Ideapod – Freedom – constraints – Updated 3July17

Captivity of Mind Creates Freedom Illusions

This is interesting – serious yes and no stuff.

Yes, most certainly, we need to each make the effort to explore both ourselves internally and our contextual existence externally (physically, socially, ecologically and intellectually), if we are to begin to gain some reasonable understanding of the many levels of heuristics embedded in our being by biological and social evolution.

And part of that process is acknowledging the huge role of our biological and cultural histories in bringing us to the levels of individual awareness that we have.

The constraints and patterns of our past aren’t all bad, many of them are actually essential to the existence that we are.

A human baby alone, without social support, without ecology, without language, cannot exist for very long at all, and will not develop any sort of languaging awareness.

So yes, we have many levels of constraints, and some of them are essential to our continued existence.

Removing all constraints isn’t a smart thing to do.

Careful exploration of which constraints are actually required in which contexts can only be safely done in a supportive social context (we need to have friends to rescue us when we inevitably push something a bit too far).

Yes we need the greatest degree of objectivity we can effectively manage, and we also need to acknowledge that our conscious ability to calculate anything “non-trivial” from “first principles” is so limited that we would starve to death if we tried to survive on it alone. So we absolutely need the many levels of heuristics that allow us to operate in this reality we find ourselves in, in something approximating real time, if we are to survive.

As we all require a social context to survive, social groups must have a reasonable ability to mitigate what they reasonably determine to be unreasonable risk to the group or any of its members.

And what defines reasonableness must be an eternally open question in an open system.

So yes, undoubtedly, there are many layers of illusion, hostage, and captivity present in many levels of our biology and culture, and undoubtedly some of them are not required, and some of them are.

Morality, for example, seems to be a necessary constraint for the existence of advanced social organisms like ourselves.
Which is not to say that any particular moral system is necessarily the minimum set of moral constraints necessary for social existence, and abstract across a broad enough grouping and one will get to something that is a close enough approximation – which is what Jordan Peterson argues that Christianity has largely done – and I think he has made few errors in what he has done.

It seems that the best any of us can do, is to not intentionally deceive anyone, and to tell it as we see it to the best of our limited abilities.

If we all do at least that, then we may have a future.

[followed by]

I thought this would get interesting šŸ˜‰

To the degree that we are constrained by shackles (things intentionally designed to limit us in ways that have no benefit for us), then I agree with you.

To the degree to we fail to clearly distinguish between what is “shackle” and what is “required constraint”, then we are at risk.

A cell wall constrains the molecules within a cell, and it also gives form and function, and security to those molecules.

Every new level of complexity has a necessary minimum set of constraints required to sustain that complexity.

As self aware human beings we embody about 20 levels of such constraints, about half of those being social/cultural, and some of them coming under the category “morality”. And be very clear, I am not claiming that any existing morality is such a minimum necessary set of constraints, and all will be some approximation to it.

Abstracting to this level, of the minimum set of constraints necessary for complexity, isn’t easy.

[followed by]

When you spend enough time looking at systems, at evolution (biochemical and cultural), at the abstract ideas of how systems are organised, at what allows for existence and what leads to destruction, then some patterns start to clearly emerge at yet higher levels of abstraction.

All new levels of complexity seem to result from new levels of cooperation.

Raw cooperation is always vulnerable to exploitation from cheating strategies, and thus requires sets of attendant strategies to detect and remove such cheats.

That is morality.

And we all have it.

You may not see it as such, and it is there.

[followed by]

Social systems are complex.
Social systems are fundamentally cooperative, if they were not, they would not survive.

Just as our cells are cooperative systems of molecules that require a complex cell wall for existence (a wall which is selectively permeable and has active transport of some things), and our bodies are cooperative systems of cells, with skin, and a few openings to let stuff in and out, so too our societies require boundary conditions necessary for their survival, and our survival as individuals within.

Evolution has been at work supplying such constraints at several levels, biological and cultural, and we embody many of those.

Evolution tends to optimise for survival using the strategies present at the time (what it has to work with).

We can now explore new levels of strategy space, and new sets of strategies.

No one has to be a slave to the social needs of others, and we all need to be responsible for the reasonably likely outcomes of our choices.

[followed by updated 3July17]

Hi Seer

I don’t go out of my way to seek complexity, and I do tend to look at results quite closely, and ask questions about anomalies, and do the basic math associated with whatever I happen to be considering. Doing that often takes me to levels of complexity that most people don’t get to, because they would rather hold onto some “Truth” rather than actually examine the evidence closely.

Now to address your points directly:

Social cooperation amongst humans is not simply compelled, it is one of our primary modes of being.
And once you understand games theory, it is clear that raw cooperation is always open to invasion.
If one is cooperative, always, however the other party acts, then evolution will supply strategies that can exploit that.
So to be stable, cooperation requires attendant sets of strategies to detect and remove cheating strategies.
We have those, at many different levels.
We have them biologically, in emotions like jealousy and rage at injustice, etc.

We have them at many levels of culture. One can make a case that our entire legal system is based on this strategic level of response (but has been exploited by higher level cheating strategies – but that is a much deeper story).

Evolution works by the differential survival of variants in different contexts.
What determines the frequency of survival is a function of the frequency of contexts and relative advantage/disadvantage of each possible strategy phenotypically present in that context.
We each carry many levels of strategies that have context sensitive probabilities of expression.
We are not pure anything.
We are each “strategic mongrels” at many different levels.
The more self awareness of that we can generate, the greater the degree of influence we can consciously generate on the probabilities of expression of any particular class of strategy in any particular context. And our neural nets are also habit machines, so it takes practice to establish such patterns.

#Freedom is the ability to consciously create such influence on the probabilities to action (at any and all levels).
In my understanding cooperation emerges when contexts exist wherein it is beneficial to the survival of the individuals expressing it.
This can happen when the risk to each individual within a population of individuals comes much more from factors external to the population than it does from factors within the population.
Expressed another way, when the environment is much more of a threat than your neighbours and family, then cooperation can be actively selected for.
In a sense it is “threat and bullying”, but not by any individual or set of human beings, but rather by the context of our evolutionary history (physically, biologically and socially).
It is not at base illusion in any sense.
At base it follows the strict logic of games theory.
It is all about cost benefit ratios to individuals and groups over time, and in some very harsh contexts.

Evolution, in this sense of the process that has brought us to our present, is all about the survival of variants that get expressed in the particular contexts of our past.

So in this sense, as a student of survival of strategies over time in contexts, I have a particular set of views of the many levels of influence on the factors that have brought us to our current situation. Conscious design doesn’t appear to have played a very large role as yet (other factors still appear to be dominant, and that could be changing, and changing quite quickly).

In this sense, social cooperation is the major factor that has allowed us as a species to produce art, language, science, technology, and all aspects of our explorations of logic, mathematics, strategy and systems, and their application to any particular sets of contexts. The science of complex adaptive systems, is particularly interesting in this abstract context, with all of its concrete derivative actions in reality.

To your numeric points:

1/ No – we are not a defective species, and nor are we a perfect species. Like all species, we are a species adapted to a set of historical environmental probabilities.
We do appear to be the most complex species yet to evolve, and we are at existential risk from a host of “cheating strategies” that have invaded our political, educational, financial, and military institutions at several different levels.
We have the option of removing the strategies, without necessarily removing the individuals that previously expressed those strategies. And that is not something most have yet seriously considered.
Up until now, most could make a strong case that they were simply ignorant.
That case will become exponentially more difficult to make over quite short time-frames.
I think the probabilities relating to self interest will dominate, and we have a reasonable chance of surviving the process.

2/ Human evolutionary progress.
Evolution happens, whether we like it or not, know it or not.
Every time there is the differential survival of something, like two ideas meeting, and the probability of expression of those ideas altering as a result of the interaction – that is evolution in action.
Evolution is alive and well, and always will be.

The idea of Truth may be a very simplistic notion that is about to become a very low probability thing.
When you actually just start doing simple math on the reality that appears to be present in any one of us, then the idea of Truth becomes highly improbable.
We are complex, and we live in a very complex reality.
We do not experience reality directly, all we get to experience is a subconsciously created model of reality that is assembled from sets of heuristics supplied by evolution over genetic and cultural history, modulated through our particular experience of being. None of us, ever, get to experience objective reality.

Objective reality does seem to most likely be “out there” beyond our software experience of the qualia of the software model of reality within our biological brains, but it is never directly accessible to us.
That much at least is beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt. Over 50 years of investigation into biology, mathematics, and systems has given me that degree of confidence.
And I am very conscious that what I know that I don’t know is vastly greater than what I am reasonably confident of, and what I don’t know and don’t know that I don’t know must be a very close approximation to infinite, if not actually infinite.
So yeah – uncertainty reigns, and like everyone else, I need operational heuristics to allow me to operate in reality at somewhere near real time. Survival makes that demand on all of us.

3/ The “murder of Truth” – here our fundamentally differences are clear.
I am clear, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that it is the very notion of “Truth” that is the greatest threat to any and all of us.
“Truth” in this sense is the ultimate hubris.
Once anyone decides that they have “Truth” then by definition they stop asking questions, and ignore any and all evidence that is contrary to their “Truth” as some form of illusion or mistake.
Any form of “Truth” is, in this sense, pathological.
Sure we all need heuristics, rules of thumb that simplify the complexity within which we live and allow us to make useful decisions in usefully short time scales, and we need to call those things what they are – heuristics.
Heuristics are, by definition, things that worked in practice in the past.
As such they will probably (but not necessarily) be useful in our future.
If the context changes, heuristics can (and often do) fail.

So yes – I “murder Truth” with skepticism at every level, and temper that skepticism with a respect for the heuristics that have worked in the past, but not an absolute trust.
I use them, and I am alert to the possibility of their failure.

In this sense I accept that we each embody many levels of biological and cultural wisdom that few (if any) have much conscious level awareness of.
I tend to trust my intuitions when time is short, and examine them with all the tools of science and logic when I am allowed the luxury of the time to do so. Intuition is much older than culture.

So I reject nihilism as dangerous absurdity (even more dangerous that “Truth”), and I accept that there is much wisdom in the old ways, even as I push hard into the boundaries of science and technology and logic.

As to Parenthood, it has been a biological necessity, and it is becoming less so.
Indefinite life extension will mean that reproduction rates will need to reduce significantly.

As to the harm or benefit of any particular system from our past (cultural, biological, social) those will be experiencing exponential changes in the “cost/benefit ratios” (and I am thinking in survival value terms, not monetary terms).
The very idea of money, as an abstract notion of value determined in a market, now seems to be a looming existential threat to us all, as technology and systems change the context of our being.

So we seem to “see” things very differently, even as we have some significant areas of overlap, we also seem to have some foundational differences.

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
This entry was posted in Ideas and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s