Choose a topic

.. Cognition
Intelligence and Motivation

.. HUM
A Mind

.. Society
Drag Story Tellers
I Distrust the News
What is to be said?

Structures of Understanding

Culture is Ordinary

AI and Art
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Is this picture real?
NonFungible Tokens
Public Art
Tearing Down Statues
What is Art?
Working With Reality

Artificial Intelligence and the Collingridge Dilemma.
Bird Brains
Bounded Rationality
Competence Without Comprehension
Consciousness is More Like Fame Than Television
Developmental Processes
Emergence and Cognition
I Lost My Knife
Incomplete Information and Stories
Is free will an illusion?
Natural Law
Necessary Illusions
On Affordances
Pencil and Paper
Post Phenomenology
Reflective Equilibrium
Return of the Law of Forms
Shifting Meanings
Taking Things on Faith
The Hard Problem
The I Love You Gesture
The Imagined Order
The Phenomenology of Swim Bladders.
Thinking about medical procedures
Thinking About Risk
Underdetermination and Redundancy
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
What Does Google Know?

A Country Is Not Like A Company
Alternate ideas lying around waiting for disaster
Blood and Money
Can Capitalism Survive?
Do Our Minds Own Our Bodies?
Everyday Communism
Invisible Hand
Job Creators
Job Destroyers
Money and Value
Money is Different
National Accounts
Necessary Production
Paper Wealth
Post Capitalist Society
Profit Motive Fails
Rentier Capitalism
Social Wealth vs Surplus Value
Spending Money Into Existence
The Metaphysics of Money
The Ontology of Debt
Thinking about Money
Wealth is What Money Buys

Blowing Up Pipelines

Absolute Knowledge
I do not know everything
Rethinking Knowledge
Rethinking Knowledge
Semiotics and Body Language
The Curious Ineffectiveness of Facts
The Past and the Future.
Uncertainty and Unpredictability
Whatever happened to The Truth?

Competition and Cooperation
Dr Malthus would be pleased
Error Correction
Evolution Defended
Evolution is not Religion
Evolution of Cars
Forces of Nature
Is Natural Selection Obsolete?
Politics and Evolution
The Evolution of Purpose.
The Problem with Natural Selection.
The Source of Bad Behavior
Thinking about Tails
Why Does a Leopard Have Spots?

Free Speech in the age of Twitter
Freedom and Badness
Freedom and Morality
Freedom From and Freedom To
Freedom in the Age of Convoys
Libertarian Coercion

10 Views of Landscape
Affect and Effect
I pay rent.
Listening to Corn
The Reform vs Revolution Paradox
What is Public Schooling For?

Levels of Abstraction
Levels of Abstraction and Minds
What is a newspaper?

As Much As Possible
Zipfs Law

Emotional Plague
Memes: Imitated Behavior.
The Problem with Memes
What is a replicator?

Beyond Rules Based Morality
Freedom and Morality
Moral Realism.
What do we owe animals?


Maps and Territories
Metaphysics Without Absolutes
Philosophy Buds
Sincerely Held Beliefs
Sorites Paradox
Stereoscopic Vision and The Hard Problem
The Gorilla in the Room of Science
The Purpose of Science
What is Going On?

If It Walks Like a Duck
Right Wing Freedom
The Sovereign Citizen
Tyranny of the Majority


Constructed Life
Correlation Wins
Quack Doctors
The Great Shattering
The Material Space
Thinking about Interconnection
Too Small to See
Watching Pigeons
Weirdness in Physics

A society needs a government.
Belly of the Beast
Cultural Appropriation
Family Values
Griefers and Misinformation and Disinformation
Inclusion and Christmas
Open Society and Falsification
Rules in a Knife Fight?
Sex and Gender
Should We Go to Mars?
Society and The State
Spheres of Influence
The Care and Feeding of Free Speech
The Collingridge Dilemma
The Dual Meaning of Power
The Homeless
The Problem with Hedonism
To the Moon
We Live in the Present
Why is there a shortage of nurses?
Work - Productive, Useful, Worthless, and Bad.

Implications of Very Productive Technology
Modest Proposal
Problems with Universal Basic Income
Tormenting Unlucky People
Why there are oligarchs

Bird Brains

So thats how it works

One of my philosophic interests is cognition. How is it possible that meat can think?
I like corvids.
It seems everybody does.

The Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich is about Heinrich's experimental research with ravens in Maine that demonstrated amazing cognitive abilities.

My old friend John was a naturalist and woodsman who would wave in a stylized way at ravens as they flew by. Once he was doing some work far from home in terms of driving but not far as the crow flies. A raven flew by. John waved. The bird did such a double take that it sort of stumbled in the air.

Lately I've been interacting with the local crows by offering bits of bacon on my windowsill early in the morning. When I'm working on my computer I'm facing a window that looks out into a grove of trees where the crows hang out. I have a database that lets me easily track timestamped behavior events.

It is way interesting to observe the crows behavior that way. For instance, there are 3 ways that crows approach the offering.

One way is to swoop in and see me and get startled at the last second then fly off to a nearby branch. I can see that they are upset by the way their feathers get ruffled.
As they calm down they often come back and do a swoop behavior.
That is, they come and snatch the offering without landing and flee. And often a crow will land on the windowsill, look me in the eye, calmly take the offering and fly away to a branch to eat it.

Point is, if you observe crows in any detail you get the impression that they are pretty smart.
How can they be so smart when they have such tiny brains?

This article talks about recent research about that.

Two papers published today in Science find birds actually have a brain that is much more similar to our complex primate organ than previously thought. For years it was assumed that the avian brain was limited in function because it lacked a neocortex.
In mammals, the neocortex is the hulking, evolutionarily modern outer layer of the brain that allows for complex cognition and creativity and that makes up most of what, in vertebrates as a whole, is called the pallium.

The new findings show that birds do, in fact, have a brain structure that is comparable to the neocortex despite taking a different shape.
It turns out that at a cellular level, the brain region is laid out much like the mammal cortex, explaining why many birds exhibit advanced behaviors and abilities that have long befuddled scientists.
The new work even suggests that certain birds demonstrate some degree of consciousness.

Its not that the bird equivalent of the mammalian neocortex (called the DVR) is the same as the neocortex

but rather that the whole of the pallium in mammals and in birds has similar developmental origins and connectivity, and therefore [the pallia of both classes] should be considered equivalent structures

Other research indicates that crows may have at least a rudimentary form of sensory consciousness.

The other new paper, by a group at the University of Tubingen in Germany, lends still more insight into the avian brain, suggesting that birds have some ability for sensory consciousness - subjective experiences in which they recall sensory experiences. Consciousness has long been thought to be localized in the cerebral cortex of smart primates - namely, chimps, bonobos and us humans. Yet crows appear to have at least a rudimentary form of sensory consciousness.

Other work sheds light on how this is possible in such a small brain.

Work by Herculano-Houzel demonstrates that the brains of corvids - members of a family of so-called "smart birds" such as crows, ravens and magpies - are very densely populated with interconnected neurons. . . . it all comes together very nicely, she says, pointing out that the corvid pallium holds about as many neurons as you'd find in primates with a much larger brain.

What do you think?
I open the floor

Star I present regular philosophy discussions in a virtual reality called Second Life. I set a topic and people come as avatars and sit around a virtual table to discuss it. Each week I write a short essay to set the topic. I show a selection of them here.

I've been thinking and reading about philosophy for a long time but I'm mostly self taught. That is I've had the good fortune to read what interests me rather than follow a course of study. That has it's limits of course but advantages. It doesn't cost as much and is fun too.

My interests are things like evolution and cognition and social issues and economics and science in general.