Zero Bycatch

My thoughts on the Forest & Bird Zero Bycatch policy – and by implication on all such over simplifications of complex realities.

[ 8/6/20 ]

The idea that any accidental death of an organism is unacceptable is a nonsense.

Everything we do causes accidental deaths.

Cars kill native wildlife, so do windmills, and power lines, and windows and many other things.

A call for zero bycatch is logically and physically impossible, and leads to total distrust between groups.

I was a commercial fisherman for 17 years, and have been a recreational fishermen for about 60 years, and studied marine ecology with my favourite prof John Morton (someone I consider lucky to call friend and mentor – though John and I could have long arguments – on a friendly basis).

What has happened is that individuals who have recorded accidental catch of marine mammals have had their businesses destroyed, rather than being praised and rewarded for accurately reporting reality.

When you create a situation that destroys all incentive to accurately report (which the zero bycatch policy does), then it make progress towards the target of minimising bycatch to the greatest degree reasonably possible extremely difficult.

A call for zero bycatch can only be achieved by one mechanism, the removal of all human activity (fishing and otherwise), from the water. Even a yacht sailing through the water will occasionally kill sealife with their keel, bow, rudder, rigging, windows, etc. International shipping kills whales in collision.

Posted in Nature, understanding | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


Facebook – Philosophy of Science Group

[ 7/6/20 Walter Asked – Do probabilistics and statistics replace faith in the sciences? Angelo stated “Faith is necessary …..”]

Faith is a dangerous mind virus.

[followed by 8/6/20 – Angelo wrote – It depends the meaning you assign to faith. Religious faith, indeed can be a dangerous virus (but it can be also a healer for many people). But for me “faith” has a more general meaning, as “trust” in general, even in everyday life.]


Faith in the sense of reliance on some notion in the face of any and all evidence to the contrary is in all cases dangerous (even if in some cases it also has great utility).

In this sense of a confidence in being right, even when that is clearly not the case, it is dangerous.

Most particularly in the sense of reducing a complex and fundamentally uncertain reality down to simple binaries like right/wrong or true/false.

Faith in the weaker sense of a confidence built upon large observation sets and having tested large sets of interpretive schema over those observation sets, is something else.

English has that unsettling characteristic of having multiple sets of definitions for many terms, some of which can convey essentially the complete opposite conceptual system.

I was using the term faith in the sense that most of the “faithful” use it – sense 1 above.

And I get that making sense of anything is complex, and that in the first instance we all rely upon the biases instilled into our neural networks by the selection processes of evolution in both genetic and cultural domains to make what sense we do of the complexity within which we find ourselves.

And the more deeply one becomes familiar with the nature of complex systems, and the nature of the multiple levels of strategic environments present in the complex systems we inhabit, the more “sense” one can make of it, and the more one is able to see the depths of utility present in some of the simpler models common in religious and cultural domains.

And I strongly encourage all individuals to push their explorations of complexity as far as they reasonably can, while at the same time retaining the greatest degrees of social and ecological responsibility that they can create. For we do live in very complex social and ecological systems, and all levels of complexity do actually have sets of boundaries that are required for their continued existence (and those boundaries change with context, and may never have actually been what most or even any thought that they were – so it is complex, and meta-complex, and meta-meta-complex, …..).

Posted in Ideas, understanding | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sensemaking and survival

AMG – Cause of the Month Suggestion

[ 8/6/20 ]

I’d like to suggest the topic of “sensemaking and survival in times of exponential change”.

What are the different classes of mechanisms used by people to make what sense they do of the world around them?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of each?

What are the threats and opportunities posed?

How can we use this knowledge to move the world situation towards one where all individuals experience reasonable degrees of security, freedom and empowerment; and all individuals acknowledge their social and ecological responsibilities?

Given that technologies are creating exponential opportunities for change in all aspects of living (most particularly in the speed of transmission of new “memes”) – what sort of stories/paradigms/ideas can we create that work in all current contexts/structures?

[followed by 11/6/20]

Things that go bump in the night huh 😉

Over the last few years I have spent quite a bit of time working through several different sets of discussions.

Deb introduced me to Jordan Peterson, and I read and watched everything he put out.   Some really good ideas in some of his stuff, and I really like the ideas around the ritualistic exploration of boundaries (in the context that all levels of complexity require boundaries of some sort to survive (think systems of morality at one level, and by analogy beyond)).
Jordan introduced me to the IDW (intellectual dark web, the Weinstein brothers, and associates).   Some very interesting ideas there.

I have continued my engagement with the Foresight Institute, and over the last few weeks have been doing 1.5 hour sessions most days on zoom with between 20 and 200 others around the globe, looking at aspects of the covid 19 situation and potential responses.

I strongly supported our government in NZ to go early and go hard; and our PM did a superb job of doing that in a generally cooperative rather than coercive way.   And we have had no new cases in the last 3 weeks, and currently have no active cases in the country.

Now what I see as the big issue is the threat of depression.

Many capitalists see depression as an opportunity to grab capital at bargain prices as people sell everything just to survive.   For me all such strategies qualify as cheating strategies on the cooperative that is humanity and put all of our lives at risk.

To me, it seems clear that some sort of universal income needs to happen.   My suggestion is $60 per day tax free to every adult over 18, and a flat 50% income tax over that.   Also a change away from the practice of creating money as debt (which is not sustainable).

We need to accept that there are many threats that are not of human origin that require a whole of humanity response.

Global cooperation does not mean one world government or global sameness.   It mean accepting and embracing diversity.

We must accept the systemic truth that freedom is maximised in cooperative contexts, and that freedom without responsibility is self terminating.   We must all accept that we have social and ecological responsibilities.
Exactly how that looks is likely to be different for each and every one of us.

So interesting times.

Posted in Longevity, Our Future, understanding | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


Quora – Once humans master genetic engineering, could we theoretically find a way to live forever?

[ 7/6/20 ]

We should be able to find ways to eliminate the risks to life from our own genetics, but that doesn’t do anything about all the other risks to life.

So elimination of the loss of function and increased risk of death simply due to aging is entirely possible; but that is not the same thing as living forever; and it would mean most people living a very long time in young looking and healthy bodies. If the risk profile from other causes improved reasonably then the average age at death would likely be around 5,000 years, with some few living much longer.

And some people have rather high tolerance for risk, so some reasonable fraction of people would still tend to live relatively short and very interesting lives.

Posted in Longevity | Tagged | Leave a comment


Quora – Is Solipsism a form of postmodernism?

[ 6/6/20 ]

My own view, is that the only thing one can be 100% certain of is that I exist as some sort of something.

I cannot be 100% confident of what sort of something, but I can be reasonably confident about many of the major themes of the nature of what sort of something that I am.

Similarly with the rest of reality. It seems that reality is really complex, and contains many different classes of fundamental uncertainties and more than a few fundamental unknowables.

Now you get to the tricky issue of “what is postmodernism”?

Postmodernism seems to present a vast ecosystem of variations on various themes.

Those themes of postmodernism that stress that all things contain uncertainties and must therefore be expressed in terms of probabilities I am happy to work with and count myself among.

Those themes that are more extreme pyrrhonist, that go beyond confidence and uncertainty to denying the possibility of any sort of confidence seem to me to be entirely nonsense from any sort of logic or systems perspective, in that they deny themselves, and seem to be more about achieving political objectives.

So there seem to be vast spectra across multiple domains in both terms, that allow one to answer it in the affirmative or the negative depending on where you choose to put a definition on either term.
For me, the situation is far too complex to give a simple answer to.

Posted in Philosophy, understanding | Tagged , | Leave a comment


Quora – What is the greatest paradox that humanity has?

[ 6/6/20 ]

There aren’t any.

What does exist is individuals who run into paradox in some specific context.

What that indicates is that the interpretive schema in use is not sufficient to model the complexity actually present that they are interested in, and that a new paradigm is required.

Once you have encountered that a dozen or so times, and have had to change schema to resolve and remove the paradox, you start to gain an appreciation for the complexity and uncertainty that seems to actually exist in reality (beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt); and start to appreciate that all models and understandings are likely to be simplifications of what is actually present, and thus necessarily wrong in some essential aspects; and thus one adopts the processes of the scientific method to become progressively less wrong.

If you think about it deeply, whatever exists is real. Paradox can only exist when the model in use is not able to match what is being considered.

What most people don’t deeply consider is that all experience is already a simplified model of reality, simplified by the subconscious physical and processing systems of brain and sensory systems. So we don’t ever experience reality, what we experience is a kind of personal virtual reality statistically assembled from uncertain information using Bayesian priors deeply sorted and selected by evolution at both genetic and cultural levels. Without those biases we would not be able to make any sense at all of the complexity within which we exist.

So paradox is not a characteristic that belongs to reality, it is an indication of a failure of the modeling systems in use. All it means is that it is time to upgrade the modeling system to be able to handle the new level of complexity that you actually encountered.

Posted in understanding | Tagged | Leave a comment

Coastal Changes

Link to Doc Discus site

[ 5/6/20 Comment on DoC Albatross camera website on a school of fish “We had a birds eye view!”]

We did indeed. I’ve had quite a few of them too. I used to be a keen pilot, and when I was courting Ailsa in Kaikoura 30 years ago I lived near Thames, and used to fly down in a Cesna 172. I would usually come down the coast from Blenheim to Kaikoura at about 500 ft, looking at all the schools of fish as I went. Back then there were still large schools of Kahawai around, before they were fished out by the purse seiners. Got to see that process happening when we moved to Kaikoura 22 years ago, and I would regularly fly up the coast to work on projects in Wellington and sometimes beyond in Napier and Gisborne.

And that leads me to the topic of rule based systems and bureaucracies, and where they often fail.

MPI wanted a set of rules to follow for fisheries management, so they settled on the notion of Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE) as a proxy for abundance. When fish species are fairly widely dispersed, and catching technologies are fairly close to random (like trawling or set netting), then that assumption set works reasonably well across quite a range of abundance. However, when you have species like Kahawai or Mackerel that school up into very confined spaces, and catching technologies like purse seining directed by spotter planes, then the CPUE stays essentially the same right up to the moment that you catch the last school of fish (which is essentially what happened to the kahawai off Kaikoura, as 3 purse seine vessels took out 10,000 tons over ten years and then the kahawai disappeared). In my courting days I would fly over schools that extended for miles. In recent years the biggest school I have seen was maybe 100m across, and most are much smaller.

It is one of the profound failure modalities that comes out of institutions setting rules, when reality seems to actually be sufficiently complex that all rule sets will fail in some contexts, and what institutions really need to be doing is empowering individuals to use their intelligence to try out new ways of producing the best possible outcomes. And best in this sense needs to have reasonable metrics of the ecosystem requirements present as well as any sets of more human centric values that may be present.

And yeah – nice to have a “bird’s eye” view of what was probable a few small schools of kahawai, but may well have been mackerel. Good to see them starting to return if it was kahawai.

[followed by]

Hi Christine,

Here in NZ most inshore species are actually in a better situation than they were 40 years ago, Kahawai being one of the exceptions.

For all its warts and flaws, the Quota Management System has largely worked much better than any of the alternatives that were available for consideration in the late 70s when NZs inshore fisheries were largely in crisis, largely for political reasons (Muldoon wasn’t as all knowing as he thought he was – and made some serious errors, and to be fair to him, he was facing deeply complex issues of international law – it is a long story).

And part of it is much deeper and wider issues with economics, and the whole notion of measuring value in markets – but if we go down that rabbit hole we might not see much of Pippa for a few days ;).

Posted in Nature | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Foundations of Logic – A Priori Metaphysics

[ 5/6/20 – Facebook – foundationas of logic group – A priori metaphysics. ]

A priori is a nonsense in a very real sense.

The idea that we should trust something without reference to experience is something that people who want to control others and stop them questioning and testing for themselves often promote.

The essences of science, and the fundamental basis of freedom, is the ability to test conjectures in reality, and to evaluate the evidence for oneself. Any less than that is dogma and control.

Any attempt to foist anything “a priori” is a direct challenge to freedom and independence; and I strongly advise rejecting it in favour of evidence based evaluation.

And my position does acknowledge that it seems very probable that all understanding is some sort of simplification of the complexity that seems to reside in reality, and is therefore “wrong” in some senses, and “useful” in other senses. This seems likely to be eternally the case – reality does seem to be sufficiently complex for that to be so. The processes of the scientific method seem to be the most effective method of becoming less wrong over time.

And it does get exceptionally complex at multiple levels, as often the time bound demands for action place very real limits on the complexity of the models we are able to use in any particular situation, often demanding that we simplify infinities of complex uncertainties down to simple binaries like right/wrong, true/false, friend/foe, danger/opportunity.

Very rarely is reality that simple, but often we don’t have the luxury of time or energy or processing capacity to admit of it being any more complex.

Posted in Philosophy, understanding | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Survival without technology

Quora – How long could the human race survive without technology?

[ 4/6/20 ]

Not at all – because technology is part of what defines us as human.

And in this sense, language is technology, our complex cultures are forms of technology, the use of fire is a form of technology.

It is our ability to be creative, to experiment with new tools, new ideas, new symbols, to learn, to change, to adapt, that defines us as being human.

New technology is the inevitable result of that process.

So if you removed all language, all knowledge, all culture, we become helpless (like newborn babies, unable to care for ourselves or survive).

One piece of technology that we need to seriously rethink is the idea of money. It was a very useful tool in our past, when scarcity of most things really was a real part of being, but in an age where we have automation, there is no real need for scarcity (except to maintain the market systems of value), and the very idea of money, of value in exchange, becomes a real threat to our survival.

Just look at the insanity happening in the world right now.

Some people are plowing food back into their pastures, at the same time as billions of people are actually hungry and in need of that food. And the only reason for that is the money system we have – a set of myths that are no longer optimal for the context we find ourselves in, and are in fact generating multiple levels of existential level risk.

We need global cooperation, and global cooperation is not global governance or global control.

Global cooperation means global acceptance of diversity (all levels), it means global respect for individual life, and individual liberty, and that demands individual responsibility.

I can agree to cooperate with someone without being controlled by them.

We all need to accept that cooperation and diversity are necessary conditions for any meaningful expression of security and freedom.

Technology is an essential part of being human – always has been.

Tracking humanity through the fossil record is done by tracking the tools and products we leave behind.

We are the apes with technology. We are apes with sufficiently complex and flexible brains to develop new and ever more complex technologies.

That is what we are.

We are getting better at it.

Some of us have explored enough of complexity theory and strategy theory to know that competitive systems are the enemy of freedom and the enemy of security.

The evolution of complexity is always based on new levels of cooperation. And at each new level the levels of strategy required to make cooperation work and to remove cheating strategies gets more complex. That is just how it works – an eternal part of reality.

Human beings are complex beyond the ability of anyone to appreciate in detail.

We need each other, and we need our tools and technologies, and we need the natural ecosystems of the planet. All of those things are true.

We need more awareness, and more responsibility; and we need to accept that the systems of laws and markets and money that once served us reasonably well are now the greatest threats we face.

We need to actually value individual life and individual liberty, and that is simply not possible inside a system of market values or strict laws.

And all complex systems require boundaries to survive. Freedom is not an absence of boundaries, it is about accepting the minimum set of boundaries demanded for survival. And there will always exist uncertainties in such things, as such boundaries are always context sensitive and the contexts are always changing.

We need technology, and cooperation, and responsibility. All are essential for our long term survival.

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

Laurie – Any way the wind blows

Laurie – Any Way the Wind Blows

[ 3/6/20 Do you go with the flow, any way the wind blows—or do you stand firm? ]

Hi Laurie,


I’ve done a lot of sailing and flying. I am used to using the power of the air currents to allow me to go where I want by going in various directions that are possible, and get me closer to where I want to be, but are rarely directly towards it.

So I often use the power of the flow, by redirecting it in various ways, to get to where I want to go.

And sometimes the flow is too strong, and I need to go with it to some degree. Three times in my time at sea I found myself in winds in excess of 80 knots and seas that can only be described as mountainous. Once I was at sea in a small dinghy in a squall of about 70 knots – which was “interesting”.

And in Zen there is the idea of bending like the grass does in the wind – neither resisting nor going, but flexing and coming back.

And looking at it from an entirely different perspective, that of information systems, one can look at all of life and all of existence as embodied information systems. One of the things to come out of the theory of “search” about 20 years ago is that the most efficient possible search of unstructured data is the fully random search.

So part of what I do is “random search” across all “possibility spaces” that I am aware of (all of what is real and all of what might be possible).

In a very real sense, random search is entirely independent of “flow”.
So in that sense, I try and spend a significant fraction of my time outside of the idea of flow (in any and all dimensions).

So my response is very much dependent on both context and choice – sometimes I stand, sometimes I go with the flow, mostly I flex and sometimes I am completely outside the “flow”.

Posted in Laurie's blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment