Eco – Enigma

Eco – Enigma

[ 9/January/23 Dirk Posted a quote from Umberto Eco “I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.”]

To me it is kind of close.

It seems clear to me that this reality we find ourselves in most probably contains fundamental uncertainties, yet at the normal scales of our perceptions, these systems very closely approximate classical causality (such systems could not maintain their structure unless this were the case).

Add in all the necessary evolutionary hacks to create survivable outputs with the least input of time and materials and energy, and you get what we observe – a strong tendency in human brains to over simplify that which is irreducibly complex and uncertain.

We have strong predispositions (at multiple levels) within our neural networks, and within social systems, to prefer being “right” rather than to admit of uncertainty and the potential for error.

Thus there is a tendency to condemn, and to demonize that which is different, rather than to accept uncertainty and diversity. Some power structures exploit these tendencies and use them to essentially trap individuals within sets of beliefs. Such systems teach that “faith” and “belief” are to be valued, provided only that they are their particular versions – all other versions needing to be exterminated. In some contexts such things propagate well, particularly in contexts where stress exists and can be maintained.

Teaching people about the deep nature of freedom and responsibility requires a lot of time and energy, and demands cooperation at levels that make exploitation difficult (approaching impossible), and are thus targeted by power structures intent on maintaining their own power.

Understanding that real freedom can only exist long term in a fundamentally cooperative environment, is not something that existing power and dogma wants to become commonly understood.

Understanding that individual freedom demands social responsibility is not something that the willfully ignorant want to see or accept.

Both are none the less real, and essential to our long term survival.

[followed by]

Gary Thomas
I am no fan of socialist control.
I am all for individual freedom. And I acknowledge the evolutionary and strategic realities that freedom without relevant responsibilities necessarily self terminates. So in this sense, there is a level of social cooperation demanded of any agent that wishes to maximise both freedom and the longevity.

A totally free agent (without any constraints), is necessarily destructive – literally a Bull in a china shop.

Exactly where that balance point is, that maximises both freedom and survivability, is extremely context sensitive.

So I am not making the case for any sort of single grand plan. I am clear that life is essentially a form of semi random search through possibility space.

I am explicitly making the case for as much diversity as is reasonably possible (all levels, all domains). And I am also clear, beyond any shadow of remaining reasonable doubt, that such optimisation demands cooperation between all levels and classes of agents.

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5 main challenges for 2023

What are the 5 main challenges that you would like everyone to face and win against this year?

[ 7/January/23 ]

To resist the temptation to make simple judgements about people and situations (unless urgency demands it).

To be able to see the good and the bad in everyone and every thing, and focus on the good, without ignoring the bad.

To be fundamentally cooperative (and part of that is making reasonable efforts to identify and mitigate cheating at every level).

To see the best in yourself, even when your blunders are “in your face”.

To make reasonable efforts to make yourself, your community, and your environment, a little bit better, every day. And sometimes that may be just having a wash so you don’t smell quite so bad to others 😉 .

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[ 4/January/23 ]

Theism makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective, even though it is most probably wrong, it is a useful approximation to the complexity present and it delivers simple rules for action in most contexts.

By the time you get to evolved systems as complex as us, the levels of complexity present are profound, and it takes quite a few years of study into quantum theory, biochemistry, non-binary logics, games theory (in non-binary logics), strategic topologies, behavioural biology, history, cosmology, computation, theory of search, …. to get a reasonable intuitive handle on just how complexity can evolve in certain very constrained contexts.

When one makes such a study, it becomes clear that reality is far more complex than any computational entity can deal with in anything approaching real time, and thus all computational entities must, of necessity, create some level of sub-conscious simplistic model of the reality within which they exist, that becomes the basis of their conscious experience.

Evolution necessarily heavily biases neural networks to prefer simple models to more complex ones, provided that the outputs those models are survivable.

The big issue for us, is that many of these cultural models effectively become mimetic organisms, and evolve their own forms of “immune systems” that tend to prevent invasion by any “foreign” mimetic complexes. No such things can be perfect (even in theory), but they can be remarkably effective in practice.

The big issue that we have, is that we are moving from simple technologies like fire and spears, to exponentially more complex technologies, with exponentially greater impact on the systemic contexts that make life such as us possible.

Once we learned enough to learn about what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, then we knew that we had to have very powerful technology if we want a really long term future. That much was reasonably obvious.

What is far less obvious to most, is that the evolution and survival of complexity is actually (at every level) founded upon and maintained by, cooperation. Any level of competition that is not firmly based in cooperation must lead to the destruction of that level of complexity. This is a level of complexity too far for many.

Many take the first steps into science and away from the security of the social dogma of their birth, but without letting go of the security of “Truth” and embracing the fundamental uncertainty (and consequent humility) that is required for any real exploration into any infinity. And we all need to operate in reality, so we all need operational heuristics that we use in practice, and we need to see them as “useful approximations” rather than as any sort of “Truth”. Some levels of theology seem to have quite usefully captured aspects of this notion, while still retaining other simple aspects of “Truth”.

So it is easy to find scientists with PhDs who firmly believe “Truths”, and theists who have accepted the ineffability of God – life really is that complex.

We all necessarily have neural networks strongly biased to accept the simplest model that actually works. In this sense, every carpenter uses “flat earth”. When building a house, a spirit level is used to give angles accurate enough for the purpose. At that scale, the world is flat, within the level of accuracy of any tool available. If one is sailing across the Pacific, one had better be using some approximation to round earth, if you want to get anywhere near where you want to be going. If building a GPS satellite network, then you need both quantum mechanics and general relativity.

We, as a species, need to accept that all models are most probably wrong in important ways, and some are much more useful in some contexts than others.

We need to accept that cooperation is fundamental to our long term survival, as is the ability to search at the boundaries (freedom).

So we need technology and social cohesion, as well as individual security and individual freedom – both are required. Security cannot ever be an absolute, and it can be usefully approximated at various scales. And no system of rules can ever work in all contexts; it is always and necessarily more complex than that!

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CO2 can be a problem

[ 30/December/22 Betty Lim posted “CO2 is not a problem”]

It’s like water.

Essential for life, yet too much and you drown.

Anything can be a problem, in an inappropriate concentration in an inappropriate context.

Oversimplifying things is a problem, if survival is the desired outcome.

CO2 will not destroy all life, but it may drown all coastal cities and infrastructure, given enough time. Just one of many things in this very complex reality we exist in that need to be managed within survivable limits.

[followed by “If we see each problem—be it water shortages, climate change, or poverty—as separate, and approach each separately, the solutions we come up with will be short-term, often opportunistic, “quick fixes” that do nothing to address deeper imbalances.”]

Yeah – kind of – I have a lot of time for Popper, and there is definitely a kind of clock -> cloud spectrum of complexity that occurs at different scales of space and time and energy density and context.

Most people are looking for simple solutions to immediate problems – I don’t see the world that way.

I see complexity where-ever I look, have done so for 50+ years.

So it is much more complex that CO2 and climate change, it is much more deeply about seeing ourselves as integral parts of this entire system of existence we call reality.

It is about seeing the fundamental needs for cooperation and responsibility at all levels; at the same time as we acknowledge the need for individuality and freedom. And every level of freedom always has to have boundaries if it is to avoid destroying the systems that make it possible; and those boundaries can be extremely context sensitive.

So yes – we have a lot to do, to much more closely approximate closing all the open material loops in our current technological systems; and to create social systems that ensure that all individuals have access to the fundamentals of existence, and experience reasonable degrees of freedom, and accept the responsibilities that must necessarily accompany such things (and that always demands much more than simply following any level or set of rules – reality does in fact seem to allow for infinite complexity).

And while Popper was definitely onto something, he was also profoundly ignorant of the depths of complexity present in biological systems like ourselves. I have been deeply interested in biochemistry and evolutionary strategy for over 50 years, and for all that I have learned, I am deeply conscious that what I know that I don’t know is vastly larger than what I know, and I suspect that what I don’t know, and don’t know that I don’t know is near infinitely larger again.

So yeah – I work where I can, when I can, to bring about both ecological and social survival with as much freedom as is reasonably possible – and that is hard when most people are so profoundly and willfully ignorant.

And in my younger days I did quite a bit of free diving, and was able to hold my breath for 7.5 minutes, but by 8 minutes CO2 was very definitely a problem for me – it did not leave me much consciousness at all.

[followed by]

Kind of – but not really.

It’s deeper than that.

It is the incentive structures in the systems that bought evolution to this point, the point where people have this deep urge to simplify the irreducibly complex to something essentially self terminating.

It seems to me the most likely solution to the Drake equation.

When intelligence gets to this scale, the need to simplify produces what we see, and the depths of the cooperation required to sustain complexity is lost – and the system self terminates. There are ways to avoid it, and they require both cooperation and responsibility, in most non-naive way possible.

I don’t see any other survivable option, not in any class of logic I have explored.

I like the idea of surviving!

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A priori

Foundations of Logic

[ 28/December/22 Walter Kant asked:
A priori?
The first perception of the world (universe) with two eyes, even without experience, implies space (static) and time (dynamic, when something is moving).
Space and time exist ontologically a priori!
Do you agree? Yes, No, ?]

The set of possible postulates for possible inference appears to be infinite (though many subsets seem to have degrees of equivalence).

Thus it appears possible to spend infinite time on any set of postulates (any class of logic).

It appears that we exist as a result of the initially simple, but exponential more complex, process of evolution by natural selection operating over some 4 billion years of life on this planet, and in a cultural milieu that is some hundreds of thousands of years old running in a strategically equivalent evolutionary process, and we each thus come with multiple levels of ‘a posteriori’ knowledge embedded within us as a result of these “realities” sorting various approximations to the survivable in various “contexts”.

It appears that some 80% of the activity of our neural network’s activity is generated internally, and is thus primarily some functional mix of the a posteriori knowledge selected over the deep times of genetic and cultural evolution, mixed with some degree of randomness (and as we know from database theory, for a fully loaded processor, the most efficient search possible is the fully random search – which then poses the question as to how a system so heavily constrained can approximate randomness, … ).

It appears that the constraints of evolution to respond to survival contexts in a time that is survivable, have heavily biased our neural networks to select and use the simplest of possible logics, and the simplest sets of dimensions that usually deliver survivable outcomes in the time available – hence the strong preference at multiple levels for binary logics and 4 dimensional spacetime.

It seems that very few individuals have both the time and interest to do any significant exploration in the infinities beyond those evolutionary “ground states”.

The understandable bias to prefer the simple, and the understandable demands for social agreement, lead to the emergence of reasonably stable and relatively simple sets of “understandings” that only approximate the reality of our existence in very simple sets of contexts (at every level of “structural complexity”). Our reality seems to be far more complex than most sets of social constructs or sets of social agreements, allow for.

It seems beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that any set of competitive strategies that are not firmly based in cooperation are necessarily destructive of the systemic complexity that allowed for their emergence. Cooperation seems to be systemically and strategically fundamental to the emergence and survival of every level of complexity – necessarily, logically (in all classes of logic I have explored), eternally!

This seems to be a useful approximation to the simplest sketch of what it is to be human, and what the foundations of logic look like, that has any reasonable probability of long term survival.

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[ 26/December/22 Walter Smith wrote
Dualities of mathematics (and logic):
Can the dualities of mathematics (and logic) lead to errors in reasoning and incorrectness in physics?
Yes, no, ?
(Can these dualities be replaced by non-dualities?
Yes, no, ?)]

The simplest of possible distinctions are dualities, hot/cold, wet/dry, true/false.

It is possible to consider logics with more than 2 states (like trinary – true/false/undecided).

The universe does not need to conform to our distinctions, in fact it seems to me that the more closely I examine it, the more fundamentally uncertain and complex it seems to be; and at the same time (necessarily) it does very closely approximate classical causality at the normal scale of our existence and perceptions (such complexity as we embody could not exist unless that were so).

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Greatest Risk to Humanity

With the current world-wide political situation, what do you believe is the biggest risk to humanity?

[ 25/December/22 ]

Looking for overly simplistic answers to deeply complex questions.

If there is a simple answer to any of this, it comes in the demand upon each and every one of us, each to the best of our limited and fallible abilities, to be responsible and cooperative, and to mitigate cheating, at every level we are capable of (looking within more deeply than we look outside ourselves).

The more deeply I have explored the nature of this reality we seem to find ourselves in, the more deeply I have explored the nature of strategy, across many of the infinite possible classes of logic, the more likely it seems that our long term survival is predicated upon responsibility and cooperation, even in the face of fundamental uncertainty.

Many traditions have given it many names: love, humility, respect, acceptance, …. It seems to be what is demanded of us, and it gives no guarantees, and it does seem, beyond any remaining shadow of reasonable doubt, to offer the greatest probability of long term survival, of freedom, of creativity, of interest – the greatest potential for being truly human!

We all have a deep tendency to look for simplicity, and in many contexts that is useful and appropriate, but in the deepest of questions it is utterly inappropriate. We need to be able to accept that we are all necessarily, eternally, profoundly ignorant, however knowledgeable we may be, and to act accordingly, with respect for any and all diversity that is not an actual and unreasonable threat to our existence.

A strong tendency to follow leaders with simple messages, to demonize those who are in any way different; that is one of the greatest dangers we face. The twin of that, is a tendency to over confidence in matters where we should have profound uncertainty and respect. Anyone who thinks intelligence is simple, has not studied evolution sufficiently deeply. The nature of recursive strategic evolutionary contexts has been of profound interest to me for over 50 years; and in that time I have learned a little of the profound levels of complexity necessarily present in intelligence. Humility is an appropriate response to such contexts. The failings of current economic and political and technological systems, structures and thought are profound.

I am cautiously optimistic for a great future, and it is by no means a certain thing. It demands from each of us the highest levels of responsibility we can find within ourselves; and the willingness to act accordingly (irrespective of any group agreement we may have been within). Yet to get there, we each need to find that internal balance, neither too confident, nor too timid; alert for error, yet willing to act when necessary. Nothing even remotely simple!

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What motivates someone to want to change/improve the world for everyone’s benefit rather than just their own self-interest?

[ 17/December/22 ]

If someone has a reasonable expectation of living a very long time (thousands of years), and if one has digital memory that doesn’t forget; then it is in ones own self interests to take all reasonable steps to ensure that everyone has reasonable degrees of freedom and reasonable access to resources; such that they are able to do whatever they reasonably and responsibly choose.

When someone spends a few years looking deeply into the mathematics and logic of the evolution of complex systems, it becomes clear that all levels of complexity are made possible by new levels of cooperation. Any competition that does not have a cooperative base is necessarily destructive of that level of complexity.

So in a very deep sense, it is self interest that motivates many (including myself) to improve things for the benefit of all – self included.

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Philosophy – science

[ 16/December/22 ]

It seems to me that philosophy and science were once the same thing. What seems to be required is some sort of belief that something exists other than the thing thinking (and the genetic biases in our neural networks along with a little bit of experience usually give us that), and then a willingness to question anything that one seems to have good reason to question, and a desire to explore beyond previous boundaries (all dimensions), and being prepared to admit of prior error.

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World without wars

What are your thoughts on the possibility of a world without wars? How do you think we could achieve that goal as a global community of nations/people united under one cause or belief (e.g. peace)?

[ 13/December/22 ]

It seems clear to me that world peace is possible, and in fact necessary if we want a long term future, but the idea of uniting under one belief is not.

If freedom is to have any real meaning (and it needs to if we are to have any significant probability of a long term future, as freedom is an essential part of efficient search in the space of eternal unknowns), then what is demanded is cooperation between diversity with the physical and strategic constraints imposed by the reality of the existence we find ourselves in.

Search produces novelty, outliers, eternally. Some few of them are essential to long term survival, but we cannot know which ahead of time – that is the nature of really complex systems.

So world peace, Yes – both possible an necessary.

Any sort of singular cause or belief structure, No – other than the necessity of accepting the need for cooperation and experimentation and diversity if we are to have a reasonable probability of surviving the unknown unknowns.

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