Tom again on understandings

[ 16/6/20 Tom again on facebook, in a thread I have been in for a bit, but I am separating this as a standalone]

Now you are simply generating insults.

I have been trying to explain some of the ways in which human brains tend to make sense of the world, and how they have evolved at different levels, and how those levels interact.

For the major purposes of this discussion, we need to consider two of the very different classes of things that seem (beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt) to be present:


A human being, any human being, is a finite entity, with finite computational ability, but with access to a vast array of infinities.

Any finite entity may only instantiate a very small subset of any infinity.


There seems to be an infinite array of classes and types of complexity.

David Snowden simplifies that down to 4 classes to make it workable for managers: Simple, Complicated, Complex and Chaotic.

Simple systems can have input and output classes specified, and all states in between characterised, and can be optimised by classical management methods.

Complicated system behave mostly like simple systems, but actually are more complex, and require the use of tuned neural networks to key people into useful pathways. Thus a doctor for example may use intuition to decide what is probably present, then follow a checklist to see if that is actually present.

Complex systems are always changing. Every time we interact with them, they do something subtly (or not so subtly) different. Our neural networks are so tuned to categorise, to identify known pattern, that we usually miss those subtle differences. Thus we all have a strong tendency to be trapped by our own distinctions from seeing other things that are also present. Often we can do this for a very long time (many people {most people} their entire lives) without noticing.

Chaotic systems have no pattern, by definition. There are many classes of them already well characterised. They are almost impossible for humans to notice, because our neural networks are so heavily biased to notice pattern that we see it even where it does not exist.

Most living systems exist in the class of complex systems. So does quite a bit of geology.

One interest law to come out of complexity theory is Goodhart’s Law – “Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is put upon it for control purposes”.

Most people fail to appreciate this.
For most people, most contexts occur as simple.
For most people, the idea of laws, of rules that may be followed with invariant results, makes sense.

This is so because each and every one of us lives in an experiential reality that is a model of reality that is generated by the subconscious processes of our brains and wider bodies. We each live in our own personalised Virtual Realities within the wider “reality”. The mechanics of this are now very well characterised and beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt.

In the wider reality within we exist are many levels of “structure”, sets of incentives and dispositions, that have evolved and been generated at many different levels – some randomly, some intentionally, by many different levels of agency and non-agent systems.

We all exist in this milieu, and we all attempt to make what sense we can of it.

At base, quantum mechanics and a wide variety of other disciplines seem to be indicating that it is a balance between order and chaos – in one sense, randomness within probability functions.

At every level of structure, sets of boundaries are required for the survival of that order of structure, and at every level there exists fundamental uncertainty in those boundaries.

Even the simplest human being embodies at least 15 levels of such boundaries, and within each level many different classes of complex systems interacting (thousands of them at most levels).

That we can make any sense of it at all is close to miraculous, and is the result of a vast set of collections of hacks, heuristics and simplifications that have, over the deep time of our biological and cultural history, worked well enough for our ancestors to survive.

None of our ancestors lived in conditions remotely resembling the contexts that fully automated systems make available to us now.

Most particularly, automation breaks the systems of markets and trade that we have become dependent upon, in ways that are invisible to the heuristic that most people use to make what sense they do of the reality within which they find themselves.

The idea that anyone is “in control” of it all is itself a failure to understand the degrees of complexity actually present.

Anyone who thinks they are in control is, by definition, dangerously deluded.

What seems to be beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt is that we are all in this eternal “dance” with uncertainty and unknowability together.

When I read Rumi, it is through this lens that I find beauty in his words.
This lens was not available to him, he was using a vastly more simplistic model of reality to make his interpretations. To the degree that I am able, I attempt to compensate for that.

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) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see
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