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

Too Small to See

But detectable

One of the great puzzles in modern physics is that it has two theories that explain almost everything to fabulous precision. Those are General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics of course.

And those aren't 'theories' in the sense of idle speculation. Our whole electronic technology depends on the knowledge of materials provided by QM.

Consider GPS that's embedded in our phones and tablets and cars. That system uses both QM and GR to function - it uses them in parallel. They both work wonderfully. Thing is, they are incompatible. GR assumes that spacetime is smooth. QM assumes that spacetime is not smooth at the microscopic level.

This a bit of a philosophic scandal for physics. Physicists expect that since there is only one universe there must be a single explanation of it - not two complementary ones.

There is a more scientific reason why it's a problem too. There are border areas where to push further in understanding you actually have to apply both at once. If in normal affairs we can just think of GR when we think on our scale of existence, and QM at the microscale. But with a black hole you have something that certainly involves gravity, but it's so small that QM has to be taken into account too. And when that's attempted the answers that emerge are literally meaningless because the math won't deal with points.

String theory attempts solve this by being very tiny, but by having some extension. The incompatibility of QM and GR is associated with the idea that dimensionless points are a sensible concept. String theory says not. Small as they are, if strings are what reality is made of then the fact that they have a size at all, even a very tiny one, means that when you put QM and GT together you don't get a meaningless answer

Long story short - by fits and starts String Theory has emerged in the last 40 years that seems to be up to the task of merging QM and GR. String Theory is a really interesting beast. It is actually 5 complementary theories. They are all talking about exactly the same thing but from different perspectives. When one of the theories leads to an absurd result just jump to another and keep going. That's enough to make the pragmatist in me cheer:-) But there is a fly in the ointment. String Theory is so complicated that nobody has ever used it to make a single prediction about reality. And the strings are so small that they will never be seen.
This raises hoots of derision in some quarters.
This isn't science!!!
It's bald speculation!!!

One can only smile at how naive the hooters are.
Haven't they ever encountered Kant and his idea that we can never know things in themselves; we only encounter their appearances.

By the time we'd figured out how to handle that without going crazy we were into the time of evolution and QM and GR. There is very strong evidence for all of those but that evidence is embedded in long chains of inference.

The situation is that unseeable things can be detected because their existence is the only way to account for what we CAN see. In university I did labs where I'd do things like measure the mass of an electron or what the force of gravity was. The gravity lab was interesting. We caused a ball bearing to roll down an inclined sheet of glass over carbon paper and a sheet of graph paper leaving a nice curve. From that curve I could calculate the force of gravity to satisfying precision. But it was all completely abstract - I made tables of numbers and then did sequences of calculations that gave me an answer. The role of direct observation is crucial in science but it's role is that of grounding chains of inference.

This is very unsatisfying to those whose style of argument is to say 'Show me' but it's also a fact of life. So why should strings be any different? String Theory is sort of a theory of everything. It is already consistent with all we know and that's a very hard thing to accomplish.

But is String Theory the only way of reconciling QM and GR?
Turns out not. There is another approach called Quantum Loop Gravity which views reality as a bunch of cellular automatons.
It's a very different conception but the result is the same; an explanation of what fundamental reality is like that is consistent with everything we know.

So imagine this; we end up with two theories of everything, that each work fine as far as we know. But how would we choose between them? How do you choose between things that in principle you can't see?

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.