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Some scientific ideas to retire, part 2 - Input Junkie
January 10th, 2016
10:50 am


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Some scientific ideas to retire, part 2
There is no statistical independence. Damn. I should have thought of that one, considering that random sequences are so rare that if you see one, you should suspect it was deliberately designed.

Apparently, there is no perfectly white noise because the real world doesn't work that way.

We may not be able to explain that much about our minds by referring to our evolutionary past.
Reading provides a nice example. The ability to pass on and accumulate information has transformed our world, but written languages appeared only in the past 5,000 years ago, not long enough for us to have evolved an innate "reading module". Still, if you look inside the brain of a literate person, it will light up quite differently from that of an illiterate one, not just when reading but also when listening to spoken words. During the social process of being taught to read, infant brains are remodeled and new pathways created. If we didn't know this cognitive capacity was produced by social learning we'd likely think of it as a genetically-inherited system. But it is not: our brain and minds can be transformed through the acquisition of cognitive tools which we are then able to pass on again and again.

And I'd like to see something about the fairly common compulsion to do fiber arts.

A claim that inclusive fitness isn't mathematically sound. I'm not sure the piece is solid, but it does seem plausible to me that nature isn't maximizing anything simple.

The extent to which thinking runs on its own, though I think the author underestimates the extent to which people deliberately zone out.

More about problems in science. "The bias against corrections is especially harmful in areas where the results are cheap, but the underlying measurements are noisy. In those scientific realms, the literature may quickly become polluted with statistical flukes."

History of the idea of unlimited growth-- alchemy, Faust, money and imagination

F=ma doesn't mean that force *causes* acceleration, they just happen together.

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[User Picture]
Date:January 10th, 2016 04:16 pm (UTC)
Evolutionary psychologists are used to making strained and desperate connections to explain modern human behavior in terms of what our ancestors might have done on the savanna. The idea that males wear anoraks and practice trainspotting in order to attract mates is one of the more ludicrous, and I've also seen it seriously suggested that the evolutionary purpose of religious belief is to release endorphins.
[User Picture]
Date:January 10th, 2016 04:32 pm (UTC)
The article on "F = ma" jumps from the truth that causality doesn't actually work in the direction we think to the notion that there is no cause and effect: "We will come to appreciate that causes and effects do not exist in nature, that they are just convenient creations of our own minds." That sentence is a nice example of the "stolen concept" fallacy; it implicitly assumes causality (creation being a form of causality) in the process of denying it.
From:David Oster
Date:January 10th, 2016 06:13 pm (UTC)

RE: History of the idea of unlimited growth

This post points to http://edge.org/response-detail/25442 - Hans Obrist expects the reader to know who John Law was.

He was involved in both the The Mississippi Bubble https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_Company and the South Sea Bubble https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Sea_Company .

Both articles are worth the time to read.

But, Hans-Christoph Binswanger, in Money and Magic, is confused. Yes, unlimited growth is obviously unsustainable, (In a finite universe. In the limit :-) ) but he confuses "goods" and "wealth" - This is the same planet as it was 5000 years ago, but human society has continued to do better with the materials available to us, and there are many reasons to believe that we'll continue to do even more with less.
[User Picture]
Date:January 13th, 2016 12:01 am (UTC)
When someone says that overproduction, rather than scarcity, is the fundamental economic problem of our time, I know that their economic analysis is unsound, just as I know a physical theory is unsound if it claims I can build a perpetual motion machine.
[User Picture]
Date:January 13th, 2016 04:11 pm (UTC)
As for Metzinger, "We are really only cognitive systems"? I don't know about Metzinger—maybe AI is further advanced than I've heard—but I am a physical body with sensitive nerve endings, metabolic needs, and other noncognitive traits that profoundly influence my cognitive processes. In fact, the whole point of the cognitive traits ultimately is to serve the needs of the body, however much entertainment they give me in the process.

Is the argument supposed to be that the body is not a permanent entity, but a self-rebuilding process? Well, but surely the same is true of the "cognitive systems" Metzinger writes about. If that doesn't stop him from using the noun "cognitive system," I don't see why it should stop me from using the noun "body."

It's a little disturbing that this kind of Platonism is still rampant in psychology. I see people who talk about themselves as software that accidentally happens to inhabit a body. I see myself as a body that can do some amazingly clever things, including self-awareness.

Finally, is Metzinger proposing seriously to do away with all that non-volitionally-directed cognition? I'm reminded of G. K. Chesterton's parable of the reformer and the gate. Having more than once woken up with clear solutions in my thoughts to problems I had been puzzling over, I value my non-consciously-directed mental functions and would not want to risk them. This sounds rather like the sort of bureaucratic mentality that can't abide the untidiness of markets and wants to have a government plan for every economic activity, only projected inward.
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