Some more of my thoughts on the nature of Free Will

This is just getting rediculous.

It really is complex.

Perhaps if we ignore the mechanisms, and just look at the higher level concepts for a bit, it may help.

What can freedom mean?

Biology tells us that we are very complex entities.
Every level of that complexity has boundaries that must be maintained in order for that form to exist.

So the form that we are has a necessary minimum set of boundaries, in any particular context, even if we are never quite sure what all of them are, some of them are reasonably obvious – like enough air to breath, water to drink, a range of temperature we can survive in, security from predators and parasites and diseases, social relationships, etc.

Some are much more subtle, like the impact of particular classes of biochemical molecules present in different sorts of foods.

Most such boundaries are not simple binaries, but complex gradients, that we can push out of zone for various periods and still recover.
How far we can push them and for how long, before something seriously life threatening happens is a very interesting question; and at some level seems to be very much a part of what freedom might involve for entities like ourselves.

So if we absolutely require levels of structure and boundary for survival, what can freedom be?

It cannot be a loss of the boundary and form required for survival, that isn’t freedom, it is death.

Freedom, if it is to be meaningful in the context of a value hierarchy of individual life followed by individual liberty, must respect the boundaries necessary for life – all of them, all levels.

Evolution at base is even harsher – it lives or it dies.
In largish populations, things with a high survival value in very rare contexts, and a low cost at other times, can survive hundreds of generations between the events that deliver that huge advantage.

In that sort of context, what might freedom be?

In asking that question, it is important to consider the sorts of systems that are present in our subconscious structures, and sorts of contexts and evolutionary pressures that are probably responsible for their being there.

That could be a very large discussion, a graduate degree in animal behaviour and psychology, and at the broadest conceptual level, it is a set of information and decision making systems selected in response to the strategic contexts present.

Some of those strategic contests involved various levels of ritualised and actual combat tournaments for mating privileges. The systems involved in such risk/reward decision making need to be hidden – for a variety of strategic reasons.

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Free will continues – still no shared understanding

Trick and I continue the free will debate

NO Trick

It really is far deeper than that.

It really does go deeply to the nature of interaction, the ability of systems to influence, rather than to be seen as hard cause.

Hard causality can only exist where there is hard time.

Relativity destroys the notion of hard time, and makes time local.
That blurs the distinction cause.

QM takes that blurring a step further.

Complexity does not require hard boundaries, it can work with sufficient regularity.
It does seem to do so.

[followed by]

I was suggesting Trick only what I said – that time is local. That the sequencing of events depends upon the reference frame being considered – that there is no absolute sequencing of things – it is all relative.

That was not in any way intended to be any direct inference about a mechanism for free will.

It was an attempt to show that classical notions have changed.
It was an argument by analogy.

Rather than make the effort to look for the substantive argument you insult from error.

[followed by]

No Trick
That is not what I am pointing to.

What I am pointing to is the change of perspectives – Universal time, to frame relative time.

A sequence from fixed eternal heavenly perfection, to Newton’s eternal clockwork, to something probabilistic.

A shifting of paradigms.
A series of better approximations to something.
Hard truth, to probabilistic approximation to something.

In a systems sense, it is a journey from simple binary approximations to Bayesian approaches to infinities.

[followed by]

No Trick

Once again you misinterpret me.

The paradigm shift on time – was from universal to relative (though any particular measurement will have probabilistic margins of error on it, that wasn’t the point – the point was paradigm shift).

The spatial aspect really does come down to quantum probabilities – both in HUP and in “wave function”.

And the point was the nature of paradigm change.

It is not trivial, not easy, and you haven’t got it yet.

[followed by 19/5/18]

It is another – yes and no.

Yes – we can make more accurate time measurements, and not exact – ever.

It seems very probable to me that you do not have much idea at all of how or what I think, if you did, then you would not be making false assertions with the frequency that you seem most likely to be doing.

This approach is clearly not a productive use of time.

Can I suggest exploring a couple of definitions:
Freedom; and

Start with freedom.
You first.

[followed by]

My understanding of time is a mix of relativity and QM.

Time seems to me a local phenomenon mediate by the exchange of photons (and the information they carry).

As such time also seems to be part of quantum mechanics, and subject to uncertainties at the Plank level.

Thus I am closer to Hericlitus, and significantly different in detail.

It seems to me every particle only has the eternal present, which is constantly evolving as conditioned by influences and uncertainties.

[followed by]

This is our problem in every dimension – our paradigms of understanding are so different, they do not easily map one to another.

I was explicit.

It seems clear to me that the notion of any sort of universal time is illusory, though a useful approximation in many common contexts.

It seems that time is a local phenomenon to each “particle” of matter, and it is given by the exchange of information embodied in “photons”.

This understanding seems to work for both relativity and QM.

[followed by to Trick’s:
I will continue to ask questions to see if I can get an actual answer at some point, though it seems futile. I’m suggesting that if you cannot categorize your theory of time (e.g. A / B series), you don’t understand the topic (and how it relates to “particle” relativity). To get to the heart of the matter, in YOUR VIEW, is the relativity of simultaneity:
1) An ontological fact (two events can *exist* together in the same reference frame and for another reference frame the same two events can *exist* one after another)
2) NOT an ontological fact about event order but rather about a lack of knowledge over whether two events are ontologically simultaneous (*exist* at the same time absolutely or not)
3) Neither 1 nor 2
4) I don’t know]

Most closely approximates 1 in most contexts, and contains aspects of 2, and aspects of 3; and because it is explicitly heuristic knowledge (as all knowledge is in my paradigm of understanding), probably has aspects of 4 embedded and undistinguished.

If all one wants to do is build a house, and a road to the next village, then “flat earth works”.

Understanding the range of cosmology to intelligence, and all that seems to embody, seems to demand one accept evolutionary epistemology.

[followed by]


The idea “agnostic” doesn’t apply well to me.

All my understandings have both contextual confidence and essential uncertainty.

I am very confident that the very idea of “Ontic simultaneity” seems to be a simplification of something profoundly more complex and fundamentally uncertain at the margin. It is a low resolution model of something very different at the next level. Different in ways that are fundamentally important to the nature of freedom.

[followed by
If by “freedom” you mean the freedom to have been or done otherwise, do you agree that ontic simultaneity being relative (e.g. to a particles frame) is incompatible with that freedom?]

If by “ontic simultaneity” you mean that reality is a “hard” causal system, with no uncertainty at the margins, then yes.

But that does not seem to be the sort of reality we live in.
So – No.

It does seem to be the sort of thing people like to model – which is not at all the same thing.

The sort of reality we live in seems to have ontic uncertainty at the margins, always.

That marginal uncertainty allows for systems to operate in ways that are free from hard “causality” in degrees.

[followed by]

That is relativity. Space-Time is relative.
Basic stuff.

That is not the issue.

(And keep the idea that it seems probable that all models are useful approximations at some level.)

The issue is much deeper.

It is the quantum uncertainty at the margins (be it the “time like” or the “space like” margins) that seems to be real, and it is fundamental to the ideas that there may be uncertainty in outcomes, and systems may be conditioned over time as to how they employ such uncertainty.

[followed by]

No Trick.

You do not allow of the possibility of ontic uncertainty.

You deny it, ignore it, repeatedly, at every level.

Of course, if you do that, then free will must, by definition, appear as illusion.
That is simple logic.

I am making the strong claim that the evidence strongly supports the hypothesis that such a model is not how reality is.

I make the strong claim that ontic uncertainty seems very likely to exist, and is fundamental to freedom.

[followed by]

No Trick

You keep making assumptions about what I am saying, that are strictly at variance with my explicit statements – but fit with your model.

I see no indication of your having comprehended what I wrote.

You seem to deny the possibility of uncertainty.

You seem to deny the possibility of time as a local phenomenon, given by photon interaction, which always has quantum uncertainty.

[followed by]

What you do not seem to acknowledge Trick, is that we have fundamentally different ontic (and epistemic) paradigms.

I have tried many times to make mine available to you, but it remains hidden.

I understand the grief and frustration as I keep saying things that make no sense in your paradigm.
I get that.
I have explicitly stated many times, I am not using that paradigm.

I do not require you to adopt my paradigm ongoingly, but acknowledging it as a possibility is a start.

[followed by]

Scientific method for me means a recursive process of:
Examine evidence;
Generate hypotheses to explain evidence;
Design experiments to discriminate between hypotheses;
Perform experiments;
Use best available tools to examine results;

It has been an exploration of domains of enquiry and understanding.

It started with True and False;
Then came probabilistic tools for deciding True or False;
Then came non-binary Truth values, starting with T/F/Undetermined…

[followed by
Trick wrote:
Good, so we BOTH incorporate the scientific method in our epistemological standard (and hence we will get back to the relativity of simultaneity later). Now you also happen to believe free will exists (a metaphysical topic). Is that based on the scientific method alone, or do you have other epistemological standards you use as well (e.g. like analytic logic)? What other method (if any) do you use to conclude “free will exists”?
Note: I’m not asking for your argument for free will, I’m asking what methodology other than science do you use to argue for its existence?

I have used the scientific method, recursively, across many domains.

That has lead me to an interpretive meta-schema where it seems that all interpretive schema are very probably, at best, some sort of useful approximation to reality in some set of contexts.

It seems very probable that reality has ontic uncertainty at all levels.

It is logical that uncertainty at the boundaries of systems can lead to uncertainty in the relations between sets of systems that meets the definition “freedom”.

[followed by
Trick wrote:
What epistemological method do you use for your “interpretive meta-schematic”? Does it, for example, take a scientific finding (such as uncertainty), and other findings or axioms as other premises, and use those premises in order logically deduce a conclusion from them? If so then we are on the same page with the use of logic as well. If not, what method other than logic or the scientific method do you use here?]

Here is where it starts to get uncertain again.

What do you mean by logic?

Do you mean using the tools of probability to determine which of the infinite sets of possible logics best meets Ockham’s Razor in that specific context, which can itself lead to a recursive process with higher order logics becoming involved if the context gets really complex (as biology often does)?

If you mean that – yes.

If you mean simple Boolean logic in all contexts, then no.

[followed by
Trick wrote:
So you don’t use DEDUCTIVE logic (which differs from mathematical Boolean logic) to conclude that free will exists? Meaning premises follow to the conclusion that it exists. It is just a scientific fact that we can assess from a probability distribution?]

One can only reliably use deductive logic within defined domains. It is great within mathematical and logical domains.
Goedel is one of the few thinkers who’s work I have closely investigated in whom I found no significant errors, largely because he stayed in the domain of logic and made no claims about reality.

When it comes to reality, one can use deductive logic to refine conjectures (hypotheses), and one must always test those hypotheses in reality.

Reality has uncertainties.

[followed by
Do you use deductive logic for your conjecture (hypothesis) about free will existing?]

Yes certainly.

And in doing so I use all the logics I have gathered from QM, relativity, biochemistry, evolution, games theory, systems, cybernetics, history, psychology, economics, politics, complexity theory, logic, computational theory, information theory, neuro-anatomy and physiology, artificial intelligence, probability, mediation, martial arts, religious and cultural evolution, etc; and all the abstractions I have made from my 50+ years of study and experience across these domains.

[followed by
Great, so you use both scientific method and logical deduction for your epistemological standard of evidence to conclude what ‘exists’. So rather than we have “fundamentally different ontic (and epistemic) paradigms” as you suggest…. there seems to be more of a communication problem, and I’d argue the problem has everything to do with a lack of clarity on your end. For example, it was like pulling teeth in over four comments to get you to just say that you used the “scientific method and deductive logic”. I didn’t ask about your (irrelevant) resume, just your epistemic standards.
So shall we go back to your ontic position on the relativity of simultaneity and what it means?

Everything depends on how each of those terms is interpreted.

I use simple binary logic forms when writing computer code.
I rarely use them in relation to anything in reality that isn’t trivially simple.

The differences in ontic and epistemic paradigms doesn’t relate to the use of logic and models, but to the forms of models and logic being used.

I’m still not confident that you have that distinction.

[followed by
Trick wrote:
I only care about what forms you use for the free will conclusion you make, which (if I have it correct) is obtaining information from science, placing that info into premises, and having a deductive conclusion that follows logically from the premises (whether done formally or informally). I could care less about binary logic in computer code, we are addressing a philosophical topic in relation to an ontological claim you are making regarding something IN REALITY.
Before we move on, let me ask you this: If there is an ontological contradiction anywhere in your “interpretive meta-schema / conjecture”, is it logically sound? If it is not, should you accept the conjecture?

What does the word logic mean to you?

Is it restricted to classical binary logic forms, containing only binary truth values (True and False), or does it allow for any of the infinite class of possible non-binary logics eg the simplest trinary form (True, False, Undecided).

If open, then you immediately have uncertainty deciding how to search the space of possible logics for appropriate hypotheses, and how to test competing claims, in respect of any particular physical system.

[followed by
Trick Wrote:
In contains both classical AND modal/multivalued logic, and when you use one over the other depends on the information you have or do not. Modal and multi-valued logic are an EXTENSION of classical logic depending on the conditions, they are not a replacement as you seem to suggest. But no matter what you use here, one thing is the case in all of these – if ontological identity is contradicted – it is unsound and hence illogical. So I ask again:
According to your usage of logic (whatever that may be), if there is an ontological contradiction anywhere in your “interpretive meta-schema / conjecture”, is it logically sound? If it is not, should you accept the conjecture?

Ontological contradictions, if supported by evidence, indicate that the logic in use is not appropriate to the task.

The meta schema seems logically sound.
It seems to be a useful approximation to reality, which is all any evolved entity has any right to expect.

Logic gives us the best models we have of reality.

There is no demand that reality follow any form of logic exactly, though whatever reality is must approximate the forms of logic at some level for them to work as they do.

[followed by
If your epistemological standard of evidence allows in ontological contradictions (something that exists that does not need to be identical with itself) and, hence, the principle of explosion (which applies to all ontological contradictions), it is neither scientific evidence, nor empirical evidence, nor logical evidence, (all which depend on identity) but something else (what I’m unsure of). So it seems you are right about one thing after-all, our epistemological paradigms are fundamentally different, and communication about what exists or does not becomes impossible. Knowing this makes things very easy, as convo on philosophical topics end full-stop. It also should be noted that without identity as a fundamental standard, you cannot know anything at all about what exists as it could, at the very same time, also not exist….so any free will claim becomes rather absurd (as free will need not be identical to itself per such a standard). All knowledge goes out the window.]

Once again – you misinterpet what I wrote.
For me:
Evidence is king.
Systems of logic must fit the evidence.
If the evidence points to ontological contradiction, then it means the logic is not appropriate to the evidence.
So we are saying something very similar, in different ways.

The difference, is that you seem to attach primacy to the particular logical form that you happen to be using, rather than to the evidence sets available.

[followed by
Trick wrote:
To suggest that there could be evidence of an ontological contradiction is cart-before the horse and proves that your standard of evidence does not depend on identity / non-contradiction, which is a requirement of A) any deductive reasoning regarding an ontological claim, B) any inductive reasoning regarding an ontological claim, C) any abductive reasoning regarding an ontological claim, and D) falsification / any science regarding an ontological claim. They all depend on identity. You are basically saying no matter how many contradictions I show in your reasoning, you can just hand-wave them away by magical evidence that does not require identity.
I cannot use logic to convince you of the merits of logic, so we are at an impasse.

Not quite there.

You seem to subscribe to the notion that reality must fit the particular logic that you subscribe to.

The abstract space of all possible logics seems to be infinite.

I have gotten to the idea that all knowledge seems to be heuristic approximation to whatever reality is (in as much as reality may be approximated by any system). At all levels that seems to be what evolution does, as a system.

It seems clear that all evidence sets come with levels of uncertainty.

[followed by
Trick wrote:
No Ted, I’m addressing epistemological standards that address ontology that there is currently no replacement for. If you have an epistemological standard that does not have identity at its very base, you have some standard of evidence that is not known to humans yet. Perhaps you are an alien with your own form of reasoning in regards to “reality”, I don’t know. If so, you should write a book on this new epistemological standard that does not require that A is identical to A and teach us humans a better system. Right now, all standards of rational evidence (from physics to syllogisms, etc.) for ontological claims rely on the tautology of identity and without it the principle of explosion kicks in and we can’t know anything.]

But that is precisely the point.
A = A is simple tautology.
It says nothing, whatsoever, about the nature of reality.
A is a symbol, that in an abstract space equals itself.
So what!!!

If you make any logical inference between that and any aspect of reality, that is a category error of logic.

[followed by
Trick wrote:
A tautology says everything about the nature of reality. It is true in every possible interpretation. It isn’t a category error in logic when it is the very basis of logic itself. My point is that there is no evidence for any ontological claim that you can point to that breaks identity. If there is, it is no TYPE OF EVIDENCE any human knows of. To suggest there is “evidence” that is outside of this means you do not understand the term “evidence”.]

Wrong Trick.

Tautology is a non entity.
It is valid only in its domain of logic.
Correspondence of any logic domain to reality requires evidence.

Evolutionary epistemology is different.

Evolutionary epistemology requires only that something has a greater than random probability of utility.
Evolution will select for that, and for any subsequent variant that delivers greater divergence from randomness in that specific set of contexts.

Thus systems successively approximate.

[followed by
Trick wrote:
No Ted, what you are calling “evidence” requires the tautology that A is identical to A. You have this all backward. To have evidence for A, it cannot also be NOT A. If your evidence for A is X, X cannot also be NOT X.]

Your fundamental error is in assuming that any percerpt or concept you have of reality is directly related to reality.

The evidence is overwhelming that our experiential reality is a low resolution subconsciously generated model of reality that is strongly conditioned by our many levels of highly evolved systems.

It is a fundamental error of logic to think that anything you experience as reality is actually the thing it represents.

Back to evolutionary epistemology.

[followed by
Trick wrote:
Right, you are then an epistemological solipsistic who should not be making the claim you have evidence for free will. There can be no knowledge about reality OR ANYTHING under your epistemological position. You cannot talk about evidence being overwhelming for ANYTHING when you have no standard of evidence. You cannot have your cake and eat it too here.]


Saying that all information we have is some sort of probabilistic approximation is nothing at all like saying we have no confidence about anything.

Stop trying to make a binary out of an infinite spectrum.

Your claim is the exact opposite of the initial proposition.

You seem to have lost all contact with reality in your pursuit of being right.

[followed by
If you are suggesting that there is no precept or concept that is related to reality, that is epistemological solipsism. If, however, you just mean that all relations are indirect (whatever that would mean), that is a meaningless distinction and any indirect evidence still requires identity.]

If you see a car you have the impression you do of car.

What you perceive, is what is presented by subconscious processes.

That perception is not identical to the car it represents.

The car is vastly more complex than any perception you may have of it.

Yes there is a relationship, but it is not one of identity, but one of degree.

Same appears to be true of all aspects of reality.

Bacon’s great contribution to science was the use of experiment over logic to resolve such claims.

[followed by

Sorry Trick – but that is simple tautology, and utterly irrelevant.

Of course a thing is the thing it is, when it is.

But that does not tell you anything.

The thing you do not acknowledge, is that nothing in reality has to be as we conceive it to be.

Our conceptions are pointers, models, not the thing itself.

One cannot make any necessary binding statements about reality.
One can only make probabilistic assessments based upon evidence.
That is science.

[followed by
You said (1)“Ontological contradictions, if supported by evidence, …”
Now you are saying (2)“Of course a thing is the thing it is, when it is.”
So which is it, because (2) contradicts (1).
Also the fact that we only ever model reality through precepts that come through senses and internal conceptualizations (which I never claimed otherwise) is entirely irrelevant to my original question: if there is an ontological contradiction anywhere in your “interpretive meta-schema / conjecture”, is it logically sound? If it is not, should you accept the conjecture?

It is all definitional Trick – what does is mean? Give examples.

To me, saying A = A says nothing about reality.

Science is about examining the evidence.
If A is real we can never know what A is, we can only ever approximate what it was.
Sure, if there seems to be a logical contradiction in the evidence, then one will suspect a fault in the evidence, and examine it carefully.

If having done that, and the evidence remains strong, then one must look at the logic being used to model A.

[followed by
The whole point is that you don’t seem to have a standard OF evidence if you allow in any ontological contradictions (which always is in opposition to identity), so for you to say “examining the evidence” and “[if] the evidence remains strong”, I have no idea what you mean by “evidence” here.
To suggest that the evidence can remain strong in light of a contradiction is completely cart before the horse. If there is a contradiction, the evidence fails….because ALL evidence requires consistency with identity. An ontological contradiction within the argument for A is always evidence that the argument fails and hence is not evidence.]

No Trick.

Here is where you have the cart before the horse.

The only method we have to determine what reality is, is to test it with experiment and see what it does.

Saying something has identity implies that some list of attributes are present that one can test.

The only way we have of determining what that set of attributes might be, and what the values of any attribute was, is by experiment.

Evolution seems to have given us this ability by successive approximation.

[followed by
Trick wrote:
You simply cannot “test X with experiment” (empiricism) if X (which can either be the internal model or the reality) need not be identical to itself. All empirical evidence relies on identity at base level. Saying X has identity does not say anything specific about the attributes other than they cannot be in contradiction whatever they happen to be (and regardless if we can the specifics or not). When you say that evidence can remain strong in light of an ontological contradiction, your standard of evidence fails as the principle of explosion kicks in and all so called “evidence” is lost. This is why your position is cart before the horse, identity precedes evidence (any type).

No Trick,

1/ Recall how many times I have said that this is really complex – more than 16 levels of recursive process.

2/ Models or processes do not need to be identical or perfectly aligned with reality to survive, they only need be closer approximations than the alternatives.

3/ The idea of identity you champion is true only in the most trivial of senses. Evidence is clear – we don’t get to experience reality directly, ever. All we have is a historically near enough model.

[followed by
1) Complexity is irrelevant as I said even more times. Recursive process (whether a million levels) grant no allowance of contradiction.
2) STOP saying that I’m suggesting that “our models need to be identical to reality” – you are just displaying your own intellectual dishonesty or incapacity to read when you do.
3) Again, us not experiencing reality directly is irrelevant to whether the reality (which we cannot perfectly know)can hold a contradiction OR (more importantly) our imperfect models OF reality (what we call evidence) can be in contradiction and still be evidence. Neither one can!
We are at a stand-still because your epistemological standard of evidence is decrepit and needs a complete overhaul that I cannot help you with. This is why for philosophy the “agree to disagree” mantra is sometimes required.]

When you write “be in contradiction” what precisely do you mean?

Do not use a symbol “A”.

Give an example.

Symbols exist in an abstract realm of logic where the rules of identity are trivially true.

There is no necessity for reality to be constrained by any rule set in all instances.

We find out what rules (if any) apply in reality via evidence.

You appear to be mixing logical realms – something Rand did often.

[followed by
You don’t know what a contradiction is? The entirely furless bunny that has fur all over has eyes and has no eyes at the same time. Given that “fur” and “eye” is defined the same in both usages, that bunny is in contradiction (has properties that contradict each other).
There is no necessity for reality to be constrained by any rule set in all instances.
Then something (whatever that thing may be, the symbol “A” just represents whatever you want to insert) in reality does not have to be identical to itself per you – correct?
And don’t compare my epistemology with Rand, that is an ad-hom. The reality is that you do not understand logical realms and why identity / non-contradiction is a requirement for all ontological assessments.]

No Trick.

It is not that I don’t understand the concept of identity.

What I fail to see is any place that it has anything to do with the argument we are having.
You just keep raising it without explicit connection.
I have made no arguments about bunnies.

I have made the explicit claim that human freedom of choice, to the degree that it exists, exists in a system that is 16 or more levels of complex adaptive systems, each level with a necessary balance between order and disorder.

[followed by]

In any non trivial discussion one has to make assumptions.

Any argument in logic has to be free of contradictions if it is to be coherent. If one cannot assume that, one cannot do anything, so I was looking for much deeper meaning than the obvious in your questions. Unfortunately – it seems such meaning was absent.

And in a very real sense, that is almost irrelevant to the conversation, as the conversation is dealing with realty, with uncertainties at every level, with approximations.

[followed by
I’m not going to let you spin doctor your way out here, you said:
“Ontological contradictions, if supported by evidence, …”
and in a different comment:
“If the evidence points to ontological contradiction, then it means the logic is not appropriate to the evidence”.
…there is no way to spin your way out of that by suggesting some deeper meaning or that what I asked is trivial (it is anything but), but since you seem to be backtracking (which is fine but be honest about it)….I will ask you again: if there is an ontological contradiction anywhere in your “interpretive meta-schema / conjecture”, is it logically sound? If it is not, should you accept the conjecture?

I am not trying to spin doctor my way out of anything.

I stated plainly – what I am trying to communicate is very complex.

I accepted that you are intelligent – I would not be attempting to communicate with you otherwise.

I expected that the basics would be given, and we would not need to start from grade school all over again.

I was, therefore, looking for depths of meaning, involving at least three levels of abstraction, in what you were writing.

Basic rules apply at meta level.

[followed by
Ted, the problem is that there is no other way of interpreting what you wrote other than something that goes against the basics of any evidence, this is why the basics are our top priority right now. But I’m willing to let the past be past and to move on by saying this: YES!… let’s address the very basics of epistemological standards of evidence, and applying those basics, please answer my question:
(1) if there is an ontological contradiction anywhere in your “interpretive meta-schema / conjecture”, is it logically sound? Y or N
(2) If it is not, should you accept the conjecture? Y or N
I also now want this answered too:
Can the basics of identity/non-contradiction be trumped via complexity? Y or N]

To the best of my ability to test and evaluate, there are no logical contradictions in the meta schema.
And many of the conjectures present will seem orders of magnitude more alien than those of general relativity do to someone living in a flat earth model of reality.

Einstein got to relativity by the conjecture:
We observe C as constant.
What happens to the equations if I make C constant?

Coherence must be preserved, and almost everything one once accepted might vanish in the process.

[followed by Trick wrote:
I recognize that you don’t see any contradictions, but there are. Right now we are not addressing whether your argument does or does not have a contradiction, but rather epistemological standards of evidence. So please answer my three questions or I will take it that you are not really interested in communication but rather proselytization. If we find out in the future that C is not a constant, then that contradicts it being a constant, and we should reject theory that is based on it being a constant.
So please, next comment place the numbers 1, 2, and 3 and answer each with either a “Yes”, “No”, Maybe”, “I don’t know”, or “Other”. Appreciated.]

Now take a simple case, the uncertainty principle.


The standard deviation of position, multiplied by the standard deviation of momentum must exceed this version of Planck’s constant (hbar divided by 2).

h|/2 is a constant, so let us just call it k for now.

Now assume we can define p with absolute precision.
What happens.
The uncertainty of p is now zero.

s(x) >= k/0

Whatever we have so defined can no longer exist in observable space, so it must vanish.

[followed by
Trick wrote:
Thank you! It seems we are back on track with epistemological standard of evidence agreement here for the basics. What a relief.
I think we would measure p rather than define it, but otherwise, sure. If we are taking an IIQM the wave function would collapse to p (a collapse we would have no say over). But let’s get back to relativity since we are not the same page regarding no ontological contradictions now.
Does the relativity of simultaneity exist at event source in your view? Y, N, Maybe, I don’t know, etc. Let’s try to be clear with our answers]

In my understanding, relativity means that space-time is relative to every “particle” of matter.
In this view, our experience of time as a universal is an illusion created because most of the time we are dealing with things that are going at about the same speed in about the same place, so it usually works within the errors of measurement.

So a simple yes no doesn’t clarify a lot, because either answer could be interpreted to reinforce the illusion of time as some sort of universal.

[followed by
Trick wrote:
We are getting there, but I will rephrase the question in hopes for a clearer answer:
Under your view, can there be two space-like particles which have events that EXIST *ABSOLUTELY* simultaneous with each other – or is whether they EXIST simultaneously always relative to a specific ontological worldline slice (frame) in which there are other ontological worldline slices that the events are not simultaneous for as well?
Note: I know this can be confusing, so let me know if this wasn’t clear to you and I can re-word.

You’re right, hard to resolve.
The term “worldline” has history and I acknowledge the heuristic utility of such a view in most normal contexts and I use it in those.

To me, it seems probable that at the most fundamental level we have yet explored (without making any claim of absolute), the most powerful interpretive schema is that space-time is relative to each and every “space like” entity.

The uncertainty principle seems to demand uncertainty in those relationships at this level.

[followed by
Still getting there, but let’s put this in the context of two position measurements of two different space-like particles (at the expense of momentum measurements being uncertain). Let’s imagine that someone in location L1 measures particle P1 location causing collapse to a specific observable collapse location of C1X ….and another person in location L2 measures particle P2 location, causing collapse to a specific observable collapse location of C2Y.
P1 and P2 both collapse to their specific collapse locations simultaneously (e.g.C1X/C2Y) per one reference frame, but one before the other for all others (e.g. C1X first C2X next).
Is (per you) the “more powerful interpretive schema” for the collapse event order:
A) the idea that all reference frames are equally correct ontologically speaking about event order (relative order), or
B) that only one is ontologically correct about event order (absolute order) but there is a lack of knowledge which one is the absolute frame

A is the more useful approximation of the two.

And in my schema, both A and B miss essential aspects. Both imply a sense of localisation that is a reasonable approximation at human scale, but doesn’t work at all well at the quantum scale. At this scale, rather than “things” being localised by some simple set of integers across some set of dimensions, it seems that the arrays that best describe identity are complex functions that deliver probability distributions over multiple dimensions.

[followed by Trick wrote:
I have a lot to say about your comment and I will get to why A is incompatible with your position on “otherwise” possibilities, but before I do, I want to inquire about what “dimensions” you are referring to if you don’t mind? What “dimensions” are you talking about here (I assume you are referring to dimensions within a sect of theoretical physics with the term but if not let me know that as well)?]

The 4 dimensions of space-time are the prime set of interest.

It does seem likely that there are more present, last time I had a serious look, seemed like 7 more was most likely to be the next set.

I suspect that deeper exploration may find more. That has been the general trend over the last few centuries.

I suspected that by answering as I did you might ignore most of what I wrote, and we’ll see where this goes.

[followed by Trick wrote:
I just wanted to be clear, because to add in extra dimensions beyond the fourth dimension of time (e.g. 10 dimensions for superstring theory, or 11 for m-theory, etc. – theories with no empirical evidence for them BTW), one must invoke in the fourth dimension being real and (A) below applies fully. So back to (A)… before I explain why, are you aware that this denotes an eternal block conception of time where the past, present, and future are all equally ontologically real? If not we will go over why, but let me know if you are aware of this aspect, because if so it would save a ton of time.]

Hi Trick,

It does not require that, and that is a possible explanatory framework.

Continue as to why you think it is the only possible one.

[followed by Trick Wrote:
IF the relativity of simultaneity addresses ontic events (btw – that is not my position, but that is not relevant since it is yours), then what makes two events simultaneous for one frame, and in different orders (unsimultaneous) for other frames, is the fact that you can slice space-time into different “now slices” from past to future.
Watch this first and we will get into this deeper if you are still unclear:]

Everything hinges on the definition of Ontic.

I was explicit – that time is relative to each entity.
Simultaneity is not a concept that has a lot of meaning in that context.

In that context, ontic is relative. Time itself, as a measure, is relative.

Not only does it seem to be relative, it seems to be fundamentally uncertain at the level of quanta.

And I get that is not a concept that seems to sit happily with you.

[followed by]

Watched the video – and fine with it up to about 23 minutes in, when both Brian and Max seem to drop back to a Newtonian conception, of slicing a loaf, rather than a relativistic conception where time is local to particles, and ontology only makes sense in respect of interaction.

So to me, they really haven’t accepted relativity, they are treating it as something universal, which does lead to that weird conception.

To me, it is what happens when one accepts invalid assumptions.

[followed by Trick wrote:
From my perspective you don’t seem to understand what “relative” means in the context of special and general relativity. Saying “time is local to particles” is meaningless in the context of relativity – it is about wordlines and “relative slicing” (frames). What you are not getting is the incompatibility between the (assumes ontic) relativity of Einstein and your conception of quantum mechanics. This is why there are so many problems trying to fuse the two. Are you familiar with Minkowski space-time diagrams? If so we can address actual special relativity and ontic relativity of simultaneity of source events (and why the block follows).]

Hi Trick,

I am clear about Minkowski diagrams, and Lorentz transformations, and that those equations are useful approximations to reality, at least to the limits of our experimental methods to date.

I understand that “world lines” and “relative slicing” tend to give the impression that they do, and your using that framework explains why you have come to the conclusion that free will is illusion.

To me, coming to such a conclusion ignores too much data; alternative model required.

[followed by]

Communication is poor.
Many concepts are not being communicated. Only a few are getting through.

Consider a possibility:
Anything traveling at the speed of light, experiences no time. Interacting with such things gives time. The exchange of information about the state of the emitter is what we call time. And it is connected to space.

In this view, all space like entities exchange information via time like entities (eg photons).

The equations are the same, the picture different.

[followed by Trick wrote:
Yet you invoked relativity when when addressing how time has changed, yet your very theory of time seems to have nothing to do with relativity. So let’s address schemas and start at the beginning, do (non-photon) events happen, in your view, at a spatial and temporal location (space and time)?]

Space and time are useful approximations to what seems to be present at our scale of being.

At the scale of the very small, the ideas of space and time seem to be much more related.

The equations of both relativity and quantum mechanics seem to work within the errors of measurement of our existing technologies.

The history of Flat Earth, to Newtonian Mechanics, to Relativity and QM supports a series (perhaps infinite) of successive approximations.

Ontic and epistemic uncertainty.

Uncertainty is present at all levels, whether ontic or epistemic would appear to be eternally debatable.
Order seems similarly to be present, at all levels, to a significant degree.
On balance of probabilities, I am going for ontic – and I acknowledge that as a choice.

[followed by Trick wrote:
For our discussion, I want you to assume one thing AT ALL TIMES during it: Anything we address about external reality is never a discussion about epistemic certainty in some absolute sense, just the evidence we have today and what we infer from it. Neither of us believe in absolute knowledge about much if anything, it is always about what is “beyond any reasonable doubt” given the evidence we have.
So when you say “useful approximations of what seems to be present”, is there an example of science that is not this given we only ever model perceptions about external reality?]

Great – epistemic alignment is close.

Flat earth works at the scale of building houses. It is a useful approximation at that scale.
Similarly Newtonian.
Similarly GPS requires both relativity and QM.

In each case, the domain of utility is defined by the scale of interest.
Each contains uncertainty.

Evolution is heuristic.
You and I appear to embody 18+ levels of complex adaptive heuristic systems; all biased by evolved priors.

Science exists in this milieu.

Evolution biases and selects for least energetic cost and least time and better than random survival utility.
Games theory, recursive, deeply cooperative, deeply competitive, deeply context dependent, across all the contexts of biologocal and cultural and individual time.

A deep tendency to go for the simplest option that seems to work.

We seem to embody levels of complexity that we are just beginning to understand.

That does seem to be what we are.

[followed by Trick wrote:
Flat earth is (beyond any reasonable doubt) proven incorrect, are you also suggesting that space and time for the macro-scale addressed in relativity is similarly proven incorrect (but is still a useful approximation for some things like GPS)?

Let’s also keep in mind that flat-earth ideas have no real utility for building houses, rather it is benign to it. It is not useful.

Perhaps we need to overcome the heuristic level that made you believe in free will. ;)]

I am suggesting that thinking our current best available knowledge is anything more than the best approximation available at present is probably unwarranted.

[followed byTrick Wrote:
Is it the case that your position on “free will” is based on your assessment of your “current best available knowledge”?
If so, then if I show an inconsistency between two positions you hold regarding what you deem as “current best available knowledge”, isn’t it the case that you should re-think your position about one or both of them?]

I reassess my “position” whenever I have evidence of sufficient quality, or imperatives of sufficient strength, to warrant it.

For me, over 50 years of enquiry, evidence, experience and contemplation indicate beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that free will exists.

And the nature of that free will is not at all what most think.

Evolution seems to have selected a much more complex and constrained form, that is still capable of independent, creative, responsible action.

[followed by Trick wrote:
We will eventually get to how indeterminism (in the could have been otherwise sense) does not allow for “independent, creative, responsible action”, but for now let’s keep to the time discussion: Do you agree that true indeterminism in the “could have been otherwise” sense requires an A-series of time for our known universe or those events (that the B-series in the video you watched is incompatible)?
If you are unfamiliar with an A-series, it basically means there is a state of the universe that becomes or evolves to the next state that does not exist prior (which requires an absolute frame that changes or evolves).]

I agree that the “B” series in the video is incompatible.

The requirement for an absolute frame is questionable. It is the simplest way of resolving, but not the only one.

It does seem possible that existence itself is distributed. But that is a very difficult notion to get to terms with, and for the sake of the free will debate is not required, so the “A” series is a sufficiently useful approximation for the purposes of this debate.

[followed by Trick wrote:
Whenever you say “useful approximation” you make me think it is not your actual current position given the evidence you have.
Is an A-series with an absolute frame your current position on time? Y or N
* If it is not (only answer 1 and 2 below if you say “N” to the above):
(1) How can you have an A-series of time or lack a B-series of time without an absolute reference frame ontologically?
(2) What do you mean by “existence itself is distributed”? Do you mean distributed through time?]

I have said all along this is deeply complex.

I have stated repeatedly that it seems very likely that all of our models are at best “useful approximations” at some scale to whatever reality actually is.

Our understanding of anything and everything seems to be deeply conditioned by evolution. Some ideas “come naturally”, and others are much more difficult.

What if the very ideas of time and space are heuristic interpretational biases?

What if existence is actually quite different?

[followed byTrick wrote:
You said:
“For me, over 50 years of enquiry, evidence, experience and contemplation indicate beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that free will exists.”
…and then this:
“I have stated repeatedly that it seems very likely that all of our models are at best “useful approximations” at some scale to whatever reality actually is.”
Your very idea of free will is likely a heuristic interpretational bias. Regardless, you seem to have a framework you are using to make assertions about “beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt” assessments for some things in reality that are not even empirical (and rather illogical), yet when questioned about any part that ties to your positive claim your answer is always “reality is too complex”. Do you not see how convenient this is for you? If you are going to be an epistemological solipsist, you need to consistently do so for all beliefs (including free will).]

No Trick.

As has been so often the case you have misinterpreted what I wrote. Understandably so in a real sense.

Yes, in a sense, of course I have looked at the possibility of bias in my schema, it is only by distinguishing them as such that one gains the opportunity to mitigate those effects.

And I do not deny the logic of your statement that on the surface an A series does seem to imply an absolute frame. Part of my brain brings that up every time I approach this question.

[followed by Trick wrote:
You are very misinterpretable…almost by design it appears.
So you are saying that biases can be mitigated – great, we agree. Right now I’m trying to mitigate some potential biases you have by pointing out that an A-series of time does not align with an ontological relativity of simultaneity (and you should tentatively abandon the idea that both can exist together given the current evidence that they cannot). We should be able to assess this incompatibility “beyond any reasonable doubt”. If A happens before B within frame 1 …and A happens simultaneously with B within frame 2, then for frame 1 the future (B) already exists before it happens. This is incompatible with an A-series of time – beyond any reasonable doubt. Agreed?

No Trick.

I have been explicitly clear on many occasions, and I will repeat, I am using a different interpretive schema.

If you take relativity seriously, then time and space are local to the existence of each particle, and there is no universal frame.

Because we live in a place where everything is essentially in the same place, moving at the same speed (within the errors of measurement available), then we get the illusion of space and time as universals.
The illusion works.

And provided we stay dealing with such ordinary everyday things, that illusion works just fine – just as flat earth works if you always stay within 50 miles of where you were born, and the most complex thing you want to do is build a house with a hammer and nails.

[followed by Trick wrote:
We already went over that we have fairly close epistemological standards, we are just addressing communication issues where you are inconsistent. Regardless, this last response was more clear even though you don’t say if YOU take relativity sufficiently seriously and I need to assume that is what you are saying. I don’t agree with your “if” statement above but since you do:
I’m saying that the interpretation of relativity you have (of no universal frame) is incompatible with your other position that something “could have been otherwise”. Under your ontological position, the relativity of simultaneity kicks in for source events themself, and the future already exists in a block conception of time. This is logically unavoidable.]

No Trick

That is true only if you demand a universal frame of time.

The alternative is really hard to even conceive of, being the total absence of any universal frame. Relativity meets QM.

It is the very ideas of space and time originating as the existence “fields” of the particles present, via the interaction with the existence of other particles, as mediated by the “fundmental” forces.

Think – little bundles of time and space potential – it may help initiate something.

The thing to get it is – block conception of time is a universal frame.

The “block conception” of time is the meta equivalent of flat earth.
Yes it is how it seems, naively, from our default universal frame perspective, but we do not exist in a universal frame, our universe is not “flat” (at least such seems most likely to be the case – on balance of probabilities).

[followed by Trick wrote:
No Ted,
You do not seem to understand A) what a frame is, and B) what a universal frame is. The block universe has no universal/absolute frame. What you are saying makes absolutely no sense in physics, quantum physics, or the philosophy of time. If there is more than one particle, either those particles are in the same frame, or frames can be sliced differently where they are not in the same frame or are in the same frame depending (relativity). If the latter, the frames are relative rather than universal, and a block conception of time follows. The same can be said about “fields”, “interactions”, etc.
But let’s clear up semantics: What do you think a “frame” is in relativity?]

I think a frame in relativity is a mathematical tool that Einstein found that allowed him to hold on to the idea of time as some sort of universal relationship in some construct.

He wasn’t able to let go of that notion completely.

He got close, but didn’t quite make it.

I cannot make this jump for you Neo – you have to make it for yourself.

This may help.

Consider mathematical induction.

Consider flat earth n=1
Consider Newtonian world n=2
Consider Einstein/QM n=3

Having now established a sequence of 3, and you are engaged with a guy saying take a look at n=4, why would anyone consider the sequence has an end?

Posted in Ideas, Our Future, Philosophy, understanding | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts driving home from meeting Richard Dawkins in Christchurch

Attended Richard Dawkins event in Christchurch, and had a short conversation with him at the meet and greet afterwards

These are transcriptions from 3 recordings made driving home Saturday morning, listening to a lecture on the development of Greek philosophical thought.

If you simply criticise something, like from a perspective (whatever that perspective happens to be, whatever that tradition happens to be, whatever that logical schema happens to be), if you don’t suspend for some time, your prior judgments and prior patterns, and actually take on and try out, the schema under discussion, then you really cannot understand the schema from within the schema itself.

So there is a great deal to be said for trying out many different things, always being alert for things that are in fact dangerous.
Its like – you really need a fairly good virus scanner, before you try programs randomly downloaded from the internet.
Its the same thing taking on different cultural constructs.

There can be worms and viruses that once instantiated in your system can fundamentally destabilise or capture some of what it is to be a human being, that cannot easily be dislodged.
You need to be conscious of such things, to evaluate such risks to the best of your abilities, and then make a call as to whether or not you are going to try out any specific system. And it really is very difficult to criticise a system effectively if you haven’t actually tried it out for yourself.

One of the things to become very clear from being with Richard last night; I really enjoyed most of Richard’s presentation. He showed a degree of compassion and understanding, he was genuinely skeptical, but when I was in the meet and greet afterwards and I mentioned Jordan Peterson, the change in demeanor was significant, he was not at all happy.
He was quite explicit that he hasn’t seriously explored Jordan’s thesis. I requested that he do so, and publish his results. And that I would be very interested in reading them.

So Yeah – That’s where I am there.
That thought was actually generated by considerations of Cicero, and his place in the evolution of thought, on the nature of philosophy, the nature of understanding.

I had a thought on how to encapsulate that in book form.

How to get us through this next decade or so?

How do we question the nature of knowledge?
How we move people from “Truth” as something hard, to truth as some sort of approximation to something. [To eternally have some shadow of doubt.]

And it has always had both meanings. The extremists take it as something hard, the more liberal give it a probabilistic form.
Got to spend a bit more time on ontology and epistemology.


I stepped back from economics, looking at what it is that defines modern economics.

It is defined by value in exchange, which is always some function of desire or need (which is effectively a branch of the same thing) multiplied by scarcity. And looking at what happens when the scarcity disappears, when technology enables full abundance.
So, looking at that aspect, which is the fundamental logical presuppositions of the nature of value that is measured in a market. That is one aspect.

The other aspect is the nature of being human that is presupposed in economic models. So – looking at the various sorts of natures that human beings have, and the contexts that trigger the expressions of those natures, and the strategic relationships of various levels of those natures, and why, if one is looking to create a low risk environment one needs to be very conscious that any level of competency (so this involves an exploration of the nature of hierarchies, that hierarchies are fundamentally about competence, and that can be competence in any domain, and that within particular contexts particular hierarchies dominate). Someone may have no knowledge at all about the intellectual content of a debate happening, but if one is a competent martial artist in that debate, and you see one of the debaters as a risk to your existence, then one can destroy that debater, even if that debater is the most competent debater in the context. Even if that debater would have won the argument had they not been taken out by the actions of the martial artist.

You cannot ignore any particular domain just because you think the context doesn’t apply.

The context can shift very, very quickly.

Just a matter of a few inches difference and safety becomes threat.

Real safety can only exist in distributed trust networks, and distributed cooperation, where every individual is conscious of the benefits that they get by behaving cooperatively in that context, and the risks that are present if they fail to operate from a fundamentally cooperative context.

And that needs to be recursively true at every level.

There is no way out of that.

The price of liberty is in fact – Eternal vigilance.

What does liberty look like?

It is secondary to life.
The primary value is life itself.

That demands responsible action from all individuals to protect the lives of all.

It is only when that is done that liberty can see its greatest expression.

Any attempt to give liberty fuller expression prior to the guarantee of life for all is a failure of principle, a failure of morality, and a very very high risk strategy.

That is entirely achievable.
It does not require uniform distributions and it does require a high basic level for everybody. And I mean – SERIOUSLY High, several kilowatts per person.

I am cruising along in a little vehicle at present, at 100km/hour. If the vehicle was totally optimised the vehicle could do this on a couple of kilowatts. I don’t need to be so moving on a continuous basis. We probably need 10 KW per person continuous. That is a lot of slaves at 200W per slave 10KW is 50 slaves. That is pretty good going. Reasonably straight forward to produce. 250 m2 of solar cells.
Back to Cicero.


The idea of Lucifer as being the opposite to god, in terms of consciousness – the thing that rebelled. It seems very likely Lucifer means the light that fell from heaven. So if you have a meteor come down, and it hits an area it turns that area to stone. It melts it. it obliterates it. It causes suffering, it causes heat, it destroys crops, the suffering goes on for ages.
Something that could be very real, and very physical, could be seen by later ages to point to something unreal, because they had no knowledge of the reality, no way to imagine such a reality.

So they could only think about it in mythic terms.

That transition, from something very physical, something very real, something immediate, to something mythic, across generations, particularly with low population levels, for where there are lots of follow on disasters, such that there isn’t a great ability for reliable transmission of that information, there is a very low resolution transmission over time; and then an attempt to reconstruct, reconstructs the mythic rather than the physical.

So it seems very probable to me that Lucifer (gods fallen angel) was a meteor, quite a large one, did quite a bit of damage, caused a lot of angst. Took a lot of people with it to the underground. Quite literally. Melted a city or two.
That sort of thing happens.
Like 1908 Tunguska – though that happened where there wasn’t any people.
The rock that came through 2 weeks ago, and passed between the moon and the earth. We only spotted it a day out, one day before it went past. There was no response time. Had that thing actually been headed for the earth, it could have taken out half of California and everyone in it. And done trillions of dollars worth of damage to the economic infrastructure of the planet, if one is measuring things in terms of dollars.
Tens of millions of lives lost, of information, of thought, of relationships, of networks, of infrastructure. All that it is that make modern humanity what modern humanity is.

The networks, the contacts, the information flows, the novelty generation, the systemic resolution of that novelty. All of that layer upon layers upon layers of complex adaptive systems.

There is such a phenomenally complex reality.
It is such a low resolution model of reality that our subconscious brains create and present to us, but it works.
Here I am in a car at 100km/hr.
Driving along on a wet road in the rain, from the reliability of this machinery. It gets me there.
Or at least it has done today.
This little machine has done 161,000 kilometers.
And it is still powering away.
It is almost magical in its reliability, compared to Henry Ford’s creations it is so reliable, but it is so, so much more complex. In the infrastructure that supports it. Componentry from all over the planet, brought together invisibly by networks or organisation that are both (well – they have technological aspects, they have physical aspects, they have information aspects, they have strategic aspects, they have political aspects, they have motivational aspects, emotional aspects; the whole system of systems of complexity that actually achieves these outcomes). And here I am, driving along in the rain.
Cars coming towards me, any one of which could cross the center line and destroy me, but none of which do.
Just passing the dead trees of Hawkeswood, passing Homestead gulley.

It is such !!!
The difference between being it, and conceiving of some low resolution approximation to the complexity of it. It is just so vast.

It is like we are so, so, so, so complex that it is really, really, really hard – if you look at all the complexity that reality is, the magic of existence. If you open yourself to experience it as something more than the simple model that our neural networks conditioned by experience present to us, as our experiential reality, then the idea that Richard Dawkins and Trick Slattery bring – that we have no free will, is just wrong.

It is wrong on so many dimensions.
Certainly, we are not absolutely free. [To that extent both are necessarily correct.]
To be absolutely free is to be the cosmic background radiation. It is just randomness. That is what freedom means. An absence of structure.

We are highly structured entities.
The form that we have demands structure, demands boundary.

Thought demands level, upon level, upon level, of complex systems. Every system requiring boundary constraints.

Those boundaries are not hard. They are not crystaline.
They are flexible and context sensitive and open to influence by the states of the systems surrounding them, within them, within which they are embedded.

That seems to be the nature of this reality within which we find ourselves.

Quantum mechanics gives us very accurate predictions about populations. It says nothing about anything in particular. If you try and tie anything down to a hard place and a hard time using quantum mechanics it “fuzzes” out. If you localise position then you lose its momentum.
If you really tie down where it is now, then you have no idea where it is going to be next.
What quantum mechanics does, in terms of understanding, is tell us that reality defies hard prediction.

But when you sum those probabilities over reasonable populations, you get things that are very, very reliable.
You may not be able to tell where within a particular sphere an electron is going to be, but once you look at 50 billion instance of that electron, then the shape of that sphere is very well populated. With 50 billion instances, there is a regularity present. If you throw 50 billion heads or tails [coin tosses], then you get a distribution that looks like it is exactly even. But if you look at it very closely, it is highly unlikely to be exactly even, there is likely to be variation most of the time. If you look at the distribution of the digit 3 in the first million characters of Pi there is actually a sequence of 179 3s in a row. So if you only looked at that sequence, then you could say that Pi is made up of a string of threes. But, if you look at the distribution of all digits across that entire population, then it is very closely even (to one part in a thousand) – the same number of instances of each digit.

So it very much depends how you look at things.
If you look at things only in aggregates, then things seem to be very dependable and predictable and they are, and that is a great thing, because that allows complexity such as ourselves to exist.

But if you try and push that idea that things are dependable and causal, and you push it down to the level of the individual, it fails.

It fails consistently at every level.

At every level there is uncertainty at the boundaries.
And that uncertainty at the boundaries is important.

And when you start to understand evolution as the survival of things that can replicate, over deep time.
And you start to understand that competitive environments always drive complex systems to some set of local minima on the complexity landscape, and keep it there, and that cooperative systems allow for the exploration of new strategic territory, then it is very clear, that to be human is vastly more about being cooperative than it is about being competitive.

If being human was just about competition, then we would be bacteria, we would not be human.

It is that our ancestral line, repeatedly, recursively, explored the possibilities present in cooperative strategies, with all the necessities for secondary strategies to prevent invasion and destruction by cheating strategies. It is that recursive level of cooperation, that defines the levels of complexity, that enabled the level of complexity that is us.

We could never have gotten here by competition alone.

It is only through cooperation that we could have gotten to this level of complexity.

And our survival as a species, as thinking entities capable of degrees of self determination, is fundamentally predicated upon our ability to cooperate, at every level.

But it is also fundamentally predicated upon our ability to detect and remove cheating strategies on that cooperative.

It is now beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that most of the economic and political structures currently in place fit very closely the definition of cheating strategies.

NOW – to be VERY, VERY CLEAR – that is not to say that we need to eliminate any politician, or any economist or any bank manager.
But it is to say that all of those individuals need to be made aware of their fundamental self interest in adopting a cooperative strategy, and the fundamental errors of the strategies they have been operating, and the ethical need (the ethical demands) that are present, that predicate the survival of humanity.

And one needs to see evolution in the context of a balance between order and chaos (and that is not using chaos in the strict mathematical sense of something deterministic, but using it in the more general common speech sense of something that is not predictable, something that is outside the boundaries of the known and the predictable – and may in fact be fundamentally unpredictable).

So – evolving systems are always seeking an optimal balance between order and chaos. If there is too much order, if things become too constrained and too regular, then there is not sufficient variation in the population to survive when the external conditions change, as external conditions always do periodically.

So, society cannot become too ordered at any level – biochemical, physical, emotional, economic, political, conceptual, ethical. There has to be variation, every level, every system.

On the other side, there cannot be so much variation, that the necessary boundaries to maintain necessary structure, are broken, and the ability to support complex structure is lost.

So there is always this balance between the requirements of exploring chaos for novel strategies to survive novel conditions, novel threat, and maintaining sufficient order to maintain the structures, the subsystems, that support the complexity that we are.
And that boundary is constantly shifting.

That is where I love Jordan Peterson’s conceptualisation of that as the snake. That which winds through time and space as the boundary between order and chaos. It is not a constant thing. It is not something that you can find and eternally hang on to. That is the ordered version of balance, that is not the balance. The Tao that can be named is not the Tao.

It is something that must be experienced, embodied, created, searched for, ongoingly.

And that balance will be different for every individual.
And the diversity that results must be accepted by every individual.

No individual has the right to impose a level of order that is any greater than the base order required for survival.
Now that becomes a very, very complex question.

That’s what we are seeing here in Kaikoura with the reconstruction of the road and rail corridor.

What are the levels of risk?
When you have one group that quite happily accepts the risks to life of surfing in wave conditions on a rocky boulder surf break, that has a reasonable probability of dying. Surfers die. They crash off waves, their heads smack into rocks, they get trapped by a big wave and can’t get up to breath. Surfers die surfing.

Now – if one was taking the idea that one must protect people from the risk of their own choices, then one would prevent surfing.
But that can never be a viable option.
One needs to highlight the risks.
As long as people adopt the risk, that is their choice.
No existence is devoid of risk.

We can make reasonable efforts to minimise risk in shared spaces, and we need to do that.

And the balance of what is reasonable will always depend on the context, will always be in part depending on the conditions and the technology present.

So having a roading authority which refuses to allow people to adopt a level of risk that is reasonable for them is not reasonable.

Whereas we can certainly move towards absolutely minimising the risk of using roads. So that we not impose risk, we do not force people to take risks, but there is a world of difference between forcing someone to take a risk as a condition of employment for example, or falsely representing the level of risk present in a particular situation, such as driving a particular piece of road, and allowing people to adopt a level of risk that they feel comfortable with and are willing to accept.

And we haven’t got that balance in our current systems.

One of the things that was a very big problem after the Kaikoura earthquake was that the roading authorities just flatly refused to give locals access to areas. They said it was too dangerous.

Well yes it was dangerous. And some of us live in such dangerous conditions, more dangerous conditions, continuously. And provided the authority makes clear the nature of the danger (makes it really clear – yes this is dangerous) then, to me, it is entirely reasonable that there should have been bidirectional access, made available, every day – twice a day, morning and evening access, so that people could have got through in the early morning, and got through in the late afternoon. One convoy each way. And it would have been entirely reasonable to make that 4WD only, and perhaps even locals only, or in convoy with local that you know. Because there are complex competing needs about safety and the need to do dangerous things in the reconstruction process. So that the work crews need to be able to do the stuff that is dangerous that minimises the danger to everyone. So having incompetent people traveling through doing incompetent things is not good for anyone. But the current very low resolution models of just saying no – no access, comes with a very high cost. And presents a great many dangers.
We need to get beyond those models.

People need to be able to adopt the risk.

The risk might be such that, if you go into this area you have no insurance cover. If your vehicle sustains damage, then you are responsible for the full cost of repair or replacement.
You are not going to get insured.

When I go up Skipper’s that is the case. I do not have insurance cover in Skipper’s. I probably don’t have it when I go into Clarence reserve. And I’m happy with that. It is why I bought an old 4WD. It doesn’t matter to me. It does matter, and it is a risk I am happy to accept. Going to those places is that important to me.

I can certainly accept that there are many people who would not have done what I did post quake. Who would not have climbed on their mountain bikes, and cycled through rail tunnels and carried their bikes over boulder fields in active fall zones while listening very carefully for any indication of further rock fall, and constantly reassessing the escape paths as to where I could go if I had to abandon bike and get out of the way of a big rock. But you are constantly doing that sort of thing when you are mountain climbing, and people die mountain climbing.
I lost a very good friend here in Kaikoura who died doing what he loved doing, climbing mountains. His choice, his life. While his wife and his family miss him dearly, I don’t think any of them would have tried to constrain Pete from doing what he loved to do. He wouldn’t have been Pete if he wasn’t doing that.

So – complexity and freedom and randomness are all tightly linked. They are ideas that have uncertain boundaries.
When one explores any infinity, however much one has explored of it, what remains to be explored, makes what has been explored, look like a close approximation to nothing.
And that is actually a really difficult idea to get your head around successfully.
You have really got to spend a bit of time going back over that one, thinking about it.

The notion that we could have high confidence about any open system is a nonsense.

And we are an open, complex, adaptive system.

We seem to be a system that contains some 20 levels of sets of complex systems, many of which are open, recursive, complex adaptive systems; potentially exploring infinities that have no upper boundary.

Many of the classical ideas, like the classical idea that the stars were fixed and immortal and constant, eternal unchanging.
They are incredibly violent atomic reactions. They are almost unimaginably far away. That light, travelling at 300,000 km per second takes hundreds of years to get to us, to give us these little points of light in the sky. They can be moving at speeds, they are these violent balls of gas that if we got anywhere near we would incinerate. They are just so changing, so violent, and yet their extreme distance from us, and the shortness of our lives compared to their lives, makes them appear immortal and unchanging. But they are not. They are so very, very far from it.

That old idea of immortal and unchanging is just nonsense.
But, it was a useful heuristic in its context, an approximation to something.
It was an approximation to the idea that there are vast variations in both complexity and reliability, and some things can be reliable over very long times.

The stars are a very long way away, and they appear very reliable. But like with most things, the closer you get to them the more uncertain they become, and often the more dangerous they get. It is not a good idea to go snuggling up too close to a sun. It is not a good idea to take anything as being fixed and unchanging.

One needs to explore the probability distributions of risk and how they change with context and time; and how one can instantiate effective risk mitigation factors.
It is a very, very complex world.
We over simplify it at our peril.

And here is Kaikoura. Coming down the hill towards Oaro. A shower across the ocean just off South Bay. My house on the peninsula in rain. But it is dry here in Oaro. Looks like it hasn’t rained at all here today. Looks like it has skipped around and gone out to sea. Raining heavily in Christchurch. Raining on the Peninsula. Dry in Oaro. That is the nature of complexity, can never quite guarantee what it is going to do.


And a day later:

The idea that mythology is a mix of real stories from the deep past, and mythic interpretations that have crossed domains, and have survived in doing so (been subject to evolution in the mimetic sense).
Given the ancient idea that the heavens embodied perfection.

And given the idea that we have probably as a species been telling stories for well over a million years, and there would have been thousands of meteor impacts in that time that were big enough to destroy large villages, and create regional chaos – then it is not surprising that this mythology comes from many different traditions.

Add in the idea that such destruction is evidence of the capriciousness of the Gods.

And you have sufficient heuristic utility to support survival.

In the context of the evolution of cooperation, for hundreds of millions of years, our mammalian ancestors lived under ground and were subject to predator pressures from the dominant dinosaur species. That was a very strong external threat. Great conditions for developing very strong cooperative systems.
The Chixilub extinction event (a very big rock hitting the earth and creating conditions sufficiently hostile that every single large carnivorous dinosaur on the planet was destroyed, all species), seems to have given the mammals a chance to flourish in a new environment, but the 65 million years that have past since that event couldn’t undo all of the 200 million years of cooperative evasion of dinosaurs that preceded it; and set us up for the possibility of living cooperatively as naked apes in cold climates.
The deep evolution in the nature of our brains that supported social cooperation over that period, seems to have left enough of a mark that we are able to exist as we do. And that alone isn’t enough. Necessary, and not sufficient, for our continued survival.

We need to take cooperation to the next level, or competition will very probably destroy us. Our technology is that powerful.

I love Richard Dawkins’ writing.
It is so clear, and so true in a sense and so clearly incomplete in a deeper sense.
His writing makes that incompleteness so clear, at least to me, at the same time as it really does make the degrees of truth present clear also.

I love both Richard Dawkins and Jordan Peterson, for the clarity of the ideas they present, and I have genuinely learned ideas of great interest to me from both of them.
And both still seem to me to contain serious errors of omission.
Yet I hate criticising either, because the primary ideas that both express are so essential to understanding what we are, and there are failures at other levels that are important.

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Evolutionary Values

CI 2.0 governed by meaning and evolutionary values

Hi George,

It doesn’t appear to me that our existing crises are in any significant way a manifestation of intelligence verses emotions, the situation appears far more complex than that; and seems to have two major modalities present, and a third major logical issue.

1/ The idea of Truth. The idea that we can “know” something and rely upon it absolutely in all situations. That idea seems to me to have been falsified beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt. Evolutionary epistemology now allows us to see all knowledge to be heuristic at base, having its initial instantiation as the survival of something over time and context. This has certainly been recursed to many levels in higher order abstract thought. And the nature of the relationship of abstract thought to “reality” is a matter of great debate. To me, it seems beyond reasonable doubt that abstract logic and mathematics gives us the best modeling tools available to deal with the more esoteric aspects of reality, yet there is no requirement for reality to actually do anything other than approximate our modeling tools (or looked at the other way, for our modeling tools to be contextually useful approximations to reality – whatever it might actually be).

So people holding on to the idea of “Truth” is a major danger when the context changes in ways that a “heuristic” that had worked for hundreds of generations meets conditions where it fails to work sufficiently adequately for survival.

Relying on the past is often, but not always, a useful predictor of future utility. The greater the rate of novelty production, the greater the probability of the failure of heuristics that were reliable in our past.

So that fact is a major problem in systems that are built on the assumption the “Truth” is knowable and known – however reliable any such system has been in our generational past.

2/ The utility of markets and money, and the many levels of distributed complex computational and productive systems embodied in our current market based systems is real to a degree. And all market values are predicated on scarcity. When scarcity was natural then the concept of justice could work with market systems even if the results were far from evenly distributed.
That has now changed fundamentally.
Fully automated systems now make it possible to meet the reasonable needs of every human being, but creating such abundance would break the system of values embodied in the scarcity based measure generated by markets.
The general response to date has been to create artificial scarcity to prop up the system.
This has been done under many guises, Intellectual Property laws, health and safety laws, etc.
While it can be argued to have held the money system together after a fashion, it has fundamentally broken any relationship between markets and justice. Now it is not simply a matter of natural inequalities, it is a matter of artificially mandated scarcity, where the only reason for that scarcity is the needs of the system of market values. The injustice embodied in that leads to deep and destructive social tensions that are exponentially rising.

Universal Basic Income offers a realistic transition strategy, but ultimately there must be deep systemic change for any sort of reasonable probability of continued existence.

3/ The idea that competition delivers security is deeply systemically flawed. Competition viewed systemically drives systems to local minima, destroying diversity in the process. Diversity can only flourish under cooperative systems.
If freedom is to have any real meaning, then our systems must have a cooperative base, and can then have competitive aspects build upon that cooperative base.

In this context, it seems beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that long term survival demands a values hierarchy that is based in:
1/ Individual sapient life universally (human non-human, biological and non-biological); and
2/ Individual liberty universally (acknowledging that exercising such freedom demands responsibility in social and ecological contexts – it is not sufficient to follow whim at any level, one must exercise reasonable consideration of the likely consequences of action, and take reasonable actions to mitigate any risk to the life or liberty of others).

Any other values one may adopt must be built upon these two.

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Qora – shocking proof

Quora – Shocking proof

What scientific theory do you think will be proven wrong and shock the scientific world? Or what new scientific theory will shock us all?

For me, the implicit assumptions behind the question are themselves disproved.
In my understanding, the essence of science is to question everything, and be willing to examine all sets of evidence, physical, mathematical, logical, intuitive.
The idea that anything would shock everyone seems remarkably naive. Many – yep – certainly, that I could believe; but “All” – no – that makes no sense.

My understandings of reality are now all probability based. All contain uncertainties.
For me, all knowledge is heuristic – bounded by context as to its usefulness.
The idea that the world is flat is a perfectly useful approximation provided you are not interested in anything more than about fifty miles away. Carpenters and builders still use it every day, and manage to build houses that can stand up for centuries. But it wont let you sail a boat around the planet.
Newtonian mechanics is a good enough approximation to work in a far broader range of time, space and velocity. Good enough for projectile trajectories, or jet engines, or planetary orbits over a period of a few hundreds of years. But it wont let you build a system of GPS satellites – that requires the equations of relativity to give reasonable results.

Science seems to be this process of successive sets of approximations to something that are useful in ever stranger environments.
In a sense, we have always lived on this third rock from the sun, but for most people they only ever lived and traveled on a very small part of it. So the heuristics that worked for that small part were much simpler than those required to deliver accurate positions from a constellation of GPS satellites.

I conjecture that should we live the rest of eternity, we will still be dealing with fundamental uncertainties, and successive sets of contextually relevant approximations to something fundamentally unknowable. And in that process we will be able to create technologies and understandings that are indistinguishable from magic to most living today.

For me, the classical notion of “Truth” has been disproven, beyond all reasonable doubt. It seems clear that all that we can ever have is some sort of useful approximation, and that there must always be degrees of uncertainty at the boundaries. And some of those approximations can be very useful indeed – with very high degrees of reliability in the contexts for which they have been developed.
And the very idea of “Truth” was one of those useful heuristics that was useful in getting us to the spread of conceptual paradigms that currently exist in the population of people on this planet (which is a spectrum of many orders of magnitude).

It seems that this universe is, at every level, in some sort of fundamental balance between order and randomness, between the known and the unknown, between searching the unexplored for solutions to existing threats, and discovering new threats in the process. Infinities have that unsettling characteristic, that no matter how much of them you explore, it is a close approximation to nothing compared to what is left to explore. That which we don’t know, and don’t know that we don’t know, must be forever vaster than both what we know, and what we know that we don’t know.

It seems that a good definition of life is that which can replicate, and find a balance between order and chaos (in the non mathematical sense of chaos). Too much order, and there is not enough variation to survive the uncertainties of existence. Too much chaos and the necessary boundaries required to sustain complexity cannot be maintained. Between those excesses lies the virtue of survival.

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Aging issues

Cause of the Month – Issues of the Aged

Continuing from last year

So many dimensions to this question.

We have a friend staying at present who is a teacher in our largest city.

In her experience, she see’s exponentially more children’s potential being destroyed by P, as parents whose lives are already badly effected by drugs and economic poverty face children being born addicted to P in the womb and unable to be comforted as a result. Those children then disrupt not just their peers but every adult they encounter.

The spiral of abuse and antisocial behaviour goes out of control.

Many otherwise normal people cannot emotionally deal with the dimensionality of the issues present, and so retreat to using the “rules” of the system. Then the illusion that the rules work is broken.

No rule based system can ever work on its own – we are too complex for that.

Rule based systems only ever work because most people within them are honest and actually want the system to work, and do what it takes through informal networks to actually make the system work.

But when that becomes “too hard” then the entire structure is at risk.

But one of the key systemic issues is that all “cheat detection” strategies have an element to them that requires accurate memory of transactions over time, and as such memory fidelity reduces, the probability of cheating being detected exponential drops. So the impared become become vulnerable to all manner of depravity – and not all from external sources. We all carry our own internal demons, and detecting and controlling them is every bit as much a function of effective memory as is dealing with the external “demons” of others. So it becomes a very complex set of issue, without simple definition or remedy, and simple remedies often tend to become cures worse than the disease. Deb is right about male aggression and male sexuality. The difference on average between men and women is only small, 60/40, but at the extremes of such distributions such small difference in the mean make huge differences in the tails of the distributions. And those distributions can occur over quite small ranges of time and context.

So as higher order functionality degrades, the ability of individuals to culturally modulate their own internal drives also degrades – and all such things seem to be probability based.

For me, the biggest issue is ensuring that I live for one more day, every day.

Next after that is ensuring that I have maximal probability of continuing to do that.

Next after that is maximising the degrees of freedom possible, at the same time as acknowledging the necessary limits required to maintain the structures to support both my existence and my freedom – social and ecological responsibility.

And it is so much more complex than that, but I am out of time for now.

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Stars in My Eyes

What motivates you?

Hi Laurie,

That is such a profound question, one I have given many hours of deep thinking time over the last few weeks and months, mainly through an ongoing discussion on Trick Slattery’s site about the nature of free will.
He claims it is illusion, and I can see how, from the perspective he takes, it must seem to be such.

As someone who has been fascinated by the systems of life for well over 50 years, it appears very different to me. It seems to me that we have free will to the degree that we claim it; and of course reality to be commanded must first be obeyed – it has rules we cannot break without consequence.

I can see that we are so complex, that there are aspects of our own internal machinery that must be forever mysterious to us.
I see in myself a tendency to rationalise what I do, rather than to act rationally, and I accept that as a necessary part of living in the real world and responding to things in reasonable time frames – full rationality is far too slow for most real situations.

But that leads into a far deeper investigation of the many levels of valence and motivation within us, and the many levels of synergy, conflict, and arbitrage that happens between them.

I’m really not all that confident about what exactly what motivates me in any particular context, and there are a few lead contenders that are usually well up there in contribution rankings:
a sense of justice (and injustice);
a desire to make a difference;
a delight in discovering new things;
a profound joy in building coherent understandings of complex issues;
an appreciation for the beauty and complexity present in natural systems;
a love of people, and their power to overcome adversity and maintain cooperation;
making things work – building machines and systems that work as I imagined they might;
explaining complex concepts to others in ways that work;
being responsible in ways that contribute to the ecological and social contexts I exist in – aiming to achieve universal abundance.

I can get joy from splitting a log for the fire (provided I don’t hit my thumb with the sledgehammer), or from watching birds, dolphins, whales, etc, or watching the water in a babbling brook.

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