The nature of reality and how it informs decisions

August 17th, 2021

So, one of the things I occasionally feel resentment about is my desire to spend large numbers of hours exploring music combined with the recognition that the world almost certainly does not *need* these things (and the odds of me being better than anyone else at creating music are vanishingly small). One thing I have thought about is how my actions would be different if I *knew* the nature of the universe.

In particular, if I knew that I was in a single-person video game style simulation, I wouldn’t be concerned about the needs of the world and just what I could get away with.. I work more than I need to to support myself, partially to help out other people and partially to hone my skills in the hopes that I can participate in either the singularity or the mass automation in such a way as to help increase the general freedom of humanity.

But, I have to go with the assumption the reality that is presented to me is “real” and that the suffering of people is likewise real. On the other paw I am not willing to be completely selfless and give all my energy into things that advantage other people. So I try to balance out time to do the things I want to do (like exploring music and artificial neural networks) with things that the world will pay me to do because presumably it needs them done (system administration and a lot of not very exciting coding, mostly)

Some of the possibilities as to “what’s going on” that have occured to me

*) This whole thing could be a accidental side effect of some other system – our type of life inserts itself into entropy flow – we might even be moving from system to system, tapping different entropy flows, without us being aware of it.

*) This could be the work of a creator or creators. That might *also* be us, or it might be a seperate, distinct entity.

*) This might be a massive multiplayer simulation. In that case, it might be that the plot is driven by our decisions or it might be that the plot is on rails.

Unlike other people I have met I tend to think the people I talk to are not me, so I tend to think whatever we’re in has some sort of networking or multiple participants. I do wish sometimes that I knew what the most efficient choices to make were in order to optimize for reducing the suffering of others, and then could do cost-benefit analysis of the various actions I am taking in order to find some sort of optimized path forward that contains adequate time of me doing the things I want to do for my own reasons vs helping others.

The dangers of certainty

August 12th, 2021

So, in reading “Thinking fast and slow”, I’ve come to think of the human brain as having two modes. One of these modes involves some voodoo that we might call ‘free will’ – it doesn’t execute quickly, but it is easily changeable. The other involves hardcoded, compiled neural interconnects – it’s the reflexes that make you hit the brakes when the car in front of you stops – and, I am coming to suspect, the hard-wiring that makes you insist “Of course Jesus hates gays and would support hurting them in any way possible!” and other equally absurd interpretations of the bible – not to mention “COVID is a hoax and I am free to not wear a mask” even as you read of others who took that stance dying.

I talked in a previous article the idea that because multiple signals pass through the same set of subnets our minds may protect even wrong ideas because they are necessary confluences of signal. I’ve also come to think more and more about the actual physical restrictions of changing the physical wiring – neurotransmitters, proteins, all sorts of actual, limited resources come into play when unlearning something. Therefore, there is a biological reason we might defend wrong ideas.

Now, there’s a couple of directions I’d like to go with this. At some future date I will discuss the tendency of certain Christians to think hate is love – I think I’ve talked about that before but the above does point out why there’s probably not a lot of point in trying to bring to their attention that they are just plain wrong – they’re not going to be capable of learning, their firm belief has translated into neural wiring and they *can’t* unlearn – even if Jesus himself came and told them they were wrong, they wouldn’t be able to accept and integrate that.

This same problem exists in political ideology that is carefully grounded in fiction. We’ve talked about how conservative media (especially Fox) has been lying for a long time – but the adherents to it think that the lies are facts, and have formed hard structures encoding them. Again, they can see over and over the data proving that trickle down economics do not work, and continue to push for it. They can see over and over that automation is taking their jobs, and continue to blame the immigrants.

Part of what I’m trying to wrap my head around is there’s no point in being angry with them. Both groups of people mentioned above are contributing to making the world a worse place, but there’s no way they can stop. They can’t even be aware of the fact that they’ve got deep structures that are counter-factual stored.

Now, there’s a lot of things that I talk about as being ‘unknowable’ – things like our purpose here, what happens after we die, what deities there might be (clearly if there is someone in charge they don’t want us to know that as the amount of work they’ve gone to to maintain plausible deniability is absurd). And I try to avoid having certain beliefs about those unknowables, because I’d rather not know than have absolute faith in something that’s wrong, especially if that absolute faith led me to encourage abuse of others because I thought, in my limited view of the universe, that their choices were “sin”.

I have noticed that over and over people create God in their image – limited and full of hate. One of the things that I’ve mentioned to various Christians trying to convince me that I’m going to hell is that I tend to think I’d be better at imagining God than they would because of my life experience – I’ve built worlds (in games), I’ve coded somewhere near a million lines in a wide variety of languages, I’ve used evolutionary algorithms, I’ve read thousands of books and studied many subjects. Now, I’m not claiming I’m God – far from it – but I think I’d be better able to wrap my head around what a deity might think like than most of the people who claim to know the mind of God because of a bunch of words written by people wandering around in a desert 2000 years ago.

Now, if God would like to change my mind about this, I’m certain *e knows how to reach me. I’m open to other ideas – but you are not going to convince me that the Bible is the word of God (except in the very general sense that if God is infinity, all books are the words of God). You will convince me that the words of Jesus contain wisdom – and the primary message is “Be excellent to each other”. Them who would like to hate on those who sleep with different folk are failing to be excellent to each other, therefore I am clear on the fact they have failed to grok the message of Jesus. Often it’s because they are creating God in their own, hate filled, confused, lost image. But you’ll never convince them of that. Why? See above.

What if there *isn’t* a objective reality?

July 13th, 2021

One of the topics I do occasionally worry about is what if there just isn’t a objective reality? Since we know that our minds are easily powerful enough to generate a experience of reality being created out of whole cloth, this seems possible. It would explain how for some people the Jan 6 USA misadventure was a bunch of tourists on the lawn while for a bunch of other people it was a armed insurrection, for example. It could of course go a lot further than that. It’s a worrisome concept, because it can’t be disproven – but if there isn’t a objective reality I’d really like to reprogram the simulator so that *my* reality is more what I’d like to be doing.

Pride & Conviction, Redux

July 13th, 2021

You all may remember a track from 2016, Pride & Conviction. Me and Tory got together and gave it a new coat of paint and I like the result a lot better – Bunne as usual was consulting audio engineer and probably consulted more than average in ways that helped this be a better track – anyway, here it is:

Pride And Conviction

The old track is here if anyone wants to compare – we can debate later the question about whether both sides of our polarized electorate have kernels of truth or not.

Arthur Stanley Eddington on the 2nd law

June 29th, 2021

“The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the Second Law of Thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.” –Arthur Stanley Eddington

Mania, islanding, and the Shannon limit, and stepped psych med dosing

June 20th, 2021

This is going to be a article about one way mental illness can occur, with some side digressions into how we do not do a very good job of treating this particular way mental illness can occur.

So, those of us who don’t believe there’s some sort of voodoo going on in the human brain understand it to be a very, very large neural network. It has 10^11 neurons, broken up into probably somewhere around 10^8 subnets, and those neurons have both excite and inhibit inputs and are also affected by the chemical soup they live in in a number of ways – including that there is a limit to how many times a neuron can fire before it has to uptake chemicals that permit it to fire because firing uses up resources, that a bunch of neurons firing near each other are all working out of the same resource pool, and that the presence of various other neurotransmitters (and even some more exotic things like moving electromagnetic fields) can affect firing probability.

It is also possible there is additional voodoo going on – I’ve seen arguments that the brain is using relativistic effects, that it is using quantum effects similar to a quantum computer, that it is a lies-to-children simplified version of the actual system brought into Earth to help us understand, that it is actually a large radio receiver for a complex four-dimensional (or more) wave, and other less probable explanations. We can discuss things like how this relates to the soul in another article – this one is based on the idea that yes, it’s real hardware, and yes, it follows real physical laws.

One thing commonly commented about people who are experiencing mania is that they appear “fast”, sped up, and indeed you can observe in some percentage of manic folks a increase in the frequency and amplitude of some of the various “clocks” the brain uses to help synchronize operations (i.e. alpha and beta waves, which themselves are somewhat mysterious insofar as a EEG is only picking up a gross average of millions of neurons and even that is not likely to be too accurate given that the electrical signals have passed through the blood-brain barrier, bone, etc)

Anyway, it seems completely reasonable to think that during periods of mania, signalling is occurring faster. One clear law of nature we’re aware of is referred to as the Shannon limit, and it’s the idea that for any given bandwidth and signal to noise ratio there is a maximum signalling rate that can be successful. Attempts to exceed the Shannon limit (by signalling too fast) result in a breakdown of communication – the exact failure mode depends on the encoding method being used and some other variables.

I am fairly clear that some of the undesirable behaviors and effects of mania are the result of some of the signal pathways involved in connecting the various subnets that make up a person’s decision trees experiencing signalling that exceeds the Shannon limit, thusly resulting in islanding. Side effects here can include loss of generation of memory (and apparent ‘jumps’ in time from the manic person’s POV), extremely poor decision making akin to having inhibitions suppressed by alcohol, and all sorts of interesting delusions. I think all of this is what happens when some of the longer inhibitory circuits stop carrying data, or meaningful data, because they are signalling beyond their Shannon limit and thusly the signal arrives at the other end either hopelessly smeared or of inadequate amplitude to cause the neuron in question to receive the excitory or inhibitory input.

In my case one clear case of islanding that has been repeatedly observed is the presence of multiple personalities. This is not that I have DID but rather that this is what happens when islanding occurs in a neural network – you can think of a natural neural network as somewhat holographic and indeed a number of experiments (too many to document here, but I can write a separate article about this topic if there’s interest) bear this out.

(I should also clarify for those of you who aren’t familiar with operating a electrical grid – “islanding” occurs when individual parts of the system are out of touch with each other – in the case of the AC grid this would be because they’re physically disconnected or too far out of phase with each other to allow a connection to be made – neural networks can display similar behaviors and it’s possible to experiment with this with ANNs simply by progmatically disconnecting bits of them. We’ve had chances to explore a lot of the different ways islanding can behave in a natural neural network because of stroke, head injury, various experiments such as cutting the corpus callosum, and the like )

It is possible that this state is even a evolutionary advantage as having something which causes some members of the tribe to take risks they would not ordinarily take may be how we got to, for example, understanding that lobsters and crabs are edible. There are certainly advantages to taking intelligent risks.

Of course, one problem we have with this is that often people in this state will commit crimes and while they are clearly not guilty by reason of insanity, our legal system loves to punish folks and is ever eager to make more money for the people running private prisons by putting them in jail. (It’s also extremely profitable for the lawyers). I suspect the majority of nonviolent criminals are just unable to manage the imperfect nervous system evolution has given us – survival of the fittest turns out not to be the best fitness function for creating creatures that are well suited to today’s world – and also a number of them are probably victims of abuse from predecessors that also suffered from similar problems.

In the meantime, the solution that I have found – using stepped doses of a psych med stepped according to how fast the system is trying to run in order to prevent revving past the Shannon limit – seems to be frowned upon by western medicine. They prefer the ‘I have a hammer so every problem is a nail’ approach of using a steady state dose no matter where in the cycle the individual being dosed is. The net result of this tends to be that the best medications for depression are hugely inappropriate when not in a depressed state and the best medications for mania are hugely inapprorpiate when not in a manic state – therefore the patient ends up overmedicated and often decides to go off the medication because of the damage to their quality of life the medication is causing.

On the other paw, using a stepped dose – this is far easier when the cycle is predictable as mine is but can probably be done via measuring various metrics if the cycle is unpredictable – I don’t know, I haven’t had a oppertunity to test it – leads to very good results. There is no overmedication during periods that are not either manic or depressive peaks, and in the case of medication that suppresses mania you avoid amplifying depression – and also the drug does not lose control authority because it is not being overused.

(In this article, when I speak of a stepped dose, I mean a dose scaled to the need that steps up as the system tries to run faster and down as it returns to normal. One advantage I have that may or may not work with all people is I can tell how fast I’m running by how long it takes to get to sleep, and can step the dose up until I’m able to get to sleep within a hour of initiating sleep)

I should also mention that even with a stepped dose it is very helpful to have some complex activity to engage in during manic periods in order to keep a load on the engine, as it were. I suspect it helps a lot to have activities that follow hard laws (programming, electronics, etc) in order to avoid drifting too far into mystical/magical/delusional thinking, which is another risk involved with mania.

Another way to look at hell

May 23rd, 2021

Hate is thinking that a deity has created a place of eternal suffering in order to punish you if you don’t guess right amongst the plethora of religions that all appear man-made in a world where there’s a survival incentive to make up religions (if you’re a priest, it puts food on the table) and humans obviously make things up all the time.

Love is thinking that a deity has created a place of eternal suffering so that the masochists will have a utopia too.

My response to Robert Reich’s comment on cryptocurrency

May 20th, 2021

1) I think it’s a good thing to take money – the power to mint it and control it – out of the hands of government. Crypto also offers the possibility of evolving money in two important directions – #1: we can start tracking metadata for each transaction including real world resources and man-hours – ETH already has the vehicle for this, although it would take getting everyone to understand why it was a good idea to get it implemented #2: We can start using separate types of money for renewable and nonrenewable resources. Cryptocurrency helps open people’s eyes to the idea of ‘multiple types of money’ and could also be a vehicle to help facilitate this. Squishing all types of value into one type of money is resulting in us repeatedly doing stupid things.
2) The large use of energy is something that could easily be rectified. If instead of having all participants constantly hashing and scaling the difficulty needed by the total hashrate, we required participants to *occasionally* hash to prove they *could have* (replace the proof of work with a proof of capability of work) and to hash on demand (allowing the network both to get the hashes it needs to make the blockchain go and also allowing the network to challenge suspected cheaters to prove they really can turn over them hashes) we could reduce power exponentially. The huge power usage is because no matter how many participate, the payout per block is the same – and stupid numbers of people have started participating. We can design the network to still do what it does while using a lot less power than it does.
3) Blockchain technology offers us a lot of awesome possibilities, including the possibility of checking vote aggregation ourselves. So far it’s the wild west on the idea of using it for money/value, but the idea is a good one – governments would likely be much better behaved if we took the power of the purse away from them. This is not saying I don’t believe in funding government operations – but right now, my government is murdering massive numbers of people using my tax dollars, and I feel represented by basically Bernie, AOC, and no one else. Cryptocurrencies offer us the possibility of taking some power away from governments and I think that is a good thing
4) Some cryptocurrencies also use very little power while empowering a new way of building a communications network – I gesture you to Helium.
5) All that said – the future of cryptocurrencies as a vehicle for value is extremely unclear. No one should invest any money in them they can not afford to lose. It is also not at all clear what future cryptocurrencies based on a proof of work that uses hashing have post the advent of large quantum computers.
6) Most of the time I agree with you, but on this one I think you’re probably under informed and acting as a shill for people in power that are frightened – though whether that’s because they *don’t* understand blockchain or whether it’s because they do, I don’t know.

“Liberal bias on campus”

May 14th, 2021

Apparently republicans are complaining about the “liberal bias on campus”. I believe this – because conservatives are generally interested in implementing things that are false-to-fact. Actual education on the data does not support the conservative agenda nor the conservative ideals. But this isn’t a flaw in America’s colleges – rather, it’s a flaw in what has become conservativism in America. Now, mind you, I was never a fan of conservative thought. I’ve never thought the past was better than the future except perhaps in some very specific instances like windows 7 and the motorola photon 4Q – I definitely recognize that things like Obamacare are a huge leap forward and that a concentrated effort on awareness of the least of us is in fact leading us down a path that’s likely to end with a lot more equality and justice for all, even if it might be a little uncomfortable on the way.

So, I was never a fan of “let’s stay where we are” or “let’s go backwards” or “let’s have a small government that doesn’t protect us from the privitations of big moneyed individuals” even before American conservatism became “let’s do everything we can to enslave the little guy so Betsy Devoss can get her third yacht” and “let’s cheer on the KKK and tell the cops good job shooting those innocents, please shoot some more”

But now that American conservatism is “Go ahead, punch him, I’ll pay your legal bills” – not to mention failing to pay bills (a common Trump thing) – not to mention ignoring science (I don’t know which I find more pathetic, the antivaxers and antimaskers or the people who want to pretend global warming isn’t real) not to mention ignoring common sense (Let’s destroy the most valuable liquid on the planet – water – in order to get a little bit of energy in a system where the *sky is raining soup*) not to mention ignoring hard data (we could talk about the laffer curve, or we could talk about abstinence only education)

Basically, the phrase that comes to mind when describing conservative goals at this point is ‘just plain dumb’. They of course support this with a cavalcade of lies, and most of the purpose of the conservative party is to make sure that at all costs, the pigs stay more equal.

My point is, colleges have a liberal bias not because they have a political agenda, but because they are teaching the facts, and the facts do not support American conservatives.

Badly needed improvement to US medical system

May 13th, 2021

One thing the US medical system badly needs is a set of rules similar to the ones mechanics operate under.

1) They should be required to provide a quote beforehand. Recently a doctor ordered some unnecessary imaging for me and the imaging lab could not even tell me how much it would cost.
2) They should not get paid if a reasonable person would conclude they did not solve the problem. This would require a little bit of special-case handling because of course you have hypochondriacs who would never believe they had been cured, but I am sure we could come up with a way (maybe a independent panel of reviewers) to implement it. For long term treatments money could go into a escrow account until the patient concludes the work was successful.

As it currently stands, they have NO reason to behave themselves. They can charge anything they want, they never have to get any results, and because of protectionism for health insurance companies you can’t even change providers if you don’t like the results you’re getting unless you want to wait for the next enrollment period. Being a doctor is a license to steal – and also my ongoing experience with them suggests they all think they know my body better than I do and they often do not bother to even listen to me.

From my POV, health care in the USA is the worst in the industrialized world – and the people who run the system have no shame and are making no real attempt to improve it.