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.. Epistemology
Semiotics and Body Language

.. HUM
A Mind

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
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
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


Data might be thought of as a recorded fact.

Data is kind of meaningless on its own - it has to be processed in various ways; i.e. interpreted.
If an item of data is like a grain of sand, meaningless in itself, a lot of data can be like a sand dune; something with form that carries more information than the grains of sand seen in isolation.

People have various senses that feed data to brains which processes that data into meaningful information. Brains work with masses of data.
I look out my window at a grove of trees with a sunlit building behind.
I never perceive that data as data.
I perceive it as a grove of trees with a sunlit building behind.

The sort of data processing that underlies our experience of reality evolved to find patterns in the data that comes from our senses.
Reality has many patterns that our senses aren't able to detect directly.
We can sense the warmth of the sun directly, and its relative direction, but we can't directly sense how far away it is or what it's made of.

Slowly, over millennia, people have developed ways of handling data that went beyond direct experience.
We learned to speak and write.
This enabled people to detect patterns in the data that were not apparent to direct experience.

But gathering and communicating data was a cumbersome and slow process for a long time.
That has changed a lot with the development of computers and the internet.
Now, certain sorts of data can be gathered and processed by machines in huge masses and all sorts of patterns are emerging from the data.
The systems that do that are grouped together as Big Data. There are many companies mining the internet now gathering Big Data about all sorts of things - from climate change to personal shopping habits.

This is pretty positive.
I think the more we learn the better and that new methods of perceiving reality open new vistas to explore.

This has caused excitement and alarm. David Brooks in the New York Times has announced a new faith "Dataism". He said

" . . . data will help us do remarkable things - like foretell the future . . . the data revolution is giving us wonderful ways to understand the present and the past."

I'm reading a paper about this for my cultural studies class. Its a chapter from Byung-Chul Han's "Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and new technologies of power" titled Big Data.
They don't like the idea.
Will Big Data " . . .not just watch over human behavior, but also subject it to psychopolitical steering?"

They compare Big Data to Bentham's idea for an ideal prison called the panopticon.
In a panopticon the cells are all arranged as a cylinder with each cell open towards the center. At the center was a tower manned by the guards who could see everything that the prisoners did while the prisoners couldn't see the guards or each other.

Han quotes the marketing claim of a Big Data company to provide a '360 degree customer view" in the context of a guard watching over prisoners to control them.
Han claims that these systems can " . . . peer into the human soul itself."

Data-ists speak of entering an age of purely data drive knowledge.

"Out with every theory of human behavior, from linguistics to sociology. Forget taxonomy, ontology and psychology. Who knows why people do what they do? The point is they do it and can track and measure it with unprecedented fidelity. With enough data, the numbers speak for themselves." - Chris Anderson

Han points out that the claim doesn't work. "Meaning is based on narration. Data simply fills up the senseless void".

Han understands that people use Big Data yet they speak of Big Data as if it was some sort of autonomous thing. Right now Big Data serves the interests of businesses and politicians. The fear is that it could come to serve the interests of a totalitarian regime.
Perhaps though the example of politicians is instructive.
They certainly use Big Data - but they use it against each other and so they tend to neutralize each other.
That is, Big Data doesn't give the power over people that Han fears though it may have to do with society's extreme polarization.

I'm used to Google and Google is all about Big Data. I get "personalized" ads all the time. They hardly are ever relevant to my needs or interests.

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.