Although alpha itself is simple enough at the molecular level, the derivation is complicated, its exposition has been spaced out over several posts and, alas, several months, and a summary is in order. Besides, the girlfriend wants one. Now 100% formula-free!

In Part 1: Starting From Zero
The history of philosophy, ethics in particular, was reviewed and found wanting. It continues to stink of vitalism and anthropocentrism, despite the fact that the idea of a “vital force” was thoroughly discredited by the 1850s. No ethics to date has managed to improve on moral intuition, or explain it either.

What fun is a game with no rules? There must be some common structure to all living systems, not just human beings, and based on its track record, it is science that will likely discover it.

In Part 2: Rules — The Laws of Thermodynamics
We sought rules that are precise and objective without indulging dogmatism. The laws of thermodynamics are the most general we know. They are independent of any hypothesis concerning the microscopic nature of matter, and they appear to hold everywhere, even in black holes. (Stephen Hawking lost a bet on this.) Thus they seemed a good place to start. We postulated a cube floating through space and called it Eustace, in an ill-advised fit of whimsy. A little algebraic manipulation of the Gibbs-Boltzmann formulation of the Second Law produced a strange number we called alpha, which turns out to be the measure of sustainability for any Eustace, living or dead, on Earth or in a galaxy far, far away.

In Part 3: Scoring — The Alpha Casino
We laid out a scoring system for Eustace built entirely on mathematics using alpha, a dimensionless, measurable quantity. Alpha measures the consequences of energy flux. All is number. Along the way we explained, via Bernoulli trials, how complexity emerges from the ooze. The dramatic effects of probability biases of a percent or less are dwarfed by the even more dramatic biases afforded by catalysts and enzymes that often operate in the 10E8 to 10E20 range.

In Part 4: Challenges — Gaussian and Poisson Randomness
We introduced two general (but not exhaustive) classes of random processes. Gaussian (continuous) randomness can be dealt with by a non-anticipating strategy of continuous adjustment. Relatively primitive devices like thermostats manage this quite nicely. Poisson (discontinuous) randomness is a fiercer beast. It can, at best, only be estimated via thresholds. Every Eustace, to sustain itself, must constantly reconfigure in light of the available information, or filtration. We introduced the term alpha model to describe this process.

In Part 5: Strategy — Strong and Weak Solutions
Increasingly complex organisms have evolved autonomous systems that mediate blood pressure and pH while developing threshold-based systems that effectively adapt filtrations to mediate punctuated processes like, say, predators. We introduced strong and weak solutions and explained the role of each. Weak solutions do not offer specific actionable paths but they do cull our possible choices. Strong solutions are actionable paths but a strong solution that is not adapted to the available filtration will likely be sub-optimal. Successful strong solutions can cut both ways. Paths that served us well in the past, if not continuously adapted, can grow confining. An extreme example, in human terms, is dogmatism. Alpha models must adapt to changing filtrations. Each generation must question the beliefs, traditions, and fashions of the generations that preceded it.

In Part 6: The Meaning of Life
We finally arrived at the universal maximization function. We introduced the concept of alpha*, or estimated alpha, and epsilon, the difference between estimated and actual alpha. Behavior and ethics are defined by alpha* and alpha, respectively. All living things maximize alpha*, and all living things succeed insofar as alpha* approximates alpha. From here we abstract the three characteristics of all living things. They can generate alpha (alphatropic). They can recognize and respond to alpha (alphaphilic). And they can calibrate responses to alpha to minimize epsilon (alphametric).

That’s it. An ethics, built up from thermodynamics and mathematics, in 700 words. The entire derivation from premise to conclusion was presented. Can anyone find fault with the sums?

(Update: Jesus von Einstein comments.)

Aaron Haspel | Posted December 7, 2004 @ 11:50 AM | Alpha Theory

203 Responses to “Alpha Primer”

  1. 1 1. Bill Kaplan

    Examples, Aaron, Examples

    Aaron, since you have proposed thermodynamics as alternative to traditional ethical theory, let us look at a situation universally recognized as either good or bad traditionally and see what your new analysis says about it. Lets make sure that the thermodynamic angle is easily understood. Being an optimist I think we should look at something good, so I propose this example:

    Dolly Ricaso, an artist beloved the world over for her painting belonging to no style but her own, experiences a strange feeling in her eye. She immediately calls Eyeman al-Lazere, a top-of-the-heap Park Avenue ophthalmologist who sees her at once. It is a detached retina, he says. Eyeman picks up his laser, and quickly and efficiently saves the eyesight of Dolly, permitting her to continue her much loved vocation.

    Now there is little doubt that this is a good result. The skilled healer helping the worthy patient is the stuff of dreams. Jewish mothers want their sons to be that doctor and Bohemians see their kids as the artist. No one has any qualms at all about such a scenario except, maybe, alpha.

    You see alpha is a quantity of an arbitrarily defined system. So lets look at the systems. First, look at Dollys eyeball. Has alpha increased after surgery? What about Dolly, before and after? What is the doctors relationship with alpha? Are the doctor and Dolly one system, two or many? What if you start looking at the cost of the energy in the laser, which relies on a very useful pyramid of energy waste (20 kilowatts on the sharp end of the laser starts as energy equal to 6,600 kilowatt hours of fossil fuel) how does that effect alpha?

    I think you will find, as you expand the notion of system, that alpha gets closer to 1.

    In fact, as parts of the cosmic microwave background coalesce, certain parts of the universe, WHICH IS NOT LIFE, will have an alpha greater than 1.

    More to come. Watch for me in the owners box at the Redskins game this Sunday.


  2. 2 2. Francois Tremblay

    The problem with your er… pseudo-science… is that ethics cannot be found by thermodynamics or any other single law of physics. Facts from all kind of sciences and disciplines have to be understood in order to make meaningful statements about a given context.

    And I think this blog is definitely not for me anymore… the author is really deviating from reason and going into hubris.


  3. 3 3. Bourbaki

    Sigh. And we were amped for an application of set theory. Mr. Kaplan’s adorable glee over the Google interview question hinted at some potential. But this is not set theory. This "challenge" is riddled with linear fallacies. The editorializing and extraneous details are enjoyable but knocking down a theory requires something more than an inability to apply it correctly.

    And alpha doesn’t prohibit the good doctor from doing his work.

    But these counterclaims share the same tiresome approach of misapplying the tools, predicting erroneous results and using those results as evidence.

    If it is not yet clear where and how to draw the volume for Eustace, no worries. That’s a criticism of the users guide and Mr. Haspel can only pour so much into each post.

    (Cue sweeping music)

    Mr. Tremblay issues charges of "pseudo-science" that again seem to be rooted in an inability to see immediate cash value. That’s completely understandable. I, too, would like to return to the high quality service at the cafe. Unfortunately, "quick and easy" wasn’t on the menu. But his vague, unsubstantiated counterclaims seem more reactionary and emotional than insightful. It’s "hubris". How?

    If it’s hard and confusing, well that’s not so great and it must be sketched out further.

    It’s an openly derived theory rather than a guarded emotional crutch. If there is a way to skewer and dice it’s foundations, that’s great. But that’s how one separates a bad theory from one that has value. Either it progresses or we knock it down–properly.


  4. 4 4. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    The mansion of alpha theory, which was born practically overnight, must be demolished doorjam by doorjam by its creator. That (1) he has not defined the set to which it applies, (2) that as the set gets larger, the closer to 1 you get (maybe even assymptotically) and (3) that even inanimate systems can be defined as life under alpha theory’s rules will start Aaron off. He is nothing if not an honest referee of argument, and he will soon see the weaknesses of his argument. Unlike Wolfrum, he will snap out of it.


  5. 5 5. Bourbaki

    CMB? What do the arrangements of microwaves and universal anisotropy have to do with this? Our esteemed physics colleagues are studying istropy versus anisotropy.

    Application or use cases of this stuff should and will be properly treated in its own post. To indulge Mr. Kaplan’s short attention span dilettantism, let’s restate the equation so it appears directly in front of us. We’ll take it slow.

    a_c is some number greater than 1. But the actual value of a_c is not available without experiment. Remember the emprical bit? The graph for various complex systems might be smooth or punctuated by inflections. But, again, to actually calulate the number would require work.

    max E([a - a_c]@t F@t-1)

    Now poor Dolly is injured. But the good doctor can help her out by repairing her injury. He’s going to use a laser and some electricity.

    Now which parts of this system are above a_c?

    Dolly? Yes.
    Doctor? Yes.

    Two "alpha agents" composed of a collection of highly coordinated cells that are in turn composed of a highly coordinated collection of organelles and so on. You are free to draw the boundaries anywhere you like but it’s probably best to adjust these boundaries until the system of interest is in focus.

    If there is evidence of thermodynamically transformative interactions with other systems above a_c, let’s throw ‘em into the model.

    These agents can interact and in one scenario the doctor can repair Dolly’s injuries.

    Now which parts of this system are above a_c?
    Laser? No.
    Electricity? No.

    But these tools can be directed towards repairing an alpha agent.

    So the good doctor can direct free energy to do work to repair Dolly’s injury. That sounds like it will maximize the expected value of alpha to me.

    Be careful–this is not utilitarianism. That non-linear thing is a bitch. But the explanation is for a later post.

    If Mr. Kaplan can promise to throw in goodies like Malliavin Calculus or Lie Groups in the meantime–even if it’s in superficial name only, all the better.

    The lesson so far? Why walk through a door when you can use your head as a blunt club to smash it?


  6. 6 6. Bill Kaplan

    "I merely pointed out that living organisms are Eustaces that have developed sufficient complexity to exhibit certain characteristics, and I told you what those characteristics are. Living organisms are the tail of the distribution, that’s all.

    The answer to your question, of course, is no. Alpha is calculated for the entire system, not merely the boundaries that end at my skin, and the inputs always have to be considered. If I kill people for food I’m engaging in behavior that, in the context of the entire system, is radically alphadystropic, no matter what it does for my own diet."

    The above quote is from an email Aaron sent to me. So it seems, Bourbaki, you have misinterpreted alpha theory as applying only to alpha agents.

    Thus Aaron’s position does not have the weakness that so much of ethics and political philosophy maintains of being applicable only to humans. Personally, I think man is the measure of all things, but if you want to count the furry beasts and insects, that is your perogative. Peter Singer sure does.

    The point however is this, philosophy is largely an exercise in defining the set that counts. For Rand, the set is the individual human. For the average Republican, the family, for the american liberal, the individual in sexual matters and the state in everything else, for the "communitarian", the community and for Marx it is the proletariat. If you are Chomsky it is every bad thing America has done at home and abroad, and if you are D’Sousa it is every good thing. If you are engaging in philosophy-by-proxy then you must also define the relevant set. Aaron’s set is world-wide thermodynamics. A bit too abstract for my tastes, but what of it?

    For me the relevant universes are the owner’s box at Fedex Field and coal mining in inner Mongolia.


  7. 7 7. Bourbaki

    The above quote is from an email Aaron sent to me. So it seems, Bourbaki, you have misinterpreted alpha theory as applying only to alpha agents.

    What’s next? A note from his mother?
    An empirical theory does require measurement and a_c systems can exist outside one’s body.

    No doubt it’s hard stuff but you seem eager to dismiss the theory by demonstrating your inability to arbitrarily apply it. If there is a flaw in the underlying reasoning, point it out and explain why. If there is a flaw in the equations or how they are calculated, they can be corrected. The bad news is that alpha theory probably won’t work in dramatic novel form and might not produce any zippy quotes for the wire services and cafes.

    The point however is this, philosophy is largely an exercise in defining the set that counts.

    It doesn’t appear that way based on your laundry list. There is very little definition at all and more assertion of very general and poorly justified dogma and ideology.

    Again, misunderstanding or misapplying a theory is hardly a strike against it. Simply look at the utility function as it was derived and appears in Part 6. The set that counts is not a choice although it may be limited by available information. Inclusion is clearly based on measurable evidence.

    Alpha, itself, can be calculated for any dynamic process. However, the derivation of the whole theory is a series of steps that culminates in a function. Alpha is the measurable quantity used in the maximization function.

    A bit too abstract for my tastes, but what of it?

    Really? You admitted to not understanding Tomonaga despite studying QED. And what of Bell’s EPR paper? And cosmic microwave background? That sounds pretty abstract. But I suspect the difference was that you were using them as ornaments.


  8. 8 8. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    I suspect you were using the sorting question you gave me as some sort of ornament. Well, I answered it, but you have not answered mine even after I showed you a simple method. The purpose of a math question is either to answer it or to show that no answer is possible. You have done neither, so cut the attitude.

    As for the question about the set that counts, please remember that this was one of the primary discussions between Einstein and Bohr when discussing the Copenhagen interpretation. Einstein would subject every interpretation to general relativity theory and the sparring between these two giants helped sharpen the arguments of each. It is the central question of any grand theory.


  9. 9 9. CT

    [Kaplan quote] "The point however is this, philosophy is largely an exercise in defining the set that counts. For Rand, the set is the individual human. For the average Republican, the family, for the american liberal, the individual in sexual matters and the state in everything else, for the "communitarian", the community and for Marx it is the proletariat. If you are Chomsky it is every bad thing America has done at home and abroad, and if you are D’Sousa it is every good thing. If you are engaging in philosophy-by-proxy then you must also define the relevant set. Aaron’s set is world-wide thermodynamics. A bit too abstract for my tastes, but what of it?
    If you are engaging in philosophy-by-proxy then you must also define the relevant set. Aaron’s set is world-wide thermodynamics. A bit too abstract for my tastes, but what of it?" [Kaplan endquote]

    The relevant set is clear and unambigous. You crudely claim that Aaron’s "set" is the whole of thermodynamics, and awkward construction and misuse of the term, "set," aside, the objection you offer to this is..it is too abstract? I suppose it is more abstract than a personal giant invisble man who lives in the clouds and personally guides you through life’s moral thickets, but we pay this price in order to arrive at objectivity. Oh well, good bye invisible man.

    Or think of it this way, the relevant set is the system under consideration. Any system measurable by the metrics used to arrive at alpha (or an alpha star) measurement is liable for consideration. Yes that then includes any and all things that are prone to the laws of thermodynamics and yes that’s everything including humans.

    From this alpha number we can see objective measures of fit and less fit, or sick and well or…whatever terms you prefer steering clear of the loaded ones as per Aaron’s request. From this we can certainly arrive at prescribable actions assuming we favor fitness and life to sloth and death. In other words we can derive a universal ethic applicable to all people in all times and spaces. Universal, objective prescription. Pretty neat for an ethical system don’t you agree? Or do you not wish your ethics to be prescripitve beyond our own skin and you would perhaps prefer the hodge-podge ad-hoc relativism that is so the favor of many today?

    That this new system then might lead to uncomfortable results for you and your own ethical system (yes it may turn out we have to consider the furry beasts and insects) is predictable and your resistance understandable, but can you offer a counter argument to alpha or do you have a proposition that you can demonstrate with as much transparency and rigor or do you have a problem with the conclusion’s *derivation*? Short of these three things, I am afraid your position winds up as nothing more than: I don’t like that answer. That may be, and I suspect that there are prescripitions that would fall out of an alpha based ethic that many may not like. Fine by me, so long as you can prove why they are not the right conclusions with transparency and rigor.

    [Kaplan quote] "I suspect you were using the sorting question you gave me as some sort of ornament. Well, I answered it, but you have not answered mine even after I showed you a simple method." [Kaplan endquote]

    I am sorry for being obtuse Mr. Kaplan but was your question? I see a lot of assertion and rhetoric, but I missed the actual question. Are you asking if it is true or not that the "set" (using your very loose meaning of the term) to which alpha is applicable is the set of all things subject to thermodynamics? You seem to have the answer to this one already, you simply do not like the answer, tho you are equally loathe to offer either a counterargument that is as transparent and as rigorous as alpha or point out with any explicitness where the derivation of alpha has gone wrong. Indeed the sum of your coutnerargument really does seem to be that you do not like the conclusion.

    Or perhaps you misunderstand alpha because I cannot for the life of me see what would be inherently objectionable to a *true* empirically confirmable, objective, transparently derived ethic.


  10. 10 10. Bill Kaplan

    CT,

    "Find the first 11-digit prime number occurring in consecutive digits of the mathematical constant ‘e’" This is the question I had put to Bourbaki after I found it for ten digits. I merely found it, I didn’t solve it, as there is no reason to derive either primes or ‘e’.

    Do I have an objection to an objective, transparently derived ethic? Not at all. In fact, it would be lovely. When you find one, please tell me. This is not it.

    What is alpha-theory’s answer to such important ethical questions as:

    Genital mutilation, wrong, or a way to keep your daughter in line?

    Should gays be allowed in the military?

    Who should be thrown from the lifeboat? How on earth will alpha theory answer that? What inputs would you use?

    A man kills his father. It might be for inheritance or it might be to end his suffering from a disease. What if he does it for the inheritance but happens to put him out of his misery? Does alpha theory even deal with intention, which most of us mere mortals think is the nub of ethics?

    Alpha theory as an ethics substitute is nonsense on stilts. It is the use of equations for the purpose of evading thought.

    And for those of you who think alpha theory is cool because mathematics is hard, I reply with another von Neumannism: If you think mathematics is hard, then you have no idea how hard life really is.


  11. 11 11. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    So "defining the system" is tripping you up? It’s the how rather than the what? In other words, it is again the potential difficulty in the application rather than the derivation and underlying principles?

    When an application is presented, you are free to raise an objection or present some evidence stronger than a quote to prove that the applicaiton is impossible.


  12. 12 12. Matt McIntosh

    "Does alpha theory even deal with intention, which most of us mere mortals think is the nub of ethics?"

    No it isn’t. If you’re a consequentialist like me, intentions are barely relevent (or not at all) in most cases. Though I don’t see why alpha wouldn’t be able to deal with intentions in theory, since those are established by neuronal activity in our brains, which is equally subject to the laws of thermodynamics as the rest of us.


  13. 13 13. Greg Hlatky

    This series brought back grim memories of wrestling with statistical thermodynamics.


  14. 14 14. Jim Valliant

    Mr. McIntosh,

    False alternative alert!

    I share your position that behavior is to be (ethically) judged (ultimately) by its effects, but "intentions" are the preamble to actions. My beliefs influence my conduct, believe it or not. People develop habits, values, perspectives, emotions, motives, all inside their skulls. This "inner" life dramatically influences human behavior. Some folks will join religious orders and become hermits based on such inner motives. Intentions matter precisely because the consequences are what counts.


  15. 15 15. Bourbaki

    It is the use of equations for the purpose of evading thought.

    Right. I see "hard thinking" means quoting smart dudes. All progress ends with their final assessment.

    As for the question about the set that counts, please remember that this was one of the primary discussions between Einstein and Bohr when discussing the Copenhagen interpretation.

    Again, Mr. Kaplan, please remind us. I fear you have no idea what you are saying. Please demonstrate how this is a fly in the ointment.

    And for those of you who think alpha theory is cool because mathematics is hard, I reply with another von Neumannism: If you think mathematics is hard, then you have no idea how hard life really is.

    No kidding. John Von Neumann was the bomb. Just consider the life of a simple cell in the immune system and how clever it must be in the face of almost incomprehensible uncertainty.

    Another brilliant guy, Susumu Tonegawa, won the Nobel Prize in 1987 for elucidating one of the long standing mysteries in immunology. Antibody-producing cells possess the ability to find an effective response to invasion by foreign substances. However, the variety of non-self materials that can invade the body is potentially infinite; the nature of the invasion is highly unpredictable.

    How can elements of the genetic code that have been selected on the basis of predictable scenarios provide appropriate responses for an infinite diversity of challenges? Tonegawa showed that some of the cells of the immune system that are subjected to these stresses–like the invasion by nonself molecules during a microbial infection–were capable of setting in motion an active diversification process of their genomic expression.

    The process involves the excision of gene segments followed by recombinations through alternative splicing of the excised segments. Certain parts may also be suppressed, inverted, or modified before they are re-inserted into the gene. In fact, all these reaction result in the production of new genes.

    These changes, however, do not take place at random. They concern only specifically located segments in the genes called variable or hypervariable regions. In the variable domains, recombinations and restructuring do not occur randomly but follow precise rules (for example, the excision or splicing occurs only at specific base sequences).

    This body of rules determines the strategies for actively exploring diversity. When implemented simultaneously by millions of cells, this strategy is remarkably innovative; it has a reasonable probability of culminating in creating an effective parry to the invader.

    The first cell to find the right defense is so informed when a connection is established betwen the foreign antigen and the its newly created antibody. It is immediately selected from among the others which then give up their search. The up-regulation of appropriate cells ensues, setting up the best possible barrier against the aggressor.

    This directed mutation is hereditary for only a single cell type; it is a somatic mutation that will not be inscribed in the genome of other tissues and will not be transmitted to offspring.

    My beliefs influence my conduct, believe it or not.

    Mr. McIntosh is correct.

    The motive matter only insofar as it offers insight into the potential of future alphadystropic consequences.

    There’s a long way to go before we get to higher level stuff but I think we’re on the right path. As a very preliminary exercise, based on what has been presented in Part 1 – 6, try substituting alphatropic and alphadystropic for right/wrong or good/bad or moral/immoral in your examples.

    Then consider that alpha is a physically derived quantity.


  16. 16 16. CT

    Mr. Kaplan:

    My apologies. That is a raised question that has yet to be answered. I mistook earnestness for sarcasm as I thought the point of that post was the question itself, not the answer, which is purely academic.

    "It is the use of equations for the purpose of evading thought."

    I am befuddled by this statement. Could you please explain a bit what you mean here and how the above derived alpha theory "evades thought". Had you been paying attention you may have noticed that the theory itself *advocates* thought – it is an alphatropic event(s). But as you see it differently, could you be more specific in how one uses a tool to express thoughts (with discipline and transparency) to evade thinking? I don’t get it.

    Finally, just so I am clear: we all now agree on the principles upon alpha theory stands and we all agree that there has been no slight of hand and no one has a problem with either the equation or with the derived conclusion – bearing in mind to address only that which has to date been concluded? If so then the objections that remain are those of impementation and application – certainly important questions and ones that I gather are to be answered in the very near future. But before we proceed to them, I want to be sure we are all agreeing on the terms of the argument itself. As far as the posts on gotm are concerned all are willing to stipluate the argument, and are ready to debate the interpretation/consequences of the argument.


  17. 17 17. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    Are you saying that intentions have no relation to actions? Are you saying that my mental states are epiphenomena disconnected to my behavior, or what? Taking the real effort to learn about alpha cannot alter what I do? Intentions never affect conduct? Or, WHAT?


  18. 18 18. Jim Valliant

    What I think has no bearing on what I do? Of course, this is another good instance of reductionism. It’s a load of bull.


  19. 19 19. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    Thank you for the intro to Tonegawa’s work. I was unaware of it, and his conclusions are fascinating.

    CT and Bourbaki,

    You guys seem perplexed by the the notion that equations can distance someone from thought. Let me give you a perfect example from economic lore. Robert Merton and Myron Scholes, Nobel laureates in economics, were founders along with Robert Merriweather and others of Long-Term Capital Management, a profit machine until an unfortunate Poisson event–or so all the commentators say. LTCM was a complex money making enterprise, but at its heart it was an engine to arbitrage price disparities between similar securities, commodities and derivatives. For doing this, it had lots of complex formulas running on numerous computers executing trades at lightening speed.

    When there was a disturbance in the Asian capital markets, flight capital came to rest on the rock of all securities, the US 30 year bond. Because so much capital landed on the 30 year bond its price declined relative to its brother, the 29 year bond. So naturally, LTCM bought the 29 year bond and sold the 30 year. It did this with bonds, bond futures,and every synthetic that duplicated the performance of those two securities. The premise for these trades is sound–over time people will act rationally so they will do what LTCM is already doing, thus raising the price of the 29 year bond, lowering the price of the 30 and making LTCM a boatload of profits. Except–it didn’t happen.

    You see no one with any money ever, ever, calls his broker and says, "Buy me the 29 year bond." It just doesn’t happen because people looking for long term safety always ask for the longest available term. Once locked into the position, if there is continuing panic, even more people buy the 30 year bond and they not only have the bond’s cash flow, but also an appreciating asset. Anyone with a background on the floor of any exchange could have seen this, but the computations of formula could not.


  20. 20 20. Matt McIntosh

    Jim,

    "I share your position that behavior is to be (ethically) judged (ultimately) by its effects, but "intentions" are the preamble to actions."

    It’s a little more complicated than that, actually. We perform unintended actions all the time — when I’m uncomfortable, I tend to fiddle with things without realizing I’m doing it. Some people uncontrollable facial tics, breathing and blinking is automatic, even walking happens automatically once you’ve decided where you want to move (can you imagine what a pain it would be to have to concentrate on moving our legs properly with every step?). And not even all macro-scale actions like going to visit your parents require intention — some people do such things while sleepwalking. So it would be more accurate to say that intentions are the precursor to some large-scale actions.

    And on the other hand, as any good economist would tell you, even in cases where our actions are intended, they often have unforseen and unintended consequences. When I choose to open up a widget-shop, I don’t intend to marginally lower the market price of widgets, but it would often have that effect.

    So while intentions sometimes are important because they can lead to behaviours, this is nowhere near being always true. As Bourbaki said, they are only important insofar as they allow us to better predict consequences.


  21. 21 21. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    I suspect you are not reading much if any of the actual posts. That’s probably why we’re generating so much heat and you are throwing everything including the kitchen sink to see if something sticks–not unlike our little immunological cell!

    Mr. Kaplan, do you realize that you’re using part the alpha derivation itself as an example? LTCM has been mentioned several times already by Mr. Haspel–remember non-anticipating strategies for Gaussian processes? Remember how our Nobel buddies won prizes for it but had to do a lot of hand waving about that evil Poisson? The book Mr. Haspel mentioned is not bad but there is a lot more dirty laundry in that pile.

    I might even know a little about the inner workings of LTCM and HJM (Heath-Jarrow-Morton), and BGM (Brace-Gatarek-Musiela) and all the other crazy animals in that zoo. But only a little.

    You might want to look into how balance sheets were being used at the time: swaps, x-currency forwards, bond haircuts, and leveraged financing before your repeat your sanitized anecdote at a cocktail party. It had a lot more to do with being able to bet with the house’s money than it ever had to do with models. In fact, the big shots didn’t even write the models–they were too busy taking free money to actually work for it.

    And you’re right about hard math problems. They are hard.

    I have enough trouble calculating a tip. But I don’t think that is "proof" that calculating a tip is "impossible".


  22. 22 22. MeTooThen

    If the equations suggest that all systems must optimize alpha (or alpha-star) in order to be successful, what does consciousness have to do with the derivation of the formula?

    The genesis and maintenance of consciousness is important, even interesting, but is besides the point.

    Admittedly, I don’t know enough math to argue up-or-down the formula’s derivation (I can’t quite understand ordinality and cardinality).

    The resistance expressed above to the concept of an alpha-driven system of ethics is just that, resistance.

    And yes, it is difficult to put into practice such a formulation, given the uncertainties, or unknown unknowns of motivations of human behavior.

    The alpha-theory, as I understand it, allows for individuals to make wrong or bad decisions. In fact, there does not seem to be any pressure exerted by the formulation for individuals to do good.

    This may be the real disconsolation of philosophy.


  23. 23 23. Jim Valliant

    The involuntary actions of which you speak are immune from moral judgment. Only actions which are chosen can be ethically evaluated. Our criminal laws recognize this simple fact.

    By increasing our knowledge, we can "do something" about the metaphysically given or the previously unintended, but then, and only then, does this become a moral issue.

    Moral "character" is for real. It matters because it affects behavior. The effect of that behavior is the source of our evaluation, but the evaluator MUST account for whether the moral actor could have "known better," in common parlance.

    Eustaces that are ants or molecules are NOT ethical agents. We cannot give them moral advice of any kind. The alpha theory can do them no good whatever. It is our ability to consciously know, and to allow this knowledge to affect our behavior, that makes us moral beings, i.e., our intentions. No intent, no ethics–that simple.

    The moral actor’s context of knowledge is a critical factor to any moral evauation of that actor’s behavior.

    Indeed, no volition, no ethics. Only actions which are chosen can be positively or negatively evaluated. You can say, "Gee, those ants would do better if they utilized reinforced concrete for their constructions; what a shame that they do not." Such advice, of course, would be senseless. But not to a human being. We humans can be criticized thus. Why? We can do otherwise–because we can think, plan, apply our thinking to the problem or not.

    It is our mode of consciousness that makes us moral beings; it is the stuff going on on the inside that matters to evaluation–for human beings, that is.


  24. 24 24. MeTooThen

    Here,

    If a man kills his father, then flux is lost upon the father’s death. Alpha-star is not maximized.

    If the killing was done to ease an old man’s pain, or to steal his money, or occurs via a freak accident, we don’t know if these circumstances change the alpha-star of the killer. They must, but how to measure that flux is another issue.

    Am I correct here?

    The system of optimization of alpha does not tell us how to measure these fluxes, only that they occur, and that the Universe demands opitmization for success.

    Is this on?

    Testing, One, Two, Testing.

    Aaron, Bourbaki, Jim, help me out.


  25. 25 25. Matt McIntosh

    Jim,

    Yes we are much cleverer than ants, and ants cannot fathom alpha theory like we can, nor even be conscious of their actions in the way we are. No kidding. But alpha applies to them whether they realize it or not, and thus for humans as well. The fact that we’re better-equipped to play the game because we understand how it works doesn’t mean we’re the only ones playing it. Birds are subject to the same laws of motion just like we are, but rarely do you see humans running headlong into windows (though it does happen) because we know better. Thus it would also appear to be with alpha.

    I’m reminded of the old KK problem — if S knows p, then does S know that S knows p? — which of course all depends on what you mean by "know". Does an ant "know" that certain smells mean "there’s food over here"? Most people would say that this is qualitatively different than the way we "know" that 2+2=4, but I’m not so certain that the difference is all that clear-cut. Our information processing capabilities are far more complex than an ant’s and allow us to achieve much higher levels of abstraction, but I think that if you go back far enough in our evolution (both epistemological and biological), sooner or later you’ve left "conscious" territory and started getting closer "instinctive" or "genetic" knowledge. But there’s no clear dividing line there that I can see.


  26. 26 26. Bourbaki

    Mr. MeTooThen,

    You are mostly on the money.

    In fact, there does not seem to be any pressure exerted by the formulation for individuals to do good.

    This depends on how you interpret alphaphilic. Our cognitive abilities give us more mental agility than other Eustaces. We simply evolved a strategy to attempt to collectively filter out alphadystropic paths.

    Mr. Valliant,

    What is the point of ethics?


  27. 27 27. Jim Valliant

    Mr. Bourbaki,

    You get to ask questions without answering any of mine? Hardly fair, but par for the course.

    I’ve suggested already my sympathy on this point for the position of the Greeks, Rand and Nietzsche: survival and its requirements, health and happiness. If alpha can help, then I will attend to it–my consciousness will choose the best path to take to gain this end.

    Mr. McIntosh,

    And, so…? Sure, as we move up through human evolution, we reach us, beings that can actually do ethics, so far, the only beings we know of that are capable of doing ethics. This is precisely and only because we are beings of abstract consciousness and choice. Ethics is the science of fiding those abstract principles (mental states) which advance your well-being and then acting in way that adheres them (choices).

    The "intentions" of ants and molecules are irrelevant. Those of humans are the essence of ethics, in fact, what makes us ethical agents.


  28. 28 28. Matt McIntosh

    Jim,

    Again, you’re trying to draw some kind of demarcation where I’m not convinced that one exists. Point to some point along our evolution where "volition" suddenly appears, and explain its basis in objective physical reality. I would be very interested to see where the magic happens.


  29. 29 29. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    You get to ask questions without answering any of mine? Hardly fair, but par for the course.

    I respect your persistence but you have it backwards. Again.

    You gotta start with an action. Actions have consequences. Intentions without action? Not so much. Unless you can bend spoons with your thoughts or you think you’re being watched by the big guy upstairs.

    I thought the clear explanations by Mr. McIntosh answered your question. To be honest, I was busy looking for a cream to stop this rash caused by cruel intentions. I just need to cross the street in front of a mild mannered (but intoxicated) driver to get it.

    I’ve suggested already my sympathy on this point for the position of the Greeks, Rand and Nietzsche: survival and its requirements, health and happiness.

    So there is this play by Moliere, "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme", in which a pompous Monsieur Jordain finds that all his life he has been speaking in prose without realizing it. Similarly, homo sapiens have been doing alpha. Just like ants. We just happen to be extremely complex, highly sophisticated, and very versatile Eustaces with a predisposition for creating fanciful terms for what we do.

    Unfortunately, that plasticity cuts both ways. We can be configured to adopt some pretty foolish (read high epsilon) strategies.

    Perhaps you can now answer Mr. CT’s question posted above?

    In addition, based on available evidence, is alpha a consequence of ethics or is ethics a consequence of alpha? Which is more fundamental? Which is more rigorous? If we wipe ourselves off the planet, what dynamics will determine which species takes our place?


  30. 30 30. Jim Valliant

    Mr. McIntosh,

    No, theres no magic, and, certainly, abstract consciousness and choice are the products of a slow and continuous evolution in their direction. Most of nature struck the ancients as very magical indeed, and a physical explanation is hardly needed to a observe plain fact, and, moreover, no physical explanation will change such a fact, or make it more real, or more objective, or any less a vital presupposition, premise, and prerequisite to ethical thinking. (I never needed to know about molecules or thermodynamics to know that the pot was boiling or to use mittens when handling it.) Our very dialogue here shows that volition is very real, indeed.

    Now, please tell me how you avoid the self-contradictions involved in any ethics without consciousness or choice.

    Ethics is only something a being with consciousness and choice can do. It only could pertain to such a being, and only because of those features.


  31. 31 31. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    If this theory is correct, then ethics is an instance of "doing alpha." But ants, however much they "do alpha," never do ethics.
    If you cannot recognize intentions as being real things, important things, and a vital part of human evaluation, then it is YOU who are the rank mystic, ignoring plain fact, and in clearly touch with the Big Guy upstairs…Next time you’re in touch with Him, do let us know what other obvious facts we get to ignore.


  32. 32 32. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    If this theory is correct, then ethics is an instance of "doing alpha."

    Excellent. Then we agree.

    And "doing alpha" means doing physics. So doing ethics is doing physics. A rigorous way to keep score without dictating how to play the game (strong solutions). It’s physics without nihilism.

    Which brings us back to Mr. CT’s question. If there is no error in the derivation, we’ve just rigorously cut the cord to creationism and the big guy upstairs.

    And we did it without turning ourselves into heroes or gods or forcing ourselves into the center of the Universe. In fact, alpha even applies to Vogons.

    Don’t panic.


  33. 33 33. MeTooThen

    This:

    Consciousness is necessary for a being to employ a system of ethics, but it is not sufficient.

    The above pleas for consciousness are well taken, and in many ways unassailable.

    I understand your defense of intention, that it plays a role in our ethical behavior, or decision making vis a vis the process of our cognitive and emotional calculi, and therefore, there must be some additional factor within this formulation to account for it.

    And Bourbaki, thank you.

    I didn’t fully think out what I meant by "pressure".

    This is a fascinating turn. Are humans, like mitochondria, or wheat, or salmon, alphaphilic?

    Is there a tendency (diathesis) toward alpha, do we choose alpha maximization, or are we driven toward alpha-star?

    As conscious beings, we can choose to be alphadystropic, no?

    Back to intentions:

    If our survival and prosperity is dependent on maximization of alpha, then our intentions, do not matter. As the Universe cares little for one’s mental calculus, only the flux that results from one’s action.

    Again, herein lies the true disconsolation of philosophy.

    For this to be true, or verified, we must be able to know (read-predict) the flux resulting from our actions.

    Now, to create normative data sets for this would be quite a feat. But again, one does not need to invoke the role or value of consciousness, in order to do this.

    Am I getting closer?

    This is on, right?


  34. 34 34. Bourbaki

    Mr. MeTooThen,

    This is a fascinating turn. Are humans, like mitochondria, or wheat, or salmon, alphaphilic?

    Yes. And you’ve got the scent of how this leads to aesthetics. And how the dichotomy of strong solutions leads to iconoclasm. But we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves despite the temptation.

    Is there a tendency (diathesis) toward alpha, do we choose alpha maximization, or are we driven toward alpha-star?

    We can only follow alpha-star. We improve our probabilities insofar as alpha-star is low epsilon.

    As I understand the word, there is an unfortunate diathesis toward epsilon. We sometimes stick to bad strategies because rewiring our brains costs energy and we don’t fully recognize the negative costs of our actions. We do everything we can to make new information fit our preconceived notions.

    As conscious beings, we can choose to be alphadystropic, no?

    We definitely choose bad paths (alphadystropic).

    A tougher question is: do we ever choose paths that are not alpha-star maximizing?

    As the Universe cares little for one’s mental calculus, only the flux that results from one’s action.
    Again, herein lies the true disconsolation of philosophy.

    Am I getting closer?

    Very close, indeed.


  35. 35 35. Jim Valliant

    MeTooThen,

    Mega-pace: I’m satisfied with your formulations now, with only one quibble. "If our survival and prosperity is dependent on maximization of alpha, then our intentions, do not matter." Well, they matter insofar as we can get them to be alphaphilic, so that our behavior will be alphatropic. There exists a relationship between the two which should not be overlooked. We should, at the end of day with this theory, be able to say something like: "Be alphaphiles, damn it!" Get your "head right" as they say, and your behavior will follow. Or, as we say in recovery programs to the junkie, "play the tape forward."

    No, as I see it, alpha does not require consciousness to be understood. Human ethics, however, does. For alpha-theory to do us humans any good, it will have to be understood and followed.

    Thus, "Consciousness is necessary for a being to employ a system of ethics, but it is not sufficient" is correct. But consciousness evolved just in order that we may do so, improving our thinking with theories like alpha (a state of consciousness) along the way. Consciousness is HOW we humans can be alphaphiles–or alpha-phobic!!

    Now, Mr. Bourbaki,

    One can "do ethics" without touching physics. If everything known must reduce to physics for you, then you are as crude a one-dimensional reductionist as there has ever been.

    We ain’t gods, but we are sometimes heroes. Indeed, if alpha theory turns out to be correct, I will regard you and Aaron as such beings.

    Copernicus did a great thing, getting us (to at least begin) to stop all of that religious earth- and man-centrism. However, in the rush to "dis" humanity’s ego, moderns have overshot the mark considrably: humans are different and the differences make us the coolest things on the planet (who knows, maybe the galaxy!) Yes, this is an evaluative term, but a rational one. We alone can consider just how pro-alpha our behavior is, among other things, and surely even you can see the value of that!


  36. 36 36. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    Just curious: can you give us an example of some action you’ve taken that was not alpha-star maximizing? Not in hind-sight, mind you, but conditioned on the filtration available to you at the time you took the action?

    Take your time. I’m honestly stumped on this one but then again, I’m easily stumped.


  37. 37 37. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    To clarify, I’m stumped for my own actions. I can’t recall a non-alpha-star maximizing action for myself.


  38. 38 38. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    As you concede: "We definitely choose bad paths (alphadystropic)."

    Are you suggesting that you will never act so now that you have a grip on alpha-theory? To know alpha is to love alpha–automatically? What exactly are you saying? Are you assuring me that you will never, never ever, act again except in reference to alpha? Surely, the discovery of alpha will help matters, no? Or are you saying that to know it is to follow it, or what?


  39. 39 39. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    Non-alpha-star maximizing to who? If to myself, then they are innumerable. I do not lie, cheat or commit fraud even though they might increase my alpha. Maybe we should distinguish between act alpha-centrism and rule-alpha-centrism?


  40. 40 40. Bourbaki

    Please, Mr. Valliant, is really it necessary to trash where I might go with this. You can trash that when I actually go there.

    To quote you:

    You get to ask questions without answering any of mine? Hardly fair, but par for the course.

    I’m merely asking for an example and would be grateful if you could provide an honest account of one.

    I’m all ears (or eyeballs?).


  41. 41 41. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    I did not ask for examples of what you choose not to do.


  42. 42 42. Matt McIntosh

    Borbaki,

    "I did not ask for examples of what you choose not to do."

    Is there a difference?


  43. 43 43. Bourbaki

    Mr. McIntosh,

    Good question. Perhaps this will clarify things.

    When we choose to take an action we simulataneously choose to not take an (infinite?) number of other possible actions.

    I’m directing the question toward an example of the path we follow rather than the many paths we avoid.


  44. 44 44. Matt McIntosh

    Jim,

    We’re getting very close to bridging the gap now; I knew this was more of a disagreement over terms than substance. If you agree with MeeTooThen and Bourbaki that "ethics is doing alpha", then we’re more or less on the same page now. Nonetheless, I nitpick:

    "I never needed to know about molecules or thermodynamics to know that the pot was boiling or to use mittens when handling it."

    Certainly, but you wouldn’t be able to learn much more than that without some kind of more precise measuring tool. Different tools suffice for different tasks. The main point of Aaron’s exposition here, at least as I see it, is to provide such a tool for greater precision.

    "Our very dialogue here shows that volition is very real, indeed."

    Call it volition if you want, but I’ll pass. Too loaded a word for me. Something clearly exists which gives us the ability to assess alternatives, communicate, etc, but the nuts and bolts of it are not so simple.

    "Now, please tell me how you avoid the self-contradictions involved in any ethics without consciousness or choice."

    Well I think it would be obvious by now that I reject the whole Aristotlean framework that question comes from. I prefer to start from the bottom and work my way up like Aaron has done. Again, none of this entails denying that the self-evident phenomenon that we call "consciousness" exists; we’re just mucking about over just how it works.


  45. 45 45. Matt McIntosh

    Bourbaki,

    Well fair enough I guess, but that’s just a difference in emphasis. Choosing to abstain from an activity is not really qualitatively different from choosing to perform an activity from an analysis point of view. I think.


  46. 46 46. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    Okay. I choose to commit fraud to maximize my alpha. Is that ethical?


  47. 47 47. Jim Valliant

    You know, Mr. McIntosh, I think that we are pretty much on the same page now–with alpha. (I know that we are miles apart in what constitutes "the bottom" that we "work up" from.) But that’s o.k. here, since it doesn’t involve a disgreement about alpha. Let’s stick to that here, at least!

    Mr. Bourbaki,

    You’re as dense (or dishonest?) as they come, so I will let you find the many, many examples all on your lonesome… (Why don’t I care what the hell you think anymore, I wonder??)


  48. 48 48. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    I know I’m dense. And I won’t deny the other things you’ve said about me. But dishonest? I simply asked for an example of an action you’ve taken.

    No worries. There seems to be pretty good agreement so I’ll withold my speculations for another time.


  49. 49 49. Jim Valliant

    A dishonest person, by definition, evades an aspect of reality. Our discussion is replete with examples. I refuse to talk to a wall.

    Thank goodness we do not know one another, so I presume your request was for human examples generally. (I am a reasonably ethical person, myself.)


  50. 50 50. Matt McIntosh

    Jim,

    Fair enough. Let us wait for Aaron’s next installment then. :)


  51. 51 51. MeTooThen

    Thank you all for your thoughtful comments.

    Here:

    What if being dishonest, cheating, lying, corrupting, torturing, arson, rape, murder, all maximize alpha-star?

    But before answering this, consider Epsilon. Epsilon as I understand it, allows for error based on the completeness of information.

    This is tricky, as the formulation tells us that Epsilon is Filtration dependent*.

    (*NB I might have this last bit wrong. If so, please correct me.)

    Untoward or unethical acts may have a deleterious effect on alpha-critical, and therefore, be overall alphadystropic.

    And what of filtration? Is Filtration energy dependent?Empirically, I believe this to be true.

    Note was made above about recovery, a fine example. Recovery from addiction, remission from eating disorders, relief from chronic pain, treatment of neuroses, etc., are all highly energy dependent process.

    One of the potential weaknesses of the formulation, is that Filtration (F@t-1)is energy dependent and the source and flux of this energy perhaps should be accounted for.

    And no, the question is not to whom one is alpha-star maximizing, the Universe is only interested in flux.

    Rather, why (to whom, how, and when) we selectively filter, is the more appropriate question.

    Again, I do not understand the mathematics (set theory and the like), but I do know quite a bit about the neurophysiology, the human nervous system, and human behavior. Perhaps to "bridge the gap" leave consciousness out of it for a moment, and reconsider the validity of the use of F@t-1 and its derivation.


  52. 52 52. Jim Valliant

    Does pursuing alpha* in the afterlife by utterly sacrificing this life count?


  53. 53 53. Bourbaki

    Mr. MeTooThen,

    Untoward or unethical acts may have a deleterious effect on alpha-critical, and therefore, be overall alphadystropic.

    Not quite. For any Eustace at any given time, there is a finite amount of free energy available. There is a theoretical max alpha that can be generated by this available free energy.

    The amount of alpha that Eustace actually does generate is alpha-star. The difference between alpha-max and alpha-star is epsilon.

    Alphadystropic behavior increases epsilon and brings the system closer to alpha-critical. The observer doesn’t change the energetics of the system–so if the observer draws the "wrong" system boundaries, the system doesn’t care. If the system reaches alpha-critical it collapses.

    And what of filtration? Is Filtration energy dependent? Empirically, I believe this to be true.

    A filtration is the set of all available information at a given time. It is Universe dependent.

    One of the potential weaknesses of the formulation, is that Filtration (F@t-1)is energy dependent and the source and flux of this energy perhaps should be accounted for.

    Not exactly. But you are right in pointing out that searching for information does have alpha consequences. Anything that happens has a thermodynamic consequence.

    The formal definition is something like "A family of sigma algebras indexed by a partially ordered set so that F_i is contained in F_j when i is less than j"

    Filtrations occur in the theory of stochastic processes, which describe random events occurring over time. At a given point in time we can know certain things because they have already happened or because they can be predicted from what has already happened. The information that we have at a given point in time can be described by the set of events such that we know whether the event has occurred/will occur. This is a sigma-field. We can construct such a sigma-field for every increment of time. This collection of sigma-fields is a filtration. In fact any collection of one sigma-field for each time point is a filtration but the useful examples are of the sort described. Filtrations are almost always
    required to be "increasing", which means that an event in the sigma-field for time t is also in the sigma-fields for all times after t. the Borel sigma-field is the smallest one that contains all the open sets. This makes it very important, as the open sets define concepts such as continuity.

    Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of very good resources on the internet but the book by Bernt Oksendal is a good start.

    And no, the question is not to whom one is alpha-star maximizing, the Universe is only interested in flux. Rather, why (to whom, how, and when) we selectively filter, is the more appropriate question.

    Exactly. Although be careful about using filter and filtration this way. Eustace is an alpha-model and events change Eustace’s configuration. I believe you are using the verb ‘filter’ to describe this process but keep in mind that ‘filtration’ has the formal definition above.

    Perhaps to "bridge the gap" leave consciousness out of it for a moment, and reconsider the validity of the use of F@t-1 and its derivation.

    Consciousness is a very dear and personal notion but it is safe. Note how none of the derivation attacks it but some of us are feeling threatened nonetheless. Consciousness just isn’t necessary at this point. No one at any point has denied that consciousness exists. Nevertheless, leaving consciousness out of the equation is clearly making some people apoplectic.


  54. 54 54. Bourbaki

    Does pursuing alpha* in the afterlife by utterly sacrificing this life count?

    Good nose, Mr. Valliant. You are on to why eschatological religious authority can be so insidious. When faith means ignoring the filtration, epsilon goes through the roof.


  55. 55 55. Bourbaki

    Mr. MeTooThen,

    One more thing about filtrations. The convention

    F@t-1

    is just that, a convention. It should really be

    F@t-d

    where d is greater than 0. In other words, there will always be some latency with the information available in the filtration. The number ’1′ was merely used to keep things simple.


  56. 56 56. Jim Valliant

    Mr. Bourbaki,

    My "nose" is only suspecting that alpha* really need not be the meaningful object of actions taken by remarkably flexible agents. Those suckers can act with reference to the least alpha-oriented goals imaginable.

    The notion of consciousness is no more "personal" than the the basic concepts made use of in this theory. It has not been assailed–not a finger has been (agnostically) laid upon it, right?–no, the only "threat" is aimed at an allegedly ethical theory that ignores it. If you feel threatened by this, my sympathies.


  57. 57 57. Jim Valliant

    This is bit of sci-fi example, sure, but what about the evil genius who seeks to destroy his own life, his species survival, and, indeed, all life on earth? Can he be said to be pursuing alpha*? In a meaningful way?


  58. 58 58. Bourbaki

    Those suckers can act with reference to the least alpha-oriented goals imaginable.

    Precisely. Complex systems can have some very complex problems. The little calculator I use to figure out tips will never steer me wrong. Of course, it won’t do much else.

    A multi-factor term structure model running on a cluster of computers calculating and executing trading strategies can destroy a great deal of wealth. Of course, it can (and has) generated fortunes.

    no, the only "threat" is aimed at an allegedly ethical theory that ignores it.

    And you are most welcome to point out the error with evidence. But why the premature hand-wringing? You should get some sleep.


  59. 59 59. Bourbaki

    This is bit of sci-fi example, sure, but what about the evil genius who seeks to destroy his own life, his species survival, and, indeed, all life on earth? Can he be said to be pursuing alpha*? In a meaningful way?

    There is usually more to the arc of this story. Typically, the evil genius wasn’t always evil. There is almost always some backstory that involves radiation-induced insanity, betrayal, humiliation or other misdeed that sets the genius on an "evil" path.

    At least that is how it worked in The Incredibles.

    When we consider things from his perspective, we are the source of his pain and suffering. To him, we are "evil" or we are "inferior". And this "blight" must be cleansed from the Universe. Not exactly a low epsilon solution.

    In these stories, if the evil guy comes around to being "good" again, it tends to be more interesting than some static, squeaky-clean, goody-goody hero.

    Man–I am really jumping the shark here.


  60. 60 60. Jim Valliant

    Mr. Bourbaki,

    You got some nerve, champ: "And you are most welcome to point out the error with evidence." "Error" in the system? Or the gross error of believing that consciousness and volition can be simply ignored–in ethics!? The evidence of consciousness and volition is more overwhelming than any evidence for any of the concepts used here. I have offered example after example, and argument after argument, demonstrating that volition/choice is the prerequisite of ethics. It certainly is the prerequisite of any moral judgment of any kind. I have also shown why ethics is possible only to beings possessed of consciousness. Indeed, it has been effectively conceded that all of the non-human Eustaces of which we are aware would find alpha-theory (and any other ethical system) entirely useless. You have not answered any of this even once.

    As to my example, I call a rank foul! I never gave you permission to add your own cheezy "psycho" backstory like some pathetic Public Defender whining for his client’s life. This is MY comic book, so he doesn’t feel that at all. No, he hates the good for being the good; people are not a source of pain for him. He seeks destruction for its own sake. Now, go!


  61. 61 61. Jim Valliant

    Mr. Bourbaki,

    I’m frankly shocked that you should even invoke psychology, when we were told that we can ignore consciousness altogether. In alpha, there’s no such thing as "psychology," friend! So don’t be tellin’ me what people feel, think, consider or anything about their childhood traumas, either. It doesn’t matter, cannot be invoked in alpha theory, and may not even exist, being a quaint and "personal" notion, perhaps pure mysticism!


  62. 62 62. Jim Valliant

    Computers do not break down or self-destruct because of their perceptions and opinions about the universe, do they? Computers that seek their own destruction via ritualized suicide? I’d like to see that, too!!


  63. 63 63. Jim Valliant

    This attack on the history of ethics strikes me as the assertion that while molecules, ants and mice have been busy "doing alpha," those mystic dummies, humans, have not. If this theory is true, then every previous semi-coherent attempt at ethics, of course, has been "doing alpha" (and all without math! But I honestly wonder how human sacrifice or cannibalism are even alpha*-related…?) It sure seems that humans have been aggressively and rapidly (to put it mildly) innovative in a rather unprecedented way at "doing alpha." This remarkable facility needs more alpha-analysis, boss.


  64. 64 64. Bourbaki

    I have offered example after example, and argument after argument, demonstrating that volition/choice is the prerequisite of ethics.

    But what is the prerequisite for volition/choice?

    I’m frankly shocked that you should even invoke psychology, when we were told that we can ignore consciousness altogether.

    I admitted as much when I stated that I was jumping the shark. We were talking about sci-fi storylines, right?

    Computers do not break down or self-destruct because of their perceptions and opinions about the universe, do they?

    Really?

    We’re just kicking some ideas around. If alpha theory is bunk, bull, or nonsense that’s cool. Let’s understand why and dump it. If not, let’s explore it.

    I think the only unsatisfying option would be to let it sit. I think it’s great that you’re passionate about these things. Not many people are. And I think it’s great that there’s a blog that makes sharing these ideas very, very easy. And it’s totally cool to trash the idea. That’s how ideas evolves.

    But it sounds like you’re really getting ticked off over a thread in a blog. If we did cross paths in person, maybe we could chill out over a beer?


  65. 65 65. CT

    "Or the gross error of believing that consciousness and volition can be simply ignored–in ethics!?"

    Mr. Valliant: let me just ask you why consciousness is necessary for anything that has been stated about alpha so far?

    Yes, yes I know it is axiomatic to ethics afayac, and you see no way to construct an ethics without it but what has been offered that there is a need for it? You say ethics does, but what in alpha does? I know you foresee that there will be such a need, but unless there is something that has been offered re:alpha so far that requires it, I ask you to abstain discussion of it. You are adding more to the solution than is necessary at this point.

    It will have to be addressed (if for no other reason than because it is such a big deal to so many) but at this time, no conclusion derived from alpha has any need for such a cluttered and misunderstood concept as ‘consciousness’. Let’s not muck about with it unless we have to and unless you can *prove* otherwise (more is required for proof by the way than distaste), alpha does not at this point need it.

    "In alpha, there’s no such thing as "psychology," friend! So don’t be tellin’ me what people feel, think, consider or anything about their childhood traumas, either. It doesn’t matter, cannot be invoked in alpha theory, and may not even exist, being a quaint and "personal" notion, perhaps pure mysticism!"

    In response to this I invite you to read more about filtration. I think then you will see that your hysteria has gotten the better of you.

    "so he doesn’t feel that at all. No, he hates the good for being the good; people are not a source of pain for him. He seeks destruction for its own sake. Now, go"

    Again see filtration as well as the difference between alpha and alpha*.

    After some consideration I cannot think of a single instance wherein I or anyone I know has acted in any way but one intended to increase alpha*. The strength of this statement is not lost on me, but I cannot come up with anything. Can anyone else?


  66. 66 66. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    This is MY comic book, so he doesn’t feel that at all. No, he hates the good for being the good; people are not a source of pain for him. He seeks destruction for its own sake. Now, go!

    I missed the ‘Now, go!’ part. I wasn’t sure if you wanted me to disappear or to explain the story with more information. If it’s the former, then please ignore the following.

    Although this wasn’t part of your evil genius story, this is also conceivable in alpha terms. In Part 5, we discussed how we have an ambivalence toward strong solutions. Strong solutions are a realized path. Taking one path means giving up the freedom to follow the other paths. Although we have evolved the ability to course correct pretty rapidly. (Q: How do we course correct?)

    Nevertheless, we sometimes have great trouble committing to a strong solution when it’s our own decision. Can’t commit to [...] (fill in the blank with any big decision). It is even harder to see the benefits of following a path when that path originates externally. Especially if it’s our parents. And especially if it means wearing stuffy hats and gloves in the winter. And we are right to be skeptical.

    It is conceivable for someone to see the good as bad. Strong solutions can be viewed as incomprehensible or confining or suffocating or exclusionary. We are complex and we do break down. I believe that’s why idealized utopias always fail and why even "smart" people do stupid things (strong solutions that were good once didn’t adapt). Sometimes less is more. Free people. Free markets.

    OK–I jumped the shark again. But hey, at least it’s Friday and we can fill in the blanks with all the fun, non-work-regimented possibilities for the weekend.


  67. 67 67. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    So, consciousness is a myth for human beings, but it is a clear reality for computers that occasionally break down simply due to opinion and mood? Do they commit suicide because their honor is impugned, like traditional Japanese? Do they commit mass-suicide because of their religious zeal, like the ancient Jews at Masada? Do they commit suicide because they wish to avoid ostracism or execution, like Socrates? Do they commit suicide because the world doesn’t understand them, like a teenager? Do they do, well, anything because they have low self-esteem??? Does counseling ever dissuade them from such a course???

    I must not be making myself very clear… so, no more irony!

    Yeah, just kickin’ around some crazy ideas, that’s all…
    Look forward to the beer, but maybe we should avoid this topic of conversation..?

    C.T.,

    No, nothing so far in alpha theory requires any reference to consciousness or volition (apart from the obvious assumption of consciousness that every statement makes). This is the problem, not the solution, for alpha as a theory of ethics — exactly. No, it’s no problem for a theory of physics, but the ambitions here were stated to be much greater than that.

    And, of course, "filtration" makes no reference to feelings, thoughts or consciousness, either … or does it? Was this the back-door admission of the unavoidable concept of consciousness? I expect there to be no talk of feelings or thoughts, if, that is, alpha can really claim to do without consciousness.


  68. 68 68. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    Pardon me while I suit up for another jump. Each attempt is riskier than the last!

    Let’s consider suicide in alpha terms. We have Eustace who is an alpha-star maximizer but with no ingrained instincts to give him predefined strong solutions (purpose?), and a bad model or a bad lot (high epsilon). Eustace views all possible paths as alpha-dystropic. No matter what poor Eustace does, things always get screwed up.

    Let’s consider two responses. One, Eustace responds externally and tries to destroy the environment (strong solution) in which he can not thrive. Two, Eustace responds internally and realizes than any action is futile so he stops getting out of bed in the morning and exhibits other classic signs of depression.

    Eustace will probably use some combination of the two responses. If things go haywire, Eustace is trapped with only alpha-dystropy ahead and so he chooses to experience nothing.

    Man, these sharks look hungry!


  69. 69 69. Bourbaki

    If things go haywire, Eustace is trapped with only alpha-dystropy ahead and so he chooses to experience nothing.

    I should rephrase this. The only available alpha-star maximizing path is "no path" since all other paths appear to Eustace to be alpha-star minimizing.


  70. 70 70. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    Are y’all sure that consciousness and volition are not necessary features of ethics? E.G.:

    1. "Eustace views all possible paths as alpha-dystropic." He "views"–without consciousness?

    2. "Eustace responds externally and tries…" He "tries"–without choice?

    3. "Eustace responds internally and realizes…" He "realizes"–without consciousness?

    4. "…exhibits other classic signs of depression." He "experiences" "depression"–without consciousness?

    5. "…so he chooses to experience nothing." He "chooses"–without choice? He "experiences" without consciousness?

    It’s all really just "linguistic history" getting in the way, Aaron?


  71. 71 71. Bourbaki

    No problemo. My language skilz are even worse than me math skilz.

    We started this particular thread discussing evil geniuses in sci-fi plots and comic books because it was clear that the slow, deliberate development using math and science was too boring for you. I can sympathize–that stuff can be mighty dry.

    Yesterday when I asked you for an example of an action from the past where you did not attempt to maximize alpha-star, you blew a gasket.

    Mr. CT reiterated the question.

    So why not return that line of questioning? If Alice asks Bob what he did last weekend, Bob normally offers a list of actions he performed e.g. laundry, nap, bowling, etc. He doesn’t respond with "I didn’t do the following set of possible actions (X : 1..N where N is large)."

    So, if you’d like to return to our pre-shark jumping line of questions then please answer the following:

    1. Give us an example of some action you’ve taken in the past that was not alpha-star maximizing. Not in hind-sight, mind you, but conditioned on the filtration available to you at the time you took the action.

    2. I asked this above but you probably missed it. You stated volition/choice is the prerequisite for ethics. But tell us, what is the prerequisite for volition/choice? If you don’t know, where would you look? We don’t want to smuggle it in, right? And, only in terms of results, what ends do volition/choice offer that would improve on what we have already?

    Two (ok, three) questions. Again, take all the time you need but don’t be a wall like me.


  72. 72 72. Jim Valliant

    Mr. Bourbaki,

    No, sir, your language skillz are just fine. But it appears that Aaron was right: language itself is a big obstacle to this theory. I have finally grasped that admission. Do give a shot at reconfiguring our entire language, though. It would help us folks not of the priestly class understand what is being said.

    Once again, you ignore everything I have said about alpha and then demand that I answer your questions. That is what I blew a gasket at, remember? And here you are doing it again, and after I have raise several more–unanswered–questions.

    If alpha* pursuit in the afterlife counts, then there’s a good example of alpha* being a meaningless idea. Every living organism pursues something. If alpha means "something" then everything you, or anyone else, has ever done is obviously after alpha*. But, then, I say "duh" to the most empty and banal of concepts. Was your demand a trick question, or what?

    Can you now grasp how what I said above was the very "answer" you were seeking all along?

    And I will again bore the more attentive by reminding you for the umpteenth time that consciousness and volition are axioms, i.e., things that lie at the base of knowledge and are therefore not epistemologically derived or derivable from any previous knowledge. They are perceived directly, like you perceive the objects in front of you right now. As with all the directly perceived, they are conceptualized after the initial awareness of them, but form the implicit base of subsequent knowledge.

    But, perhaps, your question was not epistemological, but metaphysical. In this regard, as I have already suggested, I have hope for alpha. It must, however, acknoweledge–as you cannot avoid acknowledging here on this page–that people have thoughts and feelings. It will not render alpha-theory any less objective or any more mystical, I assure you. But it must do so.

    Indeed, when this pseudo-scientific superstition subsides, alpha might actually demonstrate how biological teleology, including evolution, is simply an expression of thermodynamics. Next, that consciousness is a still more efficient expression of the same thing. Then, finally, how volition and self-consciousness are a still better refinement of the same process–and without even being shy about using such evaluative terms as "better," especially since we will have increased the precision and objectivity of moral concepts.

    I.E., it might lead us to the physical "prerequisites" for consciousness and volition. There is such an answer, and biological evolution has already begun to suggest it. I hope that Aaron can help complete it.

    O.k., now will YOU begin to answer anything I’ve ever tossed out? Or must I repeat myself over and over and over again without a single attempt at a response from you?


  73. 73 73. MeTooThen

    Again:

    The "bridge" Jim is seeking (or demanding) lies in F.

    Nowhere in the formulation presented is consciousness, choice, or intention omitted. Rather, all of these aspects of human functioning are present, implicitly so.

    When one compares alpha-star, or energy flux in mitochondria, orchids, gnats, and fungi, one must assume that the structure and functioning of these closed systems are different.

    Why then make demands for additional assumptions regarding humans?

    The ways in which each of these systems employs its energy is distinct. So too, with humans.

    Therefore, maximizing alpha-star, or minimizing Epsilon, allows for the inherent workings of the system. There is nothing to add mechanistically.

    The answer lies, therefore, in F.

    Filtration is likewise distinct for each system. Chemotaxis versus arson, for example.

    It can be agreed upon than human behavior, and the ways in which decisions are made, and how those decisions are implemented, are more complex for humans than say the actions "taken" by algae.

    But the formulation allows for both human and algae to act, according to its Filtration. Nothing more, nothing less.

    As commented on above, the difficulty in measuring the success of this formulation lies in the successful calculation of F. And the calculation (or estimation) of F must allow for greater complexity, energy flux, and randomness in humans than it does in algae.

    Whether or not there needs to be an additional or different derivation of F, will be left to the mathematicians.

    Lastly, and this is the best part, it may be that the secret to successful minimization of Epsilon comes from the no-mind, or from the suspension of the illusion of control from the self.

    Hence, the no-path of alpha-star, may be reliant on the no-mind of the Buddha.


  74. 74 74. Jim Valliant

    Bride close, MeeTooThen! Ethics deals with the uniquely and distinctively human application implicit in all of this. One that cannot avoid the language and the reality of thoughts, feelings and choices, that is, when we come to every single moral judgment we make about human beings, including ourselves. Buddha comes in many subtle and varied forms to a being like us. Qua physics, if this turns out to be true, absolutely.


  75. 75 75. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbki and Jim are into it so heavy I have come to believe Bourbaki is really Aaron. Is this the case?


  76. 76 76. Jim Valliant

    Bill,

    Aaron is an old buddy of mine from way back. We once dwelt in the same ancient Brooklyn apartment building, sharing many a breakfast of bagels, O.J. and rich conversation. Bourbaki, I have never crossed paths with, and his identity I must leave for him to say, but I am certain that they are not the same.


  77. 77 77. Aaron Haspel

    At the risk of interrupting the fun you all seem to be having chasing your tails, I remind you that this series was supposed to demonstrate three propositions:

    1. That all living things flourish insofar as they pursue a dimensionless, theoretically measurable quantity, which we can define with precision and which we call alpha.

    2. That since it is impossible, in practice, to pursue this quantity directly, they act on models, which we call alpha models, to approximate it. The more efficiently an alpha model incorporates new data from the available filtration, the more successful it is, since success lies in continuous adjustment of one’s path in light of the best data available.

    3. These models produce an approximation of alpha, which we call alpha*, and which all living things maximize.

    We are now several hundred comments deep, many of them critical, and none of these propositions has been challenged in any way, except for 3, and only with derision. This disappoints me. I would expect so radical a theory to elicit numerous substantive objections. So far, zero.

    These propositions, if true, add to knowledge that we have about living systems, including human beings. They emphasize the constant course corrections required for people to succeed, and the difficult recursive probability problems that cause them to fail. They help us understand the world. This is more than I can say for jumping up and down and yelling "We are conscious! We have free will!"

    You consciousness and choice mavens may, if you like, exclude proposition 1 from ethics. Of course you are twisting the ordinary meaning of the word beyond recognition, and the claims about me and language in the thread lend this fact a certain piquant irony. But hey, that’s your problem, not mine. It means only that the interesting work will be done elsewhere.

    Elsewhere we are investigating the following questions. What is optimal behavior for living systems? What is actual behavior for living systems? Why and how do they differ? I don’t care how you classify this; but "as physics" might stand improvement.


  78. 78 78. MeTooThen

    Aaron,

    Thank you for your comments.

    OK, I really must be lost.

    I have stated above that empirically, I agree with the notion that the alpha model is approachable, but that I cannot assail the math.

    And, that (without derision I hope) I raised a concern about the complexity (or efficiency/reliability/variability) of F.

    BTW, I understand, and think appropriate F@t-1, as the function is phenomenologic, not diachronic.

    In fact, I have used the concept of the Second law of Thermodynamics in my lectures to approximate some of human behavior.

    Although considered non-substantive, please remark on my above queries with regard to F, even if only to correct any misunderstandings I may have about its original derivation or meaning.


  79. 79 79. Aaron Haspel

    MeToo: My comments were not directed at you, and I apologize if I created that impression. In fact I agree essentially with everything you’ve said, and your conception of F, which I did not regard as a criticism, differs in no way from my own.


  80. 80 80. Jim Valliant

    Apart from the validation of alpha itself, I am working on it still, it is clear to me that human models and filtrations do not necessary approximate, or even necessarily "tend" to approximate, alpha. Examples are numerous. Moreover, the different modes of reconfiguration makes this sharp difference apparent: e.g. biological evolution is a different mechanism than conscious choice. This different modality renders human beings capable of anti-alpha behavior. Human action can be intentionally alpha-dystrophic, systematically aimed at anti-alpha ends. That is, if alpha is actual health, the alpha* can often be disease and destruction.

    Even if this were not the case, these considerations do not adequately–not even close–provide any normative guidance for humans being whose unique modality of reconfiguration has been thus far ignored.


  81. 81 81. Jim Valliant

    Then, you have abandoned trying to construct an ethics, as you claimed?

    To do that, of course, many, many, many big issues still stand in the way. Just to start off:

    Why should humans pursue alpha? Why alpha and not something else? What not sometimes pursue alpha and sometimes not? Some combo emotionally satisfying to me? Why shouldn’t I act alpha-dystrophically?


  82. 82 82. Bourbaki

    To do that, of course, many, many, many big issues still stand in the way.

    Many, many, many indeed. I think, given your predisposition for high drama, you should start with a play. I referenced it before but it’s clear that you didn’t follow the link (or any other link that doesn’t lead back to the mothership).

    Molire: Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme

    "A modern interpretation of the classic comdie-ballet about the misadventures of a vain, credulous, and ignorant bourgeois seeking to pass himself off as a man better than he is and making a laughingstock of himself in the process."

    For example:

    Why should humans pursue alpha? Why alpha and not something else? What not sometimes pursue alpha and sometimes not? Some combo emotionally satisfying to me? Why shouldn’t I act alpha-dystrophically?

    These are all the same question. Re-read Parts 1-6.

    If that doesn’t work, maybe we can follow that up with a Helen Keller play and then fill fortune cookies with half a dozen or so deeply useful concepts: "I exist, existence exists, I’m off my meds"?

    When we break them open, we can pretend it’s an epiphany.


  83. 83 83. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    No, they are not. One can pursue alpha consistently. One can ignore alpha. One can pursue alpha selectively, when it emotionally suits, knowing that alpha-improved outcomes will only be partial. Or, one can consistently pursue the explicitly anti-alpha. All are different possible policies. Only the most dogmatically-minded, arrogant followers of the Church of Alphaism could assert otherwise. Your habit of glossing and evading, and then shooting off accusations in pathetic ignorance is the laughable thing!!

    Your absurd panic is best expressed by your constant and compulsive need to irrelevantly attack Rand.

    It was you who started all of the (unnecessary) insults, and I tried my best to avoid them until you made that impossible.

    I continued discussion with you only at Aaron’s request. That ends here.


  84. 84 84. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    Hey. The motto is "don’t panic" not "don’t be a wise ass". It appears you’ve missed the punchline, to your own question.

    Why should humans pursue alpha? Why alpha and not something else? What not sometimes pursue alpha and sometimes not? Some combo emotionally satisfying to me? Why shouldn’t I act alpha-dystrophically?

    Alpha dissipation means you stop existing i.e. you die. (something he pointed out was "obvious"). Even the axioms of Objectivism don’t mean much if you don’t exist.

    I continued discussion with you only at Aaron’s request. That ends here.

    Now how will we learn seventeenth century thinking? I’m attacking Rand because it’s not that it’s right or wrong but rather how it is right or wrong. Unless it’s just your personality, Objectivism produces a religious deluge of vague, self-confirmatory rhetoric with nothing new. It’s frozen.

    "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true."
    –Homer Simpson (Disconsolation of Philosophy, Springfield)

    Norbert Wiener was calling bullshit on this stuff way back in 1954. John Locke, at the end of the seventeenth century, considered that the content of the mind was made up of what he called ideas. The mind for him was entirely passive, a clean blackboard, tabula rasa, on which the experiences of the individual write their own impressions. If these impression appear often, either under circumstances of simultaneity, or in "certain sequence" or in situations where we attribute cause and effect, then according to Locke, these impression will form "complex" ideas, with a certain positive tendency for the component elements to stick together.

    The mechanism by which these ideas stick together lies in the ideas themselves; but there is throughout Locke’s writing a singular unwillingness to describe the mechanism. Locke’s ideas can bear only the sort of relation to reality that a picture of a locomotive bears to a functioning locomotive.

    Locke’s "theory" was a diagram without any working parts. This is not remarkable when we consider that it was conceived in the 1600s. But the world has progressed. And beyond Freud’s "Mystic Writing Pad" as well.

    Ancient science was dominated by the Aristotelian impulse to classify and lacked the modern drive to uncover the ways in which phenomenon actually function. (Unfortuantely, you need something more than pop science and quotes to do that.) Sure classification is important but if that’s all you can offer, you’ll be boxed-in by your own choice of categories. For Linnaeus, species and genera were fixed Aristotelian forms rather than signposts for a process of evolution.

    That’s why you can only circle round-and-round over concepts that have no demonstrable effect on the conclusions implied by alpha theory. There is a lot of huffing and puffing with adjective-laden rhetoric (e.g. many, many, many) but no real counterargument.

    The real problem is that it is no longer the seventeenth century and idle speculation is much more difficult because of all of this pesky experimental data we’ve accumulated.

    If alpha means "something" then everything you, or anyone else, has ever done is obviously after alpha*. But, then, I say "duh" to the most empty and banal of concepts. Was your demand a trick question, or what?

    Of course. alpha-star does mean something. And, again, you came up empty with an example. No facts. Just rhetoric.

    It’s an empirically derived quantity. In this quote, you are saying that we have no "choice" but but pursue alpha-star? That doesn’t sound like much of a choice. If the variabilty we observe is simply a consequence of how we adapt to the filtration as it flows through feedback mechanisms, then where is the choice?

    It is easy to make a simple machine that will run toward a light or run away from it–and if such machines also contain lights of their own, a number of them together will exhibit very complicated behavior.

    The nervous system and these machines are similar in that they are devices that respond to thresholds on the basis of dynamic state. Feedback is a method of controlling a system by resinserting into it the results of its past performance. To be alive is to participate in a continuous stream of influences form the outer world and respond according to an alpha-star model.

    The highest latency feedback systems are endocrine and limbic. These homeostatic feedbacks have one general difference from our voluntary and our postural feedbacks: they tend to be much slower. There are very few changes in physiological homeostasis–not even cerebrial anemia–that produce cerious or permanent damage on millisecond time scales. Accordingly, the nerve fibers involved in homeostasis–the sympathetic and parasympathetic–are mostly non-myelinated. We learned that throught experiment. And it may circle back to change how we view our own composition.

    The typical effectors of homeostasis–smooth muscles and glands–are likewise slow in their action compared to striped muscles involved in voluntary or postural activity. Many of the signals of the homestatic system are carried by non-nervous channels–the direct anastomosis of the muscular fibers of the heart, or chemical messengers such as hormones; and, except in the case of the heart muscle, these too are generally slower modes of transmission than myelinated nerve fibers.

    Now speed the process up again. In the brain, this system gets exponentially more complex.

    So how are choice/volition distinguishable from highly-complex, high-speed optimizations? If choice and volition don’t change our conclusions about alpha theory, what other goodies do they offer? In other words, why can’t we consider them implementation details if we can prove they exist?

    Is there a conclusion from the existence of choice and volition that contradicts a conclusion implied by alpha theory?

    This is not the same as saying they don’t exist–although, above, you seem to implying that they don’t. With your "duh"–every living thing obviously does it. Do we just happen to do it with such agility that the synthesis of all those threshold stimuli appear like we’re choosing? What is this "choice" based on?

    Do we need it so we can morally judge our actions? But how is that not already covered by the utility function in Part 6?

    O.k., now will YOU begin to answer anything I’ve ever tossed out? Or must I repeat myself over and over and over again without a single attempt at a response from you?

    Fair enough. But I can’t find any of your questions. You impute responses and then you blow a petulant gasket.

    If you can point out the questions, I’d be happy to answer them. Or not. Of the three possibilities of vetting alpha theory, I overlooked the fourth–and least appealing option: the echo chamber.


  85. 85 85. Casey Fahy

    Bourbaki, your breathtaking ignorance of Objectivism (confusing Locke and Freud with Rand?) and some amazing notions about Aristotle (who is known as a "functionalist," after all, in some quarters, though I would hesitate to pidgeonhole a mind of that scope) is hard to deal with, here. Where would one begin?

    Modern empirical science is equally appreciated by Objectivists. We love it. A good philosophy does not need to change with the march of science, however. A good philosophy, like Rand’s, allows for the acquisition of knowledge, including scientific knowledge. If alpha theory turns out to be objectively true, it will be consistent with Objectivism, whatever it says, even if it has not been anticipated by Objectivism. (Indeed, even apart from his errors, Aaron’s theory seems to be inspired in many ways by Rand’s thinking.)

    So I suggest, rather than dismissing Rand with an Olympian flick of the wrist, crack a book and find out what she really said.

    The application of Alpha to human beings is simply going to have to take into account consciousness and volition. I think you might find that the feedback loop from conceptual human thinking is greatly accelerated for this reason. You describe the surface effect (that is the process moves faster) but you have yet to put your finger on the mechanism. The differences between humans and other Eustaces permits humans to pursue death. Does that mean they are pursuing Alpha*? The fact is that human consciousness is a wild card that can greatly accelerate the process reducing Episolon, but it can also pursue death, which rather maximizes Epsilon. This is why they, alone among Eustaces, require ethics.

    Richard Dawkins, in formulating his theory of "memes," began with the observation that 99.999% of human cultures have gone by the wayside through human history. He was attempting to describe the non-genetic aspect of inherited human culture that leads to disaster and death or to survival. Thus even after Alpha theory is well understood, and has even achieved consensus in the scientific community, human beings will be able to alter course and go in the most suicidal death-oriented Alpha* direction possible.

    I might also observe this parallel to Aristotle in the premise of your argument. You seem to be saying, as Aristotled did, that if a man knows what is good he will necessarily do it. This was a contradiction for Aristotle, as he believed humans have free will. This does not appear to be a contradiction for your model, however.


  86. 86 86. Bill Kaplan

    Aaron,

    Do you view the following statement as true, false or meaningless:

    Alpha theory is to ontology as Richard Posner’s work is to jurisprudence.


  87. 87 87. Bourbaki

    Mr. Fahy,

    Bourbaki, your breathtaking ignorance of Objectivism (confusing Locke and Freud with Rand?) and some amazing notions about Aristotle (who is known as a "functionalist," after all, in some quarters, though I would hesitate to pidgeonhole a mind of that scope) is hard to deal with, here. Where would one begin?

    Objectivists are certainly a breathless lot. Look at Tremblay’s post way in the beginning of this thread.

    And expanding my knowledge of Objectivism with tapes and seminars would give me what new capabilities and explanatory power? Will I too gain the confidence of a practitioner with the depth of a dilletante?

    Will I be able to engage in arguments in economics, math, physics, biology, chemistry and computer science and know that I can win objectively? To me?

    The Catholic Church was a big fan of Aristotle, too. Objectivism sets off my bullshit detector. Just like religion. Is it possible to be more anti-intellectual? It is confirmation bias without the trouble of even confirming. Again, I think passion for this stuff is super but as an intellectual framework, based on what I see here, Objectivism is a train wreck.

    I suspect that’s why there’s very little real data in any of your arguments. Weak analogy and hand-waving argument from exception don’t get you very far. Neither does point after point of anecdote and quote. And the histrionics and drama and hero-obsession are just creepy.

    Modern empirical science is equally appreciated by Objectivists. We love it.

    Then you might want to start learning it rather than playing Bartlett-ball.

    A good philosophy does not need to change with the march of science, however. A good philosophy, like Rand’s, allows for the acquisition of knowledge, including scientific knowledge.

    A world view that does not adapt to new evidence? Objectivism is religion, dude. That explains why there is so much huffing and puffing so little blowing the house down.

    If alpha theory turns out to be objectively true, it will be consistent with Objectivism, whatever it says, even if it has not been anticipated by Objectivism.

    You wonder why people think you are in a cult?
    We are all heroes, objectively. I don’t need an emotional crutch to get my ass out of bed in the morning. I want my $19.95 back but I’m keeping the t-shirt.

    (Indeed, even apart from his errors, Aaron’s theory seems to be inspired in many ways by Rand’s thinking.)

    If Objectivism is who you are, I’m sure this is true. And if you’re a Christian, no doubt that Jesus inspired alpha theory, too.

    I can most definitely say that this is bullshit.

    The underlying thermodynamics originated with the ideas of Clausius, Clapeyron, Maxwell, and Boltzmann. The chemistry and molecular biology from Ostwald, Watson, Crick, Pauling and Perutz. The probability was provided by Bernoulli, Gauss, Kolmogorov, Ito, Levy and Wiener.

    It is the tools of this "priestly" class that are used in the derivation. Not some fruity notions about why we should know their results to be true to us. Objectively. You are free to ignore their work but to make progress you need to explain why they are wrong. Each of these developments including the concept of continuity and the notion of atoms was challenged by philosophers. And the philosophers lost. Every time. Not a good track record.

    So if there’s a way to apply science to new issues, I think I’ll stick with the odds-on favorite.

    So I suggest, rather than dismissing Rand with an Olympian flick of the wrist, crack a book and find out what she really said.

    I’ve heard that Helen Keller play mentioned several times. Do you guys all watch it together? There is an entire field of neuroscience that is actually figuring out how this shit works and you’re telling stories about hot stoves and mittens.

    From what little I know about her, she started out in Hollywood so I understand the drama and hero worship. But worth studying? Sorry, I’m just not that maudlin.

    The application of Alpha to human beings is simply going to have to take into account consciousness and volition.

    Why? Adding "simply" to a statement doesn’t make it true. In this instance, I’d be willing to settle for a story, anecdote or analogy. Give me something.

    I think you might find that the feedback loop from conceptual human thinking is greatly accelerated for this reason.

    You can think a lot of things. Only solipsism can make them all true.

    You describe the surface effect (that is the process moves faster) but you have yet to put your finger on the mechanism.

    Please read and understand Parts 1-6.

    If you have trouble with the content, I’m certain many people on this board would be happy to clarify it. Worst case, you’ll learn some new science–and that’s good since you are a lover of it.

    The differences between humans and other Eustaces permits humans to pursue death. Does that mean they are pursuing Alpha*?

    Yes. You will understand after you grok the theory. If you can find a hole in the theory that says otherwise, that would be great, too.

    The fact is that human consciousness is a wild card that can greatly accelerate the process reducing Episolon, but it can also pursue death, which rather maximizes Epsilon. This is why they, alone among Eustaces, require ethics.

    The "fact" that it is a "wild card"?

    more degress of freedom == more capabilities
    more degrees of freedom == more ways to screw up

    Unfortunately, there’s no way to separate the two.

    Give me one example where this wild card produces a desirable outcome that is different from the utility function from Part 6. Then we can start getting somewhere.

    Richard Dawkins, in formulating his theory of "memes," began with the observation that 99.999% of human cultures have gone by the wayside through human history.

    And human culture is about 10,000 years old. That’s about 0.00003% of the history of living systems.

    Thus even after Alpha theory is well understood, and has even achieved consensus in the scientific community, human beings will be able to alter course and go in the most suicidal death-oriented Alpha* direction possible.

    You seem to be saying, as Aristotled did, that if a man knows what is good he will necessarily do it.

    Here is the problem. You are looking for the keys where the light is best–not where you lost them. Some things take time and patience to understand. And that can be very unsettling. Just re-read your me-too nonsense on the other thread.

    The problem with Objectivism is that there is too little Doctor of Philosophy and too much Dr. Phil.


  88. 88 88. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    You need help dude. It may be chemical help, or it may be other kinds of help, but it should be professional.


  89. 89 89. MeTooThen

    OK,

    Admittedly I’m slow, and not the brightest bulb on the tree, and for reasons known and unknown, I have read and reread the above.

    Again, it has been pled that in order for us to glean ethical meaning from the formulation presented above, there must be the additional or independent allowance for consciousness.

    And as suggested before, consciousness is already present when Eustace is a human. Just like, voltage-gated ion channels are present for a neuron.

    It’s in there.

    Energy flux and, therefore, human behavior, are partially quantified and partially estimated, in the formulation, and each is dependent on the currently available information at some time(F@t-d, d>0).

    Successful human behavior in terms of optimization of its energy flux will by necessity be ethical.

    That’s it, right?

    This proposition does not it any way disallow for consciousness, in fact it is entirely dependent on it, as this is part of the human system.

    The intentional pursuit of rape, or arson, torture or cruelty, is unethical. Whether or not these same actions are energetically successful is what is being questioned.

    All of the sidetrack debating is amusing (or annoying, take your pick).

    Can anyone find fault with the sums?


  90. 90 90. Jim Valliant

    MeTooThen,

    I don’t see how it disallows consciousness, either. Quite the opposite.


  91. 91 91. MeTooThen

    Jim,

    OK, I’m dumb.

    If you don’t see how the formulation disallows for consciousness, then what’s the problem?

    Now remember I’m dumb, so please explain it to me in a way that 90 comments have failed to do.


  92. 92 92. Jim Valliant

    I think that the theory is easily cleaned-up of this stuff, but: when Aaron calls consciousness, volition, and teleology "slippery" concepts, or, when he declares that ethics "turns out" to be objective, then I sense fallacious reductionism at work. I have never objected to alpha itself in this regard. Indeed, Aaron appears to have carefully avoided (insofar as he can) the error that Bourbaki so frequently makes: calling molecules and contemporary computers "agents," while suggesting humans to be non-conscious and non-volitional robots. (In this regard, I agree with Mr. Fahy, I think Rand’s influence is in part to be credited here, since contemporary science usually makes Bourbaki’s same mistake.) But it is NOT an objection to the theory itself, so far. When I remind folks that to give any normative advice to homo sapiens, the theory must continue to at least implicitly assume volition and consciousness in humans, even if it does not explain these obvious facts. (I still hope that it can, at least in part– so there are also my own hopes at play here.) It cannot say, for example, as has been repeatedly said here, that since the theory doesn’t use those concept that they are superfluous. Newton’s mechanics does not need them, either. This does not make them fictions. The concepts to which I refer are a necessary part of the validation of ethics, if not this theory (whatever its classification), and ethics, contrary to Aaron’s statement cannot be "objective" without them. This all began as a simple caution, not as demonstration of a fatal flaw, by any means.


  93. 93 93. MeTooThen

    Jim,

    OK, so you and I (and Aaron and anyone else who wishes to) agree that the formulation assumes consciousness and volition, or in your words, "When I remind folks that to give any normative advice to homo sapiens, the theory must continue to at least implicitly assume volition and consciousness in humans, even if it does not explain these obvious facts.

    But where then, is the objection?

    Is there an objection?

    I mean, besides arguing the importance of "agency" or how to assign it and to whom, or to what, is there any objection to the formulation as it currently stands?

    Is the math wrong? (BTW, with regard to the math here, I’ll leave to the experts)

    Yes or No?


  94. 94 94. Aaron Haspel

    The formulation does not assume either consciousness or volition. I personally believe that people are obviously conscious, but nothing in alpha theory requires it. The theory restricts itself, so far, to alpha models, abstracting from their source. I presume this is why people are upset.

    It has been stated countless times on this thread, most recently by Jim, that "to give any normative advice to homo sapiens, [alpha] theory must continue to at least implicitly assume volition and consciousness in humans." A simple thought experiment will show this, with regard to volition, to be false.

    Johnson is reported to have said to Boswell, "The trouble with you, Boswell, is that you believe the last thing you read." Imagine a Boswell-like creature who always does the last thing he is told. (Not too outlandish. This is exactly how computers behave, and I know people who aren’t too far from it either.) Our pocket-Boswell does not have volition in any sense in which my Objectivist friends would admit the term. Yet it certainly pays to advise him, normatively or otherwise. He can follow your advice. In fact he will, until someone tells him different.

    You might reply that you’re not giving "normative advice" in this case, you’re giving "instruction" or some other term you prefer. Which leaves you in a nice tight definitional loop. "Normative advice" can be given only to volitional beings. And how do we distinguish my "instruction" from your "normative advice"? Simple! My "instruction" is given to automata, and your "normative advice" is given to volitional beings!

    Casey Fahy ran into a similar problem on the other thread with rats learning to run mazes. If you modify human behavior, that’s "teaching." If you modify rat behavior, that’s "training." Why? Because humans are humans, and rats are rats. The medieval scholastics wasted several centuries on arguments of this type.


  95. 95 95. Bill Kaplan

    Once you have volition, as Jim has pointed out, you are free NOT to pursue alpha, and in fact view the avoidance of alpha models as piety. History is full of such people. Ascetics, gnostics, Amish, Mennonites, Islamists and radical tree-huggers are but a few. Even Orthadox Jews on the Sabbath avoid alpha maximization. What is your point then?

    In game theory all actions are defined as either cooperation or defection. If there is an optimum alpha model, why do not all creature have the same model?
    (You must read Robert Axlerod on this).


  96. 96 96. MeTooThen

    Aaron,

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

    OK, the theory does not assume consciousness per se, but it does not disallow it, and as I understand it (and please tell me if I’m wrong), the formulation allows for each system as it is, whether dog, alfalfa, bacterium, or man.

    Therefore, it is in there. The theory doesn’t require it, but the human system does.

    So, it’s in there.

    Now I am repeating myself.

    Sigh.

    Bill Kaplan,

    How do you know that keeping the Sabbath, or keeping hallal, or any taking Communion, is not alpha-star maximizing?

    More to the point, how do you know that religious observance of any kind isn’t successful in terms of energy flux?

    And yes, all systems do have the same model, they may be different systems, but the model under which they operate is the same.


  97. 97 97. Jim Valliant

    MeTooThen,

    My objection is not to the theory, at least as presented so far, but to such comments as Aaron’s last post. "The theory restricts itself, so far, to alpha models, abstracting from their source. I presume this is why people are upset." No, this is not the thing that I object to (and certainly not what ever made me upset, as the history of my posts demonstrates.) Alpha’s self-restriction in this regard is what I like about it, not what I object to at all. (But there are what we lawyers call some "dicta," certain linguistic quibbles, that are easily fixed, I think.)

    However, Aaron is dead wrong when he denies that consciousness is assumed by the theory. All knowledge assumes it and relies upon the truth of it. This is what it means to be an axiom. How can he think about it (or anything) without assuming that he is conscious? How can he communicate it (or anything) unless he assumes that someone else is conscious? Every theory assumes the fact of consciousness–and assumes it to be real–admit it or not, whether the theory pertains to it or not. Most theories don’t need to address it explicitly as such–like this one–so far. But it’s assumed by every item of knowledge.

    He is still more mistaken about volition–and he won’t even concede its "obviousness." Normative advice inherently assumes volition. "Advice" of any kind assumes an available alternative. Computers cannot be "given advice." They are not even told what to do. They are MADE TO DO IT. There is nothing even slightly compelling about the "thought experiment." I can only believe that Johnson’s assertion about Boswell was made in the hope that Boswell would change his ways. Otherwise, why tell Boswell?

    Like consciousness, volition is an observed fact: I consider alternatives, weigh possible futures and their outcomes–i.e., I choose. I choose to attend to these things, or I choose to evade them. When we fail to exercise our reason, our volition, we do indeed act like determined automatons, buffeted by the forces of environment and genes. When we think and consider things, we learn, we consider alternatives, and we open up new possibilities. Computers, at least the ones we have so far, do not need and cannot use ethics. Only beings with choice can be praised, blamed, criticized, etc. Only humans can be given options, tips, advice, of any kind.

    Still more interesting is your question about religion and alpha. I am curious what kind of response we will get!


  98. 98 98. Casey Fahy

    OK, Aaron, you goaded me back into posting.

    The experience of a rat’s consciousness as it "learns" a route through a maze to some cheese is comprised of experience of stimuli propelled by instinct. It moves through the maze it is plopped into mainly to get out, is forced through passageways that allow alternatives, it takes one based on stimuli and the instinct to continue finding a way out, then catches a whiff of cheese, then is motivated by hunger, then reaches a dead end then turns and continues pursuing the source of the cheese smell, until it finds it. When put back through the maze, the experience is recalled through sense memory; it may make mistakes, but the next time it runs the maze the sense memories will be stronger. On the outside looking at the rat it seems to be problem solving in the way that we do.

    To a large degree human consciousness operates on the same level as the rat. We take in an enormous amount of sensory information, we remember visual and other cues, we head toward rewards instead of disappointments; but there is a narrative layer of consciousness directing us that the rat does not share: "Aha! They’re testing me… oh, I see, they want me to memorize the route… I don’t even particularly like cheese… what if I just sit in a corner and ruin their experiment?"

    This is the layer I’m talking about — it doesn’t exist in rats, at all, not even a faint little gradation of it. This is the layer we are operating at via the Internet on this blog. This is wholly unique to human beings. That is why our experience of "learning" is different from the rat’s — absolutely different in this regard, which is the regard, and the importance of same, which I’m trying to get at, here. That’s why I point out a difference in kind between what we call "learning" in a rat and "learning" in a human being. Hence, the word "training." We have animal trainers, not animal teachers, because teaching humans is a whole different ball of wax.

    Now fire away at this hopeless Objectivist dilettante!


  99. 99 99. Bill Kaplan

    MeTooThen,

    All the cults (yes, that is a value laden word) I mention eschew modernity and the use of labor saving devices. If alpha is derived from the laws of thermodynamics, then maximization means either using the products of intellect to minimize human labor or rejecting these products and increasing it. These are different stances with respect to alpha, despite what Selmer Bringsjord might say. If they are not different stances, then alpha is meaningless–a likely proposition. How likely is it after all that alpha maximization is that towards which all things aim, yet it was just discovered a month ago?

    And why on earth do you think all systems have the same model? Really, I would like to know.


  100. 100 100. Bourbaki

    "For me, life is just like a machine – a machine with a computer program. There’s no more to it than that. But not everyone shares this point of view," he told the BBC.

    The properties of alpha are purely physical and manifest in dynamic system sustainability. That’s it. The Eustaces that survive happen to be in a configuration that prevented their dissipation.

    Now it’s game theory and no mention of Von Neumann and Morgenstern?

    In game theory all actions are defined as either cooperation or defection. If there is an optimum alpha model, why do not all creature have the same model?

    For the same reason all investors don’t have the same portfolio. The state space for this game is beyond any closed-form solution. The optimum alpha model is always contingent on the filtration. And the filtration is always changing and there is a cost to adapting to it.

    No strong solution is always alphatropic. In other words, there are no universal strong solutions.

    There is always new uncertainty and variability.

    A Eustace adapted to hydrogen sulfide in black smokers at the bottom of the sea will have a different configuration than a Eustace adapted to photons via electron cascade at the surface. And committing to those strong solutions will make each less adapted to the other’s environment.

    A configuration persists insofar that it reduces epsilon i.e. it improves the probabilities of survivial. But if the filtration changes, an alphatropic configuration may become alphadystropic. This is the dichotomy between strong and weak solutions from part 5.

    Orthodox Jews and "tree-huggers" both pursue alpha-star according to their respective alpha models. The alpha models are adapted to the filtration in different ways and result in different epsilon. Consider the sabbath (as a strategy against strong solutions of daily routine) in the context of Part 5.

    Also, recall the dramatic effects of subtle biases in Bernoulli trials from Part 3. If we consider each day as a Bernoulli trial, and add a slight bias that improves how well a model is adapted, the effects can be very significant.

    Of course, the doctrinaire aspect of it has its own problems. You might notice this pattern. There is a tendency to take strong solutions adapted to a particular filtration (F@t-d) and freeze them as though they have become independent of the filtration (F@t+d).

    Ascetism is not necessarily alphadystropic; it may be a response to restrictive strong solutions. Strong solutions can become confining; just look at all of our silly social customs. So, is an ascetic a heretic or a rebel?

    And yes, all systems do have the same model, they may be different systems, but the model under which they operate is the same.

    That’s right. Constant course correction of a system based on adaptation to the filtration, circumscribed by inviolate physical laws.

    How likely is it after all that alpha maximization is that towards which all things aim, yet it was just discovered a month ago?

    Physical theories have a funny way of working that way. Do you think people were immune to gravity until someone formulated a theory for it?


  101. 101 101. Bourbaki

    For all of this Objectivist glorification of the human capacity for abstraction (see other thread), it is ironic that they are unable or unwilling to see abstraction applied to ethics.

    Notice how the "challenges" are all "concretes" rather than attempts to unravel the foundation of the theory.


  102. 102 102. Casey Fahy

    Bourbaki,

    The foundations of theories are concretes, concretes are what theories are built from, unless the theories are false or mere tautologies. Anyway, that’s just an example of how badly my poor brain can misinterpret what you said.

    So maybe I’m taking everything you’re saying the wrong way.

    Maybe the problem is that there needs to be a definition of terms here, for the layman. When you use the word "concretes" do you mean what I rather carefully defined and exampled, or something else that I should be aware of? If so, that’s OK, just let me know so I can keep track conceptually where we are. If it’s not an "Objectivist" view and is instead a more consensus view, explain it simply, even to a dummy, as I’ve given a go at explaining and laying out the rationale for my position on the subject.

    By the way, do you think that these discussions are of no interest to your theory? If so, I’ll stop.

    Casey


  103. 103 103. Bourbaki

    Mr. Fahy,

    If you were to disprove a mathematical theorem, f(x) = y, you could do it in a number of different ways.

    You could try computing f(x) for a large number of possibilities to find one that did not match the predicted ‘y’. You would only need one exception to either prove the theorem wrong or to force it to be reformulated.

    Another approach would be to follow the proof and uncover a flaw in the logic.

    If the purpose of the exercise is insight and unifying results, we tend to concentrate on systematic methods and avoid the isolated results.

    If the theory is invalid, either method works. You are free to attack it either way–even by invoking references to Selmer Bringsjord (Clay Prize winner? I don’t think so).


  104. 104 104. Casey Fahy

    I’ll take that as a yes.


  105. 105 105. Bourbaki

    Mr. Fahy,

    you should really read Ludwig von Mises’s "Human Action" on macro-praxeological prediction

    I am familiar with Mises; both Ludwig and Richard.

    Let’s unite their ideas into one more example because I think we’re close. Keep in mind that this is an analogy but it may make Parts 2-6 easier to understand.

    Consider a stock picking game. You have a pigeons crapping on the Wall Street Journal, monkeys throwing darts and a group of star hedge fund traders.

    Each individual has a trading account with a different sum of money.

    Whether they "know it or not", if their return relative to their initial wealth falls below a treshold r_c, their account is closed. At the end of each day, their returns are calculated.

    Now consider only the performance of each portfolio.

    Is there a closed-form solution to always win at this game? No. Will the star hedge fund traders always win? No. Will they sometimes get caught up in trends (e.g. tech stocks) that can ruin them? Yes. Do their intentions when they pick a stock affect the return? No. Might the hedge fund traders use options and stocks together to hedge certain risks in a way that monkeys and pigeons can not? Yes. Can these financial innovations free them from the consequences of the market? No. Does knowing that maximizing r is the objective help? Yes.

    So how do we gauge who will be around to play tomorrow?

    max E([r - r_c]@t F@t-1)

    Now swap out money with alpha and please explain what changes. If you can improve on this strategy, you have an even bigger theory on your hands and there are some very big banks that would let you name your price.


  106. 106 106. Bourbaki

    Let’s ignore the filtration for a second–it’s tripping people up. Consider a purely hypothetical system.

    (1) Humans with a "perfect" alpha model (zero epsilon)
    (2) Humans with the "perfect" ethical framework

    Where do these diverge and why? How does the "wild-card" of consciousness change (2)?

    Keep in mind that when alpha is not maximized, free energy is literally wasted. Not "invested" in high risk/high return opportunities but burned into waste heat and decay.


  107. 107 107. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    a) People knew about gravity, they just didn’t know it applied in the heavens. Nobody knew about alpha.

    b)There is a closed form solution not to lose the game, assuming you know what the monkeys are doing.

    c) Finally, you pinned the tail on the donkey:

    "(1) Humans with a "perfect" alpha model (zero epsilon)
    (2) Humans with the "perfect" ethical framework

    Where do these diverge and why?"

    This is the question. I list cults as divergence. What’s your answer?


  108. 108 108. Bourbaki

    This is good. Watch out! A new idea! Didn’t they shut down the patent office in 1900? (They didn’t–I was joking).

    a) People knew about gravity, they just didn’t know it applied in the heavens. Nobody knew about alpha.

    I’m sure the same sentiment applies to germs, atoms, and DNA. Galileo, Newton, et. al. were simply tidying up the sums. They did nothing to increase our understanding?

    b)There is a closed form solution not to lose the game, assuming you know what the monkeys are doing.

    A closed form solution for the financial markets based on knowing what a group of monkeys is doing? Please show it to me! We’ll rule the markets! I’ll gladly provide the capital. And the monkeys.

    Is there a paper by Selmer Bringsjord I can read? Will I need to take out tiny ads in local papers?

    c) Finally, you pinned the tail on the donkey: This is the question. I list cults as divergence. What’s your answer?

    You completely misunderstood the question. You are confusing alpha and alpha-star. You think cults qualify for the hypothetical "perfect" alpha model?

    For an alpha model to be "perfect", it must be zero epsilon. How can any dogma possibly be zero epsilon?

    But also keep in mind that churning your portfolio just to look busy isn’t alphatropic either. Sometimes you just gotta take a sabbath and think about stuff.


  109. 109 109. Jim Valliant

    Bill and Casey,

    Consider the sheer waste of time that is arguing with Bourbaki:
    "Let’s ignore the filtration for a second–it’s tripping people up. Consider a purely hypothetical system.
    (1) Humans with a ‘perfect’ alpha model (zero epsilon),
    (2) Humans with the ‘perfect’ ethical framework."

    People can even know the perfect alpha model and still actively and systematically work against it. (THAT’S "where.") Indeed, before people knew about alpha, they indeed could not have been "pursuing" it. When they do, then they still only MIGHT pursue it. Now, molecules and ants may be inexorably doing this, but humans frequently pursue their alpha* in the afterlife … I still wonder if that really "counts."

    Human "filtration" and "reconfiguration" happens by means, not of natural selection, but by conceptual consciousness. For alpha-theory to really be an improvement, people will have come to understand and accept it and employ it in their conduct. Until then, they may be quite explicitly (and literally) "pursuing" something else altogether–like death. That’s the mechanism of alpha* pursuit, such as it is, for humans. We do not wait for evolution to change us phsyically. Nor do we wait for the environment to recondition us. We think, consider, and act on our conceptual beliefs which may or may not conform to alpha. I do agree with Hayek, that many human social institutions are the unconscious result of a kind of evolution and selection-process, much of which is unintended and unknown to us, but retained because it furthers our (and its) survival. But making these things conscious IS possible to humans and it is really the only way of preserving such an institution in the long run–for human beings. All of this "unconsidered" stuff can very easily be trumped by conscious religion and ethics, precisely because we don’t know why we’re doing it.

    Also, I’m still dubious about the actual ethical implications of alpha. I will wait to see if produces the same thing as "good" (muchless "perfect") ethics, something I know about with some confidence. I want to see alpha handle a variety of difficult ethical questions, first. If it’s answers line-up with what I already know with great clarity about ethics, then alpha is step closer, at least.

    "For all of this Objectivist glorification of the human capacity for abstraction (see other thread), it is ironic that they are unable or unwilling to see abstraction applied to ethics." Objectivism has a whole collection of ethical abstractions and principles. (See Tara Smith’s ‘Viable Values,’ just for example.) Don’t ya just love folks who shoot off their mouths wildly against something from a position of that kind of total ignorance?

    And, I wonder, why exactly don’t monkeys and pigeons have hedge-funds? I mean, precisely, why–the mechanism itself, not the thermodynamic reasons for developing such a mechanism, or why the mechanism saves energy, or why we can expect such a mechanism to have evolved, etc.–but the exact "why"? How do we do that except by self-critical thinking, concepts and choices?


  110. 110 110. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    To not lose the investment game relative to the monkeys, just mimic the monkeys. This should be as obvious as the strategy in matching pennies.

    Germs were novel, but seen entities. Atoms were discussed since Democritus. DNA? Since Mendel we were looking for clues. Nobody is looking for alpha. Nobody. I realize the last creatures to discover water would be fish, but good grief, even fish would have found something like this.

    Thermodynamics as proxy for ethics? Why not electro-magnetism or gravity or anything else with some laws to which conservation attach? I know, a theory of ethics based on angular momentum! Yes, that’s the ticket. This whole is Rylean category mistake.


  111. 111 111. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    Welcome back!

    We do not wait for evolution to change us phsyically. Nor do we wait for the environment to recondition us.

    I take it you live in a hyperbaric chamber on the mothership and have no need for an immune system?

    the same thing as "good" (muchless "perfect") ethics, something I know about with some confidence.

    Oh yeah. That’s self-evident. Just check out the rants of your fellow droid:

    Some of the "ominous parallels" between pre-Hitler Germany and the United States that Peikoff identifies are:

    * Liberals who demand public control over the use and disposal of private property social security, more taxes, more government control over the energy industry, medicine, broadcasting, etc.

    * Conservatives who demand government control over our intellectual and moral life prayer in the schools, literary censorship, government intervention in the teaching of biology, the anti-abortion movement, etc.

    * Political parties devoid of principles or direction and moved at random by pressure groups, each demanding still more controls.

    * A "progressive," anti-intellectual educational system that, from kindergarten to graduate school, creates students who can’t read or write students brainwashed into the feeling that their minds are helpless and they must adapt to "society," that there is no absolute truth and that morality is whatever society says it is.

    * A student radical movement (from the 1960′s through the violent anti-nukers and ecology fanatics of today) who are, Peikoff maintains, the "pre-Hitler youth movement resurrected." The radicals are nature worshippers who attack the middle class, science, technology, and business.

    * The rise of defiant old-world racial hatreds disguised as "ethnic-identity" movements and "affirmative action."

    * A pervasive atmosphere of decadence, moral bankruptcy, and nihilist art accompanied by the rise of escapist mystic cults of every kind astrology, "alternative medicine," Orientalists, extrasensory perception, etc.

    In an introduction to Peikoff’s book, Ayn Rand describes The Ominous Parallels as, "the first book by an Objectivist philosopher other than myself" and goes on to say that, "If you do not wish to be a victim of today’s philosophical bankruptcy, I recommend The Ominous Parallels as protection and ammunition. It will protect you from supporting, unwittingly, the ideas that are destroying you and the world."

    Don’t ya just love folks who shoot off their mouths wildly against something from a position of that kind of total ignorance?

    Indeed. You got me. I’m an "Orientalist"!

    And, I wonder, why exactly don’t monkeys and pigeons have hedge-funds?

    Did you miss the explicit instructions to consider only the portfolios?


  112. 112 112. Bourbaki

    To not lose the investment game relative to the monkeys, just mimic the monkeys. This should be as obvious as the strategy in matching pennies.

    Who said this was relative? It’s with respect to the markets (Universe)

    You and the monkeys would go bankrupt at the same time. Damn–there goes the money printing machine.


  113. 113 113. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    Games are usually between participants. If it is not between participants, then it is not a game, is it?


  114. 114 114. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    Games are usually between participants. If it is not between participants, then it is not a game, is it?

    Aren’t the financial markets composed of participants? So your "closed-form solution" was to know what every other participant was doing?

    I thought you were going to point out that r_c could be the risk free rate so you could buy Treasuries and repo them with a triple-A counterparty.

    Then again, my ears perked up when I heard set theory, the Copenhagen debate, and alternatives to the theory of evolution. I, too, am an optimist and am eagerly awaiting your formulation of alpha theory using only angular momentum. If you do it, alpha theory will become something like M-Theory with lots of candidates.

    Unfortunately, in this case, our cost of funds will probably be (wild guess) in the LIBOR + 50 bps range so that strategy wouldn’t work. Plus, why would we need the monkeys?

    I’m sorry, but I’m not so sure about investing in an omniscience strategy. Although Mr. Valliant was a bit too harsh on Mr. Marbles–he does have a fund and he’s doing quite well–but I would think twice before putting the nest egg in there. Nevertheless, he works for bananas and looks damn good in a tuxedo.

    And remember, the whole exercise was an illustration to make Parts 2 – 6 easier to understand. We could just stick with the math and physics.


  115. 115 115. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    Re Investing: Screw triple a counterparties. If the game is to last as long as you can knowing that you are out of the game with a loss, then sell covered calls on low beta stocks making new highs. At least you got the cash.

    Re M-Theory: I agree with uncle Shelly, I don’t understand it.


  116. 116 116. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    I’m not "back" for you or your free-floating portfolios. If you cannot see the difference between a real portfolio that must be created by human beings and whatever animal analogue you care to stretch and belabor and confuse, then you are hopelessly blind to reality. Your pathological need to attack Rand and her ideas rather than focus on the specific points of substance raised here and your admitted inability to see the points I do make, rendering you, by your admission, unable to respond to me, makes dialogue with you impossible. Surely, you can see that by now?


  117. 117 117. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    What if volatility was cheap? Would you sell volatility at any price?

    Maybe I should keep my four dollars in my mattress. If I buy one more sub, I get a free one.

    Mr. Valliant,

    Cheer up. What good is a philosophy if it can’t take some heckling?

    If you cannot see the difference between a real portfolio that must be created by human beings and whatever animal analogue you care to stretch and belabor and confuse, then you are hopelessly blind to reality.

    I do see a difference. Monkeys sometimes outperform the humans. But fear not–alpha theory won’t have you working for Mr. Marbles anytime soon.


  118. 118 118. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    In real life you are correct about pricing. But you put forward a game that could be lost, but not won. In that circumstance, I avoid volatility.


  119. 119 119. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    But you put forward a game that could be lost, but not won.

    Like life?


  120. 120 120. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    Yeah. That second law is a bitch.


  121. 121 121. CT

    "Your pathological need to attack Rand and her ideas rather than focus on the specific points of substance raised here and your admitted inability to see the points I do make, rendering you, by your admission, unable to respond to me, makes dialogue with you impossible."

    You are either completely obtuse or so enamored of the Hive-Mind that you are no longer able to see argument when it is front of you. Bourbaki has time and again offered arguments (with transparency and logical connections and proof) and you time and again mistake it for an ad hominem. Perhaps back at the Compound you guys are unused to it, so for your sake let me assure you that this is called "argument" and "discussion". I know it is scary stuff to have to do, but many of us find our lives enriched by it. Of course this presupposes that you able (if not willing) to be persuaded.

    But given posts like "no matter what alpha says it supports Objectivism" and "a good philosophy does not need to change with the march of science", I hold out little hope.

    Oh well. I bet you guys have nifty robes at least.


  122. 122 122. Jim Valliant

    C.T.,

    Newton’s proven science was not "overturned" by anything discovered later. Neither were the truths of logic discovered by Aristotle. Our understanding of both has greatly sophsticated, but, like Objectivism, established truth need never worry about subsequent discoveries. It must, of course, actively remain open to new information and thinking. (As I have demonstrated here, but not Bourbaki.) There is also an epistemoloigical heirarchy and order to knowledge (one of the many points ignored by Bourbaki), as well, with the necessary base of all knowledge being more secure than what is built on it, like the relationship between sense-perception and axiomatic concepts to theories of physics. We do not wipe out all prior knowledge when we discover something new. We add to it, show why and under what circumstances it applies, etc. But truth always remains truth. This is heresy, I know, so I don’t need to tell you to get the angry mob with the torches worked up.

    "Randroid," used by you or Bourbaki, just to cite but one of the many, many examples you ignore, is not a reasoned argument. You are just as dishonest as he is.

    Later!


  123. 123 123. CT

    "but, like Objectivism, established truth need never worry about subsequent discoveries."

    Should anyone ever offer the establishment of the truth of Objectivism as solidily as that of Newtonian physics than I will agree it need not fear subsequent discovery. Note that this establishment need be more robust than an Objectivist claiming Objectivism to be true.

    Actually not entirely. Even Newtonian physics allows for its disproof.


  124. 124 124. Bill Kaplan

    CT,

    "Note that this establishment need be more robust than an Objectivist claiming Objectivism to be true.

    Actually not entirely. Even Newtonian physics allows for its disproof."

    Yeah, but Dawinism doesn’t. NB–that horse well flogged.


  125. 125 125. Matt McIntosh

    Bill – That depends if we’re talking evolution the theory/theories or evolution the facts. Evolution qua fact is not falsifiable precisely because it’s a set of facts, not a theory. Organisms change and evolve. This, I should hope, you don’t dispute. Evolutionary theories seek to find the underlying mechanisms behind these changes that occur and should at least in principle be as open to falsification as any other biological theories.

    And as for the rest of you… Yeesh. It comes to this.

    Bourbaki and CT: "Randroids! Cultists! Silly doo-doo-heads!"

    Jim and Casey: "You just don’t get it man!"

    While I am substantively in agreement with Bourbaki and CT, I am having trouble not cringing at all of this.


  126. 126 126. Bill Kaplan

    Matt,

    You missed it. I do not believe Darwinism (as opposed to theories about the development of specific organisms) is falisible. In short, I believe we have (1)cut off observing instances that tend to undermine Darwinian theory, and (2) have assumed the theory in cases that may not be justified. I conclude that Darwinism is not a scientific theory at all, but a meta-theory which prescibes an accounting for all subsidiary arguments. I will shut up now before Bourbaki sees this post.


  127. 127 127. Bourbaki

    I will try not to indulge the temptation to be a "doo-doo-head" myself. And, yes, I had it coming.

    I will shut up now before Bourbaki sees this post.

    Not a problem. Perhaps you’ll find this helpful.

    Models are supposed to be replaced if something better comes along. Science is generally competitive enough to allow this to happen and there is still plenty of debate among biologists about what drives adaptation. But scientists are not immune to confirmation bias.

    But Mr. Kaplan, you seem to have a chicken and egg problem on your hands. Wouldn’t you dismiss any alternative theory out of hand simply because it was new and others had not already been looking for it?


  128. 128 128. Matt McIntosh

    Bill,

    Well if we want to get right down to it, Darwinism is just a macro-scale application of alpha theory. Organisms which tend to exhibit alphadistropic behaviour relative to their surrounding environment tend to die off (in Darwinian language, they are "unfit"). So Darwinism is falsifiable insofar as thermodynamics is falsifiable. You can certainly phrase it in ways that make it falsifiable, such as "any animal which consumes sources of food in its environment faster than those sources can replenish will inevitably die off". Just because the predictions are glaringly obvious doesn’t make them unfalsifiable; it’s just that the potential falsifiers would be absurd.

    Or at least that’s how I see it, but I’m not a biologist.


  129. 129 129. Jim Valliant

    Mr. McIntosh,

    The epistemic standard of "falsifiability" is a purely philosophical position, specifically, an epistemological one (a product of useless previous philosophizing?), but one that I question in many other applications.

    For example, do direct observations have to "falsifiable"? Sure, experimental results must be replicable, but, ultimately, how does one "falsify" what has been claimed to have been observed except by more observation or its absence? Is the validity of observation itself something that must be "falsifiable"? At most, isn’t this standard applicable only to abstract propositions (just for starters)? Then, hows about the standard of falsifiability itself–does IT have to be "falsifiable," etc., and why?

    Please tell me why exactly this standard is being assumed and adopted as universal? If you can stick to alpha theory and not appeal to any "meta"-anything–certainly no previous philosophy–to do so, all the better.


  130. 130 130. CT

    Matt

    You are right as to the degrading of civility and maturity. For my contribution to it let me offer my apologies for my childish behavior to Mr. Kaplan, Mr. Valliant and Mr. Fahy and anyone else that may deserve it.


  131. 131 131. Matt McIntosh

    CT and Bourbaki – Good men, now play it clean from here on in and no more R-word! :)

    Jim,

    "For example, do direct observations have to "falsifiable"?"

    No. Sensory observations/basic statements are singular and not subject to falsification (though sometimes they may not be telling us what we think they are, but that’s slightly different). When Popperians like myself (and Bill, presumably) talk about falsification, we’re only talking about universal theories such as the laws of gravity, thermodynamics, etc. There’s a logical asymmetry between universal theories and singular observations: universal theories are falsifiable but not verifiable (as in we can’t abslutely be totally sure of their truth, though we can corroborate them through experiment) and can predict singular events, while singular instances/observations are verifiable but not falsifiable and can falsify a universal theory.


  132. 132 132. Bill Kaplan

    Matt,

    Yes I am a Popperian in this sense: In order for a theory to be scientific it must be falsifiable. There are a lot of other kinds of theories that happen to be correct that are not falsifiable. They just aren’t "scientific".

    Bourbaki,

    You mean Gould wins and Dawkins loses, but Darwin remains above it all, paring his fingernails? Well, at least Gould liked baseball.


  133. 133 133. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    I’m not sure what a glib summing up of two popular accounts achieves. Each author must do a great deal of hand waving to get the message across to a lay audience. It’s a very important task but popularizers should not be mistaken for spokespeople.

    I’m not so sure how much of the debate was actually between Dawkins and Gould and how much of it was "hammed" up between self-styled Bacons and their own "distempers".

    As I understand it, Gould saw an uncrossable divide between science and ethics that is bridged by alpha theory. Dawkins, or more likely, those who speak for him, mistakenly separated the filtration from the unit of selection, the gene.

    Consider the main types of biopolymers (nulceotides and protein) that are all constructed by the same underlying model–a regular repeating backbone with variable side chains, consisting of four bases and translated into twenty amino acids. This type of stucture generates a gigantic number of polymers with ‘n’ monomers: 4^n polynucleotides and 20^n polypeptides.

    For a polynucleotide with 300 bases, coding for a small protein, the number of possible sequences is 4.0E180–more than the total number of electrons in the known Universe.

    The value of ‘n’ is 3.0E3 to 5.0E5 for viruses, 10E6 to 10E7 for bacteria, and 10E9 to 10E10 for plants and animals.

    We know that the environment affects gene expression and mutation. So in a sense, Dawkins stance on gene determinism is akin to Poincare’s stance on refuting the second law of thermodynamics.

    Boltzmann crunched the numbers for a cubic centimer of gas.

    If you took a cubic centimeter of gas in some ordered state and let it sit for 10E[trillion] years (that’s 10 to the trillionth power or so), you have a non-zero chance of the gas returning to its ordered state.

    You are free to crunch the numbers for the biopolymers. My tip calculator only shows ‘ERROR’.


  134. 134 134. Jim Valliant

    C.T.,

    One thing I do know, I got out of hand myself.

    Mr. McIntosh,

    I’m beginning to think that we would agree about everything if stuck in a room together. Will you agree with me that there is an epistemology underneath alpha, the development of centuries of science and philosophy, whether the authors admit this or not?


  135. 135 135. Matt McIntosh

    Jim,

    I think so. If we consider ethics to be an advanced form of doing alpha, then I suppose epistemology can be considered an advanced filtration system.


  136. 136 136. George

    Please check out
    http://www.globalwarmingsolutions.co.uk/joules_thermoscope.htm

    For a serious examination of "THE CARNOT THEOREM IS WRONG"
    by a certain Dr. A. Williams, ex-British MP (not that that’s a good thing).
    Merry Christmas!


  137. 137 137. Bourbaki

    Mr. George,

    Why not scale up Crooke’s radiometer? Others have tried and ended up here.

    But how would any of this change our conclusions?


  138. 138 138. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    Merry Christmas! (Does that annoy you?)

    Anyway, anyone who is a tenured professor at Harvard, Oxford or similarly snooty school is by definition a spokeman for his position, even if he is a popular author. Sorry, but I have had to put up with Dershowitz as a spokesman for my profession, much to my consternation.


  139. 139 139. Jesus von Icecream

    Hello –

    Well with due respect to the considerabe number of cogent points made, I think, from my perspective anyway, that one of your premises is wrong and is fatal to your result.

    All is not number.

    The taste of beer, the feeling of orgasm, jealousy, the feeling you get when you help an old lady carry her groveries – these might be *represented* in some mathematical fashion, but the map is not necessarily the territory.

    Second, I will "be that guy" and quote Nietzche to the effect "there are no moral phenomena at all – only a moral interpretation of phenomena".

    Lastly, and etymology and the dictionaries of philosophy aside, I would suggest that morality and ‘ethics’ go to the mode of analysis/interpretation/understanding of a given fact pattern.

    Old fashioned empathy seems a great and valid way to interact with the world on a personal level – morality is the reduction of suffering.

    Right action in the abstract would seem to be a form of Pragmatism where the problem is people’s initial valuation’s matter.

    In any event, please take these thoughts in the spirit in which they were offered – i.e. a rather amicable, flexible one.

    And there’s a better than average chance I misunderstood portions of your piece anyways.

    -JvE


  140. 140 140. Aaron Haspel

    If, as I claimed at some length, I can assign an alpha number to all events, then "All is number" is a conclusion, not a premise. It could be wrong, but then the error must lie in my derivation and must be pointed out. A map is a model of a territory: this is the territory.

    I agree with you and Nietzsche that there is only a moral interpretation of phenomena. Alpha is a theory of optimality; you may call it morality or ethics, as most people would, or you may call it something else.

    I agree with you about empathy too. Alpha theory claims that everyone acts on an alpha model to maximize alpha star; in other words, that no one aims at alphadystropy. In still other words, people act for reasons, and suboptimal action is a result of a high-epsilon alpha model and nothing else. I realize that all sounds pretty Vulcan, but at bottom it’s a surprisingly empathetic theory of behavior, don’t you think?


  141. 141 141. Bill Kaplan

    Aaron,

    Since you appear to have replaced Homo Economicus with Homo Alphastaricus, how do you answer the critics of the former like Daniel Kahneman?


  142. 142 142. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    Can you be more specific?

    Sub-optimal or irrational behavior is already addressed by epsilon.

    One very important result of Kahneman and Tversky work is demonstrating that people’s attitudes toward risks concerning gains may be quite different from their attitudes toward risks concerning losses. For example, when given a choice between getting $1000 with certainty or having a 50% chance of getting $2500 they may well choose the certain $1000 in preference to the uncertain chance of getting $2500 even though the mathematical expectation of the uncertain option is $1250. This is a perfectly reasonable attitude that is described as risk-aversion. But Kahneman and Tversky found that the same people when confronted with a certain loss of $1000 versus a 50% chance of no loss or a $2500 loss do often choose the risky alternative. This is called risk-seeking behavior. This is not necessarily irrational but it is important for analysts to recognize the asymmetry of human choices.

    The choices aren’t quite so inscrutable given your own observation (see above discussion of game theory) that we’re playing an asymmetric game.

    It would be helpful if you could illustrate how Kahneman’s theory diverges from alpha.

    Choices, Values and Frames seems to go hand in hand with what we’ve been discussing here.

    The game at this link is no longer active but you could observe behavior at a casino to learn many of the same lessons.


  143. 143 143. Anon

    I haven’t visited this site in a wile, and my what a contentious comment area has emerged.

    I am normally loathe to comment on very long threads (associated with very long comments sections, as well), but I would like to respond to Aaron’s three points above, since he suggests that no one else has.

    1. & 2. Aaron, if I recall your earlier posts correctly, you were trying to put philosophy (as practiced on blogs) on a firmer ground by removing the mutable opinions of people and replacing them with the immutable structures of science.

    So let us suppose that I have no argument with the laws of thermodynamics. As you have stated things, the laws of thermodynamics are ironclad. In other words, they will hold whether I accept them or not. As a result, I really do not see where you have shown that Eustaces flourish "insofar as they _pursue_ [alpha]," or that all we wild Eustaces "_act_ on models, which we call alpha models, to approximate it." (emphasis mine)

    At most you have shown that thermodynamics favors some Eustaces over others. You have not shown that any Eustaces are aware of that fact — In fact, you have repeatedly emphasized that philosophers, throughout history, have been blithely unaware of it, and that even scientists only realized it over the last couple of centuries — nor that they choose to act on that fact in any way even if they are aware of it. (I apologize for that horrible sentence construction, and for my repeared use of the phase "in fact" in what follows.)

    In fact, if I take your argument on its face, I don’t need to do anything it all to move philosophy forward. After all, thermodynamics works in one direction, as you have also pointed out. The sheer passage of time has surely led us towards the maximization of whatever function you propose. Even if that function itself has been changing over time, we should still have made some progress up its hill. If that were not the case, if the maximization function could be changing so rapidly and radically that progress could not be made, your thermodynamic model would be pointless.

    So to summarize: I do not see that you have motivated any _necessary cognizant (or even incognizant) action_ on Eustace’s part (a survival instinct, I suppose, as that phrase is suggestive of the origins of your approach). In fact, I think your model does not require it, as it would appear to pose a undirectional model of progress for any organism located within it — any object, really, that follows the laws of thermodynamics.

    As a result, I can only conclude that under your model we are currently at or approximately at the highest level of philosophical attainment the world has ever known.

    I am a bit too tired to properly address the consequences of this observation now, so I will only say this. People who made this sort of argument in the last century of the last millenium were generally met with the retort of WWI. Then, at least in American arts and letters, they were met with the retort of the Great Depression. Then WWII. Then the USSR. Then…Well, you get the idea. The point is, philosophy and humanity in this day and age should be rightly suspicious of unidirectional theories of development.

    And frankly, given your "pre-Disconsolation" posts, I would have expected you to be rather cynical about them as well.

    Since you say there has been much discussion of point 3., I will leave that one alone.

    Finally, I apologize if I have missed your point. I do intend to return and try to work through the comments section a bit more. But if you do intend to argue that the question of "What is optimal behavior for living systems?" is a question best answered with physics, I am afraid I will always have to disagree. Physics is what "is", not what "ought" — even more strongly, physics is what "is", _regardless_ of what "ought." A philosophy based on physics will therefore necessarily true or necessarily false, regardless of whether or not I personally assent or dissent from it. But such a philosophy, and certainly such an aesthetics, is plainly absurd. My life is full of "oughts," like what I ought to have for dinner, when I ought to leave for work, and how I ought to finish this comment already. Any philosophy with no room for "oughts" has no room for actual living, breathing people making active, conscious decisions in a living, breathing world.

    However, I do recognize that eliminating people tends to streamline the philosophy. Your equations are relatively simple, after all. So please, feel free to build your castle in the air. But I’ll remain here on the ground.

    Anon.


  144. 144 144. Eddie Thomas

    Aaron,

    Does your theory have as a basic assumption that survival is the fundamental objective of our or any rational existence?

    I’ve only been following from a distance and have only skimmed the comments quickly, so I apologize if you’ve spoken to this point already.


  145. 145 145. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    Kahneman (I think it was him) set up a very interesting experiment not cited in your links. In it, he gave two parties, who are in different rooms, who never meet and never will know who the other is the chance to share $100. The method is known to both participants ahead of time. The first party gets to choose how the $100 is to be shared: 50/50 or 90/10 or 75/25 or 99/1, whatever. The second participant has the right to accept the split or veto it. If there is a veto neither gets anything.

    If the second participant is homo economicus, he will accept any split that gives him more than $0. Why? Because he is in a better position (a) than when he started, and (b) than he would be in if he vetoed the split. However, Kahneman discovered that in a large number of cases when the first participant was too aggressive in his split, the second participant vetoed it. Thus, something else than rational economic behavior was at play in the second participant’s decision.

    While I believe you are correct that sub-optimal behavior is addressed by epsilon, irrational behavior is not. Alpha is that towards which all things aim, period. Thus, if a participant in, well, life chooses not to maximize alpha by vetoing a trade that would increase free energy (which is what money is recast as here), then the theory falls.


  146. 146 146. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    Alan Alda participates in that very experiment in SIA Frontiers on PBS.

    From the show:

    ALAN ALDA Well, if they give me a ridiculous offer, then I lose money because I don’t accept their ridiculous offer?

    JIM RILLING That’s correct. If you reject the offer, neither of you get anything.

    Refusing to reward or facilitate behavior that is perceived to be unfair is not necessarily irrational.

    Alpha is that towards which all things aim, period.

    And, you are, again, mistaking alpha for alpha-star.


  147. 147 147. Matt McIntosh

    Anon,

    "At most you have shown that thermodynamics favors some Eustaces over others. You have not shown that any Eustaces are aware of that fact"

    Nobody said they have to be, but it can certainly help them if they are.

    "In fact, I think your model does not require it, as it would appear to pose a undirectional model of progress for any organism located within it — any object, really, that follows the laws of thermodynamics."

    Aaron is proposing no such thing. He specifically said that once any Eustace drops below a_c (alpha critical), it’s game over for them. Yes we are currently at the highest point we’ve ever been at, but we can still lose ground by pursuing alphadistropic behaviour.

    Physics is what "is", not what "ought" — even more strongly, physics is what "is", _regardless_ of what "ought."

    Aaron knows this. If I understand it correctly, alpha is not normative, it’s strictly a tool. It doesn’t tell us what we should or shouldn’t do, merely gives us a way of evaluating certain policies with some degree of rigor and precision. You are free to pursue radically alphadistropic behaviour if you like, but it’s not a good idea if you value survival.


  148. 148 148. Bourbaki

    Although it’s not a perfect analogy, financial examples can be illustrative. We just need to keep in mind that we’re working with an analogy. Consider a business in a free market. There are many more ways to lose money than there are to make it. And there are constraints that no firm can violate.

    Further, there are no surefire ways to always make money. If there were, all businesses would be engaged in that activity. Opportunities depend on market conditions, efficiency, competition and the resources available to a firm. A highly evolved species can still be wiped out–just look at our hominid relatives.

    In many ways, alpha theory is as "prescriptive" as free market theory. Any collection of pescriptive recipes (simple or complex) will still be accountable to the underlying physics (or economics).

    (There hasn’t yet been any explanation of aesthetics so let’s hold off on how it might be absurd.)

    Then WWII. Then the USSR. Then…Well, you get the idea. So please, feel free to build your castle in the air. But I’ll remain here on the ground.

    Mr. Anon, you’re playing Chicken Little while excusing yourself for your positions by complaining that you’re tired–yet you’re still intent on kicking up a lot of dust with vague assertions.

    I knew sooner or later we’d run up against Godwin’s Law. Since these are simple equations (as are most equations in physics), why don’t you give us an example of how alpha leads to dystopia?


  149. 149 149. CT

    Let us consider what alpha can deliver: an objective, openly derived metric by which we can judge the fitness, sustainability, health, liklihood to survive or whatever of any system that is liable to the LoT. If we agree that sustainability is to be preferred then it is clear that we can derive prescriptive or at least favorable actions. I assume further that what one "ought" to do is that which favors sustainability. Alpha *may* allow us to determine what this is tho that also may require more information on our part than we can actually ever have. What it can do is allow us to measure a system and determine if any given action is more or less likely to favor sustainability. I for one am perfectly comfortable calling this prescription. Further I am comfortable placing a value on one behavior over another – that which favors sustainablity is to be preferred.


  150. 150 150. Jim Valliant

    Good issues, and I pine for the answers to them:

    "I do not see that you have motivated any necessary cognizant (or even incognizant) action on Eustace’s part…" Why do anything? Why is survival something I should lift a finger for? Why can’t my alpha* be sadism or power-lust–why not? Why can’t someone say, "Sadism and power-lust feel really good, and I much prefer these pleasures to longevity or optimal whatever." Can this be addressed? Or, is the foregoing the most we can expect here?

    "If I understand it correctly, alpha is not normative, it’s strictly a tool. It doesn’t tell us what we should or shouldn’t do, merely gives us a way of evaluating certain policies with some degree of rigor and precision. You are free to pursue radically alphadistropic behaviour if you like, but it’s not a good idea if you value survival." IF I do? Why should I? Aren’t some pleasures superior to old-age?Aaron, is this premise true, and, if so, is your theory really ethics?


  151. 151 151. CT

    Mr. Valliant:

    Filtration and alpha* being what they are organisms certainly may and certainly do pursue alphadystrophic behaviors (tho it has not been established that either "power-lust" or sm is such a behavior, but I assume that is how you intended them). However, such behavior will lead to a decrease in alpha and a hastening towards system incoherence and dissolution.

    Therefore such behavior is not to be recommended, and thus we arrive at prescription.

    That it can be determined that there are prescriptive behaviors and we can determine what these behaviors are (or are not) is not the same thing as saying that no organism will act contrary to them.

    This discrepancy is captured in its entirety by the section on epsilon and alpha*.


  152. 152 152. Bourbaki

    Picking and choosing counterexamples is fine for testing the theory but it’s important not to use the same approach in trying to understand the theory.

    Each of the Parts 1-6 builds on itself to produce a cumulative framework. Alpha theory cuts across disciplines because the Universe cuts across disciplines. Nothing in Nature is so cleanly separated as our fields of expertise.

    Mr. Kaplan illustrated this point with his reference to Kahneman–a Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences who is a formally trained psychologist. Kahneman claims to have not taken a single course in economics.

    Knowledge within disciplines is obviously very important but such efforts are not immune from more general and comparative theories that span across disciplines.

    Without a strategy for bridging the gap between specialties and organizing existing knowledge along theoretically coherent lines, we’re bound to be more confused by new research. And we’re guaranteed not to find an answer if we simply assume it doesn’t exist.

    If we’re really committed to causal explanation, we must have some idea where to look.

    Humans do have a strong capacity for violence. The most civilized people can be thrown into extreme conditions and "devolve" into savages because they lack alternative solutions to certain problems–alternative solutions that would involve less suffering and fewer deaths but more organization and resources.

    Whether our motivations are a cause or an effect of our context was tackled by Vilfredo Pareto and is still open to debate today.

    "Pareto used his time at Cligny to write his "Trattato di sociologia generale", which was finally published, after wartime delays, in 1916. This was his great sociological masterpiece. He explains how human action can be neatly reduced to residue and derivation. People act on the basis of non-logical sentiments (residues) and invent justifications for them afterwards (derivations). The derivation is thus just the content and form of the ideology itself. But the residues are the real underlying problem, the particular cause of the squabbles that leads to the "circulation of lites". The underlying residue, he thought, was the only proper object of sociological enquiry."

    Non-logical in this context means that the motivations can not be neatly decomposed. But the consequences of their action can be decomposed.

    Why can’t my alpha* be sadism or power-lust–why not?

    No one has stated they can’t be. But there are unavoidable consequences if these desires manifest as actions.

    IF I do? Why should I? Aren’t some pleasures superior to old-age?

    Careful with the false dilemma–the choice isn’t pursuing old age or enjoying yourself.

    And, Mr. Valliant, you’re partially right about "forcing" someone to be alphatropic. Their resistence would be well-advised since, much like markets, there are no get-alpha-quick solutions. But there’s less debate about behavior that is wasteful.

    In a free market, you can start a firm that simply wastes what money you have by burning it in your furnace. Economic forces will ensure that you don’t last very long. I would imagine that in any ethical consideration, you are just as responsible for your own well being as you are of others.


  153. 153 153. MeTooThen

    Again,

    "I do not see that you have motivated any necessary cognizant (or even incognizant) action on Eustace’s part…" Why do anything? Why is survival something I should lift a finger for?

    I am not sure how this question relates at all to the formulation as suggested by Aaron.

    Whether or not you should survive, or want to survive, is distinct from whether or not you do survive.

    And yes, people can engage in highly alphadystropic behavior and continue to survive, the meaning here is that no matter the amount of energy flux that has occurred, alpha-critical was not met.

    Whether one is a soldier-of-fortune, or IV drug user, or sadist, these seemingly alphadystropic behaviors may not, by themselves, be enough to reach critical.

    And yes, the Universe has within it, many more and independent energy systems that will have an effect on us.

    The shifting of the Earth’s plates at the bottom of the Indian Ocean released tremendous amounts of energy that, as it turns out, was dissipated in part by a huge tidal wave that swept away some 150,000 people.

    Now, is holiday going alphadystropic? Not necessarily, given the filtration at most times.

    Mr. Valiant, I ask that you reexamine the meaning and derivation of F.

    For people to be ethical, they will maximize alpha-star. But each does this within the function of F@t-1. (Can F be considered a "function" here?)

    In the case of the Tsunami, timing was everything. Such is the Universe.

    In general, our inability to be fully aware or cognizant of F@t-1 is where, and when, that we can and often do, act irrationally.


  154. 154 154. Jim Valliant

    No, no, MeTooThen, that’s a sufficient answer, for what it’s worth. It’s just that I sometimes sense more being said, that’s all. My objections, such as THEY are, so far, stand outside of the theory. So, it’s "prescriptive" in the narrow sense, not "normative" at all. Power lust, assuming the case that has been spoken about is made, is only a negative if what I’m after is closing the gap between alpha and alpha *. It does not say that’s what I "should" do, all. Got it. Is this right, Aaron?


  155. 155 155. MeTooThen

    Mr. Valliant,

    Well done, and thank you for your thoughtful comments.

    After reading your latest comment and rereading your penultimate one, perhaps I owe you an apology if I misunderstood your meaning.

    Query:

    Is ethical behavior normative? And if so, in what way?

    Or, if being moral is normative, what is that moves behavior toward this tendency?

    JvE above wrote, "…morality is the reduction of suffering."

    Poetic.

    Bourbaki wrote, "Filtrations occur in the theory of stochastic processes, which describe random events occurring over time. At a given point in time we can know certain things because they have already happened or because they can be predicted from what has already happened. The information that we have at a given point in time can be described by the set of events such that we know whether the event has occurred/will occur. This is a sigma-field. We can construct such a sigma-field for every increment of time. This collection of sigma-fields is a filtration. In fact any collection of one sigma-field for each time point is a filtration but the useful examples are of the sort described. Filtrations are almost always
    required to be "increasing", which means that an event in the sigma-field for time t is also in the sigma-fields for all times after t….This makes it very important, as the open sets define concepts such as continuity."

    If one’s behavior is sadistic, then it occurs at some time t, the filtration of which, will have all of the "sigma fields" that have occurred before t.

    Meaning that immoral or alphadystropic behavior does not (or cannot?) occur de novo.”

    In this sense, I suppose, that to continue such behavior would be both non-normative and there would be a proscription against it being done. (Again, given the available sigma-fields, or knowledge sets, available at t-1.)

    If morality is alphatropic, and moral persons alhpaphilic, then the evidence of their being so would by necessity be their success, survival, sustainability (here the linguistics gets tricky.)


  156. 156 156. Aaron Haspel

    Alphadystropic will henceforth be spelled with a "y," as in "dystopia," not with an "i," as in "right up in your face and dis you." It should really be "trophic" but that’s nasty to pronounce. On to less serious matters.

    There is no hidden survival-premise in alpha theory, as Eddie Thomas and others suspect. Alpha maximization itself, let alone alpha star, does not even require survival of the organism in every case. Take suicide. If you are in excruciating pain and expect it to continue for the rest of your life, your alpha will monotonically decline. The way to maximize a monotonically declining function is to terminate it. (In this context remember that we’re maximizing the deltas, the change between the current alpha state and some future state. We’re not maximizing the total area over alpha_c.) This is one reason vague alpha proxies like "survival" and "fitness" fail to do the job. I also have yet, in 150+ comments, to hear of a soul who failed to follow alpha-star, and I look forward to such an instance.

    Anon has taxed me with the view that every day, in every way, we are getting better and better. I do not believe, and the theory does not imply, any such thing. Obviously natural selection weeds out the less successful Eustaces; nobody needs alpha theory or me to tell them this. But the dominant force in the last 10,000 or so years of human history has been culture, not natural selection. Alpha models produce culture, for better or worse. The ancient Greeks had better ones, for the most part, than the medieval Europeans, with the results that you can read in any history book. But a few thousand years is an eyeblink for the alpha casino to sort better from worse. I’m reasonably optimistic, but very far from unidirectional.

    Aesthetics will enter the picture, and soon, but in nothing like checklist form. Alpha theory posits that such checklists are hopeless, in art or any other human endeavor. The supposed "naturalistic fallacy" I discussed in Part 1, and I see no reason to revise my remarks.

    Normative, prescriptive, prescriptive, normative, higamous, hogamous. The only question in all of this that relates to alpha theory is why I would bother to formulate it in the first place. That one’s easy: I want people to follow it. Whether they follow it of their own sweet will or because they operate according to some deterministic algorithm that assigns a certain weight to the last thing they read is no concern of mine, or the theory’s. It appears to be a great concern of some of my readers, like Jim. They may assure themselves that whatever emotional attachment they have to one view or the other I do not intend to disturb in the slightest.


  157. 157 157. Bourbaki

    Anon,

    Still not enough time to work through all the posts, so just some quick responses.

    In other words, you’re not sure you understand the argument but are nevertheless ready to formulate a position…

    More specifically, at some point you will come up with a checklist that tells me which art is good and which art is bad, based on thermodynamic principles.

    …by conjecturing about something that hasn’t even been discussed…

    Also, after expounding for so long, I also can’t help but feeling that I am the victim of an elaborate ruse…

    …only to conclude that you are a victim.

    I will, naturally, laugh at you.

    And what playbook is this from? I have only one guess.


  158. 158 158. Jim Valliant

    No, Aaron, that was not my concern (in this context). You "want" people to follow it. Why? "Should" they? Would you criticize them for not doing so? How and on what basis? Should they feel remorse (guilt?) if they do not? What would be one’s motive for doing so? Why would they want to? I still want to know if this is "ethics."


  159. 159 159. Anon

    Ack. Still not enough time to work through all the posts, so just some quick responses.

    Matt McIntosh:

    The statement that "we are currently at the highest point we’ve ever been at" contradicts the statement that "we can still lose ground by pursuing alphadistrophic behavior," insofar as the first statement is claiming that cumulatively, over time, _the Eustaces are always gaining ground_. That is what makes it a unidirectional theory — the notion that there are periodic, minor setbacks does not change that fact. The only way it would not be a unidirectional theoy would be if there were no reason to believe that the Eustaces, over time, would gain ground. But this would mean that "sustainable behavior" would not be favored over "unsustainable behavior," and that directly contradicts the model.
    In more prosaic terms, I do not believe that, over time, culture and art has just been getting better and better and better. I certainly don’t believe I live at the pinnacle (or near pinnacle) or art, music, or literature. I believe the whole history of art belies this notion of progress. I also believe this notion of progress is perfectly suited to the history of science.

    And as for your closing statement, I do realize that people can pursue alphadistrophic behavior. But my point is that they cannot refute the laws of thermodynamics. So once you determine the sets of sustainable and unsustainable behaviors, you will call anyone who follows the sustainable behaviors smart and anyone who follows the unsustainable behaviors a fool. And for me to refute my status as fool, I would have to refute the laws of thermodynamics and pose an alternative theory under which my behavior is the preferred one. But this is impossible. I may as well try to refute the fact that I have ten fingers and ten toes.
    More specifically, at some point you will come up with a checklist that tells me which art is good and which art is bad, based on thermodynamic principles. I will, naturally, laugh at you. But insofar as you have derived your rules from a fundamental physical principle, I cannot realize oppose your system with another one. I could only suggest that you had fallen into the naturalistic fallacy, wherein the discovery that the world "is" a certain way is taken to mean that the world "ought" to be a certain way.
    But the point is that this difficulty will arise for any and all philosophies based on physical facts. And just as I have never actually met anyone genuinely converted to Christianity by St. Anselm’s mathematical proof of the existence of God, I do not expect anyone in my lifetime to be convinced by thermodynamic proof that the films of M. Night Shyamalan are highly oveerrated.

    CT:
    You are free to feel that sustainability is to be preferred. You can call it CT’s philosophy. I am simply suggesting that nothing in the system Aaron has laid out implies, _or even requires_, favoring sustainability.

    Once again, I apologize if I have misread you Aaron, but I have assumed that you are trying to build an alternative philosophy of art. If, instead, you are simply trying to develop a framework by which to judge all human actions "with some degree of rigor and precision," as Matt McIntosh suggests…Well, as I mentioned in my earlier post, feel free to do so, with no objection (or interest) from me.

    But I do hope we get some posts in the old, non-systematic, unconscionably personal form soon, just for old time’s sake.

    Also, after expounding for so long, I also can’t help but feeling that I am the victim of an elaborate ruse…

    Happy new year.

    Anon.


  160. 160 160. Aaron Haspel

    Round and round we go. Humans do best for themselves by maximizing alpha. That is all. Remorse, guilt, personal responsibility, free will — this is the language of theology, and I will have no truck with it.

    You still want to know if this is ethics? It answers two questions: how people might behave optimally and how they fail to do so. If "ethics," as you conceive it, deals with more fundamental and important questions than these, I would very much like to know what they are.


  161. 161 161. Jim Valliant

    "If ‘ethics,’ as you conceive it, deals with more fundamental and important questions than these, I would very much like to know what they are." Wow, as you know, I just adore that kind of arrogance, Aaron! (Really, I do!) But, as nearly every previous system of ethics "conceives" it, ethics deals with purest "theology," that is, as YOU conceive it. "Important," isn’t that the "language of theology"? Why is it "important," and by what standard? Alpha? (Circle?)

    Aaron, what you are doing, at a minimum, is radically re-conceiving the whole subject of ethics. Indeed, what you are proposing is no less than the elimination of ethics as we understand it: "Remorse, guilt, personal responsibility, free will this is the language of theology, and I will have no truck with it."

    Yeah, free will is implicit, of course. If an individual cannot help but act in order to close the alpha/alpha* gap, like evolution does, then no advice is needed, right? We waste our breath telling someone to do something he will do anyway. If one can act otherwise, then "personal responsibility" (which I, somehow, EQUATE with ethics) kicks in in full force, right? If I have no choice about it, then I, for one, am not going to lift a finger to close the alpha*/alpha gap–why SHOULD I? Or, more to the point, how CAN I?

    If alpha math is shown to be conclusive (and I’m getting closer), I still won’t give a damn about closing anyone’s alpha/alpha* gap–including my own. It’s never going to motivate me. My survival and happiness and health will continue to actually motivate me, without regard to the perceived alpha-consequences to anyone. For example, you wisely distinguish between alpha* pursuit and something like "survival," since there is rational suicide. But, I will never commit suicide based on alpha-considerations–ever. Should alpha-consideration come into perceived conflict–wrongly or rightly–with my happiness, sorry, alpha!

    If you respond that my perceived happiness and alpha* are identical, then I ask why happiness is not sufficent to serve as the standard of conduct. If, however, there is ever some conflict … sorry, alpha!

    Let me suggest that no one is ever going to act with reference to alpha–until and unless you are able to pefectly and necessarily align my perceived, personal well-being with alpha. In order to motivate me, these other concepts must be employed, or no one will ever care, trust me. I do not really care about thermodynamic consequences as such. I do care about pain versus pleasure, for instance.

    Whose "alpha" becomes enormously important to MY conduct. Should one save the planet, even if it means one’s own destruction?? If so, why? Alpha-considerations??? Really??!! ‘Splain, Lucy.


  162. 162 162. Jim Valliant

    Cat’s outta the bag!! Time to coast!

    Volition is "theological." This is the complete destruction of the very science and subject of ethics.

    We all inevitably pursue alpha*, by definition, since one can pursue alpha* in the next life and at the cost of the total destruction of this one and everyone else’s. This is still alpha*. (Everyone pursues something.) But, since volition is "theology," I cannot choose at all. Choice is a myth. I have no alternatives nor any capacity to choose.

    Nonetheless, Aaron somehow "wants" me to pursue closin’ that alpha*/alpha gap. How do I do this if I have no alternatives to choose from? Why is Aaron hell-bent on such self-frustration, since I will do whatever it is I am determined to inevitably do. There’s no "advice" to give or to take. The "effort" to understand alpha-theory makes little sense, either, and is really only an illusion, anyway. True, evolution will select my kind "out"–over time–but so what? Why should I care so long as it’s not ME getting selected out right now? (The facts of any given situation may allow me far more certainty than mere probabilities, on this score, too. Look at all the evil, self-destructive, power-lusting folks who seemed to have lived long and wealthy lives.)

    As I could not have done otherwise (absent volition), so I cannot be criticized in any way for having done it. The criticism would be precisely as senseless as the original "advice" had been.

    Ethics is guidance. It is advice. It assumes an alternative. It assumes choice. There can be "advice" with no option available. Ethics–as such–assumes volition. Otherwise, there is no such thing as ethics, alpha or otherwise.

    Ethics has not been traditionally applied to animals or to molecules. This, too, is the result of NOTHING except an acknowledgement of the fact of conscious choice. I praise and blame only because the person I praise or blame could have done otherwise. If not, it certainly would be a senseless act of "theology" to "judge" him. I can merely "describe" his conduct, like an avalanche or the orbit of Mercury around the sun.

    So, there is no good reason why I, personally, should act to close the alpha/aplpha* gap other than theromodynamic considerations, is there? I’ll tell right now, whatever those considrations may show, my perceived self-interest is what actually motivates me (and, I suspect, most folks.) It always will. Any conflict between the two will be DECIDED by me in favor of my perceived self-interest. That’s that.

    Now, you say there is no survival or health principle implied in alpha. Too bad for alpha-theory. I will never be an adherent of it, that’s for sure. Absent some very strong consideration of my perceived self-ineterst, my health and survival will always come first for me, whatever alpha ever shows. Alpha had better align itself perfectly and necessairly to this, or no f-ing way! (And I will then be following it ONLY because my self-interest is identical to alpha-considerations, not vice versa.


  163. 163 163. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    Anon’s confusion is understandable–he chooses to speak without first understanding. But Mr. Valliant, I thought you were paying attention?

    Let’s perform a little experiment. I’ve mentioned before that we can (carefully) use financial analogies to some benefit if we keep in mind that there are real differences between economics and thermodynamics. (For example, there’s probably no limit on how much profit someone can make with a given initial investment.)

    I apologize for re-writing your own words but nothing else seems to have worked. Nevertheless, the following should be helpful in illustrating the absurdity of your logic.

    If an individual cannot help but act in order to close the alpha/alpha* gap, like evolution does, then no advice is needed, right?

    [If a business cannot help but act in order to close the profitability gap, like the free market does, then no advice is needed, right?]

    Mr. Valliant, are you suggesting that businesses should be told how to spend their money because you know better than them? Do you advocate centrally planned economies?

    We waste our breath telling someone to do something he will do anyway. If one can act otherwise, then "personal responsibility" (which I, somehow, EQUATE with ethics) kicks in in full force, right?

    [We waste our breath telling companies to spend their money a certain way. If they can spend it otherwise, then "fiscal responsibility" kicks in, right?]

    So if these companies operated according to your planned economy, they would not be allowed to fail?

    If I have no choice about it, then I, for one, am not going to lift a finger to close the alpha*/alpha gap–why SHOULD I? Or, more to the point, how CAN I?

    [If my firm has no choice about it, then it, for one, is not going to lift a finger to be profitable--why SHOULD it? Or, more to the point, how CAN it?]

    Huh? If you have no "choice", how can you "choose" not to lift a finger? I think you have free will backwards. You’re not alone.

    If alpha math is shown to be conclusive (and I’m getting closer), I still won’t give a damn about closing anyone’s alpha/alpha* gap–including my own. It’s never going to motivate me. My survival and happiness and health will continue to actually motivate me, without regard to the perceived alpha-consequences to anyone.

    [If financial accounting is shown to be conclusive, my firm still won't give a damn about profitability. My firm's survival and morale and success will continue to motivate me, without regard to perceived financial consequences.]

    Will you have a rousing company song and nifty uniforms?

    For example, you wisely distinguish between alpha* pursuit and something like "survival," since there is rational suicide. But, I will never commit suicide based on alpha-considerations–ever. Should alpha-consideration come into perceived conflict–wrongly or rightly–with my happiness, sorry, alpha!

    [For example, you wisely distinguish between a business plan and something like "operation", since there is rational termination of a firm. But I will never close up shop based on economic considerations--ever. Should financial considerations come into perceived conflict--wrongly or rightly--with my job satisfaction, sorry, economics!]

    And where will you get the financing to continue operations? Perhaps a world-wide "individual"’s revolution?

    If you respond that my perceived happiness and alpha* are identical, then I ask why happiness is not sufficent to serve as the standard of conduct. If, however, there is ever some conflict … sorry, alpha!

    [If you respond that my job satisfaction and business plan are identical, then I ask why job satisfaction is not sufficient to serve as the standard of economic activity. If, however, there is ever some conflict...sorry, economics!]

    It’s getting awfully cold in here since we stopped paying our gas bill!

    Let me suggest that no one is ever going to act with reference to alpha–until and unless you are able to pefectly and necessarily align my perceived, personal well-being with alpha.

    [Let me suggest that no one is ever going to act with reference to market forces--until and unless you are able to perfectly and necessarily align my perceived, personal financial health with market forces.]

    Comrade, I’m getting the picture!

    In order to motivate me, these other concepts must be employed, or no one will ever care, trust me. I do not really care about thermodynamic consequences as such. I do care about pain versus pleasure, for instance.

    [In order to motivate me, these other concepts must be employed, or no one will ever care, trust me. I do not really care about financial consequences as such. I do care about Spam versus filet mignon, for instance.]

    I admit I struggled with that one since pain is sometimes pleasurable. Or so I have read.

    Whose "alpha" becomes enormously important to MY conduct. Should one save the planet, even if it means one’s own destruction?? If so, why? Alpha-considerations??? Really??!! ‘Splain, Lucy.

    [Whose "accounting" becomes enormously important to MY conduct. Should one save the free markets, even if it means shutting down my firm? If so, why? Economic-considerations??? Really??!!]

    Good intentions to be sure–especially in the context of the slave like conditions of the peasant serfs–but that system just didn’t work.

    Nevertheless, this leaves us with an unavoidable conclusion: Mr. Valliant, you’re really a Communist!

    I’m assuming you’ll threaten to disappear again but we all know you’ll be back. Hopefully running through every permutation without bothering to learn the theory might help other readers to better understand its implications.


  164. 164 164. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki, given the new-found civility of discourse exhibited here, I give you another chance. (You’re on probation, though.)

    And, thanks for all of the many and detailed concessions on your part. Volition is assumed by everything you just uttered. Everything that every human being engaged in conceptual thought or conceptual communication utters, assumes it. Even its attempted refutation does. (See all of my previous posts, ante.)

    The free market operates to the success of relatively rational conduct, and tends (over time) to cut-out the irrational. I agree, as you already know. But, alas, successful business-owners cannot be our exclusive model for human behavior, can they? Indeed, few of the foks who stream through the courthouse where I work would or will ever successfully manage a business firm. Successful businesses will ALL tend to conform to the principles and requirements of the free market–and the context in which they find themselves–obviously. If you prefer, successful business are always seeking to close the alpha*/alpha gap. Since y’all call my position "theology," let me put it this way: Blessed be the operation of natural selection, and the laws of economics, and even those of thermodynamics!! Unfortunately, human beings can and do ignore all these things, and routinely. No, they cannot avoid the consequences, absolutely not. But they can, even in the face of the needed information, act such that those negative consequences hit, and hit hard. Even in the face of free market success after free market sucess (and the failure of planning, over and over again), people will vote in governments, governments staffed by college-educated wonks, that ignore the plain lessons of history, resulting in slaughter and slavery, even unto this very day. Knowing exactly HOW to close the alpha*/alpha gap in any given situation doesn’t mean that people will do it. Or be permitted to do it by others.

    Businessmen–not disembodied firms or free-floating balance sheets–CAN "help it." That’s MY point. But this is only because business operators are humans possessed of volition. And, no duh, even politicians only possess the same fallible volition business proprietors do. Planning is no improvement, if determinism is true. Planners are just as helpless as businesses, in that event. Get it?

    Irony is forever lost on you, isn’t it? Determinism is self-contradicted in everything that it asserts. E.G., "If determinsism is true, then I won’t lift a finger…" No statement, even in support or denial of volition, can avoid the fact of volition, as I have repeatedly observed–it’s an epistemic "axiom," remember? Are YOU paying any attention? Keep thinking, and you’ll get it!

    "Communist" is neither an ad hominem nor a cheezy attempt to avoid an argument. It is a plain description, like "Objectivist." "Dirty Red" is an insult, not an argument, just like "Randroid." Can you see the difference? Now, think real hard!


  165. 165 165. Jim Valliant

    Aaron,

    MOST suicide is irrational, right? Even if plain, old-fashioned suicide is still the pursuit of alpha*, it’s usually alphadystropic, right? But it’s an alphadystrophy that we are always capable of, whatever our understanding of alpha-theory, right?


  166. 166 166. Bill Kaplan

    Jim,

    Aaron’s whole thesis now boils down to this:

    "Humans do best for themselves by maximizing alpha. That is all."

    And so they do. Free energy to do work IS important. This is in a proper if-then conditional form. It does not, however, say that they will choose an alpha maximizing strategy.

    On this perhaps everyone can agree.


  167. 167 167. Jim Valliant

    Bill,

    I think that I would not have wasted a bit or a bite of Aaron’s site if that’s all that he asserted. I give my (still conditional) agreement to that with three cheers! But he also claims that this is ‘ethics.’ It cannot be a working ethics, of course, without rolling up its sleeves and entering the realm of human motivation and intention.


  168. 168 168. MeTooThen

    Mr. Valliant,

    Here:

    "Let me suggest that no one is ever going to act with reference to alpha–until and unless you are able to perfectly and necessarily align my perceived, personal well-being with alpha."

    No.

    Perceived well-being is often an illusion.

    Walking out to the revealed seabed, pleasurable as it may have seemed, was in fact alphadystropic given that a tidal wave was to follow at 500mph.

    "Whose "alpha" becomes enormously important to MY conduct[?)"

    Is anyone’s ethical behavior important to anyone else’s conduct? And if so, how is it important?

    "Should one save the planet, even if it means one’s own destruction?

    Is altruism ethical?

    More:

    "If an individual cannot help but act in order to close the alpha/alpha* gap, like evolution does, then no advice is needed, right? We waste our breath telling someone to do something he will do anyway."

    And no, again.

    The choices people make, given F, are sometimes wrong. How and why this happens, is I believe, part of the weakness of human F. It is, in fact, was makes us human.

    The knowledge of the "right path" does not necessarily imply or even predict that the correct path will be taken. And this is, after all, where ethics comes in.

    The calculus of the non-zero-sum game leads to many irrational, and often contradictory behaviors. Here too, is a display of our humanity.

    If the formulation is to be viewed as prescriptive, it will be in the correct application of F.

    Put another way, wisdom is the understanding of F.

    The behavior and resultant energy flux that occurs as a result of correctly applied F, would by the convention here, be ethical.

    Personal responsibility, choice, guilt, shame, are all still possible as human beliefs and feelings that surround our behavior, and may in fact contribute to F.

    But they, in and of themselves, do not moral or ethical conduct make.


  169. 169 169. Matt McIntosh

    Hats off to Bourbaki for making me laugh with his last post.

    Reading Jim’s comments I keep getting a sense of deja vu, certain that I’ve seen this way too many times before. Right here, in fact. So I do a bit of digging a lo, thus sprach Aaron nearly one year ago today: "Jim’s argument remains: we have volition because it appears that way to us. I cannot regard this as dispositive." Happy Groundhog Day everyone!

    This is one of those Big Questions that is argued over so vociferously precisely because it matters so little. I mean just think about it for a moment: the fact that Jim is an ardent free will type and I’m a (weak) determinist doesn’t cause either of us to act fundamentally differently in our everyday lives. Personally I came to grips with it when I was 16, spent 3 days locked up alone in my room in the dark and barely getting out of bed, then came out and got on with my life as usual. Because I realized that in a practical sense it really does not matter. Even if our actions are determined right from the subatomic level on upward, the calculations necissary to consistently predict whether I’ll choose Coke or water next time I go to the kitchen for a drink are maddeningly complex, and in fact are probably computationally irreducible. (Of course there’s a small but growing body of uncomfortable evidence hammering at the door in areas like evolutionary psychology, neurology and AI, but we’ll ignore them for the moment because they’re still toddler disciplines.)

    But that brings me to what’s been bugging me about alpha theory for a while: will it actually have a cash value? Can we actually put it into some kind of productive practise on an everyday level? It would seem to me that there’d be a bit of a measurement problem here. We can calculate alpha with some level of accuracy in a beaker of fluid, but can we do the same to humans? Help me out Aaron!


  170. 170 170. Jim Valliant

    MeTooThen,

    1. I’m not sure, but I think you missed my point on the first issue. However illusory pne’s perceived self-interest can–obviously–be, that is what drives most human behavior, and will continue to drive it. Not always, though, and not necessarily. It is that awareness, I was suggesting, that was necessary. Thus, "until and unless" the folk’s real-life alpha*’s are seen in alpha-terms, this does not approach the subject of ‘ethics.’

    2. On the next, I think we flatly disagree: ‘advice’ implies choice. No alternative, no ‘advice’ possible or necessary. It’s that simple. Telling me what you think I should do, i.e., giving me ethical advice, implies I could do otherwise. Volition is the necessary premise of all ethics.

    Ethics is a set of principles to guide a person’s conduct. This is my definition, as exotic as it sounds. "Principles" exist only in a consciousness. (This is why molecules have no ethics.) "Principles" are, in one sense, bunch of words. (This is why monkeys have no ethics.) The need for such principles implies a choice, an alternative course of conduct to be avoided. Otherwise, I wouldn’t need "principles" about it at all. Indeed, it is my very ability to generate "principles" that opens up better alternatives to me. The ability to form and adopt "principles" is what makes an ethical being. Sorry, but something else isn’t ethics: not Christian ethics, utilitarian ethics, or egoist ethics. It’s something else. Perhaps the "physics" of ethics…?

    Mr. McIntosh,

    Oh, but what people believe makes all the difference to how they act. You could join a monastery, commit mass-suicide with a cult, just be lazy and not care, etc., all because of what you believe and think. Some determinists, like the Calvinists of yore, were motivated to succeed by their view of Predestination, in order to prove that they were "the Elect." Some, have advocated the lethargic strategy I suggested earlier of "not lifting a finger" under the logic of "why bother?" (Like the kid who played the depressed child-Woody Allen in ANNIE HALL who won’t "do anything," according to his mother, after his discovery that the universe is expanding.)

    That we "appear" to possess choice is no good argument? The appearance of a color on litmus paper is, though? Which sense-perceptions do we include in our observational science and which do we exclude? All observation must be accounted for, right? Moreover, observation is the base of knowledge, not theoretical physics which ultimately depends on such observations.

    But, I must say that do agree with your call for some cash value. I have been assuming it for the sake of argument for far too long.


  171. 171 171. Jim Valliant

    Anticipating the obvious: Introspective observation is no more subjective or uncertain than extrospective observation. Both are verified in the precisely same way. The observation that the litmus paper changed to blue is an internal, private, subjective state. The direct experience of that blue cannot be shared, or even communicated, with another except through using words, like "blue." This is precisely the same with introspective observations. Indeed, a witness’ report that he or she was angry, sad, or scared, that he or she was or was not "paying attention," or "thinking hard," or whether she or he has a "good memory" of certain events, is more likely to be true than the witness’ identification, say, of the robbery suspect or an object he was carrying, or his numeric count of the coins in a big jar. While I can "check" when someone says, "This is blue," with my own eyes, in a way that I cannot with an introspective report, this in itself provides no grounds to doubt it. I can just as well "check" something like the fact of choice (or the existence of "anger" or "memory") itself. Bourbaki admits (as he has so many times) that he selects from among alternatives. I introspect and notice the same kind of decision-making process happening in me. This is verification in exactly the same way that I verified his report of "blue." There are no grounds to distinguish introspection from extrospection in terms of truth or objectivity. Both rely on verbal reports from the observing consciousness to be known by another consciousness. Both are equally "subjective," if you will. All observations, whatever mode they are received in, require an account from science. We do not get to ignore the ones we don’t like, or the ones that "appear" to suggest moral responsibility on our part.


  172. 172 172. Bourbaki

    Not that it matters, but I’ll include the usual disclaimer about metaphors and analogies. I’m sure we’ll have to hear again that atoms don’t have free will but scientists and mailmen do. And perhaps some of us will not care one way or the other. I still don’t understand how a position for or against will change any of our actions.

    If free will doesn’t exist, how can we "choose" (no choice?) to not lift a finger?

    Objectivism seems to coincide nicely with logical positivism:

    It seems that way. It is that way.

    If only things were so simple. But on with the story…set the Wayback machine ~100 years, Simon.

    I don’t believe atoms exist!

    In January 1897, Ernst Mach made that statement before an audience of his colleagues. He didn’t expect derision or ridicule but serious consideration. No one could say exactly what an atom was; it was a clever speculation. Today, atoms are uncontroversial. Science has demonstrated not only that they exist, but how they interact.

    Well into the 19th century, most people viewed science as a process of measuring phenomena and categorization. Nothing more. A scientific law was an exact quantitative relationship between one observable phenomenon and another.

    Sometimes you need to dig a little deeper. If a gas is modeled as a bunch of atoms, more of its properties can be explained. Instead of observing and recording that a heated gas expands, scientists could explain why and by exactly how much.

    In the pursuit of an atomic perspective, scientists introduced wholly new theoretical concepts into physics. Because atoms are so numerous, and their motions so varied, they had to use techniques of statistics and probability to depict their collective activities. Although atoms move in fundamentally random ways, they found that they could nonetheless make accurate predictions of their collective effects; atomists proved that the disorderly actions of individual atoms could give rise to measurable bulk properties.

    Atomists went on to demonstrate that the laws of physics could be built on the foundations of probability, and yet still be reliable. To physicists raised on the belief that scientific laws ought to encapsulate absolute certainties and clear rules, these were unsettling and disturbing propositions.

    Atomic theory was not considered worthwhile or even scientific (France "officially" rejected it until 1905!) Scientists measured the expansion of gases and could write down a simple law relating temperature, pressure, and volume, PV = nRT. Atoms, by contrast, were invisible, intangible, and imperceptible. What was the point of explaining a straighforward law, derived directly from experiment, in terms of hypothetical entities that could not be seen and may never be seen?

    Although popular science authors would have you believe otherwise, scientific progress is achieved only gradually. Much of it would never sell any books.

    When ideas are new and theories tentative, scientists do not and can not have proof that they are on the right track. They generate hypotheses and try to follow where their models lead them. But rarely does a hypothesis admit a simple, straightforward yes-no verdict. Valuable theories survive the test of time through countless experiments both real and imagined. The development of a scientific theory is a war of attrition.

    By explaining a wide variety of the properties of gases from a single starting point, atomists offered a new path for investigation. Other scientists disagreed. They didn’t see the point in theorizing and a philosophy evolved to bolster this belief–logical positivism. Science ought to stick to waht it can measure directly, and theories ought to restrict themselves to specifying exact relationships between those measured phenomena.

    Put energy into a gas and it expands. The rules for such changes had been established years before. Nothing further need be said.

    All scientists utilize sense perception. But any individual instance of it is not infallible. Increasing the number of observations through careful experiment reduces the probability of error.

    For example, let’s consider our highest bandwidth sense: vision. Your visual system operates via linear saccadic motion. There is a great deal of optimization going on–think 80/20 rule. You don’t actually see everything in your field of view–your neurons show that you are literally blind during jumps. Your brain fills in data that it assumes should be there.

    Combine this with confirmation bias and you’ve got some legitimate fallibility. How about your mental states? Some people need to stay off drugs to remain "sane" while others need to stay on drugs to be "themselves".

    It doesn’t matter–our senses are all we have so there’s no more use in bemoaning their fallibilty than there is in cursing the second law.

    Sometimes our senses are tossed out altogether because what is being studied is beyond the sensitivity and latency of our biology. It may be dismissed it as "non-sense" but that would be premature. Purely fanciful concepts like complex analysis and number theory did end up with useful application.

    The debate over atoms was, therefore, less about atoms and more about the point of doing science, and the nature of understanding or explaining that scientists sought to achieve. Ernst Mach argued for sticking to simple equations linking observable quantities. Boltzmann believed in more complex explanations built on a few premises that provided a more consistent and comprehensive view of the world.

    You don’t need economics to be successful in business. You don’t need physics to throw a ball. You don’t need biochemistry to digest your food. And you don’t need genetics to procreate.

    So, what is the "cash value" of a scientific explanation?

    In other words, how does alpha theory help us reduce epsilon?


  173. 173 173. Tatyana

    To step away for a sec from this eye-opening, if slightly over-my-lunch-break discussion, may I introduce this quote:
    …This way off topic, but to me fascinating. I was going to use Groenig’s Monomaniac Professor line — The Nation that Controls Magnesium Controls the Universe! — as a prelude to a partial affirmation and partial mocking of Steve Sailer’s piece on the 10th anniversary "The Bell Curve."
    …Even when you are very smart (as Sailer is), and basically on target, there’s a danger of being so ensorcelled by ones own pet issues and heuristics that one becomes that guy at the bus stop every one backs away from. So anyway, I google "the nation that controls magnesium" to find the orignial comic, and the #1 rated item is an article by Steve Sailer using this exact quote to mock someone else. All desire to write about Steve Sailer’s monomanian passed away, and instead I find myself wondering what is the unperceived magnesium underling all of my beliefs…
    (From here; scroll down a bit to find the appropriate place I lifted it from. Yeah, I don’t even know how to cut in HTML, let along to comprehend the topic of this dispute)

    Respectfully,


  174. 174 174. Bourbaki

    Groening is good but Chris Rock gives a better warning against the dangers of trying to use our brains…

    "I don’t know that shit."

    "Why the hell not?"

    "Just keep’n it real."


  175. 175 175. Jim Valliant

    Atoms are a discovery of logical inference. The way things "seem" are always an abstract interpretation of things, right or wrong. That I possess the faculty of "memory" is a matter of direct introspective observation. Same with "choice." These concepts are no more abstract or subjective than "blue." And look how much that we have inferred rests on them.


  176. 176 176. tommy

    Not quite. For any Eustace at any given time, there is a finite amount of free energy available. There is a theoretical max alpha that can be generated by this available free energy.

    doesn’t faster than light speed travel require an infinite amount of energy according to relativity?

    if something travels faster than light how would we know? if something travels faster than that, how would we know? if something is faster than either of those how would we know?

    how would we know that their is an available amount of energy by which we might actualize? is it because their are understood limits to "eustace". we don’t understand the entire universe, because we can’t even percieve all of it yet? no telescope we have has seen it’s boundaries, correct, so there could be things we are unaware of? could be meaning potentially meaning possibly meaning it is possible.


  177. 177 177. tommy

    A filtration is the set of all available information at a given time. It is Universe dependent.

    if something is universe dependant it would be energy dependant, because the universe is energy dependant. right?


  178. 178 178. tommy

    Filtrations occur in the theory of stochastic processes, which describe random events occurring over time. At a given point in time we can know certain things because they have already happened or because they can be predicted from what has already happened. The information that we have at a given point in time can be described by the set of events such that we know whether the event has occurred/will occur. This is a sigma-field. We can construct such a sigma-field for every increment of time.

    could a person in a spaceship traveling near the speed of light communicate with earth still, and would not his time be suddenly "at any given point" wholly other than another person’s, i.e., is time not relative and therefore an inappropriate standard by which to measure(observe or analyse) this system of filtration connected processions.


  179. 179 179. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    is time not relative and therefore an inappropriate standard by which to measure(observe or analyse) this system of filtration connected processions.

    You can’t act on information you don’t have. Nevertheless, going fast doesn’t make energy go away. All events still take place in the Universe and still have consequences in the Universe.

    That standard doesn’t change.


  180. 180 180. tommy

    aaron, i just realized what the intent of this was. i was so busy trying to understand all the bandied about applications and arguements i lost track.

    "They emphasize the constant course corrections required for people to succeed, and the difficult recursive probability problems that cause them to fail. They help us understand the world."
    its funny, i already can naturally analyze course corrections intuitively. which is actually what you are saying. but let me say this, since you are correct in what your theory does do, that you are wrong in seeing that it helps US do this. look how many people are confused. most of the ones who buy it seem to have already understood it, and me, who is a convert to the idea, still find more benefit in my intuitive choices. like george surous changing stocks on whim and not on formula. does that make sense. it helps but it doesn’t defeat philosophys worth for maximizing alpha.

    just becase you have explained what occurs when things happen doesn’t mean anything more than that you have discovered what occurs when things happen. a knowledge of this effect on out charted strong and weak solutions seems to have led me to the same conclusions about man and society that looking at ethics did.

    man is a social creature that lives together, throughout history, to live. we live in groups so we can live. and the point of society as a biological sociological evolutionary reality is that people in society not only live together, but seek to continue to live together, to continue to be ABLE to live together, on and on, until such times as evoltion or god or what have you again helps along the social model.

    am i wrong, but thinking in terms of maximal alpha seems to be thinking in terms of lifespan, and lifespans seem to, when considered, be full of instances that would seem to be alphadstropic (bad?) like walking in front of a car, but say the car swerves, misses you, hits a man about to approve the launghing of a nuclear missle into africa. many people would have been killed, potentially the world. alpha model for humans improved, for him though, not. this is what happens when we look to the future to seek choices in the present, a bunch of nonsense. so at best isn’t the alpha model a way of looking AT THE PAST to plan for the present in the hope of their being a future?

    im quite dumb i know. u dont have to answer.


  181. 181 181. tommy

    this answer how people behave optimally for person alpha, but you need to be able to factor alpha for all humans, i thought, and then i realized, that is what you are talking about.

    not an individual conscious human, but a collection of all humans and all normative processes. this is very interesting. after i pee, im going to think this through a little more.


  182. 182 182. tommy

    the alpha scale is a thermodynaic model of consequential action, determined by an application of measurement to consequential energy fluxs.

    let me ask you this. since you are convinced of the idea enough to actually write it, how has know it effected you? what has changed for you since you understood this stuff. what have you done differently now? what have you thought that you never would have thought?

    what do you see in the worldly interactions of our species, in all species, that might make you happier or better off or your family or friends or other people better off because you understand this theory.

    bourbaki, same question, keeping in mind that i now fully support the formula. i am now curious, because i don’t see how it changes me, or don’t feel it. knowing the path doesn’t mean you will follow it, knowing the way doesn’t mean it is TO BE FOLLOWED. what might SEEM like a choice could concievably be nothing more than a self replicating (self perpetuating) system of referential equations (in reference to: UNIVERSE) in our brain processing maximal alpha, well perhaps for me.

    i mean, knowing this to be the case, because we believe according to all evidenciary support frrom ribonucleic acid to the history of human understanding to our knowledge on thermodynamics to everything, but now that i have learned all this stuff and read all this stuff, i still see all of us commentators to be almost obsessively confined to our forged-in-the-fires-of-debate and/or I-chose-to-sense-evidence, of drastic(massive)manifestations of our own individual consciousness.

    bourbaki always talks about his tons of flaws and mistakes because he is full of them. he admits it. has his understanding of this new philosophy changed that? he might be a casual interlocutor bandying about his intellectual missives in the simplicity of a cafe, only just because really, there was nothing better to do, but that is bullshit, because if you understand this stuff and see worth in it you need to say what you are saying and take pride in it. so good for him.

    bill you are good at math. what are you looking for in life? the ethical answer? if it isn’t here, find one, come back and demonstrate how it is better than a maximal alpha. if you dont understand it because it isn’t true, please show me what you think is, this is the forum for it right? aaron won’t mind?

    i love this site and i love the posts, but i want to know how aaron about what his posts have done in terms of alpha. i.e. you wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t want to, and knowing what you do about aplha maximization, im curious to see the interconnections. show me the "bright lines" that casey fahy was talking about.

    thanks again everyone. if nothing else, this shit is fun to read :)


  183. 183 183. tommy

    I guess what Im saying is, make this personal. Man I wrote for about 15 minutes and said perfectly what I wanted to say and then instead of hitting the send button I pushed the automatic back one page button on my mouse and lost it all, and it said exactly what I was trying to say. That really sucks, because now I have to rebuild the entire chain of reasoning, but here goes.

    All energy interacts. There is a dimension-less standard that measures this interaction.

    OK. Aaron wrote this because he wants to do away with the religion and the almost religious devotion that nonreligious have for systems of conduct and codes of behavior. To the huddled masses, keep yearning, etc.

    Look, Christians will still think Jesus did it. Volition and intention masochists will still refute the contention that a measurement of energy transference is an ethical system. Bourbaki will assume that he should ask Jim to chill out over a cold beer. All things stand as they are.

    Now, this system does away with the codes of ethics and religion in many respects, when considered to its fullest sense of application. It Does not apply to HUMANS and everything else, it applies to everything. So long as thermodynamic evidence stands, this does.

    But if it took me forever to see your point, even after I understood your formulas, and I was open minded, this will not work for most people. You know this. But like in Ishmael, start small, see where it goes right. But I got to be honest, even though this sounds silly, you were preaching to the converted. I never bought into most of the shit that this theory refutes before I read it.

    Which brings me back to my point. Bill will disagree with something he doesnt understand because he knows you cant prove it to someone who doesnt want to know. And Jim will in many instances of definition still be correct in asserting this is not ethics, but a tremendous lack of it. THIS IS A SYSTEM THAT MEASURES EVERY FUCKING THING. Its HUGE. Ethics are small and relative to the conduct of mere humans.

    But fuck ethics. Because there are no strong solutions. There is no way I can use my knowledge of alpha maximization to make Jim happy and live forever. Stoping for a second: GOAL = to LIVE. This would require a permanent strong solution. Cant happen. We all die. This theory isnt going to tell you how to live into the future, its only going to tell you how you go about living into your future. Its not going to tell you what you SHOULD DO. Its going to say this is what happened in terms of alpha. It wont even say this is what is GOING TO HAPPEN, in terms of alpha, only that alpha will be vital to all that happens.

    And since this theory measures the entire process of everything, it measures the entire process of man. It does not say man is not consciously doing something, it says that mans consciousness is somehow making choices that maximize alpha, or else it wouldnt be conscious anymore. It would be dead. But it does not do so in specific, but rather in abundance. So stop drop and roll around, and while doing so try to consider all those ethical questions bill Kaplan raised.

    This theory wont be telling you what to do with them. Rather, it tells you what is happening in concrete terms under which all life and happening, especially in reference to humans, but especially in reference to everything else, so that you can see the big picuture, literally the biggest picture, and go from there.

    It tells you what you are doing when you make a decision, so you can now put things into a concrete sense if you so feel inclined. It does not suggest that you do so. It simply allows you to.

    It does not say it is best that you do so. It simply shows you what would be happening when anything happens, including what would happen when you personally decide for yourself what is best. IT CONNECTS everything to everything else without all the lame abstractions about physicality and actuality. Therefore, this theory of the greatest assistance to real ethics, which need only be measured by (and in ways against) the advancement of all coexistence.

    So alpha hasnt told me how to make Jim happy, or Bill lose weight, or what to think of Bourbaki sitting in his little caf smoking Buddha listing to Govt Mule. Or am I wrong in thinking its that kind of caf?

    Anyways, sorry for going on so long, but stop projecting your goals for a perfect IDEA system that tells what actions are best (in a preordained manner) and start looking at what the system actually does. It is a new way of seeing the interconnection of all things. It unites us under the banner of heaven, to be gay and borrow from krakauer for a moment.


  184. 184 184. tommy

    oops, one more thing. stop asking for examples, that is missing the point. i think people here tried to give to many examples. the formula is simple.

    alpha measures energy transference, which is a verifiable algebra of actual events. no one disagrees with thermodynamics right? then no one disagrees with what alpha does, all you might THINK he is saying it does, or all you are actually WANTING it to do, it doesn’t sorry.

    all it does do is show how we are truly linked with our universe in a powerful, real way, and not some disembodied hodgepodge of cadence and insecurity and soon to be erased from time and memory ghostlike presence, we are real, we are here, just like everything.


  185. 185 185. tommy

    damn that month of hitchhiking really cleared my head a bit huh…


  186. 186 186. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    You understand this stuff better than I do. And I had to sit there staring at equations before it started to make sense.

    A professor in Harvard’s department of psychology, Gilbert likes to tell people that he studies happiness. But it would be more precise to say that Gilbert — along with the psychologist Tim Wilson of the University of Virginia, the economist George Loewenstein of Carnegie-Mellon and the psychologist (and Nobel laureate in economics) Daniel Kahneman of Princeton — has taken the lead in studying a specific type of emotional and behavioral prediction.

    Even so, Gilbert is currently working on a complex experiment in which he has made affective forecasting errors ”go away.” In this test, Gilbert’s team asks members of Group A to estimate how they’ll feel if they receive negative personality feedback. The impact bias kicks in, of course, and they mostly predict they’ll feel terrible, when in fact they end up feeling O.K. But if Gilbert shows Group B that others have gotten the same feedback and felt O.K. afterward, then its members predict they’ll feel O.K. as well. The impact bias disappears, and the participants in Group B make accurate predictions.

    This is exciting to Gilbert. But at the same time, it’s not a technique he wants to shape into a self-help book, or one that he even imagines could be practically implemented. ”Hope and fear are enduring features of the human experience,” he says, ”and it is unlikely that people are going to abandon them anytime soon just because some psychologist told them they should.” In fact, in his recent writings, he has wondered whether forecasting errors might somehow serve a larger functional purpose he doesn’t yet understand. If he could wave a wand tomorrow and eliminate all affective-forecasting errors, I ask, would he? ”The benefits of not making this error would seem to be that you get a little more happiness,” he says. ”When choosing between two jobs, you wouldn’t sweat as much because you’d say: ‘You know, I’ll be happy in both. I’ll adapt to either circumstance pretty well, so there’s no use in killing myself for the next week.’ But maybe our caricatures of the future — these overinflated assessments of how good or bad things will be — maybe it’s these illusory assessments that keep us moving in one direction over the other. Maybe we don’t want a society of people who shrug and say, ‘It won’t really make a difference.’

    ”Maybe it’s important for there to be carrots and sticks in the world, even if they are illusions,” he adds. ”They keep us moving towards carrots and away from sticks.”

    Read the full article.


  187. 187 187. tommy

    "who shurg and say it wont really make a difference."

    it will make a difference of outcome and propulsion and potential physical benefit. it might not make any difference to emotions.

    also, though, emotions are fickle things. today i am at peace with the world, aware that all events are commensurable with one event, the event horizon of my emotional integrety. perhaps a bad way of saying it, but, the emotional "flow" you have established, where your emotions and sense of security follow you regardless of circumstance, it comes and goes i’d say.

    so the assumption of permanence for this state of mind is probably over inflated somewhat.

    are you mocking me bourbaki?


  188. 188 188. tommy

    are you mocking me bourbaki was stupid irony. i suppose i should have left the ^.^ chinese happy face at the end of it.

    bourbaki, how come you never leave an email addy?


  189. 189 189. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    I was not mocking you. I’m embarrassed to say how long it took me to "get" alpha theory. I still don’t know if I’ve really gotten it. You got most of the way there with just a few posts.


  190. 190 190. tommy

    Bourbaki, I have found an incredibly useful summary of thermodynamics. William Sidis writes about it in his book animate and inanimate. Google him and look for the book, and read the first few chapters. I can’t tell yet, but I think they have direct bearings on Alpha applications.

    *sorry i don’t know hyper links*

    this is a quote of him form the third chapter: the energy of the universe is constantly running down to one common level. In other words, where energy of the same variety is present in different degrees of concentration, those differences will be equalised, and energy of a still higher level or to a greater amount must become dissipated in order to re-create these difference of concentration. Of the various varieties of energy, all kinds tend to turn into heat, which is the least concentrated form of energy; and, even though some of that heat may be re-converted into some other form of energy, still, at each step, some energy is irretrievably lost in the form of heat.


  191. 191 191. tommy

    here is what i am chewing over for the night before i sleep:

    In the case of a machine, the ratio of the energy obtained to the energy put in (usually expressed as a percentage) is called the mechanical efficiency of that machine. The remaining energy, that the machine has lost, becomes heat. The second law of thermodynamics, expressed in terms of mechanical efficiency, means that all physical phenomena have a mechanical efficiency of less than 100%. The reverse universe, on the contrary, is distinguished from the universe of our experience in that the mechanical efficiency of its phenomena is over 100%.

    Again, to express it In another way. Suppose two bodies, one at a temperature of 0 Fahrenheit, the other at a temperature of 200. The only available heat-energy in those bodies would be the amount represented by 200 degrees in the hotter body. At the same time, the colder body being 460 degrees above absolute zero, there is unavailable energy, which, according to the second law of thermodynamics, cannot be reached, amounting to 460 degrees in each of the two bodies. If both bodies have the same mass and specific heat, the energy which, under the second law of thermodynamics, is available for conversion into other forms of energy, could thus be represented by 200, while the total heat-energy In the two bodies would be represented by 460+660 =1120. The ratio of available to total energy in this case would be 200:1120, or 5:28. In other words, only 18% of the total heat-energy is available for conversion. The second law of thermodynamics states, not merely that not all the available energy can actually be used for any purpose except heat, but also that all energy in an available form (a form other than heat, or else heat-energy in the form of a difference of temperature) tends to turn into unavailable energy, that the amount of available energy in the universe is constantly decreasing.


  192. 192 192. Bourbaki

    that the amount of available energy in the universe is constantly decreasing.

    There is plenty of fuel left in the Universe.


  193. 193 193. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    Take a look at these two sites by Frank Lambert.

    http://www.2ndlaw.com

    http://www.secondlaw.com


  194. 194 194. tommy

    good links. I had forgotten the entropy gibbs formula.

    bourbaki, how come i never saw mention of William Sidis when researching the second law?


  195. 195 195. tommy

    That piece on stars, i wonder does this have any releveance. I would email this to you but perhaps others might find it fun to consider like I did.

    "Furthermore, just as in the positive section of space, light is given out uniformly in all directions, so, in the negative section, light must be absorbed by a star equally from all directions. Thus, to any star in the negative section, light must come in about the same amount from all directions; and, since most of this light comes from the positive sections, it follows that the negative sections must be completely surrounded by positive sections and must therefore be finite in all directions. By reversing this (since we have seen that all physical laws are reversible), it follows that any positive section must also be finite in all directions, and be completely surrounded by negative sections. We thus find the universe to be made up of a number of what we may call bricks, alternately positive and negative, all of approximately the same volume; a sort of three-dimensional checkerboard, the positive spaces counting as white (giving out light), and the negative spaces as black (absorbing light).

    Thus what we see is simply the white space that we are in. The surrounding black spaces are invisible, and in addition, absorb the light from the white spaces beyond, so that even those cannot be seen, and, if we judge from the distribution of light in the sky, we get an idea merely of the size and shape of our special white space.

    Let us try, now, to get a theoretical idea as to approximately what should be the shape of these white and black spaces, so that it can be compared with observation. For developing the theory in this direction, we must remember that the proportion of positive matter in any part of space should, according to probability, be about 50%, But this same theory of probability will tell us that it is extremely improbable in any given part of space that this proportion should be exactly 50%, but that there should be a discrepancy between the percentage of positive and that of negative phenomena, this discrepancy becoming increasingly improbable the greater the discrepancy is. Accordingly we may suppose that there are surfaces where the proportion of positive events is 50% (our boundaries), and other similar surfaces where there are other special proportions, while, in the middle of the positive "bricks," there will be a maximum percentage point, and in the middle of the negative "bricks" there will be a minimum percentage point. Around these maximum and minimum points our white and black spaces will be built, the fundamental variation of the percentage away from these points being presumably based on three principal directions or dimensions, of which the variation in other directions will be compounded.

    Proceeding from, let us say, one of the maximum points (center of a positive section of the universe) in any direction, the discrepancy from the normal of 50% should become first positive, then negative, in a sort of vibratory form. This vibration should be irregular, according to the theory of error, though with a certain average; but in the three principal directions, approximately perpendicular to each other, we should expect to find them more uniformly periodic.

    If these "vibrations" were regular and perfectly periodic in these three directions, the boundary surfaces would be planes midway between the maximum and minimum points, and the section of the universe would take the shape of rectangular parallelopipeds. With such shape, the sections of the universe would indeed be "bricks." But such regular uniform vibrations are hardly to be expected. The theory of error would lead us to expect irregularities from even that; but the volume of the sections should remain unaltered. Furthermore, a positive section must touch another positive section along an edge, or else at that edge two negative sections will form a continuous section, and we are thus liable to get a continuous line of negative space to perhaps an infinite extent, which is contrary to anything that we should expect. Hence we must expect that, in the irregularities, both the edges and the volume would be but slightly changed.

    The faces of the parallelopiped, however, may, even under these conditions, be considerably changed. We may, for instance, expect that the vibrations of the percentage, instead of being the simple-harmonic vibrations which would produce plane boundary surfaces midway between the maximum and minimum points, may be compounded with its "harmonics," that is, may be compounded with vibrations of multiple frequency, of which the double frequency is the most important. The double frequency would be likely to make a whole face of the parallelopiped either cave in or bulge out, the higher frequencies will simply introduce further irregularities. Since there is to be little alteration of volume of the sections, two of the opposite pairs of surfaces must be changed in one direction, and the third in the other. The longer dimensions of the parallelopiped are those in which more irregularity is likely to show itself, so that the biggest alteration would show itself on one of the two smaller pairs of opposite faces. The other two pairs of faces will then have to be altered in the opposite way to make up for this; presumably the largest and the smallest, the medium pairs of faces showing the greatest irregularity. The irregularity may thus be of two varieties; either the medium pair of faces is caved in, and the largest and smallest bulged out somewhat less; or the largest and smallest pairs of faces are caved in slightly, and the medium pair of faces extremely bulged out.

    Taking each of those two shapes (and they are liable to alternate to some extent, some sections of the universe being of one kind of shape, and some of the other), we can suppose of each one that it represented a positive section of the universe, and attempt to predict the distribution of light in the sky as seen from somewhere near the maximum point. If the parallelopipeds are comparatively flat (as they are likely to be, the three dimensions of these figures probably being widely different), it follows that in the sky, the plane parallel to the largest pair of faces would seem to be filled with a thick white strip. According to which of the forms of irregularities we suppose, the shape of the strip will vary. If the largest and smallest faces are bulged out, this white strip would be much less conspicuous, there being in other directions a good distribution of stars visible, but the strip would still be visible, and the hollow in one pair of faces would mean that, in one place on the strip, as well as in the opposite part, there would be a widening (due to the medium pair of faces being nearer than the smallest, and consequently, appearing wider) with a dark space in the middle of this widening. Midway between these dark spaces the strip becomes narrow, due to the fact that there the surface bounding the section of the universe recedes to a great distance. If the other shape of the positive section were adopted, we should have something similar, except that the strip would tend more to be of uniform width, and, if anything, the "coal-sacks" would be in the narrow part of the strip. We may represent the two forms of the strip somewhat as follows:

    These "coal-sacks" would tend to be oval in shape, instead of pointed at the ends, as Herschel’s double drum would lead us to suppose. If we are on the southern side of the positive section, then on the southern side more irregularities would be seen, such as striations of the strip, occasionally small "coal-sacks" in other parts than where expected, while some of the irregular wavy variations on the largest face of the "brick" on the south side would result in our seeing, near this strip, apparently detached sections, presumably approximately circular. As a matter of fact, the so-called Galaxy or Milky Way has the shape indicated in the first of the two about diagrams, with exactly such irregularities as we have predicted. The shape of the coal-sacks is indeed approximately oval, and not pointed, as Herschel’s theory would lead us to expect. Furthermore, such circular detached sections of the Milky Way actually do appear in the southern hemisphere, and have been phenomena which have always been difficult to explain; they are called the Magellanic Clouds, and we can see that, according to our theory, they are exactly what they look like: detached sections of the Milky Way. And, if they result from what we suppose, namely, the largest of the three southern faces of the "brick" becoming wavy and extending suddenly a great distance out, it follows that the neighboring regions, which are the opposite phase of the same waves, should be so near us that there should theoretically, around the Megallanic Clouds, be very few stars visible. This is indeed the case; the Magellenic Clouds are found in a region of the sky that is almost completely devoid of stars."


  196. 196 196. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    You have to go looking for Sidis but you can’t avoid running into Euler in any branch of mathematics or engineering.

    At the end of the book is a brief outline of Euler’s collected works, the monumental Opera Omnia, whose publication has consumed virtually all of the twentieth century.

    In all, the book contains three dozen proofs from this remarkable individual. Yet this is merely the tip of the scholarly iceberg, for Euler produced over 30,000 pages of pure and applied mathematics during his lifetime. Euler: The Master of Us All samples the work of a mathematician whose influence, industry, and ingenuity are of the very highest order.

    I can’t imagine reading one tenth his output in a lifetime. That one person wrote 30,000 pages of math is incomprehensible.


  197. 197 197. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    Sidis’s name doesn’t come up much in thermodynamics and his model of cosmology was made without the benefit of all the experimental data we’ve accumulated since the 1920s. Sometime’s people can be right for the wrong reasons–it’s also important to know what techniques they used to establish their theory. You should be very wary of theories that validate themselves by ditching well-established and corroborated physical principles.

    Here’s a quote from Sidis:

    It follows, therefore, that the fundamental definition behind all these is: Life is a reversal of the second law of thermodynamics. Or, to put it in other terms, since we have seen that mechanical efficiency under positive tendency is less than 100%, under neutral tendency just 100%, and under the negative tendency more than 100%, we may define: Life consists of bodies with a mechanical efficiency of over 100%.

    Whoah. I admit I’m not familiar with his work but this sends up a lot of red flags.

    For cosmology, you should research Saul Perlmutter’s work at Berkeley.

    Since the 1930s, scientists have known that galaxies are all moving away from one another, and there has been a concerted effort to study the rate of this expansion. Prior to Perlmutters efforts, almost all astronomers expected that the expansion of the universe was slowing, due to the gravitational attraction of galaxies and other matter. However, Perlmutters group found that the universe is actually expanding at an accelerating rate, as if a negative pressure was pushing everything apart.

    Waldrop, a physicist, has written an engaging and very readable introduction to complexity. It’s a good place to start.

    MIT’s OCW is a good place to check out a standard curriculum for this stuff:

    (1)Unified Engineering
    (2)Statistical Physics
    (3)Materials at Equilibrium
    (4)Information and Entropy

    And you can also check out the happenings at Santa Fe. The history of the institute is chronicled in Waldrop’s book.

    For any science, you should start with a recently published book or article and work backwards. And, whatever you do, don’t take any single source (no matter how snooty) as authoritative.


  198. 198 198. tommy

    wasn’t he the collaborative genius. Isn’t that the guy who wrote everything with the assistance of others that never seemed to have a house and lived from a small suit case as he traveled from collaborator to collaborator. Yeah, Sidis is a fun read, not neccessarily and informed one. I just like examples of logic processes that result in similar answers from separate starting points or understandings. Your links will be very helpful. But since you are making me read all that *^.^* read animate and inanimate for me and tell me what you think, its not very long i read it all in about 9 hours and I’m a slow slow reader. Thanks again aaron, oops, i mean bourbaki :)


  199. 199 199. CT

    Tommy

    I read the all the Sidis stuff and having done so let me just second Bourbaki’s recommendation of the Waldrop book on complexity. I just finished it myself and I think you will really get a lot out of it. I would be interested to hear your take on it.


  200. 200 200. Tommy

    Thanks CT. Yeah I’m gonna try to find it online, so I don’t have to buy it.

    Bourbaki, I was not saying that Langan was right, I was saying look at his methods.

    Look at a person with HI IQ or w/e and see his attempt at formulating a theory to, whether he knows it or not, MAXIMIZE ALPHA STAR.

    I was trying to point out the universe of language he created, to show both how cumbersome it was and also how parts of it could be very obviously true, as you said, but still give hiim the wrong ideas.

    Sidis, also, shows what can happen when we try to use abstract ideas to conceive of what our TRUE relationship is with the universe, or our TRUE importance to it. They are not telling me about science, they are showing me their alpha star.

    I guess I never made that clear. I am sorry about the confusion, but I was reading them while reading your links and I guess having so much in my head I rambled and didn’t streamline efficiently.

    Anyhoo, bottom line, you did miss what I saw in Langan, but we both feel the same about (at least a vast majority of) his conclusions.

    I just thought they were good analogies, which as you saw from my post on it that I later realized making the analogies was actually confusing the issue, both for me and you. That is why I said I won’t be discussing them anymore on those recent threads.

    But, take a look at The Tribes and the States if you ever get time. It’s easily the coolest book on North American history I’ve read.


  201. 201 201. tommy

    I was trying to point out the universe of language he created, to show both how cumbersome it was and also how parts of it could be very obviously true, as you said, but still give hiim the wrong ideas.

    this is important, as it describes a serious and neccessary aspect of alpha star that seemed to be missing, which is why I listed those men, which is this:

    it is not merely the filtration of "information" whether being defined as information theroy information or not, but actually also a BELIEF or perhaps a Will To Believe, or a Will to be Sure, that is as neccessary to our ability to filtrate (which is why I think we do not have optimal filtration***)

    *** seems to me that our need to think we are right, to be sure, to have certainty, is very vital to all our communication, and as such, can tend to overshadow actual information and its TRUE (in the sense of universal law true) implication in our search to feel like we already understood shit all along. I guess I was very unclear when I said things like "has a lot to say about alpha theory" but I wanted people to read them some and see for themselves before I just told them what the people were doing. Plus I thought parts of it actually were interesting and I wanted to know people’s opinions about them, for example, Sidis’ law of Reversibility.

    All hail God of the Machine!


  202. 202 202. Bill Kaplan

    Aaron,

    You need to change the format of the blog. Each comment should be associated with a number. That way people will be able to identify the precise comment to which they are responding.


  203. 203 203. Tommy

    I agree with Bill. That would help. :o


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