Profound Truth

Question of the Day, May 25-26, 2015 Profound Truth

The opposite of a fact is a falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profoud truth.
Niels Bohr

Have you found the message in this quote to be the case in your journey?
(Profound truth does not necessarily mean absolute truth.)

Profound truth is an interesting idea.

It seems that perhaps the most profound truth is the idea that truth is illusion.

It seems that in all matters, it is probability that actually rules, not simplistic notions like true and false (which in a sense can be seen as the simplest of all possible probability distributions, with only two possible states – very rare in reality).

It seems that most of life and reality is much more complex than that.

It seems that most probability distributions are much more complex, and the intersections of different probability distributions produce complex (multi-dimensional) topologies.

I will use “truth” from now on only in the most relaxed of senses, in terms of what seems most probable given current data and understandings (which seems also, paradoxically, to be the deepest of senses).

It seems that there are many profound truths available from an understanding of evolution.

It seems profound indeed that the relatively simple mechanism of differential survival of variations on a theme, which survival probabilities vary across different environments, can lead over vast numbers of generations to the emergence of new levels of complexity.

It seems profound indeed that each new explosion in the degrees of complexity expressed in evolved life is characterised by the emergence of new levels of cooperation. It seems that this has happened about 20 times in the process that has led to us as languaging naked apes having conversations such as this.

It seems true that raw cooperation is always vulnerable to cheating, and that to be stable, cooperation must be accompanied by attendant strategies that remove the incentive to cheat by effectively removing any benefit from cheating.

It seems true that the simplest set of such stabilising strategies are in the retaliator class of strategies, of which tit-for tat is the most effective (trust until that trust is broken, then do what it takes to remove any benefit the cheat took, plus a little bit). We see instances of that general form in our emotional systems, and in many levels of our cultural systems, particularly our legal systems.

It seems true that there are an infinite set of sets of more complex stabilising strategies, and the delivery of abundance is one such set (as universal abundance removes both the cost and the incentive to cheat).

It seems profoundly true to me that the next major advance in the complexity of life will result when we start using technology to deliver an abundance of all essentials of life to every sapient entity, and the resulting levels of cooperation will deliver the most profound explosion in complexity and security.

It seems profoundly true that our amazing existence as conscious aware entities is but the tiny tip of an amazing complexity of computational systems that is the human body immersed in culture. There are roughly a thousand times more nerve cells in each of our brains than there are people on the planet, and each of those has roughly a thousand connections to other nerve cells, and each of those connections has about 60 chemical modifiers of signal transmission (either enhancing or inhibiting transmission); and all of that happening about 100 times a second. The computational complexity of that set of systems is just so profound. If we were somehow able to see 3 of those modifier systems every second, then to see all of them would take over a billion years – and it now seems clear beyond any reasonable doubt that all of that computation takes place about 100 times a second to deliver our experience of being. We result from that complexity, and cannot ever aspire to understanding what we are in detail – that is simply not a logically possible outcome.

Understanding the conceptual principles – certainly we can do that, and we have many of the major conceptual systems identified, and I suspect we will continue to find new and ever more subtle modifiers for a few thousand and perhaps a few million years to come. It seems we are that complex, that magical.

It seems that science, far from being the set of truths usually taught at junior school, is actually a path of perpetual questioning, perpetual uncertainty, magical exploration, yet with emerging domains of very high confidence within particular constraints or boundaries of confidence (at ever recursive dimensions).

It seems true that we must all start our journey believing in simple ideas like truth, and it seems that the sooner we can transcend those simple ideas, the better off we all are.

It seems that all knowledge is based on heuristics. Heuristics are things that usually work in practice, but may not have any sort of solid theoretical foundation. That just seems to be part of the process. At some level, we all have to have faith in something, even if we change what that something is from time to time based upon evidence and intuition.

And it also seems that any collection of ideas that demands a belief (a faith in the more absolute sense) in the face of evidence, is not to be trusted. Once ideas like that establish within a neural network, they can essentially form self reinforcing loops that prevent further evolution or development (they are the mental equivalent of viruses to the body).

It seems a profound truth that we must learn to trust ourselves and to value ourselves – but not too much. We must also have enough room to trust and to value others.

And it seems true that there are infinite number of possible paths that are workable, and that truth demands of us a level of tolerance and an acceptance of diversity that is not easily available to those stuck in the lower levels of truth and faith, or who are attached to notions like rules and laws.

It seems profoundly true that all explanatory frameworks for consciousness that do not incorporate the truths above (most of which have only emerged in the last few decades) are lacking in many essential aspects.

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Original Ideas

Question of the Day, May 22-23, 2015, Original Idea?

“If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.” Rollo May

Do we have our own original thoughts and Ideas or do they arrive from other sources only to be expressed from our own experience as Original to us?

I agree with most of what everyone else has said already.

It seems very clear that the concepts we have and the words we use to express them evolve in a dance with our physical reality, our culture, our neural networks, our personal experiences, and a myriad of other subtle and not so subtle influences at many different levels (chemical, physical, biological, social, and into potentially infinitely recursive abstract spaces {spiritual}).

It seems clear that once an individual takes their personal explorations sufficiently beyond the frontiers of prior social exploration, then the ease of communication about the results of those explorations degrades rapidly – one must talk in analogies and parables that attempt to give some hint to others that there is something out there beyond the “known frontier” that is worth making the effort to explore.

This applies as much to the process of knowing, and understanding understanding itself as it does to any other aspect of the infinity of infinities available to be explored.

Simplistic concepts of truth must give way to probabilities, if one is to make any sense at all of the constantly evolving ground of understanding that one encounters on the journey.

Any infinity demands of us radical tolerance, an infinity of infinities demands a radical acceptance that closely approximates historical concepts of grace.

When all is uncertain, all any of us has is degrees of confidence.

In this vast complexity, making sense of anything demands the use simplifying heuristics – whether we are conscious of them or not.

In this context, it seems that the modes of storage and retrieval of information used by our subconscious brains create for us original ideas many times every second, and we are conditioned by many processes in life to ignore most of them. The power of that set of subconscious hardware and software upon which our conscious experience is built appears to be so far beyond the power of our rational consciousness that it can certainly appear all powerful and all knowing, and in respect of our experiential reality, it certainly is – as it seems that it creates our experiential world from a mix of past experiences and present sensory information.

So it seems that we all have original thoughts, experiences and intuitions many times a second, and for most people their neural networks learn to filter those down to ones that will gather social agreement.

Some of us grew up without getting much in the way of social agreement, and are happy operating outside of social norms and social agreement; and that does make communication extremely difficult in some situations – particularly in situations of non-trivial complexity that result from a few decades of such explorations.

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Ideapod – World Peace

Ideapod – Thought Leaders Forum – Is World Peace Possible?

Agree in part with Michael Walzer – that within the economic and governance frameworks we have today peace is not a stable or high probability outcome. And to me that simply means that it is time that we take the choice to transcend dominance based hierarchical governance for distributed and consensus based governance; that we transcend scarcity and competition based economics for abundance and cooperative based systems empowered by advanced automation that deliver abundance and security to all, no exceptions. That option wasn’t available even 50 years ago, it is now.

Agree with Bineta Diop, that until the vast majority are prepared to reject violence (except in response to violence, and then only to subdue, not to kill), then peace will elude us. And to me, that is relatively easy to achieve once one understands the profound evolutionary power of cooperation, and the need for multi-level attendant strategies to attend cooperation to prevent cheating.

Agree with Rebecca MacKinnon that peace means the elimination of violence at all levels of social organisation – individual upward, except in so far as violence is required as a response to prevent further violence. I suspect that at ever more abstract levels it will always be the case that the price of liberty will be eternal vigilance.

Disagree with Thomas Pogge. I acknowledge the existence of parties who have interests in maintaining conflict, and see that those parties essentially have a very short term view of self interest. When one extends the view of self interest, peace is the necessary outcome. It is always possible that there will be more powerful entities out there somewhere that will perceive you as a threat if you are not acting peacefully to all those around you. That is true on world scales, galactic scales, cosmic scales, and perhaps even multiverse scales. When one has a reasonable probability of living a very long time, then such considerations become very relevant.

Agree with Gillian Tett in a sense, that world peace is not a stable concept within the economic framework we have in place at present. And I suspect my rationale goes far deeper. We need to transcend market based economics. It is time for post scarcity thinking.

Agree with Ethan Zuckerman, that peace without empowered freedom is tyranny. Our primary allegiance needs to be to sapience before any allegiance to nation or family or any other sort of grouping.

Agree with Carne Ross in a sense, that it is not possible to achieve peace within existing economic and governance frameworks.

Disagree with Jay Winter and Kant in a very deep sense, and see no need for brushfire wars. And certainly real freedom demands an ability to make mistakes, and peace will only ensue to the degree that the deepest of thinkers and actors are prepared to act in their own and the common community’s long term best interests. I am not talking about any sort of perpetual sameness, and I am talking about a level of awareness that can clearly see that systemic violence does not serve the long term self interest of any group or subgroup – not really.

Agree with Peter Morales that peace involves developing collaborative structures (but not interdependence, it actually needs independence).

Agree with Kishore Mahbubani that war becomes less likely to the degree that we can all see that it is not in our self interest.

Agree with Nancee Birdsall that we have the potential to achieve the goal, and it is in the self interest of all of us to do so.

[followed by]

Hi Tracy,

Having been designing and writing computer systems for over 40 years, I have no doubt that the smart settle system has some interesting features and uses, and I have very strong doubts that it is any sort of real solution to the issues we face.

One of the biggest issues is that very few people are actually aware of exactly what it is they do, or what it is they value. Usually a good test of value is to take something away and see how they react – and even that simple method has many pitfalls.

Fewer people still have any real idea of the sorts of paradigms they use operationally, and the relationships of that set of paradigms to other paradigms in use by others, or yet other sets that are available to be used – Wolfram’s work is very interesting in this aspect.

I’ve spent a lot of time in politics (local, regional and national – less so international), and there are some very interesting tool-sets out there with respect to negotiations and engagement.

[followed by]

Hi Tracy

I agree that the dampened pendulum arbitration offers many benefits over many classical attempts at problem resolution, and my argument goes far beyond that.

It would be fair to characterise my issue as being around the paradigms one uses to define an efficiency frontier.

I contest Kort’s claim that moving from competition to cooperation is an unsolved problem – the solution to that problem was abundantly clear in 1978 when I read Dawkins’ classic 1976 work “The Selfish Gene”.

My contention is that the value measures one uses in conditions of real scarcity are very different from those one uses in conditions of radical abundance. I contend that our socially dominant market based value measure is derived from scarcity based measures and values; and as such cannot deal meaningfully with universal abundance (it delivers a kind of Nash equilibrium in an abstract sense).

We have the technical tools to deliver universal abundance, but our conceptual toolkit cannot.

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Surviving Cancer

Ailsa’s Facebook page

Comments on cancer and my my five year survival day

Spending that time with a great young couple who are facing a similar diagnosis was very special. To be able to make a difference, to be able to give hope, simply by being there – felt good!

Every day breathing feels good ;)

[followed by]

Hi Rosalind

I actually found that not knowing became my greatest friend.

It was far better not to know, than to know I was going to die soon.
I had to accept that the oncologist had told me what he considered the truth. Then I used my knowledge of probability to see that all such probability distributions have a long tail. It just became my job to put myself as far out on that tail as I could.

Probability is founded in not knowing.
Knowing is resolving probability down to one of two states – 0 or 1.
Far greater chances of survival if one can stay in the not knowing, and living within the probability distribution.

At least that is how I manage to make sense of it to myself.

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Conservatism

Ailsa’s facebook page

Quote from J K Galbraith:

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy;
that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

I like to point out, that if one creates sufficient security that one has a reasonable expectation of a very long life, and has a reasonably low discount rate on future benefits, then it becomes in one’s self-interest to ensure the interests of everyone else. That is, it is in ones selfish interests to be globally cooperative (provided there are associated strategies to remove any benefits from cheating).

If cheating is allowed, everything breaks down- and I can’t see any other way of characterising our current finance industry except as institutionalised cheating.

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Letting go – and still here 5 years on!

Holding on to anything is like holding on to your breath;
You will suffocate.
The only way to get anything in the universe is by
Letting go of it.
Let go and it will be yours forever.
Anonymous

What is your experience of Letting go?
Is it simple, or is it a process of contemplation?

I can align with what FOS, Mendy and Kathy say.

I particularly agree with Mendy on the letting go of attachment.

Today is exactly 5 years since my meeting with oncologist David Gibbs, where he told me I could be dead in 6 weeks, and had a 50% chance of living 5 months, and a 2% chance of living 2 years.

That required something of me.

That required an acceptance of death.

It is amazing to me how complex, and at the same time how simple the process is.

Last Friday I gave a talk to a local health expo organised by a friend and fellow Lion (Lynn Robinson). I had a 45 minute slot, but spoke for 52 minutes. A mp3 recording and a pdf file of the powerpoint presentation I used are on my blogsite https://tedhowardnz.wordpress.com.

And for me, the letting go of an attachment to life did not in any way lessen either my commitment to life or my appreciation of it.

Attachment in that sense is the idea that somehow it “ought” to be a certain way.

Mendy wrote of something larger than self, and I agree in a sense, and we seem to differ in another sense as to the what.

For me, part of letting go is getting beyond the desires of ego.

For me, part of that process is seeing that ego is just a tiny part of the totality of what it is to be a human being.

For me, that occurs in three major aspects:

One aspect is seeing how ego arises, and seeing that ego is in a sense just a systemic response to a child declaring itself wrong (or bad or evil or whatever judgement word that specific child had learned).

The second aspect is cultivating other levels of awareness beyond ego, and maintaining those simultaneously.

The third is becoming aware of my own subconscious, and the vastness within it (that has a feeling of infinity, all knowingness etc).

At another level entirely, there is the choice of purpose.

What am I doing?

I am aware of the desires of body – and see these as survival heuristics developed over vast evolutionary time.

I am aware of the imperatives of culture, and see these as survival heuristics developed over a much compressed time-frame of thousands of years.

Then there are the things that my own subconscious sees in the world around me as being significant in some way, usually in some thought form developed by someone else, and occasionally in some distinction entirely unique to my own brain.

Most of my existence is in this internal world, of distinctions and abstractions I have no easy way of communicating to any other, and at the same time I exist in our shared reality.

It was interesting to me on Sunday, to experience the most powerful way to play golf – to use my intentionality to the best of my ability, to choose the set of options (for swing, shot shape, destination, etc) with the highest probability of success, then to hand over execution to my body, and stop my conscious mind from interfering. Then to bring acceptance of whatever outcome ensued. To the degree that I achieved that, I played some great golf shots, and most of my shots the conscious did not release control soon enough (or more correctly tried to control where it could not – and that illusion of control produced suboptimal outcomes).

So I see that being powerful has this aspect of total commitment, total application; combined with a letting go, a non-attachment to outcome.

This idea of commitment without attachment is easy in a sense, yet exactly opposite to most of the teachings of our educational systems and most of the impulses of ego.

And 5 years ago I committed to doing what I could to sustain life, while accepting death – and here I am.

The complexity of the details of that process are so far beyond the abilities of my brain to comprehend, and I do manage to see a vague shadow of some of it. And in another sense it is so simple.

And it hasn’t been easy.

So much discomfort – and what is comfort?

What does comfort really do for us?

How much of a trap is our comfort?

How often do we feel most alive when furthest from our comfort zones?

Yet pursuit of adrenalin highs isn’t any sort of real answer. I’ve had enough of them – so many of them, heights, speed, edge of death, …. Fast cars, motorbikes, boats, diving, aircraft, parachuting, mountains, …. Not sustainable.

Pursuit of that sort of high in and of itself is a trap, a form of death.

It seems to me that there is a form of sustainability available.

It seems to me that a commitment to sapient life is stable.

It seems to me that the emergence of a new level of cooperation and trust is in a very real sense just the next level of evolution; when one can view evolution as a process of the emergence of new levels of cooperation with attendant stabilising strategies to prevent cheating; emerging from the competitive morass that is the other (and necessary) aspect of evolution.

And if choice has any meaning there can be no certainty.

So I can commit, and let go of attachment to outcomes.

And that letting go, so easy to say, so hard to master in this endlessly recursive system that seems to be self aware existence.

[followed by]

Beautifully put Torch.

I like the many Zen analogies to tuning a stringed instrument. The master of the instrument knows when it is tuned to his purposes, neither too tight, nor too loose, – just so – and the just so is a very complex relationship between the individual and their reality. [And it seems that all of us must use heuristics {practical shortcuts} to create our mental realities, be they cultural, spiritual, scientific or some combination or something otherwise altogether.]

And like you I wonder if complete letting go is possible.

I have had some experiences like yours, and some very different.

One of the very different involved extreme physical pain. To avoid that pain it was like finding a cupboard in mind (much like finding a cupboard to hide in when playing hide and seek as a child), and I was in that cupboard free of pain, looking out through a crack in the door at my body in pain, then I was looking at me looking out the door, then I was looking at me looking at me looking out the door, and the threat of infinite regress came flooding at me.

If I continued hiding like this could I ever find my way back???

So I went back to the pain, and the lack of vision as it flooded my optical processing systems. And gradually it subsided.

[I recall a hiding spot I found at one house we lived in that no one ever found me at in Hide and Seek – there was a large hot water cupboard, with a small door, and I could climb up the shelves to the top shelf, and over the back of the pile of towels, and make a nice soft warm bed for myself, with a towel over me, where I could stay hidden for hours in comfort.]

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AI Robotics

AI/Robotics – Is the End of Humanity Coming ?

Hi Deb

All such projection and modelling is entirely dependent upon the assumptions used.

Unfortunately very few people are aware of the depth of the assumptions present in our very-day models of reality (our experiential reality).

Markets are money are just ideas – mental tools. They had a certain historical utility. They have a certain reality mediated by the belief people have in them.

All there really is, at any instant, are people, their beliefs, their likely actions, the tools they have, the energy and materials available, and the rest of the biological and cosmological reality we find ourselves in.

We can build automated systems that could meet any and every human demand for the products of that system – yet we don’t, because we think of things in terms of profit and exchange (why give anything to anyone if they are not going to give you something you consider more valuable – that is the fundamental ethic of the market place).

Automation can delivery real freedom to everyone.

Automation can mean that every individual on the planet gets the real choice to cooperate with whomsoever they choose, to do anything that they responsibly choose.

Responsibility in this sense requires only that we show real respect for the life and freedom of others (which by implication requires a duty of care for the environmental systems that sustain us all).

Markets are based in the idea of scarcity.

Automation allows us to deliver abundance.

Automation in a market based set of values delivers horrors.

Automation in a human based set of values delivers freedom, security and prosperity for all.

All that is in the way is a way of thinking.

It really is that simple.

And in another aspect, most people have been trained to obey, to conform, not to think for themselves or to challenge authority in any meaningful way.

In terms of birth control – just look at what happens when you deliver real wealth to women – most choose to have less than two babies.

When people have real choice, when they have the freedom to travel where and when they want, to do whatever the responsibly choose – babies are a huge restriction on that freedom.

I don’t believe that the horror scenarios are as probable as many think.

Changing ways of thinking poses some real challenges, and that technology exists.

It never ceases to amaze me the degree to which people will defend the prisons that they are comfortable with.

And being comfortable in a prison doesn’t make it any less a prison.

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