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


Life without purpose

I was looking out my window when a small beetle landed on it. Like maybe 3mm in diameter. I just crawled around on the glass. While it was there another one landed. I watched to see if they would interact. They didn't and then they flew away.

I don't think beetles like that have a very deep experience of reality and certainly it's different from mine. For the beetle the recently washed window was easy to walk around on and they were just doing a random walk.

A random walk turns out to be a good strategy for finding resources when you can't see very far. I don't think the beetles could perceive the grove of trees outside my window as they sat there. I tried waving and even tapping the glass. No response. I wasn't a part of their world at all.

I wondered about why they didn't respond to tapping the glass. Like my finger was within millimeters of them. But then I realized that I was seeing the beetle from the bottom where it has no eyes so it just didn't have any information that I was there.

This made me think of a seminal point that Richard Dawkins made years ago in his book The Selfish Gene. He wrote at a time when the idea of "the survival of the fittest" was a dominant idea in the popular mind about evolution. That focussed attention on the body. Think big man with big muscles is fitter because they could win fights.

But that's not really how evolution works. We are genetic creatures - we have bodies that grow in a very complex process mediated by genes. Dawkin's point is that the bodies don't reproduce - each child is unique. But genes and communities of genes in our DNA does reproduce.

Dawkins developed the strange idea that bodies were a kind of automaton produced by DNA for the purpose of replicating the DNA.

I think I could see that in these little beetles. I don't know what they were doing there on my window and what was motivating them to move around. It looked random to me but I have no idea what they were perceiving. Perhaps they were grazing on bacteria on the glass that I can't see. Perhaps they were doing a random walk in the hopes of discovering something they could eat or mate with.

I don't imagine that they have any purpose beyond that. Eat till you mate and then your young eat till they mate and then their young eat till they mate . . .. (repeat).

Mammals and birds are more complicated. Intention seems to be more and more involved. A beaver isn't just cutting down trees at random. It's looking for food and material for it's dam. We can build a story that the behavior is all just mindless instinct - but that's not the way it seems.

Similar with birds building very complex and highly stylized nests. Why did a bower bird choose just -that- trinket and put it just -there- - sure does look intentional.

Once I watched an eagle hunting coots. The coots were hard to get because the flock was watching in all directions and a single cry would make them all dive under water where the eagle couldn't get them. The eagle seemed cunning. It would fly at the flock and they'd dive and after a wait the eagle would swoop in again. This repeated several times. One time the eagle cut short the wait and came back quickly and caught an early rising coot.

That eagle knew what they were doing. Was it instinct or learned or intentional? Does the category matter? In the long run eagles and coots are automatons carrying their genes into the future.

People are very intentional. It's not that we don't have a genetic base to lots of our behaviors and capabilities - it's rather that in people other replicants besides genes have emerged; we call them memes People can decide to go against the interests of their genes and (say) forgo children.

But do we have any more control over memes than we do over genes?

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.