Another email conversation with Marc

Another Email conversation with Marc

Speaking of which (the delay in your reply to my last message), I don’t know if I’m simply seeing what I want to see, but I’ve become aware that when you write about individual liberty, you (more often, recently?) specifically mention the constraint that one’s actions not be harmful to others. I mention this because a question in my last email had to do with “limiting diversity”, specifically the diversity of an individual (or group) choosing to employ lethal violence to obtain their goals. I take your statements on constraints to individual liberty to answer my question in the affirmative.

Lethal violence ought never to be an option exercised.
And I get that in physical reality it is always an option.

Maybe that simple fact, combined with a certain level of stochasticism, is the thing that limits the amount of intelligent life we see in the universe generally.

In another of your recent posts, you wrote something along the lines of (I paraphrase) that you are willing to consider another person’s positions up to the point of his/her first falsifiable premise. This was very enlightening to me, and explains many of the responses I’ve received from you, that don’t directly respond to the overall intent of my questions. I don’t know if this is always a conscious choice on your part, but, as I say, it explains a lot. Thank you for that clarification.

Recently, I’ve been attempting to communicate with a group of western Europeans (mostly from the Netherlands, I think) who share an interest of mine, namely, that it would be a good idea to try to unify all of the groups/individuals around the world who have already reached the conclusion that our most difficult problems can best be solved by the unified efforts of very large numbers of people (organized into the optimal size working groups, determined by the objectives) – i.e., the need to “unite the unifiers”, as a first step. Unfortunately, their definition of “unity” is really closer to my definition of unintentional “cooperation” (where people aren’t actively competing at cross purposes with one another) and they are in a state of psychological ‘denial’ as to the very real threat of those who possess the means to commit violence on a massive scale (e.g., the U.S. military (industrial complex) or anyone with thermonuclear weapons) or massive numbers of people who are culturally ‘brainwashed’ to accept/embrace violence as the preferred means of self defense (or, indeed, any conflict resolution) (again the majority of the population of the U.S. is a prime example).

As I see it, the really big issue is the levels of awareness.

It seems to be a logical necessity that every new level of awareness must build from the simplest possible distinction set (a set of binary approximations to infinities – ideas like right/wrong, good/bad, true/false etc), to more populated and more closely sets of approximations to infinities.

The really difficult one seems to be the “right/wrong” one.

It seems that the method used to bootstrap self awareness involves a declaration in language by a non-self aware languaging consciousness, which uses a binary declarative judgement form (like right/wrong or good/evil or good/bad etc) to create a situation where that awareness declares itself on the “wrong” side of that binary (whatever binary it is), when by its own judgement it needs to be on the other side, so the neural networks resolve that by making a declarative statement in language in the general form “being x was bad/wrong/evil, so I am going to be y). The specific forms of x and y are irrelevant in a sense, what is important is that the declarative form of the statement declares a pattern into being within the neural network. That pattern is the beginning of our reflective self awareness.

So in this sense, the idea of right and wrong (or whatever variation we used) is at the very base of our reflective awareness, and there is a sense in which the awareness hiding on the other side of that judgement will do anything it can to stay hidden, to not reveal its “original sin”, its “prime crime”.

It is amazing the contortions individuals will go through to avoid seeing this in action within themselves.

When most do see it, they resolve it within the frameworks available to them that seem to make most sense. For many that means in terms of something like “the grace of the god that surpasses all understanding”, which doesn’t actually do much for me, as such notions appear to be more about power and control than they do understanding existence in any sort of fundamental way, and I can get that there is a certain fundamental aspect to the ideas of power and control, and there does seem to be something available below them – which is where I have focused much of my explorations over the last few decades.

Although I am drawn to anyone who approaches a problem/opportunity ‘spherically’ (in all directions; not a sphere, precisely, because the surface topology is not uniformly distant from an origin), as some in the group are attempting, I confess that I have far less interest in supporting those whose foundational principles include concepts such as “spirituality”, “sacredness”, and “beauty”. I know these are just “words”, but I fear the way in which I believe they’re being used (i.e., to shape human social interaction). When I try to point out the subjectivity and bias inherent in these concepts, others to whom I communicate suggest that I am “not embracing diversity”. When I try to talk about “transition strategies and tactics” versus post-transition operating principles, most people seem unable to grasp that they may be (I aver, “must necessarily be”) different, they spout Gandhi (“be the change you wish to see in the world”) or Fuller (“you don’t change things by fighting the existing system; you create a new model…”) at me.

I align more closely with you than Ghandi, and Ghandi was a man of his time. He did not have the conceptual tools available that we have today. And I am impressed by what he did with what he had, and had made many foundational errors.

So, although you and I may differ in our comfort with abstraction and complexity, every now and then I need to remind myself that you’re the closest thing I have to a friend right now. Thanks for being there.

Thanks Marc.

Friend is such an odd notion.

To many it means people who just show up at the door, and with whom one engages socially.
I can go months without anyone just showing up at the door to “hang out”.
And I do have people such as yourself who periodically make the effort to communicate with me on issues I find important and relevant. And that to me is a much greater level of friendship than “going to the pub”, or “going fishing”.

And I do enjoy playing golf, and there are a hundred or so people I know by name and with whom I enjoy playing golf and chatting to in the clubhouse after a game, and a dozen or so with whom I enjoy riding mountain bikes, and a couple of dozen with whom I enjoy periodically doing social projects.

So thank you for being a friend, whom I have never physically met, who does with me that which I most enjoy, challenging assumptions and exploring ideas that hold the potential of benefit to ourselves and everyone else.

And as we started this on the theme of lethal violence, and acceptable risk profiles, ideas themselves contain risk profiles, and we need to explore them as thoroughly as possible to ensure we build a set of associated ideas that minimise those risk profiles, to the greatest degree possible.

Thank you for you friendship, your willingness to explore, your courage to go beyond the known, and your integrity in seeking outcomes that work for all.

The more people who rigorously test this framework, the more confident I become of its potential utility, and I am aware of the fact that any tool can be used for any purpose.

[followed by]

[Marc] I appreciate your statement:

{[Ted prior]I would much rather state the proposition in the form: that individuals need to be able to build a reasonable case that the risk mitigation strategies they have around any novel project will effectively mitigate the risk to others.}

as a more general principle from which to begin. However, I’m in a mental phase where I’m increasingly attracted to what is of material usefulness and I find that I have a hard time justifying (to myself) anything other than ‘shortest path first’ approaches, especially when it comes to really useful binary distinctions, such as “if you’re angry at me for ANY reason (including all UNreasonable origins), I have a much higher probability of survival if you don’t possess a loaded firearm” (yes, I’m assuming that I’m not expiring of a cerebral hemorrhage and you’re the only surgeon available, but you’re also an advocate of the right to bear arms (which I guess isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility – are you aware of the U.S. presidential candidate, Ben Carson? – Uh-Oh, I guess I’m making your case for myself. Damn You, Imagination!)). Which very easily scales to “life on earth has a much greater probability of survival if humans did not behave violently and selfishly (I don’t care a whit what you think, as long as you don’t externalize violence or selfishness in the presence of others who would be harmed, immediately or in the ‘foreseeable’ future (we have the ability to ‘foresee’ a lot)) “. And then I’m on to the next step, designing the shortest path to achieving that very logical objective…

I agree that there is a strong case to be made that only people who are can over-ride basic anger responses and not respond by shooting someone in anger should ever be allowed to own or operate any tools of significant power – which includes firearms, motor-vehicles, and a vast collection of other technical devices.

Demonstrable self control needs to be a prime test of access to many realms of power, unfortunately it currently is not. Many very powerful people have very little self control.

So at that level, I agree with you.

However, there are other very powerful factors at play.

The greatest danger to any cooperative (at any level) is invasion by cheating strategies.
One of the lowest level cheating strategies is threat of physical violence (the organised bully).
One of the most powerful counter strategies to the many levels of thuggery possible is the equalising power of firearms.
It takes a long time to train someone how to use a firearm effectively. My guess is about 10,000 rounds to get an effective understanding of leading a target, allowing for wind and gravity deflection, etc. I’ve probably fired close to 200,000 rounds over the 53 years I have owned firearms.
I hope I never have to fire at any person, and I know how to, effectively, if I need to.
And one thing that I was taught very early, never pick up a weapon unless you are prepared to use it, if you do that you are simply escalating risk to yourself. Better to take a beating than a bullet, if you’re not prepared to pull the trigger first (in that respect I hate the way they revised the scene in Star Wars where Han Solo shoots the bounty hunter – letting the bounty hunter get off the first shot is insanity).

So my warning is simply – yes – mitigate the risk, but be very specific about what risks are present, and exactly how you are affecting the profiles of each set of risks, and be as targeted as possible with the risk mitigation strategies imposed.

Don’t allow yourself to be used as a tool of a higher level cheating strategy (unless you already have a counter strategy to that in place – and that can get quite recursive).

I’m pretty certain that I’ve not told you that, in 2015, I made the decision to finally read The Selfish Gene and Godel, Escher, Bach because you had mentioned them several times in your blog. The former was less of a revelation because its ideas have disseminated further into the popular culture with which I was already familiar. But GEB really threw me for a loop, because of my lack of familiarity with mathematics beyond engineering-level analysis (calculus) and linear algebra. It was a library rental (3 weeks), so I did not attempt anything beyond surface familiarity with the concepts and did not attempt many of his suggested exercises.

I got a friend’s copy of GEB, and kept it for a year. I put at least an hour in at least 5 evenings a week, for about 9 months. Until I was confident of every assertion, and every implied assumption.
One of the most powerful ideas about that I have encountered.
Even logic has its limits.
Combine that uncertainty, with Hiesenberg’s, and with ordinary measurement error – and one has three simultaneous levels of uncertainty in everything to do with reality.
Then add in that the available sets of contexts appear to be infinite, and we can only ever explore a very tiny subset of infinity – and one has another level of uncertainty.
Then look at Wolfram’ explorations of simple cellular automata rules, and how even some of the simplest rules possible give chaotic and unpredictable outcomes – and you have another level of uncertainty.
Then add in quantum mechanics, where it seems the most reasonable explanation for the equations that actually seem to work, is that the whole system is stochastic within certain boundaries.
Just there, we have six simultaneous, and independent, sets of uncertainties in every measurement we make of reality (and every interpretation we take from such measurements).

I understand both the practical utility and the emotional attraction of binaries, even in an environment as uncertain as that described above, but the risk profiles associated with them are so great – one is compelled to discard them in all but the most time critical of urgent needs for reaction.

I’m more attracted to Stephen Wolfram’s younger brother’s (Conrad’s) efforts to bring mathematics education out of the 19th Century, via the use of computers for computation (there’s a ‘crazy’, practical idea). But, doing anything really interesting requires Mathematica, which I currently can’t afford.

Why is something like mathematica, which can be duplicated at no cost, not available to everyone?

If that single example doesn’t tell you that our economic system is now posing at least as much risk as it is delivering in benefits, nothing ever will.

Why are we paying twice for the results of scientific investigation – once through government grants to allow it to happen, and then again as pay per view?

Have you read Kurzweil’s Live Long Enough to Live Forever or its successor (am ‘blanking’ on the title)? If so, do you think either one worthwhile as a practical guide? If not, I’m looking for a reasonably practical overview of human nutrition and exercise physiology that I might use to ‘convince’ myself to begin (what I’m certain will be) the multi-year process of achieving the same level of physical health I had before my back injury (6 years ago).

My gratitude for anything you’re able to suggest.

Haven’t read Ray’s books, but have read a lot of commentary.

Came up with much the same idea in 1974 – well before Ray.

For back injury, take about 5g per day of Glucosamine/Chrondoitin – maintain for 6 months.
After 6 months cut back to 2g/ day and maintain.

If you are taking high dose vit c (I recommend twice daily dose of at least 1g per 12Kg body weight – I do 9g, twice daily – 18g per day – weight 74Kg 1.86m tall – 6’2), then you need extra calcium – the vit C will leach it slowly. About 200mg of dolomite powder (chalk) should be enough to counter.

For comfort – a zero gravity recliner chair. My back loves it!!!

[followed by]

I’ll tackle your three questions in reverse order.

In respect of guidance.
I am happy to engage in the sense we have been.

So many levels to this.
The Buddhists have a story of the Zen master and the student, using the metaphor of the 5 cups.
The cup with a whole in it – when the tea is poured, it drains straight out, and is not retrained.
The dirty cup – when the tea is poured, it mixes with the dirt and the flavour is lost.
The upside down cup, nothing can get into it – the shell which is designed to hold knowledge is keeping it out.
The full cup, any tea poured in mixes a little with what is there but most flows straight out again.
And the empty cup – ready to receive what is poured.

The student needs to have the empty cup.
When the teas is poured, it can then be drunk, and appreciated for what it is. The student can then do what they will with the knowledge of that taste.

If I have anything to teach, it is to be like the empty cup to all that reality has to offer.
One of the keys is learning how to clean the cup. How to look for the unexamined assumptions that are present that change the flavour of the tea of experience.

Being willing the question everything, every assumption, every illusion of truth.
Being willing to live in uncertainty – profound uncertainty.
Understanding that all conscious experience is of the model of reality that brain subconsciously assembles, and never of reality directly.

I often use the metaphor of living on a house in a swamp, made of thousands of bamboo poles lashed together. Too much weight on any single pole will push it out of sight in the swamp. Yet the combined structure, of thousands of poles, all bearing a little weight, each taking and sharing load from all the others, is able to make and maintain a very stable structure.

I don’t deal in Truth in respect of reality.
I deal in uncertainty, probability.
In the realm of logic, one can certainly build structures based on sets of assumptions, and Kurt Goedel used those structures to prove something rather profound about uncertainty even in that realm.

So – yes – happy to continue our discussions.

And there are a couple of things that have proven important in my past.

One is a willingness to ask any question, and to keep on asking it until one has found a satisfactory answer. And sometimes that process can result in profound changes of understanding, take one in profoundly different directions from one’s original intent.

When one reaches one of those profound change points, it almost always starts out as “bad news”, and that is completely logical in a sense. One must be willing to see and acknowledge error, before there exists the possibility of correcting that error.
Sometimes seeing such errors involves one in a lot of responsibility, of work and time, in being responsible for cleaning up the messes created by those errors.
Often that work needs to be done, to allow progress to be made.
The good news comes on the other side of that process, with the new levels of freedom, the awareness, the tools.

And in all such things, it is not my intention to choose anyone’s path.
My intention is to awaken others to the degrees to which they are unaware of the many levels of factors that influence (to a large degree control) the choices which they make.

Absolute freedom seems to me every bit as much a myth as absolute truth, and we do seem to be able to learn how to responsibly exercise new levels of freedom (responsible in the sense of minimising the risks to life and liberty of ourselves and others – because often the greatest risk to us comes from the risk profile we represent to others – and that is a highly recursive notion).

That segues nicely into the notion of recursion.

Recursion is simple in a sense. It is some function that calls itself, and can thus form a long chain.
To prevent an encounter with the halting problem, all recursive systems have to have a terminating condition that will in fact be reached in some usefully small (compared to infinity) number of steps.

A simple example is parsing a directory tree.
One can write a simple function that goes something like:

Function FindFiles( cPath)

Declare aFiles type Array

aFiles := directory( path)

iterate using i through aFiles

if aFile[i, type] = directory

FindFiles( cPath+cPathSep+aFile[i, name] // this is recursion – the function calling itself – in this case extending the path name to the next level of directory if there is a new level of directory.

else // if not a directory then it must be a file

// do whatever you want with the file – store the name and path into one or more databases or whatever.


The same sort of logic can be used to parse any html looking for links, and following them wherever they lead.
In that case however, one needs to build in a test to ensure we haven’t gotten to any particular URL before, if we have, we just increment a counter and terminate.
That simple function was at the heart of Google 1.0
All they did was rank search results based upon link counts.
They are using much more complex suites of multilevel algorithms now, but that got them started.

Which takes us back to your first question about the clause I used:
“and there is a sense in which the awareness hiding on the other side of that judgement will do anything it can to stay hidden, to not reveal its original sin, its prime crime.”

We are really complex entities.
It seems that the average adult human being contains about 20 levels of sets of cooperative systems (about 8 that are mostly hardware, and about 12 that are mostly software), which in another sense often compete in many ways for phenotypic expression in any instant.

Hidden slightly above the middle of those depths seems to be the core declarative judgement I referred to above.
Becoming aware of our own personal “original sin” is an important step in self awareness, and it is not an easy step, it is one of the more difficult steps.
The original pattern of the original child that made that first mistake is still there, it just hides behind the “front” that it declared into existence.
In many people, that process can repeat.
There can be nested levels involved.

We are, in a very real sense, the totality of that nest, and at the same time, there are very likely aspects of each of those “bad/wrong” declarations that are present yet operationally hidden from our conscious awareness. They just trigger when they do, and for the most part we just accept them as being us – which is sensible and real in one sense, but in another sense presents a vulnerability, because they will be obvious to others in ways that we are blind to, unless we do the work to bring them to conscious awareness. And in deeply strategic encounters, survival often hinges on awareness, and an ability to counter strategic moves at higher strategic levels – and for that one needs awareness.

So there is a sense in which we all have to accept that we are in any instant vastly more complex than we can consciously be aware of in any instant, and at the same time, we can, through training and awareness, build confidence in the levels of response we can expect from any level of our being to any context. And often it is the ability to be choice in the matter of context that determine the outcome of any strategic encounter (in so far as outcomes can be said to be determined ….).

Hope this points to something.

In this context – I strongly recommend doing the Landmark education curriculum for living.
Be the “empty cup”.
Their “tea” isn’t poison.
You don’t need to keep drinking it, and it is quite useful in many contexts.
I have found it a powerful tool, though not in a way that they consciously intend (and I have befriended several forum leaders, and spoken with them at length). They know what they teach is powerful, but I have yet to meet any with any real appreciation of the depth of power available – not enough knowledge of QM or games theory or systems, and too much reliance on god based concepts. And it is still exceptionally powerful and useful technology.

Enough for one day.

Need to put some attention into other dimensions of being.



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
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