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

Constructed Life

Many wonders. Tech wonders. Wonders about the outcome.

I could see this coming :-)
Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute have constructed living cells from raw chemicals.
That is, they made amino acids that were assembled into genes and then assembled those into a genome in a cell that will replicate and grow. That genome has 480 genes. There is a simpler one with 473 genes that will produce a cell that lives and grows but doesn't replicate well.

I could see it coming but this is astounding on many levels. The idea of being able to construct a living cell from raw chemicals makes me blink. The ability to design a genome and then build it and test it makes me blink. Even the ability to photograph the resulting cells makes me blink (but that capacity has been around for decades. These cells provide a kind of experimental test bed for exploring how genes interact.

The two links at the start of this intro go into more technical detail if you are interested. The first is quite technical and the second is a more approachable CBC article.

There are a bunch of interesting philosophic points about this. There is a safety issue: Being able to build life from scratch was for a long time seen to be a power of the gods.
But gods could also see the future and we can't - and it's easy to imagine horrors emerging from this tech.
But it's easy to imagine huge benefits emerging too. And this is not exactly a new situation. We face it every time a new technology comes along.

Are these cells 'really' alive or are we looking at some kind of artificial life? We might take the ability to autonomously replicate to be the mark of life. It's said that a virus isn't alive because it can't replicate on its own; it needs to use other cells to replicate. And it's true that the construction of these genomes takes place within yeast (!!!! at that) and then that genome is 'transposed' to another cell.
I think that means that they take a cell, flush it's genome out, and then replace that with the constructed genome. From then on the cell replicates on its own. The articles duck than real/artificial distinction by substituting a wild/constructed distinction.

No wild genotype is as small as the constructed one; the smallest is 3 or 4 times larger. To arrive at the smallest genotype the researchers identified and deleted genes from an existing wild genotype. This new research doesn't touch directly on the question of the origin of life. It's like if you want a minimum car: start with an existing car and then remove everything that's not needed for it to work. (Think dune buggy). That doesn't tell us how or why the motor was invented.

Second Life has provided a platform for playing with artificial life. In this context that means that you can create things that grow and replicate in a simulated space. But we may not be far from a time when we have things that replicate and grow but are based on silicon rather than carbon. Even now lots of our machines are constructed by manipulating stuff on a molecular level. And they work because of stuff that happens at a molecular level. They are not like cars that you can strip down to being a dune buggy. At that point I'd say we need to start just being used to adding a modifier to the term life. Rather than saying 'real life' or 'not real life' it might be better to say carbon based life, or silicon based life (maybe carblife and sililife) or even constructed life (concarblife)

What do you think?

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.