Choose a topic

Artificial Intelligence and the Collingridge Dilemma.


Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
NonFungible Tokens
Public Art
Tearing Down Statues
What is Art?
Working With Reality

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
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
Uncertainty and Unpredictability

Competition and Cooperation
Dr Malthus would be pleased
Error Correction
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?

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
Sex and Gender
Society and The State
Spheres of Influence
The Collingridge Dilemma
The Dual Meaning of Power
The Problem with Hedonism
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


Evolution on a human time scale

The covid-19 virus is showing us Natural Selection in action. Since the time of Darwin, evolution was seen as a process that worked too slowly to be directly perceivable by humans. Evolution worked on time scales of hundreds of thousands of years. Recent research has been able to detect evolution in some species of birds and fish but this requires precise measurements of individual examples and statistical analysis. So the evolution was visible in the sense that things are visible under a microscope - visible if you have the right equipment and technique. With covid-19 we've seen 5 or 6 variants in a couple of years just in the daily news. Wiki reveals dozens of other variants that have been detected.

Now we have this Omicron variant that is sweeping the globe at a shocking rate. It seems to be very much more infectious than earlier variants. And vaccines seem less effective against infection by Omicron.
The health authorities are going - uhoh.
And the population is getting restless - lots of people want to go home for Christmas and are impatient with travel restrictions - not to mention the anti-vaxxers. The situation looks grim.

In terms of biology it may be a normal situation.
Humanity has faced many pandemics even within the last 2000 years. The bubonic plague killed 25 million people in it's first outbreak and a third of the population of Europe in it's second and in fact the disease is still among us but the death rate is in the hundreds a year globally. Point is here; that pandemics fade away naturally even without our contemporary medical capabilities. I think that pandemics sweep through animal and plant populations just like they do through human populations and those terminate too.

I've read that there is an evolutionary mechanism that accounts for this. It's basically that if a pathogen kills its host quickly then in self limits its ability to spread. And variants emerge that are less fatal and faster at replicating and eventually those variants replace the ones that are more fatal.

When looking at plants and animals evolving the process seems to be serial in that we focus on chains of replicators and replicants. There is a parallel process at work too. A herd of wildebeests has evolution happening on each individual in many parallel threads. With a virus this parallel aspect of evolution may be a dominant factor because rather than replicating in herds of thousands, a virus replicates billions or trillions of times within each individual it infects.

So a virus can explore the possibility space of its genome much faster than an animal or plant perceivable by people.

I think we are seeing this evolutionary process almost in realtime with covid-19. The Omicron variant seems to be greatly more infectious but also significantly less fatal, which is what natural selection would lead us to expect.

In the wild, without our capabilities of medical intervention, a pathogen like the bubonic plague might cause a speciation event. That is, if some individuals are naturally immune to the pathogen (for whatever reason) and the pathogen kills everyone who is vulnerable, then basically a new species has come about.

Perhaps, then our medical capabilities are preventing humans from evolving. Perhaps medical intervention is preventing a new species of human from emerging. This is a bit like suggesting that eyeglasses weaken the race.

Of course the response to that is that evolution in humans works on many levels and there are levels where the evolution is much faster than genetic evolution. Far from being weak compared to other species, humanity is competing very well - perhaps too well.

I'm amazed at the level of information that is available about things like the pandemic these days. The mainstream media has many critics; me among them. The story about the pandemic that has emerged rings true to me and it's been quite detailed. I've noticed that that story has changed a lot as we learn more about the virus and how to treat it and how to slow its spread. That's not a bug in the story; it's a feature. A couple of years ago the virus was unknown. There are generic ways of reducing the spread of a virus but which method was effective was unknown.
So we saw disinfectant efforts with guys in hazmat suits spraying disinfectant around.
Hand sanitizing was important.
Social distancing
Mask mandates
Vaccine mandates.

Once it was thought that people picked up the infection from surfaces they touched and that implied certain ways of reducing transmission. Then research showed that infected droplets were important which implied other ways of reducing transmission. Then we learn that aerosols greatly increase the radius of infection We learn and change - a good thing.

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.