Choose a topic

.. Epistemology
Language and thought

.. Art
Fake art

.. Cognition
General Artificial Intelligence
Observing My Experience

.. Epistemology
Consciousness defined
Dialectics and Evolution
Intentional Stance
Training vs learning
What is a Vegetable?

.. Epistmology
Dire Warnings

.. Evolution
Life is Amazing
What is a Species?
Why are Tropical Birds So Colorful

.. HUM
A Mind

.. Society
Adversarial Legislatures
Cut Energy Use
Emotional Plague
Improving Democracy
Jesus and the Money Changers
Merry Christmas
Misinformation and disinformation
Moral Hazard
Red flags
Red Rover Red Rover
Reusable Bags
Sleeping in a tent
Social Media

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


Order from random

I first became aware of ratchets when I was a young man fixing my trucks and cars. They were so convenient. You didn't have to take the wrench off the nut as you turned it. With the ratchet if you turned the wrench one way it would turn the nut and if you turned it the other way it wouldn't.
This would progressively remove or tighten the nut. There was even a knob to turn to go from tighten to loosen mode.

It's a very simple mechanism - you have a toothed wheel that engages a pawl if you turn it one way but where the pawl slips over the tooth if you turn the other way.

I didn't realize it at the time - but that wrench could be used to turn random rotation into directed rotation. In fact that's what I was doing without realizing it. In recent years researchers have used this principle to make nanomotors - small machines at a molecular scale that turn and produce torque that are driven by random thermal vibrations. Every time the motor is jigged by being struck by a thermal vibration it turns but when it is jogged it doesn't. It's the imbalance between the effect of being jigged as opposed to jogged that produces the rotary motion.

Consider that - out of random motion we get directed motion when a certain situation applies. Yeah yeah you may wonder - big deal.

So what if somebody invents a ratchet? People invent things all the time. Turns out that it is a big deal because it's a very general situation that happens all the time in reality with important consequences.

Let me present the situation abstractly: With a ratchet you have a situation where change in one direction is easy while change in another direction is hard. In that situation then random change will be transformed into directed change - as long as the ratchet is in place then change has to go in a certain direction. According to Big Bang theory the start of the universe produced equal quantities of matter and antimatter. Matter and antimatter mutually annihilate. Why is there any un-annihilated matter? Nobody knows for sure but the speculation is that the other laws of nature act like a ratchet. Even though m

atter and antimatter may be equivalent to each other maybe they aren't equivalent in the perspective of other aspects of reality - like say the Higgs Field. I don't know if that is the case at all, but let's suppose it is for a moment.
The universe is thought by science to have certain properties that we think of as something like Laws of Nature. When I was in university we did something called dimensional analysis to check that we had derived our equations correctly. This merely meant reducing each side of the equation to it's basic dimensional units; stuff like mass, charge, velocity. I'd now add a few other items to that very small list. Stuff like the properties of quarks but the list is still very small when you talk about dimensional units.

But the amazing thing is that everything we know about physical reality can be expressed in terms of pretty simple laws acting on a very limited number of variable properties. And so the ratchet idea here is that the interactions of those other properties mean that matter and antimatter are not completely mutually annihilating.

There is a ratchet and so we end up with a universe filled with matter.

Natural Selection is an obvious ratchet. The various sources of variation in Natural Selection are pretty random. But instead of the resulting variation in phenotypes being random, it is progressive.

Natural Selection has a pawl in it, just like my wrench did. That's what the selection pressure part of Natural Selection is about. Not all the variants will reproduce as well - the ones who reproduce better will populate the future with replicants like them. And just like with my

wrench, change the nature of the selection pressure and the line of progression will change it's direction.

Perhaps thinking in terms of ratchets can illuminate some philosophic issues.

For instance - how can we rely on our knowledge? On what basis do we take it as true? After all, we have vivid and pretty unconstrained imaginations even at our best. And we know all about how we are prone to dreams and hallucinations and all kinds of illusions. Philosophers have worried how is it possible for us to make sense of anything at

all in that situation. They have tried desperately to ground knowledge in stuff that must be true for some transcendent reason. But perhaps the reason we trust our knowledge is because of a ratchet rather than transcendence.

In the noise of the random thoughts that we have about reality only some stick. They are memorable or they work or whatever. The point is that the thoughts that we have that correspond with reality just plain stick around in our minds. The ones that don't just slide out of the mind. In a situation we just HAVE to trust the knowledge we have - if it wasn't trustworthy somehow we wouldn't have it to think about.

This doesn't mean that all the knowledge we come to trust is actually true in a physical sense. For instance, those of us who converse across our current political and social polarity know lots about the ideas that the people we talk to have. That's a part of our knowledge - we can be right about things that are wrong.

It gets complicated.

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.