More on Truth

[ 21/12/20 Facebook – Philosophy of Science – Ron Dai’s comment “Ultimately the truth triumphs of untruth not because of the humans who present the truth, but because of the truth itself”]

It all depends what one means by truth.

A modern understanding of physics and quantum mechanics tells us that all things contain fundamental uncertainties and unknowables. We have quantum uncertainty, we have computational uncertainty from irrational numbers that may only ever be approximated to some degree, we have events from beyond our knowable light/time cone that are beyond knowledge, we have infinities, …….

A modern understanding of evolution tells us that evolution punishes slowness of computation far more harshly than slight errors in computation.

Thus it seems beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that what we each perceive as reality is already a vastly simplified model of whatever “reality” itself actually is.

Then we have the evolutionary pressures to make simple conscious models of the already simplified perceptions; remembering that to a large degree speed is rewarded over accuracy, provided accuracy is close enough.

Thus there is a strong tendency for human minds to see simplistic “Truth” (with all the hubris embodied in that), rather than accept uncertainty and diversity (that almost certainly exist in most contexts with almost equal utility).

When one accepts that in exploring any infinity, what has been explored is necessarily a close approximation to nothing compared to what remains – then a degree of humility needs to accompany our confidence; and we need to accept that survival is enhanced by cooperation (all levels). This seems to be a meta “Truth” that seems to apply to most contexts most of the time.

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Lifeboat, longevity, old bacteria

A reply to a comment by Peter to a post in Lifeboat Foundation facebook page linking to Scientists pull living microbes, possibly 100 million years old, from beneath the sea

[ 18/12/20 Peter stated “I don’t see how this pertains to longevity”]

Hi Peter,

In one sense it doesn’t, and in another sense it does, and that is the sense in which all bacteria are without specific age related loss of function attributes that higher organisms like ourselves exhibit.

In order for complex cooperative organisms like ourselves to exist there must exist mechanisms to enforce cooperation at each level.

At the cellular level, any line of cells that stops communicating with its neighbours and starts using resources to duplicate itself in excess of the need specified in those communications from neighbours, is a threat to the cooperative. In terms of us, we call such things cancer.

Most of what we recognise as age related loss of function is due to antagonistic pleiotropy (as per Williams et al) expressed in the telomere mechanism that limits the number of replications cells can perform (and thence the size of tumours).

It is, of course, vastly more complex than that (as all biology is) and that is a good first order approximation to the major aging mechanism we as humans experience.

The thing to get from all this, is that the default cellular mechanisms are tuned to indefinite life, and that the age related senescence mechanisms we see in most complex multicellular life are a mechanism to ensure cooperation of the cells in the complex.

We can now envisage the development of other mechanisms to ensure cooperation that do not limit the age of the complex.

That is the essential takeaway message.

That was in fact obvious to me in October of 1974, and much of my intellectual effort in the years since has been investigating the classes of strategies and systems that are in fact required to give potentially very long lived organisms a reasonable probability of actually living a very long time.

That has involved deep explorations of the systemic nature of both freedom and responsibility; and has convinced me, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that security and freedom require fundamentally cooperative contexts to survive; and that fundamentally competitive contexts pose existential level risk (at any and all levels).

[A very brief and simplistic summary of a subject that would fill libraries.]

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Quora – why is the elite now so concerned about the environment

Why is the elite now so concerned about the environment?

[ 15/12/20 ]

Because the awareness that we as humanity are actually changing the global ecosystem in ways that threaten us all is actually starting to spread to those with some real ability to do something about it.

There are still far too many conflicting sets of incentives present, and even there more people are starting to wake up to the meta level, and meta-meta level strategic sets of incentives that do actually pose significant levels of existential level risk to all of us.

So slowly the awareness that the security and wellbeing of everyone is actually dependent on having globally cooperative systems (not global control – that is very different, global cooperation grants all levels of agent reasonable degrees of freedom, and demands reasonable degrees of responsibility).

Many of our existing systems are based upon sets of assumptions that have been invalidated. So we are in a very complex time of transition. The old systems are no longer survivable.

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Alpha fold 2

[ 12/12/20 ]

This is huge.
Protein folding solved for a large set of classes of protein structures.

and visually

DeepMind’s AI Solves Protein Folding in Major Scientific Breakthrough

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New battery tech

[ 13/12/20 ]

The breakthroughs continue – now a battery technology that seems likely to work – they need to get to practical scalable manufacture, but it looks solid so far. 15minutes to 80% charge, 500km range, solid state electrolyte – so no fire risk.
Should be in place in 5 years.
This makes electric vehicles safer than petrol.
Summary here:

Full expert panel zoom conference here:

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Discussion with Bryce on the nature of Truth

Comments to another thread of Bryce Timothy’s about Truth

[ 11/12/20 ]

Your first presumption is not actually true [“Because any system of knowledge must take either observed facts or presupposed axioms as true in order to draw framework around these key points”].

Evolution does not need to deal in truth.

All evolution requires is useful approximations, and those that are better than the other alternatives will tend to be selected for.

The really tricky bit is looking very closely at what “better” means in an evolutionary context. In most real world situations speed of response and lower cost in terms of metabolic energy are highly selected for – much more so than actual accuracy.

In evolutionary terms, something near enough to be survivable (that is also fast and cheap) is much better than something accurate but slow and costly in terms of resources.

What that delivers is multiple levels of systems masquerading as “True”, whereas in reality their real state is “near enough to be useful in the contexts of our ancestors”.

Where things get quite tricky is when contexts change – like the double exponential we are currently experiencing in technological and conceptual change.

So the very idea of “PURE TRUTH” seems to be a simplistic illusion that evolution has predisposed our brains towards us accepting, because it stops us putting in the vast amounts of resources required if one really does keep asking the really hard questions, and starts taking the time to build multiple levels of datasets and multiple dimensions of measures of the reliability or otherwise of particular datasets to particular contexts.

One then ends up in a place where all things contain profound uncertainties. We may be certain that we are some sort of something, but it takes a great deal of work across a vast array of disciplines to start to build a reasonable model of just how complex we are and how much fundamental uncertainty and unknowability is embodied within us and within the matrix of our existential reality.

[followed by]

I would say something like:

From the best evidence sets we currently have available it seems very probable that reality is sufficiently complex that all attempts to understand it are necessarily wrong in many essential aspects, but some sets of understandings can be very useful and very reliable in some sets of contexts.

It seems also to be the case that some aspects of reality are eternally unknowable, and other aspects are eternally chaotic. So some levels of uncertainty are necessarily present in all things.

One of the great difficulties that all humans have is detecting changes of context that invalidate heuristics that had worked in the past; but now form such a fundamental part of their conception of reality in that context that they cannot even conceive of them failing, let alone notice that they have in fact failed. This can apply to the very sets of heuristic mechanisms that make consciousness possible.

[followed by]

Hi Bryce,

Chaos seems to be a fundamental part of quantum mechanics, but there are limits on it – in terms of probability functions and time.

Rational is a simple model.

There is no requirement that reality obey our simple models – however much we might want it to do so.

There is no simple way to explain the mechanics of consciousness – it is not simple.

It is the most deeply complex thing that we are yet aware of.

Its evolutionary roots go back a very long way, as level upon level of systems evolve in brains to allow perception, movement, memory, mapping, and eventually levels of signaling between members of complex social groups.

Colour perception in humans is complex. My colour vision is different from most people, something I suspected from about age 7, but had confirmed when I did the colour blindness test for my skipper’s ticket at age 23, and the examiners were surprised to find I could distinguish all the sets of symbols in their tests. My hearing is also very different from most people, as I have several bands of acute hearing at quite high frequencies (with dead areas between – I can hear mice squeaking to each other very clearly for example). Perhaps part of why I have always had a tendency to challenge authority, because often my perception of reality is quite different from what most people seem to see and hear and taste.

There does not appear to be any objective “red”. I just get to experience what I do when I see something labelled red, and you experience whatever you do. It just seems to be software within software inside of the hardware of our squishy brains – and there are many levels of embodied cognition present in delivering a sensation like “red”. Many men have an experience of “red” that is identical to the experience of “green”.

It is a model – a kind of personal virtual reality – the only reality we as conscious entities have direct access to.

[followed by]

This is really complex, and there is no way of avoiding that – really.

Everything hinges on what we understand by terms like rational.

For me, in my understanding of the term rational, I am essentially rational; but what I mean by rational and what you seem to mean by rational seem to be two very different things.

For me, rational means driven by reason, and reason means influenced by evidence.

Reason does not mean a belief that any particular system of mathematics or logic necessarily applies to any particular context of reality; and reason necessarily tells me that mathematics and logic are the best modelling tools we have to build abstract models of reality (including ourselves as part of reality).

Where it starts to get really complex is when one starts to investigate classes of non-binary logics and when one starts to explore classes of probabilistic mathematics and chaos.

When I look closely at the evidence sets I have seen around quantum mechanics, it seems clear that chaos is part of the system. There does seem to be essentially non-deterministic elements at play, but constrained within probability functions, that summed over vast numbers do very closely approximate classical causality in many contexts (which is a good thing for complex organisms like ourselves – as we need reliable boundaries for our existence). Note I used the word reliable – not perfect or fixed.

I got to this understanding by exploring vast evidence sets, and vast numbers of possible schema to evaluate those evidence sets.

When I look at things like Garret Lissi’s proposition that the “simplest” things we have found in the substructure of matter (quarks) are some function of the most complex symmetry known to mathematics (the E8 Lie group), then that rather alters the relationship one has to the notion of “simple”. Garret may or may not be correct, there is too much uncertainty present to make reliable assessments at present, but the fact that he can make the case with the evidence sets available does point towards something.

When I look at the notion of Planck time for example, and realise that there are more “ticks” of Planck time in a single “tick” of a Cesium atom in an atomic clock, than there have been ticks of that atomic clock in the universe to date; then I start to get a feeling for just how vast are the collections of Planck scale constrained randomness that occur at our level of perception as human beings, and just how closely such things necessarily approximate classical causality (how many instances are packed into those probability distributions, how “hard” and “regular” they appear) in most contexts (most, but not all).

There just is not any way to make that “simple”.

It is not “simple”, however much we may wish to apply the label “simple” and however much our brains are addicted to and demand “simplicity”.

Understanding the drivers of our brain’s addiction to simplicity takes a lot of work.

Understanding the multiple levels of drivers in evolution is not simple.

Understanding the fundamental role of cooperation in the evolution of complexity goes against all the current dogma of classical teachings of evolution and economics and psychology – but is actually fundamental to understanding how the systems actually work, and what is required for long term survival.

Understanding how complex interactions of matter can create the minimum 15 levels of complex systems that allow the experience of being as “qualia” that we have, is not simple – not in any way shape or form.

It is the most complex thing I know of in this universe we find ourselves in, and such understanding of it that I have (which took me over 30 years of study and contemplation to arrive at) is necessarily simplistic (compared to the reality of the complexity that seems to be present) and far from the real details of reality, and it is useful to me; but the communication bandwidth available to me does not allow transmission in any reasonable timeframe (it would take decades to go through the details – perhaps even centuries – depending on questions).

For me, what you ask is of exactly the same class of problem as someone asking me to explain how the sun goes around the earth. Anyone can stand and see the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, every day. It happens. It is what we see.

It is not what is happening.

The Sun does not go around the earth.

The earth is spinning, so it looks like the sun goes around the earth.

Same thing with qualia.

Yes we experience qualia, but that does not mean that they have existence other than as the experience.

Qualia is what software on software produces – period.

We can short circuit the systems, put electrodes in brains, provide an electrical stimulus in an appropriate place, and produce a “qualia” of experience. Thousands of such experiments are present in the psychological literature.

But spending enough time programming computers, and making simulations, and working with neurons, and with the mathematics of AI systems, and with observing biological systems and modeling them for management purposes – all takes time.

There is no substitute for the combination of experience and contemplation of multiple possible explanations for each level of experience.

One has to be able to actually experience many possible explanatory frameworks as having validity before moving to the level of evaluating frameworks. Recurs that as deeply as one is able (like I said – 12 has been my limit to date).

One cannot get there by being attached to any single framework of interpretation. It just is not possible.

[followed by]

But the question then becomes, what is in the way of your being able to see that as a possibility for qualia?

If you can see the possibility, but assess the evidence as not supporting it – that is one thing.

If you cannot see the possibility, that is something else entirely.

For me, the evidence is clearly as I stated.

When you have been 7 minutes since your last intake of oxygen, the qualia of experience are rather different from normal. Having spent 5 years of my life in a daily disciplined training regime for deep free diving I have many hours in total of such experience. Being a biochemist by training interested in neurological function I did many levels of experimentation on myself, as well as reading extensive sets of literature.

I have done a lot of weird things, have a lot of “qualifications”, a lot of experience sets that are not at all common, but are very useful. Edge cases are often useful in evaluating systems.

[followed by … agree to also see merit in both model categories]

This I can live with.

The concept of terministic screens has been familiar to me for a long time, and is analogous to Jaynes term “structions”.

And I really do get that there is a huge difference between the experience of being something, and understanding some useful approximation to the mechanisms that give rise to that experience.

And I often watch the sun rising out of the ocean, or setting behind the mountains as the experience, and the understanding is of standing on a spinning globe. Those are very different, and there is a matrix of transformation between the coordinate structures in a sense; and that isn’t the “experience” (except when it is 😉 ).

And I am a weird geek who can look across the bay at the mountains and overlay the tectonic stress that gave the mountains much of their form. That sort of thing is actually my experience.

Need to leave the computer, perhaps for a day or so – other stuff needs doing.

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Comments during the actual London Futurists Reinventing Democracy meeting

Comments and questions to London Futurists Future of Democracy

[ 6/12/20 ]

From Me to Everyone: 05:16 AM

Why do we accept rule?

We need to accept that all systems require boundaries for existence, and real freedom need to accept the existence of the real boundaries required for every level of sapient system in existence.

We need to value all levels of sapient individual.

We need to value the freedom of all individuals that accept the value of the life and liberty of others.

If accept the rule of these values, then we can develop cooperative systems that respect life and liberty.

From Allen Crowley to Everyone: 05:18 AM
Yes it is a balance between democracy and individual rights
From David Wood to Everyone: 05:26 AM
Many thanks for the very interesting comments in this chat window.
If anyone has a specific question for George to answer, please enter it into the Q&A window – where other attendees will have a chance to give it a thumbs up if they also want it to be answered

From Me to Everyone: 05:27 AM

To me it is much deeper.

It seems to me that a deep understanding of evolution and complexity and fundamental uncertainty actually makes clear that our survival is based on creating new levels of cooperation and freedom. Automation eliminates the idea of jobs, and actually empowers freedom.

The very idea of money, that has been such a powerful tool in the last few millennia, is now an existential level threat. We must transcend it if we wish to survive.

Distribute automated production removes the need for exchange, but not the need for social relationships.

UBI can be a useful transition strategy only, it is not any sort of long term solution.

[In Questions window]

Ted Howard (You) 05:35 AM

And I acknowledge that transition is extremely complex, and such transition seems to me to be required for our survival. Accepting this seems beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt to be required if we wish to survive. Evolution seems to be demanding a new level of cooperation. The twin tyrrannies (majority and minority) need to be avoided.

Competitive markets now seem (beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt) to pose existential level risk.

Why do you wish to retain the scarcity based system of markets when we have the automated tools to eliminate scarcity?

Why are you not examining abundance based alternatives?
[Achieved maximal upvotes – +9 – next got +6]

[Answered with a very simplistic explanation of the evolution of money, and claimed markets and competition were responsible for the innovation we experience.

Ted Howard (You) 06:02 AM
Innovation is not linked to markets or competition.
That is a common logical error.

[To me, the innovation we see in recent history is only loosely and indirectly connected to markets, and had much more to do with the reduction of central control and the increase of individual freedom and reduction of multiple levels of central control based on historical ways (including challenge to various levels of “Truth”).]

Ted Howard (You) 06:26 AM
New Zealand has effectively dealt with Covid, arguably better than China, and I get the thrust of your argument.

Ted Howard (You) 06:27 AM
Arohanui David and team. Agree with George we need to be the change!

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Response to a call to ban vehicles on beaches

4WDs destroying threatened coastal bird habitat

Response to F&B facebook Post

[ 5/12/20 ]

The damage caused by ignorance is huge.

A total ban seems over the top to me, and actually counter productive.

What we need is a requirement for all beach traffic to stay in one set of tracks, unless they pull off to stop, and then only for a vehicle length (to clear the tracks and no more).

Need to have instant fines for any breech.

There is no doubt that motorbikes, quad bikes, and 4WDs can and do crush eggs and chicks – I have seen it happen, but from our studies in and around Kaikoura, the damage done by hedgehogs and cats is at least 4 times greater. A total ban would prevent effective trapping, and could put the birds in a worse situation.

We need to educate people to respect the wildlife present. That is tough, and it is doable.

Calling for a blanket ban on vehicular access does not seem reasonable to me, demanding responsibility of drivers does.

And it is not just bird nests that are endangered, but many bivalve molluscs and other things that live in the intertidal sands. Driving on the intertidal flats needs to be discouraged as well.

The destruction caused to dune vegetation by traffic is now fairly well known, so sticking to well defined paths in the dunes (even when walking) is a very good thing.

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Response to the NZ declaration of a climate emergency

Response to Climate Emergency declaration.

[ 3/12/20 ]

I accept point 1 “declare a climate emergency, following the finding of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that, to avoid a more than 1.5°C rise in global warming, global emissions would need to fall by around 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero by around 2050;”

For me – the evidence for human induced climate change was overwhelming 30 years ago. 27 years ago we purchased land and planted trees to offset our carbon emissions. The more deeply I looked at it, it became clear such an approach is not globally applicable. For climate and a lot of other reasons we need move off our addiction to fossil fuels, but the economics of fossil fuels are compelling. That led me to look very closely at the assumptions behind economics, and behind many of the game theoretic concepts that underpin most of modern economics.

That has brought me to an understanding of complexity and evolution that now accepts that diversity at all levels of agency is essential, and that cooperation between all such levels and instances of diverse agents is also essential if long term survival is a desired outcome. In the presence of exponential technologies, there is no fundamentally competitive set of strategies that has any significant probability of long term survival – all necessarily self terminate at some point.

So climate is as good a thing to focus on as any other, as it is sufficiently real to demand attention, but not so immediately threatening to necessarily drive most people into some form of anxiety disorder.

Point 2:
“recognise the advocacy of New Zealanders in calling for action to protect the environment and reduce the impact of human activity on the climate;” I can kind of agree with, but it depends very much on the specifics of the interpretation; and the words as written are perfectly capable of being interpreted in completely self destructive ways.

I am not about reducing the impact of human activity on climate.

I am very much about mitigating all the negative impacts of human activity on climate through positive impacts of human activity on climate.

I have no desire to have this planet experience further cycles of ice-ages.

I wish to have tools to mitigate all the many different classes of events that have in the past (or might in the future) created global winters or cause massive loss of life across the planet.

I want all people to be able to grasp at least a reasonable approximation of the complexity of the risks present, and I fully understand that at present most do not have the economic security to have the luxury of time or the freedom from mental stress to have the cognitive tools to be able to begin such explorations.

Creating a world in which all people experience reasonable degrees of both security and freedom is essential, and that is only possible if everyone accepts that all freedom has limits and responsibilities, and necessarily results in diversity. Such diversity must be accepted and respected – all levels.

From point 3 on we start to get into areas of potentially major divergence:
“join the over 1,800 jurisdictions in 32 countries to declare a climate emergency and commit to reducing emissions to avoid a more than 1.5°C rise in global warming;”.

What does that mean?

Does it mean using blunt economic instruments to reduce emissions by creating poverty to reduce demand? So called “austerity measures”?

Those I cannot support – in any way shape or form.

What I can support is state sponsored development of disruptive technologies which are ecologically compatible to deliver distributed abundance and security to all human beings, provided those individuals accept the right to life and liberty of all others, and also accept that all liberty comes with responsibilities, and that some limits are actually required for survival.

Point 4 doesn’t make much sense to me, but is in a trivial sense true:
“recognise the devastating impact that volatile and extreme weather will have on New Zealand and the wellbeing of New Zealanders, on our primary industries, water availability, and public health, through flooding, sea level rise, and wildfire damage;”

Yes, of course, if we do nothing, if we fail to grow and change, then that is our fate; but humans do grow and change. My life has had little in common with that of my grandfather, and even less with that of his father.

Our current economic system is necessarily self terminating, so I am not concerned with its survival. I am very concerned with the survival of the individuals and cultures that exist within the current economic system. The survival of “industries” does not concern me, I am happy to see them replaced by ones more attuned to the needs of humanity and all the other life forms we share this planet with.

The potential for loss of life, complexity, culture, ecologies – those concern me greatly.

By point 5 I can no longer agree:
“note that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, that the government has made significant progress on meeting that challenge through the Paris Agreement and the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019, and that New Zealand has committed to taking urgent action on greenhouse gas mitigation and climate change adaptation;”

I do not agree that the Paris Agreement or the Zero Carbon Act are significant. Both appear clearly to fail to understand the complexity of the situation and are utterly inadequate to the task at hand.

If we desire long term survival, with any significant degrees of freedom, then fundamental systemic change is required.

As an interim measure, some sort of Universal Adequate Income is probably an essential part of a viable transition strategy.

And very much more is required, and required urgently. We have months and years to work with, not decades. The IPCC is conservative.

Reality seems clearly to me (as an autistic geek interested in complexity for 50 years) to be far more complex and capable of far more rapid and dangerous transitions.

We have time to move, and the tools to be effective, but not a lot of time. We need to be seeing significant international cooperation within the next 2 or three years. And that has to be real cooperation, not control or threat.

There must be real respect for diversity, at levels few have yet imagined possible.

Every level of agent needs to have real cause to feel secure – provided that they are in fact behaving reasonably and responsibly (and very good cause to feel insecure if they are not).

Point 6 I reject completely:
“acknowledge the core tenets of New Zealand’s response by establishing emissions budgets that set us on a path to net zero by 2050, setting a price on emissions through the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, transitioning to a low-carbon economy and planning for climate adaption;”.

Setting a price on emissions does not sufficiently alter the incentive structures.

We need to actually empower the sorts of scientific research that will deliver change at scale (and that will involve a lot of failures – random search is actually the most efficient search possible when faced with real novelty and not much time).

Adapting to climate change is not a secure path to long term survival. In the long term, we need to have the tools to manage the climate to mitigate the many classes of variation that can induce ice ages and other phenomena that vastly reduce the ability of this planet to sustain human life.

We need to start by accepting the evolutionary reality that all levels of complexity are built upon new levels of cooperation.

It is cooperation, not competition, that is the single greatest driving force in the evolution of complex entities like us.

Our current competitive economic system is a form of societal suicide based on overly simplistic understandings of very complex systems.

Point 7“implement the policies required to meet the targets in the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019, and to increase support for striving towards 100 percent renewable electricity generation, low carbon energy, and transport systems;” I can sort of go along with in part – but not really.

What is actually required is support for real open disruptive science, which develops complete replacements for many of our existing systems, and removes our current reliance on “scarcity based” “market thinking”.

Markets can be great tools for distributing things that are genuinely scarce, but markets can never remove scarcity, as they are always internally incentivised to retain a level of scarcity that maximises market activity. People only go to markets for things they need. If people have all they need, then there is no market value.

We already have the technical capacity to meet the reasonable needs of every human being on the planet for food, water, housing, education, communication, transportation – but there is zero economic incentive to do that.

Universal Adequate Income can be a stepping stone, a transition path, from scarcity based thinking to abundance based thinking that automated technology makes possible.

And thinking needs to be deeper – far deeper.

Every level of structure is defined by its necessary boundary conditions.

Complexity demands many levels of boundary for existence.

Real freedom has to acknowledge the existence of such necessary boundaries.

Real freedom is not an absence of boundaries, but an acceptance of those that are necessary, and that make existence and exploration possible.

The greater the freedom claimed the greater the responsibilities present – there is no escaping that at any level of existence.

And when one has spent a few decades exploring the levels of complexity present in human beings, it becomes very clear that we are more complex that any entity (human or Artificial Intelligence) can possibly appreciate in detail (ever). We are, necessarily and eternally, unpredictable in detail, however predictable certain aspects of our behaviour may be in some contexts. Often very subtle changes in context can lead to step changes in behaviour.

Point 8 “seize the economic opportunities that a clean, green reputation provides;” short term, sort of, but long term we need to go beyond the strictures of economic thought; as it is too dangerous at too many different levels.

Point 9 suffers from the same issues as point 8 above:
“create green jobs in the low-carbon economy while managing risks for workers and communities currently reliant on carbon-intensive sectors;”.

We need to go beyond the notion of jobs. Real flourishing will occur when all people have the freedom to contribute in whatever manner they responsibly choose.

Point 10 I wholeheartedly endorse the first part of:
“recognise the alarming trend in species decline and global biodiversity crisis, including the decline in Aotearoa’s indigenous biodiversity, and acknowledge New Zealand’s strategic framework for the protection and restoration of biodiversity Te Mana o te Taiao;” but the current strategic framework for the “protection and restoration” is woefully inadequate to the task.

Acknowledging that we are part of the network of life on this planet, and not separate from it, is part of basic biology and is “survival 101” in a very real sense.

Sure – human life comes first, and taking care of all life is part of ensuring our survival in the long term – and that requires some depths of study into mathematics and biology and physics to start to get a reasonable handle on just of deeply complex it really is.

Point 11“note that the government will take further steps towards reducing and eliminating waste;” is always something every level of agency needs to periodically consider; and is not as stated particularly relevant to climate.

We do need to be conscious of the full “life-cycle” impacts of any and all choices and technologies we implement. And that is a sufficiently complex subject that there will always be uncertainties requiring “course corrections”.

Point 12 “show leadership and demonstrate what is possible to other sectors of the New Zealand economy by reducing the government’s own emissions and becoming a carbon-neutral government by 2025” seems to me to be dangerous if taken as a narrow focus.

Certainly we need to have effective action by 2025, but that action needs to be at the macro scale, not the micro. Giving bureaucracies a micro-focus is almost certainly a guarantee of failure. We need to be conscious of our micro actions, and the major focus needs to be the big picture.

We need a global replacement set of technologies for oil that do actually deliver security and freedom to every person on the planet (and that necessarily implies ecological responsibility).

Anything less than that is guaranteed to fail – at some point in the not too distant future.

So I am a yes to acknowledging that the problem is real and urgent, but the strategy provided cannot (to my understanding) actually avert the crisis.

The crisis is much deeper than climate.

The climate crisis is one tiny outgrowth of a crisis inherent in the economic systems we have at present (and the economic system seems to be an outgrowth of overly simplistic understandings of the nature of the reality within which we exist). And many of the systems that are currently essential to our survival are currently deeply embedded in that economic system, so it is not a simple matter of turning off the system; it is something vastly and deeply more complex.

The future of humanity is, and always has been, deeply reliant on our ability to cooperate.

The nature of the technologies we have developed over the last 80 years now demand of each and every one of us that we take that cooperation to the highest level possible.

And that demands that every individual actually does get to experience the real benefits, real security, and real freedom, that are possible.

The very real Climate Emergency can be a tool to get us there, or we face extinction from a host of causes (of which Climate change is the least scary).

I am actually cautiously optimistic that we will actually survive, and it could all very easily go terribly badly.

It will take real choices, enduring real hardships, from many of us; to actually make this work.

Posted in Climate change, Nature, Our Future | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Discussion of risks of technologies

Data for praying mantis mitochondrial genomes and phylogenetic constructions within Mantodea

[ 24/11/20 ]

I found the paper disappointing in the lack of discussion about implications of the work.

What they did was use several different techniques to look at the probability of relationship between different Protein Coding Genes in the mitochondria of different praying mantis species.

The different techniques provided slightly different relationship trees.

To me it demonstrates that there is a great deal of randomness in evolution, and the further back one looks in time the more difficult it becomes to see what actually happened.

It isn’t immediately obvious to me what use this work has in respect of human use of CRISPR Cas9 (CRISPR stands for “Clusters of Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats” in the DNA sequence of an organism, and Cas9 is one of a family of Cas {CRISPR Associated} proteins that actually do the cutting of DNA at particular sites).

If the poster could be a little more explicit about exactly how this work helps with human CRISPR, I would be very interested.

[followed by]

Sorry – but I still don’t get it.

I am autistic.

I completed my undergrad studies in biochem at age 18 in 1974. It was obvious to me then that indefinite life extension would be possible through direct editing of the human genome. I just didn’t know how to do it.

Now we are getting very close to knowing exactly how to do it.

To me, doing it seems to be essential for the survival of humanity.

It seems clear to me that only when individuals have a direct personal interest in the long term future will most of them actually start to look seriously at what is required of them to make such a long term future possible.

I have spent much of the last 46 years searching the spaces of strategies that might create reasonable probabilities of potentially very long lived individuals actually living a very long life with reasonable degrees of freedom.

Those investigations have taken me deeply into many classes of complexity, uncertainty, and fundamental unknowability.

There can be no absolute certainty in such a world, and there can be degrees of confidence in some contexts that can very closely approximate classical certainty.

So if your comment was meant as humour, please be explicit about that.

If it was meant as some sort of warning about something, then please be explicit about what.

I certainly see many classes of potential danger in CRISPR Cas9, but that is true of any and all technologies.

One can do a lot of damage driving cars or aeroplanes into crowded spaces, one can split a skull with a hammer or an axe.

Yet I have driven cars, flown aircraft, used hammers and axes without killing anyone, as do the vast majority of people.

All technologies are potentially dangerous.

All people are potentially dangerous.

And all people and technologies can be beneficial if used cooperatively.
So I am asking you to be explicit, so that I can have some idea what you actually mean; because at present I cannot localise to any of hundreds of possible meanings I see for the words that I read that you posted.

Nothing is obvious to me.

[followed by Frankenstein ]


That much was obvious to me 50 years ago.

I still don’t get the relationship to the article you referenced.

I seem to be missing something.

[followed by DNA is a computer]

Yes and no.

DNA is an important part of the process of producing a complex life form like us, and it just one part (a very important part) of a very complex system, involving many other molecular and environmental components.

So yes – we will be able to make changes to our DNA and thence changes to our functionality, and all changes come with costs and benefits across multiple dimensions.

It is deeply more complex than many simplistic models that many people have.

And yes – some changes many of us are likely to make will be significant in respect of our capabilities.

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