Choose a topic

.. Cognition
Intelligence and Motivation

.. HUM
A Mind

.. Society
Drag Story Tellers
I Distrust the News
What is to be said?

Structures of Understanding

Culture is Ordinary

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
Semiotics and Body Language
The Curious Ineffectiveness of Facts
The Past and the Future.
Uncertainty and Unpredictability
Whatever happened to The Truth?

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

10 Views of Landscape
Affect and Effect
I pay rent.
Listening to Corn
The Reform vs Revolution Paradox
What is Public Schooling For?

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
Inclusion and Christmas
Open Society and Falsification
Rules in a Knife Fight?
Sex and Gender
Should We Go to Mars?
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
We Live in the Present
Why is there a shortage of nurses?
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

Politics and Evolution

No Escape

People look at politics and get discouraged. It seems to be nothing but a scramble for power where anything goes and where corruption and self dealing are common. Why should a citizen bother with a mess like that? I hate to break it to you, but politics is not about sober deliberation that leads to reasonable conclusions. Get over it. And if we don't figure out how to deal with the mess it will get worse.

Let me try to illuminate this issue with the light of Evolution. (Aka Natural Selection or the Evolutionary Algorithm). One approach is via Richard Dawkins' idea of an extended phenotype. Here's how that idea works. An animal or plant has a genotype: basically it's the dna that resides in all our cells. A phenotype is the physical body that the dna produces. So a beaver has a body of a particular fat rodentish type adapted for eating trees and living in the water with a big flat tail. That's what it's phenotype is like, which depends on it's beaver genotype. Beavers respond to running water by trying to stop the flow with sticks and leaves and mud. They create dams that make ponds out of streams. The ponds provide a habitat safe from predators where they can build their nearly impregnable lodges. The ponds provide safe access to the trees that are beaver food and building material. The dams and ponds are called the beaver's extended phenotype, and like the phenotype, the extended phenotype depends on it's beaver genotype.

Many kinds of life forms have extended phenotypes but not all. For instance, one might think of a coral reef as being an extended phenotype of the coral polyps. But the octopus that lives there seems not to have an extended phenotype at all. Instead the octopus has a stunningly versatile phenotype. But I think it's obvious that humans have an extended phenotype. We call it society. The extended phenotype of a beaver has various features like dams and ponds and lodges. The extended phenotype of humans has features like roads and stores and politics.

A phenotype is a pretty constant thing give a genotype. It's why we can tell dogs from cats from humans. An extended phenotype is much more responsive to the environment, both physical and ecological. Humans are humans. We have our ideas and our ways of bonding and working together. But we are many and widely dispersed. Often it happens that the ways of group A here differ from the ways of group B there. Politics happens when groups A and B have to reconcile their differences so they can work together. Let me point out that this is a fractal kind of thing. Group A has subgroups A1 and A2. And they have subsubgroups A1a and A1b; on out to things like A1b1!a3 . . . . . So - to return to a point I raised at the beginning - what is a citizen to do about that? I leave that as an exercise for the reader. But I doubt that talking about logical utopias will work.

There is another way that Evolution works here. Above I talked about how politics is a product of human evolution. But politics can also be seen as something influenced by the Evolutionary Algorithm directly. To do this I need to identify a loop that involves a replicator, some variation, and a selection pressure. Recurring elections provide us with the loop. Candidates are the replicators and they are variable. The outcome of elections provide us with a selection pressure.

The tricky thing here is the selection pressure in a society as polarized as ours. And I don't want to minimize the significance of that polarization. Religion is dying and religious people don't like it. Let me be clear - by religion in this context I mean the various mainstream religions: christians, jews, muslims, hindus, buddhists. The absolute numbers of their adherents is still going up due to population growth, but the relative numbers have been declining for a long time.

I think we see what we'd expect in that evolutionary situation. Those whose position is in decline get more and more extreme in an attempt to solidify their 'base'.

So here we are

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.