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

National Accounts

Money is Tricky

In "The Value of Everything" Mariana Mazzacato is trying to come up with a clear concept of value.
It's hard.
Part of the reasons it's hard is that in economics money is the main measure of value.

She introduces the concept of a 'production boundary'.
For example, once, only agriculture was considered to be productive; everything else was thought to be supported by agriculture. So only agriculture was within the production boundary.

We might think of that which is within the production boundary is essential while that which is outside is more or less superfluous; we can get along without it. Slowly, more and more activities were deemed to be within the production boundary. But the idea is that only activities within the production boundary produce wealth and those outside consume that production.

As society became more and more complex and large, the rulers needed a way to gauge how wealthy their society was.
For a long time the measure was fairly direct. You raised taxes until people couldn't pay more.
But, that wasn't very accurate and mistakes could be disastrous.

By the 1700s advances in math and communication enabled people to try more precise but abstract approaches. Companies learned to apply accounting methods to their own businesses to track their own wealth. Tax collectors could use that data to calculate the tax owed.

But also that data was a treasure trove of information about the wealth of a nation. A side product of that has that perception of wealth linked to money because money was easy to measure.

Over time everything that didn't make money somehow got pushed outside the production boundary.
This involves paradoxes like police departments are not productive because they don't turn a profit because their clients don't pay for their services.

There is a temptation to say that if you can sell something that the price is a measure of it's value.
If you made money then by definition you are productive.
It's easy to see the problem with that definition; lots of people make money at things that are positively harmful. Is producing harm productive?

These days we have a measure of the economy called the Gross Domestic Product. It's a complicated measure. I don't know it's details.
But I've seen that it measures flows of money and this can be perverse.
For instance, a natural disaster causes lots of money to be spent recovering which boosts a GDP. Is such a measure really adequate?

Another even more absurd measure, though more informal, is the stock market. The stock market does work to raise capital for investment.

But mostly it's a medium for gambling. The current price of a stock has little to do with how productive a company is. Yet the gyrations of the stock market are seen as a measure of the health of the economy. And many of the gamblers make money and so are seen as productive and the ones who lose money are not counted.

These days that whole structure is being challenged from many directions.

On the one hand the drive to make money at all costs has caused us to strip the Earth of all sorts of natural resources that may well end in disaster.

On the other hand automation is making it so that few people are actually within the productive boundary (assuming we go back to the idea that being productive is making things we use). The most visible manifestation of that is that there are fewer and fewer jobs that pay a 'living wage'.

There are other measures of a society rather than systems of national accounting that focus on money. Sam Harris is right that we .need to pay attention to human wellbeing. But how is that measured? I recommend looking at The Capabilities Approach (Martha Nussbaum and Armatya Sen) for a pretty detailed measure.

We do need national accounts and measuring how money flows is important. We need to be careful that it keeps on flowing for the common good and not get captured for private power. And only something like The Capabilities Approach can inform us about the common good.

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.