A heathen argument for faith

Amor Fati: A Heathen Argument For Faith…

‘Amor Fati’ is a Latin phrase used in ancient Greece meaning (approximately) ‘love your fate’. Essentially, it is the idea and belief that all things necessarily happen for the good, the nearest modern corollary being: ‘Everything happens for a reason.’

Hi James,

On this we fundamentally disagree.

It seems clear to me that Darwin, Dawkins et al have demonstrated how all this complexity we observe can emerge by the simple expedient of differential survival of variants. If that is true (which seems to me beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt), then it really is counter to the notion of “that all things necessarily happen for the good”.

It seems be far more like – stuff happens- much of it completely random, some of it with some intention and design of some person behind it.

For me, the idea that everything happens for a purpose, just destroys any possibility of free will.

It seems to me that I have free will, at least to the degree that I do.

So no – I do not accept that children dying horrible deaths from invasive parasites is for a purpose. That’s just genes doing their thing. Patterns on patterns on patterns, …. That particular sort of pattern we would do well to eliminate, permanently.

For me, faith is the antithesis of responsibility.
If you really believe that all the nasty things that happen are to some great purpose, it is a convenient let off from any moral responsibility to make the effort now to change it.

It seems clear to me that we can bring purpose into existence with our choices (to the degree that we do choose), and in the absence of active choice, habits, patterns at many different levels just do their stuff.

[followed by]

I think I get how you are using faith as an idea.
I get you believe that things will work out for the better in the end.
The bit that you don’t seem so clear on, is that such a faith actually has an aspect to it that absolves individuals from making the hard choices, as making such choices doesn’t really matter, because it will all work out in the end anyway – why bother putting skin in the game (at some level).

And I get it isn’t always that way for all people of faith, I see some people of faith in my community with a lot of skin in the game at some levels, and at the higher levels, most of them seem to somewhat less than passionate about life and liberty, with the necessary implication from liberty of exploration of unknowns, and seem to be much more attached to conformity to patterns from the past.

So for me, there remains this meta level danger of “faith” in any context.

For me, the exploration of systems and logic indicates that we have sufficient resources to sustain cooperation at the highest levels for a long time, provided we manage our numbers within the limits of the systems available.
It doesn’t take much training in mathematics to see that continued exponential expansion must eventually run into real limits, forcing us from cooperative to competitive strategies.

And there is sufficient energy available to give us time to make that awareness a universal part of the concept of responsibility.
And there is enough to give every person the right to be a part of one child, and we could have some sort of lottery system to allow some people to have more than one child. And some sort of policy like that will be required on this planet fairly soon.

Unconstrained expansion of population must necessarily lead to conflict at some point.
We are not at that point yet, our technology is still allowing us to do more with less faster than our population is growing, and there are hard limits to that strategy – energy limits imposed by the metabolic needs of human bodies and the technology to support them. If we assume that humans have 20% of the energy falling on the earth, and have conversion efficiencies at 20%, and a human being needs about 70KW continuous power (including the energy to manufacture and run artificially lighted hydroponic gardens) that gives a limit of about 10 times our current population.

And it isn’t a stable answer to say, we can take from someone else, because it doesn’t take long for your group to run into the problem, even if they are the only group left on the planet. So we might as well find a stable solution to the problem soon, before WWIII.

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Sail on Sailor

Sail On, Sail On, Sailor

Hi John,

Enjoyed your writing as always, and largely agree.

In an hour or so I will be attending a meeting of scientists involved in rock lobster management. I will be using the internet, rather than driving and flying. Most meetings more than 10 minutes drive away I now attend by remote – I get to see and hear them, they get to see and hear me, saves both travel time and carbon footprint.

I too have had my share of powerboats (and sailboats), and was a keen pilot. I have about 500 hours of pilot time as well as several thousand hours of passenger time in aircraft.

And we can develop technologies that can make us carbon neutral – but the profit available from oil is just too much for many to give up (particularly with Saudi oil costing under 50c per barrel FOB).

When we get serious about getting people into space, we will build long linear motors, solar powered, that start deep in the earth and emerge at mountain tops with enough velocity to reach orbit. Chemical rockets are just too wasteful of energy, most of the energy goes into accelerating fuel, rather than actual payload.

If our goal is to prolong life then we have to acknowledge that using the scarcity based value measure of markets in a context of the abundance available from fully automated systems is not appropriate.

Human nature contains both cooperative and competitive strategic sets, and which gets expressed depends on the context.

In contexts where there is enough for all, cooperative behaviours always give greater benefits to all than competitive behaviours. (Provided there are adequate sets of attendant strategies to prevent invasion of the cooperative by cheating strategies.)

Markets (and their derivative measure money, and their derivative system of thought economics) are scarcity based, and as such impose a context that incentivises competitive behaviour from individuals. In contexts of actual abundance competitive behaviours always deliver sub optimal outcomes (and in a context which includes the possibility of weapons of mass destruction, such behavioural modalities actually imposed significant existential risk upon everyone).

In the context of full automation, markets are an existential threat – when viewed from a strategic perspective. For me, that is clear beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt.

So from the strategic perspective of longevity, it is markets and economics that is the threat.

We don’t have a resource problem, our exponential expansion of knowledge means we can do more with less far faster than our population is expanding. We are not short of either energy or mass. The sun puts out enough energy that every person currently alive could have more than humanity as a whole currently uses. Energy isn’t a problem.
Nor is mass – we live on a huge ball of it with another huge ball of it in nearby space, and most people only need a few tens of tons to meet their reasonable needs.

The real issue for those of us committed to longevity is the modes of thought, beliefs, truths – call them what you will, that exist in the population. My experience of being diagnosed terminal cancer 6 years ago, curing myself, then having others come to me to see how I did it, has proven to me very clearly that most people would rather die than do whatever it takes to change their habits and beliefs.

Economics as a system imposes so many drags on creativity, so many incentives to continue using technologies that are proven to be dangerous, but involve sunk capital – that the dimensions of risk are terrifying when you actually start to clearly see them.
But most people seem to be far too invested in money as a concept to even be able to look.

[followed by]

Hi John,

If what you said were true, then I could agree with you, but is it?

When we have laws in existence that require directors to optimise the value of investor funds, while we have no similar laws requiring directors to be reasonably cognisant of the long term impacts of their decisions on everyone who is affected – are they really just tools? Or have they stepped over a boundary into something else?

Isn’t it really true to say that in our present systems, the short term needs of profit dominate over the long term needs of people?

Can that ever be ethical?
In any dimension?

I argue that not only can it never be ethical, it can never actually be safe either (if one is willing to explore long term trends and outcome probabilities across strategic domains). To me it is, clearly, always the high risk low reward (in the long term) option – however profitable it may seem in the short term (and therein lies the great failure of our current systems, we do not hold people accountable for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of actions in the longer term – criminality at a higher order than our legal systems acknowledge). And I admit that is a largely intuitive evaluation across domains that I cannot easily communicate to anyone.

For me, having been in this enquiry for over 40 years, I have no shadow of reasonable doubt remaining that our current systems are heavily weighted to deliver profit over valuing human life (each and every human life).

Yes I am poking.
Actually pushing quite firmly.
And, as is your freedom, you choose your own path.
I fully accept that.

We are on very different paths (in all dimensions), and we can communicate, at least to the degree that we do.

I respect you.
I respect the journey you are on, the paths you have chosen. They are not my paths, and they are possible paths with high ethical standards I can respect.

And I am actually nudging you quite firmly towards a path you seem resistant to explore. And in a very real sense, I can understand that resistance, it isn’t a comfortable path, and if I didn’t think you capable of walking it, and if I didn’t see value for you in it, I wouldn’t be doing this.

And it is your choice, just as my path is my choice.

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Map of the human brain

Highest-resolution map of the entire human brain created

The Allen Institute for Brain Science has published the highest-resolution atlas of the human brain to date

There will certainly be some lessons in the influence of ancient structures within the brain on function, but it seems clear that most of the influence on function comes from the fully reconfigurable areas of the neocortex, which is not to deny the many other sources and levels of function, and it is to put them in a context.

They are important, and it seems clear that in the scheme of higher human consciousness they are bit players, important in early development and exponentially less so as one develops discipline and awareness.

[followed by In response to Linda6547]

If our goal is to prolong life then we have to acknowledge that using the scarcity based value measure of markets in a context of the abundance available from fully automated systems is not appropriate.

Human nature contains both cooperative and competitive strategic sets, and which gets expressed depends on the context.

In contexts where there is enough for all, cooperative behaviours always give greater benefits to all than competitive behaviours. (Provided there are adequate sets of attendant strategies to prevent invasion of the cooperative by cheating strategies.)

Markets (and their derivative measure money, and their derivative system of thought economics) are scarcity based, and as such impose a context that incentivises competitive behaviour from individuals. In contexts of actual abundance competitive behaviours always deliver sub optimal outcomes (and in a context which includes the possibility of weapons of mass destruction, such behavioural modalities actually imposed significant existential risk upon everyone).

In the context of full automation, markets are an existential threat – when viewed from a strategic perspective. For me, that is clear beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt.

So from the strategic perspective of longevity, it is economics that is the threat.

We don’t have a resource problem, our exponential expansion of knowledge means we can do more with less far faster than our population is expanding. We are not short of either energy or mass. The sun puts out enough energy that every person currently alive could have more than humanity as a whole currently uses. Energy isn’t a problem.
Nor is mass – we live on a huge ball of it, and most people only need a few tens of tons to meet their reasonable needs.

The real issue for those of us committed to longevity is the modes of thought, beliefs, truths – call them what you will, that exist in the population. My experience of being diagnosed terminal cancer 6 years ago, curing myself, then having others come to me to see how I did it, has proven to me very clearly that most people would rather die than do whatever it takes to change their habits and beliefs.

Economics as a system imposes so many drags on creativity, so many incentives to continue using technologies that are proven to be dangerous, but involve sunk capital – that the dimensions of risk are terrifying when you actually start to clearly see them.
But most people seem to be far too invested in money as a concept to even be able to look.

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Evonomics – what is New Economic Thinking

Evonomics – What is New Economic Thinking?

Three strands of heterodox economics that are leading the way

Well done Amna – your critique is great as far as it goes.

I agree with most of what Peter Barnes said, and even Peter doesn’t take the paradigm of evolution deep enough to see what needs to be seen.

In 1978 Edward Lupinski famously quipped to Milton Friedman that socialism can only work if everyone has two servants, including the servants. Technology is rapidly approaching the point at which that will become a practical reality.
The problem is not the technology, that is on a very stable double exponential trend.

The real problem is our understanding of understanding itself, what we are, how we got here, and what we are capable of being.
The cosmology is now fairly stable, that our planet has been here for about 4.5 billion years, and life started in very simple forms about 4 billion years ago, and multicellular life started about 1 billion years ago, and human beings that could walk and make tools about 2 million years ago, and around 100,000 years ago the complexity of our societies significantly expanded, then about 15 thousand years ago, another big expansion in our ways of being, 100 years ago atoms, quantum mechanics and relativity, 50 years ago molecular genetics and plate tectonics and that process has continued its exponential expansion into generalised computational and paradigm spaces and Artificial Intelligence.

Now it seems that there are a few ideas around that served our ancestors well, that are no longer serving us nearly as well.

One of those ideas is the idea of money, of using markets and exchange to value things.
When most things were genuinely scarce, that made a lot of sense, and served many useful functions beyond the simple function of exchange, in terms of expanding human networks of trust and information flow, extended distributed coordination functions, etc. These were valuable functions, that served to increase the security of most people most of the time.

And now there is a fundamental change.
Now we are developing tools and technologies to automate processes, and we are doing so at an exponentially expanding rate. Most such processes have been in the realm of information processing to date, and they are moving ever deeper into the realms of manufacturing and design. We are seeing the 1st generations of 3D printing. As that trend matures into full blown molecular level manufacturing, then nothing need be scarce.

Even right now, we have the capacity to produce enough goods and services to meet the reasonable needs of every human being alive today, to do whatever they responsibly choose (where responsibility has both a social and an ecological context to it).

The big issue is, that money and markets can only ever value any universal abundance at zero.
If we deliver universal abundance, we break the money system.
That is too radical a mind shift for many at present.
It is logical, and inevitable (if we are to survive at all as a species) – but at present dogmatically held beliefs (in all their forms, religious, economic, political, cultural, scientific, strategic, algorithmic, paradigmatic etc) prevent most people from considering such things.

Many people would much rather die than question “truths” they hold sacred. I have seen that over and over again, in the last 6 years since curing my own “terminal” cancer, after being ejected from the medical system as “incurable” and sent home “palliative care only”, through changes in diet (and publishing all my details including my medical records on my blog site).
Doing that required that I be prepared to examine all the evidence available, and be willing to try anything that had evidence that it might work.

Since then, many people with a similar diagnosis have visited me.
Few have been willing to do what it takes to change old habits and beliefs.

The evidence is clear, that most people would rather die than make a persistent conscious effort to challenge and change accepted habits or beliefs.

In one sense, I see it happening, and know it is so.

In another sense, I can’t understand it.

I guess I have had the habit, for over 55 years, of challenging authority and proving it wrong.

I don’t know what reality is, and I am very confident about many aspects of what it isn’t.

My world doesn’t have certainty, it only has useful levels of confidence in particular sets of circumstances.

And I am clear, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that the combination of the idea of “Truth” and the idea that markets deliver a useful measure of value, now combine to deliver the greatest source of existential risk to our species.

Human beings can be cooperative, or they can compete – we have both natures, and which one gets to express is very much a function of the context we perceive.

The scientific reality is, that we have sufficient abundance of energy and mass and technology to meet the reasonable needs of everyone, and in such an environment, cooperative behaviour (at all levels), delivers better outcomes than competitive behaviour. And to be stable, cooperation requires effective attendant strategies to detect and remove cheating strategies.

Markets are fundamentally based in scarcity, and as such tend to promote competitive behaviour from humans.
In any technological realm that has available technologies for mass destruction, competitive behaviour poses fundamental existential risks to all of us.

Using this logic alone, it must be clear to anyone prepared to look, that markets have passed the point of maximal utility in the story of human evolution, and have now moved into the realm of posing serious existential risk.

So the question now is not if we evolve beyond markets, but rather how and how quickly we evolve beyond markets (or go extinct).

And complexity theory would seem to suggest that we try as many different ways as possible, to find security in both distributed redundancy and diversity.

And as an initial step towards supporting such a move away from markets, and an exploration of a diversity of alternative strategies, some sort of high Universal (global type universal – not just national) Basic Income would seem to be a reasonable intermediary strategy.

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Facebook post on Valhalla movement

Post on Jordan’s Faceboook page

In response to Valhalla movement post on facebook.

In 1978 Edward Lupinski famously quipped to Milton Friedman that socialism can only work if everyone has two servants, including the servants. Technology is rapidly approaching the point at which that will become a practical reality.
The problem is not the technology, that is on a very stable double exponential trend.

The real problem is our understanding of understanding itself, what we are, how we got here, and what we are capable of being.
The cosmology is now fairly stable, that our planet has been here for about 4.5 billion years, and life started in very simple forms about 4 billion years ago, and multicellular life started about 1 billion years ago, and human beings that could walk and make tools about 2 million years ago, and around 100,000 years ago the complexity of our societies significantly expanded, then about 15 thousand years ago, another big expansion in our ways of being, and that process has continued its exponential expansion.

Now it seems that there are a few ideas around that served our ancestors well, that are no longer serving us nearly as well.

One of those ideas is the idea of money, of using markets and exchange to value things.
When most things were genuinely scarce, that made a lot of sense, and served many useful functions beyond the simple function of exchange, in terms of expanding human networks of trust and information flow, extended distributed coordination functions, etc. These were valuable functions, that served to increase the security of most people most of the time.

And now there is a fundamental change.
Now we are developing tools and technologies to automate processes, and we are doing so at an exponentially expanding rate. Most such processes have been in the realm of information processing to date, and they are moving ever deeper into the realms of manufacturing and design. We are seeing the 1st generations of 3D printing. As that trend matures into full blown molecular level manufacturing, then nothing need be scarce.

Even right now, we have the capacity to produce enough goods and services to meet the reasonable needs of every human being alive today, to do whatever they responsibly choose (where responsibility has both a social and an ecological context to it).

The big issue is, that money and markets can only ever value any universal abundance at zero.
If we deliver universal abundance, we break the money system.
That is too radical a mind shift for many at present.
It is logical, and inevitable (if we are to survive at all as a species) – but at present dogmatically held beliefs (in all their forms, religious, economic, political, cultural, scientific, strategic, algorithmic, paradigmatic etc) prevent most people from considering such things.

Many people would much rather die than question “truths” they hold sacred. I have seen that over and over again, in the last 6 years since curing my own “terminal” cancer after being ejected from the medical system as “incurable” and sent home “palliative care only” through changes in diet (and publishing all my details including my medical records on my blog site).
Doing that required that I be prepared to examine all the evidence available, and be willing to try anything that had evidence that it might work.

Since then, many people with similar diagnosis have visited me.
Few have been willing to do what it takes to change old habits and beliefs.

The evidence is clear, that most people would rather die than make a persistent conscious effort to challenge and change habits or beliefs.

In one sense, I see it happening, and know it is so.

In another sense, I can’t understand it.

I guess I have had the habit, for over 55 years, of challenging authority and proving it wrong.

I don’t know what reality is, and I am very confident about many aspects of what it isn’t.

My world doesn’t have certainty, it only has useful levels of confidence in particular sets of circumstances.

And I am clear, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that the combination of the idea of “Truth” and the idea that markets deliver a useful measure of value, now combine to deliver the greatest source of existential risk to our species.

Human beings can be cooperative, or they can compete – we have both natures, and which one gets to express is very much a function of the context we perceive.

The scientific reality is, that we have sufficient abundance of energy and mass and technology to meet the reasonable needs of everyone, and in such an environment, cooperative behaviour (at all levels), delivers better outcomes than competitive behaviour. And to be stable, cooperation requires effective attendant strategies to detect and remove cheating strategies.

Markets are fundamentally based in scarcity, and as such tend to promote competitive behaviour from humans.
In any technological realm that has available technologies for mass destruction, competitive behaviour poses fundamental existential risks to all of us.

Using this logic alone, it must be clear to anyone prepared to look, that markets have passed the point of maximal utility in the story of human evolution, and have now moved into the realm of posing serious existential risk.

So the question now is not if we evolve beyond markets, but rather how and how quickly we evolve beyond markets (or go extinct).

And complexity theory would seem to suggest that we try as many different ways as possible, to find security in both distributed redundancy and diversity.

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QOTD Consciousness

September 17-20,’16 ~QofDay~ Consciousness

What is consciousness?

This is really hard to explain to anyone who isn’t a serious systems geek.

It seems that, as Shar posted, consciousness is awareness of sensations, thoughts, and feelings.

And it seems that it takes many levels of systems to give rise to the sort of consciousness that we as language using human beings experience – about 20 of them. And at each level, there are many classes of very complex processes present.
As someone who spent several years studying biochemistry and neurophysiology, and thirty years running a software business, seeing the sorts of complexity present in those levels of systems is kind of intuitive for me, it all makes sense. Yet trying to explain it to anyone else is almost impossible.

And it seems that our consciousness is a very special sort of software running on top of many other levels of software in a very strange piece of hardware (a human brain).

It seems that all we can actually experience is a software model of reality that the subconscious processes of our brains construct for us – a very slightly (about 1.5th of a second) predictive model of reality. Most of the time we experience what is about to happen, so that we can react in appropriate ways.

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Banks gone Bad

Banks Gone Bad: How Our Evolved Morality Has Failed Us

We seem to be unable to punish bankers for their scandalous behavior because our moral instincts can’t cope

Sorry, but this piece over simplifies the reality.

The claim made that “What is beyond debate is that in the case of major corporate crimes an ancient approach to making justice serve the greater good is creaking and groaning, and that new answers must be sought” can in some contexts be seen as containing some truth, yet in other contexts be seen to be denying a much deeper truth.

To understand something of those contexts one must understand a little of the sorts of strategic responses that work most effectively in different contexts (the formal name for it is games theory, and in the broadest of brush strokes it is relatively simple).
If we look at some simple cases, then go to more complex environments that involve many different cases, one can get a feel for what is going on.

In its simplest form, there are two very broad classes of strategies possible, competition or cooperation. And I will acknowledge now that real life is rarely that simple, and usually involves complex mixes of competitive and cooperative contexts and strategies.

What sort of strategy delivers the greatest payoff depends very much on the context, and lots of different factors are important in setting context.
And breaking things down to the simplest of notions, if there is sufficient for all, then cooperation will always deliver greater benefit than competition; but if there isn’t enough for all, then competitive strategies win. And usually, there is some size of group for which if that group wins, there is enough for all of them, so cooperation to the level of that group size wins, so pure strategies are rarely present.

Throughout our evolutionary history, it seems that most of the time circumstances have been such that for quite large groups it has always been more beneficial to cooperate than to compete, so we have many heuristics that make us a very cooperative species; and games theory is also clear that pure cooperation is always vulnerable to invasion by “cheating strategies” (that are less than cooperative) and so we require attendant strategies to detect and remove cheating strategies – so there can develop a sort of “evolutionary arms race” spiraling up and out through levels and domains and classes of strategies (in the deepest sense of the infinite mathematical space of possible strategic sets). There is a very real sense in which the ancient maxim “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance” will likely remain true for the rest of eternity. And provided we exercise such vigilance, to the best of our individual abilities and with a frequency appropriate to the context, then it appears that we have the technological and physical capacities to deliver a sufficient context of reasonable abundance to everyone on the planet for as far into the future as anyone can gain any sort of reasonable confidence.

And our evolutionary history is also replete with periods of scarcity, so we all carry the shadows of those times, in our ability to compete hard if the context calls for it.

And it does seem reasonably probable that we will be able to develop technologies to effectively mitigate the risks of any such time of scarcity occurring again in our future (and absolute certainty does not seem to be available to any in a world with the sorts of fundamental complexity and uncertainty that do in fact appear to be aspects of this reality we find ourselves in). And such a context makes it possible to cooperate with everyone (provided we have effective strategies for removing cheats, at every level).

Yes, there are many senses in which the entire finance sector can be though of as a cheating strategy, a cancer on the body politic of humanity, and that applies to the systems, not necessarily to the people present within those systems (though certainly some of them have been conscious of the cheating nature of the strategy sets they were using, I suspect that number is actually quite small as a percentage of the total number of people involved). And that is becoming less possible to claim as this awareness spreads.

The much deeper issue, is that markets generally are based in exchange, and exchange values are based in scarcity, and fully automated technology allows us to eliminate scarcity.

So we are now at the point that technology will shortly allow us to eliminate scarcity, but that would break the economic systems we have at present.

Scarcity (markets and money) has to go.
Universally available automated systems really do change everything.
How we manage that transition is the key issue of our age.

It seems that in the broader strategic sense, there are an infinite class of possible strategies that could work.

It would seem that risk mitigation would encourage us to sample as broad a set as possible, and accept the exponentially expanding diversity that must result from any free exploration of any infinity.

So yes – finance has had its day, and yes there may have been some conscious cheating, and for the most part, no.

And we need to move past money and markets, and into the realm of universal abundance, and develop new models of what it means to be free individuals, within a context of social and ecological responsibility.

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