Counter to Tom’s post on Covid

[ 2/Feb/21 Tom stated on facebook – …”New Zealand and Australia are in their non-flu season summertime, meaning everybody returns to being healthy, right? So of course it is then made to look that the reason they’re healthy right now is because they locked down so supremely. What a lie.”]

Sorry Tom – but that is simply self serving BS!

Look at the actual evidence.

NZ did lockdown and contact trace (twice – second time not as severe as the first, because systems were better).

Everyone was supported to have enough resources to survive during lockdown.

Lockdown was complied with enough to allow all those infected to be traced and moved to high security facilities (Hotels isolated for the purpose).

Lots of mistakes were made, and lots of lessons learned.

Systems are far from perfect, and they are good enough for the current situation.

Here are the facts:

Our first recorded case was on 28th February 2020, the second on 13th March.
On 19th March borders closed except to returning residents (who needed to self isolate for 14 days).
21st March the 4 tier system announced.
On 25th March we entered Level 4 Lockdown (everyone except essential workers stay at home, all schools closed).
29th March was first Covid death reported (we were already in lockdown).
2nd April a state of national emergency declared.
The peak of new cases was 89, on both the 2nd and 5th of April.
By 19th April new cases were at single figures.
27th April we moved from Alert level 4 to 3 – allowing a little more freedom of movement.
13th May, after 2 consecutive days of no new cases we went to alert level 2.
22nd May was last reported community case.
8 June we went to Alert level 1 – basically free movement with recording of places visited to make contact tracing easier.
22 people died in that outbreak.

Thereafter only new cases were those found in managed isolation at the border until:
11 August 4 new community cases reported
12 August Auckland goes to level 3, the rest of the country to level 2 – the case seems to me to have very probably to have started from a virus picked up from frozen meat from the USA handled at a facility in South Auckland, but no way to actually prove that – and it remains the most probable explanation (to me – personally).
Several sub-outbreaks through church meeting groups.
Peak of cases 14 on 1 September with 2 deaths on 5th Sept and one on 16th.
23 Sept Auckland goes to level 2
26 Sept – The final case of that outbreak.
7 Oct Auckland back to level 1.
Life reasonably normal except for lack of tourists.
23 Jan 2021 – a community case reported where they had contracted it in their final days in manage isolation at the border from someone else in the facility. Contact tracing and self isolation immediately invoked for all contacts.
28 Jan 2 more direct transmission cases identified (already in self isolation – moved to quarantine).
Nothing more to date, despite testing of about 10,000 possible contacts per day for several days.
Lots of people self isolating at present. 5 days of no new community cases.

[followed by]

It is summer now, and we had no virus in winter.

New Zealand is a small enough place that most everyone interested in any subject has over a reasonable life span met most of the others interested in that subject.

It is very difficult to actually keep a conspiracy quiet, particularly in the public service (and most of our testing is done through the public service).

So, in a sense, it is always possible to mount a conspiracy, but to mount one of that magnitude in this country, would be very difficult indeed.

I have not entirely dismissed the possibility of a grand conspiracy, and it does seem to be very low probability, based upon the evidence sets I have at this time, from the people I have reliable trust networks with in this country.

The possibility of pandemic has always been with us. On the scale of possible pandemics, this is about as mild as it gets.

If we got a really dangerous pandemic, then the only effective strategy is immediate and full isolation, until an effective mitigation strategy is available (probably vaccine, at least until people generally are carrying personal medical nanotechnology in their blood streams, and that technology is still more than a decade away).

That is never going to go away.

At some level, and for some time, isolation is always the most effective mitigation strategy possible – it breaks the infection cycle.

[followed by]

Why would you expect anything else?

Most people do have some sort of common sense.

When people they know start dying then most people start taking this seriously, and the rate of spread slows as a result of those millions of individual assessments.

Why would you expect anything else?

Why are you using that to justify conspiracy?

It doens’t !!!

That isn’t proof that there isn’t a conspiracy, it is simply not proof that there is one.

[followed by 3rd Feb]

I have been an advocate of a UBI for many years as a necessary transition function in the move from scarcity to abundance based thinking.

That to me is an entirely different class of problem from pandemics.

It seems clear to me that this is a real but relatively mild pandemic.

No pandemic makes an impact on overall death figures if it is controlled.

It is if left uncontrolled, to run its course, that you would see significant change in death figures, and more importantly, a significant percentage of people who require ongoing care, unable to work. One of the four people in our community who got it is still in that category, 10 months after getting it.

Yes we have a need for a major shift in our world financial systems (not just financial, but many other systems also), and yes some sort of shock is required to initiate change, but I do not see that those two things are necessarily related in this instance.

The idea that everything that happens does so for someone’s purpose is, to my understanding, to vastly overestimate the impact of human control. Sometimes sh*t just happens. This seems to be one of those times.

Now the next question is, how do people with agendas (of which we have no shortage) react to such perturbations to what was “normality”. In that arena I would expect to see a lot of opportunistic behaviour from many different sets of groups. None of that behaviour is any proof that any of those groups had anything to do with the emergence of this virus.

To actually do such a thing, in this day and age. To actually make a decision to knowingly take millions of lives, would leave one exposed to a significant loss of liberty.

Such people tend to have high valance for liberty.

Thus to me, it seems entirely possible that the origin did not involve the intentional activity of anyone in the first instance.

Thereafter, sure, lots of groups taking advantage of “opportunities” – that always happens.

Everything else you say I can go along with.

[Tom raised Sweden – 3 Feb]

Sweden is much more cooperative than the US.

In Sweden, the authorities only need to suggest doing something and many of the population will comply (if what is suggested seems reasonable considering the needs of all in the community).

Thus Sweden did not need to go into a hard lockdown. And the Swedes acknowledge that they made an error in not treating it more seriously earlier. Their death toll is actually very close to the USA on a per capita basis.

Populations in countries that have long harsh winters know that cooperation and planning and social cohesion are essential for survival – that lesson gets reinforced every year.

In countries with milder climates that lesson can get lost, as the harsh events demanding cooperation for survival come with lower frequency, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t come.

Our survival as individuals within populations is always dependent on our ability to cooperate as a population in the face of such challenges.

We have many such challenges in front of us now, but so few people are yet sufficiently aware to see them.

Compare Sweden to NZ.

Sweden has a death toll of about 1,150 per million, the USA about 1,260 (not that different), and New Zealand has 5 (very different).

We went into hard lockdown early (for two months), and put in strict border quarantine, and have reasonable contact tracing measures in place. We have had 3 subsequent outbreaks (two from border issues and one that hasn’t got hard evidence but circumstantial evidence suggests surface contamination on imported frozen products), all of which were managed and contained without hard lockdowns (because of contact tracing capacities in place).

Life is fairly normal for most of us here, except that we don’t have the hoards of foreign tourists that we normally have (hard for tourism based industries).

So from where I sit the evidence suggests very different interpretations from those you seem to be taking. I can supply some very large spreadsheets (that I have assembled from data I take from the Johns Hopkins site every day (and have done so since 25th March last year – I think I have missed 6 days in total in that time, for various reasons – so a reasonably complete dataset). I also have very detailed spreadsheets of what happened in NZ, from our first reported case on 28 Feb onwards. I am a data geek – always have been.

[Tom sent me to a youtube video of an economist making claims about statistics – clearly bogus when I actually checked with the dataset she said she referenced.]

Sorry – but the claims made by that economist in the video you linked me to are just wrong. Utter fabrication.

I went to the site she said she got her data from – the cdc site:
I downloaded the data myself, put it in a spreadsheet – and the excess covid mortality is clearly there in the week by week statistics. The weekly total deaths go up by the amount of the covid deaths that week – week after week.
I can send the spreadsheet if you are interested.

But given that you keep bringing up these completely bogus claims, I am starting to suspect that you are not interested in any data that conflicts with your beliefs.

The excess death toll is there, clearly, in all the stats, and that is with less than 8% of the population having caught it.
Without the lockdowns, about 80% of the population would have caught it by now, and you would be looking at an annual death toll twice what is normal, with half of it coming from covid 19 cases.

That is as close as it gets to fact.

Covid is real – no ifs buts or otherwise.

You have gone so far down this particular conspiracy rabbit hole that you have actually lost contact with reality – sorry – but that is fact.

I really hope that no-one you love dies as a result of these delusions.

If you do nothing else, believe it is a serious issue, causing significant excess deaths. That is real, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt – supported by the very datasets that idiot on the youtube link you sent said she got her data from.

Stay safe.

Posted in Nature, Our Future, understanding | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A counter to one of Tom’s antivax posts

[ 28/Jan/21 Tom posted against polio virus]

The action of this virus is fairly well understood.

You are becoming a danger to those you love Tom.

Wake UP !

[followed by …” If you look at your own health history, you will see it was your interventions that cost you your health”…]


Without antibiotics and vaccines I would most probably have died in childhood. Certainly without antibiotics I would have died at 12, and at 17.

Certainly, the economic incentives to make profit have resulted in the hiding of evidence, and the pollution of the environment at many levels.

Certainly one can find instances of such behaviour in any domain one looks, every industry sector, all institutions, politics, education, religions, ……

And via testing and evaluation of evidence, personally, we can build confidence in the use of sets of understandings in sets of contexts.

Understanding the evolutionary process of life on earth gives a framework in which viruses are a necessary aspect, as are immune systems at all levels. Same sets of systems and principles apply to the evolution of cultures and individuals (you and me and everyone else). It is seriously complex.

[Followed by Tom presented two graphs

The graphs are perfectly sensible to me – but as you have explicitly stated that you are not interested in Big Bang, evolution or “exteriorist assumption” then there really is no point in presenting you with evidence, as you have already explicitly stated you are not interested in evidence that contradicts your understanding.

I give up.

It is a real shame to see such a potentially talented person as yourself disappearing down such a socially destructive path.

[Tom replied – “Explain the graphs and stop dissembling.”]

The graphs are simple.

The first one shows that medical technology was progressing, and death rates were dropping far quicker than infections rates (person hygiene helps reduce infection rates but wasn’t improving as fast as medical tech).

The introduction of the vaccine caused a major drop in infections (but because a single dose didn’t deliver lasting immunity, and because not everyone was vaccinated, the virus survived at low levels). It virtually disappeared after the booster shot was introduced.

What is so difficult to see about that.

[followed by 30 Jan 21 …” Either way, so much for vaccines actually doing anything regarding death, right? That is the essential point but you so conveniently evade.”]

The major issue with measles was never death from measles, that was always rare, and by the 60s with the medical tech then available very rare indeed.

The major issue with measles was that it reset the immune system of those who caught it, making them again vulnerable to all the illnesses that they had previously survived and built some level of immunity to.

This lead to a lot of down time, and a huge social and medical cost. I certainly had personal experience of that.

It was never just about the risk of death from measles.

It was always vastly more complex and nuanced than that.

[Tom also asked – “OK, so that’s the one graph. Now explain the other.”[0]=AZWSKZCOADjgjsZuMB8Z01nH0G5F00pasf6XhpMpfSRz3zviSMF9JC3OSGZFYsc06VH66eCoQO-HNWILIQMo-QdwqjvIANwl3kcoShprTpwGEPLt4d2jMQEMUycHx-jJlUw&tn=R]-R]


The second image needs no more explanation than already given.

Deaths from measles was always quite rare – even at the peak of 1916 less than 500/million (less than one in 2000). The graph overlays two scales.

The total infant mortality is in deaths per 2,000. So measles deaths even at peak was a tiny portion of total deaths – measured directly as deaths from measles.

The total deaths with an involvement from measles in non infants was probably much higher, as many people did and do die form complications of infections of diseases that they get for a second or third time as a result of having got measles in between.

I simply do not understand what implication you are taking from those graphs as you have not explicitly stated it.

I see nothing there that I find unexpected – given my knowledge set and sets of interpretive schema.

[Tom replied “more Ted dissembling”]



I have no idea what it is that you see in that graph that appears to indicate something significant to you.

You need to tell me that, so that I have some clue as to what schema you are applying, and what it is you expect from me in terms of communication.

I do not see any implications in that graph that indicate to me a serious problems.

I didn’t die from measles, but I did spend many weeks of my life in bed disabled, with intense headaches, unable to think effectively, because of them, prior to getting vaccinated. After each measles infection I caught other diseases with low probability of death, but also requiring fever and bed rest to recover, and I have not had a sick day as a result of measles (or its implications of loss of immunity to other things) since being vaccinated (some 50 years ago).

Not every cost is one involving death.

If you tell me explicitly what you think that graph means and explicitly tell me what it is about the evidence set that you think supports a particular interpretation, then I can consider that, and give you an explicit considered response at that level.

I know that I often point to multiple levels of evidence in what I write without being explicit, and that is because I often have multiple levels of evidence and schema, and often there is no agreed labels or words for the schema I use (because I have never had a conversation with anyone else that indicate that they were using precisely what I use). An example of that was a conversation I had with Richard Dawkins on 15 May 2018, in which it became clear to me that Richard had no idea at all about the strategic understanding of the emergence of complexity that I took from reading the evidence sets in his book “The Selfish Gene” when I first read it in 1978.

I have read everything Richard has published over the years, and find them all interesting; and at the same time I am clear that he simply lacks the abstract conceptual framework to make the abstract conclusions that were immediately obvious to me on reading his books. It is hard for me to imagine how someone could assemble such evidence sets, yet be blind to their necessary implications – yet I see it happen at multiple levels in multiple contexts with many very intelligent individuals.

In part, what that has taught me, is that it is impossible to teach another person an abstract notion. Everyone has to discover each level of abstraction for themselves. By the time one is considering abstractions about abstractions about abstractions, then being confident about what someone else is saying or pointing to becomes very difficult. When one gets past 10 levels of such things confidence about communication drops to near random.

One can assemble sets of evidence and contexts in which the probability of such abstractions increases, and there can be no guarantees. In a sense, that is what Landmark Education does, but most of the people in the organisation seem unaware of it, and have an entirely different interpretive schema about what is going on (same seems to be the case in most disciplines – educational, religious, political, ….).

The search tree I have of possible interpretations (and levels of interpretations) is vast, and without a lot of clues, I have no way to localise to any particular interpretation about the question being considered or the interpretation taken of the evidence presented.

What level of indirection is implied in the pointers used?

What depth of meaning and interpretation is being hinted at?

Help me – Please !

[Tom replied about Dawkins …””…]

For me, he had seen a small part of the picture, but failed to grasp the deeper systemic implications.
All complexity is based on new levels of cooperation.
All cooperation demands levels of cheat detection strategies in order to survive.
That often leads to deep levels of complexity and relatedness that are open to many levels of over simplification; lead to serious pathologies in multiple levels of systems, thinking, and behaviour.

[Tom replied …”I am hard pressed to think our evolutionary history would leave us so dependent on any form of immune intervention as to be effectively a broken, substandard operational system.”]

Hi Tom
You wrote “I am hard pressed to think our evolutionary history would leave us so dependent on any form of immune intervention as to be effectively a broken, substandard operational system.”

Which to me shows a failure to adequately comprehend both what evolution is doing, and what immune systems are doing.

In broad terms, what I see happening in evolution is essential aspects of random search through possibility spaces.

Viruses use aspects of random mutation in areas of their genome to essentially “search” the space of possible “infection pathways”, and our immune systems used a much more refined form of directed random mutation over a very small subset of our genome to search the spaces of both patterns of invading protein structures, and strategies of invasion.

When viewed in this fashion, immune systems cannot possibly be “perfect” as they are of necessity searching infinite and unknowable domain spaces. And they can be a very close approximation to optimal in some contexts. And that gets very complex as to what approximates optimality, and exactly what the rate limiting factors to response are in any particular individual in any particular context. And it seems clear to me from my investigations that in most people, most of the time, it is vitamin C that is the rate limiting factor in immune system response.

And when viewed in this fashion, vaccines can be a very useful tool, as they allow the immune system to find and develop an effective identifier for an invader (like measles) without subjecting the body the the full suite of damages possible from a live virus attack. Once such identification is made, then the immune system is able to mount an effective response to very low levels of invasion in the future, and prevent the expression of any noticeable form of symptoms. This is the definition of an effective immune system – operating effectively.

In this sense, I fail to see any fundamental objection to the use of vaccines.

Certainly, there are many levels of potential issues with all the various sets of technologies used in making, storing and delivering a vaccine, so there are lots of things that need to be done well to lower those risks from these aspects of the technology.

[Tom replied – “All verifiable with an easily manipulable PCR test! I’m not so naive to think there exists no or little choreograph regarding this “virus.””… and “Isn’t it summer now in New Zealand? Where oh where did those flu symptoms go??”]


It is summer now, and we had no virus in winter.

New Zealand is a small enough place that most everyone interested in any subject has over a reasonable life span met most of the others interested in that subject.

It is very difficult to actually keep a conspiracy quiet, particularly in the public service (and most of our testing is done through the public service).

So, in a sense, it is always possible to mount a conspiracy, but to mount one of that magnitude in this country, would be very difficult indeed.

I have not entirely dismissed the possibility of a grand conspiracy, and it does seem to be very low probability, based upon the evidence sets I have at this time, from the people I have reliable trust networks with in this country.

The possibility of pandemic has always been with us. On the scale of possible pandemics, this is about as mild as it gets.

If we got a really dangerous pandemic, then the only effective strategy is immediate and full isolation, until an effective mitigation strategy is available (probably vaccine, at least until people generally are carrying personal medical nanotechnology in their blood streams, and that technology is still more than a decade away).

That is never going to go away.

At some level, and for some time, isolation is always the most effective mitigation strategy possible – it breaks the infection cycle.

[2 Feb 2021 – to another post of Toms written while I was writing the above]

In respect of polarity and individual vs population, I am a qualified yes.

Yes, certainly, that is a useful approximation in many contexts, and the reality seems to be far more complex and dimensional that a simple “polar” analogy implies. Thus the idea of polarity is to me useful, but not any sort of “Truth”.

And in so far as science is an eternal journey of the exploration of complexity then our explanations tend to become “less wrong” over time, without necessarily ever attaining the title of “Truth”.

In this respect, I dislike the very notion of “Truth” as it seems to embody a disrespect for the complexity that seems, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt in my mind, to actually constitute this reality we find ourselves embedded in.

We seem to be of a sufficient order of complexity, that should we live the rest of eternity, learning continuously, we would still be finding aspects of what we are that would be surprising, and would retain some essential elements of ignorance as to our own being at some levels. That to me just seems to be logical necessity, once one actually starts exploring at sufficient depth.

So yes – polarity can be an extremely useful notion in some contexts, as a simplification, and it does not seem to me to be any sort of “Truth”. Much of reality seems to me to be far more complex than that – and it is certainly a lot better than many of the simpler forms of “Truth”, in many practical contexts.

And sometimes the demands of time and lack of information demand simplifications in order to do something survivable in the time available to change directions (in whatever set of dimensions or abstractions or strategy one is considering). Nothing simple about any dimension of existence!

Posted in Technology, understanding | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Follow-on from the a post on Tesla coming from Venus

[ 29/Jan/21 – on Tom’s Facebook page]


I am not 100% certain of anything.

I deal in sets of evidence and balance of probabilities between competing explanatory sets.

And I have actually examined vast sets of evidence, and applied very large sets of explanatory frameworks to some of those sets of observations.

When a framework consistently fails to explain a set of observations, I assign a very low probability to that framework, and once that has happened it takes very strong evidence sets to make me revisit the evaluation.

I have very strong evidence sets that Venus has a very dense atmosphere that is mostly CO2, and is thus inhospitable to any form of life like us. So the idea of a human being surviving or evolving on Venus has a very low probability <0.00000000000001, and is thus, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt – utter nonsense (actually the idea of a human being evolving anywhere else in the galaxy has a probability near to zero – intelligent life certainly, but not human).

I don’t know what reality in total is.

All I have is sets of explanations that seem to have proved reliable in sets of contexts. Some of those sets of contexts are quite broad.

Being an autistic spectrum geek, I have a brain that forgets very little, and allows me to explore sets of conjectures in seconds that would take me years to explain to any other human being. I have been doing that for most of my waking hours for over 50 years. I am a very long way from “normal”.

Since October 1974, when I completed undergraduate biochemistry at Waikato university and became convinced by the evidence sets then available to me that indefinite life extension was possible (not precisely how to do it, but just that it was possible and would be done provided technological society and freedom survived), the primary question on my mind has been: Given that we will some day develop the ability to extend biological life indefinitely, what sort of social, political and technical institutions are actually required to give potentially very long lived individuals a reasonable probability of actually living a very long time with reasonable degrees of freedom and resources?

I have far more open questions than closed ones; but not about humans on other planets.

The evidence to me seems entirely clear that Tesla was just a human being, very like me, able to clearly model things that very few others can, and capable of making significant errors in the process due to necessary ignorance in the face of infinities. I think I would have enjoyed talking to him had I the opportunity to meet him.

The evidence for me is clear beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt the viruses are real, and that vaccines work – which is not to say that any particular vaccine or vaccine producing technology is without issues. Multiple levels of issues are possible, and we need to be alert to them; but that is true of every form of technology, from cars to aircraft, electricity to pharmaceuticals – any and all tools can be used for any purpose, and can have unintended consequences.

And on balance, vaccines are a very useful tool for our survival as a species, and as with all tools, they need to be used with care and responsibility.

I do not currently have confidence that the sets of markets incentives currently present do in fact tend to produce sufficiently responsible behaviour at all levels – but that is not an issue with vaccines as a concept – it is something very much deeper and goes to the heart of the games-theoretic structures that underpin most of modern economics – they are founded upon assumptions that are no longer a reasonable approximation to our situation.

We met via ZAADZ – which was Brian’s intentional attempt to create the seeds of a long term future for humanity. I have had a lot of disagreements with Brian over the ensuing years, but I remain committed to the long term future of humanity in general, and me in particular. I thought you had it too, but you seem to be going down some very destructive pathways over recent years.

[followed by Tom replied that life extension was impossible due to changingness]


You have electronic storage devices.

The operating systems on those do not change.

They have multiple mechanisms to check, detect and repair errors that might happen in the code.

Indefinite life extension in humans will be like that.

We will need to periodically reset the DNA. Fortunately the fact that our systems have “stem cells” that can take on any function, means that we only need to periodically replace all the stem cells, and then progressively remove cells from tissues leading to stem cells with refreshed DNA taking over and conforming to the needs of the context they find themselves in (due to chemical signaling from neighbours).

It gets a bit more complex when dealing with brain tissue, where the subtleties of the neuronal connections have significant impact on who we are, and even there we will be able to use nanotechnology that does not yet exist, but it clearly on the current development trajectories, to be able to repair and replace any damaged systems.

It is not a trivial issue, but it is certainly achievable.

Keeping multiple sets of backups of our individual DNA, and periodically comparing them, and fixing any errors discovered, should ensure that we are able to keep the DNA sequence we want indefinitely. And I am not opposed in principle to periodic “updates” to fix identified issues, or to add interesting capabilities. So in that sense there will always be change.

I am not exactly the same as I was yesterday (no-one ever is).

Keeping similar backup copies of the details of neuronal connections is not yet something we can do, but should certainly be achievable this century, possibly by the end of next decade.

Most bacteria do not have limited life spans. They can be killed, but they can also live on indefinitely. Once I realised that (in 1974) then I knew that the fundamental programming of cellular life is indefinite, and with a little digital assistance, we will be able to extend that to life at our level of complexity.

So certainly, there are technical issues to overcome, but no theoretical limit that prevents indefinite life extension. We have solved most of the major issues that I identified in 1974.

I strongly suspect that a small set of people already know how to extend life indefinitely, but they have not yet developed technology to be able to deploy it to everyone who wants it (which will. I strongly suspect, be most people), and without that capability it is dangerous to all. When actually given the option of having their young capable pain free bodies back, and sufficient resources and freedom to do whatever they responsibly choose, I suspect most people will want it.

[followed by 30 Jan 21]

I see no evidence of “energies that constitute and maintain life”. That sort of Elan Vital explanatory framework has been invalidated and replaced by evolutionary systems – the evidence for that is overwhelming to me. I have looked deeply and see no evidence at all for a “constituting field of life” on Earth.

And I can see how, if someone has not spent enough years engaged in biochemistry and systems, that such an explanation has a certain level of utility, and is close enough to be useful in many contexts, but not in the way you used it above.

Sure, life is deeply complex, far more complex than most people have ever considered the possibility of.

Sure, most of the attempts to date to impact it have been based on overly simplistic understandings, and many have caused many more problems than they have solved.

Sure, there have been some vaccines that have fallen into that category, and for the most part I am happy that vaccines do in fact work and are in fact of benefit, and I have clear evidence of that from my personal life.
Prior to the measles vaccine I spent about 4 months of my life in bed, in pain, as a result of repeated measles infections (and mumps as a result of measles eliminating my resistance to the infections I had previously experienced). Since getting the measles vaccine I would not have had 2 weeks in total bedridden because of any form of illness. I grew up the child of a poor rural family.

There is certainly evidence at multiple levels for selection of short lifespans in complex organisms.

At one level, the organisms with long lifespans are still simple (bacteria). The generation times need to be short enough that complexity can actually emerge and populations can actually change over time, and not be dominated by particularly strong individuals that live a very long time. In another sense, it is idea of antagonistic pleiotropy (as per Williams and Medawar) operating at the level of telomere length that determines a balance between age limit and cancer susceptibility. So developing alternative anti-cancer strategies is a necessary part of any real life extension treatment. It is a very complex suite of issues present – I am very clear about that. And yes – 120 is about the telomere limit for most at present, and it does produce the “creeping senescence” and progressive loss of function across systems that we observe. The mechanism is well understood amongst those with a serious interest in such things. And that is the major target of the strategy I outlined earlier.

What you describe as “a macro-environmental limitation on their attempts to extend their lives” is, in the sense you describe it, purely illusion, that is in fact produced by an entirely different set of factors, and the evidence for that is beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt for those who have taken the time to seriously develop the tools to do such explorations (and I get that is a very small subset of humanity).

Posted in Longevity, Nature, Our Future, understanding | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Foundations of Logic – the difference between reality and its appearance

[ 27/Jan/21 – Facebook – Foundations of Logic – Walter Kant asked – The dualistic doctrine says: there is the difference between reality and its appearance;
and my question is:
How far can reality be from its appearance if this appearance has 4D dimensions (spacetime) with causalities?
1/ Reality, like its appearance, is in 4D dimensions with causalities
2/ reality is transcendent to its appearance (outside of this appearance?)]

Hi Walter,

For me, the evidence is overwhelming that reality is more complex than the computational systems of my brain can possibly deal with in detail, so evolution has demanded that the subconscious systems of brain produce a simplistic predictive model of reality that is all that is ever available to me to experience consciously, and from which the attention directing systems of brain bring my notice to where inputs from experience differ significantly from expected.

The degree to which significance varies with context is huge (many orders of magnitude).

The degree to which synaptic level protein systems influence context is huge.

It gets seriously complex very quickly.

[followed by]

Walter Kant
1 seems to be often a useful approximation in many contexts, and reality also seems to contain multiple sources of fundamental uncertainty, and a few unknowables. Most modern physical theories use more than 4 dimensions (11 is quite common). Some approximation to causality is required, at least in a probabilistic form. So in the same sense that Newtonian mechanics is a useful enough approximation to allow a landing on the moon, then yes, but Newtonian mechanics cannot produce a working GPS system.

So in the sense that one requires at least 4 dimensions, and at least some form of probabilistic causality – then yes 1. But not in any sense “harder” than that – only in the soft sense of probabilistic causality.

[followed by]

Hi Walter,

Like Dirk says – at our normal scale – 3D plus time works.

When you start to look very closely, and very small scales of space and time (or the very large), then 4D is not sufficient to explain what is observed, and one needs to add extra dimensions to explain the observations.

The way we explain observations is by building mathematical models.

Sometimes the mathematics of the equations being used do in themselves suggest avenues of exploration (as in the case of positrons and antimatter) that turn out to be fruitful (and sometimes not).

What most people think of as 3D is based on a flat space of cartesian coordinates, where the internal angles of a triangle always add up to 180 degrees. What we seem to live in is a geometry where space itself is curved – like drawing a triangle on the surface of a ball. If you draw a very small triangle on a very big ball, then it will be a very close approximation to 180 degrees internally, but if you pick a point on the ball, travel in a straight line a quarter of the way around the ball, turn 90 degrees, travel a quarter of the way around again in a straight line, turn 90 degrees again then after going a quarter of the way around you end up back where you started – a triangle with internal angles 270 degrees.

We have ample evidence that the space we live in is actually curved, but the curvature is so small that you need very accurate instruments to be able to detect it.

When the curvature is itself subject to multiple distortions, then space itself can have very complex “landscapes”, and the classical 3D model fails – even as it is a reasonable approximation for most things we normally want to do on earth.

So it is very far indeed from being “only justified by mathematical models and is possible but not necessary”. It is actually necessary to explain observations made – if one has the time and interest to examine the sets of observations, and sufficient familiarity with the mathematical tools to be able to create some sort of intuitive model of what the mathematical tools represent.

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Foundations of Logic on “Truth”

[ 27/Jan/21 – Foundations of Logic – long thread on Truth]

The Anil Seth video above is a good simple introduction to a very complex subject.

It now seems beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that what we experience is not “reality itself”, but a subconsciously created model of reality (which includes within it a model of us).

We seem to be able to do successive levels of abstraction on that, and via various sets of disciplines be able to experience ourselves experiencing, then experience the experience of observing the experience of the observation of experience, ….

We can also take it back the other way, and through various forms of discipline reduce experience to various basic levels. One such is the discipline of breath holding, for deep diving. When practicing for extended periods (hours at a time, days on end, for years) and taking breath holding past the 7 minute mark, then one gets to experience minimal levels of consciousness; and if one is a student of neuroscience (as I was in the early 70s) then one can perform levels of self experimentation in these states (and various others).

As someone who has continued throughout the last 50 years to both experiment with my own personal limits in a wide range of disciplines, and to keep a watching brief on the areas of biochemistry, neuroscience, computation and artificial intelligence; as well as exploring the realms of logics and modelling more generally; it is clear to me beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that the simplest possible logic system (the binary true/false) is but the simplest of an infinite set of possible systems.

Such simplicity has a certain level of utility at many levels of evolution and operation, but that does not mean that it is an accurate model of the reality within which we exist – however much utility it has in some sets of contexts.

It seems clear to me from my experience of being, and the evidence sets and interpretive schema I have investigated, that reality is vastly more complex and fundamentally uncertain than a simple binary model of truth can comprehend.

Yes, certainly, our existence as thinking beings is the realm of consciousness, and just as the naive reality of experience is that the sun goes around the earth has been shown to be the result of us standing on a spinning ball of stuff that is orbiting our local star, in an outer arm of our local spiral galaxy; so too have the tools of a modern understanding of cosmology, evolutionary biology and neuroscience demonstrated beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt (for anyone willing to put in the time to be as unbiased as possible in the examination of the evidence sets available) that consciousness is the result of the multiple levels of complex computational systems within our brains and bodies and cultures; and at the simplest level possible involve the use of symbols to create a model of a model – inside a machine that typically clocks states at about 14 Hz but can operate up to around 200Hz in various states of consciousness, and can in extremis be taken somewhat slower).

Thus one can certainly use statements of symbols to model simple systems with binary truth values; and that does not actually tell us much about the nature of us, nor the wider context of our existence.

And understanding the utility and power of the simplest of logical systems in building models is a good and necessary first step on a path to understanding that there is an infinite set of sets of possible systems of truth values – of which True/False is but the first and simplest; but not necessarily the most powerful (certainly not when attempting to understand the nature of us).

[followed by “Buut if “we” are capable of expeirnce realization that “we” are not experiencing “real reality”. Then the realization “we” are experiencing cannot be real in any way.
It’s a strange flavour of the liars paradox.”]

Jeoffrey Wortman
That is a very simplistic approach to a very complex system – and doing so is necessarily nonsense.

The reality seems to be that the model that we experience as our “experiential reality” is in most contexts close enough to be survivable.

Anyone who has been to a professional magic show will be aware that there are many ways of exploiting the simplifications that our brains use to make reality seem to be other than what it is.

It is actually a very complex subject.

Any approximation to reality that is better than random can be selected for in an evolutionary context. Any that is better than some other variant will have a selective advantage.

The thing about evolution is that it tends to punish slowness much more harshly than inaccuracy or false positives. Excessive use of energy also tends to be punished by natural selection.

The idea of “useful approximation” is a very complex one, and often very context dependent (at multiple levels).

It seems highly unlikely to me that anyone has an accurate model of reality, and some models will be more useful in some contexts than others. The one I have took me decades to develop, and many thousands of hours of contemplation and application of many different interpretive schema to different datasets. (And I am an autistic spectrum geek with a 160+ IQ – so by definition far from “normal”.)

[followed by]


My initial response was not simplistic.

You presented a simplistic strawman of my argument, then proceeded to burn it – then failed to address any of the points I raised subsequently.

Being able to actually consider another’s position is not an attribute you seem to be exhibiting.

Saying “The issue about evolution is that it is just a narrative within the anglosaxon mind” is utter nonsense.

Evolution is a reality. It is the only explanation currently available as to how complexity may emerge from simplicity. It has vast sets of evidence present. It is an amazing suite of processes. The logic of the systems can start relatively simply and then proceed to explore successive levels of additional strategic complexity. The evidence is beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt.

Evolution shows how successive levels of complexity can emerge in contexts where cooperation can deliver greater benefit than competition.

I am beginning to suspect that you have little interest in genuine enquiry.


In respect of evolution – have you any awareness of any other explanation for how complexity can emerge from simplicity?

I don’t.

If you do, then please share it.

As simple as that in a very real sense!

All prior explanations had complexity coming from greater complexity (some version of a complex creative god).

I made no claim about evolution necessarily leading to complexity, in fact I was quite explicit about the sorts of contexts in which complexity could emerge.

For me it is clear, that what we have is the possibility of successively more accurate approximations to whatever reality actually is. Some of the approximations are very accurate and very useful in some contexts.

The idea that the earth is flat is perfectly adequate if all you want to do is build a house. If your ruler is only accurate to mm accuracy, and your building is less than 100m in any dimension, then within the limits of the accuracy of measurement in that context – the earth is indeed flat. It is a useful approximation in that context.

In the context of trying to get to the moon, it does not work – one needs a heliocentric view of the solar system and Newtonian mechanics.
To get a functioning GPS system you need to use relativistic spacetime and quantum mechanics.

Is any one of them perfectly true?

I doubt it.

And each is useful in context and to some required degree of accuracy.

It is in this sense, that I say that we now have vast sets of evidence that what we experience as reality is actually a simplification of what is actually there, and it is a simplification that is generally close enough to allow us to survive.

For me to attempt to explicitly detail all of the complexity present in the models that I use would take more than a century, and would be inaccurate before it was finished (as it would have evolved in the process).

You have avoided addressing any of the evidence sets I have provided. You have instead argued points completely unrelated to what I wrote.

If someone has little time or tools or interest to investigate science, then the idea of a god provides a useful explanation for the obvious complexity present. But science has proceeded by performing experiments to distinguish between the utility of competing explanatory systems. Modern physics is hard – demands complex math. Modern biology is hard, demands lots of difficult concepts. And when someone puts in the time, does the hard work, develops the abstractions, then it is beautiful. But it is not simple. I know of no method of getting to those levels of abstraction that does not involve a lot of time and effort.

And I have investigate other explanatory frameworks. I have read the bible and several other religious texts. I have read quite a bit of philosophy. I have joined various groups, tried out various practices. In a sense I can see a certain level of utility in each of them, and for me it is the tools and evidence sets of science that provide the greatest power – and they are not at all simple, and my understanding is mine, and not one generally shared.

[29 Jan 21 ]

If by “unmovable engine” you refer to the Aristotelian notion of the “primum movens” then it is not actually simple – it is by definition the most complex thing possible. I can see how in face of the evidence of experience, but without the tools of cosmology or evolutionary biology, or Bayesian tools or games theory, that such a notion had a certain sort of sense to it, it most certainly does not survive in the presence of the evidence sets we have available today (if one is willing to take the time to seriously look, and to actually try different explanatory frameworks).

You seem to be the second person today to, in discussion with me, refute evidence because it conflicts dogma.

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Who should be held responsible for global poverty?

Who should be held responsible for global poverty?

[ 26/Jan/21 ]

Why would you think that anyone should be “held responsible”?

Isn’t that a rather hubristic notion?

Isn’t it much more likely that it is the ignorance of each and every one of us that is more to blame?

It seems to me to be very complex.

It seems clear to me, as someone who has studied evolution, life, complexity and computational systems for over 50 years that all human beings come with vast sets of subconscious systems that pre-dispose them to simplify complex systems – often beyond the ability of such simplifications to deliver useful results.

Thus we tend to characterize evolution as being all about competition, when it takes a lot more work to realise that the reality is far more complex, with all levels of evolved complexity being based upon new levels of cooperation.

But we have vast sets of people and institutions and rules that are based in the overly simplistic (and false) notion that evolution is about competition and that markets support freedom.

The reality of freedom is much more complex.

Any survivable notion of freedom must include both responsibility and respect for diversity (including social and ecological diversity).

Freedom can never be an absence of structure, as all complexity requires boundaries for survival.

The art of freedom is recognizing what boundaries are actually required in any particular context (any set of “rules” or “laws” is highly unlikely to be an exact fit to any particular context, and with luck they will be some sort of useful approximation in most contexts).

So the answer is: we all need to be.

And that is going to be very difficult, because very few have had the time or inclination to explore deeply the mathematical and logical foundations of the sorts of complexity that we are, and so most are left with overly simple ideas that are in many modern contexts extremely dangerous.

Market based economics is now much more of the problem in respect of global poverty than it can be part of the solution.

Some sort of universal income might allow us to survive our existing market based systems long enough to create more appropriate replacement systems, and that is an extremely complex subject, as our existing systems have many levels of complexity embedded within them.

And ultimately it comes down to each and every one of us, in our choices to cooperate, to respect diversity, to act responsibly, to clean up such messes as we unintentionally create.

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Lifeboat discussion on The Biggest Threats To Human Existence

[ 26/Jan/21 Facebook – Lifeboat Foundation]

The list given of “The Biggest Threats To Human Existence” seems to me to be a very strange mix of categories.

  1. Nuclear war
  2. Bioengineered pandemic
  3. Artificial Intelligence
  4. Nanotechnology
  5. Extraterrestial
  6. Super volcanoes
  7. Food supply
  8. Weather
  9. Genocide

I would classify them very differently:

1/ The intentional use of technology against other groups resulting in extinction of all; which could include any set of technologies, including but not limited to: nuclear weapons, biotechnology, nanotechnology, AI, …
And ultimately the cause is not the tool, but the faulty set of assumptions used to generate a suicidal strategy (like nuclear war or any form of genocide).
The most common sets of such suicidal strategies are:
i/ The idea the evolution is all about competition, whereas the reality is far more complex, and it is actually the case that all new levels of complexity are built upon new levels of cooperation. And naive cooperation is always vulnerable to exploitation and destruction by “cheating” strategies, and thus requires what become ecosystems of cheat detection and mitigation strategies in order to survive. Thus it is much more accurate to say that at our level of complexity, evolution and survival is all about cooperation. And that is a very deep exploration of strategy in uncertainty.
ii/ The idea that markets are a reasonable measure value. In times when most things were in fact genuinely scarce, then one could make a reasonable case that markets were a useful tool. But in an age of advanced automation, where the vast bulk of goods and services can in fact be manufactured and delivered by fully automated systems, then markets fail completely, and actually incentivise multiple levels of existential level risk (which can lead to both intentional and unintentional use of all the tools in 1 above).
iii/ A failure to accept and respect that all knowledge and rules are necessarily simplifications of reality, and thus subject to failure modalities to which we are necessarily blind. While it is true that all levels of structure require boundaries, those boundaries need to be flexible and responsive to changes in context, or the entire structure becomes brittle and fails. No set of rules can ever be appropriate to all contexts, and if we are lucky then most of the ones we have should be reasonable approximations to some set of optima in most contexts.
iv/ A failure to accept and respect that freedom necessarily results in diversity. When that diversity extends through multiple levels of abstraction and understanding, it can be very difficult for many to accept the deep levels of uncertainty that necessarily result from such complexity.

And we need to accept that the definition of being human is the use of tools and technologies. That is in fact how we distinguish our human ancestors through the geological record.

2/ Earth based threats to aerobic life.
These include:
a/ Super-volcanoes (the explosive types like Yellowstone or Toba)
b/ Flood basalts – like the Deccan Traps
c/ Extreme climate variation
d/ Anaerobic ocean overturn
There may potentially be others, but they are very low probability – this set at least we have evidence of having happened in the past, and having caused species level extinctions as a result.

3/ Events sourced outside the earth but within the solar system:
These include:
A/ comets
B/ meteors
C/ extreme solar activity

4/ Events sourced outside the solar system:
i) energy from supernova in close proximity
ii) other high energy pulses like a Pulsar pointed our way
iii)collision with mass of extra solar origin – meteor like, comet like, dark star, black hole, etc
iv) exotic matter of extra solar origin
v) other dangers of unknown type (we don’t know what we don’t know).
vi) exotic aggressive life forms – put here simply for completeness, as it seems highly improbable that any aggressive life form could survive long enough to reach a level of complexity capable of crossing interstellar distances.

We can develop mitigation measures for all the known types of risk; and survival of the unknown can only be a matter of probabitities, which are enhanced by cooperation, diversity, self sufficiency and massive redundancy.

The core take out message from this, is that any realistic probability of survival demands cooperation between multiple levels of diverse agents, and such cooperation demands that all levels of agents have what they consider to be reasonable levels of freedom and security. That is anathema to market based thinking.
The age of markets must end.
The insanity of strategies that promote global interdependence of aggressive systems is neither stable nor survivable long term. Something else entirely is required. That entire games theoretic structure is founded on overly simplistic sets of assumptions about the nature of the reality in which we exist.

The age of freedom, responsibility, abundance and diversity must begin – if we are to survive.

And there is no denying responsibility. At every level, freedom without responsibility is necessarily self terminating – the logic of that is inescapable.

[followed by Daryl Tempesta replied – The idea of evolution is about suitability in a changing environment.]

Not really.

Evolution is in a sense simply about survival.

The sorts of strategic complexes that survive in different sorts of environments can be very different.

Every form of life present on earth today seems to have been evolving for an equal length of time, but some of the contexts have favoured relatively simple strategies (like bacteria, archaea, viruses) and some have allowed for greater complexity to emerge.

Some environments change very little.

Some change a lot.

Complex adaptive life like us is capable of both changing environments quickly, and adapting to such change. But it is not a given that any particular group of individuals will in fact change in ways that are survivable. We actually have quite a bit of evidence to suggest that such is actually quite rare.

[followed by Daryl Tempesta “Age of commerce will never end. Supply and demand is a difference machine embedded into human nature.”…]

Arguably the prime need of every human being is oxygen.

We get all we need by breathing.

There is no need of a market for oxygen in the air.

The context is such that an abundance is present when needed for most people in most contexts.

We are capable of creating automated systems that deliver a similar abundance of most things required for human beings to have reasonable degrees of security and freedom (and both of those notions must eternally contain uncertainties and unknowns).

Our brains are strongly biased to notice threats, and ignore most other things.

Thus we tend to ignore the abundances actually present, and focus on the scarcity. Some good historical reasons for that, but in an age of automation, things change – fundamentally.

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Quora – How do I address global inequality?

How do I address global inequality?

[ 18/Jan/21 ]

As others have noted, the problem is not inequality – that is a given – real complexity contains diversity – always.

The problem is insufficiency – NOT inequality.

Giving everyone what they consider sufficient isn’t that difficult; doing so inside a market based economy is impossible.

We need to recognise that in the presence of fully automated systems markets fail as a reasonable measure of value; and that is a difficult idea for many minds to even begin to glimpse.

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Entitled to our Truth???

Quora – Since we’re all entitled to our own truth and we each have different perceptions of reality and everyone’s truth is valid does that basically mean we’re all in our own worlds? How can we ever work together or agree on things in this environment?

[ 16/1/21 ]

As many others have noted – there are many invalid assumptions in the question.

What gives anyone the idea that they are “entitled” to their own “truth”?

What does that mean?

Sure, we all have our own personal simplistic understandings of reality. For the most part they are almost certainly wrong in many essential aspects, and for the most part they are close enough to be useful in survival in most common contexts – that is all that evolution requires for survival. Taking it any further than that is taking certainty too far, and over simplifies in a way that poses existential level risk.

What is required is not an arrogance delivered by “truth”, but a humility delivered by uncertainty in the face of complexity.

We need respect for diversity, without giving any of it the label “truth” – which tends to create an arrogance and certainty that, for the most part, is not warranted.

The idea that all perceptions and understandings are equally valid is nonsense.

All perceptions and understandings may necessarily contain uncertainties and inaccuracies, but that does not make the uncertainties and inaccuracies equally important in any particular context.

Sure, all any of us get to experience is essentially our own personal “virtual reality” version of whatever reality is, and that in no way means that all are equally useful for survival in any particular context. In all domains competencies can be developed with experience, even in novel domains. And sometimes our competencies can be traps, so sometimes looking at things without the biases of past experience can deliver useful outcomes. We must be open to both. That is a big part of why diversity is useful, all dimensions; as it allows for really useful novelty to emerge and prove itself.

It is very difficult to work together when any has the arrogance of “Truth” that closes their perceptions to any and all alternative interpretations or responses.

It is entirely possible to work with vast diversity if everyone accepts fundamental uncertainty in all things, and builds operational confidence on that base; all accept the need for multiple “safe to fail” experiments at all levels, most of the time. Having one single response is only ever safe(ish) under the most dire of circumstances.

Yes, we are each in our own experiential worlds, and we all seem to share the same objective world, even if none of us can ever be entirely sure what any of them are.

In terms of strategic responses in the face of complex uncertainties, cooperation is always more likely to lead to survival than competition. That is a fact of strategic complexity. The modern myth of the power of strategic competition is a dangerous oversimplification of a vastly more complex reality. Fundamental competition contains existential level risk to complexity. Cooperation is required, as is diversity.

At all levels, from individuals through communities to nations we need respect for diversity; and we need cooperation between all levels of diverse agents if we are to survive.

And every level of agent needs to be open to the possibility of error at any and all levels of perception and understanding. All useful models are necessarily simplifications of whatever it is that they model, and their usefulness is often highly contextually sensitive.

Sometimes contexts change in ways that are not at all obvious to those within them.

Sometimes, to get things done, we just need to agree to let people do stuff, without worrying too much about the why; because sometimes there is no way to communicate the “why” in any useful or available time.

The greatest strength and security possible comes from cooperation in diversity, provided that there is genuine respect for diversity, for the life and liberty of agents; and all liberty necessarily comes with limits and responsibilities.

Complexity must have boundaries in order to survive – all levels. The really mind-bendy bit of that is that it is not required that anyone actually understand what those limits are, provided that actions in practice do not actually violate them – hence the many levels and forms of “culture” that we have.

And respect for life means being responsible for the maintenance of all levels of structure required to sustain life, including biological ecosystems as well as cultural ecosystems.

Nothing simple.

Nothing certain.

An eternal need for respect and action, to the best of our limited and fallible abilities – each and every one of us; all levels.

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What is the status of ontological causality?

[ 14/1/21 Foundations of Logic – facebook group – Walter Kant asked “Ontological existence of causality:
What is the status of ontological causality?

  1. causality exists ontologically
  2. causality does not exist ontologically
  3. ?”]

Ontology at its most abstract seems to me to be about the nature of systems which can sustain complex existence.

I phrase it that way because we seem to be complex entities, and we are interested in the nature of the systems that give us being.

Complexity demands some degree of causality.

In the absence of all causality, all events are random, and there is no systemic basis for the consistency demanded by complex structure.

Accepting that, most seem to have fallen into the trap of assuming that causality must be “hard”. That does not actually seem to align with the evidence sets we have available, which seem to support a quantum mechanical set of equations, which require influence without hard determinism. In QM the random is bounded by probability functions. When one is dealing with vast sets of instances then those probability functions become so well populated that in many contexts they very closely approximate classical hard causality.

So for complexity to exist there is a fundamental logical requirement for some sort of causality to exist, and that causality need not be the classical necessary prior cause sort of causality, but can (and in fact does seem to be) a much softer form of causality of chaos constrained within probability functions. This sort of causality is entirely unpredictable in any particular event, but becomes reliable only in vast collections.

Fortunately for us, the smallest time unit we can consciously appreciate is some 10^40 of the fundamental time units of our fundamentally chaotic stuff, so what we perceive can, and often does, very closely approximate classical causality – probability functions populated by 10^40 instances tend to have very reliable and constant properties.

Thus there is a logical necessity for some sort of causality to exist in any reality that complex consciousness such as us can exist within to question it.

[followed by]

Hi Walter,

We know that at the normal scale of human perception gravity has the characteristic of classical causality.

We also know that if we look up, we see the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.

Are either of those observations final evidence for the fundamental state of reality? I doubt it.

I have not yet come across a good quantum treatment of gravity.

It is one of a vast collection of open questions that I have.

I expect that should I manage to live for the rest of eternity, I will still have an expanding set of open questions (though I may have closed that particular one). Infinities seem to have that unsettling characteristic.

And it does seem clear to me in logic and systems that only in a universe that contains both randomness and lawfulness (ie where the truly random is constrained by probability functions) can we have both complexity and any meaningful level of choice – and getting a basic understanding of how that might work is extremely complex – no avoiding that.

[followed by Walter asked: Does causality exist in thinking?]

Hi Walter

To a degree it must. For any sort of coherence, or meaning to exist, there must be some degree of consistency of pattern over time.

The thing that many refuse to seriously consider is that the consistency need not be 100%.

When one does seriously look at it, any form of novelty, anything seriously new, must arise in a sense from something random.

In database theory it is now understood that for the a fully loaded processor, the most efficient search possible is the fully random search. All forms of indexing take more processor cycles to maintain than they save in execution.

If you have plenty of spare processor capacity, then building indexes can save time when time is short; but if the system is fully loaded, random search is quickest (on average, over time). Evolution tends to deal in “on average, over time” (though sometimes it imposes strict time constraints in some contexts).

So yes, of course, we can and must follow certain “causal” patterns much of the time, the existence of complexity demands that of us; but the existence of infinities and unknowns also demands of us that we explore novelty, for the threats and opportunities that reside there. Exactly how evolution has selected strategies for when and where such explorations are optimal is interesting, and seems to encode a certain amount of random search into the space of search itself – we all have our differences.

And because of the many levels of time constraints, in our evolutionary past, our neural and perceptual/computational/valence systems have many levels of “hacks” that were “near enough and quick enough” to survive in contexts of our ancestry. Human beings are not rational, but we are very good at rationalising. We tend to find pattern even in the random (hence things like human sacrifice to the “gods”). Eliezer Yudkowsky’s “Rationality from AI to Zombies” is a reasonable catalogue of many of the evolutionary hacks within us; and advances in neuroscience are finding ever more (Ginger Campbell’s is a reasonable treatment of many of the advances of the last decade). And of course the AI community is pushing limits (Lex Fridman, Ben Goertzel, and Max Tegmark are also reasonable communicators in that realm, Ray Kurzweil’s Accelerating Intelligence used to be quite good, as did Peter Diamandis, but the signal from both has reduced significantly of recent years). There are thousands of others doing great work.

We absolutely need all the biases, all the patterns, all the causality within us. Evolution seems to have encoded both weak and strong convergence into the multiple levels of functions/predicates/heuristics within our computational systems.

We need both pattern (causality) and randomness to effectively and efficiently be able to deal with both the known and the unknown, the predictable and the chaotic. Both seem to be real, both seem to be necessary.

It is not an “either, or” sort of thing, it is a “both, and” sort of thing.

We need reason and logic because they are some of the best modeling tools available, and we need good models, and we also need to be able to deal effectively with the unknown, and for that we need the random, the acausal.

Evolution seems to have encoded both within us (the evolutionary demands to be able to respond to complex situations rapidly has given us) deep levels of tendencies to over simplify complexity. It can take a lot of work to overcome those drives to simplify, and to be able to gain glimpses of the complexity and chaos that seem to both be necessary aspects of all levels of our reality.

[18 Jan 2021 – separate subthread to same question]

Jeoffrey Wortman
Science is much more than “the scope of opinion about perceived phenomena”, though it is most certainly that.

Science at its best is also about verification, about relationship, about building the most efficient and simple model that explains all observations (and that leads to issues as the set of all observations is now far vaster than any single human mind can maintain – so any particular scientist is necessarily only considering some subset of the total datasets available).

So that necessarily makes science an exploration of probabilities, as any scientist worth the title will specify as one of the first things they say – even if most people do not understand it as such.

One of the major problems that all humans face is that it seems that evolution has strongly selected for brains that simplify as much as possible, and for most that means reducing what is in fact irreducible complexity down to simple binaries – like true/false or right/wrong. And while there is undoubtedly evolutionary advantage in doing that in contexts where rapid decisions are required, it does pose real issues when rapidity is not the major issue and to solve a complex issue one needs to be able to deal with deeply dimensional probability landscapes to begin to grasp the essential nature of the problem space present.

Thus, while your characterization of science may be common, it is far from accurate or useful in the context of the problem space we now find ourselves in – as a high technology culture/civilization.

The human brain seems to be sufficiently complex that should I live for the rest of eternity, it seems very likely to me that there will likely still be interesting things I could discover about how it actually functions (and I have been studying how it works at multiple levels for over 50 years thus far). I have some reasonable general maps of the classes of cooperative complex systems present in most brains at about 15 levels of structure/abstraction, and in some at about 20 levels; and some reasonable general maps of the major classes of communication between those classes and levels of systems. Any model less complex than this is clearly inadequate to the task of giving a general outline of the complexity present that allows for the experience we have as conscious human beings.

And I acknowledge that even this model is low resolution and incomplete. When one actually does the numbers on the complexity present it is vast beyond the possibility of conscious computation; thus all models are necessarily simplistic.

[Followed by]

Jeoffrey Wortman

It seems to me that “the scope of being” is itself.

All understandings are necessarily simplistic models.

The likelihood of any non-trivial opinion about us (or the reality we are embedded in) being “True” in any sort of absolute sense seems to be vanishingly small (if one takes the time to look reasonably closely at a wide selection of the datasets and interpretive schema being applied to them).

The likelihood of some opinions being sufficiently close in some contexts to be useful in surviving is much higher.

Thus it seems that most opinions are more accurately characterised as “useful” rather than “true”. That seems to be a less hubristic and more socially useful formulation.

[18 Jan 21]

We seem to be operating from different definitions of truth and science.

I try and avoid using truth, as it is such a heavily overloaded term that that probability of accurate communication of concepts using it seems very small.

The very idea of truth seems to be a simplistic model of something vastly more complex, and, like all simple models, it can be useful in some contexts.

Science is, for me, characterised by the use of evidence to modify the probabilities I assign to different models in different contexts.

Having used that system of model modification for over 50 years it seems that I am an evolved entity, far more complex than I am capable of knowing in detail, and that the tools of science offer the best possible chance of continued existence in which I have reasonable degrees of security and freedom.

Science is telling me that my experience of being can never be of reality itself, but only ever of a model of reality constructed by multiple levels of subconscious processes that were subject to a vast array of evolutionary constraints that make it highly unlikely that my experience of reality is a particularly accurate model of reality, but it was good enough for my ancestors to survive in the contexts of their time but is likely to require increasing levels of supplementation in the rapidly evolving contexts of our technological society.

Thus for me, science as I define it, seems perfectly adequate to explain all aspects of experience, including the weirdest of the “spiritual”. And no explanation is ever the thing itself, and it is all that symbols such as this are capable of conveying.

[Followed by 19 Jan 21]

Jeoffrey Wortman
I have tried many different modes of both experience and interpretation.

The tools of science seem to me to offer the most powerful and useful interpretations of experience and contexts of being.

I yield my agency to nothing and I have put a great deal of effort into understanding the nature of such agency as I seem to have.

[Followed by]

Jeoffrey Wortman
Of the options I have explored which include christian, theosophy, rationalist, humanist, buddhism, many schools of philosophy, several martial arts, it is the broad class of the scientific method that seems clearly to be most powerful and make the greatest difference.

And there is undeniable power in many different forms. In a sense they work in practice, but it is the tools of science that deliver to me the most powerful interpretation of those experiences.

I do not deny the experience of anyone.

I often question their interpretation of the experience, and it’s relatedness to other experience.

And by the end of my undergraduate studies in biochemistry none of my lecturers agreed with my interpretations of implications.

So I am not saying that any particular scientist has necessarily got a more useful interpretation in any particular context.

Utility is often very context specific.

Buddhism has some very powerful tools and techniques as one example.

[Followed by]

Saying Buddhism deals with the scope of experience not the scope of explanations doesn’t quite sit with my understanding of Buddhism.

Yes – certainly, one must have a scope of experiences before one can begin to find useful relationships in the dataset of experiences. That much is a given.

It seems to me that science has the best set of tools to come to some understanding of the nature of the forces present in reality, and their degree of fathomability or otherwise.

It seems to me that the scientific method is a potentially eternally applicable methodology the delivers successive refinement on the models available.

It seems very probable that it was evolution and the contexts of our ancestors that have delivered most of the biases that produce the experiences that we use to begin our journey into the exploration of the nature of our existence. And that is a deeply complex subject.

The thing to get about experience is that it seems beyond reasonable doubt to be all maps in several very real senses.
Experience always has reality as itself, but in terms of representing anything else (such as objective reality) it is map. Most fail to distinguish that step, which leads to many sets of pathologies.

[Followed by 20 Jan 21]

Why are you making the claim that it science is not sufficient?

If you have evidence for such a claim, then the claim would seem to fall within the purview of science.

There are certainly many states of being that may not be explained to anyone who has not already experienced them, or something very like them. Yet such experience is a form of evidence, and may be examined as such (once one has in fact had such experiences).

In the realm of experience, one must in fact have experience to apply the tools of science, and when one does that, the explanatory frameworks that seem to deliver best fit are often vastly divergent from those prevalent in culture and history.

So in this sense, I have no idea what you mean when you say that science is not sufficient. I do not see how anyone could have any evidence for such an assertion (because the presence of evidence would put it in the purview of science).

[Followed by 21 Jan – “You are the one making all the claims about being without evidence, why the burden of proof is on me?
Who can expereince to being what is to be? That can only be recollected, not be lectured on.”]

We can all have experiences.

What we then tend to is to add meaning to those experiences, and not be particularly aware that we did that.

Someone can have the experience of being very small against something very large, and call that the “infinite”.

I have made no claims about being without evidence.

All have evidence.

What are you talking about?

[Followed by 29 Jan 21 “if we “add” meaning, where we add it from?
Science can be necessary for refinement, that doest mean it is also sufficient.”]

If one has a sufficient grasp of the complexity of the systems that seem very probably to have been primarily responsible for the evolution of us, then it becomes clear where meaning comes from, why we tend to add it, and it does mean that science is sufficient to explain the experience of being; but – it is hugely complex, highly dimensional, and involves multiple levels of abstraction and recursion of complex adaptive systems.

For me, now, having spent over 50 years in that enquiry, it is entirely sufficient, and it is also sufficient to explain why it seems insufficient to someone who is not similarly familiar with the recursive concepts of evolution, and the ability of some contexts to promote the evolution of new levels of cooperation which allows for the emergence of new levels of complexity and freedom (but also demands new levels of responsibility if they are to survive).

If you are genuinely interested in the enquiry, then the evidence sets of science are generally available to any who wishes to put in the time and energy to become familiar with them, and to develop an intuitive understanding of the explanatory tools available. And many of those tools are now deeply mathematically and logically complex; no escaping that.

And in broad terms, it is about the recursive emergence of new levels of valence and complexity in systems (and at every level that is predicated on a new level of cooperation), until those systems are of sufficient complexity that they can have a predictive model of reality and symbolically model their own perceptual model of themselves in reality (and it can get recursively more complex and abstract internally).

The historical development of cultures in such a recursive evolutionary context (in the context of our complex biological bodies and brains) seems very probably to have delivered our ability to have the experience and discussions that we do. The evidence sets for that are vast, and they do take a great deal of time and effort to become somewhat familiar with (decades).

[Followed by 29/Jan/21 – “Evidentialism is the past”]

When I write about science, I write about the use of methods to use evidence to evaluate between competing explanatory hypotheses.

As one recursively uses those tools to develop ever more complex tools to allow ever deeper understanding of the evident complexity within ourselves and the universe we inhabit, then it really does get very complex, and very few people have either the interest or time to develop a broad appreciation of the themes present.

It is not science that is causing unprecedented changes to the systems, it is people who are using overly simplistic understanding and taking very short term views of what is to their advantage, and that is mostly powered by the use of markets and money to measure value, and that is a deeply complex subject.

Any tool is morally neutral, it is what we do with them that matters.

Most of the current suite of economic and political institutions and tools are no longer up to the task of creating survivable incentives to action.

That is not a failure of science, it is a failure to actually use the tools of science to evaluate existing systems.

The science is very clear, for any who care to seriously look, that each new level of complexity requires a cooperative base if it is to survive. And that requires ecosystems of cheat detection and mitigation systems, as raw cooperation is always vulnerable to exploitation.

So if anyone really does value life and liberty, then they must – of logical necessity, accept the fundamental need for global cooperation between diverse sets and levels of independent agents. Nothing less than that is survivable. For me, the science of that is beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt. Liberty without such responsibility is necessarily self terminating. And it is a deeply complex subject.

Without evidence, existential level conflict is guaranteed – as righteous dogma knows no limits, and respects no boundaries.

[30 Jan 21]

Morality is one of the complex things that science can and does explain, once one takes it to a sufficient level of complexity and abstraction.

I am speaking about REALIS science for me.

I have no idea how you justify your claim of IRREALIS.

I can understand that it may be IRREALIS for you, as you do not appear to be able to interpret the words I write as I intend them to be interpreted (but that is not unusual or unexpected, I am so far from the mean of “normal” that communication of things I find interesting is rare).

I get that many people do not care to look, nor to devote the time required to develop conceptual sets that are uncommon in their peer group.
Does that mean that such things are unreal?
It just means that some people are (from various combinations of choice and circumstance and culture and biology and logic and strategy) unable to conceive of that aspect of what is in front of them.
Does that in any objective sense make such things “unreal”?
Does evolution offer an explanation as to why such conditions of unawareness might exist?
It provides probability functions of utility over strategic domain-spaces.
It explains how all people necessarily live in our own personal “Virtual Reality” versions of whatever objective reality actually is; and that (for the most part, on average over time, most of those VR worlds are close enough in the context of their ancestral lineage to be survivable – issues arise when contexts change significantly {but cannot be perceived as such}, or when positive feedbacks are introduced into systems).

The fact that cooperation requires sets of cheat detection and mitigation strategies to survive long term is not a defeat of the argument.
The fact that new levels of complexity demand such cooperation does not need to be appreciated to be real – it just needs to exist – and the evidence is very clear that it does (if one is prepared to do the work to be able to develop the tools to look).
It is simply an explanation of the evolutionary contexts required for the emergence of new levels of complexity. It is an abstract and recursively applicable concept, that is logically potentially indefinitely recursively applicable, but one that seems to be limited to about 20 levels of application in some rare instances on this planet at this time, but the median in most adult humans seems to be around 15 levels (mostly subconscious).

So the REALIS I exist in is one where most people are both unable and unwilling to “see” what to me is clearly present; because to even consider the possibility of such a thing would violate some level of “Truth” that is so foundational to their current world view that they can’t even begin to consciously understand why their minds produce the words and ideas that they do.

So it becomes extremely difficult for someone like myself, who is committed to being as truthful as possible, when the REALIS of the situation is such that there is no real way to communicate the most interesting and accurate and useful model of the situation in the time that is available.

In such a situation (one politicians often face) conditions may demand that lies are told in order to produce survivable behaviours from those who cannot (in that particulars of that context) comprehend the levels of complexity and strategy actually present.

It gets deeply complex when one is in a context with 4 or more levels of sets of independent agents using variations on that strategic approach for their own particular ends. For many the objective is not long term survival of all with as much freedom as can be responsibly exercised, but some much shorter term gain in some other value domain (like money or power or prestige), with little awareness or regard for the implications on long term survival.

Does that mean that my personal VR version of OR (Objective Reality) is perfectly aligned?
No – most certainly not. The evidence I have is that reality seems to be sufficiently complex that no computational entity (human or AI) could ever attain perfect alignment. We must all, of logical necessity, use contextually relevant simplifications, and those are all, of logical necessity, prone to error and failure modalities. And the version I use does seem to be more accurate and useful than any of the others I have explored to date. And I expect that should I live for the rest of eternity, I will still be refining aspects of it – reality does clearly seem to in fact be that complex. And the issue of context identification is deeply complex, with many levels of fundamental uncertainty present (including strategic levels).

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