Can philosophy help in solving the perennial chicken and egg problem?

[ 19/10/20 ]

No.

Because there isn’t a chicken and egg problem.

The process of evolution, leading from relatively simple replicating molecules (probably in alkaline “white smokers” using H+ ions from geothermal chemistry in the first instance) through archea to bacteria to eukaryotes to multi cellular animals with haplodiploid life cycles that eventually became chickens and eggs as part of a complex diploid phase of development.

The idea of a chicken and egg problem existing comes from an overly simplistic understanding of an exceptionally complex situation.

And that is what happens in most people most of the time. Reality gets over simplified.

Reality seems to be sufficiently complex that the subconscious processes of our brains have to simplify it to allow us to make what limited sense we do of it.

We get to see chickens and eggs, and we think of them being end points in processes.

What we cannot see without a microscope is what is happening at the cellular level, where the real action happens prior to egg formation, where after mating a haploid egg cell and a haploid sperm cell get together to form a diploid zygote, that then initiates the sets of chemical processes within the chicken that results in the egg being formed, then laid, then incubated, then hatched.

And the physiochemical environment within the chicken that allows for egg formation is part of the environment within which this evolutionary process has happened.

It is deeply complex, amazing, beautiful, subtle, profound, and contains many levels of fundamental uncertainties and fundamental unknowables.

In the sense of philosophy being a love of wisdom, a love of the observation of reality, and a building of our understanding of what is present – then in that sense philosophy and science are the same thing.

In the sense of groups of people forming “schools” and arguing over resources and power – then much of what we see in academia is neither philosophy or science in the sense that I value both of those things.

For me, as someone fascinate by biology and behaviour for over 50 years, it is proven beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that reality is more complex than any computational entity (human or AGI) is capable of modeling or predicting in detail – and always will be; because it contains many classes of fundamental uncertainty and fundamental unknowables.

And some classes of systems can be very reliable even in the presence of both uncertainty and unknowability.

So we seem to have the best of both worlds, provided we can see it as such.

We seem to have the sort of fundamental uncertainty that does allow for the possibility of real choice in some contexts, at the same time as we seem to have sufficient regularity and reliability for complex pattern such as we are to emerge in some contexts.

The really deep question is – what sort of contexts, over what sort of time frames?

It seems clear to me, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the sort of pattern that we are requires fundamental cooperation in order to survive.

We are certainly capable of competing if the context demands it of us, but all out competition between agents as inventive as we are is necessarily self terminating.

We cooperate, or we perish – all levels.

In the end, it really does seem to be that simple. And between here and there it is likely to get exceedingly complex.

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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