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(I have yet to copy in the rest of my ideas from my computer.)

These ideas are free to anybody who wants to use them. I don't need credit, but it would be nice.


The nature of individual knowledge.

My Raft Metaphor. I came up with this independently, and recently have seen something similar.

All human knowledge resides in individuals: the creators and interpreters of that knowledge. When we begin development of knowledge (well before birth), it is as if we are floating in a sea, studded with possible information, mostly floating trash. We start assembling this information much as we might assemble a raft from floating bits. The raft represents our knowledge. At first, we have very little choice in what we incorporate: our growing brains, the womb, and our parents dominate our incoming information. perception, language, various innate skills both physical and intellectual. We start being selective about what we incorporate into our raft, and also reorganize the parts of the raft: discarding some, shifting others. Presumably the graft grows larger, more complex, more integrated and possibly more stable and useful as a platform from which the activities of life are pursued. But there is no foundation or mooring for the raft or for knowledge. No islands of a priori knowledge. We can interconnect our rafts with our language skills, showing each other how to improve our rafts; starting with the development of language skill, observation of parents, social development, education, etc. As we form social alliances, we can revise and reconnect our rafts to reflect changes in our knowledge, including beliefs. Natural selection operates upon the rafts, selecting for the most robust and practical. As with life, we should expect a diversity of species of rafts, each specialized in niches. There is no one "true" knowledge.

Emergent Phenomena

Emergent phenomena are simply phenomena whose prediction based on microfoundations is too complex to compute efficiently with the human mind. The behavior of the R pentomino in the game of life is characterized as emergent, but it is trivial to write a computer program to predict that behavior. Emergent properties are still theoretically predictable from the underlying parts: it just might be very difficult or impractical. Hence we make approximate "laws" describing them more tersely and computably. Ideas like temperature and pressure in physics, even though they really only boil down to energy of large numbers of particles. Thus reductionism is always justified in theory, but in practice it will not always work (greedy reductionism: see Dennett.)

There is no truth in mathematics.

Of course it depends on your definition of truth. You could define truth (as in a proof) as having followed rules and axioms, but the axioms are only assumptions, not truths upon which you can found other truths. Nor does math correspond to the real world: that is the tail wagging the dog. Instead, sometimes the real world can be well modeled with math. For example, if I have a math where 1+1=1, the real world provides examples such as the coalescence of a water drop with another water drop into one water drop where this math might be applicable. A totally random sort of math (that may include 1+1=1) has the same sort of truth (probably none) as our favorite math. The difference is our perception of beauty in the math, which will include elements of simplicity and applicability to modeling the real world.

Why are humans so surprisingly good at math, given that there was no evolutionary selection for it?

Our math ability evolved without the tools of writing, just like our physical ability evolved without modern tools. We don't marvel that we can move mountains with modern tools assisting us, but we do marvel that we can compute with the help of writing?

Science is not about truth: it is about honesty.

Science is not about truth, the way philosophy and religion often claim to be. Instead it is about honesty: the humble claim that the evidence and reasoning can be confirmed by anyone through observation and experiment and supports a preferred model better than the other models. That's why scientific notation has basic ideas such as significant figures, and statistics has confidence intervals. Opponents of science often accuse scientists of pride, but it is actually about being humble enough to not lie. (Beware of different meanings of truth here.)

Homicide through the market.

There doesn't seem to be a term for harms and deaths due to corporate/market mechanisms, even though this is a very common and large phenomenon. Start with the toxic industries: tobacco, opioids, lead, etc. This indicates to me that there is a need for the term to bring an accounting for the millions hurt and killed, which exceed those of well-known genocides. This sounds like a good subject for a PhD thesis, to assemble together the diverse harms and see their true scope.

Killing through markets, commerce, and other indirect and distributed methods. Voluntary participation by customers do not exclude deaths or responsibility from this category. Includes propaganda efforts such as anti-vax. Includes deaths due to sale of illegal and legal drugs where addiction plays a part. Includes deaths due to suppression of risk information. Includes deaths due to insufficient regulation (guns.) Includes deaths due to pollution. Includes deaths with distributed responsibility, as in corporations.

I looked for this in Wikipedia, and they have a list of different types of homicide. None correspond to cases such as the Sackler's opioid deaths. Instead we use a passive term "epidemic" that doesn't implicate anyone, let alone corporations and their owners who are the direct cause. Industrial manslaughter approaches this idea, but is not nearly inclusive enough.

Not having a term probably makes it much more difficult to legislate or prosecute.

Possible names: mercaticide, mercatanoxa.

Civic Fundamentalism

An attempt to expose right-wing wedge issues by coopting the term fundamentalism and providing a simple populist ideology by which they can be rejected.

Organize as in the 10 commandments to provide an acceptable metaphor.

Here are 10 or so very rough initial ideas.

  1. MYOB, and let others mind theirs. However, do mind public business.
  2. Government policies should serve the common interest: directly, as insurer of last resort, and where the market fails. (This needs to be cleaned up.)
  3. Vote your family's pocketbook: not your politics, not your religion, not the latest propaganda.
  4. Continue to enlarge civil rights.
  5. Admit tradeoffs, seek compromise: polarizing issues are created by those who would defraud you.
  6. Honor your government and those who serve in it; yea even unto the taxman.
  7. Respect information and science, shun poseurs.
  8. Workers and families should be served before corporations or the wealthy.
  9. Beware of military adventurism and "just wars".
  10. Accept responsability.

Conservatives may try to turn these around, but you could always compare those efforts to stealing to honor your mother and father.

New rights against government for prisoners.

  • Right to responsable behavior from government.
  • All police interaction with the public (arrest, interrogation, etc.) should be videoed by police.
    • All police video should be FIRST stored under judicial auspices
    • Likewise video used in investigation, such as store and onlooker videos
    • Access should be through warrent, be available to victims and defendents through the judiciary
    • No restriction on video taking by public.
    • Harm or injury undocumented by video during police action, interrogation or incarceration is presumed to be the fault of police.
  • Police, courts, prisons, and towns employing them may not receive any income from fines, fees or penalties imposed by courts or civil forfeiture. These are all corrupting, and should go to a higher level of government which should be prohibited from kicking back for this revenue. Privatizing these functions is corrupt as well.
  • Police, courts, prisons, and towns should be financed locally or with state subsidies based on formulas which do not account for revenue collected through police/court action.
  • Prior to conviction, when parole is not allowed, prison must be minimally restrictive and maximally safe, with the major objectives of (a) public safety, (b) ensuring presence through trial, (c) safety of the prisoner, and (d) maintenance of other freedoms of the prisoner.
  • All prisoners must be kept safe and provided medical care comparable to Medicare. They may not be tortured, starved, forced to work, overworked, or employed for wages less than minimum wage. Prisons may not receive any financing from employers nor garnish the wages of prisoners, as these are corrupting.
  • Prisoners may not be gouged for services they pay for: telephone, caanteen, etc. If the services would cost more in prison, the prison must make up the difference.
  • Prisoners may not be subjected to psychological or physical tortures, including solitary confinement, stress positions, fear for life or health from other inmates, etc.
  • Continual video of prisoners, stored under judicial auspices, shall be available to prison staff for maintainence of order and to prisoners for complaints of rights violation. Lack of video places the burden on the jailers. Privacy of prisoners takes a back seat to security and order.
  • Immunity of government and officials must be challengeable in cases where conspicuous and egregious harm is done. (needs work)

Online Calculator Proposal

Math students in grades 7-12 generally are taught with the assistance of TI-83 calculators, which are graphical, scientific, programmable, and very versatile. They are also exceedingly clumsy, with an archaic user interface that requires extensive training simply to locate the right buttons.

Google or other internet companies could easily sweep programmable calculators out of education with a better web-based replacement.

I envision a tool similar to Google spreadsheets (including assorted spreadsheet cells) but with programmability, graphing, and free-form layout.

Features that would be important would include:

  • Non-ephemeral results just like spreadsheets.
  • Access to results by others, including teachers.
  • Ability to present both formula and results of a cell simultaneously (a feature missing in most spreadsheets.)
  • Ability to graphically organize calculations outside of the constraints of rectangular arrays of cells.
  • Create groups of cells (maybe ranges) that all use the same calculation and/or formats, without copying the formula for the calculation or formats to each cell.
  • Ability to extend the list of functions beyond those of a spreadsheet.
  • Ability to preserve the view of the results of calculations or graphing for checking by teachers.
  • Ability to lock some aspects of a calculator sheet so that teachers can create templates that students complete without accidental deletion of key parts, and with key results in particular locations.
  • Easy annotation by addition of cells by teachers.
  • integration with email so that teachers can email prototype worksheets, students can use return address to email completed worksheets, and teachers can use return address to email corrected and graded worksheets.

Needless to say, this would have serious application outside of schools as well.

Impedance Matching

In electronics, impedance matching is the practice of designing the input impedance of an electrical load or the output impedance of its corresponding signal source to maximize the power transfer or minimize signal reflection from the load.

Might this concept apply to many other fields?

  • Does Ching in Tai Chi match impedance of relaxed strike with organs rather than muscles?
  • Is there impedance matching in information? Logic and rationality and strong data having low impedance?

Controlled psychological experiments using the same subject repeatedly.

Horrible idea: use of drugs that prevent memory formation to perform controlled psychological experiments over and over on the same human subject. May be useful for interrogation as well. Possibly OK if volunteers used.

Torah/OT as a sourcebook for exploring various game-theoretic situations.

My simple heuristic for understanding the Torah/OT is to consider it a sourcebook for exploring various game-theoretic situations. You have your tricksters such as in Jacob and Esau, liars, people doing whatever they can to survive and compete. And you have your tyrants, including the one played by god. In terms of survival lessons, it is important to consider the option of toadying to the tyrant by conceding that whatever he chooses is good. Genocide is a good thing for your tribe when you can get away with it. Etc.

At certain relative levels of power, we can be partly constrained by ideas of justice. At higher levels of power, those constraints fail. The Torah/OT considers both of those situations, which is why there is so much atrocity in it. Recognizing when you can seize a low-consequence opportunity for a high-consequence gain is very adaptive.

Modern liberals aim to make a just society by providing checks and balances to achieve some constraint by justice even of the highest levels of power. At least to members of our society: we are reluctant to hobble ourselves in our dealings with outsiders who are not checked by our mechanisms of justice. Else the outsiders may have an advantage over us.

So yes, Dawkins is right that the god of the bible is an unpleasant character. As such, he is useful for teaching some methods of surviving unpleasant characters that you cannot defeat. Religious Judaism makes the mistake of believing in the fictions. Cultural Judaism is a survival-oriented, opportunistic, conservative and Machievellian tradition that can align with modern liberalism in most situations. IMHO. Originally at: [1].

Religious creation stories are not for answering questions about the origin of the natural world.

They are instead for asserting the authority of the gods involved. Authority because either they created it or they were there first. Suposedly these answer frequently asked questions, but they are really just for claiming dominion.

Can we channel conservative popular outrage?

Conservative popular outrage fueled Tea Party, John Birch Society, and a host of other nonsense. Could there be a better way to channel it the way we channel competitive impulses into sports and capitalism? Set the conservatives against each other? In the gilded era, worker unrest was channeled by management into ethnic and racial competition (until unionism broke that game and allowed workers to unite.) Can we do the same for conservatives some how? Is it possible that we were doing it, and that Koch money broke that game and allowed conservatives to unite?

Civil Law television show idea.

“Prejudice against defense attorneys is embedded in our popular culture: stereotypes of sleazy mob lawyers, cynical shysters and ideological do-gooders from the (gasp) ACLU abound on shows...” That’s a really good point. Perhaps what we need is a show titled “Civil Law” where a small law firm defends clients against abuses of civil rights, slapp suits, illegal debt collection, framing, etc. Where the clients are in the right and the system is being abused to harm them. ACLU and other good guys can make guest appearances to assist.

Western Bento shops as fast food.

If I was going to be a restauranteur, I'd open a bento shop. Bento are Japanese box lunches: usually a portion of rice with an assortment of pickles, dumplings, pieces of meat, fish, eggs or vegetables. When I visited Japan, you could buy bento on the trains with at least 30 different items in one box: one or two bites of each.

I would also have non-traditional bento, based on the various European and Middle-Eastern style meats, fish, pickles, dumplings and seasonings. Bacon! Prosciutto! Pastrami! Olives! Gherkins! Computer-driven menus would allow order and payment by cell phone. Bento could be easily customized and nutrition information calculated by these menus. Conformance with various diet plans, dietary restrictions, etc. could easily be checked. You could keep a history of what you had ordered, and call up your favorites from the past.

Sushi is very overpriced, probably because of the fish: bento would be a low-cost alternative, including meals of many different sizes.

Acorn satiety

Koreans report that acorn food products produce a sense of satiety that might make a useful substitute for western carbohydrates such as corn starch, flour, etc. This could be very big for the gluten free health food fad, but could also possibly be a real diet aid, reducing feelings of hunger. Need a way to test for satiation feeling.

Savory Jam. Essentially concentrated gravy thick enough to spread, melting with heat. Low fat and low salt. Vary with onion or hot peppers. If clear, bits of chicken, pepper, or onion visible. Celery and onion in the broth. Acorn starch for thickening and savory texture. Beef, pork, bacon and lamb variants. For biscuits, toast, bread, sandwiches, glaze, etc.

Fat and protein removed.]

  • See William Bryant Logan's article in Natural History (2005) or his book "Oak: The Frame of Civilization".
  • acorn meal: harina de bellota in Spanish
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