Choose a topic

The Past and the Future.

AI and Art
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
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
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

The Collingridge Dilemma

It seemed like a good idea at the time

This dilemma was articulated by David Collingridge in 1980 in his book "The Social Control of Technology".
The dilemma is that when we can easily control the social effects of technology we don't know enough about those effects to place appropriate controls.

By the time we do know the effects, the technology is too embedded in society to be easily changed, let alone controlled.

For instance, think about how easily cars in North America enabled urban sprawl and massive air pollution.
If early in the process people had understood those effects they might have chosen a different course but by the time the effects are obvious it's impossible to change.

We see this in China and India where instead of learning from our experience with cars, they are repeating it. There is always a trade-off between advancement and prudence. Advancement can be dangerous but we have to be able to change because not advancing in a changing world is dangerous, too.

The Precautionary Principle speaks to this dilemma since we don't know for sure the effects of new tech, and since those effects can be pretty bad, we have a moral responsibility to not move until we are very sure of what's happening. But the Dilemma also speaks to the Precautionary Principle; if we wait for anything like full knowledge of consequences before acting we will never learn what acting would have taught us.

Currently the controversy about genetically modified organisms is one that faces the horns of the Collingridge Dilemma. By the time the dangers of them are known it will be too late because then they will be loose in the environment.

GMO's are present in another example of the Collingridge Dilemma our intellectual properties laws. When they were established we could have created any number of property law regimes but once they were established and the pernicious effects became known they are almost impossible to change.

A creeping thing coming upon us now are these global webs of free trade agreements. They are being created largely in secret because if their implications were widely understood they'd be blocked.

But now that they are largely in place they will be very hard to resist partially because corporations can sue governments in secret tribunals if they feel their profits (or even opportunities for profits) have been infringed. And the secret part means that we won't even know we are being sued, what the issues are, and what the penalties we have to pay are.

Talk about a genie that's tough to stuff back in a bottle.

An upcoming thing is Ray Kurzwiel's Singularity the moment when our machines are collectively smarter and more productive than we are. So let's consider the Singularity according to the Dilemma we should be able to control the Singularity as it emerges. But really can that be done?

I've watched the emerging Singularity for years and we're kind of fascinated by it in a deer in the headlights sort of way. Could we control intellectual property laws as they emerged?

I've watched intellectual property laws emerge from protections for the authors of books to their current monstrous state. All along people were yelling about the dangers. So it wasn't that there was a lack of information for IP laws there was more a particular mindset among our rulers that set us on that course.

With that in mind perhaps we should be careful about just which situations are actually instances of the Collingridge Dilemma. Perhaps the IP situation is not the result of the Dilemma because the problem at the start was not a lack of information the people doing knew what they were doing and got the consequences they wanted.

Perhaps a better example of the Collingridge Dilemma is the introduction of entertainment values into news.
At first it seemed like such a good idea.
Nobody anticipated Fox News and now Fox is pretty hard to resist.

The Dilemma causes us to appreciate a certain trade-off we have to wait long enough to control something to actually know what's going on but we have to act before we can't.

Here in Canada we're having a national debate around physician assisted suicide. Now, people need to decide to die when they are actually capable of doing the deed. If you wait till you are incapacitated then you are stuck to the painful end no matter how long it takes. But that necessarily means making a very grave decision based on incomplete information.

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.