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Circular arguments, eigenjesus, and climate change

June 19, 2014

No time for a post this morning but go read this post by Scott Aaronson on using a PageRank-like algorithm to understand human morality and decision making. The post is funny, clever, very thoughtful, and pretty long.

Categories: modeling, musing
  1. Guest2
    June 19, 2014 at 11:34 am

    I hate to burst your bubble, but this is loaded with doubtful ideas.
    “Morality” cannot be equated with “moral judgments,” no matter how much you liked (or despised) Ethics 101. They are not the same thing, just as arm-chair philosophes involved in denken experiments are just that: building castles in the air.

    The whole rank/authority dichotomy, which assumes externally valid authority, is the same thing as eigenjesus. But the author doesn’t say where HIS def of morality gets its validity — which is the metaphysical part of this that falls apart, where he says:

    we can begin by giving everyone in the community an equal number of “morality starting credits.” Then we can apply an iterative update rule, where each person A can gain morality credits by cooperating with each other person B, and A gains more credits the more credits B has already. We apply the rule over and over, until the number of morality credits per person converges to an equilibrium.

    The worst problem about this is, it fails to take modern society that is bureaucratically managed in ways intended to strip us of volition and discretion. Without meaningful lattitude (beyond vanilla and strawberry choices), morality literally has no “meaning.”

    Better to try and locate the embeddedness of morality using the directed graph theory suggested here. If it is located no-where (following Foucault), then all this is wasted time.


    • June 19, 2014 at 11:54 am

      I’m not sure it was intended to be entirely serious. Maybe it was? At any rate it was rife to the gills with linear (algebra) and dyadic thinking in a non-linear and triadic world.


    • June 19, 2014 at 12:27 pm

      Yeah I wasn’t taking this tooooo seriously, more like a neat thought experiment.


  2. June 19, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    aaronson slings around math quite dangerously and can be quite the outlandish philosopher at times. it seems like philosophers tie themselves up in knots for centuries trying to understand morality and somewhat likewise for game theorists applying mathematics to the problem (eg prisoners dilemma). indeed a very difficult concept in the postmodern world. uh, hint, doesnt it connect with empathy? empathy is now identifiable in brain scans & is increasingly seen to have a basic adaptive/evolutionary purpose…. huh! look at that! zero uses of the word “empathy” in his blog. [would write compelling/cogent comments on his blog but he banned me long ago 😦 ]


  1. June 20, 2014 at 8:12 pm
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