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Everything posted by DocWatts

  1. Unfortunately, until Ranked Choice Voting gets implemented everywhere in the country, voting for third party candidates is effectively a form of Game Denial that cedes political power to a fascistic Republican Party. Keeping democracy from collapsing is what everyone with a conscionable political outlook needs to be laser focused on right now.
  2. Below is a video where an actual scientist addresses this point in this very level headed take on the UAP phenomenon, but the gist of it is that using our own space program as an example, we routinely treat the craft we send to other worlds as essentially disposable (for example no one's going to Mars to pick up the Mars rover). Also, assuming for sake of argument that the UAPs are aliens, it's also possible that they might not care whether or not we stumble across their tech. In the same way that we're not really concerned about animals finding and reverse engineering human tech.
  3. The cumulation of this with the other things that have come out over the past 5-10 years are admittedly compelling, but worth keeping in mind that at the present moment this still an unsubstantiated claim. Plausibilility rather than proof is about the strongest claim anyone can credibility make about any of these being the real deal.
  4. Truth of the matter is that the US is struggling with a number of systemic issues which incentive bad actors to behave in terrible ways, because our political and economic institutions reward such behavior. Antiquated and undemocratic political institutions in the US such as the Senate, Electoral College, and the Supreme Court make it easy for a political minority that's out of step with the rest of the country to have an outsized influence to set the agenda for the rest of the country. Even worse, the intersection of these antiquated institutions with Late Stage Capitalism has resulted in endemic legalized bribery, otherwise known as lobbying. Additionally, profit driven media under Capitalism whose business model relies on emotionally triggering sensationalism is almost tailor made as a radicalization pipeline. Not only has this resulted in the collapse of a shared epistemilogy that's made it impossible to have a productive national discussion, it also gives bad actors plausible deniability as they encourage lone wolfs to commit acts of terroristic political violence While the long term issues that the US faces are indeed a bipartisan failure, it's overwhelmingly the Republican Party that's pouring gas on this fire, as it's become an expert at exploiting these systemic problems in a self serving and destructive way. In particular, here's some of what the Republican Party is doing that can't be said to be true for the Democratic Party: Encouraging political violence through the use of dog whistle rhetoric Widespread voter suppression Rolling back of basic civil and political rights Intentionally stoking unprocessed societal trauma (ie ethnic and religious grievances) as an avenue to wealth and political power Holding the US economy hostage by risking a catastrophic debt default as part of a political stunt Not only not addressing systemic problems like climate change and income inequality, but going out of their way to make these issues worse This asymmetry isn't because the Democratic Party is composed of saints, it's just that their incentives for gaining and maintaining political power is far more aligned with the long term interests of the country than the Republicans.
  5. Thing is about Kant, and also for the other Enlightenment era philosophers, is that relative to thier particular culture and era many of thier ideas were quite insightful and forward thinking (and this is coming from someone who's quite critical of how Enlightenment era philosophy is used by modern people). As a stepping stone to other less partial forms of philosophy, Kant is perfectly adequate. The problem comes in taking Kant's ideas about ethics or metaphysics as the final word on either of these subjects. For the culture that Kant was writing in, his transcendental idealism was an admirable attempt to reconcile the types of epistemologies that he had access to. In that way, Kant was a good philosopher for his era. But someone today thinking that a guy from two and a half centuries ago who never ventured from his hometown was the one to finally 'crack' epistemology and metaphysics is just silly.
  6. Not sure if anyone here has experience writing a non-fiction book, but if so is there something that's a bit more specialized for that purpose than a long MS Word or Google Docs document? In particular, the ability to easily separate the book into chapters and subsections would be helpful, as would the ability to easily format text around images. Something that could work on my Chromebook would be ideal, though I also have windows machine I could use if need be. Thanks!
  7. This is pretty much the crux of it, because an AI being able to set its own goals is outside the scope of systems built on the axioms of deterministic rules (ie the 'Relevance Realization' problem). Intelligence in humans and other animals consists overwhelmingly of improvisational situated coping, which is not rule based.
  8. While chat GPT is very impressive and highly sophisticated AI algorithms have potential to cause massive disruptions to our society, let's be absolutely clear on one thing: we're nowhere close to being able to build an AGI (artificial general intelligence). By AGI I specifically mean intelligence that's able to set its own goals autonomously, and that's able to understand the meaning of what it's manipulating. Anyone who believes that Chat-GPT is on the verge of human level intelligence is just mistaken on this count. The problems and danger comes from AI that is hyper tailored for specific domains (such as targeted advertising) being used in malicious ways or in ways that lead to unintended consequences. While I don't think it would be a bad idea to put a pause on this type of research, the reason for doing so is not because we're on the verge of being able to create a human or superhuman level intelligence. The reason for this is that the type of intelligence that makes humans and other animals so flexible and adaptable works on axiomatic principles that are incompatible with deterministic rule based axioms that digital computers use. As such digital computers have always been a bad metaphor for how minds work. As far as why we are nowhere close to an AGI, I'll grab a post I wrote on another thread, but basically it's a summary of the problems facing AGI as outlined by John Verveake and the philosopher Hubert Dreyfus, both of whom use an understanding of phenomenology and of the embodied aspects of mind to dissect the problem. ________________________________ The gist of it is that Reality is disclosed to human beings in a way that what's relevant about a situation we're absorbed in tends to be immediately apparent without us having to apply rules. The reason that is so is that having a body with needs requires a practical ontology (an understanding of Being) for the purposes of survival, where what Reality *is* on an experiential level is going to be coupled to what kind of creature one is. 'Being' in this context referring to our pre-reflective, nonconceptual understanding of people and objects. Being is the most foundational way we're able to understand a tree as a tree, a human face as a human face. It's what allows what we come across to be meaningful for us, and is pre-supposed by other forms of understanding. It's also what allows us to make our most fundamental type of discernments within an undifferentiated Reality, and to do so effortlessly. When we do step back and refer to rules, it tends to be because our normal ways of skillful coping have become disrupted (such as when you run into a highly novel or unexpected situation) or when one is an absolute beginner in some domain. Digital computers operate on different axiomatic principles than living organisms, and need to use deterministic rules to interact with their environments. The problem with using rules to try to determine what's relevant is that you also end up needing rules to apply the rules, then rules to apply those rules, ad infinitum. This presents an intractable problem for AI because determining which of the innumerable features of one's environment are relevant for a particular purpose comes from a capacity for Care, not from applying rules. Organisms including human beings do not have this problem because our experience of Reality comes pre-structured so that what's relevant for our interests and purposes tends to be immediately obvious. Which is the reason why most of what you accomplish in your day to day life (walking down the stairs, brushing your teeth, recognizing faces, etc) is done almost effortlessly, without relying on any rules. Believing that AI algorithms like chat GPT are on the cusp of AGI is the equivalent of thinking that you're making tangible progress towards reaching the moon because you've managed to climb halfway up a very tall tree. There are intractable problems here due to an incompatibility between the axioms of digital computers and how intelligence in humans (and other animals) works. So I'm not saying that AI isn't a problem worth taking seriously, but it's important to be clear about what sort of problem we're actually facing.
  9. The difference here is the difference between justice (which aims to be restorative) and revenge (which is motivated by resentment, and is a form of devilry). If the story of the hour was that instead of a criminal indictment Trump had come down with a terminal illness, then yeah, there would be nothing just or restorative about that (both saints and sinners get cancer). But someone who's spent a life time taking for granted that he has a free licence to cause real harm to people may finally have to face some actual consequences for his behavior, and that furthermore this is being carried out on the principal that no one is supposed to be above the Law, then yeah, celebrating this small victory is perfectly appropriate. Healing requires justice, and because the rich and powerful so routinely are able to insulate themselves from accountability for bad actions, this has been an area where it's usually taken for granted that justice is not going to be carried out.
  10. Seeing that there's at least an attempt to uphold the Rule of Law for someone who's spent a lifetime using his wealth and influence to shield himself from accountability for crimes that you or I would have certainly gone to prison for is worth celebrating, imho.
  11. A bit of background for this subject: I'm currently in the process of doing research for an eventual philosophy book I'm planning on writing. The book will focus on cultivating Construct awareness, and on a process for examining the emotional attachments we form to the Paradigms we use to navigate Reality. My basic aim is to make these subjects more accessible for a general audience of otherwise educated people who are non-specialists, and who may not have been exposed to any of these ideas in an explicit way. As such, the last year or two of my life has involved copious amounts of reading across a wide variety of epistemological and sociological subjects, which includes taking detailed notes on what I read. It occurred to me that it might be a worthwhile endeavor to share a few of the summaries I've developed for the books I've been reading over the past few years, both as an opportunity to revisit my notes and also as something which might pique someone else's interest enough to pick up the work in question. The first book I'll be providing a summary of is The Embodied Mind by Francisco Varella, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch. The work is a fascinating exploration into the depths of human consciousness that manages to challenge reductionist paradigms in penetrating ways, while developing an alternative paradigm for studying consciousness that honors the rich immediacy of direct experience while being grounded in science. To keep this post at a reasonable length, the summary will necessarily be partial, and only hit up some of the more important points of a very complex and nuanced work. In short this will be part summary part interpretation, of course filtered through my own perspective that's coupled to my interests and purposes. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Summary and Interpretation of The Embodied Mind The Embodied Mind is a scientific and philosophical exploration of mind which attempts to build a bridge between cognitive science and Eastern contemplative practices by articulating the role that our embodiment plays in the ways that our pre-reflective, direct experience is structured. The authors outline an (at the time) newly emerging Enactive Paradigm of mind within cognitive science as a lens to chart a 'middle way' between the extremes of: (1) materialist paradigms which posit that cognition consists of unproblematic representation of a fixed world that consists of pre-defined features (the disembodied mind hypothesis) (2) solipsistic paradigms which posit that the mind 'creates' Reality independent of an intersubjective world In this Enactive paradigm that the authors build a case for, the mind is neither disembodied nor is it independent of the world. Rather, in the Enactive paradigm minds are intrinsically embodied (in a body) and embedded (in an environment), and the mind exists in a reciprocal relationship with both of these elements. Far from being a passive process that 'happens' to a mind, consciousness is recontextualized as a purposeful and participatory activity in which the mind both shapes and is shaped by the Reality that it's embedded in. Which is another way of saying that the fundamental activity of minds is to disclose (or Enact) worlds. That this is so is a necessary result of evolutionary forces which have crafted organisms which are geared for survival, and which need to be able to perceive threats and opportunities in their environments in immediate and pre-experiential ways. What Reality is on an experiential level for a snail and for a human being are very different because the structure of the two organisms is such that they become coupled to their environments in very different ways, necessitating radically different forms of world disclosure to be able to meet their survival needs. What Reality is for a being cannot be understood separately from the bodily structure of that being, from its environment, and from what that being does. The implicit assumption that they are challenging here is that there exists a 'neutral' Reality, which minds form unproblematic representations of. The advantage of this approach is that it enriches the discoveries of an empirical scientific approach with the insights that can be gained from paying close attention to the immediacy and closeness of our direct experience. In this way, the enactive approach to mind can begin to heal the division of mind from the natural world caused by materialist paradigms which have rendered cognitive science without a subject. Furthermore, this paradigm offers a promising avenue to address the meaning crisis within Western culture by providing the voice of authority in our culture, which is to say that of science, with a means to make itself relevant to the rich immediacy of our lived experience. What the Enactive paradigm resists is the notion that the mind is best understood by ever more complex layers of abstraction (which is precisely the approach of both traditional cognitive science and most of Western philosophy). Rather, what the Enactive paradigm proposes is to couple our conceptual models to the mindfulness practices that have been developed over thousands of years by contemplative traditions such as Buddhism. In grappling with the role that philosophy has played in forming our basic conceptions of mind in the West, the authors contrast the Western approach of treating philosophy as a detached and theoretical endeavor with the approach of contemplative practice taken in the East. By developing wisdom traditions which have over thousands of years been able to cultivate rigorous methodologies for interrogating one's direct experience, theory hasn't been something that's been largely divorced from practice, like it's been in the West. In charting the paths that cognitive science has taken since the discipline's establishment in the 1940s and 50s, the authors distinguish their own approach from the earlier Representationalism and Emergence paradigms of first and second generation cognitive science. The guiding metaphor and model for the representationalist paradigm within cognitive science has been the digital computer. According to this paradigm, cognition is understood as syntactic manipulation of symbols which represent features of a pre-existing world. The Emergence paradigm envisions a 'society of mind' in which cognition is an emergent phenomenon of much smaller syntactic manipulation 'machines' working in parallel. The main difference from the representationalist paradigm is that cognition is thought to be a result of a highly distributed rather than a highly centralized set of processes. The problem with both the representationalist and emergence paradigms is that in both model it is unclear what the connection between cognition and consciousness is, and as a results consciousness seem to serve no necessary function and supposedly "isn't good for anything". Which is needless to say a strange position to take for what's inarguable the most central and important aspect of our lives; namely that it feels like something to exist in the world. So in both cases science ends up being disconnected from our direct experience under the accretion of layers of abstraction. Both of these paradigms serve to reenforce untenable notions that the mind is disembodied, and as such that cognitive science can tell us nothing about our direct, lived experience. Interpenetrating these examinations of the relationship between cognition and consciousness is an exploration of how some of the contemplative practices of Eastern wisdom traditions such as Buddhism may offer a bridge for cognitive science to integrate methodologies to examine our direct experience. Most prominently, they point to mindfulness practices which point to the lack of a fixed, permanent (or transcendental) self as an experiential confirmation of some of the findings of cognitive science. What the authors make a point of demonstrating are the inadequacies of seeking an absolute ground in either an 'external world' or in a 'dis-worlded mind', by showing how mind and world exist in a relational way through a form of structural coupling. Which is to say that any hard and fast separation between the two is (an admittedly sometimes useful) layer of abstraction that we impose upon an undivided Reality, born out of a habitual tendency to grasp after an absolute ground to anchor our understanding of Reality to.
  12. Below is an article that goes into more detail about it, but the gist of it is that the WTO along with the IMF uses loans and debt as leverage to pressure developing countries into passing Free Trade economic policies which primarily benefit multinational corporations. Countries like the United States, Japan, and South Korea were able to build advanced economies partly by using protectionist policies to develop domestic industries without having to compete with the rest of the world before they could do so on a relatively even playing field. So this results in a situation where developed countries which used protectionist policies to develop their own industries pressure developing countries into opening up their economies to Free Trade before they have an opportunity to compete on a more even playing field, with developed nations effectively pulling the ladder up after them, so to speak. Additionally, loans and aid that isn't tied to requirements of good governance and democratization effectively serve to enable corrupt/ incompetent leaders hold to on to power, since they can continue to pay off key supporters to the (small) coalition of essentials that keeps them in power.
  13. The problem comes from taking something like cobalt mining in vacuum, and not placing it in a larger context of the trade offs that necessarily take place in the real world. To list just one example I could mention the fact that around 7 million people die premature deaths from air pollution every single year. While we can and should care about the exploitation of people who are living in developing countries, and work to reform (or even completely rework) institutions like the WTO which obstruct the development of poor nations, it's not like fossil fuels operate on a different set of socio-economic principles than cobalt extraction. And that's of course leaving aside the civilization ending climate apocalypse that awaits us if we stick to business as usual.
  14. For it to play a constructive role in the world we live in today religion would more or less need to be completely reconstructed, which would involve a painful process of killing (outdated mythic understandings of) God. Which is to say moving beyond magical beliefs and the absolutization of their claims to Truth. Communities built around shared existential values can be a healthy and constructive thing, it's the how of it which makes the crucial difference.
  15. The context in which the question of "should people under the age of 18 be allowed gender affirming care up to and including surgery" matters a great deal here. And yes there is some nuance to this question. But unfortunately, in %99 of instances this question isn't being asked with any concern whatsoever for the wellbeing of people who are struggling with gender identity issues. In the vast majority of cases it's being used as a dog whistle to dehumanize non-gender conforming individuals as somehow 'impure' or 'unnatural'. This is because conservative moral intuitions include "purity" as a moral foundation, and this isn't as pronounced in more progressively minded folks. So it's no surprise that conservatives tend to react to transgender individuals with a gut level feeling of discomfort and disgust that gets misconstrued in ethical terms. Their limbic system is screaming at them that "this just feels wrong". Individuals don't choose these gut level intuitions, they're a results of a person's physiology and of the cumulation of thier life experiences. Now of course these gut level intuitions can be examined and changed over time, but this involves a lot of emotionally difficult inner work. This sort of thing only becomes a realistic possibility when an individual's survival needs doesn't preclude them from reexamining aspects of their identity. So the path of least resistance then will be to use rationalizations and ethical arguments serve as a sort of Public Relations firm to justify the gut level discomfort that the existence of trans folks triggers in them.
  16. Because Christianity has largely failed to adapt to the needs of people living in complex, pluralistic societies. An SD-Blue '"one right way" religion that constructs a shared identity from simple moral precepts to follow (don't steal, don't murder) may have been sufficient for someone living in a homogeneous agrarian village hundreds of years ago, but offers little in the way of cultivating the kind of wisdom that is needed in the complex, evolving world we happen to be living in today. Indeed, the Christian religion has on the whole spent more of its energy trying to hold back the floodgates of change than it has finding ways to adapt its existential Truths to make them more inclusive and relevant in a scientific, multicultural world. That said there's no reason why Christianity in theory can't take on more nuanced and inclusive forms, but the inertia that comes with institutionalization makes this in practice very difficult. Mining the existential Truths which do exist within Christianity requires the painful process of killing God, that is of looking beyond magical beliefs (ie Jesus being the literal son of God), which is a price not many are going to be willing to pay.
  17. Another one is Absolutizing a particular rule or principle, rather than trying to make good discernments about where a particular principle is situationally appropriate for a given purposive context. Example: treating the concept of cultural relativity as an Absolute, rather than trying to articulate contexts in which relativity is an appropriate principle, and where it may be counter productive for a given goal. In addition to that, failing to adequately account for the partiality of one's perspective is a huge pitfall. Likewise, failing to adequately understand the core assumptions one is using to understand something (most of the time they tend to be so self-evident and invisible we just experience them as "reality"). You'll also want to be able to clearly differentiate questions of epistemology (theory of knowledge, or how we know what we think we know) from questions of ontology (the pre-reflective and pre-linguistic ways that the world is disclosed to us owing to our physiological structure, cultural conditioning, etc). Failing to adequately differentiate these two realms can lead to wasting one's time and effort investigating pseudo-problems that are a result of bad framing. Enlightenment era philosophy is unfortunately full of these pseudo-problems resulting from bad framing of a problem (such as the supposed 'mind-body problem', stemming from the dubious assumption that the mind is fundamentally disembodied).
  18. A good rule of thumb as to whether someone is practicing scientism rather than science is the degree to which they believe that science can serve as a replacement for a more integrative meaning and purpose for their existence. Which is why scientific pseudo -answers to these questions can be correct in the details, yet deeply unsatisfying for how partial they are for what actually matters to human beings. When used responsibly, science is an invaluable tool for making sure that the meta-narratives we weave arent totally out of sync with the intersubjective Reality that we live in (which was the main failing of organized religions that necessitated killing God). But science itself isn't a replacement for satisfying answers to existential questions, and where deconstruction goes, an eventual reconstruction must flow.
  19. Meditation is indeed a powerful tool for cultivating self awareness and emotional intelligence, but the problem is that meditation only serves these important functions after a person's more basic survival needs have been met. No quantity and quality of meditation in the world is going to help someone who's struggling to keep a roof over their head. It's not going to be a fix for that person who spends all day at a demeaning job which grinds down their body and mind to a festering pulp. It's not going to help lonely men build the interpersonal skills they need to construct meaningful relationships. It's also not going to help someone in a marginalized groups who's being oppressed by the society they live in. Now can meditation help make someone more resilient in the face of bad circumstances? Of course. But at the same time it's not a magic bullet that will replace the need to meet a person's basic survival needs, which I'd argue is what the majority of people actually need. As a supplement to support structures to help individuals meet thier survival needs, meditation is great.
  20. If you want a concrete example of the difference between what healthy conservatism looks like in a pluralistic democracy and how that differs from the fascism of the modern Republican Party, consider how much John McCain's behavior differs from how someone like Trump or DeSantis would have acted in this scenario.
  21. Just my two cents, but I would use caution with saying that somebody is yellow or is green, since it locks in a tendency to misuse Spiral Dynamics as a personal development model ala the Enneagram or the Nine Stages of Ego Development. We're more than our respective meta-ideologies, and Spiral Dynamics is much better used as sociological model for thinking about the dialectics behind how value systems come to be embodied in societies. Thus it's much more productive to think in terms of ideologies or social movements as being Green or Yellow, than it is to couple stages to individuals, in my view. Or to put it more concretely, much more precise to say that someone has a Blue or Green understanding of a particular issue or idea, than it is to say that someone like Jordan Peterson is (insert color here). (For what it's worth I've fallen into the trap of misusing Spiral Dynamics in this way as well so I'm no exception to this; something I'm working to be more mindful of).
  22. That's actually a very good point, as "Rights" by their very definition are intersubjectively constructed, and in a country as large and diverse as the United States it's to be expected that different value systems are going to have their own version of what entails a fundamental human right. There's never going to be one definition that's going to be Absolutely valid for all people and contexts, as you correctly point out. That said, even for a country as polarized as the current United States, there are a number of issues of which it can be said that we have reached a working consensus on as a society (or at least as close to one as it's possible to get in a very large and complex society). Whether women and minorities should be able to vote and hold political office is one of the more obvious examples, since anyone who believed otherwise would be well outside of the Overton window, and would have to use dog whistle rhetoric to make their position palatable within the public sphere (and mind you, this is exactly how modern fascism does work). As for abortion, I'd argue that issue sits somewhere on the border of the Overton window, while a majority of people in a place like America do accept that abortion is something which should be protected, it's also fair to say that it's by no means a settled issue in the way that women's suffrage is. The three far Right justices that Trump was able to appoint to the Supreme Court all had to lie that Roe v Wade was in their view 'a settled issue' during their confirmation hearings, which to me is good evidence that abortions rights are within Overton window (though perhaps near the edge). Had this not been the case, they should have been able to be direct about the fact that it was always thier intention to roll back rights that were in thier view illegitimate. The fact that they were only direct and explicit about this only after landing their positions with lifetime appointment is telling. I also share your concerns about progressives conflating typical conservativism with fascism, which is why I do think it's important to be precise when we say that something is 'fascistic'. A good litmus test to distinguish between the two, in addition to the Overton window aspect which I brought up earlier, is the degree to which the person or movement in question is willing overturn democratic norms in order to get their agenda passed (which consequentially, is why I have no problem labeling the MAGA movement as unequivocally fascistic). Wanting to overturn Roe v Wade isn't necessarily fascistic; trying to forcibly drag the country back 100 years by burning democratic institutions to the ground absolutely is. Likewise, using either implicit or explicit rhetoric which advocates for political violence is another very clear indication that you're dealing with fascism rather than conservatism.
  23. Leaving aside whether this statement is true (let's assume for the sake of argument that it is unequivocally true), this brings with it the implicit assumption that a person's level of intelligence is a measure of their worth. The reason that the motivations behind these questions are (rightly) scrutinized is that they are almost always used as post-hoc justifications for self serving intuitions of superiority. Which in practice is a necessary condition for the construction of dominator hierarchies. One doesn't have to be a postmodernist to question the value of asking these types of questions. A sophisticated understanding of Constructs includes the insight that Constructs are bounded by biology, and are adaptive for a survival context rather than something that's arbitrary (something that the postmodernists tend to lose sight of).
  24. No disagreements here. Hell, considering how much value I've gotten from someone like Heidegger, who's both one of the most brilliant philosophers to ever live and also someone who was sympathetic to Nazi ideology, it would be hypocritical of me to suggest otherwise. That said, in my mind the degree to which their area of expertise can be compartmentalized from their bad political takes matters a lot here. Also the question of whether by supporting the person in question you're also supporting thier political causes when you buy their books or watch their content also matters, a question which would be far simpler if Peterson was someone from a bygone era rather than someone who's influencing events in the present day.