Ideapod – Longing for Enlighenment – Continued

Ideapod – Longing for Enlighenment – Continued

In response to a couple of posts on the thread including Brennan November 10, 2015.

Certainly the ancients found many things that worked, at many different levels, and they also made many mistakes – learning how to reliably disentangle the two is one of the arts of science.

Unfortunately Bonaci repeats many of the errors of the ancients.

It seems that one of the greatest fallacies is the very notion of truth.
The idea that truth exists was accepted for a long time – Plato based most of his thinking on the idea, as did most who followed for a long time.
Even Bacon (arguably the father of modern science, though arguments can be made that modern science was much more ancient, and Bacon certain bought an explicit formality to scepticism and enquiry – both by definition heretical notions {against accepted “Truth”}) based his idea in a search for Truth. He still thought Truth existed, even if he didn’t know if he had it.

From there has progressed many enquiries in many domains.

Great names like Hertz, Maxwell, Einstein and many others led from a world of certainty towards a world of uncertainty.
People like Heisenberg gave us fundamental uncertainty of knowledge of the physical, and those ideas were taken by others like Bohr, Pauli, Feynmann and many others into fundamental randomness at the quantum level, where knowledge can only be expressed in terms of probabilities.
So many traditions in mathematics went the same way.
From Euclid’s certain truths, mathematics went into ever more uncertain and unknowable domains. So many great thinkers, philosophers and logicians like Russell and Wittgenstein, mathematical logicians like Turing, Goedel, Mandelbrot, Wolfram – giving us infinite realms of complexity and chaos.

It now seems clear beyond any shadow or reasonable doubt that all claims to “Truth” are illusion.

It now seems clear that all any of us can hope for are useful heuristics in particular domains.

We now have so many sources of uncertainty and unknowability.
Nothing of the realm of the real can be known with any sort of absolute accuracy, only with useful degrees of approximation.
Nothing in logic can be proven to completeness, Goedel incompleteness remains in at least two domains and at recursive levels.
No infinity may be explored completely, let alone the infinity of infinities that we seem to be discovering.

So if one uses “truth” with a small “t”, as something useful, and likely to remain useful within particular domains, then it is a useful idea.

If one is looking for “Truth” with a capital “T” as something true in all domains, then that seems to be a childish illusion, and one that all children must have, and that those who move to adulthood need to give up.

So while I can acknowledge many useful heuristics (working rules of thumb) in all cultural traditions, I see little or no “Truth” in any of them.

Looking to the past, for easy answers to our future, isn’t going to work.

We live in a time of exponential change. Some aspects of our reality are on double exponentials (the rate of change is changing exponentially).
In such environments, the rule of thumb that worked for most of history (that the past is a good predictor of the future) starts to fail, at an exponentially increasing rate in an exponentially increasing number of domains.

There is little security (other that the shared social illusion of the feeling of security) available from the past interpreted as Truth, and as a secure guide to our future.

If logic and mathematics can tell us anything about our future, it is that security will come from values that hold individual life, and individual liberty as their highest values, and do so in a cooperative context that acknowledges that raw cooperation is vulnerable to cheats (at ever recursive levels) and thus requires attendant strategies to deliver security.

So there are many truths in ancient texts, in the sense of universal respect for life, and liberty, as expressed in terms of love, tolerance, acceptance of diversity.
There are also many truths in ancient texts in the sense of the mystery of life, the unknowability, the sense of grace of acceptance of tolerance at different levels.
And there are also truths that societies require rules (attendant strategies to cooperation) to prevent cheating strategies from destroying the collective (becoming cancers on the body politic and the economy).

And while the ancient texts may hold such accurate pointers, they come in a context of stories that, for the most part, are no longer applicable to the exponentially changing technological and philosophical and social reality in which we exist.

Markets were great tools for delivering liberty in environments of genuine scarcity, but markets and exchange more generally break down in times of automated production of abundance.

Individual security, individual freedom, demands that automation be decentralised and distributed. There can be no security in central control, only in distributed networks of trust and production. In this sense there is much truth in Hayek.

And when one can see the ranges of complexity that exist in reality and the sorts of responses that are appropriate to different sorts of complexity (David Snowden has a great simplifying paradigm that he calls the Cynefin approach to management of complexity – check it out on google or youtube), then the idea of strict rule based systems (as in hard laws to be followed) can be clearly seen as the folly that they are.
Laws can only ever be guides. In simple systems laws can be reliable guides, and as complexity increases the utility of laws degrades, until they become positively dangerous in chaotic systems.

It seems that all of biology, and all of reality, contains the entire spectrum of complexity, in different measures in different times and places.

We need guides, and we also need to be flexible, and the boundaries of how much of which is appropriate will vary hugely in specific circumstances.

There are no simple answers.

There is no way to duck our moral responsibility to each other by strict adherence to any simple rule.

We are, each and every one of us, complex entities, and we both owe to, and are owed by, every other entity capable of such thought, the respect that goes with that.

Which means, reasonable respect for our freedom and the freedom of all others, and for the diversity that both sustains us and makes this freedom interesting.

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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