A Joke cartoon about kings and corruption

[ 10/June/22 Joke cartoon about kings and corruption]

Applies to many of the kings of economics, politics, Wall St, military, industry, universities, and most institutions.

We need effective mechanisms to identify and remove cheating strategies at every level of complexity and organization; and we need the will and the duty to implement them.

All that is keeping society together is the fact that most people in these systems are generally of good character, and do find ways around the worst of the systems they are forced to work within.

We need to reformulate systems, with a clear hierarchy of values, starting with individual life, then individual liberty; and we need to recognize that any and all rights and freedoms necessarily generate responsibilities if they are to be survivable long term. Most people do seem to sense that, but our systems lag far behind in terms of complexity appropriate to scale.

Hard rules are never appropriate to truly complex systems; as boundaries always need to be sensitive to context, and contexts are always changing, evolving, emerging.

The biases necessarily with the human brain to prefer simplicity over complexity need to be recognized for what they are, necessary for growth, but in adulthood inadequate to deal with the real complexities actually present.

Over simplifying is every bit as dangerous as over complexity. And there must always be elements of art and luck and uncertainty in finding a survivable balance in those considerations; which is one reason why diversity (many different approaches to the same problem at the same time) is so important to survival.

Any real expression of liberty results in diversity. Any diversity that is not an unreasonable threat to existence must be accepted and respected. Those are necessary conditions for safely searching the unknown and the unexplored when one is actually dealing with complexity and uncertainty. The unknown holds both threats an opportunities. And while ignorance of threats may feel safe, it isn’t actually safe. In order to be able to mitigate threats, we must have some reasonable degree of understanding of them (recurs that to every level you are capable of).

Competition is only survivable if it is built on a fundamentally cooperative base that does actually respect and support diversity (all levels, all classes, all instances of agency).

That is about as far from simple as it is possible to get, and it does seem, beyond any shadow of remaining reasonable doubt, to be where we are. If we fail to accept and respect it, then the human experiment seems likely to end. Contrary to that thought, it does seem more likely than not that most people can actually accept and respect it to some useful level of approximation. So the outlook is generally optimistic, if far from certain.

[followed by Michael Ward “You seem fairly dogmatic about how to “improve” society”…]

Gravity is “dogmatic” in that sense, yes.

There is a very old saying, reality to be commanded must first be obeyed.

If our conceptions of how reality work are not aligned with how it actually works, then our systems based on those conceptions will fail – no logical escape from that, not in any form of logic.

So I am rather insistent (rather than dogmatic – I do not classify myself as dogmatic, because I make a great deal of effort to always be open to evidence, which is the opposite of dogma), that the simple notion many have of evolution being all about competition could not be more wrong if it tried.

The reality is deeply more complex.

Yes, certainly, there are always aspects of competition present in evolutionary systems, but if you actually look closely at the evolution of complexity, it is necessarily the case that all new levels of complexity are based in cooperation, and any level of competition that breaks that cooperative base destroys that entire level of complexity.

So in terms of complex systems, (and we currently know of nothing more complex than human individuals in human society), it is (to a reasonable first order approximation) true to say that survival is based in cooperation.

That is contrary to current political and economic dogma (and there is no shortage of real dogma in both economics and politics).

So I can be both persistent and insistent on this issue. Keeping it as simple as I possibly can, and at the same time being explicitly clear that it is actually a very long way from simple.

The human bias to prefer simplicity is understandable at multiple levels, and it has definite limits on its utility. Past a certain point, it does actually impose existential level risk.

We are actually at one of those points in history – right now!

We do not have decades, we may have a few years; but the situation is urgent, and fundamentally uncertain in ways that defy accurate prediction – a bit like earthquakes.

And the 7.8 earthquake here in Kaikoura 5 years ago is a good example. Most people thought – it’s unpredictable, don’t worry. I thought, it is certain that it will occur, but unpredictable as to when, so I prepared fully immediately. As a result I was the only person in town fully prepared for it, with alternative power, water and sewerage systems ready to go and food reserves for 4 months on hand (and all functional within 8 hours of the quake hitting).

So I get I am unusual.

I get that I am a math geek who actually understands probability intuitively, in a way that lets me do simple first order approximations to most things about as fast as I can read them. And I have been in the habit of doing that for all numbers I read for 60 years – actually checking that the math is somewhere near what is claimed – and it often isn’t – often it is orders of magnitude out.

Insistent – yeah – I’ll own that.

Persistent – yeah – I’ll own that too, would have succumbed to cancer over a decade ago if I was not.

Dogmatic – no – doesn’t really fit. I constantly question everything, dogma doesn’t do that!

[followed by]

If you want an example of dogma, then that quote from Thatcher is a perfect example.

The level of ignorance embodied in that is profound.

The risk from that ignorance existential.

Society exists at multiple levels.
It is responsible for way over 90% of the technology we enjoy – including all of this technology that allows us to communicate in this fashion.

Complexity in evolutionary systems is a recursive set of functions that can be usefully conceived of in many different ways (like the blind men and the elephant myth).

In part life is the embodiment of random search across domain spaces.

In part it is recursive levels of cooperation.

In part it is new levels of creativity and freedom. (And every new level of freedom necessarily comes with new sets of constraints if it is to survive.)

[followed by]

Hi Michael,

I really don’t understand your statement:
“If you know what you’re looking for, inquiry is unnecessary. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, inquiry is impossible. Therefore, inquiry is either unnecessary or impossible. People see only what they can.”

That is clearly overly simplistic nonsense.

For me, life only makes sense (at every level, from the atomic on upwards), as the embodiment of random search within sets of constraints.

Enquiry is a thing in itself.

One can posit the question: what is this? And start a potentially infinite process of enquiry, allocating such time as one can when one can.

If one has a reasonably enquiring mind, one gathers a large class of such questions, and one keeps on “time slicing” between the needs of the now, and the depths of enquiry.

That has been my existence – some 18 hours a day for 60 some years.

I have nothing certain.

I have rejected all dogma that most accept as True.

I have sets of probabilities; thresholds of accuracy and confidence and evidence, that allow me to operate on a daily basis, and everything is open to question with sufficiently strong evidence.

Why would anyone think “enquiry is impossible” if you don’t know what you are looking for?

I simply have no idea how anyone could imagine such a thing.

If you know nothing of life outside your house, then open the door, put one foot after the other, open your eyes, and you are in the process of enquiry. You are searching the unknown, the unexplored.

This planet is a big ball, lots of space for search at many different scales. The solar system is larger, the galaxy larger still, then a whole universe of galaxies.

The universe of conceptual and logical systems is larger still. The possible ways of interpreting reality exceed the size of reality by infinity. (Ockham’s razor is an essential tool to avoid an infinite {and easily available} set of halting problems, but it does not solve all halting problems, infinite classes of more complex variants exist.)

If one actually starts seriously exploring mathematics, then the space of all possible logics, then the space of all possible computational systems, and one actually puts some substantial effort into exploring biology, from the sub-atomic scale up to our scale, then one looks at the evolution of systems and complexity, then the evolution of social systems and understanding itself; then it is a space of search recursively embodied.

The quote above is just simplistic nonsense – words without meaning.

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
This entry was posted in Humour, understanding and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s