Critique of Sam Harris on Free Will

Sam Harris – The Case Against Free Will

Published on 24 Apr 2017

Sam couldn’t be more wrong, yet at the same time much of what he says is close enough to true.

Cause and effect is limited.

Simply saying that “there is no way of combining chance and determinism that makes sense of free will” doesn’t actually prove that assertion.

I assert quite the contrary.

If you take quantum mechanics seriously, then there is a fundamental balance between order and chaos in every aspect of being. At the lowest level, there is the uncertainty principle, which seems to state that what we can know about fundamental pairs of properties is limited, the more we confine uncertainty in respect of one, the less that we can know about the other (it becomes chaotic in a very real sense).

At every level of life, this boundary condition between order and chaos seems to exist.

The notion that we can actually know anything about the real objective world in detail, seems to be at odds with what quantum mechanics (the best description of fundamental reality we have) is telling us.

It seems that most of the problem we have with understanding what we are comes from holding on too tightly to the idea that we can actually know anything with absolute certainty.

Once one starts to accept what seems to be reality, that all things have a probabilistic aspect to them, then one can accept free will as a cascading set of influences through levels of systems.

Sure there is a sense in which none of us is absolutely free.
For complexity to exist at all there must exist boundary conditions.
Without boundaries, there is no distinction, no differentiation, only uniformity.

So there are boundaries.
The emergence of our awareness requires a complex hierarchy of systems, with influences running up and down the layers of systems that make our awareness possible.

And to appreciate the idea of a level of software on software that has probabilistic influence on the nature of the software system that is its experiential reality, one actually needs to have some substantial experience in software systems. Having over 40 years programming, and over 30 years running a software company does give me that qualification.

So I say to Sam that the idea of hard causality does actually seem to be mostly illusion, and there are certainly many domains in which there is actually a very close approximation to causal rules in operation. If you bring together a big enough collection of probabilistic systems for long enough, then the distributions get sufficiently well populated that the behaviour of the macro system can be very close to fully causal – certainly within the measurement error of our best instruments in some domains.

He states 2 assumptions
3:02 – assumption 1 – we are free to behave differently.
3:48 – assumption 2 – each of us in the author of our choices and thoughts.

Those assumptions don’t need to be hard.
It is all a matter of degrees of influence.
Everyone acknowledges crimes of passion.
Everyone acknowledges that lower level behavioural systems (passions) can take control away from higher order cognition in some circumstances. Crimes of passion have lower punishment than crimes of deliberation.
And there are degrees of that across levels of awareness.
The higher the levels of awareness, the lower the tolerance (the more one has the more that is expected).

In practice, we all acknowledge that these degrees of influence are real, and are important.

To ignore that, and to focus on the purely causal, is not responsible.

We have to have many levels of systems.
We are evolved embodied organisms.
We have to survive in reality, to move, to catch things, to avoid dangers. Consciousness is far too slow for those things.
Certainly we don’t consciously control every aspect of our being. That is true. And we can learn, develop, and practice conscious control of different levels of our being.
And pretending otherwise is not responsible, not at any level. Particularly not at the level you are arguing.
A tumour on the brain may be exculpatory to some, but to someone like myself, I should have sufficient awareness to seek assistance to deal with such tendencies long before they manifest to the level of killing anyone. And many don’t have my knowledge of physiology or systems or thousands of hours of practice at self awareness.

So yes – degrees of responsibility, depending on context – that is a well developed idea in jurisprudence, and there are some things that everyone is expected to know – like – don’t kill people.

At 13:30 – “If you pay attention, then you no more author the next thing you think than the next thing I say.” That is not true.
It is certainly true that we do not consciously choose the thoughts that we think, and we can consciously influence the context that generates those thoughts. So it is authorship in exactly the same sense as me writing these words is authorship. I did not consciously choose each of these words. I consciously chose a context and these words flowed. Then I consciously reviewed what I had typed onto the screen, and corrected a few typos and modified a couple of words. That is as good as authorship gets. We are, each and every one of us, that complex, at all times.
We are not simply the bit that is conscious, we are also all of the other 20 or so layers of systems that allow the conscious bit to emerge.
That is what it is to be an embodied human being – it is really very, very complex – far too complex to ever consciously comprehend in any but the “broadest of brush-stroke” terms.

Why would you think it might be any different, except if you were trapped in a childish notion of absolute truth, and hadn’t yet accepted uncertainty, probability, and eternal ignorance?

You cannot take total credit for subconscious processes, and to the degree that you have put in the time to train and influence them, then to that degree, and no more, you can take some credit (limited in most cases). And some is not none. It is some.

Certainly, there is a degree of illusion involved in anyone who thinks they have total control.
And by the same token there is a degree of irresponsibility in anyone who thinks they have no control.
Both are true.
Degrees vary with context – multi-factor.

At 16:28 Sam says “How can we be free as conscious agents if everything that we consciously intend is caused by things that we did not intend, and of which we are entirely unaware?”
If those assumptions were true, then we couldn’t, but they aren’t and we can.
And it is very much a matter of degrees.
It is something that we start out with having very little of, and something that we can develop with attention and effort.
And sure, lots of luck and chance in that mixture, and they are not the only things present. It is a very complex situation.

To say that choices are “part of the stream of causality” is something that can be interpreted in many different ways.
If one tries to take it to mean that all things are necessarily causally related, then that fails tests in reality, which is why people find quantum uncertainty such a difficult topic.
If one uses the term “causality” in a probabilistic sense, then it does agree with QM, but hard causality is then entirely illusory (however closely modern computers may approximate hard causal systems).

18:57 “From the perspective of your conscious mind you are actually no more responsible for your next thought than you are for your birth into this world.” Not quite true. To the degree that one has taken conscious effort to train and discipline the subconscious, and to the degree that one relaxes such controls (depending on context) then one has a degree of responsibility. And it is by no means total, or even a major part for most people most often, and it is an important part.

It is not true to say that the only tools we have are those we have inherited from moments past.
We do have creative abilities.
We are not always, or even often, in charge of those creative abilities, and they are present.
So not all things come from our past, and certainly most do.
Very few of the words most people use are of their own invention. Most are inherited from culture, and useful in communication because of that fact. Very few people get to inject new words into the lexicon, and it does sometimes happen.
Very few ideas we have are new ideas, and for some of us new ideas are more common than for others.
If we have 5 ideas a second, and 1 in a hundred is new in any significant aspect, and only one in a hundred of those is useful, then that can still be 10,000 new useful ideas a year – or 500,000 over 50 years of life. Far more than it is possible to communicate (by several orders of magnitude).
For some of us, such numbers are more close to reality than for others.
Those of us with such numbers can be a very long way from any sort of common cultural set of understandings.
At times ideas flood my mind far more frequently than 5 per second, sometimes it is much more peaceful.

When you say no one picks the environmental influences that determine the structure of their brain, that is not true.
To the degree that we can develop awareness of such things, some of us can (and do) make such choices.

On the topic of Moral responsibility. To say “the psychopath was just being a psychopath” dangerously devalues all of us and the moral constraints necessary for the survival of complex society.
One can actually make a reasonable case that in making such a statement you are being a psychopath.
The bear in your example does not carry a high level awareness of itself as a cooperative actor in a complex social and technological setting. It is missing that layer of abstraction that is actually necessary for the emergence of morality.

Certainly we humans all carry the capacity for bear like behaviour in some contexts – we do in fact share a lot of evolutionary history with bears. And we have something the bears don’t and that something is fundamental to what we are.
Getting a reasonably firm grip on what that something is takes a great deal of experience in systems and strategies and games and evolution and biochemistry and computers and …..
And while it may be quite difficult to get a reasonable handle on exactly what that something is, it is actually quite easy to experience that there is a something there.
Pretending else-wise isn’t helpful.

31:58 “Its not so much that there is an illusion of free will, its that the illusion is an illusion. There is no illusion of free will. We are simply not paying attention to the moment to moment character of our conscious life. Its not just that it makes no sense objectively in terms of physics, it makes no sense subjectively either.”

To that claim I say, that anyone who makes such a claim has not been paying sufficient attention.
There are many levels of attention possible.
If one looks merely at the surface, then it can seem as Sam claims.
But if one takes the time to look deeper, and that can take quite a bit of time, then it is not as claimed.

Sure, thoughts do “arise in the mind”, and that process is far from simple. There can be many levels of modifiers to that process. One of those levels of modifiers is conscious attention. To the degree that we make the time and effort to develop conscious attention, then to that degree we have conscious influence on our being – choice.

Agree completely when Sam says at 32:56 “We are not truly separate. We are not separate from one another, from our culture, from the world at large, from our personal history, from our deep past. We are linked to everything, on this view. We are part of a system. And therefore what we do actually matters. It matters more, given the mutually penetrating influences here. Our actions in the world and the actions of others matter even more than they would if we were atomised selves truly authoring our own mind.”

In this sense, we entirely agree.
For me, free will is not something that is absolute. Nothing is absolute.
And free will has an existence, and is a part of the vast interconnected web of systems, every bit as much as cells, bodies, brains, cultures or any other aspect we see as distinctions.
Free will in this sense is not part of an atomised existence.
Free will is one part of a very complex existence that includes everything on Sam’s list.
And free will, in this sense, needs to be on Sam’s list, for it is as real as any of those other aspects.
And it is connected.

He says “So you can’t take credit for your talents, and it matters that you use them.”
To some degree, that is true, and to some degree it is false.
For most people, talents are in part abilities derived by accident of genetics, culture and circumstance, and in part the result of the application of will, time and delayed gratification to the development of those talents.
For the part of the process that involves delayed gratification, and that alone, we can take some form of credit.
How big a part that is can vary substantially.
And it is not to be underestimated.

At 34:32 Sam states “The idea that we as conscious beings are deeply responsible for the characters of our minds, simply cannot be mapped onto reality.”
Certainly, we all start life as very complex entities.
Certainly we are all far more complex than we can consciously comprehend.
Certainly our subconscious systems will always deliver far more action in reality than our consciousness.
And the influence of consciousness matters.
It matters that we train ourselves to exert the degrees of freedom that we have in ways that are socially and ecologically responsible.
Free will exists, and we are not totally free entities.
Free will exists as one component among many.
And it is a very important component.
Almost all of our action in walking somewhere is subconscious, but it matters if we turn off the street into a library or into a pub, and that difference can come from conscious freedom.

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Hardest thing done

June 13-17, ’17 ~QofDay~ Hardest Thing

Which is the hardest thing you had to do and why?

A really challenging question.

How to judge the many different dimensions of hard against each other?

One really difficult thing was killing a pig for Max about 25 years ago (the last large animal I killed). As I walked into the piggery, the pig saw me coming, and started to scream. I was very confident that the pig was aware of its own existence, aware that rifles meant death, aware that its future existence was at risk, and was expressing that terror in the sounds it was producing. I had told Max I would kill the pig for him. I did it. I walked up to it, apologised, and put a bullet in its brain.
And doing that blurred the previous boundary between animals and humans for me.
That pig didn’t have language as such, and I was clear beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that it had awareness of possible futures, and had definite preferences about retaining its own existence in those futures.

I haven’t hunted or killed large animals since.

I have since noted many levels of awareness in humans, and I now understand the notion of there being a potentially infinite set of levels of awareness possible, and that incident with that pig has had a profound impact on the selection criteria I apply to selecting preferred possible futures from the infinite class of the possible, and taking actions accordingly.

And there have been lots of different sorts of hard.
7 years ago, having oncologist David Gibbs tell me that I needed to get my affairs in order, as there was nothing known to medical science that could extend the probability of my life, which he gave as: could be dead in 6 weeks, a 50% chance of living 5 months, and a 2% chance of living 2 years.
That declaration was not in my list of probable futures.
Accepting that it was very likely that I would die very soon and very painfully wasn’t easy, and I did it.
And me being me, I decided to check the details for myself. My responsibility to my family demanded that much of me.
When I looked really closely at all the data I could find, it seemed that there were things I could do to alter the probability of that outcome.
I’m still here, now over 6 years since the last tumour.
Many aspects of that journey were hard. Giving up meat, and eating only plants, and no sugar or alcohol, removed everything that I actually liked from my diet.
It took a lot to do that, and eventually my tastes adapted and I started to like some of the things I was eating, but that process took many months, and it was a couple of years before I could say that I was really enjoying what I was eating.

When I was a teenager, in scouts, I did a tramp one day, with a pack. Between 4am and 10pm I walked 22 miles according to the map, carrying a 40lb pack. That was little short of pure torture for me. By the end of the day I didn’t have a muscle group I could identify that wasn’t screaming in pain. The skin was gone from my shoulders and hips where the pack was rubbing, and from my feet where the blisters had broken. But I did it. I did what I set out to do, and after a few days the pain wasn’t so bad. As a kid I was short, fat, unfit, feet twisted outward, about as far away as you could imagine from my current 6 ft 2 inch lean frame. That was a really big deal for me then.

When in my early twenties I was out diving one day, snorkling for crayfish. I was out the north end of Opito Bay, and there is a big rock out there, in about 30ft of water, with a narrow tunnel you can swim through to get into a large open space that is normally packed with crayfish.
It was one of those days I was breaking all the rules.
I was commercial fishing at the time, so the only time I got to go diving was when it was too rough to take the boat out and set nets. So it was quite rough, a large swell, with about an 18 second period.
The guy who was going to come with me pulled out at the last minute, so I went alone.
So – rough conditions, diving alone, a long way from anyone else, and I was having fun, getting lots of crays.
I was spending about 2 minutes down giving myself about a minute’s margin for safety most dives.
Then one dive I stayed a bit longer, so it was about 2 minutes 40 seconds when I started to leave the cave on the swell.
Then I was coming out the entrance with a cray in each hand when one of them flicked its tail and jammed in crevice. It took a few seconds to free it, by which time the surge from the swell reversed and I was swept back under the rock.
I waited and tried again on the next swell. Same thing happened again with the other cray.
Back under the rock again.
Now I had been down for over 3 minutes and oxygen was getting very low, and my vision was starting to go. So I tucked the crays into my armpits and headed out on the next swell.
As I got out of the cave entrance my vision was down to being like looking through two drinking straws.
I oriented for the surface and put full power into my thigh muscles, knowing I was in deep trouble.
About 10ft from the surface vision went out.
A couple of seconds later I lost all sense of gravity/ direction, I didn’t know which way was up.
I clearly recall thinking – you’re in trouble now. How to know when to breath?
Then I noticed a change in temperature of the skin on my cheeks under my eyes. I though that must mean I am at the surface, in the wind – so I took a breath. I was right. The lights came back on. I could see again.
Decided to call it a day, and headed back to shore, and back home.
Those few seconds without sensory input were fairly terrifying. Maintaining any sort of awareness was an effort of will that took more than I thought I had. It left me feeling drained for days.

Lots of other similar yet different events from my past.
Lots of things that have been hard, in different ways.
Reading Goedel Esher Bach, and not going past any paragraph until I was confident I understood it, and had checked out all aspects of the logic involved, was hard. Nine months of headaches every night, as I kept at it until I was done. Confident that I had explored all the limits of Goedel’s conjectures. The only work I have ever read that I have not found significant errors in.

The list is long. This is a small selection, and I am not confident that the hardest is in the list, and it is what it is.

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Evonomics – Future of work

The Future of Work, Robotization…

The Future of Work, Robotization, and Capitalism’s Ability to Generate Useless Jobs
The value of your work should not be determined by your paycheck.

Yes there are complex issues.

Population size is a complex issue.
Indefinite life extension is a complex issue.

And if we are to hold on to the notion of money, then universal basic income seems to be a necessary part of a transition strategy from a world based in scarcity to a world of responsible abundance.

And we have some deep lessons to learn if we wish to reduce existential risks to a minimum.

Accepting that moral constraints are a fundamental part of complex systems is part of that.
Accepting that respect for individual life and individual liberty are necessary universal values is part of that.
Accepting that liberty, even within constraints, necessarily leads to exponentially expanding diversity, is part of that.

We live in a profoundly complex world.
Every human being is profoundly complex beyond the capacity of any human being to fully comprehend, and we can make useful approximations in some contexts.

Accepting that cooperation is every bit as important (and exponentially more so at higher levels of complexity) as competition when understanding evolution, is fundamental to us averting the current existential crisis of capitalism.

And to be clear, I am not promoting socialism.
I am very clear about the value of individuals and their liberty, and those values have to be in a context of responsible action in social and ecological contexts.
Liberty involves accepting responsibility for the consequences of action.
Anything less than that is not liberty, it is pure fiction (socially destructive suicide in a very real sense)!

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Evonomics – Hayek meets information theory

Hayek Meets Information Theory. And Fails.

Modern economic theories of prices-as-information are seventy years out of date.

This post is kind of useful in the way it portrays information theory reasonably well.
This post is very poor in its presentation of von Hayek’s thoughts, as Guilherme and others accurately note.
That it ignores evolution is unforgivable.

Like most works, in attempting to simplify a very complex system, it over simplifies to the point of creating chaos.

Any attempt to understand anything to do with humans that does not acknowledge the many levels of dimensions of systems that are present in us from our evolutionary history, both in the genetic sense of the structure of our bodies and brains, and in the cultural sense of our language, knowledge, practices, and domains of embodied wisdom; must fail in many important aspects.

I recall attending a meeting of the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade (IIFET) in 1984, and listening to the mathematical explanations of fisheries markets. They were all simplistic nonsense to me. At that point I had been a practicing fisherman for almost a decade, and had several years involvement in retail and wholesale fish markets. I also had a tertiary background in ecology, computing, psychology and neuro-chemistry. The fish markets I was involved in were all determined by the strength of the human relationships, involving reciprocity and trust far more than money, and money was an important factor.

Jordan Peterson (YouTube videos abound) has a great understanding of many of the levels of evolved embodied cognition and information processing present in the human brain, and the ways in which social interaction instantiates probabilities to particular classes of relationship and action.

Every individual human being is a constantly evolving entity, with infinite potential for the emergence of new levels of complexity.

This morning I was trying to explain to my wife and a friend the way in which genetic and social evolution provide us with contextually relevant heuristic hacks to simplify the complexity present down to something we can consciously handle. She misunderstood what I was saying, and asked me what a “heuristic axe” was. The idea of someone taking a heuristic axe to a forest of complexity was actually quite appealing to me.

Evolution, both genetic and cultural, has certainly supplied us with many levels of such “axes”, that allow us to make the sort of sense that we do of the forests of complexity within which we find ourselves (which are just mind numbingly vast when you actually seriously look at them).

Those hacks must have worked in our past, for us and or our ancestors, to get us here – that is kind of the definition of evolution – the differential survival of that which works most frequently with least cost in terms of time and materials, across all the contexts encountered over deep time.

The deep time of reality has exposed our ancestors to a vast array of strategic environments with existential implications. As a result, we all carry deep sets of context sensitive responses to many different sorts of contexts (our demons and monsters, as well as our better angels).
Cooperation was a fundamental part of that, at many levels.
Strategies to identify and punish strategies that cheat or prey on the cooperative are deeply embodied at many levels (as Axelrod’s logic demands).
Cheating on the cooperative is a very high risk long term strategy (however high the short term payoffs may seem, and however long one has “gotten away with it”).

The assumption by economics that there is any sort of equilibrium present is fundamentally flawed, and of course there are approximations to equilibria in complex highly dimensional strategic landscapes (John Maynard Smith’s multiple stable state equilibria is a low dimensional approximation to something with vastly more dimensions – thousands of them).

Every human brain is a computational system, optimised over vast time, for solving complex problems of social relationship within multiple simultaneous hierarchies while simultaneously meeting low level bodily needs for food, water, shelter, etc.

That simple fact is why decentralised capitalism has worked better than any sort of central planning, and must always do so.

It is our human need to seek simplicity, even where it does not exist, that has led to many of the profound mistakes of economics and economic thought.

The invention of the abstract notion of value embodied in money (a very useful myth in a very real sense), is both one of the most profoundly useful tools ever invented, and also one of the greatest sources of existential risk when taken too simply.

For the notion of money to work, everyone has to have the ability to get enough.
Automation is making that impossible in a free market. We can now fully automate systems faster and easier than we can train people.
For money to retain utility, it needs to be distributed to all in a reasonable fashion. Not a demand that everyone have only the same, but a demand that everyone have a necessary sufficiency. We know what will happen to distributions thereafter, and that is fine, provided everyone can live with what they have to start with (ongoingly).
If the money system is to survive, there must be some form of universal basic income (UBI), and freedom will produce diversity from that base.

Regulations need to be the minimum set necessary for the survival of the complexity present, and that is unlikely to be a small number, considering the large and expanding dimensions of complexity currently existing. So necessarily ongoing tensions and needs for conversations and negotiation of agreements.

And some things are likely to be eternal – like a respect for individual sapient life (human and non-human, biological and non-biological), and a respect for individual liberty (within the necessary minimum set of constraints required to sustain the many levels of complexity present – requiring responsibility in ecological and social contexts from all individuals).

The hardest thing for many cultures to accept will be the expanding diversity that must result – all dimensions.

And such freedom is not without constraints.
Constraints are essential for complexity to exist.
Without constraints, everything returns to amorphous goo.
Every new level of complexity will have a necessary minimum set of constraints for its survival.
In a social context, morality is such a necessary minimum set of constraints – which is not to say that any existing particular moral system is such a minimum necessary set of constraints (that is actually highly improbable).
At higher levels of complexity it has an analog in the set of attendant strategies necessary to prevent the cooperative being over-run by cheating (exploitative) strategies. And that will always be something of an evolutionary arms race, all dimensions, emergent and yet to emerge.

So currently economics still seems to be fundamentally flawed in the way in which it conceptualises value, and for its addiction to markets as a measure of value.

And as a base from which to evolve, it has a certain utility.

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Evonomics – Bad biology

How Bad Biology is Killing the Economy

The flaws in the competition-is-good-for-you logic

Part of the picture, and many of the issues raised here by others like DWAnderson, No More Neos, Matt Beaven and others are valid enough in a sense.

Selfish Gene remains the only book I have ever read cover to cover twice in one day, which I did in 1978. It was and is that profound to me.
It was the first and best account I have found of the evolution of cooperation, and the profound and complex roles of cooperation in the emergence of complexity, and the profound uncertainty that comes with complex systems.

Applying that way of looking at and thinking about recursively more abstract systems has been fascinating.

Looking at how human beings develop as individuals, both physically and intellectually, from simplicity to complexity, and in both cases from profoundly complex starting points.
A baby may be simple in comparison to an adult, but it is still a profoundly complex assemblage of cells, with many levels of complex control systems maintaining its existence.
It gets born into and implicitly absorbs cultural constructs which have evolved over deep time (hundreds of thousands of years), and contain many subconscious levels of embodied knowledge and wisdom.

Our intellectual understanding of our own complexity lags far behind our physical manifestation of that complexity in the ways we act in our lives.

When one puts in the decades of study and experience required to gain some beginnings of a comprehension of uncertainty, logic, mathematics, cosmology, geology, chemistry, biochemistry, complexity, computation, communication, strategy, etc, one starts to see the recursive role of cooperation in the evolutionary emergence of new levels of complexity.

And when one can see the different sorts of environments our ancestors have had to survive in then it is no surprise that we contain vast suites of behavioural systems that are very context sensitive in their expression.

Yes we can be (and are) the most cooperative species we know of, provided there is enough for everyone and provided we see social justice in action.
And we can all compete for survival if that seems necessary, and punish transgressors if that feels appropriate.

What some are starting to wake up to, is that promoting conditions that force most into conditions of competitive survival can unleash deep seated drives to destroy the perceived source of such social injustice, and that such forces are an existential risk to all.

We have the technical capacity to deliver a world where every individual has the material goods and services, and the social freedom, to do whatever they responsibly choose; and that word “responsibly” is key.

We have to acknowledge the reality of complexity, that complex systems require boundaries.
It is our cell walls that give our cells form. Without cell walls there would be only ocean.

And our cell walls are not hard and impervious, they are flexible and selectively permeable, sometimes with active transport. Complex systems require complex boundaries. Hard impervious walls are not a useful response to complexity.

Our neural networks have the characteristic of seeking simplicity, particularly when under stress, but too much simplicity is actually an existential risk in a world that actually has profound levels of complexity.

We live in times of exponential change.
Our technology now gives us the ability to fully automate the production and delivery of a large and exponentially expanding set of goods and services.
And we did not culturally evolve in such a world.
Our recent cultural evolution has been in a world dominated by scarcity.
We used markets as a place to exchange things which we had in relative abundance for things that were scarce for us.
The abstract notion of money as a store of value worked for us in that reality. It helped. It was a useful myth.
Division of labour led to increases in productivity and increasing wealth.

Now things are changing fundamentally.

Fully automated systems allow us to deliver universal abundance.
Universal abundance always has zero value in a market.
So universal abundance destroys the abstract notion of market value (money), reduces profit.

Automation and market value are now at the point of being fundamentally antagonistic.

In the search for simple answers, people resort to demonising those with different ideas.

That cannot help.

It is not a viable approach, however emotionally appealing it may be.

Our reality demands that we understand evolution.
It demands that we accept the complexity present, and the need for diversity and cooperation.

Failure to accept any of those realities will produce risk, and at the extremes that risk is existential for all of us.

We live in the most profoundly complex and rapidly changing times this world has yet experienced.

From the 43 years I have been investigating the question “what sort of social, political and technical institutions are required to allow potentially very long lived individuals to have a reasonable probability of actually living a very long time?” I am now clear, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that the answer to that question lies in accepting two fundamental values – with both the rights and responsibilities that are embodied in them:

1/ A universal respect for sapient life (human and non-human, biological and non-biological); and
2/ A universal respect for the liberty of all sapient individuals (acknowledging that such liberty has boundaries required to deliver life and liberty to all, and that such boundaries will be ever evolving in constantly evolving complex systems with ever emergent new levels of complexity and experience).

In practice that means being aware of the needs of living ecosystems and of diverse and rapidly changing cultures.

And part of that is acknowledging that as conscious human beings, we have no direct access to reality, and the reality of our conscious experience seems (beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt) to be a subconsciously created model of reality that is instantiate by a mix of genetic and cultural constructs, as mediated by our physical experience in reality and our conscious (and subconscious) experience in the model.
We are in part entities of culture and habit, and in part creative beings capable of choice and creativity beyond anything in our past.

There can be no certainty in such a reality.

The illusions of Truth and certainty that children must begin with, must be given up as adults, for acceptance of the uncertainty of living in a reality that seems to be a balance between order and chaos at every level of existence.

Too much order, and we experience boredom.
Too much chaos, and we experience anxiety.

Where we each place that border, in different contexts, will be a profoundly complex function involving our levels of understanding, experience, culture, biology and choice.

The world beyond money and markets is a world of complexity beyond imagining.
That complexity must be accepted, even as it must be accepted that it cannot be fully understood.

And in the sense of strategic responses appropriate, it is clear that cooperation is the only response that offers a reasonable probability of survival. And within that fundamentally cooperative context, we can find creative outlets for our competitive aspects. And having written that – I’m off to play golf 😉

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Technological Singularity

A serious assessment of the Technological Singularity

RAG – People seem to confuse intelligence with personality and emotionality. They are three different things and involve three different behavioral traits.

I think it is much deeper than the notion of “trait” includes.

[followed byRAG – To get closer to a feel for the problem, imagine a competition between hacker bots and immune-system bots – each trying to gain control of a distributed system (e.g. the internet’s browsers or some such).]

One needs to give up the notion of “control” and accept that one needs to share degrees of “influence”.

Consciousness needs to take control of the “bots” and put appropriate boundaries on the spheres of influence.

Look at Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meaning videos, and abstract that one level further than Jordan has gone, and you’re getting close to something.

The thing about distributed systems is, they don’t control easy – particularly if they contain variation, even more so if they are capable of indefinite recursive self emergence.

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Jordan Peterson – Biblical series 3

Biblical Series III: God and the Hierarchy of Authority

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Mostly great – with one significant error at 1:34:40 – “there is not an infinite number of solutions” – that is probably wrong. There probably is an infinite number of solutions that work, and there is a much greater infinity of postulates that don’t work. So correct that all are not equal, but not correct on the use of the term infinity. Infinities have that unsettling quality. The infinity of 10ths is ten times larger than the infinity of integers, and both are infinite – sets without end or bounds.
I actually wonder if the set of possibilities is infinite, it may actually be finite, but if finite it is a very large number that is a close enough approximation to an infinity that the difference would not be meaningful to an embodied human.

[These are the key things I highlighted from the talk:]

35:18 The example of wolf behaviour as an exemplar of the distinction between an embodied behavioural pattern and a rule.

55:40 Hierarchy of dominance and lobsters, “The Neuropsychology of Anxiety” – Gray, continuity of neurochemistry in animals – lobsters to people. The neurochemistry of hierarchies of authority has been conserved over 500M years of evolutionary time.

1:24:50 – game matrix – “The person who is the master at being invited to play the largest possible number of games is also the same person that goes out forthrightly to conquer the unknown before it represents itself as the enemy at the door. They are the same thing!”

1:32:45 – “A morality has to be iterable!” – trading games – can’t play a degenerating game. “Is there a way that we can continue playing together that will make playing together even better the next day? That’s what you’re up to!”

1:33:55 – start games stuff here

1:34:38 – “there is not an infinite number of solutions” – that is probably wrong. There probably is an infinite number of solutions that work, and there is a much greater infinity of possibilities that don’t work. So correct that all are not equal, but not correct on the use of the term infinity. Infinities have that unsettling quality.

1:43:55 – “The highest order of being is to use the discipline you attained by striving toward the top of the pyramid to release yourself from the pyramid, and move one step up.”

2:32:20 – We don’t know to what degree extreme experience is necessary to bring forth extreme experience. What do you have to be through before you encounter a religious revelation?

2:34:00 – SGS SJW (Social Justice Warrior) equality

2:35:16 – “historically speaking, women were responsible for distribution, and men were responsible for production.”… “what the women did was make sure everyone got enough.” … “that seems to be driving the SJW demand for equity and equality” and “fair enough” … “there is an antipathy between that and differential productivity, because people really do differ in their productivity.”
This is where full automation changes the picture completely.

“Just making sure everything is distributed equally is just not going to fly.”
But making sure everyone has enough is viable and doable.
Automation can do that.

Unconscious balances – fifty shades of grey – Saudi Arabia and feminism???

The balance between the known and the unknown, between order and chaos – it is essential, constantly changing with context and circumstance.

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