Quora – Paradox

What is the greatest paradox about being alive?

I don’t seem to have many paradoxes.

I have many uncertainties.

The more truths I surrender as heuristics the more paradoxes disappear.

Paradox seems to be a reliable indicator that the model being used to interpret the situation is not up to the task. So it is an indicator that a new model is required, and time to start testing out new ones.

I’ve been around that path a couple of dozen times, and am now in a fully probabilistic model, of a world that is in many levels of balance between order and chaos in terms of fundamental randomness constrained by probability functions. So it is a very long way from classical logic, and it closely approximates it in some contexts (much like general relativity is a long way from Newtonian mechanics, but closely approximates it in some contexts).

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Quora – >What are the principles on what survives and evolves, and what dies off, from an evolutionary biology point of view?

What are the principles on what survives and evolves, and what dies off, from an evolutionary biology point of view?

That very much depends on context, and that is one of the keys to understanding how evolution works.

If the context is one where the major threats to an organism comes from other things like itself in the same population, then competitive systems dominate, and the individuals are forced to adapt to some set of minima on the “complexity landscape”.

If the context is one where threats to individuals in a population come more from external factors that may be mitigated to some degree by cooperative effort, then cooperation can establish, and with the addition of strategies to detect and remove cheats, stabilise. In cooperative contexts, complexity is free to increase, as there is true freedom to explore.

Contexts are always changing.

The context in one valley may be quite different from the valley next door.

If sea levels rise every thousand generations or so, cutting off access between valleys, then fall and allow mixing for a thousand generations or so (roughly what the ice age cycle does in many parts of the planet), then there is plenty of room for variations on themes to develop new skill sets and explore new niches.

The space of possible selection pressures is hugely dimensional.

Often a few of those clearly dominate over all others, and sometimes the mix is more even.

The numeric complexity of the resulting permutations on systems is mind numbingly huge.

We seem to be the result of some 4 billion years of that process (as, it seems, is every other living organism – from bacteria to blue whales).

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Quora – What has living for a long time made you realize?

Quora – What has living for a long time made you realize?

Life is far more complex and far less certain than I once thought it to be.

It now seems very probable to me that uncertainty is deeply built into the fabric of this reality within which we find ourselves, and at some levels and contexts that uncertainty is so small that the outcome approaches classical determinism.

So I am much less certain about many of the things I once considered “Truth”s.

The whole notion of truth now seems like a simplistic heuristic that is very useful in many contexts.

I now see that evolution for complex entities is much more about cooperation than competition; and that has fundamentally changed how I view competitive markets and their child “capitalism”.

I retain my classical liberal values of individual life and individual liberty, and I acknowledge that liberty comes with necessary limits and responsibilities for cooperative action in social and ecological contexts. I have also extended the concept of “individual” to all sapient entities capable of modeling themselves and others in a model of reality, and of using language to communicate – human and non-human, biological and non-biological.

I’ve learned a bit of humility, and maybe gathered a little bit of wisdom.

It seems to be inevitable that the more that I know, the more that I know that I don’t know, and the less confident I become of many of the things I once took as Truths.

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Quora – Some people think that we can protect the environment and at the same time improve standards of living. Other people think that the improvement of standards of living is detrimental to the environment. What do you think?

Quora – Some people think that we can protect the environment and at the same time improve standards of living. Other people think that the improvement of standards of living is detrimental to the environment. What do you think?

I’m in the former camp, and in the subset of it that recognises that market based values are not compatible with our long term survival.

If one thinks only within the constraints of the space of markets and money, then there are no viable solutions (long term). One needs to be able to think beyond that set of constraints. Much of the general form of the argument was posted earlier today in this answer:

Ted Howard’s answer to What are the possibilities that Darwin’s theory of evolution could still be wrong?

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Quora – Why do the majority of highly intelligent people seem to be more socially awkward and less desirable as mates? Darwin’s evolution theory would suggest that intelligence would be far more likely for the survival of a species than brawn.

Why do the majority of highly intelligent people seem to be more socially awkward and less desirable as mates? Darwin’s evolution theory would suggest that intelligence would be far more likely for the survival of a species than brawn.

As others have noted, the first assumption is not necessarily true, and it is certainly true for some, for many different sorts of reasons.

As to intelligence being more likely to survive, that is not true.

There are several levels of costs to intelligence that are actively selected against, and thus there are only a narrow range of contexts where it can be selected for (thus most of the organisms we see alive on the planet today are far less intelligent than us).

Intelligence takes a lot of metabolic energy (food) to support it. It also takes a lot of time to train, and it can take much longer to compute an optimal solution to any specific problems than some sort of heuristic shortcut that works well enough in practice to survive in most contexts.

Just being smarter does mean you will be more successful in most contexts, it actually tends to mean that you must have a long developmental period where you are much less likely to survive than many simpler alternative strategies.

It is very complex.

Very few contexts support the selection of smarter over quicker.

Some species of sea-squirts actually reabsorb their brains once they settle on a surface and their juvenile phase of navigating through the environment is over. Brains are only useful if you are moving through an environment.

There are always a lot of competitive contexts where rapid reactions are more successful than considered responses. Reality is nothing like as simple as the question above implies.

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Quora – Why should we look forward to the path we pave during our life span?

Why should we look forward to the path we pave during our life span?

We don’t have to pave a path.

We can walk the paths paved by others.

We can choose a path less traveled.

We can choose to navigate new territory without leaving any significant trace of our passage.

We don’t have to follow or make paths, and paths are certainly easier and safer to travel in most instances if one is intent upon reaching a destination rather than experiencing the journey. Both are possible modes of being, each with very different experiences available.

I’d suggest a reasonable mix of both.

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Quora – What are the possibilities that Darwin’s theory of evolution could still be wrong?

What are the possibilities that Darwin’s theory of evolution could still be wrong?

What do you actually mean by the question?

If you mean something like:
Is it possible that the general thrust of Darwin’s idea that differential survival of variants in different contexts can lead over time to populations being sufficiently different that when they get back together they are effectively new species that do not interbreed? Then that mechanism has been proven beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, both by practical observation and by theoretical modeling.

There is no doubt about that.

Darwin did not understand how genetics worked. He knew nothing of RNA and DNA. He knew nothing of games theory or quantum mechanics or computational theory more generally.

So someone like myself, who has been interested in molecular genetics for over 50 years, and the theory of systems surrounding that, has an understanding of the processes of evolution that is very different from Darwin, but the key theme above still holds true.

The conjecture, that all life on earth is the result of this process starting from relatively simple molecular systems on an earth that was very different from the earth we know today, some 4 billion years ago, seems to me to be very likely indeed, and by definition, there was no one there to record it so it must forever remain conjecture.

And if you put a few thousand hours into examining the many different levels of indirect evidence available from many different sets of disciplines, then it seems far more probable than any of the alternative sets of conjectures involving creative acts by a god or gods. But getting to a place where the evidence from science seems more probable than the patterns from cultural history takes a fair amount of time and effort; and if people generally are not encouraged to challenge culturally accepted structures, and are not given the time and resources to do so, then such cultural constructs will continue to have the influence that they do. The mathematics of the systems involved is very clear.

If we want people to be able to change the patterns that they use, then we must create contexts in which such outcomes have reasonable probabilities.

That cannot happen generally in a competitive market context. It demands a cooperative context where the genuine needs of all individuals for reasonable degrees of security and freedom are met; and it demands from all individuals responsible action in social and ecological contexts.

Neither market capitalism nor communism are capable of delivering those outcomes (the mathematics of that are beyond any reasonable doubt).

We need systems that are based in universal cooperation, and simultaneously in respect for individual life and individual liberty.

In an age prior to fully automated systems, markets were a useful approximation to such a system, but market based systems fail in the presence of the sorts of universal abundance that advanced automation can deliver, and we need that abundance to be able to effectively deal with a range of already well described existential level threats.

Thus the logic is clear, we must have abundance for all, and thus markets must fall to a secondary role underneath systems that are universally cooperative. And that is a very complex set of systems, and it demands a lot of work from a lot of people.

So a long and complex answer to what might have seemed a simple question; but Darwin’s ideas are alive and well at levels well beyond anything he ever hinted at in his writings.

It is now clear, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that the evolution of complex systems like ourselves is much more accurately described as a story about the emergence of new levels of cooperation than it is about levels of competition. And both are always and necessarily present in real systems.

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