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Artificial Intelligence and the Collingridge Dilemma.

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Weave
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Thinking about medical procedures
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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
What Does Google Know?

Economics
A Country Is Not Like A Company
Alternate ideas lying around waiting for disaster
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Do Our Minds Own Our Bodies?
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Thinking about Money
Wealth is What Money Buys

Environmentalism
Blowing Up Pipelines

Epistemology
Absolute Knowledge
Exists
I do not know everything
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Rethinking Knowledge
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Evolution
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Dr Malthus would be pleased
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Forces of Nature
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The Problem with Natural Selection.
The Source of Bad Behavior
Thinking about Tails
Why Does a Leopard Have Spots?

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

Mathematics
As Much As Possible
Zipfs Law

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

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

Philosophy
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Being
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Society
A society needs a government.
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Work - Productive, Useful, Worthless, and Bad.

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







Laws

Give structure

I've noticed a thing with the physical distancing behavior that most of us do these days is that most people willingly comply.
For example Vancouver has about 80000 businesses. City inspectors only found 19 not in compliance with the lockdown. All but one of those came into compliance after a warning. That one lost their business license.

The effects are quite dramatic. The streets are empty. Very many businesses are closed. Millions (even in Canada) have had to apply for assistance. There are 'men with guns' prepared to enforce physical distancing, but in general they find an order to go home suffices.

I find that for most situations, compliance with laws is pretty automatic mostly because it's just the easiest thing to do.

I have experience with what it's like if compliance with laws isn't automatic like that; the intellectual property laws and the prohibition on pot are examples. When millions of people disobey a law it becomes basically unenforceable.

Though most people are pretty automatically responsive to laws, we know that a certain percentage aren't. The astonishing thing is how much they get away with it. Landlords get ordered to fix their buildings; they just ignore it. You get people who rent a place and move in and then refuse to pay rent. It's astonishingly hard to evict them and then once evicted the person just moves on to a new victim.

But, be that as it may, laws are a part of what gives a society structure. Without laws things are pretty unpredictable and survival for everyone gets hard. Plato thought that the best sort of governor would be a benevolent philosopher king who acted for the common good. But what's the common good? Aristotle preferred the rule of law. Even the benevolent dictator had to be constrained by laws. Which of course begs the question of where the laws come from but Aristotle was right about how it's better for the dictator (or society) to be constrained by law.

We are creatures made of muscle and bone. The bone, our skeleton, is a constraint that enables more freedom.
It's like the difference between a jellyfish and a fish.
According to this way of thinking, any set of laws is better than none.
But also, some laws are better than others.

I'm a child of my age and so I like democracy. I don't think that's just bias though - I think that democracy is better at passing laws that create a strong social system. Democracies have complex systems that strive to maintain a 'rule of law' rather than a rule of dictators.

The difference is that dictators can make, and often do, make rules and decisions that are arbitrary and capricious. But also, the dictator is just one person who decides things that seem reasonable at that scale of reality.

At the social level society is a hurley burley of very many competing influences. Democracy provides systems where those influences can act on each other more or less directly.

So it's a feature and not a bug that democratic society is pretty chaotic - that let's it find what to do in a chaotic environment. Also democracy takes advantage of a ratchet; when a beneficial thing is done, the benefit is felt by society as a whole and is hard to undo for narrow reasons. This drives society to make things better and better.

There are laws in society and there are laws in reality.
These are similar, but different in an important way.
Both sorts of laws indicate a kind of regularity in the space where they are relevant.

But physical laws are descriptive laws. They are concise descriptions of how things work in a physical sense. Physical laws don't order reality around; physical laws are descriptions of what reality is like. Reality gets no choice. People are not much like atoms because people do get to choose among alternatives.

In society laws are not just descriptive; they are prescriptive. They tell people what to do. And they do run into that attitude expressed by the line; "Hey! Who are YOU to TELL ME?" But luckily for us all, that is usually an outlier attitude.

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.