The philosophy thread (no extremist manifesto debates please)


#204

I’m feeling poetically philosophical today.

Maybe all of the following is bullshit, but maybe it isn’t.

Either way, it’s helped me crystallise some things I’ve been mulling over, and maybe it’s helpful to someone.

Better here than in the dustbin of forgotten ideas that is my Google Docs, I think at least.

:slight_smile:


Seeking perfect dissolution of the ego is effectively like seeking death, for if there is no purpose or motive to act in the world beyond hardcoded survival instinct, there is no will to exist beyond simply existing. Hence, our reasons for seeking it are misguided.

At some point, we have to accept that the human condition permits us to be content under strictly human conditions. We are social creatures, and our most meaningful relationships are typically social. What is meaning except something in relation to the other? Hence, our perceptions of ourselves will always be at least partly based on others’ perceptions of ourselves. The desire to be something in the eyes of others is literally hardcoded into our brains, as much as we like to romanticise the notion that it isn’t or shouldn’t be.

So it is, the great contradiction in this aim is that we do it to be better people in the eyes of others.

Yet, if we let our ego get ahead of us, and always act in a way that denies its true nature, yet also always act in defence of it, then we will forever be a dick in the eyes of others.

We’re left in this predicament where trying to be something we are not leads to bitter disappointment, and not trying to be anything at all leads equally so to bitter disappointment.

What are we to do?

We must see that we are both mutable and immutable. Or, less poetically, but more accurately, we are mutable to a limit that is not perceived, but the perceived limit is not fixed and depends on the very changes that we make, and so the absolute limit is not a value we can derive a priori without having first exhausted ourselves. The great catch-22.

We must seek instead to never stop seeking, seek to see that which has been sought as yet still to seek, seek to find content with that which we seek and that which we fail to seek, and yet still seek that which we fail to seek if that is what is necessary for content to be sought.

Content not in terms of happiness, but content in terms of accepting life’s ebbs and flows, ups and downs, tosses and turns, as a necessary step in the process.

Content is being OK with being not OK and being OK with doing what needs to be done to be OK, even if it is hard, as the alternative is harder still.

In this way we can forever approach the unattainable, and yet forever have the sense of attaining it, even if sometimes we haven’t attained it, because in another sense, we have – it becomes a matter of perspective.

The great tragedy is that some of us are so predisposed that their condition is fundamentally in irresolvable conflict with itself.

How can you fulfil the unfulfillable?

This is yet another perceived limit, as the answer lies in knowledge and understanding. Science plays a part in our absolute limits as much as our biology.

Today, medicine cannot fulfil the majority of the unfulfillable. Maybe it gets most of us tolerably close.

But for those poor souls who are beyond our collective repair, those that all the kings men couldn’t put back together again, I feel for you – we all feel for you.

What a tough hand. For those of you reading this, as improbable as that probably is, just remember that, the very fact you are even here with us today is a testament to your endurance. You are succeeding more than you think you are.


#205

I’m not sure I followed that 100%, but I think I agree with the sentiment. Can I 100% picture my dream life? No. But I do have a rough idea of what’s different in that one from this one, and I work daily on taking myself from where I am to where I want to be. So far, it’s worked well. I’m still not there, but I can look at my life as little as one year ago and see improvement.

And, in speaking with someone else earlier today, I did say that from the outside looking in, my life might look perfect to some people - I just came to that realization last week. While it may not be perfect (nor do I ever expect it to be), I am closer than I have ever been to what I want, which I suppose is doing pretty well. Even if you only move yourself .00001% closer to your goals every day, a life is a long time. You might not get all the way there, but you can get quite far as long as you don’t give up.


#206

Haha, I think some of the language I used is a bit arcane.

I think, to a degree, we all get what I said at some level intuitively, often even more than that, but we don’t always properly apply the knowledge. I have found that consciously analysing the process and figuring out how to proactively integrate the refined knowledge can help some of us to work around our deficiencies. For example, I’m autistic, and that has its own set of challenges. I also took loads of LSD which did some funny stuff to my brain, which remains a bit weird and wonky since. I still see constant visual distortions!

I’ve always been the kind that feels content only when I have sufficiently resolved the form of what I think and hold to be true about the world.

Full resolution of our thoughts is an unattainable goal, since to fully resolve the space of all concepts would require the mind of a god (should one exist), or at least a universe that doesn’t limit its contents to strictly computational operations.

That’s a sign that your brain has its incentives and metrics for success reasonably balanced, or at least balanced enough such that you have been able to work through past hardships and find a way to be balanced within your means.

I say that to maybe help put some context behind some of the language I used, in hope that certain of the more… erm… creative, wordings can be made legible to other humans! :stuck_out_tongue:

My argument is that there is no “there”. People in retirement get bored and do stuff, they slow down, yes, but they still get bored. People who become too old to continue doing stuff become unhappy, because on some level, it was the never-ending journey and hardship that was sustaining their meaning.

So, if we aim to go there, we get there, and think, “well, what the fuck now?” But, if we aim where we cannot go, then we can’t get there and think, “well, what the fuck now?” But, if we aim to get as far as we can go, then, we never get the chance to stop and think, “well, what the fuck now?”

And precisely, there, you already understand what I say intuitively – It’s just a matter of details! :stuck_out_tongue:


#207

Unrelated thought.

People will try to put you into a box because it’s convenient for them…

There is no unwritten rule that says you have be in that box.


#208

Sounds about right hah. A guy at work remarked to me “you’re so quiet” like it’s just something he’s never ever encountered before. I just said “yep, it happens with certain people.”


#209

That’s kind of the paradox isn’t it… we must fit things into boxes to be able to understand them, but we must also recognise that doing this will lead to some assumptions and mischaracterisations, and we must then apply critical thought to determine if the object in question falls between the boundaries of our categories, and update our categories accordingly.

It isn’t impossible to build up a hierarchy of categories that can be all-encompassing of our worldview and of all things we can perceive. Well, it kind of is to our mere minds as we’d have to consider the entire universe, but we can obtain a practical approximation that is at least encompassing of what is relevant to our lives, filtering out the inconsequential noise. Doing so honestly is hard, as we have to fundamentally admit that any single axiom we hold to be true could be wrong, which would necessarily bring into question the validity of all dependant views.

So we start off with a generalisation, and through experience, we constrain the model further and further until it is isomorphic with our perception of the world.

The problem is that there isn’t one true objective way to structure that would also be isomorphic within some degree of tolerance and that would function in practice equally effectively.

That is the nihilism in this.

That isn’t a good reason not to do it, though. We are human beings who are biologically predisposed to think in common ways. Of course there’s great variability, but there is no conscious human being alive who does not do conceptualise the world at some level.

Why the hell should we seek an objective reference anyway, if by our very nature, the way we view and understand the world is subjective, even if in some interpretation there is great (clumpy) similarity in those views.

The problems begin when we don’t apply critical thought to it, (whether that be due to a paranoid/delusional disposition, or we allow our ego to constrain our perception, or some combination of the two – I know someone very well who does exactly this), our categories will be all over the shop, and we won’t have resolved them to a high enough resolution to be of any real utility.

As a result our intuitions will as a result be even more wrong than usual, and people who don’t apply this process also tend to trust those very intuitions, compounding the problem, further building on faulty foundations.

At some point in their life – if they at least have the unconscious impulse to apply some critical thought, or by some event that cannot be ignored that emerges as a result – they become deeply unhappy because they recognise that their entire worldview is in contradiction with reality (of course under the assumption that what we perceive empirically is a true representation of the world), but cannot admit it to themselves.


#210

Based upon my reads…

And examination of issues post trump thought garbage…

Feminism…to my current understanding…despite some negative stories about people not following the golden rule…

Women are somebody’s mother, daughter, sister, etc…and although they carry life and give the gift of life…they are more than just that…

They obviously are people, and are of equal ability and potential, and are to be treated and respected like any other human being, which is fairly and equally, and not be objectified, exploited, chastised, debased, nor shamed…they should be/are free to be their own person, and gender/societal roles aren’t arbitrarily set in stone…, also in terms of relationships there aren’t objective standards that everyone has to adhere to…to each their own…

As for metoo…
From my understanding…it’s more about expressing to others about what makes women feel uncomfortable…and being accomodating…and understanding…it’s also about examining people’s boundaries and determining whats appropriate with your significant other through an open and honest conversation about how one feels about their experiences…I think.

And as for the sexual abuse victims metoo did give them a voice…

But then the media/politicians turned the movement into a tool to assassinate their political enemies…which turned the original movement into something else through their exploitation of it.

I would write more but I’d just be some fool mansplaining…

Shrug.


#211

I originally posted this on Quora, but it’s an interesting topic, and I wonder what other’s have to say.

Question: Do you have any idea about the contribution of AI and other emerging technologies in the 21st century?

Answer:
It depends on if you’re talking about AI or AGI (artificial general intelligence). There’s a big difference, and the relative difficulty is enormous.

Current AI (i.e., machine learning) is really just a kind of semi-automated, statistical analysis — but we have to tell it if it got the answer right so it can generalise a model that is predictive of the training data with minimal incongruency and maximum generality.

Herein lies the problem trying to build one monolithic model that is general enough to apply to all circumstances yet also specific enough so that it gets the answers right — that ideal model in that representation will be so large and complex, and will require so many examples in so many unthinkable and unintuitive scenarios, that it is just practically unfeasible beyond imagination.

Despite this, current AI, when specialised appropriately, is already proving incredibly useful, and has contributed hugely to technology, and is making our lives more convenient by indentifying objects for us, automatically tagging images for searchability, learning our preferences to suggest things we might like (whatever else that data ends up being used for is another story).

It is already being used to make inferences that a human might not have thought of from datasets, and is also being applied to scientific papers and theorem proving.

It is even being used for technology that can detect diseases, which could make highly regular and detailed health checkups easy, so we can pick up the onset of disease earlier, and ultimately save lives.

It is clear even this kind of simple pattern spotting is a powerful tool.

But while there are certain things that this approach is able to do better than a human, there is a limit to it: there is no true cognition happening, no logical reasoning, no fluid representation of concepts that can be manipulated and reasoned about on the fly.

There is no mechanism of automated error detection and correction, nor of automated and intelligent searching of the solution space (in a sense the graph of all possible concepts), nor of figuring out ways to conduct experiments to determine external factors it cannot verify a priori.

I think, though, this question is really asking about AGI.

AGI has incredible potential to lead exponential change. Exponential because it will enable generalised self-replicating machines, which can very quickly grow to huge quantities and achieve incredible speed and efficiency far beyond the capabilities of humans.

However, the degree and the value of that potential change depends on a number of things:

  • Is it even morally permissible in human terms to force something with self-awareness and intelligence that may even exceed our own to do our bidding? Of course, that depends on a lot of things.

  • Is artificial general intelligence possible? I think there are good reasons to believe that it is.

  • Are we able to set up an artificial general intelligence with the proper system of incentives and values such that it is actually able to do something useful whilst also doing it in the way we want to it, and continues to do so? Unfortunately, there are good reasons to doubt this.

  • Can the technology be abused in a way that poses a serious threat to our existence? If so, are we able to prevent the technology from being abused in this way? Unfortunately, there are good reasons to believe yes to the former, and no the latter (seeing it isn’t a problem of material regulation, exactly).

  • Can humans adapt to the kind of society that might exist after the fruits of this technology are abound? I have no idea, but I think there are reasons to believe it won’t be smooth sailing.

If not, then depending on which point we get to, that could be really bad. It probably won’t be like terminator, but man, there are some pretty bleak possibilities.

If so, then yes, it will have massive potential to improve our existence.

We could set up an automated, self-repairing system of intelligent machines, factories, mining facilities and food farms that will:

  1. Mine in the lowest, most oxygen deprived, unsafe for humans, depths of the earth and its oceans, in a way that won’t interfere with natural ecosystems.

    a. Grow food in huge skyscraper factories.

  2. Process the materials and food items using the most efficient and environmentally friendly approach.

  3. Produce technology and processed food in the factories to given specifications.

  4. Distribute them to people who have requested it.

Perhaps even mining asteroids will become feasible, but there may be enough stuff deep within the earth if we can get to it with advanced mining technology.

We could construct self-replicating mining robots that take materials from asteroids or perhaps Mercury and build what’s known as a Dyson swarm.

A Dyson sphere is not a feasible technology as we currently understand gravity and the limits of material science, as the sheering forces involved would tear any structure apart. However, a Dyson swarm is a multitude of small, mobile satellites that can be instructed to reflect sunlight to a specific point, and track that point.

This would allow us effectively unlimited solar energy at absolutely mind boggling energies. However, nuclear fusion might make all of that unnecessary.

When the cost in human time and resource is zero, you’re in a post scarcity society.

The question is then, can we regulate ourselves in such a way than we can coexist peacefully, when there is no resource or basic sustenance to worry or to war about, but only ideas and each other?

We’ve fought plenty of ideological and material wars, but the very challenge of maintaining existence and the incentives of profit gives all nations some common reason to cooperate that can supersede ideological differences — it has done greatly since the World Wars.

But when there is no other objective common ground external to ourselves except existence itself?

There may be a race condition, but it may also be a catch-22: if there is a way to structure society that is able to exist in post-scarcity, then we might need to implement it before it happens. Or at least hope that any potential period of chaos, if any, is transient whilst we establish a new status quo.

A question further still is, will any of this even happen at all?

Will humans want to give up the responsibility of maintaining mere existence? I suspect there will be a strong divide, and perhaps new nations will form in the process, as people who wish for a life before post-scarcity migrate to other lands to live the old way.

I would not be surprised if cults of anti-AI fanatics form, likely of orthodox-religious origin, probably even some terrorist factions. I bet there are a number of sci-fis that hit the nail on the head on this point.

Or would politics force a future of disproportionate access to the potential wealth of resource that could be?

Part of me doubts the feasibility of that. If it is known that effectively unlimited resource is available, and is easy to obtain through technology, then I don’t think the common man would sit tight without his share and obediently take what little scraps is given.

The majority of the worst authoritarian regimes have all come to or are coming to an end or have at least transformed into something a little less authoritarian and more liberal where people are able to lead a happy life.

The imprisonment of the world seems an impracticality to me, and perhaps an irrational fear.

Who knows. It’s a very deep question.


#212

Cool take, never thought of a swarm before with regards to the DS concept!


#213

Yeah, I read about it somewhere a while ago. Seems so simple and obvious in retrospect, doesn’t it?

You know, I wonder, if the reflecting satellites are also general-purpose machines that can fulfil other functions, it could enable an even broader range of functions.

Especially if there are hundreds of thousands of them littered around the inner solar system. They could all communicate with each other, forming a wireless network to send signals around, even to the other side of the sun.

If some energy is needed in an awkward location behind a planet or a moon, then a group of reflector satellites could direct a beam of focused energy from the sun to a point in space, where a second group of reflectors above the moon or planet then reflect it back to where its needed, or just absorb it themselves by switching to absorption mode.

This way, there’d always be a general-purpose machine nearby if another machine malfunctions and needs repair. It would also mean that should any extra machines be needed for labour, they would never be that far away. Rather than taking months for repair to get to you, it might only take a few days or even less if they’re very close by.

The system could also calculate optimal points for refuelling, by planning a journey that intersects with the paths of separate refuelling stations. You could probably set them up so that, if there’s a particularly important job, and there’s no time to intersect with an existing fuel-ship journey plan, then nearby satellites could meet with it and sacrifice fuel to enable the joint effort to complete.


#214

Life of the samurai/ronin

Meaning the unromanticized life of a samurai/ronin.

Despite all the crap going on the more things change more things stay the same.


#215

If free will existed, we’d all need to operate by our own individual laws of physics, as the physics we are subject to determine the course of the chemical reactions that take place that drive us, and therefore the decisions we make – which clearly could never work.

Okay, but let’s say we can decide what rules our consciousness abides by: how do we determine those rules? What do we base it on? We think we base it on our emotional feelings, but we can show that emotions are the result of changes in neurotransmitters as a result of something entering our perceptual sphere that we don’t like.

Why don’t we like it? Well, we say: it’s just who I am.

So, you didn’t make the choice to feel that way? Meaning, though no volition of your own did you determine the fundamental schemata you interpret the world through.

We come back around to some external determining factor.

Okay, so you say: it’s ze Quantum Mechanics! What is QM? It’s apparently uncertainty, that effectively there will always be some unknowable margin of error, resulting in a noise floor that is effectively random, in any measurement we can possibly take.

Setting aside why it appears to be random, even if it is random, is randomness free well?

“There is a probability that you will choose A when given A, B and C” is clearly not free will.


Though no mechanics, classical or computational, can the idea of free will be justified.

The only idea that holds up to scrutiny is the idea that there is an encompassing abstraction that can be considered descriptive and predictive of the world. However, we shall be forever bound to arrive at only the most suitable encodings, and never will be experience the certainty of truth about the external world.


In no sense except no sense at all are we ever free.