of fundamental constraints on the degree to which we can know it, or approximate what it is and how it works at the most detailed levels.

It is in this sense, and this sense only, that I deny the utility of the absolute idea of “Truth”, as distinct from its weaker cousin “truth” (being a contextually useful approximation that works in practice in the contexts we have explored thus far and to the degree that we have explored them – which in my world occurs more usefully as “heuristic”).

[followed by]


The game of go is played on a 19 x 19 matrix and has about 10^172 possible positions – How is the continuum hypothesis relevant to and provable within the space of “go”?

The reality in which we exist is certainly a much larger game space than that of go.
The evidence we have seems to indicate that the reality within which we exist has a finite number of particles within any particular time cone of space-time, even if it is larger than any space-time cone can traverse/encompass.

How can you prove the relevance of CH to that finite entity in all cases?
What evidence do you have that proves that assertion true over all of reality?
What is the 1:1 correspondence present between CH and reality? The truth value of the assertion in respect of reality.

[followed by]


I cannot decide what you mean by the continuum hypothesis.

I take it to mean:

This talks about infinite sets.

I am talking about reality, which seems to be a finite set (though very large, and beyond physical counting – as evidence indicate it is wider than light/information can travel).

I therefore fail to see how one can use CH to describe some aspect of reality as being true.

I fail to see a 1:1 correspondence between the real universe within which we seem to exist, and CH.
If you have one, please say what it is.

And the fact that reality seems to be wider than information can travel prevents us from making any absolute claim about reality that is stronger than probability, as we cannot fully test it.

[followed by]

Hi Robert,

The subtle, and not so subtle, difference between us seems to be in the use of assumptions.

For you, it seems OK to apply assumptions to reality.
For me, it never is.

I acknowledge all the power of the assumptions of mathematics and logic. They give us very powerful modelling tools.

However, there is no requirement that reality (whatever it is) actually adhere to them in all cases.

Thus, when it comes to reality, it is experiment that trumps deduction – every time. And certainly, deduction can and has led to some great experimental design.
The Pythagoreans thought they had perfect answers in geometry, in the circle.
Newton thought he had the answer – perfect equations, elliptical orbits. Correct to within the limits of experimental error.
QM and relativity work to within the limits of experimental error.
Is that reason to think them perfect?
Not in my world.
Useful approximations – yes – certainly that.

When building a house, I use flat earth (near enough to work).
When piloting aircraft I use Newtonian mechanics (works fine for navigation, within the errors of measurement available).
Building a GPS network requires relativity and QM – relativity for the time adjustments wrt orbits and QM for design of the chips used.

Things can be useful, without having to be perfectly true.

That seems to be the lesson of biology and evolution and history.

Perfect Truth can exist in the realms of mathematics and logic.

The realms of mathematics and logic are great tools for building our understandings of reality.

The evidence we have from reality and history is that our tools tend to give us useful approximations to whatever reality is.
We have no evidence for anything more than that.

We have a great deal of evidence for uncertainty at every level.

We have a lot of evidence for the idea of useful approximations, and a lot of falsification of “Perfect Truths” in respect of reality.

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Deb – Rights

Deb’s Facebook post “Some important questions that need answering about constitutional rights and exceptions and decidedly gray areas –

[1] If you favor exceptions for rape and incest, “life begins at conception” isn’t a hard and fast rule is it?
[2] When you create exceptions”…

Hi Deb

The simplistic idea that all things can resolved down to binaries is a nonsense.

Complex systems are complex by definition.

We know of nothing in this universe more complex than human beings.

It seems beyond reasonable doubt that all human beings are part of a continuum of life with all other cellular life on this planet, but that the specifics of the histories of our particular cellular ancestries have given us as individuals the power to experience and think and speak and write and have abstract conceptual thought (at least to the degree that we each do).

Of course it is more complex that life begins at conception.
Vastly so.

Is anyone going to charge a pastor who so terrifies a parishioner with a hellfire and brimstone speech that she miscarries, as a biochemical result of the chemicals generated in her body by that fear, with murder?

How about a miscarriage after a few drinks at the office Christmas party? Does that require an equal life sentence to the premeditated murder of men, women and children at prayer?

Of course there are differences.

Only minds forced to believe in simple ideas that can be relatively easily disproved just by taking the time to look around and actually see what is present could believe that all things have a simple answer.

Reality is complex.
Reality has many different classes of complexity.
Some things do very closely approximate simple systems.
Some things are more complicated.
Some things are really complex, and cannot be accurately predicted.
Some things seem to be truly random – utterly beyond pattern or prediction; but these are the hardest things for our human minds to grasp, because our brains are so keyed to finding simple pattern, we tend to see pattern even where it does not exist (hence the vast array of conspiracy theories, not that there are not real conspiracies, of course there are, but far fewer than many people believe, and more than some believe).

For me respect for individual life becomes absolute when an entity can name itself as a player in its own model of reality. Up until that point, it is a matter of degree.

And human life is sufficiently complex and special that it pays us to be very respectful of it, even of the possibility of creating it in anything less than the best context we can provide for the future of that entity we create.

And of course evolution does not care about our abstract thoughts and justifications, it was working with the survival of our brains and bodies long before they developed the capacity for language or self awareness, or culture and abstract thought. So we all have urges that worked in the past to perpetuate our species, even if they aren’t a good fit to our particular culture.

Nothing about us is simple.

Trying to over simplify us will always create systemic failure at some level.

And a deep understanding of the evolution of complexity shows clearly that in complex systems like us evolution is far more about cooperation than competition, and at higher levels that translates into ideas like compassion and justice and love and respect being far more important than competition and rules.

We are very complex.

The more stressed and deprived we are, the more our brains are evolved to simplify complexity down to simple binaries (like true/false, right/wrong) to allow us to make survival oriented decisions with the small amounts of time and energy we have available. That is how we are constructed (beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt).

The only way to break out of that cycle is to create systems that ensure that everyone has the time and resources to develop their understandings of just how complex we really are.
To develop a deep understanding of the essence of ethical ideas like the value of individual life and individual liberty and the absolute requirement for responsible actions in social and ecological contexts.
That cannot generally happen in a competitive market based system.

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A post on Deb’s Facebook page

Hi Deb,

Agree that where patriarchy exists in and of itself it needs to be demolished and replaced with more open systems.

And not everything (or even most things) are the result of patriarchy (though it certainly is strong in some contexts).

We have a number of major issues.

I agree that individuals need to be valued in and of themselves.

I have a long standing commitment to individual life and individual liberty, and both of those expressed via responsible actions in social and ecological contexts.

One thing that not too many people appreciate, is that liberty applied in practice results in diversity. In some cases that diversity is beyond the bounds of what some people consider acceptable; but unless a clear link can be established to something actually being a reasonable threat to the life or liberty of someone else, it must be accepted and tolerated. Those on the more conservative end of the spectrum will have difficulties with that.

And beyond that, many other factors are important.

Competency hierarchies are essential for optimal functioning; and to some people any sort of hierarchy is seen as patriarchy.

Small difference in the center of a distribution can result in large differences at the tail of the distribution. So men and women can differ very little in the center of the distribution, and still have a significant difference at the extremes of competency – that is just a fact of statistics and normal distributions – not necessarily an indication of patriarchal bias (and to be clear, I am not denying patriarchal bias exists, I am just being clear that not all deviations from even distributions are due to it).

Sorting out the different contributions of all the different factors is not a simple thing.

Assuming that people are or should be the same in all aspects is a very bad idea.

We are different, that is part of what makes us interesting to each other.

So long as everyone has enough by their own reasonable standards, then those differences ought to be celebrated.

Interesting times.

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