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 a replicator?

Children are replicants, not copies

The evolutionary algorithm involves a replicator, variation among the replicants, and a selection pressure that determines which replicant becomes a replicator.

In biology, the individuals (whether plants or animals or whatever) that occupy the ecosystem are the replicators and replicants while the struggle for existence provides the selection pressure. We are very used to thinking this way and we don't usually use a word like replicator to speak of itl Usually we speak of parents and kids or flowers and seeds, for example. Natural Selection is a very powerful theory, useful for lots of things, but it was sort of hiding in plain sight until 150 years ago. But once seen it fit in with our collective experience of the natural world and agriculture.

In memetics the replicator is somebody who does something that somebody else imitates. The replicant is the behavior of the person imitating. The selection pressure is how well the imitation works at getting people to imitate it too. Dawkins coined the word meme to stand for that imitated behavior. The idea is that there is a transaction between the person whose behavior is imitated and the person who imitates and in that transaction a meme is transmitted from one person to the other. It might be better to drop the idea of transmitting the meme in favor of the idea that a meme is an imitated behavior - it's a short way of saying it.

The point here is that a person has to be careful when applying the evolutionary algorithm to any situation to identify the replicator, the variation among replicants and the selection pressure.

Does technology evolve in the evolutionary algorithm sense? We see evidence that it does in the way tech has continual improvement. It gets better and better at doing it's tasks over time. And it has a way of developing even if it's not really a good idea for people. What can happen is that the long term implications of an invention may not be apparent and by the time the implications ARE apparent, the tech is ingrained in society and can't be removed. But does all this change according to the evolutionary algorithm?

To see we need to look for the replicator/replicant, the variation and the selection pressure.

This can be tricky. Imagine the invention of the first internal combustion engine. Compared to present engines it would have been very crude. Hard to operate and maintain and unreliable. One imagines the inventor tinkering and finding ways to improve his creation. I propose that this fits the EA but it's subtle. The replicator is the original state of the engine. The replicant is the varied (by the inventor) replicator. The selection pressure is whether the improvement is actually an improvement. If another person sees the engine and learns to make it and makes their own then a similar thing would apply but a bit differently - they would actually be constructing a new engine. (The difference is that with the inventor the same physical engine could be present through many changes.)

But again we have replicator/replicant, variation, selection and now we add competition with the inventor into the selection pressure. Soon there are many kinds of engines, all evolving in this way. When I was young and driving cars and trucks I was very interested how different the engines from different countries were from each other even though they fulfilled a common function.

And compact powerful engines enable cars to develop. And the whole evolutionary process continues with cars. But now we have engines inside cars evolving with the car as part of the selection pressure, while cars are evolving with engines as part of the selection pressure. And this structure of evolving things within evolving things branches out in many directions: from roads to supply chains.

People participated in this whole process from beginning to end doing what they wanted to do. What people wanted to do and their evaluations of the outcome is what has been going on all along. But no one person imagined the whole tech from scratch and what people wanted to do was conditioned by what the tech made possible.

And notice the structure of abstract layers involved. Biology enables people who imitate each other. If we call an imitated behavior a meme, then we can say that memes evolve. Memetics enables technology that evolves. Susan Blackmore caused a ruckus when she called technology that evolves a teme. I'm sure that she knew what she was doing. The ruckus caused the teme meme to spread like wildfire :-)

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.