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.. HUM
A Mind

Culture is Ordinary

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Is this picture real?
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What is Art?
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Artificial Intelligence and the Collingridge Dilemma.
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Consciousness is More Like Fame Than Television
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I Lost My Knife
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A Country Is Not Like A Company
Alternate ideas lying around waiting for disaster
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Blowing Up Pipelines

Absolute Knowledge
I do not know everything
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Rethinking Knowledge
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Competition and Cooperation
Dr Malthus would be pleased
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Free Speech in the age of Twitter
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10 Views of Landscape
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Listening to Corn
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Levels of Abstraction
Levels of Abstraction and Minds
What is a newspaper?

As Much As Possible
Zipfs Law

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

Beyond Rules Based Morality
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What do we owe animals?


Maps and Territories
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If It Walks Like a Duck
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Constructed Life
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A society needs a government.
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To the Moon
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Work - Productive, Useful, Worthless, and Bad.

Implications of Very Productive Technology
Modest Proposal
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Tormenting Unlucky People
Why there are oligarchs


Not as bad as it sounds

Let's say provisionally that an illusion is a perception of something that isn't really there.
A proto-typical illusion is a mirage seen in a desert. It seems like there's a shining body of water just over there. What is being experienced is light being reflected from a layer of hot air rather than a surface of water. The illusion comes in when we mistakenly interpret the experience.

I'm not surprised that we are prone to illusions because I think our whole understanding of our world is based on ongoing interpretations of our experience. Kant pointed this out when he said that we don't experience reality (the thing in itself) but rather we experience our interpretation of what our perceptions mean. Which of course leaves us open to misinterpreting the perceptions;
et voila - illusion!

Many people were pretty gleeful about that.
They took it to mean that since the process that leads us to understand is prone to illusion then all our experiences are illusions. For me this doesn't follow. People can create illusions of course; stage magicians do it all the time. But that's a pretty highly developed skill. The amazing thing about how our experience and understanding works is that it's so reliable for most people.
Illusions are quite rare.

When we are going about our day in the physical world we rarely have illusions about things like cars or the way the people around us are moving on the sidewalk or the price of butter at the store. This works best when we are dealing with physical reality because that gives us pretty strong and immediate feedback about our interpretations. Not everything we encounter is so clear. We live among people and people are not predictable like curbs and sidewalks. So a person who is perfectly capable of finding a store to buy milk can also think that the world is run by a secret cabal of pedophile cannibals.

A question emerges here: if I'm wrong about something is that the same as illusion? I would say not.
Illusions are like mirages - pretty direct experiences even if the interpretation is mistaken. But what we know is never complete and so we may have an impression that is correct given what we know but that becomes wrong when we learn more.

People live in societies and societies teach their members lots of ideas about how to interpret information about reality. It is very hard to think that something is a wrong when your society thinks it's right Lots of strife ensues when societies with different structures of understanding compete.

I think some illusions are beneficial. Canadians generally have the illusion that everyone has civil rights. Not all societies have that illusion. And the illusion kind of blinkered us to things like the abuses of First Nations people with things ranging from residential schools to bad water and onto bad housing But personally I think it's a good illusion to have even as we often fail to live up to it.

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.