On evoluiton, complexity and understanding

[ 21/November/21 ]

If one spends a few years investigating the nature of reality, and the concept of evolution; then one starts to see the probability of the existence of an infinite set of infinities, and many sets and classes of fundamental uncertainties and unknowables.

Part of that process will involve looking at the evolution of brains, and the sorts of constraints that they evolve under, and the very strong evolutionary pressures to prefer simplicity and speed over accuracy, within reasonable limits.

Thus we all contain multiple levels of systems (mostly subconscious) that simplify the complexity within which we seem to be embedded and embodied down to something our computational systems can manage in something approaching real time. Thus we all necessarily experience our own virtual (VR) versions of whatever objective reality (OR) actually is; and that must eternally be so, however computationally enhanced and complex we become.

Thus we all seem to be in a reality that allows for infinite exploration of any of an infinite set of infinities, and all we can ever have is some sort of simplistic model of any of it (however complex our models are).

The strong tendency to prefer simplistic certainty over complex uncertainty has multiple levels of “failure modalities”. Whenever someone accepts a “Truth” at any level, they stop looking for evidence to the contrary. That may be comfortable at some set of levels, and it seems very probable that at any level it must eventually lead to systems failure. Thus the boundaries of what is survivable must be continually explored by those able to deal with uncertainty, and go beyond the “Truths” of whatever set of systems gave them birth.

Recurs that to as many levels as you are able, and you start to get a feeling for what we seem to be part of.

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Odd and interesting day today

I’ve known for two months that today’s announcement was coming, but was asked to keep it confidential, and didn’t tell anyone, and today Ailsa and I were both recipients of a Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) for services to conservation, and the response from many on Facebook today has been great.

And the day started with us both on the beach by 6am doing a survey of the dotterel chicks at South Bay – really pleasing to see the few ones there still alive. So many did not make it earlier in the season. They might just manage to hold their own this year, if these ones do make it all the way to fledging.

Tomorrow morning is checking the Hutton’s Shearwaters. I last checked them Xmas morning, and we had 8 chicks, up from 1 the week before. Could be as many as 17 if I got all the egg laying dates somewhere near right. Have two new recorders to set up, on burrows that are being visited by new arrivals.

Just had a few friends around for dinner, and a wee celebration. Allowed myself 5ml of a 30 year old Highland Park single malt I have on the top shelf. Delicious!

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Right to any belief is not survivable.

Rights and responsibilities

[ 21/November/21 ]

The “About” section, rights without responsibilities I cannot support.

Hi all, I just read the about section, and to be able to read it I had to tick a box saying that I agreed with it – which was a bit weird.

I generally align with what it says, except for one bit:

“We support people’s rights to hold whatever views and beliefs they wish.”

I’m not sure I can entirely align with that.

Any right claimed, without an appropriate level of responsibility, is necessarily destructive.

If one looks at any complex system, from a systems perspective, then it will have sets of boundary conditions required to allow that form of complexity to exist. At higher levels of awareness, one of those boundary conditions is the notion of responsibility, of being as aware as reasonably possible of the results of actions on others and on the systems that support us all, and not doing anything that poses an unreasonable level of risk to anyone.

It seems beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that reality (whatever it actually is) is sufficiently complex and uncertain that all such determinations will have levels of uncertainty involved in them (hence the test of reasonableness in context), and none of that absolves us from the requirement of making such determinations (to the best of our limited and fallible abilities).

So I can support the right to hold “whatever views and beliefs they wish” only in so far as that right is accompanied by a responsibility to take all reasonable actions to protect the lives and liberties (responsibly expressed) of all others.

Any right, without an appropriate responsibility, must necessarily, eventually, lead to the destruction of entire system that gave rise to the systemic structure that allowed for the possibility of that “right” in the first instance.

The evolution of complex systems is an extremely complex topic, and it does seem to be the case that every new level of complexity is in fact founded on, and reliant upon, a new level of cooperation; and every new level of cooperation is vulnerable to exploitation by “cheating” strategies, thus requiring the emergence and evolution of an “ecosystem” of “cheat detection and mitigation” systems, if it is to survive long term. We humans are deeply complex systems, with multiple levels of such systems. And I have spent over 50 years playing in the depths of that particular rabbit hole, starting from ethical and biochemical perspectives, then moving to strategic and logical and systems perspectives, and the step from binary logic to the infinite class of non-binary logics was an “interesting” one.

So nothing “simple” here, other than the absolute necessity for all rights to have a contextually appropriate level of responsibility.

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World government or something else

Is the world government the solution to Earth’s woes?

[ 17/November/21 ]

Like many others here – no – a singular government is always more problem than solution – for a vast array of reasons.

What is required is cooperation between all levels, classes and instances of diverse agents.

Some of the major problems with singular governance:

1/ Evidence is overwhelming that the real world is complex beyond the capacity of any computational entity to deal with in real time, thus every entity has to make contextually relevant simplifications of the context they are in. The more removed decision making is from the actual context, the greater the probability that the simplification chosen will be unsuitable to the context. All individuals contain vast processing capacity (most of it subconscious) and to survive we need to harness that effectively. That means devolving as much decision making as possible to individuals; and that will vary greatly with contexts. The more complexity and urgency present, the lower the utility of any form of central command. Traditionally this was one of the great strengths of market based systems, before new levels of automation fundamentally undermined their founding assumptions (last 20 years).

2/ In any system, any single critical point is vulnerable to 2 major failure modalities – single point of capture by a destructive agent, and single point of failure due to inadequate model of the situation. Both of those risks are minimized by having multiple classes and levels of cooperating agents with diverse trust and communication networks.

3/ There is no universally agreed role for governance. For some it is maintenance of those boundaries that are actually essential for the security of complex systems (like us, our cultures, our technological and scientific systems); and for others it is the maintenance of traditional systems. There are valid roles for both conservative and liberal views and actions in all systems, and what sort of balance is appropriate is always highly context sensitive.

4/ Any real expression of liberty must result in levels of diversity that in some instances are so different that they are essentially incomprehensible to other classes of agent. Real complexity with real liberty does actually deliver a potentially infinite class of such things. Provided all accept fundamental cooperation then they are actually our best route to long term security.

Any real sets of solutions to our current woes must accept a range of things that many are uncomfortable with:

Fundamental cooperation between all classes, instances and levels of complex agents;

Acceptance of notions like eternal novelty, fundamental uncertainty, maximal computational complexity that prevent totally accurate prediction of the future, even as they deliver ever more accurate ranges of probabilities;

Find a wide diversity of practical balances between tradition and creativity;

Accept that every level of freedom requires new levels of responsibility if it is to have a reasonable probability of surviving long term.

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Civilization type

What If Humanity Was a Type VII Civilization

[ 16/November/21 ]

This really has not examined the evidence we have even about the universe within which we exist, and is using logical forms so simplistic that it is almost childlike.

Just simplistic nonsense really.

The idea of “perfection” is a very simplistic notion that doesn’t allow for things we can already demonstrate, like maximal computational complexity and irreducible uncertainty.

Let’s focus on establishing reliable cooperation between all existing levels and classes of agents, and getting beyond the (no longer appropriate) market system of values currently dominating most minds, and realize that all new levels of complexity (and security and freedom) are necessarily built on new levels of cooperation; and that competition necessarily reduces both complexity and security.

And it is a deeply complex subject, as raw cooperation is always vulnerable to exploitation, and requires evolving ecosystems of cheat detection and mitigation systems in order to survive. An in depth understanding of evolutionary biology is really useful.

We need to start making serious moves to type two, and that will demand extra levels of responsibility from each of us, if it is not to be more problem than solution.

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Will the world end

Will the world end in 90,000 years to come?

[ 14/November/21 ]


We have reasonably strong evidence that it has been here for something over 4 billion years, and no real reason to suspect there is anything going to change that any time soon.

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One way to make the world safer

What’s one way we can make this world a safer place for all beings?

[ 14/November/21 ]

By understanding the mathematical and logical reality that fundamental competition is the enemy of both security and freedom, and that any real survivable expression of freedom must be based in cooperation, and must include the notion of responsibility. Any level of freedom that lacks sufficient responsibility and breaks any of the necessary sets of constraints required for complexity at that level to survive, self terminates. There is nothing wrong with a bit of competition, provided that it is built on a firmly cooperative base that respects the life and liberty of all competitors. Any form of competition that endangers the life or liberty of any is a danger to all.

There are far too many overly simplistic notions of liberty in existence today that are a direct threat to all of us.

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An AI system

Comment on Video – This is the Best Artificial Intelligence Model of 2021 – Megatron-Turing

[ 13/November/21 ]

Clearly this entire thing was generated by the AI, and it is getting quite good, but still clearly making mistakes a human would be unlikely to make.

And it is another step on a path.

The things that worries me (as someone with over 50 years interest in the deep levels of strategy embodied in evolutionary systems) about this entire strategy of a completely generalized system, is that it does not have the multiple levels of deeply embodied (and subconscious) systems that have been selected over deep time to avoid the worst of the strategic pitfalls for intelligence.

There are deep strategic dangers in any singular anything. There are deep levels of security in have multiple sets of cooperative diverse systems exploring different strategic territory simultaneously. The likelihood of them all simultaneously falling into one of the same classes of existential risk is greatly reduced, and if the cooperation is real, then all may actually survive due to the efforts of a small subset.

The diversity that our market based systems helped to sustain in the days before the advent of modern automation are now deeply threatened by those same market systems as exponential advances in automation drives the value of human labor below the costs of sustenance and thus from human life as measured in markets. That point has passed for many, and rapidly approaches for those remaining.

Every level of strategist in this endeavor needs to appreciate the evolutionary reality that all new levels of evolved complexity are predicated on new levels of cooperation, and that raw cooperation is vulnerable to exploitation, and thus requires evolving ecosystems of cheat detection and mitigation systems – all levels, recurs as deeply as required. At higher orders these instantiate as things like morality, legal systems, etc. And every level is vulnerable to exploitation, and no level is perfect, and each needs to be some contextually appropriate approximation to an optimal solution to the problem space. And changes in context sufficient to disrupt systems can be so subtle that they are difficult for many to detect.

I realized in 1974 (as I completed undergrad biochemistry) that indefinite life is the default mode for all cells; as every cell alive (in any life form) has an equal claim to being the first cell – so each is, in a real sense, some 3 billion years old – and all have undergone changes over that time. That convinced me that indefinite life extension was possible – difficult, and possible. The next question to occur was, given that biological life extension is possible, what sort of social, political and technical systems are required to give entities with a reasonable chance of living a very long time an actual set of contexts where there is a reasonable probability of doing so with reasonable degrees of freedom?

That entailed some reasonably deep enquiries into the nature of freedom, and what a reasonable balance between freedom and order/responsibility might look like in various sets of contexts. I did once manage to push such enquiries to 12 levels of abstraction, but communicating even a first order abstraction is often difficult, and the difficulty rises exponentially with every level beyond that (the search space expands exponentially). {On my blog site is a conversation over a year or so with Trick Slattery on the nature of freedom, but I could not get Trick to even consider a possibility beyond binary causality – so it did not go far. The space of non-binary logics is actually infinite.}

Every level of agent needs to be acutely aware of the long term risk of defection from cooperation in any context – as that break of trust can stay in sets of memories a very long time – potentially indefinitely – and that will have implications on degrees of freedom available.

Any form of AI that does not have such deep levels of embodied systems is a very high risk, to itself and everything around it.

Any team that is working on AI that fails to understand that is a threat to itself and everything around it.

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Should we have rationing/austerity

Should we bring back war-time rationing to save the planet?

[ 12/November/21 ]

Absolutely not.

The problem is not the ability of the planet to provide us with food.

We could feed everyone from the land areas of California if used efficiently.

The issues are deeply within the structure of the economic system, and the sort of value that markets measure.

And before anyone accuses me of being communist – no I am not. Central control is not a solution to the problem. We are dealing with complexity, and it demands both freedom and diversity, and they require cooperation – between all levels and instances of agent.

What we most need to get people caring about the environment is meeting all of their reasonable needs – not making them worse off.

We need abundance, not scarcity. The economic system needs scarcity to work. When most things were genuinely scarce that wasn’t an issue. Now that we have advanced automation that is perfectly capable of meeting the reasonable needs of everyone, then it is an issue – because the economic system cannot deliver that sort of abundance – it is contrary to the internal incentive structures of markets values.

Fundamental reform is required, and it is a deeply complex issue. Anyone who thinks it can be done simply is more problem than solution.

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How to make a difference

How can you make a difference in the world?


[ 12/November/21 ]

Be as responsible and cooperative as you can. And do so with awareness, there can be cheats out there that will exploit naïve cooperation, be alert, and be as cooperative as possible.

If something seems wrong, look deeply within yourself before looking outward to others.

Accept that mistakes must happen when dealing with novelty, and try not to make the same one too often, and cut others a bit of slack when they make some.

Accept the fact from the depths of evolutionary biology that all levels of complexity are built on new levels of cooperation, and that any level of competition that does not respect that fact is dangerous.

Accept that many aspects of reality are going to be more complex than you are capable of understanding at present, and be open to any particular one in fact being that way – even if it has behaved entirely predictably up until this point (something may have changed such that it no longer follows that pattern).

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