Understandings

Comment to a 2 year old thread reactivated on Paul’s facebook page.

[ 3/11/20 – cut into 2 as over the 8K facebook limit]

I just spent several hours going back over all entries in the thread and subthreads.

For me, unsurprisingly, it is different.

For me, any sort of God seems improbable, and I can see why the idea has been invented, for much the same reason as people thought (and some still do) that the sun goes around the earth, because from a naïve perspective, that is in fact what we see.

It seems clear to me that the universe in which we exist is more complex than any computational entity is capable of computing, for many different classes of reasons, and thus all understandings are necessarily simplifications.

It seems clear that in the evolution of our species, slow response to threat has been punished much more severely than slightly inaccurate responses; thus evolution has selected systems based upon sets of heuristics that were close enough to be useful in the contexts encountered. And in many contexts, such systems are very useful.

Thus under threat, we all tend to revert to simple models, as they can deliver responses rapidly, and being last normally has a very low survival probability.

Thus I can see the utility of ideas like “God” as a proxy for the vast unknowable.

I can see the difficulty involved in being a conscious entity, a being of story and meaning, in a world that seems to be intrinsically devoid of meaning. Thus we tend to make up stories, and imbue our existence with meaning greater than ourselves. It makes day to day existence easier.

Yet to me, that is not what seems to actually be present.

We seem to be highly evolved entities, with many levels of very complex systems, many of which we share with many other species.

We don’t get born with an instruction manual.

We get born into some set of cultures which are some set of approximations to sets of boundaries required to sustain the complex forms that are us.

All form requires boundary for distinction.

Without boundaries, all is amorphous randomness.

Boundaries do not need to be hard to be boundaries, any gradient in any set of dimensions will do.

People tend to look for simple models.

Most people want certainty, want confidence, want escape from anxiety.

This leads to relatively simplistic models of reality.

The modern synthesis of evolutionary biology as an open system of emergent complex adaptive systems is not simple.

If Garret Lissi’s conjectures about the nature of the substructure of atoms are correct, and the simplest components of the substructure of atoms are some function of the most complex symmetry known to mathematics (the E8 Lie Group, and even the idea that one can make a reasonable case for it is pause for considerable thought on the nature of simplicity), then we really need to give up this idea of simplicity, and accept complexity; and accept that all of our simple understandings are necessarily wrong, however useful they may be in some sets of contexts.

It’s not just everyone else that’s wrong, it is us too.

And we all need something, so choosing “less wrong” is usually appropriate, and it is very unlikely to be right, just less wrong. Humility is appropriate. Acceptance of diversity is appropriate, provided it has respect for life and liberty, universally, and displays appropriate levels of responsibility.

The very idea of “employment” seems to me to have come to the end of its social utility, even if few people can see that as yet.

The idea that value measured in markets is a reasonable proxy for human values more generally can similarly no longer be sustained.

It seems clear to me, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that the universe within which we exist, and every one of us as individuals, are more complex than any computational entity (human or AGI) can possibly understand in detail (in any sort of hard predictive sense, however probabilistically predictive they may be).

It seems clear to me, for a set of logical and mathematical reasons that I have pushed to 12 levels of abstraction but have failed to communicate to anyone else in detail, that we do have real and meaningful degrees of choice, in every sense of the word, and simultaneously, because we have complex structure, we also have multiple levels of structure and boundaries and influence that must be acknowledged and accepted if we wish to continue to exist.

I fear the twin tyrannies – of the majority, and the minority.

I do not accept the idea of democratic control, and I do accept the need for boundaries, and the need for open discussion about where the limits of the necessary and appropriate boundaries are in any particular set of contexts.

And it will always be the case that there will exist individuals that are, in some particular times and places, operating at levels beyond the ability of those around them to distinguish. It seems very probable that such always has been, and always will be, the case. In the sense that one can read Plato’s republic as a 3 level construction in abstract space involving all the classical components of Greek drama at every level, there does seem to be some justification for the idea that all of philosophy consists as a series of footnotes to Plato, in that such abstraction can be continued through all further levels of abstraction, as far as one is able to abstract.

And the complex, non-Euclidean geometries of strategic spaces involving far from equilibrium complex adaptive systems are a very long way from anything available to classical Greek thought. So one can only take that analogy so far.

Some things seem to be true across all levels.

Contrary to popular dogma about evolution, it seems clear that all new levels of complexity are necessarily based upon new levels of cooperation; and raw cooperation is always open to exploitation, and thus requires evolving ecosystems of cheat detection and removal strategies to survive (every level).

Thus, to a reasonable first order approximation, our survival, and the survival of complexity generally, is predicated on our ability to cooperate (all levels, all dimensions). “All out” competition of entities as creative as us necessarily self terminates. If anyone is looking for the “Great Filter”, then this is my candidate for it: dropping into hard competition for resources, drops us into simplistic mental models, leading to total annihilation.

The alternative, the only option with any significant survival probability, is cooperation between all levels of complexity (including global & beyond).

And cooperation is not control.
Cooperation means every level having respect for the necessary sets of boundaries required for the existence of all levels in any particular sets of contexts. And there must eternally be uncertainties at every level, leading to a need for discussion. And small changes in context can significantly alter boundaries.

All real, survivable, expressions of freedom must acknowledge that there are real responsibilities present, all levels, always – starting with ecological and social levels.

Freedom without such responsibility necessarily self terminates.

So what I see is very different from Paul Lowe as it is an open system, capable of eternal exploration and creativity and novelty.

I quite like the idea of living for the rest of eternity. That has in fact been my plan since 1974, since completing 3rd year biochemistry and realising that such was in fact possible, even if I did not know how to do it then. It now seems very probable to me that some groups do now know how to do it, but they do not yet have the technological capacity to deploy it at scale to all who want it; and that should be available within 15 years.

Automation removes the need for labour, all levels.

If we are to retain an economic system at all, then there is a strong case that some form of universal income is essential.

We also need to close all the currently open loops in our use of materials. We need close to 100% recycling, or we self terminate – necessarily. The technology to do it is relatively simple, but it makes no sense in an economic system where value is measured in markets, as markets cannot generate value in abundance, only in scarcity.

To the degree that universal income can offset that fact about markets, then there can be some value in retaining their use, at least for a few hundred years.

So we have issues.

We need fundamental change, and we need it urgently.

Our currently dominant paradigms are heading rapidly towards self termination.

We can avoid that.

We must avoid that.

I am quietly confident that we will avoid that.

And we will only avoid it if enough are able to see it coming, and are bold enough to take effective action !!!

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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