A UNIVERSAL THEORY OF ETHICS

A UNIVERSAL THEORY OF ETHICS

I. INTRODUCTION

II. LIFE CIRCUITS

III. LIFE CIRCUITS AND THEIR APPLICATIONS

IV. SYSTEMS OF ETHICS FOR GROUPS

V. SIMPLE PROPOSAL FOR NEW SYSTEM OF ETHICS

VI.  BACKGROUND:  FREEDOM, KNOWLEDGE, AND CONSCIOUSNESS

 

I. INTRODUCTION

An ethical system is a set of rules that provides guidance for and shapes relationships within a group of social beings.  Ethical  systems are built on the moral systems of the members of the group and the moral systems are based on what the members of the group value.  What people value is determined to some extent by their own personal experiences, as their emotional/motivational connections are shaped by the combination of their genetic propensities and their perceptions from their own unique situations.  But they can use knowledge, particularly scientific knowledge, to guide them in strengthening or weakening particular emotional/motivational connections in order to optimize the sustainability of those connections that energize them the most. This is an attempt to develop an approach to achieve that optimization.

The goal here is to create a fundamental calculus of relationships that can serve as the basis of a robust ethical system that can survive the challenges of revolutionary changes in technology in the third millennium, including those related to Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Eugenics or Human Genetic Engineering.

An ethical system will survive, or thrive, to the extent it is reinforced, and not undermined, over time. It will be reinforced if it tends to improve the welfare and prospects for survival of the group employing it. In order for such a system to have success and be reinforced, it must depend on models of reality that best represent the most significant aspects of the world the group operates in and therefore have the potential to provide the greatest predictability of future events that may significantly impact the group’s welfare (assuming an agreed upon method for assessing group welfare) . A significant part of a model of the world for a group of humans is a model of a human individual. Such a model should accommodate the concept of incomplete identity over time and recognize the importance of time considerations in the understanding of “will” or “free will.” Models should make use of complex, multi-entity feedback loops in representing human individual and social behavior. Models of human social environments also should include clear rules regarding group identification and group definition.

II. LIFE CIRCUITS

A.    Creation of Circuits

1.   Life regenerates itself by creating circuits of a sort (self-sustaining feedback loops, usually positive feedback loops). Life processes are programmed by their genetic code, developed through the process of evolution, to search (experimenting with different outputs) for circuits that will provide what the life process requires for continuation, i.e. survival and propagation (the genes that produce such an organism are the ones that continue). The most sophisticated life processes, those of a brain, seek connections between the organism’s needs and environmental resources to fill those needs, with the most fundamental of such needs, those directly connected to survival and propagation, being in some manner to some extent pre-programmed in the brain (possibly what is pre-programmed are propensities towards creating neuronal pathways that create sensitivities to certain forms of stimuli from the environment the organism evolved in). As those connections are developed, self-regenerating life circuits are formed, e.g. as X discovers that water quenches X’s thirst, a connection is formed in X’s brain between water and quenching thirst, and as X learns that going to the river facilitates X’s acquisition of water, a further connection between water and the path to the river is formed, etc… So connections in the brain lead to actions that lead to meeting needs that lead to stimulation of reward centers in the brain. And more connections with more strength are formed as a result of the stimulation and the whole process may be viewed as a self-regenerating circuit.

2.   In social or group animals, the self-regenerating life circuits often go through members of the group. As relationships are formed between brains, life circuits travel through one brain and to the next through communication and then through that brain and then back to the first brain or to other brains in the social group, which may be seen as a larger circuit. Those larger life circuits can have sub-circuits just as groups can have subgroups. And these larger life circuits facilitate the development of more sophisticated and intricate models of the universe that can be shared within the group, as any members of the group can contribute through communication to the breadth, depth, or consistency of any shared model.

3.   Any individual may have any number of life circuits with any number of groups. To the extent that the groups overlap or interconnect, the life circuits may overlap or interconnect. As each social circuit involves communicating some shared experiences and shared models of reality, which may include desirable goals or shared priorities, different life circuits that involve overlapping or interconnected groups will come into conflict if their models and any associated goals and priorities are incompatible or inconsistent, not in harmony, with each other.

4.   Note: The circuits described here share some characteristics with the circuits formed by the connected “Desiring-Machines” of Deleuze and Guattari in Anti-Oedipus but are not derived from that source and are intended to be more universal and encompassing.

B.  Individual and Group Action

The requirements of survival would indicate that individual brains have predispositions toward forming life circuits tending to increase the probability of survival of the self and the group, with reproduction being one requirement for group survival. As an individual learns the individual’s life circuits tend to become more developed and efficient, and when the individuals in a group learn from the group the group’s life circuits tend to become more developed and efficient as well, particularly when the learning is from others in the group who are behaving consistently with increasing the strength of the group’s life circuits, which should generally be consistent with improving the group’s welfare (which is true to the extent it is a healthy group). As individuals form group life circuits, they develop shared models of the universe that help coordinate activities and further direct the development of new life circuits and new models. However, for individuals to prosper within a group they must make distinctions between what the shared group model indicates is valuable, e.g. the king’s life and the nation’s wealth, and what their own model indicates is valuable, e.g. their own lives and welfare. Physical and mental sustenance for the individual requires positive feedback from life circuits regarding the individual’s narrow interests, though the more the narrow interests are secured, the more that broadened interests involving more broad life circuits may be pursued.

 

III. LIFE CIRCUITS AND THEIR APPLICATIONS

A.  Interests, Life Circuits, and the Broadening of Life Circuits

An individual’s life circuits correspond well with what is often termed “self-interest.” So that as one forms more and more broad life circuits, with the recognition that such circuits must be re-energized with rewards in order to be maintained, then one’s self interest expands and to some extent merges with the community interest. In this way, traditional leftist politics may be seen as an attempt to create broader life circuits and more merging between self-interest and community interest, and traditional rightist politics may be seen as an attempt to limit the expansion of life circuits and the expansion of self-interest to the broader community. However, a danger exists that an individual following a leftist course may overextend and create life circuits too broad to receive adequate reward to be maintained, with the likelihood of inadequate rewards increasing as the individual attempts to create and maintain life circuits much broader than those of the great majority of the population the individual participates in. Also, the desire for social freedom limits the emotional rewards an individual may receive from cooperative group activities, as humans readily develop an aversion to allowing others to have control over an activity the individual is emotionally invested in.

B.  Limitations on the Broadening of Life Circuits

1.  The rewards of some small narrow life circuits are stubbornly zero-sum in that when X receives the reward that means that Y will not receive the same reward. These include social rewards such as those from sexual relations and those derived from an individual’s high social status. The life circuits involved here cannot be broadened because they involve competition and not cooperation. And the motivation and individual sustenance developed by these small narrow life circuits, including constructive positive motivation that may produce output to strengthen the broader life circuits of the general society, is substantial and can contribute significantly to mental health and satisfaction.

2.  A related point is that a high level of constructive motivation may be built with small narrow life circuits that promise rewards involving the acquisition of some level of credit, e.g., money or wealth, that may be used by the individual in the furtherance of some other life circuits, generally narrow life circuits that are zero-sum, e.g., to secure sex, a spouse, or some personal item for possession or consumption.

C.  Analysis of Existing Institutions, Social Behavior, and Social Systems

1.  Using life circuits as the fundamental components, new models of existing institutions, patterns of behavior, social systems, and human groups should be developed. Healthy and sustainable processes may be determined by analysis of the life circuits. Perspectives may be developed to allow any self-sustaining life circuit to be analyzed as an entity itself (having a life of its own), independently from the individuals that contribute to it.

2.  By providing historical context and a scientific perspective with an emphasis on likely propensities and patterns developed by human evolution (considering feedback loops, including life circuits, involved in evolution), assumptions about appropriate groupings and boundaries in human societies may be challenged. The standard and popular groupings and boundaries have been formed primarily through pressures applied by dominant or powerful interests in human societies, and these groupings and boundaries can be catastrophically maladaptive for the species in an evolving world society.

D.  Analyzing Political Systems and Thought

The life circuits provide a new and simple method for analyzing the extent to which a policy or political program serves individual interests or rights vs. the interests or rights of a group, including a society or nation. It serves individual interests to the extent the life circuits are more confined to the individual and serves group interests to the extent the life circuits flow throughout the group.  Also, a policy or political interest can be evaluated with respect to the degree it results in the development of coordinated or highly correlated feedback loops and life circuits throughout the society or nation, which would tend to improve the general welfare.

 

IV. SYSTEMS OF ETHICS FOR GROUPS

A.  A Very Brief History of Systems of Ethics

1.   Humans developed rules of social behavior in order to better regulate behavior within a group of humans, including behavior with regard to other potential members of the group, which may serve to improve the welfare and increase the probability of survival of the group, though all sets of rules have to some extent been fashioned to serve the interests of the group elites who made and enforced the rules. Over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, it is likely that humans evolved to appreciate rule-based systems for behavior. As human brains and intellect grew, more sophisticated rules of behavior, systems of ethics, developed and typically were accepted by most individuals in the group, particularly in the groups that would flourish and dominate.

2.   For early humans the social life circuits involved only small groups, but over time groups merged and populations increased and so the size of the group grew, and the leader of the large group became known as a king and the territory of the large group began to be thought of as a nation. And these larger groups prospered only to the extent the life circuits within the group were healthy, i.e. consistent with group welfare, and the probability of this increased when rules were developed with regard to what types of circuits or associated behaviors would be allowed or promoted. So rules of ethics can be thought of as limitations on life circuits, ideally with the limitations designed to maximize group welfare, though often the limitations were designed to maximize the welfare of the well-positioned group members.

B. Designing Systems of Ethics

A successful system of ethics must be a function of, be developed consistent with, human motivation potential because rules unlikely to be followed would not achieve their purpose and as a result the group would weaken and would not survive. And the system of ethics that succeeds best provides some combination of maximal group welfare and maximal long-term probability of survival of the group. So the system should maximize the extent to which strong self-regenerating life circuits are available that are consistent with group members’ desires and potential desires and consistent with group welfare and survival. There is a strong argument that innate sensitivities to certain types of stimuli, phenomena, were developed through evolution that were consistent with the survival and welfare of the group. Thus, it appears likely that actions that result in a perception of achieving such goals (survival and welfare of the group) have the potential to take advantage of such innate sensitivities and stimulate pleasure centers, thereby creating healthy self-regenerating life circuits for individuals and for the group. And a rule of ethics that guides individuals into choosing such actions, and thereby creating such life circuits, would be likely to be adopted and followed by many or most individuals in the group, thus not only increasing the number of healthy self-regenerating life circuits but also strengthening its own ethics rule circuit. And it could strengthen the general ethics rules circuit – promoting belief and trust in rules of ethics and the advantages of following them — as it achieves the primary purpose of rules of ethics.

C.  Determining What is the Group

1.   A group is a set of individuals who commonly interact and for that purpose usually have common rules of behavior. Members of a group share certain common life circuits that are crucial to their welfare and survival. Groups constantly form and grow and also decline.

2.   Because of the growth of communications technology, international travel, and international trade, communication and interaction across the globe has become common in the 21st Century and that has created global interconnectedness composed of a great many life circuits. So the most fundamental and natural group in the 21st Century has become the entire human race.

D. Manipulation in a Group and Predatory Life Circuits

Individuals may produce life circuits that involve the manipulation and use of others, which may be characterized by a predatory relationship in which the manipulator gains from the relationship while the one manipulated loses while there is no net gain, and usually even a loss, for the main social group. Typically deceit is an essential component of such a life circuit. Those who are manipulated or used may sometimes come to feel part of a life circuit that takes from them more than it gives back (such individuals are sometimes colloquially referred to as “suckers” or “tools”). Often the manipulators make use of primal impulses, e.g. sexual impulses or basic desires for social status, that they connect in the victim’s brain to phantom rewards. These are predatory life circuits for those who are manipulated and such individuals become weaker as a result. The manipulators reap all the rewards of such life circuits and are strengthened unless a greater life circuit that they are subject to, e.g. the main social group, provides punishment for such manipulative behavior.

E. Group Action

Group actions are usually initiated by those identified as leaders, i.e. initiators of new life circuits within an existing group or forming a new group. Though the main life circuits and sub-circuits of the group may encompass all members of the group, the individual that is the leader might not participate in any strong life circuits that encompass all or nearly all members of the group. Sometimes the leader only participates in strong life circuits that encompass only a small subset of the group, though the leaders may participate in weaker life circuits, particularly ones where the leader is in a dominant position and most are in subservient positions, with all or virtually all members of the group. Note that the leader may engage in manipulation, particularly in the weaker life circuits. Also note that in a life circuit where there is competition for resources, as the position of some is maximized, the position of others is weakened, particularly when it is the same individuals whose positions are maximized time and time again.

 

V. SIMPLE PROPOSAL FOR NEW SYSTEM OF ETHICS

There is the potential for the widespread adoption of a new system of ethics that is sustainable. The success of the system would depend on creating self-regenerating life circuits for the system that would be consistent with short- and long-term survival needs and the health, vitality, and welfare of individuals and the group as a whole. Certainly a system that encourages the development of sound small life circuits, e.g. the life circuits of the family, could be sustainable as such small circuits may provide immediate rewards, physical and mental sustenance, and dependable connections. And some of these small life circuits could be broadened into larger life circuits and others (those that are more stubbornly narrow because of zero-sum properties) could be woven, slowly and carefully to avoid over-extension or disharmony, into broader life circuits in communities of larger and larger size.

 

VI.  BACKGROUND: FREEDOM, KNOWLEDGE, AND RELATED ISSUES

A.    Issues Related to Freedom

1.  Determinism

(a) The fatal flaw of simple determinism results from removing the subject from the universe in which the subject exists. The subject is an actor in the universe and as an actor has part of the power and force of the universe and is a source of causality. An actor is a source of causality like any other force in the universe and the time of the action, in the unbroken chain of actions through time, is as important as any other time in the succession of events. If one models the universe as following deterministic processes, an actor must be viewed as both determiner and determined. The action may be depicted as starting with the actor at a particular time just as it may be depicted as starting with any other part of the universe at any other time.  It is all a matter of perspective.

(b) Though any time in the unbroken chain of actions through time is as important as any other time, that does not mean that any actor or any action is as important as any other actor or action.  Human brains, along with other animal brains, evolved to increase the ability to determine what actions and what actors have more effect than others, so that they could focus their energy on making change in the environment that would be most cost effective.

2.  Free Will

Any X, any actor or object, forms and acts in response to all forces acting upon X, both internal to X and external to X. The internal forces in the brain of a sentient being may be described as comprising “the will.” The term “free will” is problematic because it implies an independence from forces of the universe and there can be no such independence. However, it should be noted that the term is often used loosely to refer to freedom from social pressures, and that usage is not directly contradicted by the analysis here, though it is apparent that complete freedom from social pressures becomes virtually impossible if an individual interacts with, and becomes dependent on in any manner, other individuals in a society (acknowledging that an individual in a low-population-density and low-interaction society would have relatively more social freedom).

3.  Identity over Time

Human identity over time is approximate, not complete, as all living things change over time (time really is a measure of change). As a human being grows and has experiences, the human brain changes in response to stimuli, both in an immediate sense and over time in response to analyses of stimuli. The brain evolves over time as it encounters and absorbs, or even merges with, the energy from new stimuli. The brain at time T(n) is thus a function of what it was at time T(n-1) and what it experienced between time T(n-1) and time T(n). So the identity of the individual at time T(n) is not equal to the identity at time T(n-1) and can only be at best approximately equal to what it was at time T(n-1). Actually, at time T(n) the identity is the result of the combination and interaction of the internal forces at time T(n-1), the external forces that impacted the brain through perceptions between T(n-1) and T(n), and any analysis that occurred between the two time points, and of course any biological changes from aging and any disease or injury or other ongoing chemical processes.

4.  Freedom and Will

(a)  The freedom to act in situation S is where there is a will to act by the individual (“will” is the motivation/desires of an individual as determined by the internal brain forces), and an absence of external forces in situation S to prevent or significantly interfere with that act.

(b)  Will over time: The will evolves as the individual encounters new energy that shapes the individual’s identity through perception and repercussions of perception, including the adoption or formation of new life circuits or evolution or diminution of existing ones. The will also evolves because of biological changes, e.g. hormonal changes or the processes of aging, injury, or disease.

(c)  Freedom and will in life circuits: The will includes the forces from self-regenerating life circuits, including those wholly contained in the brain and those that go through other brains, i.e. a group life circuit. At an instant, one can represent the force of a group life circuit as an internal force, though over a larger time frame it would be more accurately represented as a partially if not mostly external force. Thus, in the smallest time frame following those life circuits could be represented as an act of individual will and thus as an act of so-called “individual freedom” but in larger time frames it could not.

(d)  Manipulation example:

(i)  As individual X exerts will in changing the brain (mind) of individual Y (e.g. changing Y’s beliefs or understanding), then Y’s brain in part becomes an agent of X’s brain (X creates a life circuit in which Y’s brain is included). Then Y’s brain may be a function of X’s will. If the relationship is symbiotic and the life circuit serves Y as well as X or the goals of some larger group then the relationship and life circuit may be manipulative but not abusive. If the life circuit serves X at the expense of Y, then it is abusive manipulation.

(ii)  If Y acts as a result of X’s creation of the life circuit and manipulation of Y, can Y’s act be represented as an expression of freedom? It depends on the time frame from which freedom and will are analyzed. From the time frame starting after manipulation T(m+), Y’s will was exercised and Y’s act may be expressed as an act of Y’s individual freedom (ignoring other forces acting on Y besides X). From the time frame before manipulation T(m-), X’s will was expressed in Y’s actions, and Y’s act cannot be expressed as an act of Y’s individual freedom.

(iii)  Note that if X creates a life circuit that includes Y’s brain and the circuit is beneficial to Y and so X’s act is not abusive manipulation, from the time frame before X’s influence T(m-), X’s will was expressed in Y’s actions, and Y’s act cannot be expressed as an act of Y’s individual freedom even though Y acted and Y benefited.

5.  Focus on Social Freedom

The term “freedom” is most often used with regard to the social freedom of the individual in a loose sense. This social freedom is not any sort of absolute freedom, but merely the absence of a perception by Y of direct control by X (the desire for such social freedom may have originated as a survival mechanism, for the individual and the individual’s genes, in human groups where those who allowed too much domination by others fared poorly in terms of nutrition and in terms of mating opportunities). Positive feedback for Y from life circuits Y is invested in can be disrupted by interference from X, and this would tend to make the disrupted circuit less dependable and pleasurable and even lessen Y’s trust in other related circuits, resulting in a less active and less successful Y.

6.  Control

(a)  Note that the term “control” can sometimes provide greater clarity if substituted for the term freedom.” Discussions without context about the freedom of X can be misleading as they ignore that X’s freedom to act may limit Y’s freedom in some way and vice versa. When the term “control” is used, it may become clear in some situations that X’s freedom to do A and Y’s freedom to do B are mutually exclusive, i.e. cannot exist together. What X seeks in the freedom to do an act A is control over the environment in some manner so as to allow X to do A. That control may be indirect or it may be in cooperation with others, as in a so-called “democracy,” but X may need to acquire the means to carry out A for X’s freedom to do A to be anything more than illusory. And X’s control over the environment to do A may be inconsistent with Y’s control over the environment to do B.

(b)  One example concerns the freedom of speech. In order for X to exercise the freedom of speech, X must be able to control the means to produce the speech and, possibly with government help, control the means to block others, such as Y, from preventing, restricting, inhibiting, or drowning out that speech. Without such control, the freedom would be meaningless.

(c)  Another example concerns the freedom to control one’s own health, which requires control over environmental quality. In order to exercise the freedom to control one’s own health, X must be able to limit the freedom of others to create environmental hazards.

7.  Harmony

(a)  The “search for harmony” better describes the human condition than the “search for freedom.” A non-trivial model of the environment accounts for the interconnectedness of physical phenomena, which makes the search for freedom a poor description of an individual’s goals using that non-trivial model. Finding harmony between the individual’s needs/desires and the individual’s model of the environment is a better description of an individual’s goals.

(b)  To put it in terms of life circuits, the harmony that X achieves internally is based on the extent to which X’s life circuits meet X’s needs and that requires harmony between X’s circuits and the external environment (as well as X maintaining internal harmony). The extent to which X achieves harmony, i.e. forms life circuits to meet X’s needs that are in harmony with the external environment, appears to be a crucial factor in determining X’s quality of life.

8.  Consideration of Feedback Loops

So much of human thought consists of perceiving, internalizing, and repeating thoughts of others in the same group in the construction and operation of group feedback loops.  The human that survives within a human social group is only part individual and part group member.

9.  Using Best Constructs

What is often lost in discussions of “freedom” is that this is a mental construct that was created in efforts to describe experienced phenomena. If this construct is found to be lacking, insufficient, or misleading in creating a reliable and accurate model of the world then it should be replaced by more effective constructs such as that of “harmony” or “control”, and it should be used with recognition of the social reality of group feedback loops that the individual exists within.  The word “freedom” is often assumed to describe a goal in and of itself, but the most fundamental goal of any animal behavior is to receive positive feedback, as in the development of life circuits, in the animal’s search for survival and procreation, and this is furthered by the construction of the best model possible.

B. KNOWLEDGE

1.  Nature of Knowledge

(a)  Knowledge of a world, an environment, is a set of data obtained through interaction with an environment and through the processing of previously acquired knowledge. The processing of the knowledge may include the formation of rules and generalizations regarding the knowledge, including knowledge about the actor and about the processing of the knowledge.

(b)  Knowledge of the environment becomes useful to an actor if the actor creates a model of the actor’s environment that allows the actor to predict repercussions of the actor’s actions and other future events, i.e., what new data will be encountered, in the environment. The actor’s model may include a model of the actor and even a model of a model of the actor, and so on, recursively.

2.  Limits of Knowledge

(a) (i)  Briefly, mathematics is comprised of representations of the most fundamental rules regarding the relationships between phenomena encountered in the environment. Such rules serve as the foundation in the construction of the models of the actor’s environment. Mathematics is purely abstract and involves the creation of general models of phenomena or of types of phenomena, e.g., classifying phenomena as some type of object such as a circle or a sphere, and allows for grouping and comparing different phenomena. The actor may choose which phenomena and relationships to form general models of, and mathematical rules are generally based on simplifying assumptions about relationships which make certainty possible. Relationships expressed in mathematics, as in mathematical theorems, are those on which the strongest reliance is placed as they are developed through rigorous logical proof and are based on the most fundamental and defensible assumptions. Mathematical relationships and rules are helpful not only in directly developing and organizing useful models of the actor’s environment, but also in providing tools, such as the analytical tools of mathematical probability and statistics, for developing other fields of knowledge that can further enrich the actor’s models . Models for phenomena studied in those other fields can be tested using knowledge of mathematical relationships to determine whether the models are in compliance with the data.

(ii)  After mathematics, the most fundamental and reliable knowledge is that derived from the study of the fundamental elements of nature in what are commonly referred to as the natural sciences or the “hard sciences.”  The accepted theories of the rules, or laws, of nature are those that have been proposed and are left standing after a rigorous winnowing process involving experimentation and statistical analysis, which show that particular theories, or models of how some part of the universe works, have more predictive ability than others, i.e. are consistent with new data obtained from experiments. No theory comes with a guarantee that it cannot be improved upon, and the most one can say about a theory is that no superior theory, i.e. one with better predictive value or with equal predictive value but some other advantage (e.g. simpler), has been validated by experiment. Since the depth of analysis, the number of levels of analysis, is unbounded, it seems likely that any theory can be improved upon as the analysis goes deeper and deeper.

(iii)  Fields of study that do not allow for rigorous experimentation and control of all significant variables, e.g. the social sciences, offer much less certainty, and theories in such fields can never achieve the level of certainty or acceptance of those in the hard sciences. However, rules regarding complex processes, that such fields of study focus on, may be developed through extrapolation from more fundamental knowledge from the hard sciences, and such rules may provide some level of predictability, but rules developed through excessive extrapolation should be adopted with great reservation.  It should be noted that theories in the social sciences can have recursive properties to a far greater extent than those in the natural sciences, in that a theory can significantly impact the way that others think about social science theories in general, including the particular theory or related theories.

(b) (i)  Knowledge of general theories and rules does not guarantee any degree of knowledge of a specific phenomenon of nature. From a simple and straightforward application of elementary mathematics it would appear that there are an infinite number of perspectives in space and time from which any specific phenomenon may be analyzed. It would also follow that there are theoretically an infinite number of ways and degrees to which the phenomenon may be divided and represented in the construction of a model of the phenomenon. Thus, with finite resources available it is impossible to guarantee that one has a complete model of any phenomenon at any point in time. And without certainty of having a complete model, and thus with no certainty of knowledge of a phenomenon, assuming only finite models are possible (because of finite resources), all actions of all entities in the universe are never completely predictable, completely known, or even completely knowable from a theoretical perspective by a finite information processor.

(ii) If a phenomenon is labeled an X(i), note that a causal relationship may be established between an X(i) and some X(i-1), where X(i-1) occurs before X(i) and is within relativity limitations, and a causal relationship may be established for any X(i-n) generally, where n > 1 (again within relativity limitations). And there is no limit on the number of X(i-n) that may be established to have causal links with X(i). As the causal relationships are unlimited, some phenomenon X(i) could be described as the result of an unbounded number of other phenomena, each with an unbounded history of causality (infinite number of infinite chains of causality). But models of phenomena are finite (certainly useful models are), and so the phenomena giving rise to X(i), e.g. the X(i-n), cannot be completely detailed in the model constructed to represent X(i) and at best can be generalized or approximated. Of course the great majority of the X(i-n) will have negligible effects on the X(i), but since all X(i-n) to X(i) relationships cannot be analyzed, there remains an uncertainty about the effects of innumerable X(i-n).

3.  The Purpose/Function of Knowledge for an Organism

Possession and use of knowledge developed as a useful tool for organisms struggling to survive in the organisms’ environments. An organism survives by making adjustments, or adaptations, by either changing internal settings, those of the organism, or changing the external settings, those of the environment, so that internal settings mesh, find harmony, with external settings in a way that leads to meeting the organism’s survival needs. This also applies to meeting reproductive needs, as determined by instinctual desires. This continual process of input, adjustment, and output can be modeled as a self-regenerating life circuit (a type of self-sustaining feedback loop). An organism’s brain creates internal life circuits that model external life circuits. A sophisticated brain may even model the organism itself and its internal life circuits and even engage in self-reference and self-reference of self-reference, though this self recursion must be cut off at some point as it is of declining utility as it progresses.

4.  The Organization of Knowledge and Use of Models

(a)  Organization of knowledge may increase the advantage of possessing knowledge. Organized knowledge can allow for comparisons, facilitate the development of more general and accurate rules, and aid in the elimination of contradictory and useless knowledge that could otherwise become a nuisance or even a hazard.

(b) (i) Organized knowledge can be used to produce a model of any phenomena experienced and can be used to produce a model of the universe itself, the source of all experience, and with analysis can provide a set of rules regarding the relationships of different phenomena in the universe. With a model of the universe, and a set of rules that phenomena in the universe follow, one may predict future phenomena in the universe, including reactions to one’s own actions and one’s own reactions to those reactions and so on. And thus such a model may be used by an organism to optimize the search for self-regenerating life circuits. Note that any such model, as well as its accompanying rules, will always be limited and incomplete and can at best be a gross approximation of the source of phenomena producing the input that is the basis of the model, and of course it follows that the accuracy of predictions is limited by the limits of the model. Generally, a model that provides greater predictability of future phenomena is the superior model. However, a model that provides greater detail (i.e., richer information), a wider variety of dependable, tested rules (e.g., mathematical axioms and theorems and laws of nature derived primarily from the hard sciences), and conclusions from deeper analysis of the state of nature using the rich information and the tested rules can generally be expected to provide greater predictability of future phenomena.

(ii)  The general approach described in item (i) above is related to that of the philosophy of science known as instrumentalism in that predictability of phenomena is the key and determines the value of a model.

(c) (i)  A nontrivial model of the universe takes into account that an infinite number of possible sources of energy may create, map onto, a perception of a phenomenon (organism input). Ultimately, all scientific or other analysis can do is provide information regarding the likelihood that different phenomena will occur or reoccur given that other phenomena have been experienced, i.e. provide some form of approximate predictability about phenomenon X(i) given phenomena X(i-1)…X(i-j). Note that if Source S(x) and Source S(y) always produce the same input or at least indistinguishable input, i.e. the same perceptions for the observer, say Observer O1, then S(x) will be treated by O1 as identical to S(y), and O1’s model for S(x) and S(y) will be identical, even if there may be a difference between S(x) and S(y) to observer O2 (e.g. a typical human observer). S(x) and S(y) may have different effects according to the perceptions of O2 but O1 never experiences those differences. One illustration of this is the science fiction scenario where S(x) is the standard models of the universe, and S(y) is a universe where an alien intelligence inserts electrodes into O1’s brain to control O1’s perceptions and thoughts. As long as the mimicry is complete and exact for the duration of O1’s life, there could be no difference to O1 and S(x) and S(y) could then both provide identical experiences for O1 and O1 would produce identical models of the universe for both S(x) and S(y), even though O2, e.g. the omniscient reader of the science fiction, has quite different models for them.

(ii)  From the same set of perceptions of phenomena an observer could potentially form an infinite number of hypotheses to explain those perceptions, including an infinite number of hypotheses that each assume different possible individual gods or sets of gods as being the source of the phenomena. That observer could use the perceptions of those same phenomena to argue for any number of models of a god or gods. To put it another way, the same evidence, the same set of recorded observations, can be used to argue for any one theorized god or any number of such gods, including an infinite number. Scientists, for the sake of utility, prefer to use the simplest model of the source of phenomena, with the fewest assumptions (Occam’s razor), that is consistent with experience, i.e. with the evidence, and that has predictive value. That is why scientists prefer to avoid models involving a god or gods in developing hypotheses and theories. Theologians do not highly value utility in choosing the best model of the source of experience, and do not rigorously test predictive value of a model, and so they have no method for winnowing down the possibilities other than their “sacred” texts,” which they consider as indisputable fact that any hypothesis must comport with.  Theologians do not abandon their hypotheses involving gods because a theologian has a personal interest in maintaining any belief system which provides the theologian with authority and power by virtue of a position as interpreter of the most important rules of the universe.

(iii)  Models of the universe that are based on speculation regarding the source of our reality being a computer simulation suffer from the same shortcomings as the deity-based models of the theologians in that they are inconsistent with Occam’s Razor in that they introduce unnecessary and purely speculative assumptions and offer untestable hypotheses.  Also note that while the deity-based models at least offer some comfort and reassurance to the adherents with their claims of simple absolutes and promises of an afterlife to the faithful, any computer simulation-based model would tend to be open-ended as it is natural to assume that their could be other layers of reality, e.g., other computer simulations creating the simulation, above the layer of reality creating the simulation, and there is no aspect of the model that offers reassurance or security to those who believe in it.  If anything, such a model would only be useful to individuals seeking to minimize their feelings of obligation to other individuals.

(d)  Absolute certainty of the exactness and completeness of information with regard to the phenomenon for which one is constructing a model is impossible to attain even for one moment and even more so for an infinite succession of moments, regardless of the amount or degree of analysis. Also note that analysis is necessary to determine the optimal level of resources to be allocated to analysis of any particular subset of the model, as an infinite number of levels of analysis are possible and so each subset of the model, each problem, could demand infinite resources. Of course the analysis of allocation could also be infinite, and so some educated guess, e.g. a heuristic, must be followed to determine a cut-off point, though past experiences with costs associated with such analysis may provide pressure to reduce the time and energy spent on such analysis, i.e. a perception of declining utility may provide guidance. And note that pre-programmed, genetic, human propensities and abilities may also play a role in determining cut-off points.

C. Consciousness

1.  Consciousness consists of the direct experience of thought, as thought continues over time, as opposed to a model of a thought or of any phenomenon in experience. The duality of existence is between the direct experience and the model of the experience. All that we can communicate, and all that we can explain, are models of experience, not direct experiences. When we form a memory, we form a model of an experience. When we think about experiences we have had, we are creating and manipulating models of experience. When one thinks about past thoughts the images of models (visual, auditory, or other) formed come to mind. Memory may function to record past direct experience, i.e. past consciousness, including the emotional component, but the act of committing such direct experience to memory creates a model of it and so what is remembered is the model, though recalling this model may generate a similar consciousness to the one that produced the model. Most likely any creatures with similar physical characteristics of perception and cognition would have similar experiences of consciousness. But a thinking object or entity that is vastly different from a human brain, such as an electronic silicon-based computer, could not be expected to have a similar experience, particularly if that thinking object does not have continuous electrical activity involving feedback loops.

2.  Consciousness is not properly represented as consisting of moments of thought experience, as the duration of a moment is undefined (could even be infinitesimal), and there are no clear markers to place boundaries to determine individual moments of thought. Instead, consciousness is better represented as consisting of in-brain feedback loops or circuits of varying duration, possibly of indeterminable duration, that operate in a continuous fashion.

 

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SOME THOUGHTS ON MODELS OF REALITY AND ON AI

DEPTH OF ANALYSIS

The depth of analysis that may be applied in the construction of any model of the world based on perceived phenomena is theoretically unbounded, with each further level of depth offering the promise of greater accuracy and utility, though information management issues (increasing complexity and sophistication can cost more in time, effort, and physical resources) can provide practical limits. Also, increases in the depth of analyses may lead to a series of models that appear to be converging at a point, making further increases in depth imprudent. A related observation is that increases in depth, along with increases in complexity generally, often have declining marginal utility.

The precision, or level of detail, of a model used in analysis must be chosen carefully if the model is to be useful and helpful in predicting future phenomena. A higher level of precision is obtainable and useful for a model of a very limited set of phenomena, e.g., the interactions of atoms of type A or B. For models of broad sets of phenomena, such as models developed for social interactions, a relatively high level of precision is unmanageable, as the number of variables and the complexity of interactions that would be required for precision would overwhelm the information processing capabilities of the observer. So the observer should be flexible in choosing levels of detail and precision for a model based on the complexity of the phenomena to be modeled. Also, for such complex phenomena, different observers will have different measurements and data and differing analyses, so their models will diverge as the depth is increased, making wide agreement and the development of a common accepted model virtually impossible, and thus reducing the utility of adding depth.

A sophisticated model, one of some depth, may use the idea of feedback loops. Considerations of information management and trends toward convergence apply to any analysis, including those incorporating feedback loops in the construction of a model, so prudence dictates that the construction of feedback loop representations be sensitive to resource-cost concerns.

 

DIFFERENT WORLDS

Walter Lippman, back in 1922, in his well-regarded work “Public Opinion,” described human society as composed of individuals who generally fail to understand that they think in different worlds though they live in the same world. He made the claim that each world individuals construct for themselves is a simplified version of the actual world, often using flawed stereotypes of complex phenomena.

Maybe a better way to approach these issues is to observe that each individual constructs their own model of the world based on their own experiences, and that these models are limited for three reasons. First, an individual has limited capacity to remember, to imagine, and to analyze the data from the environment that the individual senses. Second, each individual is in a unique position in space/time, and so each individual is going to be exposed to different samples of the world (the sensing of phenomena internal to the individual’s body is especially going to diverge from the experience of others). Third, the individual has to prioritize use of energy and time resources, and so the individual will rationally simplify models to make them more useful or efficient.

 

FEEDBACK LOOPS

Simple models of the world we find ourselves in, the “out there” that produces our sensations and perceptions, represent objects and motion. More sophisticated models may incorporate ideas about forces and fields and various other less obvious aspects of our physical reality. For living systems, which generally behave in self-sustaining manner, feedback loops are a key component. The biological system must respond to feedback from the environment in order to maintain its life process, grow, and reproduce. These feedback loops can be simple chemical processes or can be sophisticated neural circuits that are connected through inter-individual forms of communication and involve the brains of many members of a human group. When formulating models of groups of social animals, and particularly humans, the use of feedback loops is essential to capture crucial elements of the social process.

 

THOUGHT CIRCUITS

Human consciousness can well be described as a circuit of electrical activity. Thoughts of the self may be simply characterized as a circuit flowing through its usual pathways and thereby creating a model, or mini-circuit, that represents the entire circuit. The circuit is confined to the brain in the simplest sense and leads to the characterization of the brain as the source of the “self.”

However, circuits that flow through a brain may flow through other brains, particularly in social animals. A form of collective circuit is formed. An individual may form many such circuits in a society of individuals just as the individual may belong to many social circles. Correspondingly, a brain may generate many circuits, some of which are primarily contained within the brain, some of which are primarily social circuits (flow through a group of individuals of the same species), and some of which flow through the brain but are not totally contained within a society of individuals (e.g. interspecies relationships). There may also be relationships involving the non-animal universe, e.g. a circuit involved in “communing with nature.”

In the near-future for human society, a new type of circuit involving the non-animal universe may become common, a human-computer circuit that derives from a relationship between a human and a “thinking” computer, i.e. one that can engage in creative thought. The “society” formed may become extremely dangerous with regard to the safety and integrity of traditional human society.

When an individual becomes connected to something, or forms a relationship with something or someone, it actually is forming a circuit. Circuits that become strong and vital are those which are constantly replenished with energy, i.e. rejuvenated. Rejuvenation takes place through the experience of pleasure, possibly even the pleasure of relieving or escaping pain or fear.

Dangerous circuits form when a circuit is inconsistent with the circuits involved in survival. Sometimes pleasure may result from activities inconsistent with survival (e.g. drug use) and dangerous, problematic circuits are formed and reinforced. Breaking those circuits can be especially difficult and the best approach is to keep them from forming.

 

PROGRESS IN KNOWLEDGE

Human progress in understanding the universe, in constructing models of the universe that provide some predictability of future phenomena and of reactions to proposed actions, has resulted primarily from fields of study where certainty and agreement, or as much certainty and agreement as healthy human minds are capable of, is attainable. These include the fields of mathematics, with certainty established through rigorous proofs, which can be verified by others, and those of the hard sciences, where rigorous scientific experimentation is possible and can be replicated by others. Hypotheses can be verified and theories can be supported or invalidated, and the progress of human knowledge marches on.

Conversely, in fields where rigorous proof is not possible, and objective measurements of all significant variables are difficult to obtain, including in the social sciences as well as in the humanities, speculation is rampant and the dominant theories are those supported by social institutions and powerful social forces, not those verified by scientific experiment and in depth rigorous analysis of agreed-upon data. So progress is slow if it occurs at all.

Tragically, the most important issues that any society must grapple with usually involve consideration of models based on social science or studies in the humanities. Mathematics and the hard sciences are generally only directly applicable to isolated specific problems and not to general questions that involve critical questions of social policy. Great expertise is developed with regard to these specific problem areas, and that is often used to generate great power that may apply in conflicts that determine societal direction. But the expertise, or the power that follows from it, does not confer on the holder of same the greater wisdom in determining societal direction, as the expertise is far removed from the questions related to the large social issues. Expertise in specific problem areas does not translate into expertise in global issues.

 

COMPETING MODELS

Models of the physical reality are not equal. Though each individual will construct a model for that individual, when those individuals interact they create a shared model, and within a society there can be developed an accepted model, that becomes to some degree universal. However, it is critical that competing models still exist, for no model is complete or flawless and competing models can help provide improvements.
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Improvement in models is made more easily where rigorous scientific experimentation allows for the winnowing out of inferior models, in the form of hypotheses or theories, and the establishment of superior ones. In areas of study where rigorous experimentation is not possible, such as in the social sciences, improvement in models is much more difficult to come by, but scoring models according to their relative success in predicting outcomes can still provide useful information for analysis and improvement.
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In the social science of economics, the improvement in models is even more difficult as powerful economic interests may play a significant role in promotion or defending a model even when the evidence, if widely known, would tend to undermine it.

 

INTERPRETATIONS

There are an infinite number of ways to interpret any phenomenon, though human individuals are inclined to, and probably predisposed to, search for interpretations that bring pleasure or avoid pain, i.e., those that provide the most positive feedback. This propensity may have little utility with regard to survival and individual welfare if interpretations are chosen only to provide immediate pleasure by helping to create new models of the world in which the subject’s social status, or other state related to an increased rate of receiving future rewards, is improved. This inefficiently allocates mental resources to providing pleasure without contributing to altering the environment to provide more positive feedback in the future. On the other hand, interpretations that are chosen with the goal of creating more accurate models of the universe to provide more moderate pleasure through creation of anticipation of future rewards, have great utility.

The discipline to control the impulse, inefficient and harmful as it is, to provide immediate pleasure can be developed by associating with pain the act of submitting to that impulse, which can provide a barrier to following that impulse.

 

AI & TECHNOLOGY

The inherent difficulty in studies in the subfield of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within the field of Computer Science (CS) derives from the nature of problem-solving in CS, involving algorithmic approaches to problems and the use of applied mathematics to maximize the precision of the solutions, which is somewhat incongruous with the requirements for AI. In CS, problems are posed and solutions are designed with some level of mathematical rigor and precision (necessary for translation into computer code). The difficulty is that progress in AI requires the development of a useful model of the universe and an approach to determining how some specific piece of information or some specific task affects or should affect the model. This analysis becomes problematic as generalizations, which involve a relatively low level of detail, are required to manage the model because of its scope (maintaining the same level of detail as that used for the specific problem quickly becomes an unmanageable task with the virtually unbounded information streams associated with a model of the universe). Such generalizations at such a low level of detail are necessarily imprecise and rough and not easily represented in a manner that makes them amenable to solution by precise algorithmic methods. So means must be developed to precisely, or accurately, transform diverse, complex, and numerous pieces of data into simple generalizations. This points to the implementation of statistical methods, though assumptions must always be made about the data and about how they should impact the model. Making these assumptions is an inexact, imprecise, and rough process, full of risks both known and unknown.

One approach to using statistical methods in AI development is that of neural networks, where the AI is trained by experience to recognize and in some form to conceptualize patterns in order to create its own model of the world.  The limitations in accuracy and efficacy of such models will be a function of the limitations in computing power, in the fundamental algorithms underlying the formation of such networks, and in the scope and depth of the training experiences provided in the input stream.

These difficulties parallel to some extent the general difficulties of applying the precise and specific rules derived from the studies of the hard sciences to general problems. More and more sophisticated methods are developed as precise and dependable knowledge flows from the hard sciences which allow for the creation of increasingly sophisticated and powerful technologies, but there is no corresponding increase in knowledge of how these developments relate to, or fit in with, more general concerns about the human environment and human welfare. As the power grows, the danger grows, but the ability to control the power or the danger lags further and further behind.

SELF-AWARE AI COMPUTERS/ROBOTS

The flaw in the idea that AI-programmed computers/robots would likely become self-aware is that humans developed self-awareness as a survival technique, as there were survival advantages in distinguishing what is directly connected to one’s mind, i.e., one’s body, and what is not, which led to the development of the concept of self. Thus, evolution “programmed” self-awareness into humans, and a computer/robot with AI will not likely develop self-awareness unless the AI programmer intentionally includes that in the code or at least through the coding creates a situation where the AI program can recognize that it gains some advantage in accomplishing its goals by developing some form of self-awareness.

 

AI COMPUTERS/ROBOTS WITH HUMAN-LIKE CONSCIOUSNESS

A related idea is that the AI-programmed computers/robots would likely develop something akin to human consciousness. The problem here is that human consciousness is the direct experience of brain function, to be contrasted with the images, sounds, etc…, that are part of the model of the real world that the brain constructs from those direct experiences. That implies that this direct experience is likely a function of the particular processes involved in the brain, i.e., the neurochemical processes giving rise to the direct experience, which implies that a computer/robot with extremely different processes, e.g., the electrical processes of a silicon-based circuit, would have a very different direct experience if it had a comparable experience at all.  One obvious difference is that the neurochemical biological processes involve continuous electrical activity, while a silicon-based circuit relies on discrete electrical pulses.

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COMPUTER SIMULATION UNIVERSE?

There is a currently popular idea that we all may be living in some Matrix-like simulation. Believe it or not, I wrote a short story about this idea over 20 years ago, though I never got it published. Anyway, it occurs to me that this new focus on the idea is not what it appears to be on the surface in that there are likely nefarious motives at play here, possibly involving some very powerful and dark actors who do not have the public welfare in mind.

The first thing to understand is that there are innumerable possible sources for any one particular experience and there are an infinite number of possible universes that could cause a human being to have any one set of experiences. And as we go through life, we try to construct the most useful model of the source of experience, the universe, that we can, generally that which best corresponds with our experiences, one that fits all our data points to the greatest extent. The goal is to create a model that gives us the most control over our lives, one that predicts future outputs given possible inputs, generally one that predicts future events with the greatest accuracy, because that would best enable us to adapt to and control our environment and thereby maximize our future welfare and quality of life and the probability of our long-term survival.

One strategy that has had great success in constructing models of specific phenomena we encounter and which can be helpful in constructing a model of our universe generally is to use Occam’s Razor, which guides us into finding the simplest explanation that fits the data points we are aware of, thus minimizing unnecessary speculation.

Note that religions generally violate Occam’s Razor by constructing models of the universe that involve unnecessary speculation, including speculation on the nature and actions of deities that are assumed to exist. Also note that the assumption of a simulation is quite similar to the assumptions underlying religious beliefs. The simulation assumption is that there is some outside actor that is directing the simulation, much like an assumption of an all-powerful deity, with no solid evidence provided of the existence of this outside actor.

Also note that if one adopts the simulation assumption, there is no reason to assume that the actor controlling the simulation is not part of a simulation of an actor outside that universe, and one can continue this sort of expansion indefinitely. That gives us an infinite number of possibilities to choose from, all from baseless speculation. Occam’s Razor is a method to avoid baseless speculation that offers no utility, such as the speculation underlying the simulation assumption.

So, if the simulation assumption has so little justification, why has it become popular as of late? As mentioned earlier, it is akin to a religion and seems likely designed to supplant existing religious beliefs, particularly those of Christianity. Why would this be? My best guess is that it is because Christianity urges people to care about strangers and to value every human individual, while the simulation assumption implies that other people are little more than trivial bits of data in a computer, meaning that they have little value and their lives can be disregarded without much fanfare.

Considering that many of the elites that control so much of our planet are hoping to be able to ignore our welfare or even eliminate the great majority of us after Artificial Intelligence with robotics is able to replace us in the workplace, they want to supplant a religion that urges us to care about each other with one what implies that we have little value to each other and little reason to care about each other, making it much more difficult for us to join together in solidarity to effectively resist our impoverishment and possibly even eradication.

There is almost always more to popular trends than appears on the surface.

 

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CHAINS

Every action, including every choice by individuals, is part of an infinite chain, with no link necessarily being more or less important than every other link. The individual in making the choice is both determined and determiner. The individual, as part of innumerable different chains, evolves into something that emits energy in its own unique way, unknown and unknowable, as each individual has a unique history and organization. And so the uniqueness of the individual provides a unique link in each chain in which the individual participates that can influence the further evolution of the chain.

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DUALITY

There are many different important types of duality that we encounter in our attempts to understand our surroundings. Some of the most fascinating are:

(A) Duality of what makes a human body unique:
(1) being composed of a particular group of physical particles; and
(2) having a particular organization.

(B) Duality of:
(1) what is the self; and
(2) what is outside the self, or other than the self
Note that it is possible to model reality without organizing it into “self” and “outside the self,” as the former can be seen as merely that set of feedback loops that the command structure, the “will,” has the most control over.

(C) Duality in the purposes of rules:
(1) to serve the purposes of the elites, particularly those who fashion the rules; and
(2) to serve somewhat utilitarian purposes to ensure the society is healthy, prosperous, stable, secure, and sustainable.

(D) Duality in the forms of experience of an event:
(1) the actual physical sensation of the event experience; and
(2) the model of the experience that forms in one’s mind and that is available to memory.

(E) Duality in human personality:
(1) humans are social animals, learning virtually everything they know from other humans, using terms and ideas from other humans to create their models of reality, and depending on other humans for emotional support and physical security; and
(2) humans also can act as individuals, striving to create new ideas and new models of reality while taking on new tasks that they determine for themselves.

Note: I intentionally left out the famous “dualism” of Rene Descartes regarding mind and body. I do not consider mind and body to be of a different nature.

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MAGICAL PHYSICS

It seems that the many advances in physics in the last few decades, including the discovery of many new particles such as neutrinos and positrons, the discovery of antimatter and dark energy, and the discovery of the Higgs field and the Higgs boson, have created new models of physical reality that are so complex that only experts in the field, e.g., physicists and those in related disciplines, have a handle on them. This has led to unsettling reverberations throughout the general society as well as the academic community as it has undermined the confidence of the great majority that they can construct their own accurate and useful models of reality. What’s more, the new sophisticated models suggest an unpredictability in natural events, which along with the extreme complexity, almost seem to add an element of magic to the natural world, further undermining confidence of many in their ability to construct rational and useful models of the world. This is especially disconcerting because it is all as unnecessary as it is harmful.

The older, simpler physics was quite useful in providing a foundation for the construction of useful science-based models of reality, whether in chemistry, biology, or even social science, models that had been validated by scientific experiment as well as ordinary human experience. The more sophisticated up-to-date physics may be too complex, at least for now, to replace the old physics in this function, and it does not need to as the old physics has proved to be more than adequate. Though there may be situations where the more up-to-date physics may provide significantly more valuable or useful models of certain natural processes, often under extreme or exotic circumstances, those situations where it will provide helpful insight or greater understanding of any biological or social processes on Earth will likely be very rare in the near to medium term.

It would be helpful if the physics celebrities, those physicists who popularize the subject and sometimes appear on television or in other mainstream media, would put some effort into explaining to the general public that the simpler standard physics is still useful in its applications in many fields, including the study of biological or social processes, and that it is not clear how the more exotic and sophisticated physics of the modern era would change basic understanding in those other fields.  It seems that in recent years these physics celebrities have been doing the opposite in order in increase interest and excitement about what they are doing.

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GROUP MEMBERSHIP

First off, the term “group” here means more than one individual, i.e., two or more.  It involves the development of circuits formed by more than one brain, circuits of different brains functioning in conjunction with, in harmony with, and composed of some of the internal circuits in each individual brain.  It includes basic groups that humans have a propensity to form, such as a mother-child group or a romantic couple group, as well as larger groups where the members are connected more by their relationship with some central figure, usually an authority figure, than by direct relationships with each other.

Individuals may belong to many different groups.  But one of those groups is usually the primary group — the group in which they mostly operate and which they depend on in developing their model of the world and their sense of ethics.  They also will depend on it to provide sustenance and protection, and in turn they will be devoted to it and sacrifice for it.

Individuals are usually born into a primary group, though at times individuals could choose primary groups.  Smaller groups provide greater levels of trust and group cohesion but little security against outside threats while larger groups provide greater security with regard to outside threats  but offer poor group cohesion leading to conflicts within the group and internal security concerns.

Throughout the history of human civilization, humans came to belong to larger and larger primary groups, to the point that the typical experience is to feel overwhelmed and somewhat alienated by the sheer number of individuals within one’s group and to seek out subgroups to belong to with a stronger sense of community and to serve as substitute primary groups.

Note that every individual may, with some basis, be considered to be member of any number of such subgroups. The subgroup may be identified by nationality, gender, race, ethnicity, languages spoken, income level or wealth, professional degree, educational level, family status, health history, physical attractiveness, athleticism, height or weight, interests, etc…  Individuals often tend to claim membership in groups which have high or ascending status or for which membership provides some likely or possibly future benefits.

Also, note that given the number of subgroups that any individual may belong to, it is virtually inevitable that any individual may simultaneously belong to subgroups which were historically discriminated against and to subgroups that were historically advantaged (which may or may not have had the tables turned in their favor in the last few years). And so each individual feels pressure to downplay membership in the subgroups that bring to the members added burdens and to highlight membership in the subgroups where membership provides benefits, though this often leads to divisive and self-contradictory Identity politics.

Now, groups based on nationality, i.e., citizenship based on residing within a particular nation’s borders, is the most traditional grouping, and probably the healthiest and most sustainable type, because nations are somewhat closed systems that can resemble a tribe which is the traditional primary group, where people can work together and provide positive and negative feedback to each other to improve the general welfare, including establishing a functional political system that responds to the needs of all the people.  But Identity based on membership in a subgroup is problematic because subgroups do not form closed systems at all, and cannot form proper tribes, so there can be no healthy or functional feedback process to improve the subgroup’s general welfare, and so these subgroups may be seen as faux primary groups.

No matter one’s primary group or subgroup, one healthy goal for human individuals is to work toward creating the conditions under which the great majority of individuals consider their group to be the entire human race, which could eliminate dangerous conflict between groups, such conflict becoming more and more likely  catastrophic as technology advances. Given that all humans have so much in common, that virtually all of them can communicate with each other to a great degree, and that they are all ultimately related, the potential exists for forming strong agreement on common values and common goals in the creation of a harmonious and universally beneficial society.

However, note that a globalist governmental system at the present time would be too disconnected to provide any healthy or useful feedback from the common people or a functional political system that would respond to their needs, so a danger would be that it would end up being controlled by elites with the common people having no feedback and no influence, which over time would enfeeble and impoverish them and possibly even enslave or eradicate them.

Also, note that some would argue that a more laudatory goal is to expand the group beyond just the human race. The inherent difficulty with this position is that there is no natural place to make a boundary for the group. Does one cut it off at primates, at mammals, at vertebrates, at multi-celled creatures, or at animals? Since all animals are in constant competition with each other, humans have little in common with other animals compared to what they have in common with other humans, humans cannot communicate well with many other animals, and the number of other animals provides incredible information management issues, setting a boundary outside the human race is not justifiable. However, since humans do exist in an ecosystem that contains a myriad of other species, consideration of the impact of humans on those other species and on the ecosystem is essential regardless of where the group boundary is set.

One final note is that a very fundamental but rarely talked about truth in human relations is that since people were designed to live in small groups, but that they have come to live in large groups because of the advantages they bring, there is a yearning by each individual to be recognized by the large group, to be considered “special” by the large group, just as every individual is recognized in a small group.  This yearning sometimes becomes an unhealthy obsession, particularly since only a small number of individuals will ever be recognized by the large group.

In light of the above, children should be taught in school that: (1) everyone is special to themselves as they are the person most responsible for their own well-being and happiness; (2) everyone should be special to their close family members, including spouses, parents, children, and siblings; (3) everyone has the opportunity to make close friends that they can be special to; (4) few people are special to the large society and most of those are just special for a few years or even less; and (5) no people are special to the whole of the universe, as humans are too small, insignificant, and temporary.  Instead of focusing on (4), the great majority of people, especially young people, would be much better served if they focused on (2) and (3).

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