Quora Why can’t we just eliminate poverty through sheer will

Why can’t we just eliminate poverty through sheer will?

[ 15/April/21 ]

Sheer will by itself does nothing.

Will power applied to systems over time can achieve outcomes.

Eliminating poverty depends very much on how one defines it.

If one defines poverty purely in terms of market measures of value, then poverty is structural to market function. What I mean by that is that anything universally abundant has zero market value by definition (think air – arguably the single most important thing to any of us, yet of zero value in a market because we can all get all we need simply by breathing).

If you think about that deeply enough, then it is clear that markets are not a measure of absolute value, but of scarcity value or value in exchange. Markets absolutely require scarcity to function – to deliver a measurable value.

So if you define poverty in terms of market value (money), then it must be the case that poverty must exist – ie there must be unmet need for markets to function.

If you look at it differently, and conceive of fully automated systems that can produce all the goods and services that most people reasonably need, then it is entirely possible to eliminate poverty in the sense of everyone having their reasonable needs and expectations met. And that does require both reasonableness and responsibility, as any form of liberty without responsibility is necessarily self destructive (but that is a much deeper conversation for elsewhere).

So we can use our will power to consistently have conversations such as this, and to consistently take actions in reality that tend to change the probability of a future such as is implied in these words coming into being; and that will does actually need to produce outcomes in reality to be effective. I have some little experience of this in the context of an oncologist telling me that my cancer was terminal and inoperable and that I could be dead in 6 weeks and had a 2% chance of surviving 2 years – that was 11 years ago. I used my will power to alter my diet and behaviour consistently, no exceptions. It was really difficult, and really unpleasant, and I am still alive, still strict vegan, no refined sugars, and twice daily high dose vitamin C (8g per dose). In 11 years I can count the times I have missed on my fingers. And I have owned and operated a software business for the last 35 years, so I have some practical idea of just how complex a task fully automated systems of this nature really are.

We face a really complex situation, and most people have such simplistic models of the complexity really present, that they will have to work really hard to start to build a useful idea of what is going on. Automation is fundamentally changing the utility of the concept of work, and many of the market systems have essentially become cheating strategies on the bulk of humanity. It is possible to create a world where all people have all that they reasonably need, but it cannot happen due to the incentives of markets and capital alone, it requires much more of us all, including accepting levels of responsibility commensurate with the levels of freedom we claim. It also means accepting that any real expression of freedom results in diversity, and thus requires that we accept and respect such diversity (all levels), however uncomfortable and unusual it may seem to us.

So yes – will power is required, and without applying it to appropriate and workable systems in appropriate contexts, it is not enough.

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What positive changes do you want to see?

What positive changes do you want to happen in the world?

[ 14/April/21 ]

I want all people to accept the logical necessity that freedom without responsibility is destructive. Every level of structure has necessary sets of boundaries for its survival, and they change with context, and any conception of freedom that ignores that reality ends up eventually destroying the conditions necessary for its existence.

I would like fully automated systems that could meet all the reasonable needs of all people on the planet (water, food, housing, power, transport, medical, education, etc); so that no person had to work to provide such things, and every person had the freedom to do whatever they responsibly chose.

I would like all people to accept that any real expression of freedom results in diversity, and that if they value freedom at any level, then they must accept and respect diversity at all levels that are not actually a direct threat to anyone.

I would like everyone to understand the logical reality that all levels of evolved complexity are based upon levels of cooperation; and that in the long term, competition is only survivable if it has a firm cooperative base and boundaries. The idea that competition enhances creativity is simply false! And we can all enjoy competition provided we feel safe in doing so.

I would like to see everyone accept that they have a responsibility to maintain ecological diversity and ecological abundance in a balance appropriate to their community. We need both people and nature, and we cannot continue to eliminate nature to the degree that we have over recent decades.

I would like everyone to accept that there are limits to the number of people we can have on this planet and still have a reasonable lifestyle, and we are rapidly approaching those limits. With indefinite life extension coming very close to reality we need to accept that one child per family needs to be the new norm.

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Society without work?

What happens in a society where no one had to work and people had free food, water, shelter, and medical care?

[ 14/April/21 ]

No one has actually tried it, so it is conjectural, and as someone who has been thinking about systems like this for over 40 years, it seems clear to me that after a period of adjustment, most people would find useful and interesting ways to be creative and helpful in their communities – at various levels of artistry and artisanship.

It seems very likely that people would have much greater opportunity to explore and develop their sense of responsibility. Freedom without responsibility is necessarily destructive, and that can be demonstrated at any and all levels of logic, so at whatever level of complexity and abstraction an individual is operating there are degrees of responsibility present that are required for the existence of that level of structure.

Learning about what we actually are takes a very long time to build reasonably useful models that work across all the datasets available from modern science. In the existing reality of the need to work, there is little opportunity for most to make any significant explorations into the depths of the complexity present. I strongly suspect many more would start to engage on the never ending journey that is modern science (an eternal journey of becoming less wrong); and it is also true that one could spend the rest of eternity exploring any of the infinities of possibility present at any level of structure or understanding. So diversity is likely to expand rapidly in all dimensions of being and comprehension.

It seems to me to be the only real path that offers any real security of continued existence to any of us, over the long term. Fully automated systems are now sufficiently capable that they can do all the essential work for the supply of those essential things we all need – so it could easily become the case that no one had to work, and we could all find useful things we enjoy doing, and most of us would.

Some would likely spend some time in various levels of addictions, much as now, and most work their way out of such things given sufficient time and support.

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Feelings vs reason

Walter Kant asked – Feelings, emotions versus philosophical reason: Can feelings and emotions defeat or replace philosophical reason? Yes or No?

[ 13/April/21 ]

Have you stopped beating your grandmother yet?

Yes or no?

All questions and answers rely on implicit sets of assumptions.

The implicit set of assumptions that imply a yes or no answer to this question is possible actually preclude a realistic answer.

The evidence seems very clear, that we are very complex biological organisms, with multiple levels of neural networks, with many sets of functions/biases/predicates implicitly instantiated via the genetic mechanisms of our development, and many more layers instantiated by the cultural mechanisms of our experience and development. And then we instantiate further levels through self development and exploration.

The deep genetic mechanisms strongly bias our neural networks to simplify complexity down to binaries. Binaries have the utility of allowing rapid decision making under duress of time pressure, and evolution often punishes the slow much more harshly than the slightly inaccurate. So we are all strongly biased to notions like right/wrong, true/false, friend/foe, threat/opportunity, good/evil – even when the evidence from reality is overwhelmingly that we are dealing with levels of complexity composed of multiple levels of infinities.

We all have to start from simplicity. So we must all start from the simplest of possible logics, which is binary, and is predicated on classical causality. That does not mean that reality itself is similarly constrained; but one has to go deeply into mathematics and logic before such an idea can even occur as a possibility; as it cannot occur in a raw binary state.

The notions of head and heart are absurdly simple simplifications of levels of complexity that at base seem to come out of chaos constrained by various levels and classes of probability functions.

And there is a sense in which to get to the level of complexity embodied within us, something very closely approximating classical causality has to exist in that particular context – and approximation is not equality ! And it can have utility in some contexts (even as it can impose existential level risk in emerging contexts).

The answer can approximate yes or no depending on context – and that can get deeply abstract (double digit levels of abstraction) and necessarily contains levels of fundamental uncertainty and unknowability.

[followed by Walter responded – Yes / No: I want more clarity and less ambiguous statements / polemics]

The yes or no depends on what is meant by the contexts.

For some individuals the answer is yes in almost all contexts.

For some individuals the answer is no in almost all contexts.

In all individuals it can be yes or no in some contexts.

Feelings and emotions predate the emergence of logic and reason in the development of human awareness, and as such will become dominant when a sufficient level of stress is invoked in any particular brain to shut down higher order function. That is how these extremely complex systems work.

Without a lot more explanation, the question makes no sense at all to me.

It is in the same logical class as the one I started with above.

[followed by]

Walter Kant
Humans existed on feelings and emotions, long before they had philosophical reason.

A modern human, reading, has to have some level of reason available.

So there are certainly some contexts where feelings can defeat reason.

And if the outcome is long term survival, then reason needs to triumph, but it has to be reason that has gone deeply enough into non binary logic and the deep strategy of the evolution of complex systems, that it appreciates both the power of feelings and the limitations of reason; and the absolute requirement for cooperation.

Neither alone is enough.

Both are necessary – long term.

That is why I find it difficult to interpret what the question is asking.

It seems to be operating from assumptions I do not share.

To me the question appears to be in the same class as I proposed above.

Either answer, yes or no, seems very probably to be interpreted as something not intended by me.

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Immortality

Will genetic engineering make us inmortals? How?

[ 13/April/21 ]

Immortality is never a hard option.

What we can conceivably do is eliminate the age related loss of function that we currently recognise as “aging”.

There will eternally remain the possibility of death by a vast array of mechanisms, and without age related loss of function, the probability of death should reduce with age and experience, rather than increase as at present.

The reality of the possibility of such an outcome became clear to me in 1974 as I completed undergrad biochem at university. I knew it was possible, and the major steps in the process, and at that time I was rather too optimistic about how quickly those hurdles would be crossed. The last major one has now been passed – Alpha fold 2 has essentially solved the problems of understanding the 3D structure of proteins from their linear sequence of amino acids. Now there is no further barrier to solving the problem, just a lot of hard work to go through the practical steps of understanding the steps, and then developing scalable solutions.

But even in 1974 it was clear to me that engineering the biochemical side of things was the easy part of the problem.

The really difficult part is developing social, economic, political and technological systems that give potentially very long lived people a reasonable probability of actually living a very long time with reasonable degrees of freedom.

That is a deeply complex set of understandings that takes any serious student into Non-Euclidian strategic geometries, and into the infinite realm of non-binary logics; and how and in what contexts one can reliably approximate the notions of classical causality; and where the notions of classical causality fail to account for observations. And the biases for simplicity necessarily present in the neural networks of most human beings make it exceedingly unlikely that very many individuals will take the time and effort required to pursue such a path of abstraction and modelling, and even less likely that they will be able to communicate the details of it to anyone else.

So it is deeply complex.

And one simple message to reliably emerge from the depths of that complexity is that all levels of complexity are necessarily founded upon new levels of cooperation. Another message is that without evolving ecosystems of cheat detection and mitigation systems, cooperation is vulnerable to exploitation and destruction by cheating strategies, leading to system collapse at that level.

In history such civilisation collapses seem common, but with our globally interconnected systems, we can no longer have a reasonable probability of surviving such a collapse. A new level of reliable cooperation seems to be the only way forward with any reasonable probability of survival.

So genetic engineering is a part of the picture, and it is deeply more complex than that alone.

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Quora – People who grew up in adverse conditions tend to work harder, and understand human nature and society as a whole in a more profound way.

People who grew up in adverse conditions tend to work harder, and understand human nature and society as a whole in a more profound way. Would you agree or disagree?

[ 12/April/21 ]

Agree with all that Sakshi Mehta writes, and would explicitly add extra dimensions to that.

All new levels of complexity demand new levels of cooperation – that much seems beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, if one is able to push an understanding of the strategic contexts of the evolution of complexity to a sufficient level of abstraction. Anything fundamentally competitive is destructive of complexity at that level, and that is a deeply abstract strategic notion.

So there is a sense in which one must exist in a sufficiently cooperative context to be able to survive long enough to gain access to sufficient depths of understanding that one can begin to understand just how complex reality and life are, and all such understandings force an acceptance that all understandings are necessarily simplistic heuristics at some level. There is a sense in which a degree of adversity is usually required to break people out of the tendency to be bound by various layers and forms of “social agreement”; and that is deeply complex because one needs to be able to survive such experiences, and the drive to social agreement is so strongly biased in most brains that few can sustain such things for long.

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Notes in a Life Extension forum on the nature of aging and related issues

[ 12/April/21 Facebook – Lifeboat – post by B J Murphy linking to an article on bio-inks]

Indefinite life with expanding capabilities is a very complex suite of issues.

One of the issues is that gradual changes can happen in the DNA of individual cells over time, leading to cell lines of reduced capability. One response to that is to periodically create new stem cell lines with new sets of DNA containing something much closer to the original DNA we started with, with such “enhancements” as we have chosen. We then put those widely throughout our bodies, and then over time induce apoptosis in the cells around them, causing those “rejuvenated” cells to replace the variously “senescent” cells around them.

That approach deals to one class of loss of function, that associated with DNA damage.

But that is not the only class of issue. There are many other classes of issues present, some of which are deeply entangled with systems that give us memory and are part of what makes us “us”. So there are no simple answers, and it does seem to me likely that continued developments in the realms of both deep strategy and nanotechnology will give us tools that will allow us to address these issues over time. Such has seemed obvious to me since completing undergraduate biochemistry in 1974.

The much more complex issue is around creating sufficient depth of understanding of evolution and complexity and uncertainty that we can develop social (political, legal, economic, technological, pedagogical) systems that actually deliver social and ecological and technological conditions in which potentially very long lived sapient entities actually have a reasonable probability of living a very long time with reasonable degrees of freedom. Finding workable solutions to that class of questions has occupied most of my intellectual capacity (such as it is) over the last 46 years. The problem space is deeply more complex and abstract than the problems of life extension at the physical level (and they are complex enough for most people).

Fundamental to understanding such solutions as do seem to be possible is understanding the logic and strategy of the evolution of complexity at sufficient depth that one can clearly see the overriding role of cooperation in the emergence and survival of all levels of complexity (and the risk profiles to complexity posed by any level of competition that is not fundamentally based in a cooperative framework – all levels – asymptotically approaching unity).

Unfortunately evolution has encoded multiple levels of bias into the human brain to simplify complexity, which tends in most cases to lead to simplification beyond what is survivable long term. We need to be able to accept multiple levels of fundamental uncertainty (in a sense the idea of an ineffable god is a reasonable approximation to such fundamental uncertainty, even as in many other dimensions such a concept is extremely improbable).

So while I am all in favour of continued development of practical life extension technologies, particularly as I am now of an age that the risk factors are increasing exponentially for me personally, the dimensions of the political, legal, ethical, strategic, and social issues present still dominate my threat assessment. (And communicating anything I find interesting is difficult – I am an autistic spectrum geek, who when I joined mensa was tested as 160+ IQ – so I am aware that very few people (if any) share my understanding, and there is not sufficient time to share it in detail with anyone unless indefinite life extension and fundamental social change become real in the relatively near future – couple of decades).

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Hobbes or Locke?

Who gives the better account of the state of nature, Hobbes or Locke?

[ 12/April/21 ]

To me it is a bit like asking who gives a better account of quantum mechanics, Pythagoras or Plato?

Both Locke and Hobbes base their accounts on conceptual sets that I no longer use, and that I find utterly inadequate to the task. The explicit assumptions they accept have been disproved by datasets available to any who wish to look.

For me, the idea of equality is a nonsense. A modern understanding of biology and complexity at our level shows that we are all different in many important dimensions, and a big part of our strength is cooperating to use those differences effectively in the face of the fundamental uncertainty present in reality.

So a modern understanding is that we are all fundamentally different, and of necessity we also share many classes and degrees of similarity.

One of the huge issues we face is an evolved tendency to over simplify situations that are deeply and necessarily complex. There is a certain utility in doing that, particularly when reality demands rapid response; but it is also a serious risk, as we do in fact seem to be in many levels of context that are extremely complex and need to be understood as such.

Neither Hobbes nor Locke understood the strategic basis of the evolution of complexity which while very complex can usually be simplified down to – all new levels of complexity are built upon new levels of cooperation, and for long term stability all levels of cooperation require sets of cheat detection and mitigation systems, and that these systems tend to become evolving ecosystems in themselves at every level. In this understanding, at their best, our legal, political and ethical systems are manifestations at various levels of such cheat detection and mitigation systems (and at their worst have already been captured by various levels of cheating strategies on some levels of cooperation).

So for me, both are so deeply flawed, in many different dimensions of understanding, that it is extremely difficult to make a useful assessment across all of those dimensions as to which is better – both are far too simplistic, and based upon sets of assumptions that have been falsified by the datasets and conceptual sets available today.

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Eric Asked I wonder how much it would cost to buy every single piece of land on Earth.

[ 10/April/21 Eric asked “I wonder how much it would cost to buy every single piece of land on Earth.”]

If I take the question literally, it is impossible.

There is no conceivable way to buy every piece of land on earth, as others have noted much of it is not for sale.

If you meant how much is land valued by various agencies, then that is quite a separate question.

I have owned land for over 40 years. In that time I have sold some, but not without acquiring a replacement piece first. There is no way I would sell into a market where I could not buy. I suspect many others are like me. The only way to take my land from me would be some form of violence. So the idea that anyone could buy all the land on earth is a total nonsense. As the amount of free land went down, the price would rise exponentially – long before it was worth the risk of trying to take mine.

This is one of many scenarios where the very notion of money, of measuring value in markets, fails in catastrophic ways that impose/expose existential level risk to all.

In an age of automated systems, the very idea of measuring value in markets fails in ways that impose serious risk. A failure to comprehend that is one of the serious risks present in society today.

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How can we ensure that the transition to a zero-carbon global economy is fair and equitable to the workers and communities it impacts?

How can we ensure that the transition to a zero-carbon global economy is fair and equitable to the workers and communities it impacts?

[ 8/April/21 ]

Wrong question at multiple levels.

Yes – we do need to move to technologies that are sustainable long term, and that is far deeper and more complex than just the simple idea of “zero carbon”.

One of the many deeply complicating factors is advanced automation. It is both essential to our long term future, and completely disruptive to many of the systems that used to work reasonably well in many contexts – particularly the economic and political systems.

Advanced automation is rapidly moving towards making the very distinction “workers” historical. That has impacts far deeper than “zero carbon”.

The idea of “fair” is a reasonable one, and very context sensitive. The idea of equity is useful only is a very narrow range of contexts. You don’t need to think about it very deeply to accept that nobody really wants to be exactly like everyone else; and that societies where rigid conformity to norms are enforced are the worst nightmares of most of us, as by definition all freedom has been removed.

So the idea of equality can be exceedingly dangerous if taken too far or used outside of appropriate contexts. Any real expression of freedom has to result in diversity, which is by definition the opposite of equality. And it is also true that freedom has to be used responsibly if it is to avoid destroying the conditions that made it possible. Every level of structure has necessary sets of boundaries that give it the form that it has. By the time you get to human beings in complex technological societies in complex ecosystems, then there are a lot of required boundaries that we need to be responsible about when we exercise our freedom. So freedom can be just as dangerous an idea as equality, if it is used without appropriate levels of responsibility to the context. The tricky bit is that many contexts are deeply more complex than is generally understood by most people. We all have strong biases to over simplify complexity for the sake of speed and convenience.

And there is a general theme in the question that is undeniably present – that all advances in complexity are predicated on new levels of cooperation, and that our systems we develop need to deliver reasonable levels of resources and freedom to all individuals, if they are to survive long term. And that does get deeply complex because we are dealing with multiple levels of complex self aware agents simultaneously, many of which are running very low resolution models of the complexity actually present.

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