a dialogue ...

source: Joshua Allen

OK, I don't have the time to sketch this properly, but hopefully you can get the idea from this jumble...

So, we used to have the Trivium, Linnaeus, John Sowa's KR, stuff like that. These were all false. "All generalizations are lies". But saying "
the map is not the territory" is a way of saying that there *is* a territory, a way of grounding us to a foundation.

In the new world, we don't care about the territory. We replaced KR with Machine Learning, we tossed out the Bohmian model for MWI and then for "fuck it, who needs a model if the stats work". The spirit of the age is that we don't worry ourselves about the underlying reality, we just fit a model to the outward sensible appearances and interact via that model. Our tools are so powerful now that we can "save the appearances" in realtime, translating between English and Chinese conversationally over Skype, creating holograms that overlay the physical world, cars that drive themselves, and so on.

Digital papers over the mystery of the physical, giving us an even greater illusion of understanding and control than even rank materialism gave before it. Because these tools are so powerful, instant, and global, we forget that there is a depth they are papering over. And they create network effects, reinforcing these shallow realities that save the appearances, and suffocating any organic life trying to break through.

Take the recent bot that "passed" the Turing test by pretending to be a 15 year-old Ukrainian kid. Research shows that when people are interacting with others who are non-native speakers, they tend to revert to mechanistic thinking. Instead of dealing with the person as teleology, you treat them like a vending machine. Instead of trying to shape their intentions, it becomes "what buttons do I have to push to get the response I want?" Wether inadvertently or not, the winner of the test succeeded by triggering the human judges to switch themselves into robot behaviour ("It's a 15 year-old Ukrainian kid; better not try to connect on a meaningful level").

That's what's happening with social networking, mobile software, music, movies, and everything else. To get to scale, you need lowest common denominator, universality. My phone 10 years ago was much better for typing meaningful essays. My phone today is great at swiping through a bunch of images and giving low-resolution superficial feedback in the form of "likes" and "favs". To sell music, movies, etc. we need to appeal to the broadest common denominator. So we have what is essentially europop trash, big screen rehashes of the same comic book franchises from 1960, and so on.

Now these are all very successful phenomena in their own way. But there are costs for throwing away meaning and simply fitting the model.

Culture is what teaches people "right feeling" -- how one is supposed to feel under particular circumstances. Culture is what guides the teleology of the population. There is wide variation in culture, but each culture will infect it's people with stories about what is worth suffering for, what is worth dying for, what acts are grand enough to define us.

But we don't have a cultural canon anymore. We don't believe in territory or ontology, and we don't try to move people by appealing to meaning or religion or group identity (except perhaps ironically). We revert to behaviorism, Skinner boxes, and "nudges". Like Temple Grandin constructing cattle herding machinery, we fit models that seek out optimal stimulus response that will get people to click things. The success metric isn't defined in terms of ontology, we just want to avoid any injured cattle and reduce the level of norepinephrine by replacing the cattle prods with sloping aluminum barriers.

So we end up with people strapped into this pachinko machine of feedback loop taking selfies and posting on instagram, stimulus-response striking poses in the mirror for likes. With all the same animal hunger as before, but grazing in the shallow pool of clicking and swiping. If we really crave sensation, perhaps we allow ourselves to be pulled into the contagion of mood affiliation, jumping on this or that sanctimonious cause, or rejoicing at the appearance of a pullback in preference falsification when some repressed class gets to be "heard". It's not that we really care, but we love to see ourselves looking like we care, because then maybe we are really feeling something. And then it's on to the next click/share. It's just meat strapped to electrodes poking at one another's most superficial feelings, because we don't know what "right feeling" is, and don't have time to think about it.

And that's why we end up with jackasses like Sam Harris postulating that he can form a morality based on some weighted equation about sensations of pain in animals. And we end up with economists and politicians with straight faces speaking as if "utility maximizing" and laissez-faire interactions. It's because they view the whole world as a Turing test, and everyone is just Temple Grandin's cow or a 15 year-old Ukrainian kid, and you just need to pound enough buttons on the screen until you get some feedback from the pachinko buzzer.

To be clear, I think this goes beyond just the technological developments that enable "saving the appearances". I think there is a deep hostility toward ontology in recent decades. We act as if meaning is a barbaric relic of our past. Belief in a deeper territory is an embarrassing error of our ancestors. We use the language of equality to fend off anything that threatens to define us, but even that betrays our motives. We give lip service to the problems of privilege, racism, microagression, etc. but this is all just another long troll, another Turing test. Nobody truly wants to understand the world from the perspective of the oppressed other, they simply want to push the right buttons to depose anyone who would make them think about types and ontology, avoid being defined, and stay in their sheltered superficial reality. We don't want a reality that could risk captivating our hearts, we want heart emojis that can manipulate reality into staving off our boredom.

So that's what I think people today are missing by not being exposed to ontology. There is no deep water any more, so there are no deep feelings. There is just a shallow reflective pool, not deep enough for a rudder, let alone an anchor. Nothing worth living for, nothing worth dying for. Just a low-grade appetite, leprous cattle grazing on Brautigan's digital meadow (http://allpoetry.com/All-Watched-Over-By-Machines-Of...).
source: source: Seth Russell

Joshua, i don't think we have given up on ontology, or the territory. Rather we have accepted the observation that there are many territories "peculiar to each particular mind". Belief in the standard universal, is unsustainable in this competitive modern world. So that leaves the only consensus realities to be the consequences which can be reliably shared among groups of people. At it's best social media makes those appear more vivid and compelling ... at it's worst we get your pachinko machine. I think the era of a given territory are over ... in this new era we take responsibility for creating it ourselves ... or not .... perhaps we abdicate and just accept the boredom of animistic reactions.

source: Joshua Allen

Seth - I think that's true for our generation. For Korzybski and direct intellectual descendants, this was all a conscious choice that enabled the huge progress we see today. Every culture, subculture, and mind had its own peculiar territory, but the
se territories were deep and rich.

On the other hand, this current generation is a total loss. They can't even comprehend the sense of "peculiar territories" in the way that we experienced them. And anything that might point them in that direction gets quickly sanitized and diverted into hashtag activism. They don't have the *choice* to leverage the superficial, because they can't see anything else.

And that's why I don't think this is a competitive edge. There are still plenty of people who have extremely deep and rich "peculiar realities". They're just not in the West any more. If you're looking for depth of heart and vitality, you need to look to the Muslim world now.

So, yeah, I think it was our embrace of modeling that allowed the West to dominate this latest phase. But it sure as heck wasn't our loss of vitality that did it, and the loss of vitality is the biggest risk to forward survival, IMO. Titanium armor doesn't compensate for a heart of stone.

source: Seth Russell

Joshua i think the shallow "peculiar territory" which merly consists of our "selfie swipes" which is driven by the other peculiar ones which which lust for money,  power, or fame is just one particular process in the naked city we call humanity.  There are many others in the long tail which are not required to "scale" to the lowest common denominator.  And strangely enough our new technologies seem to have evolved to allow them to deepen and become more vital. 

OMG, Mother Nature taketh from the 99 and giveth to the 1

...er, what's in your wallet?

source: Joshua Allen

If you're saying that we can leave matters of deep culture and meaning to the 1%, and let the 99% ignore all of that for their darwinian laissez-faire marketplace of dank memes and just-in-time hyper personalized long tail of products, I would have to disagree.

That's my beef with the whole thing. We made huge progress by learning to understand progress in evolutionary terms -- just an emergent phenomenon of statistical interactions. We have now applied those tools to other parts of the human marketplace, with great success. But we're losing sight of the layers that operate above this stochastic layer. We're so enamored with our newfound understanding of the beasts that we are turning ourselves into beasts to convince ourselves that we understand ourselves.

This guy gets it right in his discussion of teleology, and especially further down the interview talking about culture:
Jonathan Birch is a brooder on the philosophy of biology. Here he thinks about teleological language use in...
source: Seth Russell

Joshua Allen, well no, that was not really what i was saying.   Remember the thought you started with, "All generalizations are lies" ... well that is where i started too.  So what is not a lie?  ...  a *specific* event or process or experience.  Some people might call it a being while others might call it a specific network of interacting individuals.  These things are not generalities  ... yours is quite different than mine ... and ours is quite different from that of the Yanomami.  These are the beings that our new technology is now capable of serving ... we do not always need to serve the lowest common denominator being that is quite so very shallow.   The assumption, prevalent in the board room of our biggest corporations and in the Shark Tank, that products which pander to the masses are the only ones which will be profitable, can now be discarded.  Me thinks human culture will go the way of natural evolution, differentiate to grow.  The trick will be for those beings to cooperate rather than killing each other.


  1. joshua
  2. ai
  3. social networks
  4. ontology
  5. long tail
  6. cliche


IamanI says
IamanI 2015-05-02 09:16:49 18289
IamanI 2015-05-02 09:08:44 18289
cliche (n.) Look up cliche at Dictionary.com1825, "electrotype, stereotype," from French cliché, a technical word in printer's jargon for "stereotype block," noun use of past participle of clicher "to click" (18c.), supposedly echoic of the sound of a mold striking molten metal. Figurative extension to "trite phrase, worn-out expression" is first attested 1888, following the course of stereotype. Related: Cliched (1928).


No wonder we have trouble communicating, Bozo has his own dictionary.  Is there likely to be a daynsum in the near future just like there is an [unpublished: mingchar dayn waw] of GW's slang used in ZZ in the archives?

Seth says
IamanI 2015-04-30 11:03:05 18289
IamanI 2015-04-30 10:58:40 18289
just because you believe something doesn't mean it is so, true or exists!

Well when I experience that something is true, then I believe it.   i don't distinguish between believing something and experiencing it as true.   Now whether something exists or not apart from its representation in my mind, is not something that i have the need or arrogance to speculate about, your peculiar presumption that you usefully can notwistanding.

The word salad may point to a null set or the map points to nothing at all.

Well yes, your mind will hear "word salad" when you are not understanding what is being said ... aliena lingua est vobis verba sonant. 

Incidentally Joshua works in senior position of an AI project at Microsoft.  I think i understood what he said, ... but some of his unfamiliar terms i had to Google and hyperlink or illustrate.   Joshua said my comment were true as well ... that indicates we understood each other.   That you may not have experienced or had your hands on with these matters may explain why the words are not mapping to anything in your mind ... nothing to bind to, means no territory or meaning emerges for you to grock.

Seth says
IamanI 2015-04-30 09:55:34 18289
seth 2015-04-30 08:50:35 18289
IamanI 2015-04-30 07:51:44 18289
Lots of birdies & salad.  Presumably you folks are talking about ontology like ConceptNet & not the ontology (zen) of Peter Ralston.

"ontology" is being used here in the sense of what is believed to exist.
Basically then it's about beliefs?

Beliefs are the map ... the territory is what the map refers to, ... ontology is what beliefs refer to, or mean ... it is what exists. That is also the way i think Joshua is talking about it.  Though i get the drift from his last comment (unpublished here) that he thinks that a more Eastern view would be his preference  ... hankering for a golden era, as apparently do you and PR,  where all that exists is universally shared (even outside of the so called "physical world") ... and the opinions of men are either right or wrong in relation to that. 

Of course my stance is that a universal standard territory apart from the consequences that are reliably shared among people does not even exist, of if it does exist cannot be known, even with special powers. 

Seth says
IamanI 2015-04-30 17:39:47 18289
seth 2015-04-30 17:12:29 18289
IamanI 2015-04-30 15:09:16 18289
seth 2015-04-30 12:47:37 18289
IamanI 2015-04-30 12:31:49 18289
I also recognize word salad when it shows up.  Bullshit artists & politicians have been speaking it for millenia.  M$ doesnt have much Ethos in the AI department of note.  Enjoy the breeze as the farts reflect in the mirror & go bye in he dark , dear bro.

hmm ... sure sounds like ad hominem to me.
Just a simple response to you pretending that it is my fault for not understanding the word salad offering. 

Go sentence by sentence and try to make sense or explain clearly what is being talked about & then, if successful I will take it back.
Meanwhile when I get a I can understand anything you can understand given that you can communicate what you are talking about.

... actually i am sure you can , yet you continually demonstrably don't .

In  this case you apparently didn't even get far enough in the piece to hear what Joshua said which you yourself have professed many a time ... and trust me on this, Allen is close enought to the process to know first hand of what he speaks.

But what really surprises me is that you would think i would take the time and effort to go sentence by sentence trying to explain it to you given the expectation that at the end of the process you would just profess a lack of interest.   I mean, come on, what were you thinking.

But that said, were you to ask a question that implied a modicum of intent to comprehend what was actually said, i would probably answer it to the best of my ability ... er, that is were i to be able to see where i would get a out of it .
Er, .. Actually, I have lost 99% of my interest.  The About line was the only thing that gave me pause in the beginning & I didn't see anything following that justifies it as a declaration - besides the link fails for me. The rest of the buzzwords are in-group to you & Josh's fan club.

You could read the post if you friended Simon st Larent but the title has almost nothing to do with what Allen said.   I wonder if you know how very little i care what you care about in this regard ... so no thanks from me for repeating your uninformative constant behavior.

Mark de LA says
seth 2015-05-07 07:57:06 18289
MR 2015-05-07 07:34:00 18289
"all generalizations are lies" is as good as "I am now lying"

Maybe you should actually understand what "all generalizations are lies" means before you mock it.  Hint, it is also something that you yourself have expressed in other contexts. 
Maybe you should read the Wikipedia article on I am now lying paradox (above) dude!

Seth says
MR 2015-05-07 07:34:00 18289
"all generalizations are lies" is as good as "I am now lying"

Maybe you should actually understand what "all generalizations are lies" means before you mock it.  Hint, it is also something that you yourself have expressed in other contexts. 

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