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

What is Going On?

It's a dance.

It's kind of an unanswerable question because as soon as you find out what WAS going on something else is going on.
That's life.

It's not as bad as it might sound. In general, and for most of a lifetime, people do pretty well at coping with whatever is going on.
We share that with all living things.
But people seem to have taken that question to a whole new level.

Think about fame for instance. What's going on there?
Our way of speaking treats fame as a possession of a person; ie "Person A has fame" and therefore people offer A lots of money to endorse their products (or whatever).
But that's not really what's going on.
What's going on is a common behavior in a bunch or people - they pay attention to Person A.

That is: they don't pay attention to Person A because A is famous.
Rather, them paying attention is what makes A famous.

Daniel Dennett provides an example.
Imagine Jim with an outstanding first novel that is going to be launched on Wednesday. The publishers are excited and the books are printed and shipped. The media is excited and Jim is booked for interviews and book tours. Jim is about to become famous: a person that lots of others pay attention to. On the day a disaster strikes that is of such magnitude that Jim can't get a spot in the news.
Nobody hears of him and he doesn't become famous.

The idea here is that any one moment there may be many people who COULD become famous if things work out right but most of those don't come to be actual.

Dennett proposes that our ancient way of thinking of consciousness has the same logical error as the "Person A has fame" idea.

Consciousness is not a thing that anything possesses.
People are conscious - it shows in their behavior, in the way they avoid stumbling on rocks and in the way they woo lovers.

The question is how can people be conscious? What is going on? And for me this question must be answered within the scope of a causally closed reality where we take things like conservation of mass and energy seriously.

Stepping back a bit here.
Let's recall what we've learned about the brain and the human body in general. The brain has been described as a mass of stuff with the texture of custard. People started examining that stuff in detail. Lots of people over hundreds of years who learned from each other. Amazing things were learned. There are actually structures in that stuff that do things like recognize faces. The hope was that if there are structures like that, then maybe there is a structure that could be called consciousness. When it's working we are conscious and when it isn't we are not conscious. That reductionist dream turned out to be not the case.

The case turned out to be quite strange.
There are all those structures doing particular things and the whole brain is informed all the time about the state of those structures.
But not all that information is used. Most is not in fact, it's there but is not effective. This is like the case of Jim the novelist - who was all set up to be famous but never became famous.

The idea here is that all that information is fed into our neocortex. What the neocortex does is generate stories. It generates many stories at once: What happens is that sometimes the stories reinforce each other to create more effective stories. A most effective story emerges that controls our behaviour.
That is being conscious.

We can think of consciousness as the story we tell ourselves about what is going on.

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.