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I come for the zen proxy experience of creating tools & end up learning lots about critters. You're fun reading!

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Happy to please! More making things posts coming soon, I have a backlog to get written.

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May 13, 2023Liked by Doctor Hammer

Another good, entertaining and thought provoking installment.

I am left with two thoughts, or questions.

I have viewed evolutionary processes not as some ordered process, a plan or even a selection. To me it has always been mischaracterized as improvements towards a higher goal. But from my perspective it has always been random changes at random times, allowing some random solitary member of a species to do just a bit better and allowing that individual the opportunity to have and make more, of themselves. The amazing thing to me is when we sit back and realize the enormity of for how long and for how often this has to be repeated for "change" to go from solitary event, to standardized situation.

Secondly, I was amused by my own thought drifting off about pill bugs. Will they become the lobster for the "you vill eat zee bugs" cult?

I will go and read Harrison's posts, when I have the distraction-less time available. That's my only quibble with his writing, it requires a substantial amount of concentration and patience. All good, just super heavy. I've read, picked up, put down, picked back up again, put back down again .... his book on ponerology several times and have yet to finish it.

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Yea, it is important not to think of evolutionary processes as having a goal other than “whatever gets my pattern adopted to keep going.” Now you could say “get adopted and continue “ is a higher goal, and that is sort of true, but one has to consider what is doing the adopting. Nature tends to pretty strict about its higher goal of “make more of you over time”, along with the sun goals necessary to that outcome. Humans guide things differently, making mules and pugs. (Albeit for different reasons!)

It isn’t clear to me that humans can guide culture intentionally. I think it tends to be more like market outcomes, the result of human action but not of human design, as Hayek put it. Some traits we wish we could get rid of, but they work in the sense that they get adopted, for better or worse. We can actively adopt traits for ourselves and sometimes our family, but past that, societies create their own cultures.

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Thanks for bringing up the evolutionary angle. I have a couple preliminary thoughts on this. First, that biological evolution (however conceived) provides us with our basic 'survival template'. So as you write, each species will have a different range of motion, so to speak - different limits in which to act. But as a thorough-going speciesist and anthroposupremacist, I think humans are more than *just* another species. We have purposes on top of survival, but which in general must be consistent with survival. Our ultimate goals won't be consistent with extinction, for instance, but they may be consistent with a personal sacrifice. And there is more than one type of survival. In the schema I included in my piece, with higher and lower levels, sometimes the survival of one's personal integrity trumps the survival of their body.

So the way I see it, morality must be largely consistent with biological survival, but shouldn't necessarily be reduced or equated to it.

If I remember correctly, McConkey has some interesting things to say about the evolutionary nature of things like the common law in "Darwinian Liberalism."

//Sometimes cultures get sick, but sometimes they simply evolved for a different set of circumstances and have stopped being even “good enough” and are on their way out. //

Good distinction. In the terms of my piece, the latter would be a temporal mismatch.

//Typically applying the rules of the military to civilian institutions quickly makes them deranged, just as the military quickly becomes deranged when treated like a regular 9-5 job.//

And I think this is a good example of what I had in mind re: sick cultures. Sometimes bad rules may get adopted that don't necessarily spell destruction, but which can't said to be fitting for the context in which they've taken root.

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I am at a birthday party with my kid, so I will have to come back to this when I have an hour or so to parse. I haven’t forgotten you!

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"So the way I see it, morality must be largely consistent with biological survival, but shouldn't necessarily be reduced or equated to it."

I agree, but I was talking about moral cultures evolving. Culture is part of humans' evolutionary kit, but the culture itself evolves as well. This is part of the notion of society being a super-organism made up of its constituent individuals. A society only survives if its culture works to the wellbeing of its constituent parts, so in some sense the culture has to be in line with individual survival, but that doesn't mean that some individuals taking one for the team can't be optimal for society as a whole. For example, if some few are willing to fight and die to defend property rights against aggressors you get a lot fewer aggressors quite quickly and many people don't have to be so willing. Sucks for the guy taking a knife in an alley while he kills a mugger, but it is great for all the young women who won't have to get mugged by the guy later.

To summarize, as you put it morality must be largely consistent with biological survival, but that is just one end of it, with as much variety within "good enough" as there are different plumage patterns of birds and butterflies. Morality cultures evolve themselves to include many things not ideal for the individual's survival perhaps but useful for the group and that individual's relations within the group. Sometimes you get a mutation, deformity or virus in the culture that destroys it, a either due to being a dead end unable to compete or actively turning it against the society. Some other times the moral culture can't adapt quickly enough to changing circumstances and just dies out.

RE: sick: Yes, the temporal (and circumstantial?) mismatch thing comes up, but I think it is worth keeping in mind that there is no a priori reason to believe a given culture will last for a long time, particularly if it is more 'specialized' or otherwise rigid. People always seem to think that things bigger/older than themselves must be immortal, which is rarely the case!

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Thanks for clarifying. When reading your article the first time, I had the impression you were contrasting the way humans do things to the way they happen at a more basic species level - and that the way humans do things would include things like cultural evolution, which also shapes our moralities (somewhat akin to watching YT videos and borrowing what works, or getting overrun by those to DID adopt the YT hacks, and either being killed or assimilated).

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May 13, 2023Liked by Doctor Hammer

Or how about this? We are living in a simulation in which life was created in very general forms, but with huge amounts of genetic information that they could lose as they no longer needed it. If two people are stranded on an island, the one with a backpack full of tools has a better chance a of survival. But once it's determined what tools are useful, it would retard survival to be forced to carry the entire backpack of tools non stop everywhere you went. Once genetic info is gone, it's gone, and new information is basically impossible to add. When the environment changes rapidly and your genetic information has been whittled away, you die. Basically the theory of evolution in reverse. The fossil record would look the same, with "primitive" forms actually being those who have not yet lost enough info to be specialized for their environment. Highly evolved would actually be highly devolved, highly specialized, with little room for genetic variation. The Cambrian explosion would be easy to explain- lots of genetic information with explosive variation in offspring, each then finding their own niche.

Ahh, you know, nothing to take seriously, just thinking outside the box. 😁

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The funny thing about that is that most animals seem to have waaaaay more genetic information than they need. It is more like a scrap junkyard animals cobble a body out of than a kit that only includes what we need. The trouble is the form is hard to change once it is settled on, not for lack of materials. A species that could shift between configuration quickly would be scary.

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I'll think about how that fits into my theory, but for now, yeah, scary. Sounds like a science fiction story our friend Jay could tackle.

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While thinking thoughts about a possible book I have been having a recurring thought.

What if the connection between the 'other' planes of existence and this 'physical' plane is managed by quantum probability. Suppose that the chance of a neuron firing in your brain can be enhanced by some quantum mechanical way to happen before the other event that would have effected a different neuron. Instead of blinking you wink. The question that I believe scientists who want to support the idea of a soul is to come up with practical methods that a soul could have to manipulate regular space time.

Returning to your shape shifting animals I am reminded about gene activation, a catchy song parody video "Evo Devo" has a small segment with a fly growing a LEG out of its EYE. We know Thalidomide messed with development in humans. What if the soul and/or a species deva was tasked with activating the relevant genes during development so that things did not go out of hand and we end up with a Platypus and still fertile.

As you say morals are a societal thing, they grease the wheels of humans cooperating. They are variable because the environment is variable. The sad part is that with suitable propaganda people could be manipulated into thinking some harmful practices are moral. This is I think the real danger of propaganda with antisocial intent (as most has in the end).

Any way, a interesting article and thank you for publishing.

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Glad you like the article :)

That's an interesting idea for how things work. I could see a system where there is a thin membrane between the spiritual world and the material, where souls of various types can stretch the barrier to control/inhabit types of otherwise physical objects. Physical objects that are easier for higher level spirits to inhabit are more complicated but also have higher likelihood of being selected for use, so spirits tinker with them to get them ready either for themselves or as a service for others. It is difficult to do directly, so there are two types/levels of changes happening that sometimes work against each other. Like breeding cars, the spiritual designers want to make an interesting experience for the user, but need something that works to minimize (re)production costs. And sometimes QC misses an eye with a leg in the middle of it :D

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A couple of things:

1. A major difference between biological and cultural/moral evolution is that biological evolution doesn't forget. Once the change has happened it is in the genes and will stay there as long as that design continues to be successful in replicating. But social changes can be forgotten (at least by enough people). You mention communism as an obviously terrible (I agree) but a lot of people would still be in favour.

2. I feel these arguments fit well with a typical political distinction of conservatives Vs radicals. Conservatives see value in, and wish to defend the morals/culture developed in the past, the old ways. Radicals (of whatever type found at the particular time and place) want to build anew and from the ground up as you put it. The tension between the two determines most political battles.

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What’s funny about that, and both points apply, is that humans don’t seem to try too many radically different cultures. It makes me think that you are correct that we never forget an idea, good or bad, and things like communism are sort of throw backs to other cultural structures still floating around in our cultural gene pool. Even fairly new things like egalitarian freedom embodied in the USA were only new on their scale; smaller tribes and nations had some very similar structures, just not on the scale of a full sized kingdom so much. In some fundamental way, conservatives are saying “let’s keep exploring this hill” while radicals say “let’s jump to the other hill!” But there are still only two fundamental hills when it comes to political structure. (That isn’t to claim that there are not more identifiable hills, just that we don’t seem to have discovered new ones recently.)

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A lot of people argue that woke, as communism before it are just versions of Christian thought, with different emphasis on different elements (see Tom Holland's Dominion book for example).

Whether you then think that Christianity itself was a radical new idea 2000 years ago or itself a variant of older thoughts depends how seriously you take the Jesus story I suppose.

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I didn't know Spiderman wrote political theory books. Amazing.

In all seriousness, though, I think there is a good argument there, that the same general themes follow through. I see it as a continual desire to treat wider society as one family, with all the same rules and intuitions. Christianity (typically?) in my experience tends to recognize more self determinism and responsibility, but there is definitely a strong theme of responsibility for the wellbeing of others, and treating everyone as extended family. I suspect it is not a coincidence that the early 20'th century progressives were preachers' kids. Shift the All-Father from God to the State and the rest just follows.

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May 15, 2023Liked by Doctor Hammer

I know it was a typo, but "communism as an obviously terrible" is the best combination of five words I've heard in a while. Probably a good AI art generator prompt, too.

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Great points. I suppose one question that arises is, how do you make a "multicultural" society work, when the different people of each subculture are trying to impose their cultural values on the rest of the society? Some of these values overlap or are at least consistent, but others really aren't. Usually these subcultures occur along ethnic or religious lines, but your example of military vs civilian cultures is a good example. You almost need a sovereign who is above it all, somehow, to arbitrate these clashes; otherwise it turns into a contest of whoever can dupe a majority of voters (or hijack the institutions) gets to impose their values on everyone else. But such sovereigns are rarely trustworthy and are usually partisan to a particular subculture. It's been making me wonder if multiculturalism is actually sustainable long term. I enjoy many aspects of it, but it does seem to have that fatal flaw. And with today's culture wars, it would be as if the pandas took over a zoo and tried to make the other animals balance their diets with bamboo. (Maybe the solution is to make society more like Nature and less like a zoo.)

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I think you kind of nailed it: you make it work by keeping the animals from eating each other, but let them eat their own preferences otherwise. In the model in the essay, the sovereign enforces the parts of morality located closer to the “everyone agrees on this because it is a necessity “ end of things, keeps stuff at the “etiquette “ spectrum far away from law, then tries to draw a hard line between the few necessary things and the vast majority with a sign saying “thus far, and no more”.

As you say the difficulty is keeping successive magistrates on that track and not trying to legislate his particular etiquette and change the culture to match his whims.

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We see the bad parts happening all around us. I agree with Dr Hammer that the important things should be few. The freedom to relocate should be your LAST BUT UNCONDITIONAL RIGHT to not have to put up with your neighbours peccadilloes if they strain your morals.

A moral is supposed to make you, yourself act in a certain (socially beneficial) way it is not fair to make it demand you, over there subscribe to the same standard.

Sort of like many divisive conflicts, zealots want to impose their wishes on others but would not accept the wishers of others on themselves. This is why I want LESS LAWS because while it may not control others as much it gives me more freedom that I cannot demand if I do not offer it to others.

My proposal for reducing laws is simple and hopefully implemented one day. A simple checklist.

1: No law to be considered without at least a reasonable portion of people taking TROUBLE to demand it.

2: One law only, at a time. No omnibus or horse trade bills with multiple laws.

3: No law to be made to control only OTHERS, you can recommend restrictive laws if they restrict your own constituents but only relaxing laws for others.

4: For every new law two others must GO. Modifying an existing law is allowed if it is not a combined law.

The idea is that after sufficient passage of time only the minimum required number of laws would remain and there would have to be great demand before a new law could be made as the existing laws are already all in great demand by the people. Sort of like removing any law that 80% no longer like and only adding laws that 80% demand.

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I am reminded of a point some economist made, I think Hayek but that seems wrong, but the point was that no law or regulation could ever exclude Congress, and indeed was to be implemented on them first. No more unpaid interns, minimum wage dodges, etc. for the houses that pass the bills!

My personal "if I could make one reform" dream would be that all legislation has a mandatory 5 year sunset provision, at which point it auto repeals unless explicitly voted upon to extend. No omnibus "we want to pass everything again" bills around it; every bit of legislation, every 5 years. (With a rolling window for older laws until we get caught up.) No more of this "well, past congresses passed this bill, so let's condemn it but continue to benefit from it's corruption potential" nonsense. If they want to continue e.g. the FCC they can vote for it every 5 years, putting their name down in the affirmative. Also helps solve the "well, we'd like to get rid of X, but it never comes up for a vote".

The technical idea would be to raise the activation energy of retaining legislation, making the default to repeal instead of retain, so only important ones keep going and mistakes gets flushed quickly.

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I'm not sure how it would work, but I've often thought that it would be nice to have a rule where if a legislator votes in favor of a certain benefit, that legislator's constituency doesn't get the benefit for X years. So if you put pork in a bill, that pork gets delivered only to areas of the jurisdiction whose representatives DID NOT vote for the bill. I think it would work well for legislative pay raises, but I'm not sure how you could successfully implement it in other areas.

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That's interesting. A 5 year delay would make buying votes a bit trickier in the sense that a bill could be repealed (or the need disappear) before the pork got distributed, so horse trading would be a bit harder. Likewise, there would be more incentive to strategically not vote for something knowing you could get the benefit faster, during your own term. There would be a lot more incentive to defect and vote no for legislation you were not really on board for. Hmmm... that's clever.

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It's kind of a version of Rawls' veil of ignorance, I guess. Probably unworkable in real life.

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Please check out Nixon's Ghost / The cardboard box reform by James D'Angelo (not the convict one) to see why we need to remove the lobby handle that has been placed on politicians. Secret ballot is there to prevent voting fraud yet the opposite is used in Congress etc., I have to assume there will be endemic voting fraud then, no transparency when money is involved, just voting fraud.

Bugger, it is getting harder and harder to locate the video without exact key words. Almost as if it is not suggested for public viewing though 100k people have seen it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gEz__sMVaY

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Tru and see if there is any writings left on the net about Demogarchy as promoted (and invented) by Dennis Beckett in South Africa. He was more eloquent but basically he proposed a world where firing politicians was easier than getting hired.

His contention is that nobody wants to get involved in politics, it will always be tacky at best. So let the people raise a vote of no confidence and take anyone out who is not performing, surgical cuts that will keep everyone on their toes. I cannot recall if he wrote it or I thought it but the number of recall votes would have to exceed the number of selection votes. A further fine tune came to mind. Give people the power of downvote and the parties will stop offering junk just to force people to vote for the chosen candidate who is also bad. Who remembers when YouTube removed their downvote tally, they got egg on their face because everyone could SEE how bad they were so they hide the feature.

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