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A Mind

Culture is Ordinary

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Is this picture real?
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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
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I do not know everything
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10 Views of Landscape
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Levels of Abstraction
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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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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
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Tormenting Unlucky People
Why there are oligarchs


"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Arthur C. Clarke

The idea here is based on looking backwards.
We have radios and computers and airplanes and vaccines. All of that tech and much more would have seemed like magic to people even 200 years ago let alone the ancient Greeks or Romans. This is a powerful image.

The ancients didn't know what we know but they had our capacity to imagine and explain. Terms like sunrise and sunset are relics of that time: a time when the earth stood still and the sun and stars revolved around it.
In fact, the Ptolemaic system of astronomy worked quite well for a long time.

I think that if an ancient encountered people using radios they'd encounter something that would seem inexplicable and so be magic in Clarke's sense, but I don't think they'd think of it as magic in the sense that we think of magic.
I think they'd develop an explanation involving things like gods (which were a part of their 'world' at the time) and treat it as normal.
I think we look at magic differently now.
We have a scientific world view now. That world view is based on the idea that there is nothing besides physical reality.
Actually - that puts it too strongly - science took the stance that it wouldn't look beyond physical reality in seeking explanations for phenomenon and events - ideas like a spiritual reality (as opposed to a physical reality) were just laid aside as irrelevant.
It turned out that that constraint produce the biggest flowering of human knowledge in history that is expanding exponentially as we speak.
This is in contrast with the stasis of societies with a spiritualist base.

In this context, magic is not just some event or phenomenon that we don't understand. Magic is something that is caused by something outside of the closed physical reality.

In the context of our present world with strife on so many levels that present such a huge global danger I'm like "C'mon people, Can't we just get along?"
And people just spontaneously getting along on a global scale seems to me to be magic - magic that I very much wish could occur.

I see a glimpse of that magic every day when I'm out on my daily walk getting groceries.
The sidewalk is crowded with people and dogs and nobody bumps into each other and that all seems to happen unconsciously.
There is a harmony to the flow that is based on the simple fact that none of us wants the hassle of running into somebody else.
Quite a bit like murmuration among starlings when you think about it.

But for that to work there has to be some sort of common interest at work - like the desire not to run into each other.
I might like to live in a reality where all 7 billion of us had a perception of how we had to behave to create a harmonious global society where each of us had a good life. I think that would require magic and probably wouldn't work even then.

Theodicy or 'the problem of evil' is relevant here. The question is: Why is there evil in a universe created and ruled by an all loving, all powerful, all knowing god?
The religious answer is basically there is nothing god can do about it.
I agree and take that as a proof that the proposed god does not exist.
My friends smile benignly on me and say: No no no - it shows that god gave us free will and that free will is meaningless unless we can be bad and do evil.
But free will just points to my own conclusion - an admission that it's impossible for even a magic god to create harmony among people.

When I walk up the sidewalk we are all individuals sharing a need to not run into each other. Groups interacting often do not have that need - in fact it seems they try to run into each other.

This is a product of our culture of competition on the one hand and competitive pressure applied by evolution on the other but maybe we could mitigate it a lot.

I use the present debacle about abortion as an example.
It has been normal now for 50 years for women to have pretty free access to abortion.
There were always lots of people who opposed abortion because of deeply held beliefs but the two groups were able to get along in public (mostly) because they respected each others privacy.
This had the effect of keeping groups from bumping into each other.
Now the groups are going at each other hammer and tongs. This cannot end well.
I can point to a similar thing on the left. Remember that case where a baker was sued by a gay couple for refusing to make a wedding cake for them? I was like really? A case for SCOTUS? I thought those guys should have just found another baker.

But but but but - the anti-abortionists say - we sincerely believe that abortion is murder of babies - how can we possibly tolerate that without pushing back?
But sincere belief is not enough in cases like this - people have to be right when they want to tell others what to do.
And they say a soul is created at conception. I say they are wrong. I don't believe in magic. Time for them to step up to the plate and demonstrate that their ideas are correct. They don't even try (and I've looked)

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.