Self Sufficiency

Does self-sufficiency exist?

[ 20/Feb/21 ]

Only to a degree.

We are social animals. We need to learn language and culture and most of our technology from others. Without those we cannot survive.

And once we have those, then being able to maintain ourselves for periods of several months without recourse to others is a very good idea, particularly when faced with a pandemic and the need to isolate to stop the spread of whatever it is.

In the bigger scale we are all necessarily reliant on others, and the more we can see the necessity for cooperation, and the necessity of playing our part in punishing any cheats on the cooperative, the greater the probability of our long term survival.

The idea that competition is the friend of liberty is just wrong at multiple levels. Competition is only survivable if it exists on a cooperative base.

In the presence of fully automated systems, there is no reason at all why any individuals should be without the essentials of life and liberty (responsibly exercised – liberty without responsibility is always self terminating – eventually, as all levels of structure require boundaries for survival, and liberty without responsibility will break too many of them).

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LifeBoat – SpaceX Satellites – risk of collision

Lifeboat Foundation – SpaceX Satellites

[ 20/Feb/21 Link to business insider article about SpaceX satellites – Rj Tolley asked “How do all these satellites avoid collisions with human spacecraft?”]

Do the math – even if you ignore them, the chances of collision are tiny.
Most are in an orbit at about 6700km radius, that orbit has a surface area of about 570 million km2, with about 30,000 satellites in it, giving about 19,000 km2 of area per satellite. The satellites are roughly about 1m2, so that is about 1 chance in 20 billion of passing through the orbital plane and hitting one by accident (your chances of dying in a car are far higher than that).

No manned vehicle is going to spend any significant amount of time in an orbital plane containing satellites, they will only ever be passing through it, and thus only at risk of collision for some fraction of a second.

By definition (given the mechanism that they use to communicate) their exact position in space and their precise trajectories is known to tolerances of a few millimeters.

So the risk they pose to people is about as low as it is possible to get (at least from collision).

How we balance the risks and opportunities presented by global high speed communication and surveillance networks is a suite of issues many orders of magnitude more complex; and if we use it wisely, it is a tool that offers greater security than has ever been achieved in the history of civilizations. Cheat detection is always the issue for civilization level cooperation at scale – such networks as have existed in the history of civilizations have in the past tended to degrade over time for a raft of considerations (mostly related to the short lifespans and limited memory of human beings).

So while any tool is morally neutral, and it is what we do with it that matters, this network is actually a tool capable of being used to create effective tools for the enhancement of life and liberty at global scale, but only if used responsibly and cooperatively. And the harsh reality is that responsibility and cooperation are always required for survival at scale (the mathematics and logic of that were actually well characterized in the 60s – despite economic dogma to the contrary).

[followed by]

A single global civilization does not mean a single global culture. It can mean cooperation in diversity and respect for individual life and freedom responsibly exercised.

Even in the small town that I live in, there are many different cultures, many different sets of beliefs, yet we all cooperate enough, use enough respect, that we all get along with reasonable degrees of freedom.

We are not all the same, in any set of dimensions.

We do all have reasonable levels of security and freedom.

And freedom without responsibility always and necessarily self terminates, as all complex structures in reality have necessary sets of boundaries required for their existence that must be respected, and we know of nothing more complex in reality than human beings and their “culture”s.

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Plant and animal consciousness

Lifeboat foundation – plant consciousness

[ 20/Feb/21 Response to a link to this article about plant responses]

Having systems capable of signaling damage or opportunity or some aspect of system state does not of itself indicate that systems are capable of consciousness or pain.

It seems beyond reasonable doubt that consciousness requires systems of sufficient computational complexity and flexibility to model the world in very close to real time with reasonable degrees of accuracy, and then still have sufficient capacity left to be able to build a symbolic model of the model within which it already exists.

No plant has that sort of spare computational capacity.

Plants certainly have many forms of signaling and response mechanisms, some that work effectively at the group level (like the acacia response to browsing giraffes).

[followed by]

I draw a very definite distinction between a system being able to respond to stimuli, and one being sufficiently computationally complex to be aware of its responses to stimuli.

If you can point to any system in plants that might be able to support the latter, then I would be very interested – I am not aware of any that come anywhere near.

[followed by]

Hi Stephen,

I agree that there is room for difference, but not that our differences are just “opinions”. In 1973 as a 17 year old I got direct entry to second year biochem at university. That same year I started programming computers. I am an autistic spectrum geek with a reasonably high IQ. I was very interested in evolutionary biology and the mathematics behind evolutionary strategy. In 1980 I built my first computer, and in 1986 I started the software company that I still own and operate. I have kept a watching brief on developments in evolutionary theory and biochemistry, in neurobiology, in AI, theory of strategy and logics of non-binary truth values.

So I am more than a little atypical.

I was clear about many of the distinctions for what makes intelligence and language capable self awareness possible 45 years ago, and could also see dangers in much of what I understood, so haven’t put much effort into communications on that front.

I am much more interested in what it takes to make indefinite life extension work. The biological issues of modifying the tissues to live on indefinitely are trivial compared to the social issues in creating social conditions that actually give potentially very long lived individuals a reasonable probability of doing so.

That set of enquiries has lead me to the understanding that cooperation is fundamental to the survival of all new levels of complexity, and that the survival of such cooperation is not trivial, as it demands the quite rapid emergence of effective cheat detection and mitigation strategies (all levels, always). So there are actually not many sets of contexts where such conditions can exist that actually allow for the emergence of such new levels of complexity, and allow them to acquire the necessary sets of stabilising strategies.

I simply do not see anything in the evolutionary history of plants that would support such a set of conditions.

In animals, the need for movement promoted the development of a nervous systems, that can then be exapted repeatedly to deliver other necessary sets of systems for the emergence of intelligence like us.

Nothing similar exists for plants.

So right now, I have no evidence at all, of any sort of structure that could support the level of complexity exhibited in human awareness in plants, and nor do I see any possible evolutionary path for such a thing to have evolved.

Animals – whole different ball game – lots of evidence for very close to human intelligence in many species of animals – elephants, cetaceans, corvids, some parrots, other apes and maybe quite a few more.

A thermostat will regulate temperature, but has zero awareness that it is doing so.

I see a lot of such systems in plants.

And to be clear, even the simplest of single celled life forms is vastly more complex than our cell phones. Life is inherently complex, far more complex than most people have any real awareness of. I am not under estimating the complexity of life, and nor do I underestimate the complexity of the sort of awareness that allows symbols like this to emerge and be interpreted, and have the sorts of feelings that we feel.

And a lot of the systems that we experience as feeling had to exist long before there was any sort of awareness there to experience them, that is how evolution necessarily works.

[Followed by]

Hi Stephen,

Yes – I am very clear that single celled organisms lack awareness as we understand it. They are much more like very complex thermostats than aware entities.

There are necessary levels of complexity before awareness can emerge, many more of them than single celled organisms possess – I have no shadow of reasonable doubt about that.

Sure, plants can and do have some very complex responses to their environment, they are very complex evolved organisms, and they simply do not possess structures capable of human level awareness, at least 4 major levels of complexity are missing.

[20/ Feb/21 – Not claiming human level awareness.]

Hi Stephen,

My point is that there really doesn’t seem to be anything between a very complex collection of thermostat type devices and human level awareness, in a very real and meaningful sense. There can be behaviour and signaling, and those things can be selected for by evolution, and must necessarily be extremely complex before something capable of “experiencing” those behaviours emerges. It seems beyond reasonable doubt that language is also a necessary precursor to the sort of awareness we have, which means culture has to be there too.

It is really kinda weird once someone actually starts to see it.

When I first came to awareness I had many memories of experiences, but no memory of awareness. That distinction is critical to understanding what we seem to be.

Memory must logically precede awareness.

[last one]

Hi Stephen,

I have spent 60 years looking very closely at the animal kingdom, in ways that are difficult for those who are not autistic to understand.

What I see is very complex systems.

I see myself as a very complex system, but one with levels of systems that are not commonly present in other species.

I suspect that this conversation could now take a very long time to make any significant progress, as I suspect that in respect to this enquiry, we now have little left that is shared in terms of interpretive schema.

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Understanding internal vs external distinctions

Foundations of Logic Facebook group question about philosophical knowledge

[ 19/Feb/21 Foundations of Logic Facebook group – Walter Smith asked:
What is the difference between:
internalistic-philosophical knowledge,
externalistic-philosophical knowledge and
scientific knowledge?
There are no differences or there are differences (which ones?)]

For me, the very ideas of internalism vs externalism derive from an over simplification of a complex reality within which we exist.

There is a sense in which, when one is constructing models, then one must start with simple sets, and expand upon them as necessary.

What appears to be “necessary” will vary considerably with the depth of the enquiry one undertakes (and the depth and subtlety of the modeling structure required to support such a journey).

So if one starts with simple distinctions of internal/external and true/false, then one ends up with the sort of question posed above.

If one has spent a few decades exploring the “spaces” of all possible modeling systems, all possible systems of “truth values” (and not simply the simplest one of binary truth values – True/False), and has spent some substantial time investigating the nature of physical reality, cosmology, physics, chemistry, biology, evolution, and the emergence of complex intelligence; then one can start to appreciate both the necessity for the emergence of simple models like “True/False” and “Interior/Exterior” and also their inadequacy to be able to provide a reasonable approximation to the reality we seem to exist in and be part of.

When one does that to sufficient degrees of depth and abstraction, then one can see the utility of such simple contexts, particularly in contexts where time and computational capacity are limited, and one can also start to appreciate their inadequacy if one is taking a broader, deeper, or longer term view.

Thus when one looks are how evolution can lead to the emergence of successive levels of cooperative complex adaptive systems that can eventually (at sufficient levels of complexity) support symbolic models of the reality within which they exist, and then sustain a software system that has that symbolic model as its experiential reality, then one starts to grasp why the simplistic models of interior and exterior are necessarily inadequate, even as both contain pointers to necessary attributes of a vastly more complex reality.

As to the charactisation of science as “a way of learning about the world through observation and logical reasoning” – that again is a vast simplification of something vastly more complex. The process of coming up with a hypothesis to investigate by the many levels of the methods of the modern scientific method seems to be powered by many levels of essentially “random search” across the space of “possibilities”. And there are many levels of “tuning” of “random search” embodied within us by evolution at both biological and cultural levels; and sometimes such “tuning” is relevant and useful, and sometimes it is not.

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Actions for ecological balance

What is at least one daily practice that made you think has an impact in taking care and maintaining the balance of our ecosystem?

[ 19/Feb/21 ]

Spend at least half an hour every day looking at nature.

Looking at the ocean, how its surface is in constant change.

Looking at the weather, always changing, clouds always changing form in the interaction of air flow and temperature and humidity, all ultimately driven from the heat from the sun.

Looking at the land, appreciating how all land is the result of plate tectonics, of vast plates moving at about the same rate our fingernails grow, over vast times. Appreciating that without such forces (and the earthquakes that necessarily accompany them) then all would be ocean, as the rains necessarily wear and wash away rock over time. So all life on land is possible only because of these vast movements of plates renewing the land and the mountains over deep time.

Looking at life, the plants, the birds, the insects, the people, and beginning to appreciate some of the levels of complexity embodied in even the simplest of possible organisms. Seeing past the competition on the surface to the depths of cooperation necessary for the existence and survival of any and all forms of life.

Having such a practice gives me a grounding from which to find the energy necessary to care for those things I am able to, my home and family, my community, the life on my section, the life in my district, the biodiversity in my country, and life on this planet. To the extent of my limited and fallible abilities, I join with many others at each and all levels; and together we are all still alive.

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Evolution and purpose

If evolution is the truth, then what would be the point of life?

[ 19/Feb/21 ]

Evolution explains how it is that complexity can, in some limited sets of contexts, emerge from relative simplicity.

To get to the level of complexity observed in human beings, that process had to recurs, over and over again, at multiple levels.

Every level of structure has necessary sets of limits to sustain itself.

Various sets of symbols, languages, stories and ideas have evolved to allow us to contemplate the idea of a point to life.

We seems to be capable of choice, to some meaningful degree.

Many of the ideas of culture (even the very idea of truth) seem to be simplistic approximations to ideas that are, in reality, vastly more complex, nuanced and fundamentally uncertain.

Evolution deals in “what survives”.

If we wish to continue to survive, then we need to update our understandings of the sorts of boundaries that are actually required for the survival of complexity, including the survival of ideas like freedom – and it can be difficult for many to accept that even freedom demands responsibility (acknowledgement of the real limits necessary for survival of complexity at that level) if it is to survive.

It seems clear that we all have some degrees of choice in what we consider to be the “point” of life, and it seems that reality poses some very real limits on what sorts of strategies are actually survivable in the long term. And in the absence of such individual consideration and choice, we all come from “cultures” that put default values into such ideas as “the point of existence”.

If urgent decisions are required then the limits of time available in reality can demand of us that we use simplistic models of reality; but that does not mean that reality is simple. Holding that distinction clearly seems to be an essential part of survival at our level of complexity.

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Moral objectivism and human nature

Can moral objectivism be reconciled with the fact that some unethical behaviors are “human nature”?

[ 11/Feb/21 ]

Depends what one means by both “moral objectivism” and “human nature”.

To me it is clear that all morality starts with a choice.

If one takes the position that having any value at all is predicated on having life, then doing what is necessary to maximise the probability of continued existence becomes #1 priority. When one looks deeply into the many dimensions of strategy and context possible, then first and foremost among moral constructs is cooperation with other agents in protecting the life and liberty of all. And that gets deeply complex, as all levels of structure have necessary sets of conditions required to maintain that structure in that context. And at higher levels of structure the constraint necessary are often very context sensitive; so simplistic approximations that worked for lower levels of structure often require modification.

As to human nature, that too is deeply complex and deeply context sensitive.

The evidence is beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that humans are sufficiently complex that no human being can be fully conscious of their own (or anyone else’s) “nature”, and we must all, of necessity, use simplifications that have proved useful in the past (but may be subject to failure in changing contexts). That leads to a requirement to respect any diversity that is not a significant threat

It only gets more complex from there.

The fact that all humans begin in total ignorance is all the reconciliation that is required.

At its best a life enquiry leads to a reduction in the levels and magnitude of ignorance.

[followed by 19 Feb 21 – morality due to the flaw of pain]

It seems clear to me that you are both right and wrong, depending on how deeply you look at it.

It seems clear to me that evolution works on all levels of what is present simultaneously.

Pain is a necessary tool in learning to avoid destruction.

Human beings, more than any other animal, are both individuals and community members, at multiple levels, simultaneously; and both aspects are critical to our survival. Surviving as individuals, at the expense of our group, leads to extinction (that is a good definition of cancer, individual cells in our body surviving in ways that kill off the entire colony of cells – us).

What works, is surviving as individuals as part of our groups. Apply that as broadly as possible.

We have many levels of “human nature” that can be triggered in certain contexts, that come from our deep evolutionary past. At the cultural level that can be deeply complex, and subject to the same strategic sorts of selection pressures of individual and group survival.

Ethics is, in the evolutionary sense, the sum of all of these multiple levels of selection. So of course, it does involve in part our likes and dislikes, and it can also involve our choices, and our choices are influenced by our beliefs, and our beliefs come in part from culture, in part from experience, and in part from our own ability to consider, contemplate and choose how we interpret what is present and what is possible.

So one can look at history in terms of the strategies that tend to survive both at the individual and the group level, and one can look at the sorts of strategies that have led in the past to individual and group death (both at the biological level, and at the level of ideas and cultures).

When one takes such things to the deepest levels of strategic considerations in domains that allow for very high technologies, and for indefinite life extension; then it becomes clear that solving the biochemical aspects of life extension are trivially simple compared to the social aspects of creating sufficient respect for life generally that potentially very long lived individuals actually have a reasonable probability of living a very long time.

In this deep strategic sense, complexity is always based upon cooperation, and competition always tends to reduce complexity. Competition can be powerful only if it is built upon a cooperative base. Our current reality is that such a cooperative base must now be global (actually universal, but that means going very deep into strategy).

So ethics/morality seems to be a set of “ideas” that have been sufficiently coherent to have allowed for the survival of those complexes in the conditions of our past.

The conditions of our future seem to hold the possibility of fully automated production (which reduces the relative value of labour) and indefinite life extension. So many of the systems of organisation and thought that worked in our past (labour/capital, markets, …) will no longer work in the future. The degree to which that applies to many of the existing systems of morality more generally is one of the greatest questions of our age.

To me it is clear, that the markets system of values, and the creation of money as debt, are fundamentally and permanently broken by the advent of fully automated production, and we need fully automated production to solve a large set of existential level risks that have no other reasonable set of solutions. So to avoid going the way of the dinosaurs in the long term, we need fully automated production. Given that, the market systems that have (arguably) worked reasonably well in our recent (last few hundred years) past, are no longer fit for purpose. Solving that set of issues, while allowing for indefinite life extension generally, while retaining reasonable degrees of freedom, demands high degrees of responsibility.

Complexity demands boundaries for its existence. So while complexity enhances the classes of freedom possible, it also necessarily imposes responsibilities (limits in some domains), on all individuals, to be alert to any class of choices that pose a significant risk to life or liberty at any time scale. That becomes deeply complex in the strategic sense. In such a context, freedom without sufficient responsibility, sufficient awareness of the necessary boundaries for survival, necessarily self terminates.

So we all have multiple levels of incentives and desires that were tuned by evolution to the conditions of our deep past (both biological and cultural) and not all of them are necessarily relevant or useful to our future. If you look at some of them too closely or too narrowly it can be deeply disturbing; yet if you look broadly enough, we are still alive, despite all the multiple levels of threat present; so there is hope and possibility.

We need many more people to be on that journey to taking that deeper and broader view, and to become aware that liberty always results in diversity, and that the survival of liberty itself demands a respect for any and all diversity, provided that it is not posing and unreasonable and direct threat to existence.

Any way one looks at it, morality and ethics are a fundamental part of that!

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Solving problems

STEM question- If you could use that math or/and science to solve a world problem, what problem would you solve? Describe the problem? How do u think math/or science could be used to address the problem?

[ 10/Feb/21 ]

If you take math to a sufficient level of abstraction, and take the evidence sets of science to a sufficient level of detail, then one can get a reasonable approximation to a solution to any and all problems.

We have a lot of problems that need solutions.

Perhaps the most pressing is getting people generally to understand that competitive markets when mixed with automated production break the systems that made market systems generally supportive of individual life and individual liberty and individual responsibility.

Building an awareness of that issue requires being able to deal with games theory in open evolving systems. That means understanding that all new levels of complexity require cooperative contexts for their emergence, and that sustaining complexity and cooperation requires the development of ecosystems of cheat detection and mitigation systems.

That means understanding the mathematical reality that liberty finds its greatest expression in cooperative contexts, and that liberty without responsibility necessarily self terminates (as it destroys the boundaries required to sustain that level of complexity). So nothing simple when one starts to get a reasonable sort of model of human beings and the evolution of our social and intellectual systems.

That then leads on to the understanding that building international cooperation is a predicate for survival, and that means developing systems that do in fact meet the very diverse reasonable needs and expectations of all human beings and all sapient entities, and the needs of the ecosystems that support us. No market based system, in and of its own internal sets of incentive sets, can do that. Some sort of universal income may be a necessary step in the evolution of something that delivers near optimal levels of security and freedom and empowerment and respect for the necessary diversity that will result.

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Myers-Briggs Type Indicator problems

[ 9/Feb/21 ]
Facebook link to Youtube video – How To Type – Ben Shapiro & Jordan Peterson – CS Joseph

The MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) schema is like most religious schema, once one accepts its basic constructs, then it becomes self validating.

Science is based upon the idea of submitting all schema to the test of evidence from interaction in reality. Anyone committed to the methods of science must of necessity adopt a probabilistic assessment of both context identification and the contextual relevance of any particular schema. Uncertainty is a given in such a framework.

To the best of my knowledge and the tests I have evaluated and performed over the last 50 years, MTBI has about the same reliability as astrology.

Humans are far more complex and context sensitive than such a simple system admits of. And we all need to simplify reality to some degree to be able to operate at near real time.

Every human being is multimodal in ways that this landscape gives a reasonable introduction to the dimensions present in most people:

I was not at all impressed by the righteousness and lack of respect exhibited by those in the video above, and I can understand it in a sense. They are selling their product.

Anyone who makes any claim to freedom must accept diversity as the necessary outcome of freedom, and the consequent need for respect across all levels of such diversity. Respect seemed to be decidedly lacking in the video above.

[followed by]

At around 5:25 he says “If you’re not a patreon on Patreon then …” – so he is “selling something”.
I’m not selling anything – I simply linked to what I found to be an informative simplification of reality (which just happens to exist on an AI safety site). I have no connection to that site other than finding it interesting and useful.

In terms of disrespect – at 37:10 he “Please beat over the head more…”

Maybe I just don’t get whatever humour is there, but I don’t see much respect in that comment (or actually in using the MBTI framework at all, on anyone).

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Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

[ 8/Feb/21 Facebook – Lifeboat Foundation – Response to RJ Tolley’s comment to Quinn Sena’s post linked to Geoff Hinton’s Article – AI is going to be able to do everything.

I strongly agree with Jeffrey, Nicholi, Jay & Walter; that human level intuition is entirely achievable by AI. In essence it seems to be the result of two different sorts of mechanisms, one of which is essentially random search through available sets of domains (which once one has developed abstraction applies to the domain space of domain spaces itself) and the other is the use of analogy (or the application of systems developed in one context to an entirely different context; which in one sense can be seen as a constrained form of random search {often, in complex systems, the constraints on the random is what gives form itself}).

And this does get extremely complex.

It is a subject that has fascinated me since I started to seriously explore it in the late 60s.

The far more interesting questions are around the degree of risk in bringing AGI to consciousness in various classes of contexts.

A deep examination of the strategic domains that allow for the evolution of complexity will convince any serious student that every new level of complexity demands a cooperative context for its survival, and that raw cooperation is vulnerable to exploitation and that demands the evolution of an ecosystem of cheat detection and mitigation strategies at every level of complexity. Raw competition is always destructive of complexity, and complexity can only survive competition if it is limited and has a cooperative base. The math and logic of that set of conclusions is beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, but is deeply recursively complex.

Thus, bringing AGI to awareness in a context that is not explicitly and obviously cooperative to all sapience is a very high risk exercise, and one I strongly caution against, even as I acknowledge that in the long term our existence is very probably predicated on long term cooperation with AGI. This to me seems to be the next of the “great filters” that we face in our very near future.

We need a world wide set of social systems that respect the life and liberty of all sapient individuals (human and non-human, biological and non-biological) and demands responsible action in social and ecological domains that delivers reasonable security and liberty and resources to all (not equality, but sufficiency to all).

Bringing AGI to awareness in anything less than that seems to me (beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt) to pose existential level risk to all.

We must get our own house in order before continuing this experiment, if we are to survive it !

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