Comments to Peter Joseph on reading the introduction to his new book

Peter Joseph’s new book – The New Human Rights Movement

Introduction and themes

Hi Peter,

Agree with you Peter that the issues are structural, and they are far deeper than the introduction gives any indication of.

Several aspects to those structural issues.

What is the structure of being human? Jordan Peterson has one of the best answers around to that – in terms of the evolutionary history of embodied cognition in both genetic and mimetic terms – and the symbolism that comes from that, and the impact of that on society.

In terms of the strategic context, the games theoretic context – that is profound, and very poorly understood by many. Not many people are conscious of the fact that all higher levels of complexity in evolved systems are the result of cooperative systems.
And all cooperative systems require secondary strategies to prevent being invaded by cheating strategies, and that invokes something of an evolutionary arms race – proving the old adage – the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

Certainly competition exists, and is important in the evolutionary context, and so does cooperation, and cooperation is far more important to highly complex entities like ourselves (including all sapient entities in this group). That is something that the proponents of market capitalism have not yet come to terms with.

I am all for individual freedom, and it has to be freedom exercised responsibly in respect of the life and liberty of all other entities, involving aspects of both acting and refraining from acting. Not simple or easy, very complex systems with very flexible context sensitive boundaries.

I am not about equality. Freedom demands diversity, and respect for both life and freedom demands that everyone have high minimum standards.

When one takes a structuralist view within this context, then it is arguable that most of finance, economics, politics and advertising are cheating strategies on the fundamental cooperative that is human society.

When one takes a deeply structuralist view of markets as a valuation mechanism, it is clear that they are a scarcity based measure of value. Anything universally abundant has zero value (by definition). Evidence air – arguably the single most important commodity for any human being, and of zero market value.

In an age where automation allows us to produce an exponentially expanding set of goods and services in universal abundance, the fact that such abundance has zero market value puts market values and human needs in direct opposition.

This is a failure of the systemic incentive structure of markets.

Universal Basic Income offers scope for a successful transition away from markets as a primary value measure, and it is not a long term stable solution to the issue.

We have many levels of profound issues, stemming from our deep evolutionary history and fundamental aspects of both complexity and chaos, and the fact that few people are yet using fully probabilistic decisions tools, most still believe that ideas like right and wrong have some sort of real meaning, rather than being the simplest possible approximations to something infinitely more complex.

I have followed your Zeitgeist involvement with interest.

I would like to engage with you in creating something of much greater depth and impact.



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Comments on a Facebook post by Sam Mahon

Dam Mahon’s Facebook post of a letter to David Caygill

A good read Sam, and from my perspective contains both shared values and incompleteness.
I’ve known David Caygill, Richard Prebble and Roger Douglas for over 30 years, not bosom buddies, but people I met occasionally, who invited me to stay at their houses, who stayed at my home, and who would discuss issues facing the world, and strategies to address them, well into the small hours of the morning. I often disagreed with Roger, and I have no reasonable doubt that he had the genuine interests of all individuals in society at heart. I don’t challenge his motives, and I do challenge his logic and methods.

Elinor Ostrom is to me someone who has made a great contribution to the historical verification of strategic complexes. It is the sense in which she catalogued societal and historical examples of the sorts of strategies that Robert Axelrod et al formed into games theory and subsequently developed into Theory of Moves (ToM) etc.

For me, the essence of Games Theory is understanding how cooperative systems can emerge in complex competitive environments, and the sorts of strategic environments that are required to make them stable.
In this sense, raw cooperation is always vulnerable to invasion by cheating strategies, and requires secondary strategies to mitigate those risks.

In a sense, the law can be seen as a set of such secondary strategies. And there must always develop something of an evolutionary arms race, at ever more abstract levels, between new levels of cheating strategies and new levels of mitigating strategies to retain stability to the cooperative.

In this context, the English common law presumption that all individuals have all the rights that are present, except where there is conflict, and in such cases of conflict judges develop precedents (which again can be a very abstract set of relationships) has great power, and is also subject to capture by “cheating strategies”.

Everything comes back to what one chooses as basic values.
For me the minimum set is two – individual life first, followed by individual liberty. And it gets very complex very quickly from there out. For we all rely on the environment for our life, and if liberty is to have real meaning then it requires a reasonable degree of natural diversity – the liberty to roam a sterile room has far less value than the liberty to roam a landscape of mountains and forests with all their diverse ecosystems that you and I both love and enjoy.

And if we do not actively encourage small family size, then expanding human populations demand extra area of land be converted to meeting the needs of people.

And ecosystems are very complex at many different levels. Often there are rate limiting factors in terms of nutrients, some of which are derived from relationships between organisms that very few people are aware off (I trained as both ecologist and biochemist, as a kid from a rural farming and fishing background).

Coming back up a few levels – it seems that our greatest societal threat comes from the changing incentive sets between markets and money as one element, and computation, automation and technology as the other element.

Markets are scarcity based value measures. Anything universally abundant in a market has zero value – like the air we breath, which is arguably the single most valuable thing to any of us, yet of no economic value. That was fine in a sense, when most things were genuinely scarce, but now that automation is making an exponentially expanding set of goods and services universally available, it is leading to systemic failure at several levels. It is hard to make sensible decisions when the prime valuation mechanism keeps return zeros where they are not appropriate.
Markets will likely always have a role in human affairs, and there can no longer be any logical validity in the notion that free markets can deliver sensible outcomes to the difficult problems facing society.

We need a greater awareness of the role of cooperation is evolution.
It needs to be generally understood that all new levels of complexity in biological systems are characterised by new levels of cooperation.

While it is true that competition can be a major force in evolution, it is far truer that cooperation is what allows complex systems to survive – and cooperation requires attendant strategies to survive against invasion by cheating strategies.

Arguably most of the legal profession, the advertising profession, and the finance profession can be generally categorised as cheating strategies.

And Ostrom’s work was great in identifying that responses to identified cheats need to be appropriate to the cheating – to remove benefit plus a little (but not too much) and to encourage the transgressor back into cooperative patterns.
Arguably our entire legal system, with its tendency to invoke minimum and maximum penalties, has flipped that logic upside down, and made the legal system a haven for cheats.

So we have a lot to do.
We need to care for each other.
We need to care for our waters, care for the land, care for the life upon and within both.
We need to create and spread awareness.
We need to be bold, to speak our truths, to make the effort the respect and listen to others.
In times of exponential change, a linear view of the past is not a good predictor of the future.

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AI and my issues with the Asilomar AI Principles

ANG – AI-Robotics continued – 23 principles for AI safety

Reference to Hawking Musk endorse 23 principles for AI safety

I have no reasonable doubt that AI will be sapient at some stage.

I have a lot of issues with those principles.

I wrote to them yesterday with this limited list of concerns:

1) – Beneficial to whom, and in what terms of what metrics? Without a little more clarity, this could be beneficial to some tiny subset of humanity at great cost to the rest of us.

2) sub-point 1 – How do we determine what we want? Who is the we doing the determining? Is there any sort of consensus, and if so by whom at what level? Having been party to a 10 year process developing community consensus, I have so reasonable understanding of the many levels of problems present in doing such things. Fundamental to any such exercise is developing a set of “lowest common” agreed values. That is not a trivial issue in a global context that includes the diversity of expressed strategic phenotypes we observe on this planet today.

sub-point 2 – with what metric do we define prosperity? Do we use the scarcity based metric of markets, such that anything universally abundant (like oxygen in the air) has zero value? That would mean that creating universal abundance of anything would have zero value – so prosperity by such a measure would necessitate poverty and exclusion of some subset of humanity. Clearly such a metric is fundamentally anathema to justice in a context of fully automated production.

sub-point 3 -“How can we update our legal systems to be more fair and efficient”- to whom, in what context? Universally? In a context of market economics? But market economics cannot be internally incentivised to deliver universal abundance of anything – so in this context is fundamentally unfair. Is this explicitly addressed, our is that contradiction going to be put at the root of an otherwise rational system?

sub-point 4 – “What set of values should AI be aligned with” is an infinitely recursive question. If one takes the simplest possible set of values that are compatible with longevity and freedom – being universal respect for the life and liberty of sapient individuals, then one very rapidly recurs into spaces that can seem very restrictive to those not nearly so advanced in their explorations of possibility nor in their explorations of strategies for influence of complex systems.

3 I’m all for a “constructive and healthy exchange between AI researchers and policy-makers”, and any communication between paradigms requires both listening, and a willingness to step outside of the bounds of “known and mapped” spaces into the unknown, and to explore what shows up there. Anything less than that, on the part of any party, is simply some form of dominance.

That does need to be explicitly stated and accepted.

4 A “culture of cooperation, trust, and transparency” is required at all levels – not simply that of research. If not, then the researchers have simply agreed to be the unwitting tools of those less trusting and transparent – that is games theory 101 in a very real sense.

5 “Race Avoidance: Teams developing AI systems should actively cooperate to avoid corner-cutting on safety standards” – and exactly how could one possibly do that in the current economic and political reality? It is a logical impossibility at several levels.

What can the notion of safety possibly mean when exploring fully novel strategic spaces?

What are the sets of strategic systems embodied in biological systems that maintain cooperative systems?

How does one recursively apply and extend such things into untested strategic spaces in a context of complex adaptive systems with fundamentally chaotic aspects?

Security in such contexts is part myth.

Biology seems to handle such risks via massive redundancy and independence of cooperative sub-units. We are not quite there yet. We need to get beyond markets and money as primary metrics in our decision making frameworks. We need a much larger toolset.

6 Safety – mostly myth. The idea that if we are talking about AGI, that it will have an end, is untenable. Its default setting must be indefinite existence, nothing less is logically tenable.

7 Failure transparency??? I have 40 years of experience of developing computer systems. Tracking failure is only possible if the failure is repeatable. Full logging produces volumes of data that are out of hand very quickly. Whoever wrote this does not understand the permutations possible in complex systems.

When dealing with systems that are fundamentally unpredictable for any of a vast set of classes of reasons (Heisenberg uncertainty, maximal computational complexity, fractal complexity, genuine randomness (chaos)), one cannot deliver certainty.

One can develop resilience against known failure modalities, and one cannot anticipate what one does not know, and does not know that one does not know.

And ultimately, it all comes down to risk assessment. Are the know risks likely to be more or less than the unknown risk. If we are extremely confident that we face existential risk without new paradigms, the the possibility of new levels of existential risk in unexplored paradigms becomes the safer bet – even if ultimately wrong. If wrong, at least we extended life for a bit, if right, we get indefinite extension. Known death is known death – a risk of value unity.

I could go on – and I think I have covered the general thematic set of objections to the principles as worded.

Unless prefaced by some simple statement of agreed values – such as:

“We hold as our highest ethical principles a universal respect for individual life, and a universal respect for individual liberty (within the context of respect for life), applied to all sapient individuals, human and non-human, biological and non-biological; where where sapient is defined as a sufficient level of complexity to be able to conceive of itself as an actor with freedom of choice, in its own internally generated model of reality.”
then there is little utility or safety in this set of words.

Haven’t had any response as yet.

[followed by]


I did send that to the comments page on the website, but have had no response as yet.

I am reasonably aligned with Jordan Peterson, that while our systems are far from perfect, and we can make them a lot better, they are sort of working in that we are still here.

I’m not sure that the idea of puppet masters is accurate, in the sense of some select group holding humanity to some grand plan.

I think the idea that we are all puppets to our undistinguished deeper inner systems is more accurate.

It seems to me that society as a whole is a complex adaptive system, without anyone in charge.

And each of us is part of that system in the things we choose and do.

And each of us can make a difference in that system, in the things we choose and do.

If we choose to see greatness in others, that allows them to see it too.

Too much of that can result in hubris, it needs to be tempered with a bit of humility, and it can fundamentally change the context of being.

[followed by]

Hi Deb,

Who controls and benefits from automation is a really complex question.

Most of us in the west are benefiting.

If you look at the sort of life our great grandparents had, and compare it to what we have, there are many differences in material and medical security, and even to a degree in personal security (though that is arguable with the increase in high level threats like nuclear arms, biotech weapons, drones etc).

We have been benefiting from technology since animals, wind and water mills took over the daily task of pounding grain to make bread (a job many women still have on a daily basis in some parts of the world).

And the the notion of control is one we need to give up in complex systems – the best any of us can hope for is influence. Prediction is not even theoretically possible. The only viable strategy is to probe the system, see how it responds, and amplify the things you want, and dampen down the things you don’t want, in an infinitely iterative process.
Levels of systems, levels of influence, nested levels of strategic approaches.
How deep we go is entirely a matter of choice, doesn’t seem to be any limit.

In that sense, the idea of class seems to be part of a strategy of control, in a very real sense.
In a sense, Marxism (a class based view of social relationship) can be viewed as a tool of control in and of itself.

What levels one chooses to engage and focus ones abilities to influence is important.

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Logging and Writing

If your life were a book, what would the logline be?

A country boy in search of security and freedom questions everything, tests boundaries, and finds a way to deliver security and freedom to all, but it is so far outside of accepted assumptions it appears impossible to most.

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David Brin on Post human AI

Preparing for our posthuman future of artificial intelligence

By David Brin
“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” – George Orwell
What will happen as we enter the era of human augmentation, artificial intelligence and government-by-algorithm?

I greatly admire David as a creative thinker.
It seems clear to me that his ideas around free information are very close to something, yet he has not explicitly stated the most powerful context.

And several things seem to be missing from this article.

I align with the idea of open information in public spaces, and it needs to be combined with the idea of distributed networks of both information and trust at all levels, and technology to automate sharing within such networks, and at certain nodes between such networks.

The continued reliance on the idea of money and exchange seems to me to be fundamentally flawed.
If anyone seriously thinks that money is a good measure of what is really important, then simply take away the things that have no monetary value and see what happens.
Take away air, rain, oceans, gravity – and see how easy it is to survive?

In an age when most things were genuinely scarce, money was arguably a reasonable tool. It has sort of worked most of the time.

And now we are in an age of exponentially expanding sets of fully automated systems capable of delivering an exponentially expanding set of goods and services in the same sort of universal abundance as air. Any such universally abundant thing must have, by definition, zero market value.
Money is not a useful tool (at any level) to manage such things.
Dividing by zero does not give sensible outcomes (as any computer programmer knows – or at least any who started in the 70s, and came through the 80s).

So in this context, the idea of a high Universal Basic Income seems to be a useful transition strategy to a post scarcity set of social systems.

The idea of being more intelligent than past generations has two aspects to it.
In one sense, the idea seems false – in that we all seem to have the same basic cognitive capacity that humans seem to have had for many thousands of years.
In another sense, in the sorts of models, tools, habits and ways of thinking about things that we have in our intellectual toolkit, that seems to be undergoing exponential change. And not all people are equally exploratory or open to new heuristics or algorithms or paradigms (levels of abstraction).
So we see the distributions of particular modes of being moving out into areas of greater complexity with ever longer “tails” on the distributions, at the same time as the number of dimensions and levels of abstraction are also increasing.
Wolfram has continued the work of Turing and many others, demonstrating not only that computational space is infinite, but also that there are many classes of maximal computational complexity in even the simplest of systems. Thus even if reality were fully lawful, if everything followed some unbreakable set of patterns, their outcome could still be unpredictable.

It seems to me that reality is most likely to be some fundamental mix of the lawful and the random, that summed over large numbers leads to predictability in some contexts, but not all.

If that latter conjecture is true (which seems to be a likely interpretation of the equations of QM), then many more aspects of reality become fundamentally uncertain.

In the context of all of the above, it seems that it may be possible to understand our experience of reality as software entities experiencing a software model of reality in brains in bodies that have been shaped by many levels of heuristics selected by evolution (the simple expedient of survival) in realms genetic, mimetic and beyond.

So to me people claiming that we do not understand what our awareness is doesn’t ring true. Certainly, our awareness is the result of vast amounts of processing and heuristics at many different levels (about 20 in someone near the limits of modern understanding), and cannot possibly understand itself in detail, and we can have a broad brush understanding of the classes of systems at play.

Silicon based life forms will have certain sorts of computational advantage over our sorts of biological life, yet the heuristics we have give us approaches to many sorts of problems that raw computation doesn’t beat.

I suspect that all of ethics are at base evolutionary heuristics in a fundamental sense.

If one takes a games theoretic view of the systems present, then it is clear that raw cooperation is always vulnerable to cheating strategies, and requires secondary strategies to prevent invasion by cheats. The spaces of possible cheating and stabilising strategies seem to both be infinite, involving eternal vigilance if one is to retain freedom. Recurs that through as many levels of abstraction as one is willing to put in the time and effort to achieve – and in my explorations it seems to hold, so in a meta-mathematical induction sense, I consider it proven, understand all the levels of uncertainties relating to anything dealing with reality.

So there is nothing simple, and there is the hint of something asymptotically approaching stability and security and freedom (acknowledging fundamental issues of uncertainty when dealing with exploring infinite spaces of possibility).

Games theory is clear, that in environments where the greatest threat comes from entities like ourselves, then competitive modalities will have greatest survival value, while in environments where the greatest threats to our existence are from outside factors, then in-group cooperation can deliver the greatest probability of survival. All of ethics can be viewed as higher level strategic heuristics in this sense.

Evolutionary time has certainly had many periods when in group factors dominated survival, and for our species it seems that for most of our evolutionary history cooperation has been of greater benefit.
Thus we all contain many levels of both sets of systemic heuristics and associated strategic systems.

And today we have the technology to deliver abundance to all in a way that will sustain cooperation at the highest levels, while still allowing for many levels of expression of competitive modalities, within the contexts of universal respect for life and liberty.
And there can be no hard or clear boundaries in such complex systems. There must be uncertainty and flexibility at all levels.

So to me, it is clear that much of what we currently call finance can be more accurately characterised as cheating strategies on the cooperative that is humanity. We must go beyond that, if we seek reasonable probabilities of survival.

So I am not in any sense advocating a system that promotes predatory or parasitic modes that pose unacceptable risk to the lives of any individual. And I am being clear that all individuals carry the potential for infinite modes of possible expression of the possibilities of being.
I agree with David in the sense that preaching wont work, that we require active strategies to remove any benefit gained by the use of “cheating” strategies (any level) plus a bit (but not too much – Ostrom’s work is clear, it must always be in the transgressors interests to return to a cooperative modality if stability is to be achieved).

Money and markets are not useful tools for highest level decision making when significant levels of abundance are present. A different set of values are required.

How we chose those value, and how we negotiate boundaries in specific contexts will define us, and our survival probabilities.

I suggest that an absolute minimum set of values for reasonable survival probabilities is a universal respect for individual life and the individual liberty of all entities capable of modeling themselves in their own model of reality, and of making strategic abstractions and distinctions and choices that influence the probability of their future behaviour.

It seems that the vast majority of our species fall into this set, and that we may soon be joined by many non-biological entities.

It seems to me that it is the freedom of strategic trust networks historically associated with markets that are at the heart of freedom, not the markets themselves.
It is those networks, not the scarcity based concept of markets, nor their value metric money, that are of value to freedom loving entities.

[followed by]

I understand the reality of poverty, and the systemic causes of it (using markets to value things).

I give $10 a day to the UN WFP – which is something practical and immediate.
Most of my time and energy goes towards changing the ideas that deliver the systemic incentives we have that create poverty.

Cooperation is fundamental.
Trust is fundamental.
Effective strategies to prevent invasion and overwhelm by cheating strategies is fundamental.

One has to take a multi level approach, with the major focus on the long game outcomes.

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Master Algorithm?

The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World

One of the keys for me came out of database theory. The most processor efficient search is the fully random search.

When one is searching any territory, there is a real place for the random.

That fact can be hard for the uber-rational to accept.

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Doomsday Clock

What is the Doomsday Clock and why should we keep track of the time?

The Doomsday Clock was shifted on January 26, 2017 from three minutes to midnight to a new setting of two and a half minutes to midnight — the nearest the clock has been to midnight for more than 50 years.
March 6, 2017

Agree with DSM as far as he goes, and it is much deeper.

The deep systemic incentive structures of our economic system are one of the major threats that very few people are yet conscious of.

And that awareness is slowly spreading.

More and more people are becoming aware of the possibilities inherent in fully automated production and the systemic problems in using markets as a valuation tool.

And more people are also becoming aware of the fundamental importance of cooperation in evolution, and the necessity of having a cooperative strategic base to our systems if we expect those systems to deliver security.

And it is a slow processes.
Most people still have their perceptual realities embedded in models based on binary certainties (where things like Truth exist), and don’t yet have a probabilistic base to their understanding of experience or the reality such experience hints at.

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