34 votes

What are the Big Problems?

What are the Big Problems? I'm leaving this open-ended, there's no specific criteria for responses.

I'm interested in both your list and the reasons why. Submitting your list before reading others' contributions would be preferred.

Optionally: who is (or isn't) successfully addressing them. Individuals, organizations, companies, governments, other. How and/or why not?

I've asked this question periodically on several forums (G+, Reddit, HN) for seven years now.

I've written fairly extensively on my own views, reasonably findable if you wish, but my interest here is in gaining fresh input, resetting my own biases, and not colouring the discussion overly myself.

67 comments

  1. [2]
    Deimos
    Link
    I think a big one is something like "international differences or conflicts taking place in shared global spaces". It's an interesting one because I think there are two main places this is...

    I think a big one is something like "international differences or conflicts taking place in shared global spaces". It's an interesting one because I think there are two main places this is starting to become more significant, but only one of them is physical. Those places are space—especially Earth's orbit and the moon in the near term—and the internet.

    For space, we're starting to have corporations like Starlink and Amazon talking about putting up "constellations" of thousands of satellites for uses like providing internet access, and these satellites are interfering with astronomers, risking collisions with other satellites, and more. There don't seem to be a lot of international procedures or processes set up for dealing with issues like this, and it's only going to get more crowded up there.

    The moon is similar—there's not really a concept of any countries "owning" the moon or certain areas of it, and there's a lot of potential for conflict once countries start doing things like building bases up there and extracting resources, and maybe even doing manufacturing on the moon. The New Yorker had a good article about it earlier this year: The Race to Develop the Moon

    The internet is a whole different topic, and we're already seeing a lot of these issues there, but I think they'll only become more common. Companies like Reddit are doing weird things like selectively blocking certain subreddits (and in some cases individual posts) from being accessed by users that appear to be from countries with more restrictive laws, like Germany, Russia, and Pakistan. Facebook moves into countries and becomes almost like communication infrastructure, with little or no understanding or concern about the country's culture. Sometimes they only have a handful of employees/contractors that even speak the language (or none at all), so they can hardly moderate, and hate speech and misinformation flourish on their effectively-unmoderated platform. They don't see the problems, and don't see the effects.

    There are a lot of weird effects that come from having foreign companies run the major internet platforms in your country. In the UK, they were quite sure that misinformation on Facebook had a major effect on Brexit, but they can't even get them to respond to requests for information or to come and address parliament. It's an essential part of communication in so many countries now, but almost completely unanswerable to all of those governments.

    18 votes
    1. dredmorbius
      Link Parent
      The challenge especially of mutually conflicting value systems is one that I don't see as inherently tractable. Who is to say that one set of arbitrary preferences has validity over another where...

      The challenge especially of mutually conflicting value systems is one that I don't see as inherently tractable. Who is to say that one set of arbitrary preferences has validity over another where either is equally defensible?

      That might be over something as apparently benign as chirality, driving on the left or right side of a highway, say, where one or the other works, but both don't, or as complex as dietary and cultural traditions. There are both cultural traditions and religious prohibitions, or slighly less strict but still strong cultural aversions, to eating specific foods: pork, beef, dog, horse, or increasingly, any meats or animal products. How do two different cultures get along when they can literally not sit down to eat together?

      Mutually conflicting land (or space) use patterns create similar dilemmas. The Commons is an attractive notion but fails many specific cases. There's a place for exclusive private control and dominion, though even that as an absolute doctrine faces limits.

      3 votes
  2. ibis
    Link
    How to achieve Sustainable development is the biggest problem in my opinion. Sustainable development incorporates the more well known concept of environmental sustainability, but it is more broad....

    How to achieve Sustainable development is the biggest problem in my opinion. Sustainable development incorporates the more well known concept of environmental sustainability, but it is more broad. It also includes a lot of other big problems like climate change/environmental justice, economic inequality, over consumption, racism, sexism, health, etc.

    The Sustainable Development Goals by the UN are good in that they are at least drawing attention to the issues and attempting to track our progress on them. But actually addressing the issues will require a lot of work from a lot of different groups.

    12 votes
  3. unknown user
    Link
    We focus on how different we are, and we lose how same (not similar), how identical we all are. Nationalities, ethnicities, races, genders, religions, traditions can't stand before the glaring...

    We focus on how different we are, and we lose how same (not similar), how identical we all are. Nationalities, ethnicities, races, genders, religions, traditions can't stand before the glaring fireball of the fact that we're humans, and none of the things that separate us today have any reason to exist. If the human community could come together and accept that the vast diversity of us is nothing but an ornament of the great sameness of us all, the world would become a better place to be.

    My outlandish speculative idea is that we're going towards such an ideal: everywhere on earth, a koinè of world cultures is slowly flowering, illogical and detrimental traditions are disappearing, progressive ideals like equality and peacefulness are gaining ground. Slowly, and not equivocally, but I feel like we'll watch a miracle happen in a few genrations. Maybe one or two of our biggest problems, namely borders and owners, will, if not disappear, weaken significantly, and people will be way more aware of out commonalities as a species, as that product of a few shitty genetical mutations: the only one capable of thought, yet profoundly dumb, the single most powerful and secure one, yet irremediably vulnerable.

    12 votes
  4. [2]
    envy
    Link
    Overpopulation. Our tendency to breed without any pause for consequences. Those dystopic sci fi's where everyone over 30 gets euthanized (Logan's Run) or where the mad scientist tries to kill...

    Overpopulation.

    Our tendency to breed without any pause for consequences.

    Those dystopic sci fi's where everyone over 30 gets euthanized (Logan's Run) or where the mad scientist tries to kill everyone (12 monkeys) are slowly starting to make a crazy kind of sense.

    12 votes
    1. stephen
      Link Parent
      I disagree. I think this displaces responsibility for ecological degradation on the nations with high birthrates which also happen to be the ones with the small per capita environmental...

      I disagree. I think this displaces responsibility for ecological degradation on the nations with high birthrates which also happen to be the ones with the small per capita environmental footprints.

      The real problem which appears to be over population is over consumption in rich countries. If everyone consumed like Germans or Koreans or Americans, then yes overpopulation would be something to consider. But if everyone lived like an Indian or Nicuraguan peasant farmer - eating food they grew according to nature and consuming very little then the earth's carrying capacity could potentially be incredibly large.

      It's not like the earth can't support as many people as we have. It just cant support them getting new laptops every three years and driving 15000 miles per year and buying food grown 2,000 miles away.

      29 votes
  5. [3]
    hungariantoast
    Link
    Artificial intelligence, social media, and the subversion of democracy. Democracy, globally, is on the decline. Social media is probably part of the reason why, or at least exacerbating the issue....

    Artificial intelligence, social media, and the subversion of democracy.

    Democracy, globally, is on the decline.

    Social media is probably part of the reason why, or at least exacerbating the issue.

    Artificial intelligence, language models, things like GPT-2 or deepfakes, have the potential in the future (perhaps even now) to produce digital content indistinguishable from human generated content.

    What happens when sophisticated misinformation networks, like those operated by governments, have the ability to spam thousands of "quality" comments/arguments across every site they have access to, without the operators of those sites being able to distinguish human content from bot content?

    It's a misinformation nightmare. It's also the subject of one of my (two) school papers.

    It's not all doom and gloom though. There's work being done in recognizing computer generated media that, at least from my skimming of the sources, gives me the impression that we'll be able to build sophisticated defenses against misinformation "swarms".

    The resources necessary to operate those defenses though, could pose a challenge to smaller websites, like this one.

    However, I seriously doubt that's a "this decade" kind of issue.

    Still, the future of social media, to me, looks like a battleground for increasingly capable computer networks competing for "hearts and minds".

    12 votes
    1. dredmorbius
      Link Parent
      This has definitely been on my radar for a few years. The realisation that media systems are the sensory, feedback, and control mechanisms of societies, and that changes to media systems...

      This has definitely been on my radar for a few years.

      The realisation that media systems are the sensory, feedback, and control mechanisms of societies, and that changes to media systems (mechanisms, rate, sensitivity, control, biases, modalities) have profound impacts. Books such as McLuhan's The Gutenberg Galaxy and Eisenstein's The Printing Press as an Agent of Change are strongly recommended.

      (There are many, many more, of course. These are good starting points.)

      And yes, the Internet, Social Media, mobile media, and viral media, as well as media and social manipulation and disinformation certainly are game changers.

      6 votes
    2. ibis
      Link Parent
      It’s a pity because social media has the potential to be a powerful tool for democracy. It has given a voice to disenfranchised minorities and it gives us direct access to politicians without the...

      It’s a pity because social media has the potential to be a powerful tool for democracy.

      It has given a voice to disenfranchised minorities and it gives us direct access to politicians without the media as a go-between. It allows regular people to participate in public debate.

      5 votes
  6. [9]
    tesseractcat
    Link
    Death. We really should be doing more to eliminate death. Everyone should be focusing as much as possible on how they can help fight against death, and yet, it's an issue that is almost never...

    Death. We really should be doing more to eliminate death. Everyone should be focusing as much as possible on how they can help fight against death, and yet, it's an issue that is almost never brought up in politics. Really, the only people focusing on this issue seem to be niche organizations, and wealthy philanthropists.

    Every once in a while some famous person decides to get cryogenically frozen, and we all seem to laugh at them, as if it's a pipe dream that we wouldn't have to die. I'm not especially educated in the science surrounding many of the fields responsible for life extension, but I'm confident that if humanity as a whole came together in an effort to eliminate death, it would happen a lot sooner than it is happening right now.

    10 votes
    1. [5]
      MimicSquid
      Link Parent
      Heck no, for multiple reasons. People don't change all that much. If we don't turn over old people in favor of new people we'll be stuck with the set we have right now (or the ones who are young...

      Heck no, for multiple reasons.

      People don't change all that much. If we don't turn over old people in favor of new people we'll be stuck with the set we have right now (or the ones who are young now and will be totally out of touch with the changed world whenever we eliminate death.)

      Also, we're past the carrying capacity for human life on Earth as it is. I might be ok-ish with eliminating death if we also eliminated or very strongly controlled procreation to maintain a stable population, but they'd need to be paired or we'd have additional issues.

      All in all, do not want. Death for all, and for all a good night.

      21 votes
      1. [3]
        tesseractcat
        Link Parent
        Well, that's true, for humans as they are right now, but my ideal end goal would not only be to eliminate death, but to improve human intelligence as well. I imagine that these technologies would...

        People don't change all that much. If we don't turn over old people in favor of new people we'll be stuck with the set we have right now (or the ones who are young now and will be totally out of touch with the changed world whenever we eliminate death.)

        Well, that's true, for humans as they are right now, but my ideal end goal would not only be to eliminate death, but to improve human intelligence as well. I imagine that these technologies would develop in parallel, resulting in a smarter population that lives longer.

        we're past the carrying capacity for human life on Earth as it is. I might be ok-ish with eliminating death if we also eliminated or very strongly controlled procreation to maintain a stable population, but they'd need to be paired or we'd have additional issues.

        Yeah, I imagine that these would be paired. Strict birth control has been proven successful in other countries, such as China's one child policy. Although one thing to note is that the higher education and standards of living rise, the lower the birth rate is in countries, so this problem may semi-solve itself.

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          MimicSquid
          Link Parent
          Intelligence isn't a solution to that. Smart people become rigid with age and experience just like unintelligent people do. Increasing intelligence merely makes people more able to defend their...

          Intelligence isn't a solution to that. Smart people become rigid with age and experience just like unintelligent people do. Increasing intelligence merely makes people more able to defend their predefined beliefs as opposed to making them significantly more able to change.

          6 votes
          1. tesseractcat
            Link Parent
            OK, so some way to increase mental flexibility then... Although I know lots of old people that are still very mentally flexible. I guess I just don't think waiting for old people to die out should...

            OK, so some way to increase mental flexibility then... Although I know lots of old people that are still very mentally flexible.

            I guess I just don't think waiting for old people to die out should be our solution for change in society.

            1 vote
      2. Rez
        Link Parent
        Our culture and attitudes would be so profoundly altered by biological immortality that I would not make such an assumption. Every single aspect of society would be changed because death...

        People don't change all that much. If we don't turn over old people in favor of new people we'll be stuck with the set we have right now (or the ones who are young now and will be totally out of touch with the changed world whenever we eliminate death.)

        Our culture and attitudes would be so profoundly altered by biological immortality that I would not make such an assumption. Every single aspect of society would be changed because death fundamentally defines our existence. As a matter of our priorities, I agree that eliminating aging shouldn't be the biggest one right now, but I would disagree heavily that we should not undertake this endeavor out of pessimism for the type of society it may create, as you can't simply imagine everything as mostly being the same except boomers staying in political power forever.

        2 votes
    2. [3]
      ibis
      Link Parent
      My stance is, we should try and address all the easily preventable death and illness in the world before we start trying to artificially extend the lives of a relatively small proportion of...

      My stance is, we should try and address all the easily preventable death and illness in the world before we start trying to artificially extend the lives of a relatively small proportion of wealthy people.

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        tesseractcat
        Link Parent
        I think these are separate issues. Working toward better healthcare globally, and working on artificial life extension can be done in tandem, both complementing the other.

        I think these are separate issues. Working toward better healthcare globally, and working on artificial life extension can be done in tandem, both complementing the other.

        4 votes
        1. Rez
          Link Parent
          We have done a lot in recent decades to pump up life expectancy, so much so that the more pressing issue right now is quality of life over length of life. We can keep people alive for years and...

          We have done a lot in recent decades to pump up life expectancy, so much so that the more pressing issue right now is quality of life over length of life. We can keep people alive for years and years but you might be bedridden and miserable for all of those extra years.

          As a matter of solving death though, there's eliminating causes of death and eliminating aging. Our scientific institutions aren't in a position to conduct productive research on human biological immortality for a variety of reasons. It may be the case that this is only solved through incredibly advanced computer models that are trustworthy enough to substitute for human in vivo research.

          2 votes
  7. [9]
    zara
    Link
    I'm most concerned about climate change. Right now, the earth is the only livable habitat for humanity, and if we keep going down the path we're currently on, I can see things getting much, much...

    I'm most concerned about climate change. Right now, the earth is the only livable habitat for humanity, and if we keep going down the path we're currently on, I can see things getting much, much worse.

    If we can't take care of our ancestral home, then we should at least think about creating space colonies where humans could relocate.

    10 votes
    1. [6]
      AnthonyB
      Link Parent
      To me, the most terrifying thing about climate change isn't the threat it poses to life on Earth, but our complete inability to address it. There was a really good segment on the Lovett or Leave...

      To me, the most terrifying thing about climate change isn't the threat it poses to life on Earth, but our complete inability to address it.

      There was a really good segment on the Lovett or Leave It podcast that replaced the words "climate change" with "aliens" to highlight not only how terrifying and dangerous climate change is, but how little we are taking it seriously. It reminded me of the famous Reagan speech about an alien existential threat and how quickly it could unite the world. Climate change is probably the closest thing we will ever have to that, and here we are, basically at the crossroads, and instead of uniting to prevent disaster, we're probably headed down a path that leads to conflict. Ugh. I'm gonna go get fucked up and not think about it.

      7 votes
      1. krg
        Link Parent
        People, by-and-large, cannot think long-term.* Climate change, like lack of a savings account, ignoring regular exercise, mismanaging stress, not working on that term paper...is a long-term issue....

        People, by-and-large, cannot think long-term.* Climate change, like lack of a savings account, ignoring regular exercise, mismanaging stress, not working on that term paper...is a long-term issue. It'll catch up to us and we'll wonder "but what could've I done to prevent this?!"

        So, as nice as it is for individuals to do their part...it's really up to institutions..government..to do the long-term thinking for us. As much as some people hate the idea of the government choosing for us, the way I see it..that's why we have a damn government. We elect people to take on that burden of long-term thinking and do what's right for now and the future, because we sure as hell aren't going to really care about the future. I just want to listen to music and watch movies, dammit.

        Anyway, the impending doom of climate change is a result of bad policy and government that isn't doing their long-term thinking job (the short-term gains are worth it as they won't live to see coming disaster).

        A country waging nuclear war on the world...or some malevolent aliens beaming down alien foot soldiers to conquer earth.. is an immediate threat, and we're more equipped to deal with the immediate. Climate change is like heart disease... brought upon by years of bad choices, but something that gradually creeps up on us until one day that pain in the chest isn't just a pain.

        *and I count myself as a person

        4 votes
      2. [3]
        dredmorbius
        Link Parent
        Collective social addressing of hard / wicked problems is probably the biggest big problem there is. Breaking down why and how addressing CC is so difficult might make an interesting exploration.

        Collective social addressing of hard / wicked problems is probably the biggest big problem there is.

        Breaking down why and how addressing CC is so difficult might make an interesting exploration.

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          ibis
          Link Parent
          I covered this topic briefly in my undergrad (a few years ago now, so the details are fuzzy). They raised the case study of how the world successfully united to address the hole in the ozone layer...

          I covered this topic briefly in my undergrad (a few years ago now, so the details are fuzzy).

          They raised the case study of how the world successfully united to address the hole in the ozone layer (CFCs were phased out relatively efficiently). Lots of people compare and contrast that to the Climate Change response to help figure out what is making this issue more difficult.

          5 votes
          1. dredmorbius
            Link Parent
            Any particulars or references you recall? And yes, addressing Ozone/CFC, asbestos, lead, and smoking are success stories. There are probably a few others that could be added to the list. OT: the...

            Any particulars or references you recall?

            And yes, addressing Ozone/CFC, asbestos, lead, and smoking are success stories. There are probably a few others that could be added to the list.

            OT: the interplay between lead, fossil fuels, isotopic dating, the age of the Earth, and environmental pollution is an interesting one. Short version: the addition of lead to petrol created pervasive contamination that frustrated attempts at dating rock samples and directly contributed to the identification of lead contamination as a major environmental problem, at the same time that the age of the Earth and effects of CO2 concentrations and greenhouse gases were becoming known.

            I think Naomi Oreskes addresses this in her work on the history of the development of the theory of plate tectonics, also fascinating.

      3. moocow1452
        Link Parent
        That's cause Aliens are an unknown factor we don't deal with on a day to day basis, and were aliens to want us gone, we would know, they would be operating with ill intent, and we would be...

        Climate change is probably the closest thing we will ever have to [an alien invasion], and here we are, basically at the crossroads, and instead of uniting to prevent disaster, we're probably headed down a path that leads to conflict.

        That's cause Aliens are an unknown factor we don't deal with on a day to day basis, and were aliens to want us gone, we would know, they would be operating with ill intent, and we would be justified in fighting back together.

        Climate is something that you can predict and account for, and as a neutral force, it doesn't really have intent or trustworthiness. So it can be written off as long as you prepare for it or bunker down, and when Mother Gaia's revenge does come for us all, you can justify that you did your best and it was a literal Act of God that killed us dead. Nothing you could have done.

        1 vote
    2. [2]
      stephen
      Link Parent
      Within this issue I think a huge problem is what Charles Eisenstein calls climate fundamentalism. We focus so, so, so incredibly much on GHG and overlook the larger issue of ecocide. Humanity...

      Within this issue I think a huge problem is what Charles Eisenstein calls climate fundamentalism. We focus so, so, so incredibly much on GHG and overlook the larger issue of ecocide. Humanity could get those numbers down, hit 350 ppm and such tomorrow and we would still be strip mining savannas, burning forests, throwing garbage into landfills, and driving every animal except chickens, pigs, gotas, and cows to extinction.

      I agree we need to take care of our home. But averting climate change is just one part of this struggle.

      4 votes
      1. ibis
        Link Parent
        The two issues are not separate, and they should be addressed together. Climate Change is, and will continue to have a devastating impact on natural ecosystems. But then, replanting forests and...

        The two issues are not separate, and they should be addressed together.
        Climate Change is, and will continue to have a devastating impact on natural ecosystems.
        But then, replanting forests and other natural habitats will help reduce climate change.

        3 votes
  8. [13]
    Brock_Knifemann
    Link
    One that comes to my mind is the so-called Hard problem of Consciousness. Essentially, it's an unanswered question of philosophy that asks how is it that consciousness arises? Part of what makes...

    One that comes to my mind is the so-called Hard problem of Consciousness. Essentially, it's an unanswered question of philosophy that asks how is it that consciousness arises?

    Part of what makes it so hard is that even though each of us (presumably) experiences consciousness, we don't have a good way to describe it or even explain just how it works to ourselves or others. We can infer that it arises out of complexity, as intelligent animals that have brains nearly as complex as our own (think dolphins, great apes, elephants, etc) very much appear to have some kind of consciousness. So, if we can infer that consciousness exists on a spectrum of some kind and that other beings have it, then what actually makes it arise if it's not unique to our physiology? Hell, even if it was unique to us, then what's so special in our heads and why did it even happen?

    The there's another question: what even is consciousness in the first place? While I can be reasonably certain that I experience it, I must rely on the presumption that other humans do too, as I simply cannot be in anyone else's mind or really know what they think/experience. I can't prove anything about the consciousness that I have other than pulling a Descartes, nor can I even begin to articulate what exactly I experience as a conscious entity... I just am. We're kind of stuck in this situation where the limits of language and understanding force us to describe abstract things not as the "actually are" but by comparing them to other things to explain what they're not. Here's an example: many (if not most) humans describe their thoughts as like a voice in their head. But it's not a voice in your head, nor is it any actual physical event like sound is. That thought is only a scratching of the surface, though. Sure, we experience an internal dialogue, but most of our thoughts are not the word kind. When you decide to do something, or imagine an outcome or plan an adventure, we typically don't word thought those, so how do you explain how you thought up that clever pun or next dank meme? I know that I certainly can't, and so far no one has done so.

    As you might imagine, this has implications beyond just a philosophical quandary. Are animals conscious? If so, are our systems of raising them for food and the keeping of pets ethical if these are conscious, thinking beings? What about technology: can an AI think and be conscious? If so, is creating a thinking AI equivalent to creating a slave race? What about the universe itself? If consciousness arises from interconnected complexity, does the nature of the quantum world (things like entanglement, vacuum energy, etc) imply some kind of universe-scale uber-consciousness? If so, is a conscious universe what we might call God?

    What seems like a difficult, but limited problem has potential ramifications well beyond just philosophy.

    7 votes
    1. [2]
      dredmorbius
      Link Parent
      Do you see this as a hard problem or a big problem? Clarifying my intent: "big problems" would generally be something that's facing humanity as a whole, or at least some significantly large...

      Do you see this as a hard problem or a big problem?

      Clarifying my intent: "big problems" would generally be something that's facing humanity as a whole, or at least some significantly large portion of it.

      Nothing against hard problems. And if you do see this as a big problem, I'd be interested as to how or why.

      1 vote
      1. Brock_Knifemann
        Link Parent
        Well, it's called the hard problem and the title is certainly fitting. That said, I do feel that it is a big problem, due to some of the ramifications that I mentioned. The animal one, for...

        Well, it's called the hard problem and the title is certainly fitting. That said, I do feel that it is a big problem, due to some of the ramifications that I mentioned. The animal one, for example, has more consequences than just whether it's morally right to enslave thinking, feeling beings in our food systems and keep specific kinds of these beings as pets. Even focusing solely on wild animals, we're still f-ing them up. If we share this planet with other nonhuman minds, what gives us the right to push them towards extinction with over-hunting, poaching and habitat loss? Our narrow speciesist view is trashing the lives of other Earthlings because, generally speaking, we don't see other life as beings that have the right to exist and have their own needs and agendas, but rather they're just another resource to extract profit from.

        This is just the here and now. I mentioned the rise of AI and automation as well. While AI is nowhere near human-like in it's "thinking" capacity, these algorithms are showing that in specific wheelhouses they can outclass us by orders of magnitude. As we see in the animal kingdom, you don't need a human brain to run some kind of mind that is still highly intelligent. So while a human-like intellect/mind may or may not be able to be replicated on on silicon, that isn't the end of the problem. If we create anything, bioengineered or artificial, that can actually think, it will probably be conscious to some degree. Then we'd be facing both the problems of both the ethical considerations of creating a slave race AND what these enslaved minds are going to do. Thinking things tend to want to do their own thing, and sci-fi has done a great job of illustrating how an AI sick of being a servant might just rebel.

        So yeah, this "hard problem", which has stayed mostly in the realm of philosophy and neuroscience, has real existential risk involved in the future that's rapidly coming at us.

        3 votes
    2. [6]
      Grand0rbiter
      Link Parent
      Our consciousness could be an illusion. We could just be spectators of what our bodies and brains are doing.

      Our consciousness could be an illusion. We could just be spectators of what our bodies and brains are doing.

      1. [5]
        Brock_Knifemann
        Link Parent
        I don't know that this spectator thing is quite accurate. By definition, a spectator is just an observer, right? Our minds aren't some kind of abstract layer that floats on top of a neural...

        I don't know that this spectator thing is quite accurate. By definition, a spectator is just an observer, right? Our minds aren't some kind of abstract layer that floats on top of a neural computer. Plenty of science shows that our minds/bodies are fully integrated systems and that there isn't some "ghost in the machine". Our minds, and all the things they process into experiences are just as integral to our consciousness as are the neurons and blood cells in our bodies. If this were not the case, brain injuries would have no affect on our minds, since this observer would be an independent thing.

        Now, it very well could be that consciousness is an illusion, in that our brains have so much processing power that our minds construct a reality that attempts to make sense of the world around us. In that case, we aren't spectators, but the resulting experience of consciousness is akin to being a spectator.

        We still don't have a good answer for this, I'm afraid. Metaphysics exists to tackle this questions of the nature of reality, and I don't know if they'll ever manage to fully answer the question.

        2 votes
        1. [4]
          Grand0rbiter
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          I recall reading or watching somewhere that there was an experiment that a person needed to choose between pressing two buttons. Left button with the left hand, right button with the right hand....

          I recall reading or watching somewhere that there was an experiment that a person needed to choose between pressing two buttons. Left button with the left hand, right button with the right hand. But the person needed to verbalize the choice before moving.

          I can't recall exactly the terms and english is not my main language. They were scanning the brain or something like that and it fired the respective side of the brain before the person said their choice. I think it was there that they entertained the idea that maybe we don't have that much choice and our brain/body does it for us, we just watch and have the illusion of free will.

          It's a stretch, i think, but who knows.

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            moocow1452
            Link Parent
            This kinda reminds me of the split brain experiment where subjects would provide different answers depending on if they were shown something from the left eye or right. https://youtu.be/wfYbgdo8e-8

            This kinda reminds me of the split brain experiment where subjects would provide different answers depending on if they were shown something from the left eye or right.

            https://youtu.be/wfYbgdo8e-8

            2 votes
            1. Brock_Knifemann
              Link Parent
              The ol' corpus callosum... The split brain experiments are part of what has made the modern view that there isn't some kind of observer living in our heads that sits above it all.

              The ol' corpus callosum... The split brain experiments are part of what has made the modern view that there isn't some kind of observer living in our heads that sits above it all.

          2. Brock_Knifemann
            Link Parent
            Remember, brain/body/mind are a single, integrated unit. So even if thought or actions are carried out via a complicated system, it's still YOU doing it. Humans are particularly bad at discerning...

            Remember, brain/body/mind are a single, integrated unit. So even if thought or actions are carried out via a complicated system, it's still YOU doing it.

            Humans are particularly bad at discerning illusions and simulations from the real thing. From a practical, daily life kind of perspective, it doesn't really matter if free will is real or an illusion, since we can't tell the difference.

            1 vote
    3. [4]
      Litmus2336
      Link Parent
      Easy answer: Consciousness is a phenomena that arises from purely electrochemical brain processes. Animals aren't conscious as their brains aren't powerful enough to create a comparable phenomena....

      Easy answer: Consciousness is a phenomena that arises from purely electrochemical brain processes. Animals aren't conscious as their brains aren't powerful enough to create a comparable phenomena. Yes, thinking AI is therefore conscious. Sure, you could call the universe God, but it's so wildly different from most religion's concepts of god that it's basically useless.

      Now, whether you believe that is another story :P But it's easier if you do!

      1. [3]
        Brock_Knifemann
        Link Parent
        Maybe, maybe not. Brain activity is absolutely crucial, but let's not forget the other nerve systems in our bodies, particularly the sensory ones. While the brain does the bulk of the processing,...

        Easy answer: Consciousness is a phenomena that arises from purely electrochemical brain processes

        Maybe, maybe not. Brain activity is absolutely crucial, but let's not forget the other nerve systems in our bodies, particularly the sensory ones. While the brain does the bulk of the processing, we have to include everything else in the system. It's likely the sum of all systems in the body. Likely.

        Animals aren't conscious as their brains aren't powerful enough to create a comparable phenomena.

        How do you know that?

        Yes, thinking AI is therefore conscious

        Well, if animals clearly make decisions ("which gazelle is the weak one?", "how do I get up this tree?", "is that two-legged thing trustworthy?", etc) based on past experiences, are they not thinking as well? Remember that a large amount of our thought processes aren't the voice-in-your-head kind. If an AI that can think is conscious, would not an animal that thinks be conscious as well?

        Sure, you could call the universe God, but it's so wildly different from most religion's concepts of god that it's basically useless

        Call it god, or not, I wouldn't call questions like this useless. Maybe recognizing the universe itself as god might make us, who are completely a part of this universe and therefore a part of "god", treat each other better. Knowing religion, probably not, but I can't tell for sure.

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          Litmus2336
          Link Parent
          I was just being facetious. Those are my views, but the joke is that the question is easy if you don't ask too many questions...

          I was just being facetious. Those are my views, but the joke is that the question is easy if you don't ask too many questions...

          1. Brock_Knifemann
            Link Parent
            My bad, the joke kinda woooshed over my head.

            My bad, the joke kinda woooshed over my head.

  9. [5]
    nothis
    Link
    AI is getting creepy. I'm still in a dreamy, fascinated mode where I look at it as mostly just neat technology that seems to be able to solve problems that seemed "impossible" only 10 years ago....

    AI is getting creepy. I'm still in a dreamy, fascinated mode where I look at it as mostly just neat technology that seems to be able to solve problems that seemed "impossible" only 10 years ago. But I'm starting to understand the gloomy predictions.

    7 votes
    1. [4]
      dredmorbius
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      My sense is that we need to have a much better concept of what AI is and does. I'm getting the feeling that the current iteration, gradient-descent machine learning, has both capabilities and...

      My sense is that we need to have a much better concept of what AI is and does. I'm getting the feeling that the current iteration, gradient-descent machine learning, has both capabilities and profound limitations. Among those is that it is what I call a non-explanatory knowledge mechanism -- AIs can often achieve spectacular results in some domain, but they can't tell you how they got them. Jonathan Zittrain has explored this space.

      I've also recently discovered Rappaport's Philosophy of Computer Science, which goes well beyond AI, but also looks at it, specifically, in a context of structured philosophical understanding. (And yes, that's 930 meaty pages long.)

      4 votes
      1. [3]
        nothis
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I think we're still far away from science-fiction style problems with "virtual consciousness", what bothers me the most about current trends is that we no longer have types of content that...

        I think we're still far away from science-fiction style problems with "virtual consciousness", what bothers me the most about current trends is that we no longer have types of content that computers "can't handle" (either in terms of pattern recognition or automatic generation). You can always just feed data into a machine learning algorithm and it understands it to a degree that can fool a human being, using processes too complicated to be understood by a human being.

        Flashy examples include deep fakes and whatnot. But in terms of using machine learning for categorization tasks we already see it learning things like racial bias from training data, which, if applied to the real world applications, would amplify these biases with the speed and efficiency of a computer network. You can also reverse any kind of detection algorithm to generate content or at least bypass the detection, so for example you can use the same algorithms to detect spam mail to generate spam mail and do it in a way that's much harder to recognize. Think automatic bots that, while probably not passing any Turing test, can spam a message effectively while making them close to impossible to detect. It's kinda scary.

        There used to be a lot of areas of computing that just were not possible so you didn't have to worry about their ethical issues. Like, you couldn't expect a computer to genuinely understand a resume, to detect a shoplifter on a camera or to judge the true intent of a twitter comment. Now, we have ways to get this 95% right, enough so that you can get results without having a human involved to check for the most part. Enough for it to get cheap, enough for it to be applied to a huge amount of people (see China's AI-driven surveillance technology). But what about the other 5%? What about any weird, computer-bug-like flaws that affect the 95% and we notice way too late? It can happen so fast and affect way more people than human error. There's no common sense check when things go straight into bizarro territory.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          dredmorbius
          Link Parent
          So, yes, the bias issues are profound -- Cathy O'Neil has done some excellent writing on this. And it even has some relation to the problem that I highlight above. But the key point I'm looking at...

          So, yes, the bias issues are profound -- Cathy O'Neil has done some excellent writing on this. And it even has some relation to the problem that I highlight above.

          But the key point I'm looking at is that we've had a few bodies of knowledge in the past, most notably in the past 300 or so years a distinction between knowledge of means, or technical knowledge, and knowledge of causes, or scientific knowledge. AI seems to be a different, possibly a new, class: it provides answers to questions, but without explanation. Hence: non-explanatory knowledge mechanism.

          And the answers it provides can be to difficult problems, or performed at speeds or rates that would be difficult to independently vet or check or verify.

          And again, this operates a level or two deeper than the bias effects you mention, or other concerns posed: deep fakes, killer robots, content generation or self-driving/flying systems, to give just a few cases.

          2 votes
          1. nothis
            Link Parent
            Fascinating take.

            AI seems to be a different, possibly a new, class: it provides answers to questions, but without explanation.

            Fascinating take.

            3 votes
  10. DonQuixote
    Link
    First, I think Climate Change is the biggest and most imminent known problem we face. But the biggest problem that we don't know is a problem, is that we don't know anything. Humanity is like the...

    First, I think Climate Change is the biggest and most imminent known problem we face.

    But the biggest problem that we don't know is a problem, is that we don't know anything. Humanity is like the turkey before Thanksgiving day. He's getting fed, fattened, everything has gotten better and better over his entire life. He doesn't even know about Thanskgiving, much less when it might happen. This is the basic problem of Induction, which Nicholas Taleb pontificated on in his book The Black Swan.

    Sure there are worries and fear-mongers out there, as always. But as a whole, as a species, humanity is 99% clueless about the nature of reality and the immensity of the unknown. This problem is compounded by the fact that the majority of human endeavor is aimed at developing technology, not knowledge. I think that's putting the cart before the horse.

    From that perspective, there isn't a lot we can do to insure preservation of the species. The second best chance we have is to preserve the knowledge we've accumulated and plan to either hunker down or migrate.

    Meanwhile, we can argue about and attempt to deal with all the known problems.

    5 votes
  11. dredmorbius
    Link
    Despite preferring to leave the question open-ended, I've had an interesting exchange on Mastodon, which has prompted this clarification of my intent. mdhughes had suggested "Big Bang or Big...

    Despite preferring to leave the question open-ended, I've had an interesting exchange on Mastodon, which has prompted this clarification of my intent.

    mdhughes had suggested "Big Bang or Big Crunch" as a Big Problem. That is, of course, arguable, but isn't entirely what I'd had in mind.

    His comment does address the semantics and ontology of just what "big problems" are, which is to say, what is a problem?

    I frequently turn to etymology as a guide. Mind, not a definition, but as a hint as to what understanding has been. And we find:

    late 14c., "a difficult question proposed for solution," from Old French problème (14c.) and directly from Latin problema, from Greek problema "a task, that which is proposed, a question;" also "anything projecting, headland, promontory; fence, barrier;" also "a problem in geometry," literally "thing put forward," from proballein "propose," from pro "forward" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward") + ballein "to throw" (from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach").

    https://www.etymonline.com/word/problem

    (NB: The Online Etymological Dictionary is an Internet treasure, and operates on user support.)

    The question of heat death of the Universe ultimately isn't solvable (we can't avoid that), though forming a proper model of that does matter, somewhat. Rather, it defines a total bounds of what might happen within the Universe, the possibility space in which we and all other entities within it might operate.

    I prefer to look at degrees of freedom within some bounded space or sphere of influence. Strongly guided by a definition from sailing:

    The Art of ship handling involves the effective use of forces under control to overcome the effect of forces not under control.

    -- Charles H. Cotter

    That also defines my ontology.

    • If all the forces are not under control, then there is no problem, there is an inevitability.
    • If all of the forces are under control, there is no problem, there is only will.
    • If forces under control cannot overcome those not, again, what exists is an inevitability.
    • Where there is the option of influence and some scope of control, you have a Problem.

    Related to this is the hierarchy of failures in problem resolution, which also gives something of an anatomy of problems:

    1. Awareness of the problem.
    2. Diagnosis of the type of problem.
    3. Often, though not always, understanding of the problem's cause.
    4. An objective, an idea of where you want to be.
    5. A path to that objective: how to get there from here.
    6. Communication where enlisting the assisstance of others is necessary.
    7. Execution toward resolution.
    8. Often, though not always, assessment of performance.

    The next question is what "big" is.

    Lunch is not a Big Problem.

    A Big Problem is one that is not readily tackled, especially not by a single individual, organisation, or at the scope of what I'm considering, even single nations. Rather, a Big Problem:

    1. Involves multiple parties. People, organisations, institutions, models, disciplines, countries, belief systems.
    2. Involves major inputs or resources. Time, money, material, energy, understanding, coordination. In a word, sacrifices.
    3. Has a large and probable consequence. This distinguishes from butterfly effects, which are large, but cannot be probabalistically addressed. The consequence of failure would typically be a serious disruption or destruction of current working systems or order. The consequence of success would be either a continuation of that order or a transition to a better or more sustainable alternative state.

    There should be some rough ordering of Big Problems based on these criteria.

    There's a term, global catastrophic risk which is similar, though I'd argue that the set of Big Problems is probably a superset of these, including GCRs, but going beyond them. Issues of human nature (and defining what exactly "human nature" is), or understanding, or belief systems or world models, might be among the Big Problems, though not necessarily considered as GCRs.

    4 votes
  12. [11]
    suspended
    Link
    There is, currently, no methodology to properly investigate a supernatural claim. Science is a great methodology for evaluating natural claims, but it falls short in evaluating the supernatural...

    There is, currently, no methodology to properly investigate a supernatural claim.

    Science is a great methodology for evaluating natural claims, but it falls short in evaluating the supernatural (or so is the complaint of science). Without a proper methodology to evaluate a supernatural claim I am unable to differentiate a supernatural cause from an unknown natural cause.

    An evaluation of a supernatural claim using this methodology will need to lead us to conclude the truth of that claim.

    3 votes
    1. [9]
      thundergolfer
      Link Parent
      How is Philosophy unable to interrogate (if not investigate) a supernatural claim? These kinds of claims have been made for millenia and we've done a pretty good job so far finding them unserious.

      How is Philosophy unable to interrogate (if not investigate) a supernatural claim?

      These kinds of claims have been made for millenia and we've done a pretty good job so far finding them unserious.

      6 votes
      1. [7]
        Brock_Knifemann
        Link Parent
        You can go down the logic chain and make logical arguments that the supernatural exists, but we still have yet to find a way to make any kind of sound argument that it does. Now, we do have tech...

        You can go down the logic chain and make logical arguments that the supernatural exists, but we still have yet to find a way to make any kind of sound argument that it does.

        Now, we do have tech tools that let us perceive things that our senses cannot. We can't see X-rays or infrared, but we have the tools and the math to show that these do exist. We cannot feel an atom, but once again, math and technology show us that the atomic world is there.

        You'll notice that we need both an explanation and repeatable experiments to show that things which we cannot perceive physically do, in fact, exist.

        So to say anything about the supernatural, other than that we do not have the tools to confirm them, is just plain unprovable. Maybe one day science will discover a way to detect ghosts. Maybe one day science will irrefutably disprove the existence of god(s). Maybe this question will never be answered. The only thing we can be sure of is that we've failed to prove the supernatural thus far.

        3 votes
        1. [6]
          Grand0rbiter
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          But isn't the fact that x-rays, infrared and other tech exists (and some were made by accident) proof enough that if we don't have any tech that can detect the supernatural, it means that there...

          But isn't the fact that x-rays, infrared and other tech exists (and some were made by accident) proof enough that if we don't have any tech that can detect the supernatural, it means that there isn't any?

          We can detect atoms, accelerate particles and a lot of other amazing things. Who makes you think there were not attempts to detect something supernatural? If something like that exists, we would have had at least a glimpse by now.

          If you could travel to the past and said that you can see peoples bones and organs from the outside, it would be considered magic/supernatural for medieval people.

          2 votes
          1. Brock_Knifemann
            Link Parent
            Just one note of semantics: the supernatural, is by definition, beyond the natural world. Things like invisible particles and electromagnetic radiation are still a very fundamental part of the...

            Just one note of semantics: the supernatural, is by definition, beyond the natural world. Things like invisible particles and electromagnetic radiation are still a very fundamental part of the natural world, even if they're beyond our senses.


            I'm certainly not saying that there haven't been attempts to detect the supernatural. Likewise, I'm not saying that things beyond our sensory limitations don't exist. The thing is, we've developed tools that can let us see and study parts of the natural world that are invisible to us. We have yet to develop tools to detect and observe the supernatural. I think that by definition, the supernatural is going to be undetectable and unprovable. Take the universe itself, for example. If it is everything that exists, and we exist inside of it, how can we talk about what exists outside of it in any kind of meaningful way? It's like asking about time before time existed - there's no meaningful answer.

            Remember two important things:

            1. we have shown that things outside our senses do exist, and can be observed
            2. we have not proven the existence of any kind of supernatural thing

            If we haven't proved the supernatural yet, it's likely that we never will. Likely, but absolutely not a guarantee. The only thing we can say with any certainty is that we have not developed the tools to find and prove the existence of the supernatural, despite our efforts.

            3 votes
          2. [4]
            AnthonyB
            Link Parent
            Isn't that giving us a bit too much credit? I have a very limited understanding of this, so please correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't we unable to explain things like dark energy and dark matter,...

            If something like that exists, we would have had at least a glimpse by now.

            Isn't that giving us a bit too much credit? I have a very limited understanding of this, so please correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't we unable to explain things like dark energy and dark matter, which make up most of the universe? Also, just because we have made huge strides in understanding the world around us during the past 200 years, doesn't mean we don't have a long way to go.

            1 vote
            1. [3]
              Grand0rbiter
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              We are capable of detecting and verify it exists. That's the bigger first step here. We can't explain a lot of things, but jumping to a "supernatural" explanation is coping out. If it's out of...

              aren't we unable to explain things like dark energy and dark matter,

              We are capable of detecting and verify it exists. That's the bigger first step here.

              We can't explain a lot of things, but jumping to a "supernatural" explanation is coping out. If it's out of natural, we can't work with it.

              Lightning were supernatural for us in the past. As we got smarter, these beliefs started crumbling.

              You are asking to verify anedoctes, personal experiences. I had sleep paralysis for a long time and in the beginning thought i was having an out of body/near death experience, but i didn't believed in any of this. Turns out it was just hallucinations. We halucinate almost every day on our sleep.

              Why are the few anedoctes of near death experience more plausible than something common that happens to everybody?

              2 votes
              1. [2]
                Brock_Knifemann
                Link Parent
                Let's not forget that experiences are very real to the person experiencing them. If I am angry at someone, science can point to neurochemicals and brain activity, but the physiological side of...

                Let's not forget that experiences are very real to the person experiencing them. If I am angry at someone, science can point to neurochemicals and brain activity, but the physiological side of anger isn't the same as actually experiencing the emotion.

                I've read many times that there's good evidence that the near-death experience is the result of our brains going into a shutdown mode as death happens. While we can point to the chemicals and lack of oxygen in our heads as the actual cause, it does not diminish the actual experience that individual feels. If you see the lights and emerge into a world full of your departed loved ones as you die, as a natural part of the process, then it's plenty real even if there's no big man in the sky making it happen.

                I'm not a believer in the afterlife, but if the NDE is the typical experience of the dying, it doesn't sound like too bad of a way to go. Seeing your loved ones before fading into nothingness sounds a lot better than just blacking out forever, even if it's not "real".

                1 vote
                1. Grand0rbiter
                  (edited )
                  Link Parent
                  It certainly is better than blacking out if everything goes just right. Being an hallucination, there's some chance that it could be worse than blacking out. Since these experiences seems to align...

                  It certainly is better than blacking out if everything goes just right.

                  Being an hallucination, there's some chance that it could be worse than blacking out. Since these experiences seems to align with what people believe (afterlife, god, paradise, seeing lights), one could possibly see something bad.

                  When i had my first episode of sleep paralysis, i thought i was dying. At first i was thinking that i was wrong my entire life, because i'm lifting out of my body and this is the proof that there is a soul and God exists. The experience was very real. Then i tried to understand why i was dying, because i was just fine that day. Seconds later i started worrying about my mother, she would be devastated. After that i just let everything go because i couldn't do anything, i was dead anyway.

                  I never forgot the sense of happiness and how lightweight i felt. I think buddhism call this Nirvana. I was not happy because i wanted to die or my life was shit, but every worry, every need, everything just vanished. I was just floating away and felt so lightweight, so content that i didn't have to do anything. Never felt anything like that. Pure bliss.

                  Anyway, i came back.

                  After some research i found about sleep paralysis. After that episode, i could practically induce sleep paralysis by sleeping during the day in a certain position. It had a 90% chance of it happening.

                  I don't know if you ever had sleep paralysis, but there's a sense of dread that is overwhelming. It feels hard to breath. That's why the drawings has a demon sitting on your chest.

                  Since now i knew what sleep paralysis are and what hallucinations it gave, i started exploring it and how to get out of it if i want. I never felt that bliss anymore, because i knew what it was now. The feeling of dread when you are into one never stops, but you can manage. My hallucinations were very different after that first one. The one i remember most was when i felt somebody coming and sitting on the bed by my side. I felt the mattress deforming and pulling me. It was very real, but i knew it wasn't.

                  When the feeling of fear was too much, i would "hold my breath" until i woke up. It worked fast some of the times, but others not. It certainly makes you believe in spirits and the afterlife if you want to go that way.

                  Now is rare that i have an episode, but when i have i just try to get out as soon as possible. Can't deal with the stress of that anymore.

                  2 votes
      2. suspended
        Link Parent
        Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Many people have been very serious about their supernatural claims...

        Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.

        unserious

        Many people have been very serious about their supernatural claims including one of the most influential. Namely, Paul who claimed to have spent several years receiving knowledge and experiences from a risen Jesus in Arabia.

        Also, there are many NDE (Near Death Experiences) that have been documented throughout many years.

        How do we evaluate these claims?

        1 vote
    2. unknown user
      Link Parent
      Well, there actually is one: to say it's false. Nature includes everything that exists. Supernatural is stuff that is not included among things in nature, so outside the set of things that exist....

      There is, currently, no methodology to properly investigate a supernatural claim.

      Well, there actually is one: to say it's false.

      Nature includes everything that exists. Supernatural is stuff that is not included among things in nature, so outside the set of things that exist. Supernatural simply does not exist, thus the only way to investigate such a claim is to try it as a logical system in and of itself, for whenever it leaves such a closed system, it's by definition false.

      5 votes
  13. ainar-g
    Link
    Mental processes, especially human ones. There is a rather famous TED talk by Andrew Solomon about major depression. There he says this thing, at about 05:40, which has stuck with me since I...

    Mental processes, especially human ones. There is a rather famous TED talk by Andrew Solomon about major depression. There he says this thing, at about 05:40, which has stuck with me since I watched the video for the first time:

    And I thought, “But is it a chemical problem or a psychological problem? And does it need a chemical cure or a philosophical cure?” And I couldn't figure out which it was. And then I understood that actually, we aren't advanced enough in either area for it to explain things fully.

    Not being advanced enough in chemistry and biology is understandable, but not being advanced enough in philosophy was a novel concept, for me at least.

    A deeper understanding of how thought is connected to emotion and how both of them, in turn, are connected to the rest of the body would not only allow us to treat mental diseases better, but it could also dramatically improve lives of “normal” humans, on a level similar to that of soap and plumbing. We could eliminate unwanted anxiety, jealousy, anger, procrastination, you name it.

    3 votes
  14. Chopincakes
    Link
    I second Climate Change, as someone else posted about. But one issue that I hadn't even considered about that I think about every now again is this: -How do we, as a species, protect any other...

    I second Climate Change, as someone else posted about.

    But one issue that I hadn't even considered about that I think about every now again is this:
    -How do we, as a species, protect any other species/thing from the harms of nuclear waste, long after we are gone?

    There's a elegantly written piece in Current Affairs here on the matter that I've found myself reflecting on nearly daily when my mind wanders.

    3 votes
  15. [6]
    Eric_the_Cerise
    (edited )
    Link
    Human nature. So, I started to respond with "how humans govern themselves", because we've never really figured out a good solution to that (representative democracy being only the least bad...

    Human nature.

    So, I started to respond with "how humans govern themselves", because we've never really figured out a good solution to that (representative democracy being only the least bad solution).

    But that drifted into my view that "tribalism" (my catch-all for racism/sexism/religious bias/xenophobia/etc) is the root problem ...

    From there, I broadened into cognitive biases as a whole ... then—after a brief tangent, considering humanity's failure to understand the implications of geometric progression—I came up with this...

    Evolution has not had sufficient time nor resources to prepare humanity for the type (nor scale) of society we're now trying to build.

    Fundamentally, we are chimps with nukes trying to overcome our meat-brain base instincts, and repeatedly getting lost and side-tracked by our inherently illogical natures.

    I am, of course, just one more chimp who illogically thinks he knows better than all the other chimps, so ... you know, grain of salt ... but my best solution is a massive, orders-of-magnitude global increase in the amount of effort we (as a species) devote to teaching logic, and the recognition and avoidance of cognitive biases, in school.

    Two sites to consider are Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet (quite recently mentioned elsewhere here at Tildes), and LessWrong.

    In a nutshell, the Vulcans had the right idea. Be like Spock.

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      user2
      Link Parent
      You linked twice to the same thing.

      You linked twice to the same thing.

      1 vote
    2. [3]
      dredmorbius
      Link Parent
      Could you give more concrete examples or parameters of what you mean by human nature? It's one of those fascinating but frustratingly vague terms. (Not disagreeing, but as with my general question...

      Could you give more concrete examples or parameters of what you mean by human nature? It's one of those fascinating but frustratingly vague terms.

      (Not disagreeing, but as with my general question here, I'm interested in how people define and approach the concepts as well as what specifically they come up with.)

      1. [2]
        Eric_the_Cerise
        Link Parent
        I mean, basically the things I described in my post. Concrete examples would be, pretty much, every cognitive bias that humans are prone to. Our brains are designed to take hundreds of sloppy...

        I mean, basically the things I described in my post. Concrete examples would be, pretty much, every cognitive bias that humans are prone to.

        Our brains are designed to take hundreds of sloppy shortcuts in decision-making, which are generally good for when we see a sabre-tooth—or an unfamiliar rival tribe—approaching us, but which generally suck for planning and maintaining a global egalitarian society.

        2 votes
        1. dredmorbius
          Link Parent
          Hrm, still hoping for more. There is a Wikipedia article: Human Nature. One view I've been leaning toward is that "human nature" is in very large part an information-theoretic dynamic, and would...

          Hrm, still hoping for more. There is a Wikipedia article: Human Nature.

          One view I've been leaning toward is that "human nature" is in very large part an information-theoretic dynamic, and would be intrinsict to almost any comparable system. That is, most instances are not specific, and most especially, moral failings of individual or collective humans, but intrinsic systemic and emergent properties. The field of cybernetics as originally conceived by Norbert Wiener gets to much of this.

  16. natmaka
    (edited )
    Link
    Everything is too big. Leopold Kohr wrote about it. Centralized decision and bureaucracy, implied by the sheer gigantism of our societies, have more and more negative effects. Nobody can really...

    Everything is too big.

    Leopold Kohr wrote about it.

    Centralized decision and bureaucracy, implied by the sheer gigantism of our societies, have more and more negative effects.

    Nobody can really understand enough of the huge system to steer it (and leaders more and more explicitly and officially recognize this fact), however decisions with huge impacts are made then applied.

    A leader cannot know his people anymore, therefore it becomes more easy for him to misunderstand, neglect or trick them.

    A quickly growing fraction of humanhood live in huge cities (in the pursuit of a misleading hope of security and a better material well-being), leading them to have frequent light interactions with many other anonymous human beings (this is very new in our evolution, and may have a major psychological impact), becoming another cog in the huge machine.

    Nowadays too much things are too big to success.

    2 votes