Quora – Do humans need a conflict to advance as a species?

Quora – Do humans need a conflict to advance as a species?

What do you mean by conflict???

What do you mean by advance?

If by conflict you mean war, or violence, then I say no!

If you mean disagreement, lack of unity, then I say yes.

If there is freedom (and we must have freedom), then diversity must expand, and with diversity comes conflict in a sense. But if we are sufficiently advanced, then such conflict need not result in violence of any sort. Reasonable people can and must agree to differ from time to time.

To me, advancement means accepting that many of the simple ideas from our past are no longer useful. Simple binary notions like true/false, right/wrong etc, when applied to reality, need to do so with probability statements attached to them.

Uncertainty is a fundamental aspect of reality. We all need to accept that.

So to me, advancement means both accepting eternal uncertainty, and accepting expanding diversity.

Much of our current educational and social systems seem to be designed to constrain people within sets of ideas. Much of that is no longer appropriate.

Certainly, everyone must accept limits on freedom, all form demand boundaries in a very real sense. And the limits actually required to sustain humanity are far less than most of the laws currently in existence; most of the cultural limits currently in existence.

So there seems to be considerable space to modify the notion of legal limits, and to reduce the number of laws that apply in most contexts; at the same time as we must acknowledge the need for some limits on freedom, simply to allow our species to survive (and that can actually get extremely complex in some contexts – and can be quite simple in many contexts).

So plenty of room for advancement (in terms of: individual security, individual liberty, social responsibility, ecological responsibility, acceptance of diversity, support for creativity, etc).

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

Quora – Is some form of “world peace” possible, or is the entire human race going to end up hating each other?

Quora – Is some form of “world peace” possible, or is the entire human race going to end up hating each other?


However, it cannot stabilise within a competitive system of markets and money.

Security and freedom can only be stable in cooperative systems, and we are the most fundamentally cooperative species on the planet (however competitive we can be if the context demands it of us).

If we are to have peace, we must go beyond money and markets to using automated systems to deliver universal abundance; the math and logic of that is now beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt. And there is no stable centralised solution to that problem (neither capitalist nor communist), it demands multiple sets of distributed cooperative networks; and that demands acceptance of diversity.

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

A survey on Internet utopias

A survey on Internet utopias

1/ Future Media/Internet: Communication, Digital Media and the Internet in an Ideal World
The best world ever:
What kind of media are you using and why?
How is it beneficial for citizens, society and democracy?
How would the Internet look like in the best of all world?

Like today, I would mostly rely on my widely distributed networks to relay information to me that they considered important.

And in some situations I might set up my own monitoring systems, keeping close watch on situations of particular interest.

I don’t use any mainstream media on a regular basis, and I made that call following the July 1984 general election, where I was a candidate in Tauranga, and was reported in the major dailies 9 times. On reading one of those reports I was able to say “that was something like what I talked to the reporter about”, on the other 8 occasions I could see no relationship between the conversation I had with the reporter and what appeared in print, other than the fact that I did have a conversation.

Based upon that evidence set, and following many conversations I had with people I knew well in broadcast media; I concluded that I was decreasing the level of coherence between my model of reality and whatever reality actually is, by reading anything printed in the mainstream media and politics – so I stopped.

If the media is accurately reporting what is happening, that is a great thing, but it very rarely happens.
Mostly the media is about selling itself, and it therefore focuses on all the evolutionary hacks that capture and hold attention for the majority of people.

It now seems clear to me that the greatest single threat to our survival as a species is our reliance on money and markets as proxies for value more generally, and the inevitable pressures that brings upon the elites to exploit whatever is exploitable about humanity in the interests of profit. That applies particularly in the aspects of news and advertising, and it also applies far more deeply into the depths of the evolutionary underpinnings of the emergence of the sort of complexity that we are.

And this is deeply complex territory, as I am now clear beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that all any of us get to experience is a subconsciously created model of reality (that is our experiential reality). This model is generated from a large collection of genetically and culturally evolved systems, and is modulated through personal experience and personal choices. Most people seem to have no knowledge of this reality, and treat their models as reality itself. Plato tried to hint at it with his shadows on the cave wall, but we have only really developed the mathematical, biochemical, evolutionary and systemic underpinnings of how much of it actually works within the last 50 years, much of it within the last decade.

That can cause one to question deeply what notions like “best” and “society” and “democracy” might actually mean.

Very few people actually considered deeply the nature of structure and form, and the need for sets of boundaries at every new level of form.
Most have very simplistic models of the nature of human being, and the nature of “governance”, the types of possible “democracies” and the systemic dangers as against the systemic minima required to sustain form.

For me, the fundamental minima exist in the hierarchy of values – which need to be:
1/ Individual sapient life (human and non-human, biological and non-biological);
2/ Individual liberty (as responsibly constrained by the need to demonstrate through action a respect for the life and liberty of others, which necessarily entails responsible action in social and ecological contexts).

Anything else one wishes to put in the hierarchy below these two is optional.

Nothing in there about following orders or obeying rules, and there will be eternal exploration of complexity and our interaction with it, which must involve mistakes, as all models in use are necessarily simplifications of whatever reality actually is, and that necessitates that errors will happen.

And reality often has time and energy limits, which demand that we produce actions in reality within certain time and energy constraints if we are to survive. The greater the stress present, the simpler the models our subconscious has evolved to produce, all the way down to binaries like: good/bad; friend/foe; right/wrong; etc.

Reality is never that simple, and the necessities of decision making in complex realities can often force us into such simplicity, which often has high risk long term consequences. The current media systems tend to make that risk much greater than it needs to be.

Our mainstream media seem to have hacked this system within most people.

Fully automated systems allow us to meet the reasonable needs of all people with little or no involvement of most people.
This could allow us to create the sort of security where most people have the time to start to deeply explore whatever aspects of reality interest them (within the limits of responsibility referred to above).
This is nothing like our current economic system.

In this sort of world, having reliable access to how those in our networks rate the reliability of individuals and information streams in different contexts would be a very valuable tool in extended and networked sense-making and risk mitigation.

Few people yet understand that all evolved levels of complexity are predicated upon new levels of cooperation; and raw cooperation is always vulnerable to exploitation by cheating strategies. Thus, to stabilise, systems must develop ecosystems of cheat detection and removal systems.
Arguably our entire finance and political system is now one giant cheating ecosystem on the cooperative body of humanity.

The idea that competitive systems can benefit society generally is simply wrong (without mathematical foundation).

At our level of complexity, our survival is fundamentally predicated on cooperative systems.
We are the most cooperative species on the planet.
The idea of competitive markets is one giant cheating strategy.

Few people can yet see that.
More need to.

In biological systems, the evolution of complexity always involves massive redundancy and autonomy within subsystems.
Our current trend towards centralisation is an exploit, a cheating strategy.

The internet needs to be massively networked and immune to single point of failure or single point of capture; exactly the opposite of current trends and systems.

[2/ Making Public Service Media Better
You are elected as the Director/CEO of a public service media (PSM) provider (such as the BBC, ORF, Yle, ARD, ZDF, RTVE, France Télévisions, RAI, RTÉ, PBS, CBC, SRG, NPR, NHK, etc):
What new projects and initiatives would you immediately like to implement?
How would media and communication be different from today?

I would create software systems that allowed people to visualise both the flows of information and the connections between facts and systems and individuals; so that individual people could render views of the histories of information held in ways that suited the particular interests. I would allow people to choose to make templates they develop available to sets, or subsets of people or more widely (with or without particular keys).

I would allow people to develop their own networks and rating systems, and to sort data streams based upon those subsets and reliability indicators – allowing commonality or difference of prime data source to be displayed (even if the actual identity is hidden).

I would allow users to self signify their stories, and for others to have access to those signifiers (as per David Snowdens work on understanding complex systems).

I would have systems of hash keys that would allow people to communicate that they had some important information that was uniquely confirmable by that hash key, without actually transmitting the information at that time. A similar secure mechanism for transmitting location and contacts in case of serious trouble.

[Public Service Media/Internet in 2030:
It’s 2030: Public Service Media have experienced a remarkable development and a renaissance. A very successful, radically new media ecosystem has developed:
What has been changed in comparison to 2020 (ten years ago)?
How was it possible to achieve these changes?
How do public service media look like in 2030?

The world is now a fully networked place.
Automated systems now supply all citizens of the world with security of person and freedom to do whatever they responsibly choose.

Public service media is now part of a massive network of independent trust networks that have mechanisms for promoting high priority information into particular physical or conceptual spaces on the basis of the combined assessments of those within those spaces and networks.

Money and scarcity are now things mostly of interest to historians.

Posted in Ideas | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment



What’s your favorite thing about you?

Hi Laurie,

My favourite thing about me – is my brain.

I like the way it works.

I like that it cares deeply about people and about life more broadly.

I like the ways it cares little about social agreement, much preferring agreement with reality.

I like the ways that is finds pattern, and the way it can form images of pattern that are deeply recursive in nature, letting me do things like look out the window at mountains, and see their beauty, then start to overlay known fault systems, then bring in subducting plates, and the torsional forces of the 3D tearing and folding that such things create on a curved surface.

I like the way intuitions appear to me, and the way my brain can sort through hordes of rational explanations to find one that fits the intuition, and do so as fast as I speak, so that very few people can see what is actually going on. Then I can start to consider how likely such a thing is, and what sort of test might confirm or deny it.

Over 50 years of that happening has taken me a very long way from anything that is common in terms of understanding of systems.

And my brain does like odd things. I like Tom Lehrer’s songs, and Pink Floyd.

Seeing your post title reminded me of a joke Jewelia bought home when she was about 5 years old:

How do you catch a unique rabbit?

You ‘neek up on it.

How do you catch a tame rabbit?

Tame way – you ‘neek up on it!

Somehow – that always makes me smile.

Posted in Laurie's blog | Tagged | Leave a comment

Quora – Is climate change just happening in modern times, or is it a continuous process? If this is a continuous process, why are people so upset about the matter in modern times?

Is climate change just happening in modern times, or is it a continuous process? If this is a continuous process, why are people so upset about the matter in modern times?

What Greg King says is true enough.

And I will address some of the major misunderstandings that are used to obfuscate the scale of the issue.

The annual turnover of carbon in the natural cycle is far greater than what humans add, but it is all cyclic, the same carbon going round and round, and what we are doing is adding to it by digging up carbon that has been buried for a long time and releasing it to the atmosphere.

And the heat balance of the planet is a very complex subject, with many different gasses contributing to it, most significantly water vapour, and many other factors also (like the reflectivity of ice vs rock, of grass vs trees, etc).

The thing about CO2 is that it works in part of the spectrum that nothing else really does, so its impact is small but significant. At present it adds up to about 2W per square meter (way less than 1%) but summed over the entire planet it is adding the equivalent energy of about 3 Hiroshima bombs going off every second. So it adds up over time.

As things get warmer, weather patterns change. Some areas will get too hot for people to live there, others will become too dry. The biggest issue is likely to be the increase in extremes. The average might not change much in many places, but the incidence of extreme weather events is likely to increase most places. If you are a farmer growing crops, or someone who wants to eat them, that can be a big deal.

The last few years of satellite data show significantly faster warming than anything predicted in the earlier IPCC models.

It is a real issue.

We need real solutions.

Planting trees is not a real solution.

We must get off using fossil carbon as a fuel source. The biggest problem there is the huge profits being made from oil, and all the influence that buys in political systems. Oil is a capitalists dream, relatively easily monopolised, with all the profit that comes from that.

Solar is the only real alternative, and it is a capitalist’s nightmare, widely distributed and essentially free once the capital cost is covered. No profit in that, so expect it to be resisted with every tool in the toolbox, including levels of deceit and deception not yet dreamed of.

So we find ourselves in an age where the interests of money are directly opposed to the interests of humanity generally.

Very few people are sufficiently self educated to be able to stand outside the systems of fake news and gated institutional narratives that we now find ourselves in.

It seems to me that the problem is not that difficult to solve technically, but all such solutions are anathema to the system of market based values that currently dominate the planet.

In order to solve the problem we need global cooperation, and we need to think outside of the box and money and markets, and actually start to use automated systems to deliver the reasonable needs of most people to everyone.

That involves a change in thinking that not many have yet seriously thought about.

We need a lot more people to start thinking seriously about it – soon.

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

Quora – Is there any evidence for or against the possibility of creating artificial super-intelligence? Super-intelligence is defined as “an intelligence which exceeds intelligence of any human in any area by a large margin”

Quora – Is there any evidence for or against the possibility of creating artificial super-intelligence? Super-intelligence is defined as “an intelligence which exceeds intelligence of any human in any area by a large margin”

This is a very complex topic.

Very few people have looked seriously at the complexity present in a human brain, and in the socially evolved systems that populate its more programmable parts.

Fewer still have a reasonable overview of the complexities of reality, of fundamental uncertainties, and the way that large collections of things that are uncertain within probability limits can closely approximate classical causality.

Fewer still of that set have spent a lot of time programming computers, looking at systems theory, computational theory, and some of the many levels of mathematical systems associated.

Fewer still of that set are intimately familiar with the evolution of life, with the quantum mechanical nature of atomic interaction, with the many levels of emergence of strategic systems that make up the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory.

I’ve delved reasonably deeply into each of those areas over the last 50 years, since reading Darwin’s origin of species, then having my first encounter with a computer (an IBM 1130).

For me, the evidence that we are extremely complex highly evolved computational systems is beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt. We seem to be of sufficient complexity that the details of our own individual operation will be forever beyond our detailed understanding, and some broad brush stroke understandings of what we are and how we operate are fairly well understood by those with sufficient interest and time.

In that sense it seems that we are biological machines in a sense, very complex ones, each of which experiences their own personal subconsciously created model of reality as their experiential reality. What we experience is to some extent conditioned by what we understand and believe at various levels.

So in this sense, I see no fundamental objection to intelligence similar to ours developing in a silicon substrate.

And it is a very complex topic, because a great deal to do with the specifics of being human comes from our physical embodiment. Having bodies with movable bits (arms, legs, fingers etc) and senses (eyes, touch, taste, etc) are a big part of what makes us what we are.

Any entity created in silicon is unlikely to have an embodiment that is similar to ours, and certainly will not have the deep evolution behind our genetic systems; and thus is likely to be different from us in many significant ways.

The progression of AI systems from DeepBlue to Watson to AlphaGoZero and beyond has been far more rapid than anyone other than Ray Kurzweil predicted. So in terms of a prediction track record – Ray has the best. And Ray and I are at variance on quite a few things, but not the general form of the timeline. I think he underestimates the scale of the computation actually done in a human brain, but that still only adds less than a decade to his timeline. It seems to me that he is in the right general ballpark.

As to what might constrain a superintelligence, that is a far more complex issue.

Many aspects of reality cannot be computed with any sort of absolute precision. Thus all models, all understandings, must necessarily contain uncertainties. There is no escape from that. Some systems are far more prone to it than others.

Another aspect is that as a computational entity grows in physical size, then the problem of communication delays imposed by the speed of light limit start to set real limits on the degrees of coherence that can be maintained across a large computational entity.

In some sorts of computation, humans seem to be quite close to an optimal configuration for computation.

So it seems to me very probable that superintelligent AI is not that far away from becoming reality (inside 25 years) and it also seems likely that AI will have an interest in keeping us around, even if it doesn’t talk to us very much about most things.

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

Quora – Is environmental damage really irreversible by 2030, if our lifestyles remain unchanged?

Quora – Is environmental damage really irreversible by 2030, if our lifestyles remain unchanged?

Depends what you mean.

Any species going extinct is by definition irreversible.

Anything less than that is probably reversible if enough effort is devoted to it.

Most people only consider the species that are big enough for them to see.

Most species are actually too small to be seen with the unaided eye (by a factor of a thousand or more).

Some changes to climatic systems can reach tipping points where positive feedbacks cut in, and it takes a great deal of energy to swap them back to previous patterns. If one does not have control of such high energy systems, then those changes become irreversible in a practical sense (whatever theoretical considerations might apply).

Under various sets of agent based modelling systems it seems that we have a couple of major systemic inflection points approaching, one in about 5 years and another in about 12 years. At both of those it is entirely possible for the system that is humanity to go in directions that result in the death of most individual human beings.

I am cautiously optimistic that we can avoid those outcomes, and create outcomes that are of benefit to all people and the environment; and those outcomes are not possible in any form of “business as usual” approach. All forms of “business as usual” all levels, seem clearly to lead to failure.

So we all have difficult things to think about and difficult choices to make.

The only class of actions that seem to me to deliver any sort of long term security are those that involve global cooperation, and demonstrate universally that the highest values are individual life and individual liberty. And that demands of every individual that we accept that there are real and necessary constraints on liberty, and that they include demands for actions that are socially and ecologically responsible.

There is plenty of room for diversity in what the details of social and ecological responsibility look like, but no room to deny the requirement for both.

So we live in “interesting times”.

I actually believe that we have a better than even chance of surviving, but I normally like the odds of survival to be very much greater than the toss of a coin (billions to one greater).

Is there cause for optimism? Yes – the odds are better than a coin toss (just).

Is there cause for concern? Yes – our world is currently organised on fundamentally competitive principles, and those competitive systems must fail if they are pushed any further (no mathematical escape from that).

Are there alternatives? Yes – there are. There are alternatives that are both cooperative, and respect individual life and individual liberty; and they have the demand that markets and money take a secondary role in social organisation. That transition will be difficult for some. One possibly useful transition strategy is a universal basic income, and that can only work if a great deal of very high technology is devoted to meeting the reasonable needs of every individual on the planet in ways that are environmentally sustainable – and there is no possible purely market based sets of incentives to achieve that (there will always exist market incentives to undermine such a systemic outcome).

It does seem to me to be possible to create a world where every individual experiences the sorts of choices and security that I have – secure housing, plenty of fresh clean water, plenty of food, good healthcare, good communications, a reasonable selection of toys and things to do, reasonable freedom to travel across the planet (say one year travelling for every 4 years I stay at home). Delivering that sort of outcome to every other person on the planet is technically possible, and it comes with some demands, like keeping families down to one child per family (on average), being responsible for what we do in the natural environment, not littering, not dumping stuff in the ocean, making some reasonable effort to clean up the messes we as a species have made getting to this point. Relatively simple stuff like that.

So security for all is doable, it is possible and it is by no means certain.

It is only possible in a cooperative context.

It is only possible if there is acceptance of diversity, and every one of us has a point beyond which such acceptance is difficult. Liberals find it hard to accept conservatives, conservatives find it hard to accept liberals. There are many other sets of dimensions present in human diversity. And every one of us has our liberal and our conservative aspects, at different strengths in different contexts.

It is really hard, when someone else’s diversity challenges something we value. That can take real work, real negotiation, a real willingness to listen and to try out new ideas, to get past.

So not much that is simple on this path, and it seems to be the path that reality has to offer. We seem to have run out of alternatives that actually involve survival.

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