What is technology? Perhaps everything is!

The more I understand the underpinnings of the world the more it seems that virtually all human experience have the attributes of technology.

Non obvious Examples:

1. Language is technology, yes every time communicates a thought they are using technology at least 50 000 years old.

2. Art is technology, as the specific attributes, modalities, characteristics, and forms of art both contain and express some of the technology of their time period. i.e. by its existence art serves as imperfect vehicles of technological transmission regardless of the intent of the artist

3. All human adornments are technology, we’re certainly not born with adornments

4. Religion is technology, again they are partly vehicles of technological transmission

5. Even love is technology, animals got on fine for hundreds of millions of years before the invention of love so it cannot possibly be an innate characteristic nor a prerequisite. Love is an evolutionarily recent addition for enhanced social coordination.

6. Society is technology, social organization is the facilitation of greater coordination through the form of symbols and other structures.

Why not make it easier to share the truth? part 1

It’s become increasingly obvious that of all the wonderful things the internet has made possible, the increased ease of sharing lies is one of the downsides. Fundamentally, this phenomena was in part caused by the ways that various interlocking systems, both natural and artificial, have evolved over the past decades to make the truth relatively more difficult to share than lies. And although the truth has also been made much more accessible than before, it’s the relative strength, or more precisely relative incentives that really determines real world behavior. And this is a fight that lies have been steadily gaining in.

There is a growing asymmetry between the relative ease of sharing truth and lies that leads to ever growing incentives to do so. Because incentives are a powerful motivator of human behaviour this then propels new methods to make it even easier to share lies. Thus a negative feedback cycle is formed, one that could have exponential growth. This will eventually lead to deleterious consequences if left unchecked.

So why not realign the incentives? Why not fix this asymmetry? Why not make it easier to share the truth?

There are some downsides that come to mind though upon closer analysis these downsides could likely be significantly lessened through smart systems design to reduce potential for abuse, clear foresight to anticipate trouble, and a willingness to fix any problems that do come up transparently and honestly.

An example would be that making it easier to share the truth involves determining levels of trustworthiness among individuals and organizations. The common wisdom is that this is a fraught endeavor to undertake, yet we certainly do exactly this everyday. It is difficult to imagine that there is some fundamental limit preventing humans from scaling up and making concrete the informal trust systems we use everyday.

A derivative implication would be that a ‘score’ would have to be assigned to quickly tabulate and summarize trustworthiness. This is entirely a technical and logistical limitation of the current paradigms. It is not written in the stars that a ‘score’ must be the one and only way to compare trustworthiness in a real system.

A ‘score’ may be used as a stopgap measure, as a good enough solution i.e. credit scores, or for a variety of other reasons that may or may not be valid. There is nothing inherent about them that makes it the only possible end state of a trustworthiness system, or even more generally of any system whatsoever. Humans do not innately assign trust scores, in the everyday usage of the word, on some imaginary ranking like contest judges.

In mathematical and logical terms there may eventually have to be a ranking of some type to produce the attributes we would desire, I haven’t done the calculations yet to say either way. And philosophically, at a sufficiently advanced state of development it may indeed become ‘scoring’ of some type, if not through technical change at least through human change, since human tendency is to redefine words in more convenient ways as time progresses. Nonetheless, at this more advanced state of civilization there will be a greater capability to address the issues that would occur.

Of course technical limitations due to budget, software architecture, etc., may require some kind of ‘scoring’ somewhere along the way, and even if so a low score doesn’t represent any kind of metaphysical judgement. A number, of course, doesn’t fully describe a person and even though many use numbers to judge pro athletes that still is congruent with the fact that pro athletes are, usually, highly respected. Even in the worst case that low scores do carry some judgement it’s hard to imagine how that would be much more onerous than what already exists with low credit scores.

Thankfully there are more, and probably superior, ways of evaluation. For practical reasons trustworthiness has to be really easy to evaluate at a glance for the everyday use of such a method, remember the key idea is that it has to be easier than current methods and approach, if not exceed, the ease of spreading lies.

A better way might be through simplicity, to have two really broad categories as follows:

1. Verified

2. Not Verified

Yes, anything in the ‘Not Verified’ category could be ranging from totally false to mostly true with difficulties in verification. This is fine. A system like this is not meant to cater to everyone at the beginning. Trustworthiness in general isn’t everything, and keeping tabs on people and organizations in a database/blockchain/etc., which this will likely be at the beginning, is certainly a small subset of trustworthiness in general.

The beauty with this sort of simplicity is that one can simply at a glance see what’s verified or not without the need for a ‘score’. A real world working example of such a concept would be Twitter’s verified checkmark, which mostly accomplishes what it was originally envisioned to do.

Even better, the upsides for an easy to access, easy to use, and widely disseminated trustworthiness system are immense and, literally, too numerous to count.

The most obvious and perhaps greatest benefit is that honest behavior would be incentivized. Positive benefits would accrue from positive feedback loops of ever increasing trust. In economic language, ‘positive externalities’ would be generated, that although might not show up on a balance sheet would greatly improve the fabric of society.

Continued in part 2

Edited from original facebook post on August, 2020

Speculative fiction writing from the perspective of an avid reader

I’ve observed after reading through many works of speculative fiction that a universal tendency, found in every book, is that the plot begins to lose coherence when the growth in complexity of the story exceeds the capabilities of the author. From the perspective of the logistics of writing this makes sense, after all authors are time-constrained when writing and have bounded intelligence. I.e. writing smart things doesn’t automatically make them smarter past a certain limit.

Although the average character in a story does sound smarter and more insightful than the average person in real life that is because the author typically spends some time working and reworking their writings and don’t just put words down off the cuff, as what regular people do in everyday situations. I.e. they have the luxury of time to think things over which usually ‘upgrades’ the level of sophistication in writing.

Eventually authors reach a critical threshold where the ballooning complexity of their story exceeds even a strenuous effort to write. The typical progression is as follows:

Simple, well written -> moderately complex, moderately well written -> complex, decently written -> highly complex, poorly written -> incredibly complex, author gives up.

This of course is relative to the authors innate level of sophistication with the best works of complex speculative fiction written by seemingly geniuses. Which makes sense because to a genius author what seems to the regular person as incredibly complex may only be moderately complex to the author. And when a new author of average sophistication tries to emulate the complex plot and prose of the masterworks they usually give up or ‘downgrade’ their work, see fan fiction.

In fact, the logistical constraints apply to regular fiction and well any writing really. I just don’t have enough experience reading those to say.

Therefore, there exists a critical writing threshold which reveals the limitations of the writer.

Inter-cellular differences in genome

The most fascinating biology article I’ve ever read…

Implications assuming this is true:

  • Turns out if someone feels like they are missing something in their heart, that might be literal! Their heart cells could be missing genes or gene segments!
  • DNA Forensics might have trouble if this is true.
  • Maybe things such as sexual orientation, are induced and/or mediated by genetical/epigenetical effects due to missing/extra chromosomes, genomic mutations, etc.? For example the edge case of people missing chromosome segments in some critical brain cells.
  • Therefore, mental illnesses, such as bipolar or multiple personality disorders, could be caused, or at least influenced, by multiple different genomic groups of brain cells? A mosaic brain? Literally mind-boggling!
  • What if differences in personality between people are influenced by neuronal differences?
  • If a large chunk of the population are substantially mosaic, no wonder new medicines have so many possible and rare side effects!
  • And why traditional medicines might have drastically varying efficacy! i.e. seem to work on some and not on others
  • And consider the implications for obesity, addiction, depression, world view, personality, character, work ethic, pain tolerance, emotional sensitivity, risk tolerance, etc.
  • Could all human characteristics be influenced or mediated by cellular and/or genomic structure and expressions?
  • What does that imply about free will?
  • It would explain why general characteristics seem to be affected by countless genes For example, there is no single height gene. Instead thousands of genes, discovered so far, seem to influence it in some way.
  • It seems very likely that the human condition depends, on some level, to some degree, on random mutations that the human embryo experiences. And on further cell divisions during life.

Edited from original post on facebook April of 2019

Quick Note on Buddhist philosophy and the implications for ‘evil’

I’ve been meditating on the ideas of Buddhist and Stoic philosophy. They’re surprisingly similar! It has lead me to this question… Is evil an illusion?

My thought process:

1. All things are in flux, i.e. no physical entity, that we can perceive, is permanent

2. All observers, as physical entities, including ourselves are impermanent.

3. Therefore there is no unchanging self.

4. Evil requires a frame of reference.

5. All frames of reference vary as all people are changing at all times.

6. There is no universally correct frame of reference.

7. Therefore any ”self”, any person that has or will ever exist will not have a privileged, constant, way of determining evil.

8. Considering 1 through 7 it seems that there is in fact no universal ”evil”. i.e. it’s subjective

9. It follows then evil cannot be “true” like gravity for example. It is always dependent on whoever is doing the observing.

10. Therefore evil doesn’t have an independent existence.

Originally posted on facebook April of 2019