Choose a topic

.. Society
We Live in the Present

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

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

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

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
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
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

Error Correction

Can't live without it

Have you ever downloaded a file and just below the download link there's a long string of characters called a checksum. That's a number made by (say) applying a technique to the file that generates that unique number. (The SHA-1 checksum for the previous sentence is 5c99e5117276bf29832520b5a8361527990fb744.) And if you want you can run your downloaded file through the same process and generate the number again. If the two checksums down't match then you know that there is an error in the download. This gives you a chance to try again. And it illustrates a central principle of error correction - redundancy of information. In this case the same information is generated twice and compared.

And error correction is extremely important - life and contemporary technology would be impossible without it. Heck even office work is impossible without it.

These days I do a lot of data entry at work. It's useless if not entered accurately. If it's not accurate then you lose a lot of time trying to find the problem. And you have to find the problem because it's a bookkeeping system and if the data is wrong then the books won't balance.

For instance - at the start of one task I count the number of records I need to enter. Then I enter them. If the number of entries isn't the same as my count I stop right there and find out what's wrong. And without that check it's almost impossible to get the number of entries right and it means that at end of a long process it doesn't balance and it's really hard to find the problem. So I have checks like that at each step in the process so by the time I am finished I am very confident that the data is correct and the people who need to use that data can have confidence in it.

Your computer wouldn't work without extensive error correction.
Computers do trillions of operations a second and even near perfection wouldn't let the machine run more than a blink before failure. But there is error correction at every step. When a byte is sent by one channel someplace information is sent by another channel that let's the receiver check whether it's right. If it's not right it is requested again. At the machine level there are error correction circuits that filter errors out of the passing information. At the OS level there are algorithms that do the same thing on the information at that level of abstraction. Software has error correction built in to it's basic operations and now is keeping an eye on US! That's what those darned spelling and grammar checkers are - error correction. And then the person using the computer (like me) has to do error correction at that level of abstraction. Without that error correction computers would make useful doorstops or anchors.

Life would be impossible without error correction and it works at every level like it does in a computer. DNA has to replicate billions of bases with basically perfect accuracy in a messy wet environment with lots of chaos. And each replicating strand is basically enclosed in a cloud of enzymes that detect and repair the inevitable errors. And all living things detect and replace the parts of themselves that are failing. The immune and blood clotting systems are examples of error correcting systems.

When systems are operating at a very high level of abstraction like being able to stand and balance error correction seems to take on a different character.

It starts to be like a thermometer. If it's too cold then turn on the furnace. If it's too cold turn it off. This feedback loop sort of error correction enables abilities like balance that are marvels of sensitivity. And in people balance involves many error correction channel. There are not only the balance organs of our inner ears, there is our sense of vision and the way our body feels. When all these systems are working then a creature is almost impossible to knock over. But try standing on one foot with your eyes closed and your hands crossed firmly over your chest.

In complex systems like an ecosystem there are certainly systems that function as the thermostat type of regulator. For instances, lots of rabbits lead to an overeaten forest and rabbit starvation. The surviving rabbits find so much food that they are in a rabbittish paradise and breed like bunnies. The resultant population does oscillate around an equilibrium point but I'd not call this error correction because there is no proper level of population for rabbits. That is, since at the level of ecosystems it's not reasonable to speak of purpose and without purpose there is no way of speaking of error.

I wonder if we can say the same thing applies to a society - is a society something with no purpose and hence no possibility of error correction? That's sure the way it seems when we look at the absurd hurly burly of politics and economics But don't we feel that that's a problem. A part of the reason we all pay attention to these things is that we sense that there are right and wrong ways that we can deal with the situations we find ourselves in. But we might think of that very chaos as a part of a social error correction system. A chaotic society is very hard to change - any change at all involves influencing millions and millions of people which gives a certain social momentum around a slowly changing mean. The error that this protects us from is the easily expressed whims of the few who think they are powerful.

What do you think?

This kind of error correction is conceptually simple

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.