Do you find this [Freedom] to be an over-used word?

But I wonder how many people are truly free?

Roosevelt launched the four areas of freedom in 1942. They are
– freedom from want
– freedom to worship
– freedom of speech
– freedom from fear.

Yet, in comparison to many countries, Americans have more liberties. But is that good enough?

Like Brendan, it seems to me that most people don’t spend nearly enough time really digging deeply into what freedom might mean.

And I can get that it is not a simple thing.

Digging deeply into the biochemistry of our cells, and into the quantum mechanics that makes cellular chemistry possible.

Working up from there through the many layers of emergent properties that various levels of organisation and pattern make possible.

Getting in to the sorts of mechanisms the brain uses to create the simulation of reality that seems to be our experiential reality.

Digging deeply into the nature of understanding, how any distinction must necessarily evolve from a simple binary in the direction of something that more closely approximates the infinite range of possibilities that seem to exist in most realms of distinction.

Is freedom to worship really a freedom? Or is it a command?
What set of assumptions is present that presumes the need of worship?

What might freedom from want be?
I certainly align with creating systems that supply all of the necessities of life to every sapient entity (human and non-human, biological and non-biological), and unbounded replication is not a necessity, nor even a logical possibility. If want is used just in this sense – fresh air, clean water, nutritious food, secure housing, health-care, energy, communication, transportation all in reasonable abundance; then I align.

If it is used in the wider sense of desire, then no – not so much.

What of freedom of speech? Certainly we are all free to speak, and do we really want to be free from the consequences of speech?

What might that look like?

Do we want people to ignore our words, as having no consequence?

No freedom of action has any meaning if it is free from consequence.

It seems clear to me that we derive all meaning from consequence.

I think what most mean when they speak of freedom of speech is freedom from the unreasonable and injustice consequences of speech resulting from the declarative judgements of others who do not share our value sets.

In this sense, it seems that freedom of speech can only have real meaning in so far as it involves a shared set of values.

What might a minimum set of such shared values look like?

After being 40 years in that particular enquiry, it seems that the minimum set is 2:

A respect for all sapient life (human and non-human, biological and non-biological);

A reasonable respect for the freedom of action of all other sapient entities.

So what sort of speech is not acceptable in such a system?
Speech that incites threat to or disrespect for the life or liberty of another.

What of freedom from fear?
What might that mean?

Again, it seems that the only useful interpretation is a freedom from likelihood of death, injury or loss of freedom that are not directly as the result of ones own chosen set of actions.

In the more general sense, Frank Herbert’s Benegeserit Litany against fear seems appropriate:
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”

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Ideapod – What if there was no religion?

What if there was no more religion?

Religion has an imprecise etymology – is it relegere (to read over) or religare (to bind)?
Both aspects have a certain social utility in early phase development.

Every human being must start awareness from nothing.
We absorb whatever culture we happen to be born into, we initially accept its implicit and explicit assumptions. We have no other choice.

Every human being must start from the most simple, and develop from there. The simplest possible distinctions are binaries – true/false, right/wrong, hot/cold, wet/dry. We all must start accepting such simple ideas – there is no other logical possibility. However, if our understanding is to develop past such simple approximations, then we must develop into ever more complex approximations of the infinities (and vast finites) that seem to actually exist.

In order to achieve such developmental awareness, we must be prepared to leave the comfort of the simple binaries of our youth, and embrace uncertainty and diversity.

It seems that in a sense, religions are a necessary phase in evolution, and it seems that our survival at this time is rather dependent on our ability to go beyond religions, be they religions of faith, the religion of science, or the religion of money.

It seems that stability in the infinitely dimensional space of all possible sets of strategies requires that each of us be prepared to reexamine and reevaluate any of our working assumptions, when we find evidence of sufficient trustworthiness to do so. For each of us the probabilities, the where and when and how deeply of such re-examinations will vary. Such seems to be part of the nature of infinite diversity.

What we choose to “read over” and who and what we choose to “bind ourselves to” (at whatever levels and intensities we do) seems to be very much a matter of personal choice, personal preference. No hard and fast rules anywhere.

It seems clear now that Plato’s starting assumptions have been invalidated, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt. That undoes most of Kant’s work, and most in that tradition.

A modern understanding of how our brains actually work at the lower levels, and the general classes of software systems that are running on that amazing squishy hardware, that produce the software model of reality that seems to be all that our conscious awareness can ever experience of reality itself; was simply not available to the ancients. Our ancestors had no computers, no gaming environments, no 3D simulations, with which to get a personal experience of just how amazing models can be. They did however notice many profound things about the nature of the experience of being human, and did their best to fit those into an explanatory context.

The probable (possible) evolutionary paths of such contexts is a fascinating subject for study and contemplation, and it is sufficiently complex, and the data sufficiently sparse, that we will never know with certainty.

There are two general classes of things that many people find hard to accept and often confuse, and both relate to complexity.

One class is complexity that results from fractal systems, systems that for various mathematical and logical reasons turn back on themselves in ways that deliver similar but subtly different outcomes. Such systems follow deterministic rules, but are not predictable ahead of time. One must actually follow them to see where they go, and one could spend the rest of eternity following any one of them; and there seem to be an infinite class of them.

The other class of complexity involves the truly random (constrained within probability bounds, so as to give the illusion of lawfulness in large collections).

It seems that this reality we find ourselves in has both sorts of complexity at play – both in pivotal roles in allowing us to be what we are.

Neither domain of complexity can be computed with certainty, and both allow a certain level of probabilistic approximation, provided we don’t push too hard at it.

So it seems that what interests us (what we revisit/read over), and how we relate (what binds us into the groups we associate with), can evolve at a potentially infinite set of levels. It seems that in these most abstract of senses, some shade of religion will always be with us, and it is unlikely to be in a simple binary form so familiar to many of our ancestors.

[followed by]

It seems that beginning to get an idea of just how ignorant we are is no justification for a god or creator.
Beginning to get an understanding of the recursive complexity of the process of evolution, and how it gives rise to recursive levels of cooperation and emergence of new levels of pattern, is a small step away from our ignorance of the patterns that seem most likely to be responsible for our existence.

It seems that Math is part of our understanding.
Reality just seems to do what it does.
We use math as a conceptual tool to make what sense we can of that doing.

The distinction is worth putting some time into.

Do not confuse correlation with causation.

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Favourite quotes

Question of the Day, July 2-3, 2015 Favorite Quote

What is your favorite Quote and how does it speak to you!

I’m gonna be different ;) and give two:

All things in moderation, particularly moderation.

(I love recursion, and I love exceptions to rules)

This too shall pass.

(works as an antidote to both despair and hubris.)

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$7M to research AI risk

Future of Life Institute awards $7M to explore artificial intelligence risks

The Future of Life Institute (FLI) announced today (July 1) the selection of 37 research teams around the world

I’ll be very interested to see if any of the teams recognise that having a scarcity based valuation system that allows (incentivises) sapient entities to die in the name of profit, is a risk – in the sense that any AI coming to awareness inside such a system must see the system as a whole, and the entities supporting it, as a risk to its own survival – and humanity could easily become collateral damage in the entity’s attempts to mitigate that risk to its own survival.

We need to go post scarcity (universally) before bringing AI to awareness.

[followed by]

As I see it, the problem isn’t evolution, it is the very limited understanding of evolution that dominates our dominant political thinking at present.

Evolution is an amazing system.
Sure at the lower levels it uses competition and survival as a primary set of filters, and what results from that is an exploration of higher level strategy sets.

Once one has access to third level and above abstractions, it is clear that when we look at evolution from the perspective of systems complexity, that all major advances in systems complexity are characterised by the emergence of new levels of cooperation.

When one looks at the behaviour of any complex vertebrate (mammal, bird, whatever) it is clear that there are large sets of response strategies available to the individuals, and that the probabilities of response are very dependent on the context of the moment. To give one example. If one observes closely the behaviour of birds at a feeding station. When there is lots of food, and few birds, the birds spend most of their time eating, and very little time in dominance behaviours. As the density of food decreases and the density of birds increases, birds spend more and more time engaged in dominance displays.

Even in birds, the switch from cooperative to competitive behaviour is determined by the abundance present in context of the moment.
Same goes for people (in a probabilistic sense).

The more abundant are resources, the more cooperative are the behaviours observed.

And in the strategic sense, all cooperative behaviour requires attendant strategies to ensure cheats don’t prosper. Oddly, abundance is itself one such strategy.
How often do you see humans doing dominance displays to other humans simply because they are breathing?
It rarely (if ever) happens.
Yet arguably oxygen in the air is the most important resource for any of us.
Because it is universally abundant, there is no incentive to cheat (there is an incentive to use it as a dumping ground in a competitive economic system, and that is a different strategic environment).

We do not need any sort of authoritarian system.
What we do need is a set of widely distributed automated systems with hyper redundancy that can deliver abundance of all essentials to every individual in every situation (including the very low probability high impact events that we are able to identify).

In this sense, abundance itself can be thought of as a strategy that supports cooperative behaviour.

In this quite abstract sense it is clear that the competitive sorts of behaviour encouraged by market based systems are actually a major risk to the survival and freedom of potentially very long lived cooperative agents.

Competition at the level of survival is high risk.
Competition at higher levels has much lower risk profiles attached.

It’s all about risk mitigation strategies.

And yes – beyond that basic set, let people form whatever networks they are interested in creating and work on whatever projects they responsibly choose. And there will need to be some sort of community oversight at various levels. The risk profile associated with working on highly contagious viruses for example requires very complex sets of risk mitigation strategies – not the sort of thing to be done on a desktop bio-hacker system.
Safeguards around proven risk profiles are required.

We need to allow exploration into the unknown, and not in a way that brings too much risk to the community as a whole.

And assessing risk in novel strategic environments is very much an art form, rather than any sort of science. And there is a very good talk on this general subject area on youtube – David Snowden, PhD; Founder and CSO, Cognitive Edge Pte Ltd 2012 talk on Combining Complexity Theory with Narrative Research –

If you take the Cynefin Framework David talks about and apply it to this sort of broader evolutionary strategic sets, one gets some very interesting outcomes.

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Is freedom and choice?

Is Freedom a Choice

“We are not merely atoms in motion. We are not merely matter. We are not merely pre-programmed responses to stimuli.
Which is a way of saying: we can choose, we can decide, we are free, each one of us.
The princes of Pavlov would have us accept that there is no “you” or “I.” Instead, there is the just the unceasing flow of particles in the universe. That’s all.
But again, you are here, right now. You, beyond particles, are reading these words and you understand them.
This is what has happened to the human race, through unceasing tons of propaganda and false science: people have come to believe that the arena of stimulus-response is gigantic. But the opposite is true:
It is individual freedom that is gigantic.
Which leads to the question every individual must ask himself: what is my freedom for?
For what action?
Is it for bowing down to the Reality that has been artificially constructed for me and everyone else?
Or is it for imagining and creating and inventing the reality and the future I most profoundly desire?
Now we are getting to the pivot of this civilization. Which way will it ultimately swing? Toward the stimulus-response empire, or toward individual power?”
This post originated from Peggy Joyce Starr’s post on Facebook. A former member of Gaia.

what is my freedom for?
For what action?
Is it for bowing down to the Reality that has been artificially constructed for me and everyone else?
Or is it for imagining and creating and inventing the reality and the future I most profoundly desire?
Which way will it ultimately swing? Toward the stimulus-response empire, or toward individual power?”

Thanks Jeff

Great Question
Great musical response Tai, and enjoyed the responses from Deb and Jeff and FOS.

So many levels to this.

Being human is not a simple thing.

We are so complex, at so many levels.

Interesting that Joyce’s link to the Stimulus response empire above writes of leaders wanting to control others; which is a possible response and a very simplistic one.

What is far more powerful is to empower all, self and others.

In one sense empowerment involves control, as it involves altering some aspect of reality; yet in another sense empowerment involves giving up control, as it empowers every individual to make their own choices in new domains. To me it is another level of the old saying “nature to be commanded must first be obeyed”.

Yes we have many levels of stimulus response within us, we depend upon them, we emerge from them.

And we are more than simple stimulus response.

We, as conscious entities, are the products of the massive sets of stimulus response systems that is the vast colony of human cells that make up our bodies, immersed in the culture that comes from the accumulated interaction of vast numbers of human minds over vast times. And within the milieu of genes and culture we each find ourselves present, aware.

We finally have the conceptual tools to understand how it is that these vast numbers of interacting systems can give rise to these entities that are us – software systems experiencing a software model of reality created by the hardware that is the human brain immerse in the software that is human culture.

The numbers involved in each and every one of us are just huge, beyond any hope of conscious understanding in detail, yet there, and giving rise to us.

I’ve had 50 years of intense interest in biology, in evolution, in observing nature, and understanding its systems at every level I can find – and the more I know, the more I know I don’t know – we are just so, so complex in detail, yet the specifics of each of the systems is relatively simple, but replicated so many times, and with so many mechanisms of interaction, with other systems at their level, and up and down the levels of systems, that it is a profoundly beautiful picture.

Just to see each of our cells, looking at 3 per second would take a million years, and every cell has about 5 times as many molecules within it as we have cells in our bodies. About 1 in 20 of those cells is part of our brain, and each of them has about 1,000 electrical connections to other brain cells, and about 60 different chemical connections to all of them. Such profound computational complexity of levels of simultaneously operating systems.

So yes – most profoundly yes – we are stimulus response systems.

And one of the responses to the stimulus of culture that our brains produced, was to bootstrap our awareness of self into being.

That awareness, that software entity, seems to have choice, freedom, to the degree that it is willing to claim it.

Certainly it sits atop a vast array of stimulus response systems, and it is impossible to consciously control each of them, and we can consciously influence each of them.

We can consciously develop skills and habits and responses, that we hold under higher level guidance.

We can each choose, the highest level of choice possible.

We can choose cooperation at the highest level.

We can choose empathy.

We can choose acceptance and forgiveness.

We can choose love.

We have those choices available, and we have a lot of other stuff, chemical stuff, biological stuff, cultural stuff, that will from time to time do its thing, and catch us “off guard”.

We are intentional beings.

Intention is so much a part of what we are that it seems natural to ask, what are we for, what is this reality for?

Yet it now seems clear beyond any reasonable doubt, that those questions have no real meaning outside of a sapient entity.

It seems beyond any reasonable doubt, that the universe simply is – essentially devoid of meaning or intention.

We are each certainly capable of bringing meaning and intention to reality.

We each certainly get a default set of meanings from the culture we happen to be born into.

And it seems clear that we are each capable of choosing our own meaning, of creating context at ever more abstract levels, and using those contexts to guide the sorts of responses to stimuli that our bodies produce in reality.

Certainly there are artificial constructs present, in the physical reality, and in the cultural reality; and there are other constructs present too, and an infinite set of classes of other constructs that are possible, but have not yet been given form in reality.

The idea of control is a construct of a relatively low level entity.

The idea of control makes no logical sense in any sort of infinity, it simply is not a logical possibility.

Once any entity reaches a level that it can start to appreciate the complexity available in the infinite set of possible strategies, then the logic is inescapable, that personal security, and personal empowerment more generally, is best served by a cooperative approach.

Once one can view evolution from the space of an exploration of the space of all possible strategies, then it is clear that all increases in the complexity of evolved systems are characterised by the emergence of new levels of cooperation. And games theory tells us that raw cooperation is always vulnerable to exploitation by cheating, so requires attendant strategies to remove the incentive to cheat (and it appears that there is an infinite class of sets of such strategies, and the simplest set is the retaliator set, and there are infinitely more beyond retaliator in the sense of complexity).

So for me, it is no longer a battle between stimulus response and individual choice. It is an acceptance of stimulus response, and a creation of choice atop that. Both are real.

And it is clear to me, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that the greatest security for any individual lies in cooperating with all, and accepting the diversity that must be the logical outcome of exploring any higher level infinity.

One needs to use stimulus response at the lower levels, to empower choice at the higher levels.

We each need to do this, in similar fashion to how social systems do it at a cultural level.

And if enough of us do so, we can alter the fabric of the cultural systems, and create structures that empower everyone – no exceptions.

All simple and logical – in a sense, once one can get back to the simplicity on the other side of complexity.

And it is also clear, that a market based system of values (money) is not compatible with universal empowerment – as all market based measures of value are based in scarcity and thus any universal abundance has no market value.

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En Plein air

En plein air

What’s your most recent en plein air (in the open air) experience?

Hi Laurie

With the views out the window, even sitting here in my chair feels like open air much of the time.

And Sunday I was out in the open air playing golf. Yesterday morning I walked home from dropping off the Hilux at the service station (to replace a couple of broken rubber parts), and had Huia along for company, and in the afternoon we reversed the process, walking back to pick it up again.

It’s been about 6 years since I let my pilot’s licence lapse, so it’s been a while since I was at the controls of a Cesna, and I have flown over most of NZ over the last 25 years, including a flight to the Chatham Islands (over 400 miles of ocean each way – in a Beechcraft Queenair).

And I spend a lot of time in conceptual spaces that are infinite in all dimensions (including, recursively, dimensionality itself), and my limited mind does its best to grasp something of scope of what is present.

So yes – it is an amazing thing this thing called life, this experience of being, this profound mix of levels of interacting systems, of the random and the lawful and the intentional.

Great to see you guys having such fun in the air ;)

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Ideapod – Aboriginal Culture

Ideapod – Aboriginal culture

Australian Aborigines Should Be Treated As A Living Treasure

I see it kinda differently.

I see every culture as the current state of that culture in an evolutionary continuum.

I see that all individuals need a culture, and the language derived from that culture, to bootstrap their own conceptual awareness into being.

I see that some individual remain firmly within cultural bounds, while others choose to go “post cultural”.

It seems clear to me that our survival as a species relies on sufficient numbers of individuals attaining post cultural awareness that they can effectively combat the worst of the competitive aspects of all cultures, and lead humanity into a future of cooperation, abundance, security and freedom (which includes freedom from all cultural constraints, though not freedom from the effects of consequence).

It seems clear to me that the most stable platform for such a state is one based in respect for all sapient life (human and non-human, biological and non-biological), and for the freedom of action of such life forms.

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