Evonomics – Rethinking foundations

The Making of “Rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Economics”

[ 5/April/22 ]

All good, and essential in a sense, and it is necessarily deeply more complex than that.

And we all have this necessary set of evolutionary systems within our neural networks to simplify, and it is deeply recursive within our subconscious structures, so the more stress we experience, the greater the tendency to simplify, until at the limiting case we really do live in an experiential world of binaries (true/false, right/wrong, friend/foe, run/fight, ….). When faced with an urgent need to make decisions and act, that is entirely understandable. When faced with the deeply complex reality of complex individual humans, in complex social and strategic environments, then there really are no “simple” answers that are going to deliver useful long term survival probabilities.

One has to be comfortable with concepts from quantum mechanics that everything effects everything else with some probability, but in most contexts one can effectively ignore everything except the most proximate systems.

One has to be comfortable with the idea of fundamental uncertainty, from Heisenberg on up through multiple levels of probabilistic spaces and non-binary systems of logic (the next simplest being the trinary True/False/Undecided).

One has to be comfortable with the idea of fundamental unknowables, from things outside the “light cone” to systems that are deterministic but cannot be predicted by any mechanism shorter than letting them do what they do, to chaotic systems, to any of a potentially infinite class of fundamental uncertainties …. .

And when I first read Selfish Gene in 1978 it was immediately obvious from the later chapters that cooperation was essential to the emergence and survival of any and all levels of complexity, and that competition tends to reduce complexity to set of minima on the available complexity landscape.

It has since become clear to me that at every level of complexity, any level strategic system that ignores the needs of the cooperative as a whole, and starts to consume resources at a rate, and or distorts signaling systems, that ignores the needs of the cooperative, is an existential level threat to that level of structure. At the level of human individuals, we have a name for any of our cell lines that start doing that – it is called cancer, and it is usually terminal unless aggressively treated. I have some experience of that, having had my oncologist tell me that there was nothing known to medical science that could extend the probability of my survival, which he gave as “could be dead in 6 weeks” and “have a 2% chance of living 2 years”. That was 12 years ago. I put my weird autistic brain to solving that particular problem, and am still here.

Our current set of economic and financial institutions can generally be classified as cancers on the the body that is modern cooperative society; and for the most part that is so because of over simplifications of the extreme complexity present, and the over confidence that such simplification instills in the neural nets of such individuals. And it is deeply complex, and requires deeply complex sets of mitigation strategies. Anything overly simplistic is likely to be self terminating.

If the evolutionary experiment that is modern humanity is to have a reasonable probability of survival, then it must accept as fundamental that competition is only survivable if it is built on a fundamentally cooperative base, and every level of cooperation requires evolving ecosystems of cheat detection and mitigation systems if it is to have a reasonable probability of long term survival. That applies equally to any emergent AGIs as it does to our modern economic, political, social, cultural, and more abstractly paradigmatic systems.

So I applaud all you are and have been doing with Evonomics, and it is deeply more complex, strategically, than anything I have seen explicitly addressed in this forum over the years.

And if there is one simple (ish) message that needs to be generally understood by all self aware entities (human and non human, biological and non biological), it is that every level of complexity demands fundamental cooperation in order to survive, and that demands from every one of us levels of responsibility to do what it takes to identify and mitigate cheating (to the best of our necessarily limited and fallible abilities) – if we are to have any reasonable probability of survival long term.

That means, as Suzanne Taylor notes here, that we need systems that do in fact meet the reasonable needs of any and all levels of sapient agents present. We have the technology to do that, but the conceptual frameworks generally accepted as “Truth”s lack far behind what is required in terms of the orders of complexity and uncertainty actually present.

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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