Choose a topic

.. Cognition
General Artificial Intelligence
Observing My Experience

.. HUM
A Mind

Culture is Ordinary

AI and Art
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Excellence is a Plateau
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
Gender dysphoria
I Lost My Knife
Incomplete Information and Stories
Intelligence and Motivation
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
Structures of Understanding
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?
What is going on?

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
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
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?

Body Plans
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 Job
A society needs a government.
Babies and Bathwater
Belly of the Beast
Cultural Appropriation
Drag Story Tellers
Family Values
Governance and Power
Griefers and Misinformation and Disinformation
I Distrust the News
Inclusion and Christmas
Its a Free Country
Life Extension
Moral Decline
Open Society and Falsification
Parents, Children, and Community
Rethinking Rights
Rules in a Knife Fight?
Sex and Gender
Should We Go to Mars?
Social vs Individual Responsibility.
Society and The State
Society evolved
Spheres of Influence
The Care and Feeding of Free Speech
The Collingridge Dilemma
The Common Good
The Dual Meaning of Power
The Homeless
The Problem with Hedonism
The Rule of Law.
Thoughts on Justice
To the Moon
Trial by jury
Virtue Signalling
We Live in the Present
What is to be said?
What made freedom a bad word?
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

Developmental Processes


Have you ever contemplated how an embryo develops from a fertilized egg? That cell divides and divides and divides again until there are trillions of cells making up an organism.

But how come that doesn't just end up with a big slime of cells?

We do have slimes of course, and they are very successful actually but what about the life forms that aren't slime? And in those living things the same genetic material ends up enabling all sorts of different cells from bones to retinas. And more amazingly how do we end up with so many different kinds of living things?

We have a pretty clear idea WHY things worked out that way (hint: natural selection) but have only in the last hundred years had any idea just how that works.

It's a process a developmental process. It's conceptually simple: do the same thing over and over while responding to local conditions.

This may remind you of the way fractals work it sure does remind me and I see many similarities between the sorts of forms created by fractal math systems and those produced by developmental processes.

By the time the egg has divided 3 times and there are 8 cells those cells recognize their position. One knows its at the head end. One know that it's at the other end. The rest know they are on the sides. Due to hormone gradients each cell actually is in a slightly different environment. This difference causes the DNA in each cell to be expressed a bit differently.

So just as the egg provides the overall genetic material for the whole entity each of those 8 cells provide a particularly activated set of DNA to all of its daughter cells. Those daughter cells respond to their sisters in the same way the particular expression of their DNA is influenced by their position in the body. One early piece of evidence of this was the observation that very young embryos of all cordates (from fish to people) are very similar.

I discovered an interesting thing that the underlying genetic mechanism that creates legs is the same in lobsters as it is in cats. In fact the whole body plans at the genetic of cats and lobsters are very similar the same sort of cells that develop into legs and heads occur in the same place in the young embryo of each.

How do we think of cause and effect in developmental processes? We can describe how that process works but can we really say that we know what caused a leg? Centuries after Hume basically debunked the idea of cause and effect it's still a very compelling idea.

It's obvious to us in lots of situations like when we play pool and cause the balls to move by hitting them with a cue. But can we really understand everything with the same simple concept that we use to play pool? I think it leads to pretty severe problems it's called reductionism.

We never actually see a cause.

hat we see is successive states of affairs. Many thinkers prefer to think of ‘becoming' instead of cause and effect and understanding developmental processes work can lead to ways to explain just why something became what it is. Are developmental processes only associated with things that are alive?

I've looked a bit at embryology, and I'm sure it's pretty clear how evolution is a developmental process. And we can see the same sort of thing in other aspects of reality like in society and in the way we think and perhaps we can advance our understanding by trying to frame questions in terms of development instead of in terms of cause. Concepts like developmental processes also counter our ancient intuitions about ourselves.

Cause and effect plays to our concept of power over ourselves and the environment. If we are strong we cause effects. If we are weak we are affected by causes.

It's easy to think that our thoughts cause our behavior. And from there it's easy to ascribe moral responsibility. When we think in terms of developmental processes, morality is seen in a different light rather than personal responsibility, the onus for understanding moves to understanding how a particular situation became.

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.