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

The Ontology of Debt

For the benefit of kings

What is debt?
Basically it's the obligation of one entity to pay another.

Often debts are associated with credits that is the credit and debt balance.
But not always when governments need money they impose taxes a tax is a debt that people have to pay. Taxes have been said to be the fee that is charged for participation in society and I can see that perspective but I think that's a bit starry eyed.

Debt and taxes are ancient institutions far pre-dating our present squabbles about men with guns collecting taxes.

Ancient rulers needed to collect taxes to pay for everything from armies to palaces and granaries. But this didn't really work with a barter economy. In a barter system most of the stuff that is valuable is perishable. You can imagine the king's chagrin when farmers tried to pay their taxes with stacks of newly harvested tomatoes.

So the king made tokens and handed them out they were basically IOU's there were many types. The thing is that those tokens were the only way to pay your taxes.

The farmers were forced to find a way to accumulate the tokens by trading tomatoes for tokens. So here is what the king was doing his tokens were his promise to accept them as the way to pay taxes to him.

The tokens had other functions.
In hard years, when farmers had little to barter the king could just issue them with tokens that they could use at his granary to buy bread.

And of course if over time the farmer couldn't repay that debt the farmer's kids would be sold into slavery to make up the difference.

We can see one of the functions of debt now it's a huge lever for the king on his population. He gets to set the conditions under which people fall into debt and then they will scramble desperately to escape slavery. He just sets up the conditions and seems magnanimous and just waits for random weather fluctuations to drive slaves into his hands.

Money whatever sort of money from gold coins to cowrie shells to slips of paper is basically an IOU a promise to pay a certain value.

In Hong Kong once British soldiers would pay their bar tabs with cheques drawn on banks in England. The Chinese merchants would just endorse the cheques over to each other and treat them like money. Heck I've done that myself. But there were reports of soldiers seeing cheques they'd written months before covered in re-endorsements still in circulation. Potentially that could go on forever.

So we come to this strange idea money is a promise to pay an IOU A loonie in my pocket is a promise from SOMEBODY to let me exchange that for something worth a buck. And it works. But it's not like the soldier's cheques I assume that eventually those got cashed. A loonie (Canadian dollar coin) never gets cashed out it just keeps circulating.

And here's a strange thing when you go to borrow money for a new car the bank basically just makes up the money on the spot. (there are some complications of course but that's what happens)

What the bank does is just raise the number that represents your bank balance on your promise to repay. Then you can write checks on that balance. The bank doesn't need that money in its vaults to do the loan or anything like that.

And here's what happens when people can't keep their promise to repay the system unravels. And here in Canada people don't go into slavery but bankruptcy caused by loss of a job so you can't pay your debts is no fun.

A thing to consider: the ancient kings needed to think that not paying a debt was a positive evil because after all his world would fall apart without the power that debt gave him. But our understanding of economics is more subtle now since Keynes we've understood that it's important to keep commerce flowing whatever way we can. And in the last 20 years we are seeing in a dramatic way that the old system of providing good jobs to everyone who needs them is broken beyond repair.

And one of the big problems is a plain liquidity problem caused by the massive inequalities in our economy the mass of people are needed by the market to consume the stuff it makes but the labor market isn't providing enough money to those people to consume sufficiently.

So for a while there was easy credit to try to prop the markets up. The band aid solution helped for a bit but is now falling apart. Greece is now held up as an example of people abusing their finances I think there is a certain irony there. Greece was dependent on foreign investors to develop their economy but I don't think those foreign investors risked their own funds with their investments. What they did is borrow the funds in the name of Greece. As is usual in cases like this when that scheme made profits then the profits were theirs but when the profits failed the losses belonged to all Greeks. See what happens with a case like that? The profiteers build things that make easy money like resorts not things like factories that build productivity 66and skill levels.

So the Greek economy couldn't develop no matter how much the profiteers borrowed because they weren't interested in Greek economic development. And so when the foreign investors bailed the Greeks were left with both a debt and an unproductive economy AND a reputation for being spendthrifts. The ancient kings were forced by economic and social instability to declare fairly regularly a jubilee year a time when all debts were forgiven. They needed to do it to rebalance their economy.

Maybe it's time we do it to.

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.