Profound Truth

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

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

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

Profound truth is an interesting idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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