Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

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reval
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Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby reval » Thu Apr 04, 2019 7:34 pm UTC

This is a third attempt to explain the idea of two processes. Earlier threads are here and here, and full details are posted here.

Competition is bad for people. That is true even though, as animals, everything about us originally came out of competition, and only competition.

Evolutionary competition is an animal's life. It's what they do. It's who they are. There is not enough room under the sun for all. Always more are born than can live. The successful ones leave many offspring before they die. The unsuccessful ones leave few or no offspring before they die. Individuals vary, but overall the next generation looks more like the successful ones than the unsuccessful ones.

This sounds pretty bad for the animals. In fact, competition is not for their benefit as individuals. It's for the benefit of the gene pool of their species. A species can be strong and healthy at the same time that its individual members are fighting and suffering and dying and being eaten.

And the health of the species requires individual death. Individuals vary randomly, by trial and error, and most of that variation is harmful. The species depends on massive killing to weed out harmful variations and preserve a few beneficial variations. That is how competition maintains and adapts the genetic information of the species as a whole. It doesn't care about individuals.

That description above is pretty much the consensus among scientists, but it is very controversial among non-scientists. Why is that? I think there are two reasons: abstraction and morality.

The first problem is that "for the benefit of the species" sounds like an abstract idea compared with the benefit of a real concrete animal like you or me. The abstraction and complexity and obscurity and obfuscation we encounter in our society mostly comes from people who are trying to cheat us or take advantage of us. So we mistrust it. That's perfectly reasonable. Or rather, it's reasonable when we are dealing with people, with all their tricks and games and lies and scams.

But scientists are used to dealing with a world that is both complex and honest. The world is not trying to trick us. Instead, the greater danger is that we may trick ourselves. We may think we understand, when we don't understand.

The world is much bigger than we are, and we are looking for narrow lines of knowledge stretching through it, and sometimes we get hopeful, or desperate, and we grab onto a mistake. That is why we have to rely on repeatable observation and a consensus of other people to help us see whether we have grabbed onto something real or not.

And we have to be really clear about the distinction between the things we understand, and the things we do not understand. When Darwin described the process of natural selection, he knew there must be inherited traits, but he didn't know about genes. When Mendel crossed pea plants and figured out how some genes work, he didn't know how they get written down and passed on. When Crick and Watson saw the structure of DNA, they didn't know how DNA works in a cell. We're still learning more about that today.

But with the benefit of the computer age we can look at DNA and say: "Hey, I recognize that! That stuff is information!"

That insight gives us one more handhold. Because information is the stuff that is read and written by a computer. Where is the computer? It's not an individual cell, or a plant, or an animal, because those only read and copy the DNA, sometimes with random mutations. The place where useful new information gets added is the process of natural selection. Evolution is a process. A computational process.

This process works with a breeding population of 500 or more individuals, each slightly different from the next. It's a collection of DNA. The gene pool of the species is not an abstraction. It's a collection of individuals, each of whom carries a concrete series of molecules. Add it up. It's a real thing.

A gene pool is a set of plans to construct individuals who can survive in their surroundings. If the surroundings change too much, or too quickly, then all the individuals die, the species goes extinct, and that particular gene pool is gone. So each one of these species continues to exist as long as it gets a relatively quick turnover of winners and losers, and maintains its gene pool, and keeps adapting to changes around it fast enough. Winning and losing isn't for the benefit of an individual. It's for the benefit of the species.

I think "for the benefit of the species" is a simple idea. It's an honest idea, and it's not too abstract to understand. It's also the consensus among people who do this a lot.

Okay, the claim that evolution is a computational process is a new element. That part is not consensus yet. It could be a mistake! But if it's real, it connects with the second part of the story.

The second problem with evolution is morality. It seems like evolution's motto is "Be Evil". That's not okay. We don't accept that being a decent human is all about the "survival of the fittest". There's more to us than that. We actually do care about individual humans, even ones we don't know. People matter.

This bothered Darwin, too. He felt like he was "committing a murder" by publishing his theory. But he had to be honest. He couldn't lie about what was happening in front of his eyes. Evolution is real. It is happening.

But where can you go to find something else? Something additional? An alternative, even if it's only for people, and not for animals or plants?

You can go and make up stories to comfort yourself. You can invent gods and spirits that no one can see, who will give meaning to your life and justify you in front of others. You can attribute right and wrong to them. Since no one can see them, you can make up whatever you want them to say. You can try to avoid thinking altogether. Please don't do this.

You can go and plunge into the games people play against each other. Sometimes people help each other. So do animals. They're really just helping themselves, or their genes. Look up reciprocal altruism and kin selection. Sometimes people hurt people who they think hurt other people. They gang up on that person, and call it crime and punishment. Just more reciprocal altruism and kin selection. They're helping themselves. Or their genes. You can try to chase down this thing called cooperation, and in case after case it turns out to be the same thing: just another way to take an evolutionary advantage over someone else. Evolutionary competition includes cooperation, and cooperation is one kind of competition.

Competition is a dead end. It does not lead to any kind of useful alternative. There is no alternative that way.

You need a different process. Not evolution.

We have a different process. We can think.

Thinking uses ideas. Ideas are information. Thinking is also a computational process. Therefore we can compare it directly with evolution. And it turns out that thinking is more efficient and ultimately more powerful than evolution. We are in the middle of inventing new and better tools that apply our ideas to the world around us, so that it won't be our genes that matter.

Sure, thinking has been used for competitive purposes. (Of course! Since that's where it came from.) But it's versatile. We've already thrown away some of the worst ideas that tied us to evolutionary competition. Racism? Yes, that was an evolutionary goal. Now it's dead. Not part of the future. Next, we'll argue about how to get competition out of our economy. Evolution will be over, for us. Animals will continue to be part of an evolutionary process, but we won't.

Each person has their own thought process. That is why individual people matter so much. But, as mentioned above, we make mistakes. And we're pretty small. We only know about a few things directly around us - we should only be messing with those few things directly around us that we know about. And it turns out our best ideas are the ones that come from sharing ideas with other people.

Sharing ideas with other people means dropping the competitive game. You can try to take an advantage over someone, or you can talk to them. You can't do both. Not really.

So you can solve the morality problem by casting both processes - evolution and thinking - as computational processes. They're different, but they're close enough so we can compare one with the other. The comparison explains why we hate evolution, even though it is real. The thought process is better. One of the processes is wrong for our purposes, and the other one is right. We can replace competition with the shared thought process. We can do the right thing.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby elasto » Thu Apr 04, 2019 8:32 pm UTC

You can go and plunge into the games people play against each other. Sometimes people help each other. So do animals. They're really just helping themselves, or their genes [...] You can try to chase down this thing called cooperation, and in case after case it turns out to be the same thing: just another way to take an evolutionary advantage over someone else. Evolutionary competition includes cooperation, and cooperation is one kind of competition.

This isn't a useful way to define cooperation. It falls into the same trap as when people say that altruism is just as selfish as any other action, because "they are choosing to be altruistic since they get a good feeling from doing so, and seeking a good feeling is selfish..."

No, when Buffett or Gates pledge to give away most of their wealth, it's not useful to portray that as 'merely another form of competition'. Cooperation across the species is the alternative you seek.

But, moreso than that, you paint with too broad a brush when you dismiss the virtues of competition. Competition can be healthy or unhealthy - zero-sum or positive-sum.

When I challenge my friend to who can do the most pushups in a month, both of us benefit and noone loses out. When Intel and AMD compete for who can produce the best microchips at the least cost, we all benefit.

It's possible that the economy could be based entirely on cooperation without any competition at all, but that would most likely require such a heavy rewrite of human psychology and neurology that we might as well be a different species, and not everyone considers The Borg as a role model.

And I don't get how thought is an alternative to competition. Ideas compete with each other just as actions do. Ideas compete within your own mind every time you make a choice, and ideas very definitely compete between human minds. Ever heard of memes..?

Before you can cooperate, you must first agree the way to do so - which requires ideas fighting to a metaphorical death...

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby ucim » Thu Apr 04, 2019 9:56 pm UTC

"To benefit the group, you harm the individual.
To benefit the individual, you harm the group."
Spoiler:
This is fundamental to the divide in politics - i.e. classical liberals vs classical conservatives. But it's not just applicable there; it's a very general principle.
reval wrote:Winning and losing isn't for the benefit of an individual. It's for the benefit of the species.
No, it's not "for the benefit" of any but the one doing the winning. That's what "winning" is. Now, while the competition does benefit the species (by altering its makeup over time), it does not have that purpose. It just is. That's an important point. Nobody has their hands on the steering wheel.

Yet.

reval wrote:Darwin [...] felt like he was "committing a murder" by publishing his theory.
Citation needed. But either way, what Darwin felt about evolution does not change what evolution is.

reval wrote:But where can you go to find something else?

For what purpose? It's like saying "The wind blows things down, but it's real. It's happening. Where can I go to find something else (other than wind)?

You seem to come from the point of view that evolution has a purpose, as opposed to the view that evolution has a result. To wit:
reval wrote:thinking is more efficient and ultimately more powerful than evolution.
More efficient at doing what?

Answer that question, and then answer "why do that?". Enlightenment will follow, be it yours, or your audience's.

Jose
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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby elasto » Thu Apr 04, 2019 10:09 pm UTC

ucim wrote:"To benefit the group, you harm the individual.
To benefit the individual, you harm the group."

Can you explain further since this doesn't make much sense to me. It seems perfectly possible for individuals to gain and noone to lose. And if all individuals gain, surely they do as a group too?

Take, I dunno, vaccinations. Surely that is of benefit to both individuals and humanity as a whole, no matter what groups you partition it into...?

(IMO the goal of a civilised and mature market economy is to ensure that economic competition is positive-sum and the benefits shared (via eg. taxation) such that the benefits to the winners (and therein all of society) greatly exceeds the costs incurred by the losers.)

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby ucim » Thu Apr 04, 2019 10:26 pm UTC

elasto wrote:Take, I dunno, vaccinations. Surely that is of benefit to both individuals and humanity as a whole, no matter what groups you partition it into...?
Vaccinations help the individual (keeping them from disease) and help the other (perhaps unvaccinated) individuals in the group (preventing them from being exposed to disease). However, it harms the group in the sense that, without evolutionary pressure to be robust, subsequent individuals will tend to have less natural immunity. They will become dependent on vaccinations to fill the gap.

The species, overall, becomes weaker over time.

Note - I'm not (at all!) anti-vaxx. But it's your example, and it, like any benefit, has a cost. Much hot air has been expended on the "proper" balance of cost (to whom!) and benefit (to whom!).

Jose
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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby elasto » Thu Apr 04, 2019 10:59 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Vaccinations help the individual (keeping them from disease) and help the other (perhaps unvaccinated) individuals in the group (preventing them from being exposed to disease). However, it harms the group in the sense that, without evolutionary pressure to be robust, subsequent individuals will tend to have less natural immunity. They will become dependent on vaccinations to fill the gap.

To me the symmetry seems to be there both positive and negative:
- Vaccinations today benefit both individuals and the group, you seem to agree upon that.
- If natural immunity weakens (and access to vaccinations is lost) then there's a future cost both to individuals and the group: the cost to those individuals that fall ill that wouldn't have, and the cost to the group for losing/supporting those sick individuals.

(Vaccination research and implementation carries an intrinsic economic cost, but that is completely swamped by the economic benefit of the increased longevity and productivity of the vaccinated - both to the individual in their take-home pay and to the group in their taxes.)

And that was just a random example; It seems to me I could come up with a hundred more examples of win-win scenarios.

Take, I dunno, the right for homosexuals to marry. No individual or group loses anything, but gay individuals and gay people as a group are better off.

You mention left and right, but I guess this kind of thinking is why I self-identify as a centrist: I believe it's possible to improve the lot of people both individually and collectively without needing to compromise or play off one against the other.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby ucim » Thu Apr 04, 2019 11:57 pm UTC

elasto wrote:- Vaccinations today benefit both individuals and the group, you seem to agree upon that.
Careful with what is meant by "group". I don't mean "the individuals in the set". I don't even necessarily mean "the set", but rather, the set comprehension. (At least as I understand the term.) I draw the distinction because the group outlives all the individuals in it. You are not a collection of cells, you are essentially the connections between the collection of cells. Society isn't the set of people in it, but the rules, norms, and mores of the people that make it up.

Vaccinations benefit the individuals vaccinated, and they benefit other (unvaccinated) individuals in the group. All individuals are healthier. Because of this, the group functions better (less sick time, more productivity, etc.), but that's not "the group" in question referring to. If it were, then the group would cease to exist when all the individuals died. Rather, the group I'm referring to here is the species - the set of rules that generate new individuals. That is what gets weakened when the individual gets (artificially) strengthened.

A similar argument can be made that GPS makes us all stupid, while at the same time helping society function better. Aristotle (I think) said something similar about reading and writing. There's something to it.

elasto wrote:Take, I dunno, the right for homosexuals to marry. No individual or group loses anything, but gay individuals and gay people as a group are better off.
I think there are many people who think that the group is harmed by allowing "such salacious and wicked behavior" to flourish. But all that hinges on what "better" means for a society, and that's a matter of opinion for something like gay marriage. This makes it not a good example to work with.

Jose
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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby Chen » Fri Apr 05, 2019 10:37 am UTC

reval wrote:So you can solve the morality problem by casting both processes - evolution and thinking - as computational processes. They're different, but they're close enough so we can compare one with the other. The comparison explains why we hate evolution, even though it is real. The thought process is better. One of the processes is wrong for our purposes, and the other one is right. We can replace competition with the shared thought process. We can do the right thing.


The basic premise that thinking and evolution are two separate processes is just plain wrong. Evolution is composed of a number of processes such as natural selection. Thinking or cognition is a part of natural selection. It is one of the many factors that contribute to the factors necessary to pass on your genes (e.g., it helps you survive long enough to get to breeding age).

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby elasto » Fri Apr 05, 2019 1:08 pm UTC

ucim wrote:Careful with what is meant by "group". I don't mean "the individuals in the set" [...] Society isn't the set of people in it, but the rules, norms, and mores of the people that make it up.

If something benefits people individually and collectively, now and into the future, that's all that matters to me. 'Rules, norms and mores' cannot be harmed in any meaningful way.

Our goal as a species (if that's a meaningful concept) is to find the set of rules, norms and mores that benefit the greatest number to the greatest extent, nothing more, nothing less.

A similar argument can be made that GPS makes us all stupid, while at the same time helping society function better. Aristotle (I think) said something similar about reading and writing. There's something to it.

From personal experience, having driven and travelled before GPS was a thing, I dispute that assertion utterly. I learn a new place by having GPS as a teacher, and then I can drive with or without the GPS. By reducing the penalty for getting lost I can practice far more than I ever did before, making me a strictly better navigator.

Now, if the argument is "If we all use GPS all the time, the evolutionary pressure to be able to navigate without GPS is gone, so more individuals might be born in the future without that skill than would otherwise have occurred" then I agree, but I wouldn't concede that's a net harm to the group, since one skill might be lost but others gained.

For example, I guess people might have been better at memorising stories orally before the invention of written language, so one skill might have atrophied but other useful skills have risen up. By the same argument, "If we all read and write all the time, the evolutionary pressure to be able to read and write well is increased, so more individuals might be born in the future with those skills than would otherwise have occurred."

We have become 'more stupid' along one dimension, but 'more clever' along others. A net positive for individuals and the group.

I think there are many people who think that the group is harmed by allowing "such salacious and wicked behavior" to flourish. But all that hinges on what "better" means for a society, and that's a matter of opinion for something like gay marriage. This makes it not a good example to work with.

Actually, it's what makes it an excellent example. They hold the view that the group is harmed but they are wrong in every objective measure that matters. Our species will be strictly better off as individuals and collectively once we move away from such arcane superstitions.

(I mean, sure, it's my opinion vs theirs, but if you're going to take the view that 'all opinions are equally valid no matter the evidence' then human progress just grinds to a halt...)

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby ucim » Fri Apr 05, 2019 1:46 pm UTC

elasto wrote:'Rules, norms and mores' cannot be harmed in any meaningful way.
Sure they can. And in any case, they can certainly be harmful. They can be changed into harmful ones. They can be changed into ones that do not persist as well.
elasto wrote:We have become 'more stupid' along one dimension, but 'more clever' along others. A net positive for individuals and the group.
Whether it's a net positive or negative depends on your value system. But evolution's only "value system" is persistence in the face of adversity, and the success of an organism or thing or system or whatever is going to depend on the kinds of adversity that are thrown at it.

Natural selection doesn't create "better" organisms, it creates organisms that are better suited to the environment of the past. The ultimate success of those organisms (and the species) depends on the rate of change of the environment and the rate of adaption of the species.
elasto wrote:By reducing the penalty for getting lost I can practice far more than I ever did before, making me a strictly better navigator.
Better in the sense of more familiar with the local geography, or better in the sense of better able to read a paper map and navigate an unfamiliar area?

elasto wrote: They hold the view that the group is harmed but they are wrong in every objective measure that matters.
To you. While I agree with your opinion of gay rights, I dispute that the "goodness" (or "badness") of gay rights is an objective fact. Specific moral views are not an objective property of the universe.

Jose
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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby SuicideJunkie » Fri Apr 05, 2019 3:04 pm UTC

Better in the sense of more familiar with the local geography, or better in the sense of better able to read a paper map and navigate an unfamiliar area?
Electronic maps are nice too. They're just sold with voice navigators that you don't have to use if you don't want to.

To you.
To the people it affects.
I don't have a personal stake, other than the general dangers inherent in oppressing people.
What really offends me is intentionally worsening things for other people. If someone goes out of their way to worsen things, we'd be better off without them on the planet.
Littering, scamming, persecution. Just don't do it and the world will be a better place.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby reval » Fri Apr 05, 2019 6:18 pm UTC

Thanks for the comments! I wish I could help you see the distinction I'm trying to make.

ucim - You can find the Darwin quote here. "I am almost convinced (quite contrary to opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable." (1844)

This is directly relevant to the morality problem that makes people resist frightening conclusions, e.g., evolution actually motivates animal behavior. Even educated people often accept evolution in the abstract, while hiding from the implication that it must also motivate human behavior.

Stop talking and listen to the fear for a moment. Can you see the scale and seriousness of the problem?

elasto - Thanks for bringing up Bill Gates and Warren Buffet! To be clear, I consider them both warlords of capital, who have gone on to become babies playing with things that properly belong in the public sector. And yet - and yet - why didn't they establish a House of Gates and a House of Buffet to do battle with each other? Why did they change their behavior and walk in the opposite direction, why did they deprive their offspring of most of their wealth and direct it instead towards things like fighting malaria in Africa?

It illustrates that there is a choice, even for my unfortunate brethren benighted by wealth. Even they can see a choice. And they have chosen otherwise than the House of Trump.

Do ideas compete? Sure! Let us winnow ideas, instead of winnowing people. That is the whole distinction. One process works with ideas, the other process works with DNA and kills people.

(Except that describing them both as "competition" misses the greater power and efficiency of the thought process. The thought process builds models and manipulates symbols, while evolution carries out a much cruder process of trial-and-error variation and destruction. Still, I don't mind stretching the word "competition" if it will help anyone to see the crucial distinction. But you understand that "Competition is bad" in the title refers to competition among people, right? Competition for a valuable prize, competition for survival, as in our economy: evolutionary motivation.)

Chen - Yes, the individual thought process remains a subprocess of evolution - until the point where it breaks free and controls its own surroundings - which we can reach by sharing the thought process. Do you think that today Gates and Buffet are motivated only by a desire to pass their genes on? I believe they see an alternative you do not yet see.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby ucim » Fri Apr 05, 2019 6:53 pm UTC

reval wrote:ucim - You can find the Darwin quote here. "I am almost convinced (quite contrary to opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable." (1844)
This is not quite the same as the original claim. I read the above as "Saying species are not (as previously thought) immutable feels like confessing a murder." Not "committing" a murder. He's revealing something that has disturbing (at the time) implications. Doing so is unsettling. I can understand that, but I do not get from this that he felt like he was committing a heinous act.

reval wrote:This is directly relevant to the morality problem that makes people resist frightening conclusions, e.g., evolution actually motivates animal behavior. Even educated people often accept evolution in the abstract, while hiding from the implication that it must also motivate human behavior.
Evolution doesn't motivate behavior - survival motivates behavior, and behavior drives evolution. Neither genes, memes, nor people think to themselves "I want the best for my children so that in fifty thousand years there will be a better race of humans." Well, maybe eighty years ago there was this country in <godwin>, but in general, no. They want the best for their children because they love them. Love is an irrational devotion which has arisen in people because it helps the gene line that carries it to dominate. But it works, and it feels good.

reval wrote:[W]hy didn't they establish a House of Gates and a House of Buffet to do battle with each other? Why did they change their behavior and walk in the opposite direction, why did they deprive their offspring of most of their wealth and direct it instead towards things like fighting malaria in Africa?
Wanting the best for one's children isn't the same as wanting the most for one's children. Buffet is quoted as saying something like "I want to leave enough to my children so they feel they can do anything, but not so much that they want to do nothing." The rest of your question is essentially "why do people go through effort to do good things?". Insight can be obtained by asking why people do anything they don't have to.

reval wrote:Do ideas compete? Sure! Let us winnow ideas, instead of winnowing people.
Sounds good. How shall the "best" ideas be picked? Yes, we should move paper models before we move actual furniture. But in the end, we are going to move furniture. You seem to want to use paper models instead of furniture, forgetting what houses and redecorating are all about.

Jose
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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby Chen » Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:29 am UTC

reval wrote:Chen - Yes, the individual thought process remains a subprocess of evolution - until the point where it breaks free and controls its own surroundings - which we can reach by sharing the thought process. Do you think that today Gates and Buffet are motivated only by a desire to pass their genes on? I believe they see an alternative you do not yet see.


I think you’re making this a false dichotomy. Its not a decision between thought process and evolution. They aren’t comparable because evolution is simply the result of your actions, which can be dictated by things including the thought process. Gates and Buffet are motivated I imagine are motivated by all sorts of things that arent directly focused on passing on their genes. It doesnt mean they are somehow denying evolution. They are still a part of it.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby dg61 » Sat Apr 06, 2019 2:46 pm UTC

Why are we assuming that benefiting the individual harms the group or vice-versa?

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby ucim » Sat Apr 06, 2019 3:34 pm UTC

dg61 wrote:Why are we assuming that benefiting the individual harms the group or vice-versa?

We're not.

However, it is an insight I have had, an observation I have made in life. It does depend on what is meant by "group" and "benefit". But if one takes "group" to mean something akin to "organism made up of its members" (like a species is a group of organisms), and "benefit" to be akin to "make robust", it seems (to me) to be apt.
Spoiler:
It's a form of Klingon logic which originally came to me in thinking about how the differences between (political/economic) conservatives and liberals play.
On topic, it illustrates how adversity for individual organisms leads to a stronger species through natural selection. Too bad for the ones that die young, but the species as a whole is stronger for it. So in that sense competition is good, counter to the OP.

Jose
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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby reval » Sat Apr 06, 2019 10:41 pm UTC

For anyone joining us, the topic of this thread is the use of information theory to compare (1) the DNA that evolution works on, with (2) the ideas that people think and talk about.

Trying to separate human behavior along the line between these two processes yields two distinct motives for human action. We can reasonably hope the latter motive will prevail.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby Pfhorrest » Sun Apr 07, 2019 12:35 am UTC

it seems to me like everyone is talking past each other in this thread. lots of cogent points being made that nevertheless are not refutations of the points they’re in response to.
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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby ucim » Sun Apr 07, 2019 4:07 am UTC

reval wrote:For anyone joining us, the topic of this thread is the use of information theory to compare (1) the DNA that evolution works on, with (2) the ideas that people think and talk about.

Trying to separate human behavior along the line between these two processes yields two distinct motives for human action...
If this is what you want to discuss, it would be best not to start with a conclusion. The thread title starts out: "Competition Is Bad". After a reference to past threads, the OP starts out "Competition is bad for people. That is true even though..."

If you want a more general discussion of cooperation and competition, fine. I agree with many of the points you make. It's just that your reasoning goes off the rails in an attempt to reach the desired conclusion.

What is this "information theory" you refer to?

In what way are DNA (an information storage medium that reproduces) parallel to ideas people think and talk about? (I see parallels, but not everything you say or conclude is about this).

What is the distinction between a motive and a result?

What makes a {thing} superior, and in what context?

When these three four (five is right out!) things are well laid out, and we have agreement on the antecedents, we can then coherently discuss where these lead, and whether it's even meaningful to say they lead to the thing you say they lead to.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby reval » Tue Apr 09, 2019 4:33 pm UTC

ucim wrote:In what way are DNA (an information storage medium that reproduces) parallel to ideas people think and talk about?

DNA and ideas are both information. Both are properly handled using information theory and computation. That is the basis of the theory of two local ordering processes. Other points don't bear on the matter until we're past step 1: DNA and ideas are both information.

We've been through this, ucim. You don't agree with step 1. That's fine. But please don't disrupt.

What I'm talking about is based on information as discussed by Claude Shannon. This unifying concept of information remains the topic.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Apr 09, 2019 5:32 pm UTC

if I may, through my cold-medicine-addled mind:

I think OP's thesis is roughly that, analogously speaking, as a better alternative to making a bunch of buildings of random harebrained designs and seeing which ones are still standing after the next storm, and then only build more of those kinds, having needlessly made a bunch of buildings that just ended up destroyed in that process, we can instead use engineering to figure out ahead of time which kinds of buildings will stay up, and only build those ones in the first place.

Actually I guess that's not so much an analogy as it is an example, maybe?
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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby ucim » Tue Apr 09, 2019 6:15 pm UTC

reval wrote:We've been through this, ucim. You don't agree with step 1. That's fine.
It's not that I "don't agree" with step 1. It's that there is no step 1 in your thesis. You are starting with a conclusion, not reaching it.

reval wrote: But please don't disrupt disagree.
FTFY

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby Chen » Tue Apr 09, 2019 6:35 pm UTC

reval wrote:DNA and ideas are both information. Both are properly handled using information theory and computation. That is the basis of the theory of two local ordering processes. Other points don't bear on the matter until we're past step 1: DNA and ideas are both information.

We've been through this, ucim. You don't agree with step 1. That's fine. But please don't disrupt.

What I'm talking about is based on information as discussed by Claude Shannon. This unifying concept of information remains the topic.


Even if you do agree with the points (I don't), I don't see how you get to your conclusion. You are positing that ideas/thinking are better than DNA/evolution with some random examples. But ideas can be absolutely horrendous to humanity as well. Many many dictators throughout history have ruled based on ideas rather than just on following evolution. People are absolutely awful to one another even if there's no meaningful genetic competition between them. So even accepting the initial premise that evolution and thinking are comparable, I STILL don't see how you can use that to draw the conclusion that competition is bad based on some random thought that "ideas/thinking" are "better" than "DNA/evolution".

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby reval » Wed Apr 10, 2019 6:16 pm UTC

Yes, Pfhorrest, I believe that is a good analogy for how the thought process can be more efficient than the evolutionary process.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby Ranbot » Thu Apr 11, 2019 5:43 pm UTC

Chen wrote:
reval wrote:DNA and ideas are both information. Both are properly handled using information theory and computation. That is the basis of the theory of two local ordering processes. Other points don't bear on the matter until we're past step 1: DNA and ideas are both information.

We've been through this, ucim. You don't agree with step 1. That's fine. But please don't disrupt.

What I'm talking about is based on information as discussed by Claude Shannon. This unifying concept of information remains the topic.


Even if you do agree with the points (I don't), I don't see how you get to your conclusion. You are positing that ideas/thinking are better than DNA/evolution with some random examples. But ideas can be absolutely horrendous to humanity as well. Many many dictators throughout history have ruled based on ideas rather than just on following evolution. People are absolutely awful to one another even if there's no meaningful genetic competition between them. So even accepting the initial premise that evolution and thinking are comparable, I STILL don't see how you can use that to draw the conclusion that competition is bad based on some random thought that "ideas/thinking" are "better" than "DNA/evolution".


Agree with Chen.... the OP's original thesis is unclear, disjointed, examples are random, and there are glaringly large gaps/problems addressed by half-hearted hand-waving or completely ignored, mainly because of a begging the question fallacy it starts with, as ucim pointed out.
ucim wrote:...there is no step 1 in your thesis. You are starting with a conclusion, not reaching it.


There's no clear path of logic the OP is following here, although I think they tried to set a path initially, but it quickly turned into a armchair philosophy/social science brainstorm session. I'm sure it all made sense to OP, but I couldn't follow the logic trail, and based on the resulting discussion I don't think I'm alone in that.

In the OP's defense they are trying to explain an absolutely enormous "problem" (maybe) and an equally enormous "solution" (maybe) that gets down the very social fabric of society on local and world-wide scales. [EDIT to be a little more supportive] It's an incredibly difficult task. Failure would be expected, but small failures can lead to bigger things later...who knows? it's going to take more than a some forum posts to explain all that coherently and convince people to have faith* in your assessment... it took many books, speeches, and decades of persistence for folks like Adam Smith, Marx, Rand, Descartes, Darwin, Jesus, The Buddha, etc. to gather enough followers to start influencing society in significant ways. There are also are untold thousands of less successful intellectuals and prophets throughout history no one knows or remembers any more.

* - Regarding "faith," large sweeping concepts or worldviews must convince people to "believe" and tap into collective feelings or a zeitgeist. Facts and logic are also integral part any belief, religious or otherwise. but it's faith that binds the points of facts and feelings into large worldviews and social movements.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby qetzal » Thu Apr 11, 2019 7:58 pm UTC

reval wrote:Yes, Pfhorrest, I believe that is a good analogy for how the thought process can be more efficient than the evolutionary process.


I disagree. You claim that evolution leads to competition which is bad. You also claim that using the thought process instead of evolution can lead to something much better.*

If you want to make a building analogy, I think it would be more like this:

Instead of making a bunch of buildings of random harebrained designs and seeing which ones are still standing after the next storm, and then only build more of those kinds, we can instead use engineering to come up with something that makes all kinds of buildings completely unnecessary, and that will be much better.


*I confess I've never quite understood what this better thing is. I'm pretty sure you've said it's not simply cooperation, which I think you regard as just a special kind of competition or something.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby ucim » Fri Apr 12, 2019 4:10 am UTC

qetzal wrote:Instead of making a bunch of buildings of random harebrained designs and seeing which ones are still standing after the next storm, and then only build more of those kinds, we can instead use engineering to come up with something that makes all kinds of buildings completely unnecessary, and that will be much better.
Yep. And that's the problem with the OP. Besides not saying what "better" consists of.

Although in fairness, if there were something that would make buildings unnecessary, it might be worth exploring. Change "buildings" for "cars" or "politicians" or "robocalls", or whatever your own pet peeve is.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby reval » Mon Apr 15, 2019 12:06 am UTC

I'm trying to say the more efficient process is "better" because it survives better within a limited energy budget. The less efficient process is "bad" because it is inefficient and wasteful. It survives less well.

For example, the "misuse" of the thought process to promote one's own advantage over someone else accomplishes only the advancement of the winner's genes, not their ideas. It advances the less efficient process at the expense of the more efficient process. Ideas that could have been shared are lost. It's a trap.

A comparison of efficiency would focus on cases where both processes are trying to do more or less the same thing (ignoring, for the moment, those other cases where the thought process does things that evolution can't do at all).

Maybe Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy can serve as an example. Right now, neither process is trying to do something new; both processes are simply trying to maintain existing muscle function in the face of random mutations.

"[I]t takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place," as the Red Queen says. Evolution has to do this to adapt to changes in its environment. Or, in the case of Duchenne, simply to maintain the status quo.

Muscle cells rely on dystrophin, which is one of the largest genes in the human body, and is therefore especially vulnerable to random mutations. When a mutation hits one of its 79 stretches of DNA (or exons), the protein may not get expressed correctly, or it may not fold right. Then the muscles degenerate and the person dies in their teens or early twenties.

This happens to about 1 in 5,000 males. About two thirds of cases are inherited from a person's mother, while one third of cases are due to a new mutation (wikipedia). Females generally don't get Duchenne because dystrophin is on the X chromosome. Females have a backup copy. Males don't.

In the presence of selective pressure, evolution might do something like translocate dystrophin off the X chromosome, in the same way it has moved most genes off the Y chromosome. Putting it on a different chromosome would give both genders a backup copy. However, individuals with two bad copies would still be weeded out and die.

Apparently, evolution doesn't care about the loss. Dystrophin is highly conserved, and mice have the same 79 exons that humans have. Evolution is content to throw away 1 in 5,000 males - forever - just to keep dystrophin in the same place.

People, however, can maintain dystrophin by fixing it when it breaks. Multiple gene therapies are in development. Here's one from last month (6 March 2019): CRISPR-Cas9 corrects Duchenne muscular dystrophy exon 44 deletion mutations in mice and human cells. They have fixed human cells in a dish, and they have fixed muscles in a live mouse. It's not in clinical trials yet, but ultimately we will be able to fix many problems like this.

This is not playing God. This is about being human. We will fix genetic and metabolic problems in our own cells. We will no longer be dependent on a "bad" process that plays people off against each other for its own purposes, and throws them in the trash. We will use a "better" process, and we - individually - will be in control.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby ucim » Tue Apr 16, 2019 3:34 am UTC

reval wrote:I'm trying to say the more efficient process is "better" because it survives better within a limited energy budget.
What, exactly, is the "it" here? If you're considering two processes (natural selection and "thinking"), which work on modifying a species, the idea is to make the species "better". This "better" is not defined. In the quoted sentence, you are talking about a "better" process to make "better" species. Those are two different kinds of "better". Your quote seems to address the second instance as if it were the the first one. That's the first muddle.

Your second paragraph makes it seem like you really are talking about processes as the "thing" that is being preserved. That is the cart before the horse. It's bad to be better at the wrong thing. If the process is not producing a "better" {something} (i.e. species), then it makes no sense to figure out which process is "better" at doing this dubious thing in the first place.

Bureaucracies are great at persisting. They often outlive the task for which they were originally created. This is a high risk outcome of the manner of thinking you are promoting above.

reval wrote:[re: Duchenne muscular dystrophy] ... In the presence of selective pressure, evolution might do something like translocate dystrophin off the X chromosome...
It might. But at the same time as there is selection pressure to do this, there is other selective pressure to not do this. There is a cost associated with having genes off the X chromosome. I don't know what that cost is, probably nobody does. But it's evident in that selective pressure has not caused this to happen.

Evolution, as you say, does not care about the loss. It does not "care" about anything. It certainly doesn't "care" about the individual. Too bad about the ones that are weeded out, but the weeding out is what makes the species stronger in the future.

reval wrote:Dystrophin is highly conserved...
There's a reason for that. Again, I don't know the reason, perhaps nobody does. We are only beginning to learn the intricacies of genetics, expression, and evolution. Thinking can certainly help us learn the reason dystrophin is highly conserved. But human thinking is prone to think they know more than they do. This arrogance may not bite right away, but bite it will. Antibiotics are a great example - we are still in the heyday of the good that antibiotics can do, and we reap the rewards for ourselves and our close ones. But overuse of antibiotics is already a problem, and the overpopulation it has partly been responsible for is already another problem. Because humans care about the "now" and the individual, and it comes at the cost of the future and the species.

reval wrote:People, however, can maintain dystrophin by fixing it when it breaks.
This fixes the individual. The only way to "fix" the species is to do this to reproductive cells too. And that's dangerous. We'll figure out how to do it long before we figure out why we shouldn't.

Consider how easily such a technique could be used to eliminate <oversimplification_for_illustration> the "gay gene" or the "violent gene" or the "religious gene" </oversimplification_for_illustration>. This will all be done by "thinking" too, because it matters who is doing the thinking. And in disposing of these genes, we (or "they") will have no idea of (or no concern for) the side effects of doing so. (Consider the Reavers, for a SciFi example).

Make no mistake - medicine is a Good Thing. Science, research, and thinking are Good Things. But they are not "The Answer", especially since "The Question" has not been adequately outlined to begin with.

reval wrote:This is not playing God. This is about being human. We will fix genetic and metabolic problems in our own cells. We will no longer be dependent on a "bad" process that plays people off against each other for its own purposes, and throws them in the trash. We will use a "better" process, and we - individually - will be in control.
This however is an unjustified giant leap that starts out off the rails and ends up in the mudpile of confused hubris.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby Trebla » Tue Apr 16, 2019 6:22 pm UTC

reval wrote:I'm trying to say the more efficient process is "better" because it survives better within a limited energy budget. The less efficient process is "bad" because it is inefficient and wasteful. It survives less well.


I held back from saying this earlier as it seems like an insultingly simple point to make... but it's becoming increasingly likely based on your responses... are you trying to claim that guided processes (e.g., human thought) are more efficient than random ones (natural selection)? And that the efficiency of the guided processes is the part that's "better." (or, somehow an alternative to competition) E.g., the building analogy from earlier, better to design than just build and see what sticks...

That can't possibly be what you're trying to suggest/prove here, is it? I'm misunderstanding this, right?

Edit: Sorry if this is reductionist, but I'm a simple person and get easily lost in an eight-paragraph digression about Muscular Dystrophy.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby reval » Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:18 pm UTC

ucim wrote:But overuse of antibiotics is already a problem, and the overpopulation it has partly been responsible for is already another problem. Because humans care about the "now" and the individual, and it comes at the cost of the future and the species.

I hope you didn't mean that the way it sounded, ucim, and I don't mean about the antibiotic resistance.

Exhibit A for "competition is bad" will certainly involve the death side of overpopulation. Or, more subtly, working out advantages for some people within a context of limited resources, which comes out to the same result, for those people without the advantages.

I care about the future and the species, just not through the process of evolution. The thought process instead involves the motivation of people as it leads into the birth side of overpopulation. A medical advantage that accrues equally to everyone is no longer a selective advantage for some specific people. That kind of knowledge-based repair is efficient (initially for an individual, later for a germ-line) and is not resource limited. We can do this for everyone. If we want to.

Trebla wrote:... are you trying to claim that guided processes (e.g., human thought) are more efficient than random ones (natural selection)? And that the efficiency of the guided processes is the part that's "better." (or, somehow an alternative to competition) E.g., the building analogy from earlier, better to design than just build and see what sticks...

Yes. Seems pretty obvious to me. Apparently not to everyone.

I would be a little careful thinking about a "guiding will", which is not actually at the root of the thought process. Instead, "will" is a feature that emerges alongside modelbuilding and symbolic manipulation. Many animals also have mental models of their surroundings, and a will to accomplish their preferred outcomes. It just doesn't go beyond promoting their genes. For them.

Next, both processes have to deal with "random" inputs, in the sense that neither has the information to predict what is going to happen next - in this case, a random mutation.

What happens after the mutation, however, isn't random, in either process. Natural selection kills off unsuccessful variations. That's not quite deterministic (unless you include the entire universe in the process), but neither is it random. There's a method. It is a definite process. And the process is based on competition.

The thought process, using modelbuilding and symbolic manipulation, is more efficient in dealing with the mutation. And it is specifically NOT based on competition among people.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby Chen » Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:51 pm UTC

Both evolution and "thinking" still involve competition. That will exist as long as their are limited resources. I don't know how you're jumping from "one process is more efficient than the other" to "competition is therefore bad". As Trebla said, random is going to be less efficient than directed but those are the distinctions between evolution and say genetic engineering ("thinking's" version of evolution) rather than competition being the primary distinction.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby ucim » Thu Apr 18, 2019 5:02 pm UTC

reval wrote:I hope you didn't mean that the way it sounded...
I don't know. How did it sound (to you)?

reval wrote:Exhibit A for "competition is bad" will certainly involve the death side of overpopulation.
Exhibit A for "thinking is not The Replacement" will also. We got to overpopulation as a result of thinking. (Overpopulation isn't just humans - think of monoculture food supplies and the house of cards they are built on.) Whether by thinking too much, thinking not enough, or thinking of ourselves, I'll leave it to others to hash out.

Thinking is powerful. But thinking does not guarantee that the results will be Good - either for the individual, the other guy, or the species as a whole. (Or, for that matter, for the biosphere.) It's very important what we're thinking. Are you thinking the same thing that I'm thinking? We're both thinking, of course, but we're thinking different things, for different reasons. And the reasons we're thinking what we're thinking aren't guaranteed to be Good reasons either.

reval wrote:That kind of [medical] knowledge-based repair is efficient (initially for an individual, later for a germ-line) and is not resource limited.
Uh... it very much is resource limited, especially at first. And "at first" is what decides who gets it "in the end".

reval wrote:
Trebla wrote:... are you trying to claim that guided processes (e.g., human thought) are more efficient than random ones (natural selection)? And that the efficiency of the guided processes is the part that's "better." (or, somehow an alternative to competition) E.g., the building analogy from earlier, better to design than just build and see what sticks...
Yes. Seems pretty obvious to me. Apparently not to everyone.


It's obvious to everyone. That's not where the disconnect lies.

First of all, most people (and most animals) do not try to improve the species. That is not their goal. Their goal is to catch the next zebra, or land the next deal, or woo the next girlfriend, or escape the next predator. "Improvement" of the species is a side effect, the meaning of which the individual organisms aren't even concerned about.

That's a vital point. Read the bolded text again. Let it sink in.

Now consider the advantages of a slow, inefficient system. Two of note are:

1: "Improvement" does not have to be defined. It is literally built into the evolutionary system itself.

2: There is a high degree of redundancy. This allows unwanted side effects of changes to reveal themselves before the species as a whole has adopted them, and splits the species when several different branches provide advantage in the environment. That is, evolution provides a kind of "undo" and a "save game" by virtue of its broad reach.

Now I will agree (as probably everyone here) that thinking allows for many shortcuts in the process of improving a species. But this requires us (the thinkers) to define "improvement". That is where I think you haven't thought enough about thinking as it applies to the thought experiment in question.

Sure, there are a few easy ones: "Let's get rid of the stupid path the vagus nerve takes in the giraffe. That'll be an improvement, right?" Well, okay.

Next, "let's get rid of sickle cell anemia". Sounds good, but not so fast. It turns out that sickle cell carriers are better protected from malaria. Whodathunkit? Well, okay, all it takes is "a small matter of programming thinking" and we'll identify all the causes and ramifications, and once we've done that, we'll be able to eliminate that scourge without harming malaria resistance. Ch*rp, let's eliminate malaria while we're at it!

Next, let's get rid of our genetic penchant for violence, and make humans more passive and loving and accepting. Ummm... do you see the problem yet? And I'm not even talking about the reavers. Getting people to lay down their defenses is a very slow process. Getting them to lay down the defenses of their children is even slower. Much more trust needs to be built.

And we already know how trustworthy other people are, right? Especially those who want us to do something that benefits them.

Okay, enough about improvement. Let's talk about shortcuts, as opposed to broad-based approaches. Shortcuts involve going straight to the "new improved" version quickly, without passing through the "sort-of-better" and the "not-as-good-but-has-some-nice-features" versions. To be most efficient, you want every organism to be the best one. Monoculture, because anything else is not as good, and it's less efficient to make not-as-good versions. But, if you didn't think of everything (hint: you didn't think of everything), then that monoculture will bite you in the nether regions. Think single-point-of-failure. Think Irish Potato Famine. Think American Wheat Starvation (yet to happen, but don't bet against it). You need diversity, and that means you need imperfection.

reval wrote:The thought process, using modelbuilding and symbolic manipulation, is more efficient in dealing with the mutation. And it is specifically NOT based on competition among people.
Question for you: What, exactly, do you mean by "improvement", as it applies to a species, specifically, to the species you are trying to "improve" using the "thinking process"?

Bonus question: As you are creating this "master race" using the thinking process, how will you know that you have succeeded? How will you know that you haven't created a time bomb instead?

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby elasto » Fri Apr 19, 2019 1:20 am UTC

ucim wrote:
reval wrote:
Trebla wrote:... are you trying to claim that guided processes (e.g., human thought) are more efficient than random ones (natural selection)?
Yes. Seems pretty obvious to me. Apparently not to everyone.
It's obvious to everyone.

Yes. It's completely obvious to everyone.

The disagreement is (a) whether competition is intrinsically bad - I think it's not - and (b) whether 'thought' is ever not a competitive activity - and here I think any worthwhile thought definitely is - and the more revolutionary it is the more it has to fight the inertia of the status quo.

(In addition, as ucim implies, 'efficiency' isn't the be-all and end-all that you seem to make out. The efficiency of thought over evolution is scant consolation if our tech becomes so cheap and easy that any wackjob could 3d-print a lethal virus at home or whatever...)

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby Sizik » Fri Apr 19, 2019 3:17 pm UTC

I think fundamentally, what distinguishes between "thought" and "evolution" as processes is that the former involves simulating the environment and predicting the consequences of actions, and the latter involves no simulation, just stochastic trial and error. There are circumstances where the former process is more efficient at achieving some external goal*, but there are computational limitations on how much can be simulated by a "computer" (biological or silicon) of a certain size. At some point, the space of possible actions and consequences becomes so large that chaos theory kicks in and trying to predict outcomes is pointless, and that's where the evolutionary process of "throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks" does well.

*How exactly "goals" are determined is a separate topic from the process of achieving them, but for either process, the "goal" is what determines how successful the outcome is (e.g. for genetic evolution, the goal is to keep existing and make copies by surviving the selection process, whether natural or artificial).
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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby Nem » Fri Apr 19, 2019 11:03 pm UTC

reval wrote:So you can solve the morality problem by casting both processes - evolution and thinking - as computational processes. They're different, but they're close enough so we can compare one with the other. The comparison explains why we hate evolution, even though it is real. The thought process is better. One of the processes is wrong for our purposes, and the other one is right. We can replace competition with the shared thought process. We can do the right thing.


Any non-random function that produces a subset of the total population as its answer to a resource allocation question necessarily facilitates competition in terms of its inputs. Changing the computational substrate doesn’t change the relevance of the output of the function you’re executing on that substrate to a given problem.

The question that competition decides is this: How is success decided in a world of finite opportunity? ‘No-one should play the game anymore and everyone should just think instead.’ Isn’t a good answer when the foundation of the question is, ‘I’m cold and hungry, bored and lonely, how do I avoid blowing my brains out?’ If you loved that person, if you actually cared about them, you wouldn’t advise them to think really hard. You’d advise them to compete. You’d advise them to apply for jobs, get on the housing list, apply for benefits, take some of the money they get and use it for food in the competitive market place.

Although you can model competition as a computational process, the output isn’t an answer written down on a piece of paper somewhere. The output of competition is who won and who lost. Who’s hungry and cold and who isn’t. And refusing to play has consequences too.

If you wanted to do away with competition, you’d need to change one of the core assumptions that makes the question relevant to the people asking it. Most obviously, you’d need a world in which there was nothing to compete over.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby reval » Sun Apr 21, 2019 6:51 pm UTC

Raging, ucim, at the funhouse mirrors again?

You're addressing distorted reflections of things drawn from within the funhouse of evolutionary motivation. You're stuck in that framework and you continue to interpret everything from within that framework. I won't deal with each illusion separately, but I will direct your attention to the big red flashing EXIT sign.

To get out of the funhouse, you have to realize that you've been talking about the wrong Person and the wrong Reason this whole time. Your model is a sort of homo economicus, who exists only to maximize utility inside a competitive system, and who has had a lobotomy that surgically removed all the most important parts of the actual homo sapiens. You're not alone. This kind of model is very popular among those economists and journalists who make their paychecks by pandering to the interests of the oligarchy. Nevertheless, that model is wrong on all important points.

The actual homo sapiens is part of two processes, as I keep repeating. One individual with two persons. One person (A) has evolutionary motives, while the other person (B) has thought process motives. You only know about person A, but I am talking about person B. Once you can agree that person B does different things for different reasons than person A, then you are prepared to walk out the funhouse EXIT.

Some other commenters have also said (summarizing) "it's all competition. There is nothing beside competition. Everything you're talking about is part of competition."

That is resignation. Resignation is, in fact, one possible response to the horror of human evolutionary competition. But it's wrong. As it happens, there is something else besides competition.

Today, individual people (person B!) often vote for school referendums in which they agree to pay additional taxes to educate other people's children. They are having fewer and fewer children themselves. In many countries, they support taxes that make sure everyone gets healthcare. In the future they will use a universal basic income to ensure that everyone gets to eat out of a basic share of the sunlight falling on Earth.

Can any of this be explained in terms of person A? I suppose you could try something like: "I want my fellow tribe members to be healthy, educated, and well-fed so we can whip the Huns in the next war, and then we will exterminate them and take their land." Ummm, that's the wrong explanation for what actually happened here.

That way lies the green ENTER sign to the funhouse. But I am going the opposite way.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby Chen » Mon Apr 22, 2019 2:52 am UTC

All the altruistic socialistic things you mention are just a tiny subset of things people use the thought process for. People equally use this thought process to keep taxes low on themselves, disenfranchise those who dont vote like they do and perpetuate systemic racism and sexism. None of that has direct evolutionary impact.

So why do you insist on this false dichotomy of evolution vs thought process somehow representing competition vs cooperation? You can make all the arguments for or against socialism/cooperation without all the intellectual masturbation you’re going through in terms of processes and the like.

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby ucim » Mon Apr 22, 2019 3:56 am UTC

reval wrote:Nevertheless, that model is wrong on all important points.
You have yet to offer anything resembling evidence that this is true. Absent evidence, we have no reason to accept your statement.

reval wrote:One individual with two persons. One person (A) has evolutionary motives, while the other person (B) has thought process motives.
The start of this sounds very much like a rather common religion.

I contend that Person A does not exist. Nobody is "motivated" by natural selection to improve the race. They are motivated by their immediate needs, and as a result the race improves its chances of dealing with those same needs in the future, because those who failed do not reproduce. (I oversimplify, but this is good enough.)

I contend that Person B is rare. People do think, and a few may think of bettering society. That's not so rare, but those that want to do so by altering the germ line are rare. They are also dangerous, because they believe that their version of "better" is the one to be applied.

You mention altruism, but that's unrelated to what you describe. If you mean it to be related, you must describe better.

Now, the next sentence misuses the word "motives". If you would clearly define this word for us, we would have a starting point for discussion. Absent that definition, we are forced to apply our own, and the generally accepted definitions of "motives" is incompatible with evolution via natural selection. It could apply to evolution via deliberate and planned germ line modification. But "motives" by itself does not indicate a direction. You need to specify the target.

You have not.

Again, absent that, we are forced to infer one. The one I infer is that you are trying to create a "better" human. Not just one, but an entire germ line of "better" humans. A Master Race, as it were.

Questions for you (I'm starting the numbering at three, because you have not answered the first two questions, at the bottom of this post, repeated below in green.)

Question 1: What, exactly, do you mean by "improvement", as it applies to a species, specifically, to the species you are trying to "improve" using the "thinking process"?

Question 2: As you are creating this "master race" using the thinking process, how will you know that you have succeeded? How will you know that you haven't created a time bomb instead?

Question 3: Is this the goal you have in mind? A race of "better" humans created by deliberate germ line modifications?

Question 4: What do you mean by "motives"? Define it in a way that is compatible with your use of the word in the (second) quote above.

Question 5: As you wish to replace natural selection (competitive pressures) with some sort of artificial selection, how exactly is that selection supposed to take place?

Question 6: You state, at the bottom of the OP, "One of the processes is wrong for our purposes, and the other one is right." What are "our purposes"? (...and why are you so presumptive as to assume that the "purposes" you have come up with, whatever they are, are purposes that anybody else here would agree with?)

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Re: Competition Is Bad. There's An Alternative.

Postby qetzal » Mon Apr 22, 2019 3:06 pm UTC

From the OP:

reval wrote:We can replace competition with the shared thought process. We can do the right thing.


OK, for the sake of discussion, let's assume the evolutionary process requires competition, and that competition is bad.1 Let's further assume that using the thought process, people can choose to forgo competition. You argue that this is better.

But people can also use the thought process for competition, right? In fact, I contend that the thought process is involved in the vast majority of competition between human individuals, at least in so-called 1st world societies. People use the thought process to compete for the best jobs and the best educations. They use the thought process to compete by discriminating against members of out-groups. They use the thought process to compete over how society is governed and how resources are distributed.

So, even if we can use the thought process for something better than competition, it seems obvious to me that we often don't.

Doesn't that undermine the above thesis? We already use the thought process extensively, but we aren't using it to do the right thing (as you define it, anyway). So regardless of whether it's valid to contrast evolution and the thought process, I don't think it's relevant to what you really want to achieve.

Convincing people that the thought process is better than evolution won't help you. You need to convince them that using the thought process for sharing is better than using it for competition. Basically, you'd need to convince them to change their values. That's notoriously difficult to do, as I'm sure you're aware, and I don't think arguing about evolution vs. the thought process makes it easier.



1For the record, I think both of those assumptions are wrong and/or not proven, but I've made those points previously in this and earlier threads so I won't rehash them here.


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