Choose a topic


.. Society
We Live in the Present

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

Art
AI and Art
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Is this picture real?
NonFungible Tokens
Public Art
Tearing Down Statues
Weave
What is Art?
Working With Reality

Cognition
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
Genius
GIGO
I Lost My Knife
Illusion
Incomplete Information and Stories
Instinct
Is free will an illusion?
Metarepresentations
Natural Law
Necessary Illusions
On Affordances
Pencil and Paper
Post Phenomenology
Reflective Equilibrium
Return of the Law of Forms
Shifting Meanings
Superstition
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?

Economics
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
Markets
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

Environmentalism
Blowing Up Pipelines

Epistemology
Absolute Knowledge
Equivalence
Exists
I do not know everything
Rethinking Knowledge
Rethinking Knowledge
The Curious Ineffectiveness of Facts
The Past and the Future.
Uncertainty and Unpredictability
Unpredictability
Verificationism

Evolution
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?
Networks
Omicron
Politics and Evolution
Roles
The Evolution of Purpose.
The Problem with Natural Selection.
The Source of Bad Behavior
Thinking about Tails
Why Does a Leopard Have Spots?

Freedom
Free Speech in the age of Twitter
Freedom and Badness
Freedom and Morality
Freedom From and Freedom To
Freedom in the Age of Convoys
Laws
Libertarian Coercion

Levels of Abstraction
Levels of Abstraction and Minds
What is a newspaper?

Mathematics
As Much As Possible
Zipfs Law

Memetics
Emotional Plague
Memes: Imitated Behavior.
The Problem with Memes
What is a replicator?

Morality
Beyond Rules Based Morality
Freedom and Morality
Moral Realism.
What do we owe animals?

pending
Police

Philosophy
Agency
Being
Maps and Territories
Metaphysics Without Absolutes
Philosophy Buds
Ratchets
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?

Politics
If It Walks Like a Duck
Right Wing Freedom
The Sovereign Citizen
Tyranny of the Majority

Programming
Loopsidaisy

Science
Constructed Life
Correlation Wins
Fields
Neurophilosophy
Quack Doctors
The Great Shattering
The Material Space
Thinking about Interconnection
Time
Too Small to See
UFOs
Watching Pigeons
Weirdness in Physics

Society
A society needs a government.
Belly of the Beast
Civilization
Corruption
Cultural Appropriation
Family Values
Governance
Griefers and Misinformation and Disinformation
Magic
Open Society and Falsification
Privacy
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
Totalitarianism
Work - Productive, Useful, Worthless, and Bad.

UBI
Implications of Very Productive Technology
Modest Proposal
Problems with Universal Basic Income
Tormenting Unlucky People
Why there are oligarchs







Uncertainty and Unpredictability

Not the same

Uncertainty is a feeling.
Unpredictability is an action.
You feel uncertain of an outcome.
But an outcome is unpredictable
Elaine Lorefield

Among the capabilities that brains enable is the capacity to predict. This capacity appeared pretty early in the evolution of creatures with brains. Amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds and mammals all predict. Without being able to predict things like intentional movement would be impossible. In people prediction has capacities that a frog does not have. A frog can predict the path of a flying bug with great skill and can snap it up with it's tongue. Only now do our most advanced anti-missile systems approach that capacity. But people exist in a meaningful world. That is, we interpret raw sense data and perceive meaningful information. An assumption of predictability is built into the concept of meaning. For instance: to say that something is black is to predict that it will absorb most light falling on it. The prediction is what black means.

So for people, predictable is the way the world usually seems to be. We do encounter unpredictability a lot, from the weather to the behavior of the people around us, but we assume that we just don't know enough to make the prediction. And we assume that if we did know enough we would be able to predict the future and retrodict the past.

As scientists learned more and more about reality that simple deterministic view encountered many challenges. Newton's physics was perfect for predicting how two bodies would orbit each other - give the parameters of position and mass and velocity then you could predict the state of the system at any future time. It doesn't work for more than 2 bodies. Quantum Mechanics was shocking because of the way it mixed determinism with uncertainty. It works with a mathematical structure whose future evolution is perfectly deterministic, but whose physical predictions were probabilistic. That is, individual physical events were unpredictable, but given many events a certain occurrence would happen a predictable percentage of the time (predicted by QM). This is passing strange :-) But it seems to be the way things are. QM is very well tested and confirmed and the knowledge is now embedded in many of the devices we use every day. But QM also deals with reality at the atomic level of abstraction. People need very specialized training and equipment to be able to work at that level. And we can work well at that level in an instrumental way, but visualization still fails. :-) I think that when we find a way to visualize reality at that level then the uncertainty will fall away. But maybe not.

From the middle of the last century a new kind of unpredictability was discovered. The generic term for this is chaos theory. There are many different systems that exhibit chaotic behavior. I've studied quite a few of them over the years by writing programs that use them to place dots on a computer screen. You can explore them yourself using Fractint found at https://www.fractint.org/ My explorations have been of mathematical systems that are quite simple and deterministic, but they are also unpredictable. The systems I work with generally decide the color of a pixel by performing a repeated computation on a set of parameters. A screen full of such pixels shows a pattern. You can't predict what that pattern will be like precisely. but if you run the system again using the same parameters then you get the same pattern. A famous example is the Mandelbrot Set. You can zoom in on a region of this image by changing the parameters you use for your computation; ie change the coordinates of the bounding box of the image. With the M Set you see regions where all the pixels are the same color and then regions of random color. If you zoom in on the random region, then regions of same colored pixels appear. Within those regions you can predict what you will see if you zoom in further. But in the randomly colored regions you can't predict. Hence we have a deterministic system that is so unpredictable that it's not always unpredictable.

I've been working on a new system that simulates fields like the electric or magnetic field It draws "lines of force" between "poles". It's a deterministic system. You get the same result each time you run it with the same parameters. But the lines can be unpredictable sometimes. They propagate between poles making pretty smooth curves usually, but there are situations where a line will suddenly make a right angle turn. That is, the slope of the line was changing predictably up to a certain point and then it unpredictably changed.

Thinking about Elaine's words again as I watch my program run. I can see the lines propagate towards their desination - and usually I know the destination but sometimes I don't - the sharper the curvature of the line, the more uncertain I am about the destination. And the system is deterministic - I get the same result each time I run it

what do yu 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.