Q&A

What’s alpha all about, Alfie? Why are you boring us with this?

The great biologist E.O. Wilson wrote a little book called Consilience, in which he argued that it was past time to apply the methods of science — notably quantification — to fields traditionally considered outside its purview, like ethics, politics, and aesthetics. Any blog reader can see that arguments on these subjects invariably devolve into pointless squabbling because no base of knowledge and no shared premises exist. Alpha theory is a stab at Wilson’s program.

What kind of science could possibly apply to human behavior?

Thermodynamics. Living systems can sustain themselves only by generating negative entropy. Statistical thermodynamics is a vast and complex topic in which you can’t very well give a course on a blog, but here’s a good introduction. (Requires RealAudio.)

Don’t we have enough ethical philosophies?

Too many. The very existence of competing “schools” is the best evidence of failure. Of course science has competing theories as well, but it also has a large body of established theory that has achieved consensus. No astronomer quarrels with Kepler’s laws of planetary orbits. No biologist quarrels with natural selection. Philosophers and aestheticians quarrel over everything. Leibniz, who tried to develop a universal truth machine, wrote someplace that his main purpose in doing so was to shut people up. I see his point.

Not a chance. Anyway, what’s alpha got that we don’t have already?

A universal maximization function derived openly from physical laws, for openers. Two of them. The first is for the way all living system ought to behave. The second is for the way they do behave. To put the matter non-mathematically, every living system maximizes its sustainability by following the first equation. But in practice, it is impossible to follow directly. Living beings aren’t mathematical demons and can’t calculate at the molecular level. They act instead on a model, a simplification. That’s the second equation. If the model is accurate, the living being does well for itself. If not, not.

Sounds kinda like utilitarianism.

Not really. But there are similarities. Like utilitarianism, alpha theory is consequentialist, maintaining that actions are to be evaluated by their results. (Motive, to answer a question in the previous comment thread, counts for nothing; but then why should it?) But utilitarianism foundered on the problem of commensurable units. There are no “utiles” by which one can calculate “the greatest happiness for the greatest number.” This is why John Stuart Mill, in desperation, resorted to “higher pleasures” and “lower pleasures,” neatly circumscribing his own philosophy. Alpha theory provides the unit.

Alpha also accounts for the recursive nature of making decisions, which classical ethical theories ignore altogether. (For example, short circuiting the recursive process through organ harvesting actually reduces the fitness of a group.) Most supposed ethical “dilemmas” are arid idealizations, because they have only two horns: the problem has been isolated from its context and thus simplified. But action in the real world is not like that; success, from a thermodynamic perspective, requires a continuous weighing of the alternatives and a continuous adjustment of one’s path. Alpha accounts for this with the concept of strong and weak solutions and filtrations. Utilitarianism doesn’t. Neither does any other moral philosophy.

That said, Jeremy Bentham, would, I am sure, sympathize with alpha theory, were he alive today.

You keep talking about alpha critical. Could you give an example?

Take a live frog. If we amputate its arm, what can we say about the two separate systems? Our intuition says that if the frog recovers (repairs and heals itself) from the amputation, it is still alive. The severed arm will not be able to fully repair damage and heal. Much of the machinery necessary to coordinate processes and manage the requirements of the complicated arrangement of cells depends on other systems in the body of the frog. The system defined by the arm will rapidly decay below alpha critical. Now take a single cell from the arm and place it in a nutrient bath. Draw a volume around this cell and calculate alpha again. This entity, freed from the positive entropy of the decaying complexity of the severed arm, will live.

What about frogs that can be frozen solid and thawed? Are they alive while frozen? Clearly there is a difference between freezing these frogs and freezing a human. It turns out that cells in these frogs release a sugar that prevents the formation of ice crystals. Human cells, lacking this sugar, shear and die. We can use LHopitals Rule to calculate alpha as the numerator and denominator both approach some limiting value. As we chart alpha in our two subjects, there will come a point where the shearing caused by ice crystal formation will cause the positive entropy (denominator) in the human subject to spike through alpha critical. He will die. The frog, on the other hand, will approach a state of suspended animation. Of course, such a state severely reduces the frogs ability to adapt.

Or take a gas cloud. “You know, consider those gas clouds in the universe that are doing a lot of complicated stuff. What’s the difference [computationally] between what they’re doing and what we’re doing? It’s not easy to see.” (Stephen Wolfram, A New Kind of Science.)

Draw a three-dimensional mesh around the gas cloud and vary the grid spacing to calculate alpha. Do the same for a living system. No matter how the grid is varied, the alpha of the random particles of the gas cloud will not remotely match the alpha of a living system.

Enough with the frogs and gas clouds. Talk about human beings.

Ah yes. Some of my commenters are heckling me for “cash value.” I am reminded of a blessedly former business associate who interrupted a class in abstruse financial math to ask the professor, “Yeah. But how does this get me closer to my Porsche?”

The first thing to recognize is that just about everything that you now believe is wrong, probably is wrong, in alpha terms. Murder, robbery, and the like are obviously radically alphadystropic, because alpha states that the inputs always have to be considered. (So does thermodynamics.) If this weren’t true you would have prima facie grounds for rejecting the theory. Evolution necessarily proceeds toward alpha maximization. Human beings have won many, many rounds in the alpha casino. Such universal rules as they have conceived are likely to be pretty sound by alpha standards.

These rules, however, are always prohibitions, never imperatives. This too jibes with alpha theory. Actions exist that are always alphadystropic; but no single action is always alphatropic. Here most traditional and theological thinking goes wrong. If such an action existed, we probably would have evolved to do it — constantly, and at the expense of all other actions. If alpha theory had a motto, it would be there are no universal strong solutions. You have to use that big, expensive glucose sink sitting in that thickly armored hemisphere between your ears. Isaiah Berlin’s concept of “negative liberty” fumbles toward this, and you “cash value” types ought to be able to derive a theory of the proper scope of law without too much trouble.

Still more “cash value” lies in information theory, which is an application of thermodynamics. Some say thermodynamics is an application of information theory; but this chicken-egg argument does not matter for our purposes. We care only that they are homologous. We can treat bits the same way we treat energy.

Now the fundamental problem of human action is incomplete information. The economists recognized this over a century ago but the philosophers, as usual, have lagged. To put it in alpha terms, they stopped incorporating new data into their filtration around 1850.

The alpha equation captures the nature of this problem. Its numerator is new information plus the negative entropy you generate from it; its denominator is positive entropy, what you dissipate. Numerator-oriented people are always busy with the next new thing; they consume newspapers and magazines in bulk and seem always to have forgotten what they knew the day before yesterday. This strategy can work — sometimes. Denominator-oriented people tend to stick with what has succeeded for them and rarely, if ever, modify their principles in light of new information. This strategy can also work — sometimes. The great trick is to be an alpha-oriented person. The Greeks, as so often, intuited all of this, lacking only the tools to formalize it. It’s what Empedocles is getting at when he says that life is strife, and what Aristotle is getting at when he says that right action lies in moderation.

Look around. Ask yourself why human beings go off the rails. Is it because we are perishing in an orgy of self-sacrifice, as the Objectivists would have it? Is it because we fail to love our neighbor as ourselves, as the Christians would have it? Or is it because we do our best to advance our interests and simply botch the job?

(Update: Marvin of New Sophists — a Spinal Tap joke lurks in that title — comments at length. At the risk of seeming churlish, I want to correct one small point of his generally accurate interpretation. He writes that “alpha is the negative entropy generated by a system’s behavioral strategy.” Not exactly. Alpha is the ratio between enthalpy plus negative entropy, in the numerator, and positive entropy, in the denominator. It is not measured in units of energy: it is dimensionless. That’s why I say life is a number, rather than a quantity of energy.)

Aaron Haspel | Posted January 6, 2005 @ 2:27 PM | Alpha Theory

289 Responses to “Q&A”

  1. 1 1. Jim Valliant

    Aaron,

    Where to start?

    Utilitarianism "foundered" on much more than the quest for "utiles." It was a misbegotten endeavor in the first place to try to get anyone to act with reference to the happiness or well-being of others, or, further, to promote a purely subjective standard of value, whether happiness, pleasure or any other. Both have resulted only in misery by the attempt.

    I’m sure you will hate my own formulation, but what you are really doing is identifying the physical source of values and the ultimate physical end to which all of teleology operates to achieve.

    Objectivists, of course, would agree that much of human suffering is simply a botched job at advancing our interests. Much guilt, self-humiliation and mass-murder, however, does rest at the feet of non-egoist ethics and the call for "sacrifice," by Hitler, Commies, Christians, welfare-statists, Mothers, and others. As you observe, there have been very wrong-headed ethics in the past. Ideas are the wellspring of behavior for good or ill.

    Also, most ethics do have lots and lots of positive prescriptions of great value beyond "don’t kill" and "don’t steal." Let’s see: "Work hard," "save for a rainy day," "give strangers the benefit of the doubt," "have a little fun every day," "brush your teeth," "do unto others," tell me when to stop. Some have global positive advice: "Love thy neighbor/love God. This is the whole of the Law," "achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number," etc.

    There is no "conflict" between the collective good and the individual good. This is something that alpha may also help clarify, much to the benefit of the debate. But, ethics has an unavoidable intellectual/psychological dimension that cannot be evaded. It must, as here, at least be assumed.


  2. 2 2. Bourbaki

    When asked if ants have common sense, Edward O. Wilson replied "If common sense means living by a set of rules of thumb that have worked well in the past, but living without examining those rules too closely or in detail, then, yes, ants have common sense."

    Interesting things happen when common sense fails. Wilson’s criterion emphasizes the point that what’s involved in understanding is intimately tied up with acting in accordance to a set of rules. When the rules of reality generating the events of daily life part company with the rules of thumb built on common sense, surprise is the outcome. And our rules must be reformulated. But according to what criteria?

    Also, most ethics do have lots and lots of positive prescriptions of great value beyond "don’t kill" and "don’t steal."

    Great value indeed. Good for fortune cookies, I suppose.

    What kind of common sense can be squeezed out of any set of rules? In 1986, British psychologist Karl Teigen conducted an experiment to find out.

    Teigen’s experiment involved taking twenty-four well-known proverbs and transforming each into its opposite. So, for example, "Out of sight, out of mind," became "Absense makes the heart grow fonder." Teigen then gave his students lists containing some genuine proverbs intermingled with those he had formulated through logical inversion.

    He then asked the students to rate the proverbs based on originality and "truth value". The students could find no recognizable difference between the set of eternal truths and their opposites. In short, almost any "wisdom"–or its opposite–can be taken as a pithy encapsulation of everyday, garden-variety common sense.

    The key is knowing how to find new rules and when to ditch old ones. Yet philosophy hasn’t even established where we should be looking.


  3. 3 3. MeTooThen

    Aaron, well done.

    And Bourbaki, "The key is knowing how to find new rules and when to ditch old ones. Yet philosophy hasn’t even established where we should be looking."

    This seems right to me, and please correct me if you think I’m wrong, but herein lies the function of F.

    As I wrote earlier, wisdom comes from the understanding of F.

    Being human, we don’t always, or want to, follow F.

    Does F. give us advice as asked by Mr. Valliant? Well, it does give us direction.

    What we do with that direction is what’s at issue here.

    Aaron’s points us to this: "If alpha theory had a motto, it would be there are no universal strong solutions."

    This seems to me to also be correct, as there is no universal F. There may be other reasons to support Aaron’s assertion, but I am willing to use this one as support.

    Here too, "…But action in the real world is not like that; success, from a thermodynamic perspective, requires a continuous weighing of the alternatives and a continuous adjustment of one’s path."

    Precisely. It is the phenomenologic character of F which both allows and mandates this to be true.

    Suffering, I believe, arises often from the resistance to what is. The diachronic narrative of the Self, as touched on here, ala Galen Strawson we can begin to see the structure of the human psyche (Self) as it intersects F.

    The pursuit of alpha-star is the embrace of what is.

    Although I have previously tried to answer Mr. Valliant’s objections, I again would suggest that by pursuing alpha-star, one does have a choice in one’s behavior, and that this choice is free. Moreover, one can, and may very well, have strong emotional or pyschological attachments, or reactions to said behavior.

    Pursuing alpha-star makes us ethical.

    Whereas it is this constellation of choice, emotions, and psychological reactions to alpha pursuit that makes us human.


  4. 4 4. Jim Valliant

    Ants do not routinely reconfigure their "rules" during the course of a single ant life-time. They are not required to pick and choose what "rules" they will follow. They really don’t follow "rules" or have "common sense" at all. The "sense" their behavior makes or not is only to us.

    Speaking of "cash-value," but still on topic, could you give me an example of anti-intuitive advice that alpha gives us in a particular, practical instance that previous morality has not. Can it tell us, for example, when it’s o.k. to kill in self-defense/tell a white lie/have an affair in a way that does not conform to the previous real-world ethical advice of another school? Please not something from a casino or financial markets. How about a universal bit of fatherly, normative, "rules to live by" kinda stuff that would surprise previous ethical thinkers. One or two will do.


  5. 5 5. Bourbaki

    MeTooThen,

    Your understanding of the theory is spot on. The only minor quibble is that F is a measurable space defined by the set of thermodynamic events.

    Eustace improves chances of survival by adapting to F. But any such adaptation is a strong solution and may prove deleterious as F continually changes.

    Eustace is the function.

    Mr. Valliant,

    I realized that you misused the terms positive and negative prescription.

    "Don’t kill" is not a positive prescription. Please check Mr. Haspel’s link about negative liberty.


  6. 6 6. Jim Valliant

    MeTooThen,

    I don’t think that we’re too far off from each other, but, again, I may be wrong. Those emotions are the kickers, the inspiration, the real motivators of behavior. Our ethics, whatever they are, must be tightly integrated with our emotions if they are to be the operative technology that is ethics. Ethics is not a luxury, as Rand observed. It is a requirement for human beings as real as the need to eat.


  7. 7 7. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    No, I assumed that "Don’t kill." was negative prescription. My phrasing was off. I meant, "Previous ethics do have positive prescriptions, not just negative one like ‘don’t kill.’"


  8. 8 8. Jim Valliant

    MeTooThen,

    The reason why I would say that only humans are "ethical" beings is that while many other beings pursue ends, alpha*, and many follow "strategies" and "rules" (by analogy), only human beings are confronted with the need to determine and select the (real) rules and strategies that we will follow. Only humans need (and are capable) of a SCIENCE of ethics. The fact that a human being is capable of arriving at alpha theory itself, and ideas like it, is the unique power, the special alpha-excellence, of our species–the glory of our species, if I may use "theological" language.


  9. 9 9. CT

    "Speaking of "cash-value," but still on topic, could you give me an example of anti-intuitive advice that alpha gives us in a particular, practical instance that previous morality has not"

    Suppose there was no such thing; i.e., that alpha merely confirmed that which has been stated by other theories; what would be the problem with this?

    Firstly, I should very much hope that alpha is isomorphic with previous theories of ethics in many (most?) ways; hell I would expect as much as alpha theory itself predicts it.

    But more importantly, what we will gain, even if the prescriptions are chestnuts as worn as can be, is an *objective* reason to accept them. We can throw out the divine and all the other bad metaphysics that ethical philosophy to date has relied upon and reach conclusions on prescriptive action by universally agreed upon premises (and yes I outright dismiss as worthy of consideration any argument that does not accept algebra and the LoT) which are openly and transparently derived.

    Jebus H. Homer, this is nothing short of mindblowing.


  10. 10 10. MeTooThen

    Bourbaki,

    Thank you for your comments.

    Yes, perhaps you are quibbling with "…This seems right to me, and please correct me if you think I’m wrong, but herein lies the function of F."

    No, I didn’t mean that F is a function (although I did ask that previously), but rather it had a function, or played a role in behavior.

    Or not.

    It is totally possible that I am wrong here.

    And yes, Eustace is the function.

    Check.

    Mr. Valliant,

    Here:

    …"Those emotions are the kickers, the inspiration, the real motivators of behavior."

    With this I disagree. As above, our emotional reactions or attachments to behavior are just that, but they themselves do not ethical behavior or morality make.

    It is our actions that count.


  11. 11 11. Bourbaki

    MeTooThen,

    but rather it had a function, or played a role in behavior.

    Correct.

    And thanks for the introduction to Strawson:

    But if there is a process, there must be something an object or substance in which it goes on. If something happens, there must be something to which it happens, something which is not just the happening itself. This expresses our ordinary understanding of things, but physicists are increasingly content with the view that physical reality is itself a kind of pure process even if it remains hard to know exactly what this idea amounts to. The view that there is some ultimate stuff to which things happen has increasingly ceded to the idea that the existence of anything worthy of the name ultimate stuff consists in the existence of fields of energy consists, in other words, in the existence of a kind of pure process which is not usefully thought of as something which is happening to a thing distinct from it.


  12. 12 12. Jim Valliant

    MeTooThen,

    "Ethics" is the realm of advice. This is something we can only give to human beings. Our rational faculty is why we are "ethical beings." No, emotions do not make us "ethical beings," but they have a real role in human behavior. Really, they do. One can act against one’s emotions, but it is pain and misery to attempt to act consistently and continuously in opposition to one’s emotions. In the long run, I’m not sure if it can be sustained. Ethics needs to work with them, not against them. Indeed, ethics can, must and will "train" our emotions. When ethics is applied to the human animal, we creatures of habit and emotion and character, our natures must be considered. In this sense, ethics must account for not only the ends sought, but the means by which they sought.

    C.T.,

    Take a chill-pill, I was just inquiring if this new thinking results in any new policy-implications, that’s all. If this is "ethics," then it is really metaethics, not applied ethics, right? (Aaron seems to think that an unconscious Hayekian cultural evolution is sufficient to explain all of this built-up good advice. I do not. Humans have had and stated good reasons for adopting many (consensus) ethical norms. But this is a side-matter.

    More of interest, where does alpha come-down on ethical issues about which there is hot debate: abortion, the death-penalty, genetic engineering of humans, etc.? Let’s see this ethics "in action," solving problems, giving advice, etc. Will we need a pocket-calculator?


  13. 13 13. Aaron Haspel

    Jim asks for some normative, "fatherly," yet counter-intuitive advice. OK, here’s some: normative fatherly advice is always wrong, sometimes.

    There is only one universally valid rule: maximize alpha. No path, only the Way, as the Buddhists say.

    To repeat: there are no universal strong solutions. There is no universally valid heuristic to tell you when to lie, when to kill in self-defense, when to have an affair. All depends on F, as MeTooThen has tirelessly pointed out. This is why people write novels.

    I’m reminded of the scene in Life of Brian where Brian is trying to shoo his acolytes away. He tells them "You must all learn to think for yourselves!" and they respond, in unison, "We must all learn to think for ourselves!"


  14. 14 14. Bourbaki

    Really, they do. One can act against one’s emotions, but it is pain and misery to attempt to act consistently and continuously in opposition to one’s emotions.

    Sounds like every time I’ve dragged my sorry ass to the gym over the years.

    In this sense, ethics must account for not only the ends sought, but the means by which they sought.

    Absolutely true. Alpha theory is not path independent.

    More of interest, where does alpha come-down on ethical issues about which there is hot debate.

    This requires its own post. And you won’t need a pocket-calculator. All the pieces have already been posted although, at least for me, the solutions were sometimes counterintuitive.


  15. 15 15. Bill Kaplan

    Jim,

    In its weakest form alpha theory is pro-man. What’s the beef?


  16. 16 16. Anon

    Old and new:

    Aaron,

    You response to my unidirectionality point by stating that: "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." I don’t find this metaphor convincing, as it just seems that you are arguing that not enough _time_ has passed for progress to be made, for your mechanism to sufficiently favor better culture over worse. This still sounds unidirectional to me.

    I brought up naturalistic fallacy because I did not find your earlier comments convincing. But if you feel there’s nothing further to say, fair enough. You say that your eventual discussion of aesthetics will not involve anything resembling checklists, which I assume includes checklists with expiration dates (e.g., "best movies of 2004 as voted in 2005") so I am willing to be swayed on this point.

    I also find your comment about your theory, that "[You] 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." — rather confusing. Either you _want_ people to follow it, suggesting that they need to be convinced of your theory and could, in fact, reject it (and thereby cause it to _fail_) by following another approach, or you are assuming that people are _inevitably, necessarily_ following your theory, because it is based on physical fact, rendering any discussion of "wanting/choosing to follow it" meaningless/moot. This is a point I have not felt to be clarified in the 120 or so comments I have worked through so far.

    I place these comments here because, it seems to be, following the Leibniz comments above, that you are following the latter tack, so that once your theory is elucidated in its full glory, there simply will be no more discussion — or rather, that the discussion will be about the details within the theory, not the framework itself. Once again, I find this model more suited to the physical sciences than to the arts. Even among the physical sciences, I would think the model more suited to the theoretical rather than experimental branches. Among the experimentalists I have known, more than few have really only been _convinced_ of theoretical results (beautiful, undisputed 19th century theoretical results on interference effects) after actual physical data had been obtained. They _accepted_ the result before the experiment, but only _believed_ it after the experiment. (The history of the spot or Arago is on point here.) This is why I am curious about how you think your reception by your readers affects the status of your theory.

    I also must suggest that I do not see how your discussion of strong and weak solutions in thermodynamics is any closer, at least yet, to a discussion of "action in the real world" than the arid ethical dilemmas approach you dismiss, particularly as the example above concerns only the real world problem of dis-arming a frog. But you have said you wll get to aesthetics — and here I do assume you mean aesthetic judgement, aesthetic _action — in due time, so perhaps I am only being impatient. I am willing to just lurk around until then, progessing through the comments diligently. I am sympathetic to your points concerning imperfect information, and I am curious how you will incorporate then into aesthetic judgement, just as I wonder how strong convergence and weak convergence aesthetic judgements will differ. I just didn’t expect, initially, to have to go through your full moral philosophy to get to them.

    Bourbaki,

    I honestly admitted that I had read all the posts but not the 250+ dense (you will appreciate the double meaning here) comments on all the posts. I attempted to ask what I thought were reasonable questions, based not only on general theory but specific applications of alpha theory, such as a discussion of good art versus bad.

    Perhaps I was rushing Aaron on demonstrating what an alpha theoretical discussion of aesthetics would actually look like, as I note above. My comments about laughter concerned the status of the recipient of such a lecture (I don’t use lecture pejoratively — simply to indicate that one of the conversationalists is conversant in alpha theory, but the other is not), and the ability of the recipient to respond to the lecture within and outside the framework. I certainly don’t feel like I was mocking Aaron, or any of the rest of the discussions. Aaron’s response seemed to suggest that I have misread his theory, though as I state above I haven’t found convincing answers to my questions in the comments I have so far worked through. But if you feel that I should not make any comment until I finish all of the other comments, I would ask that you just please ignore any further posts I make (as it seems like you will anyway), as my catching up progress will be slow, and new posts like this one (with attendant comments) will only make it worse. On the bright side, I’m planning to lurk for a while anyway.

    And more generally, could we name Eustace’s counterpart, to person with whom he will eventually interact in your philosophy? May I recommend Hilda?

    Best,

    Anon


  17. 17 17. Aaron Armitage

    Murder, robbery, and the like are obviously radically alphadystropic, because alpha states that the inputs always have to be considered. (So does thermodynamics.) If this weren’t true you would have prima facie grounds for rejecting the theory.

    If I’m reading this right, you say that if Alpha Theory didn’t tell us that murder is wrong, it would be incorrect. This has two implications:

    1) You have some other standard by which you know murder is wrong.

    2) Alpha Theory is properly judged according to whether it conforms to this standard.

    The question is, which standard? And doesn’t an open derivation require making it clear first?


  18. 18 18. Bourbaki

    Anon,

    This still sounds unidirectional to me.

    Just because a system is directional does not mean it will progress in one direction. Any system is susceptible to unforseen fluctuations. Ecosystems crash. Markets crash. Civilizations crash. Solar systems crash.

    Systems that are better adapted have a higher probability of survival but that greater capability can be turned onto itself. Or the system can be hit by an asteroid.

    because it is based on physical fact, rendering any discussion of "wanting/choosing to follow it" meaningless/moot. This is a point I have not felt to be clarified in the 120 or so comments I have worked through so far.

    The consequences of the theory must be challenged by challenging the derivation. How alpha is maximized is very much open to debate. Remember, there are no universal strong solutions.

    That’s the point I tried to convey in the previous thread with my metaphor of a firm operating in a free market. A firm will go belly up when it can no longer meet its financial obligations. How to make it thrive in a free market is very much open to debate.

    Free market theory doesn’t tell us how to succeed. I can imagine how disconcerting that must have been: "How will the peasants figure out the price of bread on their own without us setting it for them?"

    Before we can formulate solutions, we first need to figure out what to measure. That’s the "unit" Mr. Haspel referred to in parent post.

    The filtration, F, is constantly changing. Alpha theory offers no way of predicting the future. The complete set of options available to us at any given time can not be predicted. Alpha theory does offer a metric to compare the results of what has happened and allow us to weigh these options.

    This is why I am curious about how you think your reception by your readers affects the status of your theory.

    This theory is quite far from validated. But no fatal flaws has been uncovered so far. My comments weren’t meant to discourage your posting but to illustrate why it would difficult to address the issues you raised at this point in the exposition. Especially since we’re still establishing the foundations of the theory.

    I also must suggest that I do not see how your discussion of strong and weak solutions in thermodynamics is any closer, at least yet, to a discussion of "action in the real world" than the arid ethical dilemmas approach you dismiss, particularly as the example above concerns only the real world problem of dis-arming a frog.

    This is confusing, Anon. You point out that there are 250+ dense comments yet complain that the initial examples are too simple?

    I pointed out in response to Mr. Valliant’s call for cash value that there are proposed solutions to abortion, death penalty and genetic engineering issues that are derivable within the framework but they require their own post (forthcoming). In the meantime, Mr. Haspel directed our attention to Isaiah Berlin’s work.

    Aaron’s response seemed to suggest that I have misread his theory, though as I state above I haven’t found convincing answers to my questions in the comments I have so far worked through.

    The initial goal in posting the derivation is to see if there are any errors in the derivation itself. It doesn’t make very much sense to push ahead with a theory if its foundations are flawed.

    If you’ve found an inconsistency in the derivation, kindly share it.

    You are obviously free to speculate where the theory might go–but it may result in an increased proliferation of (tangential?) comments. But the point is to openly challenge the idea so please don’t interpret any of my comments as an attempt to discourage your participation–especiallly since I end up on probation often enough.


  19. 19 19. Bourbaki

    Mr. Armitage,

    Alpha Theory is properly judged according to whether it conforms to this standard.

    Not quite. Mr. Haspel was using existing ethical frameworks as a litmus test, not as a rule, to illustrate that it coincides with many of our intuitions.

    Alpha theory is openly derived from fundamental physical laws. There are no other assumptions or principles implied. It provides a working definition of living systems. If validated, alpha theory is the standard by which to measure ethical theories. Mr. Valliant calls this meta-ethics which I can understand but, as we’ll see in forthcoming posts, alpha theory does offer compelling resolutions to some real world problems.

    I personally don’t very much care what it’s called. I’d first like to know if it’s valid and, second, its implications. In that sense, its consequences on ethical systems will be hard to deny.

    As Anon noted, that can be an unsettling proposition but as Mr. Haspel pointed out some time ago, despite its origins in physics, alpha theory turns out the be a remarkably empathetic and accommodating ethical framework (or dessert topping).


  20. 20 20. Anon

    Bourbaki,

    Not to be repetitive, but the notion that the theory is not unidirectional because "unforeseen circumstances" may occur is not really a convincing response. It really just begs the question of what circumstances can be foreseen. In particular, a theory built on the thermodynamics should surely be able to predict "solar system crashes" and "being hit by an asteroid". But more importantly, why must I wait for dramatic events out of my individual control (social events like markets or physical events like tsunamis) in order to, well, just change my mind about what sort of aesthetics to pursue?
    Recall that my point about unidirectionality stems from the laws of thermodynamics themselves. Yes, there may be occasional setbacks — the surface over which the maximization occurs may be bumpy with many local maxima — but thermodynamic motion is in one direction. And so a theory built on thermodynamic Eustaces should also move in one direction, at least _statistically_, allowing for individual Eustaces to fall by the wayside here and there. It is not a convincing response to say that every so often a flood washes the Eustaces (and the ants) away, and everything has to start over again. This is _not_ a change in the direction of the fundamental motion — it just seems like a deus ex machina to explain why more progress hasn’t occured.

    And I agree about free market theory not telling us how to succeed, though I interpret succeed as succeeding to "life the lives we want to lead" rather than "succeeding to make money." I believe this is why _The Wealth of Nations_ is accompanied by _The Theory of Moral Sentiments_. Though my reading of neither of these tracts is complete, it did seem to me that Smith recognized (as many of his acolytes did not) that the question of how to efficiently set the price of bread was _separate_ from the question of what sort of life the baker should live. And though I do not recall at the moment if Smith said why the two were separate, I would suggest here that it is because the tools used to show one were inappropriate for the other.
    I would freely stipulate for purposes of argument that there was no error in his derivation of the laws of the free market. But just because his system was clear and correct did not imbue it with any moral force. And maybe this is why I guess I have been impatient for more discussion about applications of the theory — because I do not see why, just because a theory is axiomatically sound, that it must therefore be morally/aesthetically correct. And surely I should judge an aesthetic theory by what it, in the end, says about aesthetics, and not by the rigor of the method by which it derives these conclusions? For example, the complexity and throroughness of Talcott Parsons social systems and Roman Ingarden’s ontologies of art had nothing to with whether those theories were good (or bad) at describing the interactions of real people or the appreciation of real art.

    And this is why I am recusing myself of the discussion of how sound alpha theory is as a system, as I have noted before. I just thought I’d take one last stab at making myself clear.

    Anon


  21. 21 21. Bourbaki

    Anon,

    I guess I have been impatient for more discussion about applications of the theory — because I do not see why, just because a theory is axiomatically sound, that it must therefore be morally/aesthetically correct.

    If the derivation of alpa theory is not sound, its applications are definitely not correct. Information theory is necessary for discussing the alpha implications on aesthetics. It was only recently mentioned–in this post.

    The foundations of alpha are empirical rather than transcendental. There are no freestanding assumptions–there are only the laws of thermodynamics and mathematics. Traditionally, ethical theories fail by passing from the particular to the vague, or the reverse, vagueness into hard cases. They degrade into a force of will.

    There is a great deal of evidence that points to a purely material origin of ethics. It is vital that the each of the pieces presented in Parts 2-6 be kept in mind when sifting through the evidence. All efforts so far have gone into assembling and layering those pieces.

    The reader’s impatience is both understandable and forgivable. The presenter’s is not.


  22. 22 22. Bourbaki

    Anon,

    A couple of additional comments.

    It really just begs the question of what circumstances can be foreseen. In particular, a theory built on the thermodynamics should surely be able to predict "solar system crashes" and "being hit by an asteroid".

    Nope. We believed this in the 19th century. Today, just ask your favorite meteorologist.

    It can still be a game of chance. In such situations, the best you can do is try to ensure that the odds are in your favor. And all you have to work with is your filtration.

    Your meteorologist is going to be more accurate than your rain dancer because he can take more of the filtration into account but neither can predict the future with perfect accuracy.

    And I agree about free market theory not telling us how to succeed, though I interpret succeed as succeeding to "life the lives we want to lead" rather than "succeeding to make money."

    These analogies are a bit dangerous–money is analogous to free energy not alpha. Nevertheless, in the context of this analogy, we only need to focus on making money. Even in this restricted sense, free market theory does not offer any univeral solution for financial success–late night informercials notwithstanding. Again, the best you can do is maximize the odds.


  23. 23 23. Matt McIntosh

    Aaron H,

    Apologies for hectoring you for cash value; I was admittedly anxious to jump ahead and look for real-world applications, but I’m willing to be more patient now. However, I have a question about alpha*:

    What about the drunk who realizes that his habit is damaging himself and his family, but goes on drinking anyway? He knows what he is doing is destructive and wrong, but continues anyway. How is he following alpha*?


  24. 24 24. David Airth

    Aaron,

    Consilience is one of my favorite books. What he wrote about theory, its components and utility, is priceless.

    There is one thing Wilson wrote in it that deserves repeating: "For best results, cultivate individuals, not groups." It explains a lot of things, like why Democracy triumphed over Communism. And on the subject of thermodynamics, one of your favorites, following that axiom is the one way to combat the dreaded inevitability of entropy, which is a major reason for social decline.


  25. 25 25. Anon

    Alright, one _last_ set of comments:

    1. "If the derivation of alpa theory is not sound, its applications are definitely not correct."
    Again, I believe the soundness of the theory should be judged by its conclusions about art first and by its foundational/derivational soundness second. I do not believe this to be as controversial a statement as it might initially appear. The Dirac delta function proved a useful and valuable construct in quantum physics for many years before Schwartz’s theory of distributions actually gave it a firm theoretical grounding.

    2. "Nope. We believed this in the 19th century. Today, just ask your favorite meteorologist"…"Your meteorologist is going to be more accurate than your rain dancer because he can take more of the filtration into account but neither can predict the future with perfect accuracy."
    I would just point out that the dynamics of asteroids is well-predicted by standard Newtonian dynamics. There is no need to invoke chaotic dynamics to predict, to high accuracy, their orbits. The notion of a "solar system crash" is ambiguous, but to the extent that it involves the nuclear processes occuring in the sun, it, too, can be predicted with fair amounts of accuracy ("how much fuel remains?") using basic nuclear physics. The aside being made was not about perfect accuracy, merely about general scientific capabilities.
    And again, it is not a refutation to say that the model is not unidirectional because actors in the model cannot know with perfect accuracy the correct direction. Thermodynamics does not require sentience. If there is a cumulative thermodynamic maximization process occuring, _both_ the meteorologist of the modern day _and_ the dancer of the modern day should be relatively more maximizaed than the meteorlogist and dancer or, say, 10000 years ago. _That_ sort of unidirectionality over time is what I’m talking about, not the notion of imperfect progress due to imperfect information. This is why I have referred to the _overall statistic trend_ of the theory, not the particular progress of any individual within it. Imperfect information changes the _rate_ of progress of an individual component but not the _direction_ of development of the aggregate.

    3. "[F]ree market theory does not offer any univeral solution for financial success." This is true, I suppose, though irrelevant to my main point. But for what its worth, free market theory does offer particular solutions — that’s what drives economic policy, after all — and certainly makes claims about the aggregate performance of difference types of economic organization — at the very least of the performance of free market economies versus other types of economies. It endorses certain policies over others not because of a universal success formula for an individual, but because of presumed aggregate performance of a collective over time. Indeed, since free market theory is a theory about the efficient production and distribution of goods, _it is indeed providing a universal formula for success_ — i.e., a formula for the most success in efficiently producing and distributing goods. _That was Smith’s whole point_. Nobody ever claimed that free market theory has anything to do with making you individually rich. Such "Get rich theory," is, as you say, currently being developed late at night. All I know currently is that it involves real estate, no money down, and having two dads (one rich, one poor).

    Now I really will shut up.

    Anon


  26. 26 26. Bourbaki

    Anon,

    Again, I believe the soundness of the theory should be judged by its conclusions about art first and by its foundational/derivational soundness second.

    How can you understand the justification for conclusions if you don’t understand how the theory can be applied?

    If the theory’s conclusions are wrong, how do you know you haven’t misapplied the theory or "forgotten to carry the one"? Your approach takes less work but is more prone to error.

    We’ll turn the ignition key soon enough but a routine (boring?) systems check first may avoid many, many more posts for clarification later.

    If there is a cumulative thermodynamic maximization process occuring, _both_ the meteorologist of the modern day _and_ the dancer of the modern day should be relatively more maximizaed than the meteorlogist and dancer or, say, 10000 years ago.

    And should the weather be getting better all the time? It, too, is a thermodynamic system.

    Thermodynamics does not work this way. No physical process occurs in isolation. Alpha theory illustrates how systems can become organized and offers a way to measure this organization. It doesn’t state that they must remain organized nor become more organized.

    The processes to which we’re exposed are a product of all types of randomness. We can not conveniently separate them and assume that they are completely predictable. The best we can do is estimate them.

    and certainly makes claims about the aggregate performance of difference types of economic organization

    As alpha theory does. Both give us the concept of direction but neither gives us a crystal ball.

    Now I really will shut up.

    No need. However, you’re putting the cart before the horse. Consider the following:

    Both science and art are better understood as verbs than nouns. Science is a process that aims to produce a logically consistent body of knowledge. No matter how many disciplines exist within science, they can be collectively viewed as one aggregate formal system.

    Formal systems have limitations. Godel’s incompleteness theorem states that there will always be truths that are outside the reach of any formal system.

    Art is a process. Given the limitations of formal systems, it offers a complementary channel to communicate information. There are no universal strong solutions to produce good art. Nevertheless, good art has an effect on the receiver. Its consequences can be measured in alpha terms.

    Mr. McIntosh,

    Alpha theory doesn’t state that any given Eustace will follow low epsilon strategies. The nature of addiction is too broad to accommodate in the comments section (another post). Keep in mind the model of the filtration as seen by the addict.

    The progressive nature of addiction is incomprehensible to users and loved ones alike. For most of us, it seems strange that drug abuse represents behavior that is beyond "voluntary control." The central feature of addictive disorders is a progressive loss of control over substance use, whereby chemically dependent people continue, and even amplify their use — despite increasingly devastating consequences.

    The behavior patterns that define substance dependency are characterized by the individual’s inability to accurately predict the timing, amount, duration, or consequences of substance consumption: "The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problems" and "there is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control (i.e. predict) substance use" Furthermore: "The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended " and "there is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use" DSM IV (APA, 1994, p. 181).

    Science clearly has a role in these matters. Has art ever played a role in these matters? Has it ever been used to help people see things differently?


  27. 27 27. Aaron Armitage

    Bourbaki,

    Not quite. Mr. Haspel was using existing ethical frameworks as a litmus test, not as a rule, to illustrate that it coincides with many of our intuitions.

    I fail to see the difference between a "litmus test" and a "rule" in this context. Either our intuitions (if I take it right that this is where you derive the knowledge that murder is wrong) are properly the standard by which Alpha Theory is judged, or not. Whether you compare that standard to a litmus test or to a rule, it’s there or not.

    If validated, alpha theory is the standard by which to measure ethical theories.

    If so, then it cannot be validated by reference to existing ethical theories (however you conceptualize this referencing), since those very theories — including ones based on intuition — themselves have need of validation by the very thing they are to validate. If you do make those theories a litmus test, they must already be validated somehow.


  28. 28 28. Bourbaki

    Mr. Armitage,

    If so, then it cannot be validated by reference to existing ethical theories (however you conceptualize this referencing), since those very theories

    You are absolutely correct and this is most definitely not how alpha theory is to be validated. It’s a purely empirical theory. It must be validated by science not through other ethical theories.

    But I imagine you can see that comparing alpha theory to other ethical systems, both past and present, can be helpful?


  29. 29 29. Bourbaki

    Anon,

    One last comment on your post.

    I would just point out that the dynamics of asteroids is well-predicted by standard Newtonian dynamics. There is no need to invoke chaotic dynamics to predict, to high accuracy, their orbits.

    This is not true.

    The three-body problem is much more complicated; its solution can be chaotic. In general, the three-body problem cannot be solved analytically, although approximate solutions can be calculated by numerical methods or perturbation methods.


  30. 30 30. MeTooThen

    Anon,

    Directionality, yes.

    Linearity, no.

    Whereas Time may be an Arrow, the Flux of the Universe, and the behavior of one man, or Man, or the life of the ecosystem, or evolution, or the movement of clouds, is not.

    Aaron’s use of the mesh over a cloud of gas is very appropriate, indeed, as a way to visualize life systems.

    And as Bourbaki pointed out, the system can allow for movement inward, or into itself.

    (I wish I had some topographical maps to show this.)

    Therefore, there is a direction to our behavior, our energy moves us in that direction at any given t, but it is not linear movement.

    Also as Bourbaki has pointed out, F is also changing at every time, t.

    And yes, addiction, …"The central feature of addictive disorders is a progressive loss of control over substance use, whereby chemically dependent people continue, and even amplify their use — despite increasingly devastating consequences."…is a failure of F.

    Behavior has a consequence.

    New F.

    Lastly, Bourbaki, quoting DSM IV.

    Brilliant.


  31. 31 31. Aaron Haspel

    No apologies required, Matt; in the time I have taken to lay this out the patience of even my most sympathetic readers must have worn thin.

    One passage seems to have provoked Aaron Armitage, and I quote it in full: "The first thing to recognize is that just about everything that you now believe is wrong, probably is wrong, in alpha terms. Murder, robbery, and the like are obviously radically alphadystropic, because alpha states that the inputs always have to be considered. (So does thermodynamics.) If this weren’t true you would have prima facie grounds for rejecting the theory. Evolution necessarily proceeds toward alpha maximization. Human beings have won many, many rounds in the alpha casino. Such universal rules as they have conceived are likely to be pretty sound by alpha standards."

    Aaron A. regards this as an appeal to some extra-alpha standard, and if you omit the last three sentences, as he does, it certainly seems that way. But all I really say is that universal moral rules are the product of evolution, and evolution has certainly done a better job, to date, than moral philosophy has. So they are odds-on to be true. This makes them a useful sanity check. It does not make them the standard by which the truth of the theory is to be judged.


  32. 32 32. Anon

    Bourbaki,

    At this point we’re just speaking past each other. Forgive the snark, as I’m avoiding more pressing work by writing this comment.

    1."How can you understand the justification for conclusions if you don’t understand how the theory can be applied?" So I assume you do not accept movie recommendations from anyone who hasn’t submitted a proper theory of film first. And I assume that once you’ve judged a movie appropriately, no actual dialogue with another person can _convince_ you of anything else. Not placing such great importance on axiomatic details makes you more open to suasion, not less.

    2. "And should the weather be getting better all the time? It, too, is a thermodynamic system." I’m not sure what you mean by "better." The universe certainly is getting colder. All the time.

    3. You invoke the N-body problem, but I am not trying to give you a universally precise description of the asteroid. I simply wanted to point out that we have very good ways to find ones that might hit us and estimate if they will hit us. That’s why I mentioned Newton specifically, and not Einstein/relativistic calculations. The entire fruitful field of perturbation theory, after all, was built out of _NOT_ solving the N-body problem.

    Also, MeTooThen,
    4. "Directionality, yes.[...]Linearity, no." But I wasn’t claiming linearity, only directionality. But for what it is worth, I do believe that statistical thermodynamics is a directional _AND_ linear theory.

    Anon


  33. 33 33. Jim Valliant

    Sorry for being away so long. I know you all missed me so much. I continue to question whether this s really ethics. So, would Bentham really be proud? Is a concept like "rights" a "hard solution"–nonsense on stilts–to be avoided? Is a principle like, "humans should never initiate the use of physical violence against another human being," too rigid? Can alpha’s advice be articulated in principles at all–"fatherly" or not?

    Yes, Bill, generally pro-man, pro-life–perhaps the physics behind all that I call teleology–but is it ethics?


  34. 34 34. Bourbaki

    Anon,

    At this point we’re just speaking past each other.

    I disagree. I think it takes a while to integrate all of the pieces.

    And I assume that once you’ve judged a movie appropriately, no actual dialogue with another person can _convince_ you of anything else.

    Any physical process has physical consequences for any given Eustace. One consequence is the direct physical interaction. The second is the cascade effect it initiates.

    We interpret this as the experience and our interpretation and response to the experience. Both are contingent on the state of Eustace when the process occurred. A pat on the back or a series of sounds (music) are both physical processes. Each depends on context or the state of the receiver.

    An encrypted message will have a different effect on a receiver that possesses the means to decode it.

    Consider what you’re saying–you give me a review (a variable check list?) of positive qualities for a movie. I should simply accept your judgement because this list of criteria has been satisfied? Or that it has done well at the box office?

    So, yes, Anon, you can try to persuade me that a movie was good but you can’t change how it affected me. You can’t take the receiver out of the equation and substitute him with yourself.

    You can, however, help me decode things better. Armed with your argument, I can review (or watch) the movie again and look for the things that I missed the first time. This may allow me to see things differently and experience it in a more enriching way.

    The universe certainly is getting colder. All the time.

    Humans have only existed for ca. 7 million years. Culture for only 10,000 years. We’ll all be dead in ca. 100 years. The scale you’re talking about has no impact on our affairs. We’re considering all that stuff that happens in between.

    I simply wanted to point out that we have very good ways to find ones that might hit us and estimate if they will hit us.

    Exactly, Anon, might and estimate.


  35. 35 35. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    What would you like to call it?


  36. 36 36. Bill Kaplan

    Jim,

    It ain’t ethics because it assumes what is good and works from there. Ethics examines what is good. But the more I think about it, Bourbaki, more I think it would make interesting history. You could reconfigure history as a quest for free energy. Not so far from Jared Diamond, is it?


  37. 37 37. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    It’s not far from a lot of scholarship. Alpha theory doesn’t radically overthrow what we already know–it brings things into better focus.

    You’re right about Diamond. Diamond illustrates what happens when the quest is focused on free energy instead of alpha.

    But then again, so do these guys–the notion of fluxes also makes sense in psychology and anthropology or, basically, any field where we try to make sense of events and information.


  38. 38 38. Bourbaki

    Anon,

    Have you wondered why a haiku or line drawing can be just as moving as an epic poem or a lush oil painting?

    Or why ‘simple’ or ‘pop’ art and music is more widely accepted than rich, demanding work? Did the Austrians have a greater appreciation for the opera house because they were better patrons or because they were more homogeneous?

    Consider this in alpha terms.

    Numerator: reinforced ideas, new associations and new ideas
    Denominator: effort spent to process information

    What happens if I don’t possess the ideas that the art is attempting to stimulate? What happens when I spend hours working through thousands of lines of poetry without the cultural or historical background to make sense of the material?

    That epic poem is still an information-rich signal but I simply may not have the ability to decode it. Now let’s consider a more democratic and free collection of ideas.

    From the guy who was onto the number thing before anyone: One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no ‘them’ out there. Its just an awful lot of ‘us’.

    Is art getting worse or are you increasingly unable to decode increasingly diverse signals?

    How can you tell? Perhaps by exchanging more ideas to better understand these kids and their crazy rock and roll music?


  39. 39 39. Jim Valliant

    RIGHTS. Maybe if I just keep repeating myself…?


  40. 40 40. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    Forgive me, I’m a bit slow.

    You’re saying the following?

    "alpha theory is a form of rights."

    Don’t rights need to be granted? Who is granting us these rights?


  41. 41 41. Bourbaki

    Cash Value Corner

    What little rigor we had in the posts was not particularly well received. So let’s agree to do a little hand waving to see what we can get out of this theory.

    Way back when we talked about the notion of time. We said that energy flux is required. Time is the causal interleaving (before, after) of these fluxes. Although we don’t re-order the fluxes, sometimes time seems to move at different rates. Why?

    Let a*_you = your alpha-star
    Let a*_clock = clock alpha-star

    We know there is some relationship (I will refrain from equal signs) with the signal generated by the clock and how you process it:

    a*_you ::: a*_clock

    Now reduce your alpha by sitting in a doctor’s office, consuming waking energy, without anything to do:

    (1/x)a*_you ::: a*_clock

    where x > 1.

    But wait, you can only see things from your own perspective.

    a*_you ::: (x)a*_clock

    Time seems to stretch out. But events are still ordered in the same way.

    Now try the reverse. You work on a crossword puzzle or read National Geographic and learn something cool. You perceive your alpha to be increasing.

    (x)(a*_you) ::: a*_clock

    again, where x > 1.

    From your own perspective, you get

    a*_you ::: (1/x)a*_clock

    In other words, time flies. Well, maybe it never "flies" in a doctor’s waiting room but you get the idea.

    And so our perception of time is nothing more than the ratio between alpha processes.

    x ::: (a*_you / a*_clock)

    We’ll save the consequences for speed of light travel and inertial frames for another time.

    "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity."
    –Albert Einstein

    So what will alpha say about important matters? The lack of any universal strong solutions gives us a great deal of freedom but does not relieve us from thermodynamic consequences, both foreseen and unforeseen.

    Here are some implications for legislation. Laws are vital to any society but laws can not continually adapt to a filtration. They can only be revised intermittently and must be followed 24/7 and 365 days per year unless there are explicitly enumerated exceptions:

    Death penalty? No. And most "developed" nations have already abandoned it.

    Abortion? Yes. The state can’t coerce anyone to jeopardize her own safety for the benefit of another. This decision is best handled by the individual who is putting herself at risk. Ironically (and thankfully), this alpha theory explanation doesn’t even need to include notions about when life begins.

    Same sex relationships? Yes. Just because reproduction is a very important strong solution doesn’t mean that we should only pursue means that lead to it and prohibit all others. Thanks to birth control, sex no longer necessarily results in reproduction. And thanks to fertility therapies, sex is no longer necessary for reproduction. The filtration has changed.

    Genetic engineering? It depends. Are we repairing damage or reducing the diversity of our gene pool based on what is appealing to us today?

    More to come. Much like Anon, we all have other matters to attend to…


  42. 42 42. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    No, I was perfectly clear: I am asking what alpha says about the concept of "rights." Is it a "hard solution" to be avoided? Is it sheer "nonsense," as Bentham said, or, perhaps, "theology," as Aaron might say?

    I think you’ve answered, in part: no, rights do not have to be "granted" by anyone. They are not capable of being alienated from me at all, as the Declaration asserts. They can, of course, be violated. I’m with Locke and Jefferson, here, they are aspects of reality in relation to human beings by their very nature.


  43. 43 43. tommy

    This is a testament to what I owe to this site. Thank you all. Here, if you feel inclined, I have read every comment and post, and decided to bring it all together in my mind in the hopes that this will benefit everyone. This is long, and I am sorry for that.

    Alpha says that all things are commensurble. It says that every energy based system EVER and always, so long as thermodynamics stand, is connected.

    The alpha scale is a thermodynamic model of consequential action, determined by an application of measurement to consequential energy fluxes.

    Let me ask you this. Since you are convinced of the idea enough to actually write it, how has it affected 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 conceivably 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 evidentiary 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 don’t 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.

    Guess what Im saying is, make this personal. Not personal as in a specific PATH to follow. But personal as in listen to yourself.

    All energy interacts. There is a dimensionless standard that measures this interaction.

    OK. Aaron wrote this because he wants to do away with the religion and the almost religious devotion that the 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. It’s 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. Stopping 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. It’s 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 picture, 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 is 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 it’s that kind of caf?
    Anyway, 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.

    Oops, one more thing. Stop asking for examples, that is missing the point. I think people here tried to give too 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. You all 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.


  44. 44 44. tommy

    IT CONNECTS everything to everything else without all the lame abstractions about physicality and actuality.

    Therefore, this theory is of the greatest assistance to real ethics, which need only be measured by (and in ways against) the advancement of all coexistence.

    (society is where humans live, and continue to try to live together in perpetuity. this is the point of it, ala, coexistance)

    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.

    all it does is peel back the think skin covering everything and reveals the furnace under the surface that teems with gazillions of little energy fluxs. it gives you the guts and innards of the universe, of which we are all a part. it is a system that functions in evidence of all things. it is a cosmological constant or sorts. LOL. im done, curious to see what people think of my ramblings. Aaron, am i far off?


  45. 45 45. tommy

    And so our perception of time is nothing more than the ratio between alpha processes.

    ghaa, isn’t the perception of everything(anything) nothing more than a ratio between alpha processes?


  46. 46 46. warren ellis

    Prague – A 32-year-old Czech tried to commit suicide by cutting his throat with a chain saw but survived after the machine missed his jugular artery and got stuck in his spine, a report said on Wednesday.


  47. 47 47. Jim Valliant

    Alpha does not preclude "hard solutions" under specified contexts, right? There are contexts where I am dealing with much greater certainty than merely the random. When the truck is speeding straight for me at 100 mph, unless my life itself is worth surrendering at that point, getting out of the way is the only and very "hard solution," right?


  48. 48 48. tommy

    no.

    the guy cut his neck with a fucking chain saw.

    and i think you are still looking for the wrong type of answers from alpha.


  49. 49 49. Jim Valliant

    I am looking for what was claimed: an ethics. And, the chain-saw, as fascinating as it was, did not bear on my comments.


  50. 50 50. Jim Valliant

    I already have good reasons for being honest. None are so ambitious as alpha. All involve the pursuit of my well-being. Many are "hard" solutions, values to be sought until and unless something more important to my well-being, a higher value, is involved. Thus, with my total well-being at the top, a hierarchy of relative values can be established, from food to reason itself. This hierarchy of selfishness tells me why it’s always wrong/self-defeating to tell a lie to get someone’s money out of his pocket and into mine (hard as a rock), and why it’s o.k./life-enhancing to lie to the Nazis demanding to know where I am hiding my Jewish friends. Ethics is always a "soft" solution in that it provides only conditional demands: IF you want X, then you must do (or avoid) Y. Such conditional advice is consequentialist, choice-guidance. This is not my objection to alpha at all. I need a working technology of choice. And, my mind remains open…


  51. 51 51. Aaron Armitage

    Mr. Haspel;

    A "sanity check" is still a standard, as is a litmus test. Attempting to use a synonym rather than the word "standard" won’t change matters.

    The next few sentences after what I quoted doesn’t help matters either, because you made agreement with our intuitions a point in favor of Alpha Theory (and a prima facie disconfirmation if it had been otherwise), and then argue for the validity of our intuitions on the basis of Alpha Theory. That’s circular.

    Bourbaki came close to rejecting the relevance of our intuitions by saying Alpha Theory is purely empirical, but then asks if I can see how the comparison can be helpful. Well, helpful how? If you’re using it as a point in favor of Alpha Theory, to any extent, to that extent my objection stands.

    Of course, you can simply stop making such arguments and my objection will be irrelevant. My objection (so far) is trivial, since you could grant everything I’ve said and Alpha Theory could still be true. However, I see a far greater problem with Alpha Theory, at least as an ethical theory, but I’ll wait to see if you attempt to deal with it as the series continues.


  52. 52 52. Jim Valliant

    Mr. A.,

    Mr. Haspel’s admission that a prima facie case against alpha could be made if it did not conform to previous ethical-policy-consensus or intuition, I took only to mean that ethical norms are probably sound, being the results of a kind of evolution process themselves. As Hayek observed, humans may not always know the reasons why a norm was adopted, but adopting it, say, a respect for private property, is what gave a person, or a community of humans, an advantage over others. According to Hayek, we should not toss-out what may be the products of thousands of years of "cultural" and "moral" "evolution" before we know what we are doing… Indeed, since all of evolution is aiming at closing the alpha*/alpha gap, it is hardly surprising that previous ethical norms conform to alpha-implications, is it? Indeed, in this sense, it can serve as a (highly limited) confirmation-test for alpha, not an objection at all. (Limited by the obvious fact that many time-tested products of such cultural evolution have been dead wrong. Why ever adopt cannibalism or human sacrifice in alpha-terms? Yet such practices lasted for centuries (longer?) in many, many places.)

    Of course, you are absolutely right, on your ultimate point: conforming to our intuitions cannot be the standard itself without making a logical circle. If alpha is the only objective standard, then its proponents must be prepared to bite the bullet and say so, wherever alpha leads us…


  53. 53 53. tommy

    The reason Alpha defines ethics, Jim, is because Alpha is the measurement of consequential energy flux. What this means is that Alpha is the measure of all things (living). It allows for a standard in terms of energy, or, perhaps, put another way, it is the measurement of their life in terms of existing energy. It is a description of all consequential action because alpha is a description of all consequential energy.
    It also explains what occurs for life. The ability of a living thing to recognize Alpha is not an act of consciousness, but simply a way of describing the living things relationship with everything else, BY EXPLAINING ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH AVAILABLE ENERGY.

    Understand?

    I can put it another way. Dont get focused on Aarons examples, they are being used to illustrate WHAT HE MEANS WITH HIS INDIVIDUAL POINTS. He uses examples to explain the parts. Examples are there to explain why he composed the symbols (words formulas whatever)in such a way that they constitute the universal (in terms of the universe) assessment of energy fluctuation that occurs during Thermodynamics.

    He then puts this in terms of LIFE. He could just as easily put it in terms of ENERGY. All living things are composed of it. Therefore, they are subject to the laws that govern it. Therefore they are manifestations of the universal process that occurs from the universal laws that govern energy (at least in theory).

    So, again, the reason Alpha defines ethics is because Alpha is THE measurement of consequential action. It does not actually say that our moral beliefs are Right. Just that they are demonstrative of our attempts at maximal alpha using the available free energy. This attempt is alpha star.

    So our human actions are THE act of being alive, and things alive must operate toward alpha star or die. THIS THEORY DOES NOT SAY HOW TO ACT TOWARD ALPHA STAR. How could it. It simply says that is what you do. Or you die. If you do it well, you will live longer.

    THIS IS NOT PERSONAL AND SUBJECTIVE TO ONE PERSON. Alpha and alpha star do not measure an individual. They measure everything. It would be impossible to isolate the energy signature (manifestation, energy consequence, energy available) for an individual. Im sorry. It cant speak in those terms. Alpha can only describe the entirety of a thing. The entirety of an interaction.

    When Aaron describes the alpha of any given system he is doing so for the purpose of example, not the purpose of us actually being able to measure said example. It is the example to explain thermodynamic consequences in terms of alpha. That is all. Sorry.

    Jim, this theory connects everything to everything else. It shows that the entirety of all action is a product of energy, and energy flux is measured by alpha.

    How does this relate to ethics? Ill repeat myself a little to save my poor fingers:

    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 specifics to any one man or even to all of mankind, but rather in abundance. It does so in terms of all energy.

    Therefore, this theory connects ANYTHING that is energy to EVERYTHING that is energy without the need for abstractions about physicality and actuality. This connects via consequences of observable energy. Therefore, this theory MUST BE OF the greatest assistance to real world applications of ethics, which need only be measured by (and against) the advancement of all coexistence. Ethics tell us how to think about our actions. They let us feel that an action was a good one or a bad one. This good or bad cannot be thought of in terms of Alpha but in terms of evolution, where evolution means the continued advancement of all things.

    Alpha is in terms of the entirety of energy. It allows us to measure the consequences of energy interaction. Ethics tell us how a society should live together and how to continue doing so. But without Alpha how can we establish any universal code of ethics. We would still be twiddling our fingers trying to decide whether everything energy was commensurable, meaning whether everything energy dependant was the same. We would still be wondering if what was good for blacks was good for whites. We would have on universal absolute indication of connection between life the universe and everything. And now we do.

    Now that we know things are connected, ethics are now a concrete thing. FOR SURE. Everyone can agree that as long as thermodynamics holds, everything energy exists. And we know why, because Alpha explains how life operates in relation to the energy of the universe.

    Does this tell you whether to abort your kid? No. That you must think of in terms of societal advancement. But there can be no doubt that the advancement is real and measurable. Can we necessarily (before hand) measure that advancement. Of course not. Do we need to? Of course not. Humans are going to make mistakes. We are after all, human. But we need to know one thing right now. The thing that separates us from animals does not begin on the level of energy processions. Alpha gives us a place to start. That is all, and that is more than enough for me.

    one more thing. Stop looking for this theory to tell you what to do. It only helps you start that process. That is why Aaron has said there will be other posts and blogs. Because the ground level has been built now. We know what the ground level consists of from the bottom up. But the implications won’t be obvious to you unless you see the floor for what it is, a starting point, and not for what you think its supposed to be, which i take is some kind of flexible map you can consult and KNOW WHAT TO DO SO YOU DONT MAKE A MISTAKE.

    DAMN!


  54. 54 54. Tommy

    I don’t want to dominate the space of this post but I think i can help Jim and A. Armitage out.

    If alpha is the only objective standard
    Alpha cannot be the objective standard. Alpha is the objective measurement of available energy as it fluctuates. You are confusing the issue here Jimmy boy. And why the hell would anyone who understands Alpha want it to be the ONLY OBJECTIVE STANDARD? That seems counterintuitive and circular to me, seeing as how we can use Alpha to begin observing more objective processes that occur.
    Wherever alpha leads us…
    What? Alpha wont lead you anywhere. How are you going to follow a measurement? Why, Jim, would you want to follow one. Alpha isnt a suggestion. Its an algebraic description of available energy as it fluctuates. Again, Im sorry.

    Because you made agreement with our intuitions a point in favor of Alpha Theory.
    Hrmm. Sorry but intuition isnt a point in favor of Alpha theory. Alpha theory is a point in favor of intuition. Alpha theory describes intuition to-a-degree by illustrating that intuition occurs when our bodies observe Alpha. That is why Bourbaki noted that Intuition is likely our bodies attempt at maximizing alpha star. To follow his line of reasoning, intuition is our bodies way of communicating the registration of alpha in such a way as to suggest surety. Intuition is something you just know (right?). Some bodies are better equipped to process Alpha than others, but BY NO MEANS, and IN NO WAY, can intuition be a point in favor of Alpha theory.
    Ill tell you what is though. Energy fluctuations. The thermodynamic fact that energy goes through a process is a point in favor of Alpha. Know why? Because Alpha is a description of that process.


  55. 55 55. Jim Valliant

    Tommy,

    I regard ethics, by definition, as something to give me normative guidance. If a theory gives no normative advice, then, by definition, it is not "an ethics." You could have spared yourself all of the effort above. But you did put it very well: "alpha is a description of consequential energy." Tidy and succinct. It is a physical explanation of ethics, not ethics, if what you say is true. On this level, let me repeat: I have no objection to alpha, nor have I ever. But ethics tells me what I SHOULD DO. If Aaron’s exercise is meant to prove that no such discipline is possible or necessary, then let’s hear that case made. It is asserrted, but not shown, that there are no universal strong solutions–period. There certainly are none within the four-corners of alpha, but there are in lots of other, very-real-world situations. No, it seems that Mr. Haspel is arguing that alpha gives us guidance, at least, "weak solutions." Even our host, I think, would concede that in the absence of "cash value," this ain’t ethics. Notice, too, how Bourbaki has started giving us legislative advice, no less!


  56. 56 56. tommy

    oops i cut and pasted that from word without the final point i meant to make. Sorry. Here it is.

    Bourbaki came close to rejecting the relevance of our intuitions by saying Alpha Theory is purely empirical
    That is not true. He might have been trying to undermine the relevance of intuition when one uses it to understand Alpha Theory. Alpha theory IS an empirical theory, the product of applying algebra to the measurement of thermodynamic energy.
    but then asks if I can see how the comparison can be helpful. Well, helpful how? If you’re using it as a point in favor of Alpha Theory…
    Dont assume Bourbaki was being expressly (read perfectly) analogous. I am not talking for him. He can do that himself. However:
    But I imagine you can see that comparing alpha theory to other ethical systems, both past and present, can be helpful?
    I tend to disagree with this. It can be, but it strikes me as almost excess baggage until the theory is fully explicated and validated, due to the implications of the ethical systems, and due to the sometimes troublesome connotations that any objective theory will tend to generate.


  57. 57 57. tommy

    I regard ethics, by definition, as something to give me normative guidance

    to what end?


  58. 58 58. Jim Valliant

    I have repeatedly declined invitations to present my view of ethics in this limited space. I have been simply (and irrelevantly) ridiculed when I gave a reading list. In my view, it would be a distraction from the theory being presented here. Let me just say here that life is the only objective standard of value, that my self-interest is the ultimate purpose of my own action, and that the survival, health and happiness of the choosing agent should be the ultimate goals of all of his lesser values.


  59. 59 59. tommy

    Jim, the only possibly distracting thing you are doing is saying that Alpha theory is not ethics after people have already rescinded and said a new type of definition was either in order, or a new word entirely would be chosen. I dont see Alpha theory as an ethical system, I see Alpha theory as an empirical system that might show us a new way of viewing human ethics.

    ^.^
    and happiness of the choosing agent should be the ultimate goals…

    I say this simply because happiness should not be a goal of all lesser values. Some of the greatest human achievements and realizations have been born of suffering. Maybe don’t preclude such in your battle for self interest that you admittedly wage with all actions. But this still seems to be skirting the issue of alpha.

    Your view of ethical conduct sounds isolationist and subjective. The alpha theory is a thing of energetic interconnection and is objective.

    I am not ridiculing you my nigga.

    "life is the only objective standard of value"

    To whom? For what? I don’t understand. Are you saying life is the only objective actuality of consequence? Because it seems to me life is only "valuable" because our consciousness says so. That doesn’t mean im not saying its valuable, of course it is, but only to the living possessive of the distinctions necessary to create a hierarchical system of evaluation/value. I thought we were discussing the implications of energy transference and matter. Aren’t we?


  60. 60 60. tommy

    Life is the objective standard of value to all living things,

    sounds a lot like life is living, i am living, I am valuable, therefore life is valuable.

    self-interest, right or wrong, without regard to alpha–

    ethics is the uniquely human aspect of alpha.

    i thought alpha was a description of ethics, as it is a description of all, but that alpha star "is" the ethics. and alpha star isn’t perfect, only the attempt to be.

    see my point?


  61. 61 61. tommy

    oops, meant to say "the attempt to be alpha."


  62. 62 62. Jim Valliant

    Value-pursuit is simply a fact, whether it is rooted in alpha or not. I don’t know from "perfect," but alpha* is the equivalent of value-pursuit in the context of living organisms. For human beings, this becomes true "ethics" since humans alone need to consciously choose their values.


  63. 63 63. Jim Valliant

    Tommy,

    Real quick: A "value" is the object of action, an end which is pursued. One pursues some things to get others, but there can be no infinite regress of values, goals, or ends sought. Life is the only "end in itself." It is it’s own goal, and it is the source, in fact, of all other goals. It is the thing that gives rise to the fact and the concept of "value" itself. If there were no living things, there would be no "value-pursuit," no "goals" "sought" at all. Life is a process of self-generated, self-sustaining activity. It is the very process of "pursuing ends." The life of any organism is conditional: to remain alive a specific course of action is required.

    Thus, there is no higher goal or value than life itself. Life is the objective standard of value to all living things, the end which all of their innate natures are geared to achieve, but only humans can and need to consciously choose their means to that end. We alone need a science of ethics.

    Or, from the perspective of thermodynamics, ethics is the uniquely human aspect of alpha.

    Most people will continue to act in their perceived self-interest, right or wrong, without regard to alpha–whether or not alpha alone gets at the physical source and best description of what they are doing!

    Aaron,

    I am still waiting for alpha’s position on the concept of "rights." And "hard solutions" in more definite circumstances–even some that can be generalized about…


  64. 64 64. tommy

    has anyone tested this by taking the process backwards, ala, a reverse universe of our own.


  65. 65 65. tommy

    and will either Aaron or Bourbaki talk shit about my reasoning where it seems to have gone wrong, if so, i get the feeling I may be failing to understand some of the implications of alpha as a quantity.


  66. 66 66. tommy

    "For human beings, this becomes true "ethics" since"

    Jim are you saying alpha is ethics now?


  67. 67 67. Jim Valliant

    No, all ethics is "doing alpha," but not all alpha is "doing ethics." Remember that this is MY position, not Mr. Haspel’s; he does regard alpha and ethics as the same thing.


  68. 68 68. tommy

    If ethics are an alpha equation: alpha describes life, and All alpha is(exists), ethics are always alpha, and alpha is always every consequential nonstatic universal occurence. Including, I think, ethics.

    someone say right or wrong here :)


  69. 69 69. Jim Valliant

    Alpha describes many things. It’s simply dazzling in its attempt to integrate so much so completely. In the process, however, it is important to retain vital distinctions within the class of things it describes, where necessary. It is only "necessary," in my context, as I believe "ethics" to be something specific–and much narrower than alpha.


  70. 70 70. Jim Valliant

    From my understanding so far–I will say it again–alpha appears to be the physics of ethics, the physics of all teleology, and even, as you put it, every consequential event. Properly conceived, it does not eliminate any of the other sciences, including ethics, it helps to explain them. To call something "ethics," Tommy, when you say it gives no normative advice, is like calling a theory that denies the existence of life "biology."


  71. 71 71. tommy

    it does give normative advice in abundance, not in specific.

    Also, a charachteristic of life is the appearance of teleology. I reccomend reading Animate and Inanimate by William Sidis. After I thought I had figured ALpha out i went on a googling spree and googled for "the smartest man ever". William’s name appeared. He knew 200 languages, perfect photo recall, etc. Animate and inanimate. Check it out.


  72. 72 72. Jim Valliant

    Lots of sciences give normative advice, in fact, most do. Ethics addresses itself to the subject of human conduct and responsibility. Alpha has the potential to give more than specific advice. It could have the power to inform much of ethics, and metaethics (e.g., the fundamental nature of values), substantially. This does not make it "ethics."

    I’ll give Sidis a look.


  73. 73 73. GTE

    Aaron,

    "No path, only the Way, as the Buddhists say."

    As the Taoist would hate to hear, it appears to me that you’ve stumbled across "The way that can be described that is the true way."

    This discussion provides an excellent companion to my rereading of the objectivist and utilitarian canons.

    And taking a note from the objectivists, let’s say that the functions are "the facts", and a supremely useful basis for making decisions in the self interest, and making them jive with those larger eustaces out there.


  74. 74 74. tommy

    meta ethics are simple. Humans are sesquisocial. We need others to live. Thus our selfpreservative insticts mixed with our "nature" to reproduce and feed ourselves informed all our conduct. As human societys grew in collective intelligence so to did their societies evolve new ethics. Those ethics which served the greatest purpose and informed the most alpha star actions kept that society going, those with worse ethics did not. That is until warfare. Warfare is, whether you admit it or not, a human attempt at ethics.


  75. 75 75. Jim Valliant

    Tommy,

    A failed attempt, I think we can now safely say.


  76. 76 76. tommy

    Oddly enough I was doing some research on the conceptual theory of language I’ve been developing and its relationship to how we form opinions of the universe when I discovered that someone had beat me to it and done most of my work for me. Christoper Langan theory CTMU. Anyone interested in Alpha will be better off in my mind. I am currently reading Wolfram and Sidis and Langan, but also i reccomend anyone curious to go look at the links bourbaki listed at the end of the comments on the previous post. (currently 199 posts)


  77. 77 77. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    If I may offer some advice which you are, of course, free to ignore: don’t try to corroborate an outlandish idea like alpha theory with other outlandish theories.

    Any scientific theory is judged on the basis of what new capabilities it offers. But before we can determine if these capabilities are new, we need to learn what capabilities we already possess.

    You should be extremely skeptical of any theories that lack corroborative citations or violate well-established principles. Why throw out these experimentally validated principles unless they stand in the way of some new capability? And if there is a new capability offered, you should expect clear evidence of it.

    Take a page from the Greeks:

    Some, like Gorgias, asserted that it was not necessary to have any knowledge of a subject to give satisfactory replies as regards it. Thus, Gorgias ostentatiously answered any question on any subject instantly and without consideration. To attain these ends mere quibbling, and the scoring of verbal points were employed. In this way, the sophists tried to entangle, entrap, and confuse their opponents, and even, if this were not possible, to beat them down by mere violence and noise. They sought also to dazzle by means of strange or flowery metaphors, by unusual figures of speech, by epigrams and paradoxes, and in general by being clever and smart, rather than earnest and truthful.

    Mathematical and physical relationships may be unambiguously challenged. And the tools needed to challenge them are universal so learning them is useful irrespective of the outcome. It’s not as easy to challenge language–particularly specialized language that’s not clear and simple.


  78. 78 78. Bourbaki

    For anyone to responsibly promote intelligent design, they should first demonstrate that they know their shit about all the alternatives because they’re effectively arguing that every other possible explanation won’t do. If they haven’t exhausted alternatives, they’re basically admitting that they’re too impatient or too lazy to find more plausible explanations.

    It remains only to note that while explaining the inherent complexity of such a material designer would launch an explanatory regress that could end only with some sort of Prime Mover, thus coming down to something very much like teleology after all, ID theory has thus far committed itself only to design inference. That is, it currently proposes only to explain complex biological phenomena in terms of design, not to explain the designer itself. With regard to deeper levels of explanation, the field remains open.

    What need is there for a "prime mover"? We know that energy is conserved == energy is eternal. We also know that energy is cause. Langan’s theory, like all ID theories, vanishes down a rabbit hole.

    Consider a snowflake–it’s an ordered, complicated structure. After it melts, can you take the water and work backwards to create that original snowflake? Should we reasonably conclude that gods or angels or aliens are making snowflakes?

    I have no idea what Langan is talking about here:

    Because neo-Darwinism is held forth as a "synthesis" of Darwinian natural selection and post-Mendelian genetics, it is sometimes referred to as the "Modern Synthesis". However, it appears to fall somewhat short of this title, for not only is its basic approach to evolutionary biology no longer especially modern, but despite the fact that it is a minority viewpoint counterbalanced by cogent and far more popular alternatives including theistic evolution and ID theory, it actively resists meaningful extension.

    The MegaFoundation offers no facts, no citations and no external references.

    I try to avoid anyone who spends as much time as Wolfram telling you how smart he is. Intelligence is not a vocation. Wolfram is very smart. We all figured that out when he graduated Caltech with a PhD at age 20. If you didn’t know that, don’t worry, he’ll remind you and make certain that you never forget.

    Wolfram proposes automata. If you look back through the history of science, you’ll see that the advanced technology of the day was often used as a model to explain everything. For the Greeks, it was fire. In the era of electricity, we were charged with current and perhaps even able to re-animate ourselves with the appropriate amount of lightning. In the era of steam, we were all tiny valves and pumps. In modern times, we are all computational engines.

    After 1200 pages, Wolfram’s inability to reconcile a gas cloud with a human being makes me question the soundness of his approach, Occam’s razor notwithstanding.


  79. 79 79. tommy

    Bourbaki, if you read the conclusion to animate and inanimate, you would see that Sidis embodies a type of presentation that I admire very much. He admits that his theory does not hold universally, and gives numerous arguements to the contrary of his point, all the while showing that certain things he demonstrated along the way hold true and remain counter to the majority of popular understanding. He wrote to further the conversation, that is all.

    That is why I like the way this site proceeds, even though people are still demanding too much from alpha theory in my opinion. When something is enough, for most, it never is (feels that way).


  80. 80 80. CT

    Bourbaki, do not forget one thing. I am not smart. I am if anything the greek sophist.

    Tommy, you are without a doubt, excepting Bourbaki, the smartest person posting here. You are also nothing like a sophist. The sophists were interested not at all in discovery, in knowledge or in truth. They sought only the gratification of their own egos and to appear to win, no matter what they were saying.

    You have made an honest attempt to understand something that is very difficult to understand and for no reason other than your curiosity and intellectual hunger. Simply put, there is nothing more noble and nothing more impressive. You are to be applauded.

    Who effing cares what you did in college or if you went or what degree you "earned" or any of that lovely bullshit. You are a bright guy by any standard; the fact that you do it for no reason other than your interest also makes you a good one.


  81. 81 81. Tommy

    CT, thank you. I was unclear I guess. And while I am not sure that you have acurately measured the collective intelligence of those of us posting, I am sure of one thing: I would not find myself at all intelligent if I let what I accomplished be my goal (or criteria for self worth). The process is where all the fun is.

    I was listing my maths (heh) to demonstrate my lack of apptitude for it as compared with the people I am now reading about. Also, the classroom comment was trying to describe my feelings about college exactly as you put it. Who cares what you did in that setting in relation to another’s approval or standard (where it regards apptitude and attitude). Certainly there are college professors who are not myopic egotists full of effusive self inflation, but I did not encounter them often enough to like my experience there. The fact that I could bullshit my way into their approval solidified it for me. I was sixteen and angry at the world then, as I was when i first started posting on this site.

    Enough biography sheesh. Bourbaki certainly wasn’t saying I was stupid, I was being coy and silly. No one reading this site and looking to understand it can by my account be stupid. What I meant was that I am very uneducated/ in the process of rectifying that.

    Bourbaki, astrobiology and a couple other magazines have been posting findings that are currently favoring the ideas of William Sidis, who I think has a lot to say about Alpha Theory. Christopher Langan as best as I can tell from my (very) brief reading is like Hegel and Descartes only more expressive with his language. I brought him up because it seemed he was trying to configure a theory of benefit along the lines of (the hopeful results to) alpha theory. I want to know what you think of Sidis’ idea of reversibility. Am I wrong in seeing how it provides new context to Alpha.

    CT: where are your posts! Too few. Bill and Jim also, I would like to know what you think of Sidis and Aaron’s Alpha theory. Am I clutching at straws. This time I provide an email if you want to engage in private correspondence for whatever reasons.

    Aaron, holla back nia!


  82. 82 82. tommy

    "You’ll see that the advanced technology of the day was often a model to explain everything"

    There is a difference, then, of using it to describe everything, and to explain it. One might fail while the other succeeds. It might be interesting to note that using it to explain everything would on some levels succeed at description (via context), even were it to fail at designating the truthful consequences of whatever is being (improperly) explained.

    The mega foundation offers no facts, no citations and no external references. Certainly, after reading their manifesto, you realize this is not strictly true. I take it you mean "to my prying eye" offers no etc. Which is not me being condescending and "you only can see this and not this because you lack", but rather, it seems that you went looking for something instead of seeing what the site showed you. I may be wrong, but this seems to be my very problem with the majority of posted opinions about alpha. Certainly you just haven’t spent the time with it that you spent on alpha, so your appreciation has appreciably wavered. I understand, I think.

    Unlike what Wolfram wrote, however, which kind of strangely seems to describe (from my cursory looks) the kind of reactions Sidis describes as psuedo-living organisms, what he calls the automata. But man I really didn’t spend much time with that and can’t properly correlate it. (so to me this line of reasoning offers no fact. Thouigh, I’m sure, being a student of probability, you certainly would agree that it might). Just a thought.

    Weee, we get to go back and forth some now, while I play catch up on Theromodynamics (still :*(, but I’m getting there).

    I guess the point you made that I struggle with is that we should not throw out old experimentally corroborated theories etc. unless it stands in the way of new capabilities. Let me just say this, a vast majority of the theories on Theromdynamics biology and everything in science are peoples opinions that come from their observations. Put another way, I am not disputing the experimentally corroborated results, but I am to a large part disputing the theories people have concerning their origin or implications, simply because it has been my experience that all people, smart and stupid, are usually wrong about much more than they are right. It seems that we operate under a system of priveleged indulgence, by which we inflate ourselves with the ideas we know and tend towards the idea that we know much. Einstein said it better than me, even paraphrased, when he said the more I know the more I know I don’t know. So these people, smarter than me, smarter than you maybe, are smart enough to look at the examples and see them, which is more than most of us, but that doesn’t mean I’m buying their exposition. I need only go to the science section of a bookstore to see that massive room for most of these people to pick at the side-skin of each other’s theories, without any of them ever satisfactorily accounting for the biggest picture (everything.) The very reason the outlandish Alpha theory has appeal is the same that Langan and Sidis do, namely, that they take cross sections of disciplines and combine them into a theory attempting to account for everything. Now I realize I marginalized your argument somewhat to make my point, but you have to at least grant me the small position I have carved out here as being at least as theoreticly plausible as the one saying "these guys are right". Because to site history, as you so succinctly (dare I say poeticlly) do in your assessment of modern technology being grounds for perfect descriptions and contextual verity of everything universal, you can clearly see that throughout history most of the smartest of us were still wrong. This is a trend I am positive will continue. We need only view the way society has ostracised the civil and intelligent among us in favor of sexist barbarism and glutonous and gratuitious overcompensation for percieved inadequacies and personal insecurites (but I AM fogging my point here by giving to many and to large examples, so pardons please)

    come on, someone say something :)


  83. 83 83. Tommy

    My saying "I understand, I think," is my way of saying that I realize I may be criticised for doing the same thing to alpha theory as those I myself criticise by NOT allowing for alpha to mean as much as it actually does (while they want it to mean so much more, perhaps I want it to mean to little).


  84. 84 84. Tommy

    damn sorry about the multiple posts, but I don’t know hot to use a Mac to cut and paste and therefore did not edit my last post in word. When I say, "most of the smartest… were still wrong," let me also say, or at least merely partly right. Or not wholly factually consistent (with the universe) via their presented interconnections. Last one I swear.


  85. 85 85. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    I will only say what has helped me or not, because I as of now lack the bulk knowledge to say what is truthful.

    You don’t need bulk knowledge to point out what is not true.

    Or not wholly factually consistent (with the universe) via their presented interconnections.

    It’s easy to recognize that they were wrong than to understand why they were wrong and why they believed. It’s even easier to lampoon their mistakes to avoid the trouble of learning their work altogether. Scientists make a lot of guesses and many of them are wrong. Maxwell’s equations are considered some of the greatest in all of science but they didn’t pop fully formed into his head.

    Experimental data reduces the number and types of guesses you can make by eliminating models that won’t fit the evidence. It’s very tempting to throw away inconvenient empirical laws or to create tortured exceptions to them.

    That’s why I recommended that you read recently published books that account for more evidence. There is so much to read and so much more on the periphery that I find it impossible to get through a tiny fraction of what’s available.

    Don’t treat mainstream science as inviolate but don’t toss it out altogether because of bad teachers and jaded professors. That’s the worst possible consequence of that bad experience. The ideas of people like Mendeleev, Avery, Pauling, and Maxwell have survived many challenges and yielded benefits we see everyday. They were mavericks once.

    you can clearly see that throughout history most of the smartest of us were still wrong.

    We are no less susceptible of being led astray today. But today we do need to account for more evidence. I don’t see where Langan is doing that–perhaps you can point it out for me? Any self-proclaimed "Theory of Everything" like Langan’s is going to have to be consistent with all the well-established "theories of something".


  86. 86 86. Marvin

    What a neat idea! A kind of genealogy of morals to the nth degree.

    My instinctive response is to ask about the difference between quantity and quality. Does the strategy for maximum human sustainability produce a life I’d actually want to live? To paraphrase Bill Hicks: Yul Brenner smoked, drank, and got laid every day of his life; Jim Fixx spent his mornings running around dewey tracks at dawn. Brenner’s dead. Fixx is dead. Shit." Maybe Fixx just should have spent more time drinking, smoking, and getting laid…there are no universal strong solutions, right?

    There’s also the question of scope. An individual is part of many things that can be called systems. There’s your body, your immediate family, your neighborhood, your extended family or your kin group, your city, your province, your nation, your species, the local ecosystem, the global ecosystem…I think we can stop there for now. How do we decide the system that most deserves to be sustained in a given instance? Jim Valliant says above that there is no conflict between individual and collective good, but I have trouble believing that’s always the case. Exhibit A, my grandfather who died in WW2. I have trouble imagining a plausible scenario in which his personal sacrifice and many others weren’t necessary for the collective good. Perhaps if everyone else in the world behaved properly…but they won’t.

    I’m looking forward to hearing more.


  87. 87 87. Bourbaki

    Marvin,

    One point should be clarified. The statement

    There are no universal strong solutions.

    is meant to imply that there is no single, filtration-independent way to generate alpha. The optimal path depends on the filtration and the filtration (Universe) is always changing.

    Despite new playing fields, new players and different conditions, the rules of the game have never changed.

    The question of scope comes up often but keep in mind that the process is recursive. If you sacrifice the alpha of one system for the benefit of another, you’ll need to account for both.

    A thermodynamic system is simply the part of the Universe in which we are interested. The system can be a room, a beaker or an individual cell. We are free to select the system as we choose–but it is very important that we specify our choice so that someone can point out consequences that we’ve overlooked.

    We can still make qualitative assessments based on the underlying principles: destructive or heavily restricted despotic paths won’t be as alphatropic as conciliatory and cooperative ones.

    Yul Brenner smoked, drank, and got laid every day of his life; Jim Fixx spent his mornings running around dewey tracks at dawn. Brenner’s dead. Fixx is dead. Shit.

    In the long run we are all dead.
    –John Maynard Keynes

    There’s a difference between exploring new and different things and losing one’s freedom to them.

    Aristotle is getting at when he says that right action lies in moderation.

    As Mr. Haspel pointed out via Aristotle, it’s all about balance.

    I have trouble imagining a plausible scenario in which his personal sacrifice and many others weren’t necessary for the collective good.

    It wasn’t your grandfather’s life that was needed but his abilities.

    Be careful about evaluating events based on what you know after the fact i.e. use the filtration of the agent(s) involved when the decision was made. Alpha theory doesn’t prohibit us from taking risks–we can never escape them. If the cause is great and the risks are necessary, we should do our best to ensure our safety knowing well that we can never guarantee it.

    We can’t always predict the best actionable path–we can only try to stack the odds in our favor. And we do know that its implication on alpha will determine if we’re around to learn from our mistakes.


  88. 88 88. MeTooThen

    Marvin,

    Bourbaki beat me to it, but I will add to this:

    Yul Brenner smoked, drank, and got laid every day of his life; Jim Fixx spent his mornings running around dewey tracks at dawn. Brenner’s dead. Fixx is dead. Shit.

    Mr. Brenner and Mr. Fixx had their own F. You have yours, I mine.

    And yes, …"Be careful about evaluating events based on what you know after the fact i.e. use the filtration of the agent(s) involved when the decision was made."

    F@t-1.

    Filtration is phenonmenologic. It happens at some time t. Then comes a new F at a different t.

    This, perhaps, is what is known as "Monday morning quarterbacking."

    Or not.

    A digression.

    Lost in the many posts above is a comment on abortion (made by Bourbaki). I haven’t had the time to fully consider it or reply, but at first reading I thought it was incomplete.

    I still do, even more so. Again, from Bourbaki,

    "If you sacrifice the alpha of one system for the benefit of another, you’ll need to account for both."

    This is tricky.

    More later.


  89. 89 89. MeTooThen

    read phenomenologic

    Spellcheck.is.my.Friend.


  90. 90 90. Bourbaki

    MeTooThen,

    The comments in that post were intended as quick illustrations of how we might apply alpha considering the limitations of the law’s ability to reflect the filtration. They weren’t meant to be complete expositions but rather teasers since we’ve spent so much time and worn out so much patience deriving the foundations of the theory.

    I did not mean to imply that a quick blurb could put the matter to rest. A much more detailed explanation (requiring its own post) is needed.


  91. 91 91. MeTooThen

    Bourbaki,

    Yes, and thank you.

    As I said, I thought the comment was incomplete.

    You are a gentleman, sir.


  92. 92 92. Tommy

    It’s even easier to lampoon their mistakes than to learn their work etc. Are you accusing me of this, or pointing out what occurs for you.

    Everyone does that to some degree, as you said, with the wealth of available information, but raw accumulation of incidents are typical products of the monthly science periodicals (in my very limited experience) and massive laticeworks of cross referencing interconnections are not. Synthesis is what I look for first, before I explore the many many man pieces that are evidence of it’s accuracy. This occurs because an idea can be (at times) merely as strong as it’s weakest instance.

    William Sidis and his thermodynamic ideas are strange and old, from well before 1925, and yet, a vast majoirty of recent findings in science magazines recently are only just now (because of the observations we are now capable of making using technological advances) being given universal context.

    I do not disgredard the others because I regard his. I am saying it seems he has a lot to say about Alpha, and then I asked your opinion about it.

    Hopefully it is forthcoming. I cannot just start bringing everything he says up in post after post, that is bulky and awkward. I can tell you that, unlike Langan, whose system defines the universeral relationship of the universe to the universe as a language, and then describes our relationship to language as well.

    Bad professors didn’t stop me from seeking/liking/beliving-in knowledge, my cynicism did.

    Besides, I said analyzing Langan’s approach had much to say about the presentation (and limitations–boundaries– of presentations) of alpha theory. If you really want my opinion on it, because "perhaps" I can explain it I think. But wouldn’t you rather read it too?

    You obviously understand much of what I do not about thermodynamics, so my proposal to you of Sidis’ ideas were to show you something you very likely had not and would not be considering. Just as your links were to the same effect for me. Certainly I wasn’t saying one was better or more correct, and I cannot tell whether you are implying this about what you say or not because, really, I can’t tell what you thought of Sidis, beyond the waryness one would expcet of being recomended a scientific work that emerged before the advances that have occurd post 1924.

    Anyway, I haven’t slept in many many hours, 18 hours before those posts. So much more later. G’night


  93. 93 93. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    It’s even easier to lampoon their mistakes than to learn their work etc. Are you accusing me of this, or pointing out what occurs for you.

    Not at all. I have no basis to accuse you anything. I have also had the misfortune of dealing with sterile, overbearing teachers and professors myself. Fortunately, I’ve also had occasion to spend some time with very good ones.

    I was only commenting on what appeared to be an anti-mainstream bias. I’m not trying to discourage you from reading Sidis, Langan or Wolfram but only suggesting that you balance them with some mainstream sources.


  94. 94 94. Bourbaki

    Marvin,

    I think I clearly don’t yet understand how alpha theory will be applied in practice.

    Before you can consider how to use it, you first need to understand what it says, how it is justified and if it is valid.

    1. Alpha theory identifies a physical, dimensionless quantity that defines life. In other words, it defines how the game is scored.

    2. We establish a utility function for all living systems (Part 6).

    3. Any outcome that maximizes this utility function is to be preferred. Sustainability is a necessary but not terminal criteria in the utility function.

    You’re not alone in wanting to apply it immediately but I don’t see how that’s possible for a mathematical/physical theory without first taking the time to understand its derivation. You can’t treat it like a black box. If you find a critical flaw in the foundation, we can throw the whole thing away.

    Or perhaps this is all waffle; if the best response is "read the rest of the comments," please don’t hesitate to issue it. I will soon take up where my eyes last glazed over in any event.

    Just stick with the posts on your first pass–skip the comments. If there is anything that is not clear, someone on this board will try to assist you. I know you would like to post a series of questions on how to apply the theory. That’s why we now have 100-200 posts per thread.

    This is in no way meant to discourage you from posting more questions. However, I believe you’ll be able to better apply the theory for yourself once you’re confident that you’re standing on solid ground.


  95. 95 95. Bourbaki

    Looking back over the comments there seems to be a recurring though understandable tendency to set up hypothetical situations and push through their conclusions in search of recipes. The problem is that we then tend to take our conclusions and treat them independently of the hypothetical situation (read hypothetical filtration). Alpha theory states that it is impossible to do this.

    I’m wary of using analogies because there’s a tendency to take them too far.

    With that caveat, if you’re planning to enjoy a playoff game this weekend, take a moment to put yourself in the coach’s position. He is constantly working through hypotheticals and trying to match them with what he sees on the field.

    For example, he never considers the situations that call for a blitz separately from calling a blitz.

    "If a blitz works in this hypothetical case, I should blitz all the time."

    He doesn’t send a player in to get injured even though a career ending injury is possible on any play. And it’s not prima facie in opposition to a player’s own interest to take a chance for the benefit of the team.

    The underlying objective is to score points. But there is no closed set of recipes that will ensure his team will win everytime–otherwise all teams would use this strategy. The other teams respond to his actions and also adjust their hypotheticals to adapt their responses.

    We’re dealing with a much more complicated game.

    Imagine an aspiring coach who shows up at training camp saying that he doesn’t want to learn the rules of the game–he just wants to learn how to win. This proclivity is all but beaten out of you in science but the hunt for closed-form ideal recipes seems to be de rigueur in philosophy.

    Besides, not knowing the rules makes any game inscrutable and boring.

    Living systems are open systems. You can’t consider them independently of their surroundings. There is a constant exchange of energy. The unpredictable nature of this flux and a system’s ability to adapt to it determine how long it can continue to play the game.

    Alpha theory doesn’t state that meager sustainability is the final goal–only that sustainability of a system is a necessary one. There’s no slippery slope to a strong solution consisting of boring ascetism. Any system barely on the edge of sustainability is less able to adapt to changes in the environment.


  96. 96 96. Marvin

    Thanks again. I don’t find myself questioning the foundation itself so much as what the foundation is for. Which I realize may be tantamount to treating the foundation as a black box, which I shouldn’t do, but because I can’t help myself I’ll ask two more questions.

    Any outcome that maximizes this utility function is to be preferred.

    I can’t help but think that this statement isn’t part of the derivation but is instead, when applied normatively, an assumption about the consequences of the derivation. If one were to say, "We should expect natural selection to favor systems that maximize the utility function," then that would be one thing. But "Any outcome that maximizes this utility function is to be preferred" sounds as though one has already solved all possible problems of system-scope and application in advance. Or am I loading too much into the word "preferred?" What am I missing?

    Sustainability is a necessary but not terminal criteria in the utility function.

    I don’t understand "not terminal" here. (I think I understand "necessary.") I suspect this marks me as a mathematically illiterate (which in many respects I’m sure I am). Does "not terminal" just mean that sustainability is not the only criterion in defining an ethical value? Or just not the trump criterion?


  97. 97 97. Marvin

    Mr. Haspel, thank you for the correction. I’ve altered my blog to reflect it. Bourbaki & MeTooThen: thank you for your comments.

    I think I clearly don’t yet understand how alpha theory will be applied in practice; I shall try to read more and kvetch less…well, with some exceptions.

    Does Aristotle’s or alpha-theory’s moderation include a knowledge of when not to be moderate about it, that is, when to go balls-out (or not at all)? I’ve been inclined to think that the difference between too much courage and just enough has nothing to do with courage and everything to do with judgement. When the action in question requires courage, one wants to go balls-out (c.f. Henry V). The response that too much judgment might make one a coward seems to me backwards: cowards excercise judgement to postpone exhibiting courage. (Or something.) I say this as a self-confessed coward in many respects.

    And I don’t understand the warning, "Be careful about evaluating events based on what you know after the fact i.e. use the filtration of the agent(s) involved when the decision was made." It seems to me that this only matters when assessing motive, e.g. "They did the best they could at the time according to the filtration they were able to consult." I thought I read at some point that motive was irrelevant to ethics as alpha theory plans to understand it. Surely if we’re going to improve our future filtrations we must evaluate past filtrations and decisions based on the consequences?

    And I’m not sure I agree with this: "It wasn’t your grandfather’s life that was needed but his abilities." A person’s abilities cannot be had apart from his life — either a small portion of his life (some time and energy) as the US Army intended, or all of his life (i.e. death) as the US Army knew would befall many of the men it sent into action. No filtration existed that plausibly would have spared all the lives of the men whose abilities were needed, therefore some lives were required for all practical purposes, though perhaps not any particular individual’s lives as such — just the ones in the wrong place at the wrong time. (But what if being in the wrong place at the wrong time means you were sacrificed knowingly in order to gain a future position, as in the case of Bataan?)

    This is not to argue that individual self-interest and common self-interest must conflict a priori, though that’s a tempting tragic point of view; I’m just not sure a filtration has been or can ever be both invented and disseminated such that the conflict can be avoided in practice.

    One more ramble: talk of filtrations reminds me of karma in Buddhism. Not "bad things that happen are payback for past deeds" karma, but the more conservative "all events are subject to laws of cause and effect" karma. I’m guessing the application of Buddhism to alpha theory might be that all the meditation and observation one does improves one’s filtration skills. It’s not so much that one divines moral laws of any kind; it’s just that one perceives all the more clearly the likely consequences of actions, making wise (alphatrophic?) actions more likely in general.

    Or perhaps this is all waffle; if the best response is "read the rest of the comments," please don’t hesitate to issue it. I will soon take up where my eyes last glazed over in any event.


  98. 98 98. Bourbaki

    Marvin,

    But "Any outcome that maximizes this utility function is to be preferred" sounds as though one has already solved all possible problems of system-scope and application in advance. Or am I loading too much into the word "preferred?"

    There is a theoretical max alpha for any flux of free energy. However, there is no way to know that all possible paths have been considered–this would require complete information at all times. The imperative and commensurabilty don’t change with less information–only the set, small or large, of available paths.

    I suspect this marks me as a mathematically illiterate (which in many respects I’m sure I am). Does "not terminal" just mean that sustainability is not the only criterion in defining an ethical value? Or just not the trump criterion?

    A business’s prospects are not so hot if it operates simply to watch its expenses to pay its bills. However, no business can be successful if it doesn’t meet its obligations to its creditors.

    More alpha is better than sufficient alpha. In other words, there is no such thing as too much alpha.

    As far as I know, that’s not true for any other physically measurable quantity in living systems.

    I don’t find myself questioning the foundation itself so much as what the foundation is for.

    It’s hard to answer questions about one without assuming knowledge of the other. I’m told that the math isn’t particularly hard although I found it rather difficult at first–nevertheless, the derivation is subtle. Resist the temptation to jump ahead. I did many times and found myself lost. Take some time to work through the posts, click through the references, and focus on each of the pieces individually. Once they make sense, put them together.

    If someone else has a better approach, perhaps they’ll share it but this was the only way I could get my head around the whole idea.


  99. 99 99. Marvin

    Then I shall reread and reread again. Thanks!


  100. 100 100. MeTooThen

    Marvin,

    A bit OT, but here:

    You invoke the Buddha in your comments, as have I.

    Meditating on this today I thought of the Buddha, and his teachings of the raft.

    I paraphrase:

    If one needs to cross a dangerous torrent, he could gather sticks and vines and build a raft. After successfully crossing the river, the thankful man carries his raft on his shoulders as he walks about the dry land on the other side.

    Better for him to leave the raft at the waters’ edge, as it is of no use to him anymore.

    The Buddha said, "It is important to let go of true teachings, even more so non-true teachings."

    A wise man the Buddha. He understood F and the need for adaptation.

    Or to quote Einstein (NB: I haven’t verified the authenticity of the quotation)

    "The belief in an external world independent of the perceiving subject is the basis of all natural science. Since, however, sense perception only gives information of this external world or of "physical reality" indirectly, we can only grasp the latter by speculative means. It follows from this that our notions of physical reality can never be final. We must always be ready to change these notions so that is to say, the axiomatic basis of physics in order to do justice to perceived facts in the most perfect way logically."


  101. 101 101. Bourbaki

    MeTooThen,

    I don’t know if I’m simply seeing this idea everywhere (monomania or consilience?), but alpha appears to be nothing more than a precise description of a process that has been eloquently and qualitatively described by people in many other fields. Christopher Alexander is a professor emeritus of architecture at Berkeley. He wrote a series of books on patterns and developed a pattern language in architecture.

    Some excerpts from The Timeless Way of Building:

    We see, in summary, that every pattern we define must be formulated in the form of a rule which establishes a relationship between context, a system of forces which arise in that context, and a configuration which allows these forces to resolve themselves in that context.

    1. It is a process that brings order out of nothing but ourselves; it cannot be attained, but it will happen of its own accord, if we only let it.

    2. There is a central quality that is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building or a wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named.

    3. The search we make for this quality, in our own lives, is the central search of any person, and the crux of any individual person’s story. It is the search for those moments and situations when we are most alive.

    4. In order to define this quality in buildings and in towns, we must begin by understanding that every place is given its character by certain patterns of events that keep happening there.

    5. These patterns of events are always interlocked with certain geometric patterns in the space. Indeed, as we shall see, each building and each town is ultimately made out of these patterns in the space, and out of nothing else: they are the atoms and molecules from which a town or building is made.

    6. The specific patterns out of which a building or town is made may be alive or dead. To the extent they are alive, the let our inner forces loose, and set us free; but when they are dead, they keep us locked in inner conflict.

    7. The more living patterns there are in a place–a room, a building, or a town–the more it comes to life as an entirety, the more it glows, the more it has that self-maintaining fire which is the quality without a name.

    8. And when a building has this fire, then it becomes part of nature. Like ocean waves, or blades of grass, its parts are governed by the endless play of repetition and variety created in the presence of the fact that all things pass.

    18. Now we shall begin to see in detail how the rich and complex order of a town can grow from thousands of creative acts. For once we have a common pattern language in our town, we shall all have the power to make our streets and buildings live, through our most ordinary acts. The language, like a seed, is the genetic system which gives our millions of small acts the power to form a whole.


  102. 102 102. MeTooThen

    Bourbaki,

    "I don’t know if I’m simply
    seeing this idea everywhere…

    It is to laugh.

    Me too, then.

    It is everywhere.

    Over the last many weeks, I am encountering alpha theory everywhere.

    Certainly, I am keenly aware of F, my own and others.

    And thank you for the reference. I will read Christopher Alexander.

    A gentleman, still.


  103. 103 103. Tommy

    "I was only commenting on what appeared to be an anti-mainstream bias.
    I’m not trying to discourage you from reading Sidis, Langan or
    Wolfram but only suggesting that you balance them
    with some mainstream sources."

    Hawking’s Universe in a Nutshell recent enough, or is it already out of date?

    I’m gonna give it a look at least.

    "The underlying objective is to score points.
    But there is no closed set of recipes that will ensure his team will win everytime–otherwise all teams would use this strategy."

    That would change the strategy, as per your criteria no team can win all the time if another team could use its strategy against it to win. See?

    Also, (in a more life interfacing based application of the analogy)if a (living) system can’t conceive of the process of filtration properly it will not use it. This means that though one coach might be able to understand, others might not.
    Also, if the (living) system does conceive of something but misinterprets the consequences (thinks it’s still wrong)
    because of an ingrown feeling of (justified) opposition to change.

    This analagy has failed, at least in that part, to communicate what you intended. It is mired in perspective bias. I hate analogies, as you can see.

    "Living systems are open systems."

    The universe is conceptually an open system. Cause and effect are the ways we describe
    the way the (parts of) the universe interact/s with the (parts of the) universe. No universe can exist outside of
    what exists within it. No universe can separate itself from language as human language
    can literally be seen as being symptoms of universal interaction (alpha as we are seeing)
    Sums my theories about langauge up. Langan might take it a step further, but his methods start here.

    "Only that sustainability of a system is a necessary one." (for the system to continue)

    This is precisely true. I wouldn’t look for much more yet.

    …barely on the edge of sustainability is less able to adapt
    to changes in the environment.

    Good, but let’s see proof. There are proofs of this, but using alpha to do is would be alpha defining itself. We need a proof outside of what
    alpha says of itself, right? Or am I conceptually creating an unnecisary tautology.

    But "Any outcome that maximizes this utility function is to be preferred"
    in a large enough context (of systemic process[happening]) I’d say sure.

    A business’s prospects are not so hot if it operates simply to watch
    its expenses to pay its bills. However, no business can be successful
    if it doesn’t meet its obligations to its creditors.

    "Prospects not so hot"
    seems to me it depends on the intent of the buisness and the obligations. I again say that
    these analagies CONFUSINGLY CREATE CONTEXT for alpha that do not actually apply to alpha but rather to an interpretation of it, which seems out of hand, as you know. And they even confuse the effective transmital of your point of view.

    "We can only grasp the latter by speculative means."
    Langan is trying to show how the rules of our speculation can in no way (logically) be separate from our understanding of the universe, for though UNIVERSE might exist independant of us, we do not exist independant from our speculation or the composition (logic parts) of it *nor actually, from UNIVERSE*. And if we do not exist separate from the universe the universe (to us) is in no way WHOLLY separate from us, and therefore we are neccessary for the universe (from our perspective). So if humans exist, it would seem, humans then, are neccessary for us to exist. Sounds true, is true.

    We see, in summary, that every pattern we define must be formulated in the form of a rule which establishes a relationship between context, a system of forces which arise in that context, and a configuration which
    allows these forces to resolve themselves in that context.

    Precisely what Langan would
    argue, and I would say he goes rather a good ways in so doing, such that even if one
    were to disagree with his conclusions, his method might still provide example. Thus, I
    mentioned him. I think he might even give precise example of alpha in his writing, but I read it after being up for so long I have forgotten the passage. More on this later.

    "happen of its own accord, if we only let it."

    I would say we can do nothing but "let it" as IT (if the analagy holds for alpha) is a description of thermodynamic
    consequence, which is the only way we may measure time (since we are thermodynamic consequences).
    Perhaps you were refering specifically to a/n (more) optimal occurence. Alpha describes all
    consequential (does not mean relevant but rather anything that occurs as of a cause) occurences for living systems.

    It is the search for those moments and situations when we are most alive.

    Really? (but it is the search, is privelaged, and also, come on, SEARCH, are we to say SEARCH now for filtrate, doesn’t seem quite the same). Approaching maximal alpha IS when we are most alive, yes, (most alpha star) but not neccessarily reflecting our feelings on the
    matter (as in, was this preferable). Perhaps that is what was meant by letting it "let it"(self). Letting it let itself seems to be what he is saying happens. Duh, but also, hrmm, I don’t see the analogy to filtration.

    It seems I am not understanding a lot. This could be because I am right in questioning its logic or stupid and not seeing the validity of the logic, for certainly a majority of the above mentioned quotes are hardly WHOLLY logicly irrelavant or ACTUAL (verifiably accurate), but rather, they are not WHOLLY SO, and the, ahem, holes I see in them are my reasoning for believing them. So while I am not saying they do not convey what Bourbaki means, and are not also right, I am saying they are not PRECISELY WHOLLY so, and should not be taken as literal (english language definition for")alpha, or even "properly contextual".

    "geometric patterns in the space." This seems privelaged to the perspective?

    "They (the patterns) are the atoms and molecules from which a town or building is made."
    This sounds like Langan, in that atoms are simply patterns we can observe. Interesting.

    "6. The specific patterns out of which a building or town is made may be alive or dead.
    To the extent they are alive, the let our inner forces loose, and set us free; but
    when they are dead, they keep us locked in inner conflict.

    7. The more living patterns there are in a place–a room, a building,
    or a town–the more it comes to life as an entirety, the more it glows,
    the more it has that self-maintaining fire which is the quality without a name."

    Woah. I disagree somewhat with this interpretation of a thermodynamic consequence.
    Fire: sounds like the Greek usage there that you mocked as being the technological
    standard.

    the more it comes to life as an entirety…

    Life is life. A room is not coming to life if more life is in it, in fact, as living systems dissipate,
    if anything the more life the more it is coming to death.
    Although life can be described with alpha I would not say that a room can come to life more by having
    more life in it. I would say life is life. The room is more full of systems that are
    defined through their alpha. Both effected and affected right?

    As a matter of fact, if you look back at my old old posts from part 2 I believe that is my main arguement, that alpha must account for language. I see now that I misunderstood alpha, but not the importance of accounting for langauge. Rather, it was a misapplication of trying to separate alpha from language. Neither could exist without the other. Isn’t that funny. If alpha does not exist (at least if it is an accurate description of thermodynamic consequence, so if thermodynamics did not exist, where they mean consequential interactions of energy, so if energy did not exist, or interact) then there would be no human language. Language is neccessary for alpha to exist, if not actually neccessary for the universe (though of course for OUR universe, where that means what we understand it to be, langauge is A MUST)

    Post mods might argue that there is no proof of there even being a languge, but then, how would they argue it without one? heh. I am failingly cute, right.


  104. 104 104. Tommy

    Remember to think as large (as close to massive) as possible, for you must always remember alpha is a description of TINY TINY TINY things interacting with other TINY TINY TINY things in patterns that are governed by MASSIVE MASSIVE MASSIVELY applicable laws (universal laws) but that describe almost impossibly SMALL SMALL SMALL things that have almost impossible to conceive of relevance to the idea that these small things, in large enough quantities, and in large enough perspective of interaction, ACTUALLY describe what is happening when we see it.

    THIS is what alpha is, guys, the description of the small in so many bunches (according to certain rules we understand to be universal) that it defines US.

    I say again, stop trying to SEEK the perfect PROCESS for yourself and start realizing what alpha does, which is link us inseprably from the universe, which is of course in accordance with my theory that language does so also. SO you can see that linguistically (logically via langauge) it is logical that we are not separate from the universe but a very relevant part of it (for there could not be much life in the universe, even if it were infinite, because, DUN DUN DUN, life is an exception to the 2nd law of thermodynamics in that sometimes we use energy to make more complex energy interactions,) and life isn’t everywhere, but, see, this theory stops all that:

    how can we know life exists bullshit.

    We have language to KNOW that life exists in direct and relevant relation to the universe, but what scientific grounds that language exists at all. Well, according to alpha theory, life does exist, and alpha is how. Language says the whys, and alpha describes the "universal" hows.

    OK. So though the above might be slightly illogicly tautological, (much more on it later, I am not sure I precisely logically am accurate there) we must acknowledge that to some degree the way the universe interacts with itself and the way we describe the INTERACTIONS of the universe, and ourselves, is to a degree a tautology hinging on the idea that we actually EXIST, and that we EXIST as a (very relevant it now seems) part of the universe but not ALL OF IT. We are not the universe, we are we, but WE now see how we BOTH relate to and DESCRIBE the universe and ourselves within it.

    This seems very valuable to me. So, while I can see this, I hope you can too.

    As for all that normative shit. Well think of what KNOWING all that I mentioned above can do for you. Then thank your lucky ALPHA STARs. Please, kick my logical balls some, this seems to be furthering the debate rather well.


  105. 105 105. Tommy

    So long as ethics describe the way that ALL life can continue to exist, alpha is ethics. On a smaller scale, I would not say that alpha actually tells us anything about human ethics, other than what occurs when a human (or human society) act in what they think of as an ethical or unethical way. It does not give you the way, save in hindsight, but does describe how one might go about considering the way(the context) in which they see their actions. Filtration. It even provides units vital to the flow of the logic and therefore vital to following that flow (transition).

    But is this, as Jim might say, REAL ETHICS. Where I take it he means A WAY TO DETERMINE HOW BEST TO ACT FOR MY BEST SELF INTEREST. Because, you see, Jim, like most of us, is astute enough to see that he HAS HIS OWN SELF INTEREST AT HEART, always, I am paraphrasing him. (I comment on that idea of his earlier, and so it must fall somewhere around where I comment upon it if you want to find exactly what he said, but that was the main idea.)

    But, see, sadly, for astute guys like Jim, alpha cannot give him what he wants, because alpha talks in systems TOO LARGE (or complicated with interconnection of thermodynamic consequence) that to measure it in any way but conceptually via algebra where *where the description might measure anything*.

    It is funny to me that it is actually easier for us to SEE truth by looking at something that can literally describe any quantity of system in the universe *which might still be infinite, but prolly isn’t, but is still big enough to not be able to be thought of from any one component level* (which is why we try to define it via a combination of all of them) than it is for us to conceive of a small (very very very small even) part of it in concrete realital terms. The actual amount of money and time and ingenuity it would take to actually measure a real and defined (limited) system is staggering.

    This is because there is so much interaction that it is staggering to put it all together, even in small systems, save where we are talking in terms of definitive *generalities*.

    Am I talking stupid? Someone say if they don’t get what I mean or if they do and think I’m still being an idiot. Thanks for your time guys, your comments help further my contextual understanding every time. Even Bourbaki and his (terrificly, terribly) exhaustive links and confounding at-the-same-time-properly-logical-and-failingly-logical analogies which I struggle to critique because I find in them both illumination and fallacy, sometimes within the same sentence.

    Luckily, as Metoothen says, he is a gentleman.

    However, Metoothen, I think alpha is both a (consequential)descrition of "everywhere" that exists within some specific "when" as well as a thing of definition that illuminates so much of what we encounter and attempt to describe in our everyday lives and their (not neccisarly so) "everyday" occurences.

    Where "everyday" means something to the effect of: an occurence that is now a recognizable pattern in reality observed to occur at least once within a measured 24 hour period that is still known to be something
    "separate" and "isolated" from all other occurences that mirror the (above defined) pattern, though each of the separate and isolated components, via their existence, are the DEFINITION for the pattern, and also the grounds for its (continued) existence under the heading "everyday".

    Wasn’t that a fun digression? This site rules…


  106. 106 106. Tommy

    I have realized something I think.

    When Bourbaki, who has been most prone to analogies, is using them, he is almost always using them to further the understanding of someone who had a question or had a "gap" in their logic that was stopping them from grasping precisely what Aaron was trying to say.

    My theory is that, in those instances, the analogies fit the "gap" and expressed and enhanced discussion, thereby helping the individual.

    But, to everyone who was not stuck at that understanding, who did not possess the gap or was not currently stuck at that precise point of knowing… that too often, the analogies HURT FAR MORE THAN THEY HELPED for others reading the comments.

    This is because though they (analogies)are instances of similarly patterned logic (and instances of smiliar systems and their similar processes) they are not EXACTLY the idea, but rather an analogy to it. THINK: everything is similar to something else to some degree, And Every Logical Connection is Similar to Another Logical Connection to Some Logical Degree, but in this understanding lies the trouble with the analogies: the analogy acts by attempting to CONNECT a lack of logical understanding to a state of mind possessing an abundance of logical understanding by pointing out an instance in which IT IS EASIER to see the (true)degree of logical similarity between a POINT of understanding and another POINT of understanding, where POINT can mean instance or system or formula or even composition (systematic composition).

    Most people then, that are not stuck at the gap, will misinterpret this instance of analogy as being possessive of the MEAT OF THE IDEA, as being the idea, or being possessive of the precise context of the idea, instead of being possessive of the revealatory "part to fill the gap" (a means to show the similarity of logical transition from POINT to POINT in the analogy to POINT to POINT in the instance of alpha) that would actually allow that person with the gap to Grasp the logic of the idea.

    This seems like a lot of words to say something, and it is, because I am taking you logically through my arguement. A summary would be this:

    In effect, being that an analogy can never fully be (and therefore fully convey) precisely what the idea is *else it be the idea, and not an analogy to it*, the analogy will always have parts that are counterproductive to it(where IT is whatever example was used as analogy) actually being the embodiment/actuality of the idea PRECISELY, and therefore PRECISELY transmitting the exact implications and instances and all the other etcerteras of the idea, instead of being essentially a reference to these implications that shows how logicaly similar their logical process is.

    Here is where I could be all wrong though: The showing of similar logical process can even include actual relevant examples to both parts of the analogy, and should, honestly. And, therefore, a perfect analogy would be something that says the same thing in two ways but that are still examples of the same thing AND still different, where each example implies the same thing AND intends to imply the same thing but is not actually the same thing etc etc. Therefore, perhaps it is possible to craft a perfect analogy, but then, if the analogy were perfect, the person would need to already understand Alpha to understand its perfectly analogous example, lets call it ZETA.

    So, understanding Zeta would mean understanding Alpha, and this would actually just be "saying the same thing twice". So, it would be repeating alpha theory in different words (formula) but meaning the same thing.

    Thus, it seems to me, if it is even possible to recreate the formulas as being exactly the same and still different, one who possessed the gap that necessitates the analogy would need yet another analogy to explain Alpha and Zeta, or, how Alpha and Zeta are instance of the same thing.

    But, again, I could be wrong, and analogies could be what is called for. Like I said, they work in specific, but not in abundance, I think.

    Anyone got another take on it? And, ironically, my saying this might actually confuse the issue more than it furthers the understanding of it by casting doubt on analogies that might otherwise have helped someone or by confusing someone who might otherwise have understood what was being talked about here.

    Damn.


  107. 107 107. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    I use analogies when people say that they aren’t familiar with the derivation. Analogies are better than telling them to go off and learn the tools without any motivation. The analogies may convince them that the tools are worth learning.

    Analogies are never meant as substitutes to the real thing. You can set up analogies between anything. Just check out all those books on the Tao of [physics, motorcycle repair, needlepoint...]

    Hawking’s Universe in a Nutshell recent enough, or is it already out of date?

    It depends on what you want to learn. I don’t know of an especially painless way to learn cosmology. If you’re willing to work at it, try Geroch’s book, General Relativity from A to B. This doesn’t require math beyond algebra. But I would first get through Waldrop’s Complexity.

    Cosmology is a very roundabout way to understand what’s presented in this series of posts.

    And, please, forget Langan and Sidis for now. I finally had a chance to look at Langan’s 50-page PDF.

    He’s theory is an awful mess. He makes so many mistakes; how can you tell where the errors end and the theory begins? He’s over-excited, over-stimulated and all over the map. His text is filled with pleading modifiers. I find him difficult to read because he’s talking out his ass. Pop-psychology says that he found out he had a high IQ (whatever that means) and is now trying to make up for lost time by swinging for the fences. He declares and expounds and uses and abuses language in a way that makes it impenetrable and imprecise.

    It means using language as a mathematical paradigm unto itself.

    This is bullshit. What the hell is a mathematical paradigm? How about saying that math is a linguistic paradigm? I’m sure he can restate it in yet another way, and another, and so on. Philosophers have been doing this for 2000 years.

    Langan falls into the language trap. Some philosophers have a deep-seated belief that our words reflect very precise and distinct ideas, and if we just think hard enough, we can define our terms exactly, so that there will be no fuzzy borderline cases, no ambiguities. Language seems to have rules and structure, but this is often something of a mirage. It is infinitely plastic, and any attempts to achieve absolute precision by defining words in terms of other words is impossible.

    All language is folk language, and if you are obsessed with stating things absolutely precisely, you can always find ambiguities and potential contradictions in even the clearest statements. You can chase your tail forever tracking down all these ambiguities and contradictions. This is why philosophy never progressed much beyond the Greeks, while science has left Athens in the dust. I would rather learn new things than invent perfectly precise ways of talking about things everyone already knows.

    After all is said and done, what can Langan explain that we couldn’t explain before?

    He abuses set theory.

    This paradox can only be resolved by considering Cantor’s "set" to be a dynamical entity in the process of self-inclusion, which equals self-description by semantic duality. ("Cantor’s set" is just a convenient abbreviation of "the set of all sets" and is not to be confused with "the Cantor set")

    And through a tortuous stream of nonsense, ends up "proving" the existence of God.

    God is indeed real, for a coherent entity identified with a self-perceptual universe is self-perceptual in nature, and this endows it with various levels of self-awareness and sentience, or constructively creative intelligence.

    Mathematical terms are cool because it’s easy to make them seem like science. They make Langan sound worthy of his heavily advertised IQ. All the IQ bullshit is simply another manifestation of appeal to authority. Sound theories don’t need all that bling-bling.

    Unfortunately, the mathematical content of the article is awful and the philosophy is a rehash of old ideas. By using mathematical words and relating claims to mathematical theories Langan makes the reader believe that everything is correct and difficult.

    Advice: Stay away from people who advertise their IQ. They took down the "Mega" test and replaced it with the "Titan" test. I’ll take Feynman’s 120 over Langan’s mega-IQ any day.

    Some of the greatest achievements in physics have come as a reward for eliminating the games of metaphysics. When Einstein tried to reduce the notion of "simultaneous events occuring at different places" to observable phenomena, he revealed a metaphysical prejudice that this concept must have scientific meaning. By discarding it, he found the key to relativity.

    Any philosopher of the day would never have any reason to toss out that premise. "Is is clearly a fact. I’m keeping my feet on the ground."

    When Niels Bohr analyzed that active physical observation must be accompanied by an effect of the observing instrument on the observed object, it became clear that sharp simultaneous fixation of position and velocity of a particle can not be made arbitrarily precise.

    In the nineteenth century everyone believed that mechanical forces and motions of particles in space are things in themselves while electricity, light and magnetism should be reduced to or "explained" as mechanical phenomena, just as had been successfully done with heat.

    The "ether" was invented. But no matter what properties they gave this ether, the properties of electricity and magnetism could not be explained. Finally, the billiard ball model of the universe was abandoned for ideas like gauge theory and fields. But this looks like techno-mumbo-jumbo too. The difference is it works, in great detail, from designing drugs to manufacturing integrated circuits.

    Unfortunately, billiard balls live on into the 21st century as a straw man for philosophers.

    If you think I’ve missed something in Langan’s article then please take a cue from Mr. Haspel and lay it out in a series of short, clear posts in the thread prior to this one (200 posts). I’d be happy to walk through the theory to learn what I missed.

    Tommy, learning this stuff takes time. I don’t know any shortcuts and you’re not going to put the pieces together by restricting yourself to lone, solitary voices like Langan, Sidis and Wolfram.

    Cut down on the mega-stream of posts. It makes it very difficult to respond in a timely manner. Smaller pieces and smaller steps will make life easier for everyone.


  108. 108 108. MeTooThen

    Bourbaki,

    Everywhere.

    Here:

    I paraphrase:Billy Beane

    "People mistake for permanence what is temporary."

    He is, of course, talking about a baseball player’s performance. After you click on the "Here" link, scroll down to Dec. 11.

    Again, F@t-1.

    Some more re: Billy Beane and SABRmetrics andHere.

    Everywhere.


  109. 109 109. Tommy

    "All language is folk language, and if you are obsessed with stating things absolutely precisely, you can always find ambiguities and potential contradictions in even the clearest statements. You can chase your tail forever tracking down all these ambiguities and contradictions."

    Yes.

    "Cosmology is a very roundabout way to understand what’s presented in this series of posts."

    But not the context of the ideas.

    Bourbaki, I want to know what your opinion is about what I say about alpha. All that other stuff I said I will no longer be discussing, as I’ve said why I think it is and is not relevant. Now I’ll only post about Alpha.

    "So long as ethics describe the way that ALL life can continue to exist, alpha is ethics. On a smaller scale, I would not say that alpha actually tells us anything about human ethics, other than what occurs when a human (or human society) act in what they think of as an ethical or unethical way. It does not give you the way, save in hindsight, but does describe how one might go about considering the way(the context) in which they see their actions. Filtration. It even provides units vital to the flow of the logic and therefore vital to following that flow (transition).

    But is this, as Jim might say, REAL ETHICS. Where I take it he means A WAY TO DETERMINE HOW BEST TO ACT FOR MY BEST SELF INTEREST. Because, you see, Jim, like most of us, is astute enough to see that he HAS HIS OWN SELF INTEREST AT HEART, always, I am paraphrasing him. (I comment on that idea of his earlier, and so it must fall somewhere around where I comment upon it if you want to find exactly what he said, but that was the main idea.)

    But, see, sadly, for astute guys like Jim, alpha cannot give him what he wants, because alpha talks in systems TOO LARGE (or complicated with interconnection of thermodynamic consequence) that to measure it in any way but conceptually via algebra where *where the description might measure anything*."

    What of this? Am I wrong here/not fully right?


  110. 110 110. Tommy

    "As mathematician David Berlinski writes regarding the material and informational aspects of DNA:
    We quite know what DNA is: it is a macromolecule and so a material object. We quite know what it achieves: apparently everything. Are the two sides of this equation in balance? More generally, Berlinski observes
    that since the information embodied in a string of DNA or protein cannot affect the material dynamic of reality
    without being read by a material transducer, information is meaningless without matter."

    What does alpha theory say of this?

    In information theory:
    "information is defined as a measure of ones freedom of choice when one selects a message."

    "In information theory, information and uncertainty are closely related. Information refers to the degree of uncertainty present in a situation. The larger the uncertainty removed by a message, the stronger the correlation between the input and output of a communication channel, the more detailed particular instructions are the more information is transmitted."

    "A related term, entropy, is also important in information theory. Entropy refers to the degree of randomness, lack of organization, or disorder in a situation."

    "Now the fundamental problem of human action is incomplete information."

    How is this a "problem". It is a fundamental reality, certainly. What about, for example, someone who kills themselves.

    Perhaps "the fundamental consequence of human action is incomplete information". What then?

    Also: I’m sure you are aware of Derrida’s assertions on the undecidability of language where the transmission of "information"
    as it is defined above is concerned.

    I have never seen a convincing refutation of his concepts of binary opposition and language. It is for that reason (undecidability), as well as the fact that I can’t see alpha as anything other than the consequential quantity of life’s reflection in terms of energy (which as Einstein showed was, what, commensurable/convertable with matter) that I do not see
    how it can ever truly VERIFY that most of what we believe is wrong is wrong.

    I can see how it predicts that evolution tends towards optimal alpha star, or else it dies out, but I cannot see it actually saying HOW CLOSE WE AS HUMANS ARE to that point.

    Hrmm.


  111. 111 111. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    What does alpha theory say of this?

    You’re quoting more gibberish from Langan’s paper.

    You will not be able to grasp, rather than parrot, these terms solely by surfing the Internet and reading on-line books written by eccentrics that haven’t been able to find a publisher.

    The links that people post in the comments are meant only to corroborate points and illustrate the origins of their ideas. But a few comments and links aren’t going to cut it if you actually want to understand this stuff–there simply isn’t enough bandwidth on a comments section in a blog.

    If you want to actually understand what you’re talking about, you’ll need to read real books and, if possible, find people with whom you can discuss these matters in person. It’s the only way to develop non-trivial understanding along with a healthy, personal skepticism to distinguish the useful ideas from the worthless ones.


  112. 112 112. Tommy

    I meant what does alpha theory say of this type of information.

    The DNA information.

    What about the rest of what I wrote?


  113. 113 113. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    Mr. Haspel took the time to point out the details of DNA and RNA’s role as catalysts. First read what Altman said and then track down and read more about it.

    I can recommend a very good general audience book on the history of this stuff by Horace Freeland Judson. To really get this stuff, you’re going to have to do some work.

    I have absolutely no interest in refuting Derrida just like I have no interest in refuting your mailman or butcher. I only care about what a given theory can explain better than other theories. I don’t care about how well someone complains about language.

    You’re just dipping into the surface of a lot of different fields and throwing shit against a wall to see if it sticks–you’re only going to confuse yourself. You’re clearly very sharp but you need to focus your energy on something and take the time to really learn about it. The Internet is not a good place to do that because it’s too easy to get distracted.

    Alpha theory cuts across a lot of different fields: math, physics, biology, chemistry–pick one and learn about it. Start with a general book if it’s interesting, you’ll be motivated to learn more of the advanced material. If not, try again on a different angle.

    I don’t think you’ll ever find anyone who regrets the time they spent learning new things.


  114. 114 114. smithwrites

    Gentlemen,
    I accept Thermodynamics/Negative Entropy/Alpha Theory as a description of reality but couldn’t the Thomist just subsume it into his thoughts after the Big Bang
    and then respond with "where did reality come from?" Tommy touched upon this earlier when he mentioned Christians would say it was from Jesus and I thought it was a good point.
    Smithwrites


  115. 115 115. Bourbaki

    smithwrites,

    "where did reality come from?"

    That’s easy. First law. It was never not here. If the Thomist can destroy energy, then we have a ball game.


  116. 116 116. Tommy

    "I only care about what a given theory can explain better than other theories."

    I mentioned Derrida because undecidability seemed to apply limits (contentions of boundary) to what Alpha might "explain", just like other Laws and Truths (RNA and DNA or the 1st law for examples)and much else do. I think perhaps you are shrugging the frenchie off too soon.

    Thanks for the links, as always I’m a two-step behind the dance (but I’m convinced I no longer have 2 left feet).

    Derrida says nothing seriously deleterous to alpha theory, and is just some context (slight refutation of information theory regarding humans it seems, but I got to read more about information theory, and it seems these are already in existence in other various guises also). As such, I agree with you that my walls are somewhat shittily splotched…I do not mention these ideas to sound like I understand everything or to be a reference whore/to confuse the issues, I do it to say what I think about alpha. What I think is what I am at that moment "understanding" about alpha theory. That comes out because I am curious what others would think about my thoughts regarding alpha (and context for it), and I am curious, of course, because I want to understand. Alpha seems simple as algebra, but the context for it is MASSIVE.

    The internet is also distracting, as you mentioned. Seems everyone has their own personal take blah blah.

    My butcher and mailman thank you by the way.


  117. 117 117. Tommy

    "…only people who haven’t read me say this. It’s a misreading of my work that began 35 years ago, and it’s difficult to destroy. I never said everything is linguistic and we’re enclosed in language. In fact, I say the opposite, and the deconstruction of logocentrism was conceived to dismantle precisely this philosophy for which everything is language." Derrida on Derrida.


  118. 118 118. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    Your feet are fine.

    You just need to keep them on the ground and try to ensure you’re not walking in circles. Go get a book. I’ll recommend Waldrop again–for US$10, it’s a very good place to start. But that’s just my opinion–or go to the library and pick up a book from the list of Nobel prize winners–they don’t have a monopoly on truth but the odds of learning something that has been rigorously tested are in your favor.

    I think perhaps you are shrugging the frenchie off too soon.

    Derrida generally gets a raw deal but I still don’t see what he adds to alpha theory. Mr. Haspel already dedicated a full post to different kinds of randomness and the concept of thresholds.

    At one point, wandering through Derrida’s library, one of the filmmakers asks him: "Have you read all the books in here?"

    "No," he replies impishly, "only four of them. But I read those very, very carefully".

    You haven’t demonstrated at all why Derrida is any more relevant than your butcher or mailman. Please explain what more there is to his idea?

    Remember that alpha is presented as a series of mathematical equations derived from physical laws–the language (with all its "undecidability") is there to try to make it more accessible to anyone who is put off by the equations. We don’t need to suffer Derrida’s 35 year misreading; just ignore the words and learn the equations.

    Alpha seems simple as algebra, but the context for it is MASSIVE.

    You’re right–Alpha theory is purely empirical and quantitative. Based on what we know about the first and second law, alpha either goes up or goes down. If it proves true, it captures everything that makes life possible. But don’t conflate predicting what is going to happen (F@t+d) with the consequences of what has happened (F@t-d). Prediction is not a simple business.

    In that respect, short of invalidating the derivation, there’s nothing to decide.


  119. 119 119. Tommy

    I actually wasn’t refering to Aaron’s language specifically when I mentioned Derrida. I was refering to what he said about
    all language, for those who might say "alpha can only say etc….what it says" BECAUSE of language.

    I think Derrida and his alpha star are a good contrast to someone like Langan’s, and I think Langan’s theories are a good
    example of something it seemed to me the Alpha star idea was missing, which is that human filtration is not just
    an example of OUR BEST EXAMINATION of "incomplete information", but also somewhere in their there is a choice to
    accept/believe that you now understand (or know), and that in most of us this choice is being made by our desire to feel (be?)
    certain and sure and to have always been that way. Ever meet people who try to twist what they said in the past to say what they say now like they’ve meant it all along? I meet them every day (sadly, I do it as well, sometimes without noticing).

    At this point I’m pretty sure I understand the theory. In my posts I was trying to say something like this:

    Sidis and Langan have interesting alpha star, a Genius’ attempt at alpha star, as each has lead a crazy life. One was a bouncer for 6000 dollars a year and has 22 inch biceps and a 52 inch chest (this is fucking huge: something around 6 foot 270), the other was the world’s smartest child, knew well more than 40 languages, and found kinship with American Indians after translating their wampums (written language) and writing the history of North America from their records.

    Those nobel prize winners provide good description of thermodynamics and (micro)biology chemistry and evolution,
    and thus, good (neccessary)context for alpha. Almost certainly, their lives are also fine examples at alpha star (as all of ours–individually, collectively–are from some vantages) but their’s in particular because of their time spent studying (and defining) exactly the scientific theories at the heart of our current discussion.

    I am buying Waldrop’s book, as well as a book on thermodynamics by Fermi and a book on the history of evolutionary
    theory. I will try to limit my posts to one a day or less until I am finished, in the chance that I have misunderstood something and would actually be hurting our collective understanding.

    One last thing on Derrida: he describes our limitations to perfectly disprove (even describe) alpha (alpha theory) through language but not through conception (thinking concepts). Derrida makes it impossible for someone to use pure semantic
    breakdowns of chosen (and therefore not chosen) words to show a flaw in alpha theory (back in part 2 this is what I tried
    to do). They (the chosen words) certainly might show a bias, and therefore some more conservative form of flaw, but the formula is the only thing that must be disproven.

    I guess to disprove the formula one must first: understand the formulas, and second: show how they are inaccurate descriptions of thermodynamics (or that thermodynamics are innacurate.) Is this correct?

    Now, whether alpha proves evolution correct is one thing (alpha would seem to indicate a quantity to conceptually measure this theory by), but this is almost impossible in practice because of the nature of open systems of life at all it’s stages. (though evolution does seem to prove alpha theory)

    Am that line of reasong sound? I’m not sure.

    I will reread that part on limits and theorums and see did I conceptually jump the shark with my ideas on Derrida by repeating something said better already.


  120. 120 120. Tommy

    Wow, when I wrote those comments on Notepad they were perfectly alligned, and when I put them in the box I made sure they were also. Damn sorry guys.

    Also, one last thing on Langan and "incomplete information": see, the reason I think he is illustrative is because he almost certainly possesses as much if not more information than anyone on this sight, because that he has near photgraphic recall. However, his DESIRE or NEED to be right and certain might actually make his abundance of information far far less beneficial than my own smaller lot of information. This is not conclusive or prolly even provable, but it seems logical and theoreticly sound. Let’s briefly discuss.

    Thanks again all.


  121. 121 121. smithwrites

    Bourbaki,
    Thank you for the answer. I figured it had to be something like the first law but didn’t have the math/science background to call it by name and missed Aaron’s referral to it.
    smithwrites


  122. 122 122. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    I guess to disprove the formula one must first: understand the formulas, and second: show how they are inaccurate descriptions of thermodynamics (or that thermodynamics are innacurate.) Is this correct?

    That’s right.

    There is no appeal to accept a premise because it is "self-evident". And there is no use of that most dishonest of conceits: blind faith.

    It’s important to recognize that the "axioms" of alpha theory are really just empirical laws. Each and every step of the theory openly avails itself to refutation.

    Now, whether alpha proves evolution correct is one thing (alpha would seem to indicate a quantity to conceptually measure this theory by), but this is almost impossible in practice because of the nature of open systems of life at all it’s stages. (though evolution does seem to prove alpha theory)

    This is premature. Alpha theory turns a philosophical problem into an engineering problem. The idea that we could someday catalog the entire human genome once seemed impossible.

    Unfortunately, we’re also very lazy and love ideas like "intelligent design" because it excuses us from being intelligent ourselves. Alpha theory cleanly provides a quantitative foundation for evolution. Creationism, because of its total lack of explanatory power, is just another a cop out for ignorance.

    The mind/soul/matter dualisms that have given many philosophies and religions so much air time are resolved in alpha theory. You’ll notice an recurrent fear that alpha theory might advocate a life that might not be "worth" living. But the mental/spiritual anguish that manifests in an unsatisfying life is accounted for by the stress it causes in our body (especially our brain). Those consequences can not be ignored in the utility function.

    Energy flux accounts for everything. Unless there’s a critical flaw with the derivation, alpha theory subsumes everything.

    There is no first cause–energy is cause. There is no infinte regress e.g. if God created everything, who created God? All evidence indicates that energy has always been here. There are no particular spatial dimensions for energy. It’s all around you and you are free to attempt to create or destroy the tiniest bit of it to disprove the first law.

    With a handful of equations, alpha theory defines the "good" without leaving the physical realm and without bullying appeal to anything that is "self-evident". The conceptual simplicity of alpha theory lays a very heavy burden of proof on any religion or dualist philosophy.

    Skepticism for such a comprehensive theory is not only justified but required. Don’t use what you read on this site as your only point of reference. Read other reputable sources (don’t attack a crank theory with another crank theory). Talk to people who know the underlying science. Use what you learn to invalidate the theory.

    Only then can you really begin to understand its scope. And if you do succeed in breaking it, you’ll have learned some pretty cool stuff along the way.

    Now go hit the books.


  123. 123 123. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    All of alpha theory is based on the notion that Helmholtz’s law is true. I would argue that Helmholtz’s law while in theory is falisable, is not really so in fact. Accordingly, the truth of alpha theory is in doubt.

    Pons and Fleischmann found anomolous heat in their now infamous "cold fusion" experiment. I have spoken with several scientists, Standford PhD’s in p-chem and physics all, who tell me there is NO DOUBT that excess heat has been created in numerous trials of the original experiment. However, the mechanism for the creation of such heat is still unclear and the fact that the amount of such heat has been wildly inconsistent is unexplained.

    Lack of decay products suggests that the anomolous heat is NOT the product of fusion, cold or otherwise. Why then don’t we just say, "In this instance, Helmholtz’s accounting system just doesn’t work!" If there is no such accounting system, then we don’t have to "explain" using untenable explanations the excess heat. It is just an exception from Helmholtz’s law.


  124. 124 124. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    It is just an exception from Helmholtz’s law.

    That’s cool. Let’s see the evidence. Please show us how this "residual energy" significantly changes the underlying dynamics.

    Remember that Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle

    dx dp >= h

    Where h is Planck’s constant can also be written

    dE dt >= h

    where E is energy and t is time. So is it our measurement error or an interdimensional gateway for energy? Are the effects of significant scale to explain anything?

    All of alpha theory is based on the notion that Helmholtz’s law is true.

    So if Helmholtz law wasn’t true, then living systems wouldn’t require organization and coherence to exist?

    You might want to understand how the pieces fit toghether before you try to break them apart. The first law puts severe limits on supernatural explanations.

    You no doubt have read about and know many smart people.


  125. 125 125. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    Apologies, I hit post too soon. I meant to say that I also know a bunch of smart people from snooty schools. I even attended a few myself. But credentials and epigrams don’t add anything to the discussion.

    If the theory is wrong, please explain how and why it’s wrong. The consequence may be a reformulation of the derivation or an outright rejection of the underlying principles.

    I consider any clearly explained resolution a good resolution.


  126. 126 126. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    Back up a couple of posts:

    To say that something is "empirical" in basis IS to say that it entirely relies on "the self-evident," so the earlier comment was literally incoherent since this is a matter of mere tautology. And dualism needed none of this to be ably "refuted" long ago, of course; it was dualism that was never demonstrated.

    More critically, this thoery does not define "the good" except by fiat. It re-defines "the good" to fit the theory, from what I can see. It merely sidesteps the traditional problem of "the good," by assuming that it is the problem so defined. Please define for us what you think "the good" is again, and why, and maybe I’ll see that I’m wrong. But I think you have simply evaded the original problem of "the good" by a redefinition and pretending that the original observations underlying it do not really exist. The origin of the concept of good is empirical, too, and it was a perfectly meaningful and natural concept before anything was ever known about alpha, but such observations don’t seem to cut any mustard around here.

    For instance, define what makes life "worth living," as you put it and why it is so "worthy." Please, no empty accounts of how individualized F is, I want to know whether Joe’s life is "worth living," right now, or there is no way to evaluate your claims here. How does alpha help ME to determine if my life is still "worth living" at this time. My ethics helps ME define my own F, if you will, and thanks very much! Does alpha demonstrate what "worth," "importance," or "joy (?!) consist of…? This is p[recisely the part I’m still missing… Show me.


  127. 127 127. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    To say that something is "empirical" in basis IS to say that it entirely relies on "the self-evident," so the earlier comment was literally incoherent since this is a matter of mere tautology.

    But saying something is "self-evident" doesn’t make it empirical. You’re still peering through 19th century spectacles. Back up a couple of more posts re. Einstein and Bohr.

    When Einstein tried to reduce the notion of "simultaneous events occuring at different places" to observable phenomena, he revealed a metaphysical prejudice that this concept must have scientific meaning. By discarding it, he found the key to relativity.

    But don’t take my word for it. Read the history of their discoveries in any number of excellent books.

    More critically, this thoery does not define "the good" except by fiat. It re-defines "the good" to fit the theory, from what I can see.

    Derrida was right–I must be more careful with my word choice. Alpha theory identifies the "good" as an empirically derived quantity.

    You’re free to present an alternative. It would be really cool if you could define it in fewer steps!

    For instance, define what makes life "worth living," as you put it and why it is so "worthy."

    This is not my term. It’s Marvin’s. You should ask him on his site.

    Marvin was understandably troubled by the possibility for some horrible draconian/utopian recipe for a "perfect" life. Not only is such a recipe impossible, I also pointed out that his dissatisfaction would be a real and significant negative cost.


  128. 128 128. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    O.k., it’s painfully obvious that you do not what the hell I am talking about, as is so frequently the case. Calling something "self-evident" does NOT make something empirical and I never implied this at all. I meant just the reverse. The self-evident is ONLY the empirical. They are the same thing in my philosophy–it’s a matter of tautology. For example, that "all men are created equal" is anything but "self-evident," it is the product of a (contextually limited) logical inference. That all men do have rights (that no one "grants" to them to anyone else) is a profound truth, but a discovery of inference, not direct observation. But ALL observations are "self-evident," not just those you have chosen to consider. So, your comment on Einstein, whatever its merits, is beside MY point, at least.

    We are here discussing ALPHA, not my ethics, friend, so please do tell me how it answers basic and particular value-questions. How does it answer whether MY life is worth living right here and now?? How do I calculate MY F, to use your terms–objectively. You see, MY ethics does help in this regard, and I should think that any ethics WORTH its salt should provide guidance here, too.

    Whatever other folks’ positions are, I still want a straight answers to my questions (though I never do, so why do keep trying?) Can’t generalized guidance be found in more particularized, human circumstances–versus the claim that there are no strong solutions, period. Or, what about "rights," are they "nonsense on stilts"? All of my sincere queries just seem to evaporate from evasion…

    Let’s start here: how do you tell me whether MY life, right now, is "worth living." Go.


  129. 129 129. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    Do you own a chain saw?


  130. 130 130. Jim Valliant

    Thanks for the insightful response.


  131. 131 131. Aaron Haspel

    It seems to me, Jim, that you are answered rather comprehensively both by the articles and in the comments, though apparently not to your satisfaction. You might try attending to the answers instead of repeating the questions. Your life is "worth living" because, and insofar as, you are an alphatropic agent. When that condition terminates then your life will cease to be worth living. I already discussed this question with regard to suicide but perhaps you were out to lunch.

    You wish to know whether "rights" I take you to mean "natural" rights, although you do not say so are nonsense on stilts. You could have figured this one out for yourself: of course they are. For all your campaigning against dualism you do a good deal of dichotomzing yourself, and here is such an instance.

    Have you ever noticed how people, having joined a club, immediately campaign to set the bar to membership just below their own credentials? Rights are like that. Everyone at your level or higher joins the Rights Club; everyone else is excluded.

    In fact this is a matter of thresholds, like everything in reality. Bright lines exist only inside the febrile brains of philosophers. Human beings merit a certain amount of consideration by virtue of the fact that they are alphatropic; chimpanzees, being less alphatropic, merit less; cockroaches less still. I trust that all of my readers, including my Objectivist friends, would be revolted by a man who poisoned stray dogs for a hobby. Alpha theory gives a clear answer: stray dogs are alpha agents too. Here’s the orthodox Objectivist answer: "Legally, since people have rights and animals don’t, no form of force initiated against animals should be outlawed, even if it is gratuitously cruel or if it is used to produce food that is not necessary for a person’s survival. Morally, however, gratuitous cruelty should be condemned because it reinforces the immoral habit of destroying other’s lives rather than promoting one’s own life." You don’t poison dogs, you see, because it reinforces bad habits, like poisoning dogs.

    Imagine a species, like Douglas Adams’ Vogons or Karel Capek’s newts, as superior to humans as we are to the roach. How much consideration would we be entitled to from such beings? As much, relative to their fellow Vogons, as we grant cockroaches, which is to say not much at all.

    Rights are a useful legal concept; law, being filtration-independent, necessarily deals in bright lines of this sort. The U.S. Constitution is an estimable document, but it has no metaphysical significance. Any more than that is indeed nonsense.

    Finally, I never said, and took pains to deny, that "there are no strong solutions." Every action you take is a strong solution. What I said was that there are no universal strong solutions. Can "generalized guidance" be found in the particular? Sure, in the form of heuristics. Will this generalized guidance always be correct? I’m afraid not.

    You appear to want assurance that you may continue to believe what you always have without fear of contradiction. None will be forthcoming.


  132. 132 132. Jim Valliant

    Aaron,

    Thanks for the answers. This was the clearest on these topics you have been to date. Dull, plodding me, I wanted you to say some implications out loud. These were largely implications that I wished to draw out for purposes of being able to clearly state my objections to alpha. Sorry, but it’s the lawyer in me, I suspect, just dotting a few I’s…

    Alpha is a breathtakingly comprehensive and brilliant integration of so much science into a single unity of explanation, one must stand in awe. Its power could turn out to be immense.

    Its formulators, as so many discoverers of the past, are convinced that, since it provides a unified explanation from a single perspective for "everything," Occam serves to eliminate the rest. But, of course, there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, more things directly observed and known and experienced, than are accounted for here. Things so real that they are painfully stubbing the toes of its authors in these essays, right and left, and at every opportunity, as is their wont.

    In reality, bright lines exist everywhere. "True and false"–and "good and evil"–is the kind of dualism I can–and, of course, must–live with. Bright lines only vanish when we use abstraction to doubt sense-perception. Literal bright-lines I can draw. Abstract ones, still hard and bright–concepts–are necessary to get alpha, or anything like it, off of the ground.

    Alpha the Carnivore cannot devour solid objects or solid concepts any more than Heraclitus–or Nietzsche–could–any more than Newtons Mechanics could–anymore than Darwinism, Social, economic or psychological, could–although many of their earnest followers tried to do just that. These thinkers were geniuses, too. Some took their thinking too far.

    The more ground a theory covers, the more ground it loses in fine detail. We live at a level of fine detail squashed out by this side-stepping–and, yes, arid–approach to the question of human "values," to take but one instance. Like all reductionism, it thinks that it has explained away by giving a good explanation from one angle of the item so "explained." All is not process, alpha or otherwise. This IS self-evident.

    And, Aaron, your sloppy misstatements of Objectivism, both in the essays and the answers here, must be corrected if this is ever to be published. For your sake, dude, in all sincerity.


  133. 133 133. Marvin

    Not really a challenge here, just a comprehension check to see if I’m on the right track.

    I want to say something like: "alpha theory allows us to assess behavioral strategies for a defined system with respect to a defined filtration or context as of a given time. Any such assessment will be contingent upon our knowledge at the time, including whether or not we’ve defined the system correctly, along with that system’s relationships with all other systems."

    Or: for a given system at a given filtration at t-1, alpha theory tells us which of several competing strategies for a system will yield the greatest increase in complexity/heat energy for the system.

    We might have difficulty deciding how to define precisely the system on which we want to focus–how we do so is part of the filtration. We may have trouble deciding how much weight to give to various factors in the filtration, and our means for doing that is also part of the filtration. Our ability to create a predictive and accurate filtration is part of the strategy being measured by alpha theory.

    Does that sound right?

    If I’m on the right track, that leads me to ask a question about this:

    Human beings merit a certain amount of consideration by virtue of the fact that they are alphatropic; chimpanzees, being less alphatropic, merit less; cockroaches less still.

    Are cockroaches less alphatropic than humans? Humans individually are more complex, but I seem to recall reading somewhere that beetles in general (I’m not sure about cockroaches in particular — maybe this depends on how we define the system) account for much more of the earth’s biomass than human beings. Is that a fair comparison? I’m not sure. I seem to recall that fungi and bacteria also represent far more biomass than human beings. Humans individually are more complex but what about pound for pound? Are they more alphatropic after sheer mass and energy are taken into account? How should such a comparison be made? (For instance, do humans get to count machinery, and is machinery even a net bonus pound for pound when compared to live biomass?)

    How one thinks about all this would be part of one’s filtration, I suppose; how one builds a filtration is always recursively a piece of the filtration. Hypothetically if humans were to decide that being cockroaches are a better evolutionary bet than being people, then humans might cease to exist — we could both "win" and "lose" simultaneously.

    But of course no human interested in enhancing his life or his sustainability will equate himself or his abilities with 200 lbs. of bugs or live-culture yoghurt. So maybe the question is silly.

    On the other hand the world is full of examples where size trumps sophistication –

    Or is that really true? Does size ever trump sophistication as such, or does it just trump sophisticated systems that, despite their sophistication, have made the stupid mistake of allowing themselves to compete on size?

    Clearly I’m still chasing the quantity vs. quality of life question, but I’m trying to put it in quantifiable terms that alpha would recognize…at least I think I am. I still don’t understand why my own dissatisfaction with a (hypothetical) alphatropic dystopia would count against that dystopia in the filtration. Or rather, I think I understand why it would count against; but I’m not sure it (being an indicator of mass dissatisfaction) would neccessarily count overwhelmingly against an alphatropic dystopia, which might have alpha-advantages I (but not the dystopian architects) haven’t yet articulated. Suddenly I can’t help but think of The Matrix — but of course that articulation is already part of the filtration.

    Now I get the feeling that I ought to be led around in circles by questions such as this.

    So maybe here’s the proper question to ask: how should one best pose a problem to alpha theory? I agree that the concepts of natural human rights and immutable moral laws are pleasant albeit useful fictions, so I don’t expect alpha theory to produce them (except perhaps as a kind of guidelines, as the pirates of the Carribean might say).

    So mostly I see alpha theory as a tool for weighing possible strategies and consequences given the available information, which includes (ideally) all past attempts to analyze similar situations. It can’t tell us whose interests or which principles to emphasize except by helping us make sound comparisons with past events. It is "objective" to the extent that any predictions or analyses we make are rooted in valid scientific laws and sound observations, but the conclusions one draws from it will be inferential and conditional upon the filtration and will likely not have the status of any kind of "law."

    Which would make it potentially very useful to people who don’t really believe in universal moral laws anyway, but blasphemous to those who do.


  134. 134 134. Tommy

    What the fuck is that bright line nonsense?

    Jim read more Derrida, for your dualism querries. Bourbaki, bow to my Derrida :)


  135. 135 135. Tommy

    Actually:

    "The very notion of good versus evil is not an artifact of material reality. Nor is it some deep, hardwired set of archetypes squirming around the human brain."

    "It is an artifact of the Persian domination of the cradle of civilization." Zoroastrianism, apocalypse, and intermingling with Christian and Judao doctrine.

    "Many of the greatest works of antiquity, for example, do not involve the conflict of good and evil. The epic poems and tragedies of ancient Greece are not concerned with such a struggle, and even the earliest books of the Bible posit evil as an over determined force-God, through a variety of agents, creates evil as an obstacle or mile marker on a path toward a closer relationship with the Divine."

    In the Illiad, Hektor was as respected and admired, and as much of a protagonist, as any of the Greek heroes.

    The Odyssey demonstrates the capriciousness of the gods not as a reflection of evil, nor were Odysseus’s struggles to reach his home and to stay alive considered such.

    No mention of GOOD or EVIL as we know them in Sophocles, Euripides, or Aeschylus.

    "Good does not rise up and conquer evil. Evil is not inexplicable, animal, unfair, or inescapable."

    In The Eumenides, the spirits of vengeance the Furies turn Orestes, who killed his mother, over for trial. Athena acquits him and brings the spirits of vengeance with her to be goddesses so they will not infect the hearts of young men with evil or a thirst for revenge.

    "She tells them "Do good, receive good, and be honored as good are honored. Share our country, the beloved of god."

    The Furies balk and think they won’t be accepted because of all their grievances against the Gods and their commitment to reason, but are eventually persuaded using peaceful integration and debate. They show that powerful (human) emotions can be reconciled with reason and do not need to be cast out or destroyed.

    Most of what we think is evil and good are just blanket ideas that we use to moderate and codify emotions that actually exist.

    "gratuitously cruel or if it is used to produce food that is not necessary for a person’s survival. Morally, however, gratuitous cruelty should be condemned because it reinforces the immoral habit of destroying other’s lives rather than promoting one’s own life." You don’t poison dogs, you see, because it reinforces bad habits, like poisoning dogs."

    Heuristics: Relating to or using a problem-solving technique in which the most appropriate solution of several found by alternative methods is selected at successive stages of a program for use in the next step of the program.

    There are obviously solutions: where solution means an action. And each action has an alpha star, and, according to our theory, each action is an attempt to maximize it. But I am not convinced. Perhaps there is a biological time at which the body compels one to try to die, instead of trying to live. Or at which time the body suddenly veers from attempting to maximize alpha star to trying to, say, shoot for the middle. I am dumb at science, we can all agree.

    In this respect, Derrida regularly suggests that a decision cannot be wise, or posed even more provocatively, that the instant of the decision must actually be mad. Drawing on Kierkegaard, Derrida tells us that a decision requires an undecidable leap beyond all prior preparations for that decision and according to him, this applies to all decisions. To pose the problem in inverse fashion, it might be suggested that for Derrida, all decisions are a faith and a tenuous faith at that, since were faith and the decision not tenuous, they would cease to be a faith or a decision at all.

    "making bad habits" is one thing, but dont count out the inherent nature of man:
    Every one of us is more or less suggestible. Man is often defined as a social animal. This definition is no doubt true, but it conveys little information as to the psychical state of each individual within society. There exists another definition which claims to give an insight into the nature of man, and that is the well-known ancient view that man is a rational animal; but this definition breaks down as soon as we come to test it by facts of life, for it scarcely holds true of the vast multitudes of mankind. Not sociality, not rationality, but suggestibility is what characterizes the average specimen of humanity, for man is a suggestible animal.
    By suggestion is meant the intrusion into the mind of an idea; met with more or less opposition by the person; accepted uncritically at last; and realized unreflectively, almost automatically.
    By suggestibility is meant that peculiar state of mind which is favorable to suggestion

    "So mostly I see alpha theory as a tool for weighing possible strategies and consequences given the available information, which includes (ideally) all past attempts to analyze similar situations."

    Eh. It seems like you are repeating something, but not maybe grasping it. Alpha theory describes the science of consequential energy fluctuation and how such a thing is a description of a lifes life cycle. I don’t see how it allows you to weigh the consequence any better than believing you can’t be hurt so long as you try not to be. I dont have a massive calculating and precise lab that could measure the energy change and see if I was doing it, and Heisenberg would seem to say I couldnt anyway. But again Im stupid at science. Basically, it seems alpha describes what WE DO, not HOW TO DO IT. And it stands then, as a logical THINGY, that we can sit next to our other ideas and use to tie them together.

    All alpha says is that the result of any process of life will always be: an attempt at alpha star, as life is trying to continue and at the same time MULTIPLY. Right?

    "It is "objective" to the extent that any predictions or analyses we make are rooted in valid scientific laws and sound observations,"

    Naw. Alpha theory says everything you do is a prediction based on scientific laws (the 2nd laws WOOT), even if you don’t know it (not just our predicting and analyzing). Any life, in fact, any consequential fluctuation of energy, can be described with alpha. That is why it is nice: we can describe a star and a person using a similar THINGY. I am saying this because I am either right, or stupid and way way wrong. I hope its the latter, because I havent learned nearly what I want of the background to this theory to think I actually understand it. But, at least, Marvin, we can bandy our ideas back and forth until one of us stumbles our way into Unnerstandin, as my friends say.

    The bright lines: what are you talking about? Why are they Bright. Why are they lines. Do lines even exist in space? Is a line even real? Why would it be bright if it was? Why am I so dumb? Damn I hate moments of clarity: they only make me ask four more questions


  136. 136 136. tommy

    "Human beings merit a certain amount of consideration by virtue of the fact that they are alphatropic; chimpanzees, being less alphatropic, merit less; cockroaches less still."

    This is in terms of their applicableness to the ideas of alpha, right?


  137. 137 137. Tommy

    I can see how it predicts that evolution tends towards optimal alpha star, or else it dies out, but I cannot see it actually saying HOW CLOSE WE AS HUMANS ARE to that point.

    It seems humans havent been around that long. And there are becoming more and more of us with less and less development of the overall progression. Humans have taught themselves, with our alpha stars, how to MULTIPLY. But we are far from having learned how to live for as long as the fucking cockroach or the manatee. This is why alpha theory is important. It shows that on some levels our attempts at this are determining themselves without thought of collective progression, because EVERYONE seems to be out for themselves and a localized progression. Sorry about the multiple posts. I always do that, sorry.


  138. 138 138. Leah

    SUNY (State University of New York) in Binghamton, NY now has a field of study called, "Psychobiology."

    I understand that the intent is to quantify-qualify scientific analyses throughout various biological fields then apply that knowledge in order to better understand and control the psychology of people.

    Here is the short intro to the curriculum :

    " Psychobiology is the study of the biology of behavior. Because the production and regulation of behavior is largely the job of the nervous system, psychobiologists are interested in studying the brain and how it works. They also study the comparative and adaptive aspects of behavior in an evolutionary context. By its very nature, psychobiology is a multidisciplinary field. For example, psychobiologists routinely draw on the fields of biology, psychology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and computer science in their work. That’s one of the things about psychobiology that makes it such an interesting and challenging field of study.

    Students who major in psychobiology take a variety of courses across a number of departments. Most of the core courses are taken in the Psychology Department and in the Department of Biological Sciences. Distribution requirements are derived from the Mathematics, Chemistry, and Physics Departments, and electives can come from departments such as Anthropology, Philosophy, and History.

    Many students who receive a bachelor of science degree in psychobiology go on to graduate or professional school. Majoring in psychobiology provides a good background for master’s or PhD programs in a variety of disciplines, such as neuroscience, anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology, among others. Additionally, many students find that psychobiology is an excellent preparation for medical or dental school. "
    The field of study which has been developed by Linda Spear at Bunghamton University provides an exciting chance for students to gain a more comprehensive understanding about human behavior rather than to be confined to just one or two areas, as has been taught in the past.

    I think reviewing the coursework and the research performed in that department will enrich any discussion such as this … to know what is in actuality being pursued by real people – outside of blogs.


  139. 139 139. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    Its formulators, as so many discoverers of the past, are convinced that, since it provides a unified explanation from a single perspective for "everything," Occam serves to eliminate the rest.

    Not quite. Two directions. Future and past. Future: no formal system of logic can capture all truths. We need the right side of our brains. We need art. We need "gut instinct." We don’t need technocrats. Past: What has happened can be captured. We can gauge its consequences with alpha. We can feed that information back into the system to shape our future consideration.

    Marvin,

    account for much more of the earth’s biomass than human beings.

    It’s not linear. S = k ln W

    Tommy,

    I cannot see it actually saying HOW CLOSE WE AS HUMANS ARE to that point.

    You already stated this. There is no set point. It’s contingent on available free energy and what actionable paths are available for an individual to follow. Tommy, I like your plan for posting no more than once a day. I think I’ll follow it myself. It may give everyone more time to actually read about this stuff.

    Leah,

    to know what is in actuality being pursued by real people – outside of blogs.

    Thank you. You bring back some fine memories. I once had to write copy for my department to lure eager young minds. Oh, the stories we would tell! Unfortunately, my daily interactions are limited to academics from the People’s Republic of Cambridge, MA. I think real people have a lot to say–and a blog lets anyone have a go. Perhaps you can share a bit of what "real" people think?


  140. 140 140. Bill Kaplan

    Leah,

    Nothing good ever came out of Binghamton University, except maybe grain alcohol. Never cite it to the snobby failed-to-graduate of Carlton College. He would only sneer.


  141. 141 141. Bill Kaplan

    I am thinking cannibalism is generally alphatropic, so long as you eat the dead and not kill. What say you?


  142. 142 142. Bourbaki

    Credentials, credentials, credentials
    Or How I Stopped Letting the Fat Cats Do My Thinking For Me
    Or Crackpots are Everywhere

    In seventh grade, I was a pyromaniac. I don’t know if that qualifies as thermodynamics. I was mercifully spared tensor calculus and continuum mechanics until college.

    I studied at Harvard over a summer when I was 16. I almost got kicked out for hacking their (then revolutionary) laser printers to produce fake ids. Who doesn’t have a story about getting kicked out of Harvard these days? I graduated with honors from Williams College where I studied chemistry and mathematics after switching from studio art (mostly illustration) and physics. My thesis was on chemical synthesis, specifically using organometallic catalysts to produce a single enantiomer (non-racemic mixture) of chiral compounds.

    I followed up with doctoral research in at Columbia University where I worked on artificial organs, signal transduction, fluid physics, and statistical thermodynamics. I’d be happy to discuss "intelligent design" with any creationist. I came to know the scars of evolution quite well. If there’s some underlying a priori "design" for living systems rather than an adaptive process, this "designer" is an idiot. I think a better explanation is that creationists would rather forgo the intelligence needed to understand the evidence.

    Eschatological religion screws you that way–you end up trying to reconcile two incoherent world views: one based on evidence the other on blind faith inherited from people who never managed indoor plumbing. Any new knowledge brings the threat of more inconsistency. You are forced to erect straw men to protect your ideas. What a waste of energy. As an emotional crutch, it seems to cause a lot of pain. But I’m open to reviewing any evidence I may have missed.

    I left academia to follow a trail of money to Wall Street where I ran several quantitative trading strategies for some of the most highly-regarded financial groups in the world. I traded everything from equity derivatives to government fixed-income. My reps from investment banks took me to the snazziest restaurants and secured the best tickets. Although, I find the only real advantage to the owner’s box at sports stadiums that Mr. Kaplan mentioned are the surgically clean private bathrooms. The beer tastes the same. A couple of my friends started a drug discovery company. Several of my professional colleagues went on to make hundreds of millions of dollars (including one multi-billionaire).

    On a whim, I studied to be a chef at the French Culinary Institute and managed to get my photo in the New York Times Sunday Magazine with the late, great Julia Childs. I studied the ideas of Auguste Escoffier and learned from world famous chefs including Jacques Pepin and Charlie Trotter. Their creative abilities in the kitchen were just as remarkable as any scientist’s in a laboratory. The difference is that the scientist aims to make ideas independent of the observer while the artist tries to bring them closer together. I did not pursue cooking professionaly–I wanted to learn to cook for family and friends.

    I ran two companies and have started my third. I now work with math professors and engineers from MIT, business people from Harvard and computer scientists from Sun to research and develop quantitative techniques for use in everything from finance to genetics. In other words, high performance pattern recognition. Our clients include some of the largest companies in the world.

    I have regular occassion to listen to talks at Columbia, Rockefeller, Harvard and MIT and have access to all the libraries and journals. Fortunately, thanks to the Internet, many of these same articles are available to anyone that is interested. I’ve maintained fairly close relationships with the biomedical community. I live with my girlfriend in a beautiful pre-war three-bedroom condominium in Manhattan between Riverside Park and Central Park. She has a graduate degree from Stanford and runs sales for a division of a large investment bank.

    All of this can be vouched for by other people on this blog. But here’s the punchline. So fucking what? None of this has any bearing on the validity of anyone’s ideas or arguments. In the real world, it may change the venue where they are heard: school rankings, GPA, SAT, and IQ. These credentials are a necessary evil because people have limited time and resources. But curiousity shouldn’t be exchanged for dismissive, arrogant cynicism at graduation no matter how much you paid for the privilege.

    On a blog, exchange is effortless. No one has to present their credentials or modify their appearance in order to share their ideas. The fact that we can pull together and cross reference so much evidence so effortlessly is revolutionary. Sure there will be plenty of noise but the cost of sifting through that noise is far less than the cost of silencing people because they don’t have the right credentials (whatever those are).

    The Internet will not replace traditional learning but it does offer a medium of exchange that is free from unnecessary encumbrance. Mr. Valliant is completely free to call bullshit without any concern for social or professional repercussions. I can only offer more evidence so that our understanding might better align. Tommy may reveal a huge flaw in the theory. Or he may simply refuse to accept anything at all. Nevertheless, I’m convinced a blog is the best place for something as ambitious as alpha theory.

    With a click of a mouse, Mr. Kaplan can forward the URL to the smartest people he knows. Alpha theory may turn out to be a crackpot idea–that’s fine. But I want real evidence for why it’s wrong. Not hero worship epigrams from dead people.

    Alpha theory is not going to create a final recipe for how to live your life. Nothing ever will. Alpha theory states that such an aim is impossible. You must use your whole brain (right and left) to find the best strong solution for the current context. No matter how good that strong solution is for that occasion, it won’t be universally applicable. Old techniques will need to be re-evaluated regularly and may need to be revised or discarded. Life must constantly adapt.

    Art, science and philosophy are better experienced as verbs than collections of trophies. If alpha theory is right, it offers a Universal explanation of life–but remember, that’s not the same as a Universal recipe for how to live it–although such knowledge surely helps to chart a course.

    Anyone interested in credentials should head over to the alumni club. I’d prefer to forget credentials and concentrate on the ideas and the evidence that we can present to support them.

    It was a great destroyer of traditional patterns of behaviour, a crucible of new social reforms and ideas, a huge and anonymous thicket in which men and women could escape the scrutiny of the priest, squire and neighbors that regulated rural communities. In this new sense, like that of medieval towns, city air, foul though it might be, made men free.
    –J.M. Roberts on urbanization in the 19th century


  143. 143 143. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    I am thinking cannibalism is generally alphatropic, so long as you eat the dead and not kill. What say you?

    Is it? Compared to what other available alternatives? How likely do you think pathogens adapted to the immune system of another member of your species will find a way to adapt to yours? Is it more or less alphatropic than starving to death? How about compared to a well-balanced diet?


  144. 144 144. Jim Valliant

    If we can work out sound principles of diet (recognizing that improved science will improve our principles as we go), maybe we can do it with some greater generality to human conduct. How about the possibility of a set of ethical principles that really are universally applicable to the human race? I am profoundly unconvinced of the undemonstrated, radical skepticism towards "universal strong solutions." It may be a limitation of alpha theory itself–though I suspect only a self-imposed one–and, for myself, I will continue to treat rights as the absolutes that they are. I suspect that the alpha-originators will, too–or remind me to avoid their parties. With the "official Objectivist position" being decided by Aaron to emit from anyone who hangs out a shingle on a very, un-official "Objectivist" website, since Rand herself can provide no ammo here, I wonder what the fate of alpha theory will be–the cause of future dictatorships, no doubt…


  145. 145 145. Jim Valliant

    You know, and although you may not see it, Objectivism is perfectly consistent with the implications of alpha. (Ignoring for now all of the hidden metaphysical assumptions being denied.) Rand conceives of ethics exactly like the principles of good diet. Diet is to be evaluated in accordance with the needs of the human body–its present "configuration," if you like. As these change, say, one day with some genetic engineering of the human body, so the principles of good diet must change. Rand said that her ethics was the result of the fact that the human mode of consciousness, rational thought, was our species’ fundamental tool of survival, upon which all of the others depend. She conceived of rationality as the primary virtue only because it served the interests of human life. A whole series of principles of behavior stem from the needs of such a consciousness (including, but not limited to, I might observe, are "rights.") So long as human consciousness is "configured" as it is–and so long as rational thought is our primary means of closing the alpha*/alpha gap, as is the current, human "configuration"–such principles will obtain as (contextual) absolutes properly governing correct human behavior.


  146. 146 146. Tommy

    "and so long as rational thought is our primary means of closing the alpha*/alpha gap"

    What?


  147. 147 147. Tommy

    At this point is it neccessary to begin testing this theory in a lab? Not testing the pieces to the theory, that has been done. Testing if it supports the assumptions we have presented.

    "I’d prefer to forget credentials and concentrate on the ideas and the evidence that we can present to support them."

    See you tomorrow.


  148. 148 148. Jim Valliant

    Tommy,

    That’s really sad. The very faculty you are using so hard to get this, dude, the faculty that has put humans at the top of the food chain on this planet. Failure to recognize THIS little thing would put alpha out of all bounds, indeed.

    Humans most alphatropic behavior is the use of the same faculty that comes up with things like alpha. Birds gotta, fly, fish gotta swim, and unless you can get them to reconfigure themselves somehow… My OWN calculations must take my current configuration as a given, my nature, until I can actually reconfigure it. Indeed, reason is the human means of not having to wait for such physical or cultural evolution to change our filtration.

    See, ethics involves the decision-making that I do. A committee doesn’t decide how I move my arms about, I do.

    Indeed, Aaron’s comparison to utilitarianism is a much greater stretch: he hasn’t asked anyone to calculate the full impact of his own actions on anyone else, much less literally everyone else (a dauntingly impossible matter.) Alpha says "be alphatropic," it does not suggest any conflict between alphas will (or can?) arise, something utilitarianism simply assumes to be true. Aaron’s bizarre view of the orthodox Objectivist concept of rights aside, we curiously end up obeying the true Objectivist view.


  149. 149 149. Jim Valliant

    Explain the following:
    A thief has an opportunity to steal ten million dollars under circumstances that almost assure that he will not get caught (no, better still, under circumstances of certainty, he’s got the muscles of any law enforcement under control.) With this one, he can retire from theft. Now, the advantages to him of the money are clear. What exactly, according to alpha, (should/will/can) motivate him NOT to do it? The classic question: why should I be moral?


  150. 150 150. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki, Bourbaki, Bourbaki,

    Where to begin? First, what you got right.

    1)Surgically clean restrooms ARE good.

    2)Charlie Trotter ROCKS!

    3)Credentials don’t matter in making an argument or assessing the validity of an argument.

    Now, what you got wrong:

    1) I said cannibalism was "generally" alphatrophic, having anticipated the kuru gambit.

    2)The inability to keep a job, Bourbaki, is no badge of honor.

    3)You obviously mistake joshing for arrogance. I am a graduate of Binghamton University, or SUNY B as it was called then. LOTS of good things came from there. Richard Price taught there, as did Jean Casadesus (sp?)and Elmar Oliviera. One of my roommates was Chief Resident at Einstein Med and another got one of the most prestigious radiology fellowships in the country. As proof that darts, once thrown, must land somewhere, I was chosen by an otherwise estimable publication as one of the best lawyers in America. In one of your own fields, Susquahana Partners was born at SUNY B by Jeff Yass, my former bookie on campus. There is a very funny story about that which I won’t bore you with. Jeff’s senior guys are Binghamton alums. One, Andy Frost, was quite a competent philosopher.

    As for the ungraduated one, well, what can I say. I read his writing and think about what he writes. Ain’t that enough? I wouldn’t and don’t do that for lesser mortals. Even when he is wrong–not an uncommon event–I learn.

    4)You got the burden of proof wrong: I don’t have to prove alpha theory wrong, Aaron has to prove it right.

    5) Although beer in owner’s boxes tastes the same, the food does not (although it still ain’t any good).

    6) If she’ll have you, marry the girl. You ain’t easy to get along with and you ain’t gettin’ any younger.


  151. 151 151. Bill Kaplan

    Oh yeah, Bourbaki, I think you got the uncertainty formula wrong. If memory serves, there is uncertainty about 1/2 of h, not h.


  152. 152 152. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    The classic question: why should I be moral?

    What’s a few million here and there? Money only has value in an economy. An economy requires participants. If participants stop participating, the economy collapses. See Part 3.

    Mr. Kaplan,

    Apologies. I’ve heard credentialism used in place of evidence too many times. The string of comments appeared to be heading in that direction. Mr. Haspel is an excellent writer and, more importantly, is one of the few people that will call bullshit when he sees it. He’s honest enough to use that standard on his own positions as well as other’s.

    The inability to keep a job, Bourbaki, is no badge of honor.

    Nor is keeping one if opporunity knocks. But we have wisdom for that.

    You got the burden of proof wrong: I don’t have to prove alpha theory wrong, Aaron has to prove it right.

    An occasion for an epigram? Your buddy thought otherwise.

    "No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong."
    –Albert Einstein

    I think it works the same way in law, no?

    Oh yeah, Bourbaki, I think you got the uncertainty formula wrong. If memory serves, there is uncertainty about 1/2 of h, not h.

    Your other buddy, Bohr, published an alternative relationship in his Como lecture (1928). I don’t remember a 1/2 but, like I said, I get tripped up calculating a tip. If you want to look it up and throw a constant or another variable in the derivation, we’ll all benefit.


  153. 153 153. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    At this point is it neccessary to begin testing this theory in a lab? Not testing the pieces to the theory, that has been done. Testing if it supports the assumptions we have presented.

    I can’t stand the smell of nutrient broth nor the texture of bovine serum albumin. I think we’ll first have to see how well the principles explain data that has already been collected. But anyone else is free to take these ideas into the lab.


  154. 154 154. Aaron Haspel

    Alpha theory addresses the cannibalism and happy criminal problems in three words: consider the inputs. We are open, not closed, thermodynamic systems. Cannibals eat someone. Thieves steal from someone. These others are inputs to your system. To put the matter in terms with which Objectivists will sympathize, stealing ten million dollars and redistributing wealth via the state are alphadystropic for exactly the same reason, albeit on vastly different scales.


  155. 155 155. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    Most unpersuasive. The economy will continue just fine despite my theft–only I get the money in the meantime. How does one theft, even of millions, ever cause the economy to collapse, when history shows that even lots and lots of private thefts (amounting to billions) have so far never managed to do that. Are you saying that ANY and EVERY theft runs the risk of total economy-destruction? Now, once more, why should I avoid stealing this money this one time? You’ll need to do lots better than that to convince anyone outside of a classroom.


  156. 156 156. Jim Valliant

    No, Aaron, most thieves get away with it entirely, especially if they commit only one offense. Assume that I know with some degree of certainty that I will, as is OFTEN the case. No one theft is going to shatter the economy, even of a hundred millions. Why should I not steal this money right now. Please be slightly persuasive to the dude contemplating the decision, now.


  157. 157 157. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    VH1 has an excellent Behind the Music episode on MC Hammer. It might clear up the underlying principles for you. When you watch it, pretend Hammer is the US economy and his friends are the criminals.


  158. 158 158. MeTooThen

    Bourbaki,

    I suck.

    I used to just think it, now I know it.

    I started my graduate studies in developmental immunobiology after four semesters of college. Heeding the advice of my advisor, I applied to medical school at the same time, then graduated early, and at 20, started medical school.

    I chose a neurology residency and completed fellowships in neurophysiology and surgical epilepsy.

    I have done epilepsy and stroke research, created stroke prevention and treatment programs in different communities, and founded an interdisciplinary pain treatment center.

    I travel regularly and deliver about 40 lectures per year, teaching physicians the principles and methods of pain management and the nervous system.

    And now, after reading your bio, I know I gotta do something with my life! ;)

    And Leah,

    Here: Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain

    By Antonio Damasio, M.D.

    You might find it interesting.

    And this:

    Freud’s 1895 project. From mind to brain and back again.

    Z. Lothane, Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 May 15;843:43-65.

    And Tommy,

    I had the very great pleasure of speaking with Aaron about testing alpha.

    (BTW, Aaron, I hope you had a good time. If not, hell, you got free dirnks!)

    Anyway, I suggested using nanobots to measure alpha as a precursor to testing alpha in say, viruses.

    The time will come when alpha is measured in some system. Whether or not the time is now is debatable.

    Vetting the formulation is of prime importance.

    As I cannot do that, I must allow for others to do so.

    In the meantime, I agree with Bourbaki (or shall I say, Bourbaki the Magnificent!), spend some time with core material. It helps me. I am reading Asimov’s Understanding Phsysics. It is a long way from what I did in college, but it’s serving as a warm-up for additional studies in thermodynamics n’stuff.

    Just sayin’.


  159. 159 159. MeTooThen

    D’oh!

    Physics.

    Physysicsysics.

    Must.Spell.Check.

    See.

    I am a dope.


  160. 160 160. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    Here it is:

    dp x dx > h / (2 x pi)

    I really am stupid and lazy. I forgot the pi bit, which makes perfect sense in retrospect.

    When Einstein said that, he was the toast of modern civilization. I think Aaron is at a somewhat different stage with alpha theory. I also believe Einstein was kinda wrong (accuse me of credentialism now will ya?). While no amount of experimentation could prove him right, and one experiment could prove him wrong, not every incompatible experimental finding would serve to disprove. Theories can have exclusions, modifications and amendments with additional experiments. As Feynman said, "It used to be thought that the movements of the planets could be explained by invisible angels beating their wings behind them. As you will see, this theory has since been modified."


  161. 161 161. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    "Clear it up"…for ME?! Why not try to clear it up, period. Alpha gives the prospective thief no good reason not to steal, "just this once," or not one that I can yet detect. Why on earth should he even care about abstract or collective alpha implications when the money would so improve his life and, all other things being equal, this one act won’t destroy the world? So, give it a whirl. If you think I will be tough to persuade, just imagine trying to persuade the average Joe, your real challenge. That is, if this is "ethics."

    Words won’t bite, Bourbaki. Give it shot. Aaron is free to chime in, too.


  162. 162 162. Bourbaki

    MeTooThen,

    And now, after reading your bio, I know I gotta do something with my life! ;)

    My recipe doesn’t cook very evenly. I only posted that puff piece because I (mistakenly) thought that Mr. Kaplan was trashing a state school. It turns out I was wrong.

    Aaron passed along your endorsement for Kandel. I ordered a copy–although at 1400 pages, it may take some time to finish. I’m reading Sacks right now.

    Mr. Kaplan,

    Your formula is still wrong. Isn’t it 4Pi? But, hey, we’re talking Planck scales. Physicists use optical combs to cheat it but it still trips up bad philosophy.

    And, yes, experiments can cause a theory to modified rather than thrown out altogether.

    Feynman was a brilliant man and a great teacher. He was also a wise-ass. Some of his quotes are really stupid.


  163. 163 163. Bill Kaplan

    Jim,

    Get over it, no matter what Aaron says it ain’t ethics. Ethics analyses what is right and wrong. Alpha theory ASSUMES what is good (it makes a pretty good assumption)then has quite a few formulae that no one on earth can figure out the imputs for. NO ONE CAN FIGURE OUT CORRECT ACTION FROM ALPHA THEORY. So it ain’t ethics, it ain’t math, it ain’t science. I think the most interesting application for alpha theory, as I have said before, is to do historical analysis, including legal analysis. Alpha theory will lead you to think like Jared Diamond in history (Diamond has been torn to shreds in my book by Victor Davis Hanson), Richard Posner in jurisprudence, and Hayek in economics. All around, that’s an a-minus. Not too shabby.


  164. 164 164. Jim Valliant

    It’s swell that we live a world where most folks aren’t thieves. So what? Thieves even depend on this fact. Again, so what? Why can’t or shouldn’t I try to be one of the pampered exceptions. There are lots of REPEAT offenders livin’ high on the hog in the south of France. I just want to pull off one really good job.

    Waiting has commenced.


  165. 165 165. Jim Valliant

    Bill,

    I still think that we can get a bit more out of alpha than just a historical analysis.


  166. 166 166. Bill Kaplan

    Bourbaki,

    Haven’t seen the 4pi formula. I think it is "> or =" rather than the ">", but besides that, what is wrong?

    I like that Feynmann was a wise-ass. What I don’t like is how self-satisfied he was about being a wise-ass.

    BTW, the greatest wise-ass in the world was my son when he was 3.5 years old. He likes to go to gas stations. We get into the Saab and he says, "Dad, we need gas."

    "Max, this gauge says we can go 354 miles before we need gas. How far do you think it is to school (1/2 mile)"

    "355 miles Dad."


  167. 167 167. Jim Valliant

    Upon further reflection, if the economy is actually in danger of imminent collapse, all the more reason to start stealing…and NOW. Besides, my uses of the money would be far more alphatropic, anyway…


  168. 168 168. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    NO ONE CAN FIGURE OUT CORRECT ACTION FROM ALPHA THEORY

    You have a kindred soul in Ernst Mach. He said the same about tracking the individual paths of atoms when criticizing the kinetic theory of gases.

    Mr. Valliant,

    No dynamic system, including an economy, is 2 legit 2 quit. If it collapses, the money you steal becomes worthless.


  169. 169 169. MeTooThen

    Bourbaki,

    Oliver Sacks is a fine place to start.

    "Street Neurology" is something Sacks does well.

    Spend one or two days with a neurologist in their office or on rounds in a hospital, and you’ll likely see enough clinical material to fill several books, ala Sacks.

    And yes, Principles of Neural Science is the book (I read the 2nd edition).

    It only took me one year to read it (during my residency) and that’s because I had to!

    It is a superbly well written book. I know of no other book of such magnitude that is it’s equal (in any subject).

    The best way to experience a book like this is to study it while seeing patients, but alone it still delivers the goods.

    BTW, I read the reviews of it at Amazon. The criticisms are fair, I think. But nowhere else is there one source to understand the nervous system from neuron to behavior.

    Just sayin’.

    Enjoy!


  170. 170 170. Jim Valliant

    Again, Mr. Bourbaki, so what? Are you actually saying that MY feeble efforts can get it to collapse? Geesh, I’m not even the Hunt brothers gobbling-up silver, either… The question is still actively pending.


  171. 171 171. MeTooThen

    Mr. Valliant,

    Here:

    "A thief has an opportunity to steal ten million dollars under circumstances that almost assure that he will not get caught (no, better still, under circumstances of certainty, he’s got the muscles of any law enforcement under control) With this one, he can retire from theft. Now, the advantages to him of the money are clear. What exactly, according to alpha, (should/will/can) motivate him NOT to do it?"

    Your hypothetical, I think, raises interesting questions about F.

    Take the information that, "…under circumstances of certainty, he’s got the muscles of any law enforcement under control."

    Your presume that stealing the money is alphatropic. I am not so sure.

    The relationship of the thief to the law enforcement officials needs to be understood in terms of its alpha*.

    Whatever its basis, this type of relationship most likely has its own risks, and that given the nature of illegal relationships, it is alphadystropic, no matter whether or not the thief steals the money.

    And "retiring from stealing" sounds alphatropic enough, but what about that $10 million dollars. My guess (and it is, of course, a guess) is that the thief may be wrong as to the "advantages" of the money.

    Look at the fate of many lottery winners. Many suffer serious negative consequences from the ill use or misuse of their winnings.

    As for the government officials who steal, they too do so at some risk that may yet prove to collapse their system. I guess it all depends on F. Even if you are a French Senator (who are immune from prosecution), the answer, on its face is that there are no consequencses. Or are there any?

    The relationship to F and alpha* is usually one (at least in crime stories) where F is either ignored or the failure to follow it leads to alphadystropic consequences.

    As far as the French go (or other despotic types) measurements of alpha* are needed.


  172. 172 172. Jim Valliant

    MeTooThen,

    No, you don’t get my point yet at all. I do NOT assume that theft is alphatropic. I wonder why any given individual should care about the alpha effect of any particular decision. Even assuming that theft is alphadystrophic, why not do it under circumstances where I can get away with it? Why should an individual under a specific set of circumstances not steal?

    The rest is also beside the point. My future decisions, I promise, will all be alphatropic. I just want to know why I can’t get away with a couple of instances of theft. (I only need to pull off one really good one.) Also, early retirement doesn’t strike me as very alphatropic.

    And, by the way, I want some alpha-guidance for this calculation of my own F. And how do we evaluate the merits of one F over another. (That’s a question that’s been pending for some time now.)


  173. 173 173. Jim Valliant

    The tidal wave in Asia was alphadystropic in no different sense than Hitler was, right? But the two are ethically identical, right? The two were "evil" in the same way? Good weather conditions are virtuous in no different way than humans? Obliterate this distinction and you have obliterated ethics.


  174. 174 174. Bill Kaplan

    Jim,

    Let me repeat: Aaron is wrong, it is not a theory of ethics. Don’t sweat it. What it is is a theory of evaluation. When Sartre says somewhere in "Being and Nothingness" (a funny book a book, I recall) that we decide that wreckage is bad and order is good and that is just a preference, alpha theory is an answer to that madness. It is not in and of itself a theory of ethics, but it does tell us why certain states are preferable.

    Bourbaki,

    I’ll take a comparison to Mach any day of the week, but I think your analogy was a stretch.


  175. 175 175. Jim Valliant

    Bill,

    Thank you, and well put: it does help with certain evaluations, and that’s exactly why I thought better of alpha than mere "history." The description of the alpha wake itself may provide a powerful yardstick for certain evaluations. But it does not enter the domain of ethics, yet.


  176. 176 176. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    Ethics analyses what is right and wrong. Alpha theory ASSUMES what is good

    You have it backwards. Ethics "analyses"? I’d like to see how far you can stretch that term.

    I’ll take a comparison to Mach any day of the week, but I think your analogy was a stretch.

    Boltzmann revealed him a fool.

    Mr. Valliant,

    What is your question? How to convince this "Average Joe" not to steal? Or what stealing does to an economy?


  177. 177 177. Tommy

    Alpha theory and the Tao Teh Ching have a lot in common ground as far as their opinions of action. Especially where Lao Tan (Tzu) talks of the Tao.

    By the way: seems to me filtration is not only picking the right action but the right moment to act. Was that said? I can’t remember.


  178. 178 178. Tommy

    "What is your question? How to convince this "Average Joe" not to steal? Or what stealing does to an economy?"

    why not both?

    "Boltzmann revealed him a fool."

    Not really Bourbaki. Calling him a fool is like calling you one for your stupid sports analogy about winning strategy and other coaches all using it, even though that would mean that one of them would have to lose. You were wrong, not a fool.


  179. 179 179. MeTooThen

    Mr. Valliant,

    Here:

    "No, you don’t get my point yet at all. I do NOT assume that theft is alphatropic."

    Um, it sure did sound like you presumed stealing was alphatropic.

    You wrote above, "Now, the advantages to him of the money are clear."

    Did I miss something?

    Further: "I wonder why any given individual should care about the alpha effect of any particular decision."

    Isn’t that the whole point? That for every decision, we should care about its effect on alpha, and when we do, we act ethically.

    More: "Even assuming that theft is alphadystrophic, why not do it under circumstances where I can get away with it? Why should an individual under a specific set of circumstances not steal?"

    As I tried to point out, stealing and getting away with it still involves consequences. And often, those consequences, or at least the circumstances of the thief and his theft, are alphadystropic. Not stealing is ethical, usually, and illegal, almost certainly. Whether or not to steal depends on alpha*.

    It is simple, this. Measuring alpha* is not. It may turn out that stealing under any circumstances is alphadystropic by virtue of its illegality alone.

    End of story.

    Or not.

    Not all ethical behavior is legal.

    And not all legal behavior is alphatropic.

    What problem is there with that?

    And this:

    "The tidal wave in Asia was alphadystropic in no different sense than Hitler was, right? "

    Huh?

    In all fairness, I can’t understand how you could ask this question, even if it was rhetorical.

    With all due respect, the rest of your comments that follow in the same post are equally hollow.


  180. 180 180. Jim Valliant

    MeeTooThen,

    You did miss something, I think. We are left saying that theft, in careful moderation, and avoiding strong universal solutions, is ethical. Obviously, too many heists become alphadystrophic, but, under the appropriate circumstances, a robbery or two is the moral thing to do, even if usually it is not. Certainly we could say the same of murder, no? Bad habit, sure, but now and again… surely alphatropic in some cases, no doubt? I mean, being a total hypocrite might be the way to go, don’t you think? I would be best served by ADVOCATING peaceful and property-respecting behavior, but privately violating such rules myself when the occasion arouse? (Rights are a myth, anyway, and no one has any "natural" claim to their property.) This actually HELPS keep the whole economy intact and maximizes the effect of the scheme. Why not? This sound like alpha-max! Just trying to be ethical.

    Any objections?


  181. 181 181. Tommy

    Jim: Robin Hood. In a candy cane revisionist way he works as an ideal. In real life, I don’t see it. Either way, how does stealing require of alpha theory anything different than not stealing?

    "Isn’t that the whole point? That for every decision, we should care about its effect on alpha, and when we do, we act ethically."

    You are saying that my caring about the way my actions effect the transference of energy from complex forms on towards disorder is the point of alpha theory?

    Are you saying that understanding alpha theory helps me to increase my alpha star (or more broad universal manifestation)? I thought a consequence of alpha theory was that I was always trying to do that anyways, and that the only restraint was the pattern in which my cells interact with the available free energy.

    Seems to me that knowledge of alpha doesn’t help make my decisions better. Tell me how it does? Tell me what it did for you.


  182. 182 182. Tommy

    I have been criticized, with justification, for being disorganized and spouting indecipherable gibberish. I have been informed that a lack of response to my writing is a direct response to this. Everyone of you who understand alpha will understand why this occurred. It is a fun little example, and that is why I mention it (besides the fact that I have taken the suggestion and exerted more forethought).

    A filtration represents all information available to Eustace when he chooses a course of action.
    Therefore, it is of value to note that to a human the amount of information available to him is never equal to his conscious awareness. I will never be aware of all that I know nor all the weak solutions I formulated nor their effectiveness in moment (T). Does this suggest that my creation of an optimal choice is being made somewhere outside the realm of my conscious consideration? If so/if not, this suggests a schism between the application of many of our theories because of the agency of their explanation. A being lacking sentience could not use strategies in the same sense as a human could in regards to alpha UNLESS THE GOVERNING MECHANISMS OF US ALL ARE THE SAME, and our consciousness is just a fun complication that we use to notice pattern and therefore live. How well a life can notice a pattern and respond to it, shows how well it can live. In fact, it seems alpha suggests that humans and plants are always attempting the same thing. It is just that we might choose more responses than a plant, though not verifiably (yet) more complex.

    all encountering continuous changes in pH, salinity and temperature. Some will end up in conformations that mediate the disruptive effects of these Gaussian fluctuations
    How are pH salinity and temperate Gaussian fluctuations? Is it because they suggest a definite and continuous (optimal) response? Where can I read about non-anticipatory strategies (that book by Waldrop?)

    A strong solution is any specified trajectory for a random process.
    Then a strong solution is the embodiment of specific and continuos universal occurrences right?

    This distribution is a weak solution, which is defined, not by its path, which is unknown, but only by the moments of a probability distribution. If Eustace knows a random process is stationary, he has confidence that the moments of the process will converge to the same values every time.
    This means all moments converge to the same values every time all moments are calculated, but it also means that a single moment, calculated again and again, will remain the same no matter how many times it is calculated, and that therefore the only effect a single moment might generate must come LATER.

    Also: sooner rather than later (this is semantic and obsolete language, saying, essentially, he will do it before he HAS DONE IT)…must risk a strong solution. He must risk HAVING FAITH in his strong solution. He must risk ACTING out on his strong solution. But that assumes he might make one. And that assumption, despite your indication otherwise, is false. You see, you said earlier of course Eustace can’t know such a path in advance and that therefore Eustace can never make a strong solution, rather, he is limited to convincing himself that his weak solution is THE strong solution. Eustace could never, regardless of the (your word here) risk know the path and therefore make a solution to it, as the reality is Gaussian and Poisson. Or is that false?

    The more of the available filtration Eustace uses, the better he does in the casino.
    What? This means the more accumulated information Eustace uses to base his course of action on the more complex and stable he will be. But wouldnt that only be the case if the information available to Eustace suggested to him both non-anticipatory strategies (constantly adjusting) and strategies that might generate the most alpha in the face of Poisson occurrences. His strategies might be wrong, as with the wildebeest: even smelling the lion might be too late if the lion is particularly fast (how could he know) or the wildebeest is particularly slow (if it is his first time running from any random lion, L).
    calculate first-order consequences pretty well, second-order consequences notoriously badly, and the third order is like the third bottle of wine:
    What does that mean? Third order? Huh.


  183. 183 183. Tommy

    "Isn’t that the whole point? That for every decision, we should care about its effect on alpha, and when we do, we act ethically."

    Actually, that is not the kind of ethics Jim or Bill will accept, since alpha in that case is stated in regard to all life, but not to their (or any theoretically specified) specific human life or collection of indivdual lives. Thinking in terms of how your action will effect the entirety of life (being) and not simply inorganic compositions, which to life are simply patterns of energy, will not, for them, be ethics.


  184. 184 184. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    Boltzmann and Mach had a classic debate in the 19th century. Boltzmann used math and science to justify his position. Mach used philosophy.

    Mach lost.

    The debates are interesting to read. Mach offers up a lot of sophistry and snap judgements that sound very familiar.

    Math recently entered its modern phase with Descarte in 1637 and science followed with Newton in the 18th century. In my opinion, both fields have become a little too arrogant and dismissive of outsiders.

    As a subject of study, some students even end up hating math.

    Those analogies I made were for anyone who didn’t happen to know the underlying math and science. You don’t need to read the analogies–you can simply learn the science. Have you picked up Waldrop yet?

    Mr. Valliant,

    Obviously, too many heists become alphadystrophic, but, under the appropriate circumstances, a robbery or two is the moral thing to do, even if usually it is not. Certainly we could say the same of murder, no? Bad habit, sure, but now and again…

    Nope.

    Life is not a series of binary choices. Seeing it that way will lead to a lot of false dilemmas. The smallest action can still be considered in alpha terms. A path that avoids alphadystropic consequences is always the better one.

    I explained the consequences for an economy. You’re predicting the future outcome for an individual. That’s impossible. Instead, you need to weigh all the possible consequences of stealing against not stealing. They’re rather dire. You’re jeopardizing your freedom, your mental and physical health, and all of your social relationships.

    You can be alphatropic without stealing. That’s a better path.

    Numbers don’t need to be crunched for every situation. Many scenarios have already been worked out just fine without alpha theory. In ethics, alpha theory allows us to take an unresolved debate to a higher and more rigorous level of abstraction. If you were to get a mobile phone with GPS, you wouldn’t need it to find your bathroom.

    And, no, I wasn’t drinking. But I can be too impulsive with the ‘post’ button.


  185. 185 185. Bourbaki

    Asking if a given action is alphatropic independent of any other context is meaningless. You need to consider the context. That’s what your brain is for. You wouldn’t need such a hungry organ if you could distill your course of action to a list of recipes.

    "Is breathing alphatropic?"

    Not if you’ve just been thrown to the bottom of a swimming pool.


  186. 186 186. Jim Valliant

    O.k., so some theft is moral under alpha. Got it.


  187. 187 187. Jim Valliant

    Nor can we predict outcomes from any of our behavior, got it.

    My odds of personal success in a heist are never any better than in doing the traditionally moral thing, Got that, too.

    Thanks, all clear.


  188. 188 188. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    O.k., so some theft is moral under alpha. Got it.

    I think I once played a video game where I stole Nazi gold to stop the funding of a super-weapon. I was a hero. Well, at least that’s what the video game called me.

    I think I understand the source of your confusion. Mr. Haspel didn’t say that rights aren’t a good idea. He only said that they are nothing more than a concept. They don’t exist outside an idea in the material world. Or are you now a dualist?

    You have the right to come and go as you please in your own home, no?

    But what if, while you’re at work, a neighbor hears a gunshot from your house and calls the police. They arrive to find a body in your living room and seal off the entire area to collect evidence.

    Do you still have rights to come and go into your own private home as you please? What if you snuck out during lunch to commit the crime?

    Are your rights to your house absolute?

    Consider the mutual fund timing scandal. Let’s say you honorably stick with one job your whole life so it’s the only thing you can do to support yourself. You steal a little now and then by timing your trades.

    Somebody somewhere figures it out and you end up arrested and barred from doing the only job you know.

    Consider a life of honest work and a rich social network compared to life of risk, paranoia and alienation over an unsolved crime that you committed.

    You can’t fast forward the tape to see how it all ends up.

    "What if I bought the winning lottery ticket? Wouldn’t being lucky be better than working?"

    You need to consider all possible outcomes and normalize them based on their likelihood.

    If you do something illegal, someone may eventually figure it out and your life may be ruined. And to do this so you can "retire"? To do what?

    In an economy, money corresponds to free energy not alpha. The game isn’t to acquire the most money any more than it is to eat the most food. After you have enough to be secure and comfortable, acquiring more isn’t going to make you happier (or more alphatropic). Maslow was onto this.

    Tommy,

    Don’t just copy and past passages and type "Huh?" afterwards. You’ve already shown that you’re too sharp for that. Quit being so lazy. Hit the books.


  189. 189 189. Jim Valliant

    Oh, and that was not serious, for those in doubt.


  190. 190 190. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    Sorry. We overlapped. It looks like you got it before I posted the follow up.


  191. 191 191. Bourbaki

    Ok. Maybe not.


  192. 192 192. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    I will patiently wait as you try to rework the absurd dismissal of the concept of rights that you find yourself in. But that was a small slice of the pie.

    I will wait, I think, even longer for a reason NEVER to steal from you. I am told nothing but it is usually not a good idea. O.k., so what?

    I’m not advocating a life of crime–though many successful crooks sure seem content to me–just one good one with high odds of success. As an advocate of alpha, I assure you such primitive, religious things like guilt about moral absolutes won’t be factor.

    Happiness, psychology!?!? Where does that factor in, again? And what if I just thrived on the excitement of crime? What kind of subjective, religious, generalizations are you making here?

    One ALPHA reason to be moral, please.


  193. 193 193. Bourbaki

    One ALPHA reason to be moral, please.

    I think you’re afraid that alpha is somehow going to force you ditch Objectivism. It won’t anymore than your GPS phone will force you to ditch your normal senses.

    But Objectivism ain’t science.

    I will patiently wait as you try to rework the absurd dismissal of the concept of rights that you find yourself in.

    Hey–if you can show them to me, I’ll check ‘em out. Is there someplace I can order a few samples? I’m even willing to pay extra for next-day delivery.

    just one good one with high odds of success.

    Translation: I am not advocating spending all of my money LOTTO. Just on the numbers that win

    Happiness, psychology!?!? Where does that factor in, again

    Are you a dualist? Or do you not recognized the phsysiological cost of mental health?


  194. 194 194. Jim Valliant

    Bringing up Objectivism always shows your psychological insecurity off so well. No, really, insecurity looks good on you, dude.

    Back to the problem you still face. Please tell me why it is always and necessarily a bad thing, an alphadystropic thing, to steal from you. Now this sounds to me like a universal strong solution precluded by the theory itself. But of course that is what is required unless we end up saying SOME theft is good.

    I am one who believes in consciousness and that the answer to your situation here lies in the nature of consciousness. But such slippery concepts are to be avoided. Besides, MY F, let us say, really likes criminal activities as much as you like science.

    What am I missing?


  195. 195 195. Jim Valliant

    I’ve learned my lesson well here, about ethics. Only do thefts where you have high odds success.


  196. 196 196. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    Bringing up Objectivism always shows your psychological insecurity off so well. No, really, insecurity looks good on you, dude.

    I bring up Objectivism because it’s the only thing you ever cite. You appear to be religiously devoted to it. And you’re offended by slights against. I can’t imagine being offended by anyone ridiculing math.

    Objectivism doesn’t work well in translation. Without an empirical reference, there’s not "rational-meter" to use between two people. That’s why I called it solipsism. It doesn’t seem to encourage you to dig any deeper than ideas that suit you. You can justify anything to yourself but it’s a different game when you’re dealing with others.

    Now where’s the material evidence for the physical existence of "rights"? I think they’re a grand idea. I think they’re necessary for a good social system. But I haven’t seen evidence of their independent existence.

    Introspection doesn’t work so well alone. You sometimes need to jump outside the system to see what’s going on.

    No Objectivist or intospection or philosophy would have revealed that you spend much of your life physically blind.

    Or that for much of it, you’re just filling in pieces.

    Please tell me why it is always and necessarily a bad thing, an alphadystropic thing, to steal from you.

    It’s not. You’re talking about all conceivable situations. It depends on the specific situation. You have to use your brain. Any recipe is going to break down.

    If you discover a neighbor building a nuclear bomb in his basement and you find out out that he’s going to detonate it, it’s alphatropic for you to steal the timer. In other words, to dispossess him of property.

    You’re going to have to weigh the risks against calling the police and factor in the time it will take them to arrive. It’s an extreme response but one that can be justified if there is evidence to back it up.


  197. 197 197. Jim Valliant

    Aaron,

    Do I get the blame for repeating myself (see below)?

    Bourbaki,

    Have you been drinking?

    How hard do I have to work at being alphatropic?

    Example: I understand all of the virtues of alpha and, I promise, cross-my-heart, to do my very best, to be alphatropic. Well, except now and then, when it serves my selfish interests. If I can get away with, say, a single good heist, a cool ten or twenty million, I promise never to do an alphadystropic thing like stealing again. Since I won’t be making a career of this, and since under these circumstances, let’s say, I’m almost certain to get away with it… whaddya say? Good to go under the ethics of alpha?


  198. 198 198. Jim Valliant

    When math is assailed, you should be angry. Sad, really, if you are not–and just another opening for the mystics. Those mystics at the gate would love to see it go down along with everything else resembling alpha. Trust me.

    But just exactly WHY you keep bringing up Objectivism, especially when the sweat beads become most discernable on your forehead, is, of course, not at all clear. I did not bring it up, so what’s your point in still more embarrassingly inaccurate accounts of Objectivism? (You–and Aaron–haven’t yet said ONE accurate thing about Objectivism, so none of your tirades even helps to do whatever you think you are doing by bringing it up. Ah, well…)

    Well, back to your sticky situation. Rights are a "necessity" now? !! ….. Excuse me, uncontrollable laughter has seized me…..!!!

    O.k., but don’t be turning those non-physical entities (or whatever) into "strong solutions"–there are none, remember? I would have thought universal human "necessities," if not "solutions," like you now admit rights to be, might be a bit more common than just rights. Give it some thought.

    Thus, at least we have gotten this far: it is openly conceded that some theft, murder and rape is quite moral, so long as my odds of success are really good. All cleared up. It comes down to things like whether the police will become aware of it (many crimes do avoid that), whether I happen to be the nervous type or the guilty type, etc. "Proper" theft should, of course, not be limited to imminently blasting nukes. Indeed, theft only in self-defense sounds like another "universal strong solution" to me. Sometimes I can do it just for greed, right? Or are you being universal/strong again?

    Since you find yourself in an uncomfortable spot, let’s add another kind of problem. An unconscious woman is raped. She never finds out, the man was infertile and free of disease and his penis so small she would have hardly felt it anyway (all things he knew in advance.) Since I can only calculate odds and not outcomes, this was a totally safe bet. Unless and until she finds out, nothing immoral has occurred, right? Intentions do not matter, only consequences, and since there was no down side for her, all was highly ethical, right? A morally superior situation, right? His F was appeased and without impacting on hers at all. ALPHA-double-plus-good, right?


  199. 199 199. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    When math is assailed, you should be angry. Sad, really, if you are not–and just another opening for the mystics.Yes. Because you think very clearly when you’re angry.


    There is plenty in Rand to make a modern reader queasy, though you would not know so from Mr. Britting’s worshipful text. For example, there is something to the claim that like so many of the intellectuals, left or right, of her time she succumbed to the cruder forms of social Darwinism. For a woman who worshiped man, Rand did not always seem that fond of mankind.

    Rand lived in an era of stark ideological choices; to argue in muted, reasonable tones was to lose the debate. As a graduate of Lenin’s Russia, she knew that the stakes were high, and how effective good propaganda could be.

    It sounds like religious ideology to me. Another "unauthorized" source, I’m sure. You seem to be the only person in the world who understands her philosophy. Again, that’s solipsism.

    I’m mentioning it because it seems to be the source of your positions. It’s helpful to see how your respond to other’s take on it. So far, you’ve dismissed everyone except Rand herself (she’s dead) and that Peikoff guy. Two people.

    Since I can only calculate odds and not outcomes, this was a totally safe bet.

    This is where you are wrong. Probability doesn’t work that way. You are stuck in the 19th century–back when the lure of the left brain was a strong one and strong Newtonian determinism was a tempting illusion. You’re shifting F@t with any index you please. That’s not possible unless you’ve got a time machine.

    There was a belief that some set of closed logical rules could capture all situations and not lead to undecidability. Hilbert tried to accomplish this for the laws of natural numbers.

    Didn’t work. For mere natural numbers. Godel proved it would never work for general logical relationships. Of course, this was early 20th century.

    It’s not going to work for Rand’s logical Utopia either.

    However, Gerhard Gentzen proved that arithmetic was self-consistent. In thermdynamics, we have a conservation law. We can derive a relationship, alpha, that corresponds to physical health of living systems. It still doesn’t allow us to float around F@t with an arbitrary index but it does give us a theoretical absolute direction–irrespective of the engineering issues involved in its calculation.

    You can either blindly follow a universal strong solution or you can take into account all available information at F@t-d to yield a path that maximizes alpha for the systems involved.


  200. 200 200. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    Our legal process has trouble with absolutes as well. Are they all "irrational"?

    The work of deciding cases goes on every day in hundreds of courts throughout the land. Any judge, one might suppose, would find it easy to describe the process which he had followed a thousand times and more. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    If a precedent is applicable, when do I refuse to follow it? If no precedent is applicable, how do I reach the rule that will make a precedent for the future? If I am seeking logical consistency, the symmetry of legal structure, how far shall I seek it? At what point shall the quest be halted by some discrepant custom, by some consideration of social welfare, by my own or the common standards of justice and morals?

    I take judge-made law as one of the existing realities of life.

    –Benjamin N. Cardozo
    The Nature of the Judicial Process

    201 posts and counting.


  201. 201 201. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    The inner torment over your unresolved problems is that bad, huh? Just calm down. You’ll "probably" survive.

    No, logic is logic and anger is anger, (that was fair) but, yes, anger will help you out sometimes. Or, are emotions now useless, too. Geez, and I thought we were now simply wallowing in aspects of a consciousness that doesn’t really exist!

    But just exactly WHY are rights "necessary"? To whom and for what? Don’t you know that "probability doesn’t work that way"?

    And, oh, yes, Authority determines what Objectivism says, i.e., what Rand said, and how could any of those fine folks be wrong, anyway? How could I have been so dense as to stick to the author of a philosophy rather than her hostile critics? But, dude, why keep at Rand like some O-C Howard Hughes rather than confront the unsolved issue on the table? (We were talking aboput alpha and its problem before you changed the subject for no apparent reason.)

    Psychiatric help is recommended, but your problems are just mounting. I suggest sticking to alpha rtaher than take on more issues you won’t be able to resolve.


  202. 202 202. MeTooThen

    Bourbaki,

    You’re on fire!

    Cardozo, good one.

    Again F@t-1

    Mr. Valliant,

    There are always consequences.

    First, when someone chooses one behavior, one does so at the exclusion of other behaviors.

    And remember, theft and sexual assault are illegal, and that in and of itself makes likely those acts are alphadystropic.

    And yes, the case of theft of the timer is a good example of when ethical behavior is sometimes illegal (see above).

    "Rights" are necessary because they are alphatropic. We define them, implement them, and enforce them because so.

    The nations where the rights of its citizens are upheld are the most prosperous, most free, with the best health care, longest longevities, etc. All seemingly alphatropic.

    Natan Sharanksy makes this claim cogently, in http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1586482610/qid=1106942495/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-6724299-9085707?v=glance&s=books&n=507846"The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.


  203. 203 203. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    Will you consider updating your understanding of science while I go attend to my inner torment? Mental health is very important.

    You see, randomness in mathematics sounds impossible. If anything, mathematics is where there is least randomness, where there is most certainty and order and pattern and structure in ideas. Well, if you go back to Boltzmann’s work, Boltzmann also put together two concepts which seem contradictory and invented an important new field, statistical mechanics.

    I remember as a student reading those two words “statistical mechanics,” and thinking how is it possible—aren’t these contradictory notions? Something mechanical is like a machine, predictable. What does statistics have to do with mechanics? These seem to be two widely separate ideas. Of course it took great intellectual courage on Boltzmann’s part to apply statistical methods in mechanics, which he did with enormous success.

    Statistical mechanics now is a fundamental part of physics. One forgets how controversial Boltzmann’s ideas were when they were first proposed, and how courageous and imaginative he was. Boltzmann’s work in many ways is closely connected to my work and to Gdel’s work, which may be a little surprising.

    I’m trying to understand Gdel’s great incompleteness theorem, I’m obsessed with that. I believe that the full meaning of Gdel’s result can be obtained by taking Boltzmann’s ideas and applying them to mathematics and to mathematical logic. In other words, I propose a thermodynamical approach, a statistical-mechanics approach, to understanding the foundations of mathematics, to understanding the limitations and possibilities of mathematical reasoning.

    Gregory J. Chaitin, IBM Research Division, New York (1991)


  204. 204 204. Bourbaki

    MeTooThen,

    Even if proven wrong, alpha theory does make learning a lot more interesting (at least for me). Mr. Kaplan saw application in law and history. I see them in biology, computer science and economics.

    It’s been a good motivator to study new fields. I don’t think I would have ever read Marvin Harris without it. There’s a much better chance that I will actually get through all of Kandel. Darnell, Lodish and Baltimore took me a year in graduate school. There was no concept of any unifying principles–just common features in living cells.

    And it brings attention to outmoded ideas in science that continue to serve as straw men.

    It seems to deliver on E.O. Wilson’s Consilience.


  205. 205 205. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    Objectivsim isn’t your forte, so, without mentioning it or Rand, please just attempt the answer what we both know is impossible to answer under alpha.

    This will be, mercifully for you, my last shot at getting you to actually respond, rather than evade–AGAIN.

    "One or two thefts are o.k., so long as we ‘use our brains’ and the odds are really good for success." How does alpha respond?


  206. 206 206. Jim Valliant

    MeeTooThen,

    Yes, and the "consequences" of having ten million buck are really clear to me. When the chances of getting caught are near nil, it does sound tempting under alpha to steal. Rights should takes a back seat here, just as they do when my neighbor has a nuke. Outside of getting caught, I don’t see what my problem with "others" is. Having learned to avoid religious ethics, from alpha, trust me, there will be no guilt involved. (primitive thing, really.) And, indeed, the opportunity cost of NOT stealing seems highly alphadytrophic itself.

    And, are you actually saying what you seem to be saying: outside of a legal structure, what we call "criminal activity" is more likely to be moral, i.e., it is less alphadystrophic (if at all)??

    This is more wretched than the crudest form of pragmatism. Qua ethics, that is.

    What a mess!


  207. 207 207. Jim Valliant

    Too All and Sundry,

    I am increasingly concerned about the appearance of strong universal solutions on this thread, folks. Historically fortuitous "necessities," and contextual absolutes, appearing here, there, everywhere… Please stop it.

    Aaron,

    Do you support the concept of "rights" articulated above. It’s good for a few laughs, but, seriously…??


  208. 208 208. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    Objectivsim isn’t your forte

    A pity. I wasted all those years learning all this other crap.

    No one seems to understand it. Anyone who challenges it is "excommunicated". I don’t know what Objectivism could be a "forte" for. It’s an ideology. It’s a insular caricature of the world. Challenging an idea in math or science doesn’t open the door for mystics or justify anger. Although some scientists are prone to fits.

    It’s the scientific method that matters. It’s about how well the evidence fits the model and how much can be explained with the fewest assumptions. Science is constantly challenging itself. Ideologies, instead, rely on sophistry to disregard new and potentially contradictory information.

    But I’m getting the impression by the lack of diverse citations and references that you don’t challenge your assumptions much.

    "One or two thefts are o.k., so long as we ‘use our brains’ and the odds are really good for success." How does alpha respond?

    Are you including stealing someone’s heart?

    Up to seventeen thefts are fine (no more, no less) so long as the outcome is alphatropic for the systems involved. In the prior example, if there were six timers or twelve, you can steal the lot of them. But you can’t just "decide" that the outcomes are alphatropic because they seem that way through "instrospection". You have to provide evidence.

    You’re falling prey to a selective sample bias: "I’ve seen criminals get away with a crime". You’re not considering all the criminals that failed. A life of crime is a very messy business.

    This is the same fallacy that makes the Lottery so appealing.

    You can’t assume a plan will work out well anymore than you can assume that your hand in poker or your investment strategy will succeed. Las Vegas makes a great deal of money on our inability to internalize that notion. In fact, so does Wall Street.


  209. 209 209. Tommy

    I ordered 13 books on amazon.com by Fermi Waldrop and continuing on into books published just recently in January 2005 on thermodynamics and the big bang and on evolution.

    I am going to order a book on recent information theory. Until they come, I’m backing off. But they are coming. As such, as it now stands I am being lazy but with a deadline. Remember, I ain’t rich like you guys, I can’t afford overnight shipping.

    As for Rand and Objectivism: it seems like Rand follows a lot of the ideas that phenomenologists use as basic fundamentals and tactics. I suggest a thorough purusal of Derrida for anyone interested in a healthy debate againt dualism or objectivism and the bias of presence and absence, as well as the undecidability of decision (actually a fundamental of alpha theory) and many many many other fields like architecture (Ayn’s cup of tea in the Fountainhead, my favorite book when I was fifteen: I read it in a day and a half) as well as literary theory and criticism. Jim lets hit the books together. Tell me which books on Rand and Derrida you are gonna read and I’ll do the same. I got nothing but time.


  210. 210 210. Tommy

    Bourbaki. I have supported myself through illegal action since I was fifteen on until I turned 20. If you are interested in how crime does and does not pay, I am a good person to ask.

    Criminals succeed far more than they fail. "No one gets caught their first time breaking the law," this is almost a rule. And always will. Speed limits are not a suggestion by the way. Most crime is something that one of us does to ourselves, or something that we commit by overlooking what one of our acquanitances (however personal) are doing to themselves.

    Obviously, at one time it was illegal to teach a black person to read.

    The damage of a life of crime comes in much the same way as what occurs to a buisnessman when he gets overly concerned with his boards bottom line and, while making record profits each year, is firing more and more people. Humans lose their alpha apparent worth, and become an idea as flimsy and objective as machines in a factory or compartmental means to an end. In both sales and drug dealing, we are in the buisness of selling dreams and logically unsupportable wants. In America we are raised to want unrealistic things because we are raised to THINK WE NEED THEM. We have such a confused sense of what is neccessary.

    This sense plays itself out in drug use and vapid consumerism. It also serves the trickle down effect of influencing others because, I believe, man is by nature a suggestible animal, as I said earlier.

    And, actually, a life of crime (where life of means to support oneself through) is a very messy buisness as you said.

    But as it stands, even when we "get away with" the crime it does not mean that it was maximizing our alpha star. In the examples above, speeding may increase the chance of a Poisson accident where another car randomly swerves or cuts you off, smoking weed four times a week can marginalize interest and sap short term memory, etc. The benefit of getting ten million dollars in alpha terms doesn’t mean your life is actually better now. I know many very rich people, and most of them are alcoholics or people that bought drugs from me. In my experience, their kids are far far more fucked up than them. That ten million might very well be delivering your kids right into the hands of someone like myself in days of yore. Then imagine all the shit that pops up because you got a junkie for a son. Most poor people have to get crafty and smarter to support their habits, but, rich kids stay consistenly as stupid or far more and usually more sheltered.

    This is not a universal rule, obviously, this is simply my experience with probability. Good day all, see you tomorrow.


  211. 211 211. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    I don’t like to cite to anybody. I like plain talk. I trust only clarity. I was dragged to the subject of Ayn Rand kicking and screaming, and (as any observer of these threads knows) against my will. Now I am subjected to a barrage of attacks on Rand, someone I admire, that have nothing to do with alpha, and maybe even nothing to do with what I am saying in the thread! Forgive me, but it does seem unnecessary and really rude.

    If you value this discussion at all you will please stop it. I am not thin-skinned, just impatient with meaningless tangents.

    Alpha does justify some risk-taking, no? In a sense, many of our decisions are a "lottery." Please demonstrate that the House is rigged to win if my theft is a singular event, and one under such controlled circumstances that, like many thefts, it very likely that I will succeed.

    All of your justifications have so far amounted to, "it is generally not a good idea," or "don’t make a habit of it," or "gee, if everyone did it, the economy would collapse." All are inadequate for obvious, shall we say "universal and strong," reasons.

    For example, would you say that my personal F can never justify my sky-diving? (Where death is the down-side.) My personal F can never justify GOING to Vegas?

    Now you can actually show me, using just alpha, that there are never any circumstances, though perhaps very refined sets of circumstances, under which theft is not the alphatropic thing to do? I don’t care for appeals to the interests of other "inputs" except as they affect MY downside.

    Please do so.


  212. 212 212. Tommy

    "Don’t just copy and past passages and type "Huh?" afterwards. You’ve already shown that you’re too sharp for that. Quit being so lazy. Hit the books."

    I didn’t just copy and paste and type huh. I typed "What does that mean? Third order. Huh. And before that I asked a lot of questions and posited one pretty interesting idea. Anyone want to take a stab at them?


  213. 213 213. Tommy

    Jim:
    "Please demonstrate that the House is rigged to win if my theft is a singular event,"

    Please demonstrate how you are rigged to win by getting that money. That is all simplistic and reductionist, something that this theory is trying to curtail in other theories. It is a nonreductionist contention on emergent behavior concepts.


  214. 214 214. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    The neighbors with the nukes only highlights the issue for alpha, no? If the blast justifies it, why not all the good alpha-use I can put the money to. Let’s say, much better than those religious victims who are my targets.

    Tommy,

    No one pursing money as just one of their aims is being alphatropic, then?


  215. 215 215. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    You could just take the bull by the horns and say that under certain circumstances, theft is moral, that the alphatropism of certain well-planned thefts depends upon your personal F and leave it there. Otherwise, this is the same sticky wicket we still can’t seem to get an answer to… but just the latest.

    [Can't stop myself: The more I consider your assertion that it is I who rarely "challenges his own beliefs," the more convinced I am of your complete blindness to irony.]


  216. 216 216. Matt McIntosh

    So much heat, so little light. I feel like the headmaster only stepping in to chide the boys here, but I feel like I have to do this again.

    Bill: I like your assessment of what alpha is definitely good for, even if it’s not ethics, and I’m inclined to agree. Like you, I’m skeptical of the ability to get useful measurements out of this. But as Aaron has said (I think), if there’s one thing humans are good at it’s solving engineering problems. That’s what alpha presents us with. Impossible now? Sure. Impossible later? I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

    Bourbaki: stop the jabs at Rand and just answer Jim straightforwardly. I agree with you substantively, but this line of argument is one big bloody distraction. You get better results with direct responses in plain language than a whole lot of clever verbal fireworks.

    Jim: I understand your annoyance but I also can’t help but feel it’s causing you to miss some of the points being made. For one thing (as has been pointed out already) your many-times-reprised theft example makes some rather remarkable assumptions that don’t map well onto reality. How can the theif be totally sure that no-one would ever be able to get evidence on him? How can the rapist be sure the woman won’t wake up in the middle of his act, or find his, ahem, DNA on her and go to the police? These are generally absurd assumptions; you may as well be playing roulette with your life. Sure, crooks can get away with it, but it’s a damn huge gamble. There is no such thing as the perfect crime in our society.

    But now that I’ve said all of that, I think I have a more provocative hypothetical. What about someone living in an area where there is no "law" as we understand it? We’re in Sudan. Forget legal repercussions, it’s not gonna happen here. I can rape and murder and pillage at will, and these poor villagers aren’t armed well enough to ever have a hope of stopping me and my band. I stand to gain from this by killing them and taking their land and women. Is this not alphatropic in these circumstances? Bourbaki? Aaron?


  217. 217 217. Tommy

    I dunno. I am ironic. I don’t get your irony. I get my irony. Ironic.

    "Please demonstrate that the House is rigged to win if my theft is a singular event, and one under such controlled circumstances that, like many thefts, it very likely that I will succeed."

    Please demonstrate how you getting that money implicitly lowers E. Otherwise, I don’t care if it can lower E. If it can (if it is possible) well, I don’t care. Lots of things are possible. Remember: you are formulating Gaussian non-anticipatory strategies as well as trying to generate threshold awareness to contain the devastation of Poisson randomness. Under this context demonstrate how your question has any relevance at all, i.e., how it is demonstrative of lowering epsilon. Then, because you just showed how it was, you will clearly be able to see where it is not, because there are no universal strong solutions, and therefore this strategy both will and will not lower E to any degree based on the variables applied to it, i.e., the more variables you add or assume or not in place, the more you are looking at a pretty little intellectual model that conforms in no way to reality.

    What I am saying is: all your ideas are just conceptual simulators you run through like some benefit cost effective ratio or like some checklist of proper "this much moral but this much benefit to me" type scenario.

    Its all ludicrous. A specific theoretic example does not work. Tell me something you have already done, and tell me what happened, and tell me the circumstances, then we can MAYBE determine the alpha. Maybe.


  218. 218 218. Tommy

    "What we are now only discovering, Kauffman says, is that range of spontaneous order is enormously greater than we had supposed and, in fact, self-organization is a great undiscovered principle of nature. He contends that complexity itself triggers self-organization–what Kauffman calls "order for free"–and that if enough different molecules pass a certain threshold of complexity, they begin to self-organize into a new entity: a living cell. There is a phase transition when water abruptly turns to ice. Likewise, life may have originated when the mix of different molecules in the primordial soup passed a certain level of complexity and re-grouped into living entities"

    See the word Threshold?


  219. 219 219. Jim Valliant

    Matt,

    I grant you that theft usually–almost always–doesn’t "map well" for the thief. My point is about "strong solutions." Alpha cannot say that stealing as such is immoral.


  220. 220 220. Jim Valliant

    Matt,

    And stealing for profit without the need of saving the neighborhood.


  221. 221 221. Tommy

    "But now that I’ve said all of that, I think I have a more provocative hypothetical. What about someone living in an area where there is no "law" as we understand it? We’re in Sudan. Forget legal repercussions, it’s not gonna happen here. I can rape and murder and pillage at will, and these poor villagers aren’t armed well enough to ever have a hope of stopping me and my band. I stand to gain from this by killing them and taking their land and women. Is this not alphatropic in these circumstances? Bourbaki? Aaron?"

    If you are smart enough to come up with the hypothetical, carry it out. No one can carry out a hypothetical for you, because there is no threshold on which we can say THIS IS WHAT IS HAPPENING, this is what has happened, this is what the people involved will do, this is how the land will respond. You can’t pose any hypothetical for alpha like this. Show how it lowers E. When you do, you will see instances where it would not. Everything must be taken as a whole, not as a conceptually isolated or as a specifically relative consequence in favor of *variable person number* here. It don’t work that way.


  222. 222 222. Tommy

    Jim, your example is weak and wrong. Whether I am an ethical Communitarian *the importance of COMMUNITY is stressed where all individual ethics are derivative* or Individualist *society must be subservient to the goals and ambitions of autonomous individuals*, neither of these will say that stealing is ALWAYS ethically wrong. And neither will alpha.


  223. 223 223. Matt McIntosh

    Tommy – Nevermind, after I hit the post button I realized that I was thinking about this the wrong way.

    Jim – You’re right, it can’t. If that’s what you’re looking for, you should have listened to Bill and stopped 50 posts up. Everything depends on F and the surrounding environment. As such, no act in itself can be called wrong in alpha terms. No universal strong solutions, etc.

    You wouldn’t call Darwinian natural selection a "moral" process, and evolution is just a subset of alpha; morality as you concieve of it is an advanced alpha strategy for organisms who have come far enough along to be able to rise above the Hobbesian state of nature. I managed to forget that for a moment when that hypothetical popped into my head. Personally I’m already a moral subjectivist (of sorts), so this is nothing horribly shocking to me.

    On with the show.


  224. 224 224. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    That’s a lot of books. Although there’s no better investment. I’m looking forward to your take on Complexity. I think it’s a very good non-technical introduction to the field. If you enjoy it, I can recommend other books for you. If you don’t, please don’t hesitate to point it out.

    By spontaneous order, or order for free, I mean this penchant that complex systems have for exhibiting convergent rather than divergent flow, so that they show an inherent homeostasis, and then, too, the possibility that natural selection can mold the structure of systems so that they’re poised between these two flows, poised between order and chaos. It’s precisely systems of this kind that will provide us with a macroscopic law that defines ecosystems, and I suspect it may define economic systems as well.

    Kauffman’s theories are on the same arc but without the potential benefit of alpha as a physically defined quantity.

    Mr. Valliant,

    Kicking and screaming is a tough way to learn anything. You appear to be wedded to a particular philosophy and the crux of your arguments appear to flow from that framework. I don’t see any problem with calling bullshit on any ideas or the origins of those ideas (yours or mine). A self-cultivated somber tone gives philosophy and religion too much cover. I don’t buy it.

    There is plenty of "plain talk" in books. Hopefully, Tommy will share his opinions on the books he’s reading and pass on recommendations for the good ones. If he thinks any of my recommendation are crap, he should not hesitate saying so.

    This blog is a great place to discuss and challenge ideas but not the best place to learn them. Mr. Haspel has laid out an excellent series of posts covering a lot of diverse and technical material. That’s not enough if you haven’t seen it before–you need to follow up with books and in-person discussions with people who know the material.

    Probability is difficult to teach to an impartial, motivated student. (e.g. ask someone the Monty Hall problem and ask them to provide an explanation.) It’s impossible to teach to someone who already seeks a particular answer because a distribution will always allow for it.

    Mr. McIntosh,

    It looks like you’ve got it. Legislative laws can be alphatropic. In Sudan, or any other place in the Universe, the laws of physics don’t change. Organisms that survive have adopted strategies (morphological, behavioral, social) to preserve alpha.

    I’ve mentioned Marvin Harris before. He’s a prominent anthropologist that studied the origins of culture by examining how they adapt to the specific carrying capacity of their environment. I’m sure his name will come up again. He’s also very plain spoken.

    On Earth, you can model each day as a Bernoulli trial. Now consider what happens if you add a slight bias for extinction to the cell, organism, group or ecosystem.

    Life depends on homeostasis. However, there is no homeostatic upper limit (other than available free energy) for alpha in a living system. More alpha is always better. Less alpha is always worse.

    Individual agents tend to adapt much better to local conditions than centrally controlled groups. It’s an information problem. But information doesn’t always flow that way. For example, consider an organized evacuation from a pending natural disaster compared to a free-for-all. The information problem is inverted. There are exceptions to every rule. But some rules may have exceedingly few exceptions in our normal daily lives.


  225. 225 225. Bourbaki

    Heisenberg cleanup

    Care is necessary since versions of this equation using Planck’s constant h instead of h-bar, omitting the factor of 2 (Cassidy 1991, p. 234), or both (Pais 1991, p. 305) are commonly found in the literature. Heisenberg’s original paper does not attempt to rigorously determine the exact quantity on the right side of the inequality, but rather uses physical argument to show that the uncertainty between conjugate quantum mechanical variables is approximately h (Heisenberg 1927, p. 175, eqn. 1).


  226. 226 226. Jim Valliant

    Bourbaki,

    Then it is clear that there is no answer to a simple, clearly put problem, that required no Objectivist premises or beliefs to grasp.

    Too bad for alpha’s defenders.

    The problem that I have posed is not one unique to Objectivist critics or readers. But it does seem to be a problem for which neither you nor Aaron have an answer.

    I have "challenged my own beliefs," as you put it, by coming here and trying to understand, as honestly as I could, this theory. I have learned a great deal in the process. Whether you believe me or not, my opinions are based on my honest assessment of the evidence using logic as best as I can. I reject the opinions of any authority which I find unsound. Since it is plain to anyone actually familiar with Rand’s work, that you don’t have the first clue what it actually says, you are hardly in a position to determine whether or not my responses or the problems I have presented are even coming from that perspective or not. Your attack on ME as opposed to the simple problem that I posed is an age-old technique of evasion. It is most unscientific, but it is all too common among scientists themselves. Unfortunately, it is your only way of dealing with such problems. I wish you well in all of your future endeavors, but the rancid insults are not worth it to me anymore.

    A good shrink is advised.


  227. 227 227. Aaron Haspel

    Recess is over. Let’s back up a few steps, take a careful look at what the theory says, and then return to the problem of the happy criminal, which turns out to be no problem at all. The first thing to understand is that there is no "moral" and "immoral," no good and no evil. There is only more or less optimal. Jim, for all of his perfectly valid objections to dualism, falls into the bear-pit time and again. (His earlier distinction between "observation" and "inference" is one such case — the scientific fact is that our "observation" is mostly "inference." His insistence on natural rights is yet another. This is what happens to people who try to spin models of the world out of their heads.)

    "Alphatropic" and "alphadystropic" have frequently been used on this thread as synonyms for "good" and "evil." They are not. Sometimes simply minimizing alphadystropy, as in cases of acute pain or illness, is the best of the available alternatives. No boundary line divides good from evil. I repeat myself, like others on this thread, but apparently saying something once, or twice, or four times does not suffice.

    Now it should be obvious that theft, generally, and in Jim’s hypo, is a suboptimal strategy, for reasons beyond the likelihood of being caught. Jim acknowledges this fact himself sometimes, although at other times he appears to retract that. The error, again, is in disregarding the boundaries of the system. You are an open system whose boundaries do not end at your skin. Theft disrupts the stability of the system in which the thief must function, very much in the way that cancer cells kill their host, and thus, eventually, themselves. That the world financial system can withstand the disruption, in the individual case, is beside the point. Damage is damage, regardless of the scale. The homily about hurting yourself when you hurt others turns out, according to alpha theory, to be true.

    One can probably devise certain absolute proscriptions (though never imperatives, except "pursue alpha") that conform to alpha theory. You have to figure that genocide, say, is never going to be an optimal strategy. Theft happens not to be such a case, but the exceptions are so rare as to amount to an engineering zero. Laws against theft are not only fine, they’re warranted. "Don’t steal" is a useful heuristic. If everyone followed it the world would be a better place. But useful heuristics are not Biblical injunctions, and to understand alpha theory you must understand the difference.

    Why Jim considers his hypo devastating to alpha theory eludes me; I will let him speak for himself:

    "Alpha gives the prospective thief no good reason not to steal, ‘just this once,’ or not one that I can yet detect. Why on earth should he even care about abstract or collective alpha implications when the money would so improve his life and, all other things being equal, this one act won’t destroy the world? So, give it a whirl. If you think I will be tough to persuade, just imagine trying to persuade the average Joe, your real challenge. That is, if this is ethics."

    It’s true, it’s true! Someone bent on stealing millions won’t be dissuaded by a lecture on probability and thermodynamics. Alpha doesn’t preach as well as man the hero or man the apple of God’s eye. But I thought we were discussing the truth of the theory here, not its effectiveness as an instrument for social control.

    One last word about alpha and ethics. Alpha theory defines "the good." It quantifies it. It gives people useful advice on how to pursue it. It explains why people fail to pursue it. What has "ethics" got left to do?


  228. 228 228. Jim Valliant

    Aaron,

    So while alpha does not–and cannot–ever advise you to steal–in many contexts it actively advises against it–there is no way to call it wrong as such from the standpoint of the ethics of alpha.

    This sounds like it’s been spun out of someone’s head–someone’s unstated metaphysical premises–rather than observation. I assure you that all of my beliefs are "empirically based." Insults do not become you any more than Bourbaki, Hatch. Play with words all you like, equivocation–as with the word "inference"–does not become you, either. You should know that in the sense you mean, Objectvism knows sense-perception to be a kind of "inference," too. That ragged saw has been around longer than you imagine.

    If this is no "problem" for you, ethically, then carry on, sir. At least I got an "answer." And it’s an answer that lots of non-Objectivists will want, too, I promise.

    What is really distressing Aaron, is how you tolerate the intellectual hypocrisy of Bourbaki. He bitches and moans about authority and the scientific method and how religiously closed-minded Objectivism is (though, why, God only knows!) Then, in the next breath, he attacks me–using no science, just plain, closed-minded and religious emotionalism and ad hominem–for even raising the problem you have patiently tried to answer. Freud called this "projection."

    It’s now obvious, alpha isn’t ethics. It doesn’t even refute a single previous idea about ethics, right or wrong. It arrogantly assumes it has so refuted them (while assuming many of those previous ideas without admitting it) after finding a small peice of the puzzle.

    And the "consensus" you want to achieve is a long, long, long way off, indeed.


  229. 229 229. Jim Valliant

    Aaron,

    I have the patience of Job, I tell you!

    You meaningfully used the term "sense-perception" and everyone knew just what you were talking about. Perception is a VERY "processed," but when I open my eyes seemingly "automatic," thing, indeed. This a point belabored by Rand and other Objectivists. It is YOU who need to remember that the distinctly human perspective can never be ignored. No matter what science discovers, the order and hierarchy of awareness imposed by our means of knowledge is, indeed, the omnipresent context to bear in mind.

    I hate to even mention it, but you have never read the Objectivists on perception, have you? Try Kelley’s The Evidence of the Senses, based on his Princeton PhD dissertation. This is gone over in much greater detail there with enough reference to contemporary science to keep Bourbaki happy, at least in that regard.


  230. 230 230. Jim Valliant

    Fortunately, we are capable of distinguishing between what we immediately experience when we open our eyes and those things that we are still trying to figure out with words and numbers. Of course, they are the same KIND of thing, but this ability to distinguish the two is the very thing that allows us to separately study sense-perception, its means and apparatus.


  231. 231 231. Jim Valliant

    A distinction is not a dichotomy. From Plato to Hegel, to… alpha, that was the real issue.


  232. 232 232. Jim Valliant

    Sorry for the multiple posts, but my company keeps insisting!

    So, leaving legal issues aside, alpha makes no distinction between, as you put it, the ‘happy’ thief and the happy sky-diver. Both are engaged in dangerous activities that their personal F’s need to justify. They should both "use their brains" about the dangers as much as possible, of course. Our alpha-tropic laws should regulate WHERE our sky-diver should jump (and how, etc.?), and regulate the thief more comprehensively, perhaps, but there is otherwise no reason to treat the two differently. Outside of such legal technicalities, the two are just both engaged in "risky behavior," under the "ethics" of alpha?

    An "ethics" with no "good," no "bad," no "moral." An ethics carefully sticking to observation, it claims. Well, no, can’t trust that–"rigorous" science and math, only, of course, but whose authors dismiss all previous ethical thought even as they lay not a single effective finger on the worst of it.


  233. 233 233. Jim Valliant

    Sorry, we’re on California time!

    As to those "legal technicalities," Bourbaki did have the gall to mention "legal applications," a proposed change in the law will require for my vote something other than a demonstration of improved alphatropic filtration. Keep your brave, new alphatropic laws off my body, please.


  234. 234 234. Jim Valliant

    Aaron,

    This isn’t necessary to the following example, but, just for color, let’s assume that, realizing that all previous ethics was a bunch of idiocy, someone became a thief. Then he read alpha theory and realized what an alphadystropic thing he just did in his last heist.

    Here’s the example: even if it looks like he’s going to get away with that last heist, and clearly realizing what an alphadystropic thing he just did, should our repentent thief turn himself in on his own?

    Would he be a sap or doing the alphatropic thing? Or, would it depend upon his personal F? Does it matter? Is it an "ethics" question even?

    Just wondering…


  235. 235 235. Jim Valliant

    Another movie tip: MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. This is one atheist who can admire St. Thomas More, from a different, but equally "ethical" perspective–a persepctive that alpha, alas, can never share.


  236. 236 236. Tommy

    What about:

    Stealing drugs from a kid and throwing them out?

    What about stealing money from a kid who wants to buy heroin and giving it to a homeless person.

    These examples, while cute, don’t cut the mustard with this theory, because they are too conceptually isolated. All I’m saying.


  237. 237 237. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    there is no way to call it wrong as such from the standpoint of the ethics of alpha.

    Not quite. In each case, the evidence must be considered. Isn’t this how the law works? If an individual demonstrates a pattern of sociopathic behavior, there’s a high likelihood that the pattern will continue.

    It doesn’t even refute a single previous idea about ethics, right or wrong.

    Again. Not quite. It says that all strong solutions are wrong some of the time. But as Mr. Haspel pointed out, we can treat engineering zeros as zeros and consider the exceptional cases.

    So, leaving legal issues aside, alpha makes no distinction between, as you put it, the ‘happy’ thief and the happy sky-diver.

    Wrong. The upshot of alpha theory isn’t to stick your head in the sand and try to hide from reality in a bunker. In order to adapt to F, you must engage F. Learn. Explore. Discover. Skydiving is not dangerous. Even I’ve managed to jump out of a plane without a scratch. For instance, people use it as a safe way to help overcome their fears.

    Russian roulette is a different story.

    He bitches and moans about authority and the scientific method and how religiously closed-minded Objectivism is (though, why, God only knows!)

    No one here is arguing against the existence of external reality. Nevertheless, I looked up Kelly’s book. But it seems that poor fellow has already been de-frocked and shot out the air-lock:

    This competently-executed volume was once, briefly, the pride of the Objectivist movement — a work of genuinely original philosophy along Randian lines, which held out the promise that "Objectivism" might someday win something like academic respectability. I say "was," because its author, David Kelley, was booted out of the movement for being willing to scold libertarians in person rather than just in print.

    Mr. Valliant, you’re advocating dualism.

    I might have even made it into the Rand inner circle. But I would have been promptly excommunicated as an unreformed heretic (the worst kind, since reformed heretics can at least be retrained and forgiven), with my belief that no absolute morality is scientifically or rationally tenable, even that which claims to have been derived through pure reason, as in the case of Rand. The reason is straightforward. Morals do not exist in nature and thus cannot be discovered. In nature there are just actions–physical actions, biological actions, and human actions.

    Alpha extends the reach of science into areas that were purely philosophical. As Mr. McIntosh pointed out, our morals and ethics are an advanced strategy used by humans to preserve alpha. They don’t exist outside our thoughts. There is no physical basis to make them absolutes in the external world.

    Contrived, isolated and pre-determined scenarios don’t sway the argument.

    Tommy’s on the right track.


  238. 238 238. MeTooThen

    Bourbaki,

    A bit OT.

    I read (not with understanding) the Chaitin lecture.

    Thanks.

    And yes, it does make for fun.

    For the past few months, I have been exploring Friedman and Hayek.

    Right now, I am reading http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0226320847/qid=1107105373/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/102-6724299-9085707?v=glance&s=books&n=507846"The Constitution of Liberty.

    It’s everywhere.


  239. 239 239. Tommy

    "to preserve alpha."

    I ain’t preserving no alpha. That would be silly. I am going to steal 10 million dollars instead. Since I can get away with it, why shouldn’t I? I’m only stealing it from my dad. He ain’t gonna mind, he gonna die soon.

    Seriously: calculate all actions in terms of Global E and personal E by considering them to be two separate things. It creates a lot of conceptual paradox’s it seems. Damn amazon takes forever with my books, still waiting. Thanks for the links.


  240. 240 240. Tommy

    oops. That was meant, by considering them to be two separate things, I mean considering my one has no bearing on the effect of the other. So its like, think of the E of all humans/ the E of one of you. I.e., imagine the actions we all as humans make all across the planet, for our collective E.

    A Bournelli trial of the human race once every 24 hours. How many of us die?


  241. 241 241. Bill Kaplan

    Aaron,

    We need numbers associated with comments.

    Jim,

    Aaron is wrong, it isn’t ethics. Get over it.

    Bourbaki,

    An aside. I don’t care what you think about Mach, he was no fool. Besides it doesn’t matter what the path of an atom of a gas is. It matters enormously what the path of a man’s life is.

    I don’t care generally what you think about alpha theory: most of your arguments are from suspect analogies.

    What I DO care about is your cooking. Who do you find good and why? Who is overrated? I have now eaten in the best restaurants in Beijing and have not found even one as good as in NY. (I’ll report on Shanghai and Shenzen at the end of the month.) The same is true for London and much of the rest of England. Yet, Portugal, France and Italy have numerous wonderful eateries and the single best meal I’ve eaten was in Iceland. Why is that? Can alpha explain it? Or is it culture that explains it? And if culture, what accounts for the difference if all food culture seeks alpha? Is haut cuisine alpha dystrophic compared with fast food?


  242. 242 242. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    Besides it doesn’t matter what the path of an atom of a gas is. It matters enormously what the path of a man’s life is.

    Dualism again? You’ve already quoted Mandlebrot. You know that distinction, though lyrical, is arbitrary. Path dependency is implicit in the theory via the nature of entropy.

    I don’t care generally what you think about alpha theory: most of your arguments are from suspect analogies.

    There’s a delicate balance between richness and reach when presenting a new idea. If the arguments are purely technical, most of the audience will be excluded. If they’re purely anecdotal, they’ll lose accuracy.

    Some people think there are too many links, others think there aren’t enough. I can only make course corrections in the discussion based on the feedback here.

    You’re right to not care about what I think about alpha theory. I’m not presenting arguments as evidence but as exposition. Tommy thinks my analogies are misleading. He’s also pointed out valid oversimplifications in my examples.

    However, if my arguments convince anyone that there’s something worth exploring, the arguments have achieved their purpose. Rhetoric has been more effective at hindering discovery than advancing it.

    That was Mach’s failing.

    Why is that? Can alpha explain it?

    Yes. Application to aesthetics and taste are forthcoming. Despite the early predictions on this blog, it’s neither confining nor limiting–much like the rest of the theory. And the doorjams have held fast.

    Fundamentals can be boring. Playing is always more fun than training. However no amount of training can prevent all mistakes; the discussions here might help us more easily recognize them.


  243. 243 243. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    If you have the opportunity, do try El Bulli in Spain. A friend who was a sommelier at Ducasse said it was the best meal she’s ever had.

    I have not had occasion to try it myself.


  244. 244 244. Tommy

    Stealing a candy bar from a store.
    I was hungry. The engineering isn’t zero on this. A candy bar does not effect things the same, especially if I consider that the man owning the store was a child molester and using the money to fund his perversion.

    The point, I wonder, has been grasped? Examples do not work unless you do the work for em. Theoreticals must be weighed against E. If you can figure out how, do so, if I could, I would say so. But just asking for someone to prove it to you because you can’t do it to yourself, and then somehow assuming that because they can’t that there is something wrong with alpha theory means nothing. There might be something wrong with us, or our understanding, but it is not evidence in itself against it when viewed that way. I got a book from Amazon, but it was a comic book (Y: the Last Man, very good…about last male on earth and his (well there are 2 I guess) male monkey Ampersand, who wears a diaper). Science books are coming soon though :)

    Heh. A monkey in diapers. Alpha, you rock man.


  245. 245 245. Jim Valliant

    Tommy, you may be the first living example of alpha’s ethics in action.


  246. 246 246. Tommy

    No you are.


  247. 247 247. Jim Valliant

    Tommy,

    Hardly that, as I use "universal strong solutions" incessantly–my information set being wider than thermodynamics and statistics, and my applications much narrower–to my distinct advantage, including a rather contextually absolutistic view of "rights."

    Sorry, I leave this heroically noble honor to you.


  248. 248 248. Tommy

    "my information set being wider than thermodynamics and statistics,"

    Where statistics mean probabilities and thermodynamics means the emergence of complexity and chaos right? Also, since this is about an application of these ideas, I’m sorry. You are wrong again. The first and second law of Thermodynamics, when applied, are how you can live, therefore think. So, in the same sense that alpha is an application of algebra and the laws, so to is your "Wider information set" and therefore, I know you are but what am I?

    Hey Jim. Do I have this right?


  249. 249 249. Tommy

    All kidding aside, I don’t get what you mean by saying I alone have blah blah alpha ethics, or that I may be the first. Wouldn’t Aaron be the first?

    One more thing. What does contextually absolute mean? Isn’t that semantically contradictory, and if not, wouldn’t contextually then be unneccessary. Also, how can you be SURE that anything is to your advantage (that does not kill you, a la, anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger). If that is how you can be sure, how can you prove it? Alpha is a scientific application of this fundamental lack of commensurate standards by which validation might be found.

    Mutually, and to the exclusion of all self rightousness as means of "contextually absolute" evaluation. That thought may be illogical, I didn’t bounce it around much. It is after all just a thought. Get it?


  250. 250 250. Jim Valliant

    Let’s be real specific. When a person who doesn’t want to die is standing on railroad tracks and a train is speeding in his direction on those tracks, allowing insufficient time for the train to stop before it reaches the person’s position, he should get off of the tracks if he wishes to continue to live or remain uninjured. If my explicit goal is nothing so grand as improving my alphatropism (even if, in a sense, all goals are the quest to improve alphatropism), say, survivng to next hour, and if the circumstances allow for greater certainty than mere statistics, then rules of absolute application can be derived. Of course, to be absolute in application, the rule must be delimited in context. Within such a defined and delimited context–the very reason for the rule in the first place, let’s hope–we can set the boundaries of its application. Coordinating all of my goals hierarchically allows me to develop a set of ethical priorities. All the "rational" thefts mentioned, or "rational" suidides, etc., are cases outside of the normal context of application–and the reason for the rule. Indeed, if my values are fully integrated, the exception will invariably invoke the same greater goal as the rule itself had in its origin.

    Take Locke on liberty. Liberty, he said, isn’t the absence of law, it’s the correct amount of law. Liberty can be violated by criminals as by the state. If the state fails to protect me from them, it fails to defend my liberty. Thus, if all of the laws are only aimed at defending individual liberty, there is never a conflict between law and liberty. What do want, the "liberty" to destroy liberty? (Liberty being a condition between people. It has no meaning to a man alone.) Thus, only law can maximize liberty.

    Good ethics has developed, like the common law, from the ground up and often for solid, clear and practical reasons. One of the insidious features of religious ethics, is that it makes people forget the actual reasons for developing the rule in the first place. This causes guilt where there need be none, and confusion over the "absoluteness" of the rule’s application. The reasons for good rules have long been forgotten, and, of course, some really lousy rules have entered the stream, but, so often, people simply ignore the context of the rules’ origin and therefore the boundaries of its application, and put rule over substance. Religion almost mandates this. This is the real reason for a lack of consensus in ethics. Not that we don’t have a lot of (generally) good ethical rules–about which there is as wide a consensus as any claim ever made a scientist!!–rather, the argument concerns the origin and nature of ethics itself. Is it a mystical absolute, a command from another wolrd? Is it merely the innate emotional prejudices of individuals and our race? Is the priavte subjective feelings of people? Or, does it serve some function–like all the rules about which there is consensus?

    Ethics is a practical necessity of our species. We, alone, need a SCIENCE of ethics, rules to live by. There is no way to mentally hold, much less apply, the knowledge of the human race in every decision-making process. We need rules. No matter what an ethical subjectivist, like the authors of alpha theory, claim, they usually live by rules, too. Subconsciously, true, but their observed actions will conform to rules laid down in their heads–cognitively–long ago. (I know a older Jewish man from Russia who actually got sick the first time he ate perfectly good pork.) Ethics, values, are an inescapable reality that programs our consciousness and informs our emotions and behavior. Thus, I get angry when someone’s rights are violated. This is healthy. This is human. This helps me focus on and quickly coordinate the priority of the issue. My anger, while it proves nothing, is GOOD.

    Now, of course, thinking is the only wy to determine truth, not feeling, but feelings are part of human beings’ ETHICAL mechanism. Rational thought is too. To the extent that alpha can help our decision-making process be more rational, it will be a great asset to ethics.


  251. 251 251. Tommy

    Indeed, if my values are fully integrated, the exception will invariably invoke the same greater goal as the rule itself had in its origin.

    As a function of what?

    "Now, of course, thinking is the only wy to determine truth, not feeling, but feelings are part of human beings’ ETHICAL mechanism. Rational thought is too. To the extent that alpha can help our decision-making process be more rational, it will be a great asset to ethics."

    As per your derivation, seems feeling is as valid a way as thinking to determine truth. One feels a truth even if one cannot verbalize or even conceptualize this chemical occurence.

    Also, I think you are wrong both about the question being "the origin and nature of ethics" and a couple of other things. For example, I feel like it is ethical for the United States to be in Iraq because God would not have let our president be a bad guy. He is so cute and charming (God).

    Also, I don’t see how what you wrote made things perfectly clear. I don’t understand what you mean by your using ethics for yourself, you see, a great many things take place outside your realm of experience or cognizance. As such, any system of ethics you devise is pointless because it can only apply to a very congnizant sphere of your intellectual capacity. Even if you were the smartest person ever, you are not going to be able to tell me how bushmen and eskimos ethics are. Or are you? You would have to, beause that is what relative ethics leaves us.

    Sadly, alpha can only provide the meager way for any people at any time and under any circumstance to the exclusion of none based on our understanding of their culture.

    This is truly sad.


  252. 252 252. Jim Valliant

    Real ethics has been serving real human needs for a really long time. Clumsily, awkwardly and, so often, not knowing the ultimate "why," but the rational animal has been moving to things like alpha for a while, too.


  253. 253 253. Bourbaki

    Marvin,

    Our ability to create a predictive and accurate filtration is part of the strategy being measured by alpha theory.

    Does that sound right?

    Yes. It’s based on a dimensionless variable, alpha, built up from empirical physical laws. It’s not a circular definition any more than Reynolds number is a circular definition of turbulence.

    How one thinks about all this would be part of one’s filtration, I suppose; how one builds a filtration is always recursively a piece of the filtration.

    Keep in mind that the ordering of the hierarchy isn’t subjective. It has an empirically corroborative basis.

    Hypothetically if humans were to decide that being cockroaches are a better evolutionary bet than being people, then humans might cease to exist — we could both "win" and "lose" simultaneously.

    Both humans and cockroaches are different strong solutions to the same environment. There are some situations in which cockroaches will have a greater likelihood of survival. However, the number of possible responses or adaptive strategies available to humans is far greater than those available to cockroaches.

    But you can’t fast forward the tape and select a path that favors cockroaches anymore than you can select a winning lotto ticket and claim that gambling is more economically productive than investment.

    Or is that really true? Does size ever trump sophistication as such, or does it just trump sophisticated systems that, despite their sophistication, have made the stupid mistake of allowing themselves to compete on size?

    No matter how effectively an organism has adapted to a specific environment, there will be a cost to adapting to a different one. A species can be very alphatropic in one environment and extinct in another.

    Or rather, I think I understand why it would count against; but I’m not sure it (being an indicator of mass dissatisfaction) would neccessarily count overwhelmingly against an alphatropic dystopia, which might have alpha-advantages I (but not the dystopian architects) haven’t yet articulated.

    Any dystopia involves curtailing degrees of freedom for a system. Those restrictions along with the disengagement caused by mental distress results in a smaller contribution to the collective alpha model from each of the society’s agents.

    It will be less alphatropic than a society where individuals willingly contribute and freely engage in its affairs. There are exceptions but they are rare e.g. centrally planned evactuation from a pending natural disaster.

    So maybe here’s the proper question to ask: how should one best pose a problem to alpha theory?

    It depends on the problem. There’s a thermodynamic cost to doing calculations. As Mr. Valliant has correctly pointed out, for many problems you encounter day-to-day, you’ve already developed highly optimized adaptive strategies that work quite well. Groups and societies overlay a collection of laws and ethics to reinforce these.

    At the molecular level, every state change always has the same thermodynamic characteristics. Every macroscopic change is a probabilistic combination of these microscopic changes.

    Given a set of paths, what are the expected alpha consequences for the systems that are affected? The one that maximizes expected alpha is to be preferred. Everytime.

    It describes the processes in a flux, not some final destination that straightjackets you.

    Which would make it potentially very useful to people who don’t really believe in universal moral laws anyway, but blasphemous to those who do.

    It simultaneously makes it more adaptive and less subjective. The standards of evidence are theoretically verifiable by everyone. It adds empirical corroboration where we once only had words. Just take a look at Zeno to understand how easily language can stymie philosophy and "pure reason".


  254. 254 254. Tommy

    Emergence: From Chaos to Order is about how information can eliminate complexity. Starting today, and also, it seems, this is a verifiable way of discovering the value of alpha, for those who think it lacks practical application. Technology, I was told, is the practical application of scientific discoveries. Alpha might very well be called the pracitcal synthesis then (although the book is about the process of interdisciplinary science and their component applications, which will also shed light on such). Woot. Won’t be commenting for long time, good day and evening to you all. Except to Jim, to whom I wish good hunting.


  255. 255 255. Jim Valliant

    I never intended to make everything clear–that would be a big one–the whole of real ethics. The only idea I wanted to get across is that there can be, for humans–our present configuration–definite rules, because of that configuration and ITS specific needs. If you could advise a bee, you would have to say, "unless you can alter your nature, Mr. Bee, gather sugars from the local plant-life, dude!" I also meant to suggest that all of previous ethics are not the incoherent mess that has been alleged, and we did not need alpha to develop such sound ethics, to the degree we have done so. These have included sound positive prescriptions, too.


  256. 256 256. Jim Valliant

    Oh, and only reason can validate such rules, although many culturally evolved only semi-consciously. Emotions are not a means of knowledge, but the physical experience of one’s values, an instant reminder of things that may be very complex and abstract, like the tear of a patriot upon seeing the flag…


  257. 257 257. MeTooThen

    Bourbaki and Marvin,

    Here:

    Marvin: "How one thinks about all this would be part of one’s filtration, I suppose; how one builds a filtration is always recursively a piece of the filtration."

    Bourbaki: "Keep in mind that the ordering of the hierarchy isn’t subjective. It has an empirically corroborative basis."

    This, to me, is the most difficult and most interesting aspect of alpha theory, how to best undertand and optimize the hardware that is responsible for all of this, the brain.

    How does this happen? And where?

    The fact that is does happen is a given.

    I found this last night (while researching HIV skepticism), from skeptic.com: Brain, Mind and Consciousness.

    Seems interesting.

    One of the major weaknesses of human behavior is its reliance on too little information, or put another way, the priority to which our brain gives a few, and seemingly, unimportant events.

    For example, being humiliated by a bully on the playground as a child, or terrified by a movie, or "falling in love" with the girl-next-door, think Humbert Humbert not only "shape us", but continue to have an impact on us for many years or a lifetime.

    These so-called formative events tend to limit the adaptation of F, keeping us stuck in the past-relating to events now, as if they were happening to us back then, think Freud or Galen Strawson and the diachronic self.

    If man is to evolve, or sucessfully adapt, he must change the way his brain adapts to F at every new t.

    And what does this have to do with Brain, Mind, and Consciousness?

    Everything.

    Nothing.

    Once Freud’s Project is completed, the task will then be what to do with that undertanding.


  258. 258 258. Jim Valliant

    MeTooThen,

    "One of the major weaknesses of human behavior is its reliance on too little information, or put another way, the priority to which our brain gives a few, and seemingly, unimportant events."

    I’d say that we are often prevented form using even the limited information that we have (which is often more than plenty) because of psychological factors. But, entering the realm of psychology requires that we understand the nature of all kinds of aspects of human consciousness, including concepts our authors are reluctant to use: ‘will,’ etc.

    Having professionally worked with recovering drug-addicts, I can definitely say that this is most often the key: the effort/willingness to think through the KNOWN consequences of our actions. Even the addict who KNOWS that it’s the drugs that are ruining his life will frequently nonetheless allow his psychology to swamp that clear knowledge. As his shrink will advise: "play the tape forward." I am no admirer of the "Dr. Phil School," but, in general, the tough-love school of therapy (when it’s not an organic brain issue), and the use of strict cognitive-behavior techniques, appear to be the only thing that can reach certain classes of the cognitively disordered.

    It is such work, attending group therapy with my addicts, counselling sessions, AA/NA meetings, private one-on-one sessions, etc., that have solidified this issue for me as essential.


  259. 259 259. Tommy

    As a recovered drug user I can safely say that it was not my inability to think through the consequences but rather my inability to appreciate/value the consequences or even myself etc. that led to drug use.


  260. 260 260. Jim Valliant

    Precisely, Tommy, the intellectual understanding is insufficient in itself. And that goes for non-addicts, too. Humans, for good or ill, are creatures of habit. It’s like our behavior wears grooves into our minds, building a "second nature," as Aristotle called it. It’s not that we cannot do the new or change the routine. But to alter strongly formed, preexisting habits–mental and physical–requires both conscious awareness and an often difficult modification of behavior–again, both mental and physical. Mental routines of evasion are classic defense-mechanisms and the darndest things to overcome. The task is to rearrange the inner "incentive structure" that we all erect to make the regular, automatic, normally a good thing, and realign it with the new, conscious belief.

    This is why psychology goes hand-in-hand with ethics. This is why "character" is a meaningful concept. Our thoughts and actions build up over time the person we become, the conscience we acquire, the emotional responses that come as if genetically implanted, etc.

    Once, it was known that the development of moral character was an important feature of education.

    For some, Tommy, the thought of doing street drugs even once in experimentation comes with instant horror and revulsion, a powerful, if acquired, defense against such an addiction.


  261. 261 261. MeTooThen

    Jim,

    Your point is well taken, but it is not necessarily one’s "psychology" that prevents one from optimizing the use of their F, it is their biology.

    And here is the basis for Freud’s Project, or the scientific basis of the mind and its behaviors.

    As my former boss, the late- and very great, Frank Morrell used to say, "All behavior represents learning, all learning represents synaptogenesis."

    Addiction to gambling, drugs, or alcohol, or chronic pain in many cases, represents maladaptive learned responses.

    It is hard to unlearn, it is hard to undo synaptic growth.

    And yes, the meeting, daily prayer, 12-step program, sponsor do work, for some. I have modeled some of my work with patients who suffer from chronic pain, from similar ideas.

    But I think my original point remains true, the persistent power of a select few experiences freeze our "self" in time, and ultimately prevent our successful use of F.


  262. 262 262. Bourbaki

    MeTooThen,

    But I think my original point remains true, the persistent power of a select few experiences freeze our "self" in time, and ultimately prevent our successful use of F.

    How much overlap is there between chronic pain research and placebo research? Is there any comparative anthropology literature on chronic pain in different cultures?

    A couple of years ago, a friend’s father published Meaning, Medicine and the ‘Placebo Effect’. In it, he argued that the phenomenon should really be called the meaning effect.

    Clinical histories revealed that the meaningfulness of a treatment exhibits a dramatic impact on the efficacy of a therapy. Instead of assigning positive meaning to therapies, could a complementary phenomenon manifest to associate negative meaning to sources of pain? Perhaps in that model, adapting to F serves to reinforce that meaning and its social consequences?

    Just a guess.

    Kandel arrived yesterday. A 33 page table of contents! I read the first two chapters. It’s a pleasure to read. I just wish it was easier to carry around.

    OT, there’s a short interview with Christopher Alexander available online. He discusses his four-volume The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe. It’s worth a listen.

    Everyone,

    Complexity appears to be one of those cross-disciplinary fields where this type of research is coalescing. When I first studied it about ten years ago, complexity was missing a metric–a number to assign to the process.

    The best non-technical introduction to the field is M. Mitchell Waldrop’s book–he was a staff writer for Science. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to put this series of posts in context. You can browse the book online at Amazon.com. I would recommend reading the first few pages.

    You can also try a couple of searches at Sante Fe for working papers to get a feel for the research.


  263. 263 263. MeTooThen

    Bourbaki,

    Thank you for the toughtful comments.

    In my experience, there is much overlap between the power of chronic pain, in terms of its meaning, yes, and the power of placebo, again in terms of its meaning.

    Much of the research into chronic pain is highly atomistic, models of central and peripheral sensitization, immuno, inflammatory, and other regulators of the pain response (NO, NGF, purines, etc), and research into pain treatments.

    There is some, but relatively little in comparison, research into the cognitive or neuropsychological substrates of chronic pain.

    And yes, there are anthropological studies on chronic pain. I will find some useful ones if I can. In summary, chronic pain is an adaptation to having overcome the environment and seems to be a consequence of those societies that live in material comfort and personal safety.

    And yes, nocebo effects are just as important to be aware of in clinical practice, and they too have much meaning.

    Thanks for the book reference. I will read it.

    Two chapters?!

    Bourbaki the Magnificent!

    ;)


  264. 264 264. Bourbaki

    Cool to see they quoted Dan Moerman in the nocebo article. Thanks. I’m going to forward it along.

    Two chapters?!

    Each chapter is mercifully short ca. 15-30 pages. I’m on page 30. Out of 1279.

    Artificial organs research didn’t offer much opportunity to work with the brain. Given how quickly our hardware would initiate clotting, it’s probably a good thing.

    So, after 30 pages, please take everything that follows with a brick of salt.

    seems to be a consequence of those societies that live in material comfort and personal safety.

    The curse of the strong solution?

    As Eustace graduates to higher levels of the casino, the games become more complex. Eustace needs some way of accommodating histories: inflexibility is a certain path to ruin.

    But then we go and make the game simple again?

    Wanderlust? Midlife crisis? Flying at the same altitude grows unsettling, it appears. If alpha isn’t going up, it’s either staying flat or going down. This was what Dan Gilbert’s research seemed to be getting at as well.

    There’s no set point. It could be a daily search for food. Or knowledge. Or creative output.

    It’s always about the process. Or, the journey is the reward. Once you get "there", once you achieve a goal, you need to keep moving (not necessarily physically, but in alpha terms). There is no there.

    And being without a goal is probably scariest of all. People look back more fondly on hard times than boring times.

    What’s amazing is that experience and sensation can be transmitted via information especially art. Both abstract and representational art can be alphatropic stimuli. It seems to be about the richness and organization of the signal and the receiver’s capacity to decode it.

    As you’ve pointed out, self-defeating strategies don’t seem to be about people wantonly harming themselves as much as they are about people using bad strategies to escape pain and, in the case of developed societies, ennui.

    WHOLE takes you into the world of people obessed with becoming an amputee. Some are "wannabes" while others succeed in ridding themselves of a limb.

    I did a little digging after I started reading Sacks. There are some incredible case histories out there.

    Then again, my experience is with molecules and cells. It’s humbling to imagine the subtleties involved in mental health.


  265. 265 265. Tommy

    How can evolution be possible is on the molecular level things don’t evolve? I just thought of this. Does it make any sense?

    I am reading Fermi and Waldrop. I am having to teach myself calculus to understand thermodynamics, but it seems like it is easier than I had ever anticipated (now that I actually want to understand it). I am seeing how calculus seems to simulate the entirety of processes (I don’t really have the language yet…)

    Anyways, Waldrop is good stuff. I pass that recomendation along, with the addendum that you look at Hidden Order: how adaptation builds complexity, or any book by John Holland. His other book is about how information lowers complexity.


  266. 266 266. Bourbaki

    How can evolution be possible is on the molecular level things don’t evolve? I just thought of this. Does it make any sense?

    Different arrangments of the same collection of atoms will respond differently to energy flux. In this respect, evolution is concerned with the variation of these arrangements.

    I am having to teach myself calculus to understand thermodynamics, but it seems like it is easier than I had ever anticipated (now that I actually want to understand it).

    That’s tremendous. I know you’ve already picked up a ton of books. For mathematics, I’ve always found that learning the history and personalities behind the ideas makes the concepts much easier to grasp.

    E.T. Bell was a math professor at CalTech. He wrote a very engaging book that surveys the major players of mathematatics. If you enjoyed my recommendation for Waldrop and want to start learning the tools that scientists use in practice, check out Bell’s book.

    It’s not without its critics but for about US$10 it will do more to get a new math student involved in discourse than books 10 times its price.

    By the time I was a student in high school I was reading the classic "Men of Mathematics" by E.T. Bell and I remember succeeding in proving the classic Fermat theorem about an integer multiplied by itself p times where p is a prime.
    –John Nash


  267. 267 267. MeTooThen

    Bourbaki,

    Just a brief note.

    I was at a book sale today, looking for some nature books for a friend’s kids, when I found Complexity by M. Mithchell Waldrop.

    So far, I think it’s terrible.

    Blech.

    For whom exactly is this book written?

    Blech.

    Anyway, I will finish next week (at least it’s fast reading).

    It’s a good think I have Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty, for all of you alphaphiles (even you alphaphobes), it is so far, one of the best, if not the best book I have ever read.

    Really.

    Oh, and I found this, First on the Moon> by Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin. Now this is cool.

    Just sayin’.


  268. 268 268. Bourbaki

    MeTooThen,

    For whom exactly is this book written?

    This question is answered by…

    Anyway, I will finish next week (at least it’s fast reading).

    This observation.

    Although Waldrop is a physicist, the book is not at all technical. It’s a quick and easy read that brings together key figures in the field. It presumes no prior knowledge of science. Any alternatives to introduce non-technical readers to the science is welcome.

    I guess it all depends on what you were expecting to get out of it. Can you be more specific?


  269. 269 269. MeTooThen

    Bourbaki,

    Thanks for the prompt and thoughtful reply.

    Yes, I answered my own question.

    I expected something, well, more technical I suppose.

    The narrative is both distracting and poorly written.

    Also, there are some odd statements, like this, "Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich had just written his apocalyptic best-seller ‘The Population Bomb’."

    Yes, The Population Bomb was both apocalyptic and a best seller, but it was also hopelessly wrong.

    A small point perhaps, and maybe the point of using Ehrlich was just to add to the narrative of the personal journey of Brian Arthur, but Arthur as an economist interested in population studies, should have comes across Julian Simon, a revolutionary whose work thoroughly disproved Ehrlich.

    But these are small points. I don’t read much literature (OK, last summer I read quite a bit of Russian literature as I was dating an Ethnic Russian-Uzbek girl), so maybe it’s just me.

    OK, it’s just me.

    And you are correct, it is hard to introduce to the laity specialized studies. And yes, Oliver Sacks quickly comes to mind.

    I’ll shut up now and keep reading.

    I return you to your regular programming.


  270. 270 270. Jim Valliant

    What’s next, boss?


  271. 271 271. Tommy

    Jesus. So much reading. I’m gonna check out that hayek liberty book.


  272. 272 272. Jim Valliant

    Check out Hayek’s THE FATAL CONCEIT, his last book and the most comprehensive statement of his theory of cultural and economic evolution. You’ll see alpha lurking around in there, too, I think. It puts his earlier work in better context.


  273. 273 273. Tommy

    I started to read his liberty book. Speaking of bad writing (metoothen) that opening page has a few pretty terribly worded sentences. Ideas were good stuff though. Thanks for the recomendation Jim.


  274. 274 274. Bill Kaplan

    Aaron,

    Admit it, you chose the name "Eustace" after Professor Eustace P. McGargle, and you aren’t giving us suckers an even break.

    Bourbaki,

    So your point is "read E.T. Bell and go nuts"? BTW, why didn’t you reference Noether’s theorum when I attacked Helmholtz’s law?

    MeTooThen,

    As much as I like his stuff, Julian Simon was nuts too.

    Vallient,

    Hayek? Hayek? I thought you only read Rand? I’m telling you, you gotta read Robert Axlerod. He’s the dude.


  275. 275 275. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    So your point is "read E.T. Bell and go nuts"?

    "[...] it will do more to get a new math student involved in discourse [...]"

    Learning math from scratch is tough. It’s easy to get discouraged after trying a couple of problems. For new students, I think it’s helpful to know the histories of the personalities behind the concepts. You don’t feel so bad struggling with a proof when you realize that its discovery sometimes took centuries.

    Do you interpret being "involved in discourse" to "going nuts"?

    BTW, why didn’t you reference Noether’s theorum when I attacked Helmholtz’s law?

    A theorem doesn’t make for an empirical result, does it?

    Scroll up to

    Finally, the billiard ball model of the universe was abandoned for ideas like gauge theory and fields.

    And click through the link behind gauge theory. There’s little chance I can crank those figures on my calculator watch.


  276. 276 276. Jim Valliant

    Bill,

    Though barely literate, you’d be amazed at the websites, fer instance, I gets to.


  277. 277 277. Bill Kaplan

    Jim,

    I hope I didn’t convey the impression that I thought you illiterate. Quite the contrary. I think of you as extraordinarily literate on one subject–kind of like a Talmudic scholar. And unlike Bourbaki, I am broadly sympathetic to the topic.

    Bourbaki,

    Watch it, your radical empiricism is showing. The notion that Noether’s theorum and gauge theory are widely divergent in their epistmological roots is dubious at best. I have seen neither the the conservation laws nor gauges, but I believe in both–as do you.


  278. 278 278. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    The notion that Noether’s theorum and gauge theory are widely divergent in their epistmological roots is dubious at best. I have seen neither the the conservation laws nor gauges, but I believe in both–as do you.

    Where did you get that notion? Widely divergent? Radical empiricism?

    You didn’t click through the link like I suggested:

    This is the global symmetry of this particular Lagrangian, and the symmetry group is often called the gauge group. Incidentally, Noether’s theorem implies that invariance under this group of transformations leads to the conservation of the current

    \ J^(a)_(\mu) = i\partial_\mu \Phi^T T^(a) \Phi

    where the Ta matrices are generators of the SO(n) group.

    Was there a point you were trying to make?


  279. 279 279. Matt McIntosh

    Just a note here: The Fatal Conceit is as much a work of William Bartley’s as it is of Hayek’s. Hayek’s health and mental state were gradually deteriorating and he let Bartley, his editor, take more significant liberties with his revision than he otherwise would have. It’s still a good book worth reading (Bartley himself is a smart guy), but just keep in mind that it’s not all Hayek there. If MeTooThen and others liked The Constitution of Liberty, I’d suggest reading Law, Legislation and Liberty (all three volumes) next instead.


  280. 280 280. Jim Valliant

    Tommy,

    All of the works that Matt recommends are classics and, of course, he’s right.

    Bill,

    ‘Ya know, the real areas of my expertise are never called upon here!


  281. 281 281. Tommy

    I don’t see what is especially enlightening in Hayek’s book. He seems to be talking about horses I beat to death when I was sixteen in colledge and trying to change the world. I have over 100 pages written (not including research) about this. It is like I am reading a less interesting (though more logical and cohesive certainly)… whatever, I will stick to calculus information theroy complexity and thermodynamics for now, and leave that book on Liberty to myself of 4 years ago.

    Thanks for the recomendations. Can anyone recomend a good calculus book to buy? I am tired of reading internet pages its fookin killin my back (i have the worst computer chair ever, period).


  282. 282 282. Tommy

    Anyone here read Robert Ingersol? Heh, I was going through some of my old books, he’s the dude Bill.


  283. 283 283. Bourbaki

    Tommy,

    Dover Publications is a good place to start.

    You can check out many of the books online to see if they suit you. And they’re often sold at a substantial discount (under US$20).

    There are also some free step-by-step solvers available.


  284. 284 284. Bill Kaplan

    Tommy,

    Ingersol? Too upright. Stick to the works of nuts and geeks. They are more interesting.


  285. 285 285. MeTooThen

    Bourbaki,

    I finished Complexity. OK, it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good.

    More on this later.

    Matt,

    Thanks for the recommendation. I will follow your recommnedation as soon as I finish Constitution of Liberty.

    In the meantime, I found and started reading A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination by Gerald Edelman.

    So far, so good.

    The past three nights I have delivered lectures, speaking about why I normally do.

    But I found myself wanting to talk about alpha theory.

    If it wasn’t for that that @#%&*! math.

    Oh, and Bourbaki,

    "Incidentally, Noether’s theorem implies that invariance under this group of transformations leads to the conservation of the current

    \ J^(a)_(\mu) = i\partial_\mu \Phi^T T^(a) \Phi

    where the Ta matrices are generators of the SO(n) group.

    OK, my mind completely exploded.

    This is why I still have nightmares about not being ready for the math test.

    "Incidentally…"

    It is to laugh.


  286. 286 286. Bourbaki

    This is why I still have nightmares about not being ready for the math test.

    I still have them as well.

    Although I’ve had some excellent math professors, the middle and high school pedagogy of mathematics is terrible. No other subject is as universally hated. And yet, no other subject is as universally valid.

    That’s why I recommend non-technical books for people who are new to this. On the first pass, ignore the proofs and the problem sets. Learning the backstory seems to better prepare one’s brain for the technical material.


  287. 287 287. Bourbaki

    MeTooThen,

    I think you will enjoy Edleman and Tononi’s Universe of Consciousness.

    I just ordered it. If you think it makes for a better introduction to this material, I’ll definitely pass along the recommendation.

    Thank you.


  288. 288 288. MeTooThen

    Bourbaki,

    I think you will enjoy Edleman and Tononi’s Universe of Consciousness.

    The book serves to introduce the non-neurologist-neuroscientist-complexicist to the anatomical and theoretical substrates of human consciousness, in a way that reads much more easily than Waldrop’s Complexity and with greater power as well (Totally absent are the foolish, or irrelevant, politics and polemics found in Complexity).

    The thrust of the book is their model of brain behavior called the Dynamic Core Hypothesis which builds on the presence of "reentry" anatomical connections between neurons and brain regions, combined with the idea of "Neuronal Group Selection" as a way to describe synaptic activity.

    All of this is explained using models of complexity and "Integrated" or "Functional Clustering."

    The mathematical explanations describe this process by means of the entropy loss that occurs via integration as well as neural complexity.

    And then my head exploded (although I am beginning to intuit the math, I still don’t fully understand it’s derivation).

    All of this leads to qualia and beyond.

    It is a wonderful book and will certainly give you much to chew on.

    More later.

    Until then…


  289. 289 289. Tommy

    and what say you???


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