On Monsters within

On Monsters

[ 23/December/21 Dirk posted a JBP quote “You should be a monster, and absolute monster, and then you should learn how to control it.”]

I think of it more like the original Greek of the bible that is translated into English as “the meek shall inherit the earth”, but in the original is more like “the fully armed and trained warrior that usually keeps his weapons in their sheaths shall inherit the earth” (as opposed to louts that go around threatening ordinary folks).

Just another layer of the same theme, but going a bit deeper into evolutionary strategic topologies.

We all have many layers of “monsters” lurking within, just waiting appropriate triggers, best to get some sort of conscious awareness of them before they completely take over systems.

[followed by 24/Dec Dirk – The negative appalling connotation of the term monster really is a problem. Good monsters seem rare.]

Hi Dirk,

Monster has many different elements to it that usually have some combination of the following elements: something unusual, something not bound by normal constraints, something capable of actions we would not normally do; something dangerous to normal society; something large and or powerful.

We all contain layers of systems that can trigger in some contexts that can meet all of those attributes.

As a biochemist by training I have looked at the general themes of the heuristic nature of the evolutionary emergence and survival of such systems.

Having read a bit of history, from a few different perspectives, I have no shortage of evidence for the presence of such things. They can emerge as patterns and systems within us, in response to certain classes of triggers, and they can emerge in levels of interaction between and within groups of individuals (at any and all levels). I don’t think of them as “demons” but the descriptions of the phenotypic behaviours is accurate.

I just see them as systems doing what systems do, and having pushed myself to quite a few extremes in different domains I have more than a little experience of them, and have installed a few sets of higher level systems to give me a reasonable probability of intercepting and mitigating any further triggers; and there is a finite and not insignificant probability of me consciously missing the signs and finding myself an unwitting agent within such a system.

Acceptance and forgiveness work to a degree, provided that they are accompanied by a commitment to higher values – and to me the minimum set required is the life and liberty of all self aware agents (with there being an absolute need for responsibility in the expression of liberty at all levels). Every level of system has necessary sets of constraints required for its emergence and survival. No form of liberty is allowed to violate those. Every level of complexity is built on a new level of cooperation, and that cooperation is required for long term survival (it is not an option, it is a fundamental requirement).

So it is deeply complex, and many of the older and simpler systems are very fast, and entirely heuristic at base, and lack any and all subtlety. They often come down to simple binaries – friend or foe, good or bad, etc. That allows for speed, but not for any level of appreciation of complexity or uncertainty. Every level of such “monsters” operates at some level of heuristic that is right or wrong in the context. That gives speed, and speed is often essential; but it often causes a great deal of destruction in the process.

So “Monster” is an entirely appropriate term, and we all have ecosystems of them within us; and few of us ever encounter the worst of them. Having met more than a few of my own, I often see them at play in others. It is part of what I appreciate about Jordan Peterson. Anyone who thinks they don’t have them within, is dangerously ignorant, because by definition they lack any practiced tools for dealing with them should any context cause them to trigger.

[followed by 25th Dec – in a different subthread of the same topic]

Hi Dirk,

That is a very simplistic model of “socialism”.

And I do get it is a reasonably accurate approximation to many of the simple models out there in existence; and it is not at all accurate for those whom I have met and discussed the topic with who lead “socialist” groups in this country.

In this country (New Zealand) there are very few hard liners who support the idea that the state should own all property; and the vast majority are more towards the middle of the spectrum that accept that if we are to have a notion of property, then it must apply to all levels and classes of agent, and part of the notion of “State” responsibility is creating conditions that ensure that all levels and classes of agents have some reasonable level of security and freedom, and that any such complexity is necessarily founded on multiple levels of cooperation and respect between diverse agents (and that is a very difficult balancing act with the degrees and levels of diversity actually present).

The tendency to over simplify the necessary multi-leveled complexity that is necessarily involved in any such real evolving complex system is orders of magnitude beyond any simple dichotomy between State owns everything vs individuals own everything.

Having such a simple notion is kind of like playing with Lego bricks.
One can build a model of a rocket with Lego, and it is recognisably a rocket, but it is never going to fly.
Similarly with any simplistic notion of either socialism or capitalism. Both are simplistic notions that capture aspects of reality, and neither is survivable or workable in the real world. Reality demands that aspects of both are present, but is in fact so deeply more complex that using either term almost guarantees failure.

Yet most people do in fact have such simple models, and those of us who do not, must accept that fact, and must work with it in the reality of the complexity that we deal with as our “personal” versions of whatever objective reality actually is (and whatever it is, I suspect that both Stephen Wolfram and Garrett Lissi capture aspects of it that are useful at some scales, and I suspect it is actually more complex than either of them have written about to date – and both of them are mind numbingly complex enough as it is).

So we must all, necessarily, have our simplistic models and understandings of whatever reality actually is; there does not appear to be any alternative for any class of computational agent (human, AI, or anything else). Accepting that reality, and that level of fundamental and eternal uncertainty, seems to be a kind of necessary step on the path for any agent that is attempting to construct or maintain survivable conditions in reality (whatever that actually is).

[And as it is xmas morning already here in kiwiland, best wishes from this antipodean atheist.]

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 www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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