#26 On snoozeday

Dear Jamie,

I think about it with the following constraints.

  1. I think Doomsday would be the worst thing not in the world, but in the universe, so pretty bad,
  2. We’re most likely to die to a Black Swan, so we’d probably not realise it was coming,
  3. I have the usual cognitive biases and limitations that all humans do, that mainly ignore the above.

Point 1 is something I’d love to rant about, but I’ll keep in on the topic of doomsday as you seem to think it so important, jeez. It basically comes down to Continue reading #26 On snoozeday

Dammit I’m mad

I’m a complete amateur at this stuff but I try to keep my hand in, because it seems important. In fact, the most important thing there is: good old Cold War-style mutually assured destruction.

Nukes often get put at number one on a list of existential threats by the kinds of nerds who actually take the time to think about such things. In his last term Obama had been floating the idea of a no first use policy, so the US would only deploy nuclear weapons if another nuclear state did first. This sounds great but there are two sides to the debate, even among non-proliferation fans. Continue reading Dammit I’m mad

#24 On not needing to know

Dear Jamie,

I knew we’d crack it. While you could “judge political systems” according to your rule, let’s consider a system that embraces this rule:

Make decisions according to how great a chance they have of discovering and thereby achieving new goals, in perpetuity.

My logical consistency sense is tingling, so I pause. The structure of your system has kind of a Bertrand Russel ring to it. If we support all goals that achieve new goals, Continue reading #24 On not needing to know

#22 On knowing what’s best

Most new conjectures are wrong. Yes good. Most old conjectures are wrong. Also fine. This is because new and old are pretty much unbiased subsets of conjectures in general. However the set of ideas in active use are a biased, selected set. Imperfectly selected yes, and quite slow, yes. And can cause a lot of misery, sure. But implemented laws are a selected set and so have a higher percentage of true ideas than the set of new and the set of old.

There’s a lovely power law at work here, a kind of self-similar Sturgeon’s law. Most governments are Continue reading #22 On knowing what’s best

#21 On ancestor worship

Dear Mat,

I disagree with your conjecture.

Most new conjectures are wrong. That’s definitely right. But I disagree that the inverse holds: that therefore more old ideas are right. I think there are selection biases that you’re overlooking that are present in social and political domains that aren’t as relevant in science. Deutsch’s ideas about conjecturing apply across the board but scientific institutions are better tuned for this than political ones. In science the old ideas that are held onto, provisionally, are rightly favoured because they’re likely to be erring towards truth because they faced strong tests when they were adopted; new conjectures are more likely to be off the mark but you keep throwing stuff up and eventually you land on an improvement.

In politics there is way more inertia, way more bias towards conservatism and fewer norms for accepting new theories when they hold up to evidence. In politics a new, true idea may well have absolutely no chance of ever being accepted, merely because it conflicts with people’s intuitions, cognitive biases, animal spirits, tribalisms, etc. Continue reading #21 On ancestor worship

#20 On conserving progressivism

Dear Jamie,

Yes, there is always way too much to talk about. I honestly thought we might not have enough to say to warrant letters, so since the beginning I’ve been storing ideas that don’t fit in the hope that they might come back. A rough calculation tells me for every letter I publish I create 1.8 letters worth of ideas. There aint no plugging that hole.

When Deutsch describes a Dynamic society, what you describe is what I envision. That is a society that Continue reading #20 On conserving progressivism

The blog of Jamie Freestone and Mathew McGann